The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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Worst. Debate. EVER.

October 8th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

So sayeth Politico:

With the country at one of its most interesting—not to mention terrifying—moments in a generation, John McCain and Barack Obama met in Nashville for what was surely one of the dullest and was definitely the least satisfying presidential debate in memory.

But the Belmont University showdown was something entirely different. Place the gravity of the moment next to the blah-blah-blah artifice of the rhetoric and overall insubstantiality of the evening and this is what you get: The worst presidential debate ever.

The day after leaves behind a puzzle: How the hell did candidates manage to be so timid and uninspiring at a time when American troops are in two problematic wars, the world financial markets are in scary free fall and the Dow has lost 1,400 points since Oct. 1? This is a moment history rarely sees – and both men blew it.

It was an odd reversal of the usual optics of power. Ordinarily, the national stage can take even life-size pols like Michael Dukakis and imbue them with an outsized aura.

Tuesday, was a look through the wrong end of the telescope: Men with fascinating biographies looked conventional. The promise both men once offered of a new, less contrived and more creative brand of politics was a distant memory.

Sounds about right to me.

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TCB, baby.

October 8th, 2008 · No Comments · Art, Politics

No matter how bad things get, a Real Man always takes care of his “business”:

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Bill Maher is Not Helping.

October 6th, 2008 · No Comments · Movies, Politics, Rants, Science

Here’s a one line review of Bill Maher’s new film, Religulous:

Too long, too mean, not nearly funny enough.

That being said, I agree with the core tenet of Maher’s argument that religion is irrational, abusive and dangerous. It’s tempting to view this film as a main stream entry into the “New Atheist” movement, but the fact is that it’s redundant at best and, quite likely, a counter-productive effort.

The film is clearly a “gotcha” production intended to catch people off guard and make Maher look clever. The vast majority of the film is spent ambushing unsuspecting religious folk (as is evidenced by the frequent intrusion of handlers, PR people and security when Maher’s presence is detected) and then trying to get them to illustrate their ignorance when “challenged” by the kind of dull-witted antagonism that high schoolers tend to display (”Oh yeah, well what if YOU’RE wrong?”). Maher’s delivery is severely unpalatable. He routinely references his own intellectual prowess and is constantly smarmy with his targets.

When Maher DOES encounter engaging, reasonable subjects, he tends not to linger on them for long. His conversation with the head of the Human Genome Project - a noted, if rare, religious scientist - is much shorter than Maher’s visit a “trucker chapel” in a converted semi-trailer at a truck stop, where Maher mocks and harasses a group of men who are clearly unfamiliar with him. His discussions with a pair of very reasonable priests at the Vatican - both of whom expressed affection for science and logical inquiry - hints at legitimately interesting conversations that must have taken place, but is not explored to any serious degree. We get PLENTY of time with the anti-Zionist Rabbi, though.

If you were undecided about religion versus reason, Maher’s mean-spirited displays probably didn’t do much to woo you to his side of the fence. Maher falls prey to the ever-present temptation that faces all non-believers, which is to use logic like a blunt weapon and to relentlessly disrespect and belittle people of faith in an effort to illustrate the folly of their beliefs. We already have sufficient attack dogs in our little “movement” of non-believers - with Richard Dawkins weighing in as a methodical, unflinching defender of skepticism and scientific rigor and Christopher Hitchens acting as a relentless and belligerent raconteur. We’ve got the entire “illustrating religion’s failings” thing covered and Maher’s ham-handed efforts aren’t adding anything useful to the process.

What we DO need is something that Maher actually (if accidentally) touches on briefly at the end of his time in the trucker chapel. Maher admits that disbelief is a “luxury” and that it’s often hard to ask people who have very little to give up on the comfort that religion has offered them. No amount of evidence or logical argument can hope to unseat religion from its position of influence around the world if that same display of reason cannot provide the kind of satisfaction and hope that metaphysical beliefs currently offer. What is needed - more than angry, pedantic displays like Maher’s - is an effort to communicate an ethical and moral philosophy grounded in reason and offering the kind of guidance, comfort and purpose that religion currently provides.

Which is, of course, no small request.

But, in the meantime, films like Religulous only serve to drive a deeper wedge between people of faith and the pronounced minority of non-believers, making it that much harder to eventually reach them with a message of rational ethics and purpose.

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October 2nd, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

Our studio owns various parts of five separate floors in this building. I hadn’t noticed prior to today that we share one floor with a Wachovia Mortgage office.

In said office, there currently appears to be one woman and a LOT of packing materials.

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Quick debate thoughts.

September 27th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

I watched the debate away from a PC, so I’m just posting a few thoughts rather than a play by play:

- Has Obama always had those Reed Richards gray temples? It’s possible that I’ve never seen him in HD before or something, but it struck me immediately when he hit the screen.
- Flag pin on Obama, no flag pin on McCain.
- A fun game to play: Every time Obama said “John” I replaced it with “asshole”, since that’s clearly what he MEANT to say.
- McCain kept his cool the whole time while Obama seemed flustered a few times.
- The economic section of the debate made me want to cut my own head off. They were both awful. Obama delivered his awful better, I suppose, since he at least had coherent lists of awful ideas instead of just gibbering about having faith in The American Worker.
- The foreign policy portion was better, but still had some awful, awful moments - like when BOTH of them repeatedly referred to Iran’s “Revolutionary Guard” as the “Republican Guard.” Obama probably loses more points there, since he’s been the one who obsessively went after McCain for comparable gaffes in the past.
- The part where they played “Dueling War-moms” actually made me kind of uncomfortable. It was all sorts of obscene.

Overall, I can’t imagine anyone was swayed even slightly by either of them. If you went in in favor of either candidate, you almost certainly felt they were the stronger performer, but independents were probably just annoyed.

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“No, you move.”

September 17th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Art, Politics

I would rather vote for Steve Rogers, who is both fictional and dead, than any ACTUAL candidate for the presidency (click to read):

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Saudi Arabia leaves OPEC?

September 12th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

If this is true, the GOP may wind up in charge forever:

Saudi Arabia walked out on OPEC yesterday, saying it would not honor the cartel’s production cut. It was tired of rants from Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and the well-dressed oil minister from Iran.

As the world’s largest crude exporter, the kingdom in the desert took its ball and went home.

As the Saudis left the building, the message was shockingly clear. “Saudi Arabia will meet the market’s demand,” a senior OPEC delegate told the New York Times. “We will see what the market requires and we will not leave a customer without oil.”

The last time OPEC experienced real in-fighting gas dropped below $1 a gallon way back during the late Clinton years. With the way in Iraq improving so much that we scarcely hear a peep from the Left about it any more, the high cost of fuel (and issues connected to it) has been one of the few reliable attack points for the Democrats that was consistently resonating with voters.

If McCain gets to point to successes in Iraq AND gas gets back below $2.50 a gallon by late October, that’d be absolutely devastating for Obama.

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September 10th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Politics

McCain and Palin are speaking eight feet from my house and I’m stuck in Las Vegas waiting for a flight and watching it on CNN.

Palin appears to just be delivering the same speech she gave at the convention, in many place nearly word for word.

McCain, however, appears to have been swapped out for a clone of himself that’s actually really energetic and engaging. Content aside, he’s delivering a speech really, really well.

[edit] Okay, I will admit that it’s embarrassing to see my neighbors awkwardly chanting U-S-A. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - that chant should ONLY be used in cases where “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is running for office.

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Bob Woodward: USA=Secret Awesome

September 9th, 2008 · 2 Comments · Politics

Bob’s apparently got more secret info under his hat:

The dramatic drop in violence in Iraq is due in large part to a secret program the U.S. military has used to kill terrorists, according to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward.

The program — which Woodward compares to the World War II era Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb — must remain secret for now or it would “get people killed,” Woodward said Monday on CNN’s Larry King Live.

“It is a wonderful example of American ingenuity solving a problem in war, as we often have,” Woodward said.

In “The War Within: Secret White House History 2006-2008,” Woodward disclosed the existence of secret operational capabilities developed by the military to locate, target and kill leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent leaders.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley, in a written statement reacting to Woodward’s book, acknowledged the new strategy. Yet he disputed Woodward’s conclusion that the “surge” of 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq was not the primary reason for the decline in violent attacks.

“It was the surge that provided more resources and a security context to support newly developed techniques and operations,” Hadley wrote.

Woodward, associate editor of the Washington Post, wrote that along with the surge and the new covert tactics, two other factors helped reduce the violence.

One was the decision of militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to order a cease-fire by his Mehdi Army. The other was the “Anbar Awakening” movement that saw Sunni tribes aligning with U.S. troops to battle al Qaeda in Iraq.

Woodward told Larry King that while there is a debate over how much credit the new secret operations should get for the drop in violence, he concluded it “accounts for a good portion.”

“I would somewhat compare it to the Manhattan Project in World War II,” he said “It’s a ski slope right down in a matter of months, cutting the violence in half. This isn’t going to happen with the bunch of joint security stations or the surge.”

The top secret operations, he said, will “some day in history … be described to people’s amazement.”

While he would not reveal the details, Woodward said the terrorists who have been targeted were already aware of the capabilities.

“The enemy has a heads up because they’ve been getting wiped out and a lot of them have been killed,” he said. “It’s not news to them.

“If you were a member of al Qaeda or the resistance or some extremist militia, you would be wise to get your rear end out of town,” Woodward said. “It is very dangerous.”

Please, please, PLEASE have this turn out to involve giant robots. Or ninjas.

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What NOT to say.

September 7th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

“Even if I want to take them away, I don’t have the votes in Congress.”

Oh, Barack.

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Another key endorsement for Obama.

September 5th, 2008 · No Comments · Art, Politics

Image Comics’ superhero The Savage Dragon - having opted not to run himself - has endorsed Senator Obama:

Savage Dragon fights Monkey Hitler, endorses Obama.

Of course, this probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, given some of the Dragon’s previous… um… political statements:

Suck it, W!

The Obama issue sold so well that’s it’s gone back to presses for a second run.

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Sarah Palin - Rhetorical gladiator.

September 3rd, 2008 · No Comments · Politics, Rants

I missed most of the first chunk of the week due to jetlag and work. Tonight, Palin speaks, so I wanted to tune in.

Some thoughts as the night wears on:

[

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Veepstakes update: Tigh selects Roslin

August 30th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics


Tigh selects Roslin

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Well, THAT was fast.

August 30th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

The Internet responds to McCain’s VP choice in the only way it knows how.

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Obama’s speech.

August 29th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics, Rants

I’m in Seattle for the weekend, so I missed the live broadcast whilst in-transit and didn’t get a chance to watch it until this morning. A few quick thoughts:

The first half of the speech was basically a throw-away. It was all hollow accommodations lobbed at the Clintons and vague statements of position (but not policy) that we’ve heard countless times before. If I hear the “he voted with Bush 90% of the time” line one more time, I’m going to start throwing shoes at the TV. It’s a deeply misleading “statistic” at best. Obama himself has “voted with Bush” (who, last I checked, actually doesn’t HAVE a vote, but whatever) 50% of the time, so I guess we should only expect a 50% change from him. That aside, it was a typical Obama speech - well delivered, full of applause marks and the kind of vague statements about change that make people feel all weepy and affectionate towards him.

But the emotional fog couldn’t last the whole time.

The third quarter of the speech - where he moved into Iraq/foreign policy - was actually pretty awkward. Whenever Obama tries to “talk tough” it comes across as jarringly insincere, so hearing him talk about standing up to Russia or defending Israel or hunting bin Laden down “in the cave where he lives” just felt out of place in his otherwise warm-fuzzy speech. It also draws attention to the extreme lack of specifics he puts forth when it comes to foreign policy issues. He swipes at McCain for failing to kill bin Laden, but then segues into how he wants to pull troops out of Iraq, never returning to discuss how HE will deal with bin Laden if elected. I expect that we’ll start seeing Biden handle most of the foreign policy messaging for the campaign shortly. It’s simply not Obama’s strength and he’s failed to improve over the 18 months the campaign has lasted thus far.

The final quarter of the speech was the most notable and successful portion. Obama is strong on social issues and wisely chose to finish up by addressing those. I thought his “red state/blue state” comments were strong as were his “common ground” examples relating to things like abortion and gay rights. I’d still like to see a firmer stand from him on those issues, but I doubt we’ll hear anything so bold as a statement of full support for legal enshrinement of gay rights during this campaign.

Over all, I think it was a good speech. The venue was a bold choice that worked out perfectly and poor Michelle finally got to smile for real after a week of deeply taxing displays of feigned support for people she hates. I’d give it a 7 out of 10, with points subtracted (as usual) for a foreign policy platform about as deeply as a kiddie pool and a continued focus on vague statements of purpose rather than clear, actionable details explaining HOW “the Change” will be executed if Obama is elected.

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Do you smeeelllll what Barack. IS. COOKIN’?

August 27th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

High point of the night:

Obama’s WWF-quality surprise entrance at the end of Biden’s speech. Barry’s arrival was well-timed, as Biden was clearly losing the crowd that had spent much of its energy lavishing affection on Bill Clinton and then been forced to sit through a John Kerry speech. A bit of pro-wrasslin’ theatrics can help to spice up any event where tens of thousands of lunatics are gathered in one location, looking for an excuse to chant.

I’ll admit it - I actually found myself mentally adding in Stone Cold Steve Austin’s old entrance music when Obama came out on stage to surprise the crowd. Trust me when I say that this made the event 1000 times more awesome/hilarious.

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Speaking of Slick Willie…

August 27th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

…he’s in full Elvis Mode tonight with a solid 5 straight minutes of standing ovation when he took the stage.

Since then, I’ve been enjoying the grimace-off that’s being held between Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. So far, I think Michelle is winning. Hillary looks annoyed, but fairly robotic, while Michelle has actually developed a full-blown Grinch face, complete with creepy, unnaturally dense furrows of jaw wrinkles. Each forced smile from her is a rictus, horrifying thing to behold. For the sake of her profoundly stressed mandible, I hope that John Kerry doesn’t piss her off.

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Sending a message.

August 27th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

I’m watching tonight’s coverage of the convention. Tom Daschle just wrapped up and Bill Clinton is set to speak next. In between them, a musical interlude. And what song has the Obama campaign chosen to set the stage for Bill?

Chain of Fools

Hehe. Ah, diplomacy.

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Wanna know who’s having a terrible morning?

August 27th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

Poor Joe Biden, that’s who.

I went to bed shortly after HRC’s epic speech last night and awoke this morning with visions of orange pant-suits and masterful turns of phrase still dancing in my head. I seriously doubt I’m alone.

I really like Joe Biden. I like him A LOT.

But I can’t shake the feeling that last night was basically just Hillary kicking him in the ass non-stop for 45 minutes straight while Democrats all over the place wondered why the heck they couldn’t have had HER in the number two spot on the ticket. After what she did last night, his best bet is to come out, speak for ten seconds, then feign a heart-attack in lieu of delivering his actual convention address. Maybe Obama can opt out of his speech as a result too, instead choosing to do a couple of satellite remotes from Joe’s hospital room.

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Hillary Clinton: Pure, face-melting awesome.

August 26th, 2008 · 3 Comments · Politics

I have no idea where this version of HRC was during the primary, but she just blew the fucking roof off of the Democratic Convention. While Michelle Obama stood by with a tight-lipped grimace etched on her face and Bill Clinton sat there with a look of pure, shit-eating glee on his, Hillary Clinton delivered what I can only describe as one of the greatest political speeches I’ve ever seen.

If THIS Hillary Clinton had appeared during the primaries, she would have vaporized her competition. I honestly have no idea what happened to her over the past couple of months, but the change is nothing short of staggering. She was funny, concise, energetic, human, authentic, powerful and authoritative in ways that I have a hard time imagining Obama, Biden or even Bill Clinton himself matching in the coming days.

You have to wonder how many Democrats felt pangs of buyers’ remorse while watching her absolutely dominate this convention tonight. On a night otherwise filled with awkward mumbling about McCain’s “seven houses”, Hillary Clinton stood head and shoulders above the rest of her party in a way that will be extremely tough to match.

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