The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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McCain’s in trouble.

August 23rd, 2008 · No Comments · Misc.

Obama has picked Joe Biden to be his running mate and - in doing so - taken a HUUUUGE step towards getting my vote. The rumors of McCain’s “short list” have been a horror show of late (Lieberman, Romney, etc.) and I actually am having a hard time thinking of anyone he could pick that won’t wither when paired off against Biden in a debate.

Team McCain basically needs a miracle pick at this point (someone like Michael Steele, for example) and I honestly don’t think they’ve got that in them.

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I am torn…

August 15th, 2008 · No Comments · Science

…between my love of Neil deGrasse Tyson and my devotion to THE PLANET Pluto:

One debater, Neil deGrasse Tyson, did the boxing entrance à la Rocky. That’s how hot the matchup is between Pluto as a planet and Pluto as a plutoid.

Tyson, director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium in New York, supports the demotion of Pluto. In the other corner, Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute in Tuscon, Ariz., does not agree with the recent ruling that essentially booted Pluto from the planet lineup.

The debate over whether Pluto should be considered a planet is part of “The Great Planet Debate: Science as Process” conference here at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) that runs through Saturday.

Before the idea-throwing began, debate moderator Ira Flatow of National Public Radio’s Science Friday threw out his own rule, “No throwing of perishable items or missiles of any kind at the stage,” Flatow said with a smirk.

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Escalation: Poland agrees to missile shield.

August 14th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

Well, this certainly won’t fan the flames of Russo-American relations:

Poland finally agreed on Thursday to host elements of U.S. global anti-missile system on its territory after Washington improved the terms of the deal amid the Georgia crisis.

The preliminary deal was signed by deputy Polish Foreign Minister Andrzej Kremer and U.S. chief negotiator John Rood. It still needs to be endorsed by the Polish parliament.

The signing comes after Prime Minister Donald Tusk had been holding out for enhanced military cooperation with the United States in return for consent to host 10 interceptor rockets at a base in northern Poland.

Washington says the interceptors and a radar in the Czech Republic would form part of a global “missile shield” protecting the United States and its allies from long range missiles that could in the future be fired by Iran or groups such as al-Qaeda.

“We have crossed the Rubicon,” Tusk said just before the deal was signed.

What a creepily appropriate thing to say.

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Colin Powell to endorse Obama?

August 13th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Politics

According to this, he is:

Sources say former Secretary of State Colin Powell will endorse Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol told FOX News exclusively on Thursday.

“He may well give a speech at the Democratic convention explaining his endorsement of Obama,” Kristol said, citing inside sources.

“This is not an absolute done deal, but these people are very confident that Powell will endorse Obama,” Kristol said, adding that he thinks Powell still has “a high respect” for John McCain, Obama’s Republican rival.

I’m torn between thinking that this would be cool and refusing to believe anything Bill Kristol says.

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August 13th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

It’s looking more and more like the Obama campaign has decided that Virginia is their #1 battleground state for the coming general election. Rumors have circulated for some time now about Obama choosing VA Governor Tim Kaine as his VP and it was just announced that former VA Governor (and current VA Senatorial candidate) Mark Warner will be delivering the key note speech at the Democratic Convention.

I suppose it’s possible to read this as the Obama campaign trying to give Warner the extra boost that such a high profile appearance would bring as he attempts to filled the seat vacated by Republican Senator John Warner (no relation), but that seems unlikely, if for no other reason than it would be a strategic “waste” during a potentially close contest. It seems far likelier that Obama is building a broad strategy for targeting VA voters. Picking Kaine would cement his support in the decidely-blue Northern Virginia area, but aligning closely with Warner potentially earns him some swing voters in the rural portions of the state (Warner has historically performed quite well with “red” voters in the state).

Of course, this may ALSO mean that Obama has decided to pass of Kaine and is trying to placate VA voters by giving Warner a marquee spot at the convention. I’ll admit that I’d be disappointed to see him pass on Kaine, who I actually like quite a bit.

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Look out, Senator Obama! It’s a trap!

August 13th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Politics, Rants

What is it with Democratic Presidential candidates and vacationing during campaigns? To Obama’s credit, he hasn’t been caught floating about on the S.S. Elite wearing a captain’s hat and an ascot, so he’s at least doing better than John Kerry did, but it still seems odd for him to take a week off in the middle of his campaign like this. McCain, on the other hand, continues to grind away, attending a constant stream of small events that are apparently barely worth covering. To be honest, I’ve gotten the sense that his campaign is often moving forward blindly, with the expectation that “something” will eventually happen that works in their favor. Any efforts they’ve made to manufacture that “something” have, thus far, failed.

But then the Russians stepped up and handed McCain a big, shiny life-line. While Obama is in Hawaii, McCain has been issuing red-faced condemnations of the Russian invasion of Georgia. Compared to his statements, the President’s responses have been passive and measured. Now some folks have pointed out that McCain has close ties to lobbiests from Georgia, but I think there’s a simpler explanation for his rather vigorous posturing.

The Russians can help him win in November.

Obama has the “youth vote” locked up, but everybody else remembers the Cold War. Everybody else remembers being raised on a diet of paranoia and fear of all things Russian. And, like riding a bike, fearing the Russians is something Americans definitely haven’t forgotten how to do.

Whether or not this becomes useful to McCain will largely be up to Obama. If, after the luaus and wake-boarding are over, he fails to condemn the Russians, he’ll have given McCain the ammunition he needs. If he issues a statement that is balanced and considerate of the intricacies and complexities of the relationship between Georgia and Russia, he’s in trouble. If he does anything other than stare straight into the camera and threaten to poke Putin in the eye, McCain will be set to pounce (well… like an old man pounce - sort of a spasmotic, lurching lean in Obama’s direction). Yes, True Believers, if Obama stumbles McCain will be able to simply re-release… THE BEAR:

And I’m only partially joking. I actually think McCain could use that exact ad to remind older voters of their past fears about the Commies and to immediately rekindle the fear that we’ll march back in that direction unless we elect a hawkish Republican president. Unlike Iraq or Afghanistan or Iran or North Korea or the economy or unemployment or social security or health care, there’s not really anything we can DO about the Russians - which makes them the perfect foil for Republicans. If you can’t ever actually do anything (and both sides know it), you can SAY anything you want without fear of repercussion. If McCain’s smart, that’s exactly what he’ll do.

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Political infidelity.

August 8th, 2008 · 2 Comments · Politics

Many moons ago, when I was in college, I was a blindly-devoted Democrat whose love and respect for Bill Clinton knew no bounds. I helped lead the Young Democrats group on campus. I campaigned for Democratic candidates from the lowliest local state-congressman to the President himself. I was a True Believer and being a Democrat was one of the things that defined me heavily.

Through most of early 1998 the Lewinsky scandal had been brewing, but the Clintons had maintained a unified front of denial and consistent dismissal of the charges. To the Faithful, it seemed sensible enough - after all, the GOP had spent the preceding half-decade accusing the Clintons of everything from shady real-estate deals to outright murder and none of that ever had any legitimate credibility outside of AM radio. As such, the “vast, Right Wing conspiracy” was something that seemed to be a perfectly acceptable explanation for why the President was being accused to cavorting with a zaftig junior staffer.

Clinton was forced to confess his infidelity during the summer prior to my senior year. I returned to campus that fall, totally dejected. Sure, Clinton was being subjected to a ridiculous impeachment effort, but the fact remained that he’d showed atrociously poor judgment, had lied to us all for months and had generally lent credence to every crack-pot accusation the GOP had leveled against the Clintons (and, by extension, the Democratic Party) over the previous six years. Part of the way through the first semester, our Poli Sci department held a dinner where we discussed - among other things - Clinton’s impeachment.

A great deal of the discussion revolved around relatively useless minutia relating to historical impeachment precedent and so forth, but things eventually settled on the subject of “how could he?” That is, how could he cheat on his wife, lie to America, disappoint his supporters, etc. A room full of disappointed liberals, wringing their hands and generally wallowing in shared moping. Then one of my professors spoke up and offered an explanation that sticks with me to this day.

In short, she argued that we should expect things like this from our Presidents. Not because “power corrupts” or that the office provides too much temptation, but rather because Presidents are almost certainly wired for misbehavior of this sort. The crux of her argument was this:

No normal person wakes up in the morning one day and decides that they’re totally comfortable with the idea that they should, in fact, lead the entire free world. Even if we have oodles of money and brilliant policy acumen, we lack the chutzpah or the confidence or the ego or the sheer audacity it takes to believe that we should be the most powerful organism on the face of the planet. The kind of person that DOES run for president is a mutant creature lacking all manner of self-controlling checks and balances that would mitigate the behavior of any normal person. They have boundless confidence and an appetite for a kind of power and authority that would - frankly - terrify most people if it was given to them.

Is it really, then, a surprise when they prove to have OTHER excessive, unbridled appetites? We’ve long tolerated (hell, DEMANDED) the arrogant lampooning of “normal people” that takes place in every election when politicians fall all over themselves to establish that they are “just one of the folks” by bowling or drinking cheap beer or riding horses on a ranch or working in a soup kitchen or hugging farmers or clearing brush on camera. We’ve tolerated it for so long that we somehow tricked ourselves into believing we were electing human beings instead of monomaniacal freaks who’re only BARELY able to contain their will to dominate and their disdain for anything normal.

Now, don’t get me wrong, like fish whose tongues have been replaced by weird parasites, we NEED the freaks to man the wheel of the ship of state. If we got rid of them now or replaced them with normal people, we’d be Doomed. Thus, we should probably stop being surprised when - in addition to believing themselves to be Tiny Gods - they also feel an uncontrollable urge to rut with anything that holds still in front of them for more than an instant. We’re lucky no President has yet been caught on tape in the midst of a titanic cocaine binge, while fornicating with an infant panda-bear stolen from the Chinese government during a recent diplomatic mission.

But, then again, George W. Bush still has a few more months to change that for us as well.

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TIME MACHINE: Edwards in ‘99

August 8th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

John Edwards, circa the Lewinsky scandal:

I think this President has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen.

Yowsa. Somewhere, Howard Dean is slamming his head against a wall.

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Edwards admits affair - also, kind of a dick about it.

August 8th, 2008 · 2 Comments · Politics

The affair is bad enough, but DAMN, dude:

In an interview for broadcast tonight on Nightline, Edwards told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff he did have an affair with 42-year old Rielle Hunter, but said that he did not love her.

“Baby, I know you’re fighting for your life against cancer and I cheated on you and lied about it nonstop, but it’s not like I LOVED her or anything.”

That’s cold, dude.

To be honest, his story is SO convoluted and SO fishy that I’m guessing the affair won’t be the end of it. It’s hard not to be suspicious of things like:

According to friends of Hunter, Edwards met her at a New York city bar in 2006. His political action committee later paid her $114,000 to produce campaign website documentaries despite her lack of experience.

Edwards said the affair began during the campaign after she was hired. Hunter traveled with Edwards around the country and to Africa.

and this:

Edwards today admitted the National Enquirer was correct when it reported he had visited Hunter at the Beverly Hills Hilton last month.

The former Senator said his wife had not known about the meeting.

and this:

Edwards denied paying any money to Hunter to keep her from going public but said it was possible some of his friends or supporters may have made payments without telling him.

I assume it’s already happened, but it’ll be interesting to hear Obama’s response to the first reporter who asks him about it. It’ll probably something dismissive about it being a “private matter” and him “respecting the Edwards’ wishes” by not discussing it.

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So… uh… you’re like… UN-invited, dude.

August 6th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

John Edwards’ inability to properly address the whole “cheating on my cancer-fightin’ wife/bastard love child” situation has (unsurprisingly) put his role at the Democratic Convention in serious jeopardy. It’s getting harder to believe that Edwards isn’t guilty as charged, to be honest, which kind of sucks because he made a really good moral compass for the Dems previously. Unelectably irritating to be sure, but still a decent compass.

Ah well, I guess his errant wang just opens up more room for Clinton to ruin her legacy with a failed coup at the convention.

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So… confused…

August 6th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

I… I think it’s possible that… that I don’t totally hate Paris Hilton:

Someone hold me. I’m very scared.

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Mr. Rogers goes off the air.

August 5th, 2008 · No Comments · Art, Politics, Rants

PBS has decided to transition the daily program to a single, weekend airing. Fred Rogers passed away a few years ago, but the programs he’d created over the course of a forty year career in broadcasting remained resonant even after he’d officially retired and PBS continued to air repeats daily. It’s hard to imagine kids growing up NOT watching his show, but I suppose it had to happen eventually.

Efforts to “save” the show are understandable, especially since it was Rogers who - in the span of less than 10 minutes of calm, but passionate testimony before what had been a sarcastic and aggressive Congressional committee - effectively delivered educational public television from the jaws of death during the early Nixon years:

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Terrible video day continues!

July 30th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

Ralph Nader, proving you can be totally correct in a totally awful way:

Because NOTHING is as EXTREME as single-payer health care!

While we’re at it, Ludakris’ most recent video is out:

Obama’s campaign has condemned it, which makes this kind of awkward. But still nowhere nearly as awkward as this.

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McCain’s new strategy…

July 30th, 2008 · 2 Comments · Politics

… suggesting that Obama=Paris Hilton:

Now THAT’s a low blow.

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For the record…

July 29th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

…while Kaine is a good choice for Obama, I’d still prefer to see him choose Biden (who would be a risky choice due to all of that “experience” and his tendency to “say whatever pops into his head”).

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Hometown Hero.

July 29th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

So the current veep-stakes buzz is that Virginia’s Own Timmy Kaine may get the nod to run with Obama. It seems like a good fit to me for a number of reasons:

1) He’s roughly the same age as Obama, but looks older. Sad but true, age is a factor on both sides of the aisle. Obama needs to pick someone who brings the “wisdom vibe” without having that person also overshadow him in terms of experience. Speaking of which…

2) He’s basically a rookie. Kaine was Mayor of Richmond and Lieutenant Governor (which are essentially useless positions in terms of national prominence) before becoming Governor in 2006. As a result, Obama’s “national” experience is nearly DOUBLE that of Kaine (well… 33% greater, but still…), making him look like a wissend Elder Statesman by comparison.

3) He’s been groomed by the Party. Kaine’s good on the stick and was Governor for less than two weeks before he was tapped to give the official Democratic response to Bush’s ‘06 State of the Union speech. He’ll smile and say the right things without pushing Obama to back any of his pet projects.

4) He’s from a big swing state. I know Obama’s camp has said that they aren’t choosing VP candidates based on whether or not they can provide a hometown bump in key areas, but that’s obviously total bullshit. Virginia has been a Red State for a long time and it would be a major feather in Obama’s cap to flip it to the Democrats in this election (to say nothing of the fact that its 13 electoral votes could provide a handy buffer against a loss in Florida and the like). Obama is REEEALLY close to doing that already and tapping Kaine could definitely push him over the tipping point here.

5) He and Obama are BFF. Kaine’s backed Obama since the beginning (he endorsed Obama in February of ‘07) and Obama campaigned on Kaine’s behalf in ‘05. Obama’s in the rare position of being able to grab a useful running mate that can push critical votes his way WITHOUT that person also being someone he hates.

6) He’s not Hillary Clinton. Let’s be honest, that one’s high on Obama’s person list of requirements.

In the end, I’d be pretty happy with Obama/Kaine. While Kaine signed some godawfully abusive DMV regulation into law at the start of his term, he (along with the equally-silly state senate) quickly realized it was an unbelievable mistake and flailed around wildly trying to back it out. Other than that, he’s been a solid B+ Governor.

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Our Strongest Export - Obamania?

July 28th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

A note to John McCain:

Stop mentioning Obama’s World Tour.

Drawing even more attention to a wildly successful outing by your opponent isn’t going to help you at all. And let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat - this WAS a wildly successful trip.

I’m not going to cite any hard data - polls, Daily Kos rants, pseudo-historical prognostication - to back this up. I assume you can find that stuff on your own. I’m just going to rely on my own response to it as someone who’s pretty skeptical of Obama’s pedigree and decidedly… well… undecided.

I travel abroad a lot - at least compared to most Americans - and as a result I’ve become relatively resistant to Foreign Whining about US policies. It’s hard to be subjected to routine hard-drinking nights out with the French and NOT develop a thick skin for complaints about American foreign policy. So I was surprised to find myself reflexively drawn to coverage of Obama overseas. Something inside of me responded strongly to the Rest of the World actually liking an American politician - probably because some ignorant, reptilian part of my brain believes that that affection will somehow magically extend to ME next time I’m across the pond.

Despite the GOP’s efforts to argue that “only the US dictates US policy” (which has, admittedly, been very effective over the preceding decade or so), I can’t help but think that even the Reddest of the Red Staters probably felt a twinge of warm, hopeful thawing in their cold, Grinch-like hearts at the thought of America taking a step back towards being a beloved member of the global community. Obama’s only stumble (and it was a minor one, at worst) was to not throw a public fit about not being allowed to visit wounded troops due to official US policy. McCain’s response to it was embarrassing and desperate, but I can see it having resonance in some circles.

So… kudos to Obama. He did Good Work over the past couple of weeks.

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Dear Ralf.

July 26th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Art, Politics

Under no circumstances should you read this article. Seriously, it will cause your face to melt off.

Just to show you - BRIEFLY - what I’m protecting you from:

A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .

Oh, wait a minute. That’s not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a “W.”

There seems to me no question that the Batman film “The Dark Knight,” currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

No need to thank me. It’s enough for me to know that you weren’t exposed to The Crazy directly.

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America is not enough…

July 23rd, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

…Obama is shooting for President of the WORLD! I will say that it’s nice to imagine a politician representing America in a major foreign country being received with entusiasm (sorry, all 12 citizens of Standbyyourmanistan, your love of W doesn’t cut it).

That being said, the ongoing pre-election Coronation of Obama continues to bug me. Illustrating the point:

“It is not going to be a political speech,” said a senior [Obama] foreign policy adviser, who spoke to reporters on background. “When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally.”

“But he is not president of the United States,” a reporter reminded the adviser.

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The Dark Knight is magnificent.

July 19th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Art, Movies

Ledger’s Joker is - as we’ve been told - a wonder to behold. Bale is, as always, spot-on. The supporting cast is perfect - just having a Rachel Dawes we don’t all hate throughout the picture was a major improvement. Even at 2 1/2 hours in length, the story moves quickly and never feels cumbersome or distracted. As a hardcore Bat-fan, the story was also loaded with wonderful nods to and re-workings of the very best stories from the entire canon.

Since everyone on earth seems to be heading out to see for themselves, not much else is needed by way of explanation.

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