Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jonesing for Obama

One further thought...

As I'm watching and reading the inauguration coverage, political bloggers and reporters keep referring to Obama as a "Baby Boomer." Although that's technically correct — the traditional cutoff for the post-World War II Baby Boom is 1964— as Obama's immediate peer (we both were born in 1961; he's a few months older than I), I don't think it's sociologically accurate.

Those of us born in the late 1950s and early 1960s better fit the description of "Generation Jones," as defined by pop culture savant Jonathan Pontell. We have far more in common with today's young adults, a.k.a. Generation X, than we do with the more conservative Boomers who arrived in the decade before us.

Like our younger colleagues, we Jonesers tend to be more liberal politically, more tolerant socially, and more savvy technologically than our Boomer elders. (Obama's infamous Blackberry is an excellent illustration of this latter point.)

We mark a striking transition between the children of WWII veterans — the generation that voted Ronald Reagan and both Bushes into office (as well as Bill Clinton, who ran as a conservative Democrat) — and the enthusiastic youth who helped sweep our new President into the White House.

It's an important distinction to make, I think.

Our generation elected Barack Obama. The Baby Boomers would have elected John McCain.

So let's call Obama, not the last President of the Baby Boom generation, but the first President born of Generation Jones.

Now, my fellow Jonesers, let's go change the world.

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Marshaling my thoughts in the wake of President Obama's inauguration...
  • Ironic, in a way, that I was in my minivan returning home from taking my daughter to class at the local junior college (her car is still in the shop after she was rear-ended two weeks ago) as Obama took the oath of office. History is made... but everyday life goes on.

  • Memo to Chief Justice John Roberts: For pity's sake, man, memorize the Presidential oath. And if you can't memorize it, write it down.

  • As stately and majestic a President as Obama makes, Michelle is every inch as stately and majestic a First Lady. They both chose well.

  • Glad as I am to see Bush 43 leave office, it's a touching moment watching him and the former First Lady board that Marine helicopter for the final time. Bush was among our worst Presidents ever, but he was still our President.

  • I'd describe Obama's speech as soberingly electric. He clearly understands the gravity of his new office.

  • Obama also made clear the distinction between his incoming administration and that of his predecessor: "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." Cut to Bush squirming in his seat.

  • I love the fact that Obama didn't run from anything in his speech: not the challenges ahead, not the mistakes of the past, not the darkness of racism, not even his own middle name — which he used in taking the oath.

  • They should commission Maya Angelou to write the inaugural poem every four years. No disrespect to the writer who composed today's poem, but... she's no Maya Angelou.

  • I was surprised that Dianne Feinstein blew off the Constitutional deadline for the new President's swearing-in, in favor of Yo-Yo Ma and Yitzhak Perlman playing John Williams. But when in doubt, go to the arts.

  • How fitting that Dick Cheney gets trundled out of office in a wheelchair, given everything he's done to cripple the country while he's been Vice President.

  • I'm reminded of that old Peugeot commercial with tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis showing off his new car to his unimpressed father. "Is a nice Peugeot, Vitas," said the elder Gerulaitis after his son finished extolling the virtues of his ride. "Now when you are getting a haircut?" In that same spirit: It's a nice inauguration, Mr. President. Now it's time to get a haircut, metaphorically speaking.

  • Yet, at the same time... what a spectacular, enthralling, glorious moment for our nation, and indeed, for our planet. America is indeed ready to lead once more.

  • You go, 44.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hot Rod in hot water

Before he was arrested this morning, I only knew three facts about Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich:
  1. He and I matriculated at the same institution of higher learning.
  2. He's the only sitting governor with a surname even more difficult to spell than "Schwarzenegger."
  3. Every time he made news that reached as far as California, it had something to do with allegations of corruption.
It doesn't appear as though that last fact is going to change anytime soon.

If Blagojevich is guilty of even a handful of the charges contained in the 78-page criminal complaint against him, he'll be enjoying the hospitality of the taxpaying public for many years to come... although not in the setting he had hoped.

Among the U.S. attorney's more startling accusations, Blagojevich:
  • Considered appointing himself to President-elect Obama's now-vacant U.S. Senate seat. Apparently, the much-maligned, much-investigated governor believed that a few years in the Senate would set him up for a White House run in 2016. (Dream on, Rod.)

  • Discussed attempting to bargain with Obama for either a Cabinet post (specifically, Health and Human Services Secretary) or an ambassadorship in exchange for choosing someone else (namely, Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team) for the Senate seat. When his staff suggested that Blagojevich appoint Jarrett without expecting a quid pro quo from the President-elect, the governor was recorded as saying, "[Expletive deleted] him."

  • Reportedly had conversations with his advisers in which he suggested that at least two possible candidates for the Senate vacancy might be willing to "pay to play"; that is, contribute millions to Blagojevich and/or his pet causes in exchange for a ticket to Washington.
Don't these people ever learn? In this electronic age, anything indictable that a politician says is being captured in an audio file somewhere. Blagojevich, especially, should have been more circumspect — the FBI has been dogging his every step almost from the moment he took office. He practically dared federal prosecutors to uncover some dirt about him, much as Colorado Senator Gary Hart challenged reporters during the 1984 Presidential campaign. That challenge, you'll recall, resulted in that infamous photograph of Hart wearing his "Monkey Business" T-shirt as he dandled his mistress Donna Rice on his knee.

Blagojevich didn't even get the T-shirt.

Ironically, Blagojevich's predecessor in the Illinois state house, George Ryan, is currently serving a six-year term in federal prison following a corruption conviction.

At least Blagojevich will have someone to talk with.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Maverick, meet Iceman

The incoming First Family have received their official Secret Service callsigns.

President-elect Barack Obama is known to the boys with the black suits, buttons, and bad attitudes as "Renegade." Hopefully, that's not an indication that he's a Lorenzo Lamas fan.

First Lady-elect Michelle is "Renaissance." Perhaps she enjoys anachronistic cosplay. (She'd be the first First Lady since Jackie Kennedy who could make a peasant blouse and petticoat look good.)

First Daughters-elect Malia and Sasha are "Radiance" and "Rosebud." One's a little bit Charlotte's Web; the other's a little bit Citizen Kane.

The outgoing President and First Lady depart as "Trailblazer" and "Tempo." The car names make sense, given Bush 43's petroleum industry ties and the sorry state into which American automotive corporations have plummeted during his administration. (Yes, I know that the latter is not his fault. I just enjoy kicking the guy when he's down.)

Not that it would ever be pertinent, but I've given a bit of thought to the callsign I'd want were I ever to be elected Leader of the Free World. Here are a few options I came up with:
  • Earthquake. It's where I live, and it's what I do.
  • Midnight. I'm never in bed before then.
  • Flapjacks. Have you ever seen my feet?
  • Gutshot. I'm crazy enough to draw to one when I have too few outs.
  • Snickerdoodle. Mmmm... snickerdoodles.
  • Prowler. Hobie Brown should be President, doggone it.
  • Brainiac. Unless Ken Jennings gets elected first.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hoppin' John

I can't allow the moment to pass without saying this:

If John McCain had given on the campaign stump more speeches of the kind that he gave last evening in conceding defeat, he might well have won.

For what it's worth, I don't think McCain is a bad guy. I think he got a ton of bad advice from the extreme wingnuts in his party, and decided to take it.

Which tells us both why he didn't get elected, and why it's probably a very good thing that he didn't.

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Dawn of a new day

Did Obama still win?

Yes, it appears that he did.

There may be a handful of folks surprised that the sun rose this morning, on the day after an African American man was elected the 44th President of the United States. But it did. And, I suspect, that handful is smaller than it ever would have been before today.

What still stuns me most is not so much the fact of Obama's victory — although, to be honest, I'm considerably stunned by that alone — but the nature of that victory. Just consider the popular vote: Obama's 52.4% (which may change by a tenth of a point either way, once all of the absentee and provisional ballots are tallied) is the highest mark for any President-elect in 20 years. By way of comparison, Ronald Reagan racked up only 50.7% in 1980, running against a hugely unpopular Jimmy Carter.

Obama won Florida. He won Virginia. He won Indiana, for crying out loud — I would not have believed that possible, based upon my brief personal experiences in that state. North Carolina's 15 electoral votes may yet fall into Obama's column — we're talking about the state that kept the virulently racist Jesse Helms gainfully employed for decades. Obama got 56% of the vote in New Mexico, and 54% in Iowa. He garnered 55% in Nevada, which, despite its proximity to California and its legendary embrace of casino gambling and legalized prostitution (only in counties with populations under 50,000, though — not in cities like Las Vegas or Reno), is a fairly conservative place with a sizable Mormon citizenry.

The overall popular vote favored Obama by roughly six percentage points, which is fairly close to the final pre-election aggregate of the major polls. The vaunted Bradley Effect didn't manifest itself to any significant degree — which, again, surprises me, but not as much as it might have a decade ago.

As ludicrous as it sounds, I think that popular culture helped pave the way for a President who just happens to be African American. Millions of people saw Morgan Freeman as President Tom Beck in the movie Deep Impact; who's not cool with Morgan Freeman? (Well, maybe his soon-to-be-ex-wife, but that's another issue.) Millions more watched Dennis Haysbert as President David Palmer on the first three seasons of 24; Haysbert was so authoritative and reassuring that he's now the "you're in good hands with Allstate" guy. D.B. Woodside then followed Haysbert to the 24 White House as President Wayne Palmer, David's brother and indirect successor. (I was going to mention Chris Rock as President Mays Gilliam in Head of State... but that's probably not a good example.) Seeing these talented African American actors playing strong, capable, decisive Presidents may — even at a subconscious level — have planted the notion in people's minds that, yeah, okay, a black guy could be President. You've gotta name it before you can claim it, as the saying goes.

Certainly, for President-to-be Obama, the tough journey is only beginning. Getting elected is one thing; governing effectively enough to get re-elected is entirely another, as former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush could relate. Everything we've seen of Obama gives me confidence that he's equal to the challenge. How great a President he will be, only time will tell. But he will be President, which in itself is something special.

The additional symbolism of Obama as our 44th President resonates with me, too. One of my favorite baseball players of all time is Willie "Stretch" McCovey, the long-time San Francisco Giant whose number 44 hangs in retired glory at AT&T Park. McCovey was a smooth, cool, easygoing man whose quiet authority made him a respected team leader, and ultimately, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. His 1959 selection as National League Rookie of the Year, 1969 National League Most Valuable Player Award, six All-Star appearances, and 521 home runs — including a National League record 18 grand slams — contributed also. The Giants' annual "most inspirational player" honor, the Willie Mac Award, bears McCovey's name.

Although he won't take office for another 76 days, Obama 44 is already in the running for that "most inspirational" tag.

Now, he'll have to earn it.

In local election news, I was glad to see that my neighbors passed Measure Q, which provides funding (via a quarter-cent sales tax increase) for the SMART passenger-rail system. SMART will run from Cloverdale, Sonoma County's northernmost outpost, to Larkspur in Marin County, where the Golden Gate Ferry terminal is located, with 14 stops in between. SMART has been on the ballot at least twice before, and has lost narrowly each time, mostly due to opposition from Marin County interests. (In 2006, SMART received 65.3% of the combined Sonoma-Marin vote, just short of the two-thirds majority required for a sales tax hike.)

In this era of high energy costs, and given the perennially impacted commute corridor on U.S. 101, SMART makes excellent sense. The railway easement, a now-dormant line formerly operated by Union Pacific, already exists. Now that funding is approved, SMART should be up and running by 2013.

On a related note, it looks as though California voters also approved Proposition 1A, a bond measure that will help fund a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with eventual extensions to San Diego in the south and Sacramento in the north. Again, this transportation solution is an idea whose time has long since come, and I hope that the measure is officially passed once all of the votes are counted.

All right, election over. Everybody back to work.

One more quick note: This morning on KCBS News Radio, I heard a psychologist talking about the effects of Post-Event Energy Deficiency, a condition many folks may be suffering in the aftermath of an intense and attention-commanding election. That's as may be... but that condition would benefit from a better acronym.

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The Big O


349 electoral votes. That's with North Carolina (leaning blue) and Missouri (leaning red) still to be officially called at 2:45 a.m. PST.

I'm almost afraid to go to bed, for fear that by morning, the wingnuts will have engineered a way to snake the election, as they did in 2000.

But in the interest of good faith, I'll give it a shot.

Congratulations, Mr. President-Elect.

You too, Mr. Vice President-Elect. (Can I still call you Joe?)

America... you done good.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008


According to the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters, our vote-by-mail ballots have been received.

This means that, whatever else happens, Barack Obama got at least three votes.

It's hard for me to express how elated I am that, in my daughter's first Presidential election, she has a choice at the top of the ticket that resonates with her, and for whom she was excited to cast her first vote for President. Although I know it won't happen every time, it's important to me that her first experience in helping to choose the leader of the free world be inspiring and positive, rather than the usual ennui-inducing coin flip between two tapioca-bland evils.

I'm glad that for once, we have a choice that actually matters. And yes, I'm a wee bit tickled that it's a choice that is not only right for the time, place, and office, but also reflects the nature of my family, my community, and the man I see in the mirror every morning. In my lifetime, I've never been offered a choice like that before. I'm pleased that my daughter won't have to live to be my age before she is offered such a choice.

I wrote this in July 2004, after Barack Obama's keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention:
The phrase that leapt out of Obama's speech for me was "the audacity of hope." I don't tend to be hopeful about humankind in general because we are what we are and will never change, but at the individual level we must either hope or die. "Hope does not disappoint us," as the apostle wrote, because it impels us onward and gives us reason to face each new day. Sometimes we don't get all that we hope for, but if we never hope, we will never strive, and therefore will never get anything. And yes, it's an audacious concept -- as audacious as the day two bicycle mechanics launched their ungainly Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and said, "Hope this works." Maybe the Wrights' machine would have crashed and burned. But they'd have never known had they not hoped enough to try.
Today, we can make a choice as a nation that says something good about us as Americans. We need to hear that. The world needs to hear that. God knows we've said and done enough in recent years to make us look vain and mean-spirited and vicious and stupid. It's about time we stood up once again and said, "This is who we really are. We are honorable and decent and just. We have intelligence and compassion and strength. We are a people of hope."

If you went to the polls today and voiced your choice, good on you. If you haven't yet voted, but are going to vote before your precinct closes, good on you. If you, as did our family, voted early by whatever process your state offers, good on you. I hope you made, or will make, the right choices.

That means I hope that you made your choices — not just at the top of the ballot, but all the way through — in light of the noble hope that makes this country such a wonderful place to inhabit. We may not always be a people who do the right thing. But we should always be a people who try.

By this time tomorrow, we will all know whether our efforts — and our hope — were enough.

I'm SwanShadow, and I approve this message.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

I vote for free coffee!

In our litigious world, no honorably intentioned deed goes unpunished.

Just ask the people at Starbucks.

Last week, Starbucks announced a promotion that would provide a free cup of coffee on Election Day to every customer who told the barista that he or she had voted. The company pitched the deal aggressively via viral marketing, as well as through a spot that aired on NBC's Saturday Night Live.

Then came the call from the government.

Federal law forbids offering people any form of incentive to vote. Apparently, "incentive" can be broadly construed to include a tall cup of Pike Place Roast.

Rather than incur the wrath of The Powers That Be, Starbucks has decided to make the offer of free coffee open to everyone, including nonvoters.

The good news is that now all Americans — including convicted felons on parole, and anyone too lazy, conflicted, or forgetful to have registered to vote — will be able to drop by the Sign of the Naked Fish-Tailed Lady tomorrow and slug down a tasty snootful of gratis Joe.

Make mine Biden.

Not the plumber.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What's Up With That? #64: What, me read?

In an interview aired last evening on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin either couldn't or wouldn't give a specific answer to Couric's question about the news sources she reads. Here's the exchange:
Couric: And when it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?

Palin: I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.

Couric: What, specifically?

Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.

Can you name a few?

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, "Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?" Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.
I'm guessing that the governor wasn't certain whether Field & Stream, Guns & Ammo, The Hockey News, and Pageantry qualified as "news sources."

In the interest of full disclosure — and in the event that I am ever called upon to serve as the Vice President of the United States — my campaign is releasing the following list of online news sources I check regularly. I don't read everything on these sites — who has that kind of time? — but I do scan all of the headlines, and read each article that seems pertinent to me.
  • SFGate, the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle, is the first site I review every day.

  • For world and national news, I read The New York Times and the network news sites, in order of preference: MSNBC, CBS News, CNN, ABC News, and FOX News.

  • For Sonoma County news, there's the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (which, continuing the full-disclosure theme, is owned by the New York Times) and our homegrown alternative weekly, the North Bay Bohemian.

  • For political updates, I'll check Politico. I don't read a lot of political blogs, but my daily review includes The Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and yes, The Drudge Report, because everything's better with cheese.

  • For an aggregate sampling of everything — but mostly for entertainment, pop culture, and just plain bizarre news that I might never ferret out or stumble upon otherwise — I use TotalFARK, the expanded, subscription-only edition of FARK.com.
I'm SwanShadow, and I approve this message.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wall Street wreck

Tempted though I am to post something perspicacious yet hilarious about the current Wall Street debacle and the government's ill-conceived attempt to (mis)manage it...

...my friends Mark Evanier and Eugene Finerman have already the work for me.

Click over to Mark's repurposed "Uncle Scam" (Mark didn't write this, but he was savvy enough to pass it along) and Eugene's "The Bear Market of A.D. 455" and "Robbing Peter to Pay Paulson" to inject your recommended daily allowance of well-observed political humor.

We simply can't get this administration out of office soon enough... without replacing them with more of the McSame.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Identity theft, superhero style

We interrupt this post for an urgent news bulletin.

Senator Barack Obama wanted to name me as his vice presidential running mate this afternoon. I have declined, however, as the resulting firestorm of media attention would have prevented me from completing today's Comic Art Friday.

So he's going with the other guy.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled post.

My friend and fellow comic art collector Damon Owens has a particular fondness for the "forgotten heroes" of comics history, especially those whose adventures were published by little-known or short-lived companies. In fact, Damon has an entire gallery of commissioned artworks devoted to what he calls "The Dead Universes Project," a showcase for characters whose fortunes evaporated when the publishing entities who created them did likewise.

Although the DC Comics universe remains alive and well, I have a feeling that Damon will enjoy today's Comic Art Friday spotlight.

I've entitled this incredible drawing by Mike Vosburg "Identity Theft," because it illustrates the level of indignity often perpetrated by comic book publishers on their less popular characters. The dynamic duo depicted here are Starfire (left) and Steel (right), both of whom headlined their own DC series in the 1970s. Starfire ran for a mere eight issues, beginning in August 1976. Steel, the Indestructible Man lasted for even less time, bowing out after only five issues in 1978.

Now, if you're a relatively recent reader of DC's oeuvre, you may be thinking, "That doesn't look like either the Starfire or Steel I'm familiar with." And you'd be right. Since 1980, the name Starfire has been associated with a completely different DC superheroine, an orange-skinned alien who's probably best known as a member of the Teen Titans. As for Steel, that code name has been worn for the last 15 years by the hammer-swinging, armor-clad scientist-hero whose real name is John Henry Irons, as portrayed (and I use the term loosely) in an ill-conceived 1997 live-action motion picture starring basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal.

Your confusion, therefore, is understandable.

Though she's all but forgotten today, the "original" Starfire (I use the quotes because DC actually had another, even more obscure — and male — superhero who briefly used the name for a single issue of Teen Titans in 1968) was a nifty character in her own right. Created by artist Vosburg and writer David Michelinie, Starfire lived on a distant planet torn by civil war. The daughter of slaves, young Starfire trained in various martial arts — most noticeably, swordsmanship — awaiting the day when she could lead her people in revolt against their oppressors.

Starfire's adventures offered an intriguing amalgam of the science fiction and sword-and-sorcery genres that were popular in the '70s. One might think of her, in fact, as sort of an interstellar Red Sonja. For whatever reason — most likely, the lack of evident connection to the mainstream DC universe — Starfire didn't catch fire with readers. In the 30 years since her book's cancellation, she's made only a couple of token reappearances.

Today's more famous Starfire — whose real name is Koriand'r — teams up in this Common Elements commission with the mysterious Question. Behind the latter's featureless face mask lurks crusading journalist Charles Victor Szasz, whose nom de plume is Vic Sage. If you spend any time puttering in the kitchen, you'll quickly figure out what Koriand'r and Sage share in common. The artist here is rising indie comics star Shawn Surface.

Steel, of Indestructible Man fame, has fared slightly better than has Starfire. Even though his eponymous series was pretty much dead on arrival — again, partly due to the fact that it lacked continuity with other DC books, as the stories were set in the 1930s — Steel (or Commander Steel, as he was also known) has inspired at least two generations of descendants endowed with his cybernetically induced powers (for the most part, super-strength and the aforementioned invulnerability). The original Steel's grandson served during the 1980s as a member of the Justice League of America using the Steel code name. Another modern-day relation — a cousin of the second Steel — battles evil with the recently revitalized Justice Society, under the moniker Citizen Steel.

The current Steel — a.k.a. John Henry Irons — fights a losing battle with the mighty Thor in this Common Elements smackdown designed and penciled by the great Trevor Von Eeden, and inked by the equally great Joe Rubinstein.

Let this be a lesson to you, friend reader: Guard your superhero identity carefully. There's always an interloper waiting in the wings to swipe your code name.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Primary post-mortem

Rubbing the sleep gunk from my eyes and reflecting upon yesterday's electoral events...

You go, Obama.

This is, without question, the funniest thing I've read all week. Mark Evanier said it, over at his excellent blog, News from ME:
Going into this election, McCain has certain advantages and Obama has certain advantages. Obama's biggest one may be that there are no photos of him hugging George Bush.
The funniest thing I've heard aloud all week was spoken last night by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, asked about the historic nature of Obama's now-certain nomination:
It's certainly a historic moment in our history.
Which is where historic moments occur, historically speaking.

Back to McCain: Was that the most agonizingly dull political speech any Presidential candidate ever delivered, or what? I was driving to rehearsal as McCain was speaking, and I darn near dozed off at the wheel. And he wants to go face-to-face with Obama in ten town hall meetings this summer? Egad. Someone in his campaign needs to talk him out of that idea, pronto. It'll be JFK vs. Nixon all over again.

What does Hillary want? For the entire planet to kiss her pantsuited little butt, apparently. Memo to Hil-Rod: The fat lady hasn't just sung; she's recorded an entire soundtrack album, packed up her microphone and Viking helmet, and headed for a nice leisurely vacation in Hawaii. Let it go, already.

By the way, is Hillary taking oratorical lessons from John McCain? Yikes, that was dreadful. If you're going to be irritatingly ubiquitous, at least be entertaining.

I can't believe that Obama would seriously consider Hillary for the second slot on the ticket, given the way she's dragged this mess along. I think he might roll the dice with Kathleen Sibelius, the governor of Kansas, a savvy manager (Time Magazine named her one of the country's five best governors a couple of years back) who's popular with the electorate in an generally Republican state. Obama still, however, seems more likely to choose a seasoned veteran with foreign policy experience — a Sam Nunn or Chris Dodd type. Bill Richardson wouldn't be a bad choice, either, and could help Obama draw in some Latino voters.

In local politics, not such a good night for me. The candidates for whom I voted in both our State Senate primary (Joe Nation) and the county supervisor race (Tim Smith) lost by wide margins. I'm better at picking racehorses than politicians.

Ah, well. There's always Obama.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Sign of the Apocalypse: Blackbyrd

This morning, West Virginia's senior U.S. Senator, 91-year-old Robert C. Byrd, formally endorsed Barack Obama for President.

Robert Byrd... who six decades ago was the Exalted Cyclops of his friendly neighborhood klavern of the Ku Klux Klan.

Robert Byrd... who in the 1940s opposed the integration of the U.S. military, saying, "I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side."

Robert Byrd... who actively campaigned against civil rights legislation throughout the 1960s.

Robert Byrd... whose state handed the all-over-but-the-shouting Hillary Clinton campaign a 41-point victory in its Democratic primary just a week ago.

That Robert Byrd.

In announcing that his superdelegate vote will be cast for the junior Senator from Illinois, Byrd said:
I believe that Barack Obama is a shining young statesman, who possesses the personal temperament and courage necessary to extricate our country from this costly misadventure in Iraq, and to lead our nation at this challenging time in history. Barack Obama is a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian, and he has my full faith and support.
Robert Byrd said that?


This settles the reality — if all of the other overwhelming evidence fails — that when Obama speaks of himself as the candidate of change...

...he's not just whistling "Dixie."

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Babbling about Brooke

This caught my attention on a slow news May Day...

In an interview scheduled to air next Tuesday, television legend Barbara Walters reveals to Oprah Winfrey that, back in the 1970s, she engaged in a long-running affair with Edward Brooke, who at the time was (a) a Republican U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, (b) married, and (c) African-American.

Brooke hasn't been (a) since 1978. I believe he's now (b) to a different woman than the one to whom he was (b) at the time that he was getting jiggy with the ABC newswoman. So far as I know, he is still (c).

When I first heard about this, my first reaction was probably the same as yours: Barbara Walters?

Senator Brooke: You were one of the 200 or so most powerful men in the United States government. You could probably have shacked up with any woman you chose — notwithstanding the far less enlightened racial climate of 30-odd years ago. And you picked Barbara Walters?

Dude, what were you thinking?

Then again, as a quick survey of the couples strolling your local shopping mall will confirm, there's no accounting for taste.

And here all this time, I just thought Ed Brooke was goofy because he was a Republican.

Setting his questionable preferences in women aside for the moment, Ed Brooke's an interesting guy, from a historical perspective. The first African-American to be popularly elected to the U.S. Senate — and the only black Senator elected for more than a quarter-century after he took office in 1967 — Brooke was a black Republican in an era when pretty much the only black Republicans anyone could name were Pearl Bailey and Ed Brooke.

As one might expect from a Massachusetts Republican, Brooke occupied the liberal wing of the GOP, to the degree that such exists. (In fact, the citizens of Massachusetts haven't elected another Republican to the Senate since Brooke was defeated for a third term by future Democratic Presidential candidate Paul Tsongas.) Brooke often butted heads with fellow elephant Richard Nixon, leading the rejection of a trio of Nixon nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, including that of racial segregationist (and closeted homosexual, not that either Nixon or Brooke knew at the time) G. Harrold Carswell in 1970. To his credit, Brooke was one of the first Senators to publicly call for Nixon's resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

Earlier in this decade, Brooke was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent a double mastectomy. He has since campaigned actively in support of breast cancer awareness, among men in particular. Bush 43 awarded Brooke the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

At the time of his defeat in 1978, many political observers blamed Brooke's loss on the nasty and highly publicized divorce he and his then-wife underwent during his second Senatorial term. Now that Barbara Walters has 'fessed up to Oprah, maybe we know what all the fuss at the Brooke house was about.

Although we may never know how Baba Wawa hooked up with a man whose surname she couldn't pronounce.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What's Up With That? #63: So that's what they mean by "Down Under"

And we Americans think our politicians are insane.

Troy Buswell, a member of the Australian Parliament and the leader of Western Australia's Liberal Party, tearfully admitted the veracity of rumors that he smelled the chair of a female staffer shortly after she vacated it.

Apparently, Mr. Buswell did inhale.

According to The Australian, in 2005:
Mr. Buswell allegedly lifted the woman's chair and started sniffing it in front of her, and later repeated the act in front of several staff members.
The paper further notes that last year, Buswell snapped a staff member's bra strap during a "drunken escapade," and frequently made "inappropriate comments" to female colleagues.

In an emotional public statement, Buswell acknowledged that his behavior was "unacceptable." He had no ready explanation for the white cotton underpants seen dangling from his hip pocket.

So far, there is no confirmation of the report that Buswell's favorite '70s radio hit was "Driver's Seat" by Sniff 'n' the Tears.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

What's Up With That? #62: Ain't no party like an Uncle Sam party

Pop diva Alicia Keys opines that gangsta rap was created by the United States government as "a ploy to convince black people to kill each other."

Umm... what?

I'm trying to envision a collection of Caucasian policy wonks holed up in a bunker in Washington, D.C. writing the material for N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton. The imagery just isn't working for me.

Even if we assume, for the sake of ludicrous argument, that shadowy figures at the Justice Department did in fact concoct the idea of gangsta rap, there's an element that I still don't comprehend:

How did the government persuade the performers who ostensibly began the gangsta rap phenomenon to begin recording this stuff?

Maybe the conversation went something like this...

FBI Guy: Hello, Mr. Ice-T. Thank you for meeting with us.

Ice-T: Whatever.

FBI Guy: Mr. Ice-T — may I call you Mr. T.?

Ice-T: Naw, man, that's the brother with the Mohawk and the bling. Just call me Ice.

FBI Guy: All right, Ice. Recognizing that you are a loyal American and a decent, law-abiding citizen, your federal government would like to make you the point man on a unique public relations project.

Ice-T: I'm listening.

FBI Guy: Your government is taking note of this hip-hop — do I have the term correct? — business that's all the rage with the young African-Americans these days. We believe there's a wonderful opportunity here to accomplish something very special for this country, and for the black community in particular, utilizing this exciting medium. And we would like for you to take a leading role.

Ice-T: What do I have to do?

FBI Guy: Our crack staff — no pun intended, Ice — has been composing some funky-fresh — did I say that properly? — lyrical material for the hip-hop genre, which we want you to record. We believe that if you were to make this material popular with the African-American youth, other performers would follow suit.

Ice-T: A'ight. Lemme see what you got. (Pause.) "Six in the mornin', police at my door..." Are you kidding me, man? (Another pause.) "Cop Killer"? What the [expletive deleted] is this?

FBI Guy: We realize that some of this material may seem — how should I put it? — extreme. However, it's our position that...

Ice-T: This crap has me advocating the murder of police officers! Man, some of my best friends are cops!

FBI Guy: I know, it sounds somewhat counterintuitive. But...

Ice-T: I can't record this. It'll incite people to violence. I'm a lover, not a "cop killer."

FBI Guy: Ice, are you familiar with the concept of reverse psychology? That's what we're going for here.

Ice-T: I don't know, man. This seems like crazy talk.

FBI Guy: This isn't crazy, Ice. It's your federal government at work. Some of the brightest minds in Washington are hard at work on this project.

Ice-T: Whatever. So what's in all this for me, man?

FBI Guy: International fame and a multimillion-dollar recording career, for starters.

Ice-T: You gotta give me more than that. I'll lose all my friends in the 'hood once they find out I'm working for The Man.

FBI Guy: How would you feel about a permanent costarring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit?

Ice-T: Dick Wolf? I'm down.

FBI Guy: You're a true patriot, Ice.

Ice-T: Whatever.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Go down, Moses

Now that the man has shuffled off this mortal coil, I can admit this:

I'm a huge Charlton Heston fan.

Not the rhetoric-spewing, rifle-waving reactionary Heston of his later years in public life. And not even so much the more rational, compassionate Heston of earlier times, who marched alongside Dr. King and was an ardent, vocal supporter of civil rights long before it was socially acceptable. Although I did kind of admire that guy.

No, I mean the Heston of all of those classic Hollywood films. The man who stepped in front of a camera with those chiseled features, that piercing gaze, and that booming baritone, and wrestled the silver screen to the ground.

I loved that Charlton Heston.

The man had such intense, compelling presence that he, with his blond-haired, blue-eyed self, could play an endless string of Hebrews (Moses in The Ten Commandments; Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur; John the Baptist in The Grestest Story Ever Told), Latins (Mexican narco agent Mike Vargas in Touch of Evil; Spanish conqueror Rodrigo Diaz in El Cid), and Italians (Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy; Marc Antony in both the 1970 edition of Julius Caesar and the Heston-directed Antony and Cleopatra in 1972), and make you believe in them.

Heston's charisma was so palpable that he could remain concrete and genuine in the midst of the most embarrassingly hackneyed disaster film (Skyjacked, Airport '75, Earthquake, the submarine-sinking Gray Lady Down) or kitschy science fiction knock-off (The Omega Man — based on the same source material as the recent Will Smith epic, I Am Legend — or the insanely off-kilter consumerism-as-cannibalism future shocker, Soylent Green), and made you believe in those, too.

I mean, the man starred in an Aaron Spelling-produced soap opera so cheesy that it was actually named after cheese — the mid-'80s Dynasty spin-off, The Colbys — and he was even imposing and awe-inspiring in that. If you can shine in an Aaron Spelling production, you've got serious chops, my friend.

Of course, my favorite Heston turn was his role as time-warped astronaut George Taylor in the first two films in what eventually became the Planet of the Apes franchise. If Heston had never done anything in his cinematic career other than break into bitter tears before the ruined shell of the Statue of Liberty — one of the most iconic scenes in the history of the movies — or blow up the entire world with his bloody hand on the detonator of a doomsday bomb, his place in popular culture would be forever sealed. But of course, he did those things, plus all of the aforementioned as well.

What a monumental career.

It would be a shame if all that people remembered about Chuck Heston was the ultra-conservative political animal he became late in life. (Unless you're a rebel-yelling, monster-truck-driving, pistol-packing gun nut yourself — in which case, I guess that will be what you remember. And to that, you're entitled. Different strokes for different folks, as Sly Stone and Gary Coleman used to say.) The man left behind a treasure trove of unforgettable screen performances, to be savored for generations. Keep your paws off my DVDs, you d--n dirty ape! (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)

Sadly, I never had the opportunity to tell Mr. Heston how much I enjoyed his cinematic oeuvre. I did, however, sit next to his daughter Holly during a course in American Political Humor at Pepperdine University one semester. (Nice girl. I lent her a ballpoint pen once. She returned it. I didn't use it again for at least a week afterward.)

Mr. Heston was 84, and had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for the past several years. I share the sorrow of his family, his friends, and his well-earned legion of fans.

(Pssst... Soylent Green is people. Pass it on.)

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

For what it's worth

Five years.

3,990 American lives.

29,314 Americans wounded.

Over $512 billion (with a B) spent.

No end in sight.

"It's worth it." — George W. Bush

You be the judge.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Spitzer? I didn't even touch her!

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer just learned the danger of keeping an escort service on speed dial.

Spitzer publicly apologized today — albeit without specificity — for his involvement with a high-ticket prostitution ring targeted in a federal investigation. According to news reports, a wiretapped conversation revealed Spitzer soliciting the services of a professional companion in the employ of the ironically named Emperors Club VIP. The assignation allegedly was arranged in advance of the Governor's recent trip to the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel (possibly related to the notorious madam of similar name?) in Washington, D.C.

Can you imagine how this discovery must have played out?

I can just see some low-level FBI flunky sitting in a van wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and a set of headphones, nursing a Diet Pepsi and a bag of Cheetos, listening to the calls coming into the escort service.

Suddenly, his ears perk up. "That sounds like..."

He listens further.

"It is! That's Governor Spitzer! My career is totally made!"

And Day-Glo orange Cheeto dust goes flying everywhere.

Now here's the part that baffles me. According to the reports, Emperors Club VIP charges as much as $5,500 per hour for the services of its (ahem) staff. Call me naïve ("You're naïve!"), but seriously — what "service" could anyone possibly provide in an hour that's worth $5,500? That's practically a down payment on a house, for crying out loud.

Although, I suppose it's as that noted connoisseur of the world's oldest profession, Charlie Sheen, once remarked: "I don't pay 'em for sex — I pay 'em to go away afterward."

Unfortunately for Mr. Spitzer, he didn't pay 'em enough to use a secure phone line.

One last touch of irony: For his costly tryst, Spitzer appears to have registered at the Mayflower under the pseudonym "George Fox." Students of religious history will recall that George Fox was the founder of the Society of Friends, the sect more familiarly known as Quakers. [You can insert your own punch line here.]

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Buckley stops here

Some of you — heck, perhaps all of you — will be flabbergasted to read this, but I'm going to say it anyway:

I'm going to miss William F. Buckley.

Were I going to populate a dinner table with the guests from throughout human history I believed would make the most fascinating conversation, Buckley would be near the top of the invitation list. The "godfather of American conservatism" was erudite, witty, disarmingly charming, and often hilarious. If you ever saw any of his Firing Line broadcasts — and I tuned in quite a few, over the program's 33 years on the air — you witnessed a master of the art of interlocution in action.

Buckley's gift for language was both compelling and astounding. Yes, he was perhaps overfond of his own repartee and Brobdingnagian vocabulary, but I have to confess that I learned a lot of interesting words and phrases from Buckley's talk shows and columns. The obvious relish with which Buckley wielded the tongue of Shakespeare is especially remarkable when one considers that it was his third language — he learned to speak Spanish and French in childhood, and began to study English only when he entered school at age seven.

As a political pundit, Buckley possessed the rarest of talents: the ability to engage in civil, even affectionate, discourse with people with whom he strongly disagreed. Although unquestionably opinionated, and not above using his rapier wit to belittle an opponent, Buckley managed to maintain positive relations with people at the opposite extremes of the philosophical spectrum from his own conservative-libertarian base. Many of his closest friends, such as liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith, held views far removed from Buckley's. But he had that knack: even if you disagreed with him, you kind of liked the old goat. Grudgingly, perhaps, but still.

Buckley and I would not have found much common ground in a political or sociological debate. Even so, I appreciated his willingness to at least hear other sides of an issue, and to take occasional stands that set him at odds with those of like stripe, such as his often-stated position that the Bush administration's Iraq policy has been a complete failure.

Buckley also demonstrated that he could change his mind about things. Once an ardent defender of the racist, anti-Semitic John Birch Society during the 1950s, he repudiated the organization a decade later. Where Buckley once openly supported South African apartheid in the National Review, he later acknowledged that, had he been a black South African, he would have supported Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.

Did Buckley ever fully renounce his own personal racism and anti-Semitism? I don't know — I never met the man. Let's just say I probably wouldn't have wanted him to marry my daughter.

I do think that I'd have enjoyed sitting across a table from him, and kicking ideas around over coffee. We might not have concurred about much. I'd like to think, however, that we'd both have at least heard a few well-articulated opinions.

And more than a few fifty-dollar words.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

What's Up With That? #58: Monica du jour

Senator John McCain says:

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman...

...is there an echo in here?"

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Barack the vote!

We're still a few hours from Super Tuesday here in the Golden State, but here at Casa de SwanShadow, we've already done our civic duty.

KJ and I have regularly exercised our franchise via the mail since the 2000 election season, when she was first diagnosed with cancer. This year, KM joins the ranks of registered voters — her absentee ballot for tomorrow's primary election was the first she's had an opportunity to cast.

In case you're curious, I voted for Barack Obama.

The fact that Obama and I have much in common — both biracial; both the same age (he's four and a half months older than I, which I will never let him forget); both spent the earliest years of our lives in Hawaii — is less central to my vote than the fact that of the available alternatives, I'm confident he'll make the best President.

That's not to say that the "connection factor" is completely without effect. The fact that I can look at Barack Obama and see what I might have become, had I been gifted with Type A ambition instead of Type B laissez-faire, certainly offers an incentive I've never had with another candidate. I'd be disingenuous if I stated otherwise.

But the bottom line is that after eight years of mindlessly mediocre, incorrigibly bull-headed leadership in the White House, this country needs radical redirection and, even more importantly, a dose of electric inspiration. Obama can supply both of those qualities in a way no candidate for President has in my voting lifetime. (Reagan did that for conservatives, I guess, but let's be honest: With the perspective of history, Grandpa was wrong about darn near everything — except for the Berlin wall, and that was all David Hasselhoff's doing, anyway.)

Were Hillary to win the nomination, I wouldn't have a problem voting for her. But I would do so with the same lesser-of-two-unappealing-choices lack of enthusiasm with which I marked the box for John Kerry four years ago. Hillary would make a decent Chief Executive — she'd look positively Lincolnian in the aftermath of Bush 43... but then, so would I — but I'll have a tough time forgetting that she drank the Cheney Kool-Aid on Iraq. Obama is the only candidate who can rightly say that he smelled the poop in the punchbowl from the very start. That's the level of courage and vision we need right now.

America deserves a President who can instill hope in our citizens and trust in our allies — that last a commodity Bush and Co. have pretty well burned through during their perverse reign of terror. I believe that Barack Obama will be that President, given the opportunity.

If you live in a Super Tuesday state, please be sure to exercise your franchise tomorrow — regardless of which party or which candidate you favor. After our First Amendment freedoms, the right to vote (and yes, the right not to vote, if that's your choice) is our greatest liberty as Americans.

If you're a registered Democrat, or an independent in a state where you can vote across party lines, may I kindly suggest that you vote for Senator Obama? Deep in your heart, you know it's the right call.

I'm your Uncle Swan, and I approve this message.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

We got your human rights right here

How ironic that, on Human Rights Day — the date on which the United Nations issued the first global declaration on human rights — the White House orders Presidential press secretary Dana Perino not to comment on the CIA's destruction of videotapes showing terror suspects being tortured.

Because torture doesn't really have anything to do with human rights.

So, happy Human Rights Day...

Unless you're a prisoner — or an employee — of the Bush administration.

In which case, you don't have any.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Kissin' cousins

And you thought YOU were having a bad day...

Senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama just found out that he's related — albeit distantly — to Vice President Dick "Shotgun" Cheney.

The Veep's wife Lynne discovered the connection while reaching her family tree for her new autobiography. The Second Lady revealed the genealogical anomaly yesterday in an interview on MSNBC.

Although Mrs. Cheney said that her husband and Obama are eighth cousins, further investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times showed that Tricky Dick and Master O are actually ninth cousins, once removed. (If I were Obama, once would not be nearly enough removal.)

In response to the revelation, Obama's spokesperson quipped, "Every family has a black sheep."

Ain't it the truth?

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What's Up With That? #53: George 1, Kids 0

Just when I think the current resident of the Oval Office can't ascend to greater heights of lunacy than he's already reached, he vetoes health insurance for lower-income children.

Ye gods.

The bill President Bush vetoed would add $35 billion to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) over the next five years, enabling an additional four million kids to participate in the program. (About seven million children are presently enrolled, mostly from families earning more than the Medicaid maximum, but who can't afford private health insurance.) The additional money would come via a 40-cent-per-pack increase in the federal cigarette tax.

Because wealthy tobacco company executives and lobbyists are more valuable to the current administration than poor kids in need of health coverage — many of whom, if allowed to grow up healthy, would probably vote Democratic anyway — George put the kibosh on the legislation.

Bush can spend countless billions sending America's dedicated servicemen and servicewomen to their deaths in his pointless family vendetta in Iraq, but he can't stand to see a few bucks going to keep American children healthy.

The mind boggles.

The Prez's argument against the SCHIP upgrade is that it's a step in the direction of government-run health care. Again, government-paid death and destruction, good; government-paid health care for lower-income kids, bad. In a word: Huh?

Here's hoping that enough Congressional Republicans realize that poor people vote — especially when the interests of their children are at stake — and get off their partisan dime to overturn this indefensible veto.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No surprises

It really should come as no surprise that, six years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, we still haven't managed to capture Osama bin Laden.

After all, no one's found Jimmy Hoffa in 32 years, and Hoffa is presumably (a) somewhere on the North American continent, and (b) not actively eluding detection. Heck, they can't even find Steve Fossett, whom I presume would want to be found.

It's more surprising that 3,800 of America's servicemen and servicewomen have been killed in Iraq since March 2003, even though we're reasonably certain that Osama isn't hiding there.

Even more surprising is the fact that, six years later, most Americans still believe that the 9-11 attacks were an assault on our freedom. We have yet to figure out that most Islamic extremists couldn't care less about your freedom or mine. They don't care that we eat at McDonald's, or drive SUVs, or wear blue jeans and belly shirts, or vacation at Disneyland. They care about their own economics, and our government's foreign policy, and the inextricable relationship between the two. Everything else is window dressing.

Until the people running the show in Washington figure that out — or we replace them with people who already have — all you and I can do is wait for the inevitable next shoe to drop.

Which makes the tragedies of September 11, 2001 all the more tragic.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

He'll be the Law & Order candidate

Is he an actor, or a politician? Is he a politician, or an actor? Is he a floor wax, or a dessert topping?

Apparently, Fred Thompson is all of the above.

The erstwhile Law & Order star (and former U.S. Senator from Tennessee) made it official last night on the Tonight Show, tossing his commodious hat into the 2008 Presidential ring. Comparisons were immediately made to the late Ronald Reagan, whom Thompson resembles most in that (a) Reagan also was a conservative Republican; and (b) Reagan couldn't really act, either.

Of course, I live in a state governed by Conan the Barbarian — heck, I even voted to reelect the guy — so I'm probably not in a position to cast aspersions. (Which is okay anyway, because the elbow on my aspersion-casting arm has been giving me fits of late.) Lest we forget, however, we in this fine country have a long and storied history of electing entertainers to public office. A few examples, some of which you may recall:
  • George Murphy, a Broadway veteran and musical film star who served a term as president of the Screen Actors Guild, was a Republican Senator from California in the 1960s. Tom Lehrer even waxed poetic in song about the guy: "At last we have a Senator who can really sing and dance."

  • Fred Grandy (assistant purser Burl "Gopher" Smith on The Love Boat) was a Republican Representative from Iowa for eight years, beginning in 1986. He narrowly missed being elected Governor of the Hawkeye State in 1994.

  • Ben Jones (goofy mechanic Cooter Davenport on The Dukes of Hazzard) was a Democratic Congressman from Georgia from 1988 to 1992. He was defeated in a Virginia Congressional race in 2002.

  • Jerry Springer, later a notorious tabloid TV host and Hasselhoff foil, was the Democratic mayor of Cincinnati in the late '70s.

  • Sonny Bono, the less talented half of the popular musical/comedy team Sonny and Cher, served two terms in Congress as a Republican representing Palm Springs (after serving as the city's mayor) before a high-speed encounter with a tree on a Lake Tahoe ski slope ended both his political career and his life.

  • Professional wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura was elected Governor of Minnesota in 1998. (Ten years later, I still snicker when I type that.)

  • Sheila Kuehl, who as Sheila James played nerdy Zelda Gilroy on the classic '50s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, has been a prominent California state legislator since 1994.

  • Former Green Bay Packers quarterback and TV actor Alan Autry (deputy Bubba Skinner on the long-running drama In the Heat of the Night) is currently the mayor of Fresno.

  • Film legend and Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood served a much-publicized term as mayor of Carmel, California, in the mid-'80s.
Just so we're clear, though: The day Britney Spears gets elected to public office, I'm buying a beach house in Greece.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesday turkey trot

Uncle Swan here, blazing through a barrage of lightning-quick thoughts, observations, and emotional outbursts. Steady as she goes, Captain.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's Hump Day, and I'm a little dromedary

It's that kind of Wednesday that has me scratching my head and asking myself rhetorical questions. (Yeah, like that's different.) Let's raise the pop culture periscope and peer around at the news of the week thus far.
  • Katie Holmes apparently has her knickers in a twist because some teenaged porn star wannabe is using the stage name Katee Holmes. As though Katie didn't forfeit her right to personal dignity when she married Mr. Scientology. Or maybe the TomKitten is just afraid someone's going to think she's related to the late John Holmes.

  • What? Arnold's getting a divorce? Oh... Tom Arnold. Color me not caring all of a sudden.

  • If you were wondering why Paula Abdul was sporting a fat lip on last night's penultimate episode of American Idol, it's because Paula recently tripped over her pet chihuahua and pulled a face-plant, breaking her nose in the process. At least, that's the version of the story that doesn't involve alcohol, drugs, or Corey Clark.

  • Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and his partner won this season's competition on Dancing with the Stars. Apolo's breathing a sigh of relief, as he'd never be able to show his face in an Olympic Village again if he lost a dance contest to a former boy-band wimp named Joey Fat One. What? It's Fatone? Ooops. My bad.

  • Britney Spears huffed her way off an airline flight this week because the plane didn't have leather seats. Given the Britster's much-publicized disdain for undergarments, I wouldn't want to be the next person using her leather seat unless I had a spray can of Lysol handy.

  • So far, that's two underwear references in this post. Can we pull off the trifecta?

  • These two events occurred within the same 24 hours: (1) Jerry Falwell, the televangelist founder of the Moral Majority who once blamed gays and feminists for the 9/11 terror attacks, was buried; (2) Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of ultraconservative Vice President Dick Cheney, gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Coincidence? I think not.

  • Speaking of Jerry Falwell, imagine how stunned I was to hear that he had died of a heart attack at the age of 73. I wasn't even aware that he had a heart.

  • Now there's gratitude for you: The girlfriend World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz handed a promotion and a raise — an action which resulted in Wolfowitz's being forced to resign amid allegations of cronyism — has dumped the erstwhile executive. Quoth Wolfowitz: "Women... can't live with 'em, can't do 'em a favor without public scandal and unemployment."

  • The feuding cohosts of The View, Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck, pitched a fit at one another this morning on the air, as Rosie called Elisabeth a coward for not defending her against conservative misinformation. Are there two human beings I care less about than Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck? Oh, yeah... Tom Arnold and his soon-to-be-ex-wife.

  • New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson announced this week that he is officially running for the Democratic nomination for President. In related news, four out of five Americans surveyed identified "Bill Richardson" as the character who's married to Jessica Alba in the Fantastic Four movies. The fifth American identified New Mexico as "the place where Taco Bell food comes from."

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007


To paraphrase the late Lewis Grizzard: Elvis is dead, and I'm feeling a bit scattered myself.

With everything that's going on around here — both the stuff you know about and the stuff you don't, for which you ought to be eternally grateful — my perpetually diffuse focus is even more fuzzy than usual. So let's go the quick-hit route.

Now watch the colortinis as they fly through the air:
  • Brickbats and boo-hisses to the moron who ruined my Tuesday evening commute to chorus rehearsal for the foreseeable future, by dumping 250 yards of molten steel, concrete, and asphalt on my section of the McArthur Maze. Nice going, ace.

  • Did I mention that he's a convicted criminal with a history of heroin abuse? Why am I not surprised?

  • Freeway disasters aside, it's a fine time for sports fans here by the Bay:

    • The Warriors, who haven't seen the NBA playoffs without satellite TV since the early days of the Clinton Administration, are poised to dump the Dallas Mavericks and advance to Round Two.

    • The offensively anemic Giants have turned their once-flagging fortunes around, behind the smoking bat of Barry "U.S." Bonds (742 career home runs, and counting) and the hottest starting rotation in the major leagues — the other Barry (Zito), the two Matts (Cain and Morris), my homie from Pepperdine (Noah Lowry), and the resurrected Russ "Lazarus" Ortiz.

    • The Sharks are threatening to make a run at the Stanley Cup. (Say it with me: It's soccer on ice, with sticks.)

    • The A's are... well, nobody cares.

  • While the universe spirals into entropy (why is it so hot? and why are we in this handbasket?), high school students in Charleston, West Virginia, are ticked off because their educational administrators won't allow them to simulate sexual intercourse on the dance floor. Says senior Crystal Lucas of the school board's ban on booty popping, grinding, bumping, humping, hunching, goosing, freaking, and dirty dancing: "It makes me not look forward to my senior prom." Oh, to be young and feckless. (Look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls.)

  • A sad note: Sax player and bandleader Tommy Newsom, for years the butt of Johnny Carson's ridicule on The Tonight Show, has passed away from liver cancer at the age of 78. After all those years of merely looking dead, Tommy now really is.

  • Britney Spears has canceled tonight's comeback performance, scheduled for L.A.'s Forty Deuce nightclub. According to reports, the concert's promoters determined that after several rehearsals, the Queen of Trailer Trash Pop "wasn't quite ready." (Translated: Not sober enough to remember lyrics, or to avoid an embarrassing tumble off the edge of the stage.)

  • Four years ago today, President Bush stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared the war in Iraq over. "Mission accomplished," remember? "The United States and our allies have prevailed." Funny how many brave men and women we keep losing, in a war that ended four years ago. Then again, it's really not funny at all.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Adonal Foyle: American

Everyone here at SSTOL congratulates longtime Golden State Warriors center Adonal Foyle, who today became a naturalized citizen of these United States.

Unlike many pro athletes these days, Foyle is a genuine role model — an all-around good guy who's active in charitable causes and enjoys a spotless reputation both as a player and as a human being. He's a magna cum laude graduate of Colgate University, and is pursuing a master's degree in sports psychology at John F. Kennedy University.

Six years ago, Foyle founded Democracy Matters, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that "gives college students a voice in the pro-democracy movement, and an active role in the national dialogue on money in politics." He has twice won the NBA's Community Assist Award for his efforts to serve and enlighten young people.

I'm delighted to call Adonal my countryman. We could use a few thousand more just like him.

This, alongside Golden State's snapping of the Dallas Mavericks' 17-game winning streak last night, makes me proud once again to be a Warrior Worrier.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Scooter the scapegoat

To the surprise of practically no one outside the Bush administration, VP Dick Cheney's former flunky Lewis "Scooter" Libby was convicted today on four counts in the Valerie Plame outing scandal — one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and one count of lying to the FBI. (Is that last one even a crime?)

What Scootergate proved — if indeed it proved anything — is that the present administration has gone to every extreme possible to manipulate information at the expense of those who disagree with Bush/Cheney policy. It also proved that the Prez and Vice Prez have no compunction about hanging their subordinates out to dry after they've exhausted their usefulness. Just ask Colin Powell.

Scooter Libby took the legal bullet for the team — specifically, for Cheney and Bush's hatchet man Karl Rove. But I'll bet he doesn't get so much as a thank-you or a fare-thee-well from his former boss.

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Friday, February 23, 2007


This just in: Former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack has decided to end his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

This also just in: A new poll shows that 92 percent of Americans have no idea who Tom Vilsack is, much less that he's running for President.

The remaining eight percent mistakenly believe that he's the guy who invented the footbag.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Deuces, aces, and Presidential faces

Because you can never have enough iconic representations of old white dudes in your pocket, the U.S. Mint has unveiled its new series of dollar coins featuring portraits of all 43 Presidents.

Or at least, all of the dead ones.

The new dollar coins capitalize (no pun intended) on the popularity of the 50 States quarters the Mint has been circulating for the past several years. Every year, four new Presidential Dollars will hit the streets, following the chronological order of the Chief Executives. All of the Presidential dollars showcase a sharp new bust of the Statue of Liberty on the reverse...

...plus an innovative edge design, inscribed with the circulation date, along with the traditional mottoes E Pluribus Unum and In God We Trust.

The Presidential Dollar coins supercede the Sacagawea Golden Dollar, a relief to the overwhelming majority of Americans who can neither spell nor pronounce "Sacagawea."

Looking at the first four iterations of the Presidential Dollar, one unassailable fact occurs to me: Our Presidents have not, in the main, been attractive gentlemen.

One more reason to vote Obama in '08.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Newsom knew some, in the Biblical sense

The hot news here in the Bay Area centers around the resignation of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's reelection campaign manager, who decided to hand in his walking papers after he learned that the mayor had been slipping his wife a little "San Francisco treat," if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Imagine: A guy getting all bent out of shape over something trivial like that.

As reported by the Chronicle this morning (and confirmed by the mayor himself at a press conference that ended moments ago), Newsom had an affair with Ruby Rippey-Tourk — at the time, his appointment secretary — about a year and a half ago. This was during the period when Newsom and his then-wife, FOX News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, were divorcing. Ruby's husband, Alex Tourk, has been one of the Gav's right-hand men for most of his political career. Several news reports indicate that the Gavin/Ruby tryst was pretty much an open secret at City Hall — everyone in the building knew who was zooming whom, except for the cuckolded Alex. But then, the husband is always the last to know.

Ruby apparently outed herself and Gavin to hubby as part of her 12-step rehabilitation for a substance abuse problem. I guess it's true what they say about those addict chicks.

I also suppose this clears up any lingering questions about the Gav's sexual orientation.

The best thing about the Newsom story for me is that Ruby Rippey used to be a news reporter at our local TV station, KFTY-50 in Santa Rosa. Whenever she came on, KJ and I used to have a good chuckle over her oddly alliterative name.

It certainly seems that the mayor gets around a lot, to put it mildly. Just a few months ago, we were hearing about his relationship with a 20-year-old coed at our hometown institution of higher education, Sonoma State University. The story was that when Gavin and his youthful hottie showed up at the grand opening of San Francisco's Westfield Center, it was apparent to those present that the young lady had been drinking, despite the fact that the legal imbibing age in California is 21.

Rumor has it that Ruby Rippey-Tourk (say that three times fast) may have a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer/paramour in the pipeline. Won't that trial be fun?

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy Monday, and remember to drink your MLK

I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.

I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him.

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

I believe that even amid today's motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.

I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.

I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up.

I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent, redemptive goodwill proclaimed the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid."

I still believe that we shall overcome!

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, December 10, 1964

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Clueless George

Excerpts from President Bush's address to the nation this evening, coupled with your Uncle Swan's idle musings pertaining thereto...

When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together, and that as we trained Iraqi security forces we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.

"We" thought wrong. Apparently because "we" had never heard the ancient proverb, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." It's impossible to stage elections for three groups of people who've been hopelessly divided by ethnic and sectarian strife for centuries, and expect them all to magically transform into Rodney King overnight. The Shi'a and the Sunni don't want to be brought together. They want to exterminate one another. And both of them want to exterminate the Kurds. All the ballot boxes in all the gin joints in the world won't change that mindset.

But in 2006, the opposite happened.

Well, duh.

The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people -- and it is unacceptable to me.

The difference is that the American people have, by a significant majority, figured out why it's unacceptable.

Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

Three correct in a row! This could be the beginning of a trend.

It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq.

Welcome to the party. You're four years late.

We benefitted from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton.

Apparently, "benefitted from" is not synonymous with "acted upon."

In our discussions, we all agreed that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq.

A good thing, too, because I believe Doctor Strange, Zatanna, and Mandrake all washed their hands of this mess a long time ago.

One message came through loud and clear: Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.

Why is it so hot here? And what are we doing in this handbasket?

For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.

The safety of the men and women of our armed forces, however, can take a flying leap off a short pier.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: Baghdad is unsecurable. And American troops should never have been stuck with an impossible task by their Commander-in-Chief.

So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.

Let me get this straight: The way to stop the violence in Baghdad is providing 20,000 additional targets? Yeah, that'll work. Just like the way to stop smoking is to up your tobacco intake to five packs a day.

Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not.

You cagey mind reader, you.

Well, here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents, but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we'll have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared.

Replace the word "Iraqi" with "South Vietnamese," and the above paragraph turns into a quote from Lyndon Johnson, circa 1967.

In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods -- and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.

What Prime Minister Maliki actually said was: "It's time for somebody to put his foot down. And that foot... is me." When Maliki speaks, who listens? Not the people with the guns and bombs.

I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people.

You can't lose what you don't have.

And it will lose the support of the Iraqi people.

See above.

This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks.

So, if we've already figured out that it's not going to solve the problem, why are we doing it?

Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shi'a want to live together in peace -- and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.

Umm... no, they don't. If they did, there wouldn't be violence in Baghdad.

A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations.

True. It involves a time-honored operation known as "getting the heck out of Dodge."

The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life.

Which side is which again? I lose track.

Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue -- and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties. The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will.

That makes one of us.

A democratic Iraq will not be perfect.

Let's rephrase: A democratic Iraq will not exist. In order for democracy to occur, the people have to first understand what democracy is. Then, they have to want it. The people of Iraq neither understand nor desire democracy. In fact, they don't understand why we think they ought to desire it. Democracy is entirely outside their realm of historical experience. Selling democracy to the Iraqis is parallel to selling thong bikinis to the Inuit.

We concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear the country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale.

Sort of like what's happening now. Three thousand dead American service personnel counts as mass killing in my book.

If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.

You left off three key words: "In body bags."

In these dangerous times, the United States is blessed to have extraordinary and selfless men and women willing to step forward and defend us.

Yes, we are. It would be an even greater blessing to us, and to their families, to have them be extraordinary, selfless, and alive.

We mourn the loss of every fallen American -- and we owe it to them to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

What we owe them is not to add to their numbers without sound reason.

Times of testing reveal the character of a nation.

As though all of life's challenges could be solved with a Scantron sheet and a Number Two pencil.

Now America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century. We can, and we will, prevail.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

He was no Lincoln — but then, who is?

All right, whoever had 93-year-old former President Gerald Ford in the dead pool, please step forward to claim your winnings. Amazing foresight there.

Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of these here United States, made a much better source of Jeopardy! fodder than he made a Chief Executive:
  • The first (and to date, only) President never to have been elected either to the Presidency or the Vice Presidency.

  • The first Vice President installed under the provisions of the 25th Amendment. As shocking as it sounds in today's world, in the nearly 200 years before Ford replaced the resigned-ahead-of-the-impeachment-boot Spiro Agnew, when the office of Vice President fell vacant due to death or succession, it simply remained unoccupied until the next Presidential election cycle filled the position — on occasion, as much as four years later (as in the case of our 13th Vice President, William R. King, who was terminally ill when elected and survived a mere 45 days in office). No wonder John Nance Garner, Franklin Roosevelt's longest-serving veep, referred to the job as "not worth a bucket of warm [urine, only he didn't say 'urine']."

  • The only President to hold the office under an entirely different name than the one he was given at birth. Ford was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., but was renamed by his mother when she remarried. (Ulysses Simpson Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant, but he changed his name while at West Point to avoid getting teased about his initials: H.U.G. Simpson was his mother's maiden name.)

  • The only President whose parents were divorced.

  • The only President to fully pardon a disgraced predecessor who would undoubtedly have faced criminal prosecution.

  • The only President to survive two assassination attempts (by what had to be the most inept would-be assassins in the annals of crime — Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a whacked-out disciple of Charles Manson, and Patty Hearst fanatic and FBI informant Sara Jane Moore) within the space of less than three weeks.

  • The longest-lived former President, beating Ronald Reagan's record by more than a month.

  • The first Republican President to name an African American to his Cabinet (William Coleman as Transportation Secretary, one of the few jobs in Washington even more anonymous and thankless than the Vice Presidency).

  • The only human being on the planet who could have lost a Presidential election to Jimmy Carter.

  • The only President in the last 75 years never to have been Time Magazine's Person of the Year.

  • The last surviving member of the Warren Commission, and perhaps one of the last people to carry to his grave the true answer to whether there was or wasn't a second gunman in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
Gerald Ford, the former football star from the University of Michigan, became Vice President and ultimately President for one simple reason: He was a nice guy who could be counted upon to grant Richard Nixon absolute immunity when the time came for Tricky Dick to beat feet for San Clemente in the wake of the Watergate scandal. And he did.

Ford was such a nice guy, in fact, that he frequently gave free advice to the men of both parties who followed him to the Oval Office. Given what's eventuated in the administrations of those men, one might well suppose that Jerry perhaps should have kept his advice to himself.

History will not be kind to the brief Presidency of Gerald R. Ford, perhaps one of this country's greatest exemplars of the Peter Principle. But at least he was one President of whom the American electorate could honestly say, "Don't look at us — he wasn't our fault."

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Monday, December 04, 2006

A Bolton of false hope

Well, that was disappointing.

When I saw the link on the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate homepage"Bolton Steps Down" — I rejoiced at the thought that Michael Bolton might be permanently retiring from singing.

Instead, the story turns out to be about some United Nations ambassador guy.


In other music news, Greg Page, the yellow-shirted lead singer of the Aussie kiddie-pop group The Wiggles, is retiring due to a rare health condition that affects his coordination and balance.

Hey, now — there's an ideal job for Michael Bolton!

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Six years, 2839 American lives too late

In the wake of the overwhelming Democratic sweep in yesterday's midterm elections — results that saw the Donkey Party recapture control of the House of Representatives, and at worst an even split in the Senate, pending the outcome of the Virginia race — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigned.

Go ahead, Don: Let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.


If you wanted to stick any other body parts out there for a smack, that would be okay too.

As Rumsfeld's replacement, President Bush is nominating Robert Gates, the former CIA director who's currently president of Texas A&M University. Given his predecessor's performance, Gates could hardly do worse.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Rock the vote, but don't tip the vote over

Sunday morning on Face the Nation, CBS newsman Bob Schieffer made the following cogent observation: "If all you knew about the election was what you see in the political ads, you'd think there was no one running except crooks, deviants, and fools."

To which I can only respond: And your point is, Bob?

Although today is Election Day across America, I have already cast my ballot. KJ and I have been permanent absentee voters for the past six years, dating back to her chemotherapy days. It's a far more civilized manner in which to conduct this practice. You actually have time to sit down with your ballot pamphlet -- which for this election was roughly the thickness of the Los Angeles phone book -- read through the various propositions and candidate statements, and take your time making up your mind about which of the many evils is the lesser. In my considered opinion, they should simply close the precincts and have everybody vote by mail. Even better, let those who can do so vote online, though I realize there are technical and security concerns surrounding that choice. Hopefully the day will come when those obstacles can be circumvented. The easier it is for people to vote, the more likely they are to do it.

Of course, the real problem with our modern elections is that most of the people voting have absolutely no idea what they're voting for, or why. That's especially true in California, where the ballot is perennially clogged with a series of convoluted initiative propositions that require a law degree, higher mathematics, and advanced study in semantics and Latin to fully understand. Call me an extremist, but I believe that asking the general electorate to vote on most of these issues is a complete waste of time. The vast majority of folks simply shrug their shoulders and pick the option they think is less onerous, based on what limited understanding they have of what the measure is actually about. That's no way to run a railroad, much less a state. We pay politicians to wrangle with and make decisions about these kinds of things. We shouldn't be forced to both pay their salaries, and do their work for them too.

Plus, in actual practice, the initiative process in California is simply a way for every well-heeled corporation -- or crackpot political group, take your pick -- to compel the population to vote on something that is only important to the people who put the measure on the ballot in the first place. Again, that's no way to run a railroad. In my view, the companies or organizations that sponsor initiatives ought to have to bear the entire cost of the election, not just of the ads they run pushing their positions. Maybe that would keep the truly frivolous items off the ballot, thus reducing the size of the ballot pamphlet to roughly the thickness of the Sonoma County phone book.

I recognize of course that most of our readers are not Californians. However, as a public service to those of you who are, I'm going to share with you how I voted on some of the offices and issues in today's general election. You can either follow my choices, or you can choose to do the exact opposite of what I've done in every instance. In either case, I’ve just simplified the election for you immensely, and you are equally likely to be right whichever course you choose.

Governor: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican. I know what you're thinking: The devil you say. And you'd be right, in that I have spent the last three years mercilessly mocking the Governator as emblematic of what's wrong with politics in this country. The thing is, once you get past that ridiculous special election Arnold foisted on the state last year, he's actually done a fairly decent, middle-of-the-political-road job. I also give him credit for acknowledging that his special election was stupid, and for apologizing for wasting money on it. When’s the last time you saw a politician admit a mistake? But the real reason I voted for Arnold is that his opponent, Democratic state treasurer Phil Angelides, is an idiot. Angelides couldn't have mounted a less competent campaign if he'd hired two spider monkeys and a dingo to run it. I don't get the sense that Angelides would be any less hapless were he elected to the statehouse. At least with Arnold, you have a guy who knows what he wants to do, even if you always don't agree with him. Confidence always trumps cluelessness in my book.

Lieutenant Governor: John Garamendi, Democrat. Another "at least he's not the other guy" selection. Garamendi's Republican opponent, Tom McClintock, it is a right-wing whack job who has no business anywhere near public policymaking.

Attorney General: Jerry Brown, Democrat. I've always been a fan of Jerry's, going back to his days as California's governor in the swinging '70s. In fact, in the very first presidential election in which I was able to vote, in 1980, I voted for Jerry for President. He was a good governor, and he's been a good mayor these last eight years in Oakland. I don't know whether Attorney General is the office I would have chosen as his next political challenge, but I'm willing to give him a shot.

Insurance Commissioner: Steve Poizner, Republican. I actually like Poizner, a Silicon Valley business type who seems like a pretty reasoned guy for a Republican. Not to mention which, his Democratic opponent, current Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, covers at least two of the three categories Bob Schieffer mentioned in the statement quoted above. I don't think Cruz is a deviant, though.

US Senator: Dianne Feinstein, Democrat. I think Senator Feinstein does a heck of a job. I'm actually glad that she missed getting elected governor when she ran for that office back in the ‘80s, because it was that loss that pointed her toward the Senate. She's tough, smart, thoughtful, practical, and dedicated. You don't get that five-tool combination in politicians very often.

US Representative: Lynn Woolsey, Democrat. I've never been fond of Woolsey, who’s a passionate advocate, but usually on the wrong side of almost every issue. However, no Democrat has ever been able to mount an effective challenge against her, and the GOP basically rolls over and dies in the face of her continuing popularity in our Congressional district. We could probably do worse, though I'm not sure how. She probably can't break anything in the next two years that she hasn't already broken.

Propositions 1A through 1E: Yes. Collectively known as “Rebuild California,” these five bond measures will fund a host of public projects from highway construction to shelters for battered women to disaster preparedness. I wish we didn't have to mortgage the future to pay for necessary things like this, but that's politics for you.

Proposition 83 (Sex offenders): No. Like many California ballot propositions, Proposition 83 is an apparently good idea written into horribly bad law. Designed to impose more stringent rules upon sex offenders, the result of Prop 83’s passage would be to relocate many such offenders into sparsely populated areas of the state – parts of my home county, for example -- where it would be much harder to keep tabs on their activities.

Proposition 84 (Clean water): Yes. Who could be against clean water?

Proposition 85 (Abortion notification): No. Another seemingly well-intended idea whose ramifications were completely ignored by the people who wrote the measure. Proposition 85 would require parental notification before a minor could undergo an abortion. Moral questions about abortion aside – and I’ll share my thoughts on that another day -- it's an incontrovertible fact that a certain percentage of underage girls who become pregnant are the victims of sexual abuse within their own households. This law would require an abusive father, for example, to be notified of his molested daughter's pregnancy. Again, no matter what qualms one has about abortion, I would hope one could see that this is not a good idea.

Proposition 86 (Increased cigarette tax): Yes. As libertarian as I am, anything that discourages people from smoking (especially in my breathing space) is, from my perspective, worth doing.

Proposition 87 (Alternative energy): No. I wanted to support this measure. Really, I did. But in the end, I simply couldn't get behind this badly overwritten approach to a much-needed area of public policy. I hope the people who wrote Prop 87 will try again, and do better next time.

Proposition 88 (Education funding): No. One of those measures whose end result would be the exact opposite of what most people voting in favor of it think it will accomplish. Prop 88 could be the poster boy is for how broken and futile the California initiative process is.

Proposition 89 (Campaign financing): No.
See Prop 88, above.

Proposition 90 (Eminent domain): No. Would increase governmental power in an area of law where the government already has more power than it needs. Pass.

Now go do that voodoo that you do so well. And may the least harmful candidates win.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Votors" can't vote

I stumbled across this gem while surfing BlogMad last night (click the screenshot for a larger view):

My suggestion for stamping out voter fraud? Require potential voters to prove they can actually spell "voter" correctly.

For my money, nothing is a greater threat to democracy than illiterate votors.

I mean, voters.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Least surprising revelation of the week

This just in from former Congressman Mark Foley's attorney, David Roth, Esq.:
Finally, Mark Foley wants you to know that he is a gay man.
Memo to Mr. Roth:

I think we figured that one out, Dave. But thanks for the clarification.

If your client decides that he also wants us to know that he is (a) an ephebophile, (b) flagrantly indiscreet, or (c) an utter moron, you can tell him we know that already, too.

You may have to explain ephebophile.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Speak of the devil

Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, referred to President G. W. Bush as "the devil" in his address before the United Nations General Assembly yesterday. According to Hugo, he could still smell the sulfur fumes in the air from Bush's U.N. appearance on Tuesday.

Memo to Señor Chavez:

Gee, thanks, Hugo. Now's a fine time to point this out. Couldn't you have revealed this crucial bit of information before we elected the guy — twice?

I mean, if I knew that your country's president was evil incarnate, I'd tell you the instant I found out.

But of course, if Venezuela's president was the devil, that would mean that you...


Never mind.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

We don't need no stinking Geneva Convention

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, and I rarely agree on anything* — a fact that likely isn't causing either of us any lost sleep — but I was glad to hear him say on Face the Nation this morning that President Bush's attempt to backdoor the Geneva Convention in the name of his War on Terror (which is really a War on Bad Stuff Being Written About George W. Bush in History Textbooks, but that's another post) is a morally bankrupt idea.

Actually, morally bankrupt was mine. I think Lindsey just said it was bad.

Graham did, however, make the correct and cogent argument that if the United States fancies itself the world's moral leader, we only fuel the fire of our enemies by playing the hypocrite on the "secret trials" (read that: "secret torture") issue. As the Senator put it, if an American citizen was convicted by a foreign power based upon evidence that was withheld from the accused and/or his legal counsel, we as a nation would be up in arms. Therefore, we can't be seen engaging in that kind of treatment of the citizens of other countries.

Were I a member of the White House press corps, I'd pin the President to the wall on this matter with a single question, plus a follow-up:
Mr. President, without making public any of the specific details of your secret trial plan, would you simply tell us whether the plan involves American agents doing anything to detainees that we would not wish to have done to our own personnel if captured?
Assuming His Nibs answered the question in the affirmative — hey, I like to give a guy the benefit of the doubt — my follow-up would be:
Mr. President, knowing that you consider yourself a Christian, how would you reconcile that answer with the words of Jesus: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"?
Even though the President apparently considers himself exempt from the Geneva Convention, I'd hope he isn't so far gone that he considers himself exempt from the Golden Rule.

*Actually, I believe both Graham and I root for Air Force in collegiate football. But that's about it.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Worst. Campaign. Ad. Ever.

It's Primary Election Day here in sunny California. I will, however, happily avoid the local precinct. As permanent absentee voters — a status we opted for during KJ's battle with breast cancer six years ago — we accomplished our civic duty last week.

The fact that I've already cast my ballot won't prevent me from taking a jab at what has to be the most poorly thought-out campaign ad since Lyndon Johnson's infamous "Daisy" spot in 1964 — the one in which the little blonde girl picking flowers in a meadow gets obliterated by a nuclear mushroom cloud because too many people voted for Barry Goldwater.

The offenders here are the handlers of Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor Jackie Speier. For the benefit of you non-Golden Staters who may have forgotten, Ms. Speier, today a member of the California State Senate, began her career in politics as an aide to Congressman Leo Ryan. Ryan, the only member of Congress in U.S. history to be killed in the line of duty, was murdered during the People's Temple massacre in Jonestown, Guyana, back in 1978. Speier, who accompanied Ryan on his fateful investigative mission, took five bullets in her own body, but survived. (Obviously.)

One of Speier's current TV spots begins with a graphic description of Speier's injuries at Jonestown, notes how she was left for dead in a South American jungle, and talks about how her indomitable spirit helped pull her through that tragedy to where she is today. Then the candidate herself comes on, and announces, "To see what I'll do, you need to look at what I've done."

Ummm... what you've just told us you've done, Jackie, is get shot five times and abandoned on a tarmac runway in a tropical rain forest.

Do you really want to do that again?

For what it's worth, I voted for Ms. Speier anyway. But I sure hope she's wrong about the other thing.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Lyn Nofziger

I probably would not have paid much attention to today's news that longtime Republican insider Franklyn "Lyn" Nofziger had died, were it not for the fact that his path and mine once crossed — albeit briefly — about a quarter-century ago.

In the fall of 1980, I was a sophomore journalism student at Pepperdine University. Active at the campus radio station, I acquired — more because of my constant availability than any extraordinary talent on my part — a considerable number of behind-the-scenes responsibilities in addition to my on-air work as a disc jockey and sports announcer. Among my tasks was coproducing a public affairs program hosted by a fellow student whose father had been the longtime publisher of the Sentinel, a newspaper that served the Los Angeles black community.

With the '80 national election approaching, my coproducer put together a show featuring interviews with the various Presidential candidates. Well, not the candidates themselves for the most part (although we did manage a one-on-one with the Libertarian candidate, a dull-witted chap who kept referring to our alma mater as "Peppertone"), but their designated spokespeople. Lyn Nofziger, who was Ronald Reagan's press secretary at the time, spoke with us by telephone on behalf of the Reagan campaign. Nofziger was easily the most effective speaker of the folks we interviewed — clear on his message and engaging in style. He didn't convince me to vote for Reagan — it would have taken either a pistol to my temple, or a date with Erin Gray, to pull off that feat — but he seemed like a likable guy.

Nofziger will likely be remembered as the person whose job it was to tell the White House press corps that President Reagan (see? he didn't even need my vote) had been shot by John Hinckley. Shortly after that, Nofziger left the Reagan administration and returned to the campaign scene, in later years running campaigns for right-wingers Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes. (I said he seemed likable. I didn't say he seemed sensible.)

I'm sure that after all these years, Nofziger would not have recalled that one interview out of the hundreds he gave in the fall of 1980. But I do.

Speaking of dead Republicans, I see that Caspar Weinberger, HEW secretary under Richard Nixon and defense secretary under Ronald Reagan, also passed away today.

I'm sure that jokes about Caspar becoming a friendly ghost would be entirely inappropriate.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the weekend?

Whoooooo doggies, that was one hell-for-leather weekend. And no, I'm not just talking about my outing to WonderCon, which I'll tell you all about on Comic Art Friday.

To catch up on everything that's been everything over this Lincoln's Birthday weekend, hop on the SwanShadow Express for a whirlwind tour of the headlines:
  • Hey, Dick Cheney: Harry Whittington was only joking when he said, "I told you there weren't any WMD in Iraq, you stupid putz."

  • That, or maybe Dick the Veep thought he was supposed to be shooting Dan Quayle.

  • Now shut up and stick to skiing, Bode Miller.

  • Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws, passed away at the age of 65. You're gonna need a bigger coffin.

  • I'd feel sorrier for you, Michelle Kwan, if you hadn't weaseled your way into a slot on the U.S. Olympic figure skating team that didn't rightfully belong to you. You still owe Emily Hughes an apology.

  • Wouldn't you like to think that the Secretary of Transportation has more important things to do than worry about Britney Spears's driving habits?

  • Movin' on up: Franklin Cover, who played the white guy who married a black woman on The Jeffersons, died. In a parallel universe, he might have been Lenny Kravitz's dad.

  • I probably won't rush out to see Curious George anytime soon, but I'm thrilled to see a traditionally animated feature do well at the box office. Like many folks my age, I remember the Curious George books by H.A. Rey with a certain nostalgic fondness. More than those, though, I remember Rey's excellent guides for amateur astronomers, Find the Constellations and the more-in-depth The Stars. Those books were staples of my youthful library. I still imagine Rey's simple line drawings whenever I gaze up at the night sky.

  • I'm beginning to think there's a reason why they call that man Apolo Anton Oh, No!

  • Art Shell, meet Kim Mathers. I believe the two of you will have a lot to talk about.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

And they say Republicans have no sense of humor

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Stating the painfully obvious

A hearty SSTOL "thank you" to Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel for saying out loud what most of us (at least, most of us not surnamed Bush) are thinking:
By any standard, when you analyze two and a half years in Iraq... we're not winning.
In a rare moment of transcendent lucidity for (a) a Republican, (b) a Nebraskan, and (c) a grown man who calls himself "Chuck," Hagel, appearing on this morning's broadcast of ABC's This Week, said concerning Iraq:
I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur.
Brilliant. But obvious.

Which reminds me...

Some things in life are so incredibly obvious that one wonders why everyone can't see them. Examples:
  • Adam Sandler is not funny.

  • He can't act, either.

  • Julia Roberts is not a pretty woman. That was just the name of a movie.

  • Comb-overs do not fool anyone, nor do they make the comber-over appear more virile.

  • No woman looks feminine with her hair pulled severely back from her face in the manner of a spinster librarian. Not even at the Oscars.

  • Liver is not food. Even with a French name.

  • Men over 45 dating women under 25 have maturity issues.

  • So, with few exceptions, do women over 45 dating men under 25.

  • Brown shoes with blue slacks don't make it.

  • White shoes with anything don't make it, unless the shoes in question are sneakers.

  • Men should not wear sandals, unless acting in a Biblical epic.

  • Lara Flynn Boyle needs a sandwich. Maybe her own Quizno's franchise.

  • Unless you're a burn victim, or have otherwise been disfigured congenitally, surgically, or accidentally, cosmetic surgery serves only to make public your desperate insecurity. It does not make you look better.

  • Yes, that includes breast implants.

  • Maybe especially breast implants.

  • There will never be another James Bond except Sean Connery.

  • White guys wearing do-rags or backward baseball caps look ridiculous.

  • Britney Spears cannot sing.

  • Neither can Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan, and both of them should stop trying.

  • The popular success of Paris Hilton is a crime against humanity.

  • No one who co-starred in either Seinfeld or Friends has any real talent. As their subsequent ventures attest.

  • Batman and Robin really are gay. No matter what DC Comics says.

  • People who poke holes in their anatomy where holes were never intended to go are seriously disturbed.

  • Reviving the fashions of the 1970s is a bad idea.

  • We're not winning in Iraq.

  • No one is.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Funny old world

Yes, now that you mention it, it does strike me as bizarre that we live at a moment in history when:
  • Bill Gates becomes a Knight Commander of the British Empire. I thought "Knight Commander" was a video game. Apparently, it's a Microsoft product.

  • The headline on one of the biggest news stories of the day contains the phrase "crack whore." And doesn't even mention Courtney Love or Whitney Houston.

  • A stripper is selling her size 69HH breast implants on eBay. That's bigger than Shaquille O'Neal's shoe, for crying out loud.

  • Kobe Bryant buys off the woman who accused him of rape, and his attorney manages to say with a straight face that the matter has been resolved "to the satisfaction of both parties." I'm thinking there had to be a better way of putting that.

  • New CIA chief Porter Goss complains, "The jobs I'm being asked to do, the five hats that I wear, are too much for this mortal." What did you think, Porter? The head of Central Intelligence spent the day sucking down cappucino and surfing the 'Net?

  • Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards file for divorce...and anyone is surprised. This is a man who spent a half-million bucks (that we know about) on Heidi Fleiss's hookers, and has his own designated parking space at the Playboy Mansion. Not exactly marital material.

  • The Republican Party is courting (in a manner of speaking) gay conservatives. There are gay conservatives?

  • The mayor of Las Vegas tells a fourth grade class that drinking is one of his hobbies, and that, if marooned on a desert island, the one thing he'd want with him is a bottle of gin. Whew — for a minute there, I was afraid he was going to promote gambling to the little tykes.

  • A New York Times/CBS News poll finds that "Americans say President Bush does not share the priorities of most of the country on either domestic or foreign issues, are increasingly resistant to his proposal to revamp Social Security and say they are uneasy with Mr. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the retirement program." Color me shocked.

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Thursday, November 04, 2004

You thought you had a rough day...

Yesterday morning, Elizabeth Edwards's husband John, the Democratic nominee for Vice President, conceded the race for the second-highest position in U.S. government.

Yesterday afternoon, Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer.

There are things more important than who votes for whom. KJ and I wish the Edwards family strength for the fight that really matters.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over, but keep spreading the word.

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