Friday, August 29, 2008

GOP panic? More on Obama acceptance

I planned to make more comments about Barack Obama's acceptance speech last night, but I just read the news about McCain's selection of Gov. Palin as his running mate, and was stunned.

Palin's name had been bandied about a month or so back, but had slacked off when word came out that she had used her position as governor to push for the firing of her ex-brother-in-law who was a state trooper, and then firing the head of the State Police when he wouldn't do it.

While she has conservative credentials, her almost total lack of experience makes it hard for the GOP to keep pushing the "too inexperienced, too lightweight" meme about Obama. Her selection, along with her speech mentioning Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton, seems like a desperate attempt to get the votes of disgruntled Clinton supporters. From a practical aspect, with a 72 year old presidential candidate, we have to take a hard look at whether Palin would have any business being the president, if worse comes to worse.

Back to Obama's speech. While it was a fantastic speech overall, here are the points that I especially liked.

  • Obama's review of his antecedents. Many Americans know little about Barack Obama than the crap that GOP emailers have been spewing out. The "elitist" claim is particularly absurd, when we look at the two candidates. Obama was a mixed-race child raised by a single mother, who qualified for food stamps for part of his childhood. McCain is the son and grandson of admirals, who was able to get a command despite coming almost dead last in his class, and is now married to a nine figure heiress. And we are supposed to believe that McCain is "just one of us?"

  • "Eight is enough". No, not the TV show. Obama made the point very well that electing McCain is just four more years of George Bush. McCain believes (well, currently believes. He has changed positions on almost every position in the last eight years, from being an actual "maverick" in 2000, to falling in line with every one of Bush's positions now) that we need to keep cutting taxes on the wealthy (and help those poor downtrodden heirs and heiresses keep more of daddy and mommy's money.) He believes that bin Laden is apparently hiding in Iraq (which brings me to another great line "John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell - but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.")

  • "It's because John McCain doesn't get it." That is it in a nutshell.

  • Obama's listing of specific changes to be made to help our economy. While Obama has had much more detailed plans than McCain, those have not always been made clear. Soundbites and stump speeches are not the place to detail specifics, but people need to be made aware that the specifics are there.

  • "And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons." Clearly a point made to help pull in the female vote, it is also an important truth. As the father of an beautiful, intelligent daughter, I want her available choices to be determined by her intelligence and work ethic, not her chromosomes.

  • "And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us" - It was important for Obama to push the point that he is not simply talking about so-called "entitlements", but for ways to help us help ourselves.

  • I loved the strength and confidence that Obama showed while making his challenges to McCain, including his line about "temperament" for the position of commander in chief. McCain is often likable, but from all reports he also has a hair trigger temper and makes spur of the moment decisions that he changes the next day. These are not the characteristics that I want a C-in-C to have.

  • "So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first." - I am sick of conservatives pretending, and often claiming outright, that they are the only ones who love their country. I am a patriot, but that doesn't make me a a narrow-minded jingoist. I have, for years, used the example that we should love our country like it is our child (correct its mistakes and direct it where we feel it should go) instead of like we are the children(my mommy's always daddy can beat up your daddy)

  • "Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things." - This attacks the classic GOP "wedge issue" strategy. The GOP has, ever since Reagan, focused on narrow divisive issues to scare social and religious conservatives into electing them. These same people haven't figured out that the GOP doesn't really care about abortion, gay marriage or prayer in school. It cares about helping the wealthy get more and more. They pay lip service to the scare issues, but use their actual political clout to help cut taxes on the wealthy and protect the Haliburton's of the world.

These are a few of the thoughts I had last night. I look forward to this election with hope and trepidation. I realize that electing Obama will not create Xanadu, but the only way we can make actual changes is by trying, and it seems that for too long we have stopped trying. We owe our children and grandchildren the effort.

Obama shows he is ready

Last night Barack Obama had the opportunity to show America that he is ready to be their president, and he gave one of the best speeches I have ever heard. On the 45th anniversary of "I have a dream", and on a day that included a speech by one of the Freedom Riders who was bloodied in Alabama in 1961, Barack Obama showed that he is the embodiment of MLK's dream, a candidate who happens to be black, rather than a black candidate.

(BTW, for those Focus on the Family people praying for rain in Denver, if God always answers prayers, last night he didn't just say "No", he said, "Hell NO, and, BTW, stop invoking my name in the cause of hatred and bigotry".)

(BTW II, to those Repuglican talking heads who were calling the stage a "Greek Temple" do all of us a favor. Take a few days (or weeks, or months) off, take a visit to Washington. Ask for directions to a place called the "Lincoln Memorial", you can't miss it. You might also look for the footage of Reverend King's speech in front of said memorial. then try and buy a ^%$%$^ clue.)

Barack took his challenge straight at John McBush, er McCain. He showed a solidity that belies the celebrity label that the GOP has tried to attach to him. He gave a speech full of hope, with a wealth of detailed plans, and some excellent sound bites.

Will he be able to put all his plans into place? Almost certainly not. Does this speech give us hope that he will try to work in the right direction? It does to me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A good weekend on the stove

Well, my experiments went well over the weekend. Made an ad-libbed scrambled eggs with chorizo on Saturday that came out great. I tried a pizza that night, it was so-so, but I know what mistakes I made, and the sauce was excellent.

Tonight I tried a simplified jambalaya: andouille, tasso and shrimp. It came out well, although I cheated and used Zataran's jambalaya rice for extra flavor. It was very tasty, but it could have been better. I have more andouille and tasso, so I will be planning on a rematch soon.

Let's eliminate "take responsibility" from political language

John Edwards fessed up and said that he was "taking responsibility" for his affair, after hiding in hotel to avoid reporters. While I understand the importance of taking responsibility for things in real life, taking that responsibility includes consequences. In political speech, it means, "I got caught and can't get out of it."

George Bush "took responsibility" for mistakes in the Iraq debacle, for the despicable push-polling against McCain in 2000 and if the illegal partisan hiring in the Justice Department is proved, I am sure he will square his shoulders and "take ...", well you know, for that also because it is a completely meaningless phrase in politics.

Conservatives decry the fact that homosexuals have suborned the word "gay", liberals don't like the fact that that Fundamentalists are trying to redefine "family" to mean "narrow-minded, hate-filled bigotry", but the political abuse of that phrase beloved by stern fathers everywhere is truly a bipartisan effort.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Colbert defends the Ignorants

The Colbert Report had a nice segment on Obama's dastardly suggestion, as part of an overall energy plan, that we could cut consumption by 3% by properly inflating our tires. How dare he propose somthing that won't require funding and that will help immediately. Everyone knows we should simply allow more drilling, that way we will see an effect by 2030!

Two from Black Coat Press

I have recently finished two books from Black Coat Press. BCP is a small publishing company that "is primarily devoted to publishing English-language translations of classics of French popular literature, as well as comics and stage plays." These classics are primarily pulp and science-fiction, both of which I am a fan. As soon as I saw the title Edgar Allan Poe on Mars I knew I would have to check out their offerings.

One down side of a small publishing company like BCP is price. They cannot publish in the quantity that the large companies can, so their prices tend to be high, $20+ for most offerings (in a large paperback format, not truly trade paperbacks.)

Tales of the Shadowmen
I began with Tales of the Shadowmen 1: The Modern Babylon. This book is a collection of short stories, pastiches of French pulp characters by modern authors. I thought that this book would give me a quick feel for characters I was not familiar with, alongside some I was familiar with already (Maigret, Lord Dunsany, Frankenstein's monster).

I expected mixed results from an anthology like this, but the results were more mixed than I could be happy with. There were some good stories, but about half seemed more like exercises in name dropping, with little story or characterization. What frustrated me the most about the book was the story The Werewolf of Rutherford Grange. This is one of the best stories, and the longest, in the book. The problem is, the story is continued in the second volume of this series. I understand a serial in a magazine, but when I pay $20 for book, I don't expect to find "to be continued".

The Hollow Needle
As a long-time Sherlockian, and a recent discoverer of Arsene Lupin, Arsene Lupin Vs. Sherlock Holmes: The Hollow Needle was a natural for me. I had read some Arsene Lupin from Project Gutenberg and listened to the very good public domain audiobook. Buying this books was a tough decision, as most of the material is available at Gutenberg.

I was very happy that I did buy the book, in the end. The early translations are not always good reads. They are fairly perfunctory translations. The translations by the Lofficiers show that these are done by good writers in their own right. The book also includes a good forward and afterword, a short story, a novel, and a closing story written by the Lofficiers. The only down side of these books, for a Holmes fan, is that Holmes barely appears. He is a foil in the first story, and appears late in the novel. This fact does not take away from the stories themselves.

Take the time to taste LeBlanc at Gutenberg, but if you like him there, you will LOVE him here!

Now, if we could just get BCP to give us good translations of Jules Verne. Unfortunately, there are bad public domain editions of Verne available that publishers can print for little cost, so that is what the stores are flooded with.

Let's try this again

I started the blog a while bag, but didn't get going. I think it is time to see if I actually have anything to say on a semi-daily basis. I talk all the time, so you think I could come up with something to say!

I have never been one to cook much. I love food, and I have been lucky enough to have a wife who is a great cook. I have started to cook more lately (I blame Rachel Ray and the Iron Chef.) There were some things I thought sounded good, but my wife, Jill, wasn't that interested in making. I decided that I should be able to cook these things (OK, stop laughing, I actually thought that).

Results have been mixed so far (although I also provide a bit of a floor show for the rest of the family.) I have made a very decent tuna noodle casserole, a quite good black bean side dish, baked beans (from scratch), and very tasty, and spicy, mini meatloaves.

On the other side of things, I have made textureless turkey burgers, and burned some fruit trying to grill it (see comment about floor show above). Living in a small town in Indiana (deep in the heart of darkest America...home of the Brave) limits the food choices somewhat. Slaloming between the food preferences of the family is also fun. I don't care for most cheeses, wife and daughter don't care for seafood or mushrooms, wife doesn't like onions that she can see, son isn't thrilled with veggies. OK, I know, Jill has been navigating these treacherous waters for years, but I am new to it.

I have discovered Balsamic vinegar, and found good places to order chorizo and andouille, which is unavailable locally. We will see what other things I learn along the way!

On the near horizon are: jambalaya, homemade pizza, scrambled eggs with chorizo,