Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Do Not Consider Phlebas

First, thanks to Dave for his first guest post.  Great Stuff.

Second, this is a bit off topic but I just read (part of) a really terrible, but massively popular and acclaimed, book.  Consider Phlebas by Iain Banks.  This is the first book in his Culture series, which is also massively popular an acclaimed.  Now, maybe I'm missing the point, and the whole thing is a literary metaphor that just goes over my head.  But I don't think so.  That said...

This book is not good. I was fooled by the reviews because I really like grand intergalactic sci-fi with a broad, complex backdrop. Consider Phlebas tries to be that, but without any new or interesting ideas. Its like someone shook up box full of bad 50's pulp sci-fi and whatever came out was the book. There are the space mercenaries, the super secret genetically modified spy with special powers and secret poison glands, the ultra tech society (which really seems very unimaginatively bland) and of course the interstellar war between implacable enemies. And instead of creating a feeling of grand awe, the vast galaxy of new creatures and cultures is just like a kinda weird big earth. Everyone know everyone, there's a huge crazy card game called "Damage" which is watched across the galaxy by trillions (and yet the main character,Horza, happens to recognize half the people playing in the game he happens upon (which is of course the 'biggest in the galaxy'). Its kinda like how Zaphod Beeblebrox and Ford Prefect knew everyone in the Universe, except this isn't supposed to be funny (or maybe it is and failed?). Another indication of how small Banks makes this galaxy seem, Horza gets thrown out of a space ship in the middle of a battle, uses his handy in suit warp drive, and yet is conveniently found moments later by a pirate space ship wandering by. Ugh. Aweful.  This is such an "It was raining on Mongo that morning" moment in the book, to quote Jerry Pournelle (who co-wrote, among many great books, The Mote In God's Eye). Please go read some vernor vinge instead if you'd like a galactic space adventure that is truly awe inspiring. Maybe the rest get better, but i doubt it.

Oh, and for now reason apparent to the plot so far (i just quit the book about half way through) Horza is captured by some fat religious cult leader who eats people while forcing his followers to starve eating garbage. Then we get a stupid description of the fat guy eating a prisoner, then eating horza's finger, then falling on his lead disciple and crushing him to death. The Horza escapes and that whole chapter basically meant nothing. And the book opened with Horzon being ritually executed by drowning in the feces and urine of his captors who are attending a party, and its, i guess, some race of all old people called "The Gerontologists" or something retarded like that. UGH!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Guest Blogger: Denali: Your Regular Reminder that by "State's Rights," Conservatives Always Just Meant Slavery

So, this is a little late to the party on the clown-show that is the Republicans, mainly the Ohio delegation, flipping out over alleged dictator Barak Obama renaming Mt. McKinley so that it is officially called Denali in the federal register.  However, I still wanted to chime in once I saw actual calls for congress to act to block the 'name change.'*  Particularly galling is chubby, bible-thumping, former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee saying that Congress should act.

Along with multiple other religious zealots in the field of Republican presidential candidates, he has long held the position that the several states should hold sway on most matters that occur within their borders, particularly when it comes to matters that allegedly involve religious liberty.  Generally, this is coupled with a misunderstanding of the First Amendment and the separation of church and state. (Often that misunderstanding comes with a willful disregard of historical facts regarding the Founding Fathers' position on faith and government.) 

Eventually, I will make a detailed post regarding this ridiculous revisionist history.  However, to stay somewhat on topic with Denali/McKinley, I am somewhat shocked that not a single journalist reporting the "have congress intervene in Obama's overreach story has noted that these idiots are asking the federal government to intervene on a matter where the State of Alaska, where the mountain in question resides, spoke long ago: the F'ing mountain is named Denali, said the State of Alaska in 1975!!!! (Update to include this article, making it clear that even the conservative residents of Alaska refer to it as Denali.)

Now, many media outlets have noted the ongoing Alaskan preference for the name Denali, as well as their numerous attempts to change it.  What galls me is the lack of acknowledgment that the very people pushing back on "imperial Obama" are complete hypocrites...  the land is in Alaska! Even beyond the obvious fact that it should be named to reflect what the actual natives called it, how about sliding up to Huckabee or one of these other idiots and noting that they generally would like powers to rest in the hands of the states and not the federal government? ...and by that logic, the people of Alaska really would have the say here, and not Congress, as hamstrung by the Ohio delegation?

All of this was a long walk down a path to make the point that "State's Rights" activists are full of $hit.  The very concept was merely invented to protect the rights of certain states to continue to engage in slavery. Thus the Civil War. So every time a politician trots out the State's Rights doctrine, remember that they are probably using it in some self-serving way to deny another person rights.  Because if they really believed in State's Rights, then the little shit like the naming of a mountain in Alaska would be pretty F'ing easy...  they'd say "Oh, that's an issue for Alaska to decide."

*technically, as this is my first blog-post for the Rambling Drunk I should have had a few more glasses of...  something...  before I wrote this.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trump is a Golden Ticket For Smart Journalists

There's been lots of talk about Trump winning the war against Megyn Kelley after her tough
questions during the debate, Trump's dickish, sexist responses and Roger Ailes subsequent fold.  But I think that's based on short term thinking.  Yeah, lots of assholes on twitter attacked Kelley afterwards, but guess what:  the dumbest people on the internet are the loudest.  The number of people who tweet shit at you is not indicative of much.  And the 25-30 percent of people who love trump and now hate kelley are part of the same overlapping venn diagram of idiocy.  And now, with Trump's second round of bimbo tweets about Kelley, Ailes is forced to defend her and she comes out looking like a serious journalist and sympathetic figure who got under Trump's skin.

So now Jorge Ramos gets kicked out of a Trump press conference and told to "Go Back To Mexico Univision!".  Trump once again looks great to idiots who love him and like an asshole to everyone else.  Ramos comes out with huge mainstream press, a press core who are appalled and more credibility than every in the Hispanic community.  Trump looks like an angry, racist who can't handle tough questions AGAIN.

So, despite the latest media narrative that Trump's for real and everyone has been underestimating him (as opposed to the original pundit narrative that trump was a joke and only fools thought he would even run), I still think he's gonna be here for a while, be a big factor in the race until at least the end of March, and then fade away and become once again, just a punchline who happens to have had a rich father.  At that point, Megyn Kelley and Jorge Ramos are still here, and look like the journalists who had the balls (and ovaries) to go after Trump early on, which everyone else, including the other GOP candidates, were cowering in fear.

So my advice to some budding young reporter on the Trump campaign trail is ask him the toughest questions you can, and keep asking when he yells at your to shut up.  First off, it could get you famous.  Second, it's also supposed to be your job.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bern-ing Down the House

The latest poll results our of New Hampshire are undoubtedly good news for Sanders and his supporters.  The Franklin-Pierce poll has him up 44-37 wih an MOE of 4.7.  I think this is also a good thing for liberals and the Democratic party in general.  Sanders' is an unabashed, outspoken liberal who embraces progressive policies and is forcing Clinton to the left.  He's also garnering huge crowds and forcing the media to cover his campaign and his message, helping to change the national dialogue in much the same way the Occupy Wall Street movement did.  But, don't get too excited, you hippie commie Sander-ites.  Outside a few states, not that many people are "Feeling the Bern".  The latest RCP polling average has Clinton +26 in Iowa, +56 in South Carolina and +35 nationally.

Turns out, Sanders does extremely well with white liberals.  And New Hampshire, Iowa and Vermont have LOTS of very white very liberals.  He does much worse with blacks, hispanics and moderates.  (  The Black Lives Matter protesters who've interrupted a couple of his campaign events are one sign of this.  Now, this can certainly change as Sanders builds momentum in these early states where he has a demographic advantage, increases name recognition, spreads his campaign message and works on improving his relationship with non-white voters and in particular activist groups.  He's already working on that and has hired a Symone Sanders, a black criminal justice advocate and supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement as press secretary.  A good first step, but one which need to be followed with a serious policy platform addressing racial justice issues.  However, in the end, I don't think Sanders can overcome Clinton's massive advantages in political connection, national organization, money, fame, etc etc.  And of course the prospect of being the first woman president is a huge historical event which surely will garner additional support from many voters.  So my prediction is Sanders wins New Hampshire, loses Iowa where Clinton's organization takes advantage of the caucus system (having learned some lessons from 2008), and then quickly thereafter dominates the rest of the race.  But for now, I'm happy to see Sanders exceeding expectations, even if I don't think he can win the nomination or (if he did) the presidency.

Maybe Van Gogh Didn't Cut Off His Ear

So apparently two historians reviewing available letters and accounts now think  Vincent van Gogh lost his ear in a fight with  Paul Gauguin and they both agreed to keep it a secret.  Presumably to protect Gauguin from any repercussions, either legal or to his reputation.  This theory isn't bullet proof, but it makes more sense to me than the commonly held belief that Van Gogh cut his own ear off.  That just always seemed hard to believe.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Wire Creator's New HBO Mini-Series looks Great

I consider The Wire to be the best TV show of all time, so I'm excited about this.
 The uncanny resemblance between present and past is the tacit subject of "The Wire" creator David Simon's new miniseries, "Show Me a Hero," adapted from former New York Times reporter Lisa Belkin's kaleidoscopic account of the pitched battle over public housing in Yonkers, N.Y., in the 1980s and 1990s.
As politics if not always as art, the six-part saga is the television series of the year: rarely has a historical portrait seemed more timely than this one.

Trump at 32% in Post Debate Poll

Wow, I don't even know what to say about this.  I thought The Donald would stay steady after the debates, holding on to his dedicated supporters, but start alienating the rest of the base.  But apparently I underestimated how much republican voters love angry, loudmouthed, misogynistic, rich, white guys.

Here's the breakdown from huffpo on a poll conducted by an outfit called Morning Consult. 

1) 2016 National Republican Primary

Asked of 746 Republican registered voters
Jeb Bush (R)11%
Ben Carson (R)9%
Chris Christie (R)4%
Ted Cruz (R)4%
Carly Fiorina (R)3%
Lindsey Graham (R)1%
Mike Huckabee (R)4%
Bobby Jindal (R)1%
John Kasich (R)3%
George Pataki (R)0%
Rick Perry (R)1%
Rand Paul (R)5%
Marco Rubio (R)6%
Rick Santorum (R)1%
Donald Trump (R)32%
Scott Walker (R)6%

 I've never heard of them, so I can't say if they're a reliable pollster, but for now I'll take it at face value.  Which means that despite, or perhaps because of, Fox's pretty obvious attempt to hurt Trump in the debates and his attack on Kelly regarding her menstrual cycle, Trump has increased his support.  Now, that sounds fucking crazy to me, but what it really seems to mean is that I just can't manage to understand the Republican Id no matter how hard I try.  It also means that unless something unexpected and dramatic happens, Trump will likely remain at the top of the GOP field at least until the primaries start.  If the debate and subsequent brouhaha with Fox and Kelly didn't hurt him (and in fact probably helped him) I don't see what will.  Once voting starts, marginal candidates drop out, and non-trumpites coalesce  around Walker or whoever, then he may start losing support.  But that sure as hell doesn't mean he'll drop out.  If Trump can maintain 20+% support he'll likely stick with it till the convention because fuck it, he's fucking Donald Trump and that's what Donald Trumps do.  Thank you, Lord!  This is YOOOOGE! 

A Kind of Politician - Groot 2016

What Happens to Donald Trump?

So now that the GOP establishment and FOX are both trying to destroy Donald Trump's campaign, it seems that the only way to do so is pick 1 or 2 mainstream candidates to back and force the rest of the field to drop out. Then non-trump suporters can coalesce around a consensus front runner. This basically can't happen until the primary season starts, because:

1) I don't think anyone candidates would agree to drop out before then and

2)  Even if they were willing, it would look terrible for the party to be seen as forcing candidates out before voters had any chance to choose. 

So we're probably talking end of February or even early march after super tuesday before Trump can be effectively marginalized and the GOP can even begin to unite and attack the Democratic candidate instead of each other. That's a hell of a long time and probably means an increasingly bitter and damaging intra-party fight for the GOP.  And aside from the Trump issues, the party is facing a more general schism between hard right Cruz type base activists and more pragmatic mainstream GOPers who would like a Jeb or Kasich as the nominee.  This is shaping up to be a real shitshow of a primary season for Republicans. Hooray!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The 2016 Republican Nomination Will be a Watershed Moment

So here's the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls, both declared and undeclared.

Ben Carson
Lindsey Graham
Bob Ehrlich
Marco Rubio
Bobby Jindal
Mike Huckabee 
Carly Fiorina
Peter King
Chris Christie
Rand Paul
George Pataki
Rick Perry
Jeb Bush
Rick Santorum
Jim Gilmore
Scott Walker
John Kasich
Ted Cruz

Honestly I don't think any of them can win the general election, but of course one of them will win the GOP nomination and whoever that is will have a huge impact on how the 2016 election plays out.  It will determine the tone of the general campaign, the issues that get major media play and quite possibly the future direction of the party over the next 20+ years.  So first off, most of these candidates are jokes.  They are running either for free PR, vanity, money, or out of pure delusions.   I'm talking about your trumps, kings, jindals and patakis.  Fiorina is a special case who just might be running at the request of the Republican establishment to prove that women are important in the GOP too.  Plus vanity.  Then there are some long shot candidates who might just luck their way into the nomination on a fluke if the top tier all implode somehow.  That's your perry's, paul's and kasich's.  christie would have been on that list if not for his vast array of ongoing scandals and plummeting popularity in NJ.  

But there's really only about 3 top tier candidates who have a decent chance: Walker, Bush and some say Rubio.  Personally I don't think Rubio has a chance either.  There are a variety of reasons Walker and Bush are the only serious contenders right now, but mostly it's that all the other candidates are seriously flawed in various ways.  For Paul holds too many libertarian-type views that don't match party orthodoxy plus he's got personal baggage.  Cruz is hated by his own party for being a dick, is way to far to the right and he looks like frank burns from M.A.S.H.  Perry's an idiot, Jindal is a 15 years old, Carson barely has a campaign staff etc. etc.  And of course Bush and Walker are raising money hand over fist from the big, billionaire type donors.  Which means they also have the support of the GOP establishment figures in government and media circles.  Which means, just like every 4 years, one of them will be the GOP candidate.

At this point my money is on Walker.  Jeb has to much baggage from his brother, and won't be able to attack Clinton on lots of issues where Walker can hit her.  And despite his milquetoast appearance, Walker is a rabid right-winger.  Which means the GOP base will finally get their true believer nominee after bitterly complaining about McCain and Romney as moderate wimps who wouldn't deliver the real conservative message America craved.  There is widespread belief among the base that excessive moderation is what lost them the presidency in 2008 and 2012 (though I'm pretty sure they're very wrong about that).

And that's a big reason why this nomination and general election will be so critical in shaping the GOP going forward.  The base and establishment will finally see what happens when you have a true, hard core conservative as your standard bearer in a presidential election year.  If Walker wins and the GOP does well in the House and Senate, it will be a huge vindication for the right and give them massively increased influence in the party.  And they'll likely control the white house, possibly both houses of congress and the supreme court (with 2 or more seats being appointed during a Walker presidency).  If, as I think far more likely, Walker loses  and loses pretty badly that will be a blow to the far right.  It will hopefully at least halt the party's continued drift towards extremism and likely force it back to the left a bit.  The GOP is already looking at terrible long term demographic trends, with it's older, white base shrinking and more and more people identifying as liberal on social issues.  A third straight presidential loss should be a wake-up call that they can't win nationally unless they enact a major overhaul of they policies.  Silly PR buzzwords like "minority outreach" and "compassionate conservatism" won't cut it.