Friday, December 30, 2011

It's hard to defend Rick Perry

Not that I felt the need to defend him. But before clicking on this link that was preempted by Andrew Sullivan asking how dumb Perry is, I wanted to give Perry the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't dumb so much as he may have misspoken. Andrew probably wasn't being hyperbolic:

When told that the Supreme Court case struck down the Texas sodomy law, Perry said, “My position on traditional marriage is clear and I don’t know need a law. I don’t need a federal law case to explain it to me.”

The Texas governor referenced Lawrence v. Texas in his 2010 book Fed Up!, calling it one of the court cases in which “Texans have a different view of the world than do the nine oligarchs in robes.”

This was in response to being asked his opinion on the SC case that struck down anti-sodomy laws. He says he doesn't know the case, and that he shouldn't know it because he isn't a lawyer nor is trying to be one. Yeah, why would the president need to know the law in some capacity? It's not like the president is part of the legislative process or anything.

If that's not bad enough, he goes on to conflate gay marriage with sodomy. The case he was asked about wasn't about gay marriage. It was about whether the state has the right to keep people from partaking in certain sexual activities. Gay marriage is about whether the state should recognize the relationship of gay couples. So not only does he not care about the law despite wanting to be president, he doesn't understand policy issues.

But if that wasn't bad enough, it turns out that he criticized the case in his book. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he actually read about the case himself in the process or writing his book, that would mean he doesn't remember these types of things well. He could have had a brain fart, but to still play ignorant after being told what the case was about after you had previously written about it in your book isn't the most comforting trait in a presidential candidate, much less a governor.

Not giving him the benefit of the doubt, he had someone else write that for his book, and possibly more for the book. And that would mean he is a hack that just wanted to make money off of his position in public office. That's probably commonplace. But at least familiarize yourself with the content of the book you're attaching your name to.

The worst part about that last paragraph is the comment about the SC justices being oligarchs. Again Perry fundamentally doesn't understand the nature of our system of gov't. The Constitution, that document conservatives like Perry say they value so much, says that the job of those oligarch is black robes is to interpret the law. It's their job to say whether Texas can outlaw sodomy. Just because you don't like what they decide doesn't mean they are oligarchs and thus somehow illegitimate.

At best Perry is playing extremely ignorant here. If he understands the basic structure of our gov't he sure doesn't display that understanding here. If he understands important policy questions and what role the president plays in making laws he doesn't display that here. At worst Perry is what Andrew suggests, dumb. I won't go so far as to agree with Andrew because I can't see inside Perry's mind. But it's really difficult to continue to defend Perry and excuse these types of comments as just strategic ignorance.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Memphis Grizzlies home opener

It was a rematch of the fantastic playoff series from last year. And it almost lived up to those games. OKC comes into this season as a favorite of many to reach the finals. I can certainly see that given that they have three guys (Durant, Westbrook, Harden) who can consistently get their own shot and two good post defenders.

The Grizzlies enter this season with high expectations, at least for this franchise. Rudy Gay returns from a shoulder injury that prevented him from playing in the playoffs. Adding Gay's ability to a very good inside game has fans thinking the team could contend with OKC for the West.

The game opened on a downer for the Griz. On the first possession Mike Conley stepped on Perkins' foot and twisted his ankle. He didn't play the rest of the game. But the backup PG, Pargo, stepped in and played very well. Though initially this seemed to hurt the offense as they went 0 for their first 12 shots. But eventually Gay, Randolph and Gasol got going. The one place I think they missed Conley was 3 point shooting. The Griz didn't take too many 3 pointers. But they were terrible from 3.

That turned out to be a problem since OKC took a lot more and thus made more. Plus Kevin Durant showed why he is arguably the best player in the game. Rudy Gay hung in there most of the time. But Durant consistently hit tough shots that kept the Griz from taking the lead. But just like last year this team kept fighting and made it close at the end. I would have liked win this game against a very good team at home. But given Conley's injury and the adjustment of Gay back in the lineup I think they fared well. If they consistently play hard I think they can meet expectations and be a middle-seeded playoff team.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Summing up Obama's national security policy

Glenn Greenwald tweeted a link to this article from Michael Hirsh that discusses Obama's use of the CIA. This paragraph jumped out to me and I think one phrase in it sums up the way Obama has handled foreign policy and national security issues:

One senior official inside the CIA is forthright about the issue, at least when speaking anonymously. "It's a lot simpler and easier for a sniper to shoot or to use a Predator to launch a lawful attack than to detain and interrogate prisoners," he says. "Once they're dead, then Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International doesn't bring a habeas [corpus] case for them. If we're not going to hold them, we're 'pure.' We may not have information or intelligence, but we do ensure that no one in the human-rights community is yelling and screaming at us." In addition, the official says, not dealing with detainees has freed up the agency's resources to focus on the hunt for more terrorists.

It's a lot simpler to say we should look forward instead of launching a real investigation to try and gather all the facts and prosecute those responsible for torture and other unlawful acts. It's a lot simpler to bow to Congress's demands for military tribunals instead of trials in US courts. It's a lot simpler to keep Gitmo open and not release innocent prisoners.

Doing the right thing in politics is often not the more simple option. Often times you are putting your job and possibly career on the line, even those careers of people you know. Put the courage it takes to make the less simple and right decisions is what Obama sold us on. That's what I expected of him when he got my vote. That doesn't appear to be what we got.

I also found this interesting, whether killing terror suspects is not just legal, but an effective policy:

In the case of Nabhan, the Qaida leader in Somalia, U.S. special-operations forces apparently had the option to take him prisoner but were told to shoot, sacrificing not just a life but also a source of potentially valuable intelligence.

In the torture debates you often get the ticking time bomb scenarios or just the fact that we must get info at any costs because the consequences are too horrible. These people we are killing might have important info that we could use. What if they know the whereabouts of their terrorist friends? What if they know about some plot we don't know about yet? Surely if we think info like this is important enough to break the law and torture people we should also be not killing them in order to at least try and interrogate them.

Of course that's only after you decide whether it's legal. And that goes back to the idea of universal right's that I've discussed recently. I won't get into that in detail here. I'll just say that unless you think being a US citizen makes you a better human being than everyone else in the world, I'm not sure there is a strong case for it being legal. Anyway, the whole article is good. Check it out.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Awards time at the Dish

Andrew Sullivan is giving out his year end awards. Go here to vote for each of them. I'll post the ones I voted for. Here is my Malkin Award Nominee courtesy of Rand Paul. My Moore Award from Orlando Jones. My vote for the Yglesias award to Lindsay Graham. I was about to give Andrew himself the Van Hoffmann Award. But I went with Jennifer Rubin instead. Here is my vote for chart of the year. My Hathos Alert vote goes to this couple's first kiss. My vote for Mental Health Break goes to the release of a seal into the wild. Adorable. And finally, my vote for face of the day is this photo of a boy killed by a drone strike.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Late anniversary

I missed my one year anniversary by a few weeks, well, more like three weeks. At that time I was busy thinking about the job interview I had coming up. That went well but didn't end up in me being employed. And my internship is done. So I'm back to being a bum and looking for a job. At least that should give me more time to blog.

I've enjoyed the past year of doing this blog. Its at least a little therapeutic to write down my thoughts, especially when something irritates me. And while they don't actually read what I write, I like interacting with the rest of the blogging community by responding to their posts and hopefully adding something to the discussion. I appreciate anyone who has stumbled across this place and taken the time to read something. Here is the shameless self promotion segment where I tell you to tell someone about this blog if you like what you read.

Its probably a safe assumption that if you are a conservative you might not enjoy what I write. I'm very liberal and enjoy trying to pick apart conservative logic. But I also try to hold liberals accountable when I think they are using poor logic. I'm partisan but I hope I give good reasons for being so. I'd appreciate any feedback telling me what I don't.

Special thanks to Jonathan Bernstein for giving me my biggest recognition. He linked to this post I wrote about Buffy and Sarah Michelle Gellar on his link roundup on The Washington Post. If I do nothing else with this blog I will consider it at least a minor success that I got to write about Sarah Michelle Gellar and have it linked to on a major newspaper's website. It was an honor. So thanks again Jonathan. And check out his blog A Plain Blog About Politics (on the right side of the page). He does a great job discussing politics from a political scientist's perspective.

And here's to another year of blogging. Hopefully by the time the next anniversary rolls around I have a decent job and the economy has improved significantly. Until then, stick around. Be safe and awesome.

The Ron Paul newsletters

I think Conor Friedersdorf nails it:

For me, the disconnect between the Ron Paul newsletters, which make me sick, and Paul's words and actions in public life, which I often admire, put me in mind of the way I reacted when candidate Barack Obama was found to associate with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, both of whom had said execrable things. I couldn't defend any of it. But I could never get exercised about the association in exactly the way that writers like Victor Davis Hanson wanted, because it seemed totally implausible that if Obama was elected he would turn out to secretly share the convictions of the Weather Underground, or hope for God to damn America. It always seemed to me that those relationships were the unsavory product of personal ambition. I don't mean to suggest that the two circumstances are entirely analogous, but I do find it hard to believe that if Paul were elected, he'd turn out to be a secret racist, implement policies that targeted minorities, or drum up support by giving speeches with hateful rhetoric.

If those ugly impulses didn't emerge after 9/11, when xenophobia was rewarded, or during the ascent to the presidency of Barack Obama, whose victory stoked racial paranoia in so many Americans prone to that disease, when would they emerge in Paul? The post 9/11 decade has been one of attacks on minority groups and pandering to Birthers. In some quarters, Paul is accused of pandering to Truthers. Is there an instance aside from the one at issue when he has pandered to racists?

If these newsletters didn't exist I would have never even considered whether Ron Paul was a racist. Given his stances on civil liberties I would have thought the complete opposite. So like Conor I think the most I can say about this is that he was complicit in the profiting off of racist ideas. That makes me respect him less, and makes me question his integrity. But I don't think that rises to the level of being a racist. As Conor says, I don't think Obama hates America because his pastor did.

But what if Paul secretly is racist? Well, I'm not sure it would matter much. He seems pretty firm in his libertarian ideas. I have a hard time seeing him changing his stated opinion on civil liberties in order to implement racist policy. It would immediately raise a red flag and cause the kind of discontent among his supporters that Obama is experiencing now. So even if he is a racist I don't think it would mean anything other than he personally dislikes black people. I'm not saying that is good. It's not. But I don't think it would hurt public policy. If he is racist he seems to hold his libertarianism in higher regard.

Still, that's pretty faint praise for a presidential candidate. And it again shows how ridiculously bad the rest of the GOP candidates are.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises prologue

Here is a link to it. Check it out because I wanted to talk about what I think Nolan wanted to get across with it.

The prologue is centered around Bane. He has himself get captured as part of a plan to kidnap some guy on the plane. Along with his henchmen he grabs the guy and escapes from a plane in midair. This is very similar to a scene in The Dark Knight where Batman jumps off of a building, flies into another building that is holding the accountant employed by the mob in Gotham City. Batman grabs the guy and escapes the building by latching himself onto a plane flying by.

I think what Nolan is doing is showing that Bane is a badass and very much on par with the level of badass that Batman is on. To pull off a plan like that is hard enough for Batman. But its made easier since he is a billionaire who has easy access to the tools you need. Bane, for all we know, isn't wealthy and thus needs to be resourceful. He has help from his henchmen. But it still takes a lot of planning and actual physical capability to pull off his plan the way he does.

So I think this scene is purposely juxtaposed with the one in The Dark Knight. We are supposed to see the similarities and realize that Bane is meant to be the ultimate test for Batman, both physically and mentally. The Joker tested the idea of Batman. Bane will test the incarnation of Batman as a man, the very core of who he is.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Republicans in House oppose tax cut

I'm a bit stumped by this one:

Moments ago, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 229-193 to walk away from a bipartisan compromise that would have extended for two months both the payroll tax cut for 160 million working Americans and long-term unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans, as well as stopped automatic cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors that are scheduled for Jan. 1, 2012. Seven Republicans joined every Democrat in opposing the motion to abandon the Senate’s compromise plan and instead move to a House-Senate conference committee.

As TP notes, this already passed the Senate 89-10. So this is something a lot of Republicans in the Senate want. And word is that Speaker Boehner gave Mitch McConnell the go ahead to negotiate a deal with Dems with the assumption Boehner would get it through the House. But the tea partiers don't want it so Boehner backed down. I can think of a few reasons why this happened.

One is the uncertainty argument. Matt Yglesias addressed this concern voiced by a Republican. Its plausible. But I'm not buying it. Since when has uncertainty ever prevented Republicans from supporting a tax cut? And what about the uncertainty generated by people's taxes going up and the prospects of a new administration coming to power in the next year? I just pointed out why the uncertainty argument is largely overblown to begin with. But still, if this is their reason its pretty weak and probably just an excuse to oppose Obama and Dems simply for the sake of doing so.

And that is another reason, obstruction simply for the sake of obstruction. These people haven't been very interested in governing from day 1. They hate Obama, Dems, and the idea that gov't should do anything constructive aside from shooting and bombing people. So even though they are similar to more mainstream Republicans in their love of tax cuts, this hostility towards governing trumps that goal. I think this is part of it. But I'm not sure its all of it because I'm sure there is an example of this group voting for something half way constructive.

Yet another reason could be that this is just the wrong type of tax cut, one that isn't aimed at the rich, those real Americans who work hard to generate all of the jobs for the rest of us and generate the wealth that trickles down for the rest of us to enjoy. Maybe they really just don't understand or care about the reason behind extending these tax cuts. IIRC, they did also threaten to not extend the Bush tax cuts unless the top rates were included in the extension. And just think if income tax rates for the rich were part of this extension. Could you see them blocking it in the same manner they are now? I think its a lot less likely they would.

But I still don't know if they would or not. That just speaks to how out there this group of Republicans are. Its bad enough they endorse ridiculous policies. But now that they have some influence we don't know what to expect. They can't even be counted on to do participate in basic governance. Frankly, I'm surprised we haven't come closer to shutting down the gov't. And I don't think I'm the only one who is stumped by these Republicans. Andrew Sullivan has a post on how Congress is polling and it basically shows that this is the least popular Congress in recorded history. But people trust the Democrats and Obama more than Republicans. And its the higher income people who still trust Republicans. With actions like the one they took today its no wonder the polling says what it does.

Update: Ezra Klein explains the situation. He says House Republicans want more in exchange for agreeing to the deal, meaning something about the Keystone pipeline and other things. I think this is the most plausible explanation. Its not that House Republicans don't want to govern, like I suggested. Its that they want every single policy passed that they support. And they will hijack any bill regardless of what it has to do with the policies that are on their agenda.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The postmodern campaign

Kevin Drum thinks we are headed toward it, if not in it right now. Here is the quote from Mitt Romney that led him to that conclusion:

This is a president who fundamentally believes that the next century is the post-American century. Perhaps it will be the Chinese century. He is wrong.

A few things. What makes him think Obama thinks that? Where did he say that or what action demonstrates that belief? Notice the second sentence. That strongly suggests he just pulled that first sentence out of his ass. If Obama actually said something or did something he wouldn't say "perhaps" and then suggest a country. But Romney and pretty much every Republican since Obama was elected knows they can say what they want while rarely being called on their lies.

This is in big part because the press doesn't hold them accountable enough. Reporters should be asking the questions I just asked in the paragraph above. And if he doesn't have either a quote or can explain an action by Obama they should call it what it is, a lie. But too often the press just lets them say this crap and doesn't forcefully explain what the truth is. They just present two arguments and don't make clear what the truth is. If Romney and others were loudly and consistently called liars when they lie you would think they would stop doing it.

The other thing is something Matt Yglesias said, which is that how can Romney be so sure the next century will be one where the US continues to dominate? Again, Romney has no idea. This is that firmly held thought on the right that the US is the greatest thing ever and just because they think that it will continue to be true no matter how much they screw things up. Like most things with Republicans, its pure tribalism. Its all about how great they are and anything that is different than them is bad. That's why they can so flippantly lie about things. And the only way to combat that is to just as ferociously call them on it.

A matter of degree

A great point by Derek Thompson via Andrew Sullivan. Here is Thompson discussing Obama's socialist credentials, which he describes as not very good:

He signed a law expanding the health care regulations and requiring Americans to buy medical insurance, which I suppose you could classify as socialism-lite; although public decency and child abuse laws already require families to buy clothes and food, and nobody complains much about those. But when it comes to tax policy and redistribution, a not-insignificant part of modern democratic socialism, it's fair to say that President Obama is in the running for worst socialist in history.

I bolded what I thought was the great point. The gov't forces everyone to do all sorts of things. The ones he mentions is one of the more important ones. A few other off the top of my head are; you also have to send your kids to school, you have to drive at certain speeds, not kill or harm other people, pay even 1% of taxes, and any number of things that no one really complains about.

So when people say they oppose the mandate because the gov't can't force them to do something they are just factually wrong. What they mean to say is that the gov't can't force them to do this specific thing because it crosses some sort of line. And once you acknowledge that we are just arguing over differences in degree. We aren't arguing over the difference between freedom and tyranny. I get that people use inflamed rhetoric in order to try and make their point more effectively. But the reality is much different than the rhetoric. And if that was acknowledged perhaps more constructive policies would get passed.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Assessing the Broncos

Aka, the most talked about 8-5 team with a negative point differential in team history. I'm doing this post because I was talking about Tebow and Cam Newton over at the Stadium Rejects forum and thought I would put my thoughts down here.

The first thing that jumps out to me is the number of pass attempts Tebow has, 198, which is the 32nd most in the league. That's a big reason he is 6th in TD% and 1st in INT%. I say that because the more you throw the ball the more likely you are to throw an INT. But he just isn't throwing the ball that much. And when he does its mostly going for an incomplete pass, as seen from his 48% completion %. That's also why is YPA is 27th. Though his AYPA is 12th because of the aforementioned TD and INT rates.

He is averaging 117 passing yards per game. That's unbelievably horrible. Though he does run more than many QBs. So you have to add that in. But that only adds another 47 yards per game. So in total he is barely over 150 yards gained per game. Again, horrible.

Taking sacks into account, his NYPA is 29th. But his ANYPA is 18th, again because of his great TD and INT rates. And using stats from AdvancedNFLstats.com, he is still in the negative in WPA and EPA. So what's the picture these numbers are painting?

The Broncos are 31st in passing yards gained. That's not a surprise considering Tebow isn't completing even half of his passes. I'm actually surprised they aren't the worst in the league. But at least he isn't throwing the ball to the other team. Though I think part of that is due to his running ability, Willis McGahee, and the Broncos defense.

The Broncos don't have to throw the ball much to keep games close. In fact, they are last in pass attempts. But they are 2nd in rush attempts and 1st in rush yards. Tebow has given them 500 rushing yards and McGahee has about 900. The Broncos defense has had a few terrible games since Tebow took over, Detroit and Minnesota. But aside from those games they have given up on average about 14 points. Even with those two bad ones they are averaging about 20.2. And they were 1-1 in those games because Tebow threw the ball well, they got a pick 6, and the Vikings threw an INT in their own territory in OT.

Basically I'm seeing a team that runs the ball great, throws the ball horribly, and plays good enough defense most of the time to keep it close. And through a lot of luck, they win the games they keep close. In today's NFL where passing is so easy this is an unusual way to play. But as we have seen, it can work in spurts. I'm extremely skeptical this can work over the long term. And at some point Tebow will regress to the mean during the 4th quarter. Broncos fans better hope that when that happens he has improved his performance during the rest of the game.

Universal rights

I wanted to talk a bit about the concept of universal rights in relation to Obama's decision to not veto a bill that said law enforcement agencies can hold terrorist suspects in military detention indefinitely. Before Obama's veto threat, the bill was going to force the law enforcement agencies to place even suspects captured on American soil in military detention. Thankfully Obama cares about executive power enough to have them get rid of that. What a disgrace that he didn't care about the actual violation of rights of people it would have violated.

The reason the other part of the bill is still in there is basically because a majority in Congress and Obama don't believe the rest of the world enjoys the same rights as US citizens do. Both Obama and Republicans like to say otherwise. And when it comes to some rights they probably do. But at best they are wildly inconsistent in actually enforcing or respecting the concept of universal rights; something that great document they all like to talk about, the Declaration of Independence, at least hints at.

I don't think many liberals have trouble with universal rights. I think if you go down a list of every right Americans have they would agree that everyone in the world should have them as well. I think the reason some may not agree in this instance is because they have a blind deference to Obama, they are Islamaphobic, or are too uninformed to understand the debate between safety and rights. They hear politicians talk about threats and just assume rights need to be restricted in order to dispel those threats. I wish more liberals would care more about civil liberties so that Obama and Democrats would be more compelled to do the right thing.

Many conservatives believe rights, the ones put forth in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, come from god. I suppose some believe that god only gave Americans rights. But the logic used to get to that conclusion is even more stretched than the logic to conclude that rights come from god. If you believe a person has the right to due process in the US, why don't they have the same right in Paris, Russia, Iraq, or Afghanistan? Why is god making a distinction between Americans and those people? So assuming most believe that god gives rights to everyone simply by way of them being human and made by god, its then unclear to me how they can say that just because you aren't a US citizen you can't enjoy the same rights that we have.

I presume the reasons conservatives wouldn't extend rights to every in this instance are the same they were for liberals; they are either blindly partisan, Islamaphobic, or uninformed regarding the issue. Still, you would think that deeply religious conservatives and empathetic, bleeding heart liberals would be more concerned for everyone's rights. But its a stark reminder of how fragile rights are when people are so willing to give them up or deny them for some when told they should be afraid of something. Its also worrying and disgraceful that the people we elected to protect those rights are so willing to take them away.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Dolphins look for a new coach

I was a little surprised at the timing of it. But I fully support the firing of Tony Sparano. He was a good ole boy from the Parcells tree. I'm sure he is fine with the motivation stuff. But strategically I don't think he is up to the task. It took the owner trying to get Jim Harbaugh while he was still the coach to open up the offense a bit and get it out of deadball era. That doesn't win consistently in the modern NFL. That first year with Pennington as Qb was an aberration, which is why the team has been bad to mediocre each year since.

So now the search begins. I doubt we are going to look to the hot college coach, mostly because I don't think there is one like a Harbaugh out there. So that leaves NFL retreats and young coordinators. The retreads are easy rumor fodder since they are the easy story for the lazy writer. That's not to say its automatically wrong to speculate on that front or that it would be a bad idea. But unless that ex-coach can explain in detail what he learned from his previous work, what he learned from being fired, and how he will perform the job better this time around, I'm not really in favor of going after someone like Bill Cowher, Jeff Fisher, or Jon Gruden. And this quote from Gruden makes me even more weary of the idea of him taking over:

But Gruden abhors the “stats sluts” who try to replace the judgments of a trained eye with mathematical formulas. He says, “You know what I hate, man? Guys that you know haven’t seen the film: they just quote a bunch of statistical bullshit.” Of course, there’s something absurd about a man who loves data railing against “statistical bullshit.” As Gruden demonstrates every Monday night, it’s not possible to assess football without statistics. If anything, his voluminous appetite for game film suggests that football needs more and better statistics: a way to measure all the things that Gruden notices when he is watching and rewatching plays. But coaches, no less than fans, like to believe that there will always be a role in the game for spirit and determination—and, by extension, for coaches and for fans.

The only bullshit I see here is his unwillingness to understand the game beyond his preconceived beliefs. If I were Ross and I saw this, the first thing I would ask during an interview is to give him a situation like Falcons faced a few weeks ago and tell him to explain what he would do and why he would do it. If he didn't give me at least some statistical evidence in favor of his decision I would probably pass right then and there.

There is no excuse for, at the very least, having a statistical analyst on your staff that can explain the probabilities behind every situation in a game. You don't have to fully understand everything yourself. But you should at least be aware of them and take them into consideration. If you don't you are setting yourself up for failure. And in relation to film and rating players, you are making your job harder for no reason. I want a coach that is willing to learn and adapt. And I have a hard time seeing that in Gruden and the other retreads out there.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Slow blogging

I haven't posted in a while. I've been traveling. And then I got sick. So I haven't had the time and then wasn't in the mood. I started catching up on politics last night. Jon Stewart was good on the ridiculous yet predictable criticism of a show about Muslims on TLC. Some guy FoxNews had on actually said that the show should be taken off because it challenged his beliefs about Muslims. Seriously, with a straight face. What a piece of shit.

I'm way tired of the Republican presidential nominating process. They are all either crazy or too cowardly to make sense. Hey conservatives, just nominate Newt already so you can spend another 4 years screaming socialism and claiming you need to take your country back.

Will someone play a decent game and beat the freaking Broncos so that we can have at least one week of lesser Tebow mania. Jeez. Is that too much to ask, that someone scores more than 13 points against their defense? Seriously, 14 points. That will likely get you a win. That's not too difficult in today's NFL. Even the horrible Jaguars offense scores 12.5 points per game. And for you Tebow fans, I have four words for you, regression to the mean.

Hopefully I start feeling better and things start to pick up. Though I wouldn't be surprised if things continue to be slow through the holiday season. If that's the case, just know that I'm probably off fighting the good fight in the war on christmas. Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Obama restricts emergency contraception

Scott Lemieux sums up the decision:

The Food and Drug Administration was on the verge of approving the emergency contraceptive known as "Plan B One Step." Access to emergency contraceptives is important to the reproductive freedom of women, and having to obtain a prescription or get past a pharmacist with reactionary moral beliefs can be a substantial burden on women.

As the FDA's decision reflected, denying over-the-counter access to emergency contraception increased unwanted pregnancies without any good medical reason. The two-tiered system that required young women under the age of 17 to obtain a prescription was also determined to increase unwanted pregnancies in the for whom they are most burdensome.

But in a decision that RH Reality Check's Jodi Jacobson calls "astounding," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has overruled her own medical experts and denied American women over-the-counter access to Plan B. This action is, quite simply, a disgrace. It's awful on the merits, and politically involves attacking a core constituency of the Democratic Party for no obvious benefit. Overriding professional FDA scientists in order to advance an agenda hostile to reproductive freedom and the equality of women is not what most Democrats believed they were voting for. And let's not forget that the cossacks work for the czar; the responsibility for this decision rests with President Obama. This isn't an issue where compromise was compelled by the need to appease conservatives in Congress; Obama and Sebelius could have done the right thing and didn't.

I don't have much to add to that. I agree that there doesn't seem to be any benefit to doing this. Not that an electoral gain would make it better, but do you really think a significant number of voters would have not voted for Obama if he would have allowed this? Do you really think any right leaning person is going to see this and change their opinion about Obama and democrats on the subject of abortion/contraception/women's rights? I don't think so. Plus we are about 11 months from the next election. The type of people on the fence about who to vote for won't remember this.

The people who might remember this are liberals like me who will add this to a long list of things that Obama and democrats have done that goes against our policy preferences. And in this case they can't use republicans in congress as an excuse. There is no excuse. And while my vote won't matter in a red state like TN I am increasingly likely to vote independent based on principle because I just don't understand why they would do something like this. Let's urge our representatives to encourage the Obama administration to change their mind.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How I Met Your Mother

I haven't written about the show in a while. That's probably because its been solid, or average, yet unspectacular. Tonight's episode wasn't quite great. But it was really good because they actually advanced a plot. And it was about my favorite character, Robin. Spoilers ahead for those who are behind in watching.

Last week's episode ended with Robin telling Barney she is pregnant. Tonight's episode picks up at that moment, with Robin being worried and Barney being excited. What I like about the story is they didn't change who Robin has been from the start of the show. As previously stated, I like Robin because he is a beautiful, smart, motivated, and confidant woman who knows what she wants out of her life and doesn't define herself purely by her relationships with other people.

She broke up with Ted because she didn't want to get married. She broke up with Barney because the relationship changed who she was. And tonight she is worried because she doesn't want children. The writers do this episode in the style that they do with Ted, but with Robin telling her kids how they came about. So we are led to believe that she goes through with the pregnancy even thought we are familiar with her objections, not to mention that Barney is the father.

To take up the flag that Alysa Rosenberg is flying about getting better abortion stories in tv, I wish they would have touched on this. It turns out that Robin wasn't actually pregnant. So that conversation wasn't necessary. But if she were it would have probably been something she thought about. Beyond that, she is told she can't have children at all. And even though she doesn't want kids, this news troubles her throughout most of the episode. Given the narrative they were using and her sadness I was expecting them to make her have a change of heart. But they came through and let Robin be Robin by showing that she actually doesn't have kids and turns out to do the other things she wanted to do with her life.

The best part was the end where Robin comes back to the apartment after doing a soul-searching walk through the city. Earlier we had seen her tell Ted that it wasn't his job to make her feel better. We finally got a reminder of why Ted is a good guy when he sets up a Christmas lights theme set to AC/DC in the apartment to try and make her feel better. It was a really sweet moment for them, which I really like to see because their relationship is a big part of why I loved the show. So more of Robin being her awesome self and more sweet Ted.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

TDKR, with a Robin appearance?

I'm kind of stealing this idea from Jett over at batmanonfilm.com. Its a great site for fans of the caped crusader. In this article, he talks about the end of Nolan's Batman trilogy and whether or not it will be considered the "definitive" Batman story.

I already consider it so. I was a huge fan of the Burton films. And I've read many of the classic comics. The comics are great. But its hard to beat experiencing it on film. And while Burton's films were fun, they don't stack up to Nolan's. So when I think Batman I think Nolan, Bale and co. And TDKR would have to be a catastrophic letdown in order for me to not see the Nolan trilogy as THE Batman story.

But Jett has a really interesting question. How can a Batman story be definitive without Robin? He doesn't get into the meat of his answer in that article. He is saving it for part 2. But I wanted to be a dick and take the idea and tackle it myself. The reason you don't hear people clamoring for Robin in TDKR like they do for certain villains is the Schumaker films are still fairly fresh in people's memories. And Robin was just not a good character in those films. Many people thought he was a big contributor to the lack of effectiveness of the films. And beyond those films, people don't really have a good grasp of who Robin is and why he important to the Batman universe.

But as Jett points out, Robin is a huge part of Batman. He has been around for a really long time. So if a filmmaker were setting out to make a definitive Batman, Robin would have to be strongly considered. The obvious question then would be, is this Nolan's goal. We don't know. But I would guess that its not his explicit goal. I think he is first and foremost concerned with telling a compelling story centered around Bruce Wayne and Batman. That doesn't mean the story can't include Robin. But I don't think it would be necessary.

If Nolan were to include Robin in TDKR I don't think it will be in an explicit manner. Meaning, I don't think we will see a young man in red and yellow tights fighting alongside Batman. If we do see Robin, I think it will be him as just another young man who happens to come into contact with Batman or one of the villains in some manner. And I think the most that will be mentioned of him is something in passing, kind of like how Fox mentioned cats when talking about the new armor in TDK.

Or another way I can see it is him being part of that group of guys who dressed as Batman early in TDK to try and help the real Batman, those guys in the hockey pads. Perhaps they make another appearance and instead of sucking one of them is really good at fighting the bad guys. And perhaps Batman takes notice and says something like, "Not bad kid. Maybe you should be my sidekick." after the young man takes out a villain before Batman can get to him.

I think that would be a fun way of acknowledging the character without disturbing the plot in order to force in a cameo of sorts. And it would be a nice way to leave something open for whoever takes the reigns of the franchise after Nolan is finished. But even if Nolan decides not to include Robin or some of the more well known villains I think he will succeed in making this the definitive Batman story. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Community

I got to enjoy two of my favorite things Thursday night; Community and Batman. In true Abed fashion, he buys an exclusively exclusive edition of The Dark Knight which is signed by Christian Bale saying, "Abed is now Batman". It also contains commentary by Christian Bale. So needless to say, this is an awesomely special dvd.

Annie was being Annie when she accidentally stepped on the dvd and destroyed it. She tries to cover it up by saying someone broke in and stole it. So in true Abed fashion, he put on his Batman outfit and set out to solve the crime. I love Abed not just because he knows about geeky stuff like Batman, but also because he actually does things people who love that stuff want to do, like dress as Batman and try to solve a crime. He gets to live out geek fantasies.

The funniest parts to me were Annie doing the Bale Batman voice. And then when Abed jumps out the window, with Annie following him, Troy saying that Annie living with them was supposed to real them in and keep them from doing so many crazy things. For the sake of the awesomeness of the show I hope Annie doesn't tone them down. Though at some point, for the sake of the growth of them as characters they can't keep playing Batman and living in pillow forts. I think I died a little inside when I wrote that previous sentence.