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Monday, March 27, 2006

Forever Youngish

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

"Soon I'll be thirty. I don't want to be thirty." - Moxy Fruvous

The wee younglings I work with at the mall are often surprised when they discover that I'm, shall we say, approaching the second anniversary of my 29th birthday. One them talks about me to his friends, about how I still find dick and fart jokes funny, and uses me as an example for how's there's hope for them all. They all refer to me as "that guy." And it's not just me. A lot of the "older" crew that I run with is the same way.

I remember when I was a wee one myself, I'd wonder at what point I was going to cut the hair, stop listening to the Metal, stop watching the wrestling, etc. The hair may have been cut (since even though I still live in my parents basement, I don't want to look like I still live in my parents basement), but the heavy metal and the wrestling are still there. There was never a point when I stopped watching cartoons, and may even watch more now than I did then.

I'm often amazed at how none of us have, for lack of a better term, "grown up." I was even more amazed to see the topic as the cover story for New York Magazine. So sayeth the authors:

"It's more interesting as evidence of the slow erosion of the long-held idea that in some fundamental way, you cross through a portal when you become an adult, a portal inscribed with the biblical imperative "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: But when I became a man, I put away childish things." This cohort is not interested in putting away childish things. They are a generation or two of affluent, urban adults who are now happily sailing through their thirties and forties, and even fifties, clad in beat-up sneakers and cashmere hoodies, content that they can enjoy all the good parts of being a grown-up (a real paycheck, a family, the warm touch of cashmere) with none of the bad parts (Dockers, management seminars, indentured servitude at the local Gymboree). It's about a brave new world whose citizens are radically rethinking what it means to be a grown-up and whether being a grown-up still requires, you know, actually growing up."

Now, there was a bit of psychobabble in the article, and definitely some mocking. There was also the indignity of using a Star Trek reference, "Grupps," to label our kind. Personally, I always dug the label Generation X, but so be it. The article as a whole was still what a number of friends and I have commented on recently - about how we may take on adult responsibilities, we don't actually grow up -and it doesn't matter if we're budding rockstars, struggling entrepreneurs, or simply two dudes looking to conquer the world one blog post at a time.

And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that. We all have jobs. Some of us have homes and spouses and children. We even have more "mature" interests. We just haven't let go off our "less mature" ones. I enjoy watching Sen. John McCain interview on Meet the Press the same way I enjoy Mick Foley cutting a promo on RAW. The Complete West Wing DVD sits right next to the Complete G.I. Joe. My MP3 player has Zeppelin and Taking Back Sunday, Prince and Kanye, Kenny Rogers and Big and Rich. We all do.

I don't know where I'm going with this. I'm not even sure I was going anywhere in the first place. I was just amused to see an something that amuses me about my friends and I on the cover or New York Magazine.

Xenu Be Damned!!!

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

Kyle: Do you have any idea how retarded that sounds?
Mr. Connelly: Is it any more retarded than the idea of God sending his son to die for our sins? Is it any more retarded than Buddha sitting beneath a tree for twenty years?
Stan: Yes. It's way more retarded.
A snippet of dialogue from South Park that may or may not be a reference to Scientology…)

Strange things are a foot in South Park. It started last season when they aired an episode called "Trapped in the Closet" that made fun of Tom Cruise and Scientology (which can be viewed here).

Then Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef and a Scientonologist) suddenly left the show citing the shows "growing insensitivity towards personal spiritual beliefs."

Then "Trapped" episode was scheduled to re-air on March 15, but at the last minute Comedy Central pulled the episode, amidst reports that Tom Cruise had leaned on Paramount Pictures (the studio owned by Viacom, which also owns Comedy Central and has the Cruise-starring "Mission: Impossible III" coming out this spring) to have the episode yanked from broadcast.

Most recently, South Park "killed" off Chef in "The Return of Chef" (clips of which can be viewed here), and issued the following statement regarding the "Trapped" episode being pulled off the air...

"So, Scientology, you have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for Earth has just begun. Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!"

Now, why Hayes is suddenly offended by "spiritual insensitivity" (when he didn't mind them satirizing everyone else's spiritual beliefs) is anybody's guess. What cracks me up is, don't they realize that by getting upset at South Park, it's just going to make things worse? Trey Parker had even said in a recent Time Magazine interview that they've "...created a brand for ourselves, so that now people can't get mad at what we do, because then they're just making fun of themselves."

So by Isaac Hayes quitting and Tom Cruise being...well, being Tom Cruise, all they did was guarantee that ten times more people are going to download "Trapped" than would have ever considered watching it before, and there are going to be digs at Cruise and Scientologist on every other episode of South Park. They even started by having the "destroyed" Chef rebuilt ala Darth Vader.

Scientology: 0
Fans of South Park: 3 (and counting)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Black White Nonsense

I don’t watch much TV these days. Some wrestling here and there, the occasional cop drama (The Shield, The Wire, etc.) and that’s really it. When I can watch TV I usually just watch the news and typically I settle for the most entertaining of the bunch, Fox News.

Wait; come back, my story gets better!

However, last week I had to travel to NY for some personal business and by late Saturday night, I was so worn out that I ended up watching the first show that even looked remotely interesting. That show happened to be FX’s new reality show “Black White” which is produced by rapper turned actor extraordinaire Ice Cube.

The premise of the show is that we have two families, one black and one white, whom will live together in a house for a certain period of time and will be made to look like the opposite of their race; the black family will be turned white and the white family turned black, through the magic of Hollywood makeup. Then, once each family member has been altered, they are to go out and experience the world as a new race and report back to the producers, hilarity ensues.

Just from the previews, I thought this show looked ridiculous but you’d be surprised what you’ll watch when you are dog-tired and TNA Impact isn’t on for another hour. As I watched the plot for this episode unfold I had an epiphany based on the behavior of the players in this reality drama. When it comes to race relations, black people in general have the personality of a victim borderline personality disorder.

That’s right, I said it, black people in general, when the issue of race comes seem to act like they have borderline personality disorder.

Now just what the heck is borderline personality disorder, you are asking?

A person with a borderline personality disorder often experiences a repetitive pattern of disorganization and instability in self-image, mood, behavior and close personal relationships. This can cause significant distress or impairment in friendships and work. A person with this disorder can often be bright and intelligent, and appear warm, friendly and competent. They sometimes can maintain this appearance for a number of years until their defense structure crumbles, usually around a stressful situation like the breakup of a romantic relationship or the death of a parent.

Relationships with others are intense but stormy and unstable with marked shifts of feelings and difficulties in maintaining intimate, close connections. The person may manipulate others and often has difficulty with trusting others. There is also emotional instability with marked and frequent shifts to an empty lonely depression or to irritability and anxiety. There may be unpredictable and impulsive behavior which might include excessive spending, promiscuity, gambling, drug or alcohol abuse, shoplifting, overeating or physically self-damaging actions such as suicide gestures. The person may show inappropriate and intense anger or rage with temper tantrums, constant brooding and resentment, feelings of deprivation, and a loss of control or fear of loss of control over angry feelings. There are also identity disturbances with confusion and uncertainty about self-identity, sexuality, life goals and values, career choices, friendships. There is a deep-seated feeling that one is flawed, defective, damaged or bad in some way, with a tendency to go to extremes in thinking, feeling or behavior. Under extreme stress or in severe cases there can be brief psychotic episodes with loss of contact with reality or bizarre behavior or symptoms. Even in less severe instances, there is often significant disruption of relationships and work performance. The depression which accompanies this disorder can cause much suffering and can lead to serious suicide attempts.

One of the main elements of recognizing someone with BPD is projection of feelings onto others. What the BPD person will typically do, and what I saw the black folks in this show do is ascribe particularly intense and negative emotions to their white counterparts, when they themselves were the ones feeling those emotions. In other words, the black family kept insinuating that the white family was racist or that everything they did was a subtle knock on the black race when in fact it was the black family that continually displayed intolerance.

The first example started right at the beginning of the show. The two moms are sitting with their dialect coach to learn how to speak with the inflection of the race they are playing. On the practice sheet in front of them are a list of words, one of which is “bitch.” The white mom then says in what was obviously a playful manner, “Yo bitch!” Now I’m not saying the white woman made the best choice there but haven’t we all made a wet-fart-in-church type joke that we thought was in the spirit of the moment and it turned out not to be so funny. You can accuse her of being a dork and little on the stupid side but she wasn’t being a racist by any stretch of the imagination.

However, the black mother of course goes right off the deep end. At that moment and for the majority of the episode, the black mother goes on and on and on and on and on and on about this woman is a racist and nobody calls a black a bitch and blah blah blah. The white practically begs for forgiveness and explains quite clearly that it was an innocent remark bred in naïve stupidity. Not having says the black mother, clearly the white woman is racist in the mind of the black woman.

But that’s not all that happened.

Now the white woman is in her black person makeup and the two women are shopping the black part of town at a street market. Mind you, the whole purpose of being there is to shop where black people, for what black people might buy. They walk into a clothing store and one of the wares being sold is a dashiki. Granted you don’t see too many average black people donning the dashiki at the mall but at least some do wear them or the shopkeeper wouldn’t be selling them. The white woman sees one she likes and buys it. Of course the black woman sees this yet again as example of racism and that the white has gone “too far.”

There were a few more examples where the same thing happens. The white folks try in earnest to experience life as black people and the blacks folks in turn call them racist. That is when it hit me, it isn’t that the while folks on the show hate blacks at all; the black folks hate white people and apparently are uncomfortable saying so out loud. So, like a client with BPD, they project their own feelings of hate and anger on to white people, crying racism at every turn.

It isn’t just on “Black White” that I’ve noticed this pattern. I’ve worked with black families, from all different strata’s of life and this pattern has repeated itself . Any challenge or feeling of unease that a black person is made to endure, that would be typical among any other combination of races seems to be met with cries of racism. It is obvious to me that the reason is, deep down, on some level, their exists to this day, a seething hatred of the white race in black people that no matter what happens, will always show itself in times of stress. And as evidenced by the characters on “Black White” this hatred will typically be projected on whites that have long ago learned to accept black people as their brothers and sisters.

To paraphrase Dennis Miller, but that’s just my opinion, I could be a racist myself.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Stock Tips are Like Assholes...

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

I've been playing the market as of late. This is the first time in a few years that I have a steady job and am making a few sheckles, plus in order for me to fully embrace conservatism I really should have a stock portfolio.

It's also something I've wanted to do for a while. One of my regrets was that I didn't invest in my old company when it was at $.12 a share. I could have gotten 1,000 for $120. If they went bankrupt, BFD? It's only $120, and I would be more concerned trying to find a new job (which I wound up being anyway). If it hit, I could make some decent money. But I got scared since my few of the market is people jumping off of buildings when they lose. The company, when it was taken off the market, was at $9.76 a share. Do the math.

So for the past few months I've been garnishing some of my weekly wages, putting them in an investment account, and set forth to make my fortune. My first fiscal quarter is almost over, and I am happy to announce that I'm up 4.4%! Go me. A few of my friends have been asking me about it, so I thought I'd share a little of what I did and learned thus far.

I'm not an expert. I don't even play one on TV. And as a matter of full disclosure, my holdings are Marvel Entertainment (MVL), Lion's Gate Films (LGF), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Nokia (NOK), Hasbro (HAS), and Activision (ATVI). Apparently when you write about stocks you're supposed to disclose your holdings, so I thought I'd do it all at once.

I take 10% of my monthly salary and invest it. It's just like putting the money in a savings account, only with a risk. Plus on an average, stocks yield 11% in interest, so it's a good risk. I chose Schwab.com to open my account. I saw a bunch of commercials for different sites, but Schwab was the easiest for me to figure out plus the others usually had an minimum account balance you needed to keep.

I also take another 10% and opened an ING Direct account, just because having a cash account makes sense too. Things might be a little tight this year, but after living paycheck to paycheck since...well, since I ever started working in the first place, another year won't kill me to make sure I never have to do that again.

There are two websites I go to. One is Finance@yahoo.com, and the other is TheStreet.com. Both are free, and both have invaluable advice. The Street (owned by CNBC's Jim Cramer) sends me a newsletter everyday that collects the different articles on the site. The finance page at yahoo lets you create your own watch list, and collects relevant articles from all over cyberspace.

Bookwise, I started with "Make More Money Now" by John Bradshaw Layfield. Yes, THAT John Bradshaw Layfield. My thinking was that it'd be a good read for someone like me, without having do gram one of the "Dummies" or "Complete Idiot's" books. I've just started reading Cramer's "Sane Investing in an Insane World."

Then you have television. CNBC is great, particularly Jim Cramer's "Mad Money." He's insane, and he makes investing seem fun. You also have the Saturday morning finance shows on Fox News. Yes, we all know Fox News is evil and totally biased towards conservatives. I mean, when all other networks have the President's approval rating at 33%, Fox has it at 39%! Totally scandalous! But seriously folks, I'm not endorsing drilling in Alaska or cutting Justice David Souter's brakes. These (the analysts on Fox) are simply people who have been very successful making a lot of money in the stock market, and they bring up interesting points. One of them is even Wayne Rogers from M*A*S*H. How can you not trust Trapper John McIntyre?

You'll be surprised what some of the research might uncover. I was avoiding WWE, mainly because as a wrestling fan, the product bores the hell out of me and I don't see it reaching another high peak like it did a few years ago. Yet, it was always a highly rated stock and I couldn't find out why. Once I read how hot digital media is going to be in the future (they have their own channel), and reminding myself how well their international business does, I decided to go for it. My stock is up 11% since investing.

1. Oil prices go up, stock prices go down. I don't know why.

2. When a company announces it's earning before trading starts, that's generally good news. When they announce them and the end of the day, that's generally bad news.

My mom keeps telling me about how she and my dad invested when they were told it was a good time to do so, and lost all the money they invested. Here's the thing. She doesn't even remember what they invested in. That's the wrong way to do it, plus there's no excuse these days when you have a wealth of information and research at your fingertips.

I chose Marvel because I know Marvel. They were the fastest growing New York Company in 2005. They just signed a licensing deal with Hasbro, and starting in 2007 will license their characters for new action figure, video games, and anything else Hasbro wants to do with them. They've got three movies coming out in '07 (Ghost Rider, Spider Man 2, and Fantastic Four 2) plus a little movie coming out in May called X-Men. This was a no brainer for me, and my stock is up 14%.

Conversely, I had invested in a company called JDS Uniphase (JDSU). I know nothing aboot fiber optics, but Cramer highly suggested it and I got in when it was $3.07 a share. Their most recent earnings weren't as high as expected, I had read a number of experts start to sour on tech. I didn't know what that meant and realized that I know nothing about fiber optics, so I got scared and got out when shares dipped to $2.94.

They closed Friday at $3.70. Do the math there.

That's been my journey thus far. I started with a $150 and it's basically just been a lot of reading and a lot of checking Yahoo Finance ever five minutes to make sure that the market hasn't crashed. It hasn't so far. :-)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Untitled John McCain Post

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

There are still a few days to go before the start of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, and the first endorsement appears to have been made with Sen. Trent Lott "throwing his support" the way of Sen. John McCain. So sayeth "CNN's Morning Grind" e-newsletter:

...Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) appears to have snagged the endorsement of Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi). Lott tells the Grind that when he takes the stage in Memphis on Saturday, his remarks will focus on "the Republican Party in the South and about my friend John McCain."

...In typical Lott-speak, the Mississippi Republican said he wouldn't characterize the speech, "as an endorsement necessarily," but he noted that McCain will accompany him to a Mississippi delegation reception Friday night and then tour areas of the Mississippi Gulf Coast destroyed by Hurricane Katrina on Saturday afternoon.

This is interesting for two reasons. There have been rumours that Sen. Lott has wanted to return to a leadership position (he was the Majority Leader before stepping down after making an idiotic comment concerning Strom Thurmond's past run for the Presidency). With Sen. Bill Frist retiring as Majority Leader and Sen. Rick Santorum (the #3 guy) facing elimination this year, Lott might be positioning himself to take one of their jobs by latching on to the '08 front runner.

What's even more interesting (although not surprising) is that the front runner is John McCain. Could it be that the real staunch devout ultra uber conservatives are starting to warm up to the idea of a McCain presidency?

I never understood their beef with McCain in the first place. He's one of the few who actually talks about fiscal responsibility. He's on the side of the President more often that he's not, is on his side for most of the big issues, and is even to the right in some instances of defense and national security. He's pro-life and anti-gay marriage, so that should satisfy the Bible belt. Yes he's broken ranks with the GOP on issues like stem cell research and the environment, but lots of others have done so as well. So what's the beef other than he doesn't cater to "the base" as much as "the base" would like, and he doesn't hate Democrats?

As far as catering to the base is concerned, I'm not naive. I may think he shoots straighter than most other politicians...but he's still a politician. Catering to "the base" somewhat is a necessary evil to make sure people go out to vote and/or send you money. As long as he doesn't complete bend over for them, I can deal with a William Rehnquist Law Center for the University of Arizona and the occasional dig at Senator Clinton.

And the "not hating Democrats?" That's a good thing. Different people with different ideas working together is that this country was founded on, yet we've become so polarized I feel we could be headed for a civil war. More and more there seems to be less of a concern to do what's good for the people and more of a concern for being spiteful towards the other guy. Seriously, what would stop a Republican President from one day saying, "You know, my party will never get the Northeast's electoral votes. To hell with them?" What would stop a Democrat from saying the same about the South and Midwest? Most scream, "I'm right, you're wrong!" McCain says, "We both love America, just with different ideas of how. I feel mine are better."

Call me crazy, but isn't a quality we should want in a President? People trust him. Imagine that? A leader people trust.

Personally, I think what you're really starting to see is what I've been saying all along. Try as the far right moght to find someone else, as they start to think long and hard about the words "President Rodham Clinton" they're starting to realize that none of their favourite sons have a chance of beating her.

Now they all need to realize what a great choice their only choice actually is.

Hypocrisy and Friendship: The New Cold War

Nearly everyday the question regarding our involvement in Iraq is asked, “Why are we there?” The answer our president has given is, “We are there to bring democracy to a place where there was once tyranny.” I’ll grant you that he came up with this well after the original reason, to disarm former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction, turned to ashes in his mouth. However, even if it was our third or fourth reason to justify invasion, the theory I believe is sound. A viable democracy in the Middle East could start a cascade effect, spreading outward from Iraq and Afghanistan and summarily ridding terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda a place to organize.

It’s really not that bizarre of an idea.

The problem is, as with all things concerning the Bush Administration, is a matter of consistency. We’re standing firm with this noble idea that it is good to depose tyrants in the world and allow all people to be free in the hopes that free people will maximize the potential for relative peace around the globe. However, as Eddie Izzard once said, “If we’re going to just take it upon ourselves to get rid of tyrants, well then let’s get rid of all tyrants then, not just the one we don’t like….are we going in alphabetical order starting with ‘S’?”

Bush and company talk a fairly good game when it comes to certain dictatorships they don’t like. They brought down their old buddy Saddam because he was a loose end as well as a loose cannon and probably felt like it was only a matter of time before the piece of Cold War strategery came back to haunt them. Of course they don’t like Iran because of that whole “death to America” business not to mention hard feelings from the overthrow of the Shah. And if it weren’t for either China or Russia, North Korea would be a steaming pile of ash by now, as they present no real strategic or economic value to the world. These are easy totalitarian countries to pick on.

But when Bush talks about Russia all of a sudden that very same lack of democracy is overlooked and Moscow is regarded as a, “good friend.” Bush has practically gushed over Putin, who by all accounts has become as close to a Stalinist as one could be without killing millions of your own people (for more on this read Kremlin Rising).

Despite what is apparently Bush’s wishful thinking regarding our friends to the East, the Council on Foreign Relations has presented a more accurate portrayal of where Russia is headed and what that means to us.

Almost 15 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, ties between Russia and the United States are "headed in the wrong direction", suggests a new report released here this week by the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

In addition to disagreements over an increasing number of foreign-policy issues - most recently, Moscow's hosting of top officials of the Palestinian Hamas party - the US is concerned about internal developments in Russia, particularly what it regards as the growing concentration of power in the Kremlin under President Vladimir Putin.

"At a time when the president of the United States has made democracy a goal of American foreign policy, Russia's political system is becoming steadily more authoritarian," according to "Russia's Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do", the 98-page product of a CFR task force that included many top US experts and former policymakers who have specialized in Russian affairs.

"Russia is a less open and less democratic society than just a few years ago, and the rollback of pluralism and centralization of power may not have run their course," says the report, which is likely to strengthen those in the administration of US President George W Bush and Congress who have called for a tougher line with Moscow. Google Source

Russia has been sliding back toward totalitarianism for some time now. Even as Bush was inviting Putin to the ranch and calling him a good friend to America, Putin was very visibly imprisoning those who threatened his power, taking over media stations and committing near genocide in Chechnya. You’ll notice that there’s very little mention of this in the mainstream news except for the one time Bill Maher alluded to it on his late night cable show.

Even today the tone regarding Russia is so much softer than the one we reserve for Iran or North Korea. This stark hypocrisy and unwillingness to face reality has pretty much given Moscow the opportunity to go hog wild in reconstituting itself as a superpower that will stand directly opposite of the US.

For example, where we try to send a message to the terrorist groups Hamas that anti-Semitism and threats of violence are not acceptable in any governmental body, Moscow practically falls over itself to extend an olive branch.

Hamas' leader hailed his Moscow talks as an end to the militant Palestinian group's international isolation and said Russia's position in negotiations differed from that of the United States and other Western nations, according to an interview published Monday.

Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal, whose three-day visit ended Sunday, told the daily Vremya Novostei that "Moscow became the place where we opened the door to the entire global community."

"It broke the blockade which Israel and the United States have been trying to impose on us," Mashaal said.

He also said that "Russia's position is completely unlike that of the West," and praised Russian officials for understanding Hamas' stance.

Many Russian media and observers hailed the Kremlin invitation to Hamas as helping boost the Russian role in Middle East peacemaking. Geidar Dzhemal, a Moscow-based Islamic affairs analyst, said talks with Hamas also helped the Kremlin win stronger sympathy from the estimated 20 million Muslims who make up nearly 14 percent of Russia's population. "That was a very successful spin by Putin," Dzhemal told reporters Monday.

But Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Russia's hosting of Hamas was unnecessarily warm. "Hamas should have been given a pat on the shoulder, but they had a passionate tango instead," Malashenko told Gazeta. Source

Russia not only opposes sanctions against their buddies in Tehran, but now they also oppose sanctions against North Korea. Russia opposes any kind of sanctions against what the United States calls rogue states such as Iran and North Korea, Glev Ivashentsov, Moscow's top diplomat to Seoul, said on Tuesday.

His remarks came as U.S. and North Korean officials were to hold a meeting in New York later in the day amid Washington's financial sanctions against Pyongyang for the communist state's alleged counterfeiting of U.S. dollars.

``In principle, we are against any economic sanctions because they do not work,'' Ivashentsov told The Korea Times after a forum hosted by the Korea News Editors' Association in Seoul.

``There should be dialogue, there should be consultation, but sanctions do not work neither against North Korea, nor against Iran, nor against any other country,'' he said. Source

To quote from the movie Aliens, “What exactly are we suppose to use, harsh language?”

Apparently that’s exactly what Russia would like our global reach to be cut down to. At the end of the day, what Russia, China, the Middle East and to a lesser extent the European Union really want is for the US to be disarmed of its military and economic strength. It’s the rest of the world that wants set tones and pace. That’s probably been the single biggest problem with Iraq. We’ve invested so much time, energy and resources into this one affair that we’ve compromised our ability to deal effectively with the rest of the world and now places like Russia are jumping at the window of opportunity to assert themselves and dominant powers.

Meanwhile, we’re still harping about spreading democracy in a world that spits on it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Rant on Politics and the Oscars

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

"There's nothing political about it. I just don't need to see a movie about two sheep herders snuggling in a sleeping bag." - Don Imus (not an exact quote, but the jist of what he said about "Brokeback Mountain")

The big story of the day (besides South Dakota outlawing abortions, the Dubai deal, the mess in Iraq, and what Reese was wearing) was the Oscar Awards. Have the Oscar's gone political? Are they out of touch with mainstream America? What political message does voting for Crash over Brokeback Mountain send?

Personally, I'm glad Crash won. It was a great movie, but more importantly, I have Lion's Gate Entertainment in my portfolio. Besides that and "Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion" being #1 for the second week in a row, I had a good day. Plus I was getting sick of all the Brokeback parodies. "Brokeback to the Future" was pretty funny, but that's hardly the issue here.

I also really like George Clooney. Everyone is pointing to his speech as being "politically charged," but all he did was say what he felt and you could see how moved he was by the award. He also said something on Larry King Live recently that I dug:

"I'm not holding press conferences. I'm not standing up saying OK this is what you should think. I'm really not. I'll answer a question. I sit here with you and I'll answer a question. Now should I not say what I believe or say what I think?"

But Clooney isn't the issue either. The issue is that we live in the Polarized States of America. Anytime anything happens anywhere, there's some fool arguing about the political ramifications of it. Last year's Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby (awesome flick, btw) was reduced to nothing more than a movie about euthanasia. This year we had gay movies, race movies, more gay movies, movies about big oil, another movie about another gay person, and one about Johnny Cash. The far right cries, "See, Hollywood doesn't share your morals. Send us money." The far left yells, "See, we're pissing off Christians. Send us money."


All because the movies are about things that you don't normally talk aboot in church on Sunday, that doesn't make them political (or at least shouldn't). The main problem with the Oscars, or the problem with the Oscars being "out of touch" with the mainstream, is that more than half the films nominated are films most of us have never even heard of. Some of them are movies that were only released to two theaters at the time of the nominations. I like to think I have slightly more sophisticated tastes than your average moviegoer, and I'm not implying that a movie like "40 Year Old Virgin" should be up for anything, but some of the movies that were nominated even bore the hell out of me...and that's only if I've heard of them in the first place.

Sure you have "Titanic," "Gladiator," and other big budget movies that people have heard of. Half the movies nominated are simply really good movies, which were even good in spite of whatever commercial success they received. But the rest aren't. They're usually movies that a few critics will say, "I declare this movie to be acceptable" and no one questions it because they're afraid they'll look like a non-intellectual, or simply stupid.

When Oscar tries to "appeal to the mainstream?" You get a song called "It's Hard Being a Pimp" winning an award for Song of the Year. Yep. A song with such touching lyrics as "Man it seems like I'm duckin dodgin bullets everyday / N**** hatin on me cause I got, hoes on the tray / But I gotta stay paid, gotta stay above water / Couldn't keep up with my hoes, that's when shit got harder..." was the better than any other song in any other movie this year.

Martin Scorsese has zero Oscars. The Three 6 Mafia has one Oscar. Thank you very much Jon Stewart.

There are honest to God political issues that are worthy of an intelligent debate - the Dubai ports deal, the recent abortion ban in South Dakota, the war/foreign policy disaster in [pick a country off the top of your head]. But political issues surrounding an awards show? Did Hollywood snub the "gay community" by voting for the one movie not involving gay people? Was this liberal Hollywood thumbing its nose at God fearing red state America?

I just simply don't care.

Rudy Giuliani: The Belle of the Ball

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

The Southern Republican Leadership Conference is this week. Many people are looking at this as the first insight into who might be running for President in 2008. Confirmed speakers, those with rumoured presidential ambitions include Senators John McCain, Bill Frist, George Allen, and Sam Brokeback Brownback; Governors Mitt Romney and George Huckabee; and though he's not rumoured to be running for anything, RNC Chair Ken Melhman's speech might prove interesting since he's rumoured to have a favourite.

One possible Presidential hopeful who won't be there is former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, which was the focus of an article in the most recent Newsweek. Giuliani is considered by some to be the "...most important chess piece on the table right now" where Republican and 2008 are concerned. Outside of McCain, there isn't another Republican who can match his popularity, and most polls usually have him at the top of the list.

The biggest problem many feel the former mayor will have if he chooses to run, and a reason why the SRLC might be so important for a candidate in his position, is the fact that he's pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage, two positions that will surely have the all important Southern Conservative constituency throwing their Bibles at him during the South Carolina primaries.

(For the record, I find it ABSOLUTELY DEPLORABLE that abortion and gay marriage has become the litmus test to determine what makes a good conservative. I could go on and on about how the primary system does both parties more harm than good and how pathetic it is the evangelicals have the GOP running scared about thing that have nothing to do with cutting taxes or lowering domestic spending, but why bother? You campaign with the voters you have, not with the voters you need).

There is however a glimmer of hope that some of the religious conservatives might be coming to their sense. Or at the very least, maybe they've thought long and hard about the words "President Rodham Clinton" and realize that no one they like has a chance in hell of beating her. I give you this passage from the Newsweek article:

Ralph Reed, a godfather of religious conservatives, thinks Giuliani's charisma may help him overcome his social-issues liberalism in the Bible belt. "He can take control of a room better than any politician I've seen," said Reed. The key moment with the pastors was in the private holding room, where he spent quality time among their leaders. Giuliani told them that the key to his final decision on whether to run would be whether he thought he could raise enough cash.

My thoughts? I think Mayor Giuliani would make a much better Vice Presidential candidate (along with Secretary Rice). A McCain/Giuliani ticket would be near unstoppable, and teaming him with any of the other senators rumoured to be running would make them slightly more palatable. Though if my options are either Clinton or Allen/Frist/Brownback, I'm moving in with my Deputy Chief of Staff and this site becomes "John Brodigan for a Better Ottawa."

Though with all this early talk about the 2008 elections, one has to wonder, have the Republicans all but given up on 2006?