Thursday, November 29, 2007

Huckabee’s Night

If you want to see why Mike Huckabee is a credible bet to win the Republican Presidential nomination and possibly become the next president of the United States, watch last night’s Republican debate.

As I watched it early on it became clear he was winning and he never lost ground the entire debate. He is a very smooth, very calming, very charismatic speaker. He probably has the best “style” of anyone running, Republican or Democrat. Plenty of the candidates are good speakers, such as Giuliani, Edwards and Obama, to name a few, but none of them seem as impressive as Huckabee was last night. I read the reactions of a couple of Republican websites this morning and the consensus was, even among those who disliked his positions, that Hucakbee won the debate.

I also thought Huckabee’s answers to the question were very good, at least from what I imagine a middle-road Conservative viewpoint. However, it appears that many hard-line Conservatives don’t like Huckabee because of 1) his record on taxes and 2) his position on immigration. For number two, this issue was raised in last night’s debate and I thought Huckabee’s position was very reasonable, as Governor of Arkansas Huckabee voted for a program that allowed college scholarships to the children of illegal aliens if they were outstanding students (must have an A average or something), had no criminal convictions, were free of drugs and alcohol and were in the process of becoming legal citizens. His rationale was that he did not want to punish children for their parents’ crimes and that he wanted to work on a program that would encourage the legalization of educated immigrants. However, and admittedly I don’t know if there’s further cause for this claim, a lot of Republicans believe that demonstrates Huckabee is “soft on immigration.” He also gets hammered because although he voted to cut taxes over 90 times as Governor of Arkansas, he voted to raise taxes 21 times. Thus, he is a not fiscally conservative enough.

Many Conservatives seem to view him as not conservative enough for them, primarily because of these two issues. However, even those who dislike Hucakbee seem more and more comfortable, and confident, with the idea of a Hucakbee/Mike Steele ticket. Mike Steele, for those who may not remember, is the African-American former Lieutenant-General of Maryland, who lost a 2006 bid for a Senate seat. I’m not quite sure why he’s Hucakbee’s dream running mate, but I’ve seen this permeation mentioned a few times, so there must be some reasoning behind it.

Granted, Hucakbee could be the Howard Dean of 2008 (and Howard Dean became the Howard Dean of 2004 with significant help from CNN), but he’s looking more and more impressive to me. If you don’t believe me, watch some of last night’s debate and see for yourself.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

England Miss Euro 2008

England lost to Croatia this evening 3-2 in a very exciting soccer game and will now miss the European Championships for the first time since 1984. This sucks. I cheer for England right behind Canada in most things and in soccer, unlike Canada, they actually have a chance to do something at major competitions. This especially sucks as it would have been a lot of fun to be in England during the Euro Championships and to have seen the atmosphere.

Now, if you want analysis on the match or team, there is no shortage of places to find it online. The short of it is that McClaren will be fired and, in short, England badly missed Terry, Rooney and Owen; they had no formulated plan as a team; Lampard and Gerrard just cannot play together and they sorely lack a world-class goalkeeper (Carson has potential, but he’s not an international starter right now).

What you’re not going to read a lot of online (or at least I’m hardly hearing any of in the post-match reports and analysis) is credit to Croatia, which they absolutely deserve. Croatia’s in my list of second favourite soccer teams and has been since the days of Davor Suker. They’re right there behind Nigeria, who is my all-time #2 favourite (behind #1a Canada and #1b England), along with a couple of other nations. And, after watching them play today, I’m cheering for them at Euro. They’re a very good team, with excellent ball control, a very dangerous offence and they’re not weak defensively either. It takes a very good team to go into Wembley and score 3 goals against England. It takes a very motivated team to go into Wembley in an absolutely meaningless game and score 3 goals against England. I have to give Croatia a lot of credit for taking the game seriously and playing like it was a regular competition, especially when it was tied 2-2 in the last 20 minutes. Croatia is a very good team and they deserve a ton of credit for beating England tonight, no matter how uninspired England was.

And with that I’ll leave the last word to Croatia’s coach:

"I read in your papers that no Croatian player would start on your team," Croatia coach Slaven Bilic said to the English reporters. "I mean, seriously, wake up."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Debate Time Clock

Here's a handy tool from Chris Dodd's website that keeps track of how much time each candidate had to speak at Thursday's Democratic debate.

Notice how the most awesome candidate got just over five and a half minutes, while Obama got over 18 and Hillary got just under 16. Richardson got more than you'd expect, but I suspect that was because this debate was in Nevada, which is next to his home state. I doubt he does that well usually. Edwards got a bit less time than I expected, but I would suspect he's usually at #3, just a bit behind Obama and Clinton.

If you didn't watch the debate, I'll let you know that Kucinich did pretty well in the time he was given and had perhaps the line of the debate when Wolf asked him about the Patriot Act and mentioned that he was the only candidate who voted against it and Kucinich replied, "That's because I read it." Biden did the best of any candidate, but he's also not a contender at this point.

Also, I’ll briefly mention how CNN’s post-debate master narrative seemed to have been decided before the debate (even if their general impression – which is that HRC righted herself as the comfortable frontrunner – may not be incorrect) due to the composition of their post-debate panel and their minimization of any second-tier candidates; their gauging audience reactions as valid representations of national feeling when over 50% of Nevadan Dems support Clinton and their refusal to tackle the couple of issues Hillary was weak on.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Gay News Update

First, here’s a story that managed to slip under the radar, relatively speaking. Cambodia’s Prime Minister has disowned his daughter for being gay.

Cambodia's prime minister said Tuesday he was severing ties with his adopted daughter, who is a lesbian, but appealed to people not to discriminate against gay people.

"My adopted daughter now has a wife. I'm quite disappointed," Hun Sen said.

Sen disowned his daughter, the only one of his six children who is not his biological offspring because of her homosexuality. He has filed a civil suit to stop her from claiming any part of his inheritance and she has been completely removed from his life. However, Sen, in the speech in which her announced that his daughter was no longer a member of his people, also appealed to Cambodians and other parents of gays specifically not to discriminate against homosexuals.

Priceless. That’s quite the example to set. Please don’t discriminate against your gay children, but I’m just going sever ties emotionally and financially with my gay child.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands has promised to pressure developing countries to legalize homosexuality, as in half of the 36 countries it gives regular aid to homosexuality is illegal with punishments ranging from prison sentences to death.

A government survey showed homosexuality is illegal in 18 out of the 36 countries the Netherlands gives regular aid to, Development Minister Bert Koenders said in a statement, with punishment ranging from prison sentences to the death penalty.

"The Netherlands will promote as much equal treatment of homosexuals as possible. We will not avoid awkward discussions about this," he said in a letter to parliament.

Koenders has asked Dutch ambassadors in developing countries to push for gay rights unless local human rights organizations object on grounds it would be counter-productive.

Meanwhile, a fuss is developing in North Carolina, where Senate candidate Jim Neal, who was expected to run unopposed for the Democratic candidacy has suddenly found himself with two candidates running against him, less than two weeks after he revealed he’s gay.

As the Raleigh-Durham Independent Weekly reports:

However, the way the Democratic Party establishment has dissed the 51-year-old Chapel Hill investment banker's candidacy since he announced his intentions to run four weeks ago has made him into a cause for many progressives and gay-rights activists.

Spaulding points specifically to the national Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and its chair, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who for unknown reasons wouldn't return Neal's phone calls.

"The cause," Neal said, "is that I'm not Washington's choice. I'm not Chuck Schumer's choice."

Neal, in the past a top fundraiser for Democrats like John Kerry, had expected to support Congressman Brad Miller of Raleigh for the seat now held by Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole. But when Miller bowed out of the race in July, and no other Democrat stepped forward, Neal decided he would. Within a few days of Neal's announcement, two other prospects courted by Schumer, state Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro and state Rep. Grier Martin of Raleigh, declined the race as well, seemingly leaving it to Neal.

But then, answering a question, Neal revealed that, "yes, indeed," he is gay. Two weeks later, Hagan said she'd changed her mind and would run for Dole's seat. Many top Democrats had urged her to reconsider, Hagan said, including ex-Gov. Jim Hunt, who was working closely with Schumer.

Hagan is not the only one who has come out of the woodwork to challenge Neal. Now, I’m not opposed to a primary in the Senate race. In fact, it’s a good thing for democracy and it’s also beneficial to force the candidates to debate the issues with each other and hopefully, the best candidate to unseat Elizabeth Dole, who is a weak Senator and is vulnerable, will emerge.

The fact there will be a primary isn’t the problem. The fact that after Neal, who was running unopposed, revealed his homosexuality he was apparently blackballed by Schumer and found himself with competitors is a problem. Neal is a new candidate, never having run for elected office before, but he has an impressive resume, as he’s an articulate investment banker with a long-standing commitment to the Democratic Party and has been a top fundraiser for them before. He has been out of the closet for nearly two decades and has an ex-wife and two children, 22 and 20.

The fact Hagan suddenly “reevaluated” her priorities within two weeks of Neal confirming to voters that yes, he was gay as some of them may have heard, seems suspicious. Dole’s seat is one that is winnable for the party and it’s very possible that concerns over whether a gay man could win in North Carolina factored into the DSCC putting pressure on Hagan, a previously-elected official, to run against Neal. That’s the way it seems to me, as something doesn’t smell right in North Carolina. If the DSCC, Schumer and any other party officials pressured Hagan and other candidates to run against Neal solely because he is gay, shame on them. You can’t be the party that favours gay rights and courts the gay vote if you put up roadblocks in front of gays trying to run for office.

Also, a recent study by sociologist Eric Anderson has been creating some interesting headlines, such as this one, “UK Researcher: One Third of US High School Football Players Have Had Sex With Men.”

It’s nowhere near that simplistic, but the findings are still interesting. Anderson interviewed 47 high school football players who went on to be college cheerleaders after failing to make their university football teams. Nineteen admitted to having same-sex contact, that ranged from kissing to oral sex to sexual intercourse and included instances of male-male-women threesomes and male-male sex.

Dr. Anderson claimed that his study shows a declining stigma surrounding homosexuality, leading to greater honesty from the men he polled.

Wrote Anderson in the study, which is titled Being Masculine Is Not About Whom You Sleep With: Heterosexual Athletes Contesting Masculinity and the One-Time Rule of Homosexuality, "The evidence supports my assertion that homophobia is on the rapid decline among male team sport athletes in North America at all levels of play."

Anderson, who now teaches at the University of Bath, is notably for being the first openly gay high school athletics coach in the United States. He argues that men no longer fear that they will lose their heterosexual identity if they engaged in sexual encounters with men once or on a few occasions. He basically argues the one-drop rule no longer applies. In many people’s mind, if a male has sex with a man once then he’s gay. One same-sex encounter could mark you as a closeted fag for years, even if you had a stable heterosexual relationship. However, Anderson argues sporadic same-sex encounters are beginning to be seen the same way many cultures view prison sex, in that it “doesn’t count” in one’s societally-constructed sexual identity.

This standard of behaviour applied far less stringently to women, who could flirt with other women, kiss them and even engage in female-female sex without losing their heterosexual identity. If you were 25 and met a female who said she fooled around with a few girls at college you’d likely dismiss it as college experimentation. If you met a man who had fooled around with men you’d be a lot more prone to thinking he’s a messed-up closet case (and to be fair there are probably quite a few men who are messed-up closet cases).

While I don’t think the same standard applies yet to both sexes, I do agree with Anderson in that we are likely seeing some shift in behaviour that has made same-sex encounters more acceptable for men. It is still taboo in many crowds and I don’t doubt that within every group there are still likely to be a number of guys who would recoil if somebody admitted a same-sex incident. But there are likely a number who would not automatically mark the person as a guy and that’s progress.

Lastly, some great gay humour from The Onion.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Why I Love Keith Olbermann

This commentary on waterboarding, introducing me to the case of Daniel Levin, is a perfect example of why I love Keith Olbermann.

And he’s a member of SABR, as well.

(P.S. I do think Olbermann’s slightly too dismissive of the possibility of torture yielding accurate information, but he’s entirely right in that there is no guarantee that it will and torture instead will very likely yield whatever “information” the prisoner believes his interrogators want to hear.

The further problem with torture is it that not only is it morally reprehensible, but it’s impossible to have a true ticking bomb scenario in real life. I could see a strong argument for the necessity of torture in that instance, but there is never going to be an incident where you have a prisoner who can reveal time-sensitive information that will save thousands or millions or lives and which can’t be gathered by any other method and which you know will be entirely accurate when he reveals it.

All of those criteria would likely have to be met for me to consider agreeing that torture might be ethical, and I probably would agree it would be in that specific scenario, but it will never happen. Olbermann is perhaps slightly over the top in his attacks on Bush, but not by much at all.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Conspiracy Theorist Idiots and David Cronenberg’s New Gem

I’ve decided to stop talking about the speeches I keep going to (well, actually the pace has slowed down since the slight novelty wore off) because I’m either boring my readers or making them jealous, neither of which is my intent. However, I’ll just close by mentioning that I saw Richard Dearlove, who was the Head of MI6 from 1999-2004 speak at LSE last Wednesday.

Now, I’m no fan of everything that secret service agencies do and I highly doubt that everything they do is above ground. For example, Sir Dearlove refused to answer a question about whether MI6 planted fake news stories at times, which is exactly how I expected him to answer that person’s question, but that attitude leads you to conclude that the agency is, at least occasionally, not above bending rules and norms for the pursuit of certain goals. At times perhaps the ends justify the means, but I’m not a fan of giving sweeping powers to these agencies.

Regardless, the question and answer session for the speech was an embarrassment. The audience was filled with a number of people who were, in essence, 9/11 conspiracy theorists. They kept quiet during his speech on the relationship between the media and MI6, but as soon as the Q&A session opened up, they began to monopolize the questions. You knew things were bad when two of the first three questions were about the “Scholars for 9/11 Truth” campaign and about rogue Mossad agents in Pennsylvania. Things went downhill from there as the protesters soon resorted to heckling Sir Dearlove and there were at least another 5 or so similar questions, which don’t count more “legitimate” questions, such as the planting of fake news stories or his refusal to comment on active operations.

I have a bit of conspiracy blood in me. I don’t know if I believe there was a “conspiracy” to cover up events in the case of the Robert F. Kennedy shooting, but I also don’t believe the accepted version of events, either. I believe there was a second gun present and that the investigation has never properly been solved, although I don’t go so far as to believe there was Cuban involvement or anything. Nevertheless, I don’t have the fucking time of day for 9/11 conspiracy theorists. I don’t have anything else to say other than the idea that 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush White House is ludicrous. Others implied the 7/7 Bombers were MI6 agents, another theory that is nothing but an insult to common sense. To have this speech interrupted by this fringe element and the subsequent refusal to remove the conspiracy theorists, especially once they began verbally heckling Sir Dearlove’s replies to other questions, was embarrassing. I later read in the student paper that he stormed out of the reception afterwards after being continuously harassed by extremists there. I don’t blame him at all.

On the weekend I saw Eastern Promises, which is a film I highly recommend. I’m not quite sure how I’d compare it to A History of Violence, but it has several good performances, including fantastic ones by Vincent Cassel and especially Viggo Mortensen. Mortensen should get an Oscar nomination in my books. The film is about a midwife, played by Naomi Watts, who tries to find the family of a dead prostitute who died during childbirth in her ward and who finds herself mixed up in the Russian mob. Watts is good in her role, but her performance gets lost next to those of the Russian mobsters. Cronenberg’s a great director and he makes the film get under your skin as you watch not the mob as an entity, but rather the individuals who operate within it, with both their cruelty and kindness and several other internal contradictions. The much-talked about knife fight scene lives up to its hype and the film stays with you after you watch it.

After the film I went to read a couple of reviews and Ebert’s and AO Scott of the New York Times were two that I really agreed with. Perhaps foolishly I decided to browse the comments section of the New York Times review, where I had to wade through 1-star reviews that said it was disgusting to watch “Viggo have sex with a minor” and that complained about the gratuitous violence and the clichéd nature of the film. Those comments if nothing else, reminded me of how hard it is to find an intelligent discussion forum on the internet as, sooner or later, almost everything gets overrun with idiots. Luckily, there’s a few baseball sites which are still very good forums and where you can not only debate the Edgar Renteria trade and the free agency prospects of Alex Rodriguez, but also rank the Saturday Night Live Weekend Update anchors (if your list doesn’t begin with Norm MacDonald and Dennis Miller it’s wrong).

Monday, November 05, 2007


I am not unique. This is bullshit.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pigs and Bums

I submit two interesting and potentially amusing anecdotes for your pleasure.

1) A couple of nights ago in one of the dorm rooms two of my floormates, both American and drunk, and I were having a conversation. One of them had a pack of Wine Gums that he had bought and at one point started complaining how English Wine Gums aren’t as good as Gummy Bears or Gummy Worms or any similarly gummy-flavoured American candy. That led to a comparison of English vs. American candy and a discussion of our favourite candies.

So, naturally, I mentioned one of my all-time favourites, the Martingrove staple, Juiced-Up Power Pigs. Which, of course, no had ever heard of. I tried to explain it to them and they had no idea what I was talking about. Another lost cause I assumed, and went on my way.

The very next day I was shopping in Marks & Spencer’s and I went to the checkout line with some juice. I’ve shopped in this store before, but this was the longest queue I’ve had to wait in. As I was shuffling along past the shelf full of candies and other impulse-buy items, I saw some candies in plastic packaging. As I passed Licorice All-Sorts, various Gummy treats and some mints, what should I see?

Percy Pigs.

Which upon closer examination, are EXACTLY the same as Juiced-Up Power Pigs down the reddish ears that offset the rest of the pig’s pink head. I didn’t have enough cash to purchase both the Pigs and the juice and I didn’t want to put the Pigs on credit card, so I had to wait to buy them. I had a seminar presentation today, so I wasn’t able to get back to the store since, but Wednesday afternoon I returned to Marks and Spencer’s, purchased the pigs and tasted what will hopefully be the first of many, Juiced-Up Power Pigs.

It was delicious.

2) So, I was walking home on Sunday night and I took a cut down a side street. As I was walking along the street, a homeless dude approached me. Well, he might not have been a bum as he didn’t appear obviously homeless and he fed me a yarn about his car, but I’m going to assume he was a homeless person of some kind. So, anyway he asked for 1.80 pounds, as his car had been clamped and he needed a bus to get home to get to his other car, yada yada yada.

I decided I’d give him some money, but I didn’t want to give him two pounds, so I gave him the only other change I had, which was my fifty pence piece. He was quasi-grateful and I continued on my way.

Suddenly, I heard him calling after me. I turned around and he was gesturing towards me. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, but I tend to be trusting of those I meet randomly on the street, so I turned around and went back to him. He held out his hand and said, “Look. These are the old 50p pieces. They don’t accept them anymore.” I asked him if he was sure about this and he said he was and gave the coin back to me and walked away.

So there you go, a bum rejected my attempt to give him money. I haven’t been that humiliated since I brought a picnic basket and blanket to Covent Garden.

P.S. I didn’t actually do that, but I ran into someone who thought the area was a literal garden and I thought it was worth sharing.

3) Does anyone know where I can find torrents for this season’s original Law & Order and not SVU or CI? As much as I enjoy Chris Merloni and Mariska Hargitay (and Richard Belzer, Ice-T and BD Wong), I need some Sam Waterston and pure, classic, Law & Order cases.