Sunday, November 30, 2008

Choo-choo

An interview Chris Remo conducted with myself and Mark Moran that took place this past July at San Diego's famed ComicCon has just been published on Gamasutra. Its called, "The Last Express: Revisiting an Unsung Classic," and has feature placement -- nice stuff.

I produced the game and the other Mark was Lead Programmer, and the interview occurred just after a speaking event by our mutual friend and former employer, Jordan Mechner, who designed The Last Express and founded the now-defunct Smoking Car Productions to create it. Jordan's earlier and far better-selling game, Prince of Persia, is now a graphic novel (as well as upcoming Disney/Bruckheimer/Newell feature film spectacular) which is why he was there, and as described in the interview, the very mention of The Last Express teased out some die-hard fans, including Remo himself.

The interview is pretty extensive and covers a lot of what we talked about back in the early 1990's when we were making the game, i.e. narrative vs. gameplay, using extensive research to give the game a unique period feel, how we used the 1914 Orient Express as a metaphor for eve-of-WWI Europe where the old aristocracies were about to fall to a wilder century.

There's as much about game design theory and how what we tried to do is being handled in games today as there is about the making of the game itself, which is all to the good. But one of my favorite things about the game production and development has to do with a skill I never expected to learn as producer:

MN: I learned how to juggle while I was working on The Last Express.

MM: He means literally juggle.

Like, juggle balls?

MN: Literally juggle. As a producer, the programmers didn't really want to talk to me. They all wore shorts and came in late, and they didn't get me or thought I was going to get them. But they were all juggling. They had ordered these special juggling balls from some woman who sews them, and one guy who was a really good juggler -- he could juggle six balls at a time.

So in order to be able to talk to the engineers and find out if we were on schedule and see what I could do to make a difference, I actually went in there and learned how to juggle. I learned how to pass. Mark and I can pass back and forth, and I can pass in groups of three. It's crazy.
Crazy crazy crazy.

You can find copies of the game on Amazon here or, probably easier is just playing it via online on GameTap here.

Maybe the next Jordan Mechner game to become a movie -- or mini-series?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Last Licks

El Presidente Bush is not quite finished ruining America -- he's making some final, hard-to-revoke moves on the way out the door. Like undermining worker safety -- and more:
Public health officials and labor unions said the rule would delay needed protections for workers, resulting in additional deaths and illnesses.

With the economy tumbling and American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush has promised to cooperate with Mr. Obama to make the transition “as smooth as possible.” But that has not stopped his administration from trying, in its final days, to cement in place a diverse array of new regulations.

The Labor Department proposal is one of about 20 highly contentious rules the Bush administration is planning to issue in its final weeks. The rules deal with issues as diverse as abortion, auto safety and the environment. One rule would make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas. Another would reduce the role of federal wildlife scientists in deciding whether dams, highways and other projects pose a threat to endangered species.

He's putting his stamp on the further destruction of our planet's ecosystem with some final nails in the "old growth" coffin. And he's got rightwingers like the always wrong William Kristol calling for Bush to pardon all torturers and wiretappers in his administration. From masterminds down to thugs. And give them medals.

Yep, it's important to remember, when we're all feeling better about our government later in the new year, that El Presidente and Grand Vizier Cheney have done very, very bad things without respite, and that their "gifts" will keep on giving, which is to say, hurting. I don't expect they will be the last bad men we see in government, but they surely set a low standard.

In fact, all this torching on the way out reminds me of another bad man who left a wake of disaster when he was forced from a particular position.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Canaries

Roger Ebert has a great piece on the sudden slashing of film critics from newspapers nationwide in favor of even more tabloid-style celebrity "news":

A newspaper film critic is like a canary in a coal mine. When one croaks, get the hell out. The lengthening toll of former film critics acts as a poster child for the self-destruction of American newspapers, which once hoped to be more like the New York Times and now yearn to become more like the National Enquirer. We used to be the town crier. Now we are the neighborhood gossip.

The crowning blow came this week when the once-magisterial Associated Press imposed a 500-word limit on all of its entertainment writers. The 500-word limit applies to reviews, interviews, news stories, trend pieces and "thinkers." Oh, it can be done. But with "Synecdoche, New York?"

The whole article is dead-on and devastating. Now, I'd argue that while the main fault is with the newspapers, there's some other trends responsible as well.

For one, with the fractionalization of media and audiences, movies no longer seem to be at the apex of culture that they held in the 1960's and 1970's. With all major studios under corporate control most downsizing their specialty divisions, and few independent studios still around, it seems harder and harder for serious critics to find serious movies to write about, discover.

For another, the reviews themselves seem more thumbs up/thumbs down (one downside of the Ebert legacy) rather than analysis or discussion that might get a more problematic film an audience.

Then there's the Internet. Not only has it created a proliferation of reviewers all along the professional-to-amateur spectrum, but with sites like Rotten Tomatoes, you can get all the opinions you'd ever want in a click, along with a neat summary and % approval number. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, but I do think it has impacted some critics' jobs.

The greater problem here is the decline of the daily newspaper. Even where circulation is okay, the new corporate owners and turnovers mean more newsroom cuts, degraded and less experienced reporting, the need to pay for acquisitions after the fact with layoffs even if they end up reducing circulation further.

We're all the poorer for it, and one can only hope that something new and improved shakes out before too long, or we may end up being a blinded society, with no eyes and ears on what's really happening -- inside or outside the movie theaters.

And the only news we'll be left with will be celebrity in nature.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey in Belly

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

On a personal level, I'm thankful as always for my family, a feeling deepened this year.

I'm also thankful for my country and the new leader who has emerged since last year at this time and has his family lead by example.

And in an even more macro way, I'm thankful that this process looks like it may actually begin.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Murderers

I'm sure there's some nugget of truth in whatever grievance has led these murdering villains to go on a coordinated bloodthirsty rampage in Mumbai, India, but I'm with Gandhi on choosing non-violent protest. Not only does this kind of violence make whatever cause look wrong, but it leads me to believe that the killers carrying it out are simply an organized collection of psychopaths. To shoot random people in cold blood means a complete lack of human empathy, something missing from birth or amputated some time after. The hell with the politics -- psychopaths who are capable of inflicting such tragedy get off on it. See Elephant.

This map -- can you believe Google enables us to map mass slaughter? -- shows the eight civilian sites attacked and somehow deepens the horror and outrage. Whereas it might seem to add clinical detachment, I think this technology brings us closer to the crimes. Heaven forbid seeing a similar map with the familiar graphics of your town or mine having suffered such an attack.

If nothing else, it is confirmed that terrorism still exists even after our promising election. And our President-elect has responded properly in his statement. It surely must sober him, if he hasn't seemed sober enough, on the challenges, both expected and unexpected, facing him in the four-to-eight years ahead.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Who Cares?

Underwhelming quote of the day:
"Everything that President-elect Obama has done since election night has been just about perfect, both in terms of a tone and also in terms of the strength of the names that have either been announced or are being discussed to fill his administration," Lieberman said during a visit to Hartford.
One wonders who Obama would have had to appoint to earn a 100% "perfect" score from the former Democratic Vice Presidential candidate who backed Obama's losing Republican opponent this year.

On second thought...who cares?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bizarro World

They're calling it the first "Split-Screen Presidency". The discrepancy is striking, with President-Elect Obama rolling out his core economic team and their opening mission at his transition headquarters in Chicago while El Presidente Bush did basically a photo op with Treasury Secretary Paulson on the steps of the Treasury Building.

Compare this excerpt from Obama's Q&A with the press following his announcements:



With this:



Until January 20th, it's going to feel an awful lot like this.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Civics Lesson

There's a great quiz that I managed to score higher than average on (but still not an "A"), the Civics Literacy Report. Take it here.

I liked how Joe Biden started talking about civics a few years ago, particularly one Bill Maher appearance where he decried the lack of civics teaching in high schools anymore, something quite common before the 1970's. Understanding civics leads, I believe, to a broader commitment to service and greater understanding of how The Common Good functions via our system of democracy. What we have right now is an opportunity in reverse, where the political activism of this month's election (yes, it's still that fresh!) can lead to greater citizen learning about and involvement in government.

One shining example: the first Barack Obama Elementary School:



Initiated by the students, who could very well turn out to be future political leaders on a grander scale themselves.

I particularly like the young, African-American version of Vice President-Elect Biden.

How apt!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gettin' Busy

What a joke El Presidente George W. Bush is.  To be shown up by a guy who isn't even President yet, who already feels like the de facto Chief Executive as he quickly, expertly assembles a team that will hit the ground running hard, harder, hardest on January 20th, and lays out solid plans for what he'll do starting Day One to get this country back on track again:



While one hopes almost all Americans will be grateful if President Obama's plans work, there is one constituency that will be very, very unhappy with such success: Republican party leaders:
The GOP strategist had been joking about the upcoming presidential election and giving his humorous assessments of the candidates. Then he suddenly cut out the schtick and got scary serious. "Let me tell you something, if Democrats take the White House and pass a big-government healthcare plan, that's it. Game over. Government will dominate the economy like it does in Europe. Conservatives will spend the rest of their lives trying to turn things around and they will fail."
Considering that with the bailouts going to financial institutions right and left, and all the other industries lining up for help from D.C., the domination has arrived even prior to a national health plan.

So here's to success for the incoming President and, if so, there's no one more deserving of thanks than El Presidente Bush and his fellow Republicans, for opening up this historic opportunity.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chill

I'm starting to chafe at the concern trolling I'm hearing from friends who don't like Hillary (I didn't during the Primaries) for Secretary of State (I do). It reminds me of the panic on the left when Obama aced the first debate with John McCain -- some libs thought Obama had blown it by agreeing with his opponent a little much.

It turns out Obama won 365 Electoral Votes. That makes him right about his career more often than any of us.

So whatever this gifted, deceptively powerful leader we're lucky to have poised to lead the country, something he's been doing unofficially since, like, Iowa, i.e. building from the beginning of this year, whatever he wants to do in putting together his staff and his Cabinet, I now assume he's made the right choice -- for his Administration. If something doesn't work, fine, Obama's proven he can shift from flawed tactics back to good, but the reason he can have these strong personalities as his lieutenants is because...he can handle them.

For one thing, for a collection of Harvard and Yale grads who all think they're pretty darned smart, they'll all know who's the smartest person in the room.

After all, you don't get to be the first African-American President, in the year 2009, without being as smart as President-Elect Barack Obama.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pardonnez Moi

Who is George W. Bush going to pardon in the twilight hours of his tenure? Here's a list of possible pardonees. While it includes Scooter Libby, it might also include every crony who has ever worked for the Bush White House, from Dick Cheney on down. For anything/everything they did these past eight years.

However, it looks like El Presidente doesn't get much of a pardon from foreign leaders himself:



Is that a W. as in "President Who?"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Al-Qaeda say what?

Look who's throwing around the racial stuff now:

In al-Qaida's first response to Obama's victory, al-Zawahri also called the president-elect—along with secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice—"house negroes."

Speaking in Arabic, al-Zawahri uses the term "abeed al-beit," which literally translates as "house slaves." But al-Qaida supplied English subtitles of his speech that included the translation as "house negroes."

The message also includes old footage of speeches by Malcolm X in which he explains the term, saying black slaves who worked in their white masters' house were more servile than those who worked in the fields. Malcolm X used the term to criticize black leaders he accused of not standing up to whites.

Could President-Elect Obama have received a kinder gift from the mother of all assholes?

I'm reminded of a few other moments when such language was used about Barack. There's Ralph Nader's career-curtaining "whether he’s going to be Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations" moment, gracious words following the election. Then there's Jesse Jackson's unfortunate, "I wanna cut his nuts off," for, in his view, "talking down to black people."

Who do they think they're insulting? Ask Hillary Clinton or John McCain -- his cool will make you panic, and your panic will be your undoing.

Richard Clarke on the al-Zawahri statement:

"Obama's election has taken the wind out of al Qaeda's sails in much of the Islamic world because it demonstrates America's renewed commitment to multiculturalism, human rights, and international law. It also proves to many that democracy can work and overcome ethnic, sectarian, or racial barriers.

"Obama's commitment to withdraw from Iraq also takes away an al Qaeda propaganda tenet: that the U.S. seeks to occupy oil rich Arab lands. His commitment to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan also challenges their plans. Most of all, by returning to American values the world admires, Obama sets al Qaeda back enormously in the battle of ideas, the ideological struggle which determines whether al Qaeda will continue to have significant support in the Islamic world."

Exactly. With posters of Obama reportedly replacing those of Osama on the Third World streets and America now the first white nation to elect a black Chief Executive, this is our "America, Fuck Yeah" moment. Per Joe Klein:
The Zawahiri letter is one of the first real indications we have of the new international state of affairs (the Ahmadinejad letter of congratulations may also have been a good sign, but was leavened by the author's lack of real power and the fact that he's running for reelection). The terrorists are now exposed as racists, on top of everything else. We have many miles to go in Afghanistan and the northern and western precincts of Pakistan, and more blood to shed--and innumerable ways to screw up, since no one has ever gotten Afghanistan right--but the wind seems to have shifted slightly and is now at our back.
The terrorists are exposed as racists. But of course. And I have no doubt that there will be a moment, possibly within his first year of office, where Obama strikes or counterstrikes, some sort of targeted violence, that establishes his military aptitude and willingness to use it as provoked, most likely with an exactitude missing from the misadventures and squanderings of the past eight years.

Many on the left will protest or despair, as if they never heard him say, "I'm not opposed to all wars, I'm opposed to dumb wars." But even a majority of liberals will think he made the right decision and executed as cleanly as possible.

And with that our enemies will be put on notice and he will glide back into the White House in 2012.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Six Senators

From the Senate comes our new President-Elect, and his colleagues are the subject of intense current interest, as the possibility of a filibuster-proof majority hinges on Al Franken beating Norm Coleman in the Minnesota recount, Jim Martin coming from behind to win the run-off election in Georgia against Saxby Chambliss, and two other contests decided today.

The best news is from Alaska, where the AP has just certified that Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich has defeated the convicted Federal felon, Ted Stevens, thus not only gaining a key Dem seat from the longest serving GOP Senator, but blocking Gov. Sarah Palin from appointing herself as Stevens' replacement.

The other settlement today was with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), allowing him to keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, a potential threat to Obama since it has some oversight over the Executive, and essentially giving him a free pass after campaigning for Obama's rival, John McCain, impugning Obama's patriotism, extolling Sarah Palin, and neglecting to investigate the Cheney/Bush Administration in his committee role.

I have a couple of theories about this one. The first is that this is Obama's way of putting Joe to the test, just as I surmised he has put the nation on a pass/fail test that we fortunately passed November 4th. With flying colors. Obama's way is to give the offending party the opportunity to rise to the occasion, and if they make the affront of blowing it, they'll be cut off without a further word.

The model for this is how Obama handled Rev. Jeremiah Wright. After Obama responded to the oft-repeated excerpt of Wright's "God damn America!" with his breakthrough speech on race in Philadelphia, when three weeks later Wright went to D.C. and injected his megalonarcissism onto the national stage. That was it -- has anyone seen hide or hair of Wright since then.

My second theory is that this solves the mystery of who Obama met with privately at the airport right after visiting George & Laura. It wouldn't have been Clinton -- otherwise she wouldn't have had to make the trip to Chicago. National security doesn't make sense, safer in the Oval Office. And since we haven't heard of Joe making pilgrimage to Chicago or any hint of Obama having spoken with him prior to letting word out the other day that he thought he should retain his Homeland Security chairmanship, it falls into place that Lieberman would have met Obama as furtively as possible, maybe even having requested the audience and a private room at the airport being the provisional answer.

If this is the case, then no matter the public kabuki from Harry Reid or Joe Lieberman in their press appearance today, Obama has to have given assurance to Reid that Lieberman was in his pocket. Considering how strategic Obama always acts, it might even be for an anticipated vote, say what Obama's planning legislatively to end the war.

And in other Senate news, Hillary is agonizing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

McBama

Barack and John meet in Chicago at Barack's invitation. The official story:

After a private meeting in the Obama transition offices on the 38th floor of the Kluczynski Federal Building in downtown Chicago, the two men issued a joint statement saying that they agreed “that Americans of all parties want and need their leaders to come together and change the bad habits of Washington so that we can solve the common and urgent challenges of our time.”

The statement continued: “We hope to work together in the days and months ahead on critical challenges like solving our financial crisis, creating a new energy economy, and protecting our nation’s security.”
Per the very brief press avail, BAGnewsNotes has an analysis of the facial expressions that speaks of less unity than the statement. Check out the body language, particularly McCain's, in the video from those fleeting moment.

Jacob Heilbrunn theorizes that Obama is killing the GOP by assimilation.

As they say in the TV news biz, developing...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Correct Again

It's a Shiite/Kurdish legislative victory that could still run into showstopper problems with the Sunni contingent, but today the cabinet of democratic Iraq set a timetable for the U.S. and whatever coalition forces to leave:

The proposed agreement, which took nearly a year to negotiate with the United States, not only sets a date for American troop withdrawal, but puts new restrictions on American combat operations in Iraq starting Jan. 1 and requires an American military pullback from urban areas by June 30. Those hard dates reflect a significant concession by the departing Bush administration, which had been publicly averse to timetables.

Iraq also obtained a significant degree of jurisdiction in some cases over serious crimes committed by Americans who are off duty and not on bases.

The date they set: by the end of 2011.

Correct again, President-Elect Obama.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Two Fires

Southern California is on fire again, horrible destruction in the gorgeous Montecito/adjacent area next to/in Santa Barbara, and more in the northern foothills of Los Angeles county, particularly Sylmar. Horrific news and photos here, liveblog with unnerving evacuation and other info here.

The other major fire (after lumping together all the SoCal blazes above) is the nationwide and somewhat worldwide protest for gay marriage rights today (Saturday). There's some great pix from Los Angeles today but it was even in unlikely places like Alaska and Missoula. Nice to see that the one good thing to come out of the Prop 8 passage is everyone coming out -- gay and straight alike -- who believes in this American civil right.

This is truly the front line issue for civil rights today, and I'm not sure that any to follow will be of the same magnitude. It's just acknowledging reality in law, and I'm sure that in one generation this issue with be just treated in mainstream America just like racial intermarriage -- sure, some bigots will still be haters, and maybe it won't be the most pervasive image or marriage in the media, but we'll have gotten past it for good.

Tell me if I'm misreading the moment, but the success of President-Elect Obama seems to have opened the door for peaceful, firm but respectful and well-reasoned protests on every possible scale. The Facebook-centric organization and casual fearlessness of showing up in public appears mirrored by today's massive civic protest. There are so many different cities, towns and even countries represented on so many different Andrew Sullivan posts today that I can't link to them, although you can dig back to check them out yourself maybe by starting here. Remarkable.

This is a disjunctive moment in history, most notably economically, and Obama somehow planned his collision course perfectly, poised to take advantage of the disjunctive opportunity for good rather than the post-9/11 hackery that led us into Iraq, with so many carpetbaggers to feed at the trough. These moments don't come along very often, are fraught with fragilities, and require both haste and tact.

Take advantage of it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Two Women

Over on the Dem side there's the buzz aplenty regarding Sen. Hillary Clinton's meeting in Chicago with President-Elect Obama and rumors that she's been offered the Secretary of State position, which is actually only four steps down in the line of succession (thanks, schmebble), right after Vice President, Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate, and can be as influential as Kissinger or neutered as Rice, but which is, if true, an offer unprecedented since, like Lincoln.

So while Sen. Clinton mulls over her potential choice between the Constitutionally 2nd most powerful foreign policy figure in America (after the President) of Junior Senator from New York with little seniority including in her signature health insurance area (she's not a Senate Committee chair, and both Kennedy and Baucus are making their plays on the issue), I wonder if she won't find all that travel tempting. She's well-known and well-liked around the globe, and the Camelot aura of Obama appointing his arch-rival for the nomination would speak volumes.

However, it is a lot of travel. She wouldn't be the first woman in the job (she'd be the third) and it is at the pleasure of the President. But as I've said before, Hillary may actually trust Obama more than she does her husband. He may have bested her in the nomination battle, but I doubt he's ever lied to her.

On the other side of the aisle, Sarah Palin has been sucking in camera-time like oxygen this past week, a slow curtain designed to avoid being a curtain as her chance to appoint herself Senator and finally escape Wasilla once and for all is going down with the Stevens-Begich recount.

It'll be interesting to watch the, um, plucky Governor try to elbow her way into media situations from now through the next GOP primary season for 2012, as I don't think the other aspirants will want her there. Her embarrassingly transparent "pageant-speak" is not germane to any of the real issues at hand, which the smarter Republicans are realizing means taking at least some of Obama's open hand and actually connecting with what people are really going through, not relying on distracting social issues.

Here's the BAGnewsNotes photo analysis of the tension coming from the other GOP Governors at their retreat Friday. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who followed Bush in that role, manhandles her at the podium, and her whole speaking demeanor in the press conference is way too tweaked, telegraphing that she knows she's swimming in deeper waters than she can handle, but is determined to bluff both us and her into believing she's not spouting nonsensical nothings.

And what is it with the "team" thing. A "team" of governors? Is that like a "team" of mavericks?

Watch for her to be cut off at the knees inside her own party. She may be able to raise money, but by now none of the other governors should have any doubt who she's raising it for.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fix for Junkies

Attention political junkies: the final Obamaporn is in, the post-game inside-the-campaigns feature stories, the king of which is Newsweek's brand (since 1984) of deeply embedded reporting, with the contractual agreement that nothing the reporters covering each campaign goes public, not a word nor a rumor, until the day after the Presidential Election.

This time they have a lot of inside Clinton, along with Obama and McCain. For those of us who read too much campaign coverage while it was happening, the most surprising news may be when the McCain senior campaign staff knew they were 90% likely to lose (the weekend before the third debate) and that McCain essentially came up with the Joe the Plumber meme himself, egged on by his wife and Lindsay Graham.

There's a highlights version, but the multi-chaptered piece is really something.

For a more succinct "why he won" covering the Obama side, Ryan Lizza does a nice job in The New Yorker. The first passage ending kind of sums up the last phase of this insanely long season:
As a practical matter, this meant that, after the Democratic National Convention, in Denver, the campaign would do all that it could to focus attention on economic matters. It had no idea, of course, how fully both the economy and John McCain would coƶperate with that goal.
David Grann covers McCain, who seems more and more like a quasi-tragic character who finds honor only in losing.

Drink up, this is the last time you're allowed at the well. It's onto the future since Obama is there already, vetting cabinet choices and, one hopes, secretly governing already. After all, per Andy Borowitz, Bush is in a race against time:

Confounding the conventional wisdom that he is a lame duck president with no agenda as his days in office dwindle, President George W. Bush is redoubling his efforts to mutilate the country before his term expires, aides confirmed today.

"President Bush has spent the first seven years and ten months of his presidency doing everything in his power to leave the United States in smoldering ruins," said White House spokesperson Dana Perino. "He certainly is not going to let the final days of his tenure go to waste."

Ah, someday this, too, shall pass.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Other One

Of all the Republican Presidential aspirants who participated in the pre-nomination debates, the only one I found myself agreeing with regularly was Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

Paul, of libertarian bent, was opposed to the Iraq War as well as Cheney-led curtailments of freedom under the Patriot Act et al. So while I agree with Paul on a number of very big issues, most importantly that the U.S. follow George Washington's lead to trade with all but stay out of entangling foreign wars, I'm generally in disagreement with him regarding government spending -- he wants to slash it to the bone, which I hold is not a responsible or suited response to the modern world.

However, what Ron Paul does have that the Republican party desperately needs -- and won't get from Gov. Palin, no matter how many post-loser Election interview she does -- is a consistent, comprehensible philosophy. Leaders can come and go but a philosophy can mature, prevail. Think Goldwater to Reagan. Or Robert Kennedy to Barack Obama.

Paul espouses in a CNN commentary he just wrote:

• Limited government power

• A balanced budget

• Personal liberty

• Strict adherence to the Constitution

• Sound money

• A strong defense while avoiding all undeclared wars

• No nation-building and no policing the world

I believe that the under-analyzed aspect of last week's election is Obama's philosophy, which is certainly not Marxism but does call for a responsible society, on both the governmental and personal level. While the government becomes an instrument of the Common Good, it does not reach into your television to turn it off during homework hours -- that's your job, albeit preached by Presidential example.

While the GOP casts about for some new packaging to somehow revive their party, Paul is offering something already made. If he can somehow turn his core of committed libertarian activists into the foundation of at least a mini-movement, I believe they could win a Republican Presidential nomination, whether it is Paul or a figure with less built-in loathing by his own party. And it could be a real threat to win, again if properly organized.

After all, who on the left could disagree with this passage from his commentary:
The Republican Congress never once stood up against the Bush/Rove machine that demanded support for unconstitutional wars, attacks on civil liberties here at home, and an economic policy based on more spending, more debt, and more inflation -- while constantly preaching the flawed doctrine that deficits don't matter as long as taxes aren't raised.
On the other hand, I have yet to be convinced that we should, per Rep. Paul, eliminate the Departments of Education, Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development.

But I bet a lot of Americans would be open to the argument. Especially now.

Which gives upcoming President Barack Obama a very, very slim window to prove his argument in action.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Their House

I'm not sure how I'm going to make it through the inauguration if I'm already getting choked up -- in a sort of invigorating, fist-pumping manner -- looking at pictures of the Obamas coming over to the Bush's house today, the house they're moving into just 10 weeks from now. Oh, and video:



Part of the emotion is the fundamental patriotism for our democracy, typified every time there's a change of White House from one political party to a rival party. There's a lot of countries where that isn't guaranteed to happen, and for awhile (2003-2005?) some of us were worried it wouldn't. You know, martial law and a suspension of Presidential elections, like Rudy Giuliani tried to pull off after the attacks of 9/11/2001.

And it's even sweeter when the party you favor wins. The last time I got a buzz like this off the transition was when the Clintons took the door keys from the first round of Bushes.

Then there's the name. The White House. With this victorious black couple coming at the invitation of the current occupants to take a look around, talk a little policy, find out where the secret drawers are hidden, it's like fuck you historically racist America, you were actually laying the groundwork for this awesome moment, and from hereon out all limits of race or, I'd argue, gender for the job are history.

But what ties it all together are the three core themes of Barack Obama's campaign for President. There's Change -- that's the euphoric kick. There's Hope -- that's the tears. But there's a third theme that didn't get as much play as the first two in campaign iconography, but which is a core tenet of his oratory: Responsibility.

Obama believes that government has a responsibility to the people who elect it; that the people have a responsibility to carefully consider the issues, treat philosophical opponents with respect, and exercise their fair choice so as to keep democracy vital; and that we each have a responsibility to each other both on the personal and societal level.

This man is about to take on the most awesome responsibility in the world. Done right, there is no position more powerful that President of the United States of America. Hey, that's 50 states. Top that, Mevedev.

I'm an adult. I know there isn't a politician who won't disappoint me somewhere along the way. That's fine, as long as it doesn't get out of hand. There's every possibility that the headwinds will be so strong that Obama will somehow not succeed in his quest to save America and the world through his Presidency. Very, very bad, unmentionable things could happen; we've lived them all before. By the end of this, he may even end up being a "War President."

But somehow, I doubt it. Watching Obama enhancing even George W. Bush with his presence, with his soft-power hand on El Presidente's back as they head into the colonnade, I know this guy is there for a reason. I start wondering if he actually initiated the meeting, secretly, from his side. Because he appears to have even talked auto policy with Bush, maybe testing his political capital -- trying to get it decoupled from trade and actually get something done before even taking the oath.

That's the kind of guy we just elected, a real leader with a real purpose for moving into this house, America's house, our house. This is the guy whom his advisers were most concerned didn't have the "pathological" desire to be President, but invented it for himself through his sense of mission.

A community organizer for our desperate nation.

Moving into our house January 20th.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

All-New Issue

Heading into our first full week with President-Elect Obama, it feels like a fresh start for America even though all the hardcore economic problems that existed a week ago are still here, and the other party is still in power.

That said, you'd be hard-pressed for a photo that better captures where we are right now in relation to our ecstatic history than this one at BAGnewsNotes, and equally able to enjoy David Brooks' honest depiction of where that other party is right now:



You've got a whole slew of babies who just got named Barack, Michele, Malia or Sasha. You've got a post-mortem by the team that helped their boss win the election that's filled with all the great moral attributes you'd like to hear -- no drama, no infighting, no hanging on race, win good.

And you've got 50 count'em 50 facts you may not know about our incoming President.

For example, did you know that he collects both Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comic books?

I wonder if he has any of the early Steve Ditkos or Barry Windsor-Smiths in his collection.

Marvel-ous!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Transformation

There's going to be a lot of Sunday morning quarterbacking, more like post-game analysis on why Obama did so well, but there's an article in the Sunday New York Times that I find particularly illuminating, about how the electorate of "Reagan Democrat" Levittown, PA went, in five months, from being unlikely to vote for a black man named Barack Hussein Obama for President to overwhelmingly going his way. For example:
I spent Election Day at a voting site inside the Magic Cottage preschool in a section of Levittown called Appletree, where Mr. Obama would defeat Mr. McCain, 682-388, a ratio slightly higher than the Democratic registration edge in that precinct. Not a single one of the more than 60 Obama voters I talked to said they had voted for him in the spring. Some said they had come around slowly, and many reported that they had been open to Mr. McCain.
So the Obama message of "change" was very real, down to the individual level -- admittedly racist adults having their attitudes flipped by him and his campaign, at least as far as this precious right and momentous decision.

Thankfully, the transformation, the change, seems to be real all the way up to explicitly reversing executive orders by El Presidente Bush, starting with those most damaging to the environment:
A team of four dozen advisers, working for months in virtual solitude, set out to identify regulatory and policy changes Obama could implement soon after his inauguration. The team is now consulting with liberal advocacy groups, Capitol Hill staffers and potential agency chiefs to prioritize those they regard as the most onerous or ideologically offensive, said a top transition official who was not permitted to speak on the record about the inner workings of the transition.
I guess that what the Presidential pen giveth, the succeeding Presidential pen taketh away.

Obama will need to move fast to reassure America and, in particular, his base of supporters that he means what he campaigned on, budget crisis or not. So I'm looking forward to these moves, maybe even starting late Inauguration Day.

On the other hand, there will be plenty of January Presidential pardons that he'll be unable to undo. Will it include convicted felons like Libby and Abramoff...or/also Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Addington, Yoo, Gonzales...

...well, my fingers could get tired just listing them all.

Friday, November 07, 2008

365

In the red red heart of America, Omaha, Nebraska, Barack Obama has won the single Electoral Vote representing that city, in the state's unique method for breaking off one of it's three, to give that metropolitan area (and suburbs and exburbs) its fair say. So on Nate Silver's map we can see a representation of Obama chipping into that solid line of Midwestern states, from North Dakota down through Texas, which will hopefully be more blue than red at this time in 2012.

365 is a serious win. In some ways, it's still sinking in. You might think, whoa, a black guy got in, and that's a few days of celebration, but when you realize that unlike the last six (white!) Democrats who ran, he won Indiana and North Carolina, and that he won Virgina which no Democratic Presidential candidate has won since Lyndon Johnson when Obama was three years old.

Right now Missouri is too close to call, and it'll be sometime next week when they come up for air again. McCain was leading by about 5,800 votes when they froze up and while it may stay red, wouldn't you want to get on the new President's good side and just throw it in for good measure?

I mean, if you like the ring of 365 (# of days/year), so be it, but wouldn't 376 (to 161) sound even sweeter? Or maybe you'd think, hey, Barack Obama, how come you couldn't peel off another 24 E.V.'s and hit 400? That's a Georgia, a Montana, and a couple'a Dakotas.

Hey, don't get greedy. 365 is a hard-rockin' mandate, more than 2/3's, actually 68% of the Electoral College (376 would, of course, be 70%). And per today's first President-Elect Obama press conference, we should just be relieved to have an adult in charge again:



Remarkable. Right to work, and the paychecks don't even start until January 20th.

He's got our number.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sayrahnara

Why, oh, why, is the McCain Campaign throwing running mate Sarah Palin under the bus the moment she's safely our of the lower 48?:



Doesn't know that the country abutting her state is 1/3 or NAFTA? That Africa is a continent, not a single country? And from Fox News? Ah, the pain of the backstab from the very organ that gave her life! And then there's the highbrow publication with it's own special leaks:

The disputes between the campaigns centered in large part on the Republican National Committee’s $150,000 wardrobe for Ms. Palin and her family, but also on what McCain advisers considered Ms. Palin’s lack of preparation for her disastrous interview with Katie Couric of CBS News and her refusal to take advice from Mr. McCain’s campaign.

But behind those episodes may be a greater subtext: anger within the McCain camp that Ms. Palin harbored political ambitions beyond 2008.

As late as Tuesday night, a McCain adviser said, Ms. Palin was pushing to deliver her own speech just before Mr. McCain’s concession speech, even though vice-presidential nominees do not traditionally speak on election night. But Ms. Palin met up with Mr. McCain with text in hand. She was told no by Mark Salter, one of Mr. McCain’s closest advisers, and Steve Schmidt, Mr. McCain’s top strategist.

You can check out a slideshow of Palin & Family's wardrobe bought with campaign donations at HuffPo here along with this savory nugget:

Sarah Palin left the national stage Wednesday, but the controversy over her role on the ticket flared as aides to John McCain disclosed new details about her expensive wardrobe purchases and revealed that a Republican Party lawyer would be dispatched to Alaska to inventory and retrieve the clothes still in her possession...

Guess they're not trusting her to ship back every last shiny red pump herself.

At DailyKos blogger gracchus sees an element of internal GOP class conflict in the elders trying to bury Palin now, while the wounds are fresh:

The problem is that the rich folks who run the party - and run Fox News - aren't really sincere about the party's social agenda. It's just red meat for the rightwing workies. The rich - really, the country's owners - want the party to look after their class interests, which are all economic. They don't trust the petit bourgeois footsoldiers any more than you or I do.

The problem is that the crazies are getting restless, and want to run the party themselves, not just provide the voting muscle. This makes the richies nervous: you see this with the complete lack of rich-folks funding for Huckabee (who incidentally wasn't reliable on economic issues as far as the rich were concerned).

Palin also scares them, as she's drawn from the same group, but seems even more ignorant and likely to blow up the world in search of the the end of the world and the second coming. Even short of that, she seems ignorant and incompetent enough to fuck things up even more royally than the most recent occupant of the White House did, given the chance. She'd further tarnish the brand, and probably cause everyone's portfolios to blow up. And the people who run the party aren't fools, just dedicated to their own interests: they realize that she's incredibly ignorant, and probably dangerous beyond a point they're willing to tolerate.

Setting up the pins for Mitt Romney 2012, one expects.

I'm as happy as anyone that Palin is off the national stage, although very grateful for her help in electing Barack Obama President. The fact is that she needs the oxygen of media attention to survive and will do whatever she can to escape Alaska, possibly by appointing herself to Ted Stevens' Senate seat, should he turn out to have won the vote and then be stripped of his seat by the Senate, which traditionally does not seat convicted felons.

So I wouldn't count her out forever, and she has company in the likes of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) who managed to keep her Congressional seat even after calling for the news media to investigate how "American" are the Democratic members of Congress, and Sen. Obama. Bachmann is kind of a nightmarish hybrid of Sarah Palin and Katherine Harris, and today she's acting like we're all patriots:
After suggesting that Barack Obama had anti-American views in an exchange three weeks ago with MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told Politico Thursday that she was “extremely grateful that we have an African-American who has won this year.” She called his victory “a tremendous signal we sent.”

“I have not seen the United States as a racist nation,” said Bachmann, who represents Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, in the east-central part of the state. “In my district, I don’t sense racism, and that’s why I’m thankful that hopefully this will send a national signal across our country that America is not a nation made up of racists. ... On the same hand, I hope that the national media will not confuse disagreement with Obama’s policy positions with being consumed [by] racism.”
Racism, maybe not. McCarthyism...yes.

Well, let's hope the antidote has arrived. With Obama, is his victory, already assuming the mantle of American institution, he's an endorsement worth pushing, even in the Southern state of Georgia -- witness this campaign ad for Democrat Jim Miller, entering a run-off election against Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss:



"American is Back."

Yep, you can run with that.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Enfranchised

Now that the dust is settling on the election and the Obama transition team is moving like quicksilver to put a new cabinet team in place, we can only hope that the Obama Administration runs as brilliantly as his campaign. This fascinating Adam Nagourney piece at the NY Times provides a window on the ups-and-downs of the race from inside the Obama team, so impressive from bottom to top. The article ends on a note about race:

In Mississippi, Stuart Stevens, a longtime political strategist who had worked for both Mr. McCain and Mitt Romney in the primaries, was surveying polling data for a Republican client. He was picking up on an unexpected shift for Mr. Obama, even among white voters. As he put it in an interview: If a house is on fire, the owner does not care what color the fireman is.

“He transcended race,” Mr. Stevens said. “At the time of crisis, it became particularly irrelevant.”

Back in Washington, Mr. Belcher, the pollster, was finding something similar. Mr. Obama was showing strength even among white voters Mr. Belcher had identified as having racial biases. It was a phenomenon captured in a photograph he shared last week of a homemade sign with the Confederate flag. It read: “Rednecks for Obama. Even we’ve had enough.”
The historic nature of this win cannot be understated, although it took someone who did transcend race through excellence of skills and temperament -- a political Jackie Robinson -- to do it. It's the fulfilling of the promise of America, the enfranchisement of a people, per this Toles cartoon. It understandably makes African Americans cry, for the sacrifices of the past having now led to the possibilities open to their children. It fills a child of a segregationist politician with gratitude. Per Joe Klein in Time, it opens up a fresh, beautiful path for America, based on its deepest values:
Obama's victory creates the prospect of a new "real" America. We can't possibly know its contours yet, although I suspect the headline is that it is no longer homogeneous. It is no longer a "white" country, even though whites remain the majority. It is a place where the primacy of racial identity — and this includes the old, Jesse Jackson version of black racial identity — has been replaced by the celebration of pluralism, of cross-racial synergy. After eight years of misgovernance, it has lost some of its global swagger ... but also some of its arrogance. It may no longer be as dominant, economically or diplomatically, as it once was. But it is younger, more optimistic, less cynical. It is a country that retains its ability to startle the world — and in a good way, with our freedom. It is a place, finally, where the content of our President's character is more important than the color of his skin.
Oddly enough, the ugliest words since last night seem to be coming out of the mouth of the unlikeliest, Mr. Ralph Nader. While his anti-corporate sentiment is part of his self-defined job, his use of a racist term is shockingly tin-eared and demeaning to the President-Elect. Say that again: President-Elect.

I like it.

CNN did a cool video covering the campaign, to the tune of the best campaign song choice of all time:



Signed, sealed, and to be delivered on January 20, 2009.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

God Bless America

Exhale.

And the children did lead. The historical seeds have been planted for a fresh new generation of civic-minded Americans. They were ready after 9/11 but the failure of leadership frittered it away. Barack Obama has led like no other. And his victory speech was nothing less than laying out the mission, in surprisingly somber tones, and the need to turn the effort from electing to enacting, all together...united.

Kudos to John McCain for his gracious concession speech, even if some of his supporters seemed less so. And were those boos we heard when he started praising his running mate? Bottom line was that if this McCain had been the one running his campaign and showing up on the trail, tonight would have lasted a lot longer and maybe turned out differently.

There were moving voting stories all over the Net today and much noting of the historical nature of this victory, that when Obama was born there was still segregation in America, a country largely built on slavery (not to mention genocide). But what was striking about Obama's victory speech tonight was how accustomed we've become to him, how the race aspect has receded with familiarity, and instead how serious and mature his sense of purpose seems to be going forward. And he did it with a great callback to the theme of his 2004 DNC speech, that we must be united, per our charter, moving forward.

It's ironic that President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama owes his victory to the massive failure of President George W. Bush. And who knew that the loss of John Kerry four years ago might turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to our country? Obama is a man who recognized his moment far in advance of everyone else, who had a vision of America some of us may have discussed in vague outline but that he put to great use in his campaign and, one now expects, he will in his Presidency.

For now, let's revel in the greatness of our democracy, as President-Elect Obama put it in words to be quoted for years, decades and maybe centuries:
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
And the world is answering.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Pass/Fail

This insanely long electoral process, from candidates announcing through a remarkably contested primary season past party conventions and now to the Election Day it sometimes seemed would never come, has clearly produced the single best person to run our country for the next four years.

Obama may be a historical choice because of his race, but that is far from the real reasons to vote for him. His combination of intelligence (book smarts, people smarts, sportsman smarts, a lil' of the ol' Chicago political street smarts), learning, temperament, energy, magnanimity and oratory, his now obviously monumental leadership skills, his incredibly capable strategic gifts, make him the right man at this critical -- and perilous -- juncture in our nation's history.

For those of us who have worked to convince friends and strangers, made calls, written posts and email, those who have knocked on doors and will continue to do all of the above until a victor is declared on (please, Lord) Tuesday night, the fears of defeat have frayed nerves far too long.

Let it go.

With the choice before us so obvious, there's a point where it is no longer in the hands of any one of us. It's the moment when America takes its biggest, clearest test since maybe the Civil War. If Obama loses due to fear or ignorance tied to racism, then America is not the Republic as advertised. It is a very simple final exam here, one that isn't graded on a curve or with A's, B's and C's.

It's a pass/fail test.

If America makes the correct choice, it'll go a long way towards restoring the notion of American greatness, of the belief that all men and women are created equal, that there is no English-style class system, that any child regardless of race (and one hopes, by extension, gender or religious orientation, maybe someday sexual orientation) can grow up to become President.

As we roll into the climax of the most epic contemporary political tale imaginable, Obama's grandmother has died, the woman who raised him to be the man on the verge of quite likely winning the Presidency. While on first blush it appears a crying shame, it can also be seen as the final send-off, the moment where the assumption of manhood, Obama becoming the person of destiny he was meant to be, is entered into poetically, having said his goodbyes, now without any parental figure fully on his own.

Or, as he put it:



I predict that the Obama campaign will be studied in both political science classes as well as business schools for the next several decades. There's never been anything like it, the first truly 21st century Presidential campaign.

I predict scores of voters not being able to reach the voting booth before polls close, but even if the election is decided by the time they reach the lever, they'll want to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime moment.

I predict a shocking landslide margin, per the traditional first voting just after midnight in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, which has not gone for a Democratic Presidential candidate since 1968:

President Bush won the town in a landslide in the last two elections: He captured 73 percent of the vote in 2004 (19 residents picked Bush while six preferred Sen. John Kerry), and secured 80 percent of the vote in 2000 (21 votes for Bush, five votes for Al Gore.)

But villagers expected the results to be close this year given Democrats now outnumber Republicans there.

This time:
General Election: (21 voters)
Barack Obama - 15
John McCain - 6
Dixville Notch's grade 2008:
Pass!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Can You Hear It Coming?

The rumblings...when the first rocks have come loose, knocking into other, larger boulders, which in turn undermine the structure of the entire mountainside...

Even self-identified rednecks are out there working for Obama. Republicans are scrambling to save their Senate and Congressional seats that are looking to be swept away with all that earth looking like it's going to be rollin' down that mountain. Profoundly moving stories like this from a 55-year-old Caucasian banker are happening everywhere:

Instead of walking the tree-lined streets near our home, my wife and I were instructed to canvass a housing project. A middle-aged white couple with clipboards could not look more out of place in this predominantly black neighborhood.

We knocked on doors and voices from behind carefully locked doors shouted, "Who is it?"

"We're from the Obama campaign," we'd answer. And just like that doors opened and folks with wide smiles came out on the porch to talk.

Grandmothers kept one hand on their grandchildren and made sure they had all the information they needed for their son or daughter to vote for the first time.

Young people came to the door rubbing sleep from their eyes to find out where they could vote early, to make sure their vote got counted.

We knocked on every door we could find and checked off every name on our list. We did our job, but Obama may not have been the one who got the most out of the day's work.

You can guess who did.

From rumblings to, one hopes, humblings. With Joe the Extremist questioning Obama's patriotism and American values this weekend and a GOP group reprising Rev. Wright on an ad that ran during Sunday Night Football, with Elizabeth Dole trying to save her Senate seat by smearing her opponent as godless via dubbed lines, with Sarah Palin creating the creepiest cognitive dissonance in memory by running as both celebrity and hate-monger, one can only wish that an Obama landslide will put the politics of lies and smears to bed for at a generation, and maybe force the more introspective of GOP losers to make a humble reappraisal of their electoral actions.

When you watch a video like the one below, you see how much Obama has gifted all of us Americans with his inclusionary campaign. Phone bankers are reporting older, more rural folks using some old-fashioned racial epithets when declaring their support for Obama. One senses that while not necessarily approving such language, Obama would understand that they are from a different time, but a vote is a vote, and recognizing the need for change is all any voter needs right now:



This is it. As Obama said early in the Primaries, we are the ones we've been waiting for. With over 27,000,000 early and absentee ballots cast so far, this is an election already underway in a very, very big way. While I would never rule out an upset, I believe we're about to watch a mountain roll. And hopefully it will extend to other historic changes, like a decisive "NO" vote on California's noxious and discriminatory Proposition 8, designed to overturn legal gay marriage in this great state.

I'm sure I'm not alone in betting that the vote on Prop 8 will be tighter than that for President, but there is reason for hope, like the Republican Mayor of San Diego reversing himself on the issue in an emotional public statement, in which he mentions both his gay staff members and his gay daughter:



I emailed my support to jerrysanders@sandiego.gov. How nice to see statesmanship come in different colors.

C'mon, America.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Gabba Gabba Hey

The day after John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, I thought the die was cast, and that contrary to being able to paint Barack Obama as the “other,” it was now the McCain/Palin ticket that would look to America as a pair of aliens.

To wit: as Obama rounds out his final week with the likes of Bill Clinton and Al Gore speaking to crowds in support of his candidacy, the stars of the McCain campaign are either manufactured, like Joe and Tito and every other name they try to pander to on a stump, or just plain freakshow.

I mean, does anyone purposely choose Victoria Jackson as their surrogate?

Saturday Night Live Hail Marys, McCain dragged his wife onto this final pre-Election episode with him, in some crazy knife-selling skit. Is this really how he goes out, as farce? With Joe Werzelbacher as “my role model”?

Palin thinks we’re at war with Iran. She doesn’t bother to put McCain’s name on signs at her campaign rallies. She’s an alien to his own campaign, making it a circus where her getting punked by a wacky radio D.J. crowds out her share of the news cycle oxygen.

Then today, McCain received the biggest freakshow endorsement of all:



Yep, manna from heaven for Obama, who rounding third into the Election can now run against McCain, Bush and Cheney:



Maureen Dowd gets it right: McCain, not his opponent, is the question mark:
But, in an odd and remarkable reversal, it is McCain who is the enigma, even though he entered the race with one of the best brands in American politics.

And it is Obama, who sashayed onto the trail two years ago as an aloof and exotic mystery man with a slim record and a strange name, now coming across as the steadier brand…

...The ultimate riddle is this: Why doesn’t McCain question why he has become a question mark?
Here’s how things really look, according to Nate Silver:
This is beginning to look like a five-state election. Those states are Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada. Essentially all relevant electoral scenarios involve some combination of these five states…

…The victory conditions for Obama involving these five states proceed something as follows:

1. Win Pennsylvania and ANY ONE of Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, or Nevada*
2. Win Ohio and EITHER Colorado OR Virginia.
3. Win Colorado AND Virginia AND Nevada.

(* Nevada produces a 269-269 tie, which would probably be resolved for Obama in the House of Representatives.)

Now, suppose you think that Colorado is already in the bag for Obama because of his large edge in early voting there. We can then simplify the victory conditions as follows:

1. Win Pennsylvania
2. Win Ohio
3. Win Virginia AND Nevada
Frank Rich, Dowd’s colleague on The New York Times op-ed page, is optimistic and explains why -- realism:
Obama doesn’t transcend race. He isn’t post-race. He is the latest chapter in the ever-unfurling American racial saga. It is an astonishing chapter. For most Americans, it seems as if Obama first came to dinner only yesterday. Should he win the White House on Tuesday, many will cheer and more than a few will cry as history moves inexorably forward.

But we are a people as practical as we are dreamy. We’ll soon remember that the country is in a deep ditch, and that we turned to the black guy not only because we hoped he would lift us up but because he looked like the strongest leader to dig us out.

Yep, pure pragmatism. Because we're being presented with a choice of a carny sideshow vs. prime-time programming.

Here's to America buying the better ticket.