Saturday, October 18, 2008

Another reason why I'm voting for Obama (Or Final Notes on the Election)

Yesterday morning, I was at home and bored, and I remembered that Ron Silver's show was on Sirius. (Note: I wrote this first sentence on October 18, and never got around to finishing up, which I want to do now). Silver is an actor who is also very intelligent in the political field. He is known by some for being a lifelong Democrat, but changing to an independent and speaking at the Republican Convention in 2004 in favor of George W. Bush and his position on Iraq and foreign policy. So, I don't agree with him all the time, but he comes off as very reasoned and calm, which is very unlike every other political person on the radio. But I digress.

Anyway, that day, he wasn't on, and I tuned out. But before I did, I got to hear a sampling of what people at a McCain rally thought of Obama. The first person said, "if he gets elected, the blacks will take over." It gets worse from there. Others accuse him of being a "terrorist" or having "terrorist connections", most of them tout him as a "Muslim", one person says he'll vote for McCain because "we can't have a nigger in office", and one woman says "he looks at us (I presume that "us" means rural white people) as trash".

Ever since I've voted, I have really tried to avoid voting against anyone, or vote for someone because he's less worse than the other guy. My position hasn't really changed, but I feel that for this election, voting for Obama is necessary. One of the reasons I feel that way stems from the extremism at these McCain rallies. I know that I should take the high road, and try to understand the socioeconomic circumstances that many of these people face. But Obama tried taking the high road with his "God and guns" comments, which he was right about, and he got slammed for being an elitist. So I'm going to take the opposite tack. These people come from the sewer. They are rabid, illogical religious fanatics, the kind of people who vote for George Bush, and a McCain White House to me, simply isn't an option. This is only one of the reasons, there are many more, but to me, this one is really important. Whether we like to admit it or not, and I'm talking to you too, Senator Obama, this country is sharply divided, in at least two ways. Their representative, Mr. Bush, has held power for eight years, and the nation is in a significantly weaker position. I did not understand this in '04, but I do now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Last month, I finally took the plunge and bought a XBox 360. I had been wanting one for a long time, and I had the means, so I got one with a bunch of games. From the little time I've been able to spend with it, I really enjoy it. I have a cheap HDTV and a regular hookup (meaning no HDMI cables), and it still looks really damn good. I really want to get XBox Live, but I have to spend 100 extra dollars for a wireless modem, and with the limited time I have, I'd rather wait until I have a little more free time.

Anyway, I got Grant Theft Auto IV, Saints Row, Assassins' Creed, Just Cause, Condemned, Dead Rising, and for the original XBox, Halo. The only games I've played at length so far are Just Cause and Condemned. Just Cause is, meh, okay. The graphics are amazing, and it's really cool how you can paraglide around the island, but other than that, it's a medicore GTA clone. There are a lot of glitches, and the experience and atmosphere just feels really lacking. I've put it to the side, and will pick it up again someday. But Condemned: Criminal Origins? To me, that's my first taste of what the 360 is about.

Condemned is a real experience. To me, if it were a movie, I'd say that it's a mix of Seven and Dark City, with a little splash of Cobra (old Stallone movie) mixed in. You are an FBI agent framed for the murder of 2 cops, and you must catch the real killer. But this takes place in an environment where the homeless and the fringes of society are freaking out and becoming violent for an unexplained reason. Birds are dropping dead. And you chase the killer through empty buildings, railroads, and other dark areas, hence the title "Condemned." Your flashlight will be your best friend in this game. That, and the taser, and the weapons you need to defeat the bad guys. While you may come across a gun here and there, most of the weapons you use are considered "melee" weapons, such as a shovel, pipe, conduit, whatever you can find in the buildings. And this game is one of the few that has really freaked me out. Do yourself a favor, and play this game at night with the lights off. It can be pretty terrifying. More than a few times, I've had a crazy, drugged-out guy with a pipe sneak up on me from behind.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Election conspiracies

Being as this is a quiet time (for ten minutes), and I had a brainstorm on a blog to post today, I might as well get to it.

The election is in a little less than 3 weeks, and while I have been back and forth since my last post (on who I was voting for), I am pretty sure that I am going to stick with my decision to vote for Obama. I am going to hold my nose, since while I do see some possibly redeeming features in Obama, in the end he's just another politician being backed by suspect interests, to say the least. But I'm following Noam Chomsky's logic in "endorsing" Kerry in 2004. While there might be little meaningful difference between McCain and Obama (like there was between Bush and Kerry), that little difference can make a big difference to at least a few people, not only here but around the world. Also, and perhaps more importantly, I feel that it's important to vote for Obama, even if you are in a non-battleground state like New York. Part of what dissaudes me in a general election (and why the college needed to be abolished eons ago) is the fact that in the bulk of states, your vote really doesn't count. It's a foregone conclusion in New York, for example, that Obama will win and NY's electoral votes will go to him, just as, say, Georgia will go for McCain (although that even might be in question, since I heard that McCain is struggling to hold onto red states as a result of the certain groundswell of black voters who will be coming out for Obama). The only people whose votes really count are in the "battleground" states. But this year, I still think voting for Obama is important, even in a state like NY, since a decisive win in the popular vote would make it easier for him to implement his agenda, for better or worse.

And, to me, that's where I feel an election conspiracy might come in. I don't have a doubt that electoral fraud takes place in this country, and quite regularly. In 2000, it was Florida, in 2004, it was Ohio, who knows what it'll be this year? And, although the Democrats certainly are guilty of this too, the Republicans have especially been involved in this in a big way, at least lately. And if they try it again this year, I don't think their goal will be to fix it so that McCain gets elected. Obama has too big a lead; a CBS poll broadcasted yesterday had him up by 11points, I think. But I do think their intent behind their fixing the election and throwing out votes (if there is a cabal intending to do that), would be to lower the margin of victory enough so that Obama just squeaks by in a tight race, and can't claim a mandate.

Well, this isn't absolute, Dubya stole the election but that didn't stop him from instituting a far-right agenda as soon as he got into the White House. Just giving my thoughts on a slow night.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The End of Suburbia

I just watched a great documentary on our suburban way of life and peak oil called "The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the End of the American Dream." Or at least most of it. I got the DVD on an inter-library loan, and it was really banged up. So I used my PS2 and my 360 (video game systems that can also play DVDs), and no dice. Which is too bad, because it was just getting to what I find to be the good stuff. Well, it's not good at all, it's quite scary, but it's the aspect of peak oil that intrigues me most. And that's the impact it will have on our political system.

But for the moment, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Although I regrettably was not able to finish it, I will buy the DVD and lend it out to anyone I know who is interested. I came in to this documentary with knowledge on the subject, so many of the insights were not new. But the value of this film is that it presents the issue in a fast-paced, involving style, and it's very short, around 80 minutes. And a lot of people don't like to read. So I think it's invaluable for the average person, if they can be persuaded to sit in front of the TV and check it out.

A few things. One of the aspects of the age that we live in now is our abundant use of energy. And I found it ironic in what I just said, that in addition to my DVD player, I have 2 game consoles hooked up that happen to be DVD-compatible. So I'm just as guilty as everybody in using these abundant amounts of electricity that aren't sustainable. I try to be good, I disconnect my appliances before going to sleep. But I know that that isn't enough.

Also, I wanted to get back to what I was talking about, the part of the film where it ended for me due to the DVD being scratched. And that is the impact that peak oil will likely have on our political process. As James Kunstler (the man who introduced me to P.O. through his book "The Long Emergency") says in the video, "the 21st century will be a battle for the table scraps of the 20th." Most inhabitants of this experiment called suburbia will demand that Washington do anything possible to maintain the illusion that we can have it all: the suburban lifestyle, the commute, the cheap goods, etc. And, again in Kunstler's words, we "will elect maniacs who will tell us that they'll do anything to maintain this lifestyle."

Another thing the video touches on, albeit briefly, is the conspiracy by the auto industry to dismantle our street-rail lines in the 20's, forever compromising public transportation so that more people would use the car to get around. It always annoys me when I see these commercials and other platitudes spouting about America's "love affair" with the car and the open road. I don't feel that it's so much a "love affair" as it's the only avenue that we have to get places, and that it's been imposed on us as a result of our developing our society around the automobile and the consistent undermining of alternative modes of transportation, such as train, bus, pedestrian and bicycle travel, etc.

It's also funny (and sad) when Kunstler says that we have a railroad system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of. A vital player in a peak-oil world would be the railroads, and we've virtually destroyed it in the name of a lifestyle that cannot possibly last.

Well, Youtube has a 52-minute cut of the film that I will post here, but I want to see the full 78-minute version, so I will probably buy the DVD from Amazon.