Various & Sundry 1/12/10

Little bits, because I can’t seem to think at length today:

* Clearly the most important topic of the day is whether one is on Team Leno or Team Conan, and while I am personally on Team Why Would I Watch TV When There’s Left 4 Dead 2 To Play, I think it’s pretty clear that Conan O’Brien is being totally screwed here. Here’s a guy who did everything he was supposed to do, did nothing wrong, and his now being crapped on because of the incompetence of his bosses. Inasmuch as my heart can go out to any fellow who makes exponentially more than I make in any given year, my heart goes out to O’Brien. Rich or not, it sucks to be reminded that at the end of the day you can have your job yanked out from under you because someone else did something incredibly stupid.

* Another from the annals of How Disconnected Political Appearances Are From Political Reality: Obama’s Winning Streak On Hill Unprecedented. The story notes how the legislation favored by Obama passes through Congress with a higher success rate than just about any other recent president, including famed arm-twister Lyndon Johnson. The secret to Obama’s success? a) Democratic majorities in both houses, b) the man picks and chooses his battles, c) he’s willing to compromise and get something passed than dig in his heels and have it fail.

I recognize that depending on one’s own personal politics, any or all of these could be a bug rather than a feature. But I don’t know. I think capitalizing on advantages, minimizing disadvantages and a certain willingness to compromise on details to achieve a larger goal is what used to be called “doing politics.” I certainly like it better than the apparently more current definition, which appears to be “scream a lot, be inflexible and don’t actually get anything done.” Which is a funny definition of politics, if you ask me.

* I’ve been asked what opinions I have on the Proposition 8 constitutional trial going on out there in California, and I have to say that I think my answer is fairly standard, in that I worry that taking a same-sex marriage case up to Supreme Court as currently constituted will doom same-sex couples to a much longer road to equality. But at the same time I think that if Olsen and Boies can make their case legally and intellectually, then asking the plaintiffs in this case to wait for a time more convenient from a strategy point of view in order to ask for what should morally and justly be theirs is neither moral nor just.

Basically: I worry about the timing, but then I suppose there’s never a good time for people to ask for their rights from people who don’t want them to have them. I just hope Olsen and Boies know what the Hell they’re doing.

And that’s where my brain is today.

40 thoughts on “Various & Sundry 1/12/10

  1. I’m afraid I agree with you on same sex marriage in the Federal courts. Can’t you just imagine Scalia et al. getting their hands on this? Ugh

    I wish this could come later but, as we said in the 60′s, “If not now, when?”

  2. I took my kids through the Kennedy Library in Boston last summer. The Kennedy administration for years has gotten a bad rap for not getting legislation through, particularly civil rights. But there’s a display in the museum area that shows editorial cartoonists and commentators were actually criticizing Kennedy for getting TOO MUCH done in his first year. Basically, nobody knows anything.

  3. “I suppose there’s never a good time for people to ask for their rights from people who don’t want them to have them. “<— THIS. Exactly this. I want to wave this sentence around at the world. Intellectually, I understand the necessity for strategic thinking in politics but…just…ARRRGH! The time is almost never good, y'know? And sometimes it seems like society doesn't pull it's collective head out until AFTER the laws are passed anyway.

    "I just hope Olsen and Boies know what the Hell they’re doing."- and also this. =(

  4. I personally think there’s a middle ground in terms of practical idealism. You don’t go asking for rights when you have no chance whatsoever of success (or worse, when you have a good chance of it biting you in the ass), but you also don’t sit around and wait for it to be handed to you once you’re near that tipping point.

    And also, you don’t wait for the public to decide. You go for lawmakers. Lawmakers who, if they understand a damned thing about our system of government, know that even if public opinion IS against something, if there’s a human rights issue involved, it gets protected. AKA, no torturing, no matter how much the peasants with pitchforks may demand it.

  5. I feel for my fav Irish comedian. But since I record everything I don’t really know what time shows are on.

    As for same sex up at the Supremes: Only history can tell us when something was done at its most stategically opportune point. History shows us that important civil rights are more often than not won, and are not so much given. Predicting when its the best time to challange existing prejudice is like asking when is the right time to stop cheating on your spouse. There is no good reason not to allow gay marriage in this country right now. Not one reason that isn’t biased by religions opinion. And we are supposed to have a government that does not endorse religion, which also means that religion’s primitive social taboos shouldn’t be used either.

  6. A Different Jess @ 3:

    It’s particularly ARRRGH when the strategerizing boils down to “don’t push your selfish special interest agenda now because it might make it harder for me to make progress on my oh-so-righteous cause. And you don’t want my opponent to win, do you? He’s worse than I am.” Over, and over, and over.

    (Not really like that in this situation, I think, though it was certainly in play when SF Mayor Gavin Newsom began issuing same-sex marriage licenses in 2004 and the 2008 CA Supreme Court case, which triggered Prop 8.)

    But, you know what? Not a new thing. Martin Luther King wrote “Why We Can’t Wait” in response to very much the same reactions during the civil rights movement. It was never the right time or never the right strategy or never the right case or blah blah blah.

  7. Tal@ 5:

    You don’t go asking for rights when you have no chance whatsoever of success (or worse, when you have a good chance of it biting you in the ass), but you also don’t sit around and wait for it to be handed to you once you’re near that tipping point.

    Sure, but it’s rarely a clear choice. There were gay activists shaking in their shoes when the Goodridge case headed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Result: FTW!

    And we by the gods and each other defended that win. And we will again, if necessary.

  8. You don’t go asking for rights when you have no chance whatsoever of success (or worse, when you have a good chance of it biting you in the ass), but you also don’t sit around and wait for it to be handed to you once you’re near that tipping point

    Uh, how do you think it gets ‘near that tipping point’? People asking for rights when they have no chance getting them.

    You don’t think that desegregation happened ’cause a bunch of good old boys just suddenly realized that ‘separate but equal’ was kind of silly, do you?

  9. Speaking of playing PC games instead of watching TV, you should check out Torchlight. I’ve been having lots of fun with it. Great Diablo II clone (they don’t really try to hide it; it is what it is), and since there’s at least 2 years left until Diablo III…

    If you’re into the action pseudo-RPG dungeon crawlers, give it a shot. It was on sale at Steam for $5 last month which was when I picked it up, not sure how much it is now but it’s probably worth it. No multiplayer though; usually I don’t care (playing with the morons who tend to frequent online games is not my idea of fun), but I did have a blast with Diablo II co-op with a friend of mine, so this is one genre where I actually miss it.

    Also, more on topic, Conan is getting screwed. And he’s so much better than Leno too. Is anyone actually on “Team Leno” other than the NBC execs?

  10. Ok. I *seriously* did not read your Tweet re: Team Leno before writing my post. (“Is there actually anyone who is Team Leno? Aside from Leno and a couple of NBC execs?”) However apparently we are in agreement, not only in opinion but in word choice.

  11. I was really surprised by how much a clone Torchlight was of Diablo 2. Spent a while trying to find Deckard Cain so he could id my items.

    Still, there’s something awesome about being able to shoot monsters in the face with double pistols.

  12. I think there needs to be a Team NBC Executives are Dumbasses. They created this situation. Poor Conan. Just read the letter he sent around. Such a class act. He’ll land on his feet.

    I don’t even know what to think about the Prop 8 battle in my home state. I fear that if it does go to the Supreme Court, it won’t be the outcome we all want. I like the “Why We Can’t Wait” response. I’ll have to search for it and read it.

  13. I’m for Team Leno and Team Conan because they are both getting screwed. Leno beat Letterman in the ratings, he was doing just fine, but NBC was going to lose Conan and his desired young viewers if they didn’t give him the Tonight Show, and they’d already seen what happened with Letterman in the same situation. So they asked Leno to step aside in a few years and Leno agreed when he didn’t have to do so. Then they asked him to do a 10:00 show as part of their bold new strategy that everyone and their uncle told them was a bad idea, and Leno agreed.

    And instead of first talking to both of them, and to Fallon, about what was really feasible as a fix and what they wanted, the suits simply announced what they want as the new schedule. And now they’re pulling the legs out from both of them and forcing them to be in opposition to each other when neither of them wanted that. Leno is a decent guy and O’Brien is a decent guy. They’ve made a lot of money for NBC and believed that the network was supporting them. Now they’re screwed.

    I won’t be surprised if Leno steps out of it. I also won’t be surprised if Conan goes to a new network, like Letterman before him. It depends a lot on their contracts and how they decide to play it financially. But Conan’s statement was classy at least. That he had to make such a statement about his own network shows that NBC needs to clean house of its execs once again. Letterman’s commentary on the situation, so like his former one, has been pretty funny.

    As for the court case, I’m heartened that the defense is claiming that what they need is time to see if the experiment of gay marriage works okay (however one could ascertain this,) for society before allowing it in California or elsewhere in the U.S. This is an incredibly weak argument, as is the procreation one. It shows that they believe they’re going to lose, and indeed have been saying as much on the Net. Of course, it is still a high wire act, due to the Supreme Court. But the guy who got Bush elected with the Supreme Court is fighting for gay rights.

    And Obama is the king of rope a dope, no question.

  14. I am on Team Conan. I absolutely detest what Leno did to Letterman. I hear HSN is looking for hosts.

  15. Bearpaw @ 7 WORD

    Political reality/compromise/time to make the sausage/incremental progress. It’s been the same process with every social cause in US history.

    My brain knows, and is sometimes comforted by that stuff. My soul still sort of wants to stab someone in the eyeballs sometimes. That’s generally when I go looking for like-minded souls on the internet.

    Or cats. The cats help, too. =D

  16. I think the person having the best time of the whole NBC debacle is…David Letterman. As in the been there, done that, burned the NBC t-shirts Letterman.

    Letterman was in rare form tonight. His opening comments were priceless, and then he spent more time on it after the first break, giving what I thought was a very even handed overview of the whole situation, thinks everyone’s getting screwed. Letterman’s laying the entire mess on the heads of NBC’s programming dumbasses. Where it belongs…and he’s still poking them even now, well into the hour.

  17. The good news is, if it goes to the Supreme Court, you’ve got four solid “yes”es, and it’s always possible Anthony Kennedy might swing that way. (pun intended.)

    Pleasantly surprised by Obama’s win streak, but he does need to make sure that, in the midst of all his compromising, he can motivate the base, and the best way to do that is to pick a few fights.

  18. I think it’s pretty clear that Conan O’Brien is being totally screwed here. Here’s a guy who did everything he was supposed to do, did nothing wrong, and his now being crapped on because of the incompetence of his bosses.

    That right there is enough to make me want to be on Team Conan.

  19. Greg M. @ 22:

    Pleasantly surprised by Obama’s win streak, but he does need to make sure that, in the midst of all his compromising, he can motivate the base, and the best way to do that is to pick a few fights.

    Absolutely true, and I suspect that’s part of why the special senatorial election in Massachusetts is looking closer than most folks might have predicted.

    Part of the disconnect between Obama’s win streak and public perception of his win/loss ration is due to the pathetic reality of political reporting. And certain amount of the perception of conflict is less John’s “scream a lot, be inflexible and don’t actually get anything done” perception than it is the fact that a few folks have finally found voices that aren’t totally totally drowned out by those in power. (As well as the elevation of some new voices by those in power. Like other forms of advertising, the art of astroturfing continues to mature.)

    But I think at least some of the disconnect is that Obama’s wins mostly have little or nothing to do with what he campaigned on. Picking you battles to win is all well and good, but it’s worth taking stock of whether you’ve actually won anything. Compromising is great, if you actually walk away from the deal with more than you’ve given up. Judging Obama’s score by the number of congressional votes won on issues where he took a position is a pretty shallow measure of either political or practical success.

  20. Re: Torchlight
    My Vanquisher “Bella” with pet named “Edward” was 3rd or fourth level before I realized my mistake. :P

    Re: Obama stealth political victories
    I strongly suspect that part of the winning streak here is not having it seen as a winning streak. The moment the zeitgeist becomes “Obama’s succeeding in his agenda,” his own supporters will become more complacent and his opponents more invigorated.

  21. 24.# Bearpawon 13 Jan 2010 at 9:42 am

    But I think at least some of the disconnect is that Obama’s wins mostly have little or nothing to do with what he campaigned on.

    I think that if you go back and take a look you will find that that is simply not true. Whether you like Obama or not, support him or not, or whether the changes he has introduced turn out to be an improvement or not, he has accomplished several of the objectives that he said he would during his campaign. And he has only been at it for 1 year. And he inherited what is probably one of the top two worst messes this country has ever been in. If you want the data then check out Rachael Maddow’s site. Her show last night had a good bit of recently compiled data about just this issue. I think that our mostly biased, and or incompetent, and or corrupt major news outlets are largely to blame for the fact that a large minority of americans have no clue, regardless of what they think they know, of what the Obama administration has actually done. You have to actively search to find accurate data.

    On the gay marriage thing, I have been surprised at some of the people (not necessarily here on this site, on the internet as a whole) who have commented along the lines of “I think gay marriage is fine, but I think your tactics are too direct”. Or “now is not the best time”. Or “try being more polite”. I think that many people, even “good” people, just do not understand how vile something is unless it directly impacts them personally, or if it includes highly visible blood and gore. Why should any people wait one second longer to fight for the same basic human rights that everyone else is granted? Why in hell should any people be polite or accomodating in any way to the sanctimonious deluded pricks that work so hard to take their rights away? This issue is completely turned around from what it should be. Gay people should not be fighting for their rights. The people that are acting to deny gay people their rights should be fighting to keep themselves from being fined and or thrown in jail.

  22. 1) Olsen is actually a damn fine litigator, there are few folks who could do as well with this case.

    2) If they loose, it’s not going to the SCOTUS regardless, because the issue at hand is California Constitutional law, not US.

    3) I still think it’s bad strategically to try to do this through the courts. In the long term a victory via referendum (which I think is very doable in either 2010 or 2012) would do far more to convince folks of the justness of the cause.

  23. Darrell E: “The people that are acting to deny gay people their rights should be fighting to keep themselves from being fined and or thrown in jail.”

    No, free speech must reign. It’s apathy that is the big problem, as you hit the nail on the head. The majority of the citizenship are either for gay marriage or certainly don’t care enough to oppose it for their fellow citizens. But an organized and well funded minority, supported by several big churches who are anti-Constitutionalists to start with, can get the votes out, get their politicians in office, get discriminatory legislation passed, and fight long years in court. And we’re letting them.

    I don’t know if this is a good time or not, if the lawsuit is a good idea or not, but then again, I wasn’t sure Obama was going to get elected either. Maybe this will be the game changer. If it goes to the Supreme Court and the court rules against it, that doesn’t stop the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and it doesn’t force states from allowing gay marriage. The battle will go on.

  24. Can we all agree that the first person to post whining about ‘judicial activism’ and ‘this should be done through the ballot box and not by court fiat’ needs to be stabbed in the face and THEN sent back to sit through Con Law I? Thank you.

    On the Prop 8 trial; a big part of the issue was not as much the timing as the way it was gone about. There were and are a lot of groups fighting for same-sex marriage and trying to work out timing, planning, approaches to other things that were going on (like getting Prop 8 repealed through a referendum), and suddenly Ted “Mr. Big Shot Lawyer and Conservative Go-To-Guy” Olsen et al swoop in and tell everybody wow, nice of you all to work your fingers to the bone and that, but we’re going to do what we want, get on board or get out of the way.

    So there was an awful lot of suspicion that Olsen et al were actually doing to this as part of an agenda to kill same-sex marriage, and get SCOTUS to shut it down right here and now, before those pesky queers actually got some momentum going at the grassroots level. That seems to have been alleviated, but I admit that I’m in the camp that thinks this is more about Olsen’s ego than about a genuine and sudden commitment to same-sex marriage. It’s an intellectual exercise for him, after all; it’s not like he has a husband.

    That said: he and Boies are extremely intelligent and talented attorneys and if anyone can argue this successfully, they can.

  25. 28.# KatGon 13 Jan 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Darrell E: “The people that are acting to deny gay people their rights should be fighting to keep themselves from being fined and or thrown in jail.”

    No, free speech must reign.

    I agree, and I have no wish to curtail any person’s right to free speech. I was refering to people that are “acting” to deny other people their rights. For example a person picketing a gay pride parade with a sign saying “God Hates Gays!” is okay. Revolting, but not near as bad as not having the right of free speech. Contrast that with the mormon church which spent millions of dollars, and performed many technically illegal acts along the way, in order to influence legislation, and the votes on gay marriage legislation in two states last year. These people were acting to deny rights to others, as in to take away preexisting rights that were previously deemed to be due to all people in this country. The mormon church’s actions went a good ways beyond free speech. One of our big ideas in this country was supposed to be equality before the law. When people act to deny that to others they should be spanked.

    Based on your whole post I would say that our thinking on these issues is pretty close together. I just wanted to comment on the misinterpretation that I want to take anyone’s free speech rights away.

  26. “Can we all agree that the first person to post whining about ‘judicial activism’ and ‘this should be done through the ballot box and not by court fiat’ needs to be stabbed in the face and THEN sent back to sit through Con Law I? Thank you”

    I agree, as long as the stabbing is done in a nice way. No long gashes, just nice, neat ice-picky kinda stabs.

    I still think we should have voted on that whole slavery thing. After all, we all know how smart humans are en masse.

  27. Darrell E @ 26:

    I’ve not only looked beyond what the new media reports on such things, I’ve looked beyond what the WH and Dem spokescritters report on such things. When I actually look at the results, I see a very thin layer of progress spread over piles of status quo.

  28. NJ waited for the right time for marriage equality and they got the shaft thanks to Corzine. Now they get Chris Christie who has vowed to veto any marriage equality bill to pass his desk.

    There is no such thing as waiting for the right time. Take your opportunities when they present themselves. We have a conservative Republican lawyer fighting this battle. That in itself is a powerful statement. And then there is this…
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/229957
    He makes a very good case.

  29. Darrell: Did not mean to imply you were knocking free speech. Totally just wailing on my own frustration. We are in agreement on the Mormon church (which does not include all people who are Mormons.) And I always sympathize with Mythago, but I think John will not go for the stabbing.

    Bearpaw — I disagree. Obama has been handed a lot of bad deals and he’s had to let a lot of them stand while he worked on other areas. And he does not have control of Congress, the House or the Senate. He has to bargain, threaten, cajole, and back down with them to get anything through. And he’s really brilliant at it. A lot of stuff has been sneaked through while we were all watching the wailing on healthcare. He’s got an excellent working relationship going with the military (and let me tell you, Bush did not.) And once healthcare is passed — which will take several more months — there will be more results.

    But it will be slow, because if it’s not slow, it won’t happen because our system is screwed up. Bad deals with evil entities will be necessary to get any aid at all for Main St. Republicans will take back some seats, even as their party falls apart. There will be little in the way of dramatics or horse charging from the White House. Obama’s two great strategies are rope a dope and undermining the trenches sneakily, and with a few setbacks, they’ve been working, from Iran to the car industry.

  30. I guess it makes me way contrarian here, but I gotta stick up for poor Jay.

    First, the quality of NBC management has, indeed, deteriorated catastrophically in the 18 years since Jay replaced Johnny at ‘Tonight.’ The quality of the now-departed Suits is illustrated adequately by noting that they overruled Johnny’s personal preference and gave ‘Tonight’ to Jay rather than Dave. In fairly short order, Jay was beating Dave in the ratings like a bass drum and continued to do so right up until he was forced to walk the plank by the current gang of NBC idiots.

    In between, a lot of those same idiots did a deal that promised Conan Jay’s job. It was cheeky of Conan to ask and even cheekier of the NBC Suits to agree to fork it over. Jay had been making said Suits quite rich for well over a decade at that point. For apparently assuming he couldn’t keep running his streak indefinitely, someone should have put the same question to The Suits that Jay had memorably put to Hugh Grant a few years previous – “What the HELL were you thinking!”

    So, no, I don’t hold Conan blameless here. What would we think, retrospectively, of either Jay or Dave if one of them had tried doing a deal in 1986 that required NBC to unceremoniously dump Johnny in 1992? But it’s Jay, not Johnny, so that’s alright then? Conan demonstrated an unpleasantly excessive self-regard by making the original demand six years ago. But show people are often given to fits of excessive self-regard. One job of The Suits, in such circumstances, is to try to exercise some semblance of adult supervision. No such luck this time. What a wretched mess.

  31. Mark @27:

    2) If they loose, it’s not going to the SCOTUS regardless, because the issue at hand is California Constitutional law, not US.

    It’s in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, so it very much is a Federal case. (PS: that’s one-O lose.)

    3) I still think it’s bad strategically to try to do this through the courts. In the long term a victory via referendum (which I think is very doable in either 2010 or 2012) would do far more to convince folks of the justness of the cause.

    Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, KS would like a few words with you.

    I am sick of being told my civil rights should be based on the results of a popular vote. My right to marry whom I love is NOT a goddamned American Idol contest.

  32. Blue Raven: “My right to marry whom I love is NOT a goddamned American Idol contest.”

    That may be my favorite line of the entire gay rights movement. :)

  33. Civil Rights+Popular Vote=Justice .. Fail

    It wouldn’t be a civil rights issue if it were popularly accepted. And I’d like to second the nomination for Best Line of the Entire Gay Rights Movement.

  34. It’s in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals

    Well, not yet. That’s the next stop, but right now it’s a bench trial in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, which is a fussy way of saying it’s in federal court in the San Francisco courthouse. I keep thinking I’ll go watch part of the trial now that the initial publicity has died down, and then I realized listening to the sanctimonious pro-bigotry folks will just increase my blood pressure.

  35. RE: referendum on denial of equal rights for some.
    There was a poll compilation floating around somewhere that showed that it wasn’t until 1982 that a majority of Americans thought mixed race marriages were ok. Thats about 30 years after the SCOTUS ruled for integrated schools, almost 20 years after the Votings Right Act, and about 15 years after the SCOTUS struck down state laws outlawing mixed race marriages.
    The sad difference is that the SCOTUS of those times was interested in expanding rights and the Johnson administration was to.
    Neither condition exists now.
    But resistance is never futile and sometimes losses in one area can galvanize support in another one. If gay marriage equality losses before the SCOTUS, it could be the tipping point for legislative action.
    One could hope…
    As for Obama’s legislative record:
    http://openleft.com/diary/16955/efficiency-vs-effectiveness
    read it and weep for what we supposedly should be cheering on.

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