Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

What Tina Brown Taught Donald Trump

My theory on the connection between Donald Trump and Tina Brown. Seriously. Let me explain.

Donald Trump currently leads the Republican Party's primary presidential polls. People keep expressing surprise that he can hold that much popularity, despite his sometimes outrageous behavior and his straying from Republican conservative ultra-orthodoxy. But it's not that surprising, if you think about it.

Anyone else here old enough to remember when Tina Brown was editor of The New Yorker? When she took the reins of that legendary beast, some people were aghast—barbarians at the gate and all of that. She then proceeded to make changes to one of the most conservative (in terms of not changing) magazines in the entire country. New layouts, new sections, new types of articles, new contributors, new attitudes, and so on. People were impressed or nonplussed or angered, but the magazine went on. Eventually Tina Brown went on, too, to other jobs and others took the reins at The New Yorker. They were able to continue making changes, and the magazine is the better for it. It's an excellent publication, year after year. What Tina Brown might most be remembered for at the magazine is that she showed you COULD change it without destroying it.

For far too long, far too many GOP politicians at all levels have been terrified about touching certain third rails in the subway of politics. Raise taxes on the rich? Perish the thought. Gay marriage? WWJD! And so on. Trump has broken both of those taboos, plus others, and though many people are outraged or upset or nonplussed, he has shown that it can be done and it's not the Republican political kiss of death. Yes, he was able to do it because he's self-funded, but he has still pointed out that the GOP voter's emperor has no clothes, if you get the point, and I think we'll see other candidates in future years continue to break political taboos.

I'm not a Trump fan. Far from it. (Team Hillary Clinton 2016!!!) But I do find it interesting to watch what Trump is doing to the Republican Party that could be good for the party and the country itself, freeing it from a stifling policy conformism that hasn't been seen since the Comintern disbanded.

Maybe that will counterbalance to some small degree the damage Trump has done with his insulting racial and sexual comments.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Tonight's Hugo Awards Are World Famous

The Hugo Awards are being given out tonight. And it's a big controversy — one that has the Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, and other non-genre pubs writing about it. See what the controversy is in my latest digital science fiction/science magazine, Galaxis. See page 16.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It's Out! Galaxis #5

The latest edition of my little digital free magazined devoted to science and science fiction is now out.

It's Galaxis #5, and it's a special science-fiction television preview issue, with a roundup of upcoming genre shows—Foundation, The X-Files, and more. We've also got an interview with author David Gerrold, a portfolio of Mandelbrot art, a report on the Hugos controversy, seasons 2 and 3 of our Star Trek: The Next Generation episode guide, and much more, including our big reviews section.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Much Trumpage and More in Week to Week Political Roundtable

My recent Week to Week political roundtable at The Commonwealth Club of California, featuring panelists Daniel Borenstein, Josh Richman, and Debra J. Saunders.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Hillary Clinton on Charleston

The former U.S. secretary of state and current Democratic presidential candidate made these remarks this week:

As a mother, a grandmother, and a human being, my heart is bursting for the people of Charleston. 
Once again, bodies are being carried out of a black church. Once again, racist rhetoric has metastasized into racist violence.  
This is a history we wanted so desperately to leave behind, but we can’t hide from hard truths about race and justice in America. We have to name them, own them, and ultimately change them.  
In America today, blacks are nearly three times as likely as whites to be denied a mortgage. Our schools are more segregated than they were in the 1960s. Black children are 500 percent more likely to die from asthma than white kids -- how can that be true?  
We must address these issues as a nation, and we must also address them as individuals. Cruel jokes can’t go unchallenged, offhand comments about not wanting “those people” in the neighborhood can’t be ignored, and news reports about poverty and crime and discrimination can’t just evoke our sympathy -- even empathy -- they must also spur us to action and prompt us to question our own assumptions and privilege. 
We have to embrace the humanity of those around us, no matter what they look like, how they worship, or who they love. Most of all, we have to teach our children to embrace that humanity, too. 
As all of us reeled from the news in Charleston; a friend of mine shared his reflection on the hearts and values of those men and women at Mother Emanuel: “A dozen people gathered to pray. They’re in their most intimate of communities and a stranger who doesn’t look or dress like them joins in. They don’t judge, they just welcome. During their last hour, nine people of faith welcomed a stranger in prayer and fellowship.” 
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” 
That’s humanity at its best. That’s America at its best. And that’s the spirit we need to nurture in our lives and our families and our communities. 
Thank you, 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

VIDEO: Pre-election Political Roundtable

Featuring a panel of Debra J. Saunders, Josh Richman, and Dr. Tammy Frisby.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Remembering Joe Shattan — and What I Learned About Him from His Office

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Public domain photo)

Former Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney speechwriter Joe Shattan died this past summer. I'm late in hearing about it (it happened in early June), but I would like to share some memories I have of him.

"What? John, you know a Quayle/Cheney speechwriter?" Yes, in the summer of 1990, I had an internship in the Office of the Vice President of the United States. Of America. It was thanks to the Institute for Educational Affairs (an organization that I think continues today under a different name).

Anyway, I was assigned to work with Zelda Novak (daughter of the "Prince of Darkness" conservative columnist Robert Novak), and I spent the summer doing pretty useless work in appropriate obscurity. But on the other side of my desk (stuffed in a cubby hole) was the office of Joseph Shattan, who was often traveling with the VP and who allowed me to spend my lunch hours in his office when he wasn't there. I never got to know him well or much at all, but I did get a good sense of him during those lunch hours, and you can see why.

I'm from Green Bay, Wisconsin. If you're a Green Bay person and there exists a photo of you with a Packer player, you've got it framed on your walls, and probably in a prominent place. In Washington, D.C., people are the same way about big politicians, and usually their desks and walls are covered with framed photos of them shaking hands with or at least photobombing presidents, vice presidents, senators, governors, and representatives.

But Joe Shattan? In his quiet, neat, book-filled office, he had plenty of photos, but they were of him and his family. Wife. Kids. I saw all those and didn't see the other celebrity-suck-up photos, and thought to myself, "This guy has his priorities right. Good guy."

When I stumbled across the news today that he had passed away (on June 8, 2014, at the young age of 63, felled by cancer), I found a couple things that reminded me of my fondness for this person. First, other people were writing about what a kind and genuine person he was — not something you generally associate with political people, especially conservative political functionaries who spent decades in government.

The other thing was a link to an article Shattan had written in 2009, in which he remembered how much he loved visiting the library in the Old Executive Office Building (a large old building next to the White House where the vice president has his office and staff). Shattan, a writer and clearly a book lover, really enjoyed going to the library, taking in the atmosphere of books and busy librarians and available information in that pre-internet age. Back then, I hadn't known about his joy for that library, but I had also enjoyed escaping to it when my useless tasks allowed. I can still remember that library well, with its beautiful columns and spiral staircases and awesome collections of books. I especially recall the corner where I dug through countless old copies of The New York Review of Books. It was the summer in which I had just discovered John Updike and Philip Roth, so I loved searching for old reviews of their books. The library was the one room in the Old Executive Office Building (now known as the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) that had the same nice vibe as Joe Shattan's office.

I never knew Joe Shattan well, but I apparently knew him well enough to know that this book-loving intellectual whose politics were quite different from what mine became was a good man. I'm very sorry to hear about his passing. R.I.P.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Airbnb Plays Ball

From the latest Marina Times:

Airbnb goes legit?
Home-sharing service begins collecting mandated hotel tax as city clarifies regulation

Short-term residential rental companies such as Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway might be the biggest disruption to hit the real estate market since public online listings took away the Realtors’ MLS exclusivity. But recent developments in San Francisco show that both regulators and the new market entrants are learning to work with each other.

David Owen, Airbnb’s regional head of public policy, announced in late September that beginning in October ...