Newt Gingrich’s college lecture: Bail-outs, stumping for McCain, and why Obama is wrong to be a “citizen of the world”

September 25, 2008

FROM JASON’S JOB — “Hi. I’m Newt.”

And there he was, shaking my hand. I looked him in the eye. He looked me back. I don’t think he was very impressed.

I was.

The man gripping my hand Wednesday was a legend. Some people hate him. Some people love him. But he was still Newt Gingrich, in the flesh, trademark white mop and all.

The former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives carried himself with a confidence indifferent to my opinion. But he smiled, and in the smile I could see a solid half-century of handling — handling the economy, handling to his own party members, handling heads of state, dissenters, reporters like me.

I don’t agree with his politics, not since the Republican Party abandoned the ones that count in favor of fear-mongering and social discrimination. But before our handshake ended I realized I was no match for “Hi. I’m Newt.”

Here was a man who authored the Contract with America, was Time magazine’s Man of the Year, bullied Ronald Reagan’s campaign as a freshman Congressman, led the movement that end with Bill Clinton’s impeachment, browbeat the Republican machine into order, and stood third in order for presidential succession.

Here was a man I respected on so many fiscal issues: Limiting the size of government, eliminating waste, cutting taxes, implementing tort reform, fixing the welfare system, giving tax credits for children, repealing the marriage tax, instituting “loser pays” laws. These were good ideas — it’s just too bad that spending under the provisions of the Contract with America increased spending 13 percent.

Here was the man who ran roughshod over House rules, described as “reckless” by Ethics Committee investigators, who was sanctioned and eventually was forced to resign from one of the nation’s most powerful posts by a cabal of his own Republicans.

And here was a man who got down to business as he took a seat in front of some dozen reporters and photographers, stumping for Sen. John McCain while mocking President George W. Bush.

Gingrich’s agenda for the night was to lecture at Oberlin College — a liberal stronghold in a liberal county in the battleground state of Ohio. During a 20-minute press window before the lecture, he told me how glad he was that the Bush-backed Paulson plan for a $700 billion banking industry bail-out was on the rocks.

(I suppose he told all the reporters this, not just me. If you want to count those other guys, go ahead.)

He railed at Sen. Barack Obama for having the solid brass cajones — how dare he! — to want to move ahead with Friday’s presidential debate at the University of Mississippi. He suggested that the debate should play second chair to the banking crisis, which McCain had “rushed to Washington” to solve.

Except that McCain didn’t rush to Washington — he rushed to CBS News to talk to Katie Couric about it. Nothing like a little face time.

Gingrich praised Obama as being the”best political speaker since Ronald Reagan” and “tactically the best politician in the country today.” But coupled with the compliments was a bizarre accusation that I can’t fathom; the former speaker’s most incisive declaration against Obama was his summer trip to Germany, where Obama spoke to a crowd of 200,000.

The problem? Obama told the Germans he was a “citizen of the world.” Gingrich said Obama should know better — he’s a citizen of the United States, not the world.

With respect, I think Gingrich needs to learn about subsets. The U.S. is part of the world, and any responsible leader should consider the impact his actions have on the world stage. That’s something that Bush has not done in all his arrogance over the past eight years; it’s a subtlety that employed by Obama could restore America’s global credibility and reverse our image as a nation of cowboys.

“Do you really want someone as president who thinks he’s a citizen of the world?” Gingrich asked an audience of 1,200 later in the evening.

In the midst of that crowd, I lost my journalistic cool for a moment. Normally, I keep my mouth clamped shut and my pen scribbling while reporting. But this time an involuntary and slightly loud “yes” jumped past my lips.

But “Hi. I’m Newt” didn’t share that opinion. In his lecture later in the evening, he harped again at Obama’s “horrid” claim that the U.S. is part of a larger picture. The complaints didn’t end there, though. He said Obama should never have gone to Germany — that the presidential campaign should stay in America since it will be decided by Americans. He said it was presumptuous for Obama to tour as though he were already president and not simply a senator.

I disagree. I want a president who earns respect, who can build a real Coalition of the WIlling with words instead of weapons. Allies are only allies if you hold their hearts and minds — which is something lacking in the so-called Coalition in Iraq. The same Iraq where Gingrich’s candidate wants to stay as an occupying force for the next century.

I walked away from the lecture with certain phrases from the departing crowd ringing in my ears: They were talking about Gingrich’s succinct delivery, his obviously masterful analysis of the political scene. They were saying how here was a Republican whose mind was sharp and whose experience was to be lauded.

But they were saying he was still wrong. Dead wrong.

Desktop hacks give me the best that XP, OSX, and Ubuntu could offer

September 23, 2008

FROM JASON’S REPRESSED ARTIST PERSONA — I’ve been toying endlessly with my Windows XP desktop lately, getting rid of the WinDross that’s irritated me for years.

Now, I like a lot of things about Windows. And I like a lot of things about OSX. And I hate a lot of things about both. So I was looking for a happy medium.

What I found were a lot of third-party apps and registry hacks that let me have the best of each OS’ desktop.

First, I installed DeskSpace, a Win32 application that replicates the Ubuntu desktop.

Holding a hotkey and dragging the mouse lets you switch between six desktops, each with its own shortcuts, wallpapers, and applications. It’s not really necessary in the least, unless you want to have Photoshop running on one desktop and then click over to another for web browsing or iTunes.

It’s also helpful for quickly hiding your screen from your wife or boss (sometimes they’re the same) if you’re Christmas or anniversary shopping. Not looking at pr0n. Nope, not that. Never.

But more than anything else, it’s a way to use lots of wallpapers at the same time and switch effortlessly between them.

Our forum friend Sonic from the Geeknights forum shows you how it works:

Next, I co-opted OSX’s launchbar by installing RK Launcher. I have since switched over to RocketDock, which lacks a few features but excels at using docklets (widgets) that make life a lot easier. Those include clocks, weather reports, and menu stacking right on the launch bar.

You’ll notice that’s not the standard XP color and style scheme on the taskbar. I used UXPatcher to crack the Plus! protection for *.msstyles files. (TIP: Once you run the patcher, run it again to enable the patch.) Then I could get skins without having to use another memory hog like Windows Blinds.

Next, I went in search of great wallpaper, but I didn’t want to trawl 4chan until my brain ‘sploded. So I took a clue from another forumite, Dkong1026, who suggested 4scrape. It indexes image boards and delivers lots of wallpapers quickly. There’s no real way to search it — just keep hitting F5 until you see what you want — but bulk wins in this case.

Watch out for the pornography, if you care about such trivial things.

You god-damned prude.

At this point, I started incorporating widgets onto the desktop, both for asthetic and functional reasons. I’m using Yahoo! Widgets here, but Google has a similar service, and third-party programs often do the same thing.

These customizable ones I’m using show hard drive, RAM, and CPU usage, let me control the system volume, and give me an iTunes remote control/cover art viewer. They can be independently anchored on the desktop and come with a bunch of options.

There was still more to be done, though. I’ve always disliked the taskbar, and using its autohide function just wasn’t cutting it. The damned thing kept popping up on mouseover and getting in the way, so I hunted for a reg hack to remove it completely and found KaneBT to do it for me.

Now I have a nice, clean, functional desktop customized to my needs:

How nice is that? There’s absolutely nothing I like better than a perfectly organized system without a bunch of icon clutter. It’s all streamlined, which looks better and saves me time.

Terminator season premier: Stop, or my robot will shoot!

September 8, 2008


FROM JASON’S NIGHT OFF — Sarah Connor Chronicles is back tonight for the start of season two, and we have some answers and some new intrigue.

There’s a T-1000 on the loose, and it’s not Robert Patrick. But she’s got some of the same tricks.

Let’s start at the beginning, which is to say the ending of season one. Cameron (Summer Glau) the friendly Terminatrix was ‘sploded by a car bomb. Guess what? She’s not dead.

Did anyone think Glau would be killed so easily? I mean, the whole show is about the “is-the-Terminator-a-human-too” premise. Plus, she brings geek cred and hottie appeal to the show (not to diminish how incredible looking Lena Headey is).

The big twist — using an old writing ploy — is that the explosion gave Cameron some programming damage. Now she’s malfunctioning and set on terminating John Connor. Like we didn’t see that coming. It’s the sci-fi equivalent of the old hypnosis device. Or KIT getting hacked on the old Knight Rider.

But Sarah Connor Chronicles has a knack for taking worn-out tropes and making them work. It’s not so much that the writers are breathing anything new into the formula, it’s more that they’re just making you care about the characters enough that you don’t care about the set-up. It’s very Buffy the Vampire Slayer that way.

The bulk of the show is a chase. Cameron (this is priceless) staples her skin back to her face and tracks the Connors’ blood to a church, then uses her iron fist to end an SUV getaway.

Three-quarters into the episode we come to the crux of the whole show. John finds a way to disable Cameron, and to stop him, she yells that she loves him. It’s clear that he loves her, too — which brings up some weird man-machine love questions. I’m sure they’ll be explored. He reprograms her and Homer holds his 300th weekly “Everything is Back to Normal” barbecue.

By the way, it seems Cromartie left Agent Allison alive in hopes that he’ll beat a path to Sarah and John. They have a nice little talk about it.

Meanwhile, Garbage lead singer (you remember that band? Only Happy When It Rains? Stupid Girl? When I Grow Up?) Shirley Manson joins the cast. She’s running the company that hired a bounty hunter to find and steal the Turk, the chess computer that will give rise to SkyNet.

She’s a shape-shifting, mercurial T-1000. She finger-knifes a mouthy employee in the forehead in her reveal as another big Terminator baddie, bringing the total number of machines sent back to the past up to 237. Want to place bets on whether she’ll be in an epic showdown with the Connors in the season finale? Time will tell, unless somebody travels back in it and sparks an alternate timeline. It’s been done before.