Friday, December 31, 2004

File Under "This Oughta Piss Ya Off"

In the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Inspector General is charged with the job of keeping the rest of the Department honest, fiscally and operationally. Clark Kent Ervin took the task very seriously, pointing out where the Department fell short. He called the TSA to task for spending half a million of our tax dollars on an employee party, while not necessarily making airport security better. He published reports that criticized the Border Patrol for huge gaps along the Mexican border. In the past year, he has developed a reputation among both Republicans and Democrats as a diligent and decent public servant.

So, naturally, Bush fired him.

Theodicy 101

The tsunami disaster is rapidly approaching a point of diminishing returns in terms of our ability to comprehend it. By the time this is said and done, the dead- whether from the wave itself, or from the plagues and famine likely to follow- will be in the hundreds of thousands. September 11th, heretofore the largest scale disaster I had ever witnessed (via TV, anyway) was miniscule in comaprison. But this is unfathomable. One second, Banda Aceh was. One second later, Banda Aceh was not.

Some people blame God (at least, when it affects other people). (Curiously, some people blame Clinton.) God does not cause earthquakes, nor tsunamis, nor drunk drivers who run school buses off the road, nor the reelection of warmongering Texans. God does not participate in the daily monotony of commuting to work, nor of the sex lives of Starbucks baristas, nor of the tectonic motion of the Pacific plate. This is probably a Deistic attitude, and (despite the assertions of Red Staters) it was the prevalent theology in my country at the Founding.

My wife, who does not believe in God, frequently asks me why I do believe. Let me explain something- I was raised in The Church, meaning the Roman Catholic Church, but I realized some time ago that I didn't really belong there. I experimented with Wicca, and found many great things there. I flirted with Bhuddism- and I definitely found much in its philosophy that inspired me. But when I need church, it has to be a catholic (note small c) church, preferably the Episcopalians (who recite the Mass without any of the other horseshit I find so distasteful about Catholicism). As a catholic, I place no greater emphasis on Jesus than I do on God- that's an Evangelical thing.

More than any other Christian worship system, catholicism permits a certain amount of theological exploration. It is, at its heart, a thinking person's church (although most of the rank and file attend more out of obligation than deep conviction). The church that gave us Augustine and Aquinas surely wants an engaged congregation.

None of which explains why I believe, but the framework is necessary. God exists in pi, in Avogadro's Number, in the Golden Ratio. God exists in the Big Bang, in evolution, in poetry, in the Japanese alphabet, in the curveball, in the Lotus 7, in the First Amendment. Where some people human works, or scientific laws- I see God. I believe in God because I sense Him/Her/It everywhere I look.

I do not, however, expect God to give a rat's ass about me, or George W. Bush, or whether the Steelers win the Superbowl, or whether Banda Aceh exists or not. For one thing- God is not a person. God has no will; God neither creates nor destroys. God is- to use computer terminology- the operating system. Without the OS running in the background, the machine can do nothing. And even with the OS running, sometimes the machine will crash.

This philosophy bears no resemblance to the Catholicism of my youth, nor even of the catholicism I profess to practice (a rare occasion, it only occurs when I need a sense of the divine). It is much closer to the Buddhism or Wicca that I toyed with over the years- neither of which fits with my sense of "worship." Then again, who says that "worship" and "belief" are necessarily synonymous. There is no one true faith, as if Mormons were saved and Lutherans bound for hell (not that I believe in heaven and hell, either).

God bears no responsibility for this tragedy. The ground shifted, causing the ocean to swell. Scientifically speaking, it's not much different from the ripple left by a stone thrown in a pond, just bigger. This is little comfort to those who've lost people, or homes, or even entire cities. Let me ask you this- if God held a press conference, and announced that, yes, He caused the waves, and He was really, really sorry about it, would that be comforting to those people? I suspect not.

I once asked my wife why she did not believe, and she said, "Because I prayed for good things, and nothing happened." I replied, "What right do you have to ask God for anything in particular?" When I pray, it's little more than a short thank you for all that I have, and all that I do not have. So do not blame God, if for no other reason than it will get nothing accomplished when so much needs to be done.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Happy Hope Day!

My nephew called me tonight- well, actually his mother called me, but... whatever- to let me know about a new holiday he invented. He wished me a Happy Hope Day, and when I wished him a Happy Hope Day, I heard him scream with delight as he turned to his mother and told her, "He said it!"

I like the idea of Hope Day. Ever since Election Day, everyone I know who cares at all about the state of the world has been filled despair. We could use some hope right now, staring down the barrel of four more years of Texas oppression.

Then I subscribed to Salon. After the better part of a year of sitting through insufferable interstitial ads, $35 seemed like a bargain. (Plus they threw in full subscriptions to a number of print mags, one of which I even read!) In any event, I began to feel refreshed and emboldened- there are people out there like me, who feel like they don't have a say in the way things will be done for the foreseeable future. Who will do something about it.

Then Zach called to wish me Happy Hope Day. New years provide new opportunities for change. If I make a small one with me, I've done all I can.

So I wish you all Happy Hope Day, and a Happy New Year too.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Morning Roundup

I'm home today, nursing a cold that has left me without a voice- speech is a necessary skill for lawyers, y'know- so I have abit of an opportunity to do a full rundown of the days events again.

File Under "Maybe They Can Count The Ballots From Ohio Now" It would seem that the largest Sunni party in Iraq has decided to take a pass on the upcoming elections. No big deal, just the credibility of our hand picked puppet is at stake! Forgive me if I seem somewhat incredulous that these elections will be anything other than a PR stunt. If the White House wants the world to take the elections seriously, they'd poison somebody.

Speaking Of Which The loser in the Ukraine debacle vows to go to court. Speculation is that Antonin Scalia will storm the chamber with a flurry of sarcastic dissents.

File Under "Can I Apply?" Apparently, tonight is the deadline for refugees to seek asylum in Canada. I think if I started driving now, I could make it to Niagara Falls in time for LOTR. I could even buy a Smart!

An Excellent Piece A story I missed for the better part of a week turned out to be the most wonderful piece of true journalism I've read in some time. AlterNet reports on the UCC commercial flap. As you might recall, NBC and CBS refused to run an ad for the United Church of Christ which implied that they don't turn anyone away. Including (if you can infer from two men holding hands) gay people. Imagine the moral indignation that a church should be able to let someone know that they don't think you're perverse. The real flap is not, of course, a matter of membership policy, but rather the split between literal and metaphorical thinking- as if Christ actually turned a couple of loaves and fish into a literal feast, or whether one may find "nourishment" in His company.

I am a believer, but I am not a Believer. I don't subscribe to the One True Faith meme. In fact, my most religious experiences have always occurred on the golfcourse, and not in church. That I was raised in a joyless Catholic diocesan parish (as opposed to a parish run by an order, who usually have a different take on spirituality) readily explains why I am standoffish toward blind faith. But if the President can go on TV and make a pitch why gays and lesbians do not deserve equality, a small Blue State church should be able to make a pitch why they do, at least at their own altar.

E.J. Dionne Gracious- Didn't He Get The Memo? Finally, Post columnist E.J. Dionne replied to his hate mail from the past year with a wink and a nod; a no hard feelings pat on the back; and a bit of humour (see, I could live in Canada!!!).

Monday, December 27, 2004

File Under, "Oh Sweet Jesus"

Nothing snarky tonight- just prayers for the victims of the tsunamis. The devastation is unreal- not quite as surreal as 9/11 for want of video and proximity, but perhaps harder to digest in the long run. It may come to pass that the fallen will have it easier.

Godspeed, fellow humans, rest well.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

This is not an actual post. I am testing new editing software. News to come tomorrow.

Peace out.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Happy Holidays!

Nothing newsy to report today, just holiday wishes for you and yours! I hope everyone's Christmas was nice as mine- my wife got some bling, and I got an iBook (which is like bling for guys). I also got a rare, microdistilled whiskey from Oregon- made from imported Scottish peated barley (if it was distilled in Scotland, it would have been Scotch). Regrettably, it also burned like a yule log- only aged three years, it was decidedly not smooth. Oh well, pricey whiskey relegated to a life of sour mix.

Anyway, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Rummy in Iraq- Oddly Flashes Peace Sign

Rummy made a surprise visit to Iraq, "to thank the troops and wish them a Merry Christmas."

And to make himself seem a little more human, and sensitive, and maybe even not a total sonofabitch. But then again, you go to war with the SoD you have, not the one you might wish to have.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Shouldn't The Liberal Media Be All Over This?

Wonkette reports that a Republican staffer in the House was arrested recently... for trying to steal a plasma screen TV from a hearing room. Okay, maybe staffer is downplaying it a little- emails circulating the Hill say that the culprit was the Chief Economist on the Small Business Committee.

Actually, it makes me feel better to know that this guy was working for us, the American people. As an economist, he is a unique position to understand that "free" is preferable to "not free."

As an aside, take note of the story immediately preceding the TV thief. Yup that is Loretta Sanchez lookin' oddly hot. Hmmmmmm. Smokin'........

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I Thought "Negotiating With Yourself" Meant Something Else?

The President held a press conference yesterday, in which he managed not to confer with the press. He adroitly passed the buck to a number of underlings on a number of topics-
  • On Social Security: Now, the temptation is going to be, by well-meaning people such as yourself, John, and others here, as we run up to the issue to get me to negotiate with myself in public; to say, you know, what's this mean, Mr. President, what's that mean. I'm not going to do that. I don't get to write the law. I will propose a solution at the appropriate time, but the law will be written in the halls of Congress.... Don't bother to ask me. Or you can ask me. I shouldn't—I can't tell you what to ask. It's not the holiday spirit.
  • On Bernard Kerik: We've vetted a lot of people in this administration. We vetted people in the first, we're vetting people in the second term, and I've got great confidence in our vetting process. And so the lessons learned is [sic], continue to vet and ask good questions and get these candidates, the prospective nominees, to understand what we expect a candidate will face during a background check -- FBI background check, as well as congressional hearings.
  • On Rumsfeld (on personal offense at not having personally letters of condolence): Listen, I know how -- I know Secretary Rumsfeld's heart. I know how much he cares for the troops. He and his wife go out to Walter Reed in Bethesda all the time to provide comfort and solace. I have seen the anguish in his -- or heard the anguish in his voice and seen his eyes when we talk about the danger in Iraq, and the fact that youngsters are over there in harm's way. And he is -- he's a good, decent man. He's a caring fellow. Sometimes perhaps is demeanor is rough and gruff, but beneath that rough and gruff, no-nonsense demeanor is a good human being who cares deeply about the military, and deeply about the grief that war causes.

What emerges from all this, of course, is the simple truth that the President doesn't like being called to the carpet. To a man who believes that disagreement is disloyalty, however, that should be self-evident. I am at a loss for words every time I see or hear this simpleton speak. And then I think of Churchill, who said that democracies get the governments they deserve.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Long Absence---

So Sorry, there has been a lot going on in my personal life that required my attention. In my defense, there has not been much political news of late, if you don't count Kerikgate.

On another note- I am tired of attaching "-gate" to the end of any political scandal. I believe we should instead use the suffix "-pot Dome." Kerikpot Dome. Nice.

Very briefly, as I have to buy a tree today (personally, I want us to get an artificial tree, but the CFO- that's Chief Familial officer- will not hear of it).

A judge in Washington has granted a Republican request to block the counting of a number of recently discovered King County ballots. I don't know what is more disheartening- the fact that Republicans only want GOP votes to count, or the fact that a bunch of ballots could go missing until 7 weeks after Election Day.

Friday, December 03, 2004

File Under "Faith Based Nonsense"

God bless, Henry Waxman. He has recently released a report critical of abstinence only sex-ed. I know, old news and hardly shocking- but then I read the report. If the Red Staters get their way, our children will be taught that:
  • Condoms are only 69% effective against HIV (according to a study, which they conveniently fail to mention has been completely discredited).
  • Condoms have a 15% failure rate in preventing pregnancy (if you don't use them properly).
  • Touching someone else's genitals can get you pregnant (that one is so absurd it doesn't need a snappy retort).
  • Sex within marriage "is the expected standard of human sexual activity" (oh, really- is that Rush Limbaugh got divorced three times?).
  • Blastocysts, a ball of about 200 cells, "snuggle" into the uterine wall (hey, I'm always trying to snuggle into the uterus- just ask my wife).
  • That a woman's most important need in a relationship is financial support, and a man's most important need is domestic help (was this stuff written in 1946?).
  • Chlamydia cause heart disease! (You can hump bacon?)
  • You can get HIV from sweat and tears (actually, I think it's highly probable that someone has gotten HIV while listening to a Blood, Sweat, and Tears album, and these people just misunderstood).
  • And my favorite... a 43 day old fetus is a thinking person! (As opposed to most Bush voters.)

Thanks to The Daily Outrage for the link.

Abso-friggin-lutely Right On Point!

Couldn't have said this any better myself...

Halle states that “gays and lesbians are the true defenders of tradition in this country.” One might ask if that’s really a role gays and lesbians want to take on, considering the institution of marriage these days. To some gay couples, the phrase “traditional marriage values” conjures up images of what one might see on the controversial former FOX network show “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?” These couples do not want to emulate the idealism that so many heterosexual couples have about the institution of marriage that so often leads to violence or divorce. However, this decision should not detract from the right for gay couples to marry, individuals always have the right not to wed.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Sorry for the absence...

This blog is not a personal blog- I do not ramble on about my day, or about the state of mental health, or my foot fungus, or whatever. Let me just say this- this week has sucked to the utmost. Car accidents, money troubles, ill friends- I've had it all, he said not too sarcastically. In other words, going through the daily papers has been kinda far off my radar. Just a couple of notes today.

Great. Just friggin' great. The Times notes how the Senate will be much friendlier to anti-choice measures. Even though the Republican majority is increasing only slightly, they have traded some abortion moderates for abortion hawks. In other words, anti-choice true believerism will be on the rise.

File Under "Don't Let The Door Hit Your Ass On The Way Out" The Post reports that a senior administration official says that Treasury Secretary John W. Snow "can stay as long as he wants, provided it is not very long." Thomas Friedman had a little fun with that, as you can imagine.

Yo, Mr. Secretary, I'd say someone in the White House wants you gone! If I were you, I wouldn't renew any leases for more than a month at a time - or buy any really green bananas for the office. And those books you checked out of the Treasury library? Could you, like, maybe return them in the next few days? You know, just in case. I mean, it all depends on what the meaning of "long" is.
Of course, this is all part of the President's agenda to rid the administration of everyone who does not think in lockstep with the President himself, by which I mean Karl Rove. A President needs as many different points of view as he can get. Instead, this President gets as many yes men as he can muster, because facts that do not supports his "instincts" are promptly and readily ignored.

When the facts do not support the gut, apparently you go with the gut.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Gluttony- My Favorite Deadly Sin

Hope everyone's Thanksgiving was as enjoyable as mine (which, if you knew me well, you would conclude was intended to be a curse). The holidays in general, and this holiday in particular, have always struck me as uniquely American, consumption (in all its varieties) being our true national pastime. Eating and buying. God Bless America.

I've been thinking some more about the process of persuasion. Merely being right is not enough- in fact, it's not really anything at all. Republicans understand this (and they don't even have the benefit of being right). Much of the so-called Contract With America, the ideological genesis of the Republican revolution, actually lacked popular support. Rather than alter the goals of the contract, and thus back off their policy goals, Frank Luntz (evil, weird haired genius) found the langauge necessary to sell. If people have a problem with your policies, simply change the rhetoric.

This is a fundamental left-right wedge. People on the left frequently approach problems from the language of need. Why do you need a (Barret M-82 sniper rifle/Hummer/ 5,000 square foot McMansion)? Parse out the words- "Why do you need..." First of all, it's apparent that we are talking about you and that I know better than you do. Second, we approach from the perspective of need- no one needs a Hummer, but many people want a Hummer.

People on the right approach the same problem from a different paradigm- Why can't I have a (Barret/Hummer/McMansion)? Whether we care to admit it or not, for a good number of our countrymen, these things are cool. That alone justifies the need (what microeconomists would call a preference), and any attempt to restrict our access to such things amounts to an attack on what we want itself. This is one reason why the language of need fails to resonate. (I am remided of Phil Gramm's famously asinine quote, "I have more guns than I need, but fewer than I want.")

If we are to make inroads among fiscally responsible RINO's, we need to co-opt some of this language. Why can't I have clean water? Why can't we have safe schools? Why can't we all enjoy the benefits of marriage? Of safe, legal reproductive care? It's a subtle shift away from our traditional paradigm, but one I think it is necessary to make. After all, the Wobblies wanted not only bread, but roses as well.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Sometimes It Makes Me Wonder How I Keep From Going Under...

A medical marijuana case presently on appeal to the Supreme Court of these United States has the Bush Administration engaging in tortured, almost inconceivable legal logic. The government appealed from a circuit court ruling that held that entirely local, non-commercial marijuana use was beyond Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. In its brief on the merits, the government argues that local use "substantially affects interstate commerce."

Meaning that local, non-commercial (and legal) distribution and/or use has an impact on the interstate (and illegal) distribution and/or use of marijuana. So, if you want to smoke your medical marijuana, you're just going to have to buy it on the street same as everybody else.

I'm almost tempted to file an amicus brief supporting the government on behalf of "unnamed independent pharmaceutical distributors."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

File Under "You've Made Your Bed, Now Lie In It"

According to a New York Times poll, a majority of Americans support some form of legal recognition for same sex couples, believe it is more important to cut the deficit than to cut taxes, support a woman's right to choose, and believe that the country is headed on the wrong direction. So naturally Bush won. How does this work?

Listen up, people- if you have all these concerns, you should have voted for the other guy.

Like All Good Progressives, I've Been Quoted Out Of Context

So my open letter has begun to appear on conservative blogs, and they have responded predictably. Namely, they only focused on the most salacious parts while ignoring the rest. What can I say- at least they're consistent.

File Under "I Was Busy, So Sue Me"

I haven't updated in a few days, mostly because it was a weekend of unexpected surprises. I had planned to rundown the Sunday papers, but a trip to the Emergency Veterinarian made that unlikely (incidentally, it cost $230 to learn that Oscar, my sweet, laid back boy kitty, had a tummy ache). Anyway, here are the big stories.

File Under "Ron Artest Is A Punk- And That's News?" The sheer amount of ink spilled over a brawl at a basketball game is simply astounding. Google News shows about 4,050 stories written on this non-event, dissected from every angle: The problem is African-American culture, the problem is "the civility gap" (whatever that is), the problem is the drunken louts in the stands, the problem is all of us. To hell with that- the problem is that Ron Artest is a thug with no self control. Can we please turn to news that matters?

What Is The Sound Of One Hand Giving The Bird To A Divided Party? Mitch Frank writes that what the Arlen Specter debacle demonstrates is that social conservatives want their agenda pushed forward now. He notes, however, that social conservatives are not the only ones who want their agenda pushed.

And the Christian right isn’t the only uneasy constituency in the Republican party. Fiscal conservatives unhappy about the deficit, isolationists and foreign policy realists unhappy about the war and libertarians hostile to the Patriot Act all held their tongues during the fight against John Kerry, but may be ready to start talking.

David Brooks also notes the beginnings of fracture. As he succinctly puts it, many Republicans feel that the expanded majority gives them the chance to finally win on issues they are passionate about, but they have fundamentally different views on what winning means.

This is a wedge I think Democrats would be wise to exploit. With our debt ceiling recently raised to $8.18 trillion (that is, $8,180,000,000,000 in debt), many people- left, right, and center- are skeptical of Bush's call for more tax cuts. Think about it, with almost 295 million people living in this country, each and every man, woman, and child, citizen and alien alike, is on the hook to the tune of $28,000. Of course, since we don't pay for it now our unfathomable national debt is handed off to future generations- a classic economic externality. Our debt load amounts to a tax on the unborn- utterly shameful.

Just that one issue alone- properly framed- could tilt some center-to-right leaning people away from the GOP. It needs to be very carefully positioned, somewhere along the lines suggested by Sandeep Kaushik suggested last week, but the divisions can be exploited. Remember, the divisions noted are among self-described Republicans. How many Bush voters are there without partisan predelictions?

File Under "How Do You Prove A Negative?" Iran claims it has suspended its nuclear activities- Bush says, "Prove it." Oh, boy. They're not even subtle about it. Play out the scene, people.

Iran: Look, Mr. President, the reactors are shut off.
Dubya: That's not proof.
Iran: We have no uranium.
Dubya: You have no uranium here, but you could have it elsewhere. That's not proof.
Iran: We have discontinued our missile program.
Dubya: For now. You leave us no choice but to to INVADE... um, liberate. Yeah, that's the ticket.

And they say statesmanship is dead.

"Please, No Wardrobe Malfunctions This Time" Finally, from the land of the non-story (which subtly incorporates last year's biggest non-story), Paul McCartney will headline the halftime show at the Super Bowl. What, no Lindsey Lohan?

Friday, November 19, 2004

Continuing The Dialogue

Democrats, for all of our failures, are excellent when it comes to one thing- sniping at each other after a big loss. I, myself, am guilty of this. The criticism is not unfounded, however. We are adrift. Which brings me to Derek Kilmer.

He is the progessive Democrat who unseated a Bible-thumping right winger, albeit for the relatively small office of Washington State Representative. He beat her in a district that is middle-to-right- and he beat her by framing his message of economic justice in simple hearth and home terms.

He avoided ideological labels, but he put forward a positive message of progressive change, in the best sense of the term. The gospel according to Kilmer was about strengthening the community and its families – through economic development, infrastructure improvements, taking care of the elderly. He broadened his base by talking about boring bread-and-butter stuff. It just so happens, though, that his voters considered boring bread-and-butter stuff to be relevant and important: job creation, transportation (residents of his district have long commutes on congested roads), education, health care.

Sandeep Kaushik on Alternet suggests that Democrats can take lessons from his election.

There is a natural, bottom-up language (or a vision, or a narrative, or whatever)..., about the Democratic Party as the party that stands for strengthening family and community by making sure that the economic playing field is not stacked against the average working stiff. And that language flows, quite naturally, into a set of progressive policy ideas.... There is the potential for a family and community agenda that idealistic Deaniacs and Clintonian realists might agree on: a living wage, restricting mandatory overtime, paid family leave, reasonable vacation time.

The frame for this, of course, is that economic justice IS a family value- that by promoting fairness for all, from the poorest up to the top, we all can have a better home life and stronger communities. Something to think about.

Just Take Out The "Q," And Write In An "N"

So, hawkish neocons on the Hill and in the House have "intelligence" about a rogue Middle Eastern nation hoarding weapons and posiing a "threat." Iraq? Close. It's Iran. Told you about this one already.

In an eerie repetition of the prelude to the Iraq war, hawks in the administration and Congress are trumpeting ominous disclosures about Iran's nuclear capacities to make the case that Iran is a threat that must be confronted, either by economic sanctions, military action, or "regime change."

For what it's worth, Iran denies that it is developing a nuclear program. We all know, however, that it's not worth much. Things that only Godless types care about, such as facts or evidence, do not deter our Great and Divinely Ordained Leader from his Holy Mission to rid the world of whatever draws his ire. We will bring freedom to the world, even if we have to ram it down their heathen throats.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Daily Disinformation

Well, as I have argued before, No Child Left Capable Of Remotely Coherent Thought is "succeeding" because the tests are artifically simple. The Brookings Institution unveiled a study showing that about 40% of the eighth grade test covers material covered in the first and second grades.

The test for fourth-graders also has "false rigor...." More than 40 percent of questions gauge first and second grade skills, two levels below the students tested.

File this one under "Countdown to Armageddon" Lame duck State Secretary Colin Powell told reporters at an economic summit in Chile that Iran is trying to adapt its missles to deliver nukes. This bald assertion comes from "intelligence." Like the intelligence about the WMDs in Iraq? It is only a matter of time before we invade.

More on Tom DeLay- House Republicans have begun to defend the indefensible. Representative Henry Bonilla, who led the effort to benefit his fellow Texan, said, "This takes the power away from any partisan crackpot district attorney who may want to indict" party leaders, writes the Boston Globe.

The Times quotes Bonilla, "Attorneys tell me you can be indicted for just about anything in this country, in any county or community," said Mr. Bonilla, an ally of Mr. DeLay. "Sometimes district attorneys who might have partisan agendas or want to read their name in the paper could make a name for themselves by indicting a member of the leadership, regardless of who it may be, and therefore determine their future. And that's not right."

More from The Times- House Republicans did not dispute the idea that the change had been brought on by the events in Texas but said most of the majority's lawmakers had also concluded that the rule was simply unfair. "In my sincere opinion, it only provoked the timing" of the change, Representative Trent Franks of Arizona said of the Texas inquiry. "When you look at the rule, it is an outrageous rule."

I couldn't agree more- it's a complete outrage to expect our Nation's leaders to remove themselves from power simply because a prima facie case of corruption has been found by a grand jury.

Of course, some Republicans are in fact not complete morons. The Times story also quotes Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticutt who said simply, This is a mistake.

File Under "No, Mr. President, A Coup Is Not A Buick" Alternet columnist Robert Scheer describes the purging of reality based advisors as The Neocon Coup. Incompetence begat by ideological blindness has been rewarded. The neoconservatives who created the ongoing Iraq mess have more than survived the failure of their impossibly rosy scenarios for a peaceful and democratic Iraq under U.S. rule. 'Nuff said there.

File Under "No Pardon For This Turkey" Really, just a bizarre thing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

File Under "No Child Gets Out Alive"

Shoring up the yes men in his new Cabinet, the President announced today that he is nominating Margaret Spellings to be his new Education Secretary. Is she a scholar of pedagogy? Nope. Is she the superintendent of a large, urban school district? Negatory. Is she a principal? Unh-unh. A professional teacher? Ummm, no. So what precisely qualifies her to be the Secretary of Education?

She was a lobbyist for school boards back in Texas. And she is responsible for the better part of No Child Left Behind.

Yup- she's a deal cutter. And, perhaps more important than anything else, she's very close to the President. (Perhaps, too close. Good God, they actually look like they're going to make out.) In any event, he promoted yet another from within- first Alberto Gonzales, then Condie, and now this person. As the Christian Science Monitor puts it, She also has the quality most valued in the Bush White House: unquestioned loyalty. Great.

Between the purging at the CIA, the public humiliation of Arlen Specter, and the rally around Tom Delay, it appears that Republicans really only require one thing of its members- do what you're told. Remember way back during the (I think) '88 Republican convention, when Tom Kean (a man I despised at the time, but now I only wish there were more of him) described the GOP as a "big tent," with room enough for all points of view? Either the tent has shrunk, or Frank Luntz has managed to redefine "room enough."

On another note, the President has pardoned a turkey. The turkey in question was held at Camp X-Ray without access to its attorney until it was discovered that the turkey was, in fact, a bird. No word on whether Zacarias Moussaoui will also receive a pardon.

The Morning Roundup

Let's see, we've got the usual assortment of murders, corruption, nuclear proliferation, and politicized junk science. So what were the big stories on the morning talk shows?

Terrell Owens, K-Mart, and Michael Jackson. It seems that real news is so passe.

The story about Tom Delay should get absolutely EVERYONE'S blood boiling. He's the House Republican Leader- possibly facing indictment for financial chicanery- and his loyal lemmings want to change their rules so that he can remain their fuhrer. What would they have said if- GASP- Democrats had done this kind of stuff? There would be a hue and cry to wake the dead! Where is our response? Where is our righteous anger?

Also making the rounds is a story about Iran having a nuclear weapons facility, but I'd file that one under "Check The Source." It would appear that an Iranian opposition group is the only group with "proof." Were I one to speculate, I'd say that they might be fishing for a U.S. invasion...

Alternet reports that Republican moderates are on the outs. Toe the line, or get out. Lincoln Chafee, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, maybe even you too, Arlen- come on over, we'd love to have ya!

Barbara Ehernreich advises Progressives to "act like Christians." Not in the sense that the DLC advises, but like Christians in Rome- stand you're ground, some of you are going to get eaten by lions, but you prevail in the end. Principles, my friends- without our principles we are nothing.

Finally, you can file this under "There's One Born Every Minute."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

File Under "What An Assclown"

I am sorry.

File Under "Someone Needs A Timeout"

Fuck the South. Fuck 'em. We should have let them go when they wanted to leave. But no, we had to kill half a million people so they'd stay part of our special Union. Fighting for the right to keep slaves - yeah, those are states we want to keep.

Blunt, but then again so is the truth.

You and your Southern values can bite my ass because the blue states got the values over you fucking Real Americans every day of the goddamn week. Which state do you think has the lowest divorce rate you marriage-hyping dickwads? Well? Can you guess? It’s fucking Massachusetts, the fucking center of the gay marriage universe. Yes, that’s right, the state you love to tie around the neck of anyone to the left of Strom Thurmond has the lowest divorce rate in the fucking nation. Think that’s just some aberration? How about this: 9 of the 10 lowest divorce rates are fucking blue states, asshole, and most are in the Northeast, where our values suck so bad. And where are the highest divorce rates? Care to fucking guess? 10 of the top 10 are fucking red-ass we're-so-fucking-moral states. And while Nevada is the worst, the Bible Belt is doing its fucking part.

The vitriol detracts from the argument, but the facts clearly support the ranter, here. On the other hand, "facts" mean nothing anymore, this is "Faith Based America," where reality frequently interferes with "resolute and decisive leadership."

I wonder if they'll have any books in Dubya Presidential Library- 'cause, y'know, he can barely read them.

File Under "Know Your Role And Shut Your Mouth"

It would appear that Dubya has ordered his new buttboy at the CIA, Porter Goss, to "purge" the Company of anyone who has been disloyal.

"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."

A hotbed of liberals? The CIA? The same CIA that tried to bump off Castro? That may have been years ago, but, jeez, they make it sound like friggin' Berkeley! Seriously, I can understand why Dubya wants to purge the Company- after all, they told there were WMD's!

I Guess Thomas Jefferson Was A Blue Stater

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814.

Thanks to The Blue States' (Soon to Be) Official Secession Movement for turning me on to this quote.

Moral Values? C'Mon!

The always-on Frank Rich completely debunks the Moral Values myth.

File Under "Well Duh!"

George Lakoff, a Berkeley linguist and Kerry advisor, argues that Republicans have been winning elections because they have done a better job at framing the debate. Hmmmm, I seem to recall saying something similar not too long ago...

I like one idea that he has, and it could be manipulated into a wedge issue. Enviromental regulation promotes "poison-free communities." No one wants their kids playing in Love Canal, right? Pro-greed Bushies want to poison your kids! Like they say in the Guiness ads, "Brilliant!"

File Under "In A Handbasket"

Five words that should put the fear of Jesus in any Blue Stater.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

I'd say that Condie is a yes man, but of course she is no man. So what would that make her? In any event Colin Powell, a man who was frequently cut out of the foreign policy picture by the more hawkish advisors to the President is about to be replaced by one of the more hawkish advisors to the President. At least they're on the same page.

As secretary of state, the woman who has long been Mr. Bush's single closest foreign policy adviser and confidante would be charged with resolving the clashing views of the world itself - on behalf of a boss whose sentences she can finish, and who trusts her totally to carry out his wishes.

Of course, Condie can finish the President's sentences- he can't finsh them himself! Duh?!?

On another front, as if to verify my argument that we have to give the WWC the heave-ho, The Times notes that West Virginia, where Dems outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, is turning culturally conservative and increasingly evangelical.

The difference this year, Democrats and analysts said, was the fervent activity of conservative churches. For months, Bush campaign workers recruited support from pastors, registered church members and distributed literature after Sunday services. It was the kind of work unions have long done for Democrats, only this time the church vote outpaced the labor vote, Democrats said.

"Some say the religious right is more powerful than labor ever was, and I think there's a lot of truth to that," said State Delegate Mike Caputo, a Democrat who works for the United Mine Workers of America.

Mr. Casey and other leaders of the state party said the Democrats had already begun an outreach program to churches, arguing that most Democrats are as much against abortion, gay marriage and gun control as are Republicans.

Actually, we're not. We shouldn't be afraid to be who we are- principled, proud, and progressive (would someone kindly explain my recent fascination with alliteration to me). I don't understand how believing that all people have a fundamental right to live in accordance with their own consciences is dangerous. I don't understand how limiting the right of all people to do so is "conservative."

But then again, I'm a Blue Stater. This knuckledragger thinks that the Blue states should be forcibly ejected from the Union. My reply? Could we, please?

Monday, November 15, 2004

File Under "Oh Shit"

Arlen Specter, the pro-choice moderate Republican from my current home state, was due to to assume the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Then he shot his mouth off about a woman's right to choose being "inviolate," and that pro-life judicial nominees would face a tough fight.

Well, it would appear that Arlen himself will face a tough fight.

"Arlen made some statements the day after the election," [Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist], of Tennessee, said on "Fox News Sunday" in an interview with Chris Wallace. "They were disheartening to me; they were disheartening to a lot of people."

Ummm, not to me.

Now begins the fallout- Republicans expect their people to fall neatly in line. The only problem is that politicians have agendas, personal and political. It reminds me of "The Stackhouse Filibuster," when an aging middle-of-the-road Senator filibusters a broad, bipartisan health bill because it left out funding for autism research.

They may talk a good game about unity, but reduced to its essence, the Senate is a group of 100 people who want to be President- and they all have an agenda. Stick to yours, Arlen- we need you now. Just don't count on my vote in six years.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Stunning Victory In The War On Terror

Our resolute and decisive leader has struck a key victory in the War on Terror! Yes, the FBI executed warrants obtained under the PATRIOT Act to search the homes of members of an insidious and vile terrorist organization- one so heinous and cruel that mere mention of their name will send shivers down your spine and cause your skin to crawl...

Hugs for Puppies.

Next, they'll be deporting the guy who wrote "Peace Train." Oh, shit.

Friday, November 05, 2004

An Open Letter To My Party

It's a few days after Election Day. Kerry has conceded. Let me say it- Bush won, fair and square. He won over 50% of the popular vote, and will probably finish in the 272-276 range in the electoral vote. Congratulations- to the victor go the spoils, and the Republic survives (yet again). Let us shake hands, and let us harbor no ill will, because that is what we do. Democracy is like baseball, George
Will once said- it's not about winning all the time.

However, I do not have to like it. We Democrats have now lost the last two Presidential elections, as well as the 2002 midterm elections. Three consecutive campaigns down the toilet. Why? Because we refuse to recognize what is obvious- it's time to rewrite our partisan mythos.

We are no longer the party of the White Working Class.

It seems almost absurd- the Republicans are the party of the mega-wealthy and the corporate oligarchy. Bush gave tax breaks to millionaires and incentivized outsourcing. Republicans have tried to undo welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid. Leave No Child Behind is a phenomenal failure- in order to pass the required tests, states are lowering the score necessary to pass.

In almost every major bread-and-butter issue, Republican policy keeps the WWC down. The rich, meanwhile, get richer.

We Democrats have lost the WWC, the so-called "base" of our party. Moreover, they ain't coming back. Even the voters who say that the economy is their number one issue cast votes that ultimately undermine their own interests. The reason is clear- the Democrats have become the party of social change- pro-gay, pro-abortion, pro-environment, anti-gun, anti-church, anti-military, and anti-family.

Modern Democrats are increasingly well-educated, highly paid, and urban to suburban- college educated professionals, employed in science, finance, and the "Information Economy." We drive Volvos and Saabs, listen to NPR, and buy books at Borders. The WWC is generally not college educated, generally not well paid- probably living
paycheck to paycheck- and exurban to rural. They drive Fords and Chevys (pickups, most likely), listen to AM talk radio or country music, and buy books at Wal-Mart or the supermarket (if at all).

The WWC thinks that Modern Dems are egghead snobs who insist on imposing their values on the nation. The WWC is right. And you know what I say?

Screw the White Working Class.

Hard as it is to admit, especially since I am from WWC stock, it's time to leave them behind. They've made their choice, but then againso have we. Our priorities are different now, and if we are to move forward and build a new progressive coalition (and maybe return to power) just need to acknowledge it. The days of the New Deal are over- Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska long ago left our column. However, we can win without them. Here's how.

CONTROL THE TERMINOLOGY Since Reagan, the GOP has forced to us to debate on their terms. Literally. They have been controlling the terminology. When you dictate the terms of the debate, you will emerge the victor. This year, Kerry decried the "Bush tax cuts," defended "partial birth abortion," and denied "flip-flopping." No matter how much the facts were actually on his side, the fact that he had to respond in their terms only reminded the voters that Bush cut
taxes (albeit for billionaires), that abortion killed babies (albeit not yet born), and that Kerry flip-flopped (albeit after careful consideration).

How much different would this election have been if Kerry had attacked the President as promoting "wealthfare," called "intact dilation and extraction" a life saving medical procedure, or admitted that changing circumstances require "flexibility" and "reconsideration."

The only Democrat who has understood this in recent years is James Carville. When he said "It's the economy, stupid," he forced Bush 41 to respond to a crisis that didn't exist- we were not in a recession in 1992, and everytime GHWB said so, the voters came to the conclusion that we must be in a recession.

And while we're on the subject of controlling the terminology, know that we're going to get called "liberal." I used to think that the best response was, "Yeah, so what?" Then I realized that "liberal" meant profligate, effete, and immoral to some voters. Contrast with "conservative," which voters interpret as thrifty, cautious, and solid. Control the terms- we are "progressive." Calls to mind high ideals, new thinking, and bold plans. The other side- they're "inflexible reactionaries," or "backwards right-wingers," or "obstructionist." Whatever you like- one of them will stick. Just put them on the defensive.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER Political parties are non-ideological in America; unlike in other countries, where the Conservatives are conservative, and the Liberals are liberal, parties in America are organizational entities. They raise money, find candidates, and get out the vote. If you can deliver your district, you don't necessarily have to see eye-to-eye with the written party platform.

Just like the White Working Class have left the Dems, the GOP has a unsatisfied wing. Fiscal Conservatives- socially liberal, anti-wasteful spending, and well-educated- are on the way out. The Republicans are increasingly the party of hand-wringing moralists and evangelical Christians. The WWC fits very well into the new
Republican paradigm. Fiscal Conservatives do not, and they are ripe for the picking.

How do you steal Fiscal Conservatives from the GOP while keeping another key constituency, the Urban Poor, in our column? Believe it or not, these groups have interests in common. Both Fiscal Conservatives and the Urban Poor understand that the way out of poverty is education; moreover, Fiscal Conservatives tend to be urban
to suburban dwellers, and have actual interaction with the Urban Poor. They know it's a real problem.

Fiscal Conservatives don't mind paying their taxes as long as it is well-spent. We can rope them in by rolling back wealthfare (see, I didn't call them the Bush tax cuts). Increase spending in education and infrastructure, but cut spending elsewhere.

Defense? Modern warfare no longer requires the two front doctrine (have a big enough Army to fight WWII style on two fronts); hell, modern warfare doesn't even really have fronts, anymore. The fight is fluid, mobile- as should be our military. Scale it back, make better use of special forces and airborne power. No need for Cold War spending (or thinking) to respond to today's threats.

Farm subsidies? Corporate welfare? Redundant government agencies? There are lots of things that can be streamlined, reduced, or altogether dropped. End unnecessary spending, and we can pick up some disaffected Republicans.

POLICY, POLICY, POLICY John Kerry lost this election not because he couldn't communicate his policy ideas clearly- he lost because he didn't have any policy ideas to communicate. Rightly or wrongly, there was no doubt what the President believed, why he believed it, and what he intended to do about it. Presidential malapropisms aside, he communicated his ideas in short simple declarative sentences.

Kerry, on the other hand, ran a campaign that really only attacked the President. The people will not elect a candidate whose sole paltform is "The other guy sucks."

We need to get back to basics- what do we believe, why do we believe it, and what are we going to do about it. These three things are the necessary elements of policymaking. You need all three.

"What we believe" is the first step- it's the abstract statement of broad policy goals. "All people have the right to marry whomever they want" is a good "what we believe" idea. It's not complete, though.

"Why we believe" is the second step, the intellectual justification. All people have the right to marry anyone they want BECAUSE marriage is, among other things, a legal status that bestows rights and responsibilities on the couple. To deny these rights and responsibilities to willing people solely because we are not comfortable with the sexual makeup of the couple is arbitrary. If equal protection of the law means anything at all, it is that we do not make arbitrary distinctions. (Can you imagine if someone actually had the balls to say that?)

"What are going to do about it" is the necessary third step. It's the concrete implementation of the first two. "If elected President, I will fully support the rights of all persons to marry. I will encourage Congress to pass legislation to that end, and I will...." This is how you win elections.

Al Gore was great at "what I believe" and "what I will do about it," but he never really got a handle on the "why I believe" part. John Kerry Was far better at "why I believe" than he was at the other two- the most frequent criticism thrown at him was that you could never tell quite what he believed. Of recent Dems, only Bill Clinton could communicate all three elements of policy (and he did so in a way that
was easy to follow but never condescending).

What do we believe, why do we believe it, and what are we going to do about it. Spell those things out, and we can win elections.
This is just the first part in a larger discussion, one side of a
dialogue. It is an idea, not a manifesto. We only have one year
before it's time to start thinking about state and federal elections
again. We can do this. Please forward to anyone who might have an