Tuesday, May 31, 2005

How We Got Here

Townhall has an interesting article by Bruce Bartlett up today. In it he traces how the switch to Direct Election of Senators lead directly to the current climate in which parties are tied up with ideologies. This is largely the story of the transition of Southern Conservatives from the Democratic party to the Republican Party, which he covers well enough, from a conservative perspective. You can't really expect a conservative to cover the racism that infused Southern Conservatism in much of the 1900s.

He ends with these worrisome paragraphs.
As a consequence, ideology and partisanship have become merged together in the 21st century in a way that was not the case in the 20th. Liberals mostly were liberals first and Democrats second, and conservatives were conservatives first and Republicans second. Now, it is much harder to maintain those distinctions. There is tremendous pressure on ideologues of both parties to be partisans first and support the party, even if it means compromising their principles.

This, I believe, is at the root of the current impasse. Purely partisan fights have been suffused with ideological fervor, thus making deals impossible for now.
I don't know if impossible is the right word, but certainly deals are more difficult to come by than they have been in the past.

The Tee Shirt People

Just downloaded this pic off of Townhall.

I mean she's a pretty girl and all, but she kind of looks like she would drain your soul and take it back to Nabascar, The Dark Lord of Brightly Colored Fabrics.

Also for those interested, my latest piece is up over at the Practical Press.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Rush Limbaugh and the Performing Arts

Salon has an interesting story over on Rush Limbaugh and his coverage of a recent play put on at Harvard. The play is about Abu Ghraib, and Rush Limbaugh characterized it as anti American and nearly treasonous. The story is penned by one of the performers, who used to listen to Rush Limbaugh with her Dad, a long time fan. He's not a fan any more, apparently.

Anyway it's a good article, talking a bit about what Abu Ghraib means.
And to respond to the tragedy, we must first recognize the stories of the victims and perpetrators, some of which are told in the play. We must accept that state-sponsored abuse can happen to anyone, anywhere, not just to prisoners in Iraq.
The one flaw in the article is that they have to pretend to be non-partisan when it is extraodinarily clear that they are pretty partisan. That doesn't mean the message they are sharing isn't true, because it is.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

More on the Compromise

Byron Williams has a good article at Working for change, analyzing the current lay of the political landscape and the reactions to the Compromise. I particularly like this bit.
The senators' efforts, though admirable, failed to address the real problem: two different games being played simultaneously with two sets of rules. While the 14 bipartisan senators declared "check," those in opposition to any compromise are responding with, "I will buy Boardwalk."
Anyway well worth checking out.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Round the Horn - Where's Your Head At?

I'm at work and in a super bad mood. But never mind that lets see what's going on around the Liberal Coalition.

blogAmy has a really nice piece of animation with some questions that we need answers to.

LeftyBrown's Corner has remembrances of a favorite comic book series.

Collective Sigh has some nice coverage of a recent Scott McClellen press conference and a question by Helen Thomas.

Dohyi Mir has a podcast (well, Ntoddcast) of his thoughts on Episode III.

The Gamer's Nook points you to an online quiz that can tell you what your worldview is.

In Search of Telford has a post on the culpability of right wing blogs in stirring up the worlds Muslims to hate is (in reference to the Newsweek brouhaha).

Rooks Rant has a reaction to the Compromise of the Century.

Trish Wilson's Blog has the perfect gift for possessive stupid guys to give to their girlfriends.

Sooner Thought is reporting that the guy who crafted the term "freedom fries" and "freedom toast" is, well, having second thoughts.

The Goblin's Lair has some insights into a recent amnesty interenational report.

And that's it for another week. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 26, 2005


"Is it really necessary at this late date to point out that the problem is torture and abuse, not dubiously sourced reports of torture and abuse?"

-Hendrik Hertzberg in the New Yorker

The Marines

This is a nice story. Apparently the Marines are to be honored by appearing on a commetrive silver dollar (which will be worth much more than a dollar, being a collectable and all).

Crimes, Follies and Misfortunes

"History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind." - Edward Gibbon

Here's the story. In the 1930s through the 1950s, the Democratic Party was split between several wings (much like today). One wing, in the South, was politically conservative particularly on racial matters. Another wing, in the Northeast and Great Lakes states was politically liberal. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Northeastern Liberals, with the able help of Lyndon Johnson, passed several bills designed to protect the Civil Rights of African Americans. Such bills alienated the Southern Democrats.

The Republican Party in the same party was also split. They had some progressive / populist liberal members, and some old style conservative members. They had little influence in the South, which had been solidly Democratic since the civil war. They supported the Civil Rights legislation, and it couldn't have passed without their support. So a bright day for the Republican Party. Conservative Southerners, however, fled from the Democratic Party (as Lyndon Johnson predicted they would) en masse. This shift much more closely identified the Republican Party with Conservative principles, and in particular the Racial Obsessions of Southern Conservative Whites (Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond spring to mind). In all fairness, of course, 2000 is not 1970, and they have made a lot of progress in stifling racist statements and programs.

This little history lesson is brought to you, courtesy of Mr. Jay Bryant who seemed unclear about this history. Instead he taught this version of history. Democrats were racist and Conservatives were not. While in broad strokes that is true of the 1930s, certainly it is at least a little misleading.

Anyway the rest of Bryant's article is on why the Republicans should be happy to see the filibuster go. Mr. Bryant paints a picture of a completely Democratically aligned media back to the 1930s, which seems a bit extreme. At any rate that's why the Republicans can't use filibuster.
The filibuster is a useless tool for the Republicans, because they haven't the nerve to use it, and never have. The reason behind this timidity is, of course, media bias. A Republican filibuster would be the object of such intense media pressure that it could not possibly succeed. A Democratic "nuclear option" would never be called that, and never regarded as a radical trashing of tradition. It would be, instead, a noble reform.
Who coined the term Nuclear Option? Trent Lott! Not the "liberal" media. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Get it? Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. Trent Lott. OK? Do I need to repeat it any more? Trent Lott.

Anyway I'm calmed down now. Long story short, Jay Bryant is still apparently hoping they trigger the nuclear option.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Post Card from the Monster

Yeah, I know it's been a long time, but he finally got back in touch with me, because he had a very important message to share with the peoples.


This is the monster speaking. Me have important news to share with the peoples. My good friend (who did not promise to give me gazelles and then not give me gazelles) Random Goblin starts a blog. It be very good. It called the Goblin's Lair and it have very nice logo at top. Go read it. Now. Or monster will eat you!

Yes that be me. The Monster. In the Lincoln bedroom. That time, it only cost two bushels of apples to visit. Now it cost lots more!


Well I would also recommend reading The Goblin's Lair - looks like it has a lot of thought provoking stuff so far. Well worth considering.

Making Progress

From yesterdays Press Briefing by Scott McClellen.
Yesterday, these judicial nominees that the Senate is now moving forward on were being blocked. These are nominees that have waited for a number of years to receive an up or down vote, and now they're going to get one. We consider that to be real progress and so we're pleased that the Senate is moving forward on these judicial nominees.

. . . But the fact that they're moving forward on these nominees who have waited for years is positive. And that is progress.

. . . He [President Bush, natch] considers it to be real progress, and I think any way you look at it, it is.

. . . I think it's a sign of real progress.

Q Are you going to use the word "victory"? I mean, that's the term everybody is looking at. Is it a victory or is it not a victory?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's real progress that they're moving forward on these nominees. I mean, that's the way I would describe it.

. . . And there has been progress made.
Can you guess what word popped up on Mr. McClellens Word of the Day Toilet Paper?

Your Twice-Weekly Rush: Bring 'em on

From yesterdays program.
So it would be real simple if the Republicans -- well, it's real simple. It'll never happen, but if these 48 Republicans say, "You know, we're not part of this. We're simply not going along with this. We weren't consulted, the president wasn't consulted. The president's powers have been diminished here." Just vote on the constitutional option. Vote on it; bring it up. Frist, bring it up. Bring up the constitutional option. "But the deal says he can't do it for a year and a half." Well, he doesn't have to agree to the deal.
How would that play out? My guess is that Frist would look like insanely partisan.

A Horse Built by Committee

This Modern World has recently opened its blogging doors to additional commentators. One of those commentators, Jack Hitt, made some very cogent points on what the Compromise means for Republican Party.
The other way to view this whole compromise is a struggle between two presidential strategies. Frist is playing to the radical right base—that’s clear. Graham may well be in the running, working a different angle. He has been speaking lately on broad national issues, was in Iowa last year, and has taken more centrist positions on touchy issues such as Abu Ghraib and social security. He may be trying to wage a Clintonian strategy from the right. Or, he may have consulted his polls (or his instincts) and realized that the first Republicans who pull back to the center will be the big winners in 2006 and 2008.
Not sure why Mr. Hitt doesn't mention McCain as a presidential hopeful (which he probably is). On the other hand, pissing off other Republicans isn't a new strategy for McCain.

The last bit of the post, about Trent Lott, is particularly interesting.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

U2 News

In all this talk of Senate Compromises and what not, it's easy to forget there is other news out there. And here it is; U2 is thinking of rerecording Pop. According to Bono, "There is still talk about the band going back in and fixing ‘Pop’, actually going in because the bones of a great album are there. It didn't communicate the way it was intended to. It became a niche record. That's not what it was intended to be. If we'd just had another month, we could have finished it."

This is good news, as Pop has some brilliant songs on it, including "Discotheque," "If God Will Send his Angels," "Playboy Mansion," "Do You Feel Loved?," and the staggeringly brilliant "Please." Plus some others that might have been great if they had been cleaned up a little.

Your Weekly Rush: The Compromise

Caught a bit of Rush while I was driving around at lunch. He was talking to two women who were upset that the Senate Republicans had caved and that 14 senators were holding the nation hostage (sort of). Anyway Rush urged one of these women (and by extension his audience) to call Bill Frist and have him bring one of the rejected Senators forward, and trigger the nuclear option.

This is really a great idea actually. That will show those compromising Senators who the boss is. And it will show the American people what kind of person Bill Frist is. He's not going to compromise. Ever.

That's exactly the sort of man we want as President. Unless, you know, we don't.

Between the lip and the cup confirmation

Here is confirmation of a previous story.

Between the lip and the cup

As always the Wall Street Journal puts it best.

"THE ATTLE FOR THE COURTS may have been averted in the senate."

I don't know about you, but I don't know if I could have taken another attle.

Done with that

Caught a little bit of Senator John Cornyn (R. Texas) before getting bored watching the debate. He clearly would rather have used the Nuclear option. He also reiterated the pleasant deception that for 200 years Judges got up or down votes (a phrase that needs a ton of qualifiers to be true). At any rate, in his mind the Nuclear option is still on the table.

Joshua Zeitz, writing over at the Huffington Post, evidently feels the same way.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist agrees to preserve the filibuster, though he reserves the right to re-ignite the nuclear option if Democrats exhibit "bad faith and bad behavior." That is, if the Democrats dare ever to use the filibuster again.

Gosh, what a great deal!
I guess your opinion on the Nuclear option depends on whether you think you could have won that fight or not. Reading this, I am forced to conclude that Zeitz thinks that a more forceful strategy could have won the day. How else does one explain this statement? "If Senate Democrats can't stand up for themselves, how can they be trusted to stand up for the most vulnerable members of society who desperately need their help?"

I disagree with his assessment. I think refusing this compromise would have been a tactical mistake for the Democrats. I don't think we could have won this battle, and without even the threat of a filibuster, Senate Democrats and the independent judiciary would be in a much worse position than they are now.

We've Got a Chance to Start Over

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R - South Carolina)is talking right now, and has repeated this several times. Near as I can tell, it means that Democrats had better learn their lesson and let President Bush nominate whoever they want.

He's saying that if one of the Democratic Senators decides to filibuster, he will get back into the Nuclear Option business. Interesting discussion. He also put forward the position that because the Republicans have the majority, they are the mainstream. Since Pryor, Brown and Owens will win the vote, they are mainstream.

The Compromise

Many of you have probably alread heard that the nuclear showdown has been averted by a last minute compromise worked out by, among others, Sen. Robert Byrd, and Sen. John McCain. The AP describes the compromise this way.
The agreement, crafted over the past several weeks by seven Republicans and seven Democrats, also opened the way for yes-or-no votes on two other of President Bush's judicial picks who have been in nomination limbo for more than two years - William H. Pryor Jr. for the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Janice Rogers Brown for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The agreement, which applies to Supreme Court nominees, said future judicial nominations should "only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances," with each Democratic senator holding the discretion to decide when those conditions had been met.
Of course it goes without saying that one party's extraordinary circumstances are another parties obstructionism. Basically the fight over the filibuster has been pushed back to another day.

To me this is a victory. We didn't get a whole loaf but we got some important slices. In particular, President Bush and his advisors have to consider Democratic opposition when nominating a Supreme Court Justice. Had the Nuclear option been triggered, they could have nominated Ann Coulter, and, assuming a party line vote, gotten her through. Now that's not as possible (I'm assuming that at least 7 Republicans senators would see her as an "extraordinary circumstance."

It hurts Frist, who certainly would have scored big with the Dominionist base had he stood up for principle (even if he lost). Now he has to pretend to be pleased about a compromise he didn't craft, one that a potential rival for the nomination (McCain) helped craft.

And the Right Wing Base doesn't like this compromise at all. From the innocuously named but very right wing Focus on the Family comes this statement. "This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush's nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest."

From Powerline, a right wing blog, comes this commentary. "What a hideous deal! The Democrats have agreed to cloture on only three nominees, and they have made no commitment not to filibuster in the future, if there are "extraordinary circumstances." Of course, the Dems think any nominee who is a Republican is "extraordinary." The Dems have just wriggled off the hook on some of the nominees that, politically, some of them did not want to be seen voting against."

On the other hand, Democrats are taking this as a win. Consider MoveOn.Org's reaction. "President Bush, Bill Frist and the radical right-wing of the Republican Party have failed in their attempt at seizing absolute power and the "nuclear option" is off the table. Our members fought hard to preserve the filibuster, which will now live to see another day."

So all is not well in Republicanville. But there's no shortage of umbrellas in Democrattown.

Ignorance is Strength

Or so the old saying goes. But is it true? Well on movies you generally see really strong guys who are also kind of, well, dumb. Take the incredible Hulk. Or Mr. Incredible (despite having a big heart, it's clear who the thinkers are in that family). So does ignorance make one more physically strong? To test this theory, read this article by Herman Cain, and see if you feel any stronger.

Admittedly Cain does reference the same saying, but he means it to apply to ignorance that Democrats are spreading about President Bush's plan to save Social Security. But right there is his first little nugget of ignorance. President Bush has steadfastly refused to put forward his plan. He's parceled nuggets here and there (most notably in his Press Conference a couple of weeks ago). But a proposal has not yet been put forward.

Mr. Cain also ignores the Social Security Trust Fund, denigrates the offer of a compromise by Democrats, suggests that earnings can be passed onto heirs (the versions of the plan I've seen require you to buy an annuity with your savings to provide an income for the rest of your days, which is non-transferable), and condemns Democrats for not having a plan of their own. The last one is traditional Conservative strategy right now, and it's total crap. But you already know that.

Anyway I was going to ask if you felt any stronger, but it occurs to me you've been reading me, not the actual article. So do you feel any less strong?

Monday, May 23, 2005

More Star Wars Politics

Debra Saunders, in her latest article, takes on Star Wars and finds it wanting.
For me, the "Star Wars" saga faded with "Episode VI: Return of the Jedi." It wasn't the cutesy Ewoks, although the teddy-bear warriors were irritating beyond belief. No, the big problem was the fact that Darth Vader, who had killed countless souls without hesitation and destroyed an entire planet just to make a point, nonetheless wholly redeemed himself by refusing to kill his own son. Thus Vader won a coveted spot in the afterlife sitting by the eternal campfire with Jedi good guys Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda.

The dead Darth-turned-Anakin looks happy, too. You can imagine him turning to his old chums, and saying, "Sorry about Alderaan. Have a nice day."

If only Hitler had sired a son. Then, after the Blitzkrieg and the Holocaust, Hitler might have had that redefining moment that would have gotten him in touch with his paternal inner self, and taken up gardening. Or origami.
This is a fair point. Once could suppose, however, that those dead on Aldereen (or on Hoth, or the Younglings in the Jedi Temple) were taken care of in the force. Certainly Yoda seems to hint at that in the latest movie, where he suggests that Anikin learn how to let go of those that he loves.

The contrast, however, is that we only see Jedis as blue ghosts, and Yoda, at the end of episode three, indicates that the ability to maintains one personality in the living force is a bit of a trick. Of course in some forms of Buddhism (from which the ideas of the Force borrow, somewhat) maintaining a distinct identity in the face of infinity is not desirable.

At any rate, Saunders then goes on to talk on how George Lucas has presented the movie as a subtle dig at the administration, and accuses him of elevating moral relativism.
Thus, we discover, as Obi-Wan says before the final light saber duel, that the Sith are evil (despite their germ of good?), not just for what they do, but because, "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." In Lucasworld, moral relativists are the real good guys in a universe of gore.

Which doesn't make sense because the Jedi do trade in absolutes, as does every tribe. They've got their rules, too -- and they're pretty good rules, if they do become overly cumbersome, hokey and dangerous at times.

Here's a sign, early in the movie, Lucas gives moviegoers that Anakin Skywalker is drifting toward the dark side. After hacking to death every body in his path, Anakin has an evil mastermind at his feet. Kill him, the future emperor coos.

Afterward, Anakin notes it is not the Jedi way to kill an "unarmed" man. Forget that this particular villain can't be unarmed as long as he has his mind. Forget that he is the reason so many others died, and the Jedi didn't fret about their end.
Of course this begs the question of whether the Republic has the death penalty or not. To make a real world comparison, Howard Dean has gotten a lot of flack for wanting Osama Bin Ladin to stand trial. I don't know whether bin Ladin can be taken alive, but if he can, I want him to stand trial as well. A society of justice is better than a society of blind vengeance.

Robert Novak keeps his Eye on the Ball

Specifically his latest article underlines what this whole shebang is about, the Supreme Court.
Senators droned on last week, supposedly debating two female nominees for the U.S. appellate bench, but it was a sham. The real issue was the future makeup of the Supreme Court, which explains the audacious Democratic strategy of blocking President Bush's choices for lower courts.
Fair enough, up to a point. But Novaks need, financially, to portray Republicans as heroic and Democrats as evil bastards does trip up his analysis. For example, he basically assumes that the only reason for opposition to Priscilla Owens and Janice Rogers Brown (and the others) is a strategy to scare President Bush when the actual nominees come up. He also argues that Democrats and Republicans aren't really listening to each other because Democrats make arguments which the Republicans debunk. And then the Democrats repeat those same arguments. But he doesn't note that the same thing happens in reverse (presumably because in his partisan addled mind Democrats never refute anything Republicans say.

Oh and if situations were reversed, is there any doubt that Congressional republicans would be doing all of this and more?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Luck or Work?

What determines destiny? Is it Luck? Is it Hard Work? A combination of the two? This is the question Matt Miller takes in his column today, over at the New York Times.
Obviously this is a false choice; every life is a blend of both. We're born with certain endowments, and make the most of them (or don't) based on personal traits. But if you had to say which one matters most in shaping where people end up, how many of you would join me in answering "luck"?

In a poll I commissioned a few years ago, people who call themselves liberals or Democrats overwhelmingly said luck; most conservatives or Republicans said individual effort.

But if you're hoping to shake up today's gridlocked politics, what's interesting is that independent voters - now the nation's biggest bloc - viewed luck the way Democrats do.
It's an interesting argument. I've noted the core of it myself. Conservatives demean any talk of luck or class playing a role in success as class warfare or not trusting that the poor can make it on their own. Anyway well worth check out.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Quote from President Bush

I know that some of you think that I'm a little hard on President Bush when he misspeaks. So today I'd just like to compliment him on a recent statement which is both honest and succint.
And that's why I'm talking about Social Security. And the debate has only just begun. (Applause.) But I believe the side of reform is going to prevail, because the American people now are beginning to realize we have a serious problem when it comes to Social Security. And that problem begins with people like me.
What a forthright statement. Originally from GreatScat!

Round the Horn - A Double Shot of My Baby's Love

Since I was in St. Louis Last week, I didn't do a "Round the Horn" segment. So let's do a double segment today.

Natalie Davis' All Facts and Opinions has done a recent redesign, and it looks quite good.

And Then . . . talks about going on a political hiatus and the state of the political nation.

bloggg has some news on how kids with disabilities might get a better break in Pennsylvania.

Bark Bark Woof Woof writes about the theory that Democrats should let the Republicans trigger the nuclear option (and then live with the consequences).

Corrente has an overview on how triggering the Nuclear option would work.

Echidne of the Snakes has some comments on the language of war and politics. She's right.

Edwardpig says goodbye to the blog-o-cube (blog-o-sphere is so 2004!). He was a great writer, and I hope that he will find his way back sometime soon.

Happy Furry Puppy Story Time has a post that involves the strange intersection of Grand Ayatollah Uzma Sistani and Twisted Sister.

Iddybud has some thoughts on some unfortunate attacks that Republicans are making on those who oppose their power grab.

LEFT is RIGHT has some thoughts on Senator Lautenburg's invocation of Star Wars on the floor of the Senate.

Pen-Elayne on the Web has the story on Northridges election of Ralph Wiggum to be their new mayor. Sort of.

Musing's Musings is riled up at the right. Not without reason, either.

Respectful of Otters has some very solid words on the Reverend Chan Chandler and his attempt to kick out all the democrats.

rubber hose comments on the disconnect between the news we care about and the news that we don't.

Scrutiny Hooligans has comments on that big phony Zell Miller and his latest book (which features an introduction by Sean Hannity).

Speedkill is, apparently, not a big fan of the Huffington Post so far.

The Invisible Library has some thoughts on Wikepedia, Encarta, Slate, and the Microsoft Corporation.

So there you go. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars; the Politicos Strike Back

The New York Times has a story on how Star Wars is playing in the rarefied world of politicos. For one thing PABAAH (Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti American Hollywood) (which I can't link to cause the guy there is a jerkwad) has added George Lucas to the boycott list. Which means all you loyal conservatives better not go see it. But then check out this commentary from the New York Times, which, I am assured is super liberal.
All of which calls into question Mr. Lucas's decision to have the premiere of the "Star Wars" finale at the Cannes Film Festival. France is sometimes called the biggest blue state of all, after all. And just what was Mr. Lucas - who could not be reached for comment Wednesday - thinking when he told a Cannes audience that he had not realized in plotting the film years ago that fact might so closely track his fiction?

Alluding to Michael Moore's remarks about "Fahrenheit 9/11" at Cannes a year earlier, Mr. Lucas joked, "Maybe the film will waken people to the situation."

Apparently in all seriousness, though, he went on to say that he had first devised the "Star Wars" story during the Vietnam War. "The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable," he told an appreciative audience.
Feel the liberal love there? I mean look at that nutty George Lucas drawing parallels between his film and current political situation. And here the New York Times failed to call him on it. I mean they used mild derogatory language ("What was Mr. Lucas . . . thinking" and "Apparently in all seriousness") but this calls for far more than that. Frankly an honest person writing this article would have called for Mr. Lucas to be placed under psychiatric care without delay.

$8.8 Billion Dollars

I think the jig is up. I've been keeping mum about this for a while but Al Franken's post yesterday at the Huffington Report is shining a light on a situation that this bloggist is involved in.

The American Occupation authority that governed Iraq may have lost $8.8 billion in Iraqi money, according to the New York Times. Well the truth is, I got it.

Most of it anyway. I got $8,795,264,669.50. I don't know what happened to the other $4,735,330.50. Probably Halliburton. Or George Clooney.

Anyway I've tried to keep it quiet, while I wandered the world as a combination of that Kung Fu guy and Mr. Magoo. I even commissioned the a LMD (Life Model Decoy) to replace me so my friends wouldn't get suspicious.

I feel so much better now that I've admitted it. Plus coincidentally enough I'm on an island (a gentleman never names names) that does not happen to have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Anyway, this has been a really trying time for me, so I think I'm going to go take a soak in the hot tub (filled with Evian, by the way).

The Nuclear Option and You

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
- William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet"
There's a good article over at working for change at the symbolism of the nuclear option. For those unfamiliar with how this phrase entered the public vocabulary, Trent Lott coined it at the beginning of this debate. Since then the Republicans have realized that the term might carry negative connotations, and have switched to using the term "Constitutional option." Several stupid reporters have mistakenly assumed that "Nuclear option" was the Democrat counter to the Republicans "Constitutional option" proving that reporters have, above all, a laziness bias.

At any rate, the article is actually a pair of articles. A short introduction by Tom Engelhardt and a longer article by Ira Chernus, tracing the term Nuclear Option and connecting it back to the cold war and the red scare. In his introduction Engelhardt comments on the possible outcomes of this nuclear option.
For the nuclear option and its attendant imagery is, as Ira Chernus explains below, a more than apt metaphor for the moment -- not least because of the nature of the Senate grab for power by so-called conservatives. (By the way, isn't there some sort of expiration date on the use of the term "conservative," especially when what's being considered is radical indeed -- getting rid of a traditional political instrument whose history extends back to the early 1800s?) The wiping out of the filibuster could, in fact, represent the sort of great leap downhill (no slippery slide here) in the direction of a one-party state that many fear. After all, the accruing of unprecedented power to a majority party in the Senate will in reasonably short order lead to unprecedented control over the nation's judiciary. Just remind me, what's actually left after that?
The article by Chernus goes into the connections between the Nuclear scares of the 1950s and the current Nuclear scare. It's quite interesting, and a little scary in it's own way.
On America's political right wing, politics and life itself are acts of war. It's go-for-the-jugular, take-no-prisoners, winner-take-all. Nuclear weapons have always been a consummate symbol of the conservatives' insistence on absolute victory and absolute control.
Anyway we'll have to see how this filibuster situation plays out, but the underlying tension won't disappear either way.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Senate Confirmation Hearings

Sen. Kay Baily Hutchinson (R) just finished speaking. Apparently this Priscilla Owens is really a lovely person. Her father died on the way back to Korea, which is sad. She helps blind people by giving them dogs, which is good. Democrats do not want to get to know the real Priscilla Owens, which is bad. Let's look and see how this nice, lovely person, upholds consumer protections (from Independent Judiciary).
Read v. Scott Fetzer Co.37 The Kirby Company, a manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, required that its distributors sell its product door-to-door, in person, in order to distinguish Kirby from other brands. However, Kirby did not require its distributors to conduct background checks on their door-to-door salespeople, and a Kirby distributor hired Mickey Carter without checking his background. Carter had a history of inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace and had been fired from his previous job after he was arrested on a charge of indecency with a child. After Carter raped Dena Kristi Read in her home on a purported visit to sell her a vacuum cleaner, Read and her family sued Kirby for negligence. The Texas Supreme Court affirmed the award of $160,000 dollars by a vote of 6-3. Justice Owen joined both dissents, arguing that Kirby should not be held accountable.
Hmmmmm. That doesn't sound very lovely. But maybe I just need to get to know her better.

Today is the Day

Apparently today is the day that they are going to decide on the Judges issue. Senator Frist is talking right now on C-SPAN 2 on how these judges deserve "a vote." By which they mean they deserve confirmation. I wonder if the Democrats will be allowed to speak at all. I mean the moment a Democrat speaks a filibuster starts, if I understand correctly.

I Can't Hear with this Partisan Ideology in my Ears

Jay Bryant writes a clever article today on Priscilla Owens, one of the justices whose assent to the Federal Appeals court was blocked by those nasty Democrats. But first of all he links Bill Clinton, Minnesota Viking Onterro Smith, and Michael Jackson, in a two minute hate performance, presumably designed to distract his readers so they fall for his slight of hand later in the article.

And here is the slight of hand.
This brings me to another obvious lie, one currently being retailed by Senators of the Democratic persuasion, their 527 Committee propagandists and various and sundry media toadies.

Simply stated it is this: because Alberto Gonzalez once said that Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen was a "judicial activist," she should be disqualified from consideration for promotion to the appellate court.

At least one of the 527's - People for the American Way - is currently running commercials in which Gonzalez's statement is the one and only reason given to support the filibuster against Owen's nomination.
First of all, Mr. Bryant seems unclear on what a lie is. Mr. Gonzelas really did indicate that Priscilla Owen was a judicial activist, and we really do oppose her ascension to the high court. How are either of those two statements lies?

Secondly, they are talking about commercials. You don't have a lot of time in a commercial. A few minutes and your done, right? So you pick the strongest part of your case. But then Mr. Bryant pretends that this really is our entire argument against Ms. Owens.
. . . the charge of "judicial activism" - especially when it emanates from the left side of the Senate chamber - is so inconsequential as to be unworthy of mention.

If that's the worst thing they've got against Owen, they've got (to quote Archibald MacLeish) "nothing, nothing, nothing at all."
But there's much more you see. The truth is that Ms. Owens has consistently put the desires and greed of corporations over the rights of citizens, consumers, or workers. And she has done it outside the law in a number of situations. People for the American Way, the creater of the commercial mentioned above, has a review of many cases she's heard. Independent Judiciary also presents a strong case against Owen.

So pretending that our only argument against Priscilla Owen is a remark by Alberto Gonzelas seems like, well, a lie.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Let's All Go to the Movies

I went to the movies this afternoon, and I have some thoughts.

1. Let's have a five year moritoriam on movie previews in which a row of females act like 1960's girl groups. For one thing, we are nearing the point when more people remember stupid movies in which rows of girls hold out their hands to some song, then they remember the actual original performances themselves. So knock it off. At least for a little while.

2. The Interpreter is not, in fact, a movie about interpetation. Wouldn't that have been cool? "Wait a moment, you didn't conjugate this verb properly. If you don't correct it in the next three minutes, Italy will go to war with Algeria! Move move move!" Or maybe more of a humorous movie. "Billy Jo, did you really just translate "I demand freedom for my oppressed people" into "Oh no! My heacache medicine just wore off?"

But Interpetation plays only a tangential role in The nterpreter. Mostly it's a taught thriller with a lot of emotions in it too.

3. The movie takes place in the fictional country of Matobo, which I presume was done out of courtesy to real African nations that might have similar problems of noble leaders turned to monsters or genocide. But what I want to know is why the same courtesy isn't made for American locations. Take "Escape from New York" which portrays a city torn apart by gang warfare. It's basically a burnt out shell of a city, where human rats tear each other apart in search of scraps of civilization. But the movie ignores New York's vibrant night life, it's proud theater district or it's amazing culinary scene. Is that really fair? Wouldn't it be more fair if the movie were called "Escape from North Yorkshire" or something like that?

Just some thoughts.

St. Louis Memories - 1

This is the first in a series of notes on the sessions I attended at the National Conference for Media Reform. Kind of dry stylistically. I slipped into my minute voice. Enjoy.

What Have We Won? A History of Media Activist Victories.

Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), began the discussion, talking about the success FAIR has had over the years. He put forward the suggestion that media reform movements can help reporters develop the courage to change their lazy ways.

Dee Dee Halleck, of Deep Dish Television, then spoke, giving an extensive overview of the history of the media reform movement. She covered the struggles to make Public Broadcasting really public. She also talked about struggles over how the big media portrays minorities. She also discussed struggles around getting fair coverage of international issues, particularly free trade.

Mark Lloyd, from the Center for American Progress and former member of the Clinton White House, began his comments expressing happiness that there were so many young people around. Things are changing very fast, so it is difficult to know what is going to happen exactly. Democracy requires communication. Fixing all of our other problems requires us to be able to talk to each other, frankly and openly.

This is a dark time. The Administration opposes all media reform, and they oppose it actively. The FCC is in opposition to the media. We don?t have the Senate; we don?t have the House of Representatives. And we are as distracted and divided as we have ever been. But dark times can lead to vast reforms. We do have a few things in our favor. We have the right to make our arguments before the FCC. We have standing before the courts to bring our case forward.

He then commented on the Evidence of things not seen. In particular he spoke of the 1996 telecommunications act, providing a defense to it, or at least some mitigating factors. He noted that the act requires telecommunications firms to serve schools and rural communities. It also required the telecommunication companies to remove barriers to women and minorities.

Andrew Schwartzman, of the Media Access Project, commented that this was an old fogies panel. He discussed how the system is supposed to work, and, in particular, how Courts are supposed to decide cases. They need to base their decisions on the record but also on the potential harm caused by the decision.

Then followed a question and answer section. Several asked about a good book overview of the history of the Communications history. One book suggested was Changing Channels: The Civil Rights Case That Transformed Television. The work of Robert W. McChesney was recommended as well. The core issues of the Media Reform Movement are justice and non-discrimination and translating those values into technological and salient terms.

They were asked what they would like to see in 50 years. An independent network that provided an outlet for independent filmmakers would be nice. They would like to see genuine public television, and stronger limits on how many media outlets any one company can own.

There was a question what the Center for American Progress does. They are not affiliated with the Democratic Party, but are interested in a broad portfolio of liberal issues.

There was a discussion of the obstacle that the current media setup is to Democracy. Activists and left wing voices are minimized in the media, and so real progress on some of these issues is impossible. The Blogs and the Internet and independent papers aren?'t enough. We need to get our voices into the mainstream media.

It ended with a brief discussion of hope. The people running these issues aren'?t geniuses. Look at the AT&T break up. They aren?'t all powerful, and they can be beaten.

Judge Week

Apparently Senator Bill Frist is determined to bring judges to the floor this week. Senate Democrats are expected to filibuster, and Frist is expected to inoke the nuclear/constitutional/crybaby option in order to stop them. So Conservatives columnists are taking one last whack at the argument that President Bush should get everything he wants.

David Limbaugh has the story (ripped off from Bob Novak) on "a California political consulting firm [that] requested the financial records of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Edith Jones and 29 other "appellate judges in all but one of the country's judicial circuits, including nine widely mentioned Supreme Court possibilities." According to Novak, such a mass request for disclosure by federal judges is unprecedented." Yeah requesting financial records. That's pretty sinister.

But wait, there's more. Apparently Harry Reid (who once again proves that Democrats can put up anybody for high office and Republicans will despise him) is connected to this agency. And Limbaugh thinks they might do more than look at financial records. What an invasion of privacy. They might be spying on them 24/7. They might have placed secret bugs inside of each judge to record every word they say. They might be using specialists from Professor Xaviers School for Gifted Children to ferret out their very thoughts, pulling out every dark emotion or thought. Think about that? I mean, Limbaugh presents no proof that any more than records fishing is going on, but think of the possibilities.

Anyway look for a lot of talk on judges this week.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Return of News

I used to have a site over there for links. Then I broke it down into links and blogs. Then, at some point, I deleted the links, leaving just the blogs. Then I added the popular culture links. Now I am reading the news links. I suspect my links will blossom over the next couple of weeks as I was introduced to or reminded of so many cool things while at the conference.

And there are two of those things just now. Newsdesk.org and the NewStandard. Both are news complilers, pulling together disparate stories and putting together in a way that lets you make sense. Both also seem to pull from the world press as well as American, which is generally a positive thing. Anyway two sites to put on your radar screen, in my humble opinion.

The Spirit of St. Louis

For those interested here are some pictures from my recent trip.

This guy was playing a very pretty harp in the halls of the hotel.

This is a picture of the hotel. Sort of a phallic shot, but that's the buildings fault, not mine.

Remember I told I told you I wrote one of my posts from a hotel stairwell? Here's a shot (watercolored up).

And finally, to prove that I actually was in St. Louis, for those doubting thomases out there.

Be back later with some work from the conference.


This may not be a word, but if it isn't, it is now going to become one. Ahistorical refers to a viewpoint or an opinion that does not match up with history. For example, if I said "The Civil War had nothing at all to do with Slavery," that would be an ahistorical viewpoint. History shows that slavery did have a lot to do with the Civil War.

Anyway Ms. Diane West makes an ahistorical argument in her latest article. Specifically she talks about how the warriors of World War II were brave and heroic honorable, qualities valued at that time. But our current culture mocks those values.
Then there was Lt. Col. Duncan Campbell, 91, who was awarded two Military Crosses in 1940 in the East Africa Campaign. Walking ahead of the two infantry companies he was leading on a strong Italian position, the Telegraph reported, "he ensured that his C.O. did not lose sight of him in the rough terrain by singing the theme song from the film 'Sanders of the River' at the top of his voice amid the crack of rifle bullets and the noise of shell explosions." (I gather "Sanders of the River" is a cinematic ode to Empire along the lines of the 1939 version of "The Four Feathers.") It's almost difficult to read about such dazzling bravery without also imagining a Monty Python-esque parody popping up like a jack-in-the-box to deconstruct it between the lines. But such was life before the "Desperate Housewife" and the "South Park" conservative, a time when the cultural mainstream -- the all-enveloping mass media -- treated duty and honor like dependable anchors rather than balls-and-chains.
Actually, Ms. West there have always been artists and individuals skeptical of the use of duty and honor. Going back to World War 1, for example, you have the poetry of Wilfred Owen. How does Ms. West read these lines? "My friend, you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
" One might also consider the writings of Mark Twain for someone who had much to say on the concepts of honor and duty and their misuse.

I can't read anybodies minds, but I suspect for many of these authors, Honor and Duty aren't the problem. The problem is arrogant and greedy men who would use those noble traits to serve their own base ambitions.

Oh, the film "Sanders of the River" stared Paul Robeson, who was an actor, a singer (Old Man River was his signature tune), and an activist, who famously praised the Soviet Union and was a well known socialist. And had a harder time finding work after world war 2. Funny how life works sometimes.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Meet Me in St. Louis - New Quote, New Format

As I do every week, I have a new format and a new quotes page.

I am now back at home. Last night was the big keynote event, involving Al Franken, Patti Smith, Davey D, and others. Davey D in particular I found very persuasive. And Patti Smith performed 5 songs and they were very good.

Today while I was catching my airplane, I saw Patti Smith in the airport. I immediately accosted her to talk about my favorite song of hers (her version of Hey Joe). I could tell how interested she was in my ideas by the way her eyes kept darting back and forth. Apparently she didn't like my scent, so she used a spray to make me smell like Huevos Mexicaines.

I'm just kidding of course. Patti Smith has a right to a private life, so I just noted her presence, smiled, and didn't disturb her. Instead I snuck up and went through her bags. Cause that's the thoughtful kind of guy I am.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Meet Me in St. Louis - Talking On Camera

Well here is the semi big news I mentioned earlier. Got an opportunity to appear in a film on new media opportunities representing the fine and noble art of Blogging. I stood up and, after the nice lady from Indy Media told me to tuck in my shirt, I did my duty. The Documentary did not seem to be from Indymedia, but they were helping out doing legwork at the conference. Anyway it was an interesting experience in waiting around, which was fine. And then I was asked my opinion on what I do and all. I plugged the Liberal Coalition and my own blog, and stated that I am not a journalist.

Which is true. I'm a commentator. I don't want Brit Humes job, I want Bill O'Rielly's. Doesn't mean I'm not interested in facts or in finding out what's going on, because of course I am. But I'm not going to do the legwork that real reporters have to do. Instead I'm doing synthesizing, taking information from various sources, mixing it up in my brain, and putting it here.

It's also an interesting study in the Gong Show phenomenon. The Gong Show was one of the first TV programs to show that people would do stupid things not for money but just for an opportunity to get on Television. Sort of a breakthrough. Now I'm not saying what I did was stupid (although I don't really understand why they wanted me to dress up as Officer Krupke), but I could have been a bit more careful about finding out what the score was (who this person was and all). But with the cameras around I just sort of went along with it. Kind of disturbing in a way.

Anyway the big keynote event (involving Patti Smith and Al Franken) is about to start and I want to take a 15 minute nap, so I'm done talking to you for now.

Meet Me in St. Louis - Caucus! Caucus! Caucus!

Just got back from a caucus on how independent media creators (such as myself) can become stronger, more powerful, and can get their message out to the people. It was rambunctious, and noisy and great! I found it very inspiring, frankly, and I hope that something comes of it.

More later, but I have to get back down stairs on something that I'll report on later, assuming it happens (so if I never mention it, assume that it didn't).

Meet Me in St. Louis - Am I in synch?

Just went to a very interesting session on copyright law. A lot of it was on fair use which I was more or less in agreement with their take on it. Sense my shtick involves taking other people's articles and critiquing them, it would be hard for me to be against Fair Use. If you want to see art that does push the boundaries of fair use, check out the Illegal Art exhibit.

Then they got to online file sharing, and Victor Navasky of the Nation (who's name I may or may not be spelling correctly) asked my question, which was, what about artists rights? It's all well enough to suggest that the change is inevitable, and that big corporations are greedy bums (both of which may be true, by the way). But how do music artist continue to make money? Well, some of the little guys might do a lot better was the answer, and the point was argued somewhat convincingly.

But then what about big movies / tv shows? A guy can make an album in his garage - can a guy really make an episode of the Simpsons in his garage? Unfortunately they focused on the music industry, so didn't get an answer to that question.

Meet me In St. Louis - Asking Questions

I'd just like to say to all those who might attend conferences and workshops and have an opportunity to ask questions.

Please do not think a microphone and an opportunity to use it means you should make a speech. Presumably if anybody wanted you to express your opinion or sell your organization, you would be up on the stand. So my advice is to stand up, ask your question, and sit down. If you can't do that, at least be brief.

Oh, and also ask a simple question. Don't ask a question that requires three hours to answer and don't ask a question that requires them to do the whole presentation over from the start.

Also people should be less judgemental. Like me, you see how easy going I am, I would never attack someone just for asking a question in a way that annoys me, for example.

And never be a hypocrite!

But I could be wrong.

Meet Me in St. Louis - the Booths

There were two sessions yesterday afternoon - I attended the 2-3:30 Session (on the victories we have gained, which I will report on in more detail anon), but the 4-5:30 hour I decided to wander around the city of St. Louis like an idiot for a while. So that was fun. But before wandering the city (without my camera, so double idiot), I wandered around the area where a bunch of people had set up little booths on activism and stuff.

I saw a lot of interesting things, some of which I will talk about now and some of which I will talk about later and some of which I will forget to talk about - but they were all interesting. I talked to two guys who were interested in popularizing short wave radio use, as an alternative to low band FM. This would enable people to stay in communication with each other and, really, with the whole world. A progressive voice on Short Wave radio could certainly reach other countries, because it bounces of the atmosphere (the ionosphere to be precise), as this picture illustrates.

Anyway it's a good alternative to low band width FM which progressives are also interested in using. Here is a website connected to the project.

I also picked up a magazine with this picture on the front.

That poster, to me, is just goofy. I don't know if there is some connecting between people praying and Diebold. Is it suggesting that we liberals are dips if we just pray and assume that our elections will be run fairly? Or are those prayers the religious right who don't have to worry about losing elections because Diebolds got their backs?

Or is it just a vague attempt to shock by connecting a famous picture of people praying with Diebold? The message is unclear. I'm sure the artist might defend it by saying he's trying to provoke thought (sort of a catch all defense), but does it really provoke such thought from his readers? Or do most of them look at it, nod their heads knowingly, and move on? Hard to say.

Anyway more later, almost certainly.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Meet Me In St. Louis

Well I am now in St. Louis, as immortalized in the famous song, I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair. I showed up just in time to catch the opening (plenary?) session. It was pretty interesting. They had several speakers (including Robert W. McChesney, Amy Goodman, Janine Jackson, and Malkia Cyril), all of whom gave rousing speeches.

Malkia Cyrill in particular has a powerful presence as a public speaker. She spoke, essentially on how Media Bias and the sidelining of minority groups ties together, and postulated that we cannot get further progress on racial issues without addressing media control, and we cannot get further progress on media control until we make real progress on racial issues. I'm not sure I completely buy that postulate, but it certainly merits further thought.

I am sitting in a hallway, a stair well really watching media activists walking by and talking and stuff. So far my networking skills really really really suck. But I'm going to do better now. I took extensive notes in the meeting I just attended (on the victories experienced by the Media Reform Movement, and am considering tightening them up, adding random references to Gilligans Island. What do you think?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

How Bad Was Hitler?

I know a lot of you are fans of World War Two Movies and Stories and so on, so you might want to sit down for this one.

Hot on the heels of President Bush's comments about Yalta (dissected by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. at the Huffington Report, as previously noted), we have a nice article by Pat Buchannan that suggests World War 2 might have been a mistake for the Western Powers.
True, U.S. and British troops liberated France, Holland and Belgium from Nazi occupation. But before Britain declared war on Germany, France, Holland and Belgium did not need to be liberated. They were free. They were only invaded and occupied after Britain and France declared war on Germany – on behalf of Poland.

When one considers the losses suffered by Britain and France – hundreds of thousands dead, destitution, bankruptcy, the end of the empires – was World War II worth it, considering that Poland and all the other nations east of the Elbe were lost anyway?

If the objective of the West was the destruction of Nazi Germany, it was a "smashing" success. But why destroy Hitler? If to liberate Germans, it was not worth it. After all, the Germans voted Hitler in.
Well I will leave it to my readers to consider the wisdom of Pat Buchannan's words.

On the Road

The next few days promise to be interesting - I am attending the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis. It should be interesting. I am not going to Blog the Conference in the sense of reporting everything as it happens, but I will Blog the Conference in the sent of giving reports on occasion on stuff that happens. I will be taking my camera as well, so there will be nice pictures to look at as well.

Anyway my plane leaves at 7:00 in the morning so no posting till I get there I would imagine (well I'll probably post again this afternoon, but tomorrow I mean). Also need to come up with a catchy title to link all these posts together.

In the Mix

I was listening to NPR this morning on the way into work (like a good liberal. I also listened to some Bob Dylan.), and I caught a report on the new Yahoo Music Unlimited service. It was interesting, analyzing how Yahoo Music stacks up against Apple's ITunes and Real's Rhapsody. In particular, they contrasted Yahoo Musics subscription model (where you rent the service each month and have access to all the songs) to ITunes pay as you go approach.

But one baffling thing in this report is the lack of discussion of selection. Instead there's some perfunctory noise about "Millions of songs" before getting on to how you can download tunes to your computer (or not, as the case may be). To me it's a bit like a Record store advertising they have CDs.
"We're the best record store in town. Look at all these CDs?"

"Do you have the Manufacture album Terrorvision?"

"No, I don't think we got that one. But look at this, Madonna's American Life album. And it's on CD!"

"How about Orchestral Manoevers in the Darks seminal but shlocky album, "Crush."

"Well no we don't have that either. How about a CD of Guatemalan Yodelling. Note the format. It's CD!"
I don't know why other people go to record stores, or what they think a good record store is. I like going to record stores where I might find something cool that I haven't heard in a long time or ever. I like going to record stores that encourage browsing, where the people behind the counter seem to care about music and so on. I don't usually care for Mall record stores (We've got what's currently hot for no percent off!). And, it seems to me that most online retailers are trying to be more like Mall Record stores than Good Record shops.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Father's Rights Movement

For those who are interested in the Father's Rights movement, Amanda Marcotte at Pandragon has provided a good overview of the movement from a critical angle. I think it's well worth reading, particularly as it puts a lot of arguments in one place.

A couple of years ago I was playing Basketball with a bunch of guys and one of them told me, in some detail, about how he had gotten taken advantage of by his wife with the help of the Florida Judicial System. At the time I took the story at face value; he was a pretty good guy, and a good sport on the court. Some of it didn't add up, but I didn't give too much thought about it.

Now it's entirely possible the story he told me was completely accurate. And it's possible he told me a narrative colored by his own interests and frustrations. But for quite a long time I took it at face value, more or less.

Then I joined the Liberal Coalition and started reading Trish Wilson's Blog who writes on these issues in a very cogent manner, and started rethinking my assumptions. I don't want to make it sound like I've come to some sort of miraculous understanding. Instead I feel like I've walked off a pleasant but somewhat fake plateau into a dense fog.

There are a few certainties. The ideal situation any way you slice is for husbands and wives to act as equal and loving partners in bringing up the children and for families to stay together. If that is not possible, the needs of the children should be met first.

Anyway, go read the summary - it's very good.

MIlitary Recruiters May Not Be Entirely Honest

I know some of you will be shocked by this news, but read this little story, and see what you think.
A key event prompting the Army to order a "values stand down," to be observed on May 20, took place in Houston in late April, when a recruiter, Sgt. Thomas Kelt, threatened to have a prospect arrested if he resisted recruiting efforts. Kelt left a voice mail message on the cell phone of Christopher Monarch, 20, of Spring, Texas, ordering him to show up for an appointment -- under the false pretense that Monarch would be violating the law if he didn't. Here's a transcript of the message (available as an audio file, here):

"Hey Chris, this is Sgt. Kelt at the Army, man. I think we got disconnected... I know you were on your cell probably, and you just had bad reception or something -- I know you didn't hang up on me. Anyway, by federal law you've got an appointment with me at two o'clock this afternoon at Greenpoint mall, OK? That's the Greenpoint mall, Army recruitment station at two o'clock. Fail to appear, and, uh, we'll have a warrant. OK? So give me a call back."

Monarch said he didn't receive the message until after the designated time -- and that he hadn't made such an appointment, nor had he been interested in joining the military. "I was scared," Monarch said, regarding the message. When he called Kelt the next day to clear up the matter, Kelt explained that threatening to issue an arrest warrant was a "marketing technique."
Hmmmm. At any rate they have apparently had to suspend enlistment efforts for a month in order to address this problem. So far the army is using the old "a few bad apples" storyline, so we'll have to see what happens.

But of course part of the problem with the military right now is that they are being asked to do too much while the general public is being asked to do nothing. The Bush Administration is determined to carry out it's foreign policy on the cheap, which means there is a lack of funds for supporting the troops "for real," as some say.

Good Cartoon

Here is a good cartoon on the argument that Democrats are opposing these judges because of their religion.

Star Wars! Those Crazy Star Wars!

Two quick links for those, like me, looking forward to a Star Wars movie that might not suck (one never knows). The first is by Jon Bonné at MSNBC which lists 10 questons reasonable people might want answers to in this last Star Wars movie. He raises some good points, but he doesn't reference or even seem aware of the vast array of Star Wars Fiction out there.

The second is from the Conservatoid site Free Republic, in which they discuss the interesection of politics and Star Wars. Enjoy!

No Problem

Walter E. Williams, who's made a pretty good living for himself telling White Conservatives that they don't have to worry about racism any more, writes a new article, er, telling White Conservatives they don't have to worry about racism any more.

But in amongst that cheery news is this passage.
Most jobs start with wages higher than the minimum wage, which is currently $5.15. A man and his wife, even earning the minimum wage, would earn $21,000 annually. According to the Bureau of Census, in 2003, the poverty threshold for one person was $9,393, for a two-person household it was $12,015, and for a family of four it was $18,810. Taking a minimum-wage job is no great shakes, but it produces an income higher than the Bureau of Census' poverty threshold.
I suppose for me the idea that a couple making $12,016 is out of poverty is worth exploring a bit. Not for Mr. Williams though; while he would distrust government solutions to any problem you could name (save military problems), he's pretty content to accept the government definition that couples making over $12,015 are out of poverty.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pay no Attention to the Terrorist Behind the Curtain

This is the theme of John Tierny's latest article. Or to put it another way, since Suicide Bombings are so routine, should we really be focusing on them?

No, that's really his argument.
Everyone rubbernecks at car accidents; cable news ratings soar when there's a natural disaster or a heinous murder. But how much shock value or mystery is there anymore to suicide bombings?

How intrigued are people by murders when the motive, the weapon and the murderer's fate are never in doubt?

I suspect the public would welcome a respite from gore, . . .
Interesting arguement. I'm sure they would appreciate it. Leave more time to focus on runaway brides and runaway pop stars. And the fact that some of the victims are United States Soldiers probably isn't all that relevant.

I'm not impressed with Tierny yet, although I also take issue with Media Matters for America which has suggested that having John Tierny and David Brooks on the editorial page is overkill. While they have somewhat similar views, Tierny, while wrong, is not yet a nitwit.

Jewish Radio Host has advice for Jews.

Edited to add: I am sorry - I got Dennis Prager confused with another talk show host, and mistakenly thought he was Christian.

Not sure how to react to this article, so just going to report what Dennis Prager says.

He argues that the religious Jews are also likely to be the most insular; while those Jews who care about public issues are likely to be secular.

The bottom line is that the less Jewish a Jew is, the more he is likely to feel he has a mission to humanity, and the more Jewish he is, the less likely he is to feel such a mission.

This is a tragedy of immeasurable proportions. It is tragic for humanity because the people who brought the Bible and its Ten Commandments to the world are often the most active in seeking its removal from the world. It is tragic for the Jews because Jews who abandon Judaism and substitute leftist values for Jewish ones (or equate them, which is the same thing) work against Jewish survival. And the Jews who do practice Judaism and are oblivious to any mission to humanity render Judaism irrelevant.

The Jews' mission is as it always has been -- to bring the world to ethical monotheism. Ethical monotheism means there is one God and therefore one moral standard that He has revealed, and He holds all humans accountable to it. This is the point of Jewish chosenness.

Sorry to have screwed this story up.

Tax Policy

Bruce Bartlett writes an interesting article on his tax policy. He attacks the idea of a national sales tax, although not on the grounds that it would massively screw the poor and the middle class while giving the wealthy a slap on the wrist. Instead he says it is impractical, akin to just running the government on donations.

He then notes President Bush's budgetary policy (with lots of help from the Republican Controlled congress) will require a tax hike at some point.
Too many conservatives delude themselves that all we have to do is cut foreign aid and pork barrel spending, and the budget will be balanced. But unless they are willing to seriously confront Medicare, they cannot do more than nibble around the edges. With Republicans having recently added massively to that problem and a Republican president who won't veto anything, I have concluded that meaningfully controlling spending is hopeless.

Therefore, we must face the reality that taxes are going to rise a lot in coming years. I believe that a VAT is the least bad way of getting the hundreds of billions of dollars per year that will be needed.
He's not wrong. Well except about the VAT. I don't know so much about that.

A VAT, for those interested, is defined as follows.
levy imposed on business at all levels of the manufacture and production of a good or service and based on the increase in price, or value, provided by each level. Because the consumer ultimately pays a higher price for the taxed commodity, a VAT is essentially a hidden sales tax.
Well not sure if that is a great idea, but I'm not a fan of regressive taxes. Even if they are hidden.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Future is Now!

Arianna Huffington has a new project which involves a blog with contributor from all over. It's called the Huffington Post, and so far it looks pretty good. You might check out this post from writer and director David Mame, on the trust required for information to flow. Or this post from historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. on President Bush's tenuous grasp of what happened at Yalta. Or you might check out this post by Eric Liu on the Mad Libs approach to political discourse, and what it means for the Democratic Party.

I'm enthusiastic about this site - but worry a little bit about the burnout factor. With so many big names contributing, how long are they going to stick around? Anyway we'll just have to see what happens.

I Can't Stop Plugging Paul Krugman

At least not when he writes articles like this.
. . . let me deal with a fundamental misconception: the idea that President Bush's plan would somehow protect future Social Security benefits.

If the plan really would do that, it would be worth discussing. It's possible - not certain, but possible - that 40 or 50 years from now Social Security won't have enough money coming in to pay full benefits. (If the economy grows as fast over the next 50 years as it did over the past half-century, Social Security will do just fine.) So there's a case for making small sacrifices now to avoid bigger sacrifices later.

But Mr. Bush isn't calling for small sacrifices now. Instead, he's calling for zero sacrifice now, but big benefit cuts decades from now - which is exactly what he says will happen if we do nothing. Let me repeat that: to avert the danger of future cuts in benefits, Mr. Bush wants us to commit now to, um, future cuts in benefits.

This accomplishes nothing, except, possibly, to ensure that benefit cuts take place even if they aren't necessary.
Yeah. Krugman does it again!

A few more reactions to Laura Bush's performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner

Both negative.
When a woman happens to be first lady, "funny" at any expense isn't part of the job description, not when "funny" comes at the expense of her husband's image. And I don't mean "image" as in public relations product. I mean "image" as in public symbol. World leader. Commander-in-chief. In these explosive times, with tens of thousands of soldiers under arms. Which is a sobering thought, or should be.

In other words, feet of clay are fine, but there's no reason to bring the barnyard into it.
- Diana West, "Laura Bush: No Laughing Matter"
Mrs. Bush joked that she not only watched the show, but she was a "desperate housewife" who took Mrs. Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes to see male strippers at Chippendales, where they stuff dollar bills in the dancers' drawers, and that Mrs. Cheney's new Secret Service name was "Dollar Bill."

. . . It's [Desperate Housewives] some of the worst American pop culture has to offer, and will qualify as one of our foulest exports when it hits the international TV market, with America-bashers around the world declaring that America is captured perfectly by that cartoonish show: soulless wealthy people misbehaving in the most shameful ways imaginable. God bless America.

There is, of course, another side to the story. Mrs. Bush has never actually seen the show, and clearly her tongue was placed firmly in cheek.
- Brent Bozell, "Laura Bush: Comedy vs. reality"

I must admit I am curious as to how Bozell knows for sure Laura Bush has never watched Desperate Housewives, although I suppose it might well be true.

Messed up format

Still trying to figure out what makes all my links that blue color - it's not intentional.

edited to add I think I has the Solution!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

New Format, New Quote!

Yep, it's a new format. As you can tell we are going into a light on dark period. Which I have to admit I prefer, although both are good. Anyway if you want to read last weeks posts, click on the link for last week.

Also an updated Quotes page.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

SUVs, Health Care, and Conservative Priorities

You can file this under "Rush Limbaugh has his finger on the pulse of the nation." Apparently SUVs are not the reason GM and Ford are having a hard time despite many other analysts coming to that conclusion. Rush's proof? There are still SUVs on the road. Yep. And competitors, particularly Japanese companies are not in the red, but are making SUVs.

A few points one might bring up. First of all cars don't dissappear immediately because they aren't popular. There may very well be some SUV drivers who wish they had got a more fuel efficient car, but aren't ready to sell theirs just yet. And there may be others who don't care about high gas prices because they got tons of money anyway. Many of those sorts probably live in Rush's neighborhood. Secondly, Toyota and other companies provide stronger alternatives on the fuel efficient side of the scale.

But then he gets to the real reason GM is having hard times in the stock market.
One of the big differences, and it's just interesting in a competitive sense or comparison. I'm not giving you a statement of advocacy or opinion on this, but in Japan, the health care and pension plan for their autoworkers is paid for by the government. In United States, the health care and pension plans of employees in the automobile industry and most others is paid by the company. Now, I don't want to get into a discussion, "Rush, government, whatever, it's all paid for by the people." I know this. But, in terms of accounting and in terms of profit and loss, if Toyota or any other Japanese firm goes into the year not having to spend $5.6 billion a year in benefits that GM has to spend, what's GM going to have to do to the price of its cars in order to make that back? Right now, the price per car in General Motors if you average it all out, to pay for their employee health care and pension plan is about 1500 bucks. Japan does not have to pad the price of their car with a dime for their employees' health care or pension plan because the government pays it.
So basically Rush is against workers having employer run health plans or pensions. Of course he is opposed to the government stepping in as well.

Rush has claimed to be a champion of the worker in the past. Not sure how this squares with that.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Round the Horn - A Very Cynical Attitude

Here we go.

archy has a bit on Operation Salami Drop. Really don't need to say anything more than that.

Kick the Leftist is apparently done blogging, so let's all say goodbye. His last post is a thoughtful rumination on New Democrats vs. Leftists and is worth considering.

Steve Gilliard's News Blog has a piece on the Bush Administrations plans to upgrade the military.

Rick's Cafe Americaine has a story on Superheros celebrating the Passover. May be slightly sacrilegious. But funny.

T. Rex's Guide to Life has some advice on what to do in case of a nuclear bomb.

Wanda at Words on a Page has some thoughts on Pat Robertson's recent remarks involving the relative judges of nine robe wearing men in Washington and al-Qaeda.

First Draft has a picture of a Ferret and another Ferret. Sort of.

Steve Bates, The Yellow Doggeral Democrat has some thoughts on Rep. Al Edwards and his plan to curb suggestive dancing by cheerleaders at football games.

And that's it for another week.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Molly Ivins - Good at Math!

Or at least in her latest article, which is yet another good rundown of last weeks Social Security press conference.
In another interesting development from President Bush's news conference, if you make more than $20,000 a year, you are wealthy. That's what the president said -- "wealthy."
Well, then again, maybe President Bush has been studying at Springfield Elementary.
Nelson: Hey, look how much money Skinner makes. $25,000 a year!
[the students say, "wow"]
Bart:[putting the numbers in a calculator] Let's see, he's 40 years old times 25 grand -- whoa, he's a millionaire.
[the students sound impressed]
Skinner: I wasn't a principal when I was 1!
Nelson: Plus, in the summer, he paints houses.
Milhouse: He's a billionaire!
[the students say "wow" again]
Skinner:If I were a billionaire, why would I be living with my mother?
Yeah, that might explain President Bush's confusion on relative wealth. But let's see how he does on consistency.
Bush said, "I know some Americans have reservations about investing in the stock market, so I propose that one investment option will consist entirely of treasury bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government." These are exactly the same treasury bonds that currently guarantee Social Security and have been described by Bush, including in the very same press conference, as a cabinet full of "worthless IOUs."
Hmmmmmm. That just doesn't seem very consistent.

So go check out Molly Ivins. Good at math and fun to read too.

Social Security and Welfare

Alan Reynolds is telling that old story about how recalcitrant we democrats are for not supporting the vague means testing proposal President Bush floated in last weeks press conference. After all we like helping the poor don't we?
When the president embraced the notion of having benefits grow least rapidly for high-income workers, the idea received the harshest criticism from egalitarian Democrats. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called it a vicious "attempt to turn Social Security into nothing but a program for the poor." Kerry adviser Jason Furman called Pozen's plan "a system ... in which upper-income people would have less of a stake in traditional Social Security, potentially undermining political support for it."

Pozen finds this hypocritical, since his fellow Democrats have been eager to raise the amount of salary subject to payroll tax from $90,000 to a much higher figure.

Please note, by the way, the vicious comes before the quotations marks not after them.

The truth is, Jason Furman is right. Welfare programs are much harder to defend at budget time than programs that benefit all Americans. As Krugman put it in his latest article (which I covered earlier this week), "It's an adage that programs for the poor always turn into poor programs. That is, once a program is defined as welfare, it becomes a target for budget cuts."

Matthew Yglesias, filling in at Talking Points Memo, put it this way.
Once a program becomes the narrow concern of a minority of the population -- and not just any minority, but a minority that can't afford lobbyists, doesn't enjoy access to the media, is socially isolated from the American elite, etc. -- it gets squeezed out in favor of programs whose constituents do enjoy those things.
In a way, I'd say the Right who hate Social Security have already created some of the grounds for this argument. If young people of today assume (as I did for many years) that Social Security will not be there when they retire, they will not have any interest in it. And see little value in preserving it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A Pair of Responses to the First Lady's Comedy Routine at the White House Correspondent's Association Dinner

First lady Laura Bush's show-stealing debut as a comedienne at Saturday night's annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner had the audience hooting with laughter.

I was right there with them, grateful for the humor and appreciative as ever for Mrs. Bush's humanizing effect on the presidency and our nation.

. . . The ability to laugh at oneself ultimately is a sign of maturity, self-confidence, strength and humility. Men do that well in this country as in few others. Laura Bush's quips - even those that raised a few eyebrows - reflected well on her, as many have noted. But more to the point, they reflected well on the men we like to bash and the intact state of American manhood.

About those who would have preferred her beheaded, we reasonably might infer something else.
- Kathleen Parker, "Laura the Entertainer"

Most of her humor was just right: Edgy but not over the edge. But her off-color stripper and horse jokes crossed the line. Can you blame Howard Stern for feeling peeved and perplexed? And let's face it: If Teresa ("I'm cheeky!") Heinz Kerry had delivered Mrs. Bush's First Lady Gone Mildly Wild routine, social conservative pundits would be up in arms over her bad taste and lack of dignity.

The First Lady resorting to horse masturbation jokes is not much better than Whoopi Goldberg trafficking in dumb puns on the Bush family name. It was wholly unnecessary.

. . Lighten up, you say? No thanks. I'd rather be a G-rated conservative who can only make my kids giggle than a "South Park"/"Desperate Housewives" conservative whose goal is getting Richard Gere and Jane Fonda to snicker.
- Michelle Malkin, "Why I'm not a South Park Conservative"

Ben Shapiro Boy Prognosticator Sees All

Ben's latest article is on the Right to Privacy, which, unsurprisingly, he is against. Most prognosticators are, as their special gifts usually violate people's privacy. And, as it turns out, God also violates any "right to privacy."
That's because the basic thrust of biblical religion -- the system of morality the founders and citizens of the time understood to be the basis for all rights and concurrent obligations -- cuts directly against such a "right to privacy." The idea of an omniscient God opposes the idea of personal privacy. Whatever we do, from the marital bedroom to the kitchen to the workplace, is God's business.
I do see one small flaw in this argument; the Government is not God. Let's read on.
Of course, government is not God. But American morality rests on the notion that citizens may choose to reflect broad Judeo-Christian values through their elected representatives, as long as those values do not establish a particular religion as paramount.
Interesting. So Judeo Christian values may be enforced as laws so long as they do not outlaw other religions? I guess we need to get serious about deciding what Judeo Christian values actually are.

For example, one wonders if charity is a Judeo Christian value, and if, therefore, it's ok to allow the Government to enforce it.