Monday, January 31, 2005

More trouble on the GOP ranch

More trouble on the GOP ranch

From the sheer cement of the base, this one:

"On Friday Rush Limbaugh, a staunch Bush supporter, took two separate opportunities to warn the president that he faced conservative opposition on some key issues that could hurt his chances of passing the rest of his second-term agenda. First was federal spending, which 'is surging out of control,' according to the Heritage Foundation's new 'Mandate for Leadership.'

The other was immigration, which, Mr. Limbaugh told his listeners, 'could break up the Republican-conservative coalition' ? la Ross Perot. 'We cannot maintain our sovereignty without securing and protecting our borders in an era where terrorists around the world seek entry to this country,' he said."

They used to say never get in an argument with a man who buys ink by the barrel. Change the medium, multiply by millions of listeners a day, and Bush has a problem.

Does the Internet Push Democrats to the Left?

Does the Internet Push Democrats to the Left?

Oh, I sure hope so.

Mickey Kaus seems to get it but doesn't like it:

"It used to be that at this stage, opposition party leaders would be making conciliatory noises in an attempt to please voters, and conservative or centrist noises in an attempt to please business lobbyists and PACs. But maybe the amount of money that can be raised over the Internet from Democratic true believers is now more important than PAC money. And if you want to draw a Dean-like share of this Web loot, you have to be ruthless in bashing Bush. Not all the consequences of Internet politics are benign...

P.S.: Note that this theory explains Barbara Boxer's behavior too."

The thing about Howard Dean that really scared - and scares - the Beltway crown is that back in the glory days of The Bat, Dean proved that you can finance a campaign at modern, admittedly obscene levels without heavy-hitter donors, 20 and 50 and 100 bucks at a time. That's why they strangled the baby in the cradle.

Using Junk Mail Lists to Screen Passengers

Using Junk Mail Lists to Screen Passengers

This won't affect me directly since I refuse to travel by air as long as passengers are treated like criminals. But from a Big Brother standpoint it's scary:

A controversial and much-delayed upgrade of the current airline passenger-screening system has gained new momentum, as officials have started testing the newly centralized computer system using real passenger data and are looking to see if commercial databases can help verify passengers' identification.

In the 1990s, the Direct Marketing Association promised it would not market its services to law enforcement since that would harm the direct-marketing industry, according to Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

"Where are those promises today?" asked Hoofnagle . "These databases are only accurate enough for targeting of junk mail. That's what they are for."

Privacy activists, such as security consultant Richard M. Smith, argue those databases, which are used for direct marketing and fraud investigations, are inaccurate and that relying on them could lead to trouble for those whose data is outdated or for students or poor people who don't have much of a "data footprint."

And then there's the next step of scary: data mining for subscribers of specific publications? Starting with, say, any of these and expanding to... anything the Bush Administration trumps up for whatever reason?

I'm not being paranoid. In the 1910's and 1920's socialist publicatons and their readers were regularly target for harassment by postal and criminal authorities, using World War I as their justification. And education materials on birth control were flat-out banned from the mails as "obscene" in that same era. Our present government, with its "security" obsession and fundamentalist view on sexuality, is no more enlightened. Welcome to Gilead.

Yet Another 2008 Roundup

Yet Another 2008 Roundup

Too early? Hey, this is Iowa.

  • Feingold tests waters for possible 2008 presidential run
  • Bayh's Vote Increases 2008 Speculation
  • Time has a whole rogue's gallery:
    Other Dems seriously considering a run are Delaware Senator Joe Biden, who almost entered the race in '04, and Virginia Governor Mark Warner, who is trying to elevate his national profile as he debates a presidential bid. New Mexico's Bill Richardson is seizing every hobnobbing opportunity as head of the Democratic Governors' Association and is "definitely thinking about it," says a source close to him. Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is lining up a finance team and arguing that he can win in some red states...

  • USA Today has a bipartisan roundup

    And from the scary wing of the GOP:

  • Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is "one of a handful of Republican Senators privately mulling a potential presidential bid in three years time."

  • OK, there were more ballots than bodies. Good.

    Can we come home now?

    Sunday, January 30, 2005

    Maybe I’m just 2 demanding

    Maybe I’m just 2 demanding

    For the record, Prince was NOT the first act to use the phrase "purple rain" in a lyric. Pull out that scratchy copy of History: America's Greatest Hits, dust off the turntable, and listen to the words of "Ventura Highway."

    I became a Prince fan early on, going to college close to the cultural orbit of Minneapolis. My taste was still considered a little odd by my dorm neighbors when I was 18, 19 - I heard a few comments regarding the sexuality and/or race of The Artist before fining my 1999 tape unstrung in the bathroom. After which, of course, I defiantly cemented my appreciation.

    Purple Rain hit me very deeply and personally. This STILL means a hell of a lot more to me than President Al Gore ever would have:

    Dig if u will the picture
    Of u and I engaged in a kiss
    The sweat of your body covers me
    Can u my darling
    Can u picture this?

    Dream if u can a courtyard
    An ocean of violets in bloom
    Animals strike curious poses
    They feel the heat
    The heat between me and u

    How can u just leave me standing?
    Alone in a world that’s so cold?
    Maybe I’m just 2 demanding
    Maybe I’m just like my father 2 bold
    Maybe you’re just like my mother
    She’s never satisfied
    Why do we scream at each other
    This is what it sounds like
    When doves cry

    Sure, "Darling Nikki" was a landmark of raunch, despite not containing a single one of Carlin's Seven Dirty Words. But the irony is that the "Satanic backmasked" outro is a prayer, and Tipper could sing "I Would Die 4 U" in church. What's THIS about:

    You’re just a sinner I am told
    Be your fire when you’re cold
    Make u happy when you’re sad
    Make u good when u are bad

    I’m not a human I am a dove
    I’m your conscious I am love
    All I really need is 2 know that U believe

    And I still get that chill right at the pause in the guitar solo at the end of "Let's Go Crazy," strong enough to carry me through the one weak spot on the album. Maybe Appolonia was sleeping with you, Prince, but that didn't make her able to sing. Come to think of it, that acoustic guitar strumming in the background of "Take Me With U" drives the song on all cylinders like a purple motorcycle.

    Even the B-sides that he tossed off the album - "17 Days" and "Erotic City" - were classics that would have made the career of lesser mortals. And I still don't believe they actually snuck "Erotic City" onto the RADIO a few times - I heard it! - with that flimsy excuse of claiming the lyric was "we can funk until the dawn." Just like the kid who thinks he's being subtle and flips the bird in the yearbook.

    Ventura Highway... Jesse Ventura... Minnesota... back to Prince... Sorry. Free associating myself in circles.

    So does all this make me a bad Democrat? To expect the art I love to be respected?

    Maybe I'm just 2 demanding.


    Career intervention: Robert De Niro

    Career intervention: Robert De Niro

    "Meet the Fockers" was the hit of the holiday season and has now grossed $250 million, but it only highlights the fact that Robert De Niro, two-time Oscar winner and star of culture-defining movies such as "Taxi Driver" and "The Deer Hunter," hasn't made a great film in ages. His latest, the wanna-be thriller "Hide and Seek," caps a five-year string of mediocre movies, including "Men of Honor," "15 Minutes" and "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle."

    Making matters worse, he's now featured in a new American Express commercial...

    Not to begrudge Bobby D his big payday, and his success in comedy is in large part due to his persona - we laugh because Paul Vitti (is Analyze This 3 somewhere in development?) IS Jimmy the Gent and Jake LaMotta and young Vito Corleone. This culminated with the amusing yet sadly disturbing spectacle of Fearless Leader spoofing Travis Bickle's "you talkin' to me?" speech. Unlike Brando's self-parody in "The Freshman," where the in-joke of "you look just like" was integral to the film, the Taxi Driver riff was forced and tacked on.

    But when I was young, an American Express ad was "Do you know me?" It was what you did when you were obscurely or formerly famous, on the road to obscure. Let's hope that's not DeNiro's fate.

    The Raw Story | No, they really hate us for what we do.

    No, they really hate us for what we do.

    What radical said this?

    Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.

    That's from a US Department of Defense report.

    Saturday, January 29, 2005

    Where's Midnight Oil when we need them?

    Where's Midnight Oil when we need them?

    Too political? Too tall? Too bald? Too... Australian?

    By all rights Midnight Oil should have conquered the planet in the late 80s and reigned throughout the New World Order era.

    US forces give the nod, it’s a setback for your country
    Bombs and trenches all in rows, bombs and threats still ask for more
    Divided world the cia, who controls the issue
    You leave us with no time to talk, you can write your assessment

    Sing me songs of no denying, seems to me too many trying
    Waiting for the next big thing

    Will you know it when you see it, high risk children dogs of war
    Now market movements call the shots, business deals in parking lots
    Waiting for the meat of tomorrow

    Sing me songs...

    Everyone is too stoned to start emission
    People too scared to go to prison
    We’re unable to make decision
    Political party line don’t cross that floor
    Lt. ron hubbard can’t save your life
    Superboy takes a plutonium wife
    In the shadow of ban the bomb we live

    Everybody have a good Iraqi Election Day tomorrow. More ballots than bodies?

    Bolkcom seeks ban on car title loans

    Bolkcom seeks ban on car title loans

    "A state senator is seeking to ban car title loans, which sock customers who put up their vehicles as collateral with 360 percent annual interest rates.

    'We don't need to create another form of abusive lending that we can live without,' said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, an Iowa City Democrat. He plans to introduce a bill to halt the sky-high interest rates and similar practices.

    Unlike other lending transactions where consumers use their vehicles as collateral, the title loans are considered open-ended credit on which there is no ceiling for interest rates.

    Bolkcom estimated that a borrower who took a $400 loan and paid the minimum payment would have after 75 days paid $265 interest and still owe $292 on the $400 loan..."

    It used to be that the only guy with interest rates like that was named Louie Kneecaps. I spent more years than I care to admit on the wrong end of predatory lending. It's really expensive to be poor and I'm glad MY senator is the one taking this issue off the back burner.


    Recasting Republicans as the Party of Civil Rights

    Recasting Republicans as the Party of Civil Rights

    This is so ghastly it's funny in a sheer chutzpah sense:

    A glossy, GOP-produced "2005 Republican Freedom Calendar," spotlighting key moments in the party's civil rights history, has been distributed to party officials nationwide.

    "We started our party with the express intent of protecting the American people from the Democrats' pro-slavery policies that expressly made people inferior to the state," Rep. Christopher Cox wrote in a letter printed on the calendar. "Today, the animating spirit of the Republican Party is exactly the same as it was then: free people, free minds, free markets, free expression, and unlimited individual opportunity."

    This is the same party advancing the Black Folk Gon' Die Anyway argument for Social Security deform? They're actually hauling the Party of Lincoln argument out of the basement?

    Time for us Democrats to dust off Free Silver, 54-40 or Fight, and the League of Nations... if the Democrats should be able to hang onto ANY issue in the post-Brown v. Board era, it's civil rights.

    Friday, January 28, 2005

    Spread The Facts On Wal-Mart

    Spread The Facts On Wal-Mart

    "In the first decade after Wal-Mart arrived in Iowa, the state lost 555 grocery stores, 298 hardware stores, 293 building supply stores, 161 variety stores, 158 women's apparel stores, 153 shoe stores, 116 drugstores, and 111 men's and boys' apparel stores..."

    On the grand scale of corporate scumminess...

    Mosh Pit Al On The Comeback Trail

    Mosh Pit Al On The Comeback Trail

    I've missed this guy. Chicago Sun-Times reports:

    "Rumble is former Republican U.S. Senate candidate/nightmare Alan Keyes is eyeing a bid for governor. Let us pray for deliverance."

    And verily, deliverance was provided, sayeth the Illinois Constitution:

    To be eligible to hold the office of Governor... a person must be a United States citizen, at least 25 years old, and a resident of this State for the three years preceding his election.

    And there was much rejoicing. (yaaaay)

    Too bad. Would have been interesting to see if he'd have bettered the whopping 27% he got against Obama...

    Another New Deficit Record

    Another New Deficit Record

    The party of fiscal responsibility?

    "The CBO's long-term forecast of $855 billion in deficits over the next decade dramatically understates the red ink poised to flow. That's because arcane rules require the CBO to assume that (1) no additional money will be spent in Iraq or Afghanistan, that (2) President Bush's tax cuts will soon expire (though he's pushing the GOP-controlled Congress to make them permanent), and that (3) the increasing bite of the alternative minimum tax will not be addressed (though both parties vow to act)..."

    Hmm. Seems to me the last two presidents to balance a budget were Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton, with Democratic majorities in Congress...

    Off On A Rant: Dennis Miller Revisited

    Off On A Rant: Dennis Miller Revisited

    It's a seeming paradox: As I begin to take significant strides toward physical fitness for the first time in my life, I find myself watching more television. This is probably because many of those strides are on a treadmill pointed at the TV set.

    I spend too much on my cable considering that all I ever watch on the extra channels are news shows. As I sweat and stare, sometimes I contemplate the politics of celebrity, of news as entertainment, of people actually getting their hard news from "The Daily Show."

    I often long for political leaders to express themselves in the blunt, honest, insightful idiom of standup comics. Sometimes this happens, but only when some sort of lame duckery is involved. One of my movies for the weekend is "Head of State" which I found very very cheap. The Hollywood pitch was probably three words: "President Chris Rock." My review may be straight out of David Spade: "I liked it the first time I saw it, when it was called 'The Distinguished Gentleman' with Eddie Murphy." But I've long thought Rock was one of the most honest comics around, one who gets away with all kind of outrageously true statements, and maybe his take on the political system has something to say.

    At one point a couple years back the GOP was trying to talk Dennis Miller into challenging Barbara Boxer. And the other night I flipped the channel from Boxer's floor speech against Condoleezza Rice to Dennis Miller's CNBC show. I prefer Boxer's politics and Miller's entertainment value.

    Dennis had a medium-liberal reputation on Saturday Night Live and on the HBO program, but that was always a misnomer, a combination of the SNL vibe and the fact that he swore a lot on pay cable. If you listened to the content, you'd realize that Miller was at his core a small-L libertarian. I still think he was the Libertarian Party's lost opportunity in the age of the politics of celebrity. The smartest thing the LP ever did was nominate Howard Stern for New York governor in `94 (he later quit the race rather than disclose his finances), and Dennis Miller for President would have been priceless publicity. But as they proved at their 2004 convention, if you give the Libertarian Party the choice between an effective proselytizer and a purist ideologue, they'll choose the purist every time.

    As a fan I was disappointed in Miller's sharp post-9/11 turn to the right. I'm sure I read politics into my entertainment choices more than most people, but that's what you'd expect from a Clash fan. Maybe it shouldn't matter if the material is pure entertainment; one could easily be a conservative Dixie Chicks fan and ignore the politics (but give a second listen to the subtext of "Goodbye Earl"). But stand-up comedy is topical and timely which inevitably leads to politics. And with all due respect to the late great Johnny Carson, who walked a careful tightrope of neutrality with his political humor, I find comedy that takes a stand much more entertaining than the evenhanded gentle zings approach.

    "Take A Stand" is a feature on Miller's current show - it's basically a different name for The Rant. And a lot of other elements are familiar - the show starts with Dennis at the de facto Weekend Update desk. And there's guests like on HBO, only more of them with a 60 minute format.

    But let's look at The Big Picture a year into Right Wing Dennis. What's the impact of Miller's political turn to conservatism on his work?

    I've watched on and off for a couple weeks and my take is the basic Dennis is still there. The only place I see a sharply conservative attitude is in discussion of terrorism and the war, which Miller has acknowledged are the primary reasons for his shift. This turns up more in the serious interviews, but spills over into the jokes. I paraphrase:

  • News item of Hollywood liberals supporting drivers licenses for illegal immigrants: "Hey, Hollywood. This is America's pulse (holds up left hand). This is your finger (points with right hand; jabs at left wrist repeatedly missing by a mile)."

    Miller addressed the drug war a couple times with libertarian ambiguity:

  • Item: Rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg reports seeing ghosts: "Snoop Doggy Dogg also smokes a lot of pot. (laughter) He must have seen that smoke cloud and though he saw Casper."
  • Item: Supreme Court OKs circumstances allowing drug-sniffing dogs to search vehicles: Dennis hypothesizes about a dog finding a seed in his vintage car and blames it on giving Jon Lovitz a ride in 1986: "I am NOT going down for you again, man!!!"

    Overall it's a little less witty, a little more mean-spirited (not that Dennis was ever sweetness and light) but still entertaining. He's loose enough to cuss occasionally, knowing CNBC will bleep him. I'll rate it as a more palatable red-state reality check than, say, Joe Scarborough.

    And I still wonder if they would have kept Dennis on Monday Night Football if John Madden hadn't become a free agent. Madden over Miller was obvious, but that's no fault of Miller's.

    Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.


  • Mafia Don Turns Informant

    Mafia Don Turns Informant

    No, I don't really want to be a mobster. I just want one of those cool nicknames like "Vinny Gorgeous" (who probably is uglier than the dog faced boy).

    Jailed Mafia boss Joseph Massino secretly recorded his successor plotting the assassination of a federal prosecutor, becoming the first head of a New York Mafia family known to have turned government informant, sources familiar with the case said Thursday.

    A federal indictment unsealed Thursday, which charges acting Bonanno family head Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano with murder in another case, also contends he planned the killing of a top mob prosecutor in meetings with someone described as a "high-ranking member" of his crime family.

    Several sources familiar with the investigation identified Massino as the turncoat Mafioso.

    The alleged betrayal would rank as one of the most stunning violations of the Mafia code of silence in the history of American organized crime. It also would signal just how deeply the FBI has penetrated a crime family that nearly collapsed in the 1980s after undercover agent Joseph Pistone won its confidences posing as mobster Donnie Brasco...

    The writer really should have worked the word "omerta" in just for additional flavor, like that second clove of garlic (properly chopped by razor blade, of course).

    Here's the Mob Nickname Generator. I come up as "The Yodeler" which sounds rather rat-like.

    Thursday, January 27, 2005

    Frist urges 'Manhattan Project' against bio-terror

    Frist urges 'Manhattan Project' against bio-terror

    If we want a Manhattan Project to stop terrorism, the one we need is a Manhattan Project of independence from imported oil.

    Bush Plan Poses Tough 'Safety Net' Questions

    Bush Plan Poses Tough 'Safety Net' Questions

    We need a few answers yet:

  • Would the accounts be voluntary or mandatory? If they are voluntary, when would a worker decide whether to participate? Would the decision be irrevocable?

  • Would workers be permitted to cash out their accounts when they retired, or would they have to buy annuities that pay a monthly sum for life? If a new market develops in private annuities, who would regulate it?

  • What access would spouses and children have to the savings in private accounts? What happens in the case of divorce?

  • Meanwhile, down in Chile, "If people really had freedom of choice, 90 percent of them would opt to go back to the old system."

    Isn't it a little frightening that Bush is citing a program set up in a third world dictatorship as our shining example to follow?

    Godfather Reference Taken A Bit Too Literally

    Godfather Reference Taken A Bit Too Literally

    Can't link to the whole Roll Call article since they are pay-to-play, but this gem deserves note: New DCCC head Rep. Rahm Emanuel "once sent a dead fish to a political consultant who crossed him."

    Also, not worth its own entry, not related, but still worth quoting is Kos: "Now that Ashcroft is gone, will the boobs still be covered up?"

    JoeMentum: Higher Approval from Republicans

    JoeMentum: Higher Approval from Republicans

    A common thread in the ongoing blogosphere discussion of a primary challenge to Lieberman: We could accept a Lieberman-type from a deep red state, but in blue Connecticut we can do better. Lieberman needs to be held to a higher standards than, say, Ben Nelson.

    Now, as Lieberman launches the re-elect bid, this number stands out:

    In a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month, 73 percent of the registered Connecticut Republicans surveyed gave him a thumbs up — a percentage point higher than the approval rating he got from Democrats.

    Joe Lieberman: the Republican's favorite Democrat.

    GOP Congressman Renews Push for Immigration Curbs

    GOP Congressman Renews Push for Immigration Curbs

    "In a move that could put him at odds with President Bush, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee introduced legislation Wednesday that would effectively deny driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, tighten requirements for political asylum and complete the border fence between California and Mexico...

    "Some Republicans have said that they did not speak out against the president's guest-worker program before the November elections out of loyalty to him; but they now feel free to oppose a program that their constituents view as amnesty for illegal immigrants."

    I'm sure "amnesty for illegal immigrants" is not the phrase used. At least not in private.

    The War on Terror (sic) couldn't have come at a better time for immigrant bashers and serves as a nice catch-all excuse. So we give up our civil liberties, and turn away people who want to become Americans. Meanwhile, the real issues of the war on terror - dependence on Middle Eastern oil, propping up regimes with no real popular support, and wrapping the whole thing up in an Israel Right Or Wrong attitude based on domestic political concerns rather than national interest - go unaddressed.

    Anyway, it looks like we're taking a page from Israel and building a border wall. Or maybe that was Pat Buchanan's idea. Funny how extremists all start to seem the same after a while.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2005

    Bloggers looking for a Lieberman alternative

    Bloggers looking for a Lieberman alternative

    Where do I click to donate? Kos starts the ball rolling:

    We could look the other way if Lieberman represented, say, Utah. But does Connecticut truly deserve this neocon?

    I have a policy of neutrality for primary elections, but would make an exception in this case. I don't doubt that a legitimate primary challenger to Lieberman would garner serious netroot support. And if what I hear is true, there are serious efforts underway to draft such a person.

    This primary isn't fratricide: it's necessary. TalkLeft and Atrios are on board too.

    One name in the mix: Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. I can't seem to find where he stands on the state's death penalty as Connecticut tries to push though its first execution in 45 years.

    Thunderbird: a mixed review

    Thunderbird: a mixed review

    Recently I made the switch from Internet Explorer to Mozilla's Firefox browser and I couldn't be happier. I especially like the tabbed browsing (useful for a blogger who keeps multiple windows open all the time), the built-in popup stopping, and some of the interesting extensions.

    So I decided to check out Thunderbird, Mozilla's e-mail program. And while I wasn't disappointed, I've decided to stick with Outlook Express for now.

    The look and feel of Thunderbird is intuitively similar to OE. I was easily able to import my huge and extensive files of old messages, properly sorted into folders. (However, it did NOT retain my messages Read/Unread status, and marked all messages Unread.) My account settings and address books also imported well. But my previously established Message Rules conditions, which include a huge collection of spam words, did not import.

    If I was suffering from major spam issues, I might have been more interested in the spam control features. But since the Great Address Change, and my wise decision to post my e-mail address in a format spam bots can't read, I've received virtually no spam. It seemed like Thunderbird flagged a lot of my messages as possible junk, including many from newsgroups I subscribe to. Granted, a lot of times those FEEL like spam, but they are at least messages I legitimately intend to get.

    The killers, for me, were a couple settings that might seem small to some but that I depend on. I have OE set to grab messages at a regular interval. I was unable to find this setting in Thunderbird and instead had to manually Get Messages. I also found it odd that when a message hit my server, Thunderbird played my "you've got mail" sound (as I heard Brando make me an offer I couldn't refuse) yet I still had to manually Get Mail.

    The other feature I missed was in the Message Rules setting. I manage another blog for the county Democratic Party. The work is simple: whenever OE gets a message from our listserv, it automatically forwards it to a Blogger e-mail address and it is posted. The Message Rules feature in Thunderbird did NOT include Send Message To: as an option.

    The need to manually Get Mail and cut/paste my spam words were inconveniences, but the loss of the auto-forward was the killer. With the addition of these features, I'd be glad to give Thunderbird another try.

    Dodd and Conyers Introducing Comprehensive Election Reform Legislation

    Dodd and Conyers Introducing Comprehensive Election Reform Legislation

    Interesting new but ultimately futile:

    "Among other things, their legislation will provide for a nationwide federal write in/absentee ballot; require states to provide for a voter verified ballot; insure that provisional ballots cast anywhere in a state are counted; eliminate disparities in the allocation of voting machines and poll workers; mandate early voting and election day registration procedures; and protect against improper purging of registration lists in federal elections."

    Of course, a Democratic election bill will go nowhere. But it's important because it contributes to the debate, and as such needs to be looked at seriously. I certainly hope whoever drafted it talked to some people who have actually administered elections - which seems not to have been the case with HAVA in 2002.

    As some of you know I've worked in a local election office in Iowa for seven years. I see some things I like, especially on-day registration which I saw in my native Wisconsin and which worked well.

    My biggest concern is with out of precinct provisional ballots. It may sound great, but a blanket statement like "a provisional ballot cast anywhere in the state of Ohio should count" seems to assume that president is the only office on the ballot. Voters in the wrong precinct are quite often in the wrong district for some other office. Should my vote for, say, a state legislator in a district in which I don't live be counted? Maybe my vote for President and US Senate should count, but how is an overwhelmed office supposed to administer this while still maintaining ballot secrecy?

    There also needs to be some leeway for local officials to use their best judgement in allocating Election Day resources like workers and equipment. Certainly, these resources were malapportioned in parts of Ohio for partisan purposes, and that requires action. Conyers says his goal is "a set of uniform and non-discriminatory rules that respects all of our citizens' right to vote." This seems to assume that giving the locals any leeway open's the Pandora's box of partisanship, and that some sort of concrete formula is required. But seemingly objective statistics like past election returns and registration numbers may be misleading. A one-size-fits-all solution that fails to account for the considerable expertise of the folks on the ground will likely lead to empty booths and idle workers in some places and increased lines and waiting in others. It's a recipe for creating problems, not solvng them.

    Fow now I'll withhold judgement till I look at a draft...

    Don't tax anyone under 30?!?!

    Don't tax anyone under 30?!?!

    "We want to reverse Iowa's brain drain and make our state a more attractive place for our young people," said Senate Republican Co-President Jeff Lamberti of Ankeny."

    I'm sure Lamberti has visions of an Invasion Of The Young Republicans turning Iowa into Free State Project 2. But even a free ride won't change the basic problems: no oceans, no mountains, lousy winters, no big cities, nothing for young people to do, hostility to gays and immigrants, and an entrenched old-and-mean, worst of small town America attitude.

    And even with wages atificially subsidized by a tax break, the rapid Wal-Martification of the Iowa economy makes this a lousy place to start a career.

    But of course the Republican Party has only one solution to every problem, whether that solution is relevant or not.

    What a sad, sad commentary on the state of our state: it's so unattractive for twentysomethings that we need to bribe them into staying.


    2008 Roundup

    2008 Roundup

    Three items from this morning:

  • No shocker - "I've said publicly I'm not closing any doors. I'm not going to open any doors," Kerry said. "It is way too early." Not a Sherman statement.

    UPDATE: 11:40 AM Iowa time, the 3 million name e-mail list got hit with:

    It is totally unacceptable that, in the greatest country in the world, millions of children are not getting the health care they need. That's why this week I introduced the Kids Come First Act. Help me push through the Republicans' political roadblocks and take care of the 11 million children without health insurance.

    Please co-sponsor my Kids Come First Act by clicking here:

  • This is interesting: At least eight different Richardson-related Web site domain names, including "" and "," have been registered with Network Solutions...

  • And in the realm of the truly scary: Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who holds the No. 3 leadership post in the Republican-controlled Senate, said yesterday that while he would not rule out an eventual run for the presidency, he is focused on winning re-election to the Senate in 2006...

  • Draconian system must end

    Draconian system must end

    From the outside looking in on one of our more barbarian practices:

    "Since capital punishment was reinstated in the United States in 1976, nearly 1000 prisoners have been executed, including a 74-year-old so stricken by dementia that he did not know who he was, and a man with the mental age of seven. The US is up there with China, the Congo, Iran and Saudi Arabia in the global league table of executions, despite scant evidence that capital punishment is a deterrent to violent crime."

    Yeah, but which Congo?

    This is mainstream stuff in most of the world...

    Tuesday, January 25, 2005

    25th Annual Golden Raspberry (RAZZIE®) Award Nominations

    25th Annual Golden Raspberry (RAZZIE®) Award Nominations

    The Oscars overlooked Michael Moore this year but at least some of the company from his latest film was noticed in the other Hollywood awards today:

    George W. Bush / FAHRENHEIT 9/11
    Colin Farrell / ALEXANDER

    More trouble on the GOP ranch

    More trouble on the GOP ranch

    This morning I noted that the bedroom obsessed wing of the GOP is dissatisfied with Bush's agenda. Today it seems that the Know-Nothing caucus of immigrant haters is no happier with the GOP Senate agenda. Writes Captain's Quarters, a blogger of the America First persuasion:

    "In an age of terror and in a time of war, there should be no higher priority than securing our borders, one way or another. I understand that some may have different ideas of how to accomplish it -- but dropping it to a secondary or tertiary position on the agenda is unacceptable.

    After watching Frist get pushed around on judicial nominations last year, I wondered if the GOP leadership in the Senate needed a backbone transplant. I'm thinking that the entire central nervous system needs replacing now."

    Jerome Armstrong of MyDD
    points out:

    The dilemma for Bush is that his ~50-50 approval/disapproval numbers depend on a 90% conservative base, because his approval-disapproval numbers suck among Democrats (12-86) and among Independents (39-58). Conservatives rightly know that Bush won because of flaming the anti-gay issue, and are demanding a vote now. And now, with the Top 10 agenda from Frist out in the air, the anti-immigrant bloggers are openly miffed.

    And unlike progressive Democrats in the post-Nader era, GOP brownshirts will not settle for "too bad, you have no place else to go." So we can expect moves in some bad directions, either from the Administration or from congressional Republicans jockeying for position in the post-W era.

    Playing 'whack-a-mole'

    Playing 'whack-a-mole'

    About time.

    While all political eyes have recently and rightfully focused on CBS News and its blatantly biased reporting against George W. Bush, the media itself has been running from a potentially more damaging story to its reputation — a story that clearly shows that, instead of covering the Democratic primaries last year, the media altered their very outcome, and in the process, made John Kerry the Democratic nominee.

    How? By systematically destroying the Dean campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire.

    I was here. Believe it.

    Backers of Gay Marriage Ban Use Social Security as Cudgel

    Backers of Gay Marriage Ban Use Social Security as Cudgel

    I suppose this falls under good news/bad news:

    "In a confidential letter to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, the group said it was disappointed with the White House's decision to put Social Security and other economic issues ahead of its paramount interest: opposition to same-sex marriage."

    "When the administration adopts a defeatist attitude on an issue that is at the top of our agenda, it becomes impossible for us to unite our movement on an issue such as Social Security privatization where there are already deep misgivings."

    First of all it's not real damn confidential if I'm hearing about it and since it's obviously for public consumption. Cracks in the Republican coalition are always welcome to me, and at some point the fundamentalists are going to push so hard that they'll push the self-centered, cut my taxes and leave me alone Republicans away. And I'd be happy to signs of more opposaition to Bush's Social Security gutting - IF I thought they really meant it and were really prepared to act.

    But the sad reality is that the Dark Ages wing of the GOP simply doesn't care about the Social Security proposal, they're just petulant that it's clearly Bush's top domestic priority. It's really, really scary, but they actually care more about hating faggots than they do about anything else. Maybe I've been in Iowa City too long but it's hard for me to even imagine that.

    Jesus Christ spend a lot of His time with us hanging out with people who were considered the scum of the scum. Who are the lepers of our century? And who are the hypocritical moneychangers He'd throw out of the temple?

    Monday, January 24, 2005

    My readers are disappointed

    My readers are disappointed

    The last few weeks I've been doing a couple extra things - some basic pinging, the Technorati tags - that seem to be boosting my walk-in traffic.

    But when I look at the search terms people are hitting me with, I suspect my readers are disappointed.

    Nine months ago, in one of my best pieces of writing, I slapped a gratuitous link to a picture of Laura Prepon from "That 70's Show." It almost kinda sorta fit the piece since I was writing about my experiences in high school, in the very time and place in which the program is set. And if I wanted to really stretch, I could claim the tomboyish beauty of Prepon's character reminded me of the girl I was writing about. But of course the reality is that was a flimsy excuse to put a picture of an attractive woman in my post.

    Just for the record, this blog is NOT the net's hot spot for pictures of actresses who are way too young for me to be noticing. Besides, now that she's gone from redhead to blonde I could care less.

    My point is: I'm getting close to a third of my site traffic in searches for that one picture! And of course this post includes another Laura Prepon reference which means even more traffic from the misled Googling picture hunters. How's that for an effective window into how people use the internet.

    Maybe some of them bothered to actually read the piece.

    Volunteers set to monitor Arizona border crossings: The New Know-Nothings

    Volunteers set to monitor Arizona border crossings: The New Know-Nothings

    A retired California businessman has 240 volunteers ready for a 30-day aerial and ground surveillance campaign on the Arizona-Mexico border to highlight what he calls the government's failure to control illegal immigration.

    I have an unfortunate penchant for radical solutions, and my gut feeling on immigration is "either open the borders completely or tear down the Statue of Liberty." Admittedly extreme. But a private posse prowling the border is an international incident waiting to happen.

    One more sign of the rise of nativism in Red America. The more I think about it the more I think the Republicans are starting to resemble the Know-Nothings.

    I can insert any number of Dumb Dubya punchlines here but I promised to stop making Know-Nothing Republican references after Dan Quayle left office. I'm breaking that promise because I'm seeing serious parallels between contemporary GOP nativism and the Know-Nothing Party (officially called the American Party) of the No Irish Need Apply 1850's. They were more than a punchline; in 1854 they appeared poised to replace the Whigs as America's second party until American politics - and America itself - split along the slavery fault line.

    The other big nativist movement was the 1920s Klan revival. In the aftermath of WOrld War One the Klan moved into the North and was a key player in many states especially Indiana. As much anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic as it was anti-black, the Klan split the Democrats in the infamous 103 ballot 1924 convention, and also helped lead to the landmark immigration restrictions law of that same year.

    Calling the GOP Klannish is asking for trouble, and I don't know the partisanship of the border posse. But in the context of the history of American nativism, consider this statement:

    "We're looking for this nation to again be guided by the rule of law, not a nation ruled by an endless mob of illegal aliens streaming across our borders like a tsunami, a culture shock that someday — perhaps soon — we will have neither the manpower nor the will to stop," he said.

    Only the insensitive but timely tsunami reference distinguished this rhetoric from the message of the Know-Nothings and the `20s Klan.

    Sunday, January 23, 2005

    Few but Organized, Iraq Veterans Turn War Critics

    Few but Organized, Iraq Veterans Turn War Critics

    Vietnam Redux, Part However Many:

    "The two most visible organizations - Operation Truth, of which Corporal Huze is a member, and Iraq Veterans Against the War - were founded only last summer but are growing in membership and sophistication. The Internet has helped them spread their word and galvanize like-minded people in ways unimaginable to activist veterans of previous generations, who are also lending help."

    Money to Fix Space Telescope May Be Cut by White House

    Money to Fix Space Telescope May Be Cut by White House

    "Officials in the Bush administration and in Congress, who asked not to be identified because the budget has not been officially sent to Congress, said NASA was one of the few agencies that would get a proposed budget increase next year. However, a mission to service Hubble, estimated to exceed $1 billion, will not be part of that package, they said.

    The aging observatory, considered one of NASA's greatest achievements, could die in orbit by 2007 or 2008 if deteriorating batteries and gyroscopes that aim it are not replaced..."

    And the Washington Post notes it's not a mattter of saving money or even, in the unending chorus of space haters, spending it "on Earth":

    "Sources said the administration made the decision despite its intention to ask Congress for a 4.6 percent budget increase for NASA to $17 billion. The request is expected to focus on plans to reorient NASA's priorities toward President Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration" to the moon and Mars..."

    Friday, January 21, 2005

    IE Continues to Lose Grip on Market

    IE Continues to Lose Grip on Market

    Gee, looks like I'm trendy:

    "Between the beginning of December and mid-January, IE's market share dropped 1.5 percent to 90.3 percent, while the Mozilla Project's Firefox browser rose 0.9 percent to a total of 5.0 percent..."

    TalkLeft: Army Charges Conscientious Objector

    Army Charges Conscientious Objector

    Sgt. Kevin Benderman served 8 months in Iraq and refused to return. He says that what he saw there has turned him into a conscientious objector. The Army has filed charges against him. It takes the position that Benderman must return to Iraq while he waits for a decision on his conscientious objector application.

    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    Politics1 not so dead after all?

    Politics1 not so dead after all?

    For someone "on hiatus", Ron Gunzberger seems to be doing a lot of updates...

    Now Arnold really IS a Terminator

    Now Arnold really IS a Terminator

    Getting Out the Youth Vote (Not)

    Getting Out the Youth Vote (Not)

    The author (better known as Pandagon) is earlytwentysomething, and despite the retro-1992 Wayne's World reference in the headline (What were you, Ezra, about eight?), here's a good nugget about youth and the Dems:

    That young people didn’t find the threat of military conscription motivating is surprising. Or not. Maybe they just wrote the threat off as an everyday confrontation with the political sphere. And maybe, just maybe, the fact that we do that is also why we don’t vote.

    Unlike some other demographics, youth has its primary governmental interactions with cops, a group that seems to exist solely to harass, at least until you turn 35 or so. But the unpleasantness extends even beyond badge holders. Politicians generally pay us just enough attention to scold; from Lieberman flipping out over violent video games, to Dole tripping out over obscene movies, to Biden legislating against raves, to Bill Bennett attacking rap music (presumably between sessions at the slot machines), politics is one never-ending nag session.

    The bottom line is that most youth have an oppositional relationship to politics, and indeed to the government itself. Whether it’s culture wars, threats of a draft or harassment from a cop, the public sphere seems generally arrayed against us, or at least hoping we’ll delay our involvement for four more years.

    Note the bipartisanship of the scolders. We old Democrats scold at our own peril.

    Democrats Attack Bush on Social Security

    Democrats Attack Bush on Social Security

    ALways good to get the British perspective. And this line is almost as good as the "blacks die sooner" angle from last week:

    Privately, some Republican officials in and out of Congress expressed concern that Thomas had broached the topic of giving women lower monthly benefits than men, who tend to have shorter life spans.

    Why do I get the feeling that Social Security 2005 is going to play out like Court Packing 1937?

    Conservatives Pick Soft Target: A Cartoon Sponge

    Conservatives Pick Soft Target: A Cartoon Sponge

    This is the goofiest thing since the great Tinky-Winky controversy of 1998:

    "'Does anybody here know SpongeBob?' Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results.

    SpongeBob needed no introduction. In addition to his popularity among children, who watch his cartoon show, he has become a well-known camp figure among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick Patrick and likes to watch the imaginary television show 'The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.'

    Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a 'pro-homosexual video.'"

    Insert your own Bikini Bottom punchline. And check out the whole article for the Nile Rogers of Chic connection.

    Justices Ask if Primaries Are State or Party Business

    Justices Ask if Primaries Are State or Party Business

    This is really interesting in our local context:

    A Supreme Court argument on Wednesday posed a civics question with practical implications: Is a political party's primary election basically the business of the party, or of the state?

    Along with 23 other states, Oklahoma does not permit voters registered in one party to vote in another party's primary. Independent voters in Oklahoma may choose a party primary in which to vote, but those enrolled in a party may not cross party lines unless they "disaffiliate" from their party eight weeks before the election.

    I should have mixed feelings about this, but to be honest I don't.

    Background for the newcomers: Here in Johnson County, our courthouse offices have been Republican-free since 1988. The June primary is known, more or less, as the "real election." Local contests split not on Democratic vs. Republican lines, but rather on liberal Democratic vs. conservative Democratic lines, with the GOP aligning with the conservative Dems.

    Iowa is officially a closed-primary state; you have to be registered with the party to vote in the primary. But there's a huge loophole: you can "in good faith" change party any time, including at the polls on Election Day. And including the day after Election Day.

    I should be OK with this. Lets people vote for who they want, right? And I suppose I can see it for the tiny, tiny fraction of the election that's truly independent.

    But I've seen too many active Republicans blatantly interfere in our local Democratic primaries. The law doesn't define "good faith," but I'm of the opinion that if you're asking "how soon can I change back to Republican" while you're voting, you're not becoming a Democrat in good faith.

    (To be fair, a lot of Democrats jumped in the rare years when the GOP had more interesting races, and I oppose that just as much.)

    It's perfectly legal of course. But just because they have the right to do it doesn't make it right. I like to believe that political parties mean something. Not as much as they should, but something.

    The excuse is always "but the Republicans don't have any races and they never win here." But how is that the Democrat's fault? If you don't like it, recruit some good candidates and run a good campaign. Or maybe the problem is that Republican ideas are just not winning ideas around here?

    Of course, some of the local Democrats blatantly campaign for these Republican votes, and I have a bigger problem with that.

    Anyway, Oklahoma's eight-week deadline is worth noting. Personally, I'd like to see a deadline before the candidate filing deadline, so that any party changes are more likely to be based based on an actual change of heart, rather than the wish to support any one candidate.

    If anything, unfortunately, the trend is in the opposite direction, with more states opening up the primaries more and making the parties - the key organizational institutions of our democracy - mean less and less.

    Insert the Dennis Miller disclaimer here. (Aside: I've been watching the New Conservative Dennis lately. The shots are a little cheaper but I still laugh a little, and he still seems like a mismatch for the GOP and a lost opportunity for the Libertarians.)

    Two announce early bids for council seats

    Two announce early bids for council seats

    No translation needed:

    Lehman said Goldberg would make a good addition to the council because of his personality and respect for others.

    O'Donnell also said Goldberg would fit well on the council.

    "I just know Chuck's very enthusiastic about this community, and I just think he'd be a good level head on the council," O'Donnell said.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    Fresh Jokes for Jeff Foxworthy

    Fresh Jokes for Jeff Foxworthy

    This is so good I just have to steal the whole thing:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Defense attorney Leslie Ballin called it the "jury pool from hell." The group of prospective jurors was summoned to listen to a case of Tennessee trailer park violence. Right after jury selection began last week, one man got up and left, announcing, "I'm on morphine and I'm higher than a kite."

    When the prosecutor asked if anyone had been convicted of a crime, a prospective juror said that he had been arrested and taken to a mental hospital after he almost shot his nephew. He said he was provoked because his nephew just would not come out from under the bed.

    Another would-be juror said he had had alcohol problems and was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer. "I should have known something was up," he said. "She had all her teeth."

    Another prospect volunteered he probably should not be on the jury: "In my neighborhood, everyone knows that if you get Mr. Ballin (as your lawyer), you're probably guilty." He was not chosen.

    The case involved a woman accused of hitting her brother's girlfriend in the face with a brick. Ballin's client was found not guilty.

    A Realistic Look At The Exit Polls

    A Realistic Look At The Exit Polls

    For two months now the Official Line has been that the ONLY possible reason the exit polls leaned more to Kerry than the election result was Official Vote Stealing.

    Now, to be sure there were problems, especially in the allocation of resources (more machines in GOP precincts, etc.) And maybe as someone who's seen the election process from every conceivable angle - journalist, party staffer, candidate and election office worker - I just have trouble believing the black-box theories.

    But this article (in annoying pdf) looks at some reasonable, survey-statistic reasons for the mismatch. All this will of course be dismissed by the conspiracy minded and buried by the inauguration:

    The problem is that Kerry voters were more likely to fill out exit poll questionnaires than Bush voters. There's no way to really prove this, but they offer several suggestive statistics:

  • The error rate was smaller in precincts where the interviewers attempted to survey every voter. Error rates went up in larger precincts where interviewers surveyed every third or every tenth voter.
  • Error rates were higher in swing precincts (those that had approximately equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans).
  • Older interviewers had smaller error rates than younger interviewers.
  • Error rates went up significantly if interviewers were required to stand 100 feet away from the polling place.

    The report's conclusion is that when they had greater discretion (i.e., in swing precincts and in larger precincts where they couldn't interview everyone), younger interviewers unconsciously tended to select younger voters, who were more likely to have voted for Kerry.

  • (Haven't read the whole annoying pdf but I'd like to see the data correlated by interviwer/interviewee gender. It's a reality that the election day labor pool of poll workers, party volunteers, and exit pollers is stretched thin and is not supervised on an every-minute basis. Could the whole controvery be explained by interviewers unconsciously or semi-consciously choosing to talk to the Cute One or the Hot One instead of the Little Old Lady?)

    Likewise, younger voters were more likely than older voters to agree to fill out a survey from a young interviewer.

    No other source of error appears to have been present, so the error must have come — somehow — from an oversampling of Kerry voters in individual precincts.

    All this seems more plausible than "h@ck3r$ h@ck3d the votining equipment."

    I'll go back to my old standby: there's no way for pollsters to control for the "none of your damn business" response. Which demographics are more likely to refuse to respond? What underlying opinions and attitudes are reflected by refusal to respond? We don't know!

    Heir apparent for 2008 not so apparent

    Heir apparent for 2008 not so apparent

    "Indeed, not since 1952, after President Harry Truman declined to seek another term, has a presidential race seemed to have so few leading contenders. While circumstances could certainly change over the next four years, jockeying for the Republican nomination also could influence Bush's final four years in the Oval Office..."

    Funny that the Chicago Tribune should mention Harry Truman. But it's worth taking a moment to look at Tom Dewey in the context of the 2008 Republican nomination battle, which should start at about dawn Friday morning.

    The change in the presidential nomination process, from the functional, brokered convention to the sequential state by state primary race, has been mostly driven by the Democratic Party. The Republicans have to some extent been dragged along by changes in state law that were made, by and large, to facilitate the big-D Democratic process.

    Yet there's still an insider dynamic to Republican nominations. There's no GOP George McGovern or Jimmy Carter coming out of nowhere. Instead, there is a nearly unbroken line going back to Dewey, a Republican tradition of nominating the guy whose "turn" it is next. The ideological poles have demagnetised and reversed, but the dynasty continues.

    We begin in 1952, when the Dewey internationalist wing of the GOP backed unbeatable war hero Eisenhower over the conservative isolationist Robert Taft. In 1960, the moderates preferred Nelson Rockefeller, but that consideration lost out because after eight years in the Vice Presidency, it was clearly Nixon's turn.

    1964 is the one temporary interrution in the chain. I'll argue that in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, the Republicans saw the election as unwinnable. Even Goldwater shared that belief. So the moderates let the conservatives take over - temporarily, they thought.

    Having redeemed himself (in Republican eyes anyway) in the 1966 off-year campaign, Nixon was given another opportunity in 1968. Since he came so close to victory in 1960, the sentiment may have been that it was STILL Nixon's turn. I vaguely remember hearing the slogan "the Spiro of `76" trotted out; had Watergate and Bribe-gate not happened, Agnew would likely have gotten his turn.

    1976 proves my theory: who was the only person ever to beat Ronald Reagan? How could clumsy old Poland liberating Nixon pardoning unelected Gerald Ford beat the most charismatic Republican since Teddy Roosevelt? Because Ford was an incumbent President and it was his turn. But the `76 nomination battle was so close, the GOP had turned so much more conservative, and Reagan was such a hero to the base, that by 1980 it was clearly Reagan's turn.

    Bob Dole tried to cut in line in 1988, but the principle of 1960 - eight years as VP earns you a nomination - applied to George the First. Dole had to wait in line for the ultimately worthless 1996 nod.

    It looked like the line might end there, but by early 1998 it seemed clear that the party establishment - by now solidly conservative - had coalesced behind the Restoration of the House of Bush. And the consensus was strong enough to resist the populist challenge of John McCain.

    The line looks iffy again for 2008. Age, health and lack of interest have eliminated Cheney, the first VP without presidential aspirations since at least the 1920's (Charles Dawes is so obscure that I don't know if ran for president or not, Thomas "what this country needs is a good five cent cigar" Marshall actively avoided Presidential duties during Wilson's illness). But somehow I expect the process of "emergence" to happen again. By this time next year there will be a clear Republican frontrunner.

    I still think it's gonna be Jeb Bush.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    Faith Based (Political) Initiatives

    Faith Based (Political) Initiatives

    "The White House adamantly denies that the faith initiative is a political tool. But the program has provoked criticism that the GOP is seeking to influence new supporters, especially African Americans, with taxpayer funds. The Rev. Timothy McDonald of Atlanta, a prominent black minister with Democratic ties, dubbed the program an 'attempt to identify new leadership in the black community and use the money to prop these people up.'

    I'm reminded of the old John Breaux quote to the efferct of "my vote is not for sale but it can be rented."

    But meanwhile, despite the legalized vote-rental, Pandagon says the GOP continues to blow it:

    Maybe if you want to convince black folks that it's okay to be conservative, the party of Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Trent Lott should stop referring to 90% of the black community as slaves on the liberal plantation.

    It would probably also help if you major selling point on Social Security to the black community wasn't "You're gonna die earlier than white people, so Social Security is wasted on you."

    Crazy in Alabama

    Crazy in Alabama

    It really is another world in the red states:

    "A new Alabama poll shows Roy Moore with a lead of 8 percentage points over Gov. Bob Riley in the race for the 2006 Alabama Republican gubernatorial nomination, a potential boost for the former chief justice should he decide to run for the office.

    Moore drew support from 43 percent of likely Republican primary voters, while the governor garnered 35 percent.

    Ousted from the Alabama Supreme Court over his refusal to follow a federal judge's order to remove a Ten Commandments office from the court building, Moore has been traveling the country speaking to conservative organizations and religious groups.

    Poll director Keith Nicholls, a political scientist at South Alabama, said the results indicate the 2006 nomination is 'Moore's for the taking.'"

    Moore appears to be too conservative even for Laura Bush. But the red states demand their rhetorical red meat...

    This has absolutely nothing to do with the 1999 Melanie Griffith movie "Crazy In Alabama." But now I see that the tagline for the movie was "Sometimes you have to lose your mind to find your freedom."

    At least this gives us another quick shorthand for red state/blue state: Roy Moore/Michael Moore.

    More Moore at MyDD

    Social Insecurity

    Social Insecurity

    You know, whoever in FDRs brain trust thought up that phrase - social security! - was a rhetorical genius. It sounds so much deeper that "old age pension." But I digress (this time before I even get started).

    Stealing and publicizing a couple more good takes on the issue this morning. Josh at Talking Ponts Memo thinks Bush is playing for the short term:

    Bush figures that as long as current retirees are assured that their checks will keep coming in for the next decade or two, that they really don't care what sort of America their young grandchildren will be living in half a century or more from now. In other words, he looks at them and sees himself. But I think America is better than that. And if the facts can speak with as big a megaphone as the president's lies, then I think we'll see that.

    It's an old labor negotiation tactic. The wage and benefits cuts are deferred to some hypothetical future workers, and the current employees, threatened with layoffs and immediate cuts, gets what it can in the present and sells out the future.

    But the Washington Post notes that young people - the so called investor class that it supposed to be drooling at private accounts - actually favor the Democrats on this issue, and by a wider margin than any other age group. Some of this may be ripple effect from other issues too (the wars both Iraq and cultural); don't forget that young voters were also the most pro-Kerry age group.

    My hunch is people are too busy with their real lives - building careers, raising families, blogging, watching Desparate Housewives - to spend all their time day-trading for retirement.

    Monday, January 17, 2005

    Springer on the Radio : No Fat Hookers

    Springer on the Radio : No Fat Hookers

    But lots of interesting discussion at

    Hey, Party establishment: Ready to take this seriously yet?

    We didn't have a nickel: social security

    We didn't have a nickel: social security

    I've been pretty silent so far on the Social Security gutting - er, um, I mean "privitization." But this take nails it:

    For most folks, Social Security (is) still the one foundation for planning for retirement, the base from which every other decision flow(s)...

    The President is so committed to his vision of a "program in crisis" that he cannot see that Social Security, as it stands, is the healthiest part of a majority of American's retirement plans. It is a system that works, has worked and will work if we run it properly. But to do so requires a committment to good stewardship of our government. That is something, friends, that the GOP is incapable of.

    The GOP, quite simply, does not believe in good government because they don't believe in government at all.

    In essence and in fact, this is an ideological fight. The GOP wants private accounts based not on the merits, bbut because they are committed to the CONCEPT of the private sector, whether or not it actually works.

    Sunday, January 16, 2005

    Bald eagles soaring in Iowa

    Bald eagles soaring in Iowa

    A male bald eagle sits perched in a tree along the Iowa River in City Park. Recent counts by the Department of Natural Resources show there are about 113 nests in Johnson County. In the 1990s, officials set a goal of having 15 nests in the county.

    Havent't seen these birds as much since New Year's Eve, the last day I was able to bike. But it seems like they're still around.

    I relate to the "bald" thing well...

    Saturday, January 15, 2005

    Ethical Bloggers

    Ethical Bloggers

    For those of you who aren't regulars in the political blogosphere, who either know me personally or stumbled onto me though some convoluted Googling (my occasional commentary about Jerry Springer's political efforts means I sometimes get hits from weird search terms like "fat hookers"), here's the short version.

    The Dean campaign paid a couple well known bloggers a year, year and a half ago. Finger pointing is ensuing now. My understanding is both the people in question prominently disclaimed, etc. "No you didn't, yes I did" flamewars are happening.

    I only have a couple points to make.

    1. The right wing noise machine is playing this up big time, not only to discredit Dean and the bloggers in question, but also as a transparant way to divert attention from the Armstrong Williams punditry-for-pay scandal. Of course, there's quite a difference between paying someone with privately raised campaign dollars and US taxpayer dollars. But that is being blurred, naturally.

    2. If anyone wants to pay me for blogging, I'll take it. So long as I don't have to write about fat hookers.

    Violence and Fear Drive Iraq Campaigners Underground

    Violence and Fear Drive Iraq Campaigners Underground

    Talk about taking secrecy of the ballot to a new level:

    The threat of death hung so heavily over the election rally that the speakers refused to say whether they were candidates at all.

    "Too dangerous," said Hussein Ali, who solicited votes for the United Iraqi Alliance, a party fielding dozens of candidates for the elections here. "It's a secret."

    Friday, January 14, 2005

    Rangel to reintroduce draft bill

    Rangel to reintroduce draft bill

    It's not the bill that's shocking it's the source:

    "Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) intends to reintroduce legislation calling for resumption of the draft during the current Congressional term, according to a memo circulated by Bill Galvin of the Center on Conscience and War.

    Rangel, it will be recalled, was the author of the notorious HR 163, the 'universal' conscription bill that became a political football during the 2004 Presidential campaign. When charges that Bush would reinstate the draft emerged as a red-hot election issue last October, HR 163 became a liability for the Kerry campaign -- whereupon Rangel's bill was rushed to the floor and summarily voted down by a huge majority. For tactical reasons even the bill's sponsors, including Rangel, voted against it.

    Rangel continues to argue that conscription would force privileged Americans to share the burden of military service now disproportionately carried by the poor and minorities. He also asserts that future wars would be made less likely by reintroduction of the draft."

    Charlie Rangel has been making this argument for years and I still can't figure out if he really means it or if it's a very tricky, high-risk bluff. In this political climate, it's too dangerous a card to play...

    Moss fined $10,000 by NFL for fake mooning celebration

    Moss fined $10,000 by NFL for fake mooning celebration

    I wasn't going to whine about this. His team beat my team. But the reaction is so over the top it's noteworthy:

    "'Ain't nothing but 10 grand. What's 10 grand, to me?' said Moss, whose salary this season is $5.75 million. He then jokingly suggested he might perform a more vulgar celebration next time."

    Add this to the mooning incident itself, his response in the postgame interview last week ("Yeah, we whooped they ass"), and the :02 walkoff the week before. I love the First Amendment. It gives everyone the constitutional right to be foolish.

    Does it matter? Randy Moss makes the plays (well, when he feels like it). He's one of the best at what he does. Does it make any difference that he's a jerk? Does it make any difference that fair play, grace and sportsmanship are clearly not part of Randy Moss's value system?

    Dad The Coach put some good sportsmanship into my non-athletic body, so I sort of feel like it does. Ultimately that decision is up to the league. Financial sanctions don't seem to have any impact. If the NFL wants to stop such behavior, perhaps game-level penalties are needed:

    The flag flies and the referee turns on his loudspeaker.

    "Unsportsmanlike conduct, Number 84, offense, is ejected from the game. The touchdown is nullified, Green Bay's ball on the 20 yard line."

    Is that too harsh? Perhaps. Expression is expression and the mooning didn't actually affect the game like, say, a facemask or a late hit. And it's admittedly a judgement call (like any official's decision) and some definition would be required.

    But if you called back just one touchdown, if the obnoxious behavior was held directly against the benefits of the phenomenal talent, it would be a loooong time before it happened again...

    Dean says Iowa's caucus schedule is fine

    Dean says Iowa's caucus schedule is fine

    Maybe now the blogosphere will quit the Iowa bashing:

    "Howard Dean lost the Iowa caucuses a year ago, but that doesn't mean he wants to dump them as the first presidential nominating event in 2008 if he's elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

    The former Vermont governor said Thursday he sees no reason to keep Iowa from leading off the 2008 nominating season. That's a point of disagreement between Dean and another leading candidate for chairman.

    'I don't believe that the system's going to be changed or that the order is going to be changed,' Dean said in an interview with The Des Moines Register. 'You're going to have to show me a reason to change. I'm just not going to change it for change's sake.'"

    Cold to prospect of Gore 2008

    Cold to prospect of Gore 2008

    Here's an item that leaves me even colder than the mustache frost:

    "It could get crowded for the Democrats in 2008. John Kerry has said he won't rule out running again, and now comes word Tipper Gore is telling friends that Al is eyeing another race himself."

    Pollsters sometimes use a thermometer scale in focus groups; how "warm" do you feel toward Issue X or Candidate Y, on a scale of 0 to 100 degrees.

    I'll take the liberty of defining this in the context of our cold wave. I suppose one degree above zero means "I would begrudgingly vote for this person", while below zero is "who's the Green candidate?"

    Right now the temperature outside is 3 below zero. Gore weather.

    The thermometer sneaks above zero - barely - today. A climate suited to John Kerry, last seen in France continuing his Shadow President tour.

    It's not getting any warmer for a few days, which may explain this:

    Clark in 2008? Well? "I haven't ruled anything out," he dodged as he left...

    I'd take Clark over Gore - I'd take that "Can you hear me now? Good" guy over Gore! - but my gut feelings about the military, and especially career military, are so strong that I would have a really really hard time voting for a general.

    I'm still very warm to Howard Dean and I think he's setting his sights too low with the focus on DNC chair. I like Russ Feingold too. The home state connection, the vote against the Patriot Act, and the insulation against charges of anti-Semitism when I hint that maybe, just maybe, our support for Israel is part of the reason the rest of the Middle East hates us. And I could certainly support Hillary with full enthusiasm.

    My first choice would have been a living breathing Paul Wellstone.

    Built In Thermometer

    Built In Thermometer

    My breath freezes into mustache icicles right at zero degrees Fahrenheit.

    Thursday, January 13, 2005

    US deserters flee to Canada

    US deserters flee to Canada

    More proof that Iraq is literally Another Vietnam. From a BRITISH news source, of course:

    "American Army soldiers are deserting and fleeing to Canada rather than fight in Iraq, rekindling memories of the thousands of draft-dodgers who flooded north to avoid service in Vietnam..."

    Comet Machholz in the Evening Sky

    Comet Machholz in the Evening Sky

    One good thing - well, probably the ONLY good thing - about the cold wave that's just starting is clear skies.

    Tonight's our first clear night in at least a week, after all the snow, ice and rain we've just endured. It's 6 above now which is about as warm as we'll see until Tuesday.

    Took advantage of clear skies and the relative warmth - 6 above is relative warmth?!? - to get out the telescope for the first time in a few months and check out Comet Machholz. I was spoiled by the back to back once in a lifetime pair of Hyakutake in `96 and Hale-Bopp in `97. Machholz doesn't measure up to that, I think I made it out with naked eyes, but that's pretty good for a comet.

    Also saw a Space Station pass and took a quick peek at Saturn. It was a little windy and I could barely resolve the rings, but I managed to glimpse Titan. Which is especially timely.

    If you're up for it in the cold, the next couple nights are your best bet. Moonlight gets in the way for a couple weeks after that, but there's another good chance by the end of the month. The angle is great, nearly overhead in the circumpolar northern stars. (The link gives you the where and when.)

    Immigration plan discouraged by GOP lawmakers

    Immigration plan discouraged by GOP lawmakers

    Trouble on the hacienda for Bush:

    Last January, Bush proposed allowing foreign workers to apply for renewable three-year work permits. Illegal immigrants already in the United States would be eligible and would not have to face the deportation and waiting period before re-entering the country that the law now requires.

    But soon after he made his proposal, the president's aides faced tough criticism from Republican lawmakers at a retreat in Philadelphia, and Mr. Bush seemed to put the proposal on the back burner.

    Now his renewed focus sounds "petulant," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and head of the House Immigration Reform Caucus.

    "And then you come to the rank-and-file guys," Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) said, "who, on nine out of 10 items agree with the administration, this is the 10th item. And now, if it goes to number one on the priority list, it is the item where there will be serious debate and discussion and ultimately rejection of this initiative."

    Here's W's dilemma: He, or perhaps Karl Rove, recognizes that the rapidly growing Hispanic population puts the Republican barely-there majority in jeopardy, and that the GOP needs an increased percentage of non-Cuban Hispanic votes.

    But the big picture strategy, so clearly seen in 2004, is "appeal to the base." As I learned running for office in a rural, conservative area with a growing Hispanic population, small-town conservatives do NOT like immigration. The Republican base can't stand it when the family in front of them in line at Wal-Mart is speaking a language they don't understand. (I think it's "they're talking about me" paranoia myself.) The preferred solution to the immigration problem - always seen as a problem - is simple: Get a big bus, load it, point it south, and build a wall behind it.

    Therein, as that great philosopher Dharma Finkelstien-Montgmery once said, squats the toad...

    Rathergate vs. Saddam's WMD - A Quantitative Comparison

    Rathergate vs. Saddam's WMD - A Quantitative Comparison

    I'm a couple days behind the curve on this but maybe I still have something to add.

    Number of Iraqi civilians killed as a result
    Saddam's WMD: 10,000-100,000+

    The lack of WMDs speaks for itself, of course, and in the big picture is far more important.

    But as one who is obsessed with politics and the media, I must marvel at how the Bushies have spun the Rathergate issue.

    Central claims disproven?
    Rathergate: No
    Saddam's WMD: Yes

    They have turned the sloppy journalism, rather than Bush's questionable Guard service, into the scandal.

    The best case picture is: "The guy used his political connections to get into cushy, safe Guard duty, with time off for business school and political campaigns, and can't prove he showed up." But they turned "The guy used his political connections to get into cushy, safe Guard duty, with time off for business school and political campaigns, but CBS can't prove he DIDN'T show up" into vindication and victory. Shameless and brilliant. I must salute the chutzpah, even in my disgust.

    UPDATE: Pandagon has a couple interesting asides here:

    The reason Rathergate went forward is because attacking the Killian memos didn't threaten future stories. If you repeated what Ahmed Chalabi said, you got great cover images and embedded reporters and Donald Rumsfeld treated you like the shit that wasn't on the bottom of his shoe. The journalistic reaction to Rathergate and Iraq coverage both stemmed from the same journalistic impulse - you help the White House, and they help you do your job. You don't help the White House, and it's a sin like no other.

    Important as far as the substantive issues go. But as for the ephemeral media issues, The Talking Dog notes in the comments that this is a Politics of Fame thing:

    Rather was a juicy target for a media feeding frenzy that wasn't really about the authenticity of memos, or the great ascendance of bloggers, or use of political favoritism to evade dangerous military service or prosecution for desertion, but fundamentally was about celebrity dirt.

    Election Workers in Iraq Are Scared but Resolute

    Election Workers in Iraq Are Scared but Resolute

    And I thought MY job was tough last fall:

    "Threatened, attacked, kidnapped and killed, Iraq's election workers are finding that being at the forefront of the electoral process means surviving the frontlines of an insurgency determined to stop it."

    Sounds almost as bad as HAVA!

    They did install a security camera here but we don't have any "high concrete walls and checkpoints" yet.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    Israel's security fence, dividing lives

    Israel's security fence, dividing lives

    A couple of great articles today on Israel-Palestine. First up is on Salon, translated from Der Spiegel. Well worth the watch-the-ad thing.

    Suddenly a 1980s song by Queen begins blaring from loudspeakers in the room: "Another one bites the dust." In this place, however, the rock music isn't for entertainment. It's an alarm signal indicating that someone or something has touched the fence. Highly sensitive sensors are activated by even the most innocent contact: Palestinian school children throwing stones at the hated wall on their way home, stray dogs coming too close to the barrier...

    My favorite Reagan moment - did I just say that?!? - was "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall." And to Gorbachev's credit, he did.

    If Bush were truly serious about stopping the "war on terror" he would go to the West Bank and say "Mister Sharon, tear down this wall." Then he'd cut off every dime to Israel till it happened. binLaden would be completely impotent against that.

    And I thought I was the only one with the fantasy of a South Africa solution, a one person one vote unitary state. Maybe not:

    Thousands of Palestinian guest workers still cross the green line to Israel illegally every night. For them, an independent Palestine can only fulfill their dreams temporarily. Many secretly hope for a state shared with the Israelis, one in which everyone has the same rights and that could guarantee their survival.

    The other item is a diary on MyDD that looks at the potential for the Palestinian movement to shift toward nonviolence:

    Blocking roads and bridges, holding general strikes, boycotts of Israeli products: These are just some of the tactics that Abbas should be advocating. If he fails, the Palestinian people will have no choice but to follow the lead of Hamas. Bad leadership is better than no leadership.

    If Palestine had had a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King, they would have a country by now. Too often the Palestinian cause had been diminished by violence - it was too easy to dismiss the legitimate grievances because of the terrorist tactics (tactics the Israeli founding fathers used against the British, such as the bombing of the King David Hotel).

    A nonviolent movement would force the world to look at the issue rather than the methods.

    At some time I need to write and publish my longer thoughts on this, what my firends and family know as "the Israel Rant." The tricky part is discussing the domestic U.S. politics of it without being accused of anti-Semitism. That may be impossible simply because in our political culture criticism of Israel, no matter how justified or well-documented, is always equated with anti-Semitism...