Monday, February 28, 2005

Here A Map, There A Map, Part Deux

Here A Map, There A Map, Part Deux

Well, Georgia did it:

Joe Lieberman, You ARE the Weakest Link

Joe Lieberman, You ARE the Weakest Link

Josh of Talking Points Memo:

Individually, Lieberman's vote isn't that consequential. At present I don't think the White House could get majority votes for a phase-out bill in either chamber. But give the president and the congressional leadership that bipartisan cover they've been hunting for and things could change very, very quickly. Lieberman would probably put a few more Senate Dems in play and also firm up the whole Republican caucus. Same thing in the House.

So, Lieberman's the weakpoint in the wall against Social Security phase-out. Sen. Carper too -- but, my gut tells me, not as much as Joe. So if there's a time to pull out all the stops to save Social Security, to mobilize pressure and exert coercive persuasion, now's the time and Lieberman's the guy.


It's about killing off the New Deal

It's about killing off the New Deal

North Dakota columnist gets to the real issue:

"Social Security, after all, is the crown jewel of the New Deal. Hammer cracks in the crown jewel, and it's open season on every other federal program that is rooted in FDR's belief that government should help all Americans, regardless of their social or economic status.

Federal regulatory and support agencies we take for granted today were born of the New Deal. There are those of the Coolidge-Hoover-Bush persuasion who would scrap them all, beginning with Social Security. It won't happen, of course, at least in our lifetimes. But Americans should understand that the Social Security "reform" debate is a skirmish in a long-standing philosophical war about the shape, scope and purpose of the federal government. President Bush seems to believe he can go down in history as the general who presided over the beginning of the end of the ideas and ideals of FDR's New Deal."

"Coolidge-Hoover-Bush persuasion." LOVE that line.

Abortion Debate Still Tangled in Bankruptcy Bill

Abortion Debate Still Tangled in Bankruptcy Bill

Interesting story that illustrates a crack in the GOP coalition: the Money Republicans want this bill, the "God" (sic) Republicans don't.

"The fate of a much-debated bankruptcy bill may depend on whether Congress considers it appropriate for antiabortion protesters to file for bankruptcy to avoid paying fines.

The proposed law would make it more difficult for Americans, especially wealthy ones, to have their debts erased by filing for bankruptcy. The bill has been a priority for banks and credit card companies since 1998, when it started to wend its way through Capitol Hill..."

But I'm having trouble seeing how the Dems can spin this GOP split to an advantage.

Monday Morning 2008 Roundup

Monday Morning 2008 Roundup

Just putting the weekend's stories in one place:

  • The 2008 Five"Five Democrats have begun informal staff interviews for 2008 presidential runs, according to a few who've been interviewed. So far, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is dubbed "the most aggressive" in seeking out aides, followed by Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack . The others are Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards , and 2004 candidate Sen. John Kerry..."

  • Biden: Clinton Hard to Beat in 2008 Race: "Biden said he is thinking about running again, 20 years after his first failed bid for the White House because "there's a lot at stake."

  • Edwards rallies party faithful: "Sounding more like a future presidential candidate than a losing vice presidential nominee, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards rallied Broward County Democrats Saturday night with a speech that focused on the core beliefs of his party..."

  • As some see Romney testing national waters, possible successors eyed: "Romney's political trips out of state are forcing Republicans in Massachusetts to privately contemplate the prospect that he will not run for reelection so he can focus on a presidential bid, leaving the 2006 GOP gubernatorial nomination up for grabs..."

  • Republican hopefuls try to position themselves as party's next big player: Namechecks Frist, Gingrich, Giuliani, Romney and McCain.

  • Clinton: Hillary Would Be Great President: Bill backs Hillary which hardly rates as shocking.

  • Sunday, February 27, 2005

    Dems Lead Generic Congresional Ballot Polls

    Dems Lead Generic Congresional Ballot Polls

    "The poll indicated that 42 percent of respondents would vote for the Democratic candidate and 36 percent would vote for the Republican candidate in their district, "if the election for Congress were held today."

    Nice. Problem is you don't run against a generic candidate in a national race, you run against a REAL candidate (usually a GOP incumbent) in a REAL district (often a heavily gerrymandered district.) You don't run against "The Republicans In Congress," you run against the Local Congressman.

    Generic congressional polls didn't mean diddley to Bob Rush, Julie Thomas or Dave Franker here in eastern Iowa.

    ABC Cuts Robin Williams Song From Oscars

    ABC Cuts Robin Williams Song From Oscars

    "ABC has refused to let him sing a cartoon ditty that made fun of Rev. James Dobson and his SpongeBob SquarePants criticism:"

    "Pinocchio's had his nose done! Sleeping Beauty is popping pills!/ The Three Little Pigs ain't kosher! Betty Boop works Beverly Hills!" - President, Catwoman win Razzies - President, Catwoman win Razzies - Feb 26, 2005

    "U.S. President George W. Bush won the Golden Raspberry Award on Saturday for worst actor of the year for his appearance in Michael Moore's documentary 'Fahrenheit 9/11.'

    Bush, two members of his administration, Britney Spears and the storybook about a goat that the president was reading to children as the September 11 attacks were taking place all took top honors at the 'Razzie' awards, now in their 25th year."

    Saturday, February 26, 2005

    Social Security "Reform" Jumps The Shark

    Social Security "Reform" Jumps The Shark

    You know a television show is on its last legs when it adds a cute child actor in a last ditch attempt at ratings. It happened to "The Brady Bunch." It happened to "All in the Family." It happened to "Different Strokes," "The Cosby Show" and "Family Ties."

    And now it's happening to President Bush's travelling road show for Social Security reform (or, as Josh Marshall likes to call it, "Bamboozlepalooza").

    The NY Times reports that nine-year-old Noah McCullough of Tonight Show presidential trivia fame has decided to join the President and entourage in stumping for privatization...

    Is it already time for the dreaded Cousin Oliver moment?

    Man Buys Every Copy of Hometown Paper to Hide Drug Arrest

    Man Buys Every Copy of Hometown Paper to Hide Drug Arrest

    I can see where the guy, who denies the charges, would want to do this:

    "I have a whole garage full of newspapers," Pacheco said, estimating he bought 500 to 600 copies on Wednesday from gas stations, convenience stores, and coin-operated news racks. Despite his efforts, the newspaper still made its way to about 550 home subscribers.

    And now to several million Internet junkies, which kind of defeats the purpose.

    Rappers and Bloggers

    Rappers and Bloggers

    The young wizard Ezra pointed me to this, rather disapprovingly:

    Essentially, blogging is sampling plus a new riff. Political bloggers take a story in the news, rip out a few chunks, and type out a few comments. Rap songs use the same recipe: Dig through a crate of records, slice out a high hat and a bass line, and lay a new vocal track on top. Of course, the molecular structure of dead-tree journalism and classic rock is filthy with other people's research and other people's chord progressions. But in newspaper writing and rock music, the end goal is the appearance of originality—to make the product look seamless by hiding your many small thefts. For rappers and bloggers, each theft is worth celebrating, another loose item to slap onto the collage.

    I kind of like it - I just spent my Friday night doing laundry so even the slightest hint of bad-ass image is appealing.

    Back at the dawn of the video era, when MTV had about eight videos, three of them were Devo and two were David Bowie. And dwelling on the bloggers and rappers thing this line came to mind:

    I am a DJ, I am what I play.

    So I am a blogger. I am what I link? And I remember that vague feeling from the overnight radio days - wondering if anyone's listening. At least the blog has a hit counter...

    And here's a serious thought: will print media's trend to pay-to-play archives (or, shudder to think, pay to play content) do to bloggers what the increased price of copyright clearance did to rappers? The spot-the-sample brilliance of BombSquad era Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys' "Paul's Boutique" vanished rapidly as it became too expensive to clear all the soundbites. If you were going to pay top dollar for the sample, for just ONE source. you better base the whole damn song around it, as I explain to my 15 year old daughter, in my best David Spade voice: "Oh, yeah. 'Bootylicious.' I liked it the first time I heard it, when it was called 'Edge Of Seventeen.'"

    Will that happen to us bloggers?

    Friday, February 25, 2005

    KS Official targets late-term abortion

    KS Official targets late-term abortion

    Today's edition of Welcome To Gilead:

    "Attorney General Phill Kline, a Republican who has made fighting abortion a staple of his two years in the post, is demanding the complete medical files of scores of women and girls who had late-term abortions, saying on Thursday that he needs the information to prosecute criminal cases.

    Although Mr. Kline emphasized statutory rape in his news conference, many here on both sides of the abortion debate said they suspected that his real target was doctors who provide late-term abortions."

    Political Animal: "If he's really serious, all he needs to do is keep track of birth records. Any teenager who has a baby at an age younger than 16 years and nine months has pretty clearly fallen afoul of the law and ought to be investigated. So why not do that? The answer is obvious: Kline has no interest in prosecuting statutory rape, he has an interest in shutting down abortion clinics and family planning services — or at least harrassing them as much as possible. That's good wedge politics, after all. Investigating thousands of single teenage mothers, on the other hand, isn't."

    More from the DNC:

    Will there be an outcry from so called small-government conservatives about Kline's digging through the medical records of his constituents? Or is partisanship more important than our fundamental rights?

    And Kos even breaks out the F word: "I don't use the word fascist lightly - but what else can you call this? This is an outrage. What does Kansas think of this man? What do Republicans think of him?"

    Bill Frist, Gays and Cat Autopsies

    Bill Frist, Gays and Cat Autopsies

    In the spirit of Friday, which as bloggers know is Cat Blogging Day:

    Senator Bill Frist announced that he was in favor of a constitutional amendment against homosexuals performing cat autopsies.

    "I very much feel that killing a cat is a sacrament, and that sacrament should extend and can extend to that legal entity of a union between -- what is traditionally in our Western values has been defined -- as between a heterosexual man and his cat. So I would support the amendment,' Frist said on ABC's "This Week."

    Thursday, February 24, 2005

    Condoleezza Rice's Commanding Clothes

    Condoleezza Rice's Commanding Clothes

    What the hell is this?

    "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield on Wednesday dressed all in black. She was wearing a black skirt that hit just above the knee, and it was topped with a black coat that fell to mid-calf..."

    And that's not just a gratuitous reference. That's how the WHOLE STORY goes. Did you ever see a full article about Colin Powell's pants?

    All this on the same day we had the 81% would support a woman for president story...

    UPDATE: Wonkette and Pandagon have more.

    Before the Storm

    Before the Storm

    Washington Monthly points out what should seem obvious, but wasn't:

    "40 years ago Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan could speak plainly about their dislike of Social Security, while today George Bush has to pretend to be the second coming of FDR before he proposes his plans to subtly undo FDR's legacy. If conservatives have really won the national debate, why is it that they so carefully avoid saying things that they talked about openly a mere four decades ago?"

    Tackling the cell-phone-only population

    Tackling the cell-phone-only population

    About every three months or so we get one of these stories about how us hip, trendy, cell-only people are hard to poll. But this one actully looks at some ideas:

  • "Develop a system to offer reimbursement incentives to those called on cell phones, so that calls from survey researchers do not cost them any money or time on their cell phone contracts..."

    They seemed to find me at caucus time and I would have made a fortune...

  • Re-Redistricting Wars

    Re-Redistricting Wars

    "But in a way, the Georgia gambit is worse. In Texas, the fig-leaf justifications for the Power Grab were that (a) the Dem majority in the House delegation did not reflect recent partisan results in statewide elections, and (b) the map they were throwing out was drawn by judges, not legislators. In Georgia, (a) the current 7-6 GOP advantage in House districts is a pretty fair reflection of recent election results, and (b) the map they are throwing out was duly drawn by the legislature, signed by the Governor, pre-cleared by the Bush Justice Department, and upheld by the courts.

    In other words, the Georgia Republicans are undertaking this outrage, well, because they can."

    Will Chris Rock Be Oscar Dyn-O-Mite?

    Will Chris Rock Be Oscar Dyn-O-Mite?

    Anyone who knows Rock’s act has heard his razor-sharp “Bush lied to me” riff. “Bush lied to me, man. He said we got to move on Iraq because they’re the most dangerous regime on Earth. If they’re so dangerous, how come it only took two weeks to take over the whole fucking country? You couldn’t take over the Bronx in two weeks. You’d need a month to get the Grand Concourse."

    As for Rock's own "presidency"?

    He pulled up to a stoplight on Sunset in his Mercedes convertible one day and saw that the driver exactly parallel was trying to talk to him.

    “I just rented Head of State, and I want my four bucks back,” the driver told Rock. With that, the signal turned green and the two cars inched forward to the next light.

    All of a sudden, a wadded-up $5 bill came sailing through the driver’s window.

    “Keep the change!” yelled Rock, all smiles as he drove off.


    Poll Says America Is Ready for Woman President

    Poll Says America Is Ready for Woman President

    "The Poll, conducted 2/10-17, found that 81 percent of the respondents would vote for a woman for President..."

    Interesting and good. But at the risk of sounding like the president of Harvard I'm going to look closer.

    This means that a hypothetical female candidate has to make it to roughly 50 percent of the vote (give or take, see 2000 election for details) out of only 81 percent of the electorate. Put another way, she has to win 62 percent of what's left after you take out the 19 percent who would NOT vote for a woman.

    And who are these 19 percent? The full release shows only a two point gender gap but not much more detail.

    I'm suspicious of this poll since it's looking only at a hypothetical situation. There's probably an age factor - past polls have shown older voters, including older women, are less likely to vote for women. This is fading over time, as the youngest suffragette is past 105 today and even Rosie the Riveter is at least 80. I also suspect that as the marginally more feminist party more Democrats would support Hypothetical Woman than Republicans.

    But my gut tells me that a lot of this result is caught up in the identity of the most prominent female potential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. And if that 19 percent is disproportionately Republican, then it doesn't really matter since she wouldn't get those votes anyway. It would matter, however, to Condoleezza Rice.

    Despite the decline of parties over the last half century, party ID is still the single biggest predictor of voting behavior. Are there really a lot of Democrats who would vote for, say, Bill Frist over Hillary Rodham Clinton simply because of gender? Would many Republicans support John Kerry rather than Condoleezza Rice?

    When the day comes that a major party nominates a woman, the important question will not be "would you vote for A woman?" but "will you vote for THIS woman?"

    There will inevitably be the lie to the pollster effect, as has been seen in polls involving groundbreaking black candidates, racists like David Duke, and on ERA referenda. We've been taught that the "correct" answer to this poll's question is Yes, but voting behavior is ultimately private. Will men, in the secrecy of the booth, take silent frustrated revenge on feminism? Will that be counter-balanced by women crossing lines of party and ideology and saying "it's time"? Are there red states that might turn blue or vice versa at the notion of Madam President? Without knowing who makes up the 19 percent who say they wouldn't vote for a woman, and where they are concentrated, we can't measure these potential effects.

    The reality is that despite lots of polling and lots of elections for lots of other offices, the presidency is unique and this concept can't really be tested until it happens.

    UPDATE: Pandagon adds: "What worries me about the whole issue, though, are (the) questions. It's incredibly reductive and counterproductive to continue asking whether or not females outright would be better on domestic issues than men would - they are bound by the same party ideologies that male candidates are, and aren't going to get through the process of a party primary without hewing to some ideological guidelines...."

    Wednesday, February 23, 2005

    FOX News doctors AP quotes

    FOX News doctors AP quotes

    Faux News certainly has the right to its own "journalistic" stylebook, even if it includes the awkward construct "homicide bombing" which tells us nothing of the nature of the event as a bombing that commits homicide can be triggered from a distance or dropped out of an airplane.

    (Notice how I put "journalistic" in quotes just like the Washington Times does to "gay 'marriage'")

    And I certainly hate to rant about journalistic ethics the very week of Hunter Thompson's death. But it seems Faux is rewriting AP copyright stories (like I have much respect for copyright) to incorporate their treasured phrase "homicide bombing."

    And now they've done it to a quote from Hillary Rodham Clinton, notes Atrios:

    "Not one polling place was shut down or overrun and the fact that you have these homicide bombers now, wreaking such hatred and violence while people pray, is to me, an indication of their failure," she said.

    As the original AP shows, she calls them "suicide bombers."

    Paraphrase? Sure. Bracket and ellipticize in print? I guess. But as Warren Beatty kept ranting in Reds, "don't rewrite what I write." Or say.

    Of course, being a radio journalist I didn't have as many options, though I did make a really funny tape once of all the inarticulate pauses I cut out - literally CUT out with a razor blade and quarter inch TAPE - of a too-long Chuck Grassley soundbite. I spared my listeners, but it was a big hit in the newsroom.

    Hey Hey, Ho Ho?!?

    Hey Hey, Ho Ho?!?

    One of my pet peeves about lefty rallies is that chanting becomes repetitive and predictable. Inevitably someone leads a rousing chorus of

    Hey hey, ho ho,
    (fill in in the blank) has got to go!

    Well, it seems the right wing, as usual, is devoid of fresh ideas. But if they're going to steal from the left they could at least steal something good:

    Outside the hall before the event, Philly DFA began chanting "Hey-hey, ho-ho, Rick Santorum has got to go!" Local college Republicans, who are just about the only Republicans in West Philly, responded with a chant that beautifully was captured live by CNN: "hey-hey, ho-ho, Social Security has got to go!" I love it when the other side does your campaigning for you!

    The most honest GOP statement on Social Security I've heard yet.

    Now, I'm a First Amendment absolutist as you all know. But in weak moments I'd be seriously willing to consider an exception for Hey Hey Ho Ho. (Not to be confused with Hey Ho Let's Go.) That and:

    What do we want? Fill In The Blank!
    When do we want it? Now!

    The call-and-response chanters really need to recruit some free-style rappers or poetry slammers. Or my all time favorite: back in the Central America era of the late 80s we had a guy who was an Army vet. Veterans go one of two ways: they either completely buy into the military mindset or, like this guy, they become radical lefties. He spent the whole march improvising funny and pointed and easy to follow cadence calls, so we sounded like a lefty version of Bill Murray's platoon in Stripes. And that's the fact, Jack.

    Gerrymandering Total War - Update

    Gerrymandering Total War - Update

    The REALLY good Illinois site Capitol Fax opines that the Land of Lincoln's re-redistricting is "Not gonna happen:"

    "There are far more benefits for Illinois with a cooperative Hastert than the Dems could ever get from a couple of extra seats in the US House (with the accompanying vengence by Hastert's people)...."

    A good insight that doesn't really change my premise of yesterday: that redistricting in mid-decade, previously considered so brazen as to be unthinkable, is now looked at as one more weapon in Total War. From now on, any time a party takes full control of the process in a state, a re-map is a live possibility. Illinois isn't likely to reject the idea because That Would Be Wrong, but rather because of a calculated cost-benefit analysis of two seats vs. an angry Speaker Of The House.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2005

    Gerrymandering: Total War

    Gerrymandering: Total War

    Cribbing from Kos who is cribbing from Roll Call:

    Faced with the prospect of Republicans redrawing Congressional lines in a third state since the initial 2001 round of redistricting ended, a faction of national Democrats is urging an aggressive strategy aimed at striking back at Republican House Members...

    "The only way to stop them from doing this is to make them pay a price for it somewhere else," said a longtime House strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    Democrats believe their best opportunities lie in Illinois, New Mexico and Louisiana, where Democrats have seized control of all the levers of state government in those states since the 2001 reapportionment and redistricting.

    Democratic Govs. Rod Blagojevich (Ill.) and Bill Richardson (N.M.) as well as high-ranking Louisiana elected officials have been contacted by members of House leadership since the Georgia legislature began their re-redistricting.

    "Some of us who believe Georgia is going to happen think that it will help us strategically, to motivate some governors that weren't interested in doing it to help us," said one source who works closely with House Democrats.

    At least a few D.C.-based Republicans privately acknowledge they are concerned about the possibility of Democratic retribution over the maneuvers in Georgia, but are not in a position to change the situation...

    MyDD has more:

    When the lines were initially drawn in 2001, it was the result of a bipartisan compromise in the state Legislature, which at the time had split control; Republicans had a majority in the state Senate and Democrats had a majority in the state House. The governor was a Republican.

    The plan, which had to account for the state's loss of a seat in reapportionment, aimed to protect incumbents of both parties; the casualty was Democratic Rep. David Phelps who was forced into a Member versus Member race against Rep. John Shimkus (R) in a southern Illinois district that favored the GOP.

    Democrats believe that a re-opening of the Illinois lines could yield at least two seats; one could be carved out of the suburbs surrounding Chicago, which are currently represented entirely by Republicans including House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

    Another gain could come in southern Illinois in areas Phelps represented prior to the redistricting of 2001. Much of the territory Shimkus now represents was held by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin during his fourteen years in the House.

    When asked whether Illinois Democrats should entertain the possibility of redrawing the state's districts, Durbin said: "Talk to Rahm Emanuel."

    Who, as we know, has been known to mail dead fish a la Corleone.

    MyDD adds "Personally, I like the idea of pushing Henry Hyde and Dennis Hastert into the same district."

    The Perpetual Campaign is now taken to the next level. The Perpetual Gerrymander may be here to stay, at least until some national reform happens...

    Now in Power, Conservatives Free to Differ

    Now in Power, Conservatives Free to Differ

    The "God" (sic) Republicans square off against the Money Republicans:

    "Leon Kass, Hertog Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said that 'it will be no great victory' to win new individual freedoms 'if the uses of those freedoms are debased, if families decay, if the general moral vision diminishes.'

    Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, took issue with those who would seek to use the power of government to curb what many others on the panel saw as a debasement of personal behavior and of the content of movies, television and music.

    Instead, he argued, government should avoid regulating individual behavior as long as they are not 'stealing their wallets or burning their houses down.'"

    Monday, February 21, 2005

    What Might Have Been

    What Might Have Been

    Odd enough on the day of Hunter Thompson's death, a long profile of the principlal subject of one of his greatest books:

    McGovern is walking at this moment to his alma mater, Dakota Wesleyan University, directly across the street from where he and his wife, Eleanor, are living in his home town of Mitchell, S.D., population 14,500. Dakota Wesleyan, he believes, changed his life, transforming him from a shy, gawky kid to a self-assured, ambitious man. He strolls onto the small campus of about 700 students, a few of whom mutter hello to him on their way to classes. If he had become president, McGovern knows, it would be different. Students would crowd around him, and the Secret Service, talking into wrist radios, would be ready to pry off any huggers who wouldn't let go. There would be university officials to greet and maybe a political candidate hoping to squeeze into a photo op. "It would be hectic," McGovern says, not relishing the thought, "and it would be harder just to pick up a phone and walk over to somebody's office."

    McGovern, who has been helping university officials with the fundraising for a library to be built in his and Eleanor's names on the Wesleyan grounds, wants to establish a speech and debate program here. "What I'd like to talk to you about, Bob," McGovern says, "is a possible forensics program here at the university -- a speech class, a well-guided debate team . . ."

    On one of the occasions I met George McGovern, the person in front of me, with slightly embarrassed determination, presented McGovern a book to autograph - not one of McGovern's own books, but a well-read copy of Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail. McGovern smiled and said "I've signed hundreds of these."

    And he would have been a GREAT President.

    Hunter S. Thompson, RIP

    Hunter S. Thompson, RIP

    "Objective journalism is one of the main reasons that American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long."

    "Hunter S. Thompson -- the world's first blogger." - Kos

    I woke this morning to the news of Hunter Thompson's death, far from web access. A few hours later another death - that of my car - made my journey much much longer. So now I'm too exhausted by travel and distracted by the sudden practical matter of transportation to fully reflect on the loss of my favorite author, my jounalistic role model (well, I pass on the brutal substance abuse and guns, some combination of which likely led to his death).

    I'll share instead Thompson's own words from 1972. Change "Nixon" to "Bush" and you could have rerun the samme paragraph last fall:

    "How many more of these goddam elections are we going to have to write off as lame but 'regrettably necessary' holding actions? And how many more of these stinking double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me at the at least 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote for something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils? I understand, along with a lot of other people, that the big thing, this year, is Beating Nixon. But that was also the big thing, as I recall, twelve years ago in 1960 - and as far as I can tell, we've gone from bad to worse to rotten since then, and the outlook is for more of the same."

    Friday, February 18, 2005

    Blogger takes President's Day Off

    Blogger takes President's Day Off

    This blogger is taking a human being weekend. To tide you over, here's the Simpson's "Lesser Known Presidents Song":

    Kids: We are the mediocre presidents.
    You won't find our faces on dollars or on cents!
    There's Taylor, there's Tyler,
    There's Fillmore and there's Hayes.
    There's William Henry Harrison,

    Harrison: I died in thirty days!

    Kids: We... are... the...
    Adequate, forgettable,
    Occasionally regrettable
    Caretaker presidents of the U-S-A!

    Experts See Military Draft as Inevitable

    Experts See Military Draft as Inevitable

    "The United States no longer has a military draft and hasn't since 1973, when it converted to an all-volunteer military.

    But some anti-war activists say it's only a matter of time before the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress bring it back. Meanwhile, conservatives and moderates outside the administration have taken a hard look at America's military commitments and are urging Congress to beef up the Army and Marines..."

    Bolkcom bill would restrict loans

    Bolkcom bill would restrict loans

    "Democratic legislators Wednesday called for new restrictions on cash advances based on anticipated income tax refunds, noting that such loans can carry interest rates of as much as 700 percent.

    'Consumers across the board need protection,' said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City. 'Just because lenders are able to charge these types of interest rates doesn't make it right.'

    Bolkcom unveiled legislation aimed at putting a ceiling on loans made in anticipation of income tax refunds, setting a 21 percent maximum interest rate and requiring disclosure of all charges."

    It's expensive to be poor, and Joe Bolkcom gets it.


    Thursday, February 17, 2005

    Marines probe boot camp drowning

    Marines probe boot camp drowning

    Video shot on Feb. 7, the day before Tharp's death, by NBC affiliate WIS-TV in Columbia, S.C., shows Tharp, visibly shaken and almost terrified, taking a forearm shot from a Marine drill instructor.

    "That right there, where this Marine grabs the recruit, this is not how you treat recruits," said Eugene Fidell, the president of the National Institute of Military Justice, when NBC News showed him the video. "I mean, this is a wrongful touching. Basically, it's an assault."

    In the Marines only five weeks, Tharp had written seven letters home telling his family he wanted out. His father, John Tharp, claims Jason had been singled out by drill instructors because he couldn't keep up with the rigorous basic training.

    Jason's father is considering a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Marines...

    Wrongful death, hell. Let's try them for murder.

    Death Penalty, Commandments Await Court

    Death Penalty, Commandments Await Court

    I like this headline; it makes me wonder if the Supremes will consider the Ten Commandments first and notice THOU SHALT NOT KILL before they consider the death penalty.

    Meanwhile, tonight in Texas, Dennis Wayne Bagwell is scheduled to be executed. He maintains his innocence, but he says he wants to die: "I'm not walking through these hallways as an 80- or 90-year-old for something I didn't do."

    Hill Dems get into Demzilla

    Hill Dems get into Demzilla

    Love the name. I have a mental image of a giant radioactive donkey duking it out with an atomic elephant at the Capitol Dome. The tail swishes and knocks over the Washington Monument, as tiny Republcians flee in terror:

    The carefully guarded database contains more than 170 million records, with files that have been scrubbed and updated. They include hundreds of bytes of information about voter behavior and consumer preferences.

    While Demzilla might not have the high money yield of donor files in Dean’s Democracy For America organization or the group EMILY’s List, party strategists said Demzilla has the most comprehensive compilation of data available to Democrats and contains more raw information than most other lists combined...

    Here's hoping it's not a highly hyped piece of crap like the Iowa Democratic Party's list. History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men...

    Ehrlichman Believed Henry Kissinger was Deep Throat

    Ehrlichman Believed Henry Kissinger was Deep Throat

    “He was absolutely convinced of it,” said Walter Anderson, the chairman and CEO of Parade magazine and a close friend of the former Nixon aide, who died in 1999. Ehrlichman, Anderson said, identified Kissinger as Deep Throat in a conversation with him more than 20 years ago. He added that Ehrlichman's view of Kissinger as Deep Throat has never surfaced before, as far he knows.

    “Ehrlichman argued that Kissinger was high enough in the organization to have the information, and understand it, close enough to Nixon to know all the details,” Anderson said, “and he was virtually untarnished by the Watergate scandal, particularly in the press.”

    This makes the first person who could concievably be both Deep Throat AND "You're So Vain"! Son of a gun...

    Rumsfeld Tells It Like It Is

    Rumsfeld Tells It Like It Is

    "When the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton (Mo.), asked about the number of insurgents in Iraq, the secretary said, "I am not going to give you a number for it because it's not my business to do intelligent work." (He presumably meant to say "intelligence.")"

    Who says? I know the "military intelligence" joke is ancient, but coming from Rummy it makes sense...

    (Washington Monthly's Political Animal tipped me off)

    Fla. Official Pitches Election Law Changes

    Fla. Official Pitches Election Law Changes

    "The Florida secretary of state's office Wednesday proposed changing election law to give voters more privacy at polling sites and give those who cast provisional ballots a week, instead of two days, to prove their eligibility."

    Oh, could we have used that! And HERE'S something I could REALLY use:

    Sen. Clinton Pushes for Voting Holiday

    "Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible White House candidate in 2008, joined 2004 nominee John Kerry and other Democrats Thursday in urging that Election Day be made a federal holiday to encourage voting. She also pushed for legislation that would allow all ex-felons to vote."

    Thanks, Hillary, but somehow I doubt I'LL be getting the day off...

    Yepsen: Throw out pledge and run again, guv

    Yepsen: Throw out pledge and run again, guv

    Who didn't see THIS coming?

    As Democrats flop around looking for a winning candidate for governor, it's becoming clearer by the day that (Vilsack) may be the only one capable of holding onto the job. Many Democrats have reservations about Secretary of State Chet Culver, which is why there's all this talk about Mike Blouin or Mike Gronstal or Tom Miller entering the race. Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn't float another name. Democrats know that any of the GOP candidates - Jim Nussle, Doug Gross or Bob Vander Plaats - will be a tough adversary for Culver.

    When David Yepsen writes a column like this it means someone's passed him the helium so he can float a trial balloon.

    While we're at it, when is Christie Vilsack going to run against Jim Leach?


    Wednesday, February 16, 2005

    1.5M Felons Denied Right to Vote

    1.5M Felons Denied Right to Vote

    This is way, way, WAY more important than a paper trail:

    "Felony disenfranchisement laws vary significantly across the country. Persons who are excluded from voting include people currently serving a felony sentence in prison or on probation or parole, as well as persons in 14 states which disenfranchise convicted persons even after completion of sentence."

    Dirproportionately young, poor, black... and Democratic.

    Patrick Ruffini :: 2008: Rice Leads, Giuliani & Jeb in Top Tier

    2008: Rice Leads, Giuliani & Jeb in Top Tier

    Interesting unscientific poll from the right:

    Secretary of State Condi Rice dominates the field with 42% of the vote. Her closest competitor is America’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, with 14% (the Rice-Giuliani gap was as close as 10% in early voting, before any major outside links). Coming in third is Florida Governor Jeb Bush with 10% of the vote.

    The GOP Bloggers link was followed by a surge in Rice votes, while the Blogs for Bush link was followed by a surge in Giuliani votes. Night-time voters were more likely than daytime voters to pick Rice. This survey, though unscientific, can be taken to roughly represent the views of Republican Party-oriented activists in the blogosphere.

    Looks like that 2008 Clinton vs. Rice poll may be prescient...

    For a wingnut, this guy at least has some good maps to look at.

    For Democrats, Rethinking Abortion Runs Risks

    For Democrats, Rethinking Abortion Runs Risks

    "Emily's List and other groups have also sounded alarms about the direction the party leadership is taking over all. During the search for a national Democratic chairman, Karen White, political director of Emily's List, posted a rallying cry on the group's Web site: 'We fought like mad to beat back the Republicans. Little did we know that we would have just as much to fear from some within the Democratic Party who seem to be using choice as a scapegoat for our top-of-the-ticket losses.'"

    Rethinking rhetoric is one thing (the headline should STILL say "Choice", however). I'm never going to hear the rhetoric I want to hear. You either believe a fertilized egg is a human being or you don't. I don't and I'd like to hear people say that; like Chairman Dean says I'm tired of fundamentalist preachers trying to run our lives.

    The right's rhetoric bugs me less than the Deomocrats, though. Democrats are supposed to advocate for freedom, not back away and somehow imply it's a bad thing.

    So what's the trade-off? Look at this Pennsylvania poll:

    Sen. Rick Santorum trails State Treasurer Robert Casey, Jr., a possible Democratic challenger, 46 - 41 percent, in an early look at the 2006 Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac poll released today. Another 11 percent are undecided.

    Santorum would top other possible Democratic challengers:

  • 47 - 39 percent over former State Treasurer Barbara Hafer...

  • A primer for the unfamiliar:
  • Santorum is a flat-out religious conservative
  • Casey, very much his father's son, is a moderate Democrat but anti-choice
  • Hafer, who has Emily's List's backing is a former GOP nominee for governor who switched parties over choice.

    In these circumstances, what's a win? An anti-choice Senator Casey is a vote for control of the chamber, for pro-choice committee chairs, but would buttress the argument that choice is A Problem.

    It seems that rhetorical retreat is inevitable. But we can't surrender on substance, letting choice slip away a notice and a waiting period at a time. We need to be as relentless as the gun nuts are - hey, anyone notice how they've completely won their argument, pushing the issue off the table? And that was with a MINORITY viewpoint. Think what unapologetic pro-choicers can do with our MAJORITY.

  • Tuesday, February 15, 2005

    Montel Williams: Fighting for your life shouldn't be a crime

    Montel Williams: Fighting for your life shouldn't be a crime

    "In the eyes of the law, I am a criminal. My crime? Using the medicine that has allowed me to live a normal life despite having multiple sclerosis. But because of medical marijuana, I am still alive and living a far more productive, fruitful life than before. And that shouldn't be a crime."

    Local politics garners less TV coverage

    Local politics garners less TV coverage


    "In the month leading up to last Election Day, just 8% of the local evening newscasts in 11 of the nation's largest TV markets devoted time to local races and issues, researchers say.

    Over the same period, 55% of the newscasts included reports about the presidential race. And 'eight times more coverage went to stories about accidental injuries' than to local races and issues, their report concludes.

    The findings highlight "a really serious issue," says Al Tompkins, group leader of the broadcast/online unit at the Poynter Institute, a school in St. Petersburg, Fla., for professional journalists.

    Other studies show that most people - about 60% - get more of their news from local TV than from any other single source. But, Tompkins says, 'if local news doesn't include much coverage of local political issues, then the electorate is obviously trying to make decisions about things it just doesn't have enough information about.'"

    My most satisfying political experiences have all been on local campaigns - city races, legislative races, school elections. General elections are at once professionalized and amateurish, and at caucus time I feel more like a prop or an extra than an activist. On a local race, you get to know real people and you have real input. And when you win, the winners stay home and stay accountable.

    But local elections are slipping between the media cracks in a big way. Local TV news is so short and so focused on self-promotion (one of these years I intend to take a stopwatch to the Channel 9 news and time the promos - and that includes ANYTHING featuring the helicoptor), sportys, redundant weather and stories that bleed that there's barely time to even mention a local election. The city council debate doesn't look snappy in a News Chopper shot.

    Print media doesn't do much better, at least not around here with Gannett's ordert to write cookie cutter stories on local issues ("get a person on the street opinion no matter how ill informed"). And notice that the story I linked to is from USA Today and thus part of the problem.

    Could the blogosphere fill the gap? Waaaaay back when in the dark ages of the internet - 1993 or so - we had a very effective and informative listserv that dealt with local events and issues in depth. After two or three glory years, it became infected with trolls and people drifted away. Its linear successor recently shook in its final rattles of death, many years after it had lost all effectiveness.

    Maybe a well-written local blog could begin to fill the void left when Icon - the most successful local alt-paper - died about four years ago. Maybe I'd help with it. Any takers?

    MSNBC - Kerry: U.S. would be better, safer with my plans

    MSNBC - Kerry: U.S. would be better, safer with my plans

    Shadow President Kerry continues to position himself as Righ Honourable Leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

    But that's not what drew me to the story. Check out MSNBC's spin:

    Former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, who lost decisively to President Bush in an election focused on national security, said Tuesday the country would be “far better off” with his proposals for Iraq and the military.

    Ahem. Lost decisively? They seem to be buying into the "mandate" revisionism. Bush 41 "lost decisively." Walter Mondale "lost decisively." John Kerry, for all his flaws, came within a few ten thousand votes of knocking off a wartime president, and won the second most popular votes in history. That ain't "lost decisively."

    Looking at Romney in a more national light

    Looking at Romney in a more national light

    Another name on the `08 list, this one from the hometown paper:

    Massachusetts has long been accepting of its political leaders' national ambitions, viewing their desire for wider influence as a reflection of the Commonwealth's own outsize sense of itself, the way parents indulge their own qualities in their kids.

    Governor Mitt Romney is the latest to cast his eyes beyond the Berkshires, and signals of his presidential ambitions are everywhere...

    Drudge Targets Chris Rock as Oscar Host

    Drudge Targets Chris Rock as Oscar Host

    As Chris would say, I'm tired, tired, tired of this shit:

    It begins with Drudge bashing Chris Rock as a choice to host the Oscars due to some quotes from his routines that are sure to enrage conservatives, particularly the radical right and evangelicals.

    The big question is: will Drudge and conservatives succeed in using their politics to dictate who is an acceptable host for a MSM television awards show viewed by up to one billion people? ABC is counting on Rock to re-energize the show and its ratings. They are going for The Daily Show audience. That's where the advertising dollars are, not with grannies in Podunk.

    One other note: How much of the radical right's anti-Oscar fury is really the result of their feeling betrayed by Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby? They really don't like this movie, and it really might win best picture. They've called it everything from a neo-nazi movie to communist propoganda. To which, Eastwood responds: "What do you have to give these people to make them happy?"

    Cue a rousing chorus of the theme from The Good The Bad and The Ugly...

    Anyway. Chris will be the edgiest host since Letterman but hopefully will do better than the "Oprah, Uma" moment. He'll get in the kinds of zings he usually does: mostly aimed at the right but occasionally hitting the left with the recoil.

    Oh, and as alluded to a couple weeks back I did finally watch "Head Of State" and I was disappointed. I've often said I wish politicians could be as honest as comedians, and Chris Rock had his moments on the campaign trail. But he went for the easy laugh just a little too often. White folks get down at the fancy fundraiser - yeah, we get it.

    Monday, February 14, 2005

    Keyes Family Values

    Keyes Family Values

    Say what you will about Mosh Pit Al, but at least he's not a hypocrite:

    "Maya Marcel-Keyes will be making her first public appearance as a gay activist at a Valentine Day's rally in front of the Maryland State House, says Dan Furmansky, the leader of Equality Maryland, a gay rights group.

    Last summer her father, conservative pundit and frequent Republican candidate Alan Keyes, caused a stir during the Republican convention by labeling Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter a sinner and calling homosexuality 'selfish hedonism.'

    Marcel-Keyes told the Washington Post her parents have thrown her out of the house, stopped speaking to her and refuse to pay for college because she is gay. She said she loves her parents."

    Cold and cruel, perhaps, but at least he's consistent.

    The original WashPo piece is here.

    A Newly Meaningful Relationship?

    A Newly Meaningful Relationship?

    Pucker up, Joe:

    There's been K Street chatter that Lieberman could be on an administration list to replace Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in the next year or so...

    That would be convenient for Lieberman, whose term is up in 2006, and could give Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R) an opportunity to appoint a Republican to the seat for at least a few months before the election...

    I suppose from Joementum's perspective, it's better than losing a primary...

    Love and politics mix in Valentine's movements

    Love and politics mix in Valentine's movements

    Ah, yes. Hearts and flowers and abstinence only and covenant marriage and queer bashing...

    Across the country, teens from hundreds of schools and youth groups will make chastity pledges today on the "Day of Purity" — organized by the Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based conservative legal group

    In Arkansas, Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet, will renew their wedding vows in front of hundreds of couples at a ceremony promoting the state's covenant-marriage law — a voluntary system that makes divorce harder to obtain.

    The story slants to the right but at least works in:

    And at statehouses, courthouses and city halls nationwide, supporters of homosexual rights will rally in support of same-sex "marriage" as Valentine's Day serves as the centerpiece of their "Freedom to Marry Week."

    Guess the "paper" from the "quotes"...

    Sunday, February 13, 2005

    Hunt for Fugitives Expands to Retirees

    Hunt for Fugitives Expands to Retirees

    Here's what a bad list can do:

    "Thousands of unsuspecting retirees could lose their Social Security checks in the months ahead, some over false or unproven allegations, minor infractions or long-dormant arrest warrants.

    The risk is a consequence of the Fugitive Felon Project, a little-known law-and-order measure created by Congress in 1996 to help apprehend suspects and to prevent fleeing criminals from using government benefits to elude arrest.

    Project computers already match names on various welfare lists with names on felony warrants issued around the country. But records and interviews also show that the computer dragnet frequently cut off federal benefits to the sick, poor and disabled who were neither fugitives nor felons. Many lacked financial and legal resources to get their benefits restored."

    Begrudging Praise for Dean

    Begrudging Praise for Dean

    From an unexpected conservative source:

    "Howard Dean has the potential to be the Democrats' version of Newt Gingrich, and if we overlook the potential impact he will have on the Democrats as a whole, we could see a Democrat Revolution in the near future, possibly as soon as 2006.

    Dean made his mark on the 2004 Presidential campaign early by raising a lot of money through the use of the Internet. We're talking loose change found under Bill Gates's couch cushions money here. And more importantly, it wasn't the Bill Gates-types in the Democratic Party doing the donating. It was John and Joan Q. Public donating. Think about that for a moment. All the fundraising ability of Terry McAuliffe, but without the inability to strategize election victories."

    I must admit I had a begrudging, loathing admiration for Newt myself.

    Saturday, February 12, 2005

    Radio Iowa: GOP ditches tax break for under 30 crowd after poll shows it's unpopular

    GOP ditches tax break for under 30 crowd after poll shows it's unpopular

    Well, that didn't take long: "Senate Co-Leader Stewart Iverson, a republican from Dows, was surprised that only six percent of the 500 Iowans they questioned liked the proposal..."

    Two Twenties and a Ten Please

    Two Twenties and a Ten Please

    "Minnesota Congressman John Kline wants former President Ronald Reagan's picture to replace Ulysses S. Grant on the $50 bill..."

    Party Like It's 2006?

    Party Like It's 2006?

    With Dayton out, and Franken out:

    Dems are worried about holding this must-hold seat, and beginning to mull over other potential candidates.

    So let's consider the ideal candidate profile: a Minnesotan with high name ID, smarts, charisma, a good work ethic, appeal across party lines and outside political circles, and enough dough to self-finance a lavish race.

    Put it in the computer and you've got:

    They say Minnesota is a purple state...

    Friday, February 11, 2005

    Bad Day For Civil Liberties

    Bad Day For Civil Liberties

    There's so many awful stories today that all I can do is round up the lowlights:

  • After deliberating for 13 days, a jury convicted veteran civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart, a member of the Guild, on charges of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists and defrauding the U.S. government. Sentencing is scheduled for July 15. The 65-year-old attorney faces up to 20 years in prison...
  • The Washington Post reports a new scandal emerging about Guantanamo Bay. A soon-to-be released military report of investigations into the abuse claims of detainees will confirm that female interrogators sexually humiliated and abused them.
  • National ID Card Bill Passes House
  • Brittan Elementary School is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move.
    The badges rely on the same radio frequency and scanner technology that companies use to track livestock and product inventory. Similar devices have recently been used to monitor youngsters in some parts of Japan.
    Some parents are outraged, fearing it will take away their children's privacy...
  • The Senate passed a bill on Thursday that moves many class action suits to federal court. This means there might be cases where it's impossible to bring suit in either state or federal court...

    Thanks to the excellent TalkLeft for most of this.

  • Reality-Based Initiatives

    Reality-Based Initiatives

    Democrats on Capitol Hill yesterday called for a new sex-education funding program that matches abstinence-education funding dollar for dollar.

    Young people "deserve this and they need it," said Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat, lead sponsor of the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) bill, which calls for $206 million in federal funding for comprehensive sex education — the same amount proposed this week for abstinence education in President Bush's budget.

    Nice to see the Dems taking on the self-appointed morality poilice head-on. All the evidence points to absitinence-only being a complete failure, and I like this approach both politically and as the parent of a teenager.

    Tangent: This article was in the Washington Times of all places with the headline

    Young people 'need' new sex-education funding plan

    with "need" in quotes, just like their style book treats gay marriage as gay "marriage".

    Tangent 2: I'm going to try a little experiment and tag this with "teen sex" as a category, just to see if it makes the hit counter spin. I suspect a lot of sick people will be disappointed. Stay tuned...


    Thursday, February 10, 2005

    House OKs Citizenship Check for Licenses

    House OKs Citizenship Check for Licenses

    The furriner-haters win round one:

    "Republicans pushed the measure through on a 261-161 vote despite protests from governors and state motor vehicle departments that it would be too costly and would require them to take on the role of immigration officers.

    The bill is expected to have more difficulty in the Senate, where several Republican lawmakers have said they want it considered as part of a broader immigration package."

    If I'm reading this right, it means the only hope here is a split between Republicans who hate furriners a lot vs. Republicans who REALLY hate furriners a lot...

    Politics of Celebrity: Now It's Our Turn

    Politics of Celebrity: Now It's Our Turn

    "Just one day after U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton decided not to run for a second term, comedian Al Franken may be throwing his hat into the ring."

    UPDATE: Uh... never mind.

    Sen. Clinton is early presidential favorite among Dems - Sen. Clinton is early presidential favorite among Dems
    To stop Hillary, draft Condi

    Two interesting headlines that I noticed side by side. A closer read shows Hillary Clinton leading an actual POLL of actual VOTERS, while the Condoleezza Rice story is just speculation from an embittered Dick Morris.

    Meanwhile the junior senator from New York is leading the junior senator from Massachusetts in this poll - in Massachusetts. Interesting, but I remember in about November 2003 Dean was leading Kerry in Massachusetts too.

    And Hillary's old would-be nemesis Rudy is stomping around South Carolina...

    Early Returns in 'Deep Throat' Contest: Rehnquist Takes the Lead!

    Early Returns in 'Deep Throat' Contest: Rehnquist Takes the Lead!

    "In the early returns, based on dozens of submissions, the clear frontrunner is (ailing) Chief Justice Willam Rehnquist. Mark Felt holds second, and (ailing) President Ford is in third..."

    But when do we find out who "You're So Vain" is about?

    Wednesday, February 09, 2005

    The Least-Liked Democratic Candidate Since McGovern?

    The Least-Liked Democratic Candidate Since McGovern?

    Ain't it hard to stumble
    And land in some funny lagoon?
    Ain't it hard to stumble
    And land in some muddy lagoon?
    Especially when it's nine below zero
    And three o'clock in the afternoon.
    - Bob Dylan

    The thermometer is back and baby it's cold outside:

    What does make Kerry’s score noteworthy is that his was the lowest mean thermometer recorded for a Democratic nominee since McGovern. His score represents a drop of 5 percentage points from Gore’s mean score four years earlier. The simple interpretation here is straightforward and probably coincides with many preconceptions – John Kerry was the least liked Democratic candidate of the past 30 years.

    Personally, I think McGovern's great.

    Don't ask me nothin' about nothin',
    I just might tell you the truth.

    The Godfather Speaks

    The Godfather Speaks

    The reference is only in the headline, but it does seem to place our new Secretary of State in the cast:

    I believe that everyone is telling the Iranians that they're going to have to live up to their international obligations, or next steps are in the offing. And I think everyone understands what "next steps" mean.

    Is Connie Corleone short for Condoleezza? (That would be the Godfather 3, pass the poison cannoli version of Connie.)

    Talia Shire only played two roles that anyone remembers in her life - Connie Corleone and Yo Adrian - and she stretched that into eight movies.

    Bush Woos Democratic Base

    Bush Woos Democratic Base

    In the latest installment of the Party of Lincoln saga, Bush misses a chance to taunt Democrats with:

    All your base are belong to us

    Maybe I shouldn't kid around so much; the article does hint at some taken-for-granted issues vis-a-vis minority voters and the Democrats. Having been on the short end of the taken-for-granted stick in 2004, and on the sore end of the openly-held-in-contempt stick in the Gore-Lieberman era, I certainly sympathise.

    Closing the Primaries

    Closing the Primaries

    Someone in New Hampshire is singing my song:

    The New Hampshire House is scheduled to vote today on a bill that would end a primary voter's right to reclaim independent voter status right after voting.

    The current primary system lets an undeclared voter cast either a Democratic or Republican Party ballot, then re-register as an undeclared voter before leaving the polling place.

    Of course, as one of those courthouse cronies who cares more about who is sheriff than who is president, my interest in this is primarily parochial.

    Prime Minister Dean

    Prime Minister Dean

    Here's a comparative politics concept I find interesting in light of the DNC chair election:

    Tony Blair's got a year or so to go before he has to call the next UK election. Leave aside the huge difference that he gets to choose election day to his own advantage. Look instead at what the opposition does.

    The day after the 2001 UK election, defeated Tory leader William Hague resigned. This began the leadership fight in the Conservative Party. The post-defeat "why did we lose" navel-gazing is incorporated into the leadership contest. The New Leader becomes an antidote to the just-finished defeat - and that affects the kind of candidate chosen.

    The opposition leader becomes a familiar face, a shadow prime minister, introduced to the people and set up to run the national race in four to five years. (Of course, the Tories changed course mid cycle by dumping Duncan Smith for Howard, but that's just a sympton of their deep deep problems.)

    By contrast of course in America we normally have our leadership fight - the primary/convention season - just BEFORE a general election. We have less time to introduce the leader but less time for him* to wear out his* welcome. The choice is fresher but we have less time to heal our intraparty wounds.

    The process of the DNC fight, and the choice of Howard Dean as DNC chair, feels a lot like a leadership contest in a parliamentary system. I realize that Dean has pledged not to run in 2008 but as shadow prime minister (a role John Kerry is clearly trying to put himself in) he could have a fair amount of influence.

    Another difference in a parliamentary system like the UK is the existence of a permanent local party structure, ready to run a campaign on short notice. That sounds like it's right up Dean's alley.

    * I say "he" in the historic American sense of it's always been a he. At least the British have had a she. I hope our first she is both soon and better than theirs.

    Tuesday, February 08, 2005

    More Gerrymandering

    More Gerrymandering

    Another good argument for proportional representation:

    "Democrats tend to group together in fairly contiguous, densely populated urban areas. Drawing a map that is so focused on contiguous geographic boundaries could result in a map not entirely unlike Pennsylvania's, where two 80-90% Democratic districts are surrounded by a sea of districts that are 50-55% Republicans. This has allowed a state that is lean-Democratic in both voter registration and Presidential voting tendencies to send a 12-7 Republican delegation to Washington for two consecutive cycles. Democrats might even receive more total votes for Congress, but Republicans end up with more congressmen."

    Just look at the red-blue county map. Republicans like to brag about how red it is, but the blue is geographically small and really REALLY dark blue.

    Richardson will seek presidential bid

    Richardson will seek presidential bid

    Another day, another 2008 note: "Although New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has been coy since last November's election about whether he plans to run for president in 2008, he has told party leaders he will run..."

    This guy has always intrigued me. I'd check it out... his homestate paper takes care to mention everyone else under the sun,, too.

    GOP Fears a Redistricting Backfire

    GOP Fears a Redistricting Backfire

    Trouble for the Governator's re-map:

    "By some estimates, the state's 20-person GOP congressional delegation opposes the governor's effort 4 to 1. The Republican backlash underscores a reality of redistricting: What's most important to incumbents is ensuring their own survival.

    "California now has more clout in the House of Representatives than at any time in previous history," said U.S. Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Rocklin), referring to the committee chairmanships held by California Republicans.

    "It would seem to me self-defeating if we set in motion forces that could result in the loss of seats in California, which in conjunction with a loss of a handful of seats elsewhere in the country could spell a return to the minority for Republicans in the House. I just don't think that's a risk worth taking.""

    One of the reasons this needs to be addressed nationally rather than on a state level.

    Monday, February 07, 2005

    Nixon Death Watch... Again

    This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

    2008 Post of the Day: Attack of the Wingnuts

    2008 Post of the Day: Attack of the Wingnuts

    "It seems ridiculous to think that Tom Tancredo would run for president. And no one knows that better than Tancredo himself."

    So just who the heck is Tom Tancredo? The short answer is a GOP congressman from Colorado. But here's the actual importance:

    The conservative firebrand is thinking about chucking his safe congressional seat to make an insurgent bid for the White House.

    "It's a possibility. It is," he said in a quiet moment by the fireplace in a hotel lobby as he waited for aides to fetch him for a dinner with activists. "But I hope it doesn't come to that."

    What he does want to happen is for immigration to be the defining issue - a "litmus test" - for candidates in the New Hampshire presidential primary three years from now. He would reluctantly consider a race, he said, "as a last resort" if no other candidate takes up the fight.

    His aim, he said, is to smoke out the "serious candidates" and force at least one to take up the banner of a crackdown on illegal immigration.

    To administer this litmus test, Tancredo has brought together much of the political team of Pat Buchanan...

    Hubble in Trouble

    Hubble in Trouble

    "The aging Hubble Space Telescope - a path-breaking scientific instrument whose eye-catching images have won fans around the world -- would die in orbit under the 2006 budget for NASA proposed on Monday.

    The U.S. space agency's total budget would rise 2.4 percent over 2005 to about $16.5 billion, but only $93 million would be spent on Hubble, with $75 million of that aimed at bringing the observatory down to Earth safely, NASA's comptroller said."

    Trippi predicts finance reform - and more

    Trippi predicts finance reform - and more

    "Trippi reaffirmed the widespread belief that Dean will serve as chairman of the Democratic National Committee but added that he expects the former governor to leave the DNC before 2008 to run for president a second time.

    I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope...

    But even amidst my drooling, this nugget from the other side stood out:

    After the 2000 election, Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, realized that in order to win, Bush had to branch out to non-voters, according to Trippi. Thus, he began cross-referencing pick-up truck owners with registered gun-users and got them to the polls, he explained."

    Trippi said that the Republicans are "playing a completely different level of chess."

    Gerrymandering is actually on the radar screen

    Gerrymandering is actually on the radar screen

    The New York Times takes a long look:

    "The politically charged methods that states use to draw Congressional districts are under attack by citizens groups, state legislators and the governor of California, all of whom are concerned that increasingly sophisticated map-drawing has created a class of entrenched incumbents, stifled electoral competition and caused governmental gridlock."

    Why have Senate races become more competitive than House races? Well, one reason could be you can't gerrymander a state. I'm one of those who is convinced that the increasing sophistication of gerrymandering is one of the main reasons for decreasing electoral competitiveness.

    And of course now we have increasing shamelessness in the use of gerrymandering. Texas was the most blatant, and now California looks set to follow suit. The plan is designed to look non-partisan but when you dig just below the surface you find the worms:

    The bill requires the judges who are drawing the map to create districts that look competitive based on voter registration numbers. (ie, 30% Republican, 29% Democrat, 32% independent, the rest minor parties). It doesn't take into account independents who usually make up a large chunk of registrations in a district, but who based on their precinct act exactly like partisans from either party in a general election. There's also a general rule that despite voter registration, Republicans tend to outperform their voter registration in districts, and turnout in a higher rate than Democrats.

    There is more than congressional district that has a double-digit Democratic voter registration advantage in this country, where Bush won handily, and is also represented by a Republican in Congress. It is just part of the nature of the beast.

    All of these plans are missing the larger point: splitting a state up into areas of near-exact population will inevitably split neighborhoods, cities, communities. A legislative district is an artificial entity, unlike a state which has some history and commonality.

    Perhaps the best way to increase the competitiveness of elections and the representative nature of government is to get rid of the concept of "districts" entirely and develop some sort of proportional system. It would require huge changes in law and attitude. Current court rulings hold that the US House must be single member districts. The bigger barrier is the "I vote the person not the party" attitude of simple minded "independence" in the American political system. Asking Americans to work their way through a party list would be futile at present.

    So which barrier is bigger? Doesn't really matter. The attitude will need to change to a consensus level in order to change the Constitution, and that attitudinal change might solve the problem.

    Sunday, February 06, 2005

    "Deeth is one of the evil aliens"

    "Deeth is one of the evil aliens"

    Hm. Looks like my secret is out:

    A dedicated servant of the dark overlord Onccalon, Deeth is rabidly determined to see his master rise again and the universe enslaved. Some guys are born bad. Deeth was born really bad.

    Drop Kick Me Jesus Though The Goalposts Of Life

    Drop Kick Me Jesus Though The Goalposts Of Life

    In honor of the de facto national religious holiday:

    Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life
    End over end neither left nor to right
    Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights
    Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life.

    Make me, oh make me, Lord more than I am
    Make me a piece in your master game plan
    Free from the earthly tempestion below
    I’ve got the will, Lord if you’ve got the toe.

    Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life
    End over end neither left nor to right
    Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights
    Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life.

    Take all the brothers who’ve gone on before
    And all of the sisters who’ve knocked on your door
    All the departed dear loved ones of mine
    Stick’em up front in the offensive line.

    Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life
    End over end neither left nor to right
    Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights
    Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life.

    This was the last song I played on the air in my brief career as a country DJ...

    The most moral county in Iowa?

    The most moral county in Iowa?

    It's another planet out there:

    After slaving over long columns of per-capita statistics on crime, divorces, church membership, Playboy readership and the number of bars, I can officially announce that the most moral county in Iowa, by my subjective measure is . . . Sioux County.

    To some, it's a comforting place, relatively free of muggings and troubles, bound together by faith.

    To others, Sioux County is more like one giant gated community, where people are the same, grass the same length and the righteous and judgmental rule.

    Don't count on statistics to sort that out.

    It also happens to be the most Republican county in Iowa. If we could have given it to Nebraska or South Dakota, John Kerry would have won the state.

    Notice that the Register didn't ask what the LEAST moral county in the state was. The rousing chorus of "People's Republic of Johnson County" would have echoed across the newsroom. I recall once, in response to a letter to the editor he'd written to the Register, a friend of mine got mail addressed to "Sodomy City."

    The post office knew that meant Iowa City. And he got the letter.

    So what's morality? I grew up in Wisconsin and it took me several years here before I noticed that all the corner taverns were missing. In my home town, every four blocks or so in residential neighborhoods you'd find a corner tavern like the one my grandfather went to after work. There were literally hundreds in my home town. But Iowa grew out of a Prohibitionist tradition, and not the beer-drinking ethnic tradition of Wisconsin. I'd say there are about two or three bars in this town that could legitimately be called "corner taverns."

    And I wonder if Sioux County has a homeless shelter, or a free medical clinic, or a domestic violence house, or the kind of cultural opportunity and diversity that my Johnson County has. Is morality a lack of bars, or a warm bed at night?

    By coincidence - or is it? - we're also the most Democratic county in the state.

    The evolution of portable audio

    The evolution of portable audio

    On this day of one of the few moments of true mass unity in our popular culture, it's interesting to look at how the music that united people back in an earlier techological-cultural era is now a place of isolation.

    Barry Gordy used to mix those classic Motown hits on a car stereo speaker, because he knew Young America, black and white, would be listening on a tinny transistor radio, blaring across the school parking lot for all to share, influencing the kids eating lunch on the next car. That doesn't happen with an iPod.

    Saturday, February 05, 2005

    Mixing Politics and Pigskins

    Mixing Politics and Pigskins

    This installment of the Daily 2008 watch reads almost like an Onion article. Or maybe it's because Senaror George Allen (R-VA) TALKS like an Onion parody.

    In the Allen lexicon, growth in payrolls became "more points on the board" and tax cuts meant lower "ticket prices" imposed by the government. And the Democrats? "Constant delay of game, constant holding, constant pass interference and, once in a while, even piling on," he said. The "Democratic huddle" decided "they didn't even want to put their players on the field."

    No political situation lacks a football analogue. Years without elections are the "offseason." Primaries are the "preseason." Senate Republicans are President Bush's "teammates." Big political donors join a "Quarterback Club" or a "Special Teams" committee.

    After campaign finance legislation ended unregulated donations to political parties, Allen was quoted as saying: "It's a whole new ballgame. There are no more skyboxes. We have to sell individual tickets."

    Yeah, yeah, George, we get it. My dad was a coach, too, but I don't try to prove it every sentence.

    Social Security proposals getting worse

    Social Security proposals getting worse

    "By putting his muscle only behind the most controversial element of what is likely to be sweeping legislation, Bush has stimulated an avalanche of additional proposals in Congress, many of them contradictory.

    Some Republicans, such as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, want to take this opportunity to jettison the payroll tax as the source of Social Security revenue and replace it with a sales tax."

    Ward Churchill, meet Alice In Chains

    Ward Churchill, meet Alice In Chains

    It's alright
    There comes a time
    Got no patience to search for peace of mind
    Layin' low
    Want to take it slow
    No more hiding or disguising truths I've sold

    Yeah, it's fine
    We'll walk down the line
    Leave our rain, a cold trade for warm sunshine
    You my friend
    I will defend
    And if we change, well I love you anyway

    Everyday it's something
    Hits me all so cold
    Find me sittin' by myself
    No excuses that I know

    I got myself in a mess once for saying something politically incorrect about 9/11. I won't repeat it exactly here, but I wouldn't take it back either. I will note that if we were serious about preventing a terrorist attack, we'd stop living like we're in Israel and with cutting off every nickel of US aid to Israel.

    So I feel a little intellectual sympathy with Professor Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado, who has succeeded in pissing off 99% of Americans by likening the 9/11 victims to Nazi death camp guards. All this was in the context of a deep academic discussion that most flag-wavers can't begin to comprehend.

    Here's what he actually said.

    First off, this conflict is not about "terrorism" which as Bob Kerrey notes is a tactic and not an ideology. Bin Laden has repeatedly stated his grievances:

  • US one-sided support of Israel over Palestine
  • US backing of unrepresentative governments throughout the Islamic world
  • US troops in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia

    And frankly, despite his reprehensible tactics - and I'm deliberately saying this in a politically incorrect way - I find myself in more agreement with Bin Laden than with Bush on these items.

    Does that somehow excuse me from this war? Are we as Americans collectively responsible for this? For electing and supporting governments of both parties from Truman to Bush that have to varying degrees implemented and backed these policies? If we accept the principles of democratic government and the rule of the majority, perhaps we are - even those of us who dissent.

    All this was written three years ago, but Washington Monthly notes it was recently re-publicized due to "the agenda-setting power of the right wing outrage machine and the agenda-setting power of the New York Times.:

    The Denver papers are discussing the concept of collective guilt, complete with some Holocaust survivor quotes (that should excuse me from the anti-Semitism charges.)

    I remember having the collective guilt discussion with northwoods relatives fifteen years or so ago , in the days of the Treaty Rights fights. The courts ruled that the treaties White Man signed with the First Nations were indeed worth the paper they were written on, and the upshot of this was some spear fishing in vacation country. Again and again I heard the refrain "that was 150 years ago, it's not MY fault." The individual over the collective - the American way.

    Until I started looking at this closer I didn't realize that Ward Churchill is a Native American, and that context gives his "America bashing" an interesting resonance. He conducted his first post-controversy interviews and is making no excuses. That prompted the rousing chorus of Alice In Chains.

    I don't have an answer to the collective guilt concept. What constitutes collective guilt, if anything? Are this sins of the fathers indeed revisited on the sons seventy times seven? What atones for it? Can collective guilt be atoned for individually? Am I less guilty for the sins of my ancestors on the Confederate side of the Civil War because I'm raising my African American daughter?

    If there is collective guilt, the 9/11 victims certainly paid for more than their share, dying for our sins in a sense. Were they legitimate targets? Well, I don't think ANYONE is, and I'll repeat my contention that if the Palestinians had produced a Gandhi they'd have a country by now. Churchill distinguished between the financiers and executives killed in the Towers and the janitors and firefighters. (The Pentagon attacks get mentioned less and less; I'll go out on a limb and contend that if you accept the premise that we are "at war" with the radical Islamist movement, our nation's military headquarters is not a civilian target.)

    I don't have any answers as usual. Ward Churchill chose language that he must have known was deliberately offensive and I'm guessing he knew the risks. But the discussion is happening and perhaps that was his goal.

  • Tell a lie, make it big

    Tell a lie, make it big

    This explains, among other things, the entire career of Ronald Reagan:

    "Once we report something, some people will always believe it even if we try to stuff the genie back in the bottle. For instance, six months after the invasion, one-third of Americans believed WMDs had been found, even though every such tentative claim was discomfirmed. The findings also offer Machiavellian possibilities for politicians. They can make a false claim that helps their cause, contritely retract it -- and rest assured that some people will nevertheless keep thinking of it as true."

    Like Tom Petty said, "it don't really matter to me, you believe what you want to believe."