Thursday, June 30, 2005

Thursday Funnies: Democrats vs. Republicans

Thursday Funnies: Democrats vs. Republicans

Stolen from TalkLeft:

A woman, in a hot air balloon, realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude, and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, "Excuse me. Can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago. But, I don't know where I am."

The man consulted his portable GPS, and replied, "You're in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above a ground elevation of 2346 feet above sea level. You are at 11 degrees, 14.97 minutes North latitude, and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes West longitude.

She rolled her eyes, and said, "You must be a Democrat."

"I am," replied the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct. But, I have no idea what to do with your information. And, I am still lost. Frankly, you have not been much help to me."

The man smiled, and responded, "You must be a Republican."

"I am!" replied the balloonist. "How did you know?"

"Well...," said the man, "You do not know where you are, or where you are going. You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise that you have no idea how to keep. And, now you expect me to solve your problem. You are in exactly the same position you were in before we met. But somehow, now it's all my fault.

Here's the joke the way I knew it:

A jumbo jet was making its approach for landing in Seattle yesterday when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft's electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the jumbo jet's position and course to steer to the airport.

The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the plane's window. The pilot's sign said "WHERE AM I?" in large letters.

People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign, and held it in a building window. Their sign said "YOU ARE IN AN AIRPLANE."

The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map, determined the course to steer to the Seattle airport, and landed the plane safely.

After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the "YOU ARE IN AN AIRPLANE" sign helped determinine plane's position.

The pilot responded "I knew that had to be the MICROSOFT building because, similar to their help-lines, they gave me a technically correct but completely useless answer."

Congressional Quarterly: Suburbs

A Line in the Suburban Sand

A must read if you're a junkie for political demographics:

The newer, outer suburbs are almost all overwhelmingly white, wealthier than the rest of the country and conservative-leaning, traits that lend themselves to the Republicans’ current dominance of their congressional districts. The inner suburbs have a more urban feel, both in their atmospherics and demographics, with more ethnic diversity and a greater range of income. The Democrats, whose strongest congressional base remains in the nation’s 90 urban districts, also do well in neighboring inner suburbia, just not well enough to offset the GOP’s looming advantage at the metropolitan edges...

And they conveniently provide a target list, half of which are in two states:

In the 14 suburban districts where voters “split” their ballots last year by voting for a House Republican but favoring Democrat Kerry for president, the House members are Mark Kirk of Illinois; Michael G. Fitzpatrick, Curt Weldon, Jim Gerlach and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania; Rob Simmons, Christopher Shays and Nancy L. Johnson of Connecticut; E. Clay Shaw Jr. of Florida; Michael N. Castle of Delaware; Bob Beauprez of Colorado; James T. Walsh of New York; Anne M. Northup of Kentucky; and Dave Reichert of Washington.

Connecticut and Pennsylvania each have the governor/senator combo next year. In CT, an unelected GOP governor has her first run of her own, and the Senate race dynamic depends on if someone has the guts to challenge fake Dem Lieberman in a primary.

In PA, Rick Santorum is likely to get knocked off - even internal GOP politics work against him. Potential rivals for the presidency (something is really wrong when a yoyo like Santorum can envision himself as President) would like to see him out of the way, and Trent Lott wants back into leadership. Meanwhile, no serious challengers to Ed Rendell have emerged.

So, if I'm the DCCC, I'd invest some time and effort into House seats in Pennsylvania and, depending on how it shakes out, Connecticut.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Preaching to the Choir: Bush Speech and The Troops

Preaching to the Choir: Bush Speech and The Troops

MSNBC, enterprisingly enough, did an impromptu town meeting on the speech from a Baptist church in Nashville, having already scheduled a special edition of the Chris Matthews "Hardball" show from that location to discuss, among other things, politics and religion.

Matthews led a post-speech discussion that included assembled experts, most of whom leaned to the right or far right, and an audience made up largely of military families. Two soldiers' wives interviewed said they were prepared for the war to last 10 or 12 years...

Missed most of W's speech last night thanks to a timely phone call from my brother. I watched about 20 minutes of post-commentary on "Hardball" until I couldn't take anymore.

Bush's choice of a military audience was very telling. The man is not tolerant of dissent and he chose a crowd that is literally under his command. And war opponents have not yet, in the post-Vietnam era, figured out an effective response to the fallacy of Republican argument: "to support The Troops, you must support the war."

I've confessed before that I don't get the culture of the military and the military family. I've never had close family or friends in the armed forces - just a couple cousins who are de facto strangers. My brothers and I were lucky enough to have middle class opportunities and a draft-free era.

Attitudes toward the military, and the presence of a military member in the family, is now one of the strongest indicators of political preference - right up there with self-declared party ID, race, and church attendance. Perhaps this is the consequence of a post-draft era where the military community is self-selected.

As Chris Matthews interviewed his crowd, the Bush support was unanimous. The military family culture seems incapable of questioning policy. All the wives included the same information by way of introduction: husband's specialty and unit. This was meaningless to me but obviously has great significance to that culture. And there was the usual talk of sacrifice and "doing your job" with no apparant moral quandries about the nature of the job.

I try as hard as I can not to judge but I just can't avoid the conclusion that anyone who enlists is complicit, in whatever small way, with the policies they are enforcing. Maybe their choice is so small as to be unrealistic: an offer, however false, of a way out of a life of uneducated poverty may be too good to resist, so in that sense enlistees may be victims, or their complicity may be unwitting.

But my attitude gets reinforced by the clear support demonstrated by the families. Maybe the psychological barriers are just too big for mere humans. It's hard to be apart from one's loved ones, especially where mortal threat is involved. Perhaps I expect too much to hope that the troops and families will question the policies. Clearly, military families are more deferential to authority than civilians, and to question policy is in a sense insubordination, questioning your ultimate "superior officer."

More to the point, no one wants to believe their "job" is useless or wrong. If one questions policy, it leads to the inevitable conclusion that their very real pain and loneliness are all in vain. And that's a lot to ask.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

CBC News: Same-sex legislation passed

CBC News: Same-sex legislation passed

Oh, Canada:

Supported by most members of the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP, the legislation passed easily, making Canada only the third country in the world, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to officially recognize same-sex unions.

The "vote is about the Charter of Rights," said Prime Minister Martin. "We're a nation of minorities and in a nation of minorities you don't cherry-pick rights."

Survey USA - Bush 50 State Approval

Survey USA - Bush 50 State Approval

The numbers people return with Dubya's ratings.

Assuming - and this is a big if - that approval/disapproval translates into votes, we see a Democratic electoral college margin of 378 to 129 (they didn't survey DC but it's a safe assumption.) This is what a Democratic landslide looks like:

Georgia, Indiana and West Virginia are tied.

If you sort by Bush approval rating it's all red on top, blue on bottom, with two exceptions: Nevada and Ohio land deep in the blue zone.

My own Iowa switches sides, as does mega-state Florida. The western strategy may bear fruit: Bush is in the negative in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. And there's some slippage in the South: Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as border Missouri.

Med Marijuana News Blackout in Iowa City

Med Marijuana News Blackout in Iowa City

No one - the Press-Citizen, the DI, the Gazette, even the city web site - seems to be reporting that the Iowa City medical marijuana initiative was resubmitted to the city last week with what seems to be enough additional signatures...


Monday, June 27, 2005

Jeb Bush's Surprise Move

Jeb Bush's Surprise Move

Make it stop, make it stop...

Jeb Bush's request that a state attorney investigate alleged discrepancies in Michael Schiavo's statements about how long he took to call 911 after Terri's collapse startled even his closest confidants.

Ill-advised or not, Bush's maneuver only fueled speculation about a possible presidential run in 2008. Given a GOP field that lacks a standout contender, Bush "would automatically be the one to beat" were he to enter...

Crisis Of The Half-Justice

Crisis Of The Half-Justice

If President Bush nominates Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, he won't be naming a new justice. He'll be naming something more like a new half-justice.

A Justice Gonzales would have to recuse himself from cases dealing with a wide range of issues -- from the Patriot Act to partial-birth abortion -- because of his high-level service in the Bush administration...

Much like Rehnquist had to recuse himself in the early days of his associate justice tenure after his work in the Nixon Justice Department. Which makes Gonzales, in a twisted icky Republican sort of way, an apt successor.

No retirement today. Buzz on the internet over the weekend was that it would be O'Connor, not Rehnquist, who would step down. I have a sneaky feeling that Rehnquist won't retire and his seat will only be vacated by his demise.

The Greatest American?!?!?

The Greatest American?!?!?

The page is in irritating flash but wade through it and you'll see it: the winner of the Discovery Channel's "Greatest American" Poll is none other than...

Ronald Reagan.

My initial gut feeling of invalidation, of having "great" and "American" defined in opposition of everything I stand for, of having greatness personified in the man I joined politics to fight against, is beginning to subside. That's only because the realist in me knows that the Republican Party probably had phonebanks of interns war-dialing the program for the bragging rights, like it was a glorified "American Idol" episode. And the cynic in me knows that the American public has an incredibly short memory.

Still. It sucks.

Space Report

Space Report

A couple interesting things in the skies this week:

  • Thursday I caught two of the three planets. Saturn is getting next to impossible now, but tonight is the closest approach for Venus and Mercury.

  • Some good space station passes this week. Since we're close to solstice we get some unusual phenomena: seeing the ISS both morning and evening and even close to the middle of the night. Too many good passes to single one out.

  • And stay tuned: it's going to be a great fall for Mars. Not quite as good as summer 2003, but almost.

  • Sunday, June 26, 2005

    Red State, Blue State, TV View State

    Red State, Blue State, TV View State

    We saw lots and lots of maps after the 2004 election: red and blue states, red and blue counties, The United States of Canada and Jesusland. But here's one I never saw:

    This is the Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA) map. It's really hard to find on the cheap. After a lot of digging I found a site where, after you dig two layers deep, you find maps of each market. (AL-MS and MO-WY).

    The realities of broadcasting illustrate how artificial political boundaries are. Look at this year's top races. New Jersey is split between the Philadelphia and New Yordk DMAs. You pay for advertising based on the size of the audience, NOT on the size of the audience you want to reach. So the candidates will spend millions to reach Pennsylvania and New York State voters, just like the candidates for New York mayor will reach New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut. Is this one reason the frontrunner for New Jersey governor is a self-financed gazillionaire? And the phenomenon is even more pronounced when smaller and smaller districts are involved.

    Way back in 1984, Jay Rockefeller bought time on Pittburgh and Washington TV to reach the panhandles of West Virginia - and those counties provided the winning margin. I vaguely recall seeing ads for a Wisconsin candidate - and I can't remember who! - on Cedar Rapids, Iowa television. The idea was to reach tiny Crawford County, the one piece of Wisconsin in an Iowa media market.

    More than just the specifics of broadcasting, the DMAs serve as a rough indication of regional identity, athletic loyalties, cultural orbit. There's a Cubs-Cardinals baseball line somewhere in the middle of Illinois. When you're going "into town" do you mean Dubuque or LaCrosse, Omaha or Des Moines, Wichita or Kansas City? (Forgive my midwestern perspective, but it's relevant. Keep reading.)

    Broadcast TV is a sledgehammer approach best suited to statewide or national campaigns, while cable is a smart bomb that can target precisely in terms of geographics and demographics.

    But what about a national race?

    It's a reality - perhaps intuitive - that the tiny sliver of undecided voters in a national race, if tuned in to news at all, are looking at the local live at 5 cast. At the local news level the journalistic imperative, no matter how national or global the story, is the local angle. You don't cover the Iraq War, you cover the local unit that got shipped out. You cover the political campaign when it comes to town. And this is something that could be used to bring different states into play.

    While DMAs cross state lines, they are divided along county lines, so it's possible to calculate demographics AND election results for each. But has anyone done so? Here are some questions to ask:

  • what percentage of each state is in a given DMA
  • how much of a DMA spills over into another state
  • DMAs that overlap swing states vs. safe states.

    A couple strategic visits, a little ad buy could make a difference in a small state. Without running the numbers, look at, say, the Fargo, North Dakota market. North Dakota is pretty dark red, and too small to be worth the fight. But that one media market covers a vast majority of the state's population. The added bonus that really makes the case is that a huge chunk of the media market spills over into increasingly close Minnesota. So why not hit Fargo? You get two-state media coverage, North Dakota goes blue for at least a day, and northwest Minnesota gets a nice hit. Maybe you even put the GOP on the defensive and make them spend a day in the Great Plains that they might have spent in Ohio.

    You don't have to do it everywhere. There's no benefit to hitting Utah; the whole state is the Salt lake City market, the overlap into other states is minimal, and it's unwinnable. But why not try it a couple places. Consider this journey south from Fargo:

  • Sioux Falls: South Dakota probably hasn't seen a Democratic nominee since George McGovern went home to vote. But the overwhelming majority of the state population is in one TV market, that spills over into Minnesota (though not as much as Fargo) and a tiny, albiet extremely conservative, piece of Iowa.
  • Omaha: Western Nebraska is so overwhelmingly GOP that the state could never flip. But there's that weird congressional district electoral vote thing. With a little work you could try for one electoral vote in Omaha's CD, while the western third of Iowa watches.
  • Eastern Kansas: while Johnson County, Kansas is the antithesis of Johnson County, Iowa, they'd certainly notice the visit in Jackson County, Missouri.

    Twelve electoral votes in the Dakotas and Kansas, plus the one in Omaha. But the real target is the 28 votes of Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri - and on another level, small town and rural voters in other competitive states. We end our journey there; Oklahoma is hopeless and Tulsa doesn't spill over into Missouri. But there may be other such journeys. Consider the Idaho Panhandle, in the Spokane, Washington TV market and next to Montana. It's not impossible to imagine winning Montana - just ask their Democratic governor.

    Maybe some academic with ties to political science and broadcasting should run the numbers. (Maybe I should step up to the plate?)

    The clincher: In addition to the wall-to-wall local live at 5, you'd get national coverage with a dog-bites-man twist. By going to a place like Fargo or Couer d'Alene, even if the state stays non-competitive, the candidate creates the impression that they're fighting for every vote in every state.

  • Rumsfeld: Iraq Could Face Insurgents for 12 Years

    Rumsfeld: Iraq Could Face Insurgents for 12 Years

    "We're not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency. That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years."

    What was Rice saying about a "generational commitment?"

    With the right government, twelve years from now we could be well past our Manhattan Project of energy independence and completely out of the Middle East... now that would be a MULTI-generational commitment.

    Moonlight Graham's one game stuff of legend

    Moonlight Graham's one game stuff of legend

    On June 29, 1905 -- exactly 100 years ago on Wednesday -- Archibald Wright Graham made his lone appearance in the majors.

    He never got to hit. Instead, he was left on deck.

    Ah, the "Field of Dreams" thing. Of course, as you may know, there's an Iowa City connection with W.P. Kinsella being a Writer's Workshop alum; my understanding is Shoeless Joe was written in Iowa City.

    My favorite line from the movie - since we're into the 100 greatest movie lines this week, is not the chosen "if you build it he will come" or even the WAY overused (in these parts) "Is this heaven" bit. No, it's at the end, when the daughter says "people will come to Iowa City, and it'll be really boring." Guess you have to be from here - when "Stripes" came out we all thought Bill Murray's "It's Czechoslovakia! It's like going into Wisconsin!" was hilarious too. Though in that case, Iowa would have been more accurate.

    Iowa Citians are also bemused by the part early in the film when the Bible thumpers try to intimidate the school board. Having lived here Kinsella obviously knew we are the People's Republic of Johnson County. I'm guessing the fictional Kinsella had to have lived just over the line into the old Clear Creek district, where someone tried to get the Bible established as a public school textbook about the time Shoeless Joe was written. (The vote was about 85% no.) The film, of course, was made in rural Dubuque County which is a touch more conservative than Iowa City...

    Saturday, June 25, 2005



    Bloggers gathering in meatspace... always dangerous. The Old Capitol Brew Works Public House (old Fitzpatricks), starting at 7:30. May just need to check it out.

    UPDATE 6/25 So I checked it out. Showed up late so I missed out on 1) the group blogging at Kris's site and 2) my old pal Nick Johnson who left before I got there. Had a great time playing pool and juke box wars. Nice meetin' y'all.

    Friday, June 24, 2005

    What Is the Draft and How Does It Work?

    What Is the Draft and How Does It Work?

    It could be as little as 45 days from the time the president signs the order to implement the draft to the day that the first recruits begin showing up at basic training camps...

    Kind of scary that this is big enough that ABC News posted a Draft 101 article.

    Twilight Trio of Planets

    Twilight Trio of Planets

    I saw these Sunday night. Check fast; Mercury is elusive:

    "Bright Venus shines low in the west-northwest after sundown, flanked by dimmer Saturn and Mercury closing in on it daily. We'll soon be getting the best planet "trio" until at least 2030. As of tomorrow, June 22nd, the three planets will fit within a circle 5 degrees wide. On the 25th and 26th they'll be within 2 degrees of each other. "

    UPDATE: Thursday 6/23 I made out Mercury but couldn't locate Saturn.

    Thursday, June 23, 2005

    Websites alienate Firefox users

    Websites alienate Firefox users

    "One in 10 UK websites fail to work properly on the open source Firefox web browser, a study shows...

    Websites that proved difficult for Firefox users to navigate included the government website"

    I've been a webmaster eight years now and one of the first things I learned is: Cross-browser testing is just good manners. In fact, it's the only reason I even allow Internet Explorer on my new machine.

    It's especially bad for a government site, which should be as accomodating for as many different types of users as possible. I wonder how a survey of site accessibility for persons with disabilities would turn out.

    Morning Military Roundup

    Morning Military Roundup

  • "The Defense Department began working Wednesday with a private marketing firm to create a database of all U.S. college students and high school students between 16 and 18 years old, to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches..." More coverage here.

    How long till the pedophiles try to hack THAT one?

  • Meanwhile, in Canada, a campaign continues to allow refuge for US military deserters. How long till that includes draft refugees?

  • Japan Dreams of Robot Moon Base in 2025

    Japan Dreams of Robot Moon Base in 2025

    As part of the plan, Japan would use advanced robotic technologies to help build the moon base, while redeveloped versions of today's humanoid robots, such as Honda Motor's Asimo and Sony's Qrio, could work in the moon's inhospitable environment in place of astronauts...

    As a die-hard spacehead I like the moon base concept, but as a Godzilla nut I can't help but think of the "plot" of Destroy All Monsters.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2005

    Movie Quotes

    Movie Quotes

    A feast for the list lover and film lover in me: the 100 Greatest Movie Quotes. Naturally I'm disappointed that MY favorite movie got blocked out of the #1 spot by my mother's favorite movie, but at least Brando gets Quotes Number 2 and 3.

    To make room, disqualify real life moments like Lou Gehrig's "luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech and "Houston, we have a problem" (a well known line since Jim Lovell uttered it from space in 1970, 24 years before Tom Hanks repeated it on screen). ("Win one for the Gipper" is borderline, given its intersection of life, film, and politics.) Also, clear out a few excess Clint and AHnold catchphrases, and then I'll forgive the omission of "Please return the egg" from Godzilla vs. Mothra. But we'll leave Jack Nicholson's "heeeere's Johnny!" from The Shining. True, it was Ed McMahon's catchphrase first, but Jack stole it and bolted it down. Can you really hear the Carson intro without thinking of that ax busting down the door?

    With that out of the way, here's some missing favorites:

  • "Funny how? Funny like a clown?"
  • NOTHING from The Princess Bride?!? I dearly love "There's a shortage of perfect breasts in this world, it would be a pity to damage yours," but you would have to go with "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
  • Speaking of Rob Reiner films: "These go to eleven."
  • Wrong Silence of the Lambs line. The correct answer is "I do wish we could chat longer, but I'm having an old friend for dinner."
  • James Bond shows up twice but I like Goldfinger's "No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!"
  • and of course "Kill the wabbit" from What's Opera Doc. Songs are ineligible, but Elmer Fudd SAYS it too. While we're there, Bugs' "eeeeh... Next!" that concludes The Rabbit Of Seville is almost as good.

    Update: For the truly insane here are the top 400 nominees in irritating .pdf. Having cheated and read it, and having seen some of my faves on that, I disqualify myself from any more revisions.
  • Godwin's Law Selectively Enforced

    Godwin's Law Selectively Enforced

    In response to a ruling on abortion last September, Congressman Steve King said following law on reproductive rights equivalent to a Nazi guard saying he was following orders.

    “That, Mr. Speaker, is a ‘modern-day’ equivalent of the Nazi prison guard saying 'I was just following orders,’” he said on the House floor Sept. 8, 2004. “It was all legal in Nazi Germany at the time.

    In the wake of Dick Durbin's mea cupla - the right wing noise machine wins again - Raw Story has gone to the trouble of collecting Republican Nazi analogies. Once again, the refresher course on Godwin's law:

    Godwin's law (also Godwin's rule of Nazi analogies) is an adage in Internet culture that was originated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states that:

    As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

    There is a tradition in many Usenet newsgroups that once such a comparison is made, the thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.

    Even the mainstream press is onto it now, as the Washington Post namechecks Godwin in covering the "controversy."

    Raw Story's list is smugly satisfying, but ultimately serves only to push the topic of torture at Gitmo even further back.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2005

    Dems' Chances Undercut by Rigged System

    Dems' Chances Undercut by Rigged System:

    "When the two sides are tied nationally, the Republicans end up winning about 50 more House districts than the Democrats. Like the Conservatives in Britain, who in the UK's recent elections won far fewer seats than Tony Blair's Labour Party even though Labour only had 36% of the vote and 3% more than the Conservatives, the Democrats are undercut by regional partisan demographics funneled through a winner-take-all electoral system."

    It turns out that there is a fundamental anti-urban (and thus anti-Democratic) bias with single-seat districts. The urban vote is more concentrated, and so it's easier to pack Democratic voters into fewer districts.

    This is a very interesting article, and looks like the thesis to a very interesting book I need to track down.

    Part of the issue in a single member district system is the birds-of-a-feather dynamic, people living near other people like themselves. Combine that with creative gerrymandering and you get 20 competitive contests among 435 US House races.

    But look just a little closer. Strongly Democratic demographics - by this I mean urban ethnic minorities - tend to be more monolithic in their voting patterns than white suburban Republicans. The suburban districts tend to top out at 70, 75% Republican, but the inner city districts will hit 90% or even 95% Democratic. That means the Democrats "waste" more votes per victory.

    Some Politics May Be Etched in the Genes

    Some Politics May Be Etched in the Genes

    "A team of political scientists is arguing that people's gut-level reaction to issues like the death penalty, taxes and abortion is strongly influenced by genetic inheritance. The new research builds on a series of studies that indicate that people's general approach to social issues - more conservative or more progressive - is influenced by genes."

    Not sure I buy it - as an adoptive parent I'm firmly on the nurture side of the nature-nurture question. But if there's anything to it the implications are really spooky - genocide as the ultimate hardball politics.

    Monday, June 20, 2005

    Generational Commitment

    Generational Commitment

    "The administration, I think, has said to the American people that it is a generational commitment to Iraq." - Condoleeza Rice

    That's certainly, uh, evocative language. Reminiscent of the generation that was committed to, oh, Vietnam?

    And does a "generational commitment" reach as far as conscription?

    Durbin's Regret for Remarks Not Enough for GOP

    Durbin's Regret for Remarks Not Enough for GOP

    Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the assistant minority leader, is facing mounting criticism for recent comments he made comparing U.S. treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to inhumane tactics used in Nazi, Soviet and Cambodian concentration camps.

    Durbin subsequently said he regretted that his comments were misunderstood as criticism of U.S. troops. But Republicans have continued to call for a more forthright apology...

    Classic winger spin: the entire focus is now on the comparison, not the content. The charges themselves have taken a back seat. The right has managed not to have to defend torture by making it a "you insulted the holy and sacred TROOPS" issue.

    This illustrates the underlying principle of Godwin's Law. Nazi analogies have been so overused that, on the rare occasion it may be justified, the impact is lost and the word itself becomes the issue. So to some extent Durbin set himself up.

    Saturday, June 18, 2005



    I think they made a really bad mob movie a few years back where the aging wise guys retired to Florida and pulled off one last caper. Here's the real life version:

    The authorities hauled a dozen men into a Queens courtroom yesterday and charged them with participating in a mob-run gambling and loan-sharking operation.

    They called the men chiefs, soldiers and associates in the Bonanno crime family, but to one defense lawyer, Mathew J. Mari, they looked more like "the Geritol generation."

    Mr. Treccagnoli, who maintained his innocence, was released without bail. Outside court, he said, "I'm living on borrowed time," and pointed to his heart and neck.

    "I got what they call a cabbage down here, a shunt here and another shunt here," he said. "I'm blind in one eye from my diabetes."

    He said that detectives raided a veterans' club on Metropolitan Avenue in Greenpoint where he spends time with other aging friends.

    "Half of these guys got one foot in the grave," he said. "The cops come in the club and the sergeant says, 'Go block the back entrance so no one runs out.' Run out? Half these guys couldn't walk out."

    Friday, June 17, 2005

    When in doubt, ask the old guy

    When in doubt, ask the old guy

    Strangely discomforting conversation in the local downtown corporate record store - I still can't call it anything but a record store even though vinyl is nowhere to be seen.

    Overly enthusiastic man with South American (?) accent: "Do you know song strangewaytosayyouloveme ?"

    22 year old clerk: "huh"

    Enthusiastic man: "Do you have CD with that song?"

    Clerk: "Do you know a... title or anything?"

    Me: "What was the line again?"

    Enthusiastic man: "Strange way to say you love me."

    Me (embarrassed to remember): "Firefall."

    Enthusiastic man: "That it! Firefall! Firefall!"

    So Enthusiastic Man drags dubious clerk over to the F section, all the while shouting "Firefall! Firefall!" They manage NOT to find any Firefall CDs (the used vinyl section at Goodwill would be a better bet) but the clerk managed to help him order it. As he left (still exclaiming "Firefall!") the clerk and I caught each other's eyes:

    Me: "I almost regret saying that."

    Clerk: "Oh, well, he went away."

    So is it spectacularly cool to know that pop culture factoid, or spectacularly un-cool? At least I was wearing an old punk rock t-shirt when I uttered the F word.

    City of God (?)

    City of God (?)

    Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan preps to build a new college and - this is the really interesting part - separatist Catholic town in Florida:

    "Ave Maria won’t be just a university, he continues. It will also be a new town, built from scratch, in which the wickedness of the world will be kept at bay. 'We’ve already had about 3500 people inquire on our Web site about buying a home there — you know, they’re all Catholic,' Monaghan says excitedly. 'We’re going to control all the commercial real estate, so there’s not going to be any pornography sold in this town. We’re controlling the cable system. The pharmacies are not going to be able to sell condoms or dispense contraceptives.'"

    But I'll bet there's a Domino's Pizza close by...

    Theocracy via migration. Is this the Ratzinger-era version of the Liberty Project, where the Libertarians sign up to move to New Hampshire? Are we all going to separate into our own little colonies of like minded cohorts?

    Oh, wait. Guess I better put that stone down before I toss it. I'm in Iowa City. Hey, does anybody know if the pro-choice Domino's Pizza boycott is still on?

    An excuse for an old story: waaaay back in my dorm days our phone number was one digit off Domino's. We used to take orders, then say "wrong number" when they called back looking for their pizza. Juvenile, but not really malicious.

    Fox News signs Wesley Clark

    Fox News signs Wesley Clark

    "Fox News Channel has signed Gen. Wesley Clark as a military and foreign affairs analyst, Bill Shine, senior vice president of programming, said yesterday..."

    This seems like a VERY strange strategy for the general, who is So Up and Running for 2008. While a mainstream media talking head gig keeps him in the spotlight, and is no doubt lucrative, Clark picked the wrong employer. The name of Faux News is mud to the movers and shakers and activists of the Democratic Party, many of whom already saw Clark as too middle of the road. Now, as a token Democrat whipping boy at Fox, his stock could drop even more.

    Clark has a larger problem, though. His biggest strength in `04 was his support from the Clinton wing of the party, which just may be backing another candidate next time.

    This is a good chance to repeat my theory that John Edwards got a series of bad breaks in the 2004 primaries, one of which was Clark's last-stand win by 0.5% in Oklahoma. OK was more or less a three-way dead heat, but it spurred Clark into hanging on another week. Clark then split the anti-Kerry vote in Tennessee just about dead-even with Edwards, and dropped out a week too late to make a difference. The same dynamic happed with Wisconsin and Dean.

    Thursday, June 16, 2005

    Pilots' joke flight ended in death

    Pilots' joke flight ended in death

    Captain Butthead and co-pilot Beavis fail the Darwin Test:

    Two airline pilots joked and laughed as they flew an empty commercial jet to its limits, switched seats in mid-air and ignored automated warnings before crashing into a residential area, a cockpit voice recorder has revealed...

    "Ooh look at that," Mr Cesarz said, apparently referring to cockpit readings. "Pretty cool."

    "Man, we can do it. Forty-one it," the captain replied. "Forty thousand, baby."

    Two minutes later Mr Cesarz said: "Made it, man."

    But seconds later, as an automatic system began warning of a stall, one of the pilots is heard to say: "Dude, it's losing it." A voice then said: "We don't have any engines. You got to be kidding me."

    Morning Miscellaneous

    So after my navelgazing of last night, I come up with more one-liners:

  • Will Bush break out the veto pen after the House votes to keep the "Patriot" (sic) Act out of bookstores and libraries?

    The House voted 238-187 to scale back the government's powers to conduct secret investigations that were authorized by the Patriot Act, a post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism law.

    "We can fight terrorism without undermining basic constitutional rights. That's what the message of today is about," said Rep. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who pushed the measure through the House with the support of 38 Republicans.

  • John Conyers looks at drug sentencing, with paricular focus on the women who are often bystanders: "We need rational sentencing policy that encompasses such measures as fair and equitable sentencing, treatment instead of incarceration, drug courts, reentry programs, and restored judicial discretion."

  • ...while Iowa City, with its usual sense of priorities, effectiveness and realism, wants to raise PAULA fines.
  • Wednesday, June 15, 2005

    Blogging and navel-gazing

    Blogging and navel-gazing

    Sometimes I wonder if the Internet is the worst thing that ever happened to my attention span-challenged brain. I wonder if it's a coincidence that I effectively quit grad school within a year of getting my first e-mail account and my first computer. Can't write anything longer than a pithy paragraph, can't read anything longer than a four-page article, always something more interesting over the next hyperlink. Can't read it all, can't even decide what TO read...

    Yet one of my ongoing, half-thought out criticisms of academia - the narrower and narrower focus until one is the world's expert on the head of a pin - is even worse on the internet. Name an obsession, a niche, a fetish, and someone has devoted endless attention to it.

    As I write I dance on the head of a pin as number one in a Google search for "disgruntled office seeker," ahead of even Charles Guiteau.

    We are at the dawn of a new paradigm: the world's knowledge at your fingertips, 24 hours a day, however remote you are. And what have these few paragraphs contributed to that, like the raindrop in the ocean?

    Even as I ponder my own insignificance and inattention, I wonder if I can turn it around, produce something of substance, even academic substance, out of the information overload and make it a BIG picture.

    Stay tuned...

    Repealing the 22nd Amendment?

    Repealing the 22nd Amendment?

    Chris at MyDD says no, I say yes. Don't care for term limits in any form, as I recall my very first vote cast for Bill Proxmire's fifth full term. Though I wouldn't mind a exception for the incumbent clause, like they put in the 22nd Amendment itself. But if they don't: Bill Clinton would mop the floor with Dubya.

    Vote on flag desecration may be 'cliffhanger'

    Vote on flag desecration may be 'cliffhanger'

    Is repeal of the First Amendment included in the resolution? No, wait: better not give them any ideas.

    The Senate may be within one or two votes of passing a constitutional amendment to ban desecration of the U.S. flag, clearing the way for ratification by the states, a key opponent of the measure said Tuesday....

    Amendment supporters say last year's election expanding the Senate Republican majority to 55 has buoyed their hopes for passage. Five freshmen senators - Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota and David Vitter of Louisiana - voted for the amendment as House members and plan to do so again.

    They will be joined by at least five Democrats who have co-sponsored the resolution, including Dianne Feinstein of California and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Both are up for re-election next year.

    By the way, the picture above is from a UK-hosted site...

    Tuesday, June 14, 2005

    Survey USA - 100 US Senator Approval Ratings

    Survey USA - 100 US Senator Approval Ratings

    The Hot 100 meets the US Senate with a dash of High Fidelity. Our Top Five Most Popular Senators:

    1. Obama (D-IL)
    2. Collins (R-ME)
    3. Conrad (D-ND)
    4. Leahy (D-VT)
    5. Snowe (R-ME)

    Now, on with the countdown...

    Homebrew Air Conditioning

    Homebrew Air Conditioning

    Now I KNOW I've been living in Gaslight Village too long...

    Salvage from around the house a:

    * large fan
    * garbage can

    Grab from Home Depot:

    * 25 feet of 1/8 inch outer diameter (OD) copper tubing (~ $14)
    * 20 feet of 1/8 inch inner diameter (ID) vinyl tubing (~ $6)
    * a package of zipties (~ $3)
    * 2 small hose clamps (~ $1)

    Rare agreement with Yepsen

    Rare agreement with Yepsen

    Think about voting a straight ticket.

    That's right, vote for all Democrats or all Republicans. We elect a new governor and a new Legislature, and it's time one party or the other be given control of the whole shebang. Why? To get something done.

    For years, Iowans have been good ticket-splitters. "I vote for the candidate and not the party," many voters proudly boast. Unfortunately, that's often a recipe for deadlock and infighting at the Statehouse...

    Monday, June 13, 2005

    Primary for Orrin Hatch?

    Primary for Orrin Hatch?

    Hometown paper says maybe: "Some in his own party argue he has lost touch with the state. And he angered some die-hard conservatives with his support for embryonic stem cell research and the expanded law enforcement powers in the Patriot Act."

    Also, his personal friendship with Ted Kennedy makes him suspect on the right.

    Hatch is 71; could Bush cap his career with a brief stint on the Supreme Court, something Hatch has long wanted? That means a smooth nomination - no sitting Senator has ever been denied confirmation - and another all-out winger in the Senate from Utah. Then, the gamble goes, Hatch steps down in a few years and the wingers get another shot at the Court.

    The hitch for Hatch is that the right will clearly want another Thomas: solid condervative and YOUNG enough to leave a 40 year legacy. But if a filibuster looms, the Hatch option may be an easy way out.

    If you believe they put a man on the moon

    If you believe they put a man on the moon

    "I don't have a specific date, but sometime between 2015, which is the earliest we think we can do it, and 2020, which would be the latest," said Michael Griffin, the new administrator of NASA, when asked at the Paris Air Show about NASA plans to return to the moon.

    I don't remember Apollo 11, but I do remember Apollo 13 and the later successful missions. The typical liberal cry is "spend the money on Earth" (as if rockets were fueled with $100 bills and the wages paid to scientists and contractors somehow beam up) Plus there's those Cold War era associations: rockets equals missiles equals bombs equals thermonuclear war. Just yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that was popular a couple years ago:

    Hey, George - Mars sounds great. I'll help you pack!

    So space is for Republicans and kind of foolish at that.

    Most of my social and personal life is spent with liberal politicos, and there's a sizable minority of us spaceheads in that community. Yet for the reasons listed above it usually remains unspoken until someone stumbles onto it - then there's a joyous, "I'm not alone!" moment when we stumble onto each other and share our secret.


    Sunday, June 12, 2005

    US will 'have to face' military draft dilemma: Biden

    US will 'have to face' military draft dilemma: Biden

    "The truth of the matter is, it is going to become a subject, if, in fact, there's a 40 percent shortfall in recruitment. It's just a reality," Biden said.

    Or maybe the subject should be: getting out of parts of the world where we're not wanted?

    This issue is zooming up the charts, and I give it about six months till it hits hard. With any luck it can get stalled until the `06 elections...

    Mandela, Stars Make Plea at AIDS Concert

    Mandela, Stars Make Plea at AIDS Concert

    Nelson Mandela and international music stars pressed the world's richest nations to save lives with increased action against AIDS and poverty at a benefit concert under the midnight sun in Norway's Arctic...

    And, 2 1/2 years after his death, the spirit of Joe Strummer:

    In November 2002 Mr Mandela gave his prison number 46664 to Dave Stewart of Eurythmics so that he could use it to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa by raising money for the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

    The first thing that Dave did was to ask his good friend Joe Strummer, famous as the lead singer of the legendary band The Clash, to write lyrics for a song that included 46664. Sadly this was the last song that Joe was to write. Following his death in December 2002, Dave completed the song with Bono and the two of them recorded it together as the first of a series of co-writes for the campaign. This song, 46664 (Long Walk to Freedom), soon became the anthem of 46664...


    Howard Dean in Cedar Rapids

    Howard Dean in Cedar Rapids

    I skipped out on the event, for reasons having nothing to do with our fine national chairman and having more to do with the state party giving an award to the worst staffer we've ever had, the first one I've seen who actually did more harm than good. But I thought the blogosphrere might appreciate the local coverage:

    Dean said he intends to pour on the pressure.

    Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have failed the test of leadership and have failed to defend that nation, Dean charged.

    Democrats' alternative, he joked, will be a platform that looks much like a GOP platform of the 1970s -- starting with fiscal responsibility.

    Beyond that, he said, Democrats will offer plans to balance the budget, create jobs in America by investing in America, develop a national health insurance plan, maintain a strong national defense -- including equipping soldiers properly, cooperating with other nations and "balancing the budget so we're not in debt to the likes of the Saudis and Chinese who may not always be our friends."

    An "attack on Social Security is not just an attack about money and privatization," Dean said. "It's an attack on the United States of America."

    Looks like nothing new for national headlines; sometimes a local reporter will miss something but not this guy, the Gazette's long-time political reporter.

    The Des Moines Register didn't play the story as big and sent Tom Beaumont, who's a better journalist than David Yepsen but not considered the Top Dog. They're probably pouting becaus ethe dinner was in Cedar Rapids and not Des Moines.

    "During his remarks, Dean said almost nothing of the controversy. His only reference to it came as he implored Democrats to distinguish themselves from Republicans if they expect to win.

    'We need to be blunt and clear about the things that we're going to fight for. People have criticized me for being blunt. I do that on purpose. I am tired of lying down,' he said to a standing, cheering crowd of 500."


    Microsoft bans 'democracy' for China web users

    Microsoft bans 'democracy' for China web users

    And in the battle of dollars vs. values, it almost seems not worth noting who wins:

    Microsoft's new Chinese internet portal has banned the words 'democracy' and 'freedom' from parts of its website in an apparent effort to avoid offending Beijing's political censors.

    Users of the joint-venture portal, formally launched last month, have been blocked from using a range of potentially sensitive words to label personal websites they create using its free online blog service, MSN Spaces.

    Attempts to input words in Chinese such as 'democracy' prompted an error message from the site: 'This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech from this item.' Other phrases banned included the Chinese for 'demonstration', 'democratic movement' and 'Taiwan independence'...

    "MSN abides by the laws and regulations of each country in which it operates," the joint venture said. The MSN Spaces code of conduct forbids the posting of content that "violates any local and national laws".

    Just one more proof of China getting away with it on sheer size. Happy blogging at the Olympics, everyone!

    The UK Telegraph has another good China story today, arguing that ultimately the lack of personal freedom will be China's undoing:

    China is (to borrow the formulation they used when they swallowed Hong Kong) "One Country, Two Systems". On the one hand, there's the China the world gushes over - the economic powerhouse that makes just about everything in your house. On the other, there's the largely unreconstructed official China - a regime that, while no longer as zealously ideological as it once was, nevertheless clings to the old techniques beloved of paranoid totalitarianism: lie and bluster in public, arrest and torture in private.

    Friday, June 10, 2005

    David Loebsack update

    David Loebsack update

    Hi, everyone.

    I hope is well. I just want to update you on my "testing of the waters."

    Since I last wrote, I have attended several Democratic events and spoken with scores more Democrats and others about the future of the district and the future of the country.

    As recent polls indicate, Americans are less pleased with George Bush and his Republican counterparts than at virtually anytime since 2001. It is becoming all to clear to the average American that Bush and his right-wing allies are not what America needs now or in the future.

    As you might imagine, the Democrats I have met are overwhelming ready for change. Democrats in the 2nd district of Iowa know a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives serves only the interests of the special interests aligned with Bush and his allies in congress. So long as our incumbent congressman has an R behind his name, his presence only serves to maintain that leadership's power, a power to set the agenda and determine the outcomes of the House of Representatives.

    It is clear that what we need is someone who will address in a serious and consistent manner the issues of most concern to the vast majority of citizens in the 2nd district. Those issues include health care, jobs, education, and Social Security, among others. With the exception of Social Security, we are not even seeing a debate on the possible solutions to the inadequacies of our current approaches to these matters.

    In the coming days, I will be attending the Hall of Fame Banquet with special guest Howard Dean ( in Cedar Rapids, speaking with the Washington and Henry County Democrats, and continuing discussions with leaders of various constituency groups in preparation for my time in D.C. mid-June to mid-July.

    In the meantime, I would like to hear what issues are most critical to you. I know, for instance, that many are very concerned about the war in Iraq, as I am. My stepson served seven months in the Marines in Ramadi and I do not want to see him return. His spouse, also a Marine, is scheduled to deploy in Iraq perhaps as early as August. As the death toll on all sides mounts, Americans are becoming more and more convinced that this a misdirected effort on the part of the Bush administration.

    I will continue to listen to folks as I get around the district and I will be making a decision as to whether I enter this race soon after my return from D.C. in mid-July (and the more I talk to folks, the more likely it is I will do this). In any case, I have no doubt that we can win this seat. And it should go without saying that if we win this seat, we will take back the House of Representatives!

    As always, I looking forward to hearing from you and please feel free to send this message on to your friends, family, listservs, blogs, etc.

    Thanks and take care.


    Thursday, June 09, 2005

    Japan unveils "robot suit" that enhances human power

    Japan unveils "robot suit" that enhances human power

    "Humans may be able to mutate into supermen in the near future," said Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor and engineer at Tsukuba University who led the project.

    Sounds like this would make a good movie. Note the resemblance...

    to Godzilla ally Jet Jaguar!

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work: 6 Lessons

    Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work: 6 Lessons

    An interesting look at productivity and overtime that I would have found much MORE interesting last October.

    Terminal Futility

    Terminal Futility -

    Christopher Hitchens: "Routine airport security won't thwart jihadists, but it does inconvenience and endanger the rest of us...."

    2006 Senate Roundup

    2006 Senate Roundup

    Tying up some loose threads:

  • Of course, the big nasty news is Recount Queen Katherine Harris is taking on Bill Nelson in Florida. Should be the grudge match of the year for Democrats.

  • Santorum Extremely Vulnerable to anti-choice Dem Robert Casey Jr., says MyDD.

  • And in Indiana, former US Rep and (briefly) candidate for DNC chair Tim Roemer may challenge Richard Lugar, who once ran for President without anyone noticing. Again, I have qualms about Roemer on choice. But polls show him close and Lugar is just the kind of guy who gets bumped off once in a while, like William Roth was in Delaware a few years back. When you go a long time without a serious race, your campaign skills atrophy. Maybe there's a pro-choice candidate out there who can pick up the torch from Indiana's state flag...

  • Morning Marijuana Roundup

    Morning Marijuana Roundup

    Discussion continues in many quarters on Monday's ruling:

  • Rekha Basu at the Des Moines Register comes out for medical marijuana in a thoughtful piece. The unspoken subtext, as regular Register readers know, is that her fellow columnist and husband Rob Borsellino was recently diagnosed with ALS.

  • Caught the Daily Show for the first time in ages last night and got hit with the Cheech and Chong dilemma again: even though Stewart was relatively sympathetic, the stoner jokes and image still crept in. The NORML advocate didn't help himself in the clip, as he was pictured in front of a shelf full of High Times magazines.

  • Uber-blogger Kos does a far better job than me in getting past the pot and looking at the Court:

    The liberal wing of the court stuck with the notion that the feds can trump state laws and regulations on certain matters - a stance that has allowed it to intervene in issues like civil rights, labor rights, and the environment.

    But the most interesting part of the decision, by far, is the Scalia vote. He's a partisan hack who lets his personal views on issues cloud his legal reasoning.

    Something I myself am guilty of from time to time... but then, I AM a partisan hack and not the the Chief Justice In Waiting. Not that it absolves me from sound legal reasoning... but it certainly is an interesting insight into how a Scalia Court would work.

  • After Lowering Goal, Army Falls Short on May Recruits

    After Lowering Goal, Army Falls Short on May Recruits

    Draft Watch continues:

    On Friday, the Army is expected to announce that it met only 75 percent of its recruiting goal for May, the fourth consecutive monthly shortfall in the number of new recruits sent to basic training. Just over 5,000 new recruits entered boot camp in May.

    But the news could have appeared worse. Early last month, the Army, with no public notice, lowered its long-stated May goal to 6,700 recruits from 8,050. Compared with the original target, the Army achieved only 62.6 percent of its goal for the month.

    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    Election Administrators Want Restructure

    Election Administrators Want Restructure

    The nation's election administrators say it's time to restructure elections to reflect the way Americans live, scrapping neighborhood precincts and Election Day for large, customer-oriented "vote centers" where people could cast ballots over a period of weeks.

    Much like we've been doing here for years with satellite voting...

    Tom Tancredo: Our own Enoch Powell?

    Tom Tancredo: Our own Enoch Powell?

    Immmigrant bashing hits the campaign trail:

    He warns darkly of the "Balkanization" of the United States from mass immigration and the dire threat of the "cult of multiculturalism." But the tide is turning, he tells his audience, and they are on the winning side.

    From the dim amphitheater, someone yells out, "Tancredo for president!"

    I suspect he'll be a minor player if he gets in, but he'll pull the rest of the field to the right, because The Base is where one plays nonination politics, and the GOP base is deeply and profoundly anti-immigrant. I think Bush is genuinely uncomfortable with this - despite his kowtowing to the fundamentalists he's essentially a business conservative, and the business conservatives like cheap immigrant labor. But the internal politics of the Republican Party are rapidly moving into the post-43 era.

    It's risky but with any luck it'll backlash on them just like it did on Pete Wilson in California.

    Monday, June 06, 2005

    Supreme Court Rules Against Med Pot

    Supreme Court Rules Against Med Pot

    Updated, revised, completely rewritten:

    "Justice John Paul Stevens, writing the 6-3 decision, said that Congress could change the law to allow medical use of marijuana..."

    Senators Durbin, Leahy and Jeffords are doing something about that, even though it only relates to jury instructions.

    In his statement introducing the legislation, Durbin noted, "This is a narrowly-tailored bill... Under this legislation, defendants in the ten states with medicinal marijuana laws could be found not guilty of violating federal law if their actions are done in compliance with state law."

    Having been accused of some intellectual inconsistency on this issue, I have to admit that informing juries that the defendant is being prosecuted for doing something that's legal under state law but illegal under federal law is, well, inconsistent.

    Which, in the eyes of the Court, is the issue: not the merits of the drug itself but the question of federal supremacy. The Washington Post has a decent law for the layperson article. States rights has a long and mostly ugly history (much like its partner the filibuster) and I'm hesitant to dock in that port. I guess if I like federal supremacy for civil rights and (rather tenuously at the moment) choice, the rules say I'm supposed to consistently accept it here.

    But try as I may the constitutional law question fades, and the interstate commerce clause becomes secondary for me as I contemplate the sheer immorality of harassing AIDS and cancer patients over their medicine. Whose morality? I don't know, but cannabis is here on this Earth for a reason, and the patients are being forced contemplate their own jurisprudence of civil disobedience.

    My preferred approach, of course, remains the full Peter Tosh. But short of that, there's legislation now addressing strictly the medical use issue. Hinchey-Rohrabacher would bar the U.S. Department of Justice - including the Drug Enforcement Administration - from spending any money to raid or arrest bona fide medical marijuana patients. And who would have ever thought I would have found agreement with Dana Rohrabacher on anything, even Van Halen singers.

    This story literally illustrates my frustration:

    The "objective" journalists of the AP can't resist the little Cheech and Chong dig in the headline. No wonder serious discussion of the issue is nigh unto impossible:

    Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., first sponsored the States Rights to Medical Marijuana Act in 1995. This year's version has just 30 co-sponsors, relatively few for a bill that is 10 years old.

    Frank said many lawmakers don't mind letting the courts have the final say on this particularly thorny issue.

    "They wish the courts would make the tough decision, and then they yell at the courts when they do," he said.

    "I think support is strong, but people are still frightened a little bit by the politics of it," said Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. "If you had a secret vote in Congress, I'll bet 80 percent would vote for it."

    And that's my deepest, raging, sputtering frustration on this issue: there is no subject on which I see a greater gap between private views and public policy. Call it democracy? Call it hypocrisy.

    The Marijuana Policy Project sees just a slight setback: "What the court has done is continue the status quo: Patients in the 10 states with medical marijuana laws are protected under state law but will continue to risk prosecution under federal law... which means that we must push harder than ever for Congress to change federal law."

    It seems that any push other than at the federal level will be just for symbolism, but symbolism is important.

    Digby has some interesting thoughts on the jurisprudence, or lack thereof:

    If this were a case about, say, a federal law that overrode state laws against gay marriage, I suspect you'd be seeing a slightly different reaction from the wingnuts and probably on the court. The moderates (there are no liberals) upheld federal power over states' rights which is consistent with their position...

    The court is operating on the same basis that the political system operates. The liberals and moderates in the minority play by the rules thinking that consistency and intellectual integrity are important and that people will hold it against them if they deviate from their stated position. (And, of course, they are right. Even when they haven't actually deviated from their position they are accused of it and called "flip-floppers.") The shrinking number of real conservatives pay lip service to their belief system as long as it won't affect the outcome: they are subject to the same intimidation as the moderates and liberals if they don't. The right wing radicals just power their way through using any means necessary, willingly taking the help of liberals and moderates who perform the function of useful idiots with their fealty to process and institutional integrity in a time of pure power politics.

    That's why a consistent jurisprudence is difficult, on this issue and others. When one side is playing fair and acting on principles, and the other side is playing win at all costs, the people playing fair lose (see Bush v. Gore). Is that right? Course not. But you can't shame people into a sense of fairness if they feel no shame, and sinking to their level means, well, sinking to their level. I hate to give Clarence Thomas credit for anything, but he at least showed a misguided intellectual consistency on this case. It seems for him it was about state's rights, but for Chief Justice In Waiting Scalia, it was about pot.

    Once In A Very New Moon

    Once In A Very New Moon

    A cross-culture lesson in astronomy:

    Few people ever see a crescent less than 30 hours old (less than 30 hours from the moment of new Moon) unless they plan for it. But much younger crescents can be sighted. Hunting them has long been an amateur-astronomy pursuit in the Western world, and it gets more attention in Islamic societies, where an actual sighting of the hilal (new crescent) determines the starting date of each month.

    Tuesday evening, June 7th, brings a chance to spot an unusually thin, young crescent Moon shortly after sunset. The crescent will be only 26 or 27 hours old as seen from the eastern U.S.

    UPDATE 6/7: Low clouds in the west; missed it.

    Blogger playing catch-up

    Blogger playing catch-up

    Been in a news warp the last few days. Traveled out of town to help my folks move after they spent 42 years in the same house. For the record I'm 41 so this is a first for me. Drove up to the new place and the first thing I saw was my dad standing next to our childhood toboggan - so it still felt like home.

    In any event it'll take me a couple days to catch up on the news.

    Friday, June 03, 2005

    Growing Problem for Military Recruiters: Parents

    Growing Problem for Military Recruiters: Parents

    Two years into the war in Iraq, as the Army and Marines struggle to refill their ranks, parents have become boulders of opposition that recruiters cannot move.

    Mothers and fathers around the country said they were terrified that their children would have to be killed - or kill - in a war that many see as unnecessary and without end.

    Around the dinner table, many parents said, they are discouraging their children from serving.

    At schools, they are insisting that recruiters be kept away, incensed at the access that they have to adolescents easily dazzled by incentive packages and flashy equipment.

    Thursday, June 02, 2005

    Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization

    Milton Friedman Advocates MJ Legalization

    The week gets weirder: first Deep Throat outs himself, then Milton Friedman starts talking like Peter Tosh:

    Milton Friedman leads a list of more than 500 economists from around the U.S. who today will publicly endorse a Harvard University economist's report on the costs of marijuana prohibition and the potential revenue gains from the U.S. government instead legalizing it and taxing its sale. Ending prohibition enforcement would save $7.7 billion in combined state and federal spending, the report says, while taxation would yield up to $6.2 billion a year.

    "Our failure to successfully enforce these laws is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Colombia. I haven't even included the harm to young people. It's absolutely disgraceful to think of picking up a 22-year-old for smoking pot. More disgraceful is the denial of marijuana for medical purposes."

    Don't often find myself in the company of the man who said "the social responsibility of business is to increase profits," but we can all grow a little.

    After 30 Years, Draft Fears Rise

    After 30 Years, Draft Fears Rise

    And, on the heels of the previous:

    Two years into the Iraq war, concern that the draft will be reinstated to supplement an overextended military persists -- no matter how often, or emphatically, President Bush and members of Congress say it won't.

    In this atmosphere of suspicion, the Selective Service System, the Rosslyn-based agency that conscripted 1.8 million Americans during the Vietnam War and 10 million in World War II, quietly pursues its delicate dual mission: keeping the draft machinery ready, without sparking fear that it is coming back...

    Pentagon delays release of May recruiting data

    Pentagon delays release of May recruiting data

    Asked whether the move would simply delay the release of bad news, Krenke said, "That's not necessarily true," noting that "we expect the numbers to improve during the summer months."

    Military recruiters have said potential recruits and their parents were expressing wariness about enlisting during the Iraq war. They said improving civilian job opportunities also were affecting recruiting.

    "Improving civilian job opportunities"?!? In THIS economy? That's as good as Spinal Tap's "Boston's not a big college town." I know I get a little self-righteous about the military recruiting issue; my heart still feels that if no one enlisted we wouldn't have wars, even though my head recognizes that way too many people aren't given any other opportunities.

    But as the recruiting trendline nosedives, I'm seeing a future where more young folks are forced into a harder choice. Enlisting or not enlisting at least has the veneer of free will, even though the "choice" isn't real for too many. The choice of civil disobedience vs. conscription is a much harder choice.

    I was lucky enough in my youth to avoid these choices and I count my blessings that my only child is a daughter. I can't imagine in this cultural climate that the fundamentalists would consent to the draft of women. But if I had a son I'd be terrified.

    Meanwhile, incredibly, they want to throw out a guy who wants to STAY over there - because he came out of the closet.

    Wednesday, June 01, 2005

    Dynasty Watch

    Dynasty Watch

    And the patriarch of the Royal Family sayeth:

    KING: Would you want Jeb to run? He says no.

    G.H.W. BUSH: Some day I would, yes.

    Marijuana petition fails certification

    Marijuana petition fails certification

    But there's still a shot:

    "Pappas, 24, can file a notice to amend his petition within two days after receiving a letter of the insufficiencies. He then has 15 days to file another petition with additional signatures. Only one amendment can be filed.

    "We pretty much assumed it would be insufficient," Pappas said. "That's how signature collection goes."

    He said a local community group, Progressive Approach, formed to advocate the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes and organized the petition.

    "We will definitely file to amend it," Pappas said. "We feel confident we will collect the signatures we need."

    Look for someone with a clipboard near you.

    I'm interested in what prospective county attorneys think of this. I'm looking for someone who'll say "the present drug and alcohol laws are unenforcable and I'm not going to prosecute them until they're more reasonable," but I know that the bar and the oath of office would prevent such a direct honest statement. So applicants, translate that into pidgin legalese so us laypeople get the point yet your briefs are covered.

    Meanwhile, as long as I pick up the paper and read PAULA and possession of marijuana arrests in the police blotter, any discussion of jail overcrowding falls on my deaf ears. Jail too full? Send home the kids who had a beer or a joint first. Then, after they're ALL home, tell me how many Bad Guys are left. But if you've got room for a 20 year old adult who had a beer, then you obviously have plenty of space.