Thursday, September 30, 2004

A Sign

I have another counter to all the Kerry-bashing Senor C does on this site. I refer him to Kerry Haters for Kerry. The fact that a website like this even exists is not only funny to me, but I think we can all take as a sign that at some point, if you're horny, you've got to sleep with the ugly girls.

Senseless Criticism: Lukewarm Fuss

The Killers. Some people love this band, I mean really love them. And they have a good sound, and they're obviously talented musicians. Who could argue with a band that sounds like Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, andNew Order! I can. I got the Killers album Hot Fuss awhile ago, and it has grown on me a little bit. Some of this album truly rocks, wailing whining guitars, lots of distortin, good and haunting vocal melodies, and retro synthesizers. All of that sounds good, and should appeal to any rock fan. That's exactly what makes the Killers album incomplete though. Too much of this rocking album sounds familiar, it is, as Alex Abramovich states in Slate about the White Stripes, curator rock. Too much of rock now exists by invoking and channeling great past influences without adding much new. It's easy to rewrite someone's songs by adding a chord to the riff and changing the words. Everyone loves it, because it sounds familiar. It's inherently taking the logic of covers and even the accepted practice of sampling another way.

That all rock is theft is accepted and necessary. I'm not trying to write a screed about lack of originality here, and I certainly don't want to bash the Killers and crucify them for the sins countless others. There's nothing wrong with paying tribute, and with working with old influences to create something new. Hot Fuss does this at its best moments. It certainly does rock. The production is nearly flawless. The vocals, bass, drums, synths all sound perfect and The Killers come off as a tight band with a lot of skills. I even wanted to see them live, too bad the show sold out before I got the sense to hop on the internet and pay 9:30 Club a visit (it, like all fun sites, is banned at work). "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" is a soulful tune that opens the album with a roar, a funky bass line on top of a screeching high synth line. It's great, it's magical. It's The Cure meets 90s alternative. It gave me a lot of hope for the Killers, especially after hearing the hot radio tune "Somebody Told Me." Then followed "Mr. Brightside" and "Smile Like You Mean It" and I honestly felt like they could be off some sort of compilation of lost New Wave hits, or a B-sides album of Tears for Fears/Simple Minds/any of the above influences. That was when the curator feeling started to hit me. The album slogs on, after hitting the high point again with the radio song, it slides downhill into too-melodic pop in "All These Things That I've Done" and then a dark, moment in "Andy, You're a Star" that could be a straight rip-off of "Shout."

Then comes "On Top", which opens with a turbo synth line that's retro and like house music all at the same time, and then the Killers are back at their best. It sounds like they're channeling Paul Van Dyk, Oakenfold and U2 at once! It is, I have to admit, probably the coolest and my favorite track on the album. Uplifting, high-octane, and rocking all at once. After that, as if possessed by U2's soul from channeling it, The Killers fall into a total copy mode through "Believe Me Natalie" (a U2esque ballad) and "Midnight Show" (an uptempo U2esque tune). At that point I the nostalgia had become too much. I still listen to this album, and I like it. It's well done, thought out, but in the end sounds too much like an emulation of other bands. While The Killers do this better than many other bands (*cough**Coldplay*) it's still a bit too much. It does make me despair, with bands turning too far to what were very great 80s influences, that rock is stuck again from finding new ground to explore. The Killers are good, and they show a lot of premise, but I think someone needs to take away their New Order box sets and 80s compilation and tell them to turn their good songwriting and music talent in a truer and more "current" direction.

That Crusty Old Dean

Often here I've played the role, along with 5th, of a lukewarm John Kerry supporter. I still lukewarmly support John Kerry, not just because I'm anti-Bush, but I still firmly believe John Kerry is a more skilled candidate than Al Gore was and I do trust his stance on the environment, which to me is one of the top three issues in this election considering the damage done by Bush's hidden regulatory changes. In the primaries, though, I'm not ashamed to admit that Kerry was my fourth choice, behind John Edwards (1), Clark (2), and Dean (3). Despite the fact that I considered myself a moderate, I supported a lot of what Dean said because I've always been anti-war with regards to Iraq, mostly because I don't trust George W. Bush to manage a hot dog cart in McPherson Square and turn a profit. And that, folks, is hard to do. It requires failure and incompetence only George W. Bush is capable of.

Dean was a straight talker, and I'm beginning to miss the days of his vitriolic and attention-grabbing gaffes and vicious attacks on W. He at least had an agenda that was unmistakable too. What's interesting is Chris Suellentrop over at Slate and Peter Beinart over at Time have been musing about what it would be like if Dean was the candidate now. Aside from Joe Trippi's extravagant web-Savior madness and the Perfect Disaster that was Dean's Iowa campaign painstakingly detailed in U.S. News a lot of the things the Deaniacs brought up have proved prophetic. Dean didn't have a Senate record of non-action. And I don't blame John Kerry for non-action, if you look at most Senator's records, one theme appears over and over again: a whole lot of hearings, a whole lot of debates, and no real legislation. Dean's record as a Governor was something to run on, it gave W. and Clinton real advantages in their elections to run on their records as Governors. Ross Perot once said in the 1992 debates that running on your record of Governor for the President was like "The Corner Grocer saying he can run Wal-Mart" but it's real achievement, and doesn't involve a lot of meandering votes that make it very easy to paint someone a flip-flopper that are inerasable and set in stone.

Second, Dean did have a straight-talking clarity that Kerry clearly lacks. Hardly could George W. Bush honestly state Howard Dean had no vision, was not steadfast in his conviction, and that he could "have a 90-minute debate with himself." Moderate Dems were terrified of Dean, and while he wasn't my best, I knew he would bring real fireworks to this election. Even the unbalanced (though more fair than most) Joe Scarborough marveled at Dean's ability to inspire crowds and his charisma, even though he wasn't the best public speaker. In some ways I do wish Kerry could have Dean proxy-debate for him, as Dean showed his skills in tearing apart Ralph Nader mercilessly on NPR and his frequent appearances on cable news with the same visceral zeal.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Emerald City Empire

Okay, I luvs my hometown with much props, however something is not right ... our football team, the Seahawks (who I've always cheered for) are 3-0, whooping San Francisco's ass last week. If you have ever followed the NFL, you know that the Seahawks have sucked in general. And now, the New York Time's is reporting that Starbucks (a Seattle based corporation) is raising the price of their coffee. Then to top it off, Mount St. Helens is likely to erupt soon.

I feel a revolution coming on. I think Seattle is seceding from the US and forming it's own micro-state empire. Seattle is going to generate the needed political capital from rigging Seahawks games, raise the necessary revenue from increased coffee prices and then ignite Mount St. Helen's to physically secede from the lower-48. Along with other micro-states such as Monaco, Holy See, Andorra and Lesotho, Seattle will lay siege upon the world like a big huge coffee cozy.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Suburban Spawn

So we have yet another new weapon in the arsenal of arguments about the ludicrous DC sprawl. No, I don't hate Fairfax. Okay, yes I do. It looks like living out in the burbs causes high blood pressure, arthritis, and headaches. Why? Because people who live in the burbs are inherently uptight assholes? Well, that's probably part of the reason but it's also lack of exercise. Hooray for commuting!

Cobalt O'Bunyan

So it's finally happened, Conan has been ruined. Many would rejoice at the thought of an 11:30 Conan on the Tonight Show starting in '09, but we all know he's never going to get away with things like a Masturbating Bear, Coked up Werewolf, Minute-Wasting Frankenstein, Triumph, and one of my new favorite's, Pierre's Recliner of Rage.

Sigh.

Partisan Diety



Is God really a Democrat? Mindless Bush supporters, I'm looking your way.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Non-stop Douche'-itude

Since the Wall Street Journal's website won't cooperate with me today, I figure I'd post a couple of items of note in honor of this gorgeous Friday that I'm forced to spend indoors.

First of all, it looks like Congress, feeling the election year itch, is prepared to hand C-plus Augustus another legislative victory in the form of tax cut extensions. Hey fiscal conservatives, this is what 'bull shit' smells like.

There's an interesting article in Slate about the decline of "welfare capitalism" in the United States. Read on to discover why our economy will eventually look like Europe's. Between you and me, the average American worker is in for some deep shit.

Lastly, it's scary how much Andrew Sullivan and I agree on Teresa Heinz-Kerry. You don't need a PhD from Harvard to realize the type of damage she's inflicting upon her hubbie's image. Sadly, JFK doesn't need much help on the damaged image front, since he seems to doing quite well on his own to perpetuate it.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Drinking the Kool-Aid

"Drinking the Kool-Aid" is a reference often made on this blog. This post, however, I mean it literally. My close friends know I have an obsession with this cheap beverage, which is probably the cheapest thing with actual vitamins you can buy if you buy it unsweetened and add your own sweetener.

Now I will bore the world by discussing the following experiment. Last night I was drinking some Kool-Aid, and I usually drink 2 quarts of the stuff a day, and I was noticing a lot of flavors taste similar. So, in a fit of Kool-Aid madness I tried to change it up by mixing different flavors. For this experiment, I tried mixing strawberry and lemonade. I thought I would get a cool new flavor of strawberry lemonade drink. INSTEAD, what I got tasted exactly like tropical punch. Exactly. This was demoralizing, because not only did it reinforce my feelings that all the Kool-aid flavors taste similar, but they probably only have a few basic types they mix together to get the various ones.

Sigh. I'll go back to political posting soon.

Shady Grover

I'm often one to post about the madness of "Shady" Grover Norquist, who tried to make everyone's life in Virginia a living hell by keeping us from passing a state budget last year with a half a cent sales tax increase. I posted recently about Mr. Norquist ideological quests although "jihad" might be a better word for insanity like his, including insulting a state governor in a swing state of Ohio as "robbing the state." Well, he's at it again, this time talking about how thankfully the Greatest Generation, including "Uncle Tom" Brokaw, is anti-American and how their deaths will thankfully bring about the disintegration of the Democratic base.

And this man is one of the most powerful men and the Republican party and has Bush's ear? I just imagine W., Shady Grover, Pat Robertson, and Jimmy Swaggart all sitting around having a nice conversation about what is Anti-American. After all, they're all buddies. That's a comforting thought, right? Four more years of that? Sometimes you need to see THE HORROR.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The President & Corporate Pork

Hey Kids,

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and Citizens for Tax Justice just released a study revealing that 82 of America's largest and most profitable corporations paid no federal income tax in at least one year during the first three years of the President's administration. Of particular note, 28 corporations actually received tax refunds, or in other words, their after-tax profits were higher than their before-tax profits. According to the study, some of the corporations that received preferential tax treatment under the President's administration are: (effective tax rate)

Pepco Holdings (-59.6%)
Prudential Financial (-46.2%)
ITT Industries (-22.3%)
Boeing (-18.8%)
Unisys (-16.0%)
Fluor (-9.2%)
CSX (-7.5%)

It should be noted that CSX is the corporation previously headed by our current Treasury Secretary.

Coincidentally, the New York Times is reporting that Republican's are pushing for even more corporate tax breaks.

Basra Blues

Yikes:

Last month, the British Army fired 100,000 rounds of ammunition in southern Iraq. The base in al-Ammara sustained more than 400 direct mortar hits. The British battalion there counted some 853 separate attacks of different kinds: mortars, roadside bombs, rockets and machine-gun fire... A vicious campaign of intimidation doesn't help matters. Last month, five cleaning ladies at a British base were murdered on their way to work. Two local translators disappeared. Their severed heads were found outside the front gate. But perhaps the most worrying development of the August fighting was that none of Basra's 25,000 police officers came to the aid of the British soldiers. Some even helped the gunmen. I met one of the senior civilian political advisors to the military command. Every time he came to Basra things seemed a "step change worse", he said.

All right. This speaks for itself. It's not something from a horror movie, or from some sort of ancient Roman legion log, although at times it sounds like it. I think it poses some larger questions about Iraq, though. Namely, as Newsweek, has put this week, whether we can have any faith in faceless masses of trained Iraqi policemen and soldiers who end up "Killers and Moles." We've got problems here. John Kerry can blast Bush on Iraq all he wants and talk about training more police and soldiers in Iraq, but right now it's not helping us. If anything it's creating another armed faction to vie for power in this mess. It doesn't help that the assembled group to police Fallujah headed by one of Saddam's former Generals ended up just simply joining the insurgency. Iraqification is having just as much luck as Vietnamization did.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Screed 2: Cruise Control

I likey. It's a pretty well footnoted comic book!

Scorpion King II: Scorpion Queen!

A heartwarming tale of Arachnophilia

Senseless Criticism: The REALLY Outer Realm

Yesterday's New Quintet, Madlib's fictional band, with fictional band members, that is really just him multitracking on keyboards and drum machines, is not for the musically unadventurous. I was really into his (or "their" if you want to live in Madlib's insane world) first album, Angles Without Edges so decided to pick up the newest two albums, Stevie and Monk Hughes and The Outer Realm- Tribute to Brother Weldon. Stevie is a tribute to the music of Stevie Wonder, of course, and Monk Hughes is a tribute to Weldon Irvine, the composer and arranger. Monk Hughes, believe it or not, is actually even more abstract and conceptual than that. It is, in fact, supposed to be a solo effort from the bassist of YNQ, the fictional Monk Hughes, but of course it's all still Madlib. If you're confused, YOU SHOULD BE! Wait till you hear the CDs!

Some people like Stevie more, mostly because it's grounded in the recognizable tunes of the great Stevie Wonder. I don't. I love Stevie Wonder, and I like this album, but as has been commented by MANY amazon reviewers (the only critics that really matter), it shows Madlib's nakedness and overly simplistic keyboard stylings. Most of these were noodlings before Angles Without Edges, and it shows. There are some good ones. I like the stripped-down, spacey version of "Superstition" Madlib brings out, as well as his tripped-out versions of "You Got It Bad, Girl" and "Too High." Also decent is his medley of "Superwoman/Where Were You Last Winter." Some of the other tracks fall flat though, Madlib seeming a little to fascinated by his ability to play standard keyboard lines with too much delay, sustain, and chorus. Overall, the album sounds less sophisticated than Angles so it's no surprise it was recorded before that. In all, the album's all right but doesn't have the same sense of completeness and complexity most Madlib projects do. It's definitely creative stuff, but not on the usual level.

Monk Hughes, though, is a piece of work. Weldon Irvine, who I honestly have not heard much of, gets a treatment of creative acid-jazz, fusion, and free jazz that would make anyone take notice. This is probably the most sophisticated keyboard work Madlib has conjured up for any of his recordings, and is leaps and leaps past Stevie. The rhythms are chaotic, mimicking Intelligent Dance Music, the keyboard lines are inspired and thickly layered to give off the first glimpses of Madlib as a composer and arranger coming into his own. "Run with The Sun", the opening track, is straight madness. It sounds like it could've been a track off Miles Davis' Live at the Filmore West. It starts and stops, cycling through several different crews, and features enormously messy breakdowns. Someone might say, isn't that distracting? Yes, it is, but if you like fusion jazz and free jazz it's what you're used to. "Piece for Brother Weldon" I think is the standout track of the album, a definite piece of tribute music where Madlib tries out an unusual rhythm and soars with adventurous keyboards all over it. It's at time melodic, at times hard to listen to, but at all times fresh and creative. "Irvine's Vine", "Welldone", and "Liberated" are genuinely hard tracks to listen too.

The rest of the album, though, is at least grounded enough that it's somewhat accessible. What I have to give Madlib credit for is producing something this creative and edgy. While he's always pushed the envelope, this takes it to new levels and honestly simulates and sounds like a lot of the music he's inspired by tempered and empowered by hip hop sensibilities. Essentially, he's proved himself on
Monk Hughes to be more than just a producer and a keybaord noodler, but a tried and true musician.

Waffler Hunter D

Saletan gives an interesting defense of Kerry on Slate. He breaks down Kerry's anti-war (for once) speech yesterday. I think Kerry's speech was a move in the direction he should've been going all the time, but he's squandered most of his credibility at this point. Alter hacks up the Shrumite judgment that led to this situation, which would make sense if you viewed Bush as roadkill to be run over. Problem is, Bush has shown nothing but dynamism in his campaign. The wise strategy was ALWAYS to make this about Iraq and Bush's terrible management of it. Remember, half the country disagreed with it in the first place.

The only advantage he has is the obvious Iranian Centrifuge Crisis and Bush's utter delusion and one-dimensional image in foreign policy, that today he is attempting to fight back. Condi Rice's dismal performance on the Today Show against Matt Lauer (who would've thought he would've been the one to pitch hardball questions? Honestly it was the toughest interrogation of Condi I've seen since the 9/11 Commission!) showed just how much bad faith they're acting in. Kerry has a lot to overcome, though. In the Damn Lies And Statistics Department Kerry's got nothing but pressure and trouble

At least this Nader defeat has taken him out of the equation in several states. That's bound to help!

Monday, September 20, 2004

A T-Shirt Lover's Paradise

If you've known me since college, then you're probably aware of the website Cafepress.com. For the many UVA freaks, you too can own a part of the Secret Society action by clicking here. At Cafepress.com, you can submit a homemade design and sell it online to the shirt-hungry masses. T-shirt theme of the day: What Wouldn't Jesus Do?

Carnage!

I guess hurricanes aren't all that bad. The Saints certainly didn't let Ivan's presence get to them. Of coruse it probably helps that Ivan narrowly missed them. Go Aaron Brooks! He's the last hope left for a decent QB to come from UVA.

And in ACC, well it was an interesting weekend for Maryland. If anything the game shows either a) Maryland could be really good and underrated, but just had an incompetent game, b) Maryland is incompetent (I hope), or c) WV is overrated. Why draw this conclusion from a close game with WV? Well, Maryland should've had it if it weren't for an outrageous number of turnovers.

That was about the only interesting game in the ACC, with UVA beating the snot out of Akron (surprise, surprise, but 522-84 yards. . .wow) and VT doing similar work to Duke in their first ACC conference game, though I have to say it was only blood on the field there and not brain matter too.

I'm just giddy about the ACC this year. We've seen some real fireworks and I think the true show hasn't even happened yet.

The Ridiculous Right

Charles Pierce said this on Alterman's Blog.

The revelation this weekend that the first whistle was blown on the CBS documents by a conservative functionary in Georgia illustrated (again) that the Republican party is now nothing more than a vehicle for various organized exercises in political hatchetry -- some of them appallingly extreme. Earlier, we had the emergence of a tape on which Grover Norquist heaps abuse on Republican Governor Robert Taft of Ohio, and that said even more about the fact that the Republicans have allowed themselves to be hijacked root-and-branch by their wildest fringe. That a Taft from Ohio isn't "conservative" enough for a nihilist barracuda like Norquist should chill Bill Buckley right down to the cubes in his highball glass.

And now this "Buckhead" character in Georgia (Wasn't the Southeastern Legal Foundation the good Christian operation that had to change presidents a while back because the incumbent was out soliciting sex in a public park? Just wondering.) turns out to have been heavily involved in the anti-Clinton underground, whence came creeping a great number of the political sub-vertebrates currently afflicting our politics.

Sooner or later -- and before they can do any further damage, one hopes -- the Republicans are headed for a spectacular crack-up. You just can't allow your most lunatic adherents to drive the train for this long without one. (For all the historical revisionism about the damage done by "McGovern Democrats," they never allowed, say, Abbie Hoffman to become so influential within the party that he felt free to slander sitting governors in important swing states.) The important thing for the Democrats to do is to build up a party ready to take advantage of the inevitable, and not, as I suspect would be their wont, to cushion the shock. Reagan and his people simply let the old Democratic coalition collapse, and they were ready with something to take its place. That is the Democratic Party's great task, even if John Kerry loses in November. Alas, it also means fewer good-hearted Tom Daschles, and even fewer spruced-up bagmen like Terry McAuliffe, in leadership positions


Indeed.

What Middle Class?

The DC Metropolitan area is arguably one of the most economically well-off regions in the country. Lets face it, the federal government is a big reason why the regional unemployment rate is generally lower than the national average, why the surrounding counties claim some of the highest median incomes in the country, and why real estate prices continue to climb.

Summertime and the living is easy. It's quite easy to forget that there are over 190 million other Americans out there dealing with different (read: harsh) economic realities. The first installment in a series of WaPo articles concerning the middle class begins to outline some of our more recent challenges. Forget your standard social issues for one second, and lets look at income inequality:

"Some of the consequences are already evident: The ranks of the uninsured, the bankrupt and the long-term unemployed have all crept up the income scale, proving those problems aren't limited to the poor. Meanwhile, income inequality has grown. In 2001, the top 20 percent of households for the first time raked in more than half of all income, while the share earned by those in the middle was the lowest in nearly 50 years."

Contrary to popular belief, I have absolutely nothing against high income earners. In the past during my brief looney leftist phase, I will admit, I despised anyone who even mentinoned the words 'six figures'. It'd be a lie of historical proportions if someone admitted they'd pass up a net worth in the millions. Class warfare aside, we've got to do something about the increasing numbers of the impoverished and uninsured. We're the friggin' United f'ing States, the richest most powerful country on the planet. Surely, we've got the skill to take care of our own citizens? Even everyone's favorite capitalist extraordinaire Alan Greenspan agrees:

"In June, Greenspan warned that a shortage of highly skilled workers and a surplus of those with fewer skills has meant wages for the lower half of the income scale have remained stagnant, while the top quarter of earners sprints away. Greenspan said the skills mismatch "can and must be addressed, because I think that it's creating an increasing concentration of incomes in this country and, for a democratic society, that is not a very desirable thing to allow to happen.""

And not to leave out the voices of the optimistic:

"The optimists among economists -- and there are many -- point to trends that could help mitigate the pain of job losses and lead to future growth. One is the coming mass retirement of baby boomers, which could leave plenty of openings for those trying to break into the workforce. Economists tend to believe, too, that trade and technology will ultimately create new efficiencies that produce far more jobs than they destroy and leave everyone, on average, better off."

Ever hear of "In the long run we're all dead", pal? A capitulation to market forces, while theoretically sound, isn't exactly a comforting explanation to those who've recently slipped into poverty, now numbering in the 40 million range.

(Quick aside: I'm wondering why so many in the Moral Majority are so intent upon defeating the gay agenda and saving the unborn when there are millions upon millions of people who can't even afford the 99 cent burger at McDonalds?)

Am I advocating the expansion of the welfare state? No, not necessarily, but if circumstances forced our hand we'd have to seriously discuss our options and how to equitably finance the costs. Must we even expand the welfare state if we can clamp down on the excess profiteering and consolidation of wealth by the ultra-rich and corporations? While I'd prefer that the experts treat the various macro-level issues with the utmost patience and care, something of value needs to be accomplished in the short AND long-term to alleviate the increasing burden upon the shrinking middle class.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Friday Fright Night

President Bush is a panzy. Today, the President released more of his military record under a court mandate. How convenient that he decided to release all this information on a Friday night, right before the weekend and outside the news cycle. If the President truly doesn't have anything to be ashamed of regarding his National Guard service, why in the hell didn't he release these documents with proud fanfare?


Ketchup Watch - Kiddie Porn

Ms. Heinz-Kerry is at it again:

NEW YORK (AP) - Teresa Heinz Kerry, encouraging volunteers as they busily packed supplies Wednesday for hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean, said she was concerned the effort was too focused on sending clothes instead of essentials like water and electric generators. "Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids," said Heinz Kerry, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. "Water is necessary, and then generators, and then food, and then clothes."

Now that Lockhart, Sasso and Team Clinton are offically part of Team Kerry, please, PLEASE rectify this issue. This woman is cutting a wide swath of destruction across the heartland and she must be stopped! Thanks to Kevin over at Wizbang.

My Hero

Big news. This is what I get for erasing my IE history at work due to a slip up on my part. Two months out, and Dan Drezner (along with Andrew Sullivan, my blogging heroes) seems to be leaning towards Kerry. This one sliver of blogging is big news, especially since Dan's the equivalent of Florida in the blogosphere (or any other swing state for that matter), not to mention that he's respected on both sides of the political isle. Protest vote or not, I'd be proud to proclaim that "I'm voting with Dan and Sully". And guess who we have to thank for this development? Everyone's favorite GOP Senate candidate, Alan "Singing in the Wrong" Keyes. Bless you child, bless you!

More Legal Mumbo Jumbo

Dust off your shoes and get those suits pressed 'cause it's time for "Election 2004: The Litigation Behind The Race".

Less than two months away from election day and counting, the GOP and the Dems are drilling their legal shock teams in the art of voter 'turnout enhancement'. In a tribute to Bush v. Gore in 2000, the major parties and their legions of lawyers are manning battlestations in many of the vital swingstates. The Dems are the team to watch though, having logged quite a few court appearances concerning the word 'Nader' and its admissibility on many a state ballot. Could this election be won in the courts, as (some have asserted) in the 2000 race? If the latest polls are any indication, prepare for any and ALL types of litigation up to, during and (hopefully not) following election day (Stephen Green would rather have us think otherwise on the poll issue.).

Not to be left out of ANOTHER major battle with global ramifications, international observers are scheduled to make rounds of our elections as well. Supposedly, these observers want this visit to be both an educational experience and an inspiration for the latest reality tv show in the EU block, (but don't quote me on that one.):

""The challenges that the United States is facing are also the challenges that we have in our own countries," Brigalia Bam, chairwoman of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, said at a news conference Thursday."

Yup, President Bush. You said it.

UPDATE: Okay, to be fair I have to admit the aforementioned 'challenge' is not really having to deal solely with a Bush presidency. It's having to choose between C-plus Augustus and Kerry. Read this GQ article after downing a couple beers, and maybe, just maybe Kerry's answers will start making sense. My guess is Kerry was probably tanked and slurring his speech, hence the short sentences as written to limit the obvious. God help us all.

Legal Ease?

Sorry to turn the discussion back onto the legal field, but you've got to read THIS. I heart NYC. This ruling has to be an absolute dream for trial attorneys.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

It's About F-ing Time

I give mad props to Republican Senator's Richard Lugar and Chuck Hagel for calling out President Bush on Iraq. Despite the inevitable shit they're probably receiving from the Administration and the GOP, these Senators are speaking their mind and not falling within the strict lines of their party.


Mine's Bigger Than Yours

Okay, lately as part of his stump speech, the President has been saying that Senator Kerry wants to expand government. What right does the President have to say this?

1) The President authorized the Department of Homeland Security. Instead of fixing the systematic faults of an already existing structure, the President decided to place a big ass band-aid on it.

2) Okay, perhaps the President is implying by "expand" he means financially. The President's domestic agenda calls for $3 trillion in additional spending, the Senator's calls for $2 trillion (See SenorC's entry on "An Offer You Can't Refuse"). And we're just talking "domestic" agendas here. When it comes to the international theatre, at least Senator Kerry is talking about enlisting international support to ease the US's burden in Iraq.

How can President Bush honestly go after Senator Kerry about big government when he's increased the size of government himself? How can the President claim that Senator Kerry is fiscally irresponsible when he gave a tax cut primarily to the wealthiest 1% while waging a war with no end in site? How can any genuine conservative vote for a President whose policies bitch slap the very core of conservative principles?


Revenge of the Barry

Guess who's back? (I'd quote some rap lyrics here if I remembered the 'appropriate' old school song.) It looks like everyone's favorite ex-DC mayor, Marion Barry, is experiencing a bit of a renaissance himself. He recently won the Democratic primary in Ward 8, a predominantly black community that's missed out on the same economic revival currently benefiting the downtown area. While some of his former constituents must be ecstatic at reliving the old days of blatant political patronage and mischief, others are experiencing a similar feeling to a post-binge drinking purge. Honestly, I don't blame Barry's detractors, especially with a headline like this one. Great job DC, kudos to you.

Case of the Thursdays

I’ve consistently argued that my best “stuff” comes to me in one of two situations: 1) While I’m in the bathroom or 2) after I’ve consumed a fair amount of alcohol (Number 2 is an inherent flaw among most semi-recent college grads I believe). Andrew Sullivan tipped readers off to a Joe Klein article> in Time magazine earlier this week, and since I’m a loyal Time subscriber, I opted to save the reading for a more appropriate instance while in the can. Well, I read the piece this morning before work, and needless to say, I’ve been thinking about it non-stop. Money quote:

“Democrats were perplexed, depressed and awestruck. How could Cheney get away with saying, in effect, that a vote for Kerry was a vote for terrorism? More to the point, how could Bush get away with, well, everything: a misspent youth, a lifetime of insider trading on the family name, a misfought war, a misleading inference that the invasion of Iraq had some vague relevance to 9/11, a presidency marked by rampant corporate cronyism at home and abroad? "If we can't beat this guy, with this record ..." a prominent Democrat said to me. He was unable to finish the sentence.”

I’ve been having a crappy morning ever since. It’s shocking really, absolutely perplexing to me. How DOES the President get away with this record?? HOW??

Explanation 1: It’s pretty obvious that election coverage is more focused on the horse race as opposed to the issues. The debates are on the horizon, so maybe political correspondents feel they can concentrate on the more ‘news-worthy’ aspects of the campaign. Are you right-wingers still complaining about the Liberals in big media? If all the reporters really wanted to help John Kerry (as some have tried to prove), wouldn’t they be smart enough to start focusing on real campaign issues that would actually hurt Bush, such as his record over the past four years?

Explanation 2: You have to give the Bush team credit. They’re good. Underestimating Karl Rove has always been and (for the foreseeable future) will always be a bad idea. My question is if Bush has Karl Rove and company (proven winners) and an airtight media/image-creating apparatus, who the hell does Kerry have working for him? That would be “Mr 0 for 7”, Bob Shrum. And for some reason the Dems continue to shell out positions to the guy. If the Dems demand for a White House regime change based on Bush's record, then why the hell does Kerry employ a consultant that’s NEVER been part of a WINNING presidential campaign as one of his main campaign advisers?

The Pollution Insurgency (Environmental Roundup)

You sometimes have to be impressed by the tenacity of Iraqis. They're already trying to look into cleanups to work out the environmental damage caused by all the wars, a step smarter or two than Russia definitely. Problem is, we decided to dump loads and loads of depleted uranium into their country and not tell them where it is. The Pentagon says there are no health problems to be caused by depleted uranium shells, and of course the Pentagon would NEVER lie about something like that!

Then there's the environmental link with hurricanes. As we're about to get pounded by Ivan's leftovers all weekend, and Florida and/or the Carolina Coast is getting ready for a visit from what will probably be Hurricane Jeanne by the time it hits. Despite all the usual ranting that this is the punishment for them voting for George W. Bush in 2000 and contemplating doing it again, there may be something of substance to discuss here. The debate over climate change is kept alive by basically a few well-funded corporate ideologues masquerading science and peddling fictitious pseudo-studies as evidence. If anything, I've lived in the Mid-Atlantic for all but one year of my life and I have NEVER remembered a hurricane season like this. Ocean temperature is up, and that's a real result of climate change. We're headed for more and more extreme whether, and the gulf stream's position used to protect most of the US East Coast from these things. Now that's shifted, exposing us all to more and more landfalling Hurricanes. This is a matter of life and death, but it'll take billions of more dollars and probably some wrecked mansions before the billionaires decide to put down their martinis and realize the world is crumbling around them because of climate change. Oh, and let's not even talk about monsoon season. If our hurricane season is bad, whatever strikes the developing world this year will likely be worse, and result in piles more of dead.

Kudos to Tony Blair for showing a moderate/progressive backbone again and talking seriously about this. Whether action follows is dubious, especially since W and his cronies will do everything they can to sabotage bringing the Kyoto protocal back.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Redneck Rampage

Go Tim McGraw! I say he should not fight his instincts and run. Any friend of Clinton is a friend of mine.

A Look Baq (World Roundup)

Remember Liberia? I have to give credit that a man who leaves so much chaos in his week is applauded for "staying the course." What course? The one off the cliff? Here'st the gist, and it sounds very familiar to a country that begins with I and ends with Rock. Essentially the Liberian Transitional Government put in place after Charles Taylor was given the boot by Bush and his own people has proved powerless. Or, as THE GOVERNMENT'S OWN CHAIRMAN CHARACTERIZED HIS OWN GOVERNMENT (!!!), a "toothless bulldog." Ouch. So, with street crime, vigilanteism, and mob rule taking hold, they've become completely reliant on international peacekeepers to respond and end violence because of the impotence of the local police. This sound like a trend? Transitional authorities unable to provide security turning towards an international peacekeeping (or, to use a less PC term, "occupational" or "imperial") force. While this is no bloody terrorist street gunbattle, the riots and violence have essentially overwhelmed the Capital. It would be simple to go on some Buchananite rant about how they would've been better off left alone, but I think only an idiot would think that's true. What it does show is again the soft spots and lack of institutional capacity both on the US end and on the UN and NATO ends for actual nation building. If the current post 9/11 environment has taught us anything, it's that WE NEED TO GET CRACKING ON THIS STUFF NOW. Failed states are becoming one of the greatest security threats of our time and they're multiplying at an alarming rate. This is a crisis of global politics and governance which all nations should come together and form real solutions and build real institutions and resources to combat.

The Sudanese genocide has grown additional layers of complexity, or the better word would probably be ATROCITY. Every day, the Sudanese government is appearing to be one of the most villainous, evil regimes operating. And that's saying a lot. The Janjaweed's arming by the government and its subsequent jihad against the African population is apparently only the start of it. The government even allowed chemical testing by the Syrians on Darfur. Every moment this drags on and more news about it comes out it makes me more nauseuous. People can comment for ages on Saddam's mass graves and the atrocities in Iraq, but Sudan is showing us more everyday that the humanitarian argument for liberating Iraq doesn't test against humanitarian arguments for liberating other nations. Oh yeah, and Al Qaeda also had connections to the Sudanese government, AND the Sudanese government is arming a radically fundamentalist Islamist militia. Hmm? That doesn't sound like how Al Qaeda was born at all. . .If only we could do something about it! Oh, that's right, our President has stretched our military to the breaking point. I keep forgetting that someone who has rendered us incapable of reacting to global crises and security threats is somehow the trusted one on national security.

Henry C K Liu has a great article about terrorism and the US efforts in the WOT over at Asia Times called "A Poisonous Geopolitical Jungle." It's part of a well-written series with a smart thesis that basically views the problem of terrorism in a different way. It's main argument is that standard military action and the current situation just perpetuates more terrorists, and it requires a fundamental break and reorientation of the existing system, or the "ecosystem", that spawns terrorists to make them extinct. It takes a very historical perspective and actually spells out most of the important events and trends that led to the world the way it is and is a good historical overview of the mideast in general. Everyone who's interested in the mideast should read it, if not for the opinions and the thesis just for the raw information.

In China, Hu and Jiang are duking it out. What a shocker. The Asia Times article point out that it's more likely a dispute over policy toward Taiwan and growing social unrest than actual control. The military has come more and more under civilian control in recent years, and this trend is unlikely to reverse. However, what faction wins may have an important impact geopolitically because it will influence policy toward Taiwan and China's growing liberalization. Asia Times is quick to point out that the leadership transition from Jiang to Hu, while rocky and incomplete, has not been nearly as violent and chaotic as leadership transfers of their predecessors.

In our "Naked Power Grabs of The Week", we have of course dictator-in-everything-but-name Vladimir Putin and our man (singular since he's the only one) in Pakistan Pervez Musharraf. Putin has basically flipped us the bird on criticism of his consolidation of power in the Beslan aftermath and with his electoral plan has basically decimated any inkling of federalism or, for that matter, democracy, in his massive centralization binge. All elected governors can be replaced by appointed ones, and representatives likewise. Essentially Putin has changed the electoral system so that the President can replace everyone and he's the only one democratically elected. I think a "step backward for democracy" is probably the biggest understatement you could make here. Musharraf revoked his pledge to give up control of the military, a pledge he made in order to remain in control last year with the hard-line Islamic party his part formed a coalition with. I guess they're going to be a bit upset about that, MAYBE. The possibility for democracy is basically dead now. So much for "reform in the Middle East." Let's rely on those corrupt leaders to help us fight terrorism some more, see where it gets us in the end.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Littlepage

In more positive, non-political news, UVA athletic director Craig Littlepage was recently selected to chair the selections commitee of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament.

Honestly, if Pete Gillen and co. don't make it to the big dance this year, the wrath of Hooville will be near impossible to contain.

On the Brink

Correct me if I'm wrong with this breakdown:

Anti-Bush: 5th, Mr. Proliferation, Huong, Todd, Senor C

Anti-Kerry: skywalker, cynical optimist

(Yay for the anti-campaigns)

Does anyone really feel strongly in FAVOR of either candidate? I've recently been struggling with my choice to support Kerry, mainly because I feel like I'm compromising a great deal to have our country go from one third string QB to another. Mr. Proliferation cites me for bashing on Kerry regularly, but the reality is that Kerry deserves a consistent verbal lashing for his inability to run on anything but his 4-month-long Vietnam experience and anti-Bush fervor. Not to be outdone, Bush, a regular target of RM as well, is running on fear of what MIGHT happen if Kerry was elected, in addition to diverting the public's attention away from how shitty the economy, the war, and Bush's vocabulary really are.

Did I inadvertently spell out why I should be voting for Kerry in that last sentence? Well...yes. But I'm slowly becoming a conscientious objector towards both candidates.

Go ahead, call me insane. The most important election of our generation, and I'm debating between sleep for an extra hour or performing my duty as a citizen. Honestly, I could choose the latter and still have over 100 million buddies who would instantly think I'm cool for raging against the machine. If not for the other 100 million ACTIVE citizens electing to crucify my non-participatory ass, maybe I could sleep at night after engaging in a derilection of democratic duty.

Right now I'm 51-49% in favor of Kerry, a reluctant Kerry supporter if you will. Fiscally conservative (not beyond reason). In favor of the Iraq war and consider terrorism to be a threat that needs to be met with force. I've accepted that these goals are not simultaneously achievable, but I'm not prepared too choose one over the other just yet. I'm not convinced either man will restore (or even re-introduce) fiscal sanity to the federal government. I'm not convinced either will conduct the War on Terror any better than the other, with Bush being ignorant of reality and with Kerry trying to convince us that being shot at equates to national security experience. (Someone should tell Mary Beth Cahill that kids in DC dodge bullets on a daily basis, not exactly a resume builder with regards to defense policy.)

Maybe I'm reacting adversely to all the negative press out there about both candidates, who knows. Please, will someone (besides Andrew Sullivan) make some sense of it all?

Monday, September 13, 2004

An Offer You Can't Refuse

"President Bush, would you like to comment on the planned $3 trillion dollars in government spending over the next 10 years?

Bush: I see that I've misunderestimated the Liberal media yet again. Believe it or not, Jesus told me the answer to your question. The correct answer is 9/11, 9/11, 9/11."

Mo Rocca picked up on this theme quite early following the RNC. Maybe Karl Rove should encourage Rupert Murdoch and his Newscorp goons to invest in the convenience store business. Better yet, why doesn't the Republican party purchase every 7-11 store in the nation and rebrand them based on the Bush campaign platform. Shoot, they could be used far into the future to "deliver the message", the liberal 527s versus the conservative 24/7s, "Come again!"

Move Aside Madame Cleo

Blogging is the future.

Senseless Criticism: Some People Have a Ball Doin They Thang

Okay player
Pull up a Chair
My Name is Aceyalone
And I'm runnin for Mayor


So this weekend the victory of UVA over UNC in a crushing 56-24 brutality of a game was truly beautiful. UVA probably has a pure West Coast Offense now, and I was nonetheless impressed by the fact that Haggans can pass (my ultimate fear was that he was going to be another overhyped Bryson Spinner). None of that I'm hear for though, I'm here to talk about Aceyalone. Acey is a truly amazing MC, a literate guy in general who's wordplay isn't just smart, it's practically poetic.

So, why would I review an album from 1995? Well, I just got it is excuse number one, and excuse number two is All Balls Don't Bounce was just reissued. An extra CD of videos and remixes is on it, and that's a nice accompaniment and no-cost add on to album. In general, the production is spacey. It's reminiscent of early DJ Shadow and present day 9th Wonder. That makes the fact that this is an underground hit even more surprising because of the fact that the sound and beats are pretty close to present day underground beats. The really resonating part of this album is Acey's flow. A.C. Alone floats, bounces, and riffs over the beats, at times almost as arhythmic as a beat poet, as jazzy as a bebop scatter, and as tight as an old-school speed rapper. While the sound of Aceyalone is recognizable almost instantly, the album stays fresh because he varies his flow and rhythm constantly, and the depth and intricate word play of his rhymes reinforces the diversity and eclecticism of the album.

Highlights are the comical, staggering "Analilia?", the trippy "Mr. Outsider," thumping anthem "All Balls," old-school "Mic Check", and hard sucker punch of "Arhythmaticulas." It's overall an album worth checking out and owning, especially with this extra CD of remixes and remastered production that comes with the 2004 reissue. Abstract Rude guest spots also enhance the experience, whether you're looking for trip-hop, old school, or tight underground work Acey's "All Balls Don't Bounce" pack it all, and with some wicked string basslines.

Universal soldier he is.

The Brent Woodall Foundation For Exceptional Children

Strengthen the Good Charity of the Week: The Brent Woodall Foundation For Exceptional Children

The Foundation was created by Tracy Woodall, who lost her husband, Brent, in the South Tower on September 11th, 2001. Tracy was 5 weeks pregnant at the time, and she created the foundation as a way of dealing with her grief and extending his legacy.

Her decision to respond to evil by doing something good is completely consistent with the mission of the STG network, and STG is pleased to profile her work. Check out the full post via the link above.

Introducing...

...the Commercial Extreme Truck (CXT). Bigger than the H2?! Where's Mickey Kaus when you need him? PLEASE rate this ride MK!

Soft In The Middle ...

Here's an article originally published in the Los Angeles Times about how the President is ass fucking the middle class. Regardless of your economic beliefs (i.e. supply side voodoo or reality), it's a well written article.

Seahawks

Woohooo ... it's the year of the hawk!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Tommy D

What's the Senate Minority Leader up to these days? According to Staunch Moderate, he's fighting for his life. Paging John Dingell....

Senseless Criticism: Just Do It

I recently finished Jennifer Government, I think one of the most creative novels I've read since I read Ilium last week. It's by a guy named Max Barry who coincidentally keeps a site that's a lot like a blog. Interesting to check out, being an aspiring writer who's really nothing more than a hack.

The basic premise of Jennifer Government is basically a libertarian's dream, and everyone else in the world's nightmare. Great novels have been written based on the idea of a socialist or communist dystopia to make grands points about why it can't work. Jennifer Government is the ultimate in rebuttals to those, showing how if we went in an extreme free market direction it would be nearly (though not quite) as bad. A capitalist dystopia! The funniest part to me: the people take on their company's last names. The title character is Jennifer, who works for the Government (or what's left of the pitiful shell the government is). Following that, there's Hack Nike, John Nike, Theo Pepsi, Violet Exxonmobil, Claire Sears, another John Nike, Billy NRA, General Li NRA, One Police, and Buy Mitsui. It's an interesting batch of characters that liven up the concept and really keep the story and dialogue fresh.

The world of Jennifer Government is a world where basically almost everything is privatized. The police is a publicly traded firm that sells security services, and their biggest competitor is the NRA. Also, the Government only has a mandate to prevent crime, and actually has to make money by charging criminals and begging the victims handouts in order to fundraise for investigation. Taxes are illegal. The Government is also not allowed on private property. At one point, NRA fighter jets shoot down Air Force One. Nike also has kids killed in order to promote its sneakers.

So, to get to the point, it's a Libertarian dystopia, full of all the things you would imagine if you really accidentally got on a "premium road" and had to burn 11 dollars in tolls. Also, it takes the notion of rewards programs and promotional competitions to it's next logical extreme: military conflict. Sure, the book is drawn in caricature, with a lot of extremes, but it does make some excellent points about how a world with a powerless and failed government is just as scary as a world with one too powerful and too overbearing. It's a satire worth checking out, and with brisk dialogue, a lot of humor, and weighing in at a soft 320 pages it's a helluva lot faster read than 1984 The highlight of the book still remains John Nike's stirring speech to US Alliance (an alliance of comapnies organized around a customer loyalty program) where he demands that they destroy and get rid of the government that ends with "Just Do It"

Return of the Head Guy

(I don't claim to be ring leader here. The reality is that my head, er, noggin is merely a disproportionate size. Wonkette, eat your heart out.)

A full two weeks after losing internet access at work in Ft. Belvoir, the entire compound is now back to status quo. Apologies for little to no posts on the RNC. Hurricanes, birthday celebrations, and a few personal milestones have occurred since then. I'm sure they'll be up for discussion in due time, in addition to a re-review of some of the more salient political events and occurrences.

The Kerry campaign is moving full steam ahead in the battleground state of Virginia, Bush is ahead in many polls and some old school Clintonistas have been brought on board the Kerry-Edwards ship to readjust course during the home stretch. Less than 7 weeks until V-Day, and right now Bush seems to have the upper hand even with the latest politically sensitive allegations. Seven weeks. Tick, tock, tick, tock.....

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Cavalry Has Arrived...

...and its name is CSIS.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is no liberal think tank. Ask Mr. skywalker, a CSIS alum, and he'll verify that claim. According to one of their latest assessments of the ground situation in Iraq, we're getting our asses kicked(Thanks for the link Sully). Too bad the Bushies coveniently gloss over the facts during their campaign rallies and stump speeches.

The Kerry Billionaire Goes Bonkers

There's something to be said about women who speak their minds. But everyone's favorite African American, Ms. Heinz-Kerry, needs to SHUT the F**K UP. Tie her down, sew her lips shut, just DO SOMETHING about that motormouth of hers. Force her to either abandon the pulpit, or make her feel unbearable amounts of pain everytime something irreversibly stupid comes out of her mouth.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tearorism

Kaus has this to say, and I think he's absolutely right:

"I dissent from the latest campaign CW that Kerry must talk about the economy, health care, etc. for the next two months rather than Iraq and the War on Terror--and that every day spent talking about Iraq and terror is somehow a bad day for him. (See., e.g., today's Note) The issues of Iraq and the WOT are intellectually unavoidable. They're the most important things at stake in the election; 2) Because they are intellectual unavoidable, trying to avoid them to focus on the economy calls Kerry's judgment into question; 3) They're going to come up anyway, as they did yesterday; 4) The economy's not in such bad shape--by which I mean not that the statistics are OK, but that the ordinary lives of Americans aren't in such bad shape, despite the wishfully downbeat reporting of a cocooning anti-Bush press; 5) Whatever shape the economy is in, it's something the voters know about. Kerry can't convince them the economy is better than they know it is or worse than they know it is. But the argument against Bush's terror strategy is one that they might not have heard; 6)To the extent voters' economic lives are worse, many of them realize at some level that there is little Kerry can do to, e.g., stop the forces of globalization and technology that are changing the economic game; .. P.S.: I agree Kerry should also talk about health care, stem cells, etc.. I just don't see where--barring some Iraq disaster that makes the case for him--he avoids a frontal assault on Bush's terror strategy. If you agree with Bush on terror, are you really going to vote for Kerry in order to reduce your Medicare bill?"

Kaus has always been, of course, not one to hesitate in shooting Kerry full of holes and then contributing to his campaign, and represents the Paranoid Branch of the Dems right now (who, like Senor C., probably spend more time criticizing Kerry than even Bush and the Republicans do), but this is not just pot shots and contrarianism. The fact is, people may agree with going to war with Iraq, they may agree with preemptive strikes, and they may agree with the Bush doctrine. I agree on two out of those three but always assert my tired line that we should've struck in Africa before in Iraq in places like Yemen and Sudan in order to stop the creeping Islamism outside the middle east and contain it. However, you may agree with all these things and still be queasy about Bush's use of them and the incredible hubris of people he puts in power like Feith, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, and other such neocon ninjas. Also his lack of concern about other points of view, nations, or the long term consequences.

So, Democrats should instead stress a different type of platform, one which THEY'VE ACTUALLY SAID, but don't emphasize and stick with. The first plank of their WOT platform should be alliance building, and if they want to get bold establishing a permanent anti-terror alliance like NATO, maybe even an anti-terror treaty not to support militants. That's not waiting for the French, that's not delegating our war power, it's making some friends. Something Bush is inept at. Second, on the domestic homeland security front Democrats have talked about first responders. This is something they can beat Republicans senseless with. They've cut grants to fire fighters and cops, and Kerry could really use some more "first line of defense" rhetoric about supporting them. This would pull in the police and firefighters even more and genuinely makes sense. See that's not so hard! Two issues Kerry's already talked about and could use for a simple attack (granted simple is not the man's strong suit) on Bush's handling of Homeland Security and the WOT.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Chase This ...

Hey Kids,

So the New York Times is reporting on the latest round of Congressional Budget Office numbers about the federal deficit. Bottom line, we're fucked. The President's tax cuts for the rich and the war in Iraq are going to create historical levels of debt. And for all you people out there that insist deficit spending is okay, tell that to Chase Bank when my monthly payments are due. Granted, there's good debt (like student loans) but there's also bad debt (tax cuts that primarily assist the wealthiest 1%). The President's tax cuts were reckless and now we're going to be paying them off for generations.

I knew something was missing. . .

I suddenly realized, as I'm drowning in Fiscal 04 requirements and the clock to the magic time when the government's money disappears, that it's September, which ACTUALLY means it's the month Andrew Sullivan came back from vacation!

Part of me thought maybe this genius of a conservative would, like many other who were leaning critical of Bush, would've come back from his August vacation deciding to be Pro-Bush again. . .NOPE!

He had this to say today:

"One other thing has troubled me, after mulling the NYC convention for a few days. It struck me that John Kerry at his convention did something politically shrewd but also historically significant. He took a reluctant Democratic base and emphatically backed the war on terror. Yes, he did not relinquish criticism of the war in Iraq, nor of the way in which the Bush administration had made the case for war. But it was not a left-wing convention, and it signaled a welcome shift among Democrats to a more war-oriented approach. The Republicans essentially responded by throwing back this concession in John Kerry's face. They refused to take "yes, but" for an answer, and dredged up the divisions of the Vietnam War as a means to further polarize the electorate. Again, this might be good politics, but it is surely bad for the country. I believe in this war, which is also why I believe it is important to get as many Democrats to support it. But the Republicans have all but declared that this is a Republican war - and can only be conducted by a Republican president. I think they will live to regret this almost as much as the country will. And I fear the animosity and division that are already part of the cultural fabric (by no means all fomented by the president) could get worse in the coming years - to the glee of our enemies. In wartime, unity matters. When a campaign deliberately tries to maximize polarization to its advantage, it simultaneously undermines the war. Winning this war is more important than building a new Republican majority. But somehow I don't think that's how Karl Rove sees it."

I missed you, Mr. Sullivan. I think the man has raised some interesting points, as he always does. The Great Polarizer has in a since tried to expropriate this war and the pain of 9/11 as a means to drive the Democratic Party into extinction. Not only is their no attempt to compromise, just polarize, but there's an attempt to genuinely build a Foucauldian discourse out of the War on Terror. They want to construct an elaborate mechanism that goes beyond just a simple statement of "you're with us or you're with the terrorist" but attempts to redefine what a patriot is, what an American is, what democracy is, and perhaps most troublingly of all what leadership is. It essentializes not just a brand of policies and a set of traditions, but an entire political theory and philosophy to how the business of politics, war, and the presidency should be conducted. This isn't simply anymore a liberal vs. conservative vision of what America should do, but an entire rearticulation of the grounds of debate. Before parties, politicians, and ideologues simply offered variations of their interpretations of the American political and social paradigm, now this is an attempt to build a whole new one.

Senseless Criticism: Androids, Shakespeare, Gods, and DJs

I have returned. As far as my inexplicable absense from blogging and the deluge of posts I usually toss out, I was in Chicago attending to the prescription drug needs of this country's Veterans (which are staggering) but now I'm back to comment on useless things like Eyedea and Abilities. The album from them, E&A, is, simply put, a whipping. I have heard none of Eyedea and Abilities' other albums, but due to my recent interest in white boy hip-hop from the Midwest, their names kept coming up. So I checked it out, and, wow. "Kept" and "Star Destroyer" are the best this album has to offer, though it's all really good stuff. Eyedea's flow is fast, smooth, brutal. It washes over the album tracks and is semi-literate smart material. That's all well and good, but DJ Abilities straight steals this album. I haven't heard scratching this good since I saw the Quannum Label on tour! Every track features some extended scratching breaks by Abilities that spices up the album and renders the overall sound much more edgy. The refreshing thing about E&A is that it gets to the essence of old school rap and the DJ-MC Duo without actually using that style. It's an LP where the MC and DJ constantly play off each other like a band would, and puts turntablism in the center of the sound. This isn't mindless beat production, the DJ is also throwing his own performance in the mix.

Then there's Ilium. I finished reading this sucker in Chicago (it's a hefty book), and I have to say I was completely floored. This is only the first of a two part series, and I'm practically agonizing over the sequel. The book revolves around three plot lines that go something like this. Plotline 1: The Trojan War. But not quite. At least not like it would seem. It's being reenacted out, and a "scholic" by the name of Thomas Hockenberry (Late 20th, early 21st Century nameless Classics Professor) is observing it with a bunch of other "scholics" and reporting back on it to the Greek Gods, who are actually post-humans. What's a post-human? Well, that's complicated. Needless to say, Hockenberry has a set of high-tech toys given to him by the Gods that allow him to Shape shift, teleport, cloak, and taser people. And, after a night of mindbending sex with one of the Iliad's main characters, he decides to encourage Troy and the Greeks to reconcile, then ATTACK THE GODS. Woohah.

Plotline 2: Then, wonder upon wonders, at the same time there's the story of the humans on Earth in the distant, distant future. They're post-literate, which means they don't know how to read, or do math, they just party all night long and robots serve them food and alien things called voynix protect them from dinosaurs and such. They get one hundred years of life, which every twenty they're rejuvenated, then are supposedly teleported to join the post humans in space. That all turns horribly wrong when they meet a 1000 plus year old human and go on an adventure to find a spaceship, which involves meeting Odysseus and fighting Caliban and Prospero (from Shakespeare's The Tempest, of course!) who have somehow become real due to an enlivened Earth biosphere that takes on its own consciousness.

Plotline 3: Biological/Mechanical Robots from Jupiter's moons called Moravecs detected some weird stuff happening on Mons Olympos, highest volcano in Mars, and fear its going to destroy the solar system. They go to investigate. The main two are obsessed with Shakespeare and Proust, and debate literature constantly. When they arrive on Mars, Zeus flies out at them in a CHARIOT IN SPACE, and shoots them down, at which point they have an adventure on Mars involving translucent little green men and giant statues of Prospero.

Sounds complicated? You bet your ass it is, but at least it takes 600 pages. Point is, you have to respect a scifi novel that requires some understanding of both Shakespeare and Homer to get a foothold on the plot and the main characters and to enjoy the story better. This book convinced me I need to check out some more Dan Simmons, the guy's taken a seriously literary approach to writing scifi that's going to elevate the genre a lot.

Domestic Bullshit

Okay, let’s discuss some key points of the President’s domestic agenda. We won’t bother with his foreign policy platform which is basically - if you don’t vote for me, you’re unpatriotic, the terrorists will win and we’ll all die.

Privatizing Social Security. The idea behind privatization is that you should be able to privately invest a portion of the Social Security taxes the government collects from your paycheck. Currently, the federal government collects 12.4% of your annual income (up to about $88,000) for Social Security. 6.2% is taken directly from your paycheck and then your employer matches it. These taxes are then used to pay out benefits to current Social Security recipients. I have a few issues with the President’s privatization idea:

1) Social Security is supposed to be secure, that’s the whole point. It’s out there in case the world somehow fucks you over and you got nothing when you’re too old or otherwise unable to work. If a portion of your SS is privatized, it’s at the whim of the market, which has its benefits but isn’t secured;

2) If the current Administration really believes that the best SS policy is to give people a portion of their SS taxes to privately invest, just give it all back. Let me do what I want with that 12.4% of my earnings you uncle fuckers. Also, by partially privatizing Social Security, the Administration is advocating forced private investment. Either fix Social Security and keep it secure or give me back my money; don’t pussy foot with my retirement; and

3) This whole privatization thing is going to cost a shit load in transition costs. SS taxes currently being collected are being paid out to current SS recipients. There is no cushion of SS money to give people a portion to privately invest AND pay out current obligations. What ever happened to that lock box?

Tax Free Investment Accounts for Healthcare. The Administration’s healthcare cure is to let people save up for medical expenses tax free. What the fuck? This policy assumes that the American people have ESP. This plan reminds me of choosing a cell phone plan - trying to figure out how many minutes I’m going to use in a month. If I go over, then I’m bitch slapped with over-usage fees, if I don’t go over, then I’m wasting money each month. Health "insurance" is "insurance", and "insurance" is for unexpected events. Just imagine this concept applied to household budgets; well I should really pay down our enormous credit card debt but our little Billy might get a bad case of the flu this winter so I have to put money away for his potential medical bills. So as this household’s credit card debt is ballooning out of control, they have money saving up in a tax free healthcare account taunting them.

Also, since we’re on the topic of healthcare, it was just shameful for the Administration to burry the fact that Medicare premiums were increasing by a historical 17.5%. This number came out just one day after the President gave his re-nomination speech and proclaimed that he would lower the cost of healthcare for America’s elderly. Mofo.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Recommending 'Spinsanity'

For all you aspiring policy wonks out there, Spinsanity is a great place to start honing some of your BS-detection skills. These folks serve no master but the truth. Case in point (in regards to Bush's claim that Kerry's tax increase on high income earners hurts small business owners):

"According to an analysis by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, less than 3 percent of filers with positive business income actually fall into the top two tax brackets (that is, they have income of $175,000 or more). And while many of those who would be affected by the proposed increases do have business income, 97 percent of small businesses overall would not be affected by Kerry's proposal."

The same snoops are calling the Kerry camp's bluff/spin of JFK knowingly enlisting for dangerous assignments as a swift boater. Read the entire website, DAILY.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

the fourth floor

along with the post's outlook section, the education section of the new york times ranks high on my list of clear and worthwhile journalism. no news is ever objective news, so i like to load up on things with a clear (and unbalanced) bias.

story one: class ranks still matter, evidently, but not if you're from fairfax county public schools because i know some northern virginia high schools are adamantly against prioritizing their little kiddies. alas, to rank or not to rank?

story two: of course, this comes as no surprise to uva students, who have always known that the library was a place to see and be seen. some people call us nerds, but i always like to entertain the idea that we are ahead of our times. (ok, fine, nerds.)

story three: m.i.t.'s new president is a woman. if anyone's still unclear on why this is significant, they clearly do not deserve to live.

-huong


Friday, September 03, 2004

Fighting Words

The RNC is finished. It's time for the real campaign now and it sounds like the Kerry camp is ready for a fight. In my inbox tonight (with a few choice phrases bolded):

"Excerpts of John Kerry's Upcoming Remarks

The election comes down to this. If you believe this country is heading in the right direction, you should support George Bush. But if you believe America needs to move in a new direction, join with us. John and I offer a better plan that will make us stronger at home and more respected in the world. And we need your help to do that.

For three days in New York, instead of talking about jobs and the economy, we heard anger and insults from the Republicans. And I'll tell you why. It's because they can't talk about the real issues facing Americans. They can't talk about their record because it's a record of failure.

We all saw the anger and distortion of the Republican Convention. For the past week, they attacked my patriotism and my fitness to serve as commander in chief. Well, here's my answer. I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq.

The vice president even called me unfit for office last night. I guess I'll leave it up to the voters whether five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation than two tours of duty.

Let me tell you what I think makes someone unfit for duty. Misleading our nation into war in Iraq makes you unfit to lead this nation. Doing nothing while this nation loses millions of jobs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting 45 million Americans go without health care makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting the Saudi royal family control our energy costs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Handing out billions of government contracts to Halliburton while you're still on their payroll makes you unfit. That's the record of George Bush and Dick Cheney. And it's not going to change. I believe it's time to move America in a new direction; I believe it's time to set a new course for America.

And we have a specific plan to do just that. So tomorrow morning, John and Elizabeth and Teresa and I are hitting the road across America's heartland. From here, we'll go out and talk with Americans in towns across Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan. And because a stronger America begins at home, we'll talk about our plan to create jobs, cut taxes for the middle class, lower health care costs, and make America safer and more secure."

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Go Sea-Town!

Hey Kiddos,

A shout out to my hometown where the major newspaper, The Seattle Times, has endorsed Senator Kerry. A little background: The Seattle Times is a conservative paper that endorsed President Bush in the previous election.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

National Sales Tax

Hey Kids,

A bit ago SenorC asked about replacing the federal income tax with a national sales tax. Today the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released an analysis detailing the revenue impact and incidence of such a proposal. Basically, anyone not part of the wealthiest 20% would get screwed, and screwed hard.