Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Keys Diet Experiments

Would you like some fat sauce with your fat, fatty?

Oinknibus Spending Bill (Government Muck of the Week)

There's been a lot of hubub about the Omnibus bill. Here's the summary and a full list. My personal favorite is 3 million dollars to the Center for Grape Genetics in Geneva, NY. Because god knows we need to crack the grape genome. There is a million dollars for a B.B. King museum. Not that B.B. King isn't a great man, BUT COME ON.

Heritage is taking up its annual reluctant criticism of its beloved Republican Congress. It was so much easier when it was Democrats doing the pork. . . Too bad the Republicans continually manage to break their records. Even efforts at spending limitations on federal funds to construct roads in national forests was stripped out of it so more money could be spent that way. Good to know they're on our side . . . Earmarks are of course one of the scourges of the federal budget process. And they are mostly unique to the US. Why? Because of our Constitution. While out Constitution is great in so many ways, it also invested Congress with the power of the purse. It was for that reason that the line-item veto Clinton so briefly enjoyed was struck down so fast, because it basically accrued the power to Clinton. This essentially means any President's budget proposal is really just a guideline and the real budget is written by Congress, which is why those gloriously useless Cold War Weapons Systems manufactures in 40-odd states will never be cut no matter how many times the Pentagon zeroes out their budget.

In Westminster-based systems (Canada and UK), these ridiculous earmarks and other spending atrocities committed by Congress in the budget process don't happen, for better or worse. They can only cut the overall budget and every department proportionally or not pass it (vote of no-confidence). This makes cutting budgets easier and allows the PM or President in such situations to cut the budgets themselves whereas in the US this is virtually impossible. So everyone enjoy your grape genetics, museums, grapefruit juice research, "Check it Out" (?) and other delicious pork products and keep reelecting those incumbent Congressman who waste everyone else's money on useless shite.

Posturization

Staunchie has a great post about Ukraine, Russia, et al. The best part of it is this:

"During the Cold War, we would often support hostile, autocratic, oppressive governments when it helped us oppose the Soviet Union. Those decisions in part led to the problems we have now with Islamic terrorism. And now we are now in danger of making the exact same mistake, only in reverse."

During one of the talking head shows about a week and a half or so ago, I believe it may have been Softball, I saw some former Reagan administration foreign policy official ranting about how we need to get other people who have an interest do our fighting for us. This is unhelpful because I can't specify a date or name, but we've all heard the argument before. The main reason it was brought up involved Iran and North Korea and how to handle those.

Listen, multilateralism is all well and good, but has a lot of dangers to it. Staunchie is on to this when he discusses Ukraine, EU, US, and Russian posturing about the recent election. When others do our dirty work, or support our dirty work, they're going to expect us to turn a blind eye to our own. When we arm people, we can expect they're going to use those weapons for their own purposes. When we give people money, you're guaranteed they're not going to spend it on exactly what they're supposed to. These are all common sense statements, but the US addiction to working with proxies and favors internationally (mostly because we can't maintain status as a hyperpower without doing so) in fact constantly jeopardizes our position. Beware war chests and quid pro quos. Maybe in some cases it's a vicious cycle and unavoidable, especially with the consequences to them happening years down the line beyond when any President (like Jimmy Carter and Reagan, it was a bipartisan effort) arms some people (mujahadeen) and they use the funding and weapons for something else afterward (Taliban).

I'm not saying Putin is like the Taliban, but he could well be like any of the numerous South American dictators and people we backed which ended up disasters, and there's more. Our coziness with China over North Korea is already causing problems with Taiwan, our fondling of Musharraf could/will/may already create tension with India, and who knows what consequences our backing of various factions in Iraq might result in.

Monday, November 29, 2004

To The Videotape

I think Bush would have been great representing big business, possibly as a strike breaker. Oh wait...

Thanks to Staunch Moderate for the link.

Senseless Criticism: Kicking Ass At the Speed of Light

Planet Rock. Frantic Situation. Renegades of Funk. Looking for the Perfect Beat. Unity. Jazzy Sensation.

If you don't recognize any of those songs, then you're either busy slapping your own ass to Toby Keith or boogieing to Yanni. Time for a history lesson. It's all the purvey of one man, the father at the same time of modern American (or British for that matter, since Kraftwerk was German) techno. Afrika Bambaataa was his name, and electrofunk was his game. The peak of Afrika's career was in the 80s, specifically with his group the Soulsonic Force. That's who he recorded "Planet Rock" (the classic version) and "Renegades of Funk" with. As Run DMC, Beastie Boys, and LL Cool J changed the basic direction of old school hip hop on its mainstream face, and then later everyone got gangsta and all hard (bulletproof vestin' and holdin' a glock, it was the season for bleedin') Afrika largely disappeared from the scene. While his proteges from the ranks of the Zulu Nation rose, Afrika largely hid himself. Then, the larger techno and electronica in general gained ascendance, the more he was celebrated and his hits covered. One of the best tributes recently comes in Talib Kweli's "We Got the Beat," which rips off/tributes both "Looking for the Perfect Beat" and "Planet Rock." A lot of practicioners of the current craze in electronica, "Electro", are also basically producing a more complex version of Afrika's original electrofunk hip hop style.

So Afrika must have gotten tired of the shadows. His newest opus hit the shelves on October 26th, 2004. It's called Dark Matter: Moving At the Speed of Light and it's truly worth of Afrika's name. It's difficult to explain this album simply in terms of Afrika's history since it's largely a techno album with some hip hop elements, and the status of most electronic music is lamentable got too many subgenres to discuss without someone getting upset. But there's something beautiful about this album. Not only is it not missing a beat, and has Afrika at the peak of his game playing in a style that's familiar, it's llike 80s Bambaataa armed with modern technology and some of the most awesome production possible. The overall sound is so thick and noisy with amazing beats, clicks, african chants, sitars, world percussion, electrodrum assaults, and the occasionally insane speed rap from the many guest stars on this album that it's hard to even catch your breath. Weighing in at 72 minutes, it's also a hefty chunk of music in toto.

While the album has its LARGE SHARE OF FILLER (70 minutes you're practically guaranteed that, with "Pick Up on This" and "No Dope Fiends on the Floor" as unfortunate examples), it's got some songs on it that are just plain perfect. From the opening salvo of "Got That Vibe," with its speed rapping from King Kamonzi and sitar slinging tempo blur, this album is obviously special. From that it cools down to Gary Numan covering his own song with a special guest bluster by MC Chatterbox. If that wasn't wild enough to throw hip hop, new wave, and techno into one insane blender, there's more like that to come. The title track, "Dark Matter", keeps up with just as much speed and an addictive chorus and is personally my favorite with its swirling synth horns and expanding synth leads. The funny thing is the amount of producers Bambaataa flips and then destroys at their own game. Lil' Jon gets beat and shown for the Afrika-plagiarizer he is when Afrika effortlessly pulls up "Just a Smoke" and "Shake n Pop Roll" to old-schoolize the whole Crunk movement. Along with that there's the dark funk provided by "Take You Back" and "Almighty Rah" full with slab bass lines and some wah effects.

Perhaps the greatest standout is Afrika's ease at standing away from the controls. A careful reading of the liner notes reveals there are quite a few tracks he wrote but did not produce, and at time sung over beats made by others. Dark Matter comes out then as more than Bambaataa updated, but Bambaataa also joining with his contemporary electro-descendants while retaining all of trademark sounds. If anything, Afrika gets a little too addicted to shout outs, chants, and tribal drums, but everyone deserves some of their indulgences. For anyone that likes techno, hip hop, or even likes funk this album should suit you. 5th wryly commented "It's good. A little too much sitar for my taste, but really good."

To All You iPod Maniacs (Random Web Trash)

Fark's What if Apple was a cult? El Macronomicon? Thanks goes to Fark and Defamer, as always.

Bonus: Top 10 Most Overrated Celebrities. . .it's great!

Mouse Eternal

Big news that I coincidentally missed because of thanksgiving. Big, big news. Thank god for futurepundit. On wednesday it happened, the first "M Prize" was awarded by the Methuselah Foundation. To those of you who don't follow anti-aging news (which would be everyone except for maybe me, Glenn Reynolds, and Futurepundit), the Methuselah Mouse competition is a radical notion. Basically, it involves being able to reverse the aging processes in already aged mice in a way that potentially could turn and be used on human beings. Futurepundit has blogged about it constantly, and it's basically a chance to get over some of the heavy stigma that is attached to anti-aging research (which of course the bible-thumpers would never allow the federal government to fund). Similar to the X-Prize, this is a chance where private interests have funded a research bonanza to fill in for neglect by the federal government.

What does it all mean? Well, maybe I can tell you the true meaning of it when we're all in our early 200s because of the anti-aging drugs that are going to trickle out of this in the coming years.

Retooling (World Roundup)

Will British politics push in a direction to mirror American politics? Iain Duncan Smith wants it to. The Culture War in the US may continue to have global ripples if he gets his way and the Tories attempt to remake themselves in a more Republican image. The Tories are headed for an even bigger whalloping in the election, especially now that they've alienated their American "allies" the Republicans by having their leader criticize Blair's job with Iraq. Duncan Smith wants to see more reaching out to blue collar Britons by pushing conservative values, claiming that is what helped conservative parties in America and in Australia. My personal take is that Duncan Smith has no idea what he's talking about. While he has some points, I think Blair has done a better job of monopolizing "values talk" than anyone in the world, by promoting pretty much sensible centrist values. If not for Iraq, Blair would probably not have much in the way of any political liabilities, and even that enormous unpopularity in Britain is hardly even damaging him.

The Ukraine situation continues, and is indicative of something very important in that country's history. Yushchenko's movement continues to solidify and deepen, opposition practically coming out of the woodwork to back him in this suspected mass election fraud. Gold medal for Powell for throwing the bullshit flag. The best part of this was that the PM attempted to paint Yushchenko as pro-American and a nationalist. And somehow, people actually liked that attempted slander. Hmmm. Anyway, Yushchenko has had a long hard road up to this point, and the color orange has had an interesting role in it all and probably will now in Ukrainian history. Amidst all the chaos and dissent, the court is now taking the matter up. Election 2000, Eastern European-style. Let's all hope it's not a sham decision this time. In the background there's more than a case of electoral crisis at stake here, though. It's predicted that Ukraine may split along political lines, especially with regional autonomy referendums on the horizon. That, and the growing rift this is signaling between the US and the Kremlin in world affairs.

This piece reports to be about India's currency, but once again is another analysis of why the decline of the dollar might be trouble for the US, but beneficial to others. If only India would stop pegging their currency to the dollar. The gist is, India is opening itself up to all the problems the U.S. could face, and so are all the other countries that are doing the same thing. In general, it's a nice summary of why the economies of South Asia are changing and it's time for their monetary policy to get with the new paradigm. China, whose a huge pegger, is predictably very upset.

Also with China, we've got good news and disturbing news. Then there's pretty much neutral, yet still scary news. First, the neutral/scary news: Japan thinks China has "graduated" from being a developing nation and no longer needs assistance. We knew it was coming, but it's another milestone in showing China's ascendance as an absolute economic powerhouse. Then the good news: the arms embargo appears to be WORKING! With the release of some political prisoners, there's talk of more. Of course, Germany and France are pushing hard to lift the arms embargo. I guess they're chomping at the bit to fulfill their "bullets to brutalizers" quotas with Iraq gone. Now the disturbing news: China has basically made a move that makes the Iran situation much more difficult. Already, China has signaled it plans to veto any attempt to refer Iran to the security council, insisting that the matter be handled by the IAEA. Why? Oil. China's increasing demand for oil along with its development are, guaranteed, what will drive gas prices up forevermore and probably will break OPEC, then continue to drive prices up simply from market forces. This makes them naturally cozy with Iran, and the evolving commercial and trade relationship with the two only means China will get ever tighter with them.

More problems in Darfur. Rebels have recaptured some of the cities, but it has caused even more violence and disrupted desperately needed humanitarian assistance once again. Everyone thought things would improve with the November 9th cease-fire, but the opposition forces took the chance to wail on the government. UNAIDS has also issued a new report on the status of the pandemic. One of the most important findings: African women are suffering the worst. There are a large number of cultural, sociological, and economic factors driving all of it. Unequal access, gender-power relations, economic desperation, are just some of the reasons the UNAIDS report suggests. This again shows exactly how devastating AIDS is on the developing world in a sobering vision that only gets worse. More must be done, especially because women tend to be unable to get AIDS treatment in the way women can in Africa.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

THE National Security Issue

The Bush administration obviously has a thing for “sick” people. No, I’m not talking about “sick” in a Jeffrey Dahmer kind of way. God forbid the Bushies would actually have the heart for people like that. I’m talking about those 45 million plus Americans that don’t have health insurance. Add to that number the millions of Americans who would LOSE health benefits via their employer once business expenditures on health insurance become taxable, and what you’ll have left is a country rife with the sickest of the sick in the physical, mental (from the stress of paying for medical bills), and, most importantly, financial sense. This move goes beyond a budget breaker, especially for those of us with families. Hopefully, lawmakers in Congress will see that in addition to their reckless financial record for the past few years, taxing employer medical expenses will only add to the world of hurt that the middle class already experiences. And unlike all the talk about our worsening national debt situation, this is one bomb that won’t be passed onto our children.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

My boss on Crossfire

Shameless promotion time:

My boss, Rich Noyes, Director of Research for the Media Research Center, will be on Crossfire today at 4:30 EST discussing the Dan Rather retirement and the overarching issue of Rather's history of liberal media bias.

[from today's teaser email from the Crossfire staff]
In the Crossfire… Dan Rather, the voice of the CBS Evening News for a generation, is calling it quits. But what will be his legacy be in the anchor's chair? Will it be his career of hard news and daring coverage or some of the controversies that have clouded his career lately? Will his reputation forever be linked to the bogus "CBS memos" targeting the president's National Guard service? Did he merely get burned by bad sources or was he trying to influence the election from a news desk? Were his stories colored through a liberal lens? Also, the Rather debacle begs a larger question - is the news media in general too liberal? Too conservative? And what impact does it have on society?

Drain Bamage

I once mused with a friend over the consequences of heavy drinking and the brain cells it kills, and wondered whether it really does make you stupider. This friend of mine speculated that "the herd is only as fast as its slowest members," so killing off the weak links through drinking might make you actually smarter. Comforting. Turns out we were both wrong, drinking may not kill brain cells at all! Thanks, Ann.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Mission Creep (World Roundup)

The Afghani-Pakistani struggles continues to teeter and take wild turns, and while violent is moving in a good direction for every sane person in the region and bad for the Islamofascists. Offensives in Afghanistan continued as Coalition and Afghani troops desperately raid the country in search of hostages. The raids were a success in rooting out a lot of enemy fighters, but the finding hostages part of it didn't go quite as well. Also, the Taliban holdouts in Waziristan have not been faring well, and have been instructed to avoid conflict with Pakistani troops. That's what generally happens when you're basically being totally contained. This may signal that the Taliban is retreating to regroup and launch another round of insurgency back in Afghanistan, or more likely and hopefully that they're just plain retreating. Iraq is a different matter though, yet again. The Independent's interview with the British army's leader is telling and again provides a refreshing British perspective on the war. At least they unloaded some debt.

In India and Nepal, troubles lie ahead. One involves actual Maoist Communist Guerillas (again, they do still exist, surprisingly, and actually are close to toppling Nepal's government) and the other involves Saudi Arabia proving again how much of an "ally" they are in the War on Terror. More Madrassas in India! And Bangladesh! And Nepal and Sri Lanka! There's no problems with that. Especially considering the Madrassas had NOTHING at all to do with the Taliban and the dangerous class of Pakistan insurgents. Nothing at all. . .except everything.
Some of the organizations involved in this Saudi Madrassas expansion have fallen under Treasury Department scrutiny for being terrorist funding sources and generally the Madrassas themselves are anything but celebrations of Muslim traditions. Usually their indoctrination machines. So, Saudi's claim that these are to brighten the image of Islam around the world are about as believable as this and this. Or, especially, this.

It's also a bad week for troubled democracies in transition. The Ukranian PM is about to win his runoff by a three point lead. Only already the cries of voter fraud are rolling in. General strikes and even revolutions are being called for in its wake, and the US and other Western Monitors are shaking their heads about how sketchy the election in general was. There's also talk from the government of putting down the demonstrations, which might pose some sort of threat to constitutional authority. At least in a fraudulent government's eyes it poses a threat, I guess. I'm sure it'll look like Athens compared to what happens on January 30th. Always a GRRREAT idea to set elections during pilgrimage time. . .only the opposite.

The SWAPO party continues to consolidate it's control over Namibia, extending the trend of one-party states in Africa. It's democracy, only not really. . .you can have any candidate you want as long as he's a member of THE party. In better news, the economic outlook and a real future for South Africa is within grasp increasingly as their middle class swells. It truly is starting to become the African continent's superpower. And if anything, it's nice to hear of stability and actual development occuring in the world, instead of just more corruption and war. And on that note, the Nigerian strike has been called off, so we're not going to have to be giving sawed off arms and legs at the gas pump, only fingers.

Bush the Peacemaker

Could you imagine John Kerry doing this as President?

It Takes A Lot

To beat Detroit. And take over the most dangerous city title. Who wants to bet a bunch of cheap housing suddenly became available in Camden, NJ? The property values are going to drop faster than one of the Bush twins after a tequila shot.

Master Blaster

Why am I not surprised something like this has happened before? I guess the biggest shocker is that the incident actually wasn't in the South. I attribute that to the Southern tradition of responsible firearms ownership. Really. But seriously, shooting each other over your spot? Wow. The fact that they called other hunters for help and they were also shot by this mystery cabin squatter is also amazing. Deputy Zeigle summed it up well when he said "It's absolutely nuts. Why? Over a tree stand?" Indeed.

Christmas in November

UVA's savior in ACC basketball this year: Sean Singletary. In UVA's upset win over Arizona yesterday, the first year TRUE point guard shined like no other. 3 steals in less than two minutes, the victims being two the All-American backcourt of Stoudamire and Shakur? Devin "Herniated Disc Jockey" Smith the high scorer for the game? Un-freaking-believeable.

I'm heading down to Charlottesville immediately to pitch a tent in front of U-Hall. You all are welcome to join me anytime. Even you Ken.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Carville On Rampage - NEWS at 10

I'm pissed that no one mentioned James Carville's outrageous performance on Meet the Press last weekend. Click through to see the gloriousness that we all missed. (This picture has not been photoshopped.)

Bang Per Buck

Like me, all you ed. policy freaks out there will love this one, courtesy of one of George Mason University's finest:

"The field of education is littered with reforms designed to increase student performance - everything from the "new math," to more teachers to better pay. Yet the most obvious reform of all has hardly been tried - pay the students to learn."

If only the major networks attempted a similar experiment focused on reviving primetime sitcom viewership. Or the music industry to combat flagging sales. It's brilliant I tell you.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Are There Any Killer Animal Movies Left?

Or are we just left with sequels now. As much as I'm ashamed to admit it, I watched part of all these movies. Centipede! (note the exclamation mark) was classic, complete with the animatronic Centipede that looked like a reject from a Universal Studies Ride. Why would I do this to myself? Mostly because it was the same sensation you get watching Nascar, waiting for the next absurd crash and mutilating injury. Here was Thursday's All-Star Lineup:

BOA

A prehistoric, serpentine monster that lay dormant thousands of feet below the Antarctic ice is awakened and unleashed inside an isolated, underground maximum-security prison designed to hold the world's deadliest criminals. Now the guards and the prisoners must join forces if any of them are to escape alive. Dean Cain (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the SCI FI Pictures telefilm Dragon Fighter) heads the cast of this fast-paced thriller, which also stars Elizabeth Lackey (Planet of the Apes, Mulholland Drive) and Mark A. Sheppard (SCI FI Pictures' Deep Shock).

Airs Thursday, November 18, at 7PM ET/PT



CENTIPEDE!

Thrill-seeking cave explorers take an excursion to India, only to find themselves trapped inside a dark labyrinth of caverns — and menaced by an army of super-sized, killer centipedes. While rescue workers search for the young spelunkers, those highly attractive adventurers must struggle to escape from the multi-legged monsters.

Airs Thursday, November 18, at 9PM ET/PT



SKEETER

In this ecological horror story, the illegal dumping of dangerous toxic waste creates a swarm of monstrous mutant mosquitoes that begins to feed on the residents of a secluded desert town. Sexy-cute Tracy Griffith (Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland), Melanie's Griffith's half-sister, stars alongside Jim Youngs (Cyborg 2), John Savage's younger brother. It's sibling revelry! And it's directed by Clark Brandon — Eddie Brennan on The Facts of Life! How can you go wrong!? Character-actor faves Charles Napier, William Sanderson and Michael J. Pollard round out the cast.

Airs Thursday, November 18, at 11PM ET/PT


People get paid to make these movies! I especially love, with Scifi movies, the pathetic filmographies of the actors, especially when they're held up by their random connections to other respectable family members. Tracy Griffith? John Savage's Younger Brother? If there's anything that there should be in film schools, there should be a class where you just have to watch scifi channel originals. It would be like management school case studies when they present you with an office where all the shit that could possibly hit the fan did.

I wonder what the B-movie Horror Industry did before the Scifi Channel even existed. . .

Spurrious

I once saw Steve Spurrier, back when he was Florida coach, decide to run an unusual play. Up over 30 points, on the last play of the game, Spurrier called a reverse flea flicker for a touchdown. That pretty much defines heartless, sore winner. Needless to say I never liked the man before that, and wanted to see him go down in a hard way after that. And if anything, his disastrous time with the Redskins should have meant the end of his career. But now. . .he's back. It'll at least be nice to see the buyer's remorse on the South Carolina fans' faces in a year or so.

Maybe There's Something to This Healing Stuff

Snaps to W. for saying classy, nice things about his predecessor. While it was expected that the man would have to say something nice, Bush went well beyond what was necessary. And even though he's naming a lot of yes men to his now-vacant cabinet posts it is reaching out to the other side. Maybe we will see more bipartisanship. Probably not, but you know what, I'm just hoping at this point. I need something to believe in.

Some tips to prevent Thanksgiving heartburn

At least the heated-political-discussion-roiling-the-dinner-table type:


Sounds mostly good, but I'm not sure I will strictly follow the mandate to be a "compassionate winner," especially if we're fighting over the last scraps of white meat.

Talking Turkey: Tips for Talking Politics at the Holiday Table; Author Offers Advice to Get Through Post-Election Holiday Season

11/18/2004 8:40:00 AM


To: National and Assignment Desks

Contact: Kim Fuller, 918-289-9450

News Advisory:

-- Talking Turkey: Tips for Talking Politics at the Holiday Table

-- Author Donna Zajonc Offers Advice to Get Friends & Families Through the Post-Election Holiday Season

WHAT: Donna Zajonc, author of the new book "The Politics of Hope," provides advice for negotiating the potential hazards of post-election political discussions at the family table. Zajonc letter to editor, "Post-Partisan Depression" was recently published in the Washington Times.

WHO: Donna Zajonc, a certified political leadership coach, a former mental health nurse, was elected to three terms in the Oregon State House of Representatives starting at the age of 28. Zajonc co-founded the Bainbridge Leadership Center in Washington State.

BACKGROUND: A noted political leadership coach, Zajonc has a few recommendations to help friends and families bring political issues into the open at the Holiday dinner table, listen carefully to one another's opinions, and go home with a deeper understanding of differing points of view.

"Talking Turkey: Tips for Talking Politics at the Holiday Table"

Going home for the holidays can be stressful under the best of circumstances and this year could be more emotionally draining than usual.

This Thanksgiving comes only 23 days after a divisive presidential election. Americans will meet around the table with differing points of view and, perhaps, lingering raw emotions. Some may still be choking on their losses, while others will want to crow about their successes. The combination could be a nasty case of heartburn.

If potential political strife could damage your holiday harmony the following tips may bring you relief.

-- Be a Compassionate Winner

-- Listen Before You Talk

-- Stay Calm Even When Attacked

-- Be the Peacekeeper

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the things in our lives for which we are grateful. At the dinner table, invite your friends and loved ones to join in this reflection. We live in a country where diverse political opinions are the foundation of our freedom.

Donna Zajonc is the author of the new book "The Politics of Hope." She may be reached at http://www.politicsofhope.com .

The complete essay "Talking Turkey: Tips for Talking Politics at the Holiday Table" can be found at the Web site.

http://www.usnewswire.com/

-0-

/© 2004 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/



New Mansion Fund?

It's no question that John Kerry has expanded his profile on the national scene. While I still maintain that his candidacy was doomed from the beginning because of his the no-talent ass clowns runnign his campaign, Kerry still churned out a worthy performance. He managed to lose graciously and to that I must tip my hat. But lets get one thing straight here. If Kerry decides to run again in 2008, I will move heaven and earth to make sure that he comes nowhere close to being the Democratic nominee. But why wait until 2007 to begin the backbiting? Lets start the beatings now!:

"Democratic Party leaders said Wednesday they want to know why Sen. John Kerry ended his presidential campaign with more than $15 million in the bank, money that could have helped Democratic candidates across the country.

Some said he will be pressured to give the money to Democratic campaign committees rather than save it for a potential White House bid in 2008.

"Democrats are questioning why he sat on so much money that could have helped him defeat George Bush or helped down-ballot races, many of which could have gone our way with a few more million dollars," said Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Al Gore's 2000 presidential race."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Downright Rascalism

No how much of a partisan you might be, the whole changing of Republican Party roles just for Tom DeLay stinks. The dilemma, of course, was that rules required all leaders to relinquish their positions if facing felony indictment. DeLay hasn't been indicted yet, but of course the notion of being deprived of "The Hammer" is too fearful to even contemplate. At least the votes weren't unanimous, that would've just been too much.

Of course, DeLay says "I did not instigate this. This was not leader led. This came from the members themselves." Yeah, sure. It's only a coincidence that the spearhead was a Congressman from Texas, and oh, DeLay is a Congressman from Texas. If anything, the little sheep may be scared without "The Hammer" to lead them. Kevin Drum is practically squealing with joy over the possibility of DeLay indicted, and I join him. He's largely responsible for the disastrous Medicare reform that's going to be the end of all of us, and in doing so betraying the R's Fiscally Conservative, Small Government roots.

If you want to know more about DeLay's criminal activity check Daily Kos for a roundup of all the articles and evidence relating to it. But of course, as DeLay says, it's just politically motivated. Those Democrats in Texas, they're so frighteningly powerful. . .or something.

Sweet Gods of Metro

So today I'm sitting in Rosslyn waiting to be picked up by the always overcrowded, sweaty, nasty blue line, when I saw something on the light up sign that drove me wild. "8 Car Train". I always knew it was possible, but I'd never seen one before. The hulking behemoth rolled into the station and I had to marvel at it. It really was end to end of the entire Rosslyn tunnel ready to pick people up. My question is: is this permanent? And if it is, thank you Jesus. I finally won't have to have an old bald man's armpit rubbed in my face while I'm trying to hang on passing through Arlington Cemetary. I might actually get a SEAT.

God bless you, 8 Car Train Blue Line. God bless you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Ka-Powell

Well, that's that. I felt it obligatory to write a post on Mr. Powell's exit, since he was probably my favorite Republican until around this happened. One of the choicest lines Powell ever had was in reference to a reporter's question on how Saddam Hussein must feel after 9/11 and if he had any consolation for America. It went something like this: "I don't think the man has the slightest milk of human kindness flowing through his veins." Warrior-poet indeed. Powell caused a lot of serious problems, had a lot of flaws, and at times rolled over for Rumsfeld at exactly the crucial moments when he should've said something. All the same, he was a voice of reason throughout his entire career. Domestically, his attitude was communitarian, a voice always calling for really leaving no child behind and a stress on reasoned values. Powell also always presented a specific brand of hawkish pragmatism abroad, with the infamous Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force and clear exit strategies as a student of Vietnam. Of course Rumsfeld didn't believe in such things so we didn't see that this time around. He'll be missed, and it's a shame most of reputation was slowly destroyed, and in under a year's time. He even attempted the obscenely daunting task of modernizing a dinosaur like the State Department.

Now we've got Condi in his place. And I'm less than optimistic. Condi has been an excellent spokesperson for Bush, and did a nice job defending the Administration before the 9/11 Commission. But last time I checked she was National Security Advisor, not Press Secretary. The job of the National Security Advisor has always been to set coherent strong national security policy and force State, Defense, and the CIA in line. That she's been abysmal at, and State and the Pentagon's feud on the ground in Iraq is costing us big time. Being Secretary of State is also a daunting management task. . .just look at their strategic plan and all the obscene missions. The fact that Rice was largely unsuccessful at a high-level with Cabinet officers is telling as to what she's going to do with hundreds of thousands of State bureaucrats. Yikes.

Back From The Abyss

Folks over at the Centrist Coalition called the bloggers on Restless Mania "ornery". Go figure.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The most sexist public policy out there today...

...in many state laws is palimony.

Think about how sexist and predatory it is.

Guy has live-in girlfriend. She becomes a lazy-ass and stops working. They break up, she moves out, suffers fiscally because she's been on her bum all day long and not working and now has to get her shit together. So she sues even though it was her own damn fault for becoming so financially needy absent a ring and a marriage license. It's inexcusable.

I see the valid purpose of alimony, particularly because marriage is primarily an economic arrangement as far as the law is concerned. Palimony is just some lame-ass white trash version designed to get gold-diggers money post-breakup.

And here's a case in point:

NOVEMBER 11--Comedian Bill Maher was slapped yesterday with a $9 million palimony suit by an ex-girlfriend who alleges that the HBO star subjected her to physical and verbal abuse, including "insulting, humiliating and degrading racial comments." In the below Los Angeles Superior Court complaint, Nancy Johnson, a centerfold model and former flight attendant also known as Coco Johnsen, alleges that Maher, 48, reneged on promises to pay her expenses and purchase a Beverly Hills home. Johnson, who says she dated Maher for 17 months before splitting from him in May, also contends that the performer promised to marry her and have children. Johnson, pictured at right, does not detail the degrading racial comments allegedly made by Maher, and recounts only one episode of supposed physical abuse by the host of HBO's "Real Time." She charges that Maher pulled her arm and shook her at one party, causing "injuries to her back and neck," and later that evening warned he'd hit her on the head with a hammer if she was unfaithful. (10 pages)

With that, I have exercised my once-a-year pass to side with a Hollywood liberal on something.

Why Jimmy Carter should stick to building houses

Eulogizing an international thug, terrorist, murderer, and grand embezzler:

"Yasser Arafat's death marks the end of an era and will no doubt be painfully felt by Palestinians throughout the Middle East and elsewhere in the world," Carter said.

"He was the father of the modern Palestinian nationalist movement. A powerful human symbol and forceful advocate, Palestinians united behind him in their pursuit of a homeland," he said in a statement distributed by his Atlanta, Georgia-based Carter Center.

He said that while Arafat provided "indispensable leadership to a revolutionary movement" and played a key role in forging a peace agreement with Israel in 1993, he was excluded from negotiations in recent years.

"My hope is that an emerging Palestinian leadership can benefit from Arafat's experiences, be welcomed to the peace process by (Israeli) Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon and (US) President (George W.) Bush, and be successful in helping to forge a Palestinian state living in harmony with their Israeli neighbors," Carter said.


Bear Baiting & Bullshit

Social Security ... the new hotness.

As anyone that has read my thoughts on Social Security knows, I have two positions:

1) Keep it "social" and "secure", no half-ass partial private investment crap; or

2) If you insist on giving people a portion of their Social Security taxes back to invest privately because the people know how to handle their own money better than the government does, just give back all my damn money. I'll do with it as I please. I don't want a stock broker-dictator telling me to invest.

Given those positions, there's an interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal about the market effects of putting Social Security funds into the stock market. Basically, it will all be a wash. As SS money gets invested into the stocks, their price increases and their yield decreases. And because current SS funds are invested in bonds, the diversion away of this money from the bond market will give them a higher yield creating a new equilibrium between stocks and bonds. So there you go, more of the same with added regulations. Super. Just give me my money damn it so I can invest in Twinkie futures.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Question For You Guys

Remember how we previously poked fun at bloggers who subjected the world to asinine posts? Well, this post offically makes me part of the club.

So it looks like my little Chevy is done for. I was leaving Fort Belvoir when I literally hit a snag. My exhaust system, somehow, got caught on a metal piece of one of those metal gates that government facilities are so fond of installing as part of their roadside entrances. The pipe from my engine to the muffler was mangled, breaking completely free from the car manifold. Not only did I have to endure the embarrassment of causing traffic for those also trying to get the hell of the base, I had to wait for an armed escort to lead the triple A flatbed truck to my location. I waited three hours for that piece of junk to arrive while I froze my short and curlies off.

Well, the parts and labor will probably cost me upwards of 900 bones. And since my car is officially on its deathbed, I’m regrettably forced to look into purchasing another vehicle. Fellow bloggers, what in the hell can I get for less than 15K that runs well, is a sedan that looks like a bullet, and will have minimal impact on the environment (i.e. NOT an SUV)? I need to get one by the beginning of next week if possible. I know, I’m insane.

Dollar Bill, Y'all (World Roundup)

Yes. I won't shut about the dollar. Daniel Drezner thinks it's worthy enough to talk about too. China is starting to unload the stock of dollars it has built up, and that's not good news. India and Russia are joining the fray as well. If the Hedge Funds get involved, we could see not a neutral slow decline of the dollar, but a freefall. As much as Skywalker wants to talk about how GREAT this is for our economy, I have strong doubts that a freefalling currency value is something to celebrate or ignore. Most of the reason I think this is because we're a company addicted and dependent on imports, the cost of which could rise explosively.

The Ivory Coast is falling into even bigger chaos. On Thursday the ceasefire that had been in place for 18 months between the North and South broke when the government decided to go after the rebels. Bad idea, or at least not a good plan. President Laurent Gbago seems totally disingenuous when it comes to political reforms and his power play against the rebels has already started to backfire. The French Military and UN have decided to make things better by shooting up a crowd. Now they've pulled out of the Abidjan and left the mobs to go wild. Chalk another failure on the UN's Sketchy Peacekeeping Record. The UN's had to order an evacuation in the face of all the anti-foreigner sentiment and riots while South Africa's President Mbeki is fighting a losing battle for a peaceful resolution between Ivory Coast's North and South. African Diplomacy, could there be a more thankless job?

Now, good news in Africa! (See how I keep you off-balance like that). Nepad, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, has been gaining critical support from a lot of African grassroots organizations. It's a plan that was formed several years ago, but has been slowly gaining steam. Some of its chief aims: advance democracy and human rights, improve education and health services, improve productive capacities, and bolster regional integration. Sounds great, but how do you pull it off? It's for part of that reason that this top-down plan has changed in its approach and has been consulting with civil society organizations to get their buy-in. With all the weak states in Africa, it's crucial that NGO's and other traditional leaders believe in the plans goals to get anything off the ground. Perhaps the EU could pick up that strategy to deal with their regional and fractional woes.

Onto the main event: Fallujah. The siege has gone very well so far, but there's still a lot of reason to be worried. First, there's the fear that most of the targets and insurgents actually fled the scene before the attack started. That means that while their base of operations might be disrupted, they're still free to stage attacks elsewhere. Before the siege began, there was also a pronouncement by Saudi Scholars and Clerics backing and endless holy war against the US. That's encouraging, especially since a step this bold hasn't been taken in awhile and may further reinforce the insurgents (especially the Sunnis) that they're doing the "right" (and I mean of course right in the Islamofascist view of the world) thing. It also again paints a troubling picture of how supportive Saudi Arabia still is in general of any effort to kill Americans. Then, there's the impact of this in Britain. Support for the war continues to spiral southward (it's a good thing the Tories are in such shambles they'll never counter Blair and they supported the war in the first place anyway), and many believe that Fallujah could turn out to be a meaningless victory even though there was no choice about whether to lay siege on it or not. The most detailed analysis, as always, is from Pepe Escobar. It paints a troubling picture reinforcing the fears of the US Commanders that the Insurgents have dispersed to cause mayhem elsewhere, even in Allawi's family, Escobar's anti-war tone is obviously shrill, but sometimes pessimism is the best medicine to confront reality.

Arafat is basically history. The man left big footprints, that's for sure, however many innocent people lie crushed to death in them. May there not be a civil war for who leads the Palestinians next. The meaningless talkathon over Sudan's genocide has had a new development, but I'm doubtful this will do anything to stop the Janjaweed militia's atrocities and only throws the UN and aid workers into a volatile mix.

For something light in the face of all this doom: Kenya's Arts Scene is flourishing! African development truly is the most challenging and historically traumatic stories to unfold, and as the emerging modern culture of Africa solidifies the artists (many already) are truly producing amazing results.

Why liberals should stick to wasting other people's money

I don't care how much bread this guy rakes in, this was an asinine waste of money even had Bush LOST the election. I'm sure he thinks it's a cute marketing gimmick, but is that really the kinda crap you want to pull when Republican bar tabs pay the bills just as well as Democratic ones?

What a maroon.

• Speaking of taking a flier: Disconsolate Democrat Bill Duggan, who owns Madam's Organ restaurant and bar in Adams Morgan, has sent us two unused AirTran tickets, one-way from Washington to Houston. They're in the names of George W. Bush and Richard "Dick" Cheney. "We were feeling so confident of change that we bought the tickets for them to return to Texas on the first flight out on Nov. 3," says Duggan, who spent $238.40 on the nonrefundable, nontransferable tix. "I'd hate for them to go to waste," he told us yesterday, asking that we offer them to the White House. (Sure thing, but don't those guys have their own airplanes?)
SOURCE: Richard Leiby, The Reliable Source column in the Washington Post for 10 November 2004.

Dollar revisited

So, just to follow up on the earlier lament on the dollar's devaluation, two articles for evidence that the devaluation is not immediately bad for us. One because it reduces our relative debt and two because it reduces the trade deficit.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

First Asian Rap Star?

Newsweek is so up on it and so cool. Seriously. The first Asian Hip Hop star? Haven't they heard of. . .oh Planet Asia or Lyrics Born? So on top of things. . .

Run Kerry, Run

For entertainment purposes, I'd love to see John Kerry carry out his threat. Begin his 2008 presidential campaign now and deliver weekly sonorous stemwinders on every conceivable domestic and foreign policy issue from the Senate floor. Then he can vote for the bill(s) in question, then vote against it(them), and then spend the rest of the week playing two-hand touch football with staffers and the Heinz boys. (Hmm, I wonder if Alexandra and Vanessa can cheer from the sidelines...)

But seriously, how great would it be if no one stops him from carrying out his threat to be a noxious blowhard for the next few years?

I guess a guy can dream, and there is a thing as asking for too much.

But dammit, John Kerry bloviating against Bush from the Senate floor while Howard Dean screams across the Sunday talk shows as the DNC chairman would be icing on the electoral cake for me.


A fitting way to celebrate World Freedom Day

Fifteen years ago today, the Berlin Wall was felled. My calendar notes this as "World Freedom Day" in celebration thereof. The late Great Communicator, who urged and prophesied the destruction of that odious Wall is honored today with the unveiling of a new US postal stamp bearing his image this afternoon (2:30 p.m. Eastern) at his presidential library.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004,11:30 AM

Ronald Reagan Postage Stamp Unveiling: On November 9, the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States Postal Service will unveil, for the first time, the artwork for the new Ronald Reagan postage stamp. The stamp will not be available for sale until mid-February.

The event will be attended by Mrs. Reagan and Mr. John Potter, the Postmaster General. Monica Mancini will perform.

This event will be held on the Library's replica of the White House South Lawn and is open to the public. This event is free to attend, however regular admission fees apply to enter the Museum. In addition, complimentary shuttles will run on Presidential Drive.






A Hard Question: Entitlement Reform, Aging Population, Old People and NASA

Disclaimer: Again, here is the last in my three part series on party positions and footholds the Democrats should rethink in the wake of Election 2004. As I said before, I don't think there is a need for the Dems to radically remake themselves, simply that some of the party's dogma, which in my mind has already been slipping and come under attack recently in the party, should be rethought, recast, or discarded. This piece partially relates to yesterday's piece on how Dem's may want to move away from a party that back federal interventions and federal superiority, to one of advocating decentralization and a balance in favor of state and local government (as the Republicans once did). Today, I attack the biggest chunk of the federal government: Entitlement Programs.

Social Security. Medicare. Welfare. Housing Vouchers. Unemployment Benefits. These words provoke the same reaction in Conservatives that crosses do to vampires. To the American People, they provoke the reaction of a homeowner who finds their pet has just relieved themselves all over the carpet. To my generation, they will be our undoing. Howard Dean, in the early days of his Democratic Insurgency, brought up the heretical, but SANE, position that we might want to think about means-testing Social Security. Boy did the AARP not like that. My own recommendation for Social Security and Medicare, namely giving NASA the new mission of launching old people into space to their doom, doesn't have much traction. But the Democratic notion that Social Security and Medicare can simply be left untampered is absurd. Bush's fiscally titanic disaster of a Medicare reform was the wrong direction. Heritage Foundation has some constructive ideas, as they always do with entitlement reform. So does GAO. I won't bring up the fact that Heritage suggested using the FEHBP for a model to offer poor people health insurance, then when Senator Kerry listened to them they suddenly became opposed to the idea. But of course their work is 90% partisan-hackery and 10% really great Conservative ideas.

The overall picture is, of course, that entitlement programs are doomed in their current form. Not only will this doom the people they are meant to help, but the government itself and all of the American taxpayers if nothing is done. Bush has charged into the fray with Social Security reform, and, surprise, the AARP couldn't stop him. Needless to say, they're probably just waiting until the legislation hits before they walk softly and unleash their armored tank division. But the very fact that someone had the boldness to defy this lobby and got away with it so far should embolden every politician. Entitlement reform isn't a conservative issue, it isn't a liberal issue, it's a common sense issue. We can't afford it, no matter how you crunch the numbers, there is a drastic need for drastic action. For that reason, it's time for Democrats to grow a spine and make the changes needed to save these programs that have been part of their legacy. Not only are the Republicans slowly stealing their thunder, but they are also pushing bold and creative ideas that the Democrats are totally lacking in. That needs to change.

To Democrats I say this. It's time the party position did not become "let's stick to our guns" when entitlement reform comes up. Your guns are out of ammo. And your guns are rusting out. Social Security privatization, means-testing, anything! Medicare FEHBP based reform, hell the Kerry health plan based on the FEHBP wasn't a bad idea, but it just wasn't sold well and wasn't very well thought-out! Democrats once assembled the intestinal fortitude to go along with reforming one of the most embarassing entitlement programs, Aid for Families with Dependent Children (Welfare). . .although against the wishes of insane looney lefties like Nancy Pelosi. They can do it again. Bush is going to present partial Social Security Privatization, probably the biggest entitlement reform of ALL TIME, and if the Democrats turn this into a battle to keep social security the way it is they're going to play into the R's hands and again become a tired party of the past. I'm not saying they should vote for the partial privatization. I would be for it but I just think Bush has left the government in such a fiscal shambles we can't afford it without raising taxes. But it's time for the D's to raise at least a counter-proposal.

And this is only the beginning. Democrats need to fall on the right side (maybe even the conservative side) of these entitlement programs if they want to preserve them. Marketization, privatization, and downright CUTS need to be contemplated and pushed by the Democrats. Not only does this make them proactive, but it keeps them from fighting one of the most unwinnable battles on the political landscape now. My generation will be taxed and destroyed by entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare if nothing is done. If the Democrats want Young Voters, then they need to stop mindlessly carrying the AARP standard, especially when a good portion of seniors actually voted Republican in 2004. Entitlement programs are a no-win situation, and if the Democrats can squeeze the credibility and rejuvenation out of welfare reform from other entitlement reforms, they should make every move to do so.

My Favorite Extremist

Joe Scarborough has a blog on MSNBC now! I have to admit, even though I disagree with a lot of what Joe says, I'm totally riveted by the man's comments, even though of course he voted to impeach my favorite President. Anyone who wants to read sensible, conservative critique should check it out. I watch Scarborough's show often, and he's no Faux News blowhard. He's a conservative who has no problem having a nice, calm discussion with rabids like Alterman (another favorite extremist of mine from the other side) and Co. MSNBC's news website is quickly becoming my favorite, and its opinion bench has gotten deep with the adding of Olbermann's blog and now Scarborough.

Sore Loser?

To those like Ken and Skywalker who seem to be painting some sort of sore loser from this election, I say that if I really was a sore loser, I'd be talking up and tossing around stuff like this conspiracy theory of election stealing. But I'm not. Really.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Not a sermon, just a thought

Conservative religious folk don't take too kindly to liberal politicians hijacking Scripture to justify big government. The reason so many evangelical Protestants and lay Catholics are conservative in political temperment is because their understanding of Scripture militates against trust in earthly princes, but commands total trust on a sovereign God.

Our vote for politicians is not for the allegiance of an economic or foreign policy program, but a sense of wise and just leadership and a proper view of government, man, and God.

The evangelical voter is not so much hoping for a messianic political figure as for a political leader who is most in tune with a biblical worldview on the proper role of government and the proper role of families, churches, charities, and individuals.

Additionally, we don't want a guy who talks a good game, we want a guy who lives a good game.

Examine, if you will, John Kerry's frequent sermonizing from the Epistle of St. James during the campaign. It was hollow to Christian conservative ears precisely because John Kerry completely demonstrated St. James's indictment of "faith without deeds" being like "the body without the spirit," dead.

You will remember that Kerry tried to woo conservative blue collar voters in the heartland earlier in the year by asserting he believed that life began at conception (a position held as doctrine by the Catholic Church and held as scriptural truth by many born-again evangelicals). Yet Kerry asserted he could not live out his faith via his political trust as senator by voting for legislation endorsing that viewpoint. In other words, John Kerry had faith in a particular notion, but lacked the will to live it out in corresponding works. Yet, on the other hand, Kerry was perfectly fine sermonizing from the Bible about Republicans allegedly failing to live out a Christian faith by failing to endorse a large welfare state, something Republicans don't even claim to have faith in anyway. How rich is that?

I don't want to get into a protracted biblical or moral debate, but I think the bottom line for Democrats mulling over how to woo "values voters" and bite into the Republican advantage on conservative Catholics and evangelicals is this:

instead of trying to fool voters that your candidate is not as far left-wing as his/her record shows he/she is, try nominating a bona fide centrist with enough street cred on social issues from the get-go so that you be not seen as a hypocrite.

Not a sermon, just a thought.

###


A breath of realism (from a Coast, no less!)

Thank you Mr. Proliferation, for providing a brilliant example (in the previous post) of Mr. Brooks, in his article, is talking about.

The Theocratic Party

More brimstone bible-thumping

A Hard Question: The Creature That Came from the New Deal

Disclaimer: I repeat my first disclaimer. This is again I think one of the major issues Democrats need to think about, and how it should revolve in their party. It is the second in my three part series about these issues. Yesterday I just about touched (or did touch), the third rail and talked about the Dems ferocious pro-Choice nature and how they might think of loosening that somewhat.

No doubt: it is a monster, even before the supposedly "Conservative Republican" Congress gets its money-grubbing paws on it. That's right, I'm talking about the mess I work for, the Federal Government. The Republicans sailed back into dominance after a four year hiatus from 76-80 on a tide of anti-government rhetoric. Rightly so. While a lot of Reagan's tirades about welfare queens were total exaggerations or outright of questionable authenticity, the main point he had was spot on. The Federal Government had gotten too big, and was trying to do too much. He campaigned to shrink it and get it out of people's lives. Reagan took a stab at it, but after much hand-wringing, battles with an ultra-liberal democratic congress (which would later be the D's downfall), Reagan largely gave up any ambitious plans for cutting the federal government (although he did cut its revenues), complaining of "Iron Triangles" and such. Then came Bill Clinton and Republican Congress of the 90s. That was a perfect storm of fiscal wizardry. There are those amongst the Dems who would give all the credit for cutting the budget and achieving the surpluses to Bill Clinton. To them, I would gesture to the massive Health Care plan and other big government absurdities dreamed of at the beginning of the Clinton administration. Then there are those amongst the Rs who would give credit to only the Republican Congress. To them I gesture to the fiscal mess we're sitting on now and the biggest pork-fest we've seen in history at the hands of said Republican Congress.

What I'm getting at is more than just 90s nostalgia. It's the issue of the federal government. Bill Clinton won popularity with moderates because of his abilities to reform government, cut budgets, and generally reduce the government's role in people's lives. This "Third Way" style intersected with the arrival of New Labour in Britain. The onus was placed on the government that its programs had to be effective and had to have a role in empowering people, teaching them how to fish as opposed to give them canned tuna. This approach was absolutely a winner. It should have captured the heart and soul of the Democratic party in the way that it has captured Tony Blair's Labour Party and their constant approach of reforming the basic aims of government and increasing the choice factor of services for the government's "clients." What happened? Well, the Republicans JACKED it. To an extent. And rightly, because the Dems were so beatup on each other between the New Democrats and Paleoliberals that they couldn't figure out if they wanted to keep it or not. Bill Clinton's leadership on that mold failed, and Al Gore was not a convincing spokesman.

Enough history. Now to the real heart of the matter. It's time to go back to that message of empowerment, it's time to reclaim some of it from the R's, and it's time for the Ds to become more like New Labour and make it the core. What's a good start? I think the Democratic Party should make it their business and their pledge to reduce not just the budget, but the scope of the federal government. The party was already headed in this direction, and found limited success in touting the messages of fiscal discipline and using that against Bush. The problem? They didn't go all the way, and when they talked about National Health Care they sounded disingenuous. When they criticized Bush's prescription drug plan, they said they didn't ask for discounts and it was corporate pork. That is ALSO disingenuous. The right question to ask would have been SHOULD WE HAVE A PRESCRIPTION DRUG PLAN FOR SENIORS. . .but this is going to fit into my argument tomorrow, for part 3. Bush and Company have generally made the federal government not just bigger in terms of money eaten and wasted, but bigger in terms of its intrusiveness and scope. They've all but abandoned their previous mantras of states rights, local control, and decentralization, which were all magnificently correct positions. Through things like All Children Left Behind, the prohibition against imported drugs and the FDA's crushing grasp, Federal Marriage Amendment, Medicare of course, enhanced Farm Subsidies (my number one issue again) and the FCC's moves recently we've seen a deterioration of those admirable GOP stances.

It's time the Democrats stole them. They have already made some moves towards proclaiming states rights and railing a little against Federal Intervention. They've made some moves towards being a party of fiscal discipline. The answer is to embrace both and move towards a party that argues for stronger state's control, Amendment 10, reduced role of the Federal Government, and increased local government powers. This actually fits well with some elements of the Democratic party from the past, and does fit with the positions of what used to be (before they all changed parties or lost elections) the Democrats of the South. Sure in some ways that logic was rooted in racism and the wounds of the Civil War, but it also just plain makes more sense. The Federal Government is huge and inflexible, and reacts to things with the force of a locomotive, hitting it too hard and unable to stop its courses of action once they've begun. There is no light touch, there is no adaptability, there's just a high velocity of money, personnel, and resources hurtled with great vehemence at whatever it defines the problem to be (through obscene legal definitions). State and local governments are just plain better at delivering services and know the problems better. They spend less money solving them and get better results.

So, Democrats, it's time to abandon FDR. Not in the sense that inequality should be addressed and that the government should empower people, but massive federal government in scope and size is not the way to do it. Go into the future and become New Labor, push the government not to intervene and empower. Then go back into the past and find your answers in the states and local governments. It's been a winner for a lot of people before to argue for a reduced scope of government, for individual empowerment over individual entitlement, and for states' rights. It can win again, and it's not alien to the Democratic party, but merely fragments of rhetoric already there and already floating around. Pledge to cut the federal budget, pledge to reduce the role of the federal government in people's lives, pledge to change the aims of that government. You've done it before, and it's time to do it again.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

A Hard Question: The Dems and Abortion

Disclaimer: Everyone now gesticulates and bloviates about how the Dems need to change direction after this election. In most senses, I think that's idiocy. Everyone points to this 3 point defeat in the Prez election and the Senate losses and is ready to label the Democrats extinct. For all purposes, I hope the Republicans make such a tactical error. At the same time, the D's were WAY MORE in danger in 2001-3. They were a party that was looking pretty damn irrelevant after 9/11 and the 2002 midterms, and yet they came back, won two Senate races, and only lost by 3 million votes (less than the population of Northern Virginia.) So the Dems should make some minor retooling, that I agree with, but the party has come a long way since they had their asses handed to them in 2002, and I think it would be a mistake to scrap a lot of the good things that come out of this. So here, I will begin a three part series on issues I think the Dems need to work on. The first one is a big one. Abortion.

Moral Issues carried the day, so I think it's time to say something. It's obvious that the Republicans and the pro-Lifers are WINNING the abortion rights issue. The fact is it's happening so slowly, that the reproductive rights lobby and NARAL haven't even noticed that they have become amoral extremists in the eye of the American public. Here's the frickin genius mind of the genius website of sensible religiosity, Beliefnet's Steve Waldman in Slate

John Kerry had secretly discovered the formula, but he forgot to mention it. In 1997, Kerry voted for an amendment banning abortion of post-viability fetuses. That's perfectly consistent with Roe v. Wade, which also pegged abortion rights to viability, and yet it would have banned more abortions than Bush's partial-birth abortion. Kerry could have talked about his plan to curb late-term abortions—"because that's a life and killing a life is immoral"—and at the same time hammered the Republicans for supporting a constitutional amendment banning ALL abortion. (Yes, that was in the Republican platform. Why didn't Kerry mention that?)

Yet Kerry refused to talk about this—presumably because he didn't want to offend pro-choice voters and fund-raisers. Well, Republican leaders routinely sit down with their interest groups and say, in effect, "Cut me some slack and we'll win this thing." And the interest groups do—and they win. Democratic politicians have to say to pro-choice groups, "You got 100 percent pro-choice purity from the Democratic nominee—and Republican control of the White House, Senate, the House, and Supreme Court. Perhaps we could try a different approach?"


As an ideological pessimist, the Dems approach of never seeing a Pro-Life measure they didn't hate and never seeing a Pro-Choice measure they didn't love bothers me. That, and I'm not truly convinced abortion isn't murder. There, I said it, and it felt good. The Democrats, if they really want to see some motion, need to be more flexible about this. The above Constitutional Amendment Kerry voted for (back when he was actually a very sensible moderate Democrat who had sensible opposition to Affirmative Action and was for reforming Social Security, before he decided to run for President and pander to every Dem interest group there is) is a good start. A good start for the Democrats to shed some of the extreme anchors holding them down and become the party of the middle. Not all choices are good. Not all cells are life. This postion is not ridiculous, it's not gutless, it is in my mind brace. Why not? Why not float something like that? It would please me, because I, like most of America, am made very queasy by partial-birth abortion too. Supporting partial-birth abortion is a TOTAL LOSER, and was potent ammunition against every incumbent D in this election.

The D's need to go the route of sensible pragmatists here and realize the fallacy in pro-choice position that choice is inherently good and that part of the choice here belongs to the fetus. You have to draw lines, as many have said, and I think viability is a damn good one. Then you can really paint the other side as the extreme anti-choicers they are. No doubt I'm going to catch some flack for this. As THK famously said "I'm not 100 percent pro-Choice," and I say that as someone who marched in the March for Women's Lives this year (not because I agreed with a lot of the nutjobs who were in that march, but I do think a lot of the Bush Administration's positions are so extreme as to sometimes endanger women's health). The Abortion Struggle plays further into the R's hands every year. Unless it is rethought, reimagined, retooled, and redeployed in a different, more sensible, less extremist tone the R's will win this war totally and completely. Anyone who stands on the other side of it will be viewed as radical feminazis or amoral atheists (if they aren't already.) I think most Americans feel grayer about abortion than the black and white sides let them have it, and it's time to start catering to that. Bill Clinton appealed to a lot of people by saying he wanted to make abortions "safe, legal, and rare" and I think that is the minimal banner the entire party should take up, and might want to consider taking deeper into the heart of the matter. I'm even pro-parental notification, land sakes, and I don't think it's dangerous for Democratic candidates to be pro-parental notification.

So flame me. Bring it, Skywalker. I only say that because I know you're a pro-lifer who's going to say this disgusting nuanced position is totally principleless. But, then again, I've never been one for principles.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Voice of Reason

Everyone and their mother has linked to this post by the Backseat Philosopher. Read it twice, and call me in the morning.

Centrist Politicians?

The folks over at Centerfield are having a -ahem- field day with this election. (John Edwards trumping Jack Kemp as the worst VP candidate ever? Locoh-Mohsin, would you like to grace us with a rebuttal in the court of public opinion?).

According to Staunchie, their Centrist Coalition membership has just been skyrocketing. Time to start a card-carrying membership page, just like our friends over at the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

I for one would welcome and join a centrist political party in a heartbeat. If not to stave off extremist nutjobs in the GOP and among the Dems, than to be a Titanic-sized thorn in the sides of both.

Have You Hugged Your Democrat This Morning?

In your spare time, take a gander at Slate's series of articles that attempt to answer the question on every Lefty's mind: Why do Americans hate Democrats? Pay particular attention to the pieces by Roberts Reich and Wright. Got morals? Apparently, the Democratic Party could use some of them in the next election. Paging Joe Lieberman...

BTW, all you Redstaters out there, if you enjoy reading the musings of sore losers, read Jane Smiley's take on this "mess". If this article isn't the epitome of 'perceived' Liberal elitism, I don't know what is.

Senseless Criticism: Jigsaw Puzzles

Saw Saw. Honestly, not a bad flick. It was a creative movie, and involved a time distorted-fragmented story (seems to be all the rage now, I'm starting to miss linear movies) with a lot of plot twists. The movie was well-directed, had some sick camera angles, and a generally creative script that borrowed a lot in my estimation from old Hitchcock films. At the core of Saw is the Jigsaw Killer. Instead of normally killing people in a trademark way, this gentleman puts individuals with some major vice that amounts to a way in which they don't fully appreciate their life (a la Seven) in a sadistic trap that will kill them very shortly if they don't manage to figure their way out of it. Only one of his victims has managed to do so as the movie begins.

All this we don't find out immediately though. The movie begins with a man waking up in a full bathtub and struggling his way out to find himself chained to a pipe in a room with Cary Elwes, who is also chained to a pipe. On the floor is a fellow who looks like he blew his brains out with a handgun. They're given cryptic tapes to play with tiny tape players like all of the Jigsaw Killer's other victims that disturbingly tell them the situation they're in. Cary Elwes has to kill poor bathtub man, and bathtub man has to escape. Then someone gets to electroshock them. The rest is filled in through weird cuts to the insane fired cop Danny Glover and generally nasty flashbacks to the Jigsaw Killer's other victims. A lot of these flashbacks are played in fast motion, which makes them incredibly horrifying and disturbing to see people try to navigate a maze of razor wire and run across floors of broken glass, a well as struggle with a face mask that plans to rip them apart.

Generally, it was stylistically impressive and had a creative concept. This would've been a great movie to me, but the acting just started to get over the top at the end. I love Cary Elwes, but SWEET JESUS! He freaks out in a way that makes Tommy Lee Jones in Natural Born Killers look like Ashton Kutcher in level of intensity. Also, the plot got absurdly ridiculous in the last 30 minutes, with an attempt to create a plot twist that nearly derailed the movie. At that point, Saw went from an unsettling thriller to a cartoon spoof. I still liked the movie, and would recommend it for anyone who likes mysteries and thrillers and isn't on the squeamish side. I wouldn't call this "horror", because it belongs more with movies like Seven and Silence of the Lambs than Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Shining.

Bible-Thumping Bitches

I could easily vent tonnage of rants and anger about this election, but I have to look on the bright side. Now I can for four more years unmitigably criticize the man I work for, the organization I work in, and those generally in power. Oh, and the dollar has fallen dramatically in reaction to this. Good news everyone, all those imports we binge on will get even more expensive! As far as I think the best complete roundup of analysis is, the crown goes to Howie Kurtz. He gets the shades of bloggers, newspapers, politicians, and others. I normally think of Howie Kurtz as the man who defines Conflict of Interest, but this roundup is good work.

There are some advantages to being the opposition, and that's that you can say outrageous things. The first thing I'd like to say post-election, is that I AM REALLY GOING TO ENJOY the struggle that will shortly begin in the Republican party. Bush has little room to work with financially to bring about his tax reform and social security plans, with the debt ceiling about to rise. The Rick Santorum wing of Theocratic Republicans obviously delivered the country to Bush on a silver platter. Look at the CNN exit polls there and observe the "Vote by Religion and Attendance," Protestant/Weekly was at 70% for Bush. Whoa. Also, the "moral issues" at 22% every keeps mentioning as THE MOST IMPORTANT issue, and it's not like that was a vague choice. They had A LOT OF OTHER CHOICES. This sets up a problem. Bush owes some of his reelection to the diehard support (read: keeping their mouths shut) of Moderates like Schwarzenegger, Guiliani, Pataki, McCain, Hagel, and others too numerous to mention. Whether they were a real factor or not, these guys have taken it on the chin constantly by having to support things they don't really agree with. Now the Theocrats are in a position to claim this was THEIR election, which will mean these guys will have to stomach MORE things they don't agree with. (Aside: Schwarzenegger was RIGHT today, on the money, when he called the Democrats "losers." Lets break down what he said, though, before any Dem's blood boils. He said that the people of California had rejected the big spending politics completely. That's true. And I think every time Arnold antagonizes these "girly men" he not only comes out right in the end but exposes his opponents for what they are.)

Back to Santorum and Co.'s gang. The answer to that question is "YES". Would they tolerate Rudy for high office? How about Arnold? They are PRO-CHOICERS. I think honestly there's not going to be room in the Republican party for Pro-Choicers much longer. The one thing is, we're going to have a knock-down, drag out Primary Season in 2007 that's going to realy tell us what the result of this election and W.'s next four years really mean.

Also, now the man can't blame things that happen in his second term on Clinton.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Kids Aren't Alright

Now that the elections are over, it's time for our elected officials to finally act like grown-ups. Required reading for the day, brought to you by El Wapo:

"Think about the questions that neither George Bush nor John Kerry would address head-on:

Abu Ghraib -- who are we and what have we taught our children to be?

The clash of civilizations -- why do they hate us and how do we turn that around?

The loss of jobs -- how will we make ends meet and what should we train our kids to do?

Security -- forget the silly window dressing of color coding and Jersey barriers. What changes in our daily lives are necessary to stop them from blowing us up?

And poverty -- exactly how is it possible that we can be so rich, yet be surrounded by people who have so shamefully little and see no way up?"


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Election Night Recap

Cynical Optimist and I started the night out at our friend JM's place in Crystal City, ye olde towne of inspiring architecture. Our political ranting began immediately once C.O. drank numerous Smirnoff Ice's in rapid succession (Yes Cynical Optimist, is in fact, a woman). There was some confusion amongst our party as to whether or not I'm married yet, which I cleared up immediately (For all intents and purposes, YES I AM HITCHED.). Some discussion about party-hopping between Dem and GOP get-togethers became our focus, but was eventually drowned out by our argument about MSNBC's first electoral predictions of several East Coast states.

Following several more Heineken's and a short discussion about the merits of Slate.com's analysis of rich people, CO, JM and I met up with Mr. Proliferation at the Cinema N' Drafthouse in Arlington. Supposedly, it was to be a victory party for the Arlington Young Democrats and some of the local Dem officials.

What started as a raucous, unabashedly hyped-up crowd of well-dressed hippies, turned out to be one of several large groups of Democrats to be put on suicide watch last night. Especially, once Virginia looked to be out of Democratic hands. Luckily, our small group avoided the ups and downs of Peter Jennings' predictions by consuming more than our fair share of movie vittles: Pizza, nachos, beer and sangria.

Yes, I know: Sangria. That's Arlington for you.

Even though CO's idol these days is Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, CO wasn't exactly up to speed on all of the Senatorial races taking place this year. According to him Osama Barak won by a landslide in Illinois last night. Poor guy.

Honestly, I don't think any of us were really disappointed when we heard inklings of Tom Daschle's loss to Thune in South Dakota. A strong parlimentarian maybe, but a leader the Dems could follow, doubtful. Hopefully his successor will serve as a stronger Senate Minority leader for the Dems, if not to prevent "harmful" legislation from passing than to keep the GOP "honest".

Was it really a surprise to anyone that most of the southern Senate seats went to the GOP? The only one that truly surprised me was Lisa "Nepotism" Murkowski's win in Alaska.

Finally, being the old farts we now are, we decided to head home before we stayed out past our normal bedtimes. Of course, I was treated to Mr. Proliferation's rendition of my post-election 2000 reaction to the Bush victory:

"I hate people, people are so stupid. I hate people, people are so stupid."

If not for the sangria, my remarks following the second misunderestimation of Dubya would have trumped my 2000 statement:

"I hate people, people are so stupid....to think that John Kerry could have won in Virginia."

Class Act

Kerry earns his scooby snack today by conceding "early". Even if you hate the guy, you've got to admit, that's a hell of a lot classier than what happened in 2000.

Post-Game Wrap-up

I'm not one to gloat, but it looks like my predictions were the closest (Even though it looks like my total electoral votes number was off a bit):

Bush 50, Kerry 48, Nader 2
Bush - 275, Kerry - 256

And this assumes Colorado splits their electoral votes. Bush wins Ohio, barely, and takes Florida.


According to the folks over at Vodkapundit, it's 286-252, with Bush taking 51% to Kerry's 48% of the popular vote.

What do I win? A punch in the gut maybe?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Vote or Die. . .Trying?

It's over for me at least. Lined up at the polls at 6:30 AM at West Springfield Elementary, and an hour later, I slapped the requisite "I VOTED TODAY" sticker on my shirt pocket. The crowd was definitely bi-partisan, a good sign especially in Virginia. I'm just worried that the long lines will actually discourage voters, especially first timers, from filling out their ballots. And we all know that the larger the turnout, the better the results for the Democrats.