Wednesday, April 30, 2008

for all you little Hulkamaniacs

So, if it stars Edward Norton, Tim Roth, and William Hurt, it has to be good. Right?


Welcome to American history, as brought to you by FOX News. It is the raucous year of Our Lord 1858, and Illinois Senatorial candidate Abraham Lincoln of the fledgling Republican party has a series of contentious debates with Democrat Stephen Douglas prominent abolitionist Frederick Douglass:

UPDATE: It appears the Daily Exorcist has beaten me to the punch on this one. You win this round, Mr. D!!

Schellinger vs. Long Thompson: what will they do?

Via this South Bend Trib article, you can find the actual plans of Jim Schellinger and Jill Long Thompson. As you might expect, there's a lot of overlap between the two. Schellinger's is significantly more detailed, which is nice for the wonkier of us, and he actually makes references to the eventual goal of "universal coverage" for health care, which is a bonus to me. Plus, each candidate has one "big" idea that the other doesn't share: expanding broadband internet across the state for Jill, and 20% of Indiana's energy from renewable sources by 2015 for Jim. Of the two, again, I prefer Schellinger's.

Combined with this gas tax holiday nonsense I gotta say I'm starting to lean Schellinger.

And speaking of assuming the voters are morons, today Thompson fleshed out her plan to cut gas taxes:
Thompson said a cap on the gasoline sales tax when the pump price exceeds $2.75 per gallon would save Hoosiers today 7 cents a gallon or $150 million a year.

"The high cost of oil is having an impact on many, many Hoosier families and it’s important for us to give them a break," Thompson said.

Thompson said such savings would stimulate the state’s economy by allowing families to spend elsewhere.

Wow, that $150 million sounds like a lot. Of course, if there are 6.5 million people in Indiana, then that means every Hoosier will save... $23. Per year. Just shy of two extra dollars a month you can use to "stimulate the economy." What will you do with all that money? Buy a hot dog? Lose it in your couch cushions?

gas taxes and basic economics

Riddle me this, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Jill Long Thompson:

After you dispense with the gas tax, thus lowering the price some $.18, what's to stop the oil companies from raising the price back to where it was before and pocketing that 18 cents for themselves?

I'm not the only one wondering. Paul Krugman:
Why doesn’t cutting the gas tax this summer make sense? It’s Econ 101 tax incidence theory: if the supply of a good is more or less unresponsive to the price, the price to consumers will always rise until the quantity demanded falls to match the quantity supplied. Cut taxes, and all that happens is that the pretax price rises by the same amount. The McCain gas tax plan is a giveaway to oil companies, disguised as a gift to consumers.
The Clinton twist is that she proposes paying for the revenue loss with an excess profits tax on oil companies. In one pocket, out the other. So it’s pointless, not evil. But it is pointless, and disappointing.

Meanwhile, Tom Friedman is apoplectic at the very suggestion of a holiday and what it says about our long-term priorities.

Hey Hoosiers: before you let the gas tax holiday sell you on these clowns, consider that the gas tax fuels (no pun intended) the highway trust fund, which is used by states and localities to build and maintain roads. How were your potholes this winter? Your snow plowing? De-icing? What if next winter is as bad as this past one? Would you rather have your snow plowed and your pot holes filled like last year or would you rather save 18 cents on the gallon at the pump?

You can't have both.

NBC News' complicity in, and defense of, domestic propaganda

Here is an eye-opening piece by Glenn Greenwald on Brian Williams' reaction to revelations in the New York Times that military analysts used on news shows, including NBC News, were coached by the Pentagon to give particular answers to gin up support for the war in Iraq. It's damning.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

is it federalism, or corporatism?

I read a lot of stuff on politics. A lot of stuff on politics. So much goes on, though, that I regularly forget stuff that happened and rediscover it later, or find that I missed something entirely.

Well, I learned something today in the context of the Crazy Train trying to burnish his "populist helper of the poor" cred against former community organizer and civil rights attorney Barack Obama. I never knew that John McCain voted to abolish the federal minimum wage.

they're his base

The Associated Press hops on the Crazy Train. Meanwhile, Josh on McCain's "I didn't say 100 years in Iraq, I just said 100 years in Iraq!" issue:
The rub here is this: McCain does not want to leave Iraq. Period. He wants tens of thousands of troops to stay in Iraq permanently. He made a big point of this during the primaries when it was politically advantageous to do so. And he followed up with a qualifier explaining that it's okay because our occupation of Iraq will soon be like our presence in Germany and Japan where nobody gets killed. But there's little reason to believe our occupation of Iraq will ever be like that. We tried this in Lebanon; the French tried this in Algeria; the British even tried it in Iraq. Western countries have a very poor history garrisoning Muslim countries in the Middle East. Iraq isn't like Germany or Japan, not simply because of the history of the country but because both countries accepted decades-long US deployments as a counterweight to threatening neighbors. The relevant point is that McCain believes American troops should stay in Iraq permanently. His pipe dream about Iraq turning into Germany doesn't change that. It just shows his substitution of wishful thinking for sound strategic judgment.
...The New Yorker's Rick Hertzberg put it all quite elegantly back in January just after McCain started saying this. "McCain," he wrote, "wants to stay in Iraq until no more Americans are getting killed, no matter how long it takes and how many Americans get killed achieving that goal--that is, the goal of not getting any more Americans killed. And once that goal is achieved, we'll stay."

Monday, April 28, 2008

all quotes are taken out of context

...that's why they're "quotes."

That being said, what exactly is "out of context" about the Crazy Train saying we should stay in Iraq for 100 years? He said exactly that-- twice!-- yet on multiple occasions I've heard people say I took his statement "out of context" because "he was talking about a South Korea-type occupation without the casualties we have now."

So McCain only wants to stay long enough to quell violence, so that we can then... stay?

Zachary Roth at the Columbia Journalism Review takes the absurdity even a step further, saying:
It’s clear from this that McCain isn’t saying he’d support continuing the war for one hundred years, only that it might be necessary to keep troops there that long. That’s a very different thing.

Really? How? The fact is that, as long as our soldiers have been in Iraq, there have been terrorists, militias, and warlords killing them, and there's no indication whatsoever that they plan to stop anytime in the foreseeable future. How in this context, then, in the actual real world where real living soldiers live and die, is it possible to "keep troops there" without "continuing the war?"

For that matter, what happens if McCain presses on with the occupation and its attendant casualties for 4 years and the violence doesn't go down? 6? 7? What if the violence goes up? Would he leave?

How, then, is "John McCain wants us to stay in Iraq for 100 years" not perfectly accurate?


Eleanor Clift wrote in Newsweek on Friday:
Hillary lost the media a long time ago through a combination of arrogance and entitlement, but she has won grudging respect in some unlikely quarters. Conservative commentators Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough are openly rooting for her, and Tony Blankley, who first gained notoriety as Newt Gingrich's spokesman, confessed somewhat sheepishly, "She's almost beginning to appeal to me."

Yes, absolutely, if hard-core Republicans who have publicly despised Hillary as a ball-busting, bra-burning "Feminazi" are openly rooting for Hillary to win, it must be because they have developed a respect for her and genuinely would like to see a Hillary Clinton White House.

Behold, the miracle of the ages! Hillary Clinton has converted Pat Buchanan!

This "honesty" factor is why I also love David Brooks so much, because in his columns he sheds all partisan feelings and ideology and takes a fresh, objective view of the world. Then, when he inevitably discovers that the doctrinaire conservative position is the correct one, I know he's telling the truth!

We see this kind of thing happen all the time, and yet no one on TV ever seems to catch this stuff in real time. They never consider that anyone in the media might have ulterior motives because, after all, media figures just comment on the news; they would never desire something so obscene as to affect the news! The notion that even the most partisan Republican, given a news show, would ever cover the news and give commentary with the objective of making it easier for the Republicans to win is absolutely preposterous to these people.

Why, what do you mean Bill Kristol isn't an honest broker?

No one ever asks during the media coverage if maybe there's a hidden agenda behind Bush's (or even, for crying out loud, Karl f**king Rove's!) "concern" that Democrats will hurt themselves by failing to back his proposals. Because if there's anything that keeps the Republican president up at night, it's his concern for the electoral viability of Democrats!

There's one historic incident of someone actually having a real affect on an election with this tactic that still rankles me when I think about it. From Joe Klein at Swampland:
...John McCain is probably the favorite candidate of Osama bin Laden, just as George W. Bush was Osama's presidential preference.

Why? Because both Bush and McCain have bought Osama's disinformation about Iraq being the central front in the war on terrorism. Of course, bin Laden wants the gullible neocons to take the Iraq bait because Afghanistan really is the central front of the war on terrorism--more precisely the Afghan-Pakistani border areas where the real Al Qaeda lives. The war in Iraq has been a grand strategic gift to Osama, keeping the U.S. military tied down elsewhere and off his tail.

Ron Suskind had a relevant scene in his excellent book The One Percent Doctrine: It's the Friday before election day in 2004 and Osama bin Laden has issued a videotape in which he lambastes President Bush. The top dawgs at the CIA are gathered to analyze the tape. Dep. Director John McLaughlin says, "I wonder who Osama is voting for?" Everyone cracks up because the answer is so obvious.

I remember this episode from the tail-end of the 2004 election pretty vividly, and I remember what everyone was saying after this video came out because the obtuseness of it infuriated me. You may recall the manner in which this video was popularized, specifically that it was trumpeted by every conservative and every Republican under the sun as indisputable proof that "Osama wants John Kerry to win," and I don't remember any of the Russerts or Matthews' (or, frankly, Kleins) discussing whether or not Osama was smart enough to bait that hook. Democrats on TV were laughed off the stage if they tried to make that point, and thus were left trying to close the deal for Kerry over the consensus argument that both Bush and bin Laden were unified in their opinion that Bush was "stronger on terrorism."

And 4 years later, when Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough (who became a GOP congressman during Gingrich's Contract with America) publicly root for Hillary Clinton to be president, Eleanor Clift writes it with utter credulity, never once doubting their motives.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Jesus, Krugman, just endorse already!

One of the most disappointing casualties of this protracted primary has been a large measure of my respect for NY Times columnist Paul Krugman. I've very much enjoyed his work over the last several years, but his willingness to pulverize Barack Obama in every single column for the last several months, sometimes on the weakest of pretenses, coupled with his unwillingness either to castigate Clinton or otherwise to just come out and say he supports Clinton, is really irritating.

Most irritating of all, however, is writing an article attacking Obama on a number of different points, every single one of which apply to Clinton as well.

Take today's column, for example. Krugman argues that, if Obama can't defeat Clinton with his big cash advantage and with everything having heard his case and with substantial establishment support, then he's a weak candidate and Democrats should be worried that he can't beat McCain.

Yet it was Hillary Clinton who began the race with universal name recognition, a huge cash advantage she inherited from her senate re-election warchest and Bill's fundraising, and 150 free superdelegates earned before a single vote had been counted. It looks to me like, of the two of them, Obama has been by far the better at "knocking out" his opponent. Others in the media are pointing out today that the results of Pennsylvania's primary actually left her less likely than ever to win the primary because she needed a huge win and didn't get it. Try as she might, she just can't make headway on Barack's delegate lead. The Wall Street Journal flatly asserted that the primary, for all intents and purposes, is over, and that it will be McCain vs. Obama in November, one way or another.

Krugman also argues that Obama's soaring rhetoric means "not much" to working families, judging from Ohio and PA (I guess there isn't a large number of working families in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, Alabama, or Missouri). Can we not argue by the same token Colorado and DC proved that Clinton has failed to endear herself to college graduates and young people, and has actually burned her bridges with the African American community?

Why does Obama keep losing "big states," you ask? This is not a difficult question, Paul. Both candidates are extremely strong. Democrats really like both candidates. They both can raise a ton of cash and have locked down support in various sections of the Democratic electorate. And both are (now) liked by the establishment.

Clinton is loved among working class, less educated people and older Dems, so she does well in Appalachia, and she's also nursed a great relationship with the Hispanic community, putting her in a strong position in the Southwest. Obama has captured the hearts of African Americans, giving him a virtual stranglehold over the South, but also is respected and trusted among people on the ideological periphery of both parties, port side, starboard, and under the main mast, making him an unusually strong competitor in the Great Plains and Mountain West. Both candidates are too good to lose any of their demographic strongholds, so they trade victories depending entirely on which populations comprise the largest percentage of a given state's voters.

These are simple and obvious realities, and if Krugman were an honest player in this discussion he would see them plain as day. I expected a lot more of him than this.

IN-02: isn't SCHIP a government-run program?

From The South Bend Tribune:
SOUTH BEND -- The health care system needs reform but U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, says it shouldn't be through a government-run program.

Insurance companies currently have a lot of control in the system and the playing field needs to be more level with patients, Donnelly said in a phone interview with The Tribune on Wednesday.

He said he supports the re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada to help senior citizens save money.

Donnelly said Medicare Part D must be changed to remove the coverage gap, or the "doughnut hole." The hole lies between $2,250 and $5,726 in total prescription drug spending, where a participant has to pay for all of their drug costs until they reach the out-of-pocket protection threshold.

If Congress could negotiate drug prices with drug companies, prescription drug prices would drop, Donnelly said, shrinking the doughnut hole and helping senior citizens save money. He said seniors eligible for the Veterans Affairs program are already paying 42 percent less on their drugs, because the VA negotiates prices with pharmaceutical companies.

Donnelly said he supported renewal of the national State Children's Health Insurance Program, which would have provided health care for 98,000 children in Indiana. SCHIP was enacted in 1997 to last for 10 years and expired last September.

These Hoosiercrats piss me off to no end. Using "government-run" as a pejorative? What is this, 1985? News flash, Donnelly, people vote for Democrats because they don't want the government to be run by free market fundamentalists and corporatist sellouts. Or were we not supposed to notice that you don't support programs competing with corporate middle-men, but you do support programs subsidizing their profits?

John McCain opposes equal pay law

The title, borrowed from the Washington Post, pretty much says it all:
NEW ORLEANS -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who skipped a Senate vote seeking equal pay for women last night in order to campaign for president, said he opposed the measure because it would prompt a flood of lawsuits.

Senate Republicans defeated the bill yesterday on a vote of 56 to 42, by blocking a full debate and vote on the bill. Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) both returned to Washington in order to support the measure, which is aimed at responding to a recent Supreme Court decision that sets a deadline on how quickly workers must sue over pay discrimination. The presumptive GOP nominee is visiting poor communities throughout the nation, including towns in Alabama and Appalachia; today he toured New Orleans' Ninth Ward.

"I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what's being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems," McCain told reporters yesterday. "This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system."

As Echidne asks, how exactly would McCain equalize pay in this country without lawsuits? For Crazy Train, equal pay for equal work isn't worth it if it means the government having to regulate or enforce anything. Some principles.

Women. Always bitching about equal pay. If they want money so badly, why don't they just marry into a wealthy family? Ya know, like John McCain did!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Justice Thomas, at least put down the magazine"

Saw this last night. James Spader as Alan Shore from Boston Legal arguing against the death penalty before the Supreme Court. The whole clip is worth a watch, but starting at 3:20 there's a brilliant indictment of the Court, and from my perspective a great argument why a Democrat, any Democrat, needs to be elected to the White House in the fall.

Heil Zirkle!

Ah, how we've missed you Tony Zirkle! From WSBT South Bend:
SOUTH BEND – Tony Zirkle, Republican candidate for 2nd District congressman, said he is willing to talk to any group that invites him, and that’s why he addressed a weekend gathering in Chicago of the American National Socialist Workers Party.

The occasion was a celebration of the 119th anniversary of the birth of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

That would be a pretty fun article by itself, but Der Zirklefuehrer didn't stop there. He also let them take pictures.

And that, of course, is awesome. Especially awesome here is the children's party store "Happy Birthday" strung across the table. But not nearly as awesome as THE FREAKIN' VIDEO OF HIS SPEECH.

For those of you not familiar with South Bend politics, this is another famous episode in the saga of the Zirkle:
Tony Zirkle says we should talk about segregating the United States by race.

So then you work out the percent of white people and give them a certain number of states. Same for blacks. Same for Asians and other hues of humanity.

Zirkle, who’s seeking the Republican nomination for Congress’ 2nd District, believes it’s worth debating.

“I’m not going to say which side of the debate I fall on,” Zirkle told The Tribune on Monday. But he did say the idea is worth looking into - that segregation could create a new sense of community.

Zirkle is known for suggesting controversial ideas, as in 2006 when he said there should be a debate over using the guillotine to punish "porn pimps" who prey on children.

if Democrats were Republicans


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Much ado about little

Current delegate counts out of Pennsylvania have Clinton gaining on Obama's 160 delegate lead by...

[drum roll]


There were 158 delegates at stake in PA. There are 157 at stake in NC and IN.

According to the New York Times, people are now zeroing in on the Hoosier State as Obama's last chance to sew this thing up:
The Indiana primary, on the same day, poses another make-or-break moment for Mrs. Clinton, according to several of her advisers, who said they would urge her to quit the race if she lost that state. Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Clinton and their allies have campaigned frequently in Indiana in recent weeks, and she has some important endorsements, including support from Senator Evan Bayh, the state’s former governor.

“She has to win Pennsylvania and Indiana — pretty much everyone in the campaign agrees on that,” said one senior Clinton adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the campaign’s electoral expectations.

Quit the race? It ain't gonna happen, folks. This has gotten so easy to predict: in about a week, after enough polls have been done to give us a sense of who's likely to win Indiana, the Clinton campaign will either say "It all comes down to Indiana" if they're up, or "Indiana doesn't matter; Democrats never win it anyway. Besides, isn't like half of it Chicago?" if they're down.

The only people who can stop this thing are the supers, and they're busy doing what politicians do best: standing in a circle and pointing at the guy to their left.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania primary: what's it gonna be?

Lots of good analysis of late polls out there, most accessible via TPM. Looks like there may be a late break toward Clinton, though that isn't a consensus opinion. My suspicion is that there is.

My prediction ('cuz what's the fun in watching polls and not trying to predict the spread?): Clinton by 10, 55-45. Like with every other major primary this year, just enough that the results falls within both campaign's goalposts of "victory."

Monday, April 21, 2008

military analysts: the "Trojan Horse" of the military-industrial complex

A longy but a goodie from The New York Times.

nothing says "working class" like capital gains!

Here is a great article from Frank Rich on the debate as one piece of the media's hypocritical, condescending, and tone-deaf appeals to class.

It includes a truly rare find, a thing so utterly bizarre and mind-blowing that people will travel from miles away to gaze at it, befuddled by its sheer novelty, like a two-faced baby or a 20 foot long squid: an actual, substantive critique of the Crazy Train by someone in the press, and not in the "I'll take one minor swipe at McCain to lend my savaging of the Democrats an aura of even-handedness" way.

Friday, April 18, 2008

San Francisco, "Land of fruits and nuts"

I wonder when was the last time people bashed a city renowned as a conservative/Republican stronghold, one GOP presidential candidate gleefully joined in on the mugging, and not one Republican stuck up for them?

Imagine what would happen if John McCain was in Montgomery or Provo and said something arguably disparaging about liberals or seculars! Would anyone implicate the town he was in as somehow partly responsible for the slight? For that matter, would anyone come to the defense of liberals or seculars?

Not only does the very mention of San Francisco impugn a candidate's non-liberal credibility, but there's apparently nothing you can say about this city of several million people that is considered beyond the pale, as when Bill O'Reilly said he thinks we should let terrorists attack it. Yet the only person in the media I've ever seen defend Frisco is Markos. And he's a blogger, not a pundit in the traditional media.

a corollary to the class conversation-- who is not "middle class?"

In a city where everybody makes a lot of money, prices rise so high that the moderately rich live like middle-class people. Just because the United States has a dozen of these communities doesn't mean that $200k is middle class.

Also, if you make enough money that the interest/capital gains on your money is enough for you to live on, you're rich. Never in the history of the world have people made enough money that they could stop working (without government help, anyway) and not been called "rich." Just because you're bad with your money and blow it all trying to have the most expensive stuff doesn't make you middle class.

Put another way, it's stupid to define rich as "having more money than you could possibly spend." As we've seen with powerball winners, people can spend a shitload of cash if they're undisciplined with their finances.

Obviously, it's extremely difficult to develop objective criteria for the boundaries marking off middle class (or, perhaps, the middle classes) from rich and poor. Poor is obvious: if there is a legitimate concern that you may not be able to afford food until the next paycheck, you are poor. Rich is somewhat more difficult, mainly because it's somewhat of a taboo in this country to admit that you're rich, but there's one solid criterion: if work has never been a necessity for you, you're rich.

The problem with our discourse hinges mainly on the fact that there is a group of people who do work or have worked but should by most standards be considered rich. Because of said taboos, however, we allow them to call themselves "upper middle class" (and even "middle class" in some cases) and they skew perceptions of economic class because they don't really belong in the same group with everybody else.

The median household income in this country is $48,201. If your household brings in $60k, you're in the 60th percentile of income earners (as in, 59% of the country makes less than you). If you would consider a 60k/year home to be "poor," you're probably rich. Yes, even if you live in New York, and even if you still have to work, and even if you're living paycheck to paycheck because you're still paying off the million dollar house and the Land Rover and your kid's private school and the credit cards.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

worst. debate. ever.

Thanks, Charlie and George. I was hoping to get another chance to see a bunch of smarmy jackasses with empty lapels grill Barack for leaving his flag pin at home.

The papers weren't too impressed, either. Here's Tom Schales from The Washington Post on Charles Gibson's antics:
Gibson sat there peering down at the candidates over glasses perched on the end of his nose, looking prosecutorial and at times portraying himself as a spokesman for the working class. Blunderingly he addressed an early question, about whether each would be willing to serve as the other's running mate, "to both of you," which is simple ineptitude or bad manners. It was his job to indicate which candidate should answer first. When, understandably, both waited politely for the other to talk, Gibson said snidely, "Don't all speak at once."

And on George Stephanopoulos:
He came up with such tired tripe as a charge that Obama once associated with a nutty bomb-throwing anarchist. That was "40 years ago, when I was 8 years old," Obama said with exasperation.

My favorite Stephanopoulos question:
Senator, two questions. Number one, do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?

Are you f**king kidding me?

Andrew Sullivan on the content of the questions:
No questions on the environment, none on terror, none on interrogation, none on torture, none on education, none on spending, none on healthcare, none on Iran ... but four separate questions in the first hour about a lapel-pin, Bitter-gate, Wright-gate and Ayers.

In fact, DHinMI at dKos kept a tally of subjects the moderators never touched in the 2 hours they had with the candidates:
The financial crisis
The collapse of housing values in the US and around the world
Health care
The declining value of the US Dollar
The decline of American manufacturing
The Supreme Court
The burgeoning world food crisis.
Global warming
The attacks on organized labor and the working class
Terrorism and al Qaeda
Civil liberties and constraints on government surveillance

We also found out about Charles Gibson's-- and, today, the NYT's Adam Nagourney's-- view that the middle class includes "those making less than $200,000 to $250,000 a year." This means that "middle class" includes people in the top 4% of US households. Put another way, these people would have us believe that households making $25k/year and $250k/year belong in the same wealth class.

This is actually a recurring issue with Gibson. I was reminded today that it was Gibson at another Dem debate at St. Anselm's college earlier this year who said that, if you look at a household with two college professors, you're looking at a household that brings in 200k/year. That question was met with such loud snickers and laughter in the crowd that it led John Edwards to smirk and respond: "I don't think they agree with you."

To put it in perspective, I know a woman who recently landed a tenure-track gig at a major public university in Texas. She was highly sought after, having turned down an offer from Clemson in the process. Her salary: around $45k. That's slightly more than a typical librarian's salary. In some cases, professors make less than K-12 teachers.

Guess who thought ABC's questions were "excellent?"

David Brooks.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Carnack the Magnificent

From The Hill:
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the Democratic Party’s 2000 vice presidential nominee, is leaving open the possibility of giving a keynote address on behalf of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) at the Republican National Convention in September.

Republicans close to the McCain campaign say Lieberman’s appearance at the convention, possibly before a national primetime audience, could help make the case that the presumptive GOP nominee has a record of crossing the aisle. That could appeal to much-needed independent voters.
“If Sen. McCain, who I support so strongly, asked me to do it, if he thinks it will help him, I will,” Lieberman said in a brief interview.

No one could have predicted that this would happen.

Let's hope the Democrats have learned from this one. Holy Joe has held them hostage for the last 2 years, repeatedly breaking promises to them, stabbing them in the back, and carrying water for the GOP in the media. Just in the last two days, not only has he volunteered to speak at the GOP convention but he insinuated that Barack Obama is a Communist. I don't know that there's any Republican out there that's done more to damage the Democratic party than Joe Lieberman.

There is only one possible response the party can give: after the Dems pad their majority in November, strip him of his chairmanships (of which he's been grossly neglectful anyway) and committee assignments and dare him to jump, stipulating that, if he does, they will give full-throated and deep-pocketed support to Ned Lamont in 2012. This ends now.

Indiana Dems: like Republican wannabes

Yesterday Democratic gubernatorial candidates Jill Long Thompson and Jim Schellinger debated in Fort Wayne. One of them is a gajillionaire who wants to run the government like a business and the other one boasts that she's never ever raised a single tax, which is going to be extremely helpful in a period when schools are overcrowded, all the roads are covered with potholes, and the same candidate wants to extend broadband lines to rural communities.

What I've really been looking for in a governor is someone who's either going to a) punt on all the truly difficult decision-making and leave it to someone else to cover the budget, or b) someone who will approach every difficult decision thinking to himself, "Hmm, what would someone who does a job with completely different objectives than mine do?"

The problem with Indiana Democrats is they honestly believe everyone's a Republican, so they just run as more sensible (or, in some cases, less sensible) Republicans, trying to slip the occasional logical position into a plan that's otherwise designed to out-Republican the Republicans.

"Yeah, I might be the guy who's against selling off all the state's property to foreign investors, but I'll run the government as a for-profit entity that operates purely out of self-interest! Out-capitalism that, bitchez!"

"Sure, I believe that the government should create some kind of, ya know, infrastructure, but don't worry, I'll make sure it does so without spending money!"

"Yes, admittedly, I'm not sure all liberals should be put to death, but I've built an entire church out of guns!"

I'm not sanguine about this gubernatorial election.

there's always an agenda

Sometimes people ask me why I don't like David Brooks' columns. "He seems like a reasonable Republican," they tell me. Aside from his, shall we say, revisionist take on his own opinions once they're found to be wrong/stupid/unpopular, my problem with Brooks is that he's an active moving part of the conservative media machine, of Clinton's "vast right wing conspiracy": I firmly believe that virtually every column he writes is in the service of the Republican agenda, and written specifically to further the needs of the national Republican party. Timothy Noah once referred to him as "the right's ambassador to the liberal establishment," and I think that's a pretty good characterization. I don't like Brooks because his bias is the most insidious kind.

Take this week's column, for example. Reading it in a bubble, it sounds like Brooks really is my kind of conservative. He actually cares about the plight of working class people losing their jobs, and has even thought about it enough to speak somewhat intelligently about the reasons why their jobs are disappearing! And good on him for taking a presidential candidate to account for relying on the same old boogeymen instead of talking about root causes!

But wait, I then think to myself, it's a funny coincidence that the Republicans have decided that they'd rather run against Clinton than Obama, and that the longer it takes for Obama to put the race away, the better the chances for McCain in November. And wow, Brooks has become an advocate of the workin' man just in time to write a strikingly venomous column against Obama (and he even references the "bitter" controversy)... one week before the Pennsylvania primary, the biggest one left! And it is just damn coincidental that Pennsylvania is filled to the brim with laid off industrial workers! And how about that: that's exactly the group Clinton and Obama are fighting over in this last week! And come to think of it, the Clinton campaign and the Republicans in tandem have been focusing their message on the charge of "elitism" (i.e., anti-working class) against Obama for about a week now!

Imagine that.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


If you're voting for Hillary Clinton because you want a president who's an average Joe you can have a beer with, you need to have your head examined.

That being said, I do think audience reaction to the phenomenon of national politicians coming to a certain region and hanging out in the local diner or partaking of regional fare needs to be reexamined. When people from Brooklyn see John McCain try to fold a slice of New York style pizza, or Pennsylvanians see Hillary Clinton take a shot of Crown Royal, or Benders see Barack Obama order food at the Sunrise Cafe, are they really thinking "wow, he/she really is one of us!"?

I think not.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Guest Post! [plus redistricting!]

..and now, A TOTAL STRANGER!!



thank you! ... thanks!

[continued applause]

...really, thanks!


So MBATR's esteemed host has done messed up and given me permission to drop a guest post or three to his excellent blog, and I'm just dangerous enough to use it. As former roommates it's clear we can't get enough of each other. Also, there are certain topics that I won't really be able to broach in broad daylight in my own blog because of certain professional affiliations that I have. As such, I'm going to have to keep the politics down over there and maybe let them play a bit over here.

Enough intros, on to content:

I was headed to lunch last Friday (...mmm, Chipotle) and heard an interesting interview on NPR with a man named Thomas L. Brunell, who has just published a book that argues a very strange idea. The book is called "Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America" and the title pretty well spells out the premise of Brunell's argument.

In a nutshell, Brunell argues the following:

-in competitive districts a large number of voters end up dissatisfied with the representation that gets elected. If a congressional seat elects a republican by a margin of 52% to 48%, then generally some 40% or so of the electorate ends up pretty darn dissatisfied with the representation that they see in office for that term.

-re-drawing districts along party lines (as we have them down here in Texas)actually minimizes the marginalizatoin the voters who suddenly have no candidate to support. In other words, if the a district were drawn so that 90% of the voters were republican, then the 10% non-republican populace that will eventually be discontented with its elected representation is in fact a much smaller number than to 45% or so that the number would otherwise have been.

-campaigns should be fought in the primaries instead of the general elections. Brunell argues that there is no evidence that two Republicans campaigning hard against one another tends to bend both candidates to the right. I disagree with that out of personal experience, but I'll get to that in a moment.

-if larger numbers of the populace are satisfied with their elected representatives then better laws end up being made because there is more participation encouraged between govt and populace.

So that's what he laid out there. For what it's worth, I think that Krys Boyd did a fair job of poking at the various weaknesses in Brunell's arguments and generally forcing him to defend his positions. Despite that, I still found myself stewing while eating my righteous veggie burrito.

Here are the specific things that I really have problems with in Brunell's arguments:

-Brunell's plan ignores the concept that people of one party can be dissatisfied with representatives of their own party. Lieberman supporters certainly can testify here, as can any homophobes who put Larry Craig in office. Boyd pressed him on this fact, but his answer did not satisfy.

-Brunell's plan locks the two party system even further into place. I consider this to be a very bad thing for the US population, as party gateways to elected offices guarantee even further elitism and exclusivity for people that seek public service. In the current setup you need more that a great resumé, loads of cash, and a network of public backers and financiers to get elected to anything, you also need party affiliation. In my opinion that is one of the elements of the system that keeps the people most suited to run this place out of office.

-Brunell's plan leaves to partisans the process of divvying up prospective voters, which is just asking for corruption and deceit. I mean c'mon, who's supposed to draw these maps anyway? Delay did one here in Texas, and [as maps go] it's flat out malicious.

so enough bashing of the poor man. What are the solutions?

I've long held that the ideal electoral maps would be based purely on population. This means that electoral maps would essentially mirror population density maps. Political affiliations, race and income demographics, and historical voting trends would [and should] be ignored. On further reflection though, it seems that I'd be in danger of creating a sort of de-facto version of Brunell's plan, by creating a number of small, dense urban districts to compete against a number of sparse, sprawling rural districts, with a kind of suburban "fade" in-between. This would also intrinsically give democrats [historically well supported by urbanites] a big advantage, since many would be able to hold town-hall meetings at some urban school within 3 miles of every member of their voting districts, whereas rural candidates [who are traditionally republican] would be left campaigning in districts that are geographically orders of magnitude larger, forcing expenditures either in travel or television advertising to reach the voters.

The only other possibility that I can think of off the top of my head would be to randomly assign registered votes a voting district when they register. This district would be unassociated with any geographical, political, or otherwise sliceable demographic, and would be purely statistical randomness. This would purely level the playing field for all candidates since their respective constituencies would be scattered throughout the state. Direct mail and the internet would be the primary campaigning mechanisms, since radio and television buys wouldn't penetrate enough of the electorate to be worth the expense. Of course, election technology would have to catch up to the freakin' modern age in order for this to be feasible, but that's not unattainable. Also, the tradeoff would be that town hall meetings and other personal interfaces with the officials would be effectively discouraged.

I still haven't come up with a perfect solution. any thoughts?

Obama on rural insecurity and guns in 2004 on Charlie Rose

h/t Josh Marshall:

Can I just point out that the former first lady of the United States with a $109 million net worth just called a guy from a single parent household, with 1% of her net worth, an elitist?

Clinton's willingness to misrepresent Obama's point and muddle a potentially helpful discussion on Democrats, rural voters, and GGG issues (God, guns, and gays) is particularly irritating to me. It really bothers me that Clinton thinks rural voters are so foolish as to fall for this rubbish. It bothers me even more than all of Clinton's arguments against Obama are ones that, at the end of the day, will benefit McCain more than anyone in the general election.

Thanks a lot, Hillary.

Obama responds to Clinton and McCain:

The one thing that hasn't surprised me at all about this episode, however, is the beltway boys' shallow coverage of what Obama said. Washington pundits generally suffer from the delusion that they represent the workin' man, that their values are those of "small town America." Tim "Pumpkinhead" Russert never shuts up about his childhood in Buffalo. David Broder goes on his annual sojourn outside the Beltway to report on regular people's opinions, which always end up-- miraculously!-- conforming to his own. David Brooks sneers at bourgeois hipster "Bobos" and their blend of liberal idealism and Reagan-era selfishness without the slightest hint of irony, utterly blind to the plain truth that your average Whole Foods- and Ikea-shopping, artsy, wine-drinking secularist is a model Everyman compared to carpetbagging neoconservatives like Brooks. And Joe Scarborough wants a manly man president who can bowl and clear brush.

Want some wood?

Yet, when the news camera actually zeroes in on Pennsylvania and Ohio and West Virginia, we find that these Washington pundits' perception of the citizens of flyover country is that they (we? probably not) are prudish, highly judgmental, instantly shut off all critical thinking skills when they see a flag, and absolutely unable or unwilling to see that voting for the party of "God, guns, and gays" means voting against the party that wants to provide them more economic support.

I do have one question, though: it's awfully hard to argue that the press isn't actively trying to influence the race, to tar a candidate with a particular brush, when the 3 big stories of the last week are "Obama calls rural voters bitter," "Obama orders orange juice at diner in South Bend," and "Obama's a bad bowler." Do they just not care anymore if we know that they're in the tank for McCain?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

the practice of professional punditry: an analogy

I guess I'm feeling a little choleric today.

that's you and me they're screwing

From The Washington Independent:
Well, there's a fine way to thank the U.S. government for its trouble: Bloomberg reports that investment banks may be packaging high-risk corporate loans into securities to use as collateral for borrowing from the Federal Reserve.

You might recall that the Federal Reserve last month opened its discount window for borrowing money at cheap rates to non-banks for the first time since the Great Depression. It was a radical step, aimed at easing the credit crunch and unlocking the markets.

Remember, folks, where does the Fed's money come from? Our taxpayer dollars. And what happens if the junk loans (aka. "Big Shitpile") go into default after they get turned over to the Fed?

If I had to guess, I'd say the financial institutions who used them as collateral will say to the Fed, "Actually, we're gonna pass on the whole 'paying you back' thing. You can keep our 'collateral.'"

And that, my friends, is the story of how we bailed out the banks and financial institutions who spent the last decade yoking us to permanent, crushing debt.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

he really doesn't take lobbyist money

This, if true, is really impressive.

Obamarama is right around the Bend

That's right, folks, Barack Obama is coming to South Bend! We've got "tickets," though we're a little worried about early we have to get in line (doors open at 8pm). I say "tickets" in quotation marks because I have a suspicion that it's totally open to the public and the "tickets" were just an excuse to snag our contact info and of whomever we invited. It's fine, though, they already had all that info.

And for you Benders, no, it's not "hypocritical" for the South Bend School Corp. to allow Obama to use Washington High. Their reason for keeping Clinton out was that it was a "distraction" to students and that they would be a "captive audience," and that there would be security concerns for them. This week, however, is spring break so there will be no students, which obviates the reasons for keeping the politicians out. My understanding is that this is a longstanding policy, so there's no indication of changing the rules for Obama. More likely, the policy was made back when no one would ever have thought that two candidates of this caliber would still be fighting for the nomination by the time Indiana's number came up, and when the call came from the Clinton campaign, the bureaucrat who answered the phone lacked the sense or the initiative to defy policy for such an event.

The policy is stupid, and I hope the school corp. has learned a lesson from this mess, but as the adage goes, there is no need to ascribe to malice what can easily be explained by incompetence.

Friday, April 04, 2008


The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Crazy Train is one of relatively few politicians who have been in federal office so long that, in 1983, he had the opportunity to vote on the establishment of a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

He voted nay.

In his defense, he was a maverick then, too: most other Republicans voted in favor.

Chris Matthews gets burned by Barack


Worst President Ever

61% of historians agree. Seriously:
In an informal survey of 109 professional historians conducted over a three-week period through the History News Network, 98.2 percent assessed the presidency of Mr. Bush to be a failure while 1.8 percent classified it as a success.

Asked to rank the presidency of George W. Bush in comparison to those of the other 41 American presidents, more than 61 percent of the historians concluded that the current presidency is the worst in the nation’s history. Another 35 percent of the historians surveyed rated the Bush presidency in the 31st to 41st category, while only four of the 109 respondents ranked the current presidency as even among the top two-thirds of American administrations.
“No individual president can compare to the second Bush,” wrote one. “Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world’s goodwill. In short, no other president’s faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large.”

Ouch. Can't be good for his BFF John "Crazy Train" McCain.

It was "All Along the Watchtower?"

The 6 on the left could be pointing at the "Jesus" 6 in the red dress, or she could be pointing past her to...?

The imminent 4th season of "Battlestar Galactica" gets a send-up in The New York Times.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

stupid is contagious

From a local Orlando station:
A recent survey that found some Florida teens believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy has prompted lawmakers to push for an overhaul of sex education in the state.

The survey showed that Florida teens also believe that smoking marijuana will prevent a person from getting pregnant.

State lawmakers said the myths are spreading because of Florida's abstinence-only sex education, Local 6 reported.

It's worth repeating that there's a strain of conservatives-- call them "pro-STD conservatives" or "Christians for the Clap"-- who are not at all bothered by the evidence that abstinence-only sex ed engenders ignorance, proto-folksy magic rituals, and increased incidences of STDs, nor will they be sad when some of these kids inevitably contract something, because abstinence-only sex ed is not about saving kids from the STDs or pregnancy or AIDS: it's about using fear to keep kids from sinning.

Think about it: if these conservatives were really out for fewer STDs and teen pregnancies, then they’d be on board with comprehensive sex ed, seeing as pretty much every study shows that it’s effective at lowering the frequency of said conditions, while abstinence-only is not. They would similarly be on board with mandating HPV vaccinations, which would save countless lives of women who will otherwise die from cervical cancer.

They’re not on board, though, and appeals to the efficacy for both programs (comprehensive sex ed and HPV vaccinations) fall on deaf ears because that’s not really the objective of the Right's moralistic sociopaths. The objective is to make kids stop having sex, and safer sexual practices and medical breakthroughs are actually an impediment to that objective because it makes sex less dangerous. Furthermore, STDs separate the wheat from the chaff because those who contract STDs “deserve it” for engaging in wicked acts.

The difference between social liberals and social conservatives is that liberals see abstinence as a way to keep kids from contracting deadly diseases, and conservatives see deadly diseases as a way to keep kids abstinent.

Scapegoating Dean

Howard Dean comes from outside of Washington. He's never been that close to Washington culture; he doesn't have a ton of contacts that owe him favors or go to all the cocktail parties there, and the Washington political and media elite don't consider Dean to be one of them. He goes home on the weekends and stays in a hotel while he's in DC. The Clintons don't particularly like Howard Dean, partly because they've never been close or worked in the same circles, partly because of significantly differing ideologies of how to manage a national party, and partly because Dean did something completely unexpected from a DNC chair when two big, swaggering, powerful swing states decided to flout the universally accepted party rules and cut to the front of the line: he put his foot down, and hasn't budged since. He doesn't even try to contact their party heads to stroke their egos or listen to their whining.

Curiously, Adam Nagourney and The NY Times think this is a bad thing.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

the credit crunch is over! Yay!

Does this seem foolishly optimistic to anyone else?

sustainable living: cleaning chemicals 101

I was planning to do a post today on effective simple alternatives to all those chemical cleaners that we use around the house, but Grims beat me to it! I highly recommend checking out her suggestions, especially the club soda one, which I can vouch for from personal experience as amazing. Windex has spent decades charging you extra money for an obnoxiously scented, less effective alternative to club soda. God bless capitalism!

Replacing a couple of your most used cleaners will rid your home of a number of chemicals that are environmentally destructive. After all, usually that's exactly why you bought them in the first place-- because they're toxic to microorganisms/fungi/plants/insects or they disperse lipids. The problem with using them is that they continue to do their job after they end up in the water supply, wreaking havoc on natural ecosystems and causing fertility problems across the food chain as they are consumed by organisms. Prolonged exposure to certain household cleaners can also cause asthma and other health problems to humans. Meanwhile, the more bacteria are exposed to antibacterial products, the more quickly they develop resistance to them, just as with antibiotics, ultimately leading to things like MRSA. And, of course, the simpler alternatives are often much cheaper. Why buy a chemical disinfectant cleaner for your kitchen, and another for your floor, plus a can of air freshener, when a mix of vinegar and water will do all these things? Why tolerate the horrible ammonia smell of bathroom cleaners and deal with dangerous chemicals when baking soda will clean anything off of your tub and tea tree oil in water will leave your bathroom surfaces sparkling and actually smelling pleasant?

There are a number of books on the subject, but we bought Green House, Green Planet which we swear by at the Ranch. We've slowly been replacing our chemicals with safe alternatives, making one switch, evaluating it for a while to make sure it works, then throwing the old stuff out and making another switch, etc. It happens in fits and starts, so that one month we'll toss three cleaners, and then won't make any more changes for a couple months. So far we've made all the switches I've referenced above, plus switched from Raid ant killer to soap and water. And yeah, that really does work, and it won't kill the cats. Which is sometimes a good thing.

Joe Scarborough wants Walter Sobchak for president

Joe Scarborough's dream candidate says, "You want a toe?"

It truly blows my mind that, after the debacle that was the 2004 elections and the widespread acknowledgment that the media f**ked up an entire election by going all lizard brain on John Kerry, that a "serious" pundit with his own MSNBC show would say something this alpha-moronic:
You know, Willie, the thing is, Americans want their president, if it's a man, to be a real man. They -- 1984, I remember Ronald Reagan goes to South Boston. He holds up that beer mug --


SCARBOROUGH: -- in that South Boston pub, and everybody's like, "He's a real man," and I guess Barack Obama's trying to do the same thing, too.

Yeah, Joe, 'cuz you're a real man, what with your bottled water and high-thread-count black sweater. Real salt of the earth.

What do you think are the chances Joe Scarborough can bowl a 200?

Seriously, though, we can take it as a given that, whenever a pundit says "Americans want...," what they actually mean is "I think I'm an average American, and I want..." Joe, then, is telling us he actually believes it when Republicans do their "Man Show" act. Joe Scarborough saw wealthy professional actor Ronald Reagan have a beer in Southie and actually believed that he was a working class beer swillin' man's man at heart, who could have been on Bass Masters or had his own carpentry show had he not opted for politics instead. What do you think are the chances he feels a little safer in his bed when he sees draft-dodging New England aristocrat George W. Bush in jeans and a cowboy hat clearing brush on his livestock-free ranch? Whether a president can bowl a 200 matters to this douchebag, and he thinks it should matter to you, too.

This is a moment where it's useful to remember that the star of "Morning Wood Joe" was a Republican congressman. Tom Tomorrow once wrote a fine cartoon about the kind of candidate Republicans really want. Then again, I'm hearing that this story bubbled up in other parts of the media cesspool as well.