Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Careful With That Axle, Eugene

posted by Jazz at 1/08/2005 03:04:00 PM

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As Bilbo once cautioned Frodo, you have to be very careful when you step out your door and onto the road. You never know where you might be swept off to. So it goes on the highways and byways of the blogosphere as well. (Caution: Decidedly non-political content ahoy.)

So there I was, innocently taking a stroll along Blog Street, USA. I stopped by the new site of Libertarian Girl. It seems that, only a few days after hanging up her shingle, and before the paint had even dried, she was viciously attacked (and probably rightfully so) by another blog I hadn't heard of... Why I Hate DC.

This attack spawned a fairly long comment flurry which can amuse you for a fair amount of time. In it, however, one comment caught my eye. It came from a poster with a handle of "Vixen." Now, seeing such a name, I naturally assumed (as I'm sure any of you would) that this person was some sort of expert on Santa's Reindeer. Being both an aficionado and connoisseur of all things Northpoleian, I had to stop by her blog, Brutal Honesty. Brutal it was, but some of her comments about cheating on every relationship she's ever been in kind of turned me off.

That did not, however, stop me from perusing her blogroll. (I'm such a perverted little peeping tom that way, I know.) That's when it hit me. The name just jumped off the page and burned through my eyes and into the back of my few remaining brain cells. Angela Bowers: Tales from under the bar. I was entranced, like the cobra staring into the eyes of the mongoose until it's just one second too late. I clicked. I read. I knew I'd found a winner.

Angela is in New York City and apparently is highly engaged in the various social circles of Gotham's drinking class. I wonder if we couldn't hook her up with NYC Babylon for some sort of debauchery filled bar crawl with live wi-fi blogging from each stop? I think people would pay good cash money to tune in.

While I go and make several new additions to the non-political section of my blogrolls, take a glance at Angela's blow by blow description (no... there's no oral sex involved, you pervs. Well... at least not that's mentioned) of her entire New Year's Eve. It shall be, as they say, worth the trip.

It's a Hard Rain Gonna Fall

posted by Jazz at 1/08/2005 02:29:00 PM

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The Powerloons should really never try to quote Bob Dylan, particularly when trying to defend various Machiavellian action figures in the Bush toy chest. This week, they swing... they Miss! But Tbogg catches them at it.
So, if I'm not mistaken, the Big Trunk defends the Administration's enabler of torture, by citing a song describing the beating death of a black maid by a rich white man who then walks away with a slap on the wrist.

Since the Trunk is either irony or Dylan-impaired, I thought I'd help him out:
(Lyrics to "It's a hard rain gonna fall" omitted)

Just Turn Away

posted by Jazz at 1/08/2005 02:18:00 PM

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Mike highlighted this below, but I think it deserves a little more direct attention. Just click and read for yourself. The picture really says it all.



Inauguration Protests and "Slacktivism"

posted by Mike at 1/08/2005 01:38:00 PM

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Earlier this week, Jazz passed along information about Not One Damn Dime Day, a protest scheduled to coincide with Bush's January 20, 2005 inauguration.

While not meaning this to sound as if I'm criticizing my learned colleague (because, honestly, that's not how I intend it), I have to agree with some commentary I recently read on Snopes about this particular protest: it is slacktivism at a time when activism's needed.

Some protests are functional; they involve people taking direct action to achieve the desired result, such as chaining oneself to a tree to prevent its being cut down. Other protests are symbolic; they seek to inform the public or call attention to an issue through activities such as holding marches or making speeches. Sometimes protests are a combination of the two: chaining oneself to a tree is a functional but necessarily short-term solution, yet such an event is usually covered by the media and thus helps to publicize the cause of conservation.

So which form of protest is this supposed to be? Its ostensible purpose is a symbolic one -- to "remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal" -- which leaves us wondering how this form of protest is supposed to help effect any change in circumstances.

The merits and conduct of the U.S. war with Iraq have been endlessly debated, in every medium [...] if the result desired by those who would engage in this protest hasn't yet been achieved, it's not because the issue hasn't received enough publicity or those "in power" are insufficiently aware of it.

All that aside, the suggested scheme is one of the least effective forms of symbolic protest one could devise: it literally proposes that people do nothing, and doing nothing generates little, if any, publicity or news coverage.


Personally, I'm hoping that Turn Your Back on Bush gathers some media attention. Of course, given the spin that Sen. Boxer's objection received from the mainstream media, I doubt they'll be growing spines any time soon.

David Brooks on Social Security Reform

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/08/2005 11:08:00 AM

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As any of you who read my rantings from time to time know I think David Brooks is an idiot. Today he discusses Social Security "reform" and starts out with at least one toe in the reality based pool; Bush's Social Security plan is dead on arrival. He has five observations which we will now look at one at a time.

  • First, many Republicans will be loathe to back a bill that has no Democratic support. They don't want to transform a big, popular program without bipartisan cover.
    So far so good, a reality based observation.

  • Second, it will be hard to get Democratic votes for a bill that includes personal accounts. Democrats oppose them for the same reason that Republicans support them: because they think the accounts will create Republicans. People who have them will start thinking like investors.
    I am not a Republican but I am an investor. When I look at my investments and see that they are still worth about 15 percent less than they were four years ago I like the "Security" of my Social Security.

  • Third, any compromises that win you Democratic votes in the Senate, lose you Republican votes in the House. For example, if Senate Republicans raise the payroll tax caps, they might get some Democrats. But they will lose House Republicans by the dozens. This is the cruel logic we are going to come across again and again this Congress. Changes that build majorities in one house destroy majorities in the other.
    Hooray!!!!Our system of government is still working the way the founding fathers intended after 200 plus years. Once again a reality based observation by Brooks.

  • Fourth, even if Republicans try to go it alone, they probably will not agree among themselves. If the White House comes out with a bill that cuts benefits, the Democrats won't have to go into opposition. Newt Gingrich, Jack Kemp and Steve Forbes will already be there. On the other hand, if there are no benefit cuts, the financial markets may go ballistic. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is working on a Third Way approach to please both sides. If he can do it, he's a magician.
    Bull Moose has done a nice job of covering how the Republicans are divided on this issue. The "bugman" DeLay has made it clear that he wants no part of this hot potato.

  • Fifth, the administration is doing a poor job of communicating with members. Republicans, except at the top, feel isolated. They doubt that John Snow or anybody else in the administration has enough skill and authority to guide this through Congress.
    The administration recognized that Snow wasn't up to the job but couldn't find anyone to take his place.

Now let's look at Mr. Brooks' five point plan.
  • First, Social Security reform should liberate our kids, not shackle them. It should eliminate the fiscal overhang so they have the money to tackle the problems that will arise in their own day.
    This is the fallacy the Republicans are pushing. The Social Security Trust Fund has been building up a surplus as was intended. It invests this surplus in Treasury Bonds. These bonds should be treated no differently than bonds purchased by the Chinese, Japanese or Europeans. How are we going to "liberate" our kids from those obligations?

  • Second, the reform should be transparent, so that people can see what kind of return they are getting on the money they put into the system. People should have information about their own lives.
    Here is where Brooks takes leave of the "Reality Based Universe". When have we seen anything from this administration that was transparent? How are the Wall Street brokers going to pick our pockets if it's transparent?

  • Third, it should enhance people's control over their own retirement. In a self-governing democracy, citizens should do for themselves what they can do for themselves.
    Sorry, we already have that option. What does he think IRA's and 401K's are? Can we do more to encourage this kind of investment? Yes. Do we have to mess with Social Security to do it? No.

  • Fourth, people should be encouraged to work longer. In an age in which many live into their 90's, we should be making better use of people in their 70's and 80's.
    I don't really have a problem with this but what about the many who find themselves "obsolete" in their late 50's and early 60's? It's a little late at that point to go back to school to prepare for a new career.

  • Fifth, we need a savings revolution. The plan should encourage the nation to save more, to create more capital for America's future greatness.
    The reality is the US economy has been built on citizens of this country borrowing and the citizens of other countries saving. When people save they don't spend. What impact will this have on the economy?
After a few brief encounters with reality David Brooks returns to the same unrealistic fallacies.

Paid Punditry: Let's hear from the right wing bloggers.

posted by Jazz at 1/08/2005 10:03:00 AM

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Shorter Armstrong Williams - "Screw you! Everyone else was getting filthy rich off this bloody administration. I'm just getting my slice of the pie."

Ron already commented on this over at Middle Earth Journal, but this one really stuck in my craw. In case you've been hiding under a rock, Mr. Williams is a black conservative pundit with a fair amount of influence in minority communities. The really short version of this story is that he took nearly a quarter million dollars from the Bush administration to write "opinions" favorable to the president's "No Rich Child Left Behind" initiative so that it would gain more support.

The sheer number of things that are wrong with this are staggering and obvious. You don't need me to explain this, so instead, let's take a look at what some of the other big name bloggers have to say about this sickening scandal.

First we'll check in on Captain Ed. I will confess to great admiration and a new sense of respect, seeing that the Captain has abandoned his right wing partisan stance and jumps all over this story.
Like any instance of prostitution, of course, the action involves more than one wrongdoer. If Williams is a whore, the Education Department is his john. Who got the bright idea to spend a quarter of a million dollars of taxpayer money to bribe one journalist? The department's spokesman, John Gibbons, tried talking his way around it:
Next we'll check in with the good ole' boys over at Power Line. I'm sure they must be up in arms with outrage over this abuse of the editorial press.

"What's that? Oh, I see. Well, that's perfectly understandable, thank you."

Oh, well. It seems that the PL kids were up too late drinking at the first annual "Barbara Boxer is a Whore" memorial dinner and gala ball, and are too hung over to post on this important story. No... actually they claim to have had network trouble which they are ascribing to a "denial of service attack." Stay tuned to see which members of the vast left wing conspiracy they blame for this.

Never mind. We'll just check in with everyone's favorite diminutive harpy, Michelle Malkin. I'm positive that she will be able to shine the light of righteous indignation on this mess. And SHE DOES! Good for you, Michelle. This is the kind of story that should go beyond any partisan lines.

I'll add this: Rod Paige should be fired. Those who came up with this disgusting scheme should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Any other pundits who accepted money from the Bush administration, whether from the Education Department or any other bureaucracy, should come forward now and disclose. And then they should immediately return the money.

Grow some principles, for God's sake.

Well, as pleased as I am to see that some of the right wingers are taking a stand on this, I'll leave you to a less partisan source for some of the most in-depth commentary I've seen on this yet, and a long list of links to others commenting on it. As usual, it's Joe Gandelman to the rescue. Check out his take on this from the perspective of a professional journalist. It will be worth your time.



News You Can Use

posted by Jazz at 1/08/2005 08:24:00 AM

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Satirical blogger Tom Burka, of "Opinions You Should Have", has a really funny guest appearance in the Times this weekend. A few of the highlights.
As the 109th Congress convened this week, the news media once again turned their attention to Washington. Here are some stories they may have missed.

...

A senatorial aide who did not want to have his identity revealed because of possible repercussions, the intern Joe Weathers, confirmed that the senator was researching whether it would be legal to isolate Mr. Gonzales before the vote and force him to listen to hours of the liberal talk radio host Al Franken.

"It does seem brutal," Mr. Weathers said. "But we don't think it violates the Geneva Conventions."

...

As the result of a bureaucratic slip-up, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was inadvertently included in the United States government delegation sent to comfort tsunami victims in Southeast Asia.

"Waves happen," Mr. Rumsfeld told survivors. "Weather is untidy. Sometimes you have to make do with the weather you get instead of the weather you want."

Mr. Rumsfeld also criticized the news coverage of the disaster. "They just keep showing the same wave over and over again," he said.

...

In the House of Representatives, Democrats were horrified to learn that Republicans had adopted a provision requiring Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, to put the proceeds of his $1.9 million book deal into the legal defense fund of the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay.

"Obama's not even in the House," complained Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader. She said Democrats would introduce a resolution that would require Bill Frist, the Republican leader of the Senate and a doctor, to provide free checkups to all House Democrats and their dependents.



Friday, January 07, 2005

A Breast Implant Tax?

posted by Jazz at 1/07/2005 01:32:00 PM

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Libertarian Girl has come up with a ... well, quite frankly, a bizarre idea. Before commenting on it, I'll let her pitch it to you herself.

I agree with the National Organization for Women that breast augmentation surgery is a bad thing. An unnecessary medical procedure obviously brings needless health risks to the person undergoing the surgery.

Being a libertarian, I believe that people should be allowed to do whatever they want provided no one else is harmed. But does breast augmentation surgery harm others? I believe the answer is yes.

Breast augmentation surgery is a negative sum game. The surgery increases the recipient's attractiveness (because men are so stupid), but only at the expense of other women whose natural breasts become less attractive in comparison to the increasing population of surgically augmented women.

If every woman got breast augmentation surgery, it would not change the overall female attractiveness of society (because men would quickly become desensitized to seeing bigger breasts), but would have negative health effects because large numbers of women would suffer from post-surgery complications.

The typical liberal response might be the desire to make the surgery illegal. But I disagree. If a woman wants the surgery badly enough, she should be allowed to obtain it, but only if she pays back the externality she causes.

So I call for the implementation of a breast implant tax. Four thousand dollars for a pair of implants seems like an arbitrarily acceptable amount. With about a quarter of a million surgeries performed every year, the breast implant tax would raise a billion dollars of revenue annually.
Have you ever heard something, and your immediate reaction is to think, "No. That's just wrong." but you're not exactly sure why it's wrong? That's how I reacted to this until I could think it over.

Right out of the gate, I don't see how we could consider taxing breast augmentation and not tax all other cosmetic surgery similarly. Face it, having bags under your eyes and crow's feet is not a life endangering condition. Do we tag a few thousand dollars on face lifts?

Next, I have grave doubts about these "damages" to other women who don't have implants. I'll fully grant you that men can definitely experience a rapid drop in IQ around a spectacular set of chest ornaments, but that doesn't make the non-augmented female "less attractive." She's just the same as she was before. Is it fair that women with more money can afford to look "better" via this procedure? No... but when did life suddenly become fair? Did I miss a memo? Rich people have always had more options and opportunities than the financially challenged.

I'm sorry, but this is just a silly idea.

Some Koufax Updates

posted by Jazz at 1/07/2005 01:07:00 PM

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First of all, Wampum is still in need of some cash to keep the server fees paid for a while, so if you feel that you can help out, he's got a pay-pal donation link on his main page.

Ok. Older business and some updates. There has been a second comment thread added for the nomination count on best group blog. (Hint. Hint. Hint. Yes, Running Scared is nominate, not that we would ever beg for votes or whore ourselves out.) You only vote once, but if you haven't done so, please consider it.

There is also a new thread for Best Overall Blog. The compeition looks to be huge there, but I'm still pulling for Brilliant at Breakfast to be a dark horse surprise winner. (Or at least to place well.)

New categories are coming online, however. Most Humorous Blog is open, and I already put in my vote for James Wolcott, though it was a close thing. Tbogg is still very funny. Next is Best Single Issue blog, and I haven't decided on my vote for that one yet. And last but not least, Best Expert Blog. A tough call but I had to go with MaxSpeak.

More categories will be coming online in the coming days. Remember that this is just the "first cut" to get to the finals, so the more votes the better and everyone benefits by getting to see some new blogs they might have missed before. So get out tehere and vote for your favorites!

For the Record

posted by Jazz at 1/07/2005 11:23:00 AM

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I was previously listed as "lacking the good taste" to blogroll Madeleine Kane. This oversight has been corrected.

Quote of the day

posted by Jazz at 1/07/2005 10:45:00 AM

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"I just have to wonder how much abuse the Republicans have to rain down on this bunch of pussies before they wake up."

- Brilliant at Breakfast
(Commenting on the complete failure of the Senate to back up Barbara Boxer.)

And meanwhile back in Iraq

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/07/2005 10:06:00 AM

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Deadly day in Iraq claims 9 U.S. troops
BAGHDAD -- A roadside bomb killed seven U.S. soldiers in northwest Baghdad, and two Marines were killed in western Iraq on Thursday, the deadliest day for U.S. forces since a suicide attack on a U.S. base last month.
[.....]
Thursday's toll was the highest for the U.S. military in Iraq since a suicide bombing at a mess tent in Mosul on Dec. 21 killed 22 people, including 14 U.S. soldiers and three American contractors.

The latest deaths brought the number of U.S. troops killed since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003 to 1,350, according to an Associated Press count.
Support our troops, Bring them home now!!!!!


Friday Cat Blob Blogging

posted by Jazz at 1/07/2005 06:15:00 AM

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Be sure to check out the Friday Ark at the Modulator, and then on Sunday, stop by the Carnival of Cats, which this week will be held at Leslie's Omnibus.

This week, Sassy (also known as "Fat Cat") stopped by for an overnight visit home from the Fat Farm prior to her trip to the Vet's office for her checkup. She lost an entire two pounds since her last trip home, which is great! Unfortuantely, she's still obese and it's estimated she'll have to spend three more months at fat camp before she can come home for good. As soon as she got in the door, however, she proved she hadn't forgotten her way around and made straight for the heating pad. (Click on image for full size picture.)



Jan. 6: The Day the Democrats Stood Up With One Voice to Say ...

posted by Mike at 1/07/2005 12:23:00 AM

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There have been days in my life where my sense of reality has rocked back on its hinges, finding it just flat-out hard to believe something.

I encountered that the day that the Supreme Court awarded Bush the 2000 election. I encountered that even further when the American populace said last November to Bush, "Hey, dude, you're doing fine! Keep up those massive expenditures, and make sure nobody different from me can marry, 'cause God knows that's the important thing!"

Today was another moment like that, when I read the news stories about today's challenge to the Ohio electoral votes, and the subsequent votes in the Senate and the House.

The House of Representatives, at the very least, has a little chutzpah. 31 votes, including my own Congresswoman (thank God for Jan Schakowsky), to object to Ohio's electoral votes. But when did my senses rock?

Oh, when I happened to read about the Senate vote.

Why, didn't you hear? Every single Democrat in the Senate objected to the Ohio electoral votes. It was an amazing show of solidarity and pride in progressive values and the bedrock principles of democracy. Yeah, sure, there were 55 Republicans all cursing them down, but every single one of the 44 Democratic Senators, as well as Jeffords, stood up and made sure America knew that Ohio's elections weren't conducted fairly. A lost cause, but a moment of nobility, and one that the Democrats will forever be remembered for.

Or ... not.

Excuse me, I think I must've been channeling a mirror universe there.

Because the vote that happened?

74-1. Seventy-four-to-bloody-frickin'-one.

Sen. Clinton? Sen. Kennedy? Each one of the 74.

Sen. Obama? Check. Hey, way to start setting up your voting record with us Chicagoans, Barack ol' boy!

And let's not forget the man of the hour ...

Cheney: Kerry? Kerry? Kerry?

Kennedy: Um, he's in Iraq. My chief of staff's aide's lover's friend's lawyer's clerk's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who went with Teresa on the plane last night. I guess it's pretty serious.

Cheney: Thank you, Simone. I mean, Ted.

Kennedy: No problem whatsoever.


Sen. Boxer: "I think this is the first time in my life I ever voted alone in the United States Senate, and I have to tell you, I think it was the right thing to do."

Politics as usual. Politics that's safe. God forbid we alienate by taking a stand for what's right, even if the very basic elements of America are being considered or at question.

But what do you do? Stop caring about politics altogether? Or join a third party, which at best has gotten 2% of the vote (cf. Anderson in 1980)?

I hope, with every fiber of my heart, that I'm able to post to this blog in early February and tell people that there's hope that the Democrats may find their gonads after all, because there's a new DNC chair in town ... Howard Dean.

Where the hell is this country going off to? And where do people with half a brain go from here, if our two-party system is falling apart with spineless idiots giving in to facist neocons because they like their jobs way too much?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Does Bush Not Want to Ever Hear Any Bad News?

posted by Mike at 1/06/2005 11:20:00 PM

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Sorry for the repost-and-run, but from the Al Franken Show Blog:

The Nelson Report is a daily political tip sheet and analysis written for the past 20 years for the (US and Asian) corporate and government clients of Chris Nelson, a former Capitol Hill staffer and UPI reporter. (He was actually the first to break the looted explosives story before the election; Josh Marshall then posted it to his blog.) This Monday, he wrote:

There is rising concern amongst senior officials that President Bush does not grasp the increasingly grim reality of the security situation in Iraq because he refuses to listen to that type of information. Our sources say that attempts to brief Bush on various grim realities have been personally rebuffed by the President, who actually says that he does not want to hear "bad news."

Rather, Bush makes clear that all he wants are progress reports, where they exist, and those facts which seem to support his declared mission in Iraq...building democracy. "That's all he wants to hear about," we have been told. So "in" are the latest totals on school openings, and "out" are reports from senior US military commanders (and those intelligence experts still on the job) that they see an insurgency becoming increasingly effective, and their projection that "it will just get worse."

Our sources are firm in that they conclude this "good news only" directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around the President by National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld. In any event, whether self-imposed, or due to manipulation by irresponsible subordinates, the information/intelligence vacuum at the highest levels of the White House increasingly frightens those officials interested in objective assessment, and not just selling a political message.


I'm not sure whether to believe this report. Liberals (of which I consider myself one) are certainly not immune from crazy conspiracy theories and unlikely postulates, but at the same time, this seems so bloody likely. It would explain a lot, including Dubya being so very often inappropriately upbeat -- never a haunted moment, it seems. And, as they point out, this guy broke an earlier story, so he does have a good chunk of credibility.

Specter Jumps

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/06/2005 06:05:00 PM

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According to Josh Marshall Sen. Arlen Specter has jumped Bush's Social Security Privatization ship. From a Specter email to constituents:
As the baby boomer population ages and enters into retirement, the need for Social Security reform becomes even more apparent. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan urged Congress in February of 2004 to deal with the country�s escalating budget deficit by cutting benefits for future Social Security retirees. I strongly oppose this approach.
...

On the issue of privatization, I had some time ago considered an idea to place a relatively small portion of benefits in an investment account, providing that the �security� aspect of Social Security was retained and the investment was under professional management. However, with the severe fluctuations of the stock market,
I have since rejected that idea.
Bull Moose has some thoughts on how the Republican Lawmakers seem to be breaking on this one.

Not One Damn Dime

posted by Jazz at 1/06/2005 03:11:00 PM

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An interesting movement to make a statement about the re-appointment of Our Cheerless Leader to the White House has come to us from our good friends at the Blogosphere Zoo. (See their link our right side column.) The proposal is called "Not One Damn Dime" and encourages people to not go shopping on the day of Dubya's gala party, being held while Americans die in Iraq. Click here for all the details.

Sen. Boxer Join Representatives in Official Objection to Ohio Results

posted by Mike at 1/06/2005 01:50:00 PM

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It will be interesting to see how much "mainstream" coverage this gets, and whether it proves useful for Democrats or causes a backlash.

Did any of you see "Fahrenheit 9/11"? Do you remember the C-SPAN footage with House Democrats getting up and objecting to Bush's election, but not a single Senator coming on board?

It's going to be playing out differently today. Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democratic senator from California, signed onto a challenge mounted by House Democrats to Ohio's 20 electoral votes. This is an official objection that automatically triggers separate two-hour debates in the Senate and the House.

About 50 minutes ago, in a joint session of Congress, Vice-President Dick Cheney, as the Senate's president, began the procedural reading of each state's electoral votes. Judging from the time on Kos' entry, it looks like the objection was made at about 1:37 pm EST.

Is it going to do anything? No. Both chambers of Congress are now heavily Republican. Both the House and the Senate would have to uphold the objection in order for Ohio's votes to be invalidated, and that ain't gonna happen.

Nevertheless, it may bring to light some of the problems that existed in Ohio, including, as Rep. John Conyers (House Judiciary) put it, the "intentional misconduct and illegal behavior" of Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who also happened to be the co-chair of Ohio's Bush-Cheney campaign.

The Associated Press article circulating on this recounts that this particular process has happened only twice before: in 1877, it was a dispute between Rutherford Hayes and Samuel Tilden. (Hayes won.) And in 1969, a "faithless" elector in North Carolina who was designated a Nixon elector instead cast his or her vote for racist George Wallace.

Interestingly enough, that happened this election too - I hadn't heard about it. Had you? A Minnesota Kerry elector cast a ballot for Edwards, instead.

Links:


P.S. As I was looking at the headlines, I notice that "senior Democrats" are asking McAuliffe to stay on board. If they do, I'm strongly considering calling myself a reluctant recovering former Democrat. Hey, Jazz, want to found the Moderate Party?

Fat Dumb and Happy?

posted by Jazz at 1/06/2005 01:45:00 PM

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Katie, from A Constrained Vision, ponders the question, "Wouldn't things be easier if we all just wore sweat pants and got fat?" and why that just won't work. She quotes a few sources, including gay blogger Andrew Sullivan, who considers why gay men have to look so "fabulous", lesbians don't, and straight men don't need to bother.
If women weren't so damn forgiving of slobbiness, if they weren't prepared to look for the diamond buried in the rough of a man's beer-belly, men might have to shape up a little. The only reason gay men are - on the whole - better turned out than straight men is because they have to appeal to other shallow, beauty-obsessed males to get laid, find a mate, etc. The corollary, of course, are lesbians. Now there are many glamorous lesbiterians, but even the most enthusiastic Sapphic-lover will have to concede that many are not exactly, shall we say, stylish. The reason? They don't have to be to attract other women; and since women find monogamy easier, they also slide into the I'm-married-so-what-the-hell-have-another-pretzel syndrome. When straight women really do insist on only dating hot guys, men will shape up. Until then, it's hopeless.
As part of Katie's response, she makes an offer to all of us:
If all women chose to wear sweatpants, not makeup and heels, and/or if all women held men to a higher standard of beauty, all women would be better off. (Men would not be thrilled, but that's a different problem...) But if I alone decide to take Kipnis's or Sullivan's advice, I get screwed. Each individual woman thinks the same way as I do, so none of us does anything and we're stuck at a "beauty disequilibrium," as Althouse terms it.
I don't know about you, but I've swung to both sides of that dilemma over the course of my life. I went through periods, as a young single man, when I felt I had to be thin and in decent shape, dress by the current accepted styles, etc. (And God help me, that was during the disco era... trust me, you don't want to see pictures if you plan on eating this week.) Then again, I've also gotten more "relaxed" as I aged. I'd like to flatter myself and say that this is because I'm no longer a slave to convention or societal standards. Sadly, I fear the answer is something far closer to "I just really like Cheetos."

What do you think? Are all gay men hot looking? Are lesbians intentionally unattractive? Do single guys just not care because they know women will date them anyway? Can we even make such generalizations and still consider ourselves to be "fair" in any way?

Shocking!

posted by Jazz at 1/06/2005 11:40:00 AM

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I never thought the day would come, but this information could almost make you think that the Bush team would consider intentionally lying or distorting the facts to get some of their policy initiatives through. In this case, in fact, it seems that they wanted to intentionally make the Social Security system look as if.... how did they put it?... "it's heading for an iceburg."
The success of President Bush�s push to remake Social Security depends on convincing the public that the system is �heading for an iceberg,� according to a White House strategy note that makes the case for cutting benefits promised for the future.

Calling the effort �one of the most important conservative undertakings of modern times,� Peter Wehner, the deputy to White House political director Karl Rove, says in the e-mail message that a battle over Social Security is winnable for the first time in six decades and could transform the political landscape.
Whatever shall we tell the children? Think of the children!!!

Koufax Nominations Time - Round Two

posted by Jazz at 1/06/2005 10:48:00 AM

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Well, here goes our shameless pandering pitch for your support. First round of nominations is over and it's time to vote for Best Group Blog in the Koufax awards. Running scared has been nominated, but there's a lot of stiff competition to make it to the final voting run. We could use any and all support. The other categories should be coming online soon, and we'll keep an eye on them for all of the sections where many of our friends' blogs will be nominated.

In the meantime, go give 'em hell for the Best Group Blog award! Yay!

UPDATE: The round two nominations are also up for best overall blog by a non professional. I went and put in my vote for Brilliant at Breakfast. Go pick yours.

Keeping Consumers Safe

posted by Jazz at 1/06/2005 09:38:00 AM

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I've always gotten a sense of wry amusement from the ridiculous warning labels that get put on various products, ostensibly to protect the consumer, but more likely to protect the manufacturer from lawsuits brought by idiots and opportunists. The McDonald's coffee cup (Warning: Hot Coffee may be Hot) has become ubiquitous. Opening any shipment from Amazon, I find small desiccant packages with a big label which says "Do Not Eat." (Personally, I think anyone who would eat desiccant packages is either too young to read the warning or shouldn't be reproducing anyway.)

Finally, somebody has decided to honor the people making these wonderful warnings with a new award program. The first winners were just announced. Among the top contenders:
  • A thermometer with the warning, "Once used rectally, the thermometer should not be used orally."
  • A child's scooter telling the user, "This product moves when used."
And the winner? A toilet brush labeled, "Do not use for personal hygiene."

No Defense for YOU!

posted by Jazz at 1/06/2005 08:23:00 AM

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Sometimes you can only hear so much bad news on a certain topic before you begin to get numb. Stories like this one, however, still seem to completely enrage me no matter how many of them I see. This just in, from your friends in Colorado.
The trial for a former Dakota Ridge High School teacher and tennis coach accused of sexually assaulting a student continued Wednesday, where his defense argued that he thought the girl he was in a relationship with was 18 years old.

Kevin Ponis, 36, was arrested in May, accused of grooming teenaged girls on the tennis team for sex. He faces charges of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, and a pattern of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust.

His accuser testified Wednesday said she was 17-year-old senior at Dakota Ridge when she began a consensual sexual relationship with her tennis coach. She said she had developed a crush on him, and looked up to him and during one point, he had told her, "Think of me as a big brother. I will always be there for you."
(Reading the entire disgusting article, you'll find that he was doing as many as five students and former students.)

Ok, schmuck... listen up. You don't get a trial defense, comprende' Senor? You shouldn't even get a lawyer. You're a high school teacher and a student athletic coach. And you're HAVING SEX WITH YOUR STUDENTS. That is the END OF THE STORY. There is no lame excuse you can put up which entitles you to a do-over. I don't' care if she looked 18, or even said she was 18 or 19 or 20. She's one of your students. That would be a Bad Thing, mmmkay?

Off to jail with you, horn dog.

More Eugenics

posted by Jazz at 1/06/2005 08:16:00 AM

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Yesterday we were talking about possible requirements for spawning in this country. No sooner did we discuss it than a judge in Rochester, New York took the matter to heart. I wonder if she reads Running Scared?

ROCHESTER, New York (AP) -- A Family Court judge who last year stirred debate about parental responsibilities ordered a second drug-addicted woman to have no more children until she proves she can look after the seven she already has.

The 31-year-old mother, identified in court papers only as Judgette W., lost custody of her children, ranging in age from eight months to 12 years, in child-neglect hearings dating back to 2000. Six are in foster care at state expense and one lives with an aunt.

The youngest child and two others tested positive for cocaine at birth and all seven "were removed from her care and custody because she could not and did not take care of them," Judge Marilyn O'Connor said in a December 22 decision made public Tuesday.

I'm sure this will get shot down by some court system, but I give the judge full marks for at least trying.



Social Security "Crisis" Cliffs Notes

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/06/2005 01:16:00 AM

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Economist Brad DeLong gives us a simple rundown of the Social Security "crisis" and how it compares to the "real" problems we face.
Social Security Talking Points

  • The projected long-run Social Security Trust Fund deficit ranks no higher than fourth in urgency and in size on our list of fiscal problems.

  • Bigger fiscal problems include:

    • The current $600 billion a year General Fund deficit.

    • The long-run problems of finding financing for and controlling the growth of rapidly-rising Medicare and Medicaid spending.

    • The need to make sure that the General Fund has the resources to meet its commitments without undue strain after 2020--when it will no longer be able to borrow from the Social Security Trust Fund.

  • If our current General Fund deficit is like having an impaired driver who has just crashed us into a tree, and if the Medicare-Medicaid problems are like a melted transmission, and if the post-2020 General Fund is like having no brake pads left, then our long-run Social Security deficit is like a slow tire leak.

  • If our Social Security problems are neither extraordinarily urgent nor extraordinarily large, why is the Bush administration so focused on them?

    • Possibly because of incompetence: George W. Bush and his inner circle simply do not understand the magnitude and importance of the federal government's other fiscal problem.

    • Possibly because of ideology: it is for some reason important to undermine the successes of FDR's New Deal.

    • Possibly because of capture: just as the principal aim of the 2003 Medicare Drug Benefit bill as it was written was to boost pharmaceutical company profits, so when the Bush Social Security proposal emerges we will see that its principal aim is to boost Wall Street profits.

    • Which of these is really the most important reason? I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine. Certainly the public rationales the Bush administration has offered for the "reform" program it has not announced are extremely thin.

What Should Be Done to Fix the Social Security System?

  • Minor adjustments--the kinds of things that you do to fix a slow leak in a tire:

    • Pump in more air--raise Social Security taxes a bit (perhaps by applying the FICA tax to all earned income, rather than exempting income over $90,000 a year from the tax).

    • Patch the leak--raise the retirement age as life expectancy increases.

  • Make these minor adjustments automatic and ongoing:

    • We will have good and bad news in the future, and will be making further adjustments--both up and down.

    • This Congress and George W. Bush have demonstrated an inability to make economic policy in the national interest--whether it's the train wreck of their budget deficits, the sinkhole of their corporate tax bill, the car crash of their steel tariff, or the current vastly exaggerated cries of "crisis, crisis."

    • It's time do with Social Security policy what Congress long ago did with monetary policy: adopt the Federal Reserve model.

    • Seven Governors of the Social Security Trust Board appointed for fourteen-year terms with the advice and consent of the Senate.

    • They then elect a Chair.

    • Their responsibility is to adjust the retirement age (and, within narrow limits, the payroll tax rate) in order to keep the Social Security System solvent in expectation.
So, Social Security is at best forth on the "crisis" list. As for DeLong's four reasons for Bush's fixation on Social Security; I vote for the two in the middle:

  • Possibly because of ideology: it is for some reason important to undermine the successes of FDR's New Deal.

  • Possibly because of capture: just as the principal aim of the 2003 Medicare Drug Benefit bill as it was written was to boost pharmaceutical company profits, so when the Bush Social Security proposal emerges we will see that its principal aim is to boost Wall Street profits.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Eugenics 101

posted by Jazz at 1/05/2005 01:51:00 PM

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Not everyone should be allowed to father a child. The People's Republic of Seabrook explains why and provides a salient example.
I?ve always been astounded that you have to have a license to drive a car, own a business, hunt, or fish, but any dickweed who isn?t firing blanks and has a willing female accomplice can father a child. Yes, I am well aware of the arguments against eugenics, but shouldn?t it stand to reason that there be some sort of standard in place for determing who is fit to be a father? If there had been, there?d be one less child in this world with a gunshot wound.



Bill Frist hypocrite in chief

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/05/2005 01:00:00 PM

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MEJ friend Bolo Boffin, a resident of Sen Frist's Tennessee, has written an editorial to the Tennessean concerning Sen Frist's speech on Democratic filibusters of President Bush's extremist judicial nominees.
Dear Editor (of the Tennessean):

Bill Frist opened up the new session of Congress seething about the Democratic filibusters of President Bush's extremist judicial nominees. The Senate, he said, failed to give their Constitutional "advice and consent" to the President's nominees.

Senator Frist, let me set you straight on a couple of things. Consent to a president's nominees is not a constitutional mandate. The various senators should give their consent only when they feel such consent is warranted. And in the cases of the very few judicial nominees that were filibustered, such consent was not worth giving.

Still, somehow, the Senate was able to confirm 204 of President Bush's nominees. At this rate of confirmation, President Bush is poised to have appointed more judges than any other President in our history. And yet you hector the Democrats for obstructing his agenda?

You yourself voted on March 8, 2000 to filibuster one of President Clinton's judicial nominees, for the express purpose of blocking that nominee from consideration by the Senate as a whole. In other words, you voted to do exactly what you condemn the Democratic Senators for doing. Your hypocrisy on this issue is astonishing and a black eye on Tennessee.

Get off your high horse, sir, and get to the real problems facing this nation.

Bolo Boffin
Nashville, TN
It will be curious to see if the paper prints it. I'm, sure Bolo will let us know.

More From the Pataki Canal Sweetheart Deal

posted by Jazz at 1/05/2005 07:56:00 AM

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It appears that a certain Albany lobbyist was "flying under the radar" and doing a large amount of the legwork to ram though the Erie Canal Development project sweetheart deal for Richard Hutchens.
Capitol lobbyist Kerry Marsh worked the phones like a Wall Street trader in his attempts to win an exclusive development contract for his client Richard Hutchens & Associates, documents turned over to the attorney general show. Marsh got the job done - Hutchens got the Canal Corp. contract in 2001. But it was later rescinded and found to be steered inappropriately by Canal Corp. officials eager to get development going along the Erie Canal. A follow-up investigation found that Marsh may have gotten a lot of inside secrets along the way by pumping state officials.
As so often happens in these cases, Kerry Marsh wasn't doing anything "technically" illegal to get this Old Money gift package assembled. It turns out that not all forms of lobbying in New York have to be officially reported.

Several calls and discussions with Gov. George Pataki's friend and former budget director Robert King and his wife, Karen, are listed, as are contacts with Pataki's adviser Lou Tomson, another authority board member, and aides to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. Marsh writes of a planned golf outing with the Kings to brief them on the project and of Robert King's willingness to reach out to Tomson about the Hutchens matter.

Normally, the lobbying that Marsh did would get by under the public radar. Lobbyists and clients must file reports with the state lobbying commission for activity aimed at influencing legislation, but procurement lobbying - lobbying officials in order to obtain a state contract - does not have to be reported. The records, however, were turned over under subpoena in the Hutchens contract probe.

How convenient. As Pataki continues to prepare for a possible presidential bid in '08, keep your eyes on the Albany insider news. These sorts of deals have been the bread and butter of Empire State pols for as long as anyone can remember. More of this is certainly going to be turning up.

Related:






Ethiopia Arrests U.S. Torture Suspect

posted by Jazz at 1/05/2005 06:26:00 AM

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Ethiopian officials yesterday arrested Donald Rumsfeld for...

... oh, wait. That was backwards.
U.S. Arrests Ethiopian Torture Suspect

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- U.S. federal agents on Tuesday arrested an Ethiopian man suspected of torturing and murdering people when he was a member of a military dictatorship that ruled the African country in the 1970s.
It all gets so confusing, doesn't it? I don't suppose the blatant hypocrisy of this has given anyone in the Justice Department pause, though. No... probably not.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

New Years With Riverbend

posted by Jazz at 1/04/2005 03:57:00 PM

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Riverbend from Baghdad Burning has decided to share her experiences with New Year's Eve in Iraq and the upcoming elections. This is the gritty reality from the streets, regardless of the crowing from the neocon Bushies about how swell things are going.
We had our own fireworks as we began the New Year countdown. At around 10 minutes to 2005, the house shook with three colossal explosions not too far away. It came as something of a surprise at that particular moment and my cousin's two young daughters, after the initial fright, started giggling uncontrollably. E. clapped his hands and began to yell, "Yeah- FIREWORKS!! Goodbye 2004!!", which was followed by a sort of impromptu dance by the kids.
Well, at least they had fireworks. Riverbend goes on to talk about the elections at length. I'll paste in some salient portions here, but I strongly suggest you read the whole thing.

The elections are set for the 29th. It's an interesting situation. The different sects and factions just can't seem to agree. Sunni Arabs are going to boycott elections. It's not about religion or fatwas or any of that so much as the principle of holding elections while you are under occupation. People don't really sense that this is the first stepping stone to democracy as western media is implying. Many people sense that this is just the final act of a really bad play. It's the tying of the ribbon on the "democracy parcel" we've been handed. It's being stuck with an occupation government that has been labeled 'legitimate' through elections.

We're being bombarded with cute Iraqi commercials of happy Iraqi families preparing to vote. Signs and billboards remind us that the elections are getting closer...

Can you just imagine what our history books are going to look like 20 years from now?

"The first democratic elections were held in Iraq on January 29, 2005 under the ever-watchful collective eye of the occupation forces, headed by the United States of America. Troops in tanks watched as swarms of warm, fuzzy Iraqis headed for the ballot boxes to select one of the American-approved candidates..."

It won't look good.

There are several problems. The first is the fact that, technically, we don't know the candidates. We know the principal heads of the lists but we don't know who exactly will be running. It really is confusing. They aren't making the lists public because they are afraid the candidates will be assassinated.

Another problem is the selling of ballots. We're getting our ballots through the people who give out the food rations in the varying areas. The whole family is registered with this person(s) and the ages of the varying family members are known. Many, many, many people are not going to vote. Some of those people are selling their voting cards for up to $400. The word on the street is that these ballots are being bought by people coming in from Iran. They will purchase the ballots, make false IDs (which is ridiculously easy these days) and vote for SCIRI or Daawa candidates. Sunnis are receiving their ballots although they don't intend to vote, just so that they won't be sold.
Fun times in Iraq. Freedom is on the march!

Picking the Poetic

posted by Jazz at 1/04/2005 03:27:00 PM

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Please welcome Poetic Leanings to our blogroll. And if you want an example of why you should read this blog (aside from being treated to occasional bouts of free poetry and inspiration) you can also find some solid politics. Take, for example, this post on Desmond Tutu's take on Iraq.

Be Careful Out there Guys

posted by Jazz at 1/04/2005 03:25:00 PM

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Particularly if you are single and in the dating scene and ... ahem ... "active."

The One True Tami tells you why.

New York Sued by Anti-Choicers Over License Plate

posted by Jazz at 1/04/2005 01:56:00 PM

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The anti-choice crowd has taken a new tactic in New York State this year. Apparently, Elizabeth Rex has decided that the State should provide license plates for her car with the words "Choose Life" on them, rather than the stuffy old "The Empire State" which has served us well for a number of years. She formally made a request of the state to begin offering the highly politicized plates, and then sued New York when they refused.
The Children First Foundation got permission to use the logo, but the state rejected the application in 2002. For state officials, approving a license plate with the words "Choose Life" was too controversial because of the slogan's link to anti-abortion politics. Rex said the state was unfair, and in August, the Children First Foundation filed a First Amendment discrimination suit.
Sign up now to get your "Jesus is Lord, So You Jews Gotta Go Back to Israel" plates, as requested by Bill O'Reilly.

Remember Iraq?

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/04/2005 11:27:00 AM

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With the diversion of attention to the natural disaster in the Indian Ocean the un-natural disaster in Iraq has slipped to page two. Well the situation in Iraq is still real bad even on page two. 5 U.S. Troops Are Killed, and Baghdad Governor Is Slain.
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 4 - Four American soldiers and a marine were killed today and three other soldiers were wounded on a day that also saw the assassination of the governor of Baghdad, one of the highest-profile killings of an Iraqi official in months.
While US officials continue to insist that the problem is 5,000 to 20,000 insurgents Iraq's own intelligence service director, General Mohamed Abdullah Shahwani, thinks the number is 200,000. Oh well, how important can one zero be? Does Shahwani think the insurgents are winning?
Asked if the insurgents were winning, Shahwani answered: "I would say they aren't losing."
But what about our great victory in Fallujah you ask? To that General Shahwani answers:
"What we have now is an empty city almost destroyed... and most of the insurgents are free. They have gone either to Mosul or to Baghdad or other areas."
So Iraq is still there and it's still a chaotic mess. Even if the elections come off it won't change anything. Remember the election in Afghanistan? It went really well and Karzai is still nothing more than the mayor of Kabul.

GOP Gains Ethics and Morality

posted by Jazz at 1/04/2005 10:55:00 AM

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Ok... probably not. But it was a cute title, wasn't it? (Hat tip: Memeorandum)

The Times is reporting that recent unethical changes in the House ethics rules have been rescinded. You likely remember how these rule changes were put in place to protect the Bug Man from losing his top dog position in the House of Representatives if and when he is indicted for all of the hanky panky he's been up to back in the Lone Star State.
Lawmakers said the party had also abandoned a proposed ethics change that would have effectively eliminated the broad standard that lawmakers not engage in conduct that brings discredit on the House, a provision that has been the basis for many ethics findings against lawmakers.
Hurray for the GOP, and congratulations on attempting to at least keep up the appearance of propriety. However, before we get too teary-eyed in our admiration for them, let's put this in context. As we pointed out here previously, the Texas Republican Party has been hard at work on a two front strategy to pull DeLay's fat out of the fire.

On the one side, they have been working to get his case transferred away from that pesky District Attorney and into the hands of the friendly, Republican Attorney General who would likely just drop the case entirely. On a second front, they are moving to challenge the laws in question and try to get them changes so that DeLay's campaign finance shenanigans are suddenly legal.

It's also worth noting that they are not repealing the change which requires more than half of the ethics committee to agree before taking ethics action. This virtually assures that the ethics oversight will be a toothless lion from here on out.

In either event, this is a media ploy by the Republicans to try to bolster up their image. I'm betting that they have already sewn up the situation in Houston such that Bug Man will never be facing an indictment. There's absolutely no way that they are going to let their boy get taken down, no matter how many man-dates he's been on with his boss.

Poliblog thinks, "It stinks."

Chris Lawrence has nothing but praise for them, and thinks the Democrats took too long to revamp their ethics rules. Sheesh. Who's on trial here?

McQ is similarly full of praise for "removing a hammer from the Democrat bag with which they could have beaten the Republicans unmercifully."



Get out your tinfoil hat

posted by Mu at 1/04/2005 09:40:00 AM

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Remember how the government is continuously working on making our lives safer without impeding our precious civil liberties? To this purpose, all countries with no visa requirement for the US now have to include a little chip into their passports to allow fast comparison of biometric data, aka picture and person. Only for those pesky foreigners of course. But halt - in the diplomatic world everything is an eye for an eye, everyone treats the other's citizen like they treat their own.
So now we will get the RFID chips - just like the cans at Wal-Mart. Naturally only the government can read the chips - and any hack that spends 10 min on Google. But the good thing is, just wrap your old tinfoil hat around your passport, and you're safe

Monday, January 03, 2005

Neocon Antidote: Framing the Debate

posted by Mike at 1/03/2005 09:54:00 PM

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I've been getting over a fairly nasty cold this weekend, and I can't say I'm completely back up to spec, although I'm heading back to the ol' grind tomorrow. But I did want to briefly post something pointing you to a post, "'Republican-Lite', Or, 'Losing the Abortion Rhetoric War'", on a hereto undiscovered blog called "This May ... Or Not":

Those that are attempting to make abortion illegal once again, have taken the labels for themselves of "pro-life" and "anti-abortion." This is very clever. For, if they are pro-life and anti-abortion, then their opponents must surely be anti-life and pro-abortion. Very few people would ever want to take those latter labels upon themselves. So long as the pro-legalists do not challenge the implication that to be in favor of legalization is to be anti-life, they will never succeed in regaining the moral upper-hand and controlling the dialogue.


The post itself is pretty wise in many respects, but it also addresses something I hope to write more about in the future, something which I feel is going to determine the future of the Democratic Party -- the concept of "framing."

If you'd like to read more about before I get to posting my own thoughts on it (which won't be for a while -- I'd like it to be an intelligent post, thankyouverymuch), you might want to go and spend $7.50 and buy Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, which will be the best $7.50 you've spent in a while. If you want, you can get Moral Politics instead or in addition -- it's a more textbookish version of the same concepts, but goes into much greater depth.

If you'd like to dip your feet in the concepts before spending money on it (understandable), you can check out Wikipedia's articles on Lakoff and Moral Politics, which'll give you an introduction to the concepts involved. It answers some questions I've long wondered about, frankly. (It should also go without saying that I have no financial stake in the recommendation of the books. I didn't even set up one of those Amazon Affiliate whatchamacalits.)

Hooters and the GOP

posted by Jazz at 1/03/2005 03:11:00 PM

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Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice, as part of one of his excellent roundups, points us to a brand new blog... Libertarian Girl. She's asking a question about why Hooters seems to attract donations from the GOP and if that means anything? (TMV's description of Hooters is worth the read alone. Warning... don't drink coffee while reading.)

I went and had some fun in her comments section, and I invite you to do the same. :-)

I'm blogrolling this one just to keep an eye on where it goes. Good luck in the blogosphere, Libertarian Girl.

Take Back the Music

posted by Jazz at 1/03/2005 02:52:00 PM

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After reading The One True Tami's post about ham radio operators in the tsunami areas, I was looking at a related post (very good, by the way) from Doug Petch. While doing so, I came across something on a totally unrelated topic.

Essence Magazine has begun a fascinating campaign to depict how black women are portrayed in contemporary music. Doug is trying to get some more input for this project. Give them a hand and read up on some interesting perspectives in pop culture.

I missed this one originally

posted by Jazz at 1/03/2005 01:43:00 PM

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Taken from "The 40 Most Obnoxious Quotes of 2004" from Right Wing News. Obviously, they are posting them as "bad quotes" but I personally enjoyed quite a few of them. Here's one from Ken Layne that I missed right after the election.
"Rove's re-election strategy was elegantly simple: Scare the bejesus out of Jesusland. F@ggots are headed your way! Satanic Muslims are hiding everywhere! That's all it took to get Jesusland to do the job. Intellectual conservatives like the National Review staff are flattering themselves if they honestly believe Jesusland cares about conservative thought. The "reality-based" folks are learning that Jesusland doesn't even care about jobs or the economy. In Jesusland, it's all the will of Jesus. No job? No money? Daughter got her clit pierced? Jesus is just f*cking with you again, testing your faith. Got the cancer? Oh well. Soon you'll be with Jesus. Reality is no match for a mystical world in which an all-powerful god is constantly toying with every detail of your mundane life, just to see what you'll do about it. Keep praying and always keep your eye out for homosexuals and terrorists, and you will eventually be rewarded ... all you have to do is die, and then it's SuperJesusLand, where you will be a ghost floating in a magic cloud with all the other ghosts from Jesusland, with Jesus Himself presiding over an Eternal Church Service."

-- Blogger Ken Layne after Kerry went down to defeat in November


Some Test Buttons

posted by Jazz at 1/03/2005 01:36:00 PM

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Pay no attention to this.


















She's Not All Talk

posted by The One True Tami at 1/03/2005 01:17:00 PM

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Been a while since I posted here, so I thought I'd pipe up with a story about some folks (although only one is mentioned by name) who made a difference immediately after the tsunami.

A woman on a hobby expedition turned out to be a welcome source of communications in India. Wave of Destruction, Wave of Salvation (registration probably required).

She was there to work a ham radio connection in an area of the world where such things are strictly regulated by the Indian government and not at all common.
PORT BLAIR, India -- About one month ago, Bharathi Prasad and her team of six young ham radio operators landed in this remote island capital with a hobbyist's dream: Set up a station and establish a new world record for global ham radio contacts. In the world of ham slang, it was called a "Dxpedition."
When the quake hit, the hobby angle went out the window, and disaster relief mode kicked in. She set up a station on her hotel lawn using a generator. As it turns out, she was able to establish communications with the outside world when there was no power or phone lines. This is the kind of work that a lot of ham operators prepare for. Sure, the hobby is fun for people with technical leanings, but it's also an excellent resource during any kind of disaster. Ham radio can be used under the kind of conditions that cause other technologies to crumble and fail. A lot of people don't know this, and I'm personally thrilled to see it mentioned in the media. I've had my license for a little over a year, now, so I'm really biased.

Some web sites you can look at if you want to look into the whole ham/disaster relief thing:
Amateur Radio Disaster Services
Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES)
National Association for Amateur Radio home page


They were talking about this on Slashdot, as well. A lot of the comments focus on the fact that broadband over power lines (BPL) is a proposed technology that can cause interference with radio signals. It's an interesting discussion, although be warned that sometimes Slashdot comments discussions get a bit... juvenile. OK, a lot juvenile. But if you like techie stuff, you've probably already read stuff like this, anyway.

Oh, the Tragedy

posted by Jazz at 1/03/2005 11:39:00 AM

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No, not the tsunami or Iraq. The Bull Moose tells us the heart wrenching tale of young Republican fund raisers who can't afford to to attend Dear Leader's inaugural gala because the prices are through the roof. Their usefulness outlived, they are dismissed back to the flyover states and told to eat cake. (Just not the cake the from the presidential bash.)

American Christians Only Please

posted by Jazz at 1/03/2005 11:35:00 AM

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How much blood, sweat, tears and cash are the fundie right wing Christian Charitable Groups putting into helping out the tsunami victims in Asia? Brilliant at Breakfast has the answer. You may or may not be surprised.

Blatant Racism From the Right (Again)

posted by Jazz at 1/03/2005 10:37:00 AM

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I imagine that it will be a long time, unfortunately, before things like this sink very far below the surface. In what turned out to be an alarming blog entry, (more on exactly why it's so alarming below) Betsy Newmark quotes known Francophobe John J. Miller, who is explaining exactly why the United States needs to "punish France." She then goes on to add her own thoughts.

First, a bit of Miller's canned hate speech, just to get the flavor. (Betsy did not provide a link to the source article, and a search of National Review Online, where Miller normally writes, didn't turn this one up, but I found it in the New York Times.)
Condoleezza Rice, now Mr. Bush's nominee for secretary of state, was quoted in 2003 as telling colleagues that the United States should "punish France." This is a tempting tactic, for it holds out the promise of vengeful satisfaction. It was also the motive behind the recent campaigns to boycott French products. Unbeknownst to most of the participants, however, the consumer strategy was tried without much success in the 1960's. In truth, Paris isn't worth a boycott.

Thinking otherwise only buys into the Gaullist claim that France should occupy a place of reverence in the community of nations.
(All emphasis mine.) Then, Ms. Newmark chimes in with the part of this tale that makes me cringe.

I can report at least one level of success - today's teens. When I'm teaching American history and France comes up, whether it's the "Quasi War" of 1798, the Louisiana Purchase, or World War II, the kids start snickering. Do you remember this great SNL skit from 2002 that showed beautiful tourist pictures of France and then had this great narration?
In a spoof of a French tourism commercial that was broadcast on the show in April, a series of iconic images ? the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, a little girl toting a load of baguettes ? flashed by on the screen while a female voice recited the pitch in a dulcet murmur: "The French: cowardly yet opinionated, arrogant yet foul-smelling. Anti-Israel, anti-American and, of course, as always, Jew-hating. With all that's going on in the world, isn't it time we got back to hating the French?"
The kids thought that was the funniest thing that they had seen in a long time. (It used to be online, but I couldn't find it in a quick search - if anyone has the link, please let me know). My point is that we've started on the first step of John J. Miller's recommendation. We're laughing at the French. Ignoring them will come.

You can find plenty of Francophobia on the right these days (see below) and reading it in blogs or the NRO is nothing new. Expecting more from the likes of Miller would be folly, since a few moments searching will show you a string of previous articles like this, which advocate everything just short of dropping nukes on the Eiffel Tower. He is also co-author of a book entitled "Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disastrous Relationship With France." (Sorry, but I'm not providing a link to that particular hate festival. You can look it up on Amazon if you are so inclined.) The title itself is an obvious attempt at being witty, playing on a long accepted premise (prior to the ascendancy of the current generation of hawks in Washington) that France has always been our oldest ally, dating back to the revolutionary war.

But keep this in mind... Betsy Newmark is a teacher, albeit in a red state, and this is a discussion and underlying attitude that she is passing on to and encouraging in students from the position of a figure of authority.

As has been discussed here before, the reason for all of this bitterness is hardly a mystery. The right wing is completely enraged about France, along with most of the rest of the UN Security Council (along with, oh... most of the world) being right about the folly of our disastrous invasion of Iraq and the since discredited premise that led to it. (Where are those WMD's again? Maybe you should look under your couch one more time, Mr. Bush. That was really humorous.) The very existence of these countries is a constant reminder of our government's complete breakdown and failure on this boondoggle. As such, they take every opportunity to excoriate France and all of her "co-conspirators" against our Cheerless Leader's "Historic Divine Vision."

No opportunity is missed to try to make them look bad. The UN, like any other large organization, certainly has its share of problems to be addressed. But any time another story comes out about the "oil for food scandal" or any other United Nations failing, the schadenfreude pours down from the right wing like rain over Seattle.

For a bit more balanced look at our relationship with the French, and the effect that the current atmosphere is having, take a peek at the companion piece which the Times ran, by Antoine Audouard, titled "Behind Enemy Lines."
Here in the country of political correctness, where the mainstream press treads on eggshells when talking about race, religion, nation or ethnicity, French-bashing, it would seem, has become politically correct.
Sad but true, Antoine. Welcome to Bush's compassionate America. His entire essay is an eye opener. Give it a look.

More on Social Security

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/03/2005 10:11:00 AM

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Josh Marshall explains what the real crisis with Social Security is, the US Government has borrowed 3 trillion dollars from it.
Almost the entirety of President Bush's Social Security phase-out plan comes down to a simple proposition: finding out how not to pay it back.
The main stream media is beginning to tell it like it is. The New York Times has an editorial today, The Social Security Fear Factor. They point out that the numbers that the administration is using to show there is a crisis are bogus. They point out that the only people who will benifit from the President's plan are his friends on Wall Street. They have some advice for Republican lawmakers.
It's bad policy. And it's bad politics, too, driven by reflex, ideology and special interests, and sustained by conformism that masquerades as party discipline. Lawmakers who still value their right and obligation to think for themselves - and to act in the best interest of their constituents - must champion solutions that will build on Social Security, not undermine it.
The New York Times editorial has a lot of good information and I would suggest you read the entire thing.

Mills Gets His Reward from Pataki

posted by Jazz at 1/03/2005 10:07:00 AM

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You may not even remember his name, but former Orange County, New York state assemblyman Howard Mills was the man tapped by the GOP to make a run for Chuck Schumer's New York Senate seat last year. Schumer is an extremely popular, moderate Senator with a long career serving New York. The results were predictable, with Schumer winning in the largest landslide in the state's history, leaving Mills out of a job.

Well, no longer. George Pataki, following a long New York tradition of using the governor's powers of political appointment to reward the faithful, (regardless of success, competence, or qualifications) has gifted Mills with a new position. Howard will now serve our home state as insurance superintendent with a salary of $127,000 per year.

It's good to have friends in high places, eh?

State Employee Paid for Nothing - More Trouble for Pataki?

posted by Jazz at 1/03/2005 08:25:00 AM

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This one is a bit more nebulous than the previous story about George Pataki's efforts to keep secret certain documents pertaining to the sweetheart deal given to an upstate land developer, but it certainly is interesting. The headline to this sounds like something that you would read in one of those "offbeat news" entries, since the lead tells us, "State Worker Gets $82,789 For No Work." On the surface it certainly sounds amusing, and deals with a (former) supervisor at the New York State Liquor Authority's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control named Patricia Freund.
ALBANY -- To some people, Patricia Freund's job might sound perfect. But she doesn't think so. Monday through Friday, she arrives at her spartan office at the State Liquor Authority at 8 a.m., and, for her entire 7-hour shift, does no work. She spends the morning reading one of the novels she brings from her Argyle home -- until lunch-time, when she steps from the back office she shares with no one and that her boss never visits. After the break, she returns to her desk and opens "A Distant Mirror," about the calamitous 14th century, because she has just finished "Bury Me Standing," a story about the journey of gypsies. Besides an occasional daydream, the novels help her pass the hours until quitting time at 4 p.m. Then she quietly slips out the back door, having done nothing productive for the $82,789 she is paid annually. With benefits, her job costs taxpayers more than $100,000 a year.
Digging a bit deeper, however, we find out how this woman came to be in such a "low stress" position. Every year, Governor Pataki holds a very high profile "prayer breakfast" which is a fundraiser and "see and be seen" event for the government luminaries in Albany. It's an expensive affair, with $30 seats for the unwashed masses and VIP tables commanding up to $1,500 per chair. This year's bash featured First Lady Laura Bush as a speaker and was sold out.

In 2000, Ms. Freund's supervisor purchased a table full of seats for people in her department, encouraging them all to go. At the breakfast, attendees were all given modern English bibles, with certain helpful passages highlighted in them, such as "We are made acceptable to God the minute we believe in Jesus" and "Confidence in Jesus stands above all other creeds." The only problem with this, of course, is that Ms. Freund is a devout Jew.

Patricia began asking some uncomfortable questions of her employers about the pressure to attend such a clearly religious event, and whether or not the State employees were being paid to attend on company time.

Freund said she was stripped of her duties as director of wholesale services for the State Liquor Authority in March 2002 after she began making official inquiries about state workers attending Pataki's annual, nondenominational prayer breakfast. Freund, who is Jewish, said she went to the breakfast in 2000 at the urging of her boss and later complained to co-workers about the event.

Freund said it was more than a year later when she began asking questions officially about SLA employees' attendance at the breakfast - such as whether they went on state time.

Her situation was a tricky one for her employers. In New York's swollen bureaucracy it is nearly impossible to remove anyone from a state job unless you have video footage of them shooting other employees. (And even then they would probably stand a better than 50% chance of going to court and getting their positions back after being released from jail.) Firing her for anything related to religious matters would be completely impossible. So, they did the next best thing. They "promoted" her to be the special assistant to her boss, stuck her in an isolated office, and gave her nothing to do for years.

Patricia is only one of several employees who have raised questions about pressure in the Pataki administration to "go with the flow" for faith based activities. Her case is the most high profile one, though, as she has now filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state, asking that her duties be restored. She is also seeking more than $250,000 in damages.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

More David Brooks Nonsense

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/02/2005 01:07:00 PM

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I used to read David Brooks just so I could make fun of the nonsense that emanated from his virtual pen. Recently it has been so absurd I haven't even been able to bring myself to do that. Brad DeLong has done a nice job of dissecting the latest hot air from Brooks however.
Usually, the Minute Man reads David Brooks so that I don't have to. But I think somebody needs to say that there is something deeply, profoundly wrong with Brooks. The worst of all is his closing line: "This is a moment to feel deeply bad, for the dead and for those of us who have no explanation [for why the tsunami happened]." No. This is not a moment to feel bad for those of us who have no explanation for the tsunami and so wallow in existential despair. This is not a moment for that at all.
There is more here and it just gets better. Check it out.


The list of lists

posted by Jazz at 1/02/2005 09:23:00 AM

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Check out Mr. Left for a "Top Ten List of Year End Lists." There's something ironic about it, in a humorous fashion, but he's got some good reading there. It includes lists from National Geographic, Alter Net, and the The Blog Herald's Top Ten Interesting People in the Blogosphere for 2004.

(While it will come as a great shock to you, I'm sure, the various authors of Running Scared did not make this noble assemblage.)

George Will's World

posted by Jazz at 1/02/2005 06:44:00 AM

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I'd really like to know what color the sky is there. George Will, in today's column, continues his long, slow descent from partisan hackery to sheer dementia. Today's topic is abortion, and Will hauls himself up to an even higher pedestal, writing a speech which he thinks that his hero, Dubya, should give to the nation about abortion and the appointment of Supreme Court justices.
"I believe abortion is wrong, but also that states should have, as they did until Roe, the power to set abortion policy. If states come to conclusions different than mine, so be it. But remember: Were Roe overturned, that would not make abortion illegal; it would merely re-empower states to regulate the practice. And restoring the legal conditions of 1973 would not restore the social context of 1973. Given public opinion today, when abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures, it is unlikely that any state would seriously impede first-trimester abortions, which are 89 percent of all abortions.
Tell that to the women who live in Mississippi. There is now exactly one women's health clinic in the entire state where a woman can get an abortion. And that clinic is constantly ringed with wingnut picketers who do everything in their power to keep any woman from entering.

Wake up and smell the coffee, Mr. Will. Then move on to writing ingredients labels for condiments, please.