Politics

 

January 20, 2009

How I Feel Today

 


 

November 05, 2008

Obama

Told ya so.

Dodged a bullet on that electorial prediction, though. That would have been a lot of beer. At one point during the night Obama was actually at 292, and I was all, like, "Oh shit, you gotta win another state. Any state dude, even one no one cares about. How about Nevada? Or a Dakota?"

* * *
Please return to your polling stations to receive your new stickers

Please return to your polling stations to receive your new stickers

* * *

McCain's speech was all class. I'd like to think that, were McCain elected, the man we saw last night is the man who would serve as president, rather than the stranger we saw on the campaign trail.

* * *

Driving to work today I noticed that Obama's promise of unity is already reaching fruition. The two Seattle newspapers--which are often at loggerheads--both came up with the same headline:

Black & White

I also noticed that the local McDonald's had changed it's marquee overnight:

When Obama is president ...

Coincidence? OR THE RETURN OF CAMELOT??!

* * *

Conversation I just had with Squiggle:

Me: Who's the president?

Squiggle: Obama!

Me: And who's the vice-president?

Son: A pumpkin!

OCTOBER SURPRISE!!

* * *

Anyway: yay, glad that's over. Going to bed now. Wake me on January 20th.

* * *

New Era

October 15, 2008

Presidental Debate Liveblogging

I was mulling over the debate during my commute home from work, and started to marvel over just how bad things are for John McCain tonight. Just about every major factor is working against him:

  • The main topic of the debate, health care, is the Republicans' #2 worst issue.
  • The huge drop in the stock market today ensures that the Republican's #1 worst issue, the economy, is certain to get a lot of air time too.
  • McCain is totally in a box on this Ayers thing. After the second Presidential Debate, Team Obama was practically goading him into bringing it up tonight, saying "we've been seeing some pretty over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days, that he wasn't willing to say it to my face. But I guess we've got one last debate." McCain responded by saying that he most certainly would. But you know Obama has a response all queued up and ready to roll. And the brunt of McCain's charges regarding Ayers is that Obama "hasn't been forthcoming about the relationship"--will he still be able to say that after Obama addresses the issue on live TV in McCain company? Of course, if McCain doesn't mentioned Ayers, Team Obama can double-down: they can again insinuate that he's a coward and add that he broke his word to boot.
  • Worst of all, all of this must frustrate McCain terribly--and that's likely to be evident. The format of the debate has the two sitting right next to each other at a table, so any signs of hostility from McCain (not making eye contact), are likely to be amplified, as most camera shots will show the men side-by-side and in extremely close proximity.
The one upside to the debate for McCain is that it gives him one last chance to change the dynamics of the race. Alas, even that is a poisoned pill: McCain has "shaken up the race" so many times now (picking Palin, his campaign suspension, etc.) that attempting to do so again tonight will only feed into the narrative that he's "erratic". But playing it safe is also a losing proposition for him, given the current polls.

It's damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't for John McCain tonight. It'll be interesting to see how he handles it.

5:53: Pre-debate prediction: knowing that McCain has no choice but to attack, Obama will be all smiles as he comes out, and will be overtly (perhaps even overly) collegial toward his opponent. Then, in his first few statements, he will refer to McCain as a friend and/or make some comment about how this will be an issue-oriented debate. It's a twofer when McCain then goes negative, because he can then (a) make the "gee whiz my buddy just stabbed me in the back" face and (b) retaliate with negativity, arguing that "he started it."

6:00: Moderator: "By now we've heard all the talking points ..." Ha! Nice try, but get ready hear them again.

6:01: McCain turns the conventional wisdom on it's head, starting every speech with not a joke but a shout-out to someone in the hospital. MAVRICKY!

6:03: McCain is trying so hard to maintain eye-contact that he looks like a besotted kid starting at a love interest sitting near him in the library.

6:05: Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, and now Joe the Plumber is mixed up in the race? Can we get a moratorium of Joes around here? Update: Oh my God, how could I forget Joe Sixpack?

6:08: McCain is not stringing arguments together very deftly tonight. Also: helllllllo populism.

6:10: I gotta hand it to McCain, he's got Obama playing defense early.

6:11: These are good questions, for a change.

6:12: This has pretty much just become a race to see who can be first to work their talking points into this "no talking points" debate. Obama takes an early lead, checking "not one dime" and "go through the budget line-by-line" off his master list.

6:16: "Overhead projector" is the new "Spain".

6:17: McCain is talking about using both a hatchet and a scalpel. This debate on health care is terrifying.

6:20: Why does Obama keep giving McCain "enormous credit" for his "opposition" on torture?

6:23: McCain ends a response to a question about negative campaigning by calling Obama a liar.

6:28: I don't know if I can stand 4 years of Obama's "aaaaaaaaand".

6:31: This response by McCain on his supporters is the most unfocused I've seen. He supports everyone who attends his rallies and recognizes that some of them and hateful nutjobs? Also: every time McCain interrupts Obama he loses1000 voters at least.

6:34: Ayers! ACORN! McCain just blew his scandal load in one heaving spurt. He's gonna be flaccid from here on out.

6:38: Hahaha. While Obama is answering this VP question I bet McCain is all, like, "OhShitOhShitOhShit ..."

6:40: At what point did "autism" become the center square on the Political Bingo card?

6:43: Did McCain just advocate "nuclear pants"? I'm reconsidering my vote.

6:47: Obama's looking a little ragged, can't seem to decide is he should be talking to the moderator or the camera.

6:48: Wait, McCain is a Free Traitor? Re-reconsidering my vote.

6:50: Obama just promised to "enforce unfair trade agreements." I'm fully in the swing vote camp, now.

6:52: Are these guys fully incoherent now, or have I just stopped paying close attention?

6:53: Shorter McCain: "I like ice cream, so there's really no doubt that Senator Obama will raise taxes."

6:58: Joe the Plumber has just rocketed in the ranks of C-list celebrities. He will be all over the media tomorrow.

7:04: Wait, Obama is wearing a red tie and McCain is wearing blue? Maybe a Freaky Friday body switch prior to the debate?

7:10: Obama appears to have come armed with reformulated responses on an astonishingly wide range of topics.

7:12: And "eloquence" is the new "articulate."

7:13: Science question! Mention the overhead projector, Obama!

7:14: McCain: Education is the civil rights issue of the 21 century. PAY NO ATTENTION TO THOSE GAYS!!

7:17: Wow, agreement on charter schools. That's pretty great.

7:20: Obama thinks children are our future. Apparently he has found the greatest love of all.

7:22: Apparently, by virtue of having an autistic son, I and my wife both get 500 votes a piece this election.

7:24: But will McCain mention he's a POW in his closing statement as he did in the first two debates? Update: No! C-C-C-Combobreaker!

7:27: Obama's closing statement: Say no to Bush and yes to free ponies!

I could provide some post-debate analysis, but it would be like summarizing a game of Pong. Here, just watch this 30-second video half a dozen times.

October 07, 2008

Presidental Debate Liveblogging

Round II:

6:00: Aww rats. Obama and McCain just came out wearing their normal attire. After the "I've got a bracelet" / "oh yeah, well I also have a bracelet" exchange of the first debate, I was hoping they'd arrived encumbered by layers and layers, and would spend the whole debate stripping off articles of clothing and sharing the personal anecdotes associated with each. "This stocking cap was given to me by a grandmother who lost her retirement in the stock market", "well these cuff-links were given to me by an unaborted fetus" ...

6:01: Brokaws' tie matches the bright red carpet, and McCain's tie matches the bright red carpet. Obama is the odd man out with blue. CONSPIRACY?

6:04: McCain's first statement to Obama included a fleeting moment of eye contact and the phrase "It's good to see you at a townhall meeting" with the "finally" left unspoken.

6:06: First headlights-in-the-deer moment goes to McCain on the "who would you appoint" question. Uhh, did I just write "headlights-in-the-deer"?

6:08: This is basically a "9 Mile" style rap contest, with the candidates trying to weave talking points into their performance rather than mad rhymes.

6:11: McCain used his response to attack Obama; Obama (so far) is ignoring the attack and answering the question. Is this how it's going to go all night? Update: Nope. "Now, I have to correct Senator McCain history ... unsurprisingly..."

6:15: This is pretty dull. I hope there's a "Rock Band Challenge" component to this debate; this is the perfect venue for it.

6:18: Apparently the candidate who says the phrase "special interests" the most will receive 40 bonus points.

6:20: Brokaw keeps asking really tough questions, and poor McCain keeps getting them first (while Obama gets 60 seconds to come up with an appropriate nonanswer).

6:25: McCain gets a question from the Internet. This is the most email he's ever received!

6:29: "You know, a lot of you probably remember the tragedy of 9/11." Gee Obama, ya think?

6:30: Doubling the Peace Corps!? Where the hell did that proposal come from? Has Obama ever mentioned it before, or are we venturing into improv, here?

6:33: McCain is now saying that Obama "wants to raise taxes." Not that he's going to, just that he really, really wants to.

6:35: Words that will not escape Obama's lips tonight: "I agree with John."

6:36: Oh, god. Can we just stipulate, ahead of these debates, that McCain will swear that Obama will raise taxes and Obama will give his "not one dime" rebuttal? It would save everyone 20 minutes.

6:38: McCain says that fixing Social Security is not very hard, all we have to do is "sit down at the table" ZOMG WHY DIDNT ANYONE EVER THINK OF THAT BEFORE?!

6:40: McCain namecheck tally: Leiberman: 3, Palin 0.

6:42: When Obama said "The computer was originally invented by {ominous pause} a number of government scientists", I honestly thought he was going to say "Al Gore" there for a moment.

6:45: Again, McCain gets the tough Brokaw question first. That's rough, dude.

6:47: For the record, here are all the issues that Obama does not think are "central"

  • The next poet laureate
  • The redesign of the penny
  • Whether the toilet paper rolls in the whitehouse crappers will be "over" or "under"

6:52: McCain is very insistent that I do the math.

6:53: Is healthcare a right? McCain just gave the wrong answer. Obama is so eager to give the right answer that he's standing up as he waits for his turn.

6:55: Before the third debate McCain should take a Sharpie and write the following on his hand: "DON'T FORGET: YOU SUCK AT JOKES".

6:58: Oh McCain, dude, did you just say a president needs to know "when we should go into a war and when we shouldn't". That's a slow pitch over center plate, my friend. Update: And yet, Obama just barely manages to get to first ...

7:04: I'm pretty sure "beneficially" isn't a word. Update: It is, but I still wouldn't use it three times in a single sentence.

7:07: iObama: "We will nuke bin Laden from orbit, even if he's discovered in Tampa."

7:09: It's hard to keep track of all of McCain's heroes. So far he's mentioned Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt, and Gimli.

7:11: Brokaw's has pretty much given up. Unrelated: what's with the weird black rectangle behind these guys. Are individual cable channels photoshopping Cialis ads into that space or what?

7:17: McCain: "We're not going to have another cold war ... with Russia." Oo, I wonder who it's going to be with, then? I'm gonna guess Chad.

7:15: Yay, another "strategy vs. tactics" semantics fight! This is like hanging out with boardgame nerds.

7:16: "Part of the challenge for the next commander-in-chief is to foresee the challenges that we'll face. That's why I'll establish a Department of Precrime."

7:24: "Gamechanger", drink! But where the hell is "Maverick"? I should have done three or four dozen shots by now.

7:26: Brokaw says the final question is zen-like: "What don't you know." Obama: "Uhh, I'll tell you what I do know." McCain: "I don't know what the unexpected will be." Those responses are so lame they deserve only one-hand's worth of clapping.

That was just too boring to pass judgment on. But David Brooks says Obama won. David Brooks. I think that's set and match, folks.

October 03, 2008

October 02, 2008

Biden-Palin Debate Liveblogging

Oh boy, the Biden-Palin trainwreck! I haven't been this giddy since the premiere of Temptation Island 2!!

Here's a preview of what we can expect:

Annnnnd we're off.

6:02: During the opening handshake, Palin says "Can I call you Joe?" A reference to Obama "arrogantly" calling McCain "John" throughout the first debate? LET THE MINDGAMES BEGIN!!

6:04: Seventeen words into her first response and Palin is already talking about hometown soccer games.

6:06: "Hockey mom" and "Joe Six-Pack" in a single sentence: drain the glass.

6:09: This debate is not going to be about the vice-presidential candidates at all, is it?

6:12: The Queen is swooning to Biden over here.

6:15: Palin's doin' pretty good here, but she sounds like the guide in the Space Needle elevator, rattling off the same dates and heights every hour on the hour.

6:18: Biden with the first laugh of the night ("I call that the ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.")

6:19: This format is terrible. Only enough time to regurgitate soundbites.

6:20: Oh god, stop grinning Biden--you look like the host of Press Your Luck. COME ON SARAH NO WHAMMIES!!

6:24: The way the candidates use every question as an opportunity to laud their running mates is turning this into "My pa could beat up your pa."

6:28: Wow, what's going on? Palin's fallin' apart. She looks exhausted 28 minutes in. Red Bull is wearing off or something.

6:33: Whoa, a fully unambiguous answer from Biden on gay rights. That was awesome.

6:35: Protip: If you refer to yourself as "tolerant" of gays, you are probably not.

6:37: So here's how it works: when they switch to a new subject, Palin perks up, starts smiling, and sounds competent. Then, as discussion continues and the needle on her platitude-gauge travels from F to E, she becomes more and more ragged.

6:41: Biden can't get through a simple declarative statement with detouring through a windy digression on Congressional procedure.

6:44: Mission to dy readers: please identify who pioneered the term "gamechanger" and garrote him.

6:45: Oh man, I love the Castro Brothers. They make great films.

6:46: I think Biden is doing Sudoku while Palin talks.

6:48: Spain!

6:50: "And now, a long distance dedication. Jews in Florida, these canned responses are for you."

6:53: "We're gonna learn from the mistakes of this administration in our administration." It's a little disheartening to discover that they haven't yet learned those lessons, that it's just something on the todo list.

6:56: At the 85 minute mark Palin is going to look at the items on her notecard that she has not yet crossed off and be all, like, "But, Gwen, can we talk for a moment about: gun control, nuclear power, average South Korean height, the filibuster, Syria, and pitbulls vis-a-vis the lipstick thereon?"

7:00: Biden has Al Gore beat on sighing.

7:02: I wish I could be doing what McCain is doing right now. I could use the sleep.

7:03: "Obviously I am a Washington outsider, because I have no idea what you just said."

7:05: Why ask a question that no vice-candidate would ever answer? It's like asking "what is your greatest weakness" at a job interview--you know they are just going to say, "sometimes I work too hard ..."

7:10: Why is Palin doing her closing statement? What she gonna do in 20 minutes?

7:11: Going for more wine, brb.

7:12: "Well gee whiz golly-darn rootin' tooin' yeehaw doggone bless-your-heart shucks there, Gwen. I ... uh, what was the question?"

7:13: LOL @ Biden quoting the constitution verbatim from memory. Palin couldn't even cough up "Guns and Ammo" when asked what she read.

7:18: "My family has had more tragedy than your family" is the new "well I also have a bracelet."

7:19: I was so busy typing I missed the crying. DAMMIT!!!

7:22: Did not understand Biden's response at all. Unrelated: I am tipsy.

7:24: Gwen, you fibber--you said that previous question would be the last. This debate has more false endings than Fatal Attraction.

7:26: Palin: "And if I could just give my seventh closing statement ..."

7:28: Biden: "And if I could just reinforce the impression that I am a boring old white guy who is prone to rambling ...

7:32: Flag pins are out; clearly Downs babies are the new hot accessory. Next year all politicians will walk around with one tucked under their arm.

No spectacular flameouts on either side, which was a grave disappointment. In that sense they both won.

Objectively Biden won on points, but it remains to be seen if that amounts to much in the polls. I can honestly say that I have no guess whatsoever as to how this affects the race. In fact, my gut instinct is that it won't affect the polls much at all--which is bad news for McCain, as the underdog. Palin's favorability ratings will probably uptick in the next week or so, but both Biden and Palin focused so heavily on their running mates that it may have just reinforced in the average viewer's mind that they will not be voting for a VP. In other words, I say this hand is a push--and the pot is just that much larger for the next Presidential debate.


Presidential Debate FAILblogging

I had honestly intended to liveblog last Friday's presidential debate. I even wrote this introduction:

Two weeks ago, when McCain fortunes were riding high, people kept asking me why I was so confident that Obama would still win the election. My answer was a single word: the debates. Well, okay: it was a plural word preceded by an article. Sue me.

There's a lot of pressure on both men tonight. McCain, of course, will have to justify debating in the midst of a crisis so dire that he suspended his campaign. He will probably spend much of the night staring thoughtfully into the middle distance; then, when Jim Lehrer prompts him for a response, he will come out of his reverie and say "I'm sorry, could you repeat the question? I was busy doing the long division necessary to save the economy in my head."

As for Obama, many people are suggesting that he try and provoke McCain into losing his temper. Some tactics he could use are:

  • Immediately mimicking the cadence of everything McCain says but substituting "meow" for all the words.
  • Repeatedly putting his foot over the pre-agreed "invisible line" that separates the two halves of the stage.
  • Referring to his opponent exclusively as "Pops".
Unfortunately the venue I then went to to liveblog the event was having problems with its wireless, so that's as far as I got. I did grab a piece of paper and a pen, but I'm afraid the Herculean task to making physical marks on a page proved too much, and I wound up making exactly one note:
Obama: "And we also have to affirm all the fledgling democracies in that region, you know, the Estonians, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Poles ..." Barack has clearly learned the central lesson of 9/11: NEVER FORGET POLAND!!
Oh well, sorry about that. As compensation, here's my summary of the entire debate in haiku form:
Low-status primates
Find it difficult to look
At the alpha male.
I will 100% absolutely for-sure be liveblogging the Vice-Presidential debate tonight though, oh my goodness yes. Wouldn't miss it for the world.

September 23, 2008

October Surprise 2008 Predictions

  • Obama's status as an elitist is confirmed when his library records are leaked to the press, confirming suspicions that he has read books.
  • On election day, Democratic operatives distract Republicans from voting with delicious Hostess fruit pies.
  • The McCain camp releases footage proving, beyond a doubt, that Obama played a "prominent role" in the 1995 film Happy Gilmore.
  • Obama produces string of garlic during third debate; McCain visibly recoils.
  • The actual Sarah Palin found on the grounds of Hogwarts, imprisoned in her own magic trunk.
  • Joe Biden's middle name revealed to be "Homomuslim".
  • On November 2nd the US Supreme Court preemptively rules Fred Thompson to be the winner.
  • September 09, 2008

    Republican National Convention LiveRetroblogging

    I'd intended to liveblog some of the RNC Convention speeches as I had done for those of the Obamas and Hillary Clinton. But, owing to various causes, I was never in front of my laptop when the speakers were on the stage. The good news is that I heard most of them on the radio in real time, and came up with a mental list of witty and/or insightful comments for each. The bad news is that I am old and have since forgotten all of those observations, except for a vague notion that I had some killer joke involving Guillani and a bicycle with no seat.

    Oh well. You know what they say: Lack of anything worth saying is the soul of blog.


    Bush

    Too dumb; didn't watch.


    Romney

    Sweet baby corn, can this guy deliver a speech or what? The "substance" of his tirade was laughable (Washington is a hotbed of liberalism in need of a McCain-Palin napalming), but few can spoon out the flummery with such aplomb. The crowd also did a good job of pretending like they believed a word of it, except when Romney said "it's time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother" and there was a momentary silence while everyone was, like, "wtf dude, I thought you were on our side ...?"


    Huckabee

    Okay, confession time: I kind of like Huckabee. I mean, I like him the same way I like America's Funniest Home Videos: fun to watch, but I'm glad I'm not the one getting a golf ball to the nuts. Were he ever elected president I would immediately pack up the family and move to Mimas.

    Still, for all the right likes to espouse religion when it's politically expedient, Huckabee strikes me as the real deal. He's staunchly anti-abortion and anti-gay as you would expect, but also pro-environment (because God entrusted us with the stewardship of the Earth, he says), opposed to the death penalty in principle, and adopted a populism platform in the primaries that seemed to arise from genuine concern with poverty. I like that his positions seem to stem from a consistent philosophical framework, even though I think that framework is dead wrong. Better than those politicians that just adopt whatever position they think will help them win. (This is also why I liked Ron Paul, another candidate I swooned over specifically because there was zero chance that he would actually become president.)

    Unfortunately, this was very much a standard convention speech, part of an orchestrated campaign to steal the "change" theme from the Democrats. Two fantastic lines, though. First, "I'm not a Republican because I grew up rich, but because I didn't want to spend the rest of my life poor, waiting for the government to rescue me." The second line, "[Palin] got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States!" actually made me laugh out loud in my car (and I was genuinely disappointed to later learn that it was a categorically false statement--so sad).

    Also:

    Most of us -- most of us can lift our arms high in the air so that we can signify when we want something. [McCain] can't even lift his arms to his shoulder, which is a constant reminder that his life is marked not by what he's wanting to receive, but rather by what he has already given.
    Oh man, so clumsy. Nice metaphor guys, but that one could have used a few more hours in rewrite.


    Palin

    Sarah Palin addresses the 2008 Republican Convention
    I really had no strong opinions on Palin going into her speech. Afterward, I continued to have no strong opinions. Why? Because it seemed obvious to me that there wasn't a trace of Palin in there. It was clearly written for her--frankly, given the short amount of time that had elapsed since the announcement, and the whirlwind of publicity that Palin had endured thereafter, I don't know that she could have written her own material even had she wanted to.

    But while I have no strong opinions on Palin, I do have one grave concern: that she is simply going to serve as an empty vessel into which McCain--or, rather, the McCain campaign--can just pour slogans and bromides. You know, like Chemo.

    By the way, I managed to get annotated draft of the speech in which several analogies were considered and discarded before it was decided to compare Palin and "a pitbull with lipstick". Here were some of the others:

    • A shih tzu with a hairdo
    • A malamute with a manicure
    • A ferret with a frock
    • A gecko with glasses
    • A penguin with a pregnant daughter
    • A capybara with an assault rifle
    • A platypus with a bone spur inside of each hind limb which can squirt poison--true fact, look it up
    • A kitten with a LOLCAT caption
    • A polar bear with no need for endangered species protection
    • A crazy person on the street corner holding a REPENT sign

     
    McCain

    I used to like and admire McCain. In fact, I'm one of those people who would have loved a Kerry/McCain ticket in 2004 (or, to be honest, a Democrat-Who-Was-Not-Kerry/McCain ticket). I appreciated his willingness to buck his own party, and agreed with him on many of the issues (especially his drive for campaign finance reform, opposition to torture, and rejection of the Bush tax cuts for the affluent). You know, back when he was a maverick.

    Sadly, in the primary McCain took out more mortgages on his reputation as a reformer than he has on his nine houses. (Oh ZING! You can totally use that one.) So in February, when he finally caved on waterboarding, it was like the final scene in a Shakespearean tragedy. Or perhaps the final installment in a Lucas trilogy, as he joined the ranks of other honorable Republicans who pulled an Anakin. (Powell was another.)

    Well, you could argue, all politicians do this: tack to the extremes during the primaries and then head for the center as the general election looms. Obama himself has reversed himself on a number positions, including public campaign funding, the FISA bill (for shame, Senator), and, today, 527s. That's bad, no doubt about it. But reversing yourself on your signature issues (all of them!) is something else entirely. McCain's reliance on lobbyists to run his campaign, and his gaming of FEC funding rules, for instance, is diametrically opposed to his past advocacy for campaign finance reform, the issue for which he is the most well-known.

    Anyway.

    McCain's acceptance speech was, above all else, boring. Too long, too biographical, and waaaaay too derivative of the Democrats message of change. (Seriously, even Biden didn't plagiarize like this. Curious how the "party of big ideas", as Romney dubbed it, can't cough up with a campaign slogan that hasn't in the barackobama.com metadata for the last eight months.)

    Not that boring is bad--after eight years of Bush's recklessness, a little boring might be just what the doctor ordered. But, unfortunately, this speech wasn't "omg policy details zzzzzzzz" boring, but "omg is there anything in here that's not a platitude or a self-administered back-pat?" boring. Opening call for civility in the campaign, check. Lauding of the running mate, check. Laundry list of things he's done right in his career, check. The ceremonial calling-out of people placed in the audience and reciting their heart-warming and/or point-illustrating anecdotes, check. Subtle allusion to his time as a POW, check (albeit one followed, three minutes later, by a ten minute recounting of his time as a POW, for those who missed the earlier reference).

    So, here's the good stuff:

    I know how the military works, what it can do, what it can do better, and what it shouldn't do. I know how the world works. I know the good and the evil in it.

    I know how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don't.

    I know how to secure the peace ...

    I'm running for president to keep the country I love safe and prevent other families from risking their loved ones in war as my family has. I will draw on all my experience with the world and its leaders, and all the tools at our disposal -- diplomatic, economic, military, and the power of our ideals -- to build the foundations for a stable and enduring peace...

    Again and again I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That's how I will govern as president. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again.

    This passage appears about two-thirds of the way through McCain's speech, and is immediately followed by the POW stuff. In journalism, that's called "burying the lede." Experience is McCain's most compelling argument, and why they chose to give it only perfunctory mention is beyond me. Maybe this only sells to people like me, for whom Obama's lack of experience is a genuine concern. Maybe they've determined that the base and the Independents are going to vote based on biography, and so that's what they are going to emphasize from here on out. I don't pretend to know.

    Overall McCain's speech, while dull, succeeded in reassuring me that a McCain presidency wouldn't be a disaster. But it did nothing to convince me that such a scenario will ever come to pass. Even in the face of McCain's bounce, I still think Barack has this election in the bag.

     
    August 29, 2008

    Impulse Purchase

    Just a quick note regarding McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. This may have seemed like a good idea on paper--appeal to disgruntled Hillary voters, add a "change" component to the McCain platform, etc.--but I'm betting it's going to backfire big time.

    As many have pointed out, Palin has little experience. Some argue that this works for Democrats: now McCain can not longer belittle Obama for same; others say that it works for McCain: if anyone questions Palin's experience, they'll take those quotations and run them in an ad featuring Obama's smiling mug.

    So who will Palin's lack of experience ultimately favor? I say Obama--but not for the reasons everyone has seized on.

    Democrats will assert that Palin's inexperience is an issue because she'll assume office if McCain dies ... and that gives them license to talk about the likelihood of such scenario. Expect incessant talk about McCain's age and his health, two topics that were largely taboo before. After all (Dems will argue), they aren't bringing up McCain's age to denigrate him--that would be a nasty personal attack, after all--but simply as something to consider when discussing Palin.

    Even if the Obama inexperience v. Palin inexperience slugfest winds up as a draw, the age thing will linger. And in the final equation, Americans vote for a President, not a Vice-President. I don't think the McCain campaign thought this selection all the way through to the bitter (if cynical) end, and they are going to have buyers remorse real quick-like.

    August 28, 2008

    Democratic Convention Liveblogging: Barack Obama

    Longtime readers of this blog know I have been in the tank for Obama for a while. In Hypothetical World my candidates were Gore and then Dodd, but among the feasible candidates there was really no question who I supported. Hillary I like, and think she would have made a fine president (and perhaps still may), but put succinctly, I am so sick of this dynasty crap.

    And call me naive, but despite the (supposed) narrowing polls there's still no doubt in my mind that, barring electoral shenanigans, Obama's gonna win it. McCain is, to my mind, some sort of horrible Dole / Kerry hybrid, doomed by the utter lack of enthusiasm he engenders in his party.

    Barack still has the task of introducing himself to the vast majority of America which is only now starting to pay real attention to the presidential race. It'll be interesting to see how he does so.

    6:00: Good, if muted, speech by Al Gore. I've seen him get really riled up while speaking, but this was him in campaign mode, pulling his punches and just wonking-out up there. Second opinion, courtesy of The Queen: "As soon as Al Gore starts talking, I stop listening."

    6:12: Who is this non-Obama person, and why is she talking ... ?

    By the way, I busy playing Settlers of Catan last night, which is why I wasn't able to liveblog Clinton or Biden's speeches. Saw them both after the fact, though. Bill, it seemed to me, pulled some sort of crafty triple-cross; like, "Give me in a pre-prime time spot, will they? Well I'm going to give such a kick-ass stemwinder that they'll be wracked with agonizing regret for having stuck me in the six o'clock slot." Mission accomplished, Big Dog.

    Biden: Yeah, whatever. He'll eviscerate whomever he faces in the debates, but that speech was a yawner.

    Now there's someone else speaking, and he too, by all appearances, is not Obama. I feel tricked, like going to the cinema at the published time and getting 20 minutes of ads before the feature film.

    6:22: Speak of the devil, it's Joe Biden again. Time to read Go, Dog! Go! to Squiggle.

    6:30: Oh jeeze, who are these people? Delegates? I gotta say, that dog party was looking a lot more lively that the democratic party, right now.

    6:36: TV is on mute. A woman with indigo hair is speaking, possibly an X-man of some sort.

    6:50: TV still on mute. The mouth of PBS commentator Mark Shield is moving and in my head I hear the voice of Droopy Dog.

    6:57: Dick Durban is now introducing Obama, and just bad-mouthed cold pizza. WAY TO LOSE MY VOTE THERE, CHAMP.

    7:00: "And now there will be a video, to introduce Barack Obama." Up next: the cast of Gossip Girl introducing Barack Obama, followed by the 1976 Barber Of The Year (West Division), who will introduce Barack Obama.

    7:08: I want a framed picture of that portrait of Obama and his grandfather. Also: whenever he says "the Fat Cats" I just want to pinch his cheeks, it's so adorable.

    7:10: Obama just came out, and the sound engineer is probably already fired. It sounds like 17 of the 60,000 people in attendance are applauding.

    7:12: Apparently Obama is going to utter one "thank you" for each person in attendance before beginning.

    7:14: Accepted the nomination, thanked Hillary Clinton, thanked Bill Clinton. Then stopped for a moment, pulled a piece of paper from his breast pocket, and crossed the first three items off his to-do list.

    7:16: Lapel pin.

    7:19: Confidential to audience: when he says "Veterans are sleeping on the streets" you're not supposed to chap and cheer.

    7:20: "On November 4th, we must stand up and say 'eight is enough'." Including that joke does not reflect well on his judgment.

    7:21: "too much mccain. too little obama" What he said.

    7:27: This speech really is for the benefit for those who have not paid attention to the race thus far. If you've been following the campaign at all, you've heard all this before.

    7:30: Okay, here we go. He's mentioning actual policy, and started with taxes. #2, taxes. #3, taxes. #4, end dependence on foreign oil.

    7:33: Buh? Did he just endorse nuclear power? Ballsy and awesome.

    7:35: Little hearts float out of the top of my head when Obama speaks about Big Dreams.

    7:38: McCain could just repeat this portion of the speech at the RNC, if the RNC still stood for (actual) conservatism.

    7:40: Just openly questioned McCain's temperament. Oh man, I can't wait for the debates. If McCain wears his cranky pants that day, that could be the end of it right there.

    7:45: Each ten minute block of this speech is better than the last.

    7:50: Bumpersticker manufactures around the nation are scrambling to get "CHANGE HAPPENS" decals on the assembly line now.

    7:52: Keeps saying "promisssssss"; sounds like Gollum.

    7:55: Obama is totally emulating the Dr. King speaking-style while talking about MLK. I wonder if that's on purpose or, like, when you talk to a Brit and unconsciously lapse into an English accent.

    7:56: That ended very ... abruptly. Suddenly The Queen and I are sitting in our living room, drinking beer, and listening to country music against our will.

    7:58: The PBS pundits are all, like, "I'm not ... sure ... what's going on .."

    Kind of a strange speech. The first half was like a "Greatest Hits" compilation of various lines used on the stump and in the primaries; the second half covered essentially the same ground, but was all fresh and newly written. It was like Obama pasted his usual rhetoric in Word, used it as a guide to write a brand new speech, and then neglected to delete the old stuff before delivery.

    That said, the second half was great, with a lot of attention paid to Big Ideas and unity--something we haven't seen much of recently, as the Obama campaign has been bogged down in responding to the fusillade of negative messages coming from McCain. Hopefully they will again fly the banner of Hope going forward, and not get suckered into these rope-a-dope tit-for-tat flamewars.

    August 27, 2008

    VOTE McCAIN

    McCain's Prickly TIME Interview:

    There's a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
    Read it in my books.

    I've read your books.
    No, I'm not going to define it.

    But honor in politics?
    I defined it in five books. Read my books.

    [Your] campaign today is more disciplined, more traditional, more aggressive. From your point of view, why the change?
    I will do as much as we possibly can do to provide as much access to the press as possible.

    But beyond the press, sir, just in terms of ...
    I think we're running a fine campaign, and this is where we are.

    Do you miss the old way of doing it?
    I don't know what you're talking about.

    VOTE MCCAIN

     

    August 26, 2008

    Democratic Convention Liveblogging: Hillary Clinton

    Typo week continues here at dy, as I liveblog Hillary Clinton's speech.

    6:55: Hmm, Mark Warner is still speaking. He just told a convoluted story that ended with "and that's how I wound up at the gymnasium of a high school." Right. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that you keep getting older, but they stay the saaaaame age.

    6:59: And so ends the keynote speech. Four years ago, right at this moment, I was shouting at the television, "Holy shit dude, you're gonna be President some day!"

    7:00: By the way, some funnyguy-and/or-gal at Slate is also liveblogging the convention at http://twitter.com/Slate. Go check it out, or just keep refreshing my site--I'm gonna steal all the good jokes from there anyhow.

    7:05: They are interviewing Michelle Obama now. She seems a little confused. They keep asking asking her, "what were you trying to do in your speech last night?' and she's, all, "I thought I covered that ground ... in the speech ... last night ..."

    7:12: Michelle says that one of the things her husband will do as President is "touch people".
    Funny, Hillary said the same thing in 1992 ...

    7:14: WTF, I thought Hillary was on at 7:00. No? Well, she better not come on in the next 40 minutes, because now I'm a-gonna watch this episode of Prison Break.

    7:25: Okay, so see this guy is a structural engineer, and he purposely got himself locked into prison because brother, who's on death row, was framed for-- maybe I should stop liveblogging now.

    7:30: Switching back and forth between Prison Break and the convention. They are starting to blur together. Except at the convention we're not trying to get out of jail, we are trying to get out of Republican rule. And instead of looking at ripped young men in undershirts, we get to see David Brooks.

    7:34: Oh, here we go: Hillary Clinton pre-speech video biography. They just showed a picture of Bill with the caption "Hillary's Husband"

    7:40: Holy smokes, I bet the Clintons went another $12m is debt making that tribute to themselves.

    7:41: Hillary looks fabulous. Independent corroboration: Bill is leering at his own wife.

    7:43: Affirmed her support for Obama in the first sentence. And the second. And the third. This is going to be a full-throated endorsement of unity.

    7:45: Whoa, they just showed Michelle and she was either choked up with emotion or giving Hillary the hairy eyeball. GO BACK I WANT TO KNOW WHICH!!

    7:48: A big shout-out to my homie autism. WOOOHOO!

    7:50: LOL'd at "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits"

    7:52: ZZZzzzzzzzz laundry list of Bush bad, my campaign good.

    7:55: Beginning to think she's going to accept the nomination at the end of this speech.

    7:56: Okay, here we go. Making a strong case of Barack. Although when she said, "It won't be easy" I thought for a moment she was going to finish with, "supporting Obama."

    7:58: Michelle is still making that face. You can tell that the networks aren't sure what it means either, because as soon as they cut to her they cut away as quickly as possible.

    8:00: Dude, McCain just got brutalized.

    8:03: They've given up on Michelle. Now they are just cutting to Chelsea.

    8:05: I don't really understand where that the Harriet Tubman digression came from, but the audience lapped it up.

    8:06: Conservative spin tomorrow, today: Speech didn't end with "God bless America" and is therefore invalid in the continental US.

    Very nice speech. Very, very nice, I'm really impressed. She spoke about herself a fair amount as was her right, but her challenge to her supporters--were you voting for me, or were you voting for the best possible future for America?--is an almost irrefutable argument in favor of Obama.

    Hillary is going to get rave reviews for this speech, as well she should.


    Washington 6-5000

    Just in time for Hillary Clinton's appearance at the Democratic convention, the McCain campaign has rolled out a new video that samples her infamous "3 AM' ad.

    Of course it just snipes at Obama, without saying what McCain himself would do if woken at 3 AM by a call. My guess is that he would groggily pick up the handset to his rotary phone, bellow "you punks quit calling about Prince Albert!!!", and then blow a sports whistle into the mouthpiece.

    August 25, 2008

    Convention Liveblogging: Michelle Obama

    Liveblogging! Enjoy the typos!

    7:20: Commentators are filling up airtime before Michelle takes the stage. They have decided that her role will be to sell the candidacy to "disgruntled Hillary voters".

    Two things, here. First, I am certain that the media is blowing the Clinton / Obama divisions waaaaaay out of proportion. Unity doesn't interest viewers, and the news channels have no problem ginning up conflict where none (or little) exists. McCain seems delighted by this, but really, he should be concerned that the media considers him so dull that they are focusing on an imagined rivalry rather than the real one between the GOP and the Dem.

    Second, the idea that Michell has to "introduce" her husband to Clinton voters is a pretty insulting, as it presupposes that they selected their candidate without bothering to learn about the alternatives. No doubt that's true of some (just as some picked Obama from the beginning and paid no attention to Clinton's strengths), but the vast majority should be suitably offended.

    7:25: Commentators got a hold of a copy of the speech and are now discussing it before Michell takes the stage. OMG SPOILERS!!

    7:27: Oh god, a pre-speech "video tribute" to Michelle Obama, complete with soft lighting, piano music in the background, and touching stories about hardship and family. The amount of red wine in my system is now matched by that of estrogen.

    7:36: Michelle says she's there as a sister, a wife, a mom, and as a daughter. Hoping she starts belting out Peaches "Sex (I'm a)"

    7:41: It's becoming apparent that this speech is going to be about Barack and not Michelle.

    7:43: Judging from the applause, democrats are very enthusiastic about: women having the right to vote, the military.

    7:44: Hillary Clinton gets name-checked. Also: "Improbable Journeys" would be a great name for a 20's-era science-fiction pulp.

    7:50: Whenever they show the people in the stands, it's either enthusiastic black people or listless white people (Biden foremost among them--he looks like he's trying to recall his shopping list)

    7:52: Huh, that's it? Michelle is a good speaker, but the speech just felt like a long "About The Author" bio.

    7::54: Ooo, big surprise twist at the end: Barack himself comes on screen and boasts about how many times he had to ask out Michelle before she went out with him. Yay, Stalker in Chief!

    7:57: Wow, who's idea was it to cut directly from Michelle Obama's lovely visage to that of Jim Lehrer? Like Brussels sprouts after ice cream.

    Pretty uninspired, overall. I don't think I and my Y chromosome were the target audience for that tale of family, adversity, and courtship, but I wanted to learn more about Michelle Obama; instead it seems like she just heaped encomiums on her father, brother, husband and children, and did her best to fade into the background. Too bad.

    July 09, 2008

    Savings Throw vs. Cowardice Failed

     

    AC&C

    May 08, 2008

    Political Roundup Addendum

    A new poll was taken during Tuesday's primaries, in which half of all Democratic voters said that, if their preferred candidate does not win the nomination, they will vote for McCain in the general election instead.

    Honestly, I don't find those results surprising at all. I've long suspected that 50% of Democrats, if not more, are liars.

    May 07, 2008

    Political Roundup

    B., loyal reader and master of reverse psychology, recently urged me to "Please please please stop writing about politics," adding "you don't have any insight I couldn't get from any other other blog equipped 30 something urban liberal guy."

    True, true enough. But B., you are not thinking this all the way through. Since you already read this site, isn't it convenient that I summarize the insights of all 30-something urban liberal guy blogs, freeing you from having to read them in addition to my own?

    Once I integrate celebrity gossip, LOLCATS, and fawning reviews of Apple products into my posting schedule, this will become the only pitstop you ever need take in the blogosphere. That's a little something we call "value-added service."


    Don't Think Of An Elephant

    The whole Elliot Spitzer debacle happened during my blogging hiatus, but someone wanted to know my opinion of it. Well, my opinion on scandals of this nature has remained fairly consistent throughout my adult, political life: I DO NOT WANT TO THINK ABOUT OLD WHITE GUYS HAVING SEX SO STOP TRICKING ME INTO DOING SO! I don't want to think about Spitzer having sex, or Larry Craig having sex, or Gray Davis having sex, or Jerry Falwell having sex, or Bill Clinton having something that was not strictly sex pursuant to the legal definition provided in statute §§21050, etc. I don't care who or what they are having sex with because thinking about this aspect of the sex would involve thinking about the sex, which, as I have stated previously, I do not wish to do. Please, can we just assign a taxpayer-funded hooker to every member of congress to ensure that these liaisons become so routine that they are no longer newsworthy?


    Stop! Grammar Time!

    In a speech recently, Obama said the following:

    We cannot prevail until we reduce our commitment in Iraq, which will allow us to do what I called for last August: providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our efforts in Afghanistan. This increased commitment in turn can be used to leverage greater assistance--with less, uh, fewer restrictions--from our NATO allies.
    Whoa, nice on-the-fly less/fewer correction there, smart guy. Possibly staged to sew up the grammarian vote, I concede, but even that possibility is kind of endearing.

    Hell, he ought to just adopt that as his bumper sticker slogan.

    If I catch him correctly referring to "data" as a plural, I may well swoon.


    The Neverending Story

    Listening to NPR the other evening, they had a story about how the Bush administration desperately needed to, I dunno, read some eight year-old girl's diary or something, to protect us all from TERRORISM and TERROR and possibly also TERRARIUMS. And they had some Bush flunky on there going on and on about how terrorists were RIGHT THIS SECOND planning to poison the nation's supply of fillet-o-fishes, and the only thing we, as a nation, could do to stop them to give Bush the authority to do whatever he wants, up to and including drilling in ANWR and abandonment of the longstanding tradition of US Presidents wearing pants.

    At some point it occurred to me that the White House's depiction of terrorism has now become so at odds with reality that they might as well be warning us about gelatinous cubes. And, having thought this, I could no longer not hear the phrase "gelatinous cube" whenever this guy spoke, e.g., "The NSA's Gelatinous Cube Surveillance Program is a vital tool for preventing gelatinous cube attacks here at home and preventing the spread of gelatinous cubism worldwide." And you know they'll be hyping the threat of owlbears again before the 2008 election.


    Going For A Dip

    Speaking of which ...

    At the aquatics center Squiggle and I frequent they have a bulletin board near the pool, on which they often post news articles relating to swimming. Yesterday it featured a page from the local paper's recent "Living" section, with the 36-point headline "WATERPROOFING YOUR CHILDREN." Except, for one crazy moment when I first glanced at it, I thought it said "WATERBOARDING YOUR CHILDREN" and was all like "Really? It's come to this?"


    Headline News, January 20, 2009

    BARACK OBAMA SWORN IN AS FORTY-FOURTH PRESIDENT

    Inauguration of African-American Heralds New Era of America Politics

    Clinton continues to pursue nomination, dismisses Obama as "unelectable"


    April 28, 2008

    The Shape of Things to Come

    Tired of the protracted Democratic fight for the Presidential nomination? Want to pretend we're already in the general election phase of the campaign? Why, just head on over to Snopes for a preview of what things will be like six months from now:

    And lots more.

    It's hard to pick a favorite, but "The Book of Revelation describes the anti-Christ as someone with characteristics matching those of Barack Obama" is definitely in the running:

    According to the Book of Revelations the anti-christ is: The anti-christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuassive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal.... the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destory everything. Is it OBAMA??
    I usually dismiss such prophecies out of hand, but this one has me a little unsettled. After all, it has already established its credibility by successfully predicting the religion of Islam, which was founded half a millennium after Revelations was written. (Fun facts: other warnings in Revelations include the failure of the McDLT, the prohibition against putting metal in the microwave, and the cancellation of Firefly after only 14 episodes.)

    February 12, 2008

    How To Be Hated
    Mrs Clinton still has the edge among super-delegates, not least because Bill Clinton is calling in all the favours he has done them over the past 16 years ...
    Dear Mr. Clinton: please consider the following:
    1. You call in favors, and use your influence as a former President, to convince superdelegates to vote for your wife instead of the man who wins the popular vote;
    2. Said wife loses in the general election;
    3. That roaring you hear is the sound of your legacy being flushed down the crapper.
    You think Dems were pissed at Nader for "costing" them the 2000 elections? I cannot even conceive of the vitriol that will be headed your way if the above scenario comes to pass.

    Just a thought!


    Clip 'n' Save!

    The November election is a long ways away. So, here: I made you a little cheatsheet!

    Clip 'n' Save

    P.s. I TOLD YOU FOOLS TO VOTE DODD!

    Only after he dropped out of the presidential race, admittedly ...

    January 30, 2008

    The Presidental Race Tightens

    Two candidates abandoned their bids for the White House, today.

    First, Rudy "9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11" Giuliani, who was the national frontrunner as recently as four months ago:

    thank god

    Some say that he ran a poor campaign, but I think the whole thing was a painstakingly orchestrated business move. Having learned, in wake of September 11th, that he could make astronomical speaking fees for being associated with disaster, he figured another debacle on his resume could only help.

    And we also bid farewell to John "Wait, you're running for president?" Edwards:

    Thanks, you two

    Edwards said the decision to withdraw was a tough one, but he wanted to devote more time to his 2012 presidential campaign.

    January 28, 2008

    The Lesser

    Sometime people who read my site ask for advice. I guess that's redundant--obviously anyone who asks me for advice would have to be a reader, as anyone who has met me in real life would know better.

    Long time reader here... I'm in SC and an pretty much an independent in terms of politics. I chose not to vote in the Republican primary as all of them turn my stomach and will vote in this Saturday's Democratic primary instead. I am thinking of my vote as more of a vote against Hillary than a vote for anyone. What are your thoughts in terms of this and who do you think is the lesser of two evils: Edwards or Obama? I am leaning towards Edwards, the bajillionaire attorney suckling on the teet of Big Tobacco vs Obama. Anyway, I actually find your insight on politics more understandable, interesting, and insightful than the most pundits. So if you could spare a moment and share your thoughts, that'd be great. :)

    Warm regards,

    Betsey
    My reply:
    Hi!

    The conservative argument against taxes, in a nutshell, is this: it is fairer and more efficient if people are allowed to keep their own money to spend on those things they know they need, rather than to require them to hand it over to a Government to spend on what it thinks the citizenry needs. Given what you've told me, i would encourage you to vote for Obama for essentially the same reason.

    Of the remaining Democratic candidates, Edwards is, in my opinion, the most suited for the presidency. But if the last few weeks have shown us anything, it's (a) Edwards is not going to win, and (b) he's not going to drop out going to drop out on Wednesday, January 30th, you heard it here first. So why is remaining in the race at all. Many (including myself) think it's to become a kingmaker, of sorts; if neither Clinton or Obama collect enough delegates to win the nomination (a majority), Edwards could offer his accumulated delegates to one of them in exchange for something he wants: the vice-presidency, the inclusion of one of his signature issues into their platform, or the like.

    Now, if you really like Edwards or the issues he fights for, then voting for him still makes sense, as it might result in his going to the White House as Veep, or having his signature issues adopted by whomever becomes the eventual nominee. But if your goal is simply to ensure that Hillary doesn't get the nod, then it's obvious to me that you should vote for Obama. After all, any votes (and, by extension, delegates) that go to Edwards could wind up in Hillary's ledger eventually, if Edwards brokers a deal with her at some point, drops out and endorses her, etc.

    I'm glossing over a lot, here (like the fact that Edwards can't simply "give" his delegates to someone else), but the gist of it is this: you can "spend" your vote on Obama, or you can give it to Edwards and run the risk that he might "spend" it on a candidate you don't really want.

    Cheers,
    Matthew

    At least I was conscientious enough to send my advice today, after South Carolina primary, to make it unactionable.

    By the way, I'm completely sympathetic to the idea that people ought to be able to vote for whomever they choose, even for someone (like Edwards) who seemingly doesn't have a hope of winning. I agree! People ought to be able to do that! But the point is largely academic until this nation implements instant runoff voting, something I would love to see in my lifetime.

    January 07, 2008

    The Iowa Caucuses

    How about them Iowa Caucuses, huh?


    Obama

    In victory speech, Barak Obama called last Thursday "a defining moment in history"--presumably because it marked the first occasion in which a political prediction of mine actually came to pass. Although I said he'd win by "a significant (if not sizable) margin in Iowa," and winning by eight percentage points strikes me as fairly sizable, so perhaps I'm still batting .000 after all.

    After Obama's speech, the NPR pundits were predicting GOP fratricide in the wake of Huckabee's victory, and I had a lovely little daydream about all the Republican candidates turning on one another with such virulence that they somehow all lose, allowing Obama to waltz into the Oval office unchallenged. Sort of like a modern day "Millions Of Cats":

    Millions of Cats

    Hell, maybe he could just adopt that as his campaign slogan.


    Edwards

    Many assumed that my calling the election for Obama implied that I was rooting for him. Well, I am, kinda. But only because my first choice, Gore, has decided to spend this election home playing Blocksum on his three 30" monitors; my second choice, Dodd, has, after a year of campaigning, managed to become as widely known as the gaffer on Daddy Day Camp; and my third choice, Edwards, has as much chance of getting elected president as I do of opening a line of Southern California Taco Trucks called "defective yummy" ("We Put The Eat Into Burrito!").

    Edwards was my man in 2004, and I still contend that he cwould have won, had he been nominated. But, to my mind, he's been a moderately terrible candidate this time around. For one thing, I can't help but wonder what he's been doing since 2004--and the only conclusion I can come to is: running for president. Which means, really, he's been running for President for five or six straight years, to the apparent exclusion of all other activities. And it doesn't help when he says that the presidency is "his calling." He's pursuing the White House with such zeal that, were it a girl, it would have long ago politely asked him to stop calling and sought a restraining order. And, as the "Draft Al Gore!" and "Draft Fred Thompson!" and "Draft Wesley Clark!" movements demonstrate, Americans like candidates who feign disinterest in the presidency. The coy suitor, if you will, rather than the guy standing on the White House's front lawn holding the boombox over his head blasting The Star Spangled Banner.

    Still, of all the contenders (now that Dodd and Biden have dropped out), I think he'd make the best president. (Well, perhaps not as good as Hillary, but I have ruled her out for other reasons.) He has the experience Obama lacks, and the seriousness that just about everyone on everyone on the Republican side, save perhaps McCain and Paul, openly eschews. By "seriousness," I mean that he has clearly thought about what he would do as president, and not just about how to get to be president. Check out this recent New York Times Interview with Edwards, for instance, or the issues page on his website. I get the sense that Edwards views the presidency as a job, and not just a plum.

    Sadly, the media has this completely backwards, dismissing him as the lightweight in the race. And Edwards has largely brought this onto himself, with his relentless smile and a "sunny optimism" shtick that's easily confused with blinkered shallowness. That kind of showmanship may have worked well in the courtroom, but here it has proven a total dud.

    Anyway, I think Edwards may have served his purpose in this race: by edging Hillary out in Iowa by a fraction of a percent, he relegated her to "third" and made Obama seem much, much more the frontrunner than if she had come in second. That's of enormous significance to the dynamic of the race, but probably the only thing of consequence Fate has in store for the Edwards campaign. He's not going to be the protagonist of this story, alas, just a plot device.


    Books

    I'd be happy to see Obama in the White House, though perhaps as a vice president first. Much of my reservations came while reading his book, The Audacity Of Hope, which is mostly written in the "Cowardly Journalist," on-the-one-hand, on-the-other style of using a lot of words to say very little. His dissertation on the filibuster, for instance, is, like:

    • The filibuster is a hallowed and important senate tradition
    • But it was used to block very important reforms during the civil-rights era
    • But I don't think it should be abolished
    • But, when Democrats consider using it, they should contemplate the fact that they are subverting the very principle of majority rule
    • But then they should use it anyway
    • But etc, etc.
    Which wouldn't bother me so much--"campaign books" are notorious for their meaninglessness--if it hadn't made me so acutely aware of when he uses this same technique on the campaign trail.

    By the way, I tried to read Al Gore's most recent book, FATAL REASON ASSAULT IV: THE DUMBENING or whatever it's called, and gave up on page 30, when I hit the line, "It was the new technology itself that empowered Galileo to describe a reality that was impossible to perceive so clearly until the new technology of the telescope made it possible," one of many that was so bad that I could have written them. The guy has an Oscar and a Nobel Prize--you'd think we could rustle himself up an editor as well.


    Huckabee

    "It's really impossible to overstate Chuck Norris' impact on this race," one pundit opined after Huckabee's win in Iowa. And it's also impossible to overstate the impact of Chuck Norris jokes in re-elevating Chuck Norris to the public consciousness.

    This is the most influence an Internet meme has ever had, at least until Obama names Leslie Hall as Secretary of the Treasury.


    Giuliani

    I don't know if you saw it, but before the Iowa Caucus Rudy Giuliani released the most fearmongering ad of the campaign.

    After coming in fifth there, though, he decided to release this new ad, to really drive home the central theme of his campaign:

    NO WAIT STOP DON'T WATCH THE ABOVE VIDEO!!!!

    It's ... okay, I'll just tell you. It contains Screaming Zombie Lady. You know, that asinine clip where you watch something relaxing and then all the sudden it becomes a scene of a ghoul shrieking at volume 12 and you shit your pants and have to leave work early to go get a new pair of Dockers? Yeah, it's that one. If you insist on watching it, set the youtube volume to as low as it can go and still be audible. I wanted to spring it on you, but ... I couldn't bring myself to do it. Bah. I'm such a pussy.

    December 05, 2007

    Presidents, Politics, and Predictions

    It's not often that our President makes me rotfl these days, but occasionally he gets off a good one.

    Monday, as you may have heard, a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran was released (PDF), that stated with "high confidence" that Iran halted its quest for nuclear weapons in 2003. You'd think that would leave those who were warning us about World War III as recently as a month ago with egg on their face, but Bush was quick to assure us otherwise. "I believed before the NIE that Iran was dangerous," he said, "and I believe after the NIE that Iran is dangerous."

    Ha! Yes, don't you worry your pretty little self, America--this administration will continue to forge ahead on whatever course of action they are currently on, even in the face of facts.

    I love they way Bush seems to genuinely believe we are less concerned about whether whether a sworn enemy of the United States has Teh Newk, and more about whether he has ever in his life changed his mind about anything ever forever. Like, if he and and family were out at T.G.I.Friday's and he told Laura he was going to get the Parmesan-Crusted Sicilian Quesadilla, but then when the waiter came he actually ordered a Jack Daniel's Cheesy Bacon Burger, the stock market would crash and two-thirds of the US population would immediately become furries.

    So, for those of you seized by anxiety right now, let me reiterate:

    Of course, notice how he craftily fails to mention what he believed at the exact moment the NIE was released. He's always got a out, that guy.

    Anyway, it amused me that Bush exhaled the carbon dioxide necessary to say that he wasn't going to change his policy. My goodness, M. Night Shyamalan himself couldn't have written a more surprising twist.

    So, let's see. What else is political news right now. Ummm .. oh yeah!

    ***spoilers!!!!!***
    ***spoilers!!!!!***
    ***spoilers!!!!!***

    This guy is going to be our next president:

    Yes, I'm calling it. You heard it here first.

    More people are paying attention as we approach the primaries, which is translating into more people with Grave Misgivings about another Clinton term. Obama, meanwhile, is picking up steam.

    I say he wins by a significant (if not sizable) margin in Iowa, and people start thinking that he's the one with "electablity." Wins NH by a significant (if not sizable) margin as well, and then it's snowball city.

    I'm still banking on Giuliani for the GOP, despite the scandals--after all, he's got FOX in his corner. The contrast between he and Obama is startling in the debates, like the choice between a cupcake and a Brussels sprout. Rudy's scandals continue to dog him up to the general election, and many social conservatives refuse to pull the lever for him (plus, the urgency to do so is gone, since his loss won't result in That Woman winding up in the White House).

    Obama takes it in November 2008 ... oh, let's say 292 to 246.

    My record of success on these kind of predictions is approximately 0 for Every Prediction I've Ever Made, but that won't stop me from being totally 100% right this time, just you wait.

    Note: If Obama actually wins 292 to 246, everyone who comments on this post wins a beer.
     
    October 16, 2007

    Running Down The Hill

    Back in ye olde early dayes of this blog, I actually had (and occasionally hewed to) a weekly schedule:

    Monday:		Books
    Tuesday: Politics
    Wednesday: Humorous observations about yogurt
    Thursday: Games
    Friday: Movies
    Of course I had a child since then. Now nearly all the movies I watch, books I read, and games I play feature anthropomorphic mice, reassuring the watcher/reader/player that pooping in your pants once in while doesn't necessarily preclude you from being a Potty Champion.

    As for politics, I think I moved from the "laugh so you don't cry" stage to the "cry so you don't move to Finland" stage about two years ago. And, anyway, I've pretty much made every single possible joke about the current administration. Except, perhaps, this one:

    Knock knock

    Who's there?

    George W. Bush

    Oh, god. Still?

    Yes, for 14 more months

    Fuck.

    So, yeah. You can see why I stopped.

    Still, I wrote about a book yesterday, and I'm planning to review a game Thursday, so why not go hog wild and stick to the schedule for old-time's sake. Besides, I've already subjected everyone I know in real life to this harangue, so you're my only remaining audience.

    The executive (no pun intended) summary: OH FOR THE LOVE OF CUPCAKES AND KITTENS DO NOT VOTE FOR HILLARY CLINTON IN THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARIES!

    I know I'm not going to change anyones mind on this. But still. Come on. Please?

    It's not that I don't like Clinton--I do. Honestly, I think she's the most presidential person in the race, for either party. Some people say she's unelectable, but I don't believe that for a moment. And hopefully Kerry taught us the peril of nominating someone based on their supposed "electability."

    But holy smokes, I am so sick of this dynasty crap. Bush? Then Clinton? Then Bush? Then Clinton? If Hillary wins she will likely be re-elected as well; when she leaves office, this nation will have been ruled exclusively by two families for 28 straight years--an entire generation! In 2020, no one under the age of 30 will remember a time when neither a Bush or Clinton was running the joint. And you know Jeb will be waiting in the wings. What's the point of having a democracy if we only use to to elect monarchs?

    Some of my friends patiently sit through my tirade and then rebut, "I agree with you in principle, but it's unfair to hold a quirk of history against Clinton." Maybe not, but we ought to elect presidents based not only on their qualities, but also on what is the best for the nation. After all, it's supposed to be a government of laws, not of men (or women). In other words, we need to look beyond the fact that Hillary may be the best-qualified for the presidency, and ask what electing another Clinton or Bush will do to the institution of executive branch. We have the 22nd amendment, and constituencies enact term-limit legislation, to prevent just this sort of situation; we wouldn't even need the 22nd amendment and term-limits if we could just exercise some self-control in cases like this.

    So, in conclusion: vote Gravel. Or Obama. Or Richardson, or Edwards, or Dodd--hell, I don't care. But don't vote for Hillary. And just so we're clear: I'm totally not joking about this. There's no way I'll vote for Hillary in the primaries. Not a chance. I'd sooner cast a write-in vote for Ben Dover.

    Of course I'll be the first to pull the lever for Clinton if it's Hillary v. Rudy in the general election. Standing on principle is noble, but Giuliani eats power for breakfast and shits crazy in the afternoon.

    September 17, 2007

    Second Ally To The Right, And Straight On 'Til Morning

    In his recent speech on Iraq, Bush said "We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy."

    This assertion--that there are as many as 36 nations aiding in the Iraqi war--has some calling the President delusional. Aside from the US and the United Kingdom, who else is really involved?

    Responding to those who question his grip on reality, Bush today enumerated all 36 countires:

    • United Kingdom
    • Australia
    • Ukraine
    • Poland (don't forget!)
    • Denmark
    • South Korea
    • Japan
    • Czech Republic
    • Macedonia
    • Bosnia and Herzegovina
    • Latveria
    • El Salvador
    • Slovakia
    • Narnia
    • Kazakhstan
    • Bulgaria
    • Romania
    • Estonia
    • Quendor
    • The Shire
    • Armenia
    • Azerbaijan
    • United Federation of Planets
    • Cimmeria
    • Mongolia
    • Sodor
    • Singapore
    • Dagobah
    • Oz
    • Mypos
    • Brobdingnag
    • Albania
    • Loompaland
    • Where The Wild Things Are
    • Lithuania
    • Mario World 2-3

    Bush added that these allies are also aiding us in our struggle against Eastasia, with whom we have always been at war.

    [ link | Lists]


    August 21, 2007

    Nebraska Moves 2008 Presidental Primary to 1:30 This Afternoon

    Nebraska became the latest in a series of states "frontloading" the 2008 campaign season, rescheduling their presidential primary from its previous date of Feb. 26, 2008 to 1:30 this afternoon.

    "Nebraska has been all but ignored by the campaigns for too long," said Governor Dave Heineman, after making the announcement this morning. "Well, you can bet they're talking about us now."

    Indeed, in the two hours since the announcement, candidates have been scrambling to find the midwestern state on the map, secure air passage to Omaha International Airport, and glad-hand local residents before the polls open this afternoon.

    "This only underscores what my campaign has been saying all along," said a disheveled and unshaven Mitt Romney, the first to arrive, at a hastily assembled press conference given moments after he staggered from his plane. "That the Cornholer State ought to receive way more federal funds than whatever we give to you now."

    Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, aboard her jet and en route to Lincoln, announced that her campaign had just adopted "Beautiful Nebraska" as its new official song.

    Chelsea Clinton did not accompany her mother, as she is currently campaigning in Utah in advance of their 2016 presidential primary, due to be held in April of next year.

    [ link | News]


    July 24, 2007

    Transcript: CNN / Youtube Democratic Debate

    ANDERSON COOPER, CNN host: Good evening, and welcome to the first CNN / Youtube democratic presidential debate. We asked people from all over the Internet to submit questions via youtube.com, and the response was overwhelming. So, without further ado, let's jump right in.

    Our first question tonight is Zach Kempf in Provo, Utah.

    QUESTION: My question is: We have a bunch of leaders who can't seem to do their job. And we pick people based on the issues they that they represent, but then they get in power and they don't do anything about it anyway.

    You're going to spend this whole night talking about your views on issues, but the issues don't matter if when you get in power nothing's going to get done.

    We have a Congress and a president with, like, a 30 percent approval rating, so clearly we don't think they're doing a good job. What's going to make you any more effectual, beyond all the platitudes and the stuff we're used to hearing? I mean, be honest with us. How are you going to be any different?

    SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: omg that video was totaly gay

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Shut up Dodd thats offensive when u say gay like that.

    FORMER SEN. MIKE GRAVEL: Check out my vids at youtube.com/user/gravel2008.

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: to answre your question bush is a facist who only wants more power. hes not even the president you knopw, cheny is. i would b different because i would have a vice presidant that doesnt just try and control everything from behind the seens/

    SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: CHENEY CANT BE PRESIDENT BECUZ THE CONSTITUTION SAYS THE VICE PRESIDENT IS NOT THE PRESIDENT WHY DON'T U TRY READING THE CONSTITUTION SOMETIME??????!!!!

    KUCINICH: i have read thwe consititution which is probably more than youve ever read except maybe the back of a ceral box.

    CLINTON: AT LEAST I EAT CEREAL AND NOT GRANOLA HIPPY!!!!!!!

    SEN. JOE BIDEN: Ron Paul is the ONLY candidate with any integrity in this race. He's a TRUE PATRIOT, not a republicrat sellout like the rest of us.

    COOPER: Let's move on to the next question.

    QUESTION: Hey, I'm Mike Green from Lexington, South Carolina. And I was wanting to ask all the nominees whether they would send their kids to public school or private school.

    GRAVEL: Check out my vids at youtube.com/user/gravel2008.

    FORMER SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: When I'm president I will abolish school hehehe.

    GOV. BILL RICHARDSON: Private school, because if you have ever heard the Pink Floyd song "Another Brick In The Wall" you know that public schools are not very good.

    CLINTON: THAT SONG IS ABOUT ENGLAND SCOOLS U MORON NOT US SCHOOLS AND PINK FLOYD SUCKS!!!!!!

    RICHARDSON: Oh, I'm sure YOU like really good music. Like Pussycat Dolls or some other mass-marketed corporate crap you buy at Wal*Mart.

    CLINTON: U ARE JUST SAYING PUSSYCAT DOLS BECAUSE I AM GIRL AND THATS MISSOGENISTIC!!!!!

    COOPER: May I interject something here? That hour-long interview I had with Paris Hilton last month? The guys at CNN made me do that. Just so you know. I would have preferred to do a story on AIDS or drought or something, because I'm a respected journalist.

    {Pause}

    DODD: omg u r totaly gay

    OBAMA: rotfl its so true

    July 05, 2007

    Libby's Pardon

    For the last few days, friends have been asking me what I think of the Libby pardon, and then sort of stepping back, wary but with looks amused anticipation on their faces, waiting for me to erupt in incensed indignation.

    And they are invariably disappointed when I instead shrug and say, "I don't see how Libby going to jail matters, one way or the other."

    Look people, here's the deal. Libby is (or, rather, was) nothing more than one tentacle of the Cephalopod we know and loathe as Dick Cheney. Everything the guy did--from leaking Plame's name to furiously trying to cover it up--was done either at the behest or to cover the ass of his Dark Master. To get all flushed and giddy of the prospect of Libby going to the pokey, while Cheney not only remains free but continue to pretty much run this joint, strikes me as the equivalent of throwing a single Sprite can into your recycling bin and declaring victory over global warming.

    On the other hand, Bush's pardon of Libby has a bunch of positive side-effects:

    It further illustrates the stunning contempt this administration has for the rule of law. For those of us who have been paying attention, providing more evidence that this administration essentially considers itself unfettered by the checks and balances of the legislative and judicial branches is like carrying coals to Newcastle. But Libby's pardon neatly encapsulates their monarchical arrogance into a single, easy-to-understand event, concise enough for a headline or a CNN crawler. No more trying to explain the intricacies of the US Attorney scandal and how it subtlety demonstrates the White House's disregard for accountability; now you just say "Libby's pardon" and people know exactly what you are talking about.

    It negates the "Clinton factor." Apologists for the White House love to talk about Bill Clinton, and how much worse he was than the current occupant of the oval office. Or, at least, they used to--before Bush managed to equal and surpass pretty much every wrongheaded decision and politically-motivated maneuver Slick Willy ever attempted in his eight years of office. Pretty much the only thing Clintonphobes could still cite as unambiguously worse about the previous administration was the use of pardons, thanks to Marc Rich's Get Out Of Jail Free card. Now they don't even have that anymore. (And, fun fact: after the Rich pardon, Clinton wrote an op-ed for the New York Times attempting to justify his decision; Bush, on the other hand, couldn't even be bother do to his own clean-up, instead letting Tony Snow do the 'splainin'. An op-ed, by the way, in which Snow mentions Clinton's name as many times as he does that of his boss.)

    It keeps the Plame scandal alive: You put a scapegoat in jail, and that's pretty much the end of the story. Once Ken Lay was convicted, talk of his connections to the White House largely stopped. That's a little thing called "closure," and something--thanks to Bush's decision--we do not yet have on the Plame Affair.

    It draws attention to the absurdity of mandatory minimum sentencing requirements: People are outraged about the Libby pardon because Bush presumed to substitute his own judgment for that of the judge and jury. But the federal government does this all the time, with mandatory minimum sentencing laws. As recently as last month, Bush was "pushing legislation that would require prison time for nearly all criminals," ("Nearly" because perjurers and personal buddies will still get a pass, I assume.) If Bush's "judgment" in the Libby case rankles, ask yourself: if this really the guy you want setting sentencing requirements for all 50 states?

    It strengthens the case for impeachment I have not yet boarded the I-Train--I don't want to live in a nation where, every time we have a divided government, the legislative branch spends all of its time and energy trying to eviscerate the executive, which is what I fear will happens if the President is impeached two administrations in a row. But my reservations only extend to Bush. The trail of slime in the Libby case leads back to Cheney, and I'm all for getting that guy gone.

    If our government is like a house, Bush would be inside trashing the joint: breaking lamps, pulling over bookshelves (easy enough, given the amount of books he likely keeps on them), yanking up the carpet, and so on. He'll leave a mess, but the next inhabitant will be able to clean it up eventually. The stuff Cheney and Rove have done, though--be it the avocation of torture, the obsession with secrecy, or the stacking the judicial branch--is more akin to a toxic black mold, that sort that infests a house for generations, rendering the place unlivable.

    I think Bush is pretty much done for, and impeaching him would serve little purpose; but Cheney is like a guy who has had "a few beers" and is roaming the countryside with a shotgun (if you can envision that farfetched scenario): the sooner he is disarmed, the better we'll be. Or, as Hendrik Hertzberg put it in The New Yorker, Cheney is:

    the most influential public official in the country, not necessarily excluding President Bush, and his influence has been entirely malign. He is pathologically (but purposefully) secretive; treacherous toward colleagues; coldly manipulative of the callow, lazy, and ignorant President he serves; contemptuous of public opinion; and dismissive not only of international law (a fairly standard attitude for conservatives of his stripe) but also of the very idea that the Constitution and laws of the United States, including laws signed by his nominal superior, can be construed to limit the power of the executive to take any action that can plausibly be classified as part of an endless, endlessly expandable "war on terror."
    Yes, exactly. If the Libby walking calls more attention to this fact, then his pardon is all right by me. And if his reprieve stokes the fires of Cheney disgruntlement (as it appears to have done; currently 54% [!!] of all adults favor Cheney's impeachment) to such a degree that we actually throw the bum out, we'll look back on this day fondly.

    May 25, 2007

    Dear Mainstream Media

    Please stop saying that the Democrats in Congress "had to" drop timetables from the Iraq funding bill.

    They did not "have to." They chose to, because they are cowards. Please make a note of it.

    May 04, 2007

    Paul / Gravel 2008

    Ron Paul, one of the second-tier Republican candidates who participated in last night's debate, is a Libertarian and a strict Constitutionalist. In practice, that means he's pro-life (but thinks the Federal government shouldn't rule on abortion one way or the other), opposed to capital punishment, advocate for a non-interventionist foreign policy, "regularly votes against almost all proposals for government spending," thinks we should scrap the drug war, supports the repeal of the Income Tax, and was given an A+ by the Gun Owners of America.

    Holy smokes. Pair this guy up with Mike Gravel and you've got yourself a ticket.

     
    April 16, 2007

    Purgegate Primer: Supplimental Reading

    Alberto Gonzales testifies before Congress tomorrow. Oh my goodness, I'm giddy as a schoolgirl. That crescendo of rumbling you hear is a train wreck a-comin'.

    If you'd like to get up to speed before the spectacle, I would refer you to my The Purgegate Primer.

    The latest twist in the tale, revealed after I wrote my cheatsheet, is that the Justice Department has been stacked with graduates from the "tier-four" (i.e., "pisspoor") legal school founded by religious-right zealot Pat Robertson. Read all about it here, or have it explained to you by Bill Maher there (video). Expect Gonzales to field a few questions about that.

    Also, a group of longtime conservatives called for his resignation earlier today. (That is, they made their request earlier today--they are not requesting that he travel back in time and resign four hours ago.)

    Spider-Man 3 will hafta be pretty goddamned good to beat this.

    March 20, 2007

    Hard Habit To Break

    Damn it--I'm still writing "Fourth Year of the Iraq War" on my checks.

    March 12, 2007

    Conditional Support
    Conditional Support

    Yay team!

    February 28, 2007

    Wish-I-Could-Draw Comics!

    Style: Single, square panel containing a black-and-white sketch.

    Scene: We look down on a chess board, at about a 45° from horizontal.

    A lone white king stands at the far end of the board. Arrayed around him are assorted black pieces. He is in checkmate; there are no other white pieces anywhere near him.

    A hand, clutching a number of pawns, is held over the near end of the board. The hand is opening, and pawns spill out. Some are in midair as they tumble downward, others lie on their sides in the foreground. A few have even rolled off the board.

    Caption: "The Surge"

    January 23, 2007

    I Won Ninety Bucks

     

    I won ninety bucks!!

    Yes! Totally called it!

    December 13, 2006

    Intestinal Fortitude

    Bush has moved his decision on the Iraq war to January, saying that he needs to digest all the information he has received on the subject.

    Yes, this is the typical Bush M.O.: Ingest a bunch of reasonable suggestions from thoughtful and knowledgeable advisers, hunker down with Cheney and the rest of the inner circle for a week or two, and return with the end product of the digestion process.

    November 28, 2006

    If Only We Could Dispel Him ...

    The Washington Post:

    Saudi Arabia is so concerned about the damage that the conflict in Iraq is doing across the region that it basically summoned Vice President Cheney for talks over the weekend...
    That's one good thing about our Vice President: at least we taxpayers don't have to foot the bill for his travel expenses. Some sheik in the Middle East makes a pentagram out of salt, lights some black candles, recites a passage from from the Necronomicon and poof: there he is!

    November 08, 2006

    On Aging

    On every birthday between the ages of four and 15, some adult would ask me "So, do you feel any older?" It was meant to be a joke I'm sure, but in some ways it was kind of depressing.

    Hitting the next age was a big deal to me as a kid, as I always thought that the next annual increment would bring with it all sorts of long sought-after boons: more freedom, later bedtime, permission to watch more risque TV shows, etc. I would pine for my birthday for months, in the hope that, when the day finally arrived, everything would suddenly improve. At last the sacred date would arrive. And then along came these grown-ups to remind me that, really, nothing much had changed.

    The Democrats have just taken both chambers of Congress. Feel any older?

    November 07, 2006

    Election 2006

    And welcome to Election 2006.

    In The Morning News today we have the winners of the Encyclopedia Brown for District Attorney contest.

    In McSweeney's, please to be finding my 2006 Voters Guide.

    And although this is the part of the post where I am supposed to urge you to "get out and vote!" Washington State elections now rely almost exclusively on absentee ballots these days. So, you know: fondly reminisce about that time you voted, like, three days ago.

    Dare to dream
     
    November 03, 2006

    Right Back At'cha

    In The News:

    Encouraging audience participation from thousands of Republican loyalists at a rally, Bush said Democrats should be asked, "What's your plan?" for winning in Iraq and a host of other national security issues separating the parties.

    "What's your plan?" the audience yelled back.

    As well they should.

    October 30, 2006

    Silver Linings

    I'm the eternal optimist -- even in the realm of contemporary politics, where optimism is as out of place as an oyster on an ice cream sundae. So while my friends agonize over which political party will have control of Congress come January, I like to point out that, regardless of which way things turn out, this election will almost certainly result in a number of positive trends:

    • Gridlock: I'm one of those people who prefers the executive and the legislative branch to be held by opposing parties -- a philosophy has been thoroughly vindicated in the last four years, dont'cha think? And while Democrats may not take the Senate, one thing is clear: Bush will no longer have a rubber stamp at his disposal, drawing this chapter of Ideologues Gone Wild! to a close. I know many would like the Democrats to spend the next few years investigating and impeaching members of the Bush administration, but that's the wrong way to go: the solution to polarization is not further divisiveness. And, anyway, I think the Dems would get clobbered in 2008 if they went this route. Worse, Bush would view prosecution as persecution, and settle comfortably into his role as a martyr. Better to simply frustrate his agenda for the next few years and let him serve our his term an impotent lame duck. I mean, look how cranky he became when he couldn't gut Social Security -- seeing his frowny, petulant face on the news every evening filled my heart with joy.
    • The Democratic Party Will Have To Cough Up An Agenda: The only reason the Dems are poised to make gains this go-round is because the Republicans are imploding. But the electorate, having Thrown Out the Bums this year, will cheerfully elect shiny new Republicans in 2008 and 2010 unless the Democrats offer some sort of compelling vision. Best of all, without Bush to run against in the next presidential election, Democratic candidates will have to do more than just walking around in a t-shirt reading "I'm Running Against Stupid."
    • Republicans Will Again Welcome Actual Conservatives: The biggest fallout from this campaign for the GOP isn't the loss of congressional seats or governorships, but that the whole "Republicans are the party of conservatives" has been exposed as the fraud it's long become. Democrats have adopted the rhetoric (and, let's hope, the mantle) of fiscal responsibility, and unless Repubs want to become known as the party of "big government," they're going to have to fend off this encroachment on what had been one of their signature issues. In a perfect world both parties would compete to outdo each other in economic rectitude and we'd have this whole deficit squared away by the time the last Harry Potter book is released.
    • Third Party Candidates: I'm not a fan of Lieberman (I can't look at him and not remember his crowing about being "in a three-way-tie for third place," possibly the most pathetic declaration in a presidential election rife with wince-worthy moments), but I'm all for more people running as Independents.
    • The Course, It Is A Changin': The White House has chosen an eleventh-hour "Change The Rhetoric, Stay The Course" gambit in regards to the war, but I have no doubt our Iraq policy will finally be changing. For one thing, James Baker's report is going to drop like a hammer; for another, Bush is going to have a hard time backing away from his promise of "benchmarks." Plus, see point one: Gridlock is a a cynical word for "Oversight." I don't pretend to know what we should be do in Iraq from this point forward, but I know that "same old same old" ain't doin' the trick.

    October 25, 2006

    Analogies Bush Has Drawn Between the Iraq War And Assorted Punctuation Marks

    "I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, [the current violence] will look like just a comma."

    "Our commitment to a free Iraq must end with an exclamation point, not an ellipsis."

    "The overthrow of Saddam was an apostrophe, indicating possession of Iraq by its long-oppressed people."

    "The only way to stop the sectarian violence is to find a bridge between the Sunnis and Shiites, a hyphen that will join the two separate party into one compound nation."

    "We have enclosed the insurgents in parentheses, marking them as little more than an interruption to the rise of democracy that can be ignored without changing the overall meaning of the region's struggle for liberty."

    "Though Saddam and Al Quada had no direct links, their relationship was that of a semi-colon, joining related but distinct proponents of terror."

    "Setting a timetable for withdrawal would be like starting a Spanish sentence with an inverted question mark, a signal that all that follows is uncertain and conditional."

    "When I sent my Secretary of State to the UN to make the case for war, I jokingly referred to him as Colon Powell, as he served to introduce an itemized list of our grievances against the Iraqi dictator."

    "Victory is still possible in Iraq -- albeit a victory enclosed in scare quotes and followed by an asterisk."

    October 03, 2006

    Thinking Of The Children

    Yesterday, as the Foley Instant Message scandal continued to snowball, National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Reynolds held a press conference, in which he surrounded himself with youngsters. You truly have to see this masterful political maneuver to appreciate it:

    Yes, that's right: a press conference on a topic that the press is unable to ask about because of the conditions of the press conference.

    Today, as more details were leaked about Foley's shenanigans, the Republican National Committee took the unusual step of ordering all GOP Congressmen to wear safety vests until the upcoming election.

    So handy!
    Chris Matthews: Our guest today on Hardball is Bruce Sierra, one of the many Republican fighting an uphill battle for re-election this November. Senator Sierra, thank you for joining us.

    Sierra: Thanks for having us, Chris.

    Matthews: The revelation that Mark Foley sent a series of salacious instant messages to a page --

    Sierra: Chris, please. Do you really think it's appropriate to be discussing this in front of my young constituent, here?

    Matthew: Well, I, I guess -- Okay then, let me ask you this. How can you, or any member of Congress, justify the staggering public debt that our nation has amassed over the last six years?

    Sierra: Oh, come on. You and I know both know who's going have to shoulder that debt: the next generation of Americans,. Infants like this one here. Do we really have to expose him to this ugly reality now? Can't we give him just a little time -- time to be a carefree child?

    Matthews: All right. The situation in Iraq --

    Sierra: Shhh. Oh, shhhhhh! I think my little supporter is drifting off to sleep ...

    (The funny joke here is Chris Matthews asking tough questions of a Republican.)

    GOP legislators have also been told to remain inebriated from now until November 7th, so they can be whisked off to rehab when their indiscretions come to light.

    September 11, 2006

    It Wasn't A Crime, It Was A Strategy

    In case you missed the President's speech this evening, here is a summary:

    "September 11, 2001."

    {Pause}

    "Well, enough about that. Let's talk about my failed foreign policy."

    My favorite line was "If we yield Iraq to men like bin Laden, our enemies will be emboldened; they will gain a new safe haven; they will use Iraq's resources to fuel their extremist movement."

    Oo that was crafty of you, getting Haliburton in there early to siphon off as many of those dangerous resources as possible.

    September 08, 2006

    Factual Inaccuracies In The Path To 9/11

    I was among the rabid right-wing bloggers fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of the ABC / Disney miniseries The Path To 9/11. While I applauded the filmmakers for bringing to light some hard truths regarding the attacks (where "hard" is defined as "un-"), I feel obligated to point out a few minor errors and inconsistencies:

    • The Starr Report alleged that President Bill Clinton engaged in oral sex with Monica Lewinsky, not Zacarias Moussaoui (though it's easy to see how the two names could get mixed up).
    • Evidence that the Taliban was founded by Tipper Gore is circumstantial at best.
    • There is no record of Madeleine Albright describing the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole as "more of a prank, really" and dismissing it as "no big deal."
    • Michael Moore spent most of 2001 working on his film Bowling For Columbine, so it's unlikely he could have found time to give the 9/11 hijackers flying lessons.
    • The scene in which Howard Dean punches Jesus is a dramatization.
    • The cockpit recordings from United Airlines Flight 175 have never been released, so there's no verification that that the last voice heard is a terrorist saying "this message brought to you by moveon.org."
    • Blooper! When the Clintons are in bed and Bill is reading to Hillary "to get her in the mood" he is holding Mein Kampf upside-down.
    • The 9/11 Commission did not conclude that citizens could guard against future attacks by purchasing Lilo & Stitch DVDs.
    • Sandy Berger and Osama bin Laden were not the co-stars of the 1983 hit comedy "Bosom Buddies," so it's unclear how they could have "forged a strong and lifelong friendship" while serving as such.
    • The finale, in which Bush crashes Airforce One into a remote Afghan stronghold, emerges unscathed from the wreckage, and defeats Al Qaeda using nunchucks and pyrokinesis, is actually a composite of several different events.

    August 23, 2006

    Mold In The White House

    Speaking of Phillip K. Dick ...

    When it was released in 2002, Minority Report was interpreted by some as an indictment of George Bush's doctrine of preemption, which allowed the US to detain persons and attack nations on mere suspicions.

    In anticipation of the film, I bought The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories, and was surprised to find that the titular story was not alone in predicting the foibles of the Bush administration. In fact, the story immediately preceding The Minority Report was so eerily reminiscent that I kept waiting for Cheney to stroll into the scene.

    The Mold of Yancy, despite the title, has nothing to do with fungi. Terran agent Taverner is dispatched to Callisto to investigate the political situation when computer analysis shows the Callistian society inching toward totalitarianism. Upon arrival, Taverner initially believes that the political assessment is incorrect, as he can find no overt signs of repression. Then he learns of John Edward Yancy.

    Every evening Yancy takes to the airwaves, treating the Callistotes to charming little homilies and sage advice in his short, televised spots. "A kind of home-spun philosopher," one person describes him. "Totally ordinary man ... A sort of talking almanac. Pithy sayings on every topic. Wise old saws: how to cure a chest cold. What the trouble is back on Terra." Though supposedly unaffiliated with the government or the church, Yancy is admired by most inhabitants of the moon with an ardor that borders on reverence.

    Taverner does a little poking around, and, upon reviewing the tapes of Yancy's broadcasts, discovers something interesting: despite all his talking, Yancy almost never says anything:

    Yancy had definite opinions on everything ... or mere they so definite? A strange suspicion was growing in [Taverner]. On some topics, yes. On minor issues, Yancy had exact rules, specific maxims drawn from mankind's rich storehouse of folklore. But major philosophical and political issues were something else again.

    Getting out one of the many tapes listed under War, Taverner ran it through at random.

    "... I'm against war," Yancy pronounced angrily ... "[But] I feel a planet must be strong. We must not surrender ourselves meekly ... weakness invites attack and fosters aggression. By being weak we promote war. We must gird ourselves and protect those we love. With all my heart and soul I'm against useless wars; but I say again, as I've said many times before, a man must come forward and fight a just war. He must not shrink from his responsibility. War is a terrible thing. But sometimes we must... "

    As he restored the tape, Taverner wondered just what the hell Yancy had said. What were his views on war? They took up a hundred separate reels of tape; Yancy was always ready to hold forth on such vital and grandiose subjects as War, the Planet, God, Taxation. But did he say anything?

    A cold chill crawled up Taverner's spine. On specific -and trivial - items there were absolute opinions: dogs are better than cats, grapefruit is too sour without a dash of sugar, it's good to get up early in the morning, too much drinking is bad. But on big topics ... an empty vacuum, filled with the vacant roll of high-sounding phrases. A public that agreed with Yancy on war and taxes and God and planet agreed with absolutely nothing. And with everything.

    Taverner suspects that Yancy is more than just a freelance philosopher. "Nobody [is] as harmless and vapid as John Edward Yancy," he think, and delves deeper into the mystery. Sure enough, an inside source named Sipling soon gives him the straight dope: Yancy is completely computer generated, a fictitious figurehead created by the authorities.
    "By authorities, you mean the governing council?"

    Sipling laughed sharply. "I mean the trading syndicates that own this moon: lock, stock, and barrel."

    Why would the big corporations go through the trouble to foisting a charismatic but shallow leader on the people? Well, it seems that they want to start to war with a distant land, in the hopes of acquiring the other's resources. "To start a war they have to get the public lined up," Sipling continues. "Actually, the people here have nothing to gain. A war would wipe out all the small operators - it would concentrate power in fewer hands - and they're few enough already. To get the eighty million people here behind the war, they need an indifferent, sheep-like public. And they're getting that."

    Um!

    Here's a quotation from another Yancy speech:

    "I realize how lucky we are to be alive, and to have ... the fine cities and houses, all the things God has given us to enjoy. But we've got to be careful. We've got to make sure we don't lose these things. There are forces that could weaken us. Everything we've built up for our loved ones, for our children, could be taken away from us overnight. We must learn to be vigilant. We must protect our liberties, our possessions, our way of life. If we become divided, and fall to bickering among each other, we will be easy prey for our enemies."
    Psyche! That text was actually taken from Bush's speech on Monday.

    Well, no, that quotation really did come from The Mold of Yancy. But come on: you thought that was Bush for a second, there, didn't you?

    "I've come to see the essential key to the Yancy character," says Sipling near the end of the story.

    "The key to the new type of person we're growing, here. It's simple. It's the element that makes that person malleable enough to be led around. All Yancy's beliefs are insipid. The key is thinness. Every part of his ideology is diluted: nothing excessive. We've come as close as possible to no beliefs . . . you've noticed that. Wherever possible we've cancelled attitudes out, left the person apolitical. Without a viewpoint."

    "Sure," Taverner agreed. "But with the illusion of a viewpoint."

    "All aspects of personality have to be controlled; we want the total person. So a specific attitude has to exist for each concrete question. In every respect, our rule is: Yancy believes the least troublesome possibility. The most shallow. The most simple, effortless view, the view that fails to go deep enough to stir any real thought."

    When Taverner and Sipling set out to undermine the Yancy project, and they do so by injecting some complexity into his speeches. "What if Yancy sat down in the evening with his wife and grandson, and played a nice lively six-hour game of Kriegspiel?" Sipling says, as they plan their sabotage. "Suppose his favorite books - instead of being western gun-toting anachronisms - were Greek tragedy? Suppose his favorite piece of music was Bach's Art of the Fugue, not My Old Kentucky Home?"

    In related news, Bush was seen reading Albert Camus' The Stranger a few weeks ago, and recently spoke of the Iraq war as "straining the psyche of our country." Maybe we've got a Sipling in the White House, at long last.

    You can read The Mold of Yancy here.

    June 16, 2006

    Blue State Skies

    The Queen: I think Bush is in town for a few days.

    Me: He was just here this morning. He left a few hours ago.

    The Queen: Ah. I wondered why the sun came back out.

    April 27, 2006

    I Can't Wait For My "The New Built To Spill Album Kind Of Sucks" Check!

    People often complain that they don't know what Democrats stand for. Thankfully, there is no such ambiguity regarding the Republicans. Today they again reminded the nation of the bedrock principle that their party was found upon: giving voters $100 each in an election year.

    They are calling the swag "gas rebate checks," because it's supposedly to reimburse citizens for the high gasoline prices they have been subjected to over the last year. Never mind that subsidizing the purchase of gasoline will increase demand and lead to yet higher gas prices.

    But there's no obligation for the recipients of these checks to actually spend the cash on fuel. In fact, as near as I can tell there is no connection whatsoever between the money and gasoline prices -- I presume that bicyclists will be getting the same amount as truckers -- except that the checks will probably have the words "Republican sponsored gas rebate" in the "memo" field.

    Frankly, I think Congress is missing an opportunity for a more targeted approach. What they should do is ask each American what he or she is most unhappy about, and then label the checks accordingly. There could be "gas rebate" checks and "cable rebate" checks and "dadgum Mexicans taking our jobs" checks and "dudes kissing dudes" checks. That way, Americans will know that Republicans care exactly $100 worth about whichever issue concerns them the most.

    The whole thing would seem kind of silly if the government were just giving us back the money we paid in taxes; it would like a bank touting their generosity every time you withdrew your own money. How fortunate, then, that the United States has long since exhausted its cash on hand. Now the cost of funding the program will get tacked onto our already obscene national debt, and it will be the poor saps down the chronological line that will get stuck with the bill. In other words, it's 100% completely free money!!

    In fact, they should just call this the "Five Dollar Bill in the Birthday Card Preimbursement Program." Here's how it works. First, we give you $100 now. Then, after your grandchild is born, you include $5 in every card you send them on their birthday -- iIf you stop sending them cards before they turn twenty, you get to keep all the extra money! Then your grandchild joins the workforce, gets burdened with astronomical taxes, and struggles to pay down the gargantuan debt we saddled him with. It's like your adult grandchild is sending $100 back in time to you, who is then sending it forward in time to your adult grandchild's younger self. How totally awesome is that? It's pretty much exactly like The Terminator!

    All in all I think the "giving voters $100 each in an election year" program this is the greatest things to come out of Washington since prohibition. It's so clever that I can't help but wonder where Republicans got the idea. Lord knows no one has ever given a Republican a bunch of "no strings attached" money in the hopes of influencing their vote.

    March 15, 2006

    Hey Hey Hey!

    I haven't written about politics much recently. Of course I haven't written much about yams recently either, another thing that typically makes me want to throw up. Go figure.

    Let's see, what's going on? Today Bush met with Jason McElwaine, the austic kid who scored 20 points in four minutes for his basketball team.

    "I saw the video and just had to meet this kid," said the President. "In front of all these cameras," he added. "Because Rove made me."

    Later, he explained motivation for his visit. "As I am clearly unable to inspire this nation, I though I'd come stand next to someone who could."

    Also today, Pew Research released the results of a poll in which they asked people to use a single word to describe Bush.

    We need to pull Casey Kasem out of retirement so he can count these down "America's Top 40" style. "And now a newcomer to the countdown, but a rising star. It's number 10: ass."

    It's weird that "sucks" only appears in February of 2005, and "ass" now shows up outta nowhere. Maybe seven people wanted to says "sucks ass" last year but, when they found out they were limited to a single word, they decided to parcel their reply out in annual installments.

    And I love that six people describe the President as "President." What, did they conduct this poll at a National Association of Literialists convention or something? Man, I hope they include me in the 2007 poll so I can say "bipedal."

    Democrats, meanwhile, continued to demonstrate their unwavering commitment to vacillation by reacting to Sen. Feingold's proposal to formally censure Bush the same way my cats react to a vacuum cleaner.

    Feingold's censure motion appears to be mostly grandstanding, granted, but at least someone in the opposition party has decided to give opposing a whirl. Or perhaps it's all a clever ploy on Feingold's part. The Republicans responded to his proposal by issuing a set of talking points headlined The Debate Is Over: Dems Find Their Agenda. And Democrats were all, like, LOL WE TOTALLY TRICKED YOU -- WE HAVE NO AGENDA!!

    Actually, that's unfair. The Democrats clearly do have an agenda: don't say or do anything that could be construed as controversial by anyone anywhere. Who says they aren't the party of religion? Quite the contrary, they seem to have adopted Jesus's prediction that "the meek shall inherit the earth" as their official 2006 midterm election strategy.

    "I don't know the key to success," Bill Cosby once said, "but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." It's pretty sad when a political party needs to take tips from Fat Albert, but there you go.

    February 14, 2006

    "Accidentally"

    In a telling indicator of how we view the Vice President, every media outlet apparently feels the need to put the qualifier "accidentally" between the words "Cheney" and "Shoots" in their headlines, e.g., "Cheney Accidentally Shoots Fellow Hunter," "Cheney accidentally shoots Austin man while hunting," etc..

    If you read "Bush Stabs Fellow Napper," you'd chuckle knowingly and say "oh, that loveable bumbler -- what will he do next?" But with Cheney they actually have to waste valuable headline space to clarify that, in this particular instance, shooting a septuagenarian in the face was not part of his Master Plan.

    Of course now that the media has used "accidentally" in this case, they'll be forced to clarify yet again when the Vice President intentionally attacks someone. CHENEY GARROTES ZOOKEEPER TOTALLY ON PURPOSE

    January 31, 2006

    Hat Trick

    This evening The Queen and I watched the State of the Union address, the Democratic response, and then an episode of The Sopranos. It was kind of like a trilogy.

    January 17, 2006

    Xyzzy

    Iraqi Invasion: A Text Misadventure
    Revision 88 / Serial number 54892

    Oval Office
    You are standing inside a White House, having just been elected to the presidency of the United States. You knew Scalia would pull through for you.

    There is a large desk here, along with a few chairs and couches. The presidential seal is in the middle of the room and there is a full-length mirror upon the wall.

    What do you want to do now?

    > INVADE IRAQ
    You are not able to do that, yet.

    > LOOK MIRROR
    Self-reflection is not your strong suit.

    > PET SEAL
    It's not that kind of seal.

    > EXAMINE CHAIRS
    They are several chairs arranged around the center of the room, along with two couches. Under one couch you find Clinton's shoes.

    > FILL SHOES
    You are unable to fill Clinton's shoes.

    > EXAMINE DESK
    It is a large, oak desk, with several drawers.

    In one drawer you find a bag of pretzels.

    > EAT PRETZEL.
    I don't think the pretzel would agree with you.

    > INVADE IRAQ
    You are not able to do that, yet.

    > INVADE IRAQ
    You are not able to do that, yet.

    > GO RIGHT
    Far-Right
    You are on the far right of the political spectrum.
    Jesse Helms is here.
    John Ashcroft is here.

    > GO RIGHT
    Radical Right
    You are on the extreme right of the political spectrum.
    Dick Cheney is here.
    Pat Robertson is here.

    > INVADE IRAQ
    You are not able to do that, yet.

    > TAKE VACATION
    Taken.

    > INVADE IRAQ
    You are not able to do that, yet.

    > SCORE
    Your favorablity rating is 58% out of a possible 100%.

    > GO PHOTOOP
    Photo Op
    You are at a the Emma T. Booker Elementary School, along with a gaggle of obsequious members of the mainstream media.
    There is a book here.
    There are some children here.

    > READ BOOK
    You read "My Pet Goat."

    In the distance, terrorists attack the United States.

    > READ BOOK
    You continue to read "My Pet Goat."

    > READ BOOK
    You continue to read "My Pet Goat."

    > READ BOOK
    You continue to read "My Pet Goat."

    > GO HOME
    You fly around aimlessly for a while, then return to the White House.

    Oval Office

    > GIVE SPEECH
    Who do you want to give the speech to?

    > AMERICAN PEOPLE
    You give the speech to the American people.

    > DIAGNOSIS
    Your favorablity rating is 84% out of a possible 100%.

    > INVADE IRAQ
    You are not able to do that, yet.

    > INVADE AFGHANISTAN
    Afghanistan
    You have invaded the nation of Afghanistan, bombing the Taliban nearly out of existence.

    Osama Bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, is here.

    > INVADE IRAQ
    (Leaving Afghanistan first.)
    You are not able to do that, yet.

    > INVADE IRAQ
    You are not able to do that, yet.

    > FUCK
    Such language in a high-class establishment like this!

    > HYPE THREAT
    "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

    > MONGER FEAR
    "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud ..."

    > MUDDY WATER
    "We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy -- the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America ..."

    > PUNISH CRITICS
    "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction ... "

    > RAILROAD CONGRESS
    You schedule a vote on the Iraq invasion for just before the 2002 midterm elections. As usual, spineless democrats roll over like an SUV taking a sharp corner.

    Your plan to invade Iraq now has the backing of the American people and Congress.

    > INVADE IRAQ
    Baghdad
    You enter the Iraqi capital of Bagdad, having toppled the government and captured the nation's key cities in only 21 days. You can't seem to find the promised throngs of citizens greeting you as liberators, but the footage of the Saddam statue being pulled down looks great on Fox!

    > GIVE CONTRACTS
    Who do you want to give the contracts to?

    > HALLIBURTON
    What kind of contracts do you wish to give to Halliburton?

    > NO-BID
    You give the no-bid contracts to Halliburton.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq remains unchanged.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq remains unchanged.

    > WEAR FLIGHTSUIT
    You put on the flightsuit.

    > SAY "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"
    "Mission accomplished."

    > EXAMINE MISSION
    The mission is not accomplished.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq remains unchanged.

    Some insurgents arrive.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

    Some insurgents arrive.
    There is a small number of insurgents here.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

    Some insurgents arrive.
    There is a moderate number of insurgents here.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

    An election year arrives.

    > GO LEFT
    Far-Right
    Pat Buchanan is here.
    Sean Hannity is here.

    > GO LEFT
    Compassionate Conservativism
    You are right-of-center on the political spectrum.
    John McCain is here.
    Joseph Leiberman is here.

    > GET REELECTED
    You get reelected.

    > GO RIGHT
    Far-Right
    Tom DeLay is here.
    Michelle Malkin is here.

    > GO RIGHT
    Radical Right
    Rick Santorum is here.
    Ann Coulter is here.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

    Some insurgents arrive.
    There is a large number of insurgents here.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

    Some insurgents arrive.
    There is a huge number of insurgents here.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

    > STAY COURSE
    The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

    Some insurgents arrive.
    There is an overwhelming number of insurgents here.

    > SCORE
    Your favorablity rating is 47% out of a possible 100%.

    > ADMIT MISTAKES
    You are unable to admit mistakes.

    > ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY
    You are unable to accept responsibility.

    > DECLARE VICTORY
    I do not know what you mean by "victory."

    > QUIT
    Oh, how we wish you would.

    November 30, 2005

    Pitched Battle

    Reuter's headline: Bush Pitches Iraq Strategy

    Hmm. I wonder which definition of "pitch" they are using.

    A. To erect and fix firmly in place;

    B. To present or advertise for sale, especially in a high-pressure way;

    C. To utter glibly and insincerely;

    D. To put aside or discard.

    October 20, 2005

    Katamari Democracy

    If I could draw today's post would have been a polticial cartoon featuring Special Procecutor Patrick Fitzgerald dressed as the Prince of All Cosmos, and pushing a katamari which had stuck to it, along with assorted detritus, Karl Rove, Scotter Libby, Judith Miller, and Dick Cheney. And directly in the path of the katamari would be a small and panicky-looking Bush, with the White House right behind him.

    Yes sir. If I could draw, that would have been great.

    October 17, 2005

    The Slump

    You'd think that with all the calamities that have recently befallen the White House -- the fallout from the Katrina response, the Plame investigation, the Miers nomination, the Delay indictment, the disastrous Tikrit teleconference, etc. -- we progressives would be gloating every chance we got. Actually, I've noticed that most of my friends daren't even mention the current state of the executive branch, as if they were afraid of jinxing things. It's like we're seven innings into a no-hitter, but no one wants to mention this fact aloud.

    Or it could just be that we here in Seattle are so familiar with this particular brand of meltdown that it hardly bears mentioning any more. Because the trajectory of the Bush Administration almost perfectly parallel any given season of our beloved (and occationally behated) hometome baseball team, the Seattle Mariners.

    Things start out promising and soon they are flying high, packing the stadium every night and well over five hundred. But then, just after the mid-season All-Star game (which, in thins case, would coincide with the 2004 election), things start to go south. Soon they go into a full-on tailspin: they can't do anything right, they routinely snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the fair-weather fans desert them, and even the season-ticket holders start grousing about the lousy management.

    On the bright side, the Bush administration will probably trade John Bolton to Paraguay for a young but promising diplomat and a yes-man to be named later, and begin scheduling events like a "Press Secretary Night" where the first 10,000 visitors to the White House receive a commemorative "Scotty's A Hotty" jersey and get to attend a special ceremony where they retire Ari Fleischer's number.

    August 29, 2005

    Bush Extended Family Photo

     

    July 11, 2005

    Roving Reporter

    A primer for the Karl Rove / Valerie Plame scandal.


    The Introduction You Can Feel Free To Skip

    This is not a political blog, and I imagine that a large percentage of my readers don't read political blogs on a regular basis. If you do, this probably doesn't contain any information you don't already know (assuming you are up-to-date with the latest bombshell.)

    For the rest of you, I want to give you a primer on the whole Karl Rove / Valerie Plame thing you may have been hearing about. Not because I happen to think it's a huge story, but because it's slowly turning into a real, juicy political scandal of the sort you'd expect to find in a David Baldacci novel, complete with surprise twists, double-crosses, and an honest-to-goodness spy.

    It's been very entertaining to watch the whole thing unfold, because information has been coming out in dribs and drabs, like a fireworks show with big pauses in it. Every once in a while there's a big, flashy explosion followed by a lengthy silence, and just as you say "well, I guess it's over" and start to get out of of your lawn chair: poom! here comes the next round. And it looks as though things are going to get more interesting yet.

    But the downside to the "dribs and drabs" aspect of this drama is that it has been going on for nearly three years, and most of the recent articles assume you know the whole backstory. You can get an exhaustive account of the story over at Wikipedia: Valerie Plame. This is intended to be a brief primer for those who are only now joining the fun, and just want the Cliff's Notes for the imbroglio.

    First, though, let's get this out of the way. Disclaimer: I do not like the Bush administration, and I don't like Karl Rove. So I'm feeling no small amount of schadenfreude as I watch all this come down the pike. There's my bias, right up front. That said, I will try to stick to the facts, except where I specifically cite something as speculation. If you feel like I have a fact wrong, drop me a line or let me know in the comments.

    Ready?


    The Back Story

    In early 2002 the CIA was trying to verify a report that Niger had sold uranium-enriched yellowcake to Iraq in the late 1990s. They asked former ambassador Joseph Wilson to travel to Niger and check out the story. He did so in February of 2002, and, upon returning a month later, told the CIA that the story was likely bogus.

    The matter was presumed settled until September 2002, when a "white paper" used by the British Government stated the yellowcake story as fact. Then, in the State of the Union speech of January, 2003, Bush referenced this document, saying, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." As yellowcake can be used to create WMDs, this claim was central to Bush's case for war.

    The invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003.

    Wilson publicly denounced the "uranium from Africa" line in the months following the State of the Union speech. On July 6, 2003, The New York Times carried an article by Wilson called "What I Didn't Find In Africa"; of the yellowcake rumor, he wrote "It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place."

    On July 14, 2003, columnist Robert Novak wrote about the Bush / Wilson, he-said / he-said dispute in the article "Mission To Niger" "Wilson never worked for the CIA," wrote Novak, "but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger."


    The Scandal

    Two days after Novak's column appeared, David Corn of The Nation led an article entitled "A White House Smear" with the lines

    Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security -- and break the law -- in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others? It sure looks that way, if conservative journalist Bob Novak can be trusted.
    By identifying Wilson's wife as "an Agency operative," Novak had apparently blown her cover. And if, as Novak stated, the information came from "senior administration officials," they (the officials) may have run afoul of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which makes it a felony for persons with access to it classified information to knowingly reveal the identity of covert agents.

    Wilson alleged that the White House had outed his wife as retribution for his whistleblowing. Others speculate that the purpose of the leak was to discredit Wilson by implying that his trip was just a gig his wife managed to get him. Whatever the reason, Wilson thought he knew the source: during a roundtable discussion in August of 2003, Wilson said, of the leak, "At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words."

    In the wake of this comment, speculation grew that Rove, George Bush's senior political adviser, was behind the leak. When asked about the possibility, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said "I haven't heard that. That's just totally ridiculous." A few days later McClellan went even farther when asked if Bush had personally asked Rove if he was behind the leak. "[Rove] wasn't involved," McClellan said. "The President knows he wasn't involved."


    The Investigation

    At the end of September 2003 the Justice Department announced a full-scale investigation into the leak.

    And then nothing seemed to happen for months: no findings were announced, and it was unclear how the investigation was progressing, or if it was progressing at all. Some felt that, with Ashcroft both Attorney General and friend to Bush, he would simply put the kibosh on the whole thing. For folks like myself, who had been following the story with interest, this seemed like the end of the line. My guess was that they would stall for a few months or years and then quietly announce, at 4:35 on a Friday afternoon, that they had been unable find the culprit. And that would be that.

    But then a couple of surprising things happened.

    First, Ashcroft recused himself from the case in December 2003. When US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald replaced Ashcroft on the investigation, one of his first acts was to subpoena the phone records of Air Force One. Suddenly the story was back in the news, albeit on page A13.

    When asked about the case in February, 2004, Bush said "If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is ... if the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of."

    Fitzgerald continued to work on the investigation throughout 2004. Bush was interviewed in June; various reporters were hauled in front of the grand jury over the course of the year and either testified or held their tongues.

    In an August 2004 CNN interview, Rove said of Plame "I didn't know her name and didn't leak her name." Note the wording.

    Rove himself testified before the jury in October. Then came the election of 2004, and the story (again) appeared to have ended with a whimper.


    Reveal Your Sources

    Robert Novak was not the only person to have had Valerie Plame's name whispered into his ear -- he was just the first to put it into print. In fact, a number of journalists were told of Plame's identity in early July of 2003. For instance, a piece for TIME Magazine called "A War on Wilson?" published on July 17, 2003 (three days after Novak's column) said "some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews ... that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." The lead writer on that story was a reporter by the name of Matthew Cooper.

    Cooper refused to reveal his source to the grand jury investigating the Plame leak, in defiance of a subpena from Fitzgerald. For this he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. In an effort to save him (presumably), TIME Magazine -- saying that it was not bound by its reporters' confidentially agreements -- turned over Cooper's notes to Fitzgerald, thereby revealing his source. Fitzgerald, however, insisted that Cooper personally testify or go to jail. Cooper again refused and prepared for the pokey.

    Then on July 10 of this year, days before he was to go to prison, Cooper suddenly reversed himself and said that he would testify after all. "A short time ago, in somewhat dramatic fashion, I received an express personal release from my source," Cooper said of his abrupt change of heart.

    Cooper (and Cooper's notes) identified the source of the leak as Karl Rove.


    Today

    Two big developments today.

    Those of us rooting for Rove's downfall were a little discouraged when we heard that Cooper had received "express personal release from my source" to testify. After all, if Rove said "go ahead," he must not have considered himself to be in too much trouble. Today, however, we learned that Cooper's "release from my source" did not, in fact, come from his source at all.

    Rove long ago signed a blanket waiver, given to him by Fitzgerald, saying that reporters were free to discuss any conversations they had with him about the Plame leak. Cooper, however, concluded that Rove was coerced into signing this waiver (after all, in refusing to do so he would have outed himself as the leaker) and his oath of confidentiality was still in force. So what changed? Well, apparently The Wall Street Journal spoke with Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, last week. Here's an excerpt from the resultant article:

    Mr. Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, last week denied that Mr. Rove had contacted Mr. Cooper last Wednesday, and said that when Mr. Rove spoke to Mr. Cooper two years ago, "Karl didn't disclose Valerie Plame's identification to anyone. That's not a technical statement. That's as practical and direct as I can make it." He also told The Wall Street Journal that Mr. Rove had never asked any reporter to treat him as a confidential source in the matter, "so if Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source, it's not Karl he's protecting."
    In other words, Luskin said (a) Rove signed a blanket waiver a while ago authorizing Cooper to reveal if he was the source; (b) Cooper is not revealing his source; therefore (c) Rove cannot be the leaker.

    Cooper apparently decided that if Luskin's statement were true, then the inverse was also true: "if it is Karl Rove I'm protecting then I guess I don't have to go to jail, and can safely blab." Or perhaps Cooper was pissed that Luskin had flat-out lied. Or perhaps Cooper just really, really didn't want to go to jail and chickened out. Who knows?

    The other big development today is that the White House has completely clammed up about the issue. Check out this video of Scott McClellan using 340 words to say "no comment" over and over again.


    Crime and Punishment

    So what's the upshot to all this? Is Rove going to be "frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs?"

    In a word, no. Or, if he is, it probably won't be for outing Valerie Plame. Fitzgerald would have to show that Rove knew she was a covert agent when he told Cooper she worked for the CIA, and that might be tricky.

    If Fitzgerald nails Rove for anything, it will likely be for perjury -- stating, under oath in front of the investigation's grand jury, that he did not reveal Plame's name to anyone. But we, the public, have no idea what Rove said during that testimony, and many find it hard to believe that Rove would have risked a perjury charge by fibbing.

    In fact, we don't even know if Rove is the target of Fitzgerald investigation at all -- he might just be collateral damage. Remember, Novak said there were two government sources, and (unless I've missed something) we still don't know the identity of #2 (assuming there even is a #2). Maybe Fitzgerald is circling in on this guy.

    It seems likely that Fitzgerald has something -- otherwise he wouldn't have been such a hardass with Cooper. But what it is, exactly, that Fitzgerald knows (or thinks he knows) remains a mystery, and its eventual revelation will be yet another surprise in an already bizarre case.


    So there you go -- now you're up to date and can enjoy the show with the rest of us. Cheers!

    June 16, 2005

    The N-Word

    Headline News!

    Bush plays the Nazi card, June 28, 2004.

    Senator Byrd Compares Republicans To Nazis, March 02, 2005

    GOP Senator Compares Democrats To Nazis, May 19, 2005

    Senator Durbin Likens American Servicemen To Nazis, June 15, 2005

    Hey, you know what these teapot-contained tempests have in common? In none of them did the person who allegedly compared X to Nazis actually compare X to Nazis. But apparently "Nazi" has joined the rarified ranks of Words That Are So Bad That Just The Sound Of Them Is Offensive Regardless Of Context.

    It's convenient that you no longer have to go through the trouble of actually calling someone a Nazi anymore. All you have to do is say the word "Nazi" and then, sometime in the subsequent 24 hours, mention a person or group of people, and then OMG ARE YOU CALLING ME HITLER??!! Hooray for modern political discourse!

    Joseph Biden, D-DE: Some Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee requested more American warships for the Persian Sea and Oman Sea, so I reminded them that those bodies of water are technically 'gulfs' and not 'seas.'"


    XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT FLASH XXXXX

    SEN. BIDEN CALLS REPUBLICANS, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE, AMERICANS "NAZIS"

    "I heart terrorism," we can only assume Biden then muttered under his breath.

    BIDEN REFUSES TO APOLOGIZE THAT MEANS HE'S GUILTY P.S. DEAN FULL OF RAGE AND CRAZY DEVELOPING ...

    Or who knows? Maybe it's one of those words that's only offensive when outsiders say it, but okay when used amongst people of the same group. I can see John McCain strutting into a Republican fundraiser and being all, like, "yo, what up my nazis?"

    February 23, 2005

    The GOP Plays Hardball

     

    February 04, 2005

    Putting the S.S. Into S.O.S.

    I received my quarterly Social Security statement today. And while I usually file these things away unread, watching Bush's SOTU address last night made me wonder if his administration had sneaked any fearmongering language into the standard boilerplate.

    Shore 'nuff:

    The Social Security system is facing serious future financial problems, and action is needed soon to make sure that the system is sound when today's younger workers are ready for retirement ... Unless action is taken soon to strengthen Social Security, in just 14 years we will begin paying more in benefits than we collect in taxes. Without changes, by 2042 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted ... We will need to resolve these issues soon to make sure Social Security continues to provide a foundation of protection for future generations as is has done in the past.
    I searched Google for the phrase "by 2042 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted" and found the whole text here, along with a few news articles about the controversy.

    As I understand it, the next step in the reform is to outfit all Social Security offices with flashing red lights and klaxons, and replace the personnel with 50's era robots that wave their arms above their heads and cry "Danger! Danger 803-64-7707!!"

    February 03, 2005

    Thoughts On The SOTU

    I used to write about politics fairly often on this site. And then a funny thing happened: Bush got re-elected. Please note that, by "funny," I don't mean funny "hah hah" or funny "strange," but funny "GODDAMMIT WTF??!!!"

    But while the reaction of a lot of progressives to the election was to withdraw from the system and become apathetic about politics altogether, I decided to do something about it. I wrote this rousing essay, where I urged democrats to "dig in your heels, roll up your sleeves, gird your loins and get ready to fight, like the rest of us intend to do." And then, several seconds after having raged against the machine by hitting "Post," I withdrew from the system and became apathetic about politics altogether.

    I didn't mean to. But on the following morning I decided that I was sick of post-election analysis and opted to forego NPR and instead listen to KEXP during my morning commute. The problem here, ladies and gentlemen, is that KEXP rocks the fuck out, and after after a few days of listening to it even a married and beinfanted guy like me starts to feel like he's kind of cool, and will continue to remain cool as long as he never, ever listens to "Morning Edition" again. I have therefore spent my mornings since listening to "Pretty Girls Make Graves" instead of Steve Inskeep. And this, combined with the fact that I never watch TV and stopped reading political blogs, has left me fairly ignorant (and blissful) about the current state of the body politic.

    But since yesterday encompassed both Groundhogs Day and the State of the Union address, I figured I'd poke my head out of my hole, take a look around, and decide how many more weeks I was going to hibernate. So I watched the SOTU.

    Overall I thought it was a pretty good speech: specific at times, poetic in others, well-written and well-delivered. I have no doubt that it was essentially an hour of ad copy chock full of distortions and exaggerations that stop just shy of out-and-out falsehood, but I expect that of any SOTU, regardless of who's on the dais. I mean, c'mon: what President is going to get up there and say "members of Congress, fellow citizens: the state of our Union is fair-to-middling."

    Some notes:

    • Words into the speech before Bush boasts about getting re-elected: 19. Words into the speech before Bush boasts about the successful election in Iraq: 54.
    • "When action was needed, the Congress delivered -- and the nation is grateful." I hate it when politicians get up in front of the nation and announce what the nation feels. Do they think they can just bully the weak-minded into adopting the specified emotion? "My fellow Americans, these are not the droids the nation is looking for."
    • So let me get this straight: we reform Social Security by gradually phasing in a system where people can voluntarily invest a portion of their money into the stock market in preparation for retirement. But people can already voluntarily invest in the market, for retirement or otherwise. The difference, here, is that people will be paying less into S.S. (with the rest going into the market) -- and, consequentially, getting less of a payout directly from S.S. So am I wrong in thinking that this reform basically amounts to massive scaling back of Social Security, with the Administration trying to disguise this fact by claiming that any profit a person makes investing his own money in the market is, in fact, a S.S. benefit? I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but that's got to be one of the most convoluted ways to avoid admitting you're gutting a program in recent history.
    • "I have a message for every American who is 55 or older ... for you, the Social Security system will not change in any way." Wow, that sucks for Morgan Fairchild, who turned 55 today. I guess she missed out.
    • Apparently the First Lady is going to personally "take on gang life". It will be just like West-Side Story.
      Snap! Snap! Snap! Snap!
      When you're a Bush
      You're a Bush all the way
      From your fake Texas twang
      To your three naps a day ...
    • "As we update this important law, we must focus our efforts on fellow citizens with the highest rates of new cases [of HIV], African American men and women." Honestly curious: I wonder what the rationale is for having him say "African American men and women" instead of just "African Americans". Just a better cadence?
    • "We will pass along to our children all the freedoms we enjoy -- and chief among them is freedom from fear." Oh, we're free from fear now? You guys spent that last three years sounding the terror alert every Thursday and insisting that Saddam Hussein was 14 minutes away from acquiring Giant Carnivorous Robots, but now that Bush is re-elected I guess we're in the clear.
    • Two paragraphs later: "The al Qaeda terror network that attacked our country still has leaders ... there are still governments that sponsor and harbor terrorists ... there are still regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction ... our country is still the target of terrorists who want to kill many, and intimidate us all ..." Wow, that freedom from fear was awesome while it lasted!!
    • "Thank you, and may God bless America." Wait, don't you usually say "and may God continue to bless America"? Did God stop blessing us at some point in the last few months? Was it because of the Ashlee Simpson debacle?
    • This seemed the least macho and jingoistic of the SOTUs Bush has given, no doubt because it's the first in a spell that wasn't almost entirely devoted to one war (Terror) or another (Iraq). You can't really say "we're gonna hunt down opponents of social security reform, and we ... will .. kill them."
    One last observation. I'm not a knee-jerk Bush-hater (I have to work at it), but whenever Bush would deliver some guaranteed applause-generating line and then smile smugly at the predictable results, I found myself profoundly irked. As Johnathan Chait points out in this New Republic essay, the thing that infuriates many people about Bush is the way he seems to honestly believe he worked his way to the top, despite all the strings that have been pulled on his behalf over the years. Or, as Jim Hightower succinctly put it, "He is a man who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." And that smile, throughout the SOTU, just reinforced this impression in the minds of people like me. Here's Dubya, delivering a amply-rehearsed speech that he didn't write in front of a aggressively receptive and obsequious audience, smarming out unarguable platitudes like "taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely or not at all," and when people whoop and applaud he beams like he just ad-libbed an exceptionally clever riposte at a cocktail party. Drives, me, nuts.

    But, man, don't even get me started on the Democratic response:

    "I'm Harry Reid, and when I was your age you could buy horehound candy at the Searchlight general store for a ha'penny."

    "I AM ... CYBERNETIC 0RGANISM ... N-PEL0SI ... WITH A MESSAGE ... F0R THE PE0PLE 0F EARTH ..."

    November 17, 2004

    My Proposed Constitutional Amendment

    Less than a month after the 2004 election, attention has already turned to the 2008 match-up, with Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton the presumptive front-runners for the two parties' nominations.

    Honestly, would it be too much to ask that the requirements for the highest office in the land be at least as stringent as those used by zany morning DJs at radio stations across the nation?


    Also, the 101st voter in every county should win a CD Combo Pack and two tickets to an upcoming Avril Lavigne concert.

    November 08, 2004

    On The Election

    Despite the scent of trendy cynicism that permeates this blog, I am really an "accentuate the positive" kind of guy. So I spent most of last week trying to write a "look at the bright side!" post regarding the presidential elections. And each time I gave up after 100 words with a hearty "aw, who am I kidding?"

    It's not just that Bush was re-elected -- though I look forward to a second term of Dubya as I would of bout of dysentery. No, what really got to me was the realization that I live in a different universe from most of the electorate.

    The first salvo in this one-two punch came few days before the election, when I read that three-fourths of all Bush supporters believe that Iraq had WMD or WMD programs before the war. What the point of participatory democracy (thought I), if nearly half of the participants can be so wrong about the most important matter under consideration? It's just all so capricious. Here, five-eights of us are doing our civil duty, learning about the candidates and issues, and then we have this enormous wildcard, a huge chunk of the voting public operating under seemingly arbitrary assumptions. It's like competing against the Boggle-Playing Chicken, picking the winner by randomly pecking at a ballot.

    (To be fair: I know that there are lots and lots of thoughtful, intelligent and reasonable Bush supporters out there, who are in full command of the facts and voted for their guy because they honestly believe he is the best man for the job. And, if you're one of them, I'm sorry we couldn't cough up a candidate you felt you could vote for. Flawed though he is, I think Kerry was still one-bajillion times better than Bush on pretty much every issue, but I understand that someone could come to the opposite conclusion. Maybe you're right, that Bush will be the better leader of the two. I hope so, though I doubt it.)

    Then the other shoe dropped. After the election, we heard that voters said there top concern was moral values, which, as near as I can tell, is a euphemism for "biblical values." As an agnostic-who-is-for-all-intents-and-purposes-and-atheist, I had something of an epiphany upon hearing this: I don't just live is a different universe from the Iraq-had-WMDs crowd, I live if a different universe from the 61% of Americans who believe the Bible to be literal fact. These people and I don't just have an honest difference in opinion on political matters, we have entirely different ideas about the very nature of reality itself.

    Of course, I've always known this dichotomy existed, but, living in this bastion of secular humanism we call Seattle, it's easy to forget. The results of this election, however, really drove the point home. I felt like George Taylor at the end of The Planet of The Apes, when he sees the Statue of Liberty and realizes that his hopes of "returning" to Earth are dashed -- that, in fact, he's been on Earth all along. "This isn't a bad day for America," I said on election night, when CBS showed a map of the nation almost completely colored red. "This is America!"

    (A bit melodramatic, I know. But, in my defense, I had been drinking heavily.)

    Anyway, I've been mulling things over for a week, and I've decided that, yes, some good may yet come from this election. Admittedly it's less "that cloud has a silver lining" and more "judging from that there cloud, it's gonna piss down rain so hard that we might finally get motivated to fix our leaky roof." But, that said, here are some reasons for optimism:

    • Off With Their Heads!: This should, by all rights, herald the end of Terry McAuliffe's reign at the DNC. I'm not one of those guys who hollers "fire the manager!" after every losing season of my hometown baseball team, but McAuliffe is to Democrats what icebergs are to luxury liners. And Bob Shrum! Enough of the Shrum, people! The man is apparently trying to emulate Bush's career of failing miserably at every undertaking until he somehow lucks into the White House, but maybe (hopefully) after this election no candidate will touch is "people vs. the powerful" class war claptrap with a ten-foot pole.
    • No Scapegoatery: Bush won this election fair and square -- no 537 vote margin in Florida, no Supreme Court coronation. Yes: a convincing Bush win is a good thing! Now democrats can't just point out that their guy got the popular vote and blame their loss on Nader or the judicial branch of government -- now they have to engage in some actual self-reflection.
    • Maybe Voters Will Stop Trying To Game The System: And speaking of self-reflection, perhaps-- and I realize this is probably too much to ask, but a guy can hope -- Democrats will realize that picking a candidate in the primaries based on his supposed "electibility" ain't such a bright idea. I guess the idea was that them warmonging yokels down south would be so enraptured by Kerry's purple hearts that they would march to their polling places in a daze and pull the lever for him zombie-style, but I could have told you back in April that that wasn't gonna pan out. In the future, how about we stop trying to figure out who some chimeric swing voter would like as president and instead concentrate on who we would like as president, eh? And besides, one of the charges often made against Democratic candidates is that they will adopt any position if it's politically expedient; it doesn't help when the whole party is adopting candidates because they are politically expedient.
    • Now Bush Has To Clean Up His Own Mess: Let's face it: a Kerry win would have been a pyrrhic victory at best. With our military stretched so thin, our deficits at an all-time-high, and anti-American sentiment on the rise, Bush has put America so far in the hole that the presidency was something of a poison pill for Kerry. He probably would have spent his entire first (and, more than likely, only) term just putting out Bush fires. And if the US suffered another terrorist attack on Kerry's watch -- even if it was a result of Bush's policies that have made American's less safe -- that might have sounded the death knell for the Democratic party. Now, Bush is going to have to reap what he has sown. (This "bright side" is somewhat diminished by the fact that all Americans have to reap what Bush has sown, to be sure, but still ...)
    • I Will Shut The Hell Up About Politics For A Spell: Possibly the only unalloyed bit of good news to come out of this election is that it has has me so disgruntled about American politics that I plan to rededicate this site to (a) conversations I've heard on the bus, (b) true tales of terrors regarding my infant son's excretory habits, and (c) pictures of my cats. Thank the non-existent Lord for that!
    Of course, the most compelling reason for progressives to be optimist is simply this: they have no choice. If progressivism has any defining feature, it's that its proponents have the imagination to envision a better nation and the courage to work towards it. And in this race, rejecting the Republican's campaign of fear and smear and instead rallying behind a guy trying to unseat an incumbent president in the middle of a war was an act of optimism unparalleled in recent political history.

    Oh, and one last thing. A lot of progressives are joking about "moving to Canada" -- myself included . But if you're one of those folks who insists that they are really, really considering it, please: do us all a favor and go. The Republicans will be happy to see you leave, and the rest of us don't really need you hanging around and reinforcing the stereotype that liberals (a) are so unpatriotic that they will ditch their nation in a time of need, and (b) feel entitled to the benefits of a government (like, Canada's) without having to work for it. If you're "totally serious" about moving this time, then pack up and head for the border, compadre. Otherwise, dig in your heels, roll up your sleeves, gird your loins and get ready to fight, like the rest of us intend to do.

    October 25, 2004

    Not Me!

    Sales of my Impeach Dean bumper sticker have become inexplicably sluggish in the last couple months, so I'm trying to think of a way to recoup lost revenue. With the election so close, though, it's almost impossible to predict which way it's going to go.

    One thing is certain, however: regardless of who wins, approximately 46% of the population is going to be really pissed off about it. That's why I'm thinking of marketing this all-purpose exculpation:

    Or, for my principled customers:

    Who possibly object to that sentiment? Ass = covered.

    October 14, 2004

    Some Notes About The Debate IV: The Final Chapter

  • I'd call this one a very minor win for Bush, if only because (1) this was the only debate where I didn't spend the whole 90 minute incredulous that this guy was elected in the first place, and (2) I felt like Kerry just took his statements from previous debates and played them back on "randomize" ("I have a plan," "outsourced to warlords," "the president sided with the drug companies," "my lips are made of nouget and boy do I enjoy licking them," etc.) But while we could go back and forth over who won, the losers are clear: OB/GYNs, who didn't get a single mention. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
  • Bush, dude, your "it's kind of one of those exaggerations" line in response to the "not that concerned about Osama bin Laden" quotation was a huge gaffe. Huge! First of all, Gore was the exaggerator, Kerry is the flip-flopper, and Clinton was the waffler -- get your facts, straight, man! Second, did Kerry's stilted delivery of the line not make it painfully obvious that he was reciting a (close to) verbatim quotation from memory? Third and most importantly, how could you not know you said that? Everyone who follows politics knows you said that, Dems and Repubs alike. Ergo, I can only conclude that the most powerful politician in the world does not, himself, follow politics. One of the most common accusations leveled against you is that you are kept in a bubble by your advisors and, boy-howdie, you gave that charge a shitload of credence tonight by being unaware of your own words. Update: Kevin Drum says much the same thing over at Washington Monthly: "The answer lies in the cocoon Bush lives in. Not only has he convinced himself that he never really said that he wasn't concerned about Osama, but he has no idea that the outside world believes otherwise ..."
  • This just in: numbers are boring! Seriously, anyone who has been so inattentive to the presidential campaign that they are still "undecided" is unlikely to be moved when Kerry accuses the President of underfunding something by 733 dollars and 48 cents or Bush claims Kerry voted to raise taxes 491 times. We all know these figures are made up (even when there's some bogus "report" to back them up) so Iwhy don't they just say "his healthcare plan will cost an infinity-minus-one dollars in taxpayer money" and be done with it? And what the hell good is a president who won't even round his numbers for the American public?
  • Again with Dick Cheney's daughter. Am I the only person that finds these mentions of Mary Cheney terribly disrespectful, not only to her but to the entire gay and lesbian community? Kerry and Edwards are pretending to point out hypocrisy I guess, but these seem like fairly obvious appeals to homophobia to me.
  • Bush: "I'm not so sure it's credible to quote leading news organizations about -- oh, never mind." What the -? Was that a shot at moderator Bob Schieffer, from CBS News? Man, Bush is getting feisty. "Come on, I'll take on alla'yuhs! Get up here McCain, I'll kick your ass too!"

  • The debate is a lot more fun to watch if (1) everytime Kerry says "I have a plan," you mentally substitute the phrase "I have a girlfriend in Canada," and (b) you shout "hi-YAH!" everytime Bush karate chops his podium. Hi-YAH!
  • Well, I guess Bush isn't wearing a wire after all. Because, if he was, I'm sure Karl would have told him to wipe the spit from the corner of his mouth instead of just letting him look like Mad Dog Dubya for half an hour.
  • I wish Bush would say it like they did in the old news reels: "Freedom ... on the march!"
  • No stem cell research question in a domestic policy debate? Well, that's probably for the best, because Kerry probably wouldn't have been able to resist name-dropping Christopher Reeves and then I'd be so disgusted that I'd have no choice but to vote for LaRouche.
  • Bush with his Paygo crack, Kerry on The Sopranos. What is this, "The Last Comic Standing?" A chunk of basalt has more comedic timing than these two jokers combined. Even if Kerry knew a funny joke, I suspect it would get thoroughly boringfied by the time it came out his mouth. And when Bush tries to crack wise, it's like listening to an inebriated guy at a bar trying to recount his favorite Dilbert strip. "So in the first panel there's, like, the intern, right? With a stapler. And he says .. no wait, I think it was the boss. Anyway, the intern, or the boss or whatever, says .. you know, maybe it wasn't a stapler ..."

  • "What is the most important thing you've learned from these strong women?" Worst question ever. Although the candidates did their best to live down up to the terribleness of the query, with Bush telling an charming little anecdote about how he welched on a promise he made to his wife, and Kerry going out of his way to reinforce the worst of the "married an heiress / gold-digger" stereotypes about him. Nice job, guys! As endings go, this one ranks right up there with Tim Burton's Planet Of The Apes.
  • Transcript here; the comments are open

    October 11, 2004

    I Made A Bumper Sticker

    Last political post until Thursday, I promise.

    I came up with what I thought was a great idea for a nerdy bumpersticker. I even made a copy and put it on my car. Alas, I appear to have been too clever for my own good: when I showed it to my focus group, most confessed to not getting it.

    Oh well, I still think it's funny. Here's the image -- if you have label paper for your printer and a secret desire to be inscrutable, you can print one out and slap it on your Honda.

    Update: Okay, everyone is writing me to say they don't get the sticker. Here's a hint: the red squiggle is what editors and proofreaders use to indicate "remove this letter." I probably should have mentioned that this was "grammar nerdy," not "tech nerdy."

    Update: Reader Patrick Kent envisions the conservative's rebuttal.

    October 08, 2004

    Some Thoughts About The Debate III

    I was in the car for the bulk of tonight's presidential debate and listened to it on the radio. Consequentially, I have very little to say about it. After all, mocking the candidates' facial expressions and mannerisms has pretty much been the mainstay of these posts, and, lacking that, I got nuthin'. Well, maybe I got a little. We'll see.

  • Bush sounded really, really loud for the first half of the debate, like a guy at karaoke standing way too close to the mike while belting out "I'd Stop The World And Melt With You." When he jumped on Charles Gibson it sounded like a tiger attack in the middle of a Siegfried and Roy show.
  • A lot of people are saying Bush won the debate by virtue of not doing as poorly as he did in the first. I think Kerry did better too, so I still think he won. In fact, I had a brilliant insight* just after the debate finished: it all comes down to whether you think Kerry won the first debate because Bush did poorly, or whether you think he won it because he did well. If you think the former, you may well conclude that Bush won this debate because he did so much better; if you thought the latter, you probably think Kerry won this one because he, too, improved. Since I thought Kerry won the first by exceeding my expectations (honestly, I didn't expect much from Bush, and he met that expectation), I thought Kerry won this one as well.

    * Well, actually it was some NPR guy's brilliant insight, but, you know, I'm sure I would have come up with the same thing if he hadn't blurted it out.
  • Now Kerry is talking about OB/GYNs too?! What the hell? Are the seven undecided votes all gynecologists or what? Cripes, they're going to propose putting portraits of OB/GYNs on the backs of nickels by the time the election rolls around.
  • Bush: "We've just got a report that said over the past 13 months, we've created 1.9 million new Internets." Heh, no he didn't really say that. But he did mention "the Internets." And although this gaffe rates as "sooper dooper trivial," I wonder if this will have the same effect on Bush Jr.'s reputation as the Supermarket Scanner myth had on his father's, making him seem dangerously out-of-touch with modern technology. Bear in mind that Bush mentioned "the Internets" in response to a question about the draft, which means that his reply will be of particular interest to high-school and college kids -- the very demographic that's likely to be the most Internet-savvy and a prone to seeing this as some old "geezer" not being "hip" to modern "lingo." Good thing kids are too apathetic to vote!
  • I think Kerry might be in trouble for the last debate. The conventional wisdom, going into these things, was that Bush would do best on foreign policy (which is why his campaign wanted it first), the second debate would be a draw, and Kerry would win last on domestic issues. The assumptions behind this prediction were that Bush is strong on foreign policy matters -- the war on terror and Iraq are two issues he clearly cares about -- and indifferent to domestic issues, and this would show. Now I'm starting to think that the underlying assumptions are true, but the conclusion is 100% wrong. Bush blew the first debate and the first half of this one because he's so passionate about Iraq and the war on terror, so passionate that he can't take Kerry's criticism without resorting to grimaces, eye-rolling, and hollering. But once the conversation turns to domestic issues -- issues that Bush, frankly, has never really shown much enthusiasm for -- he gets bored enough to start sounding reasonable again. He may care so little about the topics in the third debate that he comes across as -- dare I say it -- presidental.
  • HAVE RECEIVED FIRST TWO CODE PHRASES "YOU FORGOT POLAND" AND "NEED SOME WOOD" STOP UPON RECEIPT OF FINAL CODE PHRASE IN LAST DEBATE WILL LAUNCH OPERATION BLOW UP THE MOON STOP OBGYNS KICK ASS STOP
  • Transcript here; comments are open.

    October 07, 2004

    Some Thoughts About The Debate II
    "Join me, and together we will rule the republic as father and son."
    Two disclaimers. One: Despite two longish political posts in week, I assure you this isn't becoming a political blog. Well, maybe a little bit. But only for the next 60 30 days (my how time flies). After the election, regardless of who wins, I promise to go back to not caring, Honest Native American. Two: I realize I'm a little late to the vp-debate analysis party, but I didn't get back from DC until late last night and only now have had the opportunity to weigh in.

    Overall I thought things were kind of boring, but I did like the ending, when Cheney cut off Edward's hand and then revealed himself to be his father.

    Heh. Okay, just kidding. Here's my real thoughts:

  • I'd call it a tie. I know that "tie" is what people say about debates when they think their side lost, but, seriously, I thought the whole thing was a wash. The only time I ever predicted a winner during the course of the event was about halfway through, when I announced that Edwards was "cleaning up." But somehow, by the end, I decided that it was just sound and fury, signifying nothing. It was like matter and anti-matter: Mr. Positive and Mr. Negative collided in a flash that left nothing in its wake except a mysterious, 100-minute void in time.
  • Early in the proceedings, Edwards repeated, verbatim, a few lines Kerry had used in the first debate. I dunno if that was planned as an effort to drive home a few key points or if Edwards was nervous and could only cough out some recycled one-liners, but it was a poor opening gambit either way. Wasn't one of the major criticism of Bush's performance that he kept repeating the same thing over and over?
  • After the debate the commentators on MSNBC were remarking how surprising Cheney's performance was, because he didn't come across as a "go fuck yourself" barking ogre and instead seemed staid and respectable. Do these people have no short-term memory whatsoever? That's exactly how Cheney presented himself in the 2000 vice-presidential debate, to the point where many people (myself included) found themselves thinking that a Bush presidency wouldn't be that bad, what with such a reasonable, cautious second-in-command. Since then Cheney has unmasked himself as the nephew of Satan, sure, but why people thought he was going to present himself as anything except dignified is beyond me.
  • Edwards: "I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing." That might be the most wince-worthy thing I've ever heard in a debate. I don't know what's worse, Edward's implication that Cheney might not love his daughter, or that it takes such a Herculean effort to love gay offspring that parents who do deserve respect.
  • You got to admire the way that Cheney can repeat known falsehoods ("I've never suggested there's a connection between Saddam and 9/11") without a trace of visible shame. No, seriously: you've got to admire it, by law. It's written into the Patriot Act.
  • What's the point of having a "backup buzzer system" if you're not going to use it whenever Edwards breaks the "no mentioning your running mate's name" rule?
  • Edwards says that America is taking "90 percent of the coalition casualties." Cheney replied, "Classic example. He won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of Iraqi allies" and that, by saying "they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice," Edwards is demeaning them. In response, Edwards blusters "I'm not demeaning!" Great comeback, there, tiger. And this guy was a trial lawyer? How about pointing out that you were talking about the coalition and Cheney isn't, so it's apples and oranges. How about saying "This administration is so desperate to disguise the true cost of the operation that they want to count the Iraqis as part of the coalition to invade Iraq. Now there's your classic example."
  • Laugh out Loud moment: Cheney talking about his disappointment over how divided America is, as if it was just some unlucky break. Yeah, I'll be sure to use that same tact in my next performance review with my boss: "One of my great disappointments with my job is how much time I spend surfing the Internet instead of doing actual work."
  • Vice-presidental debate transcripts here: part 1, part 2. Comments are open.

    September 30, 2004

    Some Thoughts About The Debate

    Overall a very good debate, and much more substantial than we'd been lead to expect. Some thoughts:

  • First three words out of Bush's mouth, after the standard "Thank you for having me" boilerplate: "September the 11th ..."
  • I thought Kerry did well, but Bush gave him a couple of slow pitches right over the plate that he completely missed. Bush: "You know, we have to be right 100 percent of the time. And the enemy only has to be right once to hurt us." Surely Kerry could have used this opportunity to point out that, in the "be right" department, Bush is batting about a .143.
  • In his adherance to his talking points, Bush missed some opportunity to nail Kerry as well. When Kerry said "Humvees -- 10,000 out of 12,000 Humvees that are over there [in Iraq] arent armored," that was the time to point out that's the senator had voted against the $87 billion supplemental, not four questions later. Instead, Bush just went into another of his "don't send mixed signals" blind alleys.
  • "Vociferously"?! Who's the high falutin fancy-talker now, Mr. President?
  • Just as Bush "won" the debates in 2000 by simply not choking on his own tongue, Kerry "won" tonight by not sounding anywhere near as "nuanced" as the RNC has tried to portray him in recent months. The Bush campaign may now wish that they hadn't set such low expectations for the guy.
  • Bush seemed to alternate between seeming presidential and seeming out of his league. You'd think that looking presidential half the time would be better than never seeming presidential at all, but, actually, I think it worked against him. Bush seemed consistently out of his league in the 2000 debates, but he somehow managed to slog through them, and you kind of admired him for that. By coming across as knowledgeable and intelligible some times tonight, he only served to call attention to the moments when he started rambling or froze up.
  • I liked how Bush gave long answer explaining how he thought nuclear proliferation was the most important issue of our time without ever once saying the word "nuclear."
  • Laugh out loud moment. When Lehrer points out that Kerry has repeatedly accused bush of "lying to the American people," the Senator replied, "well, Ive never, ever used the harshest word. " You could practically smell the gears in Kerry's head turning:
    I better not say "I've never used the word 'lied.'" Because if I do, and it turns out I have used the word 'lied' -- and I probably have -- the Republicans will nail me for it. So instead I'll say "I've never used the harshest word." That way, if they uncover a instance where I said "lied," I can say "no, no -- the harshest word is 'hamsterfucker.'"

  • Oh c'mon -- Bush isn't really talking that many notes. He must have a coloring book back there or something
  • Kerry would occasionally lift one finger to signal that he'd like to rebut something, but then just give up with a shrug when Lehrer plowed ahead. Dude, you don't have to go out there and wrestle alligators to project "strength," but have the nads to interrupt the PBS guy at least.
  • "The Onion" once had a headline that read "Camera Falls Out Of Love With Meg Ryan," and that's how I felt about Bush tonight. The split-screen, in particular, killed him -- he looked like a cranky old man whenever Kerry spoke, and seemed visibly agitated at several moments. Did all the channels do split-screen, or just NBC? And the stooping! As my father-in-law (whom I was watching the debate with) observed: "It looks like they painted Bush's body on a large piece of plywood, and he's behind it sticking his head through a hole."
  • Bush couldn't think of anything nice to say about Kerry wife; Kerry couldn't think of anything nice to say about Bush's daughters.
  • Kerry seemed to come out on top, but Bush probably had the best line of the night: "My opponent ... said Osama bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq as an excuse to spread hatred for America. Osama bin Laden isnt going to determine how we defend ourselves." That might have been a solid blow if the delivery had been better. Kerry's "I made a mistake in how I talk about the war, but the president made a mistake in invading Iraq" line, meanwhile, would have been better if it didn't sound like the least spontaneous catchphrase every uttered.
  • Full transcript here; feel free to discuss in the comments.

    September 23, 2004

    We're Turning A Corner, And We're Not Turning Bzzzzzzzzt

    The radio gameshow Just a Minute has been running on the BBC for over 35 years. The premise is simplicity incarnate: guests must speak on a given subject for 60 seconds straight. The trick is that they must do so without "hesitation, repetition or deviation." A buzzer sounds if a player stammers, stalls, starts reiterating or resorts to filler, and another contestant gets a crack at the topic.

    It's hard to even fathom how much better the Presidential Debates would be if they adopted this format.

    For starters, the ban on repetition would pretty much obviate 90% of what Bush would otherwise say. Just imagine if he was limited to using each of his talking points one time only:

    Moderator: The next topic is taxes. Mr. President?

    Bush: In my first term, I had a choice: do I forget the lessons of September 11th and take the word of a madman, or do I give massive tax breaks to the wealthy? Faced with that choice, I will give tax --

    Bzzzzzzzzt!

    Moderator: I'm sorry, but you've used the 'forget the lessons of September 11th slash take the word of a madman' line seven times in the last 40 minutes. Would you like to try again?

    Bush: Uh, "Stay the course?"

    Bzzzzzzzzt!

    Kerry, meanwhile, would have to choose his words carefully, so as to not run afoul of the "deviation" restriction. This would entail disabling his Random Prepositional Phrase Generator that tacks four qualifying clauses onto every declarative statement, to the point where figuring out what answer (if any) he has given is like trying to solve the "Cryptic Crossword" in the back of Harpers. (In fact, here's a great line you Republicans can use: "Some have grave doubts about whether Kerry is qualified to serve as commander-in-chief. But though Kerry may not be well-qualified, at least all his statements are." Admittedly, this joke might go over the heads of much of the electorate, but it will probably cause Republican and Uber-grammar-nerd William Safire to snort English Breakfast Tea out his nose, and that's worth something.)

    Best of all, every answer would be no longer than a minute, and the whole debate could be shoehorned into half an hour . Some might argue that 60 seconds isn't nearly enough time for a presidential candidate to fully explicate his position on complex issues, but let's be honest: if you strip all the unnecessary verbiage and prepackaged catchphrases away from a seven minute debate answer, you're pretty much looking at a 13 second reply; add a requirement that they have to keep talking for 47 seconds more, without hesitation, and who knows? Maybe we'd actually learn something.

    That's why I think "Just a Minute" would be the perfect gameshow format for the debates. Either that or the show where the participants have to eat scorpions and centipedes.

    September 21, 2004

    Dear All My Liberal Friends

    I think outlets in Canada are 220 volts, and therefore won't work with your 110 volt American electrical devices. So when you move up there after the Presidential election, can I have your Gamecube?

    September 06, 2004

    Q&A

    A few months ago, several pundits rapped the White House for its "Ask Bush" sessions, where "independent" citizens would recite the Republican talking points and have it entered into the record without rebuke from the President. This exchange in particular was singled out for scrutiny:

    Q On behalf of Vietnam veterans -- and I served six tours over there -- we do support the President. I only have one concern, and that's on the Purple Heart, and that is, is that there are over 200,000 Vietnam vets that died from Agent Orange and were never -- no Purple Heart has ever been awarded to a Vietnam veteran because of Agent Orange because it's never been changed in the regulations. Yet, we've got a candidate for President out here with two self-inflicted scratches, and I take that as an insult.

    [Applause]

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. Thank you. Thank you for your service. Six tours? Whew. That's a lot of tours.

    Let's see, who've we got here? You got a question?

    But despite the brouhaha, these carefully staged events appear to have continued unabated. I mean, take yesterday's Q&A session for example - maybe I'm just being cynical, but I have a hard time believing that these questions weren't planted and these answer weren't rehersed.
    Q: My name is Trevor Wallenstein and I'm from Gerbil Junction, Iowa. John Kerry is a serial flip-flopper who married an heiress for her money, volunteered for Vietnam so he could fake some injuries and collect a few dubious medals in anticipation of a future presidential campaign, and only shows backbone when it comes to raising taxes. Do you like ice cream?

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, first let me begin by saying that, in my opinion, Iowa is the best State in the union, in a first place tie with all the other swing states. But to answer your question: yes, I love ice cream, all flavors. Except, heh, except for French vanilla, of course.

    [Laughter, applause]

    Okay, who's next?

    Q: Mr. President, the overwhelmingly liberal media has implied that you might not be the sharpest picket in the fence. So let me ask you this: if two trains are on the same track 150 miles apart and traveling toward each other, with the first train travelling 60 miles per hour and the second train travelling 90 miles per hour, and a fly moving 120 miles per hour buzzes back and forth between the trains until they collide, how far will the fly travel in total?

    THE PRESIDENT: Uh, well now. I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it.

    [Laughter]

    But off the top of my head, I'd say -- let's see, 60 miles per hour and 90 miles per hour, with distance as rate multiplied by time ... carry the one -- I'd reckon that fly travels 120 miles in total.

    Q: Thank you, Mr. President. That's exactly right.

    [Applause, cheers]

    THE PRESIDENT: How about you.

    Q: Mr. President, the people of America want a decisive leader who can decisively make decisive decisions and then decisively stick to their guns, regardless of the [air quotes] polls or [air quotes] facts. In light of that, I wanted to ask --

    THE PRESIDENT: No.

    Q: -- how you plan, uh, what?

    THE PRESIDENT: No. Whatever you are going to ask, my answer is 'no.'

    Q: Well, I was just going to ask how you plan --

    THE PRESIDENT: No! And that's final!

    [Applause, cheers]

    THE PRESIDENT: Okay, you there, the man in black.

    Q: While your staggering intelligence and steely resolve are essential qualities for a leader, a commander-in-chief must also make thoughtful, well-reasoned decisions when faced with complex issues. To test you on this attribute, I have prepared these two goblets of wine, one of which contains deadly iocane powder. Can you tell me which one contains the poison?

    THE PRESIDENT: Really, it's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy's? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me. And iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. And you must have suspected I would have known the powder's origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

    Q: You're trying to trick me into giving away something. It won't work.

    THE PRESIDENT: IT HAS WORKED! YOU'VE GIVEN EVERYTHING AWAY! I KNOW WHERE THE POISON IS!

    [Applause, cheers]

    THE PRESIDENT: Last question.

    Q: Much of this campaign has been focused on events that took place over 30 years ago, so it seems only fair to ask: what was your guiding philosophy as a young man in the late 60s?

    THE PRESIDENT: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

    September 02, 2004

    QED

    The Bush Administration has long maintained that Democrats are bitter haters, too consumed with anger to think straight. And now they have their proof, in the form of Zell Miller.

    August 25, 2004

    How Democracy Works

    Hello, and welcome to the last 70 days before the US Presidential Election! For those of you new to the process, here's how things will unfold between now and November 2nd:

    • 95% of the electorate has performed their civic duty by paying attention to the candidates and issues surrounding the upcoming election, and therefore know who they are going to vote for. Because these people are responsible citizens of the republic, no one gives a rat's ass about them (except insofar as they can be shaken down for money).
    • Monies collected from the 95% will be spent on the 5% who have so far been too apathetic to learn about said candidates/issues.
    • The money can't be given to the 5% directly (as this would constitute bribery), so it will instead be given to television networks.
    • The networks utilize the public broadcast spectrum, so hypothetically the money will go right back to the people who contributed it, except it won't, because the government licensed the airwaves to the networks on the condition that they operate "in the public interest," which apparently involves taking millions of dollars to air ads that obfuscate the issues and misrepresent the candidates.
    • On November 2, the 5% of undecided voters will decide not to vote after all when they get drawn into an episode of some terrible sitcom that will be cancelled midseason after one of the aforementioned television networks realizes that it has squandered the millions of dollars they received for showing the ads funded by the 95% of people who paid attention.
    I'm so glad we're exporting American-style democracy to the rest of the world.

    Oh and hey, people of Washington State. Right now, according to most polls, Kerry is leading by 11 points. So, Republicans, I need a favor: next time a pollster asks who you are going to vote for, say Kerry. You don't have to actually vote for the guy, just say you're going to. Or we need about 30 points-worth of Democrats to say they are going to vote for Bush, that works too. What's important is that we get a vast majority to say they are going to go one way or the other, so we can get Washington out of "Swing State" category and the campaigns will stop blanketing us with ads. Because if I have to see one more commercial with Bush trying to look smirkily compassionate or Kerry trying to look stoically enthusiastic, I swear I'm going to write-in vote "Ben Dover."

    August 10, 2004

    Wrong Turns

    I had lunch with John Moe. We talked politics.

    JM What's really interesting about the Republican Convention is that, the day after Bush gives his acceptance speech, the jobs report comes out. And it could corroborate or contradict what he says about the economy.

    MB: Well, except I'm sure Bush will pull some strings and get a sneak peak at it.

    JM: True.

    MB: So, really, we'll know what the job report says a day early, based on Bush's speech.

    JM: Right. If it's positive he'll say, like, "we're turned the corner!" And if it's bad he'll say "We're still, um, approaching the corner."

    MB: He'll say, "There's a light at the end of the tunnel. And we'll reach that light, and come out of the tunnel, and walk down the street for a bit. And then: there will be a corner."

    JM: "Don't worry about it you guys, I've totally been here before and I'm sure there's a corner way up, up over there."

    MB: "Remember a few months ago when I said we'd turned a corner? I wasn't lying, but, before we turned that corner, the economy was going down, right? After the turn we started moving horizontal -- perpendicular to the way we were going before. So if we want the economy to go up, we have to turn another corner, see? And that corner is just ahead."

    JM: "There's like a record store, and then there's some guy ... in a hat? And I think the corner is right past that guy."

    July 12, 2004

    Let Me Get This Straight

    Fearing that terrorists might attack in an attempt to disrupt the US elections, we're proposing to enshrine into law a mechanism that would automatically disrupt the US elections in the case of a terrorist attack?

    Head ... hurts ...

    July 06, 2004

    Johns Across America

    Hah hah! You've probably seen this already, but the New York Post completely blew the VP call this morning:

    Boy, I bet they feel stupid!

    Here are the actual candidates being asked to rate their charisma on a scale of 1 to 5:

    Jeeze, I can't imagine why the DNC thought the campaign needed more energy. I mean, look at that thumbs up. That's nearly a full knuckle's worth of enthusaism, right there.

    Overall I'm pleased that Edwards got the nod, although, truth be told, these guys would be my first choice if I could put any two Johns in the White House.

    Kerry at a recent rally:

    "Dude, I only asked for a flag this big."

    June 29, 2004

    Veep-Stakes

    As I've mentioned before, I don't really give a rat's ass who Kerry picks for VP. But, that said, it would be kind of fun to see John Edwards matched up with Dick Cheney in a vice-presidental debate. It would be pretty much exactly like that one episode where Buffy the Vampire Slayer goes head-to-head with Dracula.

    June 24, 2004

    Sexual Congress

    Okay, so Illinois Senate candidate Jack Ryan may have taken his former wife to "bizarre clubs" around the world and pressured her to have sex with him in front of complete strangers. But should that automatically disqualify him from serving in Congress? I mean, sure, the guy has some flaws, but let's not forget that he took down an international drug cartel, helped America recover from a devastating terrorist attack, and pulled the nation back from the brink of nuclear holocaust. Isn't this someone we should be rallying behind?

    On the other hand, I think he was also the soldier Tom Hanks saved in World War II, so maybe he's already used up his good luck.

    June 07, 2004

    Hope Is Our Strategy

    NBC Interview:

    Brokaw: Are you worried that in the next nine months or so before the election, that one faction in Iraq will try to become dominant, and especially since we have a constitution in Iraq now that says minority rights?

    Bush: Yeah.

    Brokaw: What happens then?

    Bush: You mean if that constitution is laid aside?

    Brokaw: Yes.

    Bush: I would hope it wouldn't be. I would hope that the Iraqi citizenry realizes the importance of recognizing the rights of all people within their country.

    The Bush Doctrine in a nutshell: Don't plan for the worst, just hope it doesn't happen. These guys are nothing if not optimistic. Honestly, at some point I expect to Bush to go on nationwide tv and urge all Americans to get in on the process. "Iraq won't fall into chaos if you only believe! Say quick that you believe, America! If you believe, clap your hands. Clap your hands, and our mission in Iraq will succeed."

    It seems like there's room for compromise in our next election. What if we elect Kerry to the presidency so he could formulate and execute a coherent foreign policy, but we retain Bush in a cabinet-level position -- the Secretary of Wistfulness, perhaps -- so he can continue to fervently hope that things turn out for the best?

    June 01, 2004

    Vice City

    If you haven't already read John Moe's article Pros and Cons of John Kerry's Top Twenty Vice-Presidential Candidates, please do so now. It's great.

    I guess I should care about who Kerry picks, but somehow I can't muster the enthusiasm. The whole selection process seems so clinical, less like picking the second most powerful person in the United States and more like comparison shopping waffle irons on Froogle. They want someone who can deliver a state, can do well in the South, doesn't have any skeletons in the closet, won't outshine the presidential nominee, can spell potatoe, etc. So many things to consider, and all so unfathomably technical and boring. For instance, I bet Bob Kerrey doesn't stand a chance because the campaign thinks a "Kerry / Kerrey" ticket would be too confusing. They probably envision the average voter standing the booth and saying, "Two Kerries?! Whaaa--?!!" and then opting for Bush on on the theory that's he's simpler. (And boy, is he ever.)

    It would be interesting if Kerry picked Kerrey and they called their campaign "Kerry Nation" and went around destroying saloons with rocks, hammers and hatchets, though.

    Most nominees vet vice-presidential candidates with an eye toward balance, looking for someone who's the opposite to provide a well rounded ticket. You know, like how in 2000 Bush was running as a lovable doofus, so they brought on Cheney because he has the charism of e. coli. Since the main charge against Kerry is that he's "indecisive" and "nuanced" and "intelligent," he should probably pick someone unwavering in his convictions, like Crazy Woman Certain That Aliens Told Her To Steal Soup Spoons From Restaurants, or Old Man Driving Aimlessly Around Gerbil Junction, Iowa, Because He's Too Stubborn To Ask For Directions To The Post Office. That would make for some great vice-presidential debates.

    Cheney: Privatizing a portion of Medicare will stimulate the economy, and we'll be harnessing the powers of the market to increase revenue for beneficiaries.

    Old Man: I know where I'm going! I've been to the post office a hundred times!

    Cheney: Your plan, on the other hand, relies heavily on raising taxes.

    Old Man: This is a short cut! I have a map of the entire city in my head!

    May 27, 2004

    Chaotic Evil

    FBI Warning: Al-Qaida May Possess Magic Missiles

    Citizens who see sticks turn to snakes should contact the authorities immediately.
    May 18, 2004

    Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

    My opinion of John Kerry has gone way up recently, but I suspect that's because I have not seen, heard, or read anything by or about him in weeks. Honestly, he ought to just change his campaign slogan to "John Kerry: The Less You See Him, The More You Like Him!" I guess his big plan is keep a low profile while the Bush Administration's chickens come a'roostin' at the White House.

    And it looks like this strategy is working, since Bush's "favorable" ratings are now slightly lower than those of Saruman the White. You might think this is because Bush got up in front of Congress and named Donald Rumsfeld "World's Greatest Grandpa" moments before Seymour "Encyclopedia Brown" Hersh's revelation that, well, okay, the Secretary of Defense might have authorized a little sexual humiliation. (But, honestly, who amongst us hasn't?). If you ask me, though, I think Bush's low standing is mostly due to the fact that Kerry is largely out of the picture. To get a accurate idea of how Bush will fare in this election, I think the pollsters need to interject some context into their questions.

    Pollster: On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate Bush's performance as President?

    Some Guy: Oh, I dunno. Three? Four?

    Pollster: [Holds up photo of Kerry] How about now?

    Some Guy: Seven.

    At some point Kerry will re-emerge and again get hammered for flip-floppery. I think the Republican's portrayal of Kerry as a serial equivocator is largely overblown, there's no getting around the fact that the man has taken every conceivable position on Iraq, often in the same sentence. If the war were peanut butter, Kerry would have already come out in favor of creamy, crunchy, extra chunky, and the gross kind where you manually stir in the oil.

    That's why I think the Kerry campaign should do more than just lay low -- they should actively encourage the American public to forget about their man until the last possible minute. They could run ads like this.

    First woman: Hey, have you heard about John Kerry?

    Second woman: Nuh-uh, who's he?

    First woman: Beats me. Probably nobody.

    And maybe they could muddy the waters a bit for good measure.
    First woman: I was asking because I just saw a Bush ad that said John Kerry was "wrong of defense."

    Second woman: That's weird. Maybe they mean Jim Carey?

    First woman: You think Bush is badmouthing America's favorite funnyman?

    Second woman: Must be.

    If done correctly, the press would completely forget about Kerry until the DNC "leaks" his name as the nominated candidate on October 23rd, whereupon he is heralded as the "hot new thing" and wins in a landside. This could actually work, given that the media has the attention span of a caffinated Irish Setter. It seems like they are always forgetting terribly relevant stuff and then breathlessly reporting it a again months later.
    February 23, page D6: Red Cross Reports Widespread Abuses In Iraqi Prison

    March - April, all sections: Friends retrospectives

    May 14th, page A1: APPARENTLY THOSE RED CROSS ABUSE REPORTS WERE IMPORTANT!!

    The only downside to this plan is the Democratic Convention, scheduled for the end of July -- that might make it hard hard to keep Kerry's candidacy under wraps. But I have a solution for this as well. I think the convention center should be decorated with a tiki motif and all the delegates should vote Survivor-style, writing their nominations onto big pieces of paper and stuffing them into a box while giving a short speeches into the camera. ("You stabbed me in the back one to many times, Bob Graham!") The outcome would remain secret until the big Reunion Show in late October, when all -- what was it, 30? -- Democratic Candidates get together in front of a live studio audience and feign surprise when the winner is announced. Kerry would then receive the grand prize of $75 million in general election federal funds, Clay Aikin as a running mate, a guaranteed spot on the following morning's Today Show, and, no doubt, the Presidency. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win an election in this country.

    May 05, 2004

    Rock The Poot

    The Queen and I talk politics:

    Me: Uhn, I can't believe we hafta go through six more months of this presidential comapign.

    The Queen: I know. The TV ads are terrible.

    M: Are they? I haven't seen them.

    Q: Yeah, they're awful. Every one ends with "I'm blah-blah-blah, and I approved this ad." It's so stupid.

    M: I think they have to say that. It's the law.

    Q: It is?

    M: Yeah, it's part of that campaign finance thingie.

    Q: Oh. I thought it was just, you know, one-upmanship. Like, "I approved this ad!" "Oh yeah?! Well I approved this ad!!"

    M: Hah! Well anyway, I guess Kerry has some new ads out today. Apparently they are pretty good.

    Q: I hope so. Because so far all the commercials have been [ridiculously dramatic voice] "John Kerry ... voted ... to take body armor ... from soldiers!" and [ridiculously pompous voice] "I fought in a war while George Bush was fartin' around."

    Leave it to The Queen to distill things to their essence.

    For the record, I will enthusiastically endorse any candidate that uses the phrase "fartin' around" in a political ad.

    April 16, 2004

    Coming This November

    I have an article over in The Morning News today.

    April 06, 2004

    En Passant

    President Bush, in regard to the June 30th deadline for the transfer of Iraqi sovereignty, says the date remains firm. When asked if the escalating violence might necessitate a push-back, he says:

    We will pass sovereignty on June 30th. We will stay the course in Iraq. We're not going to be intimidated by thugs or assassins. We're not going to cut and run from the people who long from freedom.
    Yes, nothing says "we're not going to cut and run" like a steadfast commitment to cut and run, on a date determined solely by the advent of election season. I'll say one thing for Bush: it's not everyone who could gussy up "we're getting the hell out of Dodge!" with macho bluster.

    Speaking of the Bush administration, the LA Times says that Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission later this week will largely determine whether or not she gets to keep her job. If she gets the boot she probably won't be alone: both Powell and Rumsfeld are rumored to be on their way out too. Not to mention the bevy of other administration officials who have quit or "resigned" (Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neil, Eric Schaeffer, etc.) during Bush's tenure. No wonder the unemployment rate is so high.

    Apparently Rice needs to go because people associate her with the administration's failure to prevent 9/11, just as Rumsfeld needs to go because people associate him with the post-invasion Iraq debacle and Powell needs to go because people associate him with intelligence and moderation. It's like watching a snake shed it's skin as these guys try to slither into a second term.

    Honestly, it seems like scapegoatery and damage control are the only activities the executive branch engages in these days, aside from campaign stops and fund-raising. And it's unnerving to think how much in federal funds has been spent to redirect blame and inoculate Bush from culpability. They ought to just put a checkbox on the 2004 Tax form that says "Would you like $3 to go toward presidential ass-coverage?"

    Oh well, the whole spectacle is kind of entertaining in a novice-chess-player sacrifices-pawn-after-pawn- in-the-hopes-of-drawing-a-stalemate kind of way. Hell, they should just stick a camera in the White House and turn the whole thing into a reality show, a cross between "The Apprentice" and "The West Wing." Every week some new scandal could erupt (this element of the plan is evidentially already in place) and then the administration could spend the hour casting about for a fall guy to get hauled into the oval office and receive his walking papers. ("Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman, it turns out that we lied about the cost of our Medicare proposal. You're fired.")

    I'd totally watch that. And just imagine the rating for the January 20, 2005 series finale, when Kerry comes in to do the final two dismissals.

    March 25, 2004

    9/11 Hearings Summarized

    I case you missed 'em ...

    March 05, 2004

    Selective Memory

    The Bush team unveils the central message of its reelection campaign:

    I'll resume regular dy posting on March 8th. Maybe.

    February 11, 2004

    I Never Thought I'd Say This But I'm Starting To Miss Ari

    Ask White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan About Bush's National Guard Record!

    January 27, 2004

    Instructions For NH Voters

    Welcome to the New Hampshire Democratic primary. Please select one of the following candidates:

    Clark, Wesley
    Dean, Howard
    Edwards, John
    Kerry, John
    Kucinich, Dennis
    Lieberman, Joseph
    Sharpton, Al

    INSTRUCTIONS

    Democrats: Please vote for the candidate that you think will receive the most votes. Remember: the key to this election is electability, so do NOT vote for the person you would prefer to see as President. Instead, choose the person that you predict the most other people will prefer to see as President in the general election. Also remember that the Democrats will only win if they can attract conservatives "Crossover" voters, so imagine a right-wing Republican -- preferably someone who holds political views antithetical to your own -- and vote as you think he would.

    Republicans: If you are a Republican trying to "spoil" the primary, your goal will be to vote for the LEAST electable candidate. Try to figure out which candidate the Democratic caucusgoers would vote for if they were voting their conscience instead of voting for who they think will get the most votes, and vote for that person.

    Thank you for your participation! Democracy works because of voters like you!
    January 05, 2004

    Ahead Of The Curve

    The trick to making a bajillion dollars off a fad, of course, is to get way ahead of the curve.

    That's why, for a limited time only, I'll be selling bumperstickers (and other merchandise) to my conservative readers.

    Be the first to slap one on your car, January 21, 2005!

    Update According to whois, "impeachdean.com" was registered in Novemember of last year. So was "impeachclark.com." Curiously, "impeachkucinich.com" is still available ...

    December 12, 2003

    Homeland Security Update

    Because of the burgeoning debt, the United States Congress has agreed to dramatically scale back the scope of the "Star Wars" Missile Defense Program. This is what it will now consist of:

    On the bright side, the new system is expected to stop about as many missiles as the old system would have.

    December 11, 2003

    The Dean Meme

    Oh man, am I ever sick of the another McGovern meme currently being propagated by Republicans ostensibly thrilled that Dean is going to clinch the Democratic nomination. Dean ain't my first choice for the nomination, and I honestly don't know if he can beat Bush in 2004, but the whole "Dean = McGovern" thing drives me nuts.

    So do me a favor. The next time someone feeds you this line, reply:

    Dean is McGovern? Huh. Well, then by extending your analogy we can conclude that Bush is Nixon: a man so obsessed with power, secrecy and personal vendettas that the second term of his presidency will collapse under the weight of its own corruption.

    Knowing what we know now about the two candidates, I think most people would prefer to vote for McGovern.

    At this point the person comparing Dean to McGovern will have to (a) concede to your dizzying logic or (b) admit that the analogy is facile. (Or, if you're on The O'Reilly Factor, (c) tell you to shut up.) In any case, this would help nip this meme in the bud.

    December 09, 2003

    The Passing Of The Gasket
    C'mon everybody: do The Robot!

    Dun dun ... dun dun ... dun dun
    I say whip it!
    Dun dun ... dun dun ... dun dun
    Whip it good!

    October 09, 2003

    The Political Circus

    From an Fox News interview with George W. Bush, September 22:

    Q: How do you get your news?

    A: I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves ... I have people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.

    October 01, 2003

    Endorsement
    Not a real t-shirt. I'd make it myself, except I'm not especially eager to get taken to court by Google. Those guys can find out everything about you!
    September 19, 2003

    This Looks Like A Job

    If Wesley Clark wins the Deomocratic nomination, I think he should pick Senator Kent Conrad as his running mate. With any luck, the 70% of Americans who still think Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 will vote for a "Clark / Kent" ticket thinking they're gonna put Big Blue in the White House.

    September 10, 2003

    Dem Debate

    Didn't see the Democratic debate Tuesday night? Yeah, me neither. But for some perverse reason I read the whole freakin' transcript. You could read it too, but I'll save you some time and just tell you that most of the Q&A goes like this:

    Q: Candidate X, what do you think about apples?

    A: Well, that's a good question. But another good question is, "What kind of audience reaction will I get to this unrelated but guaranteed laughter-and-applause-getting bumpersticker slogan?"

    [Laughter]

    [Applause]

    But to address your question. The thing we all need to remember is that apples have cores. And the core issue facing Americans today is oranges. But when it comes to oranges, the Bush administration has completely failed to ... [remainder of time spent discussing oranges, apples never again mentioned]

    Also, if you saw last week's debate or have seen the candidates on talk shows, you've pretty much heard everything they said during the debate. The participants were given 60 seconds to respond to questions, and, in nearly every case, they would spend the first 15 segueing from the actual question to some related issue that they already had a prepared response to, and the last 45 delivering their boilerplate rhetoric. Gephardt repeated his "miserable failure" bit a few more times; Howard Dean's closing statement was a paragraph that I'd heard almost verbatim at his rally; when asked what their favorite songs were, most candidates just picked their campaign theme. Memo to John Edwards: Dude, nobody's favorite song is John Cougar Mellencamp's, "Small Town."

    (The journalist who asked the "what is your favorite song" question prefaced it by saying "this is for the Gen X crowd". Hey, nice job there, using my entire generation as justification for your industry's obsession with irrelevant and trivial hoohaw.)

    Best exchange of the night:

    Q: Frankly there's been some concern that because of the racial makeup of Vermont, about 0.5 percent black, that you will have a difficult time connecting and really understanding the concerns of minorities, in particular African Americans.

    Dean: Well, if the percent of minorities that's in your state has anything to do with how you can connect with African American voters, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King.

    Second best exchange of the night:
    Q: [Some guy] recently said that the way that the Democratic candidates are talking about President Bush and this administration amounts to hate language. And I wonder if you would agree that this is hateful, demagogic talk about the president of the United States.

    Sharpton: It doesn't matter if it is Republican or Democrat. If they're wrong, we can call them out, not out of hate but out of love for justice and what's good for the American people.

    Can I get an amen? Well, I probably can't. But Sharpton sure can when he's in full-on rhetoric mode. Sharpton had a lot of great lines, actually. He has about as much a chance of becoming president as I do of becoming a gold medalist in the luge, but they should let him participate in all the debates, even the Republican ones.

    Of course, these aren't really "debates" right now anyhow, not in the sense of there being any actual discussion of the issues. With nine people on stage, the best they can do it toss out broad questions and allow each person the opportunity to cough up some soundbites and catchphrases. And with some 70% of the populace unable to name a single democratic candidate, these debates are more American Idol than anything else: each contestation is belting out a few verses of a popular tune not to win, but just in the hope of making any impression whatsoever on the judges.

    September 05, 2003

    The Kiss!

    Holy smokes, did you see the Democratic debate last night? What an opening! I mean, I was pretty shocked when John Edwards and Richard Gephardt came out dressed in those white bustier wedding dresses and sang Like a Virgin," but when Howard Dean came on stage in that leather-and-spandex tux and open-mouth kissed them both wow! That was just too much!

    I thought Chris Rock did a great job moderating, too. But it's too bad he didnt press 50 Cent to clarify his position on NAFTA.

    September 04, 2003

    A Promise Kept

    "I'm a uniter, not a divider." -- George W. Bush

    * * * * *

    Q: What about Arabs coming in from other countries?

    A: Well, it seems to me -- and the weight of evidence indicates -- that Arab Islamists have fully joined the Iraqi resistance in Iraq ... Iraqi is gradually but steadily replacing Afghanistan and Bosnia as a magnet for many Jihadi recruits to confront the forces of the so-called "unbelief". And it seems to me that anti-American forces must now feel that US forces are very vulnerable in Iraq and could be bogged down in a prolonged guerilla war. If this particular resistance continues I feel you're going to have many more Jihadi fighters joining the Jihad in Iraq against the American forces.

    Q: So the US occupation is, in a negative way, uniting the forces that normally wouldn't have anything to do with one another.

    A: Absolutely.

    -- NPR Interview with Fawaz Gerges,
    a Middle East and international affairs professor
    at Sarah Lawrence College

    August 27, 2003

    Uncommon Law Marriage

    Three minutes and 45 seconds into an radio interview with Sean Hannity, Arnold Schwarzenegger drops a bombshell:

    "I think gay marriage should be between a man and a woman."
    Even in California I'm thinking that's not going to go over well.

    Update: Sharon, er, Shannon Campbell has captured the key quotation as an mp3.

    August 07, 2003

    Conan The Total Recall Governator

    A few readers have written to ask why I haven't done The Bad Review Revue for Gigli, or commented on the whole Arnold Schwarzenegger thing. C'mon, folks: some jokes are just too easy. Seriously, why should I handpick bad reviews for Gigli when you can just check out the Metacritic page for it? And I think every possible Schwarzenegger / Governor pun has already been made by the cable news anchors. "Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his intention to Jingle All The Way ... to the Governor's mansion!"

    One thing I did hear while watching MSNBC at the gym, though. Some commentator was talking about Schwarzenegger and said "His fans know him best as The Terminator, the alien with an Austrian accent." What the --?! THE TERMINATOR WAS A ROBOT NOT AN ALIEN YOU MORON!!! In the wake of the New York Times scandal you'd expect the media to redouble their efforts to regain the public's trust, and yet they still can't get the most fundamental of political facts correct.

    Also, I guess the California Election Committee Whatever is saying that the enormous number of cadidates is making it impossible to prepare all the ballots in time for the October 7th election. That's ridiculous. I mean, at this point all they need is, like, a bunch of California phone books and some stickers.

    Thanks for the scan, Joshua
    August 05, 2003

    Escape From New Hampshire

    In recent years we've been treated to a host of Escape Films: Jurassic Park, Deep Blue Sea, The Cube, etc. The Escape Film -- popularized by the classic Escape From New York and epitomized by the forgotten No Escape -- is a subgenre of The Action Blockbuster, and typically features a band of plucky and determined men (although, as demonstrated by Alien and Aliens, occasionally women) trapped in a remote and inhospitable geographical location. The band must fight against impossible odds and a host of enemies to reach some far off haven of safety.

    Each of the characters in the Escape Movie has a distinct personality and skill set -- The Hero, The Strategist, The Mechanic, The Wiseacre -- and although they might not like each other, they recognize that they have to work together if they wish to survive. As the movie progresses, the team members are picked off one by one, with each fatality receiving a big, dramatic Death Scene. If the character is a good guy, his final moments involve sacrificing himself so that the others can go on; if the character is unlikable, however, he is usually attacked from behind just after betraying his comrades.

    By the time the final credits role, only The Hero remains alive. There's usually some sort of fake-out at the end, where it looks like two people will survive, but then #2 inevitably blurts out "We made it!" and is immediately shot or eaten or vaporized by Final Bad Guy, who we thought was killed half an hour ago. The Hero, after bellowing a lusty "Noooo!," engages Final Bad Guy in the biggest, most blowing-up battle of the entire film and, when victorious, wipes the blood from his forearms and rides off into the sunset.

    The Democratic Presidential Primary should totally be more like this.

    July 25, 2003

    Of Owls And Uranium

    When I was a college student, my classmates couldn't expel a lungful of air without articulating the phrase "Spotted Owl".

    Now, granted, I was an Environmental Science major at the aggressively liberal Evergreen State College, which is situated within chainsaw-earshot of the Olympic Peninsula, epicenter of the whole "Spotted Owl" brouhaha. So it's perhaps unsurprising that we all had Strix occidentalis on the brain. But at the time, 1992, it seemed like the Spotted Owl was a topic of conversation throughout the US, with everyone insisting that it be either assiduously protected or roasted on a spit and served with caramelized onions.

    The Spotted Owl occupied the center stage of the logging debate largely because environmentalists had thrust it there. Convinced that they could never sell the public on the idea that old-growth forests were complex ecosystems worthy of protection for a multitude of environmental, economic and aesthetic reasons, they instead opted to pin their hopes on a cute, fluffy, big-eyed bird. Funny how pseudocyphellaria -- an endangered lichen so unloved it lacked even a common name -- never wound up on a Sierra Club leaflet.

    Eventually, Spotted Owls came back to bite environmentalists in the ass (figuratively speaking only, alas). Having reduced old-growth advocacy to the well-being of a single species, environmentalists were aghast when reports began to trickle in suggesting that the owls might be able to survive in second-growth stands as well. Many of my classmates denounced such findings as scurrilous propaganda invented by a cabal of timber-company fiction writers. Naturally, these were the same people who hailed every study favoring their cause as a paragon of Pure, Unadulterated Science.

    As Spotted-Owls-in-second-growth findings became more prevalent and credible, environmentalists found themselves in a tricky position. After all, if studies had shown that good old pseudocyphellaria was able to live in second-growth, no one would have given a tinker's damn because no one had built their house of cards on a bed of lichens. But with their poster child at risk, the environmental movement found itself having to laboriously retrace its steps. Suddenly the Spotted Owl was never the point in the first place, oh no. It was just a symbol, you see, for the larger issue of saving the old growth. But by then the public considered the Spotted Owl synonymous with anti-logging activists, and may well have concluded that if the owl didn't need the old growth then maybe the US didn't either.

    All groups fall prey to Spotted Owl Syndrome from time to time, but lefties seem especially susceptible. The Trent Lott case was a classic example. Frustrated by the Republican stranglehold on political power, Democrats and left-leaning bloggers dogpiled Lott after he uttered an ethically ambiguous accolade at Strom Thurman's birthday bash. Rather than use the occasion as a springboard to address the many very real cases of institutionalized racism inherent in our political system, Lott's detractors opted instead to simply hound him from office. In the end, the Republicans switched to a more charismatic and less controversial Senate Majority Whip, while the Democrats belatedly tried to focus on the "larger issue." But like the townsfolk in Shirley Jackson's Lottery, Capitol Hill was content to return to the status quo once the stoning was complete. Republicans came out stronger, conservatives were lauded for their strong stance against racism, and Democrats won a completely symbolic and useless "victory".

    All of which brings me to the current "uranium from Africa" hullabaloo, a debacle that has all the earmarks of a liberal self-petard-hoisting: overzealous zeroing-in on a single aspect of a complex issue -- not even an aspect, really, but, as in the aforementioned Lott-ery, a specific string of words -- accompanied by a great show of feigned outrage. It has long been known that the Saddam / Niger / yellowcake allegations were all but groundless, but it's only now that the story is getting traction that the Democrats are loudly declaring themselves shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that the statement was deceptive.

    Oh, brother. I hope the folks at the Democratic National Committee HQ aren't high-fiving each other over keeping this story in the headlines, because, truth be told, it's not critics of the White House that are giving this thing legs but the Keystone-Cop-esqe bumbling of the White House itself. If Bush had just ponyed up with a "Whoops!" three weeks ago, that would have been the Second-Growth Study to this issue's Spotted Owl. Instead we've been treated to the last 10 minutes of a Perry Mason episode, where, one by one, various persons in the courtroom leap to their feet and announce that "no, I'm the guilty one!"

    It's no longer even a political issue, really -- the embarrassing ineptitude of the administration in addressing this imbroglio has passed into the realm of entertainment, like a montage of People Falling Down clips on America's Funniest Home Videos. Sooner or later the White House is going to figure out that the optimal strategy for Uraniumgate damage control is abbreviated STFU, at which point the issue will evaporate. Unfortunately, many of the Democratic presidential candidates have already hitched their wagons to the yellowcake star, and may find themselves floundering when it winks out of existence.

    Conservatives love to refer to liberals as elitists. I wish I could vehemently object to that characterization, but in many ways I think they are right. After all, while forever accusing Republicans of pandering to the ignorant, of dumbing everything down for mass consumption, of assuming that the public can't handle anything more complex than a soundbite, lefties blithely do the exact same thing and, worse, do it poorly. They start by assuming a nation largely populated by uneducated rubes, and conclude that they have no choice but to go all reductio ad absurdum to make their case. That's why they tie the entire old-growth logging debate to a single critter that may or may not depend on the forests in question; that';s why they skewer the Republican's Senate Majority Leader not because of his party's frequent insensitivity to racial issues but because he coughed up a grammatical hairball that could be interpreted as a slur; and that's why they are making a big to-do about a single sentence uttered by a President whose entire agenda, foreign and domestic, is a Progressive's nightmare.

    I understand that in an era of superficial media coverage, politicians must rely on symbols and shorthand to get their messages across, but Democrats seem especially prone to confusing their own metaphors with the broader issue they are supposed to represent. The uranium reference in the State of the Union address is interesting insofar as it's symbolic of the larger campaign of deceit and distortion that was used to justify the Iraqi Invasion, and that is what the "opposition party" should be talking about. If the Democrats are truly the "Party Of The People" as they like to boast -- and if they hope to recapture the White House in 2004 -- they should respect the people enough to speak frankly about these matters, instead of getting investing huge amounts of time, resources and energy into oversimplifications that serve mainly to insult the public's intelligence. Otherwise they might as well change their mascot to the Spotted Owl and call it a day.

    * * * * *

    Update: In the comments, the estimable Dean Esmay rebuts:

    As a (mostly) former Democrat, I thought I'd point out two things:
    1. Democrats' record on race issues really is no better than Republicans', on sensitivity or anything else, and
    2. I haven't seen any particular "campaign of lies and distortion" from this administration--because all of the supposed "lies" and "distortions" are pretty much exactly like the silly yellowcake nonsense: things which can be explained perfectly reasonably for people who don't start with the axiomatic, a priori assumption that the administration always lies about everything.
    I'm also surprised to see anyone see a foreign policy conducted on spreading democracy and human rights to be a progressives' nightmare, honestly. It's actually a terribly progressive agenda. That's the funniest part: lots of people are starting to notice that there's very little that's really particularly "conservative" in the current administration's agenda. Which probably explains in large part why self-described progressives are having such a hard time getting traction on any issue against this administration.

    Here's something to consider some time, just as a possibility:

    1. Maybe we really did kill and hurt fewer Iraqis with our invasion than leaving Saddam in place would have hurt and killed.
    2. Maybe we really are going to let them do with their own oil as they choose.
    3. Maybe we really are going about spreading democracy and human rights in the region.
    Consider that as just a simple possibility. That all the negative spinning about it has been just that: negative spin.

    If you can make yourself consider that, and consider it seriously, I'd say you're a real liberal. If you can't, if your instant reaction is to scoff, then perhaps you aren't a liberal at all, but are merely a reactionary.

    That's what I'd say, anyway.

    July 14, 2003

    The Scandal Widens

    The thing I don't understand about this whole "State of the Union" hullabaloo is why anyone believed that Saddam needed to go to Niger in the first place. I mean, Christ, thirty seconds of Googling and he could have learned to make the stuff himself.

    And for that matter, why does everyone think George Tenet's statement that "those 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president" was about Iraq? When I heard him say that, I just assumed he was referring to this passage:

    This country has many challenges. We will not deny, we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations. (Applause.) We will confront them with focus and clarity and courage. (Applause.) And another thing: Clay Aiken is, like, totally going to win American Idol, mark my words. (Wild applause.)

    July 02, 2003

    Support Our Troops
    WASHINGTON (AFP) - President George W. Bush vowed that strikes on US-led forces in Iraq would not lead the United States to "leave prematurely" and defiantly challenged any foes in the war-torn nation to attack US troops.

    "There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring'em on!," he said.

    Okay, pissed now.

    June 10, 2003

    Errata

    Washington Post correction:

    A June 8 profile of actress Jane Alexander incorrectly identified a senator she described in her memoir. It was Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) whom she described as "a taut, leathery gnome of a man with hair a color not found in nature." It was also Thurmond who asked her, "Aren't you a moral woman?"
    Found in The Note.

    June 06, 2003

    Clap For Victory
    Alan Graham of Trial & Error provides proof of concept
    Remember a few years back when the big fad was those keychains that loudly beeped when you clapped your hands, thereby allowing you to find them when misplaced?

    You know, if the CIA had been smart they would have snuck into Iraq before the war and put one of those suckers on the WMDs. Then we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today. I mean, c'mon guys -- they only cost, like, three bucks.

    April 10, 2003

    Here's A Free One For You, Leno

    "Did you see the footage of the corporal who put the American flag on the statue of Saddam? Did'ja see that? Apparently the Pentagon thought it was bad for PR, so a superior officer immediately ordered him to take it down. The marine who set up the nativity scene in Baghdad's Central Square was reprimanded as well."

    March 27, 2003

    Otta Wha-?!
    Bush visit to Canada in doubt

    OTTAWA - The White House is considering cancelling a planned state visit to Ottawa by George W. Bush in May because of the war in Iraq and increasingly strained relations between the U.S. administration and the Chrtien government. News that Mr. Bush's scheduled May 5 visit is in jeopardy came one day after Paul Cellucci, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, said Americans are ...

    Whoa, whoa, whoa! The who?! The ambassador to Canada?!

    The role of an ambassador, as I have always understand it, is to go Way The Hell Over There and talk to Some Foreigners in an Incomprehensible Moonman Language Like Tagalog or Swahili or Irish. So news that there's a Canadian ambassador comes as something of a shock to me. I've always envisioned the US and Canada as having kind of a Jack Tripper / Larry Dallas relationship, where, you know, they were always just showing up at each other's place unannounced or heading over the the Regal Beagle to knock back a few beers and hash out the Yukon salmon agreement.

    Man, ambassador to Canada -- whatta sweet job that's gotta be. Get an apartment in Northern Vermont, drive your 1996 Dodge Neon up to Ottawa every week or so, hang out with The Barenaked Ladies ... I can just see the job announcements: "Seeking energetic go-getter who enjoys good beer, hockey, and a fantastic exchange rate." Yo Chrtien: if you get fed up with this Cellucci guy, drop me a line -- I'm willing to relocate.

    (Woo! I didn't talk about politics for nearly a day!)

    March 24, 2003

    Foreign Policy
    March 20, 2003

    Waiting For Togo

    Did you see Bush's speech last night, announcing the start of hostilities? This line, in particular, leapt out at me: "These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign. More than 35 countries are giving crucial support."

    Thirty-five?! Just yesterday Powell said we had 45 nations (but admitted that a third of them "for one reason or another, do not wish to be publicly named"). What, did ten nations just not show up last night? "Okay, we're rolling in seven minutes, people. Has anyone seen Bulgaria? Bulgaria? Anyone? What about Azerbaijan? Goddammit, Azerbaijan totally said they'd be here."

    The full roster of "willing" (and nameable) nations, by the way, is

    Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.
    HERE COMES ERITREA YOU'RE FUCKED NOW SADDAM!!!!!!

    I like how Turkey magically became an ally, despite the fact that they turned down a 30 billion dollar bribe to use their bases. Do you think the US stuck Turkey on the list just so they'd have a number divisible by three? Without them, Powell would have had to say "We have the support of 44 nations, but 34.0909090909091% of them do not yet wish to be publicly named," and then, shit, you might as well call the war "Operation Story Problem".

    Plus, most of these guys aren't even sending troops. This sounds like one of those coalitions that college roommates form, the kind where they all swear they are "willing" help clean up the house before moving, and then, on the 31st of the month, they contribute by leaving a half-empty can of "Easy Off" on the kitchen counter and mysteriously disappearing for the day.

    And I'm just talking about the known countries. What's up with those that "do not wish to be publicly named"? I mean, not to put too fine a point on it or anything, but how much can you possibly contribute to a war and still expect to remain anonymous? On the "Coalition Of The Willing Sign-Up Sheet" I imagine these nations writing, like, "New Zealand: Will root for you."

    February 19, 2003

    United Nations!
    February 10, 2003

    War Protest

    My name is George W. Bush. You tried to assassinate my father. Prepare to die.

    (If anyone knows who created this image, let me know -- I'd love to give 'im the credit he deserves.)

    January 23, 2003

    Hello Left-Wingers!

    Are you a fanatical, wild-eyed left-winger, prone to posting long USENET screeds with subject lines like "DID DUBYA KILL ANN LANDERS??!!!!!! (YES!!!)" and packed with air-tight logical arguments like "bush dint't want to invade iraq until the pretzle incident THINK ABOUT IT!!!!!!"?

    Do you love those too-clever-by-half rhetorical shenanigans, like calling Bush "Resident Select" or "Commander In Thief" or "Republican, insofar as he 'can' steal an election!"?

    If so, then, boy howdie, do I have a treat for you. Here's a neologism I just came up with, and you (you!) are welcome to use it incessantly -- in newsgroups, in letters to the editor, in long, spittle-intensive harangues delivered to the guy sitting next to you on the bus -- between now and the televised speech next Tuesday.

    Are you ready? Are you sitting down? You'd better sit down. I know how excited you get about these things. I'm serious about the sitting-down. Well, anyway, here it is:

    "George Bush's State of Buffoonion Address"
    Go nuts. No need to thank me. In fact, you can even claim you made it up yourself. I wash my hands of the whole thing.

    Update: Last night I was describing to a buddy my campaign to insinuate the phrase "State Of Buffoonion Address" into the left-wing vernacular by publicizing it on my website.

    "Oh hey," he said, "While you're at it, could you try and get everyone to adopt my new phrase, too?"

    I said that I would. So here it is, everyone.

    "Keepin' it real in two-thousand and threeal."
    Please employ it forthwith.

    December 18, 2002

    Yes, George, A Missile Defense System Will Work

    We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of defective yeti:

    Dear yeti,

    I am the President of the United States. Some of my little friends say that a missile defense system is unfeasible. Papa says, "If you see it on the yeti, it's so." Please tell me the truth.

    George W. Bush

    George, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, George, whether they be liberals' or Democrats', are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
    Yes, George, a missile defense system will work. Its effectiveness is as certain as love and generosity and your re-election, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas, how dreary would be the world if there were no missile defense system! It would be as dreary as if there were no Republicans. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The endless flow of funds to the military industrial complex would be extinguished.
    Not believe in a missile defense system! You might as well not believe that we can lower taxes and keep Social Security solvent! You might fire hundreds of test missiles, but even if not a single one were intercepted, what would that prove? Nobody thinks a missile defense system would work, but that is no sign that it couldn't work. The most real things in the world are those that intelligent people discount. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? I mean, since you stopped drinking? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
    No missile defense system! Thank God, it will be build! And a thousand years from now, Georgie, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, we will continue to pay for this wonderful, glorious dream.
    defective yeti
    December 12, 2002

    The Trent Lott Controversy Must Go!

    It's not often that I disagree with Joshua Micah Marshall, but this whole "Trent Lott has got to go!" thing is a total crock.

    Let me preface all this by pointing out that I rank Trent Lott right up there with athlete's foot on the list of admirable organisms. And no one would be happier than I to see him resign in disgrace. But what's this donnybrook about, anyway? It's about a single sentence, muttered at a birthday party, filtered through the reinterpretation engine of the nation's pundits.

    For the record, here's exactly what Lott said. He observed that, when Strom Thurman ran for president in 1948, Lott's home state, Mississippi, voted for him. "We're proud of it," Lott continued. "And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years."

    God alone know what he meant by "these problems," but note that there no mention of race. Pundits, though, have been quick to point out that Thurmond ran on a platform of segregation. Some have therefore concluded that Lott's remarks were tantamount to an endorsement of the segregationist policies of the 40's.

    That's quite a stretch, if you ask me. What's much more likely is that Lott was engaging in a little bit of birthday hyperbole, stating that Thurmond is a good guy and therefore he would have made a good president. You and I and the American constituency of 1948 all agree that Thurmond would have been a terrible president, but lionizing a birthday boy is hardly unusual for any of us. Apparently Lott made a statement almost identical to this ("if we had elected this man 30 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today.") at a 1980 Thurmond rally. Some have seized on this a proof that Lott meant what he said this time. I'd argue just the opposite. I'd say it proves that he was just pulling stock phrases out of a hat and tossing them at the Senator willy-nilly.

    But, okay, for the sake of argument, let's say that Lott does support segregation, and chose to reveal this in a cryptic, off-the-cuff remark made at a birthday party. Where does that leave you? Does the revelation that Lott is a Good Ol' Boy shock anyone? Are there people saying "Jeeze, up until last week I though Trent Lott was a tireless crusader for racial equality and civil rights, but this utterance has completely turned me around!" No, of course not. Democrats aren't seizing on this because it changes their opinion of Lott one iota, but simply because they can.

    And that's exactly what happened to Clinton, you'll recall. I bunch of people disliked him, they caught him making ambiguous statements, and they raked him over the coals. Remember, Clinton wasn't impeached because he had sex with that woman, but because he lied about it. There, as here, the issue wasn't what he'd done, or what he believed, but simply what he had said.

    Few people are criticing Lott for actually embracing segregation policies; they are instead criticing him for saying something that could be construed as approbation for segregation. "Any suggestion that a segregated past was acceptable or positive is offensive and it is wrong," Bush said today. That's right: Lott's suggestion is wrong, but no comment on whether it would be wrong for Lott to actually believe that a segregated past was acceptable. The same goes for the Democrats. Lieberman said "Senator Lott's recent comments about Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign were hurtful, divisive, and fundamentally un-American." The comments, the comments.

    At what point did we all become more concerned about what people accidentally say than what they actually believe or do? Lott says something stupid and folks want to run him out on a rail; meanwhile, not a single person in the government has lost their job over the intelligence failures which culminated in the WTC attacks, despite the fact that 9/11 was a very real event (as opposed to mere words) and that some people are clearly culpable, of negligence if nothing more.

    Besides, if Lott supports segregation, I'd rather he tell us outright that keep it secret. Furthermore, we have no shortage of idiots in office, and they are as free to express their opinions, no matter how asinine, as the rest of us are. It's odd how liberals drop their stalwart defense of the first amendment whenever race becomes a factor.

    The Republican National Committee and George Bush have every right to can Lott if they feel that he has become a political liability. But the rest of us can't just demand he be unseated because of a jumble of words that may or may not express some view we find reprehensible. If you believe in democracy -- and I do -- then you have to face the fact that sometimes people you don't like wind up in office, and it's not your place to overturn the will of the voters, no matter how wrongheaded you think those voters might be.

    November 22, 2002

    November 06, 2002

    The Democrats' Fatal Flaw

    In case you hadn't gleaned it from this site, I'm a progressive Independent that almost always votes Democrat. So no one is unhappier than I to see the Republicans snag control of all three branches of government. But who can blame the voters, when the Democrats are so fractured that they can't rally behind a single person to articulate what little message they have? The most recognizable and respected figures in the party were so busy competing against one another for the 2004 nomination that they couldn't speak with one voice even long enough to stave of this major setback.

    George Bush demonstrated in the 2002 election that you don't need a cohesive plan ("If affirmative action means what ... I'm for, then I'm for it.") so long as you have a personality to present it. But who has really gotten the Democrats fired up in the last two years? A loser (Gore, on the rare occasions when he pokes his head out of hiding and says something worth hearing), a Republican (McCain, during the flurry of reports that he might run on their ticket in 2004), and a dead guy.

    Many have pooh-poohed the negative ramifications of the Wellstone Memorial-turned-rally, but its implications were more profound than just ghoulish opportunism. It showed that, while they wouldn't stand behind Wellstone and his progressive politics while he was alive, they would enthusiastically point to him and shout "that's what we stand for!" when he inadvertently procured three hours of prime time television. This desperation for a spokesman spoke volumes about the Democrats' paucity of vision.

    Also, Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn't very good last night, so it was kind of a double blow.

    Update: Okay, I got kinda worked up about the elections there, but it's all better now. I just went to the gym and watched CNN Headline News where they didn't mention the election once. It was, like, wall-to-wall Winona Ryder verdict coverage for the entire hour I was on the treadmill. Oh wait, they did break away at one point to talk about -- this is true -- the sniper case.

    Now I'm all distracted and apathetic again -- thanks CNN! Estimated Date Of Giving a Rat's Ass About Poilitics Again: April 28, 2004. See you then!

    September 26, 2002

    The Three Rs

    Read this, write them, and do the math.

    Update: My email to Jennifer Dunn, Washington State Representative:

    "If peaceful efforts to destroy Iraq's weapons or to bring about a regime change fail, then I have decided to authorize any means necessary to accomplish these goals. Military force should always be a last resort." So you have written on your webpage, and I commend you for this position. But I fear that the Congress is poised to cede its decision-making capabilities to the Executive branch, by approving a war resolution that hands the Bush Administration a foreign policy carte blanch.

    I do not believe that the White House shares your philosophy of only utilizing military force as a last resort. Waiving your responsibility as a Congresswomen to serve as a check and balance to the Bush Administration's warmongering is therefore tantamount to reneging on these principles that you hold dear. I hope you'll have the courage and the integrity to stand up for your convictions, and ensure that Congress continues to have a voice in the planning process of this momentous decision.
    Respectfully Yours,
    Matthew Baldwin
    "Warmongering" and "renege" were probably a little over the top, but, whatever. Steal, rewrite, use.
    Update: Senator Patty Murray Responds!
    Dear Friend:
    Thank you for contacting me by email. This is just a short note to let you know that my office has received your message. If you are from Washington state and ...
    Yeah, that's about where I stopped reading ...
    September 06, 2002

    They Shall Never Take Our Remaining Freedom Away!

    Terrorists shall never deprive Americans of their essential liberties.

    The Bush Administration's strategy for ensuring this, apparently, is to leave us with none left to lose.

    Discussion at Metafilter.

    August 27, 2002

    xxx Exclusive! Matt Drudge Dumb!!! xxx

    Matt Drudge is horrified that those attending a summit on starvation are "enjoying" a meal of lobster, caviar and champagne. Yes, it must be disheartening for Mr. Drudge to see his long, hard battle on behalf of the starving get undermined like this.

    People who work to alleviate starvation while eating well are one infinity less hypocritical than people who call this hypocritical while doing nothing themselves.

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