Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bend It Like Beckett

Something I missed over Thanksgiving, and then neglected to comment on—the Red Sox made a tremendous trade.

The Sox get Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell "On Clearance" from the Marlins for minor leaguers. A giant thumbs-up from me. Getting a World Series MVP starter at age 25 and an All-Star third baseman (admitedly on the decline?) for prospects is huge. I'll miss Bill Mueller, but come on. Getting Beckett is nice, if for no other reason than it pushes the overwhelmed Clement back in the rotation. But the key to this trade might be Lowell. If he bounces back, he could be huge. If they can pick up some insurance for Keith Foulke, and they don't do anything stupid, like trade Manny, we are looking good for next year. All this without a GM...

The excellent Chad Finn has more, and so does Bill Simmons, who includes a nice list of "sure-fire" prospects that never panned out to counter the Bagwell Theory.

Unrelated to the Beckett trade, but things I stumbled across while reading up on it:

52 Reasons ESPN Sucks. With special attention paid to the abominable Chris Berman.

And a good story at Deadspin, "Athlete Run-In: Angry Tim Duncan." The story is good, but it's this comment that is a riot.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

TiVo Alert

New reader/commenter Carly was so kind as to jot down when all the Christmas specials will be on TV (Charlie Brown, Grinch, Frosty, etc...even the 'Festivus' Seinfeld). Here ya go.

Monday, November 28, 2005

“Bad Mother Fucker” Indeed

Jules: Now I want you to go into that bag and find my wallet.
Ringo: Which one is it?
Jules: It’s the one that says, “Bad Mother Fucker.”

While flipping through a magazine in a waiting room earlier today, I came across some astounding (to me) bit of information. In an ad for a new interview series on Sundance called "Iconoclasts," was this little bit of trivia—Samuel L. Jackson is the highest box-office-grossing actor in film history.

Not Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford or Tom Hanks, but Samuel L. Jackson.

This is pretty clearly a result of a prolific career, he is in tons of movies, many of them huge hits—Jurassic Park and the Star Wars prequels. While his presence in a film is not necessarily the driving force of the film's box office success, he certainly helps by lending a certain credibility.

I just found that to be a pretty impressive, and astonishing, fact. And you can be sure it is at the top of his resumé. Deservedly so.

WalMart Shoppers Deserve to be Trampled

No, not literally, but hear me out...

While watching the parade and Survivor on Thanksgiving, I was bombarded with ads from every store around about how the doors open at 5 a.m (WTF?!?) and you better get shopping! "Who in their right mind would sign up for that shit?" was the thought repeating through my head. That, and sympathy for the folks who have to wake up at 3:30 to go to work and handle these maniacal jackass shoppers for minimum wage.

On Friday night, the local (Detroit) news led with a bunch of shopping stories from the area and then expanded to nation-wide. What were those stories? Incidents and altercations at stores over these bullshit "door-buster" sales. There were five or six stories, ranging from trampling at the doors, fights in lines to an off-duty cop macing his fellow shoppers to jockey for a "bargain" laptop. Every single one of these stories took place at a WalMart. Every one.

First, think about the origin of that word, door-buster. I can only assume it comes from the threat of people's faces being shoved through the glass as the mob assembles, waiting for the store to open. Sounds like something I need to get in on!

But these "door-buster deals" are all hype and bullshit. Take this incident:
Woman knocked unconscious by trampling shoppers
ORANGE CITY, Florida (AP) -- A mob of shoppers rushing for a sale on DVD players trampled the first woman in line and knocked her unconscious as they scrambled for the shelves at a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Patricia VanLester had her eye on a $29 DVD player, but when the siren blared at 6 a.m. Friday announcing the start to the post-Thanksgiving sale, the 41-year-old was knocked to the ground by the frenzy of shoppers behind her.

[...] Paramedics called to the store found VanLester unconscious on top of a DVD player, surrounded by shoppers seemingly oblivious to her, said Mark O'Keefe, a spokesman for EVAC Ambulance.

She was flown to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, where doctors told the family VanLester had a seizure after she was knocked down and would likely remain hospitalized through the weekend, Ellzey said. Hospital officials said Saturday they did not have any information on her condition.

So this woman spent the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the hospital to save seven dollars! That's right, she got up before dawn—and since she was first in line, likely was there the night before—endured the crushing crowd for hours and was then promptly stomped into the floor for a DVD player that was available every other day of the year for $36.87. WalMart also stocks a model for $38. When you see an ad for a $29 DVD player, that seems like a tremendous deal—one worth setting the alarm for! But only if you are unaware that DVD players are regularly priced only a few dollars more, and you don't know your chance of nabbing one is slim to none.
[...] Ellzey said Wal-Mart officials called later Friday to ask about her sister, and the store apologized and offered to put a DVD player on hold for her.

Wal-Mart Stores spokeswoman Karen Burk said she had never heard of a such a melee during a sale.

"We are very disappointed this happened," Burk said. "We want her to come back as a shopper."

Whaat? Let's take those last three bullshit statements one at a time:

1. "...offered to put a DVD player on hold for her" -- As if this poor woman is going to want to set foot in your crowd-control and security-deficient nightmare of a store to come pick up that piece of Taiwanese crap. Maybe you could have sent the DVD player found beneath her trampled, unconsious body along with her in the ambulance, instead of selling it to somebody else. Or better, perhaps you could have sent a representative to her home to install an actually nice DVD player for her to watch when she returns from hospitalization to continue her recovery from the injuries suffered from your negligence and callous disregard for basic safety.

2. "... never heard of a such a melee..." -- Hey, Ms. Burk, with lying and selective intelligence skills like that, there's a job waiting for you in the White House. My quick google search came up with countless results over the last several years—many of them at WalMarts.

3. ""We are very disappointed...want her to come back as a shopper." -- Your concern for your bottom line is touching. I'm sure you are relieved she's not on your insurance roles...

The same thing was true with the laptops people were literally dislodging the electronics counter to get. Apparently all the fuss was over a price reduction of $22. At four hundred bucks, that's a paltry five percent savings! These prices might be crossing a magical threshold that makes them sound irresistible, but it really is a miniscule savings for maximum punishment. And it's all part of WalMart's grand bait-and-switch marketing scheme.

Now, because these shoppers are idiots, doesn't mean they really deserve to be trampled—of course not. Though I will say that the minor discomfort they experienced for their bargains on Friday is light penance compared to the suffering of workers around the globe making this phenomenom possible. The WalMart shopper in the country just seems to perfectly capsulize everything wrong with red-state America. Parking lots filled with yellow-ribbon adorned SUVs driven by ignorant sheep who refuse to sacrifice anything for the war or the cheap socks they feel entitled to.

This is a great little piece on the whole Black Friday charade. And here are some photos of a stampede over a 72 year old woman as it unfolded. The high cost of low prices, indeed.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"I'm Dreaming of a White...Thanksgiving!"

UPDATE: Picture removed for homeland security purposes.

I just need to add how much I love the first real snow of the season...the first shovelling of the sidewalk and the pride of the job well done. The late night dog walk of pure silence...

My daughter, now three, was fully able to really enjoy the snow, make angels, the whole deal. Her excitement when she came down and saw the snow was really precious. She was somewhat disappointed that to discover it wasn't good snowman-snow (too cold), but we had a blast anyway. To actually have enough snow to go sledding and a four-day weekend to enjoy it, was great.

The snow was a real Christmas jumpstart, we were inspired to start the decorating early—wreaths and lights in effect! Bring on the tree!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Democracy-Building for Dummies

Mark Kleiman boils it down.
Lies Versus Incompetence
...In reaction to John Murtha's call for a phased 6-month redeployment in Iraq, the President said "as long as I am commander in chief, our strategy in Iraq will be driven by the sober judgment of our military commanders on the ground."

Let's put aside for the moment the fact that this is a lie: the "sober judgment" of Gen. Eric Shinseki was that we needed more troops, and he was fired for his sobriety.

Instead, let's assume it's true: it still demonstrates manifest incompetence. Military commanders do not, and should not, determine our "strategy in Iraq" that job is for those who purport to be our political leaders. Iraq is a political problem: if our strategy is being driven solely by the military, it shows that we do not understand it.

A major reason why the Bush-Cheney strategy is so criminally incompetent is that it assumes that if we just blow up enough people, then we'll win. The job of creating a stable Iraq so far transcends that that it's little wonder we have been so unsuccessful. The Marines entered Baghdad, the statue came down, and we figured it was over. There was no political strategy following up because everything was entrusted to the military.

This also points to the wisdom of Murtha's saying that the military has done everything it could do: his point is that the military cannot be expected to solve a political problem. The Administration does not understand this.

Clearly, military necessities have to be an element in developing a coherent political strategy. But the political strategy drives the military, not vice-versa. It's too late to expect the President to read anything, but perhaps someone around him should take a look at this.

My only issue with Kleiman is his title for the piece: "Lies Versus Incompetence." Why choose, when Bush is offering both in abundance?

And as far as Bush's inane statement, I'm glad the "Commander in Chief" is happy to follow orders from the field. Or at least pretend he does and is satisfyed with it as an excuse. On the surface (which is as deep as his bullshit ever goes) this might sound like a good idea. "Bush is in touch with the commanders and THEY know what is needed, not some Congressman."

But this is fucking wrong. Generals and armies are designed, trained and deployed to fight wars and kill people. And they will keep right on doing it and requesting what they need to keep doing it, until a political solution arises to make their efforts unnecessary. But policy and diplomacy are for pussies, and you can't run a fear-based campaign strategy back home with that crap. Plus, it gets in the way of profiteering.

These assholes in the Administration are too busy divying up Iraq's oil fields and enriching their benefactors to bother with coming up with a political solution or even to ever have considered one before we went in. The Army did its job in two months. The fucking Administration has been avoiding theirs for two years.

Hey Dems, Buy Get a Clue

Over at Kevin Drum's Political Animal, guest-poster Avedon Carol wants to know what the hell is wrong with the Dems, why they seem so unprepared, and why the hell don't they read a blog once in a while? She posits that the top political blogs have been offering better strategy and advice than their paid consultants for years and doing it for free. That and they ought not be embarrassed every time the Right tries to smear them, they should fight back, and the web is full of ammo. Damn straight. Read it.

Friday, November 18, 2005


That's how much my 11.8 gallons of gas just cost. That's $2.06 a gallon. I seriously never thought it would get that low again ever, never mind only a month from it being in the $2.90s (which, of course, is when I had to drive from MI to NYC and back).

On the one hand, I am happy because I'm broke, but I actually thought good things might happen in this country if gas stayed expensive...

UPDATE: The same gas station was $2.03 on the way to work this morning. Will we cross back under two dollars? I never would have thought it possible. Would this have happened without the Senate hearing and oil profit reports?

Goodnight Moon—Now Smokeless!

[NYT link] In the great green room, there is a telephone, and a red balloon, but no ashtray. "Goodnight Moon," the children's classic by Margaret Wise Brown, has gone smoke free.

In a newly revised edition of the book, which has lulled children to sleep for nearly 60 years, the publisher, HarperCollins, has digitally altered the photograph of Clement Hurd, the illustrator, to remove a cigarette from his hand.

Some bookstore with nothing better to do or be pissed about has even started a protest website (I should note the cow with the cigarette is pretty funny).

I don't want to add to the bogus "controversy" surrounding this non-story except to point out my personal connection...

Sometime during my three-year-old daughter's life, I remember pointing out this photo to my wife and remarking how society has changed in its acceptance of smoking, and that a children's book contributor would never pose with a cigarette, and it certainly wouldn't be published. My wife laughed at me and insisted it was his pencil ("He's an illustrator!").

The only big deal here is my vindication that it was a cigarette in his hand...I win!

In my personal (and professional—I'm an art director) opinion, this photo should have been replaced or re-cropped, not altered. But, I have no problem with the desire/motivation to ditch the smoke. I can understand some minor uproar from the traditionalist bookstore set, though comparisons to Stalin at the website above are, frankly, preposterous.

Oh, and this will sell HarperCollins a lot of books. Collectors will scramble to snap up originals, and the free publicity for the 60th Anniversary from this story will sell the new ones.

[Yawn] The Bob Woodward Non-Development

So many pixels have been spilled this week on the whole "Bob Woodward already knew about Plame / Libby wasn't the first leaker" bullshit and I've pretty much avoided it because my attitude was one of utter non-surprise, and confusion as to how this has any impact on Libby's case at all.

First, on Woodward. His role as Bush stenographer has been painfully obvious since his fawning Bush book a couple years back. That he would be privy to all manner of classified stuff in this WH is hardly shocking. He got to sit in classified meetings to "research" his Bush romance novel for chrissakes. All the hand-wringing going on about his journalism, ethics, source-protection or anything else is a joke. Woodward has been a Republican tool for years. The only "development" is the addition of his name to the widening conspiracy.

As far as the whole “this weakens the case against Libby” thing goes, I just don't see it. Libby’s charges are all after the fact perjury and obstruction stuff. Even arguing an impact on the actual leak is a stretch. It is the same crime to divulge classified information whether you were the first or thirtieth person to do it. It doesn't even matter if the reporter knows already, you cannot confirm it for them either, which is what I believe they are looking at Rove for. This has no impact except to enhance the fatigue factor on the whole affair, and that's why the right is glomming all over this.

If they throw enough crap out on Fox, Rush and the righty blogosphere, people will stop paying attention. Acting like this is part of an overall “leakiness” of the White house might water down the impact of a single Libby leak in the court of public opinion, but I don’t really see how this inhibits Fitzgerald on Libby’s existing case or any case he is still building.

As far as further entanglements, the only person I can see feeling secure in this is Cheney. Either someone else will fall on their sword for him (as Libby did), or as a last resort, technically (going way out on an limb of ignorance here) as VP he can de-classify anything he wants, meaning he can’t be charged with the leak if he is the source?

The worst that can happpen to Cheney is that he looks bad. He doesn't give a shit about that. A third of the country thinks he is Darth Vader anyway, a third don't care, and the rest are willing to excuse any behavior at all by these guys. Ho-hum.

As far as the "there's no actual crime there" crowd goes, the reason the crime cannot be proven is because of the perjury and obstruction. The whole point of covering up a crime is too erase the evidence. That leaves the prosecution with prosecuting the cover-up, which is more than good enough for me and the courts.

John Cole has more.

Music: Friday Random Ten

1. "The Real Me" - The Who
2. "We Shall Not Be Moved" - Dan Zanes
3. "Rattlin' Bog" - Dan Zanes
4. "Your Most Valuable Possession" - Ben Folds Five
5. "Creep (acoustic version)" - Radiohead
6. "Xanadu'" - Rush
7. "Shining Star" - Earth, Wind and Fire
8. "Line Up" - Elastica
9. "The Boss's Car" - John Scofield
10. "Sister Morphine" - Rolling Stones

To save space on the front page, go to the comments for the breakdown...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Can "The Daily Show" Qualify for a Pulitzer?

I've been too busy to watch "The Daily Show" all week, but I did get to see this brilliant Chalabi skewer-piece online... At least as strong and compelling a summary and condemnation as anything you'll read on this fucking crook, his role in the pre-War and his ties to the White House.

False Alarm?

FOX responded to my hate mail with this:

While that would be welcome news if true, it actually still doesn't really counter my complaints below. FOX is still jerking the show around and it will still fail if even loyal viewers can't figure out when the hell it's on and get fed up. That's no way to market a show, especially a pseudo-serial or grow an audience.

My wife wondered if it was because of Jason Bateman's surgery, but if you read the story, they supposedly had new episodes ready to run through November. I think they are yanking it for sweeps, which frankly, is stupid. Perhaps the "hiatus" will allow the supposedly overwrought writers to catch up, and this won't keep happening.

"to be continued" indeed...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Routine Maintainance and Musing...

Updated and reshuffled the links today. I almost trashed my somewhat awkward "category-based" system (Allies, Adversaries, etc.), but decided to stick with it for now. The list remains somewhat random, but the one's I read the most are bumped towards the top. By that measure, John Cole's Balloon Juice is far and away the place I spend the most time and he should be listed first, but I left him down in the "Adversary" section only because he still resides comfortably to my right. He's coming around...

My time at Cole's introduced me to Otto Man and led me another blog I really enjoy, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Nachos. A group blog run by O.M. and a few other thirty-something (I presume) clowns with Simpsons-centric handles, LLPN is a good mix of politics, music and culture. Those guys drop in here occasionally. My "Nachos"-time has garnered me my other two most regular commenters, orf who in turn netted me Elizabeth, who blogs from Afganistan. Kinda cool. It's not in the links, but I want to credit orf for writing a second blog on her travails with acne and Accutane. A very personal, poignant and actually hilarious journal...

Other additions are standard-issue lefty political fare under "Allies". Dropping down is Atrios, which has pretty much become open threads I never venture into, quotes and short quips. Dropping off is Pandagon—just not the same without Ezra and Jesse. I enjoy Amanda's music snobbery, but that's about it. The Comics Curmudgeon is freaking hilarious, enter the comments at your own risk if you are at work—I often can barely contain my laughter.

Anyway, it's been a good month around here. There's been plenty to write about, and with some actual comments showing up and adding the counter (1,000 hits over the last month), I now have the validation of knowing somebody actually reads this stuff.

HTML Question: Does anyone know how to adjust the links in the template so they aren't double-spaced? And how can I add a picture to my profile? Blogger has given me a bunch of shit on that front—it's a breeze to add art to the posts, but for some reason adding my cool little Mr Furious I colored is too complicated...

Monday, November 14, 2005


After a word of mouth campaign finally got a bunch of new people ready to watch this brilliant show this season, FOX decided to change it's night to accomodate a five-year old retread cartoon, pre-empt it for a month with baseball and then jerk it on and off the air to show "Prison Break" repeats. No wonder it couldn't "get enough ratings." How many ads did I see for goddamn "Prison Break" during the playoffs? Perhaps they might have spread the ad money around a little? Maybe built up a franchise night, with good shows leading into other good shows...? Thought far enough ahead to realize "Prison Break" is only good for one season?

Idiots. They lucked into hiring some talented people to come up with a brilliant show, it wins Emmys and everything else, and then they pull the plug without ever giving it a chance.

So what's on FOX tonite? Last week's "Prison Break", followed by this week's "Prison Break." Ingenius.

I guess FOX viewers must really be too stupid to follow a serial. Or, to program their TiVos and VCRs...

This sums it all up perfectly. Right down to the bra.

Damn straight.

My parents were here over the weekend, and I found myself doing exactly what is described below...
Ira Glass on TiVo:
"Married people always want you to get married, people with kids always think you'll be happier with kids, and TiVo owners always believe your life won't truly begin until the day you get TiVo. God knows I believe that. I love TiVo. We actually have two TiVo boxes in my house, hooked up to our one TV. TiVo is based on an idea that doesn't sound so radically life-transforming when you first hear it. You tell a machine what TV shows you like, and it records every episode of them for you. Then when you come home at night, there's a whole list of episodes of The Family Guy you can watch, there's last night's Daily Show, there's every episode of Celebrity Poker Showdown. TV itself is transformed, from a blur of channels you flip through – most of them lousy – to a concise and hope-inspiring list of shows you actually enjoy. Which means that every time you turn on the TV, there's something good on! Always! Every single time! That dramatically changes your life for the better, in ways my sad TiVo-less friends can't even imagine. I'm such a corny and boosterish TiVo user that I've bought it as a present for friends and family. I shouldn't be here endorsing it at all. Yes, they're our newest sponsor but they didn't ask me to write this and they're not paying me for it or anything and actually, I think it's sort of unbecoming for a public radio host to endorse any product. But here I am. I love TiVo. You're nuts if you don't get one. That's what I truly believe and I'm happy to tell the world." – Ira

It's true. It's freaking great. And barely watch any TV these days, but what I DO watch, I can watch whenever the hell I want and without commercials—that means I can catch up on three Daily Shows (or Arrested Develpments, etc) in an hour. It's so damn easy to use, and so smart, I have convinced several people at work to get it. And what Ira says above is the more subtle benefit I never quite realized. It really is a life-altering experience to have something excellent ready to watch every time you sit down. TV can actually be a relaxing time to unwind when you don't have to desperately search for the least crappy thing on.

One of these days, I will put finger to keyboard and write the list of "Top Ten Inventions In My Life." I think about it often...TiVo will be on that list.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Music: Friday Random Ten

1. "Jailbreak" - AC-DC
2. "International Bright Young Thing" - Jesus Jones
3. "Dizzy" - Green Apple Quick Step
4. "Rosemary" - Lenny Kravitz
5. "New Jack Hustler" - Ice T
6. "Mother Goose'" - Jethro Tull
7. "Help Yourself" - Portable
8. "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" - Soggy Bottom Boys
9. "The River Rise" - Mark Lanegan
10. "Greedy Fly" - Bush

To save space on the front page, go to the comments for the breakdown...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

It's Not About the Uninsured

Kevin Drum picks up something from the Weekly Standard (of all places) and uses it to craft what I think is the best possible strategy for pushing Universal Healthcare.

Here is what they said in the conservative Weekly Standard:
Instead of approaching health care reform as the left does, as a problem for the uninsured — a matter of charity for those less fortunate — conservatives should cast the health care crisis as what it really is: a problem for the insured, for people whose insurance plans will lapse if they lose or shift jobs, whose plans don't cover expensive crises, and who must pay extra, in the form of higher premiums, to cover the medical bills of the permanently uninsured.

From there they spiral into some market-driven fantasy solution bullshit, but as an initial sales pitch, it's gold.

Drum expands:
...If liberals want to sell the idea of national healthcare, we should quit marketing it as a welfare plan for the uninsured. Instead, we should be focused on the healthcare complaints of those who already have insurance but are dissatisfied anyway: Lack of choice in physicians. HMOs that make it hard to see a specialist. High copayments. Fear of losing coverage if you lose your job. Long waits for non-urgent care. New (and usually worse) healthcare coverage every time your HR department is told to find a cheaper plan. Fear that preexisting conditions won't be covered if you take a new job. The risk of financial ruin if someone in your family has a truly catastrophic illness.


So forget the uninsured for now. Liberals should concentrate instead on making sure that ordinary middle class workers understand just how bad and how expensive their current healthcare is, and how much better it could be under a decent national plan.

Exactly. This applies to me and my family right now. I have a poor-paying job working for a state college. But I have excellent BCBS health insurance. I have been actively seeking a better job for a while now, but I have genuine concerns that going out into the private sector is going to subject me to all kinds of bullshit healthplan compromises if not outright downgrades.

I've always been healthy, and my family history is pretty good, but my wife is 29 and has rheumatoid arthritis and a history of cancer in her family. My daughter is three and has a cataract that requires surgery and might be on the road to juveline rheumatoid. These will be pre-existing conditions. These are the kinds of conditions that absolutely kill you if you try to get your own insurance (or even life insurance). If I get a new job, am I going to have to battle some new fucking scumbag insurance company to cover my daughters follow-up care? Do I need to pay COBRA from my old job til I'm out the woods? What if in three years she needs surgery again? If I move thirty miles from Ann Arbor to Royal Oak for a job, am I in some different network requiring me to dump all of our doctors and the U-M hospital system?

This is the kind of stuff that torments families daily in this country and "Healthcare Savings Accounts" do nothing to address this. In an era where it is clear people will change jobs (if not careers) several times over the course of their worklife it makes no sense at all to stay with an employer-based healthcare system. And this isn't even addressing the advantages for businesses and employers to be free of the nightmare of constantly shifting plans to maintain coverage and costs.

Driving home the point to middle-class families that, "Fine, you might have healthcare now, but that could change or stop at any time—and—it could be even better and you could have it wherever you work or live" will likely get a better response than the more abstract "There are 40 million people you don't know who don't have health insurance."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Lesson to NOT Learn from the Elections

A very good post by Ezra reacting to an election analysis by Amy Sullivan guest-posting at Kevin Drum's place. Like Ezra, I agreed with some of what Sullivan said when I read the post earlier this morning, yet something about it didn't sit right—that is, beyond the gag reflex I have to her attempting to infuse everything with religion—and I couldn't quite articulate it. Ezra did so beautifully.
It's bad enough that Democrats are supposed to try and "fake" faith these days. Worse, however, is that theological costume parties come off as obviously inauthentic, meaning Democrats who want to compete in certain races have to be longtime believers, sincere theists like Kaine or Clinton. That's a worrisome precedent.


In some ways, Kaine's successful invocation of his missionary experience is much more troubling than heartening. The fact is, he should never have had to do that. An anti-death penalty position is no more moral if rooted in biblical verse than in a self-constructed ethical structure. That Kaine had to deploy Jesus to deflect attacks is, thus, a bad thing. His positions should be able to stand without the son of god propping them up...

I think Kaine did a great job in his campaign, used his faith appropriately and to his advantage both offensively and defensively. But to draw a lesson for wider application from this is a classic Dem mistake, and Sullivan is eager (as always) to lead that charge.

Encouraging Dems to run on a faith platform should only be for those otherwise excellent candidates who happen to be faithful and there is no alternative. Frankly, I think faith and religion should have NO role in an election, and as a strategy it should be discouraged. I suppose I'm willing to allow it where it might be necessary or distinctly benificial, though I'm not happy about it.

Election Afterglow

So, this is what it feels like to go to bed happy on Election Day? A nice day for Democrats across the country. In nearly all the major races we came out on top. Virginia and NJ governors, even though the Republicans pulled out all the dirty tricks. Bush helicoptered down to personally drive the final nail in Kilgore's bid to take Virginia, and the Democrat mayor of St. Paul, MN who supported Bush, got stomped.

Bush has worse than jumped the shark, he is chum in the water for Republicans at this point.

Maine rejects a gay discrimination proposition and California voted "NO!" to every one of Ahnold's ballot initiatives. It would have been nice for Bloomberg to lose in NYC, but I can see how no one was excited by Ferrer.

It's too bad 2006 is a year away. If Congress was up for grabs this year, we might have walked to control. Can we sustain this momentum?

MORE: Carpetbagger, Kos, Ezra. John Cole on the good and the bad results and Steve G. has some sour grapes, but then floats an interesting theory—Bloomberg won as an R, but will switch back to D by next fall. Interesting indeed.

Over in Detroit, a shocker. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick staged a late rally to defeat same-party challenger Freeman Hendrix even though Hendrix appeared to be winning handily all night last night. Kwame was elected the first fall I moved to Michigan, and I was excited that such a young guy was elected mayor. I remember him "raising the roof" during his victory speech—a hip-hop mayor. Unfortunately he proved to be a disaster, and we would have been better off with P. Diddy as mayor. By all accounts Kilpatrick should have gotten his ass handed to him, and all the allegations of voter fraud building over the last week look like they might have merit. At the very least, his victory will be viewed as extremely tainted. This is bad news for Detroit, which really need a fresh start.

Even more locally, here in Ann Arbor, the $4.2 million millage to pay for cutting down thousands of ash trees killed by the motherfucking Emerald Ash Borer failed. I'm fairly surpried by this one, as it's a pretty progressive and environmental city, and at a glance this would seem a no-brainer to support. But the fact was, the City probably didn't need to raise taxes to pay for this, and voters were wise to axe it...(groan).

In addition there is controversy over the misleading ad claims by the city that "Ann Arbor voters have an opportunity to approve funding for more rapid ash tree removal.'' [emphasis mine]. Apparently, the City was prepared to remove the trees as quickly as possible regardless of the millage outcome. Yeah, I call that misleading, and par for the course for this mayor. Last year I voted for a Republican (the only time in my life) for mayor because of stuff exactly like this. Heifjte is a mirror image of Bush. Sure, he's liberal and everything I want in a politician on issues, except that he lies and skews facts all the time to suit his needs and exhibits plenty of cronyism. I've got no use for that shit, even from liberal Dems.

And all that money would do nothing to ease the burden on homeowners with ash trees to remove. I have two of them, and it will cost me a couple thousand bucks just to chop 'em down and not replace them. The mayor decided last year Ann Arbor would not participate in a state aid plan for homeowners, and it was probably to do with this millage initiative. Thanks, dick.

And a special "Fuck You!" shout-out to the bug that killed two of the four mature trees in my yard, and the power company that last week overzealously chopped half of my maple away, literally. I'm left with my gorgeous shade tree looking like the letter D, and a hickory that the squirrels use to pelt my car and driveway with an endless supply of nutshells. Grrrr...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Courts: The One-Sided Conversation

The usually-excellent Dahlia Lathwick has a somewhat tedious column at slate today. I think she can be about the most entertaining writer on court matters around. This column is not any "fun" to read, but it's still good, it just took a little more boiling down to draw out the precious nugget. She thinks the Dems are going to blow it in the Alito hearings unless they change their tack. She is, of course, right.
The net effect of the John Roberts hearings was a national four-day "civics lesson" in which the populace heard, again and again, that any approach to judging other than "modesty" and "minimalism" would result in judges making things up as they go along. That's a page from the far right's talking points. No competing vision emerged from the left, as far as I could tell. I won't credit the efforts of the Democrats on the judiciary committee to see into John Roberts' heart, or probe whether his kids play soccer with poor immigrant children, as efforts to put forth a competing jurisprudence. Those questions were clumsy proxies for the clumsy theory that judges should just fix life for sad people. I am calling for something else. It's time for Senate Democrats to recognize that a) there is a national conversation about the role of judges now taking place; and that b) thanks to their weak efforts, it's not a conversation—it's a monologue.

Partisans on both sides are eagerly setting one another's hair on fire, deconstructing every word of every opinion Sam Alito ever penned [...] But the substance of Alito's writings is a distraction from the main event. In truth, conservatives cannot wait for Round 2 of this next civics lesson, a lesson that will star Sam Alito—a charming, articulate, card-carrying conservative jurist with an evolved and plausible-sounding legal theory. It will, unless Democrats get it together, become yet another Jerry Lewis telethon, raising national awareness about the dangers of "judicial activism" and the plague of "the reckless overreaching of out-of-touch liberal elitist judges." Democrats in the Senate either will not or cannot put the lie to these trite formulations. They need to shout it from the rooftops: that blithely striking down acts of Congress is activism; that the right's hero Clarence Thomas may be the most activist judge on the current court; that reversing or eroding long-settled precedent is also activism; and that "legislating from the bench" happens as frequently from the right as the left.

Like on so many topics, the Dems in Washington are preparing to go through the same motions that they like to pat each other on the back for and the press likes to second, but has no impact whatsoever on the debate in the Senate OR more importantly, in the public at large. It's not just about stopping a nominee or not, it's what gets said in the process. There is good that can come out of hearing regardless of the resulting vote. the Democrats should not let the opportunity pass.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Elections: Don't Just GOTV, Get Out the Voting Machines

Mark Kleiman has an interesting proposition/question:
Private contributions to shorten voting lines?
A reader makes a point that's obvious once mentioned, but which I haven't seen discussed.

The (mostly Democratic) voters in some poor urban areas face long lines to vote because their local elections departments can't afford enough voting machines. One way to fix that is to switch to optical scanning, where the cost is in the counters and marginal voting station is virtually free.

But taking the technology as fixed, how about private or foundation contributions to simply buy more voting machines? Shortening the voting lines in Columbus would be orders of magnitude more cost-effective than running TV spots, and could probably be done on a tax-deductible basis.

This suggests five questions:

1. Would this be legal?

2. How many of the relevant jurisdictions would accept the money? (In some cases the problem may be state or county officials who don't want inner-city residents to vote.)

3. Is it being done?

4. If so, where do I send my check?

5. If not, who wants to start it up?

I'm on the road and won't be keeping up with my email, so I'm going to experiment by allowing comments.

Well, Mark's comments don't seem to be working, which is unfortunate, since I'd like to know more, and no one reads me... Hopefully he (or someone) follows up. This is what I tried to post over there:

An excellent question (or five), Mark. Makes total sense. And since a good part of the Republican strategy is based on suppression, how would they counter this? By placing more machines in rich, white districts? If this is legal and doable, it would be great...

Music: Friday Random Ten

1. "Flowers in December" - Mazzy Star
2. "Get Rythym" - NRBQ
3. "Township Rebellion" - Rage Against the Machine
4. "if'n (Watt)" - fIREHOSE
5. "Sampson & Delilah" - Grateful Dead
6. "Babylon'" - David Gray
7. "Stolen Car" - Beth Orton
8. "Shake Your Rump" - Beastie Boys
9. "Scratch" - Morphine
10. "Groovy Train" - The Farm

To save space on the front page, go to the comments for the breakdown...

Courts: The Anti-O'Connor

Will Saletan at Slate has a great piece up on Judge Alito. It seems that Bush didn't just decide he didn't care about replacing Sandra Day O'Connor with a like-minded Justice, he decided to replace her with her nemesis...

Okay, nemesis is a bit much. But when you read the piece you'll see how far apart these two judges really are, and how in one case Planned Parenthood v. Casey (and it's appeal) in particular, Alito was the dissent and O'Connor the deciding vote against his position on appeal. And in her writing the Supreme Court's opinion, O'Connor more or less took Alito out to the woodshed.

It seems that Alito took opinions that O'Connor had authored and cherry-picked them for snippets to make his case, implying that O'Connor and the SC would agree/uphold such points. O'Connor in the controlling opinion, pretty much singles out Alito's dissents and rips 'em apart. Here's Saletan:
...And you [Alito] implied that Justice O'Connor, the justice you're planning to replace on this court, would agree with you.

In point of fact, you were wrong about that, weren't you, Judge? I mean, we have the actual answer to that question, because Justice O'Connor, along with Justices Kennedy and Souter, wrote the Supreme Court's controlling opinion in Casey a year after you issued your dissent. And she pretty flatly rebuked you, didn't she? She says the spousal notice provision "is an undue burden, and therefore invalid." Couldn't be any plainer. And in the very next sentence, she addresses those parental notification cases you cited, and here's what she says:

Those enactments, and our judgment that they are constitutional, are based on the quite reasonable assumption that minors will benefit from consultation with their parents and that children will often not realize that their parents have their best interests at heart. We cannot adopt a parallel assumption about adult women.

And here she is a bit later, talking specifically about the provision you voted to uphold:

The husband's interest in the life of the child his wife is carrying does not permit the State to empower him with this troubling degree of authority over his wife. … A husband has no enforceable right to require a wife to advise him before she exercises her personal choices. … A State may not give to a man the kind of dominion over his wife that parents exercise over their children.

That's kind of a slap there, isn't it, Judge? All that stuff you wrote about the woman not being sufficiently informed to make the decision without her husband's help—not being competent, evidently, to decide whether consulting him was a good idea—Justice O'Connor pretty much whacked that one out of the park, didn't she? And the same for your point about the husband's interest in the fetus—"Does not permit the State to empower him with this troubling degree of authority," she says. That's pretty clear, isn't it?

As Saletan makes clear, the object of the game for guys like Alito is to erect as many obstacles as possible in front of a woman seeking an abortion, while clearing a path for maximum interference by the man (or the state). Alito really is, through the very judicial activism the right supposedly abhors, trying to relegate wives to the same role as children in relation to their husbands.

Read the whole thing as it's a fascinating look into the ways in which the right has tried to use the government to weasel it's way into a family's most personal matters every chance they can — Parental notification, both-parent parental notification, spousal notification, etc...