Thursday, December 15, 2005

My Congressman

Congressman John D. Dingell (MI-15) recited the following poem on the floor of the US House of Representatives concerning House Resolution 579, which expressed the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected.

[poem moved to comments.]

A Bill to protect Christmas?!? Dingell should've just stood up, growled, "This is horseshit" and stormed out...but I give him credit for creativity.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Kids on the Christmas Holiday Shopping List?

Don't pressure your child to become an "Einstein." Set a more reasonable goal.

Hilarious. Be sure to click through to "View More Products". And the testimonials.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Democrat's Carrot

Steve Soto has a great idea:
That’s right; instead of letting the GOP have the whole debate about how dividend and capital gains tax cuts somehow help us all, why not bring back the consumer interest tax deduction, something that will actually provide tax relief to a vast majority of the population that is living paycheck to paycheck? Let the GOP argue why it is more important to keep giving the capital gains tax cut and dividend tax cut to the wealthiest one percent on the false promise of job growth, something that can be immediately refuted, instead of letting everyone else who has loads of accumulated consumer and credit card debt get something for it.

Sounds good to me! Go read the whole thing. I'd like to see an economist tell us whether this is a good idea or not.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Not Seeing It

[Slightly polished since John Cole linked over here, and frankly the post was (is) not one of my best... Feel free to wander around and check out some of the stuff from the last couple weeks—stuff I think is much better, but no one ever read.]

I'm not going to weigh in heavily on the case of Tookie Williams. Lots of folks on the left seem all worked up over granting this guy clemency. He is less than twelve hours from being executed, and for some reason is getting the full special Hollywood and media treatment. Why?

If you are opposed to the death penalty, I guess there is cause for concern and you should speak up. What I do not understand is why this guy has become a cause célébre for mercy.

There are actually people on death row who deserve to be defended and have their cases publicized. Tookie Williams is not one of them.

Now, I should point out, I am not particularly familiar with the details of this case, but nothing I've read over the last week has given me any reason to: a) doubt his guilt, or b) believe he deserves clemency. Tookie's a bad guy, convicted of four brutal murders, scheduled to meet a fitting end.

But here's where I really go off the liberal rails. I have no problem with the death penalty.

In theory, and for certain cirumstances. Period. It doesn't mean I am a "hang 'em high" gung-ho advocate, but I don't have a problem with executing those guilty of heinous crimes. I realize that gets me in some shit with some of my readers (I am looking across the street) but that's the truth. If I have a problem, it's with the implementation of the death penalty, and the chance that the wrong person might be executed, but not with the punishment itself.

As for Tookie Williams, his supporters claim he is "redeemed." That he might be doing good work with his writing against gangs. Fine. But he still was convicted of, and admitted to, multiple murders. [UPDATE: Williams still maintains his innocence—I am not convinced—in fact, this undermines any claim of "redemption" to me.] There seems to be no question as to his guilt or innocence. He may be working against gangs now, but he still founded the Crips—who are responsible for countless more death, crimes and misery. If the Governator believes Williams could do more good for society alive in a cell than on a gurney, and grants clemency (he won't), that's fine with me, and lucky as hell for Williams. I am not lobbying for a needle to go in his arm, but I will not give it a moment's thought if it does.

I often question whether it is "civilized" for me to think this way, but ultimately, it's not hard for me to think in terms of whether or not a person deserves to be executed or not. If the crime is bad enough, the circumstances are clear enough, and an incredibly high standard regarding that person's guilt is met, I've got no problem with the ultimate punishment.

All of that said, I support a moratorium on all executions in this country to address the complete fiasco that is the legal system in regards to capital cases and the unfair implementation of the death penalty. I would rather never have another horrible murderer executed than have a single innocent person put to death.

So count me as FOR the death penalty, but even more FOR things like the Innocence Project.

UPDATE: orf at The "Oh, Really Factor" has a much more thoughtful and well-written (than mine) post up on the death penalty here. After some consideration she opposes it. That's cool for her. Many people I hold a lot of respect for opppose the death penalty. And it is a position I can respect as well.

I don't reallly feel like I've put forward much of a compelling argument in my post, I'm not feeling very articulate today, I'm a bit distracted, but I thought I'd get my opinion out there while the topic was hot.

I also want to note, that I completely agree with Virginia governor Mark Warner commuting the death sentence of an inmate a week or so ago. (Where was the Hollywood outrage over that one? This was a guy where genuine questions about his guilt were raised, and Warner quietly commuted his sentence without enduring any pressure that I was aware of.)

UPDATE 2: Thanks to John Cole for the link. I wish it was to a piece I actually felt was well-written and less thrown together, but beggars can't be choosers... I should also acknowledge that John turned me onto a case that really is an outrage this morning. The case of Cory Maye. I have been following up and compiling a lot of links on this and will post a thread on it later. It deserves more effort than Tookie. Follow the links in John's piece for the story.

Steve Gilliard, a vocal opponent of the death penalty, can't work up any sympathy for Tookie either.

UPDATE 3: Angry Bear links to some interesting facts on deterrence here. The statistics cited here indicate that the death penalty is NOT an effective deterrent. That is probably true to a large degree, since many, if not most, murders are crimes of more passion and desperation than not. I find it difficult to believe that it is not a deterrent in the case of planning a crime where decisions ahead of time can impact the outcome (ie: a bank robbery or something). If you are planning a criminal endeavor and you can be confident that you will recieve a capital sentence if you kill someone during the commission of your crime, you might adjust your plans accordingly (maybe that is my non-criminal mind making that assumption, but it seems sensible to me). Also undermining these findings in my opinion is the fact that in many states the chance of you actually getting executed are pretty slim. It took almost thirty years for Tookie...

Kevin Drum chimes in on Tookie and then segues over to Cory Maye. Good. This case needs publicity big time. See also CORY SI, TOOKIE NO by Max, who then really hears it from his readers.

Theoretical Good News

Supreme Court to Review Texas Redistricting
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court said Monday it would consider the constitutionality of a Texas congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay that helped Republicans gain seats in Congress.

The 2003 boundaries helped Republicans win 21 of the state's 32 seats in Congress in the last election_ up from 15. They were approved amid a nasty battle between Republican leaders and Democrats and minority groups in Texas.

The contentiousness also reached Washington, where the Justice Department approved the plan although staff lawyers concluded that it diluted minority voting rights. Because of past discrimination against minority voters, Texas is required to get Justice Department approval for any voting changes to ensure they don't undercut minority voting.

Justices will consider a constitutional challenge to the boundaries filed by various opponents. The court will hear two hours of arguments, likely in April, in four separate appeals.

The legal battle at the Supreme Court was over the unusual timing of the Texas redistricting, among other things. Under the Constitution, states must adjust their congressional district lines every 10 years to account for population shifts.

But in Texas the boundaries were redrawn twice after the 2000 census, first by a court, then by state lawmakers in a second round promoted by DeLay.

By April, when the argument will be heard, O'Connor will be long gone and likely replaced by Alito. It will be interesting to see what happens. In the past clear cases of gerrymandering (drawing of districts in a ridiculous fashion for partisan gain at the expense of civil rights) have been overturned. A district that starts in Austin and follows a highway in a two-mile wide strip all the way to Mexico seems to illustrate that perfectly. The real test isn't the constitutionality of the case, it will be the impartiality of the Supreme Court—has Bush been successful in installing a Republican judicial branch or is the Court still independent?

More background (and outrage) here in my post a week or two ago.

Richard Pryor

So, this morning, I notice a lot of blogs with Richard Pryor entries. I figured, "Today must be the anniversary of his death or something."

Oops. I now realize (hours later) that Pryor just died on Saturday. I honestly thought he was already dead. I don't have any opinion on Pryor one way or another. Because I'm probably too young to appreciate his importance or impact, I always kind of found him overrated.

That's it, I just found it strange that I was so thoroughly sure that somebody was dead, when that was not the case. I suppose it's a shame because it indicates that Pryor clearly faded away (at least to me) instead of being a force 'til the end, which, I imagine, would have been his preference.

Digby has a nice piece up on him.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Dear Senator Tancredo...

I just watched the 60 Minutes Immigration piece. You were featured prominantly spouting your anti-immigtration bullshit. Calling for "whatever billions of dollars it takes" to build a wall the length of the entire Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants depending heavily on the argument of "protecting us from terrorists."

Here's what I have to say about that:

I just drove a van into the country from Canada, without having to so much as show an ID. Seriously. I just posed a much greater threat to the security of the homeland than any starving 16-year-old running across the desert.

Your plan is to protect the country by wasting undetermined billions of dollars on a fucking fence, even though there's been no evidence of terrorists entering the country from Mexico, and there actually have been terrorists with carloads of explosives apprehended coming in from Canada.

That experts (and non-experts like myself, who merely apply common sense) acknowledge a greater threat lies in uninspected shipping containers and cargo. The reason that can't happen? Shortage of funding.

Oh, and let's not forget the fact that every one of the 9/11 hijackers entered the country through proper immigration channels.

You complete fucking incompetent dick.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Music: Friday Random Ten

1. "One Thing" - INXS
2. "Cure For Pain (live)" - Morphine
3. "How Soon Is Now" - Everclear
4. "Flagpole Sitta" - Harvey Danger
5. "Like Dreamers Do" - Radiators
6. "TBD'" - Live
7. "Whip It" - Devo
8. "Lead a Normal Life" - Peter Gabriel
9. "Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call" - The Weakerthans
10. "Couldn't Stand the Weather" - SRV

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

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Tactical Nuclear Strike in "War On Christmas"

Everybody with a blog these days has been throwing in with one side or another on the whole "War On Christmas" deal. Bill O'Reilly is firing away like Arnold at the end of "Commando" and everyone on the left is returning fire.

I've pretty much skipped past these posts on most blogs, and avoided wading into this mess here mostly because I think it's pretty dumb. This is an annual rite for idiots like O'Reilly. It has taken the place of the advent calendar for him. He uses his Bully Pulpit of Ignorant Outrage to flail wildly at anyone not wearing a Santa hat or lying in a manger.

Here's a clip of O'Reilly and his understudy, the truth and pigment-challenged John Gibson holding court on "Christmas Under Siege." These two braniacs go on to make the claim that, the "War" on Christmas part of "secular progressive agenda" that includes "legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage and prostitution." It's the highest of comedy. And the fact that they are serious makes it even better. (Yes, they really did prepare the graphic on the right. And check the screen crawl—I couldn't Photoshop it any better.)

I finally came across a take-down post worthy of passing along. Did I mention this whole thing is dumb? Well, dumb is not good enough for O'Reilly—he is straight-up certifiable.
O'REILLY: [Laughs] There you go. Jon Stewart, "Secular Central." Oh, I'm sorry, Comedy Central -- and I like Stewart, but we know what he's doing over there.

Typical crap from him, but as Greg at The Talent Show points out...
What's funnier than O'Reilly's unfortunate attempts at humor, however, is that O'Reilly is targeting Jon Stewart. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Bill, but Jon Stewart is a Jew and Jews don't celebrate Christmas. When you've sunk to the point that you're attacking non-Christians for not celebrating Christian holidays, your witchhunt has completely jumped the shark. I say you hang this one up and prepare for your next crusade. Here's a suggestion : Did you know that those anti-American bastards in Canada don't even celebrate the Fourth of July?! If we can stretch that one between May and July sweeps weeks, then we're good as gold.

[UPDATE: Stewart responds here.]

It's a shame Greg doesn't write more often, because when he does, he can be among the best there are. He goes on to expose the whole "War On Christmas" for what it really is...
The other day I was talking to my friend Josh about ways to destroy Christmas and he brought up an interesting point. The unending wave of inclusion and good-will that O'Reilly is attacking isn't the fault of secular progressivism, but good ol' fashioned capitalism. At some point, retailers noticed that the shameless orgy of consumption we experience between Thanksgiving and New Year's was only sucking in Christians. Rich Uncle Pennybags figured out that a simple semantic change from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays" (which, until recently, was considered a kind thing to say) would broaden the base of consumers to include the 20% or so of Americans that don't celebrate the pagan celebration that was turned into Jesus' birthday. It's not an attempt to diminish Christianity or make the country more inclusive, it's just an attempt to make more money.

It's so obvious I cannot believe no one has pointed it out before. Target isn't calling it a "Holiday Sale" because they hate Christmas, they do it because there are other holidays to sell things for. This isn't revolutionary stuff, yet I haven't seen anyone else use this argument so clearly against the Crudsading Religious Jackasses. Nicely done.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Breaking News: Air Marshal Kills Passenger

Just caught this on the yahoo home page.
Airline Passenger Who Made Threat Killed
MIAMI - A passenger who claimed to have a bomb in a carry-on bag was shot and killed by a federal air marshal Wednesday on a jetway to an American Airlines plane that had arrived from Colombia, officials said.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Doyle said the dead passenger was a 44-year-old U.S. citizen.

It was the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks that an air marshal had shot at a passenger or suspect, he said. A witness said that the man frantically ran down the aisle of the Boeing 757 and that a woman with him said he was mentally ill.

The passenger, who indicated there was a bomb in the bag, was confronted by air marshals but ran off the aircraft, Doyle said.

The marshals pursued and ordered the passenger to get on the ground, but the man did not comply and was shot when apparently reaching into the bag, Doyle said. Authorities did not immediately say whether any bomb was found.

Yikes. That ought to cut down on bomb jokes in security lines for awhile.

Seriously, let's hope for the air marshal that this was a "clean shoot." I feel bad for the family of the victim, since it seems like he was mentally ill (and off his meds), yet probably not actually a threat. The cable networks are going to go crazy with this... We'll know more when they say whether there was a bomb or not.

I suppose it indicates a certain level of security "success", but it's hard to find a good side to this right now.

UPDATE: Well, there was no bomb. [link] It sounds like this was a mentally unstable guy who just lost it after being cooped up on a flight from Peru. A tragedy all around. This poor guy's wife was screaming to the officers not to shoot, and had to watch helplessly as he was gunned down. And the poor Air Marshal has to live with killing a man.

Deadly force is warranted in the case of a suspected bomber, and it looks like the Air Marshal had no choice.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Corrupt, Criminal, Cronyism II: The Return of Jim Crow

The other day, I outlined the role of the Department of Justice in Tom DeLay's Texas Re-Districting Plan. How independant, career lawyers at the DoJ determined that the Texas plan was illegal, but they were overruled by Bush political appointees, and the plan was allowed.

Well, they are doing it again:
Criticism of Voting Law Was Overruled
Justice Dept. Backed Georgia Measure Despite Fears of Discrimination

Washington Post -- A team of Justice Department lawyers and analysts who reviewed a Georgia voter-identification law recommended rejecting it because it was likely to discriminate against black voters, but they were overruled the next day by higher-ranking officials at Justice, according to department documents.


This Aug. 25 Department of Justice memo shows that a review team decided 4-1 that Georgia's voter identification program should be halted. The next day Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his aides granted pre-clearance to the program, allowing the initiative to go forward before it was blocked by the courts (PDFs).

But an Aug. 25 staff memo obtained by The Washington Post recommended blocking the program because Georgia failed to show that the measure would not dilute the votes of minority residents, as required under the Voting Rights Act.

The memo, endorsed by four of the team's five members, also said the state had provided flawed and incomplete data. The team found significant evidence that the plan would be "retrogressive," meaning that it would reduce blacks' access to the polls.


State Rep. Tyrone L. Brooks Sr., a Democrat and president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, said he was not surprised by the Justice Department's position in the case.

"Some of my colleagues told me early on that, because of politics in the Bush administration, no matter what the staff recommendation was, this would be approved by the attorney general," Brooks said. "It's disappointing that the staff recommendation was not accepted, because that has been the norm since 1965."

The Texas plan's rejection was unanimous, but 4-1 isn't even close. Despite that, there seemed to be little doubt for all involved that the Bushies up the ladder would put a smiley sticker on this thing and send it out the door.

If you aren't familiar with this case, it goes like this:
The program requires voters to obtain one of six forms of photo identification before going to the polls, as opposed to 17 types of identification currently allowed. Those without a driver's license or other photo identification are required to obtain a special digital identification card, which would cost $20 for five years and could be obtained from motor vehicle offices in only 59 of the state's 159 counties.

Republicans are using the specter of election fraud to pass a law to make it more difficult to vote. So what's unconstitutional or discriminatory about that? Who do you suppose is most likely not to have one of these newly required IDs? Blacks and urban poor.

The fact that they have to buy an ID amounts to a poll tax. The fact that it will disproportionally effect minorities makes in unconstitutional. Incredibly, if you live in Atlanta, there is no place in the entire metro area for you to get this new ID!

The intent of this law to deny the poor and minorities (read: Democrat voters) the ability to vote without incredible hardship is so patently obvious it is ridiculous.
The plan was blocked on constitutional grounds in October by a U.S. District Court judge, who compared the measure to a Jim Crow-era poll tax. A three-judge appellate panel, made up of one Democratic and two Republican appointees, upheld the lower court's injunction.

Thank God for small favors... The article doesn't make clear (to me amyway) if the plan will take effect or not. I wouldn't put it past the Republicans to proceed despite the court's ruling. The DoJ gave them "pre-clearance" and they can just continue to appeal until the election is over. Then, who cares if it gets overturned? Like the re-districting in Texas, the damage is already done.

[h/t Norbizness]

A-Rod, Jeter and Nomar?!?

Garciaparra in Pinstripes? It's Not That Far-Fetched
DALLAS, Dec. 5 - There is no obvious place to put him, and he is not an immediate priority. But as they sift through a weak free-agent market, the Yankees are intrigued by a familiar name: Nomar Garciaparra.

[...] Tellem would not name the teams, but Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said Tellem had called him about Garciaparra. He would get little playing time on the left side of the infield with the Yankees, but Garciaparra could conceivably play every day at other positions.

"Teams have asked him, in general, about the outfield, first base, second base," Tellem said. "He's pretty open to any position other than catcher and pitcher."

I badly want Nomar to hook on to a good team, and do well. While I obviously don't want the Yankees to be the benificiary of his comeback, I'd be lying if I didn't admit the pure drama of that scenario is intriguing.

UPDATE: I'd much rather see this. The Indians are going to be good again. They are young and extremely talented, and Nomar could be the perfect veteran fit. And they are not the Yankees.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Corrupt, Criminal, Cronyism

We all knew at the time that the Texas redistricting spearheaded by DeLay was a scam, and likely illegal. It didn't matter to DeLay because legality never matters, and he would pull it off and win the seats before it could be stopped. He succeeded. The re-districting resulted in a pick-up of five Republican seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Exactly how DeLay, with the help of nearly every other Republican-controlled arm of government, managed to cheat on this is now becoming clear. And it is enough to make you sick.

Keep this in mind: Those five seats they picked up? Those were the ONLY gains made in the House in 2004 by Republicans. There's your motive and an indication of the importance/desperation. Despite all the bluster of ass-kicking mandates, the Republicans had to cheat to gain the seats they did.

So, the Texas Repubs, of course, knew the plan was illegal, but they didn't care—ends justify means, and laws were made to be broken and all. But, they still first had to run their plan scam past the Justice Department before they could implement it. What happened?

Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. [...] The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts.

Not only did the DOJ rule the plan illegal, but it found that the Texas legislature knew it was discriminatory and had proceeded anyway. End of story, right? Not quite. Those DOJ lawyers? They're just career experts on election law and civil rights, why should they gum up a perfectly good election heist?
...senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.

[...] The 73-page memo, dated Dec. 12, 2003, has been kept under tight wraps for two years. Lawyers who worked on the case were subjected to an unusual gag rule.

[...] a longtime Justice Department lawyer... said it was "highly unusual" for political appointees to overrule a unanimous finding such as the one in the Texas case.

Well, it used to be. Bush political appointees routinely overrule the findings of their own agencies when it gets results it doesn't like. Just ask the FDA.

Well, surely this would be a big story...Not so much. In classic Bush style, the DoJ issued the order overruling its political appointees on the Friday before Christmas 2003, when no one would pay attention.

Not to worry, the Democrats could appeal, right? Get their day in Court?
[Houston Chronicle]: The Democrats want a copy of the memorandum written by the Voting Section of the department's Civil Rights Division in time to present it today in federal court in Austin. A three-judge panel is hearing final arguments in a lawsuit challenging the new congressional plan, which Republicans want to use in the 2004 elections.

"It is vital that the public and the three-judge panel have access to the Voting Section's recommendation before the start of closing arguments," said a statement issued by the delegation.

The documents were not released, the DoJ lawyers were gagged, and the three-judge panel (2 Republicans and one Democrat) voted 2-1 to uphold the plan.

When the Democrats appealed to the Supreme Court in January for a stay of the revised map, it was Scalia who declined an emergency request and decided the Court would not intervene.

Let's not forget that the whole redistricting was not supposed to happen until the next census, or that DeLay had the Dept. of Homeland Security track down out of state Democrats to force the vote, and broke the law to raise the money for this fiasco in the first place (his current indictment). Plus, their insurance policy was probably in the form of Diebold voting machines.

I'm so disgusted and angry I'm not even sure if i can care anymore...

[h/t kos and special thanks to this comment in that thread.]

"GRRRRRR—Salmon Smash!"

Out of all the outrageous things that the Republicans* are responsible for, for some reason things like this tend to raise my blood pressure the most...
Zeroing Out the Messenger
Idaho Senator Eliminates Funds for Center on Salmon Survival

PORTLAND, Ore. -- In a surgical strike from Capitol Hill, Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) has eliminated a little-known agency that counts [endangered salmon as they negotiate federal dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers].

The Fish Passage Center, with just 12 employees and a budget of $1.3 million, has been killed because it did not count fish in a way that suited Craig.

"Data cloaked in advocacy create confusion," Craig said on the Senate floor this month, after successfully inserting language in an energy and water appropriations bill that bans all future funding for the Fish Passage Center. "False science leads people to false choices."

That's right, counting is "false science."
The Fish Passage Center has documented, in excruciating statistical detail, how the Columbia-Snake hydroelectric system kills salmon. Its analyses of fish survival data also suggest that one way to increase salmon survival is to spill more water over dams, rather than feed it through electrical turbines.

This suggestion, though, is anathema to utilities -- and to Craig -- because water poured over dams means millions of dollars in lost electricity generation.

Last summer, a federal judge in Portland, using data and analysis from the Fish Passage Center, infuriated the utilities. He ordered that water be spilled over federal dams in the Snake River to increase salmon survival. Shortly after Judge James A. Redden issued his order, Craig began pushing to cut all funding for the Fish Passage Center.

"Idaho's water should not be flushed away on experimental policies based on cloudy, inexact assumption," Craig said in a news release.

Yup, allowing river water to flow down it's natural course is "experimental" and "flushing it away."

Screw Craig's utility buddies—it's not their water. Hell, they're not even their dams, they are the federal gov't's! This isn't about "environmentalist wackos" keeping needed dam projects bottled up. It's not even like the utilities are being forced to build fish ladders or something (I can only assume the gov't did that for them already), this is merely releasing more water through the dam. I'd actually like to see the science that demonstrates how that costs anybody money...

Aside from the environmental/good steward of the rivers motive, which should be enough, salmon are also a major economic force. This kind of crap is so fucking short-sighted and one-dimensional. Some goddamn utility's quarterly earnings may doom an endagered species of incredible natural and economic value.

This motherfucker should be drenched in gravy and sent out to explain his "sound science" to the grizzlies upstream. Asshole.

* That's right, Republicans. It just seems that all the stories like this, are about Republicans. If somebody has a comparable Democrat example, I'll be happy to be outraged by that.

[h/t Kevin Drum]

Music: Friday Random Ten

1. "Battery" - Metallica
2. "Against the 70s" - Mike Watt (feat. Eddie Vedder)
3. "Royal Station 4/16" - Melissa Etheridge
4. "Up on the Sun" - Meat Puppets
5. "Lay Your Hands On Me" - Peter Gabriel
6. "Mighty Joe Moon'" - Grant Lee Buffalo
7. "Take It Easy" - Bright Eyes
8. "Anna" - Pure
9. "Tunnel of Love" - Dire Straits
10. "Tantrum" - Ned's Atomic Dustbin

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

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood

Dahlia Lathwick has great analysis and play-by-play from yesterday's Supreme Court abortion case. Read it. Or listen to it.

NPR's Nina Totenberg covered some of the same ground yesterday. Listen. And this NPR page has links to listen to parts of the testimony.

I love listening to that stuff. I find it riveting. Except when Scalia speaks and I find it reviling. And believe me, he came out with some real crap yesterday...

Capital Punishment

Kevin Drum asked for some input on a complicated topic yesterday...taxing capital:
I think taxation of capital should be at roughly the same level as taxation of labor income. However, I believe this mostly for reasons of social justice [me too!], and it would certainly be handy to have some rigorous economic evidence to back up my noneconomic instincts on this matter. Something juicy and simple for winning lunchtime debates with conservative friends would be best.

And the fact that Democrats might be able to use them in the public arena is eminently more useful to the country than Drum getting his sandwich paid for—so bring it on!. Edwards scratched the surface on this with his "reward work, not wealth" stuff. There were some good points (on both sides) in the comments (presented in chronological order):
OK -- If I buy and sell property in a three piece suit all day I'll pay 0% of the capital gains in taxes and if I buy, transport, distribute, and sell twinkies working 12 hours a day in a creaky old box truck I'll pay 30% of my net income in taxes.

Good lunchpail stuff there.
[link] Income is income, regardless of the source. A dollar I earn from working at my job is completely fungible with the dollar I receive from a prior financial investment. [...] The argument from the conservatives about the capital gains tax rate seems to be if we set it at the same rate as other income, no one will invest, they'll just spend it all. That's nonsense - I'll just look for a rate of return for my money that is appropriate given the bite taxes will take out of it.

A good point except for the "spend it all" part. That would be great if they spent it all, the worry presented is that they would hoard it all, keeping the funds out of circulation and the economy.
[link] Get Kevin's "I think taxation of capital should be at roughly the same level as taxation of labor income" settled first. And drop the "roughly." It doesn't matter where the income comes from -- flipping burgers, putting up with grandma, thinking up a killer app, investing in the market, or what -- if you have income, it should get income-taxed. All on the same rate schedule.

That's the only way I could be convinced to approach a flat tax. And this guy is not advocating for one (neither am i), but the bullshit argument that the tax code needs to be simplified is not a problem with the rates—that's easy, you just look it up in a chart. It's determining what income is income, and what isn't. Make it all income, and tax it all, then figure out what the rate schedule should be.
[link] There is no economic evidence whatever that a lower rate of taxes on capital gains increases "investment". There was no lack of "investment" in the go-go 1990s, when the capital gains rate was roughly double what it is today. In fact the market's collapse in 2000-2002 was due to too much investment, not too little. Now let me explain the quotes around "investment." Almost all of what passes as investment in the stock market is not investment at all; it is the transfer of property from one person (the seller) to another person (the buyer). Only initial public offerings, secondary offerings, and bond issues represent true investment (and the proceeds of many secondary offerings and bond issues are used to pay down debt, so they are not genuine investment either). Only a tiny fraction of all stock market transactions has anything at all to do with investment (money that goes to companies to create jobs and spur economic growth). It is simply untrue to link capital gains taxes with investment, and doubly untrue to suggest a cause-effect relationship.

That might be the best knock-down case, but it is hardly concise. And I'm not sure it's easily verifiable (or correct). But, frankly, the burden of proof should fall on the other side (the one advocating for endless debt). It doesn't, but it should.
And don't forget...Reagan's 1986 tax reform plan completely eliminated the preferential treatment of capital gains. As recently as 20 years ago all capital gains were treated the same as ordinary income.

That's a good one—throwing their "God" in their faces might actually be useful...

On the relief side:
[link] A person who takes a "capital gain", anywhere from The Donald day-trading to grandpa selling his house, is getting money from a bet. This is different than standard income, in that if you put your money into a company or stock or real estate or whatever, you can lose it all. It's risky.

A point worth considering. But isn't that a deduction? It doesn't make up for the loss, but it does factor in...

My opinion is based on very little knowledge. I am not an economist, nor have I ever had a lot of money or investments. If I suddenly got a six-figure income that allowed me room to invest to supplement my family's income, it seems preposterous to think I would refuse to invest because I will be taxed on any resulting income. It's the same as the bullshit argument that a progressive income tax rate penalizes me—am I going to turn down a $120,000 job because I'm in a higher bracket? Of course not. I will pay a higher tax rate, but I am still taking home significantly more money! If my investments gross me $30 grand, I would have no problem paying taxes on that. Maybe that's just because I haven't been rich (and therefore greedy) yet...

The investment arena is tricky stuff for me since I do not understand most of it. But one area I am crystal clear on—and, ironically, one I might stand to benefit from one day (from my wife's family)—is the estate tax. Abolising the "death tax" temporarily permanently or anything else is complete crap. That should be straight up income and taxed thusly. Period. The recipent of an inheritence did not invest or earn that money, and for that to escape taxation on that transaction is wrong. I don't care how many times conservatives claim it has already been taxed, the heir has never been taxed on it, and it is income to them. End of story.

The "President" On Global Warming

Another hilarious Will Ferrell video. He seems to have been born for this impersonation. And Bush was certainly born to be made fun of. A perfect match, it's too bad Farrell leaving SNL coincided with the Dumbya moving into the White House. Watch.

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...

Friday, October 28, 2005

I Didn't Win the World Series...

...but I'm still going to Disneyland. Well, Disney World, actually.

I'm going to miss out on the chance to get in on Miers, Rove/Libby and who knows what else. Somehow I don't think the world will spin off its axis without Mr Furious. Fot the next five days, I'll be Mr Fun instead. See ya Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

In Memoriam: Paul Wellstone (1944-2002)

Three years ago today, the country lost a tremendous servant and I lost my hero.

That fall I was probably at my political-agitation peak. I cannot tell you what a gutpunch the news of this man's death was. The race for some out-of-state Senator was the most important thing to me. Paul Wellstone actually made me feel like I was fighting FOR something. Even last year's elections, while bigger than 2002, were not the same to me, because no one running was inspiring or even earned my respect (aside from a brief window with Dean who tried to channel Wellstone). The elections were about Bush and not hope. Hope had died in a Minnesota field two years earlier.

No politician alive (that I've heard of anyway) is or will be anything close to Paul Wellstone. Tragic. For his family, for Minnesota, and for the country. Never have we needed a man like him more than the past few years.

Go to the library and get his book. And be inspired.

UPDATE: The book is back in print

Deserved photo credit to Jeff Wheeler

A Nice Frosty Mug of STFU

All week, the right-wing machine has been slamming prosecutor Patrick Fitgerald, spinning him as some kind of partisan firebrand on a Bush witchhunt. Every time you hear that, or need to convince somebody otherwise, remember this:
This investigation has gone on for 22 months. Most of the evidence was collected before autumn 2004 – the last year of delay has mainly been caused by reporters challenging subpoenas in the federal courts.

If [Fitzgerald] were political - or, worse, if he somehow had it in for the Bush administration - it was fully within his power to return indictments in the weeks before the November elections, which would almost certainly have cinched things for Senator Kerry. It is something, I am quite certain, it would never even have occurred to him to do. The only thing the guy I know would do is bring charges or close the case without charges when the facts of the investigation warranted doing so.

Case fucking closed. No matter what happens in the end, remember, if Fitzgerald wanted to take down the Administration, he could have done it a year ago—and didn't.

Drink up, Rush, Sean and Kay Bailey Hypocritson.

[via kos, link to original]

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sinking Ships and All...

A great little piece over at Crooked Timber on the state of the good ship Bush [note to self: check out CT more often...]:
Matt Yglesias is quite right when he says that Scowcroft, Wilkerson and company don’t deserve any kudos for giving the administration a few more kicks when it’s already reeling. But you can also turn this argument on its head – that they’re doing it illustrates exactly how much trouble the administration is in.

[...snip...] That far more prominent Republicans* are now knifing each other in the dark tells us that the disciplining mechanisms that made diIulio recant his apostasy are breaking down very badly. Key people are calculating that they’ll be hurt worse if they stay on message and go down with the ship than if they try to get their own version of the story out while they can...

Here's Matt
I'll certainly read the article on Brent Scowcroft when it comes out, but I feel compelled to at least semi-dissent from the heaping of praise upon the likes of Scowcroft, Larry Wilkerson, Richard Haas, and other Republicans who've started speaking out against the Bush administration lately. Everything they say could have been said 12-18 months ago when it would have made a difference for the future of the country. But that would have meant taking fire from the then-intact conservative attack machine, and gotten them labeled as bad party men. Instead of speaking out when Bush was strong and trying to weaken him, they've waited until Bush is weak and decided to pile-on in an effort to save their own reputations.

Better late than never is a true enough adage, I suppose, but it's actually pretty shabby behavior. It also tells you a lot about the way Washington operates and the sort of dysfunctional culture that deserves a lot of blame for the unfortunate circumstances in which the country now finds itself. See also Richard Holbrooke's excellent op-ed on some related points. Richard Clark, by contrast, offered a study in trying to do the right thing when it mattered.

Kevin Drum piles on.

I'm sure there will be an avalanche of these stories to come. I will throw my own slight "little help" for Scowcroft as I think, from very early on, he has been pretty consistent in his criticism of Bush II. He gets a life vest from me, but I'm not pulling him out of the water...

But by and large these guys are right. The people streaming overboard now were content to sit on the sidelines, if not carry Administration water, at the time when this could have made a difference. As long as the ship goes down, I don't really care. And to mix metaphors, as long as the long knives are out, they can continue to sink each others' life rafts too.

The real question is how much spine will this give the Democrats? Will they get beat out the door by the Republicans on this? They need to throw all these fuckers anchors.