Saturday, January 10, 2004

Alex Frantz takes down Meet the Press, especially in its treatment of Wesley Clark:
...any sane person would rather meet the latest gaggle of 'Survivor' contestants than the hopeless crowd in the Washington media.

The first eight questions were largely host Tim Russert quoting back various statements Clark has made in the campaign about Iraq and terrorism. It was more an effort to make Clark respond to imaginary misstatements or express amazement at the fact that Clark has shown the effrontery, while running against Dear Leader, to actually criticize him than to explicate his views.....

.....It was a challenge, but the show managed to go downhill from there, with a panel discussion largely dominated by the spectacurly inane Bill Safire. Safire's meandering ruminations, focussed on his own obsessions with the Clintons and entirely divorced from any reality distinct from his own addled mind, have recently been an embarassment to Alzheimer's patients everywhere.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Just a Thought

There are only two guys running for the Democratic nomination who have had to win an election from a largely rural population, and only one who has won multiple elections from an overwhelmingly rural population. So maybe Howard Dean knows a little more about appealing to Red State voters than we give him credit for (with an honorable mention to one-election Red State winner John Edwards).

Now He Thinks He's Kennedy

We're staring at 6 trillion in national debt, a deficit in the 100's of billions, and we urgently need to invest in our domestic infrastructure (particularly transportation, but also water and electricity distribution), and Bush wants to permanently station men on the Moon. This makes no sense in a scientific or economic sense. I can only guess that his advisors think this makes him look forward-thinking and willing to invest in the future. Too bad he's not really forward-thinking and willing to invest in the future.

Update: Matthew Yglesias has decided that it's just a plot to piss him off.

And one of his commenters (JimBob) had this to say:
Like the african AIDS program, this thing is a fantasy, meant to distract and confound. It's not only not going to happen, it's not even going to get a modest legislative push. Think of it as a kind of political daydream.

The business of this administration is raiding the treasury for the benefit of the republican contributors (plus shitting of the constitution to gratify christian reactionaries). Everything else is just blowing smoke.

And fyreflye pointed this out:
If you read the fine print you'll see that Bush will be cutting back on science based projects to concentrate on the Moon/Mars fantasy. Like many other of Bush's great ideas it's a cover for destroying the program he's claiming to support. Look for the science cuts to go into effect while the space habitat projects are underfunded.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

If Not Dean, Who?

Earlier, I predicted that the Democratic ticket would be Dean/Clark (with an outside shot at Dean/Graham). I stand by that prediction, but there's always a chance that Dean isn't the nominee. Then what?

The media will be playing the expectations game with Dean in Iowa and New Hampshire. If they predict him to win by 10% in Iowa and 20% in New Hampshire, but he doesn't do quite that well; it'll be spun as a crushing defeat. Dean will have to survive a cycle of negative articles about how he's peaked and isn't meeting expectations.

It's likely that the non-Dean primary voters will slowly unite behind a single candidate (but I'm not ready to call it an Anybody but Dean movement). Iowa and New Hamshire should thin the field down to Dean and 1 or 2 others.

My guess is that Gephardt will disappear after Iowa, Kerry after New Hampshire, and Lieberman whenever he figures out that no one really likes him that much. Edwards has the money to hang on until Super Tuesday if he wants to pray for a sweep in the South and Mountain West, but he may bail earlier than that if he reads the writing on the wall.

My guess is that the non-Dean will be Wesley Clark. While he has no geographic base, he has a nationwide appeal that will help him all over the place (and he's coming up with some pretty damned good policy positions). Veterans, independents, more conservative Democrats, and supporters of candidates who've dropped out will likely see Clark as their candidate. This could give Clark staying power he wouldn't have in a crowded field, as former Lieberman/Kerry/Gephardt supporters pick him as their their 2nd choice.

If he does win the nomination, Clark will have a much greater choice of VP candidates than Dean, who'll need to pick someone with foreign policy credentials. He could go for a VP who can help in a key state or region. He could go for a member of a vital constituency (women, Hispanics, blacks). There really aren't any logical VP candidates who Clark would have to rule out the way Dean couldn't pick another Northeasterner or a Governor.

If I were Clark, my choice would be John Edwards. He's smart, he's capable, and people respond to him and his life story. Unfortunately, he can't guarantee North Carolina. But Edwards' accent, background, and appeal would help in states like West Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. I even think he'd play well to rural voters all over the Midwest and West.

A Clark/Edwards ticket would have truly national appeal, and should win a bigger share of rural voters than any Democrats since 1976. These are the opponents that Karl Rove has nightmares about.

Update: Just thought of another VP for Clark that would make Rove sweat bullets, Jean Shaheen. She's been through multiple reelection campaigns, so any opposition research has already been used. She comes from a (small) swing state, and she would have a nationwide appeal that can't be denied. This is no Geraldine Ferraro; this is a woman far more qualified to be President than anyone currently living in the White House.

Taming Down the Language

I've noticed a recent trend that when a celebrity is accused, the media calls it sexual assault, not rape.

I've always thought that rape is forcible intercourse, and sexual assault is a crime of a sexual nature that doesn't involve actual penetration (groping, etc). So let's just call it rape even if a rich, famous guy does it.

Charles Kuffner gave us his worst movies of all time, these are mine.

I limited it to movies I'd seen all the way through, and that were actually intended to be good. Low budget quickies with no pretense of quality don't qualify.

Serendipity - Please tell me that Cusack agreed to make this idiotic "romantic comedy" in order to get funding for a more worthy project

The Piano - Overwrought, pretentious crap; plus Harvey Keitel naked

Godzilla - I was really excited about this, and took my son and nieces on opening day. Now I just want to kick Matthew Broderick's ass.

Hudson Hawk - Incomprehensible plot, didn't even make sense when I saw it for a 2nd time on cable without the distraction of being fondled in a drive-in by a 19 year old redhead

Demolition Man - Apparently, we'll all have violence bred out of us by the time I hit 60.

The Postman - What? One post-apocalyptic crapfest wasn't enough?

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones - The "romantic" scenes showed all the chemistry of Arafat and Sharon, and you could actually tell which parts had been inserted solely for the video game.

Much Ado About Nothing - Keanu Reeves is the single worst actor in film history, and this is the movie that put him over the top

Stayin' Alive - The sequel to Saturday Night Fever, for those of you who didn't know

Red Dawn - High school students defeat Soviet war machine, enough said

Rocky IV - The death of Apollo Creed

Pearl Harbor - Michael Bay desecrates dead sailors for profit, plus bad acting, sappy sentimentality, and a built in sequel with Alec Baldwin

Mouse Hunt - The things you do for kids

Congo - Still don't know what the hell happened

Caddyshack II - The single worst movie of all time, dreadful, pathetic, Agnes of God had more laughs than this steaming pile of shit

Wednesday, January 07, 2004


I agree with Andrew Sullivan on something*, dammit.

The Fundies say they don't like gay marriage because they want to protect the "sanctity" of the bond between a man and woman. If Jennifer Lopez' marital craziness didn't underscore it enough, the Britney Spears quickie marriage and annulment just points out that there's scarcely any sanctity left to protect.

Straight people can (and do) get married for the shallowest and stupidest of reasons. They marry people they barely know. They marry on impulse. They marry people they know they won't stay with for the long haul. I just love the irony that thrice divorced Newt Gingrich shepherded the Defense of Marriage Act through Congress.

Increasingly, couples have seen marriage for the shallow institution it has become and are opting out entirely. Most people know unmarried couples who've been together for years, have kids, and own property together. They may have a sacred bond, but they didn't bother having it sanctified by marriage.

On the other hand, gays can be in a committed 20 year relationship, but still aren't allowed to marry based solely on the basis of who they choose to love. They may want to marry for the financial and tax benefits, or they may really want to express a lifelong commitment. But gays really do want the right to get married.

Some people have proposed a waiting period for divorce and having to show just cause, like in the old days. Louisiana even has a "Covenant Marriage" with much stricter rules for divorce. But I think that's tackling the wrong end of the problem. We don't have an epidemic of committed couples calling it quits for superficial reasons, we have a problem with couples who never should've married in the first place.

My proposal is for all marriage licenses to have a one year waiting period. If they still want to get married after a year, I'm all for it. And I don't give a damn who they want to marry.

*Given the Republican propensity to only be liberal on issues that affect them directly, I imagine that I won't have to suffer through many more agreements with that idiot

David Neiwert is all over the downplaying of domestic terror for political reasons.

Essentially, it makes the American media very uncomfortable to refer to self-identified Christian terrorists like Eric Rudolph as Christians as opposed to to referring to the Sept 11th hijackers as Muslims. And the administration knows that many of those domestic right-wing terrorists support the same goals they do (but do so in a violent fashion).

Just as mainstream anti-war liberals didn't want to make a big deal about the SLA or the Weather Underground for fear of tarnishing their own causes, the mainstream Republicans are afraid that radical right-wing Christian terrorists would make them look bad. The FBI is still going after them, they just aren't given the resources of the hunt for Al Quaeda and their successes are scarcely mentioned by the top brass.

You should read the whole thing.

Tony Kushner being interviewed in Mother Jones:
And if Ralph Nader runs -- if the Green Party makes the terrible mistake of running a presidential candidate -- don't give him your vote. Listen, here's the thing about politics: It's not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.

I spent most of 2000 trying to convince Naderites of this. Elections are about choosing the best of the viable candidates, not an expression of self or an exercise in idealistic navel-gaving. Younever get to vote for someone who agrees with you 100% (I don't even agree with myself 100%). You pick the closest you can get out of those who have a chance of winning, not of all possible candidates everywhere.

Keep Pete Out

I ordinarily love players who used hustle and hard work to overcome the limitations of natural ability, and I loved the way Pete Rose played the game. He was a hell of a ballplayer, but his actions as a manager have brought disgrace to baseball. He doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

You may argue that what happens outside of baseball shouldn't affect Hall of Fame voting, but Pete Rose falls short of even this standard. His actions were not outside of baseball. They were taken while he was a manager (and possibly a player). He doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

By betting on his team (even if he never bet against it, which we'll never know), Rose crossed the most important line and violated the most sacred taboo in sports. Players and fans have the right to expect a contest played on the up-and-up, without gambling on the outcome by people who make the decisions. They didn't get that when Rose was a manager.

We'll leave aside whether Rose ever bet against his team, or whether masive gambling debts ever made him do favors for the bookies he owed money to. Instead let's just look at the ways a manager who sometimes bet on his own team can wapr the game.

Pitching:We can safely assume that Rose didn't bet on nights when he knew his pitching would be lousy, just as no one else would; but he not only had access to inside information on how the pitchers felt, he also had the ability to influence what happened on the field.

Maybe a pitcher was cruising, but his pitch count was getting high. A prudent manager would pull him out of the game in the interest of his health and longevity, but not one with tens of thousands riding on the game. Doc Gooden's career was shortened by a few games in which he was left in for over 150 pitches; can you imagine if we found out his manager had bet on those games? Any starting pitcher who ever played for Rose has got to wonder if his playing career was ever endangered by Pete Rose's gambling.

Of course, if the starter was having problems, Rose would've had no compunction about pulling him and perhaps wasting his entire bullpen to win that one game. He could always rest them on nights he didn't bet.

Days Off: Most players take a day off now and then to rest. We can safely assume that Rose played all his starters when he gambled, and gave the backups a chance when he didn't.

Proposition Bets: This is potentially the most troubling aspect of his hedged claim that he never bet against his own team. There are lots more ways to bet than win vs loss. You can bet on the number of stolen bases. You can bet on the total number of runs scored. You can bet on whether a team scores in a specific inning. The possibilities are endless.

Gamblers are always looking for an edge. Should we assume that Rose never bet on, say, the number of stolen bases (probably through an intermediary) but not the outcome of the game. That would leave him free to send the runners on every opportunity without regard for whether they won or lost. Forget about the hit-and-run or bunting a player to 2nd, we need them to get a steal. So we send them, regardless of the game situation.

Pete Rose has finally admitted his gambling, but he's done so to make money. He has a book coming out, and his timing was obviously planned to garner maximum publicity as Hall of Fame votes were announced. He also has the least contrie attitude I can remember of anyone admitting a mistake. He seems to be saying You said I could get in the Hall of Fame if I admitted gambling, so I'm admitting it. Now open the fucking door, asshole. Rose sees himself as the victim of all this, which is ludicrous. But that doesn't matter to me. It just means he's still got the problems that drove him to gamble so heavily in the first place.

Pete Rose gambled on games he managed. He brought disgrace to the game of baseball on the field. He doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

Update: Charles Kuffner has more about this, and has collected some relevant quotes.

An Idea

In the spirit of using persuasion to effect the public good rather than simply mandating behavior changes, I've got an idea that would be very inexpensive, remarkably effective, and would be very easy to implement:

All new cars and trucks sold in America come affixed with a 6"x12" placard stating in nice big bold letters it's average city/highway fuel economy that must be kept on just as license plates must be.

I'm guessing that a big fat 8 on the back of a Hummer would dampen its curb appeal quite a bit. People would still be free to buy the gas guzzlers, they'd just have to face the shame of everyone knowing exactly how wasteful they were being. Nothing like voluntary submission to peer pressure to change a society (notice how racism has become so socially unacceptable that even hard-core racists now seem ashamed?).

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I am so tempted to stay up and watch Villa v. Man U in the FA Cup (on my spiffy new digital cable), but sleep prevails.

What Do We Really Want

Earlier, I suggested that, as an alternative to the draft, we could simply make government benefits dependent on having completed a term of national service (the military, Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps would all count). We, of course, would have to drastically increase the options for national service and make them available even for those not physically equipped for the military.

You'd still be a citizen in all respects, you just wouldn't be eligible for things like free healthcare, free college tuition, and subsidized home loans unless you'd served your country. The idea being that we could accomplish most of the goals of a draft without resorting to imprisoning those who wouldn't go along. I envisioned bountiful benefits to entice virtually everone into national service, with the only abstainers either so rich the benefits wouldn't matter or so morally opposed that they'd be willing to forgogo without them.

Reader PJ from Maryland came up with another option. We could end up with a large majority of non-servers voting to eliminate most government benefits since they wouldn't get them. We would end up with a considerably shrunken state providing considerably shrunken benefits (which, of course, would mean a considerably smaller number of volunteers for national service). This is a possibility that I hadn't thought of, but one worth serious consideration.

I'd absolutely love a healthy national debate between those who favor:

1) Smaller government, with lower taxes, and a much lower level of services


2) Bigger government, with higher taxes, and a higher level of services that those receiving them have done something to earn (am not a big fan of the free lunch)

This would be much better than the current debate we have between those who favor:

1) Big government doling out largesse to the anyone who has the money to buy political influence, with taxes much lower than are required to pay for said largesse


2) Big government still doling out largesse to those who can afford to pay for political influence, but reserving some of it for those who can't, with taxes only somewhat lower than those required to pay for said largesse

I'm guessing that bigger government would win for a variety of reasons, but you could argue that either result would be better than what we have now. Either we'd be giving increased benefits to those who had proven their willingness to serve the United States, or at least we wouldn't be running up massive debts providing benefits to those not willing to work for them.

Don't we at least deserve a choice?

I'm no fan of today's big government, borrow-and-spend Republicans nor of today's skybox liberal Democrats.

I miss having real deficit hawks and populists to choose from. Can't we have them back, please?

Monday, January 05, 2004

I'm 19th in a Google search for Santeria Powerpoint.

I find this funny on many, many levels.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Basic Human Rights

I know that I mentioned a while back a New Republic article on gay Palestinians in Israel, but Instapundit pointed me to a post on the same subject that points to this article.

In a nutshell, gay Palestinians are subject to constant violence and harassment in their home territories, but pretty much left alone in Israel. Some fucker even tried to recruit one as a suicide bomber to atone for his deviant lifestyle.

I've never understood the blindspot that big parts of the American and European left have for brutal authoritarian societies that treat their women, gays, and ethnic and religious minorities like absolute shit. What's the appeal? Why do they identify with people who hate them and their lifestyles?

I'm not Jewish, but I know for a fact thatI'd feel far more at home in Israel, with its tolerance and diversity of lifestyles, than I would in any state in the Muslim world. Turkey is the only place that would come close, and that's because it's worked so hard to be secular. I just don't like theocracies, of any kind. Nor do I like non-theocracies like the Palestinian Authority where the bigotry of its majority is given full sway.

Is there any doubt that the majority of the Left in both the US and in Europe truly feels the same? Would they pick the close-mindedness and intolerance of most of the Muslim world over the relative freedom of Israel? I really doubt it. That's to not even mention Saudi Arabia, perhaps the least tolerant society in the world.

I'll just never understand why they support a society that they'd never willingly live in over one that approximates the conditions they live under now. Women are treated as full members of society. Gays can live their lives unharassed. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and even Yankees fans are allowed to worship in peace. Israel ain't perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than elsewhere in the region.


1) Howard Dean will win the Democratic nomination and pick Wes Clark as his running mate

2) The big dollar slime war will start immediately, with the real whores in the "mainstream" media leading the way (Mona Charen, please pick up the white courtesy phone)

3) Some left-wing group will accuse Clark fo being a War Criminal, either for Vietnam or Kosovo (or both). Unlike anything else said by left-wing groups, this will get significant play from rightwing media outlets

4) The NRA will endorse Bush even though his stated policies on guns are virtually identical to those of Dean (i.e. He won't change any current laws)

5) The Republicans will attemp to paint Dean as a McGovern/Mondale/Dukakis lilly-livered liberal. Oddly enough, Dean's noted irritability will partially inoculate him against this. Stereotypical liberals are mild and apologetic, not irritable and possibly violent (as Matthew Yglesias has observed, it's easy to imagine Dean wanting to blow lots of shit up if need be).

6) Republicans will get some traction painting Dean as too "Pro-Gay" in places like Arkansas, Missouri, West Virginia, and Tennessee, but this will cost them any chance at New York or California and will hurt them somewhat in Nevada and Florida (attitudes towards gays have softened a ton in the last decade).

7) Healthcare will be a very big issue, especially among seniors who get pissed when they realize what a rip-off the Medicaire changes are. This will put Florida back in play, and may tilt Ohio Democratic (along with Bush's flip-flop on steel imports, which managed to piss off everyone)

8) There will be a whispering campaign to try to get Dick Cheney replaced by someone with more electoral appeal (Bill Frist being prominent in whispering his own name). It won't work.

9) At least one quite prominent Republican will endorse Dean based on either the budget deficit or on gay rights. This won't get nearly enough airplay.

10) A handful of unknown Democrats from the South and Mountain West (plus Zell Miller) will endorse Bush. This will get way too much airplay.

11) I will lose a small amount of weight, but not nearly enough

12) My apartment will continue to look like a War Zone, but the pile of magazines will shrink slightly

13) Beer will be drunk, Love will be made, music will be badly danced to, and incoherent midnight ramblings will be blogged