Friday, April 29, 2005

Temporary Blog Hiatus

I apologize to everyone that blogging has abruptly ceased. The fallout at work from Wednesday's excitement is continuing, and in fact escalating. I am spending all my time dealing with it. I will resume normal blogging Monday, VP's willing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Never Mind

Looks like it's going to be a busy day on the job today (not blogging, I mean the job that pays me money.) So my examination of the WaPo front section is cancelled. Sorry.

A Trip Through the Wednesday Post

The blog today is going to focus on today's A Section of the Washington Post, which has many nice examples of the strange maladies that afflict modern print journalism.

This wasn't a typical Wednesday in the news business, as some stuff actually happened. When something happens, and the papers report on it the next day, that's "hard news;" reporters are more or less out there actively chasing stories like in the old days.

Mike Allen filed one such story, headlined GOP to Reverse Ethics Rule Blocking New Delay Probe. It appears above the fold on page A1 of the post, next to a picture of Bush and Delay.

The article is very well done, and chronicles what appears to be a complete retreat on the part of Dennis Hastert and the Republicans, though Hastert does his best to muddy the waters by "suggest[ing] that one option might be to lengthen the time before the automatic dismissal occurs, to perhaps 90 or 120 days."

That would basically be no change at all, since the point of the impasse is not the 45-day rule itself but the fundamental change to the ethics process that makes it impossible for a member to be investigated by the committee unless members of his party agree. Just lengthening the amount of time the member's party has to stall before he gets off the hook is not really going to help matters, and I sincerely hope the Democrats are not going to fall for this "compromise."

All in all, very little to find fault with in this article. He gets a quote from a relevant Democrat, instead of just talking to some celeb Democrat who has nothing to do with the ethics process, the piece is well-put together and is very straightforward.

Kudos to Mike Allen and his editors.

Next - the rest of the front page.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Military Matters

Via Atrios - this indictment of the most recent round of Blame The Troops First being played by the Bush Administration is an extremely important point that almost no one is making.

The idea behind the command structure in the army is that the higher pay grades take responsibility for that their units do. That's the basis of our entire system of military organization. What's happening today is the opposite. Conduct that was clearly authorized by top brass in documents that are now in the public domain is being punished by long prison terms.

Personally, our monstrous military does very little to help me sleep at night. I wish the military were a lot smaller, I am among the 10% or so Americans and 90% or so of the world population who has not agreed that it is obvious that America can "no longer wait until we are attacked" before blasting some defenseless country or other to kingdom come, and if the military were about 1,000 times smaller I would not feel in the least bit concerned about it, since I don't worry too much about being killed generally, much less by some unidentified foreign power.

But I know I am in the minority here. Most Americans believe that a strong military is vitally important to our individual safety as Americans. Which is fine; eeryone is welcome to their opinion. But if you really believe that, you should be deeply concerned at what is happening here. The unwillingness of the military command to accept responsibility for its decisions is going to undermine, perhaps irretrievably, the confidence of enlisted personnel in their freedom to enact their superiors' plans without fear of criminal prosecution.

So for all of you out there in blogland who think it's really important to have an effective military, get on the horn to your congresspeople and let em know you aren't happy. This isn't a liberal or conservative issue. It's an issue of National Security.

Sirens of Titan

I noticed this article because I am a big fan of Vonnegut's excellent early novel "Sirens of Titan" and I find it intriguing that there might actually be something on Titan worth studying.

I recommend the book to anyone who likes science fiction - it's strange, like all Vonnegut's work, but it doesn't have any of that lazy defeatism that crept into his later work. A real masterpiece and very underrated.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Some Good Press for the Democrats

Check out this article from today's Washington Post.

This is the type of piece we're used to seeing run on the GOP - the author uses words like "persistence" and "resilience." We also get "relentless" and "stubborn," along with "solidarity" and "loyalty." Very strong positive associations with those words (except perhaps stubborn, which can go either way but in amongst all those others is pretty clearly positive as well.)

Meanwhile the Republicans are "frustrated," making moves that are "unwise" and "deeply unpopular." The article alleges that "some Republicans" give the Dems "grudging credit" for their pluck, but the quotes they get from John Thune (the only Republican quoted in the piece) don't really back that up.

In short, it's the type of feel-good, empty language piece that has contributed to George W. Bush's weird status as an all-around nice, competent, regular-guy president, despite his repeated demonstrations of his own elitism, meanness, and complete inability to direct or even understand the most basic elements of American government.

In this case, though, I'm bout it bout it.

On Second Thought

The changes to the template do not seem to be sticking. I'll work on them sometime in the near future.

The Monday Krugman

Krugman's column today has some elements in common with The Turning Tide. Clearheaded and precise as usual, PK does a nice job explaining some more concrete reasons why the GOP seems a little out of sync these past few months. Nothing new, but a good rundown of the basic situation.

More changes to the template, I've added an Articles Archive, where you can access any of my DU articles whenever you like. In case you, you know, wanted to email them around or anything. Just as an example of something you might do. Just saying, is all.

Breakfast and Tom Delay

Sitting eating my normal breakfast of omelette, sausage and strong coffee and looking after the monkeyworm, I had a piece of random gastronimical advice I wanted to offer my readership.

If you're not currently starting your day with an enormous breakfast, you should consider it. I know it seems like a huge hassle to wake up and cook a bunch of food for yourself. But if you get in a rhythm it doesn't actually take very long even to cook something fairly complex like an omelette. Even pancakes from scratch are doable - you'd be amazed how easy they are. You're probably sitting there shaking your head, and if you happen to have four kids, you may be right. But for the rest of you folks, I implore you, give it a shot for one week and see what you think. Wake up a half hour earlier and cook your favorite breakfast every morning. It changed my life. Seriously.

In political news, check out this article in the New York Times on the ethics committee impasse. It amazes me, particularly with print dailies supposedly on this neverending quest to attract a less savvy reader, that a reporter could get through an entire article without actually describing what the ethics impasse is.

For completeness let me spell it out once again - after Delay was admonished by the House Ethics committee, three changes were made by House Republicans. First, they removed the Republican members of the committee who had voted to admonish Delay and replaced them with folks who rely on Delay for financial and logistical support. Next, they changed the ethics rules so that Delay could remain Majority Leader even if he were indicted in Texas on charges peripherally related to the activities for which he had been admonished by the ethics committee.

Third, and this is the big one, they changed the Ethics committee rules so that the majority party can kill an investigation by simply not doing anything about it for 45 days. It used to be if Ethics got to an impasse, an ethics investigation was automatically triggered. The reason it was that way was for the obvious reason - with three Dems and three Repubs on the committee, one party cannot block an investigation.

The rule change was so brazen that to my knowledge the Republicans never even made an attempt to explain why the change was necessary. It was done purely to derail any chance that Tom Delay could be investigated for ethics violations. It is under these conditions that Delay is so valiantly offering to appear before the ethics committee, because he knows no matter what he says, including "Your MOM took money from lobbyists," he won't be investigated.

If the New York Times would report on this situation in plain english, the article would appear to be partisan because it would make the Republicans look like they have gone crazy with power. The trouble is, that's reality, so in the interest of "balance" we have to obscure what's really happening.

This is your fourth estate, ladies and gentlemen. Take a good look.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Liberal Avenger and Steve Gilliard

Couldn't get to sleep, so I decided to make some changes to the blog I'd been wanting to make for a while. I've now separated the sites that I link to that are too big-time to link back from the sites that also link back here. And upon my return I saw a need to add one more of each - The Liberal Avenger and Steve Gilliard's Iraq blog.

The Liberal Avenger is actually the Liberal Anti-War Avenger; we have a lot of jumping-off points for some quality debate and discussion, so hopefully we can both find some time to spew a little drivel in one another's direction. Steve Gilliard has a blog devoted largely to Iraq war news, and I've seen several folks directing readers to this blog over the past few weeks, most recently the Liberal Avenger, so I decided to add it tonight.

Other changes - the Description and Profile sidebars are gone - there was no information in them anyway. I still hope to add a poll and possibly a daily photo sidebar, but that will have to wait for some other sleepless night. Right now I'm going to make another attempt to storm the gates of dreamland.


Friday, April 22, 2005

New DU Article This Weekend

Well, I never really did come up with a topic for a DU article, but I didn't let that stop me... I just rambled on incoherently for 2000 words and then stopped. Anyway, it'll be appearing in this weekend's Democratic Underground, so check it out if you have a moment.

Actually, it looks like the thing is already available to folks in the know here, so if you're killing time late on Friday you can get a jump on the rest of the world. Enjoy.

Comments in this thread, of course.

Bolton in Big Trouble

Just a few days after three brave Republicans (really just one plus two cowards who piled on after the fact) blocked John Bolton's recommendation by the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Colin Powell's now getting in on the act.

I have to admit I am not 100% sure why this particular Bush nomination is getting so much focus. As bad a nominee as he is (and he's very, very bad) I have to say that the Elliot Abrams appointment, both Negroponte appointments, and probably even the John Snow appointment were at least as bad as this one.

But it does warm my heart to see the Dems actually get dirty trying to stop one of these garbage appointments. There are a lot of fault lines within the Republican party right now, perhaps even as many as there are in the Democratic party, and if the Dems can come up with a strategy to exploit those divisions they can actually start functioning as a useful opposition again.

What bothers me slightly about this Bolton appointment is that while the Dems are doing a good job actually opposing it, they aren't doing a good job putting it in the larger context of the Bush administration's willingess to - in fact zeal for - appointing people who have demonstrated their obvious unfitness for the post for which they are being sent up.

Which in a sense is a policy that goes right to the top of the ticket.

The Basic American Catholic Misunderstanding

This Buzzflash article will give you a basic understanding of what, to my mind, is the prevailing attitude of progressive American Catholics. Below are my specific beefs with this line of thinking.

"I love being a Catholic. I love the stories, the art, the ritual, the rich (if not always proud) history of the tradition into which I was born. Most of all, I love the Eucharist, the central mystery of my faith tradition."

I completely identify with this thinking. But underlying all this is the essential belief that we can retain the trappings of faith and reject the substance of the system while still being somehow within that system. If that were really true I would still be a Catholic. I like mass too. But Catholicism isn't just mass.

"The pope simply doesn’t have the authority to take my religion or my ministry away from me."

Um, yes he does. He's the Pope. In Catholicism, for good or for ill (Ill! Ill!) he's the guy who decides. If you don't accept that, you aren't Catholic.

Here’s the secret, I think: progressives are indeed alive and well not only in Chicago, but all over the world, despite the Vatican’s deep desire that we just shut up, submit, and/or go away. (Ratzinger has expressed the thought that it would be swell if the church got smaller and all the riff-raff like us would just leave already!) But we’re not going anywhere. We’re the Catholics of Nigeria, the Catholics of Latin America, the Catholics of the Philippines, the Catholics of China, the Catholics of Europe, the Catholics in the United States . . . we are literally everywhere.

This is the depressing part. This whole catalog of countries is simply a fantasy. Only in the U.S. and Western Europe is there any significant strain of liberal Catholicism. Certainly there are liberal Catholics in Nigeria, but they are a tiny minority. Ditto the Philippines, China, and Latin America.

American Catholics want desperately to believe that the transformation of the American Catholic church into one of the more pluralistic, progressive religions in the world will one day spread to the rest of the church. I can't say it will never happen, but I see no evidence that it is happening.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Catholicism and Yours Truly

We got into a fairly interesting discussion in the Benedict XVI thread, and it caused me to write at some length about my relationship with the Catholic church. This subject, and the subjects of God and religion generally, are areas I don't wander into that often in writing, but that I have always enjoyed discussing over a few beers.

It would probably come as a surprise even to many people who know me well that thinking about spiritual and religious matters occupies a significant slice of my inner life. I subscribe to no particular doctrine, though I do have a particular "line of inquiry," if you will, that I have chosen to concentrate on to the exclusion of other avenues.

My experiences as a youth in the Catholic church are probably among the most important formative experiences of my life. I learned more by being a Catholic than I did as a student in any school, and if it were possible for me to raise my children Catholic with any degree of honesty I would be inclined to do so. As orthodox religions go, it is a good one.

I probably wouldn't have put it that way as recently as two or three years ago, but time has healed a lot of the wounds left by my rejection of, and by, the church. There is, of course, the fact of the church's awful and bloody history, but of course if we are to enter the business of rejecting cultures and institutions solely on the basis of awful and bloody histories, we have a lot of work ahead of us. In the end we would probably have to reject the whole human experiment and, in a sense, the question of why exactly we should not do that is the very foundation of spiritual discovery.

In any case, I thought I would bring this piece of the discussion to the front page, since I think it provides an interesting glimpse at a few edges of my personality that many of you have perhaps encountered in person. It's presented with some edits.


In America, as in Western Europe, most people left the real fundamental doctrines of the Catholic Church behind a long time ago. They basically extrapolated out from Vatican II and decided that their version of Catholicism was going to follow that trendline.

So now, after about 40 years of anti-VatII backlash, American Catholics are hopelessly out of step with the church. And the funniest thing about this is that nobody is really seriously considering the idea of just breaking off and becoming the American Catholic Church or the Western Catholic Church. Why? I have no idea.

Most American Catholics do not believe in papal infallibility. Many believe women and married men should be allowed to be ordained as priests. A large number of American priests - I had a few as pastors growing up - actually subscribe to many of the very ideas that Ratzinger (correctly in my view) uses to denounce Liberation Theology as apostasy. Among American Jesuits these ideas are more or less common currency.

One of the greatest homilies (same as a sermon, for the Lutherans et al) I ever heard growing up was actually key to my deciding to stop going to church as an adult. The priest was Bob Perkins, and the homily was themed "The Kingdom of God is Now."

The message was essentially a gnostic one - corporal works of mercy (helping the poor and afflicted, basically) are social necessities in the here and now, not spiritual poker chips to be cashed in after you die. The purpose of spiritual life is increased understanding and awareness of the fundamental unity of God's creation, so that we might fit better into God's plan and help to build the Kingdom of God. The idea of a literal afterlife was not specifically rejected, but certainly obviated by the homily to a large degree.

I remember hearing that sermon and thinking "yeah, that makes a lot of sense." I had thought for a long time (since about third grade) that the whole Heaven thing sounded kind of fishy - a lot more like something humans would come up with than something God would think of. And over the next three or four years I went through the ranks of the church youth basically talking about this and getting pretty excited about being a Catholic.

But the more I thought about this idea, the more I realized it wasn't really Catholicism at all. Theologically, it's well-supported by the Gospels, but contradicted in large part by Paul. So in order to really get to a place where you can accept this doctrine you have to reject Paul almost in his entirety, which I had no trouble doing because Paul is a loser.

Trouble is, the epistles of Paul are more or less the bedrock foundation of Catholicism, much more so than the Gospels, which like most real scripture are pretty vague and can be interpreted in any of several ways. And to actually bring up these ideas with American Catholic lay people tends to elicit something approximating the reaction of a high-society wedding party to the arrival of a Hell's Angel at the rehearsal dinner - that is, they won't quite have the guts to argue with you to your face, but you can feel the hatred building just the same.

So that's probably more than you wanted to know about why I'm not Catholic. I left the church when I became persona non grata in my region's lay power structure (for my age, if you can believe it, I was actually a somewhat important person in the church at that time) because of comments I made as one of the leaders on a youth retreat. I had said something which I meant to mean "God to me does not have a discrete consciousness in the normal sense" but which the other leaders on the retreat clearly interpreted as "I don't believe in God."

So the rest of the adult leadership started to treat me as an outcast on the trip, which at the time I chalked up to my being somewhat abrasive and reckless, qualities which certain people do not find nearly as hilarious as I do. I was prepared to laugh the whole thing off, but I had the very disorienting experience of bringing this up to another friend of mine in the church a few weeks later, in the context of explaining to him why I felt like I had blown my romantic chances with this one particular adult leader on the trip. The telltale sign - early in the trip we got to talking, and she described this guy I had seen her with as "a friend." By the end of the week, their relationship had advanced to the point where she referred to him exclusively (and gratuitously) as "her boyfriend."

In any case I mentioned this to my friend and he actually already knew about the situation and explained to me why the other adults on the trip had treated me the way they did. Which was weird not only because it simply hadn't occured to me that I could be suddenly blacklisted just for saying some unorthodox things, but also because it meant that the other trip leaders had been sufficiently affected by the experience that it was being discussed in great detail by the entire parish.

At the time I chalked this up to narrowmindedness on the part of these lay folk - after all, I was basically echoing the sentiments of one of our parish's most beloved pastors. But over the years I've come to understand that in a sense the lay folk were right, and it was Father Perkins who was wrong. There is a great deal to be said for ideas like his, and I personally happen to think they show a lot of promise. But they aren't Catholicism, and they probably never will be.

Pope Benedict XVI

A couple of things about the new pope:

I was raised catholic, but don't go to church anymore. Still, I know a little bit about the church and I've been a little shocked at the level of basic ignorance about the reality of the politics of the modern catholic church that I've encountered on the blogosphere both before and since the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

First of all, the hope among American catholics that a "liberal" pope; that is, someone who would be down with women or married men being priests, who would OK birth control, etc., was always wishful thinking. In the American church these are mainstream ideas, so to people in the U.S. it probably seems like thes reforms are right around the corner.

In fact, since the 1960's the church has been moving in the other direction. The Latin American church, which is where the real action is these days, along with Africa, is massively conservative in terms of liturgy and theological doctrine. The point being, if American Catholics really want big-time reforms sometime soon, they need to split from Rome. Period.

Second, I've been surprised at how little analysis has been devoted to the new Pope's choice of names. This is extremely significant and tends to tell a lot about where a new Pope sees himself fitting in the historical scheme of things.

Ratzinger chose Benedict XVI. Now obviously there are a lot of Benedicts before him, and I'm not going to do a rundown of every single one. But the most recent Benedict, number XV, was known for basically one thing - he was anti-war.

So American conservatives, as Ed Kilgore noted, are probably misunderstanding the real situation when they rejoice at the election of this "conservative" Pope. Inasmuch as the key political issues of our day are linked to global industrialization and its necessary results (military aggression by rich nations against poor ones), Pope Benedict XVI is likely to be on the side of wooly-headed leftists like myself.

Indeed, since the dominant ideology of American conservatives seems to be the belief that making war without credible pretext on defenseless, poor nations is some kind of great moral triumph, they would probably be closer to the truth to consider Pope Benedict XVI their mortal enemy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Dems Win A Battle for Once

Tuned in to the Bolton nomination hearings in committee this afternoon... Wasn't expecting much to be happening, but I wanted to see what the Dems on the committe had to say about this unrealistically awful appointment. John Kerry did a nice job listing the numerous things Bolton has baldly lied about, which was pretty cool, and then suddenly a Republican named Voinovich from Ohio said he wouldn't vote to send the nomination to the full Senate.

Lugar, the committee chair, got all flustered and lost control of the meeting; it was a weird and slovenly performance by old Dicky Loo. At one point he actually had a brain lock and said "Well, a tie vote doesn't matter," which caused some puzzlement around the table and Biden had to correct him, since in fact a tie vote is the same as a win for the "nay" side. This was met with some muffled chuckles among the committee members, especially (OK exclusively) the Democrats.

So then Lugar appeared to try to bring it to a vote anyway, to which one of the other Republican members replied "are you SURE you want to do this now" and then Lugar tabled the whole thing until tomorrow.

None of which probably seems like a big deal, but out in the full Senate it makes Bill Frist look pretty dumb because he had gone through a bunch of machinations to make sure no one could object to today's hearings on the Senate floor. Now he'll have to do the same thing tomorrow unless the FR committee decides to have Bolton come back to answer questions about the numerous allegations against him that are currently floating about.

All Inside Baseball stuff, to be sure, but as CSPAN internet feeds go it was pretty exciting. Score one for the good guys.

Struggling with Topic Selection

With the work week 2/5 over, I've been unable to select a topic for this week's article. It takes me most of a workday to bang out 2000 words of usable copy, so I need to come up with something in the next 24 hours. Any suggestions, even sarcastic or ridiculous ones, are greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Speaking of 2000-word screeds, Tom Delay sent a nice long letter to his constituents yesterday defending himself against the scurrilous attack journalism of such communist rags as the Wall Street Journal and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Think Progress has a handy guide to all the misleading and false shit that Delay had to put in the letter to make it seem like he's not a crook.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Welcome, Constant Readers!

We set a record today for traffic on a non-article day. Metrics on Statcounter suggest that I now have about 20 regular readers. About a dozen of these are people who know me IRL, which means that after publishing 4,500 words as AP Short, I am averaging about 562.5 published words per new reader. Or, more depressingly, each word that I publish attracts 1.8 x 10^-3 readers.

Thus in order to attract the approximately 1,000 readers per day that it takes to become "Ad-Viable," I need to publish about half a million words, approximately equal to the length of Tolstoy's War and Peace.

So, probably not. I guess I should devote myself to pleasing the readers I have. So welcome! Stay awhile, leave a comment, laudatory or biting, and of course, tell a friend!

And keep in mind I appreciate you a lot more than those popular bloggers.


From America's Finest News Source

What the man on the street has to say about the Tom Delay situation.

Iraq News

Patrick Cockburn is, according to Iraq expert Juan Cole, probably the best English-language Iraq reporter going right now. This report, which you will not see in any large American paper, explains why U.S. casualties are down since the election of the Iraqi parliament in January.

What's crazy about this moment in the history of the Iraq war is that if the after-the-fact justifications for the war (starting a revolution of democracy in Asia Minor) had any validity, at this precise instant the U.S. is in an incredibly advantageous position. We could easily allow Iraq to become a religious, Shiite-dominated parliamentary state much like Iran, and walk away amid relative stability and substantial popular goodwill, at least among the majority Shiites, and quite probably the Kurds as well. We would have more influence over Iraq than we do Iran, and we could use that influence to encourage them to secularize and modernize, which might then have the effect, over time, of encouraging Iran to do the same.

If, on the other, hand, we allow some loose connection with reality to enter into our analysis, we have to conclude that the primary goal of the Iraq war is now and has always been to ensure permanent U.S. dominance of the Arabian peninsula by U.S. ground forces stationed inside Iraq.

If this were not the case, U.S. forces could now be withdrawn in their entirety or very nearly so. There would be some unrest, certainly, as there is now, but right now the majority is in control (with the cooperation of a large, affluent minority), they have formed a government, there is no widespread hot war beyond the generalized lawlessness that necessarily prevails after a strongman is deposed; the basic components of home rule are there.

The trouble with this scenario is that it would cause us to lose our grip on Iraq. It is not specifically about U.S. corporate control of Iraqi oil, although that is obviously an important consideration. As I wrote long ago, the plan in Iraq is to fashion a state much like Turkey, which is a military-dominated parliamentary system with most military hardware and training supplied indefinitely by the United States (thus giving us leverage over the government there.) Also like Turkey, we would maintain a substantial standing army inside the country.

You'll notice that unlike the mainstream or conservative media, it has not been necesary for me to change my analytical model every couple of months in order to incorporate new facts. Having to do this is always a sign that you are working at variance with reality.

Making Iraq look like Turkey will not be easy - the countries and the cultures are very dissimilar. In fact, in the long run, and this is where our brave leaders' realpolitik calculations fall apart, Iraq can probably never be made into a Turkish-style military/parliamentary hybrid. There are too many obstacles.

So what will happen? Most probably, the current waning of U.S. casualties will continue until the resistance becomes bold enough to actually mount an assault on U.S. forces inside the Green Zone. Once this happens, the war will reescalate and U.S. troop levels will be increased, which will escalate the war further. At this point the U.S. will be in a bind because it will need to get a massive number of troops from somewhere, either much wider use of mercenaries or, possibly, a military draft.

The only way out of this future is probably to bounce a massive percentage of the U.S. congress in the 2006 elections. That means Republicans and pro-occupation Democrats. This probably isn't as tough as it sounds - you don't have to be a pacifist (or even a Democrat) to want U.S. troops out of Iraq now. Under the official rubric, there is simply no good reason for them to remain there. Our government should either come clean about its intentions in Iraq or get the troops out.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Brains for Sale

Here's the latest lesson in why it's going to be hard to conservatives to disavow Delay. He's involved in everything. Anything Alexander Strategy has been involved with, Delay has intimate knowledge of. If Delay goes down, he could take much of the conservative movement with him. Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Herr Gokmop

Those who have been looking at the comments will already be familiar with Herr Gokmop; he has his own blog at blogspot which is quite nice. There are many hip things about the blog. First, it's topped by an Ogden Nash poem. Then, it has pictures of Finland. Finally, it discusses aspects of international politics that you aren't likely to find discussed in a lot of places, at least in English. So a trifecta of indispensibility.

Anyway, there's one particular post I want to draw your attention to that touches on a point that the right wing in this country can never grasp. This post about the China/Japan situation is exactly right - people tend to think that the U.S. has this wonderful monopoly on the use of aggressive force, but of course a war between Japan and China would be extremely bad for global stability.

That's not the point I want to make, though. My point is about the protests in China. Whenever some antiwar group has a protest against a U.S. war, right-wingers come out of the woodwork and say "well, how come you don't have a protest against Saddam?"

Which is stupid. And it's actually a recommendation for something that is a very dangerous development when and if it does happen. When a nation has protests to decry the actions of its own government, that's a sign of the health of that society. When a nation has large public protests decrying some other government or society, that's a sign of rising belligerent nationalism.

If you are unfamiliar with the consequences of the rise of belligerent nationalism in a major military power, check out the history of the 20th century. There are books on it at your local library or, if you're against that kind of socialist namby-pamby book-borrowing thing, I hear they have a show about it every now and again on the History Channel.

Free Thinker's Hideout

More reciprocal linking - Eric from Free Thinker's Hideout dropped by. Check out his site if you're in the mood for angry. Also there's a Forum feature which I find praiseworthy. If this site ever starts to get enough traffic, I might like to add a forum.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Dirty South

I've added yet another link - this one to the excellent blog The Dirty South. This is based on the principle - one I want to make completely clear - that anyone who links to my blog will get a link back to their blog.

Because I'm a whore.

However I do genuinely recommend this blog; the author knows a lot about Hunter S. Thompson, which makes him cool in my book. Also he listens to Ween and Prince, also extremely cool.

In fact, if you read nothing else on Dirty South, Read This Post. One of Thompson's densest and most prophetic rants. A classic.

Welcome Browns Fans!

Things were slower than last week, but all told we got a few new folks, including someone from Cleveland! Welcome, O fellow liberal Browns fan, there are not many of us. We must stick together.

How do I know this? Well, check out the politics forum at The Official Browns Site sometime and see for yourself. Some really nice sentiments crop up from time to time. One regular poster (who is a dickhead even when he talks about football - not true of all the right-wingers there) once advocated using nuclear weapons to wipe out all Arabs, concluding "You can drill through glass."

Anyway, since we have a Cleveland person (or had, anyway), this is an excellent excuse for me to go on at some length about my beloved Browns. Of course, the Browns have been cover-your-eyes awful for the past two years, BUT I have high hopes for the new regime brought in by Romeo Crennel.

Did you know we have a real NFL offensive line? I mean, they aren't Pro Bowlers or anything, but hey, Joe Andruzzi and Cosey Coleman could probably actually start for some team other than the Browns! Compare that to the endless gaggle of Enoch Demars, Melvin Fowlers and Paul Zukuaskases that we've shuffled around on the interior for the past five years and you start to feel pretty good. [Note to people who stopped reading long ago - see, what's funny about those guys is you can tell how much they suck just from their geeky names.]

We also acquired the most underrated quarterback of all time. I've never understood the Trent Dilfer phenomenon. In a league where any QB who has ever quarterbacked a team to the playoffs is considered to be almost divine, how does Trent Dilfer not get any respect? He won the Super Bowl, but the team he won it with cut him and have since been consistently mediocre, so he went somewhere else and just won constantly, but they benched him for some other dude and are now consistently mediocre.

Now he's with the Browns. What a great place for a blue-collar guy to have a rebirth.

The defense, unfortunately, is probably still going to suck. I know Crennel's a defensive genius and all that, but really, who do we have? An average middle linebacker, a very good cornerback, and... nothing. Could get ugly.

They Fixed It

The problem with the Google spidering has been fixed, so the story is up on Google News now. There still doesn't seem to be nearly as much click-through this week, but I can no longer blame it on GoogNew.

Next week - back to slamming the DLC! Apparently that's more of a crowd-pleaser.

I'm With Stupid

This President thing is hard. So much to remember. Can't keep track of everything, I guess. When's the next Nats game? Reminds me of my rugby team, the Nads. Remember that? Go Nads! That was funny. Hey, when's lunch? We already had lunch? Oh, right. I was thinking of yesterday. Did we have lunch yesterday? I hope it was salami, I like salami.

Money quote : "The White House did not immediately say why the President was unaware of plans announced by his administration just a week earlier."

Ooh, ooh, can I guess?

No Google for Me

Last week I got about 70 hits from people clicking through from the DU article; this week I seem to be getting basically nothing. This seems to be at least in part because for some reason, Google News did not spider DU today. I'm not sure why this is, but it's too bad. Anyway, hopefully we can get some new readers next week. For now, forward the article around if you have a chance. Thanks.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

New DU Article Tomorrow

There will be a new article up on the front page of Democratic Underground tomorrow. Check it out and leave any comments in this thread. Thanks.

Tom Delay Interviewed by Moonie Times

You want to see a bad sign for Mr. Delay? I mean other than the fact that the hilariously pro-Republican Richmond Times-Dispatch has thrown Delay under the bus (editorial title - "Delay Must Go.")

The Hammer sat down for an interview with the Washington Times, and the interview actually got contentious in places. The Moonies also published the entire transcript for your perusal, and Delay doesn't disappoint, coming up with some real Pantheon quotes. My favorite exchanges:

Mr. Coombs:Where's your public support?

Mr. DeLay: Have you not seen the television in the last few days? Members are out on television, they're talking about it. There's a huge conservative movement out there that's working very hard. There's friends all over the place working hard. Listen, if I didn't have any support, I'd have been gone a long time ago. The members - you need to talk to the members. But my sense is they understand what this is. They're looking at the charges and they're just shaking their heads.

Funny he doesn't name anybody. I wonder if he just blanked out on it or if the people who have said things in support (like Tiaht) have asked him not to go around name-dropping on them.

Mr. DeLay: I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them.

That's right. Tom Delay thinks there shouldn't even be judicial review. There shouldn't be a right to privacy. There shouldn't, presumably, be a prohibition on segregation or any of the other dozen or so rights that Americans have won through the courts interpreting the Constitution to strike down unconstitutional legislation. The only function courts have is, well, I don't know. Maybe in Delay World there are no courts, just military tribunals.

I understand there are some far right-wing folks who believe this stuff. It's fine for them to believe it. It's their right. But I don't think most Americans believe we should still be living under segregation. I don't think most Americans want the right to privacy to be voided. And I certainly don't think that most Americans want these or any initiatives to be achieved through back-room horse trading and influence peddling.

Maybe I'm wrong. Let's have a national debate about whether this is the kind of government we want, one where there's no right to privacy, no judicial review, no separation of church and state. I imagine Delay and the Republicans will rush right to that microphone, won't they?

Unless they're cowards, hypocrites, and crooks, of course.

AP Produces Inanity

This Newsday headline caught my eye since I had written at length about hyperbole and its connection to describing Delay.

Unfortunately this article has nothing to do with hyperbole, in fact "hyperbole" is just a lazy, catch-all term that the AP is using here to refer to several different types of speech, none of them hyperbolic. Observe:

"Tom DeLay did nothing wrong," Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., told reporters after the weekly GOP caucus meeting. "There's no evidence of any breaking of the House rules. What this is, is a political smear campaign made by an organization, a political party that is devoid of ideas."

This, boys and girls, is called a "talking point." It's not hyperbole. It's the approved line on a given issue handed down to apparatchiks by party leaders. Sometimes it's hard to recognize these, though less so when the fact that Delay is telling Republicans to say exactly this has been widely reported for the past two days.

Now the Democrats get a turn:

"Republicans are engaging in abuse of power and the American people are paying the price," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. Added Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., "The Republicans in the House of Representatives are running the most closed and bitterly partisan House in the history of our country."

Again, this is a talking point. Whether or not it is "hyperbole" is a matter of judgment. Are the Republicans runing the most closed and bitterly partisan House in the history of the country? I personally doubt it; 109 congresses is a lot. But the specific things the GOP is being called out for are things they are actually doing. They did change the ethics rules to protect Delay. They are considering curtailing the filibuster. These charges are not hyperbole.

Down through the article we find really no hyperbole anywhere. Sloppy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Please Stop, You're Defending Me to Death

Worst. Idea. Ever.

Something tells me this Support Delay thing may have made a couple of false steps during this PC.

Echoing the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, signers of the Declaration are saying, "We must save the Constitution from the Court and the Court from itself."

Ok, see, when FDR said this, he was in the middle of trying to execute an arrogant, foolhardy, unconstitutional and illegal court-packing scheme that eventually failed. But whatever.

I also like that they dragged George Bush's name into this. I'm sure his media team is turning cartwheels over being thumbtacked to the efforts of 25 crazed bible-thumpers to get a corrupt creep off the hook.

BTW earlier I was not implying that Atrios is the Ultimate Wanker. That is all.

Afghanistan, Land of Freedom!

This can't miss.

In 20 years, it will be interesting to read the history of the war for control of the Afghan drug trade that's being fought right now between CIA proxy forces and local warlords. Right now, of course, such things are nothing but crazy conspiracy theories.

via Atrios - The Ultimate Wanker

This is really, really, really fucking funny.

It's extra special to me because I was a big Ultimate Warrior fan when I was a kid. His Warrior Press was a cool finishing move, though I never really understood why lifting someone up in the air for a few seconds and then dropping them was supposed to hurt more than kicking them repeatedly in the face or any of the other non-finishing moves wrestlers use. Still, with a little willing suspension of disbelief it was a lot of fun to watch.

You often hear conservatives bemoan the entry of celebrities into the political arena, but regardless of where the line is between people who have some business being listened to on matters of public policy and people who are just silly cranks shooting off their mouths, I think we can all agree which side of the line ex-pro wrestlers fall on. And yes, that includes Jesse.

Media Bias

In recent years there have been a lot of wide nets cast to discern whether the media has a discernible bias towards Republicans or Democrats. These studies produce such a mishmosh of data that folks on both sides can claim their own contentions have been supported by the study.

But individual cases are often a much better indicator of the real picture. Take, for example, the case of Tony Blankley. Tony Blankley is on national TV every week.

Please try to imagine a Democratic partisan landing a regular TV gig who routinely wrote columns like this one. It's juvenile, it's vague, and it's downright sloppy writing. I can't even think of an equivalent Democratic writer - if Blankley were a liberal, he couldn't get work. Period.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Philadelphia Labor Dispute

I know we have a regular reader from Philly (I don't know who it is), so I thought I would pass along this labor article from the Philly Burbs.

I've remarked before on the decline of the labor press, so I should probably make it a point to highlight labor stories when I run across them.

One thing to keep in mind reading this - the workers had to STRIKE to get a contract reducing wages and benefits by 25%. What the hell was the original offer? Outrageous. Gotta love that free market.

Funny Spam

As annoying as spam is, I sometimes get a kick out of it. Today's best spam had a title that just struck me funny in a really odd way, and I thought I would share:

EXPLICIT: These girls do it all and much, much more!

Do they get paid time and a half for that? They should.

Swing State Project

Doing a vanity search on Google, I ran across this blog and found it to be quite an interesting and active site. It's a nexus of a lot of left-Dem news and commentary - the sort of site this would be if I weren't so damn fond of reading my own drivel.

Anyway, check out the Swing State Project, and if you have a moment, click through one of their ads and generate some tuition for DavidNYC.

Current Evidence Becomes More Current

The Seatle Times is reporting that Tom Delay connected fundraising pushes to specific pieces of industry-friendly legislation.

Delay's non-denial denial is a particularly equivocal one; he's not disputing the authenticity of these memos. I'm getting the feeling now like at the end of the second Ali-Quarry fight, when Quarry came out for the seventh and the ringside guy said matter-of-factly "I think we may be watching the last round coming up."

We were.


People who don't know how to make use of optimism often think that it is mainly an emotional attitude. The reality is that optimism is a functional framework of thinking that can help in problem solving.

In this sense, pessimism is often merely a disguised excuse for laziness. One place where this can be easily seen and verified is when playing cards.

Often a player will be placed in a situation at the end of a hand where she does not know where a certain critical card is. She knows that if the card is held by her partner, there is still a way to win the hand. If the card is held by her opponent, all is lost.

The proper play in this situation is to simply assume that her partner has the card. After all, if the opponent has it, there is nothing that can be done. There is nothing to be gained from assuming the worst, and by assuming the best, we can discern the correct course of action.

Yet it is very common for a player to blunder in such a situation and, after the hand, offer the excuse that "I thought you didn't have the Ace." This reflects a pessimistic outlook that is of no use, except of course as an excuse for not thinking things through.

This principle is central to the debate within the Democratic Party about what sort of policy platform to adopt. The mantra of the DLC set is that the American people will never accept a truly progressive platform that puts working people ahead of corporate profits, commits to working within the structure of international law to resolve foreign policy issues, and brings responsible land and energy use to the forefront of our national consciousness.

These men may well be right. If they are, all is lost. Those of us who see this must thus assume, despite all evidence to the contrary, real or imagined, that they are mistaken.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The ConWeb Wrings its Hands Over Tom

Conservative bloviation mills are having a little trouble knowing what to make of Tom Delay's recent troubles. The National Review published a lukewarm defense of the embattled majority leader today, but dittohead Eric Pfeiffer is pretty careful not to put himself in the position of actually suggesting he thinks Delay is innocent. The closest he comes is the first sentence of his concluding graph: "The current evidence suggests DeLay would not be found guilty of wrongdoing on the subject of foreign-travel expenses if investigated by the House Ethics Committee."

This is essentially a non-defense defense, since we don't know whether the "current evidence" really reflects all the evidence. He's left himself the option of changing his position any time if defending Delay starts to look really silly.

The Weekly Standard is avoiding the subject altogether; probably the best policy available right now. The redoubtable has a nicely kooky piece complete with the requisite Hillary angle, and a goofy mixed metaphor thrown in for good measure.

At the roots level, conservative bloggers are mostly coming down on the "why are we sticking out necks out for this guy?" side of the fence, with no one in the right-wing media having the heart to tell them "because he knows where the bodies are buried."

The disturbing piece of all of this for me is the treatment the story is getting from the New Democrat quarter. New Republic has a piece behind the subscriber wall that frets openly about the fact that Delay may cost the Republicans control of the House. NDOL's website doesn't mention Delay. Lieberman's not talking about it. Are these guys in it to win it? They Republican leadership is down, and these guys are offering to help them up so they can keep pounding on us for another decade or so.

What gives, guys?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Too Much Focus on Delay

Last week, as the Tom Delay story started to heat up, I started to plan a story on Delay's connection to the uber-lobbying firm Alexander Strategy, and possibly to Erik Prince, the publicity-averse founder of Blackwater Security, one of the key mercenary companies handling the "private" side of the Iraq war.

Now I'm beginning to think that with Republicans looking ready to throw Delay under the bus, it is probably better for the Democrats to let the GOP go after Delay and for the Democratic Party to point out the fact that Delay is really the most egregious example (and an extremely egregious example he is, don't get me wrong) of the culture of corruption, cronyism, and hypocrisy that defines the modern Republican party.

Anonymous Commenting Now On

I noticed someone on David Corn's blog mentioned that he would have left a comment here if he hadn't needed a blogger account to do so. I had figured that since signing in was free, people wouldn't mind, but the reality is I know when registration is required for something I don't usually do it.

So now anon comments are on. So come back, Dear Reader, and share with us your comment!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Jon Chait on Delay

In today's LA Times, Jon Chait has an article that explains the bare bones of the biggest couple of scandals currently surrounding Tom Delay.

I'm currently researching a piece that would go into all this in a bit more depth, focusing on a little outfit by the name of the Alexander Strategy Group. ASG is basically the mechanism by which Delay and his allies coordinate their cronyism.

One of the key figures in Delay's inner circle, so far untouched by the investigations into Delay's financial and ethical hanky panky, is a man by the name of Erik Prince.

Prince is an extremely interesting character, son of an industrial tycoon, Navy Seal, and head of Blackwater, the mercenary company that employed the four soldiers who were burned and hung from a bridge in Falluja.

In somewhat related news, the families of the victims in that incident have had quite a time getting any info about the incident from Blackwater, and the House, which could conduct a public investigation, has refused to act.

Surely this has nothing to do with the fact that immediately after the incident, Prince and Blackwater hired ASG for "crisis managemement." But you know, it does create the appearance of a conflict, does it not?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Hyperbole and the Deterioration of Language

The thing I related earlier about the Pope got me to thinking. One of the most pervasive literary devices in modern times, particularly among political commentators and party hacks like myself, is hyperbole. Everybody is described as "crazy" or "evil" or as an "imbecile" or something like that.

It all seems rather inocuous when we do it, mostly because readers know it's hyperbole - when I say Dennis Hastert is a madman, people know that he's not actually marauding around with a meat cleaver whacking off the body parts of his staffers or anything like that, if for no other reason than CSPAN would have probably covered something like that.

I'm as guilty as anybody else of this transgression, and I have a feeling that my idol, the late great Hunter S. Thompson, had a lot to do with its proliferation. But the trouble with using this device, other than the fact that it's just lazy writing, is that when you're faced with the task of describing somebody who really is legitimately a lunatic, you have nowhere to go. You're already at 11, as it were.

It's a subtler-than-usual instance of the "cry wolf" phenomenon. It's as if you spent ten years calling everyone you didn't like "Satan," and then one day you wake up and go into the office and sit down to interview a guy for a story and there's Satan, big red horns and cloven hooves and fiery pitchfork and everything just ambling into the meeting room munching a scone.

And later you're writing the article and you're like "Shit! If I say it's Satan, how do people know I mean Satan like you mean Satan when you talk about Satan, and not Satan like you mean Satan when you talk about Bud Selig?" And you've painted yourself into a corner.

Which is where I'm at, basically, with Tom Delay. I've been following Delay for years, since long before anybody knew who the hell he was, and there really is no way to accurately describe what this man is like without sounding like you're making some kind of joke. You can really only understand it if you experience the actual sensations that fill your heart when you listen to the man speak, or better yet, watch him on television, and realize with mounting horror that he is one of the most powerful men in the world.

Tom Delay is a person who is so divorced from reality that if it weren't for his all-consuming drive for power to focus his mind, he would probably - and again, I am NOT trying to be humorously hyperbolic here - be wandering the streets with a shopping cart full of high heels, rambling on and on about how the Pope is the antichrist and the Giant Bonus Card is really the mark of the beast.

The way you can tell this is that unlike most Republicans, who are mentally unbalanced in much milder and more socially acceptable ways, Delay really has no conception of what kind of lies you can get away with telling because they are plausible and hard to disprove, and what kind of lies will be immediately understood to be lies because they are screamingly stupid on top of being untrue.

It's not a made-up story that Delay told a roomful of reporters that he and Dan Quayle couldn't get into the military during Vietnam because all the slots had been taken up by minorities. That actually happened in 1988 and was reported by a Houston paper, unfortunately before the days of widespread web archiving so you can't read it online. Delay's never even denied saying it, to my knowledge.

But the real goods on Delay can be had just by listening to him for 45 to 60 seconds, speaking off the cuff on basically any subject. This doesn't happen too terribly much because, at least until recently, Delay has been very good at avoiding the media. But it happens often enough that if you look around you can find a clip of Delay talking at length. Here is one such clip; Delay comes on at about the 10 minute mark.

Most of what he says is just descriptive, he's talking about what happened WRT the Schiavo subpoena and why the Republicans did it. But even during the purely descriptive portion, he's jumping around, having trouble saying two things in a row that have much of anything to do with one another.

The really weird part starts at 15:00, so if you're bored by general discussion of political wrangling, skip all the way to there. Once Delay begins to talk about "what this fight is really about," you get a real good look at the way his brain works, or doesn't work, as the case may be.

Delay tries mightily to describe why the Schiavo case is "critically important." "It's critically important," he assures his audience. "This is a critical issue for people in this position, and it's also a critical issue to fight the fight for life, whether it be euthanasia or abortion [sic.]"

I know I don't have to point out that none of this, aside from making any sense, gets hold of any kind of real purchase in terms of a moral rationale for Congress intervening in the Schiavo case. He's just stating and restating over and over how critical it is. But his crazy little brain feels a deep need to really explain why the Schiavo case is important.

And so, inexplicably, Delay's brain jumps the tracks and starts to really explain why the Terry Schiavo case is important. What he has to say is really beyond shocking, but not only because it's so craven and self-serving. It's shocking because Delay does not realize how what he is saying sounds to other human beings, because he can't conceive of the idea of other human beings having feelings and reactions. This is textbook sociopathic thinking. This is also why he can't vocalize what issues are really at stake in the case, beyond empty language about "fighting the fight for life."

Quoting directly now (and this could not be more in context):

"And I'll tell you, ladies and gentlemen, one thing God has brought to us, is Terry, Terry Schiavo [sic], to elevate the visibility of what's going on in America, that Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is losing [?] and starve them to death for two weeks."

The little piece of his brain that has any idea how to not sound like a raving lunatic has reached the end of its meager resources now. This is circular, of course, he's saying that Terry Schiavo was brought to us to elevate the visibility of, well, of Terry Schiavo. But this is just the last defense mechanism; he's babbling away the last barrier his conscience has erected against saying what he says next [i'm skipping a little bit of restatement here, but the context is preserved]:

This is exactly the issue that's going on in America, that... of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others. The point is is the other side has figured out how to win, uh, and defeat the conservative movement, and that is to go after people personally, charge them with frivolous charges, link that up with all these do-gooder organizations funded by George Soros, and then, and then get the national media on their side.

That whole syndicate that they have going on right now is for one purpose and for one purpose only, and that's to destroy the conservative movement. It's to destroy conservative leaders, not just in elected office, but leading, I mean, Ed Fullner, today, at the [Harry Stroth?] Foundation, is under attack in the National Journal, I mean, this is a huge, nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in.

Keep in mind this is a speech that is about Terry Schiavo, purely about that issue and nothing else. And Delay is standing there saying to a room full of people that they should be thankful that God sent them Terry Schiavo because it will help shield him from attack by Democrats and their evil liberal media empire. This isn't speculation about motives, this is Delay standing up in public and saying this.

A person that would do this is mentally unbalanced. He has no conception of what is acceptable behavior for a person in society. All he knows is that the damn liberals are after him, and thank God for this "thing" Terry Schiavo, who came along to help him beat the rap.

Addicted to Statcounter

For all the fellow bloggers out there in Bloggerland, I reluctantly direct you to StatCounter, where you can get detailed information about the traffic to your site.

I'll warn you, though, I've become a bit obsessed with the statistics, which are pretty comprehensive and have uncovered some interesting facts that I would not have guessed about this blog.

The first is that the site gets a significant amount of what I can only refer to as "walk-in traffic;" people clicking through the blogger "next page" button and randomly winding up at the blog. What's weird about this traffic is that it seems to cluster around certain times of day, which I couldn't puzzle out but my wife astutely guessed might indicate that rather than being truly random, there is some sort of master list that's constantly changing, so that while your blog is high on that list you get a lot of walk-in traffic, and while it's low you don't. Interesting.

Of course, the best part is the vanity aspect of it; I'm apparently big in New York City, especially the Brooklyn Public School system. That is, two different people have accessed the site from Brooklyn Public. New York and LA generate a fair number of visitors, along with Texas. That's unsurprising because those states are the most populous, but there are some more interesting hot spots as well - I've gotten a couple different visitors from Nebraska, for example.

I've had a modicum of international traffic, including someone from a university in the Czech Republic. I think that one is the best so far.

About 70 people clicked through to the blog from the article yesterday, which implies that at least a few hundred people read it. I've never been able to get DU to tell me how much traffic the front page articles get, so it's good to know someone out there is actually reading the stuff.

Traitor Joe More Popular With Republicans than Dems

This article in a New England newspaper makes it pretty clear that the Dems in the Northeast, at least the ones interviewed by this reporter, are fed up with Traitor Joe.

BTW normally I would shy away from a word like "traitor" to describe someone who really hasn't risen to that level (that we know of) but the play on "Trader Joe's," the popular low-cost hippie grocery store chain, is too much to resist.

I'm skeptical we'll be able to bump Joe in the primaries, but it would be really nice. I might consider going to Connecticut to canvass for his opponent, since my sister lives up in that neck of the woods and I've never been to visit her.

Crud, baby's crying...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tom Delay Scandal of the Day, Day 2

Hey, who knows, maybe there really will be enough material to make this a regular feature. Anyway, this isn't a new scandal, but it's different from yesterday's TDSotD, so I'm posting it. The article is pretty boring, but it's worth it to get a look at a picture of Tom Delay trying to cry on camera. He looks to me somehow like what I imagined the robot Andy in the Wolves of the Calla looking like. Not sure why, just jumped into my head when I saw the picture - "hey, andy's crying."

Oh, yeah, here's the link.

At the risk of spoiling the book for those who have yet to read it (and who couldn't figure out from the twenty-five really obvious clues King, with his usual subtlety, throws in early on) Andy turns out to be a corrupt, baby-torturing monster.

So maybe that's where the association came in, and not the picture.

Tom Delay's Severability Problem

The Republican Party is faced with an interesting challenge right now in terms of what to do about Tom Delay. Delay is so obviously crooked that it seems unlikely (though nowhere near impossible) that he will survive this most recent round of scandals. The problem has nothing to do with potential censure by Congress - there won't be any with the Republicans in power. The problem is in Texas courts.

Texas, strangely enough, actually has some fairly strict campaign finance laws. Delay's disdain for (and open defiance of) those laws has been an open secret for many, many years, but in the last few election cycles Delay has gotten sloppy and brought the heat down on himself fairly hard.

Now that Delay's cover is blown, the Republicans would like nothing better than to throw him under the bus. Unfortunately for them, The Hammer is probably in a position to take most of the party with him if and when he does go down.

The financial hub of the Republican Party has been in Texas for a long time, basically since the Nixon machine collapsed. And since that time the Lone Star State has drifted perilously close to some major, major scandals that could have brought the whole house of cards tumbling down for good.

Texas, along with California and Florida, was at the epicenter of the Savings and Loan scandal that buzzed the GOP tower in the 1980's, and of course most recently Enron's successful gaming of the California energy market and, later, the FTC and SEC. Enron's diversion of many of the profits of that illegal enterprise to Texas Republican politicians could have been something of a problem for the party, had September 11th not intervened.

To make a long story short, Delay was central to all of these crazy get-rich-quick schemes and dozens of others, and if he really does get popped, the shit will splatter on a lot of important people.

One thing I've had fun with recently is looking around at movement conservative sites where users are wrestling with the vexing question of whether to dump support for Delay or keep defending him. A lot of the rank-and-filers want to cut Delay loose to prevent him from further harming the party in the 2006 elections, but the real Delay Problem for the Republicans may well be that the cure might be worse than the disease.

More to come...

BREAKING - The Pope Died

A friend of mine at work brought this up yesterday and I thought it was a very interesting point. Now, this guy sometimes will present some fairly shopworn ideas to me as his own, but he also thinks up some interesting stuff, and from what I can tell this particular angle has not been particularly well-explored.

This guy, we'll call him Joe, wonders, what would the media be doing if the pope had been, say, assassinated, or abducted by aliens, or drowned in a well or something? They couldn't possibly have more coverage. As the director will say to the actor who is emoting madly, "You're already at 11 in the first scene. What are you going to do in Act IV?"

Which is not to say I think the next pope will have any of these things happen to him. But if something weird does happen to the next pope, there will be no way to tell that the media thinks it's a bigger deal than just some old guy dying of being old. They're already at 11.

I often think about what aliens would think about human priorities if their only contact with the planet was via American mass media news. Washington Post, New York Times, NBC nightly, and CSPAN, we'll give 'em, just for the sake of argument. Their picture of human society would be a pretty absurd caricature.

For an instance, an old religious leader dies of natural causes, that's wall-to-wall coverage, everywhere you look, for like two weeks. Oil company reserve statements begin to indicate that the planet's entire economy may collapse in the next decade due to dwindling fuel supplies, that's an A16 story in the Saturday New York Times.

Weird country.

Open Thread for comments about the Article

Fire Away.

Tom Delay Scandal of the Day

Tom Delay is a crook.

OK, I'm not really adding a Tom Delay scandal of the day feature... But the point is, I could. This one is just particularly funny because of the aggressively chincy nature of the scam.

It's like those "contests" in the back of the newspaper where you write a poem or short story or something and then they try for like 6 years to get you to buy the book with your "winning" poem in it.


What's maybe a little more scary is that there are this many physicians out there willing to pay $1250 for a fake award.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Triumphant Return of, erm, Someone Completely New!

Well I'm finally back in the DU saddle for the first time since the arrival of the Monkeyworm. I was informed by my editor that tomorrow's lead will carry the first ever AP Short byline, so I'm finally dragging the family name into this whole politics business. It's a long one, so block out some good readin' time in your work day tomorrow.

Or you could look at my blog at home, I guess. Yeah, at home, that's the ticket.