Just thought that I should say that the coverage of the tsunami has been getting quite better (while the death tolls get worse), and less ethnocentric. With the exception of the US's getting pissed off at the UN again, it seems that the country lines are starting to be blurred, and this is being viewed as a human disaster.
I'd urge everyone to donate some money, if they can. There's plenty of places to do it, including Amazon.com and Redcross.org.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Just thought that I should say that the coverage of the tsunami has been getting quite better (while the death tolls get worse), and less ethnocentric. With the exception of the US's getting pissed off at the UN again, it seems that the country lines are starting to be blurred, and this is being viewed as a human disaster.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
There's not anything I have to add to the incredible sadness of this enormous disaster, and the media has started to do a pretty good job of covering it (I was afraid that they wouldn't). This article from MSNBC.com talks about our memories when it comes to natural disasters, and I was reminded of the earthquake last year in the Iranian city of Bam that killed 30,000 people. That got precious little coverage. Some might say that it was because the earthquake was comparatively not that big, but I don't think so. I don't even know if people know that it happened, but it had an astronomical death toll, and it was a blip in the media.
This disaster has gotten better coverage, certainly, but I can't help but feel like the people here in America don't really feel much about it. We'd expect the world to cry for us, but we can't really spare anything but a half-hearted, "That's so sad," when talking about this disaster. True, it's not as huge a thing because it's not a terrorist attack or something, but still.....a little compassion wouldn't hurt, right?
Brought to you by Fargus... at 8:32 AM
Monday, December 27, 2004
Here's a little gem that I found a few days ago. President Bush is planning on renominating 12 judges whose appointments were formerly blocked by filibustering Democrats in the Senate.
Is it just me, or is the intent of this move blatant? Bush wants to do this to goad the Democrats into blocking them again so that he can label them as obstructionists and toss their reputations further down the gutter.
But by doing this knowingly, isn't it Bush who's the obstructionist?
Brought to you by Fargus... at 10:08 AM
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Hey, all! Merry Christmas!
I just thought both of you who read this would find it amusing that I, of all people, attended Christmas Eve church service (for the second year in a row!) last night with George W. Bush's Chief of Staff Andy Card.
Ho ho ho!
Brought to you by Fargus... at 8:15 AM
Friday, December 24, 2004
The liberals are not the only ones who have updated their terminology in recent years (i.e. handicapped = disabled, black = African-American). The conservatives have done it too! Here's a couple of examples, and feel free to comment and add your own. I'll put up more as I think of them:
George W.'s tax cuts = Trickle-down economics
Ownership society = The "Me" decade
The War on Terror = The Cold War
Those who haven't learned from history are doomed to repeat it, right?
Brought to you by Fargus... at 5:49 PM
I had the nicest talk with a fellow on the plane from Newark to Dulles. His name was Bill, and he was a black gentleman in his sixties, from the Bay Area in California. Originally from New Jersey, he was visiting family.
He had just retired from 30+ years with Chevron and the Department of Energy (formerly the Atomic Energy Commission) as first a Nuclear Chemist, and then an Organic Chemist. He and I had a good hippie liberal talk about the environment and about politics, and he told me that it was encouraging to him to meet a young fella who cared about things and wanted to help make a difference. Made me feel good to hear that, too.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 2:00 PM
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
I hate the Confederate flag. I hate what it stands for, and I hate that people still insist on flying it as part of their heritage. I'm not saying I hate the South, because the South has a largely rich heritage. But the Confederate flag represents one of the ugliest chapters in that history. Regardless of the other causes, the Civil War is readily associated with slavery, and the South's fight to keep it. That some would still insist on proudly calling it the "Rebel Flag" inflames me even more.
So pardon me if I have little sympathy for this girl, who so innocently made a prom dress with a Confederate flag theme, and was turned out of her prom. Being proud of your heritage is one thing. Showcasing a symbol of the darkest chapter of that heritage says to me that you don't agree that what was going on then was wrong.
I wonder if German girls wear swastikas to their proms.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 4:52 PM
I think they're running scared, if this columnist from NewsMax has his finger on the pulse. By "they" I mean the Republicans. Here's an excerpt:
The margin of victory in the Electoral College was rather close. And the popular-vote victory was less than three and a half million for the president in 2004. That is good enough for a mandate, but the GOP leadership had better understand that the defection of any one of the elements of this coalition would be fatal to the party.
That is why a missile defense system must be launched. That is why the Federal Marriage Amendment must be revived. That is why United States Appeals Court judges and Supreme Court justices must be confirmed. That is why spending must be controlled. That is why Republicans had better understand what is happening with the war in Iraq and how to depart after the elections. I could go on, but you get the picture.
I think that the thing this guy doesn't realize, though, is that some things like the Federal Marriage Amendment also stand a chance of being divisive within the Party, just as not backing the Federal Marriage Amendment would be divisive (although tipping in a different direction, admittedly).
Let's just sit & watch, k?
Brought to you by Fargus... at 2:11 PM
Wal-Mart is being sued by a Texas woman whose schizophrenic daughter purchased a shotgun at a local Wal-Mart and used it to commit suicide. She used to frequent a different Wal-Mart, seven miles away, and at that store she had a prescription for anti-psychotic medication, she had assaulted police officers, and she had been arrested for attacking a fellow customer.
But Texas (along with 36 other states) does not submit mental health records to the FBI database consulted by gun vendors in performing background checks. Prescription drug records are off-limits, too, after a 1996 federal law made them so. And as a consequence, this profoundly disturbed girl came up clean on her background check, purchased a shotgun, and took her own life with it.
Incidentally, there are seventeen states that would have sold her the gun even if they had turned up a history of mental illness, because they don't have laws against such sales. Those are: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming.
Insanity, I say.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 8:15 AM
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Just so y'all know, I put some new links over in the sidebar. Some are of more conservative websites, a couple news sites, a couple more blogs, and an all new section with liberal websites! Funny thing is that it's a lot harder to find liberal websites. Damn those conservatives and their organization!
Oh, and I also made it so that the links open in new windows automatically, so you can open them while you read without losing the page. If this causes trouble for any of the three people who read this, or if you don't like it, feel free to let me know.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 7:50 PM
So Bush is starting to come under fire for his handling of the Social Security issue, and more and more it seems like this is a Republican/Democrat dividing line, rather than a good/bad line. Republican rhetoric is exaggerating the state of Social Security right now.
So, like I was saying last time, it seems like Bush has got an axe to grind with the fact that there's been a socialist system operating in his country for 69 years, and that it's been working. There's another 14 years before we start giving out more in benefits than we're taking in in taxes, and another 30 or so years beyond that before benefits would have to decrease (during those 30 years, the difference would be paid out of the Social Security trust, which is where the surpluses have been going all this time, and which currently stands at something like $1.5 trillion!). There are a couple of things that could fix this, not least of which would be a change to make more than just the first $87,900 of income taxable for Social Security. If that number was upped to $200,000, the system's viability would be extended like crazy.
The retirement system faces a projected $3.7 trillion, 75-year shortfall. Bush wants to overhaul the program to let younger workers divert some of their Social Security payroll taxes to personal accounts. But that alone won't fix the problem and could require upfront costs of $1 trillion to $2 trillion over 10
Bush regularly claims Social Security faces a shortfall of nearly $11 trillion, which, Orszag said, is a misleading figure because it makes the system appear to be in worse shape than it is.
But again, the war of rhetoric has been amping up, like I said, and Social Security is "broken." Convincing society that there's major problems to fix in the system has been a major victory for Republicans. The debate isn't about whether or not Social Security is viable, but about how to fix it. The "broken" question is already off the table.
A phrase I'm starting to see more and more with respect to Social Security, at least out of the mouths of conservatives, is "Ponzi scheme," which is a pyramid type of scheme wherein investors are duped by high returns that are actually coming from later investors. The scheme comes about when you realize that under the weight of the benefits paid out, future investors cannot possibly get their expected returns. It works for a while, and people who get the returns off of it usually reinvest and lose. But Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme. A Ponzi scheme relies on deceiving the investors, making them think that their money is coming from somewhere other than other investors. False confidence is also built in a Ponzi scheme by granting high returns in the short run. Social Security doesn't do these things.
But don't be surprised to hear that phrase start creeping into the mainstream "liberal" media.
Friday, December 17, 2004
So I happened on an interesting article from MSNBC on Social Security. It's seeming more and more to me like the move to abolish Social Security is more a political move away from the left and toward the right than it is about any real benefit to the citizenry, or about responsible accounting.
I've read a couple places now that the Social Security system has taken in more than it's paid out ($155 billion, by the measure of the article), but that surplus gets lumped in with the rest of the budget, which is operating under a deficit, and all of a sudden, when all's said and done, the figures come out and all we hear is "deficit, deficit, deficit." We don't hear from what parts of the budget the deficit is coming, it's just all lumped together.
Something to think about, anyway.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Here's a story from NewsMax.com (one of my favorite websites out there, sarcasm certainly intended) about how Zell Miller's found a new home as a commentator at FOX News. Is anybody surprised? I mean, really, I don't know how people can keep claiming that FOX is fair and/or balanced. At this point, given Dick Morris and Zell Miller, it seems like a more apt slogan would be: "FOX News: Where cranky men who claim to have once been Democrats go to die."
Brought to you by Fargus... at 2:29 PM
The Democrats seem to be facing a long, hard road to 2006, and an even longer, harder road to 2008. These roads are made neither shorter nor easier by the unabating attempts by conservative Republican commentators and analysts to define the Democratic Party. It's getting so that you can't hear mention of the recently passed presidential election without hearing talk of the 2008 presidential election. And if a Republican is in the room, you can't hear talk of 2008 without hearing the words "Hilary Clinton" and "frontrunner" going along with it.
Conservative Republicans know that Hilary Clinton is basically unelectable, and they want to latch onto that immediately. They want to define the Democratic Party in the media as the party of a candidate who cannot win. It's a good strategy, truth be told.
So what do the Democrats have to do? First, they need to repudiate the Clinton banner being hung over their heads by the Republicans. I dug Clinton, but his name (and, consequently, his wife's name) have been so demonized that they're just not politically viable in the mainstream anymore. They can be "blue state" heroes, but that appeal almost certainly doesn't cross over to the red states.
Second, they need to (with regard to 2008) get the fighting over who'll be the candidate done largely before the primaries, and largely behind closed doors. Having a number of popular candidates in the primaries gave the Republicans plenty of ammunition to say that the Democrats hadn't chosen "who they really wanted," referring of course to Howard Dean. If the fight had been conducted more privately, and earlier, then the candidate would have had a cleaner field from which to choose his running mate (instead of a field of candidates whom he had been made to fight to seecure the nomination), and he would have been able to start full-fledged campaigning much earlier, thus inserting himself into the public consciousness as the Democratic candidate, instead of one of the Democratic candidates.
Third, and perhaps most important (and underpinning the second point), there must be considerably more party unity than there has been in the past few years. I discussed, in my last post, the difficulties of the liberals in getting a forward-thinking agenda going, because that's "going where no man has gone before." As I said, a retreat into the past has the comfort of the familiar. But the Democrats' cause is further weakened by defections across party lines. Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo said much the same thing with regards to Social Security recently, and it's true. If the Democrats can learn to rein in their varying constituencies in the same sort of way that the Republicans reined in social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and the religious right (some of whom hold blatantly contradictory beliefs), then they might just have a shot at this thing.
But then again, there's always 2012.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Ok, I haven't written anything analytical in a while. It's been mostly posting news articles of interest every now and then with a snarky comment attached at the end. Proud as I am of my snarky comments, I've thought of something to write about.
- How is the political balance of power in the country defined right now, and how is it shifting?
This is a hell of a question with a hell of a lot of answers, depending on who you ask. The typical religious zealot conservative's answer varies between, "This country's going to hell in a handbasket and we need to reassert our Christian values and take it back," and "We are taking back our country, and the re-election of George W. Bush proves that."
When these arch-conservatives talk about the country going to hell, they're generally talking about the moral decrepitude of our culture, as evidenced by Howard Stern, the Janet Jackson incident, the Monday Night Football teaser, etc. These are people who, when they say they want to take the country back, they literally mean that they want to take the country back--to the 1950s. To days when they couldn't show toilets on television, let alone hints of naked flesh. To days when impolite speech was confined to saying "None of your business" instead of "None of your beeswax." To days when the role models of the generation were clean-cut, and scandals were swept under the rug instead of aired for all to see.
But the 1950s weren't all that they were cracked up to be. Watching TVLand doesn't give you an altogether accurate view of what was going on during that decade of the Korean Conflict (read: War), "separate but equal" facilities, McCarthyism and the Red threat (America's finest hour, according to Ann Coulter), increasing tensions with the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and singing, dancing street gangs fighting for control of New York City (Ok, maybe you can get that last one from television).
The fact is, the 1950s were a time of greater moral stricture on the surface, but the undercurrents that lay beneath that veneer were the same as those that are there today. History and popular culture may whitewash it (no racist pun intended), but the 1950s were not what people think they were, in my opinion.
So that's the take of the radical conservatives, as I see it. They want the country to be a God-fearing Christian nation with the moral restraint it had fifty years ago. And there are some good reasons for them to feel that the country is moving in that direction. People are being decried as unpatriotic for questioning the motives of the Administration. There is a growing current wanting to teach "intelligent design" to the youngsters in our schools, alongside evolution. The ongoing FCC brouhaha is making it clear that censorship is tightening its grip on public expression in the country.
But what about the liberals? Do they share the same view? Of course not. They hold that this is not a "Christian nation." It may be populated predominantly by Christians (by birth, not necessarily by practice), but its population does not marry it to a specific religion, and that should be respected. Moreover, the liberals feel that they're the ones taking their country back, and that the grassroots campaigns of the 2004 Democratic primaries prove that.
It's hard to tell, though, where the liberals want to take the country, because it's not somewhere that we've been before. That comes partially to the difference in the actual definitions of the words "liberal" and "conservative." Liberal is forward thinking, while conservative is looking to the past, to conserve the past. Makes sense, I think. And it makes sense that the liberals don't have as clear a plan for the future, because their model for what it should be like hasn't yet happened.
And depending on whom you listen to, the liberals have good reason to think that the country is moving away from the moral stricture and conservative tendencies of the 1950s. For states to have considered gay marriage at all, even if only for most to have banned it, is a monumental step, I think. Minority lines are still there, but they're a bit more blurred, especially with two minority secretaries of state (the second one female) in a row. Regardless of the recent push for more "decency," the boundaries on acceptable expression in public forums have been expanded greatly in the last 50 years.
So what does this all amount to? I think it shows that neither side is winning the decisive victory that they both claim. I think that the divide in the country is much deeper than either side wants to admit (since they both want to claim that they lie in the majority), and that if it keeps up, we're going to move to a place vastly different from either the 1950s police state that liberals fear or the free-for-all hippie paradise that conservatives fear.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 9:20 AM
So evidently Ford will be discontinuing the Excursion. I don't know about y'all, but this makes me a little sad (please note the sarcasm). I mean, people need vehicles in which they can have dance parties in the back, and tractor trailers just aren't commercially available yet.
Watch out, Hummer. Those damn dirty hippies have their sights set on you next, I'm sure.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 8:38 AM
Monday, December 13, 2004
I found this story on the FOXNews website today, and it sickened me. Apparently this picture, it sounds like one of those photomosaic deals, was taken down somewhere in NYC. It was of President Bush, and it was made up of a number of smaller pictures of chimpanzees.
I guess NYC isn't a "free speech zone," huh?
Brought to you by Fargus... at 3:54 PM
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Screw Fox News. A heavy metal guitarist, formerly of Pantera, was gunned down in a Columbus, OH night club last night, and today, early afternoon, Fox News was busy vilifying him for his bands' lyrics. The lyrics talked about killing, and so the implication that they're pretty clearly making is that he reaped what he sowed.
A man dies, and less than 24 hours the spin machine is busy vilifying him.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 2:54 PM
I haven't heard quite enough about the case to make up my mind rationally, and my gut tells me that the guy did it, but.....
.....I find it interesting that the two opposing camps in thinking about the case are those who want to see him executed, and those who want to kill him themselves.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 2:53 PM
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Ok, people. A couple of posts ago I talked about Clear Channel as champions of censorship. But I guess that doesn't cover all facets of their company, like the billboard-raising part. Here's the link about some billboards in Florida with a picture of Dubya, next to the words "Our Leader," sponsored by Clear Channel Outdoor.
So looks like the combination of FoxNews and Clear Channel is indeed an ideological match made in hell.
As someone in the article says, "What's next, statues?"
Brought to you by Fargus... at 11:31 PM
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Here's an article from this week's Newsweek about the religious beliefs of Americans. Let me put up some of the highlights:
- 79% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, without a human father
- 67% say they believe that the entire story of Christmas is historically accurate
- 55% of those polled say every word of the Bible is literally accurate (versus 38% who do not believe this)
- 93% believe Jesus existed, and 82% believe he was God or the Son of God
- 52% believe Jesus will return (versus 21% who don't), and 15% believe Jesus will return in their own lifetime (versus 47% who don't)
- 62% believe that creationism should be taught alongside of evolution (versus 26% who don't)
- The clincher: 43% believe that creationism should be taught instead of evolution (versus 40% who don't)
This astounds me, truth be told. I just really can't understand how most of these beliefs can be held. Personally, I believe that Jesus existed, sure. But I think that much of the Bible is allegorical. But how can so many more believe that the Bible is literally true than those who don't? How can so many more people believe Jesus will return than don't? How can more people think that creationism is more biologically valid than evolution?
Brought to you by Fargus... at 2:18 PM
I don't know quite how to feel about this article that I just found on MSNBC. In it, Michael Moore talks about why he and the Hollywood community didn't hurt John Kerry in the election. He postulates that Hollywood and the entertainment community helped Kerry, and that the Democrats need to embrace Hollywood as part of their mainstream constituency.
The problem that I see with this is that, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, there seem to be some common traits among Americans, and one of those is that they don't like being preached to. Whether it's by Bill O'Reilly or Susan Sarandon; Sean Hannity or Sean Penn, people just don't like it. I've met people who barely voted for Kerry because they were put off by Moore and such. I've met people who would have voted for Kerry who didn't because of Moore.
I've got no problem with Moore. I've read two of his books, seen two of his movies, and I agree with a lot of the stuff that he says (because I'm a dirty hippie liberal, I guess), but even I got pretty pissed off when I was watching his acceptance speech at the Oscars a couple of years ago. I've got other hardcore liberal friends who feel the same way. There wouldn't have been a chance that they'd've been pushed to vote for Bush by Moore, but they can't bring themselves to get behind him entirely, mostly because of the way in which he chooses to make his opinions known.
Like I said, Americans are stubborn, and they don't like the feeling that other people are telling them that they're better than them, which is what the Hollywood movement seems to be, generally. Bill O'Reilly's successful because he talks like a normal guy, and he's built his image on being a normal guy. Hell, that's why our damn president is successful.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 10:40 AM
Got an article here about how ClearChannel Communications, champions of censorship on the radio, will be getting all of their news from now on from FoxNews Radio, champions of all things terrible and wrong. Sound wonderful to anyone else?
Brought to you by Fargus... at 1:44 AM
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Hey! I just found another article here about abstinence-only education in schools, and how the programs are flawed. These are programs into which our federal government is going to pump $170 million this year alone.
With all their education, the federal government evidently can't see what I learned in high school: kids are going to have sex, whether we tell them not to or not. It's just a fact of life. Even the "good" kids have sex in high school. They just worry a little bit more (not much more) about getting caught. Abstinence-only education ignores the problem and just prays (emphasis on the prays) that it'll go away. Smacks of "just say no" to me, and it's not going to work.
Your tax dollars at work.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 1:40 AM
OK, I read the whole article (you can find it here), and I know that there were some drawbacks to the amendment proposed, but how can this crap still be going on? How could the only amendment proposed to change the blatantly racist parts of the Alabama constitution have drawbacks to it?
The voters voted narrowly to uphold the (unenforced) parts of the Alabama state constitution which prescribe segregation and poll taxes (designed to keep blacks from voting), and it was partly on a legitimate issue concerning school expenses (the amendment proposed would have caused a big hike in prices of education). My question is this: what the hell are the lawmakers of Alabama doing that they have time to propose an amendment to change this issue, but not to fix issues stemming from its being repealed?
Makes me a little sick to my stomach, truth be told.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 1:35 AM
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
So I was just in a little conversation on a message board recently about the nature of patriotism, and it got me thinking. Bear with me here for a little bit.
There's a lot of people who feel very strongly that patriotism should be taught. They feel that "American" virtues (whatever that means) should be instilled in their children just like knowledge of spelling, grammar, and mathematics. They should know the Pledge of Allegiance by heart (even though most people, I believe, don't really know what it says or means, just like the Lord's Prayer; it's just said by rote now), they should automatically stand and remove their hat the the first hint of the Star Spangled Banner, and they should start chants of "USA! USA!" whenever they feel like it (Ok, that last one may be stretching it, but not too much). But is this really patriotism?
Is someone who's told to be proud of their country really proud of their country? Or are they just doing what they were told when they were young and not questioning it? The same argument, I feel, could be made for religion, though I won't go into that now. How can you claim patriotism as a part of yourself, as one of your virtues, unless you've come to it on your own terms?
And the incorporation of all these symbols in expressing patriotism is just silly, in my opinion. Just because your lapel has an American flag doesn't mean that you're more American than I am. Just because both doors AND the antenna of your SUV have American flags on them (along with the "These Colors Don't Run" bumper sticker, most likely) doesn't make you more American, more patriotic than me. I know more than just the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner (how many people do you figure know that there's more than one?). I know all the words to "God Bless America" (Hint: the song doesn't start with "God bless America..."). I know all the verses to "America the Beautiful," "My Country 'Tis of Thee," and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." They even choke me up, on occasion, if I'm thinking of the right thing. I've sang a solo in an Irving Berlin medley at the Convention of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I have a t-shirt with no sleeves that has a flag on it and says "United We Stand." Am I more patriotic than most other people I know?
Ann Coulter would say yes.
I say no.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 5:05 PM
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Hey, all. Sorry for not posting for a little while. I'm afraid it'll be a little while longer, probably, but I just wanted to say that the reason I didn't post was because I was gone for Lafayette/Lehigh (which we won, I hear!). If anyone has any stories from the weekend involving me, please let me know. Thanks a lot!
Brought to you by Fargus... at 9:41 PM
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
ABC may be receiving a fine from the FCC for a recent opening to an episode of Monday Night Football which featured Nicollette Sheridan's naked back. Notice I did not say backside, in which case there may be a legitimate complaint. No, it was her back. And unless she's one of those rare people who have breasts in the front and the back, I don't see what the big fuss is. The story's here.
And the evangelicals, once again, say they're not trying to take over the country. They show all the violence they want, nearly to the point of showing a Marine executing an Iraqi laying defenseless on the ground in Fallujah, but one naked back and everyone's all aflutter.
In my mind, the Janet Jackson incident makes this one look like nothing. Wait, no, that's not right. It's nothing regardless of the context which you place it in. This is getting pathetic.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 3:16 PM
Monday, November 15, 2004
CNN's got a story here which says basically that a number of Canadians, including immigration lawyers and some Canadian businesses are actively trying to encourage Americans dissatisfied with the election to come live in Canada.
WHY MOVE TO CANADA?
Reasons to move to Canada, as cited by www.canadianalternative.com:
1. Canada has universal public health care.
2. Canada has no troops in Iraq.
3. Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol environmental treaty.
4. More than half of Canada's provinces allow same-sex marriage.
5. The Canadian Senate recommends legalizing marijuana.
6. Canada has no law restricting abortion.
7. Canada has strict gun laws and relatively little violence.
8. The United Nations has ranked Canada the best country to live in for eight consecutive years.
9. Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976.
10. Canada has not run a federal deficit since 1996-97.
Looks to me like they're not going for the Red Staters, huh?
Brought to you by Fargus... at 11:15 AM
So it begins. Here's a story from FOXNews about Colin Powell's resignation. This is a little scary, to me. Powell is a good guy, by my estimation, and he helped to at least give the appearance of balancing out the Bush cabinet. Now with this "mandate," who's to say who's going to come in to fill the void? I mean, there's talks that Condi Rice might pick up as Secretary of State, but then who would step in as National Security Adviser? Seems to me that it'd probably be somebody pretty damn far from the center of the political spectrum.
Evidently, as CNN just told me (the TV version.....sorry no link), Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham is resigning as well. My guess is that that Cabinet post will be split up among the members of the board of directors of Halliburton. They have a "mandate," they don't have to be secretive about it anymore.
Anyway, that's about it for now. More later.
EDIT: Word is that Rod Paige (Secretary of Education) is expected to confirm his resignation today as well, along with one more who's as-yet-unknown.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 9:51 AM
Saturday, November 13, 2004
I found this article which describes pretty well the history of the filibuster in the US Senate. It used to be a two-thirds majority of the entire Senate (67 Senators at any time) were needed to break a filibuster, and then it was reduced to two thirds of Senators present, and it's now been reduced to three-fifths of Senators present (the Democrats has damn well better make sure none of them call in sick those days). And I apologize for the previous post, as well. Where I said "Congress," it should read just "Senate."
Brought to you by Fargus... at 8:03 AM
Friday, November 12, 2004
Maybe you know, maybe you don't, about the policy of the government concerning the appointment of Supreme Court Justices in the event of a vacant seat. The President presents his picks to the Congress. Congress then debates and has the power to confirm or deny the appointment. In the Senate, though, a Senator can filibuster a motion to stop it from going through. This process just entails them getting up there and saying whatever they want, to fill time, so that the session will come closer to expiring before the filibuster is broken. It takes only 40 of 100 votes to hold up a filibuster, and the Democrats have done it to 10 of Bush's federal court nominees in the past.
Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader, has come out and said that this has to stop. Here's the article. He's said, "One way or another, the filibuster of judicial nominees must end." It's not surprising to hear the guy coming out in support of his President's appointments. What is a little surprising, and what makes me a little uneasy, is the "One way or another" line. It's like an at-all-costs, end-justifies-the-means type of thing. He's hinted that he's in favor of an actual change in the rules of the Senate that would prevent such filibustering in the future.
Now I'm no great fan of filibustering (besides that in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington...ever see that flick? Jimmy Stewart is the man!), but I think that it's dangerous for the Republicans to try to push their "mandate" so far that they feel they have the right to change the rules in such a way to quash opposition to their own views. Pah. Pah, I say. These are important issues, and there's a reason why a minority is allowed to have the power to delay them. Like I said, I'd be pissed if I got filibustered, but I can understand why the rule is there (and by the way, the fact that the filibuster rule is in place is evidence that 40% of a vote is a valuable enough portion of the population to merit some respect.....how much of the vote did Kerry get again? Mandate, what?). Anyway, that's my take.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 9:50 PM
Boy, ain't it good to know that Ashcroft isn't gonna let his Attorney General-ship fade softly into the night? Here's an article in which the man basically blasts all the judges who "second-guessed" the President's (and Administration's, implicitly) decisions concerning the prisoners of war in the "War on Terror." He calls them "activists," which evidently has become Republican-speak in the last few years for "people who don't agree with us." This, if I may take an aside for a second, brings us back to the whole issue of the conservatives' innate ability to redefine words (liberal, Democrat, freedom, "right," etc.) not just for themselves, but for society at large.
There shouldn't be a negative connotation to the word "activist," if you think about it. An activist should be thought of as someone who's passionate about a cause and runs with it. By Bush & Co.'s own definition, I guess we should now refer to the "activist" Catholic church, trying to push their abortion agenda.
Anyway, as I was saying, it's the right of the judicial branch of the government to operate autonomously. It's a separate but equal branch of the American government. One of three, in case Ashcroft has forgotten. During times of war, no branch becomes subordinate to any other branch. Never have, never will (I hope I hope I hope).
Brought to you by Fargus... at 9:39 PM
I just read this on CNN.com about how the US is trying to push a global ban on stem-cell research and embryonic cloning. That's right, let that word sink in. Global. Made me a little scared, personally. And to think, people are saying that evangelical Christians aren't trying to take over the country. Well, I don't have much to say about this now. I think that, if you've heard me talk or read me writing (am I a pirate now?), my position on this would be self-explanatory.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 9:33 PM
Friday, November 05, 2004
Ok, so now that I've had some time to process what happened on Tuesday, I guess I'm ready to give my cogent analysis of what's going to happen between now and 2008.
- The Supreme Court
There's a hell of a lot of spots potentially opening up, and despite what was said in one of the debates, I doubt like crazy that Bush doesn't have a "litmus test" for his appointees. He says that he wants candidates who interpret the constitution, but what's coming out of the other side of his mouth when he says that is nearly audible, it's so clear. He wants candidates who interpret the constitution in ways that agree with his own views. Anybody else is an "activist." Say what you will, everybody's got to admit that Kerry was very honest in his admission that he would not appoint a judge who would outlaw abortion, which was in his mind a constitutional right.
With a clearer majority in both houses of Congress on the part of the Republicans, prepare to see a lot of bold legislation pushed through. Not only do they hold a clearer majority, but a lot of the Democratic senators and representatives are not by any stretch "liberal," and would be much more likely to cross party lines than would the conservative majority. There's already been a push for an amendment which would allow Arnold Schwarzenegger to be President of the United States. Well, the amendment would technically allow anybody who'd been a citizen for a certain number of years to run for President, but let's be honest--it's clearly designed for the Terminator. Prepare to see ANWR opened up for drilling, I'd think, as well. The Senate doesn't have a clear enough majority to block filibustering on judicial appointments, but they're getting there.
Already? Of course. Commentators started talking about the Presidential race in 2008 by the time it was the morning of November 3rd. I haven't the foggiest who the Democrats will run, but it had better not be Hillary Clinton. If she's the party's only hope, then we're in a lot bigger trouble than we ever thought. More likely to win would be a Southern or Midwestern governor, like Tom Vilsack of Iowa, or Brad Henry of Oklahoma, though I don't know if either of them (among others) have presidential aspirations. Vilsack was on the short list of consideration for Veep candidates in 2004, so his name's floating already.
As for the Republicans, I could see it possibly getting ugly. Giuliani and McCain are the two powerhouse names of the party, and they've been busy posturing themselves for it. I think that the current ultra-conservative administration would like a candidate who more clearly represents the logical progression from their own viewpoints (Giuliani and McCain are by far not toeing the party line on all issues), but I think they'd probably win out in the primaries due to their big name status and popularity. The ultra-cons would love to have somebody like Bill Owens of Colorado, for example, or maybe Jeb Bush (no matter what he says) to uphold not just the ideological dynasty, but the family dynasty (his son George Prescott Bush could be next, as well as being the first Hispanic President). If the non-US-citizen amendment were to pass, I'd think that Arnie'd probably win in a pretty big way, due to his big name and popularity, but the ultra-cons wouldn't like having someone in office who is, truly, a social liberal. I think that his name would distract even the Southerners and Midwesterners from that pesky issue, though.
I think that the outcome of the midterm elections will depend on whether the ultra-cons try for their overreach immediately, or in the last two years of their term. If they hold back for the first two years, they stand to gain substantially in the 2006 elections, I'd think, and then they could go for the glory between '06 and '08. If they can pretend toward bipartisanship for two years, they might even be able to get the 60 votes in the Senate needed to break a filibuster (if they don't just abolish that rule first). But I don't think they've got that patience, personally. The only question is whether the backlash reaction to the inevitable conservative overreach will come in 2006, 2008, or later, once we've realized that it's going to take a lot of work to pull America anywhere close to the center again.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 4:09 PM
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
So it's over. Months and years of campaigning, billions of dollars spent, and all for it to be over in less than a day. I'm not saying I'm not relieved that it is over, but there is a strange sense of emptiness in me, as though I'm not quite sure what will fill the void that this race has left in my thinking for the last few months; it also seemed a lot darker than I remember as I was out walking tonight.
There are lots of thoughts swirling through my head about this right now, but I'll try to sort it out to the few that I think are important.
- The swing states
Anyone else a little surprised to see Florida and Ohio (the "Florida" of 2000 and of 2004, respectively, so they were projecting) be not nearly so close as all the analysts throught? I figured that the networks were going to be a lot more careful this time than they were last time, especially with the potential swing states, but that didn't turn out to really mean a lot, did it? It just meant that they'd be careful with Ohio and Florida even when it was obvious to a five-year-old that they'd been taken by Bush.
- The turnout
To be honest, I felt a little bit betrayed on behalf of the entire part of the country which trusted that people cared enough to get out there and vote. I'll admit that early on in the night, when they were projecting that they thought 120 million people would vote, I was a bit quick to say that I wouldn't be surprised if even more got out there to vote. I wouldn't have been surprised to see a turnout of 130 million, but then again, I'm no political expert. It's been said that now, all of a sudden, it's not "cool" to be apathetic, but it appears to be only a little less cool than it was before. The youth didn't get out in the numbers that they should have (keep in mind, I'm saying this in regards to the youth at large, not just in their capacity as majority Kerry voters). I know people who didn't vote just because they didn't apply for their absentee ballots quite in time, and that's no excuse, in my mind. These are people who know about and care about the issues, and their apathy kept them from being counted again. I have no doubt that my few friends were not the only ones in such a position.
- The chances, the polls, and "the fight"
I feel like the polls leading up to the presidency didn't mean a thing, and like this election should indicate that more than anything to us. Zogby and Gallup were like our crack and heroin for months, but in the end they didn't mean anything. I thought that Kerry had a good chance because it was the way I felt in my mind, not just from watching the polls. I thought that for the same reason that I thought the turnout would blow me away. But no matter what's said, Bush won a clear majority of the electoral college, and a clear majority (not just a plurality) of the popular vote. As such, I don't think a fight would have been worth it (not to mention the fact that there were no states close enough to swing it for him). In 2000, it was close enough for both sides to be justified in the fight, especially since Gore had only a plurality, and not the clout of a majority.
- The summary
So where does this leave me? I'm pretty happy that the thing's over without a lengthy legal battle, no matter what the outcome. I'm glad that a precedent hasn't been set for elections like 2000's becoming the norm. I'm a little bit scared to see what's going to happen in the next four years. If the last four years were what Dubya did when he didn't have a "mandate" and when he had to worry about re-election, I'm pretty apprehensive about the possibilities until 2008. There are judicial seats opening up which will be filled by Bush, and there's still a war going on (not to mention a certain Doctrine to apply). I would not be surprised to see many things over the next four years, including:
- Roe v. Wade overturned
- Conflict in Iran, Syria, or North Korea
- Constitutional amendment allowing Arnold Schwarzenegger to be President
- Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (unlikely, but wouldn't surprise me)
Especially with the new clear majority in the Congress, there'll be less impediments to getting any of these wedge issues passed. Conservatives are gaining the momentum to make a "change of mind" a pretty uncomfortable proposition for the forseeable future. Say, for instance, the tax cuts are made permanent, and then the country trends liberal in 20 years. It's going to be awfully hard to do anything about that, even if the politicians want to. Or even if the people want to. That's just an example, though. One of the scariest things, I think, is the clear conservative majority that'll be enjoyed in the Supreme Court. "Morals" and "values" are being championed, and as such, a lot of the personal freedoms that religious zealots have crusaded against are going to be in danger in the next four years.
Anyway, that's all I've got right now. I'll be back later. Leave some comments, dammit.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 10:49 PM
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
So 49 of the recently "trained" Iraqi forces were killed execution-style the other day. This gives me a lot of faith that their training was executed pretty well (sorry for the sarcasm there). But for real, the message that this has to send is that the insurgents are strong. Stronger than we may have thought, perhaps, and certainly stronger than the trained Iraqis.
I just read this article, which was a bit surprising to me. In it, Prime Minister Allawi blamed the US-led coalition for the massacre. I'd thought that Allawi would hesitate to be so critical of the US, but he certainly hasn't been. More than showing some nuance to the Prime Minister's position, though, I think that this shows that we can't go on deluding ourselves anymore. The situation in Iraq is far from sunny, as the conservatives would seem to like to claim (just turn on FOX News sometime, and they'll tell you about how the media overrepresents the bad things that happen). I've thought that for a long time, but part of Bush's claim was that Iraqi forces were being trained to take over for the coalition forces. This makes that argument moot, in my humble opinion, since these Iraqi forces were hardly effective in stopping the insurgents.
It frustrates me just a little bit that I'm making an argument that amounts to "things aren't as great in Iraq as they say." It's ridiculous for me just to type that, but Bush keeps saying that "freedom is on the march," talking about how good things are for the Iraqis now, so this kind of stuff has got to be brought up.
Anyway, that's all I've got for now.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 3:24 PM
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Just a quick one here. I was watching DaySide with Linda Vester on FOX News today, and they had a little discussion about how nasty the negative campaigning is this election season. They then went on to talk about a few examples of local ads that we may not have seen, but that were terrible. I expected to see one from each side, as Linda had used the term "fair and balanced" herself earlier in the show, but alas, I was to be disappointed. There was one advertisement about Democratic allegations of Republican voter suppression of minorities. It was a bad ad, to be sure, and didn't really deserve a place in the political forum. But the other advertisement was a negative advertisement by Democrats against a Republican congresswoman where it depicted, among other things, her stealing a watch from a corpse. Terrible advertisement, of course, and again, not deserving of a spot in the public discourse; but you couldn't help but leave the program with the impression that Republicans are being unfairly discriminated against by Democrats, and that they haven't put out any nasty ads themselves. Love it.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 4:27 PM
Now that you've read the title, let me begin with a caveat. I don't think that another Bush administration would necessitate a draft. With that said, though, I've got a few things on my mind that worry me, in that regard.
Conservatives charge that it's only been liberals who have brought up the draft in this election year, and only as a cheap political trick. I'll admit that that's mostly true; the part that I disagree with is the implications behind the words "cheap political trick." I've been paying a hell of a lot of attention to everything going on in the election this year, as I haven't in years past, and what I've seen is this: Kerry has stated his plan to expand the Armed Forces so that we don't have to rely so much on reservists, and so that we can have reserve forces again, barring any kind of unforeseen necessity for them. I haven't heard the same type of plan from the Bush team. It's been commonly acknowledged, seems to me, that the troops are stretched pretty thin now, even though they have performed quite well. I've heard from Bush that he will not reinstate the draft, but I haven't heard his alternate plan.
I agree that the draft was brought up by Democrats, but I think that it's a legitimate thing to think about. In the absence of a clear alternative, and facing what seems like the possibility of an extended occupation of Iraq, what other thought are people supposed to have than that the draft is a possibility? Both candidates have charged that they are the best way to avoid a draft, but that's just posturing, trying to get the young vote. CNN's got an article on it here.
But there's bigger issues going on here. One is that Bush has long criticized Kerry's "strategy of retreat" in Iraq, but he recently said this: there will be no longtime troops in Iraq. That seems like the beginning of talking about withdrawl of troops, at least without having to "flip-flop" and say that it's part of his strategy. It's just his prediction at this point, but it gives Bush the added bonus of getting to seem like his administration is going to start getting out of Iraq. Especially as polls indicate increasing uneasiness about the war.
Here's the other thing I want to talk about, though. People haven't had to make any real sacrifice for this "war." I'm not talking about the troops, because we've lost over 1100 of them now. Of course that's a sacrifice. But beyond them, the average person in the United States hasn't had to give up anything. They get to express the righteous indignation of a nation at war, and then their taxes go down. Lord forbid we should have to surrender more of our money to support a cause which is so "right." I can't remember exactly where off the top of my head, but I recently read that support of the Iraq war goes down drastically, in the same poll, when the respondents are asked if they would feel the same way if their child were in the war, or if they had to make a personal sacrifice in any way.
People alive during World War II were all making sacrifices for their country. Everyone mobilized to help the war effort, and everyone had the right to feel good about themselves, because everyone was helping. But now we've got a whole class of people who feel good about themselves for just agreeing with the war. There is no sacrifice in our country. We are not a "nation at war." This has not come home to us, I think, and until it does, we've got a bunch of blowhards talking about the rightness of the liberation of Iraq without having to think about what they'd be willing to give to liberate the people of Iraq.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 3:45 PM
Monday, October 18, 2004
So here's something interesting. I was watching television this afternoon, and I turned to FOX News, because I love watching Dayside with Linda Vester (it makes me chuckle and shake my head), but the programming was pre-empted by a Bush campaign speech right here in New Jersey. FOX covered the speech for about 50 minutes (so far as I saw), and then cut it off when it was getting toward wrapping up. They then "interviewed" former U.N. ambassador Dick Holbrooke about the speech. The "interview" basically consisted of a pretty blonde lady quoting Bush's speech in the guise of asking questions, and Holbrooke called her out on it.
The interesting part, though, came when Kerry's speech came on, just about five minutes later. FOX understandably didn't feel the need to cover the opening platitudes of Kerry thanking the town of Tampa for hosting him, etc. They took a quick commercial break at that point, and so I turned to CNN and MSNBC, which were both also covering the speech. After a while, I turned back to FOX, and I saw that they had preempted Kerry's speech for a program about electronic voting machines in Florida. Kerry was still speaking about taxes and health care on CNN and MSNBC (in an admirable attempt, I think, to keep at least some of the public debate on his own terms), but FOX deemed it not important enough to cover.
I watched some more of the speech upstairs and then turned it off and checked in on my roommate, who was watching it downstairs. He was a bit incredulous that FOX had cut to commercial in the middle of the speech, as he just noticed (he'd been watching CNN also). We stayed on FOX until the end of the commercial, and instead of returning to Kerry's speech, they cut to a special report on the latest tribe member to be voted off of Survivor, complete with an in-studio interview.
Now this isn't a rant about the primacy of entertainment over the important issues that news channels should be covering, though there's a case to be made for that. Nor is it a case about how terrible reality television and our obsession with it can be, though there's certainly a case to be made for that. No, what really stuck in my craw was that FOX chose to cover Bush's speech nearly in its entirety, but cut Kerry off after a fairly short time. Both were campaign speeches, and FOX seemingly declared its own political endorsement loud and clear by letting everyone know that while Bush deserved a lot of coverage, Kerry isn't quite as important as an exclusive interview with the latest dude to get voted off of Survivor.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 1:57 PM
Saturday, October 16, 2004
I'm a little late with posting this one, as it was covered in the debate on Wednesday, but it came back into my mind and I thought I'd vent on it a little bit. As reported in this article, there have been a couple of outspoken Catholic bishops in the United States who have called on their flocks, telling them that the issue of abortion forces them not to vote for Senator Kerry. They claim that abortion is a "foundational issue," and that since Senator Kerry supports the right of a woman to choose, there is only one way that a true Catholic can vote with a clear conscience. They go so far as to say that a vote for Kerry would have to be taken to confession before receiving communion (this is not even to mention the church officials that were trying to deny Kerry the right to take communion).
This is just sick, frankly, and it makes me sick with religion at large, even though this is just one facet of one part of one faith. There is a clear separation of church and state in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." So there's some ways to interpret that, right? Some would view it as an entire separation of church and state. I'd like to think about the people who don't, though. What's implicit in it, no matter how you view it, is this: churches are free to practice however they wish, but the state can't choose one and claim it as the United States' official religion. It's where you go from there that's the problem. People who would like church and state to be absolutely separate see this as creating two different public spheres which should not interact with one another. But it doesn't necessarily state that in the amendment.
I feel like the people who would like more religion in the public sphere can make a valid argument based on the wording of the amendment, though I don't like it very much. The amendment clearly states that the state may not do anything respecting an establishment of religion, but it does not say that an establishment of religion may not try to influence the state. In fact, if you look on, people also have the right "to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." Now here's where the truly sticky part comes in. Redress of grievances, huh? Grievances are inherently subjective things. What may offend one may be completely fine to another, but that doesn't inhibit the right of the offended to petition for a redress of those perceived grievances. People have the right to request redress for grievances, and people have the right to assemble in/as religious institutions; as such, it seems that people have the right to assemble and, as a religious institution, request redress for grievances.
So what? Well, it seems to me, much as I don't like it, that the first amendment guarantees that the Congress won't explicitly favor one religion over another; but the amendment doesn't stop any religion from getting involved in public affairs where they feel that there is an issue to address, a wrong to be righted. As a purely constitutional argument, I think that the bishops who have spoken out against Kerry are entirely within bounds, as they're entirely within bounds to try to influence the government to outlaw abortion, stem-cell research, and gay marriage. The Catholic church sees those issues as grievances with which it has taken offense, and it is exercising its first amendment right to request redress for those grievances.
But is it right? I'm not saying that it's always wrong to go against the will of the people, because I happen to agree that sometimes the government needs to step in, lay the smack down, and say, "Enough is enough." Slavery, civil rights, gay marriage (hopefully before too long), etc. These are issues (excluding the last for now) on which the government had to make unpopular decisions because they realized that it was the right thing to do. They knew that eventually people would come around, and that in the meantime, sadly, they could not necessarily be trusted to be left to their own devices. Such misplaced trust would have resulted in the violation of Constitutional rights for other citizens of the country, and that could not be tolerated.
Is it right for these bishops to discourage voters from voting their conscience? Is it right for them to encourage more of the blind following that earns them criticism and rebuke all the time? Is it right for them to place a single issue at the forefront and ignore all others? My answer to all of those questions is a resounding "NO!" I'm not a very religious person; I have, in fact, struggled for years with my own beliefs, and I'm still not sure where I stand. But the more of this kind of thing I see, the less I'm inclined to want to align myself with anything close to it. Religion can be a great thing for people if they let it. It can be comforting, it can be beautiful, and as a complement to your own conscience and views, it can give you the feeling that there's something more out there that you're a part of, and that comforts a lot of people. The only problem is that many people don't want to view religion as a complement to their own conscience and views. Many people think that religion should dominate every facet of their lives. Their consciences don't matter, and their unfettered views don't matter either; if it's what some dude tells them God wants, then that's what it is.
I'm a little disheartened by the fact that the question of faith was so prominent in the third Presidential Debate; I'm a little more disheartened by the fact that Kerry seemed to feel that he had to pander and tell the world that his faith is important in every decision he makes. It may be true, but what's wrong with having a strong conscience instead of a strong external guiding hand?
Brought to you by Fargus... at 12:57 PM
Friday, October 15, 2004
So, as you may all know, the chair of the FCC has recently said that they won't do anything to block the Sinclair Broadcast Group from airing Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal, the anti-Kerry movie from the SBV boys. There's a CNN article about it here. But here's the thing. Guess who the chairman of the FCC happens to be? None other than Michael Powell, son of George W. Bush's Secretary of State! I'm not a detractor of Colin Powell; I like the guy, in fact. But might there be a slight conflict of interest going on at the FCC because of this? I feel like the answer speaks for itself.
In related news, the Kerry campaign is now demanding equal time on the Sinclair stations in an attempt to at least get their side heard. Since the FCC has refused to do anything about this, the campaign has had no choice but to attempt to play ball with Sinclair. But they're not going to play by Sinclair's rules and submit Senator Kerry to a silly interview with the Sinclair people; they're looking to air their own 45-minute spot on the Sinclair affiliates directly after the SBV movie.
I don't like it. I don't like any of it. I don't like that a person related to the Bush campaign has the ultimate say in whether the FCC is going to do anything about this travesty, but there's nothing to do about that. I don't like that the Kerry campaign has to respond, but the Kerry campaign has to respond. There's nothing to do about that, either.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 6:03 PM
I think I just saw what was one of the most simultaneously wonderful, horrifying, jaw-dropping, amazing telecasts I've seen in recent memory. Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show (as y'all already know, I'm sure), appeared on CNN's Crossfire today at 4:30 pm EST, alongside hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala. As you should know, I'm a huge fan of The Daily Show, and I think that (as has been said all over the place) Jon Stewart is one of the most influential media figures in the current presidential campaign. That's a lot to say for a fake news man.
Thing is, though, when I say it, I mean it. I think that a lot of the "mainstream" media, like Bill O'Reilly and the dudes on Crossfire, are willing to acknowledge Stewart and The Daily Show as influential, they view it as a pretty sad state of affairs. Bill O'Reilly's comments on the stoned slackers seemed intended to minimize the audience of The Daily Show, though O'Reilly effectively apologized for his remarks later, claiming (and I believe him) that he intended the remarks in jest. Apologies notwithstanding, though, there's an undercurrent that if a "news" show like The Daily Show can be so popular, then its audience must be on something. My own personal opinion is that Stewart and his writers and correspondents on Comedy Central offer a lot of biting insight into the absurdity that's present in the system. People don't just like it because it's funny. They like it because it's relevant.
But I digress. As I said, Stewart appeared on Crossfire today, between Begala and Carlson, and he took aim directly at the U.S. media and their political coverage. Surprisingly enough, he took aim specifically at Crossfire, the show on which he was appearing. He talked about such shows as Crossfire, Hardball, and "I'm Gonna Kick Your Ass" as being dishonest when they claimed to be offering actual debate. His target was the sorry state of American discourse, which lets "partisan hackery" pass as honest debate. Begala and Carlson were both a bit taken aback and were at pains to interrupt Stewart to defend themselves. They defended their own show, of course, and they defended the spin-meisters who appear on television all the time as people who honestly believe what they're saying. Stewart took aim at the type of system that would allow there to be a place called "Spin Alley"--or as he titled it, "Deception Lane"--to be the first place to which the media turns after such events as the Presidential Debates. Again, Begala and Carlson were quick to claim that spin is not deception, but rather perception. Carlson made a couple of cracks about how Stewart is more fun on his own show, and Stewart responded by saying that Carlson is as big a dick on his own show as on any show.
Barbs aside, Jon Stewart has a point, and it's sad that personalities in the "mainstream" media look to him as a sort of pet; as someone to have on their show to be funny. He came down hard on an issue that he obviously feels quite strongly about, and the Crossfire hosts didn't quite know how to handle it. In a system where it's hard to look in any direction without hearing cries of bias, and of partisan politics, is it that surprising that there's some resentment at a talking head show which ends up being "guy spouting the Democratic agenda vs. guy spouting the Republican agenda"? Kerry & Bush have rallies every day, and if I wanted to listen to somebody talk about how many jobs were lost under Bush, I'd listen to Kerry; if I wanted to listen to somebody talk about Kerry's Senate record, I'd listen to Bush. (In his defense, Tucker Carlson is more nuanced than the standard Republican mouthpieces)
Jon Stewart was saying that, in his opinion, such partisan back-and-forth sessions are not in any way helpful to America. Honest debate would be helpful; that being the type of debate in which one side can concede good points made by the other. But what we have are shows like Crossfire, which are shouting sessions that leave no room for rationality and honesty. Again, they're "partisan hackery," as Stewart put it, and we've got enough of that everywhere else.
As for the shots traded by Carlson and Stewart at the end of the show, I feel like Jon Stewart is tired of being minimalized. He's now commonly accepted as one of the most (if not the most) influential personality in the media today, but he can't get a fair shake when he appears in any other corner of that media in which he's so influential. Personally, I'd feel a little pissed off, too, if I had something intelligent to say, and I was only met with, "I thought you were going to be funnier." It may have been out of line for Stewart to call Carlson "a dick" on national television; but let's remember that it was perfectly fine for Dick Cheney to tell Pat Leahy to go f*ck himself.
I think that the state of the media is atrocious at this point, if only because of its sheer volume. We've got three national cable channels (CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews) that are dedicated to news 24 hours a day. They've got to have something to talk about, but as I see it, there's not enough news (especially now, when it's all dominated by the presidential campaign) to fill 72 hours a day, in addition to all of the news programs on all of the other channels, without getting ridiculous, which they indubitably have.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 4:32 PM
Thursday, October 14, 2004
I've got two things to relate from last night, both tangentially related to one another. First things first, I went to my first local political meeting. The Cranford Democratic Committee had a young lawyer named Michael Shapiro come in to speak. He's a lawyer for the Kerry campaign, and Johan, Oliver and I had seen the event advertised in the newspaper, so we decided to check it out. The glimpse that I gained into politics, both local and national, was amazing. But more than the insight into either the local or the national level was the insight into the cooperation and friction between the two, at least within the Democratic party.
Shapiro didn't really have very much to say, aside from, "Yay Kerry, vote Kerry, get your friends to vote Kerry!" He was well-spoken, but there was not much more than that. The other man to speak was George MacDonough, long-time Cranford resident, who's running for town council (he was defeated by 16 votes last time). He was well-spoken and articulate, and he got my vote, at least. But the fascinating thing relates to the fact that Jersey's not a swing state anymore. What I learned last night is that the Kerry campaign has put all of its money into the swing states, and none anywhere else. None. That's right, a lawyer for the Kerry campaign had to buy his Kerry/Edwards pin from the internet. Lots of the people at the meeting were indignant about the lack of lawn signs and bumper stickers, but there's literally a couple of thousand dollars in the Democratic campaign in Jersey, all in the form of contributions from elected officials in the state. For a state where the polls were showing a dead heat just a few weeks ago, the campaign doesn't seem (to my mind, anyway) to be paying nearly enough attention.
The other thing that's been infuriating me lately can be seen here. It's insane for Lynne Cheney to react as ridiculously as she has to Kerry's mention of her daughter in last night's debate. Mary Cheney is an out-of-the-closet lesbian. That's a well-known fact, and she's been active in politics concerning that fact. Kerry's point was not meant as a dig. Kerry's point was that we cannot all think of this as an issue that does not involve us. This is not a faceless issue. This is an issue that involves the immediate family of the running mate of the man who's trying to discriminate so readily against the homosexuals in the population. Thing is, the homosexuals can't be seen as "them" when they're part of our family.
The Republicans seem to be getting more than a little desperate here. Desperate to distract from the war in Iraq, desperate to distract from domestic issues, desperate to distract from their own plans. The only thing that they seem to be entirely resolute on is the fact that John Kerry is an insensitive liar who extended the stays of POWs in Vietnam and would give up our security to other countries in a global test to fight the more sensitive war on terror to reduce it to a nuisance. The debates have shown clearly, if nothing else, that John Kerry is not the man that they've made him out to be. He's strong, he's resolute, and most importantly, he's presidential. He has a bearing that Bush could never hope to have. Bush's folksy charm worked in 2000 because he was running against a boring, self-righteous, supercilious, smug-looking jackoff (pardon my language, for all the Gore fans, but let's just face it). When he's running against a guy with good speaking skills, a good bearing, and a good control of the facts, simple charm can only get him so far. I think that's been Kerry's real victory in these debates. People have gotten to see him as he really is, not just as the Republicans have portrayed him.
More later, I'm sure.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 5:27 PM
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
I just caught a pretty good flick last night, called Reversal of Fortune. It's about the Claus von Bulow case of the early '80s. I hadn't known much about it, but apparently the von Bulow trial was a very high profile affair in which Claus was accused of attempting to murder his wife, Sunny (who remains in a coma to this day, after almost 25 years).
Von Bulow was played by Jeremy Irons, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance. Ron Silver (now a Bush activist, interestingly enough) played Alan Dershowitz, who some of you might remember as part of O.J. Simpson's "dream team" of lawyers in another high-profile wife murder case. Anyway, the point here is the the movie's worth watching. Irons' performance is outstanding, and the movie is quite ballsy in its ending, not wrapping things up in a nice little bow.
Anyway, this has been my token post about something not related to politics for the next few weeks. I'm sure after the debate tonight I'll have something to rant about. See you then!
Brought to you by Fargus... at 1:18 PM
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Colorado has on its ballot this year a controversial new measure that would retroactively (read: this year) dole out its 9 electoral votes proportionally, based on the popular vote. In 47 other states, electoral votes are a winner-take-all affair. Whoever wins the popular vote wins 100% of the electoral votes for that state (and hence we have the possibility of a discrepancy between the popular vote and the electoral vote). The two states that already don't have a winner-take-all system are Maine and Nebraska, though they do things a bit differently than Colorado is proposing. In Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who receives a plurality of the popular vote in the state at large gets the two Senatorial electoral votes. The remaining electoral votes (2 in Maine, 3 in Nebraska) are decided based on plurality in each voting district. This method does not eliminate the chance for discrepancy in popular and electoral votes, but then again, neither does Colorado's.
FreeRepublic, the self-described conservative news site, has an article on the controversy here. Basically, there is a lot of popular support for the measure, but there's a lot of conservatives (including governor Bill Owens) who oppose it. That's perfectly understandable, seeing as how Colorado has typically been a "red state," pretty firmly in the camp of the Republicans. This measure would only stand to help the Democrats, it seems.
Personally, though it'd help Kerry and he's my candidate of choice, I'm torn about the issue. I don't feel like this sort of measure would necessarily help anything. I've been going over and over the electoral college in my head for some time, and what I've come up with is that it's really a brilliantly designed little institution to balance states' representation with federal representation. It's a little bothersome that there can be a discrepancy between the popular vote and the electoral vote, and it's a little bothersome that it's happened in 4 of our presidential elections (three of which were the only three times that a direct descendant of a former president was elected president), but I think that some form of it is a necessary thing. I like Maine's and Nebraska's systems better than Colorado's proposed system, because they give some precedence to the states' rights, but they don't go far enough. In my mind, the way to go would be give the two votes per state to the candidate with the plurality of the popular vote there, but then to divide the rest up entirely proportionally. Not just by whole numbers, but completely. If there were 1 electoral vote left and Kerry got 48%, Bush got 50%, and Nader got 2%, then Kerry would get .48 electoral votes, Bush would get 2.5, and Nader would get .02. That would be a fair balance to me.
Lemme know whatcha'll think. Maybe I'm just retarded.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 9:46 PM
There's an article on CNN that details the Democrats' probe into the Sinclair fiasco. It's a very interesting situation, all told, because of all the implicit issues and emotions that it taps into. There's the Vietnam memories, along with everyone who's still resentful of the anti-Vietnam movement. As I understand it, that indignation is justified, as many protestors did not bother to distinguish between the war and the troops fighting it. But that does not mean that now, since we've been blessed with hindsight, we can exonerate all of the troops who may or may not have committed acts which deserve to be condemned. Just because we know now that protestors were wrong to spit on veterans and call them baby-killers does not mean that those who actually did kill children should get off the hook. The thing that I don't get is that it seemed to have been commonly accepted knowledge before this year that these things happened in Vietnam. It was an ugly chapter of our past, one that we'd rather not look at too deeply, but one that had been talked about in books and movies for the last 30 years. It seems to me that this latest diatribe about the atrocities in Vietnam is entirely politically motivated. These men, brave and heroic though they may have been in Vietnam, would not be telling their stories today if John Kerry were not running for President.
Another issue which is tapped by this controversy is that of the ever-present cries of liberal media bias. I recently read two books on the subject. Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernie Goldberg was a poorly written vendetta against Dan Rather. It really failed to convincingly make the case that there was a liberal bias in the media, and sometimes Goldberg didn't seem to remember what argument he was trying to make. In contrast, What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News by Eric Alterman advances a cogent and well-researched argument for there having been at times no liberal bias in the media, and at other times (the 2000 election, for example) an anti-liberal bias in the media. Treatment of Al Gore ring any bells? This is not to say that there's not an argument to be made on both sides; I just mean to say that if the conservatives are going to get someone to cry about a liberal media bias, they should get someone to do a better job than Goldberg did. Anyway, the point is that the conservatives are trying to justify the showing of this Sinclair movie by saying that they have been treated unfairly in the media and haven't complained about it. Ken Mehlman, manager of Bush's re-election campaign, was quoted on CNN saying, "We had ("Fahrenheit 9/11" documentary creator) Michael Moore, we had CBS, which they had false documents. Having experienced over the course of a number of years what I consider to be a media bias in some cases I'm not in the business of dealing with filing complaints against media organizations." There you have it, folks. Their best argument is that there has been an anti-Bush documentary that people had to pay money to see, and that there was a big high-profile scandal in which CBSNews carelessly didn't check its sources. Priceless.
Anyway, that's all I've got for now. I'll be back later.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 8:46 PM
So I don't know if this is going to be a political thing all the time, but politics is certainly what's on my mind right now, and it probably will be for the next three weeks at least.
The Sinclair Broadcast Group, a large conservative media conglomerate, has decided to run Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal on all of their television networks. The movie was put together by the Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth, and its aim is to declare John Kerry unfit to be the commander-in-chief of the United States of America. So what's the big deal?
The SBVs are a 527 group, which is a campaign classification for political action groups unaffiliated with official campaigns. MoveOn.org is a 527 group on the other side of the aisle, stumping against Bush. Both groups have been paying lots of money to run extensive advertisements on television advancing their positions. Sinclair is poised, at this point, to preempt prime-time television on more than 60 affiliates to give the SBVs a free 90 minute spot. These affiliates don't have a choice about whether or not to run the SBV movie, and there are as yet no plans to run a counterbalancing anti-Bush or pro-Kerry movie, though such movies do indeed exist. Sinclair has made overtures toward Kerry, asking him to agree to an interview with them to go along with the movie, but Kerry's camp hasn't accepted the offer. Wisely, might I add.
What the Sinclair Broadcast Group is doing is wrong, and it's wrong for a number of reasons. Let's remember that this is the media conglomerate which refused to air the episode of Nightline when the names of the Iraq war dead were being read, dismissing it as liberal propaganda. The hypocrisy evident in comparing that incident to the current situation speaks volumes for itself.
Sure, Kerry's been invited to do an interview with the Broadcast Group, but to what avail? It's a no-win situation for the senator, seems to me. If he doesn't respond, all of the infighting starts in the Democratic party about Kerry not sticking up for himself strongly enough. If he does respond, all of a sudden he's allowed his opposition to frame the debate for a couple of days when time is precious and not on anyone's side.
The last travesty of this whole thing is that Mark Hyman, executive vice president of Sinclair, has accused the networks and the Democratic National Committee of acting like a bunch of "holocaust deniers" for not giving the SBVs more time to speak their minds. To liken a dispute over John Kerry's military service to the debate over whether or not six million Jews were killed in World War II is atrocious.
I happen to think that Senator Kerry should not do the interview. He needs to stay focused and on message, and he needs to make sure that he's allowed to frame his own side of the debate in the coming three weeks. The economy and the war in Iraq are too important for the senator to allow something this petty to bog him down. Besides, the SBVs are old news. They blew their load months ago in their TV commercials. They didn't get the press then, and for good reason. Their claims fly in the face of the military record, as well as in the face of the men who served right next to Kerry, on his boat.
Conservatives like to crow at anyone who criticizes the SBVs, saying that they're decorated veterans, and as such they've earned the right to speak. Some even go so far as to demonize those who would call the SBVs liars, for the same reason. But how, then, can it be okay for them to call Kerry (a decorated veteran, remember) a liar? The fact is that the SBVs are proud and, in many cases, decorated veterans, and they do have the right to speak their minds (though that right is accorded them by the Constitution, not by their status as veterans). We just have to keep in mind that their claims are, for the most part, unverifiable personal attacks.
I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully, to write about something else. This felt good.
Brought to you by Fargus... at 7:38 PM