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.

I'd urge everyone to donate some money, if they can. There's plenty of places to do it, including and


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 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?

Ethnocentricity rocks.


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?


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Just thought you'd like this.....

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!


Friday, December 24, 2004

The Conservative Lexicon

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?


Bill from the Bay Area

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.

Thanks, Bill.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Confederate Flag Prom Dress

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.



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?



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.



Tuesday, December 21, 2004

New Links

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.



Social Security again

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.

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.

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.

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

Social Security

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

FOX News Redux

Here's a story from (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."


But What Must the Democrats Do?

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

Curiouser and Curiouser

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.

Snark snark.


A Step in the Right Direction

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.


Monday, December 13, 2004

I just don't know anymore

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?


Thursday, December 09, 2004

"Dimebag" Darrell

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.



Scott Peterson

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.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Finally, some propaganda!

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?"


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Shape of Things

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?



Not quite sure

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.



A Match Made in Hell

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?


Saturday, December 04, 2004

Kids're gonna have sex

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.



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.