Thursday, May 26, 2005

New Poll!

I have a new poll up. I've also taken down the results of all the other polls, because they were cluttering up the top of the page. This one's a drop-down jobby, so be sure to check out the answers.

Also, you can vote every day in this one, so if you're a regular visitor, vote away. I'll probably leave it up for about a week or so, before figuring out (from the results of this one) what the next one should be.


The Life Aquatic

Yesterday I promised that I'd put up a couple of movie posts; one about The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and one about I (Heart) Huckabees. This will be the first.

First of all, I'd like to say that I can understand how some people didn't like The Life Aquatic. It's got an exceedingly dry sense of humor, and it's quite detached most of the time. We rarely see much by way of real emotion from the characters. That having been said, I loved it.

Bill Murray is a joy to watch (I just watched Rushmore last night, and now I've got a hankerin' for Ghostbusters). He delivers his performance with a deadpan charm that doesn't let us doubt for a minute that he's the disillusioned, past-his-prime documentarian Steve Zissou. In fact, aside from Owen Wilson's disappointing performance (seemingly more due to a weakly written part rather than Wilson's ability), the acting was uniformly excellent.

The plot is almost secondary. Zissou is a documentarian in the mold of Jacques Cousteau, out to kill the shark that ate his friend. He has all of Team Zissou along with him, including his recently-discovered illegitimate son, Ned (Owen Wilson). During the course of their expedition, they weather a pirate attack and a daring rescue mission, among other things.

But what's really astounding to me about the film, aside from its brilliantly dry wit, are the cinematography and the music. In watching Wes Anderson's films (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and I haven't yet seen Bottle Rocket), it occurs to me in watching the framing of his shots, the lighting, the slow motion, etc., that he's truly an artist among mere filmmakers. He does a lot to make his movies have a distinctly visually appealing quality that I love.

The soundtrack of The Life Aquatic consists mostly of David Bowie songs, performed beautifully by a lone man with an acoustic guitar. In Portuguese. "Changes," "Ziggy Stardust," "Space Oddity," and more, and all beautifully rendered. It helps to define the unique feel of the movie, to have such unique music. And more than that, the film's music is nearly omnipresent. Louder than most film music (a trademark of Anderson's), we come away with the impression that Anderson is trying to say more with the music than, "It was too quiet at this point and I like this song."

All in all, a fantastic movie, from my point of view.


Women in Combat: RE-UPDATE

The House of Representatives has killed the effort to limit the role of women in combat.



Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Stem cells - a thought

In order for the conservatives' stem cell position to be consistent, wouldn't they have to mandate that each blastocyst be carried to term? Many of the blastocysts that would be used for embryonic stem cell research would be destroyed anyway. Are they trying to say that destroying life for no reason is better than destroying life to save life? Wouldn't they have to start mandating that women living in areas with blastocyst surpluses come in and carry those lives to term?


Of "activists" and "originalists"

Conservatives of late have been casting judges in two molds. They're either "activists," bent on legislating from the bench, or "originalists," (I would have put a link on this, but it's not a real word) adhering strictly to the Constitution of the United States and the original intentions of the Founding Fathers. Activist judges do things like infer rights to privacy, rights to abortion, or rights to same-sex marriage. Originalist judges, presumably, would rule against those things, right?

But here's my question: Since the Constitution nowhere mentions abortion, privacy, or same-sex marriage, wouldn't a judge ruling against those things be exercising activism just as much as an "activist" judge ruling in the opposite manner? Well, since the Constitution nowhere mentions those issues, presumably they're states' issues to deal with, but what about state constitutions that don't mention those issues? I know there's been a big push lately to add constitutional amendments (on the state level) to ban gay marriage, but I just wonder if conservatives would be as up in arms if the activism had gone their way. In the vein of what I was asking about the nuclear option, is this a fight on principle, or on partisanship?


Back in Black

AC/DC's best song, in my humble opinion. I heard it on the radio this morning and had to mention it to somebody.

So I haven't written anything for five days, and I apologize for that. It seems that a fair amount of stuff has been going on, so I'll just give a quick roundup of my feelings about things before getting back into the fray.

Newsweek: If the offenses that were reported actually happened, then I don't have a problem with their being reported. The absence of a vigorous, free press lessens the accountability of those in power, and that's never good. The press has a job to do, and I'd rather see them jump boldly than tread lightly, even at poorly sourced leads. That having been said, the press still should be held accountable when and if they make mistakes. No exceptions. But to blame Newsweek for this issue is to obscure the fact that there are people out there willing to kill at the slightest provocation. But that's been said before.

The Nuclear Dud: The entire Senate is acting like a bunch of spoiled third-graders. Both sides of the aisle. I agree more with the Democrats, but the problem with this whole situation is that nobody was acting on principle. Had the situation been reversed, the Republicans would have been fighting to preserve the judicial filibuster and the Democrats would have been fighting to abolish it. I'd like to think that I would have stood on the principle of preserving the filibuster if the situation had been reversed, but I probably wouldn't have.

But the Democrats had a chance to stand up on a principle, though not necessarily the principle of Senate procedure embodied by the filibuster. Their principle was this: Brown and Owen are extremists, it would be bad for the country if they got confirmed, and we're willing to use whatever tools we have at our disposal to make sure they don't get confirmed. That is a principle. No matter what the talking heads might say, that's more than just reactionary. That's a principled position that the Democrats didn't take. Instead, they copped a deal that let those candidates through to a vote on the floor (where they'll likely be confirmed), and which closed the flap poorly enough that it's guaranteed to blow open again when Bush begins presenting nominees to the Supreme Court.

They've pledged to only use the filibuster in "extraordinary circumstances." But those circumstances were not defined by either side, and there's no question that both sides of the aisle see things rather differently. Harry Reid's "extraordinary circumstances" certainly are not Bill Frist's "extraordinary circumstances," and we'll see this fight fought again before 2008, I'm pretty sure. Except the Republicans have the weapon (and this isn't an original thought, I saw this elsewhere, though I'm don't quite remember where) of saying that whatever nominee the Democrats want to filibuster is no more extreme than Owen or Brown, and thus would violate that whole "extraordinary circumstances" clause.

My last word on this: I don't see how either side could be happy with this "compromise." For the Democrats, they're right back where they started, with a vague verbal leash on their ability to use the filibuster and their most-feared nominees on the way to getting confirmed. For the Republicans, they haven't gotten all of their nominees confirmed, and they've presented a front which, while united strongly in the past, looks to be cracking. The Religious Right looks at McCain as a maverick and a traitor, and the moderate conservatives look at James Dobson and his hand pupppet Bill Frist as dangerously close to the fringe.

Nine dead in Iraq: As my good buddy Oliver pointed out to me, CNN's homepage has, at the top right, a little button labeled "most popular." As he also pointed out to me, clicking on that link shows you that more people care about what Paris Hilton has to say about her new advertisement, or about the final showdown on American Idol, than about nine of our troops being killed in Iraq. A nine-man death toll in one day is significant, especially given the relative calm for our troops there in the past months. But I guess idiot heiresses trump real news.

Okay, so it feels good to be back. I'll have to look for something else to write about this afternoon. But expect to see a couple of random thoughts on some movies I've seen lately (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and I (Heart) Huckabees).


Friday, May 20, 2005

Stem cell research

Okay, I admit, I didn't know much about embryonic stem cell research until earlier this morning, reading about the House bill that would expand its application. Sure, I knew what they did with stem cells, and how research with them could help people with grave diseases. I knew that the pro-life crowd was very much against embryonic stem cell research, and that Bush had come out saying that new stem cell lines would not be researched.

What I did not know is that embryonic stem cells don't come from developed fetuses. They come from 5-day old blastocysts, which are basically balls of about 100 stem cells which in no way resembles a human life. Embryonic stem cells come from blastocysts which are otherwise going to be destroyed.

Honestly, I really fail to see the outrage about this. If they're going to be destroyed anyway, why not use them for potentially beneficial purposes?

In the article I referenced above, Rep. Michael Pence (R-IN) says, "I think it's morally wrong to take the tax dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use it to fund research that they find morally objectionable." Well, Michael, I think it would be morally wrong to take the tax dollars of millions of anti-war Americans and use it to fund a war that they find morally objectionable. Is there a difference between those two arguments? Nope, not really. Their flaw is that they represent half of the population as the whole, and the other half as non-existent, without valid opinions of their own.


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Women in combat - UPDATE

Well, it appears that they've backed off of their proposed amendment, but all is not back to the way it was. Instead, they're proposing signing into law what's now just DoD policy; that is, it would make it illegal (instead of just a breach of policy) for women to serve in combat.

None of this does anything to answer my questions from my previous post. Why? What's the underlying motivation?


Women in combat

I was listening to NPR on the way into work this morning, and I heard a piece on a small amendment proposed in the House of Representatives a few days ago. It was proposed by John McHugh (R-NY), and backed by Duncan Hunter (R-CA), House Armed Services Committee Chairman. This amendment would ban women from serving in combat support companies, basically, starting with its implementation. Women already serving in combat support capacities would not be removed, but no new women would be allowed into those positions.

As you could probably guess, I'm against this provision. Hunter says, "The American people have never wanted to have women in combat and this reaffirms that policy," but I'm a little loath to let this guy speak for all American people. But I don't want to talk about the specifics here so much as deconstruct what's going on behind this bill.

The way I see it, McHugh and Hunter have at least one, maybe both, of two reasons for proposing this measure.

  1. Women are inferior to men and must therefore be protected legislatively from harm.
  2. Women are inferior to men and are therefore endangering our troops when in combat positions, and our troops must therefore be protedted from women.
Both are condescending to the extreme. The first is paternalistic, assuming that all women need somehow to be saved from being put in harm's way. The second is antagonistic, and I think that women in combat (and the people who they've supported) would probably beg to differ. The only other option I could possibly think of is really a sub-option of reason one. Perhaps McHugh and Hunter think that women should be protected from the potential crudity and condescension of the average male soldier. I'm not trying to say anything bad about the soldiers; only that they can be quite crass in their language, and perhaps condescending toward women in their units.

I could go on about women's rights, but I won't. I don't think this is about that. I think it's about people. If we start legislating to force unwanted protections on people, we're setting a dangerous precedent. This legislation is condescending, as I said, and unnecessary. It's opposed pretty roundly by Army leaders as well as by Democrats, so it's unlikely to pass, but it's still troubling that it got out of the committee.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005


I'm getting a little tired of the blogosphere. As a whole, that is. There's still some good individual blogs out there, but the whole scene seems to be getting tired and overly self-congratulatory. That was quick, right?

Don't get me wrong. I find news and stuff as interesting as the next guy. I'm a news junkie. And the best fix comes from political news. It's sordid, it's melodramatic, it's better than watching any soap opera. You've got sex, you've got drugs, you've got heroes and villains, and what makes it all even better is that unlike Hollywood (and more like sports), you're free to choose who your heroes are and who your villains are. I mean, you never watch Star Wars and realistically entertain thoughts that you might be on Darth Vader's side. But in politics, in news, you get to decide who's Luke and who's Darth Vader, and you get to root for your side with all the self-righteousness that comes with representing the forces of good against the forces of evil.

I like that. I like that combination of drama, sports and morality. It's fascinating.

But the blogs have added a new element to the whole thing, and it's an element that I'm growing increasingly uncomfortable with, on the whole. The sheer volume of political opinion put out every day in blog form is fairly mind-boggling. Nobody can hope to read it all. But that's OK, because the blogosphere has fixed that problem in a fairly ingenious way. I'll let you in on the secret, but you have to promise not to tell anyone, OK? All right, here it is. It doesn't matter that you can't possibly read all of the political opinion blogs because ninety-nine percent of them say the same exact thing as somebody else.

And I'm not just talking about the same exact thing in terms of thoughts or opinions. I'm talking about the same exact thing. As in, "Hey, look what I read on another blog! I'm going to copy it onto my blog and give you a link to the blog where I read it!" Once you take that link, you'll notice that the new blog has got quotes from and links to all sorts of other blogs. Eventually you'll go in a circle and get back to where you started, but only after a series of nauseatingly self-important hat-tips and shout-outs.

Aside from that, it's pretty easy (in general) to tell where just about anybody will stand on an issue based simply on what blogs they've got linked in their sidebar. If they're linking, Instapundit and Michelle Malkin, chances are they're gonna side with Bush almost all of the time. If they're linking Daily Kos, Eschaton and Talking Points Memo, then chances are they're going with the Democrats. So if you've got a handle on the issues, in a very real way, there's not really much point in reading past the issue in question, since you know what their take on it is going to be.

Now I would be remiss if I made it seem like this is how all political blogs operate. It's not. It's only how a vastly overwhelming majority of them operate. But there are a few good ones left out there. Blogs which, like mine, link not just to opinions that agree with their own, but opinions that they feel are well-expressed. Chief among these, on my reading list, are Decision '08 and The Bernoulli Effect on the right, and A Straight Shot of Politics and Washington Monthly on the left. They're not the only well-written political blogs out there, but they're ones which have the courage and the intellectual honesty to present resources that hold opinions that differ from their own.

I read a lot of blogs, and what I've been trying to do lately (which has a lot to do with why I've been posting less) is to refrain from posting, at least too much, on the stuff that everybody's already voiced their opinion on. I've stayed pretty much away from the Newsweek kerfuffle not because I don't have an opinion on it, but because I don't have anything substantive and valuable to add to the discourse about it. That makes it diffficult, as the most interesting stories are often the most blogged about. But I'm trying.


Monday, May 16, 2005

It's official!

Newsweek has retracted its story, presumably based at least in part on pressure from the White House, and from bloggers falsely attributing the violence in Afghanistan to faulty reporting. This is a story which is entirely plausible, has been reported before, and was confirmed not just by "an anonymous source," but by an anonymous government official at the Pentagon who had reliably confirmed stories before.

But hey, it's probably better in the long run to have the Administration in charge of the press, right? That way nobody can report on things that might not advance Administration policies, right?

This makes me sick.


Back to Social Security

Our good friends over at the laughable Social Security Choice have excerpted the latest Wall Street Journal editorial, purporting once more that it protects the idea of private accounts as unassailably right.

The editorial claims that Democratic Florida Representative Robert Wexler is the first Democrat to propose an alternative to the President's ideas for Social Security. Did you catch that? The President's ideas for Social Security. They've abandoned the whole "plan" nomenclature, since there hasn't been a plan put forth yet.

The most common complaint that I hear from Republicans about Democrats is that they don't put out any ideas themselves. They argue that the Democratic Party is only held together by hatred for Republicans and opposition to their policies. I say that's nonsense.

Since when is principled opposition a bad thing? The Democrats like the idea of Social Security. The Republicans don't. At this point, given a choice between the current system and the vague "ideas" proposed by the President, the Democrats have made clear that they'd rather have the current system. There certainly are fixes needed, as there have been throughout the years, but at this point the important fight is to preserve the system in a way which will eventually allow it to be fixed.

To claim that the liberal ideology is simply reactive to the conservative ideology, with no principles and ideals of its own, is not only insulting but blatantly untrue. There's a lot more subtle battle going on here than the political battles on the Hill. The battle of rhetoric, of framing the debate, is fought on a near-constant basis, and the Democrats are losing ground to the Republicans quickly on that front.

Democratic leaders need to get out there and talk not only about their opposition to the President's ideas, but about their own views independent of the Republicans' positions. If they honestly believe that Social Security should be saved, then they should be more aggressive about not allowing Republicans to define them. They should be more ardent in saying that they support Social Security, rather than emphasizing their opposition to the President's "plan."

Only by explicitly defining their views will the Democrats be able to prove wrong the Republicans' claims that the Democrats exist only to oppose them.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Where is this in the news?

Brazil recently spurned $40 million in aid from the United States targeted toward combating the spread of HIV and AIDS. Why?

Because they refused to sign a declaration condemning prostitution.

That's right, that $40 million in aid, money which was supposed to go toward helping to stem the growth of a disease that is reaching epidemic proportions in some third-world countries, hinged on its recipients' agreement with the United States on moral issues. Did you get that? Moral issues. There's a disease that's killing more and more people every day, and spreading more and more every day, but screw them if they don't agree with us on what's the proper way to think about sex.

So I echo the title of this post: why isn't this in the news right now?


The Nuclear Option

More news comes out every day about this fight over what conservatives used to call the nuclear option (renamed the "constitutional option" when "nuclear option" didn't test favorably). I don't have anything to say about this specific piece of news, but I figured I'd outline my thoughts in general about the whole thing.

First and most important, the Democrats would not be breaking any rules to use the filibuster in this manner. The filibuster already exists, and there's no rule against using it to block judicial nominees. It's simply a case of a minority using a tool at its disposal to make itself heard. As such, I can't help but see it as anything but ultra-sleazy of the GOP to try to change the rules midstream. They want things a certain way, and when it looks like the current rules might not allow them to completely have their way, their first reaction is not only to attempt to change those rules, but to spin the situation to make it appear that the Democrats were the ones trying to change the rules in the first place.

Second, Reid and the Democrats have offered compromises that were far more generous than they should have been. When it's a choice between complete capitulation to the right-wing agenda and keeping things as they are now, there is no liberal position, and hence no compromise. It's just a matter of degree, really. The Democrats' proposed compromises would both have been worse for them than simply staying with the rules that are in place right now. But the ultracons would have us all believe that the current rules are by-products of the evil liberals.

Third, I know that at least one of these nominees doesn't deserve to be a judge in the first place. Thomas Griffith practiced law without a license in Utah for some time. That's it, for me. No judgeship for a guy who broke the law to practice it. I wish somebody could explain to me how it could be possible to see this one another way.

Finally (and I've said this before a number of times), I'd propose that, since they're lifetime appointments, judicial confirmation require a three-fifths majority in the Senate. From my perspective, this would de-politicize the process. Bush couldn't afford to clog up the process with extremist nominees (nor could any liberal president do the same on the other side) who wouldn't be able to garner 60 votes. And isn't an independent, de-politicized judiciary what we all claim to want anyway?


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Jesus Christ!

There's a guy in West Virginia who's having trouble getting his driver's license transferred from Washington State. Why? The name on his driver's license conflicts with the name on his birth certificate. He tried unsuccessfully to get his birth certificate changed to say that his name was Jesus Christ, which is what his driver's license says, but Washington denied the name change.

What does the man have to say about all of this? According to his lawyer, "Christ is not speaking to the press at this time."

This is the funniest story I've seen in a long time.



For those of you who didn't think it got more ridiculous than Rush Limbaugh, you evidently haven't read his brother, David Limbaugh. I love reading this guy's column, because it reads only slightly different than a parody of itself would read. Allow me to give you a couple of choice quotes:

At the risk of further provoking the brilliant George Will, I must say that the national Democratic Party's approach to Christians is analogous to an abusive husband in complete denial, seeking reconciliation when it suits his purposes, but otherwise engaged in a pattern of abuse.
I can't even really bring myself to comment on this one, because it's just ridiculous. It's perpetuating the whole "against people of faith" argument that the wonderful Dr. Frist brought to the fore, and it's ridiculous.
More troubling are the discrimination against Christians at the hands of the government – mainly the courts – and the consequent suppression of their religious liberty, and the scrubbing of Christianity from the public square, as if it were a contagious airborne disease.
I've addressed my thoughts on this one before, but I'll go back to them. There are a lot of things that I can think of that it would be harder to be than a Christian in America. I think Mr. Limbaugh ought to take a look at history if he wants to see actual examples of discrimination and persecution.

For liberals to woo Christian conservatives, they must stop the pattern of abuse and get on the right side of the Culture War. Pretending to do so just won't be enough.
The thing I love about this is its absolutism. Limbaugh pretends tolerance throughout the article, and then at the end, he declares that his side is "the right side."

Ridiculous, I say again.


Give it up, man

You know, I supported the guy all through 2004, but John Kerry lost. I don't like agreeing with the conservatives, especially when they're proposing to give sanctimonious advice to the liberals, but in this case they're right. Kerry would be much more valuable to his party as an active voice, but one which isn't cluttering the field of hopefuls by trying to run.

Just my two cents.


Monday, May 09, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

I saw Kingdom of Heaven this weekend, along with Crash. The better of the movies, by far, was Crash. You should really do yourselves a favor and go see it. Well-written, well-directed, well-acted; just an all-around good movie.

But Kingdom of Heaven was quite interesting. You'd expect a movie about the Crusades to generate rumblings from the Islamic crowd, but in this case, you'd be wrong. The movie's generating ire from the religious right. And why? Well, because it portrays Muslims too well and Christians not well enough, of course.

I often check out sites like NewsMax and WorldNetDaily just to see what they're all pissed off about. This time, I knew that they'd be pissed about Kingdom of Heaven. The movie, as you'd imagine, makes all sorts of parallels with the current world situation. But the author of the article I linked above is pretty upset that the Crusades are not depicted as a defensive effort by Christians. He's upset that Christians don't get handled with kid gloves in the movie, and that some of them are as bloodthirsty as the current crop of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. He's upset that the heroes of the movie wanted to live in peace, rather than to eradicate one another.

So I reserve my final review of this movie until I see how much more pissed off the religious right gets about it. Immediately afterwards, I'd give it a six out of ten. After this article, it's up to six and a half.

Let's see how much higher it can get! Of to Focus on the Family!

UPDATE: Focus on the Family's actually got a link to a pretty tolerant review of Kingdom of Heaven. It's got its gripes with the film, but in general it respects its historical accuracy along with the fact that it vilified neither Christians or Muslims in the extreme. I might have to bring my review back down to a six out of ten after reading that.

And here's a link with a little bit of history about the time period during which the film takes place. Evidently, contrary to what Johan said, Orlando Bloom's character, Balian of Ibelin, was a real guy who led the defense of Jerusalem.


What else is new?

Public doubts Bush Social Security plan, reads the headline on MSNBC.

Well, duh.

The question that remains is how much of his bank account of political capital still remains. I think his mandate may have been far overestimated. I mean, it's one thing to take little baby steps, but to use a 3% margin of victory to attempt sweeping changes to one of the most beloved and successful social programs in the nation's history, well...I think that'd take a lot more political capital than he got in the election.

Perhaps he could have made a run with it if he'd accumulated interest (to continue the metaphor) on his political capital by pushing through easily won conservative issues. The more the public sees him as correct, on any issue, the more they'll tend to see him as correct in the future. I don't think that the conservatives' plan for Social Security is the right one, but I also think that Karl Rove and the GOP strategists fudged up a bit by going after it so aggressively.


Friday, May 06, 2005


I love Google. I remember the first time I discovered it, when my college advisor showed it to me. It's simple, it's easy to use, and it's got approximately a crapload of various offshoots you can use (including blogger). Gmail is amazing, and Google maps is far and away better than any other map service I've found online.

You may have noticed that there's not many ads on Google. In fact, the only ads that they have are small text-based ones that are deemed most relevant to your search by the system. They're unobtrusive, I've found, and don't slow down the system like the big picture ads they have at other sites.

But now some conservatives have got their Irish up over some of Google's ads. If you search for "Tom DeLay" on Google and look at the ads that come up, the top one is a positive ad, and the rest are negative. They sell bumper stickers, or claim to "expose the truth," stuff like that. Sensational, but also pretty germane to what's been a big news story in recent weeks.

So what's the complaint? Well, a conservative outfit evidently took one of the advertisements, changed the name Tom DeLay to Nancy Pelosi, and submitted it to Google to place. Google refused. This is, in the minds of those who conducted the little experiment, proof positive that Google is run by partisan hacks who are out to destroy the Republican party.

Here's a little information about Google. They've got over 3,000 employees currently, and they're probably getting constantly bombarded with advertisements. I'd guess that there's more than just one dude in charge of accepting and rejecting advertisements for Google. I'm a little bit skeptical of using some vague advertising information to extrapolate Google's corporate political bent.


No Sperm from You!

The FDA has recently decided to implement rules that would prevent any man who has engaged in homosexual sex in the last five years from donating sperm anonymously. The reasoning, at least on the surface, is that gay men have a greater risk of having HIV than straight men.

I understand that the HIV rate is higher in homosexuals than in heterosexuals, but these pending rules from the FDA seem a little bit ridiculous. If what they're worried about is the transmission of HIV, then they should test all anonymous donors. The risk may be higher with one population, but that doesn't mean it's negated in the other population.

If, as my friend Oliver suggested, they worry about other attendant diseases for which they cannot yet test, then my answer would be the same. Those risks are there with other populations as well, so why not just prevent all anonymous donation of sperm?



Now I don't follow the politics of all states, so I'm not positive that they're all doing incredibly important stuff, but if they're all bogged down with things as pointless as trying to make state agencies police the sexiness factor of high school cheerleaders, then I think we're in trouble.

I've seen a number of high school cheerleaders in my day, and even though I know I have a more liberal viewpoint about things like this, I didn't see anything too terribly wrong with what they were doing. Sure, sometimes things could get suggestive, especially as influenced by movies and pop music and Britney *%#$ing Spears, but I don't see where Texas gets off trying to make this a state issue.

I'm not a Texan, so I'm not proposing that I know better how to run Texas than do the Texans. But I just don't see how this thing is enforceable. Are they going to have TEA (Texas Education Agency) agents at every local sporting event where cheerleaders perform? I think that would probably tend to bloat the budget of the TEA to unacceptable levels. So what, then? Will the ability of individual school administrators to reprimand cheerleaders be constricted? Will a school's principal have to run to the TEA to get them to come down next week and tell Kaitlyn Jones that she shook it a little too hard and offended a mother in the crowd?

I understand what they're trying to do, but the way they did it makes it seem like a futile gesture at best; vulgar "moral" positioning at worst.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Good for them

It may have been forced upon them, but Reps. Smith (R) and Cole (R) of the Ethics Committee are bowing out of any investigation of Tom DeLay because of potential conflicts of interest. As I said, it may not have been their initiative, but it's a good thing, and the GOP should at least be recognized for trying to get things back to some semblance of morality.



I just posted a comment over at Decision '08, and I noticed that the date is 05-05-05. That's creepy.

That is all.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ben Folds

And now, a rare non-political post. If you are reading this and you're not familiar with Ben Folds and his music, then do yourself a favor and get out there and get some. Go buy a CD at Best Buy, or download some stuff on iTunes, whatever you want to do. He's got three albums and three EPs (Albums: Rockin' the Suburbs, Ben Folds Live, Songs for Silverman; EPs: Speed Graphic, Sunny 16, Super D), and he's got four albums with his group Ben Folds Five, which broke up in 1999 (Ben Folds Five, Whatever and Ever Amen, Naked Baby Photos, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner).

The man's truly one of the most talented singer/songwriters out there today. I saw him on his Ben Folds Live tour in April, 2003, and it was the most amazing concert I've ever been to. It was just one guy and a piano on stage for two full hours, and there was more energy there than I've seen with full bands and pyrotechnics and all that jazz.

So do yourself a favor and get familiar with him if you're not already.



Why do they keep using the kid gloves when talking about this guy?



Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A proposal of bipartisanship

I went to church with Andy Card a couple of times. Most recently this past Christmas Eve, as a matter of fact. I wrote a post about it back then, if you want to dig. But you don't have to, because it's not really that interesting. Anyway, he seemed like a nice enough guy, and I'm sure he is.

But that doesn't stop him from being a partisan hack, just like many others on both sides of the aisle.

Card was all over the talk shows this weekend, spouting that new GOP line that Democrats need to be part of the solution rather than complaining about the problem. He talked about a couple of issues. There's the judges and Bolton, there's DeLay, and there's Social Security. He says that he'd like the Democrats to be more than just oppositionists. But is that all they're doing? And how can you tell when you're coming from just as stubborn a position? There's no common ground being found here. And when you look at what Card's really got to say here, it's pretty simple.

  • Democrats should get over themselves and confirm Bolton
  • Tom DeLay didn't do anything wrong, and everybody's just making it all up
  • The only way for Democrats to cooperate on Social Security is to go with the President's plan, such as it is
  • Even though it's legitimate and not against the rules to use the filibuster on judicial nominees, he doesn't like it and it therefore shouldn't be allowed.
That's not building a bridge. That's not reaching out. That's like a deal with the devil. To basically tell people that the only way for them to gain traction is to give up their own sincerely held principles is naive and laughable. We can have debate, and that's fine, but when it gets to the point where your rhetoric denies the possibility of another point of viiew, then we're in trouble.


The only difference...

...between the ongoing fight for the already-done Washington state governor's race and the fight for the United States presidential race of 2000 is that the GOP is far more tenacious than the Democrats seemed to want to be. Now a judge is letting them use proportional analysis in their attack on the governorship. That means that if they find 10 illegal votes cast in a district that voted 60% Democrat and 40% Republican, it's assumed that those illegal votes kept the same proportions. Yeah, it's guesswork, but there's really no better way to do it, I don't think. If you want to disqualify the illegal votes, you've got to do it somehow, and it wouldn't work to get the people who cast those votes to testify about how they voted.

I think the larger issue here is that it's still going on. The Democrats, in 2000, were urged to give up fighting for the presidency. For the good of the nation, they said. Hand recounts that have been completed in Washington State were stopped by the courts in Florida four and a half years ago.

I guess this time it's for the good of Washington State to have a protracted, six month battle over their gubernatorial election, right?



I apologize to my readers for the lack of blogging recently. I don't know what it was, but I just wasn't inspired to write anything recently. I've been keeping track of the news and stuff, but nothing jumped out at me, really. It made me think that perhaps my ability to tolerate the bullshit that still somehow passes for "legitimate journalism" had reached critical mass.

Plenty of people have had plenty of things to say, for instance, about the Wilbanks case, so I don't have anything new to add. But it certainly points to a media hungry for tragedy when they're preemptively talking about ordering a lie detector test for the fiance, things like that.

I watched some of Bush's press conference the other day, and it was nothing special. It was nothing we didn't know he'd say. He took up the positions he'd already taken up before, and said stuff he's said before. But that having been said, it's the President of the United States, and networks were cutting him off in the middle for other programming. Maybe it's just me, but I couldn't care less about The Apprentice, so I don't need NBC to cut off the President to show it.

I get most of my news online now, and I use my television to watch movies and play the occasional video game (I wish Donkey Konga 2 would come out sooner.....I'm such a dork). But to tell the truth, the blogosphere isn't all that much better. It can point you toward what stories are all the buzz, but then you've got 3,000 blogs all having to have their say about it. The Wilbanks story? Big buzz. But there's really nothing to be said about it, which you would have a hard time telling from the amount already written and "reported" on it. Look all over the liberal blogosphere and you'll see people outraged that ABC is giving commercial time to Focus on the Family when they didn't give it to the United Church of Christ. The UCC is very open and tolerant, and their message was deemed too controversial. Focus on the Family is founded by James Dobson, and their commercial will be peddling a message of Pavlovian conditioning of children to be obedient. Causing children physical pain every time they screw up will make them learn, for sure.

How do I know all that? Because I read it on about 10 different liberal blogs. I feel the same way, but at what point do you stop and say to yourself, "You know, I could write something on this, but it would be the same as what I just read"? The answer? In the political blogosphere, almost nobody says that to themselves.

So I'm at an impasse here. Either I become a hypocrite and just start blogging on news stories that I see on CNN and MSNBC again (maybe tempered by not reading so many blogs to color my opinion before the fact), or else maybe I take my time and write some reasoned, thoughtful essay-type pieces.

What do you think?