Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 Global Wish List

I'm trying very hard to pare this down to some stuff that is at least plausible:

Israeli Prime Minister Tzipi Livni. It's tough to campaign as the candidate of a party that was built as the vehicle for another man (Sharon), but I think Livni is tough and shrewd, just what Israel needs. Plus, Netanyahu is a little over the top for my liking -- he's been foaming at the mouth about Gaza.

Some sort of stabilization of the blood-drenched Mexican borderlands, where mayhem fueled by drug money is leading to increasingly bold assassinations and kidnappings. The violence enters schools, prisons, and hospitals. One possible solution would be a thoughtful drug policy here in the United States...remember, all the violence is over who gets to feed Americans' drug habits.

Put up or shut up, Canada. I'm tired of your weak minority governments and half-baked coalitions. The most mature and patient federal politician is the leader of the party that wants to break up the country. You're looking ridiculous, careening around like 1980s Italy.

For the Irish to continue to tell the EU bullies where to stick it. This approach of bypassing national parliaments and electorates to implement new European structures is astoundingly anti-democratic; it is only because the Irish constitution mandates referendums to align with any EU treaties that the Irish (or pretty much anyone) get a voice at all. Maybe if the treaties were more intelligently written, implemented, and explained -- and maybe if they were written for citizens and not consumers, there wouldn't be this desperate intimidation every time an electorate questions them.

A peaceful Indian federal election that does not result in a BJP victory.

The road to reunification of Cyprus.

The expiration of the Zimbabwean kakistocracy. By means necessary.

(Partially domestic as well) The eventual realization by reactionaries around the world and in the Republican Party that the President of Iran is basically a buffoonish spokesman, and isn't even a head of government (a pet peeve of mine).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Quick thought on Warren

Well, many people seem quite reasonably upset that Obama would select a man saddled with heavy bigotry to give an invocation at his inauguration. Warren is as prejudiced as he is bigoted, and I'm glad people (except Obama) seem upset.. Check out AmericaBlog if you don't know what is going on because you've been busy doing Christmas shopping.

The awesome part of this, of course, is that many of this erstwhile crusaders for social justice wouldn't give a figgy pudding had two different, pro-equality ministers been selected. Nevermind that these ministers will be kicking off Obama's leadership of this nation with an appeal to "God" or the spineless stand-in "our Creator". Obama, like most every modern president, reserves part of his ceremony for a clarification that those of us who are not monotheists (most Hindus, Buddhists, secularists, many Universalists, for starters) aren't really welcome.

I guess I just find it ironic that injustice is only a problem when it's certain groups that are on the receiving end of the injustice. Par for the course on issues of church/state separation for most of the left, but hardly thrilling either.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A belated happy rebirth to all

Well, the good news is that we're all still here. After the longest night, the sun was reborn this morning, and all appears well with the universe. Happily, the sun was reborn on its own without needing bloodletting or human sacrifice, animal offerings, or even the casting of old materials on the ground. All is not lost, however -- I am given to believe that many others have properly installed a decorated tree in their homes as befits celebrating the Winter Solstice. Oddly, they somehow believe this to be connected to a desert legend in Southwest Asia. Although this day is no longer a rite of near-universal observation as it once was, at least many people continue to inadvertently celebrate what the Romans lyrically named Sol Invictus, or the Feast of the Unconquered Sun.

If nothing else, we can have a further spring in our step as the days grow incrementally longer. Also, all those johnny-come-lately holidays -- Saturnalia, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa -- that try to piggyback on the solemnity and widespread observation of this first true holiday can go on apace. Happy Rebirth, everyone.

Last-second shopping tips

I went through a phase where I was working in the Braintree mall, at a somewhat upscale store. I saw and learned a few things, so I humbly offer my readers some lessons learned from working over the sound of three years' worth of Christmas music. Frankly, I should have posted this two weeks ago, but it didn't dawn on me:

  • Just park already You can park a little further away from the mall and walk for 10 minutes, or you can circle the lot for 20 minutes, getting frustrated as you just miss this space and that space.

  • Park behind the mall The anchor stores and food court operators want you to park right in front so you have to be tempted by their wares. Don't fall for it. Circle behind the mall -- many places have back entrances that most shoppers don't see. Or, park near the exterior entrance of a less popular store.

  • Know what you're getting into before requesting gift wrap Gift wrappers in stores aren't necessarily particulalry qualified, and the waiting time is hardly worth it. I'm one of the last people who should be wrapping gifts, and even I was commissioned from time to time.

  • Look on lower shelves Of course, retail outlets put all their big-ticket or desperate-to-move items at eye level. The better deals are further down. Places such as Brookstone hide some of the most interesting stuff out of the way.

  • Look near the register at upscale places A lot of upscale stocking stuffers" make great gifts for humble folks such as you or I, and an impulse purchase for the rich at Restoration Hardware or Pier 21 makes for a great deliberate buy for the rest of us. As stocking stuffers are placed near the registers for impulse buys, check out the registers of upscale places; or put together a couple of finds from other stores.

  • Go tonight The Monday night before Christmas is shockingly dead in malls. Dead. Tuesday night is often decent as well; throughout the holiday season, you will pretty much have the mall to yourself on Monday nights. That's when I go. If you go during the weekend, you just deserve what happens to you.

I don't know if this helps, but there you go.

Friday, December 19, 2008

His Noodly Appendage Shall Care for Our Soil...

I have to admit that the ongoing sturm und drung (a phrase that Firefox won't recognize) about the Minnesota recount is completely boring to me. I almost want to let Coleman win just to stop hearing about it. If you must follow it, I guess The Uptake is the place to do it. The main reason I can't be bothered frankly is that the whole thing is just going to end up in the courts anyway, regardless of what the canvassers think right now. Let me know when the judges start ruling.

Anyway, it has been amusing to see what other people do to their ballots. It frankly surprises me that people who apparently don't care for any candidates in a race write in silly votes, rather than leaving it blank. My favorite until today was the infamous "lizard people" voter. This person may be trying to be funny and failing, or may be a believer in David Icke's wacky theories that a cabal of shadowy reptilians control our planet.

However, "Lizard People" was recently bested by a vote cast in an unaffiliated race:

I would point out that this voter correctly filled out the ballot, and with all due respect to Wade Bastian, I can hardly imagine a better candidate to care for Minnesota's soil than the Flying Spaghetti Monster. May His Noodly Appendage Keep It Clean.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Two Christmas classics

Noternie links to the eternal "Littlest Christmas Tree".

Suldog weighs in with the gorgeous "Pointy the Poinsettia".

Both worth reading.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Good News on the Cabinet Front

Sorry, noternie, but I'm not done with this. Nice to see Congressman Xavier Becerra choosing to stay in Congress rather than at the negotiations table as US Trade Representative (which I mentioned here). Meanwhile, Tom Vilsack will be making himself useful by using his expertise as former Iowa governor in his new role of Secretary of Agriculture. In a particularly inspired move, Obama is getting somewhat-DINO roadblock Ken Salazar out of the Senate as Secretary of the Interior.

All in all, a good day in Cabinet news.

Okay, I have to confess something horrible. I want David Paterson to appoint Elliot Spitzer as New York's Senator as Hillary Clinton's 2-year replacement. I can't help myself. I don't like that Caroline Kennedy wants the job on the basis of her last name. And I understand that she is well-qualified with valuable life experience. She's not a clod, but she's not that special, either. New York has no shortage of well-qualified Democrats with valuable life experience. What makes Kennedy special is, well, her last name.

It's not just about Kennedy, though. I want a seat-filler. Somebody who can't and won't run again, because any way you slice it, whomever Paterson appoints is a de facto incumbent running for re-election. I don't like this short-circuiting of democracy. My ideal candidate has a set of skills that are needed at a moment like this, and will not attempt to leverage his seat into a re-election. I've been trying to think of prominent retired New York Democrats, but can't come up with anything else.

I can't imagine Spitzer would have the guts to try to win over New Yorkers by November 2009, especially as he'd be a wounded duck from day one. But boy would he be a valuable voice in discussing bailouts and corporate fraud on the Hill. He's a bloody smart guy when he's thinking with his brain. And let's face it, with the high number of Republican adulterers running around the Senate, what's another one?

I know this is morally wrong in so many ways, but I can't help thinking it's a good idea on balance.

PS: I finally rented The Dark Knight. Yeah, Heath Ledger was pretty good as The Joker, but as much different from Jack Nicholson as better. However, my favorite acting performance in the movie was by Senator Pat Leahy. Tchotchkes such as a free deck, a new wardrobe, a private subway or free trips are all fine Senate perks, but a speaking role in a Batman movie -- that's how to use your power!

PPS: Turns out that Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser is mired in some pretty bad scandal. On the other hand, the fact that a man with the last name Funkhouser made it so far into public service is pretty admirable, too.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shoes n food

Sorry, but been too busy wrapping, singing, baking, decorating, and whatnot else to blog. I will take a second to note how disturbing it is that this Iraqi journalist managed to throw two shoes at President Bush (here's a great summary of the incident). While I admit that I find the episode funny on one hand, there's truth to the fact that this guy shouldn't have gotten a second shot. If you're trying to inflict physical harm on the heads of two governments, it's tough to stop you from getting a try. But there's no way anyone should get a second chance. Why Bush and Bush's Puppet were still frozen at their podiums by the first attack, and not covered by security as they should be. The journalist doffed his second shoe, wound up and tossed it, not being temporarily removed from the theatre as he should have been.

Conspiracy theory possibilities include that this was a plot to make Bush more sympathetic, or that the Secret Service reviles him as much as the rest of the country.

Anyways, to make up for my blogging absence:

White Blondie Brownies
8 oz White baking chocolate
½ cup Unsalted butter
2 Eggs
1/3 cup Sugar
1 tbsp Vanilla
1¼ cups Flour
¼ tsp Salt
1 cup White chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Line 9 X 9 pan with wax paper. Grease it.
  3. Melt choclate and butter until smooth.
  4. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs until foamy.
  5. With mixer running, add sugar, then vanilla.
  6. Gently pour in butter and chocolate.
  7. Fold in other ingredients by hand.
  8. Make 25 minutes at 350 F

Monday, December 8, 2008

Goodbye "Super" Mario

The first candidate for whom I ever campaigned, gave money, supported, and believed in as an adult retired tonight after a disappointing electoral result. He was re-elected a 4th time but his party stumbled badly. No, you probably didn't hear about it, because he's not a Democrat. Or even an American.

My first candidate was Mario Dumont, the leader of the Action démocratique du Québec, in English the "Democratic Action of Quebec". During the mid-90s and afterward, the debate in Quebec had calcified between sovereigntists (the PQ) who wanted to leave Canada no matter what, to raise taxes and to spend millions on one side, and federalist Liberals who wanted to stay in Canada no matter what, to raise taxes, and to spend millions. I liked Dumont for offering ideas of fiscal responsibility for the province of Quebec and the people of Quebec. He wasn't afraid to stand on his beliefs (he was a major presence for sovereignty in 1995), but he wasn't bound to the debates of the past. While the Liberals and Parti Quebecois seemed happy to have the same arguments every time, Mario Dumont was one of the few ready to move on. He created the ADQ as his rather small vehicle to advance his point of view, though it took quite some time to grow. I was in Montreal for the Quebec campaign of 1998, a campaign where the ADQ won one seat of 129 -- that of Mario Dumont. You can read his biography ici/ here.

The ADQ grew since then, and may well have faded since then, and the light may have gone out tonight. In 2007, the ADQ won 41 seats, vaulting into second place, and just seven seats out of government. It also has lost its way. The other parties stole the ADQ's platform of clear debate and calm approach to Quebec's relations with the rest of Canada, and both major parties moved to the idea of fiscal responsibility, and away from socialism. In effect, the ADQ found its ideological turf overcrowded. Between presenting an unprepared team in opposition, and losing its place in the conversation, the ADQ was reduced to 7 seats tonight.

The ADQ and Dumont lost their way, turning too much to religion and "identity" in what seemed uncomfortably close to an appeal to nativism. In fact, had I the vote this past election, I'd have not voted for Dumont's party.

The party proved unready and unable to govern and offer an alternative. The fresh wind that Dumont represented in the late 90s has become stale. Seeing the writing on the wall, Dumont announced his retirement tonight, and his party may not last too long afterward. Despite my misgivings about his most recent choices, I will miss the man affably called "Super Mario" by the Québécois.

Merci, Mario, le premier chef dans lequel j'ai pu croire. Comme on dit au Québec, à la prochain.

(updated: head of the Opposition "Thank you for your dedication to the people of Quebec. History will recognize you for it.")

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nutso Democracy, Canadian Style

Remember how much 2000 sucked? Our system anointed a leader who didn't win the most votes. This quirky Electoral College thing invalidated so many votes, and boiled it down to the unelected maneuverings of a few unelected people.

The same thing is happening right now in Canada - a strongly divided nation elected a strongly divided Parliament, and maneuvering is going on at a furious pace. Basically, this group of about 300 Canadian politicians is seeking to undermine and/or obviate the election results. The balance of power appears to be held by a party that wants to carve Quebec out of Canada, and the referee is a former TV reporter who is now the head of state -- Michaelle Jean. Jean's job is to represent the freakin' Queen of England as the final authority in the country. A diarist over at MyDD writes a pretty good precis of the situation, which I strongly encourage you to read. If, like me, you're an enthusiastic follower of politics regardless of origin, you'd want to keep an eye on this.

I may have more thoughts on this as it develops...


Or, you can't keep a good man down.

The Globe has a good take on the re-appearance of Lawrence Summers, lately President of Harvard University. Of course, his tenure famously ended in a rebellion that arose after Summers declared that women "did not have the intuition" to be scientists. A slightly antediluvian declaration for a university president, and so it went with him turfed out in Cambridge. Anyway, that dumb remark didn't stop Summers from being a bright guy in general, and a series of newspaper columns in the Financial Times was instrumental in rebuilding his respect in financial circles. Summers will be Obama's National Economic Council Chair.

Yeah, so, turns out that Elliot Spitzer is will soon be starting a weekly column at the Washington Post [corrected from original]. His sin was more revolting that a poorly chosen remark, but one could argue that the times also demand men and women of his mettle more than ever. On what side does the balance rest?

Top Christmas Carols

I will admit, that Christmas gets me giddy. I love the spirit, the decorations, the food, and yes the music. Not only the traditional carols, but modern interpretations and additions. After all, one can only take so much Bing Crosby in the malls. Below is my top list of admittedly standard and schmaltzy New Christmas Carols -- some well-publicized, and others not so much:

"Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by Bruce Springsteen
"Little Saint Nick" by The Beach Boys
"Twelve Days of Christmas" by Bob and Doug McKenzie
"Christmas in Hollis" by RUN DMC
"Mad Russian's Tale" and "The Three Kings and I (What Really Happened) by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
"Sleigh Ride" and "Mary's Boy Child" and most anything by The Boston Pops
"Baby It's Cold Outside" by Tom Jones and Cerys
"Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by Melissa Etheridge
"Cantique de Noel" by Mannheim Steamroller
"Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley
"Joy to the World" by Diana Ross and the Supremes
"Go Tell it On the Mountain" and "Do you See What I See?" by Vanessa Williams
"You're a Mean One Mister Grinch" by Boris Karloff
"Christmas Auld Lang Syne" by Gloria Estefan

What about you?

PS: I will be disappointed if some music snob blog doesn't link to this post as an example of the pedestrian tastes of the hoi polloi who can't appreciate the cacophonous attempts at Christmas ennui by better artists.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rice pursues Al-Qaeda boogeyman

As I mused on Monday, "I'm wondering how long it is until somebody says that the attackers in Mumbai are somehow "al-Qaeda linked"."

Turns out it was two days, and the "somebody" was the empty pantsuit masquerading as our Secretary of State:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the attacks in Mumbai are "the kind of terror in which al-Qaeda participates."

Rice arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday as part of a US effort to ease tensions in the region after a three-day terrorist attack killed 171 people in India's financial capital.

"Whether there is a direct al-Qaeda hand or not, this is clearly the kind of terror in which al-Qaeda participates," she said during a press conference.

She's since climbed down from those remarks, but typical of this bunch that any swarthy person blowing stuff up is al-Qaeda to them. I can't wait for these people to leave our government.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wasting your party III: now he's got Xander!

Will it ever stop?

Rep. Xavier Becerra , D-Calif., has been offered the post of U.S. Trade Representative in the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama , according to Democratic sources.

Becerra is the fifth-ranking Democrat in the House, and the senior Hispanic in either party. And now Obama wants him for trade representative...Obama is using up one of the faces of the Democratic future on a freakin' tariffs negotiator. What's next: Claire McCaskill for Ambassador to Mauritania?

Maybe I haven't been stark enough on this, so here goes: the executive branch is where political careers go to die. Outside of a shot at the Oval Office by the vice president, you aren't going anywhere from the executive branch.

Hillary Clinton, a brilliant mind in health care and women's issues: finished.
Janet Napolitano, the standard-bearer for southwestern Democrats and our leader on immigration: finished.
Xavir Becerra, energetic leader of Hispanic Democrats and future face of our party: finished.

Meanwhile, people like Howard Dean, Tim Johnson, Wesley Clark, John Kitzhaber, and Bill Nelson languish in never-land, hardwon experience wasted due to personal grudges or ignorance or whatever. Obama is stocking his talk-shop with the type of people we need representing the Democratic Party. This is wasting our future successes in order to hyper-guarantee the present one, and I maintain that it's short-sighted. This is like the Red Sox team trading away its entire slate of AAA prospects for a no. 4 pitcher in the playoff rotation.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Random thoughts

Not much to say, some random thoughts instead:

I'd be shocked if anybody who helped murder that worker in Walmart ever faces justice. These people were doing what they'd been taught to do -- abandon all dignity in the race of commercial hype. I'm no hippie (been to the mall already once this season) but I can't stand the thought of wandering in the wee hours to buy something at a price similar to what it was in August. That said, the shoppers are responsible, but Walmart is much, much more responsible. All the focus on this guy is keeping us from hearing about the copious non-lethal injuries sustained in other Black Friday theatres.

For all I know, Chuck Turner could be the victim of a broad racist media-based campaign to entrap officials for taking bribes (as he was caught doing on video). However, given Turner's long race-baiting history, even if it were true I'd probably not believe it. Live by the race card, die by the race card.

I'm wondering how long it is until somebody says that the attackers in Mumbai are somehow "al-Qaeda linked". No duh -- if I were some two-bit terrorist, I'd call myself al-Qaeda for the free press, too.

Quebec is gearing up for an election. Funny, after Quebec Liberal leader Jean Charest spent weeks telling Quebecers to vote Liberal in the federal election because one party shouldn't have majority government because it would be too powerful...he's now telling Quebecers to vote Liberal in the provincial election because one party should have a majority government because it needs more power. Heh.

I still think Napolitano is wasted in Homeland Security.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A bold stand for turkey

I don't get the whiny petulance I've read about how horrible turkey is on several blogs. As with almost all food, the quality is as much as a good cook can bring out of it. With the right gravy and stuffing, such as my family provided today, turkey is delicious. Here's my advice for stuffing: use this recipe...

Apple Pecan Stuffing

2/3 cup Diced onion
2/3 cup Diced celery
3 cup Diced apples
3 cup Day-old bread
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black pepper
1/8 tsp Ground sage
1/8 tsp Ground marjoram
1/8 tsp Ground thyme
1/2 tsp Dried parsley flakes
1/2 cup Chopped pecans
1/2 cup Water

1. Melt 1/4 cup butter into skillet
2. Add onion and celery. Cook until tender.
3. Add to bread.
4. Melt 2 tbsp butter in skillet.
5. Stir in apples.
6. Cook until golden.
7. Add apples to bred mixture.
8. Mix in salt, pepper, sage, marjoram, thyme, parsley, and pecans.
9. Add water and mix thoroughly.

Makes enough for a ten pound turkey.

Not to mention the eight varieties of pies for dessert. Ohhh.... Anyway, a Belated Happy Thanksgiving. And thanks to noternie for reminding me to listen to Alice's Restaurant.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wasting your party II: Napolitano in Cabinet

Are you freaking kidding me? First, it seemed that Obama was willing to divert Hillary Clinton's stellar career into a Cabinet dead end. I question that, and it appears that Hillary may be smart enough to be wary such a fate:
Associates of Senator Hillary Clinton said yesterday she is weighing whether to leave Congress and become secretary of state in the Obama administration, a job they say she believes is hers if she wants it.

One major factor is clearly the offer of being at Ted Kennedy's side to pilot a national health care program through the Senate. Hopefully, she weighs against being diverted into a blind alley.

However, Obama is biding time waiting for Hillary's answer by torpedoing another Democratic all-star:

Looks like Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano has been selected to head the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration policy, among many other things.

Napolitano may have been the only politician in the country who was able to navigate the political shoals of immigration when it was dividing the country in 2006 and 2007.

Now, I'm a huge fan of Governor Napolitano, and she does have a deft touch for immigration. She has a lot to contribute to that debate, which she can do rather effectively as a governor of a border state, making policy decisions on the ground. She can act, not talk, and show the results of her actions.

I'd like to see Napolitano push her career as far as she could take it. Which may be the Senate, where she leads polling in a matchup against Senator John McCain. Taking out McCain would make her a top-of-the-line member of the Democratic bench. As a special bonus, not only would this appointment effectively end Governor Napolitano's political career and preserve McCain in the Senate, it would bestow us with a Republican governor, as well.

As time goes on, I find myself questioning the purpose of diverting promising politicians to Cabinet. Quick, name the Cabinet Secretary of Homeland Security. I think of myself pretty plugged in, but all I could come up with was "not Bernard Kerik". I guess I knew that it was Michael Chertoff, but I didn't really care. Cabinet strikes me as a good place for poicymakers, not politicians, and I do think there remains a difference.

The ideal is to find people long enough in the political circle that they can implement their policy ideas. That makes Tom Daschle a good pick for Health and Human Services. It also makes Howard Dean and Bill Richardson excellent candidates for Cabinet posts. Why Obama would want to shuttle off two leading Democratic women into his policy talk shop, rather than demonstrating how Democrats govern effectively and get results, is beyond me.

Cabinet secretaries often last 4 years, tops. To imagine that Hillary Clinton and Janet Napolitano would both have finished their political careers in 2012 turns my stomach. Is Napolitano going to try to push her way back into Arizona after abandoning it? What is Clinton going to do -- primary a sitting Senator? Ask Robert Reich how well Cabinet Secretary serves as a springboard in a swingy state such as North Carolina or Arizona.

Particularly about this move with Napolitano, I worry it makes Arizona our version of New Jersey. New Jersey had a moderate Republican governor in Christine Todd Whitman. She was a visible leader in a region and a school of thought that Republicans needed. She was a real political leader in a state where Republicans were barely hanging on. Instead, she was sent to direct the EPA, where she essentially implemented Bush's bad decisions. New Jersey, meanwhile, went with a Democratic governor and has become a reliably blue state. Whitman's voice was silenced, her power was wasted, and her state was lost.

Without Napolitano, I fear that Arizona will be off the table as a future swing state. With two Republican Senators and a Republican Governor, we'd be reaching down to the AA level to find decent Democratic leaders. Instead of organizing new American voters who lean Democratic with policy leadership, we'll be starting over.

Plucking a promising Democratic leader who can aid in making Arizona a swing state and retire John McCain to fill out a political talk-shop is a bad idea. It's a spendthrift approach to Democratic talent, and I regret to see it happening.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hot times at the Gahden

A few days ago, I saw a rock and roll show. Not really a concert, but a hard-working rocker giving it all for her audience. That's right -- Tina Turner. Here are a couple pics I took with a cheap throwaway camera because I lot the digital I brought. No zoom used at all...

It was funny, too, because I was trying to remember last time I was in the building. Turns out I saw a couple pretty impressive people back then, too -- future DNC Chair Howard Dean and future President-elect Barack Obama.

Now, if anyone wants to hook me up with tickets next time Bruuuuce comes to town, you let me know!

PS: Obligatory male one-upsmanship comment: I parked on Sunday night at a meter on Canal Street, 1 1/2 blocks from the Gahden -- in other words, free in a space closer than the $25 garages. Hah!

Whither Richardson

My first love in 2008 was Bill Richardson. A man who's seen the system of government from every angle, with a debonair record in spot crisis-solving in foreign policy. This is a man who negotiated with Saddam Hussein one-on-one...and got results. Plus, a man who will be term-limited out of office in 2010. While the people of Iowa and New Hampshire did not feel that he should become president, instead, I did wonder what would happen to him.

I'd have thought a man with such international experience would be a natural fit for Secretary of State, as do the readers of the New York Times. However, President-elect Obama seems to have chosen Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State, quite possibly killing her promising political career short of its end (who goes from the Cabinet to President? Nobody over the last few decades, that's who). If all the pieces go together, it seems that she may become America's face abroad. (The British Guardian is reporting that yes, she will.)

Which leaves Richardson where? There is a senatorial race in 2010, but unless incumbent democrat Jeff Bingaman retires, I don't see that in Richardson's future. It seems a waste to leave such a smart, experienced man out of government at a time when his ideas could be used.

How about Secretary of Education? Richardson has a strong record on education, and is the only Democrat who made education a big part of his campaign. He tried to inject it as a topic into debates, and was the only one who seemed to understand the issue. If Obama is going to ignore education (as seems likely), I'd be comforted to know that there's a real progressive who understands the issue at the helm.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama: DC Supdt. "Wonderful"

I was disappointed in Obama's lack of leadership on the issue of education during this campaign. While Bill Richardson and then Hillary Clinton came out against the federal education regime (an idea that is almost inherently unconstitutional), Obama was quiet. Eventually, he moved to favoring "reform" of No Child Left Behind, a word that can mean essentially anything.

This distressing lack of interest, much less progressive advocacy, on the issue of education continued with Obama's recent praise of Washington, DC Superintendent Michelle Rhee. Rhee is a divisive, controversial figure to be sure, though how to label the camps she creates depends on what you think of her. Rhee has a grand total of three years experience teaching within a government program, and was brought in to "shake up" the chronically staggering DC system. During his 60 Minutes interview, Obama declared Michelle Rhee "wonderful".

A recent profile in the Atlantic Monthly paints a pretty full picture of Rhee. She's praised for her responsiveness to parents, her ability to cultivate a strong image, her high demands of her staff throughout the district, and implicitly for her smooth management of the media who come to see her. Of course, at no point during this profile is Rhee ever described as entering a classroom. She certainly seems competent, and boy does she look to be making changes. But the author inadvertently sketches a hired gun meant to clean up a mess with no knowledge of how it got there.

Not that Rhee's lack of experience prevented her from firing 250 teachers, sight unseen. Apparently "the data" -- typically as reliable as Karl Rove's 2006 "math" -- told her everything she needed to know. Mind you, that was for starters; at this point, Rhee is gearing up for one of the most spectacular union-busting efforts in America.

A note for sanity's sake: of course there are tons of teachers weighing down the Washington, DC system who should be let go. Some of them are ensconced in tenure, and burnt out. I would like to see the union offer more in these negotiations, and install smarter, longer-lasting evaluative measures. It should be possible to fire more teachers, but it shouldn't be "easier" -- a codeword for "look at student scores, and fire the bottom 10%". In ham-handed fashion, Rhee is looking to unilaterally tear up contracts and obtain for dictatorial powers to fire anybody who rubs her the wrong way (she had it in for her child's principal -- probably one of the few staff member who she ever say in action). Or failing that, to encourage ideological clones such as L. Burton Nelson to do the dirty work for her.

There's no long term plan, and firing workers with no better alternative in the workforce is dumb management in any sector. I've yet to see where Rhee plans to get her replacements, because she clearly doesn't have a plan. However, firing lots of people looks like action, and that's what Rhee wants.

And for Obama to praise somebody who is busting unions and crashing through a large structure in a field in which he has evinced little real interest is a shame. I've seen enough to know that education isn't going to be a big priority in Obama I -- that goes to health care, macroeconomics, and foreign policy. But if he's only going to say a little about it, I wish he'd say things in accord with liberal values. Here's hoping for better as we go on.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Int'l Hilarity: France's Tweaking of the Vatican

I thought Nicholas Sarkozy was going to be a conservative president of France. That's what a other folks thought, and not a few right-wingers were happy about it. Nevermind that he was elected with the votes of the racist knuckle-draggers who heretofore had backed Jean-Marie Le Pen, some folks took his election to be a harbinger of a rightward tilt. Cal Thomas hilariously asked sixteen months ago "After decades of socialist influence in France, could the French election be a precursor to a Margaret Thatcher-like comeback for conservatives?" Well, turns out that this "precursor" is pretty centrist in American terms, and has recently taken to joking around with Vladimir Putin at Dubya's expense.

But it wasn't until a recent article I read in a newsletter from Americans United that I realized what level hijinx the "semi-practicing Catholic" Sarkozy could conceive. His third try at nominating an ambassador from France to the Holy See (Vatican City) was Jean-Loup Kuhn-Delfroge, an openly gay man in a monogamous relationship (the hyphenated last name includes that of his partner). Frankly, reading Kuhn-Delforge's government brief, the guy is rather over-qualified to by a Vatican ambassador. He's high up in the foreign affairs office, with experience with the much more important portfolio of fellow EU member Bulgaria. Yeah, the Holy See does have some low-grade intelligence, but it's a city block, for goodness' sake -- not worrh a career diplomat. Note the moron we sent over to represent the US to the Vatican. Of course, in the Vatican's eyes, he is "militant" because he is openly gay.

Apparently M Kuhn-Delforge was not the first choice after the previous French ambassador died in December 2007. France had previously suggested well-known writer Denis Tillinac, who would have moved into the embassy with his current, and third wife. Very French, very unVatican, what with the whole twice-divorced and all. So he was turned down.

Tillinac was not even the first choice for the job, either. Writer and Socialist politician Max Gallo had been asked by Sarkozy to go for the job, but said "no".

Eventually, Stanislas Lefebvre accepted a severe demotion from ambassador from Russia, and has been accepted by the former member of the the Pope as unlikely to disturb the decorum of the Holy See. Remember -- this guy was key in Sarkozy's largely successful effort to restore peace in Georgia. Now he's cooling his heels in a glorified Latin Club.

So Sarkozy pursued a socialist, then offered the Vatican a would-be ambassador currently on his third wife, and when that didn't work out, a man who is in an open gay relationship. What a wacky guy.

PS: I would be derelict if I did not mention a similar nine-month impasse with Argentina's president Kristina Fernandez de Kirchner over her nomination of a divorcé as ambassador to the Vatican. Just another way the Holy See falls behind as it refuses to change with the world.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pretty funny

If I'm ever imprisoned for life, I hope it's in Germany:

A manhunt is under way in western Germany for a convicted drug dealer who escaped by mailing himself out of jail.

The 42-year-old Turkish citizen - who was serving a seven-year sentence - had been making stationery with other prisoners destined for the shops.

At the end of his shift, the inmate climbed into a cardboard box and was taken out of prison by express courier. His whereabouts are still unknown.

Friday, November 14, 2008

One Year

Today marks one year since this blog's melodically named inaugural post "Hollywood to 10% of America: Go Screw" appeared. Since then, we've been through elections north and south of the 49th parallel, some bitter primary fights, two seasons of Project Runway -- only one of which merited blogging -- the Olympic Games, and a jump out of an airplane. As long as the world is spinning, there'll be reason to blog. It's the online equivalent of talking to yourself a little too loudly in the hope that people around you will be impressed by what you're saying. And i'm not good at shutting up.

A big thanks to regular readers, including commentators noternie, Ryan, the whole gang over at Blue Mass Group, and even dear ol' Peter Porcupine, who I hope lowers his quills after nutjob reactionaries stop targeting him for being frequently reasonable and lucid.

To all my readers, thanks for the interest, and maybe even loyalty. Much love.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Creating daylight: Advice for the Mass GOP

Over at Hub Blog, we're seeing some reflection on the future of the New England Republican party, particularly James Peyser's suggestions in the Boston Globe. There are many, many suggestions for how to make the Massachusetts GOP relevant after an election where they somehow found an additional three State House seats to lose, due to retirements. Here is a list from CW via HubBlog, as well as my rather sarcastic list from September.

I will take a second to doff my sarcastic approach to the little children of Massachusetts politics to offer sincere advice. There is nothing healthy about a one-party democracy, and after the 2008 elections, the Massachusetts Republican Party is feeling awfully close to being a fake party. Below are four pieces of advice to bring back some semblance of true democracy in Massachusetts.

Change the name:
I join HubBlog in seconding Peyser's suggestions of the a name change for the Mass GOP. It is rare, but not unknown, for regional parties to have a different name than their national big brother. HB mentions the example of the Minnesota Democrats, named the Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party, or DFL. I would add the Saskatchewan Conservatives, who call themselves the Saskatchewan Party, and even have different colors than their federal cognate. There is no doubt, however, on whose side the Sask Party works.

I prefer "Independent Republican Party". First of all, the natural voter bloc for the Republicans would be conservative voters unenrolled in either party who nonetheless vote for the Democrats they know in their region. New England is heavy on unenrolled voters who like to think that they are independent, and this name would appeal to them. A change in name is good, as is updating that elephnatine logo, and these are both elements in an important step: running from the national party at top speed.

Distance yourself as much as achievable from the national party. This is from whom Massachusetts Republicans are "Independent" -- the morons in Washington, DC. Things may well only get worse on the national level, as the national GOP moderates continue to get whittled down in elections. Chris Shays, John Sununu, and Randy Kuhl are three Republican moderates who lost last week. The party's national face is going to get more Southern, more religious, and more conservative. It's astonishing how many conservative thinkers are preaching a "back to basics" approach of going more conservative at a time when that is the exact opposite of what voters want. As has been said by people more informed than me, Nixon and Reagan would struggle to pass the current litmus tests in the national party.

The national party isn't going to help out too many New England Republicans, aside from possibly Judd Gregg and the three GOP governors in New England. A New England Renaissance is a tough sell, not least of all as electoral votes and Congressional seats open up in the South and West, not here. So why stay nice to national Republicans -- so you can bask in continuing the traditions of Nixon, Reagan, and Bush? That's won't work here. Just as we had the spectacle of the president going into hiding in the last two weeks of the campaign, and Republican Senators skipping their own party's convention, NE Republicans need to keep this up. Photo ops with McCain, Palin, Huckabee, the new RNC Chair, etc., are not your friend. Questions on national party politics aren't your concern. If you are going to run for office, don't skittle down to Washington, DC for orders/advice as Ogonowski did -- that was going to bite him later, coming across as John Ensign's puppet. Keep them at arm's length, as publicly as you dare. Look at Gordon Smith, who ran campaign ads declaring his friendships with Obama and Kerry in order to preserve his Oregon Senate seat. Be like him.

The best strategy is to avoid any connection between you as a New England Republican in the Chaffee/Rockefeller tradition, and those reactionaries in Washington, DC.
You don't necessarily have to attack national Republicans (not a bad idea, though) but you do want to keep your distance. I offer two examples: Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal and Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City, who have both proven great at finding daylight with national Democrats while still upholding their values. Anderson publicly declared that he did not vote for Kerry in 2004, while at the same time organizing a large anti-Bush rally in his city. And check out this Western conservative on Freudenthal's latest "state of the state" speech:

Gov Freudenthal was quick to point out the difference between state level politics and national level politics. In fact he brought it up a few times. While there may be a place for bipartisanship, there is also a place for partisanship...My jaw nearly hit the floor when I heard these words from Gov. Freudenthal (D-WY):..."Ronald Reagan, before he was president, spoke for many of us when he said, 'I still believe that the government is best which remains closest to the people, but almost daily the Goliath that is the federal government moves to gather more power unto itself.' We under the gold dome are not yet as bad as Washington, D.C...."

Quoting the late great Ronald Reagan? Well, he did used to be a Democrat. To clarify, I have no problems with the governor quoting Ronald Reagan.

He's got props from this conservative blogger, and he also did some work to try to help Democrats capture the At-Large Wyoming Congressional seat.

I'd suggest forming some sort of organization with a moderate, American name: The New England Partnership, or the Committee to Preserve New England Values, something like that. This organization would provide a banner under which New England Republicans can meet around the region. Have summits on cross-party issues such as immigration, or gambling. Invite Lincoln Chaffee, Jim Jeffords, Colin Powell, or Michale Bloomberg to speak. Basically, try to establish a high-profile regional operation that is emphatically different from the national Republican Party. During high-profile Republican national events, hold a New England Partnership summit/meeting as a counterbalance. Show that there is a large group of Republicans here who want nothing to do with the national party, and who are seeking other, different ideas.

Publicly search your soul. During the primary/caucus stage, it's usually a fair idea to have contrite concession speeches to give the idea that you "learned your lesson" and will go back to figure out why voters didn't like you. A name change or a new regional organization are good steps to this, but spending from know until Christmas publicly mulling your future is a good way to go. Hopefully, the contest for chairmanship of the Mass. GOP will be part of that process. Same attempt will net same result.

My last tip: get realistic. It's astounding after the latest humiliation, one common subject over at Red Mass Group is who should run for any possible open US Senate seat. On something of that scale, from fundraising to organization, from issues to tactics, any Republican candidate is going to get steamrolled. "Ashburnham" nails it, I think, when s/he says

I am a registered Republican and I have worked hard to run for office as a Republican and I have also worked hard on campaigns of others.

I have almost had it with this state party, however. If the Mass GOP dedicates all of its resources on ANOTHER kamikazee race for U.S. Senate, I will quit the party.

Why not take all the money that will be wasted on such tilts at windmills and dedicate it toward winning local Selectmen, City Council and State Rep races???????????

The real power in this state is housed in the legislature, NOT the governor's office or even the Congress. There is power in Congress, obviously, but we are a good generation away from making a dent at that level.

Let's walk before we run, shall we?

Agreed, Ashburnham. The GOP isn't going to get an open Senate seat. You have people like Ed Markey who have been drooling over that seat for a decade or more, and they aren't going to lose it to some Republican sacrifice. When state parties recover, such as Montana or Colorado Democrats, the US Senate is often the last target they shoot for, after state legislature, Congress, and the governorship. That is because it's the hardest to flip -- more than any other job, a Senator is working for/with the national party, regardless of the state that s/he represents, and the voters know that.

I'm not a big fan of politicizing selectmen, but that is any state party's farm team. Look at state reps, county offices. You need to run twice to get elected: be prepared for that. Mass Republicans need to think small, and think realistic. Bill Weld had the right idea when he obtained a margin in the State House to preserve his vetoes.

This is going to be a long, rough process. But with some intelligence, Massachusetts Republicans, and their New England brethren, can recover. It won't hurt to have Massachusetts Democrats making fools of themselves, but the Mass. GOP still hasn't found a way to capitalize on that. Despite what I've said, there are few magic bullets, but sitting around trying the same failed approach is not going to help anyway. But a smart, realistic approach could lead to enough gains to claim momentum. Massachusetts needs a real opposition, and right now, we don't have any.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Do Republicans ever leave behind a decent economy?

...someday in my life, hopefully, we'll elect a Democratic President who won't be forced to spend their first two years trying to rebuild an economy his Republican predecessor mismanaged to the edge of oblivion.

First Clinton, now Obama. Hell, Carter inherited a crap economy, too. And that doesn't even get to FDR.

What If...Andrew Jackson had Obeyed the Constitution?

Andrew Jackson has quite an historical record. On one hand, it was truly he that turned our country on the road to democracy. While he was president, it was the people's house literally...meaning they could even drop in for a snack. Then again, Jackson's record on slavery was as mixed as most of his contemporaries'. Not an abolitionist, him, but for what little it's worth Jackson did keep in mind the humanity of slaves more clearly than did many Americans. He also faced down the first movements of secession during the nullification crisis.

On the other hand. Hm. He perfected the "spoils system" of distributing government largesse to supporters. But that is a mere trifle compared to the horrific way that Andrew Jackson approached our land's first inhabitants. Having met Native Americans as combatants, Jackson stood against justice -- and his own Supreme Court -- in his zeal to persecute them. And the lowest moment, the dirtiest splotch on this docket, is the Trail of Tears.

The story itself is a fascinating one. The Cherokee of Northern Georgia had a settled, agricultural mode of existence in the early 19th century when settlers were seeking to expand the land under their control. The Cherokee had permanent transportation and educational infrastructure, representational government, a dedicated alphabet, and remarkable leaders such as John Ross and Sequoyah. When Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, intended to appropriate the land under usage by the Cherokee, the Cherokee sued for relief in the American court system. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Cherokee were a duly recognized sovereign nation, and should be treated as such. This is a remarkable and perhaps unique course of action -- to use the law of the occupier against it. It's tantamount to the Sudetens winning a judgment from the highest court in the Nazi government to cease the occupation.

In one of America's worst moments, Jackson reportedly reacted by declaring "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" Jackson then proceeded with actions to force the Cherokee to resettle in the barren wastes of what today is called Oklahoma. This compulsory migration has been remembered as the "Trail of Tears", during which about 4,000 Cherokee died. (Further reading on this sad episode can be found here, here, or here.)

So today I seek to investigate the question: what if Andrew Jackson had acceded to the Supreme Court and instructed the United States to recognize the Cherokee as an independent, sovereign nation?

Well, it wouldn't have been too large a nation, perhaps the northwesternmost sixth of Georgia, if that. At this time, it would have been surrounded by land entirely under American sovereignty. There are a couple nations surrounded entirely by others: Lesotho in South Africa being the largest one. Lesotho, however, gained independence in roughly the same process and period as South Africa; they avoided absorption due to the protection provided by a third party. Had Lesotho tried to take independence from South Africa rather than being given it at the same time as South Africa, I don't know how it would have gone.

So, too, with the land of the Cherokee. Despite this rather mature polity and approach, this country would have been literally surrounded by a hostile nation -- or more accurately, hostile neighbors from an indifferent nation. Though those lands would provide decent agriculture, there are little unique resources that I can imagine nurturing Cherokee independence. Cut off from neighbors, the highest that the Cherokee could hope for would be tolerance from their much more powerful neighbor. Though I can posit Jackson's acceptance of the legal and moral suasion of the Cherokee Supreme Court victory, I can't imagine that imperative would long remain. Eventually, even Oklahoma was claimed by American settlers; they'd not have given up on the Cherokee lands.

Furthermore, any Cherokee country would have had to survive the shifting sovereignties of the Confederate secession and Union capture. In essence, it would have had to receive tolerance from not only antebellum America, but also the CSA and the conquering Union army. Not too hard to imagine the Republicans occupying the Cherokee Nation had the Cherokee unduly supported their slave-owning neighbors in rebellion.

Finally, there would be assimilation. Intermarriage and movement would probably lead to a real demographic shift in Cherokee lands, and only careful policy would keep the population distinct from its neighbors. Granted, such a thing is possible (Gibraltar is very British, despite years of free interaction with Spain), but not always likely in such a small space.

I do sincerely want to find a case that with the "right" strategy, the First Peoples of the Americas could have stalled the European encroachment on these lands. I'm just not sure I can find one. Given the nearly inexorable determination to occupy the Americas, and the advantages which the occupiers enjoyed, it's tough to imagine the Cherokee enjoying long-term freedom from their legal victory, even had Andrew Jackson chosen to obey the Constitution.

Make it stop, if only for one month

The period of Republican reflection about their mistakes is apparently over. Two potential 2012 presidential candidates -- Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal -- have plans in place to get to Iowa before the end of the month.

This is sickness, plain and simple.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Alaska: Frozen Banana Republic

My main candidate in 2008 was Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a pragmatic progressive aiming for the US Senate. On education, energy, populism, and so much more, Begich was one of the best Democratic candidates out there, a true 21st century leader. Also noted is the fact that he was up against convicted felon Ted Stevens. That's right -- convicted felon Ted Stevens was looking for re-election. Looked good for Begich, too: the two post-conviction polls showed him over 50%, with a double-digit lead over Convicted Felon Stevens.

Now he's in a dogfight over absentee ballots, and behind the larger poll numbers. Congressional candidate Ethan Berkowitz similarly suffered a huge, last-second swing in numbers away from him. He went from likely Congressman to finish second to corrupt incumbent Don Young. Strange how deep and broad was this last-minute swing across the state.

Strange, too, that Alaska had such a low turnout on Election Day. Heck, with Governor Palin on the ballot, one would have expected enthusiasm. After a 12% gain in participation during the primaries before she was even picked, one would expect a gain in turnout in the general election. Nope:

Alaska's voter turnout numbers won't be clear until all the absentee ballots are in. But it's not expected to reach the 66 percent turnout of the last presidential election year, 2004, and there's dispute over whether it even makes the 60 percent of 2000.

Weird, eh? Even weirder: the low-turnout trend was bucked in some places that had a turnout of over 100%. From Mudflats: "The majority of precincts had voter turnout of over 100%. In some cases, voter turnout was over 200%". Wow! Shannyn Moore gives you a 12-point list of ways that the Alaskan election doesn't pass the smell test. So nobody voted, even though they all seemed to want to, and now there are tons of votes. But they're all for Republicans.

This a "banana republic" from the Wiki meaning: "a pejorative term for a small, often Latin American, Caribbean or African country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture, and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy and corrupt clique" Alaska is in a different geographic location, and their agriculture is really limited -- but the rest fits. Perhaps the supervision of this election was massively incompetent.

Or maybe not. But if Obama is sending his field workers to Georgia, he should be sending his lawyers to Alaska.

PS: First-ever bleg...if anybody knows where I could stay for the night before and after Inauguration in Washington DC, I'd love to be told...I'm really thinking I want to go.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Who's screaming now?

Remember that much laughed about "Dean scream" in 2004? In a very loud auditorium on the night of those archaic Iowa caucuses, candidate Howard Dean reacted to a third-place finish not with a glum supplication before voters, but with a defiant promise to supporters. It ended with a "yeah" from the hoarse doctor, which came out strained and was cheap media fodder for the next week or so. It was a strong blow against Dean's hopes. The text:

Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York ... And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House!

Despite the hopes of Very Serious Democratic Powerbrokers, Dean became Chair of the DNC in 2005 after John Kerry's wobbly run for the presidency. A full election cycle after the speech which caused Important Members of Punditocracy, Inc. to write his political obituary, let's take a second look.

"We are going to New Hampshire..." Under Dean, New Hampshire overwhelmingly re-elected a Democratic governor, and two for two Democratic Congresspeople. Both were first elected in 2006 under Dean's leadership of the DNC. In 2008, Bush ally John Sununu was replaced in the Senate by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, a Kerry supporter. Barack Obama won every county in New Hamspshire.

"...we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma..." Okay, not an awesome result. Oklahoma is one of the few areas tending more Republican. However, Bob Conley received the highest result for a Democratic Senate candidate in decades in South Carolina. All but one county in South Carolina voted more Democratic in 2008 than in 2004.

"...and Arizona..." John McCain's home state was a swing state in 2008, unlike in 2004. McCain was forced to spend money to defend his home state. AZ-1 went from Republican to Democrat this year. The Republicans are barely clinging to the state legislature.

"...and North Dakota..." North Dakota spent time as a swing state as well. It voted significantly more Democratic this year than in 2004 and re-elected its Democratic Congressman, who opposes continued occupation of Iraq.

"...and New Mexico..." Red in 2004, New Mexico is now a solid blue state under Governor (hopefully soon-to-be Secretary of State) Bill Richardson. Again, it voted much more Democratic in 2004. In 2008, four Republican members of Congress were replaced with four Democratic members of Congress: 1 in the Senate, and all three members of the House. Under Dean's leadership.

".and we're going to California..." A sadder case; we lost one House seat in California. It also voted more Democratic in 2004, significantly so.

" and Texas..." Under Dean's leadership, the Democrats did not let up on Representative/Prominent Republican/Convicted Criminal Tom Delay. His toxic personality is no longer in Congress. Democrats held his seat in 2006, but lost it in 2008. The Republican margin of victory in the presidential was halved, and Jon Cornyn retained his seat by single digits. Democrats are flooding into the state legislature.

"...and New York..." In 2006, Democrats won the governorship of New York. Democrats now control the New York State Senate. Democrats now control four more New York Congressional seats than in 2006.

"...And we're going to South Dakota..." Another blueing state that is beating back extreme anti-choice activists, with an all-Democratic delegation. In 2006, Stephanie Herseth won by the greatest margin of any Democratic Congressional candidate.

"...and Oregon..." Another Republican Senate seat becomes Democratic in 2008, as does another Congressional seat. On the presidential level, Oregon has gone from swing to safe Dem, and got bluer in 2008.

"...and Washington..." Another once-swing state, Washington is now safe blue. The governorship went from barely Democratic in 2004 to a convincing win this week."

"...and Michigan..." Michigan is bluer now than in 2004. It is not a swing state; McCain abandoned it in the thick of the campaign. Two Michigan seats went from red to blue this week.

"...and then we're going to Washington, D.C..." With a Democratic Congressional majority bigger than Gingrich ever had, with at least 57 Democratic Senators.

" take back the White House!" To work with President Barack Obama.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama in September: A poem of sorts

I don't have poetry in my soul, but Barack Obama's election keyed a thought I want to share, a thought of a specific moment next year. Rarely for me, it's in poetic form (sorta).

Framed in olive branches and powder blue
Before men and women
who traveled half the world to be there
   in a hall half an island distant from Ground Zero.
The American president prepares to speak. For the first time in years,
   The hall prepares to listen.
     to accept his challenges
     to share his hopes
     to welcome his plans
     to join in his work

President Obama hasn't spoken yet, but we have.
It is the first time the American people speak honestly.
  for the first time in history, it is true when we say:

"We stand before you.
And this is who we are."

Next Step: Get Joe to Go

The only possible circumstance where I could tolerate Joe Lieberman's continued hold as Chair of the Government Oversight Committee would have been with 59 Democratic Senators. To keep the filibuster at bay...but since we don't have that, screw him.

I want Lieberman out of the caucus, off the Chairmanship, and ideally out of the Senate. We can't make the last one happen, but the first two, we can. The Democratic Steering Committee is decision central for Committee Chairmanships, and I would suggest contacting the committee to mention how much we'd like a real Democrat to be in charge of that committee. With so many great Democratic Senators joining the caucus, that role could be filled by somebody who doesn't base their reputation on attacking his own party. Of particular help could be contacting Senator Kerry, urging him to do this good thing for the country and the party before he disappears to greener pastures inside President Obama's Administration.

In case you think I'm being petty and vindictive, here are some of Lieberman's Greatest Hits from this year:

July 15:

What Sen. Obama does not seem to understand is that, had we taken the course he had counseled and retreated from Iraq, the United States would have suffered a catastrophic defeat that would have left America and our allies less safe not just in Baghdad, but in Kandahar and Karachi and Tokyo and London.

It’s important for the political process to question Obama’s ties to former Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers: “I think these are very fair questions and it’s now up to Senator Obama to answer them.”

From the Republican National Convention:
Senator Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who can do great things for our country in the years ahead. But eloquence is no substitute for a record,

The Democratic Party and President-elect Obama owe him nothing. Time to go, Joe.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A thought on question two

I would think that a police officer would hesitate to arrest a college student caught with marijuana. Causing him/her to possibly lose a college loan, and be shackled with a criminal record seems a heavy price to pay for an experience very common (including partaken by a few of the DAs opposing this referendum). However, would a police officer hesitate to write a few $100 tickets, with some of that money going back to that town?

Sometimes I wonder if Question 2 will replace an almost-never enforced penalty with a zealously-enforced penalty. If so, mightn't that have an effect on marijuana usage?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Can you imagine McCain at the UN?

He can't keep track of who's at his own rallies: what's the name of this mayor, where's Joe the Plumber?

I just picture President McCain at the G7 wondering who "that guy in the suit over there" is. The man seems tired, and addled, even though he's not keeping up with Obama's pace of events. If he's this forgetful and confused at 72 after mailing it in as a Senator for a coupla years, how's he gonna be after 2 years in the presidency?

Satire: PA poll gives McCain 2 point lead

SUNBURY, PA -- Mikey's House of Polling announced the result of a presidential poll conducted on November 2nd from the hours of 11:45am to 12:36pm in the waiting area of car repair shop run by Mikey's brother Dave. The results are as follows:

If you were voting today in that election thing, who would you be voting for?

Analysis: Blue-collar voters appear to be swinging behind McCain, and the number of undecided voters remain large in this poll. McCain is nearing the 50% mark while Obama seems to have slipped in recent polling. While McCain voters include a large percentage of "persuadables", this trend appears to show McCain's investment in the Keystone State to be providing vast dividends.

Reaction was swift and immediate across the campaign, media, and online worlds.

In response to this poll, McCain spokesperson Michael Goldfarb sent out an immediate press release stating "this poll simply shows that the McCain/Palin/Plumber ticket is connecting with the morons who decide swing states through our campaign of lies and smears. As our desperation extends to everything short of physically assaulting Barack Obama, expect the numbers to continue to move in our favor. The large numbers of persuadables clearly show that Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Nova Scotia are within McCain's grasp." A high-level staffer mentioned that Phillip the Pipe-fitter, Jimmy the Window Washer, and Dave the Gainfully Unemployed will all be sent to an impromptu rally in the Sunbury area.

David Plouffe, meanwhile, in a conference call concluded five minutes ago stated "while we are confident in our campaign strategy, Senators Obama and Biden will continue to adjust to conditions on the ground, making sure that America will hear of our promises for hope, change, and magic ponies whenever they need to." Sources in the Obama campaign expected massive purchases of airtime, sidewalk space, and oxygen in the Sunbury area to counter the McCain surge. One high-level source in the Obama campaign confirmed that a droplet of sweat had fallen from the brow of strategist David Axelrod, the first time he has shown such concern since Sarah Palin's introduction as McCain's vice-presidential candidate.

Other pollsters widely diverged in reaction. John Zogby of Zogby International, stated "this confirms the findings of a poll I conducted a while ago, but not a more recent poll. So I will be deleting the more recent poll from my website. I'm glad that Mikey has confirmed what loyal customers of Zogby International have known for some time now: Pennsylvania is a functional tie." Rasmussen Reports, meanwhile, is rumored to have a poll in the field asking white soccer moms over 35 with 2 or more tattoos how trustworthy they feel Mikey's House of Polling is, and if they would be interested in a free sample of fabric softener.

The mainstream media reacted swiftly, with Wolf Blitzer anchoring an episode of "Situation Plane" from the CNN jet en route from Canton, Ohio to Sunbury. Local highways choked with medias vans as reporters scrambled for the best locations in front of the shed that houses Mikey's House of Polling and Dave's Miles of Smiles Car Repair.

Bloggers, meanwhile reacted just as swiftly in the online world. On Matt Drudge, the poll's results were posted prominently under the headline "Obama May As Well Go Back Home to Communist Arabistan" while Instapundit gleefully examined the internals:

Look at the female subgroup: 44% for Obama! With numbers that low, he doesn't stand a chance. And there's no way that he wins a full 100% of the African-American vote! Victory, baby!

Posting at and other liberal blogs devolved into a series of indecipherable wails. On the local, poster tblade merely commented "fdkjlfdjldaff!!!" Medical centers in coastal urban areas such as Berkley,CA, Cambridge,MA and Portland, OR already report a severe uptick in cardiac cases, as well as a number of self-induced physical trauma.

Lost in the hubbub is the voice of polling guru Nate Silver of . A recent post reads "This poll has a sample of 21 people! Twenty-one people! All waiting to have their car repaired! Look at the internals: 1 undecided, 10 for McCain, 9 for Obama. What the hell is wrong with all of you suckers? Looking at the 27 polls modeled on this website, Obama holds a significant, consistent lead, but some layabout at a car repair shop is going to make you crazy????!??"

Quick question about advertising

Why is csx doing advertising on my morning radio station, WCRB? Clearly, it has an audience of more station than me (witness the constant ads for Boston Private Bank?). I realize that it is a shipping company, but it never talks about sipping options. Instead, the ad constantly informs me how environmentally friendly their trains are.

Which is great, I suppose, but I'm not really in the position to buy a train. Nor do I know what I'd do with it, if I were.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Grammar nitpickyness: referenda/ums

With discussion abounding on my second blogging home about Questions One, Two, and Three, I'm seeing confusion about the plural for "referendum". As somebody who spent a few years studying ballot the instances of balloting Québécois voters on sovereignty, this grammatical discussion came up frequently. Here is the consensus on this all-important question among people who specialize in this.

To set rules, it is important to realize the origins of this word. "Referendum" entered the English language in the mid-1800s from Latin by way of Swiss practice:

1847, "submitting a question to the voters as a whole" (originally chiefly in reference to Switzerland), from Fr. or Ger., from L. referendum "that which must be referred," lit. "thing brought back," from neut. gerundive of referre "to bring or take back" (see refer). As a gerundive, it has no plural in Latin; referendums is preferred in Eng.

There are problems with that last line. The word "referendum" refers to similar but distinct practices: the question put to voters, and the electoral exercise of voting upon it. That poses a problem, one exacerbated by the confusion over whether the word reached English through a Germanic route (German) or a Romance route (French). I would waver the second, not least of all because Napoleon III used these devices at the same time. He did so rather creatively, asking questions akin to "should we provide free food to all, invade our neighbor, and breathe oxygen, or do you hate all things under the sun?" to get the answers he wanted. I would wager the British were more concerned about government in France rather than what the Swiss were doing.

The idea of referring a question to a voter -- a referendum as a governing exercise -- is rooted in the usage of the original creators of the word. That is, the practice of putting a question to voters is consistent with the practice which gave us this Latin root. Thus, several questions referred to a voting public on the same ballot are actually properly called referenda.

This, however, is different from the electoral exercise whereby voters go through the rigmarole of checking in, checking boxes, etc. To pass judgment on the question itself. This modern electoral exercise is not connected to earlier practices. As it has a similar, but different meaning, it is governed by modern rules of grammar. A plural of such events is referendums.

So there are three referenda on the ballot this November in Massachusetts -- three questions whose resolution depends on the popular will. The state will not hold two referendums this year, as only once do we vote on questions submitted to voter judgment. We can expect referendums on various issues every year in Massachusetts. In California, there are dozens of referenda on the ballot, though the referendums in California have over the years made the state harder and harder to govern.

Or at least that's what I've been taught.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Keeping the undecideds home

I think we're seeing two very different strategies toward undecided voters in the last days of Unending Marathon for the Presidency. One is trying to convince undecideds that voting will just get you involved in a scummy operation that likely requires a shower. The other is trying to convince undecideds that it really is a nice day, and your vote isn't really necessary anyway, so why bother?

The undecideds. A fascinating, mystifying, terrifying tribe of primitives who walk among us. I will admit a real discomfort with all these graphs that are pretty steady at Obama 50-McCain 45. I can't shake the feeling that the remaining 5% covers many people who don't want to admit they're voting for McCain. Traditionally Democratic voters unwilling to tell themselves or their pollster that they just can't pull a lever for an African-American. This isn't a Bradley Effect per se, which is voters lying about their intended vote (or maybe not). This is the safest refuge of a racist scoundrel -- keeping mum about one's racism until the last moment. Of course, the state polls look better than the national polls, which is good. Another notable fact: a 51% Obama result is the best winning percentage since 1988.

On one side, McCain is hoping to keep independent voters away from Obama by calling him every name he can think of. I think they're unearthing early 20th century political attacks at this point, having run out of modern stuff like "terrorist" and "socialist". Expect McCain to issue a robocall that insinuates Obama is a "puzzlewit" or "honeyfugler" soon. And given the current competence of the RNC, they'll probably be dialing that call into Rhode Island and Hawai'i. Oh, and loyal Republican officials are doing their best to turn their little fiefs into banana republics and preventing the wrong kind of people from voting. So if voting will be so hard, and everyone's a scumbag, why vote?

On the other hand, Obama seems to be telling possible McCain voters not to bother. Candy Crowley introduced her latest Obama update as concerning a man on a schedule "aiming for a blowout". He's advising people not to let up, but he's acting like a man sure of his supposedly weak states. He's going all-red. And now he's openly planning for the transition:

Barack Obama's campaign has approached Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel about possibly serving as White House chief of staff, officials said Thursday, looking ahead as the marathon presidential race entered its final, frenzied stretch with a Democratic tilt.

Self-important staffers talking smoke is par for the course in Washington, DC. But I suspect this is more than some self-important Emmanuel staffer talking out of line. I think this is pretty clearly Obama behind this. Witness:

The Democrats who described the contact with Emanuel spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to be quoted by name.

By name. As in "you can quote me, just don't use my name". As in Emmanuel and/or Obama said "tell this to the press, but don't let them use your name". Possibly Obama said to Emmanuel? Unless Emmanuel has lost all track of good sense at this point -- which I don't think is something he'd do, given his track record -- this is a bit of a gambit to tell demoralized Republicans not to bother.

I'm fascinated by the psychology of people who intend to vote even though they are undecided five days out from the endpoint of a two-year campaign. The fact that anyone could be undecided at this point tells me that they're probably better off not voting. However, an article I referenced earlier had a good line:

Most undecided voters, by contrast, seem to view politics the way I view laundry...a chore, a duty, something that must be done but is altogether unpleasant, and therefore something best put off for as long as possible.

What better way of convincing such people not to vote by assuring them they don't really need to do that...extending the parallel, by telling them that somebody else has pretty much washed all sorts of clothing that our undecided could wear, so he may as well stay home.

Look, I'm aware that this does risk pissing people off at the presumptuousness of it, and I'm sure it will be part of the McCain repertoire by the end of the day. However, Obama is coming closer to an "inevitability narrative" than either Hillary or Dean got when they were trying. Doesn't exactly give me a lot of confidence given their end results, but I'm past the point of questioning the wisdom of the Obama campaign. They're running the smoothest operation probably since 1992.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Redistribution, or as I call it, civilization

McCain's pretend presidential campaign has settled on its newest attempted slur: "redistributor". Apparently "terrorist" and "socialist" weren't moving the polls, so instead we get a snappy five-syllable jab. To listen to McCain and his allies, the worst thing possible is to "share the wealth", to "take your money and give it to someone else."

Some Democrats have accused McCain of yearning for a "free market fundamentalism", but the consequences of his positions are far more reaching than that. Exacting taxes to pay for a military is a form of redistribution. Why should I fork over some hard-earned cash just so somebody can have fun running around and firing guns? For that matter, why should my work translate to pay for anyone else -- cops, border guards, domestic spies -- anyone?

Redistribution is the foundation of civilization. It's the recognition that our physical, cultural, and economic security is more assured when people work in groups, and those groups need funding. You can't expect to fund it on goodwill -- you need to exact a price for belonging to civilization. People give up a portion of their income toward people who provide security. My money is being "redistributed" to our soldiers and to cops on the streets. I don't have a problem with that. The alternative is not conservatism, because conservatism enforces redistribution as much as anyone else. Bush, for example, wanted redistribution to friendly corporations such as Enron and Halliburton. McCain probably does, too. At least, I hope that's what he means. Because if you take him at his word, McCain wants anarchy in this country -- no redistribution, everyone for himself.

Of course, McCain's problem is that Obama only wants to redistribute income to those who need it. Today, McCain attacked Biden for pegging the maximum annual income for the title "middle class" as those earning $150,000 per year. Seriously, McCain wants to run as the defender of the four percent earning $150,000 or more.

Anarchists, and the rich. At the end of the campaign, McCain comes back to his base.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Oh yeah, after $30 million to run an election, the results in Canada came back nearly the same. The losing party will be replacing its leader, as the "winning party" staggers along in Minority Government Hell. Prime Minister Harper is just, well, a boring guy who people don't like. Happily, the leader of the opposing party is an even boringer guy with poor English who people like even less. So, yeah, he resigned from his post.

Long story short, nothing got decided, lots of money got spent, somebody important got fired, and Canadians got pissed off. Good thing it's hockey season, or it could get ugly. Well, what counts for ugly in Canada, which is usually mumbling "excuse me" rather than saying it loudly enough to hear.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good for Livni

One of my favorite leaders on the world stage right now is Tzipi Livni, the tough-minded and strong-hearted leader of the governing Kadima party. Ehud Olmert took over as a caretaker after the party's founder Ariel Sharon died fell into a coma that certainly appears permanent. He kept things together surprisingly well, but eventually he resigned, and Livni took over the top spot.

Her first job was to assemble a governing coalition in the exceedingly fractured parliament of Israel, the Knesset. And she "failed". But it's a good failure.

For any coalition in Israel, the fulcrum is the Shas party. The Shas Party is actually the third-largest in the Knesset, even outpolling Netanyahu's Likud Party in the last election (something that would not happen were another vote held). Moreover, it has had a role in the Knesset similar to that of CiU in Spain -- a willing partner in pretty much any coalition as long as it gets a piece of the action. Party representatives in the Knesset have a criminal record echoing that of American Republicans. These ideological weathervanes have jumped in bed with a diversity of partners unkown outside Hollywood. A glance over the history of Israeli coalition governments turns up the Shas repeatedly, included in 9 of the 10 previous governments. The same party had no trouble mixing with Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Benjamin Netanyahu. They played games in 19999/2000, leaving the coalition before being bribed to return. Their ultra-fundamentalist communities get special treatment, including an exemption from compulsory military service.

Livni has said no to that -- specifically, a demand to blow another $350 million on child allowances that would favor the constituents of Shas. Instead, she is willing to go to the polls for an election when polls favor her opponent Benjamin "Nuke'em" Netanyahu, rather than play Shas's confidence game one more time. This is the kind of leadership Israel needs, and I hope it will reward her.

It's not for nothing. Shas has obtained some benefits due to its easy friendship: the fruits, obtaining military exemptions and a high degree of funding for its constituents. However, it often seems to be an Israeli parasite, taking up seats in Parliament in its corrupt, often criminal electoral extortion. Good for Livni for saying no, shame on Netanyahu for saying yes. I hope the Israeli people agree.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Carla Howell part of Carla Howell's conspiracy to preserve gov't waste?

Carla Howell has sworn up and down, round and round, that there is $12 billion worth of waste in state government. She won't say exactly where (the list is in the same safe as McCain's plan for finding bin Laden), but it's there. See, Howell is so much smarter than everyone else. Or something.

I would imagine that anyone running for governor who knew how to slash billions of dollars of waste would say something. Mitt Romney, Christy Mihos, and Deval Patrick -- rank outsiders all -- kept mum about it. Ambitious insiders who know every inch of Beacon Hill also won't sacrifice that knowledge for their own ambitions. You know how hard it is to get Tim Cahill to do something he sees in his political interest, for example.

Can you imagine how easy it would be to become governor by showing how to save taxpayers thousands of dollars? It would be a slam dunk. Yet these guys decided, and still decide, not to go that route. Neither did some lady named...Carla Howell. Sure, she knew there was $9 billion being wasted back in 2002 when she ran for governor, but really wouldn't tell us where. Maybe Candidate Howell decided not to upset insiders with the secret knowledge everyone on Beacon Hill shares, that same secret knowledge that upsets Crusader Howell so much. Candidate Howell either didn't know, or didn't reveal how o save taxpayers' money and save her own campaign. Pity, too -- had Candidate Howell come forward with this information, she coulda been governor, rather than coming in fourth.

Or maybe Christy Mihos, Tom Reilly, Chris Gabrieli, Jane Swift, Kerry Healey, Shannon O'Brien, or other gubernatorial candidates could have said something but didn't. Yet apparently they were complicit in the Secret Society to Waste Taxpayers' Money. So it seems that everyone who's run for governor in the modern era knows about the massive waste in Massachusetts, but is too dishonest or incompetent to turn such understanding into a winning campaign. Or they're dumb enough that they can't find such obvious waste, which probably should eliminate them from any real role in state government.

Including Carla Howell. At least, according to Carla Howell.