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.