Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In other unfree-speech news...

Despite the American government's propensity for spying on its citizens -- not much changed since January 20th it seems -- we still have more access to free speech than most countries. While Boston College took the condescending and cowardly decision to deny permission for even a satellite link-up to Bill Ayers, at least he's still allowed to move around this country. The idea of banning people with uncomfortable ideas is all the rage through much of the "democratic" West.

Oddly enough, the most recent examples are on the opposite sides. On one side is a member of the Dutch Parliament, Geert Wilders. He was banned from Britain. He managed a nice bit of theatre when he landed in London, was questioned by border guards, and hauled on the next plane out. Wilders is a far-right MP of the "Party for Freedom" and is not dissimilar from assassinated anti-Islamic Dutchman Pim Fortuyn. To be sure, his hyper-xenophobic rants about the "Islamicization of Europe" are way off, but not grounds for banning somebody from speaking. He's an MP -- an elected representative in the Netherlands, and a country that bans someone of his views from speaking also bans people from responding and countering his claims.

Meanwhile, somewhat ironically, the other victim is a British legislator with a polar opposite view of Islam and the modern day. George Galloway, a member of the House of Lords, has been banned from Canada. This very much pro-Islamist member of the House of Lords has put in appearances in Gaza and holds an honorary passport to the Palestinian territories, given him by a leader of Hamas. So he's clearly not of the warm and fuzzy type. And like Wilders, he comes across as an all too useful idiot. That said, banning his ideas only gives Wilders' fellow-travelers more ammunition, and shuts up people who desire to hears all sides of a debate. This is like trying to run the peace process without listening to Assad or Avigdor Lieberman.

I'd make two suggestions:
Fly in Wilders (who is quite good at English) and Galloway into New York City to debate the nature of Islam in the Middle East and Europe. At least this country has the grapes believe think about uncomfortable ideas, not attempt to turn them away at airports. I personally think the truth is well between these two men, but I would like to hear them counter each other far better than I can.

As for my second suggestion, I would simply quote Galloway's challenge to the mandarin in Canada who denied his visa: "Come out and debate me like a man."

Free speech, indeed.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Constable Ban Ki-Moon would be a nice idea...

The Arab League has gathered in Doha, Qatar for its regular meeting, a festival of member spats and condemnations of Israel for all crimes, real and imagined. One of its attendees is a human-shaped rat named Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president who is a prime architect of the Darfur genocide. There is an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court in place due to his crimes against humanity, but sadly summit host Qatar is not a signatory to the ICC.

Also in attendance at the meetings is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. While I am aware of all sorts of issues surrounding safe diplomacy and the role of the UN Secretary-General, I really can't escape the fantasy of Ban drugging Bashir and smuggling aboard a plane into a justice-friendly country. It may be a confirmation of conservatives' black helicopter fantasies, but I think it's worth it.

Failing that, I wouldn't mind it if Bashir's pilot deviated a little from its return the pilot flight plan and faked an emergency that would necessitate landing in a suitable country somewhat en route, such as Jordan or Chad.

Of course, given how insane he's already been at the summit, there's a chance that Libryan leader Muammar Qadafi will stab him with a pen and eat his kidneys raw.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Deval's term: marriage, casinos, taxes...and the minor stuff

What am I missing? I thought the Governor had been successful in getting much of his agenda through the legislature (life sciences comes to mind).

So comes a question from Christopher in the midst of a ferocious debate in this BMG thread over a Suffolk Poll that looks bad -- really bad -- for Deval Patrick. Ryan points out that Suffolk has a bad record, and sco points out that there's nothing amiss in this poll. But symptomatic of the debate is this question.

My answer is that life sciences was a one-day headline in the Globe. That stuff is treasured by bloggers, forgotten by most anyone else. Later, Ryan brings up a bond issue as a major victory. A bond issue! Hey everyone, we're floating paper in private markets to pay for government widgets...or something! That may be a policy victory, but it's a politics snoozer.

With the presidential election suffocating all but the biggest political issues from November 2007-January 2009, I would submit that there have been three political debates that echoed outside the political sphere of the Bay State:

  • Gay marriage: Deval gets a shared win in a tough, emotional battle. Most people agree with him.
  • Casinos: Deval is handed a huge loss by Democrats. Most people disagree with him.
  • Taxes: Deval wins, as much as "the guy who wants taxes to be higher than the other guys" is a win. Most people agree with him, but nobody is thrilled about it.

Seriously, that's it. Bonds and bureaucratic reshufflings may be nice, but these are the big three. If it solidifies that Deval is on the wrong side of the hackocracy debate, he's going into the election with a record of 2 lukewarm wins, and 2 bad losses.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Town Election Field Guide

'Tis the season for town elections in Massachusetts, the ones that will affect you tomorrow. That will decide your trash fee, pothole repair priority list, school quality, and hydrant placement. It is your patriotic duty to vote in your town election, whether you are one of 200 voters in your town, whether there are any contested offices in town.

To help with your vote, clip out this field guide to your local town election, fill in the appropriate names, and bring to the polls:

  • The Incumbent (name: __________ ) Has held current position for 5-10 years, surviving re-election 2-4 times. S/he has two children in the town school system, moved here when a child, and loves this town. S/he is a children's sport coach or dance instructor, and wears the appropriate jacket throughout campaign season. Takes credit for state largesse during a good economy, and for making "tough choices" during a bad economy. Likes to explain how neighboring towns are worse off than your town. Will retire soon because s/he is sick of answering questions from townies while trying to drop off laundry. Rumors abound of marital issues. Results: Re-elected handily.

  • The Townie (Name: ____________ ) Tries to win by out townie-ing the Incumbent. S/he was born in town, thank you very much, only back then that particular village had its own zip code...remember that? Has had four children graduate from the public school system. Owns a town business, or works for one. Is the chair of a youth sports league and wears that jacket every month except summer, at which point is organizing the Fourth of July parade. Goes to the high school football games -- home and away. Still doesn't shop in the neighboring town your high school plays on Thanksgiving. Spouse smiles gently, doesn't have much to say. Results: Loses, but will be elected when incumbent retires.

  • The Reformer (Name: ___________ ) Moved to town about 7 years ago from the area. Children have transferred into the public schools. If female, has long stylish hair; if male, has facial hair. Identified strongly with a particular issue, and often hands out leaflets advertising his/her positions at town meetings. Most organized campaigner of the field. and actually has precinct captains. Remarks and literature are laced with references to change and reform. Has several ideas on budget changes, priorities on spending, and constantly refers to other towns' experiences. Wears a collared shirt while campaigning. Results: Loses, moves out of town and joins an interest group.

  • The Nutcase (Name: _______________ ) Joined town politics due to a personal experience, and all actions are rooted in it. If he was denied a permit to build a shed, he wants to be on the Board of Selectmen and campaigns on zoning issues. If her son slacked off in school, she's running for school committee and campaigns on student support. Usually, the run for office is the capstone to a two- or three-year nutcase career which included founding a floundering organization, awkward rants at town meeting. and a series of letters to the townie paper. Often wide-eyed while speaking. Results: loses, eventually attracts police attention.

  • The Question Mark (Name: __________________ )
    Nobody is really sure why s/he is running. Gentle in personality, this candidate is from the town, but not of it. Nobody knows them by name, but can sorta identify the face from the supermarket or library. Usually seen with a slight smile, wearing sunglasses or a baseball cap. Doesn't say much and makes people nervous. During candidate night, s/he will give a quiet and very general list of reasons for running, but has few campaign signs or events. Likely unmarried. Results: loses, joins Conservation Committee.

  • The Go-getter (Name: ________________ ) Moved to town relatively recently, but thinks the schools are GREAT! Has joined the Kiwanas, Lions, Freemasons, Little League, and Friends of the Library. Arrives late to meetings due to earlier meetings, often leaves early to go to later meetings. Rather thin. Often seen flipping pancakes or serving hot dogs. Usually has a high-income job but doesn't seem to spend much time on it. Salacious rumors about "what happened to [candidate] in their old town" circulate. The only candidate who will accost you at the post office and ask which way you're leaning. Results: loses, elected as your state rep ten years later.

At least, those are candidate types native to southeastern Massachusetts. What do you see in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gimme that old time religion

More substance on religion coming soon, but in case you missed this from Sicily:

Prosecutors say that after both the plane's engines cut out, the pilot succumbed to panic, praying out loud instead of following emergency procedures and then opting to crash-land in the Mediterranean instead of trying to reach the nearest airport.

There's a train of errors in this, including a faulty fuel gauge, but thank goodness Sully didn't opt for Our Fathers over quick thinking and smart action. I imagine the sixteen people who died in this plane accident would like a do-over on picking a pilot as well.

The Treasurer's Corrupt? Oh, Happy Day!

A sign of the blind loyalty -- if not zealotry -- that infects much of the Massachusetts blogosphere today. Tim Cahill is in for a rough ethical ride:

State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill is facing a state ethics inquiry for awarding a $21 million state lottery contract to a company that was secretly paying Cahill's close friend and fund-raiser, Thomas F. Kelly, tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, according to multiple people who have been briefed on the investigation.

Investigators from the state Ethics Commission interviewed Cahill this month about his decision in 2004 to award the contract to Scientific Games to make scratch tickets, despite a recommendation from his own staff that Scientific Games receive less state work, said two of the people who have been briefed. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because Ethics Commission investigations are confidential.
Now, some people would be upset that Treasurer Cahill may be corrupt. You do not want the guy controlling the money to be the one who has trouble being honest with money. Most people would be upset, but not for many Bay Staters....

When this news broke over at BlueMassGroup, an editor rated the posting of this news item as "excellent". Now, I like David and his ideas an awful lot, but either he was blown away by somebody else's ability to copy-and-paste from the Globe as I have done, or he thinks that it's excellent that our treasurer is in hot water. Or he's thrilled to have a potential opponent for Deval out of the way.

Massachusetts Liberal salivates "stick a fork in him", and amusingly maintains that Deval's Ameriquest phone call wasn't about favors, when that's exactly what it was about.

The Internet comments alongside the Globe story already include calls for resignations . Granted, many of them are reactionaries who want to turf out every incumbent they can find and kill the income tax, but it doesn't take much to find the satisfied liberal in the comments.

Critical Massachusetts has picked up on something that I did as well -- how strange it is that soon after openly standing against the governor, Cahill's past is being explored. Just as Sal DiMasi was harassed by a drip-drip-drip after standing against the governor's casino push, now Cahill is being chased mere weeks after letting slip that he was challenging the governor. Same m.o., too -- breathless Globe coverage of vague questions being asked about decisions taken years ago, as if it were Sal or Tim stuffing envelopes into their suitcoats.

Of course, buried in the celebrations is that this ethics probe is a resurrection of a decision made five years ago -- in other words, around the same time that Coca-Cola's poisononous business practices were finally coming up against the ethical limits of Deval Patrick. Regardless, this happening once is insignificant, twice a pattern, and should there be a third time, it will be obvious that we have a problem. If Terry Murray has any ambitions (and she should), for her sake she'd better keep them to herself.

The most stomach-turning thing about all this is that given the choice of Deval, Cahill, Charlie Baker, and Christy Mihos, I'd still vote to re-elect. Call it Deval By Default.

Monday, March 23, 2009

As I'm sure you've noticed...

The Republican response to Obama's address to Congress included this bit:

wherein Gov. Piyush Jindal (R-LA) criticized spending on "something called volcano monitoring" as if it were some useless expenditure. Well, you know what's coming...

A volcano in southern Alaska erupted anew Monday, the fifth eruption since coming back to life Sunday night. Agencies including the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey were monitoring the situation...

The first [concern] is the ash clouds' effect on air traffic in the vicinity of the volcano. Aircraft carrying a total of roughly 20,000 passengers fly through the area on any given day, Salazar said...The second area of concern is for people on the ground near the mountain, he said, but noted that most residents know what precautions to take, as experts have been warning of an eruption for some time.

...In Anchorage, about 100 miles from the volcano, residents were getting ready for ash.The ash cloud was moving north, missing the bulk of the population in south-central Alaska, Murray said.

"We are continuing to watch the volcano very closely," he said. "We could have several more phases, such as we've seen."

"It does pose significant problems for mechanical systems, people with respiratory illnesses and aircraft," he said, adding that residents should be prepared to stay indoors.

Those lousy government big spenders, insisting on interfering with God's plan to kill Alaskan asthmatics with volcano ash.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Yes, Congresswoman Schultz is awesome

I've long been a big fan of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, even exploring the idea of her candidacy for vice president. I was rather shocked to see DailyKos speak well of her, in the wake of some reactionary blathering about her earlier, but they're right -- she is awesome:

The Broward County Democrat and mother of three told The Miami Herald on Saturday that she successfully battled breast cancer for the past year and is going public with her story in the hope of alerting young women to its prevalence. She'll introduce legislation Monday that calls for a national education campaign targeting women between 15 and 39.


In the past year, she underwent seven major surgeries, including a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, while balancing motherhood, Congress and her roles as a chief fundraiser for House Democrats and a political surrogate, first for Hillary Clinton and then for Barack Obama.
If this woman is not an acknowledged top-tier leader of the Democratic Party within the next ten years, it will be a crime. No, not because she has survived cancer, but because she is a tough, passionate voice for so many people who need a voice in government.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

President Roslin or Bartlet?

I've been very light on posting lately, a grad course currently piled on top of my regular duties. But I take out the time to address an important question.

Who would you rather have as president -- Laura Roslin, or Josiah Bartlet? If you are not aware, the first is the fictional President of the Colonies in the excellent Battlestar Galactica, and the second is the fictional President of the United States in the excellent The West Wing. These two and Buffy, are the only television shows that have ever captivated me -- the only ones that I made sure to watch, not caught when I was around. I rose and fell with many of the characters, and high on that list are these two great leaders.

But which is greatest? Let's examine the cases:

President Bartlet is a policy wonk who holds to his humanity despite the trappings of a powerful office. He is schooled in theology and economics, and knows tough policy issues book-and-verse. Bartlet ran two tough campaigns, and had a close eye for spotting and promoting talent around him. Bartlet staff members rose to Congress, chief of staff, and other position under his tenure; his own chief of staff was elected Vice President before he died. President Bartlet even had a direct hand in choosing his successor.

Bartlet managed international relations with a shrewd eye, pacifying China while giving Taiwan what it wanted at one point, while standing against the fictional Islamist state of Qumar at another. Bartlet has a strong sense of humor, which puts his staff and visitors at ease. He would take stands unpopular with his staff (accepting censure) or key groups (voting against the milk compact before the New Hampshire primary), or even running against the opinion of the entire nation.

However, Bartlet does have honesty problems. He hid his multiple sclerosis during an election, a medical condition that could impact his ability to perform his duties. He even imperiled his wife's medical reputation by having her secretly treat his condition. Bartlet is also uneven in a crisis, shouting at God after the funeral of an aide, and even abdicating his duties during the kidnapping of his daughter to a Republican. Though gifted in policy and politics, his humanity which can hold him in such stead so often weakens him at a time of crisis.

On the other hand, is President Laura Roslin of the Twelve Colonies. Roslin became president only when the 31 officials ahead of her in line were killed during an attack; and she may have only achieved the lowly position of Secretary of Education because she was sleeping with then-President Adar. Roslin is a questionable judge of character, selecting two vice presidents (Tom Zarak and Gaius Balthar) who committed treasonous acts against their democracy and species. Her most trusted aide through the latter half of Roslin's tenure, Tori Foster, was a secret agent for the enemy Cylons who eagerly went to their side when she could.

President Roslin also has an uneven record with foreign relations. Roslin's only foreign contact were the Cylons, with whom she engaged in war during a protracted period of time. Roslin's attempts to find peace with them were uneven and only partially succeeded due to a civil war among the enemy. Her response to the attack was a successful genocide of the enemy. President Roslin also crossed her own people so severely that she lost election to her vice president. She also identifies very closely with the military, allowing them to trump civil rights seemingly because of personal feelings for its leader.

On the other hand, Laura Roslin is a rock in a crisis. She survived two coup attempts wherein she was outgunned on the strength of her personal example and appeal. She led a small human population to a new home despite overwhelming odds. Roslin also used connections to a higher plane to lead her people, relying on prophecy and visions to lead them on their journey. Roslin was unflinching in the conduct of what she saw as her duty, at one point urging Commander Adama to kill his superior officer, Helena Cain.

President Roslin had greatness thrust upon her; President Bartlet aspired for greatness. Yet they have curiously different strengths. George W. Bush showed us the danger of having low-caliber people near the seat of power, and Roslin could scarcely choose worse on that score. Meanwhile, Bartlet folded during a profound national crisis because of personal danger even as Roslin survived much worse with great strength and dignity.

Both were afflicted with medical conditions, yet while Bartlet's staff shielded him from difficult moments when gripped by his MS, Roslin volunteered for a dangerous mission while in the last throes of cancer. Bartlet was more adept on the policy front: Roslin allowed a thriving black market due to her economic ignorance that resulted in needless death, and was cavalier about civil rights. As a politician, too, Bartlet rarely lost, while Roslin was outmaneuvered by her treasonous vice-president under the guidance of a terrorist.

On most conventional scores, Bartlet proved superior to Roslin. He ran a tighter office, and arguably a tighter nation. He was a great president of peace. Yet his shirking of his duty of office with the kidnapping of his child is concerning, particularly when compared to Roslin's cajoling, threatening, prophesying, bargaining wiles that anchored a people suddenly set adrift. In a time of no greater crisis, there could have been no greater leadership than that of Roslin.

As captain of the ship of state, Josiah Bartlet is the President we need. But that ship needs a great captain for the reason that it needs lifeboats: not every journey is safe. And when that moment comes, the people's lives and hopes are in surer hands with Laura Roslin at the helm.

I would vote Roslin/Bartlet for America, Caprica, and beyond. You?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Changing numbers on religion

The 2008 American Religious Survey was just released, with little surprising therein. The rate of religious identification has tumbled over the last 18 years nationwide, and the numbers of Catholics have grown significantly in the South and West (hm...wonder why!).

I do want to point out one line, thought, that shows how successful hucksters have managed to scaremonger Americans about atheism:

Only 1.6 percent of Americans call themselves atheist or agnostic. But based on stated beliefs, 12 percent are atheist (no God) or agnostic (unsure), while 12 percent more are deistic (believe in a higher power but not a personal God). The number of outright atheists has nearly doubled since 2001, from 900 thousand to 1.6 million. Twenty-seven percent of Americans do not expect a religious funeral at their death.

This explains a lot of the braying mismatches between theists' views of their communities and the reality. Through this ongoing campaign of intimidation, lies, and harassment, theists have successfully made Americans reluctant to self-identify as theists, for now. However, it certainly hasn't kept Americans from becoming more and more atheistic. In the way that counts, atheism and agnoticism are sweeping across this country.

If you want to play with the data and see just how godless the northeast is, hit up USA TODAY. One odd stat: the states that experiences the greatest jump in "no religion" as a response since 1980 are in order: Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts...and Wyoming.

(H/T Pharyngula)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More of the same on education

The Obama education speech is just more of the same for those of us familiar with the Axelrod agenda on education, which consists almost exclusively of three things:

  1. Sops to all manner of Republican talking points: more charter schools, "higher standards" for teachers, states, etc., "more accountability" for teachers, fearmongering based on inaccurate "studies" that claim American education is among the worst in the world. Obama has embraced Bush's NCLB law and wants to tie it more closely to "results";
  2. A gleeful enthusiasm for continuing the violation of constitutional federalism, which leaves education to the states;
  3. Lots of big talk with no real action to back it up -- as one report says, "he plans neither to detail any requirements to achieve his goals".

While I remain impressed with Obama's willingness to call out lax families who do not raise the importance of education in their children's eyes, the rest is straight out of Dubya's plans. However, whenever I worry about #1 and #2, I am comforted by #3.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Driving around the world

If you're looking for a cheap thrill when you're sick, it's something to peruse the "Country-specific Information" on the State Department's travel advisories page. It's a frank rundown, and some interesting things pop up. Such as the following stuff on traffic rules and safety in other countries:

East Timor:
Accidents occur frequently. When there is an accident, the police should be contacted. It is not uncommon for bystanders to attack the driver perceived to be responsible for a traffic accident.

Extreme caution is recommended if/when using mini-bus taxis, which follow fixed routes and are flagged down by passengers almost everywhere on the streets and roads of Swaziland... Fatal accidents involving these conveyances are very common.

Traffic moves on the left, with right-hand drive vehicles. Never assume right-of-way, as aggressive and undisciplined local driving habits result in frequent collisions. Lesotho has a high number of traffic-related deaths and injuries given its small size. The previous king died in a road accident in 1996...

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of vehicles on the roads in recent years, but the knowledge and skills of the driving population have not kept pace with the growth in the number of automobiles on the streets.


Throughout Indonesia, there is an overabundance of motorcycles claiming to have the right of way. Many motorcycle drivers recklessly weave in and out of traffic and typically fail to observe traffic regulations...accidents between a car and a motorcycle are invariably viewed as the fault of the driver of the car. Groups of motorcycle riders will sometimes threaten the driver of a car who is involved in an accident regardless of who is at fault.


It is also important to be aware that drivers and passengers of vehicles involved in accidents resulting in injury or death have experienced extra-judicial actions, i.e., mob attacks, official consequences such as fines and incarceration or involvement with the victim's family.

Non-driving highlights include the State Department calling out Tajikistan for excessive "bar fighting", and hair-raising profiles of Venezuela and North Korea.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Shallow weekend thoughts

  • Utah Gov. Huntsman is the Mike Huckabee of 2012 -- a lucid, reasonable, friendly Republican. He even goes Huckabee one step further by toning down the hidden fanaticism...he's endorsing civil union for same-sex couples. Oh, and check this radical proposal that Republicans should contribute ideas of their own, rather than reject the President's...wow.
  • I hadn't realized that the Mongolian Embassy in Washington, D.C. had contacted "Mayor Anthony A.Williams about the possibility of erecting of a statue of Chinggis Khaan [Genghis Khan] in Washington D.C in honor of his contribution to the world civilization in 2005. As the Embassy of Mongolia is now working to add its national hero’s name in the list of Monuments in Washington D.C., we would welcome your comments on the idea of erecting the statue of Chinggis Khaan..." While I admire the great contributions and leadership of Chinggis Khaan, I will admit that a statue of a 13th century Asian conqueror would be a surprise to come across in D.C.
  • Ever since Sal DiMasi got cashiered shortly after opposing casino interests, the de facto leader of the Opposition here in the Commonwealth has been Treasurer Tim Cahill. Most of his ideas are not that bright, particularly his keystone concept of warehouse-like slot machine parlors. Megaresorts such as Mohegan Sun put out the ritz to attract the high rollers, the "whales", as well as the middle class looking for spectacle. A warehouse is squarely aimed at gambling addicts who can't afford to play. Not a good idea, no more than the idea that anonymous people around Cahill are rumored by the Globe to be considering an independent bid for governor in 2010, either. All that said...it's nice to have somebody challenging the governor. Heaven knows the Massachusetts Republicans obviously can't do it (called out by the Healey-McCain Herald, no less!) and with DiMasi gone, somebody had to step up. Their eager distortion of that independent bid tidbit, complete with editing out relevant quotes that detract from the persecution complex, is proof enough of blind loyalty. This is a cult of personality that would do Gaius Baltar proud, but cripples our ability to focus on issues rather than slogans.
  • Speaking of which, last week's episode of BSG had too much crying, not enough doing. Next week better be, well, better. The whole series ends in two episodes...and with BSG gone, and Leverage off until June, the television turns off for a while over to March Madness, then the NBA Finals, then...
  • Gaming out costs by day -- whether it's tax rate restoration or gas tax hikes or anything else, is dishonest in my mind. Almost anything sounds cheap if you divide it by 365. It might sound crazy to donate $200 to me every year to keep this blog going, but keep in mind that's less than a donut per day!
  • I'm musing this idea: a basket of 1 stock each from CitiGroup, AIG, Wachovia, and ING would cost $9.27 right now. If I were to purchase some 30 "baskets" right now on the bet that if even one of these companies survives the next 18 months, their stock will restore to a spot where I could sell the whole lot for profit. As the old saying goes, "the time to buy is when there's blood on the streets."
  • We have way too many stores already, as evidenced by the failures of Circuit City, Steve & Barry's, KB Toys, and Linens'n'Things. So which stores do the fine people of West Bridgewater expect to come into the retail center they just voted to approve?
  • Yes, you too can support Roland Burris's 2010 run for Senator! Thus far, the only portions of the website that work are his biography and donation link. Nothing on issues or endorsements.
  • It's astounding how many Obama nominees screwed up their taxes. It's also astounding how "didn't adequately itemize minor items and violated byzantine codicils in the tax code" has become "didn't pay their taxes," as if it were volition and not inadequate counseling.
  • Question here -- every day or so I'm tooling down the highway when we come up to a construction area with a police officer staring down the hole that's been dug, or sitting in the cruiser with the lights on. Everyone slows down to 65. I've never been sure if said officer has the liberty to leave the construction scene which s/he is being paid to observe and chase off after a speeder. And for those times s/he is outside the vehicle, how would even be possible to generate a speed to write on the driver's ticket? Do we even have to worry about this happening?
  • "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz has to be the most cloying, saccharin, desperate stuffing of pretentious cuteness into 3 minutes 20 seconds of banal lyrics and unnoticeable music that's been released in decades. If this is what he turns out after 7 years releasing albums, he should just quit. Ugh.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Come to tomorrow's platform hearing! Yes, you!

My last chance to push tomorrow's Democratic platform hearing on education. It will be held tomorrow, March 5th, starting at 7pm, at:

The Paraclete Foundation
207 E Street, South Boston
(Broadway T stop)

Please bring any ideas and proposals you have, in writing or spoken aloud. We will be taking your ideas in many forms of media for submission to the Massachusetts Democratic Party. This is one of only three issue-based hearings on the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and our last chance to impact the party's policy on education until 2013. Please come to show the party that its grassroots care about education!

If you need further detail or have questions, email me at . Come!

PS: If anyone needs a ride from the South Shore, email me...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Accountability, you say...

Well, a recent source of noise amongst Democrats was the public birth of AccountabilityNow, a PAC that seeks to:

[T]target members of Congress who sell out the interests of their constituents in favor of corporations...by empowering the grassroots, Accountability Now will help create the political space needed to enable President Obama to make good on the many progressive policies he campaigned on

It's supported by liberal groups such as MoveOn, SEIU, and company. Their given examples of success in the past include Al Wynn, who lost to Donna Edwards in the 2008 Democratic Primary, and supposed benefit brought through a Marcy Winograd's spirited and unsuccessful challenge to modern Democratic Congressperson Jane Harman. Co-founder Glen Greenwald is quoted as saying "We want to destroy the taboo against challenging politicians from within their own party."

Huh. I think it's natural, when hearing this, to think in terms of "litmus tests". It's natural to think that the directors of the PAC will go after people they don't personally like (sexism in the blogosphere comes to mind). I was baffled by Markos Moulitsas' surprising snarl at Heath Shuler, a Democratic Congressmen heretofore known as "the only guy who could win in that district". Now he's not good enough.

Many people will hear this and think of the job the "Club for Growth" has done in kneecapping Lincoln Chaffee in his uphill climb to retain his Senate seat in 2006, as well as nearly doing in Arlen Specter. Maryland-01 flopped from GOP to Democrat in large part thanks to CoG's meddling -- their victim even campaigned for the Democratic candidate. They have not been a positive for the GOP; on the blue side of the aisle, Joe Lieberman stands as proof of what happens when primary challenges go horribly, horribly wrong.

Not to say that there aren't many Democrats who need reminding what the letter "D" stands for. I'm looking forward to seeing their list of targeted races, which will hopefully consist of burned-out representatives in solid blue states, and not marginals in swing or even red districts. If they stick to New England, the West Coast, and heavily urban areas, they bring value to this party; otherwise, it's just egos speaking louder than brains.

You could, for instance, start with the Bay State's own Stephen Lynch. A guy who doesn't know his district, and couldn't navigate south of 93 with a map. He's great on labor, but horrific on abortion and gay rights. We don't need milquetoast Democrats in the Crazy liberal state. out with him. A good Democrat (Dunkelberger) ran in 2002 and earned 25% of the primary vote...we can do better.

PS: For a CrAzY primary, check out Illinois-05, Rahm Emmanuel's old district. Twelve, count 'em, twelve Democrats are vying for the nomination -- which comes with a quasi-automatic win in the general -- for the job.