Friday, May 30, 2008

jesus, advocate for taxes and welfare

Michael Gerson is clearly very conservative. But his conservatism is of a different stripe than that we usually think of among Republican movement types.

Another example of this is Gerson's column today. He writes that any reasonable reading of the Bible and understanding of the Jewish socio-political climate at the time Jesus lived demonstrates that Christ would NOT have approved of the laissez-faire, "libertarian" (Gerson's word), "let them eat cake" (my phrase, thanks Marie-Antoinette) attitude towards the poor and unfortunate.

The state DOES have a responsibility to help the poor, Gerson says. And - even more shockingly, as Gerson admits - we all have a responsibility to PAY TAXES, which are legitimate for a state to collect.

An interesting column. One that many in the GOP would see as heretical.

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a couple of thoughts about mcclellan

The Interwebs are full of commentary about former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who has written a pretty frank - and therefore damning - book about his time in the de facto Bush White House.

Most of what he says doesn't surprise me. The White House was set on war with Iraq from day one. Bush is not dumb, but it intellectually lazy, disengaged, and not prone to growth. Rove and Libby lied about Valerie Plame. And it was a permanent campaign.

It is surprising that McClellan has written all this. He says the longer he has been outside the White House "bubble" the more clearly he sees what was really going on. And the more "disappointed" he has grown - and clearly, disenchanted too.

It's rather insulting that the GOP's line, as they circle the wagons against McClellan's charges, has been to imply that "it doesn't sound like Scott."

That is half true. It doesn't sound like the Scott they worked with in the White House (before he was fired). That's because Scott has purged the kool-aid from his system and is speaking with the freedom afforded somebody who has moved beyond the bubble and clearly doesn't bank on making a career of it in Republican politics.

I won't defend McClellan for his role in lying for Bush/Cheney. But I'll give him some credit for having examined his conscience and realized that much of what was going on was wrong. If not actually illegal.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

dahlia, i think you forgot to mention something

I usually admire Dahlia Lithwick's writing at Slate, particularly about the Supreme Court. But her recent piece, also in Newsweek, just doesn't get it.

She asserts that accusations of electoral fraud (the "paranoid fear of the election-fraud monster") by Democrats and Republicans are not based on reality and could become a self-fulfilling prophecy by making people unwilling to believe the vote totals. She talks about how the Texas GOP's anti-vote fraud investigations have turned up a grand total of 26 people (and those include people whose "offense" was mailing somebody else's absentee ballot). Lithwick flags voter ID laws as well and implies that allegations of vote suppression (the preferred GOP tactic) are overblown.

But she doesn't make her case. Yes, she is right about the Republican half of the debate. Fraud in registering voters - dead people voting as a classic example - is a vanishingly small issue. Witness the scant fruits of the GOP's witch-hunt in Texas.

I don't condone fraudulent voter registration. The dead should not vote. On the other hand, vote SUPPRESSION - the preferred GOP tactic - is far worse because it denies this right to individuals based largely on their perceived political affiliation, i.e. "black voters are mostly Democrats therefore cutting their vote will help us Republicans." I would like to see Lithwick more seriously address THAT question before dismissing it. Maybe she has a good case. But she didn't make it in her article.

And finally, in 2008 it is rather breathtakingly shortsighted to write a long article like this on electoral fraud without ONE mention of voting machines. THAT my friends is the path of ballot box stuffing and electoral fraud now. Sure, voter ID laws will disproportionately affect the elderly and minorities. Sure, you can still go to the graveyard (or hell, surely you can just go on-line now) and find names to register.

But it is so much easier to fiddle with the computer files to generate a number that meets the desires of your political masters, knowing that a meaningful recount absent physical ballots is not possible. Not to mention the prospect of honest computer ERRORS blowing an election.

Whether believing in the "election fraud monster" is a paranoid fear or not, Lithwick blew it by not touching on the possible role of electronic voting machines.

a farewell to kings

Not every day a country votes to get rid of its royal family. But that has happened in Nepal, whose parliament voted 560-4 to get rid of King Gyanendra and the monarchy.

Hard to muster much sympathy for Gynanendra. He has been a poor leader since the 2001 massacre of the previous king and much of the royal family by the crown prince.

It surprises me that this is the first monarchy to be ended since the Shah of Iran went down in 1979.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

he oughtta know

I remember how Scott McClellan would stand up at the White House press room podium and just say the most outrageous lies.
Apparently he's decided to admit to a few things in what might be a juicier-than-expected memoir of his time in the de facto Bush Administration...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

another one rides the bus

Hey, where'd all these people come from? Johnny-come-latelies, riding the bus and trains now that gas is approaching $4 a gallon. Thanks a lot, oil prices - now I'll never get a seat.

Still it's a good thing. Anyway, there must be something wrong with gas prices if at hitting this level they provoke a change like this in mass transit use.

Because gas prices should be $8 a gallon and far more of us should be on the train or bus or bike.


Monday, May 26, 2008

the cover up continues! (not really)

The British Ministry of Defense has released two decades of data about UFO sightings.

The conclusion? Most sightings could be explained by things like the tipper being tipsy, and a journalist professor who follows UFO issues, David Clarke, said “The government has been telling us the truth. There are a lot of weird things in the sky, and some of them we can’t explain, but there’s not a shred of evidence for a single alien visitation.”

That of course is NOT what the UFO zealots want to hear!

With this crowd you can't win. Not releasing information makes them ask, what is being hidden? And releasing information will bring charges that the REAL stuff is being withheld.

I suspect there is intelligent life out there somewhere. But honestly, I think if it visited Earth, we'd know about it pretty soon. And it would be beyond the ability of terrestrial governments to hide it.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

warning - indiana jones is not a REAL archaelogist!

Sometimes your belief system is shaken without warning. That happened today as I read the Post's Outlook section and saw this column by a guy called Neil Asher Silberman. Silberman, who says he is an archaeologist, claims Indiana Jones is not a real archaelogist.

Well, I'm stunned. I thought the Indiana Jones movies were documentaries, I really did. Unusually well-done and exciting ones, but nevertheless there were enough true elements - like Nazi Germans and short Chinese kids, which I am pretty sure DID exist - to the movies that I thought they must be real.

So it was with some rising hope that I read Tom Shales' review of "Recount," hoping that perhaps I had gotten it wrong for the last seven-and-a-half years.

No such luck. Bush is selected as the de facto President in "Recount," too. Drag.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

is barack obama muslim?


Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But he isn't.

oops, sorry

Didn't take Hillary Clinton long to apologize for probably the dumbest statement by a Democrat on the campaign trail this year.

She said she had the Kennedys on her mind, what with Ted Kennedy's brain cancer diagnosis. Fair enough - although I don't understand why, according to the Washington Post, she had said similar things (albeit worded more carefully) well before Kennedy's seizure.

Hillary Clinton's campaign strategy: stay on her feet and hope something happens to Barack Obama. An inspiring model for us all.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

clinton crosses a sick line

Hillary Clinton has just shoved her foot in her mouth down to about her bowel. Asked by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader about dropping out, she said "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it."

That is simply sick. Look we've all heard the speculation about whether a black candidate like Barack Obama would be more at risk of assassination than a white male candidate like McCain or Gore or Bob Dole. Some will read this as practically an invitation from Hillary Clinton to take out Obama and clear the path for her.

I don't believe she MEANT it to sound that way. But NO presidential candidate should ever flag "assassination" as a factor in staying in the race. It is sick. It is stupid. It sounds threatening. And to be honest, it is one thing that ALL major candidates should share - concern over some nutjob taking a shot at a presidential candidate. Like what happened to Bobby Kennedy. Or George Wallace.

It also looks like a pretty damn sure acknowledgement that Clinton can only win if Obama dies or is abducted by Martians.

At this point, Clinton is reduced to self-parody. It is stupid to remain in the race now, and I don't say that because I hate women, Marie Cocco - I'd tell Obama the same damn thing, or John Edwards or Bill Richardson or Joe Biden, if Clinton were in Obama's position now.

And if in her heart of hearts she knows she can only win if something bad happens to Obama, she should also realize that she doesn't have to remain an active candidate to cash in on such misfortune. Suspend the campaign, keep the delegates. If Obama decides to move to Cambodia and become a Buddhist monk, Clinton becomes the frontrunner.

And by suspending her campaign, she would give us all more time to forget the stupid and offensive things she has said in her desperate attempt to stay afloat electorally.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

dissing thatcher and defending hillary

Marie Cocco writes again about the Hillary Clinton campaign, her point this time being that people are using the "not THIS woman" line to hide the fact that they are not willing to consider ANY woman.

She does so by comparing our sorry record to that of other countries where women have risen to the top of the political heap, and pointing out how their rise to the top wouldn't play in America.

And she makes a strange comment about Margaret Thatcher that I find puzzling. You remember Maggie - the tough conservative and Reagan pal who famously told George H. W. Bush not to go all wobbly after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Cocco dismisses Thatcher as a model for an "acceptable" example of a woman leader in the US by writing: Thatcher, for instance, never ran for executive office on her own. She became the first (and only) female prime minister of Britain by reaching the leadership of the Conservative Party. That is how many female heads of state have risen -- through parliamentary systems that often use quotas to guarantee women legislative seats. Americans don't like quotas much.

How is that wrong? Let me count the ways.

First, the statement "Thatcher ... never ran for executive office on her own" is purely disingenuous. Britain has a parliamentary system - there was no Presidency for Thatcher to seek. In any case, after winning the leadership of the Conservative Party, she first became Prime Minister by leading the Tories in a successful election in 1979, and led her party twice to re-election. If that isn't running for executive office on her own, I don't know WHAT would be in a parliamentary system.

And let me assure you, there is NO quota system in the United Kingdom to assure women seats in Parliament - although the political parties themselves may enact such systems internally if they wish. And even if the UK DID have quotas for women in Parliament, that wouldn't guarantee one of them the chance to lead the country. The Conservative Party does not choose its LEADERS based on some quota. Whether you like Thatcher or not (I have mixed feelings about her), to make any such allegation does that skillful and tough-minded politician a real disservice.

Anyway, Cocco goes on to make the case that no other female politician, domestic or foreign, had anywhere near the name recognition or qualifications of Clinton. And from that she draws the conclusion that, by having rejected the very very best woman option ever to exist in the course of human history, we have proven as an electorate that we don't like women and don't want them to lead us.

That is an absurd argument. This primary process wasn't only about Hillary Clinton. It wasn't a referendum on her. It was a series of tests to narrow a field of eight, which included several very well qualified politicians, down to one. Clinton has finished second, behind a very attractive candidate who was frankly better organized than her. Clinton didn't lose so much as Obama won. Clinton's and Obama's success does not mean that Americans don't like white or Hispanic men, who finished third through last.

If the current situation were reversed and Clinton clung to a narrow lead, would Cocco be pleased if Obama supporters said that Clinton only won because it was "something about blacks"?

I didn't think so.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

cattle down

In case you are wondering, when the Republican USG regulates industry, it is for the benefit of industry not consumers.

Now USDA is finally agreeing to ban the introduction of "downer" cattle into the food chain only because of the outcry and some video snuck out of a slaughterhouse. This will reduce the prospects of you and I getting mad cow disease from a burger - but the beef industry fought this sensible step long and hard. And the GOP supported industry over the rest of us because, frankly, profits are more important than you developing a sponge-like brain and dieing after eating beef from a cow that should not have been slaughtered for meat.

ted kennedy

Sad news about Senator Edward Kennedy.

Some have occasionally compared the Bush family to the Kennedys. It isn't a flattering comparison for the Bushes.

Yes, de facto President George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy both won their first elective offices largely because their father or brother was President - and George H. W. Bush and John F. Kennedy both got their start due to their fathers' political prominence.

But unlike George W. Bush, Ted Kennedy actually did a good job in office. And he didn't start any wars.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

leave hitler out of it

De facto President Bush's nasty little attack on Obama when he slammed appeasement before Israel's Knesset was the latest example of his de facto Administration's predilection to tar all enemies, domestic and foreign, with the brush of Nazism/Fascism. Witness the absurd word "Islamo-fascist" which makes little sense. Islam isn't fascism, and fundamentalist type Muslims desire a world which would have little of the corporatist/nationalist elements of fascism. But it's a cool word, even better than calling them Islamo-Liberals.

Anne Applebaum says it's time to quit lightly using the Hitler comparisons. She's right. Iran ain't Hitler. Obama ain't Chamberlain. Even the modern right-wing Republicans aren't Nazis or Fascists. (They are something bad - but not that precisely.) So let's all remember Godwin's Law - and lay off the lame and simplistic Hitler name-calling.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

good news and bad advice

Good News

Although Hillary Clinton hasn't quite called it a day yet, it is clear the preliminaries are essentially over and the general election - Obama and McCain - is now underway.

And I admit to being pleased to hear that Bob Barr, former right-wing Republican Congressman from Georgia, is seeking the Libertarian Party's Presidential nomination. Since Barr's profile is significantly higher than any current Libertarian member (Ron Paul is not a member any more), it seems likely he will win the nomination. And as Micah Silfrey writes, he may do a Nader on McCain.

McCain looks weak - as Silfrey notes, McCain was still losing up to 20% of the vote to Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee, even after Huckabee had officially ended his campaign. And it floors me that Ron Paul's website gets 50,000 unique visitors a week, compared to McCain's 90,000 (Obama and Clinton way way more). There are people out there in the GOP that aren't ready to settle for McCain. And I hope Bob Barr will be an option for them.

I would never vote for Barr. He has resorted to race baiting and is overall far too conservative for my tastes. But I do admire his opposition to the de facto Bush Administration's ongoing encroachment on our personal liberties.

Bad Advice

In other speculation, David Ignatius sets a "test" for Obama, to go outside the Democratic Party in choosing a vice presidential candidate. He specifically suggests Republican senatore (retiring) Chuck Hagel and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

I admire Hagel for his criticisms of Bush's foreign policy. And Bloomberg, not even a Republican any more (not that he ever exactly epitomized GOP ideals) isn't a bad sort.

But I think it would be stupid to reach outside the party. How would Clinton supporters see this - that not only did Obama not pick Clinton, he went outside of the Democratic Party to find somebody? That would seem a bit insulting, not only to Clinton but to other Democrats. If Obama decided he wants a decent Republican for a cabinet post fine - but NOT to be the person in line to assume the presidency should something happen to the president.

And in any case, I think that Obama should choose somebody far less conservative than Hagel. Somebody with Democratic party credentials. Bloomberg isn't a good fit either. He's a Jewish guy from New York City, who would be running with a black guy from Chicago.

I tend to think Obama should pick a white male. Somebody with some foreign policy chops would be good. I'm thinking Wes Clark - former general, who ran very well as a candidate in 2004. Plus Clark is a Clinton Democrat - the next best thing to picking Hillary.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

who will staff for mccain if he can't use lobbyists?

A crisis is sweeping through the John McCain campaign - a self-inflicted one. Seems McCain has put in place a policy that keeps campaign workers from "lobbying, representing a foreign agent or participating in outside political groups." And they've had to fire several people for this, most recently Craig Shirley and Eric Burgeson.

My question: who will work for McCain if he can't hire lobbyists? I mean, it's not like there is a groundswell of selfless volunteers waiting to work for McCain... And McCain's political life is intimately intertwined with lobbyists, to an extent unusual even by the low standards of politicians.


Friday, May 16, 2008

another door opened

The California Supreme Court has opened another door for gay marriage. But will it be slammed shut in November? Conservatives have already gotten a million signatures to put a "no gay marriage" amendment to the state constitution for election day.

Other states' voters have supported anti-gay marriage measures. Of course, California isn't just any old state, breaking liberal on many social issues. But it also has a lot of Hispanic voters who are still largely more traditionally-minded on family issues like marriage...

I just hope this won't be like 2004, when gay marriage clearly worked to the benefit of the Republicans.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

bush's golfing sacrifice

Yesterday in dissing de facto President Bush for giving up golf in solidarity with dead GIs, I predicted there would be a leak showing it was a knee problem that was the actual reason.

It wasn't a leak - but VetVoice found this old 2003 CBS News story that says, yes, Bush had significant knee problems in December 2003. That was the problem that made him switch from running to break-neck bicycling. And that is the sort of problem that would make it tough to play golf too.

There you have it. His "sacrifice" in wartime was a medical necessity. That would be like somebody who had both legs amputated giving up Gucci shoes as a sacrifice.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

such a sacrifice

This is perhaps the stupidest single thing I have ever heard de facto President George Bush say - and that's saying a lot. Bush told Politico that he quit playing golf out of solidarity with the families of our people being killed in Iraq. I am not making this up. He said, "I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal." At last, America has made a sacrifice in the Happy Happy Joy Joy War in Iraq - Bush's golf clubs are rusting in some dark corner of the White House.

Hell, let's take it one step further: why do golfers (at least those who have golfed since March of 2003) hate America? I hate golf - I can almost agree with Bush on this one!

Bush actually said he was playing golf back in 2003 when he got a phone call from Condi Rice with news of the bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad, which killed a bunch of people including UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. Good thing for the sake of his marriage he wasn't engaged in marital relations with Laura.

All joking aside - how utterly incredibly shallow this is. Not playing golf won't help anybody. If he wants to show solidarity, he could consider going to even one funeral of an American servicemember killed in Iraq.

Presidential historian Robert Dallek put it well: "That's his idea of sacrifice, to give up golf?"

Yes. That is the soul of George W. Bush. (Oh - and I'm waiting for a medical leak that Bush had to actually give up golf because of a knee problem...)

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ugly stuff on the campaign trail

Kevin Merida has stories from Obama volunteers about some of the nasty stuff they have heard on the campaign trail. It is depressing to know that somebody can say about Obama, "He's a half-breed and he's a Muslim. How can you trust that?" And that person was a Clinton volunteer.

Or to read in the newspaper, "Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country. There is so much that people don't know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can't convince me that some of that didn't rub off on him. No, I want a president that will salute our flag, and put their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office." That particular gem, its racist hatred exceeded only by the sheer inaccuracy of his accusations, coming from the mayor of Tunkhannock Borough, a narrow-minded non-entity called Norm Ball.

I just hope that it really is the case that those are the sorts who (the Clinton volunteer excepted) would probably not vote for a Democrat anyway. But I must admit that early in the Democratic primary process, as attractive as I find Barack Obama, that I supported John Edwards. Partly because he looked more committed to working class Americans than Obama or Clinton. And partly because I admit that Obama's race is a wild card.

I fervently hope that Obama is elected. I think he would be a great President. And I think he CAN be elected. But in my more uncertain moments, I fear the party of Rove, Reagan, and Helms will return to the Nixonian strategy of Republican Racism and peel off enough electoral votes to win in the fall.

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350 is the number

A stark column from Bill McKibben about the need to start acting now to reduce greenhouse gases. Or our civilization will die. "All of a sudden it isn't morning in America, it's dusk on planet Earth."

McKibben writes,

A few weeks ago, NASA's chief climatologist, James Hansen, submitted a paper to Science magazine with several coauthors. The abstract attached to it argued -- and I have never read stronger language in a scientific paper -- that "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm."

And we must act quickly. The tundra is beginning to release methane that has been buried there for millions of years. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Ice caps are melting - white surfaces reflect heat; dark surfaces like a non-ice-covered Arctic Ocean ABSORB heat.

It's good to hear McCain acknowledge climate change is real and say we need to do something. It's clear the current de facto Bush Administration will finish its disastrous term as it began: by doing nothing. That means that Obama or McCain will need to act immediately and effectively, in concert with the private sector and other countries to begin reducing emissions immediately. We might already be screwed - but we should not just fiddle while Rome burns, as Nero Bush and Nero Cheney have done.

If we are lucky, Bush/Cheney (and the US Supreme Court...) will be remembered and reviled by billions as environmental villains for their role in stopping any action during eight crucial years, much more than for their criminally stupid and ineffective invasion of Iraq, their evisceration of American civil liberties, and their sullying the name of America by torturing people.

If we aren't lucky, Bush/Cheney will be reviled by many, many fewer people - because there will be far fewer people alive in the remnants of our civilization.

350 is the number.

Monday, May 12, 2008

more vote suppression

Pleased that the Supreme Court upheld Indiana's voter ID law, Missouri Republicans are now preparing a proposal that would prevent non-Republicans from voting, period.

I exaggerate, somewhat. They just want to amend Missouri's constitution to let election officials require proof of citizenship from anybody who registers to vote. A bunch of other states are considering similar steps - not coincidentally, at the initiative of Republicans in each and every one of them.

But Missouri could have their amendment in place by election day this year.

All this allegedly to prevent non-citizens from voting. But the REAL reason is to cut back on the franchise - the Missouri Secretary of State estimates this could keep 240,000 people from registering to vote, lacking either passports or birth certificates. And the GOP's belief is these will be largely the poor and minorities - in other words, likely Democrat voters.

Because it is NOT like there is a wave sweeping America of fraudulent voters casting ballots. There are only a handful of cases. The REAL voter fraud of course is more like Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, which benefits the Republican Party and is done by computers and police intimidation and the like. But that's OK because well that just helps righteous Republicans to win, which is surely what Jesus would like, right?

Oh and I am SURE that Republicans will be fair and honest in requiring each and every Missouri person trying to register to vote to produce a birth certificate or passport or some other proof of citizenship, even that nice Baptist minister or the big corporate lawyer and other Republican supporters, right? They wouldn't DREAM of just requiring it of the suspicious sorts - blacks, Native Americans (you laugh - but the GOP tries to suppress their vote in states where they are a sizable bloc, like South Dakota), college students, the poor.

Of course they would. Of course they already do. They will use this amendment the way states in the South used to apply literacy tests only to black voters. It's a tool to disenfranchise their political enemies.

And there is another reason that wherever you are, and whatever the race, as long as the Republican Party continues to wear its current racist anti-democratic colors, you should vote for the Democratic candidate in any election, anywhere. The GOP does not deserve a place in a democracy - a democracy it attempts to undermine at every step.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

a name to watch out for

We've seen the news this weekend about what some are absurdly calling an American royal wedding - the marriage this weekend of former partygirl chubby Jenna Bush.

Okay but the real news is, who's she marrying? It's some guy called Henry Hager.

Not just any guy. Hager worked for Karl Rove in the Bush White House. His dad John Hager after a career in tobacco, was lieutenant governor of Virginia, served in the Department of Education in the de facto Bush Administration, and is the president of the Virginia Republican Party.

So Hager looks like a safe person to have around Jenna and the rest of the Bush family. I'm sure they are very much in love and Henry isn't just marrying her because of who her Daddy is.

But let's see how long his hitch with Constellation Energy (energy? Of course - he's a Bush now) lasts and how long it is before he is mentioned for some elective office...


Saturday, May 10, 2008

go, speed racer

So I'm not following Hollywood as closely as I, an American and therefore presumably a celebrity- and entertainment-crazed person, apparently should be. So the news that they are releasing a movie based on the cheesy 1960s TV comic "Speed Racer" was a complete surprise to me.

A.O. Scott doesn't like it - at over 2 hours, it sounds like too much time spent on too little substance.

I haven't even seen it and I don't like it. I don't like it because it's another unoriginal idea from Hollywood.

I remember the "Speed Racer" animated TV show. It frankly wasn't that good. It certainly didn't seem like the sort of thing that deserved to be revived 40 years later. But revived it is, as a live-action movie no less.

Why? Because it is easier and more cost-effective to plunder past products than it is to come up with an original thought. That is most obviously true for sequels (Is Bruce Willis up to "Die Hard XVI: Clawing at the Coffin Lid" yet?). But it is also very much true for this sort of thing.

Frequently, the quality of a revival of this sort is based in large part on the quality of the original TV show, movie, comic, book, whatever. Not often is the movie better. "The Brady Bunch" movie for example was pretty awful - it was only bearable perhaps if you had watched the TV series as a kid and allowed the movie to take you back.

And I suspect that will be the case with "Speed Racer." Go, Speed Racer - please get off the screens soon.

But of course, we largely have ourselves to blame. If fewer of us would watch this derivative crap, less of it would be made.


Friday, May 09, 2008

mccain's cozy dealmaking

An interesting study in the Washington Post about how John McCain has helped a friend - and a major campaign donor - by pushing a land swap that would let his friend Steven Betts of SunCor Development trade some remote lots of land for federal property that is ready for development.

Is it a fair trade, land for land? Sure, if think giving me a diamond rock in exchange for this quartz rock I have would be a fair trade. The guy Betts said he's never discussed this with McCain. Of course, Betts has also raised over $100,000 to McCain's presidential campaign. These things are just understood.

So we'll see if this gets any traction on St John. It's not terribly surprising really. I mean, McCain was one of the Keating Five, interfering with an investigation into a failed S&L while receiving over $100,000 (in 1980s money) from Keating himself...

And perhaps even MORE stunning - John McCain does not always wear a flag pin! The shock. It is revealed here by crack political reporter Princess Sparkle Pony. Princess Sparkle Pony isn't optimistic however that this will receive the same attention as Barack Obama's refusal to always wear that little piece of trite political tin...


Thursday, May 08, 2008

say goodbye, hillary

Much in the press about North Carolina and Indiana and how Hillary Clinton, like a blonde-coiffed lesser Terminator, keeps on dragging herself forward in the Democratic nomination fight, despite the fact that Barack Obama has an insurmountable lead.

Clinton says she'll stay in the race "until there is a nominee." Well, there would be a de facto nominee if she quit right now...

I don't quite understand. Look, the only way Clinton can win now is if Obama is hit by a bus, or is caught having sex with a dead boy, or his mask slips and he is revealed to be Fidel Castro in disguise. But Clinton doesn't have to be an active candidate to win in that case. If something unforeseen takes Obama out of the race, Clinton's delegate totals dwarf John Edwards and anybody else. She is clearly the back-up, the "vice-nominee" already.

So please Hillary, make a graceful withdrawal soon. While you still have some respect. So you don't have to make outrageous claims like the one you made in West Virginia, about being "very excited about our come-from-behind victory in Indiana." That's pure crap - she led in Indiana from day one and had to hang on for a much-narrower than expected finish. When you have to lie (this goes beyond "spin") like this to try to maintain a shred of life for your campaign, it's already dead.

And you won't have to play act any longer if you quit now. David Broder is far far past his best days, but he gets a great line in his column today about Clinton: "(Clinton) flooded North Carolina and Indiana with phoniness -- playing a drag version of Dennis Kucinich, a beer-drinking populist, not the honors graduate of Wellesley College and Yale Law School that she is."

So as I occasionally admit, today I agree with George Will that Clinton should go home. Actually, Will's column today is very funny, about how Clinton's team is playing with the math any way they can because the real numbers - delegates, popular votes, and contests won - are all solidly against her and with Obama.

But after dismissing Clinton's quest for some sort of numerical fantasia that makes it look like she can win, Will sums up Obama in a way that obviously demonstrates Will's concern.

Tuesday night must have been almost as much fun for John McCain as for Obama. The Republican brand has been badly smudged by recent foreign and domestic policies, which are the only kinds there are, so McCain's hopes rest on the still-unattached cohort called "Reagan Democrats," who still seem somewhat resistant to Obama.

McCain's problem might turn out to be the fact that Obama is the Democrats' Reagan. Obama's rhetorical cotton candy lacks Reagan's ideological nourishment, but he is Reaganesque in two important senses: People like listening to him, and his manner lulls his adversaries into underestimating his sheer toughness -- the tempered steel beneath the sleek suits.

Remember - when Will compares calls somebody Reaganesque, it's a compliment.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

not a phony war on science

Former Bush speechwriter turned Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson today complains that "There are few things in American politics more irrationally ideological, more fanatically faith-based, than the accusation that Republicans are conducting a 'war on science.'"

To prove his point, Gerson points out three scientists who have done good work in the de facto Bush Administration; of course, none of them are involved in climate change, setting pollution standards for water, teaching evolution, stem cell research, or any of the other more controversial areas. And Gerson brings up the old conservative attack by alleging that liberals favor eugenics, and mentioning the Nazi Party in Germany.

Let's ignore that rhetorical head-fake, shall we? Are the allegations of a Republican War on Science accurate?

Unfortunately, yes. For the past 40 years the GOP has been far more willing than the Democrats to lie and obfuscate about science in order to protect their ideological golden oxes.

Currently perhaps the best known example is climate change. It is REPUBLICANS who have led the campaign to cast doubt on the science about the causes, mechanics, and possible catastrophic effects of climate change. It is Republicans, and their corporate allies at Exxon and elsewhere, who support the fringe lunatics. They have moved their line, from "climate change is a hoax" (still believed by Senator James Inhoffe and other Republican stalwarts) to "climate change is happening but it's not our fault" to "climate change isn't going to be that bad anyway", refusing to acknowledge that we maybe we should try to so something in the off-chance that we could be provoking a civilization-ending transformation in our climate.

It is Republicans and their Christianist allies who insist on "teaching the controversy" about evolution, trying to foist their narrow Biblical view of Creation on the rest of us, wasting valuable time and energy and money, and not helping us improve our science education while students in other countries continue to study biology without crazy hang-ups about God. The same people are pushing their ridiculous views of geology, trying to make the evidence of a billion-year-old planet fit with their myth of a planet built in 7 days about 6000 years ago.

Republicans (shamefully supported by some Democrats) have denied the cause and effect relationship between smoking tobacco and lung cancer. And between various other chemicals and other cancers, because to do so would be inconvenient and costly for their corporate pals.

Republicans (not all, though) have fought and fought against stem cell research, based on absurdly narrow moral grounds, driving jobs out of the US and possibly costing lives to protect cells that are not going to become lives. (Not to mention that the GOP only cares about children before they are born; afterwards, let 'em eat cake.)

Hell, just to pick a narrow sample of their selective use of science, remember the Republicans claimed "well golly shucks, we couldn't have predicted a hurricane like Katrina" when scientists had been warning about the effects of a direct hit on New Orleans for decades.

Don't let GOP operative Gerson fool you. There HAS been a Republican War on Science. And we all are paying for it.

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Monday, May 05, 2008


Hillary Clinton was asked on Sunday morning TV about her (and John McCain's) stupid and ineffective idea for a gas tax summer holiday - which would split 18 cents per gallon between consumers and Big Oil, with Big Oil deciding on the split (about 14-4 in favor of Big Oil profits, I'd bet).

Clinton said, "I'm not going to put my lot in with economists." She also added, "We've got to get out of this mind-set where somehow elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans."

Well that's just nifty. First, I wonder who Clinton WOULD ask about the economic impact of reducing federal taxes on gasoline? Paula Abdul? Tiger Woods? Borat? Dick Cheney? Personally, I like the idea of seeking expert advice on complicated issues. You know, like asking General Eric Shinseki about how many troops would be needed to occupy and pacify (as opposed to defeat militarily) Iraq? Not to say of course that a president must follow every bit of the experts' advice, but giving yourself access to analysis and information just might help make wise decisions. I think that the next president, whoever it might be, should try it. It would be a nice contrast from the current fiasco of a presidency.

Second, I kind of agree with Clinton when she says, "We've got to get out of this mind-set where somehow elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans." But I don't agree with how SHE meant it. She was using this as a dig at Barack Obama, who people consider an elite because he isn't fat and can string words together coherently.

But the REPUBLICAN Party elite really IS on the side of doing things that disadvantage the vast majority of Americans. For example, the Republican Party elite consistently call for the repeal of the estate tax, which touches on the richest 2% or so of Americans, to let them keep wealth to pass on to society parasites like Paris Hilton. And they keep on pushing cuts in capital gains taxes, which benefit that small minority of Americans who sell assets for big profits. For MOST Americans, the only asset they will sell for a serious profit is their house, and there is already a huge deductible there that prevents capital gains taxes from biting most of the time. And they push tax cuts that are aimed at the RICH not the poor; even Warren Buffett and Bill Gates spoke out against the Bush tax cuts, saying thanks but they don't really NEED them.

On the other hand, some "elites" do call for things that would HELP most Americans. You know, like elite economists who call for a single-payer health system that would extend coverage to ALL Americans regardless of employment status. Or elite environmentalists who think that limiting the amount of arsenic in the water you drink might be a good idea if you want your children to grow up healthy.

I hate this American tendency to bash so-called elites. It's even worse when done by actual elites - because honestly, ANY Senator from EITHER party qualifies as an "elite" even if NOT a former First Lady of a state and of the country. Doesn't Clinton think we'll notice?

And I hate it the most when the TRUE elites - as George W. Bush once called them, his "base" - are given a free ride. That's who Clinton should be bashing.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

blood on the tracks

We all have heard how Eight Belles was killed in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Yes, killed not euthanized - although I understand the vets had no option given the extent of Eight Belles' injuries. She was killed in being forced to exert her body to the nth degree - and unfortunately, to a degree that her fragile legs could not take.

This raises questions. William Rhoden asks why horse racing hasn't been put "under the umbrella of animal cruelty?" Personally, I think it qualifies very well.

Not because running is inherently cruel to horses. Of course it isn't - you can go to a pasture and watch horses run for the fun of it. But Triple Crown quality thoroughbreds aren't regular horses. They don't just run when they feel like it. They are run frequently, and hard, with a human on their back. They are bred for running as well, unlike "regular" horses.

As Sally Jenkins writes, "Modern thoroughbreds are bred for extreme speed, maybe to the point of endangerment. Thoroughbreds are muscularly more powerful than ever, but their bone skeletons seem to be getting lighter and frail."

The grueling pace of training and racing, and the changes in their physiques, makes these thoroughbreds more and more vulnerable to catastrophic legbreaks. But it will go on, because there is big money at play. And big egos, since owning thoroughbreds seems to be one of the things the rich (nouveau or not) like to do to stoke their sense of self-worth and importance.

Horse racing also lacks one other thing that separates it from other dangerous sports where catastrophic, and even life-threatening injury can result.

There is no consent from the participants themselves, the horses. Eight Belles I am sure loved to run. But she was not informed of the risks and was never asked if she was willing to participate.

So I'll give you boxing, since the people involved can make their own decisions. Ditto auto racing, football (American-style), ice hockey, etc. But leave the horses alone.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

keep on talking, w

So the Post says de facto President George W. Bush is acting on "principle" in this, his (probable) last year in office. As an example, the Post cites Bush's absurd energy "plan" based on drilling for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve, even though Bush knows the plan is surely DOA.

I hope Bush revives some more of his most excellent ideas, like privatizing Social Security (hey, just IMAGINE if Bear Stearns had YOUR private Social Security account!), digging up the corpse of Terri Schiavo against her husband's will to see whether or not she is brain-dead or not, and maybe invading India, Costa Rica, and Bhutan on suspicions of having weapons of mass destruction.

Personally, I hope Bush opens his mouth as often as possible between now and election day. The more he says, the worse Republicans in generally and John Me-Too McCain look.

George W. Bush - John McCain's Reverend Wright.


Friday, May 02, 2008

is john mccain a real american?

I was wondering when the legal and constitutional status of John McCain would become a news item. Now it has, with the Senate passing a resolution that it believes McCain, born in the Canal Zone (in Panama) to two American citizen parents, is a "natural born" American and therefore eligible to be President.

I agree with the Senate, as do many legal scholars. I don't like McCain, but the fact that he was born outside of the United States doesn't change the fact that he is a natural born citizen - the fact that his qualification as an American citizen was based on who his parents were rather than the accident of where he was born does NOT change that fact.

But I think we should go further. The restriction against non-natural born citizens assuming the Presidency is archaic. The Founding Fathers inserted it to prevent some sort of puppet being installed by a European power - as happened in Mexico, for example, during the US Civil War, when France installed an Austrian as an emperor (and puppet of France) for Mexico.

But that was then. No country is going to be able to impose a President on the US. So why have this ONE limitation that precludes naturalized citizens from having full rights of an American citizen? I probably wouldn't vote for him, but Arnold Schwarzenegger SHOULD be allowed to run for President if he wants. Likewise Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, born in Canada but living in the US since she was a small girl.

Come on, Congress and the states. Let's pass a Full Citizenship Amendment to let any talented naturalized American seek the highest office in the country.

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