Sunday, December 31, 2006

Who Still Hangs?
Sorry to get a bit morose, but in talking with Kenny B yesterday he was saying that some states in the US still use the gallows as their method of execution. I was shocked amd skeptical. Of course, he was right. Washington and New Hampshire still list hanging as their way to kill killers for killing. When was the last time a state in the US hanged a person? 1996.(!!) But it really should never happen again. Is that because we've become so much more civilized we now recognize hanging as barbaric? No. It's because a legal, er, loophole has been discovered. Should you ever be condemned to hang in the US, and you'd rather die some other way, the thing to do is eat yourself silly. Slate's Explainer has more, if you can handle the super-unpleasant details.

Oh yeah, and happy new year.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Execution
I pretty well agree with Josh, who says it better than I could:
This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur -- phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It's a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us.
Myself, I just find it embarrassing. This is what we're reduced to, what the president has reduced us to. This is the best we can do. Hang Saddam Hussein because there's nothing else this president can get right.
You should read the whole thing.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Nevermind, Edwards is Finished.
He's too honest. That will never work. He's going to run on raising taxes *and* running a deficit. I'm sure he is right, and would love to see him get his way in national priorities; they are truly inspiring. But you can't win admitting stuff like that, can you?

If I had known his plan was to present the right plan for the country and to tell the truth I wouldn't have bothered...
Year in Review
Over at my other blog I compiled a top ten year-in-review list of the big church-state stories of 2006. It was alot of work, so go give it a look.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Of Edwards' announcement, and a bit of video, is here. It's not your normal campaign announcement in many ways. The setting is a somber one, not a rally among throngs of supporters. And it was really a call to volunteerism and public engagement as much as a call to support his candidacy. Does he mean it and will it work? I have no idea.
Edwards Site
The John Edwards campaign site is here. The blog is here.
Ford's Critique
I suppose I understand the general practice of former Presidents not criticizing a sitting President on foreign policy. But I wonder how badly Bush would have to screw up before a public upbraiding would be warranted. It turns out Gerald Ford wasn't the biggest fan of the Iraq War, but he wouldn't let an interview with Bob Woodward be released until after his death. Woodward's Washington Post story today, summarizing the taped interview conducted in 2004 (when the war wasn't so unpopular) is a good one.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Edwards Announcement
He's announcing for President tomorrow in New Orleans. I'll post the speech when I can find it - looking forward to hearing what he has to say. I'm hoping for bold and blunt. Will it be the same as his campaign from '04? What will be different?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Global Warming News
An inhabited island has disappeared:
Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.
Gardening maps have changed:
Fifteen years of warm winter weather is beginning to change the Washington area's landscape — with Southern species like crape myrtles having an easier time and northern types feeling less welcome, according to findings by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

The foundation has revised its map of "hardiness zones" — with each of the nine zones showing a range of average annual low temperatures that help serve as a guide for gardeners and others.
"You could say D.C. is the new North Carolina," said Bill McLaughlin, a curator at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the Mall.
And retail is feeling it:
Retailers are calling it the Coat Crisis of 2006, a fashion fiasco measured in racks of unsold fur-lined shearlings at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and hooded wool peacoats at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris.

Balmy temperatures on the East Coast of the United States and in Western Europe have been disastrous for sales of all kinds of cold-weather clothing, from cashmere caps to wool scarves.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!!
Plus, RIP James Brown.

If you've got anything to say about Xmas, or about having a funky good time (or a brand new bag..), have at it.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Greatest Christmas Link Ever
Want to watch the claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Bugs Bunny's Fright Before Christmas? Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol? Elvis Presley's Blue Christmas? The Seinfeld Festivus episode? It's all right here, and more. Thanks to BoingBoing

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Milgram, Redux?
For whatever reason, the Milgram obedience experiments have come up at this blog a few times over the years. So, I thought of you all when I read this:
Diane Sawyer will conduct a version of Stanley Milgram's experiment on obedience to authority, says Jossip. On January 3, 20/20 will air a special in which Sawyer and social psychology professor Jerry Burger (who studies compliance and personal control) re-enact a "tamer" version of the Milgram experiment, in which participants were goaded into giving electric shocks to strangers far more easily than anyone predicted.
If your eyebrow raised over the phrase "a version of..." like mine did, you won't be surprised that this new take will hardly be a replay of that harrowing finding. Could still be plenty disturbing I suppose.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Kids and Nutrition
A new article in Slate starts this way:
Ever since I became a pediatrician many moons ago, parents have been pressing me for advice on feeding their children, and I have been blithely reassuring them that the best thing they can do is to pay no attention to what their children eat. In support of my laissez-faire position, I have cited the pioneering studies of Clara Davis, a Chicago pediatrician who began publishing in 1928. Truthfully, I cited them even before I actually read them, because what I thought they said suited my message about eating—"leave kids alone!"

When I actually read Davis' papers, my sense of them turned out to be about right.
Read the whole thing. Stevie T, this is the one I told you about.
Mark Taylor
Spent the last hour or so trying to stretch my interest in today's NYTimes op-ed by Professor Mark Taylor into a church-state issue for my other blog before giving up. Maybe I'm trying to keep the focus too narrow there but I just can't seem to make it work well enough to feel good about placing it there, so I'll see if I can get you to respond to it. I know Taylor as a philosopher--his book Altarity was a central text in my undergrad class in post-modernism (a course that taught me, among other things, to problematize phrases like "central text" but oh well...). I haven't kept up with his work since then so I didn't know he is a religion professor and theologian (now at Williams College).

His column presents this perspective as a professor: more students than ever are religious, and increasingly, religious students are much more interested in being religious than they are in being students. Here's a snip:
For years, I have begun my classes by telling students that if they are not more confused and uncertain at the end of the course than they were at the beginning, I will have failed. A growing number of religiously correct students consider this challenge a direct assault on their faith. Yet the task of thinking and teaching, especially in an age of emergent fundamentalisms, is to cultivate a faith in doubt that calls into question every certainty.

Any responsible curriculum for the study of religion in the 21st century must be guided by two basic principles: first, a clear distinction between the study and the practice of religion, and second, an expansive understanding of what religion is and of the manifold roles it plays in life. The aim of critical analysis is not to pass judgment on religious beliefs and practices — though some secular dogmatists wrongly cross that line — but to examine the conditions necessary for their formation and to consider the many functions they serve.
Until recently, many influential analysts argued that religion, a vestige of an earlier stage of human development, would wither away as people became more sophisticated and rational. Obviously, things have not turned out that way. Indeed, the 21st century will be dominated by religion in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago. Religious conflict will be less a matter of struggles between belief and unbelief than of clashes between believers who make room for doubt and those who do not.
As much as I agree with his beliefs about education (and I do), the easiest thing in the world is for us to read that and agree and sit in judgment of those students we readily label as closed-minded. True, college students need to be held responsible for their own minds and attitudes, but we'd do well to also look around at the factors that have made them the way they are--parents, teachers, churches, culture, role-models.

Introducing "room for doubt" around things you've built your identity on is a difficult exercise for anyone of any age. In a classroom it requires a certain relationship of trust to let someone lead you down that path - trust in an instructor, in an institution and in the educational process itself, to name a few. I don't know just where I'm going with this. But when a class - or I guess any community based on conversation and knowledge and truth - goes just right it's a pretty amazing arena of trust and openness. If I had to point to the biggest difference between my classes today and my classes 10 years ago, honestly, it's that we just don't quite trust each other the way we used to. I'm not sure how to define or illustrate that, but it's true. And it seems to me that can lead to all kinds of educational failures, including the ones professor Taylor mentioned. But I guess what I'm getting around to is I'm not sure this is primarily a religion problem (maybe there it shows up with the most clarity). And that's worth thinking about before we go deciding it's just the religious folks leading the closed-minded brigade.

We get 18 years, give or take, with kids before they go to college. How do we prepare them to doubt properly? And not just doubt their teachers, their government, even their ministers (We've excelled at that sort of training haven't we?)...but themselves?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Just Saying...
CNN has new heads-up presidential polls for '08. Only one of the Democrats is actually ahead of McCain, though just by a point, 47-46. Guess who?
Bush Press Conference
Q Thank you, Mr. President. If you conclude that a surge in troop levels in Iraq is needed, would you overrule your military commanders if they felt it was not a good idea?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a dangerous hypothetical question. I'm not condemning you, you're allowed to ask anything you want. Let me wait and gather all the recommendations from Bob Gates, from our military, from diplomats on the ground; I'm interested in the Iraqis' point of view; and then I'll report back to you as to whether or not I support a surge or not. Nice try.
2 months ago, we were "winning" and the military commanders were the ones to set the strategy, according to The Decider. Now, we're losing, he's "gathering information" for a big decision, as if this war thing is all just news to him, and the military commanders are to him just another group of folks giving advice.
Now He Tells Us
Bush on Iraq: "We're not winning."

I wonder if he'll ever see that the problem is not that we're losing in Iraq. The problem is that he persists in viewing this complex chaotic situation in terms of America winning or losing, militarily. The major thing we've "lost" is not the war itself, but our national influence, credibility and a claim on moral high ground.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Of Course You're Sick, You Depressed Fool
Science has decreed: If you're in a good mood, you're more likely to resist symptoms of the cold virus.
People with generally positive outlooks show greater resistance to developing colds than do individuals who rarely revel in upbeat feelings, a new investigation finds.

Frequently basking in positive emotions defends against colds regardless of how often one experiences negative emotions, say psychologist Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and his colleagues. They suspect that positive emotions stimulate symptom-fighting substances.

"We need to take more seriously the possibility that a positive emotional style is a major player in disease risk," Cohen says.

In a study published in 2003, his group exposed 334 healthy adults to one of two rhinoviruses via nasal drops. Those who displayed generally positive outlooks, including feelings of liveliness, cheerfulness, and being at ease, were least likely to develop cold symptoms. Unlike the negatively inclined participants, they reported fewer cold symptoms than were detected in medical exams.
Read the whole thing. Spot the flaws!
New Direction or Wishful Thinking? [UPDATED]
Blog types are pretty excited over EJ Dionne's column in the Post. There he exclaims the good news that America is changing.
It wasn't all that long ago that Democrats and liberals were said to be out of touch with "the real America," which was defined as encompassing the states that voted for President Bush in 2004, including the entire South. Democrats seemed to accept this definition of reality, and they struggled -- often looking ridiculous in the process -- to become fluent in NASCAR talk and to discuss religion with the inflections of a white Southern evangelicalism foreign to so many of them.

Now the conventional wisdom sees Republicans in danger of becoming merely a Southern regional party. Isn't it amazing how quickly the supposedly "real America" was transformed into a besieged conservative enclave out of touch with the rest of the country? Now religious moderates and liberals are speaking in their own tongues, and the free-thinking, down-to-earth citizens in the Rocky Mountain states are, in large numbers, fed up with right-wing ideology.

Only a few months ago, it was widely thought that accusing opponents of wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq would be enough to cast political enemies into an unpatriotic netherworld of wimps and "defeatocrats."

Now the burden of proof is on those who claim that fighting in Iraq was a good idea and that the situation can be turned around.
I seem to remember that part he describes, where Democrats looked "ridiculous", you know, with the religion and the NASCAR, was just a few months ago. Have things really changed? Or did people just finally get fed up with clearly the worst federal government we've seen since Nixon (at least) and decide to vote them out? He's got some good points, especially about the young vote (Jon Stewart is the new Rush Limbaugh?!), but I'm not ready to claim a sea change just yet.

[UPDATE: Then again, if what's happening in Kansas is any indication, maybe Republicans really have screwed the pooch.]

Monday, December 18, 2006

What have you been watching, listening to, reading?

Article 19 Holiday Poll Question
What's your favorite Christmas song, movie, tv special?

Christopher Guest
I haven't seen For Your Consideration yet, but have been sorry to see that most reviews seem a little disappointed. There is a pretty horrifyingly stupid cover-story interview in the newest Paste Magazine, but I recommend one of their other features, of Harry Shearer and Michael McKean talking about Guest.

Weekend Box Office
1. The Pursuit of Happyness
2. Eragon
3. Happy Feet
4. Charlotte's Web
5. The Holiday

2006 Highest Rated Movies
According to Metacritic:
1. The Queen
2. United 93
3. Borat
4. Overlord
5. L'Enfant
Say It Ain't So
Not sure how reliable this is, but this rumor from the Evans-Novak Political Report says that the DC scuttlebutt is that Justice John Paul Stevens plan to retire soon--purposefully while President Bush can name a successor.
Justice John Paul Stevens wants to be replaced by a Republican President, just as he was appointed by one, Gerald Ford. Stevens, a consistent liberal voice and vote on the high court, was also rumored to have wanted to step down after the 2006 election, so as to avoid making his replacement into a political issue.
On the one hand this would be an entirely principled stand on Stevens' part if true, to decide it's only fair that the Party that hired him should be the one that gets to replace him. On the other hand, of all the principles you might use to select your retirement plans as a Supreme Court Justice, that has to be one of the most shallow, pointless and confused I can imagine.

Let's start with the fact that he's built an entire career fighting to defend constitutional principles that are very important indeed, and worth continuing to fight for by trying to be replaced by someone other than Bush. But beyond that, even given that bizarre desire for partisan equality (one that, since nobody else seems to follow, is hardly achieved by this single enactment), the party of Bush is hardly the party of Ford. Nothing of substance connects them. Certainly nothing worthy of a loyalty that would effectively undo Stevens' career.

If he wants to retire because of his age, his health, or just because he's done enough, I wouldn't quibble. The man has continued to serve into his 80's. But, come on, don't leave with the purpose of being replaced by a Republican.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Edwards Announcement
No surprise, but John Edwards is running for President. He will make his official announcement from a devastated neighborhood in New Orleans. Sounds like a smart move to me. I don't know if he can win, and haven't decided who I'll vote for in the primary, but I like him.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Captain Obvious
The news today is full of things I'm sure you didn't know.

Diana, Princess of Wales, was not in fact killed by the British government.

Americans are fat and watch lots of TV.

The Associated Press' Daniel Yee is somehow getting paid to report that the success of Hooters' restaurant chain has something to do with the waitresses.

Now that he's running for President, MA Governor Mitt Romney has found the conservative religion on everything from abortion to gay rights. Who would have thought he'd change his mind just in time for the primaries? What are the odds?

What other astounding findings are in the news today?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Grades Are In
So I finally have time to read and post. What have I missed in my 24 hour grade-a-thon haze? I notice that while I was away we nearly lost control of the Senate thanks to a little intracranial bleeding by our South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson. Sounds like (via Kevin Drum) the surgical procedure is not pleasant, but the recovery prognosis--though a bit slow--is promising in most cases that unfold like this one. Apparently, if you have this congenital problem, and it announces itself, this is just how you want it to happen: noticeable symptoms a few steps away from the best and fastest medical care in the world. For most of us, if we have this problem, they'll figure it out in the morgue.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The People Have Spoken?
I can hardly believe it, but I think Bush is actually going to increase the troop level in Iraq. Ugh. How many more have to die?

Meanwhile at TPM, a reader points out that "doubling down" as many are calling it is a completely improper metaphor for this foolishness.
The reference is to a bet in blackjack when, based on the cards that have been dealt, the player seeks to maximize a payoff that is more likely to occur in that hand, given the probabilities. The double down is a calculated bet, made from a position of strength when the odds are favorable to the bettor.

In Iraq, we are certainly not in a situation where the odds are favorable to winning. Our bet is not a double down. Let's call it what it is: double or nothing. This is is more like the gambler who has been on a bad losing streak deciding to empty the savings account and put all of his chips on red, hoping that the roulette wheel will spin his way and bring him back close to even. Double or nothing is a desperation play. It is an ill-advised way to gamble, with chips or human lives...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

3 Cheers for Craigslist
I have to admit, if I was the owner of Craigslist, I would have sold out by now. It's nice to know that there are some people whose view of the world doesn't require it, especially when it can so beautifully confuse the people whose view of the world demands it.

Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist, caused lots of head-scratching Thursday as he tried to explain to a bunch of Wall Street types why his company is not interested in “monetizing” his ridiculously popular Web operation. Appearing at the UBS global media conference in New York, Mr. Buckmaster took questions from the bemused audience, which apparently could not get its collective mind around the notion that Craigslist exists to help Web users find jobs, cars, apartments and dates — and not so much to make money.

Wendy Davis of MediaPost describes the presentation as a “a culture clash of near-epic proportions.” She recounts how UBS analyst Ben Schachter wanted to know how Craigslist plans to maximize revenue. It doesn’t, Mr. Buckmaster replied perhaps wondering how Mr. Schachter could possibly not already know this). “That definitely is not part of the equation,” he said, according to MediaPost. “It’s not part of the goal.”

“I think a lot of people are catching their breath right now,” Mr. Schachter said in response.
Larry Dignan, writing on Between the Lines blog at ZDNet, called Mr. Buckmaster “delightfully communist,” and described the audience as “confused capitalists wondering how a company can exist without the urge to maximize profits.”

Monday, December 11, 2006

What have you been watching, listening to, reading?

Another Eastwood Winner?
I never saw Clint Eastwood's film "Flags of our Fathers" about Iwo Jima and frankly never had much interest in it; still a little pissed at him for Million Dollar Baby. And I didn't feel like I missed anything since it prett much came and went without any fanfare. But now I see it on best picture lists and it turns out he has a companion film in Japanese coming out this month called "Letters from Iwo Jima." Together they are supposed to tell the story of the war from both sides, and I'll be damned if that doesn't sound kinda interesting. I wonder if I just slept through the acclaim when the first came out. Did anyone see it?

While I'm at it, I have to say for the record, that even though Borat did make me laugh and I suppose Cohen's performance is pretty unavoidably convincing, there's no way the film belongs among contenders for best picture. There's just not that much to it. But alas there it is.

Not Your Average Travel Guide
I am informed that tonight's show on the Travel Channel will feature the music of wunder-nephew Joel Wilson among others. 7 and 10 central time.

Weekend Box Office
1. Apocalypto
2. The Holiday
3. Happy Feat
4. Casino Royale
5. Blood Diamond

Friday, December 08, 2006

Kos knows the way to my heart - talking of how Al Gore would and could win the nomination if he wanted. His basic thought I agree with - wait and let the others do the campaigning for most of 2007. But his particular advice I'm not sure about: he can wait until Dec. 2007 to jump in. Really? The first primaries are in January...isn't that a bit late? On the other hand, he would have a great excuse for not winning those and could claim victory for finishing anywhere in the top 3 or 4 there. What I tend to think is that if an Edwards or Obama candidacy is leading or right with Hillary he'll stay out. If she looks to be steam-rolling and we need a consensus alternative maybe then he'll get in.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I made the mistake of following the story of James Kim, which has ended tragically. It's confusing to me how -- in an age of GPS and cellphones -- something like that can happen, in which a family is stranded for days in their car on a road. It's nightmares like the Kim's that keep me almost completely uninterested in camping trips or other wilderness my head the story usually ends with a bear or a drunk redneck, but snowstorm is pretty bad too.
3-Day Work Week
I agree with Rep. Kingston (R-GA) who complains about the prospect of having to work more than 3 days a week under the new Democratic congress. How are good family men like Mark Foley supposed to preserve those important relationships if they're expected to be at work all the time?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It was cute the way we built rockets and went to the moon before the Russians, and the way we've sent probes with fancy cameras and some sciency tools out to mars and beyond. And if it's true that there was water on mars pretty recently, that would be truly fascinating. But (could you tell I had a but coming?), why are we thinking of building a "permanent moon base" now? I haven't heard anyone suggest a good reason. Meanwhile, if scientists are looking for something to do, or some problem to solve, how about the one where the entire planet we do actually live on is heating up, ice caps melting, coastlines threatened, storms worse, droughts worse, and the oceans are dying.

I'm not opposed to aimless exploration. Sounds pretty neat. But don't you do that in a time of relative luxury, not a time of crisis? Screw the space station I say, and, you know, the moon will still be there in 50 years. If we've got that many billions to spend, let's use it to solve some more pressing problems--we've got them. Am I just missing it? Have I gone batshit myopic? I prefer believing in big dreams and long walks on the moon (and cuddling). But it just seems the wrong time for that and sounds more like a budgetary line-item that wants to stay funded and is in need of a statement of purpose.
2008 Straw Poll
Kos has a Dem poll up for the '08 nomination. Go and take a quick vote. I flipped a coin between Obama and Edwards and came up with Obama. But could just have easily gone another direction. Hard to see getting excited about any of the other candidates. I am open to listening to Hillary. The rest seem like a waste of time. I never got the Wes Clark thing, but I don't think I really object to him other than just a sense that he couldn't win.

Come back here and tell everyone else who you voted for and why. Or else just make up something good.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006, no
Not that I was seriously thinking about supporting Joe Biden, but I admit I had left a small window open because sometimes he can be tough on the other side and seems to have some good sense, if too conservative. But ol' Joe's shut the door on that. He didn't have much of a chance with me anyway, but this gaffe blows it. Yeah, you can get laughs at a Republican meeting in the South by making jokes about slavery. But you can't win Democratic nominations that way. Thank God. I hope I live long enough to see that whole generation of wink-wink, nod-nod Trent Lott-Joe Biden brand of racial cluelessness run into retirement.

Here's a hint, Joe. You want to get votes in a South Carolina Democratic primary? Don't offend black Americans. You want Republican primary votes? You're on the right track. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Because You Want an Excuse to Read GQ
Not sure how old it is, but there's a good interview with Al Gore, via Kos.
Q: Is there a burden to being so smart?
A: That’s the exact converse of, “When did you stop beating your wife?” There’s no way to answer a question like that without seeming pompous and conceited. I have a battery-powered hubris alarm on my belt. And it’s set on vibrate, and it’s going crazy.
What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Weekend Box Office
1. Happy Feet
2. Casino Royale
3. Deja Vu
4. The Nativity Story
5. Deck the Halls

Jessica Simpson Stinks
Not that I could do any better, but look--this is what happens when we confuse media-created celebrity, the pretty face with a servicable singing voice with actual talent. Musicians invited to perform at the Kennedy Center ought to be committed artists, respected by their peers, dedicated to making great music. Even a singer like Dolly Parton, who may have been the object of jokes in the past, is a talented songwriter and a performer who made a living actually getting on stage and making her own music. So when the Kennedy Center decided to honor her, maybe someone should have thought twice about inviting a no-talent hack who was essentially created in a music studio and tours propped up by all the high-production values and technical wizardry of today's music studios and mega-venue concerts. I doubt she could even get up in front of one of our famous Nashville dives with just a microphone and a back-up band without making a fool of herself. So I'm not surprised that things went badly at the Kennedy Center.
Simpson was in tears last night after flubbing a song she was performing during the Kennedy Center Honors.

Simpson was on stage to sing Nine to Five as part of the tribute to Dolly Parton, one of the evening's five honorees. Simpson ended her performance abrupty with the words "so nervous" and quickly exited the stage. The stunned audience remained silent, giving her no applause.

Simpson appeared to be crying when she and other singers in the tribute returned to the stage.
And, of course she had to make it all about her with the crying and the "so nervous." I'm sure they'll clean it all up by the time it's on TV. This is a bit like the SNL incident that hit her sister, as neither of them could hide behind shifty editing and multiple takes to mask their screwups in front of the live audience, but it's not a performance problem that's in the genes. The truth is they're just a couple of well-scripted marketing plans masquerading as musicians. You could say even worse about me, of course (go ahead), but at least if I got invited to perform at an event like that, because someone actually believed my ruse, I'd at least have the good graces to decline.
Obama on AIDS
If you followed this story you know that Senator Obama was invited by mega-church pastor Rick Warren to speak to his congregation for World AIDS day conference last week. Many in the church objected loudly to the invitation because of Obama's being pro-choice and for supporting condom and clean needle distribution. He went anyway. You can read his speech here.
I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like if Leo's family was my own. If I had to answer those phone calls - if I had to attend those funerals. All I know is that no matter how or why my family became sick, I would be called to care for them and comfort them and do what I could to help find a cure. I know every one of you would do the same if it were your family.

Here's the thing - my faith tells me that Leo's family is my family.

We are all sick because of AIDS - and we are all tested by this crisis. It is a test not only of our willingness to respond, but of our ability to look past the artificial divisions and debates that have often shaped that response. When you go to places like Africa and you see this problem up close, you realize that it's not a question of either treatment or prevention - or even what kind of prevention - it is all of the above. It is not an issue of either science or values - it is both. Yes, there must be more money spent on this disease. But there must also be a change in hearts and minds; in cultures and attitudes. Neither philanthropist nor scientist; neither government nor church, can solve this problem on their own - AIDS must be an all-hands-on-deck effort.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ranking Bush
Columbia University History professor Eric Foner in today's Washington Post:
At a time of national crisis, Pierce and Buchanan, who served in the eight years preceding the Civil War, and Johnson, who followed it, were simply not up to the job. Stubborn, narrow-minded, unwilling to listen to criticism or to consider alternatives to disastrous mistakes, they surrounded themselves with sycophants and shaped their policies to appeal to retrogressive political forces (in that era, pro-slavery and racist ideologues). Even after being repudiated in the midterm elections of 1854, 1858 and 1866, respectively, they ignored major currents of public opinion and clung to flawed policies. Bush's presidency certainly brings theirs to mind.
Historians are loath to predict the future. It is impossible to say with certainty how Bush will be ranked in, say, 2050. But somehow, in his first six years in office he has managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of his failed predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Today is World AIDS Day
Doug Ireland has a good/depressing report at Talk among yourselves.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Great Moments in News
You could be a reporter for many years, I'm guessing, without even supposing you might be called on to write a story that can be summed up with a sentence like this one:
Judd said Apgar told deputies he was smoking crack-cocaine at the adjacent park, but it was unclear why he was naked or why he was attacked by the alligator.
But then there's always a first time. I know many of us have smoked crack in the park, naked. And we've been attacked by alligators. But at the same time?? These are strange days indeed. (via boingboing)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Global Warming and the Supreme Court [UPDATED]
The Court heard arguments this morning in Massachussetts v. EPA, in which several states are claiming the EPA should be regulating carbon dioxide emissions. *If* the Court decides the states even have standing to bring this suit. Then they will get to the business of whether CO2 counts as a pollutant. That should get interesting. I'm hoping they won't just punt over the standing issue. Lucky for us, the transcripts are available quickly these days. So we may be able to read the argument as early as this afternoon. I'll post highlights if so.

SCOTUSblog has a nice preview:
Because there may be no more challenging environmental and energy issue now than global climate change, this case has been viewed widely as a breakthrough opportunity to force a significant and immediate response by a federal government that has seemed to critics to be unpersuaded that global warming is a genuine threat. But, as briefing in the case was completed, it also became a potentially historic case on the use of judicial power to compel the political branches to deal with a phenomenon that affects the entire globe.
But whose fault is this really? George Bush's. As a candidate in 2000, W promised to require lower carbon emissions as President, a pledge he broke as soon as he took office, leaving Christine Todd Whitman (then head of his EPA) out to dry after she negotiated an international agreement, not knowing her boss would bow to the oil industry and back out of his promise.

I don't know how to deal with the issue of standing - it's too complicated for my wee brain. But I know this: in passing the Clean Air Act, Congress intended to require the EPA to regulate pollutants.
The Administrator shall by regulation prescribe (and from time to time revise) in accordance with the provisions of this section, standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.
[UPDATE: Short version of SCOTUSBlog's analysis: it's all about Kennedy. The transcript of the argument is here (pdf). I haven't had a chance to read it yet. If you do, put your thoughts in the comments.]

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Boston Celtics: Lowering the Bar
The good news is the Celtics are in first place in the Atlantic Division! The bad news is...well you can see the bad news for yourself.
Trouble Getting Their Story Straight
Today's Presidential Press Conference (my emphasis):
Q Mr. President, thank you, sir. What is the difference between what we're seeing now in Iraq and civil war? And do you worry that calling it a civil war would make it difficult to argue that we're fighting the central front of the war on terror there?

PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, the plans of Mr. Zarqawi was to foment sectarian violence. That's what he said he wanted to do. The Samarra bombing that took place last winter was intended to create sectarian violence, and it has. The recent bombings were to perpetuate the sectarian violence. In other words, we've been in this phase for a while. And the fundamental objective is to work with the Iraqis to create conditions so that the vast majority of the people will be able to see that there's a peaceful way forward.

The bombings that took place recently was a part of a pattern that has been going on for about nine months.
Yesterday's White House Press Briefing
National Security Advisor Steven Hadley:
As we've said, you know, the goal for Iraq remains the same: A democratic Iraq that is able to govern itself, defend itself, sustain itself and is an ally in the war on terror. But we're clearly in a new phase, characterized by this increasing sectarian violence. That requires us, obviously, to adapt to that new phase and these two leaders need to be talking about how to do that and what steps Iraq needs to take and how we can support them.
If you've been watching the news lately you know that Iraq is getting worse and worse, by the day. It's horrific and tragic. Watch Michael Ware on CNN (really, you should watch it) describe what it's like in Baghdad right now. Bizarrely, all we can muster here is an argument over whether or not it qualifies as a civil war, as if we have a plan one way or the other. Even Jimmy Carter (who doesn't, by the way, consider it a civil war) thinks we "can't save them from themselves" in reference to the Iraqis. Sad sad sad.

Monday, November 27, 2006

In Memory . . .
Thanksgiving Day marks the second anniversary of the tragic death of friend from Boston College Law School, Arthur Harris. Dying a few months before graduation, the school gave Arthur something he had worked tirelessly to accomplish -- his law degree. Attached is a link to the BC Law news release about him. He was a champion for peace and civil rights. He hated useless discussions and chatter -- he wanted action. He truly comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. As we remember him, he would want you to take action -- any action -- march, write, speak out. Armchair idealists were of little use to Arthur Harris -- Esq.
What have you been listening to, reading, watching?

Beatles and iTunes?
Are Apple and Apple about to kiss and make up? It sure sounds like it.

Over the weekend, Walter asked me if I knew about a novel about a magician who doesn't speak English, or pretends he can't speak English, or something like that. I can't remember the details but he was looking for the name of the book. Anyone got any ideas? Walter can maybe add more details, if he has them, in the comments.

Also, while I'm at it - who's got suggestions for all of our Christmas lists? What's on yours?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label Sunnis "terrorists" and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to arms.
Militia leaders told supporters Saturday to prepare for a fresh wave of incursions into Sunni neighborhoods that would begin as soon as the curfew ends Monday, according to Sadr City residents.
"I got four phone calls from friends telling me to change the channel to Iraqiya and see what's happening," said Mohamed Othman, 27, a Sunni resident of Ameriya, one of the districts mentioned in the program. "I think this is an official declaration of civil war against Sunnis. They're going to push us to join al-Qaida to protect ourselves."
Thanks alot W, Rummy, Condoleezza, Colin, Dick.

Biggest. foreign-policy. screwup. ever. How do they live with themselves?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The new House speaker has the right attitude and a good plan. Kevin Drum has the details.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

We Eliminated Hunger in America!!
Woohoo!!! No, wait...

Sad News
Robert Altman died.
This is What a Reasonable, Humble, Religious Person Sounds Like
Many of you know Buzz Thomas--he's a Baptist and formerly worked for the Baptist Joint Committee, where I also blog. He has a book coming out in March, and an op-ed in yesterday's USAToday that addresses the current religious venom toward same-sex couples. Yeah, I know, they would say it's not venom it's love. But we know what it sounds like.
It's happened to Christianity before, most famously when we dug in our heels over Galileo's challenge to the biblical view that the Earth, rather than the sun, was at the center of our solar system. You know the story. Galileo was persecuted for what turned out to be incontrovertibly true. For many, especially in the scientific community, Christianity never recovered.

This time, Christianity is in danger of squandering its moral authority by continuing its pattern of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the face of mounting scientific evidence that sexual orientation has little or nothing to do with choice. To the contrary, whether sexual orientation arises as a result of the mother's hormones or the child's brain structure or DNA, it is almost certainly an accident of birth. The point is this: Without choice, there can be no moral culpability.
As a former "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it" kind of guy, I am sympathetic with any Christian who accepts the Bible at face value. But here's the catch. Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If you accept one as the absolute, unequivocal word of God, you must accept them all.
Some of his arguments are better than others but the whole thing is good and wouldn't it be nice to hear that kind of sermon in a Sunday morning Baptist service? (J.R.--I know you're reading this...I know you do use the pulpit to say some things I agree with, but if you want to start the trend of dismantling the Leviticus and Romans anti-gay "arguments" during a sermon, I'll be there on the front row...)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Been out of town - that's why no posting since Wednesday. What have you been reading, listening to, watching? I need some new music so show me some love here. Also, anyone see the Will Ferrell/Emma Thompson movie yet?

Here's One Thing We Won't Be Reading
Publication of the OJ Simpson book has been scrapped thanks to public outrage. Still makes you wonder what they were thinking to begin with.

What's up with Kramer?
Anyone want to comment on the Michael Richards incident?
(posted by Stevie T)

Weekend Box Office
1. Happy Feet
2. Casino Royale
3. Borat
4. The Santa Clause 3
5. Flushed Away

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Just Get the Flu Already
I wonder what it takes to get a re-call? New instructions say to "be careful" taking Tamiflu because of some possible side-effects that can be really nasty...

The NPR report I heard had an expert saying the FDA found it "peculiar" that people on Tamiflu were "becoming suicidal and jumping out of windows" since that's not really one of the effects of the flu. How am I supposed to be careful about that? If it happens just once, that's pretty bad right? There are things I can imagine jumping out of a window to avoid, but the flu isn't one of them.

Shouldn't the new instructions say: don't take Tamiflu?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Are We Stuck With Blue?
I think I mentioned this once a while back--but the red-state/blue-state divide has not always been associated as Republicans/Democrats. When Clinton ran against Dole, red states denoted Clinton wins, and against Reagan, Carter was blue. Did election networks pick colors arbitrarily? No. Since 1976, the color has alternated the incumbent party. So, Clinton's re-election in 1996 it was time for the incumbent to be red. In 2000, the incumbent needed to be blue, which is why Gore states were colored blue and Bush red. In 2004, the incumbent needed to be red, so Bush stayed red. And for 8 years we've developed a habit of speaking of Republican states as red. Problem is, in 2008, the incumbent party is slated to go back to blue. Will networks go along with it? If so, what will the conservative site do?

Personally I think we should change. The red-state/blue-state thing is annoying as hell. Plus, doesn't the color red have certain connotations (power among them) that we shouldn't want to associate permanently with the GOP?
Lieberman and the Ghosts of Republican Past
At one time, I was fairly ambivalent about the determined effort to run Joe Lieberman out of the Senate--considered him a committed Democrat who was just wrong on the war. I learned to dislike and distrust him more and more as the campaign progressed. And now it's looking more and more like KennyB is right: after the initial pledge to stay with the Democrats, Joe is open to the idea of switching parties (via Kos). Conventional wisdom is that he won't do it because 2008 offers more Democratic pickup chances than Republican, assuring that even if Lieberman grants a Republican majority in 2006, he will find himself irrelevant and back in the minority 2 years later. Frankly I'm not sure I see that same lopsided forecast when I look at the list, but even more important, I just wouldn't put anything past him at this point. He may switch just to be a jerk.

And in other news, the GOP seems poised to name Strom Thurmond honorary caucus chairman. Or, they might as well be.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What have you been listening to, reading, watching?

National Novel Writing Month
Anyone participating in national novel writing month? If so, you're attempting to finish a novel in November. That's writing one, not reading one. 50,000 words. At they are interviewing some writers on their novel-writing. I'm not going to write a novel. But I'm not opposed to reading one. Here's my question for the day. What's the newest novel you've read that you would recommend? And what's a favorite oldie you loved that the rest of us may not know about?

Hilarious. Disturbing. Sometimes I'm not sure it was right that I was laughing. If you've seen the movie, and want to know what's real and what's not, read this (don't read it if you haven't seen it yet!)

Weekend Box Office
1. Borat
2. The Santa Clause 3
3. Flushed Away
4. Stranger than Fiction
5. Saw III

Anyone see the Will Ferrell movie (Stranger than Fiction) yet? Preview looks good.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What's the best, most important change to hit the Congress once Democrats take over? It could be Pat Leahy taking over Senate Judiciary once again, which should help keep the worst judges from getting through. It could be Henry Waxman who will head the Government Reform Committee, which has oversight jurisdiction on nearly everything the government does. Waxman said the most difficult thing about his new post (which he's held before) will be to "pick and choose" which governmental abuses to investigate.

But I'd like to vote for the Senate Environment Committee, which has been chaired by James Inhofe, who calls global warming "a hoax." Now, Barbara Boxer will take control.
Boxer said she intends to introduce legislation to curb greenhouse gases, strengthen environmental laws regarding public health and hold oversight hearings on federal plans to clean up Superfund sites across the country.

On global warming, Boxer said she would model federal legislation after a California law signed this summer by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That law imposes the first statewide cap on greenhouse gases and seeks to cut California's emissions by 25 percent, dropping them to 1990 levels by 2020.

"Some of the practical solutions are in the California approach," Boxer said.

A top environmental aide at the White House signaled Thursday that the administration would work with her.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Can't Stand Prosperity
Of course, 3 days after winning a historic election, Democrats are ready to start bickering. Howard Dean ran for DNC chair on a platform of a 50-state strategy, he started the process of turning Democrats back into a national, instead of regional party--he won that election and delivered on his promise and Democrats won back the House and the Senate. So, now James Carville wants to replace him...with Harold Ford. What a mistake. I don't mind the conservatism of Ford when he's running to represent a state like Tennessee, but as the leader of the Party? Give me a break...hopefully he's too smart for that. Apart from that, Dean clearly deserves to keep his post, no matter how you measure performance.
What on Earth would motivate Tom Vilsack to run for President? Is he running for VP? Does he think he could win Iowa and then run the table a la Kerry? If so, he's crazy, right? I don't understand what motivates these people that have obviously no chance. Is it just because when they were first getting into politics they thought "I could be President some day" and now figure they have to run, just to see what it's like? Am I missing some essential Vilsack qualities?

As far as I'm concerned we can add him on to the heap that includes Dodd, Bayh, Kerry on the Dem side, and Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist on the GOP side. None of these guys seem to have points to make, like Dean's longshot run which started out more about advocating a point of view more than actually trying to win. What's the motivation? Won't anyone tell them the truth? I mean, seriously, what is going through Chris Dodd's brain that makes him think he has the slightest chance of being nominated?

Hilary, Edwards, maybe even Feingold as a super-longshot, Obama, Gore, and even Biden, these people have decisions to make. Do the others just have kiss-ass staffs? Or is the ego really that big? Is it that tough to get perspective?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Few Election Leftovers
Harold Ford won 31 (out of 95) TN counties. Kerry only won 17 in 2004.

Minnesota elected Congress' first muslim. Keith Ellison is a pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Democrat.

Shocker. There are vote count questions in Florida. In Katherine Harris' old seat. 18,000 people voted without casting a vote in the House race. 15,000 more than last time. Democrat Christine Jennings lost that pickup opportunity by less than 400 votes.

In OH-15, incumbent Pryce leads by less than 3,000 but 20,000 votes are still to be counted. Kilroy hasn't conceded yet. That's good news for me. I put that race high on my confidence list and am looking the idiot for it. Hopefully absentees and provisionals can turn this one upside-down.

Patrick Murphy has won in PA-08. That makes Dems +28 so far by my count. 9 or 10 are still out there.

My vote for biggest winner of the night: David Axelrod.

South Dakota voted down the severe anti-abortion law. Oregon and California defeated parental notification measures. Missouri approved expansion of stem cell research. Arizona defeated a gay-marriage ban because it was so extreme. Yeah there was some bad ballot news as well, but why focus on that this week.

Hope: You know which group of people increased their turnout the most over the last mid-term? Overall turnout was basically 40%, same as in 2002 (up slightly). But voters under 30 were up considerably.
What Can Be Accomplished?
In addition to being a reliable roadblock against frightening legislation and judges, it would be nice if the new Democratic Congress was able to, you know, get something worthwhile and helpful done, positively. Plus, you would think Bush might become anxious to leave a legacy beyond just a failed war, and might be willing to cooperate.

Hopes/Predictions/Requests? It's one thing to profess core beliefs and policy positions in campaigns. It's another to survey reality and actually make governing decisions. I am confident the minimum wage will finally be increased, and soon. What else can and should they try to get done relating to important problems we face? Can we make headway on environment/energy concerns? Will we be closer to out of Iraq this time next year? Will health coverage be expanded or measures to cut medical costs implemented? Will any large-scale fixes, big programs, be attempted? Or will we just chip away, Clinton-style?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Here's a decent way to start the new day: Rumsfeld is out.

No doubt this move was planned for some time, but Bush didn't want to push him out before the elections and look like he agreed with his war critics. So, our Defense Secretary, with a delusional view of the world, a flawed idea of what our military should be, and how we should fight, a tragic lack of planning beyond "shock and awe", and a blatant disregard for human rights and basic civil liberties, we kept him for political reasons. Thanks alot, W.

But this new arrangement, holding the House and, I feel certain, the Senate, is starting to feel quite nice. Have you ever watched a boxing match between 2 guys with a big mismatch in height? And the tall one, if he's fast enough, can reach out and punch the smaller whenever he wants, but the shorter can't get in close enough to land anything? For me, today feels like--in the battle for progress, and to fight our country's fanatically conservative forces--we've finally got arms that can reach, for the first time in 12 years.

Feel good.
Ain't it sweet, my friends?

update: sweeter still - Tester's declared the winner, Rummy's resigning -

Hey, a huge thanks to Don for his work yesterday - he gave us a checklist and kept us updated into the night as the blue wave swept across the land. Feel free to share any thoughts you have this morning as we bask in the beautiful (if slightly unfinished) afterglow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


In Tennessee, Ford did a great job and kept it awfully close... ...he won Davidson and Shelby with over 60% of the vote in each--amazing--that's more than Kerry or Bredesen won those counties with. He only lost Chattanooga by 7 pts. Knox by 13. Not really sure how he lost...all the suburb counties added up I suppose.

MSNBC says Santorum goes down.
Mike Dewine goes down. That was easy.
Menendez holds!
Cardin holds the MD seat!
Chafee goes down! I was wrong about that one.
McCaskill beats Talent!!
Tester holds on. Mr. Burns is done!
Webb wins by a whisker in VA! Senate turns Democrat!

Ellsworth beats inc. Hostettler in IN-08.
Northup (KY) goes down.
Chocola (IN) goes down.
Bass (NH) is toast.
Buh-Bye Weldon (PA).
Shuler wins!
Giffords wins in AZ-08. That's a pickup.
Dems win Mark Foley's seat FL-16.
Nancy Johnson (CT-05) loses.
Clay Shaw loses. Kenny was right.
Wife-beater Sweeney (NY) loses.
Sodrel (IN) goes down.
Space wins OH-18.
Mistress-strangler Sherwood sent packing.
Arcuri wins in NY.
Melissa Hart loses PA-04
Bigot JD Hayworth goes down in AZ.
Jim Ryun loses in Kansas.
Dems pickup IA-01
Dems pickup WI-08
Walz beats Gutknecht in MN-01
Nick Lampson wins Tom Delay's old seat.
Perlmutter wins in CO-07
John Hall wins in NY!!
Woohoo! I didn't even notice Carol Shea-Porter wins in NH-01.
Leach loses in Iowa.
Pombo (CA) goes down...
Murphy wins PA-08
Final Thoughts
I'll be posting results in a single post as I find them here. Refresh to get what I've got.

I have to say that I would like to believe the heavy turnout is part of a huge throw-the-bums-out wave. But honestly it doesn't feel like that. I think as we approach Presidential numbers, we get Presidential results. In a place like TN where the GOP has out-performed Presidential polls by 5-6 pts that doesn't bode well for us. On the other hand, who knows. Plus, when was the last time my feelings were right? One thing's for sure: there is a direct relationship between money spent and turnout. Huge money was spent this cycle, and the turnout reflects that. One other thing's for sure - the polls weren't prepared for this and I would be shocked if they're all that accurate. Just don't know which ways they will be wrong. Oh, and one other thing's for sure: we're kicking George Allen's butt. That guy is so much history.
Congress-Watching Guide plus My Predictions
I made up a 2-page guide (word doc) for watching the congressional races. Starting with the few somewhat vulnerable Dem seats and a place to check "held" or "lost" then 63 interesting seats held by Republicans, organized by poll closing time (times are Eastern). In the candidate name space I put the incumbent, so we'll be hoping to hear that those GOP incumbents have lost. We need a gain of 15 seats to take the House and 6 to take the Senate.

I'm predicting we win 22 seats in the House. That's may be conservative, but I think the race has tightened.

In the Senate I have many hopes and many fears. The fearful scenario goes like this: the Chafee machine holds onto the RI seat, incumbents Burns and Talent squeak by and worst of all Steele continues his charge to grab a pickup for the Repubs in MD. Then, we're looking at gaining only 1 or 2 seats depending on VA.

But I'm feeling hopeful. So the official predictions go like this: Dems pickup OH and PA of course, plus trounce Allen in VA (we will never have to hear from him again). Amendment 2 works in McCaskill's favor as she gets by Talent this time and Tester's early vote makes a Burns comeback impossible. That's 5 pickups. Rhode Island and Maryland go down to the wire, but against us. And I don't think Ford can quite get over the hump, but it will be close in TN. Net Dem gain: +4. If we catch a couple breaks in MD and RI, the Senate turns blue. And no way would Lieberman blow that. Asshole or not.
Bellweather Early Races
(Don't forget, the predictions thread is below--get your picks in now!)

Sometime today I'll post a helpful checklist you can use to follow the House and Senate races, but before I get to that, there are a couple of races in the Northeast that should tell us early on what kind of night it will be.

NH-02 In New Hampshire, incumbent Republican Charlie Bass won by 20 pts. in 2004 but is in a neck-and-neck race with Paul Hodes. Bass' poll numbers are consistently under 50%. This is a race generally considered in the second tier of Democratic pickup opportunities, the kind we will count on to win back the House. If the challenger Hodes pulls off the win (he seems to have a slight lead in polls), it is a sign that almost certainly the House is going Democratic. If he doesn't, it may mean that pollsters have overestimated the Democrats' wave.

RI-Sen--The Rhode Island Senate race really frightens me. This and the Maryland race really could ruin the Democratic push to takeover the Senate, a task that will take many things going right. Whitehouse (D) has had a significant lead until the last week, when incumbent Chafee came on strong. I remember in the Republican primary there was hope that Chafee would be picked off by a more conservative foe. That guy, Steve Laffey, was claiming on election day that all his precinct numbers came through adn went just according to plan--he thought he was going to win. But Chafee beat him solidly. Apparently the Chafee machine can get out the vote when it needs to. He won't have to beat the polls by much to win this race and keep the Democrats from winning back the Senate. A Chafee loss doesn't assure Dems will win the Senate - far from it - but a Chafee win would stomp Democratic Senate hopes early in the night.

When I have a chance I'll post about important races to watch in the middle of the country, and then in the West.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Amendments to Watch
(note: predictions thread is below. Go put your 2 cents in. Fabulous prizes await. No, not really)

There are lots of election-type posts I'd like to make if I have time, so check back in often over the next 24 hours. One thing I'll be watching tomorrow night is a handful of state ballot initiatives of interest you may or may not have heard about.

Missouri--Amendment 2 is a stem cell research initiative that has dominated the state's debate and the Senate race. Generally, the public is for stem cell research, but in a close midterm election that will hinge on turnout, this has galvanized the pro-life, christian conservative forces as much or more than Bush in 2004 did. Pits Michael J. Fox vs. a handful of St. Louis sports heroes who have come out against.

South Dakota--To me this is fascinating. The SD legislature and Governor combined to pass shocking anti-abortion legislation, and women were having none of it. A grassroots effort to rescind the bill has resulted in this ballot initiative (#6) that actually - in a conservative place like SD - has a chance to pass. You can go too far, apparently, in limiting women's rights. Maybe someone else can explain to me how this bill is even allowed, given Roe v. Wade, but will be interesting to see if the people reject it in either case. On top of that, SD will vote on a gay marriage amendment that would prohibit gay couples from ever receiving rights or benefits substantially similar to married couples. That goes so far that a recent poll actually had SD voters rejecting it. Would be nice.

Colorado--Referendum 1 would extend civil rights to same-sex couples. It's expected to pass. No, really.

We'll see how these go. Check back often tomorrow night during results and I'll try to keep up with the numbers.
I went to hear Obama speak with Harold Ford yesterday - a great event and he's a great speaker--very thoughtful, tells a longer story then he probably needs to but he and Ford both represent something important, if difficult to define, about the future of American politics. In a roundabout way, I think what I'm sensing there, and excited about, is that 2006 elections will mark the beginning of the end of the religious right as a powerful cohesive force. I really believe that. But, I digress.

Obama quoted one of my favorite sayings of Dr. King, that the arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice (yeah yeah i had to edit this to come at least close to the actual quote). And there is one element of this election that has been under-estimated in importance as the Democrats are poised to re-take the House of Representatives--a historic additional victory that finally brings many of the struggles of the past to fruition. African-Americans will not just have a voice in the 06-07 Congress. They will have a gavel to go with it. When the Democrats take over, much has been made of Nancy Pelosi becoming the first woman Speaker of the House, but here's something else. John Conyers will lead the House Judiciary Committee. Charles Wrangel will head the Ways and Means Committee. Bennie Thompson should head the Homeland Security Committee. Many believe Alcee Hastings will chair the Intelligence Committee. Juanita Millender-McDonald is first in line to chair the House Administration Committee. Shelia Jackson-Lee will chair the Border Security subcommittee in the House Judiciary committee. Eddie Bernice Johnson will chair the Water and Environiment subcommittee of the Transportation Committee. Major Owens will chair the Workforce Protections subcommittee of the Education and the Workforce Committee. Bobby Scott will chair the Crime, terrorism and Homeland Security subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.

That's 5 major committees that will likely be led by black Americans, Democrats who have paid their dues, waded through the years and years of experience it takes to gain the seniority needed. Do you know what the Republican chairmen of the current Congress look like? 21 white men out of 21. The next House will have a woman speaker and a woman (Louise Slaughter) will head the important Rules Committee. A gay (proudly, not closeted-hypocritical) man will chair the Finance Services Committee. A Hispanic woman (Nydia Valasquez) will chair the Small Business Committee. And those 5 African-American Committee chairpersons, 2 more than have ever served in that capacity for a session in the history of the country combined.

Whatever else happens - assuming the House changes hands - Democrats will surely be looking to the future for a new generation of leadership, but at the same time, what will also be realized is this further victory of the Civil Rights movement, many years in the making. Minority voices won't just be compelling our country's leadership, but will become our leadership in Congress.
Prediction Time
It's time for your predictions. I'll put mine out later today. Use this thread for yours. How many seats will Dems pick up in the House? Predict the major Senate races. Biggest upset? Any other predictions? Will some races be close enough to warrant re-counts or late-night TV watching? I'm getting so used to that happening now I expect it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Polls and Dirty Tricks
I'm forgoing Media Monday this week, with the election 1 day away. Here's what's on my mind falling asleep on Sunday night: new USAToday polling shows Ford within 3, Menendez and Tester up big, Allen back in front and Whitehouse barely holding off a Chafee charge in RI whiel McCaskill opens up a little lead in MO. The last Rasmussen poll will also apparently show Ford inside the margin of error. Shockingly there are still about 6-10% in each Senate race that claim to be undecided. Watch Ford's closing campaign ad here. I haven't seen it on TV yet but hoping it plays all over tomorrow.

But also I read that the national Republicans are up to shameful dirty tricks
in close House races--robocalling independent/swing voters dozens of times purporting to be the Democratic candidate, hoping to turn people off so much they'll choose the GOP candidate instead. Sadly, it works. How they look themselves in the mirror I'll never know. We could hope it gets enough press tomorrow to have a backlash effect on Tuesday. But when do we ever get that lucky?

What's on your mind?
Nov. 7 plans
I admit, I'm superstitious and even cautious optimism in the past has ended up deepening my agony on past election nights, so I am not "measuring the drapes" in anticipation of this Tuesday's results. (BTW, you don't measure drapes, you measure the window - the GOP doesn't even have a plan for window dressing.)

However, I'm curious what plans you all have for election day - poll watching, volunteering some way - and election night - watching returns on TV alone, watching political blogs, gathering with others to share in the thrill of victory / agony of defeat?

Seems like we should plan to gather here virtually at some point in the proceedings - anybody wanna?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Article 19er Needs Help
Jenifer writes in to say that she is entering a contest at DC's fabulous Hawk 'n Dove. Pick the winners! The races that are involved in the contest are as follows - she's looking for input from us, even though - best as I can tell - we've never been right about any of this stuff before.

Here's the twist - list your picks in order of confidence (most to least). The races and pollster links are included:
Iowa--Culver (D) v. Nussle (R)
Maryland--O'Malley (D) v. Ehrlich (R)
Rhode Island--Fogarty (D) v. Carcieri (R)

Maryland--Cardin (D) v. Steele (R)
Missouri--McCaskill (D) v. Talent (R)
Montana--Tester (D) v. Burns (R)
New Jersey--Menendez (D) v. Kean, Jr. (R)
Ohio--Brown (D) v. Dewine (R)
Pennsylvania--Casey (D) v. Santorum (R)
Rhode Island--Whitehouse (D) v. Chafee (R)
Tennessee--Ford (D) v. Corker (R)
Virginia--Webb (D) v. Allen (R)

Connecticut 02--Courtney (D) v. Simmons (R)
Connecticut--Farrell (D) v. Shays (R)
Florida--Klein (D) v. Shaw (R)
Indiana--Donnelly (D) v. Chocola (R)
Indiana--Ellsworth (D) v. Hostetter (R)
Indiana--Hill (D) v. Sodrel (R)
Kentucky--Lucas (D) v. Davis (R)
North Carolina--Shuler (D) v. Taylor (R)
Ohio--Kilroy (D) v. Pryce (R)
Pennsylvania--Murphy (D) v. Gerlach (R)
Pennsylvania--Sestak (D) v. Weldon (R)
Pennsylvania--Murphy (D) v. Fitzpatrick (R)

Put your picks in order of confidence in the comments and maybe Jenifer and SteveP will get a free meal at the Hawk!

Friday, November 03, 2006

What's the world coming to - UPDATE
Ted Haggard now admits he bought meth but didn't use it, and received massages from a gay escort. No clarification yet if those were massages or "massages," stay tuned to see whether there's a happy ending here.
Weird Holidays: An Article 19 Poll
As you may or may not know, today is National Sandwich Day. As I was just gearing up for a sandwich question to ask, I learn that it's also National Cliche Day.

So in the comments I'd like to ask you for your best sandwich memories--alltime favorite, or most interesting, whatever. But please, express as much of your comment in cliche as possible. We want to be respectful of all holidays here.
More Ford
It's hard to know what to believe anymore in the Ford race. I didn't think the Zogby 10-pt. Corker lead sounded right at all. But the new poll Ford and the DSCC are pushing - taken over the last 2 days showing a Ford lead of 46-40 - that doesn't exactly pass the smell test either, starting with the fact that there's no way 14% are still undecided. And a conversation last night relayed 3rd, or maybe 4th-hand account from campaign HQ that precinct-by-precinct early vote turnout has them pessimistic.

Still these are crazy times and crazier headlines and so who knows. If you had told me this week would bring the resignation of the head of the National Association of Evangelicals for taking drugs and paying for 3-years worth of sex with a male prostitute, I probably would have given Ford a better chance than that. Next, they will tell us we're running out of fish. Yeah, right.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Know Your Republican Scoundrels
My personal favorite is Rep. Don Sherwood, whose campaign slogan seems to be "I did not abuse my mistress." That's not really what you want up front in your bio is it? How are you supposed to keep track of all the other Republicans convicted, charged, indicted, under investigation? Here's a list. The Washington Post has a more detailed run-down. And here's a great ad, in which someone offers $100 to anyone who can read the list of Republican offenders in one breath.
Ask and You Shall Receive
In the comments to the polls thread below, Wilson asks about the turnout in Williamson County, TN. Williamson is a heavily GOP county just south of Nashville. How GOP is it? In 2004, Bush won there 72-28. And it's no small place. In that election, only 5 counties (out of 95) cast more votes than Williamson. So one of the things we would hope is that the turnout in Williamson County is down this year. Luckily, the TN Election Commission releases this information every day in a handy-dandy chart. The news is good and bad.

We're hearing how high early turnout is compared to the last time we had a mid-term election (2002), the year we elected a Democratic Governor.

In 2002, Williamson accounted for 3.1% of the early and absentee vote in all of TN. In 2004 that number was upped to 4.1%. So far this year (with only 1 day left in early voting) Williamson accounts for 3.1% of the early vote. So, yes its totals are up, but they are up across the state. Williamson hasn't increased its share of early vote influence over what it had in 2002 and is down a good bit from its 2004 influence. And in general the model is fairly stable and consistent with 2002 on a county-by-county basis (that doesn't tell us which precincts are turning out most but it's something) with a couple exceptions: Ford's Shelby County is up (16.5% of the state so far this year; 13.1% in 2002; 14.3% in '04) and Corker's Hamilton County is up (3.8% in '02; 4% in '04; and 4.5% so far in '06). Republican Knox County is also down. (7.8% now; 9.1 in '02; 9.7 in '04).

So, how does the big picture look?
Here's one way of comparing turnout: In 2004 the 8 counties that gave Bush the largest vote margins *in the early and absentee vote* amounted to 27.25% of the total early/absentee vote state-wide. Remarkably, the 8 counties that gave Kerry his largest margin also added up to 27.25% of the state-wide early/absentee vote. So far in 2006, those 8 Bush counties only count for 23.82% of the early/absentee vote; and Kerry's 8 counties add up to 28.12% of the state-wide turnout. On that evidence alone, it looks like turnout slightly favors Democratic-leaning counties over Republican. But, to be fair, that comparison looked better 3 days ago than it does today, so the day-by-day trend is not positive.

Another comparison: in 2002 the 8 counties that gave Democratic governor Bredesen his largest vote margins (he only won by 2 points state-wide so his is the model we have to more closely hope for here) amounted to 28.49% of the early/absentee vote and Republican Van Hillary's strongest 8 counties made up 21.43% of the state-wide total. So far in the 2006 early vote/absentee count, those 8 Bredesen counties amount to 32.1% of the early vote, while the same 8 Van Hillary counties count for only 20.3%, a slight decline. So strong Bredesent counties are having an even stronger influence. Strong Van Hillary counties a slightly weaker one.

This still doesn't tell us a ton. But it does say that in turnout we're at least not out of it. If Shelby weren't getting out, and Knox and Williamson were surging there'd be no chance at all. The worst news is that the last few days have seen Knox and Williamson gaining. This comparison looked better early in the week.
What's the World Coming To?
It's getting to where - if you're the evangelical leader of tens of thousands of rabidly anti-gay, conservative, Republican-loving church-goers - you can't even take drugs with your gay hooker lover anymore without being labeled some kind of miscreant. What gives? What's the fun in being a mega-church pastor and national religious leader with direct access to the President if you can't be a raging hypocrite on the side? With an environment like this, how is an anti-gay, anti-drug religious zealot supposed to get high and have gay sex these days? What's with all the tattling and, you know, reporting?

AmericaBlog has more.
Polls. Sigh.[UPDATED]
The newest Reuters poll has Ford down 10. I don't really understand it. There's also a Rasmussen poll that shows him down only 2. It's just hard to believe a Democratic/anti-Republican wave could rush over America and skip right over Tennessee. He's run a great campaign, a dynamic personality. It doesn't make much sense.

I think the race is surely closer than 10, but if he's really up 4 or 5, Corker can't be beaten by some small turnout swings here and there. Looking more and more like we have to scratch TN off the list, but we'll see.

The good news is that the rest of the Reuters polls look good for Dems, who hold leads in enough states to take back the Senate. The bad news is that some of those are quite close, including Montana which we've been counting on and is now down to a 1-point lead. Missouri s also quite close but McCaskill has the lead. And Webb holds the slightest of leads in VA. All of those have to come through for Dems to retake the Senate, assuming Ford just can't get over the hump here. A 3-seat gain in the Senate seems assured. 3 are teetering but we lead. Then there's Ford who seems to be backsliding. 6 wins are needed to take the Senate. (KennyB thinks we need 7 due to the turncoat-Lieberman factor)

[UPDATE: We may be able to add Arizona into the possible list. Democrats seem to think so. I think the reasoning sounds a little shaky, but whatever.]
America Speaks: We're Not Falling For Your Crap
Here's hoping that the people who answer polls like this last pre-election NYTimes/CBS survey are also planning to go to the polls on Tuesday. Here are some of my favorite numbers:
--29: the % of Americans who approve of the way Bush is handling the war in Iraq.
--70: the % who believe Bush does not have a plan to end the war.
--80: % who believe Bush's latest shift in rhetoric was just a bunch of wordplay signifying nothing.
--52: the % of "likely voters" who say the will vote for Democrats
--34: the % who say they will vote for Republicans (yep that's the biggest Democratic advantage in that question since they started asking it in this poll.)
--34: the % who want the new Congress to deal with the Iraq War first. The next highest vote-getter, immigration, is at 8%.
--56: unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party (36 fav.)
--40: unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party (49 fav.)
--67: the % who believe our efforts to achieve stability in Iraq are going somewhat or very badly. (that's an all-time high)

All in all - Americans are the ones staying the course this election season: it's time for a change. 5 days from an election, that's about as much as we can hope for. Some numbers, bad as they are, are trending back toward Bush and Republicans. But so slightly, and from such an abysmal depth that it should give them little optimism.

Not wanting to look too far ahead, but should Democrats win the House and the Senate (still a longshot I think), they should be warned: there is pressure to perform. The poll asks what respondents "expect" should Democrats take over Congress. What they/we expect is for troop levels to decrease in Iraq, for the minimum wage to be increased, for health care/prescription drug costs to at least stabilize if not decrease.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ok. Now We're Done With That Nonsense.
On to the election and the real issues. And as Doug points out, you want to talk disrespecting the troops? How about this story,as framed by Andrew Sullivan?
In a showdown for control of Baghdad, the Iraqi prime minister took orders from Moqtada al-Sadr, and instructed the U.S. military to withdraw from Sadr City. The American forces were trying both to stabilize the city but also to find a missing American serviceman. He is still missing.
The U.S. military does not have a tradition of abandoning its own soldiers to foreign militias, or of taking orders from foreign governments. No commander-in-chief who actually walks the walk, rather than swaggering the swagger, would acquiesce to such a thing. The soldier appears to be of Iraqi descent who is married to an Iraqi woman. Who authorized abandoning him to the enemy? Who is really giving the orders to the U.S. military in Iraq? These are real questions about honor and sacrifice and a war that is now careening out of any control. They are not phony questions drummed up by a partisan media machine to appeal to emotions to maintain power.
Here's hoping the White House briefing tomorrow can get through the Kerry questions with enough time left over to try and explain that.
The Kerry Flap
Vent here.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

An internal Democratic poll has Ford up 5; CNN poll has Corker up 8. Who knows what to think. But I don't feel confident about TN like I did a few weeks ago.

Virginia is another story - Webb is up in 3 new polls. We might just kick that bully out of office.

If all that holds up Senate control will come down to Missouri, where it's tied.

Monday, October 30, 2006

What have you been listening to, watching, reading?

David Byrne Reviews Performances of Puccini and Steve Reich
Guess which one "is as radical as it ever was, which is saying something"?