Monday, December 31, 2007

Whose Second Favorite?
By all accounts, the Iowa presidential preference on the Democratic side is pretty close between the top 3 - maybe Clinton has a slight lead. 2nd choice might make the difference. In Iowa's caucus system, voters can re-align with a different candidate if - in the first count - some don't make the cut of 15% in a precinct.

Recent polls have followed the popular belief, that the most popular choice for 2nd among Democrats in Iowa is John Edwards, followed by Obama. But, if you ask me, there's a further catch. Not everyone's second choice matters equally, only those whose first choice doesn't reach the 15% threshold. I have to believe that Clinton, Obama and Edwards will meet it in virtually every caucus site - only some tomfoolery would have their supporters switching after already viable. The caucus-goers whose 2nd choice matters most are those behind Biden and Richardson, who seem to have consequential support levels, but also seem unlikely to crack 15%. It might matter little that Edwards is the overall second choice. What will matter is if Biden and Richardson (and I suppose Dodd and Kucinich) supporters break significantly one way over the others, and what the supporters of the other 2 do to counter that. Also, will there be any last-minute deals? Remember in 2004, Kucinich and Edwards asked their supporters to switch to the other if they didn't meet 15%.

Even beyond 2nd preference, strategy can play a part. Read this MyDD post from a veteran Iowa caucus-goer to see how sometimes in a precinct you may even leave your candidate to help make another viable and decrease the number of delegates of your rival. A Clinton supporter could end up caucusing with Edwards to put him just high enough to qualify for one more delegate at the expense of Obama, for example, or vice-versa. At the end of the day, raw votes aren't important. Each precinct will be awarded so many delegates ahead of time. The job of the caucus-goers is to divide those delegates among the candidates that receive 15% or more of the support.

Most precincts award between 1 and 9 delegates. For those with 3, 6 or 9, differences in raw vote totals between Edwards, Clinton and Obama will likely be erased and they will get an equal number of delegates. But in precincts with, say, 7, small differences between the 3 will be magnified as the plurality winner - no matter how slight the margin - will likely receive 3 and the others 2. The totals we hear at the end of the night will be the count of these precinct delegates. That number may not bear resemblance to the percentage of support a candidate has, depending on how the math and the haggling shake out. I assume each of the 3 campaigns has an overall strategy - passed down through captains - of doing what it takes to minimize the delegates of one of their rivals. I believe Obama's problem in Iowa is that, I assume, he is the target of both of the others. Clinton sees him as her only real rival, while Edwards wants to become the anti-Hillary candidate. Each could send supporters to caucus with the others - or to make Richardson or Biden viable in a precinct at Obama's expense.

If you're especially interested in this, you may like playing with this caucus calculator.

On the GOP side, it's even more fascinating - and luckily I could care less who they come up with. Only 2 candidates look to get 15% in most all precincts: Huckabee and Romney. Maybe as many as 1/3 of the caucus-goers will have to choose a second after their first choice is knocked out. Will they flock to one of the 2 front-runners? Or will they coalesce around, say McCain or Thompson or Giuliani to reach the mark? And where will the loyal Ron Paul crowd go? Will be interesting to see what the gap is between 2nd and 3rd. I don't know much, but I would guess the tendency would be to pick from among the 2 contenders, as opposed to moving to another underperforming candidate, or to stay undecided. There could be some low numbers for some big name candidates. Remember that polling at 14% might get you third in one of today's Iowa Republican polls, but you can't come out of a caucus precinct with 14% Only 15% registers. It's looking like McCain is on the move and could take 3rd there - if I had to guess I'd say he will get the independent-minded Paul supporters (the ones that don't want to remain undecided anyway) if they can make him 15%+ viable. If I was Thompson or Giuliani, I'd be working a Kucinich-Edwards-like deal. Neither of them can afford to have McCain running away with a strong 3rd heading to New Hampshire, where he looks to do very well now. [Nevermind. The GOP process is very different from the Democrats, I've learned. They - more sanely, shockingly - use a secret ballot with no re-alignment. The results are tabulated, delegates are awarded and the results are announced. Imagine that.]

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fire in the Belly
Fred Thompson said today he does not much like the modern form of presidential campaigning and that he "will not be devastated" if he doesn't win the election.

"I'm not particularly interested in running for president," Thompson said, but rather he feels called to serve his country.
Health Roundup
What we learned in 2007.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto Assassinated
I don't claim to be expert in the innerworkings of Pakistani politics, but in the last few months, as Musharraf looked to be establishing more dictatorial rule, I was moved by Benazir Bhutto's decision to return for next month's election. From interviews anyway, she was quite impressive and obviously willing to sacrifice her safety in pursuit of bettering her country. Doesn't mean she should have had to die, though, just because she was willing to take that risk. I think sometimes we get caught up in the romanticism of martyrdom. Not me. I would rather have Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, JFK, Malcolm X living to a ripe old age, thank you very much. As for Bhutto, it's a sad ending to a confusing story in a frightening place. (Or, maybe, a tragic beginning to a horrifying story somewhere near the end of civilization, depending on how you look at it.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!
Hope everyone has a fun day, and gets to see all the family and friends you can over the next week. Will be back tomorrow.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Festivus Today
Let the Airing of Grievances begin!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Great Moments in News
May your holiday be free of any incident that includes a sentence like this:
The man suddenly appeared at the door, naked, holding a double-bitted ax.
Unless, I guess, you're into that.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Update: Eric On His Way Home
American Eric Volz was freed by a judge on Friday despite an uproar in Nicaragua after an appeals court overturned his conviction and 30-year-sentence in the slaying of his Nicaraguan girlfriend.

The 28-year-old from Nashville, Tenn., accompanied by his mother, planned to immediately catch a flight to Atlanta. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper's office confirmed that Volz's plane left Nicaragua this afternoon.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Makes Sense
So why did Bush decide to support the Energy bill, despite its increasing the fuel efficiency standards slightly? So that the next day, his administration could announce it is - for the first time ever - rejecting state applications to set their own higher standards.
The Bush administration sided with automakers yesterday, thwarting a California law to regulate tailpipe emissions as part of an aggressive campaign to slow global warming.

The ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a setback for California and more than a dozen other states planning to limit greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

The federal government had never before blocked California's efforts to enact tougher air quality rules.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Good Luck and Be Safe Maggie [UPDATED]
Off to Nicaraugua. Hopefully the State Dept. is putting lots of pressure on behind the scenes.

[UPDATE: a 12/20 update is here.]
My Bush Countdown Clock is finally under 400 days, which seems like an awful lot of days to still endure. Really, was Bill Clinton President this long?

Watch the seconds tick by at
Ha Ha
Waivers are silly. Just because you convinced someone to sign something doesn't mean you can turn around and kick them in the nuts, or whatever.
Ski resorts took a nasty fall Tuesday when the Utah Supreme Court ruled waivers can't prevent injured skiers from suing the resorts for negligence. Barring those suits is not in the best interests of society, the court said.
In its 3-2 opinion, the Supreme Court noted that the Utah Inherent Risks of Skiing Act was meant to protect ski resorts from being sued over dangers routinely involved in the sport - thus making insurance affordable. However, the legislation still holds them accountable for negligent acts, the majority of justices said.
The opinion marked the second time in recent years the high court has ruled against the enforceability of waivers. In 2001, the justices ruled parents do not have an inherent right to sign away a minor child's right to sue for damages.
We Got An Energy Bill
It's not perfect, but it's a start, and the President is signing it, because with some exceptions, only House members as nutty as mine voted against it.
The bill's centerpiece is the boost in the minimum fuel-efficiency standard for passenger vehicles, the first to be passed by Congress since 1975. It requires new auto fleets to average 35 miles a gallon by 2020, a 40 percent increase from today's 25-mile average. By 2020, the measure could reduce U.S. oil use by 1.1 million barrels a day, more than half the oil exported by Kuwait or Venezuela and equivalent of taking 28 million of today's vehicles off the road.
One portion of the bill sets new efficiency standards for appliances and will make the incandescent bulb -- invented two centuries ago and improved and commercialized by Edison in the 1880s -- virtually extinct by the middle of the next decade. The bill will phase out conventional incandescents, starting in 2012, with 100-watt bulbs, ultimately ceding the lighting market to more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

The commercial building industry could also be transformed by new incentives for energy-efficient windows, equipment and design. The federal government is supposed to make all of its buildings carbon-neutral through energy efficiency and clean energy use by 2030.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ok I'll Say It
Good idea: The President would rather protect the phone companies than the American people.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What have you been watching, reading, listening to?

David Byrne Reviews...
A Caetano Veloso concert. Caetano is at the top of my list of artists I hope to see in concert before I die (or, I guess, before they do). He's been at the top for a long time. Now that I've seen Tom Waits a couple of times, I'm not even sure who is #2. Who's on your list?

Oh yeah, here's some of what DB had to say about the show:
They changed some of the older songs, giving them spikier and more fractured textures, but it worked. Lyrically, the differences may be more radical; the older stuff is generally sweeter than this new batch of songs, more often filled with turmoil and testiness. But this initial feeling of disquiet leads inevitably to captivation — even the cries of “I hate you” were somehow beautiful. They weren’t snarled as a punk or Emo band would do, but sung almost sweetly, and with a bewildered sadness that somehow those heavily charged words and feelings are bursting forth — the sadness of watching yourself say you hate someone.

The New Batman Trailer

Best of 2007?
Metacritics gauges the critical reaction to films and has this list of the best-reviewed of the year:
1. Ratatouille
2. Killer of Sheep
3. No Country for Old Men
4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
5. No End in Sight
Any best-of list that includes both an animated film about a rodent chef and a documentary about the execution of the Iraq War is bound to have some apple-and-orange issues, but hey, wise guy, you try making a list.

The best-reviewed albums are here. As a sign of the times...Metacritics stopped compiling book review scores with the last installment of Harry Potter.

Weekend Box Office

1. I am Legend
2. Alvin and the Chipmunks
3. The Golden Compass
4. Enchanted
5. No Country for Old Men

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Flip-Flop Makes "Breakthrough" in Bali?
Did the US do an about-face to suddenly support moving forward on climate change talks? There are plenty of ways to be pessimistic about this one, but hey it's Christmas. I say we just take it as good news for now.
Paula Dobriansky, leader of the US delegation, and her colleague James Connaughton found themselves the targets of naked animosity. When Dobriansky announced that the US would not sign up for the Bali roadmap, boos echoed through the room. The Americans were sharply attacked by several delegations. "If you're not willing to lead, please get out of the way," said a US environmental activist representing Papua New Guinea.

Other opponents of binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as Japan or Russia, failed to come to the US delegation's defense. Left isolated, the American delegation gave in and agreed to the roadmap. "We will go forward and join consensus," said Dobriansky. This time the delegation was rewarded with a standing ovation from some participants.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Classy Has a New Name
Fred Thompson. When asked by the AP about his most prized possession, Fred responded: "My trophy wife."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stand With Al
Sign the petition.
"The One That Got Away"
An interesting article on Obama in the Legal Times, about how he could have named his clerkship - the envy of his fellow law students - but said no thanks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mitchell Report [UPDATED]
I'll be on the lookout for George Mitchell's press conference and report tomorrow. He has been investigating steroid use in baseball and is widely expected to name 75-80 players, including some big names. The former Senator is holding a press conference at 2 ET.

[UPDATE: Roger Clemens named - can't say I'm surprised. Andy Pettitte too.]
Not a Crook, a Mormon or a Weirdo
Found this at DKos - very funny. Press play:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Average of Iowa Polls
Things are tightening. I'm still not sure which way I will go. This may be the first election in memory in which I decide at the last minute, and only then will be able to because I have to. I am working on a disturbed flowchart to demonstrate the difficulty of this decision-making process, but it's not yet ready for posting.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Lots to go over today - I saw No Country for Old Men (wow), caught up in Dexter watching (eh), film awards are starting to come out, and as Lewberry reminded me a couple nights ago, DVD box sets are coming out now for the holiday season. So come back often today for the updates and have at it in comments. Lewberry, which DVDs most interest you? And to the rest of you, are DVD sets something you buy and/or watch?

Radio, Radio
Doug's got a great post over at his place about new music and the radio, and a lively discussion too - though it will fill your head with all kinds of unpleasantries. Actually, lots of the great music he talks about I heard for the first time not on SNL and not on college radio but just overheard, while hanging out at his house playing Stratego (or The Stock Market Game, or Gary Carter or whatever) with Stevie T and Kenny B. So, here's to the positive influence of older brothers - even when they're not your own.

No Country...
The Coen Brothers' newest leaves a stinging impression. Much more Blood Simple than Big Lebowski, and more Fargo than Raising Arizona, it's frightening and only the darkest of dark humor. I don't know if it's a great film, but it has the most harrowing villain I can remember. Still, in Coen fashion, the antagonist seems to be more about the universal place of injustice and misfortune in the world, beyond the particulars of this specific texas town and community of folks trying to escape its wrath. I recommend it heartily, but if Arizona and Lebowski are you primary associations with the Coen Brothers, prepare for a shock...

Film Awards
The LA Film Critics have given out the earliest 2007 film awards, and the big winner was PT Anderson's There Will Be Blood, starring the amazing Daniel Day-Lewis, based on Upton Sinclair's novel "Oil." I saw the very intense preview before No Country for Old Men, which won the NY Film Critics Awards. You can see the "Blood" preview below:

Weekend Box Office
1. The Golden Compass
2. Enchanted
3. This Christmas
4. Fred Claus
5. Beowulf

Sunday, December 09, 2007

My Feelings Wouldn't Be Hurt...
...if Republicans just couldn't pick a nominee. Seriously, Mike Huckabee is going to win it? No. And yet he's up 19 in Iowa according to the latest poll, and he's now leading even in South Carolina. Rudy Giuliani - a pro-choice, pro-gay-rights angry former Mayor who made his police force walk the dog of his mistress and taxi her around - is going to win the nomination of today's GOP? Of course not. And yet he leads the national polls. Mitt Romney is going to win? He's stale enough to be their champion, for sure. But his whole plan is about winning Iowa and New Hampshire, and now Huckabee is screwing that all up. What happens to him if he finishes in second in both? McCain's gonna win? After getting trounced in Iowa can a second place finish in NH even keep him in the race? Then there's Thompson who seems to be going nowhere fast. And moneybags Ron Paul who can buy enough commercials to ridicule that sorry cast of characters through February. How could any of them win? Yet why would any of them get out? After the big national primary day, the democratic race will be sewn up one way or another. But here's hoping the GOP is not done yet. What are the chances that after Feb. 5, no candidate has managed more than 33% or so in any single state? I've never seen a brokered convention before. Looks like as good a time as any to watch the fun.

Who can win, and how?

Friday, December 07, 2007

And Then There Were Nine
What do these nine celebrities/artists have in common: Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Larry Bell, Dion DiMucci, Shirley Temple, Tony Curtis, Richard Merkin and Bobby Breen?

They are all on the cover of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album, and the only ones still living (according to my highly scientific research formula). That number was 10 until Wednesday, I've just learned, when composer Karlheinz Stockhausen passed away at age 79.

Stockhausen would likely want to be known for his Klavierstucke, or electronic pieces like Gesang der Junglinge (probably my own favorite), and Hymnen (which might be my favorite if it wasn't so damned long). Maybe he would want to be remembered for his more recent and quite, um, unusual Helicopter String Quartet. Or for helping to make Marcus. But, he might ultimately be best known for being in the back row, on the left, between W.C. Fields and Lenny Bruce.

Rest in peace, Karlheinz. My students never liked you (except maybe one), but I'm sure yours did. Anyway, it wasn't personal.
After Kennedy's Speech
Because of all the attention given to Mitt Romney's speech yesterday about religion, then-candidate John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech on a similar (I suppose) issue has come up as well. That was given to the Houston Ministers Association in an attempt to allay fears that as President he would secretly defer to the Catholic Church if the Vatican so directed him. If you haven't seen it, you can watch it (or read it) here. But my friend Melissa Rogers (who will coincidentally be on Bill Moyers Journal tonight discussing Romney) points to an even more compelling moment in that whole episode. If you have any time (it's about 30 minutes), watch the q & a with Kennedy that followed his speech. There, Protestant ministers who clearly were concerned about him asked him their questions, live and televised, face-to-face. And he answered them.

Sounds simple enough, but it's the last thing that would happen today. These days if someone that disagrees during a campaign asks a question on TV, handlers cry that their candidate is being ambushed and that the network should have controlled the environment. Anyway, it's really worth watching, just to imagine what that kind of political environment might be like. Also, if you want to know what the real story-driven hubbub of the day was, that led to him wanting to give that kind of speech to begin with, you get a better idea of it listening to their questions than you do listening to his speech.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Exam-time Links
Not a lot of time, but here are some things of note:

For those of you that know him or care, the NY Observer has a piece, about Hillary spokesman and former naked chain-saw artist Jay Carson.

My Talk2Action post today, with a decidedly unoriginal, Captain Obvious headline (I've just realized), is up.

The House passed an energy bill that requires increased fuel efficiency standards. There is at least a 25% chance that this bill would be slighty better than doing nothing at all. Woohoo.

What else is out there?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Don't Sign Up For Free Money This Christmas
There are lots of things I don't understand about credit cards or the credit industry. That's by mutual design. I don't care to understand them, and they try to hide the way they operate, so it's an arrangement that works. I am anti-credit card use for myself because the fees and interest rates are ridiculous, and because it's an evil industry that preys on the last dollars (both today's and tomorrow's) of the working poor with the false promise of near-zero interest and the allure of an extravagant life beyond one's means spending money we can't afford. I don't have to understand the details of how they work to understand that it's a business that is just wrong troubling. [See update/backtrack below]

But the more I learn the more horrified I am. In a Senate hearing today - liveblogged by The Consumerist - I found this out: when you sign up for those free-money deals at the checkout counter to get a brand-name card (10% off today's purchase!) at, say, Amazon or Target or whatever, it lowers your FICO score - the same as applying for a new credit card, which likely will increase your interest rates on other credit cards - if not immediately, then as soon as they are able. And rate increases apply of course not just to new purchases but previous purchases still on your balance. Your credit card rate might go up if you are late on your electric bill, if you pay only the minimum payment, if you *use the credit card and move toward your limit.* Each of those apparently raises your risk profile.

So, they agree to loan you up to 5,000 or whatever at 8%. Then if you actually use much of that and approach your limit - in the way they would like and in accordance with your agreement - that becomes evidence that you are a riskier customer and they raise the rate. I mean, anyone who would borrow 5,000 at 8% can't possibly be trusted with borrowing 5,000 at 8%, right?

The bottom line: get rid of your credit card debt, don't ask for new cards, and don't fall for free money schemes. If you have to use a card, pay off the entire balance each month. And don't be late. You have to pay interest on late fees as well, of course. I would say cancel your account...but you don't think they will let you do that do you? Anyone ever had any luck actually canceling a card?

[Update/Backtrack: some caveats, with 24 hours removed from watching some of that emotional hearing. Yeah I've used credit cards in the past and it's not always a bad thing, and of course the entire credit industry is not evil. Without such a mechanism, we'd never be able to afford homes, cars or education, for starters. I've made larger purchases - furniture and the like - and was able to get higher quality items that will last longer and save me money in the long run, because I could pay gradually through my credit card. Now that my interest rate is 24.98%'s not quite the good deal. But, my objections are really to the unfair practices, the really predatory marketing, and the outrageous retroactive penalties on those who can least afford it. And that's just their business model...]
Trouble for Huckabee?
Clinton-hating sure has made people do - and argue for - funny things. Looks like Huck was not immune.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

On Another Note
This is yesterday's news, but didn't want to step on Media Monday. Still, it's nearly as maddening today as it was yesterday. *Our intelligence agencies agree*: Iran stopped their nuclear weapons program 4 years ago and as of earlier this year had not resumed it. Bush and Cheney have known this to be true, all the while rattling sabres (or is it rattling sabers?) and fear-mongering over the supposed Iranian nuclear threat, thinking - I suppose - that the NIE report would stay classified.

This is not some renegade intelligence officer interpreting the evidence differently; it's not a Democrat with an axe to grind. This is the consensus of the intelligence community, an opinion with "high confidence" as to its conclusions. And while we're just now getting to see the report, Bush and Cheney knew about it - at least a moderately confident version - some time ago.

All kinds of speculation today on why this is coming out now (after we were told it would stay classified) and what it all means. Starting here and then here is not a bad route if you want to follow that train.

Monday, December 03, 2007

What have you been watching, listening to, reading?

Christmas TV Schedule here. Looks like you can catch Rudolph's Shiny New Year, The Year Without A Santa Claus, and Rudolph & The Island of Misfit Toys tonight on ABCFamily starting at 7 Eastern. Check in for the time and channel for your favorites.

Weekend Box Office
1. Enchanted
2. This Christmas
3. Beowulf
4. Awake
5. Hitman

Sunday, December 02, 2007

New Iowa Polls
Changes in both parties. Huckabee's ahead of Romney now. It's all about second choice. What if Huckabee wins Iowa just ahead of Romney and Romney wins NH just ahead of McCain? Will Giuliani be toast if he finishes in 3rd in both?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Afternoon Time-Waster Alert
Trap the cat!
Question Answered
Thanks to the brilliant technological innovations of the Internets, I give you Is It Christmas?
Spare Us The Details
Kevin is right, here and here. I don't have any idea why Edwards would think it smart to spell out in detail how he (thinks he) would enforce the individual mandate in his healthcare proposal. If they thought he might actually win the nomination, Republicans would be licking their Rovian chops over his answer. So the government will garnish my wages if I don't buy health insurance....? Greeeeat. I'm sure that his Republican opponents wouldn't ignore all of the nuance and caveats in the plan and just bash a caricature of it, right?
Clarence Thomas' Silence Explained
Justice Thomas: Questions are for idiots!
"My colleagues should shut up!" he says. In a rare scolding of his fellow judges, Thomas Wednesday night took off after those who ask questions and debate cases out loud during oral arguments while defending his own, oft-criticized, silent treatment.
Thomas noted that through history, most top judges rarely asked questions. "What's changed? Have the laws changed? What's changed? And why are all these questions necessary? That should be the question," he demanded of the near epidemic level of judicial questioning at Supreme Court hearings.
Reason #499 not give custody of your child over to his Aunt, plus another interesting judicial determination, in my post this morning at the other place.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Busy Season
I hate having just one lame post a day, but I've been lucky to get to even that with the end of school upon us plus lots of other sundry crap. Here is the story I've had time to read. Chime in with the other stuff we should be in on.

Giuliani's in trouble. Will the story have legs? I'm skeptical that we could be so lucky, but we'll see. Still, I can dream that our media had the guts to ask the important, dare I say powerful question Josh asks. Let it sink in for a bit. Outrageous? Yes. Unthinkable? Sadly, no.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Republicans: Insecure Much?
The Virginia GOP has enacted a ridiculous idea.
Voters in Virginia's Feb. 12 Republican presidential primary will have to sign an oath swearing loyalty to the eventual GOP ticket....

The State Board of Elections has approved a state Republican Party request that all who apply for a GOP primary ballot vow in writing to vote for the Republican presidential nominee next fall.
Nice way to ingratiate themselves with the independent crowd, huh? Maybe they're already giving up on them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

So Why is Trent Lott Resigning?
I guess millions as a lobbyist is a pretty convincing rationale, but there's also this:
HUSTLER Magazine has received numerous inquiries regarding the involvement of Larry Flynt and HUSTLER in the resignation of Trent Lott. Senator Lott has been the target of an ongoing HUSTLER investigation for some time now, due to confidential information that we have received.
Think Lott's (R-MS) been using Senator Vitter's (R-LA) phone book? Or Senator Craig's (R-UT) tap routines? Or Mark Foley's (R-FL) instant messaging service? Or some new bizarre Republican behavior we haven't yet imagined?

Monday, November 26, 2007

What have you been watching, reading, listening to? Christmas List Edition! What's on your list? What should be on mine?

The OscarMan Cometh
The NYTimes' seasonal blog about the Oscar race has started up again. The Carpetbagger says there is plenty of quality out there this year.

Weekend Box Office
1. Enchanted
2. This Christmas
3. Beowulf
4. Hitman
5. Bee Movie

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Now, America's Turn
Australia votes. Yes to fighting global warming; No to fighting in Iraq. Conservatives in power "humiliated." Here's hoping we follow suit in just 1 year.
Keith, the Contest is Over
The worst person in the world has been found. Kids can be cruel, the saying goes. I suppose the rest of the statement is: they learn it from adults.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Good News Thanksgiving
My regular blog-state is one of annoyed bitchiness, as you know, over all the aggravations, outrages, and horror that marks so much of the news today. But there's been a little bit of good news around lately that's worth noting. I figure Thanksgiving is as good a day as any to pretend like this stuff actually outweighs the truly crap fair measure of the world.

As you may have heard, a breakthrough has taught scientists how to engineer cells with all the characteristics of embryonic stem cells, though without the business of creating and destroying an embryo to procure them. If things shake out like they're predicted, stem cell research can continue without the overhang of that ethical debate.

And, uh.... well ok that's the only good news I can find. Help me out in comments. Any good news out there?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Alma Mater
It's been an interesting few days for Belmont. The University finally and officially broke from the Tennessee Baptist Convention, the basketball team got big road wins at Cincinnati and, last night, at Alabama, and yesterday the US Commission on Presidential Debates announced that Belmont will host one of the 3 official debates - the one with the townhall meeting format. So, of course, I have been preparing my question and trying to figure out whose {noun} I have to {verb} to get a ticket into the damned thing. Then, I read this:
Internet users...will be able to submit questions, which may be the only way Nashville residents can get a question to the candidates. Tickets are not issued; in 2004, the audience was undecided voters identified by the Gallup Organization.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonprofit organization that has hosted all of the presidential and vice presidential debates since 1988, probably will invite about 400 people from around the country to Belmont, Fisher said.
Argh. So, no locals and not even Belmont people will be given seats as a part of hosting the event? How lame! I will keep working...I won't be undecided, of course, but there's got to be some way to get in and ask a question.
Now, Wireless Internet
Some scientist linked childhood autism to wi-fi.

Of course, a while back we heard that cell phones were killing all the bees, and now we know that's not true. So, who knows.
A new Washington Post Iowa poll puts him ahead of Clinton. If his momentum continues, this could actually become a race. It is the right time for a surge.

Obama 30 (27)
Clinton 26 (26)
Edwards 22 (26)
Richardson 11 (11)
The real toss-up is on the other side. I can't even tell who's ahead anymore, and can imagine any of 5 candidates winning the nomination (though less and less Thompson), if only because I can't see how any of them could win, but one of them's gotta. (Iowa, NH, SC)
Because it's my blog and I can do that kind of thing. (Breaking with tradition is probably in my DNA).

Mr. Whipple Died
Mr. Whipple was still alive before Monday? (Doug, just curious, anyone getting paid for this one?)

Documentary Oscar Field Narrowed
Sicko and No End in Sight made the cut (woohoo!). Fistful of Quarters did not (boo!). Link.

Weekend Box Office
1. Beowulf
2. Bee Movie
3. American Gangster
4. Fred Claus
5. Mr. Magorium's Something or Other

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Would You Spend $1000... find out about yourself?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Maybe one day I'll understand why this isn't the big issue dominating the presidential campaign.

Friday, November 16, 2007

It sounds like last night's debate was dreadful to watch, at best. Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall were watching, if you want some real-time impressions. As for me, I'm glad I was at the Sommet Center watching the Preds come back from 3-1 down in the final period to beat the Blackhawks in OT. Seems to have been a better use of my time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Nashville Readers
..might care to know that Congressman Jim Cooper was one of only 15 Democrats to vote yesterday against the war funding bill that mandates troop withdrawal. Democrats are united against this dreadful war. Almost united, that is. Nice going Jim. Even conservative Dem Lincoln Davis knew to vote for ending this unpopular war.
In Case You're Interested...
My newest Talk2Action post is online. The Justice Department recently updated its interpretation of a federal law (RFRA) to override the explicit will of Congress and allow religious groups to discriminate in hiring for federally funded positions. I suppose they got tired of losing votes on the issue, so they did what the Bush Administration always does: decide the law doesn't apply if they don't want it to.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back In Town Edition [UPDATED]
I've been away since Friday - hence the lack of posts. What have I missed? Where should I start in catching up?

[UPDATE - here's where:
1. Thanks to Farge for pointing me to this helpful questionnaire to help decide on the presidential candidate that should get my vote. Unfortunately, when I ran the answers, it came out a tie between Kucinich and Gravel. I'm not, obviously, going to vote for either of them. See where it puts you.

2. PBS' Nova is running a documentary tonight on the "intelligent design" controversy and trial from PA 2 years ago, in which a smart judge ruled the effort to sneak creationism back into the science curriculum unconstitutional. Everything I've read says it's quite a good piece. Maybe you want to check it out.

3. McCain's an ass. And it might be getting him more votes.

4. Apparently Obama kicked ass in his Iowa Jackson Day speech. I haven't seen or read it yet.

5. Cancel those plans to visit Yellowstone.]

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Time for the EPA to "Act or Get Out of the Way"
California is suing to try and force the EPA to rule on their 2005 request for a waiver to impose their own emission standards.
The EPA initially refused to act on California's application, saying the agency did not have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant. That changed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that the EPA did indeed have that right.

As a result, the EPA is now developing greenhouse gas regulations that are scheduled to be released by the end of the year. Environmental groups say those regulations are not likely to be stronger than the California standards.
All Huckabee's Eggs in Iowa Basket
Makes Sense.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New KY Hoops Coach
New Wildcat coach Billy Gillespie had some things to say last night after the first game of the season. The Lexington Herald-Leader provides the quotes:
"I'm a basketball junkie. I like to see great teamwork, great hustle, great execution -- smart, hard, together.

"We're going to do that. We haven't been able to do that. I want to honor this university and state better than we have so far."
He lamented "too many mental mistakes" and, maybe worse, a maddening repetition of the same mistakes. "Things we've corrected a million times," he said.
Kentucky won the game by 27.

[UPDATE: I guess he knew what he was talking about, since in the second game of the season tonight, UK was upset at home by Gardner-Webb!]
First Poll [UPDATED]
Here's the first poll in New Hampshire taken after Senator Clinton looked a little silly in the last debate. She still leads by a good bit, but the gap has closed. My reading is this - unless one of the other 2 candidates can take advantage with a genuine surge in voter confidence (a la Kerry in 2004), this dip by Hillary will be short-lived. If Obama finds a way to win in Iowa, this gap is close enough that momentum could lead to victory here as well. (Last month's poll in parenthesis.)
Clinton...34 (40)
Obama.....24 (17)
Edwards...15 (14)
Richardson 8 (11)
At the end of the day, this driver's license thing can't be the issue that propels Obama ahead, can it? He's for it, unlike 3/4 of America sadly. The chink in Hillary's armor here is one of form not substance: she just doesn't want to say whether she's for it or against it. On substance, he would have a hard time running on his outspoken support for an undocumented immigrant driver's license.

[UPDATE: And new from Iowa...(Aug. in parenthesis)
Clinton...28 (30)
Obama.....25 (19)
Edwards...21 (23)
Richardson 9 (10)]

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

You Think YOU Got Caught in the Middle of a Nasty Divorce...
At least your parents didn't argue over your foreskin.
Election Day [UPDATED]
2 elections I'm watching closely today: One is in Utah, where a state-wide referendum on a school voucher program is on the ballot. The other is the race for Governor in Kentucky, where the Democrat has been well ahead in recent polls, but the ethically-challenged Republican incumbent is pulling out all the nastiest tactics he can to hang on to power:
A new robocall has gone out purporting to be from — the Web site of the Fairness Campaign, an actual gay rights organization in Kentucky — speaking with pride about the strong support of "the homosexual lobby" for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Steve Beshear.

"Beshear is receiving major support from out-of-state gay activists and has publicly committed to same-gender relationships," the man on the call says.

The Fairness Campaign has denied any part in the calls, and is urging people who have received the calls to report it to the authorities.
Any of my Kentucky-based readers hearing anything? Results here, later.

[UPDATE: At 59-41, it's a rout. Democrats win in the Bluegrass State!]

Monday, November 05, 2007

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Is That the Best They Can Do?
Striking TV writers shown holding clever signs that say..."On Strike."

Weekend Box Office
1. American Gangster
2. Bee Movie
3. Saw IV
4. Dan in Real Life
5. 30 Days of Night

They Might Be Giants
Saw them in concert over the weekend at the Exit/In. I'd give it a solid "eh." I've seen them several times now, and this show felt remarkably the same as the last one. A few new tunes thanks to the new album, but otherwise was like watching a rerun. A good one, to be sure, but a rerun nonetheless. I think even guitar Dan's impressive 3-minute guitar solo was the same. Still a fun time and great tunes. The opening band, Oppenheimer, was actually pretty good too.

Which Movie Would You Present?
Over the weekend I had a fun discussion with Lewberry and Mrs. Lewberry about which film we would pick to introduce to the world if we could just pick one. On the Turner Classic Movie Network this month, a different guest each day is introducing their favorite films. Today, Rose McGowan day, she chose "Night of the Hunter", "Out of the Past", "A Place in the Sun", and "That Touch of Mink". Which would you pick if you had a day to be guest programmer? And - since we don't know the entire TCM catalog - let's just say you could pick from the entire history of feature films. One of our central discussion points: do you pick your favorite films? Or your favorites that you think people may not have seen?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Farm (Food) Bill Coming Up This Week
In today's NYTimes, author Michael Pollan (Omnivore's Dilemma) has a piece about the upcoming Farm Bill legislation. He notes that for the first time Americans are paying attention to this process and seeking to have a say in arguments that are typically limited to the corporate meat-packers and corn-growers and the like. Still, despite our growing influence, the major problem remains intact: the "farm policies that subsidize precisely the wrong kind of calories (added fat and added sugar), helping to make Twinkies cheaper than carrots and Coca-Cola competitive with water."
How could this have happened? For starters, farm bill critics did a far better job demonizing subsidies, and depicting commodity farmers as welfare queens, than they did proposing alternative — and politically appealing — forms of farm support. And then the farm lobby did what it has always done: bought off its critics with “programs.” For that reason “Americans who eat” can expect some nutritious crumbs from the farm bill, just enough to ensure that reform-minded legislators will hold their noses and support it.

It’s an old story: the “hunger lobby” gets its food stamps so long as the farm lobby can have its subsidies. Similar, if less lavish, terms are now being offered to the public health and environmental “interests” to get them on board. That’s why there’s more money in this farm bill for nutrition programs and, for the first time, about $2 billion to support “specialty crops” — farm-bill-speak for the kind of food people actually eat. (Since California grows most of the nation’s specialty crops, this was the price for the state delegation’s support. Cheap indeed!)

There’s also money for the environment: an additional $4 billion in the Senate bill to protect wetlands and grasslands and reward farmers for environmental stewardship, and billions in the House bill for environmental cleanup. There’s an important provision in both bills that will make it easier for schools to buy food from local farmers. And there’s money to promote farmers’ markets and otherwise support the local food movement.

But as important as these programs are, they are just programs — mere fleas on the elephant in the room. The name of that elephant is the commodity title, the all-important subsidy section of the bill. It dictates the rules of the entire food system. As long as the commodity title remains untouched, the way we eat will remain unchanged.

Friday, November 02, 2007

An Article 19 poll: Is this good news or bad news? Discuss.

UPDATE: The link is in and out so here's a snippet, in case you can't get the story to come up:
Scientists have been astounded by the creation of a genetically modified "supermouse" with extraordinary physical abilities – comparable to the performance of the very best athletes – raising the prospect that the discovery may one day be used to transform people's capacities.

The mouse can run up to six kilometres (3.7 miles) at a speed of 20 metres per minute for five hours or more without stopping. Scientists said that this was equivalent of a man cycling at speed up an Alpine mountain without a break. Although it eats up to 60 per cent more food than an ordinary mouse, the modified mouse does not put on weight. It also lives longer and enjoys an active sex life well into old age – being capable of breeding at three times the normal maximum age.
There's more.
Now It Matters
In an earlier post (too lazy to find it), I told you that the Democratic primary polls did not matter yet because it's too early, and that I would let you know when they count. I hereby declare that the next poll taken (not necessarily the next one released), in IA and NH, matters. My calculation is a secret, proprietary formula, but I will reveal that it has something to do with the weather, and this, among other things. My calculation says that the next poll taken will let us know if Hillary is vulnerable or not. Republican polls, on the other hand, still don't matter. I will let you know when.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why I Haven't Had Time To Post Today
Recent developments I've detailed at my other blog here and here have become this post at Talk2Action, where generally you can find a weekly post of mine on Thursdays or Fridays. In case you're interested in the gradual erosion of our ability to challenge church-state entanglement, there you go.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The West Memphis Three
Thanks to Lewberry for e-mailing this NYTimes story about the latest development in the case of the West Memphis Three, in which 3 then-teenagers were convicted of murder in a circus-like legal process that was documented in one of the best, most haunting films I've ever seen, Paradise Lost. I believe I've mentioned here before (maybe more than once, sorry), it's the only film I've ever watched that compelled me to immediately rewind it and watch again as soon as it was over. Anyone who has the slightest interest in criminal law - from a prosecutorial side or a defense side - should have to watch it (maybe in a triple feature with The Thin Blue Line and Brother's Keeper). A sequel confuses things even further.

At any rate, the defense has made new filings based on scientific testing that has never been done before, that may yet offer the possibility of a new trial. If you've seen the film, you will be interested, and surprised, by some of the new assertions. If you haven't, you should.
The Private School Factor
In comments to my post from last night, lamenting the finding that now more than 50% of public school students in the South are poor, Lewberry raises a sensible possible explanation:
I'm willing to bet that one of many reasons for the rise in the percentage of public school children in poverty is that children from low income families are just about the only kids left in public schools.
So, his hope, and mine too (I would have guessed the same ) is that we're not getting so dramatically poorer, as much as those with any means are fleeing the public school system. That might be a more palatable explanation, if only it were true. Findings from the National Center for Education Statistics show just the opposite: since 1985, when private school students made up 12.35% of the elementary and secondary school population, their enrollment has steadily declined as a percentage of the total student population. If I was as handy as Kevin Drum, I'd prepare a helpful chart, but for now we will just have to visualize...
2006---11.12% (projected)
This decline is mitigated somewhat by home-schooling which has steadily increased over that same span. If anything, that may flatten this line. But the truth is clear, and sad. The middle class is not fleeing to private schools. It's shrinking, and getting poorer. And in the South, the region with the smallest percentage of private school students (not the largest - as would be the case if the private school factor were to blame), the numbers are staggering and unacceptable.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Debate Thread and a Thought
There's a presidential debate tonight on MSNBC for the Democrats. I've been leaning Obama, though I like the policy positions of Edwards and if I thought he had a legitimate chance to win the nomination I would consider him. Lately, I have to admit, Obama has made my preference for him less of a positive conviction and more of a response to the reality that he is the only non-Hillary candidate with a chance. I had hoped not to be in his corner only out of default.

On another front, here's the news I'll be using to frame tonight's debate in my own mind. We've just learned that in Tennessee now, the number of public school children who are so poor as to qualify for school lunch assistance has topped 50% for the first time - at 53%. That's right - more than half of Tennessee's public school children are impoverished. In fact the entire South is above 50%. It's absolutely astounding in America. It's devastating that we can be so completely surrounded by need and still demand such little change to do something about it. More than half.

It's just plain wrong - embarrassingly so. CEOs rake in hundreds of millions - and that's just in failure. Meanwhile most Americans have trouble meeting their mortgage, trying to get by with little or no health coverage, and that's often with more than one job. Forget about actually having the time and skill and patience to raise children that have their heads on straight and a chance at going to college. It's insane. It's profane.

What I'm getting at is that tonight I want to look for the candidate whose leadership and policies have the best chance of attending a significant decline in that number. It's complicated for sure, and not wholly in the realm of Presidential influence, for sure. But this way of being is just not sustainable. It's got to stop somewhere, sometime. With apologies to the Gulf Coast state, we are all becoming Mississippi. 20 years ago, only that state was above 50% and now, the entire Southeast, plus WV, NM, CA, and TX. If you want to know where we're headed, MS is now at 75%, LA at 84.

You can read the entire report - if you really think you want to - here.
Another Red Sox World Series championship. How long before we can claim the Yankees are cursed? Seriously, what's the calculation here? I mean, they haven't won since 2000. And they sure as hell aren't winning next year. What a drought!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Hardback Writer
Bruce Handy reviews a new book about The Beatles for the NYTimes. He starts by wondering what's the point in yet another book about the Fab Four.
So what on earth does Jonathan Gould think he’s doing by adding to the flood with “Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America” — aside from guaranteeing himself a floor audience of completists and getting to write off bootlegs on his tax returns? Is there anything left to say, any detritus left unpicked through?
It’s not so much a new take as it is a more diligent take, a grand sifting. Happily, the effort paid off: Gould has written a scrupulous, witty and, at times, appropriately skeptical study, which drew me back into a subject I thought I was sick of.

Weekend Box Office
1. Saw IV (how long can this tradition keep going?)
2. Dan in Real Life
3. 30 Days of Night
4. The Game Plan
5. Why Did I Get Married?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fascinating, And a Little Scary
60 Minutes ran a piece on the disappearing bees. Not sure which part was more amazing - their sudden plight or the way we depend on them to keep our corporate produce system awash in cheaply produced food.

And, the current episode of Nature on PBS is all about "Colony Collapse Disorder", focusing on the same beekeeper 60 Minutes interviewed.
Less Promising, More Doing
Please, Barack. (Link fixed)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fake Reporters
Our regular press corps is fake enough, but FEMA has taken things a step further. I guess it's one way to make sure you don't look bad, just stage the press conferences. Geez, the press coverage sure is more positive when you get to write the questions too. Brownie, why didn't you think of this!?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Depends on Who Does It...
Kevin points to a pretty despicable recent statement by Giuliani on the most talked-about Cheney-endorsed torture method, water-boarding, and whether it's acceptable:
It depends on how it's done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.
Polling Young Voters
A new Rasmussen poll - looking ahead toward a general election - has an interesting result from likely young voters. Hillary Clinton leads the way, and Giuliani is in third. Guess who comes in second with 28%?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Things I've read today that you should too:

Glenn Greenwald: Obama and Clinton are mushy wafflers. We expected this out of Hillary. I certainly didn't expect it from Obama.

The World Series starts tonight, and Slate's Eriq Gardner says the Rockies are tbe best defensive team in baseball history. I guess we'll see about that.

Kevin Drum says a Giuliani presidency is a "disaster waiting to happen."

How can you not read a blog post called "Phone Sex and Mortgage Servicing"?

Meet Undercover Black Man (David Wells). His post titled "Mis-identified Black Person of the Week", is one of the best I've read in a long time. (via Freakonomics)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Here's hoping Californians stay safe. My experience from watching the house next door to my brother's go up in flames was truly horrifying: its power, the arbitrariness of the wind that carries it where it likes, the speed and certainty of destruction. There's not much scarier than fire. And all reports seem to be that it's only getting worse and less controlled.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Torture Doesn't Work
And that's just the smartest reason not to coerce confessions. Read this horrible FBI interrogation story of the wrongly accused.
What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Weekend Box Office
1. 30 Days of Night
2. Why Did I Get Married?
3. The Game Plan
4. Michael Clayton
5. Gone Baby Gone

We're getting close to the season for Oscar contenders to start being released. My understanding is that Ben Affleck's directorial debut (#5 in the list) is quite a good one. Why am I not sold? Which films are you anticipating?

Free Culture, Please
At Christopher Corbell's blog(!), Music Libre, he links to depressing news from Slashdot. An online provider of public domain music has had to turn out the lights, thanks to pressure from publishers. The assault on fair use and the public domain continues. One of the handful of annoying things about living in Nashville is that - with a few notable exceptions - we're pretty much national headquarters for the shrill, bullying, self-righteous, deceitful, screeching anti-creative, music profiteering racket. Here's hoping Chris's posts keep coming (In the words of Christopher Walken, kind of, we need more Corbell.)

And while I've got Corbell on the brain, as if the cosmos were purposefully aligning, last night I watched a few minutes of Battleship Potemkin on TCM (thanks for the heads-up Farge! Silent Russian movie really know your way to a guy's heart). What a great film, eh? But of course its major contribution was paving the way for the brilliant homage, Battleship Pumpkin. That film, by the way, was created by Article 27 Productions, the round-about inspiration for the title of this blog.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Willing to filibuster over FISA. A real filibuster. Of course, it may not come to that, if the Judiciary Committee will fix the bill first. But if they don't and Dodd has to take to the floor to stand in the way, Obama and Clinton should both have to answer why they won't stand with him.

[UPDATE: Obama is on board supporting Dodd's filibuster. Too bad we're not talking about Dodd being on board supporting Obama's, but it's something - and a good thing.]
Americans Love Taxes
Or else they really really think SCHIP expansion is a good idea. In a comment I left to the post below, I alluded to a recent poll that gets more and more astonishing the more I think about it. Worth a link. Check out the Republican numbers.
What's Wrong With Huckabee?
I don't get it. Religious Right types are claiming they don't like their choices for president, and are threatening to go with a third-party candidate if Giuliani wins. They can't seriously think a third-party religious conservative has a chance to win, can they? So it's more about principle, right? In that case, why not just throw their lot behind Huckabee? He's a bona fide religious conservative who, admittedly, has very little chance to win the nomination.

If they're not flocking to him, they are not going to rally around a third-party guy either. So we should take all that talk for what it is: idle threats. Like the rest of us here in the real world, they will have to make the best choice they can from the candidates with a chance. And once the general election comes around, the anti-Hillary factor will carry far more weight than any concerns that Giuliani doesn't, you know, agree with their most important, defining beliefs.

Here's my sincere but unsolicited advice to conservative Christians who think they must vote for the guy with the best anti-abortion credentials: stop whining about the losers at the top and get behind Huckabee. Loudly. He could use the money. And, no, it won't work. But if you'd try harder to be organized and committed to a candidate, you'll feel better about what you ultimately have to do (and will do--stop acting like you're above it all. We know better): hold your nose and vote for the better of the two left standing at the end. Take it from me.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

13 votes short
The President's veto of SCHIP expansion holds up. The Senate handily defeated Bush's veto, but the House got only 273 of the needed 286. Roll call is here.
One Less Candidate
Senator Brownback (R-KS) is dropping out. Will this effect the race? Huckabee is hopeful he will get his religious conservative supporters, but then again, does Brownback really have supporters?

Here's hoping some more drop out on both sides before the NH primary.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Web Site Worth a Bookmark
The Daily Green - News, Tips, Commentary for those of us trying to keep up with the state of the environment and struggling with how to live a greener life.
New CNN Poll
I'm still not a believer, but just throwing this out there for any of you who are.
"If [see below] were the Democratic Party's candidate and [see below] were the Republican Party's candidate, who would you be more likely to vote for: [see below], the Democrat, or [see below], the Republican?" If unsure: "As of today, who do you lean more toward?"

Rudy Giuliani (R) 47
Hillary Clinton (D) 49
Neither 3

Rudy Giuliani (R) 46
Al Gore (D) 52
Neither 2
[UPDATE: Of course, Gore is still saying no way.]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More GOP Child-Bashing
Well, it's come down to this and I think it's a good thing this is out in the open. I hope Democrats trumpet this from now until next November and beyond. Republicans are primarily moralists who believe that no American should be having a family without first securing a well-paying job that offers good health insurance. And they also believe that no employer should be required to offer either good-paying jobs or health insurance.

Yet another working family has come under attack by Republicans, this time a couple with a 2-year-old whose heart problems were addressed thanks to the SCHIP program. Apparently, employees without family health benefits shouldn't be having children. I wonder how many American families this standard would disallow? Is this what they mean by the culture of life?

You see, it's not just the homeless, and those on welfare they will attack as being lazy. In the Republican view, anyone who hasn't had all of the benefits and good fortune that help guarantee entry into the right corporate environment is of poor moral character and deserving of any misfortune life should bring.
Failing Schools
Today's NYTimes offers a No Child Left Behind update, as many states are entering the all-important 5th year of evaluation, when "failing schools" may be labeled "chronically failing" and the law recommends strong measures for fixing them - things like shutting down schools, firing teachers and administrators, having the state take over a school's operation, things like that. So what do you do when your failing schools number more than, say, one or two?
[M]ore than 1,000 of California’s 9,500 schools are branded chronic failures, and the numbers are growing. Barring revisions in the law, state officials predict that all 6,063 public schools serving poor students will be declared in need of restructuring by 2014, when the law requires universal proficiency in math and reading.
And it's not just in Cali:
In Florida, 441 schools could be candidates for closing. In Maryland, some 49 schools in Baltimore alone have fallen short of achievement targets for five years or more. In New York State, 77 schools were candidates for restructuring as of last year.
Yet so far, education experts say they are unaware of a single state that has taken over a failing school in response to the law. Instead, most allow school districts to seek other ways to improve.
And why is that? Because the mandate remains unfunded by the federal government and most other remedies have built-in obstacles. You want to fire the crappy teachers? Too bad. Labor agreements have precedent under NCLB. You want to shut down the worst school or 2? Where will you put all the kids? Who will pay for a new school, or wants to argue for overcrowding others? Want to identify which teachers are struggling the most to prepare students for the tests? You can't. Only school-wide results are available for administrative scrutiny.

So, let's review. Schools are teaching to tests that - for many reasons - their students can't pass, so parents and school administrators are forced to choose from a variety of supposed options that aren't realistic possibilities, and aren't funded even if they were. So the school districts - who didn't ask for, and likely don't want, these state-imposed, test-based standards - are required to come up with an acceptable plan - required, that is, by the same federal government whose own suggestions are completely unworkable. Sounds great, huh?

Meanwhile, most public schools continue to serve primarily the poorest and least supported of students. The best-prepared students in the best circumstances to succeed academically continue to attend private schools, or gravitate to magnet and charter schools where they can be conveniently surrounded by other kids with already-sharp minds and involved parents, which is great for them - and an understandable choice I would probably make myself. But what's left for standard community public schools? Just curious - If we distributed *all the kids* from private, magnet, and charter schools among our neighborhood public schools, I wonder how those schools would perform?
Red Sox on Thin Ice
It's not do or die tonight but it's pretty close. Here's the problem: Hitters besides Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell need to get on track. If the team only is a threat one out of every 3 innings they will have a hard time. With Wakefield pitching for the first time in a while, that makes things even more nervous. They could come back from 3-1, especially with 2 left at home...but let's not let it come to that.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What have you been reading, watching, listening to?

Weekend Box Office
1. Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married
2. The Game Plan
3. Michael Clayton
4. We Own the Night
5. The Heartbreak Kid

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reason #674 to Keep a Ready Supply of Frozen Vegetables
Because when you slam your own finger in your car door - somehow - and you have exactly zero ice at home - because you're a lazy moron who never refills the trays - you can use your bags of frozen veggies to keep swelling down. A sadly true story, and your home-based medicine tip of the day.
Gore Derangement Syndrome
Read Paul Krugman

Friday, October 12, 2007

Income Equality
The IRS has released stats for 2005. Of all income earned, the wealthiest 1% raked in 21.2% of it. The 50% of Americans in the lower half pulled in...wait for it...12.8% Yes, that discrepancy is a new record. But really, more tax cuts please for rich people - dividends, capital gains, inheritance... How long until the poorer half of us account for single digits in share of the country's wealth?
Gore Wins
Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.
Funny DKos diary title: "BREAKING: SCOTUS Declares Bush the Nobel Peace Prize Winner"

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Time Magazine on "The Swift-Boating of Graeme Frost"
That is how they treat the personal face of our public policies: with disdain and contempt, ridicule and harassment. This has really gotten me sick - it's one thing to disagree, but why be such assholes? The Frosts are now public figures because of one radio address? Even a child?

God forbid a kid or a working family ever decides to get involved in the policies of our government. Sometimes our public discourse is a deranged, disgusting, seething, neurotic morass of self-loathing. It's no wonder people don't bother to vote or pay attention. The message of Republicans to the American people couldn't be clearer: This is what advocating will get you.

I've asked the local paper to stop running Malkin's column - which they picked up after outrage forced them to stop running Coulter's. If they don't, I'll cancel my daily subscription, which I should probably do anyway. If you want more of the story, read this. For some typical Malkin hypocrisy, there's this.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Friday's A Big Day
Yeah, the Red Sox start the series with the Indians. It would be great if they won, but it's much less important now that a Yankee victory isn't at stake. No, the big countdown is Al Gore and his shot at the Nobel Peace prize, to be announced on Friday. I'm not sure that I buy that the committee would go this way - picking global climate concern over war and peace issues. Still, I root for Gore to win anything and everything he can. It won't propel him into the presidential race, I'm convinced of that. And it's hard to blame him - who needs the personal attacks and ridicule that he gets. It's one thing to take him on for his votes, and public policy positions of the present and future. But of course, that's not what Republicans want to talk about. They prefer making fun of environmentalism, and a caricature of his persona.

If you get in Al, I'll give you money and my vote and my time. But my advice is to save yourself the grief. Sounds like you're thinking that way too. If I thought Americans were poised to look past - or, indeed punish - all the bullshit, I'd feel differently. But I don't.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Republicans Attack 12-year-old
Every now and then Republicans screw up in a way that makes me think: "this is the end for them. Americans will leave them in droves for this atrocity. There will hardly be any Republicans left." Of course, it never happens that way. And I guess if starting a war with the wrong country won't do it, probably nothing will. Still, here's another one.

Monday, October 08, 2007

What have you been watching, listening to, reading?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Today's Scripture Reading
From the Book of Manny:
And the Lord sent a child among us to snatch the ball from a sure out, to keep the Red Sox inning alive and Lo-well delivered to send in the tying run.

And then He did send Manny to just be-eth Manny and pound the game-winner over the Green Monster.

And earlier that night He sent a swarm of small insects to invade the stadium where the Yankees were playing, as the evil empire was leading by a run, and this saddened the Lord greatly. The pests descended upon mighty, young Chamberlain, who handleth not the distraction, and proceedeth to cough up a walk and 2 wild pitches sending the game into extra innings. And the Indians won. And it was good.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Still Have Larry Craig To Kick Around
Republicans are so funny. Remember all that Bill Clinton self-righteousness? Now, admitting to using prostitutes (Vitter), being named in court as a bribe recipient (Stevens), and trying to hide an arrest and guilty plea for lewd behavior (Craig) still leaves them able to to their jobs "effectively." So, no problem. Despite his resignation announcement, wide-stance Larry is sticking around.

Your modern Republican Party.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

If you're like me, you wouldn't be upset if the SCHIP proposal was expanded to reach families of 4 making $83,000. The President often complains that this dollar amount would be covered and amounts to a public subsidy of middle-class families who don't need it. I, of course, think the government should cover everyone so it doesn't scare me one bit. Except that it's not true. The bill wouldn't do that at all. An NPR report yesterday lays out all of the details, and in a refreshing display of honest journalism says quite simply the President is wrong. And not just about that number. (my emphasis)
"I believe in private medicine," Bush told an audience in Lancaster, Penn., on Wednesday morning. "I believe in helping poor people, which was the intent of SCHIP, now being expanded beyond its initial intent. I also believe that the federal government should make it easier for people to afford private insurance. I don't want the federal government making decisions for doctors and customers."

But SCHIP isn't the kind of program where government officials make medical decisions. Under SCHIP, children are enrolled in private health insurance.

"Typically, children have a choice from among competing private health-insurance companies," says Stan Dorn, a senior research associate with the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank. "There's no federally specified benefits package. There's no individual entitlement."

The president also complained that the bill would cover too many children who don't need federal help. "This program expands coverage, federal coverage, up to families earning $83,000 a year. That doesn't sound poor to me," the president told the Lancaster audience.

Dorn says that's not exactly right, either. "This bill would actually put new limits in place to keep states from going to very high-income levels. SCHIP money would no longer be available over 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $60,000 for a family of four."

The president gets to make the $83,000 claim because New York had wanted to allow children in families with incomes up to four times the poverty level onto the program. That is, indeed, $82,600. The Department of Health and Human Services rejected New York's plan last month, and under the bill, that denial would stand. White House officials warn, however, that the bill would allow a future administration to grant New York's request.
So, let's review. The bill actually establishes a new lowered cap at 3 times the poverty level. It enrolls children in private health insurance. Bush claims it would be a government run program that would cover children 4 times the poverty level, even though only the White House can authorize that kind of waiver, and they don't. (Why not just say the bill covers up to $166,000?? After all, if the President granted a state a waiver up to 8 times the poverty level, then it would.) But because someday some President might say yes to New York's request *to use their own block grant money to cover some middle-class kids*, that amounts - in the President's mind - to saying the bill would cover know, the bill that, explicitly, does not.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

This is Good News
David Obey (D-WI) chairs the House Appropriations Committee. And he says he won't send up a funding bill that lacks a timetable for troop withdrawal. But he has another idea that's long overdue: a war surtax, to ensure that the generation of idiots that brought us this horrendous war is the one that pays the bill for it. Apart from the military, we've been asked to sacrifice zero. It's time that changed, so that the country feels the toll of the decision that was made. Asking my nieces and nephews, and their eventual kids, to pay for this disaster truly does add insult to injury.
Go Sox!
Red Sox start play today - 5:30 central. Plus hockey season gets under way - 2 games on the VS network. Preds open up tomorrow night. Woohoo!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

SCHIP Update
In an earlier post I said GOP presidential candidates should be asked if they agree with the President's veto. One has weighed in now. Romney says Bush is right to veto and he'd do the same thing.

How about the others?

Monday, October 01, 2007

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

New Album Marketing Strategy
Radiohead's new album is coming out soon and they have a pretty good idea for selling it:
Radiohead, the respected British rock act, said that the band would sell its new album, at least initially, exclusively as a digital download and allow fans to decide how much to pay for it, if anything. In a statement yesterday, the band said it had begun taking orders for the album, “In Rainbows,” which will be available beginning Oct. 10.
In Radiohead’s plan, fans will choose their own price for the digital version of the 10-song “In Rainbows,” which it said would be sold as a download without copy restriction software, known as digital-rights management. In effect, the band is asking fans to establish a monetary value for music, even when widespread piracy means that it would be available free.

Early reaction suggested that listeners would pay, but less than they would for a CD in stores. The blog carried a poll in which the plurality of voters — almost 40 percent — said they would pay from $2.05 to $10.12.
And, hey, why not? You can set the price you are willing to pay here. I'll bet they make tons.

Weekend Box Office

1. The Game Plan
2. The Kingdom
3. Resident Evil
4. Good Luck Chuck
5. 3:10 to Yuma

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Yes, a new Iowa poll shows Obama leading Clinton among "likely caucus-goers," and Clinton is still leading Obama in NH by quite a bit. This might be a good time to remind ourselves of the state of things at this point in 2003. Things are coming faster this time around, so let's compare to October 15, 2003, when Kos offered these numbers from a Granite State poll.
Dean 30 (16)
Undecided 20 (30)
Kerry 17 (18)
Clark 10 (3)
Lieberman 6 (11)
Edwards 5 (2)
Gephardt 5 (3)
Kucinich 3 (0)
Sharpton 1 (1)
Braun 1 (1)
And these from a poll in Iowa:
Dean 23
Undecided 22
Gephardt 20
Kerry 17
Clark 7
Notice that Edwards didn't even rate a mention in Iowa (he finished a close second, ultimately), and that not only had Kerry not yet made his IA comeback...he hadn't even really gotten to the meat of his freefall yet.

And who was leading the national polls at the time? Wesley Clark.

The first poll that means anything will come in mid-November.

[UPDATE: Via Kos, Rasmussen - right on cue - discusses the state of the Democratic race, comparisons to Dean's lead in 2003 and the ramifications of a Hillary loss in Iowa. The short version: Hillary's nomination is not inevitable, but comparisons to Dean are probably off the mark.]