Wednesday, January 31, 2007

You Said You Wouldn't Miss it This Year
And today's the day. It's National Gorilla Suit Day. (via BoingBoing)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Obama Steps Up To The Plate
Will offer a binding resolution mandating the removal of all combat troops, starting in May and completed by the end of the first quarter of 2008. This strikes me as good American policy and good political strategy for Obama. The candidates who are in Congress have a special responsibility to try and *do something* since they can. This puts Hillary in a tough spot. I know she's proposed de-funding the *Iraqi government* if they don't start taking control. But this is a different thing.

Here's a question - would Bush even heed a binding resolution? Is a constitutional crisis about the powers of executive v. legislative inevitable?
Politics and the Minimum Wage
The Senate finally voted to end debate on the minimum wage increase, now that the bill includes tax breaks for small businesses. There just weren't 60 votes in the Senate for a clean bill to raise the minimum wage. A conference committee will have to now reconcile the House and Senate version.

What's the strategy for the majority? Insist on a clean bill and see if Republican Senators are really willing to be responsible for killing minimum wage legislation that the great majority of the people favor? Take the tax breaks so the President will sign and Democrats can claim an accomplishment? But wait a minute, are those tax breaks really such a bad idea after all? Especially now that Democrats have secured an equal revenue increase to balance it?
The tax breaks in the Senate bill have divided the private sector, pitting small businesses and retailers that would benefit from them against the larger corporations and manufacturers that would have to pay for them. The package costs $8.3 billion in lost tax revenue over 10 years.

To help pay for the tax breaks, corporations no longer would be able to deduct the cost of jury verdicts or settlements in liability suits against them and their executives' tax-deferred pay packages would be capped at $1 million a year.
The bill would extend tax breaks that allow small businesses to deduct up to $112,000 in new investments a year. It also would reduce the depreciation period for improvements to retail properties and extend a tax credit for businesses that hire low-income or disadvantaged workers.
Sounds like a win-win to me. Bush wanted tax breaks for small business - now he's got them. Oh, and by the way, 10 Senators still refuse to support a minimum wage increase, and wouldn't even vote for cloture once it's a done deal. Included are Senators from purple states like Nevada and New Hampshire.

Monday, January 29, 2007

RIP, Father Drinan
Father Drinan was one of the most liberal members of the House of Representatives when he served. His strong anti-administration stands earned him a place on the Nixon "enemies list." His upset victory over US Representative Philip J. Philbin, a 14-term incumbent who was vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in the 1970 Democratic primary in Massachusetts 3d Congressional District, was a high-water mark in the New Politics, which brought the antiwar movement to the ballot box.

Father Drinan's election was also a landmark in US church-state relations. A Catholic priest, Rev. Gabriel Richard, had served in Congress, in 1822, as a nonvoting delegate from Michigan Territory, but he had been appointed. And many Protestant clergymen had served as US representatives. Yet the sight of Father Drinan in the halls of Congress in his Roman collar was startling. Some even questioned the propriety of his wearing a cleric's collar and black suit on the floor of the House. Father Drinan had a standard response. "It's the only suit I own," he'd quip.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Baby Einstein
If you heard the State of the Union speech, you know that in his list of a few American heroes that were there, Bush included the woman who started the "Baby Einstein" company - the one that makes videos that supposedly make your very young children smarter. This seemed a strange choice to me. I was already annoyed by the idea of this company even before we started wondering if TV exposure to children under 2 might be responsible for some serious developmental problems in some.

So I called up our resident expert on all things educational and all things child, Stevie T (sorry Steve - I know it's a burden, but you can handle it). He says the phenomenon can be blamed on the "Mozart effect" people that convinced us all that listening to Mozart will make your babies smarter. Baby Einstein, he says, is controversial but isn't much criticized (yet) because no thorough study has disproved the company's claims.

And I was thinking about that conversation when I read Slate's critique today. Here's a snippet:
What is Aigner-Clark's achievement? She got rich marketing videos to infants. No one told the president, I presume, that this profit-making scheme ignores advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children under 2 years of age shouldn't watch TV.
"Essentially," Harvard Medical School psychologist Susan Lynn told the Chicago Tribune "Media Mom" (and occasional Slate contributor) Nell Minow in December 2005, "the baby video industry is a scam. There's no evidence that the videos are educational for babies, and a review of the research on babies and videos concludes that while older babies can imitate simple actions from a video they've seen several times, they learn much more rapidly from real life."
There's a sucker born every minute, but only a select few get to be president of the United States.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Did any of you go to the DC protest today? Can you offer an update? AP says there were "tens of thousands."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Stop Smoking: Smash Your Brain!
A new report is suggesting that the urge to smoke is the function of a specific area of the brain. Smokers who happen to have injured that portion have found they have suddenly "forgotten" the need to smoke. The potential impact this could have on smoking therapies seems pretty obvious and tremendous, but I love how the NYTimes felt the need to mention, at the beginning...
While no one is suggesting brain injury as a solution for addiction, the finding suggests that therapies might focus on the insula, a prune-size region under the frontal lobes that is thought to register gut feelings and is apparently a critical part of the network that sustains addictive behavior.

Previous research on addicts focused on regions of the cortex involved in thinking and decision making. But while those regions are involved in maintaining habits, the new study suggests that they are not as central as the insula is.
What's the fun in ending the smoking scourge if we can't crack some skulls and injure some brains!?

But seriously, before we all go looking for ways to turn off the "insula" it might be worth finding out just what else we're likely to forget in the process. The article does not address that important detail...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

More Gore Talk
Rolling Stone has yet another article arguing that laying low and being an environmentalist icon is a brilliant strategy for Gore's inevitable run. Quoted is Carville who, as a Hillary supporter, is no doubt wanting to re-paint Gore as a lying, conniving politician when he says, despite Gore's claims to the contrary, "He's going to run, and he's going to be formidable. If he didn't run, I'd be shocked."

I still think he probably won't run. There are 3 strong candidates in the race now, and it's not like they're all conservative. But, here's a thought I had reading the Rolling Stone piece. Suppose a close contentious Dem primary chooses Hillary, after liberals divide among Obama and Edwards, leaving many Dem supporters with a bad taste in their mouth. What if Gore then jumped in as an independent? And what if he convinced a high-profile Republican - say, Colin Powell - to run as his VP? And run a Perot-style anti-party, pro-unity campaign? Could he win that way? Would you vote for him?
Obama Gave a Health Care Speech Today
Via TPMCafe, "The time has come for universal health care in America." Here's the text of the speech. Here's Kevin Drum's criticism of it. Kevin wants more plan, less rhetoric.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Kerry Update
We've known for a while now that Kerry should not run for President again in 2008. Nice to see that he's figured it out too.
Randy Newman Comments on the State of Our Union
Yes, that Randy Newman. In the New York Times.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Webb's Response
Drudge has the advance text of Senator Jim Webb's response to the State of the Union. It's a much better read and more powerful than Bush's. Here's some clips:
I was proud to follow in (my father's) footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues – those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death – we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm’s way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us – sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly... We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable – and predicted – disarray that has followed.

The war’s costs to our nation have been staggering. Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq’s cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

He goes on to describe the troubles that Presidents Theodore Roosevelt (in the widening gap between wealthy and poor) and Dwight Eisenhower (a stalemate Korean War that needed to come to an end) faced. Webb concludes with this fabulous statement. This is how you respond to on of the most inept and unpopular Presidencies ever.
These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.
Oscar Nominations
Read the whole list here. Best picture: Babel, Little Miss Sunshine, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Queen.

Which films have you seen and liked/disliked? I am a fan of The Departed, and I liked Little Miss Sunshine but not enough to rate a win here.

Nice to see An Inconvenient Truth nominated for Best Documentary (and for best song!?) Could we have an Al Gore acceptance speech? Not sure of its chances. I seem to remember when the film came out many people were saying - great content and cause but not exactly in the pantheon of great documentaries. I guess we'll see - maybe it's too important a film to pass up, and that will overcome the artistry of others.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Too Fast! Too Fast!
California and Florida are both likely moving their primaries up to within 2 weeks of New Hampshire. So, yeah it stinks that those states have recently had their primaries not count one bit, this way is even worse. We're getting closer and closer to a national primary. It will benefit the candidates that have tons of money and can advertise everywhere at once. And it will remove one of the best elements of the primary process - the way candidates have to wade through the many rounds of challenge and questioning that refines their message and that ultimately makes it harder for a pretender to make it through. It's *already* too far from the idea in that regard (see George W) but this will only make it worse, right?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bill Richardson Gets a Question
Kos is right: from a credential perspective, no Presidential candidate has the resume that Bill Richardson has: Governor, UN Ambassador, Energy Secretary, reputation as a skilled international negotiator. But now that he's in the race, we shouldn't wait for Republicans to raise character issues that have surrounded his reputation. Steve Clemons wastes no time starting the questioning:
Have you behaved inappropriately or not in public settings with female members of your government administration, jokingly or not? Have you gestured to female public servants and political appointees -- who work as colleagues with you -- and made lewd gestures, specifically pointing to them and then pointing at your crotch with a room full of media and other politicos there in the room?

I ask this not to demean or undermine Richardson.

I ask it because I was not in the room when this particular incident occurred but many others were -- and rumors have long swept around Santa Fe that Bill Richardson makes a constant festive joke out of demeaning women. These incidents don't have to do with the comments by Lt. Governor Diane Denish that Richardson is a "touchy" and "feely" Governor. They have to do with questions about a far more crude kind of gesture that demeans professional women.
I'm in Love
You will be too.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Overheard on C-Span
Just heard Tony Snow at the GOP Winter meeting offer up this, which for some reason made me laugh out loud.
Sometimes, we need to remember the *joy* of being a Republican.
Hmmm what would have made them forget the joy I wonder? Yeah, when I think Republican I think of a group of people radiating joy, don't you?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Reason Number 3,586
To elect a Democratic Governor: He'll waste no time in undoing the anti-environmental screw-ups of the previous Republican administration.
Gov. Deval Patrick, making good on a campaign pledge, signed an agreement Thursday committing Massachusetts to the nation's first multistate program to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
he Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is designed to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 10 percent by 2019. It has already been signed by governors from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney opted out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in 2005, saying it could drive up energy costs for consumers.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Preds Win! Oilers Win! So, who's the top team in the entire NHL? The Nashville Predators! It hasn't hurt that 11 of our games have been against the Blues or the Blue Jackets - that's 11 wins. And a little ominous that we're only 2-4 against Anaheim, Detroit and Buffalo, the other top teams. But hey #1 IS #1. Let's hope it stands up.
Environmental News
Even though I blog about lots of things, I tend to believe that the most important news to follow at this time, in terms of the sheer stakes involved, is probably the global response to climate change and the pressures we as a global population are putting on the Earth. The links on the left are long overdue for updating, and one of these days I'll get around to it, but if you are looking for a good place to get news and opinion on environmental issues check out Gristmill. I was reminded of the site reading Kevin Drum - he pointed to two recent Gristmill posts highlighting the state of environmental legislation in the House and in the Senate. Gristmill is worth bookmarking, adding to your feed reader, whatever you do.

Have you found other good sources for environmental news and perspective?
So, We Cured Cancer?
Just because cancer deaths have decreased the past 2 years, doesn't mean we've suddenly got it beat. Yet the Bush Administration is cutting funding for cancer research...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Senate Resolution Against Escalation of the War
Here it is. If the Senate and the House each pass it, will it do any good? Will it, at the very least, make the President look even worse and more alone?
Beat De-troit! [UPDATE: Nevermind]
How does #1 in the entire NHL sound? I've never gotten to say that before about Nashville's hockey team - even last year after starting the season with an 8-game winning streak, the darned Red Wings had played more games, so stayed in first place. But tonight, if the Predators beat the Detroit in Detroit, Nashville will have 69 points and skip over Anaheim for the top spot in the league. It's a big "if", but worth rooting for, if you're looking for something.

[UPDATE: Like many teams going to play in hockeytown, the Preds were humbled. 5-3]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

He's In (plus '08 thoughts...)
More official statements to be made about and all of that, but Barack Obama is running for President. Sign up to receive updates by email, or read some information about him, or watch a brief video statement at

I can tell I'm not going to pick sides anytime soon between Obama and Edwards, though in all honesty it will be hard not to vote for a dynamic, intelligent black man with a legitimate chance to be President. When would our next chance be? That being said, if Obama becomes too cautious, or too conservative and Edwards stays true to the path he's on currently, I could easily go the other way. We're lucky to have 2 such candidates running on the Democratic side - young, progressive, with their own brands of to the stodginess that is the GOP offering of McCain or Giuliani.

How will Hillary fit into this mix? I'm predicting not very well. It's shocking how she could have gone through Bill's campaign, which was so much about passion and change and youth and empathy and then herself be running so much an insider, establishment candidacy. I thought that's the way Republicans nominate Presidents, not Democrats. We're not even to the Winter Meeting yet, so this hardly matters, but I'm having a hard time envisioning what a campaign of hers could even look like? She might turn out to be great, who knows.
Golden Globe Winners
Nice to see Scorsese win one again - maybe an Oscar finally? Here's a list of winners. But what you want is the transcription of Sacha Cohen's acceptance speech. He won a best actor award for Borat. I especially like the last line: "And thank you to every American who has not sued me so far." The whole thing is funny though.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hillary Watch
I notice that Hillary sent an attack dog out to condemn Senator Edwards for his anti-war remarks (see post below), particularly his calling out the "silent" members of Congress.
"In 2004, John Edwards used to constantly brag about running a positive campaign. Today, he has unfortunately chosen to open his campaign with political attacks on Democrats who are fighting the Bush administration's Iraq policy," said Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson.
2 things: 1) I suppose we can assume that she considers herself to be a member of the silent on Iraq - he didn't call her out by name - and that's an odd thing to defend so profusely; 2) Edwards was echoing the sentiment of Dr. King in his opposition to the Vietnam War and his call for action. So, Clinton's team would consider King to likewise be guilty of unfortunate political attacks? And a negative campaigner?

What exactly is the polite way to call for an end to war that's taken 6 years and ended the life of more than 3,000 US troops? What is the positive way to ask for more from reluctant elected officials, who have enabled that conflict through inaction or approval in the past?

I want to like her. Why does she make it so difficult?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

MLK Sunday Speech
I don't know if John Edwards has what it takes to defeat both Obama and Clinton, and I'm not sure I prefer him to Obama. But, Edwards gave an MLK Sunday speech that says what needs to be said. And he gave the speech at Riverside Church, site of Dr. King's most famous anti-war speech, a point Edwards references early. TPMCafe has advance excerpts.
As he put it then, there comes a time when silence is a betrayal -- not only of one’s personal convictions, or even of one’s country alone, but also of our deeper obligations to one another and to the brotherhood of man.

That’s the thing I find the most important about the sermon Dr. King delivered here that day. He did not direct his demands to the government of the United States, which was escalating the war. He issued a direct appeal to the people of the United States, calling on us to break our own silence, and to take responsibility for bringing about what he called a revolution of values.

A revolution whose starting point is personal responsibility, of course, but whose animating force is the belief that we cannot stand idly by and wait for others to right the wrongs of the world.

And this, in my view, is at the heart of what we should remember and celebrate on this day. This is the dream we must commit ourselves to realizing.
If you’re in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel.

Silence is betrayal. Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war – use it.
It made me go back and read that speech of Dr. King's. If you have a chance, read through it. Scroll down a bit here and you can see the full text. Has there ever been a man more deserving of an American holiday? I like where Edwards is going.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Speaker Barney Frank in Action
He can be a truly condescending prick, but he's our condescending prick -- luckily he's also funny and smart and usually right too. Click here to watch the fun when a Republican finds out what it's like to try and make a point of order or a parliamentary inquiry incorrectly while Congressman Frank holds the gavel. I like when he explains that points of order can't be questions. It's nice to be in the majority.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Whither the Protests?
I'm a little amazed that there are no big war-protests popping up. I know there have been some, heard some impromptu yelling through DC news reports the night of the speech but I would have guessed bigger and bigger protests amassing - maybe it's too soon after the announcement? Maybe people are assuming their protest was the November elections and are depending on the Democrats to do something about it?

With 66% disapproving the idea of this escalation and even more disapproving the war generally, how much more unpopular would this war need to become to surpass Vietnam? I would think not much if at all. I know I've questioned the effectiveness of organized demonstrations before (and was rightly upbraided if i remember correctly), but this place we're in now is feeling extra dangerous and desperate. Obviously most Dems, even elected into the majority, don't feel super comfortable taking extreme legislative measures against the commander-in-chief. Maybe it's time to take to the streets?

I notice there's a march planned for Saturday the 27th. Wish I could be there - hopefully it will be well-planned and hugely well-attended.
Only Five?
Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski can only find five huge flaws with the President's new plan for Iraq in his editorial for the Washington Post. Read the whole thing - if you want a good cry. In a nutshell, here are the five:
1. The President grossly oversimplifies the problem we now face.
2. 21,500 troops will accomplish nothing very helpful.
3. After this plan fails, Bush has prepared us for either a cut-and-run with the same disastrous results he has been warning against, or an expansion of war into Syria and Iran. Greaaaaat - which one do *you* think he'll pick?
4. The plan offers no consideration of a political/diplomatic solution.
5. "America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq," while - according to know-it-all Brzezinski - the colonial age is over. Who knew?

Talking heads tonight are convinced that the speech was more about Iran than Iraq, and some Democrats seem to know something's up. We're doing everything we can to provoke an attack by Iran it would seem. Bush won't be ready to leave (office, or Iraq) until he's bombed out Iran's nuclear ambitions. That sounds good, doesn't it? I don't know much about nuclear technology but I think it responds pretty well to bombing. As do fundamentalist Shiite theocracies. Thanks, George for screwing up the entire world.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Staying in Iraq/Getting Out of the Military
Where are the extra troops coming from? One way the numbers are going up is the Pentagon is changing the rules, sadly. There is a limit to how much combat one's psyche can withstand. Now they're removing one of the few safeguards that had been in place.
Until now, the Pentagon's policy on the Guard or Reserve was that members' cumulative time on active duty for the Iraq or Afghan wars could not exceed 24 months. That cumulative limit is now lifted; the remaining limit is on the length of any single mobilization, which may not exceed 24 consecutive months, Pace said.

In other words, a citizen-soldier could be mobilized for a 24-month stretch in Iraq or Afghanistan, then demobilized and allowed to return to civilian life, only to be mobilized a second time for as much as an additional 24 months.
David Chu, the Pentagon's chief of personnel, said in an interview that he thinks Guard and Reserve members will be cheered by the decision to limit future mobilizations to 12 months. The fact that some with previous Iraq experience will end up spending more than 24 months on active duty is "no big deal,"
Meanwhile, if military personnel really want out, we know they can achieve that goal by being gay. We can add to that another delightful method.
An Air Force staff sergeant who posed nude for Playboy magazine has been relieved of her duties while the military investigates, officials said Thursday.
Random Thought
I saw former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on the Daily Show last night and he seemed like a reasonable, interesting, personable fellow. He's also expected to run for the Republican nomination for President. Just from that interview he seemed like the least scary potential President from the GOP side. But, I don't know much about him. Underneath the pleasant exterior he may be a crazy right-winger, but he sounded like he was pro-environment and not anti-government.

I suppose if I really wanted to know about him, I could read his new book. But that's not gonna happen.
The First Veto of the Season?
The 100 hours continue: The House passed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act 253-174. The Senate will likely have a veto-proof majority, but the House did not. Bush vetoed this bill last year so he will likely do it again.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bush Speech [UPDATED, With Links and Quotes]
What did you think?

[UPDATE: Here's a transcript of Bush's remarks announcing an escalation in the war, including sending troops to monitor Iran's activities.

Here's Senator Durbin's official Democratic response - which I thought was pretty good, for such things.

Obama's response:
Tonight, against all military advice to the contrary, the President announced his intention to plunge us ever deeper into the quagmire of Iraq. I have no doubt that the President is sincere in believing that his strategy is the right one. But escalation has already been tried and it has already failed, because no amount of American forces can solve the political differences that lie at the heart of somebody else’s civil war.

I opposed giving the President the broad, open-ended authority to wage this war in 2002 partly because I feared we would arrive at this point -- a point where the ideological pursuit of an ill-defined victory would overwhelm the reality of the facts on the ground. We must not risk more American lives in service of a failed policy, but do what’s necessary to force a political settlement in Iraq so that we can bring our troops home and redouble our nation’s efforts in the wider struggle against terrorism.
H. Clinton's response:
Based on the President’s speech tonight, I cannot support his proposed escalation of the war in Iraq.

The President’s Iraq policy has been marred by incompetence and arrogance as his Administration has refused to recognize the military and political reality on the ground.
John Edwards' pre-response (given the day before):
Escalating the war in Iraq, which our own generals agree won't help, sends the wrong message to the Iraqi people, to the region, and the world. In order to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving and immediately withdraw 40–50,000 troops. Once the U.S. starts leaving, the Iraqi people and other regional powers will be forced to step up and engage in the search for a political solution that can bring an end to sectarian violence and allow reconstruction to take hold, creating — as should have been done long ago — Iraqi jobs for Iraqis.
Also if you'll scroll down this lengthy CNN transcript you can read Larry King's converation with Obama and Edwards following the President. And at Olbermann's home page right now is video of Obama's conversation with Keith, where he was very good I thought.]
Minimum Wage Increase Passed the House
315-116 with all Democrats voting yes. Not surprisingly, my own anti-worker, pro-poverty Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn voted no. Click the link to check on your Rep.

The bill could run into some trouble in the Senate because many Republicans want to attach tax break provisions. But kudos to the House for getting the job done today on their end.
I like this plan: as early as next week, Democrats in both houses will vote on the President's plan to be announced tonight (will there be any surprises?). These would be non-binding resolutions forcing Republicans to take a stand for or against the escalation of this very unpopular war.
“If you really want to change the situation on the ground, demonstrate to the president he’s on his own,” said Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “That will spark real change.”
It's nice to see the tables turn on this, with Republicans (and Lieberman) in a mirror-image situation to the one Democrats faced back when the war was more popular.

Another deserving of this kind of pressure? Rudy Giuliani, who still refuses to say where he stands. On an issue as important as this one, he should be asked every day, 12 times a day, until he answers.
One Down
Just in case you aren't keeping up, the House passed, with a veto-proof majority, the first Democratic promise Tuesday: implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, for things like cargo inspections at our ports and a host of other things. It sounds great, but until they follow up with the funding that is needed in the appropriations bills to follow, it's a mostly empty gesture. We'll see.

Up Wednesday: the minimum wage increase.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Game On
Read Ted Kennedy's speech, given today at the National Press Club. No excerpts - read the whole thing.
The percent of Americans that approves of Bush's handling of the Iraq War. A surge is supported by only 36%. All according to a new USAToday poll. He may get some movement after Wednesday, but I can't imagine it will be much.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Don't Know What I Think About This
from Political Insider, "growing speculation in Democratic political circles" that Obama will announce his candidacy for President on MLK Day. What do you think, a proper use of the day? Or not?

Meanwhile I *do* know what I think about the announcement that South Carolina will hold the first presidential debate in April. Too soon! Give us a break already!
Get Your Throwing Tomatoes Ready
Bush's speech on the War, wherein he finally decides what we should be doing, to the likely detriment of us all, is Wednesday at 9 Eastern.
Article 19 Film Recommendation and Other Stuff
Over the holidays I saw Who Killed the Electric Car?, a documentary narrated by Martin Sheen about the rise and fall of the electric car in California just ten short years ago. As for what I learned...the good news is that the electric car is not a futuristic dream. When will batteries be ready to let electric cars go fast enough and last long enough to be practical and desirable for today's US drivers? They already are. One of the maddening things about the film is the realization for those of us that aren't in the Golden State that the technology we have hoped for has already come and, thanks to an assortment of corporate interests, gone. And then an extra level of outrage to realize that the demise seems to have all been by design.

As for the film, I think I'd like to have seen it organized a bit differently. Toward the end, they briefly flip through "the suspects" for who killed the car. Was it the California Air Resources Board? The car companies? The oil companies? The consumers? Building the case against each one at a time was interesting and convincing. After telling the basic story, why not spend more of the film in that mode? Maybe it wouldn't have worked that way, but as it was it seemed a bit scattered and repetitive. Still, for the educational content alone, it's highly recommended.

The most promising moment of the film (the only...?) came at the very end...after questioning the integrity and the environmentalism of the hybrid movement--especially compared to the electric car. We get a brief glance at the hybrid plug-in, which looks to be the next level in fuel-saving autos. This would allow cars to function as electric cars for, essentially, 40 miles or so and then, if a longer trip was taken, the gradual shift to gasoline would take over. Since most people don't drive more than that in a day, many would rarely, if ever, need to use fuel. Sounds great, huh? And here's what's even better--a story I just read announcing GM's plan to beat competitors to the market with an impressive-looking hybrid plug-in called the Volt, which still has a few wee bugs in it...
The roadblocks include making it affordable and safe. "Thermal runaway can be a problem," admits Volt chief engineer Nick Zielinski. Huh? That means lithium-ion batteries can overheat and set your car on fire.
I suppose spontaneous combustion would be some bad automotive PR. Still, maybe it's too much to hope, but I'd like to believe that a plug-in might be my next car! Who's with me?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

"Choose Generosity, Not Exclusion"
If you missed the so-called "controversy" surrounding newly elected Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim sent to Washington, I'll spare you the details. But you can still appreciate his new piece in the Washington Post's On Faith section. First he out-classed all of his nutty detractors at every turn. Now he's using the spotlight to spin the diversity theme toward his broader congressional goals. Here's just a bit, but you really should read the whole thing.
We need a politics of generosity based on the reality of abundance as opposed to a politics of not-enough. The richest 1 percent of the nation, on average, owns 190 times as much as a typical household. The child poverty rate in the United States is the highest of 16 other industrialized nations. Employers are shifting health insurance costs onto workers. Not only are fewer employees receiving health insurance through their employers, but those who still do are paying more for it.

Recently, I have become the focus of some criticism for my use of the Qu'ran for my ceremonial swearing in. Let me be clear, I am going to be sworn into office like all members of Congress. I am going to swear to uphold the United States Constitution. We seem to have lost the political vision of our founding document -- a vision of inclusion, tolerance and generosity.

I do not blame my critics for subscribing to a politics of scarcity and intolerance. However, I believe we all must project a new politics of generosity and inclusion This is the vision of the diverse coalition in my Congressional district. My constituents in Minnesota elected me to fight for a new politics in which a loving nation guarantees health care for all of its people; a new politics in which executive pay may not skyrocket while workers do not have enough to care for their families. I was elected to articulate a new politics in which no one is cut out of the American dream, not immigrants, not gays, not poor people, not even a Muslim committed to serve his nation.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Democrats Write A Letter
to President Bush, from Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid:
Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. Like many current and former military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious mistake. They, like us, believe there is no purely military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution. Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq.
Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin t he phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror. A renewed diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond, is also required to help the Iraqis agree to a sustainable political settlement. In short, it is time to begin to move our forces out of Iraq and make the Iraqi political leadership aware that our commitment is not open ended, that we cannot resolve their sectarian problems, and that only they can find the political resolution required to stabilize Iraq.
Good for them. Maybe now idiots like Chris Matthews can get it through their thick skulls that the Democrats are united and have a position against the Iraq War and for bringing troops home. We'll see what Bush the Decider has come up with sometime next week.
A Couple of Decent Speeches From 2 Barrier-Breakers
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's acceptance speech is here.
It is an historic moment for the Congress, and an historic moment for the women of this country. It is a moment for which we have waited over 200 years. Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights. But women weren't just waiting; women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal. For our daughters and granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and our granddaughters, the sky is the limit, anything is possible for them.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's inaugural address is here.
On this very day 165 years ago, a young man named Kinna, who had been part of [the Amistad] rebellion, sent a letter from prison to our own John Quincy Adams, who had retired from public life at home in Massachusetts. Kinna pleaded with Adams to help the 36 captives from his ship to earn their freedom. Adams took the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court and won.

As a gesture of thanks and respect, the Africans gave Adams a Bible, called the Mendi Bible, after their tribal homeland. I took the oath this morning with my hand resting on that same Bible — and with my resolve strengthened by that same legacy.

I am descended from people once forbidden their most basic and fundamental freedoms, a people desperate for a reason to hope and willing to fight for it. And so are you. So are you. Because the Amistad was not just a black man's journey; it was an American journey. This commonwealth and the nation modeled on it is at its best when we show we understand a faith in what's possible, and the willingness to work for it.

So, as an American, I am an optimist. But not a foolish one. I see clearly the challenges before us.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Watching the House
Is more fun than I ever remember it being. It's not so much the fact that Democrats are in control with Nancy Pelosi the first-ever woman Speaker - though that's nice. It's fun to hear Republicans using their speech time to whine, whine, whine...being in the minority is not as good a time, apparently.

Here's a cool Clerk of the House site that updates floor activity, if you want to keep up with the first 100 hours.
What's the Point in Passing Laws?
With the Democrats poised to take control of Congress we get one more example of Bush's commitment to breaking the law when he sees fit (my emphasis):
President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the Daily News has learned.

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Key To a Longer and Healthier Life
Hey, if that won't make you read a post, what will? Today's NYTimes has a fascinating article that says that, so long as you don't smoke, in which case all bets are off, you can add time to the end of your life by adding years to your formal education. And before you tsk tsk, like I did, that the capacity for more education simply means you have more wealth, more access to adequate health care, yadda yadda...they thought of that.
It is more important than race; it obliterates any effects of income.
And, health economists say, those factors that are popularly believed to be crucial — money and health insurance, for example, pale in comparison.
[W]hen her analysis was finished, Dr. Lleras-Muney says, “I was surprised, I was really surprised.” It turned out that life expectancy at age 35 was extended by as much as one and a half years simply by going to school for one extra year.
In every country, compelling children to spend a longer time in school led to better health.
Here's the most insteresting explanation:
[E]ducation, Dr. Smith at RAND finds, may somehow teach people to delay gratification. For example, he reported that in one large federal study of middle-aged people, those with less education were less able to think ahead.

“Most of adherence is unpleasant,” Dr. Smith says. “You have to be willing to do something that is not pleasant now and you have to stay with it and think about the future.”

He deplores the dictums to live in the moment or to live for today. That advice, Dr. Smith says, is “the worst thing for your health.”
And lest you think that it is those able to think ahead that are the ones that go through with more education, and not the other way around, there's this:
“You might think that forcing someone to go to school who does not want to be there may not be the same thing as going to school because you want to,” Dr. Lleras-Muney said. “That did not seem to be the case.”
As a personal bonus, if delaying the gratification of a Ph.D. increases longevity, I'll live to be 140!
Read this--it will make for a better day than the Pat Robertson post below.
"The Lord didn't say nuclear."
God has some weighty warnings for the year 2007 and of course He used His most credible delivery man to carry the message: Pat Robertson.
In what has become an annual tradition of prognostications, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson said Tuesday God has told him that a terrorist attack on the United States would result in "mass killing" late in 2007.

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network. "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."
I wonder if maybe God said "nucular" and Pat just didn't understand? But anyway, who still listens to Pat? Will the press ever decide he's wrong enough or irrelevant enough to ignore him? Why are Pat's apocalyptic messages given the same news space as scientists' warnings of imminent danger through global warming?! When will we finally be smart enough, and listen spiritually enough (if you're into that), to see that God has for some time been bypassing Pat Robertson, and is sending messages to us more directly?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Military Oppose Bush
I'm with Steve Benen--why isn't this bigger news?
For the first time, more troops disapprove of the president’s han dling of the war than approve of it. Barely one-third of service members approve of the way the president is handling the war, ac cording to the 2006 Military Times Poll.
Just as telling, in this year’s poll only 41 percent of the military said the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place, down from 65 percent in 2003. That closely reflects the beliefs of the general population today — 45 percent agreed in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll.
It begins?
While McCain and now Lieberman argue for an escalation to the war (even though Joe used to be "confident" we would be drawing down troop levels by now), Bob Novak writes in the Washington Post that skepticism abounds on the Hill, and that Senator Biden will begin hearings into the war next week:
Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, will lead the rest of the Democrats not only to oppose a surge but to block it. Bush enters a new world of a Democratic majority where he must share the stage.

Just as the president is ready to address the nation on Iraq, Biden next week begins three weeks of hearings on the war. On the committee, Biden and Democrats Christopher Dodd (Conn.), John Kerry (Mass.), Russell Feingold (Wis.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) will compete for intensity in criticizing a troop surge. But on the Republican side of the committee, no less probing scrutiny of Bush's proposals will come from Chuck Hagel.
Should be an interesting month...