Friday, September 30, 2005

Texas: on its way to swing statehood.

In 2004, DeLay's challenger got within ten points even though the national Democratic Party hardly invested a dime in his campaign, assuming it was a lost cause. They tried to get the same guy to run again (damned if I can remember his name) but I understand he declined. I wonder if he's reconsidered? I wonder if the Democratic Party is reconsidering what they spend on DeLay's district? Seems like it might be worth it.

I've been getting the sense that Texas is getting to be more of a two-party swing state. I get the sense that within ten years, it'll be one for both parties to squabble over.

2004 was the first time a Republican won a presidential election without winning California. Without a big state like Texas to rely on, the Republican Party will have to concentrate its efforts in other places, and with other constituents. Small wonder they're so concerned about making inroads with Hispanics. It smells of desperation to me.

Bill Bennett versus black babies

Former Education Secretary and current Republican cheerleader Bill Bennett has said, "But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."

Bennett says that his whole point was that you can't justify abortion by pointing out its practical benefits. But saying that skin color is the source of crime is, well, not virtuous, to say the least.

I wonder if he's going to cover eugenics in the next update of The Book of Virtues?

Read all about Bennett's squirming here.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Well, Roberts is now Chief Justice—so what?

Confirmed by the Senate, 78-22. It still doesn't feel like big news. We've always known Bush was going to ignore the concerns of anyone who feels differently from him, and we've always known that the Republican Senate wouldn't give Roberts any real scrutiny. It's like we've been screwed for a long time already. Roberts has evasively wormed his way into his job, dodging legitimate questions like a good little Republican lapdog. What can I say? When your government makes a big show about how it doesn't care what you think, it's hard to feel engaged. I'm more engaged than most people when it comes to politics, I'd say, and I still find it hard.

In these desperate times, we take what solace we can get. And that solace is the DeLay indictment. Smashing down a villain like DeLay is all we can get done, since nothing good has been getting built by this administration and the 107th, 108th and 109th Congresses. It's depressing when the only joy can come from destruction, but if that's the case, well... I'll take it.

DeLay’s indicted? I’m delighted! I’ve leapt up to the firmament!
We’re now facing brief replacing of the Hammer with a Blunt instrument!

Ronnie Earle: A man of convictions.

Ronnie Earle, the district attorney who indicted the rabidly corrupt Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), has been smeared as a partisan hack by DeLay apologists and other right-wingers. The problem? Earle is allegedly a Democratic partisan with a clear political agenda. (No one says just what that agenda is, but they say he’s got it.) There was an anonymous liar who just posted on this board just the other day who claimed that Earle goes disproportionately after Republicans. But I’ve got something that the DeLay apologists don’t have: facts. Have a look at Mr. Earle’s record, if you will:

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, 1994: Acquitted of official misconduct and records tampering after Earle dropped the case during the trial.

Former state Rep. Betty Denton, D-Waco, 1995: Sentenced to six months probation and fined $2,000 for listing false loans and contributions on campaign finance reports.

Former state Rep. Lane Denton, D-Waco, 1995: Sentenced to 60 days in work-release program and six years probation, fined $6,000 and ordered to pay more than $67,000 restitution after being convicted of theft and misapplication of fiduciary property for funneling money from the Department of Public Safety Officers Association to a Denton company.

House Speaker Gib Lewis, D-Fort Worth, 1992: In plea bargain, Earle dropped more serious charges when Lewis pleaded no contest to failing to disclose a business investment. Lewis was fined $2,000, and the judge said he took into consideration that Lewis was retiring from public office.

Attorney General Jim Mattox, Democrat, 1985: Acquitted on felony bribery charges. Won re-election.

State Rep. Mike Martin, R-Longview, 1982: Pleaded guilty to perjury after lying about having himself shot to gain publicity. Did not run for re-election.

State Treasurer Warren Harding, Democrat, 1982: Pleaded no contest to official misconduct and dropped re-election bid.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Yarbrough, Democrat, 1978: Sentenced to five years for lying to a grand jury and forgery. Gave up seat.

Oh, why won’t Mr. Earle leave those Republicans alone? (For the benefit of you humorless Republican Party hacks out there: that was irony.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Subpoena for Frist documents in stock sale probe.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has subpoenaed documents in their investigation into probe of potential insider trading by Senator Bill Frist (R-Tennessee). But... why?

Well the story is that Frist is a professional physician who did a major sell-off of stock in a for-profit hospital that was started by his own father and is his state's biggest medical institution. The sell-off happened just before the share price took a major dive, and Frist made out like an alleged, subpoenaed bandit. I can't see how even the most rabid conservative partisan can state that they can't figure out where a potential conflict of interest is, even if they're unwilling to admit that this looks fishy.

"Damn you, Kurt!" I hear you righties cry. "No one's proven anything yet!" And sure enough, there's no conviction, and I won't say there is one until there is. Frist looks guilty as sin, though.

I suppose conservatives are really panicking about this because they remember how they got the media to convict Clinton of sex crimes before his case ever went to trial. All that time, I (and many others) said this was cheapening the discourse, but the Starr warriors pressed on. And now they're reaping what they sowed. What did they expect?

Regardless, when someone has a mountain of evidence on his shoulders like Frist does, it's only reasonable to keep pressure on him. And I hope they do.

Was the DeLay indictment a false alarm?

Must be—DeLay says he's innocent! Call off the investigation! Corruption in government? Impossible!

Tom DeLay has been indicted.

Representative Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has been indicted on two counts of conspiracy. Apparently he's been taking bribes from companies in violation of Texas laws which outlaw corporate contributions. DeLay took a bribe from Sears Roebuck. Apparently he wanted to get his catalogue mailed out a little earlier this year.

DeLay says he'll be temporarily stepping aside. Good to hear, but that's not long enough. If Congress were actually interested in, y'know, investigating crimes and like that, my heart might soar. But as it is, it makes me glow a little bit inside to hear that he's got a little bit of snake egg on his face.

We've got to have faith that DeLay will one day get nailed. While there's a Republican Congress and a Republican White House, his corruption will remain unchecked, but one day the law could catch up with him. Remember: they caught Boss Tweed, too.

Senator Affleck?

So it appears that Ben Affleck is considering a Senate run in Virginia. Affleck spent a good amount of time on the trail with John Kerry during last year’s close presidential contest (please, I don’t want to talk about it; it still hurts,) which is when the rumors of a possible Affleck candidacy started. Affleck and his pregnant wife Jennifer Garner were recently spotted around Charlottesville, apparently house shopping. Affleck’s manager, Ken Sunshine (if you can believe that name) has denied that the star is mulling a run, but said that if he did, he’d be a great Senator.

What’s on Affleck’s mind? Or on the mind of the Virginia Democrats, for that matter? Well, the 2006 Senate race is going to be a tough one, suffice it to say. The incumbent is the popular Senator George Allen, who’s said to be eyeing a presidential run in 2008. The Democrats would need a real star to pull this off, and since outgoing Governor Mark Warner (also said to be eyeing a 2008 run) has decided to sit this one out, there’s no other Virginian with sufficient caliber to do the job.

I couldn’t see Affleck beating Allen next year, but I doubt that’s really what the Democrats are looking to do. It would be enough to slow Senator Allen down, to exhaust him for the 2008 race. If Allen has no competition, he can save money and start an earlier focus on a presidential run. Getting his nose bloodied in the Senate race, win or lose, would make the primaries harder for him and would help the eventual Democratic presidential nominee, should Allen be the Republican nominee.

If Affleck does run, it could wind up as a stone in the shoe of California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’s up for reëlection next year, himself. With Affleck in the running, how reliable would the predictable anti-Hollywood yammering that we so often hear from the Republicans? Affleck would be an obvious target for this, but such attacks would lose a lot of effectiveness with an incumbent Republican movie star running the very same year.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Paris Metro doesn't get blown up.

France has foiled a terrorist attack on the Paris Metro, one that would have been akin to the recent attacks in Madrid and London. It's good to see some country's authorities effectively curbing terrorism. "Yeah, but," say our right-wing friends, "this is just another reason why we should hate Arabs and all Muslims. See, France didn't support the Iraq invasion, but they're still trying to kill them, so Arabs and Muslims are just terrible people who should be destroyed or at least severely oppressed. Even you liberals should see that by now, now that they attacked your precious France."

"Ah, Kurt," the more fair-minded of you might say. "Do you really think it's impressive or even fair to set up a straw man like that?" To which I say: That's not a straw man. I actually got into this argument with several right-wingers on the Yahoo message boards today. So there. Who won the argument? Why, I did, of course. Just ask me. Here's what I told them:

In 1960, France still possessed its old colony of Algeria. France was also in need of cheap labor, so it invited Arabs from its colonies and former colonies to come there and work. After a while, France didn't need cheap immigrant labor anymore, so an anti-foreigner attitude developed among some people in France. Tensions have long been mounting between France and Algeria since the Algerian War of 1960, when France tried to keep its prime colony from separating.

So when you figure how much France has been meddling in Algerian politics for the past forty-some years, and you figure how many resentful Arabs there are living in France right now, is it any wonder that things like this happen?

In sum, this was not an al-Qaeda attack, nor was it related to what's going on in Iraq right now. All Arabs and all Muslims are not alike, and this is evidence of that.

I hope this clears things up, and I hope it stems anti-Arab agitation. But I won't hold my breath.

As the discussion raged on, I was predictably chastised for saying we should try to understand Arabs, and I was attacked for suggesting that we should try to understand the terrorists. While that's not actually what I said, I will say that understanding terrorists is a good thing, because if we don't understand an unconventional enemy, how can we fight them? We should understand Arabs and other Middle Easterners, of course, for very different reasons. Basically, we should try to get along with everyone, but where terrorism is concerned, it just makes sense to with their hearts over so that we can dissuade anyone in the region who would make life easier for terrorists. That's not as easy as Arab genocide, I know, but as a human being, I can't say I'm going to consider the genocide option.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I can be a good sport.

Some conservative said that we in the anti-Bush crowd don't ever give credit where credit is due, that we never say nice things about Bush when he's got those nice things coming. So, okay: I can say nice things about Bush. It's not easy, but I have (grudgingly) come up with some:

1. I thought invading Afghanistan and establishing an allied presence there was a good move. (I would have done this, myself. I have issues with Bush's follow-through on this, of course, but it started out pretty well.)

2. I think he was right to contradict the mayor of New Orleans, who was saying that it was okay to return to the city.

3. I, too, find myself wishing that I could be riding my bike instead of sitting at my desk at work. This guy actually goes out and grabs that brass ring!

I'd like to add that as someone who evacuated lower Manhattan on the morning of September 11, Bush's appearance on the World Trade Center site did not make me feel better. In fact, I found the whole spectacle nauseating. "I'm gonna go down to the World Trade Center site and hug a fireman," Bush said. The he hugged a fireman. Then he said he hugged a fireman. Yecch. Okay, okay, I know this isn't a nice thing to say, but all that sweetness I just rattled off is making me clench up inside. I can only handle so much mawkishness, you know.

Friday, September 23, 2005

J.K. Rowling was wrong.

You know how in the Harry Potter novels all the photographs in the wizarding world are constantly moving around? Even in the newspapers and magazines? It's a neat idea, but really, this sort of thing drives me bats. I don't see how witches and wizards can tolerate it. And I know what I'm talking about, because moving pictures next to articles on the internet drives me out of my mind. I frequently shrink my browser window just to get it away from me, and spare myself the headaches. I guess I'm better off as a Muggle.

They don't make Supreme Court Justices like that anymore!

I've got a desk calendar from the Lightbulb Press full of financially-related tidbits. Today's quote is from Oliver Wendell Holmes, and it happens to be one of my all-time favorites:

"Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society."

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Grover Norquist.

Catholic Church to ban homosexuals from the priesthood

Does this strike anyone besides me as strange? I mean, we all know the rules: you can't have sex and be a priest. And the Catholic Church doesn't like gay sex. And it doesn't approve of sex for any purpose apart from procreation, for that matter. This should come as news to no one, right? Okay.

So, that said: isn't this rule kind of redundant? Sure, homosexuals can't be priests, but for that matter, neither can heterosexuals or bisexuals or anything-o-sexuals. "Celibate" means "not having sex at all," so by definition, if you're celibate, then you don't even *have* a sexual orientation. You might as well suggest to a vegetarian that he avoid red meat.

The only explanation for this that I can come up with is that it's just a move to make homosexuals feel even more loathed by the Church. I've long heard the old maxim "Love the sinner, hate the sin," but it seems that this superficially redundant gesture is designed to fling hate at both.

Japan & Russia: the weather underground?

Боже мой! Seems Ivan is teaming up with our old nemesis Tokyo Rose! Will freedom ever run out of enemies? Hurricane Ivan last year, Hurricane Katrina this year... sure, it can't be coïncidence that they both have Russian names. Why else would the U.S. Weather Service assign such names to them in the first place if the storms weren't engineered with Russian technology? Don't be surprised when Hurricane Yoko hits in a few weeks.

I read an article in the Seattle Times about Pocatello, Idaho weatherman Scott Stevens. Stevens’ web site explains how Soviet resentment blends with Tesla coils to create formidable weapons for the Japanese Yakuza to use to exact revenge for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings! The site has, if nothing else, some good pictures. (One of those pictures was taken by an Englishman named Andrew Johnson. It can be no coïncidence that Andrew Johnson was also the name of a former Democratic president, which clearly shows that the British are in league with the Democrats!)

Note for the irony-impaired: I think this guy is completely out of his tree. Mr. Stevens and I do agree that there will be more hurricanes. But I do not agree with him on nearly everything else, particularly this quote from someone named Tom Bearden, whom Stevens endorses:

"So in early 1990, the weather engineering operations over North America were assumed from the FSB/KGB by the Yakuza/Aum Shinrikyo teams, and operations continued with the Yakuza's leased giant scalar interferometers. The weather engineering against the United States continues today under the rogue Japanese teams on site in Russia, with direct FSB/KGB supervision."

Why am I reporting this? I dunno. Nuts amuse me, I guess. Sure, hurricanes have been stronger lately than they have been in the past, but seeing KGB agents lurking under every little rock is just so… so… Reaganlike, you know?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Is British aid for Katrina victims being destroyed?

According to the UK's Daily Mirror, British aid packages being sent to help the hungry refugees have been being destroyed by the order of the US Food and Drug Administration. Exactly what the issue is, I'm not sure. Something about the "mad cow" issue persists in the American mind. So rather than distributing this NATO-approved food to hurricane victims, we're burning it.

This is yet another PR disaster for the Bush administration. I'm sure they'd be worried, if they were the kind of administration that didn't care about offending its allies and wasting resources.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Mitt Romney vs. George Romney: two generations highlight the decline of the GOP.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has just seen an override of his veto of an emergency contraception bill in his state. The logical question is: how in God's name did a man like Mitt Romney ever get elected to be governor of a state like Massachusetts?

I know someone who was a Massachusettsian during the 2002 election. She said that she was watching TV with a friend when Romney announced his bid for governor. Her friend said, "He's gonna win," upon seeing him the first time. Her argument? Romney was a good-looking, clean-cut, well-spoken man, and the voters would respond to that. All you had to do was a little digging to find out who and what Romney was, but no one seemed to want to do that, apparently. My friend's friend was apparently right. We'll see if the Massachusetts Democrats can dig up any good-looking candidates...

I've also heard Bay Staters say that they prefer to have a Democratic government with a Republican in charge to keep everything in check. I kind of doubt that. Sure, Massachusetts hasn't had a Democratic governor since... when, 1986? But I'd bet that Massachusetts would vote for a Democratic governor, and it looks as though they're gearing up to do that next year. I have to wonder if Romney's going to keep up with his presidential campaign after that, holding that if [liberal] Massachusetts rejected him, then he's clearly right for [conservative] America.

Name recognition is also a big deal—as well as family political connections. Upon first hearing his name, my mother remembered George Romney, Mitt's father, who was a popular governor of Michigan and a peace candidate in 1968 whose campaign collapsed, paving the way for Richard Nixon (another peace candidate) to win the nomination and thus the election.

In his 1968 presidential campaign announcement, Governor George Romney said, "In the 50 states of our union, we must again claim not state rights but state responsibilities." Like father, unlike son...

Congressman Tancredo (R-CO) proposes blocking out moon twice a month.

Well, not really. But if he's elected president, maybe he will. You wouldn't want to inadvertantly glorify the terrorists, after all. I can't wait for the Liberty Bread Wedges this Thanksgiving. Check this out: Tancredo's war on crescents.

Seriously, it looks like Tom Tancredo is doing Sharpton duty for the Republicans for the 2008 campaign, which involves looking like a stark raving lunatic for the benefit of candidates like Bill Frist and Mitt Romney, who aren't quite such stark raving lunatics. Tancredo is also cultivating a well-earned reputation as the anti-immigrant candidate. Sometimes I wonder if this nutball won't help the eventual Republican nominee in 2008. Tancredo would make the Republican nominee, no matter how conservative, look positive moderate by comparison. On the other hand, his presence could force the other candidates to run too far to the right to pull voters away from him.

Regardless, I think Tancredo is too far to the right even for the current incarnation of the Republican Party to have a hope of winning the nomination. I'm inclined to think that his kind of politics would be a drag on the eventual nominee, but I realize that might just be wishful thinking. Still, Tancredo has a point when he says that "Hispanic voters will not be won over to the Republican Party by trying to out-pander the Democrats." Hispanics will remain a predominantly Democratic group in 2008. But can the Republicans really risk energizing Hispanics against the Republican Party? Tancredo might just be the kind of bomb to make that very thing happen.

American Civics Quiz

Here's a good quiz to check your grasp of basic civics. I got 48 out of 54, which is something like 89% or so. My biggest mistakes were when I stupidly said that we declared war three times during the twentieth century, figuring that the 1991 Gulf War was one we had to declare, despite the coalition forces' having jumped in. And I said that bills to raise taxes must originate in Congress. While technically correct, they wanted something more specific, and I agree that my answer was insufficiently vague, anyway.

The last signer of the Declaration of Independence? I said James Witherspoon. I know there was a Witherspoon on that document, but I don't know what his first name was. It might have been James, but that was a wild guess. John Hancock was first, wasn't he? Or is that just part of the national myth?

One question that they couldn't really do on that quiz: who are your Congressional delegation? Mine, currently, are José Serrano in the House, and my Senators are Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton. All Americans should also know who their governor is. Mine is George Pataki, and thank God he won't be my governor come January 2007. Go Eliot Spitzer!

Can you fine Americans name yours?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

*TINK*

Katrina just bounced off someone's tin ear.

In related news, Neil Bush was recently asked for his opinion, and he said, "A good Yale man could have rowed his way out of that mess down South. If these people had practiced their crew skills a little better, more of them would still be alive today. I propose that we dispatch rowing coaches across all hurricane- and flood-prone regions in this country. It could save a lot of lives, next time."

Okay, well, maybe Neil didn't really say that, but in light of the rest of his family's tin ear, would you really be surprised if he did?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Justice Rehnquist is dead.

A few months too late... or, rather, about three and a half years too early. This could be a mess. I'm figuring it is. I was hoping that he'd have to tender his resignation at the same time as O'Connor, which would make it difficult for Bush to appoint two conservative crackpots at the same time. But now, with the Roberts hearings set to begin this week, Bush might well escape having to make two simultaneous appointments, because I doubt the Democrats will be able to hold off the hearings for very long—though I'm sure they'll try.

Bush will replace O'Connor with this crackpot Roberts, then replace Rehnquist with someone worse, claiming that Roberts is the moderate—and, no doubt, whoever Bush appoints to replace Rehnquist will make Roberts look like a moderate.

With Bush at a low ebb in popularity, this is probably the best time for this to happen, though there really is no good time for this to happen at all.

Some might say I'm being too callous about the death of a human being, but Rehnquist and his death are bigger than one person's life. That, I'm sorry to say, is impossible to ignore.

Remember the gas prices during the '79 embargo?

I was about ten years old at the time, so it wasn't a big issue for me, but it was a popular topic of conversation. My parents had just purchased a brand-new powder-blue 1979 model Mercury station wagon that got about nine miles to the gallon. That car didn't last long, once the 1979 embargo started up. They traded it in for a 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser station wagon, also blue, which got far better mileage.

There were gas lines, of course. There was talk of reviving the old rationing stamps that were used during World War II. The film strips in my sixth grade class showed one of the old "A" ration stamps, which allowed you the lowest gas rations. Somewhere there was apparently a vast stash of these stamps left over from that war, all ready to be put back into use if the embargo didn't stop.

Siphoning became a problem, with people stealing gasoline with siphon tubes. Locks started appearing on gas tanks. I heard some stories about gasoline thieves accidentally ingesting gasoline while priming their siphon tubes.

There were "odd/even days" for sales of gasoline. Mom's license plate was Y48-632, so she could buy gasoline on even-numbered days; Dad's was Y48-633, so he could buy it on odd-numbered days. On the 31st of the month, everyone could buy gas, just to keep things fair. Prices were going through the roof, approaching $1.00 a gallon! I heard somewhere that, adjusted for inflation, those 1979 prices were higher even than the prices of the 1973 embargo. In 2005 prices, that works out to about $3.00 a gallon, I've been told. That's what prices are approaching right now across the country, though in some places, I understand it's higher than that, even. In Georgia, I heard gasoline was selling for about $5.69 a gallon in some places, and Governor Sonny Purdue has promised to investigate. (I don't know if Governor Purdue is quite up to the job; his primary qualification for the job that he touted during his 2002 election was his pro-Stars-'n-Bars stance on the Georgia flag.)

I don't know if this is going to get worse. I don't know if it's going to get better. Senator Schumer (D-NY) called for the opening of the Petroleum Reserves, and Bush is doing that. But our problem is our lack of refining capacity, which took a hit thanks to Hurricane Katrina. Though gas prices were already on their way up, that's what's really sending them skyward. Even if all the disabled oil rigs off the coast of Louisiana were magically repaired, and even if we somehow found a massive source of oil deep below the Mojave Desert, we'd still be in a pinch.

What's gasoline selling for here in New York City? I confess I haven't checked yet. I'm going to be in Queens later today, so I'll try to give a look. Thank God for mass transit: at $2.00 a ride, the Subway is a better deal than ever. More mass transit is a solution, and it's one that I advocate. However, the powers that be these days aren't interested in heading off problems before they happen; they'd rather fix what they've broken. We could really have done with a preëmptive strike on the energy crisis.

On the up side: if you're looking for a used Hummer, you could probably pick one up pretty cheap these days...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Republican priorities in this time of crisis.

Three states have just been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, with thousands dead so far and tens of thousands more dislocated. Our Republican Congress has decided to set priorities and focus on what's important.

They're pushing a repeal of the estate tax. Small wonder George W. Bush is calling for all to "put politics aside."