Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cake or death?

Continuing video day on MBATR, here's a cut of Eddie Izzard's "Cake or death" bit re-enacted with legos:

And for you Star Wars fans:

well, that should shore up the Log Cabin vote!

So I hear Charlie Crist is considered a slight favorite to become co-conductor of the Crazy Train. An interesting choice. Very interesting, in fact. Ya know your presidential candidate is up there in years when he can't tell this single 51-year-old man is a little light in his loafers.

Then again, maybe my gaydar would be a little off, too, if I spent as much time as McCain does with this single 52-year-old man:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

optical illusion


Who is in this picture? Now get back, walk 15 feet away, and look again.

a replacement column for David Brooks

Presidential candidates should pick vice presidents who help them with the actual governing part of being a president, since they don't help with winning swing states.

John McCain should pick someone who makes up for his egregious inadequacies as a potential president, the fact that he's beholden to federal lobbyists, his virtually uncontrollable temper which makes him vulnerable to being manipulated in politics, and his relative ignorance and knee-jerk belligerence in matters of foreign policy. To help him with all these very, very many weaknesses, he should pick someone who's younger than him and is known as very virile and healthy man, and someone who knows a lot about being easily manipulated and about the dangers of a warmongering approach to foreign affairs. Whether they're from a swing state does not matter in my criteria, so he should choose George W. Bush.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, should find a VP who can complement so impressive a candidate without too much overlap. He should find someone with a solid military background, someone with government experience but not a lightning rod or a reputation for being highly partisan, preferably a former Republican. The candidate should also be tough and "no nonsense," who conveys the impression that this administration has the big stick (!) that helps so much in political matters. Swing state affiliation doesn't matter, again, so the best candidate for Barack is Jim Webb.

utterly, totally non-partisan column from David Brooks

This week David Brooks is on the subject of VP picks, and the overall thesis of his column is a good one, specifically that vice presidents seem to have much more effect on a president's administration than they do on his campaign.

But here's where David Brooks the nonpartisan sociologist elides seamlessly into David Brooks the right wing apparatchik. According to Brooks, Barack Obama needs a VP who can overcome all his myriad failures, from his inexperience to his naivety to the lack of substance in his strategy to the fact that he can't really bring people together. John McCain, meanwhile, just needs someone who can help him with problems in "the climate" and with other "forces." Don'tcha just love Republican weather metaphors? "There's a lot of partisanship in the air in Washington, and the climate is not conducive to our party getting elected. Nothing that's our fault, of course, it's not like we did anything to tarnish our brand! It's just the weather, ya know, out there." Unlike Barack Obama, the f**kup of the ages, the Crazy Train has no failures or weaknesses, apparently. Just some climactic issues, that's all!

And, of course, once you've bitten through the nonpartisan observer coating with the subtle "Democrats suck worse" flavor, you get to the creamy, concern troll shell, where Brooks genuinely, seriously, without any duplicity or ulterior motives (honest to God!) suggests that Obama, the "change we can believe in" candidate, pick Democratic brahmin has-been and failure Tom Daschle, while John McCain choose rising star, charismatic Tim Pawlenty. Seriously, Brooks says McCain should pick a successful governor with a lot of appeal (from a swing state, mind you), while Obama should pick a former Senate minority leader and partisan lightning rod from a safe GOP state who not only couldn't keep the Democrats on top in the Senate but who failed to hold onto his own seat while he was Minority Leader. Daschle's wife, by the way, is a federal lobbyist, but I'm sure that had nothing to do with Brooks' choice. I mean, it's not like her presence would nullify one of Barack's biggest advantages over McCain.

And the best part: whether the candidates pick Brooks' choices is a way to measure "who is thinking seriously about how to succeed in the White House." Take that, Democrats!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

they're surrounded

I wonder, is it a common phenomenon for an embattled minority to start seeing everyone else as part of one monolithic enemy?

I'm increasingly seeing Clinton supporters blaming "Obama" for every bad thing that happens to Hillary or her campaign. Take this dKos diary, for instance. Among the things for which "obama and the democratic party" are to blame are:
being called a blitch

being bullied

having her own party refuse to acknowledge her votes and strong following

having her followers called racists on SNL

having her party's superdelegates do everything in their power to dissway [!] her voters and demand for her to step down even when she is leading in the popular and electoral vote [!]

blaming her for her husband's policies which brought more prosperity and peace to America [translation: Bill's policies were great, and how dare you blame Hillary for them!]

having her legs, hips, and cleavage ridiculed on the polulation's tvs

Apparently, "obama and the democratic party" can now include among their agents and proxies John McCain supporters, Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live, Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan, and Rush Limbaugh.

if I can't have it, neither can you

From the New York Times:
A day after Senator Barack Obama gathered a majority of pledged delegates in the Democratic presidential nominating contest, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defiantly sent out new signals Wednesday that she might take her fight for the nomination all the way to the party’s convention in August.

Mrs. Clinton stumped across South Florida, scene of the 2000 election debacle, pressing her case for including delegates from Florida and Michigan in the final delegate tally.

Now why would she go stumping in Florida, I wonder? Couldn't she make this case from anywhere, like, say, the states that still have primaries? What is she trying to accomplish? Here's a hint:
“You didn’t break a single rule, and you should not be punished for matters beyond your control.”

Why would she want Floridians to feel "punished" if she doesn't become the nominee? If they felt that way, they'd be more inclined to vote for McCain, right?

Is she intentionally undermining Obama in a state that's already voted so that she can guarantee to the Democratic Convention that he loses to McCain? Why else would she do this? Is she really willing to sabotage the party's chances in November to gain an extra bargaining chip for superdelegates?

Jesus Camp

I actually put this movie into my Netflix queue expecting something more. It's shot well enough, and the filmmakers focused in on 2 kids, Rachael and Levi, that are at times frightening or heartbreaking, and always sympathetic. We all knew kids at some point that share Rachael's adorably frenetic way of speaking and Levi's earnest desire to please the adults in the room. Also, the focus at the end of the movie on Ted Haggard was, of course, prescient.

That being said, I think there's an element of scaremongering in the movie's billing that bothers me. The previews imply that Jesus Camp exposes the bible camps of "evangelical Christians" as places where they brainwash their kids into becoming the terrorists of the future. First of all, the movie doesn't focus just on generic "evangelical Christians”; it's a movie about Pentecostals, a pretty radical evangelical denomination. Yet they are used to represent all "evangelical Christians,” even though most evangelicals would find thing like prophecy and speaking in tongues and collapsing in church pretty bizarre. The willingness to stretch such an egregious example into a representation of the whole of evangelicalism makes me wonder to what degree the bible camp shown here is also anomalous.

Admittedly, just Pentecostals, or even just this woman, preparing kids for terrorism would be scary, but the movie doesn't deliver that, either. For all the military imagery used by the adults and kids, for all the uses of terms like "soldiers of Christ" and being prepared to die for God, the movie never establishes that these kids are willing, or taught to be willing, to do violence in the name of their religion. Anyone familiar with evangelicalism knows that the evangelical martyrdom fantasy involves not killing Muslims or bombing abortion clinics, but having a gun put to your head and being told to recant or die, and there's no evidence these people are picturing anything different. The woman running the camp even mentions at one point that she's NOT talking about violence.

What you're left with is a movie about parents with quirky religious perspectives who indoctrinate their kids with all their radical beliefs and political views without any respect for the children's freedom of thought or psychological well-being. That, however, is hardly peculiar to "evangelical Christians," and though sad, is not exactly something worth staying up at night worrying about.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

saving on shaving, the straight story

Here is a neat concept: save cash on your shaving supplies in the long run by going old school. And I mean really old school: a straight razor. Badger and Blade crunches the numbers to show how using an old-fashioned cut-throat razor, complete with strops and honing, will save you about $5/month on your shaving needs.

Now, let's start out with the obvious: for the amount of work and learning of new skills and whatnot this requires, $5/month is a pretty shabby savings. They say every little bit adds up, and if you're making a bunch of similar savings, that would be true, but if you just switch to a straight razor, you'll never save enough cash to notice the difference.

What you may well notice, however, is the experience. A number of the commenters have noted that using a straight razor, along with a brush and cream from actual shaving soap (or just quality, natural non-canned shaving cream), makes shaving enjoyable rather than one of many morning chores.

I have to admit that this appeals to me. It probably wouldn't save me money, as I don't grow much facial hair, nor do I grow it quickly, and can use the same disposable razor for a long time. It would make more financial sense for me to invest in an electric razor, allowing me to shave faster, go years without replacing any blades, and stop buying cream entirely.

I'm a huge sucker, however, for Victorian era accoutrement. As the proud owner of a pocket watch, an engraved whiskey flask, and a three-piece suit, the prospect of having and learning to use a straight razor, along with the strop and cream and little brush and mug, makes me a little giddy and warms my fin-de-siecle soul.

negotiating with terrorists

Here's a good one: Who's the latest conservative to chide Barack Obama for saying he would negotiate with Iran?

I shit you not, folks: Oliver frakin' North.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

teens: still not as bad as they say

Looks like Rush Limbaugh's dreaded teen "blowjob culture" is a myth. From the Washington Post:
Contrary to widespread belief, teenagers do not appear to commonly engage in oral sex as a way to preserve their virginity, according to the first study to examine the question nationally.

The analysis of a federal survey of more than 2,200 males and females aged 15 to 19, released yesterday, found that more than half reported having had oral sex. But those who described themselves as virgins were far less likely to say they had tried it than those who had had intercourse.

"There's a popular perception that teens are engaging in serial oral sex as a strategy to avoid vaginal intercourse," said Rachel Jones of the Guttmacher Institute, a private, nonprofit research organization based in New York, who helped do the study. "Our research suggests that's a misperception."

We're supposed to believe that the world is going to Hell in a handbasket, that our morals are fast decaying, and that today's teens are more deviant, more violent, and more ignorant than we were. It's just not true.

Ted Kennedy

Peace be with him and his family who have been through so much.

Kentucky and Oregon at the bat

Won't make exact predictions because I'm not really even paying attention to the numbers anymore. Hillary will complete her Appalachian sweep. Barack will win white voters in Oregon and lose them in Kentucky, so expect more people to ask why Obama can't win white voters. Barack will also secure the majority of pledged delegates tonight, and it looks like the press are going to give that fact some airtime. I suspect there will be somewhat significant movement in Obama's favor among the superdels, as many will simply run out of excuses to stay on the fence.

Expect Hillary to crack 60% in Grims' Olde Kentucky Home, and Barack to score near that in Oregon.

and they got an article in the LA Times for this

From Yahoo! News:
Hillary Clinton is smart and forceful, John McCain is proud but has a volatile temper, and Barack Obama is a diplomat who deals well with different people and situations.

At least, that's what graphologists say their handwriting reveals about them.

"Handwriting is a reflection of the inner personality. It shows a person's ego strength, how good they feel about themselves, their intellectual, communication and working styles," graphologist Sheila Lowe, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis", told AFP.

Wow, how enlightening! Hillary Clinton is smart and assertive?! John McCain has a temper? How on earth could someone have divined such a thing? Graphology must be the most accurate science since, well, astrology! Or the Meyers-Briggs test!
Another graphologist had a different interpretation of the bisected O.

"He draws that circle and a line through it, and it's really like he has two different worlds," said Paula Sassi, who has been interpreting handwriting for 28 years.

"I think it shows his black and white heritage."

Tres scientific!

Monday, May 19, 2008

John McCain does not believe in your right to privacy

...and, if he is elected president, he will appoint the final judge who takes it from you forever.

I can't hammer it enough that this is the single starkest consequence of a Republican presidential victory in 2008, and if John McCain wins, it will happen. The Supreme Court currently has 4 diehard, social conservatives who don't believe in the right to privacy. There are 2 ancient justices who are likely to retire within the next couple of years, and they're both liberal. John McCain has already said on multiple occasions that he will appoint "strict constructionist" judges, which is dog whistle for anti-right to privacy. John McCain has also already said that he thinks Roe v. Wade, which relies entirely on the right to privacy, should be overturned. Why would he do anything other than to appoint another socially conservative judge? And why would anti-Roe groups do anything other than to bring an lawsuit before the Court when that happens? And why on earth would 5 socially conservative, "strict constructionist" judges in the most politicized Supreme Court in decades do anything other than to hand their side their greatest victory in who knows how long?

If Justice Scalia were presiding in a case over the constitutionality of the right to privacy or abortion, would you bet your rights on him doing a 180 and voting with Ginsburg and Souter? What about Alito? Thomas? Roberts?

they are who they are

Yglesias finds a postmortem of the Clinton campaign as it circles the drain, a laundry list of things she should have done differently, and notices an odd omission: no mention of her vote for the Iraq War.

Yglesias argues, and I think correctly, that the Obama campaign wasn't just aided by Clinton's cynical warmongering; it was justified by it. For all Barack's strengths, the central "issue" distinction he had with Hillary all the way through Iowa was that he was against the war from the start. That was it. Remember the endless judgment vs. experience debates? And yet apparently on that issue alone Obama was able to sway liberals and college-educated voters away from Clinton. It should be mentioned as well that African Americans fight and die in our wars in disproportionately large numbers, and typically are keenly aware of this fact. Thus Clinton's losing battle for the black vote may at least partially trace back to her war vote as well.

Remember, unlike Hillary, Barack is young enough that he could have waited to run for president until he accumulated more experience, and in fact had originally planned to do exactly that. He must have seen an opening this year, and what else could it have been?

As a strong Obamacan, I have to admit that it was the war that initially drew me to him as a presidential candidate. If Clinton had voted against the war, I don't know that the other stuff would have been enough for me to go with him.

Then again, this is quickly becoming an "If Hillary Clinton were someone other than Hillary Clinton" argument. The mindset that led to her vote to authorize military force in Iraq is the very one that drove, most obviously, her vote for the Iran resolution, but that cynical and tone deaf approach to politics, the willingness to sacrifice sound judgment on the altar of political expediency, also explains the flag-burning amendment, her anti-video game violence bill, her vote for the 2005 bankruptcy bill, and the retainment of Mark Penn. It's also the same cynicism that drives decisions to tar Barack with the "left wing" brush, which is not only hypocritical but is the classic Clinton shiv into the kidneys of the party's base, a reviled tactic now commonly referred to as "triangulation" (Et tu, Hillary?). And, of course, this cynicism is also evidenced in her eye-rolling transformation, without hint of irony, into a Boilermaker-drinking working class hero.

I would have definitely voted for a Hillary Clinton excised of all this baggage, but at that point aren't we really talking about someone else entirely, some fictional current Senator and former First Lady who merely resembles Hillary Clinton?

Which brings me to another point, which is perhaps best explained by historical analogy. It regards the otherwise hapless Confederate Major General George Pickett. Pickett was the eponymous commander of Pickett's Charge, the epic climax of the Battle of Gettysburg, a disastrous mile-long march into concentrated Union fire that cost Pickett the majority of his division, General Lee the battle, and the Confederacy an opportunity to march on Washington itself. Years later someone asked Major General Pickett how it was that the South failed to win the battle, and Pickett famously replied, "I've always thought the Yankees had something to do with it."

In a battle between real candidates, it now appears that beating Obama would have required something much more than changes in strategy. This was a year of particularly strong Democratic candidates, and yet Barack beat them all, even while spending some of that time being used as a punching bag by the entire Republican establishment for his opinion on talking to enemy nations. This year's John Edwards, for instance, was a far stronger, more wily opponent than the 2004 Edwards that gave Kerry and the entire Democratic establishment a decent run, and Hillary Clinton whupped his ass. Perhaps this primary was less about Hillary's mistakes than about Barack's strengths as a candidate.

long time, no post

Sorry about the lack of posts the last week or so. I spent the last week in Hotlanta, and after that library school started, so my posting may be a little lighter for a while. Or not.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

the morning after bitter pill

I mentioned last night that, out of nowhere, the media has turned violently against Clinton, with Tim Russert and Chris Matthews, the two biggest pundits on the biggest news staff, declaring the contest over and Barack Obama the nominee.

It continues this morning. Bob Shrum, as interviewed in The New York Times:
“The people who have her best interests at heart, they would now say to her, ‘You ought to really think about not protracting this, because you will only look selfish in the weeks to come,’ ” Mr. Shrum said. “Her Pennsylvania win bought her permission to go on. But then her narrow victory in Indiana and this smashing defeat in North Carolina — there is no rationale for her to continue.”

Say what you will about his record as a strategist (and I often do), his opinion is hot s**t in Washington and, to my knowledge, he has no horse in this race.

Meanwhile, Paul Begala, former strategist for Bill and current Hillary supporter, goes on national TV and calls Obama supporters "eggheads and African Americans." Here we see the sentiment behind Clintonian triangulation, specifically that the party can and should shit on liberals, seculars and blacks with impunity because, let's face it, they have nowhere else to go. Liberals, seculars, and feminists, in fact, are the only demographics that you can explicitly slander on national TV without ever having to worry that someone will come to their defense. No one ever does.

So screw 'em, right? The party's got them over a barrel so, if beating on them in public makes the bubbas like you, do it! After all, it's not as if such behavior has ever had electoral consequences.

late night in Hoosierville

So...much...egg...on face...

Barack's popular vote margin in North Carolina eclipses Hillary's in Pennsylvania. And at the moment, the mayor of Gary is claiming that the city may have brought high enough turnout to cover Obama's statewide deficit.

Holy God. Tim Russert on MSNBC:
"We now know who the Democratic nominee is going to be, and nobody is going to dispute that."

Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann agree that the race is over.

Hillary has canceled all public appearances tomorrow. This is a big deal.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

1,627

That's the alternate magic number: a majority of pledged delegates. Obama currently has 1493. There are 187 to be decided tonight, meaning that Barack probably won't reach the pledged delegate magic number this week, but he'll be damn close. Expect him to reach it by May 20, the Kentucky primary.

voting day in Hoosierland

Alright, Hoosiers, make your mamas proud!

My predictions: Indiana looks more like Ohio than any other state. Clinton has played on Hoosiers' fears well, though she's been pretty egregiously craven about it, floating this gas tax holiday foolishness and whatnot. Furthermore, Evan Bayh has been going all out for Clinton, and he's the big dog in Indiana Democratic politics, being a current popular Senator and former popular governor. Obama's got the northwest probably as deep in as South Bend, plus Indianapolis and Bloomington, but every poll shows him capping at around 44%. I think Indiana screws the pooch, 53-47 Clinton.

Also, in the gubernatorial primary, I'm going with Long Thompson over Schellinger by 10. Long Thompson is playing Clinton's gas tax game, and my gut tells me Hoosier Democrats don't pay enough attention to see through the ruse. Clearly, the Clinton and Thompson pollsters feel it, too, or they wouldn't have suggested a position that exposes the candidates as panderers on both the the budget and the environment. Jill also has higher name recognition having already run for virtually every office Indiana has to offer.

In North Carolina, Obama should win out, but it will be closer than it should have been. What can I say? When you're getting tag teamed by the the governor, the Crazy Train, Clinton, and her 527, while the media's replaying Rev. Wright's greatest hits nonstop, it's gonna hold your numbers down a bit. A team of this size demolished Howard Dean's campaign in a couple of weeks. The Tarheel State goes for Barack, 52-48.

Monday, May 05, 2008

learning to pick your battles

Via Cristina Page there's news that people opposing birth control are planning to protest the anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, the court decision that guaranteed the right for married women to use birth control by recognizing an implicit constitutional right to privacy. Frankly, this is a protest that I just don't understand, and I mean that in the strategic sense. I don't understand why anyone would take up this fight.

Now I can understand, tactically speaking, waging a campaign to ban abortion, even though I don't agree with it ethically or politically. The procedure is visually disturbing and the idea of people having it done "wantonly" offends a lot of people. Even for the people who want it to be legal, it's not something you could ever call "popular," and virtually nobody is willing to mount an unqualified defense of the practice. It's pretty easy to gin up support for a movement to "get the sluts to take responsibility for their actions instead of killing their children."

Birth control gets a might trickier, though, as you're now talking about something that just about everyone uses or has used at some point in their lives. Condoms, for all that can be said about sensitivity and having to apply at awkward moments and whatnot, have saved a lot of people a lot of heartache, not to mention a lot of lives, and that's before we even bring up The Pill. We didn't pass over medications curing all manner of diseases and helping us sleep and focus and stop seeing hallucinations in favor giving the oral contraceptive the moniker of "The Pill," for nothing: The Pill is a magical thing. It prevents pregnancy with extremely high efficiency. Using The Pill lessens the need to stop in the middle of the warm-up to fiddle with other contraptions and jellies and whatnot (assuming, of course, you two are safe STD-wise). It regulates menstrual cycles. It decreases your chances of developing ovarian and endometrial cancer. It can even reduce acne, for Christ's sake! I mean, my God, the only people who love The Pill more than men are women! Trying to get people to support a movement banning The Pill is no easy thing.

But the pro-lifers and the anti-"judicial activism" people aren't stopping there; they are even waging a rhetorical assault on the right to privacy. The right to privacy. In a time when people are chaffing against the government's ever increasing desire to monitor our phone calls and web activity and library records, when people on the Left decry the "police state" and people on the Right rail against "big government," the pro-lifers are trying to convince people to support laws and politicians who will take away their right to privacy. Anyone wanna place bets on the outcome of this battle?

Say goodnight, San Jose


[Watch Sharks number 9 Milan Michalek circle behind the net and toward the top-right of your screen.]

A game for the ages, and one legendary check, sends the Dallas Stars to the NHL West finals. Stars' Morrow sinks a power play goal to end it at 9:03 into the fourth overtime, at around 2:15am ET Sunday morning.

Now it's off into the Heart of Darkness.

[Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, artist's rendition]

Friday, May 02, 2008

Tony Zirkle: the commercial

Yes, folks, there is a campaign commercial, and it's delicious. Unfortunately I couldn't find any video of it, but I did find a transcript on Tony Zirkle: the website. It shows the Z-man on a black background saying, super-fast so as to fit it all in before the next commercial:
Hello, I’m Tony Zirkle, Republican Candidate for Congress

Some of you have been deeply offended at my campaign tactics, and for inciting your legitimate feelings, I am truly sorry and do apologize.

However, it is my sincere hope that some day that many of you will finally realize why I had to do what I did because the Republican non-leadership would not let Toth, Chocola, or this new good-hearted guy, who seems to help his opponents almost every time he attacks less than fully cocked, debate me fairly in the public square.

You have to fight with the weapons you have.

The truth is that I only said I’d be willing to debate, in stage 4 [of Zirkle's proposed 4-tiered system of criminal justice], "the idea" of the guillotine for 4 or more time serial pre-aged 12 child rapists.

Self-determination slavery reparation segregation is a human right honored in International law and is neither racist nor bigoted. What could be less loving than to ignore the high crime, single parent and std rates in that community?

No father of 3 beautiful Jewish Christian children (their mother converted) is going to be voting to gas innocent ones.

If you want a politician, you’ll have to vote for someone else. If you want a statesman in training, you’ll have to just hold your nose, take a risk and vote for Tony Zirkle on May 6 because I’m the only one on the ballot.

Please visit my campaign site.

I’m Tony Zirkle and this pro-life, anti-porn message now stands approved.

His campaign site says he also plans to run for senator and president! How exciting is that?!

the rise of the wee machines

From the New York Times:
DETROIT — Soaring gas prices have turned the steady migration by Americans to smaller cars into a stampede.

In what industry analysts are calling a first, about one in five vehicles sold in the United States was a compact or subcompact car during April, based on monthly sales data released Thursday. Almost a decade ago, when sport utility vehicles were at their peak of popularity, only one in every eight vehicles sold was a small car.

The switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles has been building in recent years, but has accelerated recently with the advent of $3.50-a-gallon gas. At the same time, sales of pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles have dropped sharply.

In another first, fuel-sipping four-cylinder engines surpassed six-cylinder models in popularity in April.

“It’s easily the most dramatic segment shift I have witnessed in the market in my 31 years here,” said George Pipas, chief sales analyst for the Ford Motor Company.

The article says that the "Big 3" (really the Big 4 not including Toyota) are putting most of their investment cash into small cars now, but I'm afraid to say I think that ship has sailed.

but remember, the black guy from Chicago is the elitist


Apparently Clinton felt that the rich don't get enough pandering in this country, so she made her O'Reilly appearance a chance to assure them that she's their candidate.

I am glad she reminded everyone that it's Obama who's for raising the payroll tax cap and not her. Good to know that it's Obama and not Clinton who's for the only permanent solution to Social Security solvency that doesn't include raising the tax itself (which only counts the first $90k of your income, disproportionately affecting the poor and middle class) or cutting the already criminally low benefit checks. I guess that means that, if you're poor/middle class, your income is subject to the payroll tax, and you will be needing Social Security to live on when you retire, Obama's your candidate. If, however, you're rich, your income comes from pay over $90k/year, capital gains and/or an estate, and you won't even notice your Social Security checks 20 years after you retire in your 40's, then Clinton is a perfect fit for you.

Glad she cleared that up.

People are going to jump all over the "rich people-- God bless us" line of hers as it's an easy soundbyte to latch onto and it's a lovely compliment to the $109 million tax form thing, but I wish I knew what she was trying to say with that line. She was in the middle of qualifying it when O'Reilly cut her off (mirabile dictu!), and I just wonder what would have possessed her to say that.

guest post: our window

I know that this type of post can be found in various forms all over the internet on a daily basis, but I've got to get it off my chest all the same.

There I am, lying dead asleep this morning as the rain falls gently outside my window, when the dog (terrified thing that she is) tries to jump up and sleep on my face. I send her back to her own bed and am suddenly stricken with a kind of sadness that hits me from time to time when I start to think about the way that things are.

I realized that it has been weeks since I watched an Obama speech, and when you consider that the man is both a magnificent orator and a campaigning presidential candidate that can be a long time. It has been weeks since I thought anything positive about this race. And weeks since anything worthwhile has been covered.

We had a small window there that we probably should have made it a point to enjoy while it was open.

After the New Hampsire primary in early January, Barak Obama gave a speech that was so inspiring that it moved a number of high-profile artists to put it to music and create the kind of viral grassroots thing that shapes internet culture in a vast and dramatic way. It leaped forward into the mainstream media, and the political discourse moved significantly away from gossip, Bush bashing, and vacuous pontification and significantly towards a real discussion of how we as Americans can begin to reunite and re-influence this government in a real and positive way.

And the window was open.

And it stayed open for a remarkably long time, when you consider the forces that rushed to the sill and applied all of their collective weight to slam it back shut. Clinton called the speeches "empty" and mocked them. McCain and Romney subtly asserted that all democrats are terrorists and that we'll be overrun with car bombers and taxes if they succeed. The 24-hour cable news outlets collectively craned their necks and dug for more gossip to cover.

Together as a group they leaned on the window, trying to slam it shut. The light was still shining through it however, and the American people (who hadn't seen political sunlight in quite some time) weren't ready to just let it get slammed on them. They handed Obama multiple and sizeable victories, hung on every speech, and sent ratings of said speeches through the roof. The news outlets were forced to acknowledge this phenomenon and to cover it, but they hated it because they could not control it. In newsrooms across the country, news directors reluctantly broadcast speech after speech, waiting for something to break so that they could return to the inane gossip, biased punditry, and false outrage that steadies ratings and keeps food on their tables.

Then it happened. Sean Hannity, who automatically displays a loathing for any American with a D next to his name, pushed reverend Wright into the spotlight from his pulpit on the right wing of Fox News' stage. The media pounced, digging into the story that they had been waiting so patiently for. An endless loop of a 2 second clip still hasn't gone away.

When the video emerged the window neared the sill, and Obama himself walked over to try to keep it open. He gave a speech the likes of which I've never witnessed in my adult life, but then i wasn't around for Kennedy. He spoke honestly, directly, and sincerely. He treated Americans like adults, and the news outlets responded like children.

And just like that, the window was slammed shut the moment Obama walked off of that stage. It may open again, if Obama is allowed to discuss actual issues once again, but I won't be holding my breath.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

the best Atrios post ever

Concise. Simple. Brutal. And, of course, poops on TIME.

Lurita Doan, you may remember, was one of the more colorful appointees in the GSA who, among other things, held a meeting within the agency asking how they all could help "our candidates" in 2006. And yes, that is illegal.

the hunt for the Cup


For those of you interested, Rene has a series of running posts on the Stars' surprisingly dominant performance during the NHL playoffs. They're on pace to hose the Sharks in the next couple of days, and barring some sort of 2004 Yankees-style meltdown in Detroit, it's on to the Red Army from there.

Rene's been a hockey fiend for years now and can give you better analysis than most of the guys who get paid for it, so if you dig the Stars, you should check him out.

sustainable living: paper or plastic? No thanks!

Sorry I've fallen off of this series lately, to be honest, I just totally forgot about it!

Anyway, I thought I'd hit on a short topic today: shopping bags. Most people get little plastic bags at the grocery store, use them once, maybe use them again, and then toss them. These bags don't decompose well, however, not even the ones that claim they do. Some bags break up into smaller bits quickly while others don't, but they all take as much as 1000 years to decompose. In the meantime, these poor unloved bags end up taking up space in landfills (100 billion of them at last count) or swirling around in the Pacific, trillions of them forming a dead zone twice the size of Texas.

Not to mention the minor problem of our dependence on foreign oil: plastic bags are generally made from petroleum. The "biodegradable" ones, meanwhile (which still last for centuries in landfills), are made from corn, which perpetuates our over-reliance on that crop, fueling a feedback loop that leads to corn insinuating itself into virtually everything we consume... but that's a story for another time.

Anyway, if I were like your average lazy reporter I would finish my article comparing plastic to paper bags. Which one degrades faster? Which one costs less energy to make? Which one should I use to minimize my impact on the environment? Except, there is an easy answer: neither.

Meet the reusable canvas bag!

Canvas bags are made typically from hemp or cotton. They last a long time, but that's fine because you reuse them every time you shop. They're cheap: most grocery stores sell ones already emblazoned with their logo for $.99 each. You don't have to buy many, though, because these bags will hold a lot more than plastic bags. The ones we bought from Meijer have little pockets on the sides so the bagger can keep fragile items or soaps and whatnot separated from the rest. Our 10- to 12-bag shopping trips have become 3-baggers thanks to these bad boys, which means no more second trips back out to the car when we're bringing in our groceries. With our cold, rainy weather and detached garage that's a pretty big deal.

Obviously, we had to find alternatives for the old plastic bags we were using around the house, at least as far as daily chores go. Of course, the only advantage a plastic bag has over the canvas ones is disposability, so the canvas bags are an adequate (and often superior) substitute in any task that doesn't end with you throwing away the bag and its gross contents (for us, cleaning the litter boxes). Frankly, you still accumulate some bags on the occasion that you forget to bring your canvas ones or overdo your grocery intake or something, so we still have a couple of plastic bags lying around for that rare chore that requires a bag but doesn't happen often enough to justify buying a bag for it. For the ones that do, such as bringing lunch to work, we just bought a smaller canvas lunch bag online.

People who write articles and feel an overwhelming need to provide balance (where "balance"= proving that all options are equally shitty even when they're not) are dismissive of reusable bags because "you just forget about them in the car anyway." This is true at first, as you get used to the idea of bringing your own bags to the store, but it passes relatively quickly. After a month or so of leaving them in the car half the time, it's now become habit for us to pop open the trunk whenever we get out of the car at the grocery store and the farmer's market.

There are a lot of changes we've made that have some drawback. Buying better meats and produce costs more, gardening takes time and effort, home improvements require a significant initial outlay of cash, etc. I can honestly say, however, that the canvas bags have been an unalloyed positive in our lives, to the degree that we even notice the change, anyway. They're cheap, effective, and have blended seamlessly and effortlessly into our lifestyle.

laying the smackdown on gas tax holidays

Mittheads rejoice!

I'm still not a huge fan of the idea of putting Clinton on the ticket, but it would be delicious for one thing: the chance to watch Hillary Clinton deliver a rhetorical People's Elbow on Mitt Romney's pretty pretty face in a nationally televised VP debate.

Do you smell what the Hillrod is cooking?