Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blagojevich and bluster

I think the U.S. Senate will have no choice but to seat Roland Burris as the new Senator from Illinois.
As distasteful as it may seem, Rod Blagojevich is still the governor of Illinois - innocent until proven guilty - and now it looks like it may be another couple of months before we even know if an indictment will be handed down. In the meantime, the rules say that Blago gets to make the Senate appointment. There is nothing in the law that says the Illinois Secretary of State has to approve of the choice, so this business of him not certifying the paperwork seems kind of silly. If he won’t do his job, the governor will just find someone else who will.

And on what grounds could the leadership in the U.S. Senate block Burris from being seated in the chamber? He is in no way implicated in the scandal swirling around Blago. All things considered, he seems to be a pretty good choice. So I think the courts will ultimately rule in his favor.
Blago pulled a fast one and it looks like he will get away with it. He is still going to be impeached and possibly indicted and could end up serving prison time along with his immediate predecessor. But for now he has demonstrated that he can still play politics and the only thing his critics can do is bluster.

Pop culture prowess

The movies are one of the touchstones of our culture. We share a common culture in part by seeing the same movies (or watching the same TV shows, or listening to the same music) as everyone else.
Here is an interesting way to gauge your pop culture prowess: See how many of the top grossing films ($100M-plus domestic gross) that you have seen over the years. In other words, how many of the films that everyone else saw did you see too?
It is easy to do if you go to Box Office Mojo and browse through their yearly list of box office results.

Here is how I measure up:
2000 - 14 of 22
2001 - 14 of 20
2002 - 15 of 24
2003 - 15 of 29
2004 - 17 of 24
2005 - 13 of 19
2006 - 11 of 19
2007 - 8 of 28
2008 - 4 of 24 (so far)

I’ve also seen every one of the highest grossing films for each year (not counting 2008) going back to 1980 with the exception of “Three Men and a Baby” from 1987.

I will probably never have a perfect score for any particular year because there are always going to be some popular films that I have no interest in seeing. If it is a horror film or a gross-out comedy you can usually count me out.
But overall we tend to be exposed to popular movies even when we don’t see them. For instance, I know who Michael Myers, Freddie Krueger and Jason Voorhees are despite the fact that I have never seen any of the Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th movies.

2008 Movies recap

This was a pretty good year for the movies overall thanks largely to the super heroric efforts of Batman, Iron Man and Indiana Jones.
The film industry seemed to be in a slump in 2005-06 when it failed to put out more than 20 films either year that cleared the $100 million mark in domestic box office grosses. There was a big jump in $100M grossing movies in 2007 with 28 and so far this year we are at 24 and counting. You can clearly see the slump here:

2001 - 20
2002 - 24
2003 - 29
2004 - 24
2005 - 19
2006 - 19
2007 - 28
2008 - 24 and counting

I’m not sure if the slump was due to the miserable Bush economy, anxiety over the Iraq war or what, but now, even with the economy fully down the drain, we seem to be going back to the cinema in droves trying to make it all go away for a few hours at a time.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve seen very few 2008 films so far. Here are the ones I’ve seen in order of preference. (* indicates a video/DVD I own).

*Kung Fu Panda
*Iron Man
Horton Hears A Who
*Speed Racer

There are still many 2008 films I want to see including:

*Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The Dark Knight
*Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Gran Torino
Quantum of Solace
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Hell Boy II: The Golden Army
Burn After Reading
Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
In Bruges
Shine A Light
*Nim’s Island
Bedtime Stories
The Tale of Despereaux
The Spiderwick Chronicles
The X-Files: I Want To Believe
The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything

Revisiting my list of films from 2007, I am now up to 16 films I have seen:

*Spider Man 3
*Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
No Reservations
*The Bee Movie
*Meet the Robinsons
*The Bourne Ultimatum
*National Treasure: Book of Secrets
*The Golden Compass
*The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
*Charlie Wilson’s War
The Simpsons Movie
*Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

And here are the 2007 films I still want to see:

I Am Legend
I’m Not There
The Great Debaters
*Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
No End in Sight
American Gangster
Sweeney Todd
There Will Be Blood
No Country For Old Men
Talk To Me
Bridge To Terabithia
Rescue Dawn
Walk Hard
Eastern Promises
*Michael Clayton
3:10 to Yuma
Live Free or Die Hard
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Incompetence Dodge

I have harped on this before, but I think it is worth repeating that it is a mistake to focus too much on George W. Bush’s incompetence as a president and not on the intellectual bankruptcy of the ideas that he championed.
I saw recently where the word “incompetent” is the most frequent one associated with President Bush. While that may be well deserved, it also serves to give Republicans an out as to why their political policies have failed during the past decade. They can say, “It wasn’t our ideas that failed, it was the man who tried to put them into action who was at fault. He was incompetent and screwed things up, thus our ideas were never given their due.”
So it serves Republicans’ interests right now to jump on the “Bush was incompetent” bandwagon so that they can come back in four years with a new standard bearer and the same old failed policies and take another shot at running our country into the ground.
We can’t afford to let them get away with that. So don’t fall for that dodge. Bush was a bad president, there is no doubt. But it was ultimately the failed policies he promoted that sank his presidency, not any personal foibles or missteps. If the taxcuts had actually boosted the economy, rather than creating huge new deficits, then people would not have cared so much about Bush’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina or his efforts to politicize the Justice Department. If toppling Saddam would have really resulted in a flowering of democracy across the Middle East, people would have dismissed reports of abuse at Abu Gharib and Guantanamo and yawned over reports of domestic spying.
The policies failed. Everything else was the icing on the cake.

Cycle of violence

Is it just me? Or does it seem like the Israeli government always picks Christmastime every year to start bombing the hell out of their neighbors?
I’m not going to try and defend Hamas, but the Israeli military action is, as usual, big-time overkill. I never could find out how many Israeli’s were killed by the missile attacks which purportedly sparked this latest offensive, but the death toll on the other side is now at 350 and climbing. That is typical of the entire history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But no matter how lop-sided the death ratio is, (100-to-1?) it never solves anything but rather perpetuates the cycle of violence and death. Israel has maintained an economic death grip on the Palestinian territories for years now, not allowing any kind of normal commerce to take place and keeping the populace in a state of near squalor and starvation. At the same time, the government has allowed the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories to grow and expand almost unheeded. Then they act surprised when radical factions launch rockets on a sporadic basis.
Then over here, our government acts like the Israeli response is appropriate and necessary even as every other country on the planet is appropriately appalled. It makes me sick.
I don’t know if Obama can change things and I know if he even tries to moderate the U.S.’s current Israel-can-do-no-wrong approach to the Middle East he will be viciously attacked by the rightwing spin machine and its media lapdogs. But do something he must because it is clear that the current Israeli government is not going to pull itself out of this cycle of violence on its own.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Whose whining now?

President-elect Obama has been taking a lot of abuse recently — from liberals.
Because he chose someone they don’t like to give the invocation at his inauguration. That someone is evangelical preacher, and best-selling author of “The Purpose Driven Life”, Rick Warren. Warren, unsurprisingly, is anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage and that, according to those on the left, should have precluded him from having any kind of role, no matter how ceremonial or symbolic, in an Obama inauguration.
What distinguishes Warren from your run-of-the-mill evangelical preacher, according to Wiki, is his outspoken challenge to evangelical leaders to devote less attention to divisive social issues and focus more on efforts to fight international poverty and disease, expand educational opportunity for the marginalized, and combat global warming.
It sounds to me like the guy has taken some major steps in the right direction. So why the big uproar over the invocation nod? Atrios gave Obama “wanker of the day” honors for the choice and even suggested that inaugural attendees should turn their backs on Warren during the invocation.
Please stop.
Folks on the left have spent the last two years mocking those on the right as “whiny ass titty babies” and now here we have the same people behaving like spoiled children who throw a hissy fit when they don’t get their way on every little thing.
Obama can choose whoever he wants to give the invocation at his inaugural party. Get over it! If he wants to reach out to those on the right and show some appreciation to someone who met him halfway on some key issues, then what is the big problem? It’s not like Obama has changed his position on these social issues. Far from it. But he is going to need some support to get these changes in place and it is not helpful to have those who should be his biggest supporters rolling around on the floor, kicking and screaming over a complete non-issue. Sheesh!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama's Cabinet

Obama is nearly completely done naming his cabinet.

TREASURY SECRETARY: Timothy Geithner, president of Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
SECRETARY OF STATE: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.
ATTORNEY GENERAL: Eric Holder, former deputy attorney general.
DEFENSE SECRETARY: Robert Gates, holdover from Bush administration.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Retired Marine Gen. James Jones.
COMMERCE SECRETARY: Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M.
NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIRECTOR: Lawrence Summers, former treasury secretary.
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET DIRECTOR: Peter Orszag, director of Congressional Budget Office.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.
HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: Shaun Donovan, New York City housing commissioner.
ENERGY SECRETARY: Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Lisa P. Jackson, former commissioner of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY CHAIR: Nancy Sutley, deputy mayor for energy and environment in Los Angeles.
EDUCATION SECRETARY: Arne Duncan, Chicago schools superintendent.
INTERIOR SECRETARY: Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo.
AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor.
Denny Blair, retired admiral and former commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.
Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif.
Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill.

Ron Kirk, former Dallas mayor.

John Gannon, former deputy director for intelligence at the CIA during Clinton administration.
Jami Miscik, former head of CIA's analytical operations.
Steve Kappes, CIA's current No. 2.
Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., now heads House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence.
John McLaughlin, former interim CIA chief.

Add them all up and you have 24 major appointments of which half have gone to non-white males.
That’s pretty remarkable.
The one demographic group that looked as if it would be left out was the South, but that seems to have been rectified with the last minute nomination of Texan Ron Kirk as U.S. Trade Representative.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Franken may win afterall

I should know never to get my hopes up too much, but there has been a lot of buzz recently that Al Franken might actually pull out a victory in this Minnesota recount. The fact that the election board came down with two crucial rulings the other day that favored Franken may have made all the difference. Now, fresh analysis of the disputed ballots by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Associated Press show Franken should pull ahead in the vote count.
The frustrating thing so far is that all the official tallies have shown Coleman with a 200-vote lead. But now it may finally be revealed that the only reason he has had that lead to date is because he made so many frivoulous challenges to ballots in an effort to keep Franken’s numbers down. That slimy strategy has allowed Coleman to go around for the past few weeks boasting that he is the consensus frontrunner.
But that may all end soon.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Finishing what they started...

In the Express-New's Random Notes section this Sunday, they hi-lite a quote from Peggy Noonan in the WSJ stating that "the final argument for Mr. Bush" will be the fact that "since 9-11, there were no further attacks on American soil..."
Now this statement completely ignores the post-9/11 anthrax attacks that were never resolved. But that aside, it is maddening that anyone would try to pretend that because of something Bush did, al-Qaeda was deterred from making another attack.
This makes no sense when you consider that Bin Laden is still loose and al-Qaeda is as strong now as it ever was. Why wouldn't they have attacked again? Could it be that they simply didn't need to.
One of the goals of the 9/11 attack, besides killing people and striking fear in everyone else, was to damage the U.S. financially by striking at the heart of our economic and financial infrastucture.
Fortunately, they failed.
Unfortunately, Bush and the Republican economic polices may have succeeded where they fell short. Our nation is caught in an economic death spiral that was a direct result of the Republican economic policies that have damaged the very fabric of America both here and abroad.
Al-Qaeda doesn't need to drop any more bombs, Wall Street has blown itself up quite nicely without their help. We desperatly need to change course, but it may already be too late for many companies.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Neo-Hooverites strike again

Why do Republicans hate America? And why do they hate American workers - blue collar workers in particular?
Last night, lame duck Republicans in the Senate filibustered the $14 billion auto bailout package, presumably because the autoworkers union refused to slash salaries for its members next year.
Funny. I don’t recall Republicans filibustering the much larger bailout packages for the financial industry. I don’t recall them demanding big cuts in salary and compensation for Wall Street bankers and stockbrokers.
Out of an ideological hatred for unionized workers, a handful of southern Republican senators - with the full complicity of the majority of Republicans in the Senate - are trying to use the auto bailout as a stick to bludgeon to death the unions. They want to eliminate every advantage workers have from being organized by forcing them to be paid the same as non-union workers. And irregardless of cost-of-living variances between the north and south as well, I presume.
Because of their obstinate, stubborn right-wing hatred for unions, these Republicans may have pushed us into a much deeper recession than we are already in. The only way to pull ourselves out of this economic death spiral, that was created by Republican economic policies to begin with, is to get people employed and spending money again. And you can’t do that when you are forcing job cuts and salary reductions by fiat from Washington.
There is clearly no reason for any working American to ever vote Republican again, certainly not as long as they continue to embrace the economic policies of Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Golden Globe 2008

The Golden Globe nominations are out and needless to say I am very much underwhelmed.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon," "The Reader," "Revolutionary Road" and "Slumdog Millionaire."

Comedy or musical:
"Burn After Reading," "Happy-Go-Lucky," "In Bruges," "Mamma Mia!" and "Vicky Christina Barcelona."

The only one I am even vaguely interested in seeing at this point is “Frost/Nixon” and that is mostly because it is directed by Ron Howard, one of my favorite directors.

As per usual, the biggest movies of the year were shut out. Dark Knight, which raked in an astonishing half a billion dollars got one supporting actor nomination for the late Heath Ledger. None of the other Top 10 grossing films of the year got any recognition whatsoever. That is unless you count the segregated category for animated films that includes WALL-E and Kung Fu Panda.
It is interesting to note that four of the Top 10 grossing films of 2008 are animated films - WALL-E, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar 2 and Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who. At this rate, I’m not sure how much longer Hollywood can continue dissing animated films.
The other interesting thing to note is that five of the Top 10 grossing films were “super hero” movies: Dark Knight (Batman); Indiana Jones; Iron Man; Hancock; and Quantum of Solace (James Bond).
The only non-animated, non-super hero film to break into the Top 10 (literally in the No. 10 slot) was the “chick flick” Sex and the City, which just edged out the year’s other big chick flick, Mama Mia.
Now Mama Mia DID make the Golden Globe cut, but only because they have a special category for comedies and musicals. They don’t have such a category over at the Academy Awards, so you can forget about Mama Mia come Oscar time.

My movie watching in 2008 has been pretty pathetic, so I’m not one to judge the worth of most movies (although that has never stopped me before ;)

Here are the handful of films that came out in 2008 that I have actually seen so far:

Iron Man
Kung Fu Panda
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
Speed Racer

I would definitely put WALL-E up for Best Picture ahead of those other nominees.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Untouchables

The Blagojevich corruption scandal is so completely over-the-top as to be almost comical. I can’t help but wonder if Blago didn’t do this on purpose. Maybe he knew he was about to get nailed for some other activities and decided to go out with a bang.
The only other explanation is that he is completely nuts.
I mean, the guy is a lawyer, a former prosecutor, who knew very well that he was already under investigation by the Feds. He should have known that his phones were already tapped. Did he think that he was too big, too powerful, too important to get nailed? How so? His immediate predecessor as governor is currently sitting in jail!
There is no rational explanation for what Blago did. But one thing it does do is present a very clear contrast with the Obama transition team.
Despite Republicans’ pathetic attempts to smear Obama with this mess, the president-elect is coming out of this smelling like a rose.
Blago clearly wanted to involve the president-elect in his pay-to-play scheme, but Obama wasn’t cooperating. Blago was upset that the only thing the Obama team was offering him in return for choosing their favored Senate candidate was “their appreciation.” So he told them to go Cheney themselves. Which is probably why Valerie Jarrett’s name was rather abruptly withdrawn from consideration some weeks ago.
So Obama and his team could not be touched. And now it looks as if Obama’s recent push for ethics reform in Illinois may have been the key to Blago’s downfall.

Mr. Obama placed the call to his political mentor, Emil Jones Jr., president of the Illinois Senate. Mr. Jones was a critic of the legislation, which sought to curb the influence of money in politics, as was Mr. Blagojevich, who had vetoed it. But after the call from Mr. Obama, the Senate overrode the veto, prompting the governor to press state contractors for campaign contributions before the law’s restrictions could take effect on Jan. 1, prosecutors say...
Mr. Obama used leverage that he had seldom employed — publicly, anyway — and strongly urged Mr. Jones to bypass Mr. Blagojevich and approve the ethics bill, banning the so-called pay-for-play system of influence peddling in Illinois...Mr. Obama’s intervention deepened a rift between him and Mr. Blagojevich that had been growing for some time.

There will no doubt be many more people who will try to tempt Obama to do things that would not look good in the light of day. But I think this is just one of many examples we will see that he will be scrupulous in avoiding them. Having been burned once over the comparatively innocuous Rezco land swap, I don’t think Obama is going to allow himself to make that kind of mistake again.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cleaning house

The Democratic Party should smell a lot cleaner next week after the stench of Rod Blagojevich and William Jefferson starts to dissipate.
Everyone knew that Blagojevich was in trouble, but few people expected him to go out with such a splash. It’s almost as if he did it on purpose, knowing full well his phones were being tapped by federal prosecutors. I mean, could anybody really be that stupid? Don’t answer that!
What is it with Illinois governors anyway? Blagojevich, a Democrat, could soon be sharing a prison cell with the former governor, Republican George Ryan. I think that is unprecedented. Now I assume that it will be left to the Democratic Lt. Gov. to choose Obama’s replacement in the Senate.

And at long last, the happy news that William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson is finally going to be an ex-congressman. It’s just too bad that the Democrats didn’t oust him themselves, leaving it up to the Republicans instead. But the candidate they got to knock off Jefferson - Joseph Cao, who will be the first Vietnamese-American in Congress - hardly fits the bill as your typical Republican, especially coming out of Louisiana. A former Jesuit priest, Cao’s primary goal, according to the NYT, will be addressing global poverty and taking care of refugees. I wonder how well that will fit in with his Republican colleagues’ goals of tax cuts for the rich?
If Democrats play it right, they might be able to persuade Cao to switch parties before long.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Gov. Perry’s Neo-Hooverism

Gov. Rick Perry recently co-authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal with South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford arguing against federal bailout and stimulus efforts to revive the flagging economy.
This has been correctly identified by certain Blogger types
as a governing philosophy known as Neo-Hooverism, as in Herbert Hoover, whose failed economic policies led to the Great Depression and whose austere response to the crisis only made it worse.
I find it disturbing that Republicans like Perry and Sanford are suddenly so concerned about the prospect of deficit spending after saying nary a word about the $5 trillion in debt run up by the current Republican administration. They say:

Washington doesn't have money in hand for any of these proposals. Every penny would be borrowed.

And yet, Washington didn’t have money in hand for the War in Iraq either and that didn’t seem to bother them any. Why is it OK to spend hundreds of billions to fix up Iraq’s economy, but it’s not OK to invest a similar amount on our own economy?
Cutting back on government spending right now would be a disaster on top of a disaster. Private industry just dumped 534,000 jobs and is leaving it up to the federal government to pick up the slack in the form of unemployment benefits, welfare and medicare. Without all this federal spending, people would be out on the streets, going hungry, losing homes, causing civil unrest and turmoil. This do nothing approach that Perry and Sanford are advocating is such a horribly bad idea that even the Bush administration, the worst presidential administration in the history of our nation, rejected it outright.

Does Perry really believe what he is saying? Or is he appealing to the baser instincts of the electorate in preparation for a big fight next year with Kay Bailey Hutchison, who he has already slammed as “Kay Bailout Hutchison”.

Obama’s birth certificate

Thanks to Justice Clarence Thomas, the U.S. Supreme Court will spend part of today considering a lawsuit questioning President-elect Barack Obama’s citizenship.
It is just one of a dozen or more lawsuits by far-rightwing lunatics trying to overturn the election based on totally bogus and nonsensical claims that Obama is engaged in some kind of grand conspiracy to cover up the details of his birth.
The fact that Clarence Thomas would give one of these suits the sheen of credibility by forwarding it to his Supreme Court colleagues is a real insult, especially coming from the only black justice on the court. But it is nothing less than what I expect from Thomas.
I always thought it was odd that the wingnuts were tryng to make an issue out of Obama’s birth records when it was their nominee, John McCain, who was clearly not born in the United States. Technically, McCain was still OK because he was born on a military base in Panama, but for crying out loud talk about people throwing stones in glass houses.
Obama tried to defuse the bogus controversy early on by posting a copy of his birth certificate on his campaign website, but that only sent the unhinged, reality-impaired idiots to go off barking about “kerning” and other supposed “evidence” of forgeries.
As Steve Benen notes, to believe that Obama was not born in Hawaii, one must not only accept that he forged his Hawaiian birth certificate with the full complicity of the Hawaiian authorities, but also that his family had to have the foresight 47 years ago to post a bogus birth announcement in a Hawaiian newspaper. You see, they KNEW back then that he would be president someday so they started plotting way back then to cover up his foreign birth, blah, blah, blah....
And this is just the kind of blather you get from some rightwingers today. My op-ed piece at the E-N, now up to 124 comments drew out a whole nest of these people to rant and rave about Obama’s supposed birth certificate conspiracy (along with repeated racist references to Obama as a “mutt” meaning of mixed race).
I would just add that my conservative friend JimmyK, to his credit, has been knocking this particular loony theory down at his blog for sometime now.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ray Conniff Singers - Ring Christmas Bells

It’s time to get in the Christmas spirit...

This is one of my absolute favorite Christmas recordings.

That's bitchin'

In a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing, in the Express-News last Sunday we had this column by Bob Richter talking about the complaints the paper had received over allowing the word 'bitchin' to be used in a story quoting former Dallas Cowboy's star Bob Lilly. We are told how the editors fretted before allowing the word to go through, even though in this context it is just a synonym for complaining.
But then one page in front of Richter's column, we find the Random Notes section edited by Mr. Gurwitz using a quote from a New York author referring to Hillary Clinton as a 'bitch'. Oops!
Interestingly enough, they don't have that Random Notes column online. I wonder why?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Immigration Losers

Here is a rarity. A Wall Street Journal editorial that I agree with. But I’ll bet a lot of “GOP hardliner” losers around here won’t much like it....

More Immigration Losers
GOP hardliners need to face reality.

Virginia Republican Congressman Virgil Goode's narrow loss to Democrat Tom Perriello became official last week, and it caps another bad showing for immigration restrictionists. For the second straight election, incumbent Republicans who attempted to turn illegal immigration into a wedge issue fared poorly.

Anti-immigration hardliners Randy Graf, John Hostettler and J.D. Hayworth were among the Republicans who lost in 2006. Joining them this year were GOP Representatives Thelma Drake (Virginia), Tom Feeney (Florida), Ric Keller (Florida) and Robin Hayes (North Carolina) -- all Members of a House anti-immigration caucus that focuses on demonizing the undocumented.

According to a review of election results by America's Voice, an advocacy group, Republican restrictionists had especially weak showings in "battleground" races. "Nineteen of 21 winners advocated immigration policies beyond enforcement-only," says the report. "This includes 5 of 5 Senate races and 14 of 16 House races listed in the 'toss-up,' 'leans Republican,' or 'leans Democratic' categories of the Cook Political Report."

Mr. Goode, a 12-year incumbent, had made a name for himself in Congress as a seal-the-border advocate. Among other things, he has called for mass deportations and amending the Constitution to deny U.S. citizenship to children of illegal aliens.

Immigration wasn't a dominant issue this fall, and other factors contributed more to the GOP defeat. But the political reality is that Republicans who thought that channeling Lou Dobbs would save their seats will soon be ex-Members. Meanwhile, exit polls showed that the Republican share of the Hispanic vote fell to 31% this year from more than 40% in 2004. The demographic reality is that the GOP can't win national elections while losing such a large share of the fastest-growing ethnic minority in the country.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Such light posting lately, is everyone on vacation or what?!?
I'm actually on vacation this week, but I do have one comment I have to get off my chest.
All this complaining about Obama not giving us "change" because he is putting a lot of former Clinton people in his cabinet is ridiculous. First, Clinton's is the only Democratic presidential administration in the last 30 years or so. If you want people with some experience, that is where you necessarily have to go. Second, the Clinton years were pretty darn good as I recall. The worst thing about the Clinton years - Monica Lewinsky - was entirely Bill Clinton's fault and had nothing to do with the people in his administration. So what's to complain about?
Finally, of course this is change!! Bush has been president for the past eight years, not Clinton, with Republican ideologues filling most administrative positions. The only way it wouldn't have been change is if Obama picked a bunch of right-wing Republicans to fill his cabinet.
Which of course brings us to the latest news that Obama is planning to keep Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defense for at least the first year. But Gates - former president of Texas A&M - IS a change already. He is a 100 percent better choice than Donald Rumsfeld and a non-ideologue who has already shown a willingness to work across party lines to the good of the country. Tapping Gates was one of the few good decisions that Bush ever made and I don't have a problem keeping him on for a bit longer while we try to wrap up this quagmire in Iraq.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Stupid Party

The Economist doesn’t pull its punches.

JOHN STUART MILL once dismissed the British Conservative Party as the stupid party. Today the Conservative Party is run by Oxford-educated high-fliers who have been busy reinventing conservatism for a new era. As Lexington sees it, the title of the “stupid party” now belongs to the Tories’ transatlantic cousins, the Republicans.

There are any number of reasons for the Republican Party’s defeat on November 4th. But high on the list is the fact that the party lost the battle for brains. Barack Obama won college graduates by two points, a group that George Bush won by six points four years ago. He won voters with postgraduate degrees by 18 points. And he won voters with a household income of more than $200,000—many of whom will get thumped by his tax increases—by six points. John McCain did best among uneducated voters in Appalachia and the South.

The Republicans lost the battle of ideas even more comprehensively than they lost the battle for educated votes, marching into the election armed with nothing more than slogans. Energy? Just drill, baby, drill. Global warming? Crack a joke about Ozone Al. Immigration? Send the bums home. Torture and Guantánamo? Wear a T-shirt saying you would rather be water-boarding. Ha ha. During the primary debates, three out of ten Republican candidates admitted that they did not believe in evolution.

The Republican Party’s divorce from the intelligentsia has been a while in the making. The born-again Mr Bush preferred listening to his “heart” rather than his “head”. He also filled the government with incompetent toadies like Michael “heck-of-a-job” Brown, who bungled the response to Hurricane Katrina. Mr McCain, once the chattering classes’ favourite Republican, refused to grapple with the intricacies of the financial meltdown, preferring instead to look for cartoonish villains. And in a desperate attempt to serve boob bait to Bubba, he appointed Sarah Palin to his ticket, a woman who took five years to get a degree in journalism, and who was apparently unaware of some of the most rudimentary facts about international politics.

Republicanism’s anti-intellectual turn is devastating for its future. The party’s electoral success from 1980 onwards was driven by its ability to link brains with brawn. The conservative intelligentsia not only helped to craft a message that resonated with working-class Democrats, a message that emphasised entrepreneurialism, law and order, and American pride. It also provided the party with a sweeping policy agenda. The party’s loss of brains leaves it rudderless, without a compelling agenda.

This is happening at a time when the American population is becoming more educated. More than a quarter of Americans now have university degrees. Twenty per cent of households earn more than $100,000 a year, up from 16% in 1996. Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster, notes that 69% call themselves “professionals”. McKinsey, a management consultancy, argues that the number of jobs requiring “tacit” intellectual skills has increased three times as fast as employment in general. The Republican Party’s current “redneck strategy” will leave it appealing to a shrinking and backward-looking portion of the electorate.

Why is this happening? One reason is that conservative brawn has lost patience with brains of all kinds, conservative or liberal. Many conservatives—particularly lower-income ones—are consumed with elemental fury about everything from immigration to liberal do-gooders. They take their opinions from talk-radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and the deeply unsubtle Sean Hannity. And they regard Mrs Palin’s apparent ignorance not as a problem but as a badge of honour.

Another reason is the degeneracy of the conservative intelligentsia itself, a modern-day version of the 1970s liberals it arose to do battle with: trapped in an ideological cocoon, defined by its outer fringes, ruled by dynasties and incapable of adjusting to a changed world. The movement has little to say about today’s pressing problems, such as global warming and the debacle in Iraq, and expends too much of its energy on xenophobia, homophobia and opposing stem-cell research.

Conservative intellectuals are also engaged in their own version of what Julian Benda dubbed la trahison des clercs, the treason of the learned. They have fallen into constructing cartoon images of “real Americans”, with their “volkish” wisdom and charming habit of dropping their “g”s. Mrs Palin was invented as a national political force by Beltway journalists from the Weekly Standard and the National Review who met her when they were on luxury cruises around Alaska, and then noisily championed her cause.

How likely is it that the Republican Party will come to its senses? There are glimmers of hope. Business conservatives worry that the party has lost the business vote. Moderates complain that the Republicans are becoming the party of “white-trash pride”. Anonymous McCain aides complain that Mrs Palin was a campaign-destroying “whack job”. One of the most encouraging signs is the support for giving the chairmanship of the Republican Party to John Sununu, a sensible and clever man who has the added advantage of coming from the north-east (he lost his New Hampshire Senate seat on November 4th).

But the odds in favour of an imminent renaissance look long. Many conservatives continue to think they lost because they were not conservative or populist enough—Mr McCain, after all, was an amnesty-loving green who refused to make an issue out of Mr Obama’s associations with Jeremiah Wright. Richard Weaver, one of the founders of modern conservatism, once wrote a book entitled “Ideas have Consequences”; unfortunately, too many Republicans are still refusing to acknowledge that idiocy has consequences, too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Prodigal Senator returns

Yes, it is infuriating that Democrats are allowing backstabbing, turncoat, Benedict Arnold Joe Lieberman to not only stay in the Democratic caucus, but keep his prized chairmanship of the vitally important Homeland Security Committee. I mean, what were they thinking!?!

But at the same time, let’s look at it from another direction. For all practical purposes, Lieberman has been a Republican for the past two years or so. Now he wants to be a Democrat again. Is that such a bad thing?
What would the reaction be if, after the election, a Republican Senator like Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins came up and said they wanted to switch parties and become a Democrat? Wouldn’t Democrats welcome them with open arms? Maybe even give them a committee chairmanship to possibly entice others with similar ambitions?
Remember Richard Shelby? The one-time Democrat who switched parties and is today one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate? That worked out pretty well for the GOP. And what about James Jeffords? Remember when the party gave him the cold-sholder and essentially forced him out for not toeing the line? That didn’t work out so well for them.
Now, a lot will depend on how Lieberman conducts himself here on out. But in the long-run this may not have been such a bad deal after all.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dan Rather lawsuit getting results

Damned liberal media!
Rather’s Lawsuit Shows Role of G.O.P. in Inquiry at CBS

When Dan Rather filed suit against CBS 14 months ago — claiming, among other things, that his former employer had commissioned a politically biased investigation into his work on a “60 Minutes” segment about President Bush’s National Guard service — the network predicted the quick and favorable dismissal of the case, which it derided as “old news.”
So far, Mr. Rather has spent more than $2 million of his own money on the suit. And according to documents filed recently in court, he may be getting something for his money.
Using tools unavailable to him as a reporter — including the power of subpoena and the threat of punishment against witnesses who lie under oath — he has unearthed evidence that would seem to support his assertion that CBS intended its investigation, at least in part, to quell Republican criticism of the network.
Among the materials that money has shaken free for Mr. Rather are internal CBS memorandums turned over to his lawyers, showing that network executives used Republican operatives to vet the names of potential members of a panel that had been billed as independent and charged with investigating the “60 Minutes” segment.

National Review, RIP

At National Review, a Threat to Its Reputation for Erudition -

In a span of 252 days, the National Review lost two Buckleys — one to death, another to resignation — and an election.
Now, thanks to the coarsening effect of the Internet on political discourse, the magazine may have lost something else: its reputation as the cradle for conservative intellectuals and home for erudite and well-mannered debate prized by its founder, the late William F. Buckley Jr.

And here is another testament to the demise of NRO.

Of course, it could always bounce back, but with the way things are going (i.e. Palin 2012) that doesn’t seem likely in the near future.

On Intrinsic Evil

The buzz word that my friend Mark likes to throw around now is “intrinsic” as in “intrinsic evil”. In a previous thread where we were discussing his contention that voting for Obama was morally wrong because of his pro-choice stance on abortion, I asked why it was not also morally wrong to vote for a Republican who supports capital punishment.
Mark responded by saying that abortion is an “intrinsic evil” and thus a worse sin than capital punishment. But what does that mean? I decided to look it up and came across this wonderful article titled Intrinsic Evil and Political Responsibility in America | The National Catholic Weekly by M. Cathleen Kaveny, the John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. I highly recommend reading this article in its entirety, but here are some excerpts which help clarify this issue:

The term “intrinsic evil” does not have its roots in the expansive imagery of the church’s prophetic witness, but rather in the tightly focused analysis of its moral casuistry. It is not a rhetorical flourish, but rather a technical term of Catholic moral theology....

In a nutshell, the fact that an act is called an intrinsic evil tells us two and only two things.
First, it tells us why an action is wrong—because of the “object” of the acting agent’s will. To identify the object of an action, one has to put oneself in the shoes of the one acting, and to describe the action from her perspective. The object is the immediate goal for which that person is acting; it is “the proximate end of a deliberate decision” (VS, No. 78).

Second, the fact that an act is intrinsically evil tells us that it is always wrong to perform that type of act, no matter what the other circumstances are. A good motive cannot make an act with a bad object morally permissible. In other words, we may never do evil so that good may come of it. To echo an example used by both Pope John Paul II and St. Thomas, a modern-day Robin Hood should not hold up a convenience store at gunpoint in order to give the money to a nearby homeless center. Robin Hood’s good motive (altruistic giving) does not wash away the bad object or immediate purpose of his action (robbery).

But to say that an act is intrinsically evil does not by itself say anything about the comparative gravity of the act. Some acts that are not intrinsically evil (driving while intoxicated) can on occasion be worse both objectively and subjectively than acts that are intrinsically evil (telling a jocose lie). Some homicides that are not intrinsically evil are worse than intrinsically evil homicides. Furthermore, the fact that an act is intrinsically evil does not by itself tell third parties anything at all about their duty to prevent that act from occurring.

Kaveny notes that the church defines many acts besides abortion as intrinsic evils including euthanasia, homosexual acts, using birth control and even intentional lying. She then knocks down the notion that intrinsic evil automatically means that something is gravely evil and gives several examples of non-intrinsic evils that are much worse than intrinsic ones.
She then goes on to show the folly of trying to base one’s political judgments on the concept of intrinsic evil. much help does the category of “intrinsic evil” offer us in deciding whom to vote for in an important national election? In my view, not much help at all.
A defender of the category’s usefulness might say that the fact that a candidate does not disapprove of an intrinsic evil reveals an unworthy character. That may be the case. But so does callousness toward the foreseen (but unintended) consequences of an unjust war, particularly toward the children who are orphaned, maimed or killed. So does indifference toward starving children in this country and in the world as a whole, many of whom are done an injustice not by individual Americans, but by American policy as a whole. In this fallen world, moral character alone is not enough. Political competence and other practical skills are also required. The person with the best moral character may not be the best president.

Now, Kaveny is not “pro-choice” and makes that clear in her essay. But she is clearly not swayed by the people who, as she says, rely on “misuse of church teachings in the political realm.”

For many pro-life Catholics, the issue of voting and abortion comes down to this: what does one do if one thinks that the candidate more likely to reduce the actual incidence of abortion is also the one more committed to keeping it legal? The language of intrinsic evil does not help us here. Only the virtue of practical wisdom, enlightened by charity, can take us further.

TPA Roundup 11-17

It's Monday, and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly blog round-up.

Ruth Jones McClendon gets the Speaker's race dangerously wrong says CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme.

Vince at Capitol Annex takes a look at the race for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and provides answers to two important questions: is a secret ballot legal and will a secret ballot doom Tom Craddick?

Friday, November 14, 2008

My faith

My religious background is a mixture of Methodist and Baptist. My mom’s side of the family is Baptist and my Dad’s side was Methodist. We went to Baptist church’s for awhile when I was young but eventually switched to Methodist by the time I was in junior high school.
I was active in the Methodist Youth Fellowship at my church when I was in high school and attended a Methodist church in college where I met my wife, whose family is strongly Methodist.
I went through a period in college, like many people do, where I was questioning my religious faith and it was during that time that I discovered Hans Kung, the Catholic theologian. His book “On Being a Christian” was both an inspiration and a comfort to me as I struggled through that period. Kung helped me realize that one can be intellectually honest and open-minded without losing one’s faith.

Once you see just how marvelously complex the world really is, it becomes clear that religions, which are man-made constructs that attempt to bridge the gap between humanity and the divine spiritual world, cannot explain it all. A lot of people who hit that wall turn towards atheism or agnosticism, while others go the other direction and become hyper-religious and fundamentalist. Most people, however, just go with the flow and pay little heed to the wall as they concentrate on other aspects of their lives.
What I came to understand is that there are many paths to God - some well-trodden, others less so - and no one path is particularly superior than another. It wasn’t long before I abandoned the notion that “non-Christians” go to Hell. The prospect of a loving God condemning billions and billions of people to eternal damnation because they were raised in a culture that did not practice Christianity seems absurd to me and I reject it outright. Likewise, I reject the notion that people who fail to jump through certain theological hoops (i.e. repeating the mantra “Jesus is my Saviour”) after being “exposed” to Christianity are Hellbound.

I don’t think God has the oversized ego that everyone imagines. I do not believe that he sits on a throne and demands ultimate fealty from his creation. I don’t think he particularly cares whether one is a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Budhist or Agnostic. What I think does matter to God is how a person lives their life and how they treat their fellow humans here on Earth. Whether he sends people to Hell when they fall short of his expectations, I do not know. I tend to think not. I believe God’s capacity for love and forgiveness is beyond our meager understanding of those concepts. I think God is all into giving second and third and fourth chances - whether through reincarnation or shipping souls off to other parts of the universe, I don’t know.

I am perfectly content in my belief that Jesus is the son of God, but I do not believe that Jesus came to Earth to have people fall at his feet and worship him. He came to show us the best way to live our lives and it is an example that is hard for most people to follow or even to accept. He stressed forgiveness and charity, turning the other cheek, helping the poor, healing the sick, visiting those in prison. He did not come to denounce homosexuals or abortion. He would certainly not condone the greed and bigotry prevalent in many of the right-wing offshoots of Christianity active in today’s society. He said the most important commandment was to Love God. But how do you do that? How do you show your love for God in a world where God is everywhere but nowhere? Perhaps by loving God’s creation? Loving your fellow humans as you love yourself? The second commandment, which necessarily complements the first, is the clear path that Jesus wants us to follow.

But all that is not to say that I think any less of religion. I believe religious faith can be a very good thing and I respect people who are faithful to their religions. I think that going to church and practicing one’s faith is an important part of living a good life, and while it may not be a necessity or a requirement, I do believe it is both helpful and beneficial.
The exception comes when that faith leads to violent confrontations with other people of different faiths. Or when it leads to ostracizing certain people from a community. And that is why efforts by people like Hans Kung to reach out and form connections between various religious faiths is so important. And it is why having a separation between Church and State is vital to maintain for the proper functioning of the government.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Catching up

It’s been a very busy week. Here are some links to things I thought were interesting....

Hey! Barack Obama really is a Lefty!
Barack Obama: The 50 facts you might not know

• He is left-handed – the sixth post-war president to be left-handed

Pat Buchanan gets it - sort of... Too often, GOP stood mute

During the recent campaign, Sen. John McCain and others deplored the failures of the Bush administration. The question is, what, exactly, did he do wrong?
What were the policy blunders to which Republicans vehemently objected at the time?
That Bush is a Big Government Republican is undeniable. His two great social spending initiatives, prescription-drug benefits for seniors under Medicare and No Child Left Behind, so testify. But how many Republicans opposed Bush on these initiatives? How many have called for the abolition of either program or for raising payroll taxes to pay for prescription drugs?
Two-thirds of Americans now believe that the Iraq war a mistake. Yet, all but a few Republicans backed the war....
The GOP needs to confront the truth: The failure of the Bush presidency lies not in a failed execution of policy but in the policies themselves and the neoconservative ideology that informed them.

All Hail Pelosi the All Powerful!
Pelosi’s power reigns supreme

As Pelosi enters her third year as speaker, by any measure, she has become the most powerful woman in U.S. political history and is now preparing to wield her gavel in a way that few, if any, recent speakers could match. Even former Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, the architect of the 1994 Republican Revolution, pales in comparison. Pelosi is being mentioned by observers in the same breath as the legendary Sam Rayburn and Tip O’Neill, although she has yet to assemble a legislative record to match theirs.

At the height of their power in the House in 1994, Republicans held about 233 seats. Democrats today control 255.

Billionaire Backer Of Right-Wing Causes Is Down On His Luck

Filibuster buster

The exciting news this morning is that Democrat Mark Begich now has an 814-vote lead over Republican Ted Stevens in the Alaska Senate race after trailing by more than 3,000 votes on election day.
Combined with the hope that Democrat Al Franken could overtake Republican Norm Coleman following a recount of the Minnesota Senate race, that would give Democrats the eight-seat pickup that I had predicted. That would then mean that with the support of Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, they would be just one-vote away from the fillibuster-proof 60-vote margin they have been craving.
This might explain why the Democratic caucus is suddenly so willing to kiss up to Joe “Benedict Arnold” Lieberman and let bygones be bygones. This might be more important that it seems.
I remember how frustrated I felt in the early 90s after Bill Clinton was elected following 12-years of Republican domination of the executive branch - and yet despite having a Democratic majority in the House and Senate he was unable to get much of his legislative agenda passed because the Republicans still had just enough votes to filibuster.
It is a trend that continues today and could hamper early efforts by the Obama administration to fix the huge problems left by the Bushies.
But could Democrats depend on Lieberman in the stretch? Would owing his chairmanship to Obama’s good graces make Lieberman a more reliable vote to override filibusters?
Anyway, it is certainly nice knowing that Sarah Palin is less likely to be taking up residence in Washington now.


Oops. I think I miscounted. It looks like even with Begich and Franken in the Senate, Democrats would still be one short of the Magic 60 even counting Sanders and Lieberman. Therefore the runoff election in Georgia between the abhorrent Saxby Chamblis and the noble Jim Martin would be all-important. And I am much less inclined to believe that Democrats can pull off a victory in that contest than in Alaska or Minnesota. Darn.
Nevertheless, I think the finagling over Lieberman still makes sense because of the liklihood that a moderate Republican like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins or Arlen Specter could close the gap on a critical filibuster.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Principle arguments

Making his pitch to lead the GOP, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has an Op-Ed on CNN that makes the usual argument that Republicans lost because they weren’t conservative enough...

Some on the left will say our electoral losses are a repudiation of our principles of lower taxes, smaller government and individual liberty. But Tuesday was not in fact a rejection of those principles -- it was a rejection of Republicans' failure to live up to those principles.

Watch those strawman arguments, Governor. No one is repudiating “individual liberty” on our side. In fact, the biggest opponents to individual liberty are on the Republican side where they want to strip away women’s rights to make their own choices on reproduction and where they want to deny homosexuals the social benefits of marriage.
But as to “lower taxes” and “smaller government”, those are two “principles” which can be taken too far to the point where it becomes detrimental for our country and our economy. Lower taxes are not ideal when we are fighting two wars at the same time and we are faced with a $10 trillion national debt. And smaller government is not ideal if it means that the government becomes too small to protect us from terrorist attacks or respond to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
“Smaller government” sounds like a good principle, but the ideal that we should really strive for is an “effective government” and an “efficient government” and a “responsive government”.
A small government that is ineffective and unresponsive is NOT ideal by any means. And lower taxes are not ideal when it means that our troops don’t have adequate armor or when bridges are collapsing because our national infrastructure has been neglected.
Republican “principles” are not bad. They are just simplistic and unrealistic. And when they are relied on exclusively, as they have been for the past eight years, the results can be disasterous. Just as we have seen.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Goodbye again, Opus.

Berkely Breathed has done it again. He has brought the curtain down on Opus, the beloved comic strip penguin.
This is the third time he has pulled the cord on Opus. The first was in 1989 when he ended his Pulitzer Prize winning comic strip Bloom County, probably my all-time favorite. But he brought Opus back a few years later in a Sunday-only strip called Outland. But then that ended in 1995.
Then in 2003 he came back yet again with a Sunday strip called Opus, but now that is gone too.
Why, oh why, do the great comic strips seem to die young - Bloom County, The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Fox Trot (at least the daily version), and so forth, while much inferior strips plod along forever like zombies with new syndicate authors who keep recylcing stale jokes long after the original artist is gone?
The San Antonio Express-News is filled with such strips - old, tired, lame, boring - while many really good strips have no room on their pages.
When Opus ended last week there was no mention of what the E-N would do to replace it. This week we find that all they did was shuffly their stale lineup around and expand a few to make up the space. I assume it is a cost-saving measure. But it still sucks. The two things I treasure the most about a local paper - aside from the obvious coverage of local news - is the comics page and the editorial page, and both are exceedlingly awful at the E-N.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Why McCain lost

Driving in to work this morning I turned on one of the wingnut AM stations and listened as they took calls about “What went wrong” and “Why McCain lost.”
The responses were unsurprisingly stupid. One woman blamed the “liberal media” and was incensed that some anchors on CNN appeared to be “giddy” after Obama won. She also blamed Oprah.
Another caller said the problem was that Obama simply looked better than McCain and was more attractive (i.e. Kennedy vs. Nixon).
One guy claimed that if McCain had come out strongly against the Wall Street bailout package he would have won. As if just being against something without offering an effective alternative would have been a winning campaign theme.

The answer is not that simple. McCain lost because he was weighted down by eight years of Republican policies that failed to achieve the things they were supposed to do. Let’s review the long list of Republican policy failures:
• Failed to capture Osama Bin Laden seven years after 9/11
• Launched unneccessary war in Iraq that has cost far more in blood and dollars than they claimed.
* Doubled the national debt to $10 trillion all while Republicans controlled both the Executive and Legislative branches.
* Tax cut policies failed to spur promised economic growth. After eight years of Republican economic policy, the economy is in a recession and Wall Street has collapsed in spectacular fashion.

There are countless other failures in the areas of education and healthcare, emergency services (Katrina), infrastructure and transportation, small business development and science research. In addition, there has been a plethora of corruption and cronyism that has tarred the government and damaged the public trust.
Things have been so screwed up by these Republican policies that there was really no way any Republican could win election in 2008. If Hillary had won the Democratic primary, she would now be our first woman president. Instead, Obama won and we now have our first African-American president.

Now that doesn’t mean that McCain could not have won. But it would have required Obama to run a bad campaign as opposed to McCain running a good one. I think as long as the Democrat ran a compentent campaign - and Obama’s was by all accounts nearly flawless - there was not much hope for a Republican in this race.
McCain might have done somewhat better had he chosen a different running mate, but I think ultimately he would have still lost regardless. Bush’s unpopularity was too big of a drag for any Republican candidate this year. And Bush was unpopular precisely because Republican policies failed so miserably throughout his two terms.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election aftermath, elation and disappointments

I’m not sure how I feel about the election right now. I’m not shocked or surprised. I knew Obama was going to win, I even got pretty close with my predictions.
I think more than anything I am just relieved that it is over.
There were lots and lots of things to be happy and even giddy about....

Obama won Indiana!!
Kay Hagan defeats Liddy Dole!
Jean Shaheen ousts Sununununununu....
Udall times 2
Bexar County goes Blue, votes for Obama!!
Term limit extentions pass!!!

And there are the inevitable disappointments...

John Cornyn re-elected.
Nick Lampson loses.
Mitch McConnell doesn’t lose.
Homophobes pass anti-marriage referendums in several states.
Texas House remains in Republican hands.

But overall this was a great election and it isn’t even over yet.
I predicted that Obama would win 375 electoral votes to 163 for McCain. Right now it stands at 349 - 163 with two states still outstanding - North Carolina (leaning Obama) and Missouri (leaning McCain). If they both go to Obama, then it would match my prediction dead-on. However, if Missouri goes with McCain then they will lose their distinction of being the bellweather state that always seems to side with the winner in every election. LOSERS!!!!!

I may have been overly optimistic in my Senate predictions, although I haven’t been proved wrong yet. I said the Democrats would pick up eight seats and so far it looks like they might only get five. I knew that I was taking a risk going with Al Franken in Minnesota, but he is much closer than I had feared and will go into a runoff that won’t be decided for several more weeks. He’ll probably still lose.
And Jeff Merkley has been trailing Gordon Smith in Oregon although Atrios seems to think he might still pull it out.
Finally, probably the biggest shock of the evening is that Alaska appears to be ready to buck the polls and re-elect a convicted felon to the U.S. Senate. That would be a shame for Democrat Mark Begich who is clearly the better choice, but it would also be fitting for Republicans to have a convicted felon as their senior most member in the Senate. I figure that if he wins he will get expelled and then Sarah Palin will run for his seat.

Jeff Merkley wins Senate seat in Oregon!
Obama wins North Carolina!

Yellow journalism

Here is the Doonesbury strip that the San Antonio Express-News was too scared to run...

Shocking, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Winning isn't enough!

The Waiting is the hardest part...

Barack Obama is going to win. Of that, I have no doubt. What eats at me though is that I don’t want him to just win. I want him to kick some serious butt. I want this election to be a blowout like no one has ever seen. A Democratic tsunami that sweeps every Democrat within five points of polling margin to victory.
That’s a hard thing to set one’s hopes for, but I can’t help it. Every state that Obama does not win is going to eat at me. Every Democrat that falls short is going to sting for me. This is a no-brainer election year for me. The Republicans have royally screwed up the country to an incredible degree. And it is not just the incompentence of George W. Bush that is to blame, it is the Republican policies that he faithfully put into place and which John McCain is sworn to continue that have screwed things up for us.
The Republicans need a come-to-Jesus thrashing this election or they are never going to change and they will just continue down this path until it totally destroys this country as we know it.
My favorite Express-News columnist Jonathan Gurwitz had a piece on Saturday about A Conservative Reckoning in which he speculates on what went wrong for Republicans this election (he assumes McCain will lose big). Gurwitz’ problem is that he believes the only thing Republicans did wrong in office was to spend too much money (although he doesn’t think spending on Iraq is the problem) and allowed themselves to be corrupted by Washington lobbyists.
So if Obama wins, but not by a whopping margin, then people like Gurwitz will take solace that their ideas are still good and that it was just some character deficiences among some incumbent Republicans that made them lose this time around. They will advocate for redoubling efforts to push for the same economic and international policies that have been tearing the country apart and in four years they might be back stronger than ever.
I want to see them smashed now. I don’t want my country to have to go through even more economic misery and international crisis before people realize that the policies are wrong and not just the people.

And she voted for Obama....

Breaking news: 92-year-old takes ambulance to the polls

Determined to participate in a history-making election, 92-year-old Betty Owen rode in an ambulance to her polling place Tuesday and cast her ballot in a parking lot.

I was also glad to learn late last night that the residents of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire went overwhelmingly for Obama - the first time they have supported a Democrat since 1968.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Senate predictions

I predict that Democrats will pick up eight Senate seats tomorrow giving them effectively a filibuster-proof margin on most issues when moderate Republicans like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter can be counted on to fill the gap.
The surest of sure things is in Virginia where there has never been any doubt that Democrat Mark Warner was going to sweep into office to replace the retiring Republican John Warner. Heck, John Warner has even endorsed Mark Warner over the hapless Republican opponent Jim Gilmore.
Next, the Udall cousins, Mark and Tom, are locks to take over open Republican senate seats in New Mexico (Domenici) and Colorado (Allard), while Democrat Jeane Shaheen looks like a sure thing to toss Republican John Sununu out in Blue New Hampshire.
Next, Democrat Mark Begich of Alaska had the good fortune to challenge Republican Ted Stevens just as he became a convicted felon.
Closer races are expected in Oregon where Democrat Jeff Merkely is trying to shake loose moderate Republican Gordon Smith (ironically also a Udall cousin) who has been desperately trying to attach himself to Obama’s coattails in the Northwest, and in North Carolina where Democrat Kay Hagan is poised to topple Republican Liddy Dole who recently resorted to one of the most despicable and pathetic attack ads in memory by trying to label her Sunday school teaching challenger as an atheist.
Finally, while Democrat Al Franken has run a very weak campaign in Minnesota, never attracting more than low-40s support in any polling, he still appears to be close to toppling Republican Norm Coleman whose campaign has collapsed in recent weeks along with support for McCain/Palin in general.
I think those eight races will go for the Democrats.

I am less optimistic about Georgia and Kentucky and even less still about Mississippi and Texas. While I would love to see Democrat Jim Martin cast out the despicable Saxby Chambliss in Georgia, it looks as if he may come up short. Same with Democrat Bruce Lunsford’s bid to unseat Republican Mitch McConnel in Kentucky. And Democrat Ronnie Musgrove seems to have lost traction sometime ago against Republican Roger Wicker in Mississippi.
And unless a miracle occurs on election day, Republican John Cornyn is likely to trounce Democrat Rick Noriega in the Lone Star State. Sigh.

Still, there is a lot here for Democrats to celebrate and we can always cross our fingers and hope for a 2006ish tidal wave that will sweep the Lunsfords, Martins and Noriegas into office the way it did Jon Tester, Jim Webb, Clair McCaskill and Sherrod Brown.

Censoring Doonesbury

The contempt that I feel, the utter disdain I have for my local newspaper - The San Antonio Express-News - just continues to grow each day.
Today, I learned that editorial page Editor Bruce Davidson has decided to ditch this week’s Doonesbury comics because they have a story line that predicts an Obama election victory. Here is Davidson in his own words:

Bruce Davidson, the Express-News Editorial Page editor, says Trudeau's "stunt was self-indulgent and reckless," and he's not going to use the Obama-wins strips. Here is how Davidson explains his decision:
"Trudeau's decision to declare Obama the winner created a number of problems for us. We had no way of knowing whether he would be right. We can't trust polls to be foolproof.
"Even if Trudeau turns out to be correct, we have (election night) production issues. What if the results are unclear at deadline time? We would have to decide whether to take the risk of being wrong. That kind of gambling is unacceptable for a newspaper."

Risk of being wrong?!?! Gambling?!?!? THIS IS A COMIC STRIP, YOU MORON!!!!!

My God. I don’t know if I can take this stupidity much longer. How asinine. How ridiculous. I really don’t know what else to say. Does Davidson really believe that his readers are as stupid as he apparently is? Does he really think people will wake up Wednesday morning and be mislead about who won the election based on a comic strip on the editorial page?

So they are going to publish old re-runs of Doonesbury this week, forcing readers to abandon the print media and go online to read the current strips.
In the meantime, they have no qualms whatsoever about publishing all the garbage that Mallard Fillmore spews forth on a daily basis. If Bruce Davidson feels the need to hold Doonesbury to such a high level of accuracy, why not the right-wing duck cartoon? Mallard Fillmore is filled with false and malicious garbage nearly every day and it gets published without question. Today, for example, the Mallard strip implies that all members of the mainstream media believe that people who will vote for McCain are racist. Is that what Bruce Davidson believes? I must assume as much since he allowed the strip to be published.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Here is what my kids are wearing for Halloween.

A pink Zebra and a Panda Bear.
I'll be passing out treats and watching old Frankenstein movies.

Can Obama outperform in Texas?

Barack Obama is not trying to win in Texas. We have clearly been written off as a solid red McCain state, and I can’t much blame them. Texas hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976. I have no expectations that is going to change this year, especially with the campaign making no effort in this state. But I am curious how well Obama will do despite not trying. Will he do better than previous Democrats?
The high-water mark for a Democrat in Texas since 1980 was the 44 percent of the vote that Bill Clinton drew in 1996 during his successful re-election race against Bob Dole and Ross Perot. Every other Democrat has drawn less support as a percentage (I’m not sure about total votes). In 1980, Carter won 41 percent of the vote in Texas. Four years later, Walter Mondale set the low mark with just 36 percent of the vote. Hell, I didn’t even vote for Mondale that year.
In 1988, Michael Dukakis (with some help from Lloyd Bentsen) managed to get 43 percent of the Texan vote. Clinton took an unimpressive 37 percent his first time around in 1992 against Carpetbagger Bush and Ross Perot at the height of his popularity.
Since 2000, Democrats have been stuck at 38 percent which is what both Gore and Kerry polled against the former Governor of Texas.
But what about this year? There are no Texans on the ticket on either side for the first time since 1976, and the polling average for the state currently has Obama at 43.5 percent. So will he do better than Clinton in ‘96? What’s your guess?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Closing argument

This is sooooooo embarrassing...

Here is evidence that nearly a quarter of my fellow Texans are complete and utter morons.

When asked to identify Obama's religion, 45 percent of respondents accurately identified him as Protestant; however 23 percent erroneously identified him as Muslim.

Please, people, stop watching Fox News! You are making all the rest of us Texans look bad.

Beneath contempt

Yesterday Republicans launched two new attacks that were beneath contempt.
First, Sen. Liddy Dole, R-N.C., released an ad attacking her Democratic opponent Kay Hagan because a member of an atheist advocacy group was one of 40 sponsors of a fundraiser that she attended. The ad accuses Hagan of taking “Godless money” and goes so far as to have a voice impersonator make it sound like she says “There is no God.” at the end of the ad.
Kay Hagan is a Sunday school teacher and an elder in her church. The ad is despicable and Liddy Dole has disgraced herself by airing it.
But guilt by association is all the rage now on the Republican campaign trail and Sarah Palin tried to spook her audiences the other day by noting that while he was a professor at the University of Chicago, Barack Obama actually knew and had cordial relations with a MUSLIM!!!!! Shreeeeeeeeeeeek!!!!!!!!!
I assume that the only acceptable thing that Obama could have done in that case would have been to spit in the guys face everytime he saw him. Apparently that is what Republicans do when they see a Muslim, assuming they dare to get that close. Most probably just point, screech “TERRORIST!!” and run for cover.


SLAM!! Back atcha, Liddy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bitter and misleading attacks

Jonathan Gurwitz sure is bitter. Like most Republicans these days, he has given up on McCain/Palin winning the presidency. But he is still using his gold-plated soapbox on the Express-News editorial page to lash out at Barack Obama with unfair and misleading statements.

Here is the first example from today:

....recent events have broken Obama's way — amazingly, since Democrats have controlled both houses of Congress for the past two years, and Obama has been a Fannie Mae patron, while John McCain has been one of the few voices calling for reform.

First, Gurwitz acts like Democrats having control of the House and slim control of the Senate for the last two years means they and not the Republicans should be held responsible for the mess that Bush and the Republican policies have created. He knows better. The change in congressional leadership in 2006 has kept Republicans from putting any new policies in place, but it has not allowed for the reversal or elimination of any of the existing policies due to veto threats and filibusters.
Second, he knows full well that it is ridiculous to call Obama a “Fannie Mae patron” when it is McCain whose campaign staff is filled with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lobbyists (including Chief of Staff Rick Davis who was on Fannie’s payroll up until just a few months ago.)
And it just boggles the mind to hear him call McCain a voice for reform when his chief economic advisor, Phil Gramm, was the author of the bill that created the deregulation disaster to begin with.

Obama promises everything to everyone: entitlement reform and full benefits; spreading the wealth and a tax cut for all; a unilateral rewrite of treaties and free trade; gun ownership and a ban on handguns.

Like most rightwingers today, Gurwitz falls into the fallacy of treating everything like it is only black or white, all or nothing. You can have entitlement reform and maintain full benefits for those that need it. You can have a tax cut for most by rolling back the tax cuts for the wealthiest. You can rewrite treaties and still have free trade. You can have responsible gun ownership while supporting common sense restrictions that protect the public and law enforcement. All you need is someone in charge who doesn’t where ideological blinders and only sees the world in black or white.

Obama's meager record of legislative accomplishments, his non-existent record of bipartisanship and his lengthy record of working with and seeking the counsel of individuals and organizations far outside the American mainstream.

The Walter Annenberg Foundation is far outside the American mainstream!?!? Whatever.
Spew on, Jonathan. It’s all you have left.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Endorsement extravaganza

Barack Obama has been mopping the floor with John McCain when it comes to newspaper endorsements.
According to the latest tally from Editor & Publisher, Obama has been endorsed by 222 newspapers with total circulation of more than 20 million compared to just 93 newspaper endorsements for John McCain with circulations of just over 6 million.
Obama’s total includes 43 papers that have switched from endorsing Bush in 2004.

Four years ago I compiled a list of celebrity endorsements for the 2004 presidential race.
This time around Wikipedia has done the job for me with Obama supporters here and McCain supporters here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bonilla threatened government bank on behalf of swindler

In the Better Late Than Never category comes this Express-News story over the weekend about former Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla doing favors for some guy who was swindling a government-sponsored bank out of millions of dollars.

A San Antonio businessman, while defrauding a government bank of millions of dollars, convinced a member of Congress to help put pressure on the bank so it would speed up processing loans to his clients, a San Antonio Express-News investigation has found.

Then-Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, intervened on behalf of Andrew Maxwell Parker, president of San Antonio Trade Group, in 2005 as the Export-Import Bank in Washington was growing suspicious of Parker's business.

Greater scrutiny had slowed the bank's backing of his clients' loans, so Parker wasn't making money.

Bonilla's letters to the Export-Import Bank, written at the behest of Parker, were followed by e-mails from one of Bonilla's staffers, Patrick L. Anderson. He left Bonilla's staff in November 2005, and by the next month Parker had paid him $20,000 to lobby for SATG.

The Export-Import Bank discovered many of his clients were defaulting on loans it had backed, forcing the taxpayer-funded agency to make good on them.

Officials also found Parker had manipulated information in the loan paperwork before submitting it. So the bank stopped or delayed considering applications involving his firm.

So the Ex-Im Bank was suspicious of this guy and was trying to back off on making loans to his clients who were defaulting on their loans and leaving the taxpayers to pick up the tab.

So what did Congressman Henry Bonilla do after jumping into the fray?

Parker complained to lawmakers, prompting Bonilla to propose a $7 million cut to the bank's budget in June 2005.

Unbelievable! The bank is trying its best to be a good steward with the taxpayers’ money, and Henry Bonilla, like some Mafia enforcer, is punishing them for it by trying to slash $7 million out of their budget.

And Bonilla was ENDORSED by the Express-News Editorial Board over Ciro Rodriguez while all this was going on.

Bonilla’s response to all of this? He doesn’t recall. Can’t remember a thing. Probably some low-level flunkies on his staff are to blame. Pass the buck. Whatever.

What a great public servant you were, Henry Bonilla! Thank you so much E-N Editorial Board for trying to foist this guy on us again and again.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rivard: It's Not My Fault!

In his latest column, San Antonio Express-News Editor Robert Rivard blames the Publisher Tom Stephenson for the paper's ill considered endorsement of John McCain for president.
Already, the dopey decision has caused more than 40 people to cancel their subscriptions to the local newspaper - the only daily serving the 7th largest city in the U.S.
Rivard makes no excuses for the endorsement and only tries to distance himself and his news staff as far from the decision as possible, noting that the editorial board staff is not even in the same building as the newsroom. Heh! I'd want to shun them too.
I certainly do not condone people canceling their subscriptions, however. I think that is ultimately self-defeating and you end up with an even poorer newspaper that is unlikely to improve. What we need is more readers flooding the paper with letters and emails expressing their disdain for an editorial board that has continued to try and steer us off of every cliff that comes along at full speed. Rivard says the publisher is just conservative, but McCain/Palin/Bush/Cheney are not conservatives but radicals and wrongheaded to boot.
Spare us the excuses, Mr. Editor. I find it hard to believe that the top editor at the paper has absolutely no sway in the editorial direction of the newspaper. Someone needs to grab that steering wheel and put us back on the right path.

Friday, October 24, 2008


The list of Republicans and conservatives abandoning the GOP and throwing their support behind Barack Obama is growing steadily as this article in The Economist notes - The rise of the Obamacons and this earlier piece in The New Republic.

Here is my tally of Obamacons so far:

Colin Powell - former Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff for Reagan; Sect. of State for George W. Bush
Arne Carlson - Gov. of Minnesota ‘91-’99
Larry Hunter - former chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; helped devise Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” in 1994.
Richard Whalen - conservative author
Scott McClellan - former Press Secretary for W.
Bruce Bartlett - Domestic policy advisor to Reagan and Treasury official under Bush Sr.
Douglas Kmiec - Head of Office of Legal Counsel under Reagan and Bush Sr.
Lincoln Chafee - former Sen. from Rhode Island
Rita Hauser - Bush fundraiser and former member of Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
Jim Leach - former Congressman from Iowa
Jim Whitaker - Mayor of Fairbanks, Alaska
Susan Eisenhower - Granddaughter of former president.
Christopher Buckley - son of William F. Buckley Jr., founder of National Review magazine.
William Weld - Gov. of Massachussetts ‘91-’97
Ken Adelman - foreign policy advisor to Reagan
Frances Fukuyama - neocon author and scholar
Michael Smerconish - Rightwing Radio host
Christopher Hitchens - Former leftist turned Clinton hater and Bush booster.
Charles Fried - Harvard Law professor and former Solicitor General for Reagan.
U.S. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest - R-Maryland
Linwood Holton - Governor of Virginia ‘70-’74
Andrew Sullivan - conservative blogger
David Friedman - son of Milton Friedman
Jeffrey Hart - senior editor of National Review and former Nixon/Reagan speech writer
Wick Allison - former publisher of National Review
Andrew Bacevich - Boston University professor


Former U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D., the first Vietnam Vet to serve in the Senate throws his support to Obama.

The Best Celebrity Endorsement Ever

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die


Commenter Dervish is a musician who made this music video endorsing Obama. I think it’s pretty good. Check it out.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bold presidential prediction time

We are still 12 days out from the election, but I’ve already cast my vote and there isn’t much more to do than make predictions.

(Drumroll, please)

Barack Obama will win!

OK, that was too easy. What states will he win? How many electoral votes will he get? Those are the hard questions.
So here goes my best guestimate on how the chips will fall on election night.

Obama will win all the Kerry states — Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachussetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine — plus the following Bush states:

Iowa, New Mexcio, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana.

There are recent polls that have show Obama with leads in West Virginia, North Dakota and Montana, and he seems to be catching up in Georgia. But I’m going to assume these are all outliers and will just fall short of switching to Obama on election night.
I might change my mind before the election, of course, but right now I think that is the safe bet.

The above scenario gives Obama 375 electoral votes to McCain’s 163.

I had held out hopes for West Virginia to switch back to the side of light and goodness this election, but a recent survey revealed that more than 40 percent of respondents still think Obama is a Muslim.
My God. It’s like these people are living in North Korea or something. How ignorant can you get?

Colin Powell changes direction

I didn’t have a chance to note Colin Powell’s glowing endorsement of Barack Obama over the weekend. But Vara has an excellent article about it at her place - Voices from Russia.
Powell didn’t just laud Obama, he slammed McCain as this excerpt makes clear:

He criticised Senator McCain for not being able to grasp the economic woes facing the country or offer the public a clear and coherent response to the problem. He criticised Governor Palin for clearly not being qualified for the job (not to mention what this said about Mr McCain’s judgment, he added). He further criticised the negative tone of much of the McCain campaign, specifically decrying their attempts to somehow smear Mr Obama with so called associations to the likes of 1960s radical Bill Ayers, and finished off by commenting that he was uncomfortable with the way in which he felt the entire Republican Party was being taken over by the right wing.

McCain was quoted the other day speaking about the Republican control of government for the past eight years saying:
"We just let things get completely out of hand."
That is true, of course, but it should be noted that this was not just a case of incompetent governance. The Republicans didn’t screw up what they were trying to do. They did exactly what they planned and it just didn’t work the way they claimed it would. That is the most important point that is still eluding most people. It wasn’t just Bush that failed. The Republican policies failed. They would have failed regardless of who was in office pushing them forward. Bush can be blamed for not recognizing this failure sooner and changing course (instead he just stubbornly said “Full Steam Ahead!). But it is not that he was incompetent and failed to administer the policies properly. He did exactly what the Republican policies called for to a T.

Maybe people like Colin Powell are starting to understand this and change direction. We can only hope.

My vote

It took three tries, but I finally got the voting machine to register my vote for Barack Obama the other day. The first two times I tried it highlighted McCain/Palin instead, almost like in this Simpson’s episode:

Fortunately, I got it changed and was very careful where I touched the screen from that point on. But it was disturbing to think that if I had not paid careful attention I could very easily have cast a vote for McSame.
I also cast votes for Rick Noriega for U.S. Senate; Ciro Rodriguez for U.S. Congress; and all the Democrats running for the Texas Supreme Court. I also voted against State Rep. Frank Corte Jr.; for Chip Haas for county commissioner and for extending city term limits to eight years.

I did vote in all the judicial races although I resent having to do so. I believe judges should be appointed because the electorate simply doesn’t have the time or interest to stay informed on the issues in those races and make intelligent choices.

Now I just have to wait two weeks to find out the results.