Thursday, December 30, 2004

A missed opportunity...

I mostly agree with the Moose's post today about Bush's response to the tsunami disaster. This was a huge opportunity and it was missed by a wide margin. He calls it "an opportunity missed but not lost", but I'm not so sure it's salvageable. Had the President addressed the nation on TV right after the calamity and promised aid and exhorted private donation to the relief effort, he would have earned credibility for his claims of benevolence toward Muslims, regardless of the amount pledged. The importance of such a move can hardly be overstated. That is how one wins hearts and minds. As it was, the administration quietly offered $15 million and opened itself to charges of being "stingy". You can buy that charge or not (I think it's a bit overblown, to say the least), but the fact that it was leveled at all is evidence of an appalling political performance on the administration's part.

We should aid the rescue and recovery because it's the right thing to do, not because it's politically useful. But doing so the right way is politically useful, and it should be done in whatever way maximizes that usefulness. Rather, it should have been done in such a way. I'm afraid that nothing the administration does now can escape the charge that it is only being done under international pressure. Again, we should do all we possibly can anyway, and maybe the Moose is right that Bush redoubling his efforts can "repair our image in the world", but I'm not so sure that the moment to both ease the suffering and bolster our image in the Muslim world hasn't passed.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Like I've always said...

...When noodling's outlawed, only outlaws will noodle. You smell that, fellers? It's the sweet, sweet scent of freedom. And catfish.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Better late than never?

One of the big issues in California in the last election was Prop. 71, a $3 billion bond measure providing funds for stem cell research. I support stem cell research, and I hope it bears the wonderful fruits its cheerleaders promise, but I voted against the measure. Despite Governor Schwarzenneger's promises to drag us from the fiscal sewer, California is still running tremendous budget deficits, and has the lowest bond rating of any state in the union. Under those circumstances I couldn't support adding an additional $3 billion burden (possibly as high as $6 billion with interest, etc.) to the budget for anything inessential. If the research is as potentially revolutionary as its proponents claim, private investors have every incentive to fund it, and I reasoned that they should step into the void, not this cash-strapped state with so many essential services riding on its budget.

Prop. 71 was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and ultimately the voters. Only now are we seeing some skepticism from the Times and the Chronicle.
When we asked Steve Proctor, the Chronicle's deputy managing editor for news, why his paper didn't report on these controversies before the election, he said, "It's fair criticism to say we should have done more aggressive research into the initiative and looked further into the bill prior to the election." He also pointed out, "As something becomes a reality, you delve into it more deeply."
Uh...thanks? While you're at it, you may want to have a look at methods of putting genies back in bottles and toothpaste back into tubes.

For good overview of the current state of Prop. 71 affairs, have a look at this uncharacteristically calm and cogent San Francisco Bay Guardian article.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Am I missing something here?

In all of the post-election gum flapping about what Democrats need to do now, one consistent theme is the need to address red state cultural anxiety. The line of reasoning is that dems need to take a page from Tipper Gore's book and start criticizing the gratuitous sex and violence of today's pop-culture to prove they are in touch with red-state values without reversing long held positions. On Nov. 4 in Slate, Robert Wright wrote:
If Democrats felt a little freer to moralize, they wouldn't, of course, take over Bush's evangelical base. Still, without giving an inch on gay rights, abortion rights, school prayer, etc., they can make some inroads into the "moral" component of Republican support. But so long as they consider it their sacred duty to applaud Quentin Tarantino or to quietly endure Britney Spears, they may stay where they were this week: 140,000 votes shy in Ohio

And today, New Donkey writes:
We're the "wrong track" party when it comes to the cultural direction of the country, and we have to decide whether to bravely swim upstream out of loyalty to hip-hop and Michael Moore and Grand Theft Auto IV and Hollywood campaign contributions, or do something else, like at least expressing a little ambivalence about it all.

OK. Perhaps decrying the tawdry spectacle of American pop-culture will be the silver Sister-Soulja bullet the dems are after. They may as well go for it, and I hope it works.

But leaving aside cultural criticism's effectiveness as a tactic, I'm confused by the intended audience. It's a given that parents, particularly in red states, see Hollywood as a moral cesspool churning out ever more grotesque slabs of prurient, mind-warping crap. They may be right, but Hollywood isn't making billions of dollars each year selling its crap to itself. I just don't understand how people can watch television in rapt attention while complaining that the programs are destroying civilization. You either watch "The Swan" or you take the high road-you can't do both.

If Madison and Conner are punching each other's sweet widdle faces and cursing like sailors, are the people who make Grand Theft Auto games and Eminem records more to blame than the parents stuffing the kids' stockings with them? It's amazing to me that the electorate wants to hear politicians condemn the very tripe that they wallow in every day. If they don't like what's on TV, they should turn it off, and keep the kids away.

But I think the lesson to take away from this seeming paradox is that people don't vote their interests, so much as their hopes. They vote from the perspective of what they wish they were. So even if they are broke and morally degenerate with nary a second thought about the cultural sewage they pipe into their offspring's head, a lot of people vote for tax cutting bible thumpers catering to the interests of the people they think they ought to be.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ahhh, catharsis...

It's vulgar, it's largely inaccurate, and it's really, really funny. Check it out:
Fuck the South.

Some good advice

In Slate today, Timothy Noah explains the shifting nomenclature of the "christian right". Apparently they don't like being called the "christian right". Well cry me a freakin' river, Pat.

These pieces of crap have been turning simple descriptors like "left" and "liberal" into pejoratives for so long that we've had to turn to ridiculous designations like "progressive" to describe anyone that doesn't cotton to their brand of corporate socialism and christian theocracy. I say, let's give it right back. It's time for someone new to set the vocabulary of the debate, dammit! We should use the term "christian right" over and over and OVER like a mantra. It should get so ubiquitous that it starts to annoy us. Every time Ralph Reed hears the words "christian right" he should get so "christian right"-eously irritated the "christian right" vein on his "christian right" forehead should throb, and his "christian right" life should be shortened by a few "christian right" minutes.

I'm having fun already.

We sure dodged that bullet!

So Al Qa Qaa is old news, right? The electorate has processed the information and decided they weren't scared enough by this catastrophe to switch horses. Fine, no need to harp on it.
I'll harp on this instead:
American intelligence agencies have tripled their formal estimate of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile systems believed to be at large worldwide, since determining that at least 4,000 of the weapons in Iraq's prewar arsenals cannot be accounted for, government officials said Friday. A new government estimate says a total of 6,000 of the weapons may be outside the control of any government, up from a previous estimate of 2,000, American officials said. (emphasis mine, link via Kaus, void where prohibited)

Hmmmm, whose hands might the missile systems be in, if not "any government"? Could it be Satan terrorists? Looks to me like the "central front in the war on terror" is resulting in a lot of Thomas Friedman's "superempowered angry men" getting extra super-duper empowered!

OK, so the administration bungled the post war security situation by failing to plan for an insurgency, and they worked against the war on terrorism by failing to secure vast caches of weapons against looters, and their stated reasons for invading never materialized, but at least they aren't flip-flopping, liberal, French-looking, snobs. Man, we really dodged a bullet there with Kerry.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The New Senate

Josh Marshall seems to be hearing the opening strains of Vader's March as he looks toward the upcoming legislative session in Washington.
He links to a Fox News story discussing Sen. Arlen Specter and Bush's judicial nominees. This amazing quote appears in the story:
"As it stands today [Democrats] can block [a nominee]," said C. Boyden Gray, former legal counsel to President George H.W. Bush. But I also believe that the president and majority leader may well decide to change the rules given the elections ... The president has a very strong political support, potential support, for asking for and getting this change." (emphasis mine)

This is indeed an alarming prospect, but it has about the same chance of happening as I have of being named supreme overlord of the planet.

The current rule requires 60 votes to impose cloture on a filibuster, which given the Senate's makeup, is possible but not likely. A change in that rule requires a 2/3 majority of 67 votes-even less likely. Unfortunately for Mr. Grey and President Bush, a majority leader can't simply decide to change the rules. The Senate is still a parliamentary body, which means that its members have to vote on things to get them done, crazy as that may sound in view of the new "mandate".

I actually see this kind of talk from Republican senators and the administration as an encouraging sign. They are clearly feeling their oats after Tuesday, and have the hubris knobs cranked to 11. Senator Frist and the president may want to ask Dwight Eisenhower how easy changing the cloture rule is. In 1956 and 1957, with astronomical approval ratings, the Eisenhower administration and Minority Leader Knowland tried to achieve a change in cloture rules to avoid a filibuster by southern Democrats against civil rights legislation. Public opinion was firmly in favor of the change, the Republican delegation was solidly behind it, and the liberal wing of the democratic caucus was fairly foaming at the mouth to amend the cloture rule. And yet the southern Democrats won the day.

Certainly this outcome is largely attributable to the legislative juggernaut of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Russell, but it stands as a warning to those who would attempt to monkey with Senate rules. Even under the best of circumstances, it's difficult to do. And I know there aren't any LBJ-caliber legislative geniuses on the left side of the Senate aisle, but given the proven willingness of the Democrats to filibuster Bush's nominations, I'm not ready to panic.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Interesting times indeed...

If it's a curse to live in interesting times, we Americans are well and truly cursed. Consider the following: Voters in 11 states votes to ban gay marriage on Tuesday. That would be precisely 100% of the states where such initiatives were on the ballot. In Dallas, Texas, however, voters elected a lesbian sheriff. A latina lesbian, at that. In Dallas. Dallas Texas. Just when you think you've got a handle on things...

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Repubs Ratify Rovism!

(How that for a Kaus-style headline?)
I think the big news in this election is that Karl Rove's strategy of pandering to the Republicans' evangelical base has worked. The top concern listed by Bush voters at exit polls was "moral issues", i.e. gay marriage:
"It was like the churches just got fed up - it was like a balloon that just burst," said Phil Burress, leader of the Cincinnati-based Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, a group that put the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage on the ballot. "We had a massive turnout, and lots of people are saying it gave the president the victory."

So I guess we can expect a lot of talk from Republicans about gay marriage, family values, etc. in the next few years, as it seems to have been a winning strategy for getting nervous theocrats out to the polls. I can hardly wait.
There are some silver linings, though.
The youth vote was 54% for Kerry, up from 48% for Gore in 2000. Add in the younger voters that opted for Bush in spite of his evangelical pandering rather than because of it as well as whatever percent went for Nader or Badnarik, and it's clear that the theocratic demographic ("theographic"? Maybe not) is on it's way out. In twenty years, the electorate as a whole will likely be far more socially libertarian than it is now. Which is why the religious right is working so hard to enshrine its intolerance in the constitution.
Unfortunately, Bush's influence on the Supreme Court could still be in effect in twenty years. But if my read on the numbers is right (and it is), Senate Democrats still have the ability to filibuster against particularly noxious nominees. And I think it's safe to expect some will be fairly noxious. I can only hope the Dems in the Senate take their role in judicial confirmations more seriously than they take their role in declaring war.

Some election night thoughts...

It looks like it's going to Bush, but Ohio is still looking a little squirrelly, so I'll hold my tears for the time being.
I have one big, albeit simple, question right now, though. Where in the sweet name of Jesus are the young voters? The vaunted youth vote seems not to have materialized this year. As a recently retired member of the 18-24 demographic, I'd like to ask you youngsters just where in the bloody hell were you today? Were you not up enough on the issues to make an informed decision? Crack a damn newspaper once in a while-it's not that hard! Were you too busy with work or school to make it to the polls? Get an absentee ballot-it's really easy! Do you think that your one vote doesn't make a difference? After 2000? You can't seriously think that. Just what in the sam-hill will it take to get you to go out and vote? I'm at a loss. P-Diddy's exhortations didn't get it done, unprecedented Democratic and Republican get-out-the-vote efforts didn't get it done, clear recent evidence that each vote matters didn't get it done. What do you people need?!
I don't understand any people who don't pay attention to the political process. But apathetic young people baffle me the most. After all, they're the ones who are likely to be around to watch and feel mistakes coming to fruition.
Or maybe the 3 grey hairs on my temples are no anomalies, and I'm actually just getting old...
It seems that the absolute numbers of young voters was higher than in 2000, but their percentage of the overall electorate was the same. That's a little better. Good enough? No.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Take it easy, Senator

Yesterday, John Edwards said "If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve will get up out of that wheelchair and walk again".
And brussels sprouts will taste like Pop Rocks, puppies will be even cuter, and the scourge of athletes foot will be a thing of the past!
Criminy! I understand that at the end of campaigns the rhetoric and promises heat up, but let's not get crazy.
I support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, but the operative word is "research". John Kerry is a senator, not the messiah. I hope he wins, but I don't expect the lame to be healed immediately upon his inauguration.

***For the Onion's take on Edwards' hilarity, check this out.***

By the way-

If you want to help in the fight against the erosion of the wall between the things of Caesar and the things of God, please join and support Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I have.

How far we've come...

1960. Ike was finishing off his presidency, Sputnik scared the crap out of the west, the US sent her first boys into Vietnam, and John F. Kennedy had to refute assertions that he would be a papal stooge in the oval office. He was apparently convincing enough to win the election.
I've always viewed the moment when the electorate saw beyond the old canards about all Catholics taking dictation from Rome and elected Kennedy to the highest office in the land as a landmark for the republic as well as American catholicism. Now Catholic bishops in Colorado and several other states are working as hard as they can to turn back the clock:
For Archbishop Charles Chaput, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic in Colorado, there is only one way for a faithful Catholic to vote in this presidential election. Without naming names, he makes it clear: for George W. Bush and against John Kerry.

Earlier this year, Catholic Bishops said they would deny John Kerry, a Catholic, communion because of his view that abortion should remain legal.
So much for the old "Rome not trying to have a Catholic puppet in the White House" business, eh?
The super slick thing here is that these organizations enjoy 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. That's right, you're paying for their partisan advocacy. Oh, sure they manage to avoid saying anything as clear as "vote for Bush or burn", but they make it real clear. They may as well call it a sin to vote for anyone whose middle initial isn't "W". I harbor no naive notions that theses dioceses will be investigated by the IRS, but they should.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Another monster safely off the streets

The brave, heroic drug warriors in Washington DC really have something to be proud of this week. Jonathan Magbie, a quadriplegic man serving a ten day jail sentence for a first-time marijuana possession conviction, died in a DC jail last week.
Despite recommendations of probation that weren't challenged by the prosecution, the ever so appropriately named Judge Retchin sentenced him to 10 days in jail. Her rationale for the harsh sentence was that there was a gun in the car Mr. Magbie was riding in when he was caught with the pot (note the word riding, as opposed to driving). "It is just unacceptable to be riding around in a car with a loaded gun in this city", she said. Who's the last quadriplegic you remember having gone on a shooting spree, your honor? I do understand the impulse to punish those caught with guns or hanging around with people with guns, but the man can't scratch his own nose, much less aim and fire a gun.
So this guy goes to jail, where he quite predictably gets substandard medical care. Being someone for whom substandard medical care=death, he dies.
Lots of kudos to go around on this one:
I'd like to thank Judge Retchin for having the compassion to put a quadriplegic man who smoked pot to ease his pain in jail for simple possession.
I'd like to thank our brave leaders in congress, past and present, for criminalizing pot possession, for medical and recreational use.
I'd like to thank the zealots at the Office of National Drug Control Policy for helping create and maintain a political climate conducive to the creation of the terrible policies that put Mr. Magbie behind bars.
And finally I'd like to thank the incompetent functionaries in the DC jails who shuffled a very sick man (and the buck) back and forth, until he died.
Thanks for proving anew how terrible an idea this drug war is in both theory and practice.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The VP debate-

No clear winner, it would seem. Where some, like Andrew Sullivan saw a listless, work-weary Cheney, I saw calm confidence. His demeanor seemed to say "I am your better *yawn*". Edwards was relentlessly on-message and is clearly a good communicator. But He floundered at times and missed some golden opportunities. For instance, when Cheney impugned Kerry's vote on the original Gulf War, Edwards should have thrown this quote from '92 in his face:
And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq... All of a sudden you've got a battle you're fighting in a major built-up city, a lot of civilians are around, significant limitations on our ability to use our most effective technologies and techniques. Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place? You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq

(link via Sullivan)
So Edwards missed that big one, but did manage to avoid any major gaffes. He also looked much more like he was speaking to us instead of glaring at Gwen Ifill, like Cheney.
Head to Atrios for evidence of one clear, stupid, but ultimately inconsequential Cheney lie. I guess that depends on what your meaning of "met" is Mr. Vice President (ahem).
I thought him waving off further comment on the Federal Marriage Amendment was classy. It was wise to just stick to the line of "I don't necessarily agree but the President sets policy and it's my job to have his back". The more conspiratorial among us might say that this and Cheney's public disavowal of the amendment a few weeks ago are merely attempts to put to rest the argument that Cheney's the President's puppet master. I don't know-you decide.
All in all, pretty even, I think.
Just go to Andrew Sullivan, instapundit, dailykos, TPM, Polipundit, and any of the cable yap-shows to see the widely diverging opinions about who massacred whom and whose pants are more blazingly on fire. Forget instant polls, you can see it was a draw from a quick skip around these various opinion outlets. It's like a boxing match with one judge calling X the victor twelve rounds to none, another calling Y the victor by the same margin, and the other calling it a draw.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

From the Republicans against Bush file...

Andrew Sullivan links today to a sharp piece by Marshall Wittmann, former aide to John McCain and self-described "bull moose".
***Just as an aside, can I take a moment to mention just how much I hate it when people wrap themselves in the mantle of long-gone political movements, like the Bull Moose party? I hate it a lot, thanks.***
Silly nomenclature aside, the article is a razor-sharp critique of the Bush administration from the right. Here is a particularly stinging section:
Everything could have changed in the aftermath of 9/11. For a while it appeared that it had. Bush displayed moral clarity and leadership worthy of national greatness. However, it was short-lived. It turned out that Bush would be more of a Tom DeLay than a Winston Churchill. On the domestic political front, there was a brief interregnum of national unity. Bush rhetorically sought to bring together the nation in the fight against the terrorist enemy. However, it was soon clear that no political imagination would be employed to forge a new politics. Rather than challenging Americans to enlist in national service, the administration told them to "go shopping." Rather than asking more of those who have more, the administration refused to explore a progressive way to finance the war against terror. In fact, before long, the president returned to his mantra of permanent elimination of the "death tax." Yes, Virginia, there is a war going on, but the donors must be reimbursed! (Emphasis added)

Mr Wittmann, clearly a fan of historical allusions, makes an important point: This administration has never acted like they were fiscally serious about the military task at hand. They have neither made nor asked for any of the sacrifices necessary in a vital war effort. If you agree with the efforts in Afghanistan and/or Iraq, it's damn near impossible to justify the exploding domestic spending and massive tax cuts undertaken by this administration while these missions are underway. I can almost understand someone who disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq, as I did, saying "screw it-spend the money at home". But I can't understand those who engineered the invasion doing nothing to save the money necessary to do it right. It doesn't make any sense even within their own rationale.
I'm not saying they should have instituted pantyhose and gasoline rations, but maybe forgoing another round of tax cuts to better finance "the inescapable calling of our generation" would have been a good idea.
9/11 may have been a Pearl Harbor for our time-it's a shame Bush is no FDR.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Quotes of the day...

It's probably more accurate to call them quotes of the week or month or something since I will not be posting quotes daily, but anyway...
I ran across some great quotes in Justice Robert H. Jackson's opinion for the majority in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v.
, a 1943 Pledge of Allegiance case (because I'm so super cool I read stuff like this at work rather than work or do other things that require social skills, but anyway...). Here are some great bits, really apropos of nothing, but pithy and, I guess, in a way apropos of everything:
"Government of limited power need not be anemic government. Assurance that rights are secure tends to diminish fear and jealousy of strong government, and by making us feel safe to live under it makes for its better support. Without promise of a limiting Bill of Rights it is [319 U.S. 624, 637] doubtful if our Constitution could have mustered enough strength to enable its ratification. To enforce those rights today is not to choose weak government over strong government. It is only to adhere as a means of strength to individual freedom of mind in preference to officially disciplined uniformity for which history indicates a disappointing and disastrous end."

"The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections."

So put that in your bong water pipe and smoke it.

More good drug war news:

OK, well maybe it's more accurate to call it news that the madness wasn't allowed, in one particularly egregious case, to get worse. So huzzah to the 9th circuit for ruling sensibly. And a big "better late than never, ya zealots" to the Bush Administration for dropping their appeal and allowing non-psychoactive, vaguely marijuana-like, tremendously versatile food products to remain legal.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

About Mr. Guevara-

Paul Berman has an article in Slate
that's well worth reading. It's essentially pointing out that Che Guevara was not the purehearted martyr he's made out to be. The essential bits:
Che presided over the Cuban Revolution's first firing squads. He founded Cuba's "labor camp" system—the system that was eventually employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, and AIDS victims...[h]e helped establish an unjust social system in Cuba and has been erected into a symbol of social justice. He stood for the ancient rigidities of Latin-American thought, in a Marxist-Leninist version, and he has been celebrated as a free-thinker and a rebel.

Berman's no reactionary; his leftist bona-fides are solid. And he's right to assail the cult of Guevara when it's about to get a pop-cultural shot in the arm. The people walking and driving around the bay area with their Che® patches and stickers right alongside their peace symbols have always struck me as remarkably ignorant. Almost as ignorant as those who say "what we really need is a revolution, maaaan". Right fella. Spoken like someone who's never been through a revolution. Cute patch, by the way.
Anyhow, don't let my ellipses speak for Berman's timely and worthwhile article. Read the whole thing.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Update on court stripping-

Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor and legal blogger par excellence says the court stripping numbskulls alluded to below may actually undermine their own purpose if their law passes. The money quote:
Of course, it may well be that the bills purpose is more to make a political statement, by highlighting the way liberal judges have interpreted the Establishment Clause to prohibit many kinds of religious references by the government. But voters who support such religious references should realize that, as a purely legal matter, the bill may undermine "under God" instead of safeguarding it.

Read the whole thing for a full explanation. Is there any kind of a political Darwin Award for shooting your ideology in the foot?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Oh, THIS is reassuring...

By a margin of 247 to 173, the House of Representatives voted today to demonstrate their utter lack of respect for our system of government. This ridiculous bill will most likely not pass the senate, and will therefore die, but it's mighty alarming nonetheless.
The bill is to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over any case involving the inclusion of the phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. It's author, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO)said that to allow courts to rule "under God" unconstitutional would be to "have emasculated the very heart of what America has always been about." Hmmmmm. You mean like checks, balances, separation of powers, that kind of thing that America's always been about? I guess not.
Mr. Akin, and his cohorts Tom Delay, Pat Robertson, et al, don't seem to remember that we are a nation founded on the principle that our rights are only to be infringed when absolutely necessary for the peaceful functioning of the republic. As such, we've eschewed the idea of a state religion, not to hamper their right to worship as they see fit, but to ensure that right. Unfortunately for them, that means we have to protect others' rights to worship, or not worship as they see fit. Sometimes that means that others will not worship the same god as them or *gasp* any god at all. To prevent any one group from siezing the reins of goverment and forcing Mr. Akin's children to worship Baal, or Vishnu, or a golden calf against their will, we've diluted power through the three branches of government. This means that even if, hypothetically (ahem), fanatics are ascendant in Congress or the White House, there is another bulwark in the courts to prevent the hasty stripping of constitutional protections. And if Mr. Akin doesn't like the types of decisions coming out of the courts their makeups can be changed by the voters electing presidents and members of Congress who will appoint and confirm justices who see things their way.
But that's just not quick enough for these poor dears. It's not a sensational or dramatic enough way for them to have their way. So they want to kick the courts out of the process altogether. If it wasn't so disgraceful, it'd be silly.
They say the republic of the United States of America was created by geniuses so it could be run by imbeciles. We're certainly putting that maxim to the test, aren't we?

Friday, September 17, 2004

Someday this won't be so amazing...

Last week, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld a 2003 ruling that found that adults have a right under the state constitution to posses marijuana in their homes.
The Court of Appeals based its 2003 decision on a 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling (Ravin v. State) which held that the state's constitutional protections regarding a citizen's right to privacy protects the personal use and possession of up to four ounces of marijuana in one's home. Since the state's existing marijuana possession law (based on the 1990 recriminalzation measure) conflicts with Ravin, the law is unconstitutional, the court ruled.

Yeehaw, it's a twofer! They both refused to reconsider the opinion of the lower court that adults have a constitutional right to possess pot in their own homes (ya' think?), and invalidated a reactionary voter initiative criminalizing any pot possession (let that be a cautionary lesson to all of you direct democracy fetishizing "progressives").
I must admit to feeling a bit silly for celebrating something so obvious. It's like giving a child a cookie for breathing. But in a world of felony possession busts and mandatory minimums, you take what you can get.
There are a lot of issues where I can at least see where the other side is coming from, even if I think their reasoning is flawed, or their facts wrong. But criminalizing possession of a bloody weed? No, I don't get that. It's one of the most useful plants in human history, but we can't have it. Why? Because it can be used as an intoxicant. Great. So can alcohol, and that's (rightfully) legal. If you don't want to get high, don't smoke pot. I sure don't, and somehow I manage to keep my blood pressure down when confronted with the fact that some people are getting stoned. Driving while high, you say? Driving recklessly and/or under the influence is already a crime.
The issue is pleasure. For some damn reason, we have a problem with pleasure in this country. You can take synthetic cannabinoids in the form of marinol for your chemo-induced nausea, but we'll toss your sick ass in the hoosgow if you eat a pot brownie. Simply because the brownie might give you a slightly euphoric feeling to go with your relief, it's verboten. This is just stupid.
Well at least in this election year we've got an historical opportunity to cast our votes and make a clear choice between the morally and legally backward status quo and...erm...a slight improvement over the morally and legally backward status quo.
*SIGH* Baby steps, I guess...

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

50 CC's of 20th century history, stat!!!

Wow. This is just a remarkably knuckle-headed move in Hong Kong.
Cheng added that the designer wanted the clothes to have a military theme and did not realise that the Nazi symbols would be considered offensive
Right, of course. It's an honest mistake that anyone who's never been exposed to the written word, televison, or movies could make.
Fashion folk, kids. Avert your eyes. They just aren't like you and me...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Poetitics? Poloetry?

Eugene Volokh posted this Kipling poem a while back. Seems mighty timely in light of all the hostage taking going on in the world:

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night -- we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!"

Volokh disparaged the poem's quality, but it's right up my alley. It's simple, expository, about international politics, and it rhymes. Sounds like a winner to me.

Monday, August 23, 2004

I always knew I was sharp...

...I just didn't know why. Until now.

"The results showed that eyewitness accounts of people in a negative mood are more likely to be accurate compared to those in a positive mood state," says Professor Forgas.
"It shows that our recollection of past events are more likely to be contaminated by irrelevant information when we are in a positive mood. A positive mood is likely to trigger less careful thinking strategies."

Damn straight, you sonuvamotherlovin@#^@%&*!*#@&!!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Ahhh, Enlightenment...

It turns out that, contrary to popular belief, one cannot squeeze the autism out of children.
Sweet Jesus! What century is this?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

For the love of god...

Big thanks to GQ for their hardhitting interview with John Kerry, in which they reveal what he looks for in a woman and his favorite actresses. I'm just going from Drudge's little excerpt, so it's possible they asked him similar questions about what he looks for in a circuit court judge or an Attorney General, but I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Bill O'reilly: Calm and Sensible

No, I can't believe I just typed that either. But in a column in the New York Daily News today, he is just that. He's writing about the John Kerry swiftboat hoo-ha, and essentially dismisses the whole thing as a distraction.
"The lesson here is that blind partisanship is not an attribute. No person or candidate is all good or all bad. In America today, with both sides peddling lies and defamation and spin, it is alarmingly difficult just to get simple facts on which to base a responsible vote."
If even a blowhard like O'Reilly can see that this is ridiculous, then we really do need to move on.

27 years...

Today is the 27th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death . Shed a tear, shake a hip, eat a pile of fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Inane, worthless, and distracting...

Instapundit is in the midst of an all-out blogasm over the Kerry-Christmas in Cambodia flap. How, precisely, is this relevant? For that matter, how is George Bush's service (or lack thereof) in the Alabama National Guard relevant? For that matter, how are John and Theresa Heinz-Kerry's sleeping arrangements relevant? Or George Bush's vacation schedule?
Are we, as a polity, completely retarded? Unless I missed the memo, both candidates have yet to fully flesh out and present their visions for the next four years on a whole range of issues. Policy toward Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Sudan, and about 180 other countries, immigration policy, enforcement of drug laws, and specific numbers on types and levels of agricultural subsidies all have yet to be laid out satisfactorily in this campaign. And the media (both old and *NEW! BLOGGERIFIC!!!*) are on about details from 1968? Are you kidding?
Matt Welch, seems to have it right on this whole lame business.
"What I don't understand is how anyone professes to truly give a flip about what John Kerry and George Bush did 32 or 36 years ago...(i)s this what you're basing your vote on this November? Really? Whatever happened to the New Seriousness after Sept. 11?"
Indeed, as they say.

And, I do realize that the Kerry camp largely brought this up themselves with the constant harping on his medals. But why rise to the bait? A collective refusal to be swayed by these inanities would get both campaigns back onto substantive issues (or onto them in the first place, as the case may be) right quick.
I know, I know; I can dream, though, can't I?

Good for them...

The Iraqi Olympic soccer team beat the Portugese team in a preliminary match today, further illustrating the superiority of rigorous athletic training over severe beatings as means to sporting excellence.

Anything but unexpected...

Well, this was inevitable and expected. And I think the court did the right thing. I wholly support the rights of same-sex couples to marry (and yes, I mean marry, not unite civilly or whatever...), but the court exists to keep officials in their proper roles, and rein in overreaching. I was quite proud of Mayor Newsom's boldness in bringing the issue of equal rights before the public in such a dramatic fashion. But I understood, even as I wiped my misty eyes watching the ceremonies on the news, that he had overstepped his mayoral prerogatives. Had this been allowed to stand, it would have set a precedent that many of the people who are so upset at todays ruling would have sorely regretted. Many are the "progressives" in San Francisco who would flip their wigs if the Mayor used a similar move to, say, make housing policy. They'd stage a vomit in on the steps of city hall. Here's hoping we can find a way to both grant full equality to all citizens and maintain the checks and balances that make the system function.