Saturday, May 12, 2007

I've signed up to be a founding delegate. You can, too. Check it out!
Y'know, to represent the Non Rapturists............and stuff. =^..^=

He Just Doesn't Get It....

...and therefore will lose the GOP nomination:
On Friday, Giuliani restated his personal opposition to abortion but support of a woman's right to choose.

"It's a difficult issue," he said.

He sought to defuse the potent subject that could harm his chances of winning over primary voters who tend to be more conservative, saying Republicans risk losing the White House if they allow themselves to be divided.

"If we don't find a way of unifying around broad principles ... we're going to lose this election," Giuliani said.
Well, he gets that much of it, to be sure: abortion is not the biggest issue in this campaign and any candidate the GOP elects based on a stance on this issue is sure to be heavily hampered, because abortion is so low in the hierarchy of concerns of the average voter, after the invasion in Iraq and the shaky economy, that it's not even pulling double digits in polls.

But here's the bit he doesn't get:
And he called for more respect between people who have good-faith disagreements about issues.

"Those principles come from God, and that's why we're so lucky," he said.
Rudy, according to these people whose support you so desperately seek, abortion = murder. Period.

There is no middle ground, no God-given right for a "baby" to be "killed," and God (the father) is very clear on this point: an eye for an eye. If you murder, God will see to it that you are murdered, and He will use whatever instrument of destruction He can. It is these passages of the Old Testament that the Religious Right take comfort in whenever an abortion clinic is bombed.

My suspicion as to why Rudy hasn't full-throatedly abandoned a woman's right to choose, the way Mitt Romney did, probably stems from an ugly skeleton in his closet. I have no other evidence of this, of course, but my guess is, somewhere deep in his past is a trip to a doctor with a woman to quietly "take care of a condition."

Rudy, you see, doesn't exactly have the best track record for fidelity, and I'd wager at least once, his peccadillo has backfired on him. If he were to fully abandon a woman's right to choose, even to pay lip service to overturning Roe v Wade, there's a woman with a doctor's bill poised to strike.

I say this, because Rudy's never been one to mince words or straddle a fence, even if he felt it might cost him a few votes. He's always relied on his "strength" (which apres W could be read to mean single-minded determination to fuck things up) to carry along people who might disagree with his positions on a minority of issues, trusting that his pigheadedness and "limousine redneck" stances on other issues will win the day.

One more thing: Rudy's trotted out a cutesy little turn of phrase to explain away his flip flop on abortion:
"I disagree with myself sometimes, and I change my mind sometimes," Giuliani said to laughter as he addressed a largely anti-abortion audience at Houston Baptist University.
Sound familiar?
Kerry: I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.
Somewhere, there's a DNC ad writer furiously playing with Rudy's quote.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Music Blogging

The Thompson Twins - Hold Me Now

Yet another video I really ought to many times in my life have I wanted to sing this to someone...

Friday Kitten Blogging

iiii'm 2 sssssexay for my bed

Subtraction By Addition

Chess is a game played best by conserving your resources while making your opponent waste his. Positional strategy forcing unexpected errors and moves while protecting your more vital pieces as needed.

A whiff of this strategy has begun to rise off the Democratic Iraq funding strategy:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives defied President George W. Bush on Thursday and passed an Iraq war funds bill providing only enough money to continue combat for two or three months, without a guarantee of future funding.

By a vote of 221-205, the House approved the Democratic-backed bill giving Bush $42.8 billion in emergency military funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But in a Democratic drive to bring the four-year-old Iraq war to an end, the bill would withhold an additional $52.8 billion until late July, after Bush submits progress reports. Lawmakers then would decide whether to use this second batch of money to continue combat, or bring U.S. troops home.

Bush wants the nearly $100 billion up front and without conditions. "I'll veto the bill if it's this haphazard, piecemeal funding," Bush said earlier in the day.
What does this really mean?

Bush has already vetoed one Iraq spending bill that would have given him all the money he asked for and more, but tied that money to accepting a withdrawal strategy for our troops.

This bill gives Bush all the funding he's asked for over the period he asked for it, but limits his spending to a time frame, pending confirmation that the funds are being used productively. Let's call it an "allowance," for lack of a better term.

This strikes me as an interesting strategy: by pushing Bush's hand to the pieces they want him to move, the Democrats are setting a trap, I think. Ultimately, by September, no more than transitional stop-gap spending measures will have been passed (forcing Bush to fight this war à la carte, while leaving him few options to pursue the endgame he would prefer: a clean spending bill that he would only have to revisit late in an election year (thus neatly giving the Republican candidate a platform to campaign on that would sustain Bush's "legacy" while giving that candidate the option to let the war die after being sworn in or worse, allowing Bush to claim victory, and pass the mantle on).

When the Democrats won both houses of Congress in 2006, I assumed that the Bush strategy would be to run out the clock on his administration, but I didn't take into account the funding (or for that matter, rescinding the original war authorization).

Shows you why I'm running for NotPresident...and not President!

We're rounding into the summer now, and so I don't expect there will be much accomplished aside from funding the Iraq war, finally, on whatever terms the Dems can persuade the Republicans in Congress to accept on a veto-proof basis, but it's clear the Democrats are not just going to roll over, afraid of a veto-mad tinpot despot.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What's Good For The Goose...

This item was in the paper this morning:
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Rudolph Giuliani said yesterday that his differences with the Catholic Church over his support for abortion rights are between him, God and his spiritual adviser, not Pope Benedict XVI - seeking to avoid a head-on confrontation with the pontiff over the issue that has bedeviled Giuliani's campaign.

The pope took a hard line against Catholic politicians who vote in favor of abortion rights, saying Mexican lawmakers who did so lost the right to Communion and may have even excommunicated themselves.
Curious. In 2004, you might have made note of this?
Los Angeles, Oct. 18, 2004 ( - A consultant to the Vatican has said Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has incurred the penalty of excommunication from the Catholic Church.

The consultant made his statement in a highly unusual letter to Marc Balestrieri, a Los Angeles canon lawyer who formally sued John Kerry in ecclesiastical court for heresy.

Balestrieri, who launched his case earlier this year by filing a heresy complaint in Kerry's home archdiocese of Boston, told EWTN's "World Over" program on Friday that he had received an unusual, indirect communication from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the pro-abortion stance.

That communication provides a basis, he said, to declare that any Catholic politician who says he is "personally opposed to abortion, but supports a woman's right to choose," incurs automatic excommunication. It also provided a basis for Balestrieri to broaden his canonical actions and file additional complaints against four more pro-abortion Catholic politicians: Democrat Senators Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Tom Harkin of Iowa; Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine; and former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, a Democrat.
Now, in fairness to the Vatican, it denies that it ever responded to Balestrieri (and you never heard the follow up, because Karl Rove got what he wanted: "Kerry" and "excommunication" in the same story).

The fact that the Vatican assigned a priest to explain church doctrine at all frightens me, since it means (as is demonstrated by the Mexican case cited) that the Pope feels it is appropriate to engage himself in world politics.

Popes, of course, have done this throughout history. Popes, in point of fact, have often been at the very heart of secular politics throughout history, attempting to fashion monarchies and empires to their tastes.

That was a long time ago, however, and in a day and age when democracy and democratic ideals trump centralized rule, you'd think a Pope would keep his mouth shut and focus on healing souls.

Apparently not.

And is there a double standard being applied to Rudy Giuliani? Despite not being excommunicated, Kerry was refused communion by several Catholic archdioceses and priests, but found some who would commune with him, thus sidestepping an uncomfortable photo op of kneeling in a church and being passed over.

Yet, Rudy has been at least as outspoken, if not more so, than Kerry about his support for choice. Why no outcry from William Donohue of the Catholic League? Or Cardinal Egan of NYC? Why have no priests stepped forward to enforce Vatican doctrine?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

A little sacreligion never hurt anyone...

Who Would Have Believed?

It's been a year and a half since the Katrina and Rita disasters of 2005. In both instances, relief efforts were hampered greatly by reduced National Guard forces in the affected states.

So here we are, Spring of 2007, and guess what? We still have a large chunk of forces in Iraq and worse, we have equipment that is being destroyed on a daily basis there that really ought to be in barns and armories here:
OVERLAND PARK, Kansas (Reuters) - Critics of the Iraq war said on Tuesday the Bush administration's failure to replenish vital National Guard equipment sent to Iraq caused Kansas to fall short in responding to last week's tornado disaster, and other states were equally vulnerable.

The White House and the Pentagon rebuffed the criticism, saying Kansas and other states had adequate resources that they could share in event of disasters like the Kansas tornado that leveled one small town on Friday and killed 10 in the area.

The debate was ignited by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, who said on Monday the federal government had failed to replace state National Guard equipment deployed to Iraq and the lack of equipment was hindering rescue and recovery efforts after a weekend of violent weather in the Midwestern state.
"Adequate resources" sounds like a misnomer, and also suggests that Gov. Sebelius has been deliberately underutilizing the resources at hand to make a political point. Currently, Kansas has available about forty percent of the hardware its National Guard needs to be effective domestically.

Estimates for National Guard material resources being used in Iraq that will need to be replaced hover just under $50 billion dollars, with an estimated four-year time frame to replace all that equipment. Sure, it's possible that the next four years will be free of any major disasters that would require, say, bulldozers, front loaders, backhoes and trucks.

Just like it's also possible that monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Kansas is a curious political duck. While it tends to vote "red" and is in fact, the reddest of red states based on election results, it does have a Democratic governor and has shown a tendency for "bluer" results creeping from the Missouri River valley inward, possibly as a result of the proximity of Kansas City, MO, right across the river and an influx of immigrants.

That Sebelius has been successfully able to make this complaint and that this complaint seems to be sticking, does not bode well for Kansas' continued support for the invasion of Iraq, or Senators Sam Brownback, Presidential hopeful, and Pat Roberts, both of whom have given full-throated support to the invasion.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fighting Them There...

So we don't have to fight them here?:
NEW YORK -- Six men from New Jersey have been arrested in an alleged terror plot against soldiers at Fort Dix, according investigators.

Investigators said the men planned to use automatic weapons to enter Fort Dix and kill as many soldiers as they could at the N.J. base. Fort Dix was just one of several military and security locations allegedly scouted by this group, authorities said.

Investigators told Newschannel 4's Jonathan Dienst that these arrests are the result of a tip to the FBI and use of an informant to track the suspects. The terror suspects traveled over the last several months from New Jersey to the Poconos where they practiced firing automatic weapons, investigators said.
OK, a couple of points here.

1) These men were not Middle Eastern. They are Albanians and "citizens of the former Yugoslavia". You might remember this last group as people that we fought for, to prevent ethnic cleansing under the Clinton administration.

2) No specific threat beyond identifying which target they would attempt to hit had been received. They did train on automatic weapons in the woods of Pennsylvania, but hey, this is America, land of the gun.

3) These men are resident aliens of the United States, and while born in eastern Europe, have spent most of their lives here in America.

4) There was no apparent funding from overseas. These men were pooling their life savings together to commit this heinous act.

So what are we looking at here? We're looking at American residents so frustrated and so angry at the war being waged against people who share a religion with them that they are willing to forget all the goodwill we built up during the Kosovo campaign and target fellow Americans. We're looking at people who aren't "brownskinned," who could easily pass into any facility in America without so much as a second glance for racial profiling.

We're looking, in other words, at home-grown terrorism. Which is the folly of the "Flypaper Theory" in combatting terrorism and terrorists. And we're not looking at Al Qaeda. We're staring the anger that the Bush administration has created right square in the eye.

And that ought to scare us beyond the mouthed platitudes of Osama bin Laden or Ayman Al Zawahiri. And George W. Bush and the right wing pundits who still support his insanity.

Monday, May 07, 2007

"Poll-ez" Vous, Francaise?

There's an interesting dynamic coming out of the French election yesterday, one that bears a bit of analysis. First, it's pretty clear that France has become as polarized a nation as the United States, and possibly even more so:
PARIS (Reuters) - Hundreds of people were arrested in France overnight in clashes between police and protesters who torched cars following conservative Nicolas Sarkozy's victory in Sunday's presidential election, police said.

Official figures released early on Monday said demonstrators set fire to 367 cars and injured 28 policemen across France, and 270 people were arrested in the violent protests against the tough-talking former interior minister.

Reports and eyewitness accounts suggested the violence was worse than the official statistics indicated because they did not include other incidents such as petrol bomb attacks on buses near Paris or smashed up shop fronts in large cities.
Sarkozy is widely seen to be a fairly conservative French politician, which has American conservatives crowing (I guess they have to take comfort wherever they can these days), and for France, I guess he is conservative, but I'd gladly trade some of the problems he's looking to fix for some of what laughingly gets referred to as labor issues here.

The French work week is 35 hours. Overtime is heavily taxed at both the corporate and personal level, discouraging folks from working longer and encouraging more employment. Sarkozy aims to curb unemployment while eliminating the taxes on overtime.

Good luck with that. Then there's the unions to deal with. Many are pretty militant, most are anti-hardline, so Sarkozy will have strike after strike after strike to deal with if he tries to break the unions.

Meaning, effectively, he's about as "far right" in France as outgoing President Jacques Chirac. And we've seen over the past six years what "far right" means to Frenchmen.

American conservatives believe Sarkozy will be different because he has expressed a fondness for President Bush, but so did Angela Merkel of Germany, and all that came out of that was some silly photo-ops and a quick submersion of their relationship to lower echelon discussions. So let 'em "rah rah cheerlead" on this count: Bush will find a way to fuck it up, as well, possibly by making some inane comment about French fries...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Portrait Of Patriarchy

I stumbled across this article this morning, and while many of its conclusions are obvious, the questions it raises are not:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni recently suggested Ehud Olmert should step aside and let her be prime minister, nobody batted an eye over the fact she is a woman.Golda Meir laid that debate to rest in Israel nearly 40 years ago.

Britain had Margaret Thatcher, Pakistan had Benazir Bhutto and India had Indira Gandhi. Women hold high office in a dozen countries around the world, in Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America, from Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines.

So why has the United States, where Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, never elected a woman to the White House?
The answer is not particularly surprising, except...
"The rules of the game are set up to the advantage of the dominant majority bloc, which is not just Democrat or Republican but is wealthy white males," said Andrew Reynolds, a professor at the University of North Carolina.
Um. Hm. Thatcher? If there was ever a nation that was predominated by rich old white guys, England would be that country...
Women have tended to have two main pathways to high office, he said. The first is dynastic, which has been the route in developing countries for many women, like Gandhi and Bhutto, who were daughters of prime ministers.

The second pathway is seen in wealthier democracies, where more women pursue careers and political positions that act as a springboard to higher office.
So what does that mean? Hillary, even before she was First Lady, was a highly visible figure in the world of women's rights and family issues. Continuing...
"You get more and more women in parliament and then you get more and more women in the Cabinet, and then you sort of have this critical mass where it becomes no longer surprising that a woman makes it into being president or prime minister," Reynolds said.

The United States is on the latter track but lags many of its European counterparts. Only 16 percent of lawmakers in the U.S. Congress are women. Compared to countries of similar wealth, one would expect 30 to 50 percent, Reynolds said.

There is an inherent structural block to women advancing in politics. We have a two party system, which is unusual in most countries. Again, England being that rare exception, save for the fact that there are minor parties that align themselves with either Tory or Labour, much like the Liberal and Conservative parties here align themselves with Democrats or Republicans. Too, England has had a queen for some 60-odd years now, so a highly visible women playing politics couldn't have hurt Thatcher's chances much.

More choices means more opportunities, obviously. One of the biggest problems this nation faces, in my view, is the duality of points of view on issues. In an attempt to throttle, out of paranoia, any dissident political faction from gaining momentum, the two major political parties went out of their way to roadblock smaller parties from the fray. Duverger's Law goes a long way to explaining how this works: the structure of elections in this country being what they are, a one-off, one-shot, winner-takes-all deal, tends to reinforce those parties that can muster financial resources for electoral success. If you don't win often enough, your party dies.

In fact, this just recently happened to the Liberal Party in New York State, having been de-listed from ballots for failing to even garner the minimum number of votes required to remain on, in part due to the rise of the Green, and Working Families Parties.

Which raises the other issue of the two-party system that Duverger points out: successful third parties will only supplant one of the dominant two parties, not supplement them.

Two-party systems tend to aggregate factions that would otherwise represent dominant single-issue parties, like pro-lifers or anti-warriors, because the attraction of wielding actual political power is too great to overcome, much like a black hole will suck up debris in its outlying solar system. This tends to quash dissent and radical solutions to problems.

And ultimately, every so often, it results in a spectacular supernova of political infighting, much like the Democrats underwent in the late 70s and 80s, and much like the Republicans are about to undergo (Carl's Political Theorem #1: Republicans run about 30 years behind Democrats in terms of evolution.).

It is due to this factor, above all, that women haven't been as successful in politics as you might expect them to be, because once you add to the dinosauric inertia of a huge political animal the gender factor, you can see that even in a allegedly progressive party like the Democrats, women are going to have a really tough time cracking the old boys' network.

Why do I say that? If a woman could run a successful third party candidacy for any major political office, say governor of California, she would be wooed and courted by both major parties, and shepherded to the front of the room, much like Barack Obama has parlayed his lone Senate win into a serious run at the Democratic nomination. In other words, if a woman could sidestep the party mechanics and prove she could win on her own, she'd be gold for the party that managed to land her.

Why would she agree to do this? Simple. Independent candidates who win major administrative (not legislative) offices tend to perform miserably. Just ask Jesse Ventura.

Legislators, like Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, ultimately align themselves with a party caucus (in these cases, Democratic). This way, they can get things done.

Independents who administer government, say a governor or mayor, have to deal with both parties equally, and will be trusted by neither, until he or she chooses sides.

As you can see, the political gravity of the two party system even influences winning candidates. This factor, the two-party system, raises for the me the largest flag that women have had to work harder in the US than anyplace else to get ahead in politics.

The good news? I think we will see a woman President before too much longer. And once that happens, I suspect it won't be long before we see an African-American, Latino, and Jewish president (maybe all at once? :-) )