Saturday, February 09, 2008

Oh Brother!

There are some implications in this article that are troubling. I'll get into it after the quote:
Mr. Obama’s admissions are rare for a politician (his book, “Dreams From My Father,” was written before he ran for office.) They briefly became a campaign issue in December when an adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s chief Democratic rival, suggested that his history with drugs would make him vulnerable to Republican attacks if he became his party’s nominee.

Mr. Obama, of Illinois, has never quantified his illicit drug use or provided many details. He wrote about his two years at Occidental, a predominantly white liberal arts college, as a gradual but profound awakening from a slumber of indifference that gave rise to his activism there and his fears that drugs could lead him to addiction or apathy, as they had for many other black men.

Mr. Obama’s account of his younger self and drugs, though, significantly differs from the recollections of others who do not recall his drug use. That could suggest he was so private about his usage that few people were aware of it, that the memories of those who knew him decades ago are fuzzy or rosier out of a desire to protect him, or that he added some writerly touches in his memoir to make the challenges he overcame seem more dramatic.
That last bit is the part that concerns me most.

The GOP would have a field day with this, if indeed it turned out he embellished his "misspent youth". Remember the 2000 campaign and how Al Gore "said he invented the Internet"? He never said it, but I'd bet if you asked people about it, they'd say "Yea, he lied about that."

Or "Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal's problems", when in fact he merely held some hearings where that story came out. Or how Al...well, you get the picture.

Then Gore proceeded to run one of the dumbest campaigns in history and still managed to win the election, if not the office.

It's bad enough that Obama decided to confess to drug use as a kid, and I'm not talking about smoking pot. That's going to be ample enough ammunition in the general election, and may yet play a role in the primaries (this story came out now for a reason, I suspect): people in the heartland don't like cocaine and don't cotton to cocaine users. He'll have some work to do to mend minds there.

But if it turns out that he was embellishing his drug use for some bizarre "street cred" or to make his tough life seem more Lincolnian and less middle class, well, then that was just stupid and is going to hurt him in ways he can't possibly have foreseen. He didn't need to do it. I think we can all imagine what life for an interracial kid growing up without his father might have been like in the 70s and 80s. We get it, and why he might have experimented with drugs.

People will forgive bad decisions made as a teen. People don't forgive bad judgement when you're in your forties. You're supposed to know better, particularly if you are running for office.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Music Blogging

Box Car Racer - I Feel So

BCR is roughly half of Blink182

Guess that would make them Wink91...

Friday Kitten Blogging

Hallo down dere, mah peopz!

Blogging Forecast

Clear early today, flurries in the late afternoon.

I have to meet with a plastic surgeon for a consultation in case, you know, they have to take my nose.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Medical Update

Well, there's another blemish that's being biopsied as we speak. Turns out, I may need reconstructive surgery once the dust settles.

I've asked Team Actor212 to give me Heath Ledger's nose. After all, he's not using it anymore...

My Response To Barack Obama

Goddam YouTube...must be on Obama's payroll...

A master baiter responds to a master manipulator

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

President Hillary

Barack Obama just set another nail in his coffin

You can do a lot of things. The one thing you cannot do is criticize the only two term Democratic president of the last sixty years in this fashion. People in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the Big Dog is genuinely liked, won't like it and won't stand for it.

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

With the field for the Democratic presidential nomination narrowed to Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, racists and sexists are finding themselves in a quandary over which candidate to support, prominent racists and sexists confirmed today.

Across the U.S., voters who describe themselves as both racist and sexist complain that the two-person field, while touted by the media as history-making, is forcing them to ask a difficult question: which group do they hate more?

“I’ve always seen myself as pretty balanced, racist and sexist-wise,” said Herb Torlinson, a hardware salesman from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. “But I guess this is going to be an election that really puts my different hates to the test.”

Mr. Torlinson also chastised the media for celebrating the historic nature of the Democratic field: “Anyone who’s happy about these two choices can’t call himself a racist or a sexist.”

At the Clapboard Corner CafĂ© in Youngstown, Ohio, a group of sexist bigots who gather for breakfast once a week echoed Mr. Torlinson’s sentiments.

“I actually cried when John Edwards dropped out of the race,” said David Colehurn, a disgruntled hater who works at a nearby Kinko’s. “I can’t believe that we don’t have a regular person to vote for this year.”

Mr. Colehurn said that his virulent racism and sexism were causing him to entertain thoughts of voting for a Republican, but added that he was “turned off” by Arizona Sen. John McCain: “I hate old people.”

Elsewhere, after a new study revealed that cannabis causes gum disease, singer Amy Winehouse said, “That’s why I’m sticking with crack.”

(courtesy The Borowitz Report)

Lead Zeppellin Wednesday

So many overhyped and overinflated races yesterday. Some interesting developments came out of them, however:

1) First off, Mitt Romney pulled in 90% of the vote in his "home" state of Utah. Never before in the history of the primaries has a candidate from either party polled so high. It's a testament to two things: Mormons stick together, and there's a lot of inbreeding going on.

2) For the Democrats, the only real surprise of the evening was the margin of popular vote victory in Massachussetts for Hillary Clinton, who basically became the anti-establishment candidate in a state notorious for going against the establishment. When your opponent is endorsed by both Senators Kerry and Kennedy, and the governor, Deval Patrick (who happens to be black), and all you can ante up is an endorsement by Robert Kennedy Jr., you can almost guarantee yourself a win, it seems.

3) Every poll that had Obama closing in on Clinton in California was dead wrong, as I pointed out a few days ago.

4) Anybody who believed Mike Huckabee wouldn't win West Virginia has obviously never been there. I haven't, but I've been in the deep woods of western Virginia. Trust me, Huckabee would have won if he had been exposed as gay on Monday, they love their preachers there that much.

5) Georgia was a mild surprise: I thought the coast and Atlanta would give McCain more of a push, but in a quirky fluke, Romney may have siphoned off votes from McCain.

6) By the way, almost none of this is final as there are still two million absentee ballots nationwide to count. This is New Mexico is still in play.

7) Speaking of New Mexico, it's interesting that Bill Richardson didn't make an endorsement ahead of the primary there. If he was angling for the Veep spot, I think he's pulled a Mario Cuomo here and out-cuted his chances.

8) We can finally point out that Obama carried a state with a majority of the white vote. Several now, but one big knock against him in anticipation of the general election was his marginalized white support.

9) There's a large "but" there. Obama is still having trouble with white rural and suburban voters and those might go towards a McCain candidacy. He does well in counties where there are universities, and in urban areas. You might not think this is a bad thing, but intellect is not high on the list of values of poor and working class white voters. They like smart, but not necessarily book smart. New York, for example, which is actually "redder" in the Southern Tier than even Alabama, Obama took just one county, Tompkins (the home of Cornell University), and that by only a couple hundred votes out of twelve thousand.

10) March 4 is Texas and Ohio, lest you thought the days of big delegate prizes was over. Clinton should easily win Texas, probably more easily than California. Ohio, as always, will be a battleground state. I anticipate a Clinton win, but I'm not holding my breath there.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bush's Final Budget

Bush's Final Budget. Sorry for repeating myself, but that sounded so delectable...

OK, so here it is: Bush's budget proposal for this final year of his circus administration:
President Bush’s final budget, a $3 trillion plan offered Monday that would continue his tax cuts and sharply reduce domestic spending, has little chance of surviving in a Democratic Congress. But the problems it lays out will survive and grow, presenting tough choices for the next administration.

How, for example, will the next president rein in the cost of retirement and health programs? What will he or she do about tax increases on Americans when Mr. Bush’s tax cuts expire at the end of 2010, or when the alternative minimum tax propels millions of taxpayers into higher brackets each year?

Beyond these familiar traps, how will a Republican president pay for further promised tax cuts or a Democratic president pay for a sweeping health care overhaul without increasing the red ink left by Mr. Bush?

Three trillion. By his own estimates, Bush projects a $470 billion deficit, which is higher than anything recorded previously, and that's before Iraq invasion spending!

This is a serious constraint that the next President will have to deal with. Even tho spending for the Iraq invasion is off-budget, so not reflected here, ending the invasion as soon as possible becomes imperative, because many of the incidental costs of that conflict are reflected in the departmental budget requests of agencies and cabinet offices as diverse as the Pentagon right down to the Department of the Interior (National Guardsmen have to be reimbursed from *somewhere* when they respond to disasters).

Fortunately, it's not as bad as Bush's budget paints. Bush has long had a reputation for being Chicken Little (if not just plain chicken) about a lot of things, trying to literally scare up support for dicey propositions and bizarre programs that conflict directly with national security, much less any rational modality of governance.

Discretionary spending, that is, non-military and non-mandated spending (which excludes Social Security) is less than three percent of the budget, which means we can't cut the education, welfare, and public works budgets any tighter than we already have. That means one of two places for the money to come from: Social Security or defense.

Assuming Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama end up president, you tell me: which gets slashed?

If you said defense, that's the right answer. And wrong answer. Wrong answer, since I have an idea that might help refresh the military, offer opportunity to working class Americans, and right a faltering economy before it's too late.

A few days ago, I off-handedly proposed as part of my NotPresident noncampaign, a real stimulus package that would help the American economy while de-militarizing our presence in the Middle East. In that package, I mentioned that we could take the savings from the Iraq invasion forces and put them to use here at home, rebuilding and mending and upgrading the infrastructure in America.

I have an additional thought: energy independence. Yesterday, as a one-off, I said that a good idea for creating a new economy based on renewable energy would be to offer a billion dollar prize.

Guess what institution would be offering that prize? If you guessed the Pentagon, you'd be right. Why the Pentagon? Why not the DoEnergy?

Accountability, for one thing: the Pentagon regularly handles budgets of this size and has in place a responsibility infrastructure that would have to be built into the Department of Energy.

More important, tho, is that the first applications of renewable energy in the real world would be defense-related, so we might as well let them perfect the technology before awarding the prize. After all, is there a better testing ground for the efficiencies of scale, redundancies and safeguards than in the chaos of even test battlefields?

I doubt it.

By combining the energy prize (maybe I'd call it the Gore Award) with the defense budget, we'd pretty much ensure that no Republican might come along to gut the budget for it. The Joint Chiefs of Staff would welcome the job security, and the companies who would be applying for the competition could remain assured that politic donations and lobbying would have nearly zero influence on the outcome.

And we'd be beating plowshares into swords.

Would this solve our immediate economic problems? Probably not, but it might and it would ensure that $100 a barrel increases in the price oil would never trouble us again. People would have jobs, and those jobs would carry over to the new renewable energy companies that would spring up as this technology is leased for components, software, and engineering into new products.

Too, we'd create a viable, if not thriving, economy of companies that would be greening the infrastructure that the current energy economy has in place: reforesting mountaintop removal coal mines, cleaning up crude refinery sites, finding new uses for natural gas pipelines, and such like that.

Budget deficits represent challenges, but they also represent opportunities to change wasteful and irrational ways of the past, ways that have failed us now, and to move in a direction that makes sense for us and our children and grandchildren.

And we would hardly have to tinker with tax rates, and we'd take tax cuts off the table for decades.

Lighting The Vote-ve Candle

Well, I've done my civic duty this morning, and a couple of observations came up.

Here in NYC, the turnout is already heavy. Polls opened at 6AM, as usual. When I vote (and I do, religiously), I am usually there a little after seven.

In a general election, I might be voter number 4 in my election district. In primaries, even in Presidential primaries, I'm usually the second voter.

Today, I was number 11! There's going to be a massive vote from the city, which may or may not favor Obama (my district is pretty white, but it's also got a lot of artists, so exit polling would be skewed).

The weather is not as bad as many feared, which means voting shouldn't be impacted much, but then again, neither should the ticker-tape parade for the Giants, which will likely empty out Westchester & Rockland counties, as well as much of Jersey, and possibly affect the Republican vote more than the Democratic vote.

There were few electioneers on the streets, which usually happens in national elections here: by the time NY votes, the candidate has been all but nominated. I did see some Obama supporters and a few Clinton signs up.

And one honkin' big Ron Paul poster.

Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards remain on the ballot, as do Chris Dodd and Joe Biden.

You have a pretty good idea who I voted for, but I can go to bed early tonight knowing that no matter which of the remaining Democrats is declared the winner, we'll have made a solid choice for President.

I repeat my endorsement of Hillary Clinton here:

I've put this off long enough, even though in truth, I don't have to do this until the New York primary. Since that gets lost in the flurry of Super Tuesday endorsements, I figured I may as well stake my claim now.

I've spent the entire past year on the fence about whom to support for the Democratic presidential nomination. I had my list narrowed down to three people: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and then, Barack Obama.

Edwards I discounted quickly, when his lack of character and toughness was on display for all to see with the whole "Catholic League/Bloggers" debacle. If he couldn't either shit or get off the pot..."Oooh, I don't want to arouse my base against me! Oooh, I don't want to take on the big, mean Catholic League!"...on that ridiculously inconsequential issue; if that's his idea of leadership, then he was the wrong choice. And that was just one issue: his flipflopping apology for the Iraq war vote smelled too calculated, and then there was the whole heartstring tug of Elizabeth's cancer, and running or not running.

Some will say that Marcotte and McEwan resigned of their own accord. That may be true, but I'd be willing to bet if Edwards had personally sat down with them and assured them that he'd take the heat (and that message was reinforced across the board), they'd still be blogging for Edwards today.

In truth, Edwards was on the list more as a hat-tip to the fact I voted for him in 2004 than anything he's done since.

Which left Obama and Clinton.

I admire both of them for different reasons, and none of those reasons have anything to do with the monumental courage each showed by just tossing a chapeau in the ring.

Barack Obama speaks to me of a new generation, a generation of ideals and idealists, unafraid to talk about issues despite the fact that he might actually have to take a stand on them. I like that. It appeals to the rabble-rouser in me. Even in his gaffes, he seems to have at least thought about what he leaves unsaid (as when he shorthanded his answer about meeting with Ahmadinejad, Castro, and Chavez).

Hillary Clinton just knows so damned much and seems to have an answer for every question thrown at her: not only are her answers detailed, they're usually light years ahead of anything anyone else throws out there. Many of her contenders' answers sound more like "And then, at this point, we pray it all works out".

There is no perfect candidate in this race, to be sure, and so this isn't a choice between the more perfect of two people.

Neither is it a choice between the lesser of two evils as even some on the left have tried to paint a vote for Hillary as a vote for evil.

Without disclosing too much, I've known of Hillary since her days working with Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund, with whom I've had some indirect contact. No less a conservative than Marty Peretz (nominally a liberal (LINO?), believe it or not) has called Edelman "Hillary's closest sister and ideological soul mate."

Which is why I find all the negativity from the left about Hillary so amusing and confounding. And why I also find the love-fest for Barack so intriguing.

After all, a careful examination of their voting records and public statements about Iraq show they agree on about 90-95% of the issues. And yet, Hillary's a DINO while Barack is a liberal love child.

I ain't buying that. It's easy to say "I would not have voted for the Iraq war authorization" and seem to mean it. It's another thing to skip the vote on the "Iranian war authorization" (not even officially, just a "sense of the Senate" vote), then to chide others for having voted for it, particularly when you've voted for every single Iraq war funding bill that you've been able to.

Ironically, the candidate who's being touted as "change" is not.

In eight years in the Senate, Hillary has shown an unique capacity to enlist the help of people of all stripes. No one who serves with her has too many unkind things to say about her. That could be useful in a Presidency that, for the first term at least, is going to be about cleaning up the messes..."Mom."

On the other hand, it does leave her open to charges of being too conservative, ironically the same charges leveled against her husband prior to his election, and look at what happened in those eight years: the greatest economic boom this nation, the world, had ever seen, without resorting to full scale war, and eight years of protection from terror attacks on our soil.

I say, "ironically," because Hillary was viewed in many corners as a bulwark of liberal thought in the Clinton administration and cabinet.

Barack Obama has demonstrated that he's not a man of character to me, despite his outward image. His actions speak volumes. With Hillary Clinton, we know what we're getting, and guess what? It's not a whole lot different than we'd get with Obama, but at least she's unfraid of her decisions.

Hillary Clinton should be the Democratic nominee for President. She has my vote.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Bowl Thoughts

I don't normally watch football.

If I want to see a bunch of sweaty men groping each other, interrupted by an authoritarian figure lecturing the audience on some illegal activity, only to watch said immorality over and over again, I'd turn on the Republican Senate caucuses on C-Span.

That said, I did tune in the fourth quarter of last night's Super Bowl after hearing on the car radio how close the game was.

Pretty exciting stuff, I must admit. The catch by David Tyree in the final scoring drive will likely go down in history with such plays as Johnny Sample's interception in SBIII as one of the greatest plays that a team didn't score on, but set them up to win.

Football bores me for several reasons, the primary of which I delineated earlier: too many penalties. It takes from whatever intrinsic beauty there is in the game when a well-executed play is nullified by a penalty that occured nowhere near the play and had nothing to do with its execution. If I was the NFL commissioner, I'd cut the number of official to three and make them focus on the play as it develops.

Too much padding, too. When I played pick up games, we played without pads, so if you "assassinated" someone, it hurt you as badly as it hurt him.

In college, I quarterbacked some divisional champions, nothing to brag about, and those were fun games. I can still toss a ball 60, maybe 70 yards with a perfect spiral.

But ten seconds of action followed by twenty minutes of beer commercials reminds me too much of sex with an ex.

American football is far too authoritarian a game, which probably explains a few things. For one thing, it explains why its so well liked in red states, whose denizens tend to be "authoritarian followers", to use Professor Robert Altmeyer's phrase. They believe in rigid logical structure and simplistic order, imposed and enforced by an authoritarian.

It also explains why football players are constantly invoking God in their interviews: the ultimate Authoritarian, from their perspective.

Republicans are the Daddy party, and now we understand why.

The lack of creativity in football also bores the hell out of me, which is why I like hockey and baseball. There's a dynamic missing in football that those two sports not only include, but demand: improvisation.

In football, you improvise only when you're in trouble (like Giants quarterback Eli Manning slipping the grasp of two tacklers before that pass to Tyree). In politics, we see the problem with waiting until it's too late, and then "ad hoc-ing" a solution: you end up with Oma bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

You'll notice that both of those are the result of the rigid short-term thinking of Republican administrations.

Me, I like creative thinking. Take the energy crisis: if I was NotPresident, I'd post a billion dollar prize to the company that could make a renewable energy source cleanly produce the same number of BTUs from the equivalent resource of one barrel of oil. Thnk the private sector would work its ass off for that? You betcha!

Like Republicans, football coaches can demand a "recount" (video review) if things don't go their way, rather than rely on the fact that people make mistakes, life is unfair, and you have to deal with the consequences when luck breaks against you.

Children stomp their feet and demand a do-over. Adults roll with the punch and move forward. Children are simple thinkers. They need authoritarians to instruct them and help them mature.

Adults learn to trust themselves and learn the value of making agreements.

Football is about measuring to some arbitrary standard (why yards? Why not meters or even feet?), specifically defined over a set period of time: it is about strict resource management. Republicans are about measuring to some arbitrary standard (money), specifically defined over a set period of time (fiscal years). Why?

It's a simple measure, yet easily manipulated, and rewards the simplistic at the expense of the sophisticated that might bring a bigger-but-more-nebulous benefit to your people, a tax cut versus a new bridge, for example.

Football is about possession, too, so there's another parallel to Republicanism. The more time you "have," the more time they are the "have-nots," and Lord knows, the Republicans are all about the "haves"! I imagine interceptions and fumbles are a liberal Robin Hood plot in football to Republicans.

Football is played in the mud and the dirt and the drab days of fall.

Perfect Republican weather: cold, blustery, dank.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Blogroll Amnesty Day

Today is the anniversary of a dark day in Blogtopia (© Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo).

One year ago, Atrios (also known as Duncan Hunter), proprietor of the feebly-written (except for his co-bloggers) blog, "Eschaton," decided to trim his blogroll for...well, his own reasons. He offered what in Newspeak was called "Bloroll Amnesty Day," which of course makes it sound as if he would throw open the doors of his blogroll and let anyone who asked be added.

Turned out, it was more all about him. He blew up his existing blogroll, then decided that he would blogroll anyone that interested him.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. It's his name on the site and if he feels that people might get the wrong impression by having an inordinately long blogroll, filled with smaller blogs (like mine, altho I was never on his roll), that's OK.

Of course, then, it becomes a little disingenuous for him to lay claim to some form of authority in Blogtopia(©), and has of course, come under fire from some of the more (truly) progressive bloggers who have noted that by stifling access to smaller blogs, a movement tends to risk losing a diversity of thought.

Studies have shown (and this was PRE-BADay) that "A" list bloggers tend to link to other "A" list bloggers nearly exclusively. This sets up an echo chamber of thought, one that resonates and creates a feedback loop that makes it hard to sort reality from a rumour that's shot around the world three times.

Worse, other blogs, like (I'm ashamed to say) Jesus' General, then PZ Myers and Pharyngula followed suit, until the Great Orange One himself, Kos, pulled his blogroll as well. This was, for many, the last straw. The unintentional (or perhaps intentional) consequence of BAD was to eliminate an awful lot of blogs from an awful lot of exposure.

If you look at the large blogs on the right wing (I won't mention names because there's no point in looking and getting ill), you'll see blogrolls that extend well into the hundreds. Indeed, one challenge in winning the Weblog Award last year was that one conservative contestant had his blog on Captain's Quarters AND Michelle Malkin's blog, and was not ashamed to ask for votes there.

A movement arose that truly gave Blogroll Amnesty to people who needed it: smaller blogs. Led by such heavyweights as Jon Swift, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo (you know, CNN's favorite blogger, at least according to Jon Stewart), Joe Gandelman, and Kevin Hayden,

I have been approached by some of these guerrila bloggers to add my voice to the protest. Unfortunately, I owe some small sums of money to at least three of these heavyweights, and they have hinted that ThumbPer's name may have to be changed to "Per" if I don't comply.

So I'm making this announcement, altho to be honest, it's never really been necessary: if you've asked, and promise a return link, I've added you to my blogroll.

But as a special promotion, if you ask now, you'll get your own window with each!

You can't beat an offer like that, now can you?

I don't get many hits, maybe 150 or 200 a day if I'm on a roll, but I have a loyal readership, one that doesn't mind exploring a little. Too, links mean more to me than hits.

As a small (but I hope influential) blogger, I can understand the value of hits and links and I confess I do get a thrill down my back when I check out my Technorati listings and see I have one more link, particularly when it's unexpected. I hope by formally announcing this policy, I might encourage other bloggers whose voice gets lost in the shuffle to soldier on, not get discouraged, and know there are people out here who want to help.

So, in the spirit of Blogroll Amnesty Day, I am linking these five blogs who deserve more notice. Anyone of them could and should be A-listers. Some are smaller than even this little outpost at the far left of the radio dial, some are bigger. All deserve your attention:

Mr. Doggity. The Dogg always writes about politics from the perspective of a blue voter trapped in a red (but turning purple) state, Kansas. Always interesting and informative.

Connecting.The.Dots. Bob Stein is a former magazine editor/publisher (including Redbook), journalism teacher, and media critic. He reminds me every time I read him of my J-school 101 classes with William Burroughs at NYU: gets the facts, lead with the biggest fact and make the story interesting. If Izzy Stone was still alive, he'd blog with Bob.

Guys From Area 51. You know most of these fellows if you spend anytime at the snarkier blogs (including my own). A daily stop on my path to avoiding sanity...I mean, INsanity.

The Impolitic. Libby and Cap't. Fogg are co-bloggers with me at Michael J. Stickings The Reaction, but here, they post stuff that's even more in depth and more thoughtful than they do at TR. Give them a try.

Adgita Diaries. I was embarrassed to find out two things: 1) Mandt, who comment here fairly often and whom I run into regularly on other blogs, is actually two people (M and T, get it?) and 2) They have a blog of such aching beauty that, well, I almost quit blogging. OK, that last bit is not quite true, but...

A Poetic Justice. You know him, you love him. The Poetry Man's blog.