Friday, April 01, 2005

2008 Watch

Sen. Brownback Weighs 2008 White House Bid

Add another name to the list of potential 2008 presidential candidates: Sen. Sam Brownback. The Kansas Republican, little known outside his home state, is using a network of social conservatives and Christian activists to raise his profile in Iowa and New Hampshire, two states critical to White House hopefuls.


You know, I wouldn't mind at all if Brownback got the nomination. I think the right has overestimated how much the country actually believes in their right wing cultural agenda, and, like many Democrats, have also overestimated the importance of "value voters" in winning the last election. I'm worried about the likes of McCain and Giuliani, somewhat moderate people who are still very much Republicans and who have shown in recent times an unexpected willingness to shill for the president. Brownback, Santorum, Frist and others like them would be much easier to beat, and they also are more representative of the current GOP to boot.

All that said, Brownback is still far away from the nomination :

Still, veterans of Iowa's caucuses say it will be a challenge for Brownback to forge a national reputation.

"In my view he has a long way to go," said Steve Roberts, a Des Moines lawyer and member of the Republican National Committee who met Brownback at an Iowa reception last July. "He is virtually unknown out here."

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Today, On Fox

A few minutes ago I was watching O’Reilly and he and his guest came to the conclusion that America was changing very fast.

They thought it was becoming more secularist very fast.

They really live in a different world, don’t they?

Also, have I mentioned how despicable Sean Hannity is lately? I tried to watch his show, but after only a few minutes I was screaming so hard I was afraid I was going hurt myself. When even John Derbyshire thinks you are an idiot, you know you have a problem.

RIP

Terry has died. Hopefully the public circus will now fade away and all the people really close to her will be able to find peace. But I fear her death won’t stop people from using her to push their own ideological agenda.
Let the “culture war” continue.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Focus on the Bugman

Liberals Run Ads Demanding DeLay Resign

HOUSTON - Two liberal groups are running TV ads demanding that Tom DeLay resign
as House majority leader and urging fellow congressmen to mobilize against the
Texas representative, who is under investigation for alleged ethics
violations.

The Public Campaign Action Fund paid $25,000 to run ads in
the districts of three Republicans: House Ethics Committee chairman Doc Hastings
of Washington, Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York and Rep. Rob Simmons of
Connecticut.
The Campaign for America's Future, backed by labor, women's and
civil rights groups, is spending $75,000 to run the Schiavo ad in Washington and
in DeLay's Houston-area district.

It’s a small potatoes add buy, but it is getting some media attention. And I have to say, I’m not sure this is good thing.

See, getting rid of DeLay really won’t mean much. Someone else will step up and everything will continue as normal. Tom’s transgressions are only really meaningful as a clear example of the corruption of the Republican congress. By focusing so much on him, so early, we are giving the Reps plenty of time to distance themselves from him, which would cut into the strategy of using him in a national campaign.

Tom is only as bad as the system that created him. That sytem must be brought down, not just him.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Ward Churchill, Still

I first became aware of the Ward Churchill story through a post on Andrew Sullivan’s blog. I nodded my head for a second and then went along with my day, pretty much forgetting about it. Today, Bill O`Reilly did yet another segment on the story. You have to admire the conservatives, when they find a prey they won’t let go until it is completely destroyed.
Now tell me. Even if we wanted, would liberals have the kind of institutions necessary to keep this type of story alive until the bitter end? Blogs notwithstanding, I don’t think so. This kind of scandal mongering and personal destruction just isn’t in our playbook.

Ahm, That Wolfowitz?

Wolfowitz on shortlist for World Bank top post
God, I really wish I was kidding. But I am not.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I forgot to mention in the previous post, but I happened to catch the nominations on Fox, where I had the helpful commentary of the Fox & Friends crew. It turns out they are just as ignorant about movies as they are about politics. Nice to see them maintaining their high standards.

Straying from politics a bit...

In case you didn't know, the Oscar nominations were announced today. In the best picture category there were, sadly, no surprises, it's the power trio The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby and Sideways, plus long-shots Finding Neverland and Ray. Right now The Aviator looks like it's favored to win, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if M$B ended up with the top prize. A Sideways victory is less likely, even though there is some real love for the movie.
As someone who was really, really hoping that Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind would sneak in, I just don't get Finding Neverland. The movie has almost no critical support and it never found much of an audience, but it still manages to get into the five nominees to the PGA, the DGA, and now the Oscars themselves. At least Ray is a bit of a crowd pleaser, with the biggest box-office of the five nominees. Perhaps the Academy members have a fetish for mediocre Miramax movies with Jhonny Depp? After all, Chocolate also made it into the top five in it's year.
The biggest surprise, at least for me, was the nomination of Mike Leigh for best director. I mean, the directors branch of the Academy generally throws one or two curve balls every year, but Mike honestly came from nowhere. He is a great and very deserving director, and he got in instead of Marc Forester of Finding Neverland, so it's a good surprise. The absence of Paul Giamatti in the best actor race, however, was not a good surprise. Well, perhaps next year. And it's not like he had any chance to win anyway, Foxx is pretty much a lock at this point.

Foxx also got nominated in the best supporting actor category, for his leading role in Collateral. He doesn't have much chance here though, he is competing with the mechanic from Wings and King Arthur.

In the best actress category we have Hilary "Not-a-one-trick-pony-anymore" Swank and Imelda Staunton from Vera Drake as the top contenders. Hilary is looking more and more like the front-runner, but if I had to guess I would guess Imelda, for no good reason besides that Hilary already won an Oscar and somehow I don't think they are ready to give her the second one just yet.

Supporting actress is always very hard to predict, but it seems like it will be either Virginia Madsen or Natalie Portman, more likely Virginia. I love them both, so I don't care which of the two wins. Honestly, I love them. I would marry any of them right now, all they have to do is ask. My wife would be a little pissed though.

Could Charlie Kaufman finally get his Oscar for Original screenplay this year? I will cross my fingers, but not hold my breath. John Logan for The Aviator seems more likely. Payne and Taylor are pretty much guaranteed the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar though, unless there is a M$B upset and Paul Haggis carries it.

And that is enough Oscar talk. Just a quick disclaimer, I didn't actually bother looking up the correct names of the people I mentioned, so I probably got a bunch of them wrong. But getting things wrong is, after all, one of the perks of not being paid anything.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

You can say what you will about Michael Moore, but at least he isn't running around attacking cartoon characters:

On the heels of electoral victories barring same-sex marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their attention to a new target: the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

"Does anybody here know SpongeBob?" Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results.

...

Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

The video's creator, Nile Rodgers, who wrote the disco hit "We Are Family," said Mr. Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding. Mr. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11 attacks to create a music video to teach children about multiculturalism. The video has appeared on television networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity. The pledge, borrowed from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is not mentioned on the video and is available only on the group's Web site.


Because, when you think about it, what better way to spend the political capital you just gained in the last election than going after supposedly gay cartoon characters?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Here is a nice list of corporations making six-figures donations to the inaugural.

The Multiple Benefits of Private Accounts

Apparently private accounts will not only save social security, they will also make poor people rich!

Here is a report of what Cheney said:

Vice President Dick Cheney took on critics of the administration's Social Security overhaul plans Thursday, arguing that channeling part of workers' salaries into the stock market would help pull poor Americans up the financial ladder.


Establishing personal accounts as a part of the Social Security system "would continue a great American tradition of upward mobility and individual independence," Cheney said in his first policy speech on revamping the system.

"Many low-income workers who have nothing to spare after taxes would have a chance to begin saving for their later years," he said at The Catholic University of America.

Without offering any such specifics, Cheney said, "Personal accounts hold the promise of turning every American worker into an owner, giving them a retirement fund they control themselves and can call their own."

"The system is on a course to eventual bankruptcy," Cheney said.

If nothing is done in the meantime, by 2042 the government would have to reduce benefit payments by over 25 percent or else "impose a massive, economically ruinous tax increase on all American workers," he said.

Like Bush, Cheney did not address such questions as whether the administration envisions large-scale benefit cuts or federal borrowing to get the plan off the ground.

The choice of a college campus for Cheney's address signaled the administration's determination to win younger Americans over to its proposals. Bush has said many young people do not believe they will receive any Social Security benefits.

"Young workers who elect personal accounts can expect to receive a far higher rate of return on their money than the current system could ever afford to pay them," Cheney said. He was seeking to rebut fears raised by critics that placing some money into stocks was too risky, given the ups and downs of the market.

Some opponents of the plan say personal accounts would do nothing to solve the system's basic problem of a dwindling pool of workers paying into the system to support the surging numbers of retirees. What would fix the funding problem would be benefit cuts, they say. The administration has refused to say whether it will seek benefit cuts for people not at or near retirement age.


The upward mobility argument is new and, like some much that this administration says and does, makes no sense to me. But many of the other key points and phrases have been used before. Pay attentions, because they will be repeated endlessly by every Republican spokespersons, in an attempt to turn them into common wisdom without ever having to actually offer a reasonable defense of them This strategy has been used before, with great success. Let's hope we can beat it this time.

The new Bush interview in the Washington Times is gathering some press due to this comment:

That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have - or one of the greatest freedoms - is the right to worship the way you see fit. And on the other hand, I don't see how you can be president - at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a - without a relationship with the Lord.
I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person. I've never said that. I've never acted like that. I think that's just the way it is. On the other hand, I think more and more people ... understand the importance of faith in their life.


Of course you are patriotic even if you are not religious. You just can't be president.

Although that's quite a quote, there is a lot more goodness in the interview. We have the values talk:

The great thing about our country is somebody can stand up and say, "We should try to take 'under God' out of the Pledge of Allegiance." On the other hand, the backlash was pretty darn significant. This is a country that is a value-based country. Whether they voted for you or not, there's a lot of values in this country for which I'm real proud.



And have I mentioned how great I think this country is and how proud I am of it?

There is talk of how Bush is going to push his social security plan:

Joseph Curl, White House correspondent: How are you going to persuade critics in Congress that your plan is -
Mr. Bush: Well, I guess - remember the tax debate?
Mr. Curl: Yes.
Mr. Bush: It seems like history tends to repeat itself - at least beginning of every administration. In '01, it was like, you'll never get the taxes done. No chance. And initially out of the box, some people said "over my dead body" would they pass tax relief. And so we worked and worked and called people in and made it clear - actually went around the country, and on a lot of these issues, you hear people early on in the process say, "He can't get it done." If I listened to all that, I'd just quit, you know, and kind of, maybe, try to get some itty bitty initiative done, and claim victory. But that's not the way I think. I believe the president has got to set big agenda items and solve big problems.
And so, obviously, we're going to have to work on it, just like Social Security. This will require the expenditure of capital. And started - well, actually, I started right after the elections. I called members of Congress in, both parties, I said, "Look, I'm coming after this issue, because it's a problem."
And today, we started the education of the American people as to the extent of the problem. And there will be a debate: Is it a problem or not a problem? We already had that debate once, in the 2004 presidential campaign. My opponent said, "We can grow the economy and the problem will take care of itself." That's what he said. I'm not putting words in his mouth. I said, no, the demographics have shifted, people are living longer, more women in the workplace, fewer people paying into the system per worker, and it's going to go broke. Therefore, I'm going to try to think of something different.



The election has been over for almost three month an he is still referring to Kerry as "my opponent".

Then we have this wonderful bit:


Tony Blankley, editor of the editorial page: Mr. President, I'm puzzled by one thing only.
Mr. Bush: What is that?
Mr. Blankley: Every expert I talk to about the size of the active military forces, particularly Army - every expert I talk to, other than senior members of your administration, who support yours and Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld's position ... they all tell me - I'm not an expert - that we need to expand our total active forces by a measurable amount.
Mr. Bush: In Iraq?
Mr. Blankley: No, no, not in Iraq; overall. Separate from Iraq. Overall. And what puzzles me is, what are they all missing? Well, I miss a lot of stuff, but what are the experts missing?
Mr. Bush: Well, no, no, no, look, look, I think what they were talking about is a need to expand the Army, relative to other branches.
Mr. Blankley: No -
Mr. Bush: Well ... without getting into a debate about all the people on the sidelines who are saying things - which is a great thing about democracy, people are allowed to express themselves - our military policy, for example, the troop size in Iraq, is not driven here in the White House. It is driven by the decisions and ... the recommendations of [Gen.] John Abizaid and Gen. George Casey. And it's really important that that's how a war be fought, that - and I would hope it brings great comfort to you as a concerned citizen - the commander in chief makes the military decisions based upon the recommendations from the field.
As far as the overall force structure and the relationship between the active-duty unit and the [National] Guard and Reserve, for example, that's part of the transformation of our military. In other words, transforming our military to meet a whole new set of threats. And the debate I hear is not overall size, necessarily, but the relationship between the Army to the Air Force and the Navy. And that is being addressed by [Gen.] Pete Schoomaker's ... plan to increase the Army ... by, I think, 30,000 troops. And that's what we're doing. ...


Yes, what are the critics missing? Don't they get that Bush talks to god? Do they think they now about our troops need better than the Lord? What is wrong with them?

I guess the interview was feeling a bit to serious at this point, because they started talking about dogs (and about how great their dogs are).

And finnaly, we have some more talk about how great we are because we are religious, even though we respect those crazy atheists (as long as they don't try to be president):

I told you the president's job is not to pick religion. The president's job is not to say you've got to be religious. The president's job is to say each is free to choose it. And it's really important that that be clear today, given the world in which we live. And if you're a Sikh or Muslim or - a Methodist or anybody else for that matter, it's an important message.
Having said that, I cannot tell you how inspired and sustained and comforted I am by the fact that millions of people, many of whom I will never see, are praying for me. It's one of the most unique aspects of the presidency. I don't know any other world leaders who can say that about the people of their own country, which speaks volumes about America. Yes, it does.


They also spend a large portion of the interview talking about how the president will try to stimulate faith-based initiatives.

So, basically, America is great, in some part because we respect people of all Religions and who are not religious at all, but mostly because we are really religious and pray a lot. Social security is going to implode any minute now. Iraq critics just don't get. And dogs are cool. Pass it around.

As David Pell said:

Those of us who are "scared" don't even associate religious belief and patriotism.

People are fearful that the President is making decisions based on his version of religion and not based on law, efficiency, effectiveness, reality and the will of the electorate. We are scared by the comments that to him don't seem the least bit scary.