Sunday, November 30, 2003

another friday five, tardy

1. Do you like to shop? Why or why not?
Depends. I don't mind the crowds, though I do mind people milling about aimlessly as if the store/ walkway were there for them alone. Shopping, no I don't mind shopping (unless it's for me).

2. What was the last thing you purchased?
Either a pair of shoes or a jacket, I can't recall.

3. Do you prefer shopping online or at an actual store? Why?
In the actual store. To see the thing, touch the thing, know that the thing is what I imagine the thing to be.

4. Did you get an allowance as a child? How much was it?
Off and on, I received an allowance. It wasn't much, a buck or three (at most) a week. I'd always hoped my parents splitting up would result in two allowances. Alas, no dice.

5. What was the last thing you regret purchasing?
It might be my PDA, but that was over 2 years ago. Either my green or sand colored button down shirts. Turns out Geoffrey Beene shirts make me look like a freaking pirate.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

I Eve's Drop a little bit more

Old Homeless type Guy (to a young woman just walking by): Hey, you have a pretty smile
Girl (pausing her walk): Thank you.
Old Guy: Wanna a shot of vodka?
Girl: umm, No thanks (and continues on her way)

I Eve's Drop

Girl 1: How's the relationship? I mean aside from the trust issues.
Girl 2: Good.
Girl 1: Yeah? Even when sober?
Girl 2: Uh-huh.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Does Anybody Take This Seriously Anymore?

Is the federal government now a punchline? A board game you play at home, safely free of consequences? If so, I missed the memo. How else to explain the shenanigans of Congress and the Administration. Faced with the difficult choice of setting policy, the energy bill opts to dole out tax breaks and pork to any industry which claims to produce energy. The result, $31 billion in new spending over the decade without a single discussion of revenue. The Medicare bill will add benefits ($400 billion in costs over the next 10 years, virtually none of which occurs before 2007) to a long term insolvent program without a single discussion of revenue. In the case of both bills, the leadership of the House and Senate were moving for a vote before the members could possibly have read the entire bill- drafted in secret with the, ahem, aid of lobbyists, as they were. The same sorry pattern of governance was on display in Bush's $87 billion Iraq Reconstruction bill. The three Bush tax cuts relied on sunsets and phase-ins to fit into budgetary goals. Much like luggage packed in this manner, the budget will ultimately explode from such stresses. And I will be around to see it.

Instead of a serious discussion on these matters of energy, health, war, and fiscal finance, we are treated to an even less serious discussion of gay marriage. Only this discussion is carried on as if it were a serious discussion. As I've argued previously, please. Where does one go in this country if they're interested in governance. Seriously, I'd really like to know. Mississippi is set to be run by a lobbyist (look at his experience, 56 years old and a lifelong party hack). California is in the sure and steady hands of the Governator. Alabama, much to the chagrin of all involved, is still Alabama. Poor New Hampshire is the Free State Project's mark. Where does one go for competent government?

Happy not to have Tried

This weekends Frank Rich column, When You Got It, Flaunt It, tackles something I had wanted to tackle a week or so ago: namely the way we look at and see the culture of rich in this country, how this might be changing, and what that might mean. I couldn't get comfortable with an angle to voice myself, so I didn't. Now, along comes Rich's column hitting all the notes just so.

Coarse? Usually. Silly? Always. But the zeal with which all four rich girls throw themselves into their shows may be some kind of breakthrough - a step toward candor in our national non-conversation about wealth. They are not pretending to be what they're not. They've got it, God knows, and no one's going to stop them from flaunting it. This guilt-free hedonism is a refreshing break from the norm in our post-bubble culture, where faux populism has become de rigueur among the wealthy in the public eye. We are awash in ambitious rich people, from the political arena on down, who play up their humble roots and down-home habits, however few or fictional in reality, to sell us products or themselves.

It is essentially this admission on display, that the rich do not live like the rest of us, which is newly visible. Their lives are a fundamentally different experience in every way. Their lives are real life soap operas played out with live emotional ammunition and ultimately real consequences. But the experience is no more relevant to your life than the trials of "insert your Soap Opera town here." Except they occupy the heights of government and business. And that, as Rich points out, just isn't funny.

Friday, November 21, 2003

el Viernes Cinco

1. List five things you'd like to accomplish by the end of the year.
Five things, in 40 days. Whew. Christmas shopping. Visit family. Finish The Two-Income Trap. (by the way, I am suddenly feeling incredibly unambitious). Make it to a Maryland Basketball game. Write an article.

2. List five people you've lost contact with that you'd like to hear from again.
Colin Hebert, Fletch and Seung Yang, Stephanie Fowler, and Brandon Green

3. List five things you'd like to learn how to do.
A good cooking class. Sail. Carpentry. My job :). More computer programming. A foreign language.

4. List five things you'd do if you won the lottery (no limit).
Scale back the full time job. Travel through Europe for starters. Create my own magazine. Build an intelligent home. Purchase the Expos, in conjunction with either Ted Leonsis or Dan Snyder and move them to the DC area.

5. List five things you do that help you relax.
Close my eyes. Smile. Golf. Talk. Find quiet.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Semi-Extended thoughts on the Democratic Nomination

It would seem, if the prevailing media coverage of the Democratic candidates is to be trusted, that Howard Dean has recently all but locked up the nomination. Looking at his November, he has survived his Confederate Flag remark, stepped out of the (partial) public financing system for the primary season (with John Kerry following his lead), and received the endorsement of two of the largest and most powerful unions. Signs of durability, strength, and mainstream or mass appeal.

The rest of the candidates are now said to be jockeying for position as the "anti-Dean"- the salvation candidate who saves the party from nominating the unelectable Dean. It's an interesting proposition: that Dean is a torrid fling, serving up what the Democratic activists want to hear but when it comes time to pick a winner, Dean's not it. A good for now girl, rather than a good for life one, if you will. He doesn't translate well to minorities or union workers, crucial elements of a primary and general election strategy for any Democrat. Though I am no fan of interest group politics (and for that matter the construction of the Democratic party) there is a validity to its claims. Dean, it is said, is too liberal and his Bush-hatred and anti-war position will prevent him from generating the mass appeal needed to win over 100 million votes next November.

But is he too liberal? Too liberal is certainly a subjective term, but let's take a look at the Dean people saw prior to 2003. Take, for instance, this American Prospect article from Summer 2002 (among the notable points here, "Raising money, Dean knows, is his embryonic campaign's most daunting task. "I'm going to be dead last in fundraising," he says, though he's counting on being able to pull in $8 million to $10 million going into 2004's first three primaries." My how things change). Dean is described as a "Rockefeller Republican," socially liberal and fiscally conservative, a description which is not incongruous with his current positions (repeal Bush's tax cuts because they're bankrupting the state, expand health care coverage, etc).

As for his ability to bring voters, enough voters, to the polls, there may be something there. But, as I discussed previously, there's also something such a claim misses. Namely carrying voters who would otherwise sit on the sidelines. If you will, voters who don't fall into one of the Democrat's cookie cutter groups. I have no idea how all of this shakes out, though I am sure the political revival is important.

I may have spent too much space treating the anti-Dean thesis as a respectable idea. Because it's not. It may well be valid, but it's not respectable. The candidate who is anointed the anti-Dean is staking out the mantle of safe, of solid. Admirable qualities indeed, but hardly the stuff of inspiration or the mark of leadership. The winner of the Democratic primary will not be the anti-Dean for that is a loser's title.

I am skeptical of the other candidates. Most of them are either soothing white noise for troubled sleepers (I'm looking at you Gephardt, Kerry, and Lieberman in particular) or basically just scary (ahem, paging Messrs Kucinich and Sharpton). Clark, Mosley-Braun, and Edwards strike me as independently viable candidates. Now, Mosley-Braun is not viable. She's not really running. I have no idea what she is doing, but hers is mechanically the most awkward Presidential campaign in some time (not raising money, not really traveling, no offices in primary states, etc). She is, however, easily the most cogent analyst of the current moment among the field. She has ideas, perspective, strength... vision. Clark could lead, that is clear. It's simply not clear what he would ask of us, where he would lead us.

Finally, there is Edwards. He easily possesses the most complete and comprehensive set of policies. They are mostly small potatoes ideas, trees which ultimately amount to a forest. And he sees the forest. Edwards sees both a big picture and detailed policies which, in conjunction, meaningfully address the big picture. He has energy and fire. A good story with which to wrap his vision and ideas. In short, he's a fairly ideal candidate, possibly a fairly ideal president, except for one thing. I have no idea what that thing is, he just doesn't have it. Maybe it's the relatively short political career. Maybe his overly youthful looks hurt him. Read his speeches, chew on his policies, listen to him speak, it's powerful stuff. But there's no resonance.

And that's the shame. The Dean campaign has been impressive but it needs a push. A challenge to further refine and define the candidate, to force it to add meaningful policy meat to its bones. Not a petty Lieberman, Kerry, or Gephardt campaign which will attempt to pigeonhole it to break off interest group support (the model here being the Gore campaign and Willie Horton in 1988 smacking Dukakis around). That type of contender doesn't quite exist, at least not at this point. My eyes say that leaves the Democrats, regardless of who carries the nomination, with something less than the best candidate they could field.

A special Hello to any first time visitors I may have out there

That's all.

Friday, November 14, 2003

The Friday Five, here again

1. Using one adjective, describe your current living space.

2. Using two adjectives, describe your current employer.
surreal, inane

3. Using three adjectives, describe your favorite hobby/pasttime.
frustrating, encouraging, relaxing

4. Using four adjectives, describe your typical day.
humorous, off-beat, quiet, informative

5. Using five adjectives, describe your ideal life.
comfortable, happy, loved, noble, meaningful

Faith and Inexperience meet on the wrong side of town.

I think I like this piece from Britain's The Independent better than John Judis' much noted article on Bush Hating.

It is not only Bush the Chicken-hawk warmonger and promoter-in-chief of the great illusion about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction who they will be denouncing. It is also Bush the ignorant, self-righteous Christian warrior, Bush the smirking executioner and Bush the believer in one law for America and another for everyone else. And, of course, Bush the "Toxic Texan"...

No man is ever quite as extreme as his caricature. But Bush comes closer than most...

And all this done with a certainty ill-befitting a man with scant knowledge of the world's complexities, and a quite scary lack of curiosity about what makes other people and other cultures tick. As the political writer Joe Klein put it in a Time magazine column just before the second Iraq war: "George W Bush lives at the intersection of faith and inexperience. This is not a reassuring address, especially in a time of trouble." No more reassuring is the secrecy with which he and his high command operate. Add that to Bush's aversion to press conferences and Republican control of both houses of Congress, and the Bush White House often appears beyond accountability.

Indeed, today's Washington has a whiff of Soviet ways; suffocating internal discipline, resentment of even reasoned, moderate opposition, and a refusal to admit even the tiniest error...

Finally, there is Bush the buffoon. There is another reason for his aversion to press conferences: in anything but the most tightly scripted circumstances he is capable of saying anything. Sometimes it works fine, as at his father's state banquet for the Queen in 1991, when he boasted to her that he had embroidered his new cowboy boots with the phrase "God Save the Queen", before confessing he had been his family's black sheep. "Who's yours?" he then asked the sovereign, to the horror of his mother.

Hehe, all around.

Hilarity ensues

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, transsexuals will be eligible to compete. So all those jokes about the East German women's swimmer looking like a man, not so funny anymore.

You gotta wonder if NBC will do any touching little vignettes on transsexual athletes? How would that play?

We Should all be Embarassed

Back in October, Kendel Ehrlich, wife of the Governor of Maryland, at a seminar on DOMESTIC VIOLENCE said, "Really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would," during her remarks. And laughed. And claimed she hated to say that but...

Britney's retort, published in Entertainment Weekly: "She probably needs to get laid."

It's really quite tragic when Britney has the most intelligent response in a discussion.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

So Long Roy, Wish we Never Knew Ye

In a proper close to an unfortunate chapter in the history of the state of Alabama (though, considering it's Alabama history* we're talking about, it's not that unfortunate of a chapter), Roy Moore, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court was removed today for his defiance of a court order. To this day, Roy is unrepentant, convinced that he did the right thing. Roy has stated that, "given another chance to fulfill the court order, he again would refuse to do so." My question is, does the same hold for the voters of Alabama? If given the chance to re-elect Roy, would they? Fortunately, both Senators are Republicans, the Governor is Republican (and only 1 year into his term), and the Attorney General is being filibustered in the Senate. Hopefully, we won't get the chance to fnd out how Alabamians come down on this.

* Original Capitol of the Confederacy, George Wallace, and Jim Crow.

Go Here

From the people who brought you four years ago. It's worth recalling that their efforts elicited the priceless (and with hindsight, a rather foreshadowing remark) response "There ought to be limits to Freedom" (May 21, 1999) from then candidate Bush. I wonder if there are high quality parody sites for any of the other candidates?

Oh and stop by the store, if only for a read and some laughs.

File Under P for Petulant

The Democrats in the Senate have been filibustering three (plus one withdrawn name) judicial nominees (out of nearly 200 judicial nominations the Administration has made). Which is their prerogative. And exercising this power of the minority has upset the Senate Republicans so much that whatever interest they had in governing has been cast aside in favor of a ridiculous 30 hour session on the filibustering of the nominees. Today is November 13, the fiscal year began on October 1st. The Senate has not completed the budget for the year. The Senate has other alleged priorities including the Medicare bill and the Energy bill (among others). But that can all wait while Rick Santorum orchestrates his 30 hour hissy fit.

There certainly are legitimate questions about the modern filibuster process which no longer requires endless debate but rather the threat of endless debate. It's a two-sided coin- the Senate can take care of the rest of its business instead of being ground to a halt but would the Civil Rights legislation have ever passed under such a painless filibuster procedure. Legitimate questions, but hardly pressing. Does the fate of the nation hang in airing and settling the judicial nominee filibuster? Nope. Is this honestly a pressing matter which needs to take precedence over the budget? Not on your life.

But, here we are. In the modern Republican Party, Governance is for sissies.

Did the excitement kill her?

Fewer than two weeks after becoming the world's oldest person, Mitoyo Kawate, has died. At this rate, will any one on this page be left come Christmas?

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

So this is what they mean by the "Kucinich Campaign"

Spread the word. Let's find Dennis a wife. She'll be a lovely consolation prize when he doesn't win the nomination. I suppose "The Campaigning Bachelor" show is the natural extension of FOX's idea last year to run The American Candidate (more about the American Candidate here).

Makes you wonder where else this trend could go. Might I suggest Extreme Presidential Makeover, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, or Rich Girls*.

* Yeah, that last one's not fair, but every now and then a cheap shot. Oh yeah.

Too Fed Up to say it right

This is an incredibly difficult post for me to write. There are so many angles that they all receive short shrift. And it's just a frustrating tale to be told.

For starters, here's the opening paragraph which will tell you about all you need to know:
Confounding President Bush's pledges to rein in government growth, federal discretionary spending expanded by 12.5 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, capping a two-year bulge that saw the government grow by more than 27 percent, according to preliminary spending figures from congressional budget panels.
The sudden rise in spending subject to Congress's annual discretion stands in marked contrast to the 1990s, when such discretionary spending rose an average of 2.4 percent a year. Not since 1980 and 1981 has federal spending risen at a similar clip.

Now, I know journalists and writers like a rhetorical flourish from time to time, if not more often, but "confound"? Now confound can be used to mean "shame," which would be accurate in this case. But isn't confound more commonly used to mean confuse or baffle. Wonder how many readers picked up the wrong idea? They wouldn't be alone, as the Post is apparently floating in la-la land.

What would lead me to think the Post is in la-la land? Try this one on for size:

The preliminary spending figures for 2003 also raise questions about the government's long-term fiscal health. Bush administration officials have said fiscal restraint and "pro-growth" tax cuts should put the government on a path to a balanced budget. Bush has demanded that spending that is subject to Congress's annual discretion be capped at 4 percent.

Newsflash, the preliminary spending figures for 2003 do not raise questions about the government's long-term fiscal health. Rather they new spending figures add more fuel to the roaring, raging, make what happened in California recently look like a 1-year old's birthday cake, fire (ooh, look, I too can be rhetorically flourishing). The questions about the government's long -term fiscal health were raised when Bush began pounding the drum for his 2001 tax cuts while the economy began a fainting spell. The questions were intensified and made real by the end of August 2001 when new long-term budget projections were released. And these fiscal health questions were raised to a new level just this past winter when the Administration released its FY 2004 budget which contained projections of exploding long term deficits. This paragraph is actually all about the journalistic false god of objectivity. He said, but on the other hand, she said. Well it turns out she's a freaking liar. A "tell you she's an orphan after you meet her family" (to steal a line from the Black Crows) kind of liar. But your not objective if you call a lie a lie apparently. And since the Bush administration won't admit the truth they publish, that there is a long-term crushing debt problem, journalists have painted themselves into a corner and we're left with this drivel.

Speaking the truth is Stan Collender (whoever that is): "This is an administration that cannot possibly take up the mantle of fiscal conservatism. It's probably the least fiscally conservative in history." He plumps spending. He cuts taxes. In what way does this sound like an Administration, hell a Party (in the case of Republicans) that knows what it's doing. It's the difference between governing and loving the power.