Monthly Archives: June 2009

Scandal-o-meter

Gov. Sanfrod (R-SC). Not resigned. Hetero  affair.

Sen. Ensign (R-NV). Not resigned. Hetero affair.

Gov. Blagojevich (D-IL). Impeached and removed by Democratic Legislature. Corruption.

Gov. Spitzer (D-NY). Resigned. Hetero hookers.

Sen. Craig (R-ID). Didn’t resign. Homo hookers.

Sen. Vitter (R-LA). Didn’t resign. Hetero hookers.

Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL). Resigned. Homo hookers.

Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA). Resigned. Affair.

Speaker Bob Livingston (R-LA). Resigned. Affair.

Pres. Bill Clinton (D). Impeached by Republican Congress.

My guess is that the Republicans are still so mad that Clinton didn’t resign that their unwillingness to resign in the face of these scandals stems from that. Of course, they don’ see the difference: Clinton never ran on a platform of Holier than thou. He never politicized morality. This was often cited as a failure of his, if not in fact a cause, of his own transgressions. We knew Bill Clinton was a ladies’ man before he was ever elected President.

Just like the coverup is worse than the crime, the hypocrisy is also worse than the crime. Livingston and Gingrich couldn’t lead the opposition against Clinton when they were fucking around too. Spitzer couldn’t be tough on crime when he was breaking the law with hookers. Blagojevich was just nuts—but his own party took him down, no one circled the wagons around him.

I don’t care that Sanford screwed another woman. I don’t even really care that he did so after being a typical Bible thumping southern politician. I don’t really care about him because I don’t live in South Carolina. But if I did live there, I’m not sure I could get past the 4-5 day disappearance. I don’t know if that matters there or not. I’ll just say that now would not be a good time for Arnold to leave California for 4 days without any contact, and that’s all I can really say.

Sanford and the GOP

At least it was with a woman… again. The Republicans continue to become a parody of themselves, like the last seasons of a sitcom grown stale.

Anyhow, at least Spitzer’s wife stood beside him and at least he wasn’t a total pussy at his press conference like Sanford was.

California Unter Alles

Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has bowed out of the gubernatorial election. Smart man. Why would he want the worst job in government? I think this essentially destroys Gavin Newsom’s chances, because he’s not well known in Southern California, and, like Villaraigosa, has a few of his own issues.

I think this makes it a safe bet that Brown wins the primary and the general. The state GOP will be too likely to put forward a too-far-to-the-right candidate because they feel burned by Schwarzenegger. The result will be someone not palatable to most Californians.

Politically, I think this is actually one of the least significant aspects of the 2010 election. If, and only if, there are 2/3 majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, and if, and only if, significant Constitutional reform is undertaken will this situation be timely remedied or recurrences prevented.

Chances are the real tumult will happen in the 2012 elections when the Legislative districts will be redrawn using a new process.

Help Us Obi-Franken, You're Our Only Hope

It sure sounds like health care reform is going to be so watered down that it won’t mean anything. Depending on which of today’s polls you believe, there is either 76% or 83% in favor of a public option. Is there ever that much support on anything? And yet there are only 37 senators on record supporting the public option. There needs to be 50 (it’s a reconciliation bill).

The Minnesota Supreme Court is supposed to rule tomorrow. If this mean Franken gets seated, that may change the dynamics in Washington, because—theoretically—Republicans will lose the power to block anything. If the Dems are smart enough to use that as a stick, then maybe something will get done on health care.

What I can’t understand is what the Dem strategy is here. They will own the bill no matter what. Who cares if it has a single Republican vote? If the Republicans water it down and then vote against it they can have it both ways. Obama will own it too, so he should start to speak up.

Iran

I have always maintained a less than dovish position on Iran. When we invaded Iraq, I lamented that it weakened our ability to deal with the Iranian regime. While I certainly am not in favor of the proposed Israeli strike to “take out” Iran’s nuclear capability (which would be counterproductive and would probably fail anyway), there is no disputing that the Iranian regime supports terrorism and, now, in case it wasn’t plain before, suppresses its own people—violently.

The problem with so much of the anti-Iranian rhetoric, like with much of the crap we spew, is that it doesn’t seem to differentiate between the people who are the problem—in this case, Achmadinejad and the mullahs—and the individual Iranians, who, of course, want a better life.

I don’t know what the US can do, or what we have the credibility to do. I’m sure our Sunni allies don’t mind seeing Iran implode, and I’m sure people in Israel and our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t mind seeing that regime weakened. I sure don’t. But there is an opportunity here to bring about in Iran what we used to talk about in Iraq—democracy. I just don’t think it’s America’s opportunity.

Also, I’m resistant to the cult of personality surrounding Mousavi. He’s better than the current crop. But this is about the people of Iran and their hopes, not any one leader. I wish them the best.

Ninny.

But for the most part, it seems like even those guilty of succumbing to BlackBerry’s pull toward constant communication, like Emily and Inci admit to being, realize and feel guilty about their breach of etiquette. The hazier question, I’ve found, is what’s appropriate regarding smartphones’ pull toward constant information. Too many conversations in the past year have been cut off by someone deftly tapping an iPhone or BlackBerry under the table, and pronouncing the “answer” to whatever it is we were discussing. I’m all for research and fact-finding, but I miss the days when you could spend half an hour speculating on the origin of “OK” (a president writing “oll korrect” in the margin? A word stolen from some other language?

This is from Double XX, which is like the WNBA of Slate. Essentially, it’s a breach of etiquette to use your Blackberry because people too dumb to figure them out don’t realize the convenience, and often times are in a place in their lives where they are free from a digital leash that many hard working people have by necessity. And then the complaint that it settles stupid speculative conversations too quick?

“Etiquette” is really about power relationships, of course. People complaining about it usually sound a touch Napoleonic to me.

Just remember: someone was paid to write that, and they wonder why blogs are popular. Ugh.

Iran Election

Prediction:

If Achmadinezhad wins the neocons will say, see, we have to deal with this guy.

If Achmadinezhad loses the neocons will say, see, our sabre rattling and credible threats forced regime change.

No matter what happens, they are right.

Reich on Debt

For everyone out there ready to give you a lecture on economics and the free market, there is a person that will talk about government debt as if it was AIDS. Bob Reich has an article on the subject today. Here’s the salient point for water cooler conversations:

Deficit and debt numbers mean nothing in and of themselves. They take on meaning only in relation to something else. And the most important something else, in terms of deciding whether the nation can afford such deficits or debts, is the size of the national economy.

In other words, if you destroy the economy by raising taxes or cutting spending in a contraction, you’re always going to increase the deficit. If on the other hand, you do some stimulative spending and grow the economy, the economy’s capacity to repay the debt will increase instead of decline, and, in the not-so-long run, everything is better off.

Despite this being well known to anyone who has actually studied economics, you still hear tired tropes about the government needing to run itself like a business (which is fatuous: businesses use debt—you know, bonds—to finance expansions all the time) and not spend more than they take in. Sometimes you hear it put “like my family.” How many families don’t use credit cards, student loans, or home equity lines?

Balanced budgets are ideal whenever monetary expansion and contraction are effective. In case you haven’t noticed, the Fed bottomed out their rate a while ago and things are still in a crash. Stimulative spending is the prescription. Washington seemed to have understood that until health care reform came up.

Too bad they have no idea how this works in Sacramento.

Is this suicide food?

Just askin’.

picture-22Here, Mr. Tomato, if not Mr. Cabbage, is engaged in apparently cannibalistic same-species murder, and bears a child-like grin at the bonhomie created with Mr. Cabbage by his large haul of his fellow tomatoes.

Just imagine if this depicted a white coated doctor with a bag full of placenta and fetus… or a pig and bacon, or other moral equivalents.

Mr. Cabbage, while not obviously killing any of his comrades, appears ready to strike at the neck of any vegetable with his spear-trowel.

This is truly sick and disgusting.

5 Food Processors.

picture-10picture-10picture-10picture-10picture-10

More Domestic Terrorism

This is a great post:

I wonder which of Ross Douthat and Megan McArdle’s pre-existing policy preferences we’re going to have to institute in order to appease the latest domestic terrorist. Certainly, I don’t think there’s any question that this horrible tragedy could have been averted if only the Supreme Court would overrule Roe v. Wade.

And, also, I might add, why wasn’t this guy caught by racial profiling?!

Obviously, theses groups are being driven nuts by there being a black president, so in their twisted world, it’s time to kill some Jews (who, I’m sure are the puppetmasters putting Obama in power). This is part of a right-wing overboil that began last fall with the murder of a Unitarians in their church, with an Arkansas Democratic party official, the police shootings in Pittsburgh by right-wing separatists, the attempted bombings in Riverdale, and the abortion doctor shooting in Kansas.

They think the “liberals” are taking over. Suddenly, treason, sedition, and violating the rule of law are perfectly fine. When Bush was president, merely voting against his fake war was treason, or not wearing a flag lapel pin, or not clapping loud enough.

Right wing frustration has certainly been stoked by the declining economy. But as Amy Chua wrote in her book World on Fire, the economic decline of a majority group (here, whites) if seen to be caused by others (here, blacks and/or Jews) can and does lead to violent blowback. In some of Chua’s cases, the blowback was a justified answer to violent oppression. A recent book review in the Forward also documents this trend as stemming from internationalism replacing communism as the scapegoat. This is why guys like today’s shooter may be just as exorcised that Obama was, you know, not born in America as his being black, and, while not usually a concern of Nazis, his perceived lack of desire to slaughter all Arabs is seen as UNism instead of not just killing all the non-Americans.

This is all the more reason that the DHS’s report on internal terrorists in April should have been heeded, not ridiculed. It’s not that like this is news to people that have been paying attention.

This after 8 years of a “war on terror,” which was used to justify everything from shoe removal at the airport, to one of the largest losses of civil liberties in American history, to a fake war against the wrong people—and all the while, the people in this very country looking to do us harm were almost entirely ignored. Why? Because they were racially profiled as, you know, non-terrorists.

Racial profiling—the kind the right wants—just like torture is not about getting results or preventing crime. It is and always will be about punishing that group.

It’s ultimate failure ought to be shown here, by an 89 year old white man committing acts of terrorism.

Suicide Food

Before I changed jobs a little over a year ago, a coworker of mine showed me a website bemoaning the pandemic of logos for eateries where the animal appears to be happy about you coming to eat it. I’ve attached a pretty par-for-the-course example.

There’s a pretty good article about the blog here, and a link to the site, here.

pigs-gone-wildjpgOne thing that caught my eye on the site was that the blogger denigrates free range food and the law California voters passed last year about animal caging. “Free range” you see is just a way to make ourselves feel better about the murder we’re committing.

Here’s what the article writer says:

… [to me] environmental sustainability is a more ethically precise goal than vegetarianism.

I don’t agree with the comment about it being more precise (not eating meat is an easy thing to do); I just agree with it [i.e. sustainability, regardless of its precision or lack thereof]. I have serious objections to both the treatment of animals and humans in our massive food production system, which is why I like things like Hekhsher Tzedek. But the idea that humans should never or were not evolved to eat meat is just vegan propaganda without scientific basis. I also think that our failure to create a sustainable food production system is literally civilization-threatening, so I do support organic food production.

The blogger’s criticism of free range food reminds me of pro-lifers who scoff at people who only are really bothered by late term abortions, or extremists among them who even consider birth control murder. At the end of the day, when a large majority of society does something, just labeling it wrong isn’t going to do anything. You might be right. But a mere judgment rarely persuades. Sometimes, it takes a war to make “right” real.

Just in case it’s not clear, I do support this guy’s right to say what he’s saying, and I don’t think vegans are weird. There are a lot of reasons not to eat meat. I personally go long stretches as a vegetarian (eggs, honey, and cheese are still on the menu even during these times). What I don’t like is this zeal for converts. In that sense, they who do act as such,remind me more of Operation Rescue than MLK.

Update I:

[In case the latter isn't clear, the judgment-laden moralizing of the vegan position—yes, I'm sure YOU are an exception—is a poor means to the end of getting people to comply with what you want. To the extent vegans aren't self-aware of their community's judgmentalism, they are imperiling their goals. To the extent they are aware and take the Goldwater defense (extremism in defense of liberty is no vice) they are similarly imperiling their goals, to which I am sympathetic, if not fully on board.]

Update II:

P.P.S. I acknowledge that moralizing about free range food is not the emphasis of Suicide Food, but this is not a review of the site in toto, but a comment on this kind of  phenomenon in general. Just in case it’s not clear, the author’s judgmentalism comes through regardless of the topic.

Teacher Pay

This is what needs to be done.

So what kind of teachers could a school get if it paid them $125,000 a year?

An accomplished violist who infuses her music lessons with the neuroscience of why one needs to practice, and creatively worded instructions like, “Pass the melody gently, as if it were a bowl of Jell-O!”

A self-described “explorer” from Arizona who spent three decades honing her craft at public, private, urban and rural schools.

Everyone’s all for the free market until that means that the market for something should be competitive at their cost.

Two with Ivy League degrees. And Joe Carbone, a phys ed teacher, who has the most unusual résumé of the bunch, having worked as Kobe Bryant’s personal trainer.

Everyone’s all for the free market until it means that they might have to pay more for something. In the case of education, there isn’t really a mystery as to what the problem is. When you pay teachers less than most secretaries make, you’re going to get people who the market is going to make secretaries.

Instead, education relies on the missionary zeal of teachers to care when they aren’t paid. In every other profession, there is little or no controversy over getting paid more. When startups were stealing talent in the late 90s, law firms and investment brokerage firms raised starting salaries. They bitched, but they did it because they wanted the talent.

Yes, this is a knock on many current teachers. Sorry. Some are great. Some aren’t.

Health Care Reform

This is a brilliant article in the New Yorker.

The point is, though it never explicitly says it, is that the problem with our health care system is not trial lawyers or even insurance companies: it’s the doctors.

This is the dirty little secret that no one really wants to touch, because doctors play the role in our culture that Hercules and Achilles played in the ancient world: romantic heroes who struggle against the gods. There is always at least one hit hospital show on television. Hardly an episode goes by where the doctors not only perform some miraculous surgery, but they impart sage wisdom on their patients as well. The patient isn’t just healed, they are reborn and you just know they will live happily ever after. It’s biblical.

I have nothing against doctors. I believe they should be well compensated, and I believe there should be more medical schools. I believe that the cost of that education should be subsidized, because it’s no wonder so many doctors enter the field with revenue on their brains when they come out of school a quarter million dollars in debt!

But they are not magic people. They are no more heroes than teachers, policemen, firemen, servicemen, or, even some lawyers. And they are just as susceptible to the concerns of having a house, paying for braces and college as the rest of us. In other words, they are human just like the rest of us.

The New Yorker article argues that the argument over public or private payment misses the point because until we fix how the *doctors* operate, the costs will go up. I think that’s engaging in a little bit of hyperbole to make a valid point. A private system without at least some government help will never cover everyone even if we suddenly develop the most cost effective health care system in the world. Even entertaining the thought that we can do that and the rest of the world is too stupid to have though of it or to have tried is the same old American exceptionalism (we think of America the same way we think of doctors) that gets us so often into trouble.

Domestic Terrorism

Will the mainstream media call the hit by christian fundamentalists today on an abortion doctor in Kansas what it is: domestic terrorism? Will there be questions about the propriety of waterboarding this guy? Will there be apologies for criticizing homeland security secretary Napolitano for her report or right wing radicalism? Will all of the doubt Dick Cheney tried to kick up recently apply if there is another Oklahoma City like event, or is “terrorism” just code for Islamic radicals and not Christian ones? What about declaring war on Venezuela now because we don’t like their leader and that country happens to be Christian, just like the terrorist here?

You know the answers to all of these questions, so, they are, of course, merely rhetorical, but they capture all of the lunacy of this decade in one discreet example.