Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Monday, November 28, 2005
This week, I present to you my lovely roommate, Sarah Miller, who is a Secondary Education major at Northwestern University. Here's what she had to say to our interviewer (me) after dinner tonight:
Q. What's your favorite movie?
Sense and sensibility, Clue, Lord of the Rings series
Q. What's your favorite food?
pasta and white rice
Q. What is your favorite spice?
Q. What is the coolest thing you ever cooked yourself?
probably my carmelita cookies
Q. Least favorite food?
rye bread and sauerkraut
Q. What do you clean immediately?
my room, my desk area, and my floor to some degree
Q. What do you wait to clean?
My bathtub. I'm really bad about cleaning my tub.
Q. Do you like this interview so far?
Q. Care to elaborate?
Q. What appliance would you buy if you could afford it?
Either a toaster oven, an espresso maker because I like the way it makes the frothy milk, or a nice coffee pot with a grinder and it times the whole thing
Q. Does it grind the whole beans?
Yeah, it grinds the beans.
Q. Which male celebrity is most attractive to you?
I don't really pay attention to them. Orlando Bloom was pretty cute when he was in Lord of the Rings, but I don't think his hair now is cute.
Q. Do you remember a moment when you laughed so hard you cried?
I do remember when I was on the France ship and my friend Liz was like, 'what's up with the French and carousels?' And just the other night, one of Steve's friends bit into a cracker, then offered the bitten into cracker to another friend, and said, 'here, want to have a taste?' Then another friend saw the whole thing, goes over to another guy who didn't see this, says, 'hey I just regurgitated this cracker, do you want a taste?' Also the time when you and I were making jokes about our Greek lit class while studying for finals and talking about how our teacher said at one point, 'Jason was pretty lazy. Theseus killed the Minotaur; what have you done lately?'
Q. What song, no matter how much you play it, will you never get sick of?
Probably '1979' by Smashing Pumpkins and '33' by Smashing Pumpkins and 'I Want You' by Third Eye Blind
Q. And finally, who do you think the Democrats should run in 2008?
Our family was actually talking about this. We say, maybe Hillary, if and only if she can create a separate vision from Bill Clinton and be her own person. If she doesn't, she's doomed. Maybe Gore, but I can't think of another candidate that would be successful.
Q. Obama? Yes or no?
I think he's too young.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
In the White House statement, which was released under the headline "Senator Biden Adopts Key Portions Of Administration's Plan For Victory In Iraq," McClellan said the administration of President George W. Bush welcomed Biden's voice in the debate. "Today, Senator Biden described a plan remarkably similar to the administration's plan to fight and win the war on terror," the spokesman went on to say.
And this is both funny and sad:
McClellan said the White House now saw "a strong consensus" building in Washington in favor of Bush's strategy in Iraq.So by leaving a violence-ridden, WMD-lacking Iraq, we are favoring Bush's strategy. Hey, if this is really what Bush wanted, there would have been a "consensus" for a lot longer than the last three days. Maybe the Bush White House is trying to co-op the plan because of this:
The White House statement also embraced a Senate amendment to a defense authorization bill overwhelmingly passed by the Senate on November 15 that asked the administration to make next year "a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty" thereby creating conditions "for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq."
The measure was largely seen as a reprimand to the Bush administration, which has often been accused of lacking a viable strategy in Iraq.
Or maybe Bush is just being a flip-flopper. We all know how much he loves that word.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Civic Engagement: Do Republican "bad times" and our best efforts make Democratic victories any more obtainable?
I'm making this part the third addition to my blog series on civic engagement, because the analyses by Pierson and Hacker should be a guiding force for where some of our priorities should be as Democratic activists to overcome Republican power in the next several years.
Pierson is best known for his work Dismantling of the Welfare State? which suggests that despite the political onslaught against it in the 1980s, the modern social welfare state survived the era of Thatcherism and Reaganism, and Hacker for The Divided Welfare State which explores the reasons for America's ambivalence towards public benefits. Both books came in handy when I was writing a research paper last year comparing European health care systems to the U.S. system because they made a point of separating rhetoric from reality and taking a close look at the attributes of the governments studied.
Pierson and Hacker, who opined soon after George W. Bush's 2004 election that the president nevertheless lacked a mandate are now supplementing a response with why it will be difficult for Democrats to maintain a majority, and it's not merely our own fault.
For one, their analysis proves once again that there needs to be a legal movement in our party to repeal the arcane Electoral College based upon the 14th Amendment. Here's why:
Republicans enjoy a lead right out of the starting blocks thanks to the geographic structure of American elections. In the Senate, Republicans have a tremendous built-in edge because small states, which lean Republican, are so overrepresented. As a result, Democrats can win a majority of votes nationwide and still not gain control. In the last three Senate elections, as the political journalist Hendrik Hertzberg has pointed out, Democrats have actually received 2.4 million more votes than Republicans, yet the G.O.P. has won 11 more seats. The Senate's 55 Republicans represent 131 million people (assuming each senator represents half a state's population); its 44 Democrats represent 161 million.
We also need to fight Republican gerrymandering, as suggested by Pierson and Hacker's assertion that the House district layout is also slanted against a Democratic majority:
Surprisingly, the electoral battlefield is also quite tilted in the House. Congressional districts are roughly equal in population. But Republicans are helped by the fact that Democratic voters are more tightly packed together. In 2004, for example, Bush won 50.7 percent of the popular vote. But because he typically lost by large margins in Democratic districts and won by smaller margins in Republican districts, he came out ahead in nearly 59 percent of the nation's Congressional districts. By the same token, the Republicans could retain control of the House next year even if the majority of voters cast their ballots for Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, the G.O.P. has padded its lead by aggressively redrawing the Congressional map.
...And make real campaign-finance laws that address the fact that the huge Republican financial war chest is part of a vicious circle that allows the party of the rich, to legislate for the rich and in turn remain well-endowed by the rich:
Between 1974 and 2002, the amount spent by successful House challengers rose from $100,000 (in 2002 dollars) to $1.5 million. And money isn't equally distributed between the parties. Over the last decade, Republicans have cultivated close ties to deep-pocketed donors and special-interest groups. They have also developed a highly institutionalized system of intercandidate giving, in which party members and their PAC's donate to other Republicans to keep the majority in power.
And how do the Republicans keep members of their party in power in moderate districts?
After the leadership has assured itself that a controversial bill will pass, moderate Republicans are released to cast highly publicized votes of "conscience." This is one reason why so many big bills end up magically squeaking through with no votes to spare.This strategy explains why my home district's Republican Congressman Mark Kirk, who largely votes with Bush but represents a district that went for Kerry 52%-48 voted against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a couple of weeks ago.
And though Democrats have been lambasted by everyone from their opponents, to the mainstream media to members of their own party for not having ideas, Republican ideas are much easier to take notice of judging by the size of their figurative podium:
All this calls into question the ubiquitous complaints that the Democrats' ineptitude is what mainly accounts for G.O.P. dominance. Democrats are right to be rethinking their strategies. But what they face isn't the old game of give-and-take. Instead, it's a game that Rick Santorum explained candidly in 2003: "This idea that somehow or other. . .everybody has a seat at the table all the time, it's just not the way this place operates. The majority means something. It means that you win."
This article is a good read, and I look forward to reading more in Pierson and Hacker's new book Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
It is produced in Tuscany, in strictly delimited areas among the provinces of Florence, Siena, Arezzo and Grosseto. It is based mainly on Sangiovese grapes but also includes other varieties. Chianti is a DOC, but corresponds to a much larger area than the region originally known as Chianti. Wine from this smaller region is labeled Chianti Classico and is a DOCG. It typically has a picture of a black rooster (known in Italian as a gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle. Chianti Classico that meets slightly more stringent requirements, primarily with respect to aging, may be labelled Chianti Classico Riserva.I got myself a bottle of Placido, and for a cheap wine, it is quite good. Plus, there's a great graphic of an Italian renaissance man on the bottle.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
WARREN, PA—Although respondents to a Pew poll taken prior to the 2004 presidential election characterized Bush as "the candidate they'd most like to sit down and have a beer with," Chris Reinard lived the hypothetical scenario Sunday afternoon, and characterized it as "really uncomfortable and awkward."
Reinard, a father of four who supported Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections, said sharing a beer with the president at the Switchyard Tap gave him "an uneasy feeling."
"I thought he'd be great," Reinard said. "But when I actually met him, I felt real put off."
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Anyway, I ended this practice about the time I started college, not only because I treasured my sleep, but because I treasured my mental health. The Sunday morning shows consistently got their coverage wrong, causing me to yell at the TV out loud or in my head, which one can only do for so long. After awhile, the Cokie Roberts-Sam Donaldson duo was too much for me to bare. I stopped watching the news shows. The following is another reason why.
During the Clinton presidency, a constant topic on these shows was Clinton's "appearance of guilt," which opened the talk show floor up to much speculation accompanied by little analysis based on fact (NOTE: no one was indicted or convicted of crimes connected to the Whitewater investgation). For those who think the press relishes a scandal--a view that I find overly-simplistic--ask yourselves why we don't here the cacophony of scandal-mongering from the bygone days of Clinton now that members of the Bush administration are being questioned both in a criminal and in a moral context about their actions, actions that are undeniably much more serious.
A very recent example of the D.C. press corps's misplaced priorities is Tim Russert's recent interview with DNC Chairman Howard Dean. First, after Dean pointed out that the administration lied in connecting Saddam to Iraq as a justification for going to war there, Russert incorrectly asserted that they had never done such a thing. Russert then grilled Dean persistently about why the Democrats had no specific answers to problems they have been bringing light to--problems from health care to the tax code to the war. Dean pointed out that (1) the Democrats do have answers and (2) the Democrats, who currently are the minority in the House, Senate, and who don't hold the presidency, are the opposition party. In practical terms, there is no point in the opposition party constructing specific legislation unless they can get it passed through bipartisan support. Something like guaranteed healthcare or a revision of the tax code isn't going to go through this Congress, and that's why we need to "clean House" (pun very much intended).
So why did Russert persist in this line of questioning, even after Dean gave what was a very genuine and logical answer? My guess: Tim feels lost if he is not trying to find something wrong with Democrats, which he is so accustomed to doing. Back in the '90s, mainstream media deans like Russert weren't among that group of people who were increasingly frustrated that the Republicans didn't have any intention of getting to the nation's business. Funny then how doggedly Tim pursued Dean on this question, despite Democrats being the minority party. Funnier still that, as in the 1990s, the group that does care that Republicans aren't getting to the nation's business--as polls continually show--are the American people. Russert would do the country a favor to join the rest of us and get to what really matters in this country. I'll give you a hint, Tim: it's not what you think it is.
"But what the Plame leak investigation has unveiled is what the press should have been focusing on long before and without let up--how we went to war, the dishonesty involved in that process in terms of what the president and vice-president told the American people and the Congress, and the routine smearing by members of the Bush administration of people who questioned their actions and motives."As someone on a Crooks and Liars thread said of Bob Woodward, "I liked you better when you were Robert Redford." Amen.
Bernstein compared that to the way the Watergate investigation uncovered widespread dishonesty in the Nixon administration in a similar way. "Beware of exact comparisons," he said. "However, in Watergate, the cover-up of the role of Nixon's aides in the Watergate break-in led to the discovery by the press and the political institutions of the larger crimes -- the so called 'White House horrors' -- meaning the constitutional crimes of the president and his men.
"In the case of the disclosure of the identity of Valerie Plame, there also has been a political cover-up, not necessarily a criminal one, having to do with the question of how we went to war and the smearing of this administration's opponents," he added. "The question of whether or not there is criminal culpability by Lewis Libby or Karl Rove is less-important, I believe, than the fact that their actions have finally shed light on questions that long ago should have been examined much more closely by the press and the political establishment, and particularly the president's fellow Republicans."
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
In light of the popularity of meetups, utilized frequently by progressive organizations like MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, I wonder whether we need worry so much about civic disengagement in this country. As John Edwards said a couple of weeks ago when I saw him, Americans want to get involved, we want to be called on. With all that's going wrong in our country, people want to feel empowered enough to know that there is something they can do.
The most recent meetup occurred last night through the Democratic National Committee, and if people start criticizing the Democrats for doing nothing, I want them to do some research on former Governor Howard Dean's time as DNC Chairman and report back to me. Dean has brought his "netroots" populism approach to his role as party chair, reaching out to people through the net, as well as launching a "50-State Strategy." Though I was unable to go to a meetup last night, it appears that they were well attended. I have to say that just looking at the photos of all of the people of different ages who attended the events in all parts of the country makes me happier about politics than I've been in a long time. As one attendee said:
When Howard Dean became Chairman of the DNC, he came with the promise of empowering Democrats at the local level in all fifty states to win elections from the top of the ticket, to the bottom, and all manner of races in between. The change in culture has been an enormous undertaking and is already beginning to bear fruit.George W. Bush and the rest of the modern Republican party has always wanted us to believe that people who are against their policies are a fringe, but they have been coasting for too long on Nixon's "silent majority" strategy. The continued success and popularity of meetups, several of which I have attended and enjoyed, should be an encouraging sign to all of us who have been discouraged about politics and the civic involvement of our fellow Americans.
The most exciting part of the DNC's new 50 state strategy is the foundation is built by grassroots participation and investment. Over the past several months Democrats have invested in the party by purchasing Democracy Bonds; these bonds have allowed for the hiring of three local organizers in 38 individual states across the country so far. Last night Democrats invested in their time and effort as over 1000 individuals in all fifty states (and 20 countries abroad) held "organizational kick-off events" in their own homes and local establishments.
Monday, November 14, 2005
"Rasputin" by Boney M.
There lived a certain man in russia long ago
He was big and strong, in his eyes a flaming glow
Most people looked at him with terror and with fear
But to moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear
He could preach the Bible like a preacher
Full of ecstacy and fire
But he also was the kind of teacher
Women would desire
Ra ra rasputin Lover of the russian queen
There was a cat that really was gone
Ra ra rasputin Russia’s greatest love machine
It was a shame how he carried on
Waterloo by Abba
My my, at waterloo napoleon did surrender
Oh yeah, and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way
The history book on the shelf
Is always repeating itself
Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo - couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you Waterloo - finally facing my waterloo
Thursday, November 10, 2005
The New Trier Democratic Organization raised about $30,000 during its annual dinner in Northbrook on Sunday.
Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, speculated to be a contender for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president, was the featured guest of the night.
The evening's mood ranged from light-hearted, with bidding on several Democratic momentos -- a bow-tie worn by the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon and an apple pie baked by state Rep. Karen May, D-58th, to name two -- to serious, with Edwards speaking about national poverty and homelessness before a crowd of 300.
The dinner, held at the Renaissance Hotel in Northbrook, is the New Trier Democratic Organization's only large fundraiser, Finance Director Joan Berman said.
Edwards, a North Carolina Democrat, did not disclose his future political campaign aspirations, said Anne Wedner, a member of the New Trier Democratic Organization.
Also, they missed out on the chance to include a photograph of me shaking Edwards' hand that someone from the Pioneer Press took while there. Too bad, because I would have liked a photo of that for myself.
...Deceptive practices all too often target and exploit vulnerable populations, like minorities, the disabled, or the poor.
Think about the story of the 2004 presidential election when voters in Milwaukee received fliers from the non- existent ``Milwaukee Black Voters League,'' warning that voters risk imprisonment for voting if they were ever found guilty of any offense--even a traffic violation. In that same election, in a county in Ohio, some voters received mailings misinforming voters that anyone registered to vote by the Kerry Campaign or the NAACP would be barred from voting. Deceptive practices often rely on a few tried and true tricks. Voters are often warned that an unpaid parking ticket will lead to their arrest or that folks with family members who have been convicted of a crime are ineligible to vote. Of course, these warnings have no basis in fact, and they are made with one goal and one goal only to keep Americans away from the polls.
I hope voters who go to the polls today are not victims of such malicious campaigns, but I know hoping is not enough. That is why I am introducing the Deceptive Election Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2005 to provide voters with real protection from deceptive practices that aim to keep them away from the polls on Election Day.
We'll hopefully get an idea of which senators are committed to voting rights when this act is voted on. I don't see why every senator shouldn't vote this one into law.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Incumbent Democrat Governor Mark Warner's approval ratings are at 80% (according to The Washington Post), an enormous advantage for Kaine.
Mark Warner (left)
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Monday, November 07, 2005
This disconnect illustrates the general disconnect between the city of Paris and many of its suburbs. I remember taking the RER (regional) train out of Paris while there, once to go to Charles DeGaulle airport, and once to a festival. Paris and its suburbs, it seemed, was like a kind of inverted 1970s America. Instead of leaving a run down inner city for affluent suburbs, one leaves an affluent inner city moving into suburbs of housing projects and other grim buildings.
Whether it is the city or the suburbs that is home to poor and isolated members of a society, members who are uncoincidentally part of the same race, the result is the same. A spark--in this case, the accidental deaths by electrocution of two young men who were being chased by police into a train station--set off the riots, but violent discontent like what we are seeing has been a long time coming from a community that has been largely isolated from the larger French society. These events harken back to the riots after Martin Luther King Jr's assassination in the late 1960s that broke out in poor areas of American inner cities.
The France ideal of laïcité or secularism, which was behind, the banning of a Muslim girl's wearing of her headscarf to her French public school is great in theory. In practice, however, France's government cannot require its citizens to maintain equality between one another if it is unwilling to admit that its citizens do not start off equal in the first place. It's not an easy problem to solve, this problem of the new immigration wave in France (and other European countries) and the harsh lack of integration that characterizes it.
So, let the riots be a lesson to Americans that anti-immigration stances, discrimination, and social segregation breed an unstable society.
It can almost assuredly be said that once Samuel Alito is on the court, the U.S. Supreme Court will nearly resemble the "Lochner Court" of the early 20th Century that struck down New Deal legislation as unconstitutional. I don't think people want to go back to a time when the Supreme Court espoused the interests of business--framed perhaps in a mildly plausible rhetoric of principle--while striking down laws that were popular and beneficial to a large portion of American society.
For this reason, I like the new dialogue of interdependence and civic responsibility that is coming from some Democrats, most particularly John Edwards, who I had the pleasure of seeing earlier tonight at my local district's Democratic political organization's annual dinner. It is also why I appreciate this quote from Hendrik Hertzberg from a year or so ago, which I will leave you with tonight:
Social Security--like the public-school system, the progressive income tax, the neighborhood public library, the subways and buses, food stamps, and a host of other socialistic schemes--runs counter to the narrow economic interests of the rich...It does benefit them as citizens, however, assuming that they prefer to live in a society of civic peace, civic order, and civic decency--a society of trust.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
In 2000, Judge Samuel Alito authored an opinion in which he concluded that Congress did not have the power to require state employers to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act. This ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2003, with a 6-3 margin. Voting in dissent? That's right, everyone's favorite activist justice, Antonin Scalia. Now why should this somewhat arcane labor issue be of interest to me, particularly in light of Alito's involvement in the much more controversial and interesting Casey decision? Well, I am an employee of the state of Washington. Had Alito and Scalia gotten their way, my employers could have denied me leave, and I wouldn't be in the position I am now--able to provide assistance to my disabled sister and brother-in-law while he fights for his life against an aggressive and deadly lymphoma.
I don't know whether Alito is a self-avowed "structuralist" or "textualist" like Antonin Scalia, but as it appears that his rulings follow that mold, it should be noted that these judges have no problem striking down acts of Congress that they don't like. In their view, issues like abortion should be up to a legislature that reflects the popular mandate of the people as the Constitution would dictate. At the same time, they strike down clean air and violence against women laws passed by Congress. Seems kind of arbitrary and not very principled, no?
Anyway, I would rather see a mainstream media organ investigate this apparent contradiction over writing about Alito's congenial personality. Myself and the millions of other Americans who will be affected by this man will never personally meet him; why should we care what he is like?