Friday, September 12, 2008

Even Sasha is Way Excited

There's too much to say to sit on the sidelines.

Shorter and more streamlined... I hope.

Visit me now at:

See you there.

Buckle up.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Prepare Yourselves

Joe Justice will return this Spring.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday Quick Hits

Over the weekend in San Francisco, Elizabeth Edwards revealed that she is "comfortable" with gay marriage. The San Francisco Chronicle reported this position was "markedly" different than her husband's position, which is in support of civil unions, but not marriage. Question: how does such a distinction qualify as "marked"? (Which means "strikingly noticeable".)

Answer: It doesn't. The media has no clue how to objectively report on the legal realities underlying civil unions and gay marriage, without relying on hyper-emotional rhetoric and superficial differences. There are real legal distinctions between the two positions, but to label them "markedly" different is dishonest within the context of the 2008 campaign. GOP candidates like Romney, Huckabee, or most definitely Fred Thompson, who support no legal rights for gay couples at all, are holding positions markedly different from all Democrats. There's the "marked."

Meet the Press had lovely Gwen Ifill this weekend, who had me at "Hello" and then lost me the minute she said, "I bow to David Broder and his assessment." Yikes. Broder has become the Larry King of political journalism; he had just finished chastising the panel and Tim Russert for being "much too dismissive" of public sentiment and that in the current environment an independent could "absolutely" get elected President. The majority of the American public cannot even get our current President to listen to Congress, or get our Branchless Vice President to follow the rule of law. The high level of public discomfort with the political parties does not lead to the conclusion that an independent run would be automatically viable. We were all told in 2004 that the public wouldn't elect Kerry because we were afraid to switch leaders during the War on Terror but now we're to believe we'll switch to, say, Bloomberg? I would hope Ifill would reconsider her Broder love. Soon. The guy has been so wrong for so long, he should be running the Justice Department.

Fortune Magazine has Hillary on the cover and an article that includes a mind-boggling quote from the wife of Merrill Lynch CEO John Mack, "You have these preconceived ideas about people you see in the public eye. But we were extremely impressed with her ability to connect with every single person. She was an amazing listener, with tremendous warmth."

Aren't the "preconceived ideas" most of us hold purely based upon Hillary's actual public performance for the past 14 or so years? Do the Democrats really want to nominate another "personable and warm behind closed doors" candidate? Because voters never see that hidden side, then, well, doesn't that persona become irrelevant for election purposes?

Angelina Jolie's A Mighty Heart tanked at the box office this weekend. After all her preachy political condescension and way-too-public husband-stealing and baby-buying, this seems to be a reasonable public response. I hope she takes A Mighty Break from the movies.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's All Coming Back to Me Now

I have election fatigue! Help me.

This Clinton clip, using the Sopranos finale as inspiration, is honest-to-goodness clever. I am still reluctant to look her in the eye, though.

In any event one must admit, the cultural and social awareness on the Democratic side is solid this cycle (especially in contrast with Fred Thompson's throwback trip to visit Margaret Thatcher this week... or, um, with John McCain himself).

But, Hillary... a Celine Dion song? Really?

To Greg's chagrin I love the Canadian songbird, but man, I don't get the Clinton campaign's choice here... I still think Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" should have won. "To the left, to the left..."

More on the Fred Thompson sideshow shortly. Your patience is appreciated.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Grand Old Video Party

Oh please, please nominate this guy.

Or even one of these... that's fine with me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

America's Monger Ames Lower

Rudy! is skipping the Iowa GOP Straw Poll this August due to the poll being a "sideshow" from his effort to win the White House. I attended this event in August 1999 and there's no doubt these types of fundraising polls are admittedly a pony show and truly unscientific (the year I went Steve Forbes bused in so many voters from out-of-state his orange shirts seemed like the official uniform of the event--and still, flat tax or no, he lost the poll). Yet one has to ask, if this event is "a fundraiser" for the Iowa GOP and "a lot of fun" and "an exciting event" according to Giuliani campaign surrogate (and failed candidate for Governor) Jim Nussle, what's the harm in making an effort?

Rudy's folks say they want to keep their money to spend on the caucus, but even the state GOP head Craig Robinson doesn't buy it, telling reporters, “Obviously, he feels like he can’t compete at the straw poll, so he’s going to skip it... His staff is pretty green, and they’re not from Iowa and not ready for it. If he’s not doing any better, they might skip the caucus.”

Thus, the Giuliani campaign's explanation of their decision not-to-show at the "fun" Straw Poll seems so artless and tired, it's hard not to be amused at the fearmonger's fear of a place that's so "life changing" and was once called A Place to Grow.

With the two national Party "front-runners" Hillary and Rudy fairing so badly in little old Iowa (Hillary announced an Iowa campaign shake-up today), it is truly looking like America may find itself in Iowa's debt on caucus night.

That might just make up for the whole John Kerry thing.

Update: McCain is out of the poll now, as well. A "fun" event just got a lot less so. Ironically, this only hurts the Iowa Republican Party. Oh well! Enjoy your Straw Poll, Mitt!

Cut and Paste: What I'm Reading

Fareed Zakaria in the June 11 Newsweek:

More troubling than any of Bush's rhetoric is that of the Republicans who wish to succeed him. "They hate you!" says Rudy Giuliani in his new role as fearmonger in chief, relentlessly reminding audiences of all the nasty people out there. "They don't want you to be in this college!" he recently warned an audience at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. "Or you, or you, or you," he said, reportedly jabbing his finger at students. In the first Republican debate he warned, "We are facing an enemy that is planning all over this world, and it turns out planning inside our country, to come here and kill us." On the campaign trail, Giuliani plays a man exasperated by the inability of Americans to see the danger staring them in the face. "This is reality, ma'am," he told a startled woman at Oglethorpe. "You've got to clear your head."

The notion that the United States today is in grave danger of sitting back and going on the defensive is bizarre. In the last five and a half years, with bipartisan support, Washington has invaded two countries and sent troops around the world from Somalia to the Philippines to fight Islamic militants. It has ramped up defense spending by $187 billion—more than the combined military budgets of China, Russia, India and Britain. It has created a Department of Homeland Security that now spends more than $40 billion a year. It has set up secret prisons in Europe and a legal black hole in Guantánamo, to hold, interrogate and—by some definitions—torture prisoners. How would Giuliani really go on the offensive? Invade a couple of more countries?

The presidential campaign could have provided the opportunity for a national discussion of the new world we live in. So far, on the Republican side, it has turned into an exercise in chest-thumping. Whipping up hysteria requires magnifying the foe. The enemy is vast, global and relentless. Giuliani casually lumps together Iran and Al Qaeda. Mitt Romney goes further, banding together all the supposed bad guys. "This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hizbullah and Hamas and Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood," he recently declared.

But Iran is a Shiite power and actually helped the United States topple the Qaeda-backed Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Qaeda-affiliated radical Sunnis are currently slaughtering Shiites in Iraq, and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are responding by executing and displacing Iraq's Sunnis. We are repeating one of the central errors of the early cold war—putting together all our potential adversaries rather than dividing them. Mao and Stalin were both nasty. But they were nasties who disliked one another, a fact that could be exploited to the great benefit of the free world. To miss this is not strength. It's stupidity.

Joe Justice: Isn't that Bush's legacy to the GOP? "It's the stupidity, stupid."

Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta, Jr. in New York Times Magazine article, "Hillary's War":

Late in the afternoon of June 14, 2006, a group of Democratic senators and their aides headed to Room 224, a small sitting room in the Capitol belonging to the Democratic minority leader, Harry Reid. The room had held a series of private conferences over the previous days at which a small group of Democrats discussed Iraq policy. The secluded location meant that the senators could plot the party’s strategy and discuss their differences away from their Republican colleagues and the press.

That day, the usual attendees were surprised to discover a newcomer in attendance: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. She was one of the first to arrive and took a place on a love seat, one of the two couches in the room. Sitting next to her was Carl Levin. As the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Levin was the de facto leader of the session, since the meeting involved amendments to the pending defense authorization bill. Clinton draped one arm around the back of the couch and chewed gum, a participant recalled.

Reid began by recalling Senator John Kerry’s recent proposal to withdraw American troops by the end of the year. After making some dismissive remarks about Kerry’s amendment, Clinton largely remained quiet over the course of the next 20 to 30 minutes. Senator Reid, the meeting’s host, then turned to Clinton and asked to hear her thoughts. There was a long pause.

“It was odd to give her the stage on this,” said another participant in the meeting, noting that Clinton had not attended any of the previous strategy sessions. However, the participant added, Clinton was the “big enchilada,” so “all eyes turned to her to hear what she thinks.”

Clinton spoke for five or six minutes.

“I don’t support a fixed date for getting out, and I don’t support an open-ended commitment,” Clinton told her colleagues. Then she picked up on ideas put forth in an alternative amendment then being proposed by Senators Levin and Jack Reed. Their amendment, which had no force of law, called for the president to “begin the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq” before the end of the year.

Clinton caustically reminded her colleagues why she was supporting a less confrontational posture toward the White House than the Kerry measure.

“In case you haven’t noticed,” she said, “we don’t control anything.” Clinton went on to lecture her colleagues about the political acumen of administration officials. “Karl Rove and George Bush are no fools,” she warned.

Joe Justice: Are Democratic primary voters?

Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker, "Party Unfaithful":

When I asked Rove if the persistence of bad news, along with criticism from conservatives, has made the White House a moody place, he let loose an apparently authentic laugh. “This is a great place to work,” he said. “It’s inspiring to work here. It’s neat, particularly when you’ve got a boss whose attitude is ‘What can we do today to advance our goals? What are the big things we could be doing?’ ” Such statements fail to acknowledge that the President has been spending much of his time fighting congressional attempts to limit his mobility in Iraq and to force the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. For Rove, the future is still Republican. “I don’t think by any means it’s a sure thing, but I do think there are these big societal changes driving us, and I think that the conservative movement and the Party through which it operates are going to benefit,” he said. “That’s not to say that it’s going to be an ever-upward line. And it also doesn’t mean that smart Democrats can’t do something about it.”

Rove thinks that more voters now are being influenced by technology and religion. “There are two or three societal trends that are driving us in an increasingly deep center-right posture,” he said. “One of them is the power of the computer chip. Do you know how many people’s principal source of income is eBay? Seven hundred thousand.” He went on, “So the power of the computer has made it possible for people to gain greater control over their lives. It’s given people a greater chance to run their own business, become a sole proprietor or an entrepreneur. As a result, it has made us more market-oriented, and that equals making you more center-right in your politics.” As for spirituality, Rove said, “As baby boomers age and as they’re succeeded by the post-baby-boom generation, within both of those generations there’s something going on spiritually—people saying it’s not all about materialism, it’s not all about the pursuit of material things. If you look at the traditional mainstream denominations, they’re flat, but what’s growing inside those denominations, and what’s growing outside those denominations, is churches that are filling this spiritual need, that are replacing sterility with something vibrant, something that speaks to the heart of the individual, that gives a sense of purpose.” Rove believes what he has always believed: that the Christian right and, to a lesser extent, tax- and regulation-averse businessmen will continue to assure Republican victories.

Early G.O.P. Presidential polls, though, don’t seem to confirm this analysis. Rudolph Giuliani stands more firmly than any of his rivals for abortion rights and civil unions for gays, and at this point appears to be in the lead. Bush, polls suggest, has also lost the support of some self-described conservatives. (Thirty-three per cent of voters in 2004 identified themselves that way.) But Rove cautioned against reading too much into polls, or the results of the 2006 midterm elections. “It’s important to keep in perspective how close the election actually was,” he said. “Three thousand five hundred and sixty-two votes and we would have had a Republican Senate. That’s the gap in the Montana Senate race. And eighty-five thousand votes are the difference in the fifteen closest House races. There’s no doubt we’ve taken a short-term hit in the face of a very contentious war, but to have the Republicans suffer an average defeat for the midterm says something about the underlying strength of conservative attitudes in the country.” Rove’s arithmetic was correct, but he sounded like John Kerry, who, shortly after his defeat in the 2004 election, told me, “I received the second-highest number of votes in American history.”

Joe Justice: Enter, the vibrant, substance-free Fred Thompson.

Food for Thought

This morning on NPR, there was a report about a local California legislator going on food stamps. He was semi-complaining about only being able to eat soup and cereal. I have heard about several state and local legislators doing this as of late, and I find this completely ridiculous (Q: does this make a Republican?).

The legislators purportedly do this to prove to the general public how hard it is to feed yourself and a family using food stamps... but unlike John Edwards paying for his own super-expensive haircut while championing poverty policy (which we all know I don't consider dissonant), these food stamp folks seem awfully cynical. They try it for a week, complain, and then go back to their fancy restaurants with $30 entrees.

Wouldn't the best way to assist those in need of assistance be found through enacting actual legislation; minimum wage, job creation, etc.?

I expect in a few months we will have Congresspeople injecting themselves with illnesses to prove how bad the health care system is, or Assemblymen sending their children to inner-city schools for a week to demonstrate how bad the educational system has become... all that these stunts prove is that U.S. politicians like to waste time with symbolism, rather than action.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ron to You

The CNN crew talking-up the debate and not-there Fred Thompson seem to forget that Ronald Reagan was not just a conservative, but was an individual who tirelessly dedicated himself to a rigid set of "conservative" beliefs for many years--his entire governing philosophy was built upon a foundation of work, both for the advancement of his ideas and for his Party; public speeches and writings and actual executive decision-making as Governor of California fueled his drive for the White House. They (and many in the media) seem to think because Fred Thompson is an conservative actor, that he fits the Reagan bill. Forget that Fred's accidental candidacy is being fueled by GOP desperation (I'm talking to you Mary Matalin!) over a disgustingly cruddy field of candidates.

The Thompson reporting is so blatantly trite and, yes, stupid, that it should be immediately discounted, but it's being sold on channels all over America.

Welcome to 2008.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Talk to Her

In light of her recent debate performance (which Jon Stewart sharply lampooned as sending a message of "Everybody for President! Yay!") the National Journal has written that Hillary Clinton is "doing Kerry better than Kerry" as of late, and wonders aloud whether she could have beaten Bush in 2004. This is an interesting question, and I would suspect she almost definitely would have... but the issue now is whether 2008 offers such a changed landscape that a woman who claims to want to be anything but a conventional politician--but behaves exactly like one--can win the Democratic nomination.

Did you watch the debate? I watched what might be termed the Standing Hour but skipped the Sitting Hour (anytime any group sits down to debate, I lose interest since sitting down to debate makes people zombies, i.e. Edwards vs. Cheney in 2004). Overall, I was pretty impressed with the minor-step toward actual debating that occurred (and this ignores all "raise your hand" questions...).

The word "debate," according Merriam-Webster, is defined as, "a contention by words or arguments" which of course leads us to "contention," which is defined as "an act or instance of contending ," which exhaustingly leads us to "contending" which is defined as "to strive or vie in contest or rivalry."

Ideally, the contention-slash-contending would exist between the actual rivals themselves and not, say, grown men named after animals (or anchors from networks named after animals).

Obama got a good shot at Edwards, Edwards got some shots at Obama and Hillary, and Biden got some good shouting shots off into the air (some pundit said voters don't like politicians who shout, and I guess you have to agree with that one). Otherwise, the remaining candidates were dull and the topics were uneven and nothing new--the focus on all-things-Gay seemed odd and unnecessary (honestly... please leave us alone for an election cycle) and the ignoring of issues like education or spending seemed a glaring oversight.

It would be a great thing if the future debates kept moving towards letting the candidates interact more--being a President (under the Constitution, which W. obviously isn't) doesn't seem to be a unilateral undertaking, thus, shouldn't candidates for President in 2008 be required and prepared to confront opposing views and defend their own in the stress of real-time? Replace all those Gore sighs from 2000 with Gore directly questioning Bush and maybe the electoral college could have caught up to the popular vote.


Obama seemed stronger than before, everyone appears to agree on this, but I still feel like he's more into the sound of his words than the force of his argument. There is a smooth sound but no biting finish.

Edwards needs to ignore Obama and go after Hillary. Obama's supporters, who I respect and understand, won't switch to John. But many of Hillary's would, I suspect, and it's time for Edwards to confront Hillary on her machinations. As a figure, Hillary may not be on trial, but her maneuvering is, and Edwards needs to make his case and contrast Hillary's wildly enthusiastic efforts to appear strong with her inability to just stand up and, well, be strong (maybe he can get some talking points by reading "Hillary's War" in the recent New York Times Magazine).

When it comes to Hillary, her face was fresh, her voice was harsh and her sentences were short. But I am thoroughly unconvinced, both as a primary and general election voter, as to why she should be elected President. Telling us we are more safe now than before 9/11, in light of, say, a little place called Iraq, seems lunatic-based. Trying to tell us that she lost the 1994 health care battle due to a lack of "political will" seems odd--if Hillary couldn't lead then, why now? Hasn't our national discourse on policy only coarsened since that time? My only thought watching her (besides wincing at that voice) was that perhaps Mrs. Clinton should quit trying so hard to win over aspects of the Right and work harder to win over the ideologically right.

Republicans are up next, tonight.