« September 2007 | Main | November 2007 »

October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Check out these cool ghost pics.

The new Republican minority

The new Democratic majority in Congress has been pretty good in my book, but I love the new Republican minority. I'm far from the first person to suggest that the GOP is much better at being the minority than the majority, but this lays it out perfectly.

Children's health care, government spying, the atrocities of the Ottoman Empire, the toxic ramblings of Representative Pete Stark -- you name the issue, Dems managed to get their clocks cleaned in the p.r. battle with a fractured Republican minority led by a lame-duck president only marginally more popular with the American public than Chinese toy manufacturers.... [W]hat in God's name is wrong with congressional Dems? It's one thing to lose all your battles when you're the beleaguered minority crushed beneath the boot heel of a well-liked commander-in-chief and a power-mad congressional majority. But, when you can't manage to win even one lousy spin cycle under the current politically felicitous circumstances, voters are going to start wondering if you simply don't have what it takes to govern -- if perhaps you really do deserve that 25 percent approval rating"

I would point out one factual correction, however (we all know the troubles TNR has with facts.) The last I checked, Congress's approval rating was more in the range of 11% than 25%. But you get the gist.

Anyway, the fact that Republicans are more effective in the minority should come as a surprise to no one. It's always easier for lawmakers to stop others from spending than stopping themselves.

Place yer bets!

Don't tell me you haven't heard the rumors! A Category Five sized sex scandal, brewing like a witch's cauldron, building strength, preparing to sink a major presidential campaign like the Edmund Fitzgerald? Of course you have!

Well, here's your big chance to go on record with your prognosticating abilities. Who will it be? What will it be? Gay or straight? Past or present? Let's hear 'em.

For the moment, this is as far as I'm prepared to go: Not Hillary. I can't believe there isn't any scandal, real or imagined, from her past that hasn't been thoroughly vetted already.

October 30, 2007

The truth about Rangel's tax plan

Chuck Rangel has been getting a lot of ink lately while pimping his new tax reform proposal, and today he even has an Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal.

There are aspects of the plan I dislike, of course, chiefly the increase in marginal personal income tax rates. But on reading the overall plan, one is struck by how little there is to complain about. You'll never hear that from Rush Limbaugh or Pete du Pont, of course, for whom Rangel's plan would signify the utter ruin of our economy.

But think about it. It contains a cut in corporate tax rates! That is significant. It means that even hardcore Democrats are capable of recognizing that our current rate structure, which is among the highest in the industrialized world, has made us less competitive in the global economy, and has cost us jobs. That's progress.

And the centerpiece of his plan is a repeal of the AMT. That's fairly uncontroversial, as the AMT is almost universally despised. But again, think what it means. It's the rolling back of a bit of 60's-era "soak the rich" liberalism -- by a Democrat. And it also recognizes that people in the $200,000 to $500,000 annual income range deserve tax cuts too. Can you imagine George McGovern proposing such a thing? Or Walter Mondale? And this bill wasn't drafted by some blue-dog, red-state DINO, but by Charles Rangel!

The center of gravity of the Democratic Party has shifted. Its base is no longer the working poor, but well-heeled professionals in the major metropolitan areas of the blue states. That's why today's Democrats have a newfound concern with the tax burden of the folks they disparaged as "the rich" in decades past. Their staunchest support comes from people in the higher marginal tax rates who have significant stock portfolios, and the new Democrats do not want to rock the boat because it might make Wall Street nervous. That's exactly why I find the Democrats of today much less scary than their predecessors (except for John Edwards.)

October 29, 2007

From the Inigo Montoya department

My former senator is asking us to "sacrifice".

I don't think the word means what he thinks it means. I'd always thought of "sacrifice" as a noble gesture, meaning the willful, voluntary forfeiture of something you hold dear for the sake of some greater good.

Edwards seems to have a different operative definition, from what I can tell. To him, "sacrifice" seems to mean "cash that you fork over under pain of imprisonment."

And then there's this (emphasis mine):

At every stop, Edwards said, he tells voters he'll ask them to sacrifice.

So what does this whole "ask" business mean, exactly? Well, if you're like me, you're used to the word having some sort of voluntary connotation. For Edwards, it means "We'll confiscate it from your paycheck before you even see it, and if you try to prevent us you go to jail."

I find this annoying. If you guys want to be a socialist, fine, but don't try to sanitize it by making it sound like volunteering for the Frakin' Peace Corps.)

(PS: John Edwards lives in a big-ass house. And he spends a bunch of money on his hair.)


Finally, someone else has noticed what I've known for years: Sarah Jessica Parker is the least sexy woman alive.

Yep, I was way ahead of the curve on this one.

What's that? Who am I to pass such glib judgment on the pulchritude of others? Mind you, I didn't award her the title, Maxim magazine did. And if we're to start second-guessing the judgment of our finest periodicals, then what is to prevent our very social fabric from unraveling completely? Huh?

Granted, I may be no catch, but at least I compensate for my lack of inherent sexiness with other charming qualities, such as my heavy drinking. SJP, on the other hand, compensates by being a total bitch. Well, at least that's the way she always was on that horrible show my wife used to watch.

Hey, who else here knew that one of SJP's earliest acting gigs was on the old CBS Radio Mystery Theater with E. G. Marshall? Man, I used to love that show when I was a kid! I still have my iPod full of old episodes. (I am old.)

October 26, 2007

The libertarian dilemma

Help me out, folks. I got a question here.

I don't go out of my way to label myself, but I have, on occasion, used the term small-l libertarian to describe my views. Seems as apt as any, but this has provided folks like Jill, DBK and others endless opportunity to amuse themselves by pointing out perceived inconsistencies in my opinions. I appreciate their concern for my libertarian bona fides, but I do have to wonder what motivates it. I'm sure they've employed the l-word in conjunction with my name far more often than I have myself, but I'm too lazy to Google it.

I also suspect their interest in my ideological purity is a bit one-sided. If I were to embrace John Edwards, with his watered-down socialism and his denial of the right to bear arms, I doubt I'd get any grief at all from the self-appointed watchdogs of libertarian orthodoxy. I guess that for many lefties, libertarianism is all about wiretaps and Miranda rights, and not much else. Ah well.

Anyway, the latest thing to set off the arbiters of libertarian thought is my tilt toward Rudy Giuliani in the presidential election. Now just to be clear, I have never, and would never describe Rudy as a "libertarian" in any way, shape or form. Nonetheless, his unique blend fiscal conservatism and social liberalism makes him a more attractive candidate than any of the other serious players.

Yeah, there are things about Rudy that concern me. There are aspects of all the candidates that concern me. Most libertarians I know are accustomed to making tough, pragmatic choices as to which half-a-loaf they're going to cast their lot with.

So what's a small-l libertarian to do? All the Democrats, without exception, want to roll back the Bush tax cuts, so that puts them at an extreme disadvantage with me right off the bat. Furthermore, I think divided government is the best friend a libertarian can have in the real world. With Congress firmly in Democratic hands, I'm reluctant to send a Democrat to the White House unless I just have to. And on the Republican side, who else is there? Even uber-libertarian Ron Paul strikes me as hopelessly wrong on abortion and gay rights.

So tell me, what should I do? Is Rudy an unfit choice for a small-government, Goldwater-style conservative? Fine, it won't be the first time I'm wrong. But who's better? Seriously, if anyone out there can make a compelling case for one of the other top-tier candidates, I'd love to hear it. I'll do my best to be open-minded, and you might even convince me. But please be specific. Cop-out entries such as "Anybody-but-Rudy" will be disqualified. Help me out here. If you can explain why Hillary, Obama, Romney, Edwards or any of the others can stake a more convincing claim to my vote, then let me have it. I'm all ears.

October 17, 2007


I'll have to craft a better name for the phenomenon than "Rudy Denial," but for now it seems appropriate. For years, I've been told that Rudy can't possibly win the GOP nomination, let alone the November election. His lead in the polls will evaporate, you'll see!

The problem is they've been saying this basically since 2005, and Rudy's lead remains solid with the very first primaries occurring in a matter of weeks (can you believe it?)

Charles Rangel's got a particularly bad case of RD:

“It’s totally unbelievable,” said Charles Rangel, the dean of the New York Congressional delegation and a longtime adversary of Mr. Giuliani. “I refuse to believe that this could possibly happen to our country. I have too much confidence in our country to believe that this could really happen.”

Heh. If that's not reason enough to vote for Giuliani I don't know what is.

The joys of divided government

Another big story I missed was the debate over expanding SCHIP, the program that helps insure lower middle class children. As near as I can tell, the debate went something like this:

BUSH: I like SCHIP. Let's renew it and expand it 20%.

CONGRESS: No, let's expand it 140% (along with budgetary gimmicks to ensure that the actual increase is even greater.)

BUSH: That sounds a little steep. Let's compromise.



Bush chose to wield the veto pen for only the fourth time during his administration, which was probably a dump move politically, and one that the Democrats have been gleefully milking and exploiting for weeks.

I was just encouraged that Bush could actually veto a spending bill, because I was really beginning to doubt it. But this is exactly why I think divided government is the least of all evils. Does anyone doubt for a minute that Bush would have happily signed the exact same bill had it been sent to him by a Republican congress? I don't. God knows he signed off much worse budgetary abominations during the past six years.

Fiscal conservatism has never really been popular with the electorate in practice, despite claims to the contrary in polls. The only fiscal conservatism we're every likely to see in Washington is the kind born of sheer partisan animosity, like that which hallmarked much of the Clinton years.

It's completely unprincipled, of course, but fiscal conservatives have to take what they can get these days. Besides, it's like Ayn Rand said about Barry Goldwater: "If he does the right things for the wrong reasons, what does it really matter?" Or something like that. That's a terrible paraphrase, actually, but it's been many years since I've had enough spare time on my hands to be able to read Ayn Rand.

(BTW, I can't leave the topic of SCHIP without quoting the following graf from George Will:

Under the bill that Democrats hope to pass over the president's veto tomorrow, states could extend eligibility to households earning $61,950. But America's median household income is $48,201. How can people above the median income be eligible for a program serving lower-income people?"

I don't always agree with him, but he does have a way of distilling stuff to its essence.)

October 16, 2007

Al Gore as corporate stooge?

I missed a lot of big stories during my recent hiatus, but my friend Mal seems to think that Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize is among my most egregious abdications of duty. What's not clear is why. In my mind the Peace Prize is even less significant than Time's Man of the Year, and you and I've both won that one ourselves, Mal.

Here's an exercise for the readers. If a "peace" prize has been awarded to the likes of Henry Kissinger, Le Duc Tho, and Yasser Arafat, how much can it really be worth? Wait, I actually know the answer to this. It's exactly whatever the cash value of the prize is these days, which I'm too lazy to look up.

And at least for the past few years, the award has been synonymous with "Best Liberal Performance on the World Stage," so I submit that Gore's joining the ranks of political has-beens like Jimmy Carter is appropriate.

But all of this is beside the point. Why did Gore win the Nobel Peace Prize this year? Because this is the year that he ceased being a real threat to global corporate hegemony. Did any of you guys actually see his movie? After an hour and a half of all the "WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!" hysteria, what are his solutions? Recycle and buy compact fluorescent light bulbs. Meanwhile, the rest of us Hollywood and Washington elites will continue to jet around to Oslo and Hollywood on private planes to give acceptance speeches, with each such flight completely undoing the annual conservation efforts of scores of Gore-ists eco-warriors.

What Al Gore has done is transform the anti-global warming effort into a retail phenomenon, shifting the onus of sacrifice away from governments and giant multinational corporations. Case in point? A friend of mine works for a company that's one of New Jersey's top polluters (and which shall remain nameless.) This company recently adopted a new "green" policy. Dpes that mean the company will scale back its greenhouse gas emissions? No,it means that all the employees are encouraged to stop using plastic forks and spoons to eat their lunch, and to bring silverware from home instead.

That's why Gore is being celebrated on the world stage, and why the corporate elite are so newly willing to embrace him and his message. The corporate leaders get the good PR of appearing "green," while any inconvenient notions of sacrifice are confined to peons like you and me. That's why I disagree with much of what Paul Krugman says here but do agree with him on one point: I can't understand the vitriol that some on the right are heaping on Al Gore in the wake of this award. Gore, like most other recent recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, has won it largely because he's been defanged, and no longer represents a threat to the powers that be.

God, it was terrible!!!!!!

Sorry I've been gone for so long, but it wasn't my fault, really! See, I was violently and brutally attacked by vicious, left-wing thugs who sought to silence my brave and dissenting voice. I was speaking truth to power... or... something like that, and they... well, they just couldn't take it... or....

Okay, that's all bullshit. But it DOESN'T MATTER!! Because in the CLIMATE of Chimpy McHitlerBurton's Fa$csit AmerKKKa, such a travesty COULD happen, and that's the IMPORTANT thing, so don't lecture me about reporting it, wingnuts!

Anyway, I'm glad to learn that Randi Rhodes really wasn't victimized by hate-mongering, right-wing radio types after all. Yes, I mean that Randi Rhodes. (Isn't right-wing hate radio awful?)

(BTW, why does a healthy, grown woman just "fall down" and bust out teeth while walking the dog? Can we officially welcome Jack Daniels and Jim Beam into the Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy? Why not? Because I can easily imagine her being drunk, that means I'm safe in reporting it.)

Missed you guys.

(Hat tip to Jill for the whole sorry Randi Rhodes spectacle.)