Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pardon The Mini-Rant

As you click on this link, skip over Pat Boone's anti-judge douchebaggery, the State Department's Web incompetence, and Will Smith's acting prowess. Read the Think Tank column where experts advise John McCain on where to have his campaign headquarters. Especially read Brookings' Ron Nessen's quote, which I will retype here:

“Anywhere EXCEPT Washington. Voters hate Washington and anything that goes on in Washington. Do it where REAL people live. How about his hometown, Phoenix, Arizona?”

Now I (obviously) have nothing against Phoenix. Good town, great people. But someone needs to inform Mr. Nessen that the 4 million or so people who live in the D.C. area are just as "real" as Arizonans. Walk through Arlington or Georgetown or Anacostia or Kensington sometime, Mr. Nessen. Shake peoples' hands while you're at it - you'll notice that we Washingtonians are real. We exist. We're not holograms or whatever you think we are. So take your geographical bigotry and shove it.

Thank you. Rant over.

(For those of you who don't know me, I live in North Carolina, but I was born and raised in the D.C. area.)

Just How Far Down Do You Wanna Go...

Rev. Rick Warren, the Purpose Driven Life guy who is one of America's more prominent evangelical leaders, is hosting a conference on Christianity and HIV/AIDS at Warren's SoCal church. In my opinion, he rightfully believes that Christian morals dictates that he do something about fighting the spread of a disease that has decimated African populations.

Warren invited over 60 speakers to his event. I suppose he figured that he needed someone who a) was intimately acquainted with the African continent and the problems of the AIDS epidemic there, b) is an openly religious Christian, and c) is a face people could recognize. This is presumably why he invited Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to speak. And not entirely unpredictably, he was met by a group of angry people. Led by Rob Schenck, they believe that Obama's pro-choice stance disqualifies him from any knowledge about AIDS and the role of Christianity in fighting it.

Apparently, a certain point of view on abortion is necessary to understand the AIDS crisis. Funny, I didn't think the two were related.

I'll add Schenck and his ilk to people who need to shut up. Reasonable people can disagree on the morality of pro-choice vs. pro-life stances. But disagreement on one issue should not preclude an alliance on A TOTALLY UNRELATED ISSUE. Send these people a memo on my behalf, please: you and Obama both want AIDS to go away. You are both Christians. You both have a place at a conference on the Church's role in fighting AIDS. Duh.

This highlights a disturbing trend in modern politics - the belief that because someone has certain disagreements with you they are therefore your enemy, and you should always oppose them. This is completely untrue. I don't know if there are too many people in American politics with whom I disagree 100% of the time. Or with whom I agree 100% of the time. Alliances form one issue at a time - bitter enemies on one issue can be allies on others. Generally I oppose what the Christian Coalition stands for, but I'll happily stand alongside them on a certain issue if they agree with me on that issue. But the idea that politics makes strange bedfellows seems to be lost on most political activists nowadays. If Hillary Clinton and Bill O'Reilly can find the time to work together on children's issues, pro-life conservative evangelicals can find it in their hearts to work with Sen. Obama on AIDS. Come on, folks - which is more important? Ideological purity, or getting stuff done? So applause to Warren for keeping his eyes on the prize. The rest of you - and I don't say this often - follow the pastor.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This Post Needs No Title

Have you ever wanted to visit a third-world country, but you just don't feel like leaving the U.S.? Well, if you believe infamous sodomite Tom Tancredo, you only need to go to Miami.

Making fun of that guy is just way too easy sometimes.

In other news:

Police in Atlanta decided it's a good idea to send an overarmed and overzealous SWAT team to raid a 92-year-old woman's house on minor drug charges. Unsurprisingly, the 92-year-old woman mistook the SWAT team for burglars and met them at the door with a gun. Officers saw the gun and shot and killed the old lady. Good job, Atlanta police. I'm sure the threat Great-Grandma posed to society warranted treating her house like a damn war zone. Maybe someone besides Radley Balko will start paying attention to ridiculous policing tactics now?

So it's officially a civil war in Iraq. Everybody together now: no shit, Sherlock.

Dear Michael Vick haters: shut up. Seriously. I know 9-24 isn't good, but his receivers dropped, like, seven passes. And they weren't off-the-fingertips-difficult-catch drops, they were two-hands-on-the-ball-oops-where'd-it-go drops. Add that to his total, and he's 16-24 and no one's complaining.

Let's hear it for Lebanese jokers who are hoping to show Lebanon how ridiculous its sectarian tensions are. Seriously, I don't know if Lebanese people know just how stupid that makes them look. We have our religious bickering, but dude... it's just not that important. I have a better solution: Israel should bomb them again. That way, all the sects will have a common enemy. It's genius. What could possibly go wrong?

And if you're going to bribe someone in Texas, do so in cash. Apparently it's legal.

Also, if you're wondering why the rest of the country makes fun of South Carolina, look no further than this.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Post-Thanksgiving Football Blogging

Damn, it's been a long time since I've blogged.

Another year, another BCS boondoggle. This year reminds me of 2004, with one exception - instead of eight teams that had legitimate title arguments, there are now ten or eleven teams that are doing everything in their power to not get invited to the title game. Rutgers losing to Cincinnati? Arkansas losing to Louisville? USC dropping one to Oregon State? Really, folks. At least Ohio State looks like the real deal. All the rest of y'all suck.

Oh, and USC being ranked second? Bullshit. Here's who I want to see playing in the title game against the Buckeyes, in descending order:

Boise State. Don't laugh. They're the only other undefeated team in the nation, they beat an Oregon State team that USC couldn't get past, and with the exception of a squeaker against Fresno State they've clobbered everyone in their conference (including ranked Hawaii). They remind me of the 2004 Utah team that went undefeated, was rewarded with a crap game against BCS misfit Pittsburgh (whom they clobbered), and ended up ranked 4th. I have no idea why BSU is ranked lower than 3rd right now. I want them ranked second - hell, everyone else has already lost. My philosophy - if you go 12-0 in moderately impressive fashion, you deserve a shot at the title. It's hard to go 12-0 against anyone. But knowing that BSU will get screwed by the major-conference-obsessed voters, I'll go with...

Florida. Provided, of course, they finish off Arkansas in the SEC title game. Their only loss is to 10-2 Auburn, and even though this year's SEC isn't the powerhouse that it usually is, wins over Tennessee, LSU, and Georgia ought to count for something. The fact is that Florida's a damn good team. And as much as I hate Urban Meyer for leaving Utah, two title-game shaftings in three years is too much for a single coach to have to experience.

Wisconsin. No one seems to have noticed the Badgers, but they're 11-1 in a tough Big Ten with their only loss being to Michigan. Since Michigan has already faced OSU and lost, Wisconsin deserves a shot more than the Wolverines. Yeah, an all-Big Ten final sucks, but the conference is just that good this year.

Louisville. Provided they can squeak past UConn this weekend. Their only loss is to Rutgers. Normally, that's a bad thing, but Rutgers is also 10-1 this year. We can forgive them a road-game hiccup against a legit title contender. Hey, it's better than losing to an 8-4 team like, oh, say, Oregon State.

All these teams deserve consideration for the title game before USC. In my mind, if you lose a game to a clearly inferior opponent, you ought to be punished. Florida, Wisconsin, and Louisville all have big wins and all have better single losses. BSU may not have a marquee win but has beaten the crap out of everyone. Seriously, how much is Pete Carroll paying the BCS people?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

And If I've Learned Anything...

I was just watching Anderson Cooper's analysis of the press conference that Dubya gave earlier today. There was a discussion of how Bush would handle this electoral defeat. Would he reach out? Would he dig in, ready for a fight? My first thought was: "well, that's simple, last time he was beaten in an election, he..."

Then it hit me. George W. Bush has never experienced decisive electoral defeat. He won two elections as governor of Texas, one election for President, and tied the other (winning in penalty kicks, as it were). He gained seats in the 2002 midterms. I don't know about his performance in the 1996 Texas legislative midterms, so I guess I can't say "never", but I don't know that voters have ever expressed their disapproval so resoundingly.

It will be interesting to see how Bush responds. Will he be chastened by the experience and remember the importance of including everyone in the decision-making process? Will he continue his scorched-earth policymaking strategy, this time from the minority - becoming the "obstructionist" that he often reviled Democrats for being? How will Bush work with a group of people who he has been comparing to terrorists for the past six years? In short, given his bridge-burning electoral style, what does Bush look like in defeat? I guess we're about to find out.

And double kudos to anyone who can pick up on the double-reference in the post title.

"Now What?"

First, a sad note from last night. We're down by 380-odd votes right now with provisional ballots still remaining, so it's not over yet, but either way I want to congratulate Greer Beaty, candidate for NC House in District 36, on running one hell of a race. Since I began volunteering for the campaign back in April, I have come to know one of the few politicians that simply oozes integrity. Greer is the kind of person who puts getting results ahead of partisan victory - and instead of being turned off by the heavily partisan nature of today's politics, she set about changing it. Greer's dedication inspired the same in her staff and her volunteers, and we wish her all the best. Congratulations, Greer, on putting a heavily Republican district in play. Should the current results hold, here's hoping you run again - and win - in 2008.

My friend John referred to Election Day as "the geek's Christmas." So come, all ye faithful, to my election musings:

Remember how I said that when the dust settled, Republicans would still hold the house, 220-215? Um... oops. Big, massive oops.

Currently, with 11 seats still remaining, Democrats have 228 seats. Even if all the remaining seats break Republican, the Dems will have a fairly safe 21-seat advantage. Even that is unlikely - Dems are up in CT-02, GA-12, and PA-08, and LA-02 will feature a runoff between two Democrats. If those results hold, we're left with a 232-203 split. The Senate is currently at 48-49-2, with only the Virginia race still out (Webb has a small but significant advantage, but it's going to go to recount and it won't be official for a while).

Here's a few half-baked and partially digested commentaries for you to spit out upon tasting:

- The red-blue divide has been proven to be, for the most part, complete crap. Yes, the Northeast became more solidly Democratic, with both NH seats turning along with a few in NY, CT, and PA. But seats also turned in KS, CO, AZ, IN, and here in NC. And Republican incumbent Barbara Cubin got a good run for her money in Wyoming - that race is still too close to call (but leans towards Cubin). Kansas was just as caught up in the Democratic wave as New York. Incidentally, a lot of people in the Democratic Party have been criticizing Howard Dean for his "fifty state strategy" of strengthening state parties in traditionally Republican areas. After tonight - when Dean's strategy forced a turnover in Kansas and forced Republicans to waste money defending seats in Idaho and Wyoming - those people will be shutting up.

- Rudyard Kipling (an ass, perhaps, but a good poet) once wrote about those who "can keep their head when all of those about [them] are losing theirs." So in that vein I offer a giant, if perhaps premature, thank you to Arizona. Why? They became the first state to reject a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage even as seven other states approved such measures. Arizona is something of a libertarian paradise, so it's not that much of a surprise. But maybe this result, along with the endurance of same-sex marriages in Massachussets, the court ruling in New Jersey, and the passage of civil unions in Connecticut last year (the first state to pass civil union/marriage legislation without being prompted to do so by a court), could signal the beginnings of a national realization that gay marriage will not lead to the imminent apocalypse. Arizona may still be caught up in the immigration hysteria, but at least in gay rights, it has joined the leaders.

- Speaking of Arizona and immigration hysteria, let's all pause for a moment and reflect on the fact that J.D. Hayworth will not be joining us next January. Harry Mitchell may not be any better on immigration, but at least he won't be as much of a pain in the ass. Now if only someone would knock off Tom Tancredo...

- Congratulations to former Orleans lead vocalist John Hall, who pulled the out-of-nowhere upset of the night to beat incumbent Republican Sue Kelly in New York's 19th district. Apparently, he is still the one. (Discussion topic: is Hall's victory at all related to his appearance on The Colbert Report?)

- Let us also pause and imagine a Senate without Rick Santorum. Aaaaaahhhhh. Sanity just sent Bob Casey, Jr. a gift basket. Also, thanks to incumbents Bill Nelson and Brad Miller for keeping Congress Katherine Harris- and Vernon Robinson-free.

- Is religious conservatism on the wane again? Sure, same-sex marriage initiatives passed in seven out of eight states. But Santorum went down hard, Harris never had a chance, Marilyn Musgrave got the wits scared out of her, and stem-cell research passed in MO. Here in NC, our chief justice beat back an attempt by her challenger to rile up the religious conservative base - by some thirty percentage points. Religious conservativism has always had periods where it collapsed on itself and retreated for a while. Are people starting to discover other things to worry about?

- Big winner: minimum wages. All the minimum wage ballot propositions passed. Conservative economists will be befuddled when the economies of these states do not undergo immediate collapse.

- We can thank Bill Frist for giving the Democrats an extra House seat. Frist's gambling ban was sponsored by Jim Leach and Bob Goodlatte in the House. Goodlatte never had an opponent, but Leach did. Leach was well ahead for most of the race and his seat wasn't even on most peoples' radars, but he ended up losing to challenger Dave Loebsack. Think backlash from the gambling ban had anything to do with that?

- Other big winner: Joe Lieberman. If Webb holds on in Virginia, Lieberman holds the Senate balance of power in his hands. Harry Reid is sure to give him a cushy chairmanship (Judiciary or Armed Services) in exchange for his caucus vote. The Republicans will probably try to bribe him with similar spoils.

- Also, let's hear it for the first Socialist Senator, Bernie Sanders, and the first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison.

- Poor Lincoln Chafee. I liked him. Though he did throw the Republican Party under the bus in Lieberman-like fashion toward the end of his campaign. I'm thinking he probably would have jumped ship had he won.

- First casualty of the post-election fallout: Donald Rumsfeld. He ended up getting most of the blame for the failed Iraq strategy that helped lead to this little electoral disaster for the Republicans. I'm somewhat surprised that Bush would fire him, but I guess even he can take a hint.

That's all. Feel free to comment with whatever insights you have on last night's happenings.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Best. Web Site. EVER.

Politics geeks: are you sick of your jock friends bragging about their fantasy football or baseball teams while you're trying to read the Congressional Record? Do you wish there was something similar that catered to your interests?

Well, take heart, for Fantasy Congress has arrived!

You pick 16 legislators - two senior senators, two junior senators, four senior reps, four moderately tenured reps, and four rookie reps. You gain points based on how much legislative success they enjoy - bills introduced, bills passed by committee, bills conveyed to the other house, etc. You use the weekends to drop and draft Congresspeople. Unsurprisingly, Transportation chair and porkmaster Don Young is the Peyton Manning of the House.

My life has new meaning.

Let me know in the Comments if you want to join a league.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Tennessee Voters Weigh In

Looks like according to the latest poll, Tennessee voters barely prefer Corker's daughter's girl-on-girl action to Ford's Playboy bunnies. But not by much. We'll see how the horny male demographic swings when the Ford campaign comes out with a sex video... of Ford.

Also in the article, I noticed that 61% of Tennessee voters say gay marriage will play a very important role in the way they cast their votes. I have only one question for you, Volunteer Staters:


Education, health care, war in Iraq, terrorism, taxes, civil liberties... and you think gay marriage is important? How does that affect anyone except gay people? In short, what the hell is wrong with you?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

...And We Have A "Winner"

Your winner for the "most shameful ad" award goes to Wisconsin Republican challenger Paul Nelson, who accuses his challenger of spending money attaching electrodes to teenage girls' genitalia while they watch porn. The ad references a vote cast by Nelson against scrapping a series of NIH studies dealing with understanding human sexuality.

You know you've made a bad ad when your own party gets pissed off at you.

That's not even the worst part. North Carolinians might notice, upon reading the article, that something sounds familiar about this ad. That's because the ad was originally made for Republican Vernon "Fiesta" Robinson, who is challenging Rep. Brad Miller in the 13th District. That's right, folks - Nelson not only ran a ridiculous ad, but actually used someone else's ridiculous ad. Robinson gets an honorable mention for conceiving the ad, but Nelson wins for apparently watching this ad and you think, "hey, what a great idea, I should use that in my campaign." Fool.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More Midterm Silliness

I'm serious now - this election is entering the Twilight Zone. Some of the more entertaining things happening now...

- Sen. John Kerry attempted to make a joke at Bush's expense - and ended up insulting our troops. Republicans are trying to make an issue out of it, but fortunately no one actually listens to John Kerry anymore.

- Campaigners are always trying to figure out ways to deal with hecklers. Sen. George Allen's staff has a sublimely effective method: a good old-fashioned butt-whoopin'. That's quite a response - I wonder if Allen's campaign staffers are Israeli or something. Still, anyone who accosts another person asking why they spit at their first wife qualifies for "jackass" status.

- Desperate campaign tactic #308: make your opponent look like a former sex offender.

- A district director for Republican Rep. John Kline in Minnesota was on-record as cursing about "another Jap car". By the way, if you're of Asian descent, "Jap" = "nigger." The director half-assedly apologized. Incidentally, Kline's opponent in the race is former FBI whistle-blower Colleen Rowley.

- A Florida state rep. learns the dangers of drunk-dialing.

On a different note, my official prediction for House and Senate composition after this election:

- House: 220 R, 215 D. Sure, it's tough to get more Democrat-friendly than this election cycle, but thanks to Elbridge Gerry and his famous mandering, I don't see how a fifteen-seat swing is going to happen. A lot more seats need to become competitive before control of the legislature can change that rapidly.

- Senate: 50 R, 48 D, 2 I. Santorum and DeWine are done, Burns is medium-well, and Chafee (sadly) is fading fast. That's a four-seat pickup right there. But I only see one of Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri going for the Dems. The two Indies are Sanders and Lieberman, who will split their votes, effectively making this 51-49.

Also, Scott Adams weighs in on electronic voting.