Saturday, December 30, 2006

Coming up Roses

Last post of 2006 as I'm heading to down to southern California today for The Grandaddy of Them All.

Everyone have a safe and happy new year!

Ding Dong

Saddam is dead.

Josh Marshall has an interesting take on the execution here.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"We love ourselves! We really, really love ourselves!"

Shorter New York magazine: "We would fellate ourselves...if we could only get our heads out of our own asses."

Don't get me wrong...I love New York City. I have family attachments to the Big Apple (mom is a Bronx girl, my grandfather spent most of his life in the city and in Yonkers), and I have very fond memories of being a child, taking in the wonder of Coney Island and enjoying Nathan's hot dogs. But the piece linked above is why lots of people sometimes can't stand New Yorkers; there's an elevated sense of self-love that can border on the egocentric that stems largely from...merely being a city resident. It's the same kind of braggadocio that's behind this kind of thing.

Hate the sin, love the sinner I guess.

Well that was unexpected...

Barry Zito...San Francisco Giant?


Monday, December 25, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Conservatives and Keith Ellison

It has been illuminating to watch the reactions of some religious and social conservatives to the election of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison, an African-American Democrat who converted to Islam while in college, will represent the 5th Congressional district of Minnesota in the 110th Congress. Over the course of his campaign, Ellison amassed a diverse array of progressive endorsements, including backing from the American Jewish World, a local Minneapolis news daily.

With that kind of solid, across the board backing, one might draw the conclusion that Americans can see past their personal differences and choose candidates that best represent their points of view. However, the backlash from the right to Ellison's election shows that we still have some way to go to eliminate religious intolerance from our society.

The first salvo launched against Ellison came from CNN's Glen Beck, who had the audacity to ask the congressman elect, in a live televised interview, to prove to him that he was, "...not working with our enemies'".

Next, Dennis Prager, a conservative columnist and radio host, penned an ignorant editorial on, making the point that Ellison should not have the opportunity to use the Koran for his swearing in ceremony:
Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

The above statement shows a disturbing lack of historical knowledge on the part of Prager. Members of Congress, when they take their official oath of office, do not swear on a religious book of any kind; rather, they place their hands on the document they swear to uphold, the United States Constitution (the very same Constitution that prohibits the use of any religious tests to disqualify potential members from serving). In a separate, non-official ceremony, elected members are allowed to use religious texts (or indeed, anything at all) for their swearing in. The Carpetbagger Report gives more background:

Second, Prager argues that "America…decides on what book its public servants take their oath." Wrong again. Public officials, from the president on down, have always picked their own books for oaths of office. Some have chosen the Christian Bible, others haven’t. There is no official national book for oaths.

Third, Prager argues that Jewish public officials "for all of American history" have taken their oath on the Bible, and no member of Congress has ever strayed from this standard. Fifteen seconds on Google turned up a very recent example — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) refused the Christian Bible offered by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) for her swearing-in and eventually borrowed a Hebrew Bible from a colleague. Somehow, Prager's hysteria notwithstanding, American civilization survived.

Here's the real kicker: according to a report last week in Roll Call, when lawmakers are sworn on Jan. 3 on the House floor, there is no Bible present. When we see pictures of members putting their hands on a holy text, those are ceremonial photo-ops, not the actual oaths of office.

For that matter, even then it's optional. This year, for example, Rep.-elect Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who is Buddhist, will forgo use of any religious text in her ceremonial swearing-in ceremony. That's her right; it doesn’t undermine the fabric of society.

As if the two above examples were not bad enough, this week, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA), sank to a new low by releasing a letter to his constituents, warning that "many more Muslims" might be elected to Congress if legal immigration policies are not tightened. Despite the considerable outcry the letter has received, Goode has declared that he will not retract his statements. He even went so far as to say, in response to a note supporting his position, that he wished, "...more people would take a stand and stand up for the principles on which this country was founded."

Goode, like Prager, has apparently forgotten (or conveniently overlooked) his history. Mr. Goode's congressional district includes the city of Charlottesville, where the University of Virginia resides. The writings of the founder of UVa, Thomas Jefferson, can offer Goode some guidance on the principles he seems to have misunderstood. One of Jefferson's most important contributions to the political and social fabric of our country is the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom, which he authored in 1786. That document says that Americans of any stripe should have the freedom to believe in any supreme being they so choose (or to believe in no such thing at all). That Goode would attempt to demonize an entire religion to score political points shouldn't at all be shocking, but it should be terribly disheartening, not only for his constituents who don't share his odious views, but also for anyone who dares to believe that our political discourse can be, and should be, better than this.

Update: Over at Talking Points Memo and TPMuckracker, Josh Marshall and Justin Rood have been noting the silence from the GOP on Goode's remarks. Notable today, however, were the comments from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on ABC's This Week. Graham's comments can be found in full here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

D#$k in a box

For that special someone this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

So NOW free markets don't look so good, eh John?

John Derbyshire of the Corner laments his skyrocketing insurance costs. Apparently, an 81% hike in his premium is enough to make John realize that there's a problem with our health care system.

Brad DeLong offers the Derb a lesson in market economics, while Hilzoy goes further:
Seriously: John Derbyshire writes for one of the most respected conservative magazines out there. He advocates free markets. Was he somehow unaware that his own principles leave him with no grounds for complaint when something like this happens? Or that all sorts of other people face this sort of thing all the time?

Hilzoy closes the piece with this:
John Derbyshire: meet your principles. Principles, Derbyshire.

I think that says it all. You can't decry the same system you prop up at every opportunity when it bites you in the ass.

Freedom's just another word...

...for not having anything to do. Due to a university wide shutdown, today begins my almost 3 weeks of vacation.

Let me tell you, it feels pretty good.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Slow Down

Over at Ezra's joint, there's a lively discussion going on in the comments section about a speech Barack Obama gave last week in New Hampshire (full admission: I chimed in as Mike P in the comments).

The main complaint I've seen in regards to Obama's remark is about what wasn't there, i.e. a list of concrete policy proposals. To me, this is much ado about nothing. People clamoring for big ideas at this moment need to take a step back and take a look around at the other hopefuls:

-While most Americans now favor getting out of Iraq, one of the Republican presidential hopefuls, John McCain, is talking about sending more troops to a futile conflict
-Another Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, is being questioned for his shifting views of gay rights
-Joe Biden is out making an ass of himself
-Not much has been heard from Tom Vilsack since his announcement to seek the presidency
-Hillary Clinton continues to tease the media about her real intentions

Past that, we're still dealing with the fallout from the Iraq Study Group and the stage is being set for a new Congress to take office in January.

Why on God's green earth would Obama, who is not even officially in the race yet, tip his hand in regards to his policy ideas at this early date in the middle of all of this? By doing so, he would be painting a huge bulls-eye on his back that every declared or prospective candidate would hone in on with laser-like intensity. It's not worth it to go down that road at all at this point. The man is attracting huge crowds in the two major presidential primary states, Iowa and New Hampshire, and is making waves with his book tour and he hasn't had to spend his "political capital" (am I the only one who loathes that term?) in the least.

Again, I don't see why this is so hard for people to figure out. Obama is giving the people a taste of what's to come. Rather than saying there's a lot of sizzle but no steak, why don't wait and see what comes out of the kitchen?

6th Annual Year in Ideas

Must read from this week's New York Times Magazine. In a word, it's fascinating.

Check out Ezra's take on "hyperopia", something all college kids have definitely experienced.

Monday, December 11, 2006

TIME targets the Straight Talk Express

What do you know? A hard hitting piece of journalism examining one of the media's favorite golden boys.

Notable observation:
McCain insists that he has always been more conservative than many of his fans believe him to be. But the most important perception people have about McCain is not about ideology; it's about integrity. After staking his reputation on the moral high ground by speaking truth to power on issues ranging from deficits to torture, McCain is uniquely vulnerable to anything that hints of hypocrisy--even on questions that ordinary politicians would get a pass on.
(emphasis mine)

The first two lines above are important. Many people who were either politically unaware or considered themselves independents or moderates of any stripe back in 2000 felt like they got McCain because he seemed like a "real" person, a person they could relate to. But if you look at where McCain's politics actually are, they are right to very right of center, which is contra his image as a high minded centrist. McCain supported the gay marriage ban in Arizona (which was rejected by the voters, meaning that the citizens of the state are much more in touch with the spirit of famed Arizona conservative lawmaker, Barry Goldwater, than is the man who sits in his senate seat), and he is easily the most hawkish voice in the Senate on Iraq, where McCain would like to send 20,000 additional troops (no mention is made of where these troops would come from or what exactly it is they would be doing). And that, of course, overlooks the fact that most Americans want us to disengage from Iraq, not put more troops in harm's way.

Secondly, McCain's currency is his integrity and it's hard to look at him now when he's hired as his campaign manager one of the men who viciously slandered him during the 2000 primary campaign, or to watch him break bread with people he once labeled as "agents of intolerence" and not wonder how low the I-bank account must be running. And that leads to this other telling quote...

"A profile in courage can become a profile in unrestrained ambition," says former Reagan White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein, who was one of the few G.O.P. establishment figures to support McCain's 2000 presidential campaign. "He has to remember who his friends are and not spend his integrity on one-night stands with those who will never fully trust him."

Who will get to the White House first?

A black man or a woman?

Good read in the New York Times Week in Review on this by Adam Nagourney.

The answer to the question? The wimmnen.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

For Your Consideration

Ezra rightly flags the Freidman and Krugman op-ed's in today's New York Times. Though the articles are behind the Times Select paywall, see if you can get them offline. Krugman lauds those who got Iraq right from the outset (Dean, Feingold, Gore) and Freidman argues why leaving Iraq now isn't just the only option but also the best option.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Concert blogging: Damien Rice at the Paramount, Oakland, CA 12/6/07

This was my second concert at the Paramount in the last 3 weeks. Rice was a pretty funny showman, drinking wine before launching into "Cheers Darlin" and otherwise cracking jokes and being a wiseass.

Here's an incomplete setlist:
Accidental Babies (set opener, Rice on solo piano)
9 Crimes
Rootless Tree
Me, My Yoke, and I (this one probably shocked a lot of people because Rice and the band were playing electric guitar and it was LOUD)
I Remember
Cheers Darlin
Older Chests
They worked "All Along the Watchtower" into the bridge of one of his songs
The cello player did a piano version of the Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"
Cold Water (set closer...all lights out, only 3 candles on the stage...went on for like 10-15 minutes...then the spotlight came up on Damien and he played "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley on acoustic guitar, mic off...solid)

Follow up: Lisa Hannigan took lead on a song last night and tore it up...I had no idea what the song was, but after some searching around online, I was able to turn up a version of the song, "Be My Husband" (a Nina Simone original), that Lisa performed on NPR. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Stating the Obvious

Shorter Iraq Study Group: "We could have said this two years ago, but this war is a disater."

The Iraq Study Group's recommendations can be found here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Just Because

I'm not going to get into the habit of posting a best 70's or 80's video of the day like Andrew Sullivan, but any time you have the chance to post some Journey, you have to.
(H/T Crooks and Liars)

So Fresh & So Clean

At the Caltrain depot today, I noticed a homeless man shaving with a Bic razor in the bathroom.

I have nothing else to add. It was just odd.

It's back

Mark Steyn, above, puts on his power ring.

Yglesias has the breakdown.

The War on Drugs

This is the kind of story that can shake your faith in your government. Read the Observer story and Glenn Greenwald's powerful commentary.

The only thing to say is wow.

I was going to write about the BCS...

but Jonathan Weiler at Sports Media Review made all the good points, so just read his post.