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Sunday, August 31, 2003

Making the Shareholders Happy

This blog is listed on BlogShares, which is kind of like the stock market for blogs. My market share, by the way? 0.0008%. Woo. Hoo.

But I want to give a brief shout-out to my investors:
  • Kenn from Cogicophony

  • Melissa from the Blue Bus

  • Kos from the Daily Kos

  • One of these days I will hold a shareholders' meeting, like in the movies, up in the windowed corporate offices of Folkbum's Rambles and Rants. If you want to make sure you're invited to the party, go buy some shares. I just offered up an additional 1000 shares for y'all to fight over!

    And, watch this space for more info tomorrow, when a new project OPENs that will be a great SOURCE for all of your questions about POLITICS, as well as health, the environment, the arts, the international scene, and lots more. Since we're not live until tomorrow, I can't give away anything about what we might be called or our URL. Sorry . . .

    Friday, August 29, 2003

    A slow news week. Well, on my blog, anyway.

    So I give you something fun instead:

    Folkbum's Rules for Writing
    (I am an English teacher, you know)

    1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
    2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
    3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
    4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
    5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
    6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
    7. Be more or less specific.
    8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
    9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
    10. No sentence fragments.
    11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
    12. Foreign words, phrases, and bon mots are not apropos.
    13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
    14. One should NEVER generalize.
    15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
    16. Don't use no double negatives.
    17. Eschew obfuscation.
    18. Avoid ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
    19. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
    20. Analogies in writing are like fur on a snake.
    21. The passive voice is to be avoided.
    22. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
    23. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
    24. Kill all exclamation points!!!
    25. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
    26. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.
    27. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
    28. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
    29. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
    30. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
    31. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
    32. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
    33. Who needs rhetorical questions?
    34. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
    35. Use quotation marks only when you “really” need them.

    (Some of these were cribbed from long-lost sources; apologies if they're yours)

    Tuesday, August 26, 2003

    The REALLY Big Time
    And I ain't talking Dick Cheney, neither

    So at first I was on Democratic Underground. Then I was on Daily Kos. But this is the real Big Time: USA Today!
    "I consider myself a Howard-powered person," says [Folkbum], 28, coordinator of Milwaukee For Dean, playing off Dean's "people-powered Howard" slogan. Other candidates ask for people's votes, the high school English teacher says, but only Dean has sought their leadership skills and feedback. The result is a surge of involvement by newcomers, and a pledge from Dean to bring 3 million new voters into the process.

    Saturday, August 23, 2003

    Another Open Thread

    Stuff's just too crazy this weekend. Howard Dean will be here tonight as part of the Sleepless Summer tour; Darryl Purpose is playing a house concert at my house on Monday; my first real day of school is Thursday; and next Monday--Labor Day--comes the launch of a new, top-secret multi-blogger project (more details then). Plus then comes my birthday soon after (hint: I like my shirts roomy).

    In other words, posting will be light over the next two weeks. So can I count on you to entertain yourselves for a little while? Thanks. If you need a suggested topic, how about this: How has No Child Left Behind affected your local schools? I get visitors from all over the place, and I'd be interested in hearing what's going on in your town. Provide links to sources, too, if you could.

    Thursday, August 21, 2003

    In case you couldn't tell

    You are a Folkie. Good for you.

    What kind of Sixties Person are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla
    (Via Poison Kitchen.)

    Righteous Anger

    Every once in a while, I come across a particularly moving piece elsewhere on the net that I have to share. Sometimes I merely link to it; today's essay is reproduced in its entirety, as the author, mccbill, does not have a blog of his own. It's based on this NPR report.
    I have long held the belief that the war in Iraq was unjust and wrong. We were lied to time and again by this administration and the reason for the lies is that the truth is too weak and self serving for the US public to agree with. I knew that hundreds of our soldiers would die and will continue to die, and I knew that thousands of Iraqis would die, all the while our unjustified military action would make us less safe at home and elsewhere in the world.

    Well, this morning those thousands of dead Iraqis have a face: Helma Al-Saadi.

    You may or may not remember her as the German born wife of Amer Al-Saadi. Amer was the top science and weapons advisor to Iraq who voluntarily surrendered to US forces on April 12th. He was the first of the US's "55 Most Wanted" list to be captured because he walked up to some soldiers in Baghdad with his change of clothes and turned himself in.

    He wasn't a Baathist and hadn't been involved in Iraq government for years before he was tapped to be a liason for the Iraq to the UN weapons inspectors that were readmitted to the country last year. He wasn't a fan of Saddam but was fairly well respected for his scientific brilliance, integrity, and concern for his country.

    He was schooled in London over 30 years ago and was there that he met his German wife, Helma. They met, fell in love, and married. She returned with him to Iraq after schooling and they began a family. When Saddam came to power they contemplated defecting, but he was tapped as a valuable Iraqi science resource and not allowed to leave the country before they could make their move. He was so concerned for his family however, that he begged his wife to take their children and leave so that they would be safe.

    His wife eventually complied and left the country for 20 years, only seeing her husband once or twice a year and limited to lengthy phone conversations. Their love for each other did not diminish, and once their children were raised she returned to Iraq to be with her husband. By this time, Amer had wormed his way out of government, having walked a fine line between standing up for his beliefs by not caving into pressure to join the Baath party, and following orders in development of rocket and artillery technology for Iraq.

    He was free, but observed for several years before being reactivated to interface with the UN and convince them that Iraq had destroyed all of their banned weapons. When Baghdad fell, he waited until the streets were clear before giving an interview to a German public television station and then turning himself in. His wife wanted to go with him but he bade her to stay home. He took a change of clothes and some books to read and assured her that he would be home in anywhere from three hours to no more than three days. When they kissed across from the US controlled Republic Palace it was the last time she would ever see her husband.

    This Chief Science Advisor to Saddam Hussein gave himself up and told the US and the German media that Iraq had no banned weapons and no active nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons programs. He told them that Iraq had destroyed them in the mid 90's. He told them what they didn't want to hear.

    Helm Al-Saadi had only received two letters from her husband in over four months since April 12th. Those letters were limited to a maximum of one page each. She had plead to the consul and US authorities to have her husband who had cooperated fully released and yet nothing had happened. She tried international and media channels and yet nothing had happened.

    On Tuesday, August 19th, Helma Al-Saadi had taken her case to the UN. At 4:25pm she was near the office of the UN appointed official in Iraq. At 4:30pm a bomb exploded under his window killing 20+ people. Helma apparently was one of those people.

    Damn you George W. Bush. You are an awful president, a horrible tyrant of a democratic country, and an evil person. Damn you to hell.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2003

    Why do Republicans Hate America?

    Ask your Republican friends (if you have any left) that question. All the time. And if they say, "Republicans don't hate America," pause for a moment to beg to differ.

    Offer as proof the fact that the very thing that has made this country great--our Constitution--is being ignored at will by Republicans. They seem to feel that the safeguards and protections Our Founding Fathers are meaningless. There is no clearer proof of this than the electoral shenanigans going on all over the country as we speak.

    Exhibit A: Redistricting. It's happening most famously in Texas, of course, but efforts at redistricting to tighten Republican control of the US House of Representatives is going on Colorado, Georgia, and now in my former homeland of Ohio.

    Texas redictricting is being done under the thumb of Tom DeLay, who can't seem to fathom why districts in his home state that are already Republican-rich keep electing Democrats. Could it be because that's what the voters want? And in Ohio, the Republicans controlled the redistricting process after the 2000 census. And now they want a do-over, because they see that other states are getting away with it!

    Exhibit B: Recalls. Again, California is getting all the attention, but it is hardly alone. Seeing how easy it is to recall a duly-elected Democrat, Republicans elsewhere now feel up to that challenge. Take my home state of Wisconsin, for example. A couple years back, we had a big dust-up here in Milwaukee that led to the recall of quite a few Milwaukee County Supervisors. The Republican-fronted group that spearheaded the recalls of (technically non-partisan but clearly) Democratic supervisors, "Citizens for Responsible Government", is now gearing up to recall a dozen or more Democratic state legislators for doing their jobs well.

    And, to top it off, there's also a "Recall Jim Doyle" campaign, aimed at the Democratic governor. I wouldn't be surprised if soon the Republican-controlled legislature starts contemplating redistricting, too.

    These exhibits, of course, are simply an outgrowth of the success Republicans had in Florida in 2000. There are serious fears that an even worse electoral disaster is coming with the voting machines being produced by Republican-owned companies, whose security is suspect and whose software is proprietary and, therefore, not open to scrutiny.

    The Republicans seem hell-bent on making this country into a one-party state. You might even call it a kleptocracy. This is truly scary when you consider how absolutely horrible Republican stewardship has been of late, both at the national and state level.

    I want my country back, people. I want it back from those who hate America.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2003

    MSN's search engine must be awful

    I find it funny to look at what search strings bring vistors to my site. My favorite of all time, of course, is the Elizabeth Edwards big fat cow string. I did not have those words in that order on my page, but they were all there in one entry or another.

    But today I got found through wedding of Michael Huffington and Ariana. Not believing that particular string could really bring up my site, I tried it, through MSN's search, which was how this person did it. My site was the only one to come up.

    More useful every day--Not!

    Of course, divorce of Michael Huffington and Ariana lands you 23 hits.

    (The search engine of record, Google, gets you 110 and 43 hits, respectively, on the Huffington strings. The Elizabeth Edwards one gets you 3230.)

    UPDATE: Today, I've been hit twice by people searching on MSN for Peter Uberoth, which appears once on this page with no real information about him. Yet, through MSN, I'm fourth of 34 about him--but only if you spell Peter Ueberroth's name wrong! My bad, Peter! (I'm leaving the bad spelling below since, hey, it generates hits.)

    Monday, August 18, 2003

    To Boldly Go To Go Boldly

    Via Plucky Punk, another quiz:

    Jean-Luc Picard
    Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

    An accomplished diplomat who can virtually do no wrong, you sometimes know it is best to rely on the council of others while holding the reins.

    There are some words which I have known since I was a schoolboy. "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." These words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie -- as a wisdom, and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged.

    Jean-Luc is a character in the Star Trek universe. This "The Next Generation" fan site has an outline of his career.

    What's disturbing is that there are more Wesley Crushers than Picards . . .

    Saturday, August 16, 2003

    Today's Rant: Corporatism

    I missed "Fair and Balanced Friday" yesterday. I had this post most of the way finished and ready to go, and then-- I was busy. Yeah, I know. Me. Busy. On a Friday. Who woulda thunk it? But I was. Anyhow:

    A while back I promised everyone an essay on why we hate Joe Lieberman. I mean, I don't hate him personally, or anything, but a lot of Democrats and progressives vow that they will never vote for Holy Joe, at least not without holding their noses while they do it.

    Among the reasons people give are Joe's moralizing and overt religiosity, his monotone, his perceived conservatism, his lackluster performance against Dick "Big Time" Cheney in the 2000 debate, and his rolling over during the Florida recount (he'd won his senate seat; why bother?). My favorite description of Joe compared him to Eeyore, from the Winnie the Pooh books and cartoons: "Oh, bother," in that kind of sad droning whine. There's a very damning article about all of his faults here.

    But above all, people were outraged at the image of Joe as corporate toady. He's been described as "one of the most conservative and pro-corporate Democrats in the U.S. Senate." Common Dreams "wonders what sections of the Bible or Talmud he is relying on to justify being a wholly-owned Senate subsidiary of drug and insurance companies, military contractors and the nuclear power industry - all of which contribute heavily to his campaign coffers?" Common Dreams also points out that Lieberman "has also opposed medical insurance reform, except in watered-down industry- friendly versions, and argued against permitting patients to sue HMOs for punitive damages. One of Lieberman's biggest campaign contributors is the insurance industry." Perhaps most damning is the fact that
    Lieberman lead the charge to prevent the Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB) from instituting proper accounting of stock options. One of the ways Enron and other corporations are overstating their profits is by not including the stock options that they issue to their top executives against their profits. These stock options do not show up as a cost on a corporation's financial statements. Lieberman with the support of big corporations prevented the FASB from implementing this change. Enron and other corporations used this accounting practice to deceive investors and employees.
    Sure, that was a Green Party article, but even the Republicans blame him for that!

    It's no accident that I quoted the Greens, though. A lot of people blame the Green Party and Ralph Nader for the situation we're in now. (A lot of other people blame Lieberman.) The Greens claimed that there was no real difference between Democrats and Republicans. That is, of course, a lie. There are plenty of institutional differences that keep me voting Democratic: choice, health care, federal judgeships, affirmative action, and more.

    But where it is clear that no real difference exists is in the realm of corporatism. There, the Greens have it right. We Dean supporters have plenty of bones to pick with Lieberman and the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) lately. But I personally feel that the worst damage the DLC, Bill Clinton, Joe Lieberman, and their like have done to the Democratic Party is make us too much like Republicans in our reliance on corporate cash and, consequently, on our subservience to corporate wishes.

    In no way are all Democrats as bad as Republicans. In fact, I think in general Democrats are nowhere near as bad as Republicans. But the Republicans currently in charge--the "neoconservatives," as they're called--and the establishment DLC types have too much in common in this area.

    The neocons, of course, are all about the Project for the New American Century, which relies on the military-industiral complex. The DLC relies much more in the entertainment-industrial complex. But above all, both groups are what could be called Cheap Labor Conservatives (CLC).

    The CLCs by and large are interested in letting corporations, who are by far their biggest source of political support, treat workers like crap. They are much more interested in free-trade policies like NAFTA and GATT (passed under Clinton, supported by Lieberman), because these agreements allow for cheap production overseas, than in supporting unions and workers here at home. CLCs are opposed to employment and social programs (Clinton "ended Welfare as we [knew] it" and Lieberman has warned against Dean's plan to repeal the Whopper's tax cuts to provide for those among us in need), since the more we can keep people poor, the less we have to pay them to clean the bathrooms at the Wal-Mart.

    The United States has almost totally lost its traditional sources of economic strength. Agricultural and manufacturing jobs are disappearing. (What's really disturbing is how the family farm is being eaten by cheap-labor corporations with the assent of our government!) All we're left with is service jobs. Two-thirds of our GDP anymore is consumer spending. We are a nation now not of production but consumption. This is what screwed Rome, my friends.

    It's obvious why PNAC neocons need cheap labor: There must be cheap products to spread around the world under American corporate leadership. But the DLC's support seems suspect. I think it goes back to 1984: Walter Mondale lost, really badly, in 1984, and he lost after opposing Reagan's give-backs to the corporations and wealthy donors. The DLC formed and decided that, since Mondale lost on that platform, the way to win would be to adopt the Republican position vis a vis corporations. The DLC came of age with Bill Clinton, and they often take credit (wrongly, in my opinion) for his victory. But under Clinton and since, CLC policies have taken priority, with DLC complicity.

    And this is why Joe Lieberman and the DLC must be stopped. Period.

    But beyond that, we need to completely divorce corporate influence from politics. Absolutely. So, in the spirit of not just complaining about the problem but offering a solution, too, I present the Folkbum Federal Campaign Finance Reform Package:
    1. Disabuse ourselves of the notion that spending money is the same as free speech. It isn't. And it isn't fair, either, since the poor and those who represent the poor will never be able to afford as much "speech" as the wealthy or those who represent the wealthy. And if influence is purchased through campaign donations or campaign commercials, the the influence advantage automatically goes to the wealthy. One $2000 donor will wield more influence than 1000 $1 donors, and that's not democracy. This means no non-candidate TV or print ads.
    2. Outlaw lobbyists. I don't want to outlaw lobbying: You can still call, fax, email, or visit your congresscritter to deliver your personal opinion on things and ask it to vote in a certain way on a certian subject. That's democracy, my friend. But I want to outlaw everyone who works for PHARMA or the Sierra Club or AARP or NEA, basically anyone who asks for stuff while on someone else's dime. That's not democracy.
    3. Limit contributions only to those who can actually vote for the candidate being donated to. That eliminates out-of-state contributors, as well as contributions from non-individuals, PACs, unions, and all.
    4. Eliminate the caps on individual contributions. Yes, you read that right: If you have a million, donate a million. If you have a nickel, donate a nickel.
    5. Have all contributions sent first to a central disbursement center run by the FEC. You can locate this somewhere like Pueblo, Colorado, or wherever you want. But the money comes in there first, and then gets distributed regularly to the candidates.
    6. Here's why the last two will work: When campaign funds are distributed to the candidates, they receive an alphabetical list of contributors without any details of how much they gave! It's ingenious, really; I can claim that I donated a million when I only donated a nickel. Those used to buying influence now will be relieved of the pressure to donate such large sums. And candidates will be beholden to all contributors equally! Again, that is democracy.
    Of course, it's probably blatantly unconstitutional, but it's worth a shot. And the damage already done by the neocons, the DLC, and cheap-labor conservatives will take a long time to undo, and much of it may never be undone. But we need to try.

    Thursday, August 14, 2003

    Howard Dean=Elwood Blues?

    If there aren't enough reasons to support Howard Dean already:

    "Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, is set to continue his attention-grabbing campaign by playing harmonica tomorrow night at a Des Moines blues club."

    What are they smoking?

    Via Talk Left, we find the "Granite Staters" for Medical Marijuana voter guide, wherein Howard Dean scores an F+ (should have done a little more studying there at medical school, Howard!).

    They write,
    Dean is the only candidate who has actually killed a medical marijuana bill. [. . .] Dean recently retreated from his earlier pledge to direct the FDA to study medical marijuana. His reversal and his actions have shown that medical marijuana patients can never trust him.
    As Jon Stewart would say, "Whaaaaaaaa?"

    I seem to remember this from the other night:
    KING: Santa Cruz, California, hello.

    CALLER: Hi Governor Dean. My question to you is, given your medical background and your view on states' rights, in your opinion, what should the federal government do about medical marijuana?

    DEAN: I don't think they should throw people in jail in California, but I think do think--here's what I think. I think the process by which medical marijuana is being legalized is the wrong process. I don't like it when politicians interfere in medicine. It's why I am very pro-choice. Because I don't think that is the government's business. So what I will do as president is, I will require the FDA within first 12 months to evaluate marijuana and see if it is, in fact, a decent medicine or not. If it is, for what purposes [. . .]. But we have to do the FDA studies. I think marijuana should be treated like every other drug in the process and there shouldn't be a special process which is based on politics to legalize it.
    What "reversal"? I don't see it.

    Howard Dean's position is simple: He does not want lawmakers or voters practicing medicine. Period. That's why he is pro-choice, why he supports using the FDA to legalize medical marijuana, and why he supports treating drug addiction like a disease, not a crime.

    What I really like, though, is this juicy bit from the "Granite Staters" web site:
    This campaign is staffed and funded by the Marijuana Policy Project
    P.O. Box 77492 - Capitol Hill - Washington, DC - 20013
    That's why "Granite Staters" should really be in quotation marks. The Marijuana Policy Project's whole purpose for existing to is work to enact new legislation and redact old legislation. Any candidate who proposes any solution to the medical marijuana question that is not legislative in nature will fail by their standards.

    Too bad for Howard Dean, who is instead willing to let doctors make the medical decisions.

    By the way, the only candidate who receives higher than a C is that say-what-your-hippie-fans-want-to-hear marvel Dennis Kucinich.

    UPDATE: I received a FAIR and BALANCED email from Aaron Houston, whose office is, admittedly, in New Hampshire, who writes:
    Thank you for your feedback related to Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana's (GSMM) website and particularly, for your input on Governor Dean's page in the voter guide. As you probably know, campaigns are sometimes hectic, so thank you for bringing the omission to our attention.

    We have changed Governor Dean's page based on the information you sent. Please visit to view the updated page.
    Also check out Aaron's comment in the comments below. And Howard Dean's new grade? F+! Sigh.

    More Movies I Will Not See

    Inspired a little by a post I did the other day, here's a list of Movies I Will Not See this summer or, jeebus willing, ever:
    2 Fast 2 Furious (2 dumb 2 B 4 real)
    American Wedding (I had enough at my own, thank you)
    Daddy Day Care (Eddie Murphy was better in leather pants)
    Kangaroo Jack (I'm staying home to listen to my Kasey Chambers CDs)
    Lara Croft, Tomb Raider 2 (I'm not a 13 year-old boy anymore)
    Dumber and Dumberer (I just watch Rice and Rumsfeld)
    Gigli (this one writes its own jokes)
    Freddy vs. Jason (my foot vs. your ass)
    Charlie's Angels 2 (you can't spell T & A without Demi Moore!)
    Bruce Almighty (although Morgan Freeman is divine)
    Pirates of the Carribean (I'm not an 8 year old boy any more)
    T3 (I've got CNN; that's enough Arnie)
    Wrong Turn (wrong movie)
    On a more serious note, go see Whale Rider. Now.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2003

    A Really Good Read

    "The Progressive Case for Dean," by Nico Pitney.

    Unsolicited Campaign Advice
    for Howard Dean and others

    On the California Recall
    Howard Dean can't endorse Cruz Bustamante. In fact, only Joe Lieberman can endorse Cruz Bustamante, as Bustamante had already endorsed Joe Lieberman. Gray Davis is already out supporting John Kerry. That leaves Dean and six other candidates without the option of endorsing a Democrat, since the other Democrat who may have had a shot--John Garamendi--bowed out after Bustamante got in.

    No Democrat--Dean included--should be endorsing Independent Ariana Huffington or Green Peter Camejo. They may end up being spoilers, leaving Bustamante with fewer votes than Independent (but very, very Republican) Peter Uberoth or Republican (but very, very Austrian) Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Of course, that all depends on what the vote count is on the top half of the ballot, which asks whether or not the recall should happen in the first place.

    All nine Democratic candidates came out at the AFL-CIO forum this past week to aver that the recall was a bad idea and to support the embattled Davis. And on "Larry King Live" Dean made it clear that he saw the recall as an attempt by Republicans to subvert the will of the people: "[T]his is another attempt to overturn an election that was a legitimate election by the right wing," he said.

    And that's a point that needs to be hammered home: The GOP is, right now, working furiously to destroy the very fabric from which this nation was woven. What we see in California, Texas, Colorado, and Georgia right now are more extensions of what we saw in Florida in 2000. The GOP got away with it there (thank you, Mr. Scalia), and now they feel they have license to do it everywhere. It must stop, and our Democrats need to make that clear.

    So Howard Dean needs to spend time in California this month, encouraging "No" votes on the recall. He should probably be there for the September Meetup, and maybe even the October Meetup, too. But he needs to bring to bear all the resources of his committed troops to turning back Republican runs at destroying the democratic process.

    On Gay Marriage
    Speaking of Dean's appearance on "Larry King Live", my wife and I watched it, and at one point we both stared at the screen in disbelief. It was this exchange:
    KING: On your own state level, if it were a referendum, would you vote for gay marriage?

    DEAN: If what were--we don't have a referendum in my state, and we have civil unions, and we deliberately chose civil unions, because we didn't think marriage was necessary in order to give equal rights to all people. [. . .]

    KING: So you would be opposed to a gay marriage?

    DEAN: If other states want to do it, that's their business. We didn't choose to do that in our state.

    KING: And you personally would oppose it?

    DEAN: I don't know, I never thought about that very much, because we didn't do it in our state for that reason.
    "I never thought about that"! Oh, please! I say respectfully, that's a crock. How can you be Howard Dean and not have given thought to the idea of gay marriage?

    At any rate, there are two ways Dean--or anyone else for that matter--can answer this question, I think.
    Q: Do you personally oppose or support gay marriage?

    A: Well, what I personally think is not important. I am not elected to do what I personally support--I'm elected to do what's best for the American people, which, frankly, may not even be what the American people personally support.
    That's a weak answer, yes, but it gets around the question a heck of a lot better than "I never thought about it." But this one's better:
    Q: Do you personally oppose or support gay marriage?

    A: If two of my gay friends were getting married, I'd offer the Rose Garden for them to do it in. I can't look my friends in the eye and tell them that their love is wrong, that their commitment to each other is invalid. I just can't. And if their church or their state is willing to marry them, I want it to be as perfect and beautiful for them as the day I married my wife was for me."
    On the Second Anniversary of September 11
    September 11 cannot be politicized. What I mean by that is not that it's impossible to do it, but that we must not let it happen.

    To that end, September 11, 2003, needs to be a day off from campaigning. Clear the schedule, completely. Then on September 12, and going for the next two weeks, at least, hold a series of town hall meetings or speeches in which you ask the question: "Do you feel safer now that you did two years ago?"

    Dean answers this question all the time. Since long before I started following him, he was labasting the administration for inadequately funding first-responders and port security, to name two things.

    The 9/11 Commission Report made clear that this administration does not take threats of terrorism seriously. The quagmire in Iraq proves it: Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with al Qaeda and 9/11, yet we are now up to our armpits over there, leaving us fully unprepared to handle any other threats should they arise. I don't know how on earth anyone--in the administration or not--thinks we could possibly be eyeing Iran or North Korea for attacks when we don't even have enough troops to adequately hold and defend the two countries--Afghanistan and Iraq--that we currently occupy!

    On the Economy
    I won't belabor this point, since long-time readers know how I stand on this, but the 2004 election is ours to win or lose on the economy.

    We must not cede security and foreign policy, of course; even though it's a losing battle we need to remind the people that they are not in any way safer under Republican rule than under Democrats (see just above).

    But we need to hammer home how horrible the economy is, as it looks like even a recovery will be a jobless one. That makes the Whopper the only president since they started keeping track to have a net loss of jobs on his watch.

    Kos pointed this out last week, but for those of you who don't read him, first of all, you should read him, and second of all, realize this: Gray Davis is being recalled in California because he couldn't manage the economy: says:
    Under Gray Davis, California went from a surplus to a record $34.8 Billion deficit [. . .]. When companies go bankrupt, the CEO takes the blame. In covering up deficits and cooking the books in Enron-type accounting, Gray Davis has brought the state to bankruptcy.
    Just plug the Whopper's name in there, and let it simmer for a while. That's how we win 2004.

    Monday, August 11, 2003

    Biden out; Clark still undeclared; Edwards has TV; Kerry's planning a kick-off; will anyone notice?

    Delaware Senator Joe Biden decided today he would not make it a field of ten. Good for him. He would be haunted by the specter of his 1988 campaign when he was caught plagiarizing. (All my students should count this as a lesson: If you're caught plagiarizing, you can still rise to the level of ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee--but no higher!) Plus, he seems a little dull.

    Retired General Wesley Clark still hasn't declared his intentions one way or the other. Some indicators are that it's a go; Political Wire notes a story at the National Journal that indicates Clark is telling his advisers to "crank it up." I haven't seen the evidence of such cranking; I'll get to a possible reason why in a moment.

    I've said it before (and been spanked pretty hard for it) and I'll repeat it briefly here: I think it's too late for Clark to enter the race. Even Joe Biden--who would have lost for so many other reasons--cited timing as a factor in his announcement today. He said, "[A]t this late date, everything would have to fall perfectly into place, and I would have to put on hold what influence I have in the United States Senate in pursuit of what is now too much of a long shot." If Clark waits until even later, what changes the calculus for him? If it's too late for Biden, who has run for president before, and, on top of that, has mounted repeated successful state-wide campaigns, and enjoys considerable name-recognition and stature in the eyes of the public, then why is it not too late for Wesley Clark? Is Biden merely covering up the fact that he wouldn't have a shot based on his policy positions, or is he serious, that the horserace has progressed too far for him to have a shot at winning?

    One of the things Clark supporters seem to be counting on is that a late entry will mean two things: First, he will have a chance to distinguish himself from the old, tired messages of the other candidates. I don't feel his positions--at least as they are laid out at the various Draft Clark sites--seem distinguishable from standard Democratic positions. (And they rely too much on language like "Clark has implied" for my tastes.)

    But more importantly, Clark supporters feel that a late entry will create a tremendous media "splash," that will ensure that Clark's name and ideas get out there to everyone. John Edwards is relying on a late buy of TV time to accomplish the same thing; and John Kerry's waiting until after Labor Day to throw his official kickoff rally. Will it help? I don't know--we'll have new polling numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire soon to test the success of Edwards's endeavor.

    The most uncertain factor in this whole thing, however, is the recall election going on right now in California. I said a few paragraphs up that I had not seen evidence of Clark's "cranking it up." That may very well be because a certain son-of-a-Nazi has entered the circus that is the recall.

    I tend to agree with the Scrum--and others have articulated this, too--that the California recall election will be the top political story for the next three months. Period. Unless David Kay really does pull something. Even then, that's an iffy call. But my theory is that Biden's out now because he saw that the recall would totally steal his thunder.

    Right now I predict some level of stasis, since no presidential candidate will be getting the kind of press we've been seeing in the past six months. And I believe that stasis will hold for Edwards, Kerry, and Clark.

    I could be wrong, of course; but I've got a strong feeling on this one: The Schwarzenegger-Huffington-Simon circus will be all the rage, and the Democrats will get lost in the babble.

    Around the Blogosphere

    I so seldom do a good spotlight on what else is happening around the 'net; I thought today would be a good day for that.

    Major Barbara at Arms and the Man has a good series of posts on the selling of Iraq to the Whopper's corporate buddies. Don't read it, though, if your blood pressure is already too high.

    Julie over at Nasty Riffraff is one of many to run with the latest work of the sainted Henry Waxman, wherein he accuses the Whopper and his administration of sublimating science to the cause of ideology. She focuses on the Department of Education part of Waxman's report, something close to my own heart.

    Ever since we got the TiVo, we don't go out to see movies much any more. Oh, yeah, and because the movies these days pretty much suck. Jesse at Pandagon reviews SWAT, a Movie I Will Not See. My favorite line from the review: "The bad guy is REALLY FRENCH."

    Sadly, no! is always good. Period.

    Saturday, August 09, 2003

    Time for another Weekend Open Thread!

    Proposed topic: Your proposed topics. What do you want to see me pontificate on next week?


    Thursday, August 07, 2003

    Don't these people have calendars?

    NOTE: I'm re-posting this at the top, as a few people are linking to this post, and stupid (but free!) Blogger doesn't allow good permalinks.

    So, Daily Kos Tuesday pointed us all to another in a series of articles trying to make a connection where none exists, between the 2004 presidential race and some race of the past. The article in question yesterday said that 2004 is like 1980, and Howard Dean is the Democrats' Ronald Reagan. (Although I like John Nichols--he's a Wisconsin boy and very smart. I just think he's wrong.)

    Let's get one thing straight: It is not 1964, and Dean is not Goldwater. It is not 1968, and Dean is not McCarthy. It is not 1972, and Dean is not McGovern. It is not 1976, and Dean is not Carter. It is not 1984, and Dean is neither Hart nor Mondale. It is not 1988, and Dean is not Dukakis. It is not 1992, and Dean is neither Tsongas nor Clinton. It is not 1996, and Dean is not Dole. And it's certainly not 2000, either, and Dean is not McCain.

    The fact is that it's 2004 (okay, 2003) and that this year's (okay, next year's) election will be unlike any other, period. Why? Three things.

    1. The world has changed. < cliche >September 11, 2001, changed a lot of things. < /cliche > One of them is that many Democrats lost their backbones. Another is that Republicans saw an opportunity to turn this country into a one-party state. Howard Dean is the only candidate taking a stand against both of those things, and I believe he will win because of it.

    Mary Landrieu, in her run-off election in 2002, defied conventional Democratic wisdom that said she shouldn't go after the Whopper and his failed policies, that she shouldn't attack. You know what? She did attack, and she won because of it. Look east a few states. Max Cleland, decorated war hero and accomplished Senator, opted not to go on the attack against the "popular" president. That left the game wide open for his opponent, Saxby Chambliss, to do the attacking; Chambliss portrayed the veteran Cleland as weak on defense and implying he supported Osama bin Laden and Saddam Houssein. Cleland lost.

    What we see in California, Texas, Colorado, and Georgia right now are more extensions of what we saw in Florida in 2000. The Republicans are absolutely trying to subvert the electoral process; they're trying to do an end-run around democracy and make this nation a one-party state. Howard Dean recognizes that--he was very clear the other night on Larry King's show--and he knows what we're up against. I want my country back from those power-hungry fascists, don't you?

    Especially once the recall gets going in California, this issue will get major, major play. A Democrat like Howard Dean who recognizes this kind of electoral arrogance and calls the Republicans on it will be successful.

    2. The primaries this year are horrendously front-loaded. Within six weeks (January 13 to March 2), there are primaries in DC, IA, NH, SC, AZ, OK, DE, MO, NM, MI, WA, ME, VA, TN, WI, ID, UT, CA, CT, GA, MD, MA, MN, NY, OH, RI, VT, HI, ND, and TX. That's 30 out of 51, folks. We will know on the morning of March 3 who the nominee is. Period. There is no time for anyone not building momentum and pulling ahead now to win. A candidate has to have broad and deep support in money and volunteers, and it has to all be in place well before January 19, when Iowans gather to caucus, as there will be no time to rest or build momentum after that.

    That gives Dean a leg up in the primaries, sure; but what about in the general? So many of these previous-year comparisons area about the general election, not the primaries, right? Good point, but . . .

    3. These changes have brought a new way of doing things. Okay, the cliché was that 9/11 would bring us all closer, make us nicer and stuff. No one can say that Dean's campaign is any nicer than any of the others' (except maybe Carol Moseley Braun). But Dean's campaign does demonstrate something about that change: The people are moving his campaign, not so much vice-versa.

    I've written about this before, but it bears repeating: The exciting thing, to me, about Howard Dean's campaign is empowerment. Howard Dean is doing that better than any other candidate.

    They're calling Dean's success "People-powered Howard," which has a nice ring to it and all, and it's very, very true. Dean is not being made by the media, he is not being made by high-powered advisors and spinmeisters; Dean is being made by the people who are falling over themselves to join up with his campaign. That has never happened before. If you can name one instance, tell me, please.

    But what draws me again and again to Dean--even when I wince at a misstatement or puzzle over some questions about his record--is the empowerment. I'm a Howard-powered person. Dean's campaign allows me--hell, encourages me--to take a leadership role, to take initiative, to suggest ideas and campaign strategy. Dean's campaign is not top-down. While it's not fully bottom-up, either, it operates in a way that gives people true ownership of the campaign, a real sense of belonging, and a feeling of importance.

    Kerry wants me to vote for him. Edwards and Lieberman, too. That's the old model. Howard Dean wants me to work for him, and he wants to hear about it when I'm successful, and offer me help when I need it. That's the new model.

    Yeah, I know, every candidate for however far back you want to look has inspired people to quit their jobs and hitch-hike, if necessary, to campaign headquarters to work for the guy. But we have never seen anything like what Howard Dean has done. We're not talking about a few dozen or hundred people hoping to be interns; we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people taking leadership in their own communities and running a real grass-roots campaign.

    However, I think that the non-top-down-ness of Dean's campaign is exactly what's got so many of his opponents--including the Democratic Leadership Council--so worried.

    The DLC thinks they have the right answer; You can hear again and again how successful the DLC has been and may still be. But that success is predicated on presenting candidates who follow a script both in their policy initiatives and in their performance. Some win (Jennifer Granholm); some lose (Max Cleland).

    But Howard Dean does not follow the script for performance, even if he almost entirely does for policy. And he's having success at it--greater success, in fact, than any of the DLC's candidates in this race.

    Lieberman and Edwards--who are probably the DLC's most prominent guys in this race--are really running old-model campaigns. Raise a lot of money. Don't be too negative. Wait until you buy TV time to get your name out there. And what's happening? Lieberman's falling like a rock and Edwards is spinning his wheels.

    Gephardt's running an old-model campaign, as well, but not DLC-style. He's chasing unions and raising money instead of doing his job. He's not failing the way DLC candidates are, but Dean's new way has Gephardt on the run in Iowa, which should be a lock for him.

    Kerry, too, is running an old-style campaign. He's trying to capture the feeling of RFK's 1968 run, but he's stuck in the 1990's, instead. And, again, Dean has him on the run in New Hampshire, a state that should be a lock for Kerry.

    When the way you do business gets threatened by a new business model, you fight back. I am not surprised to see the retaliation against Dean. But that retailiation confirms what I've been saying: Dean is the new way; everyone else is running on an out-dated plan. If you don't get that, you won't get Dean, and you will be shocked when he takes it all.

    UPDATE with reposting: I did not originally mention how Democrats' electoral calculus is changing, too, and how we can now win without the South--something we may have to do whether the nominee is Dean or not, and something we couldn't have doe eight years ago. Some people are calling it the Gore Gambit--maybe the Gore Gamble would be a better name--but if Gore had won New Hampshire in addition to all the states he did win, and he would have pulled off the victory without a single southern state, even without his home state of Tennessee. The electoral numbers changed with 2000's redistricting, so New Hampshire plus West Virginia (which really ought to be Democratic) is a 269-269 tie. We need AZ, NV, or CO. AZ and NV are definitely in play. Call it the Dean Gambit (though Dean does not plan to write off the South): the Gore states plus WV and NV. A winning 270, without the South.

    Meetup Report: August in Milwaukee

    Well, again, tremendous thanks need to go the the proprietors of the Milwaukee Ale House, who moved a regularly-scheduled event for us, so we could use the downstairs deck there by the river. They deserve all the money you could possibly give them. And I think we gave them a lot last night--the unofficial count is around 120 Meetuppers, very clearly our best total yet.

    Bridget and Carin were running the big show last night, and they were awesome. Absolutely amazing. Despite some early troubles with sound systems, Everything went almost totally without a hitch.

    Bridget asked two people to speak--Chris, a first-timer, and Brad, who had just moved here from Brooklyn, New Yawk, where he was active in Brooklyn for Dean. Both speakers were brief but eloquent about why they support Howard Dean.

    Then, we had some "getting to know you" and brainstorming time. Bridget and Carin asked us at our tables to think about ways to improve outreach to other communities besides the very wired and, admittedly, very white crowd in attendance last night. I'm looking forward to the executive summary of those suggestions--just in the little bit I could overhear at other tables, it sounded like a really good collection of ideas, and I hope we'll be able to put them into practice in the coming months.

    I spoke about the impending visit from the Governor on August 23--it's not up in Dean's Sleepless Summer page yet, but we expect him here in town as a part of that tour. Plus there's still time for Wisconsinites to register to host or attend a house party with a conference call from the governor on August 17!

    My wife talked about our house concert/ fundraiser on August 25 featuring singer/ songwriter Darryl Purpose. Rochelle talked about all the Dean Community Corps volunteer efforts we're doing this month. To help out on those, you should join Milwaukee for Dean, so you can continue to receive updates about them and other things.

    Then the meat of the Meetup: We wrote to the New Hampshirese New Hampshirites New Hampshirans Granite-Staters. We had 110 packets to go through--220 names--and I got back 91 of them. I have to assume that the others disappeared when the rain started and people moved inside or went home. I am hopeful that the letters got written anyway. If anyone did take white sheets home, please, follow the "email me" link on the right and email me the numbers from your packets after you right the letters! The numbers are just below the addresses inside your packets.

    All of the take-home names got taken home, too, and I feel good that many of those letters will be written, as well.

    The disappointing part of the Meetup this month was that there was no press. Sigh. Fax Mistress Stacie did her best to spread the word, but--nothing. Thanks for trying, Stacie.

    Thanks also need to go to Michael, whose work at the literature table is nothing short of amazing, and Tony, who gets everyone to sign in no matter what. I like that. You rock, guys. Hats are also to be tipped to Carrie, who helped a whole lot before the big show began, and Erik, for solving our sound problems. Go Team Dean! I should also mention Meagan and Tony's efforts at African World Fest last weekend, and Jim and Tony's work at State Fair. (Tony sure does a lot, doesn't he? Maybe we should all go to his house party to say thank you!)

    I got to meet a lot of great new people and reconnect with old faces, and I hope to see all of them at future Milwaukee for Dean events. I feel more and more positive every day about this campaign and the way it is very quickly moving to the front. Milwaukee is going to be critical to Dean's efforts to win Wisconsin--and win it he will, both in February and in November--and I continue to feel like we're really unstoppable.

    The Bjorn Munson of the California Recall
    or, an in-joke you probably don't get
    well, Stacie will

    Beloit College students of a certain era--my era, that is--will recognize and appreciate Brian Flemming's platform: "If elected, I will resign."

    (Link via Pandagon.)

    UPDATE: Brian Flemming has dropped out of the race, unrelated to Ahnuld's entry.

    Friday, August 01, 2003

    Happy Ann-i-ver-sa-ry, Happy Ann-i-ver-sa-ry, Happy Ann-i-ver-sa-ry, Haaaaaaaaaapy Annivers-a-ry!
    (it works better if you sing it)

    Five years ago today, it was. The wedding was great, a small gathering of friends and family and The Common Faces (before they broke up, and they've been gone so long they don't have a website I can link to any more. Sigh). And I wouldn't give up a minute of the five years since, not for anything.

    Which makes the timing of Ben's post today at Hoy*Puh*Loy very appropriate. He recommends a five-year binding marriage contract, with the option to renew.

    I'd renew again and again.