Look Ma, No Pants!

MINNEAPOLIS, MN—In a turn of events the 30-year-old characterized as "horrifying," Kevin Widmar announced Tuesday that his mother Lillian has discovered his weblog.

"Apparently, Mom typed [Widmar's employer] Dean Healthcare into Google along with my name and, lo and behold, PlanetKevin popped up," Widmar said. "I'm so fucked."


Not Another Black Hawk Down

Twelve coalition personnel were killed and nine wounded when two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Iraq on Saturday, a U.S. Army spokesman in Baghdad said.
How many more of these have to go down before Mark Bowden writes a book about it and Ridley Scott makes a movie about it?


If that makes me a Bush-hater ...

... then so what. Molly Ivins wrote a great essay helping to explain, as if it needs explaining, just why so many people think Bush is a miserable, miserable commander.
...honey, it ain't just the 2.6 million jobs we've lost: People are losing their pensions, their health insurance, the cost of health insurance is doubling, tripling in price, the Administration wants to cut off their overtime, and Bush was so too little, too late with extending unemployment compensation that one million Americans were left high and dry. And you wonder why we think he's a lousy President?
For the truly incredulous, here's another one from Matthew Rothschild.



News: Young Eat Selves

Bakersfield's young GOP clubs have a long-running feud that has taken on proportions that make the Congressional Republicans actually look like adults -- and of late, well, that's really saying something. My good buddy Robert Price at the The Bakersfield Californian turns in this report:
Considering the way things went the last time Kern County's two major Republican Party factions squared off, Karen DeWalt's choice of dress was probably appropriate. She wore a black-and-white striped referee's jersey to this week's meeting of the Kern County Republican Central Committee. DeWalt, the committee chairwoman, had a whistle and a yellow penalty flag, too. [...]

Young Republicans vs. Young Republicans, chapter umpteen, was relatively peaceful. That doesn't mean everybody left the meeting happy. You remember this little rivalry, don't you? It runs a close second to that other, slightly better known rivalry, Old Republicans vs. Old Democrats.

The county's central committee recognizes only one group that calls itself Young Republicans: the Kern County Young Republicans, founded in 1954 and affiliated with the Young Republican National Federation. It's the one that's generally associated with Rep. Bill Thomas, the Bakersfield-based congressman.

The other is the Young Republican Federation of Kern County, founded in 1993 and sanctioned by the California Republican Party. It's the one that's generally associated with Roy Ashburn, the Bakersfield-based state senator. (Both groups interpret the word "young" liberally, if you'll pardon the choice of adverbs: They're both open to GOP'ers between 18 and about 40.)

Monday night, Ashburn asked the central committee to end the divisiveness once and for all by voting to officially recognize the local YR Federation. He had the backing of Assemblyman Bill Maze of Visalia, who has constituents in eastern Kern County and, like Ashburn, is a voting member of the central committee.

Zack Scrivner, president of the Kern County Young Republicans, urged committee members to vote no. The names of the two groups are too similar, he said, and people have been confused because of it.

He said voters have received campaign mailings endorsing different slates of Republican candidates that, to the uncritical eye, appear to come from the same organization. He said campaign contributors have donated to one group, having intended to give to the other.

Scrivner also mentioned the sad case of Nicholas Elizondo, a YR Federation board member convicted of molesting a 6-year-old girl and sent to prison several years ago. Scrivner said people telephoned the wrong YR office to express their outrage after the story hit the news.

Federation advocates counter that the central committee recognizes other similarly named pairs, such as the Kern County Hispanic Congress of Republicans (aligned with the Thomasites) and the Kern County National Republican Hispanic Assembly (in the other corner, alongside Ashburn et al).

Those names aren't all that similar, the other side counter-counters.

Scrivner's Young Republicans got their way again, winning 22-4 in a secret-ballot vote Monday night.

It's been long suggested that the split has its roots in the conservative vs. more conservative viewpoints championed, respectively, by Thomas and Ashburn. According to Scrivner, it's simpler than that.

"It's not about ideology," (NOTE: yeah, right!) said Scrivner, 29. "It's all about the confusion over the similarities in the two names. I'm not going to suggest any (new) names for them. If I had my way, they would just became part of our organization. They're good Republicans; we'd just be stronger."

That marriage is not likely, said Angela Colvin, chairwoman of the YR Federation. "Just because they don't recognize us, we're not going to go away," said Colvin, 30. "We're going to keep working for the people we believe in."

She said the YR Federation may try again to win official recognition from the county's central committee, though there haven't been any conversations about that yet. She's still too confused about the alleged confusion to worry about further reconciliation efforts now.

"We're the only (YR Federation group in California) ... that's not recognized by its own (county Republican) central committee," she said. "I don't know why (the name similarity) ... is only confusing in Kern County." [...]

Scrivner's take: Talk to the hand. He's not so sure the YR Federation's purpose, in selecting its near-identical name 10 years ago, wasn't to intentionally create confusion. "I don't know any other way to explain it," Scrivner said.

I can't explain it either, but I've got a theory. About the feud in general, I mean. It's as much about power as it is simple recognition, and as much about power and influence as the right to a name.

Like that was hard to figure out.
And they say that Democrats -- "not to be confused with an organized poltical party" -- form circular firing squads? Sheesh.


Punch & Wesley

In Wednesday's LA Times an article appeared regarding Wesley Clark's surprising and bizarre announcement that he supports a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. Well, I can almost hear the gasps and awe from his free-speech liberal base, and it's certainly no way to win a Democratic Primary. Heck, at least you can defend Dean's Confederate Flag statements as a support of free speech! Not to be out down, the increasingly irrelevant John Kerry stated:
"I'd punch them in the mouth....but the Constitution that I fought for preserves the right of free expression."
Sure, they can burn it, but if they do, I'll punch 'em! Wow, Kerry is really quite the civil libertarian. Barf barf barf. Well, imagine my surprise to read this letter in today's Times authored by David M. McCarthy, a Special Operations Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps:
I have served for 22 years in both the active-duty and the reserve component of the U.S. Marine Corps and have just returned from a two-year deployment to the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan.

Daily, I recite Article I of the Code of Conduct of the American Fighting Man, which provides, "I am an American Fighting Man, I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life, I am prepared to give my life in their defense." I have served and fought steadfastly in the belief that our way of life includes the right of individuals to express themselves, no matter how abhorrent their message.

When I see someone in America desecrating the flag of my country, I feel pain and hurt, but I also think two thoughts: First, is this a great country or what? People have the complete freedom to express themselves in a manner that they see fit. And second, what an ingrate and a moron you are for desecrating that flag; I cannot believe how you show such disrespect to the country that gives us our hard-won freedom, and I cannot believe how you are flaunting your ignorance.

John Kerry states that the Constitution preserves the right of free expression, yet he also is quoted as saying, "If I saw somebody burning the flag I'd punch them in the mouth." Is that what you fought for, Mr. Kerry? So that if someone expresses himself in a manner in which you disagree, physical violence will be used against him?

I fought to protect people like that from people like you. We should surround flag burners with a protective line of police officers; what better way to say that this is the greatest country the world has ever known, and as proof, we're shielding you while you show your stupidity.
A pretty damning indictment of both these so-called "Democrats" wouldn't you say?

crossposted at Daily Kos.



Gore Vidal: Patriot sans Act

Prolific writer and sharp-minded critic Gore Vidal in excerpts from this interview in LA Weekly:
When it comes to this Bush administration, are you really talking about despots per se? Or is this really just one more rather corrupt and foolish Republican administration?

No. We are talking about despotism. I have read not only the first PATRIOT Act but also the second one, which has not yet been totally made public nor approved by Congress and to which there is already great resistance. An American citizen can be fingered as a terrorist, and with what proof? No proof. All you need is the word of the attorney general or maybe the president himself. You can then be locked up without access to a lawyer, and then tried by military tribunal and even executed. Or, in a brand-new wrinkle, you can be exiled, stripped of your citizenship and packed off to another place not even organized as a country -- like Tierra del Fuego or some rock in the Pacific. All of this is in the USA PATRIOT Act. The Founding Fathers would have found this to be despotism in spades. And they would have hanged anybody who tried to get this through the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Hanged.

Speaking of elections, is George W. Bush going to be re-elected next year?

No. At least if there is a fair election, an election that is not electronic. That would be dangerous. We don't want an election without a paper trail. The makers of the voting machines say no one can look inside of them, because they would reveal trade secrets. What secrets? Isn't their job to count votes? Or do they get secret messages from Mars? Is the cure for cancer inside the machines? I mean, come on. And all three owners of the companies who make these machines are donors to the Bush administration. Is this not corruption? So Bush will probably win if the country is covered with these balloting machines. He can't lose. [...] If we use old-fashioned paper ballots and have them counted in the precinct where they are cast, he will be swept from office.
Well, I certainly hope that Gore is wrong about Dieblod et al voting machines, but he's correct about the paper trail. Electronic voting is only feasible if they print a paper ballot receipt to be reviewed and deposited in a locked box by the voters themselves -- which begs the question: if these companies are not indeed corrupt, as Vidal claims, and they don't wish to give up their secrets, as the companies claim, why not have the machines simply spit out a receipt to be reviewed by the voter for accuracy and paper trail backup? And beyond corruption, heck, lightening could strike, earthquakes could happen -- why not print an external paper receipt?

I disagree with Vidal about Afghanistan ("we have bombed two countries in a row that did nothing to us") and of course he is predictably strident (and erudite) -- but it's a great interview, and his new book Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson sounds fascinating, and much more than your typical regurgitated pseudo-historical drivel.



Over at Dean Nation today, Aziz posted yet another interesting installment in the Dean-as-Reagan made-for-tv-movie -- while modestly pointing out that we've been making the comparisons for months. Excerpts from the new memo by Republican pollsters, Bob Moore and Hans Kaiser:
The two pollsters do some Electoral College math and conclude "a Dean candidacy is a lot more realistic than people think." They figure he could claim enough electoral votes to win the White House without Florida.

But won't Republicans paint him as a hopeless "left-winger"? The prospect makes many Republicans giddy and Democrats who fret about Dean's electability jittery. Moore and Kaiser counter with a parallel that will likely fluster Republicans and Democrats:

"Dean's appeal is closer to Ronald Reagan's than any other Democrat running today. . . . The Democratic party used to chuckle about Reagan and his gaffes, which they believed would marginalize him to the far-right dustbin of history. But when his opponents tried to attack him for some of his more outlandish statements, the folks in the middle simply ignored them. Voters . . . looked to the bigger picture, where they saw a man of conviction who cared about them and had solutions for their problems."

Moore says he's never had more reaction to a memo. Tellingly, almost all Republicans -- fellow pollsters and clients -- thought the memo was dead-on. And they were dead serious.
Now, consider what we were saying at PW and DN back in early July, in response to Ralph Reed's seemingly prescient appearance on Inside Politics:
Reed states: "I can remember when the Democrats were sort of, you know wrapping their hands together in anticipation of running against Ronald Reagan, and then they lost 43 states, as I recall."

We write: Reagan lead a conservative Republican insurgency during the primary that pundits said made him unelectable in the general. Moderates clutched their worry beads and fretted about "another Barry Goldwater."

Democrats were giddy and lulled into an "unbeatable" complacency. Yet, time and time again, Reagan surprised and confounded his critics, outmaneuvering them at every turn. He was demeaned and dismissed by his foes, including Poppy Bush, and the attacks only seemed to make him stronger.

His core supporters would stop at nothing, and ultimately, he presided over a great political realignment that we as Democrats are still battling today.

He did this by first -- you guessed it -- shoring up the base in his party and letting them know that their ideas and their voices counted, that they should be proud of their party again, and that they could make a difference.

Sound familiar?
It's kinda spooky, actually -- but yeah, now it sounds really really familiar!

UPDATE: Paul dug up this post from mid-May at San Francisco for Dean -- and we think we may have the original source for the Reagan meme -- Slate's William Saletan.



Down The Rabbit Hole

Steve Lopez of The Los Angeles Times and author of their somewhat-eponymous Points West column writes of the incoming Guvin-Banger:
...you don't generate a great deal of political cooperation, or public trust, by committing one act of hypocrisy after another in the walk-up to inauguration. Last week, the anti-special-interests candidate invited special interests to lay money at his feet. This week, the candidate who insisted California must live within its means is considering a plan to borrow as much as $20 billion to cover the projected deficit.

In between, his ace staff announced that he's hiring a private investigator to investigate the groping allegations against him. (I still say he should just get himself tanked and see if he spills the beans).

Regarding the $20-billion bailout idea, I felt better when I was being deceived, didn't you? I thought Arnold was going to wave his magic wand, eliminate waste and rein in spending, and we'd all meet at Schatzi on Main to celebrate how easy it was to balance the books.

Now we find out that Schwarzenegger might grab another page from the Gray Davis playbook and put a $20-billion cash advance on the state credit card -- as much as $40 billion when you add interest and other charges. Sure, if the sun shines and the economy grows, we may be able to cover the debt without having to eat our young. But I thought that was Gray Davis' argument.

And where did Schwarzenegger get this sage advice? That's the best part. He got it from arch-conservatives who flogged Davis for -- are you ready, kids? -- borrowing. They include the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., which has SUED THE STATE because of its borrowing to balance last year's budget.

Give Schwarzenegger a break, GOP consultant Ken Khachigian told me. He didn't have many options on the budget, and as for the flip-flopping by true conservatives: "The benefit of having this kind of change in the governor's office is worth swallowing hard and putting some of your old positions behind you."

Maybe, but Jarvis junkies endorsing massive credit card debt is like environmentalists driving Hummers. If this is the dawning of the age of sellouts, maybe I should consider jumping to the other side as well.

I love my job, but Arnold doesn't seem to have anyone on his staff of buffoons who can keep him from stubbing his toe. For a million bucks -- chump change to a man of his means -- I'll quit this gig and be Arnold's damage control chief and private eye all in one.

Take me with you, Arnold. Sacramento is going to be Wonderland, and I already feel like I've fallen down a rabbit hole.
Take me too! With this kind of state-sponsored hypocrisy, Bushie Boy doesn't stand a chance in Our Golden Wonderland.



Examples of a Compassionate Conservative and the disdain for Nation Building

Sandy found this one on sfgate the other day, another example of this administration's utter lack of respect for the troops that do their bidding. Apparently,
The Bush administration is seeking to block a group of American troops who were tortured in Iraqi prisons during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 from collecting any of the hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen Iraqi assets that they won last summer in a federal court ruling against the government of Saddam Hussein.
Because, get this, those funds need to be used for Iraq's rebuilding. Those 17 guys win a judgment for being sent to Iraq, getting tortured on America's behalf, and when that money actually becomes available, our government fights them for it.
This is so sick, so sad, and so very, very wrong. I don't know where to begin.



Bush would lose election today 50%-44%

Despite positive economic news last week, 50% of registered voters do not want to see George W. Bush serve a second term, compared to 44% who say they'd vote for him. A significant majority of independent voters, vital to any presidential win, oppose Bush's re-election 53%-40%.

Moreover, a recent Pew Research Center study on "The 2004 Political Landscape" shows that the politcal views of Democrats and independents are converging and pulling away from the Republicans. For Karl Rove and his minions, who are pointing to the recent California recall and the victories last week in Kentucky and Mississippi as proof of some sort of national realignment toward the GOP, the news couldn't be more discouraging.

In other 2004 news:

Howard Dean is about to Dukakis-ize the President, becoming the first Democrat to use images of the now infamous landing on the U.S.S. Lincoln in TV advertising.

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes will endorse Sen. John Edwards for the presidency, according to Wake-Up Call.

John Kerry, trailing badly in New Hampshire polling, fired Jim Jordan, his campaign manager. The decision was apparently made by both Sen. Kerry and his campaign chairman, former NH Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Jordan will be replaced by veteran Democratic operative Mary Beth Cahill.

Dick Gephardt has inched ahead of Dr. Dean in Iowa polling. However, the Des Moines Register calls the lead "wobbly."

And despite persistent rumors that he may be dumped from the ticket in 2004, Bob Novak reports that Dick Cheney will be retained in the VP slot for next year's election, citing that Bush relies heavily on the Veep. (Well...duh!)



Blogging the Fall?

The most successful Roman writers may have viewed the popular phenomenon with disdain — Horace compared an author on a stage to "a leech that will not let go of the skin until it has sucked its fill of blood" — but most Romans took readings seriously. The classic recitatio was an organized event, usually held in an aristocrat's marble-floored villa. The artiste, usually a rich dilettante, would sweep into the auditorium in his finest snow-white toga, perch himself on a tall stool at the center of the stage and proceed to recite from his scroll "in melting tones." Some prima donnas wore lamb's wool neck scarves to protect their throats. Consumed with false modesty, they delayed starting their readings until audiences shouted, "Read!"

"Read!" lamented Seneca, when "they would really like to see him struck dead on the spot." In fact, Roman readings make modern American poetry slams seem like exercises in Victorian reserve. To sit quietly, as if deaf and mute, was regarded as a personal insult to the reader; Roman audiences were expected to shout encouragement and praise throughout the recitation, a custom facilitated by an abundance of wine at the readings.

Auditoriums were habitually stacked with the reader's friends and relatives so that writers could be sure of an enthusiastic reception. But many wealthy writers also hired their own professional applauders. The "leader of the chorus" was briefed in advance on when to expect the most evocative literary flights, so that at crucial rhetorical moments he would incite the audience into eruptions of pleasure. Throughout the event, every mot juste was met with gestures of delight and approval; choice metaphors provoked eager roars; an extended rhetorical flight demanded standing ovations.

The craze for literary readings in Rome was sudden and overwhelming. Traditionally, the hard-bitten, practical, militaristic Romans had regarded writing in general — and verse in particular — as a vaguely decadent and contemptible pursuit, best left to the effeminate Greeks. To Romans, it was only acceptable for the works of dead authors to be read aloud; reciting one's own words was seen as egotistical and self-promoting. But when Augustus took the helm of Rome in 27 BC — steering the city from a republic to an empire and creating a new era of wealth and dictatorial order — poetry was officially promoted, giving it a new respectability. Inspired by the heady atmosphere, a retired general, Gaius Asinius Pollio, encouraged authors to read their own work in public.

By the mid-1st century, the recitatio had reached a level of popularity that would not be matched until the modern day. Public readings became the central pillar of Roman literary life. Writing, formerly a solitary pursuit, took on a new status as a performance art.

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