Monday, March 31, 2008

Another crooked Republican on the way out

It should happen this morning: Bush's secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Alphonso Jackson, is expected to announce his resignation at a press conference at 9:45 this morning.

I'm not sure why it is, but I think part of the problem is that the Republicans are at least neutral, if not actively hostile, to the mission of HUD. If that's the case, and if your agency isn't doing anything that really should be done, why not use it as your personal piggy bank, or as a way to funnel profit opportunities to your friends, or as an opportunity to punish your enemies?

That's what they did when Reagan was president, and that's what Jackson did under Bush, and now, as when Reagan was president, Jackson's been caught.

So HUD is once again a hotbed of corruption, local housing authorities don't know from one month to the next how much they're going to get to run their vital programs, and homelessness is still getting worse.

Once again, they've proven Howard Dean right: the Republicans can't be trusted with money.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tops in Vermont? Green Mountain Daily!

Here's a cross-post from the other blog I write for: Green Mountain Daily. We've just been ranked on the top of the list for best political blogs in Vermont b the Washington Post!

Naturally, we feel pretty good about this, and it makes me want to keep working harder to bring high-quality political and policy news and analysis both to GMD and RR.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Just in time for Good Friday!

Not too much to comment on here. I got it from PZ tonight, and not a moment too soon.

So remember, if you are planning on crucifying yourself or otherwise mortifying the flesh tomorrow, remember these simple tips:

==>Get a tetanus shot before you flagellate yourself;
==>Check the condition of the whip you're going to use to lash your back;
==>And above all, before you nail yourself to the cross, make sure the nails are properly disinfected by soaking them in alcohol!

Friday, March 14, 2008

It keeps getting worse

If you thought stepping down as governor was going to be the end of Spitzer's troubles, outside the house anyway, there's more:

ALBANY — Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Gov. Eliot Spitzer used campaign funds in connection with his meetings with prostitutes, including payments for hotels or ground transportation, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

Prosecutors have asked the governor’s lawyers about the travel arrangements for three trips, including his Feb. 13 rendezvous with a prostitute at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan has also asked about the governor’s use of car services during trips to Washington.

The governor’s lawyers have begun consulting with a campaign finance expert who has long worked for Mr. Spitzer’s political organization to see whether campaign money was spent on the trips, including some as recently as last month, a person briefed on the investigation said.

Whatever you think about whether prostitution is a victimless crime, this looks pretty bad. The patronizing prostitutes would be unlikely to cost Spitzer his law license, but I imagine if this pans out it might.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Quick presidential observation

I just heard an interview of Hillary Clinton on VPR a couple of minutes ago, and the interviewer was pushing her on whether she's okay with winning with superdelegate votes even if she loses the popular vote. (By the way, I'm okay with it--we knew the rules going in, and I think there are good reasons for the superdelegate system.)

What I thought was interesting was the way she seems to be trying out a new line on why she should win. Even if she doesn't get the popular vote in all the primaries combined, we should look at states where the Democratic candidate can win. She said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that we're not going to win Alaska, or Utah, or South Dakota anyway (states that Obama won) but we can, and we need to, win states like Michigan and Florida. The implication was that they should count more in deciding who the nominee should be.

Of course, they do, because they have more delegates. Still, she seemed to be saying more, like maybe discounting the results of even big states if we are pretty sure they are going to go for McCain.

Maybe this isn't so much about Alaska and Utah as it is about the fact that we now know that she also lost Texas, but it seems to demonstrate a certain level of desperation on her part, leading to another in the shifting rationales for her candidacy.

More true colors from McCain

As you know, the wingers have for some unfathomable reason decided that McCain is not actually a conservative. I'm pretty sure it's not because conservatives live in the bizarro world, because what they do there is at least based in some way on reality, whereas what the conservatives do isn't based on the opposite of reality, it's just entirely independent of it.

Still, they think McCain's a liberal and that's that.

He has been making some strong efforts to prove they're wrong, however, and these last two weeks we've seen a couple in the world of religion. First, last week we heard that McCain's buddy John Hagee, who is some variety of fundamentalist, hates Catholics and Jews. For instance, on Catholics Hagee has labeled the Catholic church "the great whore," a "false cult system," and linked it to Hitler's Nazi movement, suggesting that it was Hitler's Catholic education that made him an anti-Semite.

On Jews: “It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God’s chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day. … Yup, the Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism.

So we're off to a good start here, but how long can one mouth-breathing preacher keep you on the front pages? We need more, and new we have more!

It turns out that McCain has another spiritual adviser, and maybe his specialty is how bad the Muslims are. Rod Parsley, another popular TV preacher, says this: I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam. I know that this statement sounds extreme, but I do not shrink from its implications. The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore. I bet you didn't know that the United States was founded to crush Islam, but now you do.

So come on, wingers, how about some love? His friends hate Catholics, they hate Jews, they hate Muslims. What more do you need to see that he's one of your own?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Parliamentary government

In certain circles it is popular to talk about a parliamentary system as a corrective to the polarizing, winner-take-all system we have here. As we hear the complaint in some places, the two-paprty system silences or ignores minority viewpoints, and causes a conformity that favors middle-of-the-road, status quo politicians and shuns real change.

There are reasons to question whether a parliamentary system would solve these problems, or simply create bigger ones.

The New York Times Magazine carried an article a couple of weeks ago about Israel's system for determining Jewish identity. This is important primarily because, since Israel lacks civil marriage, the only way to get married is through a Jewish ceremony, and that, in turn, requires the parties to demonstrate their Jewishness. The article talks about how this has gotten harder and harder for a number of reasons, including the fact that the Jewish identification system has fallen under the sway of a more and more rigidly ultra-Orthodox rabbinical establishment. So rigid that one official is quoted in the article referring to a Conservative rabbi in America as a goy.

What does this have to do with a parliamentary system?

One thing the parliamentary fans say is definitely true. A parliamentary system, rather than silencing or ignoring minority views, includes them in the structure of government, and bestows upon them real power. In Israel, since neither of the two leading parties can command a majority, the only way either one of them can form a government is by allying itself with other, smaller parties. Over the years the strength of these ultra-Orthodox parties has grown, so that by this point they hold 18 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, and the government has obtained the favor of the ultra-Orthodox by appointing them to the rabbinical court, that has the power over marriage and divorce, and that, consequently, is charged with determining who is a Jew. And who they determine is not a Jew is a pretty long list, including lots of converts, lots of people who have trouble proving their identity through synagogue records of matrilineal descent, and lots of people from America, who often aren't considered Jewish enough.

If they want to do this, it's their country, I'll probably never even visit, so they can go ahead and do it.

On the other hand, picture a similar situation here, in which Jerry Falwell, James Hagee, and a handful of their buddies were so politically powerful that they could veto any marriage if they didn't approve of the couple, and they held this power in Democratic and Republican administrations because they hold the balance of power. So if you were Catholic, or Mormon, or Unitarian, or Jewis, or, god forbid, atheist, they could just deny you the ability to marry and there would be nothing you could do about it.

At that point you could say that we've opened up the government to a minority view, and they no longer feel marginalized, and maybe they even vote at a higher rate than we do because they feel that their votes count. I'd look at the same situation and say that the parliamentary system has given a small minority almost dictatorial powers. and I wouldn't like it.

So maybe this parliamentary thing isn't all its adherents say it is.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Client 9

I've always liked Elliot Spitzer because of his aggressive pursuit of corporate bad guys.

Still, what they say about Caesar's wife probably goes double for Caesar, especially when he makes his personal probity and incorruptibility his key selling point. That's why it's hard to see Spitzer surviving the prostitution scandal that broke today.

You can argue that this is purely personal business that has nothing to do with his official duties, and I would agree with you 100%, but in this case, I don't think it's going to make a difference. Not only can he kiss his future political ambitions good-bye, I don't see him keeping his job.

I know, it sucks, but it is what it is.

It does, however, open up an interesting result.

Here's what the New York Constitution says:

§ 5. In case of the removal of the governor from office or of his or her
death or resignation, the lieutenant-governor shall become governor for the
remainder of the term.

In this case, the Lieutenant Governor is David Paterson, who represented Harlem in the State Senate from 1985 until he was elected Lite Gov in 2006. The interesting thing is that if he becomes governor, not only will Paterson become the first black governor of New York, he will also become the first blind governor of any state. I don't know anything about him politically, although I do know that he was elected minority leader in 2002. Still, Sptizer's loss, when it comes, will bring about two big milestones.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Want to buy a book?

How about a book by the stupidest fucking guy on the face of the earth?

The benefit of getting out of the administration early is that you get to retaliate against the truth by getting your story out earlier, and if you're Doug Feith, you probably need it, given that you were one of the prime movers and architects of the Iraq invasion.

Still, even Feith has the ability to commit a massive faux pas by blurting out the truth. We already knew it, but it's good to have it confirmed:

Among the disclosures made by Feith in "War and Decision," scheduled for release next month by HarperCollins, is Bush's declaration, at a Dec. 18, 2002, National Security Council meeting, that "war is inevitable." The statement came weeks before U.N. weapons inspectors reported their initial findings on Iraq and months before Bush delivered an ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Feith, who says he took notes at the meeting, registered it as a "momentous comment."

You might think that so many years later it hardly matters, but I think the truth is inherently important, especially as we debate the positions our presidential candidates took on going into the war in the first place.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Well, it's official

The policy of the intelligence agencies of the United States is to torture those people unlucky enough to fall into their hands.

Thanks, Ralph.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Non-political post of the day

It's only a certain category of people who will know the name Gary Gygax, but if you're in that category, he's probably important to you.

Gary Gygax was one of two people who invented Dungeons and Dragons, the role-playing game (RPG) that's been popular among those who proudly call themselves nerds and social outcasts since 1974.

Gygax died today at the age of 69.

I've never played D&D, but my two sons play D&D and many other RPG's, so I've been in the vicinity of many a game. People are inclined to look down on the game and those who play it, but I think they're really missing something. Think a little bit about what we want our kids to do as they grow up. Among other things, we want them to be creative, we want them to learn to understand how to deal with people who are different from themselves, we want them to learn how to meet a challenge, come up with an inventive way to solve it, and to work cooperatively to achieve their goals, and D&D teaches all those things. Sure, they're battling with orcs, trolls, paladins, dwarves, and other fictional creatures, but the game isn't sitting around and wishing you were a knight, and it's not slashing and killing, it's playing roles, thinking about your character traits, and developing and pursuing a strategy.

There are kids who are going to sit in their rooms and write poetry and short stories, but a lot of kids won't do that. Still, when you're writing an adventure, you're writing fiction, and if it doesn't hold together it won't be any good.

I don't want to overplay it, but I do want to suggest that you take another look at D&D and the people who play it and the other RPG's