Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lego my Matrix

This short video is absurdly cool.  Don't worry - it's totally safe for work and politics-free!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Warren Zevon had it backwards

President Obama is currently working on a plan for the on-going war in Afganistan, as everyone knows.  The military wants more troops, the Democrats want them to come home and the Republicans want, uhm, well, they only seem to want "no" lately so we'll add them to the more troops camp.  I can't say I'm shocked that General McChrystal has asked for more soldiers - when have you ever known the military to say "you know?  We have enough boots on the ground here.  Thanks anyway."  It would be like Spinal Tap saying "You know, we *can* go to 11, but let's just keep it at a nice, comfortable 7, shall we?"   I am certainly not disparaging the bravery and capability of our troops in harm's way - they're clearly the best fighting force Earth has ever seen.  But even the best skill and training around just isn't enough to accomplish an impossible task.  Like winning a shooting war in Afganistan.  Just ask the British.  Or the Soviets.  Or, hell, Alexander The Great.  Never mind the fact that 40,000 more troops would be just about every standing soldier we have left who can go.  We've been there for over eight years all we've done is repeat history and throw good money after bad (Afghanistan was just ranked the 2nd most corrupt country in the known universe).  There's still a chance to reverse that but it requires a new strategy. 

We need to win the hearts and minds of the every-day Afghani. And we're not going to do that with bullets, bribes or battalions.  Rather than sending 40,000 army troops why not send 40,000 civil engineers, teachers, doctors, sanitation experts, well-drillers, builders, road crews, nurses and others who are there to save lives not take them, starting with the Army Corps of Engineers. Sure, they'll need military cover at first but once the people of Afghanistan see that we're turning on the electricity, cleaning the water and otherwise improving their lives where do you think their allegiance will turn?  The Taliban has been doing some of this but it's a guarantee that we can do it faster, broader and better.  Don't assume what they want.  ASK what they want then deliver it. 

To paraphrase Warren Zevon the shit has hit the fan in Afghanistan.  In this case, though, lawyers guns and money will only make it worse.  President Obama, you didn't start this war but you can end it and the only way that isn't an absolute disaster is to show the Afghani people that we do want what's best for them by healing, not hurting.  It's never too early to start building your legacy and earning that Nobel Peace Prize.

Absurdity to be determined.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Let's debate this old school

The Senate is going to take up the health care bill this weekend and the GOP has threatened to filibuster over and over and over.

I say let them.  How long has it been since this country had a "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" style filibuster where the opposition party has to hold the floor 24 hours a day even if it means reading the phone book?  Or the legislation?  Too long.  The Democrats need to grow a spine and tell the party of no to suck it up and start talkin'.    Can anyone tell me why they've been able to get away with this for so long?

Who knows, maybe CSPAN will be interesting for the first time in a long while.

You're right, that's a hell of a stretch.

Nothing funny to see here, just a bit of absurd politics.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Looking back at the election on 11/3/09

As a follow-up to my last post.  Hoffman, the Conservative party candidate actually lost and the Democrats picked up a seat held by Republicans since 1872.  True, the NJ and VA governor's races went to the GOP but exit poling in both cases showed that the results there were determined by local issues, as gubernatorial races often are.  Oh, and the only other national race, another House special election that could have gone either way was kept by the Democrats.  So at the end of the night the Democratic majority in the House actually increased.  And how poignant was it that last Saturday's health care bill vote in the House was determined by Bill Owens' lot?  Perfect.

[One update to my last post: Bill Owens is actually likely to hang on to this seat in 2010 because the districts are being redrawn and what was the GOP seat will be going away]

But that's just background.

What's more interesting is to watch what's happened with the GOP and the hard right since then. The Tea Party (as they're calling themselves in Florida) isn't taking the hint that they caused the loss of what should have been an easy GOP win in NY-23 and they're challenging other more moderate Republicans elsewhere around the country for the congressional elections to be held next year.  The intraparty war I predicted were Hoffman to win is happening even though he lost.  This purity purge maybe emotionally satisfying to the ultra-right but this isn't an ultra-right country - independents are the real deciders.

Polling now shows that a generic Republican is several points of a generic Democrat in many parts of the country.  If the Conservatives force ultra-conservative candidates on the GOP you can bet the only poll that matters will come as quite a shock to the Republicans next November. A lot can happen between now and then, but on top of this if President Obama and the Democrats can get a solid health care bill passed and even implement some of its improvements right away, the GOP doesn't stand a chance in 2010 or likely for a generation.

And they know it.  Which is precisely why they're fighting health care reform with everything they've got including lies, propaganda, rallies sponsored (possibly illegally) by sitting House members and even using infants as props on the House floor.  It's a circus.

And they're losing.

Detect a trend here?

It couldn't be happening to a more deserving group of people.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Be careful what you wish for....

I've been meaning to post this for a while but since it's 6:30pm on election night 2009 I better get it out there now before election results start coming in and I look like a great predictor of the past.

First a bit of background.  If "NY's 23rd" has any meaning to you skip the next paragraph.

Off-year elections, like today, generally don't draw much media attention, especially for small congressional districts most people have never heard of.  Like New York's 23rd which borders on Vermont and Canada. Despite the proximity to such deep wells of socialism it's one of the most reliably Republican districts in the country, especially in New York State, not having been in Democratic hands since approximately the Civil War.  They're having a special congressional election this year because President Obama chose the sitting Republican congressman, John McHue to be his secretary of the Army.  Ordinarily no one would care, another GOP stalwart would be elected and that would be that. This year, however, it's turned into a 3-ring, turned 2-ring circus.  The GOP nominated a fairly moderate (though blessed by the NRA so how moderate can she be?) candidate, Dede Scozzafava for what should have been her shoo-in race.  The Democrats nominated poor schlub, Bill Owen to take the beating.  Things got weird when a third-party candidate, Doug Hoffman, came out of the woodwork under the guise of the Conservative Party because Scozzafava wasn't far enough to the right. This isn't the first time a third party candidate has garnered some attention, right Ross Perot, Joe Lieberman and Ralph Nader?  Well, what makes this especially weird is that national Republican figures like Dick Armey and Sarah Palin got behind the Conservative candidate not the one chosen by their own party.  (Never mind that Doug Hoffman doesn't actually live in that district and has shown nothing but disdain for local issues.  How's that for democracy?!)  Weirder still Scozzafava dropped out last weekend.  And to top off the weirdness she threw her support behind bill Owen - the Democrat.  It's still highly likely he'll lose, but that doesn't make this any less of a spectacle.

And as a proud progressive liberal I hope he does.  Bill Owen winning that seat would change nothing in the House.  The Democrats already have a very solid, and fairly liberal, majority and he would likely lose the election in 2010 anyway.  However, a victory for Hoffman will rev up the Conservative party and force the GOP to give them a lot more attention.  In case you don't know, this new party is an offshoot of this summer's tea parties, sponsored primarily by Fox News and Americans For Prosperity, Dick Armey's astroturf lobbying group.  They're about as far to the right as you can get without making Ghengis Khan look reasonable.  They're upset about their taxes (which haven't changed under President Obama), about their civil liberties (which are stronger under President Obama) about their safety (Obama has kept us safe from terrorist attacks longer than Bush/Cheney) about their gun rights (which are unchanged) and I think you see where this is going. They've often claimed not to be Republicans and until recently I didn't believe them since they sure-as-hell weren't Democrats.  But lately it's become obvious that maybe they're something else altogether.  Aside from fringers with a tenuous, at best, grasp on reality.

A win for Doug Hoffman will pull the GOP farther out of the mainstream and into the fringe gutter practically ensuring that President Obama is a two-termer, giving him a better chance of unwinding as much of the Bush Presidency as possible.  Sure the GOP may gain a few seats in 2010 but nowhere near enough to accomplish anything more than further obstruction and frustration.  That frustrations is almost sure to cause a complete rift in the party with the Conservatives taking Sarah Palin and company with them, leaving the GOP a reasonable, conservative/moderate group actually capable of constructive cooperation with the rest of us.  A party the original John McCain and John Warner could love.

Assuming that all goes well with President Obama's health care initiative it's going to become another Social Security or Medicare, causing the average American to fall back in love with the Democratic party, blocking the GOP out for another generation, as happened with passage of those two pieces of landmark legislation.

If the GOP remains on the fringe they'll be able to do little more than throw spitballs from the sidelines of history.  The best thing that could happen to the GOP would be a complete split between the Tea Party (if they end up calling themselves that this blog is proof that I came up with it and they owe me royalties!) and the Republican Party, restoring a sane two-party balance as our founders intended.

A Conservative party victory in New York's 23rd is just the place to start it.  Come on Doug Hoffman.  make a liberal proud.