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Thursday, July 03, 2008

In DC we celebrate independence by crapping on the 4th Amendment

I’ve been following the internet backlash against Barack Obama pretty closely for a week or so. The issue, which seems to be getting a little traction in more mainstream media, boils down to Obama’s quick reversal on several issues soon after he locked down the nomination.

Some of these reversals are the expected policy tweaks that all presidential politicians make when they secure their party’s nomination. It’s common knowledge that our election system requires candidates to cater to their party’s base in the primaries and then move toward more centrist positions in preparation for the general election. Those of us who hold more progressive political opinions may not like this practice, but we understand that it’s a sometimes necessary action if we ever want to win an election. We understand why Obama wants to temper his rhetoric on something like gun control, but some reversals are simply too big to swallow. Obama's change of heart on recently debated FISA legislation is an example of such a reversal.

Salon's Glen Greenwald is doing a great job of keeping track of the developments in this story , which essentially boils down to:

- Obama used to think that the Protect America Act was a bad thing, particularly the parts of it that allowed the government to conduct surveillance of whoever it wanted, with little or no oversight. He thought this piece of legislation was so bad that he voted against it's original enactment, and had stated that he would filibuster any attempt to renew it.

- Obama now supports the Protect America act as the best deal the Democrats can get, even though they control both houses of congress and the current administration's policies in this arena are incredibly unpopular. One other important piece of information - if this legislation expires, the old FISA legislation becomes the applicable statute. This law was good enough to get the U.S. through the Cold War.

- Obama's campaign portrays this switch as a pragmatic piece of compromise that will ensure the protection of Americans from terrorists while portaying the candidate as 'tough on terror'.

This flip angers and frustrates me on so many different levels that it's hard to catalog how I feel about it. There's the familiar disappointment with a political leader revealing himself as a 'politician' and the feeling of being betrayed by a candidate I believed to be something new and different in politics. There's disgust at the rhetoric Obama is using, which steals heavily from the Republican party line. My biggest problem with Obama's FISA position is that he's stomping all over the 4th Amendment, ostensibly to win an election, and his actions are more likely to cause him to lose.

Republicans don't win on national defense because Democratic candidates have bad defense policies. Republicans win on security issues because Democrats will abandon their 'principles' at the first sign of conflict. Dukakis, Mondale, Kerry...the list of Democratic losers on the national stage is filled with politicians that sought to fit their ideas to what they thought the people wanted as soon as Republicans began to wave the patriotism banner around. I thought that Obama was different in this respect, and on a larger scale, he may still be; but his behavior with respect to the FISA debate makes me think that the same mindset that tanked previous campaigns is at work here.

I can't understand why Obama is reversing his ground on this. The same forces that allowed Democrats to suddenly find their collective spine and win congressional elections in 2006 are still at work, and may even be stronger. Aren't independents and 'centrist' voters ready to hear that the Bush doctrines that stated, "you can have individual freedoms or safety, but not both!" are wrong? I think so. I used to believe that Obama thougt that too. For those keeping track, this is exhibit 786 in the case for me not being very smart.

John Kerry came out of his primary campaign with the same kinds of polling leads Obama is currently enjoying over John McCain. Then he started to adjust his positions to make himself more palatable to voters. He ended up looking like a slightly more craggy version of Michael Dukakis, milquetoast and without conviction. It's early in the election, and maybe I'm just feeling a little bit of buyers remorse, but I don't think so.

I have a suspicion that the McCain campaign has been watching this all unfold with a sense of expectant glee. They're all going to sit down to a campaign meeting the morning after the FISA bill passes, and they're going to be all smiles. A senior aid is going to turn to McCain with a look of smug satisfaction and say, "See John? I told you that they'd make the same mistake." And then they're going to dust off and pass around the same play book that Republicans have been using to win national elections for 30 years. "Please turn to Chapter 1: Reinforcing your opponent's image as a waffling pussy."

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Totally Boss Video Wednesday

I'm still buried under menial tasks related to my move, but when I'm finally out from underneath I'll post some pictures.

In the meantime, enjoy another Hold Steady Video. Their new album "Stay Positive" is available on iTunes right now. I've only listened through twice, so I don't know where it sits in their collection, but it's definitely good.

Stuck Between Stations off of Boys and Girls in America

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Moving Sucks

The plan was supposed to involve me driving a moving truck from Blacksburg to DC with Miss Viking’s stuff, picking up a couch at my Dad’s house, picking up my stuff in DC and then head to the new place in Silver Spring. Well conceived, poorly executed…

6:00 AM – Miss Viking’s alarm clock goes off. I shouldn’t have stayed up late playing Rock Band, and I certainly shouldn’t have had that last beer. I head upstairs for coffee before hitting the road.

7:00 AM – After sitting at the kitchen table and drinking coffee for nearly an hour, I’m finally on the road. I’ve got a truck full of Miss Vikings clothes, various bookshelves, televisions, kitchen tables, knick knacks, and a piano stuffed into a 16’ moving truck. I haven’t driven anything this large in years, but I’m sure it’s just like riding a bike.

7:45 AM – It turns out that driving an oversized moving truck through the mountains of southwest Virginia is a little tougher than I thought. I’ve been white knuckling my way down what must be at least %80 incline hills, chain smoking, and wondering why the few motorists on the road at 7 on a Saturday morning insist on driving next to me when it should be clear to everyone on the road that I’m going to need both lanes if a major collision is going to be avoided.

8:30 AM – I’m beginning to get the hang of the truck, and have begun to pass people on the freeway, leaving my safety zone of the right lane. I’ve got my right arm hanging out the window so that I have a trucker’s tan to show off at the next rest area. I want to make sure that I blend in so that my fellow road-masters will let me know where the ‘smokies’ are waiting. I should have bought a John Deere hat…

Noon (things begin to go awry) – I’ve arrived at my Dad’s house in Woodbridge, where some sucker, I mean good friend, has agreed to meet me to load a couch onto the truck. It doesn’t fit, and we have to jam it into the truck at an angle. This wouldn’t be a problem, but I still have to load all of my things into the truck. I’m going to have to pull some of Miss Vikings things off and re-arrange the storage configuration. Years of Tetris are about to pay off.

12:45 PM – It begins to drizzle as I pull up in front of my house in DC. My buddy and I quickly begin to remove the couch and as much of Miss Viking’s stuff as we need to allow the couch to fit back into the truck at a reasonable angle.

1 PM – The couch is on the truck, and as I exit my house carrying an unwrapped mattress, the heavens open. This is not the kind of ‘isn’t this refreshing’ summer rain that you normally expect during a move. This is end of the world, Moses will have to part the seas to cross Wisconsin Avenue, kind of downpour that I expect during a move. Rain drops the size of ping pong balls begin to pelt my mattress. I scurry about, putting Miss Viking’s things onto the truck to prevent additional water damage.

1:03 PM – Miss Viking calls to let me know that she has arrived at our new house. The previous occupant has not removed her possessions from the house.

1:07 PM – With as much cargo as we could get into the truck while a monsoon is raging, I leave my old house and drive to Silver Spring. I’m wet, I’m sweaty, I can’t see the road, and a man in a canoe just cut me off going through Chevy Chase Circle.

2:00 PM – I’ve finally arrived at my new home. I dry off and wait for the movers hired by Miss Viking’s new employer to remove our possessions from the truck. While this is occurring, I pace through my new house, marveling at all of the wonderful things the previous occupant has left for us. I’m now the proud owner of a flower print couch last upholstered in 1972, five bags of aromatic rocks, an entire kitchen of dated flatware, and an odd and disturbing aroma whose origin I can’t locate.

5:00 PM – With the truck unloaded and a long day nearly complete, I decide to relax by driving back to my old house and pack the things that wouldn’t fit into the truck on the first trip.

5:30 PM – Upon arrival at my previous dwelling, Miss Viking notes that her mother’s office desk has acquired several rather visible scratches at some point during the move. I contend that this must have happened when it was originally packed in the truck or at some point during transit. She counters that I damaged the treasured piece of furniture when I removed it in the middle of an apocalyptic weather occurrence. I won’t tell you how the dispute was resolved other than to say that I loaded the truck by myself while she returned to Silver Spring.

8:00 PM – Back in Silver Spring. I shower and drink a beer as fast as humanly possible. Miss Viking and a friend have spent the last 2 hours removing signs of the previous occupant’s occupation from our house. Nothing went like it was supposed to, but it could be worse. I could have moved to Georgetown.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm shocked, SHOCKED to find GAMBLING going on here!

No one that has been paying attention for the last eight years is surprised by the ‘revelations’ contained in Scott McClellan’s new book, but major news outlets like the Washington Post are tripping all over themselves to make McClellan’s insights front page news. The headline of today’s on-line edition of the Post reads, “Ex-Spokesman: Bush Mislead Public on Iraq.” Incidentally, the stories below the fold were: “Water is Wet”, “U.S. Economy: Been Better”, and “Men Think Scarlett Johansson is Attractive.”

The Post even lacked the testicular fortitude to lead without attributing the assertion to McClellan in the headline, which is unsurprising considering how little the paper did to question the rationale for the war in the first place. Would anyone other than administration flaks have made a ruckus if the headline had read, “Bush Lied to the Public about Iraq”? Instead, the Post took the approach of, “Listen, we’re not sure, and we don’t want to cast stones, but this Scott McClellan guy said that Bush may have been a little less than truthful about that whole Iraq War deal.”

The response of the press to McClellan’s tell-all illustrates a key point made in the book. McClellan states that far from being too liberal, the press was deferential to the administration as it made the case for war in Iraq. The collective “My goodness, isn’t this a development” uttered by the journalistic establishment shows how loathe the press has been to do their job.

The way the rest of this story will play out is easy to predict. The administration will trash McClellan on the morning shows, right wing bloggers will make excuses, and the main stream media will forget about the whole thing in a week. None of the really important questions will get asked. Instead of trying to hold the administration accountable, news outlets like the Washington Post will spend ink cataloging the he-said, she-said between McClellan and administration surrogates. Then in a four or five months when another one of these insider accounts is published we’ll go through the whole thing again, still wondering why everything is so screwed up.

But hey, at least Scotty is getting paid for keeping his mouth shut when he could have had a real impact and then suddenly finding his balls when someone waived a book deal in his face.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Totally Boss Video Wednesday

This song is off one of my favorite albums from last year, and this song still gets heavy rotation in a few of my go-to iTunes mixes.

I somehow manage to be out of town every time these guys play in DC.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Totally Boss Video Wednesday

Because it's always a good time for the best band to come out of Minneapolis since the Replacements.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Dear God Is It Over Yet Haiku

Today at the polls,
More important than the war,
Snipers or Preachers?

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Monday, May 05, 2008

At least he didn't park his Prius in the pool

Rock Band is a video game that bridges the gap between gamer and non-gamer. Get yourself a bottle of whiskey, a case of beer, two or three friends with no reservations about really selling the backup harmony in Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive” (even though the game doesn’t require it ) and you’ve got a recipe for a pretty decent Saturday night. People who would never think of picking up a controller and sitting down to play Grand Theft Auto will happily strap on a plastic guitar and pretend to be Ace Frehley. With the right mix of people the game becomes a cooperative event. Instead of competing against each other as you do in most other games, you’re providing support and encouragement to your band mates; working together to quote, RAWK, un-quote.

On some occasions, the ‘band’ I normally play with, “Arsenio, Hall, and Oates” gets so into the groove that we begin to act like real-life rock stars. The drummer smacks his sticks together in the air to count out time as the song begins. The guitarist calls out the tried and true, “Ah one,two, Ah-one, two, three, four.” And the lead singer gets drunk and destroys the stage.

I’m serious about that last one. Arsenio, Hall, and Oates (or “Spuckwheat and Wanky” as we sometimes call ourselves when playing incognito in smaller venues) had its first Rocking Related Injury, or “RRI” this weekend.

Miss Viking graduated from her Masters program on Saturday and we threw a party to celebrate. As usually happens when our friends get together, Rock Band gets pulled out when the group has achieved a collective BAC of about .09. What began as a large group activity; four people playing together while three or four others waited their turn and cheered the band on, devolved into Miss Viking, myself, and a lead singer, whose name shall be withheld for his protection, playing long after everyone else had gone to bed and/or passed out.

We’d all been drinking quite heavily, for quite a long time, and the quality (if not the enthusiasm) of our rocking had been going steadily downhill for about 40 minutes. We knew it was almost time to take our curtain call when both the bass player and guitarist began to see the scrolling bars on the TV screen as a blur of rainbow colors instead of the easily recognizable notes they usually are. Our lead singer recognized that the rest of the band was losing focus, and took his act up a notch to spur us on.

He increased his vocal projection, he called out encouragement during long guitar solos, and he began to dance wildly about the living room. On a hardwood floor. In athletic socks conspicuously lacking in non-skid traction control devices of any kind.

You see where this is going. During a particularly hyperactive dance breakdown, that reminded many in the crowd of a young Jack Black in the midst of some kind of bourbon induced seizure, he lost his footing. Badly. Luckily, the most expensive piece of Rock Band equipment in the room was there to break his fall.

As he crashed to the floor, the arm of our lead singer came down solidly on what would have been the symbol on a real drum set. In a ‘real’ band, that would have resulted in a solid and satisfying crash, much like a drunken singer falling into drum set. In our little fantasy world, this fall instead resulted in the thin and decidedly unsatisfying sound of a plastic drum pad snapping in two.

Minor wounds were inflicted on our fearless band leader. A long and nasty scrape required Miss Viking to dust off her civil war surgery skills. Luckily, we still had a little whiskey left, and since the drums had been rendered useless, we had extraneous drumsticks to aid in the fashioning of tourniquets. What could have been a VERY awkward closing song was mitigated by the fact that we were playing on the singer’s own drums, and not mine.

That’s right, my group of friends has more than one full set of Rock Band instruments among us. I can tell you’re impressed.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

I Miss Jed Bartett Too

Why is it that the only time I have any faith at all in democracy is when I watch a fictional portrayal of it on TV?

I just finished watching the last episode of HBO’s “John Adams”, and I have come to three earth shattering conclusions because of this mini-series.

1) John Adams, and everyone in his family, had really horrible teeth. I dig that HBO was striving for historical authenticity and I respect that the producers didn’t go the route of having the 18th century colonials in the series look like they just finished a weekend at a Palm Springs spa; but I spent more time considering the magnitude of halitosis that Adams’s cabinet had to contend with than I did thinking about the relevance of the Alien and Sedition Acts in today’s terror obsessed society.

2) Thomas Jefferson was kind of a prick.

3) This country will never, ever, again have leaders that care more for the well-being of the country than for their own advancement/power/ego.

Listen. I’m not naive. Okay, I’m a little naive, but I know that all of this country’s “Great Leaders” have all been real people with flaws and personal agendas. I’m not saying that the Founding Fathers were infallible, or that FDR was a god, or that Reagan was a pleasant dullard who has been unjustly elevated to the status of icon by a group of necrophiliac, revisionist, partisans, who wouldn’t know a good President from Dick Nixon. Actually, I am saying that last bit.

What I am saying is that somewhere in the last 40 or 50 years, the pursuit of national politics, be it Congress or the Presidency, has become the goal in and of itself. Very few good men or women bother with the highest levels of government. This isn’t news to most, and I don’t blame the people that could do good for the country for not submitting themselves to the 12th circle of hell that is running in a big time election. I wouldn't do it, even if there weren't a glut of incriminating pictures of me in the hands of several untrustworthy friends.

Everybody’s heard the line that may or may not have originated with Alexis de Tocqueville, “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.” I happen to believe this. It's just too bad that we the people suck it soft most of the time.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Totally Boss Video Wednesday

I'm going to play a little 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon with this week's video. We had sailboats last week. Who else has sailboats? Pirates!

"Mr Understanding" - Pete and the Pirates

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