Friday, June 15, 2007

Feminists hate Hillary

The Nation has an article on Hillary's problems with feminists here. Surprisingly to some (though not to me), they don't much care for her. I especially like the point that being the first woman in the White House would be overrated. How would that materially improve the lives of women? The article says a lot of things I agree with--i.e. it would be better for women to have a more liberal, male President who will fight for their rights instead of a calculating, unprincipled female who is willing to give away the store to seem more reasonable, which is the HRC modus operandi in spades. This is a must-read for HRC supporters.

Some quotes I found interesting:

"Having a woman in the White House won't necessarily do a damn thing for progressive feminism," writes Bitch magazine founder Lisa Jervis in LiP magazine. "Though the dearth of women in electoral politics is so dire as to make supporting a woman--any woman--an attractive proposition, even if it's just so she can serve as a role model for others who'll do the job better eventually, it's ultimately a trap. Women who do nothing to enact feminist policies will be elected and backlash will flourish. I can hear the refrain now: 'They've finally gotten a woman in the White House, so why are feminists still whining about equal pay?'"

I found myself enraged by this pro-HRC argument. Check it out for yourself:

"There's not one man of either party who is at the top of the race right now who, if he were a woman, would be taken seriously," says White House Project's Marie Wilson. "We wouldn't tolerate the lack of experience or the marital history [of Rudy Giuliani]. If Obama were a woman, and I don't care how articulate or wonderful, we'd be telling her that she didn't have enough experience." Or, as Susan Estrich wrote in her 2005 book, The Case for Hillary Clinton: "Imagine if Hillary weren't a woman. She'd simply be the best-qualified candidate, with absolutely everything going for her...."
I agree with the points about Rudy and Obama, but WTF is the last line about? What, being a political husband (in this example) for a long time and a Senator for six years would make you an ideal candidate? How about never apologizing for a vote that you say was wrong (even though you never really say that either)? How about buddying up to big business and Rupert Murdoch? How about lacking any sort of media skills or cohesive worldview, let alone new ideas? If Hillary were a man, she would be under constant attack by the blogosphere for what she believes, and rightfully so, since she's virtually a pro-choice Republican if you go by her stated stances.

I cannot stomach dishonest Hillary apologists, and these sorts of arguments drive me batty. I count Obama's experience as a State Senator more highly than Hillary's tenure as the First Lady of Arkansas, and just being around politics doesn't mean you learn it by osmosis. She totally screwed up health care in the early nineties, which is pretty much her only substantive policy experience outside of the Senate. By my count, Obama has about 10 years as an elected official, with Hillary having six. I don't know about you, but that argument is baloney.

She goes on to say: "If she were a he--Harry Rodham, let's say--the Democratic Party would be thrilled." Not so. We've had neoliberal, waffling candidates for President with armfuls of experience and a fair amount of hawkishness on military matters. Was anyone thrilled with the notion of John Kerry as President? Kerry was perceived as a liberal but was really a moderate, center-left, DLC-type Democrat, just like Hillary. He never had the enthusiastic support of the left flank--he was just the designated non-Bush choice. Kerry was every bit the male version of Hillary, down to being wholly uninspiring and subscribing to the weather vane theory of politics--just point the way the wind blows.

In sum, Hillary Clinton = John Kerry. And, oh yeah, the latter lost, just like the former will. Case closed.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I love the title of this article:

Louisiana Mayor Bans Sagging Pants

Boy, I know that Katrina was tough on the state and its population, but they actually demoted Louisiana to being just a city? Ouch.

Plus, isn't this gripe, like, ten years old? I recall my parents complaining about sagging pants when I was in grade school. Why, I don't know. I guess cause it seemed sort of gang-like. It does sort of show the faulty thinking among many parents: it's not the pants that make you a gang member. The murdering and selling drugs are what do that. Gangsters just happen to like loose-fitting clothes.

P. S. Isn't this a clear First Amendment violation? I've been lead to believe that freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Then again, the GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR! obviously requires some sacrifices. If we let our children wear sagging pants, the terrorists will have won.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Late breaking news: Bush to appoint political hack to senior policy position!

Reuters has the story here. You might remember Ed Gillespie--certainly, he remembers you. He was the RNC chair during George W. Bush's 2004 election. Then he did some other stuff, now he's back. Really, the Bush Administration doesn't really bring in new blood, they just recycle the same people over and over again. Some examples:
  • Robert Zoellick: US Trade Rep->Assistant Secretary of State->World Bank Head
  • John Negroponte: Iraq Ambassador->Director of National Intelligence->Assistant Secretary of State
  • Rob Portman: Congressman->US Trade Rep->OMB Director
Etc. etc. Gillespie does indeed have a lengthy biography in politics. Much of it deals with politics instead of policy, although he did have a prominent role in drafting the Contract on America. Much of his bio involves public affairs work, which would be good, if Bush actually cared about what the public thought and used PR for any other reason than trying to convince people that he's right. It says something about a man when he thinks fundamental philosophical and political differences in his country are primarily a PR problem.

In any event, Ed Gillespie will soon become a senior counselor to the President. I'm not sure what the job entails, but if it has anything to do with policy, Fast Eddie might be out of his league. Not that it matters, since this Administration hasn't even bothered with policy since about 2002.

The Lieberman Puzzle

The Nation gets all allegorical with this piece on a hypothetical Lieberman Presidency. The real target is fairly obvious, and I agree that the "any Democrat" argument is a hollow one. I don't have any reason to believe, for example, that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be much better than a Mike Huckabee presidency. Indeed, if anything, the former would probably be worse. I think that Huckabee would be more likely to bring the troops out of Iraq than Hillary, regardless of their respective rhetoric on the issue. Not to mention that Huckabee has good things to say on a number of other issues, such as the environment. Were he in charge of the GOP, he would likely be able to pursue several liberal concerns better than Hillary would (although I doubt that is going to be his pitch to GOP Primary voters).

Still, I think this article doesn't quite understand the Lieberman phenomenon. Lieberman might have voted for the Iraq War in 2002, but he was not very outspoken about it until after 2004, when he was badly defeated in his run for the presidency. Let's keep that in mind: he ran in an election to replace George Bush. That event seemed to be a shattering experience for Lieberman, who did not receive a coronation. Instead, he was mocked for his declaration that he was gaining "Joementum" and his declaration that he was in a three-way tie for third place in New Hampshire (which even he had to think was a silly thing to say). Before that, he was generally a good Democrat who had some independent (read: pandering) stances on cultural issues. Since that run (and the Ned Lamont primary challenge last year), he has become so angry at the Democratic Party that he has moved closer toward Bush on Iraq and even further right than him on Iran for what seems to be purely personal reasons. It's very clear to me that Lieberman is an attention whore who needs to be written about as being an independent, moderate Senator, but he's certainly not a sensible centrist on the issues anymore. He won't defect from the Democrats, as the press loves a dissenter, and Lieberman loves being covered by the media. Still, it's interesting to see "Holy Joe" go from being the reasonable Joe of 2000 to becoming a lot like his fellow Connecticut native Ann Coulter. In any event, the $20 I donated to Ned Lamont is seeming more and more prescient as time goes by. Connecticut is supposedly changing their state anthem, and I've got a suggestion that works on a couple of levels: Won't Get Fooled Again, by The Who.

P. S. The truth about this election is that the best candidate is the one who is no longer with us. Paul Wellstone would have been a tremendous candidate. Very liberal, to be sure, but he was a genuinely principled and good man, and it was easy to sense that about him. Plus, he had ideas, and he was right on Iraq from day one. I don't think the Democratic Party ever recovered from his loss, and although Russ Feingold has stepped in as the conscience of the party, he's not Wellstone. It's not every day that you find a living embodiment of your princples, but Wellstone certainly was one. Not sure how the MS would have played out...

Evolution schmevolution

A number of people (mostly on the left, although not exclusively) have an issue with the relative levels of people who believe in evolution in this country--specifically, the number of Republicans who say they don't. I'm not sure if they just don't like the man from monkeys idea (which is something that I'm not wild about, but willing to accept) or if they believe that God created all the species on the Earth as they are now, and that none of them have evolved at all (which is crazy and plainly contradicted by Darwin, with fairly incontrovertible evidence). In any event, if evolution is wholly false, it is difficult to explain away all the biological advancements of the past 150 years, which all build upon evolution.

Anyway, the ratio of average Republicans who believe in evolution is inverse among the GOP Presidential candidates. I'm actually amazed that that many Republicans do believe in evolution, although obviously the GOP isn't all evangelical, and many of the more business-oriented conservatives (and some other groups like Mormons) would not likely have a problem with evolution. I find this encouraging, actually: having grown up among evangelicals, I know that disbelief in evolution is virtually an article of faith among them, hence the 68%. However, being that about half of the people out there believe in evolution (which seems higher than it used to be) and that the GOP goal is not the elimination of evolution from the classroom, but rather just the teaching of intelligent design alongside it, I'm not too worried. One of the good things about my generation is that we're less tied to orthodoxy than the boomers. I'm actually encouraged by this poll, to be honest, and I'm not too afraid of creationists in general. The stakes for that argument are low--not so much when one talks about the neocons.

I'm not sure I like the either/or question with faith and science. We're supposed to believe in science, but not to accept it as fact. Nothing is ever proven in science, there's just evidence for or against the proposition. Faith, on the other hand, is inherently unprovable (regardless of what Kirk Cameron says). One of the things I really loathe, though, is that evolution is dismissed for just being a theory. Folks, a scientific theory is not the same thing as one of Cliff Claven's bar-room theories--it's a hypothesis backed up by all available evidence. No amount of proof turns a theory into a law. As for me, if science says something is true, I generally believe it. There's too much uncertainty in this world, and I'm not going to throw away the little fact that we have. I'd just as soon start with the facts and reconcile them to my faith, rather than going vice versa.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why Fred Thompson won't unite the GOP

So, he's all but in. Fred Thompson is going to run for president...maybe. He announced his exploratory committee last week, and the actor-turned-politician-turned-actor is already a major force in the race, matching Rudy Giuliani's showing in the current Rasmussen poll. Thompson's visibility from Law & Order, coupled with his effective campaigning skills and "tough" demeanor, have already made him the choice of many a Republican. He has been repeatedly referred to as Reaganesque and many Republicans hold out hope that he will be able to reunite the GOP. His Senate tenure reveals a generally conservative voting record, and he has been visible in some other ways as well, such as the John Roberts confirmation. With three frontrunners that, for various reasons, are supposedly unacceptable to the base, the right is no longer even bothering to try to find the best, most qualified candidate (Mike Huckabee, who already happens to be running) and go instead to Hollywood glitz in a rather pathetic attempt to mine Reagan nostalgia yet again. Only this time, it isn't going to work.

The reason for this is simple: immigration. Despite the unified showing among all of the GOP candidates (minus John McCain) opposing the recent Kennedy-McCain immigration bill, there is a great deal of conflict among Republicans regarding this issue, and the intramural squabble is unlikely to be resolved by the entry of a new candidate who, like all the others, opposed the bill. The conflict is largely among the conservative base, who loathe the very notion of amnesty and essentially want to build a fence and close the borders, as opposed to the party's more moderate wing and business Republicans, who see the strategic value of comprehensive reform to usher in Latinos to the GOP and feel that the base is simply xenophobic and ignorant of the economics of the immigration debate. This is the rare tussle among Republicans, who are usually more disciplined about these things, and it is the even more rare fight that pits the Republican elites (such as Bush) against his most ardent supporters. To say this is a mere disagreement is to be guilty of quite an understatement: what we have here is nothing less than a full-blown civil war between two increasingly intractable factions of the GOP, and although the immigration bill is gone for now, the issue will be back. What's really extraordinary are the types of people turning on the President right now. Administration stalwarts like Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, who I cannot remember otherwise opposing Bush in any way, have more or less declared war on the Bush plan, and in a party where discipline and obedience are prized attributes, this development is a surprising one.

So, this is the environment into which Thompson enters: two sides to the immigration debate, with each growing increasingly less respectful and more contemptuous of the other. One might think that nominating an anti-immigration candidate might smooth over problems with the base, but that approach comes with a price. The pro-immigration elements of the Republican Party really want this legislation to pass, as it will mean more Latino immigrants (through a guest worker program), which means smaller payrolls. If it doesn't, it's not inconceivable that the pro-comprehensive forces might decide to back the Democrat, as the Dem frontrunners are generally friendly to their kind of immigration policies. So much for reuniting the Republicans.

In any event, I find it difficult to see just how Thompson is supposed to reunite the GOP. Despite having a level of folksy, down-home charm, the man has yet to articulate ideas on many current issues. Even though he's popular now, there's no reason to believe that his solidly conservative outlook will distinguish him from all the other solid conservatives in the race. And his acting career is hardly a substitute for executive experience. He's a Senator, and a former one at that. He will undoubtedly try to play the outsider card, although that dog simply won't hunt for Thompson. Eight years in the Senate, coupled with more as a lawyer and lobbyist in D.C., makes him one of the biggest insiders in the race.

Ultimately, while Fred Thompson might very well be up to the task of reuniting the Republican Party, there is no evidence up to this point that he will be able to do so. Too bad for the Republicans, who have hitched their hopes to this guy in a way which can only be described as irrational.

P. S. I realize I've written a fair amount about Fred Thompson in recent days. I'll stop writing about the man...for now.

Bill Richardson

This article, from TNR, is a pretty interesting look at Bill Richardson, formerly a much-buzzed-about Presidential candidate and likely VP nominee. Now, after weeks of floundering about (ho-hum debates, disastrous Meet The Press showing), those hopes seem less likely to come to pass. Richardson does indeed have a terrific resume and is palpably more authentic than some of the other major candidates. Unfortunately for him, he is not a naturally gifted politician: he's unable to provide a pithy soundbite, he hardly comes off as a commanding presence, and while he does have a resume, I agree with John Dickerson that the whole is less than the sum of its parts. He'd be a great choice for Secretary of State, though. Better than Joe Biden, although Al Gore would be good in that slot as well.

The article broadly assesses Richardson, but it could have stood to show more about the primary problem with his campaign: despite his resume, he is still often totally uninformed about serious issues. The Byron White gaffe is telling: White was on the court for about 30 years, from the Kennedy Administration until 1993. Roe v. Wade does indeed fall in this range, as it was decided in 1973. Hey, I admire Byron White, and his reasoning on the abortion issue is interesting: although personally pro-choice, he just didn't believe that abortion was a federal issue, and the Court couldn't interfere. I can respect that opinion--not so much his majority opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick, which allowed states to keep sodomy illegal for another 20 years.

Monday, June 11, 2007

One week

It has been about a week since I started this blog, and it's been quite a bit of fun for me so far. I've enjoyed reading the (sparse) comments left so far...please leave some if you wish. Chances are that I'll be able to engage you personally if you do.

I recently finished Season 2 of 24 from Netflix. I think I've come to the realization that, despite the inevitable urge, 24 is not a show that goes well together if you watch a bunch of them back to back. Still, it's generally a pretty good show, and while it goes overboard on the torture (part of the reason why I liked Season 1 so much--not as much of that), it's not as easily reductive as a right-wing show as people would have you believe. I thought the second season was actually a pretty clear denunciation of Bush's post-9/11 foreign policy, and the allegory fit pretty well. War fought for the purpose of national self-esteem. What a disgrace.

Oh yeah, and remember the immortal words of Adm. Fred Thompson from The Hunt for Red October, "The Russians, son, don't take a dump without a plan." Words to live by!

Fred Thompson is crazy

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for this quote. Conservatives love to link their pet issues with one another: immigration to terrorism, as in this example. My favorite was a few weeks ago, when some right-wing blog tried to tie abortion to immigration (with laughable results).

Sullivan's analysis is also dead on, and is far more succinct than anything I could write. Anyone who thinks this actor is a viable leader needs to read his post.

P. S. He used to be pro-choice, too.

P. P. S. He's not Reaganesque!!! Reagan had a clearly-defined philosophy and he had a record, as well as executive experience. His ideas were bold for his time, but he was certainly qualified for the nation's top job. Thompson had eight indifferent years in the Senate, and a little bit of time as a government lawyer before that. That is, unless you count lobbyist-for-hire as government experience, which I don't. He stands for the same generic conservatism as all the other Republican candidates (save Ron Paul) and he has no ideas to speak of. While H. L. Mencken might compliment him for that (albeit backhandedly, like he did with Calvin Coolidge), I'd just as soon know the precise ways in which he would like to screw up our country is all.

P. P. P. S. Why are Republicans so enthralled with "strong leadership"? It's not even so much about strength, but the appearance of strength. Have these conservatives who see Thompson as tough considered that he his toughness might very well be an act, considering he is an actor!

Colin Powell for VP?

Yesterday, Sullivan floated the notion of an Obama/Colin Powell ticket here. It would be rather a genius idea in the ways he described, and it would entice Republicans who have become irritated at the way the Bush Administration has chosen to operate in the world. My take is that, outside of the oil companies, business conservatives are really angry at the Administration's foreign policy, because having everyone else in the world hate us is bad news when you're trying to sell them something. These conservatives might blanch at the concept of voting for a liberal Black Democrat, but with Powell on the ticket, I can see many of them bolting from the GOP to vote for Obama/Powell. It might be the only bipartisan fusion ticket that stands a chance of working (largely because Powell's stances on social issues are generally liberal), and despite his speech at the U. N., Powell is still pretty much universally admired, in part because of his consistent criticism of the Bush Administration in the past few years. I personally like this idea because of the statement it makes: instead of left vs. right, it's realists vs. neocons (i.e. Giuliani and most of the GOP field, minus Ron Paul). I do agree with Sullivan that, with this ticket, the election would be over, and it would be smart for Obama to tease this angle--the whole "me and Colin are a package deal" thing. I don't even think the all-Black ticket issue would matter, since both politicians are hardly traditional Black pols (i.e. Jesse Jackson) and have strong appeal with Whites.

This quote by the former General here is only going to feed the speculation.

Status Update: Sullivan brings up the topic again today. No mention of Powell's U. N. speech as a stumbling block among the left, but I happen to agree that this would be a pretty awesome ticket. Then again, in order for it to ever happen, Obama needs to beat Hillary first, which is where the real trick lies...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ike quotes

I came across a few quotes from one of my favorite Presidents, Dwight Eisenhower. One, in particular, was compelling to me:

"One circumstance that helped our character development: we were needed. I often think today of what an impact could be made if children believed they were contributing to a family's essential survival and happiness. In the transformation from a rural to an urban society, children are—though they might not agree—robbed of the opportunity to do genuinely responsible work."

"Peace and Justice are two sides of the same coin."

"In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable."

"When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. ... War settles nothing."

Hurrah for our last sane President!

Romney flip-flops on Iraq

This is almost like a f***ing Saturday Night Live sketch...

Ron Paul in the money

Ron Paul is a curious political phenomenon, and the phenomenon is about to get curiouser: he's supposedly raised five million dollars ($5,000,000) this quarter. (Link to story here). It just goes to show you that people who have a coherent, firm, all-encompassing ideology tend to attract supporters, and that there is an opening for an anti-war Republican in the field. Considering that John McCain has supposedly raised less than $10M, this will be quite a funding upset, and it will make it less likely that Paul will be kicked out of GOP debates.

I would go into a whole spiel on libertarianism now, but I won't. I'll just say that Ron Paul is speaking for a lot of people that the GOP has ignored in recent years in an attempt to cater to evangelical voters, and I would love to see him jump out from the second tier. Since he's trying to appeal to a different kind of Republican than everyone else, I'd give him a better chance than, say, Jim Gilmore. It's all about supply and demand. Wow, I guess Republicans don't understand economics, but that ain't news considering this is the party that invented voo-doo economics.

Click here to visit Ron Paul's website. I'm thinking about making a small donation.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Romney 2008: Vote for him because he panders?

Andrew Sullivan makes an interesting pitch for Romney here, in which he sees the man's transparent willingness to pander to literally anyone as a plus, and that it will make him more able to pivot on Iraq and other things. In the interest of full disclosure, Sullivan loathes Romney and acknowledges that he is an obvious panderer and fraud. Still, this is a notion that should be discussed, and it has a sort of perverse merit to it.

I don't agree, though, with the notion that if Romney wins it will be in spite of Christian evangelicals, rather than because of them. He is hardly running a centrist campaign, and although he might be more inclined to compromising with Democrats than, say, Rudy Giuliani, Democrats are not going to be nearly as inclined to work with him, and thus we have a new incarnation of the Jimmy Carter presidency. This assumes Democrats stay in control of Congress. If not, of course Romney is going to pursue a conservative policy agenda--that's what the Republican base is going to want, and if he doesn't do their bidding, he immediately becomes a target to become the first sitting president defeated for renomination by his own party since...Chester Alan Arthur, I think. In that eventuality, I think Romney begins to look more like a Prime Minister than President, as his support among the conservative rank-and-file will always be tenuous, and conservatives on the Hill will sense an opportunity to reassert their power after years of being muzzled by Bush. Evangelicals aren't just going to forget about Romney's past--for example, they're not going to forget his promise to be more liberal on gay rights than Ted Kennedy in 1994.

Ultimately, the old truism is that the devil you know beats the devil you don't. I have no idea what a Romney administration might be like, but I hope I don't have to find out.

How Bush can get back the base (or at least keep them from leaving for good)

It's so simple I didn't even think of it before: pardon Scooter Libby. Why he hasn't done it already is a mystery to me. To be honest, much as I loathe the administration, I wouldn't be too broken up if Libby got pardoned, since it is obvious that he wasn't the mastermind behind the whole Plame affair. I'm not so angry at Bush Administration that I've forgotten who the proper targets for this anger are.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Become a virtual prison inmate! Make some license plates!

This is surprisingly fun. Click here to go to the State (er, Commonwealth) of Virginia's DMV site, where you can make our own custom license plates. I made a few:

This might be a little too on the nose. And, considering how old Senator Robert Byrd is, it might actually be literally true.

Oh, poor Jerry Falwell. We will miss him. Who's going to blame the gays the next time we get attacked by terrorists?

I think this accurately sums up everyone's feelings about Pat Robertson.

For other ones, go here.

Pace out: the world must bow before me!

Wow, that was quick.

Only a few hours ago did I mention Peter Pace in conjunction with Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Now, he's gone. At risk of committing the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy, I don't see how it isn't possible to conclude that I was directly responsible for this change. I don't know what to think about Pace, aside from the fact that he seemed more concerned about gay men showering with straight guys than he did with the war in Iraq. I'm not sure to what extent he influenced Bush's thinking on Iraq--being as he was the friggin' Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I would imagine he had a great deal of influence on W's thinking. That tells me that his departure can only help matters.

I don't know anything about the new guy, Admiral Mike Mullen, although he is Gates's pick, and I put somewhat more stock in Robert Gates's judgment than virtually anyone else's in the Administration. Probably because he hasn't been around long enough to disappoint me. I'm not sure if he's as much of a anti-gay agitator, but I still don't think Bush signs a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Not when he's already on such thin ice with his supporters. Not when some of those supporters include groups that can legitimately be described as gay-hating and believe that any protection for homosexuals: from anti-discrimination laws to hate crime legislation, anything that benefits gays and lesbians must be wrong from their perspective, because it means that we're "legitimizing homosexuality". Uh, how does not wanting people to be denied home loans solely because they're gay legitimize their conduct? And how does denying them such services delegitimize it? It does not seem very American to me to deliberately deny people the same rights and prerogatives as everyone else on account of their engaging in acts that a pissy minority doesn't approve of, but that's the America of the religious right. Moving to Canada might seem like a good alternative, but they've got their own Bush clone as PM up there. We have to fight these people here, and there is a cycle for movements such as this one: power leads to overreaching which leads to no power. I'd say we're on stage two of that cycle right now.

Rudy, McCain cut and run, Marines still never do

I make a conscious effort to quote the Best Congresswoman in America (aside from Babs "I'm going to make cookies that look like phalluses!" Cubin) as much as possible, and this is one of Jean Schmidt's best (worst) lines. As it turns out, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, two men who are trying to out-strong each other in order to get the GOP nomination for President, have elected to skip the all-important (really, not at all important) Iowa Straw Poll. Prior engagements, I'm sure. Hey, those checks from Giuliani to Planned Parenthood don't just write themselves! And goshdarnit, if John McCain wants to watch a weekend marathon of M*A*S*H reruns, then that's what John McCain is going to do, my friends! Now, why anyone would want the GOP nomination when a reanimated Saddam Hussein would probably have comparable approval ratings to Bush is beyond me.

I find this baffling, and in a rational world, it would be a huge story that would get both their asses out of this election right now. These men are campaigning for the presidency, our nation's second-highest office (behind vice-president, of course), because they believe that they will provide strong, resolute leadership that doesn't run from tough fights and tough decisions, like Iraq. Yet, they're willing to skip a minor GOP event because the odds are they aren't going to win. Let me tell you something: if these guys legitimately believed the Iowa Straw Poll to be a silly nonevent, I'd be fine with them skipping out on it. But this is obviously an attempt (and a feeble one on McCain's part) to avoid hitting some negative momentum. A McCain victory in the Straw Poll might have revived his poll numbers, and without Rudy sucking all the air out of the room, he would have been in a much better position to do well there. Oh, well. I guess Mitt Romney, who heretofore will be known as Ozzie Smith (thanks to the latter's acrobatic flip-flopping and Romney's baseball-term name) will win the Straw Poll, every primary and then be elected President of America. God (Moroni?) help us.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The reports of immigration reform's death are not greatly exaggerated

It's all over. Bush's legacy is denied. Iran, you are so screwed...

Immigration reform: dead?

Is immigration reform dead in the Senate? North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan introduced what Mickey Kaus has referred to as the killer amendment (i.e. ending the guest worker program after a period of time), and clearly the anti-immigration Republicans feel the same way, since a few have signed on, like Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who at least was candid about why he voted for the amendment.

Is this amendment a killer? Quite possibly. It will send Republicans scurrying, might potentially get a presidential veto, and it might break the Democrats' resolve to pass this wildly unpopular bill through if they aren't going to be able to share the blame with Republicans. It isn't going to help this Congress's reputation for being do-nothing, but in this case, a plurality of voters prefer the "do-nothing" approach.

I guess it depends on how bad Pelosi wants to bring Hispanics into the Democratic Party, and how hard she feels she has to work on it. My reading at this point is that she isn't going to have to try too hard. The GOP has been the producer of so much anti-immigrant rancor in recent times that Hispanics are probably already in the clutches of the Democrats for quite some time, and actually getting the bill passed isn't necessary at this point. From a tactical point of view, this bill has become so contentious and so identified with Bush that getting it passed might not even hurt the Democrats too much in 2008--it might just hurt the Republicans, and it will hurt much more if it gets passed. Then, it becomes like NAFTA is for the Democrats, only way angrier.

Despite the temptation, I think that Pelosi and Reid should let the bill fold for now. You can always bring it back up later--like in September, when that Iraq status report is going to be due...

What if immigration reform just went away?

Wouldn't Bush and his party, respectively, take the biggest pastings on this issue should no bill be put forward? Bush would look bad--really bad. He has wrapped himself up in this cause, and he is slowly beginning to lose support amongst his most ardent anti-immigration supporters. The GOP will have shown Latinos exactly why they should vote Democrat for the rest of their lives (well, at least one reason why...), which puts them at a demographic disadvantage in the Southwest for the next generation. Texas and Arizona, for example, are majority minority, and if suddenly they were to become purple (or even blue) states, along with Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico, the GOP would be out of the White House for a generation. Hence Bush's (and Rove's) determination to do this and make sure that Bush gets credit for doing it, because otherwise the credit goes to Pelosi. Unfortunately for Bush, his party isn't going to give him any leeway on this, and he's going to face trouble in September when the war issue comes around again because of his immigration push.

Note to Bush: your party will not be able to attract Latino support with the current level of vitriol they display for Hispanic immigrants. You might as well let your crappy bill fold. Not that I'd really mind your being politically neutered for the next two years.

Note to Pelosi: you and Harry Reid draw this bill out as long as humanly possible. It's strategy so that when Iraq comes up again, Bush's base support is so low, you'll see dozens of GOP defections on the war.

Of course, if the bill does pass, it would create an irreconcilable rift within the GOP between the business and social conservatives, which would have immense consequences in 2008. McCain would be finished if his bill actually passed--if it doesn't, he might be able to eke it out. Giuliani might benefit, since he recently denounced the bill. I can forsee some business conservatives supporting the Democrats in 2008 if the GOP picks someone who really opposes immigration reform (i.e. Freddie), and I can see some social conservatives bolting for a third party anti-immigration candidate (e.g. Tancredo) if a pro-comprehensive guy gets the nomination (I think it's just McCain at this point). Finally, a GOP more bitterly divided than the Democrats are. I smell an opportunity!


Nobody expected Rudy Giuliani to be a serious contender for the GOP nomination this time last year. Hell, nobody thought he would even run. The GOP first string was all but declared: Virginia Senator George "Macaca" "Macaca" Allen, Senator Bill "Tears can give you AIDS" Frist of Tennessee, Senator Rick "I'd love a bottle of" Santorum of Pennsylvania, and Governor Jeb Bush of Florida (sorry, all out of snarky nicknames, although Jeb was the only one of these bozos who was halfway competent). At this point, you can add a former in front of all their names, because they're all out of office, Allen and Santorum involuntarily. Frist elected not to run for the Presidency, perhaps because he's about as exciting as the Metro section from an 1896 Los Angeles Times, and the elder Bush brother saw the writing on the wall and distanced himself from the presidential race as soon as possible. And probably spending many nights drinking and cursing his twit of a younger brother for ruining his career. Oh, well.

So, the top tier was vanquished, thankfully. True, Frist or Bush might be a potential VP candidate, but still--they're gone. That left a palpable hole for three people who otherwise would not have had a chance at the Presidency: ex-New York City Mayor (and social liberal) Giuliani, John McCain, and used to be Massachussetts Governor Mitt Romney. Rudy is lucky, as this is the rare year where Republicans seem totally uninterested in the traditional social issues they have always paid lip service to: he's pro-choice, pro-civil union, and anti-gun, which is rare to find these days in a top-tier GOP candidate. It's true that parties sometimes run candidates who don't necessarily agree with them because of the national hero factor: one need look no futher than Dwight Eisenhower, who was firmly in the Democratic camp on foreign affairs and the New Deal, and actually cut military spending every year he was in office to balance the budget. Giuliani gained a lot of prestige from 9/11 after a very troubled second term as NYC Mayor, but is that (or the accomplishments of his first term) enough on its own to make up for his apostasy on the GOP's core issues?

As it turns out, no. But it isn't all Rudy is peddling. Rudy has been running a good game plan up until now, I have to admit. He's making his social positions an asset by saying they make him more electable, while appealing to conservatives on the issues that they care about at the moment. In particular, he has adopted an ultra-hawkish foreign policy stance that is arguably more belligerent than that of the Bush Administration. He says things along the line of, "It's good that, after 9/11, the President went on offense." First of all, I remember at the time that Bush showed admirable restraint in pursuing a military retribution to the 9/11 attacks that garnered respect from both the media and from Democrats. Second, this sound bite makes it sound as though Rudy felt that Bush could have attacked anywhere and it would have been proper. Rudy has been energetically been dissembling the same Cheney-esque BS that this administration has been selling us on the war. We hear from him chestnuts like, "[Going into Iraq] was absolutely the right thing to is impossible to imagine fighting the War on Terror leaving Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq." Never mind that Saddam was detested by OBL and al-Qaeda, and provided no help to their cause. He's also selling the we need to fight them over there or else we'll fight them over here spiel, which fails the laugh test. For one thing, Iraqi insurgents are not all composed of one group, or even two groups. al-Qaeda accounts for very little of the insurgency. By and large we're dealing with Sunni and Shi'a nationalists who are struggling for power in Iraq, and they would have very little interest in coming back here to attack us. They just want us out.

All this is especially irritating when one considers that Giuliani is perhaps the least-qualified major candidate to talk about foreign affairs. His experience in foreign affairs is nonexistent, unless you count throwing Yassir Arafat out of Lincoln Center experience. What I find amazing is that his outlook and leadership style haven't evolved at all in almost fifteen years--he is still the same brash, aggressive, power-hungry man who promised to crack down on broken windows. And that is what spells trouble for me. If he hasn't changed since being Mayor, we're in for a world of hurt. While his first term was impressive, his second mayoral term was an unmitigated disaster, marked by cronyism, vendettas, posturing, and ultimately failure. Sound familiar? Any other world leaders that fit this particular bill? This time, the stakes are much higher--in NYC, the worst that could happen was that some squeegee men could get wrongfully arrested. Now, we're talking about a crisis moment in world affairs--the world hates us, which doesn't bother conservative Republicans, but it should, since we progressively rely upon other countries to manufacture the stuff we buy, as well as to consume the entertainment and other products we sell. We cannot afford to say we're the most powerful country in the world, as we are the world, at this point. Giuliani still has the worldview of a kid bully from New York, and I don't think that someone with so parochial a worldview should be sitting in the Oval Office in 2009.

Giuliani has managed to get social conservatives to support him by moving so far to the neocon right on foreign affairs (as well as on economic issues) that he hopefully would be unelectable to our nation at large. Polls show him beating the prospective Democratic rivals, but when you get down to it, Rudy has been presented to the public in a very positive light, as a competent, tough moderate. Once the public starts paying attention and realizes he's actually an extremist loon who just happens to be pro-choice, I can easily imagine any of the top three Dems taking him out. Everyone seems to say that he is a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode. Let's hope it happens before the election.

Straight Talk

John McCain is in real trouble. His Ted Kennedy-cosponsored immigration bill is unpopular with Republicans and even the public in general, and he is falling in the GOP polls. He now comes in fourth, behind Rudy, the most flexible man in the world, and Arthur "Fred Thompson" Branch.

It's a shame, too, because the consensus seems to be that he really triumphed in the last GOP debate. He came across as not at all scary or fearmongering, and he was able to explain his support for his unpopular ideas in compelling, moving ways. He came out looking the most reasonable of all the Republicans (which, to be fair, ain't exactly that hard), and that's obviously a campaign-killer. Well, that, and immigration, and Thompson. And wasn't he involved in some sort of campaign finance scandal in the 1990s? Don't think it won't be coming back when he starts talking about campaign finance reform.

Ultimately, even though McCain might have assuaged a lot of scared voters' doubts on Tuesday, it's beginning to seem more like a swan song than a new beginning. I have to predict, sadly, that by the end of July, McCain is probably going to be down to single-digits nationally, and he'll probably only manage a third-place in the Iowa Caucuses, behind elastic-man and Freddie. Then again, the Democrats will trounce either of those bozos, so bring 'em on!

Newt and John

According to recent comments, Newt Gingrich gives himself 4 to 1 odds against running, which leads to an obvious joke here.

Gingrich is someone I have a great deal of hope for. On one side, he's beloved by many Republicans and seen by them as being an anti-corruption crusader, despite a palpable history of hypocrisy and corruption. Who was it that set up the K Street project? It wasn't Tom DeLay. Gingrich was never popular with the public at large, but then again, he never had to be. He just needed to remain popular with the folks in his Northern Georgia district and with the GOP caucus, which he was not always able to do (see: failed GOP mutiny against Gingrich). In any event, his reforms were ridiculous. Term limits, in particular, were a bad idea and a bad policy. Although conservatives managed to talk warmly about citizen legislators, the real intent behind this clause was to drum Southern Democrats out of office, who would likely be replaced by conservative Republicans. Actually, one could argue that term limits make more new, inexperienced legislators who will be more beholden to special interests, but I digress. I do actually like the Balanced Budget Amendment, but the current crop of Republicans don't seem to care much for balanced budgets. Gingrich could be the key to a Democratic victory if he wins the nomination: his approvals are so low he makes Hillary look like Obama, but his popularity with Republicans and his "ideas" could make him a contender for the nomination. I predict that his getting the nomination will make the electoral map look like an inverse version of the Eisenhower vs. Stevenson map from 1952.

John Edwards, on the other hand, is becoming a cause for concern for me. I previously thought he would be a strong general election candidate despite a few obvious flaws, but I am rethinking that assessment. It seems to me that all excitement about his candidacy can be found among White liberals, who seem to think they can have their cake (i.e. elect a solid liberal) and eat it too (i.e. carry some Southern states). I am skeptical, since Edwards seems to be having a hard time winning over Southern Democrats, let alone independents and conservatives. He sometimes comes up ahead in South Carolina polls, and he once was ahead in Florida. Hillary Clinton, at this point, is dominating the South, and if Edwards cannot appeal to Southern voters of his own party, how can he actually win over new ones in the general election? When one looks at his issue positions, one gets even more worried. He's anti-gun, pro-affirmative action, and strongly pro-choice (moreso than in 2004). While these are not all issue positions I disagree with (indeed, they are mainstream Democratic positions), how can one win big in the South with positions like these, considering the strength of the religious right in the region? If he were, say, pro-gun, I might rethink this particular idea. The anti-gun segment of the Democratic Party is not very powerful or influential, and a pro-gun Dem could easily win the nomination by being strong on other liberal issues. Edwards may speak with a Southern accent, but culturally, he's closer to Massachussetts than South Carolina. Not a problem for me, but I'm not a conservative Southerner.

Ultimately, Edwards's playbook has been to move farther to the left on any number of issues than Clinton or Obama so as to draw a contrast between them. It has worked to some extent, but by becoming the farthest-left candidate, he is compromising general election electability. Never mind that he hasn't presented any evidence that having him on the ticket attracts crossover voters, or that he can stand tall against tough pols (check out his 2004 debate with Cheney, if you need evidence). The Democrats need to make a decision: do we make an attempt to play for the South, or do we focus on more winnable regions elsewhere? If the result is the latter (and I think that, outside of Florida, Missouri, Arkansas, and Virginia, the South is a pipe dream for the Democrats), then Edwards might make sense and he might not. His talk on trade would seem to make him likely to win Ohio, and he might be able to win Florida (with half-Latino Bill Richardson on the ticket), and he would likely be able to win Iowa and New Mexico, where anti-war sentiment is high. However, with FL and OH, we are dealing with essentially Republican states. Mainstream states, sure, but both voted at least once for George W. Bush, and it seems clear that the voters in those states respond to strong leadership. Plus, we need to consider whether he would be able to hold the left wing in the general election. I think it's likely, but he does have some questionable items on his c. v. (writing the PATRIOT Act, for one) that could come into play.

Ultimately, until I see some evidence (i.e. state polls in Ohio and Florida showing Edwards easily beating Rudy, Fred Thompson, and McCain), I'm not buying the electability argument. Edwards got my vote in the 2004 primary, but he's become too much of a panderer, which comes in stark contrast to Barack Obama's habit of telling people what they don't want to hear--and remaining beloved for it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Fred Thompson is running for President. Good, because it's high time the glitz and glamor of showbiz and the gravity and importance of government finally meet.

What to say about the man? Has there ever been such a blank slate of a person in real life? That is undoubtedly why he is being talked up among conservatives as positively as he is: at least, unlike the other three major candidates, they can project their aspirations onto him, and since he's not an official candidate, he doesn't have to answer the tough questions on immigration and whatnot. Genius. Maybe John McCain should consider not running for President. I know I wish Hillary Clinton would.

Ultimately, Fred Thompson is exactly the kind of empty suit that Democrats are often accused of being. He's a dull, lazy hulk of a man with less than a decade of political experience under his belt. He has no ideas or demonstrable worldview. He is frequently referred to as "Reaganesque", presumably because he is an actor. The thing about it is that Reagan had actually been a governor and actually had ideas, neither of which is true for Thompson. Furthermore, Thompson is evidence of how pathetic the G. O. P. has gotten--instead of caring about competence, now they just care about "toughness", regardless whether or not that toughness is actually authentic. It's the only reason Giuliani has a shot--really, his overheated military rhetoric is beginning to scare me--is Mussolini his idol? Too bad that his act will be eaten up by independent-voting saps all around the country because he's pro-choice. But he'll make us safe! Just like Bush did! Even Hillary Clinton agrees!

Oh, but Freddie's folksy! And he's got the voice! And he's a good campaigner! Please. This guy is trouble for the GOP. He doesn't seem to want to campaign at all--he just wants to release videos and have people blog on his website. Unless he's got some sort of brilliant strategy for using the web as it's never used before, I can guarantee you that his website sounds exactly like all the other candidates' will be like. Which is to say, it won't stand out.

Has anyone ever even heard of flavor of the month?

Looking on the bright side, it will remove the experience issue from the table should he and Obama win their parties' respective nominations, and that issue usually helps Republicans. It just scares me that he could potentially win. I would hope that people have had their fill on intellectually lazy clods in the White House who will just do whatever their advisers tell them to do.

Bring back the New Deal!

So, when we look at the world today, what do we see? Okay, that's a depressing exercise. Let's look at oil, the lifeblood of our cars, economy, and the purpose for most of our wars. So, gas prices keep skyrocketing, despite record corporate profits. The oil companies insist they're not gouging us, and as we all know, they're always honest, even when it's not in their best interest.

So, we're in a bind. On a positive note, it would seem that one of the key ingredients in our quasi-socialistic experiment known as the New Deal would be in order. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you price controls! Yes, this is a real concept. The government can tell the big oil companies exactly how much they can charge for a gallon of gas. Yes, our tax dollars do subsidize the gasoline. Yes, the entire congressional delegation of Texas would start caning people. Still, nobody talks about what would be an easy and obvious fix to our current dilemma.

Why not? Because the Democrats have moved so far to the right on economics issues that price controls, aside from the minimum wage, aren't even a part of the party's lexicon anymore. Shame, too, because this concept would be a surpassingly easy sell to swing voters who moan about gas prices while loading up the kids and Rex (the dog) into their brand new huge SUV. Plus, it would actually help out poorer people who are proportionally going to have to spend more of their money on gas than the rich. It would actually help the oil companies in the long term as well, since the reduced prices wouldn't force people to find alternative routes of transportation and thus ruin their empire of greed. Don't count on this to happen, however, and don't count on any of the Democratic Presidential Candidates to mention this idea.

Dollar Bill in jail

William "Dollar Bill" "Cold Cash" Jefferson just got indicted for bribery. Well, that's big news, considering he's only the millionth corrupt politician from New Orleans. Having been there, I can tell you, it's something whose existence treated with a sense of resignation, just like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill, taxes, and Howie Mandel. Then again, that list might not be correct: the rich generally don't pay all their taxes, because they hate America and love only money. So, next time you see a "Support the Troops" sticker on a Hummer, just toss an egg at them. They had it coming, I assure you.

At this point, I believe that Nancy Pelosi should just have the man expelled as soon as possible. I would imagine she wants to, and she should. That sets an example that the GOP would hopefully follow for their crooked scumbags, like Rick Renzi, Jerry Lewis (not the Dean Martin one) and John Doolittle, my used-to-be-Congressman. Of course, Republicans would never follow suit. Remember Reagan's 11th Commandment? Never say anything negative about anyone, unless you're talking about a Democrat? It was something like that.

Waiting in the Wings

In 1952, the Republican Party managed to win its biggest electoral victory in 24 years, taking the Senate, the House, and most impressively, the White House. The latter had been under Democratic ownership for twenty straight years, and Dwight Eisenhower had been popularly elected in a landslide. Ike was a fabulously popular figure in the America of the time, and he was probably the last completely sane occupant of the Oval Office. He was a model President, though not a perfect one. He was regarded at the time, and still is to a certain extent, as a do-nothing President, a characterization which is unfair. Aside from keeping us out of about half a dozen wars across the globe and expertly traversing the dangerous political scene of the early Cold War, his legacy lives on here in the highways he built and the peaceful and prosperous America he left us.

Why is this relevant? Because Ike's two terms as President were the only time between 1933 and 1969 that the Republicans found themselves in the White House. Eisenhower interrupted over a quarter-century of Democratic hegemony in this country's leadership, but his popularity couldn't put his unloved successor into office (at least, not immediately) and his legislative majority folded after two years. Of course, those being more reasonable times, he was easily able to work with Democrats on many issues, but there is little doubt that the GOP's brief stretch in power then had nothing to do with what they stood for and everything to do with Ike's popularity.

Fast-forward to the present day. The situation has flipped, and the GOP has now held the Presidency for most of the past forty years. If you ask me, they are more likely than not to keep it in 2008. The Democrats won control of Congress last year on voter resentment on any number of issues, but the big mistake they made was that denouncing Bush made them seem like the answer to the country's ails, instead of the primary opposition to Bushian policies. From the latter standpoint, the Democratic Congress has been exemplary. The Bush agenda has been stopped in its tracks. However, since people evidently expect Congress to be proactive (for reasons surpassing political wisdom or even human comprehension), they have already been judged a failure. I myself did not expect a Democratic Congress to end the Iraq War when I voted to re-elect my Democratic Representative. However, this is beginning to seem less and less like a realignment and more like a hiccup, like 1952 (or 1946), where the opposition party only managed a few years on top before flopping once again.

One could draw worse parallels than the Democrats of today to the GOP of yesteryear. Both parties opposed popular movements, and both parties opposed said movements largely by offering watered-down or triangulated versions of the very same ideas. Both, despite brief slivers of power, frequently found themselves in the minority, defending discredited ideas and insisting that the other side just governs badly. I hate to have to be the one to say it, but effective government is not one of the priorities of the social conservatives behind the GOP these days. They're not going to vote Democrat because Bush exploded the deficit. Now, maybe if he were caught in bed with a Black man, and the GOP were to reverse their positions on abortion, gay marriage, stem cells, and evolution in classrooms...that might change.

The reality is that neither party is firmly grounded in a philosophy of governance at this point. The GOP has lost any credibility it once had as a party, and with its recent history of fiscal irresponsibility, foreign adventures/disasters, and religious sanctimony, it is no surprise that voters no longer trust them on the big issues. Republicans have followed the conservative movement long past its logical conclusion, and the real goal for the last few years has not been to follow conservative principles, but rather just to annoy liberals and rile up conservatives. They proved quite successful at this task, but now the base of the GOP is getting a taste of their own medicine on immigration. The irony, of course, is that the small government immigration solution is the one that these so-called conservatives can't stand.

Democrats have, right now, an historic opportunity--we can stand the political landscape on its head. Right now, the odds of Democrats taking back the White House are quite good, and as the American people seem tired of conservative incompetence, lies and broken promises, it would seem that liberals have an honest-to-God opening at gaining real power. Unfortunately, it does not look as if that transition is going to occur. The media, ever the opportunists, have all but annointed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, possibly because she will supply them, via her past, with an endless supply of breaking scandals. Plus, she has her "historic quest" for the presidency. I hate to bring it up, Madam Clinton, but you wouldn't be the first girl in the White House.

Unless we liberal Democrats wake up, we run the risk not only of losing a presidential election, but of losing a transitional moment, the likes of which might not again come for decades. Hillary Clinton, even if elected President, would lose the new Congressional majorities and likely would lose the Presidency in 2012. Not only isn't she a true liberal (she has the same center-right economic plan as her husband, despite a pandering "no" vote on CAFTA, she is a free-trader), she is the worst kind of liberal--the tell-people-how-to-live-their-lives kind. If anything, the Democratic party should be less susceptible to this sort of calculus and not more so, considering the more libertarian bent this party has taken in the past few years, while the GOP has gone in the other direction. Her success is based directly upon her marriage to Bill Clinton, and his popularity was based entirely upon his personality (and a lot of luck with the economy). Hillary has her supporters, largely women and ignoramuses who loved Mr. Clinton in office. And what wasn't there to love? Beween telecom deregulation, welfare reform, NAFTA, DOMA, and Don't Ask, Don't Tell, he had quite a few accomplishments for a Republican. I'll grant that welfare had to be reformed, but the others are inexcusable. Nominating Hillary Clinton will be a move back to our past, all right--the Clinton years of Congressional minorities, constant scandals, symbolic legislation, and gridlock. In other words, business as usual.

That, in a nutshell, is why I'm supporting Barack Obama for President. For one thing, the man doesn't pander. For another, he would actually win. Oh, and he's a liberal, but he's not just a social liberal. He's our best chance, and things might actually change if he gets elected. Not so for Hillary "Rupert Murdoch loves me and me alone" Clinton.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.