Saturday, February 2, 2008

Weather Prediction by Rodents

The starnose mole sticks it's head out of the ground, doesn't see it's shadow, and predicts six more weeks of bad political punditry. Oh, and it will be winter until spring.

It's a Game

Gotta disagree with my buddy, Gandhisxmas, a bit (see post below). Football is a game, and it's only a penalty if the ref sees it. I can think of several other incidents where there was taping against the rules that I would rather the honorable Senator Arlen Spector devote his attention to.
That said, Happy Super Bowl.

One Year of Pygalgia

One year ago today I started this humble blog. In that year, we've had over 1000 posts, 15,000 visitors, and made a whole bunch of new friends. While a year isn't very long, it's a nice start. This next year should be an interesting one to be a blogger, and I plan to give you readers the benefit of my opinion on the years events. SweaterMan, gandhisxmas, and zymurgian will continue (I certainly hope) to add their unique perspective. In short, Pygalgia will continue to be, well, Pygalgic.

Thanks to everybody for a most interesting year.

Old Hippies for Obama

The Grateful Dead will reunite for a concert for Barack Obama:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters Life!) - The Grateful Dead, the San Francisco cult rock band that has played at political events since the 1960s, will reunite on Monday for the first time in four years to rally support for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, a spokesman said on Friday.

Band leader Jerry Garcia died in 1995. Surviving members have played together occasionally since then, most recently in 2004. On Monday, original members Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir will play at a San Francisco theater a day before California's primary.

"They have agreed to reunite for this one-time-only event in order to lend support to Senator Obama leading into the crucial 'Super-Tuesday' series of primaries held on Tuesday, February 5th," the band said in a statement.

I find this interesting, since Jerry used to avoid electoral politics, and last I knew Bobby Weir was registered as a Republican.

And I'm sure that some right-wingers are going to have fun with this.

(h/t monkeyfister for the find)

Friday, February 1, 2008

My Vote

I've been promising a post on the choice between Clinton and Obama, and why I'm making the choice that I am. This is NOT an endorsement (not that anyone cares), and should not influence who you choose to vote for.

To begin with, I will vote for the eventual Democratic nominee over whoever the Republicans choose. While I'm constantly disappointed by the Democrats, I'm appalled by the Republicans. Between the mess the Republicans have created and the potential of several Supreme Court nominations in the next term (and no realistic third option), the Democrats get my support by default.

We're now down to two options. Neither were among my early choices, but for different reasons. As a liberal progessive, but also a policy wonk, I doubt I'll ever get my ideal choice. Last nights debate simply reinforced my views.

Hillary Clinton is brilliant, and has a strong policy background. She can articulate a position as well as anyone in politics today. Coventional wisdom is that she's "devisive", but the reality is that it's the right-wing that is the source of the devision. Right wing politics is based on attacking, by any means possible, anyone who doesn't march in lockstep with their agenda. That said, I remember the Clinton 90's. I was not a fan of Bill Clinton during his presidency (although shrub makes him look great in retrospect), which was a bland, mediocre, uninspiring era of moderately good government. Clinton's administration was competent, but didn't attempt or achieve any major changes for America. The failed healthcare reform plan was followed by...nothing. No energy, environmental, or economic improvements. A foreign policy of "status quo" that did very little to improve America's standing in the world. Would a Hillary administration be the same as a Bill administration? No. The times have changed. But I doubt it would be much better.

Barack Obama has a great inspirational image, and is among the best public speakers in my lifetime. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of policy substance (although last night's debate was an improvement). After you get past the rhetoric, the positions are moderate and bland. Then there is the question of experience, of which Obama has little (although I'm not sure that anyone is ready for what's coming next).

The next president is going to inherit one hell of a mess, both nationally and internationally. I'm not sure that any of the candidates who were in the running were capable of addressing all the issues facing the country. There are no super heroes left.

But I'm stuck with a choice between the safety of the past or the hope for the future. Despite my experience, I'm choosing hope.

I'm voting for Barack Obama today (I vote early because I'll be running a polling place on election day).
Added: BTW, the state ballot has 24 Democratic candidates for president, including "Sandy Whitehouse" and "Loti Gest" and "Chuck See". Where were they during the debates?

Picture added.

Boobies and Computers

Well, at least I got the Friday boobie to publish. Had a power outage yesterday, and my computer has been having problems since. Firefox wont run, IE (which I hate) freezes at random times, and the whole system crashes episodically.. I'm hoping to find a fix short of "wipe and re-install", but it's not looking good. Please visit the blogroll in the meantime.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dem Debate (?)

Was that a debate or a mutual admiration club? Computer still sketchy, so serious analysis will have to wait.

Computer Gone Wonky

This is a test. My computer has gone wonky, and things may or may not work.

Not Again

So Ralph Nader has launched an exploratory website, looking at the possibility of running another vanity campaign. Ralph, please don't. As much as I'm disappointed in the choices left for president, another Nader campaign will only help the Republican candidate.
I would love to have a viable progressive third party candidate, but Nader isn't one. My view might be different if Nader spent the years between elections building a party or supporting a movement. Instead, he only shows up in time for the election touting his activism from decades ago. There's no hard work, only a very large ego looking to be stroked.
Here's the basic problem with a third party candidate in a two party system: they usually draw votes away from the more popular candidate, and help the less popular candidate. This presidential election will be (I'm afraid) much closer than many people seem to think. The Democrats are not a sure thing, no matter how it looks right now. Nader's entry will only help the Republicans.
Don't do it, Ralph! (I've sent him that message, and I hope you will too).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Feels Like a Bad Day

Some snow, bitter cold wind, and candidates dropping out today. But I think January 30th has been a bad day historically. Consider these events: 75 years ago today, Adolph Hitler took power in Germany. On January 30th, 1948, Mohandas K. Gandhi was assassinated. In 1972, the "bloody Sunday" massacre occurred in Ireland. And possibly the worst event: on January 30th, 1941 this man was born:

"go fuck yourself"

Edwards Out: Why Now?

So John Edwards is ending his campaign today. I'm surprised by the timing, as I expected him to remain in (as he said) through the super-duper Tuesday races where he might have garnered enough delegates to become a deal maker at the convention. His chances of winning the nomination died in South Carolina, but he still was in a position to exercise a lot of influence on the party platform.
So now it's down to Obama vs. Clinton, as the pundits always said. My preferred candidates have all dropped out, as I expected. My first choice never wins. But I am compelled to support whoever wins the Democratic nomination for one specific reason: the Supreme Court. Whoever wins in November will have at least 2 nominees, and possibly more, and I don't want the court to move any further to the right.
So the real question is how this changes the dynamics of the race. Edwards was the last true progressive in the race. Who will gain the majority of his supporters?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Huck Stole My Analogy

Damn it, Huckabee stole my baseball analogy on the primaries. I want royalties!

Besides, now we have McCain and Romney calling each other "liberal". That really, really (blanks) me. I am a liberal. McCain and Romney aren't.


Last night Zymurgian and I watched shrub's SOTU address, and while we skipped on the drinking games (too dangerous) we certainly needed our beer. Any speech by shrub requires a proper balance of tranquilizers and anti-depressants for me to maintain my sanity (or what's left of it). We both agreed that this was the epitome of low expectations, and shrub managed to fail even the lowest. He looked petulant and tired as he recited his list of demands, like his heart wasn't in it. While he continues to ignore reality, he didn't say anything truly scary (such as threatening to invade Venezuala). So, overall, I think that shrub offered America true inspiration. For his replacement.

Interesting News

One of those little pieces of news that I found interesting that hasn't gotten mainstream attention:

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Iraq has formally ratified the UN's Kyoto Protocol on climate change, according to a government statement seen by AFP on Saturday.

"The presidential council ratified in its session on January 23 a law according to which the Republic of Iraq will join the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol," the statement said.

The Kyoto Protocol legally commits industrialised countries which have signed and ratified it to trim their output of six carbon gases seen as being responsible for global warming.

Of course, it's easy to keep your greenhouse gas emissions down when your industrial infrastructure is in rubble.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Reality is Totally Different"

I haven't written much about Iraq lately (it's still bad), but I've still been following the chaos. I'm sure that shrub will talk about "progress" in tonights SOTU address, but read this piece by Dahr Jamail (a great independant journalist) to get a better sense of the reality of Iraq:

Iraqis, of course, continue to witness firsthand this "decisive stand against chaos and terror." In our world, however, they are largely mute witnesses. Americans may argue among themselves about just how much "success" or "progress" there really is in post-surge Iraq, but it is almost invariably an argument in which Iraqis are but stick figures -- or dead bodies. Of late, I have been asking Iraqis I know by email what they make of the American version (or versions) of the unseemly reality that is their country, that they live and suffer with. What does it mean to become a "secondary issue" for your occupier?

In response, Professor S. Abdul Majeed Hassan, an Iraqi university faculty member wrote me the following:

"The year of 2007 was the bloodiest among the occupation years, and no matter how successful the situation looks to Mr. Bush, reality is totally different. What kind of normal life are he and the media referring to where four and a half million highly educated Iraqis are still dislocated or still being forcefully driven out of their homes for being anti-occupation? How can the people live a normal life in a cage of concrete walls [she is referring to concrete walls being erected by the Americans around entire Baghdad
neighborhoods], guarded by their kidnappers, killers, and occupation forces? What kind of normal life can you live where tens of your relatives and your beloved ones are either missing or in jail and you don't even know if they are still alive or, after being tortured, have been thrown unidentified in the dumpsters?

"What kind of normal life can you live when you have to bid farewell to your family each time you go out to buy bread because you don't know if you are going to see them again? What is a normal life to Mr. Bush? If we're lucky, we get a few hours of electricity a day, barely enough drinking water, no health care, no jobs to feed our kids…

"Little teenage girls are given away in marriage because their families can't protect them from militias and troops during raids. Women cannot move unescorted anymore. What kind of educations are our children getting at universities where 60% of the prominent faculty members have been driven out of their jobs -- killed or forced to leave the country by government militias? Is it normal that areas [on the outskirts of Baghdad] like Saidiya and Arab Jubour are bombed because the occupation forces are afraid to enter the areas for fear of the resistance? It is always easier to control ghost cities. It becomes very peaceful without the people."

The life of the Iraqi people is not getting better. Shrub is either lying or delusional.

Mohammad Mahri'i, an Iraqi journalist, has a rather different take on the situation: "The problem with Bush is that his people believe him every time he lies to them," he writes me. "His reconstruction teams are invisible and I wish they could show me one inch above the ground that they built."

Jamail's piece is long, with many sources, and well worth reading in full.

Maki al-Nazzal, an Iraqi political analyst from Fallujah who has been forced to live abroad with his family, thanks to ongoing violence and the lack of jobs or significant reconstruction activity in his city, which was three-quarters destroyed in a U.S. assault in November 2004, offered me his thoughts on the Western mainstream coverage of Iraq.

"The media should not follow the warlords' and politicians' propaganda. It is our duty to search for the truth and not repeat lies like parrots. The U.S. occupation is bad and no amount of media propaganda can camouflage the mess inside occupied Iraq. We are ashamed of the local and Western media [for] marketing the naked lies told by generals and politicians. Comparing two halves of 2007 is ridiculous.

"Bush and his heroes, [head of the Coalition Provisional Authority L. Paul] Bremer, [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and now Petraeus always lied to their people and the world about Iraq. U.S. soldiers are getting killed on a daily basis and so are Iraqi army and police officers. Infrastructure is destroyed. In a country that used to feed much of the Arab world, starvation is now the norm. It is ironic that Iraq was not half as bad during the 12 years of sanctions. Our liberation has pushed us into a state of unprecedented corruption."

Oh, and just the usual daily news report:Roadside bomb kills five U.S. soldiers in Iraq. And there is a real potential that things will get worse:

The U.S.-led security crackdown, along with a Sunni revolt against al-Qaida in Iraq and a cease-fire order by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been credited with a dramatic drop in attacks in the capital.

However, influential members of al-Sadr's movement said Monday they have urged the anti-U.S. Shiite cleric to follow through with threats not to extend the cease-fire when it expires next month, a move that could jeopardize the recent security gains.

The Sadrists are angry over the insistence of U.S. and Iraqi forces on continuing to hunt down so-called rogue fighters who ignored the six-month order, which was issued in August. Al-Sadr's followers claim this is a pretext to crack down on their movement.

The maverick cleric announced earlier this month that he would not renew the order unless the Iraqi government purges "criminal gangs" operating within security forces he claims are targeting his followers.

The cease fire by al-Sadr has been as big a part in the reduction of violence as the "surge." Ignore shrub's words. We need to leave Iraq.

Stop Scaring Me

Tonight, shrub will be doing the one thing that he's done in compliance with the constitution; that is to deliver the SOTU address. But this from the front page of the WaPo makes me nervous:

That is the problem Bush faces as he prepares to deliver his seventh and probably final State of the Union address tonight.

I've generally been dismissive of conspiracy theories that shrub might somehow remain in power beyond his two terms by creating some sort of "state of emergency." I think shrub would like to get out of the pressure and leave the mess for his successor to deal with. That, and there should be open revolt if the shrub/cheney tried to pull a coup.
But now I have to indulge in some paranoia: do the Washington insiders know something that I don't?
Added: OK, there is another explanation:

Here's the skinny:

Finally, President George W. Bush is set to deliver his next State of the Union Address on January 28, 2008. It is widely believed that this will be his last address before leaving office on January 20, 2009, but assuming this is incorrect. Bush has the right to deliver either a written or oral State of the Union in the days immediately before leaving office in 2009. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford, and Carter chose to do this. Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, chose not to.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Household Weather

Today has been a mix of sleet, snow, and steady rain. As I've posted before, the roof on my house leaks (and has for a number of years). The landlord has talked about replacing it many times, while new leaks continue to appear. Today, we've added new some very inconvenient places. The household computer wizard gained a leak directly over the household server, and Zymurgian got one over his monitor, which has led to much rearranging. So far, no leaks in my room, which leaves it about the only room in the house without buckets.
We're having a rain party in a while, so please feel free to stop by (BYOB).

Balancing Idealism and Cynicism

I'm a political junkie, and I'm always trying to balance somewhere between idealism and cynicism. It's a challenge that I face every election cycle. I know I'm not alone as I look around the blogs, where some believe in their candidate, while others believe that the system is rigged and the corporate oligarchs control our choices.
Both are true.
As an idealist, I work every election to insure that (at least in my locale) all the votes are accurately counted, and that all eligible voters get to vote. Zymurgian chides me for "believing in the system", and in a way I do. Our political system is seriously flawed, but it functions adequately if enough people get involved.
On the cynical side, the corporate media has tight control of the messages, and the voters are left to choose between media approved candidates. Can't upset the status quo.
Over the years, I've worked on dozens of campaigns, and most have lost. I'm at it again this campaign season, ever optimistic. In the end, I usually end up voting for the "lesser of two evils", like most voters. It's a sad, frustrating reality (I admit that I'm much more liberal than the general public). The Democrats repeatedly disappoint me, but the Republicans are even worse.
Is our political system broken? I struggle with this question. Compared to political systems throughout history, ours works pretty well overall. But it seems to be failing most of us, "the people." I'd love to see a true "populist" party that worked for "the people", but the vast majority of "the people" don't seem to care enough to get involved. Can't say I blame them; politics in this era is a nasty, brutish, slimy process without instant gratification. "American Idol" is more entertaining and less time consuming.
Despite my mixed feelings, I keep re-entering the fray. I keep telling myself "if I don't do it, who will?", but that may just be the rationalization of an addict. I do believe that we'll end up doing the right thing, after exhausting all other options.

South Carolina Results

Obama won big, by a much larger margin than the polls predicted. But I'm most struck by the huge turnout. Over half a million votes! In each of the early primaries Democrats have had record, or near record, turnout:

Almost final results:

99% of precincts reporting

Barack Obama295,09154%
Hillary Clinton141,12827%
John Edwards93,55219%
Dennis Kucinich5510%

And some other numbers:

  • Total 2008 South Carolina Primary Turnout

    Democratic: about 530,322
    Republican: about 446,000

  • Obama received more votes than all Democrats in the 2004 South Carolina Democratic Primary (292,383)
  • Obama received more votes in this primary than George W. Bush received in 2000 when he beat John McCain (Bush won 293,652 votes)
  • Obama has won more votes than McCain and Huckabee won in South Carolina--combined.

As with the Iowa caucus, Obama won big with younger voters. The "youth vote" has long been the holy grail for Democrats, and Obama seems to be getting them to actually show up and vote:

* For all the recent speculation about race and gender, here’s a tip about the real divide: age.

Among voters between 18 and 24, Obama beat Clinton, 66% to 25% (a 41-point gap).
Among voters between 25 and 29, Obama beat Clinton, 70% to 21% (a 49-point gap).
Among voters between 30 and 39, Obama beat Clinton, 62% to 23% (a 39-point gap).
Among voters between 40 and 49, Obama beat Clinton, 61% to 25% (a 36-point gap).
Among voters between 50 and 64, Obama beat Clinton, 51% to 26% (a 25-point gap).
Among voters 65 and older, Clinton beat Obama, 40% to 32% (an 8-point gap in the other direction).

There is still a long way to go, but the current trends seem to indicate how toxic shrub has been for the Republicans. Now we'll see if that carries over on Feb. 5th:

That all changes in 10 days' time, when New York, Illinois and California
are among the 15 states holding primaries in a virtual nationwide primary. Another seven states and American Samoa will hold Democratic caucuses on the same day.

I'll be getting a first hand view on Feb. 5th, as I'll be running a polling place on the local University campus. If the youth turnout in Arizona is high, I'll be among the first to know.

Side note: I'll be posting later on my views of each of the candidates. I'm not endorsing anybody, and my own preferred candidates are out of the race, but since I have a blog I'm allowed to share my opinions.