Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Hammering Away

Air America Radio

It's on! Al Franken has started the first day of "The O'Franken Factor," which you can hear via webcast or at 950 AM in Chicago (if your office building doesn't block radio signals like mine). It's an exciting day in America.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Hold That Note


Several things became clear tonight. One: Paula Abdul lives on another planet, meaning Simon and Randy will have to carry the load of offering contestants a realistic appraisal of their performances. Two: Camile Velasco really can't hang with the other women on the show; her performance sounded amateurish compared to those of Fantasia, La Toya, and Jennifer. Three: White men can't jump, and they can't sing, either. JPL's performance was middling--at least he looked like he was having fun--and John Stevens was out and out "abysmal," as Simon (his biggest fan until now) said. It sounds like he's singing with a head cold--and, worse, it often sounds like he's just talking into the microphone. Four: Even Simon can be wrong--but he admits it. George Huff was outstanding tonight.

I stand by my prediction from last week: tomorrow night's final three should be John Stevens, JPL, and Camile Velasco. After this night, I can't imagine who else viewers would leave behind.


White House to Let Rice Testify in Public

I guess you can find your way around any "principle" if the poll numbers say you should. The White House has taken a second look at the costs and benefits of putting Dr. Rice on the stand and realized that their first tactic, letting her run to all the news shows like an attack dog without being willing to testify, wasn't working. It'll be interesting to see what she has to say under oath.

Rocket Man

Bill Cartwright

I've returned from California with tales to tell. One involves the flight back: I ended up sitting next to Bill Cartwright, the center for the Bulls on three of their championship teams in the '90s. He picks the Lakers to win it all this year and Kevin Garnett as the league MVP. I got to talk to him for about two hours of the flight back, and it made me sad that he's not coaching the Bulls anymore. But he said he hopes to coach again--this time with a team that has a few veterans on it.

I also saw the movie School of Rock on the way home. Besides being the perfect movie to fuse Jack Black's many talents, it was really funny and enjoyable, even if it seemed a bit tamer than I would have expected. I was really rooting for those kids, and those of you who know me know that's not the norm.

Soon I'll post a review of The Paradox of Choice and tell you all about the Super Audio CD versions of Bob Dylan's classic albums that arrived over the weekend--and the SACD player and new receiver I bought in order to make full use of them. Until then, take a look at Paul Krugman today, and think about this: if the goal of terrorists is to change the way we live and create an atmosphere of fear, haven't the actions of the Bush Administration indicated that the terrorists have won? When anyone who tells the truth is subject to attacks on their character--or being revealed as a CIA operative--isn't that just the sort of environment of fear the terrorists want for us?

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Long Weekend

The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco Luxury Hotel

There will be no more activity here from me until Monday. I'm headed to San Francisco for work, where I'll spend the weekend in the hotel linked above. There are a few advantages to working for people with money.

I leave you with thoughts on American Idol, as the political ones seem to have inspired little debate. Randy said last week that there are five good singers on the show. Why is it that two of them have already placed in the bottom three at least once? Fantasia, Jennifer, LaToya, George, and Diana all have talent and personality. Meanwhile, Amy, John Peter, John, Jasmine, and Camile all remind us that the pool of talent seemed a bit shallow this year. In a just world, next week's bottom three would be a shootout between the two Johns and Camile, and after we're rid of the three of them, Amy and Jasmine would be wiped out. After that happens--if it happens--the final five would be electric--how would you know from week to week who would deliver the best performance?

But that won't happen. I predict America will keep John Peter Lewis around longer than Jennifer Hudson--the dorky dancer may even give George Huff a run for his money. It's hard to imagine that LaToya London or Fantasia Barrino is going home anytime soon, but stranger things have happened.

Then again, maybe there's hope for the show. Leah and Matt were pretty clearly the two worst entries in the final 12 (though John Stevens is pretty bad, too), and they were the first two out. Time will tell.

See you Monday!

Another Round of Applause

Richard Clarke KOs the Bushies
The ex-terrorism official dazzles at the 9/11 commission hearings

Yesterday was just a good day, wasn't it? Fred Kaplan recaps the proceedings at the 9/11 hearings, where Richard Clarke delivered eloquent testimony while simultaneously slamming Bush and his cronies in both direct and subtle ways. The only question now: are the American people listening? If they are, watch for Bush's poll numbers to start dropping.

Standing Ovation

One Nation, Under Hallmark, Indivisible
Is the God of the Pledge of Allegiance a deity or a greeting card?

Michael Newdow, today you are my hero.

Dahlia Lithwick's recap of yesterday's oral arguments at the Supreme Court, linked above, offers the same opinion of Newdow's efforts yesterday as everyone else I've seen: he was amazing. A man who had never argued a case goes before the Supreme Court on his own behalf and elicits cheers and laughter from the gallery while showing up the Chief Justice and making observers believe he's right in a case where he's up against every politician and most of America? That's remarkable.

Whether he wins his case or not--and never underestimate the cowardice of the Supreme Court in making judgments that will stir up America, cases in 1954, 1973, and 2003 notwithstanding--Newdow has laid out a clear argument, and this will not end with him.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Fight Fire With...Truth

Dick Clarke Is Telling the Truth - Why he's right about Bush's negligence on terrorism

The link above leads to the best piece I've found yet explaining why Dick Clarke's book and 60 Minutes appearance should be taken very seriously. Meanwhile, William Saletan offers on explanation for Bush's indifference to Clarke--one that readers of Al Franken will find familiar: he distrusted anything related to Bill Clinton. No one is quite saying that 9/11 was Bush's fault, and they shouldn't; he didn't kill 3,000 people. But isn't it ironic that he's running on national security when he did ignored everyone who wanted to make the nation more secure prior to the most deadly terrorist attack in our history?

Lemon Pledge

A Big Case Over Two Little Words

As I write, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments regarding the Pledge of Allegiance and whether the words "under God" belong in it. William Safire wrote about the issue this morning, as did many columnists. He says that the words don't belong, and that inserting them in 1954--to bolster our cause against communism--was a mistake, but says taking them out now would start us on a slippery slope.

I stand in the minority on this issue, and I know it. But the legal logic for agreeing with Michael Newdow and the Court of Appeals is compelling. The fear that removing this reference to a deity will lead to removing all such references from American civic life is not a rationale for deciding the case, the merits of which are otherwise fairly straightforward. The Court has ruled that children cannot be put in the position of standing out for choosing not to be part of any religious undertaking in the context of public school. The Pledge clearly meets that standard; only someone who believes in God already would argue that the words in question are "ceremonial." Those who do not believe, while a minority in the United States, must be protected.

If the Court is consistent with itself and judges the case on its merits rather than on the basis of fear of change--and really, what other rationale is there for worrying about keeping the word "God" on money or in the oaths we take in court if one believes in our government and its separation of church and state--it will remove the words "under God" from the Pledge. Won't that be a fun election-year issue?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Can't We All Be Rich?

Data Dispute Bush's 'Rich' Label for Small Business

Despite his assertions to the contrary, President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy--the ones John Kerry wants to roll back--are not the stimulant for any of the meager job creation that has taken place since Bush took office. Data on small businesses--the ones that have been creating jobs during the downturn--shows that the owners of those business aren't the wealthy folks Bush makes them out to be. Hard to argue that Kerry's tax plan will hurt the continued creation of small business jobs when it doesn't touch most small business owners, isn't it?

Overwhelming Force

350 Tax Increases?
President Bush applies the Powell Doctrine to running for re-election

This article from the ever-insightful Michael Kinsley takes President Bush to task for his claim that John Kerry has tried to raise taxes 350 times. Of course he's done nothing like that, but as Kinsley points out, that's not the point: Bush wants to end this with one death blow, and he thinks this will be it. But truth, as Bush is learning lately, has a sneaky way of finding its way out of even the tightest trap, and it's going to be tough to keep a lid on the fact that this assertion, like so many others Bush has made since taking office, is at best a distortion and at worst a bald-faced lie.

Seeing Patterns

Bush, Clarke and A Shred of Doubt

Richard Cohen points out this morning that the treatment of Richard Clarke after he went public with his misgivings about the Bush Administration's handling of the war on terror is strikingly similar to the way Paul O'Neill was treated after the book containing his own allegations was published. Both have been branded as fools by a variety of folks at the White House, using whatever rhetoric can discredit the accuser, regardless of truth.

Meanwhile, E.J. Dionne, Jr., hashes out the argument against Justice Scalia. His refusal to recuse should be an election issue; after all, isn't he the man after whom Bush said he'd like to pattern his nominees for judgeships? In light of Scalia's blindness to his own biases, that seems like a frightening notion.

Monday, March 22, 2004


That man on the plane has a lot to answer for now. I've been sick since Thursday. I'll head to the doctor in a few minutes; hopefully he will know what it is that ails me.

At least it was a good weekend to spend on the couch. I watched a lot of basketball, including several exciting upsets and a U of I blowout. I caught up on The Sopranos and saw two movies, Old School and the hilarious and touching A Mighty Wind. And I finished two books, Ellen's first comedy book and last year's National Book Award winner for fiction. But mostly, I existed in the haze of DayQuil and NyQuil. This whole being sick thing has to end soon; it's going to be a busy week when I finally get well.

Friday, March 19, 2004


Taken for a Ride

Paul Krugman is particularly forceful this morning. Something important needs to happen soon; this nation needs a distraction from wars and elections.

My own distraction, a vacation to Austin, Texas, was awesome--though the most important moment of the trip now seems to be the moment the man in front of me on the plane started sneezing and coughing. Whatever he had, I now have it, too. And it ain't fun. (I thought being home sick would mean I'd at least get to finally catch the Ellen talk show, but President Bush has pre-empted her for his anniversary speech, driving me to my computer.)

The trip as whole was fun, however. We ate amazing food, including a superb meal at the Salt Lick Barbecue Restaurant, a breakfast of Dim Sum, real Mexican food, great Tex-Mex, and quite a few Krispy Kremes for good measure. Indeed, I consumed what may have been the last maple donut KK will ever make...we got it on Monday, and by Tuesday they had been discontinued. A great shame, as maple was my favorite.

We also found our way to a winery and a quaint old ice cream and candy shop in Fredericksburg, and a kayak trip on Town Lake made a phenomenal capstone to our visit. Carissa and Brandon were more than hospitable, and it's safe to say Brad and I both had a great time. We also saw the house our hosts are building, which made at least my head spin with jealousy. If you're from Illinois, you wouldn't believe the amount of house you can get for your money in Austin. Plus you get warm weather, no income tax, and a hip city with great independent music and book stores and plenty of culture. You do, however, have to live in the middle of Texas, suffer through hot summers, and deal with the level of service a state with no income tax can provide.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Disrespectfully dissenting

Scalia won't stand aside in Cheney energy case

There was a time when Supreme Court justices signed their disagreements, "I respectfully dissent." Those days are gone, and now, so are the days when we can trust the Court to police itself.

Justice Scalia claims he needn't recuse himself from the Cheney case because the personal fortunes of his hunting buddy aren't at stake. Unless we consider that to mean money--in which case, it's hard to argue that anything could put a dent in millionaire Cheney--Scalia's argument is hard to swallow. If the documents Cheney is fighting to conceal aren't somehow damning, he wouldn't fight this hard to protect them; we already know this isn't a White House that acts to preserve a principle. If the documents he's hiding were politically advantageous, or even neutral, we'd have seen them by now. By hiding them, Cheney is trying to preserve his "personal fortune"--his chance to remain vice president for another four years.

While I disagree with Scalia about almost everything, at least he's usually been intellectually consistent. But his argument in this matter makes very little sense. How can he argue that his friendship with Cheney would matter if this case involved Cheney personally rather than officially without acknowledging that the case is clearly about Cheney and will impact his public standing? Isn't that part of his personal fortune? If his business is politics, isn't his electability an important part of his worth?

I understand that Scalia is frustrated; he just can't win these days, as his backward jurisprudence is slowly rejected by his colleagues. But he's only making himself look silly now. Quack quack, indeed.

More on the trip to Austin when I get the chance.

Friday, March 12, 2004


We leave tomorrow morning for Austin. There's a chance that I'll post while I'm there, but I wouldn't bet on it--I'll be too busy eating.

Have a splendid few days and I'll be back and bashing the Bush economic plan before you know it. In the meantime, today's Paul Krugman is, as always, illuminating. See you soon!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Fiscal Responsibility

Senate Votes to Make Tax Cuts Harder

It's clear that the Democrats plan to run their fall campaign on the idea that Bush hasn't been a responsible steward of the government's money. Passing supermajority legislation to make it harder to further unbalance the budget shows that Democrats (and a few Republicans) are serious about turning the deficit around, and it forces Bush to face up to harsh realities surrounding his economic plan--he wants to spend far more than we have on tax cuts that do nothing to improve the economy.

Whether or not this new stand against fiscal madness serves Democrats well in November, it should serve as an improved check on the tax cut binge Bush has been on since he took office. That makes it more than electioneering--it's sound policy, too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

What's This Thing in My Back?

Medicare Nominee Agrees to Senator's Demand

It's a spine! And Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, proved that he has one by refusing to let Mark McClellan, nominee to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, come up for a floor vote until he answered important questions about his positions on prescription drug importation. McClellan tried to pull a Bush on the Senate, saying they could confirm him first and he'd explain his positions once he had the job. While that may have gotten Bush into office, I think we all know it isn't the standard interviewing procedure for a job, and it's good that Dorgan had the common sense and guts to stand up to McClellan.

The fact that it worked is also a sign that the White House is scrambling. They'll claim they agreed to the questioning because the new Medicare law needs administering--and I'm sure that's part of the truth, because they're anxious to start pouring money into the hands of important campaign contributors. But the fact that they bowed to the demand also shows that they know the Democrats had the popular position on the issue and wanted to keep it off the front page. Pressing issues like this from now until November can keep them scrambling.

Of course, saying you believe something during your testimony prior to confirmation doesn't mean you'll carry it out. John Ashcroft had to testify. McClellan will likely say he supports further study of the idea, make some vague chit-chat on the issue, and get confirmed because, let's face it, how can you not confirm a person who's a physician and an economist to be the head of Medicare? And he probably won't let the importation effort move forward in any real way once he's in charge. But at least he'll be on the record lying about it.

Six Days Away

Ill. Senate Race Attracts Rich Novices

I post this more as a reminder than anything else. I'll be in Texas next Tuesday, and my absentee ballot is already safely marked and mailed away. But, despite the fact that John Kerry has already claimed the Democratic nomination for president, there is much to be decided in Illinois next week. 15 people seek the chance to be the state's next senator, including seven millionaires. Issue profiles for 14 of them appeared in the Chicago Tribune today.

I won't tip my hand as to who got my vote, but I will say that I think Barack Obama or Dan Hynes would be a good nominee for the party. Someone's got to keep Jack Ryan out.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Ultra Edgy

The New Yorker: Shouts and Murmurs

The link above leads to something that ran in The New Yorker a few weeks ago--and was so funny I nearly fell off the couch. When you read it, realize that each new paragraph represents the passage of time.

And realize this: it's based in fact. This annoucement is no joke: Pepsi is really creating a cola with half the calories of its regular offering, and Coke will follow. Coke now comes in lime, lemon, vanilla, and cherry flavors, in all manner of permutations of the caffeine-free, diet, and regular varieties. Can the crazy scenario linked above be far off?

If Wishes Were Horses...

Promises, Promises

I'd be remiss if I didn't post this today. I think it should be on the front page of the paper the next time Bush claims he knows how to improve the economy and create jobs. He's got a record, and it says he doesn't know how to do either of those things. Moreover, his record shows that he's unwilling to learn anything new, which bodes poorly for the hope that he'll try something else to jumpstart things. Voters deserve the truth.

Impartial Birth

Scalia Addressed Advocacy Group Before Key Decision

Maybe Antonin Scalia should start spending more time at home. It seems like every time he goes out of the house, the arch-conservative of the Supreme Court finds a way to taint his appearance of impartiality in a case before the court. In the latest episode--which follows his duck hunting trip with Dick Cheney and his speech in which he tipped his hand in the pledge of allegiance case and ended up recusing himself--Scalia spoke to an advocacy group opposed to gay rights while the case that eventually overturned all sodomy laws was making its way through the court. Makes his blistering, highly unprofessional dissent in the case (in which he accused his colleagues of signing on to the "gay agenda" and said the nation was abandoning morals) a bit less surprising, no?

If Justice Scalia wants a job where he can decide a case without having to listen to the facts and make blatant efforts to help his friends financially and politically, he should step down from the bench--and take a job with the Bush Administration, where economic plans designed to refund a surplus are tools for fixing economic problems, global warming needs more study before we take action, and every reform "for the people" has a way of lining corporate pockets. He better hurry! Only 10 months left on this nutty ride.

Monday, March 08, 2004


International Election Monitors Take on Florida

The fact that this infuriates and insults Jeb Bush is proof that it's the right thing to do. Perhaps the presence of election monitors will prevent Florida from denying thousands of black men the right to vote this year. Gee, thousands of black men; I wonder who they wanted to vote for in 2000?

Back to Business

HBO: Sopranos - Episode 53, Season 5

It's back! There's no better way to cap off a weekend than by watching Paulie pop a cap into a waiter who wants a bigger tip. And, as if last night's episode weren't enough after the long layoff, next week's episode of The Sopranos looks even better. I just hope things between Tony and Carmela improve enough that she starts making Sunday dinner again. The idea of everyone having to suffer through Janice's cooking once a week turns the stomach.

Prior to the big show, we took a quick trip (two hours in the car, two hours in the concert hall, two more hours in the car) to Sterling, Illinois to see the last road concert of the Augustana Symphonic Band's spring tour. What a strange thing it was to realize that I recognized exactly two people on stage--and one of them was the conductor! On the bright side, "Irish Tune" has a whole new meaning when you've been recognized as one of the alumni in the room. And Sterling is home to one of the few locations of Arthur's Deli. That place still makes a damn good sandwich.

Five days until we head down to the land of barbecue and breakfast tacos!

Friday, March 05, 2004


February Job Growth Surprisingly Weak

Some recovery. The latest job figures show only 21,000 jobs created in February--and revise the figures for December and January downward by a combined 23,000, negating any growth last month. It's got to offend all the people looking for jobs, and all the people who have given up looking for jobs, that the Bush Administration continues to pretend that it believes the economy will create 300,000 jobs each month this year, which would dig Bush out of his Hoover-hole of job loss sometime just before the election.

It's not going to happen; there has been no action taken that would bring about such a result, no effort on the part of Bush or his party to lessen the pain of this "economic situation"--whatever it's called, since the recession is over, right?--for anyone but the very wealthy folks who got the bulk of his tax cuts. What if some of that tax money were in state coffers, allowing cash-strapped states not to lay off teachers and other public servants? What if the tax cuts were weighted toward those who need the money and would spend it on goods and services, putting it into the economy and igniting growth? Would the employment picture be quite this ugly? Would we be mortgaging quite as much of our future for today's yacht production and wealth-hoarding? It is an arrogant and uninterested administration indeed that causes this much pain and suffering to the country and refuses to contemplate even the possibility that the policies it has advocated and instituted might be a mistake.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Catching Up

The lack of book reviews on this allegedly bookish site in recent months might make you think I’ve stopped reading; Jonathan Franzen notes in one of his essays that the tendency is for many people who were readers early in life to stop reading as they age. Nothing could be further from the truth for me! Here’s a quick rundown of all the books I should have reviewed these last several months.

Paul Krugman, The Great Unraveling
Bill Maher, When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden
Arianna Huffington, Pigs At The Trough

Each of these three books takes President Bush to task. Krugman’s book is mostly composed of his columns for the New York Times, arranged according to theme and painting a damning picture of an economic policy gone horribly awry. Huffington’s focus is narrower; she takes aim at corporate criminals, a topic Krugman gives only a few chapters. Huffington makes a strong case for improved regulation of large corporations and effectively points out the dangers inherent in giving CEOs compensation packages based on stock prices they can manipulate. Maher’s book, released soon after 9/11 and the end of his ABC show, is the briefest and funniest of the three. Maher restyles WWII-era government posters to reflect the “war on terror” and argues that victory begins at home—and that the government should encourage the same spirit of effort and sacrifice in today’s Americans that prevailed during WWII. Back then people patriotically cleaned their plates because food was a weapon, dealt with rationing because we needed supplies for the troops, reused things to get by, and planted victory gardens—and they believed, rightly, that their actions were helping the nation. What if this spirit returned? What if conserving energy were the patriotic thing to do, rather than flying a flag on your SUV? Maher argues that we could eliminate our dependence on foreign oil if the government made us feel patriotic about it, dramatically changing our role in the global community.

Sarah Vowell, The Partly Cloudy Patriot and Take the Cannoli

Vowell’s wry take on life seeps in. Without consciously loving either book, I consumed both of these collections of essays in mere hours. Understated humor and careful observations reveal noble human truths as Vowell ponders Abraham Lincoln, insomnia, The Godfather, the Trail of Tears, firing a gun, being a reader in a TV world, and goth culture, among a great many other things. Vowell also makes a compelling argument that Al Gore would be president today had he embraced his inner nerd rather than shunning it. Highly recommended—I’ll read anything Vowell publishes from here on out.

Dan Brown, The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons

Succumbing to the pop phenomenon that is Dan Brown—who looks suspiciously like he should be Ralph Reed’s evil successor at the Christian Coalition—I tore through these two page-turning, Catholicism-obsessed bestsellers recently. The interest of the plot is undeniable, and the twists are deft; some were actually surprising, and the ones that aren’t almost work as instruments of dramatic irony. Don’t expect a literary meal, though; this is beach reading and brain candy, but not something to be pondered at great length. They’re perfect between-books books. I’d recommend reversing what I did and starting with A&D rather than DaVinci; this is the order the books were written and the plot runs in this direction as well—though I’m unconvinced that the two books, despite sharing a main character, are internally consistent with one another.

Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

You can’t love a book as much as I loved Interpreter of Maladies and not seek out anything else by the author. Lahiri’s new book, published in 2003, is a novel rather than a collection of short stories, and I can’t help but note that despite my preference for the novel form, Lahiri was in the right line of work before. Namesake has moments of breathtaking beauty, and I enjoyed it—very much, in fact. Indeed, it feels like one of Lahiri’s short stories about an Indian immigrant expanded to fill a novel, or even like a series of short stories about the same people, but disjointed. Rather than following a plot, Lahiri follows a life; this is a brave and admirable choice that causes the novel to meander just as a life does. My fear is that some readers will find it unexciting; Lahiri’s stories each pack a punch within pages, but this is a slow burn. Still, well worth the time; you’ll care deeply about the namesake by the time you’re through.

Dean Monti, The Sweep of the Second Hand

This book kept me company in Hawaii. It was originally recommended to me by my insurance agent because his son wrote it. Little did I know that I’d soon be working down the hall from Dean Monti! While reading this novel has given me perhaps more insight into my coworker than I should have, you face no such concern and should seek it out. Very thoughtful, the novel is also very funny, putting the hero in a variety of quite bizarre situations that include having a hornet’s nest in the wall of his apartment, attempting to date both a woman he calls at a help line and a dirge singer, and being caught pleasuring himself in the projection room of the movie theatre he runs. Get on the bandwagon now; Dean is shopping his second novel around and will no doubt be the toast of the literary town before long—and you can say you read him before he was famous.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Dream Team

The Next Best Thing to Being President

As the veepstakes begins in earnest, this column proposes something that never occurred to me: A Kerry-Clinton ticket. No, not that Clinton. Stephen Gillers suggests that Kerry should choose Bill Clinton as his running mate. Imagine it! Who has more experience in providing solid leadership to the nation than President Clinton? Given the opportunity to focus, you know this man could deliver a solution for health care. He's still brilliant, still thoughtful--and he could get out there on the stump for months and charm voters in the South, and get black turnout higher than it's ever been in a year when black voters are already motivated by memories of 2000. If John Kerry is serious about being the "second black president," he should consider running with the first.

Miles to Go

Transcript: Kerry's Super Tuesday speech

John Kerry chose the perfect tone to begin his first speech as the "official" Democratic nominee. I was pleased to hear him heap praise on John Edwards, using language that left the door wide open to a Kerry-Edwards ticket. (Kerry is already setting up his VP selection process.) He also thanked Howard Dean--a surprise winner, at last, in his home state--for his contributions to the party.

Now we turn to the eight month battle for the White House. Who knows what will happen between now and then? Eight months ago Bush looked unbeatable; there's no telling how things will look in eight more. There's only one thing to say, then: Bring it on.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Lesson Learned

Maestro of Chutzpah

Read Paul Krugman's column today. Let me know if anything he says about Alan Greenspan or Social Security sounds familiar.

Seriously, Krugman is saying pretty much what I said last week: Greenspan has become a political crony in the service of those who want to cut taxes so that enormous deficits force deep cuts in spending--including formerly sacrosanct programs like Social Security. Now that everything about that statement--which once sounded like a fairy tale--is laid out on the front page of the newspaper, why won't Americans open their eyes to the truth?

Monday, March 01, 2004


If this site has been your source of news on the continuing gay marriage debate, my apologies. For my own sanity, this post will be the last one on the topic for a great long while.

Before I move on, allow me to explain. The last week of this national conversation has not been particularly enjoyable for me. "What can I do?" This has been the question rattling around my angry head, driving me to distraction. At last, I know the answer: Nothing.

OK, not quite nothing. But it's not up to me to fix this. Every time I think of some "original" thing that someone should be doing to help, I find that HRC or Freedom to Marry are on top of it. Someone is parrying every attack. I don't have to.

Beyond that kind fact of life, I've realized that my limited audience here deserves more than a daily screed on an issue that isn't nearly the topic of debate here that it is nationally. I've encouraged everyone I can to stand with me on this issue, and the results have been very good--thank you. If you're so inclined, your efforts in converting people you know to our side of this debate are appreciated more than I can say. You're the ones who can sway the next round of people and turn the tide against intolerance.

But it's time for me to move on--to evaluate other issues, to read good books, and to calm down. Thinking about threats to my own civil rights every day results only in navel-gazing and boiling blood, neither of which is healthy. Please, let me know if you convince your friends to change their position on this issue, or turn a voter away from Bush because they think he's trying to write discrimination into the Constitution. In the meantime, the best thing I can do as we move forward in this national debate is live my quiet, harmless, happy life and wait for people to realize that it's not going to bring an end to civilization.


'Lord of the Rings' Rules Oscars

It was a predictable evening, but that's not always a bad thing. Oscar crowned Peter Jackson last night, giving him an honor even bigger than Best Picture or Best Director--a clean sweep of 11 categories, with not a single loss to mar the night for the film. Never has a film so dominated a ceremony--not even the bloated Titanic, which lost three times on the way to its 11 Oscars.

Meanwhile, many performers got their due. How can you argue with Sean Penn or Tim Robbins getting an Oscar--or for giving it to them for Mystic River, which would have had a mortal lock on the Best Picture award any other year. Renee Zellweger finally broke through, probably as much for her star turn in Chicago as for the otherwise-ignored Cold Mountain. After a Grammy snub, Annie Lennox at least got one trophy for her mantle. Billy Crystal, after a fairly average opening, was witty through the rest of the night.

A few disappointments: Bill Murray didn't win, though Sean Penn was deserving. Sofia Coppola failed to mention Scarlett Johannson in her acceptance speech, snubbing someone who already went from double Golden Globe nominee to Oscar presenter despite a transcendent performance in Lost in Translation. Seabiscuit didn't get the award for cinematography--whatever you thought of the movie, or its overlong third act, it was beautiful to watch and the racing scenes were remarkable feats of filmmaking.