Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Obama Draws Roars of Approval at DNC

Apparently you can't go wrong picking a black state senator to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. First Barbara Jordan and now Barack Obama have delivered electrifying speeches. For all the press he's received at home and nationwide, tonight was Obama's introduction on the big stage, and the man seized the opportunity like he's seized every other chance life has given him. Between Bill Clinton last night and Barack Obama tonight, the Democrats have laid out a very strong vision of their party. I hope the next two nights see John Edwards and John Kerry lay out the specific plans they have to make that vision a reality; if they do--and I believe they will--this convention will be a phenomenal success. Assuming anyone else is watching, that is.

In the morning I leave for New York City. I'll be gone until Saturday night, so don't expect my thoughts on the rest of the convention until next week--but rest assured that whether I'm at home or at the Hilton, I wouldn't miss these speeches for the world.

While I'm gone, perhaps you can do something for me with all the time you'll save at work not reading my new posts each day. As you'll recall from a previous post, I'm trying to improve my Amazon reviewer ranking. I've met with some success: my ranking improved from 344,623 on June 22 to 28,366 ten days ago--before plummeting inexplicably back into the 100,000s and cresting again, today, at 55,644. You can help turn the tide forward again, and perhaps move some of my reviews into featured slots, by taking a few minutes to give me some helpful votes. To do so, click here, pick a review you like, click on it, find my review on the product's page, and click "yes." Rest assured that I'm not the only reviewer asking for help, and know that your efforts are appreciated.

Bonus question for the comments: Can anyone guess what we'll be celebrating on this site next week?

New Day

Speeches to the Democratic National Convention on Monday Night

With time to reflect, I have to say that last night could be the turning point in the election. It opened a narrative for the Democratic Party that answers their critics and concerned swing voters at the same time, showing that the war on terror would be well-prosecuted in the hands of a Kerry Administration. If Kerry can step into the role his introducers have cast for him, he's golden. Andrew Sullivan's analysis of the evening strikes me as particularly good.

Sullivan agrees with me, by the way, that Clinton would be president for life if the Constitution allowed it. And as I go back over last night's brilliant speech, it's easy to see why. Read the full transcript by following the link above, but realize that you're missing the oratorical flourishes that double the power of an already magnificent piece of speechwriting. Look at page 4, where Clinton delivered a Reaganesque line:
We tried it their way for 12 years. We tried it our way for eight years. Then we tried it their way for four more. By the only test that matters, whether people were better off when we finished than when we started, our way works better.

He followed this with a stream:
It produced over 22 million good jobs, rising incomes for the middle class, over a hundred times as many people moved from poverty into the middle class, more health care, the largest increase in college aid in 50 years, record homeownership, a cleaner environment, three surpluses in a row, a modernized defense force, strong efforts against terror and a respected America in the world. It worked better.

Just reading it, it's an impressive list. But the delivery turned it into the grand finale of an incredible fireworks display, an unequivocal statement that while there are honest differences between the parties, and both sides believe their way works best, ours has the facts behind it. Such is the genius of Clinton.

Perhaps it doesn't matter; perhaps the result is already inevitable. It occurred to me last night that in 1796 the nation elected John Adams its second president after he had served eight years as VP under a popular president, George Washington. In 1800 they turned Adams out and gave Thomas Jefferson eight years in the White House. In 1824 a divided electorate resulted in the man who got the plurality of votes losing the presidency to John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams. In 1828, Andrew Jackson led the Democrats to victory, remained president for eight years, and saw his VP during his second term, Martin Van Buren, elected for a term as president as well.

In 1988 the nation elected George Bush its 41st president after he had served eight years as VP under a popular president, Ronald Reagan. In 1992 they turned Bush out and gave Bill Clinton eight years in the White House. In 2000 a divided electorate resulted in the man who got the plurality of votes losing the presidency to George W. Bush, son of George Bush. Does it follow that in 2004, John Kerry will lead the Democrats to victory, remain president for eight years, and see his VP win a term to succeed him? Let's hope so.

Monday, July 26, 2004


Clintons go to bat for Kerry and Edwards

More in the morning, but I have to say this: the bar has been set high for the rest of the week. Gore was both funny and forceful. Carter made a compelling argument. Kerry's boatmate was phenomenal. Hillary found a sound bite that's perfect: A serious man for a serious job in a serious time. And Bill proved that he's willing to expend all his political capital to help Kerry win, delivering a speech that was both incredibly clever (in its use of his own faults, including his newfound wealth and his long-ago draft-dodging) and beautifully effective. "Strength and wisdom are not opposing values": the man is a rhetorical genius, delivering the line with his aw, shucks pose as if he just thought of it standing up there. If there weren't term limits, well, he'd be president for life.

If the American people were watching tonight, or if the press does this all justice in the morning, then John Kerry should have a very receptive audience by Thursday. If the pundits are right, and the American people are using this week to get to know John Kerry, then the man they started to meet tonight--strong, wise, fighting for those who need it, unwilling to leave anyone behind, and courageous enough to go back to get them--is undoubtedly someone who will compare favorably with Bush. Once the American people get to know John Kerry, the devil they know, the one they've been thinking about keeping around for another term, is going to look a lot worse by comparison.

Hello, Sports Fans

ESPN.com: Page 2 - John Kerry

Amid all the political coverage, this is a pretty interesting interview with John Kerry. The Democrat is quite the sportsman and sports fan, and his knowledge of sports could be very helpful in siphoning the Bubba vote in this election away from Bush and narrowing the gender gap among men. Plus, in one interview, Kerry shows a sense of humor (see question seven), the heart of a true fan (see questions nine and nine-a), and the ability to work politics into anything (see his parting shot in response to question ten-a). That's got to count for something.

Big Bounce

The Copycat Convention - Are the Democrats stealing from the Republicans?

It's finally here, and every political reporter on the planet is trying to figure out what role the Democratic National Convention will play in the results of the election. I think Chris Suellentrop's theory is a reasonable one:

Even a casual viewer of Hardball knows that the first rule of an election that involves a sitting president is that it's a referendum on the incumbent. This election, however, has turned out to be the opposite. It's a referendum on the challenger. Kerry probably isn't responsible for this turn of events, but he's benefiting from it: The referendum on the incumbent is over. President Bush already lost it. This presidential campaign isn't about whether the current president deserves a second term. It's about whether the challenger is a worthy replacement.
He has a point. In many elections, the public decides the incumbent is OK and never really looks at the challenger. Ask Bob Dole about his experience in 1996 against Bill Clinton, or Walter Mondale about his 1984 thrashing by Ronald Reagan. This time out, all the attention is on Kerry and what he might do as president. The public is willing to boot Bush, but Kerry needs to sell himself as an acceptable alternative.

For that reason, I think this will be an important week. Kerry has a chance this Thursday to pass muster with the American people; if he manages to do that, and to define himself in a way that helps buffer him against the inevitable Republican flak he'll take until November, there's not much Bush can do at this point, short of hauling Bin Laden out of the Oval Office in chains, to win.

Which brings me to one last point. This weekend the AP decided to try its hand at math and arrived at the conclusion that Bush is leading in the Electoral College. This made for a good story about the uphill battle Kerry faces and the harsh demographic reality that the states Gore won in 2000 are worth seven fewer EVs today than they were back then. There's just one problem: the AP's math was, ahem, a bit fuzzy. Read electoral-vote.com this morning for an explanation of how the AP got it wrong. For the record, the tally this morning, by that site's count, is 290 for Kerry to 237 for Bush with a tie in Tennessee. That's not an insurmountable lead, but it isn't losing, either.

Friday, July 23, 2004


Sopranos won't be back until 2006

I don't know if I can handle this news. That's a minimum of 17 months, and probably many more, before we find out the how the show ends. At least there wasn't a cliffhanger...

Thursday, July 22, 2004


Delgado should be cheered, not jeered

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, in a country where a flag-burning amendment is considered important enough that the Senate considers it rather than worrying about balancing the budget, that having a conscience and exercising it is reviled. Granted, the fans at Yankee Stadium are not a perfect cross-section of America, but their reaction to Carlos Delgado after it was finally discovered that he disappears every time the song "God Bless America" is played at the ballpark in silent protest of the war in Iraq is probably not atypical.

Ron Borges gets it exactly right in his column, linked above. Delgado should be applauded for the quiet civics lesson he's teaching to all the little kids who follow baseball. He's making a silent statement about something he believes is wrong--without hurting anyone, without rubbing it in anyone's face. To do so, and to acknowledge doing so when questioned, and to put up with the taunts of fans as a result, takes a sort of courage we sorely lack in America.

Marilynne Robinson points this out in the most recent issue of Harper's, in an article titled "The Tyranny of Petty Coercion." It's unfortunately not available online, but the gist is this: While America produces a great many people who are willing to sacrifice their lives in its service, an act that requires great physical courage, it does not produce people who are willing to admit that they think differently than those around them, an act that requires a different sort of courage altogether, a moral and intellectual courage that we have a harder time recognizing and, therefore, a harder time fostering.

Robinson calls this courage the courage to stand by the "truth," even when that truth is not popular and not recognized by the masses as true. It is the sort of courage that allows Robinson to call herself a liberal when the word has been discredited because she knows what the word really means, the sort of courage she also demonstrates by calling herself a Christian among her "liberal" friends who say she should abandon the label because the Religious Right has perverted it. It is the sort of courage Delgado shows by sitting quietly during the seventh-inning stretch to show that, while others may not like it, he believes starting the war in Iraq was wrong. It is the sort of courage needed in these times, when questioning the impact of a tax policy on a group of people elicits cries of "Class warfare!" and "Why do you hate America?" If we as a nation continue to hold dear the precepts upon which our country was founded, we should see that Delgado is showing us what we're all about. As Borges points out, the founders were influenced by Voltaire, so I leave you for today with his thoughts on free speech:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Fair's Fair

Libertarian Badnarik May Cost Bush Support, Poll Finds

As discontent with Bush grows among people who consider themselves fiscal Republicans but question his foreign policy or his moves to limit stem-cell research and ban gay marriage, many of them are finding an alternative: the Libertarian Party and its candidate for president, Michael Badnarik. Wouldn't it be fitting if Bush, who came into office partly because of a third-party candidate, left it because of another?

To find out if you should vote Libertarian this fall, you can take a quiz that will show your place on the political map. Feel free to post your scores in the comments!

Daily Ritual

Muzzling the Courts?

It's getting to the point where I could write about nothing but Republican proposals that are bad for civil rights and still post something every day. This week the House G.O.P. will attempt to pass a bill that would prevent the federal courts from hearing cases that consider the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. There are no procedural roadblocks to be thrown up in the House, so chances are we'll see an actual up-or-down vote on this, and I can't say I'm encouraged. The House Republicans are by and large a disciplined bunch, ready to be whipped into shape by their leadership. Hopefully the Senate will ignore this bill if the House passes it. While there are more arguments against the bill that avoid completely the issue of gay marriage (and therefore provide safe cover for legislators who can't afford to be gay friendly in front of their intolerant constituents) than there were against the Federal Marriage Amendment, there's also an argument to be made that this is a less drastic move than amending the Constitution, as it wouldn't strip states of their power to regulate marriage.

The bill confronts a much bigger issue than gay marriage, though. The role of the courts has been, for two centuries, to consider whether acts of Congress can be squared with the Constitution. This role has allowed the courts to right grievous wrongs, including the end of segregation, in a manner that elected officials would take extra decades to accomplish. Congress should not deem its decisions on a particular matter (or set of matters--Tom DeLay says he'd like to pass similar legislation regarding the Pledge) above review by the courts. If it does, the Supreme Court should shoot it down, allowing immediate high court appeals on any issue Congress deems outside the purview of the federal judiciary. A few frightened social reactionaries cannot be allowed to short circuit either progress or the separation and balancing of powers inherent in our system of government.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Measure to Outlaw Flag Burning Advances in Senate
Report: Michael Jackson to Be Father of Quadruplets

I'm trying to decide which of these two prospects is more frightening: an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that directly contradicts the First Amendment notion of free speech or the idea that Michael Jackson will have four more children to add to the three he's already screwing up for a lifetime.

I suppose it's got to be the amendment, if only because it has the potential to do harm to so many more people. We can all turn a blind eye to the tabloid coverage of the teeming Jackson brood as they grow older and inevitably have all manner of twisted, TV-newsmagazine-worthy exploits. It's a lot harder to ignore the fact that a terrible blow against liberty has been struck.

We do not prohibit dissent in this country. It makes us stronger, it makes us better, and it makes us who we are. Banning flag burning should not be done in part because there's no rational basis for doing so, but also because such a ban violates an important principle of this nation: that we have the right to do what we will to express our views, political and otherwise, as long as we do not endanger others in doing so. Burning a flag in a demonstration is no more dangerous to anyone else than a campfire; unless two-thirds of Congress also wishes to ban those (in which case we should all start plotting a move to Canada, because things have gotten seriously out of control), they must admit that they're not up for banning burning the flag because they hope to save lives. They want to protect a symbol from desecration.

They've got the wrong symbol. The liberty enshrined in our Constitution is a symbol not only to Americans but to all the world of the freedom that all men and women ought to have. To interfere with that freedom, even for such a well-meaning reason as to protect the flag under which millions have suffered and died for that freedom, is to put a black mark on the Constitution and on the nation.

To learn more about the amendment and why we don't need it--and to send a free message to your Senators--visit here.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Dose of Caffeine

Democrats Plan Post-Convention Ad Blitz

In case you've been feeling a little post-Edwards slump in enthusiasm about the chances for John Kerry in November, here's an article that points out a bunch of reasons why he's got a good shot. First among them: Tons of cash, both in his own coffers and in those of the Democratic National Committee. No one ever expected anything like an even playing field in the money race, but right now it looks a lot better than anyone thought it might.

The article doesn't mention a bunch of other reasons for optimism: fervor among Democrats to oust Bush, generally positive sentiment toward Edwards from independents, electoral maps that show Kerry leading, and, finally, a question more and more journalists are asking: Where are all the voters who voted for Gore in 2000 and plan to vote for Bush in 2004? It's easy to find a fed-up Bush voter who vows to pull the lever for Kerry as an act of penance, but not nearly so easy--some say impossible--to find someone who picked Gore in 2000 and wants another four years of Bush. Since we all know that Gore got more votes last time, how can Bush win if even the folks who voted for him last time out are abandoning him?

I know the answer, but this post is meant to be an upper. Maybe we'll talk about rallying the base with fear tactics tomorrow.

Poll Free

It's a pretty slow news morning. I want to write about last night's monumental episode of Six Feet Under, but I fear that few readers will have seen it, and I don't want to give away what is surely one of the biggest plot developments in the show's four seasons. I will say this: I had a very hard time sleeping last night.

Before the Sunday night HBO/Showtime ritual, I went for a long walk around the lakes near our house and contemplated how expensive the houses around those lakes would be. Home ownership isn't in our immediate future--we're tied up in our lease until at least next June--but I'm quietly checking out neighborhoods, looking at prices, and thinking about what we'd want in a house. I was listening to the new Air CD, Talkie Walkie, as I walked, and that got me to thinking: how much more money would I have for a down payment if I weren't so CD-crazy?

When I got home I took a quick pass through my CD racks and discovered that I've purchased (or received as gifts, in lieu of other useful items), at minimum, 325 CDs since graduating from college three years ago. In other words, I obtain about nine CDs every month. This doesn't meet the standards of some folks I know, but it's still a lot. Thrift helps keep the costs down: CDs from Columbia House or BMG only end up costing me about $6.50 each, including shipping and tax, and a lot of my CDs were bought from the used racks at Cheapo Records, Treehouse, CD Warehouse, or Disc Replay, some for as little as $1.95 and none for more than $8.95. I buy new releases the first week while they're being deeply discounted. But even with all these cost-saving measures in place, it's undeniable: these CDs represent a massive investment. I'd probably have another $2500 if I could kick the habit.

Or would I? I make my lunch every night to bring to work the next day; would I still do that if I didn't buy all these CDs, or would I feel more free to spend six or seven dollars on food a few times a week? Might I buy more DVDs? Might I go out and buy other stuff just because I enjoy buying new things?

There are many ways to save money, but for me, it turns out cutting my CD habit isn't one of them. Look at the list from last Tuesday: do you think I'm going to forego any of those new releases? I listen to probably 12 or 15 different albums every day; I can't work without music, can't drive without music, and usually don't read without music. And unlike a book or a DVD, the odds that I'll use a CD over and over are pretty high. I'm listening to Air right now--for the fifth time since I bought it (used, for $6.99) Saturday.

All of which is to say that after much thought, this is what I've decided:

Stop buying CDs? I'd be better off cutting out the grocery store.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Too Good to Be True?

Science Comes a Step Closer to a Workout in a Pill

If this magic pill pans out, the level of popularity and use it would have in the United States and around the world is almost impossible to overstate. Other than those miraculous few who enjoy spending their evenings in a gym, or people who are paid to exercise all day, who wouldn't want a pill that stops their body from adding fat without all that annoying running?

Of course, if no one is fat anymore, the standards will only go up. I pity the folks whose claim to beauty is merely being thin. When it takes a six-pack and bulging biceps to stand out at all from the crowd, they'll lose their heretofore privileged position. But the health benefits and cost savings this pill could create for an overweight population such as ours would be remarkable; heart disease rates would likely plummet, for one thing. This could prove to be a magic pill for trimming not just our waistline but our national health care budget...

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Whose Land?

Just Click Here Already

You'll never hear Woody Guthrie the same again. Make sure you have your speakers turned on and click above. I promise you'll laugh.

Naked Emperor

Kobe's Choice: Lakers

Well, congratulations, Mr. Bryant. $136 million over seven years is nothing to sneeze at for someone my age. I know I'd be content with job security until age 32 and the knowledge that I never have to work another day in my life anywhere that I'm not considered the top dog.

I suspect this financial windfall and the power you've so longed to have throughout your tempestuous relationship with Shaq and Phil will not be enough to satisfy you, though. Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and Caron Butler aren't an appropriate nucleus for a championship team; if your tears in 2003 when the Spurs eliminated you were real, well, get ready to feel that pain year after year. Without Shaq to help you out, Tim Duncan's Spurs and Kevin Garnett's Wolves will eat your puny Lakers for breakfast. All the money in the world may help you swallow that bitter pill, and the life perspective you get from being on trial for your life may make losing in the second round seem a less terrible fate than it once did. It's not like the Clippers were going to provide you with some path to playoff glory, I know, but I hope you realize what your antics in L.A. have done. I suspect we've seen the last of you in the NBA Finals for a great many years to come.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Senate Scuttles Gay Marriage Amendment

Of course, today's vote pleases me. The fact that Senator "Dog-on-man-action" Santorum couldn't round up even half the Senate to support the FMA is a great sign.

I'm going to go out on an optimistic limb and say that, despite the protests of conservatives, this is the end of this issue in terms of any serious possibility of the amendment being passed. Certainly, vigilance will remain necessary for a while; conservatives will still stump about this in the South and try to use it as a wedge to get out the vote. But today's result reflects a growing consensus that an amendment is a terrible idea. The L.A. Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Chicago Tribune, among others, have all said, for different reasons, that the amendment should never be passed.

That's a lot of newspapers. They reach a lot of citizens, and the opinions expressed in them aren't often so out of the mainstream that they'd offend people into canceling their subscriptions. The country is coming around on this issue; more accurately, perhaps, the country is deciding this is not really an issue worth getting worked up about. That may not be the optimum position for those of us who wish the Senate had been voting to allow gay marriage nationwide, but overwhelming indifference and acceptance today will eventually turn into judicial and legislative solutions to the special difficulties that face same-sex couples. As the L.A. Times points out, six years ago the notion that gay marriage would ever happen seemed crazy, despite the struggles of the gay community to find a way to make do without it; today the notion that gays are entitled to some form of legally-recognized partnership is not only an article of liberal faith but an idea around which a growing number of Americans are reaching consensus. If that legal partnership is achieved state-by-state in the courts, it will be the result not of majority will against such a partnership but of the concerted efforts of a dedicated few demagogues who oppose it.

All of which is to say that, a year after Lawrence v. Texas paved the way for a new future for gay and lesbian Americans, our path to that future looks rosier than I'd ever have imagined the day I started down it. While things may not be as good as we wish and deserve them to be, they are better by far than we had any reason to expect. Today, that gives me a reason to hope--and a reason to smile.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Music Mania

New CD Releases - Release Dates for Albums

Lately I've been lamenting the state of music in 2004; it seems that at this point every year I look back and can't think of more than three releases that have really grabbed me since the year began. This year is no different; the list of albums eligible for the "Best of 2004" crown--which is the list of albums of new material released in 2004 that I've purchased--numbers eleven, and only four, at maximum, have what it takes to crack into any other year-end list I've made. (For purposes of comparison, I own more than 40 albums of new material released in each of the past four years.)

That's why the link above brings such good cheer to my heart and such horror to my wallet. According to whoever compiles the list, we'll see new stuff from Fiona Apple, Beck, Bjork, Coldplay, Desaparecidos, Everclear, Ben Folds, Garbage, Interpol, Jimmy Eat World, Elton John, Annie Lennox (a best-of compilation), Lisa Loeb, Moby, R.E.M., The Thrills, U2, Lucinda Williams, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs before the year is through. I have a feeling a few of those folks are capable of making the list; combined, they're already the holders of no fewer than 31 spots on past lists.

Speaking of lists, you'll note that the 2003 albums list on the sidebar has been revised. This will probably happen one more time, but for now the list is:

1. Rufus Wainwright: Want One
2. Kathleen Edwards: Failer
3. The Shins: Chutes Too Narrow
4. Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism/ The Postal Service: Give Up
5. Ryan Adams: Love is Hell & Rock N Roll
6. Annie Lennox: Bare
7. Fountains of Wayne: Welcome Interstate Managers
8. Belle and Sebastian: Dear Catastrophe Waitress
9. The Thrills: So Much For the City
10. The White Stripes: Elephant
11. New Pornographers: Electric Version
12. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Fever to Tell

Beyond Reason


The potential vote on the FMA is in disarray at the moment; apparently the G.O.P. didn't expect Democrats to be so willing to allow an up or down vote, and now they're scrambling because many of their own faithful don't want to vote for an amendment that would prevent not only gay marriage but also all the other legal arrangements that have been and may be available to gay couples. As Andrew Sullivan suggests here, the FMA could backfire on the Republicans in a way that didn't seem very likely when they brought it up.

That doesn't change the fact that they did it. Please, click on the link at the top of this post, or click right here. Sullivan examines President Bush's radio address this weekend and, quite calmly, shows what the FMA says about Bush. I know gay people aren't, shall we say, popular among everyone in America. But I have to believe that the level of incivility and indecency with which we've been treated by this president is beyond what any but the most fervent Bible Belters believe we deserve.

A man who can treat me this way for political advantage can turn around and do the same to you. Send him packing before he gets a chance.

Monday, July 12, 2004


BlogActive: Real Truth, Fun Action

I don't quite know how I feel about this site, but I thought others should know about it, as the media is covering it--usually without giving readers the site's address. That's probably because they don't approve of what the site's owner is doing.

He's outing people on Congressional staffs. If a gay person works for a Senator or Representative who supports the Federal Marriage Amendment, Mike Rogers is making his knowledge of their sexuality, gleaned from years as an active participant in the D.C. gay community, known to everyone who will listen. See?

As I said, I don't quite know what to make of this. In theory, I think it's fine to be in or out at work, at your discretion; clearly, it helps the cause of gay equality if more people come out, but each of us, first and foremost, has a responsibility to ourselves to do whatever makes our workplace the most comfortable. I, for one, don't engage in any pronoun shifting, and if someone asks about my weekend, I'm honest about it: Brad and I went here, Brad and I visited there, Brad and I saw a movie. If people get it, they get it, and I'm pretty sure most do; if they're happier not getting it, well, I leave them the option. I don't beat them over the head, but I don't lie.

But I'm not walking the halls of Congress, with the potential to influence the decisions of men and women who will decide whether gays and lesbians will be treated like everyone else or relegated to second-class citizenship in America. If I were, I wouldn't consider myself honest if I didn't disclose this fact of my life to my employer and argue passionately against the FMA.

Which means, I suppose, that I have to support Mike Rogers, even if I think what he's doing is ugly and may ultimately give our cause a black eye. In fairness to Rogers, and to others who agree with him, it's not like the people being outed haven't known this could happen. They've been warned again and again, and they've lived their lives under the constant shadow of possibility that they could be recognized at a gay club or bar. For their sake, I hope some kind-hearted Democrats hire all of them after their current masters, in all likelihood, fire them. But this is not a fight we can lose, and their choice of silence in the face of hate is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Inner Nerd

Kerry's (Silent) Vision

This column by Sebastian Mallaby raises an interesting question: Would Kerry be better off if his handlers allowed the "real" Kerry to show up at his campaign events and in his speeches?

As Mallaby notes, Kerry is, at heart, a thinker and a policy wonk. He's what, in school, you called a nerd. Mallaby also claims that if Kerry unleashed his inner nerd on the public and demonstrated that he's really thought about the issues and how he can make life better for ordinary Americans, he'd make Bush look terrible by comparison. After all, Bush right now has NO domestic agenda for his second term; his entire focus is on being re-elected and maintaining the "gains" of his first term. If Kerry really started talking about his plans for health care and education, Mallaby contends, voters would recognize that he has "the vision thing" and elect him in a landslide.

Sarah Vowell makes a similar argument in an essay about the fall of Al Gore in her wonderful book, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, but she takes Mallaby one further. She suggests that nerds should present their smarts on the campaign trail, but do so in a self-deprecating manner. Can Kerry bring himself to do this? It may be the perfect way for him to bring his ideas--which the American electorate has shown itself to prefer to the "ideas" of Bush--to the people in a way that makes them sit up and take notice. Rare is the policy aficionado who can sell his or her wonkish nature straight-out. John Kerry must realize he's no Bill Clinton or John Edwards on the stump and learn a rhetorical wit that lets him put forward his plan to improve America without sounding like, well, the Senator from Massachusetts. If he can do that, he won't just win. He'll crush George W. Bush like a bug.

Family Ties

Lynne, Dick Cheney Differ on Gay Marriage

Apparently you can love a Republican and still tell him he's wrong--in public. This weekend Lynne Cheney effectively did just that when she said her husband, Vice President Dick, should have stuck to his original position on gay marriage. While "Leave it to the states!" isn't exactly a rallying cry that stirs my emotions, particularly after watching Michael and Ben marry in Canada on last night's Queer as Folk, it's a damn sight better than the hard-line position VP "F*** Yourself" and his president have since adopted.

Meanwhile, the Reagan family is also having a bit of family strife over a G.O.P. position. While evangelical radio host Michael stands with President Bush in opposing stem-cell research, Nancy and Ron, Jr., support federal funding for studies that could potentially help other families avoid the painful long goodbye they just experienced with former president Ronald. And Junior is doing something about it: he's speaking at the Democratic National Convention! Considering that the Republicans were hoping to get Nancy at their convention, this has to come as a bit of a blow. It'll be a lot tougher to adopt the mantle of Reagan when his family has rejected the party platform.

Friday, July 09, 2004


Prescient Pick

Eleanor Clift's column today is a good analysis of what choosing John Edwards says about John Kerry's view of the election and the electorate. I think she's right: The fuss Republicans are making over the fact that Edwards is a trial lawyer isn't one that's likely to win them points with many voters.

It strikes me as kind of funny, actually, that the G.O.P. doesn't see this. The party relies on middle class schlubs to vote Republican based on the aspiration that they might be rich one day and the mortal fear that the government might tax the daylights out of their future riches. Can't Santorum & Co. see the same process at work here? Tort reform that limits jury awards might make sense; it might even benefit society as a whole. But for Republicans to sell people lower taxes for the very wealthy based on aspirations AND fail to understand that those aspirations are based on the very same lottery mentality that makes people hesitant to close the leaking faucet of lawsuit money that they might one day drink from--that's a level of disingenuous that seems beyond even the Rick Santorums of the world. If we want to have an honest discussion about how wealth is created and shared in America, very well: let's get going, and prepare to lose your shirts, Republicans. But the G.O.P. should know by now it can't have it both ways on this particular issue. Appeal to the craven nature of Americans and you have to deal with all of it, not just the parts you can exploit for your electoral benefit.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Comedy Jam

And They're Off - Day 1 of the Kerry-Edwards campaign

Who says John Kerry isn't funny? Comparing himself to his new running mate yesterday, he had this to say:

"He's a lawyer. I'm a lawyer. His name is John. My name is John. He was named People magazine's sexiest person of the year. I read People magazine."

OK, it's not quite a comic gem. Still, I'm encouraged that Kerry seems more relaxed, more friendly, and more confident with Edwards by his side. Everyone worried that they wouldn't have the right chemistry to run together, but it seems that they made nice over dinner Tuesday night and practically merged their families overnight. The last time a fearsome foursome of Democratic candidates took their kids on the road and worked relentlessly to show America that they were the right team for the job of bringing back prosperity after a failed Bush presidency--well, I think we all know how that turned out. And the Edwards kids are a much more camera-friendly target than Chelsea was in 1992. They may also be the secret to Kerry's newfound jovial behavior; I think they bring out his grandpa tendencies while the team travels and put a smile on his face that all of America will see over the coming months.

Once again, advantage Kerry, unless you consider George Bush convincing Mary Cheney, Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, to sell out the gay community a similarly heartwarming and photogenic development. Good luck, George, getting better photo ops out of Mary than this shot of Jack Edwards and John Kerry:

Changing the Tone

A Foul Mouth And Manhood

I thought everyone knew about Dick Cheney's little explosion on the Senate floor last week, but he must have caught the low point in the news cycle; my mother was shocked to hear about it. Since I fully intend to call the Bush-Cheney ticket "Team Go F*** Yourself" until November, I thought the link above would provide some helpful background on why. You've got to love the way Anna Quindlen runs Cheney's entire explanation of his conduct--and imagines it being used by a student council VP as he explains his use of obscenity to the high school principal:

"He had challenged my integrity. And I didn't like that. But most of all I didn't like the fact that after he had done so, then he wanted to act like everything's peaches and cream. And I informed him of my view of his conduct in no uncertain terms. And, as I say, I felt better afterwards."

Normally I'm against the idea that the most positive candidate is the best one, but it's hard not to contrast the dour and foul-mouthed Cheney with the new Democratic VP nominee:

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Clean Sweep

Kerry, Edwards hit campaign trail

I don't need to tell anyone here how I feel about Kerry's choice of Edwards as his VP. Like the majority of Democrats, this is what I wanted to see happen.

The instant poll from NBC News confirms that Edwards is a popular choice: the two Johns have an eight point lead nationwide over Team "Go F*** Yourself."

By the way, did anyone else find it amusing that the 2004 ticket is made up of the leftovers from Al Gore's VP selection process in 2000? At least that will give the new team something to bond over as they patch up their lingering differences from the primaries. I bet Joe Lieberman wishes he'd been the one passed over.

Anyhow, my thoughts: I think the initial media reports that this is the start of a Southern strategy are wrong, but also helpful to Kerry; they misdirect people away from what's really going on, which is that Edwards will play well in places around the Midwest where Kerry seems too aloof: rural Ohio and Missouri. And the infectious Edwards optimism will play well everywhere. It will make North Carolina a bit more competitive, turn Arkansas and Louisiana into battlegrounds, make Florida a good deal friendlier, and turn the Pennsylvania-Michigan-Ohio trifecta blue. In short, I think it's possible for Kerry-Edwards to not only win, but to get more than 300 Electoral Votes. To see how, visit here, give Kerry Florida, Ohio, and Missouri, and try to find a feasible way for Bush to get past 250.

Four months to go and things are looking up!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

10,000 Lakes

Actually, Minnesota has about 12,000 lakes, according to a quiz I took during my visit there this weekend. Tomorrow, thoughts on the new Kerry-Edwards ticket. For now, other highlights of the vacation:
* Treated Brad to a taste of Norske Nook
* Breakfasted with Jane, walked around Lake Harriet with Jane and Erin, saw Erin's cool new apartment, and met Erin's mother
* Canoed on Lake of the Isles
* Ate at Chiang Mai Thai
* Found used, and therefore purchased, two Booker Prize winners: The Sea, The Sea and Disgrace
* Spent equal numbers of hours convinced Kerry's VP pick would be Gephardt, Vilsack, Edwards, and someone out of the blue; discussed these convictions with others of similar political persuasion
* Enjoyed Minneapolis fireworks, during which gay and lesbian campaign slogans against President Bush were discussed; see below
* Saw Spider-Man 2
* Dined at the sumptuous table of Paul Tuite, Marilee's fiance, whose kitchen qualifies as a shrine of good cooking
* Had the good sense to listen to Paul Allen and buy CDs from Gavin DeGraw and Olympic Hopefuls
* Had more conversation with Brad in two car rides than we usually find time for in a month
* Saw Minneapolis light rail with my own eyes
* Enjoyed remarkable hospitality all weekend long

And a few lowlights:
* Sat next to people who shouted at the screen during Spider-Man 2
* Drove through intense storms which, paired with road construction in Wisconsin, extended both drives by at least an hour
* Extended streak of falling ill while vacationing, returning to Illinois with a sore throat, obnoxious headache, and general fatigue

As for the campaign slogans, I'm told the lesbian community is rallying around the phrase "Lick Bush," while the gay male community is preparing to "Say No to Bush." (The suggestion was made that these phrases would work just as well with Dick Cheney's first name, though clearly the gender roles would be reversed.) Looks like campaigning against the president will come pretty easy for the gay folk this year...

Perfect Pick

Friday, July 02, 2004

Quick Update

Kerry to Announce Running Mate in E-Mail

I expect to see something in my inbox on Wednesday, John...

This is yet another reason why you, too, should sign up with the Kerry campaign! A president who announces the biggest decision of his campaign by e-mail--can you think of anything better?

Economic Engine

A Bad Way to Cut the Debt

That Michael Kinsley sure can turn a phrase. Explaining the current fiscal quagmire into which President Bush has plunged us, and the possible solutions his recklessness leave open to Alan Greenspan, Kinsley says, "There's a drunk at the wheel and all Greenspan's got is the brake. But he doesn't want to slam it. Can you blame him?"

Oh, and if Kinsley's opening paragraph doesn't make you want to turn back the clock to 2000 and move to Florida to vote for Gore, or volunteer to help Broward County voters properly punch their butterfly ballots, I don't quite know how to help you.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman argues that despite a few flaws, Fahrenheit 9/11 is a good and important film. His column smacks of cheerleading rather than reporting facts, but I'm still inclined to agree with him. As David Edelstein said last week in Slate, "It is, all in all, a legitimate abuse of power."

The same cannot be said of Senator Bill Frist's decision to push a Senate debate of the Federal Marriage Amendment this month. Despite the fact that many principled members of his own party oppose the effort to amend the Constitution, Frist has decided the potential to use gays as a wedge issue is more important than dealing with other issues that actually stand a chance of being solved. (He's got his advance team on it already, with screeds like this one from Kathleen Parker running in newspapers across the country lamenting Americans' apparent lack of interest in enshrining discrimination in our founding document. Parker's arguments, by the way, are so cockamamie as to preclude bothering to rebut them.)

I hope senior citizens who'd like to see Congress revisit Medicare's prescription drug plan, doctors who want a fix to their reimbursement formula and tort reform, and myriad other groups whose issues deserve Congressional attention are watching and realizing that the leadership of the Republican Party doesn't care about any of that or any of them. To borrow from Aaron Sorkin's script for The American President: "We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you [insert Republican here] is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family, and American values and character..."

With that, I'm off to Minnesota for the weekend, where I hope to bump into another politician, real this time, who told it like it was: Walter Mondale, who will be at the Minneapolis riverfront before the fireworks. Have a wonderful Independence Day, and get some rest: When we return from holiday, the election kicks into high gear. Edwards for VP!

P.S.: Check out today's totals on the Electoral Vote Predictor. Kerry's got the lead!

Thursday, July 01, 2004

In the John

Papa Tony's workers running out of dough

If you're like me, you've been wondering lately why all the Papa John's in Chicagoland have suddenly turned into Papa Tony's. This article provides the explanation, and it isn't a pretty one. Apparently the owner of the Chicagoland franchises, who also owns Panda Express, had quite the fight with Papa John's before going his own way. Now he isn't paying employees at his stores, and some of them are closing. Looks like the answer to "Who's your daddy?" for Chicagoland pizza lovers is "Nobody." You know your business is in trouble when newspaper articles about it include lines like this one:

"Papa Tony's employees who want to file a wage claim should contact the Illinois Department of Labor at (312) 793-1804."

At least when they close the stores they'll probably take down the ugly vinyl signs they've been hanging in front of the old Papa John's signs.

New links

I don't know if you, as a reader of this site, often peruse the links in the sidebar. I've recently added a few that will be of particular interest as the election plays out between now and November.

The first, Electoral Vote Predictor, updates daily with polling data in each state. A map shows which states each candidate is leading and the extent of their lead; Kerry has a safe lead in California and Bush a safe lead in Texas, but Kerry's hold on Nevada is tenuous; likewise for Bush in Pennsylvania. (I predict those two will swap: Kerry will win in Pennsylvania, but Bush will probably grab Nevada back. If Kerry gets both, I'm willing to guarantee victory.) At the top of the page, a counter shows you how many electoral votes each candidate would get today based on the polls.

The second, The Note, is a daily rundown of, well, everything surrounding the presidential election. They follow the ad buys, the veepstakes, every appearance--everything. And they seem to think that Kerry is going to announce his VP choice next Wednesday, having already hired a chief of staff and a press secretary for the soon-to-be second banana. That's pretty much what I thought: wait until the holiday and the Iraq handover are over, then get started on the pre-convention blitz. Here's hoping I can get my Kerry/Edwards sign out soon.

I hope the new links provide you with hours of enjoyment!

More Than Six Feet

Roundabout Theatre Company - The American Airlines Theatre

When I head to New York at the end of this month, I'll have more than work on my mind. Today I bought my ticket for Peter Krause's big Broadway debut, Arthur Miller's After the Fall. It looks like he's playing an anguished character. Will I get to see one of his splendid Nate Fisher screams? Only time will tell...