Friday, September 30, 2005

Bashed by Bush

Doug Grow: Kelly's plaintive plea: Why can't we all just get along?

This may seem a bit faraway to many of you, but I still try to follow Twin Cities politics, and I find it hilarious that "Democrat" Randy Kelly, the mayor of St. Paul, is about to get destroyed by actual Democrat Chris Coleman in the general election after endorsing Bush for president last year. As this article points out, Kelly also didn't support the late Paul Wellstone or Walter Mondale when they ran against turncoat Norm Coleman for Senate in 2002. He won't even promise to support whatever Democrat runs against no-taxes-even-if-it-kills-us Republican governor Tim Pawlenty next time around.

And now he's peddling this crazy idea that voters are voting against him because they're angry--at Bush, not him--and suggesting that that's no reason to vote against him.

Apparently St. Paul voters have found a few other reasons to trade you in on a newer model, Randy. Maybe your buddy Bush will appoint you to some cushy job when they put you on the streets in November.


Keeping a Straight Face - The screwups were the best part of the live season premiere of Will & Grace. By Dana Stevens

Did anyone else see the live episode of Will & Grace last night? I realize it ran against The O.C.--thank heavens for the dual tuner in our DVR--but it was worth watching. I feel bad for W&G; it's a show I always enjoy but never carve out a place for in my television schedule. Last night reminded me why I like it: the characters are well-drawn and the acting is usually spot-on. (Debra Messing wasn't quite on her game last night, but she can be forgiven for that; her role, and getting her broad reactions just right, probably requires more takes than a lot of the other, more caricature-ish work on the show.)

As an added bonus, last night's episode included a few things we don't often see:
  • An extended kiss between Will and his boss, played by Alec Baldwin
  • Jack with only one eyebrow, which was enormously funny
  • A nod to Tom DeLay's recent legal problems, in the form of Baldwin saying he needs to get to D.C. to shred some documents "without delay," then explaining to Will exactly what he means when Will doesn't get the reference
  • Jack and Grace pausing for several seconds between lines to stop themselves from giggling
  • A reference to Stan's purported ashes, dumped from a trash bag into the ocean, actually being dirt and Rice Krispies
It was quite a night, and may have convinced me to give W&G a "record all episodes" order on the DVR. An old, loyal friend on its last legs deserves better than to be ignored for a bunch of whiny teenagers.

(I'm still watching The O.C. first, though...)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

He's What?

Attempt to Pick Successor Is Foiled
Blunt Temporarily Takes Reins as Conservatives Reject Dreier

Interesting to see how the intrigue within the House G.O.P. over the last two days is being played in the media. On the attempt by DeLay and Hastert to get Dreier to keep the majority leader's chair warm:
There was one big problem: When DeLay's indictment was unsealed yesterday, conservatives in the GOP caucus immediately erupted in anger over rumors that the selection of Dreier, whom they regard as too moderate, was being presented as a fait accompli.
Nice touch, adding the French phrase.

Another article explains the "reasons" why Dreier was rejected:
At a private midday meeting, several conservative lawmakers argued that Dreier's voting record was too moderate. According to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, some participants in the meeting said the Californian had voted in favor of expanded federal funding for stem cell research and against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. There also was grumbling that the Californian favored a less restrictive policy on immigration than many conservatives.

"There was a lot of discussion in that room about will ... he advance the conservative agenda?" said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who attended the meeting and said he personally would have been comfortable with Dreier in the post.
And a lot of whispering in the room about will...people make a big deal out of the fact that he's sleeping with his chief of staff?

If only someone in the mainstream press were brave enough to address this story honestly...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Gay Panic?

Blunt picked to replace DeLay as US House leader

Looks like David Dreier won't be the queen of the House, after all. Could it be that someone in the closed-door meeting that unanimously picked Blunt for the job mentioned that Dreier's living situation might present a problem for the party's base?


Dreier a Different Kind of Republican

Nice headline, no? Check out a few choice paragraphs from the AP article that's introducing the new majority leader to most of the nation:
Dreier has a more moderate voting record on some social issues than DeLay, for example opposing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that DeLay supported.
And otherwise opposing every bit of gay-rights legislation he sees, but they're actually telling you this so you'll understand the last line of the article:
A native of Kansas City, Mo., Dreier is unmarried.
Got that? He's 53, he's from the Midwest but moved to California to attend an all-men's school, and he isn't married. I guarantee you that the people writing these articles know the real score and are alluding to it quietly. It'll be interesting to see if anyone mentions that he lives with his chief of staff!


DeLay Is Charged With Criminal Conspiracy in Texas

Finally! If ever there was a man who deserved this, it's Tom DeLay.

The best part? A closeted gay man will take over his job!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Add It Up

Average Person Spends More Time Using Media than Anything Else

Is this really a surprise?

Here are some key findings from the Ball State University study:
• About 30 percent of the observed waking day was spent with media as the sole activity versus 20.8 percent for work activity, while an additional 39 percent of the day was spent with media while involved in some other activity
• In any given hour no less than 30 percent of those studied were engaged in some way with television, and in some hours of the day that figure rose to 70 percent
• While television is still by far the dominant medium in terms of the time average Americans spend daily with media at 240.9 minutes, the computer has emerged as the second most significant media device at about 120 minutes
• About 30 percent of all media time is spent exposed to more than one medium at a time
• People ages 18 to 24 spend less time online than any other age group except those older than 65
• Levels of concurrent media exposure were higher among those 40 to 65 than people 18 to 39
• Women spend more time multitasking with two or more types of media than men
• Use of the Web, e-mail and phones is substantially higher on Fridays than any other day of the week
So a full 69% of the average day is spent engaged either fully or partly with media. That translates, in a standard 16-hour waking day, to about 11 hours.

Of course, right? Lots of people listen to music at work, whether CDs or a radio that plays in the office. For me, that adds 8 hours a day of media expsoure. And lots of people turn on the TV every morning when they wake up (I read the paper, which still counts) and every night when they get home from work. Americans spend an average of 4 hours a day watching TV--and when I think about it, that's probably not too far off, counting weekends spent watching football and movies on DVD, which bumps up the average.

In fact, I can't believe it's ONLY 69% of the day. For me it's probably every waking minute except the time I spend in the shower at home or walking to and from the bathroom at work. Every other time, I'm either reading a book or newspaper, watching TV, reading online, or listening to music--or doing two or more of those things at once. So more like 96%. Obviously that's not all fully engaged time--I work, and drive, and cook while listening to music, and eat while reading the paper--but I think this is a generational thing. Am I wrong? Or are our lives generally stuffed with media?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mystery Solved > The West Wing

If you don't want to know who leaked the super-secret shuttle to the media, don't read this. Or watch last night's episode of The West Wing, which sent signals so clear that it would be dishonest to the audience if they weren't accurate.

Last season ended with a shot of C.J. looking troubled about the leak, and everything pointed to her being the source of the reporter's information--a fact that was noted repeatedly last night as the White House Counsel interrogated her. But it ain't C.J., folks--she looked genuinely stunned to realize that she's considered a suspect.

It's Toby! And, really, how can we be surprised? His brother is an astronaut--think he's gonna let other astronauts die in space over a little national security concern? He has the knowledge of the shuttle and he has the motive to reveal that knowledge and force Bartlet's hand into launching it on a rescue mission, thereby revelaing its existence to the rest of the world.

But if you're not convinced, watch the beginning of the episode. Three years later, at the dedication of the Bartlet Presidential Library, we learn a great deal about what the future holds for our favorite staffers. Jed is older and grayer, looking like the MS has not been kind to him, and Abby is nowhere to be seen. C.J. is married--to Danny! Will Bailey is in Congress. Charlie is--well, it's not clear what Charlie is doing, but he doesn't have Zoey on his arm, so there goes that fairy tale. Kate Harper has written a book. Josh is still hyperactive--he runs in and bounds up the stairs to tell everyone that the President has arrived for the dedication, though it's not made clear who that president is. (If Josh is running in to tell them, isn't it likely it's because Santos wins?)

Toby is at Columbia, which seems to agree with him. And he thanks Jed for inviting him. No one else does this. One could interpret this as a sign that he will not part company with the rest on the best of terms.

Still not convinced? Richard Schiff is leaving the show a few episodes in. (So are Martin Sheen, Stockard Channing, and Dule Hill.) He's said that he's not happy with the way his character's departure was handled.

Of course, the thing that got me the most in last night's episode had nothing to do with Toby. While the Danny-C.J. attachment pleases me, it was the scene between Josh and Donna that captivated me most. Donna comes to Josh looking to be his deputy, and he reads her a list of things she said about Santos while working for Bingo Bob. All of this is very standard--but Josh cracks. "If you don't think I miss you every day..." he says, before Donna walks out amid his offer to "make some calls" for her. He follows, looks after her as she walks away, and makes that face he makes every time he looks after Donna and thinks about his love for her.

This doesn't make me optimistic that things are ever going to work out between the two of them, but it was nice to at least hear Josh acknowledge how much he misses Donna. Considering that this is now a John Wells show, I have little doubt that we'll see more of the Josh-Donna plot before the series ends.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Seeing Stars

I've been sort of out of commission this week--that nasty head cold I mentioned on Tuesday never went away, and today a doctor called it an "upper respiratory infection." Translation: "There are no antibiotics to make this go away--here are some over-the-counter things you can try that should reduce your misery. Be glad you don't have pneumonia."

So in lieu of more thoughtful posts, I've made a slight change on the sidebar for those of you interested in listening to some new music. I've added asterisks in front of the 2005 albums I see as frontrunners for my eventual awards. Two of the later picks, Sufjan Stevens and Antony and the Johnsons, have been blowing my mind this week! (Too bad they haven't blown away the foggy, congested feeling.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


China’s income gap provokes alarm, report says

Here's something to think about:
The most affluent one-fifth of China’s population earn 50 percent of total income, with the bottom one-fifth taking home only 4.7 percent, said the report by the official Xinhua News Agency, carried in newspapers Wednesday.
This is considered an alarming development. Yet in every year from 1993 to 2001, the bottom 20% in America took in between 3.5 and 3.7% of income, while the top 20% received between 48.7 and 50.1%, with the latter figure taking place in 2001. I don't imagine the curve has flattened out since then, do you? Funny that the AP doesn't bother to mention this in its article...

Unintended Consequence

WorldNetDaily: America's pro-homosexual giants

The Human Rights Campaign publishes a list each year of the best and worst companies for GLBT employees. The link above leads to a list of the 101 companies that got a perfect score this year, as published by WorldNetDaily, which doesn't approve of the trend. They're not the only ones--apparently some customers are threatening to boycott Starbucks because one of the 100 messages on their new coffee cups was written by Armistead Maupin, a gay man: "My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too damn short."

So here's the unintended consequence that I hope to create: start patronizing the names on the list, and avoid the ones that get poor scores. For instance:
In electronics retail, Best Buy offers full protections to GLBT employees, while competitor Radio Shack scores a 29 percent and Circuit City holds a 43 percent score.

Corporations shown to be actively working against equality include Emerson Electric with a 29 percent score; Entergy with 36 percent; Exxon Mobil with 14 percent; and Perot Systems with a 14 percent score.
So, if you can, buy your gas from Chevron or BP. Both scored 100. (Shell got an 86.) Ford/Volvo, DaimlerChrysler, and Toyota's sales division got scores of 100--but not Nissan, which got a 29. (GM came close with an 86.) Miller and Molson Coors scored 100--but not Anheuser Busch, which got an 86. JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Washington Mutual each got a 100, as did many other financial companies, while MBNA got a 43. Target got an 86, while Wal-Mart got a 57 and Meijer got a lowly 14.

You can view the whole report here. Listings by industry start on page 35.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Magic Wand


Comcast's Web site would have you believe that "with DVR, your remote might start feeling like a magic wand."

And you know what? It's true! Our DVR arrived yesterday. I promptly recorded the premiere of How I Met Your Mother, along with the new episode of Weeds. And, as promised, we were able to watch the former, normally on at 7:30, starting at 8:45, then jump over to the latter, which starts at 9:00, and watch it from beginning to end, finishing our viewing a few minutes after the program normally concludes at 9:30. We could even pause so I could stir the chicken soup I was making to help me recover from a nasty head cold.

Even better? Tonight we're taping House and Rome, both of which air in high definition--at the same time--while I'm in class. (We missed the Sunday airing of Rome to watch the disappointing Emmys.) And by skipping the commercials in House and the end credits of Rome, we'll probably be able to watch both, along with the promos for next week's episodes, and still send me off to bed at 11:00.

Even cooler than that? I missed the first of Mark Brunell's two touchdown bombs to Santana Moss last night because I was upstairs brushing my teeth. No matter--we rewound to the spot where it happened, and I watched it happen in crystal clear high definition, with 5.1 surround sound, as if I hadn't missed a thing. Then we hit the "Live" button and watched Brunell and Moss hook up again to win the game.

Truly, this is a golden age in which we live.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Confirm John Roberts

This editorial makes a good argument that Democrats should vote for Roberts: If not him, then who? Who that Bush would appoint can they approve? If the answer is no one, then Bush may as well elevate Luttig, or Janice Rogers Brown, and barrel them through on the same 55-45 vote as the Democrats will have shown they'll give to any Bush nominee. We'll see what the party decides to do this week...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Roll the Dice

Bush Rules Out Tax Hike to Fund Recovery

Well, he's got to keep his fiscal conservative cred somehow after leading us through a massive spending binge and promising money left and right last night on national television. But how does he think he's going to pay for a new New Orleans? Monopoly money? Mardi Gras beads?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Accountability Moment

Achenblog: Bush to Resign?

Joel Achenbach raises the question I've been asking for days: What does it mean when President Bush says that he "takes full responsibility" for the piss-poor response to Katrina? Surely it doesn't mean that he's heading to New Orleans tonight to turn over the reins to Dick Cheney during prime time, though Bill Maher would have him do so:
Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you anymore. There's no more money to spend. You used up all of that. You can't start another war because you also used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people.

Yeah, listen to your mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit card's maxed out, and no one is speaking to you: mission accomplished! Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service. And the oil company. And the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or spaceman?!

Now, I know what you're saying. You're saying that there's so many other things that you, as president, could involve yourself in...Please don't. I know, I know, there's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela, and eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote. But, sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man.

Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire metropolis to rising water and snakes.

On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two Trade Centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans...Maybe you're just not lucky!

I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side. So, yes, God does speak to you, and what he's saying is, "Take a hint."
The speech is at 8. Should be fascinating!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bright Light

Massachusetts Rejects Bill to Eliminate Gay Marriage

It's been a crap day--crap month, really--but this news of how rapidly change has taken hold in Massachusetts really does brighten things a bit.

Here We Go Again

Judge: School Pledge Is Unconstitutional

Should be interesting to see what the new-look Supreme Court that will eventually hear this case does with it now that punting it back for reasons of standing isn't an option.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Here's a quick reality-based question for you all:

Let's say that the water heater in the house you rent starts leaking on Monday morning. It's producing a rust-filled puddle on the floor. At 8:15 A.M., you call your landlord, who tells you someone will be there to look at and possibly replace the water heater that day. Later in the day--let's say 11:03, because that's what it says on the phone where you made the call to get an update on the situation--you're told that the landlord himself will come at 8:30 that night. You protest that this will leave no time to replace the non-functioning water heater in time for the next morning's showers, but your landlord is unmoved. In fact, he tells the other occupant of your house, around 11:15, to shut off the water and gas to the water heater--ensuring that there will be no hot water of any kind in the house.

Let's say your landlord(s) come to the house at 8:30 P.M., as scheduled. They look at the water heater, determine that to the best of their non-plumber knowledge it needs to be replaced, and, when asked what you should do in the hot-waterless meantime, ask if you have a gym membership so you can shower there. (You don't. You're quite lazy, and getting a bit soft as you age.) Let's say your landlord goes to Home Depot around 9:00 and calls you twice, once to ask you to measure the water heater's height and diameter and again to ask you to turn off the gas (again), lest the house blow up. And let's say the landlord says he should be able to have the water heater replaced Tuesday.

Let's say Tuesday morning rolls around. You and your co-occupant both take freezing-cold showers, which are nothing compared to the suffering of Katrina victims but not really something you'd care to repeat, either. Let's say that after you call a few times looking for a status update, your landlord calls you at 1:30 (now 29 hours after you reported the problem) to tell you that he's discovered, landlord of rental properties that he is, that a permit is required before a water heater can be installed, and that this will delay the installation until tomorrow.

Let's say that at this point you ask your landlord if he has ever taken a cold shower. Let's say he says he doesn't know, and you tell him it sucks. A lot. He asks what you want him to do, and you tell him you want to be put in a hotel for the night so you can take a real shower. Let's say he tells you that isn't financially feasible, and proceeds to tell you you're blowing the situation out of proportion. Let's say he tells you he's been running around trying to resolve the situation, and you tell him that while you appreciate his efforts, the fact remains that you're left with no hot water. Let's say he tells you to boil water for a shower, and let's say you're so angry by this point that you fail to ask how he suggests this boiling water should be transported into the showerhead. Let's say that somewhere in this process, along with telling you you're unreasonable, he suggests that you terminate the lease today. Let's say you tell him all you want is to be able to take a hot shower in the morning, not to move. Let's say he merely repeats his statement that he can't believe you're blowing this out of proportion, tells you there should be a new water heater on Wednesday, and hangs up.

Are you a completely unreasonable person to expect that if your leased home does not meet the standards to which you agreed when you signed on--namely, that there would be hot water available at the turn of a faucet--you will be given other accomodation or otherwise compensated for your inconvenience?

Sham Drama

Roberts Repeatedly Dodges Roe V. Wade

Today's proceedings are an actual test of the merits of putting John Roberts at the head of the Supreme Court like House, MD is a real drama. In both cases, the conclusion--confirmation in this case, diagnosis and cure in that one--is foregone, and the rest is play-acting to delay the inevitable.

There's a difference, of course--I watch House (which returns tonight, when I'll be in class, darn the luck) to be entertained, and by golly, the play-acting of Hugh Laurie and company does the job. But people are watching, and reading about, these hearings to be informed regarding the views of a man who is going to be leading the Court for a very long time unless he has a genetic defect of which we know not. (Considering Bush was asking potential justices about the minutiae of their exercise habits, I'm betting the health of the clan Roberts has been studied and its longevity well attested.) And they will not get much information.

They did get one tidbit this morning: When asked about his pro bono work on Romer V. Evans, a gay rights case that he forgot to note on his list of cases to which he contributed time, Roberts said only that he never turned down a request for assistance, declining to answer Sen. Arlen Specter's query about whether helping on a case meant, at least, that it didn't present a big moral problem for Roberts. Which means that, given the chance to say he doesn't have a big moral problem with upholding the idea that the Constitution at least forbids laws written with the sole intent of discriminating against gays and lesbians, Roberts demurred. Not a good sign. But then, it wasn't a good sign that he dressed up his family like Victorians for his unveiling as the nominee; should we be stunned if he turns out to have Victorian values?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Finally! About Richard Nelson: Reviews

2,990. It's barely under the wire, but I've made it into the top 3,000.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Gervaisian Evasion

FEMA chief relieved of Katrina duties

I know there's nothing funny about a hurricane, I the only one who recognizes this conversation from TV?
Brown's biography on the FEMA Web site says he had once served as an "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight," and a White House news release in 2001 said Brown had worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., in the 1970s "overseeing the emergency-services division."

However, a city spokeswoman told the magazine Brown had actually worked as "an assistant to the city manager."

"The assistant is more like an intern," Claudia Deakins told the magazine. "Department heads did not report to him." Time posted the article on its Web site late on Thursday.
Cue David Brent and Gareth on The Office, bickering about whether Gareth is "assistant " or "assistant to the" regional manager over and over.

By the way, it's encouraging to me that an internship for a small Oklahoma city with a tiny bit of emergency management somewhere in the job description (or even the trumped-up job Brown claimed to have done) qualifies one to be the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. I'm sure I can find one or two bullets in my resume that qualify me to be something really cool, like commissioner of baseball (I operated the music and the scoreboard for a single-A minor league team one summer), or president of Harvard (I was a member of a college curriculum committee for three years), or curator of the Louvre (I wrote museum exhibits, worked in museum PR, and even speak un petit morceau de francais). If none of those work out, I suppose I could be the director of FEMA--my basement did flood once in college.

No Brainer

In Poll, Most Say Abandon Flooded Areas

With no disrespect to those New Orleans residents who find this idea loathesome, isn't it kind of a no-brainer? Parts of the city have been flooded under 20 feet of toxic soup. No matter how high and how strong the levees are built, those areas will continue to sink ever-further below an ever-rising sea level. There's been a lot of talk recently about the sunk-costs argument for staying in Iraq--and how it's a lot of bunk. That's the same argument those who want to rebuild find themselves making--this city was already here, and too many people lived here to simply abandon it.

But those who are less blinded by hometown affection see the city for what it was--a convention and tourism magnet of a high-ground downtown surrounded by low-lying urban blight. If the high-ground downtown is maintained, while everyone else moves to higher ground elsewhere, the city's only viable business could carry on even as most of its people flee. There are, of course, myriad other concerns--oil and gas, in particular--but any rebuilding effort should be carefully considered and planned. Draining the water and throwing up houses in the same places isn't honoring the memories of the former city--it's throwing good money after bad.

After 9/11, we swore that we'd never again be caught unprepared. Isn't this a similar situation? Rather than trying the "build the levees so high only a perfect storm can swamp them" strategy again, shouldn't we consider doing something that will ensure that most of a major American city isn't turned into a toxic lake again in the future? Drain the flooded city out, let people return to collect whatever they can salvage, knock down everything that remains, and leave the lowlands to become what they want to become--a swamp.

Insensitive? Probably. But anything else is just setting ourselves up, at great expense, to watch the same thing happen again one day.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Schwarzenegger will veto gay marriage bill
California governor says legislation would clash with will of voters

Not a surprise, but a disappointment nonetheless. Arnold could have used this as an opportunity to stand up for something he says he believes in:
The governor has until Oct. 9 to issue the veto. Despite his promise to do so, Schwarzenegger “believes gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationship,” Thompson’s statement said. “He is proud that California provides the most rigorous protections in the nation for domestic partners.”
Instead of protecting the rights he claims to support, though, he's protecting his right flank. Arnold says he awaits the ruling of the courts on the matter. Here's hoping that when the California Supreme Court eventually rules that Proposition 22 (Arnold's excuse for this veto) is unconstitutional, the Senate and Assembly pass the bill again--and the governor, whoever it may be, jumps at the opportunity to sign it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Ducks in a Row

I realize it's a bit strange, but I think this photo of the eight remaining members of the Supreme Court is interesting. Filing out of the cathedral after the service, the eight could have walked out two by two, or en masse, or by voting bloc. Instead, they left in order--the order in which they took their seats on the Court. I think this is a fitting tribute to Rehnquist, who, whatever his legal positions, was evidently a great boss, according to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Give him this--his people knew their places and knew them well. Well enough to fly in formation even at his funeral.

Roller Coaster

Soaring gas price starts to retreat

This morning, sitting at the light at Roselle and Golf Roads in Schaumburg/Hoffman Estates, I watched this story's headline play out. As I sat in the left turn lane, the marquee started shedding numbers, and the $3.199 was replaced, by the time I got to turn, with a $2.999 price for regular unleaded. Not great, but a six percent drop isn't a bad thing, either. Something tells me, though, that we won't be seeing gas prices that start with a one again until the stuff hits ten bucks a gallon. Maybe they'll start advertising prices by the quart, like how they post a half-pound price for meat and cheese in grocery store delis?

This Is It

Calif. lawmakers pass gay marriage bill
Action is first by a U.S. legislative body; bill goes to Schwarzenegger's desk

It all comes down to a decision by Arnold. Both houses of California's legislature have now passed a bill to allow same-sex marriage in that state.

I'd like to believe that Schwarzenegger will sign the bill into law, but I have a feeling he'll be getting calls this morning from Republican leaders who don't like the idea of a G.O.P. governor being the first to put the stamp of approval on legalized gay marriage.

Be brave, Arnold! Instead of remembering you as an action hero, let history remember you as a real hero. Sign the bill.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sinking Ship

AP: White House Trying to Regain Footing

The headline may as well be "AP calls Bush an incompetent boob." This is the least gentle mainstream press article I've yet seen regarding Bush and his administration and their abominable response to the hurricane and subsequent flooding in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast. There's a timeline comparing Bush's planned events to the onset of disaster, making clear that he either didn't get how bad this could be or didn't care. His post-hurricane actions are listed one by one and dismissed as failures, from his first speech on the subject to his PR visit on Friday, during which he waxed poetic about Trent Lott's future porch rather than showing any concern for the hundreds of thousands who were still stranded and getting no help from Bush's government. As Bill Maher put it Friday night:
[Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff] said, 'The critical thing was to get people out there before this disaster. Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part.' And this is what I call 'unintentional racism.' Because this guy - that's the whole thing with the Bush people. They just can't imagine, 'Why don't you just pack up your Range Rover, grab a case of Poland Spring water out of the garage, and go to your summer home? What is the problem?!' They just don't get it.
On the same show, it was fun to watch Anderson Cooper's indignant response to the adminstration's repeated suggestion that there will be time later for accountability:
All these politicians all this week are saying, 'Well, you know what? This is not the time to point fingers; this is not the time to, you know, quibble about things.' Well, you know what? When is the time, because I'm happy to write it down in my engagement book. And make an appointment, because, to me, the time is now, when the world is watching."
The White House claims it has no time for politics right now, but something tells me someone is there right now, with a name that rhymes with "stove," trying to figure out how to spin this in the president's favor. For the first time since taking office nearly five years ago, Bush and Rove may not be able to find a way around firing some folks for this mess. If both Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff still have jobs in two weeks...let's just say the press will be even more emboldened than it already has been by this tragedy to call Bush to account.

More Praise

Alan Dershowitz: Telling the Truth About Chief Justice Rehnquist

Alan Dershowitz wrestles with the same questions about what to say about a dead man--and comes to the same conclusion:
So here’s the truth about Chief Justice Rehnquist you won’t hear on Fox News or from politicians. Chief Justice William Rehnquist set back liberty, equality, and human rights perhaps more than any American judge of this generation. His rise to power speaks volumes about the current state of American values. ...

Rehnquist’s judicial philosophy was result-oriented, activist, and authoritarian. He sometimes moderated his views for prudential or pragmatic reasons, but his vote could almost always be predicted based on who the parties were, not what the legal issues happened to be. He generally opposed the rights of gays, women, blacks, aliens, and religious minorities. He was a friend of corporations, polluters, right wing Republicans, religious fundamentalists, homophobes, and other bigots.
That's the Rehnquist we all knew and didn't love. Good thing someone's willing to tell the truth about him.

Faint Praise

HRC Comments on the Passing of Chief Justice William Rehnquist

Since learning late Saturday night of the passing of William Rehnquist, I've been running a question around in my head, the same one I had with Ronald Reagan, only amplified: What does one say about the death of a person one didn't really like?

Well, here's what the Human Rights Campaign and its leader had to say:
The Human Rights Campaign, along with our fellow Americans and people worldwide, learned late last night that William Rehnquist, chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, passed away after a year-long bout with cancer. Today we offer our condolences to the chief justice's family, friends and colleagues.

"Chief Justice Rehnquist's over three decades of service on the court will have an impact for decades to come," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "The chief justice's passing is a time for national reflection: about who we are as a nation, and how far we've come since he began his service on the court in 1972."
It's not quite "He voted against our cause every chance he got, the bastard," but it's close, isn't it?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Peeking Through

Calif. Senate Passes Gay Marriage Bill

Despite the daily deluge--literally--of bad news, there are good things happening in the world. (Though perhaps some apocalyptic folk might see this news as another sign that we're in the end times...) California's Senate became the first legislative body in the United States to vote for gay marriage this week. Not civil unions; not domestic partnerships; not a law or amendment to ban gay marriage. By a vote of 21 to 15, the Senate voted to make gay marriage legal in California. If the Assembly can find a few more votes (they shot this bill down 41-37 in June), all that will stand between California gay couples and marriage licenses is the Terminator.

Since such progress is unlikely to reach Illinois any time soon, I must content myself with the fact that the two reviews I wrote earlier this week have vaulted me to spot 3088 in Amazon's reviewer rankings. At this rate, I may break into the top 1000--sometime in 2008. But a rank starting with the number "2" is looking like a distinct possibility.

Have a good Labor Day weekend.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Western White House?

Retail Gas Prices Jump, Deliveries Falter

Here's an idea for a president who has too few: Encourage businesses to help kill two birds with one stone. As gas supplies dwindle and prices soar, one way to help stave off an economic disaster is to get people off the roads. And as Bush's recent working vacation in Crawford supposedly demonstrated, it's possible to stay home and get a lot of work done. (Considering that most of us don't have protesters down at the end of the driveway, we might be more productive than Bush was.)

The answer is right in front of Bush: he should call on businesses to encourage their employees whose jobs allow it to telecommute a few days each week for the next month. Think of the millions of gallons of gas that would be saved? Think of the money households would save? And Bush could go further and encourage workers to donate the money they save by not commuting to relief efforts. Oh, and American workers and employers could discover that telecommuting can actually work, which could help keep more cars off our overcrowded roads in the long run, reducing time lost to traffic, money spent on foreign oil, and pollution generated by idling engines. It's win-win-win.