Saturday, November 25, 2006

Does this mean they don't support the troops?

Now back in power, the Democrats have grand objectives - certainly going far beyond the rallying cries of Iraq and socialized health care:
Sen. Tim Johnson said in an interview that a top priority is the military lending measure, which caps at 36% the annual percentage rate, including fees, that can be charged to service members and their dependents. The South Dakota Democrat warned that the provision - intended to curb payday lending - may interfere with the credit system.

The measure "may have a lot of unintended consequences that will go far beyond just the payday industry," he said. "We are going to have to revisit that issue and make sure that the end result of this legislation isn't to deny military members and their families access to banking services that they've always assumed would be there."

The measure, written by Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., who narrowly lost his reelection bid last week, "flew through here awful quickly in a very political environment," Sen. Johnson said.

Though he said he was sympathetic to the problem, noting that one of his sons was an Army veteran, he warned that carve-outs for specific types of people could set a dangerous precedent.

"This time it's military. Who's to say it isn't going to be widows and orphans or other sympathetic groups in the future?" he asked. "We need to address the needs of people who have short-term, low-denominational credit needs, but I fear that the legislation we passed is going to have unintended consequences that were not fully thought through."

Wait, wait, wait - since when are the Democrats concerned about giving out special benefits to minority groups?

Realism from deep space

I'm a great fan of Soviet propaganda posters (see this great collection for starters) - I find them beautiful in a very strange and expressive way, and much as I deplore what they stand for, the ability of the USSR and other Communist regimes to glorify, say, farmers or refrigerator makers is really amazing.

So naturally, my curiosity was piqued when I came across this collection of political billboards from Cuba (via Metafilter).


Ben over at Badger Blues made an interesting catch a few days ago:
The approach may be the first indication of how the Democrats plan to use their ability to control the House agenda as the majority power, setting the terms of debate while lifting the strict rules that Republicans used to curtail dissent. […]

Because House rules changes are, by tradition, party-line votes, breaking the package into its components would also allow Republicans to support individual amendments, even though they probably would vote against the package in the end.

The unorthodox approach, more reminiscent of the drawn-out legislating done in the Senate than the slam-dunks of the House, would also give Democratic leaders a chance to show that they plan to change the way the House does business, Democrats said.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Fast-track to problems?

Kevin over at Lakeshore Laments has a good post on the rejection of two trade treaties by Congress:
It seems very likely that the new Democratic Congress will be one that kills free trade. The signs were already on the wall with the debate over CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) and Singapore Free Trade Acts, and those agreements passed on the skin of it’s teeth. With Majorities now in their favor, any free trade agreement in the next two years is clearly dead on arrival.

Returning to something a bit old

I promised a little while back to give a quick digression on the differences I see between the right and left sides of the blogosphere, so since I'm posting anyway, let's do that.

I certainly continue to believe that the Lieberman victory was at the same time a major loss for the Kosack left - known primarily for its vitriol. This is in stark contrast to the major "conservative" (or more precisely, center-right libertarian and independent) bloggers - especially central figures like Glenn Reynolds, Ann Althouse, and Dean Esmay. During the 2004 campaign, I saw their impact - in a race in which Rove quite pointedly ignored the center-right libertarian and independent vote, these major "right-wing" pundits were able to speak the language of the center to bring in voters.

I sense that as the Republican party continues to move away from the center, focusing increasingly on the perceived base of the hard religious right, even the relative centrism of these bloggers will be to increasingly little avail. But for a time, it worked well, and could again if the Republican party as a whole makes a move back toward the center.

Problems in Chi-com land

It looks like banks in China may be rather less than stable* - a worrying prospect in a number of ways:
Foreign banks threaten to roil China's savings pool. They're scheduled to take deposits from the beginning of next year as a condition of China's accession to the WTO. That's bad news for the Chinese government, which needs the savings pool to fund the bad loans in the domestic banking system. That may explain why the State Council has issued regulations further delaying the date when foreign banks can take retail deposits.

The Chinese economy has a problem; the huge amount of bad loans - probably as much as $1 trillion, equivalent to more than 40% of GDP - that Chinese state banks have made to loss-making state-owned companies with political connections. So far, everything's been fine. Foreign investors have snapped up minority stakes in Chinese banks in IPOs this year, the most recent a record-breaking $21.6 billion operation for Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Incidentally, look for lots of banking-related posts in the near future from me - not because I'm particularly interested in the subject, but because American Banker is the only thing I can really read to slack off on the job.

*No password? Try BugMeNot - they won't bug you!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Chris Rock PSA

After yesterday's Taser incident, I have decided to help educate the community of Above-Ground Men with this helpful PSA: Chris Rock, How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked By the Police. Watch and learn folks.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Taser Time

YouTube is often belittled by the MSM as something fun, a memory vault of music videos, Daily Show clip, and other fun and games, but not a serious tool for democratizing the media space.

That's starting to change.

The latest controversy involves a UCLA student getting repeatedly Tasered by campus police during an ID check at a computer lab. The student apparently didn't have an ID and "exchanged words" with the officers. He may also have "gone limp." The student gets handcuffed, Tasered, and then doesn't get up. He gets Tasered again, and again, and again.

Watch it. The videos pretty damn scary, and a little unclear, but it makes the point well enough. I don't normally play sidewalk superintendant to the police, they have a difficult job to do and sometimes, even the best cops, need to use force. That's why we pay them. As a former security guard, who was trained by ex-cops, however, the first rule we learned was to use the minimum of force necessary to de-escalate the situtation.

Sorry boys, Tasering somebody who is lying on the ground, convulsing in pain, limp, in handcuffs, doesn't count.

As the editorial says "after all, they are peace officers."

But thanks to YouTube, you can make up your own mind.
We report and decide.
But you can do the same thing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dance Dance Revolution

...and not my co-blogger, either. I mean that Joe - and how and why he won rather fascinates me.

Today via Metafilter, two perspectives on the Lamont loss from campaign insiders Tim Tagaris and David Sirota.

Tagaris has the tone of a campaign staffer - I've been there, and I know the bar talk on E-day +1. The fascinating thing is that via Tagaris, it all finally comes out. It's too long to really excerpt, but here's the people and groups he calls out:
The Democratic Party writ large (for failing to properly talk Joe out of running an "indie" (Tagaris's word, not mine) campaign).
Barak Obama.
Bill Clinton.
(Snarky aside: wait, he can do wrong in the eyes of a Democrat? Mostly confused aside: what's with calling him President Clinton?)
Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer.
Senator Edwards.

I think this says two things, both important for Dems to hear. First, it says that lefty bloggers alone cannot win an election. It's effectively the final plot point in the Dean-Kerry-Lamont graph. Tagaris goes on at length about Lamont's inability to get prominent Dems to help him raise money and volunteers; that, by implication, means that blogs were left to pick up the slack - which they were obviously unable to do.

I also what it implies about Dean's "50-State Strategy," and how much that influenced funding. I haven't seen much dissection of the vaunted program post-election, unfortunately.

But Sirota vehemently disagrees with my first conclusion:
Finally, there is the myth circulating that Lamont’s loss means the Internet is not a potent political weapon. Again, this is utterly silly. With the help of top Internet political strategist Tim Tagaris, we raised millions of dollars online, created the revolutionary Family, Friends and Neighbors tool, and brought in thousands of volunteers through the Internet. Sure, it wasn’t enough to overcome the aforementioned structural challenges we faced—but without the netroots and Internet activism, the Lamont candidacy never would have gotten off the ground in the first place.

I'm not sure that's entirely convincing - especially considering it's been said after every candidate strongly supported by the far-left blogosphere has quite failed. That isn't to say, of course, that the Internet is irrelevant - I'll have another post shortly about the right side of the Internet. But Sirota is off-base if he thinks that simple "blogger-power" is going to single-handedly turn the Democratic Party around. The Party, as both Sirota and Tagaris make clear, had no particular interest in Lamont - and that hamstringed him.

Sirota's other interesting point is that the Dems may get something out of Lieberman's victory after all:
He can never again purport to speak for the Democratic Party, because he no longer even has a nominal claim to actually being a Democrat. He officially left the Democratic Party when he ran under his own party in the general election, and his candidacy relied primarily on Republican votes, money and institutional support. That means while he can still be a gadfly and still draw attention to himself, his days of being able to fundamentally damage the image of the national Democratic Party are over.

Except that the point of much of both rants was that, you know, the Democratic Party still more or less supported Lieberman. If they continue to do so once things get back in session, it will indeed present an interesting situation.

To close, in the style we seem to have adopted: Exodus Damage, by John Vanderslice, from whence the title of this post derives.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Beaten to the punch

I was planning to wax intellectual and explain just why the Democratic victory isn't necessarily a victory for the Democrats per se, but rather a backlash against Republicans who have failed to live up to promises of good governance, small government, and accountability, but Althouse beat me to the punch - and has a selection from David Brooks that sums it up nicely:
So voters kicked out Republicans but did not swing to the left. For the most part they exchanged moderate Republicans for conservative Democrats. It was a great day for the centrist Joe Lieberman, who defeated the scion of the Daily Kos net roots, Ned Lamont. It was a great day for anti-abortion Democrats like Bob Casey and probably for pro-gun Democrats like Jim Webb. It was a great day for conservative Democrats like Heath Shuler in North Carolina and Brad Ellsworth in Indiana....

I do think that Lieberman's victory was one of the most important events of Tuesday night, and signifies a great deal about where America really is right now.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Win

Democrats take the House and are poised to win the Senate, depending on the results of a possible recount in Virginia. The box score: House, 229 to 196, Senate 50 to 49 (1 undecided), Governorships 28 to 22. Nationally voters managed to confuse the chattering classes by raising the minimum wage and banning gay marriage across several states. See the Wikipedia article for even more information.

In apparent reaction to the defeat Rumsfeld falls on his sword at the prospect of being used as a bi-partisan punching bag. Good riddance, Don.

Meanwhile a wild night in Wisconsin as voters check boxes all over the ballot: Doyle keeps the governorship, VanHollen over Falk for AG, and Kagen beating Gard in the open house race. The Constitution is amended to ban gay marriage.

The Democrats, having been written-off by many of their own members, have returned.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saddam to Hang!

The verdict everyone knew was coming has finally arrived. Saddam Hussein, everyone's favorite thug, is going to meet his maker at the business end of a rope. I'm no fan of this war or capital punishment, but it couldn't happen to a worse bastard and I'm pleased he's getting his due. Ramsey Clark, get out!

Friday, November 03, 2006

The 50 Best Albums You've Never Heard

Because I still can't think of anything reasonable to say about the election, except show up and vote, I found this list at The Guardian, the aforementioned 50 best albums you've never heard. Build your indie street-cred with this one.

And, for the fans out there, more DPRK. This one seems to be a music video, the camera work is just too professional for an in-house job, not laugh out loud funny, more scary in a Triumph of the Will type way.

PS, if you actually want a look at what its really like in North Korea, watch this. Even more clips here.

Eenie, meenie

I really think I was at the UW for the glory days of the Daily Cardinal's comics section. There was real brilliance there (three of the better strips can be found here, but aren't often updated), and the best of them all was Everyone Drunk But Me.

I was perusing the archives of the comic, and found this:

...and it pretty much exactly sums up how I feel.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Colbert, Now More Than Ever

I should be writing an endorsement for my favorite candidates this year. Of course, that would assumes this blog has any readers that I would influence one way or another. Instead, and this seems to be my excuse for almost everything, lets watch some more YouTube.

Today, Colbert's performance at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner, you may have seen clips, but you need to watch the whole thing for the full effect. If you were like me, and missed it the first time around, watch and learn. Part 1 (he goes after bush), Part 2 (he goes after everyone else. . .and Bush), Part 3 (somewhat funny spoof video, Colbert plays press secretary).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Powerful Point

The NYT posts this Central Command PowerPoint slide describing the current situation in Iraq. Read the article here. Best military euphemism in the article "spontaneous mass civil conflict."