Monthly Archives: June 2006


It seems to me that whenever I post about upcoming entries, these entries never materialize. So, I’m not going to write anything of that sort in this entry.

Discourse Update

You may or may not know that I am attempting to write a political discourse this summer. I am finding that as I dig deeper, I am not coming to the conclusions I thought I would come to when I began jotting down notes for this discourse. It is very exciting to be traveling in these new directions. Alas, I am far from completing this tome and so I am reluctant to post any of the results at the moment. Suffice it to say, I believe that my discourse will repudiate certain elements of modern American conservatism.

Head On

Apply directly to the forehead.
Head on
Apply directly to the forehead
Head on
Apply directly to the forehead
Head on
Available at Walgreens

That is the most fucking annoying commercial ever. EVER!

Go is Stuck

By “stuck” I mean “stuck in my head” and by “Go” I mean that song by Kelly Clarkson that they’re playing in the Ford commercials. For some reason, I absolutely love the song. This is totally bad for my street cred, so I’m trying to compensate by continuing to read Tom Paine.

Reevaluating Tom Paine

I am currently reading Rights of Man by Thomas Paine. Since his Common Sense was critical to the American Revolution, he was someone I thought I admired. Rights of Man, though, is an answer to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. I got a little box on the left hand side that says Edmund Burke is my hero. I picked up Thomas Paine last summer and didn’t get around to reading it until now, which was before I discovered Edmund Burke.

I think it’s important to read people you disagree with, so you can widen your horizons. And every once in a while, they actually have a good idea. This book is getting the gears turning in my mind, and is leading to many thoughts that will end up in my discourse I’m working on. (Most of which will be in contradiction to Paine’s principles, I think.)

From the back cover, this also got me riled up: “Thomas Paine was the first international revolutionary… He generated one of the first blueprints for a welfare state, combining a liberal order of civil rights with egalitarian constraints.” International revolutionary? Welfare state? Blech.

Skeptic’s Paralysis

I find myself flabbergasted by this story: Warnings on WMD ‘Fabricator’ Were Ignored, Ex-CIA Aide Says. I will ignore the politics of this issue and speak of a broader issue. This line stuck out in particular: “Drumheller, who is writing a book about his experiences, described in extensive interviews repeated attempts to alert top CIA officials to problems with the defector, code-named Curveball, in the days before the Powell speech” [emphasis mine]. Instantly, alarm bells are raised in my head. How can I know to trust this source? How do I know this ex-CIA aide isn’t exaggerating his story in order to write a good book?

Then again, with all the intelligence failure going on, how can I trust George Tenet or John E. McLaughlin? How do I know they’re not just trying to cover their asses?

Who do I trust? I find myself wanting to trust neither. At this point, I am struck with skeptic’s paralysis. I can believe neither side and therefore I know nothing. I don’t know what to believe, but I want to believe something. I can’t just ignore the issue, can I?

The answer, however, can be a yes. If you answer yes, then skeptic’s paralysis evolves into a worse disease: apathy. I can know nothing, so I will do nothing.

I find myself mired in the same situation with global warming. (Excuse me, global “climate change.”) Frankly, I don’t know who to believe. I am not fond of Al Gore. I am also not fond of the writer of Jurassic Park who supposedly “debunks” global warming. Supposedly, there is a scientific consensus, but how do I know I can trust those who say there is a consensus any more than I can trust those who say there is still a debate. I hear that there’s more and more evidence, but I have no idea what this evidence is, so I cannot base an opinion based on the concept of evidence.

So, you say, find the evidence. Yet, I’m not a scientist. I can be easily fooled into believing either position. Plus, the advocates of both sides are prone to exaggeration. That only exacerbates my skeptic’s paralysis. I want to trust the scientists, but how can I trust these people to predict the weather years and years into the future when they can’t predict the weather two weeks from now?

Even with that silly problem out of the way, it doesn’t end my skeptic’s paralysis. First, I can’t trust evidence I don’t understand and which can be easily manipulated. There is no way around it: I need to trust an authority. But then, I don’t know which authority to trust. I must rely on another authority to direct me to the proper authorities. How can I trust that person?

I cannot trust anyone, but I want to trust someone.

Luckily, I think my problem can be solved. I trust television, and the Discovery Channel is going to have a special on climate change. I think I will trust that. After all, I trust the MythBusters.

Still looming, though, is the even bigger issue, hinted at in the beginning: I don’t trust know whom to trust in my government.

Spare the Air

I utilized the free BART day to visit SF instead of watching cable news while being incapacitated by the heat.

I was going to make a list, but Daryl sums it up best in a comment on myspace:

BART fare to San Francisco: $0.00
Won-ton dinner…for TWO: $10.75
Miles Davis’ 2-Disc Anthology: $9.00
The Clash’s London Calling: $9.00
Being with The Shawnsy instead of some flakebitch: PRICELESS.

And if you’re not down with that, we got two words for ya:


Today was very cheap and very satisfying.

Third Party Thinking

I’m a happy Republican, and I don’t foresee a third party coming to power any time soon. The likely thing that happens is that a third party will siphon votes from another party. With that in mind, I decided to do a little thought experiment: Create a party that cuts across ideological lines. This entry does not imply any endorsement of third party ravings, nor an endorsement of my hypothetical party’s ideas, and is simply an exercise in the realm of the hypothetical.

I would call it the Secure America Party. Here’s my platform:

  • Victory in Iraq
  • Secure our borders
  • Energy independence
  • Universal health care

Let’s explain each bit in full:

Victory in Iraq – Iraq is one of the major concerns of the American people. For any party to win, it needs a strategy for victory in Iraq. Most other third party ideas lack a plan for Iraq, and I think that’s a recipe for losing the election. The third party allows itself to distance itself from both the cut-and-run Democrats and the bumbling Bush administration’s handling of the war. Most Americans, on both sides of the political spectrum, want to win the war. The Secure America Party would have two prongs in its Iraq strategy. Since sectarian violence is threatening to tear Iraq, the first prong is dedication to stability in Iraq via an increase in military action. No more pussyfooting… take the shackles off the military and let it do its job. The second prong is to conduct this war in a responsible manner that respects civil liberties and will bring the international community in to help, especially with the bill, since we pay so much for Iraq. The SAP will attempt to placate some hardliners, libertarians, fiscal conservatives, and liberals who want us to win.

Secure our borders – Polls consistently show that Americans want the border secured. They also want some path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who have been here a long time and who have families. This is an issue that splits both Democrats and Republicans, so the SAP would have a good chance of siphoning off votes from both parties. It will advocate a phased solution: secure our borders first, and then amnesty. The SAP will call for all criminals who are illegal immigrants to be instantly deported. It will also call for all back-taxes to be paid, for additional penalties to be paid, and require all immigrants to learn English. SAP will also crack down on businesses who hire illegal immigrants, which is critical for any immigration plan to work.

Energy independence – SAP will support a Clean Energy Initiative that will provide massive funding for science and will also put strict requirements on businesses to build cleaner cars, etc. Or something like that. Since this isn’t a real party, I don’t really have to worry about the exact details. SAP will grab votes for those who care about global security. We will take away funding from dangerous regimes. SAP will also grab votes from environmentalists who care about clean energy. Many people are also angry about high gas prices and this will alleviate some of those worries.

Universal health care – Mostly, I put this to pull in more liberal votes, since I don’t think I’ve done a good enough job. Still, SAP will try to put a pro-business spin on this, as well. After all, businesses can make more money if they don’t have to worry about paying for all those health benefits.

There you have it. That’s my idea for a third party that could cut across ideological lines and steal enough votes from both parties so that it can win. Of course, what it’s missing is something all moderately successful third parties have: Powerful personalities. Without this, even with my aforementioned platform, the Secure American Party will go nowhere.

Bush Lied? I Guess Not

Breaking news (heard on Fox News): A recently declassified document reveals that America had found some 500 chemical weapons in Iraq since 2003, and there are still more sarin-filled and mustard gas-filled artillery shells out there. We found WMDs.

Now that’s some big news. Let’s see what fronts the big newspapers tomorrow.

The biggest question is: Why was this kept secret so long? Senator Santorum and others had to fight the Bush administration to get this declassified. My guess is that they didn’t want insurgents looking for those chemical weapons, finding them, and then using them. They can’t look for chemical weapons if they don’t know they’re there.

Smart move? Not so smart move? I’m undecided.

I’m not saying this revelation should change anyone’s mind, especially since now we’re focused on what we should do next, not why we went in the first place, but this should force some people to reevaluate their ideas about Iraq.

The Big Mo: Predictions for 2006

Momentum is a tricky thing. In a football game, you could say one team has momentum on its side, and then — BAM! — interception! Momentum has shifted to the other side. It’s even worse in politics when things aren’t so cut and dry as to who has the ball. Thus, I preface this entry with the caveat that things can change very quickly. With that said, I will make my tentative predictions.

Not too long ago, if you had asked me if the Democratic Party had a chance, I would’ve said, “No way.” No matter what Democrats did, they could not change the tide. Cindy Sheehan? No. Katrina? No.

The Democratic Party’s ineptitude combined with the forces of gerrymandering made me sure the Republicans would retain control of both the House and Senate. There were too few competitive seats to make a Democratic takeover likely. In fact, I began wondering if the Dems were on the road to political suicide.

Then, I started to worry. It wasn’t an interception moment, though. It was a combination of things. To me, it started with the Dubai Ports deal. For the first time, people trusted Democrats on national security as much as they did Republicans. National security was the reason Bush beat out Kerry. Our vice president also shot someone in the face. The State of the Union address was lackluster. Bush’s approval ratings kept dipping. More and more sour news came from Iraq. Corruption scandals abounded.

Bush appeared adrift. I have this May 29, 2006 U.S News and World Report sitting on this table (along with an old copy of the Atlantic and Discover) with the cover, “How Low Can He Go? Even Republicans Worry Whether Bush Can Still Govern.” The shake-up of the Bush cabinet was an unconvincing bit of political theater.

The final straw was immigration. The Senate was about pass a horrible bill on immigration that would enrage the base. (We got a different bill that still enrages the base.) This seemed to be the issue that would make the Republican base sit at home instead of going to the ballot box during the midterm elections. Instead of contemplating political suicide of the Democrats, I wondered if Bush was going to commit political suicide with his immigration speech.

Rove looked like he was out to lunch — everything seemed to be catching Bush off-guard. This was probably because of the whole Scooter-Libby investigation/fiasco going on.

All these factors indicated a momentum shift. Polls showed approval of Congress at the same level as 1994, when Republicans swept the Democrats out of office. Now, the Democrats had control. All they had to do was not do something really stupid and they would coast to victory.

However, the political winds have shifted once more. After the killing of top terrorist in Iraq, al-Zarqawi, and a secret visit to Baghdad, Bush appeared re-energized. He was cracking jokes at his press conference (accidentally making fun of a blind reporter’s shades). Plus, he’d recently managed to snag Henry Paulson, a Wall Street all-star, as his new treasury secretary.

In other good news (for Republicans), Rove wasn’t indicted. This should start to free him up for the midterm elections. Moreover, the White House shake-up gave him one job instead of two, so he could focus on politics and not policy-making.

In a special election in California’s 50th District, Bilbray beat out his Democratic challenger in a district tainted by the corrupt Randy “Duke” Cunningham. This does not bode well for the Democrat’s “culture of corruption” strategy, which attempts to paint the Republicans as corrupt and, hence, need to be thrown out. In addition, a Democrat, Congressman Jefferson, was caught taking bribes. So much for a Republican culture of corruption.

Although you won’t see Bush’s approval ratings climbing really high once again, I still believe momentum has shifted in the Republican’s favor. Remember, I predicted the Democrats wouldn’t gain Congress in the wake of many possible political disasters for the Republicans (like Katrina). I think the Republicans have pulled out of the danger zone.

The hot button issue of immigration helped Bilbray win. Other House Republicans can campaign on this issue, taking a hard-line stance, and also win — all over the country. Of course, this is the House. The Senate did pass its amnesty bill, which means Republican Senators may be in trouble. With a re-energized Bush and Rove — remember, Bush is a great fundraiser–, I think Republicans will retain the House and probably the Senate as well.

This prediction is based on the idea of a shift in momentum. Momentum could shift again. We’ve still got an eternity left, in political terms, until the actual elections.

Nacho Libre

Did Jack Black seriously say “douche” in a PG movie?

EDIT: “The theme of a PG-rated film may itself call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity in these films. There may be some violence or brief nudity.” And now you know. Still, I question the usage of “douche” in a movie that was targeted towards youngsters.

The Latest Good News From Iraq

I’ll still be commenting on Election 06 today, but I thought it’d be nice to provide some linkage to the latest good news from Iraq.

Papers show ‘gloomy’ state of insurgency: Papers taken from raids show the insurgency struggling and reveal their latest tactics. Here’s the actual text of the document.

Post-al-Zarqawi raids kill 104 insurgents. The numbers: 104 insurgents killed, 28 significant arms caches discovered, 759 anti-Iraqi elements captured, 452 raids, 143 of the raids carried out by Iraqi forces alone.

Now that’s progress.

I’m going to refrain from further analysis until after I’ve done some posts on religion.

EDIT: Never mind, I will be posting Election 06 stuff tomorrow.

To Talk About Soon

Tomorrow, I’ll try to read those Election 06 tea leaves and give you my predictions. After that, I want to delve into a topic I haven’t talked about much lately: religion. Then, I’ll move on to analysis of the situation in Iraq and the global war on terror in general.

This Would Be Irony If It Was True

If you’re a Democrat and you want to know what the big fuss is about illegal immigration, this is required reading: Illegal Immigration a Problem for Democrats, Too. Heck, I’m making it required reading for anyone reading this entry.

There’s only one part I take issue with: “The tragedy for the party — and the nation — is that Democrats could do a much better job than Republicans controlling illegal immigration. That’s because Democrats are not afraid to do the only thing that could stop it, which is go after the companies that employ undocumented workers.” It would be irony if it was true.

However, it’s simply not true. The crux of the “enforcement-only” argument is that many undocumented workers will self-deport if they can’t find any jobs. How do you make sure they don’t have any jobs? By going after the employers, of course. Who’s trumpeting this view? Why, Mr. Sensenbrenner himself, the guy who is Mr. Big Bad Republican Enforcement-Only Immigration Hard-liner.

In the recent US News & World Report interview that I just linked to, Sensenbrenner says that it’s not possible to deport millions of illegal immigrants, but “if we shut off the jobs by enforcing employer sanctions, many of the illegal immigrants will simply decide to go home because they cannot make money in the United States.” See, straight from the horse’s mouth.

Other than that, the RealClearPolitics article is very good, showing why Democrats should care about this issue too.

A Good Day in Iraq

The big news today is the death of Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. It’s a good day.

Something that piqued my interest… When Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki announced the death of Zarqawi, the press broke out in applause. Just wondering what the reaction of the American press will be if bin Laden is captured.

Another interesting thing… The Washington Times, in Democrats call Zarqawi killing a stunt, reported this: “‘This is just to cover Bush’s [rear] so he doesn’t have to answer’ for Iraqi civilians being killed by the U.S. military and his own sagging poll numbers, said Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat. ‘Iraq is still a mess — get out.'”

That’s my Congressman, the one who represents my district. I wish I could get the full text, but if he’s dismissing this as a stunt, that’s disgusting.

Perhaps the bigger news today is the appointment of an interior minister, defense minister, and national security advisor in Iraq. This just might be a turning point in Iraq’s struggle for stability.

Angelides and Schwarzenegger

This from my (very) local paper, the Argus, a contrast between Schwarzenegger and Angelides, the two candidates for governor in California:

“Angelides wants to raise taxes on high-income earners and corporations; Schwarzenegger wants to hold the line.

“Schwarzenegger blocked giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants; Angelides would endorse it.

“The governor signed an order deploying National Guard troops to the border; Angelides opposes Bush’s plan to use troops to curb illegal immigration.”

And there you have it. Angelides will raise your taxes and give the money to illegal immigrants. (Hahaha.) No, really, anyone who’s serious about the problems illegal immigration poses should vote for Schwarzenegger over Angelides. Moreover, can anyone count on Angelides to stop with “high-income earners and corporations”?

Judging from the way Californians recently rejected all those measures that would raise taxes (even the preschool one that taxes high-income earners), painting Angelides as someone who’ll raise taxes is a good strategy.

California Elections Roundup

My redesign for The Chalkboard Manifesto is nearing its final stages. Things are winding down. As my energy for the redesign ebbs, my energy will start to flow back into this weblog. In fact, I’ll start writing some things about the latest election results in California, my home state.

Item 1:

In the biggest race, Angelides defeats Westly in the Democratic primary for governor. Angelides will now go on to run against Schwarzenegger. If you live in California, and you’ve been watching network television at all, you’ve probably seen the negative ads Westly and Angelides were running. The campaign was pretty nasty. After Westly pledged to run a positive campaign, he turns around and runs an attack ad. Thus ensued the mudslinging. The winner after all this mud was slung? Schwarzenegger.

In April, the polls showed Schwarzenegger gaining a significant lead over both Democratic challengers for the first time. Meanwhile, in March, Schwarzenegger was dead even with either candidate. This is definitely the result of all the negative campaigning.

Now, since in this particular poll Schwarzenegger led Angelides 49% to 36%, while he led Westly 48% to 40%, I suppose Republicans might be happier with an Angelides victory, but we’ll see.

It’s funny. Westly campaigned as a moderate, but he and Angelides were practically indistinguishable policy-wise.

My main concern: How nasty will the general election be?

Item 2:

Prop. 82 was rejected. It was a measure to fund preschool for all 4 year olds in California. How were they going to pay for it? By raising taxes on the wealthy.

Preschool is a good idea, but this was the wrong way to go about it. First of all, with our K-12 school system in tatters, money should be going there first.

Secondly, making only rich people subsidize preschool? Ah yes, let’s tax the rich, that’s the solution to all our problems. If we want preschool for all Californians, then all Californians should help pay the burden.

Item 3:

In the 50th Congresssional District, Bilbray (R) beat Busby (D). This race was interesting for multiple reasons. First, it was a special election to replace Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who “resigned from Congress and was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for taking bribes.” In this heavy Republican district, the Democratic challenger was able to mount a challenge because of corruption of the Republican candidate. It was seen as maybe a sign of things to come, depending on who won. I guess Democrats can pride themselves on a surprisingly strong showing, but that’s not going to win them the House or the Senate.

The other interesting thing was the focus on illegal immigration. According to the blog Right Wing News, “The Republican candidate, Brian Bilbray, beat out a crowded field in the Republican primary by making illegal immigration his primary issue.” Bilbray’s victory in the primary and the special election helps vindicate the appeal of the “enforcement-only” approach to illegal immigration. Republican Congressmen out there might want to take note. So should Bush and Rove, who are pushing amnesty.

The Abuse of Satire

It has come to my attention that the word “satire” is under attack. No, it isn’t fundamentalist Christians who think satire is the work of the devil. In the urge to be edgy, incompetents have twisted the word “satire” beyond recognition. Not since Alanis Morissette discovered the word “ironic” have we seen such wholesale mangling of a word.

Unless you count “reality,” that is. At this point, I must digress to discuss the word reality, the abuses of which are even more egregious than my subject. Clear-cut game shows are being called reality TV. Reality TV isn’t even real. It’s disgusting, but I think that’s because our culture has lost all sense of reality, rather than a misdefinition of the word reality. Anyway, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, and so, I will return to discussing “satire.”

The abuse of the word first entered my consciousness when I discovered the April Fool’s issue of my school news-letter. They printed out a lot of fake articles, saving a space in the inside to explain that this was a joke. However, they went too far in their explanation. They managed to waffle on the issue of whether they were funny or not, but they held no qualms about broadly proclaiming this fake edition of the news-letter to be satire.

Excuse me? Apparently, printing anything that could remotely be considered humorous now can be called satire. It’s a sad, sad world for all of us who take satire seriously. Satire is more than just writing something funny. Satire needs to criticize; satire needs to say something.

I really do liken it to Alanis Morissette’s misuse of the word ironic. Irony is a humor based on opposites, on incongruity. If I gave Bill Clinton a “Most Faithful Husband in the World” coffee cup, that would constitute irony. In addition, (to borrow from Family Guy) if I were to have aromatherapy, stress-relieving candles burn down my house, that would also constitute irony. Meeting my cousin Bob, a trout-lover, at the local supermarket in the fish section is not irony. Neither is “rain on your wedding day,” to quote from Alanis’s song.

And so, a satirical novel is any tome with an irreverant tone. Anything that’s funny and doesn’t have a point is suddenly satirical. Any newspaper article that isn’t serious is satire. Jon Stewart (oh yes, I’m going there) playing a clip of a member of the Bush administration and then looking incredulous… that’s cutting-edge satire.

No, it is not satire. From this online article, The Purpose and Method of Satire, we can see that the true “purpose of satire is the correction or deterrence of vice, and its method is to attack hypocrisy through the ironic contrast between values and actions.” To be flabbergasted at the world is not enough. To write something unseriously is not enough. Satire needs to be artful. Irony needs to be truly ironic. Satire should have a target, and it should reveal truth through the incongruity between its target and the truth the reader knows.

I am here to yell stop: Stop the abuse of satire! Don’t let anyone slap the label “satire” on anything they want. Stop them before they ruin satire as they have ruined irony.