Friday, December 28, 2007

Character counts

In the Huffington Post, Bob Cesca ranks the most inappropriate Bush smirks/giggles of 2007.

I feel like I was onto George W. Bush much, much sooner than most people. For years I just felt like I must be living in a different reality, because every time I picked up a newspaper or turned on the television I kept hearing about George Bush's great moral character and courage and decency, and it just seemed so obviously false.

He smirked like this all through the 2000 campaign; from the start, he always seemed to me to be enjoying himself most of all when he was saying things like "they're gonna be put to death." And a satisfied, sadistic smirk would cross his face. This is when he wasn't openly mocking people he'd had executed.

Basically, Bush just always seemed like a sociopath to me. In grinning and chuckling when he talks about the war he lied us into that's killed hundreds of thousands of people, he has given me no reason to think otherwise.

This deeply awful person cannot leave office fast enough.

Not that this will make a shred of difference, but I'd like to ask the media to please stop diagnosing "good" and "bad" character in our candidates for national office. Yes, character does matter. Of course it does. But the thing is, you're absolutely, unbelievably bad at evaluating it in real time, Media. You thought George W. Bush, who would go on to be the worst president we've ever had, was the candidate of strong moral character. You told us over and over he was honest and decent, and Al Gore, future holder of the Nobel Peace Prize, was a lying, overly ambitious cad.

Clearly you have no meaningful insight into "character." So this time, please just give us the facts and let us decide for ourselves.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

O Michigan, my Michigan

While most of the nation nervously ponders whether we're about to enter another recession, one state still hasn't recovered from the previous one — Michigan. Outsourcing has hit the state's manufacturing-heavy economy hard. The unemployment rate in November was 7.4%, more than half again the national average. Today came news that the state's population has slumped 30,500 in the past year; some say the number would be higher if not for a weak housing market, since many people who want to get out are unable to sell their homes.

Here's the question for the rest of the nation: Is Michigan uniquely unlucky, with its dependence on auto manufacturing? Or is it the canary in the coal mine, a sign of economic upheaval that will eventually affect the rest of the nation? Outsourcing and competition from imports have been facts of life in the auto industry for over two decades, but they're now starting to occur in high tech industries and even parts of the service sector.

Economists make a compelling argument that protectionism isn't good for anyone. It may become politically unavoidable, however, if the effects we see in Michigan begin to occur nationwide. If we want to continue down the road towards free and open trade, we need to have a national conversation about how to help workers who are displaced by outsourcing and the communities that rely on the economic activity created by their wages.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Things we'd have by now if the Democrats had enough votes to override a veto:

  • Federal money for stem cell research.
  • A timeline for troop withdrawal from Iraq.
  • More money for children's health care.

The legislation we'd have if they had enough votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster is harder to determine, but it's an even longer list.

There's a lot of anger out there about the lack of visible progress by the current Congress. Some have suggested this proves that there's no difference between the parties, and that it's time to start voting for a third pary. I disagree; the proper response is not to get angry at the Democrats, it's to elect more of them so they have the votes they need to get things done.

Things I learned this week

  1. General Mills claims exclusive rights to the term "bake-off." (NPR)
  2. Burger King has released a line of fast food-themed snack chips. (SLOG)
  3. The Federal Election Commission, which enforces political campaign rules in the U.S., will likely be unable to act on new complaints after Jan. 1, 2008 due to not having a quorum. (NPR)

About that last item -- it's probably not as big a deal as you'd think at first blush. The FEC's judgements almost always come long after the actual election is over, so the damage has already been done by the time they get around to levying fines. Their fines also tend to be a small percentage of campaign fundraising, making them effectively just a cost of doing business.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Playing Hardball in a straitjacket

Chris Matthews, on people who endorse Sen. Clinton for president:

[A]ren't you appalled at the willingness of these people to become castratos in the eunuch chorus here or whatever they are?

So...willingness to openly support Hillary Clinton's candidacy is, to Chris Matthews, a form of castration.

Yeah, I don't know either.

But Matthews has some kind of serious gender issues. Remember the time he held court on how manly and sexy Fred Thompson smells?

Can you smell the English leather on this guy, the Aqua Velva, the sort of mature man’s shaving cream, or whatever, you know, after he shaved? Do you smell that sort of — a little bit of cigar smoke?

To say nothing of the time, right after "Mission Accomplished" day, when Matthews and G. Gordon Liddy held court on how now all women would want to vote for bush because in his flight suit he appeared to have an enormous package. (To be fair, that time Liddy did most of the talking, but Matthews sat there nodding and did not, as any well-adjusted person would, say "um, ew.")

Glenn Greenwald, as always, put it well:

What can even be said about that? And nobody really seems to find this odd or disturbing or objectionable at all — that night after night, one of the featured “journalists” of a major news network goes on television and, with some of our most prestigious journalists assembled with him, speaks admiringly about the smells and arousing masculinity and the “daddy” qualities of various political officials, and that this metric is, more or less, the full extent of his political analysis.

Oh, but he does so much more, Glenn. He compares female politicians to Nurse Ratched and calls people who endorse her "eunuchs."

Get this man some help. Or at least stop letting him on TV every day.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I drew this, and colored it too

What we have to look forward to

It's grim, but I think Atrios is exactly right:

We need a Democratic president so that the Republicans and their Blue Dog allies in Congress are finally inspired to take back the executive power grabs that they temporarily thought were necessary for the survival of the nation.

What this will mean in practice is that Democratic president will face a firestorm of "scandal" which will make Monica Madness pale in comparison. The powers that Bush claimed will be turned against a Democratic president and will likely be their undoing.

And this scenario is much better than the alternative.

I wish I thought that was too cynical, but I don't. Digby elaborates:

A Democratic president, no matter who it is, is going to pay for the Republicans' sins. But it won't be just because the Republicans and Blue Dogs in congress suddenly "realize" they have co-equal power. I predict that the right wing noise machine will shout far and wide that the election was stolen (probably with the help of "illegal aliens.") The new president will not be allowed to weed out even one right wing plant anywhere in the executive branch without being accused of politicizing it. There will be no executive privilege as the courts rediscover their "responsibilities." Scientists and experts will all be accused of being shills for the liberal special interests. The president will be accused of violating Americans' civil liberties and destroying the constitution. There will be widespread accusations of fraud and corruption and non-stop investigations.

In other words the Republicans are going to accuse the Democratic president of everything we know the Bush administration did. And because it was never fully investigated or even fully discussed, people will lay the sins at the feet of the Democratic president and feel a sense of relief that the balance of power is being restored and Washington is finally being cleaned up.

I have only one thing to add to all of this: any time any one of us objects to all of this, any time we complain that Bush was allowed to spit on the constitution, spend the country into the poorhouse, appoint his corrupt and incompetent friends to important jobs, and lie any time he wanted to, whereas the new Democratic president is being tarred and feathered for any imagined offense some Republican operative can feed the media with a straight face, what we're going to hear is this:

"You hypocrite. You claimed for eight years that you wanted more government accountability. Now that you've got it, all you can do is complain! Clearly you are a partisan hack."

It's been a long eight years, and it's gonna be a long next eight, let's face it.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I Finally Got Around To Drawing This

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The past and future of IDT

I've done something I'd meant to do for a while, and collected all the I Drew This strips, from the very beginning in 2004 to the middle of this year when the site mostly switched to being a blog, in one book. And, if it's not crass to say so, there's still plenty of time to get it before Christmas, or Festivus, or any of those end-of-December holidays.

Since that time, my drive for political cartooning has been somewhat diminished, which is probably obvious. I'm not a policy wonk at heart, and I guess after a while I need a bit of a rest from beating my head against a brick wall.

Expect more cartoons in the new year, though, because this election is really important, and I think it's my civic duty, as someone who thinks the American media works against rather than for the interests of democracy, to say so loudly and often.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Things I learned this week

Every week a certain number of items cross my desk that are interesting, but that I don't have enough to say about to justify a whole post. I'm going to start a Friday ritual of posting a list of these items, in the same spirit as the BBC's 10 things blog.

  1. The Minnesota arm of the Democratic Party is known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. (New York Times)
  2. The State Department will pay travel and evacuation expenses for career diplomats' pets, but not for their same-sex partners. (SLOG, Washington Post)
  3. Attempts to scare people with the specter of "socialized medicine" are nothing new. In 1922 the American Medical Association opposed a bill providing government-funded prenatal care, calling it an "imported socialistic scheme." (NPR, JSTOR)

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