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:: Friday, May 30, 2003 ::

It seems to me that the word humorous can be used in a variety of ways when writing smug opinion pieces.

It can signify a cool detatchment on the writer's part from the absurdities of politics:

"During the humorous presidential election of 2000..."

It can show a vague dislike or disrespect for something or someone:

"Another effect of Bill Clinton's humorous administration is..."

It can even be so bizarre as to cause the reader to wonder if offense should be taken:

"After al-Qaida's humorous terrorist attacks in September 2001..."
:: Twistre 7:38 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 29, 2003 ::
Rand Simberg writes about the possibilities of a rescue of the space shuttle Columbia, in what seems like a hard dose of chilling reality. Simberg's main point seems to be that even if the astronauts and ground crew had had full knowledge of Columbia's situation, still the only possible means of rescue - sending the Atlantis into orbit ahead of schedule - would have put additional lives and an additional shuttle at risk (just how much risk, the article leaves rather vague) with a small possibility of success. Columbia was not Apollo XIII. If you accept the article's conclusions, NASA evaded a major ethical dillema by remaining ignorant of the true situation.

Me, I don't feel well-enough informed about the various risk factors to even try to sound intelligent.
:: Twistre 5:02 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, May 28, 2003 ::
The Charmer

Seldom has the sporting world seen such a suave, debonair ladies' man as Mike Tyson.
:: Twistre 8:53 PM [+] ::
A Prediction

He may not have the best shot at his party's nomination, but of all the Democrats running for President, Howard Dean has the best shot of knocking off Bush in the general election.

Isn't that a lovely prediction? Now only does it take what seems to be an unpopular, counter-intuitive stand, but there is no way it can ever turn out to be wrong. No matter what happens in 2004.

Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have this personal quality - this indescribable something. It's what I mentioned just a few days ago. It's the something that causes screaming teenage girls to hurl their underwear up onto the stage, beyond all reason. Gore didn't have it. Dole didn't have it. George H. W. Bush didn't have it, and neither did Dukakis. Kerry doesn't have it, and neither does Lieberman. John Edwards might, but he's not using it effectively. Ditto in the 2000 election with John McCain. I don't think it's ordinary charisma - I don't know what it is, because with Clinton and Bush it never worked on me. The more cynical out there say it's favorable media treatment, and nothing more.

My point is: Howard Dean seems to have it.

I see two potential problems for Dean. Neither is that he is too liberal, because as many who care have documented, he's not nearly as left-of-center (whatever that means) as both the DNC and the Republicans have accused him. The first problem is that he might not be optimistic enough - I actually agree with his remarks about us not always having the biggest and strongest armed forces, but his phrasing was a little defeatist.

The second is that he might be seen as too pugnacious. I know all about fighting fire with fire, and that the Dems shouldn't just roll over and play dead because they're scared of Karl Rove and Tom DeLay. But I get the feeling that the American people will reward someone who seems able to soften the more ludicrous partisanship in Washington. Dean doesn't seem like the person to do it.

Of course, George W. Bush campaigned on being a uniter, not a divider. On the fulfillment of that particular aspect of his campaign platform, I'm prepared to award a letter grade of F - -. But in the next election, the winning candidate is going to have to reach out to the opposing party. Somehow.
:: Twistre 6:26 PM [+] ::
:: Sunday, May 25, 2003 ::
Something just occurred to me.

No son or grandson of a President has ever received more votes than his nearest opponent in a Presidential election.

:: Twistre 5:06 PM [+] ::
:: Saturday, May 24, 2003 ::
It looks like The Brunching Shuttlecocks is passing into history. As sad as it is to see it go, let's keep things in perspective. The two guys who ran Brunching aren't dead or anything, the Ratings are moving to a page of their own, and the archives will be around forever. And the Brunchma bulletin board will continue to exist, where Kaiser Soren will continue his average of two posts per week consisting mostly of thread booting and posting links to stuff anybody could have found.
:: Twistre 8:43 PM [+] ::
A Hypothesis.

Every so often a Presidential candidate comes along who the traditional rules don't apply to.

As I am not the first to point out, Bill Clinton repeatedly survived the political equivalent of dinosaur-killing meteorite impacts, both in the 1992 Presidential campaign and afterwards. Loose strings of potential scandal hanging from George W. Bush, which would have been happily pulled by journalists and pundits had it been anybody else, went untouched. By contrast, the merest pinpricks repeatedly plunged Al Gore into near-fatal crises during his Presidential run. It seems that some candidates exist outside the basic physical laws that govern how the universe treats most politicians.

I'm beginning to suspect Howard Dean is a member of this rare group of near-invulnerables. I have still never seen Dean on TV and I have never heard his voice, but I've been repeatedly assured that he has charisma. (Whatever that means - I never thought Bush had charisma, but apparently some people disagree, even among those who dislike his politics.) But more importantly, I'm getting the feeling that whatever attacks are made against Dean simply make his followers more charged and fired-up.

Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that I think Dean will be America's 44th President. I suspect John McCain also belonged to this group, and it didn't do him much good in the end. But in my mind, I think I'm already beginning to see Dean, and not Kerry or Edwards or Lieberman, as the Democrats' front-runner in 2004.
:: Twistre 1:17 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 22, 2003 ::
I agree with Jane Galt. I don't agree quite as much with Oliver Willis.

I see a hell of a lot of symmetry in American politics. I won't go quite so far as to say that Bush haters are the mirror image of Clinton haters, or that suggestions that Vince Foster was the victim of foul play are the mirror image of the "Paul Wellstone was murdered" argument.

But I do think that Republicans who hold that Democrats are not only guilty of embracing a scumbag like Clinton, but are also guilty of demonizing a good and decent fellow like George Bush (and yes, that statement is quite reversible if you like) are guilty of a quite insidious form of (deliberately?) selective perception. I'm not saying that I believe my subjective worldview to be inherently superior to theirs. But at least I agnowledge that it is a subjective worldview.
:: Twistre 5:17 PM [+] ::
:: Saturday, May 17, 2003 ::
I'm reading political blogs. I'm reading "Comments" sections in political blogs. People say that Bush has zero principles, cares not one bit about rebuilding Iraq or promoting a healthy economy, and that every single thing he does is for partisan political gain. And then different people say almost exactly the same thing about Bill Clinton. Partisan attacks strike me as being almost perfectly symmetrical. I see no sense in believing one set over another. This is my Fundie Agnostic speaking.
:: Twistre 6:34 PM [+] ::
Calpundit has a little bit on Thomas Friedman that I'm sorry to say I largely agree with. I'm not a regular reader of his columns, but I have read through two books of his, and I think I could do a pretty good parody of his writing style if I tried. I've come to the disquieting realization that I learned almost nothing from The Lexus and the Olive Tree. I learned a lot from From Beirut to Jerusalem, but then it covered a topic I'd known nothing about previously.

I think I'll still read Longitudes and Attitudes when I get around to it, though. He's not a difficult person to read, and when my ignorance is gaping enough he can fill in the gaps.
:: Twistre 6:21 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 ::
This is the funniest example of really stupid partisanship I've seen in a long time.

For those who are concerned about the future of politics in this country, though, I think there's nothing to really worry about until members of Congress start going to Canada en masse.
:: Twistre 5:28 PM [+] ::
I'm sure there are many who won't like it, but I actually think that the redesigned $20 is a big improvement. Of course, I'm used to the not-all-that-pretty Korean bills, so my standards may be low.

My only complaint is that they're redesigning the $5, $10, $50, and $100 as well, but leaving poor little George and Tommy on their $1 and $2 bills all scrunched up and sad-looking. Granted, the bills aren't often counterfeited, but doesn't stylistic consistency mean anything to the government?
:: Twistre 5:07 PM [+] ::
:: Sunday, May 11, 2003 ::
Washington Post account of Kim Jong-Il, the Dear Leader of our wonderful neighbors to the North. I can't bring myself to disbelieve a single sentence of this story.
:: Twistre 5:06 AM [+] ::
:: Saturday, May 10, 2003 ::
Since I wrote a bit about the Iraqi museum looting a few weeks ago, I will add an update here (for the one person who gets his news entirely from this site) that the vanished artifacts are being recovered at a heartening rate. Good to know - of course, there's still the matter of the damage to the library, but I imagine they're still trying to sort out how much damage was done there.

Of course, this is the really disturbing looting.
:: Twistre 7:50 PM [+] ::
I'm going to write an essay on that ol' Liberal Media that people are always talking about, and whether it exists or not, and if it does, in what form it exists. And I'm going to post it to Angelfire. (I'm not going to write it now, but now that I've stated here that I will, I have no choice and I can't back out due to laziness.)

With any luck, it will be well-thought-out and well-organized, in stark contrast to the other stuff I've posted to Angelfire.
:: Twistre 7:31 PM [+] ::
"I don't belong to any organized political party. I'm a Democrat."

--Will Rogers

It's really, really easy for me to get all annoying and pedantic, and say that Rogers died in the 1930s, and when he was around the GOP was the party of the rich Northeast and the Dems were the party of white Southerners, and that things have changed tremendously since then. So that we shouldn't take anything that he said about the two parties to have anything to do with today's Democratic or Republican parties.

Except that the above quote is still so perfect. I get the feeling that the Democratic Party could only exist as an opposition party - that they could never run the whole show alone. They need an opposition party to bounce off of, or they cannot exist. While the GOP could do just fine and dandy as the official Party of the State in a hypothetical One-Party America.

Just my $.02.
:: Twistre 6:40 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 08, 2003 ::
The GOP is warning of a rising Hillary Clinton, in order to raise funds for 2004. Even though she's not running for President next year, and isn't up for reelection until 2006.

Of course the Clintons are still the official punching bags for the GOP. (I believe that for the most part they deserve it, but if I may sound unforgivably cynical for a moment, I think they'd be getting this treatment from the GOP even if they were saints.) Just as the demonization of George W. Bush in Democrats' minds ludicrously overshadows whatever faults the man might actually have in reality, the Clintons are still the Republicans' official Satans, and will remain so until a new Democratic president is elected to become the new Satan.

Not to put a damper on the GOP's festive pinata party, but I should point out that the best and surest way of insuring Clinton isn't elected President in 2008 is in having a Democratic incumbent running for reelection in that year.
:: Twistre 5:09 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, May 07, 2003 ::
It's apparent to everyone that the early underdog in the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, Howard Dean, shed his underdog status several months ago. (Whether that is because of his personality or media interest, I haven't a clue.)

I suppose the big question now is, will Dean's anti-war stance hurt him now that Saddam has been sent packing, at an astonishingly low cost? The pessimistic side of my psyche is predicting that the situation in occupied Iraq will become extremely nasty in a year or less - maybe to such an extent that some former hawks who still are paying attention might reverse their stance retroactively. If the occpuation turns disasterous, Dean (and possibly Kucinich, Sharpton, et al) will end up looking well in retrospect.

But I don't feel comfortable thinking along those lines. Now, my opinion of politicians in general (of the D, R, or any other variety) is pretty damn low, and cynical to boot. So I really should not be holding our Presidential contenders to very high standards. But it seems very yucky to have a candidate appear to be placing a large bet on things turning ugly for America in the near future. (Yes, I know that if Iraq goes sour, and Dean wins the nomination, Karl Rove will be producing commericals centered around that exact same point in the fall of 2004. But that doesn't make my feeling any less valid.)

Of course, there is a lot more to Dean than his Iraq stance. I think he has the ability to win the nomination even if the Iraq occupation is cake. (Of course, it's too early to discount anyone, even maybe Sharpton.) And, once again, I think anyone capable of winning the nomination is capable of winning the general election. Not a single day of 2004 has happened yet. Knowing our media, Iraq may not even be a campaign issue next year.

We'll see.
:: Twistre 10:12 PM [+] ::
:: Monday, May 05, 2003 ::
Because I am apparently a mentally ill obsessive-compulsive, I am happy lapping up every tidbit of information I can find on the 2004 Presidential election, now kicking into high gear now that 2003 is not yet half over. Some observations:

1. As I've said before, this election is going to be decided by events that have not yet happened. So I'd dismiss any thoughts that Bush is unbeatable/doomed. Also, I tend to think that any candidate capable of being nominated by the Democrats is capable of beating Bush.

2. The consensus among the Blogosphere is that the frontrunners among the Democrats are (in no particular order) Lieberman, Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Gephardt. (It almost seems like ancient history to think of a time when Dean was regarded as an underdog by the nation's political pundits.) Now, I'm quite well aware that the vast majority of American voters are not political junkies, and probably most of them don't know who Dean, or even Edwards, is. So does that mean it's silly to pay attention to who the frontrunners are right now? No. I'm not living under the illusion that political junkies are a good statistical sample of the public at large - but it's the political junkies and the pundits who are going to shape the way the media reports on these candidates. That's why it will be a huge turnaround if someone other than one of these five guys ends up snagging the nomination.

3. Deep in my head, I don't really take Gephardt seriously. And it's all because of a meme some asshole on a political discussion board planted in my brain years ago about what a scuzzy slimebag Gephardt is. If that idiot's screwed up my objective perceptions, I'll be seriously pissed.
:: Twistre 4:41 AM [+] ::

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