Friday, September 30, 2005

Ok . . . I have to make fun of one more critic

So, the good reviews for Serenity keep rolling in. There was one gentleman from the NY Post who didn't care for it, though. His name is Kyle Smith. His RottenTomatoes profile gives us a good idea of his unique critical take on movies, while hinting of a problem with narcolepsy.

He says of Serenity--currently the best reviewed wide-release action film of 2005:

The acting is terrible, the characters have no personality and the dialogue is stuck in the setup/punchline/setup/punchline rut.

To understand the weight that we should give this scathing review, let's, well, review some of Kyle's other 2005 reviews:

He liked Batman Begins a great deal (as did I), but in the review, he admits to some unusual viewing habits for a critic: "I fell asleep in 'X-Men.' I fell asleep in 'Spider-Man.' 'Batman Begins' blew me away . . ." Maybe it's just me, but should a critic admit that he sleeps through his job? At least Serenity managed to keep him awake.

Of the Gweneth Paltrow drama Proof, based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play, he says: "'PROOF" will put a lot of viewers right back where they left off in 12th-grade calculus: asleep." Again, with the sleeping . . .

Of the well recieved Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers starring Bill Murray he quips: "Audiences will laugh, mainly to prove they're awake, but the humor is pretty thin." Refering, perhaps, to a defense mechanism that he uses from time to time. This review also contains the precious jem: "The film has an eye for kitschy Americana (always big in Europe, which is why the film won the Cannes Film Festival's Grand Prix — French for second prize)." It is the second-highest award given at Cannes, yes . . . and I only took two years of French, but I even I know that "Grand Prix" means "Grand Prize."

And lest you think that that last statement might have been a joke of some sort. I want to present into the evidence that our dear sweet, sleepy critic gave the Dukes of Hazzard and The Island three stars, saying that the latter was: ""[Michael Bay's] best film since The Rock."

I rest my case.

Poor guy--he just can't stay awake . . . and he has no taste. I want to be a movie critic--lots of naps, and you get to be mindlessly catty for no reason. The best thing that I can say for him is that at least he didn't like Stealth.

--Tinfoil Out

Thursday, September 29, 2005

While I don't approve of gloating . . .

I do approve of hypocriscy exposed. Actually, I'm all for gloating--DailyKos does an admirable job of adminstering the smackdown to "Bloggers for Bush" who think that we're being too hard on the "Hammer." You reap what you sow, assholes.

--Tinfoil Out

Big Damn Movie a critical success

So I've been watching Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes with baited breath (baited with . . . chicken?) and the Big Damn Movie (um, Serenity--for all the non-Browncoats out there) is doing pretty well with the critics. The New York Times, Roger Ebert, and other influential critics have great things to say. There have been a couple of bad reviews that call into question the reviewers' drinking habits, grasp of the English language, and whether or not they've actually seen the movie, most notably Claudia Puig from USA Today. Her scant, 271-word review smacks of a phone in. Without discussing the the plot to any degree, she surmises, "Still, when films based on successful and beloved TV series have fallen flat over the years (like The Avengers or Twin Peaks) isn't it asking for trouble to make a movie version of a TV flop?" Not to dwell on the negative, but feel free to contact Ms. Puig and ask to see her ticket stub, or at least to check her blood alcohol level. If you miss a screening, Ms. Puig, don't write a review. A high school English teacher would have given you a "D" for this review, and that's only if you were blowing him in the janitor's closet every day.

So, Ms. Puig not withstanding, Serentiy is a critical success. Now, we need to shoot for a $20mil opening weekend. GO SEE THIS FILM.

--Tinfoil Out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Nothing changes.

This morning, Crooks and Liars led me to an excerpt from an H.L. Mencken column that he wrote during the Scopes "Monkey" trial in 1925. With "Intelligent Design" gaining momentum in Kansas and Pennsylvania, it seemed particularly relevant. His theory in the article, written 80 years ago, is that it's not so much religion per se that causes the Christian right in America to hate evolution so much, but the rampant anti-intellectualism that fuels the movement.

The so-called religious organizations which now lead the war against the teaching of evolution are nothing more, at bottom, than conspiracies of the inferior man against his betters. They mirror very accurately his congenital hatred of knowledge, his bitter enmity to the man who knows more than he does, and so gets more out of life. Certainly it cannot have gone unnoticed that their membership is recruited, in the overwhelming main, from the lower orders -- that no man of any education or other human dignity belongs to them. What they propose to do, at bottom and in brief, is to make the superior man infamous -- by mere abuse if it is sufficient, and if it is not, then by law

The inferior man's reasons for hating knowledge are not hard to discern. He hates it because it is complex -- because it puts an unbearable burden upon his meager capacity for taking in ideas. Thus his search is always for short cuts. All superstitions are such short cuts. Their aim is to make the unintelligible simple, and even obvious.

I've seen first-hand, as a former university professor, that there are some students who feel very uncomfortable at the thought that they will have to discuss homosexuality, evolution, existential philosophy, and feminism. When they told me this, I would tell them that college was a place where your beliefs would be challenged, and that their role was not to pre-judge the subjects that they were exposed to, but rather to understand them thoroughly, and offer a reasoned response when they had digested the information. I know that there are institutions like BYU or Bob Jones University where religion is used to sheild students from ideas, but, in these religious institutions notwitshanding, college is supposed to be a place to learn. ( I attended a Catholic college in the midwest, and had a religion professor who started a class with "So you think Mary was a virgin? I've got some swampland to sell you . . .")

Which leads me back to Mencken's observation--Keep in mind, that he is not calling the poor, or the religious, or a certain racial group "inferior" people. He's reserved that label for those who refuse to learn, and hate the people who know more than them. I think that this is a perfect description for the current crop of religious wingnuts. They've seen that, though they are often complete morally bankrupt failures in life (see Pat Robertson as the cowardly syphillis infected "liquor officer" in his Korean War battalion), they gain tremendous power over others who are thoughtful and intelligent by convincing the "masses" that things are a great deal simpler than they really are. God is in charge--he hates homosexuals, and abortion. He sends hurricanes and terrorists to punish the wicked. Send God's representative some money, and fight the evil-doers. Pray, and there will be no more problems in America.

Some things never change. Mencken was up against William Jennings Bryan--We've got our Pat Robertsons and Jomes Dobsons to deal with. Mencken summed it up brilliantly when he said:

. . .[E]nlightenment, among mankind, is very narrowly dispersed. It is common to assume that human progress affects everyone -- that even the dullest man, in these bright days, knows more than any man of, say, the Eighteenth Century, and is far more civilized. This assumption is quite erroneous. The men of the educated minority, no doubt, know more than their predecessors, and of some of them, perhaps, it may be said that they are more civilized -- though I should not like to be put to giving names -- but the great masses of men, even in this inspired republic, are precisely where the mob was at the dawn of history.

Instead of quietly and rationally explaining evolution to these fools, we should be taking every media opportunity to call them willfully ignorant idiots and opportunists. There is no debate here. They are wrong. They are trying to teach in our schools that the world is flat, and 2 + 2 = God. I feel sorry for someone who has no access to education, but I have utter contempt for those who willfully refuse to learn. They are fools of the highest order, and deserve to be ridiculed. Where is our H.L. Mencken today?

--Tin Foil Out

Monday, September 26, 2005


Another break from politics for a movie recommend:

Serenity (aka "Firefly" the movie) takes off this Friday at a theatre near you. I haven't seen the film yet (10:20pm on Friday!!!), but I have become addicted to the 14 episodes that Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel) shot for Fox in 2001. Fox, in their infinite wisdom, gave Joss Whedon a budget of $2 million an episode (a lot for a weekly sci-fi show), and let him shoot half a season. They then proceeded to show the episodes out of order and continually preempted the show and changed it's time slot, before cancelling it. After I'd spent $26 million on a project, I might, well, promote it, instead of killing it after 1/2 a season. But that's just me.

The happy re-beginning came after sales of Firefly's DVD set went through the roof, and Universal, thinking they had something here, bought the movie rights from Fox. The movie "Serenity" (the name of the space ship in Firefly), was made for $40 million, cheap by sci-fi standards, and the cast is signed on for two more sequels if Serenity can pull in the crowds (most analysts think it would have to make $70-$80 million worldwide to warrant a sequel.)

So, go see it already! If you haven't seen the DVDs of the series--beg, borrow, or steal them. Everyone describes Firefly as a "space western"--which is fair, given the costumes, props, and well, cattle, that inhabit this world. I think a more elegant way of describing it is as a group of misfits trying to survive on a frontier (the outer planets) while escaping a totalitarian government. It's the ultimate libertarian fairy tale. And it's damn funny too. Even if you don't like Sci-fi, give Serenity a try. If you doubt me, rent the DVDs from the TV series.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

National Debt and Katrina

Today, a group of House Republicans put forth a noble plan to cut "wasteful" government spending to blunt the effect of Katrina (and possibly Rita) of the budget. These noble men (and women?) immediately offered to let the President's tax cuts expire, and to give back the money that had been allocated to their districts in the massive pork-laden highway bill . . .

I'm sorry, I can't do this with a straight face.

Of course they didn't offer to sacrifice anything that they support. They nobly offered to cut medicaid , the National Endowments for the arts and humanities, foriegn aid, and to delay the perscription drug benefit for seniors for a year. It's nice to know that in times of crisis, this country can run a costly war, give tax cuts to the rich, and spend $225 billion on largely unneccesary pork-barrel projects, while heroically offering to screw the poor out of health care, cut funding to arts organizations, keep seniors from affordable perscriptions, and piss off the rest of the world by cutting aid. Believe me, if this had been prompted by anything other than a natural disaster, FEMA would have gotten the axe too.

The truth is, these morons will introduce bills for all of these cuts, and precious few will be enacted, even though they'll lick their chops at the chance to eliminate all these social programs. Everyone knows that we'll just end up borrowing the money.

I think it's time to put all of this in perspective. Let's think of the US government as if it were an average American--the Joe Smith of Middle America. Joe makes only $23,000.00/yr, but for the last few years, he has decided to give $2,000 of his salary out as gifts to his rich friends--you know, beacuse he likes them. This is ok, because he somehow managed to convince the bank to lend him $800,000.00 over the years, so he can afford to be generous. He's starting to run into problems, though. His interest payments for this year will be $3,300.00, leaving him with only $17,700 to spend on everything else, right? Not so. Joe decides that he must live in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed, so he needs to go deeper in debt. He borrows an additional $3,400. Smart move for any American, right? He probably should invest the money, or spend it fixing up his home, but what fun would that be! He buys a flashy new car, expensive suits, and a brand new entertainment center. He gives more money to his rich friends--so that they can fix up other people's houses. Everything is just wonderful.

Oh, no. Joe's car is in an accident, and it will cost at least $2,000 to fix it. It's too bad that he didn't spend $32 a few years ago to replace the part that eventually broke, but didn't think it was worth it. Now he needs a whole new engine, and he's already spent all the money. Does he ask his rich friends for the gifts back? Does he consider not giving them gifts next year? Does he sell his new purchases to get the money?

No, Joe promises to scrimp and save, mostly by refusing to pay bills. He then decides to borrow and additional $2,000 to fix the car, and doesn't get rid of anything. In the end, after threatening to not pay his bills, he pays them anyway. Next year, he plans to borrow an additional $4,000 on top of his salary, while giving even more to his rich friends. In ten years, he will owe $110,000.oo to the bank! He'll just keep piling on the debt until the bank refuses to give him more. Good plan, Joe!

Multiply the numbers in the story above by a million, and replace "Joe" with "George W." and you have a pretty good idea of the fix we're in this year:

Revenues from taxes = $2.143 Trillion
Spending = $2.483 Trillion
Deficit = -$340 Billion
Interest due on debt= -$335 Billion


This year, before Katrina, we were planning to spend about $340 billion more than we take in in taxes, or about 16% of the total budget. This is the deficit. Where will we get this money? We will borrow it from foreign governments and other sources. We've already borrowed $7.9 trillion. Half of which, we borrowed since Bush has been in office.

That's great, isn't it, we can just keep borrowing the money right? It's good for the economy to have this extra money floating around, right? Well, the drawback for the country is the same as for you if you have a lot of credit card debt, the minimum payments keep going up. You eventually are spending so much on the interest, that it eliminates any advantage you gained by borrowing the money in the first place. We're actually paying interest this year that is roughly equilavent to the amount we're borrowing. Any loan shark would love that racket.

The obvious conclusion is that we're passing the point of diminshing returns on our borrowed money. If we didn't have such an enormous national debt, we could almost balance the budget and maintain current spending levels. But, alas, we have to spend 15% of our budget just on interest and we have to borrow that much each year to cover it--putting us deeper in debt and increasing our interest payments, which means we'll have to borrow more, which means that our interest payments go up . . . you get the idea. There's also the danger, that if we get too deep in debt, they won't lend to us any more if it looks like we won't be able to pay ever pay it back.

On top of that, we now have a $200 billion hurricane dropped in our laps.

Well, what can we do to fix the situation?

Well, we could raise taxes back to pre-Bush levels, but that really wouldn't help, right? Wrong. In fact, we could have paid for nearly the entire reconstruction of New Orleans with the revenue lost to Bush's tax cuts JUST THIS YEAR.

REVENUE LOST TO TAX CUTS (2005) = -$191 Billion

Still, we'd rather eliminate health care for the poor and funding for the arts, right?

I know what you're thinking. Tax cuts are Bush's baby. He can't cut those, besides, Bush didn't create this problem, did he? He inherited the debt from previous presidents, including Clinton, right? Yes, but the original deficit spender who got us into this mess was Reagan. Clinton inherited a huge and growing national debt, but by the end of his second term, he finally got the deficit eliminated, and stabilized the national debt. He even managed a $31 billion surplus.

NATIONAL DEBT on 1/1/2000 $4.5 Trillion.
DEFICIT on 1/1/2000 NONE! $31 Billion SURPLUS!

So what has Bush done in the last 5 years? Well, he's nearly doubled the national debt, by running deficits of between $100 billion and $300 billion every year. These deficits are created by a combination of increased spending and nearly a trillion dollars in tax cuts, of which, nearly half went to people who make more than $250,000/yr.

BUSH has borrowed, to date, $3.4 Trillion (for a total of $7.9 Trillion)
TAX CUTS SINCE 2001: $894 Billion
TAX CUTS FOR THE TOP 5% (over $250,000/yr income): $361.8 Billion

So, what can we do about Katrina? The tax cuts, which are actually set to expire, are the low-hanging fruit here. If Congress does nothing, and lets them expire, that'll save us $191 billion this year--Problem solved--and that leaves us in the fine position of overspending by the original, reasonable total of $340 billion. Phew. We're still headed for financial ruin, but at least we can pay for the hurricane.

Tickets for Rat City Rollergirls finals on sale now!

Tickets for the finals are on sale now. It's your last chance to see the Rollergirls this season, and it's gonna be a war in the finals--With Darth Skater and Burnett Down facing off for all the marbles. As you can see from this advertisement on the Rat City Rollergirls' site:

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Roller Derby Semis

Best. Bout. Ever.

Tonight, the Roller Girls faced off in their first playoff games. As I predicted, the DLF v. Sockit Wenches matchup was intense, and the Throttle Rockets v. Grave Danger was a bit of a snoozer. The new venue (Hangar 27 @ Sandpoint) was outstanding. It is a HUGE hangar, at least twice the size of the last one, and the larger space and more distant walls definitely improve the audio. The best new feautre is the beer garden seating!

The first bout was low scoring, violent and tense. The DLF came out short-handed, with a number of injuries and a conspicuously absent Kim Reaper (where are you Kim?). Lorna Boom was apparently recovering from a serious car accident, and was supposed to see limited duty, but she was out there in most jams, filling in for the fallen. From the beginning, the Sockit Wenches had more energy, more drive, and better strategy. Surprisingly enough, it was not Miss Fortune, the Sockit Wenches' heart and soul, but Pia Mess who gave the DLF fits. With most of their good jammers injured or absent, the DLF turned to Burnett Down (pictured above--courtesy of joygantic) to jam for them every other jam. She did a remarkable job after a shaky start, but at the half, it was within 2 points. Everyone wondered if DLF had enough in the tank to win. To make matters worse, DLF had more players go down in the second half--Momma Cherry left with an injury along with Punchin' Judy. Both would return, but DLF played all night long as the skating wounded.

It was tied @ 36 all with 3:00 to go, when the DLF pulled off a number of smart moves. They may have been tired, but they executed some strategic coups and strong individual efforts. First, underrated jammer Hideous Braxley skated through the pack, became lead jammer, and scored 4 quick points. She wisely called off the jam before the Sockit Wenches could score any points. Then, Burnett Down faced off against Sockit Wenches ace jammer Miss Fortune, and absolutely leveled her at the start of the jam. I haven't seen a hit like that since Lawerence Talyor knocked out Joe Montana. With the lead secured, DLF went on defense, inserting Diva State and Kitty Kamikase at blocker. Getting past these two tall, powerful ladies is nearly impossible, and with Pia Mess and Miss Fortune on the bench exhausted, it fell to poor Juliet Bravo to try and salvage the game. She could not get past the wall. Hideous Braxely scored a few extra points, while Juliet went down hard, injuring her elbow, and trying valiantly to skate the last few seconds in a losing cause. I have to wonder why Pia Mess was not out there for the last jam. With 1:15 left in your season, why not have your best jammer out there?

In the end, Burnett Down, who had jammed for the DLF nearly half of the jams, still seemed like a bundle of energy--Juliet Bravo, on the other hand, sat on the ground, holding her elbow, comforted by her teammates. The Sockit Wenches almost pulled off the massive upset, but they fell just short 45-36 (it was closer than it sounds). The MVP of the world has to go to Burnett Down. She carried her team, and seemed to get stonger as the match went on. When she JACKED Miss Fortune (and you really had to see it to believe it) , she not only stopped the Sockit Wenches' momentum, she took the heart out of them. This is the second or third time this season that the DLF needed Burnett Down to come up with a great jam to put them comfortably ahead. She can singlehandedly change the game like no one else. She's not the biggest, or the fastest rollergirl out there (although she'd be in the top 5 in both categories), but she's a big game player with an attitude a mile wide. Go DLF!

DLF will face the Throttle Rockets in the finals. TR got there with their usual combination of strength and speed. Darth Skater and Valtron 3000 were their usual dominant selves, but, surprisingly, most of the points were scored by Astroglide. Femme Fatale did play for Grave Danger, but she is shaping up as the Barry Sanders of the Roller Derby world, a great player who's incredibly fun to watch on a mediocre team. Also, inexplicably, they used her at pivot for most of the game, not jammer. She is a good pivot, but she's too small to have much effect on the taller, stronger girls who try to pass her. She laid a great hit on Darth Skater at one point, and pretty much bounced off. It would have been closer if they had used her as jammer as often as the DLF did with Burnett Down, but I think the outcome would have been the same.

The finals will be epic. The DLF beat the Throttle Rockets pretty soundly in their last meeting, but you can throw that result out the window. If the DLF doesn't have Kim Reaper back , they may not have the offense to win. The Throttle Rockets have a strong cast of interchangable jammers who can all score, and they're bigger and stronger than the Sockit Wenches, so they should match up better with the DLF. The matchup that I most want to see, of course, is Darth Skater v. Burnett Down. They're both outstanding, but Darth's fast, tough, and low to the ground, while Burnett's tall, unhittable, and cagey. The Throttle Rockets apparently wanted to see this too, when the Sockit Wenches tied the DLF late, the Throttle Rockets stood up and chanted "D-L-F." I guess your season isn't complete until you've beaten the best. Now they'll get a chance.

The finals will be CRAZY! Mark your calendars now. October 15th.

Friday, September 16, 2005

No one is conservative . . .when they hold the purse strings.

I've noticed that there've been some "conservative" rumblings coming from some in the Republican party who are a bit miffed over the "blank check" that Bush seems to be giving to rebuilding the gulf coast after Katrina. Tom Coburn, the "can't we all just get along" gay-bashing senator from Oklahoma (see Crooks and Liars for a wonderful summation), called for "sacrifices" to be made in the federal government by way of spending cuts--Not, of course, by raising taxes (or even cancelling the planned tax cuts for the wealthy).

Just guess which programs Mr. Coburn would like to cut. He didn't give a list, but he sure as hell isn't going to start railing against corporate welfare, pork barrel projects, and defense spending. Which brings up a point that I've touched on before, but which seems so obvious in the face of Katrina:

There are no liberals or conservatives.

Not really. The traditional definitions of these terms in American politics have gone all topsy-turvy since (at least) Reagan decided that "liberal" was a dirty word. My understanding of what the terms used to mean is:

A conservative: In favor of a small federal government, supports states rights, a strong military, law and order, a free market economy, and private-sector solutions for problems. Strong examples: Barry Goldwater, Dwight Eisenhower.

A liberal: believes that the government should intervene to provide for the health and welfare of its citizens. Since states do not provide uniform solutions to all citizens, the federal goverment should usurp this authority. Strong believers in civil rights at the expense of law and order. Strong examples: FDR, Lyndon Johnson.

What we have are two parties who both love to spend money, but which have different priorities. They are both bastardized versions of their natural tendancies. This owes, mostly, to the strong influence that corporate interests play in politics. They've morphed into the party that wants to give corporations handouts and kinda help the poor (Democrats), and the party that REALLY wants to give corporations handouts and help the rich.

The current Congress has embraced these conservative values, without embracing the central tenant of a small, weak, federal government. Coburn, who voted for the largest, pork laden highway bill in Congressional history, is complaining, not about the spending per se, but who will benefit from the money. It's okay to spend money if it's to benefit the wealthy, but not okay to give a "handout."

How did we get here? Well, it's been a long time coming. I think the place to start is the Great Depression, when America, like the rest of the world, was a mess. Unemployment was through the roof, banks closed in droves, and people were getting restless. FDR had a desperate plan to keep the country from rebelling and turning "red." Through the "New Deal" he would raise taxes on people's already meager incomes dramatically--through the income tax (I think the rate was 90% on wealthy!) and a new program called "Social Security." How do you sell the biggest tax increase of all time to people who are miserably poor? Use that revenue to give them jobs! With the new taxes, the government is flush with money, The WPA and programs like it managed to take this money from those who had it, and give jobs to those who had nothing. Social Security was a particularly brilliant gambit, because FDR could collect a lot of money in the short term while defering the payments to later generations (hence the current crisis).

The economy recovered, and the government continued spending on a massive scale through WWII--this time, on the war effort. At the end of the war, a united country embarked on some remarkable (and expensive) projects that helped America flourish. We built a first-class transportaion system by constructing interstate highways, we educated our populace by paying the college tuition of millions of returning soldiers through the GI bill. We rebuilt Europe and Japan through the Marshall Plan. We spent freely and got tremendous returns on our investments.

Civil rights battles in the 50s and 60s led to legislation that was undoubtably "liberal." President Johnson was able to declare "war" on poverty and expand FDRs New Deal. The government would now help the poor, giving them money in the form of "welfare" and medical care through "medicaid." The federal government grew and grew under the rule of the Democrats towards Johnson's "Great Society."

Nixon expanded, not the size, but the power of the federal government. He expanded federal police powers, started the "War on Drugs" which itself demonstrates what happens when two conservative principles--small government and law and order--come into conflict. He took steps to improve relations with foreign governments, including mortal enemies of the US--the USSR and China. But, his biggest contribution to the current political climate was, of course Watergate. This is where the extreme, public, and hate-filled differences between the two parties started. There would have to be payback for Watergate, and later payback for the payback, and so on.

Through the Carter administration (I'm skipping Ford), the country focused on enegry conservation, and creating jobs (to be fair--mostly becasue of the crises in each area). While the courts issued startling new rulings on individual rights, and the right to privacy. It was the height of what Reagan would later call "The Welfare State." High taxes, out of control spending, and expansive social programs, the supreme court reduced police powers, and expanded a woman's right to choose. This, coupled with a sagging economy, made a segment of the population angry. Maybe things were so bad, not becasue of OPEC, foriegn car manufacturers, or hostages in Iran. Maybe they were bad because of these expanded social programs and civil liberties . . .

When Reagan came to office, he played on this theme, and started a "conservative" revolution tied tightly to partiotism, a strong defense, and christian values. He managed to gather votes from people who were fed up with the disappointment over Nixon, the economic malaise in the Carter administration, and the failed war in Vietnam. He made it "fun" to be an American again, while cautioning that we had lost our way. He, like FDR, stimulated the economy and created jobs by vast increases in government spending, especially on defense. Unlike FDR, however, he cut taxes, rather than raise them. He talked the talk of a "conservative" eliminating many 'pesky' social programs and talking about smaller government, while all while running record budget deficits. Reagan provided the Republicans with a blueprint for long-term success:

  1. Focus on American's patriotism. Give voters strong symbols of leadership, and the sense (which was sorely lacking at the time) that America is the best nation on earth.
  2. Cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes. Nobody likes paying taxes. Don't worry about paying for the cuts, run a defecit. You can run in an election saying "I'm going to cut your taxes and that guy won't." You'll be popular.
  3. Build up the "enemy." The Soviet Union was, of course, an actual threat. But Reagan made them into the "evil empire."
  4. Focus on the theme of self-reliance as a way to curtail social programs and give tax breaks to the wealthy. Teach Americans to "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps." Invoke frontier themes.
  5. Court the Christian vote. Reagan, while not a big church-goer, was able to convince Christian Americans that Republicans, not Democrats, had their best interests at heart. His alliances with the Moral Majority and his strong opposition to abortion cemented a voting block that had historically largely gone to the Democrats. The Democrats lost the South, and politics was changed forever.
  6. Under the guise of a "free market" economy, you can give tremendous amounts of money to corporate interests. Corportate lobbyists, who had begun to grow in power since the mid 1970s now had a President who would deliver their agenda.

As corporate interests grew in power, the deficit kept growing, and spending continued unabated on defense. Reagan was not able to roll back the New Deal and Great Society reforms of FDR and LBJ, but he laid the groundwork, and he got Republicans thinking that there would be plenty of money for their priorities--mostly giving away money to corporations--if the very expensive social programs would go away.

Reagan also had his share of scandals that made the "Watergate payback" urge even greater. Iran-Contra was arguably the greatest breach of public trust in history, as Reagan (yes, he knew) covertly sold missles to Iran (IRAN, PEOPLE!) to finance the Contras in Nicaragua--against the express wishes of Congress. This scandal exacerbated the tension between the two parties, and set the precident (that I think we'll see for the foreseeable future) of the "second term scandal" for all modern Presidents. Bush may avoid it with a strong majority in the House and Senate, but let's just say that since Watergate, we've had a lot of job security for "Independent Counsels."

GHW Bush continued the tax cutting/deficit expanding habits of his predecessor, but he actually paid for Reagan's policies in the form of a recession in 1991 that sank his Presidency. Also, like his son later, he failed to respond promptly and compassionately to a hurricane (Andrew). Still and all, he would have won re-election, except for one tiny problem--Ross Perot, whose Texas millionaire swagger co-opted Reagan's "self-reliance" theme and won 19% of the vote. Still, Clinton was a clever choice by the Democrats. He was a southern Christian who knew how to quote the bible when necessary. He also managed to steal the patriotism card from the Republicans and focused on the good times ahead (remember "Don't stop thinkin about tomorrow" and "It's the ecomony stupid!"). The Republicans had lost their long-fought-for stranglehold on the presidency and were determined to get it back.

To make matters worse, when Clinton was in office, he embarked on a social program that even FDR and LBJ never tried--national health care. The insurance and pharmaceutical industries went on the offensive and derailed the plan. Meanwhile, the Republicans distilled Reagan's lessons above into a "Contract with America " that promised to cut "wasteful" federal spending, i.e. social programs like Social Security. This led to an unprecendented "Republican Revolution" and doomed Clinton's social agenda forever. Clinton ultimately outmanuvered the Republican Congress during the "Government Shutdown" and the New Deal programs were left intact. Clinton moved to the center, maintaining, but not expanding social programs, while establishing better ties with corporate interests. He was forced to curtail Welfare, but he managed to cut spending and the deficit dramatically and preside over a period of economic growth unmatched since WWII. The Republicans would not rest, though. They hunted Clinton throughout his presidency, determined to provide a suitable scandal as payback for Watergate and Iran-Contra. They did, of course, but ultimately failed to remove Clinton from office, because the public, while fascinated by the scandal, really didn't think it was that bad. On the day of his impeachment trial, Clinton had a 60% approval rating. Maybe it is the economy, stupid.

The Bush-Gore election was a snoozer. The common theme was that "It doesn't matter who wins." Prosperity had made the electorate disinterested, and Clinton's move to the center had made it difficult to see the differences between the two parties. It was clear the the priority of both parties had become corporate interests--Ralph Nader based his campaign on this. No one could see that Clinton had only managed to hold the line against the Republican cause to eliminate social programs. He was actually a liberal who played a reluctant moderate out of necessity. Al Gore ran a miserable campaign, and refused to use his greatest asset, Clinton, because of the lingering scandal. Meanwhile, the Republicans crafted a candidate based on all of the Reagan principles listed above, a frontier-themed, tax cutting cowboy who was a born-again Christian. The only wrinkle was that this guy was playing a "moderate" a "compassionate conservative." Clinton had stolen so many themes from the Republican playbook that they had to co-opt one from the Democrats. And they still lost (well, not officially)--Let's just say that the election had low voter turnout and was very, very close.

For a year, America really didn't care who the president was. Bush pushed his dramatic tax cuts through Congress and stood next to Ted Kennedy and introduced "No child left behind." The Bush gameplan was clear--his majority in the senate was small (then, later, non-existent) and he wasn't particularly popular. So, he would push the corporate-giveaway, tax cuts for the rich angle quietly while hiding behind "compassion." Remember when Bush sent every American taxpayer $300? A great PR stunt to show people what "tax cuts" mean. And a great way to make unequal tax cuts seem fair. Bush was headed for a lackluster presidency and few small gains for Republicans in the tax codes . . .

Then it all changed. 9/11. The whole country stood behind Bush, transforming a weak and unpopular President into "leader" with a mandate. Suddenly, the "enemy" that was missing from Reagan's formula above showed itself. Modest goals for the Bush administration were replaced with lofty goals. After a pre-functory war in Afghanistan (you sort of have to go after the acutal enemy), Bush unveiled the Republican wet dream, modelled on Reagan:

  • Focus on American's patriotism. The Patriot Act stripped freedoms from Americans that had been won in the court battles of the 1970s. Long held rules of war like the Geneva Convention were "quaint." Torture was acceptable, all in the name of Patriotism. Any dissent in the Democrats, or in the media was treason.
  • Cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes. Do you have to finance a major war and reconstruction effort? No need to raise taxes. Just run deficits! In fact, make the tax cuts "permanent."
  • Build up the "enemy." Axis of evil anyone? Ever notice that Afghanistan and Al Qaeda are never mentioned? There are "no good targets" in Afghanistan, but Iraq holds considerable wealth for US corporate interests . . . Also, the creation of Department of Homeland Security (which Bush initially opposed) provides an opportunity to spend wildly on the defense industry while curtailing spending on FEMA and other vital "big government" programs.
  • Focus on the theme of self-reliance as a way to curtail social programs. Social Security needs to be "reformed." Headstart might need to be cancelled. We're going to create an "ownership society." While we're at it, let's make it harder to declare bankruptcy and to sue corporations.
  • Court the Christian vote. Need I say more?
  • Under the guise of a "free market" economy, you can give tremendous amounts of money to corporate interests. Bush presided over the largest giveaways to corporations ever and the rolling back of almost all environmental regulations.

Today, we see the partisan headhunting by the left swinging into high gear (as a payback for Clinton), and the stakes have been raised dramatically by Iraq and Katrina. So what we are left with is not a useful liberal/conservative distinction, but two parties that hate each other with different goals:

Republican: Destroy the New Deal and the Great Society, reward corporate donors and other interests. Dismantle the Federal "safety net" and consolidate power in the executive.

Democrat: ???--No seriously, what is their goal, except weak attempts to stop this? For the Democrats, having achieved all of their desires in the 1970s, they struggle to find a theme. Hopefully Katrina will help them to focus on poverty, jobs, and health care--Bush has handed them their mandate back, by rolling back all of their gains. And hopefully distance from 9/11 and a disasterous Iraq war will focus the Dems on rebuilding America's reputation and restoring personal liberties. John
Kerry weakly stood behind these issues, the Democrats need to stand forcefully behind them.

For the Republicans, the chickens may finally be coming home to roost. They have now played the "strong leader," 9/11, and WMD cards to death, and after Katrina blew the first two away, they're left with a President with strong majorities in Congress, but a 40% approval rating. Who knows what the political future holds? I am certain that Bush will continue to push his legislative agenda as if nothing had happened, but will Republicans in Congress who are facing re-election stay in lock-step with him? I think that they'll wait a few months to give more tax cuts to the rich, and I think that Social Security reform is on life support, but if they keep their majorities in 2006, it will be business as usual.

I actually don't know of any liberals or conservatives in either party. If Hillary is the candidate, she is much more likely to run as a moderate--like her husband in his last term, than an FDR style liberal. Still, I think the liberals would support her, or anyone, after Bush. The Republicans have the tough task of holding together a coalition of Christian wingnuts, wealthy people, and true conservatives in the face of an increasingly disasterous second term for Bush. If Bush's luck continues to fade, the next Republican candidate might look more like Gerald Ford after Watergate than Bush Sr. after Reagan. I can only hope. I can say with certainty that the days of civility between the two parties are over and that the corporate giveaways and Watergate paybacks will continue, leaving liberals like me and true conservatives longing for politician we can believe in.

--Tinfoil out

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A break from politics . . . for Roller Derby!

So the Rat City Roller Girls have their semi-final bout on Saturday. I have grown very attached to the sport, and it will be sad (and exciting) to see the second to last game of the season. I am afraid that my favorite team, the Derby Liberation Front, has a tough bout ahead, having to face the Sockit Wenches, who, despite a 1-5 record, have really come on of late, losing to the DLF by only 1 POINT two bouts ago, and keeping it interesting until the last jam vs. the other dominant team, the Throttle Rockets, last bout.

It will be a hell of a match-up. The DLF has a squad of Amazons led by Burnett Down and Deva State, along with speedster Kim Reaper--But they face a speedy, scrappy Sockit Wenches team, led by the last two monthly MVP's Miss Fortune and Pia Mess . Miss Fortune, especially, is not afraid to take a hit.

In the other match, I think the Throttle Rockets will easily handle Grave Danger . Especially if GD's Femme Fatale skips the bout again. She might be the fastest woman out there when she plays, but, as you can tell by the team picture, GD lacks size. The Throttle Rockets can lay a heavy hit on you, with the lightning fast bowling-ball that is Darth Skater and tall, fast Valtron 3000. The only question marks are whether the TR will have their two injured jammers back, Interplanet Janet and Hurricane Lilly. Even if they don't (it has been 2 months) they've got plenty of depth at jammer with Astroglide and Dirty Little Secret filling in nicely at the last bout.

If you're in the Seattle area, you can still get tickets. Not to be missed.

--Tinfoil Out

Monday, September 12, 2005

9/11 Conspiracies

For the last few weeks while Brad has been in Crawford with Cindy Sheehan. BradBlog has been guest-blogged by Winter Patriot and others who have a decidedly wing-nuttier view than Brad does. One of their recent obsessions is the 9/11 "conspiracy" that the CIA and the military carried out the 9/11 attacks to whip up a war in the Middle East.


The truth is bad enough:
  1. That the Bush administration didn't focus enough on Al-Quaeda as a threat in the Summer of 2001.
  2. That they used 9/11 as a springboard to attack Iraq even though there was no connection.
  3. And they have repeatedly resisted any effort to investigate the government's response to 9/11.

If you can stand rambling, spurious logic, please read the most recent posting about 9/11. I can summarize all of it for you, though:

  1. In each case, there is an "obvious" detail that the MSM didn't notice/highlight/investigate (Even though the explanation is actually quite reasonable).
  2. Since they didn't notice/highlight/investigate it, there must have been a cover-up.
  3. The wing-nut answer that they supply is the ONLY possible interpretation.


  1. There was not much visible wreckage from plane that crashed into the Pentagon
  2. Since the wreckage was missing from photographs, it must have been something else that hit the Pentagon.
  3. The only possible answer is a missle/drone/small plane packed with explosives.

The only problem is that HUNDREDS of people saw the passenger jet hit the building. Also, as Popular Mechanics pointed out in their very good series of articles debunking 9/11 conspiracies that there was a lot of debris from the plane, but, as you would expect from an object moving at 200+ MPH, and which struck the building low to the ground, most of the debris was thrown into the building. There are holes in the building as far in as the "C" ring (third from the outside).

Occam's Razor requires that when you have countless reports from eyewitnesses of a plane hitting a building that's probably what happened. The Bush administration is greedy, incompetent, opportunistic, and stubborn, but all of these conspiracy theories rely on him being some sort of evil genius.

Since the conspiracy wingnuts like to ask loaded rhetorical questions, I've got a few of my own:

  • If Bush was so clever in planning 9/11 to get us into a war with Iraq, why not set up scenario with Iraqi commandos hijacking the plane? It would have saved them that little detour through Afghanistan, which has not exactly yielded huge financial gains for the US (or even Halliburton).
  • Why kill 3,000+ Americans and destroy the financial center of the country? We've been drawn into wars before over far less. Yes, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident that escalated our role in Vietnam was most likely based on a lie, but that involved a bunch of US ships pretending to be shot at, and then returning fire. A downed fighter jet in the Iraqi no-fly zone or missle launched at Israel might have been enough. Destroying lower Manhattan and the Pentagon seems like an excessive and piss-poor way to manufacture a war in Iraq.

Would Bush: authorize torture, invade a country for oil, suppress dissidents, cover up mistakes? Sure. He has. Is he clever enough to set in motion all the events from 9/11 to the Iraq War? I don't think so.

I think that, to a certain extent, we need conspiracies to help us deal with tremendous tragedies and acts of violence. It's the same impulse that causes us to invent mythologies and religions. It stems from the hope that someone or something is in charge of the world--sometimes benevolent (God, country, parents), and sometimes evil (conspiracies, devils, criminals). Usually there's a degree of truth in these conspiracies. Bush is a bad leader, he lies, and does underhanded things all the time ergo, if you don't like him and really need the world to make sense, it's pretty easy to make the leap that he is an evil genius (rather than an callous, indifferent idiot).

The "proof" for these accusations takes on a life of it's own. The Kennedy assasination is the most obvious example, culminating in the wild fantasy that is Oliver Stone's JFK. This fascinating site debunks all of the claims in that film and takes the mystery out of the wild accusations that have become "fact" to JFK conspiracy nuts. A few choice examples:

  • FBI sharpshooters WERE able to repeat Oswald's feat of getting off three shots from the book depository (one actually did it in 4.5 sec vs. Oswald's 9 sec)
  • The force of a bullet that enters the back of the head from a high-powered rifle will, in fact often send the head "back and to the left."
  • The "magic bullet" is actually quite reasonable when you consider that Kennedy's seat in the back of the car was raised up higher that Gov. Connelly's in front of him. The bullet made no weird turns in the air, but actually behaved very predictably based on the positions of the two men.
  • The "shooter" on the grassy knoll, sometimes called "Badgeman" that appears as a blur in Abraham Zapruder's famous film has been identified as an African American couple who were drinking cokes an watching the president go by from the wall. Witnesses saw them drop a coke bottle when the heard the shots, and they, like everyone else, ran like hell. Most of the "mysterious" people in Dealy Plaza have been identified and interviewed, all with innocent stories.

Note the similarity between the Kennedy "evidence" and the alleged 9/11 conspiracy. They're all about a mysteriously overlooked detail that only has one possible "fantastic" explanation. I guess, for me, I'm outraged enough about what is actually happening, and I don't need to pile on a CIA financed 9/11 before I want Bush impeached and in jail for war crimes. Most times the simplest explanation is the right one.

-Tin Foil Out.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Cindy Sheehan provides a much needed laugh

With all of the horrible news coming out of New Orleans, I really need a good laugh. It came from an unlikely source, Cindy Sheehan. In her blog on the Huffington Post, she was talking about touring through Texas on her way back from Crawford and meeting with politicians. She apparently even asked Tom Delay to meet with her. Her exchange with his aide is hillarious:
. . . Tom Delay's aide said he probably won't meet with me because I don't "comport" myself properly. I told him that we don't think Tom Delay "comports" himself properly and I could probably get a meeting if Casey had a feeding tube in him instead of being dead for his boss's support of a horrible war. His aide said he didn't know what I was referring to…when are these people going to stop thinking I am stupid?
Priceless. This woman has no fear.

TinFoil Out

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Save New Orleans

I love New Orleans. My wife and I have strong memories of visiting in the first few months of our relationship, and, later, sharing a wonderful 2001 New Year's Eve with some of our closest friends. I am currently:

  • Sad beyond words to see that city "destroyed." That's the only term I can think of for it. It will be uninhabitable for months or years. There are even statements by short sighted Republicans that it may not be worth rebuliding. It is one of the only American cities that should unquestionably be rebuilt, regardless of the cost or difficulty. It is a city that has the history, art, and culture that so many US cities lack. We must rebuild it.
  • I'm also ashamed of the leaders of my country--I know that this is not a surprising sentiment coming from me, but, trust me, this is no philosophical difference or policy quibble. The largest natural disaster that we have ever experienced in this country, and our President and Congress were on vacation, and when they finally got off of their asses, they responded painfully slowly. In 2005, in the richest country in the world, people are dying of starvation and dehydration (the irony!) in the streets of New Orleans, surrounded by dead bodies and human waste while they wait for aid and transportation out of the city.
  • Don't believe them when they said they didn't know how bad it would be. Two days before the storm made landfall, they were predicting a direct hit on New Orleans, by a storm that was category 5. TV, radio, and print media were all doing stories about the "bowl" that New Orleans was sitting in, and how this storm could flood it completely. This was a surprise to no one--our government was simply unprepared and did not move quickly enough.
  • Where's the aid? There should be a caravan of buses a hundred miles long going into that city (I know that there is only one reliable route into the city, but why isn't it jammed with relief traffic?). If our government can't mobilize these forces after THREE DAYS have already passed, maybe citizens should take the initiative. Every bus, truck, RV, or van in the American south should be filled with food and get to New Orleans. Feed the people and get them the hell out of there.
  • I don't want to here another goddamn report about looters. I don't want to hear our President say that there will be "zero" tolerance for them. I couldn't care less if Wal-mart is down a few (or even a few thousand) TVs at the end of this. People are stealing becasue they have nothing, and because the US government is not doing enough to help them. Let's also be clear about the guns and violence among the looters--They are desperate, and they wouldn't be holding guns and shooting at rescuers if they weren't. Get them fed, treated medically, and the hell out of New Orleans, and they won't shoot you or steal TVs. Mr. Bush, the looting is the fault of the authorities--not the looters. HELP THEM!
  • For some reason, known only to him, Bush is not accepting assistance from other countries. Jamaica, Canada, and UN have all offered, but Bush refuses. What the hell is his problem?!?!?! PEOPLE ARE DYING. RIGHT NOW. You're on the clock Mr. President take every offer of help that you receive--every death in the streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of this disaster is on your head.

This is an appalling situation. America should be able to do better than this.