November 29, 2005

Duke goes down

"Duke" Cunningham, a California Republican, resigned yesterday after pleading "guilty" to accepting bribes from defense contractors in exchange for his help obtaining lucrative Pentagon contracts. Corrupt Republicans? Nothing new here. But what's astonishing to me is the sheer magnitude of the graft he confessed to receiving, at least $2.4 million in all.

"It is a truly breathtaking scope of bribes," said Phillip Halpern, an assistant U.S. attorney who worked on the case. In a plea agreement, the California Republican said he accepted cash, expensive antique furniture, rugs, yacht club fees and a Rolls-Royce.

Speaking to reporters, Cunningham, a former Vietnam War fighter pilot, broke down as he confessed about abusing the trust of his colleagues, friends and family. "The truth is I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my office," he said in televised remarks, his voice shaking. "In my life I have had great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame."

Now, if it were me up there, and I had just plead guilty to receiving massive amounts of graft, I wouldn't be resigning. It would be a classic scene. I would stride across the stage to the microphone, looking serious and somber. I would tap the microphone, cough lightly, and nearly begin speaking. But then-- SIC!-- I would pull a gigantic ghetto-blaster from underneath the podium and intone in my deepest voice, "America, I'm too legit to quit." Pressing play on my tape deck, the soulful sounds of MC Hammer's "2 Legit 2 Quit" would blare from every speaker in the land. I would then rip off my button-up stripper pants, revealing the perfectly preserved pair of parachute pants-- Made in Taiwan, circa 1991-- and proceed to breakdance my troubles away. After my performance, the press corps would sit in stunned silence, reflecting on what they've just witnessed. One by one, they would begin to stand up and give a slow clap-- the heroic kind, not the sarcastic kind. Six months later, I would be unanimously elected president by every American citizen, with 100% turnout.

McHammer.gif

Anyway...

The charges carry a maximum 10-year sentence...

Reminds me of one of my favorite "tough-on-crime" Republican sayings-- If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

Here's a list of the Duke's plunder. It's kind of amusing to read.

Posted by smit2174 at 9:40 PM

November 24, 2005

Happy Holiday -and- Coloring Contest!

I made this for you guys. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving, however you choose to celebrate it.

Also, if you're not too intimidated by my mad MS Paint skillz, I'd like to challenge you to a coloring contest. Submit your best artwork in a .jpg or .gif to smit2174 -at- umn -dot- edu. (You know what to do with the address...) I'll post the best submissions on this site. There are no rules or regulations-- anything goes! So go!

Here's a picture to get you started, but of course you can use anything you want. Try Google Images to find something that fits your needs.

Posted by smit2174 at 1:38 AM

November 22, 2005

Blue Christmas

Apparently the "holiday season" starts in two days. If you are a Democrat/progressive and haven't started your holiday shopping, consider supporting the folks on the BuyBlue "Blue Christmas" list. It is a list of the companies that:
a) gave most of their political donations to Democrats, and
b) have a history of being a responsible, progressive organization (as determined by their commitment to labor and human rights, the environment, equal-opportunity employment, and corporate and social responsibility.

Now, admittedly, I don't like it that corporate money plays such a big role in the American political process. However, if I know that corporations are going to donate anyway, I'd much rather they give their money, which was once my money, to Dems.

By putting our money where our mouths are, we make sure that our hard-earned money doesn't end up in the hands of politicians we don't support and companies whose practices we despise. (Guess I won't be shopping Target or Wal-Mart this year...)

On the BuyBlue website, they also have a nifty tool to let companies know why you chose to do business with them this holiday season. Check it out!

Posted by smit2174 at 7:12 PM

November 20, 2005

Bush slideshow

To complement his sliding polls, here's a slideshow (complements of Atrios.) Chinese doors are tricky.

Posted by smit2174 at 5:05 PM

In which I finally allow myself a Bush approval post.

This is not one of those blogs where we celebrate every sub-40% Bush approval poll. Sure, we're glad that America is finally waking up to the fact that they have the worst president ever, but schadenfreude never got us anywhere before, and we're not going to start gloating now. So let this be the first and last time we'll mention this subject (for a while, at least.)

Historical Bush Approval Ratings. Enjoy!

Posted by smit2174 at 2:00 PM

November 19, 2005

Congress cuts 235,000 from food stamps, grants self $3,100 pay raise, declares 2-week vacation

Great diary by cal45.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to cut $700 million from the food stamp program, despite objections from antihunger groups complaining that estimates show some 235,000 people would lose benefits.

The House bill, which also trimmed other social programs for the poor in an effort to reduce federal spending by $50 billion, was narrowly approved 217-215.

Later that night...

The Republican-controlled Congress helped itself to a $3,100 pay raise on Friday, then postponed work on bills to curb spending on social programs and cut taxes in favor of a two-week vacation.

Effin' ridiculous. I think the Dems should take a day from their vacations, withdraw $3100 in cash from their bank accounts (for visual effect) and donate it to a good D.C. food shelf or homeless shelter to put pressure on the GOP to reinstate the billions in poverty-assistance and student-aid money they stripped from the spending bill.

Posted by smit2174 at 1:55 PM

Record covers

I know a lot of people who haven't bought a real CD in quite a long time. They are content to just download it off the internet. While I may have occasionally partaken in the "piracy" phenomenon, nothing (well, almost nothing) gives me greater joy than actually buying a great record. When you simply download an album, you are missing out on a few things. One of those things is the cover art. I fear that, with the increasing dominance of iTunes and illegal downloading, and other technologies that we've yet to see, great album art will become a thing of the past. (Read another take on this here.)

I can think of a few album covers that I think are just astonishing, not only as pieces of art, but in how they complement and represent (or don't represent) the music that they adorn. Here are a few of my favorites:


This is just an amazing image.


I remember reading somewhere that the photographer originally wanted to throw this shot away because of the solarization on Neil's face, but it is such a perfect image for this great album.

But there is also a darker side to the album cover. I saw this list of "the worst record covers of all time" at Pitchfork this week. It's really funny. Also check out this one.

Posted by smit2174 at 12:54 PM

November 14, 2005

Nooooooooooo!

Looks like one of the greatest shows in the history of that most cursed of technologies, the television, will be going the way of the dodo, the great auk, and Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey. Yes, Arrested Development, like the aforementioned species, is about to become history thanks to human greed and stupidity.

[Arrested Development star Jason] Bateman said it would be a "complete shock" if [the show] were to be asked back for the 2006-07 season. In its new Monday home this fall, the show's chronically low ratings have gotten lower.

[...]

Arrested Development premiered on Fox on Nov. 2, 2003. To date, it has won six Emmys. Proving the comedy to be star-crossed, viewers responded to the award-show success by not watching in even greater numbers, as ratings slipped 5 percent following Arrested's Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2004.

It seems that, generally, two fates befall great shows: either they are chronically underwatched and are cancelled prematurely (ie, Arrested Development); or, they become successful and remain great for many seasons, but eventually "jump the shark" and become crappy (i.e. The X-Files' last couple of seasons, or the last five or so seasons of The Simpsons.) Actually, these are all FOX shows-- so maybe it only applies to FOX?

Tangential postscript: The FOX empire carries with it so many contradictions. How do such great shows (Simpsons, X-Files, Arrested Development, Malcolm in the Middle, Family Guy, etc.) stand among so much filth (Average Joe, Man vs. Beast)? And how do you explain FOX News?

Posted by smit2174 at 9:01 PM

November 8, 2005

I voted

That is all.

I'll have a election round-up sometime soon.

Posted by smit2174 at 7:29 PM

November 7, 2005

V O T E ! Elections tomorrow!

I would encourage everyone who reads this, first of all, and most importantly, to VOTE tomorrow. I will be voting for R.T. Rybak, Cara Letofsky, the endorsed candidates from Citizens for Park Board Reform, and (I guess) the DFL endorsed candidates for everything else.

I submitted the following letter as a Letter to the Editor of the Minnesota Daily last Thursday, but they didn't publish it-- probably because it would make the terrible writing on the Opinions page this year look bad. Anyway, read it over, see what you think, and consider voting for Cara tomorrow.

Dear Editor,

Cara Letofsky’s November 3rd column was a good demonstration of the leadership and ideals that have convinced me to support her for Ward 2 City Council.
When the campaign for City Council began last winter, I supported University student Dan Miller. I was disappointed when he lost the DFL endorsement, but, since then, I have grown steadily more impressed with Cara’s ability to organize and her willingness to fight for students’ priorities.
Cara has been extremely visible and available to the University community, and has promised to continue to engage students in the political discussion on issues that matter—housing, transportation, the environment, student involvement in neighborhood groups, and many others. She has an impressive record of success in her roles as a local progressive advocate and community leader, and has worked with diverse groups of community members, business leaders, and politicians to get things done.
Since both candidates in this election have campaigned on essentially the same progressive outlook and priorities, all of which will benefit students, this race comes down to who will be more effective at implementing solutions to the problems that face the University community and the city as a whole. With her drive, enthusiasm, and proven history of accomplishment, Cara Letofsky is the best candidate, and I will be proud to cast a vote for her on November 8th.

Sincerely,

(me)
University student

Posted by smit2174 at 9:05 PM

November 6, 2005

Rybak up in poll

Good news for the dude I'm votin' for, R.T. Rybak. The new Star Tribune poll has him up by a 55% to 33% margin over (angry, nonsensical) challenger Peter McLaughlin.


R.T. Rybak-- our next President???
P.S. This picture rocks. Hard.


Peter McLaughlin-- trying so hard to hide his inner rage. (But failing.)
*shudder*

Posted by smit2174 at 6:29 PM

Bill Clinton's speech

After standing in line a couple of weeks ago to get tickets (which we came perilously close to not getting-- had we gotten there about 5 minutes later, we would have been too far back in the line), the night finally arrived for Bill Clinton's Carlson Lecture at Northrop.

Melissa, Alex, and I got to Northrop a little after 3:00. The doors opened at 4, but there were already a few hundred people lined up to get good seats. When we finally got in, I was disappointed to find that the entire front half of Northrop's lower level was reserved for those with "gold stars" on their tickets-- I'm guessing those were professors, big Humphrey Institute donors, and other big shots. The other disappointment was that, despite shout-outs to "our wonderful students" and the stated goal of the lecture-- allowing students, business leaders, community members, and University employees, faculty, and administrators to learn together-- about 90% of the crowd consisted of "old people." (According to Alex, the "nutrient people"-- those who should be ground up in factories for their nutrients, like so many horse bones for Jell-O. KIDDING. But seriously.) Obviously, there was a huge demand for tickets, and not everyone who wanted them could get them. And, yeah, everyone pays taxes, which go to support the University, so they should be able to get tickets to a free event. But there was so little publicity on-campus that most students didn't even know about the tickets until they saw the signs at Coffman that said "Bill Clinton Tickets are SOLD OUT!!!" Tickets were such a precious commodity that, I am told, they were going for $50-$60 apiece on craiglist.

We finally got into the auditorium and sat down to wait. The event, scheduled to start at 5, didn't actually get going until 5:30 or so-- they had to wait for ole Bill's plane to arrive. There was the usual series of pointless introductions, but the most surprising was Walter Mondale's introduction of Clinton, which was really nothing more than an extended indictment of Bush. The extremely liberal crowd ate it up.

Finally, Mr. William Jefferson Clinton himself strode onto the stage, white-haired and looking much thinner than I'd remembered. (His new place must not be within running distance of a McDonald's.) There was a huge roar from the crowd and an immediate standing ovation. Obviously, the room was packed with Clinton fanatics. During the speech itself, Mr. Clinton was frequently interrupted by loud applause whenever he said something that could possibly be interpreted as remotely critical of Bush or the Christian Right. It got kind of annoying after a while, because I don't think this was a campaign speech or a Republican-bashing speech at all.

On to the speech itself:
Above all, Billy-boy proved he's still a great speaker. His speech was well-rehearsed and he was able to stray from the script and then expertly get back on-topic without missing a beat. From what I saw, he didn't even have notes or a script.

His speech began with his theory of the "interdependence" (not globalization) of the world. He said that the U.S. must prepare for a time when it is not the world's most powerful country, and explained the need to improve people's image of the U.S. through better communication. He said that, when U.S. troops, doctors, and NGOs went into the tsunami-affected areas this spring and showed that we were there to help, those people's image of the United States improved dramatically. In largely Islamic Indonesia, America's approval rating increased from the 30% range to over 60%, while bin Laden's approval fell-- because we offered real solutions instead of hate.

In his speech, Mr. Clinton also laid out a few of what he feels are the most important policy issues facing the nation today. I don't remember all of them, but he did say that reducing the national debt should be our top priority. The pitch and tone of his voice were so high that he strained the microphone when talking about the five tax cuts that he had received. He was able to effectively relate the issue of national debt to the reduction in our ability to solve other problems in the world: since U.S. debt sucks up 80% of the world's savings, all of that money is money that cannot be used to solve problems like global poverty, hunger, and the AIDS epidemic.

He also touched on the issue of national health care. He stated that the U.S. spends 15% of its GDP on health care, while Canada, the biggest spender of the developed countries with a national health-care system, spend only 11%. 50% of that difference goes towards administrative costs in the battle between insurance providers and health-care providers.

I don't remember the other issues he addressed, but he closed with an optimistic analysis of the state of the world: despite all the problems we see, it is now more possible for citizens to make social change in the world than at any other time in history. Two factors he cited here were the rise of the internet and the rise of the Non-Governmental Organizations (everything from the Red Cross to community food shelves).

Sorry this was such a long and boring entry. If you want more, here are some links:

MPR article
Pioneer Press article

Posted by smit2174 at 5:42 PM

What if all political ads were this great?

From the New Jersey Governor's race, which will pit Republican Doug Forrester against Democrat Jon Corzine on Tuesday.

(Props to Atrios for the link.)

Posted by smit2174 at 11:57 AM

November 1, 2005

Reservoir Dems: Senate Democrats CLEAN UP


My caption: Leaving the Senate floor today, Harry, Dick, and Chuck do their best Reservoir Dogs-style strut after whipping some well-deserved Republican ass.

(The real caption:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., right, leaves the Senate floor accompanied by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., left, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., after his speech on the Senate floor, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2005, invoking Rule 21. Democrats forced the Republican-controlled Senate into an unusual closed session Tuesday, questioning intelligence that President Bush used in the run-up to the war in Iraq and accusing Republicans of ignoring the issue. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

Maryscott O'Connor has a transcript of what she's calling the "Yippee-Ki-Yay, Motherfuckers" (her words, not mine!) speech by Harry Reid. By calling for a closed session to discuss cooked intelligence for the Iraq War and the Plame scandal, Reid and the Democrats shut down the Senate until the Republicans agreed to a real, bipartisan investigation with teeth, and served notice that we will not be silenced. At DailyKos, Hunter has a great analyis of the implications of this maneouver.

It's fun to hear Billy whine:

"Never have I been slapped in the face with such an affront to the leadership of this grand institution."

-Senator Bill "Blind Trust" Frist

Well, lucky for you, Mr. Frist, you won't have to be part of the "leadership" much longer. Maybe then you can start your video-diagnosis business you've always dreamed of.

Today was a day in which Democrats stood up and took control of the debate. I hope we'll be seeing MUCH more of this new, tough spirit in the weeks and months to come. Folks, make no mistake-- the 2006 election season began today. (Actually, yesterday, when Bush nominated Alito without consulting the Dems. This is payback.)

Posted by smit2174 at 10:01 PM