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I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

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Really, Its More of an UN-Civil War...
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Big story this week is, whether or not the situation in Iraq has deteriorated into Civil War. Arguing yea: Matt Lauer, on behalf of NBC. Arguing nay: Tony Snow, on behalf of President Bush.

Is it all semantics? The phrase "civil war" would have political implications here in the US, because Iraq in civil war would essentially comprise a text book definition of failure for Bush and his policies.

Me, I think we should split the difference and just use the term, "shitstorm."

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:44 AM  2 comments


Mission Accomplished
Monday, November 13, 2006

Every time I hear George W. Bush insist that we must achive victory in Iraq, I cringe. Because he's very, very wrong. Victory in Iraq is a wholly inappropriate objective, and it is a reflection of the dim grasp of reality that the neo-con worldview accomodates that "victory" remains a viable objective.

This does not make me a defeatist. Quite the contrary. The reason military victory is the wrong objective is, because we accomplished victory 3 weeks after the invasion. Remember? It was in all the papers. Three weeks in we'd accomplished our military objecvites: we had taken Baghdad, toppled Hussein and the Ba'athist regime, and won the war.

This part-- what has been going on since then-- is called the post-war reconstruction. It has been going very badly. Largely because, for some inexplicable reason, the president seems to think the objective of post-war reconstruction is some sort of military "victory."

It isn't. The objective of post-war reconstruction is, well, reconstruction. This involves things like establishing the government, shoring up the country's infrastructure, stabilizing the economy, re-establishing relations with neighbors and trading partners. Does any of this sound to you like a job for the military?

(By the way, its worth a look at the Google results for "post war reconstruction.")

The Bushanistas are fond of sayiing that Iraq is "the central front in the War on Terrorism." This is the bunk. It is the central front for Al Qaeda, not because of the strategic importance of Iraq to them, but because Iraq is where Americans have shown up and invaded an Arab country. If we pulled out of Iraq tomorrow and invaded Yemen, the fact of our presence there would make Yemen the "central front in the War on Terror." Because we are the shit, and the terrorists are the flies; the War on Terror follows us wherever we go, not vice versa.

With regard to the insurgency, of course, APW readers are astute enough to realize that insurgents are a response to occupation. The insurgency is a consequence of our military victory, not an impediment to it. The only "victory" that will eliminate the insurgency is recoonstruction and American departure.

This is why the Democrats (and most thinking Republicans) advocate getting out of Iraq. Because almost everyone-- except the administration, and those who take their world view whole from the administration-- understands that you don't accomplish reconstruction by waging war on it.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:49 PM  3 comments


The Hot Side Stays Hot, the Cool Side Stays Cool
Did you see Tony Bennett and Christina Aguilera duetting on "Steppin' Out With My Baby"? Sensational. Sadly, YouTube has pulled the video, which earlier today I thoughtfully linked to in this space.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:33 AM  2 comments


Comic Book Heroes
This is the sixth year that David Bash's International Pop Overthrow festival has played in New York. Basically its a series of club concerts, usually about a dozen, each featuring 6 to 8 power pop bands, and chances are you've never heard of any of them. In past years I've discovered currents faves like Jim Boggia, Parallax Project, Andy Mac and Marianne Pillsbury at IPO, and seen killer sets by the likes of the Spongetones, Kennedys, and Flashcubes.

This year I was disappointed when the line-up came out, because there were maybe a handful of bands I knew (including Tan Sleeve, who I know in person.) But as always happens at IPO, I stumbled onto a band that is going to be great.

Before I tell you about them, give a listen: "Hit the Road Jack," the Ray Charles song, covered by Comic Book Heroes. Its a punkish interpretation of the song; they've managed to totally deconstruct it, make it something new-- and yet that new thing still contains something of the core DNA of the original.

Honestly, they were hellfire rockin' live; tight and cool and fun and totally spot ON. I found this recording, which I bought at the show, to be a little tame by comparison (if you can imagine); maybe when they get into the studio for a full length proper debut, they'll be able to better capture that live energy. Or maybe you just have to be there. The guitar player, Sam Sodomsky, is a natural; in some songs he peeled off vintage surf guitar, in the "Not Fade Away" encore, he mined the roots of pure rock'n'roll. They play everything they need to play, and not a note more.

Oh-- and did I mention that these kids are 14 years old?

Check out their MySpace page. Its worth it just for the picture. Their influences include (and this comes right off that MySpace page) the Stones, the Who, Led Zep, U2, the Dead, the Beatles, the Smiths, Cheap Trick, Nirvana, and the Kinks. And they're FOURTEEN!

Now, to be fair, you should know that the drummer's dad is in Foghat. But still... rock'n'roll is way less about technical precision than it is about the feel. It is easy to play rock'n'roll, but a lot more difficult than people think to actually play it well, because you can't learn the feel. When its played well, it seems effortless. These kids feel it, and they can play. And I think they're gonna be famous.

I sure hope they like girls, cuz if they don't, that's going to be a problem. You can already tell by the comments left on the MySpace page, the girls will be around.
____________

Addendum: a snippet of "Hit the Road Jack," live. Lo-fi, but you'll get a sense of the excitement. Tell me that Sam kid on guitar isn't just Jeff Beck cool. (You'll need Windoze Media Player.)

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 9:53 AM  1 comments


Election Debrief
Friday, November 10, 2006
Last post, I made reference to the phenomenon of the “latte liberal.” That’s the supposedly derogatory term the Reps invented this time out to describe Nancy Pelosi and her ilk. I’m not 100% sure what a latte liberal is, but I do know that I want to be one. I imagine people sitting upstairs in the lounge at Starbucks, using the wi-fi, sipping lattes and eating scones and talking politics and writing in their blogs. I’m SO there! If I hadn’t already accrued so damned much brand equity in “A Penny’s Worth,” I’d seriously consider changing the name of this blog to “Latte Liberal.”

Latte liberal. I LOVE that. I’m totally getting a t-shirt that says “latte liberal” on it. I think we’re THIS close to making “liberal” hip again.

So anyway, let this latte liberal sort out all the political goings-on of the week for you.

Item: Republicans Go Quail Hunting, Inadvertently Shoot Selves in Face
Obviously, the country sent a clear message on Tuesday, a message about a lot of things—notably Iraq, the so-called War on Terrorism, and checks and balances (turns out we like a two party system after all.) Of course it was pretty clear for some time that the Dems would take back the house. But the improbable victory in the senate really makes this seem like a tidal wave, a sea change, a tsunami, a watery metaphor of your own choosing, in American politics.

But let’s not forget that the Dems won control of the senate by a margin of 51-49, the thinnest margin possible. And that two of those 51 aren’t even technically Dems, they were Independent candidates who will caucus with the Dems. So really, there are 49 Reps, 49 Dems, and 2 Indies in the senate. And oh yeah-- let’s not forget that the last two senate races to resolve were decided by a sum total of about 12,000 votes.

The Dems, in a very real way, won control of the senate by just 12,000 votes. A hair’s breadth. A hanging chad.

In light of how close the senate swing was, let’s take a moment to ponder the things that led up to the election. You had your Jack Abramoff, and several Reps (I have to bet, the tip of the iceberg) resigning in the ensuing web of scandal. You had Marc Foley, the gay Republican child rapist. You had Ted Haggard, a powerful leader of the evangelical right, exposed as a boy-crazy meth head. You had George Allen, popular Rep incumbent senator from Virginia, using a racial slur that he learned from his Tanzanian Jewish mother, captured on video and posted on YouTube. In hindsight, it is no exaggeration that with that one utterance, the senate flipped. (Note to George Allen: next time, try not to make a racially insensitive comment to the guy from your opponent’s campaign while he is video taping you.)

You had an unpopular war. You had a border security crisis. You had perhaps the most corrupt and ineffectual and uni-partisan congress ever. And every week, you had a new Rep screw-up.

And after all this… the Dems took control of the senate by a mere 12,000 votes. That’s less than one vote for every twelve thousand registered voters. Call it, say, 6,001 to 6,000.

It is worth considering, pondering, how narrow this senate victory really was. To be fair, if the Dems had picked up only 4 seats, it would have been a moral victory; everything had to break just exactly right for them to take the senate. But everything DID break right… exactly right.

The thing that strikes me here is that, somehow, the Dems managed not to hand this election back. It was theirs for the losing, it was certainly close enough to lose… and yet they managed not to lose it. To put that in perspective, the last Dem to hit a buzzer beating shot was, I’d reckon, JFK. It aint like they pull out the close ones, is what I'm saying.

In recent weeks it seemed like every time something else bad happened to the Reps, you could see the Dems pacing nervously. “Oh sure, we look good now. But just wait till they spring that October surprise on us.” I think some Dems are still waiting for the October surprise. John Kerry tried to provide one, sticking his foot so deeply down his throat that his own bile ate a hole in the tip of his loafer. (Alec Baldwin correctly noted, “If you wanna be president, you can’t blow the line.”)

Pundits on the right have been warning us, “The Democrats didn’t win this election. The Republicans lost it.” And that’s true. But this time, the Dems managed to successfully stay out of the way and let them loose. And that may just be the biggest news of all.

Item: It’s the Center, Stupid
Cable news junkie that I am, I’ve heard many pundits from the right (example: Bill Bennett) say, “Oh sure, the Dems won—but look at how conservative the winners were!” The implication being, it took Republican-like Dems to win, not the Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, Barney Frank, “latte liberal” black gay Jew communist tax-raising, baby-eating, terrorist-coddling crazies that truly represent the core values of the Democrats.

There are only two problems with that theory.

One, as Bill Mahr pointed out on Larry King, is that there is no far left in American politics. Nancy Pelosi, the Rep boogey-chick, poster girl for Everything We Hate About Liberals, is a left-centrist. She isn’t anti-business, she isn’t for socialized medicine, she isn’t for dialoguing with Hugo Chavez. In fact, her most egregious transgression is representing San Francisco (wink, wink.) It’s just that the Reps have moved so far to the right that anyone on the other side of centrist looks like Che Guevara to them.

The second problem with that theory is that, clearly, by moving so far right, the Reps have abandoned the center. Reps are no longer a big tent party; they are a party for extremist social conservatives and paranoid xenophobes only. And I don’t mean that as an insult to the people I actually know who are registered Reps. I think if most of them were honest with themselves, they’d admit that the Iraq War was once a mistake, and is now a boondoggle; that they don’t really care if gays can marry as much as they care about affordable health care and good schools for their kids; and that the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration with the Rep congress rubber stamp is anathema to their true conservative values.

After you energize your base, you are supposed to turn to the center. Karl Rove steered the Republican party hard right, assuming that somehow he would draw some sort of strength from his fundamentalist crazies, and that the rest of Americans—or at least roughly half the rest—would follow. In truth, what happened was the same thing that happened in 1980, when so many former Dems voted for Reagan: “I didn’t leave the party; the party left me.” If the Reps are going to abandon the center, then of course the big tent Dems will embrace it.

Or, put another way: There are about 30 million voters for whom the three most important issues are that gays can’t marry, that abortion is criminalized, and that embryonic stem cell research is outlawed. Republicans will take about 90% of their votes.

But there are many other voters who actually share the direction of some or all of these views, but not the intensity. These voters recognize—rightly—that such divisive “values” issues should not be elevated to the level of “agenda” issues. War and peace, the economy, security, the environment, tax policy, social services—these are agenda issues (unless, of course, you are both gay and engaged to be married.)

Now, suddenly, we have a name for social conservatives who nonetheless vote based on legitimate agenda issues. We call them moderate Democrats.

So yeah, the Rove Reps can count on the votes of 30 million evangelicals. BUt in national American politics, 30 million isn't a base or a constituency. Its a niche. And as far as the other 120 million or so registered voters are concerned, the Reps have a problem.

Item: The Rumsfeld Timing; Sometimes it’s the Stupid, Stupid!
The day after the election, President Bush graciously accepted Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation (i.e., he fired the guy.) We now know that he’d made this decision a good two weeks earlier, and that he had selected the replacement by the Sunday prior to Election Day.

What I want to know is, why the dickens did the president wait until after the election to fire Rumsfeld? Think about it. He knew before the election that he was going to fire the guy, but he waits until after to actually do it. Why?

Bush says he waited because he didn’t want it to look as if he was firing Rumsfeld for political advantage. But we all know that isn’t true; if he thought it would have provided political advantage, he would have done it in a heartbeat. And rightly so.

The thing is, I am 99% sure it would have provided a political advantage to the Reps. In fact today I can go so far as to say, if Bush had fired Rummy before the election, THAT would have been the October (or November) surprise. A lot of Dem candidates were running for congress with little discernable platform beyond “Rumsfeld sucks!” Bush should have called their bluff: “You want Rumsfeld fired? Fine. It’s done! Now what reason does anyone have left for voting for you?” The Dems, we know, had the wind at their backs; firing Rummy would have taken the wind out of a lot of fragile sails. It would not have been a sign of weakness; it would have disarmed the opposition. (Doing it after the election, of course, now that is a sign of weakness.)

So then, why not fire the guy before the election? I think there are two possible reasons: (a) Bush believed it would in fact hurt the Reps chances; or (b) he thought that the Reps might well have a strong showing, and if that happened, maybe he wouldn’t have had to make a change. If the Reps hold both houses, maybe Rumsfeld doesn’t get fired. In fact, ponder that with me; no WAY he gets fired, right?

I think that Bush and Rove are too politically shrewd to have believed that firing Rumsfeld in advance of the election would have done anything but helped Reps. So I end up concluding that the reason Rumsfeld got the ax Wednesday was that Bush thought that the Reps would have a good Election Day, hold the senate for sure and maybe even the House, and so he wouldn’t have to act. Because if you’re going to make that move, you might as well make it a week earlier and reap the benefits thereof.

We were told that Rove informed the president at 11PM Tuesday night that the House was lost (must have been important for Rove to decide to wake the president.) And Wednesday, Bush appeared legitimately flummoxed and surprised.

So cruising into Tuesday, President Bush thought things looked pretty good for Republicans. He didn’t want to fire Rummy just yet, because he was hedging his bets. Things were looking rosy to him.

I find that incredulous, and just a little bit scary.


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Posted by: --josh-- @ 8:41 PM  0 comments


Latte Liberals
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Today's a good day to be a latte liberal. I'm having mine vente, iced, non-fat, extra shot. Then later I have a gay wedding to go to.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 5:32 PM  1 comments


Thus Spake Me: the Elections
(God's column appears in this space, at this point, pretty much whenever He feels like it.)

You're welcome.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 2:49 AM  0 comments


Are All Republicans This Queer?
Monday, November 06, 2006
Seriously, what's all the fuss about Ted Haggard, founder and pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, head of the National Association of Evangelicals (30 million strong, they are), guy who has a standing weekly teleconference with the president of the United States, outspoken advocate against same-sex marriage-- as I say, what's all this fuss about him liking to get all hopped up on crystal meth and then pay a man to have steamy, nasty, wanton meth-fueled gay sex with him?

I mean, for goodness sake, it isn't as if he wanted to MARRY the guy.

******************

Courtesy Huffington Post, this link shows you a lovely snippet of Haggard from the movie Jesus Camp.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 2:43 PM  3 comments


Beauty and the Beast
Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Daddy and daughter; the latter in Halloween Princess costume. But by all means, feel free to write your own caption.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 9:09 AM  4 comments


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