Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Offended in Chicago

A Chicago Christmas festival dropped one of its sponsors out of fear that it's product would be offensive to many people. The company in question? New Line Cinema. They wanted to run a loop of an ad for a new movie - The Nativity Story. It seems that anything that reminds people that a Christmas festival is associated with Christmas is now considered offensive.

At first glance this just seems like one more attempt to suppress all public references to Christmas but think about what is going on here. This is not a church or religious group. It is a movie studio. The reason for the suppression is that the movie has a religious content. Allowing the ad to run at the festival does not imply government sponsorship of religion. This is just another example of government selling out. If the movie had been "Deck the Halls" it would almost certainly have been allowed.

The reason given is interesting - seeing an ad for a movie about the birth of Christ might offend some non-Christians. Who? And why would such a thin-skinned person go to a Christmas festival? After all, some vendors sell (gasp) nativity scenes.

This goes a bit beyond the normal suppression of Christianity. It is suppressing a secular company for having a product that would have been permissible if it had a secular content. Now it is not only government sponsorship of religion that is unacceptable, corporations are now covered, also.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Fighting for Our Culture

It's that time of year when it seems like every American holiday is under attack. Halloween continues to be regarded at a satanic holiday by some although this has diminished in recent years as the holiday has gained popularity.

You would think that Veteran's Day would be sacrosanct during a shooting war but the day after Veteran's Day the Simpsons ran an episode depicting army recruiters as preying on grade school kids, showing that regardless of aptitude everyone is assigned to the front lines, showing the army deciding to kill sub-standard recruits, and ending with the message that an occupying force can never win.

Then are the constant apologies that Americans are expected to make on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving.

While no one objects to New Year's Day, our calendar was quietly changed from using "AD" and "BC" for the years to "CE" and "BCE" where references to Christ were changed to "Common Era".

But of course, the big one continues to be Christmas. Last year it was noticed that most chains no longer use the word "Christmas" even when selling Christmas merchandise. Wal-Mart backed away from this policy and now encourages employees to use the word. Other stores such as Best Buy and Lowes continue to use the generic "Holiday". Best Buy's policy is

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about including Christmas in our marketing efforts. We recognize that several holidays are celebrated during the months of November and December. Many people exchange gifts in celebration of one or more of these holidays.

In order to be respectful of all our customers (and employees) who celebrate different holidays throughout the season, we are choosing to use "Happy Holidays" as the primary greeting in our holiday campaign.

This is being disingenuous. First, if holidays during November are a problem then they could simply stop pushing the season. During the Great Depression Thanksgiving was considered the limit on Christmas and the date was changed slightly (from the last Thursday in November to the 4th Thursday) to increase the Christmas season. If retailers respected that limit then there would be conflict with November holidays.

As for December, there are three gift-giving holidays - Christmas, Chanukah's,  and Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a secular holiday which can be celebrated by Christians so there is not conflict there. Many Jews are disturbed that people are suppressing Christmas on their behalf. With Jews only making up 1% of the population (around 3 million in a country of 300 million) it seems silly to suppress the name of majority's holiday in order to be more inclusive.

Besides, who do these guys think they are fooling? When a city puts up a "holiday tree", which holiday do they mean? Is any other holiday commemorated with a lighted pine tree?

In the movie The Santa Claus III, Jack Frost is trying to take over as the symbol of Christmas. Presumably it would eventually be re-named the Winter Holiday. I sometimes feel like this plot is being acted out for real.

Holidays are
 an imprtant part of the general culture that hold countries together. Be attacking aspects of nearly every holiday, the powers that be are attacking American society at large. Europe has gone down this road ahead of us and the results are not pretty.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Why the Republicans Lost

It's been over a seek since the election results came in. Most postmortems have pointed to the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq and the lobbying scandals as the cause of voter dissatisfaction. Both of these are valid but I think that there is a more fundamental issue - the lack of any notable achievements in the last two years.

To examine events more closely, first there has been a move by the Republicans. It hasn't been to the left, it's been more "down". Rove and company decided that Libertarian principles were not going to win a permanent Republican majority. It was easier to buy the electorate with pork barrel spending. That's where the lobbyists come in. It's also why government has been growing at a rate that dwarfs the Clinton years.

At the same time, the party has been playing to issues voters. These are the socially conservatives who don't mind big government as long at it holds their ideals. These people will vote based on a single issue, often abortion or gay rights or guns. There are people who vote the other way, of course, but they are outnumbered and most would never vote for a Republican, anyway.

The Libertarians grumbled but the Democrats are their natural enemies so they didn't have any other place to go.

All of this left an important but small number of swing voters. These are mainly moderates and they the ones who vote according to the "direction the country is headed in".

The best way to court swing voters is with a record of accomplishment. Not everyone likes the No Child Left Behind Act or the Medicare Drug Plan but they were significant achievements. They were also accomplished years ago.

When Bush was reelected in 2004 he promised to use his mandate to reform Social Security. In reality, his proposals were only moderate reforms and were very similar to ones that had been suggested previously by both parties. Regardless of this, the democrats jumped all over his plan, insisting that he was going to ruin Social Security. Instead of fighting back, Bush caved. This probably cost him Congress.

There were a few chances to salvage things. After Katrina demolished the Gulf Coast, Bush and Congress could have made a big deal of cutting pork to help Katrina victims. This would have made the entire country feel like they were helping. Instead, the Congressman from Alaska threatened to resign if they canceled his "bridge to nowhere" and Congress let him off the hook.

Fiscal conservatives started a "Porkbusters" project. Republicans' natural allies were working against them.

The failure to accomplish a major goal is why Clinton lost Congress in 1994. Universal health care was going to be his legacy issue. He even put his wife in charge of the project. It dies before it was submitted to Congress. Even while controlling the White House and Congress, they could not get started on health care. No wonder the electorate turned its back on Clinton a bit over a year later.

This works as a general explanation for why Presidents normally lose seats in congress in their 6th year. By that time they either have passed their agenda or had it fail. Either way, Presidents seldom have significant accomplishments after their reelection. The swing voters see this as a failing administration and vote for the other side.

The democrats now have a short two years to rack up some accomplishments of their own or the voters will swing the other way.

At the same time, Republicans will need to build a new coalition that is exciting enough to attract voters. The pork barrel strategy that they have been using for the last several years will not work when the other party controls spending.

UPDATE: Jack Murtha, Pelosi's candidate for Majority Leader, lost big. Pelosi lost bigger, showing that she does not have much control over the House Democrats. This is probably good news for the Republicans.

Nancy Scores a Two-Fer

According to polls taken during and since the election, the overwhelming majority of Americans want to see corruption cleaned up in government and want a new direction in Iraq. This new direction should lead to eventual victory, not defeat.

By supporting Jack Murtha for House Majority Leader, Speaker-to-be Pilosi put herself on the wrong side of both issues. Murtha is well known for supporting an immediate "redeployment" elsewhere, possibly as far as Taiwan. It is also coming out that he is ethically challenged. Even if we forgive the Abscam investigation of 1980, he is known as the congressman who can deliver the most government contracts for his home district. He is also known for obstructing the ethics committee.

At this rate, the Democrats will have blown any chances of holding Congress by the time the actually take office.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Good News for Republicans

When I went to bed election night the Republicans still controlled the Senate and Price had beaten Kilroy for a House seat. The next day two close races were called for the Democrats giving them the Senate. In the meantime, the Price/Kilroy race is the tightest in the country and will not be official until the recount. In fact it is so tight that I heard a radio ad asking provisional voters to be sure that their votes were counted.

So, the Democrats will control Congress. The question is how long? Possibly not very long at all.

A recent poll was released with headlines saying "bad news for Bush". Typically, the important part is buried at the bottom.
While a bare majority of 51 percent called the Democrats' victory "a good thing," even more said they were concerned about some of the actions a Democratic Congress might take, including 78 percent who were somewhat or very concerned that it would seek too hasty a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Another 69 percent said they were concerned that the new Congress would keep the administration "from doing what is necessary to combat terrorism," and two-thirds said they were concerned it would spend too much time investigating the administration and Republican scandals.
According to exit polls, the country did not make a giant step to the left last Tuesday. Instead the voters signaled that they were tired of corruption in government and lack of progress in Iraq. If the Democrats pursue a moderate course with a few populist centerpieces such as raising the minimum wage then they stand a good chance of holding onto Congress and taking the White House. As this poll shows, if the voters are not interested in punishing Republicans nor do they want a quick surrender in Iraq.

So what is on the Democrat's schedule? First, Henry Waxman is promising to probe the Bush administration. In fact, he is promising lots of probes.

“I’m going to have an interesting time because the Government Reform Committee has jurisdiction over everything,” Waxman said Friday, three days after his party’s capture of Congress put him in line to chair the panel. “The most difficult thing will be to pick and choose.”
This sounds like just the sort of thing that Pilosi was supposed to be preventing. This may be an impossible task. Liberals such as Frank Dwyer at Huffington will never go along with limited probes. He wants probes into everything
Wolfowitz and Perle, Tenet and Bremer, Chertoff and Brown, Colin and Condi (what did they do? what did they know?), big oil execs, big pharmaceutical execs, Haliburton execs
The object of all of this is to force Cheney to resign before moving onto impeaching President Bush. Just what 2/3s of the electorate is afraid will happen.

What of Iraq? With Murtha being endorsed as majority leader and several high-ranking Democrats calling for a quick "redeployment", any chance of achieving a stable Iraq is probably a lost cause. No mater what you call it, pulling the troops out in the next few months unilaterally is a retreat. Most Americans will recognize this and remember who lost Viet Nam.

The Democrats seem to be living down to the electorate's worst expectations. All of this should be coming to a boil just in time for the next election.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Interesting how the Left can say with a straight face that Saddam did not have a nuclear program and say that Bush gave away secrets from this non-existent program.

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From: The Huffington Post <dailybrief@huffingtonpost.com>
Date: Nov 3, 2006 2:46 AM
Subject: Friday's Daily Brief

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Bush Admin Posted Nuclear Bomb Building Guide On The Internet...

A website set up by the Bush administration last year published documents that effectively constituted a guide to building an atomic bomb. The website, an archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war, was shut down last night after weapons experts and International Atomic Energy Agency officials expressed concern.

The documents contain charts, diagrams, and equations from Iraqi atomic research that experts say go beyond the knowledge commonly available on the Internet. "For the U.S. to toss a match into this flammable area is very irresponsible," said A. Bryan Siebert, a former director of classification at the Department of Energy. The website was created and the documents published under intense pressure from the Republican Congress.

Click here to read more.

Click here to discuss it on HuffPost.

On AOL News: Wildfire Suspect Charged With Arson, Murder


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Channel Goofus and Gallant

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Mike Stark: What You Don't Know

Melinda Henneberger: John Kerry and The Sixth Sense

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Loses and Wins

As of this writing, Democrats won the House but not the Senate. They picked up around 30 seats but failed to overturn Deborah Pryce. Pryce, the fourth-highest Republican, was targeted for attacks by MoveOn.org starting in early Summer. A moderate with a clean voting record, the worst thing that the Democrats cae up with for months was that she voted to give herself cost of living raises.

This race was particularly galling to me since I live in Pryce's district. Pryce is a true moderate, one I often have wished that I could exchange for a real conservative. Her opponent, Mary Jo Kilroy, has never been impressive, even when she headed the local school board. Had Kilroy taken Pryce's seat it would have had more to do with the amount of money brought into the election than anything else.

Mike DeWine, another moderate, didn't do as well. Between campaign mistakes and a general disgust with Republicans by Ohio voters, DeWine lost hit seat. DeWine may take the seat back in six years. He lost his first Senate run before winning a seat. He may stage a comeback.

In the meantime, what can we make of the Democrat's win? Not a whole lot. They won because they were not Republicans. They did not push a coherent plan for the country. With only a slim majority they will not be up to major legislation. They will probably try to pass some symbolic laws that will never make it through the Senate. They have no position on Iraq and there is very little that they can do to try to force policy.

This will never satisfy the hard-core left. These are the ones who voted for Nader because Clinton was too conservative. Many of them expect action. They want national health care, surrender in Iraq, and Bush's head on a platter.

What will happen two years from now when they don't perceive that any of their goals have been accomplished? Will they try further purges like the one with Leiberman? Will they replace Pilosi with Murtha?

This equation will change a bit if the Democrats take the Senate after all. The left will want even more but they will still be unable to deliver.

This may drive the Democrats to nominate an unelectable candidate - someone acceptable to the far left but too liberal for the general electorate.

One thing that the election does not signal is a general swing to the left by the entire country. Exit polls show that voters were rejecting Republican corruption, not their policies. This is not the lesson that the Democrats will hear. They tried to frame this as yet another vote on Bush. That isn't what the exit polls say and the 30 seats that they picked up were pretty anemic against a president in his 6th year.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Deserving to lose

Things look bad for the Ohio Republicans right now but they brought this down on themselves. No one action has contributed to the approaching downfall. Instead this is a culmination of several long-term trends.

Much of the blame can be laid on the RINOs. For some time Ohio has been in the grip of RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). While congratulating themselves on being moderates, they stand for very little. There is no platform, or even a single issue which can be identified with the RINOs. They have run past campaigns on a no-new-taxes platform but they hate to cut taxes and Governor Taft has raised taxes in several ways during his term.

Over the last several years Ohio has seen its industrial base decline. The RINOs response to this was to raise taxes. The result is that Ohio is near the top of the list of states when ranked by tax burden. at the same time, it is near the bottom of states that are friendly to business (mainly because of the tax burden).

All of this has led to an Ohio economy that is stagnant with little chance of short-term improvement.

While it is possible to blame Governor Taft for his lack of leadership, the problems go deeper than that. Taft is governor because the Republican party decided that he should be rather than Blackwell. Their reasoning was that 1) it was Taft's "turn", 2) they owed the Taft family, 3) the Taft name was golden in Ohio and 4) Taft was part of the statehouse Republican crowd and Blackwell was an outsider. They ignored the fact that Taft was a poor Secretary of State. Regardless of this, they viewed Taft as the safe candidate who would continue Voinovich's uninspired example.

All of this has backfired. Voinovich left some major problems behind including school funding and declining revenues. Taft was not up to the challenge. Also, as part of the Republican insiders, he allowed lobbyist Noe to use state funds as his personal bank account. The scandal resulting from this is dragging down Republicans in other states as well as Ohio.

The previous governor, Voinovich, wasn't much better. He acted more like the nanny-in-chief than governor, using the state's power to protect its citizens and make sure that their money was spent properly. When the state accumulated a surplus he refused to take this as a sign that taxes were too high, instead suggesting that spending wasn't high enough.

The problem is that Ohio's republicans might be RINOs but there is little hope that our Democrats are DINOs (Democrats In Name Only). Northern Ohio has always been home to highly progressive Democrats. These people are playing to their base of union workers. Their economic model is stuck in the 1930s and they are likely to bring back the Great Depression in Ohio.

My wife and I have discussed where we should live when we retire. Should we stay in Ohio or move elsewhere? Previously we have considered moving closer to some of our interests. Last night, for the first time, my wife wondered about the economic future of living in Ohio. This election is not going to make her feel any better about it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Shooting Himself in the Foot

John Kerry's gaff should have come and gone in the news before anyone noticed it. In stead it keeps growing.

For those who missed it, Kerry was addressing the Pasadena City College. After making a couple of Bush jokes, he said:
"You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
The White House and Rush Limbaugh said that Kerry should apologize for implying that the troops in Iraq are people who did not make an effort to be smart. Kerry fired back that it was a botched joke and that he was obviously referring to President Bush and that he was not going to be forced into an apology by "right-wing nut jobs" and a "doughy Rush Limbaugh".

Kerry's counter-attack made him one of yesterday's top stories. It also forced his to cancel most of his campaign stops and might have forced him out of the 2008 presidential race (not that he actually had a chance).

Kerry's supporters including MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olberman insist that it is obvious that he was talking about Bush. Anyone who says otherwise is just part of the Republican policy of "smear and fear" to quote Kerry.

So, which is it - a botch Bush joke or an insight into Kerry's opinion of the military? It is true that he told some anti-Bush jokes before making this one. A really generous person would assume that he meant to say:

"You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If, like our President, you don't, you get the country stuck in Iraq."
That sort of works if you remember the official line that Bush did poorly in college. It doesn't work anywhere near as well if you remember that Bush, Kerry, and Al Gore all got a few "D"s and graduated with "C" averages.

It also fails when you remember that the left has been characterizing the military as victims - poor and minorities who have no where else to go. Michael Moore spent a segment of Fahrenheit 911 saying that military recruiters only went after the poor and minorities. Kerry himself has said many worse things about the military. Just last year he insisted that our troops were terrorizing Iraqi families with midnight raids on the innocent.

And of course, Kerry could have stopped the whole thing by apologizing for what he actually said.

Kerry's response is probably caused by his interpretation of the 2004 presidential race. As he sees it, he lost because he was not quick enough and forceful enough in attacking the Swiftboat Vets. The new Kerry counter-attacks swiftly and forcefully but not accurately.

In the engagement where Kerry won his first Purple Heart there is some disagreement about what happened. He says that they were fired on. Others who were there at the time say that there was no return fire. Kerry panicked, started shooting, and the others in the group followed suit. The sliver that stuck in his thumb came from a grenade that he launched.

It appears that once again, Kerry launched an attack and wounded himself. I wonder if he will claim a Purple Heart for it?

Michael J. Fox UPDATE:
In campaign ads, Michael J. Fox is swaying around. It has been suggested that he skipped his medication in order to have the symptoms of his Parkinson's disease. It now appears that the behavior was caused by his medication. Someone who has been taking the medications for a long time will over-compensate when the medication first takes effect. This fades in 20-30 minutes and they appear normal. When filming, Fox times his medications so that this effect will have worn off before filming starts. In this case he made sure to be filmed while still showing the side-effects.

Which brings us back to the original question - is it ok for an actor to alter his appearance from his norm when filming a political ad? From the rush to condemn Rush, it must not be. None of the attacks against Limbaugh seem to say that it is ok. They just condemn Limbaugh for attacking a sick man.

BTW, Fox's appearance on Boston Legal will no longer be an issue. His character was killed and the body sold on the illegal body parts market.