Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Originally uploaded by Markos De Los Dios.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Davis square subway station

It's almost six pm on sunday and i'm on my way to work!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Picasso by uncle dave

Picasso by uncle dave
Originally uploaded by Markos De Los Dios.


Originally uploaded by Markos De Los Dios.


Originally uploaded by Markos De Los Dios.

Another painting by dave

Painting by my Uncle Dave

This painting is on the piano at my parents house. The picture is probably too fuzzy to see well, but hopefully you can still see that the colors are nice and the composition is good. I'm pretty sure you could stick it in a museum and people would think it deserved to be there.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

"Do It Again." Tom Wolfe on Hunter S. Thompson

This essay by Tom Wolfe is a zillion times better than the New York Times obit on Hunter Thompson that I read. I already loved Tom Wolfe and this just makes me love him more. Check out this sentence:

"Hunter's life, like his work, was one long barbaric yawp, to use Whitman's term, of the drug-fueled freedom from and mockery of all conventional proprieties that began in the 1960s."

There is just so much information packed into that sentence, more than you might get from a whole page of someone else's writing. In one motion Wolfe is legitimizing Thompson's craziness, connecting it to the originality of Whitman, and acknowledging that it was drug-induced without implying that it was immature or self-indulgent. And on its own, that sentence would be pompous and over-intellectual, but it's packed between a bunch of stories so down-to-earth and heart warming that you know that Wolfe understands that the simple wild story is worth more than any of his theoretical musings.

What a blessing that Wolfe was able to hang out with Thompson and capture these hysterical snapshots of his life.

(Today's song of the day is "Right Here Now" by James McMurtry, off the album Where'd You Hide the Body. For an audio clip of Hunter S. Thompson click here.)

Friday, February 18, 2005

"Aw Come On, Why Should I Help If China and India Aren't?"

Seth Borenstein, Knight Ridder's Environment and Science Correspondent, was on yesterday morning's Washington Journal talking about the Kyoto Treaty and global warming. You can watch the whole thing here. Or, if you don't have 20 minutes to spare you can just watch this highlight, where he sums up the most upsetting data. Finally, if you don't even have time for that and just want the lowdown, you can check out this crash course in global warming.

Today's song of the day is "Carbon Monoxide" from the album Pressure Chief, by the band Cake. "Fresh Air," by Quicksilver Messenger Service was also in the running (you can listen to that here).

Quote of the Day:

"I’m not going to let the US carry the burden for cleaning up the world’s air, like the Kyoto Protocol would have done. China and India were exempted from that treaty."
- George W. Bush

To me, that's like if you're a bodybuilder on a cruise ship that's sinking, and someone asks you to bail out water with a bigger bucket than other people are using, and you say, "What about Lou and Bruno over there? They're pretty big, and they're using regular buckets. Screw this, I'm going to play shuffleboard."

Right after Bush said that line (the "Kyoto Protocol" one, not the "shuffleboard" one) in the 2000 Presidential debate at Wake Forest he went on to say that 99 Senators voted against joining the Kyoto accord. So I guess it's not fair to act like this whole thing is Bush's fault. Fine, shame on all of them.

Internet Link of the Day! Bless Yourself / Proof God Exists

Treat yourself to this discussion from the "Secular Lifestyle" forum of a web page for people who don't believe in god. The topic in question is what to do when someone sneezes, since saying "God Bless You" is an unappealing option to these people, or at least to "Vinnie," who started the conversation.

Speaking of whom, I can't help but find it comical that out there in the world is an athiest named Vinnie who gets angry whenever someone sneezes. Also, I'll sleep easier knowing that somewhere out there is an athiest who refers to themself as "Texas Rose."

If there isn't a god then who filled the internet with these gems? Because it's chock full of them, that's for sure. Which leads me to what Thomas Aquinas referred to as "The Vinnie Proof" for the existence of god. Obviously, since this was written over 700 years ago this was written about a different Vinnie, but I think it's still as meaningful today as it was back then...

The Vinnie Proof

I. If there isn't a god then human beings are purely biological creatures (as opposed to partly spiritual creatures).

II. If humans are purely biological creatures they are ultimately interested in nothing but the survival of their genes.

III. I'm interested in Vinnie the Grumpy Italian Athiest, and the very thought of him scowling at someone who has just sneezed makes me feel happy to be alive.

IV. Therefore, since I'm genuinely interested in something which most certainly does nothing to increase the chances of the survival of my genes, I'm not a purely biological creature. Therefore, I am partly a spiritual creature.

V. If part of my existence is spiritual, there must exist a non-biological part of the universe.

VIN. Since biological means "related to how life operates according to the laws of physics," non-biological must mean "related to a force unrestricted by the laws of physics."

VIINI. Any force unrestricted by the laws of physics is God.

VINNIE. Therefore, since a force exists which is unrestricted by the laws of physics, God exists.

Thomas Aquinas, 1274 (Terracina, Italy)

(Today's song of the day is "Friends Like You, Who Needs Friends" from the soundtrack to Rushmore. I thought the organ fit the religious theme.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Valentine's Day Troubleshooting at Comp USA

Yesterday I went to Comp USA to trade in a digital camera because a couple of the pixels weren't working. It was raining. I pulled into the parking lot at about 8:30 pm and the place was dead. There were maybe 3 cars in the whole parking lot. So I pull my car up to a guy smoking a cigarette outside the entrance and ask him if the store is still open. He says, "Yup, we're open 'til nine."

I park and head into the store, shielding the camera box from the rain, and just before I head inside the cigarette guy says, "Is it a return?" I say, "Yeah." He says, "You might as well show it to me now, I'm the return guy." So I hand it to him and he flicks his cigarette into the parking lot, looking at the box as he turns it around in his hands. It's about then that I realize this guy isn't wearing anything that would indicate that he works at Comp USA. He is wearing all black, the sides of his head are shaved, and the long hair on top of his head is pulled back into a pony tail. But just as I start to imagine him running off with the camera and peeling rubber in his black Camero (that's the kind of car I imagine someone pulling a heist like this would drive), he bolts inside and heads behind the returns/repair desk.

He opens the box in a flash and starts pulling handfuls of manuals and wires out of it. "Well you definitely didn't forget anything," he says, "look at all this crap." I thought that was pretty funny, that instead of going down a checklist of the items that were supposed to be in the box, the fact that the box appeared to be filled with lots of stuff was sufficient. I can imagine him sitting in the Comp USA repair training seminar, scribbling copious notes while the regional training director says, "Remember, it's absolutely crucial to open the return item box and make sure it's filled with a fair amount of crap. Comp USA loses millions of dollars every year as a result of employees approving the return of items without much crap in the box."

Then the guy asks me what the problem is and I tell him about the broken pixels. Without hesitating a moment he says, "Let's check it out," whips out the camera, and, before I even realize what is going on, snaps this picture of himself.

Hahah, it still cracks me up just thinking about it. For a lot of reasons... One, it's funny that the first thing that comes to his mind when taking a throwaway picture is to flip the bird. It was completely automatic for him, as if there was no other way to test a camera and that taking a picture without him flipping the bird wouldn't be anywhere near as effective at helping to figure out what was wrong with the camera. Two, it's funny that he would do that in the middle of the store, right in front of a customer no less. It makes me think that somehow I must exude the kind of aura that makes customer service people feel completely at home. (That's me on the left in the picture, by the way.) Some people might see that as a lack of respect, but I think it's kind of flattering. I mean, imagine when some 50 year old man in a business suit comes in with a camera problem and this Comp USA guy has to just take a picture of his hand or something, or walk into a back room to take a bird-flipping picture in private. Not me, though. I walk into Comp USA and the returns guy feels like he's in his own living room with an old friend.

On a side note, I don't want to give the impression that this guy was some punk who didn't care about helping me out. On the contrary, he was actually very helpful and patient, which is all the more impressive considering he was in the middle of trying to win $20 based on how fast he could install Windows on a computer. So, in honer of the bird-flipping, all-black-wearing, gambling-on-software-installation Comp USA repair guy, today's song of the day is Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. (Picture him driving home in his black Camero, listing to his tape of this album, thinking that the lyrics are about technology troubleshooting.)


"A lot of people don't realize that I came up with the idea for Nothing Else Matters while reinstalling Windows Millenium on the tour bus Dell Pentium IV. When I say 'so close, no matter how far,' I'm talking about how maintaining a stable operating system always seems to be 128 megabytes of RAM away."
- James Hetfield, Lead Singer of Metallica


ME (as I'm leaving the store): Sorry if I hurt your chances at winning your Windows installation bet.
THE COMP USA GUY: Hey, no problem, that camera was the best return of the whole day.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

This Train is Bound for Coronaries / Late Night Social Security Fireworks

I stumbled across this place in New Jersey that ships Pork Rolls, aka Taylor Ham, to anywhere in the United States. If you aren't familiar with this Jersey treasure, this New York Times article will fill in the details.

(Today's song of the day is Voluntary Hospital Escape by Mark Mothersbaugh, from the movie Bottle Rocket. I imagine that it's the type of music you would hear over the PA system while riding the Pork Roll Xpress.)

You also might want to check out Hometown-Treats: You're Home Away From Home. They ship local snacks that dislocated people can't find in their new surroundings. Awesome.

Last night at 2 in the morning I watched some of a house committee hearing with John Snow, the Treasury Secretary. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (I'd link to her web site but it will be more fun for you to google "Tubbs" and "representative"), Dem from Ohio, was really tearing into him. It was the most exciting thing I have ever seen that had to do with social security.

At one point, Snow was like, "Shut up!" and Tubbs was all, "No way, you shut up!" and then Snow was like, "Talk to the hand, Tubbsy." Not really, but trust me, there was tension in the air. As soon as they put that hearing on the C-SPAN web site I'm going to post some audio clips from it. It was some spicy stuff. Rep. Tubbs Jones is a sparkplug.

How is the larger font treating you? I figure, why not, right?

Also, check out this C-SPAN Radio blog.

Quote of the Day:

"Their dad was sick and dying of cancer, and all he wanted was a Taylor Ham sandwich. We got it out to him right away."
- Donna Beers

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Life Aquatic / Today in Virginia Legislative Affairs

I watched The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou a couple of days ago and I thought it was great. A lot of people told me that it wasn't that good, but my brother said it was amazing and I wholeheartedly agree. I thought it was funny, beautiful to look at, with a good plot, a great soundrack (today's song of the day is Life on Mars, by Seu Jorge), and plus, Bill Murray is on center stage, with a great script. What's not to love? I can't wait to watch it again.

Brian Lamb was hosting Washington Journal this morning and the segment I caught was about the possibility of making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Lamb was underlining an editorial in the Wall Street Journal saying that making them permanent is going to be difficult because of opposition from moderate and New England Republicans. Of the 10 or so callers I watched, not a single one, Democrat or Republican, wanted to make the cuts permanent. I think most people realize that there is something misguided about cutting taxes during a war.

This is from House Bill No. 2921 from the Virginia House of Representatives, a bill about adoption:

"The investigation requested by the circuit court shall include, in addition to other inquiries that the circuit court may require the child-placing agency or local director to make, inquiries as to... whether the petitioner is known to engage in current voluntary homosexual activity or is unmarried and cohabiting with another adult to whom he is not related by blood or marriage..."


"Hey Frank, how did your adoption hearing go?"
"Well, obviously, my lavender vest raised a few eyebrows, but luckily all my homosexual activity is woefully out-of-date. I mentioned a move I learned from Richard Simmons at the '76 Jazzercize Conference and they approved me on the spot. "

Thursday, February 03, 2005

"Honey, It's the State of the Union Address Tonight... Have You Seen My Longsleeve Tesla Shirt?"

song of the day:

I've decided to put the song of the day within each day's post. That way I can choose an ambience that will remain with that particar post for all of eternity. Plus, when people are skipping from post to post they can play the song of that particular day while reading that day's post. (And by "people" I mean me and my dad.)

I think I am going to take the state of the union address and put it to music. Stay tuned. Did the Wall Street Journal link work? Anyone? The only response I got was "Inhofe got mad skills!" which is hysterical, and exactly the kind of dialogue I'm looking to spark here, but it didn't answer my question about the Journal link.

Also, you don't really notice how pointy a blazer makes your shoulders look until you have to Photoshop one to look like a Tesla t-shirt.

Wall Street Journal Article of the Day:

Promises in State of the Union
Sometimes Fly, Sometimes Flop

Success, Failure Depend in Large Part
On Congress, Elections, Priority Shifts

January 31, 2005 8:41 p.m.

Presidents are constitutionally required to deliver to Congress their appraisal of the nation's health and well-being once a year. But the State of the Union address is rarely a mere survey of current conditions. It has become a president's primary device for laying out his agenda to the American people.

President Bush, like his predecessors, stuffed each address of his first term with a sprawling array of programs, initiatives, spending packages, tax cuts and other policy baubles. Some captured the imagination of citizens, others were soon forgotten by electorate and administration alike (remember that vow last year to explore Mars?). Mr. Bush has given three State of the Union addresses; in 2001, shortly after his first inauguration, he addressed Congress in a budget speech that served much the same purpose.

As Mr. Bush prepares to make the first State of the Union speech of his second term, The Wall Street Journal Online took a look back at some of the vows -- both memorable and obscure -- that the president made in each of his first four speeches, and whether they made it from the rostrum to reality.

* * *
2001: Education, taxes and faith

On education: "Children should be tested on basic reading and math skills every year between grades three and eight. Measuring is the only way to know whether all our children are learning. And I want to know, because I refuse to leave any child behind in America."

The president's No Child Left Behind plan, which relies heavily on standardized testing to measure the performance of both students and schools, became law in 2002. The legislation mandated that annual report cards be issued for schools, and that those that don't measure up provide supplemental services like tutoring programs. Parents of children at underperforming schools also have the right to transfer their children to a better school in their district. States and school districts have greater flexibility in how they spend education funds. Mr. Bush recently announced a $1.5 billion "intervention fund" to improve high-school learning and graduation rates, and to extend No Child Left Behind standardized testing to high-school students. The president hasn't said whether he'd ask for new money for the proposal or seek to divert money from other education spending.

On estate taxes: "It's not fair to tax the same earnings twice -- once when you earn them, and again when you die -- so we must repeal the death tax."

The "death tax" -- or federal estate tax -- has been a perennial target of Republican ire. The president has been successful in reducing the estate tax, but it seems that even with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, total repeal is unlikely. The White House can't count on lobbying muscle from the super-rich: Many of the very wealthiest Americans whose families would benefit greatly from the vanquishing of the estate tax don't support repeal, including investment guru Warren Buffett, who says untaxed inheritances would create an "aristocracy of wealth." But some form of compromise with Democrats may have a better chance of getting passed in Mr. Bush's second term. One proposal that might pass bipartisan muster would eliminate the tax for all but the very largest estates.

On faith-based initiatives: "My budget adopts a hopeful new approach to help the poor and the disadvantaged. We must encourage and support the work of charities and faith-based and community groups that offer help and love one person at a time."

Mr. Bush's emphasis on "faith-based initiatives" was one of the major flashpoints of his first 100 days in office. Many civil libertarians and even some religious leaders called his plans a breach of the church-state divide, while conservatives embraced the idea of farming out expensive social programs to churches. John DiIulio Jr., an early leader of the president's faith program, argued in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that failure to support faith-based initiatives in the war on poverty was tantamount to ignoring the 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause. Congress scuttled Mr. Bush's most ambitious faith-based plans, but the president did open a "compassion capital fund" to bankroll some initiatives. The issue has receded from the spotlight recently, but the emphasis on "values" cited by many voters in the 2004 election could give faith-based programs new prominence.

* * *
2002: Defense, energy and trade

On defense: "We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack."

The Bush administration decided to invade Iraq because of perceived threat represented by Saddam Hussein's stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. But those weapons haven't materialized and the U.S. has officially called off the search. Libya voluntarily disarmed and a black-market ring for nuclear materials headed up by a former top Pakistani scientist was broken up, but other successes have proved harder to come by. Iran's nuclear capabilities -- and what the Bush administration might do about them -- have been the subject of feverish speculation, and the U.S. is wary of North Korea's nuclear intentions. Missile defense remains a touchy subject. Many critics don't see the need for it, calling the program a vestige of the Cold War that should be mothballed to beef up spending on other more pressing defense and homeland-security needs.

On energy sources: "Good jobs also depend on reliable and affordable energy. This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil."

America has done little to decrease its reliance on foreign oil: According to the Commerce Department's most recent report on international trade flows, the volume of crude-oil imports increased to 326.48 million barrels in November from 315.81 million the previous month, contributing to the massive U.S. trade deficit. Energy prices soared during Mr. Bush's first term, and though oil futures prices have ebbed somewhat, soaring energy costs have eroded corporate profits and consumers' purchasing power. In the meantime, conservation efforts have foundered. The president's push for fuel-cell research has stalled even as hybrid cars become more popular.

On trade: "Good jobs depend on expanded trade. Selling into new markets creates new jobs, so I ask Congress to finally approve trade-promotion authority."

Though Mr. Bush won back trade-promotion authority, which gives the president greater power in negotiating agreements, his record on trade has been mixed. A package of steel tariffs designed to protect U.S. producers from foreign competitors drew criticism both inside and outside the administration and was eventually rolled back. The generous subsidies the U.S. gives its farmers have proved to be a big sticking point in international trade talks. Meanwhile, the president has sent mixed signals on the question of offshoring. During the presidential campaign, he proclaimed his eagerness to protect American jobs and muzzled a top economic adviser who suggested that the outsourcing of jobs overseas was a long-term net positive for the U.S. But he also has repeatedly called for open markets.

* * *
2003: Health care, AIDS and the environment

On AIDS in Africa: "I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean."

Mr. Bush won Congress's rhetorical support for his AIDS initiative but squabbling about specifics quickly ensued, which means that funding has so far fallen short of the president's initial proposal. U.S. AIDS funding increased a total of $2 billion over fiscal years 2004-05, and Mr. Bush is proposing an additional $1.6 billion increase for 2006. That still would leave him to find another $6.4 billion to meet his pledge. But spending levels will be a hot topic as the U.S. is trying to reduce its massive deficits. What's more, despite the World Health Organization's endorsement of cheaper generic AIDS drugs manufactured in India, the Bush administration won't buy them on grounds that they violate U.S. patents. That drives up the program's costs -- the U.S. is paying twice as much for many of the drugs as other international aid groups are, according to the Government Accountability Office -- and means whatever AIDS funds are ultimately approved by Congress won't stretch as far as many would wish.

On health care: "Health-care reform must begin with Medicare; Medicare is the binding commitment of a caring society. We must renew that commitment by giving seniors access to preventive medicine and new drugs that are transforming health care in America. My budget will commit an additional $400 billion over the next decade to reform and strengthen Medicare."

Congress passed the huge Medicare prescription-drug benefit in 2003 but the legislation represented the biggest expansion of a federal entitlement program in a generation and will be considerably more expensive than originally estimated. The voluntary benefit, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2006, will cover the prescription-drug expenses of some 11 million low-income elderly and disabled Americans. Many economists caution that Medicare and Medicaid present an even more serious threat to the country's long-term economic well-being than Social Security. The Government Accountability Office estimates that the U.S. Medicare bill will hit $28 trillion over the next 75 years.

On the environment: "I have sent you Clear Skies legislation that mandates a 70 percent cut in air pollution from power plants over the next 15 years. I have sent you a Healthy Forests Initiative, to help prevent the catastrophic fires that devastate communities, kill wildlife, and burn away millions of acres of treasured forest."

The Clear Skies legislation died in Congress last year. It's been reported that Mr. Bush, eager nonetheless to push through some kind of change in air-pollution rules, has been considering enacting the Clear Skies provisions by executive order. But that has energy companies wary of extended legal fights nervous -- most executives would prefer a legislative solution. Some Republicans in the business community have also tried to distance themselves from efforts to roll back clean-air rules and the Endangered Species Act. Meanwhile, liberal critics have mocked the Clear Skies plan, calling it patronage for Bush campaign fundraisers in the energy business and a loosening of pollution regulations. The Healthy Forests Act passed in 2003.

* * *
2004: Patriot Act, budget and gay marriage

On the Patriot Act: "Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year. The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. Our law enforcement needs this vital legislation to protect our citizens. You need to renew the Patriot Act."

The Patriot Act was a big issue in the 2004 election season -- and as such, little legislative headway was made in renewing it. However, many moderate Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry, have been quietly supportive of most of its provisions and favor renewal with only modest changes. The nomination of Michael Chertoff, a big supporter of the Patriot Act the first time around, to lead the Department of Homeland Security may also help push renewal over the hump. Mr. Bush could see results here: The president is still perceived by many voters as a strong leader in the war on terror, and homeland security is an area where he has deep reserves of political capital. Many lawmakers could be wary of running afoul of voters loyal to the president if the war of terrorism remains a central issue going into the midterm elections in 2006.

On the budget: "In two weeks, I will send you a budget that funds the war, protects the homeland, and meets important domestic needs, while limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than four percent."

The federal budget will be the primary chess board for Mr. Bush's second term (his spending proposals for the coming fiscal year will be submitted to Congress next week). In Mr. Bush's first two years as president, domestic spending, not including defense and entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, grew roughly 10% annually. It expanded 6.4% in his third year. If the president is to cut the gaping deficit in half, as he has promised, spending will need to be curtailed. If economic growth is solid, Iraq takes a turn for the better and Congress curbs its appetite for pork, the deficit could shrink substantially. But the president's desire to head off what he says is an imminent crisis in Social Security, along with the rollout of Medicare's pricey new prescription-drug benefit, could keep the U.S. swimming in red ink for a good while.

On gay marriage: "Activist judges … have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage."

Gay marriage was a cultural flashpoint of the 2004 election, and these lines were manna for Mr. Bush's socially conservative base. But the issue has received scant attention since November. Indeed, White House backing for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage could be a dead letter. Some prominent Republicans have made it known that they don't support amending the Constitution, and many states have already passed ballot measures limiting the definition of marriage, making the need for a federal amendment less urgent in the eyes of many conservatives. Furthermore, the president will likely want to keep his powder dry for bigger looming fights on Social Security and overhauling the tax code.

Write to Tim Annett at tim.annett@wsj.com

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Props to Lincoln Chafee / Test to See If I Can Post Free Links to the Wall Street Journal

If you click here does it take you to an article at the Wall Street Journal about the "Clear Skies" bill? Please post a comment to let me know whether the link works. In case it doesn't here is the article:

Unusual Maneuver May Break
Deadlock on 'Clear Skies' Bill

February 2, 2005; Page B2

Facing a 9-9 deadlock in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Republicans are threatening a legislative maneuver that will take President Bush's "Clear Skies" proposal directly to the Senate floor where they claim to have the votes to pass it.

The bill, which would cut power-plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury by as much as 70% over the next 13 years, is opposed by Democrats. They want to further tighten limits and add regulation of carbon-dioxide emissions.

The deadlock has been caused by Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R., R.I.), who has said he will vote with the panel's eight Democrats to add carbon dioxide to the bill. A tie vote would mean the panel couldn't report the measure to the floor.

As a "last resort" to break the deadlock, Chairman James M. Inhofe will use a Senate procedure called Rule 14 to remove the bill from the panel and complete it on the Senate floor, said Andrew Wheeler, majority staff director for the committee.

Stephen Hourahan, a spokesman for Sen. Chafee, said the senator prefers to keep the debate within the committee and is "working to convince other Republican members to support him."

Three years ago, Senate Democrats used Rule 14 to move an energy bill to the Senate floor. The resulting debate on the complex measure lasted for weeks before the bill finally died.

Environmental groups oppose the Clear Skies legislation, but James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said utilities, unions and many county and state officials support it because it will help many communities meet pending air regulations. He said it will also generate a $50 billion market for new equipment to control air pollution, and jobs to manufacture and install it.

Check out the official picture of Lincoln Chafee at his .gov web site. It's a little small but you can make out the gist of what he looks like.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Picture of the Day! Who is the HoJo of the 109th Congress?

I was cleaning out the bureau in my room and I stumbled across my beloved copy of the November, 1989 Baseball Digest: Baseball's Only Monthly Magazine. What a masterpiece. 1) Hojo, one of my all-time favorite Mets and an honored member of the 30-30 club, is on the cover, 2) you can see a blurry Keith Hernandez in the background, and 3) all three headlines are amazing.

If only there was a monthly politics magazine with headlines half as good as "Up-the-Middle Defense: An Overlooked Pennant Factor." Then it would be easier for people to get excited about politics. Picture "The D.C. Digest" with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings on the cover pointing an angry finger at Buster Baxter, PBS's pro-lesbian cartoon rabbit, while a blurry Orrin Hatch stands in the dugout with a Keith Hernandez-style mustache. Meanwhile, spicy minor headlines pepper the rest of the cover, like "10 Classic Philabusters You May Have Overlooked" and "Omnibusted! How to Monitor Oversized Legislative Bills."

If anyone can guess 7 of the 15 most dramatic (pre-1989) home runs in big league history I'll send you all of my back issues of Stereo Review or my ALF sleeping bag, your pick.

Factoid of the Day! Welcome to France, Can I Take Your Order?

The president of France, Jacque Chirac, used to work at a Howard Johnson Restaurant in Boston. I would love to see a chart of which world leaders, both current and historical, have worked at a menial job.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

GRE Words of the Day! Mendacious, Pusillanimous, Penurious, Mettle, and Consonant

I just took a GRE practice test and these are the words I didn't know. If you click on the word to the left of the colon it will take you to the definition; if you click on the word in the sentence it will take you to a picture I found by typing the word into google image search.

mendacious: It would seem that the good people at stentorian.com find Bill Clinton to be mendacious.

pusillanimous: On the other hand, the folks at novakeo.com find Bush to be pusillanimous when it comes to dealing with corporations.

penurious: Nevertheless, John Franco has them both beat when it comes to being penurious about giving up hits.

mettle: Artist Richard Krause has them all beat, displaying mettle in his paintings and his puns.

consonant: But despite their differences, Bush, Clinton, Franco, and Krause are all part of the flow of the universe, just as in this zen painting chaos is consonant with form.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Brian Lamb Interviews George Bush! / The Old Country Buffet Era

What a banner day in the world of C-SPAN fandom! Bush was interviewed by Brian Lamb for Q & A, C-SPAN's Sunday night interview show, but you can already watch it online if you just can't wait.

If you are looking for insights into the complex political genius of George Bush, this interview won't really do much for you. But, if you are fascinated by the way Bush has somehow been able to charm 51% of Americans into voting for him, despite his obvious incompetence when it comes to talking intelligently about political issues, this interview is for you.

Juxtaposed with Brian Lamb's serious manner and love of books, Bush comes off as goofy and inarticulate as ever. With each passing question he looks more and more like Dennis the Menace being grilled by Mr. Wilson.

At one point Lamb asks Bush what he watches when he watches television. Bush says "I really don't watch much TV...Of course C-SPAN, what am I thinking?" Look at his gesture here when he says that (sorry no audio):

That "I'm such an idiot" gesture is right out of Chris Farley's playbook. Can you imagine any other president in our history doing that? And who would have thought that someone with that kind of schtick could ever be a viable presidential candidate?

(from the Chris Farley Picture Gallery

While liberals may hate to admit it, Bush's cluelessness has a certain charm about it and that's a large part of why he beat John Kerry. Smart people act like they know everything, and they say all kinds of confusing things; between the arrogance and the fancy words, people don't know what to believe. Bush, on the other hand, acts like he barely knows anything, and like it or not, that inspires people to trust him. People tend to trust what they can understand.

In sum, when the nation is evenly split on political issues (like it is now) charm is the deciding factor. Therefore, I believe we have entered the era of the "Old Country Buffet" President. (If you've never been to Old Country Buffett, think Sizzler but not so fancy.) The question, "Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?" is outdated; Bush doesn't even drink.

When you ask yourself, "Which candidate would you rather go to Old Country Buffet with?" I think you have a pretty good guage of who will win the presidency. Take a look:

Who would you/the American people rather go to Old Country Buffet with?

04 Bush Kerry..........Answer: Bush
00 Bush Gore...........Answer: Bush
96 Clinton Dole........Answer: Clinton
92 Clinton Bush........Answer: Clinton
88 Bush Dukakis.......Answer: Bush
84 Reagan Mondale...Answer: Reagan?
80 Reagan Carter.......Answer: Reagan
76 Carter Ford...........Answer: Carter
72 Nixon McGovern...Answer: ??

I think it works all the way back to 1976, but I don't know anything about the dynamic of Nixon vs. McGovern so I won't even hazard a guess. Also, I don't know what Mondale was like so I'm just assuming that Reagan out Old Country Buffeted him because I imagine that Reagan could outcharm almost anyone. But when you look at the last four elections, that's when you are really getting into the meaty part of the Old Country Buffet Era. Bush and Clinton both possess an unmistakable "down home charm" charm that made all four of their opponents look relatively stiff and uptight.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Picture of the Day: "Hello Sears? I Need Something Somber, Yet Comfortable"

The Washington Post blew the lid off this story about Dick Cheney wearing his "snow blower" clothes to the Auschwitz Memorial. But that's just how Cheney operates, it's nothing personal. "Business casual" is his middle name. Remember last year when he wore his Buffalo Bills Zubaz pants to a cabinet meeting?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

An Excellent Anonymous Comment

Yesterday's post about the levity during Bush's press conference drew this response...


The President's attitude is indicative of this whole war - most of us have no connection to it (we don't have any soldiers in our family or circle of friends). Pres. Bush may mourn the lives lost today, but he has no personal attachment to these soldiers.


I think that's such a poignant statement, especially because it points out that "most of us" are in the same boat as Bush, forgetful of the seriousness of the warbecause we don't have any close ties to the people losing their lives. And the blame goes both ways. Bush is able to get away with treating this war lightly because American citizens don't hold his feet to the fire and tell him to stop kidding around. Conversely, Americans take this war less seriously than they should because the whole Bush administration approach is to act like everything is going perfectly.

But let's face it, this whole war was a giant mistake. The reasons that led us to start it turned out to be false. And now that we're there we're having a pretty rough time. That's not to say we aren't making progress, but more Americans are dying than anyone expected, so it's fair to say things are rough.

To which Bush says: "The world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein in power." But that isn't the question! There are hundreds of leaders in the world that put the security of the US at risk, from Prime Ministers to Warlords to Priests. The real question is: Was taking out this particlar leader a task worthy of 1400+ lives? And the answer to that is no. You have to think, what would the American people have said if that's how this whole thing was presented to them at the beginning. "Are you willing to have 1400 soldiers die in order to take out Saddam Hussein?"

And that is why Bush has decided to change the central goal of his administration from a practical one to an idealistic one, from American security to freedom.

Before Bush's inauguration speech, those soldiers had died because of a questionable policy decision. But according to the new agenda they died for "freedom," which is a lot easier for Americans to swallow.

But Bush knows he can't put the "freedom" of citizens around the world ahead of American security, so he says that American security depends on freedom around the world. Which is hogwash.

American security depends on preventing nuclear weapons from getting into the wrong hands, and that means that America will have to win the cooperation of some shady leaders and tyrannical regimes (like Iran and North Korea), not overthrow them. But talking about negotiating with tyrannical regimes doesn't make you feel all warm and fuzzy the way talking about freedom and liberty does.

Just to play devils advocate, it is possible that our invasion of Iraq has given us more leverage in negotiating with Iran and North Korea. I don't know enough about foreign relations to comment on that, but I'll allow that it's possible.

Still, these conclusions remain firm:

1) Even if the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein in power, that does not mean that Bush made the "right decision." It just means things may work out despite his mistake. If I'm a quarterback and I throw an interception, and then the guy who intercepted the pass fumbles, and then my team recovers and runs for a touchdown, that doesn't mean I might the "right decision" when I passed the ball.

2) The idea of freeing the world from tyranny is ridiculous. Bush's job is to keep Americans safe; sometimes that may mean overthrowing a tyrant, sometimes that may mean negotiating with one.

3) Bush needs to wipe that smirk off his face. Save the antics for Air Force One and the golf course.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Picture of the Day: Ground Control to Major Tom

A picture from the C-SPAN web page this morning, where I was watching streaming video of Bush's press conference...

1/26/05 Bush Press Conference: 5 chuckles, 5 laughters, 2 laughs, and 1 scattered laughter

I was dismayed by the light-hearted tone of this conference, given the fact that at least 36 American soldiers have died in the last 24 hours, more than any other day of the war. And despite this, Bush was cracking one-liners and ribbing the White House Press Corps like he always does. It just doesn't seem appropriate today.

So you can get a sense of what I mean, here are excerpts from the transcript of President Bush's news conference (as recorded by Federal News Service Inc.). I cut and pasted every line where there was chuckling or laughter:

"...I don't know the facts -- (chuckles)."

"Q (Laughs.)"

"PRESIDENT BUSH: (Chuckles.)"

"PRESIDENT BUSH: Is that your question? The answer is no. Next? (Laughter.)"

"PRESIDENT BUSH: (Chuckles.)"

"Q (Chuckles.)"

"Q He, sir. (Scattered laughter.)"

"PRESIDENT BUSH: He. Excuse me. Should have done the background check. (Laughter.)"

"PRESIDENT BUSH: (Chuckles.)"

"PRESIDENT BUSH: (Laughs.) Glad to have you here. (Laughter.)"

"PRESIDENT BUSH: Acting like one, however. Go ahead. (Laughter.)"

"PRESIDENT BUSH: Faulty memory. (Laughter.)"

And I'm not saying that Bush is evil or doesn't care about what happened today, I'm just saying that my ideal president would not be cracking jokes during a press conference on a day like today. And don't get me wrong, I appreciate Bush's desire to convey a sense of optimism. But what Americans needed from their leader today was a serious, somber optimimism; what they got was a jokey, nonchalant optimism. Even Bush's specific reference to the helicopter crash was cursory at best: "I know that it's being investigated by the Defense Department. Obviously, any time we lose life, it is a sad moment."

I think it's time for Bush put away the whole 'locker room banter' approach to press conferences.

In fact, the locker room analagy isn't even a fair one. Think about the last athlete you saw at a press conference after a tough game. The chances are pretty good that they were taking those reporters and their questions more seriously than Bush appears to take the White House Press Corps. It's pretty ridiculous when you think about it... Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers is giving articulate and sincere answers to questions about his interceptions, meanwhile our President is shrugging off questions about Foreign Relations and Social Security like he's dealing with hecklers at the Comedy Cellar.

We are at war. Americans and Iraqi soldiers are dying every day. Is it too much to ask for a President who looks like he's taking things pretty damn seriously?

(On a brighter note, Bush did have a good line about immigration: "I want to remind people that family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River. People are coming to our country to do jobs that Americans won't do, to be able to feed their families.")

The press conference will be on again at 8 pm EST on C-SPAN.

Bob Novak Calls Bush's Inaugural Speech "Lunatic"

Fresh from the CNN transcript department:

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, did the president's address set an effective agenda for his second term?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, not really, because the thing he's going to be dealing with on a day-to-day business, domestic policy, he just took care of in one paragraph. This was a very different kind of inaugural address. Usually, the inaugural is treated like a drama critic. You know, was the style good? Did -- was it inspirational? People on this one were saying, Well, what was he talking about? Did he really mean what he said, that we are going to eliminate tyranny from the face of the world? We're going to go all over Africa. We're going to go to our friends in Pakistan, in China, and -- and get them to be democrats? Well, that would be lunatic! We don't have the power. We don't have the authority.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Picture of the Day: Bush's Inaugural Address

I streamed Bush's speech over the internet today from the White House web site today, and something just seemed different about him. Finally I realized, call me crazy, maybe it's the fuzziness of the image quality, maybe I haven't been getting enough sleep lately, but I could swear that it looks like he's wearing some sort of bike helmet...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Good Speech by Joe Biden

I thought Joe Biden's closing remarks today at Dr. Rice's confirmation today were really good. I like Biden because he can be harshly critical without being confrontational, a skill that Barbara Boxer and John Kerry don't seem to have mastered yet. Biden can list a million things that someone did wrong, and even get all riled up, but he never seems to take any of it too personally.

I suppose I can understand the anger on the part of Kerry and Boxer, it is true that Rice has played a major role in some pretty terrible debacles, but still, I just question the political expediency of the whole 'witch hunt' approach to confirmation hearings. Why alienate yourself from the next Secretary of State before she has even unpacked her office supplies?

Anyway, since Biden's speech was so good I put it up on my site as an mp3. It's about 15 minutes long and it covers a lot of ground, from Iraq to neoconservatives to the plummeting dollar, with a lengthy football metaphor that even mentions the 'nickel defence.' And it's all delivered in Joe's patented "get your head in the game, kiddo" tone of voice. What's not to love?

(Also, just so you have a frame of reference, he refers a lot to how the Bush administration has been consistently overrepresenting the number of "trained" Iragi security forced there are. Rice says it's around 120,000; Biden says he's been to Iraq 3 times and talked to military people who say it's around 4,000.)

(note: it takes a while for the track to download after you click the links, but it will work eventually)

To listen to the speech click here.

And if listening to a 15 minute speech sounds too boring for you, I also made a version of the speech with lively music in the background.

update: For people looking for a more melancholy version of the Biden speech, I just added an Adagio for Strings version. Big ups Samuel Barber.

Monday, January 17, 2005

"Simone Weil": article by Susan Sontag

click picture for Susan Sontag's web site

This article was pretty interesting. It's from the first issue of the New York Review of Books, from 1963, and it's the first thing I've ever read by Susan Sontag. Definitely a little over-intellectual, and I know should expect that from the New York Review of Books, but still, this sentence almost made me vomit:

"In this sense, all truth is superficial; and some (but not all) distortions of the truth, some (but not all) insanity, some (but not all) unhealthiness, some (but not all) denials of life are truth-giving, sanity-producing, health-creating, and life-enhancing."

On the whole, though, I think she made some really good points. Her main point is that society tends to revere writers that have a bit of insanity in their prose ("It is mostly a matter of tone: it is hardly possible to give credence to ideas uttered in the impersonal tones of sanity.") From there she goes on to talk about how no one actually wants to live out the ideas of these writers, it just makes for good reading.

And then this line reminds me of the whole issue about how Bush's campaign rhetoric was basically a fairy tale:

"An idea which is a distortion may have a greater intellectual thrust than the truth; it may better serve the needs of the spirit, which vary."

I think that is a better way to look at how the election played out. Liberal people just want to say that half of the country is stupid, but that is just pointless whining. The truth is that Bush's image and message, however misleading, gave people something they were looking for in their lives. Millions of people have a very visceral love for him, and find his speaking problems endearing, his manner sincere, and his talk about freedom inspiring. To discredit the people who voted for him as merely "stupid" is to imply that it's not even worth investigating their motives. It's far better to say, "These are millions of good, hard-working people who sincerely believed that George Bush would be a better leader for their country. What did he do for them that Kerry didn't? What 'needs of the spirit' did the Bush campaign satisfy that the Kerry campaign didn't?"

good words from the article:
philistine: indifferent or hostile to art and culture
tendentious: biased
exegetical: related to explaining a text

"How Bush Really Won": an article by Mark Danner in NYRB

click picture for Mark Danner's web site

Since I'm studying for the GRE I decided to start reading The New York Review of Books more to try and pick up good words.

This article had three good words: contradistinction, shillyshallyer, and legerdemain. Contradistinction means what it sounds like, to define something in terms of how it contrasts with something else. A shillyshallyer is someone who waffles or procrastinates. Legerdemain means sleight of hand, an artful deception (from Old French leger de main, literally "light of hand").

The article gives a simple and convincing explanation for how Bush was able to pull off a victory with so many things going against him. This quote sums it all up:

"the facts did not matter... because [President Bush] was offering in their place a worldview that was whole, complete, comprehensible, and thus impermeable to statements of fact that clearly contradicted it."

In other words...

Bush's sales pitch is this: I'm a simple man who wants Americans to be safe and the world to be free, and I'll do whatever I gotta do in order to make it happen.

Kerry's sales pitch was centered on a litany of facts about the failings of Bush's presidency.

The problem is that complex information, however true, isn't as compelling as a simple storyline. Facts about Bush's mistakes don't put a dent in his fairy tale sales pitch because that song and dance isn't dependent on facts in the first place.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy Gets Wall Street Journalized

I love Wall Street Journal etchings, and this one is a real gem...

New Senator of the Day: Tom Coburn (R - Oklahoma)

Tom Coburn was born in Casper, Wyoming in 1948. He was a manufacturing manager from 1970 to 1978 at Coburn Opticals in Virginia. Later, he attended and graduated from the University of Oklahoma Medical School, starting a family medicine and obstetrics practice in 1988. From 1994 to 2000 Coburn served three terms in Congress as a Representative for Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District, garnering a reputation as a "conservative firebrand."


From an AP article on Coburn:

'On the death penalty, he said: "I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life."

He said he performed two abortions to save the lives of mothers who had congenital heart disease, but opposes the procedure in cases of rape.

"Under the mores we live under today, my lineage wouldn't exist," Coburn said, explaining that his great-grandmother was raped by a territorial sheriff.'


This is Coburn talking at a town hall meeting in Hugo, Oklahoma, from August '04:

"You know, Josh Burkeen is our rep down here in the southeast area. He lives in Colgate and travels out of Atoka. He was telling me lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?"

click to hear audio of that quote (courtesy of atrios)


"My desire is not to be a U.S. senator. My desire is to change the Senate." Tom Coburn

Monday, January 10, 2005

Song of the Day: Savage Minuet

I took some clips of Michael Savage (conservative radio host) talking about the Indian Ocean Tsunami and put them to music (Dark Jazz, by DJ Cam). Click on the picture of him to listen...

(That really is a painting of Michael "Savage" from 1983. His real name is Michael Weiner and he used to hang out with Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and write books about herbal remedies and planting trees. This article at salon.com tells the whole story.)

Companies that Advertise at Michael Savage's Web Site:

NewsMaxStore: 561-686-1165
Ionic Zone Air Cleaner: 1-866-526-1986
Swiss America Trading : 1-800-BUY-COIN

••• today's post is sponsored by Los Angeles Laundry Delivery & Pickup, now doing laundry delivery to USC and UCLA •••

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Gonzo's Attorney General Confirmation Hearing

Alberto Gonzales is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I think Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is scary. He would be great for playing a hit man in a Quentin Tarantino. Orrin "The Cleaner" Hatch. Catchy.

Now Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) is chewing out Gonzales. He's really getting angry. This doesn't seem like the right setting for angry yelling like this. Especially because Gonzales has such a mild and likable demeanor, in my opinion at least. Just when you think you're sitting down to watch a friendly Attorney General confirmation hearing Ted Kennedy has to fly off the handle. Thanks Ted.

Now Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware) is up to bat. He's getting excited but he's reprimanding Gonzales in a more friendly way. He just used the word "malarkey." Points for that. And now this, "I love ya but you're not showing candor so far..."

It's funny because this whole hearing is like a bunch of fathers talking to a kid who just broke a lamp (i.e. Abu Ghraib). The Republicans (Orrin Hatch) are like, "Hey you're a good kid, and you know what, that lamp was bound to break sooner or later. Your mom left it on the edge of the table and it was ugly anyway. From now on when you're playing wiffle ball in the living room try to hit to the opposite field."

Ted Kennedy is the father who just loses it. "What the heck were you thinking playing wiffle ball in the living room!? And don't lie to me and say that your friend Rico did it. Where's my belt?"

Joe Biden is the father who's upset but keeps a good attitude. He's disappointed, he gives the kid a slap on the wrist, but then ends with a pep talk about doing the right thing in the future. "You know you shouldn't have done that... Come on kid you're better than that! We live two blocks from a little league field, just walk over there and play a little ball, my boy!"

Now Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina): "I think you weaken yourself as a country when you try to play cute with the law and become more like your enemy, instead of becoming more like how you want to be." (That's what he really said, that's not a continuation of the wiffle metaphor.) He's breaking the mold and being pretty critical of the Gonzales/Bush approach to torture. Gonzales just threw back an impotent refutation of Graham's point: "I respectfully disagree, we are not like our enemy at all." To which Graham just teed off: "We are not like our enemy; compared to Saddam Hussain, what we did was a good day. But we are not being like who we want to be."

Graham's approach is remarkably like Biden's, basically, "I like ya kid, but you screwed up."

So far, my opinion of Ted Kennedy has gone way down and my opinion of Lindsey Graham has gone way up.

Now Russ Feingold is up. This is a calm reprimand without anger or affection. "You screwed up kid. I'm going to Steak 'N Shake, see you in 30."

Kennedy's going nuts again.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Picture of the Day: I Can't Believe I Agree With This Guy

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, says Bush should cancel his 9 inaugural balls and 3 "candelit dinners" and instead donate the 40 million dollars to tsunami relief efforts.

That is something that would really show the world that the United States cares about being part of the global community. This story is making news all over the world. It's in the Khaleej Times Online in the United Arab Emirates, and it appeared in the New Straits Times in Malaysia (but their link doesn't work anymore).

I would love Bush so much if he did this. Just once, why can't he do something that everyone would like?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Washington Journal 1/7/05 / Amazon Reviewer of the Day

On Washington Journal this morning T.R. Reid was talking about his new book, The United States Of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremecy.

The book looks interesting, but C.J. White (volney30656), an Amazon reviewer from Georgia, gave it one star (I WAS IN EUROPE RECENTLY, November 22, 2004). I am always a big fan of reviews in all capital letters, but C.J. isn't caps all the way- there is method to his madness. Some reviews are in lowercase, and at least one even switches from lowercase to all caps in the middle of a sentence (INTERESTING READ, October 2, 2004).


Photo of the Day: Karl Rove and Barack Obama, Together at Last

I didn't photoshop this or do anything funny to it, I just think it's a striking image.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Polarization of Television / Goodbye Crossfire

On Vaughn Ververs' update this morning on Washington Journal he talked about how CNN President Jon Klein is putting the kibosh on the show Crossfire. This is from Howard Kurtz's article on the matter:

"CNN/U.S. President Jonathan Klein sided yesterday with comedian Jon Stewart, who used a "Crossfire" appearance last fall to rip the program as partisan hackery. 'I think he made a good point about the noise level of these types of shows, which does nothing to illuminate the issues of the day,' Klein said in an interview. Viewers need 'useful' information in a dangerous world, he said, 'and a bunch of guys screaming at each other simply doesn't accomplish that.'"

But the fact of the matter is that Crossfire just wasn't getting good enough ratings, because other channels are doing the screaming louder and better. This parallels the whole change in daytime talk shows that occurred when the Jerry Springer show broke on the scene. Shows like Oprah couldn't compete with that kind of absurdity so they actually had to go in the other direction, towards a more sensitive, self-help oriented style of television.

So in a way, that could be Fox News' gift to the world, doing over-the-top partisan hackery better than anyone else, thereby forcing other stations to give up on that format and put on more sensible programming.

But that seems like a scary direction to me, because then the argumentative side of television is just going to focus even more on drama and less on substance. Then you will end up with a whole population of people getting their information from shows with almost no connection to reality. At least Crossfire was half-debate, half-professional wrestling.

And the polarization of television news could lead to the polarization of television viewers, which is something that we already kind of have. I mean, take a person who watches Fox News a couple hours a day and a person who watches C-SPAN a couple hours a day. Are those people even going to be talking the same language? Is there even going to be enough common ground for them to reasonably discuss the issues that America faces?

In a lot of ways, a conservative and a liberal that both watch C-SPAN probably have more in common than a conservative that watches C-SPAN and a conservative that watches Fox News.

I wonder what democracy would be like if everyone was well-informed.

Another thought: I am resigned to the fact that people screaming on television will tend to draw more viewers than people not screaming. I don't think CNN should abandon screaming as a format, I think they should just make the screaming more intelligent. Screaming and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. Imagine a boring biology teacher and one who is always screaming; while you will certainly be more entertained by the screaming bio teacher, it is quite possible that you could also learn more biology from him too.

What about a show where two pundits square off in a dramatic debate, yelling as much as they want, but then at the conclusion of the argument a panel of professors judge their performance, based on their logic and their use of facts. It would be just like a boxing match, where each round was scored based on how many blows were actually landed.

Yeah, that's a show I would watch! Because then you have the excitement of the confrontation added to the final consensus of experts in the field. Plus, as people watch the show more and more they will start to learn how to actually judge the merits of an argument. Someone please make this show. "Mental Boxing: Louder AND Smarter." Everyone would watch it. You could have a "winner stays on" approach where every day someone new gets a shot at the title. You could have "tag team" matches. You could have an "internet sidekick" who looks up facts for you while you're arguing. What's not to love? It would be the "Iron Chef" of political debate shows!