2004 vs. 2008

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 12:28 PM EST

2004 vs. 2008....Back in 2004, I remember at least a few bloggers and pundits arguing that liberals would be better off if John Kerry lost. I never really bought this, but the arguments were pretty reasonable. Leaving George Bush in power meant that he'd retain responsibility and blame for the Iraq war. (Despite the surge, that's exactly what happened.) Four more years of Republican control would turn the American public firmly against conservative misrule. (Actually, it only took two years.) If we waited, a better candidate than Kerry would come along. (Arguably, both Hillary Clinton and Obama were better candidates.)

Conversely, it's unlikely that John Kerry could have gotten much done with a razor-thin victory and a Congress still controlled by the GOP. What's more, there's a good chance that the 2006 midterm rebellion against congressional Republicans wouldn't have happened if Kerry had gotten elected. By waiting, we've gotten a strong, charismatic candidate who's likely to win convincingly and have huge Democratic majorities in Congress behind him. If he's willing to fully use the power of his office, Obama could very well be a transformational president.

So: were we, in fact, better off losing in 2004? The downside was four more years of George Bush and Dick Cheney. That's hardly to be minimized, especially since the upside is still not completely knowable. But for myself, I think I'm convinced. The cause of liberal change is better served by Obama in 2008 than it would have been by Kerry in 2004. Comments?

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Quote of the Day, Barack Obama Edition

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 11:52 AM EST

Barack Obama, on the fact that Dick Cheney has come out for John McCain:

"With John McCain you get a twofer: George Bush's economic policy and Dick Cheney's foreign policy."

Oh snap, as they say.

Voter Registration

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 11:40 AM EST

VOTER REGISTRATION....Matt Yglesias seconds Rick Hasen's proposal to make ACORN's registration drives (and the quadrennial conservative meltdown over them) obsolete by just having the federal government do it:

The solution is to take the job of voter registration for federal elections out of the hands of third parties (and out of the hands of the counties and states) and give it to the federal government....The next president should propose legislation to have the Census Bureau, when it conducts the 2010 census, also register all eligible voters who wish to be registered for future federal elections....When people submit change-of-address cards to the post office, election officials would also change their registration information.

I'd go even further: implement a national ID and give one to everybody, free of charge. You get it when you turn 18 (or whatever), and you get a free update every five years (or whatever). Post offices would handle most of the work, and roving mobile vans would trek through rural areas periodically to make sure everyone has easy access to whichever federal agency is tasked with providing the cards. Instead of simply requiring people to have picture IDs, the federal government would do everything it could to make sure everyone actually has a picture ID, with as little hassle as possible. Once this was in place, everyone with an ID could vote on election day unless they were barred for some affirmative reason, which might still vary from state to state. No registration required.

This wouldn't be perfect. Nothing is perfect. But it would be a damn sight closer than the squirrelly system we have today, and the only real objection to it is that, by God, Americans will never accept national ID cards. No "showing of papers" here in the land of the free!

But this is ridiculous. For all practical purposes we already have a national ID system. The feds require virtually everyone to have a Social Security number, and virtually all state ID cards are based on that number. Your name is already in a zillion public and private databases keyed to your SSN number, and one more won't really change things much. You won't be required to show your papers any more than you already are. It will just be easier, cheaper, and more consistent for everyone — including students, the elderly, the poor, and minorities — which should make liberals happy. And if the govenrment affirmatively generates IDs free of charge for everyone, then there's no objection to requiring ID at polling places — which should make conservatives happy.

Which, come to think of it, is one reason we'll probably never do it. For a lot of people, it would take all the fun out of presidential elections.

DST Hell

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 12:39 AM EDT

DST HELL....Time to reset all the clocks again. Let's see. Garage: two cars and the sprinkler timer. Living room: clock, VCR, thermostat. Kitchen: oven, microwave. Study: computer, two clocks, fax machine, telephone. Guest room: clock, VCR. Sewing room: clock, computer, VCR. Master bedroom: three clocks, VCR, Mac notebook, several watches. Also the cell phones, but they reset themselves.

Is that all? I think that's all. I'm probably wrong, though. There are probably several more I'm forgetting about.

Question of the Day

| Sat Nov. 1, 2008 11:47 AM EDT

QUESTION OF THE DAY....Are avocados good for you? Well, are they? Really?

They're full of fat, of course. But wait! It's good fat. So maybe we're talking about a fair number of calories, but no artery clogging badness. Right?

But are avocados actively good for you, or is it just a case of not being especially harmful? If you had to choose between, say, an apple and an avocado, which one would be healthier? Does adding avocado to a turkey sandwich make it better for you? Worse? No difference? Can I really grow my own avocado tree by sticking toothpicks in an avocado pit and letting it soak in a jar of water?

The fine folks at inform me that avocados are rich in beta-sitosterol and carotenoid lutein and better for me than cheddar cheese. Well, duh. Unfortunately, they might be just the teeniest bit biased about the wonderfulness of avocados. So for a straight answer I turn to you, my loyal blog readers. How about it?

Bush the Deregulator: A Final Push

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 8:05 PM EDT

bush-environmentalist.jpgLest the energy of this momentous election make you forget about the sitting President's catastrophic reign of error, the Washington Post reports that the White House is pushing through new federal regulations that would relax current rules on everything from mining to drinking water to greenhouse gas pollutants.

Bush is rushing to make certain his legacy as a pro-industry deregulator goes down in history. These rules will be difficult for the next administration to reverse, and Bush knows all too well the cost of waiting. The very afternoon of his January 20, 2001 inauguration, Bush issued a memo that halted the implementation of incomplete federal regulations from Clinton's waning days. To avoid repeating this, the White House has determined that all "significant" rules must be completed by Nov. 20, early enough for the rules to take legal effect before Bush steps down.

White House employees and watchdog groups alike agree that these new rules, roughly 90 in all, will have long-lasting effects. One recent rule would allow natural gas pipelines to operate at a higher pressure, increasing the risk of rupture. Another due out soon would ease requirements for environmental impact assessments for ocean fishing. A third would rewrite the process for cleaning up oil spills, while yet another would relax pollution standards on power plants, leading to the emission of millions of tons of additional CO2. The list goes on.

And who's writing these new rules? The citizenry? The public?

Hardly. From the Post:

The burst of activity has made this a busy period for lobbyists who fear that industry views will hold less sway after the elections. The doors at the New Executive Office Building have been whirling with corporate officials and advisers pleading for relief or, in many cases, for hastened decision making.

According to the Office of Management and Budget's regulatory calendar, the commercial scallop-fishing industry came in two weeks ago to urge that proposed catch limits be eased, nearly bumping into National Mining Association officials making the case for easing rules meant to keep coal slurry waste out of Appalachian streams. A few days earlier, lawyers for kidney dialysis and biotechnology companies registered their complaints at the OMB about new Medicare reimbursement rules. Lobbyists for customs brokers complained about proposed counterterrorism rules that require the advance reporting of shipping data.

Photo courtesy of

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Diabetes Hits South the Hardest

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 7:37 PM EDT

According to a CDC study released yesterday, new cases of Type 2 diabetes have nearly doubled in the last decade, from about 5 per 1,000 people in the mid-1990's, to 9 per 1,000 in 2007. Type 2 diabetes accounts for nearly 95 percent of all diabetes cases in the US, and is often linked to America's obesity epidemic.

The report was the first to analyze data by state, and found that the highest number of new diabetes patients are in the South. And it's no wonder. The South has the highest rates of poverty and physical inactivity, two major risk factors for obesity.

—Nikki Gloudeman

Studs Terkel, RIP

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 6:55 PM EDT

Studs Terkel was a journalist's journalist, though he considered the term "journalist" to be far less blue-collar than the job. A personal hero of many writers, he died today the way most of us would like to: Home in bed, at the age of 96, with a copy of his latest forthcoming book on the nightstand.

In 1995, Mother Jones interviewed the master of the interview. Read it here.

Your Friday Laugh at Palin's/Wall Street's Expense

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 6:55 PM EDT


Also from Salon: An alleged hockey mom disses Palin to the tune of Don't Cry For Me Argentina. Bonus: Chick can actually sing and the lyrics are deadly. "My kid plays hockey, and I wear lipstick/ but I'm a thinker, and you're a dipstick."

And for the love of "god" don't miss Wanda Sykes on the "welfare for the rich" that the $700 billion dollar bailout is.

You're welcome.

Will a Record Black Turnout Doom Proposition 8?

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 6:16 PM EDT

Uh oh.

For all the joy some feel at the notion of legions of hitherto apolitical blacks energized to get out and vote for Obama, here's a wrinkle they might not have considered. Having gotten out to vote for their boy, will they also vote for homophobia and pass Prop. 8? One black lesbian activist has her fingers crossed they won't, as does an LA Times op-ed. But I'm not so sure. Remember Ohio in 2004? That's when black voters remained immune to the siren call of black hyper-religious/socially conservative GOP candidates but, since they were already in the booth, also helped kill gay marriage rights.

See that op-ed for an argument that blacks are not the leading purveyors of homophobia in America (something I thought true and will now have to investigate). A recent PEW study showing across the board declines in opposition to gay marriage backs them up.

According to PEW, Black opposition decreased by 6 percent: In 2004, 24 percent supported gay marriage while 56 percent opposed it. In 2008, the numbers are 26 percent and 56 percent. The study doesn't account for Hispanic (or Asian) opinion, a factor which will definitely matter with California's Proposition 8.

Also, hopefully, the wording of the Prop will make black knees jerk:

By invoking rights, the ballot's wording on Proposition 8—the title reads "Eliminates Right of Same-sex Couples to Marry"—could turn off black voters. Proposition supporters sought a different heading, "Limit on Marriage," but a judge dismissed their case last week.

Big Brother never tires of newspeak, does he?

I hadn't thought to worry about this before, but as (some) blacks make the argument that an Obama win is a win for equality, here's hoping they'll give a thought to equality for all.

We're not big on 'eliminating rights.'