V5 (May)

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Steve Bogart

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28 May 2001

The tab
Is there
To open the can

The can
Is there
To hold in the Spam™
-- "Spam", Weird Al Yankovic, UHF

Star Trek: Voyager's finale was underwhelming. Also, who knew you could avoid being destroyed by a Borg sphere/deathstar just by slowing down and getting behind it? <smacks forehead>

These look like interesting evolutions of the notebook PC into a combo laptop-desktop. I wouldn't buy one yet, but they're interesting:

If you're into being entertained by mafia/gangster doings (a la Sopranos, etc.), you might like a weekly column reporting on real-life mob news:

Jeffords switcheroo roundup:

First, some typical high-quality reporting (a.k.a. poorly disguised wishful thinking) by the Washington Times last Monday (all spelling errors left intact): Jeffords resists political lures:

Top Republicans told The Times that the best evidence that Mr. Jeffords is not, at the moment, about to leave the party is that the Bush White House is not on the phone to Mr. Jeffords or his friends trying to dissuade him from doing do.

"Believe me, the Bush White House political operation would be all over Vermont tying to stop that if it were about to happen," a Republican close to the White House said.

Raw statements:

Jefford's statement, transcribed by: National Review, Washington Post, New York Times:

I became a Republican not because I was born into the party, but because of the kind of fundamental principles that these and many Republicans stood for: moderation; tolerance; fiscal responsibility. Their party -- our party -- was the party of Lincoln.

In the past, without the presidency, the various wings of the Republican Party in Congress have had some freedom to argue and influence and ultimately to shape the party's agenda. The election of President Bush changed that dramatically.

Statement from Senator John McCain [] (mirror on McCain's PAC site)

Perhaps ... self-appointed enforcers of party loyalty will learn to respect honorable differences among us, learn to disagree without resorting to personal threats, and recognize that we are a party large enough to accommodate something short of strict unanimity on the issues of the day.

Here's a gem from Fox News, right after the Jeffords statement, that I just had to transcribe:

Skip Vallee, part of the Vermont Republican Party organization: "He ran as a Republican and we're disappointed to see him go."
Fox News anchor guy, not identified on camera for several minutes in either direction (strange in itself): "Disappointed or betrayed?"

Way to lead that witness, anchordude.

<wink, bite lip, give thumbs up>

"We distort..."

It's not like he's going to be changing his votes on bills. He has a voting record, which Vermonters used to decide whether to vote him in again, presumably so he could keep voting the way he did.

If Vermonters want to have some sort of recall election, they can go right ahead; I imagine he'd win it. But there's no legal requirement for him to face one just for switching parties. Is there an ethical requirement for him to? I lean toward yes, but as I say, Vermonters seem pretty happy with him; I don't think he'd be voted out even so.

Various other analyses:

The Mean Strategy Backfires [NY Times]

Newt Gingrich once told a group of young Republicans, "I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty."

It's a measure of the fanaticism that infects the G.O.P. that party leaders could risk the loss of one house of Congress and jeopardize the president's entire agenda to punish a senator who at times strayed from the party line.

A Defection Highlights GOP's Fragile Coalition [Washington Post]

"For the movement Republicans, the drive begun by [National Review founder] William F. Buckley Jr., and [1964 GOP nominee] Barry Goldwater, to create an ideological Republican Party was a remarkable success," said Seymour Martin Lipset, a George Mason University political scientist. The conversion of the GOP into a more ideological movement has, however, created a climate in which dissenters are viewed as "traitors," Lipset said.

What Bush Needs to Learn by Howard Fineman [MSNBC]

Washington isn't Austin, and he isn't LBJ. ... He can't afford to be smug or arrogant or dictatorial -- or caught by surprise, as he was by Jeffords. The capital's Democrats are far more powerful, shrewd and well funded than the ones in Texas, and Republicans in D.C. aren't all of a predictably conservative stripe. The media are omnipresent and harder to tame, and interest groups are more massive and entrenched. There are far more people to be stroked and far less time to do it. Even a president can't slow the driving pace of the place.

And a striking summation by Slate reader "F. Toro" (at the bottom of the page):

All throughout the week we've seen Jeffords described as a moderate republican, sometimes even as a liberal republican. All this does is point up how absurdly stacked the definition of "conservative" is in America these days. To qualify as a conservative in the U.S. you have to actively advocate a set of policies so extreme that they'd get you written-off as a lunatic in most normal industrial democracies out there.

If the U.S. political system was anywhere near normal, if sanity was considered a necessary pre-requisite for holding political office, then Jim Jeffords would hit the definition of conservative pretty much on the nose. Jeffords cares about the environment, but wishes it to be protected in a way that doesn't impose unreasonable costs on business. He's worried about education and health, but wants to address those problems without making people's tax bills become too oppressive. He's worried about the public interest, but mistrusts big government. Through most of the democratic world this is a standard conservative agenda. It's only in the U.S. that you're not considered man enough to count as a conservative unless you actively advocate environmental degradation, widening inequality, underinvestment in public services and pigheaded chauvinistic nationalism.

The old quote attributed to Winston Churchill gets trotted out on numerous occasions by Republicans as an attempt to shut anyone up who disagrees with them. It goes something like: "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain."

Assuming Churchill ever said anything like that (which he apparently never did), I have to wonder: would he recognize and approve of what's meant by 'conservative' today? The United States Republican of 2001 only bears a middling resemblance to the United States Republican of even 1976. Yet plenty of people just default to Republican-ness because that's where they've always been before. I can only hope that Jeffords' move inspires more self-examination than mindless name-calling in ordinary Republican citizens.

Okay, I'm done.

Miscellaneous other:

A radical, intriguing but probably unworkable proposal: Don't Ask, Don't Tell Campaign-Finance Reform... [Slate]

I want more reporting like this!: where the statistics used to try to persuade people to vote a certain way are explained and examined and rated as to their truth: News Analysis: In New Jersey Race, Statistics Too Good to Bow to Truth [NY Times]

My just-about-wife explains why she's not a member of any political party. It's pretty much why I'm not either; if one is running for office, there are clear advantages to putting yourself in such a limited box: namely, money and and existing get-out-the-vote organization. If you're not running for an office, why would you sign up and identify yourself with any of the various ethical defectives in either major party? (Or the minor parties, for that matter.) And what do you do when the party changes its positions so they no longer match your own?

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