Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Da Bears Song in Prose

Being a Ghost Story of the Superbowl.
Stave 1
[with apologies to Charles Dickens]
I have not posted for a few days. I should be focused on covering every detail of the titanic constitutional struggle unfolding between the legislative and executive branch over the war. But I cannot. The truth is - I cannot focus, I cannot concentrate, I cannot think. I have barely slept the last three days. My mind keeps replaying what I have seen. I have spoken of this with no one. But if I do not tell someone I will go insane. Perhaps I already am. No matter, I decided I will write down what has transpired and post it on my blog. Perhaps then I will get some peace. I don’t expect anyone to believe this, I barely believe it myself. But I know what I saw.

It started last Friday. I flew to Chicago for some family business, landing at Midway, and stayed at my brother’s house. I got in late. The Southwest flight landed at midnight. I grabbed a Chicago-style hotdog with the works [Poppy seed bun, all-beef dog with the thick skin that pops when you bite it, a kosher half-sour pickle spear, wedges of tomato the length of the bun, primary yellow mustard – not brown, no speckles, just yellow mustard, nuclear fluorescent green relish, six small green hot sport peppers, and celery salt sprinkled over it all] from the 24 hour food stand in the terminal, and inhaled it on the way down to baggage claim. I always have a hot dog within five minutes of landing in Chicago. I should have taken my time. The baggage handlers were on strike, or the union was taking a break, or the Chicago Southwest Airline baggage claim is incompetent, but it took two hours before my bags spilled onto the carousel.

I was not in a good mood. This was the “tweener” weekend. The Bears beat New Orleans the previous week and punched their ticket to the Superbowl. The Superbowl was yet another week away. The mindless euphoria in the city added to my irritation. It permeated the airport, the streets, the radio, TV and seemed to be in the very air I was breathing. It was inescapable. Everyone was wearing Bear hats, Bear sweaters, Bear scarves, Bear buttons. The Bears were on the cover of every newspaper and magazine in every rack. They were on every radio station and every commercial on TV. From the cab I saw one billboard that said “All Bears All the Time”. That said it all. “Bah! – Bullshit!” I said out loud, startling the driver. If I see one more smiling Bear-bedecked fool give me the thumbs-up and saying “Duh Bears.”, I swear I am going to hit them. My head rolled back in the seat of the cab and I closed my eyes. What is wrong with these idiots. The Bears cannot beat Indy. Peyton will chew ‘em up and spit them out. He is exactly the kind of quarterback in exactly the kind of offense the Bears can’t handle. “What blind fools they are!” I practically spit the words out. Young quarterbacks folding in the Superbowl is as reliable as the sun setting in the west. Brady was the exception that proves the rule. Grossman has no chance.

Don’t get me wrong. I grew up in Chicago. I have been a Chicago sports fan all my life. Cubs, Bulls, Bears. They are my lifelong teams. But I am a realist. I have been around these teams too long and I know exactly what to expect. I have seen it all before. The Cubs a few outs away from the World Series, and Steve Bartman knocks the ball away from Alou’s mitt. Grossman throwing an incomplete, 4th & 1 pass to Muhsin Muhammad with a minute to play in the Division championship last year against Carolina. The Eagles running roughshod over the Bears in the divisional playoff game at the old Soldier Field in ’02. No. They are not going to fool me this time. These are not the ’85 Bears. Rex Grossman is no Jim McMahon. Thomas Jones is no Walter Payton. Brian Urlacher is no Mike Singletary. And Lovie Smith is no Mike Ditka Why can’t these idiot fans just be happy with the Conference Championship and let it go. I don’t have the time or psychic energy to waste on another disappointment. Been there. Done that.

The cab ride was uneventful, except for one odd moment. When I reached for the door handle, for just a second, I thought it looked exactly like Mike Ditka’s moustache. I reflexively pulled my hand back. It was just a trick of the argon streetlight streaming through the ice streaked window. I jumped out of the cab, knocked on the door, woke up my brother and went in.

I was too keyed up to sleep. The only place I could get a decent signal from his wireless network was at the kitchen table in the corner. I poured myself to a healthy shot from his 15 year old Laphroiag and sat down in front of the Dell laptop, stealing a glance at the digital clock glowing above the microwave. 3:23 AM. I thought writing a post would get my mind off of the moronic Bear insanity in which I was immersed. I was on California time, and too wound up too sleep, but I was too tired to write. I don’t know how long I sat there in the dark, staring across the top of the glowing laptop, watching the lake-effect snow swirl around the Weber grill just outside the window.

A chill seeped into the room. It was more than a chill. It felt like the knife edge of a Lake Michigan winter wind slicing into my soul. I shivered but still didn’t move. It was almost like I was in a trance, sitting there, staring out the window at the snow.

Then I heard it. A scraping sound. A metallic sound, a cold, dragging, shuffling sound. It was distant at first, but became louder, heavier, punctuated with clanks and scratches, as it drew closer to the door directly at my back. But still I did not move. I just sat there staring out the window, lit by the laptop in the dark cold room. Then - Somehow I was standing by the door. I don’t know how I got there. I was just - there. I could sense a presence, a heaviness, something was out there, just on the other side of the door. I watched my hand reach out as if it belonged to someone else, turn the knob under its own volition, and open the door.

It was Abe Gibron. He looked… well… he looked dead. In fact, he was dead. But he was still standing there looking at me. His eyes were sunk deep into the gray pallor of his fat face. But it was Abe Gibron all right, at his full 300 pound 1974 Chicago Bear coaching weight. And he was standing outside the door substantial as his bulk, yet somehow insubstantial as I could see right through his girth at the chain-link fence behind him. Startled, I fell back on to the kitchen floor as he flowed right through the storm door, filled the doorframe and floated into the room. He seemed to glow with a wispy pale light. I could see all of him now floating blimp-like in front of me. Large linked iron chains draped over both of his shoulders, wrapping around his great girth, entangling in his legs and dragging on the ground behind him. In his right hand he gripped long streaky blond hair wrapping through his fingers, from which dangled a severed male head. He held it casually, almost unnoticed, like he was holding a coach’s clipboard at his side. He slowly raised his left arm until it was pointing directly at me.

“You know me.“ He said. Speaking slowly, ponderously.

“Well, yeah.” I said. “ You look familiar, but I kind of suspect that you are actually an undigested bit of the hot dog that I ate when I got off the plane.”

His head rolled back, his jaw dropped open to his chest, and an indescribable scream filled the room sending me scurrying backwards in terror, crab-like, into the farthest corner by the cabinets.

“Okay! Okay! … You are Abe Gibron! You coached the Bears to three last place finishes from ’72 to ‘74 - Please go away!” The spirit, quiet now, looked down at me again. Finally I cried out “Why are you here?”

The spirit spoke again - "It is required of every NFL coach, that the spirit within him should walk among his fellow-men, if that spirit did not enjoy a Superbowl in life. It is doomed to wander through the world -oh, woe is me!- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth.”

“Bummer… That is rough, Abe. But why do you wear those chains?”

“I wear the chains of my losing seasons, one link for every Bear loss while I was head coach. I forged these chains in life and I am now condemned to wear them in the hereafter for all eternity.”

“Okay. Okay, I got it... But what is the deal with Bobby Douglass?” I asked, pointing at the severed head.

His eyes rolled, he shook his head slowly and sadly, took in a deep breath then let it out slowly. The room filled with the smell of rotting barbecued pork ribs.

“Hear me!" cried the Ghost. "My time is nearly gone!”

I didn’t say a word.

“I have been sent to warn you! You will be haunted by Three Spirits. One Spirit of the past. One Spirit of the present. One Spirit of things that have yet to come to pass. You have been warned!”

Then – I was alone sitting at the kitchen table again, slumped back in the chair, in front of the laptop, staring out the window at the snow, in a warm kitchen exactly as before. It was all a dream. A waking, lucid dream. It had seemed so real. I stood up, the trance broken. The whiskey in the glass was gone. I uncorked the bottle and spilled a few drops as I poured it unsteadily with my shaking hand. The glass was emptied again before it hit the table. “Just a dream!” I thought. And yet… I could swear that I could still detect the scent of barbecued pork ribs hanging in the air.

No, it was just a dream. I looked at the digital clock again.

It was still 3:23 AM.

I cannot go on right now, it is just too traumatic – I’ll have to finish the story on Friday.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

President vs. Congress - Round Two & Three

Last week I initiated coverage of the heavyweight boxing match between our co-equal Executive and Legislative branches of government as they battled over the handling of the war in Iraq. In the first round, we saw some early sparring and dancing around the ring. While it was unclear who won the round, the executive branch seemed surprised to find themselves in the ring at all.

Round two went to the President in a split decision on points, when he pretty much had the ring to himself in the State of The Union address on Tuesday evening, scoring with this potent combination:
"This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory... We went into this largely united — in our assumptions, and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field — and those on their way."
Some observers have disputed the ringside judges decision to award the round to the President, claiming that Jim Webb's late round flurry was enough to give it to the legislature:
"As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. “When comes the end?” asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during the second world war. And as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean war to an end. These presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this president to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way."
Webb has a stinging jab which he used effectively in combinations, but as a freshman Senator, he simply gives up too much political arm-reach, weight and gravitas to the office of the President. Round 2 - POTUS.

Round three commenced the very next day in Senate Armed Services Committee and on the floor of the Senate. With two non-binding resolutions submitted and co-sponsored by senior Senators of his own party, it was clear that the President had failed to deliver a knockout blow to the legislature, and, at best, had only slowed them down. Early in the round Senator Chuck Hagel staggered the executive branch with a big looping right hand haymaker to the head. The blow reminded the President and his colleagues that the Congress is a co-equal branch of government, that the Congress has a responsibility to help shape the strategy on the war, and charged they had shirked that responsibility for the last four years:



Later, on the floor of the Senate, Senator John Warner delivered a series of what appeared to be softer and subtler body blows, but may ultimately prove to be more damaging to the Executive branch defensive "rope-a-dope" posture. This from the New York Times via Donklephant:
"One sponsor, Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, said the measure is “not meant to be confrontational” but rather was an acceptance of the president’s invitation to come forward with alternative plans, if they have any. Yet the senators’ tone suggested deep concern with the present course. Mr. Warner, who has just stepped down as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was alarmed at the prospect of American soldiers continuing to be caught in sectarian violence, “the origins of which sometimes go back thousands of years.” Mr. Warner said that while he saw “no direct parallels” between the Iraq situation and the United States involvement in Vietnam, he said that he vividly recalls the decline of American public and political support for the Vietnam war, when he was Navy Secretary. Restoring support for the Iraq mission and assuring American success there is essential, he said."
The bell will ring for the fourth round next week when these resolutions make it to the floor for a full debate. The Washington Post reports:
"Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Hagel said negotiations with Warner would begin immediately to try to find common ground on a resolution that would attract far more Republican support. But they said that whatever language is sent to the floor will have to include the policy prescriptions that are in both resolutions: a statement against further deployments; a call for U.S. troops to be re-deployed to guard Iraq's borders, focus on counterterrorism and speeding up the training of Iraqi troops; and a call for diplomatic efforts to engage Iraq's neighbors in the pursuit of a political settlement to the war."
DWSUWF expects they will find that common ground and a biparitsan resolution with significant Republican participation will be passed by the Senate. We will see a well deserved vote of no-confidence in this war plan. Like we said in round one - This is not about Republican vs. Democrat. This is about Executive branch vs. Legislative branch.
Special Notice - DWSUWF reserves the right to change from a Boxing metaphor to a World Wrestling Federation Steel Cage Match metaphor at any time in any post and without additional warning.
The WWF metaphor may be more appropriatly applied to the blogosphere, where DWSUWF (mw) waded into the comments thread of related posts in the left-of-center Crooks and Liars, and the right-of-center Captain's Quarters. DWSUWF took and delivered some body slams and hammerlocks in both arenas. It was a good warm-up.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Visitor 10,000 arrives with norovirus

Nine months into this little project, and we enjoyed our 10,000th visitor today. While we are not setting the blogosphere on fire, it is nevertheless a milestone worth noting. Mr. /Ms. 10,000 is apparently a disgruntled New Orleans Saints fan, who followed back a salt-in-the-wound comment I left on Craig Giesecke's post at the Metroblogging New Orleans site this morning, and arrived on our "Crown their ass" post for a short visit. I don't know why I leave comments like that. Blame it on Bush. Reggie Bush. Our visitor's ISP is shielded from sitemeter, so I don't know much more about him/her, except to recommend that he/she upgrade their browser (IE 6).

While I am off-topic, this is the view from my terrace -


You are looking at the QE2 which arrived in San Francisco this morning. The QE2 is in the midst of an around the world cruise. Almost 20% of the passengers have contracted a norovirus since embarking on her voyage from New York. As we speak, these rich pukes are spreading their norovirus contaminated tourist dollars all over our fair city. I think I will just stay indoors and watch c-span for a couple of days. Fortunately I still have duct tape and plastic sheeting as recommended by the Department of Homeland Security to protect against exactly this type of biological attack.

Plague Ship.

UPDATE: January 25, 2007
The City was saved when the plague ship slipped out of San Francisco Bay under the cover of darkness at 10:30 last night - seen here steaming in front of Alcatraz (sorry about the picture quality - best I cound do with my camera).


Hawaii, you are the next port of call for this doomed ship and its cargo of diseased passengers and crew. I recommend a high seas interdiction. If that fails, mine the harbor. Good luck.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union - Comedy Tonight!

I was despairing about what I could possibly have to say about the President's State of the Union speech later tonight. Quite frankly, I would rather be watching a replay of the Bears win in the NFC Championship game that the NFL Network is cleverly counter-programming to the speech. What to do? What to do? Well... I asked Bob. This afternoon, Bob Woodward fielded on-line questions at the Washington Post previewing the President's speech. I got the last question in the que:

[mw] San Francisco, Ca.: " Given the President's lame duck status, low approval ratings, and open defiance of his own party on Iraq - Is there any real relevance to the SOTU tonight or is it just an empty exercise in pomp and protocol? It just seems like the address pales in comparison to other major political stories in the last 24 hours - Warner's resolution on Iraq, the allegation of Cheney's instigation of Libby's obstruction of justice, and General Petraeus testimony to the Armed Forces committee in the Senate."

Bob Woodward: "President George W. Bush still holds office, and if there's anything we've learned over the last decades, it's that the president has incredible, real power, so everything the chief executive says, intends and actually does is at the center of what's happening. I don't think Bush is overjoyed with the low poll ratings, but I also suspect he doesn't brood about them in the way some other presidents might have. Recall after the Baker-Hamilton report, the debate was, how are we going to start withdrawing troops from Iraq? But Bush surprised everyone except those who know him by deciding to add troops. So he still has the job and can make important decisions, but tonight is probably going to be mostly theater."

Mostly theater! Of course! I love theater. Thanks Bob. The only way to really appreciate GWB's SOTU address is in the context of a good musical comedy. Daily Kos will be live blogging. MSNBC will pretend to be live-blogging. RedState has eight different essays on what the President should say, none of which are close to what he will say. Wonkette is live blogging and playing a drinking game. And DWSUWF will be linking [Blogger permitting] line by line the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim's "Comedy Tonight" as sung by the appropriately named character Pseuodolus - to any blog or news story that seems remotely appropriate to the lyric and the topic. [And we will also playing a drinking game.] [And we will also flip over to the NFL channel every time Nancy Pelosi scowls at George W Bush.]

DWSUWF welcomes any and all suggested links for any line of the lyrics from anyone who accidently stumbles across this post before, during, or after the speech. Don't bother with a suggested link to the word "liars" - got that one covered.

Music up... Open the Curtain...

Comedy Tonight
from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Something familiar,
Something peculiar,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Something appealing,
Something appalling,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Nothing with kings, nothing with crowns;
Bring on the lovers, liars and clowns!

Old situations,
New complications,
Nothing portentous or polite;
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight!

Something convulsive,
Something repulsive,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Something aesthetic,
Something frenetic,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Nothing with gods, nothing with fate;
Weighty affairs will just have to wait!

Nothing that's formal,
Nothing that's normal,
No recitations to recite;
Open up the curtain:
Comedy Tonight!

Something erratic,
Something dramatic,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Frenzy and frolic,
Strictly symbolic,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Crown their ass.

The Chicago Bears are who we thought they were.
Crowned National Football Conference Champions.

How do you feel about that Denny? By the way, good luck on your job search.


Chicago Radio 1 Remix


Courtesy of BSRN

SPECIAL NOTE: DWSUWF will be more off topic than on for the next two weeks.


Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.
Technorati tags:Chicago Bears

Friday, January 19, 2007

It is not about Republican vs. Democrat.
It is about Executive vs. Legislative branches.

Joe Biden (D), Chuck Hagel (R) , Carl Levin (D) and Olympia Snow (R), are the first four Senators to sign on as co-sponsors of the non-binding resolution on Iraq that will be debated on the Senate floor shortly after the State of the Union speech. Chris Matthew's Hardball was all over the story.


Wednesday on Hardball (transcript, video):
MATTHEWS: "Democratic Senators Joe Biden, Carl Levin and leading Republican war critic, Senator Chuck Hagel, held a press conference today outlining their bipartisan, nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush‘s plan to escalate the war in Iraq. Senator Hagel, a possible candidate for the White House in 2008, joins us from Capitol Hill. Senator Hagel, what can you get done with this nonbinding resolution? "
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL:" Chris, it would be very significant and here is why. We have not had a national debate on this issue of Iraq. This is the most divisive issue in this country since Vietnam. It will continue to drive families against families. It‘s not in the interest of American, nor of the world. What a resolution will do to start the process, go before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have an opportunity to debate that, bring it to the floor of the Senate, let America understand more what‘s at stake, and put the Senate on record, if that‘s what happens—I hope it does—on taking a position regarding escalation of military involvement in Iraq... that‘s the way democracies work, Chris. That‘s the responsibility we have to America. America needs to have some assurance that we have a policy that is sustainable, more importantly, that they will sustain it. That is not the case now...
And I would also remind your viewers, Chris, this is the kind of government that has a co-equal branch of government process. That means the Congress is just as important as the president...
You have a sectarian, tribal civil war that we cannot fix in Iraq. The Iraqis are the only ones that can determine their own fate. They‘re going to have to sort that out. We can continue to help. We should. We must. For example, we can move our troops, many of our resources, to the border areas to try to protect the territorial integrity of Iraq, but this is an internal issue. This is not just about insurgents anymore. This is about Iraqis killing Iraqis, Sunnis killing Shia—actually Shias killing Shias.
You can‘t feed American troops into the middle of that, Chris, and fix that problem. And many of us are saying, no more on this. We‘re not going to sacrifice more American lives to put in the middle of a civil war. "
Thursday on Hardball (transcript, video):
MATTHEWS: Senator Joe Biden, is your resolution a resolution of no-confidence in the presidents running of this war inon Iraq?
SEN. JOE BIDEN: The answer is yes it is. If this were a parliamentary system it would bring the government down I believe...."
MATTHEWS: "Should the President be required to get a resolution of congress before he attacks Iran?"
SEN. JOE BIDEN:"Absolutely. Positively, Unequivocally. I have a second resolution, a law actually, I am in the process of drafting, I will be seeking bi-partisan support, making it clear that the authorization for the use of force that the presidient got three and a half years ago, does not give him the authority to attack Syria or Iran. "
MATTHEWS:"You don't expect him to sign that bill do you?"
SEN. JOE BIDEN:"No I don't. But I expect it to generate a constitutional crisis were he to ignore it."
There is a reason why the founding fathers designed our government with checks, balances and separation of powers. Exhibit 1 - this resolution. The meat of the draft resolution (as it exists today) follows. It will likely change as more Republicans and Democrats come on board as co-sponsors.
"Now therefore be it resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that -

(1) it is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Iraq;

(2) the primary objective of United States strategy in Iraq should be to have the Iraqi political leaders make the political compromises necessary to end the violence in Iraq;

(3) greater concerted regional, and international support would assist the Iraqis in achieving a political solution and national reconciliation;

(4) main elements of the mission of United States forces in Iraq should transition to helping ensure the territorial integrity of Iraq, conduct counterterrorism activities, reduce regional interference in the internal affairs of Iraq, and accelerate training of Iraqi troops;

(5) the United States should transfer, under an appropriately expedited timeline, responsibility for internal security and halting sectarian violence in Iraq to the Government of Iraq and Iraqi security forces;

(6) the United States should engage nations in the Middle East to develop a regionally-sponsored peace and reconciliation process for Iraq."
Full text here.

Apologists for the administration's failed war plan fall back on intellectually bankrupt arguments like "you cannot run a war by committee." That may or may not be true. But it is irrelevant if the Commander in Chief cannot run a war at all. When the president demonstrates an inability to lead, as evidenced by failure after failure, it is the responsibility of the congress to assert their authority, even if it is not optimal, and is inefficient or inelegant. We are not a parliamentary government and cannot bring down the government with a vote of "no confidence". When our government is hell-bent on taking a wrong course, this is the only choice we have. Congress must take the reins now. Nancy Pelosi has subsequently announced that the House of Representatives will support the Senate resolution. The executive / legislative "High Noon" constitutional showdown is joined.

On a related topic, Hagel and Biden are DWSUWF's top two choices for our stack ranking of the 2008 presidential candidates, as they have been from our very first ranking. Their efforts on this resolution reinforce that choice.

As the 2008 campaign gets started in earnest, this seems a good time to publish our first presidential candidate stack rank update of 2007:

=====
DWSUWF 2008 Presidential Candidate
Stack Ranking V 2.2

  1. Chuck Hagel (R)
  2. Joe Biden (D)
  3. Ron Paul (R)
  4. Barack Obama (D)
  5. John McCain (R)
  6. Bill Richardson (D)
  7. Rudolf Giuliani (R)
  8. Hillary Clinton (D)
  9. Mike Huckabee (R)
  10. Wesley Clark (D)
=====

Changes since the last update: Ron Paul (Libertarian-Republican congressman) has announced his intention to run for the Republican nomination, and leaps immediately into the the number 3 spot. While Ron Paul is probably closest of the declared major party candidates to the DWSUWF political philosophy, as a practical libertatrianDWSUWF cannot put him into the top spot, believing that Paul has not a snowball's chance in hell of getting the nomination. Mike Hucakbee (R) has also annouced his candidacy, and replaces Condi Rice in the Mister (Ms.) Irrelevant #9 spot. Glad to have a reason to drop Condi from the list after her performance on the hill last week (an "augmentation" ?!?).

As a reminder, the DWSUWF stack ranking is not a prediction but a preference. This list represents the top ten candidates we would like to see as President, stack ranked in order of preference. Imposed on this list are two artificial constraints: alternating political party affiliation, and a divided government outcome in 2008.

DWSUWF notes that the top four candidates in the stack ranking were all right on the war in Iraq before the bombs started dropping in March of 2003. They demonstrated good decision making and political courage in their public statements when it was neither popular nor politic to take a stand against the president's prosecution of the war. In the end, we do not vote on the plans and do not execute the plans, but elect representatives we hope will have the intelligence and ability to create and execute a plan in our name.

These candidates were right when it really mattered. That makes them right for President in 2008, when our soldiers will still be fighting and dying refereeing a civil war in Iraq.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

23 (twenty three)

If you'll indulge me with a brief digression from the usual subject material, I offer this one off-topic post, and promise to get the blog back on track in short order. Thanks and a tip of the hat to Jesse Walker and others at Reason's Hit & Run blog for taking note of the passing of Robert Anton Wilson.

This from Wilson's blog - RAW Data - musings of Robert Anton Wilson - the very last post entitled "RAW essence":
Robert Anton Wilson Defies Medical Experts and leaves his body @4:50 AM on binary date 01/11. All Hail Eris!
RU Sirius at 10 Zen Monkeys offers an overview of the "writer", a nice selection of links, and a suggestion:
"Robert Anton Wilson taught us all that “the universe contains a maybe.” So maybe there is an afterlife, and maybe Bob’s consciousness is hovering around all of us who were touched by his words and his presence all these years. And if that’s the case, I’m sure he’d like to see you do something strange and irreverent — and yet beautiful –- in his honor."
A tall order. The beautiful is beyond my ken, and strange and irreverent ... well...

On his blogger profile, Wilson listed his occupation as "Mind Fucker." I, for one, was seduced on a blind date with his Illuminatus! trilogy.

It happened in the late seventies. After listening to me rant about a Council on Foreign Relations conspiracy, or maybe it was a Kennedy assassination conspiracy, or perhaps the "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" Masonic conspiracy later ripped by Dan Brown, my brother suggested I read RAW's Illuminatus! He told me it was science fiction, my favorite genre. It was a trick.

While reading Illuminatus! - Robert Anton Wilson managed to surgically insert the "23 Enigma" into my brain. I found the notion to be ridiculous of course. Completely absurd. Laughably stupid. Patent nonsense.

Then, I began to see the "23"s. Pretty much everywhere. All the time.

Then, I understood that you see what you look for.

Then, I understood our brains are wired to see patterns, even where there is no pattern.

Then, I stopped believing in conspiracy theories, and understood how they are constructed.

But I still see the "23"s.

Which got me wondering ... how many times has 23 has been mentioned in this blog since I started with that first post at 23:23 on 04/23/06? Here is the list, courtesy of blogger search:

"Broken Government " is the disease - "Divided Government" is the cure

25 Oct 2006
But in this particular example, I have only one thing to say to Scott: "23". If all you do is look for the number 23 all day, you are going to find a lot of them. Sometimes the 23 you find means something. Sometimes it does not. ...

Da Bears. Da Barack. Da Boomers.

13 Dec 2006
As a Chicago ex-pat living in San Francisco for these last 23 years, I have managed to steadfastly "stay the course" with my Chicago sports loyalties.

Carnival of Divided Government OCTAVUS - Winter Solstice Edition

21 Dec 2006
At precisely 4:22 PM PST, 21-December-06,the earth leans a maximum 23 degrees off of our orbital plane, and then starts leaning back. It is the moment that we in the northern hemisphere begin to observe the return of the light. ...

Gone fishin'

17 Nov 2006
UPDATE: 11/23/06 Happy Thanksgiving! DWSUWF will refrain in the future from publicly handicapping college football.

The President of United States comments on divided government.

26 Oct 2006
On the vote for passage, Democrats were 38 to 4 in favor, Republicans 32 to 23 against. Clearly, the president's best allies on immigration are on the Democratic side.

Carnival of Divided Government - Secondus

2 Oct 2006
The poll found 42 percent of Virginia voters saying they preferred divided government, 36 percent saying they preferred one party to be in charge, and 23 percent not sure." ...

Carnival of Divided Government - Tertius

17 Oct 2006
The next edition of the Carnival of Divided Government will be posted one week from today, at 11:59 PM PST Monday October 23. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form ...
I just noticed an interesting coincidence - there are exactly 23 "23's" in this post (and two "twenty threes").

It was decades later that I began to realize that there really is a vast conspiracy, and Robert Anton Wilson was at the core of it. It seems that many of his readers were writers, screenwriters, journalists, authors, directors, designers, and bloggers. It seems that many, after reading the books, began to deliberately insinuate the number 23 into their work. Consequently it is no longer possible to distinguish whether you are noticing the "23's because you are looking for them, or because they really have been selectively integrated into everything by Wilson's co-conspirators.

Then, with that realization, I knew for certain that one could sit alone at a typewriter, or in front of a computer, or with pen and paper, and create ripples in reality that never stop expanding.

The ringleader may be gone, but the 23 conspiracy is just getting started, and soon to be a major motion picture.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Divided We Stand... " on "Divided We Stand."

The current issue of Reason features the cover story "Divided We Stand - What to expect from the long-awaited, much-anticipated return of gridlock."
"But as bad as November’s rout might have been for the GOP, libertarians and other small-government types are the ones who have taken the real thumpin’ during the last six years. Unfettered Republican control of the federal government has given us a seemingly endless series of hyperactive, unconstrained, and largely ineffective government activities: the No Child Left Behind Act, the Medicare drug benefit, record levels of spending, and a foreign policy that, to be charitable, lurches between deadly incompetence and deadly hubris."
The article surveys the views of a number of DWSUWF favorites, including Ryan Sager, William Niskanen, and Jonathon Rauch, and merits inclusion in the permanent sidebar "Relevant Links" of this blog. We also welcome the opportunity to rip Reason On-line graphics as payback for their unattributed use of DWSUWF graphics last November.

DWSUWF found the article to be an excellent retrospective of the divided government meme. Despite the subtitle ("what to expect..."), it is a rehash of views that have been expressed at Reason, at Cato, at Washington Monthly, in this blog and elsewhere over the last year. While a good overview, it disappoints because there is little new in the article. Conspicuously absent is any consideration of the ramifications of the divided government meme for the '08 presidential election campaign.

Note to Reason editors: Time to start looking forward.

Assuming that the expected benefits of divided government hold true to form (as outlined by Niskanen et. al.) over the next two years, then a divided government result will remain just as desireable in '08 as it did in '06. There are some important elements to consider for that election.

Specifically, it seems unlikely that the Democrats will be able to screw up as badly in two years as it took the Republicans six to achieve, so it is doubtful that the Democrats will lose their significant majority in the House of Representatives. Although their Senate majority is razor thin, structural factors give the Democrats a big advantage in '08. Of the 33 Senate seats contested in 2008, 21 are held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats. Simple numbers - simple analysis - the Republicans have a lot more at risk, and will be playing defense. The Democrats have many more opportunities to take seats than Republicans. Advantage Democrats.

Simple Conclusion: The only way to maintain a divided government in '09, is to elect a Republican President in '08.

If we then layer on the fact that GWB is hell bent on making sure the Iraq war is even more unpopular and a bigger issue in '08 than it is now, one wonders whether any Republican can be elected President in '08. The spectre of Single Party Democratic control of the federal government hangs over the '08 contest. There is hope. There is exactly one Republican presidential hopeful who has been on the right side of the war since '03. That, in the considered opinion of DWSUWF, makes him the only electable Republican in '08.

And that makes Chuck Hagel the DWSUWF Designated Divided Government Presidential Candidate of choice.

Newsweek recently published a couple of excellent articles featuring Hagel and the accelerating Iraq War debate. Jonathan Darman, Richard Wolffe and Evan Thomas compare and contrast the the positions staked out by Hagel and McCain in "Iraq: Friends at War":
"Hagel has a long, sad face, one side of which was seared by the flash of an exploding enemy mine almost four decades ago. But he is almost gleeful when he talks about the coming debate on Iraq. He thinks Congress will awaken from its passivity and begin questioning how Bush is spending blood and treasure on Iraq. "The administration is going to be forced to come up and explain, 'Where is the money going?' " says Hagel. He rejects the notion that the newly Democratic-controlled Congress will shy away from cutting off at least some of the funding for the war. (The somewhat cynical view on Capitol Hill is that the Democrats will let Bush have the money—and also the responsibility for a failed policy.) He foresees Congress's agreeing to pay for existing force levels—but not to send more troops. The White House, he says, can no longer bully Republican members into submission. "The Republican Party has to go through an election next year, the president doesn't," says Hagel."
Jonathon Alter presents the optimistic case on how Hagel might defy conventional wisdom in "Hagel Could Have a Shot":
"But governors, who normally make the strongest presidential candidates, seem a little irrelevant this time around. They aren't likely to sound as credible as senators on the nuances of Pakistani politics or the readiness of the Third Infantry Division. There's more conventional wisdom that's in danger of cracking, too. Pooh-bahs in both parties have convinced the candidates that they have to raise $100 million this year to be competitive. This is nonsense in the Internet age, peddled by consultants who need that booty for their own pockets. In congressional elections, money is a cause—it leads directly to success. In presidential politics, money is an effect—it follows quickly the momentum that's generated in the rough and tumble of the "free media" campaign. Chuck Hagel might not run. But if he does, [Hagel] would be formidable. It's the issues, stupid."
DWSUWF wholeheartedly agrees, but takes issues with Alter's last sentence. As of President Bush's "surge" speech tonight, the 2008 presidential election will be about exactly one thing:


Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Carnival of Divided Government NONUS - Broken Resolution Edition

Welcome to the ninth edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - The 2007 Broken Resolution Edition. As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration, in order to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series.

Introduction
In this Carnival of Divided Government NONUS - 2007 Broken Resolution Edition, as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and mainstream media on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to use the words "divided government" or "gridlock" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions.

Resolved for 2007 (or not)
1) DWSUWF resolves to post CODGOV-NONUS New Year Resolutions Edition on January 1st CODGOV NONUS Broken Resolutions Edition on January 8th.

2) Nancy Pelosi resolves to lead the “most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress in history.” most honest, most open, most ethical Congress that does not inconveniently interfere with ramming the new Democratic agenda through the House of Representatives. The ethical and honest part remains to be seen, but at least the "open" part will have to wait for 100 legislative hours or so as the speaker uses the very same Republican House rules that she complained so bitterly about while in the minority, to steamroll the current Republican minority. After all, the end justifies the means, does it not? And, in any case it will only be for a little while, unless of course, circumstance totally beyond Nancy's control dictate she maintain those rules for the indefinite future.

John acknowledges the broken resolution, but rationalizes it with a "payback is a bitch" argument and makes unsympathetic note of the predictable , yet ironic GOP reaction in "Blogs for Crying me a River" posted at Hell's Handmaiden.

"It is a valid complaint– hypothetically speaking. Party politics for the sake of party politics is bad government. That much is wrong on both sides of the equation. However, when the bully does finally get his nose bloodied, don’t expect anyone to sympathize with his cries of foul play."

J.C. Wilmore
, on the other hand, adopts a simplistic partisan view that the Republicans are bad, the Democrats are good, so anything we do to them is justified in "Why Republicans will be excluded from power in the 110th Congress" posted at The Richmond Democrat citing a Rolling Stone analysis of the 109th Congress:

"Why would anyone want input from people who behave so clownishly? When they lost the mid-terms elections the Republicans never batted an eye: they re-elected the same people to leadership positions that had excluded the Democrats from legislative meetings when the Republicans had the majority. Democratic control of Congress restores a healthy measure of division to our government and will produce accountability, not gridlock. Read
Taibbi's [Rolling Stone] article and decide for yourselves whether these scoundrels deserve to have any part in setting the agenda for the 110th Congress."

J.C. uses the word "gridlock" as if it's a bad thing.

Pastor Alan Bevere sermonizes (being a Methodist I presume he is not pontificating) in a more even-handed and accurate manner in "Second Verse Same as the First" posted at his personal blog and at Red-Blue Christian:

"Soon-to-be Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi also echoed the promise of bi-partisanship the day after the election. But in an all too familiar refrain heard from both sides throughout the years, House Democrats now plan to shut out House Republicans, at least in the initial days of legislating... Do I want Republicans and Democrats to work in a bi-partisan manner? Not really. Actually, I prefer arguing, bickering, and gridlock so that government gets very little done. Since government seems unable to willfully limit itself, a divided government is the only recourse, even though it is more unpleasant."
DWSUWF is just waiting to see if Nancy does indeed willingly surrender the ring of power after 100 hours.

3) George W Bush resolves to listen to the findings of the Iraq Study Group, the voice of the voters, and his generals in the field while developing a new course of action in Iraq. do whatever he damn well pleases in Iraq, including "surging" the troop deployments despite opposition from Democrats, Republicans, the military leadership, the American people, the Iraqis and the troops in the field.

Rey Thomas analyzes this broken resolution in The Thomas Political Report: For Bush, Troop Surge Is Last, Best and Worst Hope posted at The Thomas Political Report:

"President Bush and his brain trust still have the weekend to put the finishing touches on his new Iraq war initiative but it’s evident that an increase in ground troops of at least twenty thousand and possibly forty thousand will be the main piece to the puzzle. Unlike in the past, this current Bush White House is showing deep divisions over whether this is the right policy but the President has made the decision to go forward with the troop surge as soon as his new diplomatic and military teams are in place."

While at the Washington Post Jim Kunhenn of the Associated Press invokes the divided government challenge facing the President promoting the surge strategy in the article "Dems Prepare Slew of Oversight Hearings":

"In this new era of divided government, the congressional hearing room is where the executive and legislative branches will clash. Over the next few weeks, Senate Democrats plan to hold at least 11 hearings just on Iraq... House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Reid wrote Bush last week to express their opposition to a potential temporary increase in the number of troops in Iraq - an idea Bush is said to be considering."

Mark Silva
quotes DWSUWF favorite Norm Ornstein in "Bush v Bush - The next two years" posted at the Chicago Tribune's Swamp:
"When you get into this situation of a divided government, you have a shotgun marriage," said Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "You have incentives on both sides to make something happen. "Bush's incentive is legacy," Ornstein suggested. "The more the reality sets in that his legacy will be dominated by Iraq, the more he has an incentive to at least temper that a little bit and to make sure that in the next two years he can show that he is relevant."
4) DWSUWF resolves to maintain a laser like focus in this blog on the topic Divided Government in the United States Federal government exclusively begin to broaden our exploration of Divided Government with posts, news and scholarship exploring the divided government concept on global, state, and local level. For example:
Xyba looks at some State of Virginia divided government posturing in "The Impasse in Richmond" posted at Once More Into the Breach, saying:
"Rather that find some workable solution or accept that throwing money at it will be insufficient to remedy the problem, he wants to combine the two houses of the General Assembly to grease the grooves of the legislative process... One can hardly imagine the pocket picking nonsense that would flood out of Richmond from an efficient legislature."
Robert Elgie of Dublin City University explores "Divided Government in Comparative Perspective" at Oxford Scholarship Online (A tome I further resolve to read at sometime in 2007):
"Divided government occurs when the executive fails to enjoy majority support in at least one house of the legislature. To date, the study of divided government has focused almost exclusively on the US. However, divided government occurs much more widely in other presidential systems and is the equivalent of minority government in parliamentary regimes. This book examines the frequency, causes, and management of divided government in a comparative context, identifying the similarities and differences between various countries around the world."
5) Finally, DWSUWF further resolves to never post any off topic submissions in the Carnival of Divided Government that do not include the words/concept of divided government just this once post these three wildly off-topic submissions that completely ignore the Carnival guidelines, and have absolutely nothing to do with the topics and intent of this Carnival:

Jack Yoest presents Rocky Balboa: Courage, Integrity, Faith, Victory The Movie posted at Reasoned Audacity.
John presents Saddam’s Fall: The Hard-Earned Trophy posted at The Largest Minority.
Vihar Sheth presents Our Responsibility to Every American posted at Vihar Sheth.


I hate to end on a negative note. How about one (as yet) unbroken resolution for 2007...

6) DWSUWF resolves to remember "The Rules of Divided Government" - helpfully disinterred from the the crypt of the Clinton Adminstration by Mark Thomas at The Economists View:
"The rules are fairly simple:
1. Anything good that happens is because of legislation from congress.
2. Anything bad that happens is the president's fault.
These rules apply without exception."
With that note we conclude this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). The next edition will be the Carnival of Divided Government DECIMUS - Special Presidents' Day Edition, which we have firmly resolved to be posted on Monday, February 19. Really. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

More Carnivale

UPDATED 15-January-2007

If you enjoyed this carnival, you should also check out the latest Carnival of the Insanities posted at Dr. Sanity, Economics and Social Policy Blog Carnival posted at The Boring Made Dull, Carnival of the Liberals #29 posted at Daylight Atheism, Carnival of the Vanities #222 Early Christmas Edition posted at Silfay Hraka, and Carnival of Satire (#61) posted at Mark Rayner's irregular weblog "The Skwib", all of which have seen fit to include recent DWSUWF contributions among many other fine posts.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government

Friday, January 05, 2007

Nancy Pelosi tempted by the One Ring.

"I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired what you offer. For many long years I had pondered what I might do, should the Great Ring of Congressional House Rulemaking come into my hands, and behold! It was brought within my grasp. The Republican evil that was devised long ago works on in many ways, whether Bush himself stands or falls. Would not that have been a noble deed to set to the credit of his Ring, if I had taken it by force or fear from my guest?
And now at last it comes. The electorate will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!'
She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Congress seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender congresswoman, clad in simple burgundy, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
'I pass the test,' she said. 'I will diminish, protect the minority party rights and go into the West, and remain Nancy." Then, suddenly she turned back and in one terrible sweep of her hand grabbed the ring of out of Frodo Hastert's outstretched hand and placed it on her finger. "I'll only wear it for 100 hours or so... it looks good with this necklace don't you think?"
- with apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Jackson, and Cate Blanchett.

Yes, Andrew. A little too easy.


Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.