TIER-FOUR INTELLIGENCE

Posted in Rants on April 28th, 2007 by Ed

There are very few things that infuriate me (and let's face it, lots of things do) quite like positions of significant politicalimportance being manned by idiots. Not to be a snob, but….let's face it, I want the Harvard/Stanford/Michigan guys in the White House situation room when the shit hits the fan, not some guy with a mail-order Associate's Degree. The worst part about the Monica Lewinsky story, for example, was that no one was questioning what a community college drop-out was doing working in such a high-level position.

Fast forward to the present day and the US Attorneys fiasco, and I think the most irritating fact is that there are over 150 graduates of something called "Regent University School of Law" working in the Justice Department. Spend five minutes watching this video to get most of the facts in a suitably humorous format. It's good to know that a lot of the most important positions in our legal community are filled by people who went to the 136th-best law school in the nation, neck-and-neck with such academic bastions as Appalachian School of Law, Florida Costal School of Law, Thomas Cooley (!!!!), Northern Kentucky, and University of Detroit Mercy.

When I think about my individual liberties, I sleep well knowing that the law is being enforced according to the standards of a school that was known as Christian Broadcasting Network School of Law fifteen years ago.

WEAK WEEK

Posted in Rants on April 27th, 2007 by Ed

This week was pretty sorry here on ginandtacos, and for that I apologize. When my fever gets down under 130 degrees I will find the energy to feel worse about it. I am working up an epic Virginia Tech rant, but it's neither complete nor appropriate for a No Politics Friday.

TWO RAPID REVIEWS

Posted in Rants on April 24th, 2007 by Ed

1. The Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie is, well….exactly what you would expect the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie to be. We're talking about a TV show whose 12-minute episodes can sometimes seem far too long. So at 87 minutes, this film will definitely drag unless the mere sight of the Plutonians is enough to entertain you. HOWEVER. However. WITH THAT SAID: The first 4 minutes of this film are possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen. I quite literally could not breathe or see by the time the opening sequence ended. I will not give anything away except that it prominently features the "Let's All Go to the Lobby" cartoon characters. And Mastodon.

2. Don't call it a comeback, but…Year Zero is actually pretty good. True, just about anything would be an improvement over With Teeth, but aside from the apparent tendency to put one appalling faux-New Order "radio" single on each album ("Survivalism") this album suggests graceful aging combined with a healthy dose of that which worked in the past.

PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME IN HEAVEN

Posted in Rants on April 23rd, 2007 by Ed

Yeltsin: dead.

I had a "Layne Staley" moment this morning – I read the news of Yeltsin's passing and could only think "Really? I thought he died like five years ago."

MAILING IT IN

Posted in Rants on April 20th, 2007 by Ed

Sorry for mailing it in, but all you get this Friday is a link to something that will pass the time and enrich your life.

The Black Table is a fine website filled with quality and almost always amusing writing. It's a voluminous site and one could easily drown in the chaff, so let me point out the wheat – specifically, the "How-To" index. It includes step-by-step instructions (often accompanied by photos) on performing such crucial tasks as making Pruno (prison wine), making cigarettes out of spinach, and making a lamp out of a blender (which, if the repeated disclaimers are to be heeded, is quite hazardous relative to the inherent value of the final product). The Pruno tome is a classic, but don't skip epics like "From Bacon to Soap: The Impossible Journey" and the two-part odyssey "The Road to Turducken" either.

If you choose to follow the procedures outlined in "How to Make Your Own Jesus Toast" and sell your creation on eBay, I demand a finder's fee for having directed you thusly.

CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING

Posted in Rants on April 18th, 2007 by Ed

Take note of how the mass killings at Virginia Tech have made you feel – upset, frightened, confused, angry, empty, whatever. It seems to have left the entire nation stunned and, at least for a brief moment before the NRA springs into action, reflective. I share all of those sentiments in response to this senseless and horrific act of violence.

Now take the way that you feel and try to imagine having three or four of these incidents every single day for three years. I suspect you can't imagine that. It wouldn't be hard if you lived in Baghdad, though. You wouldn't have to "imagine" anything. Between 50 and 200 civilians dead at the hands of suicide bombers and execution squads is an average day in Iraq.

Just keep that in mind as you realize how awful these 33 needless deaths make you feel.

THAT DARNED LIBERAL MEDIA

Posted in Rants on April 18th, 2007 by Ed


tmw.bmp

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

Posted in Rants on April 16th, 2007 by Ed

Another week, another shooting spree in a public place. Faced with an opportunity to gloat about how this never would have happened if only the victims had been heavily armed themselves, somewhere Wayne LaPierre is smiling. Then again, so is Marc Lepine.

NPF

Posted in No Politics Friday on April 13th, 2007 by Ed

Today's No Politics Friday ™ is devoted to my strange, strange list of places I desperately want to visit. Those who know me well know that I enjoy traveling, and moreover that I enjoy traveling to places that range from "esoteric" to "borderline interesting" to "flat-out dull."

On my top 10 list is a small strip of beach outside Princess Juliana airport on the island of St. Maarten, on which one can stand while 747s land no more than 20-30 feet above eye level. All those who have experienced it describe it as ass-rapingly loud, completely terrifying, and not to be missed.

Where do I sign?

GRAB SOME POPCORN

Posted in Rants on April 12th, 2007 by Ed

With little fanfare and even less attention from the media, Maryland just became the third state to deviate from the "traditional" means of awarding its electoral votes. However, unlike Maine and Nebraska (which allocate EVs based on Congressional districts, with the two votes from the Senate seats awarded as a bonus to the overall winner of the state) Maryland will commit all of its electors to the winner of the national popular vote.

Now, I have always had it in for the Electoral College. It is truly a ridiculous anachronism with absolutely no benefits to counterbalance its considerable potential for disaster and complication. Let's look at some common arguments in favor of the EC:

  • 1. "It forces candidates to win a broad geographical victory representing a large number of states" – No it doesn't. It's possible to win the presidency by winning exactly eleven states (CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, OH, PA, MI, NJ, GA, and NC – and no, I didn't have to look that up. I have them memorized because I am so fucking cool)
  • 2. "In a national popular vote, candidates would ignore small states and focus on only a small number of large states like California" – Huh. Well, in 2004 3/4 of the states in the union received no ad spending or candidate visits. Thank god we don't have a system that encourages candidates to ignore small states and large portions of the country!
  • 3. "It contributes to stability by encouraging the two party system" – Yeah, that's quite the benefit. Must be why we end up with such awesome candidates all the time.

    I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that none of the arguments in favor of the EC make any sense….and far beside the point, they all represent "bouncing ball" logic (i.e., if this reason doesn't justify it then how about this one? And when that one fails then how about we move on to this one?). In short, none of these "defenses" relate to the original purpose of the EC. The founders didn't institute the system to "ensure broad geographic support" and they sure as hell didn't do it to ensure the hegemony of the two major parties (which not only didn't exist at the time but were also seen as highly inimical to the idea of democracy). They created it for two reasons and two reasons only, neither of which are relevant today and neither of which are addressed even tangentially by contemporary 'defenses' of the system.

    First, they wanted a buffer between the public and the presidency. Electors were actually supposed to sit around and debate for whom they should cast their votes. In other words, states were supposed to select (by whatever method they so chose – more on that in a bit) a group of "betters" to make the choices that the public was clearly far too stupid to make properly. The popular vote would inevitably go to demagogues and buffoons, so the EC was a way to make sure that the elite would still prevail and choose a proper, dignified leader. Does anyone think that electors still sit around and deliberate like this? If so, please put your head in an oven ASAP. An hour at 450 should do it.

    Second, the EC was intended as a backdoor to allowing elections to be decided in Congress – which is what our "democracy-loving" founding fathers wanted all along. They created a system that gave the illusion of democracy (every state gets to play a role!) but one that they felt would never provide a majority winner aside from General G-Dub. Remember, travel and communication were slow, laborious, and poor at the time so the idea of a "national" campaign was inconceivable to them. Equally importantly, there were no political parties when they devised this system, and hence nothing to limit the field. They assumed, quite logically given the circumstances, that the election would be split among 5 or more regional candidates (NE, Mid-Atlantic, South, West, etc) with no majority. Of course, elections lacking an EC majority are decided in the House. How convenient.

    Reality intervened. The rise of the party system dramatically winnowed the range of choices, and technological improvements in travel and communication allowed the parties/candidates to mount truly "national" campaigns. Furthermore, states gradually drifted towards awarding electors based on a popular vote. Why were they allowed to do so in clear violation of the founders' intent? Article II, Section I, Paragraph 1:

    Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress

    The "manner" each legislature chose was initially quite varied. Until 1848, for example, South Carolina simply had its governor choose the electors. Most other states let the State Legislature do it. In short, the process was never intended to be democratic and it was not until the late 1820s that popular vote played any role at all in the process.

    So Maryland's recent decision creates huge logistical challenges – how could a "recount" ever be accomplished with such a system? – but there is absolutely nothing that the courts (where opponents of the change plan to take their fight) can do about it. The Constitution is clear as a bell on this issue. State legislatures can choose to appoint electors via a popular vote, by legislative fiat, by coin toss, by 3-on-3 basketball tournament, or by cage match. There's nothing short of a Constitutional amendment that can stop them. Good luck getting that.

    I had hoped that the debacle of 2000 was enough to convince people of the folly of the system in the modern context. Significant risk, zero benefit. Indeed some states have taken some action (Colorado did a referendum to switch to the Maine/Nebraska method in 2004, and the CT legislature introduced a bill to do the same – both failed) including the recent Maryland decision. When individual states start making changes without the larger problem being addressed, this does nothing but add even more risk and complexity to the system. So I was wrong. Debacle 2000 was not enough. Apparently there will have to be two or three more complete trainwrecks before people realize what an asinine system we use. So I suppose there's not much else to do but sit back, grab some popcorn, and enjoy the fireworks.