I'm a little late with this, but chalk it up to my feeling a bit down lately:
Jan. 24 [is] the “most depressing day of the year,” according to a U.K. psychologist.
Dr. Cliff Arnall's calculations show that misery peaks [on that day].
Arnall, who specializes in seasonal disorders at the University of Cardiff, Wales, created a formula that takes into account numerous feelings to devise peoples' lowest point.
The model is:
[W + (D-d)] x TQ M x NA
The equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action.
Arnall found that, while days technically get longer after Dec. 21, cyclonic weather systems take hold in January, bringing low, dark clouds to Britain. Meanwhile, the majority of people break their healthy resolutions six to seven days into the new year, and even the hangers-on have fallen off the wagon, torn off the nicotine patches and eaten the fridge empty by the third week. Any residual dregs of holiday cheer and family fun have kicked the bucket by Jan. 24.
“Following the initial thrill of New Year's celebrations and changing over a new leaf, reality starts to sink in,” Arnall said. “The realization coincides with the dark clouds rolling in and the obligation to pay off Christmas credit card bills.”
Do take a look at Eliot's post I mentioned in my last entry, because it wasn't really about him and me, but about the danger of the insularity which can come about because of the current partisan divide in this country. Is anyone out there in the blogosphere doing anything but preaching to the choir? Where, he asks, is the evidence that there's any "meaningful exchange across the ideological gulf"?
I know that, personally, the widening and deepening of the chasm between us has made it almost impossible to talk politics to those few friends that I did have on the other side, but the problem is that the evidence is abundantly clear that the divide was deliberately increased by the leaders of the right, for their own purposes. (Any objective observer would see that the Republican party has become increasingly more extreme over the past 50 years or so, while the Democratic party has actually become considerably less liberal than it once was.) I'm happy enough to work towards narrowing the gap, but that's almost impossible to do (as well as political suicide) if the other side is determined to wipe you out. (Ask the question, is Michael Moore as representative of the Democratic/liberal/left spectrum as Ann Coulter is of the Republican/conservative/right? I think the answer is clearly no, at least when you're talking about the leadership.)
Over on his always interesting weblog Follow Me Here (which, full disclosure, I consider to be my "blogfather"), Eliot Gelwan comments on one of my posts, including this evaluation of our respective sites:
He and I share the dubious distinction, it seems, of being quite opinionated authors of weblogs with very small audiences and no broader notice (sorry, Ed!)...
I think that's a fair and honest take, although probably more appropriate for unfutz, because Follow Me Here attracts roughly four or five times as many visits as I do.
I had this conversation with a friend the other day: with all the myriad weblogs out there, what makes one successful, attracting attention and visitors, and others not so much? I didn't have an answer, really. Obviously, I hope it's not entirely about quality, but surely that must play a part. Perhaps luck and timing and connections and serendipity and groking the Zeitgeist and attitude and salesmanship do too.
I wish I knew what the magic formula was, because I'd plug in some of the factors and juice this baby up -- if doing so wouldn't imperil my amateur status. In the meantime, I suppose Eliot and I are constrained to continue writing about the things that interest us, and hoping that someone else in the blogosphere (sorry, Eliot!) cares enough to read what we write.
Take the MyDDPresidential preference poll, which is an "instant run-off" affair in which votes for some candidates who don't pass a certain barrier are redistributed to voters' second choices, etc.
So far, the results are similar to the Daily Kos poll taken this week: Feingold leading, Clark in second, Warner following -- which is not surprising, given that dKos and MyDd are really part of the same extended community.
(I voted Clark, Warner, Feingold, Edwards, Richardson...)
I have a dilemma -- I really want to contribute something to the Ciro Rodriguez campaign in the 28th Congressional District in Texas, where he's attempting to unseat Democrat in Name Only and Bush acolyte Henry Cuellar, but I am just dead broke. (I had to borrow $5 from a co-worker this morning just to get from one work site to another.) Read Rodriguez' diary here, and about why Cuellar is such a bad dude on Daily Kos and Eschaton.
(Here are some highlights: Cuellar endorsed Bush over Gore, he sat on the Republican side of the aisle at the State of the Union address, he's been endorsed by the ultra-conservative Club for Growth, and his bid to join the conservative Blue Dog Democrat caucus was turned down -- he was too conservative for them. The only reason he's a Democrat is that the district is heavily Democratic -- there's no Republican candidate, so whoever wins the Democratic primary will win the election.)
Since I can't give anything, the least I can do is spread the news. Anyone interested in donating can do so here (netroots) or here (Atrios) -- between them they've raised almost $23,000 in one day.
Update: You can also donate through firedoglake as well. Between these three, almost $39,000 has been raised for Rodriguez in less than 2 days. I've read that he had only $43,000 cash on hand at the beginning of January, so this is a significant amount of money -- but Cuellar had (if I remember correctly) over $200,000, so there's still a large disparity.
The election is in March, and Cuellar is about to start a significant ad blitz, so now's the time to donate if you can.
There's more information on Rodriguez on AmericaBlog, and more on Cuellar here.
A Rational Being has a nifty analysis of the words Bush used in his State of the Union Address the other day -- take a look.
The bottom line: same old same old.
(I'm rather amazed at people around the lefty blogosphere spending so much time and effort debunking the claims and suggestions Bush made in the speech, I suppose because I take it for granted that pretty much everything he says will be a lie -- or, to be scrupulously fair, everything will exist somewhere on a continuum between "deliberately misleading" and "outright falsehood".
I guess someone has to say the obvious, but since most lefty blogs are preaching to the choir, and the mainstream media shows only limited interest in applying the only kind of "balance" that really matters -- that between the maximum amount of truth and the minimum amount of misinformation -- it seems somewhat like a waste of energy to me.
Geez, how many days until he's out of office? It can't come a microsecond too soon.)
Addenda: 1081+ days, according to this and this -- too many.
Don't forget that Darwin Day, celebrated on the anniversary of Darwin's birth, February 12th, is coming up one week from Sunday, and numerous events are scheduled. It won't be as big a bash as in 2009, which is not only Darwin's 200 birthday but also the 150th anniversary of the publication of On The Origin of Species, but there's still a little time left to organize something fun and appropriate to do.
We haven't seen the Darwin Exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History yet -- sounds like a good idea for a famly outing.
(Check out the problems they had getting corporate funding for the exhibit here.)
The current makeup of the Supreme Court of the United States (with facts taken from the official Supreme Court website, except for Alito's, which came from news reports.):
Justice Born Age Appointed by Seated Served ------- ---- --- ------------ ------ ------ John G. Roberts Jr. 1/27/1955 51 George W. Bush 9/29/2005 4 months John Paul Stevens 4/20/1920 85 Gerald Ford 12/19/1975 30 years Antonin Scalia 3/11/1936 69 Ronald Reagan 9/26/1986 19 years Anthony M. Kennedy 7/23/1936 69 Ronald Reagan 2/18/1988 18 years David Hackett Souter 9/17/1939 66 George H.W. Bush 10/9/1990 15 years Clarence Thomas 6/23/1948 57 George H.W. Bush 10/23/1991 14 years Ruth Bader Ginsburg 3/15/1933 72 Bill Clinton 8/10/1993 12 years Steven G. Breyer 8/15/1938 67 Bill Clinton 8/2/1994 11 years Samuel A. Alito Jr. 4/1/1950 55 George W. Bush 1/31/2006 1 day
According to this, Supreme Court Justices serve on average about 15 years -- but that figure is somewhat misleading, according to this paper, dated April 2005, by two Northwestern University Law Professors:
From 1789 until 1970, retiring Supreme Court justices had served an average of 14.9 years. The justices who have stepped down since 1970, however, have served an average of 25.6 years. This means Supreme Court justices are now staying for more than 10 years longer on average on the Supreme Court than they have done over the whole of American history.
The reason for this is not hard to find. Recently, the average age at time of appointment to the Court has been 53 years old, which is the same as the average age of appointment since 1789. The retirement age, however, has jumped from an average of 68 years old prior to 1970 to 79 years old for justices retiring since 1971. Two of the current justices are in their eighties, two are in their seventies, and four more are 65-69 years old. Only one justice, Clarence Thomas, is less than 65 years old.
For this reason, the authors advocate a Constitutional amendment limiting Supreme Court Justices to a single 18 year term.
With Supreme Court justices now staying 10 years longer than they have historically, vacancies on the Court are opening up a lot less often. Between 1789 and 1970 there was a vacancy on the Court once every 1.91 years. In the 34 years since the two appointments in 1971, there has been a vacancy on average only once every 3.75 years.
We think this state of affairs is unacceptable. No powerful government institution in a modern democracy should go for 11 years without any democratic check at all on its membership. Nor should powerful officials in a democracy hold office for an average of 25.6 years with some of them serving for 35 years or more.
No other major country in the world allows the justices of its highest constitutional court to serve for life without a mandatory retirement age. England has a mandatory retirement age, and France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Austria all appoint their equivalents of our justices for a fixed term of years. In addition, none of the 50 States appoints its Supreme Court justices for life. The federal system of life tenure for Supreme Court justices is an oddity among the countries of the world.
For 180 years until 1970, we had Supreme Court tenures of about 15 years, a practice that worked well. Now that this system has broken down, action is needed to restore the status quo. We propose a constitutional amendment instituting reasonable term limits for the members of the Supreme Court.
Because any reasonable version of such an amendment (including the one suggested in this paper) wouldn't apply to sitting justices, there's nothing to stop us from looking forward to 25 or 30 years (or more) of service from Roberts, Alito and Thomas, along with perhaps 10 years from Scalia, which should give them plenty of opportunity to wreck havoc.
Frank Joyce has an interesting post on TPM Cafe, Strikes, Filibusters and Movements, which is centered on his thoughts about what the Transit Workers Union here in NYC should do now that the membership has voted down (by 7 votes out of over 22,000 cast) the proposed contract with the Metropolitan Transporation Authority (MTA). That's a situation I'm watching closely, for obvious reasons. (I live in Manhattan.)
At first, I thought that the union had basically screwed itself by not insuring the approval of the contract (they blamed statements by the Governor that he might veto part of the contract if it was passed, and anti-union coverage in the Post and Daily News), because public sentiment (which had run fairly strongly in the union's favor, despite the disruption caused by the strike) would now be against them, the thought being they won their strike, they got a decent (if not spectacular) contract from the MTA, and yet they refused to go along with it. In that situation, most people, I think, are going to feel that any additional disruption of the common good by the union is totally unjustified.
That initial analysis figured without the follow-up moves by the MTA. Not only did they apply for binding arbitration (which was expected, and is a legitimate thing for them to try for, given the circumstances), but they took the opportunity to take off the table many of the things the union had won in the recent negotiations, and put back on the table some of the most contentious items which had provoked the union into a strike in the first place. In other words, rather than strike a concilliatory stance and entering into good faith negotiations to reach another agreement and avoid another strike, the agency did pretty much eveything it could to provoke and anger the union. It really seemed as if the MTA wants another strike.
(The news that the MTA had a larger surplus then even had been expected hardly helped.)
I think now that if the union does feel it necessary to strike -- something it's doubtful they can afford to do, given the fines that were levied against it for the last one -- whether the public supports it or not will depend on how well the local gets out the message that it's the MTA which is being provocative in this situation.
Like many of you, I dropped by Daily Kos to vote in their latest Presidential preference straw poll (to vote for Clark, as it happens), but I also left a comment there which included a pointer to an analysis posted here in January 2004, which concluded from the historical record that governors have a much better chance of being elected President than do senators.
Because of this we should seriously think about dropping Senators (who currently make up 6 of the 10 named contenders in the poll) from our consideration. Senators are just too vulnerable to attack because of their legislative records, and are also (as JTA remarks in a response to my comment) perceived as Washington insiders, which prevents them running as outsiders committed to making a change.
This is a topic I think we should return to in the next two years as the Democratic field winnows itself down, because the data seems undeniable. Looking at the 1314 Presidential elections since World War II (1952 - 2004), governors have a clear and distinct advantage over senators:
[click on graphic for larger image]
Both Republican governors who ran (Reagan and GW Bush) won, as did two (Carter and Clinton) of the fourfive Democratic governors (the others were Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956, and Dukakis), giving a score of 4 out of 67 (6757%) for all governors. In contrast, only 1 (Kennedy) of the 3 Democratic senators won (McGovern and Kerry lost), while neither of the 2 Republican Senators (Goldwater and Dole) were elected, giving senators overall a score of 1 out of 5 (20%).
(I eliminated from consideration former senators, like Richard Nixon, who had achieved higher office in the meantime, and all minor party candidates, such as governor George Wallace, as well as incumbent presidents and vice presidents).
It's not a matter of disliking the senators currently considered to be possible candidates -- I myself like Edwards and Feingold -- but simply a matter of the inherent disadvantages a senator brings to the contest, disadvantages that a governor just doesn't have.
We really ought to give this some serious thought -- we cannot afford to lose in 2008.
In the period I looked at, there's not one instance of a Democratic Senator going up against a Republican Senator, nor is there an instance of a Governor (of either party) going against a Senator (or either party). We've had a President versus a Senator (4 times), a President against a Governor (thricealso 4 times), a Vice President Versus a Governor (twice), and a President against a Vice President, two Vice Presidents going head to head, a Senator pitted against a Vice President, and a General versus a Governor (each once).
[It's] worth noting that while incumbent Presidents have (as would be expected) a powerful advantage over their opponents (Republican incumbents are 4 for 56 in this period, while Democrats are 2 for 3, for a total of 6 for 89 for all incumbent Presidents), the twothree times an incumbent President has lost (Ford, Carter, Bush) it's been against a Governor, while an incumbent President has always beaten a Senator in this period.
[Corrections to this quoted material of mine made by me after the fact. -- Ed]
I agree with the objection made that the sample size is small (1314 elections providing 1112 examples), which means that my thesis can't be said to be proven by the data, merely that the observed trend makes it imprudent to ignore in our dangerous circumstances:
Going up against the vast and powerful Republican machine with its tame press corps and control of most of the mainstream media, we need every single possible advantage we can get, and it's foolish to deliberately hobble ourselves with a candidate who has inherent disadvantages.
With the country on the line, why take the chance that the historical record is an anomaly?
Addenda: Looking at the data overall, the best thing to be to insure your victory in a Presidential election is an incumbent President: they won 6 out of 89 contests in the post World War II period -- but if you can't be the President, the next best thing is to be a Governor:
President 6 for 9 0.667 [was 6 for 8 0.750] Governor 4 for 7 0.571 Vice President 2 for 5 0.400 [was: 1 for 5 0.200] Senator 1 for 5 0.200
The worst thing to be is a Vice President or a Senator.
Yes, the sample size is very small, but it's not like we can order up another experimental run to get more data, and extending the survey back in time would move us into historical eras that just aren't the equivalent of our own (post World War II is itself stretching things a bit). I'm not willing to bet the welfare of my country and help prove my case by continuing to throw Senators into the ring to represent my party, just to generate some more data points with their probable losses.
Update: According to count (in the dKos comment thread), in the entire history of the US, the only other sitting Senator aside from JFK to win a Presidential election was Warren G. Harding (in 1920).
Andrew Jackson lost the 1824 campaign while he was a sitting Senator. He resigned his Senate seat in 1825, hoping to improve his chance of winning in 1828.
He won in 1828.
Note: I removed from the text a mention of Strom Thurmond, a remnant from a first draft which included the election of 1948. I later decided to consider only post-World War II elections.
Important Note: I've just seen that I made a mistake and inadvertantly left out of my data crunching the results of the 1988 election, and partially mislabelled the results from 1992. I've corrected those errors now, and the point remains, if somewhat less emphatically so.
I see that leading Democratic consultants (and, I gather, a lot of Senators and Reps) are upset by how Howard Dean is running the Democratic Party. The GOP has $35 million in the bank; we've only got $5 or so. Unsaid, or more like downplayed, is that Dean has overseen contributions of $51 million this cycle -- a significant record, up 20% over the last off-year cycle. I suspect a lot of that has to do with the dismay of Democrats nationally to Bush and the GOP ... but Dean, too, has played a role. More significantly, the Old Guard are upset because he hasn't banked all that money to be spent on TV advertising in the last three weeks of the 2006 elections (when, of course, all those consultants get to pull their 10%-15% commissions on ad placements). I agree with many other grassroots Democrats -- Kos being a prime example -- in saying "Bah!" to those consultants.
Dean has been spending those dollars on true grassroots infrastructure. He's hired professional organizers in many states and even some districts. He's poured money into really building up the Party at the level where it counts: in every District. And, I think he's been listening to people like Kos and Jerome Armstrong at MyDD and others who've advocated a "50 state strategy." Again, I agree: we should contest EVERY DAMNED DISTRICT. Maybe we'll lose in most or all. But, we'll be sucking energy and money away from the GOP (they almost always have to spend more than we do for every vote), AND we'll be getting our message out widely, slowly eroding GOP hegemony ... slowly getting people not usually exposed to our message to see that we're actually around, we're not monsters, and we really do have important ideas.
This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address fall on the same day. As Air America Radio pointed out, "It is an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, and the other involves a groundhog."
And once again, I won't be watching -- the guy makes me sick. (Sometimes I catch a bit of a re-run and watch with the sound off to check out his body language, which speaks volumes about the tight, stunted, humorless, angry, unempathic man currently at the top of our political food chain.)
[Thanks to Margit]
Correction: I should have made clear that the Air America comment dated from last year, 2005, when Groundhog Day and the SOTU address coincided. This year, Groundhog Day falls on February 2nd.
Clearly, some Democrats represent our interests, and some do not. I understand what Kos and Meteor Blades have to say, but that doesn't mean I'm not disappointed that more of my party's important elected officials don't understand the damage they've just done to this country.
Some of these people, the so-called "Red State Democrats", have a legitimate political problem, but what can one say about Lieberman (that I haven't already said before), or Akaka and Inouye, or Cantwell -- and where the hell was Harkin? Talk about lack of political courage.
The theme seems to be "no recriminations" -- well, I can get behind that, but only for the moment. I have a long political memory, however, and I will not forget this vote. The first time that a Supreme Court ruling that weakens reproductive rights or empowers the Imperial Presidency or undermines civil liberties comes along, one that would have gone the other way without Alito, I'll know at whose door to lay the blame:
I see that Democratic Senator Joseph "Joe" Biden od Delaware is not supporting a filibuster of Alito's nomination, but I have what I think is a good idea of how to go about changing his mind: Every rank-and-file Democrat should phone, e-mail or fax Joe and tell him that we'll support his bid for the Presidency in 2008 if he votes against cloture. Biden is so hot to be Prez (something that ain't never gonna happen), that hewillbelieve this transparent falsehood and will do whatever we want. (I mean, Joe would perform unnatural acts with a hedgehog if it would get him one step closer to the White House.)
OK, I kid, I love Joe Biden, he's a great man, a great American, and a great Democrat. He's also a great big fool if he thinks that not supporting a filibuster is what's best for the country, the party or, for that matter, his own political fortunes.
As for the other Joe, Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut, I see he's listed as a swing vote, but I'm not sure there's any real way of getting to him, since he's got his head so far up his alimentary canal that he can monitor his cholesterol visually.
Update (2/1): A Democratic political consultant tries to make the case that Delaware Joe is our best bet for President.
What was it Shakespeare wrote? Something along the lines of "First, let's kill all the political consultants," wasn't it?
Incidentally, the consultant is said to be "a veteran of 10 Democratic presidential campaigns dating back to 1976," which is tough to do, considering that there have only been 8 Presidential elections dating back to 1976. Presumably he changed campaigns in several of those years, probably when his candidate lost. So, assuming he worked on all 8 of the main events in that time, the most he can be credited with is a 30% winning percentage, and less if he didn't end up with the eventual nominee.
So why should we listen to a guy whose candidates lose at least 70% of the time?
You know who Joe Biden is? He's Steve Carell on The Office. Or maybe Ricky Gervais on the British Office. He thinks he's really competent and extremely amusing, and he's not -- especially the latter. In fact, he makes everyone's skin crawl.
He's like your creepy uncle who's just a little too friendly.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.