Friday, December 28, 2007

The Data Port Endorses… Voting!

I went on line this morning to change my voter registration from Independent to Democratic. There were two reasons for this, one of them perfectly trivial and the other rather more serious.

The trivial reason first: Ever since I’ve been old enough to vote I have voted in every election, city, state, and national, for which I was eligible. I include school board elections and bond votes, referendums, initiatives, and judges. I couldn't bring myself to break the string.

The more serious reason is this: As readers of this blog know (and, I suspect, certain unnamed government agencies as well) I am an unreconstructed old lefty. As unhappy as I am with the current thrust and tenor of the Democratic Party it still comes closer to my core political beliefs than the Republican Party.

I will vote for the Democratic candidate for president, whomever he or she may be.That being the case, it seems to make sense to cast a primary vote for that candidate who offers the best combination of viability and closeness to my personal political bent.

That candidate is John Edwards.

Monday, December 24, 2007

In Debt Yet? You bet!

As a follow-up to Saturday’s Data Port entry about credit card debt let me refer y’all to the front page of today’s Arizona Daily Star and an Associated Press story: Pocket Plastic is New Credit Crunch.

“Americans are falling behind on their credit card payments at an alarming rate, sending delinquencies and defaults surging by double-digit percentages in the last year and prompting warnings of worse to come.

“An Associated Press analysis of financial data from the country's largest card issuers also found that the greatest rise was among accounts more than 90 days in arrears."

If you read the article closely you’ll notice that the credit card weasels have done just what the mortgage weasels did, they've sold off the debt to investment trusts and now the trusts are in trouble.

The Giffords Conundrum

At least two of Congresswoman Giffords’ votes have been profoundly annoying to CD 8 Democrats and, indeed, to progressive Democrats across Arizona. Her vote to join Republicans in granting Bush’s $70 billion dollar Iraq funding request has been ably dealt with by Michael Bryan over at Blog for Arizona.

I, too, received the Giffords letter explaining her vote. Bryan’s analysis of that letter is, in the best sense, lawyerly. Of particular interest is Bryan’s note that the funding for materiel replacement is a separate issue and could have been voted for without a total capitulation. Less noted was Giffords voting with the Republicans against a bill that would have reinstated the inheritance tax.

Now what are Progressives to do?

Would they (should they) launch a ‘send-a-message’ attack in the primary? It doesn’t seem likely. The most obvious candidate happens also to be the Vice Chair of the state’s Democratic Party. I doubt that Latas is willing to fall on his sword just to send a message.

Another alternative would be to support some third party candidate, possibly a Green. But even if a Green could beat her in a primary race no Green could win the seat in the general election.

Under the circumstances Giffords’ single most valuable political characteristic is that she is a Democrat and will vote with other Democrats to organize the House. Progressives may not be “doing” well with her at the moment, but they can hardly do without her. They will have to bite the bullet and vote Democratic.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Are We in Debt Yet?

With four shopping days left before “Holiday” I toddled off to the malls yesterday to do my Merchants Day shopping. I had read that sales were down but business seemed pretty brisk judging from all the plastic I saw being tendered.

No money, just credit cards. No kidding. No one was buying anything with folding green, with money they had now; they were all contracting to pay with money they hoped to have sometime in the indefinite future.

When I was a kid (and don’t you hate it when some old guy, some really old guy, says that?) there were no credit cards. That’s right, Virginia, Santa was on a strictly cash and carry basis.

Instead of credit cards every bank had a “Christmas Club.” Folks made regular deposits during the year into modest little interest-bearing savings accounts. Then at Christmas they had money to buy stuff with.

Well, that was during the depression. We’re all better off now, which is why we’re all in debt.

Merry Merchants Day to my fellow bloggers!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Daily Star’s new E-Edition

If you are a newspaper junky, and especially if you follow the development of on-line journalism, it’s well worth your time to take a look at the new electronic version of the Arizona Daily Star.

I can’t think of any other papers that are presenting this way and I think it’s terrific. Until the end of the year you’ll be able to sign on for free but after that a subscription will cost you just what subscribing to the dead tree edition costs.

In itself I think that this attempt to charge for what the New York Times and other major daily papers give away on line is interesting. If you subscribe this way you see exactly what dead tree subscribers see…all the stories, all the ads, all the photos, the TV Guide, the obits, the comics, the want ads, laid out on each page just as they appear in the paper edition.

You leaf through the paper page by page, or skip to your favorite section. Click on a story and that story pops up on the right side of your computer screen in an easy-to-read text version with photos or graphics at the bottom.

To me the value of this is that I can read the paper, scanning page by page, exactly the way I read it at my breakfast table. I find that reading this way I miss a whole lot less than when I try to read the current e-version. For one thing you scan the whole first paragraph of a story and any photos or graphics catch your eye. When you’re through with the news you can read the funnies or check the TV listings.

In the end the great advantage of this new version is that it is uncluttered. The current (free) version of the Star on line is such a visual hodge-podge, filled with distracting visual snippets, mostly ads and promos, that it is painfully distracting to look at.

Of course in the new version you will not be able to comment rancorously on stories that offend you as you can in the current version. I love the new look and think it’s an interesting experiment, but for the same price I think I’ll stick with the dead tree edition.

To take a look at the E-Edition click here. Sign on as “Star,” password “Free Trial”

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Brass Monkey

One of my favorite motorcycle rallies is The Brass Monkey.The Monkey celebrates its 35th birthday in chilly February, hence its name memorializing a tragic emasculation.

I've posted all the details over at my other Blog, Data Port Two.

But in the meantime, what the hell is a Brass Monkey?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chemical Enhancements

The hoopla over the Mitchell report leaves me underwhelmed. The fact that successful athletes have been using illegal body boosters is old news, and slyly enhancing stuff is as American as apple pie.

Actors have “a little work done,” pit crews bend and break rules to go a little faster and NFL receivers put “stickum” on their gloves to help with impossible catches. We love the results and the sports merchants and team owners love the money.

Anabolic steroids don’t make athletes better, just stronger. If you lack eye-hand coordination, a mastery of the psychology of the sport, a natural passion and will to succeed, or the willingness to train, you can take steroids til your neck is the size of an oak tree’s trunk. You’ll still be lousy.

I think the validity and wonder of the sports records of the past 20 years are a lot less tarnished than people worry about.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Political Silly Season

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

This has been the strangest primary season in memory. Well, in my memory anyhow. The Republicans are intent on recasting political argument into theological dispute. Giuliani is seriously asked, during a national debate, if he believes in the literal truth of the bible. Shortly thereafter Romney argues that his position on the crucial political issue of the divinity of Christ (he believes He is the Son of God) entitles him to the support of people who otherwise consider him a cultist.

It’s pretty clear the Republicans now believe that not only religious belief but a particular sort of religious belief is a precondition for public office.

Then Huckabee turns out to be in favor of the submission of women to the benevolent and loving leadership of their husbands.

Habeas Corpsed or Fun In The Star Chamber

The principle of Habeas Corpus is being argued before the Supreme Court. The Republican administration is twisting and turning in the attempt to convince the court that the Guantanamo prisoners have no such right, no right to see the evidence against them, and no right to a speedy trial.

The argument proceeds with the political nicety one would expect. Sadly, one argument is lacking and it is this: Americans believe that the rights being denied the Guantanamo prisoners are the very preconditions of fairness in judicial proceedings. It has always been a source of pride to us that we have extended these rights to everyone, citizen or non-citizen, regardless of the crime of which they are accused. No rights, no justice, and we are no longer a government of laws and not men.

It was because we were strong that we extended these rights universally in the past. Are we now so weak, or fearful, that we can no longer do this? If so, then shame on us.

Terminal Boredom

I went to a party recently where the festive crowd was largely composed of political activists. I circulated asking folks how their favorite (Democratic is here assumed) presidential aspirant was doing.

I got pretty much the same answer. “Well I suppose I like so-and-so, but I’m not really terribly excited by anyone.” One woman, who I knew as a perfectly ferocious partisan and activist, simply said, “I’m a Yellow Dog Democrat, I’ll vote for whoever they put up.”

Wow! Talk about excitement. If the faithful are this excited by the primary debates just imagine how glassy-eyed the Independents must be.

Here are some links you probably hit upon--- but on the chance that you haven’t, click on these: What Mormons believe, Why the Democrats could lose.

Finally, Melissa McEwan says it all.