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Category: politics (Page 3 of 26)

monday musings – mid-week edition.

Stuff that’s been in my head:

  • Long before Markos at DailyKos said it, I argued that Obama’s secret way of funding the bailout package is to name high-profile tax evaders to his cabinet and other high-level governmental positions: as they are named, they are vetted, smoked out and must pay. Soon enough, the bailout will be fully funded, and the federal deficit will be reduced.
  • Speaking of Obama and cabinet picks: Howard Dean should be the natural pick for Secretary of Health & Human Services, as well as the Health Care Czar position. Dean eats, sleeps and breathes health care policy – specifically universal coverage for children under 18. If Rahm Emmanuel is still bitter with Dean over the 50-state strategy (face it, Rahm, Dean won that battle, and the only reason you are CoS for POTUS is because of Dean’s reworking of the DNC food chain), that’s too silly a reason to pass over the former governor of Vermont.
  • The suggestions that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) be HHS Secretary are laughable and scary: this is the man, after all, who allows so-called “health supplement” companies to continue producing formulae of questionable health value without the oversight of the FDA. Of course, the gullible and naïve voters of Utah have returned this idiot to the Senate too many times to count, so perhaps this might be the only way to get some new blood in Utah’s congressional team, but still…. bad idea. And I can count the times Hatch has been bi-partisan/non-partisan on one hand (with fingers left over).
  • When will the Dems – other than Barney Frank – act like they actually won the election in November? I’m waiting, but it’s time to put up or shut up – and I’m pointing my fingers are you, Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi.

In non-political stuff (okay, might be slightly political):

  • As Sarah noted, Ticketmaster is an evil monopoly. Sure, I managed to get tickets to Springsteen’s show here in DC, but only after being denied good seats due to a site error, then finally getting tickets 20 minutes after they went on sale. All the while, my fruitless attempts at getting seats resulted in Ticketmaster suggesting I buy tickets for the same show (at a greatly inflated price) via TicketsNow, their legal “reselling” (read: scalping) sister company – these tickets almost certainly coming from under-the-table skimming of prime seats from one arm of the company to the other. That, to put it bluntly, is fucked up. And now Ticketmaster is looking to buy out one of their few remaining competitors, LiveNation. If this isn’t a true monopoly that acts against the best interests of consumers, I don’t know what is. Let’s hope the Obama DOJ investigates these criminals for what they are – a ticket mafia – and that the trust is broken and people put in jail.
  • While I love a cupcake as much as the next person, the trend of boutique cupcakes has got to end: when run-of-the-mill cupcakes in the supermarket now command more than $2 per specimen, that’s just wrong. And let’s face it: many of the boutique cupcakes aren’t that good: most home bakers could bake equally tasty, if not better, cakes.
  • I’m very much ready to get back to real winter. DC has been lacking in this area. Sure, we had a true, hard freeze this year (fewer mosquitoes this summer is a lovely thought), but a scarcity of snow. New England and the west have been inundated, so I’m headed to Colorado tomorrow to get a snow fix.
  • It’s time to start ramping up my bike training regimen for the 2009 season: lots of big rides loom ahead, and the warm months aren’t too far away. But I’m really glad I spent some time off the bike, as I was getting a bit burnt out.

a new day

The inauguration brought forth a new day to DC, the country and the world.

A bunch of us decided to see what the crowds were like heading down to The Mall. They were sizable, for sure, but unified in positive attitude, which was a marked contrast from the typical protest crowd that tends to assemble in similar numbers here in DC.

But we weren’t planning on getting onto The Mall (indeed, the northern entrances to the event closed just after 9:45 am), instead opting to watch from the comforts of a Dupont Circle bar. It was a wise move, as we had hot beverages, decent food, a high-def TV and heating at our disposal. So we sat at James Hoban’s Pub for almost six hours, soaking in all of the inaugural pageantry and ritual. We cheered, we clapped, we laughed and we occasionally critiqued the events surrounding President Obama’s swearing-in ceremony.

And tonight, we had a great time at The Hill Ball. The big band was hot, the friends were fun (as usual), and the dancing was energetic. It was a fitting way to celebrate the dawning of a new – and long overdue – political era in DC. There are many pictures to upload – that will happen in the next couple of days.

We capped the night with a late dinner at Tunnicliffe’s at Eastern Market. A burger at midnight-plus-thirty seems a bit excessive, but even the Obamas hadn’t yet had their last dance of the night. So we ate, laughed and enjoyed the camaraderie of an inaugural day gone right.

monday mixdown: teeth, dtv follies, and why bikes are cool

Here’s what’s been on my mind over the past week:

Had a root canal last Tuesday. It was amazingly low-pain and low-stress, all things being equal. The only thing is that I need to chew on one side of my mouth, as the rooted tooth only has a temporary crown on it right now. My appointment for filling and fitting of the permanent crown isn’t until February 3rd, unless there’s a cancellation and the doctor can work me in earlier. Until then, well, it’s a lot of careful, mindful chewing.

– – – – –

So are there any other folks having a tough time getting digital TV reception in their apartments – especially those living in basements or other locations with challenging exposure? It seems that the DTV standard, as ratified and endorsed by the FCC, doesn’t account for folks who can’t place a high-exposure outdoor antenna to draw in signal. Sure, they have suggestions for folks who only have indoor antennae (e.g. folks who rent), but the ultimate suggestion is to get an outdoor antenna.

So even though I’ve bought a DTV converter box and use an amplified antenna, I still get a fraction of the channels that are available on the still-extant analog transmission lines. Under the old (and still useful, at least until February 17th) analog system, we receive NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, CW, MyTV, MHz, ION, Telemundo and three PBS stations – 12 stations in total. With our DTV converter and the antenna placed near our window (as suggested by many sources), we get NBC (with its two digital sub-stations), Fox (sans sub-station), CBS (with its weather sub-station), and Telemundo (sans sub-stations).

No ABC. No PBS. No CW, MyTV, ION or MHz.

And folks keep suggesting that I get cable to fix things. But I’m loathe to spend $15 per month ($180 per annum) on something I currently get for free. And while Hulu is a reasonable substitute for now, my guess is that The Powers That Be will begin charging users to view current programming.

Furthermore, there’s the “cliff effect,” where a digital signal goes from full clarity to zero signal very quickly. this is a marked difference from analog, where static may cause the picture to get fuzzy but still provides a watchable program stream. Not so with the digital replacement: it’s an all-or-nothing venture. And in an area where there are many interference variables, watching can be very frustrating. For example, there is a lot of low-flying helicopter traffic in northwest DC (thanks to the presence of government agencies, the VP’s residence, the White House, embassies, and three hospitals), and each time one of these silver birds flies overhead, the digital signal freaks out and drops.

So this isn’t really an improvement in quality, is it? Methinks that somebody will go class-action on this, and I hope it happens – this “new, improved TV” is anything but. Something fishy is afoot, and I think that the telecoms, cable providers and TV manufacturers were at the wheel of this change: looking for money at the expense of serving the public.

For shame, for shame.

– – – – –

Now back to better things:

I spent Sunday mid-day on a wonderful dirt road ride with Darren out in Loudoun County. Of the almost 35 miles we traversed, climbed and descended, only a handful were on paved roads. The dirt was damp and occasionally glue-like, but offered great traction. Also, it was a lot of fun to take out my old mountain bike on the kind of surface for which is was designed. Sure, Darren had a decided advantage with his cross bike (as well as the fact that he rides off-road far more often than I), but it was great fun on an otherwise mellow weekend.

The best part is that riding the dirt roads of Loudoun County provides a unique view of a very scenic part of Virginia. Sure, you could drive these roads, but the view wouldn’t be nearly as good or all-encompassing.

– – – – –

And another great thing about bikes? They’re one of the only vehicles that will be allowed across the Potomac bridges on Inauguration Day. So to all my Virginia-based readers (all, what, two of you?) who want to commute into the District and not take Metro: dust off those bikes and ride in! Plus, riding in will keep you warm with the workout (it’s forecast to be bitterly cold – or at least seasonably chilly – on the big day).

I hope this is just the beginning of the end of stupid, single-occupant car commuting from Northern Virginia (as well as nearby Maryland) into the District. We have plenty of easy ways into the city that don’t involve increasing traffic volume, spewing pollutants into the air, and otherwise driving locals nuts when you take all the zoned parking for hours at a spell: try Metro, try a bus, ride in on a bike, walk, or do a mix of these. It’s not difficult, and it’s better for all of us.

a sat… doesn’t make any sense

Today, Saturday, has been one of… not a lot of sense.

First off, I woke up s-l-o-w-l-y, and was discouraged that the promised bad weather wasn’t happening just yet. I wasn’t really in a mood to go on a bike ride, and was hoping the weather would be a co-conspirator. Alas, it wasn’t, though I didn’t go for a ride because my stomach was of a mind that I should take it easy.

And I did – lovely. Got to see two FIS Alpine World Cup races on Universal Sports, which was a treat. Yes, the U.S. Ski Team sucked it up a bit. While Lindsey Vonn skied well in her weakest event (GS), the other women and all of the men were just a bit off their game. Ted Ligety had a corker of a second run, but came to a dead stop in run number one – not quite the big finish he wants. Bode Miller clipped his hand through a gate in the first run and pulled up and out of the course. I think he broke his already-ailing wrist – we’ll see.

But the other teams skied well, and it’s always good to see good skiing.

After that, we had soup (borscht from the big pot I cooked the other day) and watched It’s A Wonderful Life. Sure, it’s not totally in-season now, but our tree is still up, so… doesn’t make any sense, but it was good to finally see it before we stow the Christmas stuff for the season.

Now I’m cooking pasta for dinner – lazy, yes, but filling. The pantry is in serious need of revamp right now, so I didn’t really feel compelled to cook anything we had there. Perhaps latkes tomorrow.

Other randomness:

My friend Paul blew out his right knee yesterday while skiing at Vail. Not fun for a guy who loves to ski, especially in an epic snow year. But Paul is a trooper and has a good outlook on life, so he’ll bounce back, better than ever, for next season. I’ll see him in a few weeks to egg on his recovery.

And what’s the deal with UST bike rims? Seriously, these things are the king of suck when it comes to changing a tire. I think I’m going to break something – either me, the tire levers, the tire bead, or all of the above – when trying to get my road slicks off the rim! I want to put on my knobby tires for a planned off-road ride tomorrow, but it looks doubtful that I’ll be able to swap out the treads before morning. Whoever invented these UST tubeless setups had an admirable goal, but made life miserable for those of us who still use tubes and like to change our tires every so often. I’ll give it another crack before bed, but I’ve been cussing out the inventors of this “wonder technology” all evening.

Leave it to me to wait on trying the change until after all the local shops have closed. Bugger all.

Obama finally visited Ben’s Chili Bowl – lucky guy!

My wireless connection has been anything but reliable this week. Can’t say why, but it’s annoying.

Anywho…. video tonight, and hopefully I’ll be in a better mood soon.

what a night!

Much more to be said once I get some sleep.

Canvassing in Virginia was good – and Obama won both the state and the county where I volunteered!

And Obama won the presidency by running an active race in all 50 states, showing that the only way to win is to show up. Howard Dean and Bill Bradley deserve a lot of credit for refocusing the Democratic party on rebuilding local party organizations and getting out the vote all over the place, even in traditionally inhospitable locales.

And the street party in downtown DC was simply incredible: we ended up driving home in the middle of an exuberant, giddy convoy, with horns honking, high fives, cheers and smiles all around. It’s as if a great weight had been lifted off the shoulders of DC, and folks were celebrating the liberation.

A good day, and a good night.

get out and vote!

Vote today!

It matters no matter where you live in the United States!

VOTE!

I did it this morning, and so should you!

VOTE!

I’m now heading into Virginia to help turn out the vote for Obama and Biden.

VOTE!

To find your polling place, click here.

To see my list of endorsements in DC, VA, MD, CT, MA, CA and UT, click here.

wanna see who i support this cycle?

Click here to see my endorsements for the elections, including DC, as well as select races and measures in Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Utah and California.

the stars align

In this case, the stars are Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Andy Griffith….

… supporting Barack Obama!

Now Ron and Henry are no surprise, but Andy is a stunner. I would’ve pegged him as a McCain guy – I’m so happy to be wrong.

Enjoy the short walk down memory lane with Opie, Sheriff Taylor, Richie and The Fonz:

miscellaneous ramblings

Here’s a summary of what’s been going on in my life of late:

Over the long weekend (a.k.a. Columbus Day weekend – or “Insanely Politically Incorrect Federal Holiday Weekend”) sprite and I went to New England for three things: a wedding, visiting family, and a bike ride. We got to see her best friend, Karen, marry her sweetheart, Michael, in a lovely outdoor ceremony in Massachusetts. I got to hang out with Sam and Alexis, which was an all-too-brief treat. And I got to sample both the T and Amtrak, connecting the two in Boston – go, railroads!

That same weekend, I rode the Great River Ride in western Massachusetts. I’ve done this ride twice before, though both previous times the ride was my big ride of the year. Given that the Shasta Summit Super Century filled that role this year, I was past peak form at this ride – and it showed. It didn’t help that I was out late at the wedding the previous night and was a bit short of sleep and proper nutrition as a result, but I wasn’t as fast as I was in 2007. And I didn’t really care, as it was a beautiful day for riding and simply enjoying being outside in the beautiful foliage.

Rudi and LeviThis past weekend, I got the chance to catch up with an old friend: Levi Leipheimer. Most of you may know him as one of the greatest professional cyclists in the United States, who won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics, who placed second in this year’s Vuelta a España and third in last year’s Tour de France. I know him as a former teammate at Rowmark Ski Academy, back when we were both alpine ski racers out west. It was fun to see him and catch up on life – small world.

I also got the chance to try out the new Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 bike drivetrain, which features electronic shifting. It’s very slick, and had this Campagnolo user convinced that this could be a big deal. Campy is working on something similar, but it looks like Shimano will beat ’em to market.

sprite and I continue to prepare for our upcoming trip to France. This involves a lot of house cleaning (we don’t fancy returning to a messy apartment, though I’m sure the cats will try their damnedest to ensure that some things will be out of place), some half-baked attempts at brushing up on my French (thank you, podcasts and French radio), and narrowing down wish lists of things to see and do.

All the while, I’m hoping that Obama can keep the momentum and win this election. It’s not going to be easy, given that the RNC and McCain campaign are throwing everything on the table to try and discredit Sen. Obama. It’s pathetic, but it’s also effective when aimed at people who don’t take the time to learn the truth about claims laid out in smear campaigns. 12 more days – keep up the good, aggressive, positive fight, Barack and Joe!

vanity will get you nowhere

Yesterday morning, as I rode my typical route to work, I was almost hit – and then yelled at in language that would make a sailor blush – by a fellow road user.

I was on my usual commuter bike, riding around 20 mph in a 25 mph zone alone R Street, NW, when a man in a metallic slate Land Rover pulled up close behind me, intending to pass me in a double-yellow zone. As this stretch of road is a bit of a breakover hill, I had the motorist’s best needs in mind: two cyclists and a Mini approached going in the opposite direction, and I wasn’t sure that the driver could pass me before crashing into the opposing lane’s traffic. And this is a road where drivers can park on the curb, which makes it a narrow, two-lane stretch where most cyclists need to take the center of the lane to avoid the door zone.

So I used the internationally-recognized hand signal for slowing (left hand out and down, palm facing toward the following traffic) to inform the driver that he’d best wait to pass.

He honked and yelled at me, and pulled to within a few inches of my rear wheel. I was not amused.

He then revved his engine and tried to pass again, even as the oncoming cyclists still hadn’t cleared his way. So I held out my hand forcefully and yelled “slow down, man!” to the driver.

Again, the horn. Again, the yelling and swearing:

“Get off the fucking road! You don’t fucking belong there, in the lane, in my way!”

I stick to my ground, as is my legal right, and proceed to the light at Wisconsin Avenue, which is red.

And I pull to a stop at the intersection, positioning my bike across the single, wide lane, blocking this guy from racing onward.

And he yells at me again, using the same tired arguments as before. I just let him do it.

And I notice his license plate: DC tags, 433.

Yup – a low-number tag, which is a political pay-off for high-roller supporters of the mayor.

It’s one of the ultimate statements of political vanity in DC’s incestuous political system.

And as a motorist, it makes you extremely easy to identify if you get into any tussle with a fellow user of the road.

So I sit there through the entire 56-second cycle of the traffic light.

As this goes on, he’s fuming. I eventually say to him “check the bike laws – and check with your friend, Mayor Fenty – I think he’s a cyclist, too.”

The light on R Street then changed to green, and I rode off, continuing to work. As he rounded the corner, he held his arm out as if to go after me, but was far short of his goal.

This autumn has seen an increase in bad blood between cyclists and motorists, as more cyclists take to the road and motorists are forced to accept their legal right to be on these same streets. Many times, these interactions are simple to diffuse and mutual understanding can be achieved, to the benefit of all parties involved.

And then there are the political asshats who feel an extra entitlement to “their roads.” To them I say: grow up, get real, and coexist. It’s not that hard to do.

And vanity (plates) will get you nowhere good in these situations.

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