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As liberal bloggers go back and forth on the future of the Democratic Party, the question of big issues necessarily comes to the fore. While the discussion has correctly reasoned that conservatives don't really have any new ideas to offer (Social Security privatization, deficit spending and big-money military boondoggles are all at least 20 years old at this point), the collective seems unsure of what big ideas Democrats should pursue, what qualifies as a core principle, what's actually new, etc.

Kevin Drum writes:

What's more, I continue to think that we've won about 80% of these battles, which is why they don't resonate strongly enough to reliably win elections for us any longer. Since the opposite is true for conservatives, who are almost comically bereft of serious new ideas these days, the result is the 50-50 deadlock we've found ourselves in for the past decade.

In other words, the next big thing is going to be something completely different from the ideas that have won elections in the past. But I still don't know what it is.

Some say privacy is the next big thing, some say economic instability, Drum says it's something we can't yet see. But look to what he says earlier in the post -- we, as liberals, have accomplished much of what we set out to accomplish 70+ years ago, and we, as Americans, are mostly pretty content with what we've got; as Drum has argued recently, the fights that are actually happening these days are mostly around the edges. When someone comes around and really tries to get rid of Social Security, it simply doesn't work, for instance. So if we're happy, if there's no mass of discontent in America -- and I tend to believe that, absent the Bush Adminstration as a target of vitriol, there isn't -- how can we possibly expect there is a big issue coming down the pike, let alone figure out what that issue will be?

What if it's not coming from within? The last big issue-paradigm shift was the sudden appearance of the military approach to counter-terrorism as an issue; this was a totally exogenous force. Whatever arguments can be made about "knowing" things ahead of time about the attacks, they were certainly not part of anyone's issue calculus until they happened.

So what if all of our policy approaches don't matter, and the next big thing is something we can't predict? Making markets is one thing, but the genuinely new additions to the issue space in the past have tapped real concerns that could readily be related to political outcomes. Right now, the Democrats are in no position to take advantage of something like economic instability, because they've spent the last 10+ years showing us what great friends they are to the business community, and the last several months showing us what great friends they are to MBNA.

Essentially, what I'm saying is that the Democratic leadership is not in a position to take over new issue space that will be workable right now. Between now and the time the leadership rights itself, the party needs to rediscover the importance of real economic populism, without getting dragged into tangential debates about wedge issues and whatever the beltway media are squawking about this week.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink




One of my drives finally got stubborn today. My old desktop machine (a circa 1999 blue G3 tower) has three hard drives in it, and one of them has occasionally failed on read attempts over the past few months; today it stuck with the failure long enough for a chain reaction of evil to occur.

When the computer hung, I rebooted and the drive's failure kept the system from coming up, even though it's not the startup disk. I shut down completely, let it sit, and brought it back up again. It took a few minutes, but eventually the system came up, with one drive not mounting. Surprisingly, it was a different drive than I believed was failing. Indeed, the missing drive was the one I could most easily afford to lose. If it's double-plus-dead, that'll be annoying, but not as bad as it could have been.

So I shut down again and open the machine up to begin the trial and error of figuring out which drive is which. First try, I unplug the startup disk instead. Whoops! Booting from the Panther install CD indicates that no hard drives are mounted. Hm. Shut down again, blow some dust around, switch the startup disk in for another drive. By this time it's getting really warm -- the heat index today is supposed to be around 100, and the computer room in our house isn't near many good ventilation sources. So I plug in a box fan and get back to it.

But not ten seconds later I get a familiar whiff of electrical fire. If you've worked in computer maintenance for at least a little while, you probably know this smell. Burning wires, dust, the pungent smell of a vacuum. I switched off the fan, thinking maybe I'd overloaded a power strip, and as I smelled around I couldn't find the source. It seemed to dissipate as soon as I started looking for it. So I ignore it, figuring there's so much dust in the room it's I wonder I'm not smelling burning dust all the damn time, and boot the computer back up. It sounds fine, but there's nothing on the monitor, even though it's got the green signal light. The smell was the monitor popping; I didn't place it because the last time that happened to me I was lucky enough to get a little mushroom cloud of smoke coming out the top.

So know I have to go find a cheap monitor somewhere; I think the drive situation is fine, but I'll have no way of knowing until later. On the plus side, I got a 2.5" drive enclosure in the mail today, to get data off my old, semi-catatonic laptop drive, and it works beautifully.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Technophunk ... Permalink




I've sat on my ass for months and months, and at this point I don't really feel like writing anything about these records. 2004 had a few terrific records, some more pretty good ones and a lot that flopped on impact. This year's looking a lot better so far.

Incubus / A Crow Left of the Murder

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




The RIAA has apparently been deputized in New York City:

Employees of Mondo Kim's and fellow NYC record store Other Music, speaking to Pitchfork on conditions of anonymity, confirmed yesterday that five of Mondo Kim's employees were arrested and taken to Manhattan Central Booking, where they spent the night of June 8. When asked why these five employees were singled out for arrest, the Kim's source told us that an undercover agent was allegedly sold a bootleg, and the arrests followed. After the sale, police produced a search warrant, fingered the arrestees, shut down the store for roughly five hours, and confiscated, according to the RIAA, "500 CD-Rs, 27 Music DVDs, Nine DVD burners, and a scanner," among other items, which include the computer containing the store's database and recent sales records.

Meanwhile, you can go down to Canal St. and be offered five copies of "Revenge of the Sith" inside of three minutes with a dozen cops standing right there.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
The World at Large ... Permalink



Sweet baby Jesus on a kaiser roll, what I wouldn't have given to have seen this kind of thing last fall. Last week, Howard Dean said:

[The Republicans are] a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party.

On Fox's Sunday morning circle-jerk, Dick Cheney implied that not even Dean's mother loved him, and lied about his electoral record for a cheap chuckle:

I've never been able to understand his appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best I can tell.

Howard came back with this:

My view is Fox News is a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party and I don't comment on Fox News.

Fucking awesome. Note to Washington Democrats: Complaining about Fox in private is meaningless if you still validate them by appearing on their programming to be whipped. And when I say "Washington Democrats," I'm talking to you, Joe Biden (D-MBNA) and Joe Lieberman (D-GOP).

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink




I've been wondering for years why Saddam Hussein is so often referred to as just "Saddam" by the western media. I figured it was primarily to make him appear larger than life -- you know, Madonna, Cher, Saddam, etc. -- but it turns out he's just got a weird name and there's legitimate discrepancy over what his name is all about.

Hussein is not Saddam's family name. It's actually his father's given name. This is a common Arabic tradition, which is why terms like "son of" (ibn or bin, depending on the country) and "father of" (abu) are sometimes part of a person's identification.

His full name is something close to Saddam Hussein al-Majid al-Tikriti, depending on the Middle Eastern authorities you consult. Taken apart, it really means that he is "Saddam, son of Hussein al-Majid, part of the al-Tikriti tribe."

To complicate matters, the closest term to what westerners would consider a "family" name is not actually represented here. Technically, it would be "al-Khatab," which is the designation of his clan, whose members belong to the larger al-Tikriti tribe. Tikriti, by the way, represents a geographical location � the town of Tikrit along the Tigris River about 160 kilometres north of Baghdad, not far from the village where Saddam was born.

Given that, I guess just "Saddam" works.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
The World at Large ... Permalink




[Video here, 19.7MB Quicktime.]

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Around Madison ... Permalink



posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
The World at Large ... Permalink ...
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