Saturday, February 28, 2009

Unequal Time is growing, moving and shaking

image Unequal Time is excited to announce that we are making an exciting move to enhance our usefulness to readers.  In order to provide better visual appeal and ease of navigation, the site will be run on a WordPress engine and will feature a magazine-style theme to offer a better look at available content from the front page.

The new site can be found at its own domain: WWW.UNEQUALTIME.COM

All of the content from the Blogger site (as well as the content from the sister blog - Dancing with Bears - has been imported, and no new content will be posted here.  (Because Dancing with Bears is folding into Unequal Time, this new site will feature a section dedicated to covering defense, national security and foreign affairs in the same way that DWB did for its readers.

I hope all of you bookmark the new site and help us to make it a daily stop on your search for information and commentary.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rules Committee Constrains Debate and Review of Stimulus Bill

Will America Be Able to Stomach This Much Hubris?

File:Triumph of Achilles in Corfu Achilleion.jpg

As transparent as your average bowling ball, the procedure for spending nearly $1 trillion of ours and the next three or four generation's money managed to pushed the stimulus bill out of conference for a quick and dirty vote on the floor of the House.

Here are the provisions for the procedures of today's vote, taken directly from the Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 1 from the House Committee on Rules, passed 9-4 under the direction of committee chair Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY).

Conference Report to accompany H.R. 1 –

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

1.     Waives all points of order against consideration of the conference report except those arising under clause 9 of rule XXI.

2.      Provides that the conference report shall be considered as read.

3.      Waives all points of order against the conference report.  This waiver does not affect the point of order available under clause 9 of rule XXI (regarding earmark disclosure).

4.      Provides 90 minutes of debate on the conference report.

5.      Provides one motion to recommit if applicable.

For the uninitiated that is what speed-track language looks like.  Since the conference reported sometime around midnight last evening, this leaves precious little time for congressional representatives to weigh their conscience and cast informed votes.  This must rank as one of the most flagrant abrogations of the compact between government and the people as has occurred in the history of the Union.

I am ashamed to say that the only Republican to vote YEA for stamping this bill for its one-way ticket on the express train to Hades was none other than my own state's Rep. Doc Hastings from the Washington 4th District.  Way to go, Doc.  Despite the sizable "investments" in the Department of Agriculture and the Bonneville Power Administration, when the voters realize that most of the money is going to benefit federal employees already on the payroll, not create jobs or improve economic conditions in your district, they can come and ask you why you didn't think it was worth discussing in the public air.

(I am willing to offer a special gift to the first person who leaves a comment on my blog ( about at the top of this post and how it is apropos to what is happening in Congress.)


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wax Out of Their Ears, Finally, Congress Agrees to Compromise Stimulus

Agreement by Congressional Leaders is Less than Either House or Senate Price Tag

Put down the face-paint and Mohawk feathers and refrain from ransacking the first shipload of tea you can find.  Despite the questionable sense of the stimulus package, Congressional leadership appears to overcome their chronic tin-earitis and agreed on a compromise bill amounting to $789 billion, as reported by  You heard it, double-digit billions less than either of the bills that were passed through the Senate and House.

Thanks for the compromise go primarily to Senators Joe Lieberman (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) for brokering the deal and avoiding the typical pig pile that ensues when bills head into committee before moving along to the President.

Thanks for creating the environment of public pressure that the shaving of dollars politically unavoidable goes to: Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved, Michelle Malkin, Charles Krauthammer (among many, many others) and the thousands of bloggers and commenters sticking to this issue over the past two weeks.

There is every reason to believe that internal polling by the DNC may have been at the basis for taking the machete to the spending in both bills to slash as much pork as possible.  A stimulus signed into law at greater than $1 trillion, with the Congressional Budget Office and many economists predicting little or no impact on the economy, would have been a very potent campaign hammer for GOP candidates in 2010, one that Michael Steele.

Lesson learned: We the People still have a voice, and there are indications that the country has not swung radically to the left, as some Dems may have hoped.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

TV Preview: Important Things with Demetri Martin Premieres Feb. 11 at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central

[This review first appeared 2/9/09 on (]

It is a rare thing when a solo comedian can carry a thirty-minute sketch-comedy show on broadcast or basic cable. Great comedians and writers like Dana Carvey and Ben Stiller, hilariously funny individuals with success in other endeavors, could not find the sweet spot to entertain a mass audience week in and week out. For the right talent, a one-man sketch show can be the launching pad. After watching the first two episodes of Important Things with Demetri Martin (premiering Tuesday, February 11th at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central), I can write that Demetri Martin has gathered all of the elements to grab as much success as his bag can hold.

Billed by Comedy Central as “potentially the most important TV show of all time ever,” Important Things is the brainchild and creation of Demetri Martin, one of the leading lights of a new generation of comedians. Peeling away to a degree from the staid format of other sketch-comedy shows, Martin seems to have taken a page from the book of the Pied Piper of science, Bill Nye, highlighting one aspect of the world around us – the first two revolve around the themes of “Timing” and “Power.” With that single page in hand, Martin tosses the rest of the book aside and heads off into comedic territory with the intent to do harm to your funny bone. It’s just as one would expect from a show executive produced by The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and Martin himself under the umbrella of Stewart’s company, Busboy Productions.

Using the monologue as a starting point - performed in front of a live audience on a stage set designed to resemble the interior of one of those outbuildings schools use when they outgrow their facilities and their budget, complete with the false wood paneling and cheap carpet - Martin takes the mundane and finds a way to rotate it precisely 137 degrees to present us the side that we would never see without his unique perspective. Was his time at Yale or NYU, his mind wandering while a random professor drew charts on the board, the point of germination for Martin’s method of using simple line drawings to set up and deliver laughs? Perhaps, but when the payoff is something as genuinely fresh as when Martin draws a graph illustrating the relationship between age and time spent urinating outdoors, tracking down the genesis of the material is of little or no importance.

As mentioned, each episode of the series begins with a concept that links a chain of sketches, stand-up bits, studio bits, and musical comedy. Martin’s blend of observational humor, dry delivery, and the use of quirky musical accompaniment to establish timing, is adapted well to the sketches and studio bits that comprise the bulk of the show, and it is clear that Martin is fully in charge of whatever writing staff exists. The material is fully inhabited by his childlike willingness to try out new things and find the funny. A sketch in which Martin assumes the role of an actor performing a scene on a movie set, opposite Amanda Peet in a great cameo, where Martin fails to achieve the anger desired until after the director says, “Cut,” is both hilarious and well-constructed. As a whole, the show at time takes on the quick and comfortable pace of a variety half-hour.  That is part of what makes the show so pleasing to watch; the balance between the basic opening-setup-punch line form of stand-up and the extended situational humor of the sketches keeps your mind from tiring.

Martin is just the kind of personality whose star is expected to rise.  Like a Jerry Seinfeld or Jay Leno, his humor is not angry, not abrasive.  Floppy-haired and not intimidating in the least, Martin has been compared to the late Mitch Hedberg who built a solid following by way of his laid-back persona, and would have gone on to greater success had his life not ended so soon.  Martin achieves the same sort of rapport with an audience but without dragging them through the complex bramble of drug-culture references that would be career cyanide to a comic trying to reach a mass audience.  It is no surprise then that after Martin's hard work of recent years, including a number of appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien (where he also worked as a staff writer), a CD/DVD release of stand-up material (These Are The Jokes), his own one-hour comedy special on Comedy Central, a running gig on the The Daily Show, and a guest role as the fourth Conchord on HBO’s Flight of the Conchords, Martin’s next step would be to launch something of his own.

Experiencing Demetri Martin’s humor is like witnessing the evolution of the comedic form. He is more than funny, he is exploring different ways to get to funny and it is the sensation of visiting a new place that captures his fans, a group that will almost certainly be growing if enough people find out about Important Things with Demetri Martin. Set your Tivo if you have to, but make sure to catch the first episode - “Timing” - Wednesday February 11th at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central. The second episode will air a week later on February 18th, same time. Whether you watch it alone or with your friends it will keep you glued and laughing.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Team Obama Kicks Off Largest Group Therapy Session in Human History

In an blatant effort to generate a grab-bag of newer and scarier material for Obama's speechwriters, Team Obama has now given We the People permission to get in touch with our inner victim by way of an email sent out to millions this morning.

The email reads:

Bryan --

Americans have organized Economic Recovery House Meetings in all 50 states -- including 382 in California, 255 in Florida, 115 in Ohio, 199 in New York, 105 in Washington, and 149 in Texas.

That's more than 3,587 meetings in 1,579 cities and 429 congressional districts.

This past weekend, meeting hosts and guests watched a video of Governor Tim Kaine answering your questions about the president's recovery plan. Then they shared their own stories about how the crisis has affected them.

Watch Governor Kaine's video and share your economic crisis story.

The media is filled with numbers about the economic crisis. But the numbers do not tell the full story.

The story of this crisis is in homes across the country -- homes where a family member has lost a job, where parents are struggling to pay a mortgage, and where college tuition has slipped out of reach.

That's also where the story of our recovery begins -- in communities where repairing roads and bridges, manufacturing green technologies, and rehabilitating our schools and hospitals will directly impact the lives of ordinary people and their families.

President Obama's recovery plan will help struggling families right now by saving or creating up to 4 million jobs. But it will also help strengthen our economy for the future by investing in crucial infrastructure projects in health care, education, and energy.

Share your story about how this economic crisis is affecting you and your family and join your fellow Americans in supporting bold action to speed our recovery:

Thank you for organizing so much support at this crucial moment for our country,

Mitch Stewart
Organizing for America

If Oprah had ever been harboring a secret desire for political appointment, when the president finally gets around to formally creating the cabinet-level Department of Coordinated Self-Pity she will almost certainly be the frontrunner nominee.  If you're very quiet you can even hear the fleet of adding machines working as an army of CPAs burn the midnight oil to iron out ten years of tax filings.

Normally it takes one or two full terms in office for a presidential administration to compile a resume of arrogance and ineptitude such as the one logged by the Obama Administration in less than a month.  This effort is yet another sleight of hand to take the public's attention away from an appalling lack of leadership coming from the White House. 

Please, Mister President, do your own homework for once.  The American people are working to survive and keep the economy moving, too busy to participate on a time-wasting, spirit-sapping pity-fest such as this.  We are spending our energy on keeping the jobs that support our families of finding replacements for those lost since Election Day.

Will a scrapbook of American suffering solve any problems?  Will it revive spirits weakened by economic distress and worry?  No.  Nevertheless, responses will be woven into a frightening tapestry of misery, a cause to act waved like a battle flag in Obama's charge to grab the reins of the American economy and swing the county on a path of socialism.  In one of those paradoxes that historians salivate upon finding, repelling this push to an erosion of economic freedoms will be accomplished by steeling our will to fend off the greatest enemy of a free society; fear itself.


Monday, January 26, 2009

More Newsbits from Post-Racial America - January 24th, 2009

File:Barack Obama with is taking point in the national propaganda project that I am now code-naming "Let Racism Live!" 

From this Saturday's postings comes another offering from John Blake, the same reporter noted by this blog last week for his article "Black first family 'changes everything'."  In that piece, Blake informed readers that what we see of the First Family will not look like the caricature of black people as seen in movies and on television.  It is shocking that the collective reaction to the revelation that stereotypes are not real did not send the culture into outright chaos and rioting in the streets.

In the same vein as that vital public service announcement, Blake and have now turned their attention to a different problem in America: the alleged existence of a double-standard for performance by ethnic minorities.  In the article - "Will Obama have to be better because he's black?" - Blake asks the important question, "Will people hold Obama to a different standard because he is the first African-American president?"

How convenient for the President that Blake has lain down the tracks for a bullet train of excuses that will follow any of President Obama's failures.

Obama is a man, and in so has been given a range of talents and skills based on the same aeons-old lottery of DNA as they rest of us.  Most Americans do not care about the color of his skin, and will judge him by his actions and how well he represents their interests and protects their values.  Blake even owns up to this by citing polling results that showed 61 percent of whites did not think his race will be any sort of factor in how he is judged. 

Not happy with finding a majority of Americans to be enlightened, Blake continues undaunted in his argument.  Using Andrew Rojecki as a source, a co-author of The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America, the seed of doubt is planted:

Even people who regard themselves as the most progressive, open-minded supporters may subconsciously hold Obama to a different standard, Rojecki says. 

I suppose that means that even Matt Damon might be an unwitting tool of "The Man?"  In Rojecki's estimation, we are all suspects; guilty in the kangaroo court political correctness. 

Blake's article provides quick fuel for those who thrive on racism as a justification for being, but more importantly it intends to disrupt the feedback mechanism between the president and the people that has worked remarkably well since our nation's birth.  He is in essence urging us to lower the bar for Obama, a bar that has always been set high for all of the men occupying the Oval Office.  The uniformity of skin color of our past presidents is matched only by the uniformity of the slings and arrows cast at them.

Despite Blake's grim stereotype of an American society mired in racism - both subconscious and conscious - Americans will probably measure President Obama's performance against the same set of unreasonably high expectations as all other holders of the office have always been judged.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Is the Obama Presidency a Bellwether of American Ingenuity on Its Deathbed?

[This piece was first posted January 23, 2009 on (]

So much has already been made of President Obama’s lack of substance.  It has been suggested by conservative writers that he is everything from an empty suit to an emperor with no clothes.  Perhaps he is just a man who has been told his entire life that he was special without ever being made to prove it.  If the latter is true, the conspicuous lack of detail in his agenda stems from necessity; he carefully avoids scrutiny, like the Wizard of Oz hiding behind the curtain.  But the problems facing the United States are more substantial than simply finding a way back home to Kansas; solving them requires more than pyrotechnics and smooth baritone oratory. 

The common thread between President Obama and the causes of the American predicament is a shortage of new ideas; thus we are forced to resolve a dilemma.  Despite his liberal use of the word "change," the itinerary for Obama’s plan to change America was never unfolded for our inspection and approval and yet, voters pulled the lever.  How can we expect a majority of Americans to participate in the process of innovating when the bulk of us voted for change by proxy and without form?  How is the nation expected to redefine its place in the world when it has chosen a leader who does not have the will to define himself?

For his part, Obama may be remembered as the politician who is to American politics what Andy Warhol was to American culture -– a borrower of iconic ideas and imagery, but in truth, a creator of nothing truly original; a manufacturer only of symbols.  He weaves elements of Kennedy, Reagan and both Roosevelts’ characters into the fabric of his persona, with the effect of buying unearned merit badges and stitching them onto his Boy Scout sash.  The success of his campaign, with its emphasis on an unspecific black box of genius plans, shows just how restless the electorate has become.  Were Obama to have run against a candidate with even a modest amount of inspiration, one who could communicate a clear vision for the future, we would have had to wait at least four more years to experience the catharsis of swearing in our first African-American president. 

The failure of the populace to demand more debate, more discussion, more specifics, may be the canary in the American coalmine; evidence that the marketplace of ideas is no longer functioning as needed.  If so, there are huge implications for our future, implications not confined to the intangible realm of philosophical and political debate.  Has the engine driving American prosperity for centuries, our uniquely voracious appetite for new ideas and inventions, slowed or stopped?  Patents (both applications and issuances) and copyright registrations have been flat for nearly a decade.  President Bush’s call for a national effort to land a manned mission on Mars met with the equivalent of dismissive laughter; the plans have foundered from lack of congressional support, stemming naturally from public apathy.

In our culture, popular entertainment is certainly a useful barometer for the public appetite for creativity, and we would have to conclude that the public does not have much of an appetite for new things.  Television schedules choke on a glut of “reality” programming, each show as unique as Tweedledum from Tweedledee.  For viewers who do not favor that sort of thing, hack through the strangling bramble of the CSI and Law & Order franchises, which soak up precious dollars that would otherwise be available to foster some diversity.  Even in movies and live theater, the norm is to stick with known properties and avoid taking any risks.

The free market has always operated best in an environment that teems with new ideas.  Contrary to the flawed notion that free markets abhor risk, just as in nature a forest grows taller and stronger when its hide is tested by wildfire, so competition is the policing agent that enforces businesses and individuals to be mindful of efficiency.  Corporations, as units, may try to avoid risk through regulatory lobbying and other legal means, but they do so at their own eventual and inevitable peril.  It is by embracing the delicate interplay that occurs in a free society that the ways out of our current mess will be identified most quickly.

What Obama can do to spur a creative renaissance in America is find new ways to remove the challenges that face innovative Americans.  Stripping away most of the steeplechase of red tape and providing reasonable protections against frivolous litigation would do ninety percent of the blasting work to dislodge the impediments to economic and cultural growth.  He should also resist all temptations and encouragement to demand more of the fruits of American ingenuity, perhaps even overhaul a federal tax system that now closely resembles the relationship between feudal lords and tenant farmers in ages past and places distant.

For our part, when our temptation might be to ask Obama to do more to encourage innovation, we must remind ourselves that the question would wrongly assume that we need a moderator.  Unless we are on the cusp of converting to a centrally planned economy, there is no conceivable reason for the president or the government to be involved in the creative side of public life as anything more than a referee or an observer.  More importantly, although Obama’s talk is strong about supporting a broad conversation in which no ideas will be considered off-limits, he has not demonstrated that he has anything to bring to the discussion.  Nor has he given much indication that he will, in practice, support such a discourse if he is not in control of the outcomes. 

We the People do not need the permission of our president to conduct this discussion; we do not need a stamp of approval to begin to change things.  We simply need to start talking.

Politicians like President Obama will always be lining up to offer near-sighted solutions wrapped in shiny packages and decorated with false promises.  As a nation, in terms of human age, we are in the phase of adulthood, and as such we can begin to make choices based not on cravings, but on need.  Americans need to reclaim their heritage as creators and demand that our leaders – even The One – step aside and let the nation begin working again.