21 August 2002
What the Arabs have to Gein

The word for today is "sociopath", and Susanna Cornett puts it into an international context.

"Sociopaths have no 'tender feelings' that you and I would recognize, even though some of them fake it fairly well — Ted Bundy, for example, was engaged twice during the time he was sexually torturing and killing women. You need to understand all this because the men who lead al Qaeda, the men who lead the Palestinian killer cults, are just that kind of sociopath. They enjoy killing. It's about power, it's about playing a game, it's about one-upmanship and feeling the rush of knowing that you will not stop even at murder — society's greatest taboo. The people who die at their hands are so much cattle, fodder for their ideological slaughterhouse. They don't shrink at blood, people, they revel in it. Seeing an Israeli street scattered in body parts, hearing the sound of an American businessman's body bursting into jelly on a New York City public plaza, gives these men a hard-on. Do you get it? Do you understand? They are not human as we know human. What's more, they cannot be. CANNOT BE. Never. Ever. Period. End of story."

And just in case you missed the point:

"[B]efore someone tries to bring up their right to disagree with Israeli or US policies, I'm not obviating those differences. I'm saying, those things don't matter when the issue is terrorism. There is no context where terrorism is the right thing to do.
"Let me say it again: There is no context where terrorism — killing innocent people deliberately to gain an advantage or just to cause fear, when neither they nor their leaders have first attacked or sought to harm you — is right."

[applause]

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:00 PM)
24 August 2002
Left behind

Dean Esmay reports that in the last half of the 20th century conservatism ceased to be the red-headed stepchild of American political thought — and then found itself at the dawn of the 21st to be the dominant strain.

Part of this, of course, is the fluidity of definition, especially political definition: the stance which was called "liberal" during the formative years of the Republic scarcely resembles late-20th century liberalism. Conservatives were old mossbacks or worse; conservatism wasn't stupid, in and of itself, exactly, but John Stuart Mill argued that "most stupid people [were] conservatives."

What happened in the interim isn't exactly clear, but Mr Esmay cites one particular factor that hadn't occurred to me: the decline of the purely-intellectual Left. Once upon a time, almost all of our philosopher types came from the left side of the spectrum; today, most of the left-wing voices we hear are spouting the same bunch of platitudes over and over. "Aside from a few rare exceptions," says Mr Esmay, "most 'liberal' argumentation seems to come from one of three places:"

  1. "People who disagree with me are racist."
  2. "People who disagree with me are warmongers who glory in violence."
  3. "People who disagree with me want the poor to starve and suffer."

This is the state of what once was the American intelligentsia: outflanked, then outnumbered, reduced to ad hominem arguments constructed for maximum cliché value.

I'm not about to argue that we've reached some sort of classical-liberal (let's call it "libertarian") Nirvana, or even that we're on the way. For one thing, there is still a substantial authoritarian component on the Right, and it has enough blind spots of its own to support the entire Western beam industry, let alone the odd mote. But with the American left in at least slightly self-inflicted decline, some benefits will clearly accrue. For one thing, there will be a lot less of that "Marx was right, but the Soviet/Chinese/whatever implementation was wrong" claptrap. And the leftist assumption that any conflict can be solved with an application of some sort of logic, especially their sort of logic, came crashing to the ground with the World Trade Center. "Increasingly," says Mr Esmay, "people associate 'liberal' with being just plain dumb." And with good reason, sometimes.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:04 AM)
29 August 2002
Let me tell you how it could be

Radley Balko has observed that governmental accountability is in the toilet, and that one way to force Washington to face the music is to get rid of income-tax withholding:

"Withholding tips the scales against the taxpayers, and in favor of government....Withholding not only makes it easier for the government to collect taxes, it makes it easier for politicians to raise them. That's because you never see the money that's withheld from your paycheck. You never need to notice that gaping wound in your bank account once your tax check has cleared. What's more, tax increases are spread out over 24 paychecks, which softens the blow to taxpayers, making tax hikes more politically palatable."

Not all of us get paid twice a month, but the point stands. I would hate, of course, to write one huge check in the spring, but if the government can be forced into fiscal discipline, well, so can I. Now, while we're on the subject, can we throw FICA into the mix?

(Muchas gracias: Hanah Metchis at Quare.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:25 PM)
30 August 2002
Where all the candidates are below average

In Arguendo has weighed the merits, such as they are, and has decided to vote for the reelection of Gray Davis to the office of Governor of California, on the basis of the following:

"While we will be the first to admit that we have two pretty sub-par candidates for the state's highest office, our view is that Simon is MORE sub-par."

Mr Davis being staggeringly unpopular in Golden State blogdom, it should be no surprise that In Arguendo is getting critical comments posted to this statement, but I have to admire the sheer efficiency of this argument. Not everyone, of course, supports the notion of voting for the lesser of two evils, but as Jim Hightower used to say, if the gods had meant us to vote, they would have given us candidates.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:19 AM)
31 August 2002
A crack in Kyoto

To hear some people talk, you'd think George W. Bush, all by his lonesome, was sabotaging the entire array of worldwide environmental activities, just by thumbing his nose at the Kyoto Protocol.

Now the Russians may balk at Kyoto, having done the math and having figured out that they're not going to make any money on the deal. If the Russians bail, Kyoto is dead; the U.S. and Russia combined are responsible, per Kyoto documents, for about 53 percent of Punishable Emissions, leaving a mere 47 percent for the rest of the world, and Kyoto cannot take effect unless countries with 55 percent of said emissions sign on.

Conspiracy theorists should have a ball with this. Expect charges that Washington and Moscow have been putting together a deal all along in an effort to kill Kyoto. Frankly, I rather hope they have.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:11 AM)
1 September 2002
Identity cards, and a joker

In The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes says that those weird ACLU types and those pesky libertarians have stalled enough; it's time for a national ID card, in the name of, you guessed it, "national security".

There are plenty of reasons to take issue with this premise. We've already lost a measure of privacy, what with various licenses, credit records, medical records and whatnot, so what's a little more? Besides, says Barnes blithely, "the Constitution has never recognized a right to anonymity." If it's not stated in bald type, it does not exist? Has Mr Barnes read the 10th Amendment lately?

Meanwhile, Quana Jones has further complaints:

"Think about all the powermad bladderheads in airport security. You know what I'm talking about. Any idiot in a uniform will feel compelled to demand identification."

And still further:

"Exactly how will knowing a person's name and identity make us safer? Murderous homicide bombers don't intend to go home."

Mr Barnes calls objections of this sort "essentially frivolous". Of course he does. If he didn't, he'd have to take them seriously, and then all he'd have left of his argument would be "The government will protect us." How very, very September 10th of him.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:12 PM)
Dash it all

A few months ago, FARK.com made an addition to its usual categories like "weird", "dumbass" and "Wheaton": there is now a category called "Florida". And the Sunshine State, true to form, is delivering all manner of farkable news items.

Consider the case of Patrick Feheley, running for the 13th District House seat currently held by Rep. Dan Miller, who is retiring. Feheley filed suit against another Democratic rival, Candice Brown McElyea, claiming she'd inserted a hyphen into her name when she filed to run for the office; as "Brown-McElyea, Candice", she'd appear on the ballot ahead of "Feheley, Patrick". (Two other Democrats are running, but their names fall farther down in the alphabet.) Says Feheley, this is a deceptive manipulation of the election process. (Deceptive manipulation? In Florida? Sheesh. Now we've heard everything.)

The judge designated to hear the case set a routine procedural hearing for the 5th of September, five days before the primary election, too late for the ballots to be reprinted should Feheley prevail. Upset, but knowing there wasn't much he could do about it, Feheley dropped his suit.

Of course, this is only the primary. Should Feheley win, he'd still have to beat out a Republican to be determined, and an independent candidate. Who might that Republican be? The front-runner right now is Katherine Harris. Yes, that Katherine Harris. Then again, her candidacy is being challenged by rival John Hill (no relation).

It's times like these I almost feel sorry for Jeb Bush.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:38 PM)
2 September 2002
The usual crap

There are times when you just have to let the text speak for itself:

Johannesburg (CNSNews.com) - In what some see as a sign that the Earth summit is literally going down the drain, an environmentalist at the Earth summit here has lamented the introduction of the flush toilet.

One of the panelists taking part in a television special on the Earth summit complained about the "pernicious introduction of the flush toilet," according to Competitive Enterprise Institute President Fred Smith, who also was a panelist on the program.

The TV special, hosted by PBS's Bill Moyers, was taped on Tuesday and is set to air Friday night.

A female panelist from India complained that the flush toilet encourages excessive water consumption around the world and is not ecologically friendly.

The remark prompted an associate of Smith, CEI's Chris Horner, to ponder what alternative the woman would suggest. "Presumably the preferred solution to human waste problems is now abstinence," Horner quipped.

Of course, far more water is used for agricultural purposes than for our piddling (sorry) little homes, but what I want to know is this: How many of these high-dollar diplomatic types attending the Summit, moved (so to speak) by this speech, went out and took a dump in their hotel parking lots?

Yeah, I thought so.

(Muchas gracias: Andrea Harris.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:21 AM)
5 September 2002
Skid Marx

You and I probably already knew this, but Wylie wants to make sure the Usual Suspects, just departed from the Earth Summit, get the point:

"It cannot be emphasized enough that the model of centrally planned economies has failed, and no amount of fiddling around the edges will ever make it work. The only way these countries will ever advance economically is to establish the rule of law, contracts and especially private ownership of land and let the free market take its course."

The Usual Suspects, including First World greenozoids, the International Monetary Fund, and a collection of Third World "We aren't sure what we need, but we sure want money" types, probably won't take heed this time either, but not to worry: eventually they'll be looking for real jobs, just like the Central Planners.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:16 PM)
7 September 2002
The last McKinney joke?

Hmmm....

"[Cynthia] McKinney's compassionate attitude towards the Palestinians is a continuation of the teachings of one of her heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King. It is simply unthinkable that King, if he were alive today, would remain mute in the face of Israel's persecution of the Palestinians, which has included: the use of death squads; torture of detainees; home demolitions; forced deportations; the siege of Jenin, Ramallah, and Bethlehem, the holiest site in Christendom; and the ongoing collective punishment of the innocent."

So speculates William Hughes in Counterpunch. Of course, punishing the guilty would be out of the question, since they've already transformed themselves into noxious swirling gases, which are then condensed, reduced, and published as articles in places like, well, Counterpunch.

As for Dr King, I seriously doubt any part of his dream called for people to wrap themselves in plastique.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:00 AM)
Potsdam II: Iraq and a Hard Place

In 1945, the heads of the three major Allied powers — Harry Truman from the US, Winston Churchill (subsequently replaced by Clement Attlee, an election having intervened) from Britain, and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union — met in Potsdam, near occupied Berlin, and signed an agreement among themselves regarding just how to handle the "conquered countries," by which they meant Germany and whatever lands the Reich had been occupying by force during the preceding years. Other matters were discussed at Potsdam, including the drafting of an ultimatum to be dispatched to Japan.

The Potsdam terms imposed upon Germany, says Frank Martin at Techno-Merc, can be applied with only minor modifications to Iraq, once that war draws to a close, and he offers a revised version of the pertinent parts of the Potsdam declaration to illustrate. Is this necessary? Mr Martin responds, "[D]o Iraqis not deserve the same level of justice meted out to Germans at the end of WWII?"

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:06 PM)
9 September 2002
Principles, schminciples

Today's spam comes from Trent Franks, a "principled, pro-family conservative Republican" running for Arizona's Second District House seat, up for grabs now that incumbent Bob Stump is retiring after 26 years. Franks has five opponents in tomorrow's GOP primary, none of whom have (1) spammed me (2) from a Korean mail drop. Not that the Koreans know I don't live anywhere near the district.

Spam, of course, is to principle what Cocoa Puffs are to Ghirardelli chocolate, and I hope it sinks Trent Franks as badly as it did California gubernatorial wannabe Bill Jones. And let this be a warning to any actual Oklahoma politicians with the same cheesy idea.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:32 PM)
10 September 2002
Two letters, no waiting

Somebody — was it P. J. O'Rourke? — once opined that the single most useful word in defending US interests was the simple word so, framed as a question in as accusatory a manner as possible. Used in this way, it becomes possible to refute all sorts of criticisms leveled from the Other Side. Example:

The US has imperialist ambitions!

"So?"

And its usefulness extends beyond foreign policy:

Ten percent of the taxpayers got 80 percent of the tax cut!

"So?"

Alternate forms include "Your point being?" and "And this is a problem because...?"

This is actually less flippant than it seems; today, when sloganeering is the primary form of political discourse, giving someone else's shibboleth the rhetorical back of your hand is every bit as effective as trying to explain things to the nudnik, and it saves time and/or bandwidth. A no-lose proposition all around, if you ask me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:34 AM)
13 September 2002
UN finished business

Were you impressed with the way President Bush stuck it to the United Nations? James Lileks was:

"It was sheer malicious brilliance to cast the entire case in terms of UN resolutions, because it mean the UN had to choose: either those resolutions mean something, or the UN means nothing. Why, it's almost as if the UN painted itself into a corner — and woke up to find this rude simple cowboy holding the brush."

Exactly so. Watching the Global Goofs trying to argue their way out of it will be most amusing, and while they're so engaged, Mr Bush can proceed with the plan.

And otherwise-intelligent people called this man "dumb"?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:12 AM)
14 September 2002
Picking favorites in the Baghdad Bowl

College football, writes Patrick Ruffini, testifies to the strength of American society:

"The fact that we've built massive stadiums in the middle of nowhere for something that's not a professional sport says something about America's sense of proportion and scale. College football isn't something we need to have, strictly speaking...and yet we've build this scaffolding of civil society around it that's stronger than it is with any other professional sport. To me, this is the mark of a uniquely strong society."

Anyone who's ever been stuck in a traffic jam in Norman, Oklahoma on game day might argue that we need a bit more proportion and/or scale, but Mr Ruffini's point is clear: if we have the resources to spare to pour into what is, by and large, a trivial pursuit, well, just imagine what we can do with truly important tasks. For example:

"We're going to kick your ass, Saddam. We're going to take Baghdad, and with fewer than 100 casualties."

There's your morning line. The only real question is by how much we will beat the spread.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:07 AM)
15 September 2002
More complaints from across the pond

"Bush planned Iraq 'regime change' before becoming President", says the headline in Scotland's Sunday Herald.

Well, sort of. The think tank Project for the New American Century actually drew up, in September 2000, a list of foreign-policy desiderata, one of which was to increase American power and influence in the Persian Gulf area. Sunday Herald writer Neil Mackay quotes from the PNAC report as follows:

"The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

This would seem, at the very least, to contradict the Sunday Herald's headline, which suggests that the Bush team was already, before the election, looking to score Saddam's head on a platter.

The really amusing aspect of the article, though, is the querulous quote from Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who just isn't happy about anything those darn Americans do:

"This is a blueprint for US world domination — a new world order of their making. These are the thought processes of fantasist Americans who want to control the world. I am appalled that a British Labour Prime Minister should have got into bed with a crew which has this moral standing."

There is no word on whether Mr Dalyell is contemplating switching to the Tories.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:00 PM)
18 September 2002
Judging the judge

President Bush would like to fill a vacancy on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals with Michael McConnell, Presidental Professor of Law at the University of Utah. McConnell is acclaimed by legal scholars on both sides of the political fence; though distinctly conservative, he does not come across as an ideologue.

Just the same, McConnell faces an uphill battle. The Senate Judiciary Committee is jam-packed with Democrats who are persuaded that, for instance, any suggestion that access to abortion might be regulated by the states is an instant slide down the slippery slope to coat-hangers in Tijuana. People for the American Way, a group assembled to counter religious conservatives, now increasingly shrill in its defense of indefensible liberal shibboleths, doesn't like anything about McConnell; they even complain about his membership in the (gasp!) Federalist Society.

The Senate Judiciary Committee gets first crack at McConnell this morning. I wish him luck.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:23 AM)
20 September 2002
Get the PNAC

Joshua Claybourn weighs in on that think-tank piece that so spooked the Europeans:

"Think tanks are always drawing up reports and suggestions like this, and they're always giving them to politicians. Visit any Washington office and you'll [see] scores are delivered each day. This particular report is so 'secretive' that it's been placed prominently online. This is nothing more than some very well thought-out report that was sent to political leaders. Bush never had a long-standing plan to go after Iraq. [Reporter Neil] Mackay is dishonest, ignorant, or both. He should be fired. Memo to people everywhere: this story is nothing, so don't make it out to be something."

Exactly so. Some of the PNAC brain trust indeed wound up on the Bush team, but in 2000, when this report appeared, they had no official status whatsoever. Do the Europeans not have think tanks of their own? Or are they just emotionally wedded to the notion of Bush fils as the Avenging Son, bound and determined to pay back the enemies of Bush père?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:21 AM)
22 September 2002
It's all about the hydrocarbons

"No war for oil!" say the signs along the President's motorcade routes. Bryan Preston at JunkYardBlog points out that there are lots of places with oil reserves besides Iraq, and suggests, tongue presumably in cheek:

"Since the whole dang war is all about oil anyway, let's just forget about Iraq. First we should invade Mexico, then we'll take out Venezuela (they've been acting bellicose lately too, better pre-empt them while we can), and then work out a re-colonization plan for Africa. Canada--well, we've been stealing their best comics and actors for years without much of a fuss. They won't put up a fight when we move in to take their oil, so we can pretty much consider that one done. The United States will finally achieve the Manifest Destiny, from the Canadian arctic to the Mexican jungles. As for Russia, it can't get to its oil without us, so we can leave them alone for now. For now...but if Putin gets uppity, he's toast."

Being, um, somewhat less bellicose, I propose a deal with the Mexicans: for every illegal immigrant we accept from Mexico, they have to send us 5000 barrels of crude — reducible to zero if the immigrant accepts relocation in some place that might actually benefit from increased population, such as the Dakotas.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:15 AM)
23 September 2002
Sympathy for the devil

That's the title of Mike's latest rant at Cold Fury, and it's so good it's all I can do to keep from pasting the whole thing over here.

The bottom line, though, is this:

"Perhaps the only possible long-term solution...is the establishment of a Palestinian state of some sort, but if it comes to pass, none of us needs to pretend it's anything other than a plain gift to an ungrateful people who have in no way earned such largesse."

Now quit fooling around here and go read the whole thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:24 PM)
Mommy! They hit me back!

Rob McGee takes apart that America-Is-A-Bully codswallop that has been oozing through the European Union and elsewhere of late:

"[I]f the U.S. is playing any role, it's taking inspiration from Adam Baldwin's pecs-tacular performance in the 1980 nerd wish-fulfillment pic My Bodyguard — the muscular galoot with the heart of gold who doesn't like to see his skinny, asthmatic, frequently-perceived-as-gay classmates (i.e., Western Europe) get shoved into a gym locker by a petty-thief chainsmoking dirtball (i.e., Jihadism). Got it? America isn't the bully; America is the cool jock friend you always wished would come along to kick the bullies' asses. Or, if you like, America is the cute teenage girl who roundhouse-kicks monsters into quivering submission and saves Sunnydale."

Buffy the Jihad Slayer! Now there's a concept. (Shut up, Cordelia.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:04 PM)
24 September 2002
Pay me to stay home

How can anyone possibly oppose paid family leave? Dodd Harris can, and he has darn good reasons:

"[S]ince it...caps out at 55% of their wages (up to a maximum of US$728/week), many times many will not be able to afford the time off even with the check from the state Treasury. So what it really means is that relatively affluent workers will get paid leave at the expense of those who live paycheck to paycheck."

And, of course, that's only the half of it:

"This is pure election year vote buying at its most egregious: The measure doesn't even go into effect for over a year-and-a-half — which means it won't start really impacting the state's already strained budgets until eGray's term is almost up, leaving it as a headache with which his successor will have to deal, not him."

(Internal link added by me.)

Somehow this reminds me of what happened with California's electric "deregulation": it seems that Governor Davis and his minions huddled together, considered all the available options, and discarded any that might have actually worked.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 AM)
27 September 2002
Rich guy, needle, some assembly required

In his guise as Dinah Dienstag, Professor of Idiotarian Thought at the University of North-South-West Rhode Island Red, Cinderella Bloggerfeller (bless you, Abi and Esther) explains the Higher Morality that comes with poverty:

"Traditional Christian theology implied that only God could see into a man's soul. Idiotarians reject this as 'mystification'. They have a thoroughly scientific method of finding out the state of a person's soul: just look at their bank balance. Rich people are morally bad, poor people are morally good. Making poor people rich would be a Bad Thing. It would turn them into criminals. The poor are our conscience. Some Leftists are actually split on this — they have a nagging doubt that it might be a good idea to make Third World people a bit richer. This might solve some of their problems (but only if such a scheme involved making rich people poorer, of course). However, such ideas are rarely more than idle thoughts. To the idiotarian, it is in fact the duty of the Third World to be poor, to be one vast monastery so it can act as a conscience for the rich West. Prime example of the use of this metaphor: the environmentalist at the Johannesburg conference who said that poverty was good for Africans as it helped to preserve their culture from the taint of Western materialism."

And, of course, wrenching poverty presents all the graphic evidence you could want that these poor souls aren't doing something evil and heinous like producing consumer goods to be sold to nasty, selfish, immoral First Worlders through despoilers of culture such as Le Mart du Wal.

Mr Bloggerfeller suggests that this particular piece is one in a series. An infinite series. The mind reels.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:16 PM)
30 September 2002
Feel the burn

After yesterday's, um, performance by Jim McDermott and David Bonior, live from Beautiful Downtown Baghdad, there's only one real question left:

Which one does the exercise video, and which one marries Ted Turner?

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:22 AM)
The Torch passes

I figured Senator Robert Torricelli would be out on his keister this fall; what I didn't figure was that he'd drop out of the race.

Welcome to the Wide, Wide World of Turmoil. Legally, the New Jersey Democratic Party can't replace Torricelli on the ballot — it's about two weeks past the deadline — and while the senator could theoretically resign his seat and let Governor Jim McGreevey pick someone to fill it, it may be difficult to find someone to serve as sacrificial lamb against Republican Doug Forrester, who has piled up double-digit leads in recent polls.

This race, of course, doesn't affect me much, except to the extent that I am still a member of the Democratic Party and feel compelled to keep track of such things. But Torricelli, once his highly-dubious business dealings became known, became an obvious liability to the party, so he had to go, one way or another. And besides, what do we have here in Oklahoma that's even halfway as interesting? Incumbent Republican Jim Inhofe, who is basically Strom Thurmond with a circulatory system, is being challenged, sort of, by an underfunded Democrat — David Walters — who left the governor's mansion years ago under a cloud of his own. Control of the Senate is likely to pass to the GOP this fall anyway, so about all I can do at this point is watch and smirk. Besides, I haven't seen Susanna Cornett this happy since I drove out of Jersey this summer.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:03 PM)
2 October 2002
Post-Torricelli

As usual, the most sensible commentary on the mess in New Jersey comes from Minnesota. Behold the words of Lileks:

"If the [no ballot changes this late] law is upheld, then 'democracy' is thwarted. Really? There will be an election with a ballot whose names are the ones chosen by voters in the primary. Sounds 'democratic' to me. After all, Torricelli didn't quit because he discovered an eight-pound neoplasm in his small intestine, or had his brain turned into a fine red mist when a marble-sized meteorite from the Oort cloud struck him in a 7-11 parking lot. He's not even under indictment. He resigned because there was such a bad odor coming from him and his campaign that actual wavy cartoon stink lines were coming off him, and the cameras were starting to pick it up. He was going to lose. So he quit."

And those are the kindest words he has for the Torch. Why would Lileks care about a Senate race in Jersey, anyway?

"The Torricelli situation in New Jersey interests me, because it affects the composition of the Senate, and the Senate affects the composition of my bank account."

Yep.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:15 AM)
3 October 2002
Jerked around in Jersey

With the finding of the New Jersey Supreme Court that there are more important things to an election than mere laws, y'know, you have to wonder what precedents are being set.

Greg Hlatky points out the immediate results; IMAO's Frank (no relation to TV's Frank, so far as I know) takes the longer view.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:20 AM)
Gang Green

The Greens sent me an informational packet of sorts today, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. Then again, I'm not quite sure what to make of them. I'm hardly the "progressive" soul they'd like to have on their rolls and on their donor list. On the other hand, if it is true, as some insist, that the Greens cost Al Gore the 2000 Presidential election, then perhaps I ought to send them some money out of sheer gratitude.

Well, maybe not. They did include a clipping from USA Today, dated 22 July, which tells me something I hadn't heard or had forgotten: someone with connections to the New Mexico Republican party (though not the state GOP itself, apparently) offered the Greens big bucks to run candidates for the House of Representatives, which presumably would draw votes away from Democrats. No dice, said the Greens.

Do the Greens have a future? The United States has always been pretty much a two-party country, but nothing gives either of the current major parties an eternal lease on life. In fact, if one were to judge by present-day bloggage, the Democrats are about this close to imploding; in four years or so, they could join the Whigs on the Former Major Parties roster. I can't say I'd be happy to see them go, but it seems fairly clear that the wounds are largely self-inflicted. And anyway, the Greens have no candidates running for anything in Oklahoma, largely due to the fact that getting a third party recognized in this state is a task worthy of Heracles — lest we forget, Oklahoma politics resemble the Augean stables in all the obvious ways.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:34 PM)
4 October 2002
Totalidiotarianism

A few days back, I brought in a few bits from the estimable Dinah Dienstag on the subject of poverty and its correlation to morality. Once again, Cinderella Bloggerfeller (may his tribe increase) has given us more of the Wisdom of Dienstag, this time explaining that strange affinity some people seem to have for really rotten regimes:

"[W]hy do idiotarians support the right of oppressive regimes to exist, even if they rarely think they are paradises on earth? Because they still treasure the dream that one day, maybe just maybe, a Third World government will appear that will fulfill some of their radical utopian fantasies. These fantasies are unlikely to be fulfilled by a democracy and certainly not by a capitalist one. In the 1950s and 1960s, with decolonization, the Third World became the great 'progressive' hope. Communism, which had failed in the USSR, might work in Castro's Cuba, Mao's China or Pol Pot's Cambodia. By 1990, after the collapse of the USSR (which often bankrolled these regimes) and the publication of Francis Fukuyama's The End of History they were desperate. Now any regime whatsoever would do so long as it didn't resemble a Western capitalist democracy. Cuba had been spat out like a discarded cigar butt by many on the New Left in 1968 after Castro had supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and imprisoned and forced the poet Heberto Padilla into making a false confession. Now it was suddenly a Third World role model again simply because it resisted US influence. Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam, the Taleban? Anyone will do. We don't agree with all your policies but we will support your right to inflict them with all our might because you keep the dying embers of our dreams alive for one more day."

And yet, we are told, they're not truly anti-American; they merely yearn for a more perfect world.

Yeah, right. You can wash two, maybe three hogs with that business.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:58 PM)
5 October 2002
Back to the courts - again

Once again, a handful of Democrats who can't deal with perfectly simple election laws are trying to obtain by legal wrangling what they wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

Cynthia McKinney had managed to stay out of the limelight for almost a whole week, and for that we are grateful. But nothing lasts forever, with the possible exception of temporary taxes, and this week McKinney supporters have filed a lawsuit claiming that crossover voting by Georgia Republicans, permitted under the Peach State's open-primary law, was "malicious" and unconstitutional. "Black Democratic voters," said attorney J. M. Raffauf, who represents the plaintiffs, "had their voting rights interfered with and violated."

The ever-watchful Susanna Cornett boils this down to the crucial stuff:

"In a way, though, this whole exercise has been useful. It's starkly highlighted that the goal amongst the 'black leaders' isn't to get black politicians elected — because Denise Majette [who defeated McKinney in the primary] is black. It isn't to get Democrats elected — because Majette is a Democrat. It's to get their person, their politics, elected."

And, I suggest, it also highlights the apparent belief of the post-2000 Democratic Party, not only in Georgia, but also in New Jersey, that state election laws are just another tool, to be used when they are needed, to be disregarded when they aren't. Any candidate who actually believes this sort of thing, I contend, deserves to lose. Were I a Republican strategist, I'd be pointing fingers at every Democratic candidate from Bangor to Bakersfield: "If So-and-so loses, is he going to sue to overturn the election?"

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:38 AM)
6 October 2002
The post-Torch firestorm

Yesterday I muttered something about how the GOP ought to make this New Jersey election debacle into a campaign issue.

John Rosenberg, now in his new Sekimori-designed digs, points out that it's already a campaign issue for Doug Forrester, should he be sensible enough to pick up on it, and offers a speech fragment that's right on the money:

"My friends, our Democratic opponents are right about one thing: this election will indeed have a significant impact on the direction of our country. The one-vote Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate has been blocking the nomination of judges who will apply the law as written. They prefer judges who will ignore plain text and 'liberally construe' statutes when it suits their own partisan purposes. If you want judges who will 'liberally construe' a 51 day deadline so that it is no deadline at all, then by all means vote for my opponent, who benefited from their liberal construing. If you want judges who will be bound by law rather than who feel free to create it, then vote for me."

When something doesn't work, I am the first person in line to say "Get rid of it," but no one, I believe, can argue with a straight face that the New Jersey election laws pertinent to this case had in any way failed.

(Oh, and "Sekimori", in case you were wondering, is an ancient Malayan word that means "We can draw this better than you ever could, so don't even think about it." Terse folks, those Malayans.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:07 PM)
8 October 2002
It's a metaphorical trifecta

Yes, it's time for Cinderella Bloggerfeller (with a new, or at least different, template!) and the latest installment from Dr Dinah Dienstag, on the dodgy subject of equating Israel with the Third Reich:

"How did the idiotarian 'Israelis are Nazis' metaphor evolve? There are several theories. The first is that idiotarians simply couldn't help it. They were so used to accusing people they didn't like of being 'Nazis' that it just came naturally to them. It was the equivalent of parrotting 'Polly want a cracker'. The typical leftist idiotarian's debating method is like a two-speed hair drier — it emits hot air at varying powers in order to try to blow away the opposing argument and the opposing arguer without using difficult things like logic or reason. In other words, the idiotarian will accuse his adversary of being (1) a 'fascist' (warm); or (2) a 'Nazi' (hot). These labels have nothing to do with historical fascism or National Socialism. They are a labour-saving device. When the 'fascist' insult doesn't work, the idiotarian ups the power to 'Nazi'."

That's one theory. But there are others:

"The other theories about this metaphor are more literary. The first is that it is postmodernist. Words don't mean anything any more so the labels 'Israeli' and 'Nazi' are simply empty, interchangeable husks. Perhaps the postmodernist idiotarian is using a fancypants rhetorical device called 'chiasmus' in which two terms are crossed over in an X shape. The postmodernist has probably written a dissertation called The Anatomy of Melancholy, or the Melancholy of Anatomy: A Hermeneutic Discourse on the Seventeenth Century Psychological Text. So it's no great strain to come up with The Israelis as Nazis, the Nazis as Israelis: A Hermeneutic Discourse on a Modern Political Chiasmus. The postmodernist likes that. It's ironic. It confirms his worldweary view of politics (which he acquired from his tutor at the age of eighteen): any nation is just as bad as every other nation, all political systems are equally stupid. Everything is meaningless but the postmodernist's meaninglessness is more meaningful than your meaninglessness (and much better paid)."

Dr Dienstag means it, too. But there's more:

"The other literary theory is that the 'Israelis are Nazis' metaphor is so blatantly false that it is simply surrealism. The surrealist poet André Breton once wrote 'The world is as blue as an orange'. Maybe comparing Jews to Nazis is like saying 'green as milk' or 'black as snow'. Hey, far out, man!"

"The house is pretty ugly and a little big for its lot." Or something like that.

This level of erudition is far beyond my own, which probably explains why I quoted so much of it: maybe some of it will rub off. I admit to having affected a level of world-weariness for most of the time I've spent in this world, which is either an admission that I don't have the stuff to be a proper nihilist, or a practice session for the actual physical weariness that has set in.

And give Dinah and, um, Cindy due credit: they did all this without once having to trot out Godwin's Law.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:04 PM)
10 October 2002
Thinking liberally

It's not hard to imagine someone surfing over to Dean's World, reading the blurb ("Defending the liberal tradition in history, politics, science and philosophy"), reading the bloggage, and then wondering out loud: "This guy calls himself a liberal?"

The explanation, of course, is that when American leftists aren't chafing under the term "liberal", they're trying their best to redefine it. Michael at Two Blowhards explains the concept:

One of the tricky things about "liberal" is that it's just such a damned attractive word. It's nice to think of yourself as being a liberal person. "I don't care if my neighbor's gay" equals "Thus I'm a liberal." Sure, why not? But there's a tendency to extrapolate from that, and that's where the trouble begins: being a liberal person, you want to root for the team that calls itself the liberals. And you get sucked in, because "liberal," in current American practice, means "Democrat." And there you are, back in the world of racial quotas, love of bureaucracy and regulations, warring ideals, and dictated and policed outcomes.

The "liberal tradition", as understood by Dean Esmay and others, has little or nothing to do with today's putative "liberals". Michael again:

What the word originally meant was favoring freer rather than more restricted markets. This is in fact what "liberal" still means in much of the world — Adam Smith, free trade, freedom of thought and expression, separation of church and state, etc. A French "liberal," for instance, is anything but a leftist or a Marxist. In this sense, a liberal is someone whose attitude boils down to: Let people go about their own business in their own way as much as possible. Political scientists with a historical cast of mind now label that viewpoint "libertarian" or "classical liberal."

"Libertarian", of course, carries its own baggage these days, hung on it by defenders of the Big Huge State who mock the very idea of smaller government. Political language is nothing if not mutable. Back to Michael:

In America, somehow the meaning of "liberal" changed. How and why, I'm not sure. Whatever the case, circa 1900, the meaning of the word shifted in a huge way. Instead of "free trade, personal freedom, etc.," it came instead to mean "leftyism-that-isn't-too-very-Marxist"...[B]y the 1930s and '40s, "liberal" in America had come to mean "favoring lots of government intervention in the name of such ideals as equality." These days in America, political scientists label this viewpoint "welfare liberalism" or "social liberalism."

These days in America, bloggers label this viewpoint "idiotarianism". And Michael cuts it no slack:

Personally, I find it helpful to see the contempo American left as a kind of redemptive religion. Get on board, subscribe to its tenets, believe in them real hard, demonize nonbelievers (in practice, normal people who can settle for something less than perfection), and heaven on earth — a flawless environment, wonderful art, and endless wealth equally shared — will arrive. It's a kind of intolerant fundamentalism that represents a yearning for unity and theocracy, a return to a tribal state — all of which, I think, helps explain why the left can be so sympathetic to such looniness as, for example, Islamic fundamentalism.

The left, curiously, is unsympathetic to Christian fundamentalism; I am inclined to believe that this is because Christian fundamentalism is primarily an American phenomenon, and the American left reflexively opposes anything that reminds them of the United States. Jerry Falwell is denounced, not so much because he comes up with the occasional weird pronouncement, but because he comes from the same culture that gave us Mickey Mouse and McDonald's; if Falwell's pulpit were in Luxembourg rather than Lynchburg, I suspect he'd catch a lot less flak.

I am, I tend to argue, a centrist, not so much because my beliefs tend to cluster around the center of the political spectrum, but because I really don't want to encourage the edges. The left might embrace me for being something of a First Amendment absolutist, but they would certainly spurn me for being just as adamant about the Second. And while on economic issues I tend to the Republican side, I'm not particularly inclined to throw in my lot with the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Lacking a more appropriate term, I have settled on "centrist", and given it, well, a liberal sort of definition — in the classical sense, to be sure.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:38 AM)
15 October 2002
Truly damning evidence

If you doubted for a moment that Saddam Hussein is Evil Incarnate, consider this:

His campaign theme song for the current coronation — er, election — is Whitney Houston's caterwauling rendition of "I Will Always Love You".

Q.E.D.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:46 PM)
Direct miscommunication links

Dr Dinah Dienstag makes it four for four with another look inside the mind (for lack of a better word) of the Idiotarian, courtesy of the endlessly-redecorating Cinderella Bloggerfeller.

Throughout history idiotarians have been gifted with telepathic powers denied to mere mortals. They, and they alone, were capable of chanelling the deepest thoughts of God, the People, the Nation, thoughts so deep that God, the People and the Nation were unaware that they had had them. When God speaks through David Icke, the Supreme Being mysteriously always has a BBC sport reporter's accent, when Gore Vidal speaks for the People, the People seem to have acquired an oddly patrician drawl. Now God and the People and the Nation are old hat and it's the mind of the Terrorist that every fashionable idiotarian wants to interpret. We must understand him. By 'understanding' we don't mean listen to what he actually has to say, we mean wangle his words into something resembling our own personal agendas.

God forbid anyone should be goofy enough to try to channel me.

And suspicion of those who have putative communications with the supernatural, quite understandably, goes back many centuries, or at least as far back as Henry IV, Part One:

Owen Glendower: "I can call spirits from the vasty deep."

Hotspur: "Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?"

I do hope that no one is calling for terrorists, and that none come if called.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:17 PM)
18 October 2002
What was Bill thinking?

Mr Preston at JunkYardBlog, observing that the North Koreans now admit to having nukes, seeks the reason why the Clinton administration would have allowed such a thing in the first place, and comes up with this:

Clinton was either the most naive president we've ever had leading to his incompetence in foreign affairs, or he was so poll-driven that issues like hostile regimes and their weapons programs just couldn't penetrate his prime focus, or he had an agenda to make the world a more dangerous place.

I lean towards #2, myself, since it explains so many other weirdnesses of the Clinton administration. The argument for #3 is contingent on #1; no one this side of Saddam gets out of bed in the morning and thinks "How can I make the world a more dangerous place today?" Of course, if Bill had been truly inept, he might stand a better chance of winning the Nobel Prize for Peace somewhere down the line.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:18 AM)
20 October 2002
Islam as ventriloquist's dummy

Jamil Sayah, writing in Le Monde, finds that more-militant Muslims are arrogating to themselves the right to speak for all Islam: "[a] ventriloquist Islam which speaks through our mouth so that they make it say [both] one thing and its contrary," he asserts. Most of the proffered excuses for terrorism simply don't wash:

Well if so many precedents militate against terrorism, how come Islam remains one of the last civilizations to produce Bin Ladens, regularly and on a large scale? Our numbers? Are we more numerous than the Chinese? Poverty? Africa is far poorer. Imperialism? Latin America, having suffered a far more oppressive American domination, produced sympathetic heroes. Palestine? Who can honestly predict that terrorism will come to an end with the peaceful resolution of the conflict?

Cinderella Bloggerfeller, who posted the original English translation (and whose title I swiped), points out that this is further evidence that "there are some voices in the Islamic world calling for a long, hard look at what really causes Muslim fundamentalist terror." It's no longer enough to point at the Americans or at the Jews or at McDonald's. The militants will get the bulk of the news coverage because that's part of what militants are trained to do. But in a war on Islamic extremism, we can ask for no better allies than non-extremist Muslims, who care enough about their religion to oppose those who would make it into a weapon. There don't seem to be a lot of them at the moment, but I believe that as we keep the pressure on, their numbers will inevitably grow.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:03 PM)
Let's go out to the lobby

Apparently The New York Times believes that the National Rifle Association, by no small margin, is the mightiest lobbying group of them all. John Rosenberg of Discriminations demonstrates:

[C]onsider the following results from a Nexis search of the New York Times for "gun lobby" and comparable phrases:

gun lobby — 545 hits
civil rights lobby — 13
peace lobby — 12
gay rights lobby — 8
feminist lobby — 4
privacy lobby — 2

Does this suggest that all the NGOs that serve in, um, an advisory capacity to the Democratic Party would be better served by combining themselves into one humongous National Leftist Association? I imagine it would probably simplify things for writers at The New York Times.

(Note: This was almost called Foyer amusement, but I came to my senses at the last moment.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:00 PM)
23 October 2002
The Empire strikes out

For the fifth consecutive week, Dr Dinah Dienstag, coming to you through the good offices of Cinderella Bloggerfeller, scores big. It's almost a shame to excerpt bits and pieces, but this one is a must:

Most idiotarians think of themselves as revolutionaries. But what they really want are comfortable, expected revolutions — the sort a hamster goes through on its treadmill every day. All their hard talk is really a soft pillow to rest their heads on to save them from the pain of thinking. Things have to be carefully marked with signals identifying them as innovative' and 'rebellious'. For instance, all revolutionary art has a duty to resemble what Marcel Duchamp was doing ninety years ago and we know when a film is 'avant-garde' because it has lots of 'far-out' camera angles and looks like it has been edited by a hyperactive toddler. In rock music, the logic of many 'cutting-edge' bands seems to be: "The Velvet Underground were original. If we copy them, then we'll be original too."

No need for me to read Rolling Stone anymore. But Dinah has bigger fish to shoot:

[T]he USA might be the most influential country in the world, admittedly, but idiotarians credit it with powers so wide-ranging, so omnipotent, omniscient and malevolent that even Beelzebub would demur and think: "Hang on, that's a bit overambitious".... America's fiendish power is due to the fact that it is a metaphorical empire which, in idiotarian terms, makes its influence unstoppable. Every Barbie doll is a new Amritsar massacre. We can't escape from its baleful tentacles because they are inside US (that's right, because what does US spell? Aha! I've proved my point).

But anti-American imperialism just wouldn't be fun without a metaphorical colony for the metaphorical empire. Lucky we have Israel at hand, a functioning democracy and a functioning economy in the middle of general Third World underachievement which automatically makes it evil. Israel is a colonialist cancer responsible for all the Arab world's problems. The high birthrate in Egypt, the unemployment in Morocco, the civil war in Algeria, the lack of democracy in Iraq, Syria's occupation of Lebanon (oops! We never mention that in polite society), all, all are the responsibility of Israel's occupation of less than 1% of Arab land. And by blaming Israel we can conveniently get one in at America.

Had we both the omniscience and the omnipotence — never mind the malevolence — with which we are credited, surely by now we would have stretched forth a mighty hand (it shouldn't take more than one) and reduced the squabbling "majority" in the Levant to a tapestry of protein traces on the sand. The fact that this hasn't happened doesn't seem to impress anyone.

(Or maybe it did happen and the Zionists who control the media didn't tell us about it. Damn.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:01 AM)
24 October 2002
Broiled gander, extra sauce

Let me see if I understand this:

A right-wing group that spends money to affect the outcome of an election is a special-interest group that must be regulated for the good of the country. A left-wing group that spends money to affect the outcome of an election is a professional organization that is only looking out for the good of the country.

If this sounds fatuous to you, get a load of this:

Washington is an "agency shop" state: it is not mandatory to belong to the union to hold a position represented by the union, but nonmembers must pay an agency fee in lieu of dues. The laws provide that money from agency fees may not be used for political purposes without the specific permission of the nonmembers whose fees are being spent. The National Education Association in Washington, pushing initiatives to reduce class size and increase teacher salaries, apparently blew off those restrictions. The state's Public Disclosure Commission evaluated the situation and advised the Attorney General to take action against the NEA, an action endorsed by The Seattle Times.

The Times editorial drew a response from Charles Haase, president of the Washington Education Association, the state's NEA affiliate, who took up five paragraphs to attack the Public Disclosure Commission, complaining that the PDC is being used as a tool for "eliminating the participation of organized labor in the political process."

None of this would have happened, in other words, if those baddies on the PDC hadn't insisted that the agency-shop law means what it says it means. Our man at Horologium finds the NEA's position hypocritical:

Hasse rails against the PDC because it is fulfilling its mandate, to inform the electorate from where the money to support the projects is coming. The PDC is not responsible for the lawsuits; the PDC reported the egregious violations to the Washington State attorney general's office for prosecution.

The NEA has been a consistent proponent of campaign finance reform; they wish to eliminate the "pernicious" nature of big money in politics. However, when it is their money and influence that is under review, they claim unfair persecution. Apparently, big money in politics is only a problem when it goes to causes opposed by the overwhelmingly Democratic teacher's union leadership.

And apparently it hasn't occurred to the union that the reason it has agency-shop money in lieu of dues in the first place might be because there are teachers unwilling to support the union's political agenda.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:06 AM)
25 October 2002
Remembering Paul Wellstone

He was, Mother Jones once said, "the first Sixties radical elected to the U.S. Senate."

Maybe he was. Certainly he was unabashedly liberal, in an era where the very word is spoken as a pejorative.

But Paul Wellstone, in two terms in the Senate, was determined to make a difference, and to the extent that one man among a hundred can make a difference, I believe he did.

He will be missed, on both sides of the aisle.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:05 PM)
27 October 2002
Meet the new bosh, same as the old bosh

A pertinent quote:

Politics today is big money. X can be stupid or a drunk or a religious maniac, but if he has the money for a major political career and enough political flair to make a good public impression, he will automatically attract to himself quite a number of political adventurers, some talented. With luck, he will become the nucleus of a political team that then creates his speeches, his positions, his deeds, if any — Presidential hopefuls seldom do anything — until, finally, X is entirely the team's creation, manipulated rather than manipulated, in much the same way that the queen bee is powerless in relation to the drones and workers.

Or how about this one:

[O]nly in America do we pretend to worship the majority, reverently listening to the herd as it Gallups this way and that. A socialist friend of mine in England, a Labour M.P., once said, "You Americans are mad on the subject of democracy. But we aren't, because we know if the people were given their head, they would bring back hanging, the birch and, of course, they'd kick the niggers out of the country. Fortunately, the Labour Party has no traffic with democracy."

And to wrap it up, this one:

The villains, if they exist, are probably Texas oilmen.

All these things were said by Gore Vidal in the June 1969 Playboy Interview; I mention them here in case anyone is actually surprised by his The Enemy Within screed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:22 PM)
28 October 2002
The last word on Wellstone

And, since it's from Lileks, it's also the best word.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
The blame game (Michael!)

A couple of years ago, I said some unkind (and, in retrospect, quite justifiable) things about the Clinton administration's War on Guns, and somewhere therein I came up with this:

[I]f a stolen Colt Defender is used in a crime, it's somehow Colt's fault? This makes no sense whatsoever. Then again, the idea isn't to make sense; it's to tie up gun makers in the courts so they can't fight back against the demonization of their products. It's the same process the government has traditionally used against "pornography", whatever that may be, and it's just as odious in this application.

Whether it made sense or not, it seemed to appeal to Michael Moore, who tossed off this snarky comment at his own Web site (let him get his own damn linkage):

[T]hank you, Bushmaster Firearms, Inc., for providing the gun used to shoot the 13 people in the DC area.

If one follows this pattern, is there a next step? Rachel Lucas shows where this train of thought might stop next:

And thank you, Boeing, for providing the four aircraft used to murder 3,000 people last year. After all, we wouldn't want to hold the 19 hijackers solely responsible for that mass murder. Let's blame the guys who built the airplanes! They surely could not have knocked down two giant buildings without them. Thanks, Boeing!

It's certainly a logical progression. And look at all that jet fuel — why, it's flammable! How could they put something like that aboard a plane full of people?

Identifying the correct villain is apparently too much for some people. I expect, in the near future, someone will file suit against Satan for...oops, too late.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:08 PM)
29 October 2002
Donkeys and jackasses

Someone once cornered Will Rogers and demanded to know his political affiliation. "I'm not a member of any organized political party," he said. "I am a Democrat."

And I have a feeling he'd be less than thrilled with what's happened to the party since then. For all its vaunted populism, today's Democratic Party values individual voters the way Scrooge McDuck values individual dollars: they're useful only to the extent that they make the numbers look impressive. Groups wield the power, the party believes, and they want to be the power behind the groups.

Unfortunately, the United States of America isn't constituted as a collection of groups. Apart from "We The People," the Constitution recognizes scarcely any groups at all. This hasn't stopped the Democrats from trying to organize existing groups, or when that fails, creating new groups, with the intent of giving them special status under the law in exchange for blocs of votes. Sometimes I think that if I were, oh, a transgendered African-American who writes antiwar tracts for The Nation and runs an abortion clinic on the side, I could probably get DNC chair Terry McAuliffe to drive me to work every day.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, people seem less likely to identify themselves first as group members these days, and that's one of the reasons why they're going to lose, and lose big, in the 2002 elections. Groupthink is, well, oldthink; today's voter wants to know, first and foremost, "What's in it for me?" And who can blame her? The Democrats don't think we're capable of managing our own retirement funds, or of defending ourselves against marauding thugs, or of making any sort of decisions below the federal level. The Democrats worry that if in one state, a sixteen-year-old girl can't have her uterus vacuumed out as easily as she can have an ankle bracelet fitted, the streets will be flooded with coat hangers in all states. And an awful lot of Democrats apparently believe that anything, anything at all, is better than taking a shot at someone who is sworn to kill us.

Odds are, the Democratic organization, such as it is, will spend December licking its wounds and complaining about the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Maybe, just maybe, they'll devote some small fraction of that time trying to figure out just how it is that they veered to the left at the same time the rest of the country started listening to the right. Or they won't, and by 2004 they may be every bit as dead as Will Rogers. And without the amusing anecdotes, either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:59 AM)
30 October 2002
The final farce in Minnesota

It should have been obvious that something was going to be terribly wrong with the funeral for Senator Wellstone when Dick Cheney — the Vice-President of the United States, fercrissake! — was disinvited. And when it was all over, Stephen Green said exactly what needed to be said:

Paul and Sheila's sons allowed — perhaps even encouraged — their father's funeral to become a testament, not to a good man's life, but to everything that is wrong and slimy and sleazy and uncivilized about modern politics.

Damn them both. Damn those Democrats partaking in it. Damn those Republicans too cowardly to call them all on it. And may we all be damned, for our politicians are merely reflections of our own ugly tastes, boorish manners, and tolerance for those same traits in others.

Civilization demands civility. Rome didn't fall to barbarians; Rome fell because it took the barbarians in.

If there is any justice in this world, the GOP will pick up this seat in the Senate. And if there is any kindness, Norm Coleman will smile and politely refuse to talk about this incident ever again.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
31 October 2002
Turkey in the squeeze

The Turkish Republic these days is caught between Iraq and two hard places: the Caucasus and the Balkans. This isn't exactly news, but Sunday the Turks go to the polls, and the pundits are expecting the big winners to be the AKP, the Justice and Development Party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been positioning himself as moderately conservative and not at all the militant Islamist that the AKP usually produces. Some observers have their doubts.

And Turkey, at some point, would like to become part of the European Union, and the United States would like to help, but not everyone in the EU is anxious to extend membership to a Muslim nation, even though Turkey has been somewhat secularized for decades. But Ataturk is long gone, and there are real fears that an AKP victory will push Turkey a couple of notches closer to the sort of Islamic fundamentalism that prevails in other powder kegs.

I have a certain fondness for Turkey. I was stationed at a NATO base for about a year in the Seventies, and one of the things I found most interesting about the place was its seeming ability to straddle West and East, to make the rigid framework of Islam flourish in a relatively free-wheeling Western-oriented society. Obviously I wasn't in a position to dig deep enough to see the tensions running through the Republic — I was just one of the troops and was expected to shut up about such things — but I always wondered just how long this tenuous equilibrium could last. And I still wonder today.

(Muchas gracias: Jesus Gil.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:57 AM)
1 November 2002
On the Fritz

The irrepressible James Lileks (well, I certainly haven't repressed him, and I wouldn't encourage anyone to try) discloses Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Walter F. Mondale*.

*but the Democratic Party prefers you didn't ask

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:13 AM)
2 November 2002
Next, an Islamist/English phrasebook

Today Susanna Cornett unveils another of her considerable talents: the ability to take the ossified prose of the Arab News and turn it into actual, comprehensible English. How valid is her translation? The editors most certainly would not be pleased with the results, testimonial enough to its accuracy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:48 AM)
3 November 2002
Standing in

Eric McErlain lived near Bloomington's old Metropolitan Stadium for six months, which you'd think (if you were a New Yorker of a certain political bent, anyway) would be enough to qualify him to be a Senator himself. But Mr. McErlain has no such lofty ambitions. Instead, he's offering to Governor Ventura a list of Minnesotans who might serve as the state's junior Senator while the Mondale/Coleman race is being fought over in the courts. Who's on the list?

You know, this could work.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:44 PM)
4 November 2002
What's next in Ankara?

Prime Minister Bulent Eçevit, seventy-seven years old and in failing health, probably never thought he'd lose this badly. But his party got fewer than 10 percent of the votes in the Turkish election, meaning they will get no seats in Parliament. Meanwhile, as projected here earlier, the AKP (Justice and Development Party) under Recep Tayyip Erdogan swept to 34.2 percent of the vote, enough under Turkish law to form a government without having to seek a coalition partner.

Erdogan himself cannot become Prime Minister — in 1998, he was convicted of inciting religious hatred and was barred from seeking office for five years — which has prompted worries that the next occupant of the post will be a mere figurehead. Quickly, though, Erdogan moved to answer some of the more obvious questions which arose from the AKP victory: no, Turkey will not abandon its uniquely-secular position in the Muslim world, and no, Turkey is not backing away from its hopes of becoming part of the European Union.

The Turkish military, Cato the Youngest notes, "has historically been willing to throw out any government that threatened the secular order established by Ataturk." And indeed, the AKP victory is generally attributed more to dislike of the Eçevit regime than to any deep-seated desire among the Turkish electorate to follow the lead of the Islamic fundamentalists on Turkey's flanks.

It will be an interesting time, to say the least.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:29 PM)
5 November 2002
Decline and fault

Keith Olbermann asserts:

Take as your starting date almost any time since Lincoln was shot and you can trace an overall — if not consistent — loss of brainpower among the chief denizens of the White House. This is not likely to right itself.

I must have missed Warren G. Harding's Nobel Prize presentation somewhere along the way, but Olbermann insists that it's all perfectly obvious. Of course, Olbermann also thinks voting should be mandatory, a premise that is at the very least arguable.

If today's politicians seem to lack a philosophical bent, it's because so many of them think the basic issues are settled, and they're content to take their turns at the reins of the Nanny State. And as I get older and more contrarian, I become increasingly vexed with a political establishment which can argue with a straight face that one of the most important issues facing America today is how the government will help me buy drugs.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:46 AM)
6 November 2002
The morning after the night before

Tom Brokaw, I have to assume, was having a bad night. Fairly early on, Rush Limbaugh, invited to NBC's talking-heads party, explained that 2002 was only the beginning, and pointed out that when the Democrats were scratching around for Senatorial candidates in New Jersey and Minnesota, there were no up-and-coming youngsters, no potential Presidential candidates down the road: the best the party could do was to trot out elderly museum pieces. Faced with this less-than-startling revelation, Brokaw managed to give off an expression somewhere between disturbed and dyspeptic.

Meanwhile, life goes on for the rest of us, with the possible exception of Terry McAuliffe, who likely will be drubbed out of the Democrats' front office. I rather think he won't be missed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:13 AM)
And then there was one

Apparently Los Angeles isn't going to be split down Mulholland after all. While a slight majority of residents of the San Fernando Valley voted to secede and form their own city, the measure was rejected by the rest of L.A. by a two-to-one margin. Pollsters speculate that the western portion of the Valley, more affluent, was far more willing to say goodbye to L.A. than the east. Still, things will be different in the City of Angels, if only because the Valley has made it quite clear that business as usual is not acceptable on the far side of the Santa Monica Mountains. Will Los Angeles grant more autonomy to the Valley, or to Hollywood, which also lost a secession vote? The structure of city government, I think, is likely to change substantially over the next few years.

What's the relevance to Oklahoma? Consider its capital. Oklahoma City has 510,000 people spread over 604 square miles. The North Canadian River runs south of downtown, effectively dividing the city in two, and each half scorns the other. (In the early days of the 20th century, these were, in fact, two separate cities.) City services have yet to be extended to areas annexed decades ago. "It can't happen here," we are assured. I'm not so sure.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:20 AM)
8 November 2002
Okay, maybe a little bit about oil

The Fed has cut interest rates yet again, by half a point, and the market has responded with yawns. Mark Byron points out that with the federal funds rate down to 1.25 percent, there isn't a whole lot of maneuvering room left for the Fed. The real shot in the arm, says Dr Byron, will come with the neutralization of Iraq, which will take some of the uncertainty out of both oil prices and global trade. Bottom line?

[H]aving a solid success in Iraq will shut up a lot of the Euroweenies and their allies around the world, will lower oil prices and give the world economy a boost of confidence. Right now, Tommy Franks can do more to boost our economy than Alan Greenspan can.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:18 AM)
Big fun on the bayou

The balance of power in the Senate is settled, but there's one seat still in doubt: in Louisiana, where Democrat Mary Landrieu led the pack but failed to win a majority. Under the Tabasco State's laws, this means a runoff, in which Landrieu will face Republican front-runner Susan Terrell. And it means that Landrieu also faces a dilemma; she took so much trouble to separate herself from the goofiness of the national Democratic organization that, from a distance, she was almost indistinguishable from a Republican. The electorate, she perhaps fears, will reason that the choice is between an ersatz Republican and a real one, and will vote accordingly.

What to do? John Rosenberg suggests Landrieu ought to take a three-pronged approach: make Bush-like utterances on the war, come off as a traditional quasi-populist Democrat on most domestic issues, and adopt the following possibly-controversial position:

Come out swinging against all forms of racial discrimination, including affirmative action/preferential treatment, criticizing Bush and the Republican establishment of timidity for refusing to push this issue, for not having the courage of their stated convictions. This will offend black leaders, but it is less clear that it will offend black voters, who may in any event prefer and come out for a liberal candidate who is offering them no race-based favors over a conservative candidate who is offering them no race-based favors. And it will help with everyone else.

I have some doubts about this — by most accounts, black voters are nearly as conservative as white voters, and far more conservative than black leaders — but I'd like to see her try that myself, just to see what difference, if any, it makes in the African-American vote. I have had for some time a gut feeling that the only remaining proponents of racial preferences are the people who are making a living as advocates for such; the rest of us, regardless of color, are likely sick of the whole concept and wish it would go away already.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:05 AM)
9 November 2002
Assigning blame

What happened to the Democratic Party on Tuesday? A thirty-year member (that would be, um, me) points a finger (no credit for guessing which one) in today's edition of The Vent.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:30 AM)
A reason to celebrate

Steven Den Beste reminds us that with the Republicans controlling the Senate, Fritz Hollings (D-Disney), ousted as Chair of the Commerce Committee, is no longer in a position to give much of a push to his miserable "Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act", a bill with five co-sponsors, four of them Democrats. The Captain had previously derided this measure as the "MPAA/RIAA Wet-Dream Act of 2002", and he was being generous.

Is the CBDTPA well and truly dead? Not necessarily, but Den Beste looks at it this way:

[Hollings] might try to introduce that bill next year, anyway, but he won't have much luck with it. There's little chance of something like this getting the time of day in a Republican-controlled Senate. I certainly don't think that it's because of any kind of noble impulse by the Republicans; it's just that they'll think that the computer industry is a lot larger and more important to the US than the record and movie industries, and the computer and semiconductor companies all hate it, not to mention the Republicans' general antipathy to that kind of government meddling in business affairs.

And, lest we forget, Hollywood's tendency to pour money into Democratic campaign coffers.

You wanna know why all the bloggers hated the Democrats, Bunkie? It's because all the bloggers have computers.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:59 AM)
11 November 2002
The next two (four? six?) years

The Baseball Crank explained it all over at Dr. Weevil's place:

We had ideas, and we had passion; they had only hate and fear and paranoia. The long-term problem for the Democrats is that they must now choose between the broad appeal of a moderation that excites nobody, and the targeted zeal of an extremism that echoes down an increasingly narrowing hallway.

That's me: the unexcited (and unexciting) moderate.

Is that Nancy Pelosi I hear shrieking down the corridor?

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:46 PM)
12 November 2002
Sounding the toxins

John Chuckman's latest for Yellow Times, titled A toxin in the blood, contains the expected high level of blither, but what's most frustrating about it is — well, read this for yourself:

This government has given America corruption, poor appointments to important posts, a huge and wasteful increase in military spending, not a single worthy humanitarian initiative, and it has set its jaw in grim contempt for the sensibilities of virtually the rest of the planet. It is determined to launch a war for which there is not one sound reason, a war that promises to send the world into a downward spiral of resentments, uncertainty and death.

Mr Chuckman, having fled the premises during a previous war, probably won't buy "Those sons of bitches are trying to kill us, you nitwit" as a "sound reason," despite the fact that the aforementioned SOBs took out a couple of thousand of us last year. (It was in all the papers, so I'm sure he heard about it.)

"Corruption"? We had that before. "Poor appointments"? We had those before, too. A "huge and wasteful increase in military spending"? Huge, yes; but if we are now able to thumb our noses at the rest of the world's sensibilities, it seems to me that we got our money's worth.

What would Mr Chuckman consider a "worthy humanitarian initiative"? Finding homes for Palestinian militants before they wrap themselves in Semtex and mail themselves to Israelis for Chanukah? Sending food to Zimbabwe so Robert Mugabe can complain about its potential genetic background?

And enough of Bush's nonexistent desire to emulate Hitler already. So far as I know, the only time W. has ever said anything even slightly positive about anyone named Adolph was that one day at the ranch when they were trying out a new meat tenderizer at the grill.

(Muchas gracias: Silflay Hraka.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:50 PM)
Vexillologically inflammable

Over at Rottweiler HQ, Exhibit A in the Free Speech Museum, Flag-Burners' Annex:

"Free Speech" means exactly what it says, even when exercised by Idiotarian Imbeciles who wouldn't be worthy of kissing the boots of the heroes that died to protect that right.

Still, if you're thinking about burning a US flag in front of Misha, I suggest you think again. He quite properly supports your right to do so, but he also quite properly supports his right to respond. And you will probably not like his response.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:33 PM)
13 November 2002
Where you lede, I will follow

A service for journalists, wannabe journalists, J-school dropouts, and the occasional blogger: Vicky at Liquid Courage, noting that no Federal holiday is complete without a speech by the President, is offering a handy, only-minor-assembly-required kit to produce your opening line. And what's more, it's easily updatable, making it usable through the terms of the next ten or twelve Presidents.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:39 AM)
Judging the judge, revisited

Michael McConnell is Presidential Professor of Law at the University of Utah. His thinking is conservative, his reputation is sterling; even his opponents joined in a letter supporting his nomination to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, as mentioned in this very space a couple of months ago.

Well, evidently not all his opponents; a group called Alliance for Justice has found a fair number of leftish jurists to sign their names to a letter opposing McConnell's nomination. [Link to Adobe Acrobat file.]

John Rosenberg has this to say:

What is noteworthy here is not so much that some professors oppose McConnell's appointment but that they do so in such shrill, out of control language, regarding him as the second coming of Attila the Hun (or maybe even worse, Robert Bork).

It's of a piece, I think, with some of the other life-as-we-know-it-is-over screeds that have been multiplying in the wake of Republican electoral successes. Sometimes I think they really want the sort of comic-book pseudo-fascism they imagine, just so they can taunt the rest of us: "We told you so!"

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:04 PM)
16 November 2002
The War of 1812 is over, too

Al Gore just can't get it through his head that he lost.

But being the inventive type that he is — after all, he strung up with his bare hands that very first T1 line between MIT and the Pentagon back in '69 — it was inevitable that Gore would resurface with a new, more efficient way to count votes.

And it was also inevitable that the plans for the system would be leaked, and Marc Lundberg, proprietor of Quit That, has the details. I have to admit, it's disarming in its simplicity.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:30 AM)
17 November 2002
No Peking

Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman, working for the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law, have an ongoing project to document Internet filtering in various forms and fashions. One of the subprojects this fall is the determination of sites blocked by the government of the People's Republic of China. Described as "an experiment in open research," Zittrain and Edelman have worked up a system whereby any URL can be entered and then tested in real-time (within two minutes) to see if it is accessible to Chinese Internet users.

Needless to say, I had to try this out for myself, and by gum, according to this testing regime, this site is blocked. Presumably no one from the Chinese mainland is authorized to view any of my stuff. This explains one phenomenon: an earlier version of the Music Room here was once duplicated, from first byte to last, and pasted onto some Chinese Web site. They even copied my counter code, which is how I found out about it in the first place. The hits (never more than one or two a day, but what the hell) dried up this summer, and perhaps now I know why.

(Muchas gracias: John Little, The Blogs of War. He's blocked too.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:02 AM)
Gul takes the reins in Turkey

As noted previously in this space, Justice and Development (AKP) party head Recep Tayyip Erdogan, barred from Parliament, will not be able to serve as Prime Minister despite winning more than enough votes in the Turkish general election. Erdogan has now submitted three names for consideration to Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and Sezer has chosen Abdullah Gul, 52, once Minister of State in a 1997 coalition government formed by the now-outlawed Islamist Welfare Party. There is still speculation that Erdogan will be pulling Gul's strings.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:40 AM)
19 November 2002
Next time, don't ask

Columnist and "liberal iconoclast" Harley Sorensen asks the following "rhetorical question with no response required":

Suppose there was such a thing as a time machine. Suppose all the bad-guy Germans of the 1930s and 1940s — the Gestapo, the Brownshirts, the Blackshirts — were fed into the time machine and emerged as modern-day Americans. Suppose they all still held the beliefs they had when they died.

So my question is, Which political party would they support now, Democratic or Republican?

Sorensen, as it happens, was using this opening as a wedge to take a potshot or three at the nascent Department of Homeland Security, but there is an answer to his question. Gregory Hlatky takes up the query:

Well, if you consider some of the features of the Nazis — an obsession with racial characteristics, an overweening sense of having been oppressed by larger forces, and a belief that private means should be subordinated to the ends of the State — I think the answer is pretty clear, don't you?

He shoots, he scores.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:24 PM)
20 November 2002
Are we having funds yet?

Contrary to popular belief, reports Radley Balko, corporations funnel far more money to the left than to the right.

How can this be? Balko points to a couple of contributing factors:

[L]efties tend to flock to non-profit and philanthropic careers more than market lovers, who tend to pursue careers in business....This means that leftists have taken over the philanthropy wings of corporate America. They've now risen to positions where they're signing the checks distributed by, for example, the Ford Foundation.

Does money from the Ford Foundation count the same as money from Bill Ford's personal checking account? The Feds may disagree, but I figure it probably does. Balko continues:

[L]eftist groups are great at arm-twisting for donations. Jesse Jackson and his Wall Street shakedowns are a notorious example. But the NAACP, NOW and the green groups are good at it, too. "Give to us or you hate women." "Give to us or you hate black people." "Give to us or you hate the environment."

The GOP hasn't asked me for anything, since I'm not a member, but I don't know anyone who's received a Republican fund-raising letter that boiled down to "If you don't give us money, you must be some kind of liberal."

Balko doesn't dig into the psychology of the matter, but I have to wonder if maybe some of the corporate types who write checks to groups which actively oppose their interests do so in the vain hope of buying, or at least renting, their silence: "Here's fifty grand. Please shut the hell up." I can't recall any instance in history when this actually worked, though I'm certainly amenable to an empirical experiment, price available on written request.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:56 AM)
24 November 2002
The beat goes on

Cambodia is thought of as primarily a Buddhist nation, despite the best efforts of the communists to eradicate Buddhism from the country. There exists a small Muslim minority, known as the Chams, descended from what was once an Indo-Chinese empire that was destroyed by Vietnamese in the fifteenth century. The Chams' version of Islam is far removed from that of the bloodthirsty Wahhabi; Arabs, therefore, have taken it upon themselves to "purify" the beliefs of the Chams, and you can probably predict the results should they succeed.

Chrui Changvar has written up the details in Le Monde; Cinderella Bloggerfeller has translated the Le Monde article into English.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:49 AM)
26 November 2002
Rooked in the Queen City

Rookwood Exchange, they call it, and when it's done, it will be a major commercial development along I-71 in suburban Cincinnati, valued at $125 million. And all they have to do is, um, get rid of the people who actually own the property. This might be a problem, since some of them don't want to leave.

Today, the Norwood City Council will consider whether to conduct an "urban renewal study," widely viewed as the first step towards seizing the homes under eminent domain. One problem: the neighborhood doesn't come close to meeting the city's definition of "blighted," which would seem to make the study superfluous — unless, of course, you're the developer and you'd like to force the issue.

The eminent Gregory Hlatky delivers some condemnation of his own:

Any councilman who votes for this study should be tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail.

In response, they will probably enact a feather tax and an import quota on tar.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:29 AM)
Genuine draft

As a footnote to my sub-Strykerian contribution to Joe Zarro's fifteen minutes of fame, I said something to the effect that "he presents a compelling case for reinstating the draft."

Now if you really want a compelling case for reinstating the draft, I suggest this rant by Kim du Toit. And this bit I want to emphasize:

The maturing process... is accelerated. I've never spoken to a single person who did not admit that, one way or another, they grew up quickly in the Armed Forces. Once you have been subjected to the harshness of military life, you are less likely to complain about trivial bullshit once you are back in civilian life. You don't have to experience combat, by the way, for this to occur.

No argument from me. About a third of our BCT company, back in 1972, had come in through the draft, and for about the first week they pissed and moaned about the horribleness of it all. By week 7 they were practically indistinguishable from the volunteers.

The small-l libertarian side of me applauds the all-volunteer army on a purely philosophical basis, and I have no plans to pester my Congressman to reactivate Selective Service, but I refuse to believe that somehow we are a Better Place because we don't currently have a draft.

I don't have all my DA Forms 3686 from those days, but apparently once I made the lofty grade of E-2 I was pulling down the princely sum of $320.70 a month. Then again, it wasn't like I had a whole lot of expenses, and in the thirty years intervening, I have rediscovered the lost art of complaining about trivial BS.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 PM)
1 December 2002
The urge to merge, with a splurge

Louisville, Kentucky presently ranks sixty-sixth among the nation's cities. About five weeks from now, it will be sixteenth.

What's the deal? In a word: consolidation. In 2000, voters in Louisville and surrounding Jefferson County passed a measure which would merge the functions of city and county. On the fifth of January, the merger goes into effect.

This isn't the first time a city and a county have merged in the US; it isn't even the first time it's happened in Kentucky. (Lexington and Fayette County tied the knot back in the Seventies.) But it's an uncommon event, and in fact the Louisville/Jefferson merger had been proposed, and voted down, three times before.

The merger won't be as painful as it looks. Louisville and Jefferson County have shared some services — schools, transit, purchasing — for years. On the other hand, there are some divisive issues lurking. For one, the new Greater Louisville will have a population of just under 700,000, and with the inclusion of previously-unincorporated suburbs, that population will be distinctly whiter, which means there will likely be complaints that African-Americans are being disenfranchised, or at least having their political power diminished. And there are fears in the dozens of smaller municipalities in Jefferson County that the merger will eventually lead to their disappearance.

And what's the point of all this, anyway? It's the same old Louisville, isn't it? Well, yes and no. For most people in the combined city/county, life will likely go on much as it has. But there's a sensation that the newly-expanded Louisville will be able to "play in the big leagues", to come up for consideration when national businesses look to expand. The examples of Jacksonville, Florida and Indianapolis, fairly sleepy medium-sized metropolises before consolidation and now bustling big cities, indicate that there may be something to it after all. And it occurs to me that the city that might most benefit from it — St. Louis, Missouri — is probably the least likely to get it, since it's wholly separate from St. Louis County, and there is no indication that either city or county is even contemplating such a notion, or would want to.

I am reasonably certain that this sort of thing would never work in Oklahoma City (population 510,000). For one thing, the city already covers over 600 square miles; almost all the developed land (and most of the undeveloped land) in Oklahoma County has already been annexed, either by Oklahoma City or by another municipality. To further complicate matters, Oklahoma City extends into two other counties, Canadian and Cleveland, neither of which is likely to be receptive to any such ideas.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:24 PM)
5 December 2002
So safe, so sane and so secure

Kim du Toit finds one way to salvage the Department of Homeland Security:

[N]ow that you have all 170,000 federal employees under one roof, fire one third of them, immediately. The rest will have to become more efficient, and nonsense like turf wars and political silos will disappear out of necessity and sheer survival.

Sounds logical to me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:02 PM)
7 December 2002
The once and future Solid South

The occasion of Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday has opened the door to a closet where a lot of our less-savory history has been stashed. Thurmond, you'll remember, ran for President in 1948 on the so-called "Dixiecrat" ticket, a campaign remembered fondly by, among others, Trent Lott. Not that Lott would actually have voted for Thurmond, inasmuch as he was seven years old at the time, but no matter.

As a useful reminder of just what the Dixiecrats stood for, beyond the vague generalities of "states' rights", Atrios has posted a shot of the 1948 sample ballot for Mississippi's breakaway Democrats, which, you should pardon the expression, calls a spade a spade.

And Thurmond's Dixiecrats gradually returned to the Democratic Party in the early Fifties; the Southern transition to Republican stronghold would not begin for another decade or so. (Thurmond joined the GOP in 1964.) The horrendous racism of the Dixiecrat days is mostly behind us — Strom Thurmond himself seems to have outgrown it — but I have to wonder just what's going through Trent Lott's head when he defends it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:24 AM)
8 December 2002
Discontinued Lott

So just what is the Republican Party supposed to do with Trent "Out to Lynch" Lott?

Christopher Johnson has come up with a solution:

Suppose [Lott's] position were offered to Zell Miller as an inducement to switch parties? The media and the Democrats would howl but the Republican position in Georgia would be strengthened immeasurably which is all the more reason to go ahead.

It has a certain visceral appeal to it, and it retains the Southern connection so vital to the GOP these days. And if Miller won't budge? Mr. Johnson has a Plan B:

Next term, the face of congressional Democrats will be that of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, presumably exploiting a Democratic advantage with female voters. But would that advantage still be there if the face of congressional Republicans was that of Senate majority leader Kay Bailey Hutchinson?

Oh, how I would love to hear the shrieks in Terry McAuliffe's office if that comes off.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:43 PM)
11 December 2002
We apologize for the previous apology

Jesus Gil analyzes the apologies of Trent Lott and other sorry individuals, and his criteria are strict indeed. Better brush up on your Act of Contrition.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:01 AM)
The thin blue line

Actually, it's not so thin; it's about a foot and a half wide, and due to get wider. The city of Bethany, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City, stung by declining sales-tax revenues, has decided to remind its 21,000 residents just where they live by drawing lines across the pavement at the city limits. (Why blue? They match the street signs.)

Bethany's tax base has been eroding for some time, since there is little or no space for new industry or greatly-expanded retail facilities; it's mostly a sleepy college town, anchored by the somnolent Southern Nazarene University. And matters are not helped by the fact that Bethany is completely surrounded, by Oklahoma City on three sides and on the fourth by Warr Acres, which is happy to wave its 6.5 percent combined sales-tax rate in Bethany's face. (It's 8 percent in Bethany, and 8.375 in Oklahoma City.)

Not that Bethany is doomed. With airline travel stagnating, more people are hitting the road, and one of the roads they like to hit is historic Route 66, two miles of which pass through the center of Bethany. The main thing Bethany has to do is make sure those two miles look less squalid than the segment to the immediate east, which runs through Warr Acres. Somehow this doesn't strike me as particularly difficult.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:18 PM)
12 December 2002
Trent control

John Rosenberg is taking a proactive approach to the Trent Lott question, by writing his two Senators:

I grew up in Alabama under segregation. I abandoned the Democrats only when they abandoned their committment to colorblindness. I didn't switch parties to have the Senate Majority Leader of my new party endorse the 1948 Dixiecrats. A real apology might have attenuated my anger, somewhat, but Lott's tepid non-apology simply added fuel to the fire he lit.

I have supported and voted for you in the past, but if you vote for keeping Trent Lott as Majority Leader I will think long and hard before doing so again.

I don't think I'll have to go to this much trouble with my two Senators, since one of them (Ditzy Don Nickles) is probably even now angling for Lott's position.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:51 AM)
13 December 2002
Did someone say "quagmire"?

Cinderella Bloggerfeller, with the Scornograph cranked up to 11 — well, it was a Guardian piece that provoked him — on the phenomenon of history repeating itself, even when it doesn't:

[W]hat we did learn from the Vietnam War is that any conflict in which Americans are involved must automatically resemble it. This is an Iron Law of History. Kosovo was like Vietnam, Afghanistan was like Vietnam, the war of 1812 was like Vietnam, and Iraq is definitely going to be like Vietnam. After all, Iraq is an Eastern civilization and therefore ancient and mystical and it surpasseth our puny Western understanding.

As a practical matter, Iraq is about as mystical as Minot, North Dakota, but that doesn't seem to discourage radical dudes like Jeff Spicoli from seeking great enlightenment therein.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:16 PM)
16 December 2002
Read Ben Stein's screed

Yeah, Bueller, I mean you too. For the 85th anniversary of Forbes (What is an appropriate gift for 85 years, anyway? Batteries?), Ben Stein has put together the top 12 ways to ruin American enterprise, and while it's no doubt all over blogdom this morning, I want to make darn sure that the two or three of you who come by here daily actually read it.

Assume it will be on the test.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:32 AM)
17 December 2002
A Lott to happen

The first hour of today's Diane Rehm Show was spent asking "What will happen to Trent Lott?"

Of course, instead of listening for 54 minutes, I could have simply read The Blog from the Core, which fills in the story of Lott's — sorry, Mfume's — ongoing penance and ultimate redemption.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:21 AM)
Axis: Bold as Mercator

George W. Bush's notion of an Axis of Evil didn't sit well with some folks, and they had their reasons, but one reason they hardly ever mentioned was the most obvious one: "Well, it's not really, y'know, an axis, is it?"

Perhaps not in the WWII-era sense of an alliance, no; whatever Iran and Iraq may share, North Korea probably doesn't have it. But in the mathematical sense? Can you actually place these nations on a straight line that divides a geometric figure?

Yes, you can.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:42 PM)
20 December 2002
An equal and opposite revision

Like any number of pundits, George Monbiot predicted that US involvement in Afghanistan would result in Vietnam: The Sequel. Unlike any number of pundits, Monbiot has at least partially recanted:

The rout of the Taleban was much swifter than I believed possible. Though I opposed, and continue to oppose, the means by which the Taleban were overthrown, I am pleased both that they have gone and that far, far fewer people died than I anticipated.

Said recantation, reports Tim Blair, was sent in a letter to the editor of the Spectator, though for some reason it does not appear in the letters column on the Spectator's Web site.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:38 AM)
The last, dear God, the last Trent Lott entry

Get outta here, ya knucklehead.

And take a look at this while you're out.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:22 PM)
Do not adjust your mindset

The folks at MoveOn.org, having come to the end of their original mission — fighting the impeachment of Bill Clinton — have diversified into other areas of interest to the American left, and while it's too early to say whether they'll be any more successful this time out, this particular Flash animation they've worked up is pretty darn clever, if I say so myself. Liberals will no doubt embrace its message; conservatives, maybe, can appreciate the craftsmanship.

(Thanks, Nova. Where do you find this stuff?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:19 PM)
22 December 2002
When rights become uncivil

This week in The Vent: color-blindness as a destination, and some problems encountered along the journey.

One of the points I attempted to make, largely by borrowing the words of other bloggers, is that while the Democrats are generally the ones playing the race card, the Republicans have played less and accomplished more.

Rosemary Esmay, to illustrate this point, has put up a time line, and Dean Esmay has chimed in with the following comment:

On the whole, you can pick any — I said ANY — ten-year period in American history and you will find the Republican record on race and civil rights is better than the Democrats'.

Obviously we're not out of the woods yet — "You can spend eternity listing all the places where things could have and should have been done better," says Dean — but if the GOP can continue to press for actual equality of opportunity, as opposed to the bizarre handicapping schemes called for in recent Democratic dogma, we'll get there, and we'll get there in one piece. Remember that number: one. Last time I looked at the Constitution, I didn't see any references to the Multicultural States of America.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 AM)
25 December 2002
Home for the holidays

Christmas itself is no big deal in Muslim countries, except where it's actively prosecuted, but Muslim students in the United States get the same holiday break period as everyone else, and some of them are uneasy about flying home: what if, because of increased attention from the Department of Making American Borders As Efficient As Airport Security, or whatever the hell it's called, they can't get back into the States?

The simple answer is "Screw 'em", usually accompanied by a bitter reference to the 9/11 hijackers, a number of whom had held student visas. And indeed, it's probably only prudent to be keeping a closer watch on foreign students, inasmuch as few of them are likely to be wearing "Future Terrorist" sweatshirts as they pass through Customs. At the very least, it's a hint that ridding the world of the stench of Islamofascist terror should be done as quickly as possible, so that legitimate students from Arab lands can get back to the business of learning things that will help transform their societies and themselves.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:27 PM)
26 December 2002
Of Democrats and yellow dogs

Over at Tightly Wound, the legendary Big Arm Woman explains what's wrong with the Democratic Party:

[M]y dad is what you would call a Yellow Dog Democrat: a traditional southern liberal who associates republicans with rapacious big business and screwing over the little guy--namely, dad.

Lots of those in Oklahoma; they're not particularly "liberal", at least by current definitions, but this sums up their attitude toward the GOP fairly well.

[L]ately he's slacked off supporting them, and I think he's well on his way to disillusionment. Know why? Because although my dad is still no fan of big business, he thinks the democrats have their heads in the sand about this whole war thing, and when he asks himself why, he's forced to admit that the PC lobby has hijacked the dems to the extent that they couldn't make a tough decision if they had to, for fear of pissing someone off.

Some would suggest that their head position is, um, somewhere else.

But B.A.W.'s dad has it spot on: there is almost constant fear at the DNC of rubbing a constituent group the wrong way. It's like having to deal with the People's Front of Judea.

There are lots of folks like my dad out there--and the democratic party has always taken their support for granted. But if you kick a yellow dog enough, it'll bite you on the ass. Keep kicking, democrats. It seems to be working sooooo well for you.

They'll learn — once they lose a few more elections.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:58 AM)
27 December 2002
Unexpected subject

Listeners to Today on the BBC's Radio 4 have nominated five persons "most deserving of honourary status as a British citizen," and one of the five is Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

Are the British thumbing their nose at the States? Not necessarily. The popup window for nominee profiles suggests the reason for selecting Saddam: "He will cause less problems over here where we can keep an eye on him."

Voting continues through New Year's Eve. I shudder to imagine what Stephen Chapman thinks of this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:07 AM)
28 December 2002
Reprobates on the right

Jesse Taylor, after taking nominations from the field, has issued his list of Twenty Most Annoying Conservatives of 2002, presumably as a response to John Hawkins' list of Annoying Liberals.

Mr Taylor's list includes some people who annoy me a great deal (like Cal Thomas, #20), some people who don't annoy me all that much (like George W. Bush, #7), and at least one person who doesn't annoy me at all (Charles Johnson, #17). And really, if we're gonna have a tie between Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, the least they can do is put Hannity in a dress — and, in the name of Christian charity, blindfold Alan Colmes when they do.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:36 PM)
4 January 2003
Kim ponderables

North Korea's born-again Stalinists have been making trouble lately, and the Bush administration hasn't come up with much beyond "You break your end of the nuclear agreement and you expect us to pay you for it?" A reasonable response — blackmail is not something to be encouraged, after all — but probably not enough to banish Kim Jong Il to the back burner.

Even the Democratic Leadership Council thinks this is a reasonable response, but they balk at the notion that the US can go it alone:

[T]he Administration needs to abandon the unilateralism of past policy towards Pyongyang and quickly engage South Korea, Russia, China and Japan in regional talks aimed not only at containing but in reducing the perennial danger posed by a bankrupt state with loopy leadership and loose nukes.

These five-way talks should begin with ensuring the shutdown of North Korea's nuclear program, but should quickly encompass a broader deal in which U.S. troop levels in South Korea are scaled down in exchange for a stand down of North Korean artillery and rockets aimed at its neighbor. Moreover, the talks should focus on a deeper solution to North Korea's economic problems that will not leave Pyongyang perpetually rattling a saber with one hand and rattling a cup with the other. Economic assistance from the United States or from anywhere else should be made strictly conditional on two things: an end to North Korea's one big export program — dangerous weaponry — and an agreement to emulate China's free enterprise and trade zones, opening up a semi-medieval country to fresh winds of change and genuine economic development.

I have some qualms about this. Were I to recommend free-enterprise role models, I think China would be fairly low on the list; while there are plenty of proper money-grubbing capitalist dogs making actual money, Beijing still seems be obsessed with the glory days of being the Protector of Albania and other counterproductive Maoist memories. Still, if anyone can get Kim's attention, it's the Chinese. Which makes me wonder: why drag Japan and Russia into this?

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:49 AM)
6 January 2003
Reverend Al, the bloggers' pal

The air abounds in snickers, and no, not the candy bar; I'm talking about Al Sharpton's Presidental ambitions, and the reactions thereto. To my knowledge, the first full-fledged blog endorsement of the Sharpton candidacy came from Kevin McGehee's blogoSFERICS. And it's not because Mr McGehee desires to see him elected, particularly:

It is long past time for the Democratic Party to put its nomination where its mouth is. If race deserves to be a defining issue in American politics, let's open the debate.

Actually, I think you could open the debate with (or, more interestingly, force the debate upon) any of the current Democratic field; apart from melanin levels and not having spent a lifetime on the public payroll, what's the difference between Sharpton and the competition?

Of course, I don't expect many to follow Mr McGehee's lead. A more typical response is this one from Acidman:

If I could buy him for what he's worth, then sell him for what he THINKS he's worth, I could retire tomorrow.

And that was one of the nicer things he said.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:02 PM)
7 January 2003
Daschle declines

"My passions lie here in the Senate." And with that observation, Tom Daschle opts out of the 2004 Presidential race.

Jeebus. If the herd thins any faster, the Democrats may wind up having to drag Al Gore, kicking and screaming, back into the fray — and oh, the fireworks you'll see.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:43 PM)
Watts: so good about goodbye?

Kevin McGehee waxes so lyrical today about former Representative J. C. Watts (R-OK) that shortages of lyric wax are breaking out all across the nation.

Having watched Watts ascend (and occasionally slide sideways) for these many years, I can't say I really miss the guy, but then I figure most Oklahoma politicians are a few years past their sell-by dates anyway. Watts, at least, went out on top. Had he run for another term, he'd have won, no matter how they redrew the district lines, and forget about that "safe minority district" crapola; the Fourth District that elected (and re-elected) Watts was two-thirds white. You can point out that, well, J. C. was a football hero, and therefore, if not on par with Jesus Christ, certainly on the level of John the (Southern) Baptist, but if pigskin prowess were that overwhelming a criterion, Steve "This is BS" Largent would be Governor today.

Kevin McGehee speculates further that Don Nickles, having given up his shot at being Majority Leader, might step aside to make room for Watts in the Senate. This talk was a lot more common inside the D.C. Beltway than it ever was along I-35, I assure you, and it's diminishing further now that Oklahoma has a Democrat in the Governor's mansion. But I have no doubt that if Julius Caesar Watts really wanted another term in Congress — in either house — he'd have no trouble getting it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:32 PM)
10 January 2003
Choosing targets

"I don't get it," says your friendly neighborhood doofus. "Iraq may or may not have nukes, and they're about to get incinerated. North Korea definitely has nukes, and we're tiptoeing around them."

Your point being?

"Well, if we're not going to fight Pyongyang, why are we going to fight Baghdad? Did they suddenly find oil in North Korea?"

Ah, yes, the oil thing again. Well, actually, no, they haven't found oil in North Korea; if they had, there might be an outside chance of averting mass starvation north of the 38th — assuming the government didn't suck up all the revenues for itself, which, Stalinist bunch that they are, they most likely would.

But why aren't we drawing the same line with North Korea that we are with Iraq? It all boils down to Who's In Your Neighborhood. Iraq is surrounded by a ragtag collection of emirates and such which could be Saddam's for the taking, should he so desire. (In the case of Kuwait, circa 1991, he did so desire, and there's no reason to think he's mellowed.) North Korea, should it try to extend its influence beyond its borders, will run smack dab into South Korea and Japan, which are backed by the US, and China, which isn't, but which also isn't likely to take crap from Koreans.

The Timekeeper has more thoughts on this at Horologium, including excerpts from a Newsday op-ed by Michael Mandelbaum of the CFR that makes this and other points.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:58 PM)
13 January 2003
Fashion statement of the year

Inexpensive, yet irrepressible. What more could you want?

(Muchas gracias: Rachel Lucas.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:46 PM)
17 January 2003
From bad to worse

Sometimes the simplest questions stir the greatest passions.

"Which is worse?" asks Joshua Claybourn. "Communism or terrorism?"

The comments are instructive. (My own contribution, at #3: "You can have terrorism without communism, but the historical record suggests that you can't have communism without terrorism.") And another question comes to mind: does the ongoing war on terrorism constitute Cold War II?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
19 January 2003
Romulans bearing two zero nine, mark six

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) is persuaded that we ought to find $7 billion in the budget to pay for outfitting commercial jets with anti-missile systems. "We can't stop everything bad from happening," says Boxer, "but we can take prudent measures."

This, of course, runs counter to standard leftist dogma, which states that you can stop everything bad from happening, if your government is big enough and sufficiently staffed with people with the Correct Mindset.

Taken all by itself, this might look like a sign of sanity in the Senator. But one question remains unanswered: do missiles pose a threat to commercial jets? Paul Musgrave at Hoosier Review isn't so sure:

It is difficult to believe that missiles designed to work in combat situations are readily available and a threat but could be defeated by relatively simple countermeasures. I'm hardly an expert, but I suspect that Stingers and Redeyes were built to outsmart the sorts of countermeasures that we could place on 747s.

And why would Boxer be proposing such a thing, anyway? The only thing I can figure is that she's scared of being shot out of the sky, and she's willing to make the airline industry spend a million bucks per plane for some form of reassurance. In this case, she would be better served — and less expensively, to be sure — by driving. You can get a whole lot of SUVs for that kind of money.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:19 PM)
22 January 2003
The remains of MLK Day

Kevin Holtsberry is disturbed by what he saw on Dr. King's commemorative day:

I had a hard time celebrating MLK day because every time I turned on the radio or TV I had to listen to someone explaining how the President was a hypocrite or how Trent Lott was the real GOP. Martin Luther King, Jr. succeeded to the degree he did because he made Americans realize how much we had in common — black and white. He called us to live up to our ideals. Too many of those who consider themselves his followers appeal not to what we share as Americans but what separates us. They don't call us to live up to our ideals but ask us to reject those ideals or face the wrath of the race mongers. You are either with us or against us they shout — demanding uniformity in the name of diversity.

Wrathful souls, those race mongers.

But he's right, of course: forty years after "I Have a Dream", the dream has been defiled by a pack of opportunists, seeking privilege where Dr. King sought only equality, while the rest of us, black and white alike, are busy trying to get some work done.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:29 AM)
27 January 2003
Not a lot of BTUs

From the Department of "Geez, I wish I'd said that":

[E]veryone with a "No Blood For Oil" bumper sticker can try opening a vein and seeing how well it heats their house.

Who did say it? Aurora Leigh at Memento Mori.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:13 PM)
2 February 2003
Godwin lurks

By now everyone has seen that noxious little bumper sticker that spells "Islam" with a swastika. It's noxious, not so much because it suggests that there is some similarity between Islam and Hitler's National Socialism — you can get the same suggestions seven days a week in Arab News — but because damn near everything these days is compared to the Third Reich; the next step in political benchmarking, no doubt, is to set up a scale and rate each and every incident from 35 to 98 Reichspoints.

And what's wrong with that, you ask? Jennie Taliaferro nails it down:

[T]he only result of trivializing the evil of the real Nazi Reich and Hitler will be to change the meaning of the Holocaust from "Never again" to "No big deal. That's just something people say when they don't get their way".

And in fifty years World War II will be remembered as some vague border skirmish, and Kristallnacht as some minor incident therein.

I'd just as soon not be party to the wholesale rewriting of history for the sake of a few ephemeral political points.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:49 AM)
The ghosts of Tailgunner Joe

If there's one twentieth-century historical figure whose name is bandied about with a frequency approaching Hitler's, it's Joseph McCarthy. It's been more than fifty years since the Wisconsin senator first stood in a room and announced the existence of a list; and ever since then, it seems like everyone who's ever seen himself as being singled out for verbal abuse, however trivial, has shuffled the Deck of Delusion and played the McCarthyism card.

This might be a useful metaphor had Joe McCarthy been a silly-but-cute character like Ko-Ko from The Mikado, who had a little list of his own. He wasn't. McCarthy meant business. And while there actually were, as he had charged, some real-life Communists and fellow travelers uncomfortably close to the seats of power, McCarthy was ultimately censured by the Senate for his wholesale destruction of reputations.

This weekend on Usenet, some person with an exaggerated sense of his own importance (no need to identify him here; if you need to, you can Google the thread later), slapped down in a discussion, played the McCarthyism card and further likened himself to one of the Hollywood Ten. This, of course, was a serious anachronism — the House Un-American Activities Committee first took steps against the Ten in 1947, and McCarthy didn't open his mouth until 1950 — but the complainant apparently presumed that the rest of the world, or at least the rest of the newsgroup, would pick up on the historical references and smile.

He was wrong. Enter Al Moore, whose father was on the receiving end of a McCarthy-inspired witch hunt. And Moore was in no mood to listen to this guy's whining:

My father finished engineering school at Stanford, leaving when his GI Bill benefits ran out in 1954, to go to work for a local electronics firm. He was employed for about a year before the blacklisters caught up with him. He was tried (by a court-martial, for "disloyalty") and was found not guilty, but was never employed other than self-employed thereafter. I can still recall the day he was given notice at work. My mother told us kids "We may not be eating so well for a while."

So when you find you can't feed your kids because of something someone posted to the internet, then you can talk about McCarthyism.

Until then, keep it to yourself, please.

And that goes for the rest of you poor souls who think that because no one is buying your argument, it's because you're being suppressed. Actually, it's more likely because you're being idiotic.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:01 PM)
3 February 2003
Supplemental restraint system

Are you, like Sherlock Holmes, suspicious when the dog does not bark? Diane L. at Everything Must Go seems to be:

After I heard the news about the space shuttle disaster, I assumed most of my favorite blogs would display pictures of Palestinians dancing in the streets. This has not happened. The only thing I've seen is a few comments about American arrogance, and the statement from the 22-year-old Iraqi mechanic to the effect that it was Allah's punishment. No Palestinians dancing in the street.

Assuming that no one in the Greater Islamic Co-Terrorism Sphere is going to send us condolences, or even set aside a moment of silence, there's something vaguely offputting about this seeming lack of response. And its implications are clear enough:

If Palestinians refrain from dancing in the street on orders from their leaders, that would imply that Palestinians would also refrain from terrorism if ordered to by their leaders. So, when Palestinian and American politicians act as though Palestinian terrorism were beyond the control of Palestinian leaders, they are lying.

Could be. Are their lips moving?

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:00 PM)
7 February 2003
Our big fat Greek allies

David "Clubbeaux" Sims (that just looks so cool) isn't too impressed with Greece these days:

Greeks contribute the least to the E.U.'s funding and are the biggest freeloaders of E.U. welfare, yet squawk and strut and obstruct E.U. business as if they're bankrolling the whole operation. One does not want to even begin to calculate the total tonnage of money America flushes down the Greek rathole. E.U. diplomats I met in Istanbul told me privately that if the E.U. had a mechanism for kicking countries out Greece would have been shown the door a long time ago.

So they're, um, obstreperous. Do they stand behind us when we need them?

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page...gives these facts: 87.8% of all Greek citizens are against military action in Iraq — even with U.N. approval; more Greeks have a positive view of Saddam Hussein than of President Bush, and when asked "which country is more democratic, the U.S. or Iraq" a full 57% said "neither," and 8% said Iraq. On balance the French are more reliable allies than the Greeks.

Gad. What a bunch of Cretans.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:11 PM)
8 February 2003
Southern exposure

Charleston, South Carolina, 333 years old and still a charmer, has a memory nearly as long as its history, and downtown, parallel-parked Volvos aside, is not all that different from the way it was when Rhett Butler supposedly wandered around its streets. King Street is the main north-south street, and it was a wild mix of modern-day commerce and antebellum gentility when I lived in the Holy City in the 60s; it still is today.

In 2000, reconstruction began on the William Aiken House at 456 King Street, about a third of a mile north of Marion Square, a world away from the presumed haughtiness of the SOB (South Of Broad) district — but only a few steps from the present-day Charleston Visitor Center. The new owners have turned it into a small-scale (about 20,000 square feet) convention center, a place for small gatherings with a taste of history.

This afternoon, Senator John Edwards (D-NC) is at the Aiken House, doing some of the obligatory legwork for his Presidential campaign. None of this matters, except that Edwards is supposed to be paying lip service to the NAACP's South Carolina boycott, and yes, it is true, William Aiken actually once owned slaves. Rather a lot of them, in fact. If you wanted to find a place in Charleston that had no discernible ties to anything that even remotely resembled the old Confederacy, you'd have to have your meetings at the Burger King on Dorchester Road near I-526. The NAACP Web site hasn't put up a complaint yet; I'm hoping this means that they're not going to pitch a fit about the Edwards appearance, but it could be simply that their Webmaster has the weekend off.

(Via Drudge, aided and abetted by C. Dodd Harris IV.)

Update, 6:15 pm: Christopher Johnson reports that the fix is in:

"What he's doing meets our guidelines," said James Gallman, president of [the NAACP's] South Carolina branch, adding "I'm very pleased with the efforts he has made and the support he has given our boycott."

Let's see what happens if a Republican tries to hold a pep rally at the Aiken House any time in the next few hundred years.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:41 PM)
9 February 2003
Oil together now

Yeah, I know, but this is funny.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:14 PM)
11 February 2003
You might be an Old European...

"...if you see no contradiction between your Socialist Party card and your new BMW."

John at Inside Europe: Iberian Notes has literally dozens of these.

(Muchas gracias: Cinderella Bloggerfeller, who, as a European himself, will not be able to vote for Dodd for President.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:14 AM)
12 February 2003
The view from Joisey

(Please note that I am not actually from New Jersey; nobody there calls it "Joisey".)

Last night, Glenn Reynolds posted an item about the "American street" and its willingness to support a boycott against recalcitrant ex-allies like France and Germany. I read that, shook my head, and decided that it would never happen; our band of happy consumers is simply too apolitical to worry about such things.

Later, it's another session in my usual chat haunt, and one of our regulars is expounding upon what appears to be a sudden shift in tastes. "I can no longer buy from the French," she explains. "They refuse to support us."

I made some jest about giving up French fries, but there it was. Your basic (Jewish, but whatever) soccer mom archetype, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat but utterly disconnected from politics except right around election time, is telling the French to blow it out l'aperture.

"I suspect a lot of people are starting to think this way," Reynolds had said. I suspect he's right.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:32 AM)
When the colors change

Susanna Cornett responds to the heightened level of alert:

[W]hat I'm not is generally fearful. I know every day when I leave my apartment that I could be killed by a drunk driver, or shot during a robbery. There are all kinds of risks in life, and this is one more. I hope I don't have to deal with it. I'll take what precautions I can. I'll occasionally play out scenarios in my mind of what I'll do in this or that type of situation. But the reality is the majority of my safety is dependent on others — the US military, police, people's willingness to obey the law. The part that belongs to me is not to wring my hands, but to live my life with a consciousness of the risks, doing what I can to circumvent them, pray that our country will be spared, and stand ready to do what I can to lessen the chances of terrorist success.

Good advice. Under circumstances like this, the best thing you can do is to prepare yourself and make sure those around you follow your lead. Fretting over every piece of news that comes down the wire will eventually drive you mad. Unfortunately, purveyors of news, with few exceptions, want to make sure you get that opportunity to fret.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:59 AM)
14 February 2003
Down by the banks of the Ohio

Something is dreadfully wrong in Cincinnati, and this is the opening of a SpicedSass report:

I had not held much hope the black community in this town would respond reasonably to a simple matter of a cop apprehending and killing a criminal. No riots, but plenty of attitude and sneering simpering suspicions. The local apologist for the community writes a piece suggesting the "poor" victim became what he was in a vacuum.

"Sherrer's family plans to bury him Saturday. And our community is asking, again, why this had to happen."

Not rocket science. A life long criminal decided to continue as a criminal and was caught acting like a criminal and ran like a criminal and was shot like a criminal. And, no, the white community did not do a damn thing to help him along his chosen path, but, you might want to talk to his family about that.

Read the rest of it. I figure it's just a matter of time before Al Sharpton saunters in and tries to capitalize on the, um, incident; it wouldn't be the first time.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:12 PM)
15 February 2003
The Dr. Seuss State of the Union Address

Can this, will this, make you think?
Will you, won't you, click this link?

("If the permalinks are fried,
Scroll to the 14th!" he cried.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:00 PM)
No "fair and balanced" jokes, please

On Thursday, Mohammed Allawi, who had been covering the UN for the Iraqi News Agency, got a letter from the Deputy United States Ambassador to the UN, which told him bluntly that he had 15 days to pack his bags, gather his family, and get out of Dodge. According to the Bush administration, Allawi had "engaged in activities considered to be harmful to the security of the United States and those activities constitute an abuse of privilege of residence in this country."

The Iraqi government's response was to announce the expulsion of four Fox News staffers, to be gone by Monday, although it appears now that only reporter Greg Palkot will be forced out. With the remainder of their team still apparently allowed on site, Fox hopes to persuade Baghdad to allow a replacement.

The question naturally arises: why Fox? Could it be that Baghdad considers Fox News a greater threat than any of the other American news agencies?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:58 PM)
17 February 2003
Minor but cherishable freedoms

It occurred to me after the fact that various groups hither and yon might have objected to yesterday's exercise of the hunter/gatherer function. Of course, your standard Wahhabist nitwit objects to my very existence on general principle, and he (it's almost always a he) certainly wouldn't look fondly upon pork loin piled high. (At least, he's not allowed to.) Representatives of the Nanny State would also complain, but from a different point of view (hey, my cholesterol is fine), and your local Vegan (and how are things on Vega these days?) might offer yet another. And the Daughters of Arianna, or whatever they're calling themselves these days, might object to the fact that I drove across a town and a half to procure this stuff, using up an incredible amount of fuel in the process. (I figure seventy-five cents' worth at the outside, but I suspect they're loath to trust my math.)

Still, this is Presidents' Day, and I'd like to thank the forty-three fellows who have filled that slot, from George to, well, George, for helping to make it possible for me to ignore all of the preceding.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:58 AM)
The fine print

Did you ever see one of those "Free Mumia!" posters? Did you ever read the tiny little type at the very bottom?

Me either. But this is what it should say under "Free Mumia":

"Limit one Mumia per customer while supplies last at participating locations. State and local taxes extra."

(Obviously neither Frank J. nor Scott Ott have anything to worry about.)

(Update, 11 pm: For the last hour, I've been deleting and reinstating this piece, on the semi-questionable premise that while I know I've heard this jape before, or some variation thereof, or its application to some other jailbird — um, Incarcero-American — I can't place it to save my life, and I don't want to grab up somebody else's credit if I can help it. So I decided, finally, to leave it up and hope that someone will read it and identify the source.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:11 PM)
18 February 2003
Typos of truth

A correction from Bleeding Brain:

I wrote that Democrats were failing to get their massage across.

I have corrected the error. After living through a Bill Clinton presidency, I no longer believe that Democrats have trouble getting out the massage.

Well, Clinton certainly rubbed me the wrong way, and I am reasonably certain that I am not alone in this, um, frictional state.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:29 AM)
19 February 2003
The answer, my friend

Excerpting Lileks is rather like fixating on Marilyn Monroe a square inch at a time, but some things simply demand to be repeated, and this is one of them:

"It is time to think about human rights, not money," I heard one French protester say on the news. "War is not the answer to war." If it weren't for the autonomous nervous system, some of these people would die because they're too stupid to remember to breathe. War is always the answer to war if war is brought down upon you. Evil requires resistance. If a man in a crowd grabs your child from your arms, you do not wonder what brought him to this moment, or petition the city council for a resolution requiring him to hand over the skeletons of his previous victims. You stab him in the eyeball with your car keys.

'Nuff said.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:56 AM)
20 February 2003
Federal Bureau of Imagination

Reason Magazine's weekly newsletter takes the FBI to task for its recent bobblings of the terrorism ball, and part of the problem, apparently, is that the Bureau is actually listening to persons in custody:

A captured terrorist has no conceivable interest in supplying the FBI with accurate information on future attacks. He does, however, have an interest in diverting resources from actual attack plots, scrambling security assets so his cohorts still in the field can observe how they operate, and inducing general panic via grand claims about a "dirty bomb" set to explode in New York or Washington.

A recommendation that all such claimants be polygraphed doesn't strike me as particularly useful — the limitations of the polygraph are fairly well established by now — but what is needed, it appears, is not so much the ability to verify a terrorist's claims as the ability to see why those claims are being made:

The terrorist views himself as a prisoner of war, and like many POWs, he will continue to look for ways to confound his enemies. The FBI needs to understand this very simple concept and break away from its bureaucratic inertia. A third false alert based on sketchy, untested claims should see FBI Director Robert Mueller and his deputies sacked and replaced with individuals committed to something other than ass-covering and empire-building.

Meanwhile, enjoy your Orange.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:27 AM)
Crestfallen

Procter & Gamble, perhaps hoping to win some Brownie points from African Americans, announced that it would side with the University of Michigan in its battle to retain race-based affirmative-action programs in the face of White House opposition.

That was too much for one resident of P&G's home town of Cincinnati, who dispatched the following to the company:

Given your recently announced position regarding Michigan University and affirmative action I will no longer purchase P&G products. Your position is short sighted, self serving and, at this critical time in our country, a slap in the face to President Bush. Multi-culturalism and diversity are synonymous with mediocrity. That a company that owes [its] origins to a system of capitalism based on honest competition and the laws of the marketplace, your position is especially egregious. That you are headquartered in a city crippled by the same black activists your position apparently supports is doubly an insult.

I don't think Mr Bush has exactly put his Presidency on the line with his position in the Michigan affair, and it's not likely that he will view it as a slap, but P&G is basically trying to buy its way out of an unpleasant situation — and they have no idea how bad this bargain is going to be.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:55 AM)
22 February 2003
Green light at the Grammys

CBS Television has announced that they won't be pulling the plug if someone on stage at the Grammy Awards, as expected, launches into some sort of antiwar speech.

Set the Wayback machine to 3 April 1978 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles for the 50th Academy Awards. Vanessa Redgrave has just been handed the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Julia. She thanked the people you'd expect her to thank, and then suddenly launched into this:

"I think you should be very proud that in the last few weeks you've stood firm and you have refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums...whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and to their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression."

Producer (and Academy president) Howard W. Koch groaned. Protesters burned Redgrave in effigy outside the theatre. The last word, though, was had by Paddy Chayefsky, who would present the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay to the (as always) absent Woody Allen for Annie Hall. (Cowriter Marshall Brickman would accept the statue.) But first, Chayefsky said this:

"I'm sick and tired of people exploiting the occasion of the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal political propaganda....A simple 'Thank you' would have sufficed."

The applause was deafening.

This Sunday, with CBS taking a hands-off approach, it seems almost certain there will be a rehash of Redgrave-ish rhetoric. The only question is whether there will also be someone as mad as hell who's not going to take this anymore.

Besides you or me, I mean.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:23 PM)
23 February 2003
Not to be confused with post-premillennial

Legal Bean Dennis Rogers seeks a return to pre-postmodernism.

Uh, say what?

[W]hereas a postmodernist liberal would attempt to achieve equality by admonishing all types of "superiority thinking" or "hierarchical thinking" and embracing a fragmented view of reality that negates the concepts of worth and meaning, pre-postmodern, conservative thinking, embraces equality as a moral good, thus rejecting the idea of moral equivalence.

Whence these fragments?

...the postmodern embrace of a destructured, decentered reality as an embrace of "fragmentation." This belief in a fragmented reality is the foundation for multi-culturalism — a belief that no one culture is better or superior, worse or inferior, to another. What a great world eh?

Lefty postmodernists philosophically embrace the idea of fragmentation, incoherence and meaningless of human institutions for a particular purpose — to achieve equality — race equality, gender equality, religious equality, etc.

Gotcha. I think. Although I think it might be simpler — or at least more simplistic, which is not quite the same thing — than that: the Left posits that there are the oppressed, and there are the oppressors, and your personal membership depends upon whether you can be identified as a member of an Officially Oppressed Group. As a practical matter, this means almost anyone other than a white male of European descent. (Exceptions are made for political purposes; for instance, Condoleezza Rice, PhD, currently the National Security Advisor to the President, is grouped with the Oppressors despite being unwhite, unmale and unEuropean, because she doesn't accept the definitions imposed by the Left.)

Of course, in real life, what they seek is not equality: it is equivalence. If the Oppressors make, say, $40,000 a year per capita, then the government must impose a means of providing $40,000 a year per capita for the Oppressed.

No one with any knowledge of history denies that once there was a horrible creature named Jim Crow whose intentions were not at all egalitarian. There is, I think, a place for adjustments here and tweaking there, to compensate for those times when the laws themselves were biased. But the spirit of true equality demands that there be some limit on those adjustments. Should they become permanent, become part of the law, they revive Jim Crow; they merely tilt his beak toward a different set of targets.

I believe the Bean would agree on this point.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:28 PM)
25 February 2003
Tread on you

This one ought to be good for a sneer or two:

Consider this startling fact: the SUV is the only reason the United States has been unable to comply with the Kyoto Accord on air pollution.

The only "startling" thing about this statement is that some people, including Ted Rall, actually think it is a fact. It's not. And whether you think the Kyoto protocols are a good thing or not — I don't — horsepuckey like this does not advance the cause of the Greens, unless that cause is defined as "increasing population density by making the population dense."

Then again, I don't need to rail against Rall. That's Michele's job.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 AM)
26 February 2003
It's all about the Valvoline

Dean Esmay neatly disposes of those "No War For Oil" drones:

[I]f Bush and Cheney were really cynical, selfish shills to the oil companies, they'd do two things: 1) Help Saddam set his oil fields on fire, and 2) piss on the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's shoes and dare him to cut oil production. If they wanted their Texas good old boy pals to get richer, and to make themselves more popular with union workers in that industry, that's exactly what they'd do.

I need hardly point out that neither of these things has been done.

Even if you don't buy the Administration's insistence that Iraqi oil belongs to the Iraqi people, you still have to deal with the law of supply and demand: if we were to seize the oil fields on behalf of the US, the sudden increase in supply would send crude prices plummeting — hardly a desirable outcome for your stereotypical Texas petrobarons.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
Eye, meet sharp stick

It's called, yes, "The United White Persons College Fund," and Texas Tech senior Matthew Coday wants to draw a lawsuit — or at the very least, draw attention. And he sounds like he means business:

I would just dare anyone to take me to court and try to have our organization declared discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.

And what about the obvious model, the United Negro College Fund?

I would love to see organizations like the United Negro College Fund disbanded.

John Rosenberg comments:

The Fourth Circuit has held that race-exclusive scholarships are unconstitutional (Podberesky v. Kirwan, 38 F.3d 147 (4th Cir. 1994), cert. denied 115 S. Ct. 2001 (1995)), at least at public institutions. Private organizations such as the United Negro College Fund and the Bill Gates Foundation are allowed wider latitude to engage in discrimination, but I find it curious that, so far as I know, there have been no serious efforts to attack their tax-exempt status on the same grounds that were used to take away the tax exemption from Bob Jones University, i.e., that racial discrimination violates "public policy."

Well, we shall see how "serious" Coday is. Given the current flap over the University of Michigan's affirmative-action policy, Coday's announcement might end up sliding under the radar for a while, which would run counter to his apparent desire to jump-start a debate. Besides, a lawsuit is a terrible thing to waste.

(Originally from The Chronicle of Higher Education [requires subscription])

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:57 PM)
1 March 2003
The left side of the dial

The reaction to the news that a Chicago venture-capitalist group will front the bucks for a liberal radio network has been mostly yawns, with occasional remarks along the lines of "So what's NPR, chopped liver?" Certainly nothing in recent radio history would suggest that this venture could possibly make enough money to stay out of the red, let alone raise Rush Limbaugh's blood pressure, but hey, it's diversity, right?

Mark W. Anderson, writing as The American Sentimentalist, has some thoughts on this from a present-day liberal point of view, and they go like this:

[T]rue political progressiveness, of the kind that addresses social inequality, the relationship between capital and labor, environmental activism (and the sacrifices needed to undertake it), the Rights of Man, and the practice of inclusion and community, can't find a hearing in America today not because the message hasn't been gussied up enough, but because simply no one is interested in hearing these messages. At least, not enough to make a dent in the kinds of messages Americans are interested in: mythological freedom, protected self-reliance, denigrating a dangerous Other, and endless self-indulgence passing as consumer choice and free market effectiveness. In order to break through this wall of illusion, the kind of programming needed would be the kind that would send advertisers scurrying faster than European intellectuals in a room with Donald Rumsfeld: programming that would speak the truth about what happens in the country behind the facades and televised images we've all grown so used to accepting as fact. Programming, in fact, that would explain what it was like for the Americans rifling through the dumpster behind the mall where the good life is purchased, where the message of what it was like to worry about the transmission on the ten year-old car needed to get to work and not about whether the SUV is the best off-road vehicle money can buy, about the trade-offs between employment and health care for single moms, between prescription drugs and food for the elderly, and job training and the minimum wage for the chronically unemployed. Or how to effectively campaign to overturn, for example, politically-charged court decisions, replace reactionary judges, elect candidates not beholden to big-money concerns, or how to undertake the kind of neighborhood, grass-roots activism needed to reverse the incarceration rate for African-Americans. Or how to make ensure developers respect the socio-economic make-up of urban neighborhoods slated for gentrification. Or a million other unsexy, nuts-and bolts kinds of stories people need to know in order to go to work every day to change the world they live in for the better.

Some of these concerns make a certain amount of sense, and some of them bug me. The preservation of the "socio-economic make-up of urban neighborhoods", for one, strikes me as folly: if these neighborhoods were so wonderful, it seems to me that the property values would be sufficiently high that no one would be all that anxious to tear them down and start over in the name of gentrification. And the biggest improvement that could be made in the incarceration rate of African-Americans, I suggest, would be getting fewer of them to commit crimes in the first place.

Still, Anderson is right about the crux of the biscuit: things aren't hunky-dory for everyone, and if a bevy of AM-band leftists can actually contribute something to the debate, more power to them. They'll have to give up their Thou Shalt Not Offend Anyone posture, though; commercial talk radio is no place for mild-mannered Cory Flintoff types.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:44 PM)
4 March 2003
It'll cost a few bucks

According to David Pearce, a state representative from Warrensburg, Missouri, the Show-Me State is not doing enough to limit the size of the state's deer herd, and he has introduced a bill (HB 386) to make the Department of Conservation liable for the first $250 of damage caused by deer/motor vehicle collisions.

Pearce himself has run into this situation; last year he hit a deer on Missouri 13 not far from home. Total damages came to $2400, of which Pearce's out-of-pocket expense was, um, $250. The Missouri Highway Patrol reported 5482 collisions with animals during 2001.

Conservation objects to the bill, saying that it would distract them from their primary function, to manage the herd; Pearce counters that if they'd managed the herd better, there'd be no need for the bill.

Tomorrow, HB 386 gets its first committee hearing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:22 AM)
5 March 2003
At best, a sort of greylist

TeeVee's Ben Boychuk disposes of this New Blacklist horsepuckey with due dispatch:

If anything, the more outspoken of the anti-war Hollywood Left stand to gain from the publicity. Janeane Garofalo has never been more famous. Marty Sheen will continue to work long after the creatively moribund West Wing retires to the Elysian Fields of syndication. One might argue that Sean Penn's career suffered because of his trip to Baghdad. But one could also point to the fact that his last couple of films were seen by all of two dozen people. Three dozen, tops.

Boychuk titled this piece Joe McCarthy is Back, And This Time, He's Pissed. Trademark infringment, I'd bet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:40 AM)
6 March 2003
Cutting to the chase

Jeff Lawson is persuaded that it's time to get down to business:

While I've supported the cause from early on — actually, I've been advocating the forceful removal of Saddam Hussein for a long time, dating back to my days as a relatively liberal political science student — I do look forward to the good that will ultimately come from it once the shooting stops. War sucks, no doubt about that. And I likely don't have much credibility when it comes to saying that, my generation not knowing war all too well, but I think it's an undeniable truth that war sucks. People die. But sometimes, despite one's best attempts to avoid war, it still has to happen. This war has been a long, long time coming...over a decade. Barring any sort of unforeseen event that can head things off in the final hour, this war is inevitable. The time is right, so better to get on with it.

Let me amplify: "War sucks."

This does not now, did not ever, equate to "War must be avoided at any cost."

And the forcible removal of Saddam Hussein will not magically result in Iraqi democracy. As Mark W. Anderson points out:

"[D]emocracy does not come to oppressed peoples in the way that God enabled Adam and Eve to discover that they were naked — it comes from the long struggle to build free and fair civic institutions that support such a political system, ensuring that a minimum level of economic fairness exists throughout the society in question, and enabling citizens and those in power to see their own heretofore-hidden self-interests in cooperating on a political level."

Still, if the blinding flash alone likely can't do the job, the lack of the blinding flash certainly won't — at least in this case.

I don't think of myself as being a particularly enthusiastic warmonger. On the other hand, I don't believe in procrastination either — though I probably should have posted this yesterday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:51 AM)
Torture: not just fun, but effective

Fritz Schranck has come up with a plan for getting Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to talk, a plan which involves, among other things, essence of spirit duplicator, algebra, and Ben-Gay®.

Of course, I would just as soon not know where Fritz picked up this particular area of expertise, but if his recommendations are half as mind-warping as they appear to be, the problem won't be getting our captive to talk — it will be getting him to shut up.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:14 PM)
7 March 2003
Putting the chill on Mugabe

American assets owned by President Robert Mugabe and about seventy other officials of the government of Zimbabwe have been frozen by the Bush administration.

President Bush took the action, according to the official order, because of ongoing political violence and a breakdown in the rule of law, for which Mugabe must take responsibility. The freeze follows a similar order imposed by the European Union in February. For the crumbling Zimbabwean government, this could be the last straw.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:40 PM)
8 March 2003
Into the face of evil

What would you say to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man behind September 11th?

Jeff Jarvis has thought it over. (He's also vlogged it, for which you'll need broadband.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:58 PM)
Strip mine

Ever been to Farwell, Texas?

Neither have I. And I can't think of any particular reason to go there, unless I were driving to, say, Clovis, New Mexico, where Norman Petty and Buddy Holly created a unique rock-and-roll sound, in which case Farwell is the last town in Texas before crossing the border.

And that's actually an issue. According to the 1859 survey defining the border between Texas and New Mexico, the dividing line is supposed to be right on top of the 103rd meridian. The New Mexico/Oklahoma line is along the 103rd. But the Texas border, as drawn, was about three miles west of it, which makes for a weird-looking jog in the state map, and towns like Farwell, Texas are supposed to be in New Mexico.

At least, that's the argument being made in Santa Fe, where a bill has been introduced into the legislature to seek return to New Mexico of this narrow strip of land. Three miles doesn't sound like a lot, but we're talking Texas here, and the strip, which covers the western edges of ten Texas counties, includes 603,000 acres of land, more than 900 square miles. New Mexico's draft constitution in 1910 claimed the border should be on the 103rd meridian as intended; a Congressional investigation was convened, to which New Mexico, not yet a state, was not invited, and Congress opted to leave the border in place. Apparently dark hints from Austin suggested that if New Mexico really wanted to become a state, they would shut up about the border; they did, and they did.

That was 1912. Ninety-one years later, why pursue this? A clue might be found in the wording of the bill:

One hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the office of the attorney general for expenditure in fiscal years 2003 and 2004 to sue the state of Texas for the return of six hundred three thousand four hundred eighty-five acres of land taken from New Mexico due to an error in drawing the north-south boundary between New Mexico and Texas. The attorney general is further instructed to seek compensation for subsurface mineral rights, oil and gas royalties and income, property taxes and grazing privileges that New Mexico has not realized due to the boundary error.

I suspect the Texans are chuckling, but if I know Texans like I think I do, they won't take this lying down. Especially in Farwell.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:03 PM)
9 March 2003
Erdogan has his day

Justice and Development (AK) Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, barred from running for office last fall, easily won a seat in the Turkish Parliament in Sunday's elections, which assures him the position of Prime Minister and puts the question of support for the US war on Iraq back on the table. One newspaper reports that Erdogan plans to dismiss four Cabinet members opposed to the US plan to attack Iraq from across the Turkish border.

Wednesday, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul is expected to resign in favor of Erdogan. While polls indicate Turks generally oppose the US deployment, Erdogan has supported it, and has already hinted that he'll call for a new parliamentary vote to try to get it approved — and as Prime Minister, he'll be in a far better position to push for it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:46 PM)
10 March 2003
And you thought Lene Lovich was stateless

The Palestinian Authority, the government (except it isn't) of a nation (except it isn't) in the Middle East (well, it is that), has decided that it needs a prime minister.

Their next move, logically, should be the naming of an ambassador to the Sovereign Apartment Nation of Travistan.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:30 PM)
11 March 2003
Brand management writ large

In light (if "light" makes sense in this context, an arguable premise) of recent world developments, The Skeptician offers an updated United Nations logo, approved 14-0 by the Security Council. (France, of course, abstained.)

(Muchas gracias: Emperor Misha I, who notes, "We hope to see it proudly displayed at the new UN headquarters in Harare.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 AM)
12 March 2003
The Home Front

I hold this truth, spoken by Susanna Cornett, to be self-evident:

Supporting our troops is something every American should be doing, no matter where your stance on the war. They're the ones who make this country safe.

This is the idea behind The Home Front. Why? Mike Hendrix, who created the site with Ms Cornett, explains:

[W]ith the current force structure we have, we rely on National Guardsmen and Reservists to get the job done. The sacrifice common to all soldiers is amplified for these men and women. Our part-time warriors are required not only to maintain a sharp edge of readiness, knowledge, and ability, but to juggle their military service with the pursuit of their careers in the private sector as well. And they're required to walk away from those careers when necessary, to abandon the eternal quest for a better life for themselves and their children for the sake of all of us, and at a moment's notice. They do so willingly, gladly, and without expectation of any real notice or remark. They get the job done calmly, quietly, and without boast; they are deserving not only of our gratitude but of a more concrete recognition of their sacrifice as well, as are all of our men and women in uniform.

That's why. Most of you, I suspect, didn't really need the explanation.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:04 AM)
14 March 2003
Quagmire II

Many have tried, many have failed, to draw plausible parallels between Vietnam and Iraq.

Andrea Harris has succeeded:

It seems, in the end, to have turned out less horrid (at least in Vietnam) than it could have — at least, the country is no North Korea — but to this day I don't know why every Vietnamese person on earth just doesn't hate our guts. We dropped them like a hot rock and let the commies have them.

We dropped Iraq too, like a hot rock, though this was at the behest of the United Nations, an act which not only left Hitler Jr. in power, but in retrospect made the rest of the world think that we were the United Nations' bitch. No wonder everyone's so upset now. The high-class hooker thinks she can go into business without her pimp now, and you know nothing pisses pimps off more.

Not to mention those who depend on pimps for their livelihood or for their moral guidance.

Next on the to-do list is determining whether we've improved our handling of hot rocks.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:32 AM)
It's just a Bill, dammit

Matt at Overtaken by Events has had it up to here with politicians who proclaim their lame little legislation to be a "Bill of Rights For [insert name of group]." While the specific target of his wrath is Charles Schumer's godawful cell-phone proposal, a measure so clueless you'd think it had originated with the junior senator from New York, it's not just Schumer who cheeses off Matt:

I think that calling any pet legislation a "bill of rights" is the absolute height of stupidity and arrogance, regardless of the party proposing it.

Which it is, though I'd suggest that it's even more annoying when the legislation in question seeks to extend government power, as does the Schumer proposal, rather than to limit it, as did the original Bill of Rights.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:45 PM)
15 March 2003
Halfway measures

C. D. "Dodd" Harris IV is persuaded that this new abortion bill, hailed as a victory by abortion foes, is actually anything but:

To the extent that the bill really is limited to the vanishingly small percentage of abortions that are both 1) performed using the D&X procedure and 2) "in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce", this law is not a victory; it's an active impediment to putting an end to this inconscionable form of infanticide once and for all. The bill fails to advance the cause either way you slice it. Either it's supposed to encompass all partial-birth abortions (in which case it exceeds Congress' Constitutional authority) or it only applies to abortions which involve a participant crossing state lines or some such (in which case it isn't worth the paper it's printed on).

The President will certainly sign it, and it will almost immediately be challenged in the courts. Dodd thinks if it gets to the Supreme Court, it will be struck down, perhaps for the very reasons he cites. I'm not so sure you can get five of the Supremes to reject it, but the point is this: whether you consider D&X a routine medical procedure or a heinous violation of the Hippocratic Oath, the Congress does not have the Constitutional authority to regulate it. (Which is why, of course, that lame bit about "in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce" was thrown into the bill to begin with.) If they're going to ban these procedures, and I have no doubt that they are — it's damnably hard to defend something that gruesome — they need to do it on a basis that will pass Constitutional muster: state by state, county by county if necessary, until one of those jurisdictions comes up with a ban that stands up to any challenges. It can be done. Eventually it will be. In the meantime, the current bill may be useful for rallying the troops on either side of the issue, but otherwise it's just window-dressing, and not particularly attractive window-dressing at that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:30 AM)
And we can't jump, either

Julie Peterson, speaking for the University of Michigan on the value of their (and presumably other) affirmative-action programs, as quoted in the Michigan Daily:

One of the benefits of having significant numbers of minority students on our campus is to break down stereotypes. One of the powerful aspects of learning in a diverse environment is to be able to see differences within groups, and similarities across racial boundaries.

John Rosenberg boils this down to the essentials:

Racial preferences are primarily for the benefit of whites, who...need to be exposed to minorities. They are not justified as a benefit to the preferred minorities, who, as I've pointed out here and elsewhere, would receive the same diversity benefit even if they attended a less selective university.

Thus, when Michigan defends racial preferences, it is essentially arguing that it is not fair to white and Asian students to deprive them of the benefit of being exposed to minority students who would not be admitted but for the racial preferences given them.

"We're not letting you guys in because you need a break; we're letting you guys in because we, personally, are devoid of soul. Uh, Microsoft Word to your mother."

And the Law of Unintended Consequences (a cousin of Murphy's, no doubt) proves itself supreme once more.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:50 AM)
17 March 2003
The international trailer park

There has been much handwringing in the past few weeks over the very idea that the United States might actually seek to remove a dictator without the consent of the international community. I've thought this over, and the more I think about it, the more I think that it's not a community at all.

Seriously. Each of the nations in the United Nations, as you might reasonably expect, is basically looking out for its own interests. If there's any sense of "community" at all, it's found in the temporary alliances among nations who seek to curry favor with, or extort money from, larger nations. The archetype for the leader of this type of community is Tony Soprano. At best, we're in an International Trailer Park: we're stuck next to one another and those damn people around the corner won't pick up their yard and someone else is trying to tap into our utilities. Under the circumstances, it's hard to blame the Bush administration for making noises about packing up and moving out.

"But they're our neighbors!" I hear you cry. Fine. Let them act like it for once.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:30 AM)
48 hours

The countdown has begun.

"The tyrant will soon be gone," said the President.

One down, too many still to go — but it's a start.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:15 PM)
18 March 2003
Did the diplomats fail?

Right on the heels of the President's address last night, ABC-TV ran a special called The Failure of Diplomacy. Chris Anderson at Queen City Soapbox takes issue with the very title:

One reason that I've been at least cautiously supportive of this war is that I never thought it was a diplomatic problem to begin with. To see it in those terms is like expecting a bully to back down because you've demonstrated that he's cruel, or to have the mob quit pouring the concrete around your shoes because what they're doing is, you know, illegal. Diplomacy requires a rational partner that just isn't there.

Diplomacy, according to Will Rogers, is "the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock." Rocks are now in position.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:02 AM)
Zero for two

I took a look into alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.1950s this afternoon, and some yobo had hung a recording out on the line with the notation "Someone Make G. W. Bush Listen to this".

The song? Jackson Browne's "Lives in the Balance".

Not what I'd call a 1950s title by any stretch of the imagination. I was going to chide the individual posting the item, but someone beat me to it, opening with the following:

I can't believe how off topic and offensive this is.

Only in Usenet (and ASCII sort routines, I suppose) would "off topic" come before "offensive".

The rest of the response:

There are planes leaving for Paris and Baghdad every day.

Hop on.

Landing at Baghdad may be rather tricky toward the end of the week, but hey, no one said this was going to be easy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:18 PM)
All zings considered

Just in case the events of the week have left you wondering:

Everyone should be assured that NPR is committed to fair, balanced coverage of the news and seeks to serve all its listeners, from the thoughtful progressive activist to the knuckle-dragging hydrophobic red-state cross-burner.

You've just read the smooth, well-modulated words of National Public Radio ombudsman Godfrey Dvorak.

Well, okay, maybe you haven't.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:08 PM)
19 March 2003
Correctives in Colorado

According to the Rocky Mountain News, two new firearms measures have been signed into law by Colorado Governor Bill Owens.

Senate Bill 24 mandates that carry permits be issued to residents who pass a background check and a gun-safety course. Senate Bill 25 requires that individual cities and counties comply with state gun laws: they can no longer pass more restrictive measures on their own. SB 25 also bans local gun registries.

(Muchas gracias: Kim du Toit, who objects to the News'  headline writer's characterization of the measures as a "gun rights expansion". Says du Toit: "[T]hese laws don't expand gun rights, they've restored them, you journalistic morons.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 AM)
Congress is duly notified

The following was dispatched to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President (pro tempore) of the Senate:

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Sincerely,

GEORGE W. BUSH

It's on.

Fasten your seat belts.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:07 PM)
20 March 2003
L'etat, c'est screwed

I think Ken Layne's called this one on the nose:

Nobody will ever take France seriously after this nightmare. Jacko Chirac will go down in history as the French politician who finally annoyed the world enough to have his country forever knocked off the Global Stage. France will continue to be a fine country to visit — sort of like a very overpriced Slovenia — but that's about it. Its smart, ambitious people will continue to flood the United States, and we will be a better country because of it.

Of course, the pursuit of irrelevance has been a favored pastime among French intellectuals for decades; how surprised should we be that the government has nationalized it?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:15 AM)
21 March 2003
No shock, but plenty of awe

The definitive editorial cartoon for today, by Jeff Koterba in the Omaha World-Herald.

Thanks to Geitner Simmons, who saw it first.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:53 PM)
22 March 2003
Spending more now and enjoying it less

Is it true that government spending for education in this country is actually declining? This didn't sound right to John Hudock, who duly dug up the pertinent figures. His findings:

[T]he rate of increase which was running at 8.3% a year in the 80's slowed to about 4.3% a year in the 90's. But this hardly seems tragic.

It's a phenomenon we've seen before. How is it that spending more money less quickly can be equated to spending less money? If it takes me eleven seconds to get from zero to sixty and twenty seconds to get from sixty to ninety, at what point during those 31 seconds did I actually slow down?

You'd expect this from advocates of Really Big Government, who see commitment to be directly proportional to dollars. Curiously, you can also expect it from investors and fund managers, who start to bail out when growth rates start to flatten; it is, after all, their fiduciary responsibility to go for the highest growth rates possible, even if they have to spend their last dime in trade commissions to get them.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:19 AM)
26 March 2003
Tax that man behind the tree

Actually, they probably do. The Buckeye Institute, which bills itself as "Ohio's Only Free Market Think Tank", has gathered data from the Tax Foundation and assembled a list of tax burdens as a percentage of personal income. Considering state and local taxes only, Oklahoma, at 9.9 percent, ranks 33rd; factoring in Federal taxes, we pay 29 percent, next to the bottom.

Maine residents pay the highest state and local taxes: 12.8 percent, about twice that of the 6.3 percent paid by Alaskans. Alaska, at 27 percent, also occupies the bottom position when you include Federal taxes; the hardest-hit of the states is Connecticut, at 36.7.

The District of Columbia, be it noted, pays higher local and Federal taxes than any state.

(Via Hit & Run)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:07 AM)
27 March 2003
Feel the benefit

Ernie Chambers found this on a listserv:

"[H]as there been any discussion about how [Social Network Analysis] may be applied in ways that may have little or no benefit either to the study population or society as a whole? For example, commercial marketers are understandably very interested in this research to improve opportunities to reach potential consumers. But what if this knowledge and technology is used to maximize exploitation, such as selling more things to poor people?"

Mr Chambers answers this way:

If you sell enough stuff to poor people, they won't be poor any more. I arrive at this conclusion based on the common-sense definition of poor, which is roughly: an absence of stuff.

This is not, apparently, the definition being used by the tender-hearted soul on the listserv.

He was using the Leftist intellectual's definition of poor, which is: "someone too stupid to stop buying potato chips and save his money, and who therefore needs 47 different federal programs and massive income redistribution in order to comfortably eat himself into early death from heart disease." The charge to the academic in this field becomes, then, restricting the holy body of knowledge to the worthy saints, who will only use it for good, like studies of the networking activities of one-armed lesbian pacifists, and not for evil, like analysis of how to streamline junk mail so that those "how to grow it" emails only go to people with small penises, instead of me.

While I'm inclined to accept this description as accurate on the face of it, I have one question:

Can I really get a Federal subsidy for a bag of Wavy Lay's?

And as to the question of spam, this entry from The BradLands says it all:

If I had responded to all of the spam e-mail I received in the past two weeks, I would have 350,000 free business cards, 250 miniature radio-controlled toy cars, and would have netted approximately $7.4 billion from assisting various deposed heads of state in securing their rightful fortunes.

Also, my penis would be 56 inches long and I would have seen more than a lifetime's worth of vaginas and boobies.

Not my lifetime, I hope.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 PM)
28 March 2003
You gotta have Hart

Somewhere at an angle to his Presidential aspirations, Gary Hart is pushing a "primary of ideas", a discussion of the issues without any of that tedious political-campaign stuff. I don't know how well this will work, but I have to give the man credit for having the temerity to take on the Blogosphere™ on its own turf.

That's right, folks. Gary Hart has a blog. Unsurprisingly, his blogroll tilts a tad to the left, and there's already talk of an Official Comments Policy, but you gotta start somewhere. Make a note on your Trend-O-Meter and see if anyone else with his hat in the ring follows suit.

(Via The Professor)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:27 AM)
Watching the wheels

John Lennon, says Yoko Ono, would have opposed the war in Iraq had he lived.

The SurlyPundit isn't so sure:

[F]or a man...prone to sudden and radical changes of mind and heart, twenty-three years is an eternity....9/11 might well have shaken him enough to realise that war is sometimes the only answer available.

Or not. I think it really is impossible to say, and Yoko shouldn't imply otherwise for the benefit of her own agenda. Her remarks about John would only hold true if he had been cryogenically frozen in the early seventies.

One thing is for sure: Lennon in high dudgeon (not to be confused with Gus Dudgeon, who produced Elton John's early hits) was almost scary to behold, whether the object of his wrath was the Maharishi ("Sexy Sadie"), McCartney ("How Do You Sleep?"), or us effing peasants ("Working Class Hero"). I suspect he still would have had little use for the sort of antiwar type that in earlier years would have been carrying pictures of Chairman Mao.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:40 PM)
30 March 2003
Howard be thy name

Having given sort of a plug to the Gary Hart blog, I figured the very least I could do was to check out the competition, and so I Googled up the Howard Dean campaign, which at least is an official campaign at this point, to see the comparative offerings.

And there are a couple of good Dean-related blogs, one by Rick Klau, the other a collective including, among others, the reliable Aziz Poonwalla. The Dean campaign itself has a Call to Action blog, but it's your basic minimal-effort Blogspot template (although it links a banner off the main Dean campaign site) and not especially interesting unless you're working on the Dean campaign yourself.

I'm going to have to watch that phrase "Googled up". It's capitalized good, like a trademark should, but verbing nouns (such as, um, "verb") has problems of its own:

"Governor, what do you think went wrong with your campaign?"

"Somewhere down the line, it got all Googled up."

Of course, I'd probably have the same issues with those yahoos at Yahoo!

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 AM)
Nominee for the Junior Realists League

As we all know, teenage girls fill up their sites with boys, music, complaints about the parental units, boys, school happenings, angst, blissful innocence, and boys.

Well, sometimes. I offer the following item (no discernible permalinks, scroll to 20 March) from Jillian, almost sixteen, in some small Indiana town:

[Y]ou can't deal with someone like Saddam by not doing anything, slapping him on the wrist, and he'll promise to be a good little boy and change his ways. It would be nice if it was that simple, but the world does not work like that. People are living in a dream world thinking that everyone is going to be peaceful and easy to get along with. Yeah, war sucks, but which is worse: a smaller amount of lives lost for a just cause or even more death if we let Saddam persecute his people and one day use his weapons of mass destruction on any country he chooses? Besides, Bush and the military leaders [know] what they're doing; we're not just bombing the hell out of Iraq and killing all kinds of Iraqi citizens. It's definitely more planned out and complicated than that. Bush is going to make this war end as quickly and with as little casualties as possible. It's a small price to pay for the sake of who knows how many lives in the future. What really saddens me is that here everyone is bitching about how stupid Bush is and how the war is stupid, whenever Bush is doing the best he can to protect these very same people, America, etc. At least give the man a little more respect than that.

Apart from the obvious question — there are standard antiwar types even in small Indiana towns? — there's a definite sense of "I am so tired of having to explain this to you over and over and over." It's not a feeling you have to be almost sixteen to understand or appreciate, either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:11 PM)
2 April 2003
Circumferential branding

When NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr started his All Things Considered commentary on Peter Arnett today, I just knew he was going to take Arnett's side.

And I was wrong. Schorr castigated Arnett for "serving as an instrument of Iraqi propaganda."

I expect this will go up on Schorr's War Essays page later this week.

(Update, 9:20 pm: It's up now in RealAudio. Scroll to "Arnett's Disservice".)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:27 PM)
4 April 2003
Getting a Vedder perspective

Pearl Jam played Oklahoma City's Ford Center last night, and if anyone had been upset with the band for Eddie Vedder's Dixie Chicks impression the night before in Denver, it really wasn't in evidence. Before the concert, the band issued the following statement:

Dissension is nothing we shy away from — it should just be reported about more accurately. Ed's talk from the stage centered on the importance of freedom of speech and the importance of supporting our soldiers as well as an expression of sadness over the public being made to feel as though the two sentiments can't occur simultaneously.

The determination of the exact quantity of spin contained therein, specified in degrees, is left as an exercise for the student.

And after a brief exposition, Vedder pointed to his close-cropped scalp and said, "How could we not be for the military? I mean, look at this effing haircut!"

Okay, he didn't say "effing". But that was the end of that. There was music to be played.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:02 AM)
After Saddam

Okay, Iraq is getting "regime change" as specified. But to what is the regime being changed?

Lynn Sislo has been thinking about this:

The U.S. Constitution was not the beginning of democracy but merely a leap forward in the long evolution of democracy.

The Arab world has not been a part of that evolution. I am not saying that they are not capable of democracy or that they do not deserve it but extreme caution is needed to prevent "majority rule" from becoming a "tyranny of the majority" that might be as bad for some Iraqis as the tyranny of one man.

A tyrant with a mandate is still a tyrant.

Here in the Big PX, we're still fine-tuning our republic, though we've been at it longer than damned near anyone; still, we've got the basics down. And we should be pushing, not for some generic "democracy" that serves as somebody's personal fiefdom (yes, Mr Mugabe, I'm talking to you), but for a system that has a chance of making everyone's life better. Of necessity, it's going to look a lot like our system, and the time to get used to it starts right about now.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:31 PM)
5 April 2003
We get letters

Margaret Atwood's "A Letter to America", which started out as an op-ed in Toronto's The Globe and Mail, tries very hard not to sound accusative or bitter, and for the most part it succeeds, but some of its points deserve a response.

What's being done to Iraq, she says, pales in comparison to what we're doing to ourselves. For instance:

You're gutting the Constitution. Already your home can be entered without your knowledge or permission, you can be snatched away and incarcerated without cause, your mail can be spied on, your private records searched. Why isn't this a recipe for widespread business theft, political intimidation, and fraud? I know you've been told all this is for your own safety and protection, but think about it for a minute. Anyway, when did you get so scared? You didn't used to be easily frightened.

The latter question is easily answered: 11 September 2001. However, it's no particular secret that some of our law-enforcement types have always had a wish list of things they would love to do if only that damn Constitution didn't keep getting in the way; the war merely provides an excuse.

You're running up a record level of debt. Keep spending at this rate and pretty soon you won't be able to afford any big military adventures. Either that or you'll go the way of the USSR: lots of tanks, but no air conditioning. That will make folks very cross. They'll be even crosser when they can't take a shower because your short-sighted bulldozing of environmental protections has dirtied most of the water and dried up the rest. Then things will get hot and dirty indeed.

We're definitely back in an advanced stage of Deficit Inattention Disorder, though the fact that the number of balanced budgets we've had in half a century can be counted on one's fingers without having to take off more than one mitten makes me worry just a bit less about the sheer volume of red ink. I doubt, however, that "most", or even much, of the national water supply has been rendered unusuable, and I can't bring myself to blame drought, which your standard insurance weasels consider an Act of God, on the Bush administration.

You're torching the American economy. How soon before the answer to that will be, not to produce anything yourselves, but to grab stuff other people produce, at gunboat-diplomacy prices? Is the world going to consist of a few megarich King Midases, with the rest being serfs, both inside and outside your country? Will the biggest business sector in the United States be the prison system? Let's hope not.

King Midas, as I recall, was just as capable of damaging his position as of enhancing it; there's a self-correction cycle built into the process. And for a "torched" economy, we seem to be doing pretty well: the war has business expansion largely on hold, but that's obviously a temporary anomaly, and some businesses are truly in trouble, but much of that trouble is due to failure to respond to public demand (the airlines) or attempting to keep a dead business model on life support (the record industry) or believing despite an utter lack of evidence that economies of scale can be derived from operations that really have nothing in common (AOL Time Warner).

If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They'll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them. They'll think you've abandoned the rule of law. They'll think you've fouled your own nest.

The world is a glass house — let's watch it with those flying pellets.

There's no doubt that we could be doing a better job of upholding our own traditions. And one of those traditions is to blow off criticism from the postmodernist and premedieval sectors, neither of whom have anything to contribute to anything resembling a world dialogue. If we claim to have the moral high ground, it's not because we claim to have video of [insert name of deity here] saying so; it's because we have the track record to back it up.

Dear Ms. Atwood: Your concerns are noted, but don't worry about us. We'll muddle through this somehow. And thanks for writing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:59 AM)
11 April 2003
Grover puts it over

If you didn't know Grover Norquist, you might let his name trip over your tongue and then you'd decide he's the sort of guy whose Hollywood-ized life story would be played by Wally Cox. But Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, is no milquetoast — P. J. O'Rourke once characterized him as "Tom Paine crossed with Lee Atwater plus just a soupçon of Madame Defarge" — and when the ACLU invited some prominent conservatives to join a panel this week on civil liberties in general and the USA PATRIOT act in particular, Norquist was in rare form.

According to a Jake Tapper report in Salon, Norquist, citing the tendency toward mission creep in law enforcement, something the PATRIOT act accelerates, quipped that few complain about it because most people think, "Do whatever you want to guys named Guido — that doesn't affect me." But sauce levels between geese and ganders can be equalized in a flash: "Someday Hillary Clinton's going to be attorney general and I hope conservatives keep that in mind."

Ouch! Barbara Comstock at DOJ complained, "You can't pass laws based on the fact that you think there are going to be corrupt people who misuse the system some day." But at the very core of conservatism is the belief that people are flawed and some of them will mess up: sooner or later, there are going to be corrupt people who misuse the system. All the better, then, not to provide them the opportunity in the first place.

And Norquist wasn't through. "I would support legislation that would sunset all legislation passed during a time of war," he said. "And I would vote against any legislation somebody felt they had to name 'PATRIOT'," a cumbersome acronym he said was chosen because "it looks bad on a 30-second commercial to have voted against it."

No wonder this guy isn't in Congress.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:50 AM)
12 April 2003
Where have all the liberals gone?

Jeff Jarvis draws the map:

[S]omething has happened to the left, or rather, its vocal leadership. It got hijacked by an orthodoxy of offensiveness — that is, by political correctness, which cares more about words than actions or people, which stifles freedom of expression rather than protecting it. It got shanghaied by a not-in-my-name selfishness. It got coopted by a haughty condescension. This is not the left-liberal-Democratic movement of the masses; this is the movement of the elite; this is the PBS left. This is not the movement of action but of inaction. This became the movement of no-no-ishness, wagging fingers and tsking tsks at the other side; it became about being against something rather than being for something.

I like that: "the PBS left". They vote with their dollars for their particular news slant, and they bewail the fact that others vote with their remotes for some other brand. (And without getting any tchotchkes in return, even.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:58 PM)
13 April 2003
Something I wish I'd said

Fark captioned this Yahoo! News (by way of Reuters) story truly spectacularly:

U.S. has Saddam's DNA, presumably from Peter Arnett's blue dress

As they say south and/or east of here, "Dayum."

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:29 PM)
14 April 2003
Where the Left is cracking up

Mark Steyn, in The Daily Telegraph, has isolated the discontinuity:

It seems very odd that the Left, which routinely bemoans the injustice of Barbara Bush's son having greater opportunities than the son of a crack whore in the inner city merely because of an accident of birth, then turns around and tells 20 million Iraqis that they have to accept their lot and live in a prison state forever.

Steyn's being overly generous. It's a farging travesty.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:22 PM)
15 April 2003
1040 or fight

What to do with Saddam's stragglers, partisans and malingerers? Jesse White's Tax Day 2004 letter to Iraqi taxpayers posits one possible solution:

[T]ax collection is proving a surprisingly effective means to rehabilitate former functionaries of the deposed Ba'ath regime. Imprisoned veterans of the Fedayeen, who previously showed little interest in building a freer, more prosperous Iraq, have jumped at the chance to work for the new Iraqi Revenue Service. Commissioner Qusay is particularly interested in introducing something he calls Sirat al-Jahim, which I'm informed translates roughly as the alternative minimum tax.

Some things never change. [sigh]

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:23 AM)
18 April 2003
Movin' on up to the East side

I dunno. I could afford to buy in, I suppose, but I suspect the upkeep would kill me.

(Muchas gracias: Nova H.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:15 PM)
23 April 2003
From the "Santorum Sucks" file

I'm pro-sodomy and I vote!

Courtesy of Phil at The Third Kind, where you can get the bigger, longer, uncut version.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:17 PM)
24 April 2003
More from the "Santorum Sucks" file

Jeff A. Taylor, on Reason's Hit & Run:

[Senator Santorum is] one of those pols — and they come in all flavors — who gets a look of stark terror on his face if his aides stray far from his side. His struggle to form a lucid thought under questioning isn't the mark of an evil man, just a dumb one.

On the other hand, in the unlikely event that he should actually introduce legislation to convene Bedroom Police, he will slide over from Dumb to Evil without the slightest bit of, um, friction.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:29 AM)
The last Santorum piece (I hope)

(I beat dead horses; I don't sleep with them.)

I liked this Kevin Holtsberry observation:

Obviously we can ban bigamy, polygamy, and incest without making adultery illegal because we are doing it right now.

What Santorum has done, in typical GOP fashion, is to create a controversy without touching on the central issue involved. The issue is not whether the Supreme Court views state laws banning consensual acts as unconstitutional but whether the Texas law is an overreach by state government at the expense of people's rights.

Just so. It would be nice for the Supremes to decide once and for all whether these things should be regulated; it would be even nicer if Texans (and residents of other states with similar provisions) would look at their law and ask "Do we really need this?"

If I don't seem particularly blue, it's because I'm not holding my breath waiting for either of these to happen.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:26 PM)
25 April 2003
Out on a (fairly short) limb

Dr. Weevil predicts:

By this time next year, there will be either two Shiite theocracies in the Middle East, or none.

I tend to lean toward "none", for basically the same reason as Weevil: "Double or nothing is a dangerous tactic." And the mullahs, I think, simply don't have the capacity to inflict themselves on New Baghdad while simultaneously quieting the Tehran street: they can take on the Sunnis, or they can take on their own citizenry, but not both.

This is probably not the time to bring out a "If You Ain't Muslim, You Ain't Shiite" bumper sticker, either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:21 AM)
27 April 2003
So much for "no connection"

Some of the critics of the war in Iraq have contended that the coalition has failed to demonstrate convincingly the existence of a link between Baghdad and al-Qaeda. Does this mean that they will change their tune, now that a link has apparently been verified?

I have my doubts, really — not about the link, but about the ability of said critics to admit that they might have been wrong about something. Still, I'm willing to be shown.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:41 AM)
29 April 2003
Score one for the Good Guys

Tom Ridge put down his color chips today to announce that Mohammed Al-Rehaief, the Iraqi lawyer who assisted in the rescue of PFC Jessica Lynch, has been granted asylum in the US under the rules of "humanitarian parole".

Al-Rehaief, his wife and their five-year-old daughter arrived in this country on the 10th of April. They will be allowed to remain indefinitely, and in one year they can apply for permanent residency.

No meeting has yet been scheduled with Lynch, who is at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, still recovering from her injuries.

We're getting pretty good at this doing-the-right-thing stuff, I think.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:27 PM)
1 May 2003
Freedom of speech 90210

The William Morris Agency, which represents a broad spectrum of entertainment-industry types, also employs a battery of lawyers, and they turned those lawyers loose on the Boycott Hollywood site, demanding it be shut down and the domain terminated. The registrar (Dotster's NamesDirect, may they rot in purgatory) capitulated; for the last day or two, the letter from WMA will be posted on the site.

The Professor calls this one exactly what it is:

[I]f you even criticize these guys they scream "censorship" — but Hollywood is censoring more speech in America than John Ashcroft has.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1988, hoping to work for some of these people. This is, I think, the first time I'm glad I failed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:18 AM)
4 May 2003
Running beyond the roses

As everyone now knows, Funny Cide is the first gelding to win the Kentucky Derby in over seventy years.

You can't tell me that at least some of the two or three dozen Democrats running for President in 2004 don't find this auspicious, even heartening; the Democrats haven't sent a gelding to the White House since [insert date here].

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:08 AM)
5 May 2003
The Robbins report

The Man from F.U.N.K.L.E. has an idea what's going through Tim Robbins' head right about now:

Well, I hope you're all happy. You've made me go and do it. I've hired a PR firm to combat all the negative press I've been getting for my anti-war stance. I didn't realize that being outspoken and controversial meant that people might not like me anymore. What's the point of taking a stand if it means people will criticize you? Screw that. I mean, I'll still come out against violence and fatal diseases, unless of course there are people out there in favour of fatal diseases. I'm sure they have a good point to make. But from now on it's ixnay on the ontroversykay. No more peace signs at the Oscars for this hombre. Peace — what's it done for us lately anyway? Starting today, I'd like to introduce you to the brand new Tim Robbins — now with 50% fewer opinions!

Anyone up to marching for SARS? (No, Sars, not you.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:11 PM)
6 May 2003
Plane crazy

Diane L. reports on yet another effort to insulate our innocent youth:

The other day, there was a letter to the editor of the Alameda Journal, signed by several local teachers and a minister, regarding a jet plane that has always been displayed outside of Encinal High School. The name of one of the school's teams is the Encinal Jets. Well, these teachers want the jet removed, because it's a symbol of violence, and it might give stress to immigrant students, because it would remind them of war.

Jet? I thought she was a little lady suffragette.

Can you imagine what these people might think about Oklahoma's Midwest City Bombers?

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:05 AM)
8 May 2003
The secret of W.

Andrea Harris sees the Great Political Divide, not between the left and the right, or between the liberal and the conservative, but between the ideological and the practical.

I think. This is what she said:

[T]he ordinary folk that all the liberals are so busy trying to "help" and all the conservatives are eyeing with suspicion — are actually doing the stuff that needs to be done. Neither ideological group likes the ordinary people very much, because they aren't really interested in the Important Things, like politics and ideology and arguing over same. (I think this is why many conservatives, and most liberals, hate George W. Bush. He's one of the ordinary, not-interested-in-your-philosophy, do-stuff people who somehow made good and got put in charge. That's not supposed to happen.)

W. really isn't what you'd call non-ideological, but he's clearly more interested in ends than in means, and if that means that ideology has to take a back seat for the time being, so be it. No wonder there's so much background rumbling amid the Republican base. And the left continues to be upset with W.'s general unwillingness to take its advice. Given the quality of that advice in recent years, it's hard to blame him for blowing them off.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
Boycott Hollywood is moving

The new URL is boycott-hollywood.net, and is expected to go live some time next week. (Allow the usual delays for DNS propagation.)

In case you're just coming up to speed on this matter, here's the last paragraph of the site's mission statement:

For all the Celebrity Pundits out there who use and abuse their status and wealth in order to get their point across in this country — we are here to tell you that you do not speak for us. You are not OUR voice. And while we may not have the bankrolls that it requires to, for example, take out an advertisement in the Washington Post for $56K in order to make sure our beliefs, values and opinions are heard — we do have heart, conviction and dedication to this cause, to our President and to our country.

I might add that the opinions of said Celebrity Pundits might carry more weight if there was something to back them up besides "Well, I just feel that way." Too often, there isn't.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
9 May 2003
Making chad out of nothing at all

The touch-screen voting machine is coolly high-tech, but it invites suspicion — how do you double-check a bunch of electrons?

Election Systems & Software is beta-testing a touch-screen machine that produces a paper ballot for each vote; they hope to have the device ready to ship this summer.

Well, okay. I still like Oklahoma's paper-ballot/electronic-reader system, which strikes me as both pretty efficient and highly verifiable, but I'd like to see this new contraption up close.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:50 AM)
11 May 2003
Baath time is over

General Tommy Franks has announced flatly: "The Iraqi Baath Socialist Party is dissolved." It's more a formality than anything else — most Baath leaders have fled or are in, um, "stable condition" — but it opened the door for Franks' next statement, which calls for the surrender of Baath Party or other Iraqi goverment documents to the coalition government.

One step at a time, as they say.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:55 AM)
It's a game of give and take

The Democratic National Committee has actually put up something they call a Supreme Court Countdown, with the ominous warning: "Act Now! America's Values at Risk With Supreme Court Vacancy"!

Um, last I looked, there wasn't a Supreme Court vacancy. Did David Souter get run over by a truck last night or something?

John Rosenberg explains this phenomenon:

Why wait till the last minute? Besides, they also know the only thing they need to know about any Bush nominee, which is that he or she will be nominated by Bush.

The nerve of that guy Bush, actually following the procedures in the Constitution. Sheesh.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:02 PM)
12 May 2003
I (GRR) NY

Lesley at Plum Crazy seemed awfully impressed with the Buck Floomberg item from this weekend, and frankly I was puzzled by her reaction, until I read this, addressed to Hizzoner Hizself:

Mike, ultimately it's you. You come across as a stiff, uncaring little wanker. And when the city starts losing business and residents because of your tax and fee hikes, no one's going to be looking around saying that someone made the right decision. Unfortunately, I won't be here not to vote for you in the next election. I'm moving to New Jersey.

Migod, I do believe the woman is serious. No one moves to New Jersey without a damned good reason.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:12 PM)
13 May 2003
If I knew then what I know now

Bleeding Brain (if permalinks are Blogspotty, go to 12 May) has a thoughtful essay on a question that has occasionally occurred to me as well:

I sometimes wonder if I am really the kind of person who would have resisted communism at the very onset.

At present, there is no doubt that I would resist it. I know its history and its body count. I know how it strips societies down to bareness and then flogs them till the blood runs in the gutters. I know communism well. She is a cold reptile who leaves a trail of death wherever she emerges from the sewers.

The question I ask myself is this: If I were a young man circa 1906 in Russia, would I have had the astuteness to recognize the evil that was coming to nest on the country when the Bolsheviks were stirring?

Given the general unpleasantness that prevailed under the Tsars, it's probably no wonder that this new movement seemed appealing, or at least no worse. And BB admits that the official abolition of classes (never mind how well it worked in actual practice, which is not at all) might have scored points with him. But then there's this:

"What?...you mean the state would own everything?" I would have asked myself. "You mean my father's farm would belong to the government?"

How could one NOT ask this question?

People who didn't have anything probably didn't see anything wrong with this; if anything, they might have seen it as a leveling of the playing field. But for property owners, and children of property owners, this could have been — perhaps should have been — a red flag.

It's a good piece, and even if we fear that our 1906 selves might have been complicit in this revolution, at least our 2003 selves know better.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:53 AM)
14 May 2003
Lingering Parisites

Steven Chapman reports that it is now against the law to insult the French national anthem; uttering an audible "boo" during the Marseillaise will now cost you 7500 euros and/or six months in le pokey.

In France, anyway. If you do it in Oklahoma, the half-dozen people who actually recognize the tune will probably break into a cheer.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:00 AM)
15 May 2003
The yellow Donks of Texas

Boycotts, as the phrase goes, are as American as apple pie, though it strains the term to stretch it far enough to the fifty-odd Texas Democratic legislators playing hooky on Lake Texoma so as to stall a redistricting vote pushed by state Republicans.

Yes, I'm enough of a child of the Sixties to appreciate a conscientious refusal to take part in something big and institutional and possibly damaging.

But dammit, these guys are getting paid to take part in something big and institutional and possibly damaging. At the very least, they ought to be docked for their absences, and if Texas House rules permit, they should be disciplined. I have no problem with following one's conscience, but sometimes there's a price tag attached.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:25 AM)
16 May 2003
Derailing the Fourth of July

Nearly two dozen containers of imported fireworks for pyrotechnic displays are sitting at West Coast ports for lack of inland transportation; the Washington Times reports that new security rules for hauling explosives, enacted this past February, have made the nation's railroads unwilling to mess with the stuff without some assurances from DOT that they won't be held liable if, for instance, they miss one background check somewhere along the way.

Photon Courier (16 May) points out that eventually, these containers will likely be moved by truck, which will enhance neither the national economy nor national security:

[W]hen a container of explosives goes by road rather than by rail, what are the consequences? It will cost significantly more (as much as $8,000 per container more, in some cases), and will consume more fuel. And it will involve more security risks. It seems far more likely that a shipment of explosives will be hijacked from a truck than from the tightly-disciplined environment of a railroad.

We'll still be able to buy sparklers and bottle rockets, I presume, but the big displays on the Glorious Fourth could be jeopardized.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:18 PM)
19 May 2003
The future of Fleischer

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer has never been one of my favorite people, but surely he deserves a kinder fate than this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:43 PM)
20 May 2003
The primary consideration

George Will, speculating on how the Supreme Court will rule on the University of Michigan affirmative action case, as reported by James Joyner at Outside the Beltway:

The late Justice William Brennan reportedly said that the most important word in the Supreme Court is not "justice" or "equality" or "law" but "five."

Brennan a pragmatist? Who knew?

(And with this, OTB goes onto the blogroll, using my standard criterion, which is "I can't believe you haven't linked this guy yet, considering how many times you've read his blog.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:44 AM)
23 May 2003
Cynthia McKinney, where are you?

Last we heard from her, she was giving the commencement speech at the Department of African Studies at the University of California, in which, among other things, she:

  • Manages to name-check Patrice Lumumba, Mario Savio, and Tupac Shakur's mother;
  • Repeats the discredited BBC story about how the Jessica Lynch rescue was "staged";
  • Tosses off a line about how "in spite of Florida, important provisions of the Voting Rights Act expire in 2007," hinting that black disenfranchisement is just around the corner (which it isn't);
  • Describes UC Berkeley as "America's campus".

How did Georgia ever put a moonbat like that into the House? Anyone? McGehee? Acidman? Bueller?

(Muchas gracias: Erin O'Connor.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:55 PM)
25 May 2003
One bill to distract them

Fusilier Pundit (17:09, 21 May) has taken a look at the so-called Justice Enhancement and Domestic Security Act of 2003 (link requires Adobe Acrobat Reader), and he is impressed with its bulk (486 pages), if nothing else:

[I]t's got a bit of everything: identity theft, telemarketing fraud, Nationalizing the Amber alert, protecting senior citizens from whatever distracts them from their oatmeal, and shielding whistleblowers. In addition, of course, to the usual suspects, ballistic fingerprinting and The Gun Show Loophole, whatever that is held to be.

It's a wholesale bid to overhaul Federal criminal law, including the laws of evidence and sentencing.

Another Department of Justice wish list? Maybe. Almost all such bills, historically, expand the list of Federal crimes, about which Fuze reminds us:

To your humble narrator, "Federal crime" is supposed to be an oxymoron anyway, with the exception of those few Constitutionally enumerated offenses such as treason and counterfeiting.

And somehow I doubt that had the Founding Fathers somehow been faced with telemarketers, they would have worked them into Article III.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:26 AM)
26 May 2003
Some goddamn Swedish twit

Jan O. Karlsson, Sweden's Minister for Migration, may have jeopardized his position in Prime Minister Göran Persson's government by referring to George W. Bush as "that fucking Texas geezer."

"Geezer"? Dubya is only 56. I suppose that means...uh, never mind. It will probably be a year or two before I get used to having a "5" as the first digit of my age.

(Muchas gracias: Jesus Gil.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:29 AM)
27 May 2003
Catch-209

California's Proposition 209, passed by popular vote in 1996, is a relatively simple measure as such things go. What it says is this:

The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

Mere approval by the electorate, of course, means little to the University of California, as explained by Dustin Frelich (27 May):

Admission into UC schools can be thought of as based on the breaking of a point barrier which earns a student a spot in the limited ranks of UC admits. Pushing minority students through the barrier, numerous points are awarded to minority students by default — by default because points are cleverly bestowed upon students who tend to come from backgrounds highly valued by UC admissions, such as being from a poor family.

Does this actually work?

Whites outnumber all ethnic groups at 37.3 percent of the total Fall admits, but stand at 46.7 percent of Californians. With a discrepancy that large — second only to Latinos by a few points — one would think they would join ranks with other "underrepresented minorities." They don't, but why not? Well, according to the UC Race-Conscious Policies report, "underrepresented" is said to apply only to "students from groups that collectively achieved eligibility for the University at a rate below 12.5 percent," and is interchangeably used with the term "underrepresented minority."

Apparently quacking like a duck in California is no indication of birdhood.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:49 AM)
Equal distribution of miseries

James Joyner notes that regional variations mean nothing to the tax code:

$50,000 a year is big money in Podunk, Mississippi; it is near-poverty in Manhattan. But the two earners are treated identically for the purposes of federal income taxes. Which isn't particularly "progressive."

Of course, "progressive" isn't all that wonderful anyway, no matter how forward-looking and optimistic it sounds. And besides, Podunk is (or should be) in Iowa.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:45 PM)
30 May 2003
Lenin called to borrow a bungee cord

Now this is choice. From The New York Times:

Opponents of media deregulation are running advertisements depicting the media mogul Rupert Murdoch as the scowling face of industry consolidation, including commercials being shown today on his company's Fox News Channel in New York.

The advocacy groups behind the ads, MoveOn.org, Common Cause, and Free Press, said they were focusing attention on the well-known face of Mr. Murdoch in an effort to stir public opposition to deregulation. At a meeting next Monday, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to relax ownership restrictions, including limits on local television stations and newspapers.

Deb the Insomnomaniac finds this utterly risible:

Ads accusing Rupert Murdoch of engaging in a sinister plot to ruthlessly control (and by definition I suppose, twist) what you read, see and hear in the news are being run on a network owned by Mr. Murdoch.

Well folks, either the man has multiple personality disorder, or he's into S&M, because allowing your supposed "secret" to get out on your own network seems a bit counter-productive, don't you think?

The sudden flurry of press attention to next Monday's Federal Communications Commission announcement mystifies me; I mean, it's not like FCC chair Michael Powell has been keeping things under wraps for the benefit of Big Media all this time. I tend to look askance at the expected changes, but I'm not about to claim that it's all a plot by the Axis of Greedy either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:00 PM)
31 May 2003
Inoculating against E. spicoli

Sean Penn's Kilroy's Still Here piece drew a blistering response from Michele:

Did you really expect that within a month of the war, Iraq would be some sort of carbon copy of the United States, filled with open markets and democratic elections and prospering people? Are you so naive to believe that freedom can come in a week, a month, even a year?

"Open markets?" they cry. "Why, 48 percent of Americans own no stocks at all! And 'democratic elections' — have we forgotten Florida in 2000?"

Thus speaks the celebrity pundit, in solidarity with the mythical Average American. Of course, he's not really an Average American; he just plays one on TV. (Apologies to Joe Goodwin.)

This is not about Iraq for Penn and his kind. It is about their selfish hatred for George Bush. It is about the craving they have to be able to say I told you so, about their need to be right, always right and to prove everyone else in the free world wrong. They care about nothing but themselves and their self-centered ideology.

It's a tricky balance. They must distance themselves from American culture, to which they feel unutterably superior — but not too much distance, or the checks will stop rolling in.

I said this back in February of '02:

The left routinely grumbles about this Last Remaining Superpower stuff, and it's true that we've done some things in our capacity as a superpower that qualify as more or less heinous, but if our track record were as horrible as all that, we wouldn't still have a waiting list at the immigration office; you don't see people standing in line to get into Zimbabwe. Still, there are people in places like Berkeley and Boulder who apparently can defend the likes of Robert Mugabe out of one side of their mouths while they condemn George W. Bush with the other.

And not a few in Hollywood, it appears.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:30 AM)
Cut thin to win

John Hudock at Common Sense and Wonder looks at the 2004 Federal budget, and sees places to economize (30 May, 8:48 am). A sampling:

Department of Energy: "useless, gone."

Department of Agriculture: "except for inspection services and some of the research programs, gone."

Department of Housing and Urban Development: "scandal ridden, useless, close it."

Department of Education: "worse than useless, I think it has actually worsened education, get rid of it."

Department of Commerce: "except for small business assistance which is probably an earner because of backend tax revenue from job creation and some regulatory administrative functions the rest is useless."

Department of Transportation: "completely useless, except for normal road maintenance programs which are mostly handled by the states anyway and FAA safety administration."

Department of Justice: "get rid of DEA, also BATF which can be merged with FBI."

Even HHS and Defense, which occasionally do useful things, could use some trimming.

Of course, hardly anyone believes the Republicans in power will shrink government by this much. (And no one believes the Democrats would shrink government under any circumstances.) Still, it's a good set of talking points, and those Congresspersons suffering from Deficit Inattention Disorder would do well to take them under advisement.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:51 PM)
Where have all the weapons gone?

"So what about those Weapons of Mass Destruction, huh?" Kathleen Parker at Town Hall ponders the question, and thinks perhaps our expectations were too high:

[W]e might have been wiser never to entertain hopes of a smoking gun. We entered Iraq with Oz-like expectations, wide-eyed in search of a yellow-brick road lined with happy Iraqis pointing to the brightly colored arrows: "Weapons of Mass Destruction Here!" The WMD weren't likely to be neatly stacked and labeled in warehouses along Frontage Road.

Still, that's what it would have taken to persuade some of the more agitated antiwar crowd:

President Bush's opponents, it seems, won't be satisfied until Geraldo is standing astride 5,000 drums of liquid anthrax in front of a nuclear silo. Wouldn't that be lovely?

Change "astride" to "inside" and "5,000 drums" to "a drum", and I'll happily vouch for its loveliness.

(Via The Baseball Crank, who observes: "The conservative/pro-war side of the commentariat and the blogosphere has been disappointingly silent in dealing with the absence of findings of weapons of mass destruction.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:17 PM)
2 June 2003
No reasonable offer expected

Andrea Harris looks over the political landscape and wonders: "Would you buy a used car from these men?"

Well, not just men, and technically, not just cars either. As the phrase goes, read the whole thing; it will give you something to remember this time next year when the candidates open up fresh bottles of snake oil.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:50 AM)
8 June 2003
So unsporting of us

Condi Rice was on Face the Nation this morning, and Bob Schieffer, almost apologetically it seemed, brought up the question of "So where are Saddam's weapons of mass destruction?" Dr Rice was calm and collected as always, and she recited basically the same answer she'd given on Meet the Press an hour before, but you could read it in her face: "Oh, Christ, not this again."

Mark Steyn has an answer in the Telegraph:

Insofar as this is a serious argument, let's rebut it in terms the armchair accusers can understand: Liberty. Not the liberty George W Bush has brought to Iraq, which Eurosophisticates are so sniffy about, but the Liberty on Regent Street. I once ordered a sofa from Liberty and, as is the way, I had to wait till they made it. They didn't have the sofa itself, but they had sofa capability. That's what counts: capability, not inventory. It would obviously be easier to wait and pick the evidence of WMD out of the rubble of Birmingham, but for the Americans it is capability that's the determining criterion.

Which explains much about the objections to the war: why, we didn't give them the chance to build up their arsenals! It wasn't a level playing field at all! We didn't play fair!

Sheesh. Put a cork in it, fercryingoutloud. And not one of Sammy Sosa's, either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:52 PM)
Hot-air production

A chap identified as "billder" at Indymedia warns us about the evils of weather control:

HAARP Antennae, which are arrayed across America in every city, as we speak, are powered up in a given region, transmitting directed energies. This is measurable. These antennae are also used for cellular communications, as well as surveillance. There are cams on most if not all of them — there is a high probability surv cams are standard equipment on all the broadcast towers. Why not? Thats just a minor infraction when compared to the crimes committed daily against America with the invisible but highly effective RADIANT ARSENAL.

The HAARP Antennae are powered up, and are used to heat a portion of the atmosphere above the antennae farm, in particular the ionosphere. Research Bernard Eastlunds patents for more on that. That portion of the ionosphere then becomes refractive, and/or reflective, allowing Virtual Mirrors and Virtual Lenses to be used for steering and focusing of secondary and tertiary energies. The weather modification seems to take place by heating up a portion of the atmosphere, causing it to rise at a predictable rate.

The government, of course, asserts that HAARP is perfectly harmless. And what happens when these segments of the atmosphere are moved out of position, anyway? Here's what "billder" says:

The biggest problem with moving segments of the atmosphere upward is that huge doses of radiation are allowed to bathe the earth at chosen "Sites of concentration": relatively unscreened sunlight is allowed greater access to the earths surface, and that radiation can be very harmful to living tissue, as is evidenced in many places now. Also high heat can be made to happen this way, like over a lake, thereby dessicating an area as a means to further subject a population or cause hunger, the greatest coercion of all time, even powerful enough to usurp the second amendment, which has been the main goal of Americas Conquerors since day one.

Well, lakes can and do dry up, but we're talking a long-term process here; it's not like we're moving the earth a couple million miles closer to the sun. Although I suppose that's next on the agenda of the Evil Empire.

Oh, well. I only mentioned this for the Second Amendment reference, which is, shall we say, not exactly representative of the present-day left. Anyway, if you assemble enough local towers and tune them properly, you supposedly get a Broadcast Canopy, and what are they for?

Broadcast Canopys...are used to perpetuate things like through-wall radar, very long distance sound bugging of premises, computer monitoring from afar, and general invasions of privacy whenever the military CIA take-over shills-for-Israel decide it is necessary.

My advice: buy aluminum stocks. Foil for hat linings is apparently in greater demand than I imagined.

(Via Fark, which tabs this story UNLIKELY.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:00 PM)
9 June 2003
Same ox, same Gore, as before

The Lone Dissenter, a high-school student within shrieking distance of the San Francisco Bay, steps through the SAT II Writing exams and finds something stuck to her shoes:

There was a passage — a first draft of an essay, and we were meant to answer the questions about what should be changed. Realize — this is an English exam, not history. The first essay was about the electoral college. The first paragraph just wrote about the origins of the e.c.. The second paragraph, however, argued that since America had now become a "national village" (phrase theirs, complete with quotes), where the relationship of the individual to the national government was far more important than the relationship of the individual to the state, it was ridiculous and unbelievable that a candidate could carry a state while getting less than half of the vote. Why, it is even possible for someone to win a national election while getting less than 50% of the national vote! "The only way that we can truly serve our democracy," the last sentence read, "is to eliminate the electoral college".

What should be changed? Why, the person who wrote that part of the test should be replaced, and for the most obvious of reasons:

We aren't being tested on our belief in the idea of the essay, we just have to correct the grammar. But if that isn't subtle brainwashing, I don't know what is.

To the College Board: Boilerplate. Look into it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:06 AM)
11 June 2003
Folding the "road map"

Wylie is not entirely happy with the way the Bush administration is handling That Other Middle East Issue:

Certainly his determination to stand up to Islamic terrorists is a sea change from the previous administration, and that can only be good for Israel. But allowing the State Department and others in his administration to constantly snipe at Israeli counter-terrorist measures is hardly salutary. His inconsistency is manifest in insisting that America must resist terrorism, with force where necessary, but that Israel is "undermining the peace process" when they retaliate against terrorist acts.

The President is trying, I suppose, to avoid the appearance of taking sides, and while this is the sort of thing that buys Brownie points at the UN, it's not the most useful approach to this particular situation. Things are a lot more cut and dried than that:

[I]t is obvious that there will never be peace in the area of the former Palestinian protectorate until (1) the state of Israel is destroyed and the entire area is controlled by Muslims, or (2) Israel says "to hell with it" and drives all the 'Palestinians' out of the West Bank and Gaza area and makes it clear to the rest of the Arab world that they will either play nice or suffer the consequences. That's all they understand, and that's all that will ever be effective in dealing with them — force, not conciliation. The sooner Bush or some subsequent President recognizes that, and reshapes his or her policy to deal more realistically with the situation, the sooner this situation will actually be on the road to permanent improvement.

Evidently it's not obvious enough, if it still has to be explained in stark terms like this, but does anyone seriously believe the Israelis and the Palestinians can live side by side in semiperfect harmony? I'd give better odds to the Arsonist Arms apartments opening up next door to the refinery.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:22 PM)
12 June 2003
Great truth from the Great White North

SurlyPundit offers an insight into why Canada seems so darn, um, Canadian:

We believe in "peace, order, and good government", and we usually have two of the three.

And this .667 average, she says, contributes to the stability of the nation:

The current attitude towards politics in Canada is, "Yeah, whatever." If we actually cared about whatever fool thing Ottawa's doing now, we would all have apoplexies and coronaries and other ailments caused by fatal awareness of our own government's impotence, incompetence, and corruption. And what would that do to healthcare?

Well, it makes sense to me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:49 PM)
14 June 2003
Resources? What resources?

Iraqi oil reserves, the Administration has always insisted, belong to the people of Iraq, and it appears that they meant it.

Ron Bailey approves:

I kind of like the idea of using a nation's natural abundance to help alleviate the pain and suffering of the general population.

If it works in Iraq, maybe we could try something similar here in the United States.

Never happen. Too many people in this country are persuaded that pain and suffering are actually good for you. (Not good for them, of course.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:35 PM)
17 June 2003
The Democratic dilemma

The Baseball Crank is pretty certain about it:

[T]here's really nothing the Democrats can do to defeat George W. Bush in 2004. Which is not to say he can't be beaten, just that what can do him in is mostly a combination of external circumstances (the economy, setbacks in the war) and missteps by the Administration.

No one can beat Bush but Bush himself. At this point in time, it seems a fair assessment. Is anyone out there on the Democratic horizon?

[I]f you wanted to design a perfect candidate to challenge Bush, you'd want someone who could pose as a moderate; who had impeccable national-security credentials; who's got a long record as a spending hawk; and who is personally identified with opposing the cozy relationship of big money to power in Washington.

Then again, we've seen that perfect candidate already, and he lost to Bush in the primaries in 2000.

Which leads to the next question: since some consider said candidate a Republican "in name only", is it conceivable that he might switch parties between now and the beginning of the primary season? And if so, would he be embraced — or shunned — by the Democrats?

Yeah, yeah, I know: are the Democrats in a position to shun anyone at this point?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:39 PM)
19 June 2003
The parade begins

Joe Lieberman showed up in town yesterday, partly to announce the opening of his state campaign office, but mostly to get a jump on the 6,312 other Democratic Presidential candidates. (And with the move of the state primary to the third of February, time is presumably of the essence.)

And, oh yes, he had things to say, but they boiled down to a Juan Gato-esque "Zeeble bop fickle fackle bush Bush BUSH!" At this point in the campaign, you really can't expect much else.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:14 AM)
Second gear: lean right

Bruce at This Is Class Warfare has made the rounds of the Oklahoma bloggers, and he seems to be somewhat disturbed by what he's found:

As I expected they tended to lean right. So much so in fact that many can't hear out of that side of their heads. This confuses me to no end. While traveling around Tulsa today I got the general feeling that people here like independence more than anything. They don't want anybody to interfere with their lives. I'm sure that extends to other parts of oklahoma as well. My confusion arises out of the blank check support for government right now. It does't seem consistent to me. If you're going to be skeptical of government (a position I wholeheartedly support) then you should be so all the time, not just when a Democrat is in office. You should stand up anytime the government says anything and say "prove it!". That after all is what I consider our job as citizens to be, to hold the politicians accountable for their actions and their words. But whenever I stand up and criticize our president for his actions I get shouted down and accused of being a Democrat (which I am not).

I'm fairly skeptical of government, I think, and I don't believe I've become any less so in recent months. I do have a tendency to back off from complaining in times of war, which I attribute to proper indoctrination during my Army days. :)

Still, I don't believe anyone's definition of consistency demands that if you oppose the Administration on this, you must also oppose the Administration on that; with Bush, as with Clinton, as with Bush the Elder, there have been actions I've applauded and actions I've deplored. And in my experience, the President isn't getting a free pass from conservative bloggers; they will quite willingly bash Bush if he does something that sufficiently annoys them.

I've staked out my own position pretty close to the middle. (That Political Compass thing considers me slightly left of center and distinctly anti-authoritarian.) It's not the most comfortable spot on the spectrum, but it fits. And so far, no one seems compelled to accuse me of being a Democrat.

Which I am.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:51 AM)
20 June 2003
Post-adolescent children

Eric Scheie looks at this Philadelphia Inquirer story about the horror of children being shot to death, and discovers that most of them aren't children at all. He quotes this statement by the group Philadelphia Safe and Sound:

Guns and youth homicide in Philadelphia are closely linked. Between 1995 and 1999, more than 85 percent of all homicide victims ages 7 to 24 were killed by guns. Within the broader community efforts to combat crime and violence, intervention must be targeted and focused on youth-related crime. For example, increased efforts to reduce the number of guns available to youth would cut the number of juvenile homicides.

Note the use of the term "youth", and the age range quoted: 7 to 24. You'd think that people on the high end of that scale wouldn't qualify as children. And a graph published by the group, helpfully reproduced by Scheie, reveals that the 18-to-24 crowd — legally adults — makes up 75 to 90 percent of those "youth" deaths. If you read the Inquirer story in a hurry over morning coffee, you might think that hundreds of Philadelphia grade-schoolers are being mowed down in a hail of gunfire on a routine basis, and it simply isn't true.

All this number-juggling, as you might surmise, is being done to justify tighter gun controls. What they really want, of course, is a button on the Mayor's desk which, once pushed, will make every firearm in southeastern Pennsylvania disappear into thin air. Needless to say, if this actually worked, it would incapacitate gangsters and thugs only long enough to head across the river and pick up fresh heat in Jersey, while leaving J. Upstanding Citizen royally screwed.

For the purpose of argument, let's not mention anything about the Second Amendment here. Let's just assume that the city of Philadelphia is actually able to ban guns, and every law-abiding citizen from the Main Line inward turns in his/her weapons. Are all the guns gone? Of course not. The criminals aren't giving up their guns. What happens to the crime rate? Nothing good. And you know what? I bet Philadelphia grade-schoolers can probably understand this better than the hysterical adults screaming about gun control.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:15 AM)
No do-over for Jane Roe

Norma McCorvey, the Roe in Roe v. Wade, will not be granted a reconsideration of the Supreme Court's 1973 verdict which legalized abortion; a federal district court has dismissed her request.

"Whether or not the Supreme Court was infallible, its Roe decision was certainly final in this litigation," Judge David Godbey wrote in the ruling.

A reasonable case can be made that the Supreme Court was quite fallible indeed, I think, but "it is simply too late now, thirty years after the fact," said Judge Godbey, "for McCorvey to revisit that judgment."

The Texas Justice Foundation, which represented McCorvey, issued no immediate statement.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:25 PM)
21 June 2003
The left side of the dial

From his perch Outside the Beltway, James Joyner offers a rundown of the major conservative talk-show hosts, and counters with a list of liberals who might be able to keep up.

Joyner's top pick on the left: Bill Clinton. "His presidency was an eight year audition, right?" The man does love the spotlight, and he has a knack for patter at least on par with Limbaugh's.

The rest of the list includes, among others, syndicated black DJ Tom Joyner, misidentified as "Ken" because, well, heck, how do you keep track of all those Joyners? And there are enough names on there to make the notion of a liberal network (as distinguished from, say, PBS or NPR) at least plausible, if not necessarily financially feasible.

(Update, 8:00 am, 22 June: Tom has his name back.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:03 AM)
22 June 2003
And a fine day it was

How did Ravenwood spend the first day of summer?

He started up his "gas-guzzling, econobox-crushing SUV," kept the pedal to the metal lest precious fuelstuffs be burned too slowly, and slogged 60 miles to a gun show, where he bought a Romanian-built SAR-1, the sort of artifact that strikes fear into the hearts of the sort of people who worry about gas-guzzling, econobox-crushing SUVs and gun shows.

Then, of course, he slogged the 60 miles back home. Sounds like he had a whale of a good time, and said whale will presumably be rendered for oil at a later date. An auspicious beginning to the official Season of Fun, for sure.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:22 AM)
Grit your teeth and grab the stick

What is the spiritual thread that connects the Sonicare to Sonic the Hedgehog? The Palace of Reason's Francis W. Porretto finds the link:

[I]n the Sixties the electric toothbrush, a relatively new item, was demonized by the environmentalists as the emblem of human rapacity. Many of the same denunciations we hear today were heaped upon it, in particular those about our "out of control consumerist culture."

The electric toothbrush wasn't important of itself. As Ayn Rand pointed out at the time, it consumed almost no power or resources, and contributed greatly to the maintenance of oral health. Therefore, it could not fairly be considered pointless or wasteful. It was a symbol, a totem object, by whose execration the green radicals of that time sought to reify their hatreds. Today, the video game console is taking its place.

The fruits of a consumerist society, of course, have proven to be a bumper crop of totem objects for present-day green radicals; I suspect most of them have a list of a dozen or more Truly Hated Things, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that they actually own a couple of them just the same. And this further supports Mr Porretto's point that green, today, is not so much a political movement as a religion. For further illustration, see, for instance, the Horologium examination of the US Green Party platform, a collection of policies from wacky to woeful, about one-fourth policy-wonk jargon and three-fourths exhortations to the faithful. Their scriptures are already generally available; once they figure out how to insure the damnation of infidels, the transition will be complete.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:10 AM)
23 June 2003
Europe nonresurgent

No screen is perfect, which may explain why the estimable Robert Prather has been busily swatting some Eurofly. The bug in question, modestly identified as nobody, is evidently persuaded that the European Union will displace the United States in the Undisputed Superpower class, but so far his arguments have been unpersuasive.

Were I faced with this creature, I'd snap off a couple of one-liners and be done with him. Prather prefers to eviscerate his arguments, statistic by dubious statistic, until there's nothing left but bluster and whining — which, you have to admit, is just about all there is to the EU these days.

The preeminence of the US isn't something that's been handed to us on a silver platter by the deity of the moment, nor is it an accident of history. It exists because we've done a decent job (not a perfect job, but not too shabby either) of sticking to the high-flown notions we adopted in the 18th century, and in the process demonstrating that those notions actually do work. If the Europeans want to play in this league, they're going to have to shed an incredible amount of political and cultural baggage that does nothing but weigh them down. I'm not holding my breath.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:38 AM)
Come on, let's Michigan

My first reaction was "Well, we're not going to get a color-blind society this year."

And while Dr Coleman in Ann Arbor is apparently satisfied with the Supreme Court's rulings today, and poor John Rosenberg, house-sitting in Baghdad by the Bay, is probably fuming, I'm going to try to find something positive in all this.

There is still going to be the occasional student who is turned away despite having higher test scores. But this is inevitable unless test scores are the only criterion used for selection, and I know of no university that follows this practice. Should a school want a student body that, as the cliché goes, "looks like America," they ought to be able to tailor their admissions policies accordingly. On the other hand, the ethnicity-equals-so-many-points formula used at Michigan was clearly arbitrary, and its banning is long overdue; as the Court pointed out, the point schedule, so heavily weighted by race, was the decisive factor for many otherwise minimally-qualified candidates.

No, we're not substantially nearer the color-blind society I think of as ideal. But at least we're taking a baby step away from race as a basis for entitlements — maybe. It's a start.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:08 PM)
24 June 2003
Affirming the action

Rust at Conservatives Suck has some thoughts on the Supreme Court's affirmative-action rulings, based on his days at a small Midwestern college:

An important part of learning how to think is to be able to interpret a wide range opinions, digest them, compare them to each other, and then make a decision as to which one you agree with (or mostly agree with). Now, certainly, there was still a wide variety of opinions despite the lack of ethnic or racial diversity in the student body, as I had the pleasure of going to college with students from all over the nation. I had a good friend from Idaho, a place where I was previously unaware any humans existed. Since I grew up in Boston, people were dumbfounded with my strange culture and strangah accent. However, coming from the same socio-economic-religious background, these students (I did not come from a wealthy background) all had pretty similar views on politics, culture, economics, and philosophy. The lack of diversity of students led to the lack of diversity of ideas.

Emphasis in the original. This seems plausible enough, I think, though one possible subtext here — you don't get real diversity without variations in skin color — would be pretty close to indefensible.

He's right on this point, though:

Disgruntled whites may feel this will cause them to miss the cut at their favorite university. But if being educated by a homogeneous crowd is what they want, they are selling themselves short.

Still, there's one nagging problem with the whole affirmative-action scheme, and John Rosenberg nails it:

Since it is now not discriminatory to take race (and presumably other such matters) into account, isn't it discriminatory not to, at least at institutions who are on record (as virtually all are) worshiping at the altar of "diversity"?

Zymurgy's Law of Evolving System Dynamics, which can't be appealed to the Supreme Court, now kicks in:

Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a larger can.

Is there a can big enough for all of this?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:20 AM)
25 June 2003
Greedy old farts

Robert Prather blames it all — well, okay, not all, but surely a lot of it — on AARP:

The people who are my age (34) are rightly concerned that they'll pay into [Social Security and Medicare] for decades and receive nothing for it. If the AARP has its way, that's exactly what will happen. Either that or taxes will become so oppressively high that economic growth is crushed. Either way, there will be no free lunch.

Mark my words: when I become eligible to join the AARP in 16 years they'll send me an application and I'll piss on it. I hate that organization, the shortsightedness it embodies, the fiscal wreckage it will create and the crippling economic burden it will leave for me and everyone that follows. Why should they care: they'll be dead when the bill comes due. If they're not dead their answer will be more government benefits, not less. No consideration for those that follow at all.

If it's any consolation, I came out in favor of privatization of the Social Security system five years ago, when I was a mere child of, um, forty-five.

Now if the government wants to buy me drugs — well, does it have to be limited to the stuff for which I have prescriptions?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:06 PM)
27 June 2003
Strom

In the Sixties, when I lived in South Carolina, he was still cited in the papers as "J. Strom Thurmond," rather like J. Random User or J. Skulking Bushwhack, but in popular parlance he was always just Strom; like Cher or Madonna or Sting, he was easily identifiable without resorting to a surname.

And in the first half of that decade, he was still a Democrat — he jumped the aisle and joined the GOP in 1964 — and still young enough (50s) to make you think he was capable of another 24-hour filibuster to match the one he'd done in '57. I wasn't sure what to make of Strom. The headmistress at the Academy for the Smug, when she wasn't swinging the pickaxe she'd borrowed from Lester Maddox, was quick to assure us that Strom was a man of conviction and strength, standing tall against the sea of darkies that threatened to inundate us all. Perhaps it was that very assurance that made me doubtful: even then I was given to question authority, and I didn't see any evidence that we were about to be overrun by anyone or anything, with the possible exception of Beatlemania.

Then came desegregation, and it came hard. I'd moved to a Catholic school, which officially took no position on the matter but which quietly closed its "separate-but-equal" facilities during one long, hot summer, and which contributed, again unofficially, staffers to the occasional civil-rights march. The world was changing, and people called out to Strom to make it stop.

He didn't.

It's said by some that Strom's eventual retreat from racism was purely opportunistic, motivated by nothing more than a glimpse at the handwriting on the wall. And maybe it was at first, but I don't think so. I left the South for the prairie after high school, and the lines were drawn no less starkly in Oklahoma than in Orangeburg; desegregation came hard everywhere. It was at about this point that I figured out that while the South's "peculiar institution" had been indeed truly evil and it was a Good Thing that a war was fought to rid the nation of it, the South had done a better job over the next century of getting over it. Maybe there were guys like Trent Lott who still yearned for those days of separation, but I didn't remember any guys like that.

So Strom was flawed, as are we all. His awakening, if that's what it was, came rather late, long after the damage was done. Others in a similar position could have done a blatantly public one-eighty, could have sought the approbation of media settled into somnolence, could have tried to hook up with Beyoncé. Strom shrugged. "You know where I stand," he'd say, and well, we knew where he stood, way back when, but we also knew he didn't have to stay there. In the South, you learn, and you go on. And Strom, first and foremost, was a man of the South.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:02 PM)
29 June 2003
March of the wooden intellects

Steven Chapman: pundit or psychologist? You make the call:

Possibly, in the wake of 9/11, the [Naomi] Kleins, the Vidals, the Pinters and the Chomskys sensed their time had come as fully-fledged dissidents, just like their heroes in eastern Europe. Surely now, in Ashcroft's America and Blair's Britain, they could stand tall with the likes of Havel, Michnik, Walesa and Sakharov. Alas, now it all seems to be slipping away, and this paranoid squeal of student political drama queenery is about as good as it gets these days. For shame.

I think he's called this one spot-on; it would certainly explain why Janeane Garofalo seems to be positioning herself somewhere between Betsy Ross and Ida Tarbell.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:55 PM)
30 June 2003
Save it for me

The very word "conservative" implies that something is to be conserved, to be kept "in a safe or sound state" (Webster's New Collegiate, 8th edition, 1981). Which begs the question: what, precisely, do conservatives conserve?

Craig Ceely doesn't know for sure, but he knows this much: it sure as hell isn't the Bill of Rights.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:12 PM)
1 July 2003
Opinions in multiplicity

Susanna Cornett, on the sort of diversity we actually need:

I think that I, as a Southern conservative religious woman, bring something different to the table even in researching criminal justice than a Northern liberal atheist male. While naturally I'm going to think my course is best, in the aggregate it's important to have both perspectives because in reality we're neither one likely to hit "the truth", whatever that is, squarely on the head. We are led to new insights others may not have in part because of who we are and what our history is, and that to me is why it's crucial to have liberals and conservatives, all races, male and female, any permutation of potential intellectuals, in our nation's universities. It's not to give minorities a role model — although that's not a bad side benefit — but to introduce a different way of seeing the questions a certain discipline seeks to address. I personally think the ability to best use that perspective is clouded when the person is caught up in some ideological fervor that seeks to impose personal belief or ethnic or political overlays onto their work. My view of the world is informed by my religious beliefs, but my willingness to listen and consider other perspectives shouldn't be limited by them.

I really don't think that anyone's motivation for diversity is to provide role models for minorities; if anything, it's to provide minority role models for majority (read "white") students. John Rosenberg has written extensively on this phenomenon.

But beyond this quibble, she's absolutely right: the university needs as many viewpoints, left, right and center, as it can possibly get, and weeding out some of them because they might be politically unpopular, or "uncomfortable" for a segment of the student body, or for whatever reasons are invented next week, is counterproductive at best.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:37 AM)
5 July 2003
Proportionately speaking

In this month's The Ethical Spectacle, Jay Verkuilen has an interesting essay called Electoral Arithmetic: Why The Way We Count Votes Makes a Big Difference and Why Third Parties Won't Go Anywhere in the USA.

It is generally accepted that our current electoral system tends to reinforce the two-party system and to push both of those parties closer to the center while marginalizing groups on the fringe. Verkuilen doesn't challenge these assumptions, but he does offer a thought experiment: What if the US went to proportional representation? His answer:

Would the religious conservatives and business interests that currently make up the cores of the Republican party stick together? Would the coalitions of labor, ethnic minorities, and upper middle class professionals that make up the Democratic party stick together? I think it is highly unlikely.

What Verkuilen sees, under these conditions, is a collection of four parties, much like the four which exist in present-day Germany. I'm not so sure. Both of our major parties are indeed marriages of convenience; but while there may be good reasons for Wall Street and social conservatives to part company, they're not likely to do so as long as they see that the Democratic coalition is united, not for what they believe, but by what they don't believe: a Democratic candidate's major selling point today is "I am not a Republican." The six or seven hundred Democrats running for President in 2004 can be reliably counted upon to issue statements that say no more than that on a regular basis.

And proportional representation, while it may get more Greens and Libertarians and whatnot into the House of Representatives, isn't some kind of panacea for all our electoral ills. (A reminder here: when a state has more than one Representative, as do most of them, a switch to proportional representation will inevitably also mean a switch to at-large voting. No more districts, no more redistricting every ten years, no more gerrymandering.) Verkuilen again:

PR tends to emphasize parties, which in turn tend to represent issues as opposed to regions. One effect is that an individual legislator has little incentive to respond to local concerns, which is, of course, both good and bad. It's good because many requests are from "special interests" who are looking for pork and handouts. It's bad because citizens have no one to hold accountable for actions besides "the party." Finally, legislators are often important interlocutors between citizens and government bureaucracies. When there are no districts, legislators have little incentive to do anything about citizen concerns.

Up to now, there has not been much of a groundswell of popular support for proportional representation, and I don't see it building any time soon, but it does have its enthusiasts. And the Constitution, it should be remembered, specifies how many Congressmen a state can have, not the means by which they are elected; an individual state is presumably free to experiment with proportional representation should its residents so desire.

I am not, however, prepared to argue that proportional representation is some sort of great leap ahead. For one thing, some of the third-party groups which are effectively marginalized by our current system, in my opinion, deserve to be marginalized; further, the prices they will want to exact for participation in a coalition government may well be too high.

And there's one further consideration: if you're persuaded, as I am, that one of the biggest problems with government is that we have too much of it, changing the way we put people in office is window-dressing at best.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:21 AM)
9 July 2003
Beef: it's what's for litigating

It started when three ranchers from South Dakota ranchers and the Livestock Marketing Association — other plaintiffs would come on board — filed suit against the USDA and the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, complaining that the $1-per-head assessment for beef promotion, which started in 1985, amounted to coercion in violation of the First Amendment: the money was used for promotional campaigns, most notably the "Beef: It's What's For Dinner" campaign swathed in music from Aaron Copland's Rodeo, and you'd think there wouldn't be anything wrong with that, but the plaintiffs contended that such a vague campaign supported beef imports just as much as it did domestic beef, and they felt they shouldn't have to contribute to a program that could undercut their market.

In June of last year, a district judge found for the plaintiffs and ruled the mandatory assessment was unconstitutional; yesterday, his ruling was upheld by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

What happens next is unclear. The present beef promotion has been successful enough to halt a long slide in beef consumption in the US. Did the plaintiffs cut off their horns to spite their faces? I'm thinking they did.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:33 AM)
Those snotty Americans

Deb's 5 July Pride post got lots of plaudits, and a catcall or two from your friendly neighborhood multiculturalist. You know the type: it's the person who has been complaining for years that "we think we're better than everyone else." It's not so much that we're better, necessarily; it's just that everyone else is worse.

And it's not even slightly worse, either. From the very first comment, posted by visiting curmudgeon Francis W. Porretto:

[I]f we were to judge the folks who condemn American pride by the standards they'd like to hold us to, we'd decree them beneath all contempt.

No other nation in the history of the world has achieved as much, has learned as much, has extended itself for others' benefit as much, or has tried so very hard not to offend against the insane, irrational, tribal superstitions of others, no matter how richly they deserved it.

Europe: A dying continent, exhausted by centuries of war and consumed with beggar-thy-neighbor politics in which the aim of all the players appears to be who can snatch the last crust of bread from someone else's mouth.

Asia: Squalor to the tenth degree. Great teeming hellholes of starving humanity. Except for Taiwan, not a true democracy in sight, and not a single place where criticizing one's political masters is anything but extremely hazardous. Even Japan and South Korea are more like feudal baronies than modern republics, though at least their people eat regularly.

Russia: Formerly a kleptocracy run by thugs with a theory (Marxism), now a kleptocracy run by thugs without a clue.

The Muslim Middle East: Nuke it all. Now.

South America: Walled fortresses on hills, with armed guards walking the parapets, while peasants in rags scrabble in the dust below. The most popular political idea there is Peronist fascism. Only Chile has learned from its mistakes.

Africa: A continent-sized pool of blood and horror, where the average life expectancy is under fifty and the average income is under $200 per year. Where Muslims slaughter Christians and Jews without compunction, and blacks slaughter whites with equal readiness. Where helpless young women are sliced open with shards of glass, to prevent them from ever feeling sexual pleasure. Where deaths from traffic accidents are put down to AIDS, to milk a little more funding from naive charities in the United States.

Mexico: The only country in the world whose economy depends on illegal immigrants sending money back from America.

This is what has the unmitigated gall to criticize American pride.

I'm not sure I'd go so far as to nuke the entire Muslim Middle East — we have friends in Turkey and a blossoming freedom movement in Iran, and I'd hate to see them turned into collateral damage when Allah's useless idiots get the fiery death they deserve — but dammit, Peoples of the World, if you're tired of being treated like second-rate nations, you should first quit acting like third-rate nations.

(Thanks, Deb. You too, FWP.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:20 PM)
10 July 2003
Down on Maines' street

In the wake of their appearance before Congress yesterday, Susanna Cornett sees a political future for the Dixie Chicks:

Look for [them] to show up on stage during the Democrat Convention next year, hanging out with whoever the party picks to run for prez. They're now officially members of The Axis Of Victims™, the strongest coalition in the Democratic party.

Maybe they can get Viacom to name a network after them.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:31 AM)
12 July 2003
Looking out for #3

While Tony Blair attempts to sell world leaders on his concept of the Third Way, Wild at Bleeding Brain explains just what that Third Way really is:

What these towering intellects purport when they say "the third way" is that there is [1] a way on the right which is evil, [2] a way on the left which is unelectable and [3] right down the glinting middle of these errors is found the road to perpetual power "the third way".

Bill Clinton spoke at the Blair summit, warning of a "fourth way", which came across (to me, anyway) as the Bleeding Brain definition, verbatim, except with "right" and "left" swapped.

Now I'm fond of glinting middles, generally, but the rebranding of "liberal" as "progressive", declaring its opposite an instant pejorative, strikes me as a triumph of style over substance — rather like the Third Way itself, come to think of it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:51 AM)
13 July 2003
Leveling the playing field

A proposal from Hooblog to take care of all that "gun violence":

Instead of asking your Congressmen, Senators and President to clutter-up the rule books with ineffective legislation, how about asking them to issue an M-16, two cases of ammo and two weeks of yearly firearms instruction to every American over 21 years of age. If that doesn't make the bad guys think twice, nothing will.

I'm not sure some of the bad guys can even think once, and I wasn't so great with an M-16 the last time they gave me one to use, but otherwise, this seems fairly sane, if a tad expensive. (Then again, for a government program, "a tad expensive" is probably a comparative bargain.)

"An armed society," said Robert A. Heinlein, "is a polite society." And we definitely could use an extra dollop of civility these days.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:32 PM)
31 July 2003
A wild blue hair

Vincent Ferrari of Insignificant Thoughts links to this Massachusetts story about a seventyish woman who plowed her Benz into a grocery store, and comments:

Sure... We wouldn't want to hurt her independence by making her prove she can actually operate a car...

Hmmm. Now this suggests a plan.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans, anxious to rack up votes from the AARP crowd, are pushing hard for some sort of prescription drug entitlement for seniors; the only argument seems to be the extent to which means testing is mandated.

So: why not make this entitlement contingent upon driver's-license retesting? You want us to pay for your Synthroid, we're entitled to know whether you're likely to go sliding a Buick LeSabre into the side of a circus tent. Of course, if you realize that you have no farging business behind the wheel and voluntarily give up your license, you won't be subject to this cruel and heartless piece of legislation.

Mr Ferrari once said, in effect, "I'll take my security over their independence any day." To put it slightly less bluntly: if I'm endangering other drivers on a regular basis, the state has a compelling reason — perhaps even a moral obligation — to get my ass off the road. And it doesn't matter how old I am, either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:59 PM)
3 August 2003
No democracy, please, we're Democrats

The California conference of the NAACP has announced that it will file a lawsuit to delay the state's gubernatorial-recall election at least 30 days.

Alice Huffman, president of the conference, says the 7 October date "does not leave enough time to educate minority voters about election issues or encourage them to vote." Two other ballot measures are scheduled, one of which is Proposition 54, Ward Connerly's "Racial Privacy Initiative", which if passed would bar the state from collecting racial and national-origin data. And that's apparently the real issue; Rob Howard, president of the north San Diego County branch of the NAACP, has said, "It is extremely difficult to educate people on Prop. 54 because of the time."

So, if I understand this correctly, the vote to recall Gray Davis must be postponed because it will take more than 60 days to energize opposition to Ward Connerly. This makes even less sense than the usual noises from California, and Andy at The World Wide Rant is properly scornful:

[A]ll of California's newspaper websites, vending machines, and television news anchors come with the new-fangled BlackBlock™ and SpicStop™ technologies (in which all news anchors speak in something, remarkably, resembling English, which they speaky good) preventing minorities from gaining access to information available to white people across the state via direct mail and specially targeted television commercials.

There are times when I regret leaving California in the late Eighties. This isn't one of them.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:15 AM)
DLC on the right?

Matt Deatherage objects to the standard description of the Democratic Leadership Council as "moderate" or "centrist":

This is only true in a world where nutcases who want a theocratic government are "mainstream conservatives" — that is, the world our media describes. The DLC believes in lower taxes, higher defense spending, privatizing public programs, and that the role of government is more to enable business than to ensure equality.

The DLC is conservative. This is a classic conservative agenda. Just because it's too progressive for Tom DeLay and his corporatist agenda does not make it "centrist" or "moderate." What today's media calls "conservative," the media of 30 years ago would have called "John Birch Society member."

The DLC believes the only real choice in America is one between a conservative agenda and an insanely conservative agenda. Even though the vast majority of Americans agree with progressive principles in most polls, the DLC's sole job is to sell Democrats on a conservative agenda, so of course they're going to attack anyone who is not hewing the conservative line. That's why they exist.

For "anyone who is not hewing the conservative line," read "Howard Dean," who has indeed been getting flak from the DLC.

The John Birch reference isn't a cheap shot, either. For example: thirty years ago, the Birchers were just about the only group urging that the US back away from the United Nations, an idea now being bounced around the mainstream.

Still, something sounds odd here. Do the vast majority of Americans really support "progressive" ideas? And if so, why is it that Naderites and Greens and their friends do so poorly in actual elections? Surely it isn't just the buckets full of GOP cash. And if it is the buckets full of GOP cash, doesn't that suggest that the voters' "support" for leftish causes is awfully tenuous at best?

This may be ultimately a matter of semantics. The DLC is clearly to the right of the Democratic base. Does this make them "conservative"? If you think the Democratic base is somewhere in the middle, perhaps it does. I've got my doubts.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:39 PM)
5 August 2003
Chunky style

Someone called Cam Edwards on his radio show this morning with the following question:

Say you have a plain looking woman in her mid 40's, decades of experience, and a well qualified candidate for a job. You also have a 20-something with a big chest and little work experience who gets hired over the first woman.

The caller objected to this sort of thing, and Cam says he's not too fond of it either, but:

We have the right in this country to make bad hires. Companies like McDonald's and Jazzercise have a compelling interest in not putting 400 pound employees in front of the customers. Is it fair? Probably not. Is it morally wrong? Maybe so. I just don't know that it's not illegal, and it shouldn't be.

The alternative, of course, is some sort of governmental court that would pass judgment on every employment application, and I can't imagine anyone wanting that — though it could be argued that we already have it.

My Index of Sphericity is on the high side, and I work in the back of 42nd and Treadmill; I doubt they'd care at this point if the customers saw me, but I don't think they ever would have hired me as a receptionist.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:33 AM)
7 August 2003
And Fess Parker as Hal Rogers

A between-segments filler item on NPR's Morning Edition today reported the renaming of the Daniel Boone Parkway in Kentucky, which will now be the Hal Rogers Parkway. Susanna Cornett is just appalled:

The Parkway is in roughly the place where Boone and the settlers coming over the mountains would have traveled, and Boone is also an historic figure that evokes good thoughts about eastern Kentucky (at least in my mind). The Dan'l Boone Parkway is a very good name. The name Hal Rogers Parkway makes me feel like I'm about to lose my hat, purse, car and possibly house to the giant sucking sound coming out of Frankfort's Dept. of Transportation.

I rather doubt the new name will catch on with the residents. I've never driven the Daniel Boone, but I have driven the Cumberland, and truth be told, nothing about it reminded me even slightly about Louie B. Nunn. Kevin McGehee suggested that this practice should be restricted to dead politicians, which has a certain appeal, but it would definitely throw a spanner (lower-primate variety) into the efforts of some GOP Congressional types who would like to paste Ronald Reagan's name on everything between Bethesda and Alexandria, and frankly, I'm glad my uncle, who devoted his life to parks and recreation in Austin, Texas, got to see a new park with his name on it before he died in 2001.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:46 AM)
(I can't get no) damn reportage

Memo to Al Sharpton: The news media aren't ignoring your candidacy because you're black; the news media are ignoring your candidacy because you're a national punchline. They'd do the same for Johnny Knoxville if he were running for governor of Tennessee.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:39 AM)
He's just toying with them

One of the traditions at Frosty Troy's Oklahoma Observer is the Christmastime doll list, consisting of a series of oneliners along the lines of "The Carroll Fisher doll: wind it up and it carries drinks across town." Easy to do, harder to do funny.

JunkYardBlog has revisited this tradition with generally amusing results. The Al Gore doll? "[It] would probably be slightly more lifelike than he is, but would take five minutes to say a single sentence." Remind me not to buy batteries.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:50 PM)
8 August 2003
Nancy speaks

The envelope was eleven inches long, almost that high, and when I see something like that, I always wonder why someone needs to shriek "Mine's bigger!"

But I opened this one anyway, and well, looky here: a letter from Nancy Pelosi, identified as "House Democratic Leader" under her name. She is indeed that, but considering that this is basically a fundraising letter, and that anyone likely to send her a check presumably already knows this, it strikes me as just a hair superfluous. You don't think so? Fair enough. Maybe just the second iteration is superfluous.

Most of what's left is one of those surveys wherein calling the questions "leading" is rather like calling Monica Bellucci "sorta cute". Here's the second question from Part VII: "How concerned are you that the Roe v. Wade ruling could be overturned with the addition of one more anti-choice Justice to the Supreme Court?"

Suggested donation, incidentally, is $35. The last page is a sheet of preprinted, precut address labels with a nice US flag and my street address; even using every abbreviation in the postal manual, the last character of the address is sliced in two by the die-cutting process. Evidently, when they ran these through the machine, they cut them too far to the left.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:41 PM)
11 August 2003
Speaking of overheated gases

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), in an effort to nail down some point or other on global warming, offered a quote from science writer (and blogger) David Appell. By the now-nefarious process of Dowdification, he managed to totally misrepresent Appell's point.

What Appell had said was this:

The latest scientific assessment, the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report (which, yes, has broad consensus in the scientific world), projects that the globally averaged surface temperature will increase by 2.5 to 10 deg F by the year 2100. A temperature change near the top of this range will seriously threaten the very concept of civilization.

Inhofe, or more likely his handlers, eliminated the qualification "near the top of this range" and substituted the term "global warming", which served his putative purpose of making scientific types like Appell look like alarmists. For those of us who tend toward the skeptical side on this issue, Inhofe's action actually weakens the skeptical position: it creates the impression that we can't be trusted with the data.

Back at home, Bruce puts the screws to Inhofe:

Do you think he actually reads or understands any of the studies that he comments about? Not likely. His game is to run out the clock on any real environmental regulations while his sponsors pad their wallets some more.

For "sponsors", read "fossil-fuel promoters".

Basically a Dick Armey with lower pesticide residues, Jim Inhofe's major concern, first and foremost, is the care and feeding of Jim Inhofe. This isn't exactly atypical in the Senate, and his record of nonaccomplishment is better than some Senators' record of antiaccomplishment, but every time he opens his mouth, I think, "Can't we do better than this?"

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:35 AM)
13 August 2003
If 9 was 6

Five thousand people turned out at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater to hear six of the nine Democratic presidential candidates (no-shows: Graham, Kerry, Sharpton) attempt to explain why it's necessary to replace George W. Bush with one of them.

On the hot-button issues, Edwards and Lieberman weren't willing to support same-sex marriages, and Braun said they were essentially identical to interracial marriages. Lieberman ventured the view that some of his colleagues wouldn't know a just war if it bit them. Kucinich wants the US to admit that it was a bad idea to invade Iraq. Dean said that he's actually balanced budgets before. But the Quote of the Day came from Gephardt:

"This president has only one idea in his head: tax cuts for the wealthiest, followed by tax cuts for the wealthiest followed by tax cuts for the wealthiest."

The Democratic primary is 3 February. Expect more of the same over the next six months.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:46 AM)
14 August 2003
Sacramento whine

The Golden State's list of gubernatorial wannabes carries, at most, one surprise, and it was no surprise to me:

Gallagher's first name.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:14 PM)
16 August 2003
California, there you go

I need hardly point out that tossing Gray Davis out of Sacramento, while certainly a boon, is only the tiniest of steps toward putting the Golden State's affairs in order. And if that last phrase sounds like California is on its deathbed, lacking only a few formalities before ringing down the curtain and joining the Choir Invisible, well, maybe it is. With half again as many people as any other state, a level of political and cultural fractiousness that would embarrass a middle-school class, and a tendency to regulate not only the things it can but also the things it can't — the timing belt in my car is supposed to be changed at 60,000 miles, unless I'm in California, in which case the Assembly has decreed that it will last until 105,000 — it may be time to put the California Republic out of its, and our, misery, by splitting it in two.

Or, suggests UPI's James C. Bennett, in three:

There are hardly any scale advantages to California's size. Its government is one of the costliest and at the same time the least effective, and almost impossible to reform. Almost any of the small Western states are better-governed than California, and far more accessible to the input of their citizens.

Dividing the state into perhaps an East California of the Central Valley and Sierras, a Northern California of the coast down to, say, Morro Bay, and a Southern California of the coastal regions below that, would create three large but not monstrous states, each capable of substantial economies of scale, but also much more tractable, each less politically fragmented, and far cheaper to campaign in. Six senators would give the region a more appropriate clout in the Senate and reduce the disproportionality of the current body.

I don't really think we're going to see the states of Lodi, Moonbat and La Raza in my lifetime, but weirder things have happened, and there's already a Constitutional provision for the division of existing states, in Article IV, Section 3:

New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress, I think, will look more kindly upon the idea of three states in place of California than they do upon the idea of one state in place of the District of Columbia, which admittedly isn't saying much. Selling it to the California Assembly will be much harder; just getting them to agree on the new borders will be a major accomplishment. Still, the state is almost forty billion dollars in the hole; what's the alternative? Foreclosure?

(Muchas gracias: Geitner Simmons.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:51 PM)
21 August 2003
Why's everybody always picking on Gray?

Quite apart from the obvious geographical reference, it's hard to imagine any other state with a political group called "Californians Against the Costly Recall of the Governor"; only in California would you find someone who insists on reminding people that elections — or de-elections — cost money. I am frankly surprised that there isn't some committee somewhere in the Golden State billing itself as "Californians Against Things That Suck".

Fortunately for Web surfers, CATCROTG (don't say it out loud) is accessible at a reasonably-memorable URL: No-Recall.com. One of the items I found there is what purports to be a blog by Mrs Gray Davis, and it's pretty much what you'd expect. One quote I simply must pass on:

We have been moved by all of the people who have come forward to be supportive and to help. We are grateful for every Democrat who has stood with us and every Republican with the courage to admit this is wrong.

In aggregate, this probably isn't enough votes to elect a county commissioner in Oklahoma.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:30 PM)
Trying to have it both ways

It's not every day I get to quote the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, but here's an opinion piece by Anke Bryson that provokes no small amount of thought. Apparently at least some Germans are wearying of waiting in the welfare line:

Fifty-one percent of Germans would prefer to live in a political system where individuals can assume as much responsibility for their own lives as possible, according to a new survey by the Allensbach opinion research institute. Some commentators have hailed this as a sign that their compatriots are finally tiring of a state that swallows more than half of their output only to redistribute much of it in a highly dubious manner.

And maybe they are. German socialism is extremely expensive, and not just in Deutsche marks (or, lately, euros). But don't expect the electorate to lurch rightward anytime soon:

Are Germans finally prepared to shake off this corset and exchange it for more freedom and self-responsibility? Not necessarily: It is also possible to conclude from the Allensbach poll that tens of millions of Germans still want the state to play the leading role in looking out for them. It shows that nearly half of all eastern Germans, and one-third of western Germans, believe the state should assume primary responsibility for its citizens.

The East, of course, spent all those years under the Soviet yoke. Still, if there's a substantial number of Germans chafing under their system of government, there's a chance that it will eventually be modified for the better.

(Muchas gracias: Hans Ze Beeman of Cum Grano Salis, who comments: "Well, 51 percent seem to approach the Clue™, that is more than I expected.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:15 PM)
22 August 2003
Rings 'round you logically

"If you believe this, how can you believe that?" If you're thinking that maybe some of us out here in the blogeoisie are not entirely consistent in our worldviews, well, aldahlia is one step ahead of you, and has compiled some blatant examples, none of which (thank heaven) appear to be mine.

Not that I can make any claim to consistency, mind you.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:32 AM)
23 August 2003
Big Brother wants your love

Pertinent observation from Steven Chapman:

Government sustains and justifies its own existence by presenting itself (and being presented by its enthusiasts) as the solution to all our most pressing problems. In point of fact, I would suggest that it presents itself as the solution to the problems that it has created. Never is this clearer than during a war, when government, having created the situation that led to war, now fools the majority into believing that by sacrificing their own lives and liberties, government is defending them — when the truth is that it is clearly the other way around!

He wasn't talking about John Ashcroft's dog-and-pony show, but he could have been.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:09 AM)
24 August 2003
As the recall approaches

Chris Lawrence at Signifying Nothing sees a couple of patterns shaping up in the California circus. For instance:

There are two groups of voters who are likely to vote no on the recall: those who want Davis to remain in office (probably around a quarter of the electorate, judging from his approval ratings) and those who believe that the second-stage winner will be a worse governor than Davis. Polls leading up to the election may determine how people vote on this question; if there is a sizeable contingent of hardcore Republicans who think Bustamante will win the second ballot, they may vote no on the recall, to retain the lame-duck Davis in office. Similarly, a Bustamante lead may encourage Democrats to vote yes on the recall, so a (potentially) strong incumbent can be on the ballot for the Democrats in 2006.

I'm still wrestling with the concept of "worse governor than Davis" — it leaves a strange, Huffington-shaped hole in the back of my mind — but this scenario makes a certain amount of sense. And if the Gray/Bustamante dynamic seems a lot like Clinton/Gore, well, Chris has thought that one through also:

In 2000, Gore ran to the left, thinking he really needed to stop Democratic voters from defecting to Nader (which he actually didn't need to do), and generally didn't run on the Clinton record. On the other hand, Clinton's approval rating was much higher than Davis', and the economy was doing significantly better too. Assuming it's in Bustamante's personal interest to win the election, it's probably in his best interest to run away from Davis' record. More importantly, in the absence of any credible challenger from the left, he can run to the right — which makes his announced tax hike package seem like a rather boneheaded move, suggesting more is at work in his campaign than a simple desire to win the recall election.

Jerry Brown once said something about "moving left and right at the same time," perhaps a useful tool in California politics, but one which Gray Davis has been unable to wield lately; I have no reason to think that Cruz Bustamante has any facility for it either. So Bustamante is basically playing to the Democratic base here, with almost the same moves Davis would have employed, which tells me that Bustamante isn't about to separate himself from Davis; with Davis arguing that all these horrible things aren't his fault, I expect Bustamante to argue that continuity — i.e. returning a Democrat to the office — is the most reasonable alternative to keeping the existing one.

There are those who think the whole idea of a recall is horrid, but as Chris says:

[T]he recall provision is sound and there is no good reason why it should not be adopted elsewhere — it's one of the few "progressivist" reforms that actually is good for democracy.

Think of it as flexible term limits.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:53 AM)
25 August 2003
Democrats in disarray

George Packer, in the September/October Mother Jones, on the decaying of the Democrats:

Everybody knows that the Democratic Party has lost its way. The Clinton years once seemed to have ended a long-term decline — but they only slowed it, and that only temporarily. Clinton's political genius was to convey an adherence to liberal values while abandoning liberal positions. This served him very well, but it didn't serve his party. It was an entirely personal achievement. Since then the party's decline has picked up speed, with the low, ominous rumble of a landslide. These days one has the sense of having leapfrogged the Clinton years backward and landed in some sunless late afternoon of the Mondale-Dukakis era.

The operative word here, I suspect, is "landslide."

What are the Democrats to do? Can they do anything at this point? Splintered as they are, reduced to a collection of, in Packer's phrase, "small-minded, turf-conscious groups," it's hard to imagine how they can even nominate a Presidential candidate next year, let alone beat the Bush machine. Part of this, I think, is Dubya's willingness to borrow occasionally from the Slick Willie playbook: espouse one set of platitudes for public consumption, embrace another when the votes come down. (What? You thought W's enthusiasm for cutting taxes made him some sort of fiscal conservative? Have you seen the budget lately? Bush suffers Deficit Attention Disorder as acutely as any Seventies Democrat.)

But even if Bush proves, as expected, to be unbeatable, the Democrats are not excused from the obligation to come up with a candidate who is actually credible, and if that means cheesing off substantial portions of the party's base, so be it. As Packer explains:

[T]here is something worse than losing, and that is losing pointlessly, which is how Al Gore lost (or, as you might have it, how he won). The way for the party not to lose pointlessly is to proceed incautiously. The most attractive candidate will be the one who airs ideas that risk alienating a constituent of the alliance — not, in Clinton's manner, for tactical reasons, but because the ideas might be good ones and might catch the public pulse as [Adlai] Stevenson did half a century ago, making future victories possible.

Stevenson, I remind you, is to Democrats what Barry Goldwater is to Republicans; while he never won the Presidency, his particular set of ideas eventually did get to the White House. I'd like to think there's a JFK-like figure (well, in some respects, anyway) in the Democratic Party's future — even if that future doesn't start until 2008.

2012, even.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:15 PM)
27 August 2003
The fare for balancing

Al Franken, interviewed by Salon.com:

I think liberals by nature look for information and conservatives look for ammunition.

Al's evidently never seen Indymedia.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:01 AM)
Eternal revenue

A question that has me wondering, from JessicaHarbour.com:

[I]s the desire to pay as little in taxes as possible a worldwide idea, or is it particularly visible in Americans? Do, say, Swedes, who traditionally have a much cozier relationship with a redistributing state than we do, nevertheless call radio shows in Göteborg to find out how they can maximize their deductions, and ask their accountants whether it's better to sell the house in November or December? Do they feel more guilty than Americans do when they do take deductions? Are there differences in how cultures approach taxes, or is the desire to pay the minimum and keep the maximum universal?

I haven't lived overseas, except as a functionary of the US military, so I can't really address this question from personal experience, but I rather suspect the following:

  • Nobody, not even your average Californian, wants his personal tax bite increased, no matter what may be said for public consumption;
  • In semi-socialist Europe, they are perhaps more likely to shrug and say, "Well, what can you do?" and pay the bill without complaint.

At least, that's how it looks to me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:30 PM)
2 September 2003
It's all in his head

An editorial by Robert A. Martin in The Montgomery Independent hints that Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore might be removed from office, not for violating a direct order, but for being "mentally unable to perform his duties".

Susanna Cornett is annoyed with this notion:

[I]t appears that Moore's wrong here is believing something is right that others think is a clear violation of law. It seems to me that if all judges who did that were removed from the bench for mental incapacity as a result, courtrooms all over the country would suddenly be emptied and at least the 9th Circuit would be completely deserted.

Nice shot. If she'd left it at that, it would have rated Zinger status. Then she played the anti-religion card:

Yes, I realize that there are issues of following judicial rulings here, but I don't see Martin making that argument. Quite frankly, it seems to me that Martin is shading toward anti-religion here — implying that at least part of Moore's "insanity" is belief in God.

I read the passage in question, and I didn't see that at all. I concede that she is more practiced than I at the art of ferreting out these things, but I think the average reader of the Montgomery paper, or of most papers, can distinguish between someone on some sort of quixotic crusade (such as Mr. Justice Moore) and someone who has actually gone off the deep end thinking he was doing the will of God. Mr Martin can be faulted here, I think, for relying too much on the opinions of "some court officials," but I'm not convinced he's equating (or even conflating) religion and insanity. If anything, I think he's managed to persuade himself that Roy Moore is an otherwise-okay sort of guy who happens to need treatment, an argument you'd hear more often in a courtroom where one of those fellows who has gone off the deep end is being tried — which indicates that Susanna Cornett's Insanity defense? title, at least, is precisely correct.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:59 AM)
4 September 2003
Shut up, Wesley

Up at Better Living Through Blogging, Dave presents the Top One reason why he wouldn't vote for General Clark.

Interestingly — and not all that surprisingly — it's the same reason cited by Bill Quick.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:26 AM)
Checked and balanced

Bruce thinks we're being taken for fools:

You know how every week or two you get a set of checks from your credit card companies reminding you that you have money that needs to be borrowed? Occasionally they even send you a check with your name on the "Pay to the order to:" line and an amount filled out in the amount box. Now, you know that that check is not free money, that once you cash that check you will be liable for the money you borrowed.

So how is it that tax payers can get a tax rebate while we accrue debt? Aren't the latest tax cuts the federal government's lame attempt to buy us off with our own borrowed money?

Well, yes, I suppose they are. On the other hand, I'd rather I had it than they had it; I am (ever so slightly) less irresponsible with my money than they are. And I need hardly point out that if they didn't take so much in the first place, they wouldn't feel compelled to issue a rebate.

Besides, MasterCard will balk if I try to write too many of those convenience checks; Congress merely votes for an increase in the debt ceiling.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:52 PM)
And such lovely colors, too

The ever-generous Michele has made it possible for you to set free your inner Tom Ridge.

Without surgery, yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:13 PM)
6 September 2003
Mr Henry goes to Jerusalem

If there's anything to that "governing best = governing least" stuff, Governor Henry may already be on his way into the history books. Cam Edwards has already twitted the Guv for his extensive vacation schedule, and now the OkiePundit has uncovered yet another bowlful of junket:

According to sources in the Jewish Federation of Oklahoma Governor Henry will be slipping out of the state on Sunday for an all-expenses paid (by Israel and the Federation) 8-day trip to Israel. They do this for every governor. It's a perfect opportunity for Israel to sell their story to American political leaders like Henry. You can bet Governor Henry won't be hearing the "Palestinian viewpoint" while in Israel.

Actually, one can hear the Palestinian viewpoint pretty well while in Oklahoma City. Basically, if you've seen one suicide bomber (and if you've watched the news for more than twenty minutes this year, you have), you've seen them all, and with them you've seen the Palestinian viewpoint in its entirety: anything else they may say is just window-dressing, and not good window-dressing at that.

Not that you should expect any other reaction from someone who was physically rattled by the Oklahoma City bombing, and who was utterly disgusted by the spectacle of Palestinians cheering in the streets after 9/11.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:01 PM)
10 September 2003
Moral twerpitude

Justin Katz found this letter in the Providence Journal:

Which is worse: zealots who fly passenger planes into symbols of wealth and power, or wealth and power using this prostitute Republican administration to declare war on the biosphere — on all life on earth?

Says Katz:

While I can understand the idea of letting the letters section lapse into lunacy occasionally to give the semblance of an open forum, I'm astonished that the Providence Journal would run this letter on September 10.

Moonbat Central in California has opened a branch office, maybe?

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:05 PM)
11 September 2003
T plus 730 days

The amazing Bill Whittle sums up the state of the nation:

For those too blind to see the magnitude of this victory, let them whine and seethe all they want. We are still here. We are still here, and far better off, then we were two years ago today, when entire countries were vast terror camps, and children's cemeteries.

(In case you missed it, here's my take on where we were and where we should be going.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:34 PM)
T plus 730 days, WWII

The ever-inventive Greg Hlatky takes a look at the situation on December 7, 1943. Among other things, Kwajalein and Nauru are under assault by the Navy's Task Force 50, a Canadian soldier is killed in fighting near the Moro River in Italy, and FDR, Churchill and Turkish President Ismet Inonu are meeting in Cairo. Two years into that war, and Hlatky notes:

No one spoke of a quagmire, or suggested turning things over [to] the League of Nations.

As punchlines go, that's the punchiest one of the day.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:50 PM)
12 September 2003
Where's my ethanol subsidy?

Bruce suggests a new drinking game: take a shot every time the President "uses 9-11 to justify his policy du jour."

I wonder if all these booze bottles are recyclable....

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:59 PM)
13 September 2003
Gorillas in the midst

By most accounts, men outnumber women in the talk-radio audience, and according to Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at USC's Annenberg School of Communications, there's a reason for it:

[W]hen you listen to one of these shows, it's all about screaming and chest thumping — sort of like what you see in those studies of the great apes. Think of the host as the silverback: He screams and thumps his chest, and the listeners call in to emulate him.

(Found by John Rosenberg, who comments: "I wonder what Kaplan would say if he weren't such a non-partisan, objective scholar.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:30 AM)
Stars and Bars forever

Or at least once more, anyway.

On 17 April 2004, more than a century after the end of the Civil War Between The States For Southern Independence, or whatever you want to call it, the last Confederate war dead will be laid to rest in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, S.C.

The crew of the submarine CSS Hunley, lost when the sub sank in February 1864 — the vessel was pulled off the ocean floor in 2000 — will be buried with full military honors, and both submarine buffs and members of reenactment societies are likely to turn out in full force.

And maybe some picketers, too; there's an online petition to ask the Hunley Commission, which has arranged for the ceremony, to bar the appearance of the US flag on the premises, and there are hints of local protests as well. Why? Well, of course, this was the Union flag (albeit with a different number of stars), and the Union, for those sailors, was the enemy.

Hunley Commission chair Glenn McConnell finds this incomprehensible. He's a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and "at the beginning of every meeting, we pledge allegiance to the US flag."

I'm not quite sure what I think of this just yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:29 PM)
14 September 2003
The kiss of death

Rumor has it that General Wesley Clark may be ready to enter the Presidential race.

What's the quickest way to torpedo any prospective Clark support among bloggers?

You got it: an endorsement from Michael Moore.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:33 PM)
15 September 2003
Yasser, that's my baby

When, exactly, did Yasser Arafat, derided by blogdom as "The World's Oldest Terrorist", ascend to the status of a Head of State? The more I think about this, the more baffling I find it; it's like Al Capone being given an honorary governorship.

Early in his Presidency, George W. Bush made it clear that he wasn't keen on dealing with Arafat, but for some inscrutable reason the State Department seems to want to keep Arafat, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, in business long enough to make their vaunted "roadmap" work. Well, the map is folded and then some — it's ragged and dog-eared and barely even recognizable anymore — and yet State still seems to want to keep Arafat around.

The Israelis, for their part, are still talking about sending Arafat into exile, and more than one minister has suggested that they might as well kill him. I'm not sure either of these is such a great idea: exile will merely give Arafat an opportunity to regroup his forces elsewhere, and killing him — well, the Arab world loves its martyrs, and loves to avenge their deaths. The solution, I think, is going to have to be a Latin American-style "disappearance", after which which no one will know for sure whether he's alive or dead. It might be worth it to hire some al-Jazeera technicians to fake up some regular TV appearances by Arafat during his, um, absence — hey, they do a bang-up job of keeping Osama bin Laden "alive" — and preserve the mystique. Under this plan, everybody wins: the Israelis get plausible deniability, the Palestinians get the leadership they deserve (and they say nature hates a vacuum), and Colin Powell gets someone to clean out his garage once a week.

And anyway, if we have to have a World's Oldest Terrorist, Fidel Castro is three years older than Yasser Arafat, and never mind how he got to be a Head of State.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:03 AM)
If we must have exile...

...why can't we exile Gray Davis?

"In assessing the public interest," said the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, "the balance falls heavily in favor of postponing the election for a few months." And when the six offending counties fail to get their new voting systems in place on time?

Now here's a particularly sickening scenario: the Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal of this decision, but not until the beginning of the Court's regular session.

Which begins on the 6th of October, one day before the scheduled recall election.

What is it going to take to rid ourselves of Gray Davis? Are we going to have to call in Israeli security?

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:20 PM)
17 September 2003
If not us, who?

Cinderella Bloggerfeller turns up a Le Figaro piece about the ostensible American empire, and why if it did not exist it would be necessary to invent it. Guy Sorman writes:

Europe no longer appears the torchbearer of the Rights of Man, but the peevish advocate of the rights of rulers and of the status quo. At the beginning of our new era, a project for European civilisation is nowhere to be found, so much so that the newcomers from Central Europe and the Anglo-Saxon north are beginning to ask themselves: does the European Union have anything to do with the century we live in?

The UN is faring even worse. Long paralysed by the Cold War, the United Nations is now paralysed by its very nature. The Anglo-American snub in the Security Council over the control of Iraqi weapons did not cause but simply revealed the yawning gap between the UN Charter and its ambitions. This Council, the legacy of the 1945 peace accords, no longer represents what the world has since become: the absence of Brazil, Japan, Germany, South Africa and India means it cannot be considered a legitimate global board of directors. Until this is rectified, it is vain to expect good world governance.

The situation is just as chaotic in the general assembly; its make-up is based on the assumption that every nation is a genuine one and that all leaders enjoy equal legitimacy. Since the majority of these states are kleptocracies at best and tyrannies at worst, it is obvious that the Charter of the United Nations can no longer be considered the basis of any kind of world order. This obsolete text ignores unprecedented situations like Afghanistan or Kosovo; de facto states will multiply, in Central Asia and Africa, as de jure states vanish.

In the meantime, who would exercise global governance if not the Americans, with a few Europeans to make up the numbers? Who would replace them in emergencies? Criticism — which is indispensable — of this first American empire would be more legitimate if it were associated with a project for the complete overhaul of the UN. Since nobody is proposing one and the tyrants — a majority — would not want it, the UN, the Red Cross Mark Two, will be confined to humanitarian work. It remains to be seen how it will acquit itself.

And this was published in France, mind you. Admittedly, Le Figaro isn't the biggest name in French publishing — think of it as the Gallic version of The Washington Times without the Korean cash flow — but you can be certain that a copy of this landed on Jacques Chirac's desk.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:17 PM)
20 September 2003
Clean for Dean

Usually when I see tidy young people clustered at an intersection, I assume they're conducting a charity car wash. This made no sense at the northwest corner of Pennsylvania and the Northwest Distressway today, since (1) there's already a car wash there, on the southwest corner, and (2) even slowing down through this intersection is a good way to get killed.

Fortunately, I can read fairly quickly, and the signs this bunch was carrying didn't offer to scrub the crud off my car; they were trying to drum up support for Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean. Inasmuch as the 2004 primary in this state is fairly early — 3 February, the week after New Hampshire — I suppose that it's not too early for this sort of thing, but I question their location: just east of this intersection are the two swankiest (by Oklahoma City standards, anyway) enclosed retail compounds in town, the sort of place where you'd think there'd be little support for a rustic Vermonter, especially a leftish rustic Vermonter. Then again, the Democratic party tends to rely more on high-dollar donors than does the GOP.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:50 PM)
23 September 2003
We all look alike

Somewhere in a comment last night, I made the following observation:

[T]he Europeans have long seen Americans as a mass of undifferentiated, uncultured louts.

Andrea Harris extends the notion and amplifies it, with the sarcasm control turned up to the max:

[W]hen Americans find out that they don't know enough about something out in the wide world (say, about Muslims and what they really think) they hit the bookstores and libraries like earnest students trying to make up for a failing grade. Foreigners, on the other hand, tend to show a marked disinterest in actually finding out what Americans are really like, preferring instead the notions they formed after watching American movies and teevee shows — which as we all know are all documentaries.

But of course. It's right there on the screen; it must therefore be true. This is precisely how the late Osama bin Laden gets away with continuing to make videos.

This, however, is the money quote:

Europeans just hate it when it is pointed out to them that their viewpoint is just as parochial, if not more so, than that of the average housewife in Iowa.

I would say something here about "the average housewife in Iowa works more than 35 hours a week and has air conditioning," but that would be piling on, don't you think?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:08 AM)
24 September 2003
Edwards blows through

Yesterday Senator John Edwards dropped into McAlester on a campaign trip, which is noteworthy mostly because McAlester, while the largest city in southeast Oklahoma, is still pretty much a small town wrapped around a prison. Still, the southeastern quarter is one of the few places in the state where Democrats still dominate, so there's good reason for Edwards to be here.

He didn't say much he hadn't said before; he reiterated his opposition to the wholesale closing of military bases — which plays well in McAlester, home of the Army Ammunition Depot — and played up his blue-collar origins: "I believe in an America where the son of a mill worker can beat the son of a president."

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:29 AM)
25 September 2003
Take a shot of malaria

I really haven't given a whole lot of thought to the John Birch Society (not to be confused with the Birch John Society, dedicated to the restoration of wooden toilet seats to their original well-varnished glory) lately; at best, it's seemed to me to be nothing more than a punchline waiting for a desperate Fox network to launch That 50s Show.

Then I turned a corner off 62 today, and there was an actual Bircher billboard, with the classic Bircher slogan: Get US out! of the United Nations! Of course, now it refers you, not to the nearest American Opinion bookstore, but to a Web site. And given the generally low regard in which the UN is held in some circles these days, it's probably as good a time as any for the Birchers to jump-start their organization. There are, to be sure, a lot fewer card-carrying Communists these days, and they tend to hang out, conveniently, in countries starting with C (China, Cuba, the northern half of Corea), but it's not like we're running short of people who are threatening, in the classic Khrushchev style, to bury us.

And besides, if there's room in the twenty-first century for the Flat Earth Society, there simply has to be a place for the followers of John Birch.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:49 PM)
Thin end of the wedge

What Ann Coulter thinks of Wesley Clark:

Two years from now, a question on Trivial Pursuit.

The scary part? I think she's being generous.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:54 PM)
27 September 2003
Screwing for virginity

"We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

Reportedly, this was the rationale given by an American officer for torching a Vietnamese village to keep it from becoming a Vietcong sanctuary.

Rather unexpectedly, I was reminded of this today, in a wholly-different context. In a piece on law.com, Douglas Laycock, writing on the University of Michigan affirmative-action cases, declares:

[Grutter v. Bollinger] found a compelling interest in ensuring that higher education, as the path to leadership in the next generation, be visibly open to applicants of all races and ethnicities.

John Rosenberg translates:

Not just open, but "visibly" open. Thus the irony: in order to highlight the fact that they do not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity, universities are empowered ... to discriminate on the basis of race and ethnicity.

Where's my old "Kill for Peace" button?

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:49 AM)
Try to see it my way

Hardly anyone has actually come out in favor of telemarketing this week, which should surprise no one.

Just the same, The Oklahoman this morning had a piece about one of the plaintiffs in the suit that alleged the FTC had no authority to administer the national do-not-call list. Rick Ratliff, who runs a local security-systems company, stands by his position:

I understand the popularity, but what's legal and what's right is something else. I don't like my mailbox inundated with junk mail every day that I go to it. I don't like seeing some of the billboards that I pass on I-40 that are objectionable to me. Yet I understand that those people have a First Amendment right of free speech.

I've driven down I-40 rather more often than I'd like, and I don't remember ever having to interrupt that driving to look at a billboard, but maybe that's just me.

And standard (formerly "third-class") mail (the Postal Service gets livid when you call it "junk") in effect subsidizes the classes that you actually want, so perhaps the solution is for telemarketers to pay my phone bill.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:23 PM)
2 October 2003
Party line? What party line?

R. Scott Moxley, writing in the leftish Orange County Weekly, says that liberals should embrace the candidacy of Tom McClintock:

Unlike his top competition — [Gray] Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cruz Bustamante — McClintock does not lie, duck debates, accept illegal contributions, hide from reporters, flip-flop positions, defend crooks, pander to special interests, place party loyalty over principles, rely on one-liners, award no-bid contracts, surround himself with sleazy advisors or pretend good government is as simple as marketing a movie.

Issues of character aside, the biggest issue facing California isn't an item in McClintock's litany of standard social-conservative gripes; it's the financial bungling of Davis & Co. Precisely why, says Moxley, it's the perfect time for McClintock:

[T]he Democrats firmly control both the state Assembly and Senate. A governor can only sign a bill into law after it has been approved by the legislature, a legislature that is, in this case, as Democratic as a meeting of the ACLU.

An upset McClintock victory on Oct. 7 could give us the following scenario: Democrats in the state Legislature won't get most of their Volvo spending programs and special-interest payouts. The Republican governor won't be able to enact any of his 1950s-era social initiatives. And because of McClintock's hard-wired stinginess, the rest of us — Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens and Libertarians — can finally see some financial sanity returned to Sacramento.

For those of us for whom it's more important to stop the patient's bleeding than to arrange for his facelift, this makes a fair amount of sense. And a successful McClintock term might actually sweep some of the moonbats in Sacramento out of their Assembly seats next time around.

(Via Matt Welch)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:10 AM)
5 October 2003
We can be bought

The Democratic Party of South Carolina has been experiencing financial problems of late, and party chairman Joe Erwin, a marketroid by trade, proposes to take up the slack by selling corporate sponsorships.

By imprinting campaign materials — even primary-election ballots — with corporate logos, Erwin hopes to cover the half-million-dollar cost of the Presidential primary next February. (In South Carolina, the parties pay for their own primaries; the state kicks in no funding.)

And it might even work. It seems to me that if, say, Charmin has no trouble showing a bear using its product in the woods, they shouldn't shy away from buying ad space on a reprint of the party platform.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:01 AM)
6 October 2003
Even more Schwarzenegger stories

Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be any more last-minute revelations about the Running Man, Xrlq (pronounced "Xrlq") delivers the goods.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:08 AM)
7 October 2003
Gray future

Charles Austin may not be feeling well, but he can still squeeze off a barb with the best of them.

The polls close at 8 pm California time. What happens after that?

Between guessing when the election results will finally be certified and when all the legal challenges by "friends" of the electorate will finally be thrown out of court, my guess is that Gray Davis is going to be around until at least February. Oh, and I imagine we'll be hearing for a long time from the same people who still can't quite figure out the US Constitution works when it comes to the electoral college about how Gray got more votes to stay in office than Arnold did to replace him.

Count on it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:42 AM)
Dyslexia warns without striking

Jonah Goldberg reports:

Over the weekend I caught a CNN factoid thing on the bottom of the screen. It read: Schwarzenegger Accused of being a "Hitler Loving Serial Groper." Give the man this: few other politicians could win a race with that label following them around (even though I think the first part is outrageously unfair and the second part sounds awfully close to the truth).

It could be worse. Given CNN's tendency to come up with hopelessly mangled captions, they might just as easily have tarred Arnold as a "Hitler Groping Serial Lover".

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:00 PM)
They can always blame San Andreas

It is, of course, a foregone conclusion that should the Democrats not like the election results — and they won't — there will be delaying tactics not seen since the introduction of the shot clock. (Or, as McGehee puts it, the "flying monkeys have already descended on The Fugue State to try to keep Gray Davis in office as Governor for an additional three or four minutes.")

In anticipation of this event, Cold Fury has already ginned up a suitable poster, which you will undoubtedly see on sites full of FOG (Friends of Gray).

And probably uncredited, too.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:47 PM)
8 October 2003
Maybe it's in the job description

One of our language mavens — probably Edwin Newman, author of Strictly Speaking — once commented on the tendency of American news media to refer to Salvador Allende as the Marxist president of Chile: "You would almost think that 'Marxist President' had been the name of the office to which Allende had been elected."

Similar notions went through my head during NPR's Morning Edition today, about the third time Bob Edwards and friends described Arnold Schwarzenegger's new job as "Republican Governor of California."

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:23 AM)
11 October 2003
More sunshine, less Gray

From her perch in Toronto, Debbye's sized up the California results very well:

The American media tried their best to portray the recall as a circus and thus not serious; California voters knew better. This was a opportunity which could not be manipulated by the Party Machines however hard they might try. On a national level, the Republican party wisely stayed out of the fray and the state Republican party endorsed Arnold only in the final weeks of the campaign. The Democrat Party brought in Clinton, Jackson, Dean and Clark, among others, to raise the Democrat profile of Davis and try to play the campaign with an "us vs. them" strategy (props to me for predicting that bringing in Clinton would hurt Davis' chances) and cynical moves to postpone the recall only further infuriated voters who correctly perceived that, after complying with all the requirements for a recall, they were being railroaded by the Party Machine in ACLU clothing.

Of course, there are those who remain convinced that it was all part of an Evil GOP Scheme. For example:

Gray Davis may have been a poor governor and a lackluster leader, but the Republicans should have defeated him when they had the chance in a scheduled election. If Schwartzenegger wanted to be governor, there was clearly nothing that could have kept him from victory in 2002, sparing the state a costly and disruptive process, and keeping the extreme measure of the recall on a high shelf, away from the hands of any ambitious politician or party (and please, spare me the pious lies about this being some kind of citizen initiative — it was clearly bought and paid-for by Republican insiders and stage-managed from the White House, and to suggest otherwise deeply offends the intelligence of anyone who was paying attention).

If the Republicans had had any sense, they would have come up with someone other than Bill Simon, a right-wing Walter Mondale minus the charisma, to run against the Gray Eminence in 2002; they would never, ever have turned to the likes of the Terminator. The initial recall push was indeed the brainchild of an actual Republican, but nobody is arguing with a straight face that there weren't Democrats anxious to see Davis given the boot, and considering the sheer number of wicked plots attributed to the Republicans in recent years, it's amazing how few of them have actually worked: were the GOP truly in thrall to Satan, I'd be forced to conclude that the Prince of Darkness was way past his prime and should probably be replaced. Or recalled, even.

Now when you see recall movements catching fire in other places that have been run as badly as California — say, Zimbabwe — then you can start to think of it as a trend.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:57 PM)
12 October 2003
Fox-worthy

Marc Levin's You might be a leftist if... has gotten lots of play in blogdom, where the center often seems right of center.

The best comedy premises, of course, work just as well when you give them a quick 180-degree spin, and Aldahlia proves that she's very much up to the task.

And in the tradition of the fence-straddling centrist, I must report that there are items on both lists that sound something like me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:19 PM)
14 October 2003
The usual trail mix

"I have never seen the middle class so stretched," said Senator Joseph Lieberman at a gathering at Fairview Baptist Church this morning. Unsurprisingly, he wants to jigger the tax brackets, preferably in a way that de-jiggers the Bush administration's changes over the past couple of years. I suspect the Senator's definition of "middle class" might be slightly different from yours or mine.

Dennis Kucinich is due in later today, and he too will probably say something about the beleaguered middle class.

Ah, the joys of an early primary.

(Update, 8:25 pm: Kucinich's pitch to us Average Folk involves dropping out of NAFTA and the WTO.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:15 AM)
16 October 2003
Spinning the color wheel

If you thought that Diversity Seminar you attended in college was intended to touch people's hearts and change their minds, Surlypundit has ascertained otherwise:

It's not. The point is to get together all the people with a chip on their shoulder or a bad case of white guilt, and let them decide on new racism rules. They sit around and feel bad about themselves for awhile, and then try to think of ways to keep racists from making them feel that way.

Given the tendency of those "new rules" to extend the definition of "racism" as far as possible, it's hard to take these gatherings at all seriously; while racism clearly exists, and takes some truly heinous forms sometimes, the committee approach isn't, and likely never will be, anything resembling a solution. As wiser folk than I have said, the change has to come from within. For many, it has. For others, it will take longer.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:16 PM)
17 October 2003
United Progressive Network

Not to be confused with that other UPN, which is a standard capitalist outlet that is losing money faster than the Treasury can print it.

But the planned "liberal network" envisioned by the Left is widely expected to lose money just as fast, and without the benefit of Jake 2.0 or WWE Smackdown! either. UMLGuy, though, says that it really doesn't matter:

Remember how, when the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform went through, prominent Democrat legislators were shocked to discover that they would be most adversely affected by it? How their big soft-money backers — the unions especially — would be the most restricted contributors? And how the Republicans, with their ability to raise lots of hard money from small donors weren't going to be affected nearly as much?

Well, despite scare stories, I trust that the courts will protect major outlets of free speech like opinion journalism, including talk radio. Frankly, if independent talk radio voices aren't free to express their opinions, we no longer have a First Amendment. Somebody MAY be dumb enough to press a case against Limbaugh or Hannity under McCain-Feingold; but they'll lose, and free speech will win.

And so the Liberal Network becomes an outlet for, yes, Democrat soft money. They can't buy as many issue ads; but they can "buy" a losing network with sagging ratings and just keep pumping out their message long after any profit-oriented business would have given up on the "business".

Well, at least it isn't Homeboys in Outer Space.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 AM)
18 October 2003
Diverse that could happen

"The far right's dream judge."

That's what Ralph Neas of People for the American Way says about California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, nominated by President Bush to fill one of three vacancies on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. And being an African-American woman won't get Justice Brown a pass from the Congressional Black Caucus, either; DC House delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton complains that Brown is "cut from the same cloth as Clarence Thomas," and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) claims that Brown suggested that "affirmative action resembled segregationist laws from the Jim Crow era."

Which, of course, is patently false. Under Jim Crow, the majority was empowered to make foolish decisions at the expense of minorities; under affirmative action, minorities are empowered to make foolish decisions at the expense of the majority. No resemblance whatsoever.

(With thanks to Jerry Scharf and John Rosenberg.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:07 PM)
19 October 2003
All things in immoderation

Chris Lawrence sees the center, and finds it somewhere between wanting and nonexistent:

[N]obody with a well-developed political ideology is a moderate. By definition, if you are liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, communist, Enviro-wacko, batshit neocon, or whatever the hell Pat Buchanan and Bob Novak are (paleo-pseudo-con?), you cannot be moderate. George Bush isn't moderate. Nor is Colin Powell, Janet Reno, Howard Dean, Glenn Reynolds, Megan McArdle, or Kevin Drum. Nor am I.

(Links added by me.) I suppose I qualify as None of the Above, but that qualifies me as, well, nothing:

Most Americans — and most people the world over, in fact — don't have consistent, ideological belief systems. The absence of those belief systems makes them moderate, because they just react to whatever's going on in the political ether; if you're lucky, you might be able to pin their beliefs to some overarching fundamental value ("hard work", "equality", "liberty").

Give me two out of three; I'm definitely for liberty and equality, and violently opposed to hard work. :)

There are only two types of true moderate: people who don't care about politics, and centrist politicians (and this latter class of people generally care less about politics than they care about keeping their jobs — I defy you to explain the behavior of Arlen Specter or Olympia Snowe otherwise). Bloggers and New York Times columnists aren't. Anyone who cares enough about politics enough to post several essays a day explicating his or her worldview is not a moderate, and neither is anyone who's taking time away from his academic career to publish two incoherent essays a week in America's flagship newspaper.

I'm usually good for a couple of incoherent pieces a day myself, though I don't have anywhere near the audience of The New York Times.

Still, I have to admit that Chris has me dead to rights. Not that I've ever claimed to have a consistent, ideological belief system extending beyond "This really sucks, you know?"

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:22 PM)
23 October 2003
Shades of Brown

Stuart Buck has been watching the Janice Rogers Brown confirmation hearings, and he's got a question:

Senator Dick Durbin asked her whether her legal and philosophical views were "within the political mainstream." Why do Democrats keep repeating this theme? Who cares whether a view is "mainstream"? Protecting slavery was once "mainstream," at least among the Democrats of that time, which should be at least prima facie evidence that the "mainstream" isn't always right.

And I suspect they'll keep repeating this theme so long as their strategy, such as it is, depends on painting as many Republicans as "extremist" as they possibly can.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:43 AM)
Nothing matters, and what if it did?

From the official statement of John Mellencamp (and his lovely wife Elaine) on the way things are allegedly crumblin' down:

The Governor of California was removed from office based on finance troubles. And yet George W Bush has lied to us, failed to keep our own borders secure, entered a war under false pretense, endangered lives, and created financial chaos. How is it that he hasn't been recalled? Perhaps this time we could even have a real election...but that wouldn't fit the Bush administration's "take what you want and fire people later" policy. Take an election; take an oil field; take advantage of your own people — a game of political Three-Card Monte.

The fight for freedom in this country has been long, painful, and ongoing. It is time to take back our country. Take it back from political agendas, corporate greed and overall manipulation. It is time to take action here in our land, in our own schools, neighborhoods, farms, and businesses. We have been lied to and terrorized by our own government, and it is time to take action. Now is the time to come together.

Well, I'd certainly be upset if someone were manipulating my overalls.

Actually, the last paragraph would be quite wonderful were it not for the one preceding it, which merely recites the standard anti-Bush litany to eye-glazing effect. Unlike the Dixie Chicks before him, Mellencamp doesn't come off here as opportunistic, and I don't expect him to have to perform acts of damage control as a result of this broadside, but I am surprised to see him hewing so closely to a line he neither invented nor improved upon.

I'm not one of those people who believe that celebrity-type persons have nothing to say about the human condition or political situations. On the other hand, I don't cut them any slack for being famous, either. And if Mellencamp gets fisked over this piece, well, ain't that America?

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:24 PM)
24 October 2003
The new DemoCard

Providian Financial, the ninth-largest credit-card issuer in the US, will offer an affinity card to supporters of the Democratic Party. Cardholders will earn rebates on their purchases which they can designate for donation to the Democratic National Committee, and can earn rewards by donating directly to the DNC.

Given the Democrats' desire to don the mantle of the Party of Fiscal Responsibility, what with Bush administration budget deficits running into the bazillions these days, I find it amusing that they'd strike a deal with a credit-card company that built its business on customers with lousy credit ratings.

The GOP? They already have a card.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:18 AM)
Are you a neoconservative?

You could always take that tedious test at The Christian Science Monitor, or you can try the ideology on for size with Bruce's Neocon Simulator.

(If anyone cares, the Monitor thinks I'm a realist. The results are, as they say, "not scientific".)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:53 PM)
26 October 2003
Barking out of the manger

This is, you should pardon the expression, rich.

Johnson County, Kansas, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, last year passed a three-year, 0.25-cent sales tax increase to raise money for the six county school districts.

Wyandotte County, just to the north (it includes the city of Kansas City, Kansas), has now sued those districts and the commissioners of Johnson County for violating Kansas' equal-opportunity education laws; apparently the $200 extra per pupil now available to Johnson County students puts them at an unfair advantage.

"We want everyone to have the same opportunities, and we want those opportunities to be few and far between." They're not saying so with their words, but they're certainly saying so with their actions.

From Irreconcilable Musings:

The reality that everyone in this debate refuses to acknowledge is that you cannot directly link suitability of education to dollars spent. While it goes without saying that communities must adequately invest in their schools, the truth of the matter is that it does not cost the same to educate a child in Blue Valley as it does in Coffeyville or Ulysses or Wichita or Hays. The cost of living is different, impacting salaries. The cost of facilities and utilities are different. The cost of transportation is different. Because of these and other cost variations, it makes no sense for the state government to impose a one-size-fits-all funding formula for rural, suburban and urban districts. They have tried and failed for ten years to do this, because we cling to the notion that the only way to measure the quality of a child's education is in dollars.

Dollars that they would rather spend in legal fees than in the classroom, apparently.

In the meantime, what's to stop Wyandotte County from enacting some form of supplemental funding in their schools? Naw. Too much like taxation. If we can't keep up with the Johnsons, let's just drag the Johnsons down.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:24 AM)
27 October 2003
He's only just begun

Dr Michael Newdow, physician and atheist, the man who will argue before the Supreme Court next year that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment, has let it be known that he has more legal challenges coming up.

The Court — minus Justice Scalia, who has recused himself — is expected to hear Newdow's argument next spring. The "In God We Trust" motto on US currency is just one of Newdow's proposed future targets.

(Via Tongue Tied)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:31 AM)
28 October 2003
Just don't get sick

As the saying goes, the American system of health care is the second worst in the world, with all the others tied for first; both left and right find it a suitable target, though the right tends to be somewhat more forgiving because, after all, it's making money.

James Joyner has the gumption to utter the S-phrase:

I support a single payer system in theory, but have no idea how to implement it while still preserving innovation, freedom of choice, and some degree of cost efficiency.

Government as gatekeeper — well, you know how effective they are.

The insurance industry as gatekeeper — well, you know how effective they are.

So, if we're stuck between a rock and a hard place, which way do we steer? Before we answer, Bruce would like an answer to this:

Right now, as the system stands, you quit your job and you lose your benefits. This means that you go through a period of time where you have no access to health insurance unless you pay for COBRA, which is extremely expensive.

Why is that in this day and age, your access to a doctor is determined by your employment status? It seems like an anomaly in the market system. You don't lose your car insurance when you lose your job.

Of course, you don't buy your car insurance through your employer, either. At least, you shouldn't.

But it's a valid point. There are vendors of individual health-care policies, but the prices would make your nose bleed, and the bleeding is probably not covered. The usual arguments for group policies — economies of scale and such — make some sort of sense; still, there's something a trifle disconcerting about ten or a hundred or fifty thousand people all having the same coverage, when no two of them have exactly the same needs.

So would I be better off if I could persuade the powers that be at 42nd and Treadmill to leave me out of the group policy and pay me the $3500 (I'm guessing) a year directly? Maybe. In only one of the last five years did my actual medical expenses exceed three grand. Of course, this doesn't mean that they will continue to remain relatively low. But it seems like a reasonable argument for a policy that kicks in only at very high levels — $10,000 deductible? — backed up by some form of savings, perhaps the Medical Savings Account that Democrats, by and large, have resisted.

This sort of scheme would work for me; it would probably not work for someone making $6.25 an hour. I think Bruce would agree that we would be better off if each of us had more individual say in the shape of our health-care coverage, though he seems to be thinking more along the lines of a co-op:

The collective power of free agent insurance buyers will force greater accountability by having the flexibility to shop around in the market.

Still, it's a market-based solution he's proposing, which a single-payer system isn't. I am concerned that whatever collective he envisions, be it a general cooperative or an affinity group, will be faced with some of the same issues facing employer-benefit systems, though it's generally a lot less common to be tossed out of an affinity group than to be thrown out of work.

One thing seems certain: we're not going to have the patchwork system we have now forever. Either health care will become less of an obstacle, or the government will come up with some fairly godawful proposal to take it over, just to shut us up. Let's hope that the system is amenable to improvements while it's still alive.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:02 PM)
Speaking of dark horses

Dean Esmay sums up his feelings (which are not so far from my own) about Howard Dean:

He may be on the right side of issues like gay marriage (although he didn't used to be) and guns, but on the most important issue of the day (the war), he's utterly wrong. My take: if Dean were the nominee, and Bush died tomorrow, and Republicans dug up the corpse of Thomas Dewey and put it on the ballot, I'd vote Dewey.

Dewey? You bet we do. And if enough of us do, perhaps we can embarrass the Chicago Tribune again.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:42 PM)
1 November 2003
Lowered expectations

According to P. J. O'Rourke, it's a tenet of liberal faith that there are, in fact, people too poor to pick up their lawn.

Now I grew up reading P. J. in National Lampoon, so I have a tendency to assume that there's some undefined but discernible hyperbole in anything he says, but a comment from Bruce, affixed to this item, makes me wonder:

The temptation, one that appeals to our base desires is to believe that just because people are taking advantage of tax supported systems means that we, the taxpayers have some right to tell them how to live.

And right after I read that, up pops (courtesy of Kimberly Swygert) this:

Roughly 40,000 poor people have been dropped from the Oregon Health Plan this year because of their failure to make monthly premium payments, some as low as $6 a month.

The departure of more than one-third of the 88,000 poor people from the state-subsidized Oregon Health Plan Standard program has far exceeded the expectations of many state officials.

Advocates for the poor say the premiums are too expensive for some people and the government may have overestimated the ability of people to mail a check.

"It's an enormous barrier," said Ellen Pinney, director of the Oregon Health Action Committee. "Let alone the $6, there is the whole issue of writing a check or getting a money order, putting it in an envelope with a stamp and putting it in the mail to this place in Portland that must receive it by the due date."

An enormous barrier?

People who take so little responsibility for themselves that they can't follow directions this simple deserve to have someone telling them how to live.

And to clean up their damn yard while they're at it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:01 AM)
7 November 2003
Where the cheapskates are

The Catalogue for Philanthopy has issued its annual Generosity Index — tax years being the indeterminate things they are, the 2003 Index is based on complete 2001 tax figures — and it's chock full of numbers.

The Index is determined by comparing the Having Rank of a state (how much money its taxpayers have) to the Giving Rank (what percentage they actually contribute to charity). A state that has little money but which manages to make bigger donations will therefore rank higher on the Index than a wealthier state with a greater proportion of skinflints. And indeed, Mississippians, seemingly always near the bottom of the per-capita charts, have the lowest income but the sixth-highest donation ratio, enough of a divergence to put them at the top of the Index. Oklahoma, 43rd in income and 10th in giving, ranks fourth.

Here's where it gets interesting. OpinionJournal's Taste section looks at the figures and notes the following:

[T]he top 20 states all went for George W. Bush in the 2000 election — while 15 of the 20 least generous went for Al Gore.

How did this happen?

Maybe...the difference is that those in red states are more generous with their own money while those in blue states are more likely to be generous with other people's money.

File this under "Things that make you go Hmmmm...."

(Muchas gracias: Wylie in Norman.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:34 PM)
11 November 2003
More money for you and me

Dean Esmay makes the case for privatizing Social Security, a case you've heard before and are likely to hear again and again, at least until the Washington scaremongers catch on.

Just for the sake of argument, here are the points likely to be raised by opponents, as described by me five and a half years ago in Vent #94:

Opponents of privatization point out that bull markets don't last forever, which is true; that not everyone understands how markets work, which is likewise true; and that moving all these funds into conventional investments will make billions of dollars for Wall Street bigwigs, which is pretty much inevitable.

It's possible to make money when the market is down, although it does require some knowledge of how markets work. Still, it's nothing you can't figure out by reading the financial pages in the Daily Doorstop. And if you want to complain that people shouldn't have to know anything to have a retirement income, well, fine, but if you insist on a right to be uninformed, you also must accept the consequences that come from exercising that right.

(Disclosure: We've had two years of a down market; I've lost essentially nothing, and I'm a semi-talented amateur at best.)

The objection that Wall Street might profit is also bogus, unless you have the time to monitor your investments yourself 24/7 and swap them around as needed — in which case you probably don't have time for an actual job in the first place.

And one more thing I'd like to mention while I'm at it: should I drop dead at work, I will get basically zip from everything I've put into the Social Security system. That's zero. Nada. Bupkes. If I owned these funds, at least the kids would get something for my trouble.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:45 AM)
Everything you always wanted to know about Dean

The ABC News political column The Note lists 18 essential truths about Howard Dean, and some of them are choice:

14. Howard Dean doesn't have cable TV.

  8. People actually listen to Dean talk at his events.

  7. Dean's core supporters don't care about Sunday show gaffes and pratfalls, New York Times editorials, or what Terry McAuliffe or the Dingells think.

Hmmm. There may be hope for the guy yet. On the other hand, Bush will carry Oklahoma even if the Democrats nominate Monica Bellucci.

(Muchas gracias: Ara Rubyan.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:05 PM)
13 November 2003
Running up the score

Where have we heard this?

One squad was clearly the superior team, the other gave up the fight before the battle had barely begun. Instead of praise for its prowess, the victor received derision. Its detractors railed about how unfair the contest was and how the winner rubbed it in. They openly wished for its defeat the next time it took the field.

Oklahoma 77, Texas A&M zip? Well, yes, but that's not the subject of today's Oklahoman editorial:

As the nation's only football superpower right now, OU has engendered hostility. Solid victories this year — most by lopsided margins — are seen as being over the top and somehow preventable. Even when they do take a knee, the Sooners are accused of piling on.

The U.S. is still in a fight half a world away. Its military's performance this spring was awesome, moving through a foreign country in a few weeks and taking its capital. Resistance was sporadic and generally light. President Bush handily won the war and is now trying to win the peace.

Some would have us leave the game at halftime because we already won a war that they didn't want to wage in the first place. The detractors have more sympathy for a deposed dictator than praise for a triumphant president. Bush will win no Nobel Peace Prize for his decision to invade Iraq, but Nobel winners rarely rid the world of tyrants. They generally make nice to them instead.

America has decided to play in the second half of a war against terror, despite cries of protest from media observers who watch battles from a safe distance and wannabe coaches in the party out of power. The other team in Iraq has changed from one wearing easily identifiable team colors to one that fights by stealth.

Yet this is a game that must be finished. We cannot take a knee.

Okay, the football metaphor is strained and then some, even by Oklahoma standards. But it fits the situation neatly enough, and besides, we beat the spread.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:17 AM)
14 November 2003
Strength through joyless repetition

A desideratum for the campaign trail, courtesy of Lileks:

I was tempted to write about George Soros comparing Bush and America to the rise of the Nazis, but I've just had it with these people. I'm more interested in those who ride the coattails of their rhetoric. I want someone to ask Dean this question in the Presidential debate: "Governor Dean, one of your wealthiest backers has compared America in 2000s with Germany in the 1930s. Do you agree with this analogy?" The only acceptable answer to my ears is "No, I don't." Period. Any elaboration, any "no, buts," any "nevertheless there are worrisome trends" will mark Howard Dean as a truly dangerous man, for he will show himself willing to use the most debased and paranoid argument in modern politics to put his butt in the big chair. Extreme? Okay: imagine a big Bush backer who explicitly made ties between Clinton and Stalin; imagine Bush saying "I don't agree, but I do worry about the Democratic Party's desire to socialize the economy; they had that in Soviet Russia, and we all know how that led to the gulag." Inexcusable.

Where's Mike Godwin when you need him?

And please note that in most American media, George Soros is described as a "philanthropist," a term you'll seldom see attached to, say, Richard Mellon Scaife.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:34 AM)
15 November 2003
Distorting our troops

The Left is constantly badmouthing the military, says Baldilocks:

Since the abolition of the Draft a generation ago, American military personnel have volunteered to fight America's wars. It's called free will. But the Left thinks the military is populated by people too stupid to choose how to live their own lives.

I guess many members of the Left think the military is made up of barely literate yokels from Middle and Southern America or barely literate thugs/thugettes from America's inner cities. Us dumb "rednecks" and "darkies" couldn't possibly have a handle on the intricacies of Fascism, Imperialism, and Nazism, since all we read are comic books.

We couldn't possibly have joined up or stayed in the military as a result of informed, principled decision making, made after a detailed evaluation of history and/or present day world events. We couldn't possibly have been well-informed and come to a conclusion that is different from that of the Left. We all must be dumb and/or ignorant.

And she offers one word of advice to these naysayers:

Well here's a dumb/ignorant suggestion I have for those on the Left who keep attempting to play military personnel for suckers: BITE ME! And after you do that, you can go back to your regularly scheduled spewing of new Big Lies, whatever they may be. It's your right to do so.

Well, okay, two words.

I would add only that one reason the American left objects to the military is that the military is by nature authoritarian — you do what you're told to do — which conflicts with the freewheeling, spree-like existence to which they aspire. Of course, to be admitted to their Society of Sybarites, you must subscribe to the scripture, sell your SUV, support subversion, and otherwise suck up to the subculture. It's exactly as authoritarian as the military, except you're allowed to display unearned awards.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:48 AM)
16 November 2003
Skinny legs and all

You know, I'm looking at the page as I type, and I still don't quite believe it.

But what the hell. If I'm going to have Unusual Action Figures around the house, I suppose I'd rather have Ann Coulter than, say, the Judge from Pink Floyd The Wall.

(With thanks to the iconic Debbye Stratigacos for the former link, and the laconic Fark.com for the latter.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:01 AM)
18 November 2003
Hell up in Harlem

I couldn't tell you who started that silly business about William Jefferson Clinton being the "first black President" — might have been the Big He himself, for all I know — but Baldilocks is more than happy to finish it off, once and for all.

Pertinent quote:

This man knew all the right words to say to black Americans. Knew all the fronts to put on. Knew all the frauds to perpetrate. And we bought the game, hook, line and sinker. But when push came to shove, he abandoned all Americans, black ones, white ones and all the other ones. He folded like the empty suit that he is.

And a damned expensive empty suit at that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 PM)
20 November 2003
Meanwhile in Miami

Laredd at Today's Shoes is not impressed with the general run of demonstrators in town today:

They claim to be anarchists, and yet they rely on the electronic media to advertise their protests and demands. Here's a little something to chew on: true anarchy would destroy the electric grid, bring down all media, stop running water and sewers, and leave us little better than cave dwellers (not that there's anything wrong with that).

True anarchy would allow the police you taunt to shoot you and damn the consequences, of which there would be none. Well, you may argue, they wouldn't be policemen. And you'd be right. They'd just be pissed off people with automatic weapons and riot gear. Sort of like the knights of old, in their armor, smacking the crap out of the little people wearing rags.

Nor do they get any Brownie points for their politics:

Here's another something to chew on, other than your grainy tofu from your community kitchens: if the average household income in a third-world nation is about five bucks a year, and a 10-year old, who has no chance of going to a non-existent school anyway, is making about 50 cents a week sewing Nike sneakers rather than being a child sex worker, what's the problem? You don't want to support sweat shops in Asia? Fine. Don't buy the products.

I have always been somewhat perplexed by the insistence that "Globalization is bad," that people in Third World hellholes are somehow better off starving to death than toiling long hours for not much money for some Evil Capitalist. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to improve conditions for these folks, but as a practical matter, we're not going to turn Indonesia into Indianapolis.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:15 PM)
23 November 2003
Cleanup on aisle nine

Kevin Drum's Calpundit is running a statement from Barbara Maynard, who represents the two UFCW locals striking Los Angeles-area grocery stores, and she's got a question that deserves an answer:

Would you rather that these 70,000 middle class jobs become poverty level jobs filled by workers who have to turn to the taxpayer for healthcare and food stamps? That's what the [three supermarket chains] are proposing because that's what Wal-Mart has.

I've been to one Wal-Mart Supercenter, and while it was fairly sanitary — people are always telling me how grubby Wal-Mart stores are, for some reason — it had the general ambiance of a bus station, and I didn't feel compelled to go back again; well, yeah, I might save a couple of bucks on a basket, but do I really want to put myself through that again?

Maybe this is another case of "maybe it's just me." I've been on Poverty Row before, and it's a genuinely lousy place to live, but the experience did not instill in me a desire to squeeze every last dime until FDR screams in pain; it may be important for some people's sense of self — and, for that matter, for the Wal-Mart business model — to believe that they've paid the absolute lowest possible price for something, but it doesn't do a thing for me. I bought my last car from one of those "no-haggle" dealerships, and while I might have been able to save a couple hundred bucks somewhere else in the state — Oklahoma is not exactly overrun with Mazda stores — what's the point on a $20,000 car? It's like driving 30 miles to save two cents a gallon on gas.

And sometimes there are intangibles involved. For the new house, I'm buying a truckload of appliances, and there was never any question where I was going to get them: I haven't had that many dealings with Sears in recent years, but they've always treated me well, and as a former Reservist, I appreciate what they're doing for present Reservists.

There is little doubt that the arrival of that first Wal-Mart strikes fear into the hearts of local retailers, and not everyone welcomes them with open arms. I rather think the trend will last a while: Wal-Mart will continue to grow, and a substantial number of people, whatever their reasons, will continue to refuse to set foot in the place. Whether that number is substantial enough to keep UFCW grocery personnel from taking what they see as a giant step backwards, I can't say, but I'm rather hoping it is, if only because, well, I'm not the sort of person who roots for Godzilla and Goliath, even if that is the way to bet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:21 PM)
Rock and awe

Plymouth, 1620.

Baghdad, 2003.

What could they possibly have in common?

Mark Pierce at Earthly Passions explains it all, and just in time, too.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:04 PM)
And in other news

Ted Rall has endorsed Howard Dean.

Oh, yeah, that'll help him a whole lot.

(Via Little Green Footballs)

(Update, 4:30 pm, 24 November: LGF [same link] reports that the Deanites have backed away considerably from their wholehearted embrace of Rall, perhaps because they're aware that blogdom considers Ted Rall to be the moral equivalent of a flaring hemorrhoid.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:45 PM)
4 December 2003
How they stack up

A poll by The Oklahoman estimates support for the various Democratic candidates for President in the Sooner State:

10 percent — Lieberman
  9 percent — Clark
  9 percent — Dean
  8 percent — Gephardt
  5 percent — Kerry
  3 percent — Edwards
  2 percent — Moseley Braun
  2 percent — Sharpton
  1 percent — Kucinich

Margin for error is 5.7 percent, but the really telling figure is the 27 percent who were undecided or declined to answer.

Inexplicably, Moseley Braun did not file to enter the Oklahoma primary.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:35 AM)
5 December 2003
A lot of this going around

It's not easy being a Democrat sometimes, as Jeff Lawson notes:

President Bush has a lock on Texas in the next election, so it's not like I'm going to lose much sleep trying to decide who to vote for in a year. But I'd still like to throw my support behind one of the Democratic candidates merely for the sake of argument. The problem is, of the nine candidates, there's only three left now that I'd be willing to vote for: Lieberman, Gephardt, and Edwards. No front-runners there.

Much the same situation prevails north of the Red River; the only question is whether W. will beat the spread. And those of us who are persuaded that Dr. Dean should go back to Montpelier and contemplate the extent of media concentration and metrosexuality in the Soviet Union are not at all heartened by his front-runner status. I mean, if we really wanted someone in the White House who fumbles when he goes off-message — well, we already have that, don't we?

In 2000, I found Al Gore so unpalatable that I marked the box for Harry Browne. (This was obviously before Browne decided that 9/11 was our fault, so save the sneers, Bucky.) I have no idea what I'm going to do in 2004, but, like Jeff, I don't plan to lose much sleep over it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:03 AM)
6 December 2003
From the WTF files

I think we can now safely say that John Kerry is effing desperate.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:39 PM)
8 December 2003
Don't be stupid, be a smarty

Much has been said in blogdom about the January Vanity Fair and its Vicky Ward profile, with pictures, of Joseph C. Wilson and his wife, identified as "C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame," and not much of it has been favorable.

But Wilson and Plame aside, there's plenty to dislike in this issue of V.F., and the most dislikable bit is the opening letter from editor Graydon Carter, which closes with this startling statement:

[E]ven though British prime minister Tony Blair may have a schoolboy crush on our current president, the English themselves can't stand him. When it comes to the deceptions leading up to the invasion of Iraq, they consider Bush and Blair the Bialystock and Bloom of global politics.

Hello, Graydon? Did you even see The Producers? However questionable Max and Leo's motivations — well, Max's, anyway — what they created was a hit, a sensation, a work of staggering popularity: "This could run for years!" exults one member of the audience. And yes, they oversold it by about 25,000 percent, for which a price will undoubtedly be exacted some day, but Springtime for Baghdad, so to speak, is clearly an example of the general public being way out in front of the critics and pundits.

Not to mention the occasional editor.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:24 PM)
10 December 2003
Egalitarian blues

Bruce calls his blog This Is Class Warfare, and this item (8 December), as well as any, explains what he means:

Capitalism is a system based on a core prejudice. The more money you have the more desirable you become. To gain or maintain that preferred status you will take advantage of other prejudices. Racism persists in part because it helps maintain class separation. Your hope of escaping from the depths of the impoverished class stems from taking advantage of whatever prejudices work in your favor, so it is no small surprise that this confers a sense of legitimacy for those that use them to rise to the top.

Well, yes, money does enhance one's desirability, but I wouldn't characterize it as a "prejudice"; it's simply a part of the definition of capitalism as we know it. On the other hand, people who manage to work the system well enough to climb a rung or two on the ladder tend to be among the system's most ardent defenders, which would seem to confirm the "sense of legitimacy" statement.

To continue:

There are two levels of commitment to making the world a better, more equal and livable place. One level that means paying lip service to fundamental root problems by giving toys to poor kids, or holding fancy dinners to give a few coins back to the serfs. And another level where you would be willing to accept a loss of power, influence and privilege in exchange for a better world. For there is no rich without poor. No benefit to wealth if it doesn't confer to you the ability to make others spend a large amount of time catering to your needs and not their own.

I'm pretty good at lip service, myself.

"There is no rich without poor," he says, and mathematically that's certainly true: if some people have above-average incomes, some others will fall below average. And while wealth is no doubt handy, I see it more as a tool for me to do what I want rather than a tool to compel others to do what I want. If I ever acquire any, I'll let you know how it works out.

Finally:

You either think inequality is a good thing or you don't.

You can say "I am against inequality," but you can just as easily say "I am against tidal waves" with exactly the same results. Inequality clearly exists. Further, I think it always will exist; there's simply no way to eliminate it so long as people are people and not just theoretical constructs. As a nation, we are dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal; what happens after that is anybody's guess.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:56 AM)
11 December 2003
Keeping his head nearby

"I've been picking buckshot out of my rear end in some of these debates," said Howard Dean, as reported by William Saletan in Slate.

John Rosenberg begs to differ:

Dean the gun nut obviously doesn't know the difference between buckshot and birdshot, although he most assuredly would if [he] were ever shot with both. Bird shot you can pick out, unless you were shot at close range. Buckshot, however, is a completely different story. A round of birdshot contains hundreds of tiny pellets; a 12 gauge round of #1 buckshot (it comes in different sizes), by contrast, contains twenty .30 caliber pellets and #3 buckshot contains twenty .25 caliber pellets. One tester observed that "the power of a blast of buckshot is equal to 10 rounds of 9mm bullets."

If anyone within debating distance of Dean blasted him with a load of buckshot, he would not be pulling them out of his rear end, which is apparently where he got the comment quoted above.

It's time to send Dr. Dean to one of those NRA Basic Firearm Training Courses — and then, of course, the showers.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:50 AM)
14 December 2003
The Ace of Spades falls

I mean, who but Saddam would hide out in a farmhouse with $750,000 in cash?

His babies have already been thrown out with the Baath water, putting the "die" back into "dynasty". And there's nothing quite so enjoyable as finishing the job.

The Professor, in the meantime, has some thoughts on what to do with Saddam, at least one of which involves a plastic-shredding device.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:42 AM)
Insufficient danger

The Cabinet Man, guest-blogging at WeckUpToThees!, recounts his experience with trying to get a concealed-carry permit from the state of Maryland, and there's something seriously wrong with this picture:

[My] CCW application was rejected due to "insufficient reason". In other words, I haven't been threatened, mugged, robbed, raped, etc.... In Maryland's twisted "cart before the horse" laws concerning CCW, the state — not me — is the one to determine "apprehended danger". In other, other words, if the state thinks I'm safe, then I don't get a permit. No matter that I could be assaulted ten minutes after leaving the state police barracks. After that, I could probably get a permit. Maybe....

This is truly insane. You have to prove you're likely to be attacked to get a carry permit? This makes as much sense as requiring you to have cavities before you can buy dental insurance. Maybe even less.

Packing.org has seen this before:

In MD it is almost impossible for a non-resident to get a permit. For that matter most MD residents can't either.

Then again, Maryland doesn't think much of the right to keep and bear arms, anyway. Here's an opinion from the Attorney General [requires Adobe Acrobat Reader] on one of the state's multitudinous gun-control laws:

House Bill 1283 would unquestionably prevent some individuals from obtaining firearms that they may lawfully obtain under current law. The only significant issue of facial constitutionality is whether the bill violates the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution or Article 28 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. We conclude that it does not.

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides as follows: "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." A threshold question about the Second Amendment is whether it is applicable to the states. Because it is not, the Second Amendment is irrelevant to House Bill 1283.

Legal cite offered: Onderdonk v. Handgun Permit Review Board, 44 Md. App. 132, 407 A.2d 763 (1979).

Despite that declared irrelevance, Maryland contends:

In Maryland, the militia is "well regulated" by Article 65 of the Code. As part of this regulatory scheme, arms needed for the militia are to be "deposited in the armory ...." The General Assembly thus has made the manifestly reasonable judgment that the needs of the militia can be met with State-owned firearms housed in secure locations.

No tenable argument can be made that the needs of the State militia can only be met by affording private citizens access to the kinds of firearms that would be restricted under House Bill 1283.

Given Maryland's crime rate, I suspect that eventually everyone in the state will qualify for concealed-carry — but why should they have to wait that long?

At least if you can get a Maryland permit, it will be honored while you visit Oklahoma.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:29 PM)
15 December 2003
Albatross!

John Cleese, who wouldn't become a Freemason now if you went down on your lousy stinking knees and begged him, is contemplating running for Mayor of Santa Barbara, California.

It would be worth it just to see him open a Council meeting with "And now for something completely different."

There is, so far as I can tell, no truth to the rumor that Mayor Marty Blum responded to this news with "Well, he's scarcely a bloody replacement, is he?"

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:47 PM)
19 December 2003
Hartford becomes the Little Easy

According to an NPR report, Bill Curry, who lost to John G. Rowland in the 2002 race for governor of Connecticut, says that the Rowland administration's seemingly-endless stream of ethics violations has turned the Nutmeg State into "Louisiana with foliage."

Now there's a visual.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:29 PM)
21 December 2003
The Don and John Show

Chris Casteel of The Oklahoman's Washington bureau passes on the rumor that retiring Senators Don Nickles and John Breaux will set up their own lobbying firm after leaving office, a premise that Nickles, for now anyway, is unwilling to confirm.

Amusingly, a small band of unrepentant Trotskyites described Breaux's retirement as "part of a protracted political process, which amounts to the voluntary surrender of power by the Democratic Party." Were I a Democratic operative, I'd want to slap down this notion, but I probably wouldn't be able to because it would involve being unkind to socialists.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:38 AM)
In lieu of double-secret probation

Emperor Misha graciously translates the most recent Ridge-O-Gram:

As of today, we've decided to raise the terror alert level to Banana Fudge Sundae with Nuts and an Extra Cherry.

We've decided to do this because of unspecified chatter that we don't entirely know what's all about, but it might be dangerous. We urge you to stay extra-super-duper alert with a cherry on top in the coming days, though we can't tell you what you're supposed to stay alert for, nor do we have the faintest clue as to where in the Empire you should stay alert, if at all necessary.

We don't mean to freak you out, we just want you to know that we may or may not have heard something that may or may not be a threat that may or may not turn into an attack somewhere on the planet. Or not.

Oh, and happy holidays.

Says it all, or at least all that anyone is willing to say.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:29 PM)
23 December 2003
San Andreas, call your agent

So when are California Democrats going to petition the US Geological Survey to rename the tectonic discontinuity that spawned yesterday's earthquake on the Central Coast to "George W. Bush's Fault"?

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:20 AM)
27 December 2003
Gimme that old-time cynicism

John Rosenberg explains Howard Dean's sudden embrace of Christianity:

Dean doesn't really know any Southerners, and he actually believes the region to be a wasteland of Bible-thumping Jesus freaks. None of his friends will hold him responsible for what he says there. On the other hand, no one he knows, from whom he extrapolates the nature of the America he believes the country to be, goes to church or believes in any serious way in a serious God. They would laugh him right back into second or third place if [he] tried talking to them about Jesus.

And it's not going to work, either — at least in my neck of the woods. The Bible is thumped as loudly in Oklahoma as it is anywhere in the nation, and the folks making this, um, joyful noise aren't about to be taken in by Dr. Dean's "I'm really one of you" pitch; they will consider it to be part of the same scam he ran when he said he wanted to be the candidate of guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.

Still, it will be amusing to watch this play out, just to see what quantity of backpedaling Dean winds up doing; I'm guessing that it will be sufficient to get him forever enshrined as the Anti-Lance Armstrong.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:47 PM)
28 December 2003
Howard be thy name

The regular reader (you know who you are) will no doubt have spotted what appears to be a certain animus toward Vermont governor (and, of late, Presidential candidate) Howard Dean, who has always struck me as what you'd get if you could teach George McGovern how to clean a rifle.

It's not that I have anything against Dean personally, although some of his supporters drive me up the wall, and the claim that he can actually beat George W. Bush in November will be even more annoying should it by some fluke turn out to be true.

Not everyone is convinced that Dean will be the next President, or will in losing blaze a trail for a Democratic comeback in 2008. Francis W. Porretto predicts:

Howard Dean will not be a Democratic Barry Goldwater, but a Democratic Alf Landon or an ideologically less consistent reprise of George McGovern. After his defeat, the party will wander in the wilderness until it dissolves under sectarian tensions or recreates itself in a form more palatable to Americans of the era of omnipresent opportunities and shadowy threats we call the twenty-first century.

I rather hope it's the latter, if only because I don't feel up to changing my registration should it be the former. And while people in blue states seem to be enthusiastic, nothing happening in Oklahoma, a state where even the soil is red, would lead me to believe that Howard Dean is going to win the Democratic primary here, let alone pick up our seven electoral votes.

Meanwhile, rival Democratic candidate Michael Cooper has gotten a jump on the competition by revealing the new Dean campaign logo, which, says Cooper, addresses Dean's two favorite activities in a single graphic. Curiously, backpedaling, as suggested by me, is not one of them.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:51 PM)
29 December 2003
Here's the beef

Cam Edwards was talking about BSE and Howard Dean on his radio show this morning, and it was inevitable that the two threads would cross.

"The cow," Dean might say, "has a right to be mad."

Cam was kidding. I think.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:10 AM)
30 December 2003
Bueler? Bueler?

This would be Tim Bueler, seventeen, a junior at Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park, California, and the administration has suggested he take a couple of days off from class until the heat dies down.

Bueler, it seems, is the founder of the Conservative Club, a student organization with about 50 members (out of a student body of just over 2000), and after he wrote a piece for the club's newsletter which called for a crackdown on illegal immigration, he started receiving threats from Latino students. (The school is approximately one-seventh Latino.) "Liberals," said Bueler in the presumably-offending article, "welcome every Muhammad, Jamul and Jose who wishes to leave his Third World state and come to America." Which, if nothing else, is consistent with the Conservative Club's motto, which is "Protecting our borders, language and culture."

What did the faculty do about it? Said one teacher, "When you say things like that, you've got to expect that things like this are going to happen." Another dismissed the club as "a bunch of bigots."

Bueler isn't exactly an angel — the club's faculty advisor quit after Bueler refused to submit the article for review before publication, and he subsequently apologized for the tone of that "Muhammad" business — but I think it's a safe bet that had he written something critical of, say, dead white Europeans, he'd probably be getting extra credit instead of involuntary vacation days.

(Via Tongue Tied)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:03 PM)
1 January 2004
Creatures of privilege

Down in the comments on this item, we seem to be getting into a dust-up over who is, and who isn't, "privileged, pampered and powerful," to borrow Bruce's phrase. (And it's a damned fine phrase at that; I may have to use it for something one of these days.)

Taking these considerations in reverse order:

I don't feel especially powerful, and the gastric ailment that hit me yesterday doesn't help matters. I can get things done, sometimes.

Pampered? Maybe. As the saying goes, I can do without essentials, but I must have my luxuries. It must be noted, though, that both luxuries and essentials are acquired the old-fashioned way: I earned them.

As to the question of privilege: fifteen years ago, I was broke and living out of a thirteen-year-old car. It took some resources — some from friends and relatives, some from government — to put me back on something resembling a firm footing. I feel very much privileged, in that assistance was offered, that I was able to take advantage of what was offered me, and that eventually, I was able to resume a relatively-normal existence. Some people, faced with the same situation, would not feel privileged; they would want to know what the hell happened to their entitlements.

And some of those same people, I expect, would protest that these things were offered to me because I'm that very personification of evil, a white male. Given the fact that my mother was half Mexican and half Syrian, I'm not so white as I look, but that's not going to matter to these people: I am by definition one of the oppressors, and I get no credit for ethnicity because obviously at some point I sold out. There's only one possible response to that: "And I'm damn glad somebody was buying when I did." Indeed, it's a privilege.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:40 AM)
3 January 2004
Tort deform

Bruce talks about slapping a cap on damage awards in malpractice cases:

If a doctor commits a grievous error in your care you want to have the ability to receive compensation for that error. Do we really want to say that all errors are only worth $250,000 as one federal bill would have it? Think of your life and what its worth. Now think about the burdens your disability would have on your family should you lose your ability to work and care for yourself and you were only able to recoup $250,000 for that injury.

The drive for Tort Reform will not keep the insurance companies from looking for new ways to make a bigger profit. Remember that every business is a growth business. They just see paying out claims as a drag on their profitability and this rush to limit awards is a way to boost profitability at the expense of hurt people. They are punishing doctors as a way of putting pressure to get the legal action they want from politicians.

(Emphasis added.)

What we always hear about are the truly bizarre cases — Cam Edwards talked about one this week on his radio show, some woman who suffered burns after spilling her coffee and sued Starbucks — but using the man-bites-dog theory, I have to assume that these are the exception rather than the rule.

There are, indeed, too many lawsuits, and many of them are indeed frivolous; but the truly useless suits can be handled with a loser-pays system. And thinning out the docket is, I think, the most important "reform" that needs to take place.

The solution to high malpractice awards is simple: eliminate malpractice. The problem arises when you try to pin a workable definition onto the word, since medicine is at least as much art as it is science, and there's still a lot we don't know about everyday bodily functions. Sometimes all you can do is make an educated guess. I'd hate to think I could be sued for guessing wrong.

On the other hand, outside the medical realm, sometimes it's clear that bungling or malfeasance is at fault. Here's a comment from a page linked by Bruce, posted by Angry Bear, that cuts to the chase:

My first thought was, "if frivolous lawsuits are so rare...why is there such a vociferous tort-reform movement?" But then an answer suggested itself: the issue is probably not so much the awards themselves as the actions that prospective awards deter. For example, action X may not be profitable if there's a 1 in 100 chance of getting caught and having to pay $5 million. But if the cap is $250 thousand (with the same 1/100 chance of getting caught) then action X may be profitable. (X represents things like polluting or not testing for safety.)

I hadn't really thought of it this way before — that tort-reform isn't necessarily about avoiding big judgments for existing actions, but rather changing the range and extent of activities that firms can profitably undertake.

Actions, conservatives are fond of saying, have consequences, and indeed they do. There's no reason that corporate entities should be exempt from the consequences of their actions, or to have their liability artificially limited, when individual persons are granted no such exemptions. The argument is made that numerous damage awards can destroy a company; I suggest that if a firm has actually done something to justify numerous damage awards, it may well deserve to be destroyed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:57 AM)
This side of parodies

Jessie Rosenberg, home from college for what used to be called the Christmas break, explains why it would be a waste of time to hold one of those affirmative-action bake sales at Bryn Mawr:

No one would understand the parody. Everyone would think that it's perfectly normal to charge different prices based on race, ethnicity, and sex.

This is not the situation for which Elvis Costello wrote, "I used to be disgusted / And now I try to be amused." But it fits.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:16 PM)
4 January 2004
Talking Texan

The Dallas Morning News has selected George W. Bush as the Texan of the Year, which probably isn't that much of a surprise.

There was some wailing and gnashing of teeth, to be sure — the paper's blog printed a couple of reader comments that, shall we say, took exception to the selection — but it's hard to argue with the conclusion of the announcement, written by Rod Dreher:

To honor Mr. Bush as Texan of the Year is not necessarily to endorse all his policies, nor is it to approve without question his governing style. It is, however, to recognize that there was in the past 12 months no more important Texan, and that the principles informing his fateful decisions over the course of a fateful year came from the mind of a man with roots deep in the heart of Texas.

And Keven Ann Willey, editorial-page editor, noted that some of the disagreements stemmed from the fact that, well, Bush wasn't born in Texas. (Before you ask: New Haven, Connecticut.) Not that this matters:

It's tough to argue that Bush isn't Texan. No, he wasn't born in the state, but he sure exudes its spirit with every breath, mannerism and utterance. The word "native" is commonly associated with one's birthplace, but note the first definition of "native" as a noun in Webster's: "One born OR reared in a particular local" — emphasis added. Reared counts.

It's certainly fair to debate the merits of Bush's actions and policies, but debating his "Texan-ness," to my mind, is wasted energy.

The Oklahoman has yet to announce an Oklahoman of the Year, though KTOK's Cam Edwards ran a phone poll last week, in which General Tommy Franks (who, incidentally, was born in Texas) was rather convincingly beating out OU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jason White before the combination of my morning commute and the station's weird directional pattern dropped the program out of earshot.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:02 AM)
5 January 2004
Bad blood

One bomb burst of the bizarre this morning. NPR's Diane Rehm Show scheduled a program about the economic outlook, and Paul Krugman (Princeton professor and columnist for The New York Times) and Grover Norquist (head of Americans for Tax Reform) were booked; Krugman apparently said that he would not appear alongside Norquist.

So Diane did the first half of the hour with Krugman, the second half with Norquist, and I'm wondering: have these guys been feuding lately? Krugman has occasionally sniped at Norquist, but I'm surprised things have gotten to such a state.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:45 AM)
6 January 2004
A process to condemn

Michael Bates, a couple of weeks ago, decried a plan by the University of Tulsa to, in his words, "replace another Route 66 landmark with empty space." The University's favored tool is the power of eminent domain, as wielded by the City of Tulsa on the school's behalf:

If TU had acquired all its land from willing sellers, you could make the case that we have no place telling this private institution what to do with its own land. But TU has gained so much property through the unconstitutional use of eminent domain for private benefit, the least we should expect is that TU use its land efficiently.

Meanwhile, there's an effort in Colorado to curb this sort of thing. A bill being introduced into the Colorado legislature this week by Rep. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) would bar the use of eminent domain for private projects:

If the city or the state comes to take my land, it darn well better be for the city and state's public use — a courthouse, a road, a school — not just because they'd rather see someone doing something else on my land.

The Colorado Municipal League [link requires Adobe Reader], for its part, "opposes state and federal actions interfering with municipal authority concerning land use regulations." Of course they do.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:53 AM)
7 January 2004
That man behind the curtain

For those who are accustomed to thinking of Donald Rumsfeld as an egomaniac, your reality check is in the mail.

The Hill (no relation) is reporting that the SecDef had been Time's first choice for Person of the Year 2003, but he had other ideas; in November, when Time editors met with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon to talk war plans, the Secretary suggested, out of the blue, that the American soldier ought to be the magazine's choice for POTY.

Did Rumsfeld suspect something? Was he just trying to spread a meme? It's probably impossible to know for sure, but surely this is not the act of a man with a serious lust for headlines.

(Via Outside the Beltway)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:02 PM)
8 January 2004
Not exactly like a prayer

Okay, 'fess up: How many of you were playing wait-and-see with Wesley Clark, holding off until he got an endorsement from Madonna?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:05 PM)
9 January 2004
Dennis gazes skyward

NEW ROME, OH (WATSO*): Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich today lashed out at the Bush administration's space-exploration proposals, calling them "ill-advised" and "unnecessarily bellicose."

"The very idea of going to Mars," said the former Ohio Congressman, "encapsulates everything that's wrong with George Bush. In the first place, it's a red planet. This is yet another example of the Bush administration's schemes to reward its friends and punish its enemies. There is no evidence that Karl Rove, or any of Bush's advisers, made the slightest effort to locate a blue planet for exploration."

Another problem, said Kucinich, is the nature of Mars itself. "It's the planet of war. How many times must we go through this? War, war, war. It's the only thing George Bush knows."

The Kucinich campaign has yet to release formally any alternative plan for space exploration, but the candidate hinted at some of the ideas he'd like to see in such a plan. "We're looking towards Venus, which is, after all, a planet of women, who have been cruelly underrepresented in the space program up to now, and then, perhaps in our second term, Vulcan, where war and hatred have been replaced by reason and logic. As Americans, we deserve no less."

*With apologies to Scott Ott

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:50 AM)
10 January 2004
The Brattleboro catechism

Rod Dreher, on The Dallas Morning News blog (scroll down to 9 January, 4:49 pm), sees some inconsistencies in Howard Dean's sudden spirituality:

He said that President Bush had no business making a stem-cell policy decision based in part on religious belief — even though Dean said just the other day that his religious faith guided his decision to approve civil unions for gays.

Here's the Dean Doctrine: The Lord Your God permits you to make faith in Him a factor in policy decisions, but only if the outcome is politically liberal.

There are times when I suspect the only book of Scripture Dr. Dean has read is Numbers.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:16 AM)
11 January 2004
Second (Amendment) thoughts

Ravenwood reports that Cleveland's daily newspaper isn't taking Ohio's new concealed-carry law lightly: The Plain Dealer plans to print the names of all Ohioans receiving permits under the new law.

Once they do, vow the operators of the Web site Keep and Bear Arms, they will print the names of all Ohioans who work for The Plain Dealer. Ravenwood, in the spirit of this response, has opened the volley with the details on the newspaper's editor, who lives in one of those spiffy neighborhoods practically right on the lake.

Meanwhile, The Columbus Dispatch is very unhappy that the state won't be releasing the names of permit-holders to the general public; of course, what really disturbs the Dispatch is that permits will be issued in the first place.

Most state concealed-carry laws are what is called "shall-issue" laws; that is, it is not left to the discretion of local authorities to decide whether to issue a permit. Unless there is some specific legal reason to disqualify an applicant, his permit is to be approved. Most states, including Ohio once their law goes into effect in April, do have prerequisites which must be met, but in a shall-issue state, if those prerequisites are met, the permit is issued, and that's that.

This fact itself annoys a lot of people, among them the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which annually hands out usually-failing report cards to the individual states and this year gave Oklahoma a D-minus [link requires Adobe Reader] for, among other things, having a "shall-issue" law. Only they put it this way:

Oklahoma also forces police to let people carry hidden handguns in public.

Imagine that. Police are forced to let people carry guns. "Why, when I was younger, the police didn't have to let you do a damn thing; they could pull you over for any reason they wanted, and we liked it." Yeah, sure.

When the grandchildren ask me "What made you join the National Rifle Association, anyway?" I'll give them that White Album nonsense about being the all-American bullet-headed Saxon mother's son, and then I'll probably just let them read this post.

(Update, 13 January, 1:15 pm: Xrlq [20 points in Scrabble®] disposes of the Dispatch.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:19 PM)
12 January 2004
Joe talks taxes

Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman came to Tulsa today, pitching his tax plan, which he says will cut taxes for 98 percent of the middle class, whoever they may be these days, while raising taxes on the top few and somehow balancing the budget. I'm not entirely convinced there are enough taxpayers among those top few to make up the deficit — if you took every dime from Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, you'd leave them broke and you'd still have $250 billion or so to collect and next year's deficit would remain untouched — but at least he's offering, beyond the usual platitudes, some actual numbers to play with.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:45 PM)
13 January 2004
Who says we can't?

Emperor Misha can give you lots of reasons why the President's it's-not-really-amnesty plan is something less than wonderful, but the argument that truly knots the Imperial BVDs is the one that goes like this:

"But we CAN'T deport 8 million illegals, that's just IMPOSSIBLE!"

Oh, yeah?

The word "impossible" is, quite possibly, the most un-American word that I've ever heard, it's the very embodiment of what has turned Europe into the bilge of the civilized word.

And that's just ONE argument.

It's just as idiotic as saying that it's simply "impossible" to abolish highway robbery federal pork programs financed by payroll taxes. Or saying that since we've got millions of burglaries every year, it would be simply "impossible" to continue enforcing laws against it. Let's legalize burglary, why don't we? We can't prevent it, after all, so let's just bring down the statistics by making it legal.

And Spoons attacks the same premise from a different angle entirely:

Once you accept that income taxes should be at least 50%, then your spectrum of tax policy options shrinks mightily. Once you accept that the Constitution requires Affirmative Action, then your spectrum of policy options shrinks mightily. Of course, if you don't accept these things....

The President is buying a dubious premise: we can't really do anything about the however many million illegals we already have, so let's do something with that all-important "feel-good" quality, preferably before the election. His options, shall we say, have shrunk mightily. Nothing particularly unusual about this motivation, but it's still disheartening to see it.

Besides, the word that counts here isn't the word that's said, which is "can't", but the word that's meant, which is "won't".

If we're going to take this war-on-terror stuff seriously, we have to have control of our borders, not because Mexico is sending us terrorists — they aren't — but because any weak point can and will be exploited by terrorists. So long as the borders remain porous, so long as there is little or no fear of deportation, Homeland Security is nothing more than a guy in a suit with a bunch of paint chips.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:30 AM)
16 January 2004
First things first

Alison Jane's Frolic and Detour reminds us of the purpose — and the limitations — of that "freedom of speech" business:

Nobody invented the First Amendment to make sure that no matter what you thought, or said, or said about what you thought, nothing would happen to you. The federal constitution was not written so that no one would call you on your bullshit. It doesn't mean there aren't costs. Think free verse, not free beer.

In fact, if everyone lived this way — cowering from conflict and argument, afraid to say no, afraid to thwart anyone's id or step on their buzz or imply that what they just said was the stupidest thing we ever heard, or that we will never listen again to a radio station or read a newspaper that would continue to employ them — it would destroy, not serve, the spirit of the First Amendment. You're supposed to participate. You're supposed to get in there and argue, and sometimes, when it really matters, you're supposed to make it expensive or unpleasant or uncomfortable to be wrong. That's why the government doesn't do it. The guys in the wigs expected the rest of us to deal with you. The entire notion of the First Amendment is that in the marketplace of ideas, the morons will go broke. If you insist on buying from them out of some twisted notion of equity or community or "judge not, lest ye be judged," you are failing the system.

Emphasis added.

I figure most of you already knew this, but it bears repeating.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:50 AM)
After Rowland, what?

The California Yankee is not inclined to cut Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland any slack:

It is truly amazing how little support there is for Rowland at the moment. No one I know has a kind word to say for him. The press, tasting blood, is extremely persistent. I can't imagine how Rowland can distract them.

Well, I did find one kind word, from Mike Alissi, publisher of Reason, who offers a modest defense of the governor:

I've always liked Rowland for one reason: The guy has maintained a relatively low media profile over the years. That's a decent indication he hasn't been too active meddling in our lives (notwithstanding his recent signature on a bill to ban smoking in all bars). This is in sharp contrast to do-gooder politicians like, say, Bill Bennett's preachy pal, Sen. Joe Lieberman, and even more so to Dick Blumenthal (Lieberman's successor as Attorney General) who will sue anybody to get in front of a camera.

The gov's media profile is, um, a bit higher now. But this is bad press that fuels the public's contempt for politicians who abuse power. That's a positive thing. I just hope people save some skepticism for the next elected governor (who very well may be Dick Blumenthal) and they remember that shiny clean do-gooder politicians can abuse power as much as corrupt ones, only in different ways.

Okay, one Connecticut resident on Rowland's side. Sort of.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:21 PM)
17 January 2004
Are the Democrats doomed?

Mike Taibbi, in the New York Press, asserts that "voters are repulsed by weakness," and, by extension, the Democrats as we know them:

[T]he Party, as currently constructed, will never be able to get around this problem. Why? Because weakness is inherent in the party's ideology.

There are only two ways to appear strong. One is to stand for something. The other is to kick ass. Today's Democrats most emphatically are not equipped to do either.

On the standing-for-something front, that question was settled long ago. Nothing can be more obvious than that the current Democratic leadership considers actual principle a laughable electoral weakness. This was demonstrated most forcefully a few weeks ago when Hillary Clinton joked about Mohatma Gandhi having worked in a St. Louis gas station. If Gandhi were running in this race, the Democratic Leadership Council — bet on it — would be warning of a McGovern-like landslide defeat. Democrats consider strength to be the skillful capture of swing votes via the tactically precise execution of a fuzzy policy of standing for nothing at all, as in the case of Bill Clinton.

Okay, they don't stand for anything. Can they kick ass?

As it stands, the Republicans are tougher than the Democrats because they will not hesitate to bomb the hell out of anyone, provided that the target cannot meaningfully fight back. But here's the thing: The Republicans are not interested in ruling other countries, any more than they are interested in ruling the United States. All they really want to do is make money. They only use military force insofar as it is necessary to a) extract another country's resources, and b) ensure that these countries become and remain markets for American products. Beyond these parameters, they're amazingly squeamish about using the military.

This may explain why there's been only the faintest rattling of sabres in the general direction of Pyongyang: North Korea, absent its smallish collection of fungible nukes, can't afford so much as a Brown Bag Special at Sonic.

What to do? Taibbi suggests that an upcoming Democratic administration, assuming there will be an upcoming Democratic administration within any of our lifetimes, leverage what perceived advantage they may have in domestic affairs — the GOP owns foreign policy — and simply annex the rest of the world, thereby making everything effectively (or, knowing the Democrats, ineffectively) domestic. Pax americana, here we come.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:31 PM)
20 January 2004
Mayberry, B. F. D.

The resurgence of John Edwards, who finished a strong second in Iowa, does not impress McGehee:

[F]at cat ambulance chasers wealthy trial lawyers are not among Southerners' favorite people. Edwards comes across as the anti-Matlock — which in most of the South isn't a good thing.

I think his surprisingly good finish in Iowa is more a reaction to all the other candidates' negativity — and Edwards's own more positive tone — than to anything of substance about Edwards himself. He will not be the nominee. He will not be on the ticket.

I still think Edwards deserves points for being Anyone But Dean, but that's hardly a unique distinction.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:39 AM)
The Axis of Sleazy

About a month ago, I described Hartford, Connecticut, where Governor John G. Rowland is somewhere between this close and this close to impeachment, as the Little Easy, quoting political rival Bill Curry's remark that Rowland had turned Connecticut into "Louisiana with foliage."

Well, Louisiana may be considered the Big Time in political corruption, but according to this report by Corporate Crime Reporter, America's Sweatbox is only the third most corrupt of the fifty states, trailing Mississippi and North Dakota. (North Dakota?)

Criterion for ranking: number of public corruption convictions in the state over a ten-year period (1993-2002) per 100,000 population. Connecticut, on this scale, comes in at a relatively-virtuous thirty-first; Oklahoma ranks twenty-second, and the sanitary state of Nebraska is the cleanest of them all. (The District of Columbia is not rated because, well, it would go clear off the scale.)

(Muchas gracias: Brock Sides, Signifying Nothing. Of the two authors of this blog, Mr Sides is the one who doesn't live in Mississippi — though Memphis is awfully close.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:51 PM)
21 January 2004
A gutsy position

You should not count Andrea Harris among the undecided:

I've already made up my mind to vote for Bush, and unless he is found pulling the entrails out of live babies to appease his Dark Masters I doubt there will be anything to make me change my mind.

This seems unlikely, unless baby entrails can be classified as a commodity and futures can be bought and sold on the Chicago Board of Trade. On the other hand, this would certainly simplify No Child Left Behind.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:34 AM)
25 January 2004
A new tort recipe

This editorial in The Oklahoman sums up the more rational calls for tort reform thusly:

A tort system that is out of balance in favor of defendants is not the goal of reformers. The right to pursue a legal remedy is cherished and would remain intact. Yet a system that encourages frivolous litigation, diminishes personal responsibility, enables bogus class-action settlements and favors expensive court battles over mediation is not a system that equalizes the interests of both sides in legal disputes.

Tort litigation has become an industry, not a path to justice but a path to transferring wealth from producers to litigators. The annual cost of this industry is estimated at $180 billion to $200 billion a year, of which about one-fifth goes directly to plaintiff attorneys and an untold amount to defense attorneys.

Tort reform is about putting the brakes on this industry's growth.

Some folks proclaiming themselves to be "pro-business" would argue that there shouldn't be any lawsuits permitted at all, that everything should automatically go to arbitration — and they get to pick the arbiters, of course. This is more than just unsatisfactory; it is insulting.

But we can't go on like this, with every conceivable mishap being litigated regardless of merit. Much is made of enormous awards made by juries, but they are the exception, not the rule, and they are a symptom, not the disease; even when a plaintiff loses, the cost of litigation equals an increase in the cost of living.

Ultimately, what we need is the realization by business that improving products and services is less expensive in the long run than trying to squeeze costs and quality, and an acknowledgment by consumers that sometimes it's our own damn fault. I don't think you can achieve either of these by legislation.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:34 AM)
Watching the gatekeeper squirm

Bruce notes that the television-network policy on so-called "advocacy ads" is inconsistent at best:

For years Adbusters has been trying to buy airtime on the major networks to promote their campaign for Buy Nothing Day, advocating a refrain from shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. They are consistently turned down because the networks say they don't run advocacy ads. Which is odd, because they do. Recently CBS announced that they would reject ads from both Moveon.org and PETA because they don't run controversial ads.

Tina Fey, at the SNL Weekend Update anchor desk, snickers:

CBS announced that it will not air Moveon.org's winning anti-Bush ad during the Super Bowl, saying they don't air so-called Issue Ads. Unless the issue is that girls are sluts for beer.

I'd say that this premise is at least as debatable as, say, the ongoing haranguing by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and apparently so would Bruce:

[D]uring the Super Bowl we will see three advocacy ads. One that points out the dangers of tobacco use, one that advocates the responsible use of alcohol and one that warns of of the dangers of marijuana abuse. That these ads are NOT considered controversial is a matter of debate. That these are issue ads is incontrovertible. The way in which CBS draws the line is disturbing.

If it's all about the money — and when, in network television, is it not all about the money? — the solution is simple: sell the ad slots to the highest bidder and be done with it. All advertising advocates something or other; that's the whole idea. CBS does no one a service by pretending that they're above political controversy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:19 PM)
29 January 2004
Dumping Dubya

It's the Democrats' fondest dream, even ahead of confiscating all the guns in the country and using them to shoot holes in all the sport-utility vehicles. The reliably right-wing Spoons, however, thinks the Republicans are the ones who really need to focus on replacing George W. Bush:

Clinton is pretty much the perfect example of why conservatives need to defeat George Bush this year. Remember, that immediately following Clinton's 8 years of relatively conservative Democrat-ish-ness, the Democrats put up a candidate that was virtually a carbon copy. Now, imagine yourself as a liberal Democrat in 1996, upset with Clinton's rightward drift. You could have argued (correctly, as history would judge), that electing a "conservative Democrat" like Clinton would only postpone the day when you'd have a chance at true liberal government. You would point out that, if Clinton were re-elected, the party would surely run another just like him in 2000. That person would either win, or would be defeated by an awful Republican. Either way, (your argument would go), a vote for Clinton in '96 would be a vote for, at a minimum, 8 more years of "conservative" government. From your perspective, then, wouldn't it have been better to see Bob Dole elected in '96, so the liberal wing of the party could rebel and put up a Howard Dean or a John Kerry in 2000?

The same is true for conservatives, now. Elect Bush in '04, and we've got a liberal Republican for four more years. Worse, we're almost assured of getting a similarly liberal candidate in '08 (as Republicans are not going to run against the record of a successful two-term predecessor from the same party). Accordingly, if Bush wins in '04, then '08 will be a contest between another liberal Republican, and a Democrat. Either way, a Bush victory means no conservative presence in the White House until 2012, at the earliest, and perhaps not until 2016 (which is really too far ahead to think about).

Conversely, if we elect Kerry now, for example, then the Republicans will spend the next four years being a conservative resistance. This will have the effect of keeping the Democrat President from governing too far to the left. It will also mean a decent shot of electing a reasonably conservative President in '08. That's why I won't be voting for Bush in '04, and that's why I think conservatives, as a whole, will be better off if Bush loses.

This actually makes a certain amount of sense, though it's not clear whether Machiavelli or Rube Goldberg is the primary influence. It depends on two premises: that Bush isn't all that conservative, which is pretty much true, and that the Democrat to be named who is supposed to defeat Bush won't be substantially worse, which is, I think, highly arguable.

Still, there is a lot of rumbling to Bush's right: social conservatives tend to think of him as insufficiently motivated, and fiscal conservatives are appalled at his profligate spending. I don't believe, though, that most of them are disgusted enough to pull the lever for a Democrat; third parties, notably the Libertarians, should pick up a fair number of protest votes, but I can't imagine any of this year's Democrats, who range from leftist to really leftist, getting any kind of boost from the right wing.

I have to admit, though, that the Spoons plan is ingenious, and surely it will appeal to some folks on the right: after all, what could be more conservative than delayed gratification?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:44 AM)
31 January 2004
The reptiles of redistricting

A reader (name not supplied) sent this to The Dallas Morning News, where it appeared in the editorial blog (30 January, 11:53 am):

[T]he software used by the merry mapmakers to draw up these districts, urban and otherwise, is so incredibly exacting, to the nth degree, that urban districts are drawn down to literally the very block, the very house needed to create the desired outcome in an election. The software knows who voted in which primary at each parcel of land, whether the block or residence in question went repub or dem last time, whether it is owned or rental, single-family or multi, etc, etc, etc.

The suspense, the fun, the anticipation of election day has by and large gone the way of the 10 cent cup of coffee. Only the few states that do redistricting via a non-partisan commission still have competitive congressional races.

Interestingly, the Founding Fathers envisioned the Senate being stable and the House being much more in flux (thus the six year term vs. two year term). What has happened in our modern world through partisan gerrymandering has actually flipped that notion. A House district is now often a ticket to permanence while a full statewide Senate race can be much more volatile.

Yea, verily. Although, to coin a phrase, there may be an ethnic minority hiding in this particular woodpile: as the nation becomes increasingly urbanized, more and more House districts will be comprised of more-or-less-adjacent city neighborhoods — and city neighborhoods change a lot faster than do rural areas.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:39 AM)
3 February 2004
When no nukes is good nukes

Remember when leftists were the ones who worried about nuclear proliferation? Mark Steyn does:

When nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, the Left was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute, and the handful of us who survived would be walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now anyone with a few thousand bucks and an unlisted number in Islamabad in his Rolodex can get a nuke, and the Left couldn't care less.

I never did quite buy that "mutual assured destruction" business — it seems unlikely that both sides could inflict absolutely equal damage, and anyway Oceania/Eastasia/Eurasia/whoever would be accused of targeting the inner cities rather than the suburbs, thereby demonstrating hideous and unacceptable prejudice against the socioeconomically challenged — but armed societies, back then, were generally acknowledged to be polite. Some of them still are.

Still, politeness is a virtue mostly unknown to the mad medievalists of the Middle East, so I'm pleased to report that taking away their armaments, even the most insignificant Weapons of Half-Assed Destruction, pays dividends in two ways: it assists in assuring our survival, and it serves as an object lesson to our multiculturalists, who persist in believing that any society which doesn't have a McDonald's is superior to any society which does.

The old "balance of power" shtick is dead, and good riddance. How many times must the cannonballs fly before they're forever banned? So long as we're threatened by terrorists, the answer, my friend, is "Blow it out your ass."

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:01 PM)
5 February 2004
Permanent overclass

A little reminder from Bruce:

This election cycle we will hear Democrats attacking corporate lobbyists. What's wrong with the country is that these corporate lobbyists have climbed into bed with Bush and are sucking the treasury dry and robbing ordinary people of their livelihoods. This is what they'll say, and they'll be right. But we should not be so presumptuous to assume that once The D's regain the mantle of power they will kick the lobbyists out to the curb with righteous indignation. I can make a pretty clear prediction that even if a Democrat wins, we will not see the general nature of Washington change. No matter how nice it sounds when Kerry uses his line about "don't let the door hit you on the way out!" we should not expect to see televised images of lobbyists dressed in their suits standing on street corners holding "Will pimp for government money" signs. Not gonna happen.

Or, in Pete Townshend's phrase, "Meet the new boss — same as the old boss."

The last clause of the First Amendment keeps Congress from infringing upon the right of the people "to petition the government for a redress of grievances," and inasmuch as corporate structures are considered the functional equivalent of persons (see Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific, 1886), you're pretty much always going to have corporations with grievances (such as, say, insufficient profits) which they would like Congress to redress.

Of course, your non-profit organizations tend to be just as corporate, and therefore just as legally corporeal; the Sierra Club — theoretically, at least — has the same Constitutionally-mandated access to Congress as does ExxonMobil.

Lobbyists, like the poor, are always with us; they just wear more expensive suits.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:47 PM)
Crude manipulation

What do British MP George Galloway, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, and the Minister of Forestry of Myanmar have in common?

Answer: While Saddam Hussein was handing out bribes to the likes of Jacques Chirac, he was apparently awarding millions of barrels of oil to those three and many others for, um, services possibly to be rendered, a serious perversion of the oil-for-food program. Mr Galloway, President Megawati, and the unnamed Myanmar minister are listed as having received vouchers for one million barrels of oil (call it $30 million or so), and they're hardly the largest recipients of Saddam's largesse.

Alan Sullivan, who has reproduced the complete list as released, sees a slogan just waiting to be turned into a meme: No oil for blood! And I suppose there's some comfort in knowing that Saddam, ruthless killer that he was, also dabbled in more mundane offenses.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:18 PM)
6 February 2004
Speaking of Betamaxes

Which I do, on occasion.

Today Wonkette has dubbed Howard Dean "the Betamax of political contenders," which fits just perfectly: the picture might appear better to some people, but playing time is definitely short.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:44 PM)
8 February 2004
Straining at GNATs*

*Garish Name Application Techniques, which have acquired staggering popularity in today's Congress, and have achieved prodigious levels of banality in so doing. Prime example: The USA PATRIOT Act, an acronym of such mind-numbing idiocy that if Ashcroft and company don't disown the whole package over Constitutional concerns, which they won't, they ought to can it for having a stupid, maudlin, wretched name.

And God forbid someone should concoct some legislation whose purpose is, say, Keeping Internal Terrorism Threats Everywhere Neatly Suppressed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:03 PM)
9 February 2004
Trippingly on the tongue

Is George W. Bush inarticulate? Jane Galt responds, "What if he is?"

I watched the Bush performance [on Meet the Press] and I thought it was okay. Not inspiring, but I didn't expect it — and I'm not convinced that the measure of a president is how well he looks on television. Especially now that I've done some TV work. Verbal fluency is a good measure of how verbally fluent you are, not how smart or competent, or how well you make decisions. It is the conceit of academics and journalists that the one talent they all have in spades is the one that is absolutely necessary for any important job. And how would we feel if the NCAA started telling us you couldn't be a sports journalist unless you can run a 4-minute mile?

The best mile I've ever run is 5:53; obviously I have no business covering sports — especially now, when walking a mile will probably destroy what's left of my knee joints. (Which is probably not true, but I'm in no mood to test things, and I just popped another Bextra.)

If academics and journalists were the only ones who got to vote — a situation, I suspect, they would find most desirable — the President's halting speech might be a drawback. Personally, I like the idea that he has to think it over before he comes out with something. To me, it helps to dispel the notion that Bush is nothing more than Karl Rove's carefully-coached sock puppet; I mean, if he'd memorized all these lines, he'd have a smoother delivery, right?

Besides, however effective I may be at getting words onto the page or the screen, I fumble and hem and haw and choke whenever I'm called upon to address X+1 individuals, where X is equal to or greater than 0, so I have a certain amount of sympathy for W. I just wish he'd figure out "nuclear", if only because "nucular" reminds me of Jimmy Carter.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:01 PM)
12 February 2004
Says you, John

Senator John Edwards was grilled (actually, sort of warmed over) by Katie Couric on NBC's Today show this morning, and in the wake of various Kerry and Bush stories, she asked him about his own military experience.

Which he didn't have; he pointed out that he's 50 now, and by the time he turned 18, the draft was pretty much done away with, so "I did not have to serve."

I'm 50 now, and I still have my draft card, and I still have my draft lottery number (which was twenty-five). John Edwards is not quite six months older than I am; I rather doubt that they'd cancel the draft for him and then bring it back for me.

(Update, 1:30 pm: I poked around the Selective Service System site and got Edwards' lottery number, which was 178. Certainly he was never actually called for the draft. Still, the way he answered this morning — there's video on the MSNBC site linked above [requires Windows Media Player 9] — could lead someone to think that he'd somehow gotten away with something. Or worse, that he thought he'd gotten away with something.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:38 AM)
14 February 2004
Kaptain Ketchup's alleged tomato

So far, things haven't moved much beyond the Hysterical Rumormongering stage.

I'm inclined to agree with this observation by Charles Dodgson:

[T]he Republicans were sure to have something like this going at fever pitch sometime before election day, whether there's any truth to it or not, and regardless of the checkered histories of nationally prominent Republicans. Bring it on. If the Democrats can't deal with it, they're doomed anyway. And if they handle it well now — by bringing up and focusing on real issues and real achievements while the Republicans rant about their own ritual purity — it may at least be old news by the fall.

Emphasis added.

And "ritual purity"? "We befoul the air, we take bribes under the table — hell, we take bribes over the table — but by God, we keep our pants on."

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:53 AM)
15 February 2004
The vertical fudge factor

Figures lie, and liars figure, and sometimes you get the worst of both worlds: take a look at this graph of US casualties in Iraq.

I haven't checked the actual numbers, but even if they're absolutely correct, there's a blatant bias in the way the graph is designed: unless some of these deaths are somehow reversed — something not seen in the Middle East for around 1,970 years, and then only once — the curve can never go down. At best, there will be some sort of plateau of finite duration; otherwise, it keeps going up and up.

Which, of course, is what the designer intended, with the hope that you will assume from the shape of the curve that things are getting worse and worse in Iraq.

Ten years from now, we'll probably see this guy day-trading in the bond market.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:22 PM)
19 February 2004
The San Francisco tweet

I'm not inclined to get worked up over the current flap over gay marriage in San Francisco; I mean, isn't there always a current flap in San Francisco? So if Mayor Gavin Newsom wants to try to add his name to the Civil Disobedience Hall of Fame, it's fine with me.

Still, the very definition of "civil disobedience" indicates that a law has been broken. Civil-rights marchers in the South, forty-odd years ago, were prepared to take the consequences of their actions. I'm not quite persuaded that Mayor Newsom is prepared to take the consequences of his.

Update, 11:05 am:
Michele had a piece this morning on the larger topic — as usual, far better than anything I have to say on the subject — and a fellow known as "A Different Bill" commented as follows:

If a state passes a law that old people have to get a vision check before getting a license, and a local DMV office decides that is unfair to old people and issues licenses to them all and their friends from out of state as well, how is that different that what is going on in SF?

If this civil disobedience in SF goes unpunished, I want to put a Starbucks in next door to my house. Surely I can find a government drone that believes the zoning laws are unjust.

I admit to a certain amount of bemusement by all this. Whatever I may think of gay marriage — which at the moment is actually fairly close to this, minus an imprecation or two, subject to change without notice — I really can't work up much enthusiasm for Newsom: it's not like he's exactly putting his life on the line for this cause. (A visit to Selma, Alabama might be in order.) Still, I know better than to underestimate the power of small gestures.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:04 AM)
20 February 2004
Coming from behind

This gay-marriage business will be a big issue this fall, says House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas):

[Americans] have been tolerant of homosexuality for years, but now it's being stuffed down their throats and they don't like it.

You know, Tom, the throat is only one possible route.

(Via Wonkette, who was actually even less subtle than I.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:21 PM)
21 February 2004
What's left?

Vinny Ferrari has been listening to the radio again, and he's detected what Susanna Cornett (gawd, I miss her) might call "framing bias", pointing out that ABC's coverage of the San Francisco gay-marriage imbroglio was a tad less than evenhanded:

I noticed [Peter] Jennings repeatedly referred to the court challenge of the mayor's allowance and the legality of the unions as being led by "conservative" groups, and even heard right wing being bandied about on another station.

However, no one referred to the gays being married or the people cheering them on as left wing or liberal.

I don't think that this is necessarily a liberal (in the present-day sense) cause, and indeed most of the opposition is coming from conservatives, but his basic point — that in Big Media, conservatives are almost always identified as such, suggesting that they're somehow a departure from the norm — seems pretty sound. I got a whiff of it yesterday during NPR's coverage of the Iranian elections, which they cast as a clash between the "right wing" and the "reformers" — as though reform in Iran was something engineered by the left.

And similarly, if you hear the phrase "public-interest group" on the radio, eight times out of ten they'll be talking about liberals.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:35 AM)
23 February 2004
The song remains the same

Me, September 2000:

One of the more curious arguments coming out of the Democratic side of the aisle lately runs something like this: "If you vote for Ralph Nader, you're really voting for George W. Bush."

The premise, one supposes, is that in states where Nader has measurable strength, he may draw away enough disaffected Democrats who can't bear to vote for Al Gore — and Dubya will collect those electoral votes in the end. A vote for Nader, therefore, must be a vote wasted. The usual Friends of Al will actually say so, in so many words.

The proper response to this, I submit, is "So?" How is it Ralph Nader's fault if Al Gore can't hold on to his traditional Democratic base? Isn't it entirely possible that some people might actually want to vote for Nader? Where does Al Gore get off thinking he has the right to claim all the votes of registered Democrats — and that includes mine, dammit — as his own?

Bruce, today:

Nader has the right to do whatever he damn well pleases. Any vote [that] Nader gets will be one that he earned. Simple as that. The presumptious attitude that all votes "belong" to either the (R) or the (D) is ridiculous. Any vote that a person willfully cast for another candidate other than them is "Stolen"? Give me a break.

Plus ça change, and all that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:23 PM)
24 February 2004
Fowl play

Eric Scheie takes a look out back of the barn:

Because it is quite clear that [John] Kerry thinks his service in Vietnam gives him the moral authority to make 2004 the Year of the Chickenhawk, I think examining the logic of the central premise is in order.

Let's take, um, Gus Hall and George Lincoln Rockwell. The former headed the Communist Party, USA, while the latter headed the American Nazi Party. Both served in World War II; Hall in the Navy, and Rockwell too (the latter distinguishing himself as a fighter pilot).

Clearly, Hall and Rockwell would be more entitled to serve in the government, or to comment on foreign policy, than any of the "chickenhawks" Kerry complains of.

And it gets better:

In the United States Senate, 19 Republicans are veterans, while only 17 Democrats are.

In the House, there are 57 Republican veterans to 43 Democrats.

Simple math. If you disallow all non-veterans from voting [in Congress], then the Republicans would have an even bigger margin of control than they do now.

One of these days John Kerry will figure out that "I'm an effing war hero" counts for a hell of a lot less than he thinks it does. What are the chances it will be before the election?

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:59 PM)
25 February 2004
Welfare vs. diversity

Wait a minute. Those things don't conflict — or do they?

David Goodhart thinks that they very well may:

It was the Conservative politician David Willetts who drew my attention to the "progressive dilemma". Speaking at a roundtable on welfare reform, he said: "The basis on which you can extract large sums of money in tax and pay it out in benefits is that most people think the recipients are people like themselves, facing difficulties that they themselves could face. If values become more diverse, if lifestyles become more differentiated, then it becomes more difficult to sustain the legitimacy of a universal risk-pooling welfare state. People ask: 'Why should I pay for them when they are doing things that I wouldn't do?' This is America versus Sweden. You can have a Swedish welfare state provided that you are a homogeneous society with intensely shared values. In the United States you have a very diverse, individualistic society where people feel fewer obligations to fellow citizens. Progressives want diversity, but they thereby undermine part of the moral consensus on which a large welfare state rests."

And even Sweden is becoming less homogeneous; Stockholm expects to be seeing twice as many immigrants over the next ten years.

Goodhart's essay, published in the Guardian following its appearance in his magazine Prospect, has provoked considerable dismay among British leftists, who tend to believe that they can embrace both multiculturalism and a modified form of socialism with few if any consequences. But, says Goodhart, there are factors working against the combination:

[A] generous welfare state is not compatible with open borders and possibly not even with US-style mass immigration. Europe is not America. One of the reasons for the fragmentation and individualism of American life is that it is a vast country. In Europe, with its much higher population density and planning controls, the rules have to be different. We are condemned to share — the rich cannot ignore the poor, the indigenous cannot ignore the immigrant — but that does not mean people are always happy to share.

A universal, human rights-based approach to welfare ignores the fact that the rights claimed by one group do not automatically generate the obligation to accept them, or pay for them, on the part of another group. If we want high tax and redistribution, especially with the extra welfare demands of an ageing population, then in a world of stranger citizens taxpayers need reassurance that their money is being spent on people for whose circumstances they would have some sympathy. For that reason, welfare should become more overtly conditional. The rules must be transparent and blind to ethnicity, religion, sexuality and so on, but not blind to behaviour. People who consistently break the rules of civilised behaviour should not receive unconditional benefits.

Emphasis added.

One could argue, in fact, that staying on the dole indefinitely is an infraction of "the rules of civilised behaviour." I am most assuredly not fond of working for a living, but if I expect to have a roof over my head and a small number of creature comforts, I have no choice; further, if others do seem to have such a choice, I want to know why. And surely I'm not alone in this attitude.

On balance, diversity — the genuine article, not the fabricated figures inflicted upon us in its name — is a good thing; were I inclined to avoid it, I never would have moved back into the city. Still, the nature of the American melting pot is that sooner or later, preferably sooner, we shed our hyphens and our own personal versions of apartheid and become, well, assimilated. (A pox on the Borg for investing that term with such an unfortunate set of connotations.) The Constitution, after all, begins "We the People"; there are no qualifiers or subdivisions. And by and large, We the People will put up with a heck of a lot, so long as we don't have to pay for it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:00 AM)
29 February 2004
The Second Lady at Bowling Green

Rammer attends a fundraiser for Rep. Paul Gilmore (R-Ohio), where the keynote speaker is Lynne Cheney, and reports as follows:

Her remarks were unremarkable, but she worked her way through the prepared speech in yeoman (yeowoman) fashion. She began by noting how fortunate she is to have a front row seat for the history that is unfolding. Listing the accomplishments of the Bush administration, she paused to praise the troops. She discussed economic policy before tearing into the other party's leading candidates. Her best cut was, "Listening to them talk, it seems as though they are against even the things that they are for."

Just as I expected her to wind it down, she instead had saved the material that most mattered to her for last. With the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court and an Associate Justice in attendance she called for the end of the "abuse of the Constitution" by the other party in the U.S. Senate that was blocking the opportunity for votes to be taken on the President's Judicial nominees. Pounding the podium, she concluded her remarks with a call for support and redoubled effort to secure Ohio for the Bush-Cheney ticket.

Nothing remarkable, in other words, but perhaps an indication of what we can expect in the pre-convention period before the gloves really come off.

Rammer notes that Mrs Cheney's speech was given before dinner, "for security reasons no doubt," after which she was presumably whisked away to an undisclosed location.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:51 AM)
2 March 2004
Amendment XXVIII

Greg Hlatky wonders how well this would go over:

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to enter into marriage shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of the sex of the spouse.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The proposed Federal Marriage Amendment reads like this:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

Is it possible that both of these could be circulating through the states at the same time? It is.

Is it possible that both of these could be ratified? Theoretically, I suppose, but don't bet on it.

Is it possible that either of these could be ratified? I'm not holding my breath.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:06 AM)
4 March 2004
Generally appalling accounting practices

Call it the Feds' Annual Report: it's the Fiscal Year 2003 U.S. Government Financial Statements [requires Adobe Reader], published under the auspices of the General Accounting Office, and of its 33 pages, ten of them (22 through 31 inclusive) are devoted to explaining why these numbers really don't mean anything.

This paragraph, at the beginning of Appendix III ("Material Deficiencies"), is instructive:

The federal government did not maintain adequate systems or have sufficient, reliable evidence to support information reported in the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government, as described below. These material deficiencies contributed to our disclaimer of opinion on the consolidated financial statements and also constitute material weaknesses in internal control.

These days, not even the cynics can keep up.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:25 AM)
5 March 2004
No electoral votes for bin Laden

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) was quoted in the Yukon Review to the effect that "if George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election." Kevin Drum, tongue perhaps in cheek, wants to know: "Where's the outrage?"

I demand that all bloggers who condemned Corinne Brown's remarks last week also condemn Cole. Anything less than his immediate ouster from the House of Representatives and permanent exile from the Republican party just proves that all Republicans are bigots and hypocrites.

Cole's office offered an explanation and a transcript of the remarks he made, but if that's not enough for Kevin Drum, Cam Edwards has written up an apology for Cole:

The other day, I made a statement that a vote against Bush is a vote for Osama bin Laden. Obviously that's not the case, since John Kerry doesn't have a beard, and bin Laden's not eligible for the presidency (unless Orrin Hatch gets his way). Oh yeah, Kerry's not a terrorist either. I should make that clear: John Kerry is not a terrorist. He's a waffling wussy when it comes to national security. I apologize for my insensitive remarks, and hope that I've cleared the air with this statement.

Got that? John Kerry, who incidentally served in Vietnam, is not a terrorist. And he doesn't have a beard. As for other, um, masculine characteristics, well, let's not go there.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:01 AM)
9 March 2004
Themes like old times

Yeah, I know: the first rule is, you do not talk about Culture Club.

But if Bill Clinton can use a Fleetwood Mac tune for a campaign song — no, it wasn't "Landslide" — we can certainly expect John Kerry to pillage the vaults at VH1.

And conveniently, Boy George has already anticipated this situation:

I'm a man without conviction
I'm a man who doesn't know
How to sell a contradiction
You come and go
You come and go

Instant karma, no?

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:22 AM)
11 March 2004
Let us now praise combo meals

By a vote of 276 to 139, the House passed the so-called Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, which bars lawsuits against restaurants and food-service companies who vend stuff that might actually make you fat if you wolf down enough of it.

The bill's fate in the Senate remains to be seen, but Serenity (channeling Stevens & Grdnic, it appears) wonders about the opposition:

Maybe I don't get out enough. I appear to have missed all those Burger King employees going through the quiet, unassuming neighborhoods, kicking in doors, taking the residents out by gunpoint and forcing them into a van, hauling them to the closest BK, and shoving a Whopper down their throat.

You'd think that John Kerry would endorse this bill: after all, if the nation cuts down its consumption of French fries, the effect on ketchup manufacturers — which is to say, the effect on Heinz, the only ketchup that matters — will hit him, or at least his wife, right in the pocketbook.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:32 AM)
Disenchanted in advance

Oklahoma is one of those states whose devotion to the two-party system is apparently deep and lasting; it's darn near impossible to get a third-party candidate (e.g. Nader, 2000) or an independent candidate (e.g. Nader, 2004) on the Presidential ballot here. And that's rather a shame, since I'm not all that enthralled with the incumbent — I give him points for foreign policy, I take them back for the way he spends my money — and I am really appalled that the Democrats are actually about to nominate a sagging mannequin, a Gorebot minus the charisma. If ever there was a time for a protest vote, November 2004 is it, even if there's no chance of electing, say, some hot Abercrombie chick.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:36 PM)
13 March 2004
Scout's honor

The Supreme Court's 2000 decision in Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale upheld the right of the Scouts to exclude gay men from leadership positions. At the time, while I wasn't enthusiastic about the BSA policy — I suggested, in fact, that it might even be "pigheaded" — I defended the Court's reasoning:

The organization's right to select its members trumps an individual's right to require that organization to accommodate him.

National Review's Rich Lowry says that in the wake of Dale, there has been "a wide-ranging effort to punish the Scouts for exercising their First Amendment right of free association." In Connecticut, the State Employees' Campaign for Charitable Giving tossed the Scouts off their list of approved recipients; in San Diego, the Scouts are being evicted from a city park where they had operated an aquatic center.

Justin Katz points out:

[This action] mainly hurts the people most removed from the controversy and most in need of the benefits that the Boy Scouts can offer. They are the broken eggs in the quest for a religion-free public square.

The Scouts, for their part, aren't budging an inch.

Maybe "pigheaded" is good.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:29 AM)
18 March 2004
Are you better off today?

Ronald Reagan asked this question in 1980, and rather a large number of people at the time decided that they weren't.

Dean Esmay, citing this piece from The Economist, says that the current crop of doomsayers is simply wrong:

Things aren't just "looking up," they're actually better than they've ever been, and getting better all the time for the vast majority of America. And whose lives are improving fastest of all? Minority groups, particularly blacks, and those at the lowest level of the income scale, all improving their lot in life at a record pace.

Personally, I'd amend Dean's statement slightly, to read like this:

And whose lives are improving fastest of all? Apart from corporate CEOs and other people outside the normal marketplace, the greatest improvements are among minority groups, particularly blacks, and those at the lowest level of the income scale, all improving their lot in life at a record pace.

But note: if my income goes up 5 percent — which, incidentally, it hasn't — and John Q. Pinstripe's compensation, including stock options and bonuses, goes up 8 percent, the much-decried gulf between richest and poorest widens slightly, even though my situation has inarguably improved.

And Dean says, quite reasonably:

1) The news media makes its money by making people think the world's in a constant state of crisis, and 2) No matter how well-off people are, they're usually convinced that things suck and are getting worse.

At this particular point in time, any degree of uncertainty — and if there's one thing we have in abundance in 2004, it's uncertainty — contributes to that perceived suckage. On the other hand, if you were somehow able to banish most of that uncertainty, you'd also breed a fair amount of cynicism: "Oh, sure, they tell us that everything's fine."

Am I better off today than I was in 2000? I think so. Do I credit the wisdom of my leaders for this? Not even.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:22 AM)
21 March 2004
East side story

"Why bother with the UN at all?" asks Myria:

What do we want out of the UN? What is it we want it to do? Provide peace on earth? If so, it's a miserable failure. Be a place where diplomats get together and discuss things? We already have those, they're called 'Embassies'. Provide some 'higher authority'? That certainly seems to be the take of some, what with the "Bush should have gotten UN approval" crap. Why? From whence does this mysterious UN authority derive? The US government, at least in theory, derives its power from the will of the people, from what does the UN derive its authority? I don't know about you, but I don't recall voting for Kofi Annan, nor do I recall any constitutional amendment ceding authority from the US government to a bunch of UN bureaucrats.

If the UN ceased to exist tomorrow, what would change? What would we lose? Other than that there'd be fewer people running around New York thinking they'll be running a one world nanny-state anti-democratic mega-government that taxes the bejesus out of everyone any day now if only they can find the right way to get everyone to agree with them.

The problem with the UN isn't that there aren't enough democracies — the UN itself isn't democratic in any sense of the term — the problem is that it's a flawed concept to begin with. Something that sounds great in theory but that theory ignores human nature and political realities. Great idea on paper, in practice an utter disaster area.

What prompted this outburst was the revelation that a caucus of democracies is being assembled, technically under the auspices of the UN, with the unspoken goal of doing an end run around the Third World misfits and miscreants, aided and abetted by Euroschmucks, who currenly dominate the UN by dint of sheer decibel level.

In Oklahoma, we tend to describe this sort of modification as "painting a smiley-face on a turd." At the very least, the notion of populating an ostensible world parliament with representatives of despots is utterly ludicrous; circumventing them may be good, but telling them to go to hell is better. At the moment, I'm thinking the US should inform the UN that its future participation in this charade should be conditioned upon the UN's relocation to a place more appropriate to its present-day mission. I'm sure Robert Mugabe could find them space in Harare.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:24 PM)
26 March 2004
The grain of assault

Dr John Lott, writing at NRO, sees an end to one particularly egregious gun-control measure:

The so-called "assault-weapons ban," a hallmark of the gun-control movement, is dead. After a decade of claiming that the ban is crucial to reducing crime and protecting police, gun-control organizations have suddenly morphed into Gilda Radner's old Saturday Night Live character, Roseanne Rosanna-Dana, saying "never mind."

The ban expires on 13 September; while some of the usual suspects have weighed in, and the Senate did once vote to extend the ban before deciding to let it fade into the sunset, there's little support for the idea in the House, and there seems to be some dim realization among at least some of the anti-Second Amendment crowd that the ban as written was purely arbitrary and had no discernible impact on the nation's crime rate.

I'll be happy to see it die, not because I particularly aspire to fill up a gun cabinet with such weapons, but simply because it was a dumb idea, conceived in desperation and enacted in haste. Good riddance.

But dammit, John, it was Emily Litella who said "Never mind." Sheesh. It's always something.

(Update, 10:15 am: Revised the Senate reference and added a link.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:44 AM)
27 March 2004
Somewhere off Shattuck Avenue

I'm reasonably certain I don't need to fill in the name of the California city in which this took place:

The Police Review Commission has rejected a proposal to buy two German shepherd police dogs after opponents said the animals could intimidate poor people and racial minorities.

The 6-3 vote Wednesday night effectively kills the Police Department's plans for a canine unit.

A good police dog, GSD or otherwise, should be able to intimidate anybody up to and including Governor Schwarzenegger, fercryingoutloud.

(Via Overtaken by Events, where Matt suggests that an initiative to "teach the homeless the full glory of homosexual midget performance art" would be more favorably considered by this unnamed burg.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:22 PM)
28 March 2004
Have a tablet

Okay, why were the Ten Commandments pulled out of that Alabama courtroom?

If you automatically responded "Separation of church and state," well, Becky has other ideas.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:59 PM)
4 April 2004
The legacy of Laci and Conner

Thursday, the President signed into law something called the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which makes injury to a fetus during an attack on the mother a separate crime.

I don't have a particular problem with this measure, but I don't think it will stand up to scrutiny by the Supreme Court either. Rod Dreher, writing in the blog of The Dallas Morning News (they don't do permalinks — see 1 April, 3:50 pm) explains why:

I think that pro-choicers are right to say that this law undermines Roe v. Wade, even though the language of the law permits abortion. It's illogical to say that the mother's preference makes the difference between a form of homicide and a legally permissible act. I think this is probably why SCOTUS will overturn it.

And Dreher sees another controversy, this one local to Dallas, brewing:

We're a pro-choice paper (as far as I know, I'm the only pro-lifer on the editorial board, though I invite others, if they're there, to identify themselves). It's safe to say that I won't be writing this editorial, if we do in fact editorialize on the UVVA. If we come out against the UVVA, I hope y'all have good arguments to explain to the public why when Conner Peterson died, a human being did not die. And if we come out in favor of the UVVA, I hope y'all have good arguments to explain why the personhood of a fetus can only be determined by the decision of its mother. I hope y'all can explain why this is any different, morally, from the 19th-century, when the whims of white people decided the moral personhood of black people. I can see the bumper sticker now: Don't like slavery? Don't own one.

Interestingly, Dreher comments elsewhere (1 April, 3:00 pm) that liberals, at least within earshot of him, complain about how &*%$# right-wing the News' editorial page is. He should hear some of the grumblings about The Oklahoman.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:29 AM)
Narrowing the strike zone

It could be argued, I suppose, that California's so-called "Three Strikes" rule is overly expensive, but as Patterico has been pointing out, the price to be paid for letting career criminals back on the street — and it will be paid: the current measure seeking to amend "Three Strikes" [link requires Adobe Reader] calls for every single sentence issued under its provisions to be rethought — is far higher than can be denominated in mere dollars. Why California would even consider such a thing is beyond me.

And one of Patterico's examples is a sexual predator for whom "repeat offender," as a description, is almost wholly inadequate; you might as well charge Saddam Hussein with littering. This character, whose primary target was girls five to seven, has no business ever getting out of prison. I don't know if I'd go so far as Laura, who recommends as a general policy "Nail their gonads to the ceiling and use 'em as a piñata" — for one thing, I don't want to see what pops out of them when they break — but any law which makes it possible for him to be sprung is a law I don't want to see enacted, in California or anyplace else.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:04 AM)
How much do I hear?

Let's see. The Bush campaign in 2000 spent $185,921,855 for a total of 50,456,002 votes, which works out to about $3.68 per vote.

Pittsburgh writer Dave Copeland, meanwhile, has put his 2004 vote up for auction. I reasoned that at the very least, there would be a House contest on Copeland's ballot, and since he's a thoughtful sort of person, he probably puts as much effort into researching a Congressional candidate as he would a Presidential wannabe, so I doubled the $3.68 and entered a bid slightly in excess of $7.36.

Oops: someone has already bid higher than that.

At least Dave Copeland has the satisfaction of knowing that his vote, to someone anyway, is worth more than the votes of the rest of us out here in the Teeming Milieu.

(Via The Last Page, who is one of those people who could sell me anything.)

(Well, maybe not turkey bacon.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:31 PM)
5 April 2004
All you need is cash

I've kept my distance from the current Kos célèbre, generally, but I must point out that there really isn't anything particulary surprising about The Remark: according to various leftist pronouncements, doing anything for money is somehow a little bit unseemly, too capitalist to sit well with people who spent all their intellectual capital on Marxist ideology. Halliburton is reviled, partially because it's an American corporation — its ties to Vice President Cheney are purely incidental — but mostly because it's making money in a war zone.

This notion extends well beyond Iraq, and it's one reason the left is constantly calling for the government to undertake tasks that could just as well be done by the private sector: privatized operations are more interested in the bottom line than in the Good of All Mankind, and the government would never be so tacky as to turn an actual profit. Whether the private firm can do a better job at less expense is irrelevant.

Thus the complaint about "mercenaries." Whether those poor folks met the definition of the word or not, they were working for a private firm, and therefore their deaths should be considered even more meaningless than those of our "real" troops.

Don't get them started on health care. Please.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:51 AM)
6 April 2004
That was the year that was

New slogan at Oddly Normal:

Capitalism — improving your world since 1783.

Um...okay. Why 1783? The Treaty of Paris?

Suggestions welcomed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:49 AM)
7 April 2004
Your basic viable energy policy

Bruce grasps something that a lot of our politicians don't:

People are asking what the president is going to do about gas prices. I say, "why should he do anything?" Are we willing to admit that we WANT the U.S. government to create artificial prices in the market. By doing so you only risk prolonging the use of oil for industries that would be better served, long term, by moving to alternatives. Not to mention the consumption of inefficient vehicles based on an unrealistic expectation of fuel prices.

All else being equal, we tend to buy whatever's cheapest, which guarantees that nothing will speed the transition to more fuel-efficient vehicles quite as effectively as high prices for fuel. Your standard statist, claiming to be sympathetic to the plight of the poor or some similar smarm, will pursue policies that, were there one gallon of gas left on planet earth, would require that it be sold for a buck and a half, preferably to someone other than Donald Trump. We don't know for sure how long we will be awash in cheap fuel; the least we can do is enjoy it while we have it, and be prepared to move on when we don't.

Incidentally, prices are off about four cents a gallon in my neck of the woods; the going rate at the name-brand stations is generally $1.599, plus or minus a cent or two. I'm anticipating $1.85 a gallon for the slightly-shorter-than-usual World Tour '04 this summer, which will hurt, but it won't hurt as much as staying home.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:04 AM)
8 April 2004
Futility is resistible

Lynn thinks there's more to the Collective than we've been given to understand:

In spite of the fact that many episodes of Star Trek were obviously intended to make a point, until fairly recently I had never thought of the Borg as anything other than a typical sci-fi plot device: the apparently undefeatable foe who, nevertheless, must be defeated. But then the world got shook up and a lot of people started shouting and, amoung the many things they started shouting about, one was respect for other cultures. So now, I keep thinking I see a political message in the stories involving the Borg and I'm not sure I like it.

Intelligent dialog is not one of the Borg's strengths. "Resistance is futile," and "You will be assimilated," cover almost every situation. I guess when you're the strongest you don't have to talk to anybody. I'm sure someone out there thinks that the U.S. is the Borg. That can be easily dismissed with a bored yawn. Sorry, we've heard the like too many times in the past two and half years. The fact is, we go out of our way to respect other cultures. If I visited Saudi Arabia I could not walk around bare-faced and with several inches of thigh exposed but a woman from Saudi Arabia is free to cover her face when she is visiting the U.S. So exactly who is doing the assimilating?

Let me go on record here as being in favor of exposing several inches of thigh.

Of course, the most startling development in all of the Federation's interactions, so to speak, with the Borg is the fact that once they assimilated someone from France.

But then:

What does assimilation mean? When the Borg "assimilate" another culture that culture disappears completely. They either become Borg, indistinguishable from other Borg, or they are destroyed. But is that really assimilation and is that what we do in America? Or is it just a twisted moonbat fantasy? Does not that which is assimilated become a part of the whole, thus adding to and changing the original?

I vote for "twisted moonbat fantasy." No one is forced to buy clothing at Old Navy or lunch at McDonald's. If people escaping the Third World embrace these American icons, it's because they think it's an improvement over what they're used to. And I suspect they'd bitterly resent being told by some Defender of the Culture in beautiful downtown Berkeley that their choices really aren't freely chosen, that they've been duped into accepting something inferior by the force of the hive mind.

Assimilation American style involves both give and take. Every group that has come to America has added its own bit of spice to the pot. Some people believe that traditional cultures must be preserved intact without any "imperialist" American "corruption." I suppose that makes sense if you're running a museum.

Exactly. Fill the box, seal the edges, open the display for public viewing, and make sure nothing ever changes.

And remember: One's connection to the Borg is through external means. It can be broken. Just ask Seven of Nine. Or, for that matter, Jean-Luc Picard.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:51 AM)
9 April 2004
Horton hears a Ho

I think Lileks is getting tired of the Vietnam analogies:

It's Warholian: in the future, all conflicts will be Vietnam for 15 minutes.

Vietnam was an anomaly. Vietnam was perhaps the least typical war we've ever fought, but somehow it's become the Gold Standard for wars — because, one suspects, it became inextricably bound up with Nixon, that black hole of human perfidy, and it coincided with the golden glory years of so many old boomers who now clog the arteries of the media and academe. A gross overgeneralization, I know. But it's a fatal conceit. If you're always fighting the last war you'll lose the next one. Even worse: Vietnam was several wars ago.

Maybe it's just me, but as a boomer on the cusp of old, I'm inclined to give Nixon a pass, on this matter anyway, and blame this syndrome entirely upon people my age or slightly above who continue to live in the past because they fear they might be irrelevant in the present.

And as fears go — and I've gone with lots of them over the years — this one is as close to guaranteed self-fulfillment as you can get.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:24 AM)
10 April 2004
A long and protracted struggle

From the tattered notebook of Kimberly Swygert:

At New York's Kennedy Airport today, an individual later discovered to be a public school math teacher was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a setsquare, a slide rule, and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, Attorney General John Ashcroft said he believes the man is a member of the notorious al-Gebra movement. The FBI is charging him with carrying weapons of math instruction.

"Al-Gebra is a fearsome cult," Ashcroft said. "They seek solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of their absolute values. They use secret code names like x and y and refer to themselves as 'unknowns,' but we have determined they have many common denominators with coordinates in every country."

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes. Murky statisticians love to inflict plane on every sphere of influence," the President said, adding: "Under the circumferences, we must differentiate their root, make our point, and draw the line."

President Bush further warned, "These weapons of math instruction have the potential to decimal everything in their math on a scalene never before seen unless we become exponents of a Higher Power."

Attorney General Ashcroft said, "As our Great Leader would say, read my ellipse. Though they continue to multiply, their days are numbered as the hypotenuse tightens around their necks."

Actually, I think what Ashcroft finds most frightening is the possibility that binomials, even (yes!) polynomials, might be accepted as legitimate equations.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:09 AM)
Way past Uncle Ben

Apparently not everyone on the Left has hopped on the let's-bash-Condi bandwagon. From The People's Republic of Seabrook:

Rice may have the political instincts of Pee Wee Herman (or Niccolò Machiavelli), but no one with any sense would question her intellect or her ability to hold her own in a debate. I suspect [Thursday's] inquisition did nothing to disprove this. Let's give credit where credit is due.

In the meantime, can we all just lay off the cheap Photoshopping and gratuitous insults directed at Rice? I may not support her politics or the man she works for, but no one deserves to have this sort of thinly-veiled racial vituperation directed at her. It demeans all of us. We can do better than this.

Most of the criticism of Dr Rice I've seen has not been particularly racial in nature, except to the extent that any black American public figure who doesn't toe the Jesse Jackson / Congressional Black Caucus line can expect to be criticized.

But I believe we will do better than this, eventually. In fact, I'm counting on it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:58 PM)
13 April 2004
Looking out for #2

Once again, John McCain says no, and the Baseball Crank finds the very suggestion absurd:

I think it's just funny that the Democrats' cupboard of leadership is so bare that many of them would kill to put a Republican (and not just any Republican, but one who's more of a war hawk than Bush, and is a firm supporter of school choice and private Social Security accounts and other heresies) on the ticket. I mean, could you imagine anybody in the conservative press or blogosphere agitating to put Bob Kerrey or even Zell Miller on the GOP ticket? The closest we'd come is lifelong liberal Republicans like Powell or Giuliani or Schwarzenegger, and even they'd be viewed with mixed feelings.

Maybe if McCain promised to work for the repeal of McCain-Feingold — no, wait, that's not going to happen either.

I have no idea who's the frontrunner in John Kerry's Veepstakes at the moment, but for all the difference it's going to make, he might as well go ahead and pick Dominique de Villepin and hope that the Dithering Classes think he's putting a woman on the ticket: as the Crank notes, "What percentage of America's voting public is aware that Wesley Clark and Richard Clarke are not the same person?"

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:42 PM)
14 April 2004
Establishing priorities

In case you were wondering, the President's game plan appeared in his very first sentence after "Good evening":

Before I take your questions, let me speak with the American people about the situation in Iraq.

Translation: "The important stuff first, then it's your turn."

No wonder the media get huffy with Mr Bush; he doesn't treat them with the deference they think they deserve.

The transcript is here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:32 AM)
The Despondex is up two points

Barry the Sooner Skeptic contemplates the Democrats' "misery index," and proposes an alternative:

Perhaps someone should come up with an index to measure how miserable we will all be until this election is over.

Let's just hope it ends on Election Day.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:32 AM)
15 April 2004
Obstacles to democracy

If you saw that title and immediately thought of the US Senate, go to the foot of the class with Richard N. Rosenfeld, who argues in the May Harper's for the abolition of the upper chamber.

Vent #385 takes exception. Several of them, in fact.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:05 AM)
16 April 2004
Restrained indeed

The New York Times reports:

A New York State Supreme Court justice ruled yesterday that the liberal talk-radio network, Air America Radio, be put back on the air in Chicago, a day after it was dropped there because of a contract dispute. Justice Marylin G. Diamond issued a restraining order that would allow Air America's programs to be switched on today. Air America must post a $156,000 bond, a condition that its chairman, Evan Cohen, said the company would meet.

"Unbelievable," says Matt at Overtaken by Events.

I believe it just fine. Surely this is the same Justice Diamond who reported receiving threatening letters two years ago, which, said an FBI profiler who paid dues as a detective for the NYPD, were likely written by Diamond herself, perhaps in an effort to justify an expanded security detail. I have to think that if she actually did come up with a scheme like that, she can come up with a justification for any injunction imaginable.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:48 PM)
19 April 2004
How to publish a retraction

Over the weekend, Wonkette noted Joe Trippi's charge that the usual members of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy® were behind the temporary blackout of Air America, and commented:

Air America should fail because it sucks, not because...some shadowy conservative cabal is pulling strings!

On the same item, later:

UPDATE: Some readers have taken issue with our characterization of Air America as sucking. Some would say it blows. But mainly we've heard from angry liberals who argue that Air America is an important dissenting voice in a media dominated by right-wing rumormongers and conservative mouthpieces. This is an excellent point. So we take it back: Air America should not fail because it sucks. Air America should fail under the weight of its humor-crushing earnestness and mammoth hubris, not because some shadowy conservative cabal is pulling strings.

I don't know whether Air America will fail or not, myself, and I haven't listened to it to determine its level of suckage. (The only radio talk show I check on anything resembling a regular basis is the Diane Rehm Show on NPR.) But "mammoth hubris" is a concept I understand. And Hubris, followers of the Greek gods will recall, tends to be followed at some indeterminate interval by Nemesis.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:33 AM)
22 April 2004
Now you hear it, now you don't

The on-again-off-again nature of Air America Radio has suggested a plan of action to the Interested-Participant:

[It] might be just the vehicle to portray John Kerry with a consistent message on the campaign issues. If they can just synchronize their on-air times when Kerry speaks on only one side of an issue and then go off-the-air when he waffles and espouses a contrary position, the network would be reporting consistent policies from their candidate. This may help alleviate confusion in some voters' minds.

It may be time to check those control boards for an adequate supply of flip-flop devices.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:56 PM)
24 April 2004
(Some of) the kids are alright

From an email sent to, and posted at, Fraters Libertas:

John Kerry recently dismissed his post-Vietnam service slander of his countrymen as murderers, rapists, etc, by saying he was just "a 27 year old kid" when he said those malicious things.

Pat Tillman, at 27 years old, sacrificed a professional football career, millions of dollars, a life of luxury, and his life, to defend his country.

A 27 year old kid.

And now at 60, presumably wiser, John Kerry doesn't even know what's in his garage.

We will always need more Pat Tillmans.

And we will never need even one John Kerry.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:21 AM)
26 April 2004
All frame, no picture

Phil Lucas, executive editor of the News Herald in Panama City, Florida, on creeping (and sometimes leaping) bias:

Four weeks ago the Israelis killed Ahmed Yassin, the Islamic religious leader who founded Hamas, one of the purposes of which is to kill Israelis. Some news reports called him "revered spiritual leader." Revered by whom? Israelis? Americans? Palestinians? Is there any doubt as to the reporters' opinion?

Virtually all news reports said he was "assassinated," which means murder, an illegal act. From the Israeli point of view, is it illegal to chop the head off a snake trying to strike you? Reporters could have written "executed," a word loaded in the other direction, implying legality and favoring the Israelis. Or they could have just written "killed" and let readers and viewers decide what is right and what is wrong.

Here's a line from an Associated Press story about the president's press conference last week. "Bush sidestepped at least two opportunities to say he wanted to apologize or take personal responsibility."

"Sidestepped?" "Opportunities?" Nobody sidesteps opportunities. You sidestep duck droppings on the sidewalk. Think this reporter has an opinion he wants to share? If he reveals this kind of blatant bias in any part of a news story, it casts a shadow over every word he writes.

USA Today wrote this: "Offered numerous chances to second-guess his approach to Iraq, he rejected them all."

Nobody "rejects" any "chances" worth taking. It defies human nature. As for "second-guessing," we don't need to guess whose opinion that is. The reporters' two names are in the byline. Assuming perhaps that their readers were too stupid to get it, the reporters used these words a few paragraphs down: "denied," "argued" and "conceded." All referred to Bush. These are words for the opinion pages, like the one you are on now, unless you draw no distinction between news and opinion, unless you believe your opinion is the news.

"The stories we tell," says Lucas, "define the nation." Some of our storytellers are manifestly intent upon defining us in the most negative terms they can manage.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:50 PM)
27 April 2004
Florida wants a lot from you

A measure pending in the Florida legislature would redefine the "public use" restriction in the taking of private land under eminent-domain laws. Proponents say it's necessary for the survival of small cities who have plenty of residential lots but no place for business expansion; opponents see it as a license to grab land for any reason whatsoever.

Given the generally sorry track record of state and local governments in matters of this sort, there's no way I'm going to say anything nice about this bill. Senator Mike Bennett assures us the additional powers given to the state won't be abused; allow me to point out that condemning privately-held land for the benefit of some other private owner, even in the name of "economic development," is about as abusive as you can get.

(Via Hit & Run)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:21 AM)
Thinking inside the box

From Quibbles 'n Bits, the true physics of John Kerry:

It's the Schroedinger's Candidate. He's an undefined state. You don't know where he stands until you put him in office.

He is subject to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle as well — you can either know his momentum or his position. As a candidate, he is trying to gain momentum in his Presidential bid. Therefore, we cannot know his position on anything.

And you change it by trying to measure it.

As good a description as you're likely to hear this year, I'd say.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:18 PM)
30 April 2004
Backing off

Rene Gonzalez, the UMass graduate student who belittled the memory of fallen US soldier Pat Tillman, arousing all manner of backlash in blogdom — "It takes a special kind of selfishness to have his mentality," said Michele — is apparently recanting: he has reportedly sent an apology to Tillman's family "for all the pain that my article has brought them."

Jack Wilson, president of the University of Massachusetts, had characterized Gonzalez' article as a "disgusting, arrogant and intellectually immature attack on a human being who died in service to his country."

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:51 AM)
1 May 2004
Cold and calculating

If, like me, you've listened to John Kerry rattle off an endless stream of answers that somehow don't mesh with the actual questions being asked, and wondered "What the hell is this man thinking?" — well, Baldilocks has figured it out:

[I]nstead of answering a given question truthfully and taking the accolades or lumps for that answer, John Kerry attempts to spot-calculate which answer will accrue to him the most votes. He takes a mental poll for everything. So when he gets asked stupid, insignificant crap regarding his/somebody else's medals/ribbons, his mental poll reflex sends out conflicting information at any given time. Why? Times change, and his answers, his truth, must change with them.

And if he does this badly with stupid, insignificant crap, imagine how he'll stumble if he's asked something important. (One question which occurs to me: "How is cutting taxes for me, a low-paid corporate drone, while simultaneously raising taxes on the guy who owns his own business, going to generate one job, let alone ten million?)

The number of votes he will accrue from this household hovers right around zero. Besides:

Doesn't the idea of having a guy like that as president — especially during wartime — just give you a warm fuzzy feeling? Me neither.

At this point, I find myself wishing that Dennis Kucinich (!) had emerged as the Democratic front-runner: he may have barked at the moon once too often, but even when his answers were palpably absurd, you knew he was serious about them, that he believed what he was saying. The only thing John Kerry is serious about is the care and feeding of John Kerry.

(Update, 10 pm: Bruce takes exception to this. In very large print.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:26 AM)
Did I hear someone say "quagmire"?

Iraq, it goes without saying, is not Vietnam.

Of course, things that go without saying usually end up said anyway, so:

Iraq is not Vietnam.

Note-It Posts, to amplify this point, offers the Top Ten Ways You Can Tell Iraq Is Not Vietnam. A sampling thereof:

10. In all the radio traffic that Fox News has broadcast coming from Iraq, we haven't heard the phrase "Charlie" used a single time.

  3. 2004: Smallpox vaccines. 1965: Penicillin shots.

  2. John Kerry got two paper cuts and a stubbed toe last week, and hasn't received a single Purple Heart for his pain and anguish.

Seven more where these came from.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:50 PM)
2 May 2004
One word: plastic

An interesting sidebar in the May/June Mother Jones by Dave Gilson and Jennifer Hahn, who put together a list of the ten largest credit-card issuers and matched it up to the political contributions collected from them by the major parties from 2000 through February 2004. Admittedly, this is an issue to which I give not a whole lot of thought; my major concern with a credit card is trying to reduce the amount of interest and fees collected from me.

Citigroup, the largest card issuer, has forked over $8.8 million in contributions, more or less evenly distributed between Democrats and Republicans, the GOP having a slight edge. For six of the other nine, the GOP has more than a slight edge: #2 MBNA has paid out $6.3 million, over $5 million of which went to the Republicans — which is no surprise, since recently-retired MBNA chairman Charles Cawley is a major Bush fan — and #3 Bank One sent two-thirds of its $3.3 million to the GOP.

In the other direction? Well, there's Providian, probably by no coincidence the issuer of a Democratic Party affinity card, whose contributions total just under a million dollars, 53 percent of which went into Democratic coffers.

And if you're thinking that maybe you'd just as soon have a card company that doesn't spend a lot on political contributions, your best pick among the top ten is Capital One, which peeled off less than $900,000.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:45 AM)
4 May 2004
We're finally on our own

Andrea Harris contemplates Kent State:

I was thirteen in 1970, but for years I accepted the popular notion that the riot at Kent State was nothing but a peaceful demonstration of gentle flower children who were ruthlessly attacked for no reason by drooling prognathous-browed Neanderthals in National Guard uniforms. Perhaps if I had actually watched the news with my parents instead of regarding such as part of the uninteresting duties of maturity that my tender years gave sanction to avoid, I would not have spent so many years under this delusion.

I'm having a little problem imagining brows as prognathous, but otherwise this is much like what I was thinking at the advanced age of Almost Seventeen.

Iraq, of course, is not Vietnam — it's not even "exactly similar" — and I wouldn't expect people who protested the war in Iraq to be strictly comparable to people who protested the war in Vietnam. Certainly some (though by no means all) of today's antiwar types are a rather surly, uncommunicative lot, something I don't remember being characteristic of the flower children. (I, of course, was surly and uncommunicative in those days, but then I have always been such.)

But I have to wonder: was I giving Vietnam protesters in 1970 a pass because I was rapidly closing in on draft age and therefore might have had some reason to identify with them? I can't find much common ground with today's antiwar left; has it changed, or have I?

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:34 PM)
Read. This. Now.

DoggerelPundit presents: Press' Snide Story.

Mad Magazine hasn't been this good in years.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:34 PM)
7 May 2004
Enough with the farging apologies

The Professor has pointed out:

[Abu Ghraib] is a real scandal, worthy of real attention — but it's now moved past reality to the point of being overhyped by people whose real goals have nothing to do with justice.

As usual, he's accurate and patient. Andrea Harris is just as accurate, but not even slightly patient:

The heck with all the good that we have done in Iraq; instead, against every principle of liberal thought, the actions of a handful of butthead MPs just invalidated over two hundred years of history — nay, the entire two-thousand years of history since the death of Christ — which was, of course, exclusively the fault of Americans.

At this point all I can do is laugh. These people don't want to live, they don't want to carry this civilization into the future — they don't want to give it even as long as the Romans gave theirs. They had 800 years — we don't even get to make 250? Sometimes I think that the Baby Boomers not only want to spend all the money before they go, they want to take the civilized world down with them. And I am nagged by the feeling that even our government is sliding closer and closer to embracing this viewpoint — witness the grovelling before the entire Muslim world today for something that, should it have been done by military personnel in, say, Syria, would have been considered four-star fine treatment.

My take on this is simple: We owe apologies, and perhaps damages, to the prisoners who were mistreated. To most of the rest of the world, which has shoved its collective nose into this matter for no other reason than because it can, we owe nothing. To the Arab world, which routinely pulls crap far worse than anything we did, we owe less than nothing.

I hope this doesn't jeopardize my Boomer standing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
8 May 2004
The discreet sarcasm of the bourgeoisie

McGehee reads Das Kapital so you don't have to.

Yet another example of the overwhelming generosity of the Blogosphere™.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:26 AM)
9 May 2004
Not available in all areas

"Another evil corporation," quips Baldilocks, "mismanages its money, puts out an inferior product and goes under."

Which is how the system works. Air America Radio isn't quite dead — it won't keep still, anyway — but what's the problem here? Admittedly, these folks evidently couldn't run a roadside fruit stand, but is it all ineptitude, or is there no market for their product in the first place?

Over at coffeegrounds, the Proprietor leans toward the former:

[T]here probably is a market in radio for left-of-center political talk, but if (when) Air America goes down in flames no one will want to risk it again for a long time. Lord knows I wouldn't leave it in the hands of NPR who seem to be combining the worst of the Left's fractious squabbling with a bone-headed version of the Right's focus-group capitalism.

Having been part of a few focus groups in my time, I rather expect that when the Final Judgment is read, I can count on an extended stay at One Brimstone Place.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:48 AM)
The truly right stuff

This week in Vent #388: "Wouldn't you really rather be a Republican?"

In a word: no.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:43 PM)
10 May 2004
Hold the figs

Hardly anyone, even among his most enthusiastic fans, will characterize George W. Bush as an industrial-strength intellectual. And that's fine with W.; he has that distrust for "pointy-headed intellectuals" made famous by, among others, George Wallace.

Which is not to say that Mr Bush doesn't have a point. Dan Lovejoy has looked into the matter, and he sees a philosophical antecedent to the President's thinking:

Newton's laws of physics work so well we can do incredibly precise mathematical calculations with them. Are they 100% accurate? No. They are a highly accurate description of how bodies in motion work. But they are wrong. And the weirder the conditions, the wronger they are. If something goes too fast, or gets too small, Newton's laws break down completely. But for from molecule sized things to solar-system type things moving at a small fraction of c, Newton works pretty well.

In the real world, as opposed to the arcane conditions that are examined in the laboratory, we can do just fine with the simpler explanations. As with Isaac Newton, so too with George W. Bush:

Once we've mastered Newtonian physics, we might be able to touch Einstein. That leaves us with the Bush Doctrine. Is it a perfect understanding of the world? Far from it. But it is certainly useful for crafting wartime foreign policy. Not until we've made peace on our terms can we try to reach out and resolve the "root causes" problem. It's too complex to fix now, and we've gotta fix the problem of Islamist terrorism NOW. We can't wait for the UN to save us, or for programs to reverse the trend.

[S]ome would argue, I think rightly, that we didn't do enough research. We didn't plan well for the occupation, and we certainly didn't get our WMD intelligence right.

And I say — so what? We acted correctly on the intelligence we had at the time. We couldn't wait until the threat was imminent, and we didn't. The decision was sound — the implementation, flawed.

Applying Newton's laws of motion to the Middle East:

1. Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

Stagnation, of course, is as uniform a motion as you'll find; Bush obviously believes that things aren't going to change on their own.

2. The relationship between an object's mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma. Acceleration and force are vectors; in this law the direction of the force vector is the same as the direction of the acceleration vector.

Pushing the Middle East in a direction it would rather not go requires a different vector, and more force than it would require otherwise.

3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Obviously and fiercely so.

This analysis presumably fails at the quantum level — were you to ask Bush about string theory, he might well suggest that it would be a good idea to string 'em up — but for things that can be measured by ordinary benchmarks, Bush is as Newtonian as they get.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:22 AM)
Unequal blessings

Oh, about that chart floating around the left side of blogdom purporting to show that states that voted for Gore have higher average IQs than states that voted for Bush — I first caught it here — well, forget about it. It pins the Bogosity Meter.

Meanwhile, Kimberly Swygert would like to know:

The website which had the most to do with spreading the bogus graph now claims it was all a joke. Would these liberal "hoaxers" be laughing if, say, a rumor was spread that women's studies majors and Democrats all had demonstrably lower IQs? Or would that be termed "hate speech"?

We shouldn't have to wait too long for a test case; I suspect that political IQ tables are going to be this year's affirmative-action bake sales.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:35 PM)
11 May 2004
Root one

Attached to that piece on Bush as Newtonian strategist — a piece, incidentally, for which Dan deserves more credit than I — is a comment about how we're ignoring the "root causes" of the mess in the Middle East.

Which is true only if you're ideologically disposed toward misidentifying those root causes. To the left, all ills are caused by poverty, all poverty caused by corporate malfeasance, all corporate malfeasance aided and abetted by the likes of George W. Bush, and well, Bush Is Evil, case closed.

Of course, Islamic fundamentalists get not one but two free passes from the American left: after all, your friendly neighborhood jihadi is not only nonwhite (and therefore oppressed), but non-Christian (and therefore not likely to picket an abortion clinic). At worst, they're the Dr Pepper of religious movements: so misunderstood. All that money they raise to support suicide bombers and other terrorists — why, that's charity, and how much did you give last year?

At Exit Zero, Mary boils it down to the crucial stuff:

The 'morality' of Islamic fundamentalists is the morality of the Thousand Year Reich. It's the morality of hate and intolerance. I'm very proud of the fact that these fascists are our enemies. It would worry me if they weren't.

And why are they our enemies? Explanation courtesy of Francis W. Porretto:

The world's 1.3 billion Muslims are the most squalid, backward, unfree peoples in the world. How could this be? They've been perfectly faithful to the dictates of the Prophet. They were promised dominion in this world and Paradise in the next. What went wrong? Allah's enemies must have plotted against them! The Jews! The Christians! Wipe them out, institute universal shari'a, and surely all will thereafter be well!

When they say "universal," they mean to include you, Lefty.

There are basically two choices here:

1. Wipe out the lot of them and be done with it;

2. Wipe out the loudest of the bunch and see if the rest have enough sense to cool their jets.

Either way, there will be wiping. Count on it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:12 AM)
An argument with bite

Ostensibly inspired by what he read here, Mike in Little Axe has posed the following question:

If a pack of brown pitbulls killed a loved one, which option would you choose to prevent others from suffering the same fate?

1) Kill the pack of dogs.
2) Kill all brown pitbulls.
3) Kill all pitbulls.
4) Kill all brown dogs.
5) Kill all dogs.

I point out only that pit bulls, like jihadi, are the way they are only because of the instructions they received from their masters: there's nothing inherent in their genetic code to make them anything more than snarly. As Oscar Hammerstein once noted, "You've got to be carefully taught."

The city of Denver, incidentally, is prone to option 3.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:49 AM)
Inhofe weighs in, flabbily

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), at the Senate hearing on the events at and around Abu Ghraib:

I'm probably not the only one up here that is more outraged at the outrage than we are by the treatment. These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations. If they're in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals.

That's so like you, Jim. Considering there's a good chance they were arrested in error — Coalition MI types estimate 70 to 90 percent were — we have even less excuse to treat them badly.

A reader, citing the Inhofe quote, writes in:

[C]onsidering what you've said about the issue being overhyped, i certainly hope you won't associate yourself [with] Inhofe's stupidity.

I try not to. I have enough trouble associating myself with my own.

I have no doubt that some horrible things are going to happen as this war continues. That's the nature of war, after all. It's part of Jim Inhofe's job to keep an eye on these things. If he's not interested in doing his job — and judging by the querulous quote above, he seems offended by the whole idea — he can, and should, be replaced.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:00 PM)
16 May 2004
The next-to-last Democrat

Remember the concept of the Loyal Opposition? Emperor Misha (only his best friends dare to call him Darth) knows what it means, and he's bothered disturbed saddened disgusted by the absence of same:

[T]his nation, every nation, needs a loyal opposition, and there was a time when the Democrats were just that. A check and a balance, just as the other major party, the Republicans, were a check and a balance to them.

Sure, it leads to compromises that have left me furious many a time, but I'm sure that this is an emotion felt on the other side of the aisle in equal measure. The important thing about a loyal opposition is that it tends to keep both sides at least relatively honest, forces them to weigh their options and think through their positions instead of just ramming them through without fear of opposition or consequences, and that's important.

Unfortunately, the Democrat Party that filled that role so well in the past is no more. It has been hijacked by screaming fanatics so deliriously hungry for power that they'd sell their own country to the wolves to lay their hands on the reins again, and such a party is worthless. No, it's more than that. It's dangerous. Lethally dangerous.

They shy away from no tactic, no matter how dangerous and damaging to this war for our existence that we find ourselves forced into. They care not one whit what the consequences of their lies, slander and divisive methods are to the safety of all of us, they care only for one thing: Power.

And not only that, they fail in the duty of a serious and worthwhile opposition, the very reason that such a thing is important: They offer no alternatives. All they have to offer is "anybody but Bush", at any cost.

The handwriting started appearing on the wall, I think, with the wholesale rejection of the Presidential candidacy of Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat not at all out of step with the rest of his party — except that he understood the war effort and the necessity of bringing it to a proper conclusion. And in response, members of his party turned out in droves and voted for people who promised to turn tail and run instead. Joe's war stance wasn't significantly different from the President's, after all, and the current belief in the Democratic power structure is that if George W. Bush says the sky is blue, there's obviously some GOP conspiracy, no doubt engineered by Halliburton, to suppress all those other colors.

I'm not defending everything that's been done in Iraq by any means; in fact, I think the Bush administration made a ghastly error in judgment by disclosing to the American people the fact that the Iraqi people are people who would like to live their lives with some measure of freedom. Had he characterized them instead as, say, organisms which should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Left would be lining up to demand the removal, by any means necessary, of Baathists, private militias, disgruntled Shi'a, and all the other Middle Eastern miscreants who are complicating the, you should pardon the expression, peace process.

Meanwhile, John Kerry, a man with exactly one actual conviction — that John Kerry should be President — moves swiftly to assure the corrupt and the corruptible that under his Administration, the International Community, those wonderful folks who were conspiring by Saddam's side all those years, will once again be the Source of All Wisdom and that all their work wasn't in vain, and that the United Nations will be restored to its former glory, as theatre (and occasional paymaster) for the world's despots.

So I wait for the Democrats to come to their senses. Which they will, eventually. I figure one good drubbing at the polls should do the job. And it can't be this "yeah, but we really won" crap that we had to endure in 2000; it's got to be at least 350-188 in the Electoral College, and the GOP has to pick up seats in both houses of Congress. It's got to mean a new entry on Terry McAuliffe's résumé, and a large hole in George Soros' wallet. It's got to be big enough to leave them wondering "Where did we go wrong?"

I just told you. And once you've cleaned up your act, I'll still be here. Because, after all, I am the Loyal Opposition.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:02 AM)
Constitutionally Re-Affirming Principles

Brock Sides would like to see "a Constitutional provision forbidding the use of contrived acronyms in the titles of bills."

He is not alone in this desire.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:18 AM)
18 May 2004
Fest or famine

(Note: This is, or at least comes across as, an attempt to talk out of both sides of my mouth. Really.)

Bruce reports that the vast majority of respondents to a poll conducted by a Tulsa TV station would not be willing to increase their taxes to support the Tulsa Mayfest. What does it mean?

Too often we overlook the less than immediate effects of public investments. For instance, festivals like Mayfest are important tools to promote the "livability" of a city. While I doubt that many people would move to Tulsa just to attend Mayfest once a year they might see it as a factor in determining their choice of where to live. Having "places to go, things to see" might not be as important as job relocation or overall cost of living but it does contribute to the overall appeal of a city. Younger people especially see entertainment options as important considerations when choosing a city.

But that's only half the story he has to tell:

This past weekend I also attended the Renaissance Faire in Muskogee. I have a friend that is part of a show there so I went to see him do his act and to take even more pictures. From what I know, the Ren Faire does not operate with any public funds. You pay to get in and you pay "event prices" for food, drink, merchandise and other "special" events you want to participate in. You choose the level of financial investment you are willing to make and if gawking at women with pushed up boobs and hearing all manner of bad medieval accents is not your thing it doesn't cost you a penny to stay away. A publicly supported event would cost you money whether you choose to attend or not.

True enough. Getting a few bucks from the government might be nice, but there are always strings attached, and they may not be strings you like. Better to keep one's distance. Besides, most of these operations have learned how to turn a buck on their own. At the Festival of the Arts in Oklahoma City, the Arts Council gets a piece of anything sold on the premises; what's more, they solicit donations directly. I'm sure my one afternoon at the Festival, during which I spent $150 or so, generated a fair chunk of change for the Arts Council, likely far more than they'd get from me were I taxed to pay for it.

This is not to say that government has no role whatever in creating or maintaining "livability" — certainly the city of Oklahoma City didn't shy away from ponying up some funding to restore the Skirvin Hotel — but the city expects to turn a profit on this deal, and any dollars they make from the Skirvin are dollars they don't have to siphon from me. And while the Skirvin deal presents philosophical problems — I expect to hear from the Oklahoma Libertarian Party presently about how awful it is — I still think it will work.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:09 PM)
Something to stamp out

"Our work force," says the United States Postal Service, "is focused on the worldwide movement of messages and merchandise."

And, at least in one unnamed post office (ZIP code 55xxx), the delivery of unsolicited political commentary.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:19 PM)
21 May 2004
And unto us it shall be stuck

Fritz Schranck picked up this explanation of New Jersey Governor James McGreevey's "FAIR" tax plan:

The McGreevey proposal would raise the top marginal income tax rate to 8.97% from 6.37%, and he defends it by claiming it would apply only to 28,000 people, or 1% of all Jersey taxpayers.

If you're in New Jersey and you're howling about this, please note that the top marginal rate in Oklahoma is 7.00 percent, and it applies to a whole lot more than one percent of us — including, horrifying as it may seem, me. Governor Henry's tobacco-tax hike, passed by the Legislature, will cut this to a slightly-less-unpalatable 6.65 percent.

Of course, we don't go out of our way to slap asinine acronyms on things (Oklahoma City's Metropolitan Area Projects — MAPS — notwithstanding). Fritz doesn't think much of them either:

I really despise the increasing use of acronyms to push legislation. This time it stands for Fair And Immediate Relief. It could have just as easily been titled Seeking Higher Income Taxes, which would have had the distinguishing benefit of being true.

Death and taxes were always certain; bilious nomenclature is becoming so.

(Update, 5:10 pm: Someone asked about the state brackets, so here they are. If you don't want to burn your eyeballs on the Tax Commission's so-very-1995 Web page, the top marginal rate kicks in at a taxable income of $10,000 [single] or $21,000 [married filing jointly]. Under the law, you can optionally subtract the amount of Federal tax paid and refigure, but the top rate goes to ten percent if you do.)

(Update, 2:20 pm, 22 May: Jeff Jarvis says that all by itself, this action by a Democratic governor could push the state into the GOP column come election time.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:33 PM)
24 May 2004
Don't leave Rome without it

Dawn Eden noticed this Reuters ("One man's news agency is another man's septic tank") story in The Boston Globe that draws an unwarranted conclusion in its very first sentence:

Pope John Paul yesterday repeated the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to homosexual marriage, for the first time since Massachusetts became the first US state to allow same-sex weddings.

"Family life is sanctified in the joining of man and woman in the sacramental institution of holy matrimony," he said in an address to visiting US bishops.

The Associated Press coverage of the same address notes the following:

[John Paul's] speech on Saturday about family life contained no reference to the debate raging in the United States over decisions by some authorities to allow marriage between homosexuals.

"No reference," says the AP, but Reuters construes it as "repeated... opposition." What's wrong with this picture? Here's the complete text of the Papal address: decide for yourself.

And Dawn would like to know if this Reuters practice is extensible to more mundane stories. An example:

I could say, "One black coffee, please," and Reuters could write, "Dawn Eden Denies Business to Dairy Industry."

It could be worse. They could have accused her of profiling. ("All these other java variants around, but no, she picks on the black one.")

(Update, 11:40 am: Matt Deatherage looks at the AP and Reuters coverage of Fahrenheit 9/11 at Cannes, and finds the AP headline neutral, the Reuters headline ridden with bias.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:46 AM)
25 May 2004
New improved GanderSauce?

A question from Ravenwood's Universe:

Kerry is considering delaying his acceptance of the Democrat nomination, in order to bypass campaign finance legislation. Now, if a candidate can delay their nomination acceptance in order to delay accepting $75 Million in federal funds, is it not conceivable that they time the nomination acceptance to maximize the funds available. I mean, if Bush chooses to continue with private funding, can't he theoretically delay his nomination acceptance until a week before the election and then receive $75 Million in public money to boost his campaign at the end?

It would be most amusing to see a DNC protest if he did.

But I think there's at least a measurable chance that the Democratic machine will shut down this idea, in the hopes of reminding John Kerry that it's bigger than he is.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:47 AM)
Strings attached

Occasionally the blog of The Dallas Morning News comes up with a zinger. This letter came to editorial writer John Chamless:

While a great many more "liberal thinkers" may be tempted to work for major media outlets, the owners and controllers of those outlets are overwhelmingly conservative. The ownership gets to decide what is covered and how. If they don't like the product, those "liberal" employees may not be around for long.

Rod Dreher (25 May, 6:14 pm) fielded this one:

That's nonsense. I used to work for the NYPost, which of course is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Rupert was way too busy to dictate our coverage. Nobody there ever told me what to write — even when I, as a film critic, trashed movies produced by Fox, which Murdoch also owns. In fact, I can't think of a single newspaper I've worked for in which the owners micromanaged coverage. This is a liberal fantasy. I recall Murdoch on one occasion told the editorial board of the Post what to write — it was a trade issue with China — but that was it. He was hands off — and the paper's metro columnists were all pretty liberal.

In the long and occasionally storied history of The Oklahoman, there are instances of exactly just such micromanaging, but E. K. Gaylord was no Rupert Murdoch. News Corp. is monstrously huge; the Oklahoma Publishing Company has seldom owned more than a handful of papers and the occasional broadcast outlet. Murdoch hired people to run the New York Post for him; Gaylord wore the publisher's hat and the editor's eyeshade simultaneously. And so far as I know, and however far to the right his paper positioned itself, E. K. Gaylord was a registered Democrat until the day he died, perhaps a recognition that for much of its existence, Oklahoma was a one-party state. (Son Edward L. Gaylord, who ran the paper for almost three decades after E. K.'s death in 1974, was too.)

Would Opubco ever hire a left-leaning reporter? I'd say it's a safe bet that they have — though a writer who was interested in advancing a leftward agenda probably didn't last too long at Fourth and Broadway, and I don't think things have changed much since the paper relocated to the Black Tower.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:55 PM)
27 May 2004
The Cos of it all

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane took Bill Cosby to task for having the temerity to suggest that some of the problems in the African-American community are self-inflicted. The money quote:

Sometimes, beating up on defenseless people is just being a bully.

If you were wondering where the idea of a "cult of victimhood" comes from, you've just seen a source.

A couple days later, Cosby called Kane and expressed some sympathy for Kane's views, but repeated his call for greater responsibility. Kane said he wasn't in the habit of taking things back, but that he had framed Cosby's remarks poorly. And the two ended up, if not as best buds, at least somewhere near the same page. Maybe.

(Muchas gracias: Justin Katz.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:00 AM)
Wait 'til you hear his bark

The OkiePundit finds state Democrats' embrace of the Yellow Dog symbol more than a little offputting:

The Party is dominated by a combination of old-line rural Yellow Dog-type Democrats and a few urban unions. What these people don't understand is that their image does not appeal to urban progressives who are [increasingly] registering as political independents. Those that are registered as Democrats would bolt the party for a moderate third party if one was ever realized. Urban progressives and moderates find the Democrats' embrace of society's pariahs, from cockfighters to trial lawyers, very disconcerting.

I am reasonably urban, not especially "progressive" in its most common political definition, I voted against the cockfighting ban, and I'd probably even vote against a trial-lawyer ban if one were placed on the ballot — after all, you never know when you might want to sue someone — but as pariahs go, these are small-time at best. Now when the operators of chop shops and meth labs start lobbying the Capitol, that's when I start to worry.

And I wonder if "moderate third party" isn't perhaps a contradiction in terms. However close to the edge the major parties may venture, sooner or later something, usually the desire to get elected, drags them back towards the vacuum at the center.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:43 PM)
28 May 2004
Taking dictation

There's a little strip of paper hanging in my office with the following equation:

1 manager = 1,000,000 micromanagers

Rounded down from 1,048,576, if you insist.

It's not George W. Bush's style to micromanage things, which prompted this remark from Andrea Harris:

The delegation thing is a method of governance, one which is not unique to Bush. Personally I think it is a more sensible approach to the job than the sort of micromanagement said to be the technique of a Former President Who I Will Not Name, but YMMV. I find it interesting, however, that this has become a favorite criticism of the anti-Bush contingent. In that, and in the accusations of intellectual inadequacies, I sense a whiff of wistful yearning for something more of a Leader than representative democracy can supply.

A Dear Leader, perhaps? Given the tendency of the "anti-Bush contingent" to fall along the Democratic Party / Big Government axis — well, what could be Bigger than our very own despot?

Oh, that's right; they think we have one. Sorry I missed all those people thrown into prison for posting anti-Bush messages.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:48 PM)
29 May 2004
Another one rides the bus

J. M. Branum has caught a glimpse of a Yahoo! banner ad which reads as follows:

$167.00 is all it takes to buy BUSH a one-way ticket home. Chip in $50 now!

And, as one would expect, a link to the Kerry campaign.

Mr Branum has researched the matter:

[T]hey goofed up. I checked Greyhound.com and it would only be $147 to go from Washington to Waco (the closest big city to his ranch) and he could even go cheaper if he did the 7 day advance fare.

There being a two-month gap between Election Day and the Inauguration, I'd say there was certainly enough time to plan such a trip, should it become necessary.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:27 AM)
2 June 2004
Standards of vagueness

"Dangerously vague," said Judge Phyllis Hamilton when she ruled that last year's "partial-birth" abortion ban is unconstitutional.

True Blue Gal Deb reprints the pertinent legal language, and wants to know what's so vague about it. And Judge Hamilton also objected to the absence of an exception to save the health of the mother. Saving her life, of course, is covered in the first paragraph, but I suppose it's necessary to protect her self-esteem and her emotional stability as well.

I fail to see how anyone, with the possible exception of Scott Peterson, benefits from this ruling.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:48 AM)
On the upswing

Cam Edwards asks:

[I]s life better for you now than it was five years ago, and do you credit the government at all?

1.  Yes.

2.  There are two ways in which the government has contributed to improving my existence: tax policies that put a few extra coins in my pocket, and foreign policies that put the interests of this country above the interests of the soi-disant "international community."

How's that?

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:20 PM)
4 June 2004
Working calculations

Politicians do love to count jobs, and it's always amusing to see their counts come back and bite them.

Senate candidate Kirk Humphreys has been boasting that 54,000 jobs were created in Oklahoma City during his stint as mayor; his press secretary has since conceded that this figure is inaccurate.

The correct number, says Rick Buchanan, is 38,000.

The correct number, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is 16,332; if you add in the entire metropolitan area, you can get to 38,000, but it's unclear to me how Humphreys, as mayor of Oklahoma City, contributed a great deal to job growth in Shawnee or Norman.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:31 AM)
5 June 2004
A moment of silence

Rest in peace, Mr. President.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:57 PM)
8 June 2004
The girl with the thorn in her side

Why Michele isn't throwing away her Smiths recordings:

You can make all the arguments you want about supporting anti-Bush or anti-America musicians and artists monetarily. I don't care. I prefer to live life enjoying those things that bring me pleasure, even if it means that Morrissey or the Beastie Boys or Johnny Depp gets a couple of bucks out of my paycheck. If I were to toss out every album and/or cd of every musician that behaves like a jerk or says stupendously stupid things, I'd be left with barely anything to listen to or watch.

Amen to that. Dixie Chicks, anyone?

(Update, 4:25 pm: More specificity in the opening.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:22 PM)
9 June 2004
After Reagan

Screenwriter/librettist Jim Friedland, courtesy of Dawn Eden:

I learned to never judge Ronald Reagan, and to give leaders the benefit of being an active citizen who can differ with them but treat them with the respect both leaders and citizens deserve. As I've grown older, I've felt increasingly that he really has had no successors on the national scene — that "Reaganism" had turned into another name for the kind of conservatism which conserves less and less and less every year. I hope that people make the benefit of his death a renewed sense of hope and openness — and of idealism with open ears and a sense of the pragmatic — and to look for those qualities in their candidates, whatever their politics may be.

This "no successors" idea explains much about occasional Republican efforts to engrave Ronald Reagan's name on every conceivable flat surface and his image on Mount Rushmore: there is, I've often suspected, an inchoate feeling within the GOP that while there are political victories still within reach, the party has already peaked, and in the absence of Reagan is destined for a slow but inexorable decline.

Of course, this notion ignores the prodigious capacity for self-destruction that exists in the Democratic party, and the fact that the Democrats don't have a Ronald Reagan either. (They did at one time, but they drove him away.)

Still, a "renewed sense of hope and openness" is what Ronald Reagan was all about, and if we can recapture some of that in the wake of his death, we all benefit.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:53 AM)
11 June 2004
Getting mighty crowded

About one-quarter of the Oklahoma House will have to be replaced this year because of term limits, including Robert Worthen, who has represented District 87, where I live these days.

During the three-day filing period this week, no fewer than seven people filed to run for District 87; only District 19, in the northeast part of the state, drew more.

One of the four Republicans vying for the seat is Young Republicans official Trebor Worthen, who is Robert Worthen's son, and whose first name is "Robert" spelled backwards. Another is Tina Majors, who ran second in the GOP primary in 2002 for Senate District 40. Then there's Reece Kepler, who scores for Best Domain Name: RememberReece.com. I know nothing at all about Karen Khoury.

On the Democratic side, there's David B. Hooten, who may or may not be this David B. Hooten; Steve Harry, who won the Senate District 40 primary in 2002, losing to Cliff Branan in the election; and John Morgan, who owns a small business and who lives around the corner from me.

There's no Senate race here — Cliff Branan's term runs through 2006 — so I get to fixate on a House race this time. The primary will be 27 July (right after World Tour '04), with runoffs if needed on 24 August. So far, the only candidate I've met is John Morgan, who, as noted, lives around the corner from me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:14 AM)
13 June 2004
Fetus, don't fail me now

Fourteen states have enacted laws which provide that killing a pregnant woman can result in two charges, one for the woman, one for the child on the way.

An Illinois man is complaining that the law in his state is discriminatory:

Brandon L. Carone, 20, of Algonquin, has pleaded innocent to reckless homicide, reckless homicide of an unborn child and other offenses related to a March 7, 2003, crash that killed 31-year-old Kimberly Morvay of West Dundee.

Kane County prosecutors contend Carone was high on cocaine when his car crossed the center of Randall Road in Dundee Township and plowed head-on into Morvay, who was 10 weeks pregnant.

Carone wants Kane County Judge Patricia P. Golden to declare unconstitutional Illinois' fetal homicide law.

He argues in part that the law is unfair because women are allowed to terminate their pregnancies however they choose without prosecution — but men are not protected in the same way.

Roe v. Wade was cited as a precedent, which did not impress the prosecution:

Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Jody Gleason said state law and the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which protects a woman's right to end her pregnancy, do not apply to Carone.

"The defendant is not in the position that the mother is in when he made the decision to drive intoxicated," Gleason said.

What I want to know is this: How long before this case turns into promotional material for Planned Parenthood and its friends?

(Via True Blue)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:08 PM)
14 June 2004
The torture chambers of Kent County

Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), on why he's making such a fuss over that "torture" memo:

There's a reason why we sign these treaties: to protect my son in the military. That's why we have these treaties, so when Americans are captured they are not tortured. That's the reason in case anybody forgets it.

You might infer from this that Senator Biden has a son in the military, and indeed he does: 1LT Joseph R. "Beau" Biden is serving in the Delaware National Guard as a judge advocate. Unless you think Delaware is some sort of hellhole, the likelihood that Beau Biden is going to be tortured is pretty low, and it doesn't increase much if he gets called up for Iraqi duty.

Still, the Senator's comments were apparently calculated to make people think that Beau was somehow in the line of fire, and indeed the senior Biden backpedaled slightly on Fox News Sunday yesterday:

I don't have a son in the Gulf. He hasn't been called yet.

Now did Biden think up this little deception himself, or did he rewrite someone else's?

(Via Michelle Malkin)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:54 PM)
18 June 2004
And someone makes three

Bill at Hawken Blog points out that third parties have had more influence than you think:

Virtually every significant progressive gain in American history was originally proposed by an alternative third party — the abolition of slavery, women's right to vote, the 40 hour work week, unemployment insurance, worker's compensation laws, the minimum wage, pure food and drug laws, the abolition of child labor. In fact, the very foundation of what we today would consider the bare minimum for a just and compassionate society was championed by third parties.

Even non-progressive third parties have influenced the course of American politics. Ross Perot's 1992 and '96 runs for president put the issue of the balancing the budget on the table. The Dixiecrats in 1948 represented the anger of conservative southern Democrats with their party's newfound liberal civil rights plank. They would break away and join the Republicans in large numbers after Barry Goldwater's 1964 conservative takeover of the party.

The Republicans, you'll remember, started out as #3 behind the Democrats and the Whigs, and pushed two issues: slavery, which they didn't want, and women's suffrage, which they did. Eventually, the Republican concentration on the former at the expense of the latter, even after the Civil War Between The States For Southern Independence, convinced the suffragists to go out on their own.

Whether the Greens or the Libertarians or some other third party (actually, anyone beyond the Greens or the Libertarians probably should be considered a fourth party) will eventually become strong enough to become a major party remains to be seen, but I'm persuaded that having them nipping at the heels of the big boys is a Good Thing, and that this state's ongoing effort to keep them off the ballot whenever possible is counterproductive at best.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:30 AM)
20 June 2004
How deep the rot

Abigail, late last night:

There has been another beheading. I heard the comment that it was inhuman. I disagree. I think that act is very, very human. For humanity, at its core, is dark and evil.

What we call civilization is the process of dealing with that dark and evil core and preventing it from running amok. It's a process because it's ongoing: it never ends. There is no point at which we can declare "Okay, we're civilized enough," and discontinue the process.

And contrary to the delusions of our believers in multiculturalism, those of us whose early development was informed by the writings and the histories of those often-derided Dead White European Males are generally doing a better job of keeping that core under control. I suggest that this is because the DWEMs were raised in a culture which actually acknowledged its existence (cf. Genesis 3) and proposed some semblance of a solution.

The DWEMs believed in the most basic form of egalitarianism: we are all fallen, we are all unworthy. Contemporary society has inverted this notion for the sake of our collective self-esteem, even as it berates us for using more of the world's resources per capita than your average tribesman in Borneo, who through no fault of his own might have to save up for a couple of years to make a trip to Starbucks.

Then there are the beheaders, who subscribe to a simple binary notion: you are one of us, or you are an infidel who shall be slain. It is appalling, but not at all surprising, that the multiculturalists are willing to give them a pass: we hate DWEMs, they hate DWEMs. The fact that most of the world's woes of the past thirty years were engineered by the beheaders and their friends impresses these people not a whit. "If they hate us," comes the mewl, "there must be a good reason for it." And of course there is: we are infidels, therefore we shall be slain, and since it's their culture, we are obliged to honor its provisions, and anyway, it's our fault for being over there in the first place when we should have been here, riding the bus downtown to our mandatory diversity-training sessions.

As belief systems go, present-day Islam is a strong contender for the dubious title of "Worst. Philosophy. Ever." (One can only hope that the Scientologists never obtain weapons of mass destruction.) The American left calls for withdrawal from the entire Middle East, so that lives may be saved.

Because, of course, nothing can ever happen to us over here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:09 AM)
Poindexter Freeway, 1 mile

The Democrats' American Jobs Plan wants to stop outsourcing — by repealing tax breaks that encourage it, they say — and plans to put two million people to work by "modernizing and rebuilding our infrastructure."

Ravenwood, noting that most outsourced positions are in IT, finds the notion of putting computer types to work building roads and such amusing:

No offense to computer workers (as I am one), but I'd rather not ride on a rail system welded together by some out of work poindexter. Perhaps I'm an old fashioned guy, but when I envision people in construction I picture big burly guys that whistle at women who walk by. For some reason pasty skinned computer nerds who haven't seen the sun since the latest computer worm hit the scene don't spring to mind.

We had some (not much) sunshine today, in fact.

I rather suspect, though, that the road contracts issued by this New WPA would specifically forbid whistling at women who walk by.

And anyway, the nerdiest of the nerds could just as easily be put to work dragging broadband into rural America, so that everyone in the nation can follow not-safe-for-work links from Fark.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:49 PM)
21 June 2004
One man, one motivation

This Bill Quick post at his Daily Pundit site expressed some impatience with George W. Bush. A commenter asked if Quick would therefore be supporting Kerry, and Quick replied:

The fact that I won't vote for Kerry under any circumstances should not be construed that I will vote for a man who seems to be trying to do as perfect a Kerry imitation on the important issues as he can.

I don't vote against, I vote for. And if there's nobody I can vote for, then I don't vote. Please spare me your tired and lame remonstrances about a non-vote for Bush being a vote for Kerry. That's Bush's problem, not mine. If he wants my vote, I've made it fairly obvious how he can get it. If he doesn't want it, I'm not going to give it to him anyway.

This is as good, and as terse, an explanation of this quandary as I've ever seen. And with the names inverted, it works just as well in the other direction.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:19 AM)
He who transgresses, stains

In the history of the nation, only seven state governors (two from Oklahoma, which surely means something) have been impeached and removed from office.

In an effort to avoid becoming number eight, John G. Rowland will resign as governor of Connecticut today, a week after the state Supreme Court ruled that the House committee on impeachment could compel him to testify.

Rowland, who has been fighting a variety of ethics complaints for most of his current term, is expected to announce his departure this evening; M. Jodi Rell, the state's lieutenant governor, will assume Rowland's duties.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:43 AM)
22 June 2004
Documenting the undocumented

The next voice you hear is that of Albert Najera, the Chief of Police of Sacramento, California.

Why are we criminalizing behavior where the "criminals" would comply with the law if they were allowed to do so by the state? Why are we penalizing people for coming to California after we entice them here with jobs and quality of life standards far above what they can ever achieve in their homelands? Why don't we face reality and concede that we cannot keep our standard of living and our low cost of quality products and services or our booming building industry without foreign nationals? Why are my officers wasting their time persecuting these people when the actual incidence of their criminality is very low?

And what was this "crime"?

My officers were properly and lawfully towing cars driven by foreign nationals because the individuals were not licensed by the state. We also were unintentionally depriving a man of the tools of his trade, his means of supporting himself and the customers of his service.

I also noticed a young family standing by the warm glow of the police command vehicle. That family also had their vehicle towed, legally and properly, because the young father was unlicensed. I will never forget the look on the young boy's face as he watched the family car roll away. This working family, now facing a tow and storage bill that could easily run $1,000, suddenly was without transportation.

Ah, yes. Driving without a license. I can see how Chief Najera's heart bleeds for these folks. I can also see no chance of any sympathy for me, were I caught in this situation; while I have Latino roots, I also have a driver's license and US citizenship.

The Chief, on the other hand, thinks California ought to be issuing credentials to people who don't have any, just on general principle:

California must do what the federal government may never be able to do: Develop a public policy to deal with the reality of our interdependence on the labor and services provided by foreign nationals.

We cannot wait for the U.S. government to declare these people legal, semi-legal or some other unrealistic terminology. To simply say these people are "illegals" and wait for the feds to do something is hurtful, wasteful and divisive.

Last time I checked the Constitution, Congress had the power "to establish a uniform rule of naturalization" (Article I, Section 8); this would seem to suggest that California has no authority to bypass existing federal laws (Title 8, United States Code).

But the Chief is right on one count: declaring these folks "legal" or "semi-legal" is indeed unrealistic.

I have no doubt that the "interdependence on the labor and services provided by foreign nationals" is as extensive as Chief Najera says it is. I still don't think it's a good enough reason to do an end-run around the laws. To quote California's best-known immigrant, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:

I waited for 10 years to get my American citizenship. And I know first-hand how immigrants who come to this country and obey the laws have struggled to achieve their dreams. I am pro-immigrant. But we should not invite fraud or undermine law enforcement. The federal government has expressed security concerns... and, in a time of heightened national security, we should not undermine our nation's immigration laws.

Of course, if you're an actual citizen and you don't cough up your identification, you're busted. What's wrong with this picture?

(Suggested by Ravenwood's Universe)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:54 AM)
Fahrenheit 6/24

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 will open Thursday in Oklahoma City at the Cinemark Tinseltown. You can't get in, though: all the seats for the premiere were sold at $25 each, and proceeds will go to the Progressive Alliance Foundation, which in turn will donate half the take to the families of Oklahomans killed in Iraq. Friday and subsequent showings will be open to the general public.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:28 AM)
Unclear on the concept

I don't know which is worse: the fact that Ben Domenech got comment-spammed by a candidate for Congress, or the fact that said comment-spam was as woefully inept as this:

Its time to Bring back the middle of the roaders,and I can do just that! Being a ceo who made a bottom line every day or be fired ,not promoted;I know how to run a balanced budget,and get tax relief where it belongs,the middle class and the poor.The minimum wage must be raised now,plus union negotiations must be part of NAFTA!Medicare must have a Drug Zhar to re-negotiate drug prices every year like is done at the Department of defense and every Drug Chain and Supermarket Drug Store now being done;that took losses in the pharmacies from the tripple didgets in the red to the tripple didgets in the black today.It can be done,and it must be done!

The offender is Dwight D. Leister, running for Arizona's 8th District. I've got a single "didget" for him.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:43 AM)
23 June 2004
Oh, that Dick

I don't know how I missed this. It's from Vice President Dick Cheney's address to NRA members at their Annual Meetings in Pittsburgh back in April.

Here among friends, I can confide that President Bush has once again asked me to head up his vice-presidential search committee. And once again, I've accepted the assignment.

As for the President's opponent, he has only begun his search for a running mate. The big question is, will he go for somebody who is sober, serious, and well versed in policy, or will he follow President Bush's lead and settle for pure charisma?

Well, I thought it was funny.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 AM)
24 June 2004
A choice piece of legislation

Congressman Joe Pitts (R-Pennsylvania) has introduced House Resolution 4543, which — well, let him tell you about it:

Each year, 1.18 million women have abortions. Yet no long-term study has ever been done in order to assess the emotional impact of abortion on women. There is strong anecdotal evidence that women who have abortions may experience feelings of loss, guilt and depression in connection with their abortion. H.R. 4543 provides $15 million to the National Institutes of Health to research the emotional impact of abortion on women. This bill also creates a $1.5 million grant program to fund the development of treatment programs for women who suffer from post-abortion depression.

You can read the entire measure here [requires Adobe Reader].

Of course, you wouldn't need $15 million to assess the impact of abortion on fetuses, but no one worries about whether they're depressed or not.

(Via After Abortion)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:30 AM)
Not as think as you drunk I am

Fritz Schranck notes that Delaware is the only state which has not reduced its too-drunk-to-drive level from 0.10 percent to 0.08. Failure to do so will cost Delaware federal highway dollars, in a process known outside government circles as "blackmail."

Personally, I hope Delaware stands its ground. Both the original 0.10-percent figure and the new, unimproved 0.08 number are purely arbitrary, and no one has shown any evidence that highways are any safer with the tighter limit. In most alcohol-related crashes, the offending driver is well over 0.10 percent; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration admits that more than half of DUI busts nab drivers at 0.20, and two-thirds of fatalities involve drivers over 0.15. Dropping the limit from 0.10 to 0.08 was simply an effort to Look Like We're Doing Something and to buy silence from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has grown increasingly hysterical over the years.

The two Delaware politicians who are blocking 0.08 are Senate President pro tem Thurman Adams and Senator James Vaughn. Next time I'm in Delaware, I'll buy them a drink. And then I'll send them home in a taxi, just on general principles.

(Update, 2 July, 8 pm: They've drunk the Kool-Aid. Damn.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:29 AM)
25 June 2004
The Dover boys

Once again, Fritz Schranck has the scoop on some Delaware lawmaking. Senate Bill 22 would raise the state's minimum wage, in increments, to $7.15 by January 2006. The Senate, dominated by Democrats, passed it easily, but the House, controlled by Republicans, isn't buying.

And to express the quality of their disdain, they came up with this amendment to the bill:

In order to effect the wholly positive benefits promised by the sponsors and in order to eliminate the loss of jobs and increase in prices to consumers which always follow government mandated wage increases, the law of supply and demand is hereby repealed.

I suspect this action might exceed their jurisdiction — and if it doesn't, to whom do I apply for an exemption to the laws of physics? — but I applaud their creativity.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:46 PM)
2 July 2004
They craved paradise

And blew up a parking lot.

(Don't it always seem to go?)

(Corrected a transcription error. I can do 1000 words with no problem, but half a dozen and I can't read to save my life.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:58 PM)
4 July 2004
John Adams explains it all

Of course, it was the second of July, that fateful year of 1776, when the Continental Congress decided to sever their ties to Britain; however, the full-fledged Declaration of Independence was dated the fourth, and that's the date which we celebrate.

And there is indeed much to celebrate. John Adams, in a letter to his wife on the third, had predicted there would be:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore.

Adams was indeed prescient, except for that little matter of the date. We'll forgive him for that, and we'll applaud him for this:

You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend those States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in that day's transaction, even though we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.

Nobody said this business of freedom was going to be easy. And the eventual Constitution acknowledged as much: that business about forming "a more perfect Union" doesn't imply that we've already achieved perfection, only that we're going to work at it.

And so we do, well into our third century.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:34 AM)
Universal dystopia

Aesop wrote of a dog who had plopped himself down in a manger, making it impossible for the livestock to eat; in fact, the miserable son of a bitch growled and barked at any animal who dared approach. There was no discernible benefit to the dog, but he wasn't about to give up his position for anything.

"Totalitarian states," says Francis W. Porretto, "are implicitly doomed by their own rigidity." Aesop's dog, if he stayed indefinitely in the manger, would starve to death; something likely just as final and probably just as stupid awaits the SOBs running hellholes like Iran and North Korea.

But Porretto isn't through with this idea yet:

[S]uch a State, captained by sociopathic madmen, might have decided to take the whole world to Hell with it. Isn't a version of that what we're worried about in North Korea and Iran?

And what fresh Hell is this? See Porretto's short story The Last Ambassadors.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:25 AM)
21 July 2004
Restraint of trade

Marie Stopes International, which provides "sexual health and pregnancy choices" in the South Pacific, offers the following advice to would-be customers on their FAQ page:

We are occasionally subject to demonstrations by anti-abortionists. They usually take the form of a few people gathered outside trying to dissuade our clients from entering the centre. Although these people have no right to interfere with your legal or moral right of choice, we cannot prevent them protesting unless they break the law. We do understand how traumatic this may be and stress that you do not enter into any conversation with these people. Note that they cannot prevent you from entering our centres. Try not to let them distress you and walk calmly past. There will be a member of our team to help you once you are inside the centre.

I have no doubt that Marie Stopes' concern about trauma is genuine; in fact, they filed a protest against the establishment of a childcare center on an adjacent city lot in Perth, saying that "the sight and sound of children playing in a neighbouring property might cause emotional strain for women considering terminating a pregnancy."

Charlie Gregorini, mayor of the City of Swan, can relate:

It would be an emotional situation for someone who's decided to have an abortion and then the last thing they hear before they enter the clinic is the happy voices of children.

Indeed. A two-meter brick wall will be erected to block those scary sights and sounds. Meanwhile, Tim Blair has another idea:

Here's a compromise: the childcare centre is allowed to be built, but all children attending it must be dead.

Solomon in all his glory never rendered a decision as crisp as this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:12 AM)
22 July 2004
Put the blame on me

My daughter's home has a single-car garage, most of which is given over to musical instruments; a single-width driveway; and two vehicles, one small, one not so small. Visitors, therefore, are on their own when looking for a place to park, and sometimes the path of least resistance is on the grass adjacent to the driveway.

One day after I depart, this happens:

The Independence City Council moved Tuesday to prohibit parking in yards.

While the city has a limited power to enforce the new law at this time, city officials say it's necessary to have the ordinance on the books.

Acting City Manager Robert Heacock talked about the change.

"I think it's important that the community make a statement," Heacock said. "Some residents feel ham-strung because there are people out there doing it, with four or five cars parked in the yard."

Then again, she can't park in my yard either. The Oklahoma City ordinance governing this district states the following:

Parking. Motor Vehicles; Motor Homes; Campers; Boats; Trailers and any other Wheeled Vehicles, Related Equipment and/or Attachments, Motorized or Non-Motorized, Operable or Inoperable, and/or any item(s) intended to be Transported thereon... Forward of the front building line, shall only park on a hard surface, described as a driveway made of concrete, asphalt or similar product, brick type pavers, natural stone or gravel.

Fortunately, my existing driveway is probably long enough to accommodate three vehicles of the sub-Leviathan class.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:00 AM)
Party dressing

Maureen Dowd makes it into the August Harper's Bazaar with an article titled "Democrats or Republicans: Who Dresses Best?"

I'm not inclined to draw any conclusions myself, but here are some pertinent quotes culled from the Dowd piece. From Stephanie Cutter, director of communications for the Kerry campaign:

With Democrats, you can get some stilettos, some Manolo Blahniks, things that are more Sex and the City. Republicans are more Friends.

I suspect Ann Coulter might disagree. Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, sees it this way:

For liberals, it's socially acceptable to dress like libertines. Republican girls look better in such costumes because deep in their hearts they suspect that the look is a sin, a concession to the grossly oversexed culture that they spend their day jobs lamenting. What enhances their appearance is the eroticism of complicity.

Meanwhile, Robin Givhan, fashion editor of The Washington Post, sees convergence of a sort:

The stereotype has been that Republicans tend to go for the fur and big jewels and more obvious expressions of wealth, while Democrats tend to be less flashy and have a more Midwestern kind of reserve. But I don't think that really applies now that you look at Teresa [Heinz Kerry], the Queen of Chanel, and Laura [Bush], who wears Oscar de la Renta and looks practically nauseous when the subject of her clothes comes up.

Not to say that Mrs Bush is dowdy, as Dowd herself points out:

Laura Bush is a pretty woman who always dresses appropriately. It wouldn't suit her to be too glamorous or clothes obsessed; she's not a "look at me" type. She has an understated wardrobe, a sort of fetching Marian the Librarian look, that has become more stylish as she's gone along.

I'm not sure I understand "as she's gone along" — is the First Lady actually setting fashion trends? — but I can certainly understand the appeal of Marian the Librarian.

As for the pictures, well, they're here, along with my standard brand of half-baked (sometimes quarter-baked) interpretation.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:27 PM)
24 July 2004
Representation and then some

From the US Constitution, Article I, Section 2:

The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at least one Representative.

For the first Congress, the Constitution spelled out the number of Representatives for each state, a total of 65; after 1790, with Census figures available, the House was enlarged to 106 members, with Virginia having the most (nineteen) and Delaware and the newly-admitted Tennessee with one each.

By 1850, the House had grown to 232 members, and the method used to apportion the Representatives was changed to allow for a fixed House size, though the continued admittance of new states kept increasing the number until finally in 1911 the number was fixed at 435. (In 1960 this was increased to 437 to allow one Representative each for Alaska and Hawaii; in 1970 it was dropped back to 435.) Based on the 2000 Census, each of those 435 represented an average of 646,952 persons, well beyond the "thirty Thousand" described in the Constitution; with the national population now over 280 million, that ratio would result in a House with over 9,000 members.

Five years ago, Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) floated a notion to expand the House by thirty seats, making the following pitch:

Most of the new seats would go to states in the South and the West. But several would also go to states facing knockdown drag-out fights by minority groups, who worry that they will lose representation when their state loses a seat.

At the time, I scoffed:

Istook has been screaming about the evils of Big Government for years; why would he suddenly want to make one house of Congress seven percent bigger? He hasn't come to his senses — he fears the Census is coming to him. The population of Oklahoma is growing substantially slower than the national average. In 1990, the state narrowly missed losing one of its six seats in the House. In 2000, losing a seat is almost inevitable, which means that there's at least a one-in-six chance that Istook will have to get a real job.

In 2000, we did lose a seat; however, Istook remains in the House.

D. Frank Robinson, running for Congress as a Libertarian, argues this way:

I believe there is a significant relationship between a century of progressively diluting the people's representation in the U.S. House, where all spending bills must originate, and the plunge in the value of U.S. currency, the vast rise in taxation and debt, and the emergence of an excessively militaristic foreign policy and imperialist Presidency — all in service to an anti-capitalistic corporate fascism. The Congress no longer declares war, guards the nation's money, or uses the power of the Commerce clause strictly, it just makes a show of squawking about details of bills and pass bills on subjects for which they have authority. Then they enact without even reading whatever the Executive demands as expedient for corporate interests.

Does Robinson want, as did Istook, 465 members of the House? Not even close. In Mr Robinson's idealized Congress, there are 1,776 members, which, assuming a 2010 population of 300 million, would cut the number of persons represented by each member to less than 170,000.

They could probably squeeze 600 into the existing House chambers; I'm not so sure they can handle triple that number. Still, while I have doubts about Robinson's proposal, there's a fair amount of truth in his complaint, and smaller districts, I think, might be more difficult (though by no means impossible) to gerrymander. And speaking of which, Robinson has an idea to allow individual voters to pick their own districts, which would definitely change the shape of things.

And I admit to being bemused by the thought of the big electronic map on Election Night 2012, red and blue LEDs at the ready, and the notice: Electoral Votes Needed to Win: 889.

D. Frank Robinson is seeking the Fifth District seat in Oklahoma, currently held by — wait for it — Ernest Istook. With the Democratic challenger, Harley Venters, toeing the leftist line without missing a step, and Istook being, well, Istook, Robinson might look pretty good by November.

(Update: I failed to notice that Harley Venters himself had a primary challenger, the even-more-unknown Bert Smith, who actually won; it will be Istook vs Smith vs Robinson in November.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:02 AM)
26 July 2004
People who need people

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downes, on the recent spate of hostage-taking by your friendly neighborhood, um, militants:

If these terrorists want to achieve certain objectives and they know by taking people hostage they can achieve them, it's the cheapest and easiest way to do their job.

Trinidad Jimenez of the Spanish Socialist party apparently felt slighted by Downes' declaration:

The Spanish government would never have accepted threats from a terrorist group.

To which the Currency Lad responds:

Well — bombs went off in Madrid, calls were made for Spain's withdrawal from Iraq, Spain withdrew. That sounds like a threat accepted to me.

Of course, Madrid considers it merely the fulfillment of a campaign promise.

Let us cheer our friends in Canberra, and let us hope that others see the wisdom of their example.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:33 PM)
27 July 2004
Bragging rights

Michele is not impressed with Planned Parenthood's new "I Had an Abortion" T-shirt:

Like most who have already written about this shirt, I thought abortion was a privacy issue. Well, now you can proudly display your choice on a t shirt. How repulsive.

I wonder how proud the Kerry people are to have invited to speak at their gala a woman who represents the group selling t shirts with this saying?

And did the rep hand out any Emergency Contraception Pens?

This is just too perverse. Keeping abortion legal is one thing; transforming it into a lifestyle choice, of no more significance than one's preferred brand of deodorant, is something else entirely.

Dawn Eden points to I'm Not Sorry.net, whose FAQ page is pretty blatant:

[T]his site DOES tell the other side of the story, a story that the anti-choicers don't necessarily want women to hear — that abortion, quite frankly, isn't that big a deal for many of us.

I suspect it's a bigger deal than they let on; otherwise, they wouldn't be so alarmed at the possibility that their, um, flexibility might be reduced.

(Update, 11:20 am: Allah is in the house and on the case with more T-shirt possibilities. Muchas gracias: Xrlq.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:38 AM)
It's a Kerry Okie

No, really, it is.

Which proves that even an empty orchestra has a few chairs occupied.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:22 PM)
28 July 2004
Primary surprises

Turnout seemed pretty good — at 5 pm, I was the 641st voter in my precinct — and I figured things were going to be close.

Some of them were. John Morgan slipped past Steve Harry for the Democratic nod for House District 87 by a margin of 99 votes. But on the GOP side, Trebor Worthen, despite having three opponents, won a majority and will not have to face a runoff.

The biggest shocker of the day, though, was Tom Coburn's utter dominance; it wasn't even close. With Brad Carson easily winning on the Democratic side, this sets up a Senate race between a former Representative and the man who succeeded him. (Coburn, you'll remember, took a vow to serve six years in the House, and duly left after his third term, leaving an opening which was filled by Carson.) Okiedoke's Mike calls it "a blow to Oklahoma's Republican Party elite," who had lined up behind former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, a distant second.

Personal raw data:

Offices with candidates on the ballot: 3

Candidates for whom I voted who actually won: 1

Which is about average for me these days, really.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:49 AM)
29 July 2004
Wipe that Lear off your face

Jay Tea over at Wizbang! has a tale to tell, a story of sisters, an examination of the sources of power, and, as he says, any resemblance to anybody you'd be likely to recognize is "purely coincidental."

(Cordelia's plight, I thought, was rather sad, though I tend to think that Goneril's frustrations were at least partially self-inflicted.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:09 AM)
30 July 2004
Trilateral emissions

Aldahlia, after wrestling with Wendy Shalit's A Return to Modesty, has calculated that conservative books, like Gaul, are divided into three parts.

There are Moderate Conservative books, there are Religious Instruction books, and well, there's the Hate Fest:

[L]acking any sense of humor or trace of irony, [these books] vehemently blame half of the country for everything that's every gone wrong, on any planet, in any universe, in the history of time. Increased prison populations: it's the Deviant Liberals. Inability to finance a third summer home in the Hamptons: it's the Lazy Liberals. Small pain in ankle after long hike: it's the Taxing Liberals. Raining in Baltimore: it's Liberal Wizards with Satanic Sympathies.

Substantial pain in neck during four days in Boston: it's the Anybody But Bush Liberals.

Meanwhile, on Shalit in particular:

What cracked me up about A Return to Modesty was its blatant disregard for the realities of a free market, even though the first lines in the book state that she's a fiscal "conservative" and the daughter of an Economist. Guess what? You can't advocate for the moral superiority of an unrestrained open market, and then pretend that it won't have any effect on the cultural outlook on sex. Well ... you can ... but you can't expect to do so and be taken seriously. When we're told that it's a virtue to view all things as commodities, then it should come as no shock when all things become commodities.

The response from social conservatives is likely to be something along the lines of "Some things are too important to be left to the marketplace." Contemporary liberals will agree, though their list of "some things" will be substantially (I almost said "radically") different.

And this is exactly why the Republican Party has spates of fractiousness: fiscal conservatives and social conservatives have at best fairly narrow strips of common ground, and holding them together is trickier than it looks, especially with Bill Clinton, their common bête noire, on the sidelines.

I'm thinking we can expect even more subgenres under the category of "conservative books" in the future.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:57 AM)
31 July 2004
An equal-opportunity employer

Which does not, incidentally, describe the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, apparently.

These days, assuring that one does not discriminate almost demands proportional employment by race. The EEOC, curiously, seems to be 46.4 percent black, six times its own quota guidelines for nonfederal workers.

La Shawn Barber would like to know:

Are these government bean counters trying to achieve the magic number of skin colors and genders (excluding white males) so as to create perfect harmony? Good luck with all that. Not happening on this planet.

Not that I, one of those excludable white males — I have Hispanics and Arabs on my family tree, but, well, you know how it is — particularly want to work for the EEOC; moving from a job which is largely irrelevant to the human condition to one which, in my view, actively seeks to worsen it, is not my idea of good career progression.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:41 PM)
2 August 2004
A matter of record

Cast your threats upon the water, and they shall come back and soak your shoes.

Doug Clifton, editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, thought it would be a really neat idea to publish the names and addresses of everyone in northern Ohio who had been issued a concealed-carry permit. His explanation:

We were able to do so because the state legislature, bowing to Gov. Bob Taft's threat to veto a bill with no public access provision at all, gave the news media access to the list. The general public is not allowed to see it.

From the start, The Plain Dealer opposed that media-only provision, and so did most news organizations. We don't believe the media should have access to records that the general public is denied.

And, like the governor and millions of others across the country, we believe licensure information of all kinds should be open to public view.

Persuaded as I am that information about gun owners should not be compiled into any sort of database at all — what's to stop a crook from stealing their weapons one at a time, or a politician from stealing them en masse? — putting these records into play is simply reprehensible.

The advocacy group Ohioans for Concealed Carry responded by publishing Clifton's name and address and other details which could be easily found online. Clifton, of course, was not happy with this development:

The posting, I gather, had two purposes. The first was to say "turnabout is fair play": Public records are public records, and you're not exempt.

The second was to intimidate. Why else run a map?

Said OFCC:

[W]e simply hope to see if Mr. Clifton is as big a believer in open access to public records as he claims.

I'd say they got their answer.

And further, says OFCC, noting that four other Ohio papers had printed similar lists:

[T]he media exception to the protection of these records should be removed immediately. These newspaper editors have proven they cannot handle the responsibility.

I have a feeling this story is a long way from being over.

(Via Ravenwood's Universe)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:28 AM)
4 August 2004
Where the elite meet for defeat

John Kerry, says New York Daily News columnist Zev Chafetz, is "the captive of the overbearing, elitist wing of his party," and as such, is sure to lose:

John Kerry is not a bad man. He probably wouldn't make a bad President. But he is a bad candidate in a terrible situation. He represents the wing of the Democratic Party that is imbued with a sense of its own moral, intellectual, cultural and social superiority. In short, he is the standard bearer for the unbearable.

But surely he can dispatch the fumbling, inarticulate George W. Bush in the debates. Or can he?

Democratic true believers think he'll kill Bush, one on one. That's what they thought about Al Gore, too.

Actually, Democratic true believers still think Al Gore won.

(Via La Shawn Barber)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:10 AM)
And no write-ins, either

D. Frank Robinson, who's running as a Libertarian for the 5th Congressional District seat currently held by Ernest Istook, was last mentioned here in connection with his plan for greatly expanding the size of the House of Representatives. He posted a comment to that item, which I reprint here:

As of this date [08/03/2004], it appears more likely that Oklahoma may be the only state without any Libertarian candidates on the ballot this year. Our case is still pending, but unless we get a favorable decision by mid-September, it looks like a fugitaboutit. Well, just push on to 2006. Hip deep in the big muddy in Oklahoma and the big fools say to circulate a petition!

This is, of course, because Oklahoma, alone among the fifty, expects a party to get signatures from five percent of the state's registered voters, more than 36,000 signatures in all, to be granted access to the statewide ballot, effectively locking the two major parties into permanent primacy. By contrast, Texas, six times bigger, demands only 45,540. (This enormous number of signatures extends to initiative petitions as well; to get a State Question that amends the Constitution on the ballot requires 15 percent of the number of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election [link requires Adobe Reader], which for November 2004 would be over 155,000 signatures.)

I've complained about this sort of thing before, and I suppose at some point I'll be complaining about it again. We should be encouraging political organizations, not trying to strangle them in their cribs.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:29 PM)
A hint of tint

Inasmuch as it's been hours since I linked to anything of Michelle Malkin's, I commend to you her Media Diversity Test, something she wrote to tweak the Unity Journalists of Color, in convention in the District of Columbia this week.

Out of a possible 100 points, Malkin of course scores an even 100. How would you fare? Give yourself five points for every Yes answer.

  1.  I have never voted for a Democrat in my life.
  2.  I think my taxes are too high.
  3.  I supported Bill Clinton's impeachment.
  4.  I voted for President Bush in 2000.
  5.  I am a gun owner.
  6.  I support school voucher programs.
  7.  I oppose condom distribution in public schools.
  8.  I oppose bilingual education.
  9.  I oppose gay marriage.
10.  I want Social Security privatized.
11.  I believe racial profiling at airports is common sense.
12.  I shop at Wal-Mart.
13.  I enjoy talk radio.
14.  I am annoyed when news editors substitute the phrase "undocumented person" for "illegal alien."
15.  I do not believe the phrase "a chink in the armor" is offensive.
16.  I eat meat.
17.  I believe O.J. Simpson was guilty.
18.  I cheered when I learned that Saddam Hussein had been captured.
19.  I cry when I hear "Proud to be an American" by Lee Greenwood.
20.  I don't believe the New York Times.

Assuming that in #19 she really means "God Bless the USA", I check in with a 55.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:56 PM)
5 August 2004
Pushing the warmer buttons

Laura at Oddly Normal describes the process by which she came off the fence:

I was still leaning Bushward until he started seriously pushing the FMA — and, as he continues to push it, it's clear that he wasn't just doing a minimum amount of lip service required to placate certain quarters until 2 November — he appears willing to expend some political capital in support of this atrocious amendment. It's hard for me to even describe how much this angers me — pushing for a jurisdiction-stripping measure or an amendment explictly leaving it to individual states I could buy — I'm enough of a federalist to be willing to let Alabama not recognize same-sex marriage if they don't want to — those I could forgive and possibly, if worded correctly, or as part of the right package deal, support. But pushing to everywhere and for all time disallow same-sex marriage (and civil unions, as language as written almost certainly would have) — that's pretty much unforgivable in my eyes. Kerry's certainly no great crusader for gay rights, his own opinions are cloudy, but he appears willing to keep the issue in stasis during his term, and if that's what I can get, I'll take it.

Conventional wisdom holds that there are relatively few voters still undecided, that most of the electorate has already thrown in with Mr Kerry or with Mr Bush. For Laura, Bush's ongoing opposition to same-sex marriage pushed her into the Kerry camp. If she's at all typical, and I have no reason to think she isn't, it will be a single issue, though not necessarily this issue, that eventually pushes the remaining fence-sitters to one side or the other.

The candidates, of course, will do their best to complicate this process by harping on their plans for the future. It would be well to remember that their actions in the past tend to be a more specific indicator of their actual positions, and a more reliable predictor of the actions they would take once inaugurated. In our Bizarro World political environment, though, the candidates don't really run on their records; they run against the other guy's. The plight of the undecided voter in the so-called "battleground" states — I'm officially still wavering, but I don't think it matters, since the President will almost certainly carry Oklahoma — will be more difficult than usual this year, I think.

(Update, 9:15 am: Ralph Nader is on the Diane Rehm Show, saying, among other things, that it's necessary to look at what a candidate has done, not at what he has promised. Hmmm.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:21 AM)
6 August 2004
Packing the carpet bags

I tell you what, if Alan Keyes can get settled into his new home in Illinois between now and the first Tuesday in November, I'd say it's prima facie evidence that he has both enough presence of mind and physical stamina to be a United States Senator.

I do think, though, that he might be well advised to consult with the junior senator from New York, whose experience in executing a similar maneuver could prove useful.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:33 AM)
8 August 2004
JFK version 2.0

Hint: it's not an upgrade.

Andrea Harris isn't pleased with this product either:

I can't believe this is the best candidate the Dems could come up with. He makes Clinton look like a shining knight in comparison — at least Clinton had the balls to actually dodge the draft instead of mincing through what read to me like four inept months of scratch-tending and grunt-bothering, and then coming home to grandstand against the war for political gain. Then again, maybe that's all part of the Plan: the Plan to make Clinton look so attractive by comparison that we'll all fall for Hillary when she runs in 2008 just so we can have the Big He hanging around the White House again.

For a couple of putative backwoods Arkansawyers, Bill 'n Hill seem awfully well-versed in all things Machiavellian.

Then again, John Kerry did get three Purple Hearts. Just ask him.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:31 AM)
11 August 2004
You just turn your pretty head and walk away

John Kerry's secret plan's no secret anymore:

My goal, my diplomacy, my statesmanship is to get our troops reduced in number and I believe if you do the statesmanship properly, I believe if you do the kind of alliance building that is available to us, that it's appropriate to have a goal of reducing the troops over that period of time.

Whatever the hell that means. (And they say Bush has trouble with the language.)

The implications, however, seem clear enough. Notes Mitch Berg:

If Kerry wins, and his "peace" with "honor" agenda takes office, then the terrorists will know one thing; there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's one year away.

If there's anything that guerrillas like more than fighting major armies, it's not fighting major armies. Laying low for a year, in exchange for greasing the skids on a Kerry-led pullout, is a fast, cheap way to return to power in Iraq. Everyone "wins" (if you ignore freedom-loving Iraqis, as John Kerry, the French, Germans, Russians and large parts of the State Department do); Kerry gets his foreign-policy "win" on the cheap (short-term, anyway), the French and Germans get their client back, the terrorists get to fight the scrubs for all the marbles when the US is gone, and the pan-arabs and islamofascists get to win by default.

Which may be an exaggeration, but riddle me this: In the Sixties and Seventies, John Kerry (d)evolved from a marginal hawk to the shrillest possible dove. At the 2004 Democratic convention, he made all sorts of hawkish noises. What in this man's history would make anyone think he might actually have meant any of them?

(Via Steve Gigl)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:01 AM)
12 August 2004
Only in New Jersey

Let it be said, right up front, that not everyone in the Garden State is a fan of soon-to-be-ex-governor Jim McGreevey.

Still, I suspect he's going to come out of this scandal smelling, if not like a rose, certainly like some pricey Calvin Klein foo-foo juice: by coming out of his self-imposed closet, McGreevey, at least to some folks, is going to look like some sort of sexual martyr, sent to his political death because he had the temerity to express the love that dare not speak its name. "I am a gay American," indeed. Jeff Jarvis reports that over in Philly, the Inquirer newsroom actually cheered at that admission. Yep, he's an adulterer, and he's gone out of his way to find a wholly-inappropriate job for his presumed boyfriend, but dammit, he's a member of a Protected Minority now, and if we say anything bad about him, why, it's our homophobia showing through, nothing more.

Truth be told, I really don't think New Jersey gives a flying fish about McGreevey's sexual orientation; it's been muttered about in muffled tones for years. "It makes," as he said, "little difference." Here's what Jeff Jarvis thinks of the guy:

He was a rotten governor. I voted for him. I was wrong. He messed up the budget, robbing the "rich" to buy votes from the middle class. He messed up development issues, pissing off both sides. He made lots of hiring mistakes. He was a suburban mayor who did not have the experience to be governor.

And the worst is apparently yet to come.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:10 PM)
13 August 2004
Jonesing for the 'burbs

Spoons presumably takes a dim view of "affordable housing" mandates, and quotes this Chicago Tribune report:

The Illinois Housing Development Authority is putting 49 communities on notice that they will be required to offer more affordable housing under a new state law.

The list of towns where less than 10 percent of the housing is considered affordable will be officially released Thursday, and Kenilworth, Oak Brook, Palos Heights and Inverness are among them.

Affordable-home prices in communities on the list are considered to be about $125,000, and affordable monthly rents are about $775. Those figures are determined by federal statistics that take into account income and the cost of housing in the Chicago area.

In general, housing is considered "affordable" if you don't have to spend more than 30 percent of your gross income for it. For someone making less than $2583 a month, $775 monthly rent is not "affordable." (The comparable figures for Oklahoma City for fiscal year 2004 are $1870 and $561.)

What does this new Illinois law require?

The plans must include a way for the municipalities to make 10 percent of their housing affordable, set aside at least 15 percent of new development as affordable or increase overall affordable housing by 3 percentage points.

Which is easier said than done, says Brett Blomberg, mayor of the comparatively posh village of Lincolnshire:

Lincolnshire's Blomberg questioned how a $123,720 house could be built in a town where the median home price is $400,000 and going up quickly.

"Homes are being purchased in Lincolnshire for the purpose of tearing them down and rebuilding, and [homeowners are] paying between $400,000 and $450,000 just to tear down a home," he said.

The last time I got onto this subject, I came up with this marginal wisdom:

Conventional wisdom holds that there are two kinds of residents: those who want to live at point X, and those who have no choice but to live at point X. It can probably be assumed, in the absence of de jure segregation, that the latter condition is mostly a function of economics; I could theoretically choose to live in, say, a spiffy new subdivision on the edge of town, but I couldn't possibly pony up the price of entry. At every price point, there is someone who can afford it, and someone else who can't. I imagine it wouldn't be difficult to find somebody who couldn't afford to live in my neighborhood.

At my income level, I couldn't possibly hope to live in a place like Lincolnshire. In a society with some measure of rationality, I would be urged to do one of the following: either improve that income, or go live somewhere I can afford. The town can't legally keep me out — probably wouldn't dream of keeping me out — but there's no justification for forcing a property owner in that town to sell to me, or to rent to me, at a price far below what he wants and can get.

This is not to say, of course, that I object to people living beyond their means. I do, however, object to government policies that encourage it, and to being taxed for the benefit of those thus encouraged.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:47 PM)
Watching the taxman

The Tax Foundation's new quarterly newsletter TaxWatch is pitched at those of us who didn't major in economics. Judging by the first issue [requires Adobe Reader], I'd say it hits its target pretty well; it's perhaps a touch too splashy, but it's solidly written.

Andrew Chamberlain has the cover story this quarter: a comparison of Bush and Kerry tax proposals. Of course, what I really want you to read is the Tax Foundation's list of criteria for good tax policy, incorporated therein.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:45 PM)
14 August 2004
Doing the math

Inspired by Jay Tea's calculations, I'm looking at my own 2000 and 2003 numbers, and the figure that jumps out at me is this: in 2003, I paid $41 less federal income tax than I did in 2000, despite an increase in taxable income of $2279.

My effective tax rate, for this particular tax anyway: 2000 — 12.38%; 2003 — 10.69%. Not perphaps as inspiring as Jay's rate, which was sliced in half, but definitely an improvement. (Like Jay, I had no change in filing status or exemptions during the period, and both of us claimed the standard deduction.)

On the question of health insurance: for me, the employer picks up the entire premium (one advantage of tenure), though copays and deductibles are rising steadily.

What Jay thinks:

So, am I better off than I was four years ago? I'd have to say, in ways I can attribute to the government, not just "yes," but "HELL, YES!" The only area I'm doing worse in is in regards to my health insurance, and that I squarely blame on John Edwards and his ilk.

I know it sounds selfish, but there's an old saying that "all politics is personal." I have done better under the Bush administration, and Kerry has picked a running mate who exemplifies the one part of my personal finances where I'm getting screwed. And looking at how my employer is doing and extrapolating what I can from that, I hope for the general health of the economy that Bush is re-elected.

I have to demur to some extent — there are many factors besides the hyperactivity of trial lawyers contributing to the rapid increase in health-care costs — but my major worry here is that a Kerry administration would think I make too much money (ha!) to deserve any kind of tax relief and would promptly start turning the screws a little tighter.

And forget that business about selfishness. There is no reason on God's green earth why anyone should feel compelled to pay more tax.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:27 AM)
15 August 2004
Sticker schlock

Yard signs have yet to come into full bloom for the November election — in a quick run through my neighborhood, the only ones I spotted were for the two State House candidates who survived their respective primaries, a couple of Tom Coburn signs, and a single Kerry/Edwards sign — but bumper stickers are starting to appear hither and yon, and one I hadn't seen before turned up yesterday on a Dodge Magnum wagon in Arrest Me Red with a cardboard dealer plate: Buck Fush.

Which begs the question: Is it technically a bumper sticker if it's not placed on the actual bumper? This one, along with Lick Bush in 2004, which I have seen before, was placed along the lower edge of the rear window, which in a Dodge Magnum wagon is about four feet off the ground.

I wasn't especially perturbed by either of these — I mean, I live in the state where Tuck Fexas is a way of life — but I rather think I would have reacted badly to something like this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:53 AM)
We've been framed

To create bias in a news article, it's not necessary to misstate the facts; it is necessary only to establish a specific point of view as the default. Susanna Cornett calls this "framing," and she's written extensively on the subject.

This WaPo piece by Dan Balz drew the attention of Patterico:

It would be possible to tell the exact same story that is told in the Post news analysis, but put a completely different spin on the facts, by simply changing the tone, the facts that are highlighted, and the point of view that is emphasized.

The same facts, yet an entirely different analysis. Is this possible? As an experiment, Patterico rewrites the story, completely inverting its political predilections in the process, and the only surprise comes from how easy he makes it look. Bias lurks in even the smallest throwaway phrases; no wonder there's so much of it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:23 AM)
16 August 2004
Mending fences in Trenton

The Universal Donor points out that it's not like this is the first time there's been a case of adultery in the Tri-State Area:

Turns out that despite the happy family image [Governor McGreevey] projected for most of his career, things weren't all tea and crumpets in Trenton. More hypocrisy from politicians! Will it never end? Still, didn't Rudy Giuliani cheat on his wife, too?

And you didn't see Rudy quitting his job over it, either:

He stuck around and didn't even really seem ashamed, saying things like "What, you don't like my new girlfriend? Why don't you come on down to the Bowery... we'll settle this old school, with a couple spaldeens and a brickbat. You hold the spaldeens and I'll bash your face with the bat!"

[Expletive deleted for reasons of, well, um, people looking over my shoulder.]

How likely is it that McGreevey could pull that off? Not very. So:

McGreevey shouldn't retire. He should apologize, buy New Jersey a box of penis-shaped chocolates, and let's all agree to move on. And I think that if he sang his apology [to] us, up here on our balcony, we'd be his forever.

Somehow I can't imagine the Barista or the Prop warming to this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:24 AM)
21 August 2004
Primary malfunction

Michael Bates is an at-large delegate from Oklahoma to the Republican National Convention, and he's addressed this letter to the chairmen of all the state delegations:

[We will be] looking ahead to 2008 — we as delegates will vote on the rules which will govern the Republican Party until the next convention, including the 2008 presidential nominating process. The decisions we make at this convention will shape the contest for our party's next standard-bearer, and it's important that we make the most of this once-every-four-years opportunity to reexamine our rules.

Going as far back at least 10 years, there has been a growing sense that the current system of front-loaded and plurality-take-all primaries does not serve our party well, and that the problem is only getting worse as more states move their primaries earlier. At best, we may well find ourselves in 2008 in the same awkward position that the Democrats are in this year. The nominating process would be effectively over eight months before the election, and the party would be stuck with a presumptive nominee who fails to inspire the grass roots of the party and fails to appeal to the American electorate as a whole. At worst, the shortened primary season may not give us enough time to learn about the candidates. Damaging information may emerge about the presumptive nominee during the many months between clinching the nomination and the convention. Under the current rules, if such a flawed candidate refused to step aside, the convention would have no choice but to go ahead and nominate him.

Leading up to the 2000 convention, the Brock Commission studied reforms and brought forward a recommendation known as the Delaware Plan, which would have addressed front-loading by putting the most delegate-rich states at the end of the primary calendar. The plan received the endorsement of the Republican National Committee, but in the Rules Committee it was killed as the result of lobbying by political operatives who were focused on short-term advantage rather than the long-term health of the Republican Party.

First off, I don't think for a minute that Bates is suggesting that John Kerry step aside in favor of someone the Democrats might actually like. Kerry meets the party's quintessential requirement: he is not George W. Bush.

The Delaware Plan, written largely by Wilmington attorney Richard A. Forsten, calls for the twelve smallest states and the District of Columbia to vote in February, the next larger states in March and April, and the largest in May. Its advantages seem apparent: the first batch of states will have relatively low media expenses, which theoretically should allow a greater number of candidates to test the water, and since the last 12 states have nearly half the convention delegates, the nomination likely won't be locked up until May.

"Likely" doesn't mean "always," though, and concerns by big states that they might be cut out of the action have led to developments such as the California Plan, which introduces random factors to mix up the rigid stratification implied by the Delaware Plan.

Still, there's one question that won't go away: do we need primaries at all? Would we be better served if we followed the Iowa model, caucuses starting at the precinct level? Would voters have more interest? Judging by primary turnouts, they could scarcely have less interest now.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:11 AM)
23 August 2004
No left left behind

It's been thirty-five years, and still the Sixties refuse to die, says the Prop:

Over in Cambridge [Mass.], of course, Kerry is just one more Capitalist to be lined up against the wall after the Revolution. The Sixties still live in Cambridge, right down to the tenured Marxists from the local Ivied Halls urging their students to put down those Vegan burgers, put on their sandals, come out of that tattoo parlor and march for Change! So help me, I was handed a flyer for a "people's" lecture on the "legacy" of Jacques Derrida by a panhandler on Harvard Square. I suddenly felt all groovy inside.

The distance between grooviness and nausea isn't what it used to be, if indeed it ever was.

And while we're sort of on the subject, it seems like a good time to trot out this January '03 post, which glossed over the fine art of fisking in the light of postmodern deconstructional techniques, and in the process of dropping Jacques Derrida's name, pointed to a Mark Goldblatt piece at NRO that gave Derrida some deserved derision:

[H]e is not now, nor has he ever been, a philosopher in any recognizable sense of the word, nor even a trafficker in significant ideas; he is rather a intellectual con artist, a polysyllabic grifter who has duped roughly half the humanities professors in the United States — a species whose gullibility ranks them somewhere between nine-year-old boys listening to spooky campfire stories and blissful puppies chasing after nonexistent sticks — into believing that postmodernism has an underlying theoretical rationale.

Shouldn't be too difficult to deal with said legacy, I suspect — at least, for anyone who was able to figure out on the first try that My Mother, the Car was fiction.

(With thanks to the much-missed Cinderella Bloggerfeller, who inspired that original post.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:26 PM)
25 August 2004
Terminal porosity

La Shawn Barber lays it on the line:

The instinct to survive has been suppressed by an irrational, hare-brained desire to be "tolerant" and open even if it means the end of our way of life and our very lives.

She's talking about our apparent unwillingness to do anything about our porous national borders. The 9/11 Commission has been no help:

For our tax dollars, a group of "bipartisan" policy wonks had no deport-them-back-where-they-came-from kind of suggestions. Instead they spouted the same weak-kneed mumbo jumbo that made us vulnerable in the first place and offered similar inane reasoning that will lead to another attack. (Did you know that Middle Eastern men are sneaking across the southern border along with Mexicans?)

My prediction: If George Bush and his cronies don't seal up the southern border or at least allow border agents to threaten to shoot border jumpers, the next commission — 4/13, 11/21, 12/25, whatever — will conclude what the 9/11 commission concluded: immigration enforcement in the United States is slack, but we still don't want you to do anything about it.

Of course, we'd probably have to seal the northern border after that; Canadians aren't immigrating in large numbers, but terrorists will take any entrance they find open.

(Aside: This year's World Tour brought me to within one block of the Canadian border; I obviously can't predict what might happen if someone made a mad dash across the line, but on that sleepy Sunday morning, it was hard to imagine that anyone would have opened up a can of Rapid Response.)

Neither Ms Barber nor I qualify as wild-eyed xenophobes. Here's the bottom line:

I had the good fortune of being born in America, and it pains me to see its ideals crumbling before me. I don't jealously guard our country's benefits; I want others to share them, but only if they go through the proper channels. Being a U.S. citizen is a privilege. That means no one who is not a citizen has a right to be here, and we are not required to keep them here.

Nor are we required to step lightly, lest we hurt their feelings. Illegal aliens — the term we used to use before they came up with the shallow non-description "undocumented workers" — didn't belong here in the best of times; they certainly don't belong here now, while we're under attack by roving bands of terrorists who hate what we stand for but have no qualms about taking advantage of us while they're on the premises.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:26 AM)
27 August 2004
From bad to worse

Francis W. Porretto reviews the last forty years of Democratic presidential candidates, and shudders to imagine what might be next.

Far be it from me to attempt to complete his thoughts, but surely 2008 will be a step in the right direction, if only because it's difficult to imagine how things could get much worse. (Hillary, you say? Well, she has her faults, not to mention the Big He always trying to burst out of the shadows he so justly earned, but there's no way on God's green earth she'd conduct a campaign as ineptly as John Kerry.)

I should also point out that I voted for five of the candidates he lambastes.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:53 PM)
It's a mad, mad, mad, mad Max

Robert Hurt is a dentist (with that name, it figures) in Phoenix, he sees the November election as a Tweedledum/Tweedledee clash, and he proposes an alternative:

If you're pleased with the way things are and want 4 more years of the same then, by all means, vote for Mr. Bush. If in some way or another you think that Mr. Kerry will improve the situation then be sure to vote for him. But if you believe that our country should embark on a different, more positive course then consider making the effort to write in Mel Gibson for President on Nov. 2.

Um, we (that is to say, "they") don't allow write-ins in Oklahoma, and I'm not at all sure Mel would be pleased with a presidential draft, but hey — we could do worse.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:04 PM)
31 August 2004
Taking the long view

"I don't think you can win [the War on Terror]," said George W. Bush. "But I think you can create conditions so that ... those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

Which strikes me, frankly, as a fairly sane assessment of the situation. It is literally impossible to wipe every last terrorist off the face of the earth. And bad ideas have a way of surviving well beyond their sell-by date: despite the implosion of the Soviet Union and the shredding of the Iron Curtain, we still have Communists scattered hither and yon, clinging desperately to their discredited delusions. There are even converts to the cause: in some circles, pink is the new red.

Radical Islam, which is at least as bad an idea as Communism, and in some regards worse, isn't going away any time soon. Your friendly neighborhood multilateralist thinks it can be bottled up, buried in bureaucracy, bogged down in red tape. He ignores the Islamist disregard for the niceties of civilization and the conventions of contemporary life. And obsessed with al-Qaeda, as though it were a brand name like, um, Heinz®, he overlooks the fact that there is no shortage of Islamic militants who owe no particular allegiance to Osama bin Laden. (Again, the Communists provide an example: the world is awash in Reds, but actual Bolsheviks are few and far between. And not even Communists agree on everything.)

In time, radical Islam will be deposited unceremoniously in the dustbin of history where it belongs. Between now and then, Mr Bush seeks to make life difficult for those who practice it and for those who, for whatever reason, help prop it up. (Yes, European Community, I'm talking to you.) To those who score a win only if someone signs the official terms of surrender, it may not look like a whole lot of progress. But considering what's happened so far — two whole nations mostly out of the thrall of extremists, and a third (Libya) trying to mend its ways — I'd say we're moving in the right direction.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:56 AM)
2 September 2004
The Brad and Zell Show

Zell Miller, says Michael Crowley in Slate, has become a "cartoonish GOP partisan." John Rosenberg, noting the proliferation of "fake" or "in name only" tags that have been attached to members of both major parties, objects:

To say that Zell Miller is a "fake" Democrat, despite his refusal to change parties, is to say that people with his views are not welcome in the Democratic party. Has Crowley checked out Brad Carson, who's running for the Senate in Oklahoma on a platform that one would be hard-pressed to distinguish from mainstream or even conservative Republicanism. If Miller is a "fake," shouldn't Carson change parties?

The American Conservative Union rates Carson's previous three years in the House at 42, which is to the right of most Democrats but nowhere near the median for Republicans. On the other side, Americans for Democratic Action rates Carson at 65, well below the middle-80s garnered by most Democrats over the past three years, but way above the single digits typically awarded to House Republicans. (Over the same three-year period, Zell Miller gets 25 from the ADA and 65 from the ACU.)

Which, to these jaundiced eyes anyway, makes Brad Carson something of a centrist. Certainly he's a few ticks to the left of the rest of Oklahoma's Congressional delegation, a solidly right-wing bunch; and given the state Democratic party's claim to being "squarely in the center of the political spectrum," he's got no reason to depart for the GOP camp.

Still, this is a conservative sort of place: George W. Bush got 60 percent of the popular vote here in 2000, even though fewer than 40 percent of Oklahoma voters are registered as Republicans [link requires Adobe Reader]. Zell Miller-style Democrats may seem bizarre to some blue-state folks, but they'd fit right into the Soonerland mix.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:33 AM)
GLBT and sometimes Y

Bryan at Spare Change offers this take on recent outings and what they may mean:

The [Ed] Schrock and [Jim] McGreevey stories are interesting because they were men who allegedly portrayed themselves to be of one mindset when they were actually of another. In these circumstances, their duplicity was worthy of the attention that they garnered when the revelations were made public. That said, I believe that Americans have the right to elect whoever they want. If an openly gay person runs for public office and manages to win the election, so be it. We all have to decide what issues matter the most to us, as well was which personal issues are most directly relevant to a leader's ability to do the job of representing the constituency.

And while I'm personally very conservative, I would never tell a homosexual person that their vote isn't wanted nor appreciated. It seems to me like every vote is precious in this divisive day, and if a fiscally-conservative homosexual person believes in the Republican ideology, then their vote is welcome. It also seems a bit hypocritical that Republicans would tinkle in their britches over personalities like Schwarzenegger & Giuliani (a womanizer and adulterer, respectively, if memory serves), yet claim some moral indignation over the possibility that some like-minded homosexuals might be interested in making over our Big Tent with gold lamé and Mardi Gras beads (I don't know if that's what they'd do, but it seemed gay when I typed it, so there you go).

(Links added by me, though the items linked are either themselves linked or mentioned elsewhere in the original article.)

The Log Cabin Republicans have a slogan: "Inclusion wins." And if certain elements within the GOP might feel an involuntary tightening of the sphincter, well, that's too bad. God knows I have to put up with a great deal of weirdness over here on the Democratic side of the aisle. Color me inconstant — that's a neutral shade, right? — but I'd much rather deal with, say, a gay gun buff, than with a straight fellow whose disarming manner turns out to be literally so.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:27 PM)
3 September 2004
The M word

Oh, did anybody think those ruffians from Chechnya were, oh, say, Buddhists?

Nope, thought not.

Meanwhile, it's probably time to bring out this old warhorse once more.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:58 PM)
4 September 2004
And it's not even close

Dan Lovejoy has issued his Electoral College projection, and it flies in the face of all this "dead heat" stuff we're hearing from Big Media:

Bush 341, Kerry 197.

In this scenario, the Pacific Coast (except Alaska) and New England (except New Hampshire) go blue, and Kerry picks up Iowa and Illinois; Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey; Maryland and Delaware; and the District of Columbia — leaving a mere thirty-five red states.

Why is this happening?

Kerry will lose in November, not because America adores President Bush, but because the Democrats nominated a terrible candidate.

Of course, getting 63 percent of the electoral vote doesn't mean that Mr Bush will get anywhere near 63 percent of the popular vote, but I figure 50.0001 should be more than sufficient.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:13 AM)
5 September 2004
Something v. something

Debra Dickerson at Slate says that if we're going to pit one group against another, better class warfare than racial warfare:

Class conflict makes sense; it keeps the powerful from riding roughshod over senior citizens who can't retire from manual labor in the hot sun. The truth is, I have far more in common with the rich white man than I do with [a] poor black grandfather (who would never dare to park on private property in this neighborhood). A world of perfect harmony would be lovely, but until the rapture comes I'd rather blue-collar types of all races faced off against us "suits" than one race against the other. There is nothing logical, natural, or beneficial about a world organized by race — the very concept is irrational. Any system divided along racial lines, implicitly or overtly, will be immoral, inefficient, and unstable. (Take, for example, poor whites' hatred of slaves, rather than of slavery, for depressing wages.)

Class conflict, on the other hand, is natural and rational. It brought us the minimum wage, OSHA, Social Security, the weekend, overtime, pensions, and the like. While none of those are unmitigated successes, a system organized along class lines acknowledges that capitalism doesn't police itself and that labor must have a voice — it wasn't the capitalists who pushed for child labor laws and the eight-hour work day. Everybody loses when societal goods are distributed on the basis of race, even those in the front of the bus.

There are some mechanisms for correcting the excesses of the market, and all else being equal, I'd prefer to rely on them, but all else isn't always equal, and sticking it to Joe and Susan Sixpack and their 2.3 kids on the basis of philosophy strikes me as unnecessarily cruel.

On the other hand, the bumper sticker I saw yesterday — "NO DEDUCTIBLES / NO COPAYS / NO INSURANCE COMPANIES / JUST HEALTH CARE" (I may have a couple of these out of sequence) — strikes me as unnecessarily silly, and I rather think it would have carried more weight had it not been stuck on the back of a $30,000 truck.

(Via Outside the Beltway)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:46 PM)
6 September 2004
Void where prohibited

If you're one of the seventeen known Undecided Voters, you've probably already posed this question to the pundits:

The nation has entered an era of uncertainty, and it's becoming more and more important to look out for Number One. Which candidate addresses this particular issue most directly?

Beats me, but there's an analysis at The Anger of Compassion, if you're interested.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:46 PM)
7 September 2004
Dickie the jinx

Move over, Red Sox; chin up, Sports Illustrated. You want to see a real jinx in action, look to an undisclosed location near Washington, and heed the words of T. D. Allman in Rolling Stone:

Should George W. Bush win this election, it will give him the distinction of being the first occupant of the White House to have survived naming Dick Cheney to a post in his administration. The Cheney jinx first manifested itself at the presidential level back in 1969, when Richard Nixon appointed him to his first job in the executive branch. It surfaced again in 1975, when Gerald Ford made Cheney his chief of staff and then — with Cheney's help — lost the 1976 election. George H.W. Bush, having named Cheney secretary of defense, was defeated for re-election in 1992. The ever-canny Ronald Reagan was the only Republican president since Eisenhower who managed to serve two full terms. He is also the only one not to have appointed Dick Cheney to office.

It seems unclear how the John Kerry campaign can capitalize on this situation.

(Via Ken Layne)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:47 AM)
9 September 2004
The Eternal Revenue Service

Francis W. Porretto would definitely like to see the Federal income tax go away:

If Dubya, Frist, and Hastert get behind this one and push hard, not only will I join the Republican Party, I'll give it my firstborn child. (I could use a spare room, anyway.)

Fritz Schranck is a little more cautious:

As with Bruce Bartlett and several others, I'm more than a little dubious, especially considering how high the sales tax rate would need to be to match the revenue from the current income tax system.

But that's not his biggest beef:

From my perspective, beyond the fundamental problem of setting a revenue-neutral sales tax rate is a small matter of trust.

I just don't believe Congress would abolish the income tax code permanently. Even in the unlikely event that the Linder plan or something like it becomes the Federal government's primary revenue-raising system, I fully expect some future Congress to return to the income tax whenever it felt the need for more cash.

I would be happy to spend more time thinking about the difficult issues raised by a national sales tax proposal, but only on one small condition — if it was accompanied by the repeal of the 16th Amendment.

Which leads to the next question: if Amendment XVI goes, does the payroll tax go with it? Or does its fixed rate, inasmuch as it is sort of "uniform throughout the United States," give it a pass under Article I, Section 8?

Zymurgy's First Law of Evolving System Dynamics kicks in right about here: once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a bigger can.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:06 PM)
10 September 2004
Let's call it "fair and balanced"

Now here are some uplifting notions. I particularly liked the third, "Be nice and fair to everyone, including people who are different from you." Who could possibly argue with that?

Then you click on Buttons and see stuff like this:

"All religions are fairy tales"
"A village in Texas has lost its idiot"
"Daddy's little war criminal" (with photo of George W.)
"Back off! I'm allergic to Republicans"
"It's your hell, you burn in it"

This is "nice and fair"?

The Happy Homemaker gives this the skewering it deserves.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:50 PM)
13 September 2004
Not with a bang

This note showed up on the Web site of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives:

Semiautomatic Assault Weapon Update

By statute, the prohibitions relating to semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices expired on September 13, 2004. As a result, certain sections of the Gun Control Act, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, and its implementing regulations, 27 CFR Part 478, are no longer in effect.

This page explains matters further.

Do I feel any safer? Not especially. On the other hand, I'd just like to say that I really, really like the idea of Federal laws that actually expire.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:03 AM)
All of the people, all of the time

A cousin of mine has informed me that she's been asked to run for the City Council in Austin, Texas, which prompted me to check out the way they run things in the City of the Violet Crown.

Turns out that Austin has a council-manager form of government, something I'm familiar with, but there's a twist: all six of the council members are elected at large. Which means that whatever power base she's built up in her section of town (just north of the University) doesn't mean a whole lot, since she's got to make her pitch to the entire city of 650,000.

I admit to being unable to understand why this is supposed to be a Good Thing. If each of the council members represents the whole city, why do they need six of them? The traditional complaint about ward representation, as used in Oklahoma City and more recently in Tulsa, has been that it encourages members of the council to think about neighborhood needs rather than the needs of the city as a whole, but the fact remains: neighborhoods do have different needs. Residents of Balcones Drive in northwest Austin don't necessarily have the same concerns as residents of Springdale Road on the east side.

There is, of course, a practical limit to how far down you can scale these things. I live in Ward 2 in Oklahoma City, which extends roughly from NW 23rd to NW 122nd, from Broadway to Portland, excluding areas adjacent to the Lake Hefner Parkway. This ward is currently represented by Sam Bowman, who lives in the Cleveland neighborhood, north of 23rd and east of May, at the southern end of the ward. It would be disingenuous to argue that everyone in Ward 2 is dealing with the same set of issues. But were we using at-large voting here, we'd have to guess which of the council members might be most interested in our problems if we wanted something done; as it stands, we take our problems to Sam Bowman.

And truth be told, I don't know how well a neighborhood activist like my cousin, who is used to hearing from a few hundred folks on a regular basis, will take to having more than half a million breathing down her neck.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:03 AM)
Blocking up the scenery?

There aren't a lot of political yard signs at the moment: on my block, there's a total of one. Of course, the election is still seven weeks away, so there's still time for the little buggers to blossom, but for now, there's just the one.

Apparently, had I stayed in Charleston, where I lived during the 1960s, I might not be allowed to have such a thing today:

From Crowfield Plantation in Goose Creek to new subdivisions west of the Ashley, neighborhood covenants prevent homeowners from putting their politics on display. That means no John Kerry signs. Ditto for George Bush.

Of course, the new arrivals are supposed to sign these things voluntarily, but....

"If you can have any sign, then you can have a political sign," said Charleston lawyer and ACLU member Armand Derfner. "The Supreme Court has said you cannot discriminate against political speech. Period."

Any restriction against outdoor political advertising would likely be struck down in court if someone pursued it, Derfner said.

If anyone pursues it, I'd like to hear about it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:37 PM)
14 September 2004
Truth in advertising

It was Sinclair Broadcasting's NewsCentral that got it first: from the archives of the Navy, they obtained the After-Action Report written by Lt. (jg) John Kerry after the incident for which Kerry won a Silver Star.

Jim at It'z News to Me caught it first on WBFF-TV, the Fox station in Baltimore, Sinclair's hometown. (I caught a replay on Oklahoma City's Fox station, KOKH-TV.) Jim has links to the complete NewsCentral report.

And Captain Ed, who knows more about these things than I do, reads and concludes:

When you look at the action on the spot report, it reflects well on the young Lieutenant Kerry. Although it's difficult to see how this action should have resulted in a Silver Star, it would seem a commendation of some sort would be appropriate. It's all of the exaggeration, lies, and paperwork alterations after the fact that calls Kerry's character into serious question.

Given the tendency of some of us to think the worst of John Kerry no matter what — a tendency Kerry and his campaign handlers have encouraged in recent months — it's something of a relief to hear that there was in fact a time when his instincts were sound and functional.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:25 AM)
15 September 2004
Forging ahead

Susanna Cornett has come up with a possible profile of the person who faked those infamous CBS memos:

I'm coming down on the side of rabid-leftist geeky on-the-fringe-of-the-important-people guy (I think it was a guy, yes) in his late 20s, who maybe has a dad or an uncle or someone who was in the military, possibly in Texas, who wanted to see Bush go down. He handed it off to someone who wanted to believe, who then handed it off to Rather who wanted to believe. Without the ones so desperately wanting to believe, this would not have gotten legs. And if it hadn't gotten legs, no one would have been able to cut them off at the knees.

This makes as much sense as any speculation I've seen, and far more than the ludicrous notion that the Bush campaign engineered the whole thing. Karl Rove may be the second coming of Machiavelli, but I doubt even he could have plotted something this intricate in advance.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:53 AM)
And whoever the culprit...

CBS must atone, preferably along the lines recommended by Beldar:

Dan Rather and everyone else at CBS News who had direct managerial authority over, and supervisory involvement in, the production of last Wednesday night's 60 Minutes II broadcast about the Killian memos must be fired. Not retired. Not pensioned off. Not allowed to resign. Not given 30 days' or even three days' notice.

They must be fired — instantly, effective immediately, "for cause" and "with prejudice," forfeiting all unvested future benefits from their employment. They should be escorted by security personnel from the building, with their belongings sent to them in due course after they've been screened for relevant evidence. All of their computers, files, and other items of potential evidentiary value must be segregated immediately and secured under lock and key with a tight and explicit chain of custody. There must be no spoliation of evidence permitted.

This must be done publicly — before the close of business on Wednesday, September 15, 2004, and preferably before noon.

If it's not, then the executives who failed to do the firings should be fired before the close of business on Thursday, September 16, 2004.

This is not, I point out, due to any particular animus toward CBS: this is the absolute minimum CBS must do to retain even a shred of credibility as a provider of news.

And then the investigations will begin:

If Dan Rather is still an employee of CBS News by next Monday, then the appropriate committees of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate should convene public joint investigative hearings immediately, with Dan Rather as their second subpoenaed witness.

The first witness must be an appropriate custodian of records from CBS News, who must be directed to bring every shred of paper, every email, every piece of videotape, every computer file, every outtake, every script, every memorandum of staff meetings — and every bit of advice rendered by inside or outside legal counsel to CBS News prior to the broadcast.

A little bit of history here:

Viacom was spun off from CBS in the early 1970s in response to an FCC ruling prohibiting broadcast and cable ownership in the same market. With one asset to speak of — old CBS reruns available for repackaging — Viacom built itself into a media power, with connections to broadcast through its syndication properties, and ownership of cable networks such as Showtime and MTV (which it acquired from Warner Bros. and American Express). In 1987 Viacom was taken over by Sumner Redstone's National Amusements; in 1999 Viacom bought CBS, its former corporate parent.

Since just about all mass-media firms are assembled from similar components these days, and those components are largely interchangeable — could Sumner Redstone be thinking about unloading CBS right about now?

(Update, 18 September, 6:20 pm: Fusilier Pundit has been contemplating the possibilities of a spinoff of CBS.)

(Update, 19 September, 8:45 pm: Sumner Redstone has sold off 341,500 shares, though I don't know if this was a CBS-related action or if it might have something to do with the pending sell-off of Blockbuster. It is, however, less than 1 percent of his equity in the company.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:46 AM)
16 September 2004
Did you ever have to make up your mind?

It's not often easy, and not often kind, if you're a 21st-century liberal; the contemporary liberal mindset, says Marianne M. Jennings, is hard-coded into its holders' DNA, and the results are obvious:

Equivocation seems to be engrained in the liberal mind, but equivocation is but a symptom of a genetic fear of finality. For folks who want to impose upon us one great social experiment after another, liberals hold an astonishing fear of final decisions. No death penalty because it's too final and what if we made a mistake? Abortion is necessary because what if birth control fails us or we fail birth control, or we just change our minds post-conception? You can almost hear the pens scratching prescription pads in the blue states as the Paxil and Zoloft refills are doubled. Vanquish the very thought of living with consequences of choices!

Mr. Kerry cannot make up his mind. How cruel this flip-flopper moniker for Mr. Kerry! The poor soul is afflicted with liberal DNA. So were Carter, Clinton, and the indecisive Dukakis. All Clinton staffers' books describe Clinton's agonizing decision process of debating, redebating, and generally flogging issues to death. Few CEOs are Democrats because one does not get to that level without being decisive. Who started think tanks? Liberal DNA because you can make a living just debating what to do. Who dominates universities? Liberal DNA because you never have to produce results; you can just think, ponder, and equivocate.

Reminds me of the Judean People's Front People's Front of Judea.

Let it be said that there's nothing wrong with thinking things through, and that entirely too many notions have emerged from the Bush administration with little evidence that any such thought ever took place. (To pick an example not entirely at random, there's the President's immigration-reform package, which is a "reform" only in the sense that it changes the shape of something.) Still, BushCo occasionally acts; the Democrats promise to do better, but they haven't finished burnishing all the fine points yet. Perhaps this is an argument for electing more Democrats to Congress, on the basis that gridlock is goodlock.

(Muchas gracias: John Rosenberg.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:03 PM)
17 September 2004
Keeping Washington out of Rathergate

There has been some call for a Congressional investigation into CBS News practices in the wake of the network's recent, um, malfeasance. Patterico explains why this is a bad idea:

There are few things that the government does better than the marketplace. I don't think that policing the media is, or should be, one of them. I think that governmental involvement in such matters is fundamentally inconsistent with the ideals of the First Amendment, which is designed to keep government out of the media's hair.

Also, I think that the power of the internet is developing an increasingly effective mechanism for the redress of grievances against the mainstream media, as the CBS documents scandal has demonstrated.

Meanwhile, the Interocitor recommends a different sort of governmental action:

While CBS has the freedom of the press to air nearly any damn thing it wants, there is no requirement that anyone else accept them as an objective news agency. I may be wrong, but I doubt al Jazeera or the Weekly World News has a seat in the White House pressroom, Air Force One, or rotates onto the occasional press pool. So, a humble suggestion:

Kick them out until they apologize!

No questions at the press conference, no phone calls returned, no contact of any kind with the Administration. Freeze them out. Treat them as the pariahs they are. Their freedom to publish does not extend to anyone's duty to co-operate.

Better yet, give their spot in the pool to the Weekly World News.

Actually, this will look like a spate of spite on the part of the White House, and for the moment, I think it's probably more useful for the Bush administration to keep them around, just to ward off the inevitable Kerrying-on from the Democrats. Still, the larger point here is that Big Media are accustomed to thinking of themselves as being owed a certain level of deference, and putting a few creases in this belief might be worth it in the long run.

Of course, should it turn out that there's an actual conspiracy, in the legal sense, behind the machinations at CBS News — then bring on the investigators, and let the chips fall.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:11 PM)
19 September 2004
I approved this post before I rejected it

Well, this makes perfect sense:

First there are only two ways to go. One way is neither right nor wrong and the other way isn't.

No, actually, it isn't John Kerry.

(Via Dawn Eden)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:46 AM)
Third-party news

Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik will make it to the ballot in 48 states and the District of Columbia, assuming all the current petitions get through the appropriate state election boards. The two exceptions are New Hampshire and Oklahoma, where the party's petition efforts fell short; the party is challenging the Oklahoma board in court on the basis that the state's ballot-access laws are unnecessarily onerous, and Richard Winger reports in Ballot Access News that there may be a challenge in New Hampshire:

Since a major party candidate can win a statewide primary, without regard to whether he or she has substantial support in both of New Hampshire's U.S. House districts, the party may argue that the state has no interest in requiring a petitioning candidate for that same office to show substantial support in both of New Hampshire's US House districts.

New Hampshire law calls for 1500 petition signatures in each district, 3000 in all. (Oklahoma, with about three times the population, requires 51,781 statewide.) New Hampshire does allow write-ins, so if Badnarik can pull 4 percent of the vote, the party will automatically qualify for the ballot in 2008. Oklahoma does not permit write-ins.

As of this writing, Richard Winger reports that the Constitution Party, whose ticket is headed by Michael A. Paroutka, is on the ballot in 38 states and pending in three others; Ralph Nader's independent candidacy, also backed by the Reform Party, is on in 35 and pending in eight more; the Green Party's David Cobb is on in 28 states with one pending; and the Socialist Workers' Party, which has nominated Róger Calero, has qualified in fourteen states with one more under consideration. None of these candidates will appear on the Oklahoma ballot.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:13 PM)
Deconstructing Danny

James Lileks imagines Rathergate for art-history students:

We understand that there has been some controversy over the newly discovered Michelangelo painting featured in 60 Minutes' expose of curatorial malfeasance at the Metropolitan Museum. Some outside experts note that close analysis of the wood frame reveals the presense of modern staples, and while we agree this is curious — as are the words "Abilene Frame Shop" engraved into the wood — it is hardly conclusive. Others have questioned the use of acrylic instead of oil paints, and the presence of nylon fibers embedded in the brushstrokes have led some to question whether the painting is indeed 500 years old. These are issues worth pursuing, and we will redouble our efforts. But it's a little bit frustrating to see all this reduced to a debate over slivers and threads, instead of the real question, namely, how did Michelangelo's "Madonna of the Dealership" include a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air rendered with such astonishing detail, half a millennium before the car was designed? That's the issue we think should be the focus of our attention.

Not that CBS would cover such a thing on 60 Minutes anyway; this is Sunday morning, pre-Face the Nation fare, and besides Charles Kuralt is dead.

And Woody Allen, of all people, anticipated this situation. In a short story ("The Scrolls") originally published in The New Republic (!) in the early Seventies, Allen posited that a newly-discovered set of Dead Sea Scrolls might not be entirely genuine:

Scholars will recall that several years ago a shepherd, wandering in the Gulf of Aqaba, stumbled upon a cave containing several large clay jars and also two tickets to the ice show. Inside the jars were discovered six parchment scrolls with ancient incomprehensible writing which the shepherd, in his ignorance, sold to the museum for $750,000 apiece. Two years later the jars turned up in a pawnshop in Philadelphia. One year later the shepherd turned up in a pawnshop in Philadelphia and neither was claimed.

Archaeologists originally set the date of the scrolls at 4000 B.C., or just after the massacre of the Israelites by their benefactors. The writing is a mixture of Sumerian, Aramaic, and Babylonian and seems to have been done by either one man over a long period of time, or several men who shared the same suit. The authenticity of the scrolls is currently in great doubt, particularly since the word "Oldsmobile" appears several times in the text, and the few fragments that have finally been translated deal with familiar religious themes in a more than dubious way. Still, excavationist A. H. Bauer has noted that even thought the fragments seem totally fraudulent, this is probably the greatest archeological find in history with the exception of the recovery of his cuff links from a tomb in Jerusalem.

Truly everything old is new again.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:43 PM)
20 September 2004
Bullets bitten: 1

Biter: CBS.

Okay, fine. They should not assume, however, that an apology will get them off the hook.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:22 PM)
22 September 2004
Bitterblue

The Artist Formerly Known As Cat Stevens was bumped off a London-Washington flight when someone at the Transportation Security Agency noticed that Yusuf Islam's name was on the national Do Not Enter list. The plane landed in Bangor, Maine, and Islam was escorted from the premises before the flight to Dulles resumed.

In recent years, Islam has adopted the voice of the moderate, more in tune with the gentle nature of his Seventies songs, but his actions have often belied his words, which undoubtedly is how he got onto the Department of Homeland Security's watch list.

What's that you say? John Lennon? Oh, please. Even if the government thought it had reason to fear Lennon's political activities, the antics of John and Yoko weren't a whole lot different from anybody else's antiwar activities of the time. (Well, except John Kerry's.)

More to the point:

Lennon: All we are saying is give peace a chance.

Islam: Salman Rushdie must die, and Saddam Hussein is my brother.

There is a difference.

(Update, 28 September, 8:30 pm: Time is claiming that Islam's deportation was the result of a spelling error on that Federal list.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:20 AM)
24 September 2004
Only in New Jersey (natch)

I suppose it was inevitable, given the travails of the outgoing governor, but still it's hilarious: Fritz Schranck reports that sexual-harassment complaints against Garden State officials are now informally dubbed "McGreevances."

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:53 AM)
25 September 2004
Jammed up in the Quote-O-Mat

Wild Bill at Passionate America is vexed by a Clark Duffe commentary in the Oklahoma Gazette which quotes Alexander Fraser Tytler:

A democracy ... can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by dictatorship.

The problem is that Tytler might not actually have said that, a notion supported by Snopes. When I referenced the quote myself earlier this year — in Vent #385 — I provided a link to this page, which tries to explain the quotation's origin:

[T]his has also been attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alexis de Tocqueville, R. G. LeTourneau and others. It is likely that it is actually two quotes, put together. Parts of it show up in printed record as far back as 1950, when the "Fatal Sequence" portion was cited in a speech by Eugene E. Wilson at a special United Nations Convocation at Hillyer College in Hartford, Connecticut.

The "Fatal Sequence" portion, which follows the section excerpted above, goes like this:

The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence:

From Bondage to Spiritual Faith
From Spiritual Faith to Great Courage
From Courage to Liberty
From Liberty to Abundance
From Abundance to Selfishness
From Selfishness to Complacency
From Complacency to Apathy
From Apathy to Dependency
From Dependency back into Bondage

This source suggests: "We urge you not to be concerned with the authorship of this quote, but to focus upon the truth that is in the words." Well, okay, so long as it's not in a CBS memo somewhere. And remember, as Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."

Except, of course, that he didn't say it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:16 PM)
26 September 2004
Yet to be answered

Craig Ceely has five questions for the Presidential candidates of the top three (yes!) parties, and frankly, I'd like to see the answers to some of these myself.

For John Kerry (D):

Do you really think that teachers' unions and trial lawyers and government programs are what made this country great?

For George W. Bush (R):

If the entire country is so much safer now than it was, why do we need to extend the PATRIOT Act?

And for Michael Badnarik (L):

You've stated that, once elected, you'll call a special session of the Congress in order to have them take your "course" on the US Constitution. Is there anything in the Constitution which gives you the authority to do that?

As the phrase goes, read the whole thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:57 AM)
27 September 2004
No dice, son, you gotta pick these

If I seem to be bringing up third-party candidates rather a lot these days, it's simply because I continue to be frustrated by this state's tacit insistence that there is D, and there is R, and that nothing else matters.

Says J. M. Branum, an Oklahoma Green:

Given the current state of our election laws, independent and third-party minded Oklahoma voters are given few choices this fall. We can either hold our nose and vote for the "lesser of two evils" or we can refrain from voting.

Which is the idea behind None Of The Above: to refrain, but in an organized manner.

To vote NOTA go to your regular polling place and ask for a ballot. Vote on the state and local candidates and measures that you want to, but leave the Presidential campaign ballot line BLANK and then turn in your ballot.

On November 3rd, we can then go to the Oklahoma State Election Board and get the record of the number of "undervotes" (the number of ballots cast for which the voter did not vote for President).

If this number is substantial, it might suggest to the Legislature that our existing ballot-access laws are effectively disenfranchising a large number of voters.

And if you read this and think "I'd just be throwing my vote away," well, if you can't stand the thought of four years of Kerry or four more years of Bush, why would you vote for either?

"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."Rush, "Free Will"

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:38 AM)
30 September 2004
Oh, that liberal media

You've no doubt already read this, but what the hell. Lileks gives the political breakdown of your average newsroom:

In general, you'll find that most journalists drift to the left. They range from traditional Democrats to moderate-to-indifferent Democrats to fiercely partisan Democrats to DINOs who might well be Republicans if the idea of voting GOP didn't make them feel as if Mom would rise shrieking from the grave and accuse them of making FDR cry. There are a few Republicans in any newsroom, but they harbor the love that dare not speak its name.

I'm going to have to give some serious thought to where, if anywhere, I fall on this particular continuum.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:19 AM)
1 October 2004
Meanwhile at the debate shop

In 1960, radio listeners thought that Richard M. Nixon had won his debate with John F. Kennedy; the television audience, however, came down firmly on JFK's side. With this in mind, I left the TV off last night and listened to the debate on the radio.

Like most of blogdom, I didn't see hear a clear winner. Senator Kerry, I thought, did manage to turn the Smug knob down a notch or two, which surely helped. Neither candidate was operating at maximum eloquence level, though the President seemed to improve as time went on. And my mind wasn't changed: despite some serious fumbles along the way so far, I still prefer the Bush doctrine of preemption over Kerry's let's-not-make-anyone-mad approach. To swipe a line from Dave at Garfield Ridge: "One man spoke gibberish, but has a clear stance. The other man spoke clearly, but his stance is gibberish."

There is, of course, a lot more gibbering to come.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:04 AM)
3 October 2004
Stratified for your protection

However much we rail about the excesses and inanities of the government — or the "govment," as Huck's Pap called it — we recognize that it's not one large, monolithic operation, as noted by Francis W. Porretto:

The military, the police and the courts are regarded as separate manifestations of the protective mechanisms of society. More significant, they're considered on a separate plane from the rest of the coercive edifice: "above" in importance, "below," meaning more fundamental to our stability and security, in structural terms. With-but-after the police would come the unarmed emergency responders: firemen, ambulance services, and comparable workers and agencies. But a long, long way down from all of the above would be the routiniers of the bureaucracy whose mission in life is to write public-school sex education syllabuses, enforce diversity-in-hiring quotas, or fine homeowners for having too high a fence. And infinitely further down are the myrmidons of the ATF and DEA, who've demonstrated a willingness to slay and spare not to prevent Americans from exercising ownership rights over their own bodies or their Constitutionally guaranteed right to own and carry whatever weapons they please.

Of late, I'd say the courts might have slipped a notch or two here and there, but otherwise this is spot-on. And I'd argue that the Feds, deep in their flinty little artificial hearts, don't think much of ATF either. Presumably by design, ATF is an organization that regulates three (well, four, actually) commodities that were thrown together seemingly at random: they have nothing in common other than the fact that some people in high places don't like them.

The DEA, of course, exists to make George Lucas, circa THX-1138, appear to be a visionary.

And please note Mr Porretto's reference to the "coercive edifice," which reminds us that all of government is coercive, though some parts are more coercive than others. And some have more legitimate claim to the consent of the governed than others: it's not at all difficult to find a correlation between the position of regard in which any segment of government is held and the strength of that claim.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:49 AM)
In which precinct is the Greybar Hotel?

This Newsday story (from AP) perplexes me somewhat.

Coretta Scott King, addressing the Portland, Maine chapter of the NAACP on the occasion of its fortieth anniversary, called for an end to the disenfranchisement of convicted felons. And I can see the sense to this: once you've paid your debt to society, as it were, you return to the outside world, where you are once again entitled to the privileges — and subject to the responsibilities — of full citizenship. I don't think anything is gained, other than a measure of petty vindictiveness, by keeping people off the voter rolls once they've served their time.

But Mrs King lost me when she, as the story reports, "[praised] Maine and Vermont as the only states which allow prison inmates to vote." No doubt these two states have their reasons, and supposedly this is the general rule among European nations, which probably impresses some people more than it impresses me. I'll happily — well, at least not grudgingly — support a measure to restore the franchise to felons once they've completed their sentences, but that's as far as I'm willing to go for now.

(Via Politopics)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:27 PM)
4 October 2004
A deal yet undone

Steve Sturm at ThoughtsOnline offers the Top Five Reasons Why Bush Will Lose. To summarize: the President, while he's ahead, isn't all that far ahead, and there's this:

[W]hile Bush correctly reminds us that we now live "post 9/11" and that we need to act accordingly, he is still campaigning in a pre-2000 time warp. The Democrats have shown no restraint in doing anything, saying anything, sliming anyone and suing anyone — anything goes to defeat Bush. Bush has been slow to recognize this and slower to respond. This will end up being the single biggest factor in his defeat.

This presumes that people will respond predictably to any campaign maneuver, however shabby. I'm not so sure, though I admit that the number of particularly-egregious campaign tactics that have backfired is fairly small. (Everyone hates negative campaigning; simultaneously, everyone concedes that it works.)

If anything unravels the Bush campaign, it will be complacency: John Kerry is not going to fold up and slip away into the night.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:22 AM)
6 October 2004
Veepstakes

Okay, I admit it: I blew off the vice-presidential debate. Didn't pay the slightest bit of attention to it.

I blame this partly on John Nance Garner, who observed famously that the vice-presidency wasn't worth "a warm bucket of spit," assuming "spit" is what he really said, and partly on general indifference to the candidates. The Democrats have somehow managed to paint John Edwards as Bill Clinton with a chastity belt, and if Dick Cheney is truly pulling Dubya's strings, someone at a disclosed location (Hi, Karl!) is tugging on Cheney's.

If you care about this more than I do, and you'd almost have to, you can get the consensus of blogdom from Allah.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:24 AM)
7 October 2004
Fox to oversee henhouse construction

I know, I spend a lot of space on New Jersey stuff here, but let's face it: New Jersey manages to provide a whole lot of bizarre stories, and as far as Big Media are concerned, which isn't much, New Jersey and Oklahoma are in a dead heat for National Laughingstock, and stories like this give me a chance to, um, play favorites.

The Newark Housing Authority will assume responsibility for the construction of the city's downtown sports-arena complex.

This ought to be interesting, what with Authority director Harold Lucas under HUD scrutiny for managing to spend upward of $400,000 in a year and a half to renovate the Authority's offices, including a plasma TV for his own inner sanctum.

Amusingly, there will be a board empaneled to oversee the NHA's oversight of the arena. From his vantage point at Pavement Narrows, the Prop asks:

Why select an agency to run a major development that is so corrupt you won't vote for it without adding another group to oversee it?

Newark Mayor Sharpe James will be on the oversight board. He's quite excited about the new facility, which he says will mean a "new image for Newark." Given the nature of Garden State politics, I suspect not even a new mayor will be able to give Newark a new image.

Obligatory Oklahoma comparison: The 18,000-seat Newark arena will cost, says the city, no more than $210 million. The proposed new arena in Tulsa, with similar seating capacity, carries a $125-million price tag (the oft-quoted $183 million includes the cost of renovating the Convention Center). Oklahoma City's Ford Center, with 2,000 more seats, took a shade under $88 million to build.

(Dear Susanna: Aren't you just tickled pink to be in Alabama these days instead of New Jersey?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:26 PM)
9 October 2004
Speaking of political ratings

Michael Crane has compiled a monster of a book called The Political Junkie Handbook, billed as "The Definitive Reference Book on Politics," 600-odd pages of facts, figures and whatnot, selling for $30 (quantity rates apply if you buy 5 or more). In an effort to draw attention to it, Crane apparently sent excerpts to some of us who are hard-up to fill blog space every morning, with the note "Please share this interesting information with your readers."

Fair enough. What I got was a list of a dozen lifetime ratings given to Senator John Kerry by various organizations, six liberal and six conservative, and judging by my spot-checks of a couple of them, converted from letter grades to numbers as needed. I figured I would arrange these in order of ascending rating, which presumably would therefore arrange the organizations in order of descending conservatism. (Ties are listed alphabetically.) Without further ado:

  •     0: Chamber of Commerce (2003 rating only)
  •     0: Family Research Council
  •     5: American Conservative Union
  •   10: Gun Owners of America
  •   14: National Taxpayers Union
  •   25: Citizens Against Government Waste
  •   85: Public Citizen
  •   92: Americans for Democratic Action
  • 100: American Association of University Professors
  • 100: Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
  • 100: Human Rights Campaign
  • 100: NARAL

Inasmuch as the National Rifle Association has worked diligently to portray Kerry as the right-hand man of the Antichrist — okay, that's a slight exaggeration — I was curious to see how Gun Owners of America, which is by most accounts a harder-nosed group than the NRA, managed to find ten points for him. And from their current Senate ratings page, I conclude that they figure he could be worse: he may vote against their interests all the time, but at least he doesn't introduce anti-gun measures. This undoubtedly is how Kerry gets an F, while Ted Kennedy, who does sponsor stuff like that, gets an F-minus.

There aren't any real surprises in this list, to be sure. But it's useful, I think, to look at the whole ball of wax at once, especially if your opinions, like mine, veer in from all over the spectrum.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:23 AM)
Debate 2

Allah has the usual roundup from blogdom.

I had the debate on the radio and was half-watching one of my chat rooms, and to my surprise, some of the women in the room began taking up the candidates' talking points instead of the ostensible room topic. And things did get fairly spirited for a while, though a few of the guys bailed out rather quickly, perhaps sensing that their hopes of attracting the attention of one of those women were even fainter than usual. I tossed in a remark or two from time to time, but by and large, they were doing a pretty thorough job of reenacting the scene in St. Louis.

I hesitate to extrapolate from such a small sample — the room only holds 36, and only a fraction of them were participating actively — but at that moment, it looked to me as though those "security moms" for Bush might well include a substantial number of women who actually aren't moms. Which means, I suppose, that it's about time for the Democrats to deny that they exist at all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:58 AM)
11 October 2004
Been there, doing that

John Rosenberg rips this tale from the very headlines:

[T]he platform of the Democratic party charges that "under the pretense of a military necessity of war-power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded" by such things as "the arbitrary military arrest, imprisonment, trial, and sentence of American citizens." The Democratic nominee, however, a decorated veteran, rejects the peace wing of his party and attempts to move toward the center, "vowing instead to prosecute the war with more skill and vigor than" the president.

He has, of course, a plan.

But I'm inclined to think that it may not matter come November.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:22 PM)
12 October 2004
Kabuling up a comparison

What's the difference between democracy in Afghanistan and democracy in Oklahoma?

According to Mike at Okiedoke, it's about 9 to 1.

More precisely, 18 to 2.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:36 AM)
Sunday will never be the same

Everything I've read and heard tells me that John Kerry takes his religious faith seriously; he has, to be sure, some substantial differences with official Catholic doctrine, but I'm not inclined to accuse him of apostasy.

Still, Kerry's appearance at a predominantly-black Baptist church in Miami strikes me as at least somewhat cynical. As Susanna Cornett notes:

What do you think the Democrat party would do if Bush started showing up in churches all over Michigan, handing out Bush/Cheney signs and denouncing Kerry from the pulpit? You think suddenly the separation of church and state would become a hot issue? You know it would. Bush already is decried as the Evil Frothy-Mouthed Religious Freak by demonizing Dems because he lives his faith. So why aren't John Kerry and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton called into account for pulpit stump speeches?

And "demonizing" is an important word here, says John Rosenberg:

There have been frequent laments about the increasing harshness of those who "demonize the opposition," but this is usually simply a figure of speech. But in that Miami church it became literally true, through the good offices of Rep. Carrie Meeks (D, Fla.), who declared that Kerry is "fighting against liars and demons."

There is, I submit, froth on both sides of the aisle.

(Update, 13 October, 7:30 am: La Shawn Barber looks at Kerry's pulpit pitch from a Biblical point of view.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:24 AM)
13 October 2004
Colors of the day

Anticipating the possibility that the Democrats might retake the White House, Eric Siegmund presents the revised (since Tom Ridge will be gone) Kerryland Nuisance Advisory System.

It's, like, so nuanced.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:33 AM)
The Sinclair flap

The documentary film Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal has been picked up by the 62-station Sinclair Broadcast Group for broadcast in late October, a fact which has drawn fire from Big Media — even though Sinclair is pretty Big Media itself — and has brought threats of retaliation from supporters of John Kerry, who is, shall we say, unflatteringly portrayed in the film.

As tempests go, this one won't fill a teapot; perhaps a thimble is more appropriate. Much has been made of the fact that Sinclair stations operate in areas containing 24 percent of the viewing audience, which is true. On the other hand, around 90 percent of said audience has access to, say, CBS television, which has had no apparent qualms about acting on behalf of the Kerry campaign.

And yes, Sinclair has stations in swing states. They also have stations in California, New York and Massachusetts, states which are almost certainly going to cast their electoral votes for Kerry, and stations in Texas, Oklahoma and the Carolinas, states which are a virtual lock for Bush. In none of those states will the broadcast of Stolen Honor have any substantial effect on the election.

What's more, in none of the markets in which Sinclair operates does it command a majority of the audience. In Oklahoma City, KOKH-TV, a Fox affiliate, does well, and KOCB-TV is claimed to be the highest-rated affiliate of The WB, but the combination of the two doesn't draw anywhere near 50 percent of the local TV audience. Nor does Sinclair operate in any markets where they have two of the Big Four network affiliates: this is forbidden by FCC rules.

This isn't the first time that Sinclair drew political heat. Back on 30 April, Sinclair's ABC affiliates did not carry ABC's Nightline program, which was given over to a reading of the names of servicemen killed in the war in Iraq; Sinclair claimed the broadcast "appear[ed] to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq." [Complete text reproduced here.] There was the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth. Still, only seven stations were affected, and ABC's ubiquitous radio network carried excerpts from the program; it strikes me as unlikely that a large number of people counted themselves as deprived as a result of Sinclair's actions.

I do quarrel with Sinclair's apparent belief that following a 45-minute film with a 15-minute panel discussion qualifies it as a "news event," exempt from FCC regulations or from McCain-Feingold. The Democratic National Committee has already said that it plans to file a complaint, claiming the broadcast is the equivalent of a contribution to Bush/Cheney. Still, how likely is it that the Democratic National Committee would object to, say, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 being broadcast before the election? "It depends on the, um, you know, on the circumstances," said DNC counsel Joe Sandler, who quickly pointed out that Moore is an "established, legitimate, documentary filmmaker," dismissing Stolen Honor producer Carlton Sherwood as a "disgraced former reporter." Sherwood, incidentally, won a Peabody Award and was a member of a Gannett team that won a Pulitzer. I should be so disgraced.

Sinclair is taking comments on the matter.

Prognosis: The day before the election, this whole thing will have been forgotten. I can hardly wait.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:29 AM)
Won't you take me to Dinkytown?

I mean, I could really get behind this.

Update, 14 October, 7:15 am:

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:33 PM)
14 October 2004
Post-debate wrapup

I'm inclined to think that Kerry did well, but Bush was just a fraction better. Since the conventional wisdom holds that domestic issues are Kerry's turf, this has to be reckoned as a Bush win, though not a decisive one.

Number of hearts and/or minds changed at Surlywood: 0

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:27 AM)
Low man on a totem pole

This Kerryism from last night's debate seems to demand further examination:

If we raise the minimum wage, which I will do over several years, to $7 an hour, 9.2 million women who are trying to raise their families would earn another $3,800 a year....We'd put money into the hands of people who work hard, who obey the rules, who play for the American dream. And if we did that we'd have more consumption ability in America, which is what we need right now in order to kick our economy into gear.

Well, they wouldn't actually reach that presumably-happy plus-3800 state until the last year of the phase-in, but that's a quibble.

And yes, $5.15 seems absurd in the context of today, but where do you stop? Jacob Sullum follows it to its logical conclusion:

If the minimum wage can work this sort of magic, why not raise it to $100 an hour? Then everyone would be well-off, with plenty of spending cash to stimulate the economy.

I certainly wouldn't object to being paid $100 an hour, but I think it's fair to assume it's not going to happen in my lifetime. And somehow I suspect that if the minimum wage were raised to $100, prices would rather quickly jump upwards to cover the increased costs of labor, and what's more, the recipients thereof would be in a much higher tax bracket.

<fantasy scenario>
"Are you better off today?" As I pull two slices from my $35 loaf of store-brand bread and slap them with a dollop of peanut butter ($49.95 for a ten-ounce jar, and it's not even crunchy, fercrissake), I'm inclined to say No.
</fantasy scenario>

Now that I think about it, the last time my taxes were cut, I made sure the proceeds were cycled back through the economy. And I'd be happy to do it again, though I don't expect to get anything like $3800 a year from the next Bush administration — or anything at all should Kerry be elected.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:00 PM)
15 October 2004
No bag limit on weasels

John Kerry wants you to know that he is a hunter.

Someone ought to ask him stuff like this at a campaign stop:

  • What is the fee for a hunting license in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?

  • When is black bear season?

  • What is the bag limit for ruffed grouse?

(Answers are here and here; second link requires Adobe Reader.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:10 PM)
17 October 2004
Who's paying for this microphone?

The Interested-Participant is frustrated by the absence of vital information on political yard signs:

In every election in my life I've been less informed about local candidates than those running for state and national offices. President, governor, senator, congressman, yes, I know who they are and which party they belong to. When it comes to local offices, I'm lost. The election approaches and there are names in television commercials that I've never heard. People running for judge, county commissioner, school board, dogcatcher, coroner, and they are all strangers to me. Not only that but, in many cases, you aren't given a clue as to which political party they belong to. On a local level, party affiliation is often hidden.

Sometimes there's a reason for this — officially, the election of a Mayor in Oklahoma City is nonpartisan, and judges here tend to be on a retention ballot — but I'm guessing that generally, it's an attempt to get some name recognition before you actually see the ballot and the straight-ticket option (where available).

There is, of course, a solution:

[C]ruise through your community's neighborhoods and look at the signs. If you want to know if Mr. Pick-A-Name is Democrat or Republican, just look at what his sign is placed next to. It doesn't take a lot of effort. Sometime between now and November 2nd, drive around town with a pad of paper. You'll easily be able to figure out who's for Kerry/Edwards and who's for Bush/Cheney. The adjacent signs you'll see are all the local politicians who don't like the voters to know which party brung them.

This does seem to work: I have yet to see any yards with split tickets. Perhaps the people who do cross party lines are less inclined to put up yard signs in the first place. On the other hand, I'm tempted to go offer space to some minor GOP candidate to contrast with the Democratic sign I already have.

(Update, 11:10 am: Then there's this.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:56 AM)
20 October 2004
Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?

Bobby "Boris" Pickett hit the Billboard Hot 100 seven times, three times with the same song, a feat so far unequaled.

Up at Hit & Run this morning, my eyes beheld an eerie sight: the environmentalists came calling, and Pickett was happy to blow the dust off his used-Karloff voice and evoke a whole new set of monsters.

You'll catch on in a Flash animation.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:17 PM)
Cue the sausage man

Musings of a Fat Kid presents Jimmy Dean updated. I'll just give you the first verse:

Every mornin' on the Hill you could see him arrive,
Standing six-foot-four, weighing one-twenty-five,
Kinda scrawny at the shoulders and lacking a spine
And when he spoke at all, it was mainly to whine.
Big John....

Sing the whole thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:58 PM)
21 October 2004
Tucker: the man and his smarm

I've stayed off the Tucker Carlson/Jon Stewart dustup, mostly because I'm not a regular viewer of either Crossfire or The Daily Show, but partly because I could never say anything as pithy as Wing Chun does:

Imagine, for a second, that you're Tucker Carlson. (Let me help you to get into character: you're a dead-eyed assberet.) You know that, of the conservative pundits — a group that includes such non-luminaries as Sean Hannity and your own colleague Robert Novak — you are marginally the least loathsome. You are occasionally, privately, able to break from Republican doctrine (as he did in Vanity Fair this summer, talking some shit about the even more odious Karen Hughes). But on camera, you have an image to project, and that image involves a bowtie. If you ever had any idea of being a respectable journalist, that was a long time ago, and you can never go back. You hear the things that come out of your mouth sometimes and you realize you sound like someone who's never known the touch of any woman, never mind unconditional maternal affection. You would hate yourself if you weren't already dead inside.

And then one day, you're sitting across the desk from Jon Stewart, who gets to say whatever he wants about politics. He doesn't have to adhere to rigid party lines, because he's not a pundit; he also doesn't have to pretend to be objective on the candidates, because he's not a journalist. He gets to comment on politics to a tremendously receptive audience. He has an enormous amount of influence, and yet, because he's a comedian, he has no accountability. You're so jealous of him!

Then he starts talking, and it's like he's reading your secret diary. He's calling out every doubt you ever had about your career. He's got the crowd — your crowd — completely on his side. You can't argue with what he's saying because you know he's right, so you respond the only way you know how: barking weak put-downs and making straw man arguments. And since he can counter your claim that he doesn't report the news well by saying he has no mandate nor any responsibility to do so — since he is a comedian — your only option is to try to get the last word by saying he isn't funny.

I could quibble with bits and pieces of this. Regular readers will no doubt be able to come up with a list of loathsome liberal pundits, and I suspect Jon Stewart, deep inside, thinks he has some sort of mandate — The Daily Show's current tagline is "The Most Trusted Name in Fake News," after all — but whenever I've seen Tucker Carlson on the air, I've always wondered just what it would take to fill up that obvious emptiness inside; I suspect she's gotten Carlson dead to rights. And of all the variations on rectal millinery I've seen in the last year, I think I like "assberet" the best.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:12 AM)
24 October 2004
I am he as you are he as you are me

Question: Is there any good reason why a voter should not have to present valid identification at the polling place?

The answer, by the way, is No.

(Via Dean Esmay.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:56 AM)
25 October 2004
We don't want any

For reasons having to do with the difficulty of getting alternative candidates on the ballot in this state, there is a small but vocal coalition urging Oklahoma voters to leave blank the section for Presidential electors as a protest.

Does this constitute refusing to take a stand? I don't think so.

Then again:

The newspaper [The Detroit News] today decided to vote "none of the above" in the presidential election. After I read the introduction to their editorial I didn't bother to read the rest closely, because it doesn't matter. It's bloviating. It's refusing responsibility. It's just... well, I'm nearly speechless, and I suspect you know already how much I like to talk.

The truth is, either Bush or Kerry will be president for four years. That fact doesn't change just because you may find neither candidate particularly compelling. There are genuine differences in how the two men would lead the country, differences that matter. We as voters have to make a very hard decision this year. Quite frankly, I don't agree with all of Bush's policies myself. But I have the courage and commitment to this country and my fellow citizens to make a decision, not pout and stay home.

Question: Does the Oklahoma "None of the Above" movement constitute pouting and staying home? Is declining to vote on this one race "thoroughly and reprehensibly pathetic"?

After all, Michigan voters have seven choices on their Presidential ballots, and:

At least have the courage and conviction to make a choice and stand up for your choice. It may not be Bush or Kerry, and if not, more power to you. Just make sure you vote.

[Emphasis in the original.]

Gentle Readers, what say you?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
27 October 2004
We call 'em the way we see 'em

Apart from the state questions, I haven't made any specific recommendations for the election next Tuesday; whatever endorsements I wind up making will probably show up over the weekend while no one is reading.

If you can't wait that long, and if you don't live in my neck of the woods — at least one of which is close to certainty — Sean Gleeson has issued endorsements, not just for his precinct, but for yours as well, anywhere in the USA. It is always gratifying to see someone with such an evident devotion to public service.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:08 PM)
28 October 2004
Arise, children of the fatherland

And here's just the candidate for you.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:57 PM)
Welcome to Queue Gardens

Wait in line at the polls? The New York Times says "Lines that make voters wait for hours are a national disgrace, particularly for presidential elections. They discourage participation, particularly by the poor and infirm."

To which Matt replies:

[I]f voting is our most precious and sacred right, I really can't see that losing a few hours of Jerry Springer time every two years is an extraordinary hardship. Being beaten, shot or blown up, that would be a hardship and require "urgent" reform. For god's sake, people in this country wait in line three days for a stupid movie premiere, or concert tickets or a football game, and the New York Times thinks that a minor delay before you can cast your ballot constitutes a crisis?

This is my first Big Election in this precinct, and I have no idea how long it will take. Four years ago, where I used to live, I got to the polls about twenty minutes before they opened and was gone eight minutes later. I recall that in 1996, I showed up after work and spent about an hour or so in line. If this is some sort of hardship, I fail to see it.

And besides:

How is waiting a couple of hours to exercise your voting rights harder on a poor person than a non-poor person? Should we have express lanes set up and require people to bring a statement of income? Everyone under 20K per year gets to zip through. Seriously, you want to talk about lines and waiting, take a look at some of the pictures from election day in Afghanistan. Suck it up, NYT, democracy isn't free. Sometimes it costs one some time.

I've never considered the time wasted, even when, as is often the case, I've voted for a bunch of people who struggled to come in second.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:36 PM)
29 October 2004
Making Service more Selective

As you may remember, Chuck Rangel's bill to reinstate the draft was defeated in the House, 402 to 2; not even Rangel would vote for it.

Still, it never hurts to Be Prepared, so if you're between sixteen and forty-five, you should give serious thought to getting yourself registered.

(Via Screenhead.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:11 PM)
We pick 'em: POTUS

This site has given favorable coverage to the None of the Above campaign, which supports leaving one's Presidential choice blank on the Oklahoma ballot next Tuesday because said ballot is effectively restricted to the candidates of the two major parties. I continue to look favorably upon this idea, inasmuch as it makes a certain amount of sense: if you find those two candidates equally unacceptable, you are left out in the electoral cold.

But suppose you find them unequally unacceptable?

There are plenty of reasons to be wary of another four years of BushCo. The Republicans, dammit, have discovered the joys of deficit spending, and while they're not as profligate as Democrats would like to be, the likelihood that a second Bush administration would make much of a dent in the deficit is close to nil. And while I'm not especially fond of the watered-down Marxism vended by the national Democrats these days, I, for one, do not welcome our new corporate overlords: I see no reason to think being screwed over by a corporation is somehow preferable to being screwed over by the government. (Yeah, yeah, I know, vote with your dollars. And how many corporations do you know of that have been brought down by boycotts?)

Still: John Kerry? The mind reels, and not in a good way. In this entire campaign he has made exactly one salient point: you can't run from your record. And John Kerry's record is undistinguished, except where it's disgusting.

So I asked myself, "Self, if you had your druthers, and no divine intervention or Marvel superheroes or wishing for more wishes or any of that other stuff, how would you really like this election to turn out?"

<dream sequence>
Sunrise on the prairie. I'm awake for once, and I have time to kill, and as the fellow spins around with my breakfast, the little bell in the back of my head emits the faintest hint of a tinkle, reminding me that I shouldn't have had the large orange juice.

And then it hits me: "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

"I'm sure you don't," he says, and turns away.

The girl from the checkout counter catches him in mid-turn. "Terry, I can't read this. Is this the short stack or the full stack? You didn't write down the price."

I looked at him again. "Aren't you Terry McAuliffe?"

No response.

"I know I've seen you on the news. Terry McAuliffe. Head of the Democratic National Committee all those years. What in the world are you doing slinging hash in Snake's Navel, Kansas, fercrissake?"

His voice dropped to a whisper. "Not so loud."

"It is you, isn't it?"

"That goddamn John Kerry," he said. "I worked my ass off to keep him within reach for the whole year, and in the last week he pissed it all away. Didn't get the electoral vote, didn't get the popular vote, didn't get squat. We damn near lost Connecticut. Somebody had to take the blame."

He didn't say anything more, and I wasn't about to ask. Besides, the eggs were runny.
</dream sequence>

And, well, there's only one other name on the ballot.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:01 PM)
30 October 2004
Without using the word "choice"

Nobody, we are told, actually favors abortion. It's a tragedy, but it must remain an option for those situations where there's no other answer: "safe, legal, and rare," in Bill Clinton's phrase.

Of course, things which are "rare" seldom are commemorated in T-shirts, suggesting that there's a mass market after all. And what is this market buying? Steve H. peeks into the basket:

The single biggest reason people support abortion rights is that they suffer from the delusion that every black woman has eleventy-two children by different fathers, all raised on Aid for Dependent Children, and that in a few years, blacks will outnumber whites. And then of course, they'll move in next door to us and their kids will want to date our daughters.

Can this possibly be true? Quoted in that same piece, this startling statement from BlackGenocide.org:

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in America. 78% of their clinics are in minority communities. Blacks make up 12% of the population, but 35% of the abortions in America. Are we being targeted?

It's no particular secret — though it's not exactly shouted from the housetops either — that PP founder Margaret Sanger was a follower of Thomas Robert Malthus, who was arguing a "population time bomb" more than a century before Paul Ehrlich. And the fact that both Malthus' compulsive mathematics and Ehrlich's gloom-and-doom scenarios failed to pan out hasn't had any effect on Sanger's organization: that business about "every child a wanted child" is just sunny enough to obscure the insistence that, well, if you don't want it, it's not really a child at all: it's just a "blob of tissue."

This is not to say that I want the full weight of the Federal government brought to bear against anyone who's ever owned a single RU486 tablet (or the updated RU486DX version, which contains a math co-processor). But I persist in believing that the unpleasant task of correcting one's mistakes is simplified greatly by not making those mistakes in the first place.

(Prompted by a post by Steve Gigl.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:31 AM)
This program reminder

Bruce at This Is Class Warfare sends along a note to the effect that public radio's This American Life with Ira Glass has a special this week on vote fraud, and the producers have made it available on the Web before its scheduled air date, in case you might be faced with examples of fraud yourself. You'll need RealAudio to hear the advance version, and you'll need a relatively-quiet listening area: historically, This American Life has always been a program which demands — and generally earns — your full attention.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:01 AM)
31 October 2004
Above all, no zeal

If you thought my backing of George W. Bush was a bit on the unenthusiastic side, well, I suppose it was.

On the other hand, compared to this sampling of Kerry endorsements, it's a veritable rave.

(Via Peppermint Patty.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:52 AM)
And I thought he split rails

The Log Cabin Republicans, an organization of gay conservatives, took their name from the story of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president:

President Lincoln built the Republican Party on the principles of liberty and equality. The party should return to its roots.

It is not in any way a suggestion that Lincoln himself might have been homosexual.

Not that there's anything historical about that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:14 AM)
Reflections in a glittering eye

More precisely, The Glittering Eye, whence comes this story of election duty in a nursing home:

I arrived a little before 9:00am, helped my colleagues complete the setup, assisted about half of the voters in preparing their ballots (the other half either required no assistance or were assisted by someone else). For those who are concerned about this process, the voter must complete an affidavit requesting assistance and they are then assisted by two people — one Republican and one Democrat. We do our best to preserve the voter's privacy during the process.

I won't violate my voters' privacy by telling you how they voted. Suffice it to say that it will be interesting to see how good a predictor the nursing home vote is for the final results.

Indeed. And while we're beset with reports of fraud, it's something of a relief to hear that somewhere the job of conducting an election is considered a civic responsibility rather than an excuse to indulge one's emotions.

I came upon this site by following a comment the Eye had left at Beldar's, on the subject of whether American actions are "breeding" terrorists, an idea which Beldar flatly, and correctly, rejects. Said the Eye:

[T]he argument that the U. S. prosecution of the War on Terror has created more terrorists is true in the same sense that private property has created thieves and our desire for life creates murderers. The question is not "Is it true?" but "So what?"

You go to the movies; you come out two hours later, and there's an empty space where your car used to be. If you can argue with a straight face that you brought it on yourself for going there in the first place, then maybe you can try to make the case that fighting terror causes terrorism — but you'll have to do it from right there in the parking lot.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:48 PM)
1 November 2004
No more 2000s

From Robert Hayes at Let's Try Freedom, a declaration for our times — well, for the next four years and one day, anyway:

If John Kerry wins the election, reasonably fair, reasonably square, then he becomes my President and your President.

If George Bush wins the election, reasonably fair, reasonably square, then he remains my President and your President.

This is my pledge, my promise, my what-have-you. It's written down, in black and white. Call me on it if I renege.

I ask everybody who reads this to do two things if they agree with me.

One, say it loud and say it proud, the winner of the 2004 election is my President, and whether I like him or not, whether I agree with him or not, I'm not going to be a Michael Moore-style flaming gasbag asshat about it.

Two, pass the link along. Send it to your friends, post it on your blog, whatever. It's important. We are one country, and we have to pull together whether we agree with one another or not.

Emphasis in the original. And consider it done, sir.

I may have my flaming gasbag asshat moments, but I'm damned if I want to see a repeat of last election's brouhaha, and I refuse to contribute to starting a new one.

This was passed on to me by Francis W. Porretto. Thank you, FWP.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:47 AM)
Recommendation recap

While David Letterman was still at NBC, he sat for a Playboy Interview, and he was asked why he was reluctant to give political endorsements. He said something to the effect that he'd hate to imagine someone thinking, "Well, hell, Letterman likes him, let's vote for the son of a bitch."

I can't imagine anyone taking my advice, but one last time, this are my suggestions for 2004. Do with them what you will.

President: George W. Bush (R)

US Senate: Sheila Bilyeu (I)

US House: Bert Smith (D)

Corporation Commission: John Wylie (D)

State House 87: John Morgan (D)

Oklahoma County Sheriff: Stuart Earnest (R)

Oklahoma County Clerk: Carolynn Caudill (R)

State Questions:
YES: 705, 706, 707, 708, 712, 714, 715
NO: 711, 713

I admit to knowing nothing of import regarding the judges running on a retention ballot, and make no recommendations for same — though my own practice has been to return to office anyone who hasn't given me a reason not to.

For more information and/or lame justifications:
state and local races
Presidential race
state questions

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:40 AM)
And the inevitable prediction

Bush 300, Kerry 238


See also Les Jones's Blogger Roundup.

(Update, 3 November, 2:25 pm: Assuming 286-252 holds up, as it appears it will, the Prescience Award goes jointly to James Joyner at Outside the Beltway and Stephen Green at Vodkapundit.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:07 PM)
3 November 2004
Thank you, John

In the long run, it's the right thing to do.

(Update, 1:20 pm: And a pretty good speech, too.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:40 AM)
4 November 2004
Welcome to the isolation booth

Caren Lissner apparently isn't surprised:

ABC News says that their exit polls in the heartland show that moral issues were their most important issues when voting, and Iraq is down around fourth. These folks aren't as worried about being hit by terrorists or the war in Iraq as they are about abortion and gay marriage? Actually, not surprising on certain levels. To some people, if it hasn't hit you directly, it doesn't exist.

How "directly" does it have to be? I'm five miles as the grackle flies from where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City used to be; I literally heard the blast at 9:02 that sheared off the front half of the structure. (Nineteenth of April, 1995; it was in all the papers.) Terry and Timmy and whatever John Does may have been associated with them surely pass any conceivable global test for terrorism.

(Via Dawn Eden, who knows where I live.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:33 AM)
The over/under on the culture wars

If I hear one more commentator grousing about how it's all because of those horrid religious conservatives, I'm apt to say words which would not be appropriate for the sanctuary. Here in Soonerland, the shiny side of the buckle on the Bible Belt, conventional media wisdom says that everyone emerged from the church to go vote for the ballot initiative (SQ 711) opposing same-sex marriage. And while 711 won easily, the two state-lottery measures, which won somewhat less easily, drew more actual ballots (not-yet-certified state vote totals are here), and even 711 proved to be less popular than the measure to abate property taxes on disabled veterans (SQ 715), which no one characterizes as conservative. The prevailing belief in The Area Formerly Known As Kerryland seems to be that social conservatives are small in number and decidedly weird; I'm not much of a social conservative myself, but I find it hard to see them that way — perhaps because they live over on the next street, as opposed to, say, way beyond the Hudson.

James Joyner amplifies:

Given that a Republican president won a re-election on a conservative platform, that conservative Republicans won most of the vacant Senate seats, that Republicans have now won seven straight majorities in the House, and that gay marriage bans were enacted in 11 of 11 states they were on the ballot, one might get the impression that there is some sentiment out there for conservative policies.

Gee, ya think? But that couldn't possibly be, could it? I mean, isn't conservatism an oddity committed by and for odd people? Yet the Republicans still picked up those big numbers. There's only one other explanation: the center looked both ways, and decided to ignore the leftists.

And boy-howdy, they hate that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:01 AM)
Title of the week

Susan B. at LilacRose channels Cash Flagg Ray Dennis Steckler:

The Incredibly Strange Liberals Who Stopped Thinking and Became Mixed-Up Moonbats*

Yeah, I know a few of those too.

Point of order: being on the left side of the spectrum does not, ipso facto, make someone a barking moonbat. I've known too many counterexamples personally to believe that particular slander. On the other hand, the putative Reality-Based Community takes an awful lot of things on, well, faith.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:27 AM)
6 November 2004
De colores

A friend from blueland writes:

The social studies teacher at our school is up in arms over the fact that the media is saying Bush won by a mandate. I think she's wrong; she claims that mandate means a huge majority of the popular vote and she thinks 3.5 million votes isn't a mandate. I say she's wrong, but I'm not sure how to disprove her.

I pointed to this now-fairly-ubiquitous USA Today map which colors each county in 49 states (Alaska doesn't do counties as we know them) according to how it voted, which might have done the trick.

As of this morning, that map was still in the Blogdex Top Ten, a couple of slots below Jane Smiley's hatchet job in Slate with the subtitle "The unteachable ignorance of the red states." I'll quote just one paragraph:

Ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states. There used to be a kind of hand-to-hand fight on the frontier called a "knock-down-drag-out," where any kind of gouging, biting, or maiming was considered fair. The ancestors of today's red-state voters used to stand around cheering and betting on these fights. When the forces of red and blue encountered one another head-on for the first time in Kansas Territory in 1856, the red forces from Missouri, who had been coveting Indian land across the Missouri River since 1820, entered Kansas and stole the territorial election. The red news media of the day made a practice of inflammatory lying — declaring that the blue folks had shot and killed red folks whom everyone knew were walking around. The worst civilian massacre in American history took place in Lawrence, Kan., in 1862 — Quantrill's raid. The red forces, known then as the slave-power, pulled 265 unarmed men from their beds on a Sunday morning and slaughtered them in front of their wives and children. The error that progressives have consistently committed over the years is to underestimate the vitality of ignorance in America. Listen to what the red state citizens say about themselves, the songs they write, and the sermons they flock to. They know who they are — they are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence.

If you look at that USA Today map one more time, you'll see exactly one county in Kansas that's colored blue: Douglas County. The seat of Douglas County is, um, Lawrence.

The sensible person will of course argue, "Quantrill's Raid was over a hundred years ago. How could it possibly have any relevance today?" It doesn't, unless you're an aggrieved leftist desperate to make a point. (And Quantrill's Raid, incidentally, was in 1863.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:51 AM)
7 November 2004
Justice much as you can stand

One of the rotating quips (alas, uncredited) in the "It Is Written" section on the front page reads like this:

Social engineering is to engineering as social disease is to disease.

So where does social justice fit in? Right about here:

Justice is that virtue by which one accords to others that which is theirs by right. It, along with prudence, fortitude, and temperance constitute the cardinal virtues. The term right is, unfortunately, frequently used very loosely. If one says, for example, that the unemployed have a right to work or the needy have a right to assistance, this is not strictly correct. There is neither a legal nor a natural right here so the claim being made is actually a claim in charity rather than a claim in justice. And that's what a lot of people seem to mean by social justice.

I suspect that the term social justice, in the sense of Christian charity, is frequently used by those who want to harness the power of government which in my view is properly restricted to claims of justice, to claims of charity while separating charity from its real nature as a theological virtue.

I might go so far as to say that there's an unspoken call for vengeance behind the veil of "justice": the desire to see plutocrats exiled to, well, Pluto; the urge to punish the wealthy (except, of course, for those who contribute money to The Cause); the inexplicable hatred of inanimate objects like Evil SUVs.

Certainly sounds like a social disease to me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:13 AM)
8 November 2004
Live from Jesusland

What the hell have the Democrats been drinking? Michele knows:

I do believe the Democrats have just switched one brand of Kool-Aid for another. Their new drink is Jesusland flavored and they are swallowing it by the gallon.

If you read them correctly — and I'm not just talking about the fringe elements here, but your everyday journalists, talking heads, bloggers and Democrat on the street — the Christians are coming and they are going to burn crosses on your door and kidnap your heathen babies.

Under the circumstances, it would seem prudent to examine a place where the Christians already are and see what has been happening. By some strange coincidence, such a place starts right outside my front door.

And what is happening? Nothing.

Oh, yeah, we passed that anti-gay-marriage referendum. Big whoop. Same-sex marriage was already illegal in this state. Abortion? Nothing going on. Gambling? Established a state lottery, of all things. Prohibition? Still county option. Divorce? Still among the highest rates in the country. Desperate attempts at censorship? Dead issue.

I suppose you could find yourself stifled by the atmosphere, if your idea of communication involves needles, but I assure you, I've been here thirty years, and very seldom have I felt the Overly Churchy breathing down my neck. Then again, I haven't been indoctrinated to despise them in the manner approved by the social arbiters of Blueworld, either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:38 AM)
Nothing is better for thee than D

Lynn Sislo prepares to depart the limbo of Independents for what may be a more dangerous abode:

[B]eing an Independent is like being asked out by two guys and refusing to date either of them because they both have good qualities and bad qualities. Nobody's perfect and no organization is perfect but there are advantages to commitment. Therefore, before the next election I am going to register as a Democrat.

The most obvious advantage is that I will be able to vote in the primaries. At this early stage, there is a good possibility that I will vote for Senator Clinton, assuming of course that she runs. I admit that I used to be in the Hillary hating camp (although "vague contempt" would more accurately describe my feelings) but I've been looking at her voting record at Project Vote Smart and based on that alone she is someone I would definitely feel comfortable voting for, though I don't agree with her on every issue. I will also be keeping an eye on the voting records of other likely candidates. However, in November 2008 I will vote for whichever candidate seems to me best able to lead the country regardless of whether he (or she) is Democrat, Republican or third party. So the Democrats still need to shape up if they want my vote.

My own contempt for Senator Clinton is a bit less vague, but I can certainly understand wanting to take part in the primary, something that hasn't been open to Independents on a regular basis; the law now provides that "[r]egistered Independent voters may be eligible to vote in [a] party's primaries and runoff primaries if authorized by the party," though it's unclear just how likely a party — other than the Libertarians, who actively sought this provision — would be to grant such an authorization.

And although Lynn and I don't agree on a whole lot, I'll be happy to see her on the Democratic rolls; if there's one thing the Democratic Party needs right now, and will need just as much in 2008, it's people who can be thoughtful without being hostile.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:53 PM)
Facelifting the Electoral College

The last paragraph of a Houston Chronicle editorial objecting to the Electoral College:

[A]n October Gallup poll showed that 61 percent of Americans favor amending the U.S. Constitution to elect presidents by direct vote rather than electors. In a year when the election process was mercifully low on snafus, a serious reform of the electoral system — perhaps apportionment of each state's electors according to the popular vote or number of congressional districts carried — is ripe for national debate.

As an experiment, The Prop, resting up in Pavement Narrows, New Jersey, dropped the current system into his spreadsheet, noted the results — Bush 286, Kerry 252 — and twiddled the numbers as follows:

Take the Congressional district electoral votes in each state and award them proportionally by the result of that state's popular vote. Give the 2 Senatorial electoral votes to the winner of the plurality. E.g. in NJ the popular vote went 53% to Kerry, 46% to Bush. NJ has 13 Congressional Electoral votes plus 2 Senate Electoral votes. 53% of 13 rounds off to 7 votes plus Kerry gets the 2 Senate votes for his overall win: so Kerry = 9, Bush = 6.

According to this formula, Oklahoma goes from 7-0 Bush to 5-2 Bush. And what's the total overall?

Applied to all states this year President Bush gets... um... 286 Electoral Votes and Senator Kerry gets 252.

Well, um, okay.

What is desired by most of the critics of the Electoral College, I suspect, is a system whereby anyone named George Bush automatically loses.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:42 PM)
11 November 2004
Artificial unintelligence

I've read enough post-election rants to last a couple of lifetimes, and while the gloating from conservative types has been something less than muted, the agita from the left has managed to sound seriously deranged yet somehow all of a piece. "If I didn't know better," I thought, "I'd swear this stuff was being artificially generated."

It appears that I didn't know better after all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:18 AM)
13 November 2004
You gotta believe

It's persisted for many years, despite the presence of nay-sayers who don't see any evidence to support it, and people are perfectly willing to bend it to political purpose. Yes, folks, it's a religion — this one:

[I]t's a funny thing about the Marxist outlook. Somewhere along the way, it ceased to be a political ideology and became a de facto religious faith. As the twentieth century wore on, Marx's prophesy of a world divided along economic fault lines rather than national and cultural ones looked increasingly ridiculous.

Today, though long discredited by history, the Marxist faith continues to thrive. Its faithful would have you believe that it is an ideology for the rational skeptic. Don't be fooled. It is a fanatical religious faith, too fortified against the sway of established history to be considered anything else.

As in 1914 with the dawn of WWI, liberals can't seem to make sense of the conservative electoral victories of last week. Their worldview, rooted in Marxist dogma, simply cannot adequately account for why Americans seem not to care about their "economic interests." Nor can it explain why Republican appeals to cultural values resonated significantly more powerfully than Democratic appeals to a sense of economic victimization.

Not surprisingly, a substantial number of liberal pundits have spent the previous week seething with indignant rage that ordinary Americans are so unwilling to trade away their core cultural and religious values in exchange for economic advantage.

How, they wonder vainly, can Americans care more about "guns, God and gays" than their own "economic interests?"

And so in a twist of poignant irony, the high priests of a faith that holds wealth and greed to be the greatest sins have been reduced to complaining, essentially, that Americans are insufficiently materialistic.

[Link added by me.]

Well, the high priests exempt themselves, of course:

Why shouldn't those of us on the coasts feel superior? We eat better, travel more, dress better, watch cooler movies, earn better salaries, meet more interesting people, listen to better music and know more about what's going on in the world.

My reasoned response, from a religion with more demonstrated staying power:

And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.

If you're keeping score, it's Matthew 1, Karl 0.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:23 AM)
14 November 2004
Unique and tenacious, yet

The World Council of Churches has expressed its "condolences" to the Palestinian people upon the death of Yasser Arafat:

President Arafat will be remembered for bringing the Palestinian people together and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of establishing their national home.

For "unique and tenacious contribution," read "willingness to engage in any nefarious activity up to and including mass murder." Christopher Johnson sees how this same principle can be extended:

Let's see now. Adolf Hitler will be remembered for bringing the German people together and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of the establishment of the dominance of the Aryan race. Josef Stalin will be remembered for bringing the Russian people together and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of establishing a socialist Russia. Pol Pot will be remembered for bringing the Cambodian people together (out in the country) and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of establishing a new Cambodia. Osama bin Laden will be remembered for bringing Muslims together and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of reestablishing the Caliphate.

Anyone remember when evil was something that churches were supposed to, you know, oppose?

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:06 PM)
16 November 2004
Rice is nice (that's what they say)

I've made a point up to now of not mentioning the ascent of Condi Rice to State, partially because I didn't really have anything to say about it, and partially because I have an insane crush on her and didn't want to sound as gushy as I knew I would. (Smart plus beautiful always gets my attention; now imagine those qualities going all the way to 11.)

Still, I've got to echo these sentiments from Dean Esmay:

[A] little slip of a colored chick from segregated Alabama whose father registered Republican because the Democrats wanted him to count the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to be registered to vote.

Now to be the second most powerful person on the planet and maybe — just maybe, not outside the realm of possibility — the next President of the United States.

Is that freaking cool or WHAT?!

Well, I might question that "second most powerful" business — beyond W., how do you quantify it? — and while at State she'd be fifth in line of succession, I can't imagine even the most lunatic leftist wiping out the first four. And beyond 2008, I rather think the private sector will be that much more appealing to her.

Still, it's always a good thing to have someone like Dr Rice to counteract the pathetic "Give us stuff for we are needy and it's your fault" attitude that infects too much of the black community. And for that alone she deserves three, maybe four cheers.

What I really want to see, of course, is her arrival in Riyadh, as described by Lileks:

I want her to go to Saudi Arabia, and I want her first words upon getting off the plane to be "I'll drive."

Now that's freaking cool.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:22 PM)
18 November 2004
Without further DeLay

I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but whatever it is, it's unsavory and distasteful.

Some of Tom DeLay's henchpersons have been indicted by a Texas grand jury, and it's expected, by some anyway, that an indictment of DeLay himself will be returned. In an effort to insulate DeLay from their own ethics rules, House Republicans passed a measure to allow DeLay to remain in his leadership post pending an investigation of some sort.

A mere indictment, of course, proves nothing. But this action makes it a great deal more difficult for the GOP to cast itself in the role of Moral Guardian, a role it never played convincingly in the first place. Whatever happened to avoiding even the appearance of scandal?

I liked James Joyner's take on this:

The bottom line is that we shouldn't change the rules in midstream for the benefit of someone in power. DeLay should come out against the rule change for the good of the institution and it could be made clear that DeLay's replacement is just keeping his seat warm until his vindication.

Which, of course, he didn't, and they didn't.

It doesn't take much to be more ethical than today's Democratic Party. House Republicans, though, have served notice that it's too much for them to bother with. Seldom do I agree with Nancy Pelosi on much of anything, but it's hard to argue with this:

Clearly, the Republicans do not care about the integrity of their party or the poor example they set for the nation. Their action today demeans the work of all ethical, law-abiding public servants.

Or, in the words of GOP stalwart Joshua Claybourn:

There is increasingly very little to separate Republicans from the majority they once overturned.

Meet the new scum, same as the old scum.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 AM)
20 November 2004
Hands off

With Kelo v. City of New London on the Supreme Court's docket this term, the city of Anaheim, California is actually taking steps to avoid this sort of thing in the future. City Council Policy #220, as quoted by Xrlq:

It is the policy of the City of Anaheim that the power of eminent domain not be used by the City Council or Redevelopment Agency to acquire property from private parties, for the express and immediate purpose of conveying such property to any other private person or entity for commercial uses, when there is no public purpose for the acquisition except the generation or increase of sales tax or property tax revenues to the City.

In the New London case, about a hundred homeowners in the Fort Trumbull were to be displaced to make room for a new development next to a Pfizer plant. [Insert Viagra joke here.] The city didn't even claim that the properties to be condemned were "blighted," the usual excuse; the homeowners simply didn't produce enough tax revenue to suit the city. The Connecticut Supreme Court, 4-3, upheld the city's use of eminent domain.

Oklahoma City has not always wielded this particular tool with the greatest wisdom; I'd like to see us adopt a rule similar to Anaheim's. And now, while the biggest project on the table is the realignment of the Crosstown Expressway, would be the perfect time to do it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:14 AM)
21 November 2004
The annoyance of having Ernest

Yours truly has generally believed that Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK 5), were he to leave office, would not, in fact, create a vacancy; his absence, in fact, would probably strengthen the rest of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation.

Apparently he has no qualms about screwing over his fellow Republicans. Yesterday Congress passed a spending bill which had a provision way down in the fine print that would give the Appropriations committee chairmen in both the House and the Senate the right to examine income-tax returns without regard to existing privacy rules, a provision which Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called the "Istook amendment."

Congressional Republicans, thoroughly embarrassed, vowed to hold up that spending bill until the provision is struck; Frist went on the Sunday-morning pundit circuit to vow "accountability" against the culprit, though this time he didn't mention Istook by name.

Given what passes for accountability among Republicans in Congress these days, Istook doesn't have anything to worry about; even if he's named as the culprit, some staffer will be sacked and things will be forgotten the next day. But apparently he's wearing out his welcome in his district: running essentially unopposed this year — the Democrats had a sacrificial lamb in place — Istook managed to pull less than two-thirds of the vote. If there's ever a name-brand Democrat in District 5 who can be talked into running... but let's not hold our breath.

(Original story via Joe Gandelman.)

(Update, 22 November, 12 noon: Joshua Micah Marshall notes the differences between Istook's description of the paragraph and the actual text inserted into the bill, and covers Istook's attempt at damage control.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:18 PM)
24 November 2004
A pain in the Istuchas

The flap over Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK 5) and his presumed amendment to that House spending bill continues to generate sub-flaps.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has been showing off a handwritten copy of the dubious amendment, asserting that it proves no Congressional Republican had anything to do with its inclusion.

Cam Edwards' sidekick Farrah, noting that Stevens says the measure had been cleared by senior Democratic staff, suspects a trap:

So that's how the provision was discovered by Senate Democrats so quickly! They knew what they were looking for, and they knew where to find it.

In light of this new information, I can't help but wonder if this was a set up by Congressional Democrats. Certainly Istook and the rest of the Congressional Republicans were sloppy and allowed this provision to be added without their knowledge. I hold them wholly responsible for missing this. But were Congressional Democrats banking on their sloppyness to set them up?

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has apologized to Rep. Istook.

Istook's own statement is here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:43 AM)
29 November 2004
Pockets of resistance

Dan Flynn, blogging from bluer-than-blue Boston, crosses the river Charles and finds that for some, the election isn't quite over just yet:

At Harvard University, Kerry-for-President signs still hang from scattered windows almost a month after election day. Throughout the city, pro-Kerry messages adorn bumpers. This is no shock — I still glimpse Mondale-Ferraro bumperstickers on occassion. What is a bit startling is some of the more venomous messages I saw while riding the famous 77 bus to Harvard Square. Someone defaced a statue of the Virgin Mary at a church in North Cambridge by spraypainting a feminist "woman" symbol on it. Past Porter Square, a mural of red and white stripes decorates the exterior wall of one shop. This proved too much for some inhabitant of this supposed bastion of tolerance, who spraypainted the words "End U.S. Imperialism" over the painting of the waving flag. At the Harvard Book Shop, a petition titled — no joke — "Freadom v. the Patriot Act" asks customers to protest Bush administration policies. Grafitti on Mass. Ave. leading to Central Square was more blunt: "Kill Bush."

Down here in Soonerland, things are decidedly more restrained, mostly because Bush got two-thirds of the vote, but it would be a mistake to assume that everyone in town is happy with the results: a couple of blocks from my house, I spotted a Stop sign to which someone had affixed a BUSH BELONGS BEHIND BARS bumper sticker.

Then again, it's been more than a week since I've seen a Kerry/Edwards sticker on an actual bumper, but I'm still seeing a smattering of Bush/Cheney stickers. Is this inertia, or is this gloating? Your guess is as good as mine.

(Via Michelle Malkin.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:50 AM)
Cruel and unusual interpretations

Xrlq points to this Los Angeles Times editorial which says, in effect, that employer-sponsored health plans should not be allowed to exclude coverage for abortion because doing so would "shrink the landmark abortion-rights decision Roe v. Wade to the point where there is no need for judges to formally overturn it."

Meanwhile, Xrlq has gone searching for the Constitutional basis for Roe v. Wade, perhaps expecting to find something like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting a first trimester abortion, or prohibiting the free obtention thereof; or abridging the ability to abort a second or third trimester abortion except to protect the life or health of the mother.

Or, lacking that, perhaps this:

A well controlled Population, being to the status of the United States as a First World Country, the right of pregnant women in the first trimester to obtain Abortions, shall not be infringed.

No luck. Now if Congress actually plans to propose such an amendment to the Constitution, which I tend to doubt, I'd recommend basing the wording, not on the First or Second as above, but on the Third:

No fetus shall be quartered in any uterus without the consent of the owner.

Truth be told, I couldn't think of a reason to differentiate between wartime and peacetime, but perhaps that's another issue.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:32 AM)
2 December 2004
Instead of stuffing

Baldilocks goes (perhaps not too far) out on a limb:

You think you've seen a mass liberal hissy-fit in the wake of the 2004 election? This is nothing. Should Condoleezza Rice change her mind and run for president in 2008, I predict that 50% of the black vote will go toward the Republican ticket. And that's a conservative estimate. Pun intended.

Dr Rice has always said she wasn't interested in the top job, but would she take #2 if it were offered? Would a [fill in name of GOP Presidential wannabe]/Rice ticket draw somewhere between 11 percent and fifty?

And if it would, does it really matter at all whom the Democrats nominate?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:11 AM)
5 December 2004
Snert and Ernie

From the Department of Half a Loaf:

A mid-level House aide said yesterday that he was the one who, during last month's drafting of a huge spending bill, added a provision that could give staffers on the House and Senate appropriations committees broad access to Americans' tax returns.

Richard E. Efford, a 19-year veteran of the House Appropriations Committee, said he did not inform any elected official before inserting the provision and advised his immediate boss, Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.), only after it was too late to make changes.

Per The Washington Post.

Predicted here:

Istook doesn't have anything to worry about; even if he's named as the culprit, some staffer will be sacked and things will be forgotten the next day.

Mr Efford, so far, still has his job, thus "half a loaf."

More bothersome, though, is this (same WaPo article):

[Efford] said other House and Senate appropriations staffers in both parties were aware of the provision, however, and believed it gave them needed authority to enter facilities of the Internal Revenue Service to inspect how taxpayer funds were being used.

"I would guess we all thought it was a housekeeping thing that would help our bosses but did not need to be elevated up to them," said Efford, who described himself as "dumbfounded" by the uproar.

Apparently nobody on Committee staff gives the farging stuff more than a perfunctory once-over after it's written.

(Via Cam Edwards' sidekick Farrah. Oh, and this is a "snert".)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:49 PM)
6 December 2004
The Big She's plans

Scenario: Senator Clinton runs for re-election in 2006, knowing full well she's going to run for President in 2008. What's wrong with this picture?

Nothing, says David Limbaugh:

This may surprise you, but I don't think it's terrible if Hillary does run for re-election to her Senate seat in 2006 with every intention of not serving out her term, especially if she discloses her intent. She has every right to run and the New Yorkers have every right to elect her knowing that it may be temporary. In fact, I'll even go so far as to say that it will help Hillary to stay in the Senate mix, if she does intend to go for the big one.

None of this is to say that I won't fervently oppose this uber-lib feminist for either or both positions, because I will. But let's be done with this idle speculation about whether her re-election to the Senate in 2006 will deter her from a presidential run in 2008. It won't in a million years, even if she promises under oath that she'll complete her Senate term no matter what. It's ridiculous to think otherwise. It's also ridiculous to think it will matter if she reneges on a promise to serve out for full term. Ridiculous. It will not sway .00000000000001% of the voters of NY, much less those of any other state.

I think Mr Limbaugh is exaggerating a bit. New York has about eleven million voters; .00000000000001 percent of that number would get you down to the level of mitochondria, unless he's counting Michael Moore. But I agree with his larger point: it doesn't make any meaningful difference to voters whether Mrs Clinton is still in the Senate or not when (as distinguished from if) she mounts her Presidential bid.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:49 PM)
8 December 2004
Not to be confused with Castro Convertibles

"You don't need a Weatherman," said Zimmerman, "to know which way the wind blows."

Which I suppose is true: no one is marketing, for instance, a wall-mounted climate-observation apparatus with the images of Bernadine Dohrn and Mark Rudd on the dial faces.

On the other hand, it's no particular trick to pick up a Ché Guevara watch.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:17 PM)
9 December 2004
In case Dubya bugs you

In the town of Enterprise, Alabama, there is a monument to the boll weevil, a creature generally negatively viewed and usually characterized as destructive, which forced farmers in the Heart of Dixie to abandon their single-minded devotion to King Cotton, thereby ensuring their future.

And you know, what worked in the South might work just as well on the east side of New York City:

A statue of Oliver Cromwell, sword and Bible in hand, stands outside the Houses of Parliament in London. If the United Nations survives for another decade or so, it would be fitting for the organization to dedicate a statue of George W. Bush at its headquarters on Second Avenue, in tribute to the man who saved it from itself by offering it a final opportunity to get serious.

No, really:

Had President Bush not held the Security Council to the requirements of its own resolutions on Iraq, the U.N.'s credibility as the principal forum for collective security would have collapsed. This U.S. effort to resuscitate the U.N. came against the background of the U.N.'s steep decline in the '90s. The [High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Changes] is refreshingly blunt about this. The reason the U.N. has not been effective in collective security, the panel admits, "has simply been an unwillingness to get serious about preventing deadly violence."

I wish I'd thought of that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:36 AM)
11 December 2004
Let them eat tofu

Alan Sullivan looks at today's post-election-traumatized Democratic Party, and experiences a sense of déjà vu:

Anyone who reads some history of the French Revolution will see that the most vicious participants came from backgrounds that were noble, clerical, or both. Traison des clercs (betrayal by intellectuals) was the phrase coined to describe such characters. It was their pursuit of ideological purity that set the guillotines singing. Fidel Castro is a modern example of the type. MoveOn & Co. already have the chopping block ready for [Terry] McAuliffe.

So who's going to salvage what's left of this bunch?

Howard Dean still holds the future of the party in his hands. He's a clever fellow. I think the MoveOn folks will find themselves exiled to the political equivalent of Elba. If the party suffers another Waterloo in 2006, it will be Saint Helens for the Soros bunch next time. The electorate did not reject the Democrats because tepid mainstreamers watered down MoveOn's socialist ideology. Quite the reverse. The more power the ideologues gain in the party, the worse its candidates will fare at the polls. Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton know that perfectly well.

Or, as Greg Hlatky so tersely put it:

If the party is taken from those who have been elected or get people elected and falls into the hands of those who — as was memorably said of Jesse Jackson — have only run their mouths, the narrow losses the Democrats have suffered in 2000 and 2004 will become massive losses and the Democrats will go the way of the Whigs.

Not to mention the Know-Nothings.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:37 AM)
Riddle me this

Naomi Brown of Overbrook sent this to The Oklahoman; it will appear in their letters column ("Your Views") tomorrow.

What's the only difference between the Auburn Tigers and the Democratic Party? The Tigers have a legitimate complaint about a flawed voting system.

On the other hand, it's possible to comprehend, say, the Electoral College; nobody understands the BCS.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:49 PM)
13 December 2004
A somewhat muted fanfare

Oklahoma's seven Presidential electors officially cast their ballots for George W. Bush today, mostly because they believed in the man, and perhaps partly because they'd be fined a thousand bucks if they didn't.

Minnesota electors, under no such strictures, cast nine of the state's 10 votes for John Kerry, the tenth unaccountably going to John Edwards, an action which no doubt will frost Timothy Noah no end.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:06 PM)
17 December 2004
You expect me to live on this?

The Citizens League of Central Oklahoma held a panel discussion yesterday at Citychurch on the topic "Working Poverty: Is a Living Wage the Answer?" The League, which sponsored an appearance this fall by Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Making it In America, thought, reasonably enough, that their panel should include both advocates and opponents of the living wage, and an audience of about 100 showed up for the discussion. And, sure enough, the panel didn't agree on very much, except that wage scales here are on the low side.

I admit to some cynicism about the living wage myself. Living-wage ordinances tend to cover a small number of workers in a very specific environment: those who are covered by contracts with government agencies. Proponents can point to statistics which suggest that not only are increased costs minimal, but that they are offset by decreases in expenditures by government welfare organizations.

The argument against raising the minimum wage has always been that it tends to reduce the number of jobs available at the low end of the scale; however, since government demand for services is relatively inelastic, increased costs are generally greeted with shrugs rather than with layoffs. This suggests to me that while the living-wage programs may work, after a fashion, for the small number of employees they cover, extending them to the entirety of the private sector, where demand is elastic and cost control is more critical, is likely to be problematic at best.

Economist Larkin Warner of OSU, a member of the panel, remarked: "I would rather see someone employed at a lower wage than unemployed with higher wages." I once lost a job at nearly $12 an hour; after a series of sporadic temp jobs at $7 to $9, I wound up working for $6. At least the $6 was consistent: working for $6 proved to be a lot more lucrative than not working for $12. And I must point out that I had been turned down for a couple of jobs in the $5.50 range because, they said, I was so overqualified that I'd jump ship at the first opportunity. A substantial skill set, it appears, is the one sure way to get off any government-set wage floor. Perhaps this should be the topic of the next panel discussion.

(Update, 18 December, 8:00 am: Daniel Medley at LoboWalk notes: "The single most effective way of raising the minimum wage and improving the economy in this country is to secure our sovereignty and our borders.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:37 AM)
21 December 2004
And boy, are my arms tired

If you really, truly have a problem with Donald Rumsfeld's use of the autopen, a device which dates back sixty freaking years now, you need to read this from Connie du Toit.

And then, because it's a kindness to slake his blogthirst, you need to read Sean Gleeson's list of Rumsfeld's other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:52 PM)
28 December 2004
Moore than we bargained for

Enough already, says Chase McInerney:

As a center-leftist (some might just [say] leftist-leftist), I wish Michael Moore would just disappear for a spell. While I give him props for his propagandist skills and unequivocal showmanship, ultimately his left-wing extremism hurts the cause of liberalism a hell of a lot more than it helps, and he provides the Right with as much of a straw man as loons like Pat Robertson to the Left.

In his younger days, he seemed quite a bit less doctrinaire about things. I remember his television series TV Nation, which had an interest in snark at least as high as my own, and which featured briefly something called the CEO Corporate Challenge, in which the chairmen would be pulled out of the boardroom long enough to demonstrate some actual familiarity with the products vended by the firms they ran. One of the CEOs targeted was Ford boss Alexander Trotman: Moore met him in Dearborn and challenged him to change the oil in a Ford truck. Trotman, to Moore's surprise, was a pretty fair shadetree mechanic, and finished up the task in less time than your local Spee-D-Loob; Moore, to his credit, left the segment in, and announced that Trotman had indeed passed the CEO Corporate Challenge.

This was, of course, almost a decade ago; I tend to doubt that Moore would be quite so good-humored today about being shown up on his own camera. And come to think of it, Trotman has since retired; I certainly can't imagine Bill Ford changing his own oil.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:28 AM)
6 January 2005
Blowing hot and cold

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is the fellow who turned back the GOP's new ethics rules — well, some of those rules, anyway — which were widely seen as a Republican effort to preserve his job should he have been indicted.

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is the fellow who, at the Congressional Prayer Service this week, after a number of prayers on behalf of tsunami victims, decided this would be the perfect time to quote Matthew 7:

Everyone who listens to these words of mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man, who built his house on a rock:

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, but it did not collapse; it has been set solidly on rock.

And everyone who listens to these words of mine, but does not act on them, will be like a fool who built his house on sand:

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, and it collapsed and was completely ruined.

"Shrewd" and "shortsighted" are evidently not mutually exclusive.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:01 AM)
8 January 2005
Womb patrol

Five years ago, I proposed a Federal Department of Pregnancy to deal with the thorny question of abortion. One paragraph began this way:

Upon pregnancy certification, a woman would be required to post $20,000 bond with the local Department office. (In the case of multiple births, the bond would be increased accordingly, once it is determined that twins — or more — have been conceived.) This bond is subject to forfeiture if she miscarries, or if, in the judgment of the Department, she has not exerted "maximum effort" to bring the pregnancy to term.

This was, I hasten to add, intended as satire. On the other hand, this isn't:

When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

"Sorry, honey, no time to mourn. You have to report this to the police."

At least there's no law requiring her to report the pregnancy. Yet.

(Swiped from Democracy for Virginia.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:09 AM)
9 January 2005
Not a kid, nor does he rock

This is, I think, the definitive response to the Kid Rock "controversy":

Conservatives will be truly conservative again, at least in the sense of preserving some sort of aesthetic order, when they start demanding Kid Rock be removed from the inauguration festivities not because he uses dirty words, but because he sucks. Oh, I'm not saying he isn't a fine and decent human being; I'm just doubting his entertainment value. And please, someone remind Michelle Malkin that the last time pop music entertainers used clean language and were deemed family-friendly, it resulted in some jackass giving them a variety show, and the world suffered a lot more from that than it could ever suffer from Kid Rock.

And of course, there's this: at least it isn't Fred Durst.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:56 PM)
19 January 2005
Some simple electoral reforms

Stefan Sharkansky, founder of SoundPolitics.com, shows up in The Seattle Times with recommendations for avoiding debacles like the Washington gubernatorial contest:

[R]equiring proof of citizenship for voter registration; requiring every voter to show both a photo ID and a pulse; and requiring that an election can be certified only if the number of votes equals the number of voters.

This, of course, constitutes a form of disenfranchisement — of individuals who aren't entitled to the franchise in the first place.

(Via The Big Trunk at Power Line.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:31 AM)
20 January 2005
Spent fury

So what did you buy today?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:03 PM)
And then, the speech

I am, at best, a fumbling orator: I stumble over words I know perfectly well, and I tend to get two or three words ahead of myself, which means that at some point I'm going to leave out a word without which the sentence makes even less sense, and the WTF flags will go up among what's left of the audience. So I am disinclined to fault George W. Bush for lacking the charisma of a Jack Kennedy, the affability of a Ronald Reagan; I know I couldn't give him any pointers on how to sound persuasive.

Still, I did like this bit:

Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave.

And about the fifteenth mention of "freedom," it dawned on me why he'd mentioned it fourteen times before, and why that seemingly facile dismissal of the other side as people who "hate freedom" had more substance to it than I had thought.

Freedom, after all, implies — demands, even — the ability to make one's own choices, to the extent that they do not encroach upon the choices of others. It is perhaps regrettable, but nonetheless inevitable, that some of those choices will produce suboptimal (read "crappy") results. Some people can't, or won't, accept that fact. It is unthinkable to them that a person might want to worship with the damnable infidels, might desire to live in a place where the loudest noise is the rattling of the gate, might want to grab a Monster Burger some evening: after all, look at the harm they're doing to themselves, and we simply can't have that.

Daniel Schorr at NPR went into a snit this afternoon because the President didn't mention Iraq by name [Accept no substitutes! Ask for it by name!] or pitch any domestic agenda. Assuming Schorr isn't suffering from an incurable disease that will take him away in the next few days, he can wait for the State of the Union address with the rest of us. I want my pomp and circumstance unsullied by tedious political calculations.

The duck is lame; long live the duck.

(Full text is here. Outside the Beltway has a sampling of pundit reactions to the speech.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:36 PM)
24 January 2005
Thank you for caring

I haven't seen it lately, but about fifteen, maybe twenty years ago, one argument that occasionally popped out from the pro-choice folks was "You know, if you guys are so dead set against abortion, perhaps you should assume responsibility for some of these babies you insist must be born." It wasn't a particularly persuasive argument, but it had good emotional resonance, and it persisted for quite some time before dropping below the rhetorical radar.

What I didn't anticipate was that its basic principle — "You ban it, you deal with the consequences" — was so readily extensible to other issues of dispute.

(Via Susanna Cornett.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:44 AM)
Not a trace of Hamilton

The Bill of Rights (Version 2.0).

(Via His Imperial Majesty Darth Misha I.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:29 PM)
28 January 2005
A man whose time has come

Lileks has already said that he will not run for Senate in '06.

You think he might consider being FCC Chairman?

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:29 AM)
30 January 2005
A sense of the inevitable

Francis W. Porretto was watching Fox News this morning when this bit of information slid by:

FOX News has just reported that, according to Adel al-Lami of the Independent Electoral Commission, 72 percent of eligible Iraqis participated in the voting. The report also gives the toll taken by terrorist violence: 36 deaths tallied to date.

No one should be eager to depreciate the lives lost in this historic event. Still, your Curmudgeon is irresistibly moved to say: If that's the worst the terrorists can do, the Iraqi people have won their freedom.

Indeed. No one, apart from an occasional tire-slasher, threatens us at the polls, and we struggle to turn out 60 percent.

I'm waiting for the Iraqi equivalent of a blue-state Democrat to point out that the terrorists were effectively disenfranchised and therefore this election was stolen. Shouldn't take too long.

(Update, 8:30 pm: Later reports show somewhere in the 60s, which is still pretty good turnout, considering the occasional threat levels. I know Saddam used to get 99 percent or thereabouts, but then he had the two-box electoral system: you put his name in one box, or he put you in the other.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:32 AM)
1 February 2005
And whatever became of Hubert?

If you thought Howard Dean was some sort of weird 21st-century non-mainstream Democrat, you might have thought too soon: apparently Dr. Dean, anguished yelp aside, is very much in the Democratic tradition.

Last year Bigwig brought forth this bumper sticker, yoking Dean to George McGovern; I can testify that it got a laugh out of Dawn Eden, which more than justifies my purchase thereof.

Now Cutting to the Chase offers yet another traditional Democratic comparison:

The Association of State Democratic Chairs has endorsed Dr. Dean [for DNC chief] — presumably because Adlai Stevenson is dead and therefore ineligible.

Being the sort of person who can appreciate really finely-tuned smugness, I offer you this interchange from Stevenson's 1956 Presidential campaign:

Enthusiastic supporter: "Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!"

Adlai: "That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!"

I tell you, Stevenson was born to run the DNC — just fifty years too soon. Dr. Dean just might work out after all. (Then again, speaking as a lifelong Democrat, I'd have to say that a tub of Shedd's Country Crock would probably be an improvement over that McAuliffe guy.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:52 AM)
4 February 2005
Exercising the ol' franchise

No, I did not register to vote on my 18th birthday. And no, it's not because of any youthful apathy or anything like that; it's just that the offices were not open until the following Monday.

I was away from home the following year, when there was a Presidential election, and duly requested an absentee ballot. It didn't help George McGovern much, to be sure, but I wasn't about to miss out, and anyway, it was motivated more by the urge to replace Nixon than by a heartfelt belief in the McGovern agenda.

In the thirty-two years since then, I've missed, to my knowledge, maybe eight elections, only one of them big enough for a Presidential race. I show up for that tedious school-board stuff, for millages, for bond issues, for whatever. The polling place is within half a mile, which cuts down on the number of available excuses.

And to the surprise of some, I'm still a Democrat today: the bizarre behavior of (some of) the party faithful in recent years notwithstanding, I'm not ready to slam the door on them and start over. Still, I've never once voted a straight-party ticket, and while I understand why the option is there, I have no desire to use it.

I pulled the lever (well, we don't have levers, but you get the idea) for George W. Bush this past year, the first time I'd ever voted for a Republican for President. (It, um, came to me in a dream.) Next time, I'm hoping there are more than two choices, just because.

(Provoked by Dwayne.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:13 PM)
6 February 2005
Blinded justice

It's kind of hard to argue with most of this:

H.R.418
Title: To establish and rapidly implement regulations for State driver's license and identification document security standards, to prevent terrorists from abusing the asylum laws of the United States, to unify terrorism-related grounds for inadmissibility and removal, and to ensure expeditious construction of the San Diego border fence.

Until you get down inside the guts of it and turn up this:

Section 102(c) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1103 note) is amended to read as follows:

(c) Waiver-

(1) IN GENERAL - Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.

(2) NO JUDICIAL REVIEW- Notwithstanding any other provision of law (statutory or nonstatutory), no court shall have jurisdiction

(A) to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1); or

(B) to order compensatory, declaratory, injunctive, equitable, or any other relief for damage alleged to arise from any such action or decision.

(Emphasis added.)

Oh, yes. That pesky judicial-review business. Can't have any of that, can we? Why, there might be some of those activist judges out there.

Under certain extraordinary circumstances, I can see the need to suspend judicial oversight, but a mundane border-reinforcement bill hardly qualifies as extraordinary. Even beyond its backdoor attempt to turn the driver's license (which used to be a State function, remember?) into a de facto national ID card, this measure simply reeks. Yes, I'd like the borders tightened; no, I wouldn't like the government to get into the habit of thinking that the answer to any lingering legal questions is to cut the judiciary out of the loop.

(Via Matt Deatherage.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:00 AM)
Particle emissions

Okiedoke this morning gives a lot of space to the rantings of Bob Nichols, who points out, correctly, that depleted-uranium weapons are being produced in Oklahoma.

Had Bob left it at that, he might have gotten away with it. But no:

Oklahoma is the major shipping point for millions of pounds of genocidal and illegal weapons to Iraq. Up to 3.2 million pounds a day. That is up to 96 million pounds of radioactive uranium a month!

Of course, to have genocide, one must have a people that is being systematically destroyed. On that basis, there is as much genocide in, say, downtown Cincinnati as there is in Iraq.

But what spooks people is "radioactive," and really, Bob, what part of the word "depleted" don't you understand? DU's own emissions are so meager that it's actually used as a radiation shield; its sheer density makes it even more efficient than lead at blocking gamma rays and other radiational nasties, and its own alpha particles can be blocked by a coat of paint or a piece of wallboard. No one is claiming that DU is actually good for you, but the threat is severely overblown.

Much like Bob's little spiel, in fact.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:56 AM)
7 February 2005
The bin Laden clearance sale

The OKPartisan goes one step beyond Tom Friedman's New York Times op-ed calling for an end to the posted rewards for bin Laden and friends:

I would suggest that we drop it with a deadline. "You have 2 weeks to turn in Bin Laden and get $25 million. After that, you get nothing but our thanks."

I'm inclined to agree. So long as we keep a price on his head, he has a value equal to that price; I definitely like the idea of writing him off as a loss. (Besides, I rather suspect that his recent "appearances" have involved some fairly trivial special-effects techniques, and that were there any daisies in that part of the world, he'd be pushing them up.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:40 AM)
8 February 2005
Visions of sugarplums

First, the obligatory Mark Twain quote:

In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made school boards.

I doubt if this was what drove Jennifer Puckett out of her District 2 seat after eight years, but she's history, and an election is being held today to replace her.

The local Republican Party is expressing unusual interest in this nonpartisan race. Then again, maybe it's not so unusual: one of the three other candidates is openly gay, and they hope to whip up some voter antagonism.

Which, in turn, makes my decision for me. I have no compelling urge to see a gay man on the school board, but I don't think it's the end of the world should one end up there, especially since he's just one voice out of eight. I do, however, take a dim view of the GOP's failure to comprehend the meaning of a "nonpartisan" ballot, so the least I can do is vote for the candidate they're targeting, a fellow named Jim Nimmo. Just as a reminder, you know. Nothing against the rest of you guys — I'm sure you're all sterling folks — but I have my rules.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:05 AM)
9 February 2005
Some of that spring runoff

No winner in the Oklahoma City School Board District 2 race, as nobody got a majority. If there was any concerted effort to get out the social-conservative vote, it fizzled: only 1159 ballots were cast, the usual dismal numbers for a school-board election.

Gail Vines, the front-runner, and Gary Walker, the putative Great Republican Hope, will meet in a runoff in April.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:55 AM)
11 February 2005
Democrats pitch an ethics fit

House Democratic leaders want Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK 4) off the Ethics Committee, apparently because Cole kicked in five grand to Tom DeLay's legal-defense fund.

In a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer asked that Cole and Lamar Smith (R-TX), also a contributor to DeLay's fund, not be appointed to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

From the Pelosi-Hoyer letter:

Further inquiries into Mr. DeLay's conduct can be expected; having given money to help defend Mr. DeLay against these precise allegations, Mr. Smith and Mr. Cole should not now sit in judgment of him. While Mr. Smith and Mr. Cole may argue that their contributions will not prejudice their decisions — and we have no reason to doubt their intent to act properly — the perception of many of their colleagues and of the public will be otherwise.

Cole has claimed that Hastert knew about the donation before he started handing out committee assignments.

This would ordinarily be a "Aw, blow it out yer knickers, Nancy" sort of deal, but the ongoing ties to DeLay, who very likely will face more questioning of his ethics, suggest that it might be useful for House Republicans to shuffle the committee assignments once more, if only to sidetrack Democratic sniping.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:59 AM)
12 February 2005
That all may be protected

Remember this?

If it saves just one life, it's worth it.

The Second Amendment Foundation carries this to its logical conclusion:

The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) today called upon the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to "take an important step for public safety" and close the Golden Gate Bridge, which has been a popular suicide platform for more than 65 years.

"Several city supervisors want to ban handguns in San Francisco on the mere presumption that such a law would prevent crimes, accidents and suicides," said SAF Founder Alan M. Gottlieb. "Well, it is an absolute certainty that closing the bridge would prevent suicides, and perhaps many accidents, as well. And just for the sake of argument, one seriously might question whether any of the more than 1,300 fatal falls from the bridge since 1937 were cleverly-concealed homicides."

And it gets better:

"Social do-gooders have gone on the warpath repeatedly against firearms for the most tenuous of reasons," Gottlieb stated. "The Golden Gate Bridge is a proven killer, and media fascination with jumpers is sickening. It has inspired hundreds of people to end their lives. Anyone can simply walk out there and jump, or be pushed. There are no barriers, no waiting in line, and there is nobody assigned to the bridge who can check the mental and emotional history of bridge visitors. It's far easier to walk out on the bridge and jump to your death than it is to purchase a firearm in California. At least when a person buys a gun, he or she must complete a background check and endure a waiting period. But nobody screens possible Golden Gate jumpers. Unlike a gun, you can't even use the bridge to defend yourself against a criminal.

"The only way to prevent future tragedies,'' Gottlieb said, "is to close the bridge. We need to stop the growing body count. It's up to the Board of Supervisors to act, and they should do it immediately. If it saves just one life, closing the Golden Gate Bridge is the right thing to do."

As Geoffrey notes, "Guns don't kill people. Bridges do."

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:30 AM)
Somewhere between Us and Them

Let's say Bob and Tom, about the same age, work together at the same place, making the same amount of money. Personal accounts for Social Security are introduced; Bob takes one particular basket of options, and Tom takes another.

Jump forward X number of years (but let's keep the dollar constant for the sake of argument), and Bob is retiring on, let's say, $3200 a month, Tom on $2150. If a right-winger is moved to say anything here, he'll probably congratulate Bob on his astute investments; a leftist might point out how these personal accounts were a bad idea in the first place — why, look at the inequality of the system! — and might even think about suggesting Tom sue the government.

This is obviously not the only disconnect between the two sides, but it's one I find particularly disturbing.

Then I turned up this at The Shape of Days:

I do find it pretty interesting... to compare the way the blogosphere responded to Eason Jordan with the way it responded to Jeff Gannon. The blogs, mostly conservative, that attacked Eason Jordan did so based on what he said in Davos. The blogs, mostly liberal, that attacked Jeff Gannon went dumpster-diving until they found a tenuous connection between Gannon and some filthy Internet domain names. Not sites, mind you, just names. They then pimped (if you'll pardon the expression) that angle of the story until they got the attention they wanted, as Markos "Screw Them" Zuniga gleefully admitted to Howard Kurtz.

While I'm not exactly proud of my blogging brothers and sisters for making a mountain out of what I still think was essentially a molehill, I am immensely proud of them for being professional about it. The contrast between the right and the left is rarely as stark as it is in this case.

And Ace adds:

What I'm making fun of is the grossly disproportionate glee of the left finally getting a "scalp" — a scalp belonging to, no offense, a rather obscure and newish reporter working for a virtually-unknown on-line media company.

And then dancing around with that scalp as if they've pretty much tied the scoreboard, cancelling out Rather and Jordan.

Don't be mean, Ace. The left hasn't had a lot to cheer about this century.

On second thought, go ahead. It's not like you're ever going to be lacking for material.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:42 AM)
13 February 2005
We will bury you, if we can borrow a shovel

"Hey, everybody, we've got nukes!" sings the Dear Leader, or someone under his Glorious Thumb.

Phelps isn't buying:

I'll tell you why — they haven't tested it.

An untested weapon is suicide to deploy against the enemy. If they haven't tested it, it is because they don't have it. What is the downside of testing? Once you have tested, you are in the club. There isn't any doubt about whether or not you are a nuclear power, and once you are, the rules change. If you are just talking about having nukes and not testing them, then you are wasting your time.

Anyone that can make one bomb can make two. The value of the second bomb goes up by several magnitudes as soon as the first one blows up. Until the design is proven, all they are is expensive radioactive hunks of metal.

This suggests a dialogue of sorts:

DPRK: You can no longer ignore us, for we have nukes.

GWB: Did you hear something?

DPRK: I said, "You can no longer ignore us, for we have nukes."

GWB: No, you don't.

DPRK: Yes, we do.

GWB: No, you don't. You don't even have lawn mowers, fercrissake. You think we're gonna believe you have nucular weapons? Not a chance, Kimbo.

DPRK: We will not be treated in this manner!

GWB: Just watch.

Diplomatic considerations might preclude this actual interchange, but at the moment, I'd bet on Dubya's poker-playing ability.

(Procured through the Fire Ant Gazette.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:13 PM)
19 February 2005
A less-universal franchise

I dropped into Selma, Alabama in the summer of 2001 and paid a visit to the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute. One of the exhibits I was allowed to take with me was a copy of Alabama's onerous voter-application form, authorized by the state's 1901 constitution and administered in such a way as to minimize black participation in elections.

I thought about this while I was reading Francis W. Porretto's article The Vote, in which he proposes, as a condition of voting in the Republic, a test of Constitutional knowledge that seems at first glance uncomfortably close to the "literacy test" from mid-1960s Alabama.

There are, of course, differences. The most obvious: FWP is no racist. He thinks that every prospective voter should be required to demonstrate better than passing familiarity with the Constitution:

The Constitution covers nine sheets of parchment and is written in very plain English. He who can't comprehend it is obviously unfit to elevate executives, legislators, or judges who will be bound by its provisions.

But this is the really interesting provision:

In exchange for the privilege of voting in a specified election, [the voter] must agree to forgo and forswear until after the next general election:
  • any position of profit or trust under the Constitution, in any federal, state, or local office, whether elective, appointive, or Civil Service;
  • any and all payments from any organ of government, regardless of the reason for them;
  • any and all personal or categorical privileges, exemptions, or subventions that may be awarded by any organ of government.

Apart from temporarily disenfranchising candidates for office, which probably isn't a bad idea at all, the kicker here is in the middle, which presumably would bar anyone drawing Social Security or welfare. I understand his point, I think — one thing that perpetuates the welfare state is support from people who benefit from it directly — but I'm not sure I'd want to implement this particular plank in his platform until such time as we've made some substantial cuts in entitlement programs generally, and in a vestige of bleeding-heart liberalism, I am not at all keen on cutting persons out of the franchise who may be drawing legitimate disability payments.

FWP's larger point, though, is that in our post-1965 rush to extend the franchise to seemingly anything that moves under its own power, we have wound up with an electorate that isn't well-informed, that doesn't understand the government it's supposed to control, and that won't turn down opportunities to seek largesse from the Treasury. Or, as he puts it:

It might reduce the enfranchised element of the populace to ten or twenty million persons, at least at the outset. But if it were to cleanse our Republic of the enemies of the Constitution numerous at every level of government, the flagrant self-seeking of millions of persons who continually vote for bigger subsidies for themselves, their favored groups, or their favored causes, and the ignorance of those who think President Bush somehow traduces the Constitution when he quotes Isaiah, it would be worth it and more.

About 122 million voted in the 2004 Presidential election.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:35 AM)
An approaching frontal zone

Robert Prather, on why he can't stand Ann Coulter:

Even when she's right on the larger point about President Bush's appointment of minorities, she's so intolerable in the way she states it that it physically hurts me to agree on the larger point. If she didn't have a nice rack there would be a bounty on her head.

Which of course leads to the most immediate question:

Ann Coulter has a nice rack?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:31 PM)
23 February 2005
Insert Guckert joke here

From our Taste Takes a Holiday files, "Gannon's Song (Who Did He Do?)", in which the motivations of Jeff Gannon are, um, well, surely there's a better word than "analyzed."

(Via Wonkette, but then it would almost have to be.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:40 AM)
24 February 2005
While we're at it, let's sue Jefferson Davis

An op-ed in the Oklahoma Gazette by Felix Paul Linden, Jr., on the subject of reparations:

When inequality is present, it automatically limits your opportunities. One thing some white men in America tend to forget is that, for them, it never has been unequal. For more than 200 years, from 1776 to present, white men have had the opportunity to increase their lot. Black people haven't had a full 40. The length of time in itself is reason enough to justify leveling the scales for black people. Not where it teeters out of balance but to the point where we as a people can step onto the playing field and see sideline to sideline.

In his inaugural address, President Bush talked about an ownership society. Black people in America have thirsted for this opportunity. America now should take the lead and own up to its responsibility to this group of citizens and stop deferring the problem to future generations. Reparations equals justice, and justice is the American way.

When he says "40," he's referencing the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. And he does have a point about white guys, a group in which I hold a half-membership.

Still, I think he's going to have trouble getting this one to fly. The statute of limitations put a stop to a lawsuit demanding reparations for the Tulsa race riots, and if 1921 is out of play, certainly anything prior to 1863 is going to be.

And then there's this observation from La Shawn Barber:

Sold a bill of goods by black "leaders" and white liberals, some blacks have bought the idea that they will never get ahead in America because of white people. And even if they manage to get ahead... it's their responsibility to make white America pay.

Coming down NE 36th yesterday, I saw a couple of banners for a Home Ownership seminar this weekend, sponsored by a group of black churches. A similar event last year drew 800 people. I can't help but think that in the long run programs such as this will accomplish far more than even the most eloquent evocations of guilt.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:32 AM)
26 February 2005
Odd news popping up

The 9/11 attacks, you'll remember, were implemented by the hijacking of aircraft. For some inscrutable reason, the Department of Homeland Security thinks that this can be countered by people with experience in the hijacking of computers.

A new addition to the DHS privacy board is an executive from Claria, previously known as Gator, one of the more notorious vendors of spyware.

In itself, this is annoying enough, but in view of the fact that the DHS Chief Privacy Officer is a refugee from data-miner DoubleClick, it's probably unavoidable. And it's in character for DHS, if you think about it: annoying large numbers of people in the hopes of snagging some small reward is exactly the modus operandi of the Transportation Security Administration.

Tech guy Dan Lovejoy is all over these developments.

(Submitted to the Wizbang Saturday linkfest.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:43 AM)
27 February 2005
If it screeds, it leads

If you're really anxious for bad news from the Middle East, Big Media are more than happy to deliver it to you. As Jim the Unix Dude points out:

Let's look specifically at news from Iraq. To believe ABC, CBS, or NBC is to believe that the whole country is in ruins, Iraqis nationwide fear for their lives minute by minute, and the entire situation is a hopeless mess. You can believe that if you wish. Of course, you'd be wrong.

And yes, he's prepared to tell you why. Do read the whole thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:32 AM)
1 March 2005
You gotta know when to hold 'em

And, conversely, when to let them go. In the case of José Padilla, [link requires Adobe Reader] the Bush Administration was given a sharp reminder of the latter by the US District Court for South Carolina.

"The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." Const. Art. 1, § 9, cl. 2. This power belongs solely to Congress. Since Congress has not acted to suspend the writ, and neither the President nor this Court have the ability to do so, in light of the findings above, Petitioner must be released.

If the law in its current state is found by the President to be insufficient to protect this country from terrorist plots, such as the one alleged here, then the President should prevail upon Congress to remedy the problem. For instance, if the Government's purpose in detaining Petitioner as an enemy combatant is to prevent him from "returning to the field of battle and taking up arms once again[,]" Hamdi, 124 S.Ct at 2640, but the President thinks that the laws do not provide the necessary and appropriate measures to provide for that goal, then the President should approach Congress and request that it make proper modifications to the law. As Congress has already demonstrated, it stands ready to carefully consider, and often accomodate, such significant requests.

The Court ordered the government to charge Padilla, to name him as a material witness in an actual case, or to release him, within forty-five days.

(From SCOTUSblog via New World Man.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:27 AM)
5 March 2005
Generally low Marx

I wrote that Junior League item and then hit the showers; at some point therein some unrepentant vestige of my Sixties self roused itself to reproach me for the proudly-bourgeois tone of the piece, and demanded: "How is this sort of thing consistent with sticking it to The Man?"

I may be past fifty, but I'm hardly past my rebellious phase. Still, times change as much as people do, and political issues, which by nature tend toward the ephemeral, change even more. (Heard anyone screaming for free silver lately?) So I reminded this spectre of the current Social Security kerfuffle and other putatively-evil BushCo initiatives, and pointed out that the Democrats, the party where Sixties burnouts seem to have been accumulating over the years, have positioned themselves as enthusiastic defenders of the status quo.

Besides, these days The Man is a neighbor of mine.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:06 AM)
6 March 2005
First we pass the bill, then we read it

The state of Ohio, starting 2 May, will license auctioneers, and will require them, among other things, to serve an apprenticeship, to pass exams, to pay an annual fee, and to post a $50,000 bond — even if all they're doing is selling some tchotchkes on eBay.

The primary author of the bill, Senator Larry Mumper (R-Marion), apparently had no idea that it would have such a wide-ranging effect:

This was to insure that auctioneers were abiding by the established rules and regulations. The bill is flawed. We will amend it and correct the problem before it goes into law. It certainly will not apply to the casual seller on eBay, but might apply to anyone who sells a lot.

Translation: "Aw, come on, people, we're trying to do some serious regulation here, and you just want to nitpick."

You know, Senator, if you and your friends weren't so damned eager to regulate everything under the sun, you wouldn't run into situations like this.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:40 PM)
9 March 2005
The libertarian vs. the conservative

Dan Lovejoy live-blogged the Doug Bandow/Dinesh D'Souza debate at Oklahoma Christian last night. A crowd of maybe 300 turned out; the writeup is well worth your time.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:46 AM)
13 March 2005
That Online Coalition thing

About 2500 bloggers and readers of blogs have so far signed the Online Coalition's letter to FEC chair Scott Thomas requesting an exemption for blogs to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, aka McCain-Feingold, aka The Incumbents' Preservation Act.

Patterico thinks this is the wrong approach:

[I]n my view, political speech is speech at the core of the First Amendment. Neither the FEC nor any other government agency has any right to regulate it in any way. When my right to engage in such speech is threatened, my impulse is not to seek out a law carving out some exception for my speech. My impulse is to tell those responsible that they can go to hell.

Look at the big picture, folks. This isn't about our precious Internet. It's about the very concept of free speech.

What we're seeing is not a crazy offshoot of campaign finance "reform" legislation. It's a logical consequence of it. Something this important can't be handled by legislation, and left to the whims of lawmakers and regulators. It is a constitutional issue, and affects all free speech.

Which, of course, is absolutely true. Still, there's little to no chance that this measure is going to be scrapped anytime soon, and until such time as it is, I'm thinking that I will have to content myself with wangling an exemption, with the hope that some future Supreme Court will choose to send this law to the dustbin, or that some day there will be more exemptions than provisions and the entire house of cards will come crashing down.

The perfect, as they say, is sometimes the enemy of the good. Right now, I'm settling for the good.

(Regular readers will note that this is the exact opposite of my stance on dating and relationships. The consistent, as they say, is sometimes the enemy of the flexible.)

(Update, 15 March, 3:30 pm: Dan Lovejoy is definitely in agreement with Patterico.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:02 AM)
14 March 2005
Cold, dead hands, you know the drill

Fusilier Pundit goes through the list of nominees for positions on the National Rifle Association's Board of Directors, and makes recommendations thereto. If you're a voting member of the NRA, do give Fûz a look; his priorities make a lot of sense, at least to me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:50 AM)
Slow grind

The Freedom of Information Act requires that the agency receiving the FOIA request act upon it within twenty days.

Unless you're San Francisco Chronicle reporter Seth Rosenfeld, who has been waiting on a FOIA request from the FBI since 1981.

Rosenfeld, who has been researching Cold War activities by the FBI at the University of California-Berkeley, has received about 200,000 pages so far, but 17,000 are still not forthcoming. The FBI, ever-helpful, suggested that Rosenfeld file a request under FOIA to ask what's taking so long.

Now that's gridlock.

(Via Population Statistic.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:15 AM)
Many crappy returns

One of the more persuasive arguments in favor of same-sex marriage is "Yeah, let them suffer like the rest of us."

Over at Wizbang, Jay Tea has a little ditty 'bout Jan and Diane, two American kids from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who wound up having to work up four tax returns: two to the Feds, separately; a joint return to Massachusetts, which, unlike the IRS, considers them legally wed; and a simulated Federal return at the joint rates, because Massachusetts requires the numbers from such be carried over to the state return.

This sort of thing is old news to more, um, traditional couples who might live in State A and work in State B, but it serves as a reminder that everything isn't sweetness and light even if the government actually approves of one's marriage.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:27 PM)
17 March 2005
Scalia on the New Judiciary

I suppose this will cement my reputation as some sort of right-wing reprobate: I'm about to quote approvingly from a speech by Justice Antonin Scalia.

I was confirmed, close to nineteen years ago now, by a vote of ninety-eight to nothing. The two missing were Barry Goldwater and Jake Garnes, so make it a hundred. I was known at that time to be, in my political and social views, fairly conservative. But still, I was known to be a good lawyer, an honest man, somebody who could read a text and give it its fair meaning, had judicial impartiality and so forth. And so I was unanimously confirmed.

Today, barely twenty years later, it is difficult to get someone confirmed to the Court of Appeals. What has happened? The American people have figured out what is going on. If we are selecting lawyers, if we are selecting people to read a text and give it the fair meaning it had when it was adopted, yes, the most important thing to do is to get a good lawyer. If on the other hand, we're picking people to draw out of their own conscience and experience, a new constitution, with all sorts of new values to govern our society, then we should not look principally for good lawyers. We should look principally for people who agree with us, the majority, as to whether there ought to be this right, that right, and the other right. We want to pick people that would write the new constitution that we would want.

And that is why you hear in the discourse on this subject, people talking about moderate, we want moderate judges. What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean? There is no such thing as a moderate interpretation of the text. Would you ask a lawyer, "Draw me a moderate contract"? The only way the word has any meaning is if you are looking for someone to write a law, to write a constitution, rather than to interpret one.

Which makes me wonder how much legislation is introduced on the basis of "Wouldn't this be nice?" instead of "Will this pass Constitutional muster?" And I suppose I'm conservative enough to think that if the answer to the latter is No, it doesn't much matter what the answer to the former might be.

(Found by way of Power Line.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:09 AM)
18 March 2005
Redefining "majority"

This is what Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said:

Why would we give lifetime appointments to people who earn up to $200,000 a year, with absolutely a great retirement system, and all the things all Americans wish for, with absolutely no check and balance except that one confirmation vote. So we're saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn't too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Don't you think so? It's the only check and balance on these people. They're in for life. They don't stand for election like we do, which is scary.

What'll you bet that if the Democrats had thirty-five votes in the Senate, instead of forty-five, Boxer would be insisting on a two-thirds majority for confirmation?

Now if she wants to introduce a Constitutional amendment to require a three-fifths, or whatever, majority, that's just fine with me. Otherwise, she needs to find something else to piss and moan about. (And unfortunately, she almost certainly will.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:15 PM)
21 March 2005
Here comes Uncle Ernie to guide you

Fifth District Congressman Ernest Istook (R-Warr Acres) will be holding four Town Hall meetings during the balance of this month. Interestingly, the two in the city will be confined to specific subjects, while those in the outlying areas will be open for discussion on a range of topics. I leave it to someone more cynical than I to speculate as to why.

Here's the schedule (as a taxpayer, I paid for a mailing of this stuff, so I figure I'm entitled to reproduce it):

Thursday, 24 March, 6:40 pm
Putnam City High School Auditorium, 5300 NW 50th
"Web-Wise Kids: Protecting Our Children from On-Line Predators"
With Sandy Garrett, Superintendent of Public Instruction

Tuesday, 29 March, 10 am
Rudolph Hargrave Community Center, 123 South Mekusukey, Wewoka
Open forum

Tuesday, 29 March, 4 pm
Room B, Shawnee Public Library, 101 North Philadelphia, Shawnee
Open forum

Thursday, 31 March, 6:30 pm
Garvey Center Recital Hall, Oklahoma Christian University, 2501 East Memorial
"Seniors & Seniors on Social Security: Panel Discussion with High-School Seniors and Senior Citizens"

Says Rep. Istook, "Locally, the federal government interacts with our lives in ways which we may not always understand." I guess he ought to know.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:03 AM)
22 March 2005
How nonpartisan are they?

I have been known to kvetch about partisan influence on ostensibly-nonpartisan elections before, so this Seattle Times editorial by James Vesely caught my eye:

One way to get partisan politics out of public office is to force more candidates to run without party label.

The idea of nonpartisan elections makes more and more sense, especially in the public-works areas of government — those places where management of the office is more important than setting policy. There's not much ideology that can or should be attached to, say, the state treasurer, so why only elect Democrats or Republicans? That was state Treasurer Mike Murphy's idea — he offered to allow the Legislature to make the office nonpartisan, like electing an accountant or the state's best money manager regardless of party. Murphy, a proud Democrat, understands that he can be an effective steward of the state's purse without having to show his party card. The Legislature turned him down.

On the other hand, I don't think we've suffered greatly in Oklahoma by having the Treasurer elected by statewide vote: we were served well by Robert Butkin, a Democrat, and less well, I think, by his Republican predecessor, but the performance of neither, I believe, was affected by his party label.

And Jim Miller tosses in an angle I hadn't considered:

I am not wholly opposed to nonpartisan elections. They often make sense when the electorates are small. But they have one great disadvantage, well known to most political scientists, and unknown to almost all editors (or perhaps ignored by them). When electorates are large, political parties counterbalance the influence of the prominent — such as newspaper editors — with numbers. Partisan elections shift decisions toward majorities, and away from elites.

Nonpartisan elections especially increase the influence of newspapers, as Mr. Vesely must know. So when he argues that more elections should be nonpartisan, he is saying that the unelected editors at the Seattle Times should have even more influence. I can see why he would find that idea agreeable; I can't see why voters should grant him his wish.

Which leads me to the most obvious question: How much influence does the not-quite-post-Gaylord Oklahoman really have these days?

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:25 AM)
23 March 2005
Meanwhile on G Street

"We're hosed," said the Second Under-Assistant Deputy Secretary to the Sub-Director for Procurement. "Who knew it would cost so much?"

"Just mention 9/11. That usually shuts them up."

"Not this time, boss. The whole budget has gone to hell. We can't just say 'Hey, we're doing homeland security here,' and expect them to approve all our expenditures."

"We can't?"

"No, we can't."

An uncomfortable pause.

"Can we —"

"Don't even think it."

Finally:

"Can we cut payments to our contractors?"

"We could, I suppose. But how are they going to cut their expenses?"

"I'm sure they'll think of something."

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:45 AM)
25 March 2005
Why Ace rules

So far as is known for certain, Edmund Burke didn't actually say it.

And if he had, he probably wouldn't have said it quite the way Ace does:

When good men do nothing, evil men are permitted to rule.

On the other hand, doing nothing is a lot easier than doing something. Doing nothing ... I don't know. It just "feels right" to me, somehow.

And maybe evil men should be allowed to rule, come to think of it. They generally seem to be highly-motivated and good at organizing.

Ah, the hell with it. I'm a Republican. I pretty much exist to insure that evil men rule.

George Wallace, who once claimed there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, forks over a penny here: the Democrats have an occasional interest in getting evil women to rule.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:07 AM)
27 March 2005
Drawn and halved

King County, Washington is fairly huge: 2300 square miles (including 180 square miles of inland water) and a population around 1.75 million.

The seat of King County is Seattle, population 570,000, area maybe 90 square miles. But Seattle is tucked into the far western edge of the county, and residents on the eastern side have felt increasingly alienated by what they see as Seattle-centrism on the part of county officials.

Nor is this a new phenomenon: residents of King County south of Seattle envisioned separating themselves into a new county, to be called Cedar, back in the 1990s, but the Washington Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that state law did not permit new counties to be created by popular vote. Rep. Toby Nixon (R-Kirkland) offered a bill this year which would leave Seattle and King County as coterminous entities and would create a new county from what was left. Said Nixon:

We've heard the argument that King County is just too big to be managed effectively. And we know people in rural King County are tired of feeling like their lives are dictated by Seattle. But looking at it from the other side, wouldn't Seattle jump at the chance to cut the rest of King County loose? No more hearing us complain about Seattle imposing land-use rules on us, no more of our voting against light rail — just think of what Seattle could become if it didn't have us interfering in its plans, holding it back. It could spend its tax money however it likes and make whatever laws suit its priorities.

A heck of a pitch. But it's going nowhere in Olympia, at least not yet. So last week at a grange hall in North Bend, the new Cascade County Committee held its first meeting. They're facing an uphill battle: they must first persuade the legislature to allow the creation of new counties with one initiative, and should that succeed, then collect a second set of signatures to split off Cascade from King. The committee is not working with Rep. Nixon, though it would simplify their task should his bill actually get through the legislature. And they are considering four possible divisions, three of which would leave some other municipalities inside King County.

I don't see this sort of thing happening where I live — Oklahoma County is fractious, but in no particular danger of fracturing — but I'll be watching the birth (or stillbirth) of Cascade County, Washington with considerable interest.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:51 PM)
28 March 2005
Machiavelli has an off day

Was the Congressional action to save Terri Schiavo a cynical political ploy? Michael Barone says no:

It is possible that Democrats, if in control, might not have summoned a special session. But this was not a purely partisan issue. Democrats did vote for the bill and made its passage possible. Proceedings in the Senate could have been stopped by a single objection to a unanimous-consent request. No senator objected. Minority Leader Harry Reid cooperated fully with Republicans. In the House, enough Democrats returned from recess to provide the necessary quorum, and 46 Democrats voted for the bill, while 53 voted against.

Were all these Democrats and Republicans acting cynically? I don't think so. Take Sen. Tom Harkin, a liberal Democrat who worked for the measure. Harkin's interest arose from his long concern for the disabled — he was a chief sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act — and his desire to protect the rights of the incapacitated. Were his views informed by his Roman Catholic faith? I don't know, but what if they were? Legislators are under no obligation to have moral principles entirely divorced from religious beliefs. I can't answer for every member who voted for the bill or against it. But the quality of the debate suggests to me that large majorities on both sides were acting out of reasoned moral conviction more than political calculation.

And besides, the political fallout from the move, if you believe the pollsters, has been almost entirely negative. Evil Genius Karl Rove simply doesn't make this kind of mistake.

If I have any