Friday, March 31, 2006

Check it out:
The Road to Dubai By PAUL KRUGMAN
And this is a good companion piece:
Mexico prefers to export its poor, not uplift them (CSMonitor)


The good news in Baghdad:

This week, Troubletown shows you where (and it's a map!).


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Illegal immigration solution:

Without going into all the details, it looks, from today's New York Times editorial, that the Senate Judiciary Committee bill is the best approach. It's really too bad that employer penalties haven't been enforced over the decades, since we're talking about what is essentially an economic crime. Unfortunately, history shows that such crimes are the least likely to be enforced - especially with Republicans controlling the executive and legislative brances. Maybe this time there will be real enforcement. As to the border and fences and guards, that's mostly for show. It's a way Republicans can appear to be halting the intake of immigrants, but in reality, since employers are largely left alone, it allows the economic magnet to continue to function.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Krugman says more:

From Economist's View:
Notes on Immigration, by Paul Krugman, Money Talks, NY Times: Immigration is an intensely painful topic for a liberal like myself, because it places basic principles in conflict. Should migration from Mexico to the United States be celebrated, because it helps very poor people find a better life? Or should it be condemned, because it drives down the wages of working Americans and threatens to undermine the welfare state? I suspect that my March 27 column will anger people on all sides; I wish the economic research on immigration were more favorable than it is.
Read it all. And keep in mind the following: "threatens to undermine the welfare state".


Too many low-skilled (illegal immigrant) workers driving down wages? The Republican solution is to bring in more skilled workers to cap wages for the college educated:

Many of us are debating the policies surrounding illegal immigration, and what effect, if any, it has on the low-end job market. Even if it's agreed that illegal immigrants are detrimental to the poor or to the quality of life (greater population density taxing the environment and infrastructure), there is the thorny problem of what to do since millions of them are already here.

That's an issue to follow. But for one Republican, it's not enough. Try to believe the following, from the WSJ opinion section (via PGL of Angry Bear's link to Economist's View):
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to resume its mark-up of Arlen Specter's immigration bill today. And the good news is that it contains long-overdue provisions for hiring more of the foreign professionals who help keep our economy competitive.

Under Mr. Specter's proposal, the annual cap on H-1B guest worker visas for immigrants in specialty fields like science and engineering would rise to 115,000 from 65,000. Moreover, the new cap would not be fixed but would fluctuate automatically in response to demand for these visas. ...

Anti-immigration groups and protectionists want to dismiss these market forces, arguing that U.S. employers seek foreign nationals only because they'll work for less money. But it's illegal to pay these high-skill immigrants less than the prevailing wage. ...
That's right. The Wall Street Journal editorial page is in favor of nearly doubling the H-1B visa count. All in the best interests of workers, you know.

  • "keep our economy competitive" = keep wages down
  • "illegal to pay less than the prevailing wage" = not engage in bidding up the salaries of high-skilled workers
NOTE: PGL and others over at Angry Bear take the opposite position from this blog regarding illegal immigrants. We have no differences on most economic issues with those commentators, but in this case, respectfully disagree.


Monday, March 27, 2006

The immigration debate - and what Krugman has to say (and observations by Myerson):

This blog considers large-scale immigration to be detrimental to the interests of the poor (by depressing wages) and to the quality of life for everybody else (sharp increases in population tax the infrastructure - plainly evident in places like So. California). That over the decades, it has been business interests which like to see an increase in the pool of workers (can anybody say H-1B?). Liberals who elieve in a regulated economy, who believe that a regulated economy helps reduce the harsh Social Darwinism of the free market, see regulation necessarily extending to issues like immigration. Unfortunately, there are lots of down-and-out racists who also don't want any of 'them folks' coming here. So it's difficult to have a calm debate on the topic. But that doesn't mean it should be ignored.

Along the lines of examining the likely outcome of large-scale immigration, you should take a look at Paul Krugman's most recent NYTimes Op-Ed, North of the Border.

Some excerpts:
  • ... the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small. Realistic estimates suggest that immigration since 1980 has raised the total income of native-born Americans by no more than a fraction of 1 percent.
  • ... many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration - especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans. The most authoritative recent study of this effect, by George Borjas and Lawrence Katz of Harvard, estimates that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration.
  • ... modern America is a welfare state, even if our social safety net has more holes in it than it should - and low-skill immigrants threaten to unravel that safety net.     ... low-skill immigrants don't pay enough taxes to cover the cost of the benefits they receive.
  • ... the political threat that low-skill immigration poses to the welfare state is more serious than the fiscal threat ...
  • ... we'll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants. Mainly that means better controls on illegal immigration.
  • ... Mr. Bush's plan for a "guest worker" program is clearly designed by and for corporate interests, who'd love to have a low-wage work force that couldn't vote.     What about a guest-worker program that includes a clearer route to citizenship? I'd still be careful.     ... it could all too easily end up having the same effect as the Bush plan in practice - that is, it could create a permanent underclass of disenfranchised workers.
About the current hot topic, Krugman says:
... the harsh anti-immigration legislation passed by the House, which has led to huge protests - legislation that would, among other things, make it a criminal act to provide an illegal immigrant with medical care - is simply immoral.
The recent Republican bill that would make it a felony to be an illegal immigrant is a waste of everybody's time. And there is the mean-spirited sanctions against helping. The place to put the pressure is on the employers, to insure that they pay good wages to the existing pool of citizens. Hiring illegal immigrants is effectively 'outsourcing at home', and oursourcing of all types (manufacturing, white collar) threatens whatever progress that's been made over the past 100 years by unions and the college educated. Now (actually it's been going on for a long time), cheap immigrant labor threatens the poor.

And do you want to know why we have so many illegal immigrants - mostly from Mexico? Blame NAFTA. In February, Harold Myerson of the Washington Post wrote a fascinating essay, NAFTA and Nativism, describing how NAFTA allowed cheap, subsidized U.S. agribusiness to sell to Mexico, undercutting whatever stability there was in that country with their farmers. So what did many of those displaced agricultural workers do? Head north. And business interests throughout the U.S. cheered. Myerson:
The North American Free Trade Agreement was sold, of course, as a boon to the citizens of the United States, Canada and Mexico -- guaranteed both to raise incomes and lower prices, however improbably, throughout the continent. Bipartisan elites promised that it would stanch the flow of illegal immigrants, too. "There will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home," said President Bill Clinton as he was building support for the measure in the spring of 1993.

But NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, could not have been more precisely crafted to increase immigration -- chiefly because of its devastating effect on Mexican agriculture. As liberal economist Jeff Faux points out in "The Global Class War," his just-published indictment of the actual workings of the new economy, Mexico had been home to a poor agrarian sector for generations, which the government helped sustain through price supports on corn and beans. NAFTA, though, put those farmers in direct competition with incomparably more efficient U.S. agribusinesses. It proved to be no contest: From 1993 through 2002, at least 2 million Mexican farmers were driven off their land.

The experience of Mexican industrial workers under NAFTA hasn't been a whole lot better. With the passage of NAFTA, the maquiladoras on the border boomed. But the raison d'etre for these factories was to produce exports at the lowest wages possible, and with the Mexican government determined to keep its workers from unionizing, the NAFTA boom for Mexican workers never materialized. In the pre-NAFTA days of 1975, Faux documents, Mexican wages came to 23 percent of U.S. wages; in 1993-94, just before NAFTA, they amounted to 15 percent; and by 2002 they had sunk to a mere 12 percent.

The official Mexican poverty rate rose from 45.6 percent in 1994 to 50.3 percent in 2000. And that was before competition from China began to shutter the maquiladoras and reduce Mexican wages even more.

So if Sensenbrenner wants to identify a responsible party for the immigration he so deplores, he might take a peek in the mirror. In the winter of '93, he voted for NAFTA. He helped establish a system that increased investment opportunities for major corporations and diminished the rights, power and, in many instances, living standards of workers on both sides of the border.

So long as the global economy is designed, as NAFTA was, to keep workers powerless, Mexican desperation and American anger will only grow.
Free trade with countries of significantly different standards of living, when implemented quickly, simply gives the advantage to business. (A slower phase-in does not. Gradual adjustments are made while the 'lesser' country catches up.) Don't forget, Bush is a big fan of NAFTA, CAFTA, and anything else like it. Whose interest do you think he is representing?

Whatever your opinion is on the issue, don't look for much sense to be made on either side of the debate. Many tired and discredited arguments will be heard, and probably the net result will be hard feelings all around.

How to solve the problem? It isn't a 'solution' in the complete sense, but if the U.S. experiences a sharp recession, the current fueled-by-borrowing economy will no longer be a magnet.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Send in the clowns:

Today, on Meet the Press, there was this exchange: (excerpts, emp add)
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Iraq. A big discussion in our country about Iraq, the way the issue is being covered by the media. [...]

And then this Wednesday, President Bush went to a town meeting in West Virginia of his supporters, and here’s one of the questions that was asked:
(Videotape, March 22, 2006):
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And I ask you this from the bottom of my heart, for a solution to this, because it seems that our major media networks don’t want to portray the good. They just want to focus... [...] They just want to focus on another car bomb, or they just want to focus on some more bloodshed.
MR. RUSSERT: Does that issue work, that it’s the mainstream media that’s distorting the good news that’s coming out of Iraq?

MR. RUSSERT: David Broder?

MR. BRODER: The ombudsman at The Post, Deborah Howell, has a very thoughtful analysis of this whole question in the paper today, which I would refer people to. I think the answer is that when there is this level of violence and turmoil in a country, that has to be the heart of the story that the press is, is telling. The other parts of it do get told, but they do not dominate the news and they can’t dominate the news given the realities of that country.
Broder is referring to The Post and the Whole Picture in Iraq, which is typical Howell. And that's not a compliment.

In fact, over at Busy, Busy, Busy, a fine catch has been made of Howell's failure to think. Check it out.


Wikipedia vs. Britannica - the battle continues:

From (excerpts)
A WAR of words has erupted over a study claiming that the Encyclopaedia Britannica is only marginally better than its upstart internet challenger, Wikipedia.

The venerable Britannica, founded in Edinburgh in 1768, is demanding that the scientific journal Nature publicly retract its finding that the open-source Wikipedia "comes close" to Britannica in accuracy.

In a 20-page statement on its website, Britannica complained that the Nature study was “fatally flawed”. [...]

But Nature stuck to its guns, and fired back: "We reject those accusations, and are confident our comparison was fair." [...]
Standard stuff. But then the report continues, with a political angle:
More recently, Wikipedia has uncovered efforts by American politicians to clean up their image. Staff of Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, apparently removed a paragraph from his Wikipedia entry recording his false claim to have flown combat missions over North Vietnam.

Similarly, staff of Senator Norm Coleman, a Republican, rewrote his Wikipedia biography so that he was described merely as an "activist" at university, not a "liberal".
Senators behaving badly. But Wikipedia does appear to have made an error:
A Wikipedia entry for Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma falsely reported that he had been voted "most annoying senator".
So, who is the most annoying senator? Bill Frist is hard to top, what with the Schiavo business. Brownback is pretty rancid (which perhaps isn't "annoying"). But let's not forget the Democrats. Biden is a contender, what with his motor mouth. And Lieberman grates.

Who is the most annoying senator?


Friday, March 24, 2006

Shorter Ben Domenech:
Everything I have to say has already been said before.



Posted at 02:10 AM ET, 03/24/2006
Fresh Thoughts

Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30,
and is not a conservative, has no brains. To be mature means to face, and not evade, every
fresh crisis that comes. Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount. Be not
ashamed of thy virtues; honor's a good brooch to wear in a man's hat at all times. The
difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable
act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.

- - -

Perfection of moral virtue does not wholly take away the passions, but regulates them. The
happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions.
Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through
self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.

- - -

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. About the most originality that
any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment. A scrupulous writer,
in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I
trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

- - -

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps,
the end of the beginning.

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Who said that? Winston Churchill, Fritz Kunkel, Clare Booth Luce, Ben Johnson, H. L. Mencken, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Josh Billings, George Orwell, Winston Churchill

[Note to readers: This experiment didn't work out. Chaining together 'famous' quotes doesn't scan well. Probably should have made an essay from words by present-day commentators + movie quotes + ad slogans instead.]


Thursday, March 23, 2006

On the reservation:

A while back, this blog wondered what the Native Americans in South Dakota might do in the wake of the anti-abortion law. Now we have the answer:
"When Governor Mike Rounds signed HB 1215 into law it effectively banned all abortions in the state with the exception that it did allow saving the mother's life. There were, however, no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. His actions, and the comments of State Senators like Bill Napoli of Rapid City, SD, set of a maelstrom of protests within the state.

Napoli suggested that if it was a case of "simple rape," there should be no thoughts of ending a pregnancy. Letters by the hundreds appeared in local newspapers, mostly written by women, challenging Napoli’s description of rape as "simple." He has yet to explain satisfactorily what he meant by "simple rape."

The President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, was incensed. A former nurse and healthcare giver she was very angry that a state body made up mostly of white males, would make such a stupid law against women.

"To me, it is now a question of sovereignty," she said to me last week. "I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction."


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Robert Samuelson is making sense:

In a surprising column, We Don't Need 'Guest Workers', Samuelson makes the economic case in support of ordinary working Americans (as opposed to his usual Social Darwinist mode). Excerpts:
Guest workers would mainly legalize today's vast inflows of illegal immigrants, with the same consequence: We'd be importing poverty. This isn't because these immigrants aren't hardworking; many are. Nor is it because they don't assimilate; many do. But they generally don't go home, assimilation is slow and the ranks of the poor are constantly replenished.

It's a myth that the U.S. economy "needs" more poor immigrants. ... They're drawn here by wage differences, not labor "shortages." In 2004, the median hourly wage in Mexico was $1.86, compared with $9 for Mexicans working in the United States ...

... what would happen if new illegal immigration stopped and wasn't replaced by guest workers? Well, some employers would raise wages to attract U.S. workers. Facing greater labor costs, some industries would ... find ways to minimize those costs. As to the rest, what's wrong with higher wages for the poorest workers? From 1994 to 2004, the wages of high school dropouts rose only 2.3 percent (after inflation) compared with 11.9 percent for college graduates.

Business organizations understandably support guest worker programs. They like cheap labor and ignore the social consequences. What's more perplexing is why liberals, staunch opponents of poverty and inequality, support a program that worsens poverty and inequality. Poor immigrant workers hurt the wages of unskilled Americans. The only question is how much. Studies suggest a range "from negligible to an earnings reduction of almost 10 percent," according to the CBO.


Aren't you tired of waiting?
  • For the Bird Flu to become human-transmissible, or to subside and no longer be a threat?
  • For the Iraq situation to either settle down to a degree of normalcy, or to completely blow up and be an undisputed failure?
  • For the U.S. trade and fiscal deficits to be seriously tackled, or to trigger a painful 'rebalancing' of global capitalism?
  • For this country to really get behind new energy technologies, or for Peak Oil to finally arrive?
  • For Roe vs Wade to be upheld or overturned by the current Supreme Court?
  • For Glenn Reynolds, the Powerline boys, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, Brit Hume, Hugh Hewitt, Fouad Ajami, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Medved, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Joe Scarborough, John Gibson, William Bennett, David Brooks, Rich Lowry, John Podhoretz, David Horowitz et al. to admit they were wrong about Iraq?
  • For George Bush to finally lose it on-camera?


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The protector:

About Bush's Monday speech defending the Iraq War, Digby remarks:
He has said that his job is "to protect you" about 50 times. Does anyone find this paternalistic "I will protect you" stuff as creepy as I do?
Wrong, Digby! Bush only mentioned protect (and its variants) sixteen times - and of those, a mere eight times in reference to the terrorists/Iraq (bold below):

  • ... coalition and Iraqi forces [are] coming to protect [the citizens of Tal Afar]
  • ... the operation accomplished all this while protecting innocent civilians and inflicting minimal damage on the city.
  • I vowed after September the 11th, that I would do everything I could to protect the American people.
  • ... I also understand my most important job, the most important job of any President today, and I predict down the road, is to protect America.
  • Foreign policy used to be dictated by the fact we had two oceans protecting us.
  • My most important job is to protect you, is to protect the American people.
  • ... we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel ...
  • ... how do we deal with threats before they fully materialize; what do we do to protect us from harm? That's my job.
  • ... I think about my job of protecting you every day -- every single day of the presidency ...
  • [my] job ... is to protect the American people
  • [Sunnis wonder] whether or not they'd be protected.
  • ... when you grow your economy, like we're growing our economy, there is an opportunity to not only protect ourselves [from economic threats]
  • ... my most important job, which is to protect you.
  • ... one good way to do so, and to protect the environment at the same time, is to encourage the use of safe nuclear power.
  • [referring to the NSA] ... after September the 11th, I spoke to a variety of folks on the front line of protecting us ...
  • ... How do we protect our borders ...?
This from a guy who, when alerted that Bin Laden was determined to strike the U.S., ignored the warning and took a month-long vacation.

[BTW, Bush's 'protector act' worked to some degree. Here is what one questioner said at the occasion: "Mr. President, I just finished Ambassador Paul Bremer's book, and one of the things I just wanted to say to you and to Ambassador Bremer is thank you for protecting us."]


Bush holds surprise press conference:

What a brave, brave thing to do. Wouldn't you like to, say, set the time and place of your job interview? Just show up unannounced; the employer has to scramble and grab whatever staff can be had at the moment to evaluate you.

It's as if Bush can't schedule a potential hostile confrontation. Only on a given morning, when he's up for it at that moment, will he have the strength to face the press. That is so like a depressed, wasted alcoholic.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Fear Factor:

[INTRO: We generally disagree with Andrew Sullivan, except when he's deploring torture, but this week his blog seems to be where the interesting material is found.]

Bruce Bartlett, author of the conservative anti-Bush book Impostor : How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, has written to Andrew Sullivan about Bush being "loyal". Excerpts:
I disagree with your characterization of Bush as being famously loyal — a view so widely stated that you can be excused for repeating it. Bush is loyal ONLY to toadies, suck-ups and sycophants. Anyone who shows an ounce of independence — or loyalty to the country above loyalty to him — is punished or dispensed with ...

... loyalty with Bush is strictly a one-way street: total loyalty is demanded, but none is ever really offered in return.
[Kevin Drum has said that several times, going back as far as 2003. A B C D]

... I have never understood why so many people — both inside and outside the administration — continue to give Bush so much loyalty. I can only conclude that it is borne more from fear than agreement with his policies. I think there is genuine fear of crossing the president ...
Remember, Bush was his dad's political enforcer (and learned under the vicious Lee Atwater). Sullivan counters with the absurd:
Part of this may be due to the fact that Bush is personally a nice guy.
That aside, what Bartlett wrote (read the whole thing, it's not much) goes a long way towards explaining why the Republican controlled Congress has been so spineless.


Feingold censure resolution - maybe the right thing to do:

Last week, this blog came out not endorsing the Feingold censure motion. It didn't seem like it would be good politics. Sure, if all the Democrats were on board, that would be nice. But since that wasn't the initial reaction, what Feingold did seemed to be counter-productive in terms of the overriding goal: Have the Democrats control at least one house of Congress.

Also, to some degree, what Neil the Ethical Werewolf said over at Ezra Klein was persuasive. That the Democratic leadership wasn't hopeless, that it scored a victory over Bush with Social Security, and, frustrating though it may be at times, perhaps they do know what they are doing. And by extension, Feingold action was a disruptive, counter-productive event.

But that initial, seat-of-the-pants assessment may have been wrong. As a writer to Andrew Sullivan (yes, him again) put it, citing Bill Kristol on the likely political effect, raising censure may have a long term impact that in the end, hurts Bush more than it energizes Republicans.


A remarkable standard-issue AP report:

Not billed as opinion, but merely by an Associated Press Writer, is this: Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments in Speeches

It neatly summarizes the many instances where Bush attributes an outlandish opinion to "some people", which Bush 'sensibly' opposes. One excerpt:
When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

He typically then says he "strongly disagrees" — conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.

Bush routinely is criticized for dressing up events with a too-rosy glow. But experts in political speech say the straw man device, in which the president makes himself appear entirely reasonable by contrast to supposed "critics," is just as problematic.

Because the "some" often go unnamed, Bush can argue that his statements are true in an era of blogs and talk radio. Even so, "'some' suggests a number much larger than is actually out there," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

A specialist in presidential rhetoric, Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis, views it as "a bizarre kind of double talk" that abuses the rules of legitimate discussion.

"It's such a phenomenal hole in the national debate that you can have arguments with nonexistent people," Fields said. "All politicians try to get away with this to a certain extent. What's striking here is how much this administration rests on a foundation of this kind of stuff."
Of course, another term for "using a straw-man" in speeches is to call it "lying".

UPDATE: Best post in the associated Yahoo message board:
Some Say - Sex With KIds Is OK...

...but I say vote the Republicans out this November!


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Some folks aren't so keen on the US winning in Iraq:

Andrew Sullivan (yes, we know) posts an interesting e-mail from somebody who worries about the consequences of success in Iraq. That they may not bode well for the U.S. in the long run.

Worth reading.


This is absolutely insane: (emp add)
PRESIDENT BUSH reaffirmed yesterday his policy of pre-emptive strikes against terrorists, rogue states with weapons of mass destruction and hostile regimes perceived to threaten the United States.

In the first review of national security strategy since the invasion of Iraq three years ago, the Administration — undaunted by the political and military damage that it has since sustained - asserted that the strike-first policy remained the same. The President said: "If necessary . . . under long-standing principles of self-defence, we do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur — even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack."
This is so far from the stability that's achieved by not striking until attacked (e.g. Mutual Assured Destruction) that it can be seen as nothing more than a policy designed to encourage war.

That must be what they want. There is no other way to look at it.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Feingold censure resolution - probably the wrong thing to do:

There has been much discussion about the merits of Russ Feingold's censure resolution. Was it the right thing to do? What about the timing? Shouldn't the other Democratic senators join him? Etc.

At this blog, we have one and only one standard for behavior in this election year:
Will it increase the chance that Democrats gain control of one of the chambers of Congress?
That's it. Nothing else matters. If anti-abortion Bob Casey becomes the senator from Pennsylvania, fine. If Feingold's censure motion diminishes whatever political standing the Democrats have, then that's not fine.

This blog is inclined to support the position of Kevin Drum. Of interest are two posts on this subject by Digby and Glenn Greenwald. Note that in their defense of Feingold's action, neither makes the case that it will help the Democrats in the upcoming election.

Digby and Grenwald don't say it explicitly, but they are arguing to a substantial degree about what Democrats should do. That's not convincing. It's what the Democrats will do this year that matters. If they shun Feingold, that's the reality. Saying Democrats should be united against Bush via censure won't make them so.

Would this blog like to see the Democrats united with Feingold? Yes. But they aren't. Is this blog defending those Democrats who are running from the issue? No.

On principle, Feingold is correct. The president should be censured (at a minimum). But so what? The issue here is power and who wields it. This is not the time for moral judgements. Those judgements have already been made. On Abu Ghraib, Schiavo, WMD claims, corruption, meddling in science, war of agression, cutbacks for the poor, ripping the safety net. And so on. Everybody knows what Bush is about. Now is the time to win elections. If the Democrats appear to be united - by the absence of a wedge issue like censure - that's great, even if it's an illusion. Whatever it takes to win in 2006.

If Feingold's motion would result in improved chances for Democrats, then by all means it should be embraced. Will it? It's a judgement call. This blog takes the position that it will not improve chances. If Digby or Greenwald or others think censure will help, that's a legitimate argument, even if it's an intuitive gut-feel. But it's not one we've read.

Finally, this post will end with a remark guaranteed to stir up trouble, but one that has to be said. After watching what happened in 2000 with Nader voters, do we really have to go through another exercise of people failing to support a flawed party (Democrats) in order to learn that pursuit of progressive purity is exactly what the Republicans would like to see?

UPDATE: Instead of pointing the blowtorch solely at Nader and the Greens, let's go back to 2002. Remember that election year? Remember how it was considered important to unseat Jeb Bush? Remember how Terry McAuliffe spent precious money in Florida? That money might have been able to make the difference in senate races. Races that could have allowed the Democrats to maintain a toe-hold in the Senate?

But no, the moral certainty crowd wanted blood and didn't consider the welfare of the nation as a whole, which would have been best served by ignoring Jeb and focusing on the national governance.

If the Democrats had some power in the Senate after the 2002 election, just imagine how different things would have been. Real investigations into Bush's intelligence claims. Real investigations into torture allegations. And a better prospect for whoever would run in 2004.

UPDATE 2: Recall Peter Daou's "The Dynamic of a Bush Scandal"? His essential point was that over time, Bush and his allies manage to defuse a scandal. In general, with each passing week, the saliency of a Bush outrage diminishes. With that in mind, Feingold should have considered a motion to censure much earlier. Before the White House and Frist and Sen. Roberts had time to work on "moderate" wavering Republicans. Before, say, the State of the Union address. But instead, Feingold makes his move after much of Bush's defensive fortifications are in place. And in a way that subtracts from the recent Democratic advantage over the Dubai port affair.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

No need to drill in the ANWR:

From Wikipedia on Arctic Refuge drilling congroversy:
There have been conflicting reports as to the amount of oil in ANWR. A 1998 USGS study indicated at least 5.7 billion (95% probability) and possibly as much as 16.0 billion (5% probability) barrels (0.9 to 2.5 km³) exists in ANWR, with a mean value of 10.4 billion barrels (1.7 km³). Technically recoverable oil within the ANWR 1002 area (excluding State and Native areas) is estimated to be at least 4.3 billion (95%) and as much as 11.8 billion (5%) barrels (0.7 to 1.9 km³), with a mean value of 7.7 billion barrels (1.2 km³).
From today's news item, Fox Announces Major Mexico Oil Find
VERACRUZ, Mexico - President Vicente Fox climbed aboard a drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday to formally announce a new deep-water oil discovery he said could eventually yield 10 billion barrels of crude oil.

An exploratory well dubbed Noxal 1 was drilled at a depth of 3,070 feet below the water, and is seeking a depth of 13,125 feet.
Okay, discovering oil somewhere else doesn't mean arguments about ANWR drilling (pro or con) are nugatory. But it's striking that the reserve estimates are the same.


Another empty claim:

From Bush's speech on Monday:
Some of the most powerful IEDs we're seeing in Iraq today includes components that came from Iran. Our Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, told the Congress, "Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militia with the capability to build improvised explosive devises" in Iraq. Coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran.
Via AMERICAblog (a Reuters story)
The top U.S. military officer said on Tuesday the United States does not have proof that Iran's government is responsible for Iranians smuggling weapons and military personnel into Iraq.

President George W. Bush said on Monday components from Iran were being used in powerful roadside bombs used in Iraq, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week that Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel had been inside Iraq.

Asked whether the United States has proof that Iran's government was behind these developments, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing, "I do not, sir."

"Unless you physically see it in a government-sponsored vehicle or with government-sponsored troops, you can't know it," Rumsfeld said at the same briefing. "All you know is that you find equipment, weapons, explosives, whatever, in a country that came from the neighboring country."

"With respect to people, it's very difficult to tie a thread precisely to the government of Iran," Rumsfeld added.
How much longer will this charade go on?


Bush still hiding behind friendly audiences:

Remember last summer, when Bush would only speak to military audiences? That was pathetic. But now, if you aren't paying close attention, you might think that Bush is doing the manly thing, and speaking boldly to a mixed (or even hostile) audience. Here's how Monday's speech was reported:
  • San Francisco Chronicle: ... a speech to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.     ... In his speech at George Washington University
  • Boston Globe: Speaking at George Washington University before an audience assembled by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative foreign policy group ...
  • AP (Nedra Pickler): The president, speaking to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies at George Washington University ...
  • Los Angeles Times: The speech - delivered at George Washington University to an audience assembled by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which describes itself as an institute established to fight "the ideologies that drive terrorism"
If you don't know what the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is, you're left with the impression that Bush, speaking at George Washington University, was perhaps, speaking to a general audience. At least that was our impression at first. Are you familiar with FFTDOD?

Here's a rough outline:
  • President: Clifford May (check out his profile at Right Web)
  • They approvingly link to John Gibson of the Fox News Channel.
  • Their Board of Advisors includes: Gary Bauer, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Zell Miller, and Richard Perle (and regrettably, also, Donna Brazile and Charles Schumer)
  • "Distinguished Advisors" include Newt Gingrich, Joe Lieberman, and James Woolsey
  • From their Success Stories page: Training Campus Anti-Terrorism Advocates
    At a time when college campuses are under the sway of apologists for terrorism, FDD has trained hundreds of professors and students as pro-democracy, anti-terrorism advocates and activists.
So it's pretty hard-core right wing.

That's the kind of audience Bush only seems to want to talk to.


A fascinating chart:

The always interesting Professor Pollkatz has a new graph up. The Flush Bush. Check it out (but first by going to his main page for the hitcount and consider the Tip Jar while you're there).


Monday, March 13, 2006

Want to kill the liberal impulse? Start a war.

This interesting tidbit from the USATODAY story, Conflict will define Bush's role in history:
"War kills reform," says Robert Dallek, an LBJ biographer and author of Hail to the Chief: The Making and Unmaking of American Presidents. "It consumes the energy of the administration, the public, the press. This is what the focus is on."

The Spanish-American War curtailed a populist wave. The Progressive Movement ended when World War I began. When the United States entered World War II, FDR told Americans that "Dr. New Deal" had been replaced by "Dr. Win-the-War." The Korean War stalled Truman's Fair Deal. Vietnam overshadowed the Great Society.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Democrats, your prayers have been answered!

Daschle Considering '08 Presidential Bid

About time.


Friday, March 10, 2006

What's the deal?

Heard a discussion on the radio today about South Dakota's anti-abortion bill. That currently, it's hard to get one there since there is only one clinic for that procedure (and they fly in doctors from Minnesota). Requires driving lots of miles, for one thing. And if abortion is outlawed, one person said abortions could still be had, if one drove out of state.

But what about Native American Tribal areas (aka 'reservations')? Aren't they excempt from state law? Some sell cigarettes without taxes. What state laws apply in tribal areas?

Also, what is(are) the predominant religion(s) in those areas? Does each group have their own religion, or is Christianity the main one? Fundamentalist Christianity? Have the Mormons made gains there? And what are their feelings about abortion?

If South Dakota outlaws abortion and it's held up by the courts, are clinics in tribal areas an option?

Any answers appreciated.


It's not the reality (or so the Republicans would have you believe)

In a new story, Poll: Bush Approval Rating Hits New Low, we read:
Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq - the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February.
Yup, that's mighty bad. And so we also read:
"While I don't dispute the fact that we have challenges in the current environment politically, I also believe 2006 as a choice election offers Republicans an opportunity if we make sure the election is framed in a way that will keep our majorities in the House and the Senate," said Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
"Framing" as opposed to telling anything near the truth. Now all politics is to some extent sales, but with the Republicans that's pretty much all it is. And so, instead of facing the issues, Mehmlan is saying that the task is to "frame" things "in such a way" (!) to keep the majorities. Perhaps that means focusing intently on at-risk congressional seats and running over-the-top campaigns like the one a couple of years ago that said if Democrats get in, people will lose there bibles. Wouldn't put it past them.

And another thing. If the economy slows, then Bush will really get close to Nixon-style approval numbers, and he will be constantly under siege. That would be fun to watch.

And yet another thing. It appears that Bush's handling of the Katrina hurricane made a deep and lasting impression on people, perhaps because it 'confirmed' the ineptitude of the management of the Iraq war (and especially the "Heck of a job, Brownie" remark which even got David Brooks mad). The question is, can Bush reverse his decline? It's hard to see much upside going forward, in part, because Bush's character is now seen as suspect. That's a hard thing to rehabilitate. Look how long it took, and how much effort, for Jimmy Carter to get respect. About the only way Bush could recover in the short run (next 12 months) would be if he could pull a rabbit out of a hat - with an improbably settling down towards peace and prosperity in Iraq. But, as some commentators have pointed out, all administrations eventually reflect the nature of the president, and Bush is simply not interested in the hard work necessary to make things a success. Short of a 'fixer' like James Baker III showing up - and it could happen - the administration looks like it will continue to drift, to Bush's detriment.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Based on an offhand remark during this morning's Al Franken show:


Great cartoon:

If you haven't read (or at least skimmed) Froomkin's "Cheney's Still Got It" - which comments on Cheney's hand in muscling the Senate Intelligence Committee so that they'd back off, do so now. Or, to save time, here are the key lines: (emp add)
FROOMKIN: Faced with the frightening prospect of public hearings and active Congressional oversight into President Bush's contested domestic spying program, the White House sent out its big dog -- Vice President Cheney -- to bring straying moderate Republicans to heel. [...] Cheney took point in the White House effort to quash a full-blown investigation into the program. And the guy still gets the job done.

QUOTING NY TIMES: The agreement, hashed out in weeks of negotiations between Vice President Dick Cheney and Republicans critical of the program, dashes Democratic hopes of starting a full committee investigation because the proposal won the support of Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine. [...] Mr. Hagel said the group worked out the last-minute deal in long telephone calls with Mr. Cheney; the White House counsel, Harriet E. Miers; and Stephen J. Hadley, the assistant to the president for national security.
Then take a look at today's Pat Oliphant cartoon.


The missing demographic:

In all the recent talk about the anti-abortion law of South Dakota, the focus has been lost. We've been reading about teenagers who might be raped, easy women who should carry to term 'cause that's what they deserve for their libertine ways. But these cases, deserving as they may be for debate, omit the biggest and most powerful demographic:
Staid married couples who use fallible birth control.
They are, in the eyes of everybody from liberal to conservative, doing the right thing. They are monogamous. They are living in safe neighborhoods. They are not engaging in "let's take a chance tonight" sex. They are being responsible.

Sure, the right to an abortion should be for all, and not based on perceived moral character. But let's talk practical politics. The message should go out to the huge number of happily married couples:
If your contraception fails, you will be forced to have a baby.


About those presidential powers ...

In recent years we've been hearing a lot about how the Constitution grants the president power to do pretty much anything he wants to do. The oft cited line is that the president "shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States".

But all that means is that the president is the top of the chain of command for the armed forces. And nothing more. It does not say that the president has any specific powers as Commander in Chief. He cannot (legally) print money as Commander in Chief (pace John Yoo).

What does the Constitution say? George Will gave a summary recently:
the administration's argument that because the president is commander in chief, he is the "sole organ for the nation in foreign affairs." ... is refuted by the Constitution's plain language, which empowers Congress to ratify treaties, declare war, fund and regulate military forces, and make laws "necessary and proper" for the execution of all presidential powers.[emp original]
What is the actual text Will is referring to? Article I, Section 8, last line:
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
In other words,
Congress makes all laws for the execution all powers of the United States.
That would include whatever the president might be doing as Commander in Chief. The president has no legal powers defined, except for issuing pardons, making treaties, and appointments - the latter two which require the approval of the Senate.

Check out the president's powers in the Constitution. It's all in Article II - and it's not a whole lot.

Are we being textualists here? You bet.

Oh, for those who say FDR exceeded his authority, so don't get upset of Bush, the answer is FDR was wrong to do so and Bush is wrong to do so today.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Keep your eyes out for this expression:

[Via Roger Ailes] In the review for a new conservative book, Getting America Right, we read: (emp add)
Flag, faith and family; free markets and free trade; limited government, local control and individual responsibility are the ideals championed by Heritage Foundation president Feulner and chairman Wilson in this conservative manifesto on what's wrong with America and how we can fix it. Drawing on Heritage Foundation research, according to the foreword, they prescribe a litmus test for government policies that readers can employ on their own by asking the following questions of any proposed policy: "Is federal action necessary?... Does this measure promote self-reliance?... Is it [fiscally] responsible?... Does it make us more prosperous? Does it make us safer?... Does it unify us?" Censuring both "tax and spend" Democrats and today's "borrow and spend" Republicans, the authors are critical of the Bush administration and the mushrooming national debtÂ?$7.7 trillion at the time of publication, they note. But their tally of federal waste (e.g., overpayments in tax credits for "the undeserving poor") and fraud to cutÂ?$100 billion worthÂ?comes nowhere near closing the huge federal deficits they decry, and their solutions (e.g., flat tax and Social Security privatization) will surely provoke partisan debate.
When you have something called "the undeserving poor", then you've got a great excuse for cutting programs for the poor. Simple as that.

Having watched moderate Republicans in the 60's through the early 90's, it always seemed that they were conservative, but that there were limits as to how far they would go. That may have been an illusion due to Republicans trying to be competitive in a more liberal era. But now, when the restraints are off, Republicans are no longer moderate, and they are becoming more like aristocrats every day. Aristocrats, not in a high-minded chivalrous way, but in the manner of medieval Europe: people are mostly serfs and all wealth flows to the top.


Senate Intel Committee gets tough! Makes demands on White House!

In the spirit of bipartisanship, in a straight party-line vote, the Senate Intelligence Committee comes up with a plan for strict oversight of the NSA spying: (emp add)
The agreement would reinforce the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was created in 1978 to issue special warrants for spying but was sidestepped by the administration. The measure would require the administration to seek a warrant from the court whenever possible.
Yes! The reinforced FISA court will now oversee the wiretapping whenever possible.

To hell with Republican "moderates" like Hagel and Snow. They're pathetic.

One of the more dispiriting news items of the year.

Excellent commentary on this mess over at Glenn Greenwald.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Knave, Fool, or Both? (We vote for Both)

Via Huffington Post (Arianna's blog):
RUMSFELD: "I think the biggest problem we've got in the country is people don't study history any more. People who go to school in high schools and colleges, they tend to study current events and call it history... There are just too darn few people in our country who study history enough."
From the Washington Post (via Kos):
RUMSFELD: "We do know, of course, that al-Qaeda has media committees. We do know that they teach people exactly how to try to manipulate the media. They do this regularly. We see the intelligence that reports on their meetings. Now I can't take a string and tie it to a news report and then trace it back to an al-Qaeda media committee meeting."
This is crazy talk. Suggestion for Rumsfeld:
  • Skip the history classes for Americans. That takes too long, and anyway you should have budgeted for it in 2002.
  • Since you know about the al-Qaeda media committees, why not capture some of them and trace back to Bin Laden? Then you could nab him and the other leaders of the group. And the terror threat would be substantially reduced.
Just a sugggestion.


"Thanks a lot, Nader voters!   Thanks a lot!"

That was Al Franken this morning, right after noting that South Dakota had enacted legislation that effectively banned all abortions. Expect to hear more of that sort of thing as the issue makes its way to the Supreme Court.

Since Nader had no chance whatsoever of winning the presidency, the only reason for voting for Nader in 2000 was to chasten the Democratic party and the electorate as a whole. Well, it worked. And here we are. Nader voters* must be pleased that people are taking notice, in part, because women will now suffer under anti-abortion legislation.

Making life more miserable for (mostly disadvantaged) people in the hope that voters will endorse a progressive agenda is a political strategy this blog totally rejects.

* - at the very least, those Nader voters in Florida.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

"The American fascist would prefer not to use violence." - Henry Wallace (1944)

That's a quote from the book, America, Fascism, and God (2005). Here is a longer excerpt: (emp add)
In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, "write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?" Wallace’s answer to those questions was published in the Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan. See how much you think his statements apply to our society today: "The really dangerous American fascist," Wallace wrote, ". . . is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."

In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism he saw rising in America, Wallace added, "They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."
I can't vouch for the book as a whole (e.g. the author doesn't like the World Trade Organization), but it looks interesting.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Absolute must read:

"Frist's claim that he wants to block the NSA hearings in order to ensure that the Committee can engage in meaningful oversight is as Orwellian an example of up-is-downism as you will find." - Glenn Greenwald

Another attempt by Republicans to change the rules, justified by Frist's claims that
"the Senate Intelligence Committee is unable to its critically important oversight and threat assessment responsibilities due to stifling partisanship that is exhibited by repeated calls by Democrats on the Committee to conduct politically-motivated investigations"
Of course, anybody can say at any time that an investication is "politically motivated" - whatever that's supposed to mean. Frist is echoing the Bush defense that all criticism is "playing politics"; that holding up policies to scrutiny is out of bounds.

In any event, go read Greenwald.

Other commentary on this mess can be found at Kos. Meanwhile, ReddHedd at firedoglake writes:
Bill Frist is nothing but a cheater, who is trying to rig the Committee -- a majority of whose members WANT to provide oversight and actually DO their jobs. This is the single most craven, pathetic and weak move -- the fact that the interests of the nation would be served by an oversight hearing takes a back-seat to Karl Rove's marching orders that George Bush's authority not be questioned. Ever.
And asks:
What, exactly, does Bill Frist and the rest of the Republican leadership think their job is as Senators? I mean, honestly: what is your purpose as a separate branch of government, if not to provide checks and balances through meaningful oversight, on important issues like violations of law and an end-run of Constitutional principles on top in addition to your legislative duties? Why are my tax dollars paying your salary, funding your cushy health insurance, paying your substantial retirement plan -- if you aren't going to bother to do your whole job?
The fact that Frist is pulling this stunt makes it look very likely that he's working hand-in-glove with the White House to cover up eavesdropping that is not connected in any way with fighting terrorism.

This blog tends to be analytical and not much inclined to activism. But this threat by Frist warrants contacting your Senator about this - even if it's only an email.


Friday, March 03, 2006


Look closely at the clip from the hurricane Katrina video conference that had Bush saying little except empty promises.
It's a guy taking pictures of Bush. That's important. Why bother with additional staff who could be involved with the federal response to the crisis? Far better to have pictures of the president looking good.

By the way, is Bush the Clarence Thomas of the executive branch? Both apparently don't ask any questions when important subjects are debated. Perhaps it's because they don't have much of an ability to be engaged with anything complex.

UPDATE: The cameraman appears to be using a still-shot camera (not a videocamera) and almost certainly took this picture (below) which was released by the White House to show Bush fully engaged.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

In fairness to Bush:

Everybody is coming down hard on George because he said in the days after Katrina hit, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." Critics say it was anticipated, and point to the briefing he got before the hurricane hit (the videotape that's making the rounds). But note, the weather guy said that he was concerned that the levees would be overtopped. Not breached.

UPDATE: We were just kidding around, but it turns out the boys at Power Line are actually making that argument.


Two Tom Tomorrow posts worth looking at:

One: A short photo essay showing what local governors and a Senator were doing at the height of the Katrina flooding, constrated with Bush.

Two: That recent poll of soldiers who said troops should be out of Iraq soon. Hardly covered, the fact that a substantial majority are under the misimpression that Saddam and al Qaeda operated together and that he was involved in 9/11.


Three pessimists walk into a bar:

On the subject of Iraq, three remarkable essays today in the Washington Post - from folks who supported Bush a couple of years ago:
  • Robert Kaplan - We Can't Force Democracy
    The decision to remove [Saddam] was defensible, while not providential. The portrait of Iraq that has emerged since his fall reveals him as the Hobbesian nemesis who may have kept in check an even greater anarchy than the kind that obtained under his rule.

    The lesson to take away is that where it involves other despotic regimes in the region -- none of which is nearly as despotic as Hussein's -- the last thing we should do is actively precipitate their demise. The more organically they evolve and dissolve, the less likely it is that blood will flow.
  • Jim Hoagland - Face Iraq's Past : Phony National Reconciliation Is a Bad Choice
    To promote an enforced phony national reconciliation built on concessions to Sunni extremists to wean them from violence, as Washington has repeatedly attempted, is self-defeating.
  • George Will - Rhetoric of Unreality : Where Is Iraq After Nearly 3 Years of War?
    Almost three years after the invasion, it is still not certain whether, or in what sense, Iraq is a nation. And after two elections and a referendum on its constitution, Iraq barely has a government. A defining attribute of a government is that it has a monopoly on the legitimate exercise of violence. That attribute is incompatible with the existence of private militias of the sort that maraud in Iraq.
These on the heels of William Buckley's It Didn't Work.

Iraq isn't a lost cause yet, but it's getting close. These essays are a clear indication that Bush has lost his political capital. And he could sink further in the opinion of conservatives.

NOTE: Even George Will is fed up with Bush's language:
Last week, in the latest iteration of a familiar speech (the enemy is "brutal," "we're on the offensive," "freedom is on the march") that should be retired, the president said, "This is a moment of choosing for the Iraqi people." Meaning what? Who is to choose, and by what mechanism? Most Iraqis already "chose" -- meaning prefer -- peace. But in 1917 there were only a few thousand Bolsheviks among 150 million Russians -- and the Bolsheviks succeeded in hijacking the country for seven decades.


Bush and the Indian nuclear technology agreement:

Today Bush was touting the benefits of the deal. There were three main points:
  • It will restrain the global price of oil-based energy.
  • It will help the Indian economy.
  • It will be good for U.S. businesses that sell nuclear material and technology.
Item two: Yup, that's what somebody whose been outsourced, or fears being outsourced, wants to hear. That there will be plenty of electricity available for the tech centers in Bangalore - courtesy of Bush. It won't sell. Of course, there are those who are giddy over the notion of getting cheaper services from India. People like Tom Friedman and Charlie Rose. But for the most part, folks are freaking out over the prospect of an economically powerful India. All those reports this week on the news and morning shows of confident Indians ready to "do business" add to the concern for job security.

It's not nice, but most Americans would prefer to see a backward India, not making much of a difference to the U.S. economy one way or another.

Oh yeah, and the deal looks like another weakening of an international agreement, in this case the NPT.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Free chair:

Suitable for use at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib.


Justice Kennedy is not a smart man:

In the Supreme Court hearing on the Texas redistricting case, we learn: (PBS News Hour)
Mr. Smith [opponent of the Texas action] had argued that mid-decade redistricting for partisan purposes only also created constitutional problems. And Justice Kennedy said: Well, if you take away this flexibility from them, you may be removing an important incentive for them to draw fair districts, because you no longer have the hammer that there can be a mid-decade correction.
In order for an incentive to work, there have to be enforceable rewards and punishments. But there are none in the Texas case, or others like them. If, say, the redistricting was done 'fairly' in 2000, that wouldn't have stopped Tom DeLay's effort for a more advantageous configuration in 2003/4.

In fact, the only place where incentives for fairness can be enforced, is with the Supreme Court*. A notion that Justice Kennedy is too dim to perceive.

[* barring Rococo state constitutions that say majority redistricting can be reversed, but supermajority approval of redistricting requires subsequent supermajorities for mid-decade redistricting.]