Friday, November 30, 2007

Tom Tomorrow's 24-panel cartoon on Bill O'Reilly:

Some good ones (like the ratings chart). Start here for TT's intro.


Rudy took money from disabled people like these:

As New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani billed obscure city agencies for tens of thousands of dollars in security expenses amassed during the time when he was beginning an extramarital relationship with future wife Judith Nathan in the Hamptons ...

... auditors found ... $10,054 billed to the Office for People With Disabilities ...
From the New York City Office for People With Disabilities: (typical press release)
City Installs Beach Mats for the Disabled
The Department of Parks and Recreation this morning announced the installation of specially designed mats that give them better access to the sand and water.
read more
Referenced story ("
... the Parks Department installed almost 2,000 feet of accessible “Mobi-Mats” at four beaches around the city: at Beach 116th Street in Rockaway, Queens; at Brighton Beach, Brooklyn; at Orchard Beach, the Bronx; and at Midland Beach at Jefferson Avenue on Staten Island. All of the beaches have wheelchair-accessible comfort stations.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blogwatch: The Left Coaster

Have you been there lately? It's totally pro-Hillary and very anti-Obama and anti-Edwards. Very. (Just for the record, these posts: 1 2 3)

Because there is so much vitrol in the posts, you get the feeling that come November, if Hillary isn't on the ballot, they're going to vote for Nader (or someone like him). This blog, if it hasn't been made clear yet, will support any Democrat over any Republican in 2008, even if the candidate isn't particularly good on most issues. The lesser of two evils is lesser.


Where Joe Klein gets his information:
Klein Advisor Panel
Claims to have seen UFOs Asserts the Loch Ness Monster really exists Has evidence of WMDs in Iraq Found billions of dollars in a Nigerian bank account


Gawker on the Joe Klein / Glenn Greenwald disagreement:

Truly awful.

For being so shallow, these Beautiful People deserve whatever government they get. What Kevin Drum said is right-on:
The vast emptiness at the core of what these people do [at Gawker] is almost unfathomable, and their self-loathing ranks right up there with crack addicts and pole dancers at seedy nightclubs.


They don't call him Helicopter Ben for nothing:
Bernanke Hints of Further Rate Cuts
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday hinted that another interest rate cut may be needed to bolster the economy. The worsening credit crunch, a deepening housing slump and rising energy prices probably will create some "headwinds for the consumer in the months ahead," he said.

Bernanke said he expects consumer spending will continue to grow and suggested the country can withstand the current problems without falling into a recession. But he indicated that consumers could turn more cautious as they try to cope with all the stresses.

The odds have grown that the country could enter a recession. A sharp cutback in consumer spending could send the economy into a tailspin. Against this backdrop, Fed policymakers will need to be "exceptionally alert and flexible," Bernanke said.
In other words, there should never be a recession. Ever. Even if the fundamentals call for one (to restore housing affordability, a sustainable MEW rate, and undo the excesses created by a bubble). Just keep on printing the money, inflation be damned. Who cares if it's toughest on the poor? It's the asset holding class that must be protected (and that includes all homeowners).

Over at, there is this comment:
Bernanke is a “one-thought-man” and a “I-know-one-big-thing-man”. The one thought that is on the chairman’s mind is that if things tend to go wrong in the financial markets, open the spigots, cut rates, flood the markets; and his “one big idea” is that the Great Depression was caused because the central bank did not flood the markets with liquidity to the full extent back then.


Joe Klein is a turd:

In his infamous essay about FISA and the Democrats, Joe Klein made the following statements: (emp add)
  • "Democrats in Congress, ... are being foolishly partisan"
  • "[Democrats] continued indulgence in these futile, symbolic gestures conveys a sense of weakness and incompetence"
  • "The Democratic strategy on the FISA legislation in the House is ... foolish"
  • "[The Democrats' bill] is well beyond stupid"
  • "Speaker Nancy Pelosi quashed the House Intelligence Committee's bipartisan effort"
  • "[Pelosi] supported a Democratic bill that -- Limbaugh is salivating -- would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court
In Klein's correction, to be issued in the next issue of Time, we read:
"I was wrong to write last week that the House Democratic version of the Foreign intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would require a court approval of individual foreign surveillance targets. The bill does not explicitly say that. Republicans believe it can be interpreted that way, but Democrats don’t. To read the disputed section of the bill, go to"
Joe is correcting only the last claim in the list above. At no point does Klein retract his statements that Democrats are engaging in stupid, futile, foolishly partisan symbolic gestures that convey weakness and incompetence, which play right into the hands of Limbaugh. Which are charges based on Klein's initial misunderstanding of the legislation.

Nice partial-correction, Joe.


publius at Obsidian Wings:

This blog prefers Edwards - publius is for Obama - but other than that difference, wholeheartedly endorses the sentiment behind the post No More Clintons.


Shorter Joe Klein:

I get my information on critical issues from the guy who found WMDs in Iraq in 2006.


The Republican debate:

Andrew Sullivan writes:
I'm not ... someone who believes that a candidacy for the presidency of the United States should be based on someone's religious faith. So Huckabee is not for me. But he is easily the most appealing candidate for the current big-spending, evangelical, Southern Republican party. I don't find his religious schtick in any way appealing.
"Richelieu" at the Weekly Standard (!) writes:
The media will probably award a win to Mike Huckabee, the easy listening music candidate at home in any crowd, fluent in simpleton speak and the one man on the stage tonight who led the audience to roaring cheers by boasting that he had a special qualification to be president that none of the second-raters on the stage could match: A degree in Bible Studies from Ouachita Baptist University of Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
Walter Shapiro at Salon writes: (emp add)
And, please God, no more debate questions about the Bible. Somewhere in the dim corridors of memory, I recall being taught (admittedly under the liberal Earl Warren Supreme Court) that there were no religious tests for holding public office in the United States. The theology was getting so thick onstage Wednesday night (with Huckabee, a Baptist minister, all but offering to give Scripture lessons to Rudy Giuliani) that I imagined that instead of commercial breaks, CNN might interrupt the debate for two minutes of public prayer.

If this is really destined to be the God-help-us election, then maybe we should all stop worrying about all those other issues, including fringy Republican causes like the so-called fair tax. Instead, let a civic-minded network like CNN sponsor a debate on a single topic of vital importance. What I am, of course, suggesting -- and it certainly is what the Founding Fathers imagined -- is a free-wheeling two-hour face-off on the Bible and only the Bible.
A debate by the candidates on the Bible would be great because it would force them to get beyond the sloganeering that currently passes for fidelity to religion. A real good debate over which of the Commandment passages (2 in Exodus, 1 in Deuteronomy) should be the focus, which division should be heeded (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish), and if there are even explicitly ten commandments (try counting them). That's for starters. Then we could ask them what the meaning is when in the Hebrew Bible, the deity is called Elohim or Yahweh. Or explain why the last passages from the Gospel of Mark are not found in the earliest extant copies (as well as the adulterous woman in John). What is the message when Jesus couldn't perform any miracles in a Galileean town (hint: it had to do with the need for 'faith' in order to enter the New Kingdom, and healing was a foretaste of the egalitarian and disease free utopia to come).

These are not meant to be "trick questions" posed by an atheist to befuddle a believer. They are genuine questions that have, for the most part, good answers for someone well schooled in their faith. And if the Republican candidates say they are on top of things theologically (since they say it will guide their policy actions), then they should be able to deal with them. And even though you might think Huckabee would excel at this, don't be so sure. From this blogger's perspective, he comes off as a repeater of bromides rather more than anything.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This is not a Bear Market Rally:


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Slowly at first, then all of a sudden"

Those are the words of conservative Ben Stein when asked to talk about the dynamics of a financial crisis. (This was a year or more ago, discussing the housing bubble and how it might end)

Well, things are looking very interesting these days for banks, Wall Street, and the dollar. No predictions from this blog (which was way too early bearish in mid-2005), but there is a sense of things unraveling and the Fed being boxed into a corner.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Free trade follies:

When people (like Brad DeLong) say free trade is good because it allows each region to do what it does best, consider this story: New York Manhole Covers, Forged Barefoot in India, and ask yourself, "Are they better at making manhole covers, or merely using cheaper labor?"

It's true that in a world where everyone is paid the same for a given skill set, certain places will be able to produce more product for less. It's often because of geography (easier to grow pineapples in Hawaii than in Scotland) or a better educated workforce or manufacturing plant improvements). But when the differential in price is due to cheap labor and crummy working conditions, they are not "making it better" over there.


What begins when?

Talk about this blog being late to the debate. In a political ad for Mike Huckabee, we hear him say:
I believe life begins at conception.
Stop right there. From a biological point of view, that's nonsense. Why? Because there is life in the egg and sperm prior to conception. An egg and sperm are "life" (doomed to die if they don't merge, but life none the less). So what is Huckabee talking about?

Almost surely, he is speaking of ensoulment:
In Christian theology, ensoulment refers to the creation of a soul within, or the placing of a soul into, a human being ...
Where "human being" is any collection of cells (from one to trillions) with Homo sapiens genes aggregated together.

In the abortion debate, the use of the term "ensoulment" should be widespread. "Life" is a confusing word since it can refer to tumors, cells shed when shaving, blood, and any other cells undergoing metabolism.

Also, using the term ensoulment makes it clear what's being discussed. Virtually everybody would say that "life" for a unique genetic human, has a starting point at conception. But fewer would agree that "ensoulment" starts at conception. Some don't believe a soul exists. Others place encoulment later in fetal development (e.g. quickening).

So the next time someone talks about abortion, be sure that they use the term "ensoulment" throughout the debate. Accept no substitutes.

CODA: In the Huckabee ad there is a text-overlay: "Supports Federal Life Amendment". Shouldn't that be "Supports Federal Ensoulment Amendment"? And wouldn't that put it in direct opposition with the First Amendment?


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Why not wait 12 years?

On Fox News Sunday, Fred Thompson was bemoaning the fact that the AMT needs to be asjusted for inflation. Fine. But where was he when the Republican-controlled House and Senate didn't adjust the minimum wage* or the food stamps program** for inflation?

* - until 12 years later when the Democrats took power
** - for a similarly long time


Democrats lose either way:

There is a Heritage study that claims that Democrats are the "Party Of The Rich", and thus won't fight for the interests of the average Joe or Jane. It's classic statistics, torturing the data until it confesses (and there is a good rebuttal here).

But the thing is, if the study showed that the Democrats were the "Party of the Poor", then they would be charged, as they have in the past, with waging Class Warfare. You know, greedy poor folks who simply want to take stuff, for no good reason, from the wealthy.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Trying to get the level up (with just one post):

Before this post:

cash advance
The propinquity of mellifluous words in an Internet epistle (otherwise known as a blog post) can result in a denouement where one is situated in the highest echelon.

Mentioning philosophers Socrates, Plato, Kant and Hume as well as such schools as epicureanism, existentialism, hegelianism and hermeneutics can also act in furtherance of said goal. And it's advisable to quote luminaries like Goethe, Shakespeare, and Einstein. Be sure to include "chalcolithic" and "benthic" if you have the chance.

Biology offers a rich assortment of terms: neutrophil granulocyte, macrophage, chromatin, and hypochlorous acid for subsumption in your discourse.

Or maybe not. After this post: no change in reading level.

Explanation? According to D'Arcy Norman:
The readability test doesn’t take the actual content into account, just the lengths of words, sentences and paragraphs.


Shorter Tom Friedman:
The way to keep the peace is to have every country in the world act as if it's being led by deranged warmongers.

Oh, and keep in mind that a baseball bat can be a metaphor for something.   -   Something I think about a lot. (For which, I might say, "Suck. On. This.")


Thursday, November 15, 2007

It'll take 20 years to get over it:

Wondering how long it will take until this country's hysterical reaction to terrorism will take to subside? When we can look forward to a full restoration of civil liberties and the abandonment of foolish airport security procedures? Perhaps a look back to the 1980's can be a guide.

In 1986 a promising college basketball player, Len Bias, suffered a fatal cardiac arrhythmia that resulted from a cocaine overdose. It was big news. Really big news. The 9/11 of its day, you might call it. From the (pdf)
Crack was portrayed as a violence inducing, highly addictive plague of inner cities, and this media spotlight led to the quick passage of two federal sentencing laws concerning crack cocaine in 1986 and 1988. The laws created a 100:1 quantity ratio between the amount of crack and powder cocaine needed to trigger certain mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking, as well as creating a mandatory minimum penalty for simple possession of crack cocaine. The result of these laws is that crack users and dealers receive much harsher penalties than users and dealers of powder cocaine.
And now we read in the New York Times editorial: (excerpts, emp add)
Congress did a serious injustice when it imposed much tougher penalties on defendants convicted of selling the crack form of cocaine ...

The federal crack statute was passed during the height of the so-called crack epidemic of the 1980s, when it was widely, but mistakenly, believed that the crack form of the drug was more dangerous than the chemically identical powdered form. [...]

The United States Sentencing Commission, the bipartisan body that sets guidelines for federal prison sentences, urged Congress to eliminate the sentencing disparity more than a decade ago. [...]

... fortunately lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are finally recognizing that the crack laws are both grossly unfair and counterproductive. Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware, is sponsoring a comprehensive bill that would wipe out the 100-to-1 disparity, do away with the mandatory minimum sentence for first-time offenders and open up new treatment programs.
It's not a done deal, but an indicator of how long it takes to reverse legislation enacted during a period of hysteria.

So for you out there wondering when waterboarding, domestic spying without a warrant, and abandonment of habeus corpus will be conclusively rejected, you might want to wait until 2021.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Evolution and liberalism on the march?

This week on PBS' Nova there was a program about the Dover PA court case involving Intelligent Design. In the program, several people and events from earlier evolution/creation battles were recalled. One person, Phillip E. Johnson, doesn't like evolution and has spent much time on the issue. He's a member of the Discovery Institute, an anti-evolution group that penned the notorious Wedge Document.

If you read the Wikipedia entry for the Wedge Document, you will find at the bottom some references to articles on the evolution controversy. One, in the Washington Post from 2005, Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens, contains these lines:
A prominent effort is underway in Kansas, where the state Board of Education intends to revise teaching standards. That would be progress, Southern Baptist minister Terry Fox said, because "most people in Kansas don't think we came from monkeys."

Fox -- pastor of the largest Southern Baptist church in the Midwest, drawing 6,000 worshipers a week to his Wichita church -- said the compromise is an important tactic. "The strategy this time is not to go for the whole enchilada. We're trying to be a little more subtle," he said.

To fundamentalist Christians, Fox said, the fight to teach God's role in creation is becoming the essential front in America's culture war. The issue is on the agenda at every meeting of pastors he attends. If evolution's boosters can be forced to back down, he said, the Christian right's agenda will advance.

"If you believe God created that baby, it makes it a whole lot harder to get rid of that baby," Fox said. "If you can cause enough doubt on evolution, liberalism will die."

Like Meyer, Fox is glad to make common cause with people who do not entirely agree.

"Creationism's going to be our big battle. We're hoping that Kansas will be the model, and we're in it for the long haul," Fox said. He added that it does not matter "who gets the credit, as long as we win."
Terry Fox. Does that name ring a bell? Is should.

In last month's New York Times magazine, in a story titled The Evangelical Crackup. Key excerpt:
The hundred-foot white cross atop the Immanuel Baptist Church in downtown Wichita, Kan., casts a shadow over a neighborhood of payday lenders, pawnbrokers and pornographic video stores. To its parishioners, this has long been the front line of the culture war. Immanuel has stood for Southern Baptist traditionalism for more than half a century. Until recently, its pastor, Terry Fox, was the Jerry Falwell of the Sunflower State — the public face of the conservative Christian political movement in a place where that made him a very big deal.

With flushed red cheeks and a pudgy, dimpled chin, Fox roared down from Immanuel’s pulpit about the wickedness of abortion, evolution and homosexuality. He mobilized hundreds of Kansas pastors to push through a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, helping to unseat a handful of legislators in the process. His Sunday-morning services reached tens of thousands of listeners on regional cable television, and on Sunday nights he was a host of a talk-radio program, “Answering the Call.” Major national conservative Christian groups like Focus on the Family lauded his work, and the Southern Baptist Convention named him chairman of its North American Mission Board.

For years, Fox flaunted his allegiance to the Republican Party, urging fellow pastors to make the same “confession” and calling them “sissies” if they didn’t. “We are the religious right,” he liked to say. “One, we are religious. Two, we are right.”

His congregation, for the most part, applauded. Immanuel and Wichita’s other big churches were seedbeds of the conservative Christian activism that burst forth three decades ago. In the 1980s, when theological conservatives pushed the moderates out of the Southern Baptist Convention, Immanuel and Fox were both at the forefront. In 1991, when Operation Rescue brought its “Summer of Mercy” abortion protests to Wichita, Immanuel’s parishioners leapt to the barricades, helping to establish the city as the informal capital of the anti-abortion movement. And Fox’s confrontational style packed ever more like-minded believers into the pews. He more than doubled Immanuel’s official membership to more than 6,000 and planted the giant cross on its roof.

So when Fox announced to his flock one Sunday in August last year that it was his final appearance in the pulpit, the news startled evangelical activists from Atlanta to Grand Rapids. Fox told the congregation that he was quitting so he could work full time on “cultural issues.” Within days, The Wichita Eagle reported that Fox left under pressure. The board of deacons had told him that his activism was getting in the way of the Gospel. “It just wasn’t pertinent,” Associate Pastor Gayle Tenbrook later told me.

Fox, who is 47, said he saw some impatient shuffling in the pews, but he was stunned that the church’s lay leaders had turned on him. “They said they were tired of hearing about abortion 52 weeks a year, hearing about all this political stuff!” he told me on a recent Sunday afternoon. “And these were deacons of the church!”

These days, Fox has taken his fire and brimstone in search of a new pulpit. He rented space at the Johnny Western Theater at the Wild West World amusement park until it folded. Now he preaches at a Best Western hotel. “I don’t mind telling you that I paid a price for the political stands I took,” Fox said. “The pendulum in the Christian world has swung back to the moderate point of view. The real battle now is among evangelicals.” [...]

Fox, meanwhile, is already preparing to do his part to get Wichita’s conservative faithful to the polls next November. Standing before a few hundred worshipers at the Johnny Western Theater last summer, Fox warned his new congregation not to let go of that old-time religion. “Hell is just as hot as it ever was,” he reminded them. “It just has more people in it.”

Fox told me: “I think the religious community is probably reflective of the rest of the nation — it is very divided right now. This election process is going to reveal a lot about where the religious right and the religious community is. It will show unity or the lack of it.”

But liberals, he said, should not start gloating. “Some might compare the religious right to a snake,” he said. “We may be in our hole right now, but we can come out and bite you at any time.”
Because Fox was removed for "political" reasons doesn't necessarily mean that evolution is in the catbird seat, but it's likely that there will be less pressure on science teachers, at least for a while.


"economic policies":

Michael Gerson, writing about Americans' current funk over the economy says:
There are large reasons for these economic trends that have little to do with the economic policies of any single administration. Global competition has deprived America of many lower-skill, higher-paying manufacturing jobs.
So, "economic policies" doesn't include trade policy? It's obvious that a country could, if it chose to, erect barriers to competition that would protect the domestic work force. But the leadership doesn't do that because driving down the cost of labor, which is what happens when you have free trade with countries employing cheap labor, is in the interest of the businesses and the well-off establishment.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bob Herbert vs David Brooks + some facts you might not know:

David Brooks writing on 9 November 2007: (emp add)
Today, I’m going to write about a slur. It’s a distortion that’s been around for a while, but has spread like a weed over the past few months. It was concocted for partisan reasons: to flatter the prejudices of one side, to demonize the other and to simplify a complicated reality into a political nursery tale.

The distortion concerns a speech Ronald Reagan gave during the 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., which is where three civil rights workers had been murdered 16 years earlier. An increasing number of left-wing commentators assert that Reagan kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign with a states’ rights speech in Philadelphia to send a signal to white racists that he was on their side. The speech is taken as proof that the Republican majority was built on racism.

... there was [an] event going on that week, the Neshoba County Fair, seven miles southwest of Philadelphia. The Neshoba County Fair was a major political rallying spot in Mississippi (Michael Dukakis would campaign there in 1988). Mississippi was a state that Republican strategists hoped to pick up. They’d recently done well in the upper South, but they still lagged in the Deep South, where racial tensions had been strongest. Jimmy Carter had carried Mississippi in 1976 by 14,000 votes.

So the decision was made to go to Neshoba.
Bob Herbert writing on 13 November 2007: (emp add)
Let’s set the record straight on Ronald Reagan’s campaign kickoff in 1980. [...]

... [a civil rights activist] traveled to the town of Philadelphia in Neshoba County, Mississippi, a vicious white-supremacist stronghold. [...]

The murders [of 3 civil rights activists in Philadelphia, Miss.] were among the most notorious in American history. They constituted Neshoba County’s primary claim to fame when Reagan won the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1980. The case was still a festering sore at that time. Some of the conspirators were still being protected by the local community. And white supremacy was still the order of the day.

That was the atmosphere and that was the place that Reagan chose as the first stop in his general election campaign. The campaign debuted at the Neshoba County Fair in front of a white and, at times, raucous crowd of perhaps 10,000, chanting: “We want Reagan! We want Reagan!”

Reagan was the first presidential candidate ever to appear at the fair, and he knew exactly what he was doing when he told that crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.”
Back to David Brooks' assertion that having Reagan kickoff a campaign in Philadelphia was a benign attempt to reach out to Mississippi voters. That would make sense if Philadelphia was of reasonable size. But it's not. Today:

The population of Philadelphia is 7,303.
The population of Neshoba County is 28,700.

That's an extremely small slice of the pie. Assuming population ratios haven't changed over the years and with a 2000 census figure of 2,900,000 for Mississippi, we have Reagan going to a Philadelphia, a town with a quarter of one percent of the state's population.Looking at possible cities Reagan could have kicked off the campaign in Mississippi, with their percentage-of-the-state's population (recent numbers), we see:
  • Jackson 6.13%
  • Gulfport 2.50%
  • Biloxi 1.73%
And compare those with Philadelphia's 0.25%.

The point is that Reagan visited a tiny out-of-the-way place, as evidenced by the small population, not for its political efficacy (reach the most people) but to send a message. Of course, most people don't know what the population of Philadelphia, Mississippi is. If anything, they're aware Philadelphia Pennsylvania is a big city, and subconsciously think that Reagan was going to a place moderately large in Mississippi. But that's not so. And Brooks isn't going to set you straight.

Bob Herbert does refer to "the town" of Phladelphia (in the single instance where he mentions it!), but nowhere in Brooks' essay does he write an adjective for Philadelphia:
  • "the 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Miss."
  • "speech in Philadelphia"
  • "southwest of Philadelphia"
  • "straight from the Urban League to Philadelphia, Miss.
  • "in Philadelphia."


Friday, November 09, 2007

A blog to avoid:

The Times Online has a story about Tony Blair becoming a Catholic before Christmas. Towards the end, there are some links. One is to

Guess how big the html file is? Over 7 meg. That's got to be one of the biggest around. Remember, this is only html (text and formatting instructions). As it turns out, there are few images. If you use dial-up and accidentally clicked on the link to it would take about 20 minutes to load.

The site appears to have no archiving at all. Every post is there, dating back to July 27, 2003. Congratulations, guys. I'll try to never ever visit you again.


Stolen from the Post's comments section:

Go Rudy!
  1. Rudy single handedly built a successful case against Don Vito Corleone and was about to press charges when the Don died in his tomato garden.
  2. Armed only with a garden hose, Rudy drove all the squeege men to New Jersey.
  3. On 9-11 Rudy single-handedly rescued more than 3,000 people from the Twin Towers repeatedly risking his life to remove them to safety. Each one was wrapped lovingly in an American flag (Rudy not only has a lapel pin but always has with him 5,000 flags in case of emergency) as they were removed. And great patriot that Rudy imagines himself, not a single flag touched the ground or was sullied.
  4. On 9-12 Rudy had tracked down Osama and had him in a death grip at Brooklyn Bridge Station on the IRT. Just then Hillary was walking by muttering something about socialized health car so gay married couples could have abortions. Recognizing the greater threat to our fundamental way of life, Rudy let OBL go and began planning the fight against Hillarycare 2.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

I don't understand this:

In a column about Fred Thompson, Robert Novak writes:
In April, I encountered broad support for Thompson among social conservatives, who were impressed by his 100 percent pro-life voting record in the Senate and found fault only with his support for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill.
It's clear why business interests don't like regulations on campaign financing because they've got the money (and want to give a large sum from a single entity), but why would social conservatives feel that way? Is it because they have been told to oppose McCain-Feingold? What is the logic that connects, say, opposition to abortion with campaign finance law? Social conservatives aren't particularly rich, and aren't aching because they can only fork only a few thousand dollars to a candidate. What gives?


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The high twenties:

A few months ago there was speculation about how low Bush's approval could go. One theory was that it couldn't drop below 27 percent. Reason? Because that was the percentage that Alan Keyes got in the Illinois Senate election of 2004. The reasoning was if Keyes, a hard-right weirdo with next to no government experience coming from out of state, could get that proportion of the vote, it exposed the solid core of support for the Republican agenda.

And now we have a new number. From CNN: (emp add)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A majority of Americans consider waterboarding a form of torture ...

Asked whether they think waterboarding is a form of torture, more than two-thirds of respondents, or 69 percent, said yes; 29 percent said no.
Earlier this year (March, before the deadly Apr-June period) a USAToday/Gallup poll had this:
WASHINGTON — A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows deepening pessimism on Iraq, even as many Americans are reluctant to limit money or troops for the war effort.

Only 28% say the United States will probably or definitely win the war, down from 35% in December and the lowest since the question was first asked in September 2005.
27%, 29%, 28%.

These numbers can rise or fall by 5%, depending on the situation, but there appears to be a pretty solid conservative core that is in the high twenties.

In 1974 when Nixon was in big trouble, Time magazine looked at his remaining supporters and asked, "Who are the 25%?" (25 being Nixon's support level)

These people weren't necessarily religious, social, or cultural conservatives. They were political conservatives. Or, to use John Dean's characterization, "authoritarians". Interestingly, they consider themselves patriots, even though they are woefully ignorant of the founding principles of this country (Habeas corpus, restraining executive aggrandizement during war). They are tough political opponents. They'll use propaganda, character assassination, the power of the state (when they have it) to harass opponents, and try to steal elections. Because they are authoritarians. Power is all that matters, not persuasion or compromise. They don't care about public approval except to the extent that it's necessary to win elections, and then it's mosly obfuscation and rarely-honored promises to a core subset such as the religious right. They love the Senate and Electoral College because it makes it easier to attain power without majority approval (2000 Presidential vote). Once they get the power, it's time for cronies to get on board the gravy train and vanity projects are undertaken, like the Iraq War. It's bad for the country: money is wasted and important issues are ignored. Eventually the country gets into trouble - usually financially.

But even as the ship of state is listing, the authoritarians refuse to give up. In fact, their prescription is for more authoritarianism. More, more, more.

And we've seen a taste of that with the Republican presidential debates. Romney wanting to double Guantanamo. Rudy's ultra-neocon advisors. Et al.

This triumph of authoritarianism happens throughout history and eventually it fades from the scene, only to return decades later. But there are ways of minimizing its occurrence: tradition (including professionalism within the executive), government structure (checks & balances), and an aggressive press, can restrain the authoritarian impulse. Unfortunately, in the last 20 years in the United States, there has been a diminution of these restraints on power. Some of it is the conservative tilt of the press. Some of it is money in politics. Some of it is lack of leadership by the opposition. Some of it is a lazy electorate.

Eventually the situation gets so bad that everyone sits up and takes notice, and the hard work of setting things right begins.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Stop giving Bush ideas!

NYT: (emp add)
General Musharraf’s supporters argued Sunday that his government — now unencumbered by legal constraints and political concerns by the emergency decree — will be in a better position to eradicate extremists and that if the United States wants that security, it must back him.

“If your agenda is to save attacks in the U.S. and eliminate Al Qaeda, only the Pakistani Army can do that,” said the close aide to General Musharraf. “For that, you will have to forget about elections in Pakistan for maybe two to three years.”


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Last year:

President Bush praised President Musharraf as a key ally in
the 'war on terror' on the last leg of his South Asia tour. (BBC)


What principle?

Here are the opening lines of the Washington Post editorial: (emp add)
Two for Mr. Mukasey

Sens. Schumer and Feinstein buck the crowd.

THE HALLS of Congress are too often filled with cowardice and groupthink. So it is reassuring when not one but two lawmakers show the moral fortitude to defy party politics to take a stand on principle.
Yet, for the remainder of the editorial, no principle is identified.

Also, the editorial is sympathetic to Mukasey's refusal to say if waterboarding is torture because
supplying it would have put Mr. Mukasey in conflict with Justice Department memos that likely allow the technique
All hail the Justice Department memo! Written by anybody there! More powerful than a court decision, apparently. And because it's "likely" to allow waterboarding, well, what more needs to be said?

Of course, the Post Could have just as easily written:
not supplying it would have put Mr. Mukasey in conflict with the country's historical treatment of waterboarding as torture, including prosecution of Japanese who applied it to American and Allies' personnel during WWII


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Why Republicans want Hillary Clinton to get the nomination:

It's not because they think they can beat her in the general. She'd win. It's because voters will be somewhat uncomfortable voting for her (30 years of Bush/Clinton, "legacy", mischievous Bill in the background, first woman president) and as a result will resort to ticket splitting to make them feel better about voting for Hillary. Also, they remember the divided years of the 90's positively (for economic reasons), and will incline towards that on election day. Hillary will have negative coattails in 2008. Republicans will be satisfied with that.


When will Fox News Channel poll on John McCain's age?

This is for real. Fox: (emp add)
FOX News Poll: Americans’ 'Age Gauge' on Hillary Is Solid

NEW YORK — One in five Americans (20 percent) correctly estimates that Hillary Clinton was to turn 60 years old on Friday, according to a FOX News poll. In fact, a scant 11 percent of voters think the senator from New York is older than 60, while a majority (57 percent) guess a variety of ages younger than 60.

Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from Oct. 23 to Oct. 24. The poll has a 3-point error margin.

Interestingly, men (21 percent) are just about as likely as women (19 percent) to peg Hillary’s age at 60.

Oddly, Democrats (8 percent) are less likely than Republicans (13 percent) to correctly guess Clinton’s age.

The Democratic presidential contender’s contemporaries (voters aged 55 to 64) are the mostly likely age group to accurately estimate her age (35 percent).

When asked to pick the most appropriate theme song for a hypothetical birthday party, the most popular of the offered choices is "If I Ruled the World" by Tony Bennett (32 percent), followed closely by "I am Woman" by Helen Reddy (31 percent). "Stand by Your Man" by Tammy Wynette trailed in third position at 19 percent.

In case you were wondering, the poll question about "most appropriate theme song" was: (pdf here)
Hillary Clinton turns 60 years old later this week. If you had to pick a theme song for her birthday party, which one of the following would you choose?

1. "If I Ruled the World" by Tony Bennett
2. "I am Woman" by Helen Reddy
3. "Stand by Your Man" by Tammy Wynette
4. (Other)
5. (Don't know)
Bringing up the "Stand by Your Man" song is a direct reference to Hillary's statement on 60 Minutes in 1992 in the wake of allegations about Bill's womanizing. From the BBC:
In the interview Mrs Clinton said: "I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by her man. I'm sitting here because I love him and I respect him."
Her statement raised a stink at the time. Tammy Wynette was pissed. Fox is bringing up a 15-year old story for no other reason than to gin up the Bill & Hillary soap opera.

Raising the "age question" about a woman is really low. It is congruent with the "have you lost your looks?" query, which is a devaluation of a person's mind and accomplishments. It is usually directed at women.

Should we expect more polls by Fox on the following questions:
  • Who has more hair on their head, Fred Thompson or Rudy Guiliani?
  • Is John McCain's skin tone more like a leper or a cadaver?
  • Does 59-year old Duncan Hunter use hair dye once a week or once a month?
  • Same question about 60-year old Mitt Romney.
  • Same question about 61-year old Tom Tancredo.
  • Should people call Giuliani by his real first name, Rudolph?
  • Don't you think a name like "Rudolph" is kind of, you know, not very macho?
  • Do you think Baptist minister Mike Hickabee handles snakes and drinks poison on weekends?
  • Romney has five sons and no daughters. Do you think that's the result of pre-natal screening and selective abortions? Or is it the result of Mormon sorcery?
  • Which is more apt, to speak of Fred Thompson's "dewlaps" or "wattles"?
  • During Romney's "pre-mortal existence", what do you think he was up to?


Friday, November 02, 2007

Bush isn't concerned about the 21st century Hitler:

Bush in March 2002 press conference:
Q: But don't you believe that the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country.
Bush in November 2007 speech at the Heritage Foundation:
History teaches that underestimating the words of evil, ambitious men is a terrible mistake. [...]

In the 1920s, the world ignored the words of Hitler, as he explained his intention to build an Aryan super-state in Germany, take revenge on Europe, and eradicate the Jews -- and the world paid a terrible price. [...]

Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as ... Hitler before them. And the question is: Will we listen? America and our coalition partners are listening. We have made our choice. We take the words of the enemy seriously.
Bush also said that day:
Unfortunately, on too many issues, some in Congress are behaving as if America is not at war.
Which is true, since no additional taxes are being raised for the war, nor is there a draft, and Bush wants us all to keep on shopping.

The point is that Bush's scare talk is simply something that he turns on and off. Turns it on when he wants money for the war or to expidite a nomination. Turns it off when he wants tax cuts.

But most of the time he turns it on. And yet he manages to escape the "Where's Bin Laden?" admonishment.

UPDATE: Dick Polman has a post on much of the same territory. (P.S. He's a good read. Mostly liberal, but not always in agreement with your point of view.)


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Glenn Beck is a 21st century John Bircher:
Which is plainly evident from his recent talk about the United Nations. The question is, why does CNN have such a person on their payroll?