Saturday, November 13, 2004

Name Names!

Josh Marshall has some good points here, though I imagine he has some specific people in mind...

If you've lived in Washington for any length of time you know it's laughable to imagine that the Republican operators are any less well-heeled or disconnected from lives of most Americans than their Democratic peers. Indeed, increasingly over the last decade, the big torrents of easy money flow into Republican hands. (With Congress in GOP hands, business has much less need to hedge its bets.)

But the Democrats do have an aristocracy of operatives --- and the ‘a’ word is appropriate on a number of levels. Some have been around for decades, a few of the best came up with Clinton in 1992, and others came in during the '90s when the getting was good and mistook the power of incumbency for their own skill.

More than anyone or anything else they are the Democratic party. With organized labor as diminished as it is and party organizations at every level less institutions than conduits for political money, these folks are the power-brokers, the institutional memory, most of everything that persists over time, cycle after cycle, long after the race horses (i.e., the candidates) are put out to pasture.

So for all these reasons there is something rich and precious about hearing some of these folks sagely noting how the leadership of 'the party' is out of touch with the Red States when they are the party, when they're the folks who've been in the drivers' seat for years. If there’s a problem and especially if it revolves around being out of touch with the lives of ordinary Americans, then by all means the first place to start is for some of these folks to say a collective, my bad, my time has passed and depart the scene --- especially if their proposed remedies are as clich├ęd and pathetic as the ones many of them are offering.



And, he's spot on with his previous (and presumably related) post regarding such people who would go after Kerry. Whatever one thinks of Kerry or the campaign that was run, it's only the fragile egos of the terminally pathetic which are served by trying to kill the candidate a second time. I'm all for learning from mistakes, but the greater cause isn't served by throwing feces at the guy you were supposed to be working for. Anyone remember a thing called "loyalty?" And, right now Kerry is the effective leader of the Democratic party, though how long that will last and how much he makes of it remains to be seen. We've heard noises about him taking a prominent role - we'll see what he chooses to do - but at least for now he's the only one in the position to do so.


But, the good news is I hear that some of the powers that be are a bit fed up with their backstabbing brethren, and do indeed know who they are... Let the purge begin!

Vioxx

Another hearty endorsement for the concept of "self-regulation."

Book thread

Someone asked for one, and it's a good idea. There are so many people who post here that exemplify what's best about this country. Not afraid, not insensitive, not willing to support the unsupportable.

We're readers. That's a good thing.

Evening Thread

Chat away.

Follow the Bouncing Ball

From Kaus to Sully to Brooks and then finally... .
a correction

Not that it will do him much good at this point, but I owe John Kerry an apology. I recently mischaracterized some comments he made to Larry King in December 2001. I said he had embraced the decision to use Afghans to hunt down Al Qaeda at Tora Bora. He did not. I regret the error.

No Embeds at Landstuhl

Greg Mitchell informs us that there are no reporters embedded at Landstuhl. 400+ wounded have been taken there this week.


It's grim, but I'd like to know how many single/double+ amputees have been created by this war? How many people blinded or made deaf? How many sentenced to a life in a wheelchair? How many with moderate or worse brain damage?

Progress

Bush radio address today:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush on Saturday painted a rosy picture of the situation in Iraq, claiming significant progress in the U.S. military's battle in an insurgent stronghold.

In his weekly radio address, Bush applauded the assault on Fallujah, west of Baghdad. About 80 percent of the city was said to be under U.S. control, with insurgents pushed into a narrow corner. But the battle has claimed 22 American lives and wounded about 170 U.S. troops and violence has now spread to other Sunni Muslim areas of Iraq.

"Our forces have made significant progress in the last several days. They are taking back the city, clearing mosques of weapons and explosives stockpiled by insurgents and restoring order for law-abiding citizens," Bush said.


Bush radio address every other goddamn week.

Faces of the Fallen

Any idea when the Washington Post put this up? It's new to me, but don't know how actually new it is...

Pletka

Oh boy, more crazy people in charge of our foreign policy.


You can watch Ms. Pletka here.


...in comments jri makes an important point - the Bushies have gone through all the 1st string crazies and now we're on to the 2nd stringers. Creepy.

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Late Night

Chat away.

Bonus Cat Blogging

Friday Cat Blogging

The Decline of the American Brand

Wolcott has a post about how rising anti-Americanism will have non-trivial economic consequences. I have no doubt that this true. I lived in Europe at the tail end of the Clinton administration and at that time America really was "cool." Sure, American pop culture and brands have long been embraced by Europeans, but somewhat sneeringly. When I was there I was surprised at the degree to which the sneer had been replaced by genuine admiration. Well, no more.

And, given the kafkaesque nightmare that our immigration system has become (it was always crazy, but agents were at least allowed some flexibility which kept the system together), I have no doubt that we're no longer a particularly attractive destination for "high quality" (income/education) immigrants.

Values

Wingnuts are upset that Mary Cheney would dare show herself in public with her partner.

Who's Next?

America just isn't America without a high profile trial going on...

Scott, we'll miss you...

This Above All

I love stupid wingnuts.

Bizarro World

I just heard a report on NPR about a group of Chinese Muslims who have been in Guantanmo. We've decided that they're no longer a threat. The Chinese government wants us to hand them over so they can try them on terrorism charges.

We don't want to hand them over because... yes, you know it's coming...

The Chinese government may torture them.

Afternoon Thread

Chat away.

Action Alert

Call Dr. Mary McIntyre, Medical Director of Alabama Medicaid, and ask her why she wants Lauren Rainey to die.

(334) 353-8473


...you may also email mmcintyre@medicaid.state.al.us (thanks to the ll)

DNC Chair

I think Markos is right that the choice is roughly between the "status quo" and the "new." Someone like Vilsack will carry on things as they've been, while people like Dean or Rosenberg would signal a new direction (though Stirling spells out clearly all of the reasons Rosenberg would be a bad idea.) Full disclosure, I've met Simon a few times.

I've joked that I'll support (not that my support matters of course) the person who promises to fire the most people. That isn't because everyone who works there is necessarily individually incompetent, but it's obviously a place where institutional stasis has set in. I imagine phrases like "we do it that way because that's the way we've been doing it" are regularly spoken.

The Dean/Rosenberg tagteam is an intriguing possibility. But, it's important to understand that the job itself is largely undefined. The right question is not " who is the right person to do X?" The right question is, "who has the best ideas for determining what X actually is?"

AARP Newspeak

First they support the disastrous Medicare drug bill and now they embrace whatever language Rove tells them to embrace. Cut your AARP card...

The White House dislikes the word "privatization,'' which it sees as a misleading and imprecise way to describe Mr. Bush's ideas for Social Security. Democrats insist that the term is accurate.

E-mail messages circulated within AARP in recent weeks indicated that the group would avoid the word whenever possible.

One message, by an editor of an AARP magazine, says, "There is a new forbidden word at AARP: Social Security privatization.''

Another e-mail message, by a manager of its Web site, says, "The term 'privatization' is stricken from our vocabulary forever.''

David M. Certner, the organization's director of federal affairs, said "privatization'' had no fixed meaning or definition. To some people, he said, it means "getting rid of the entire program'' - a goal not favored by the White House.

All this is just bullshit. While there is no plan on the table because there isn't actually any way to pay for it, Bush's not-plan would allow "volunteer" private accounts. You're free to not do it, but then you're just throwing tax money into a system which no longer has a guaranteed benefit payout. Some choice.


And, along those lines, write public@nytimes.com and ask the New York Times to stop referring to this as "Bush's plan." Right now there is no plan, just a stump speech. A plan would be an actual detailed policy proposal. Currently it's just an "idea."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Alterman on Crazy Andy

This is about right:

Speaking of people offering a lot of free advice, I suppose Andy Sullivan is not really a slobbering, muttering idiot in real life but he sure does play one on TV. I’ve never seen Bill Maher’s show before—and thankfully, the Time Warner DVR stopped taping before he started grabbing his ass, but I was embarrassed for Andy, if that can be believed, when he started screaming nonsensical insults at an absent Noam Chomsky, (with whom I strongly disagree on almost everything, for the record). I didn’t take notes but I recall Andy whining about Chomsky’s speaking fees—hey it’s just the free market that makes them so much higher than Andy’s—and mine, for that matter. And his screaming that there can be no debate over the meaning of words like “freedom” and “democracy” was so silly it refutes itself. Also unfortunate for Andy was his insistence that, and again, I paraphrase, “no one in the world accepts the figure of 100,000 Iraqis dead,” which Chomsky used in his interview with Maher. Well, actually, if you look at Little Roy's blog today, you’ll see that the only peer reviewed study of the issue—given the fact that the U.S. government refuses even to attempt this count—gives just that figure. Today, Andy is a bit more circumspect in his language and calls the figure “a little fishy.” The Economist is also critical. To tell you the truth, I think it’s high too. But the “no one in the world” quote is simple idiocy and cedes the argument to Chomsky, since he actually has a source and Andy only has his insults.

Oh yeah, this is what might be called the “money quote.” Right after Maher interviewed Chomsky, Andy turned to Maher and said, “That’s why you lost the election.” Maybe it’s me but I didn’t realize that the Democrats had nominated Noam Chomsky as their candidate. In fact, I didn’t even know he was one of their advisers, or played any role in the campaign, or that any one who did even spoke to him or had a good word to say about anything related to his abilities as a foreign policy analyst. I also thought Andy actually voted for the guy who did run; you know, the one who didn’t have the platform that not only endorsed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage but also insisted on banning all civil unions. Some people seem to think that the Democrats' refusal to condemn people like Andy was the reason they lost the election in that heartland with which he professes to be in such close contact. I suppose I don’t blame him for blaming MIT Linguistic professors instead.

Gonzales

I've been thinking a lot today about what the Democrats can do about the Gonzales nomination. I do think it would be a mistake to filibuster, or at least signal an intent to filibuster, this nomination. He's a bad guy for all the reasons we know, and his nomination proves that George Bush doesn't actually give a shit about the lives of our soldiers in Iraq. But, there is no shortage of bad guys Bush can put in charge of the JD and so filibustering him will have little actual positive impact. Winning a battle is always nice, but in this case winning achieves little.

The thing is, if the Dems start talking filibuster it will instantly become a process story to the media. They love those, because they're easy, and it will allow them to ignore the substance.

The nomination presents the Dems with a great opportunity. They can use the hearings to shine as much light as they can on what has been transpiring. But, also, they can use them to make the moral case against Gonzales and the man who appointed them. This will take great skill, but it may be possible to demonstrate how inept, morally bankrupt, and corrupt these people really are.

There's little value in filibustering Gonzales, but there is great value in demonstrating just how inappropriate this nomination is.

Life

Tomorrow, we shall raise a stink about this.

Nick Dupree was in the same situation. He sued, and won.

Lauren will win too. And fast.

Anything That Moves

More cheery news.

Two of the three small clinics in the city have been bombed, and in one case, medical staff and patients killed, he said. A U.S. tank was positioned beside the third clinic.

“People are afraid of even looking out the window because of snipers,” he said, asking that he not be named for his own safety. “The Americans are shooting anything that moves.”

The number of civilian casualties in the city is not known. Most of the city’s 200,000-300,000 residents are thought to have fled before the offensive. Those remaining have endured days without electricity, frequent barrages and dwindling food supplies.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, called the offensive “very, very successful.”

Speaking on NBC’s “Today” show, he acknowledged that guerrillas will move their fight. “If anybody thinks that Fallujah is going to be the end of the insurgency in Iraq, that was never the objective.”

I don't know what to do about Iraq. I do know that no matter how bad the baddies of Fallujah are they weren't a threat to the US or US interests before the war. I don't know what retaking Fallujah will accomplish, or what "retaking it" means, other than increasing our troops presence there. I imagine very little good, and a lot that is possibly bad. And, no this isn't a criticism of the troops, it's a a criticism of their civilian overlords including Allawi who is credited with giving the orders these days.

I do know that the people involved in getting us into this war and who failed to do a single thing right once Statue-Toppling-Day occurred should have been held responsible. But, sadly, the voters didn't do that on Nov. 2 and now it seems that most of the key people will be promoted, not fired.


And, yes, Americablog is right - the most insightful commentary about the state of affairs before the election did indeed come from Ed Helms of the Daily Show, who raised the rather obvious but overlooked point of how does one run any kind of election campaign during a period of martial law.

DNC

Matt Stoller raises the question which, while obviously not unrelated to the question of who should be in charge of the DNC, is probably the more important question -- just what should the DNC do with its time, money, influence, and resources?

People have the tendency to lump the politicians, the party institutions, and other assorted but unaffiliated groups together. But, the DNC doesn't really play the role that most people imagine. In fact, 3 years out of 4 it really doesn't have a clearly defined role. Aside from running the convention and the presidential nomination process, and trying to help elect the president, it doesn't really have much of a specific mandate. Obviously the DNC chief can have a public role, or not. But, given its nominal place on top of the power pyramid and its obvious ability to raise funds, it could do a lot more. Ideas?

Alabama Amendment 2

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to repeal portions of Section 256 and Amendment 111 relating to separation of schools by race and repeal portions of Amendment 111 concerning constitutional construction against the right to education, and to repeal Section 259, Amendment 90, and Amendment 109 relating to the poll tax. (Proposed by Act 2003-203)


And the winner is (recount possible)...

NO!

With an amendment to delete segregation-era language from Alabama's Constitution headed toward defeat by a narrow margin, state officials say an automatic recount would likely be set for November 29th.

A spokesman for Secretary of State Nancy Worley said the attorney general's office issued an advisory opinion stating such a recount should be held after the completion of the statewide election canvass on November 24th. Unofficial returns showed Amendment Two trailed by two-thousand-494 votes out of the one-point-38 million cast last week. A new state law mandates a recount when an amendment is defeated by fewer than one-half of a percent, and Amendment Two was within that margin.



Oh well.

Biden - Mostly Useless

Here.

I have no strong feelings about whether the Democrats should oppose Gonzalez. Anyone Bush nominates is going to be horrible. They should use the opportunity to get him under oath on a few things, and remind the world just what AG Torturer - and the Bush administration - stands for.


[[to be clear, by oppose I mean try to filibuster. Of course they should vote against him and be on record as opposing him.]]

...some wingnuts are opposing him because he apparently is on record as thinking crazy thoughts like it's his job to uphold the law and not just make stuff up.

"Within the short period of one week, the president has been silent on pro-abortion Sen. Arlen Specter's desire to chair" the committee, said Brown. And now, she said, Bush "has spoken out in favor of a judge with a pro-abortion track record to lead the Justice Department."


"Why is President Bush betraying the babies? Justice begins with protecting the most vulnerable in our midst. Please, Mr. President - just say no to the unjust views of Alberto Gonzales," Brown concluded.



Why indeed Mr. President? Why are you betraying the babies?

FALLUJAH, Iraq - Fighting in Fallujah has created a humanitarian disaster in which innocent people are dying because medical help can’t reach them, aid workers in Iraq said on Wednesday.

In one case, a pregnant woman and her child died in a refugee camp west of the city after the mother unexpectedly aborted and no doctors were on hand, Firdoos al-Ubadi, an official from the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, told Reuters.

In another case, a young boy died from a snake bite that would normally have been easily treatable, she said.


Afternoon Thread

Aside from lots of people getting killed in Iraq, not much to report today...

Local Wingnuts

Hey, if any of you are blessed with a small or medium-sized market newspaper which publishes a regular wingnut columnist (someone either not syndicated or not widely syndicated) I'd appreciate your bringing them to my attention...

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Mehle Mehl

Obviously Bush's "values" mandate didn't involve putting a gay man in charge of the RNC.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I Return

Was in DC for the day. Hot rumor is that Paul "Pee Wee" Reubens is going to be the next head of the DNC.

Imagination Is an American Virtue

Go here and open the duir. Then share your favorite buzzflash or animee.

Creativity Is an American Value

J. Ruth Gendler is one of my favorite people. She's an artist with the soul of a poet. For years, I've turned to her Book of Qualities for comfort, inspiration, consolation. In this book, Gendler describes many qualities as if they were people, some of whom know each other. You should definitely click through on Atrios' link to Amazon and buy it, or make your local library get it for you. Here are a few of her shorter descriptions:

***

Patience: Patience wears my grandmother's filigree earrings. She bakes marvelous dark bread. She has beautiful hands. She carries great sacks of peace and purses filled with small treasures. You don't notice Patience right away in a crowd, but suddenly you see her all at once, and then she is so beautiful you wonder why you never saw her before.


Courage: Courage has roots. She sleeps on a futon on the floor and lives close to the ground. Courage looks you straight in the eye. She is not impressed with powertrippers, and she knows first aid. Courage is not afraid to weep and she is not afraid to pray, even when she is not sure who she is praying to. When Courage walks, it is clear that she has made the journey from loneliness to solitude. The people who told me she is stern were not lying; they just forgot to mention that she is kind.

Greed: Greed is lonely and impulsive. He eats his food quickly and can't remember what it tastes like. He wants to make things stand still so he can understand, but he is always running somewhere himself. He was very cold as a child, and he still fears that he will never be warm enough.

Greed is a tyrannical boss. He needs a reason for everything. He used to disguise his temper with a thin layer of politeness. Since he has become rich and famous, he doesn't bother with amenities. He masks his fear of women with contempt. He exports nightmares on the international commodities market, an advertising executive turned pornographer of the soul.

Honesty: Honesty is the most vulnerable man I have ever met. He is simple and loving. He lives in a small town on a cliff near the beach. I had forgotten how many stars there are in the midnight sky until I spent a week with him at his house by the sea.

In my time I have been afraid of so many things, most especially of the heights and of the darkness. I know if I had been driving anywhere else, the road would have terrified me. Knowing I was on my way to see him softened the fear. And in his presence the darkness becomes big and deep and comforting. He says if you are totally vulnerable, you cannot be hurt.

***

Treat this as an evening thread. Chat away, my sweet bitches!

Bribery Is Not an American Value

Red is the new black. Pink is the navy blue of India. And Haliburton is the new Enron. Imagine if we had an Attorney General who believed in justice?

Thanks to smarty jones for the tip.



Destroying the Environment Is Not an American Value

There's so little wilderness left. Now, Lame Duckie is making another assault on ANWR. This is partly a problem of greed and short-sightedness, but it's really a problem of overpopulation.

Torture is Not an American Value

OK, we knew when Ashcroft left that Lame Duckie would find someone equally odious for Attorney General. The chief US advocate for torture and former Enron counsel sounds sufficiently odious to me. But could we at least have our damn statues back? Calico cats the world over are still laughing at us for covering them up.

I'm Not a Big Fan of MoDo

She's far too willing to take cheap shots at liberals just to show that she's one of the cool kids. But I'd never call her a high brow hussy from New York City.

Comic Relief

Tom Toles shows us what's wrong with Kansas .

Rules for Radicals

Saul Alinsky wrote Rules for Radicals back in 1971. Alinsky said that his book was "for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away."

Are Alinsky's rules still valid today? Which need to be revised? Which did Rove use successfully to help the Haves hold onto power? Which did Kerry use successfully? Which could Kerry have used that he didn't?

Rule 1: Power is both what you have and what your opponent thinks that you have. If you have few members, hide your numbers and make a lot of noise.

Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people. The result is confusion and retreat.

Rule 3: When possible, do go outside the experience of an opponent.

Rule 4: Make your opponent live up to his own rule book.

Rule 5: Ridicule is your most potent weapon. Ridicule is difficult to counter and it infuriates your opponent, causing him to react to your advantage.

Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy.

Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long is not a good idea. Change tactics.

Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Maintain a constant pressure on the opposition.

Rule 9: The threat of your tactic or action is more terrifying than the tactic or action itself. Use this to your advantage.

Rule 10: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. You have to know what to say when your opponent asks you, "If you're so smart, what would you do?"

Rule 11: Pick your target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Don't attack an abstract such as a corporation. Identify a responsible individual and ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.

More Nukes?

Today's Wall Street Journal Reports:

Nuclear Power Industry Hopeful of Revival
With the re-election of President Bush, the nuclear power industry thinks the next two to three years may be the time to push hard for regulatory approval of new nuclear power plants, the Wall Street Journal reported. DOE has told two separate power consortiums that it will share the expected $500-million cost to seek approval for new reactors. The groups said they hope to win NRC approval by 2009.

Wrote the Journal: "Faced with skyrocketing natural-gas prices and uncertainty about the costs of containing carbon emissions from coal-fired plants, electric companies believe nuclear plants are becoming more economically competitive and safer." Manufacturers such as General Electric, Westinghouse Electric, and Atomic Energy of Canada also have been pushing hard to sell newly-designed reactors.

William D. Magwood IV, director of DOE's office of nuclear energy, science, and technology said: "There's lots of enthusiasm for what we're trying to accomplish here. If both of these goes to fruition, we could see new nuclear plants by 2014." Exelon CEO John Rowe was quoted earlier this summer as saying: "I cannot see any energy future ... without an expanded nuclear base."

Approval of the proposed storage site at Yucca Mountain, Nev., is considered vital because power companies have said they need a storage site before agreeing to build any new reactors. Heavy opposition is also expected from those who question the safety of nuclear power.
Wall Street Journal, pg. A-1 , Nov. 9.

No link, since you need a subscription, I think.

Away Day

Assuming all works well, Hecate will be filling in for the rest of the day...

See you later.

Values

One of the amazing things is that our morally bankrupt media have reduced the entire concepts of "moral values" to "pro-discrimination" and "uterus control." Perhaps America thinks otherwise:

Liberal Christian leaders argued yesterday that the moral values held by most Americans are much broader than the handful of issues emphasized by religious conservatives in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Battling the notion that "values voters" swept President Bush to victory because of opposition to gay marriage and abortion, three liberal groups released a post-election poll in which 33 percent of voters said the nation's most urgent moral problem was "greed and materialism" and 31 percent said it was "poverty and economic justice." Sixteen percent cited abortion, and 12 percent named same-sex marriage.



The article continues:

If the Democratic Party were to "welcome pro-life Democrats, Catholics and evangelicals and have a serious conversation with them" about ways to reduce teenage pregnancy, facilitate adoptions and improve conditions for low-income women, it would "work wonders" among centrist evangelicals and Catholics, Wallis said.

I get a lot of earnest pro-lifeish Democrats emailing me with things like this, looking for some sort of "compromise." Look, if you have a problem with abortion and want to find ways to reduce them rather than outlaw them, come on board. I for one don't much care about reducing abortions as a policy goal in and of itself, but I do care about reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies. And, as long as the pro-life right is also battling contraceptive availability, fighting against OTC access to the "morning after" pill, which really isn't an abortaficient (or, to the extent than it is, should be much less offensive than the consequences of IVF procedures), fighting for laws allowing pharmacists to refuse to prescribe the pill (which is also prescribed for legitimate medical reasons other than to stop pregnancy), destroying sex education, and supporting economic policies which increase poverty, then it seems like supporting Democrats are the way to go.

If your pro-lifeness is wrapped up in a general anti-sex religious agenda, then stick with the Republicans. But, if you want to actually reduce the number of abortions with sensible policies then the answer is clear.

I don't have to share your views on abortion to support policies which are likely to help reduce their numbers. The compromise position is about supporting policies which reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies before the fact, and economic policies which make fewer pregnancies unwanted after the fact by reducing providing genuine economic help (especially medical care). Sounds like good Dem policies to me.

Adam Runs for Office

Just in case anyone needed to know about Canada's most entertaining nut, Adam Yoshida, here he is trying to get elected as a School Trustee.


He lost.


I usually ignore or giggle at Yoshida, but I thought there was something more chilling than usual about this comment in a recent musing:

If anyone needs to work to “bring the country together” it’s those on the left who have divided it so badly. Those who sought to destroy this great man should get down upon their knees and beg the victors for mercy. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll let a few of them linger on for the simple reason that they amuse us. My life’s goal is to see the Democratic Party virtually obliterated and left as a rump of people like Stephanie Herseth who both mostly agree with us anyways and are easy on the eyes.

That’s the future of the Democratic Party: providing Republicans with a number of cute (but not that bright) comfort women.


Yes, comfort women.

Secretary of State Zell Miller

You can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Jealous

Unfair. I want to be part of an Onion joke.

All Secure!

Wow! I had no idea that John Ashcroft wasn't just an Attorney General, he's like a total Super Duper Attorney General! He's put an end to all crime and terrorism! WOW!

The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.



Mea Culpa

Adam Nagourney writes a touching mea culpa.

Ashcroft Resigns

Sadly, it's not a moment for jubilation. They'll likely find someone who's actually much more competent about throwing away civil liberties and who is more popular.

The Ohio Code

To me, the most legitimate questions regarding vote counting irregularities involve Ohio. Two issues - in many Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) areas there are more votes than registered voters. And, perhaps more importantly, in many areas there's a mismatch between the number of votes counted at the ward level, and the number of votes counted in the township/municipality level, of which the wards appear to be subunits. I'd like an explanation for this.

And, more interestingly, reader c sent in an interesting tidbit. If you look at the townships for which the subunits don't add up, there's a surprising degree of regularity in the numbers. Specifically, if you calculate the difference between the municipality total and the sum of all of the individual ward numbers, strange patterns emerge...

I did this quickly, so I may have missed something, but here are the results:

Highland Heights: 1385
Mayfield Village: 1385

Seven Hills: 2147
Broadview Height: 2540
Berea: 3146
Olmstead Falls: 3146

North Royalton: 4009
Maple Heights: 4744
Brook Park: 5295
Oakwood Village: 5460
Euclid: 5724
South Euclid: 5724

Cleveland Heights: 6007
East Cleveland: 6007

Garfield Heights: 6170
Lakewood: 6226
Middleburg Heights: 7284
Parma: 7284

Bedford: 8553
Bedford Heights: 8553
Warrensville Heights: 8553

Bay Village: 9948
Fairview Park: 9948
North Olmstead: 9948
Rocky River: 9948
Westlake: 9948

Cleveland: 49324


There's probably a perfectly good explanation for this, though someone might want to figure out what it is. Oh reporters...

...to make clear, I wasn't being entirely facetious when I wrote that there could be a perfectly good explanation for this. So, if anyone has one...



...well, that's interesting. Within the last few minutes they changed all the numbers and now the problem has disappeared...


...there's some plausible, if unclear, suggestion that it's about absentee ballot distribution. The localities involved are, according to people, congruent. Reasonable chance it's nothing, though I still wouldn't mind a coherent explanation.


...it appears to be the absentee ballots...

New Jersey - Totally Screwed

Bob Somerby reminds us yet again about the degree to which many blue states end up subsidizing the nation. The most abused state is New Jersey. If I were a smart New Jersey politician I'd start making an issue of this...

Afternoon Thread

God I love our trolls. Normally you'd have to search far to find a bunch of unintentionally hilarious idiots for comic relief.

Eliminationist Wingnuttery

Yes, this Human Events article contains an idea we could all embrace. Of course, if someone on our side proposed something similar we would be branded America-haters.

And no shining example of prime wingnuttery would be complete without some sort of Made Up Shit somewhere in there...

All in all a fascinating look into the mind of the "values"-based crowd...


...sadly, it seems, my own state hasn't been targeted for expulsion. However, since my city at least doesn't seem to fit the necessary criteria for inclusion in "Bush USA", not really fitting the description of:

predominantly white [note this is the first, and presumably most important of the criteria] ; devoutly Christian (mostly Protestant); openly, vigorously heterosexual; an open land of single-family homes and ranches; economically sound (except for a few farms), but not drunk with cyberworld business development, and mainly English-speaking, with a predilection for respectfully uttering "yes, ma'am" and "yes, sir."


I'm pretty sure with a little work we can be annexed by Camden.

Wow

Good SC news for once:

WASHINGTON -- A drunk driving accident is not a "crime of violence" allowing the government to deport a permanent resident, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in the first of three cases this term delineating the rights of immigrants.

In an 11-page opinion by ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the court ruled unanimously in favor of Josue Leocal, a Florida man challenging his deportation to Haiti in 2002 after pleading guilty to a felony charge of drunk driving.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the DUI offense was a "crime of violence" under the immigration statute because he had caused injury to others.

The Supreme Court disagreed. It said the plain meaning of the statute suggests that the felony offense must require intent in causing harm -- not mere negligence as in Leocal's case -- before immigrants are subject to the drastic consequence of deportation.



...the point here is not that I have a soft spot for drunk drivers, but that the threat of and actual deportation of legal immigrants for rather dubious reasons skyrocketed post-9/11 and anything which puts the brakes on that is a good thing. If we want to pass laws making a DUI offense reason for deportation, that's fine by me (I wouldn't advocate it, however), but lately any tangle with law enforcement seems to get people a one way ticket out of here.

"Arafat's Health Crisis"

Look, CNN, I know that Arafat being dead is an important news story, but Arafat being almost dead for several days really doesn't require wall to wall coverage. The Peterson trial is more newsworthy.

Isn't there a war on somewhere? Oh, right...

oy

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Choice for me but not for thee

My take on choice is that we win on the issue but lose on the propaganda. Most Americans want abortion to be legal, but too many can be persuaded by examples of "Bad Abortions" and think their judgment should be substituted for that of the person actually owning the womb in question.

We need to figure this one out.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Voting Issues

One of the reasons I blew out of here for the weekend was that after the 100th or so shrill email accusing me of failing to acknowledge PROOF that the ELECTION WAS STOLEN I was a bit fed up.

Yes, there are serious problems with the way we count the votes in this country. Yes, no electronic voting machines without paper trails should exist. Yes, all machine counted votes should have random audits to ensure their reliability even if the election isn't thought to be close. Yes, no one should stand in line for 4 hours to vote. Yes, the media should be demanding, and the authorities providing, answers to obviously legitimate questions about various anomalies, such as more people voting in a county than were apparently registered. And, yes, I'm sure I can think of a few more things.

But, irregularities and questionable results are not necessarily "proof" of "fraud" and "proof" that the "election was stolen. " If people want this issue to be taken seriously they need to stop thinking that any of the information floating around right now - and yes, I've seen it all multiple times - provides proof of any such thing. Yes, legitimate questions have been raised, but I fear people on "our side" have started to confuse the legitimate questions with the answers to those questions they've imagined. I'm fully ready to believe that everything was corrupt in Florida, Ohio, and elsewhere, but thinking and knowing are different things entirely.

It is entirely true that there are a sufficient number of either weird or clearly unacceptable things which happened during this election. It's entirely true that the media should be following up more of these stories; the integrity of our democracy is seriously at stake. But, the cause is not helped by touting inconclusive statistical studies as "proof" or screaming "kerry won! kerry won!" every five seconds.

A "smoking gun" may yet appear, but until that time we need to differentiate between legitimate questions and manufactured answers. And, the cause of improving things by '06 is not helped by turning legitimate questions into conspiracy theories.

There's never anything wrong with raising questions. There is something wrong with believing you have answers to those questions that are not supported by the evidence.

Late Night Thread

Ken Pollack, fresh off the latest debacle, points us to Iran...

Just kidding. Actually, he's fairly reasonable and unlike Iraq I think Iran has the potential to be a genuine threat in the medium term. But, one wonders if he's learned the lesson that "doing something" isn't always preferable to "doing nothing."

Bush Mandate

ha ha.

Bush mandate

(thanks to reader r)

Sullivan's Ass

This is funny. Video here.

(via Digby).

Dean for DNC

I think this is a good idea, though there are probably some other qualified candidates as well.


Most of all you need someone to get in there and fire everybody. Well, except for some of the very nice people I've met (Hi j! Hi n!).

Open Thread

Chat away.

Fallujah

So, Big Don Rumsfeld is on informing us that Allawi is making most of the military decisions in Iraq.

Doesn't anyone have a problem with this?

Dissent on Specter

TAPPEDfolk seem to think Specter will survive. If so, I find that startling. The Religious Right claims victory in the election and they can't even get one committee chair in return?

I think we now know which party panders to its base without ever delivering the goods...

Spectered

The Religious Right is demanding their first payback from this election, and it's the head of Arlen Specter.

They're owed. And, increasingly it looks like they'll win this one.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Though, why the GOP is the party of "values" after they sent an admitted baby-killer who sterilized a woman against her will to the Senate is beyond me...

Some Schadenfreude

Sadly, this is probably the emotion most of us are going to get most of our kicks from in the near term. Sinclair stock is still tanking...

More Good Ideas

From Jesse:

An additional one - go back to the Carter/Reagan era rules of allowing credit card debt to be at least partially tax deductible.


While the economist in me does think "broaden the tax base, lower the tax rates" is a much better economic policy and shudders at the thought of even more special deductions, we live in the age of anti-wonk, where good politics is all that matters. Pandering to what is probably a massive voting bloc in this country - those who hand a limb or two to MBNA every month - is sensible.

Look, the Democrats aren't going to have an iota of whatever agenda they're imagining right now passed in the next two years. At best a coalition of Dems and the 2-3 moderate Republicans in the Senate may be able to sandpaper off a tiny bit of lunacy. But, what they can do, if they play their cards right, is to present an agenda which would appeal to a large portion of the population. You know, say 50.01+ of them. Play offense, not defense. It's a propaganda war, not a legislative one, and we need to recognize that.

Good Ideas

It appears that the magic flat tax plan will be an issue used to beat wimpy Democrats senseless for the '06 elections. And, what Matthew Yglesias says is exactly right:

The Democrats need to do what they can to take advantage of their status as a marginalized opposition party. They need to make the Republicans own the IRS, the tax code, and everything else about the government that's hateful or inefficient. It is, after all, the Republicans' government and the Republicans' tax code. While Bush is dragging his feet, appointing commissions, and trying to outsource the work to them, Democrats need to produce their own tax reform plan -- a plan that, since it has no chance of being implemented, can afford to be utopian and not get mucked up by business interests or other petty realities of actual governance -- and flog it mercilessly. The Republicans have all the power, so the Democrats must make them the party of government, and make themselves the party of reform. There are plenty of liberal economists around Washington and in academia who are more than capable of devising a reasonable, progressive tax reform plan much more quickly than the GOP is willing or able to move.

If they can get out in front of the issue they also stand a better (though not foolproof) chance of setting the terms and language of the debate.

Even More Forced Savings

Of course, another concern is that at some point the "forced savings" plan will cease to be that, or at least become more "flexible." Pressure will exist to start letting people borrow against their equity, or to withdraw early for reasons-other-than-retirement (medical bills, tuition, first downpayment, etc...) as currently exists with all the other tax free savings vehicles. And, yes, here's where the personal responsibility crowd gets to scream "well, if you don't save for your retirement then tough titties!" But, it's one thing to expect able-bodied individuals to pick themselves up off their feet after bad luck and bad decisions have left them pennyless. It's another to expect not so able-bodied 75 years olds (and their spouses) to do the same. The fundamental question is how do you deal with the prospect of millions of destitute seniors? We answered that question long ago - Social Security.

More Social Security

As I've written before, my opposition to a forced savings plan [note to Democrats: "forced savings" has a nice ring to it, and is in fact what such a plan would be.] is largely due to the fact that it opens the door for Fund firms, one way or another, to loot the US Treasury and to loot these mandatory accounts. Conservative trolls like to write "Oh, but if you lose all your money it's all your fault!" which, after I get a good laugh at how stupid they are, depresses the hell out of me. First, investments are not deterministic. They are risky. People who do well in the market like to believe they're "smart investors." Maybe they are. But, most of them just got lucky. Being a "smart investor" means that you know more than the market does, something which can't exist if we believe the markets are efficient, as our conservative trolls usually do.

Who knows what kind of investment options would be available for people? Why could you, say, invest in a publicly traded company and not your brother's new pizza joint. But, aside from the risk issue - the bigger one is the fact that firms will find big and small ways to skim from accounts. This latest SEC investigationgives us another way they can do so:

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating about a dozen brokerage firms - including Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Ameritrade, Charles Schwab and E*Trade Financial - on suspicion that they failed to secure the best available price for stocks they were trading for their customers, according to people who have been briefed on the inquiry.

At issue is the way the companies executed trades of Nasdaq-listed securities when the markets opened in the morning, a period of intense trading activity resulting from the backlog of orders since the market's close the previous day.

After examining trading data from the last four years, the investigation found evidence that trades were often processed in ways that favored the firms over their clients, these people said.

Securing the best price is one of the industry's critical obligations to investors. If the investigators' suspicions are confirmed, these practices are not likely to add up to significant costs for individual investors - the difference would be pennies a share traded - but in total they could represent substantial amounts of money for the brokers.

The move to decimal pricing has made this kind of activity a lot easier. Firms found guilty of this kind of behavior should be nuked [metaphorically], but of course they won't be.

Privatization, Not Reform

First, oh media, please call it what it is. It's not "reform," it's "partial privatization." Or, at least, that's what we assume it is. There isn't actually a proposal on the desk, and nor was there one during the campaign.

But, in any case, the mutual funds are already squealing about the fact that administrative costs on low-dollar accounts would be high and non-profitable. Lovely.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The bonanza many believe President Bush has handed the mutual fund industry with his plans to reform Social Security may be a mirage, industry leaders say.

How workers will be allowed to invest some of their payroll taxes in the stock market is far from clear, but there is a presumption it will be windfall for an industry that manages the nest eggs of about 95 million Americans.

The administrative costs for managing accounts that for the most part will hold less than $1,000 in the first year suggests mutual fund companies could easily lose money for at least several years, industry experts said.


Assuming the magic "2%" proposal is what happens, although something "bolder" could be in the works, someone earning $40,000 per year is going to be putting just $800 per year into one of these accounts.

But, more generally, this could be the most important domestic economic policy debate of our generation. And, it's going to be a lot more complicated than simply "should workers be allowed to divert 2 percentage points of payroll taxes into private accounts." While I hold my position that this is a universally bad idea, just how bad it is will depend on the details. And, there will be lots and lots and lots and lots of details. Sadly, our media will not be up to the job of informing people just what those details are.

The Enemy

Link:

A man was beaten just outside his University City apartment by a group of five men who believed he was from the Middle East, San Diego police said Thursday.

The victim was trying to park when the assailants, all white men, threw a beer bottle and shattered his car window just after 11 p.m. Wednesday, Sgt. Rich Nemetz said.

The assailants then knocked down the victim as he got out of his car, kicking him, yelling racial slurs and telling him to go back to Iraq, Nemetz said. The victim is of Portuguese descent.

The men took the victim's shoes and fled in a black SUV, threatening to return and kill him, Nemetz said.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Kool-aid Man

It's hard to fathom that any serious analysts thought the dollar would trend upwards on a Bush victory. While the bearish Atrios may be wrong about many things, the idea that the dollar would rise on a Bush victory is one of the more absurd (and, of course, I still could be proven wrong, but this is one of the more obvious predictions).

Stickin'

Link:

WASHINGTON - Like many presidential candidates before him, John Kerry must now decide what to do with the rest of his political life. While he relaxed at his Boston home on Friday, elsewhere friends, colleagues and presidential historians said they didn't see the Democrat fading into political obscurity like the last Massachusetts politician who ran and lost, Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Instead, they said he would probably take the road less traveled by recent senators who tried and failed to take the White House, and remain a strong voice in Congress on issues he cared about.


"He has a lot to say," Kerry's former chief of staff David Leiter said Friday. "Dukakis faded into the sun. I don't see that in Kerry."

Treehouse of Horror

Brought to you by the Republican Party.

Mr. Straw Meet Mr. Camel

One never gets popular making gloomy predictions. Lawrence Kudlow can be wrong month after month, but as long as he's being positive no one much cares.

But, rumors of Chinese sell-off of dollar-denominated financial assets should spook us all. Note that a sell-off also means they're no longer interested in financing our budget deficit...

Commander Allawi

It is rather weird that no one seems to care that our troops are currently under foreign command.

And, something tells me that martial law order will be in effect for a very long time...

The Incredibles

Actually incredible. Go see it.

Shrek 2 (DVD) not so good.

Random Thoughts

Some of these are culled from various things I've read over the weekend, but I'm too lazy too hunt some of them down so if I'm ripping you off apologies...

Anyone who thinks that Democrats lost Senate seats because voters perceived that Tom Daschle was an "obstructionist" is a fool.

Going forward, the only way for the Democrats to pick up substantial seats in 2006 is a) if everything is a disaster (possible, but not something I hope for) or b) they manage to convey to voters how they are different than Republicans. This difference exists, but rhetorically the Democrats have been more interested in blurring the lines than making them clear. Clear differences do not always mean extreme differences - this is not about lurching left or right or whatever, it's just about making the differences clear in an easy to understand fashion.

New York Times columnists railing against the Right's favorite liberal strawmen should be ignored.


If "values" are the new battleground, which I mostly doubt, then I say bring it on, Larry Flynt-style. Let the scarlet A's be handed out, the closet doors swung open, and weekly church attendance records of members of congress and the administration be compiled. If sinning godless heathens are the problem, then let's be clear about who the sinning godless heathens are.


Our side is going to have to get used to the fact that "opposition" does not mean "obstruction." It's nice to imagine that the filibuster can solve all of our problems, but even with strong willingness to do so by all of the Senate Dems (there isn't), it isn't. Opposition is going to mean laying out the case clearly and forcefully for our side, voting against the worst of what the other side opposes, and having clear responsibility exist for the consequences of legislation. We aren't going to win too many battles in the next couple of years. Deal with it.

I'm not holding my breath, but the media needs to reevaluate its role when we have entrenched single-party rule. More on this later.

If, as news reports claim, Chenron is pushing for some version of a flat income tax, or consumption based tax, and the Democrats are unable to convince the vast majority of voters that this will in fact constitute a tax increase for them, then all is hopeless.

Blog On

Welcome back all, if anyone's still around.

Was nice spending some time reading without feeling the need to respond to things. Letting things percolate around the melon a bit is a nice change.