Saturday, December 25, 2004

Evening Thread

Have fun.



The Bush administration is talking to Iraqi leaders about guaranteeing Sunni Arabs a certain number of ministries or high-level jobs in the future Iraqi government if, as is widely predicted, Sunni candidates fail to do well in Iraq's elections.

An even more radical step, one that a Western diplomat said was raised already with an aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, is the possibility of adding some of the top vote-getters among the Sunni candidates to the 275-member legislature, even if they lose to non-Sunni candidates.

The diplomat said even some Shiite politicians who are followers of Ayatollah Sistani are concerned that a Pyrrhic victory by Shiites, effectively shutting Sunni Arabs out of power, could alienate Sunnis and lead to more internal strife. Shiites make up about 60 percent of Iraqis and were generally denied power under Saddam Hussein.

The idea of adding Sunnis to the legislature after the election was acknowledged by officials as likely to be difficult to carry out, but they said it might be necessary to avoid Sunni estrangement. Sunnis Arabs make up about 20 percent of the population and formed the core of Saddam Hussein's power structure. Much of the violent insurgency is taking place in Sunni-dominated areas in the central part of the country, and some Sunni leaders have called for a boycott of the election. This has led to fears that large numbers of Sunnis will obey the call or be afraid to vote.

"There's some flexibility in approaching this problem," said an administration official. "There's a willingness to play with the end result - not changing the numbers, but maybe guaranteeing that a certain number of seats go to Sunni areas even if their candidates did not receive a certain percentage of the vote."

The idea of altering election results is so sensitive that administration officials who spoke about it did not want their names revealed. Some experts on Iraq say such talk could undercut efforts to drum up support for voting in Sunni areas.

Guaranteeing a certain number of positions in government for certain ethnic groups is not without precedent, though. Lebanon, for example, has a power-sharing arrangement among its main sectarian groups. The Parliament in Iran has seats reserved for religious minorities.

Joking aside, there's nothing wrong with this. "Democracy" does not mean mob 50%+1 majority rules all. Minority rights should be protected in various ways specific to the country, including perphaps a little affirmative action in representation.

But, consider the howls from the right when such things are proposed here, except when they tend to benefit rural white voters. Imagine the bursting blood vessels on George Will's forehead if someone proposed instituting proportional racial representation, or even suggested interesting ideas to encourage more minority representation in government...

Holiday Thread

Chat away.

Friday, December 24, 2004

All This Begins With the Department Stores

Some holiday cheer from Henry Ford, 1921.

And it has become pretty general. Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone's Birth. Easter they will have the same difficulty in finding Easter cards that contain any suggestion that Easter commemorates a certain event. There will be rabbits and eggs and spring flowers, but a hint of the Resurrection will be hard to find. Now, all this begins with the designers of the cards.

For more to remind us how nothing changes, see here and here...

+$80 Billion

Mo money!

Friday Cat Blogging

Family cats edition:

DeLong Asks


So why is it that those who focus on exchange rates ("falling desire to hold dollar-denominated assets reduces the value of the dollar") are more likely to see a happy, balancing-up resolution while those who focus on the circular flow ("falling desire to hold dollar-denominated assets leads to a sharp fall in the financing available for investment and a spike in interest rates") are more likely to see an unhappy, balancing-down resolution?

I don't think this should be a big mystery. In the former line of thought, the falling dollar reduces demands for imports, shifting some expenditures towards more domestically produced goods (increasing wages) and perhaps some into additional future consumption, raising the national savings rate. In the latter, an interest rate spike does not lead to higher national savings because a significant portion of our country are net borrowers, even excluding their home mortgage or other secured debt, and not net lenders. Rising interest rates will raise interest payments for consumers with heavy consumer debt, and for people who got ARMs with shitty terms. The US continues to borrow from the rest of the world at ever higher rates.

My economist hat is getting rusty, but I think it's whether one is worried about the fallen dollar or the falling dollar. Presumably, had pure small economic agents expected a giant drop in the dollar over the past year, interest rates would have spiked back then. But, most likely because big players in the market are not pure small economic agents, but governments of significant countries, interest rates were kept low. If these players continue to prop up the dollar even as it falls, or if the dollar's value is expected to stabilize, then there's no reason for the dollar's previous fall to affect current demand for US financial assets.

No Homos on Christmas Eve

NPR censors David Sedaris's Santaland Diaries, clips out "gay flirtation" passage.

This is the offending passage:

The overall cutest elf is a fellow from Queens named Snowball. Snowball tends to ham it up with the children, sometime literally tumbling down the path to Santa's house. I tend to frown on that sort of behavior but Snowball is hands down adorable -- you want to put him in your pocket. Yesterday we worked together as Santa Elves and I became excited when he started saying things like, "I'd follow you to Santa's house any day, Crumpet!"

It made me dizzy, this flirtation.

By mid-afternoon I was running into walls. At the end of our shift we were in the bathroom, changing clothes, when suddenly we were surrounded by three Santas and five other elves -- all of them were guys that Snowball was flirting with.

Snowball just leads elves on, elves and Santas. He is playing a dangerous game.

That liberal media strikes again.

(via Americablog)


Wow, Danny Boy Okrent thinks the media story of the year is the fact that the great unwashed dare to complain about the New York Times.

I don't know what the media story of the year is, but one of them sure has to be the fact that Judith "The Queen of All Iraq" Miller was quoted as saying about her Iraq fantasy WMD coverage:

You know what? I was proved fucking right. That's what happened. People who disagreed with me were saying, 'There she goes again.' But I was proved fucking right.

Sleep tight, Danny Boy.

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


Not to knock the credulity of Mr. Offering or Offering, jr. but I'm a bit surprised that Santa disillusionment didn't come until 3rd grade or so for them. I was Santa-less far earlier than that. No doubt that was in part due to the presence of an older brother, but more importantly I'm pretty sure this was pretty much the norm in 2nd and 3rd grades.

Anyway, just curious. Chime in...

Saint Rudy

Going down...

Late Tuesday, a federal magistrate released testimony by Bernard B. Kerik and a former girlfriend in an employment discrimination case, one of the legal tangles from his years as a senior aide to Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani that surfaced while his nomination as secretary of homeland security was collapsing.

For the Bloomberg administration, the case was just one more front in the municipal litigation that grinds along, regardless of national politics: dealing with the damages people claim to have suffered at the hands of Mr. Giuliani or his senior aides.

In the three years since Michael R. Bloomberg succeeded Mr. Giuliani, the city has spent close to $2 million to settle lawsuits brought by residents and city workers who accused the Giuliani administration of retaliating against them for exercising free speech or other constitutional rights.

Among them is a limousine driver, James Schillaci, who had complained in a newspaper article about a red-light sting set up by the police in the Bronx. The same day, police came to his home to arrest him for a 13-year-old unpaid ticket. The next day, the mayor obtained - illegally, Mr. Schillaci said - the record of his arrests from decades earlier and discussed it, inaccurately, at a news conference. The city settled with him for $290,000 in 2002.

A correction worker charged that he was bypassed for promotion because he supported a political opponent of Mr. Giuliani's and that city investigators videotaped the guests arriving at his home for a political fund-raiser. The city paid him $325,000 this year.

How the Jews Stole Christmas

Drudge tells us that Meet the Fockers "tops the holiday box office," and provides us with this picture:

paging William Donohue...

Gregoire Wins

Republicans will scream fraud, because what matters isn't who really won but who won "first."

Evening Thread

Have fun.

Afternoon Thread

All yours.

Happy Holidays

It is touching that the Right has managed to transform the holiday season into another hate fest. But, let me say this -- when the occasion arises, I tend to say "happy holidays." Not because I'm worried about offending people. Not because I'm trying to be overly inclusive to people of all faiths. It's because it really feels fucking stupid saying "Merry Christmas" on December 1 when Christmas is over 3 weeks away.

The "holiday season" is that period from Thanksgiving until New Years. If we count Thanksgiving, which we should given the ever-lengthening advertising campaign which seems to define the season, that includes 3 federal holidays, one of which falls on December 25. Now, some people may like wishing others a "Merry Christmas" over a 40 or so day period which encompasses the "holiday season," and good for them, but I personally like wishing people a "Merry Christmas" on or about the actual day. I even think it may be what the baby Jesus would want, though I'll have to check with Pope O'Reilly I.


Let the mighty Euro soar...

April Fools

A commenter, Bruce Webb, over at Max's place raises a very important point. There is a ticking time bomb which will explode the "crisis" rhetoric. The next report by the Social Security Trustees, due March 31, will inevitably bump the "insolvency" date for Social Security ahead (yet again) another couple of years given that productivity growth in 2004 has greatly exceeded the number the plugged into last year's model.

Shorter Tom Friedman

I blame the Europeans.

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Fact-Checking My Ass

Tonight on the Majority Report I said that I thought the average monthly social security benefit (for retirees) was $850 (I think that's what I said. I may have said $800). I lied - it's $926.

Another Ally in the War on Christmas

Brent Bozell's Parents Television Council. A fundraising email:

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE PARENTS TELEVISION COUNCIL! Give your children, and all the children of America, a holiday gift that can change their lives!
A tax-deductible gift to the Parents Television Council will help us eradicate graphic sex, gratuitous violence and profanity on broadcast TV and radio. Your gift will also help ensure that the FCC upholds broadcast indecency laws and that Hollywood and their sponsors take responsibility for the entertainment they produce as well as its potential effects on our children.
So this holiday season consider putting the gift of a world without unwelcome gratuitous sex, violence and profanity in every home. Visit our secure online gift site by clicking here
If you prefer, you can send in a gift by mail to the address below
The Parents Television Council ? 707 Wilshire Blvd Ste 2075 ? Los Angeles, CA 90017

(thanks to reader j)

Evening Thread

Chat away.

Fastest Flame Out Ever

Ah, schadenfreude. Feels so good. Bye Bernie...

Busy Day

Sorry for all the quick posts today, been rather busy. I'll be on the Majority Report this evening (9:20ish) with Sam Seder and David Cross...

Jeebus Wept

"Somewhere Jesus is weeping" over criticisms of Bill O'Reilly.

Weirdest Preznit Ever

Go watch the video at 16:47.
(via americablog)

Afternoon Thread

Chat away.

Hip to be Square

I love it when the Cornerites start discussing pop culture. Try again, Jonah:

I've always thought the Beetles will eventually decline in esteem because of a similar phenomenon.

(emphasis mine)

The War on Christmas

Apparently it's being led by News Corp.


Safire says:

In return for today's grudging concession of tactical misjudgment, however, I claim this expectation: When and if we discover hidden supplies of germ weapons in Iraq or Syria, and as future confessions reveal the extent of connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam, the legion of war critics will forthrightly admit their certitude was misplaced.

Yes, if the facts emerge that prove I was wrong, I will admit it. This is a big step for conservatives?


This is the dean of Washington punditry. Washington's just a floating cocktail party for him, and he's upset that the parties aren't as good as they used to be.

Morning Thread

Chat away.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Next Week in Pravda

WASHINGTON - President Bush's campaign to bring utopia to the entire planet is likely to involve incremental changes to the current system rather than a sweeping effort to scrap the existing system for a radically new approach.



WASHINGTON - President Bush's campaign to make the tax code simpler, fairer and more pro-growth is likely to involve incremental changes to the current system rather than a sweeping effort to scrap the venerable income tax for a radically new approach, such as a national sales tax.

Late Night

Chat away.


Over at Max's place Dean Baker has a post covering various issues about the consumer price index. I like his closing line. Short version: lots of people think the CPI still overstates the true rise in the cost of living, blah blah blah.

While I remember reading quite a bit about this stuff in my grad school days, one dimension of the issue I don't remember ever being addressed was how the CLI - the "ideal" cost of living index of which the CPI is an approximation - varies throughout the income distribution. That is, roughly speaking, the CPI tracks the price of a fixed basket of goods purchased by a "typical" consumer. I've never seen any research, though presumably it exists, about how that fixed basket, and resulting index values, would be different if we looked at the "typical" consumer in each, say, income decile.

O'Reilly's World

Merry Christmas!

Hours after residents, local officials and clergy gathered at Veteran's Park to attend a rally against the recent vandalism to a Hanukkah menorah, the menorah was vandalized again.

Eight of the nine bulbs were ripped out of the menorah, which sits next to a Christmas tree and a nativity scene, and one was left hanging out of its socket, said Orangetown Police Sgt. Jim Brown.

Tear Down the Cross


This wintry season, as the faithful continue to receive alarming reports from the news that Republicans are all that stand between them and the outlawing of Christmas itself by hordes of secular humanists, the two presidents Bush have endorsed a powerful conservative interest group specializing in removing the cross -- not from schools or courthouses, but from churches.

Rather than the traditional egg hunt, this group, calling itself the American Clergy Leadership Conference, sponsored a nationwide "Tear Down The Cross" day for Easter, 2003. Last week, leaders in this radical cause presided over a Washington prayer breakfast featuring messages of thanks from the presidents. Former Senator Bob Dole came in person.

Bobo's World


ATLANTA — A federal judge on Monday denied an appeal for reinstatement by a University of Georgia cheerleading coach accused of mingling religion with team activities. Marilou Braswell was fired in August, according to university officials, for retaliating against a Jewish cheerleader who had complained about pressure to participate in Bible study and team prayers.

The case has drawn attention to sports in Georgia, where coaches often lead players in prayer or worship.

In spring of 2003, the student, Jaclyn Steele, approached authorities with complaints about the cheerleading program. Cheerleaders, she said, were pressured to attend Bible study sessions at the coach's home, led by her husband, a minister. Steele also said Braswell led prayers before sporting events. And Steele complained that the listserv used by cheerleaders was a vehicle for prayer requests.

"She came in our office crying, saying: 'I just can't take this anymore,' " said Deborah Lauter, southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. "She had dealt with this for a long time."


22 killed in blast at Mosul military base...(cnn)


Boehlert has an article about just how unpopular our preznit is. I'm actually surprised -- I would have thought the post-election bump would have lasted at least a couple of months. Everyone loves a winner. Maybe it's all those Man Dates he went on.

Actually, I bet it was all the Sore Winners. Oh, and the fact that he's a truly awful preznit.

Right Wing Pundits Can Do No Wrong


Late Night

Have fun.

Hope this is ok, Atrios.

Folks wanted a new thread and you're hopefully out at Jaleo by now for the after-party.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Happy Holidays!

From the president!

NEW YORK -- A document released for the first time today by the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that President Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing the use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq. Also released by the ACLU today are a slew of other records including a December 2003 FBI e-mail that characterizes methods used by the Defense Department as "torture" and a June 2004 "Urgent Report" to the Director of the FBI that raises concerns that abuse of detainees is being covered up.


The two-page e-mail that references an Executive Order states that the President directly authorized interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, the use of military dogs, and "sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc." The ACLU is urging the White House to confirm or deny the existence of such an order and immediately to release the order if it exists. The FBI e-mail, which was sent in May 2004 from "On Scene Commander--Baghdad" to a handful of senior FBI officials, notes that the FBI has prohibited its agents from employing the techniques that the President is said to have authorized.

Evening Thread

Chat away.

The War Against Christmas

Its commander in chief is none other than George W. Bush. Shocking.

Afternoon Thread

Chat away.

Immunity From Everything

I think certain protections for the press are necessary. I'm even slightly sympathetic (though I think they're wrong) to the arguments that the Plame journalists shouldn't have to testify. But, this comment by a lawyer regarding news organizations which have been sued by subpoenaed by Steven Hatfill is ridiculous:

"News organizations are supposed to gather news, as opposed to spending their time performing research and testifying in court on behalf of various parties with axes to grind," Dave Tomlin, the assistant general counsel for AP, said in a report published by the wire service.

You know, that basic argument didn't work for Bill Clinton, and he was president at the time. And, actually, he was only making the case that he was temporarily a wee bit too important and too busy to participate in civil suits, not that he should be immune for perpetuity.

UPDATE: Oops. I messed up. Hatfill isn't going after the news organizations, he's going after the FBI and Justice Department, which makes the quote even more silly...


From the earliest planning stages until now, the war in Iraq has been a tragic exercise in official incompetence. The original rationale for the war was wrong. The intelligence was wrong. The estimates of required troop strength were wrong. The war hawks' guesses about the response of the Iraqi people were wrong. The cost estimates were wrong, and on and on.

Nevertheless the troops have fought valiantly, and the price paid by many has been horrific. They all deserve better than the bad faith and shoddy treatment they are receiving from the highest officials of their government.

Indeed. heh.

New Script -- Quick!

So much for eco-terrorists:

INDIAN HEAD, Md., Dec. 19 (AP) - Racial animosity and revenge are among the possible motives in the arson fires in a subdivision in southern Maryland on Dec. 6, a spokesman for federal investigators said Sunday.

Four men have been charged with arson in the fires, which destroyed 10 houses and partly burned 16 others, causing $10 million in damage. No one was hurt; many of the houses were still under construction.

A federal law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity said two of the four men in custody made racial statements to investigators during questioning. The men are white, and many of the families moving into the development are black.

More Great Moments in Media

I'm sure there will be feverish calls for the WaPo reporter to be fired. Sexual torture? Check. Rape? Check. Anti-Christian persecution? Check. Facts? Apparently, no check, though I haven't read the Esquire article.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Right Idea

Josh Marshall has the right idea. Well funded primary challengers to right wing Democrats will beat them, even if they don't eventually win elected office. There are some issues about which I understand how geography dictates certain positions. Social Security is not one of them. And, frankly, who gives a shit if we lose a couple more seats.

The social security issue comes down to this: The Democrats should be able not only to beat the Republicans on this, but also to beat them over the heads with it. It needs to be the cornerstone of the identity of the Democratic party.

Without debating the wisdom of any of these things, I want to point out that the Democrats have been running from or are in the process of running from their core positions on: gay rights, gun control, welfare, trade policy, affirmative action, reproductive rights, church/state separation, public education, progressive taxation, etc... etc... etc...

While policies are not ideology, they are the real world manifestation of it. If there is one issue which the Democrats should be able to claim loudly and proudly as their own, without apologies, it's social security. If they can't figure out how to do that, and to get their members in line, then they really will have lost.

I overheard someone in a restaurant the other day saying something along the lines of "Bush captured the center by running to the Right." I'm not be sure how true this is, but the idea was that by running to the Right, Bush proved he stood for "something" and voters approve of that, even if they don't approve of the policies themselves. I don't know how much this matters, but I do know a party has to stand for something.


Local News --> Free Republic --> Drudge --> Talk Radio --> Some Wingnut Congressperson/State Legislator --> Fox News --> Lou Dobbs/Scarborough/etc... --> Another round on local news --> CNN --> mainstream print media. [order can vary slightly].


SSA Refuses to Recognize Marriages

Well, these people are shit out of luck. I guess they could get divorced and then go get married somewhere else.

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. -- The Social Security Administration is rejecting marriage documents issued for heterosexual couples in five communities that performed weddings for gay couples earlier this year.

The agency is rejecting all marriage certificates issued in New Paltz, N.Y., Asbury Park, N.J., Multnomah County, Ore., and Sandoval County, N.M., during the brief periods when those localities recognized gay marriages.

Susie Kilpatrick, 30, of New Paltz, said the local Social Security office told her that no marriage documents from the town could be used to establish identity if they were issued after Feb. 27, when New Paltz's mayor began marrying gay couples. About 125 heterosexual couples have been married since then.

Kilpatrick said her marriage certificate was rejected when she went to get a new card earlier this month so she could take her husband's name.

"What concerns me is that the certificate is the only way to prove that we're married," she told The New York Times for Sunday editions. "If something happens to us, or some other couple from New Paltz, we can't prove we're married. We would not be able to draw benefits."

No word on Mass. marriages. Perhaps the SSA needs to set up a system of local crotch inspectors. Hey, John Ashcroft needs something to do...

Evening Thread

Chat away.

Tucker Gets Primetime MSNBC Show

Because there just aren't enough conservative bowtied nitwits on TV.


Put me on the list of people who, for various reasons, aren't looking forward to the prospect of Hillary '08. However, it is important to recognize that while our media likes to project their own feelings of hatred against her, her support is actually fairly substantial.

BoBo's World

Natalism marches on...

The slaying of pregnant women will be yet another delightful consequence of either rolling back Roe or a campaign to shame women who have abortions.

Amy Sullivan says:

Democrats have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to their record of protecting life. But no one is going to listen to them if they're too busy chanting "I'm not sorry".

Yes, we should be apologizing for things we aren't ashamed of. Someone pour me a drink.

...for the dozens of people who inevitably drop into these threads to argue that they think that the pro-choice position that abortion should be legal after viability is wrong...

The Roe decision said states couldn't make abortion before viability illegal (excepting health/life mother of course). No pro-choice group that I'm aware of has argued for the legality of post-viability abortion. Though, obviously, some people, particularly those on long flights with many screaming children, have argued for keeping it legal until age 10 or so.

Why Does the Media Hate Social Security?

Peter Hart of FAIR tried to answer this question the other night on the Majority Report, but I have yet to hear an entirely satisfactory answer to this question. It reall is the case that 95% of what you hear/read about social security just makes you stupider about the topic. Big chunks of reporting are flat out wrong, and most of the rest is incredibly misleading, and at times just incomprehensible gibberish which is internally contradictory. This is one issue where I think it is completely inarguable that the "liberal media" is almost entirely united against the program.

I've asked this before, but I still really don't know the answer. Why do they hate social security?

United Front

Yglesias is right that there should be swift and painful retaliation against any Democrat who supports the plan to end social security under the banner of "bipartisanship." If, as he suggets, Joe Lieberman is just the man for this job, I hope others will join me in devoting our resources to the support of a credible primary challenger in 2006. be clear, there are two issues here. One is Dem support for this monstrosity - obviously that's bad enough. But, the other issue is supporting it in a way which allows for the perpetuation of the idea that this is a truly "bipartisan" agenda, and that support for it is the "bipartisan" thing to do.

Late Night

Have fun