As you may have noticed, Bloodless Coup has been receiving a good deal of attention from comment spammers, mostly of the "online casino" variety. What you may not know is that we wage a daily battle with dozens, hundreds, even thousands of these things. Many are blocked, thanks to MT blacklist and the hard work of Jay Allen and others. Adam Kalsey has posted an anti-comment spam manifesto. In addition to the link, I am also reproducing the post entirely in the extended entry. Likewise, I urge you to read his post about how to combat comment spam by reporting spammers and getting their web hosting accounts cancelled. If you don't host a blog, this may not seem like such a big deal to you. But for those of us who do, and spend enough frustrating hours cleaning our sites to think "is it really worth it?," and are seriously affected by comment spam, it's a very big deal indeed.
"Posting an email address in a public place is not an invitation for companies to send unsolicited advertisements. Hosting a public Web forum or Usenet server does not give companies permission or the moral right to advertise on it. And soliciting comments from the public on a weblog entry or other Web page does not mean that companies or individuals are invited to use it for their advertising purposes.
Usenet news succumbed to spam long ago. Email was next. Now spammers have turned their attention to weblogs and comment forms. In order to increase search engine rankings you are posting advertisements to our Web pages. What you failed to understand is that bloggers are smarter, better connected, and more technologically savvy than the average email user. We control the medium that you are now attempting to exploit. Youíve picked a fight with us and itís a fight you cannot win.
We have complained amongst ourselves, tried technological solutions, and tried to understand the nature of comment spam. And we are done. We now intend to fight back.
Spammers are hereby put on notice. Your comments are not welcome. If the purpose behind your comment is to advertise yourself, your Web site, or a product that you are affiliated with, that comment is spam and will not be tolerated.
Bloggers will track you down and notify your hosting providers about your activities. We will tell your ISPs what you are using their connections for. We will let the makers of the products you are advertising know of your despicable sales methods. We will hit you where it hurts by attacking your source of income.
You can move to a new host, find a new ISP, or sign up for a different affiliate plan. The end result will be the same. Each time you rise out of the muck we will strike you down and send you back to the hole you crawled out of.
Our sites belong to us and we intend to keep it that way. It will no longer be profitable to advertise through comment spam.
What you can do
Sign the manifesto by linking to it, leaving a comment or sending a TrackBack ping. Get the word out and let spammers know that their days are numbered.
Write tutorials on how to track down spammers and shut down their operations. I wrote about how to get spammerís affiliate accounts terminated. Perhaps someone else could write up how to trace a domain back to their hosting company. Or how to use tools like dig to find someoneís ISP based on their IP address.
Start a posse. People particularly good at tracking down spammers could volunteer to help others. If a blogger is spammed, the volunteers could track down the culprit and shut him down. Stopping comment spam in one corner of the web will be good for everyone."
From the AP:
A man who placed a lava lamp on a hot stovetop was killed when it exploded and sent a shard of glass into his heart, police said.
Philip Quinn, 24, was found dead in his trailer home Sunday night by his parents.
"Why on earth he was heating a lava lamp on the stove, we don't know," Kent Police spokesman Paul Petersen said Monday.
After the lamp exploded, Quinn apparently stumbled into his bedroom, where he died Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
Police found no evidence of drug or alcohol use.
C'mon. You know you were thinking it.
What can one say about this? Couldn't the Chief Judge of the District Court have sorted this out? I probably should just let it go before I start proposing how it's all part of a White House conspiracy to draw out the process as long as possible - knowing after this June's decisions that the Courts aren't going to approve the White House seizing all the power that they want (not that they can do much to stop it).
The gist of the report - they hate our policies, not our freedom, and our actions may well be making things worse. And this comes from part of the Pentagon.
While I am a huge fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (I'm a fan of the whole series, not just the famous musical episode) I am only just now seeing many of the episodes in the show's seventh (and final) season which was recently released on DVD. A few things strike me about it. First, we yet again see the show's writers take it in an entirely different emotional direction. Yes, Buffy's usually fighting evil - but the different versions of evil, the nature of those fights, and the development of the show's lasting characters mean that every season has a distinct feeling. That said, more than most this season seems like it's one for the fans. It's not reaching X-Files levels of being wrapped up in it's own mythology, but in season 7 it moves in that direction, and I really wonder how people who came into the series late would 1) relate to the early seasons which we markedly different and 2) just plain like it. It seems to me that there is a lot that would be hard to understand if you dropped in late. But the flip side of it is that I think it's kind of dull. As someone who's watched the series, knows the mythology, already knows about the season's enemy (first glimpsed in "Amends" in season 3), and has already seen a lot of the intra-group conflicts and behaviors - I'm bored. Not "Episode 1-bored", but it's not all that it could be, and this is definitely not my favorite season (though I'll understand if it is the favorite season of Spike fans everywhere). And the level of bickering and despair is tiresome, and a bit unbelieveable given what the characters went through and overcame in seasons five and six. Plus, I think Willow gets off awfully light for what she did at the end of season six.
Still there are a few brilliant things about the season. Two of the episodes, "Selfless" and "Conversations With Dead People", are among the show's best, it clearly reinvigorates the original girl-power theme, and, above it all, Tom Lenk's performance as Andrew is probably the best comedy that's done in all seven years of an extraordinarily witty and amusing series. His uber-nerd lines are great of course and combined with his delivery and acting that character was one of the best things on TV in years. It's only fitting that he gets his own episode (which also meant we got the added bonus of seeing Danny Strong's Jonathan one more time, even if it would be the last time).
Since I panned Morning Edition (in particular, the blather of Cokie Roberts) yesterday, it seems only fair to note that I liked one of their news features this morning. Nina Totenberg's coverage of today's Title IX-related case before the Supreme Court was 1) both informative as to the legal question at issue and 2) sweet and heart-string pulling. I don't need the latter, but as long as she fully covers the former - I'm ok with it. And she did the best job I've heard or seen yet in dicussing this case and placing it in the context of precedent and administrative actions.
By the way, am I the only person who got sick of the bad coverage of Raich this weekend and yesterday? Correct me if I'm wrong Joshua, but wasn't the only real question in that case it's Commerce Clause implications? Every reporter, their brother and their red-headed-stepchild kept discussing it as a "medical marijuana" case - but my understanding is that that issue had largely been settled and that the Courts had said that the government could ban medical marijuana (though of course a change in the interpretation of the Commerce Clause could then unsettle that question).
UPDATE: I see Eugene Volokh shares my exasperation.
I hadn't thought of it in those terms.
I've got to say the media is doing a lousy job when in order to learn that the number of US voters citing "moral values" as their primary concern is declining I have to read an Atrios post linking to a Frank Rich column drawing on something reported in The Economist. So all the immediate post-race analysis was ... wrong? I always did find it odd that no one was focusing on the fact that if you combined those most concerned about Iraq and terrorism that such a group of voters was virtually twice the size of the "moral values" voters.
As long as I'm being silly enough to comment on the problems with the BCS (it's not perfect - well, duh), I might as well be silly enough to comment on a 2 year old's potential. It is a very dangerous thing indeed to make predictions about how well a horse may do in the Triple Crown races on the basis of their performance the preceding year. Nevertheless, if you're already thinking about whom to bet on next May, I encourage you to keep your eye on Rockport Harbor. He has the same trainer and jockey as Smarty Jones, he was sired by Unbridled's Song, and he's now 4-4 this year after winning the Grade II Remsen Stakes.
Last week I was reading about how Walt Harris might be forced out of his job, and the Independence Bowl was talking about landing the Panthers. This week, Pittsburgh appears to be a lock for a BCS bowl. People can argue all they want about problems with the BCS - but nothing about it seems sillier than the fact that they are locked into taking a mediocre champion of a mediocre conference.
If so, why? This morning I heard her give her "expert analysis". It consisted of the following deep insights. The Democrats are divided between those who want to move left, and those who want to move right. The winner of the post of DNC chair will give us an insight into which way the party is headed. The party doesn't know how to appeal to church goers without pissing off abortion-rights and gay-rights supporters and Hollywood (yes, she actually said "Hollywood"). Even if there's more policy agreement between them than you'd think, Bill Clinton represents the "moderates" and Hillary Clinton represents "the liberals", because she has liberal constituents in New York. The Bush administration and House Republicans are more partisan than many previous power players in Washington.
Why don't they just send a reporter and a producer over to the nearest middle school? If that want insight that deep I've known several 6th graders who could provide it (hey, even Bill Schneider could provide), and they'd probably do it for free (and maybe that would save us from a few minutes of those interminable fund-raising drives). And if NPR wants pointless and vapid ... well, they aren't doing their job.
You know, Team America might be great - I haven't seen it, but I like a lot of the stuff the South Park guys have done - but I love that we live in a country where Napoleon Dynamite has made more money ($43 million) in ticket sales than Matt & Trey's latest highly-promoted comedy extravaganza ($32 million). Hey, it's even made more than Garden State ($26 million), I Heart Huckabees ($11 million) and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow ($37 million - poor Paramount). All those other movies have their good points, but it's pretty cool that such a low-budget, funny, joyous little film can get so much support.
I hope that democracy wins the day in Ukraine, and I think it's great to see the interest from around the world (especially Europe) in supporting that cause. Now, if only the recent backwards moves (following a good deacde of backwards movement) in Jordan could get a little more attention.
The appeals are done, the US has lost, and the WTO has authorized initial penalities against the US of $150 million for the "Byrd Amendment" (fathered by the West Virginia senator who's one of the country's most outspoken opponents of many free-trade policies). It's important to note though that, as this story points out, the penalties could become much, much bigger over time.
I've been waiting for Ashcroft v. Raich for months, and to my eyes it's quite possibly the most important case of the year. But there will, of course, be other business before the Court next week and this gender-equity case that the Court will hear on Tuesday looks pretty interesting.
It's one of the best movies of the year, while at the same time being in many ways your basic road movie. A couple of friends (a med student and a biochemist) set off on a road adventure (they are planning on traveling by motorcycle from Buenos Aires to Chile and then on North through South America, with a stop planned in Peru to work at a leper colony). But as the trip winds on, they discover new things about the world and about themselves. Here and there it's too obvious and heavy-handed in how it shows the plight of the poor and oppressed and Che's reaction to their plight. But generally it's well-done. And as an added bonus, some of the scenery is beautiful. And no, I'm not talking about the shots of Gael Garcia Bernal (though I can't argue with Anthony Lane's description of Garcia Bernal - he's "preposterously pretty").
It may be too distant from the experiences of some viewers. Or perhaps it's that it's not ambitious on the terms that typically deeply affect American moviegoers. But on its own terms it's very, very good, and I really liked it.
OK, I feel like a whore for even bringing this up - I mean what are these lists but incredibly lazy attempts to get your product(s) noticed - but Rolling Stone is theoretically supposed to be a music magazine, and one oriented towards the concept of rock music in particular, so I've got to ask - why do so many of their top rock songs not rock? "What's Going On" is a terrific song. Absolutely great, and it's reputation as a classic is deserved. But is it a rock song? I think people could debate that point. But that's at least one of the songs you could argue about. There are loads of things here that clearly aren't rock songs - "Imagine"? "Bridge Over Troubled Waters"? Are they trying to be funny?
What a peculiar film. I should begin by saying that I haven't seen any of Guy Maddin's other films, so I don't know how it compares to the rest of his work. But it's certainly unusual. The approach to the filming and the look of the thing are extremely unusual. As is the story. When you put it all together, I didn't like it much (though I didn't disliked it) - but it's a wacky, different ride.
It's shot through odd lenses, and at odd angles. Saying that it's in black and white and some of the sets would be appropriate for an elementary school play doesn't come close to describing the obscured, dreamy, fake look of it. Maybe I should mention that one key point involves Isabella Rosselini's legless, beer magnate bitch receiving glass legs filled with her beer - legs created by the man who sawed off her original legs. Or should I mention that one of the leg-maker's sons (a cellist who goes by Gavrilo the Great in honor of the man who started the Great War) carries around the heart of his dead son in a jar? Of should I mention the amnesiac who's also part of this family. She's played by Maria de Medeiros (perhaps you remember her huge eyes and prominent cheeks from her performance as Bruce Willis' girlfriend in Pulp Fiction). All in all it's interesting as an oddly constructed wacky, family freak show. But, that said, I don't know that it adds up to much.
No, I'm not talking about Florida in November 2000 (though that was an impressive piece of work, in a manner of speaking). I'm talking about his recent work in achieving Iraqi debt reduction from the "Paris Club" countries. Of course Iraq owes much more money to our "allies" in the Middle East than to the Europeans, but hey, maybe this will raise the pressure on them to act in a similar way.
James Baker, yet another reason why I think Bush 41 was better than Bush 43. It's a shame Mr. Baker is not returning to DC to run the State Department again.
The more I think about it, the more I think that Juan Forero's New York Times story (in the November 18, 2004 edition) on union leaders in Colombia may have been the most important story in the last week to go largely unnoticed. Perhaps this is because it wasn't in the A section. Perhaps it was because it dealt with labor and Colombia (hardly issues that typically top the news). Perhaps it was due to the fact that it wasn't "news" as such - it's a problem that's been persisting like a cancer on Colombia for years. But I think it gets at some things that are of central importance as we try to understand other countries and international relations.
The basic problem is that union leaders have been killed on a regular basis. Over 2,100 union leaders have been slain since 1991. Now the number of deaths has been declining during the Uribe government's tenure - only 58 had died this year by the middle of last week, and there were only 94 killed last year (compare that to 1996 when 222 were murdered) - but it's still a major problem, and virtually all of the killings are unsolved. Now, on a basic level, everyone knows who's doing it: right-wing paramilitaries financed by land owners and cocaine traders who see the organizers as rebels, leftists who want to hurt the economy. And in some cases the specific killers are known, but various government officials have made sure that they aren't prosecuted (to the point that some have even been sprung from prison). In response, many union leaders have fled the country.
Why is this important? There are two things about this that strike me as vitally important and are far too frequently overlooked when discussing international relations. First, Americans assume that all of the world's governments function like ours. That is far from the case. Many central governments are far, far, far weaker - and local leaders with interests that may conflict with those in the capital have far more control. This affects a host of political issues from how to deal with humantarian crises to fighting terrorism. Secondly, this gets at the great difficulties faced by the masses as they try to improve their lot in many of the world's poorer countries. Those attempting to challenge the status quo or fight for better wages often end up dead. Given the importance of both establishing a stable middle class and amelioriating wide-spread and extreme poverty to the stability of a country, both economically and politically, and in the fostering of a wide variety of political and social norms that the Western countries supposedly favor, this is a big problem. And on a more specific point, this kind of thing keeps all sorts of wages low and makes it harder for some developed-world workers to remain efficient in a global marketplace filled with sweat-shop-wage laborers.
The article notes that some in Congress would like to tie future trade agreements to fighting these sorts of abuses. I'm not sure that's the answer. But it seems that we need to do something, and not let conditions like these fester.
Proving, yet again, the lack of importance attached to party labels in Louisiana, the race between Republican Billy Tauzin III (who came in first in the primary with 32%) and Democrat Charlie Melancon (who came in second with 24%) is generating endorsements that would look odd elsewhere. Democrat Charmaine Caccioppi (who won 7% and had the backing of both the President and Mayor of Jefferson Parish, along with endorsements from former state Attorney General Ieyoub and former Lt. Governor Schwegmann) is backing Republican Tauzin. Republican Kevin Chiasson (who won 4%) and Democrat Damon Baldone (who won 10%) are backing Democrat Melancon. Republican state senator Craig Romero (who finished a close 3rd with 23%) is remaining neutral.
Has anyone seen any polling out there on the number of Americans who feel that's an untenable position? My guess is that it's a lot higher than a lot of Democrats and other Bush opponents would believe. Much like the recent poll that 1/3 of Americans believe that the Bible is the literal word of God ... well, it strikes me that far too many political leaders have unrealistic hopes about winning over certain voters by reframing particular issues. But then again if we'd just bother to listen to political scientists we'd all already know that winning national elections has nothing to do with appealing to 100% of the electorate - it's all built on appealing to about 5% of the electorate. 10% tops.
On Monday I commented on two of the actors in Mr. Minghella's last major film - Jude Law and Philip Seymour Hoffman. But I've also been wondering something about Mr. Minghella that maybe some of the rest of you have some thoughts on. What is it about his films that make them extremely well-crafted, but at the same time not very enjoyable? I'm thinking of The English Patient (which was fashionable to dislike even before the Seinfeld episode mocking it), The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain. Personally, I think all were beautifully made, and I quite enjoyed the first two - but there is something about them that seems very ... well, what? Is it cold? Distant? Harsh? Depressing? Is it that there are problems with the endings (at least with the last two)? Why aren't these films liked more?
Last week Senior Judge Donald Lay of the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals had an op-ed in The New York Times on the need for federal drug courts. Considering that 1) such courts have a great record of improving things at the state level and 2) over half of the people in federal prisons are there on drug-related convictions, it strikes me as quite odd that this concept hasn't been pursued before. Or has it been pursued? Have I just missed something? Are there forces standing in the way of implementing this idea? If so, what are they? This seems like a complete no-brainer, and I don't understand why these haven't been created yet.
I disagree with half of what Byron has to say about the Arnold amendment. I think we should pass an amendment to allow naturalized citizens to run for president. But I think his solution - passing it with a time requirement that wouldn't allow middle-aged or older Americans to run - is silly. This amendment isn't about benefiting one person (or two if we count Gov. Granholm). It's about giving all Americans the opportunity to lead this country. I'd say it's reasonable to require that someone should have had to live here for 15 or 20 years so that they could have gotten a deep exposure to American life, but what matters here is making sure that all US citizens have equal opportunities and feel invested in their country's government. Opening the doors of opportunity to thousands or millions is of much greater importance to me than whether or not one or two people stand to benefit from this proposal right now. And what kind of message does it send to all the Americans who could never be qualified under his proposal? You're an American for life - but you can't run. I think that's awful.
Since I'm praising one actor this afternoon, I suppose it's only fair to balance that with criticizing another - and why not take on a favorite of so many other actors while I'm at it! As I mentioned below I watched Cold Mountain last week and was reminded of one of the things in life that flumoxes me - why so many people who work in the arts rhapsodize at length about Philip Seymour Hoffman. It's not that I think he's a poor actor. And it's not that he hasn't been great (he was excellent in Punch-Drunk Love and Happiness, and very good in Boogie Nights). My problem with him, especially in the last 5 years or so, is that I he always seems so obviously to be acting. Now there's a time and place for that. And, yes, he throws in some little moves and such that I'm sure other actors adore. But to me it's far too often the case that I feel like I'm watching Philip Seymour Hoffman play the character I see before me, instead of just watching the character. And I find that irritating - no matter how interesting it might be from a technical standpoint.
Maybe others don't think it's that big a deal, but after watching both Cold Mountain and Alfie last week, and thinking about his body of work, does it strike anyone else that Jude Law has a remarkable ability to fill a fairly broad variety of roles given that he's stunningly pretty? True, make-up and costumes can conceal or distort his appearance (think of AI or Road to Perdition). But it still strikes me that one would usually expect his looks to be a bit of a burden (true, in many ways a wonderful burden to be stuck with) in that they could constrain the variety of roles he's offered. Yet he's gotten a very interesting mix of parts, and he's excelled throughout his career. He's an extremely talented actor.
While I certainly have no knowledge of whether the Mosque shooting was valid or not, I can comment more accurately on the hew and cry of the videotape in this country. While there seems to be mostly good debate over the incident, there is clearly a darker side. There is a very ugly undercurrent over in the Wingnut camp to blame the cameraman for the whole incident. In other words, the journalist should have done his American Duty and destroyed the evidence in the name of promoting America and denying a propaganda opportunity to the insurgents. A related undercurrent argues that we are traitorous Americans for even questioning what a Marine does in any circumstance.
This is very dangerous. One of the fundamental, perhaps the fundamental right in this country is the right of free speech and debate. Without that, we cannot hope to have a functional democracy. The military justice system will decide the guilt or innocence of the Marine, but as citizens we not only have the right, but arguably the duty to see what our country is doing in Iraq and discuss and comment on it. Open debate is a far from treason as any action I can imaging, and the fact that some people equate the two is as frightening a thing as I have seen in quite a while.
As I noted this morning, it strikes me that if the Democrats hope to take back one arm of Congress in 2006, they should focus on the House. Why? It strikes me that there are more opportunities there for pickups than there will be in the Senate. Or, put another way, I don't think it's realistic at this point to expect that the Democrats can net 6 US Senate seats in 2 years.
As I see it, there are 14 seats that could be talked about, but 7 of those strike me as rather likely to remain with the party that currently holds them. Yes, Arizona may be trending blue, but I'm unaware of anyone on the Democratic bench who could take out Jon Kyl. Yes, Florida is always close, but I think that with the benefits of incumbency and a long, moderate record Bill Nelson should survive. Similarly, Michigan is a toss-up state, but it strikes me that Debbie Stabenow will be favored. The Democrats had a very good 2004 in Montana, but it will be hard to dislodge Conrad Burns. Yes, Bill Frist's retirement opens up a seat in Tennessee - but we saw this year that even when they run superb candidates, Democrats have a tough time winning in the South. Lincoln Chafee and Kent Conrad? It's possible they could be defeated. They represent states in which their party is unusually weak. But they are popular and seem unlikely to lose unless it's in a very close race against a very strong candidate.
So basically I think it will come down to seven states: NE (probably a Republican gain), MO (probably stays Republican), MN (potentially the definitive toss-up), MS (it depends on Mike Moore), PA (I'm so looking forward to this), VA (it depends on Mark Warner) and WV (depends on Bob Byrd). And if the Democrats somehow managed to win all of those seats (something that would be stunning) the Republicans would still have a majority. So if the goal is a Democratic majority in 2007 - the Democrats had best look to the House.
This is ... different. Now Chuck Hagel I can see. He's an extremely impressive guy. But Ben Nelson? Can he possibly be serious?
Remember that there are still two races for Congress yet to be run - the run-offs in Louisiana's 3rd and 7th districts. Given that incumbents rarely (almost never) lose, and the fact that the Senate races of 2006 don't look especially good for the Democrats (I might get to that in a longer post today), these races are key since they'll set the stage for the House races of 2006 - the arena of federal races in which the Democrats might have a shot at putting a check on Republican dominance in DC. Ricky Prado has this coverage of where the race in the 7th district stands.
Changing the rule is not a sign that lawmakers think DeLay will be indicted, Cantor said, but rather a public rebuke of an investigation they feel is wholly unwarranted.
So the House Republican leadership is now deciding who and what will be investigated? Great. I admire Eric Cantor's (R-VA) political skills, but pardon me if I don't blindly trust him and Tom Delay to follow the law. We have a court system for a reason, and one of those reasons is to serve as a check on abuses by political figures. Why should politicians get to decide which investigations are legitimate? The rest of us don't get that right.
If you take a stroll down memory lane with The Daily Howler you'll cringe at the thought of Rice's upcoming confirmation hearings.
How dare puny judges question my power! The AG has basically accused the US Court system of being in league with the terrorists. Lovely. You know, if you're watching Seinfeld and see "No soup for you!" it's kind of funny. If you're watching the US Attorney General and he's saying "No rule of law for you!", it's extremely disturbing.
Three senior administration officials charged that Goss and his aides are carrying out a "White House-directed purge." One said it appears to be directed at "everybody who said there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaida and everybody who they think leaked information that undercut what the administration was claiming ...
Cheney, they said, was particularly angered by reports, first carried by Knight Ridder, that the CIA had been unable to find any conclusive evidence tying Saddam's regime to Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Cheney had ordered the CIA to take another look at possible links among Saddam, Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden, the official said, and was angered when a CIA briefer told him the results of the inquiry. "This is a classic case of shooting the messenger," said one senior official. "Unfortunately, they're the same messengers we're counting on to warn us of the next al-Qaida attack."
As to the State Department: "They're going to purge the State Department," said one of the senior officials, adding that he'd heard White House officials say: "The State Department doesn't get it. They're not on the president's message."
And Glenn Kessler and Thomas Ricks note that State's employees are going to be less than thrilled with their new top brass: "State Department officials dislike her intensely because they love Powell and believe her staff demeaned the State Department," said one former State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he frequently interacts with Rice."
So while there might be an unheard of level of agreement at the top of the decision-making process, it looks like State may soon be riddled with internal divisions. Great. It'll look like the Defense Department has looked for the last four years. That's not going to be pretty.
Maybe the partisan purging of that "hotbed of liberals" otherwise known as the CIA, the nomination of uber-yes man Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General (a man who has argued that the president can have US citizens arrested and held forever without trial - oh, and he's said that they can be tortured too), and the nomination of Condi Rice, queen of lies and incompetence, as Secretary of State is all part of some master plan to convert more Americans to Christianity. With people like this in charge of the asylum (and, unfortunately, the country as well), I can certainly see an argument for the idea that we all need to start praying much more often.
Josh Marshall's point is basically right - Bush is ensuring that those closest to him are in top positions. This is hugely problematic in that this administration is already the most tightly-knit in memory. And the level of insulation that this administration has practiced has had serious consequences that have badly damaged US interests (see my previous posts on this here and here - they make an important point). What he's doing is replacing the handful of top people that he's not completely, absolutely, 100% comfortable with, with people who have a long history of never raising a peep of opposition, or bringing up ideas that will rock that boat. Now I'm thrilled to get Rice out of the NSC. She was an unmitigated disaster. But it strikes me that at this point the chief attribute that recommends her to serve as head of the oldest cabinet office in the US government is that the president enjoys singing old songs around the piano with her at Camp David. And if that's what things have come to ... well, I fear what the myopia of this administration will mean for this country and its citizens down the road. With Gonzalez at Justice, the president's buddies running foreign policy, and the no-dissent-allowed majorities that Frist and Delay have in Congress, there will be no check on this sort of behavior. And no one present who will be able to even bring up unpleasant realities we need to confront to run the country effectively. Not only will a dissenting voice not be heard. There will likely be even stronger unanimity than in the past arguing that planning for unpleasant possibilities is unnecessary.
As an upside, one could say that perhaps there will be fewer inter-agency squabbles of the sort that Rice has proven herself unable, and even unwilling, to confront. But the goal should be to effectively manage a variety of voices and information, not to eliminate the little dissent that exists. Often that results in poor planning, and a skewed perception of reality. And we'll all have to live with the consequences when the ever-narrower echo chamber the president is creating refuses to confront problems that don't mesh with its worldview.
From this ad it's tough to tell if state senator Willie Mount (D-LA) is running for Congress (she's the Democratic nominee in the run-off in Louisiana's 7th district) or trying to get a job with, say, James Dobson, Tony Perkins or Pat Robertson.
The problem with Gonzales is that he has been deeply involved in developing some of the most sweeping claims of near-dictatorial presidential power in our nation's history. These claims put President Bush literally above the law, allowing him to imprison and even (at least in theory) torture anyone in the world, at any time, for any reason that Bush associates with national security.
I'd say that this column announces that Stuart Taylor is in the category of people who are extremely troubled by the prospect of Alberto Gonzalez running the Justice Department.
When we started this blog that I was making a weekly habit of recommending particularly good novels (click on the "Books" archive if you want to read my thoughts on the likes of Hotel World, The Rotter's Club, and The Moor's Last Sigh). I have, unfortunately, gotten out of that habit, though I will try to renew it again soon. Part of the reason for that is that I've simply haven't been reading novels lately, instead spending more time on good articles and short fiction. If, like me, that's all you've had time for lately, but you're still interested in literature, I urge you to check out the November 8th issue of The New Yorker. It includes a fun little Jonathan Franzen story, "Breakup Stories", and a nice piece by David Remnick on Amos Oz, probably Israel's most famous writer.
But if today you're yearning for a fun review of a novel, and I do promise to get back to recommending lengthier fiction soon ... well, I've always liked Julian Sanchez's take on the most recent Harry Potter - "Eichmann in Hogwarts".
Matt Yglesias reminds us that it's hard to combine Iraq's multiethnic situation and its vast oil reserves into a functioning democratic political system.
Since I went to the WVU-Boston College game this weekend college football has been on my mind - even more than usual. First off, I'd like to note that Morgantown is a great place to go to a game. Really. And in lots of ways WVU has more than its share of truly-devoted, friendly fans. That said, I don't know that this was the best of years to go a WVU game. True, they only had one loss before Saturday - but that raised expectations high. Very high. And when the team's play didn't match those expectations far too many fans turned against their team. After an exasperating 45 minutes I can see that. I can even see it after a bad half. But it's pretty depressing to hear the level of jeers that I heard in the first 5 or 10 minutes. And given how the team played on Saturday, you can imagine how bad things had gotten by the fourth quarter. It's great when a team that usually doesn't make the BCS has a chance to - but a lot of fans take it really badly when their team can't follow through on that dream.
That said, the fans had a lot of legitimate concerns. It's hard to describe just how bad the Mountaineers special teams are. WVU can run the ball, but that's about it. As to BC - their quarterback lived up to his fine reputation. And Ayres, their freshman punter, looked good (not that he was needed often). And of course given the scale of the win, BC generally looked good. That said, I wouldn't encourage you to bet on either of these teams come Bowl season.
Finally, I want to note that I'm really pleased that the AP poll now has Auburn tied with Oklahoma at #2. I'd like them to have the #2 slot to themselves, but at least some movement in that direction is happening. While it's hard to knock an undefeated team (both OU and Auburn are undefeated). Auburn has posted much stronger wins over top-level competitors, and it's certainly looked better than OU over the past few weeks. I think that if they win out they should get to play an undefeated Trojans team for the championship.
Building upon Baltar's excellent post below (yes, that means you should scroll down and read that) we have this from Newsday:
"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."
Don't you just love it when a leader starts purging those he considers disloyal? Me neither. In fact, it reminds me of Stalin and all the highly qualified people he had tortured and/or shot because he didn't trust them. Fortunately for them, those who are purged from the CIA aren't likely to be executed or shipped off to Siberia. Unfortunately for us, this tactic threatens to turn an intelligence agency into an intelligence-that-matches-the-White-House-talking-points agency.
What's fundamentally disturbing here is that these people are being fired for their political views and reluctance to tow the White House line when they think that the White House is reading intelligence incorrectly. It's yet another example of the destructive lengths this White House goes to in its attempts to block dissent or even consider alternate possibilities and viewpoints - something that's normally essentialy for optimal decision making.
Matt Yglesias makes the intriguing point that it's not a matter of ideology or design - it's a product of Bush's obsession with loyalty and weak decision-making skills.
David Brooks' column today may have a good point (I don't think so), but the tone is downright dangerous. He argues that Bush's enemies are the CIA:
Now that he's been returned to office, President Bush is going to have to differentiate between his opponents and his enemies. His opponents are found in the Democratic Party. His enemies are in certain offices of the Central Intelligence Agency...Over the past several months, as much of official Washington looked on wide-eyed and agog, many in the C.I.A. bureaucracy have waged an unabashed effort to undermine the current administration.
In addition to being wrong, this is dangerous. We have a critical need to repair the CIA, given our reliance on it for the war on terrorism and danger of nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. Declaring the CIA the "enemy" of President Bush more deeply politicizes the CIA and makes it more difficult to fix the problems in the CIA and more difficult for the CIA and the adminstration to work together to solve our national security problems. Brooks is just wrong to use inflamtory language like this, even if he believes it.
And he's wrong on substance, too. His charge is that the CIA did everything it could to hinder Bush's re-election:
At the height of the campaign, C.I.A. officials, who are supposed to serve the president and stay out of politics and policy, served up leak after leak to discredit the president's Iraq policy. There were leaks of prewar intelligence estimates, leaks of interagency memos. In mid-September, somebody leaked a C.I.A. report predicting a gloomy or apocalyptic future for the region. Later that month, a senior C.I.A. official, Paul Pillar, reportedly made comments saying he had long felt the decision to go to war would heighten anti-American animosity in the Arab world....The White House-C.I.A. relationship became dysfunctional, and while the blame was certainly not all on one side, Langley was engaged in slow-motion, brazen insubordination, which violated all standards of honorable public service. It was also incredibly stupid, since C.I.A. officials were betting their agency on a Kerry victory.
I'm not really sure Brooks understands what the CIA (supposedly) did. They certainly weren't actively campaigning for Kerry. As citizens they have the right to say what they want about politics: that rule is somewhat compromised by their job (can't reveal secrets, etc.), but it was a campaign, and people do have the right to talk about politics.
But this also misses the point. The CIA works for everyone, not just the President. Their job is to gather and analyze information about events in the world that affect the US, and to ensure that our decision-makers (executive and legilsative) have the correct information to make policy. The cases Brooks describes are of individuals discussing factual based questions (Did the US invasion of Iraq create more anti-Americanism in the MidEast? What is the likely outcome for Iraq over the next few years? Was the war against Iraq fought correctly? Was the post-war occupation planned well?). The fact that the answers to the questions were harmful to the President's re-election; the fact that the answers to these questions showed a consistent stream of wrong decisions (made, mostly, in the face of recommendations by the CIA to do things differently) is what Brooks is upset about. Sure, there are people in the CIA leaking to the press at volumes we haven't seen before; sure, people in the CIA are speaking publicly at rates seldom seen before. Is this because they are insubordinate Democratic bastards working for Kerry (as Brooks believes), or is this because the CIA generally feels that their work is undervalued (or ignored) by idealogues in the White House and Pentagon, and that their country is moving in the wrong direction in terms of foreign policy and that they needed to speak up about it before things got worse? Perhaps the problem isn't insubordination, but a White House unwilling or unable to accept the facts as the CIA sees them. Brooks neglects the fact that the CIA has generally been right in its pessimism, something the White House might want to pay some attention to.
Brooks' solution is a bloodletting in the CIA to force it back under the executive heel:
Meanwhile, members of Congress and people around the executive branch are wondering what President Bush is going to do to punish the mutineers. A president simply cannot allow a department or agency to go into campaign season opposition and then pay no price for it. If that happens, employees of every agency will feel free to go off and start their own little media campaigns whenever their hearts desire...If we lived in a primitive age, the ground at Langley would be laid waste and salted, and there would be heads on spikes. As it is, the answer to the C.I.A. insubordination is not just to move a few boxes on the office flow chart...The answer is to define carefully what the president expects from the intelligence community: information. Policy making is not the C.I.A.'s concern. It is time to reassert some harsh authority so C.I.A. employees know they must defer to the people who win elections, so they do not feel free at meetings to spout off about their contempt of the White House, so they do not go around to their counterparts from other nations and tell them to ignore American policy.
I'll give Brooks a crumb here: CIA employees should not tell their counterparts in other states to ignore US policy. That is insubordinate, and bad for everyone. Other than that, doesn't it seem that Brooks thinks the insubordination is of greater concern than getting good intelligence out? That forcing the CIA to behave and toe the Republican line is of more importance than figuring out why the CIA was wrong on Iraqi WMD, or what really is going on in North Korea, Iran, and Iraq (we still don't really know who the insurgency is, how they are organized, where the money is, etc.)? Maybe it's just me, but I'll accept the insubordination if they are right most of the time. That's what we pay them for, right?
I find it particularly ironic that Brooks' diatribe lands on the same day that we find out that the second in command at the CIA, a career intelligence official widely admired, is leaving because he can't get along with Bush's new choice for the CIA, Porter Goss. And that, it seems, the bloodletting is beginning:
Mr. McLaughlin submitted his resignation after clashing with Patrick Murray, a top aide to Mr. Goss, two former intelligence officials said...Still, the officials said that tensions between Mr. Goss's staff and the agency's directorate of operations in particular had made it increasingly unclear whether Stephen R. Kappes, the agency's deputy director for operations, would stay on in his post...Mr. Goss had been sharply critical of the directorate before taking over, and he has not made any announcement about Mr. Kappes's future...Mr. Goss, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, became director of central intelligence in late September and has unnerved many career officials at the C.I.A. by installing four former House Republican officials in senior advisory positions. For weeks, current and former intelligence officials have been bracing for further changes...The resignation is among those marking the end of a notably stable era within the C.I.A.'s executive suite. Other senior officials who served under Mr. Tenet but who have departed, or announced plans to depart, since Mr. Goss took over include A. B. Krongard, the executive director; Martin Petersen, the deputy executive director; and Stan Moskowitz, the Congressional affairs director.
I'm not saying their shouldn't be a shake-up at the CIA (they were wrong on a number of critical issues recently), or that people don't need to be removed, but when Goss brings over people from the Hill from the Intelligence Committee (and remember, these people got jobs with Goss in the House because they were Republican, not because they knew the intelligence field), that's not a non-partisan placement. When most of the top brain-trust of the CIA ups and leaves, that's not necessarily the right direction. That's a great deal of experience leaving in a very short time period. How is the CIA going to produce "right answers" now? The public evidence seems clear that Bush looked for a partisan DCI to replace Tenet, one that would keep a lid on the CIA and prevent it from continuing to leak the pessimism it had been doing since the Iraqi invasion. Bush has no interest in an effective CIA if it interferes with getting a loyal (read: bright, sunny reports that don't tell the White House everything is going well) CIA. And Porter Goss is clearly carrying out that mission. So what is Brooks complaining about?
If I were a CIA employee, facing this kind of top-down institutional change that seeks ideological purity and loyalty over analysis and right answers, I'd be speaking out too.
The losers here are the people of this country. It's a dangerous world out there, and we need a CIA working effectively to understand and explain all the threats against us. David Brooks fundamentally misunderstands that.
I think Orin Kerr is probably right - the practice he discusses here may have a lot to do with it.
This Mark Leon Goldberg post is interesting and important. Africa has long been of relatively little interest to Americans. But it's strategic importance is growing - and quickly - in no small part due to war on terrorism and the continual discovery of more petroleum reserves in the region (and we have already grown used to importing a great deal of oil from countries like Nigeria and Angola). If China's influence in the region is growing and ours is weakening - that's something about which we definitely need to be concerned.
This week I finally got around to watching Before Sunset (the sequel to Before Sunrise, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke). If you liked the first movie, you've got to watch the second one. It's almost disarmingly real. Beyond that ... well, I don't want to say too much about it beyond the fact that nine more years have made these characters more interesting, thoughtful, complex and surprising. And it's nice to see that they've overcome some of their 20-something pretensions. It's also interesting as a cinematic experience - it has extremely long shots and lengthy observations (veritable speeches) but it seems to be constantly moving forward. Yet you're never really sure where it's headed. Ethan Hawke does a fine job, and Julie Delpy is superb. And we're treated to her sining (she's surprisingly good). I'm not saying it's the best movie of the year, but it's one of the best I've seen.
In a shocking turn of events (as if) Bavaria has become the latest German state to ban school teachers from wearing Muslim headscarves. Christian and Jewish symbols in the classroom? Those are fine.
You know if governments are going to follow this route (something I am not suggesting) you'd think they'd at least follow the French model and say all religious headgear was banned (Muslim, Sikh, whatever). To do otherwise is just so obviously discriminatory and (arguably) more than a little racist. But I guess the government of Bavaria doesn't mind taking on those traits.
I usually wouldn't bother rebuking stuff published in the Standard. But this is rewriting history that happened last week! I guess their new motto is that it's never too early to get the revisionism going. There are a host of things wrong with this analogy, but let's just look at a few of the most glaring mistakes. To say that Kerry was "bound to win" like Dewey was is a laughable statement. Look at the polls - I don't remember seeing any giant margins for Kerry. Show them to me (oh, wait, you can't - so gigantic factual inaccuracy that fatally undermines your premise #1 ... let's proceed). Or look at the popularity of the incumbent - the idea that Bush was as unpopular as Truman is equally laughable. I mean Truman saw not one but two wings of his party break off and run candidates against him for the presidency (and that was after many major players had tried to dump Truman himself as the official Democratic candidate in favor of General Eisenhower). Truman couldn't even get one of the candidates he wanted to run with him as Vice President to say yes to the proposition (Justice Douglas didn't see the point of joining a likely to lose ticket). If we bother with the remainder of the article ...
Further rewriting campaign history, the author (David Gelernter) notes that both Bush and Truman served in the National Guard. Perhaps, but Truman served in France in World War I while Bush served in Alabama - and I think most voters would note that's a key distinction. The author also notes that, like Truman, Bush never planned to be president (huh? - then what exactly was it that Bush was doing from 1998-2000? methinks more than a little planning occurred).
He then proceeds to note a variety of ways in which they were similar - but ways that I don't think reflect well on either man. For example - "Bush, like Truman, took office with no clear worldview or plan of action--but with non-negotiable moral principles." One, I'm not sure I buy that, and two, even if one does, is that a good thing? They both "redefined America's world mission" - ok, they both responded to events (after making early mistakes). I'm not clear on how this reflects well on them either. Etc, etc, etc. While his campaign analysis is, in four words, plainly wrong and stupid, there's more to this. But not much that makes me hopeful about our future. I mean if Bush really is Truman what do we have to look forward too? A reliance on too many hacks and old friends. Corruption scandals. The worst Supreme Court appointments in decades (Truman's were a notably undistinguished group - as to one reason why, see earlier comment about hacks and old friends). Oh, and wait, we get to misread powerful states, make glaring political and intelligence mistakes, and get bogged down in a war that will kill tens of thousands of Americans. I really wish he'd compared him to another ex-president. This is a depressing thought with which to start a Friday.
OK, if you are pro-creationism and anti-evolution, stop reading now, or you will just get ticked off. A nod to Baltar for calling my attention to this post on "classroom activities" over at Fafblog. Even better is this comment, which for some reason, on a Thursday night, makes the geeky scientist/Monty Python fan in me giggle. Hint: read the last bit of the comment to yourself in the voice used in the Holy Grail while describing the count for the Holy Hand Grenade ('First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.')
Or, failing that ... well, do something with it. Stories like this (thanks Joshua)show just how ridiculous things have gotten in the Michael Powell era.
As someone who not only grew up in the church, but was in the choir, served as crucifer, went to religious schools for many years (Episcopalian, Baptist and Roman Catholic), I have to say I don't recognize this guy as a Christian at all. That's a horrible thing to say, but I'm afraid it's true. Someone who doesn't think America deserves to be saved (yeah, that's patriotism for you) purports to design America's political life?
And I am continually mystified by religious people thinking it's appropriate to make biblical norms American law (how would Jones feel if the word "Koran" was substituted for "Bible"), but that's a whole different issue.
Typical Donaldson - arrogant, out-of-date, and completely off the mark as a political observation (since short of the Republican nominee being a Communist black lesbian who funnels the profits of her gay prostitution ring to Al Qaeda, no Democrat is going to carry Nebaska in a presidential election). ABC waited far, far too long to replace him on Sunday mornings with George S.
I don't know that these numbers have any sort of deep philosophical or political meaning - but I think it's interesting to note them given the generally accepted idea that legislatures are supposed to represent the views of "the people", and all the mandate talk lately.
If the rumors are true, Alberto Gonzalez is going to be named Attorney General. Hey, why not just dig up John Mitchell and A. Mitchell Palmer? The Justice Department is unique. It is the center of federal law enforcement, and it does, on occasion, need to be a check on the executive branch. We need to know that the leader there has a certain level of character, and an independent mind. I've long thought that anybody who can't get 60 votes in the Senate shouldn't be Attorney General. That's why I thought it was perfectly appropriate to block Zoe Baird, even if it was over a rather insignificant issue. The Attorney General needs to be someone who'll be trusted to uphold the law - even the laws the White House doesn't like. The idea that a torture-memo writing, Bush toadie may soon take up office there ... is exactly what we should expect from someone who'd name John Ashcroft to the office.
Still, this office has enormous power, and from his behavior so far we have no reason to think that Gonzalez has much respect (if any at all) for civil liberties or checks on government power, and every reason to suspect he'll serve partisan ends once intstalled in office. It'll likely be costly politically (it could very well hurt the Democrats with Hispanics), but politicians who purport to have principles and backbone should oppose Gonzalez - and strongly. You can make a reasonable argument that at least for the next 4 years this nomination matters more than who becomes Chief Justice. The Democrats (and hopefully some Republicans) should keep that in mind.
Though it's too bad for Americans that it's Michael Howard doing it and not President Bush.
You should usually read Fred Kaplan's articles - but you should really make a point to read this one. Calling this "a shot in the dark" might be extreme, but given the level of the rebellion (or insurgency or whatever you want to call it) OUTSIDE Fallujah, the fact that the population of Fallujah will want to return to the city (or the little that will be left of it), massive desertions from the Iraqi military, a host of countries pulling out or reducing their forces (Kaplan provides a lengthy list) ... well, one wonders the degree to which Washington felt the need to do something, anything, to try and stem the tide. And providing the semblance of a military victory might be just what is needed if, as Kaplan suggests, some in DC are ready to just declare victory, get out, and leave Iraq to figure itself out.
Just so we're clear on this: Bush does not have any sort of mandate. Data from some random site, though I have no reason to doubt the numbers (first one I found on google).
(Before anyone gets worked up, I have dropped the third party candidates from this chart, even when they amounted to a good percent of the vote. Hence, by the numbers I'm using, Clinton did get over 50% of the vote both times. Everyone knew Perot wasn't going to win - it was a protest vote. If you don't like my methodology, get your own.)
|Year||Winner||Loser||Win Percent||Lose Percent||Electoral Split|
Bush did not get a mandate. Of the twelve elections here, Bush's 51.5 winning percentage is only eighth best (four were worse, seven were better). The next best (53.4) is Clinton in 1992, and nobody argued he had any kind of a mandate. Electorally, Bush is in even worse shape: his 286 this time is the second worse winning number (the 2000 result is the smallest margin in this sample). If Bush has a mandate this year, then every winning President has had one as well, and that's clearly not true.
Moreover, of the four second terms (Nixon 1972, Reagan 1984, Clinton 1996, and Bush 2004), Bush is easily the least popular. All other re-elected presidents won convincingly (Nixon got 61.2, Reagan 59.1, Clinton 54.7; Eisenhower back in 1956 is very high, as well) while Bush managed only 51.5%. This is not a resounding win by any stretch.
Republicans can claim a mandate all they want, but it just plain isn't true. Now that the election is over, can you stop spinning and actual just govern?
I'll let you guess the 4 letters that begin this site's name.
On another anti-regional or anti-geographic topic I read today (on TAPPED?) that the 45 Democratic and Independent senators were elected with two million more votes than the 55 Republican senators. I'm not going to say XXXX the vast, close-to-empty red states in the middle of the country. But I do think it's rather ridiculous that we continually proclaim ourselves the world's foremost democracy, yet we have half of our legislature based on centuries-old lines of political geography rather than something having to do with, say, people.
Yesterday Phil Carter made an important point when he noted that he (and others) believe that the Bush White House is fighting a war on terrorism - but is committing a terrible error in that they are judging progress in that war using metrics better suited to law enforcement operations.
This crossed my mind again today when I was looking at Lyle Denniston's discussion of Judge Robertson's ruling in the Hamdan case (it's a very informative post addressing the nature of the military tribunals - at least as they are currently run). In many ways this administration is prosecuting something between a war and a law enforcement operation - but I don't think it's at all clear that they are drawing the right conclusions about how best to combine the two.
Senator Chafee has ended the suspense - even though he was saying as recently as election day that he might switch parties, he has opted to stay a Republican. It's unclear what effect his recent musings will have on his reelection campaign in 2006. But it's unlikely a Republican will challenge him in a primary, and one could make an argument that his recent actions play up his moderate, independent image - something that may help him with Democrats.
In a new twist (and I mean twist) on the electoral maps of red and blue America, check out this graphic posted on Crooked Timber and the related stories they link to in the post. Wow.
At a certain level the governor of California creeps me out. No, I'm not talking about his allegiance to what must be the most demanding skin-care regimen in politics. I'm referring to his ability to come out smelling like a rose even if he makes a mistake or fails. One fact that's helped that no doubt is his tendency to appoint some extremely well-qualified people to high office. In the latest example, fresh off the failure of his party to gain even one seat in the California legislature, he's named former Congressman Tom Campbell as his Director of Finance. Campbell has his weak points (advocating a national sales tax), but he's brilliant (the youngest tenured professor ever at Stanford Law), has a deep knowledge of budget issues, and has a history of working well with members of both parties (which will be essential for success in Sacramento). With guys like this behind him, I don't expect the bloom to come off of the Governator's rose in the immediate future.
With numbers like this I think it's fair to say that Senator Ben Nelson will be a decided underdog if he's challenged by Gov. Mike Johanns. I'd like to think that the Democrats will be able to at least break even in the Senate in '06 after this year's losses. But starting down 1 will make it that much more difficult.
It has been about a week, and I can begin to think somewhat more rationally about all this. Kevin Drum, over at Washington Monthly, has a rough and dirty comparison of the 2004 exit polls over the 2000 exit polls, looking for actual evidience of where Bush picked up votes.
He argues that it wasn't the values thing at all, but the economy instead. While Kerry garnered 80% of the votes of those people who said that the economy was the most important voting issue, Bush got a big pile of votes from people who said the ecomomy was in good shape (though, presumably, not the most important voting issue). Hence, argues Drum, Bush won not because of values (which he argues was about a wash), but because he convinced more people that the country is in good shape economically (when most of the actual data says it really isn't all that good).
I'm not sure I buy this analysis. Drum has no actual data for "values" from 2000 (the question wasn't asked), so he is unable to have direct comparisons with the 2004 data. He may be right about Bush getting the vote of the people who think the economy is in good shape, but he fails to note what percentage of the electorate that is: if it is large, then that does explain Bush's win, but if it is relatively small, it doesn't. That's the key statistic for Drum, and it isn't in his post.
I think the underlying reason for Drum's argument is to continue to push for the Democrats to not move into the "values" camp, and to avoid fighting the Republicans on their own turf - to not turn the Democrats into Republican-lite. If you accept that as Drums motives, you can see the logic to the way he is (mis)reading the raw numbers.
Certainly the Democrats need to figure out why they have lost. But accurately finding out why is much more important for long term (2008) success than short term posts.
So says The Left Coaster.
The new issue of The Atlantic has a fine article by James Fallows on war games that are being run in an attempt to come up with policy options to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. As to the conclusions of these games - there is no good military option. We don't know how many sites we would have to strike if we tried some sort of precision attack against their nuclear infrastructure, much less how we many we could actually destroy. Nor do we know how much time that would buy us. And it probably would turn the population of Iran against us at a time when we are hoping they will eventually oust their government, and make them more likely to be more hostile to us in the future. In addition, there is every chance that would then lead Iran to strike us, and quite apart from potential attacks against the US homeland, Iran could make things absolutely terrible (yes, things actually could get much worse) for the US in Iraq. Which isn't to say the US might not still launch some sort of attack. As the article states, countries do make unviable, wildly-risky choices at times. But the article also makes clear that we should be very wary of believing our own threats against the regime in Tehran. We shouldn't delude ourselves - there are no good military options.
Other interesting snippets from the article:
The military still doesn't consider what happens after a battle has been won to be part of its job. Even with the lessons of Iraq, it's clear that there is a great deal of hostility to the idea of using troops as peacekeepers. They don't want to be used that way. That orientation has significant consequences for how military options are planned, and the likely end results of such plans.
All involved in these games (former administration officials, currently-serving officers and national-security academics) think the decision-making structure of the Bush foreign policy team is a hideous, inept mess. To quote Michael Mazarr, a professor of national-security strategy at the National War College, "Companies deciding which kind of toothpaste to market have much more rigorous, established decision-making processes". As Fallows puts it, relying upon a small group of decision makers who never challenge fundamental prevailing views, exclude regional experts and continually fight amongst themselves (due to very weak coordination from the National Security Council) as led to "ruinous consequences" that could have been prevented.
David Kay notes that the individuals making a lot of the key decisions in any president's second-term will likely be the "second-best" and "second-brightest" people for their jobs (as they fill in for people who are burnt out). Those who remain from the first term will likely become increasingly fatigued, and that will shape their decision making. I'm not sure how much I agree with this, but there I've certainly read enough governmental decision making articles suggesting such effects to think that Kay might be onto something that's potentially quite important, but rarely discussed.
You might have a different idea. After all, Democrats did well in many state and local races across the country on Tuesday. But my initial reaction is to say that it was in Montana. Even as President Bush was soundly defeating Senator Kerry in the state, Democrats won a host of races (including the governorship) and will weild more power there than they have at any time since the 1980's.
"The re-election of Israel's enemy." Yeah, that made me do a double-take too. But given that's a column by Gideon Levy in Ha'artez it's understandable. Basically, he's saddened that the US reelected someone who's going to continue to give Prime Minister Sharon a free hand. Remember that in the president's very first major policy meeting on Israel President Bush quickly put a stop to any proposals that would have involved pressuring Israel in the slightest way, and more or less said that a steady and firm use of force by the Israelis was what was needed to solve the conflict. True, that approach hasn't settled the situation for the last 56 years, but the people in the room who know that were quickly silenced. One doesn't contradict this president and live to keep his or her job in this administration, so that was that. Levy thinks that for a lasting peace to be accomplished the US will have to exert pressureon the Sharon government (his is basically a "stop us before we kill again" mentality), and he, quite rightly, sees that as extremely unlikely.
So hot on the heels of the news of the massive looting of explosives from Al Qaqaa, and the news that the explosives looted from there comprise just a tiny fraction of the explosives missing in Iraq, comes this story. Feeling safer yet?
That's the name being pitched by Mike Rappaport. Eugene Volokh thinks that's a fine idea. His nomination would make a great deal of sense, and I'm rather surprised his name isn't on more of the lists of possible nominees.
UPDATE: In case he doesn't get around to posting on this one: For the record, frequent commentator Joshua thinks President Bush will try to promote Justice Thomas to chief and nominate a hard-right conservative to replace Thomas. His theory is that the Democrats will only be able to fight one nomination. I can see the logic in that too.
Tom Goldstein thinks that the president will forego promoting a current Justice and instead name DC Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John Roberts.
Apparently the Dutch are going to pull their troops out of Iraq by the spring. That means that in just the last few weeks we've lost the military support of 3 NATO allies - the Netherlands, Poland and Hungary.
While many people in the gay and lesbian community were disappointed in Tuesday's presidential race (though it should be noted that between 20 and 25% of self-identified gay voters voted for President Bush), it's probably noteworthy that several gay and lesbian candidates won elections all across the country. These included wins in the legislatures of states such as North Carolina, Missouri, Vermont and California (in what may be some sort of record there are now 3 out lesbians in the California State Senate). Other noteworthy out winners included Lupe Valdez, the new sheriff in Dallas, and Rives Kistler who won a statewide race for a seat on the Oregon Supreme Court.
Good grief is he predictable. I didn't even have to scroll down before I knew he'd comment upon rumors that conservatives want to deny Arlen Specter the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. Of course he wasn't naming names, nor did he predict which way such a fight would go, but we can count on him to float yesterday's rumors - especially if they involve belittling moderate Republicans. Also predictable - wild, unsubstantiated assertions against progressive Democratic organizations - in this week's column, it's saying that voters ran from some Democrats in the election because they were supported by MoveOn (gasp!). And finally, what would a Novak weekend column be without either a dig at a rising liberal Democrat, or the promotion of someone on the right-wing of the Democratic Party. This weekend we got the latter - that people are already pushing Evan Bayh to be the nominee of the party in 2008. Yeah, if there's one reporter I rely on to have his or her finger on the pulse of the Democratic Party, it's Bob Novak.
All that said, he does often have one or two important points to make in his columns. This week, he rightly notes that while the numbers in the US House might not have changed much on Tuesday, it's important that several of the new Republicans are more aggressively conservative than the Republicans they replaced (the most obvious examples being in districts in Nebraska and Pennsylvania).
Sage, if sobering, advice from Josh Marshall.
So it turns out that the DOD and White House were lying after all. That's about as surprising as the sun rising in the East.
I can't wait to read Howard Bashman's article that he discusses here. My initial reaction is that I'd be stunned if the White House actually nominated Jones for Chief Justice. She'd seem relatively easy to defeat. Which isn't to say she would be defeated. With 55 Republicans in the Senate it will be very hard to defeat any Bush nominee. But her nomination would seem an unusually big risk.
So I watched a second multiple-hankie weepy this week, Latter Days. I don't watch many American-made "gay-themed" movies. One reason for this is that many of them are just plain bad. True, there are some great ones (say Longtime Companion, or I guess if you want to count it, Philadelphia). And there are also some that are awful, but in fall-on-the-floor funny ways, so those sort of count as good too, even if they aren't actually good at all (say, Better Than Chocolate). But given that many of these movies made in the US are just downright terrible (of course to be fair, most American movies are downright terrible), it's nice to find ones that are solid and enjoyable, if not spectacular (say, on the level of The Broken Hearts Club). I'd place Latter Days in that group of movies. It's not great, but it holds your interest. Steve Sandvoss gives a really nice acting debut as the Mormon missionary who finds forbidden love in California, and has some very hard choices to make.
That is a question that's likely to be debated a great deal in some circles. Blood and Treasure links to a story noting that long-time hold-out Norway is now more likely to join the European Union.
While the Blair government has firmly supported US action in Iraq, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said that he doesn't see "any circumstance in which military action would be justified against Iran".
Following a US request that would allow it to free up some of its own troops in central Iraq, the British moved 850 Black Watch soldiers to Camp Dogwood. They arrived last Friday. Already 3 have been killed, and there have been additional casualties as well.
My guess is that Franklin Foer , Kevin Drum and Professor Volokh may well be right. That said, I think their jabs at the Massachusetts Court are rather unfair. It's not that a majority of them met one morning and thought, hmmm, what sort of morality will we impose on the people today? If they thought that the laws of Massachusetts (which are indeed "texts") required them to rule a certain way, and apparently they did, I don't see how you can blame them for not taking public opinion into account. Last time I checked courts weren't designed to respond to the latest polls.
Well, with all the tiredness, disappointment and general political yuckiness today, I think I have an antidote (or at least, a small distraction). At the risk of provoking an eyeroll from Baltar, I offer you this little slice of happy goodness, silly fun, and cartoony psychedelia. You guessed it, the Flaming Lips new video for "SpongeBob and Patrick Confront the Psychic Wall of Energy."
For this to work, instead of clicking on the link, use your mouse to copy the link and paste it into the "open URL" option of your media player. This is the Windows Media version, and here is the one for Quicktime users. Enjoy!
Following on the heels of Poland, fellow NATO member Hungary announces it is going to pull its troops out of Iraq.
While Democrats have little to celebrate today, and Southern Democrats even less so (if you take the old Confederacy, Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma - Democrats now hold only 4 of the 28 US Senate seats from the area), one bright spot for them is the election of State Sen. Kip Holden as mayor-president of Baton Rouge. Holden will be the first African-American leader of Baton Rouge. He defeated Republican incumbent Bobby Simpson.
[Is this a meager prize given last night's losses? Perhaps. But as a former resident, I'm interested, and obviously it's of some consequence to the hundreds of thousands who live there.]
I remember as a child accompanying my mother to the voting booth, the curtain motoring closed, and the way she clicked all the little levers for the various candidates, sometimes referring to notes she had made about which person in which race. Although a registered Democrat, her perception of whether or not the candidate was a "good man" (yes "man," it was the 70s) was more important to her than party affiliation. Because of this, I never saw anyone use the "straight ticket" vote, and even thought of it as something people did when they didn't really think too much about voting, the way my mom did. But I still remember being fascinated with that big lever, and what it would be like to pull that puppy, as opposed to all the little clicks of the individual candidate levers.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and now I'm the same age as my mother when she was pregnant with me. Of all things, I've become pretty much a straight ticket voter. I think my mom finds that about as appalling as the fact that I've become a political scientist. However, because I am only "pretty much" a straight ticket voter and I do cross the lines to the other side to support moderate candidates who have strong stands on "my" issues, I rarely use, or even notice the "straight ticket option." Maybe it's that deap-seated, inherited idea about making a choice on each race.
Today, however, I thought about the straight ticket. In this election, I knew that my votes were going to fall down the party line, and that there was a line at the polling place, and that it would be quick and easy to just fill in the one bubble. Then I looked at the ballot. I looked at the section with the straight ticket vote bubbles. In West Virginia we have four parties that qualify: Republican, Mountain, Libertarian, and Democratic. Each party had a symbol next to the name, and an empty bubble to be filled. So, I looked at the ballot. The Libertarians had the Statue of Liberty as their symbol. What's with that? Since when do the Libertarians get the Statue of Liberty? But, you know, I can see it...liberty, Liberty. Fine. The Mountain Party has a graphic of a mountain. Makes sense, mountain, Mountain. The first sign of trouble was the Republican symbol. An eagle. Like the Libertarian symbol, this one left me thinking wha...? What about the elephant? No trunk? Huh? But, you know, I could even believe the eagle. Then, the deciding factor for not voting the "straight ticket" option, I looked at the symbol by the Democratic party bubble. It was a chicken. A CHICKEN?! Who wants to vote a straight chicken ticket?
Needless to say, I filled in all the individual bubbles. And I'm trying to find out what the heck the chicken thing is all about. I'll let you know if I do.
It's a 3-hankie movie. And it's really quite good for about 75 minutes. I was moved and impressed. The acting, Almodovar's visual style, the staging ... all very fine indeed. And some of the script is also really quite funny. And then sadly it completely runs off the rails in the last half-hour. It doesn't become a catastrophe, just more poorly structured, rushed and maudlin in a boring and expected way. It's sort of a shame really. If you want to see one of Almodovar's recent movies I'd recommend Talk to Her. That's a great film. Still, this is good, as far as it goes, and the quality of much of it makes me very excited about seeing Bad Education.
Yes, I know that I'm probably the only person who reads this blog who's interested in thoroughbred racing, but on the off chance someone else cares ...
I was just looking at Bill Finley's column on the race for Horse of the Year over on Espn.com. Finley is appalled that the consensus he observes is that Smarty Jones is likely to win the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. How on Earth can that be true? Well, it would presumably be a popular pick after Smarty Jones' widely-supported Triple Crown bid early this summer (which came to a halt when Birdstone win the Belmont), and voters are supposedly troubled that Ghostzapper only ran four races this year. That's ridiculous. Yes, he only ran for races - but they included major races, he posted blazingly fast speed numbers, and on Saturday he beat the toughest field of the year in the Breeders Cup Classic (including 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, defending Classic champ Pleasantly Perfect, Whitney Hanidcap winner Roses in May who was undefeated in 2004 before Saturday, former Triple Crown favorite Funny Cide, and Belmont winner Birdstone). To me, Ghostzapper is the clear choice for the title. Finley hopes he races once more this year to assuage the concerns of those who complain he hasn't competed enough to merit the award. I'd like to see that too. But I'd like to see it because he's a great race horse. Eclipse award voters should already have seen enough to know his talent.
... is that he would fire Porter Goss.
It's sort of a shame about Goss. He was a competent, often fair-minded legislator (he didn't cast votes in favor of deporting or executing gays, he had a very reasonable outlook on environmental questions), but putting a politician in charge of an executive agency will often lead to it being skewed in certain damaging ways, and when it comes to the CIA, that's the last thing the country needs.
Yes, tomorrow is the first day of the 2006 races for Congress. Now, at the risk of everyone throwing all kinds of e-rocks my way for even bring up future elections, I think it's important that we keep in mind that just because certain people win today, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't keep them in our sites and hope that their likely victories today are not repeated in two years time. My suggestions for those that should rush to the top of the list of the Kick 'Em Out in 2006 list (well, excluding the country's most obvious candidate, the odious and embarrassing Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania) - Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) and soon-to be Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL).
I was perfectly happy to wait in line for half an hour to vote. I was really pleased to see so many people out. It's an important election, and it's important for the voices of all Americans to be heard in our political process.
I was less pleased to see that some of the obvious flaws with my local system haven't been changed. Prominent among these is that where I vote every one has to take a stub with them when they get their ballots - these stubs have to be cut out BY HAND. And elderly ladies with scissors ... well, the process takes longer than it should. I would hope that someday the local powers that be would look into perforated edges for those things.
More troublingly, should we really have the workings of our democracy dependent upon the abilities of really, really slow volunteers? I don't mean to be age-ist here. But at my polling place you're dealing with someone who can't remember anyone's name for more than 2 seconds. That doesn't seem like the most secure system possible. Beyond that I was seeing a need for a high proportion of provisional ballots. Perhaps it's to be expected with a high rate of new voters. But in terms of the people I saw who needed them - these aren't new voters. One person in line was told she had to vote in a different precinct (a precinct different from her husband's - and yes, she lives with her husband). It would appear that there is perhaps more simple sloppiness in clerk's offices than we would wish for. And that's rather troubling.
Still, I feel good about today, about the process, and I hope everyone will get out and vote. To borrow a line from "The Power of Yawning", a track on Enon's marvelous album Hocus Pocus - "'til we wake up it's all red, white and blue". There's much to admire and be happy with in our system (even if it has problems and we don't always like the results).
[None of the above should imply that I don't have some concerns with the 6th Circuit's ruling last night - written by a judge named by President Bush - supporting the Republican Party's poll-watcher policies. I remain very concerned, and really a bit sickened, about the efforts of political parties to suppress turnout].