So last night I finally sat down and watched Half Nelson (it had been sitting on top of my tv for most of the month). What a great and affecting little movie. I can definitely see why everyone was singing the praises of Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps. They were both great. Actually, it was unusually well acted all around. Anthony Mackie was strong in the 3rd major role, and who doesn't love seeing Deborah Rush - aka Sara Blank - even if only for a few minutes. But while I guess I wasn't that surprised to see such high-quality acting (given the awards those performances received last year), I honestly was surprised to like the film as much as I did. It's a great little movie. The acting, music, writing, direction all fit together quite well. I guess I was a bit surprised at how it ended. But that didn't take away from the quality of the work.
So I was looking over the list of the top graduates in each of the 24 programs in the Eberly College (that's the Arts & Sceinces college at our university) and while you can't always tell from first names it looks to me like women were the top graduates in 20 or 21 of those 24 programs. Apparently the class of '07 is one in which women kick (academic) ass, and the guys have to settle for the silver (if that).
So you've probably seen this depressing article in the Times, noting the latest depressing behavior of the Iraqi government that we are fighting (and dying) for:
A department of the Iraqi prime minister's office is playing a leading role in the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers, some of whom had apparently worked too aggressively to combat violent Shiite militias, according to U.S. military officials in Baghdad ... several were considered to be among the better Iraqi officers in the field. The dismissals have angered U.S. and Iraqi leaders who say the Shiite-led government is sabotaging the military to achieve sectarian goals.
Now one might wonder why we'd tolerate such behavior, how the Bush administration could put up with it - and then one might remember that it's the same administration that brought us Monica Goodling, and then these events fall more clearly into place. Team Bush might not like what Maliki is doing, but one imagines they can understand it.
Even though it's technically about Katrina:
"Tell them we blew it," one disgusted official wrote. But she hedged: "The flip side is just to dispose of it and not come clean. I could be persuaded."
I've already been looking forward to Away From Her for months. But this paragraph in a profile of Polley makes me even more enthusiastic about seeing the film (which is adapted from an Alice Munro story, and stars Julie Christie):
"I think we have a really hard time culturally with what happens to love after the first year. It is difficult, and it is painful, and it is a letdown," said Ms. Polley, who married in 2003. "That first year is so much less profound than what happens when you're actually left with each other and yourself in an honest way. It was interesting to me to make a film about what love looked like after life had gotten in the way, and what remained."
The lead of James Glanz's piece in today's New York Times:
In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.
It's been 25 years since the Falklands War. The Yorkshire Ranter has begun a series on the conflict. You can find the first installment here.
I ask this question in all seriousness. Living in the information age as we do, Americans of all stripes can easily access the candidates' views on 98% of the topics that they will be quizzed on in debates. The design of these events allows for nothing more than sound-bite answers. And of course should one of these people get elected president, they'll rarely be in a position in which they are forced to face reporters' questions - and it'll be even more rare for them to be in a position where they'd be forced to answer a reporters' question, as president. So ... what purpose do they serve? Sure, you might hear a surprisingly bad answer (like Bill Richardson saying that he wants to put more justices like the late Whizzer White on the Supreme Court) - but does that sort of thing enough to make them worth the trouble?
In what I think should quite possibly be the #1 target of national Democrats in the 2008 US House elections, Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich took another step towards cementing his position as the Democrats' nominee. As Joe Monahan reports (scroll down to Thursday's report), the dreamy progressive has announced he will not seek reelection to his current position in order to focus all his energies on his '08 campaign. Gov. Richardson is clearing the field for Heinrich, and given Rep. Heather Wilson's troubles in the wake of the David Yglesias controversy, this would seem to be one of the Democrats' best chances for a House pick-up in 2008 - perhaps the best.
And no, Monahan doesn't use the language "dreamy progressive", but if the shoe fits ...
Have a nice vacation. Emphasis on vacation, hopefully.
Coroner says that there are still bodies to be found in New Orleans, because "there's houses that have not been touched":
We have found 25 or 26 I believe remains since a year, in the past year, since last April. And so we know that this is going to keep happening because there are more people out there.
Last fall I went to New Orleans with a photojournalist friend, and we spent a day in the lower 9th. A day. A measly day, a year after Katrina. We weren't personally touched by the tragedy, came too late and for too short a stay to help much beyond donating to the Tipitina's Foundation.
I've lived and traveled and worked in some of the most destitute parts of the developing world, and I've never seen anything like what we saw that day. The places that others warn about may be dangerous, or polluted, or risky for various reasons, but they are also teeming with life. Walking through the favela, or some of the more scattered outlying less quickly urbanizing areas that could be pre-favela or pre-bairro not quite sure yet, it's easy to see that people live there, those people care for their homes however modest they may be. Yes, I've also seen dead bodies dumped by drug dealers, and the cases of those caught by the trafficantes' vigilante justice, cut into pieces and hung from a high tension tower. The communities were at least full of life.
What we saw in the 9th Ward, so long after the storm, long enough for the wealthier neighborhoods to have moved on to the phase of planting ornamental grasses in neat rows to spruce things us, was desolation. Maybe a stray (?) dog, but not much else. Very occasionally we saw a house that stood defiantly tidy, freshly painted and fiercely occupied. We saw piles of debris that the occupants had dragged to the edge of their property, off onto the road, exorcising, but that had faded on the street. Those piles had sprouted with weeds, and no one had come to drag them off, to remove the homes for vermin.
And we saw many, many houses that had clearly not been touched since the storm. Twisted, flattened, with the telltale spraypaint markings, tattered drapes flapping out of shattered windows. Some of the foundations had been scraped clean, and you could see steps to nowhere. Those reminded me of old pictures of Atlanta.
And then there were the houses that were not shattered, not ripped open, that to the eye looked intact, but that obviously been under water. You could tell by the stains. And you could tell by the tangle of furniture sucked up against the open front as the water had receded. Those barricades of couches, chairs, rugs, could only have been placed just so by effects of the receding floodwaters. And those houses bore the spraypainted "all clear" markings as well. As we walked, and drove, and ached for the people whose homes these had been. We smelled the lingering stench of the toxic soup that had covered the area, and was refreshed with each rainfall. Of all the things we saw, what stuck with me most was the way the tangles blocked the doorways. There was no way anyone had been in those houses to check if anyone was trapped, was ill, was dead. I remember saying to my friend, "There are still people in there."
Unlike former University of Chicago Law School Dean Geoff Stone, I am not particularly troubled by the fact that last week's abortion decision was written by five Roman Catholics. But at the same time I think that the manner in which Jan Crawford Greenburg dismisses his concerns is ... well, ridiculous. She writes:
Why not speculate that the five justices in the majority happen to like baseball - and therefore are more inclined to appreciate rules? That's no less relevant or "telling," as Stone put it, than their religious views.
Hmmm, what's the word for that response? Inane? Stupid? I mean while I don't think it likely that the judges involved made their decision on the basis of the teaching's of their Church, as members of the Church it's entirely reasonable to believe that the Church's teachings might have some sort of influence on their perspectives and behavior. Many people are deeply shaped by their religious views, and the Roman Catholic Church has clear views about abortion. To my knowledge, Major League Baseball has no set views on the practice. It's a wildly off-point comparison.
Okay, so I've written many times here about the off-point, self-righteous meanderings of David Broder that are completely divorced from political realities that exist outside of his self-lovin' mind - but if he keeps writing ridiculous things like today's column on Harry Reid, I'm going to feel forced to respond on occasion. If you can struggle through the inanities and false similarities and get to the end you'll learn that Reid's real sin is that he disagrees with Broder over how much military force can accomplish in Iraq. But to get through that you've first got to struggle through a bizarre comparison to Alberto Gonzalez, a willful misreading of Chuck Schumer, a cheap shot at Bill Clinton, and a list of times when Reid's engaged in the kind of "straight talk" that a lot of Americans like (calling a hack a hack) and gets celebrated in some circles (St. McCain), but which apparently Broder's puritan sensibilities finds unseemly. Well, that or perhaps Alan Greenpan is a sometimes dinner companion of Mr. Broder - hard to say really as Broder doesn't same anything about why it's wrong to call him a hack. And Broder himself says such things aren't a big deal, just a sign of intemperate behavior (which apparently is a severe sin in the world of Broder), though of course he write about them nonetheless - yes, in a column that begins with a discussion of the supposedly similarly "inept" behavior of Alberto Gonzalez.
It really is classic Broder though - a discussion of the Democrats' bad character (and they are bad people because they disagree with Broder's analysis), and equating a few stylistic transgressions on their part to major substantive transgressions by the Republicans. And he's making fun of Sen. Schumer's ability to engage in logical analysis?
Lovely segregationist policies, no? Uh, no. I'm continually baffled by people in this country who seem to believe that Israel is a vanguard for of liberal, secural Western views in the Middle East. It's not.
OMG. The mind reels. I sure hope her press agent is "clarifying" her remarks as I type.
The headline writers kill me. "Widow gets OK for witch mark on military grave."
Great story in the Washington Post about the absurdities, tragedies, comedies, triumphs and defeats of being the US Army trying to "win" in Iraq.
I realize everyone's outrage meter has long since fallen off over this administration, but here's another one:
Since George W. Bush became president, OSHA has issued the fewest significant standards in its history, public health experts say. It has imposed only one major safety rule. The only significant health standard it issued was ordered by a federal court.
The agency has killed dozens of existing and proposed regulations and delayed adopting others. For example, OSHA has repeatedly identified silica dust, which can cause lung cancer, and construction site noise as health hazards that warrant new safeguards for nearly three million workers, but it has yet to require them.
As they say, read the whole thing. I guess workers are just interchangeable parts/cogs. When one breaks, you just get another. Hey, this will keep unemployment down: injured workers don't count in surveys of employment, right?
It may be my selective memory, or the brain cells I've killed in the meantime, but I don't remember Reagan or the first Bush to be this relentlessly awful in terms of policy.
Perhaps not, but she's opted to help block national democratic elections in our country and instead support our reliance on the undemocratic mechanism (and sometimes nightmare) that is the Electoral College. Both houses of Hawaii's legislature had voted for the National Popular Vote initiative - but she vetoed the measure. Interestingly, she also would seem to have killed the only chance that Hawaii's electoral votes would go to a president of her party in the near future. Hawaii is very "Blue". While John Kerry's winning margin there was much smaller than those posted by Al Gore and Bill Clinton, the state has only voted for the Republican nominee for president twice - in 1972 and 1984.
I can't wait! Looks like it'll be the darkest Potter film by far - which is exactly as it should be.
I'm not sure who would make my list, but I think it's pretty damn fun (and sure, understandable) that Faye Dunaway's Selena is on JA's list.
Who would be on my list? Well definitely Catwoman and the Joker, and probably Palpatine. The four names that pop to mind for the other two slots are Magneto, Mystique, Khan, and Max Zorin (I mean c'mon, Walken as a Bond villain!). But then a lot of the villains I like best (Mrs. Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate, Phillip Vandamm in North by Northwest) don't really qualify as supervillains. Hmmmm - Lady Van Tassel maybe? Miranda Richardson can do unsettling, scary, powerful and cruel pretty damn well.
Josh Marshall has put up the text of the big foreign policy speech Sen. Obama gave today. Looks quite good to me. Obama looks vastly wiser and serious about national security than the current occupant of the White House.
Funny, I thought Iraq was now a democracy with an independent government. Did President Bush lie to me? Because if it is a democracy with an independent government, you'd think that a call by the prime minister to stop a foreign power from building a wall inside his country would actually prevent that wall from being built.
And of course as a political matter the prime minister is quite right the US government is so stupid that the level of stupidity can barely be comprehended. Given current events, the construction of the wall will clearly do more to equate both US forces in Iraq and the Maliki government with the Israeli government. And how that's good for either US interests in the region, or the stability of the Iraqi government ... well there's not a singly plausible argument for that being a good idea. It's an astonishingly bad idea, from a political standpoint.
If I was ruling the world those things would be banned. If only we still had some Cold War conservatives around to remind their right-wing brethern that the whole concept smacks of Soviet all-powerful state tactics. But you know if those who are against freedom and liberty (and the ability to take friends home in a timely fashion, friends could really stand to be in their beds or bathrooms) are going to needlessly and inefficiently complicate our lives, could they at least do so in a manner that doesn't lead one from driving from one survey directly into another one? It's not only Commie-esque, it's tiresome and irritating.
Do you ever run across a comment in a thread that you can't wait to see how people respond to? I think I just saw one that could be a classic in that regard.
Why do even the most conservative justices not recruit from Liberty and Regent? If we had a non-Catholic among the conservative side of the Court, these schools would probably do much better.
Ummmm, yeah. It's the anti-Protestant sympathies of Alito, Scalia, Thomas and company that's blocking students from those schools being hired as Supreme Court clerks. Of course it is. And have you met my wife, Morgan Fairchild?
For those of you interested in the topic, here Sanford Levinson (arguing against it), John McGinnis and Daniel Lowenstein (arguing for it) debate the merits of the Electoral College. I think Levinson clearly wins the debate as argued there, as there is really no strength in the college that's not also provided by a direct election, the college perverts popular perceptions of the "mandate" afford the winner elected by the college, and of course there are lots of real problems with the college, as Levinson notes.
Good to know. Guess we should all hit tacky "Mexican" restaurants soon.
The story begins:
The sound of crackling explosions entered through the glassless window of Maiza Madeira's home, a hollow-brick shanty wedged deep within the narrow, twisting alleyways of this city's largest hillside slum.
She lifted her chin to acknowledge the noise, paused, then dismissed the sound as quickly as it had come: "Fireworks," she said.
I learned to tell the difference between gunfire and fireworks the same way, in the same place. I used to go there every day.
These stories are often frustrating, because they obscure the normalcy of life in these neighborhoods, life that goes on despite the violence. There are shops, daycare centers, students, parents, people who go to work every single day. There are also crime, corruption, pollution, poverty and disease.
It would not be accurate to say it's just like anywhere else, but having spent a lot of time in the neighborhood the story profiles, and having a couple of good friends who lived in Rocinha and in the Baixada Fluminense, the expectations these stories generate often obscure the stories of hard-working people trying to provide for their families, make home improvements, and get their kids through school. This WaPo piece does a better job than most.
Via FDL. And hey, when did Donita Sparks start blogging? RAWK!
If anyone is in the mood to try to predict the results of the French presidential election (round 1), feel free to do so in the comments section of this thread. The consensus seems to be Sarkozy will come in first, and Royal will face him in round 2. Agree? Disagree?
It's not marriage (only legal in Massachusetts) or civil unions (only provided in New Jersey, Vermont, Connecticut and soon New Hampshire), but the state of Washington is moving in the right direction in terms of providing equal rights to its citizens.
Same-sex couples and elderly couples will be able to register as domestic partners starting this summer, after Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed into law a measure giving them some of the rights that come with marriage. The bill would create a domestic partnership registry with the state, and would provide enhanced rights for same-sex couples, including hospital visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations and inheritance rights when there is no will. To be registered, couples would have to share a home, not be married or in a domestic relationship with someone else, and be at least 18.
A few weeks ago I was treated to the overhearing the kind of conversation that makes me want to either pass out or strangle someone. A middle-aged law professor was advising a bright incoming law student on things she should do to adjust to law school. When he heard that the student didn't really follow the news, he said she really needed to start. So she asked him what she should read, watch or listen to. He suggested NPR and the The News Hour. After this, she asked if those were liberal media outlets because she's a conservative ...
I swear it was like a particularly moronic and stereotypical tv scene flashing before my eyes. And there are just sooooo many things wrong with it. But high on the list of course is recommending NPR's news, because, it sucks.
I listened to it pretty much every day this week and even today, six days later, they were leading with the VA Tech shootings. War funding? No. What's arguably the biggest abortion decision in over 30 years? No. The state of events in Iraq? No. The bad behavior of the Attorney General of the United States? No. They continue to lead with sensationalistic coverage of a bloody event that directly affects only a tiny handful of their listeners - and present coverage that really doesn't actually provide any real news about the event. And of course they follow that up with the meanderings of one of their regular generalist pundits (Daniel Schorr) who says pretty much nothing that could be described as analysis, much less keen analysis. I really don't understand why people think it's a particularly strong news network. Sure Fox and CNN are worse, but that doesn't make NPR good.
So last night I watched the film adaptation of The History Boys. Now I know it's quite a bit different than the stage play, but I'm still a little taken aback and wondering what all the fuss was about. The play was HUGE. The film ... well I liked it and it's well acted, but it didn't strike me as coming anywhere close to the "most amazing thing ever" category. I don't mean that as a slam - again, I did enjoy it and there's some really nice acting in it - but I guess this is just one of those works were the word of mouth got rather out of hand.
There are moments like these when I really wonder how the president's mind works. He took Speaker Pelosi aside to tell her that he didn't criticize her trip to Syria? Ummm, okay - that's just weird.
BitchPhD: Carhart's legacy (with link to the dissent)
My writing is, evidently.
I entered several samples from the music, politics, and other tags, and every last one scored male. Try it yourself.
Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., calls this "the most astounding thing" he's seen in 32 years.
And what would that be? Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) pulled out a chart at yesterday's Judiciary Committee hearing comparing the manner in which communications ran between the White House and the Department of Justice during the Clinton years with how such communications run in the current administration. As Dahlia Lithwick puts it:
According to Whitehouse, the Clinton protocol authorized just four folks at the White House to chat with three folks at Justice. The chart had four boxes talking to three boxes. Out comes the Bush protocol, and now 417 different people at the White House have contacts about pending criminal cases with 30-some people at Justice. You can just see zillions of small boxes nattering back and forth. It seems that just about everyone in the White House, including the guys in the mailroom, had a vote on ongoing criminal matters.
Something like the chart in question is recreated at the end of that story.
"George Bush's government is an accomplice of this terrorist," Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said. "It has protected him and today it has guaranteed his freedom, striking a blow against and mocking international law."
Predictably, the Bush administration's decision to release accused-terrorist Luis Posada Carriles has produced cries of disgust and howls of protest.
Wolfowitz remains head of the World Bank, but the London Times says the White House is drawing up a list of possible Wolfowitz replacements. They only list one name though, Ashraf Ghani, the Chancellor of Kabul University. If he was appointed Ghani would be the first non-American to head the World Bank, and also its first Muslim leader.
Here's a good piece on How I Met Your Mother and how weird it is that it's not a bigger show. It has everything it takes to be the current Friends - and yet for some reason it's not. It features excellent sitcom writing, the premise works, its got appealing young actors (Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders being my favorites) ... bascially, it should be a much bigger hit for CBS than it is. And one wonders why CBS isn't doing more to promote it.
As I've been ill this week I've been slow to start grading the term papers I collected on Tuesday. But one of the first ones I've graded was great. It was great in terms of substance - but I was also highly amused in that it used the word "stoked" in a way that was entirely appropriate. It's kind of funny to see that word used correctly in that type of thing.
McNulty said he was concerned about Bogden, 50, getting a job outside government after 16 years at Justice and being able to care for his family. When it was pointed out that Bogden was not married, McNulty withdrew his concern and the conversation ended after about 90 seconds, according to the account gathered by investigators. Bogden was dismissed on Dec. 7.
Ah, so THAT is why they fired the US Attorney in Nevada - he was single. Well, okay, perhaps not, but does it make any less sense than this account of his firing?
Sampson couldn't say who had put Bogden on the list (even though he was the "keeper of the list") or why. He'd never looked at Bogden's performance, and neither did Alberto Gonzales. The only thing he can remember is that there was "a general feeling among senior staffers at the Justice Department that a 'stronger leader' could be put in Nevada."
I asked because apparently there's no chapter of Drinking Liberally in the state of West Virginia.
Coming on the heels of the Navy's decision to cancel their contract with Lockheed for another Littoral Combat Ship is news that the Coast Guard is wresting control of the troubled "Deepwater" program from a consortium headed by Lockhead Martin and Northrop Grumman. Kudos to the leadership of the Navy and the Coast Guard for demanding accountability - and acting when calls for accountability went unheeded.
I think Charlie Savage's work on the use (and abuse) of presidential signing statements was a most worthy choice. I might assign one or more of his pieces (in addition to other work on the topic by Charles Tiefer and Louis Fisher) in class later this year.
I was struck by the fact the three of the first four names I've seen listed as killed in Blacksburg were faculty members.
Though of course Virginia Tech isn't the only place where professors have been killed this week.
In Mosul, gunmen killed the dean of the Political Science College and a professor at the city university's College of Arts on Monday, authorities said. The professor, Jaffar Hassan, was gunned down first, around 9 a.m. as he was going to work, police said. Talal Younis al-Jalili, the college dean, was shot dead outside Mosul University in central Mosul around 2:30 p.m., local police said.
And how did the dean of political science at Mosul University get his job in the first place?
But he has the dean's job only because his predecessor, Abdul Jabbar Mustafa, was taken at gunpoint from his house on New Year's Eve and shot twice in the head in one of a series of political assassinations in the northern Iraqi city that police have been unable to solve.
I mention these events, not to take anything away from what happened at Virginia Tech, but to note killings of professors, generally. Beyond that, one does wonder what our involvement in Iraq would look like, if every event there that's similar to what happened here at Virginia Tech got the same kind of coverage by the US media.
Our thoughts are with our neighbors to the south tonight and in the days to come as they mourn their loved ones and try to put their own lives back together.
In reading up on the latest reports on the killings at Virginia Tech I came across this quotation from the principal at Columbine High (anyone wondering how many minutes into the shootings he started getting hounded by the press?):
``I can imagine what they're going through,'' Frank DeAngelis, Columbine High principal for almost three decades, said in a telephone interview. ``You're hoping there would be lessons learned from Columbine, but that's obviously not the case.''
Now I'll cut him a lot of slack given who he is and what he lived through - but what on Earth is he talking about? What exactly would those lessons be?
So this weekend I decided to watch Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins again. It definitely holds up. I'd say it's one of the best movies of its sort in the last several years. Of course Christian Bale is superb in the lead role, but what's right about it goes so much farther than his performance. Every piece of it is very good. Well, almost every piece of it is. Should it get a 10 out of 10 given the decision to (mis)cast Katie Holmes? Eh, perhaps not. But so much of the rest of it is so right, I think it still merits a 9.6.
Oh, and I've got to say I loved one of Falcone's lines - "Don't burden yourself with the secrets of scary people".
He looked "spectacular" yesterday, winning the Arkansas Derby by a 10 1/2 length margin. But can he win the Kentucky Derby? He'll be breaking some long-standing Derby "rules" if he does.
Were the lightly-raced Curlin to win the Kentucky Derby he would be the first to do so without racing as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882. The last horse to win the Derby with just three prior starts was the filly Regret in 1915.
Nonetheless, he's now atop the Derby futures betting.
Via TPM, still doing a bang-up job on the purge:
Domenici had complained about Iglesias before, at one point going to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before taking his request to the president as a last resort.
The senior senator from New Mexico had listened to criticism of Iglesias going back to 2003 from sources ranging from law enforcement officials to Republican Party activists.
Domenici, who submitted Iglesias' name for the job and guided him through the confirmation process in 2001, had tried at various times to get more white-collar crime help for the U.S. Attorney's Office— even if Iglesias didn't want it.
At one point, the six-term Republican senator tried to get Iglesias moved to a Justice Department post in Washington, D.C., but Iglesias told Justice officials he wasn't interested.
In the spring of 2006, Domenici told Gonzales he wanted Iglesias out.
Gonzales refused. He told Domenici he would fire Iglesias only on orders from the president.
At some point after the election last Nov. 6, Domenici called Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, and told him he wanted Iglesias out and asked Rove to take his request directly to the president.
MikeVotes catches a funny:
And big credit to the Washington Post for their sense of irony. As a substory underneath the 5 million lost White House emails and Karl Rove's "I didn't know I was deleting emails when I was deleting emails," the Washington Post sticks a story about the administration's efforts to massively expand their electronic surveillance.
While in DC this week, the free Washington Post the hotel delivered to my room brought me this gem:
But best-in-show honors went to Byrd, who, in a statement notable for its breadth, explained why his eyes had been closed ("I have what is called dry eyes") and why he has tremors in his hand ("I'm not scared or anything"), noted his friendship with the late Chicago mayor Richard Daley, mentioned his 49 years in the Senate, called himself "Popeye the Sailor Man," and demanded the witnesses be sworn in, even though the hearing had been going on for nearly an hour.
Byrd even brought some dog doggerel for the occasion. "A poem that has always meant so much to me begins with this stanza, 'All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the lord God made them all,' " he said.
After the verse, he devoted the next quarter of an hour discussing his Shih Tzu. "There is a unique, special relationship between pets, like my little dog," he said. "She is a Shih Tzu. They were lap dogs. They were trained to be lap dogs in the palace in Tibet, China."
The senator was just beginning. "Dogs -- I could talk a lot about dogs. I can tell you about great dogs in history. Truman, Harry Truman, former president, said, 'If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.' Or buy a dog. But I have a dog. Her name, by my wife Erma, is Trouble. Now, I call her Baby."
Muffled laughter rose from the audience; senators on the panel struggled to maintain their composure. Byrd became aware that he was spending too much time on his Shih Tzu. "This is not for a show. I don't often do this. I'm interested in a little dog," he explained.
"Prone to meandering..." wow.
The man that many consider the most formidable Democrat in Louisiana has decided not to run for governor. The race remains in flux - though many DC pundits seem to think that Congressman Bobby Jindal (R) has the election wrapped up. Jindal, the only Indian American currently serving in Congress, and the man who narrowly lost the 2003 gubenatorial election to incumbent Kathleen Blanco (D), would be the nation's youngest governor if he's elected this fall. He's 36.
Paul Kane begins this feature that favorably reviews the first few months of service by the freshman senator from Rhode Island by noting how he's an anomaly. Not only is he the only Democrat on Senate Judiciary to have had "practical legal experience" during the last 15 years (all the other Democrats on the panel have been in Congress at least that long), he's also the only WASP among the Democrats on Senate Judiciary (4 of the other 9 are Catholic, and 5 are Jewish).
Via the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Students who participated in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex a few years later as those who did not, according to a long-awaited study mandated by Congress.
Also, those who attended one of the four abstinence classes reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes, and they first had sex at about the same age as their control group counterparts - 14 years and nine months, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc.
You would think these results (you know, actual facts as developed by actual scientists using actual methods with actual data) would put a stake in the abstinence thing. You would be wrong. Denial runs deep and fast in this Administration:
Officials said one lesson they learned from the study is that the abstinence message should be reinforced in subsequent years to truly affect behavior.
"This report confirms that these interventions are not like vaccines. You can't expect one dose in middle school, or a small dose, to be protective all throughout the youth's high school career," said Harry Wilson, the commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the Administration for Children and Families.
Yes, you read that right: abstinence only eductation isn't a failure (as any reasonable person reading the study would conclude), you just need more of it in order to have an effect. The problem here, according to people who must spend a good part of their day orbiting Pluto, is that we need MORE abstinence only education in order to see a reduction in pre-marital sex.
I hope you see the trap being set here: if studies don't find any correlation between abstinence education and less premarital sex, that's because there isn't enough abstinence education (not because the education doesn't work). The solution is to have more education. And when the next study shows that rates of teen sex are the same (again), the solution will be yet more abstinence only education. At the end of that dubious train of logic is the idea that, perhaps, students need eight hours a day, five days a week, of abstinence education in order to fully get the picture (and if that doesn't work, we can start mandating in-home study, as well).
What's next? Federally subsidized chastity belts?
The WVU Board of Governors moved today (April 13) that Michael S. "Mike" Garrison, managing member of the Morgantown office of Spilman Thomas & Battle PLLC, be the next president of WVU following consent of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
On the heels of the Bob Huggins hire ... well put the two together and it does appear that this place is so wildly provincial, and that academics comes second at this university ... if second (and not third, fourth or fifth).
How is Bill Richardson differentiating himself from Clinton, Obama, and Edwards? Unlike the other 3 he's calling for a removal of all US troops from Iraq. Kos has the details (including a sort of whining response from the Edwards team "clarifying" their position - which turns out to be exactly what Kos described it as in the first place).
Happily, former Senator Thompson's cancer is in remission. But I find the argument that some make, that this shouldn't be a campaign issue, bizarre. If you don't want to vote on the basis of a candidate's health (or that of their wife), fine. But a president's health definitely affects his or her ability to do the job. If Paul Tsongas had been elected in 1992 he would have died before his term ended. There is a reasonable chance that if he's elected John Edwards is going to have to deal with an enormous amount of personal stress while in office. Stress and pain affect decision making. There are few things more valuable to an administration than the president's time and attention. These are matters that are affected by the president's health - and the health of those he or she loves. Again, if you don't want to vote on the basis of this, fine. But it's hardly unreasonably that some people put it in their decision calculus.
Alex Rossmiller traces the history of the Bush administration's "erratic meddling" in Iraqi domestic politics. Constancy appears to not be the Bush administration's style.
So here I am in the office listening to The Shins sing "Girl on the Wing", a great song, and I am once again wondering - what the hell is a tidal rabbit?
From a story in today's WaPo:
The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.
The administration's interest in the idea stems from long-standing concern over the coordination of civilian and military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan by different parts of the U.S. government. The Defense and State departments have long struggled over their roles and responsibilities in Iraq, with the White House often forced to referee.
Unlike O'Sullivan, the new czar would report directly to Bush and to Hadley and would have the title of assistant to the president, just as Hadley and the other highest-ranking White House officials have, the sources said. The new czar would also have "tasking authority," or the power to issue directions, over other agencies, they said.
Uh, don't we already have someone with stature and authority, whose job it is to manage the government bureaucracy and make sure that different agencies are all working in the same direction, for the same goals? Isn't that something called a "Chief Executive", or maybe we could shorten that to "President"?
Remember that proposal going around by which states would award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote (it would take effect once states with a total of 270 electoral college votes had signed on to the proposal)? Well Maryland has signed it into law.
So one of my favorite fellas in the greater Washington area (and a former student of at least one member of the Coup) has entered the blogosphere with two of his buddies. May I introduce you to Federalist 10.
Hypocrisy? Aiding enemies of the US? Undermining their own freakin' foreign policies? You are just shocked, I know. Though actually, maybe Kevin's preceding post is even more damning. Are US prisons in Iraq basically terrorist academies?
This was posted last Friday, but as I think it's a wise observation I figured I would still link to it. The editor in chief of Foreign Policy thinks the US is still operating under the (incorrect) assumuptions that got it into the Iraq mess in the first place: overestimating the capabilities of the Iraqi government, overestimating the capabilities of the US government, and disdaining diplomacy.
And he's a retired Marine too:
"On 1 March 07, I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines to Newark, NJ, to attend an academic conference at Princeton University, designed to focus on my latest scholarly book, Constitutional Democracy, published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past Thanksgiving."
"When I tried to use the curb-side check in at the Sunport, I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list. I was instructed to go inside and talk to a clerk. At this point, I should note that I am not only the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence (emeritus) but also a retired Marine colonel. I fought in the Korean War as a young lieutenant, was wounded, and decorated for heroism. I remained a professional soldier for more than five years and then accepted a commission as a reserve office, serving for an additional 19 years."
"I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines. One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that." I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. "That'll do it," the man said. "
Am I the only person who didn't know this was being made? Talk about truly diving back into the heart of the 1980's.
Via the Liberal Avenger:
According to Regent's own website, one in six of its alumni work for the government. Why is this distressing? Well put these articles by Charlie Savage, Dahlia Lithwick and Josh Marshall together and it becomes clear that the triumph of ideology over competence has reached startling levels (well less than half of hires in the Civil Rights Division actually have experience in that part of the law?), and that their crusades to install a Christianist agenda are leaving concerns and rights unprotected.
Under Ashcroft, career lawyers were systematically fired or forced out and replaced by members of conservative or Christian groups or folks with no civil rights experience. In the five years after 2001, the Civil Rights Division brought no voting cases - and only one employment case - on behalf of an African American. Instead, the division took up the "civil rights" abuses of reverse discrimination - claims of voter fraud or discrimination against Christians. On Feb. 20, Gonzales announced a new initiative called the First Freedom Project to carry out "even greater enforcement of religious rights for all Americans." In his view, the fight for a student's right to read a Bible in school is as urgent as the right to vote.
For those of us who have come to oppose the US adventures in Iraq (either recently or since 2002; either strenuously or moderately), this WaPo article presents the crux of the problem:
An official in Iraq warned that executing the new approach will take time -- perhaps more than Washington is willing to give. "Early signs are very encouraging -- huge drop in sectarian killings in Baghdad, return of thousands of refugee families," he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity so that he could be candid. "But there is no way we can defeat this insurgency by summer. I believe we can begin to turn the tide by then, and have an idea if we are doing it. To defeat it completely is a five-to-10-year project, minimum -- and rushing it along to meet a D.C. timeline is rushing to failure."
Bluntly, the politics of the Iraq war argue for a short timeline: requiring Bush's plans to bear fruit in the very near future (within six to twelve months, at the most) is politically expedient in that success will never occur in that time frame (no matter who's policies are being followed), and failure in that time frame is assured. That (assured) failure means success at the polls for those that have opposed Bush. The war is unpopular with the majority of the American public, and demanding a pullout or radical change in war strategy that minimizes US dead/wounded is a politically winning strategy.
However, it may very well be the wrong way to go. As the WaPo article goes on to say:
In addition to the new military strategy, a new team is taking over the U.S. effort in Iraq. For the first time since 2004, there is a fresh U.S. commander in Iraq, with Petraeus replacing Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. He is working with a new No. 2 commander, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, and a new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker. There are changes at the Pentagon -- a new Army chief of staff and Donald H. Rumsfeld's replacement, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, as well as a vacancy for Army secretary -- and at Central Command, the U.S. military command responsible for the Middle East. The replacements amount to the biggest personnel change of the war -- and the new players are still settling in.
In other words, for the first time since the insurgency was recognized by the US as a problem, we have a plan and people in place (in a political sense; the Army is still stretched to it's limits) that might (note: might) win in the long term. Insurgencies are historically difficult to fight. Even successful counter-insurgency strategies require years to succeed - mostly about a decade. Thus, if we assume that the present "surge" marks the beginning of a successful counter-insurgency (this is debatable, but the previous Rumsfeldian strategy was clearly not working, and the new one at least is theoretically a counter-insurgency strategy), we have something like most of a decade to go. If anyone thinks the present mood of the American public will put up with a decade of counter-insurgency, I've got a bridge to sell you.
Thus, those of us who have come to loathe Bush because of his (clear and obvious) incompetence in execution in Iraq have a difficult choice; we can (A) fight the "surge" and argue for some form of withdrawal/reduction that will with certainty cause Iraq to crumble to a failed state, or (B) argue for the "surge" on the grounds that it is a sound military policy and the collapse of Iraq would be one of the worst foreign policy disasters to fall on the US in many a year. The problem is that arguing for (B) requires arguing in favor of the President's policies. Any (future) successes will fall on Bush's shoulders (even though he should be remembered for his abject failures in the first three years of the war, and the fact that his policies changed only in the face of a national election that rejected his policies; none of that will be remembered). Also, of course, the 2008 Presidential race looms, and any successes will be claimed by the Republicans in an attempt to keep the Presidency.
So; politically it makes a great deal more sense to oppose the surge (get the idiots who got us to this place out of office), while pragmatically it makes more sense to support the surge (it might actually work in the long term, and minimize damage to US policy).
The problem is that the closer we get to looking like we have a good policy, good people, and good support (as the WaPo article seems to argue), the harder it is for a pragmatist like me to argue for giving up. It was easy to argue for withdrawal when the policies being followed were failures (see everything pre-Petraeus); it is not so easy now.
I'll be thinking about this for a while.
...who thought Snap preview sucks.
Like Clarke, I find myself avoiding blogs that I used to read all the time because of this feature.
A couple of days ago I followed this link, from somewhere I can't remember, and fully intended to both explore the NPR stories and to blog about it. Obviously, I am halfway down my own personal road to hell (and we know what it's paved with). I'm getting ready to take a trip with a dozen students for a week, so probably light posting from me (nothing new there either).
Happy Easter, spring, what have you!
From Amp, with my favorite part in bold:
The specific male quandary you've described stems from a belief that by hanging around and being "nice," a man is entitled to female affection. I have a lot of sympathy for a lot of situations that hit men, but being upset by not getting what they won't ask for (and will thus often try to extract through manipulation, like pretending to be a friend when the friendship is treated as a tedious and insulting means to something else) isn't one of them. Also, many - by no means all, but enough to make it a more than reasonable concern - of the kinds of guys who make this particular kind of complaint are only a step or two a way from outright stalking the object of their desire. The use of the word 'object' isn’t accidental.
Via Crooks and Liars, The Opinion Mill takes on Malkin's big blind spot about domestic terrorist acts in the United States. The post links to the Souther Poverty Law Center which has maintained some of the most consistent monitoring of violent racist groups. They also maintain an interactive map of hate groups, by state.
Sadly Armand's Friday night did not include that hot Psych grad student. Instead, I finally got around to watching The Good Sheperd. And how was the De Niro-directed Matt Damon vehicle? Well ... I'd be interested in what any of you have to say about it. I liked it. It held my interest throughout (no minor feat given its length), I thought it was generally "good", I liked a couple of the small performances (especially Michael Gambon's, and how can you not like Billy Crudup doing a British accent?), and I'd definitely recommend it to certain people (I've already recommended it to mom), but ... I don't know. Honestly I was expecting it to be better. Which isn't to say it's not good and it is largely free of flaws (well, the score is hugely annoyingly intrusive, but other than that), but I was still ever so slightly underwhelmed - even though I liked it. What did you think?
Rumors have it that Jason Isbell (one third of the guitar/songwriting team of the Drive By Truckers) has left the band (if rumors can be said to be a post on his own myspace page). There is no further explanation or news.
This is certainly bad news, in the sense that he was a different voice than Cooley and Hood, and in that way added an extra dimension to the band. He will be missed, but I assume the band will go on.
I'm happy I got to see them (with Isbell) a few times in the past six months, and sad that he won't be around anymore. Life goes on, and I'll treasure those live concert moments. (Note to readers: Go see shows - you might not get another chance.).
If, however, this turns out to be a case of "I'm better than them, so I'm going solo," I'll be annoyed. There is no evidence of that, but I'm just sayin'.
Later this month the residents of our little town can go to the polls to vote for the city council. If the feel like it. But they shouldn't feel any pressure to. After all, there is only one candidate in every single one of the council districts. That's right, no one is opposed. Even in the two districts where incumbents are retiring, only one candidate filed for the job. Given my job I suppose it's natural for me to think - Isn't this a fabulous opportunity for some survey researcher, or for some poli sci type who likes natural experiments? There have to be some excellent research opportunities tied to voting behavior that occurs when there's no meaningful voting (in terms of affecting the outcome) to be done.
Turns out the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys may have been affected by a rare genetic disorder:
The most infamous feud in American folklore, the long-running battle between the Hatfields and McCoys, may be partly explained by a rare, inherited disease that can lead to hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts.
Dozens of McCoy descendants apparently have Von Hippel-Lindau disease, which causes high blood pressure, racing hearts, severe headaches and too much adrenaline and other "fight or flight" stress hormones.
No one blames the disease for the whole feud, but doctors say it could help explain some of the clan's notorious behavior.
"This condition can certainly make anybody short-tempered, and if they are prone because of their personality, it can add fuel to the fire," said Dr. Revi Mathew, a Vanderbilt University endocrinologist treating one of the family members.
The Hatfields and McCoys have a storied and deadly history dating to Civil War times. Their generations of fighting over land, timber rights and even a pig are the subject of dozens of books, songs and countless jokes. Unfortunately for Appalachia, the feud is one of its greatest sources of fame.
Several genetic experts have known about the disease plaguing some of the McCoys for decades, but kept it secret. The Associated Press learned of it after several family members revealed their history to Vanderbilt doctors, who are trying to find more McCoy relatives to warn them of the risk.
Quite the democracy we've established, no?
The most powerful Shiite cleric in Iraq has rejected an American-backed proposal to allow thousands of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party to return to government service, an aide to the cleric said Monday ... The comments from the ayatollah's office came a day after he met with Ahmad Chalabi, the former Pentagon favorite and head of the de-Baathification commission, who has opposed any serious attempt to roll back the purging of former Baathists. After the meeting on Sunday, Mr. Chalabi said at a news conference that Ayatollah Sistani was aware of the law and that he had told Mr. Chalabi that it "would not be the final one and there would be other drafts."
Again, don't you just love the democracy we've helped establish?
This is underhanded and an abuse of Executive authority — sadly this behavior has become the hallmark of this administration.
No wonder Senator Dodd is outraged. The president formally withdraws Fox's nomination to be ambassador to Belgium - and then names him in a recess appointment? Yikes. I'd really hate to be one of the next Bush nominees to come up for confirmation before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Democrats there are going to be seriously pissed off.
So I got my new copy of The Alantic today. Has anyone posted yet on Caitlin Flanagan's article that's subtitled "Abortion and the bloodiness of being female"? As few (if any) writers are more likely to make me see red I'm reluctant to read it (the understatement of the week). But I guess I have a certain morbid curiousity about just how awful it is (given what she usually writes, and given the topic, I'd have to think pretty damn awful).
The most questionable thing I have read in this issue so far is in the Primary Sources section. There's a little piece that argues that early polling is a strong indicator of who the Republicans will nominate for president (going back to 1960 only once - in 1964 - has the nominee not been someone who was leading in early polls), but such polls aren't a great indicator of who'll win the Democratic presidential nomination. As evidence they show polling data from 8 election cycles and note that the nominees in 1992, 1988, 1976 and 1972 weren't men who led in early polls. That's all well and good - but it's (more than) worth mentioning that those polls before the '88 and '92 races were led by men who didn't actually run for president. If you consider who actually did run, the nominations of Dukakis and Clinton weren't surprising. And the piece then weirdly notes that the process is more unpredictable then ever now, what with the front-loading of primaries, early fundraising and the like - an observation that's simply bizarre given that you'd logially think those things benefit frontrunners. It's an odd little piece.
Wow. Jaw-dropping, mind-blowing wow. Over $25 million from over 100,000 individuals.
...they really are out to get you (emphasis mine):
A secret FBI intelligence unit helped detain a group of war protesters in a downtown Washington parking garage in April 2002 and interrogated some of them on videotape about their political and religious beliefs, newly uncovered documents and interviews show.
For years, law enforcement authorities suggested it never happened. The FBI and D.C. police said they had no records of such an incident. And police told a federal court that no FBI agents were present when officers arrested more than 20 protesters that afternoon for trespassing; police viewed them as suspicious for milling around the parking garage entrance.
But a civil lawsuit, filed by the protesters, recently unearthed D.C. police logs that confirm the FBI's role in the incident. Lawyers for the demonstrators said the logs, which police say they just found, bolster their allegations of civil rights violations.
The probable cause to arrest the protesters as they retrieved food from their parked van? They were wearing black -- a color choice the FBI and police associated with anarchists, according to the police records.
Better break out the pastels, people.
They just released some polls in the presidential race. Here McCain has a very slight lead over Giuliani, 33-29, with Romney running a distant third (well behind "undecided") at 8. On the Democratic side it's Clinton 37, Obama 22, Edwards 19.
Many regarded The Drowsy Chaperone as the last year's best Broadway musical (and some liked it even more than that). As it's still going strong the show is going through some cast changes, and one of those is the addition of Jo Anne Worley! Lovers of brassy dames and big, funny divas are no doubt rushing to buy tickets as I type.
This might not be the most revelatory piece in the world, but it does lay out another reason to question the incredible sums that we are spending to enlarge our fighter fleet.
So not being around little girls too often, or for that matter families that include little girls, I'm wondering this - is it still as common as it was in the 20th century to put visions in their heads of how wonderful it is to be a princess, or how they are daddy's little princess, etc.? I ask this b/c over the weekend I skimmed through Victoria's Daughters, and I've got to say that even if you happened to be a princess in the greatest empire in the world, there was still a good chance that your life was really going to suck on occasion, and the princess or not, the demands of family and "a woman's place" or "a royal's place" ... well, I've got to think that those types of things are matters that something like 90% of today's girls really wouldn't want to have to deal with. So that being the case - has there been a decline in the princessization of little girls in the last decade or two?
By the way, if you are interested in the lifestyles available to upper-class (or highest-class) women in the late 19th century that book might be of interest to you. Other than that ... well, it reminds you just how German the English monarchy has been for the last 300 years (well, at least until Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Diana entered the picture), just what a nasty paranoid Kaiser Wilhelm II was, and that hemophilia is a terrible scourge.
Am I the only one who finds it kind of funny that the federal appeals court court judge (Judge King) who's leading the anti-Mike Garrison forces - discussing the possibility of inside deals and an old (and young) boys network greasing Garrison's way to the job - happens be the brother of the recently hired Dean of the Eberly College (the College of Arts and Sciences) here? Ours is a small state.
With words like these maybe he'll snag the nomination yet:
"The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. . . . We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto," Gingrich said, drawing cheers from the crowd of more than 100.
Though perhaps some enterprising reporter should remind him of this the next time he waxes on about the globalized economy.
Last week David Plotz took on the Book of Job. His amusing analysis can be found here. Among other things, he addresses why God needs Satan:
One day, God's divine beings drop by His house for a visit. Accompanying them is "the Adversary," or as we have come to know him, "Satan." (Satan means "adversary" in Hebrew.) Here is what this Satan is not: a fallen angel, wicked, omnipotent, demonic, living in hell, warring with God for dominion over the earth, carrying a pitchfork, smelling like brimstone, or wearing red spandex. Here is what he is: an arguer, a troublemaker. But Satan is actually the kind of guy any smart God would want around, because he questions authority. He asks the tricky, contentious questions that make God more thoughtful about His own work. (The kind of questions, say, that presidential advisers should ask the president.) Satan makes God uncomfortable, but only so God will do His job better.
My attempt to list to Weekend Edition Sunday lasted about all of 10 minutes this morning. After a report on Speaker Pelosi going to the Middle East that was framed by Liane Hanson, who was contrasting it with "gentler times" (uh, when were those? and no, David Broder's daydreams don't count as an actual time) and unlike the period when "politics stopped at the water's edge" (uh, again, when was that exactly? prominent political figures in the US were bitterly divided over foreign policy during the Washington administration), Dan Schorr was given airtime to talk about how political figures needed to be wary of e-mail (he must have put together that piece from the files marked "duh"). NPR's Washington editor (who Hanson eventually got around to interviewing after her lengthy, inane intro) was good, but once he was off the air ... yikes.