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Saturday, May 31, 2003
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O’Reilly Analyzed

By Steven Taylor @ 2:21 pm

Given that I gave Kevin Drum (aka CalPundit) a hard time over taxation earlier in the week, it seems only fair to link to something that we agree on. Kevin provides a link to this amusing (at least I find it amusing) analyis at the Progressive Review of Bill O’Reilly’s recent interview with Jacob Sullum. While I can tolerate O’Reill on occasion, I have long found his “No Spin Zone” bit to be tiresome, and he is, shall we say, an agressive interviewer (I love the very representative quote in the piece about giving “the last word"). Further, he really isn’t, contrary to popular perception, a conservative. His rhetoric tends to be pretty populistic, and indeed isn’t so much ideological, as opinionated.

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PoliReview: Nemesis

By Steven Taylor @ 2:03 pm

In my ongoing quest to catch up on movies I havent seen (and would have already seen if I didnt have small children), my wife and I watched Star Trek: Nemesis last night. Some pre-commentary disclaimers: 1) I am a Trekkie (Trekker, Trekkite, guy who likes Star Trek whichever label you prefer) who has been watching Trek since the Original Series was in syndication back in the early 1970s, so I am predisposed to liking Trek flicks, and 2) I had somewhat low expectations for this one, as the reviews were mixed and even friends who liked Trek and saw it seemed to think it was fine, but not spectacular.

Overall, I quite liked it. It was substantially better than the previous, and highly forgettable, Star Trek: Insurrection, although not as good as First Contact. In the pantheon of Trek flicks I would rank them thusly: II: The Wrath of Khan (the very best, and one of my favorite movies of all time), III: The Search for Spock, First Contact and IV: The Voyage Home (the whale one) are roughly tied, followed by VI: The Undiscovered Country and Nemesis (tied), Generations, Insurrection, I (STTMP), and at the very bottom on the heap: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (man, that one really was pretty darn badthere were a few decent scenes, but overall, a real stinker).

I enjoyed the pace, visuals, dialog and story of Nemesis. Although I will admit that the basic plot was rather uninspired. It was cool to see more of the Romulans, although quite honestly the politics of the situation made little sense. For example, why would the Romulans collude with a human clone in the coup? Why not just take the weapon? Indeed, it would have been more interesting if they had taken the Picard clone thing farther, and actually had him as a Romulan-trained general set up to take on the Federation after the original switcheroo plan was put to rest.

A major plot problem: how did a race of slaves manage to build such a doomsday weapon?

Of course, this one has the quintessential Trek problem: the inconsistent usage of technology for the purposes of the story. A few that really bothered me:

  • If Shinzon could manage to locate and beam Picard directly off the Enterprise, why not use the same trick onboard the Scimitar after Data freed Picard? For that matter, why not beam him off of the fighter that he stole? Does no one think of these things?
  • Given Replicator technology, why was there only one of those emergency transporter devices? Further, in the past, two people normally could easily transport out for the price of one (many times someone would jump into the beam when only one person was supposed to beam out, and it worked just fine).
  • Speaking of transporters, it made no sense that all the transporters on the Enterprise would be out just because Geordis board on the brigde shorted out.

    The real problem is that the technology of Trek has gotten to the point that it really makes for some difficult story problems if one takes the tech to its logical potential.

    Of course, most of those are geekboy problems. On balance an enjoyable movie and a decent send-off for the TNG crew. I must admit I was surprised by Datas exitand even more surprised that they didnt use some lame trick with B4 to obviate the sacrifice.

    Overall: ***1/2 out of five.

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    Speaking of the Ecosystem…

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:07 am

    I am a few links shy of moving up the evolutionary ladder. So, if you have been planning to link to PoliBlog, but just haven’t gotten around to it, now would be a a great time to do so :)

    Serious blogging later, the kids got me up early, so I am going to take a little nap.

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    Blogging Bias?

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:19 am

    NZ Bear poststhe following e-mail from Cowboy Khalid which posits that there is a problem in the blogosphere, to wit: Leftish blogs, and especially female-written blogs aren’t getting sufficient attention. I was especially struck when he noted, in the comments section, an “institutional bias” against women/left-leaning blogs. The only problem here is: there is no institution that governs blogdom-it is about as free-wheeling as you can get. One sets up a blog, one writes, one tries to get noticed. Some grow, some don’t.

    Normally when I click a link to a blog I have never visited before I have no idea if a) it is a male’s or female’s blog, b) the ideology of the writer, or c) if the blog is any good or not. The thing that will bring me back is “c” (and certainly only “c” matters if I am going to link to them).

    Now, do some bloggers have advantages? Yes: the key one is being an early start. However, that isn’t an institutional bias. A second advantage is being mentioned by a major (or at least mid-level) blogger. Of course, that requires saying sometihng worthwhile. I have never seen anyone say “hey, read this guy’s/gal’s blog, it is really boring!”

    The irony here is that Cowboy Khalid has demonstrated the best way to get noticed in the blogosphere, regardless of gender or ideological predilections: write something that people want to talk about, and then (and this is key) find a way for at least a medium-sized blogger to post it and link to it.

    I wonder how far up the TTLB Ecosystem Khalid will climb as a result of all of this? :)

    Also, kudo to NZ Bear, for his previous effort to update the Ecosystem with left-leaning blogs.

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    • Tiger: Raggin’ & Rantin’ linked with Blogoshere evolution
    Friday, May 30, 2003
    Dowd Gets the Boot!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:37 pm

    Ok, it is a Texas boot (from the Lufkin Daily News), but interesting nonetheless. Says Marc Masferrer, Editor of the paper:

    Until she explains to our satisfaction her own ethical transgression an apparently deliberate distortion of a comment by President Bush you will not find the work of Times columnist Maureen Dowd on this page.

    The whole thing is a shame, as even though she really annoys me, I actually kind of like Dowd. She can be witty, although she far too often takes cute and clever to mean analytical and penetrating. Indeed, it s a shame in general that the NYT’s leadership has allowed the paper to become this tarnished. It is an excellent example of journalistic hurbis.

    Hat tip on the Lufkin story to Venemous Kate at Electric Venom

    And for those who care, Lufkin is in East Texas, south of Nacogdoches).

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    The Harm Principle

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:41 pm

    James of OTB links to a thread started by Eugene Volokk and continued by Kevin Drum on the ideological underpinnings of libertarianism, and the “Harm Principle” in particular.

    For those who care, here’s the origin of said Principle from John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty:

    The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

    While clearly there is much that requires definition is such a statement, there is a rather significant question being asked here: when is it legitimate to interfere with the liberty of others? A question that the government had to address constantly, and one that governments frequently get wrong.

    Indeed, the main issue here is when should the government be able to force me to do, or not to do, something. And the main claim that is being argued against is that the government should not be allowed to control my actions just because it would be good for me to do so.

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    • Deinonychus antirrhopus linked with Libertarianinsm and the Harm Principle: Part 2
    Everyone Can Relax Now

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:53 pm

    We’re back to Yellow.

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    Perhaps Krugam Should Read This Piece

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:38 am

    Robert Pollock’s piece in the WSJ is worth a read. Some excerpts:

    Among the thousands of friends and relatives who have come to this mass grave near Hilla to find their loved ones, there is surprisingly little bitterness against the U.S. for encouraging and then abandoning that rebellion. Some even express hope that Iraq could become an American state. “Saddam, Saddam,” one man mutters in disbelief, staring at the bodies. “Television only show Iraq Ali Baba [Iraqis as thieves],” complains another of the foreign media’s fixation with looting, “not show this.”

    Not surprisingly, none of these people thinks that finding weapons of mass destruction is critical to the case for war. The old regime did most of its dirty work the old-fashioned way, with a pistol to the head. Nor are they alarmed, like so many distant pundits, that Iraq has traded tyranny for anarchy. Even a messy freedom is something to savor.

    And this illustrates something I have been thinking for a while:

    Before travelling to Baghdad, I had dinner with a Palestinian economist in Amman. I told him that conventional wisdom among antiwar Americans was that the U.S. had squandered a great reservoir of international sympathy by attacking Iraq. He laughed. What sympathy? Most of his acquaintances were happy about, or at best indifferent to, the blow America suffered on Sept. 11, 2001.

    I have long thought that the arguments that we had this vast reservoir of good will out in the world was off the mark. Global responses to 9/11 were emotional and ephemeral-the idea that one could put the good will in a bottle and use it later was ludicrious. And let’s face facts-even our allies want power and economic success vis-a-vis the USA, goodwill or no, and our enemies want to destroy us. 9/11 didn’t change those facts, and neither did Gulf War II.

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    This is the Best He Could Do?

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:23 am

    Krugman’s latest (Waggy Dog Stories) verges on the delusional. Not only is he recylcing (the Wag the Dog business was used with Clinton already), but he starts with this:

    An administration hypes the threat posed by a foreign power. It talks of links to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism; it warns about a nuclear weapons program. The news media play along, and the country is swept up in war fever. The war drives everything else including scandals involving administration officials from the public’s consciousness.

    The 1997 movie “Wag the Dog” had quite a plot.

    But while those paragraphs insinuate that the administration launched the war in Iraq to cover something up, he never actually makes that charge in the column itself. Instead, he notes that the war has given the president political advantage.

    I will agree that he has gained political advantage, and that the lack of WMDs to date is a problem, if anything because it affects our international credibility. However, I disagree that there have been no linkages of Iraq to al Qaeda, and certainly there have been ties to terrorism writ large. Further, there are intellectually honest reasons to say that the war was worthwhile sans WMDs (and I remain unconvinced that there are none whatsoever). Further, if a stable, even semi-democratic state emerges, the war will have profound positive long-term effects on the region.

    Also, even if it ends up we were utterly wrongno terrorist ties, no WMDs, it is hard to say that getting rid was Saddam was a bad thing.

    And, anyway, he has the administration wrong-the Clinton administration did launch military action (cruise missile attacks) during the Lewinsky grand jury testimony-that fits the Wag the Dog scenario quite a bit better than does the Iraq scenario.

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    • The American Mind linked with Still No Weapons Found
    On to the Finals!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:54 am

    After collapsing in Game 5, the Spurs got their act together and knocked out the Mavericks. On to the Nets!

    Ok: two basketball posts in a row, back to politics (and truth is, I am really more a football guy…)

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    Thursday, May 29, 2003
    Attack of the Clone?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:53 pm

    Speaking of clones, is Nick Van Exel of the Dallas Mavericks the Mini-Me version of Charles Barkley, or what?

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    Tax Equilibrium

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:44 pm

    Kevin Drum of CalPundit has an interesting post on taxes as a percentage of GDP. He also points out the looming financial burden that the Baby Boomers are going to create on the welfare system and he opines that tax increases are needed over time.

    I concur that there are some serious fiscal choices that need to be made vis-a-vis Medicare and Social Security (privatization, anyone?), but that really isn’t what motivated a comment.

    Rather, the noteworthy thing about his post is that it is classic Democratic thinking on the budget and taxes-he assumes that the percentage of GDP that the government received in taxes is solely the result of one element of fiscal policy: the tax rate. Not only does he ignore the issue of whether spending can or should be changed, he also ignores that the main issue that impacts revenue is the health of the economy-receipts to the federal government surge when the ecnomy soars (as I pointed out here). Indeed, this spreadsheet from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that there is a fairly close correlation between growth and spikes in the percentage of GDP controlled by the budget, as shown on the chart Kevin posted.

    Indeed, this view of tax dollars is one of the most fundamental differences between Reps and Dems. I noted a similar difference in perception in Joe Kleins’s current column in Time. He starts off with the following:

    The money we talk about in Washington, D.C., is not the government’s money,” said President Bush, celebrating the imminent passage of his latest tax cut, as he liberated an estimated $22 million from the party faithful at a fund raiser in the nation’s capital last week. “The money we talk about in Washington, D.C., is the people’s money.” Bush used this formulation throughout the 2000 campaign, and I always found it a bit confusing. It sounded as if the Federal Government were a toxic fungus implanted upon the banks of the Potomac by communists, space aliens or Hollywood celebrities and not, in the words of history’s greatest Republican, “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

    But then, on the eerie afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush’s counselor Karen Hughes appeared at FBI headquarters the President had just touched down at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska and announced that “your Federal Government continues to function effectively.” The pronoun was almost as astonishing as the sentiment, but the moment of common purpose seems to have passed.

    And his perception of what it means to talk about the “people’s money” is quite striking. Somehow to him pointing out that all the dollars in Washington come from citizens is to paint DC as a fungus. I don’t see it that way at all-I agree that it is “our” government, and I also see the need for our government-but I also know that our government is funded by our dollars.

    In short-it is not a crime, nor is it just being nice to “the rich", or even government loathing to think that the Feds control too much of the GDP and that taxes ought to be cut.

    The basic difference between Dems and Reps on this issue is that Dems see the programs, both that exist and that they want to exist, and the Reps see that the tax dollars come from the citizenry. It is a matter of perspective.

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    More Face-Lifting

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:20 pm

    Since John Lemon opined that the following, now-former masthead pic looked like some kind of polisci orgy:

    I decided to make some adjustments to the blog’s logos. Comments welcome-and as always, this is a all a work in progress (or regress, as the case may be).

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    Washington Had it Right…

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:15 pm

    …two terms is plenty.

    And this isn’t self-serving at all (and yes, I know he is arguing it wouldn’t apply to him-but this is called “dreaming out loud"): Clinton: Terms Limits Could Be Changed

    Former President Bill Clinton says in the future, a former two-term president should be able to return to office later in life - but the Constitution would have to be amended.

    “It wouldn’t affect me, but for future generations the 22nd amendment should be modified,” Clinton said Wednesday during an appearance at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

    “There may come a time when we have elected a president at age 45 or 50 and then 20 years later the country comes up with the same sort of problems the president faced before, and the people would like to bring that man or woman back,” he said.

    That certainly sounds like a good argument for amending the Constitution…,

    And, yeah, right:

    He added that he didn’t feel strongly about the issue, though.

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    Double A Baseball

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:19 pm

    Montgomery is getting a new double-A basball club, and the name, just revealed over the weekend, is the Montgomery Biscuits.

    Is there a worse name is all of sports? (check out the link to see the fearsome breakfast-sandwich-like logo).

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    Fairly Remarkable

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:06 pm

    Granted, it is too early to start drawing conclusions, but this is pretty significant nonetheless: Israeli, Palestinian Premiers Discuss Peace Plan (especially after Arafat attempted to re-insert himself into the process earlier in the week.)

    And this isn’t too helpful:

    The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group affiliated with the Fatah (news - web sites) faction of President Yasser Arafat (news - web sites) and Abbas, issued a statement in which it said it rejected “the road map to hell.”

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    Some Econ Graphics

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:52 pm


    Durable Goods:

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    By Steven Taylor @ 11:04 am

    Thanks to Joel Davis ofEvent Horizon for linking to PoliBlog.

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    Economy Round-Up

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:14 am

    U.S. Economy Grew at 1.9% Rate in First Quarter

    The good:

    The U.S. economy performed a little bit better in the first three months of 2003 than first thought, growing at an annual rate of 1.9 percent. But even with the improvement, the pace of economic growth was still below normal.

    And the continued not so good…

    Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in a Capitol Hill appearance last week, predicted that economic growth in the current April-June quarter “is going to be quite soft.'’

    Private economists agree. They don’t think the economy will do much better than the first quarter. Forecasts for second-quarter economic growth range from a 1.8 percent rate to a rate of more than 2 percent.

    Greenspan told lawmakers that the “economy continues to be buffeted by strong cross currents.'’

    He said recent economic reports on employment and production have been “on the weak side.'’ But improved conditions in financial markets and strong productivity gains - a key to the nation’s long-term economic well being - augured well for the economy’s future.

    And more good: Retail Sales Pace Picks Up, Hinting of Broader Rebound

    Retail sales at chain stores rose last week at a faster pace than they had for most of the previous month, according to two surveys released today. In one survey, conducted by the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, sales increased 3.1 percent compared with the week a year earlier, the biggest gain since January.

    And general Weirdness: Economy Picked Up Speed as 2003 Began; Jobs Scarce

    Stronger consumer spending helped push U.S. growth ahead at a modestly faster rate than previously thought in the first quarter but jobs remain scarce, government reports on Thursday showed.


  • “some 3.76 million Americans continued drawing jobless pay in the week ended May 17, up 83,000 from the prior week and the highest total since 3.8 million in November, 2001, shortly after the terror attacks in New York and the Washington area that temporarily hobbled economic activity.”
  • “Business investment softened in the first quarter, contracting at a 4.8 percent rate after expanding 2.3 percent in the last quarter of 2002. Spending on equipment and software dropped even more rapidly, falling at a 6.3 percent rate after a 6.2 percent growth pace the final quarter of 2002. ”
  • “There were some signs of continuing modest recovery, including a 2.5 percent rise in corporate profits after taxes to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $484.4 billion in the first quarter.”
  • “The department also revised its estimate of exports. Instead of being down at a 3.2 percent rate in the first quarter, they fell just 1.4 percent, reflecting a moderately better trade performance over the quarter. ”
  • Plus durable goods orders and shipments are down.

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    • Arguing with signposts… linked with Canadian PM just don't get it
    More Tax Cut Details

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:07 am

    This is an odd outcome, I must say:

    A last-minute revision by House and Senate leaders in the tax bill that President Bush signed today will prevent millions of minimum-wage families from receiving the increased child credit that is in the measure, say Congressional officials and outside groups.

    Most taxpayers will receive a $400-a-child check in the mail this summer as a result of the law, which raises the child tax credit, to $1,000 from $600. It had been clear from the beginning that the wealthiest families would not receive the credit, which is intended to phase out at high incomes.

    But after studying the bill approved on Friday, liberal and child advocacy groups discovered that a different group of families would also not benefit from the $400 increase families who make just above the minimum wage.

    Because of the formula for calculating the credit, most families with incomes from $10,500 to $26,625 will not benefit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal group, says those families include 11.9 million children, or one of every six children under 17.

    If anything, it is politically stupid, although the fact that many of those individuals don’t actually pay income taxes is an issue. And the following provisions do aid low-income families:

    The Senate provision that did pass was intended to help those families making $10,500 to $26,625 who do pay federal taxes and could have taken all or part of the $600 credit. The provision, which would have cost $3.5 billion, would have allowed those families to receive some or all of the extra $400 in the new law.

    I must say, however, that I am a bit vexed as to how 26K is considered “low income” (although, granted, it depends on where you live in the country). Still, it wasn’t that long ago I made something in that range, and we were hardly poverty-stricken. Not to mention that that is about what a school teacher makes.

    Of course, the whole problem comes from the insistence on a specific number for the tax-bill, which I have already pointed out is bogus.

    the provision was dropped in the House-Senate conference, where tax writers spent days trying to cram many tax cuts most prominently, cuts in the taxes on stock dividends and capital gains into a bill that the Senate said could not be larger than $350 billion.

    House Republicans, who acknowledged the gap on the child credit, blamed the Senate for insisting on its $350 billion cap, saying the low-income families could have been covered had the Senate been more flexible.

    A spokeswoman for the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, Christin Tinsworth, noted that the provision was included in an agreement reached last week by Representative Bill Thomas, Republican of California, the committee chairman, and Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

    That agreement would have cost $380 billion, but it fell apart when an important swing senator, George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, said he could not approve any bill that exceeded $350 billion. To satisfy him and the Senate, Ms. Tinsworth said, the child credit provision was dropped, along with other costs.

    “The Senate preferred to have $20 billion in state aid,” she said. “But when we had to squeeze it all to $350 billion, they weren’t talking about the child credits. This bill does a lot to help people who need help. But its primary purpose was to generate jobs. Apparently, whatever we do is not going to be enough for some segments of the population.”

    Source: Tax Law Omits Child Credit in Low-Income Brackets

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    Wednesday, May 28, 2003
    Deficit Math

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:20 pm

    The discussion of the recent tax cuts and the doom-saying concerning the debt and deficit raise some issues. It is true that in absolute numbers the FY 2003 deficit is going to be the biggest in history, but of course so are the federal budget and the GDP.

    Indeed, in looking at the deficit figures as a percentage of total federal government outlays, the projected 2003 deficit is not all the outrageous. It is true that in absolute dollars the projected $304 billion deficit is the largest in history, but it represents only 14.2% of outlays for 2003. The average percentage of outlays financed by deficit spending for 1950-2003 (I started after WWII given the remarkably high deficits, and left out surplus years), is 11.07%. And the highest post-WWII deficit as a percentage of federal outlays was in 1983 when the figure was 25.71% of the budget being financed by deficit spending.

    Now-I would prefer to have a balanced budget, but if we are going to discuss numbers as part of political argument, let’s at least be accurate in the figures we use. The use of absolute dollar figures, rather than percentages, is simply fallacious argumentation. This is the not the largest deficit we have ever had, if measured as a percentage of the budget.

    I suspect many of us have higher house payments now than we did some years ago, but the relevant factor is not the absolute amount of the payment, but rather the percentage of that payment of your income, correct?

    Source for main figures: Office of Management and Budget

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    Tax Cuts Signed

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:13 pm

    Bush Signs $350 Billion Tax Cut

    President Bush signed a bill on Wednesday that offers $330 billion in tax breaks to families, businesses and investors and $20 billion in state aid a package less than half the size of the one he initially sought.

    The 10-year legislation, which Bush signed with considerable fanfare at a White House ceremony, will within weeks start speeding refunds to parents and fattening paychecks and investor earnings.

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    Will She Make Up Her Mind?

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:34 pm

    Maureen Dowd writes today the following:

    The Bushies are playing up Al Qaeda terrorists they say are hunkered down in Iran, even as they overlook all the Al Qaeda terrorists crouching in countries the administration doesn’t want to demonize, like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. And the hawks have turned to grooming Iranian exiles, who are pumping out reports of secret nuclear labs. Sound familiar

    Hang on-wasn’t the big criticism just last week that Bush and Co. was ignoring al Qaeda? Didn’t Dowd herself, through use of creative ellipsis marks, make it sound as if the President wasn’t taking al Qaeda seriously enough? It makes one wonder as to the intellectual honesty of the criticisms, doesn’t it?

    Not to mention that we have made progress in Pakistan, such as the arrest of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, which arguably disrupted al Qaeda’s main network in Pakistan, and we have been trying to get the Saudis on the right track, although I will grant that we do need to put more pressure on them.

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    Stocks Up Again Today

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:41 am

    I have become so jaded, that I refuse to get too excited by continued good econ news. Until we go at least a week or so with only good or neutral economic news, I will persist in my belief in the Weird Economy.

    Of course, if the Weird Economy morphs into full-blown recovery, look for the Dems to start chewing nails.

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    Breaking and Building

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:20 am

    As usual, Thomas Friedman is worth a read. His basic thesis is that the Bush administration has proven good at breaking things (which is not costrued as always a negative), but the jury is still out on our ability regarding fixing things:

    When it comes to breaking things they are very, very good whether it is the ABM treaty, the Kyoto accord, Afghanistan, Iraq or the old way of Arab-Israeli peacemaking. The Bush people believe in power and are not afraid to wield the wrecking ball. But how good are they with a hammer and a nail? How good are they at the detail work of building real alternatives to Kyoto, Saddam or the Arab-Israel peace process? This is still the most important unanswered question about this administration. Can it reap the harvest of the principles it has sown?

    While I take exception to the Kyoto argument-that treaty was never going to be ratified by the Senate (indeed, it had been rejected), not to mention that despite much lip-service, it seems as though many European countries really weren’t all that interested in actually implementing the thing.

    Still, I have been concerned about some of the post-war rebuilding in Iraq (especially in terms of planning), and therefore I would argue that Friedman has a point here:

    The Rumsfeld doctrine of small-force, high-tech armies may be great for winning wars, but you need the Powell doctrine for winning the peace: a massive, overwhelming investment of soldiers, police and aid. We should be flooding Iraq with people and money right now. Start big and then build down not the other way around. Ditto on the politics side. In destroying the Iraqi Army and Baath Party, we have destroyed the (warped) pillars of Iraqi secular nationalism. We need to start replacing them, quickly, with alternative, progressive pillars of Iraqi secular nationalism; otherwise, Shiite religious nationalism will fill the void.

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    Tuesday, May 27, 2003
    No, It’s Not Just Me…

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:12 pm

    It isn’t just me-in fact, Kevin Aylward of Wizbang is making a list of B*S defectors-go add your name to the list!

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    More Economic Good News

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:48 pm

    Now, if the Weird Economy is to continue properly, expect some bad news in the next couple of days.

    A pair of encouraging economic reports - one on consumer confidence, the other on home sales - gave Wall Street a shot of adrenaline Tuesday, sending the Nasdaq composite to its best level in nearly a year.

    The Dow Jones industrials also soared, moving up nearly 180 points. The Nasdaq climbed 46.60, or 3.1 percent, to close at 1,556.69, following a weekly loss of 1.9 percent to end a five-week winning streak. That was the highest level seen since June 5, 2002, when the tech-focused index closed at 1,595.26

    Source: Stocks Rally on 2 Positive Economic Reports

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    Colombian Paramilitaries

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:53 pm

    This is an element of the Colombian conflict that is often overlooked in the press:

    The far-right paramilitaries sprung up as an illegal backlash against Marxist guerrillas and are notorious for killing peasants they suspect of aiding the rebels. They have been the fastest-growing illegal force in Colombia’s four-decade-old war, which claims thousands of lives a year.

    And it appears they are looking for a higher-profile role in the process:

    Colombia’s most powerful far-right warlord has told former allies they must join him in peace talks with the government or face “annihilation,” a paramilitary chief said on Monday.

    Carlos Castano, who commands 10,000 heavily armed outlaws, made his threat to 1,500 fighters based around the city of Medellin who refused to join talks last year, the commander of the Medellin-based “Metro Block” told Reuters by telephone.

    “We are preparing for war, because they are threatening us with war,” said the Metro Block’s chief, who is known by the aliases “Rodrigo” or “Double-Zero.”

    Castano, who is wanted for cocaine smuggling by the United States and admits to dozens of killings, surprised many people late last year when he began peace talks with the government of President Alvaro Uribe.

    Source: Colombian Far-Right Paramilitaries on Verge of War

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    Blog*Spot: Getting Worse?

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:28 pm

    What’s the deal with BS these days? I can’t get to BS-hosted sites it seems like more than half the time lately.

    It really does seem worse than usual.

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    Tax Cut Info

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:10 am

    WaPo has a great graphic on the tax cut package: What’s in the Tax Cut

    Update: Link Fixed! (sorry about that. HTML is so picky about its “’s and >’s!

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    Two More Cards Out of the Deck

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:58 am

    Two more most wanted Iraqis captured, U.S. military says:

    Coalition forces captured two more wanted Iraqis over the weekend, bringing to 27 the number of the top 55 former members of Saddam Hussein’s regime in custody, U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.
    The men captured Saturday were low on the list but their arrests mean nearly half of the top suspects are being held and interrogated by American forces.

    The latest captured include Sayf al-Din al-Mashadani, No. 46 on the list. He was the regional leader of Saddam’s Baath Party in the Muthanna region of southwestern Iraq.

    Also captured was No. 55, Sad Abd al-Majid al-Faysal. He was the Baath Party regional chairman for the area around Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown and power base.

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    More Weird Economy

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:54 am

    The news continues to be mixed. Consumer confidence is up slightly (to 83.8 from 81), which is good (although no huge jump), but

    The Present Situations Index, one component of the confidence index, fell to 67.9 from 75.2 in April. Consumers reporting jobs hard to get jumped to 32.6 in May from 29.4 the previous month, while those claiming jobs are plentiful declined to 12.6 from 13 in April.

    Consumer Confidence Rises to 83.8 (

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    More Trouble for the Democrats

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:43 am

    If this is the case (and I believe that it is), then this spells more trouble for the Democrats. Indeed, as I have argued before, security is going to be a big deal in 2004, and look for a lot of those nominally Democratic states from 2000 to go Rep in 2004:

    Swing voters have always been elusive creatures, changing shape from election to election. The profile and assumptions about them in one contest seldom apply to the next one. This axiom is proving true again with that most-talked-about slice of American political demography: the Soccer Mom. Since 9/11, polls suggest she has morphed into Security Mom — and that development is frightening to Democrats, who have come to count on women to win elections. She used to say she would never allow a gun in her house, but now she feels better if her airline pilot has one. She wanted a nuclear freeze in the 1980s and was a deficit hawk in the 1990s, but she now believes the Pentagon should have whatever it wants. Her civil liberties seem less important than they used to, especially compared with keeping her children safe. She’s someone, in short, like Debbie Creighton, a 34-year-old Santee, Calif., mother of two who voted for Bill Clinton twice and used to choose the candidates who were most liberal on abortion and welfare. “Since 9/11,” Creighton says, “all I want in a President is a person who is strong.”

    Source: Goodbye, Soccer Mom. Hello, Security Mom

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    More Progress

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:25 am

    Bremer has been far more impressive than Garner. It is amazing how long some of this took. I know part of it was the sanctions issue, but still.

    The head of the occupation authority in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, said today that the Central Bank of Iraq and a group of private banks would begin providing “substantial” trade credits for exports to Iraq within weeks.

    Now that the United Nations has lifted sanctions on Iraq, and as the country resumes selling its crude oil in coming weeks, Mr. Bremer said the trade credit system would “lubricate international trade with Iraq” and would also serve to demonstrate symbolically “to the world that Iraq is open for business again.”

    In announcing the opening of bank credit lines to finance the sale of goods to Iraqi ministries, government-owned factories and private companies, Mr. Bremer said that the total amount was still under discussion but that American and British companies were expected to be among the first to benefit.

    Contracts are pending to sell everything from oil field technology to transportation services and telecommunications to Iraqi ministries coming back into operation under the occupying powers.

    And, remarkable:

    One good economic omen for Iraq, Mr. Bremer announced, was the discovery of $250 million in salvageable American currency in the flooded basement vault of the Iraqi Central Bank. In the last few days, American crews drained river water from the damaged building and opened the vault to find the currency.

    American military forces earlier recovered hundreds of millions of dollars believed to have been looted from the Central Bank just before the war by Baath Party officials and relatives of Saddam Hussein.

    Source: U.S. Plans Credit System for Sale of Goods to Iraq

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    Monday, May 26, 2003

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:48 pm

    Thanks to Cam Edwards (a newsradio host in Oklahoma City) of for linking to PoliBlog!

    And for linking to my latest column.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 1:01 pm

    Thanks to Recluse Reflections for blogrolling PoliBlog!

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    The Evolution of Party Politics, Part II

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:09 pm

    The second part of Clymers piece on US Parties is also worth a read. (I discussed the first part here).

    Al From and Bruce Reed of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist group that was once the showcase for so-called New Democrats and rising stars like Bill Clinton and Al Gore, recently wrote, “No party ever needed definition, or redefinition, more than the Democratic Party today.”

    Though immediate attention may focus on the 2004 presidential election, which Democrats could win if the economy remains sluggish and voters blame Mr. Bush, a victory would not necessarily reverse their long-run decline.

    In the midst of another of their periodic painful identity crises, Democrats are composed of an awkward coalition whose clan chiefs have not yet gotten over the idea that power is the Democrats’ entitlement and who therefore have not yet learned to sacrifice for the greater good. As Don Fowler, a former national chairman, observed, “Our party has so many disparate points of influence that we can never focus enough to achieve our programs.”

    This excerpt highlights the Dems main problems:

    If there is one thing all kinds of Democrats agree on, it is that they need a better message. Republicans have a very simple agenda of lower taxes, less government and more defense while Democrats have generalities like being for the little guy and attacking more than they propose.

    Robert S. Strauss, the former Democratic national chairman who says Democrats seem to win the White House only on Republican mistakes like Watergate or that of the elder Bush in ignoring the faltering economy, calls last fall’s performance on issues disgraceful.

    “We didn’t stand for anything,” Mr. Strauss said. “We got what we deserved nothing.”

    Will Marshall, an ally of Mr. From and Mr. Reed who leads the Progressive Policy Institute, said the party must “show that we can make progressive government work, not just defend the old New Deal monuments.”

    I will say that it does still seem premature to talk about the Democrats as a permanent minority party at this point (as is discussed in the article in some places). I do think that the Democrats sorely need a renaissance. And Bill Richardson is correct:

    A more general problem was identified by Governor Richardson. In an interview, he said it was “very vague, but I think it’s out there, that we’re not the party of optimism and opportunity, that we’re the party of malaise, and we’re the party of class warfare.”

    Richardson has been fairly impressive from his campaign for Governor onward. This is striking to me, as he seemed to be a buffoon when he was SecEnergy in the Clinton administration. Nor was I particularly impressed with his tenure as UN Ambassador. Of course, part of that perception may be the fact that he was constantly in a position to defend President Clinton. Or, it may also be that the fact that he is coming across as impressive is a commentary on the general weakness of leadership in the Democratic Party. Time will tell. To be fair, I think that actually is smarter and more impressive than his time in Clinton administration demonstrated.

    And Richardson is right: the Dems are not the party of optimism these days, and that is a liability.

    Although I must say, I dont buy this:

    But Democrats these days lack the killer instinct that it takes to sell blunt, demagogic messages. As Bob Shrum, a prominent consultant for 30 years, said: “It’s probably a weakness that we’re not real haters. We don’t have a sense that it’s a holy crusade. We don’t have a sense that it’s Armageddon.”
    Or, as Mr. Gore’s former campaign manger, Ms. Brazile put it: “They play hardball. We play softball.”

    There are several issues here:

  • Why would being demagogic be a good thing? How about having some ideas and some attractive candidates?
  • And why not just admit that the Republicans have won at the polls, rather than implying that the Reps are haters-and so much for not being demagogic Indeed, this gets to the heart of the conversation I have been having with Brett Marston: why does it have to be that the explanation for Democratic defeats is that the Republicans are meaner, and hateful and all that? It reminds me of my kids bickering and claiming that whenever one of the other ones get something that it’s not fairregardless of the actual justice of the situation.
  • As I pointed out in an earlier post: where is all this alleged softball? Indeed, Froms insinuation that the Republicans are haters who see everything as a holy crusade hardly smacks of softball. Further, it was Brazile who stated that Republicans were more interested in being photographed with black children than feeding them.

    I would argue that until the Democrats get over this feeling of being put upon, or unfairly defeated (which is part and parcel of their lingering believe that they ought to be the majority party), and start to offer ideas and candidates which are appealing to voters, that they will continue to be less competitive.

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    Stumbling Along

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:57 am

    I think the frustration discussed here: Iraqis Frustrated by Shift Favoring U.S.-British Rule is the direct result of the administration’s lack of planning for the post-war period. The Garner period was not productive, and while the Bremer period seems to be working in the right direction we made too many promises and did too much “thinking out loud,” which resulted in unrealistic expectations. We worried too much about being perceived as imperialists, and talked too much about doing things in a hurry.

    I do think that it makes sense to have some sort of advisory council made up of representatives of various Iraqi groups-if anything to act in an ombudsman-type capacity, as well as to aid in the transition.

    However, one does continue to get the feeling that we aren’t sure where we want to go, or how we plan to get there, except in the vaguest of senses.

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    Sunday, May 25, 2003

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:12 pm

    On the one hand, I wouldn’t make too much of this, but on the other hand, it is a rather significant step for the Israelis. Perhaps this could become an “only Nixon can go to China” situation:

    Israel accepted a U.S.-backed “road map” for Middle East peace which commits the Jewish state for the first time to the establishment of a neighboring Palestinian state.

    Endorsement by Israel’s rightist cabinet Sunday was an about-face for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a lifelong champion of Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip where Palestinians have been waging a 32-month-old revolt.


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    PoliReview: Attack of the Clones

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:35 pm

    I finally got around to watching SWII: Attack of the Clones (I still cant believe that was the best title Lucas could come up with) , and while it was quite a bit better than SWI: The Phantom Menace, it still was rather mediocre. In fact, if it werent for the fact that it was set in the Star Wars universe, it really wouldnt be all that interesting. Indeed, that seems to be part of the problem, as the plot seems geared to making sure certain things happen (Palpatine becoming the Emperor, Padme getting pregnant by Anakin, etc.) without really any strong underlying logic propelling the story. Despite all that talk when I was kid when the first triology came out that Lucas had the plots of nine films mapped out, it seems to me that he had only the vaguest of ideas of what the backstory was. There is no sense, unlike with J. Michael Straczynski Babylon 5, that the author really does know the whole story, even if he doesnt tell us every detail.

    A few thoughts:

  • The Jedi, as cool as they are, are really rather pathetic. How can one Sith Lord and his apprentice totally cloud the entire Jedi Council, and weaken the good side to the degree that Yoda and Mace Windu can be on the same planet (indeed, frequently the same room) with Darth Sidious and not know it? Is the message here that evil is radically more powerful than good? And if so, how did the Jedi keep the peace for 1000 years?
  • Jedi powers are widely inconsistent. If size matters not why couldnt a ring of Jedi just blow back all those battle droids telekinetically, rather than having to have Yoda and his clone army show up to save the day?
  • Speaking of size mattering not, again, if that is the case, why does Yoda have to strain to keep the big stuff from falling on Obi Wan and Anakin?
  • And is Padme nuts? She sees murderous rage in Anakin after he admits slaughtering the men, women and children in the Tuskin Raider camp, and this helps induce her to fall in love with him? Not to mention all that talk about becoming so powerful so as to stop death. I suppose some folks find psychotic megalomania attractive.
  • If the Force is strong in families, but Jedi dont marry, where do little Jedi come from?
  • Why is it that no one on the Jedi council seemed to have any moral qualms whatsoever at growing (and using) a clone army?
  • Speaking of armies-how can you have a Republic of thousands (indeed, probably tens of thousands of systems, since in the beginning crawl we learn that thousands of systems have left the Republic, but yet the Republic continues to exist) not have a standing army? At least a defense force of some kind? Why would the only recourse to protect the Republic been a clandestinely growth clone army?
  • For that matter, the politics of the Republic are lost on me anyway. Why does it exist? How do you coordinate thousands of systems politically? Why would you want to? Especially since trade policy is apparently outside the control of the Senate, and they have no military. I mean, whats it there for?
  • Why does Lucas recycle so much? (the Death Star in IV and VI, the battle of the technologically backward v. insurmountable odds (the ends of I and VI), the need for a lone pilot to blow something up so the good guys can win (I, IV, and VI), etc.

    If one ignores all this (and other stuff), it was a fairly entertaining flick-and the light sabers are very cool. And seeing Yoda in action was nifty.

    The Empire Strikes Back is still my favorite.

    I give it **1/2 out of 5.

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    The Evolution of Party Politics

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:20 am

    Adam Clymer’s piece (first in a series) in NYT on the parties is worth a read. Some highlights:

    This is the centerpiece of the analysis-a a very significant shift in partisan identification:

    For the first time in 50 years, a majority of state legislators are Republicans. Almost as many Americans (30 percent) call themselves Republicans as call themselves Democrats (32 percent), the narrowest gap since pollsters began measuring party identification in the 1940’s.

    This reflects a rise from the Watergate ashes in the late 70s where only 18% of the country identified as a Republican.

    This gets to the heart of it. Years of being in the minority has forged a more disciplined party-and some of that discipline will likely fade as the party stays in the majority.

    Republicans have held that House majority through intense discipline, dedicated candidate recruitment and heavy spending, and much more forceful House leadership than Democrats ever managed. Their narrow majorities have held them together better than the Democrats’ past big margins.

    I have argued (as have many others) the first part of this paragraph, and the second part (concerning the House) is rather interesting:

    Barring economic calamity, the House seems securely Republican until at least the redistricting after the 2010 census. In the Senate, the Democrats have more tough seats to defend than the Republicans do. The presidency is perhaps the least secure Republican base, if only because personalities and the qualities of campaigns can turn those elections around. As Mr. Gingrich said, “The presidency is the least mathematical and the most prone to chance of all the major offices.”

    And this gets to the heart of the matter:

    But Republicans have the advantage, and not just because of mechanics like direct mail or the 72-hour project or Ottawa County’s 500 volunteers at the last election. For 20 years or more Republicans have been selling ideas that the public likes. As Mr. Teeter says, “You look where the country is: foreign policy and national security, economic and tax policy, and line them all up-it is a center-right country.”

    The Democrats have suffered from both a lack of leadership and ideas, and the generation of both is their biggest challenge boing forward.

    Read the whole thing.

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    A New PoliColumn

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:33 am

    From Today’s Birmingham News

    War against al-Qaida won’t end quickly



    The recent al-Qaida attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco have demonstrated that the war on terror continues. They have also brought forth criticism of the administration, such as the following from Sen. (and presidential candidate) Bob Graham, D-Fla.: “We have let al-Qaida off the hook. We had them on the ropes, close to dismantlement, and then as we moved resources out of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight a war in Iraq, we let them regenerate.”

    The whole thing is here.

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    • The Command Post Op-Ed Page linked with War against al-Qaida won't end quickly
    Saturday, May 24, 2003
    I Agree with Brett

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:47 pm

    Brett Marston and I may disagree on the exact significance of the “southern strategy, but he’s right-Michael Savage is an “unbelievable jerk". Although I haven’t started to boycott MSNBC over it. I certainly avoid Savage at all costs.

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    Sounds Like a Plan

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:18 pm

    I am a little surprised that this wasn’t alreadt decreed:

    The civilian occupation administration headed by Paul Bremer announced yesterday that Saddam’s former army and vast security apparatus, along with the defence and information ministries, had all been abolished. A non-political army is to be created in its place.

    “These actions are part of a robust campaign to show the Iraqi people that the Saddam regime is gone and will never return,” a senior official from the US-led coalition said.

    The commander of coalition ground forces, Lieutenant-General David McKiernan, said all heavy and automatic weapons would soon be banned, after an amnesty period of about two weeks. He also said the coalition hoped to solve supply problems for petroleum products for Iraqis in the short term.

    Source: Iraqi army axed as sanctions lifted -

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    Friday, May 23, 2003
    The “little bitty” Meme

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:00 pm

    Here’s the origin of the “little bitty” quote (used now in the context of “Bush gets the tax cut he once called ‘little bitty’")

    “Well, it seems like to me they might have some explaining to do. If they agree that tax relief creates jobs, then why are they for a little bitty tax relief package? If they believe tax relief is important for job creation, they ought to join us . . . and have a robust package that creates enough work for the American people.”

    He made the comment during a speech in Ohio in April (see, amongst other place, WaPo April 25, 2003 “In GOP Holdout’s State, Bush Pitches Tax Cut").

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    Media Myth Regarding al Qaeda

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:44 pm

    The following post from Spinsanity Dowd spawns Bush media myth helps to explain what I have been talking about (here and here, for example) regarding al Qaeda and liberal criticism of the President regarding al Qaeda. I had been wondering where this meme had originated that the administration had declared al Qaeda essentially out of commission.

    The post linked above, and Andrew Sullivan, point out how at least part of the problem derives from a Maureen Dowd column, and then was propogated by Bill Press and Paul Begala.


    (As I was typing Rush started talking about this on his program. He must’ve surfed over to about the same time I did :)

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    Adjustment Pains (Or: Being the Minority Sucks)

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:31 pm

    Peter Roff’s UPI news analysis column is worth a read. It discusses the ongoing adustment pains that the Democratic Party is going through as it adjusts to the fact that they are no longer the majority party. Indeed, we are verging on a decade of this being the case, but they haven’t figured it out yet.

    Roff correctly notes that

    And he notes the following rather damning quote from the now Minority Leader:

    During the Clinton presidency, Senate Democrats, frustrated over the successful effort to block an economic stimulus package, proposed the abolition of the filibuster.

    “The Constitution is straightforward about the few instances in which more than a majority of the Congress must vote,” Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said on Jan. 30, 1995. “A veto override, a treaty, and a finding of guilt in an impeachment proceeding. Every other action by the Congress is taken by majority vote,” he said.

    Time certainly changes things. The top Senate Democrat is now spearheading the filibuster of the judicial nominees. He has, in the years following his original statement, amended his list to include those things he believes are, to use his word, “controversial.”

    As they say: read the whole thing.

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    More Tax Cut Details

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:06 pm

    The Motley Fool provides a summary of the tax cut.

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    Half of What He Wanted?

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:16 pm

    Everyone keeps pointing out that the President got less than what he asked for in terms of tax cuts, making this a win, but a meager win. However, is this really the case?

    Bush initially request a $726 billion tax-cut package over ten years. That would be $72.6 billion a year (granted, it is more complicated than that, but still, a fair way of talking about it).

    Ok, so instead a package of $330 billion was passed-of which $320 billion is actual tax cuts, with about $20 billion is aid for state and $9.5 billion in child tax credits. So, five years at $320 billion over five years is $64 billion a year-hardly “half” of what the President requested. Further, part of the tax cuts take place over shorter periods of time-the rate reductions are for three years, and, according to the LAT’s, $210 billion of the cuts are for this year and next, or $105 billion per year.

    This hardly sounds like a massive reduction in what the President requested. Indeed, sounds like a victory to me.

    Further, I will wager that the parts of the tax cut that are planned to sunset will be extended, and so the $350 billion tag is bogus anyway. In short, the media really is lazy in how they deal with these numbers. To listen to most pundits ad reporters one would think that the only numbers that matter are 726 and 350, which simply is not the case.

    Source for numbers: Congress Approves Trimmed Tax Cut (note: registration required, but free)

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    Deficit Politics

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:10 am

    I am doing some research for a column I am working on and note the followng stats:

  • Since the New Deal Era (which marks the ascendancy of the federal government as a key policy actor), say from 1933 onward, we have had a budget surplus all of twelve times: 1947-1949, 1951, 1956, 1957, 1960, 1969, and 1998-2001. That’s twelve out of seventy budget cycles (17.1%). Not exaclty the norm shall we say. This is hardly new info, but is worth remembering given some of the current debates as to what causes deficits. The answer, it would seem, is governing.
  • The only decade long period of surpluses in the 20th century was 1920-1930, which, conveniently, was just after the passage in 1913 of the Sixteenth Amendment, allowing for the taxing of personal incomes. My guess is that Congress simply hadn’t adjusted to the revenue streams yet-plus, as noted about, being pre-New Deal, the Feds didn’t do all that much at the time.
  • The recent spate of surpluses ceased to be exactly at the same time ecoomic growth slowed. In 1997 GDP growth was 6.5%, in 1998 and 1999 it was 5.6%, in 2000 it was 5.9% and in 2001 it was 2.6%. And guess what? deficits returned in 2002. Funny how that works.

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    • AlphaPatriot’s Cogitation linked with Bush's Third Tax Cut
    Tax Package on the Way to the White House

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:53 am

    The package has now passed both Houses (with the Veep’s help):

    A day after President Bush made an unusual Capitol Hill appearance to urge them on, both houses of Congress approved his signature domestic priority early today, passing a $350 billion package of tax cuts and state assistance intended to energize the economy.

    The vote in the House, which took place shortly before 2 a.m., was 231 to 200, with 7 Democrats supporting the tax cut and 1 Republican opposing it. The vote in the Senate, just after 10 a.m., was 51 to 50, with Vice President Dick Cheney called in to break the tie. Three Republican senators opposed the tax cut bill, and two Democrats supported it.

    The bill now goes to the president for his signature, which he said at the Capitol on Thursday he would be happy to provide, though the bill cuts taxes far less than he originally proposed earlier this year.

    Source: Congress Passes Tax Package, Sending It on to White House

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    Al Qaeda: Surprise! They are Hard to Eradicate

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:41 am

    I continue to find some of the “analysis” of the situation concerning al Qaeda to be somewhat frustrating, insofar as I don’t consider it well thought-out (indeed, I find a lot of it to be thinly veiled, and to some degree gleeful, excuses to criticize the Bush administration).

    Of course, it depends on how one defines success and so forth. The critics seem to be saying two basic things: 1) any actions by al Qaeda prove that they are “resurgent” and 2) this resurgency is because the Bush administration was over-confident/the war in Iraq distracted the administration.

    I can accept part of the second argument-clearly, the US did not have all of its assets directed at al Qaeda, therefore one could argue that sans the Iraq war, we might have had more success against al Qaeda. Although I would point out there were some major arrests of al Qaeda operatives right before, during, and after the Iraq war. However, in the broader context of the War on Terror, there were successes in Iraq-the dismantlement of Anzar Islam, the capture of Abu Abbas (who was directing terrorist training from Iraq), and the capture of members of an al Qaeda linked group in Western Iraq. Not to mention, that it is clear that Saddam had aided terrorists in the past (such as Abu Nidal, and the medical treatment given to members of al Qaeda in the past). It is therefore hard to argue (although many do) that the war in Iraq did not further the overall cause of the War on Terror.

    So, then you get things like this from

    While President Bush and numerous U.S. intelligence sources were declaring al Qaeda splintered, on the run and incapable of carrying out major terror attacks before the recent spate of bombings, European intelligence services were saying a very different thing.

    “We told them repeatedly that al Qaeda was reorganizing, but they never paid any attention,” a high-level French counterterrorism official said this week in a comment that reflects the growing frustration built up within European intelligence and law enforcement circles over what government officials there call the Bush administration’s “misplaced confidence” in its success in the war on terror.

    Several sources in France, Germany and Great Britain have told ABCNEWS this week that the recent wave of terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, Pakistan and Morocco have validated an analysis made in Europe close to a year ago that the global war on terror has dealt a smaller blow to al Qaeda’s operational capabilities than what has been publicly acknowledged by U.S. intelligence.

    Now, what strikes me about this is that 1) the French and Germans have political reasons to criticize, so one has to take such statements with grains of salt; 2) the President and members of the administration have always said that this is going to be a long conflict, not a short one. Indeed, early on the President stated in one his post-9/11 speeches that this war could last beyond his presidency; and 3) part of it boils down to what “splintered” means and what “diminished capabilities” means. Did anyone actually think that al Qaeda was finished? No, clearly not. And the group has always been fragmented by design. Indeed, the same story points out, a few paragraphs later, that

    From its inception in the early 1990s, al Qaeda was slowly conceived as a decentralized “network of networks,” a “terror Internet” not built around a single center but out of a collection of cells and regional groups acting as nodes linked together by ideology and financial need.

    Indeed, part of the rationale behind the Bush Doctrine is that because terrorist groups are rarely geographically concentrated, that one has to deal with states who harbor and/sponsor terrorist cells as a means of getting to these groups.

    And finally on capacityal Qaeda has been diminished, and is not currently capable of of a major attack like 9/11-but it is not (or should not be) surprising that they can launch car bomb attacks. And clearly, al Qaeda is far more on the run in the post-9/11 world they were before.

    Am I arguing that the Bush administration has been flawless in their pursuit of al Qaeda? No. What I am arguing is that the critics have to recognize that terrorist groups are notoriously difficult to destroyjust ask the Israelis.

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    Thursday, May 22, 2003
    Face-Lift Continues

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:59 pm

    Ok-I am going to leave it like this for at least the rest of the night.

    Any thought?

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    The Politics of Tax Cutting

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:36 pm

    An astute observation from Reuters:

    It may be the best of both worlds for President George W. Bush, who got just enough of his tax cuts to claim victory and gave up enough to justify coming back to Congress for more before next year’s election.

    I think that that there is some method to all this sunset-madness in the current tax bill. Indeed, the current tax bill helps to accelerate and/or make permanent some of the cuts from the 2001 package. Congress has put itself in the position (purposefully from some camps, I think) to have to extend tax cuts that are scheduled to expire, or face the charge that they are “raising taxes” by allowing temporary cuts to expire in the future.

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    Back to the “Southern Strategy”

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:11 pm

    I was watching Hardball this evening and during a roundtable segment towards the end of the program Chris Matthews, Nora ODonnell, and David Gergen were discussing Senator Robert Byrds latest tirade from the Senate floor concerning the Presidents Iraq policy. I was struck by Matthews asking the guests the question (in somewhat rhetorical fashion, I thought) as to whether Byrd was in fact the soul of the Democratic Party, and he said a number of quite positive things about Byrd and his role in the Senates history. Gergen concurred that Byrd was showing more spine than the rest of the Democratic Party and ODonnell was positively effusive in her discussion of Byrd.

    Now, this made me think back to the mini-debate that James Joyner (here, here, and here) Brett Marston (here and here), and myself had concerning the politics of race in the Southern Republican Party. Indeed, James specifically referenced Byrd in the conversation. We all of course recall Byrds KKK background, and his recent theories of white n-words on national television, and so forth.

    Two things come to mind:

    1) When Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond, a former segregationist, Lott was rightly vilified. I have yet to see any serious criticism befall Byrd or his defenders.

    2) Bret argued that Democrats need to remind the country of the past Southern Strategy to demonstrate the racists foundations of much of the move of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party.

    As I demonstrated here, I find that argument to be difficult to sustain from the point of view of empirical electoral analysis. Further, the ease by which liberal Democrats can praise Robert Byrd (or, at the minimum overlook foibles that would result in the public roasting of a Republican) is indicative of the fact that while the Democratic Party may want to believe that the shift in the South was all due to a nefarious plot by Richard Nixon to capitalize on the inherent racism of Southerners, that in fact it is far more complicated than that, and further, that Democrats arent exactly innocent in this area.

    And beyond Byrd, I would add Ernest Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, who, as Governor, flew the Confederate Battle Flag over the state Capitol in protest of desegregation.

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    Thing that Make You Go “Hmm…”

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:06 pm

    If the Democrats’ argument stating that getting Osama is needed for winning the war on terror is correct, then why didn’t the cocaine trade stop when the Colombian police killed Pablo Escobar?


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    Continued Construction

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:38 pm

    Well, I think I have the basic structure down, although some fine tuning and masthead refurbishing is still needed. It isn’t working exactly as I want in 800x600, but I am assuming most folks aren’t operating in that res (correct me if I am wrong).

    Any comments are welcome.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 12:01 pm

    I am working on a multi-stage facelift of the site. So if things look odd, it should be fixed soon.

    And if somethig is screwed up and isn’t quickly fixed, let me know.

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    The Money Race

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:21 am

    Interesting, WaPo reports the following:

    PoliticalMoneyLine, a Web site that tracks campaign contributions, reported that, overall, the three GOP committees raised nearly four times what the Democratic committees raised, $19 million to $5 million. The biggest disparity was between the congressional committees, where the Republicans outraised their Democratic counterparts by 5.5 to 1, or $8.3 million to $1.5 million.

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    Novak on Bush and Tax Cuts

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:07 am

    Novak’s column on the tax-cut negotiations is a must read:

    George W. Bush had again laid down the law to GOP satraps. Just as he insisted that the post-2002 election session of Congress finish homeland security legislation, the president now demanded a completed tax bill on his desk before the Memorial Day break. What’s more, he dictated the bill’s final details-vetoing the Senate’s quest for added revenue by taxing American businessmen overseas, approving the Senate’s subsidy for state and local governments.

    This capped a virtuoso performance by Bush. With the end of the Iraq War, the president’s tax-cut tour reversed public opinion polls and won over key senators. Nevertheless, while both Senate and House versions gave Bush most of what he wanted, a long difficult struggle impended

    The President being able to manage two major tax-cut packages in his first term is a pretty impressive feat, legislation-wise. Further, despite the continued mis-underestimation of the President by the Dems, he continues to demonstrate consummate political skills.

    Importantly, he is also avoiding two errors of his father: 1) he is going into his re-election bid as a tax-cutter, not a tax-raiser, and 2) he is using his post-war popularity to affect domestic political success.

    Source: Bush quashes Republican squabbling, lays down law

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    Number 8 in Custody

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:51 am

    U.S. Forces Say No 8 on Iraq Wanted List in Custody

    The U.S. military said on Thursday that its forces had captured a former regional commander in Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party who is on Washington’s list of most-wanted Iraqis.

    The U.S. Central Command said in a statement that Aziz Salih Numan was a Baath Party regional command chairman responsible for west Baghdad. He was also a former governor of the southern cities of Karbala and Najaf.

    The statement said he was number eight on the wanted list.

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    This Has Become one Bizarre Story

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:46 am

    This whole thing has become high political theater. And this federal connection, along with deleting documents, just adds to it.

    The fight over the flight of Democratic legislators intensified yesterday as the Texas Department of Public Safety admitted it had destroyed documents that were collected last week as state troopers searched for the missing lawmakers.

    What started out as a local partisan dispute about redistricting escalated into accusations of a cover-up and abuse of federal power.

    Indeed, federal authorities are investigating how the Department of Homeland Security became involved in the search for the lawmakers.

    Today’s uproar began after The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that a commander at the Department of Public Safety issued an e-mail notice instructing that all “notes, correspondence, photos, etc.” concerning the search “be destroyed immediately.”

    Source: Texas Deleted Documents About Search for Democrats

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    Wednesday, May 21, 2003
    Or, Maybe Not…

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:55 pm

    House, Senate Hit Snag in Tax Cut Deal

    An “understanding” between the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on a $382.8 billion tax cut package President Bush (news - web sites) says will boost the economy lacks sufficient support in the Senate to pass, Senate Republican aides said on Wednesday.

    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, told House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas that the tentative agreement outlined earlier on Wednesday could not pass because the total tops the $350 billion limit set by the Senate.
    Thomas left the meeting in anger, a Senate aide said.

    “It was a real snot-flinger of a meltdown,” he said.

    Thomas told reporters he believed he had an understanding with Grassley for $350 billion in tax cuts plus $20 billion in state aid and $11.9 billion in child tax credit refunds that are categorized as spending

    The Senate has asked for some fine-tuning of the package to bring its total cost within the $350 billion. Without that, Senate Republican leaders could lose crucial votes of moderates who believe anything bigger would add to budget deficits.

    Thomas, who has the backing of his House Republican leaders, will be reluctant to give in to Senate demands to win one or two votes.

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    Tax Package Almost Done

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:13 pm

    It appears that the President is about to get a domestic policy victory by getting a tax package through Congress.

    Tax writers in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have reached an “understanding” for a 10-year tax-cut package of $382.8 billion, a key committee chairman said on Wednesday.

    House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas said the bill followed the outlines of a $550 billion measure passed by the House that would lower the top rates on dividend taxes and capital gains to 15 percent.

    The tax cut section of the package would keep within a $350 billion target set by the senate but it also includes $20 billion in aid to states and $11.9 billion child tax credit refunds that lawmakers categorize as spending, he said.

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    Someone Tell Bob Graham

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:46 pm

    An interesting set of comments (and somewhat contradictory). He notes that the group has been reduced by 2/3rds and that we have destroyed the infrastructure of the group in Pakistan, and further that the organization cannot launch an attack on the scale of 9/11, yet somehow the war on terrorism hasn’t been very effective? This all strikes me as substantial progress since starting this war not that long ago.

    The ranks of the al Qaeda network have shrunk by two thirds since the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, but the core leadership remains intact and it has no trouble recruiting, a terrorism expert said.

    Rohan Gunaratna told the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur the militant Islamist group had been badly hurt by the capture in March of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.

    “It is clear that al Qaeda no longer has the possibility of staging operations of the scale of September 11, 2001,” Gunaratna, author of “Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror,” was quoted as saying.

    “Its ranks have been cut by two thirds since the U.S. intervention of October 2001 (in Afghanistan). They are now of the order of 1,000 men,” he said, according to an advance copy of the interview due to be published Thursday.

    Gunaratna said Mohammed’s arrest in Pakistan almost completely destroyed al Qaeda’s operational infrastructure in that country, although other regional heads remained active in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

    “Al Qaeda has no trouble recruiting to compensate its human and material losses, regain its strength in the medium term and continue its fight, especially given that - I insist on this point - the core leadership of the group is intact,” he said.

    The group, led by Osama bin Laden, is blamed for a series of attacks including triple suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia last week which killed 34 people, mainly foreigners.

    Gunaratna said he considered the U.S. war on terrorism has had had only a short-term impact, while the U.S.-led war on Iraq which toppled Saddam Hussein had a mostly negative effect by increasing support for radical Islamists in the Muslim world.

    “As a result, active terrorist groups will be able to grow and become more powerful and influential, and new groups will emerge in the months and years to come,” he said in the interview carried out on May 18, after the Saudi attacks.

    Source: Reuters

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    Ari Unplugged

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:27 pm

    Letterman’s Top Ten Signs Ari Fleischer Doesn’t Care Anymore is amusing. My fav’s:

    4. Discloses Cheney’s location - a K.F.C. in Baltimore

    3. Challenges Rumsfeld to a Texas steel cage rasslin’ match

    2. Keeps hitting on Helen Thomas

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    • Arguing with signposts… linked with Top 10 things I learned in college
    The Sky is Falling!!

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:36 am

    Not really, but that is how some will report these changes in the Bush admnistration, because we all know that the only reason people leave an administration is because the administration is in trouble.

    After a stormy two years as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman is resigning and will return to her home in New Jersey, the agency announced on Wednesday.

    Whitman’s resignation followed the announcement on Monday that White House spokesman Ari Fleischer would leave his job this summer. Other senior Bush administration officials are also rumored to be on their way out, including former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, who heads the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Source: Reuters

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    Reno Strikes Again

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:37 am

    Was Janet Reno the worst AG we have ever had, or what?

    Jack Cloonan, a former FBI agent who is now an ABCNEWS consultant, said that federal agents seeking bin Laden had developed a plan to have a plane fly in and attack a compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where the terror leader was believed to have been holed up back in 1998-three years before the devastating attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    But when the plan went up the chain of command for approval, it was killed by then-Attorney General Janet Reno.

    “They came to the decision that this plan was probably too dangerous, that the loss of life on the ground would have been significant,” Cloonan said. There was concern that people around the bin Laden compound would be killed.”

    This also underscores a key difference between the Clinton and Bush approaches to terrorism: sending in the FBI to arrest bin Laden is treating the situation from a law enforcement perspective. The Bush “War on Terror” is the more appropriate approach, I would argue.

    Source: Plan to Catch Bin Laden Was Called Off

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    • OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY linked with RENO
    Greenspan Agrees with Me

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:20 am

    It’s a weird economy:

    Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told a congressional panel Wednesday that the economy is still sending mixed signals with some hopeful signs of stronger growth balanced against more disappointing results.


    Greenspan told the committee that in the weeks since the Iraq war ended, the economy had not established any firm pattern.

    “We do not yet have sufficient information on economic activity following the end of hostilities to make a firm judgment about the current underlying strength of the real economy,” Greenspan said.

    Source: Greenspan: Economic Signals Still Mixed

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    AL Qaeda Planning from Iran?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:29 am

    This is interesting, and troubling. Interesting because al Qaeda and the Mullahs in Iran have differing views of Islam. Troublng for obvious reasons.

    The United States has intercepted communications strongly suggesting that a small cell of leaders of Al Qaeda in Iran directed last week’s terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, and the United States is sending a strong protest to the Tehran government, according to senior Bush administration officials.

    Source: U.S. Suggests a Qaeda Cell in Iran Directed Saudi Bombings

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    They’re Labs; Still no WMDs

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:22 am

    It’s something, but it would be nice to find some actual chemical or biological agents, if not weapons. I still think that Saddam had them, and did something to them. And, I still think taking him out was the right thing to do, but clearly we need to find some WMDs.

    United States intelligence agencies have concluded that two mysterious trailers found in Iraq were mobile units to produce germs for weapons, but they have found neither biological agents nor evidence that the equipment was used to make such arms, according to senior administration officials.

    The officials said intelligence analysts in Washington and Baghdad reached their conclusion about the trailers after analyzing, and rejecting, alternative theories of how they could have been used. Their consensus was in a paper presented to the White House late Monday.

    Source: U.S. Analysts Link Iraq Labs to Germ Arms

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    Tuesday, May 20, 2003
    The UN is en Fuego!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:45 pm

    I do not have the patience to be a diplomat.

    The United States late Tuesday began rewriting its U.N. Security Council resolution on lifting sanctions and rebuilding Iraq - it will be version No. 4 - after four-hours of closed consultations generally described as “constructive.”

    Source: United Press International: U.S. promises U.N. another Iraq draft

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    Back to Orange

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:18 pm

    Quick! Hide the women and children: Terror alert level raised to orange

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    Colombian Conflict

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:59 pm

    Stats like this are remarkable:

    a report by a local human rights group, Codhes, said 410,000 people were displaced by the conflict in 2002 - the worst year on record.

    And they continue to raise the question in my mind: exactly who are the guerrillas fighting for? I know that much of the displacement is caused by the military and especially paramilitary groups, but the conflict itself wouldn’t be taking place if the FARC and ELN weren’t engaged in “revolutionary” conflict in the name of “the people.”

    Source: UN help for Colombia displaced

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    Number 50 in Custody

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:52 pm

    No neat nicknames, but another one bites the dust:

    The U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said in a statement that Ugla Abid Sighar al-Kubeiysi was a Baath Party regional chairman in Dhi Qar governorate and was No. 50 on the wanted list.

    “(He) is now in custody of coalition forces,” the statement said without giving further details.

    Source: :Reuters

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    The Likely Meaning of Recent Suicide Bombings in Israel

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:31 pm

    Beware the over-generalizers who have claimed in the last several days that the recent spate of suicide bombings in Israel “proves” that the “Palestinians” don’t want peace. Realize who the recent bombings were probably aimed at: moderate Palestinians who are willing to talk to Israel. The radicals do want to destroy Israel and the last thing they want is progress on the peace process.

    Having said that, I am convinced that Arafat doesn’t want peace. He is better served personally by the conflict.

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    More PoliBlogger Tech Tips

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:01 pm

    I just made the switch to XP and had the problem of Outlook Express refusing to retain my passwords. Further, some of the check boxes for other programs would “forget” what I told them. The following Outlook Express keeps prompting for your password provided the fix.

    One wonders sometimes how people who aren’t particularly computer savvy fix these kinds of problems. Lots of folks don’t even know what the Registry is, let alone feel comfortable messing with it.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 10:41 am

    Business Booms for Real-Life Fawlty Towers

    A cafe in northern England has turned itself into a copy of TV’s disaster-prone Fawlty Towers and the customers love it, the owner said on Tuesday.

    Phil Wood, of Wilmslow, Cheshire, said he was abusing staff and arguing with customers, just like hotel owner Basil Fawlty in the classic 1970s BBC sitcom.

    In the television series, Fawlty, played by actor John Cleese, lurched from one disaster to the next, haranguing his guests and attacking his Spanish waiter Manuel.

    “I like to have a bit of fun with people in true Basil style. If they leave a bit of food I’ll head over for an inquest, asking them what’s wrong with the sausage,” Wood said.

    A Fawlty Towers fan for nearly 30 years, he bought the cafe four months ago and called it Fawlty’s.

    “We do all kinds of daft stuff. This guy came in with a shopping bag today so I went over and searched it to check he hadn’t brought in his own sandwiches. He loved it, he absolutely loved it.”

    Wood plans to cover the cafe in Fawlty Towers memorabilia and screen the series.

    “It’s got so popular that now people come in expecting me to jump around like some frenetic grasshopper,” said 54-year-old Wood.

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    Ya Think?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:27 am

    And today’s “No Duh!” Headline of the Day is: Al Qaeda Still Plotting in Saudi Arabia, Officials Say. Perhaps the Times new policy is only report things we know aren’t made up.

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    Who You Gonna Call? Sanction Busters!

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:58 am

    I am shocked, shocked! Of course it begs the question how any of the countries on the Security Council can object to lifting the sanctions now:

    Saddam Hussein raked in $2 billion a year in a sanctions-busting ploy that kept the former Iraqi president in luxury and the dilapidated oil sector alive, an Iraqi oil industry executive said Tuesday.

    In the eyes of the United States, Iraq was smuggling 280,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to Syria and Turkey illegally to fill Saddam’s coffers and purchase components for banned weapons of mass destruction.

    But for many in Iraq, the former Oil Minister Amir Muhammed Rasheed was conducting “barter trade” outside United Nations supervision, helping to generate cash to buy equipment for the country’s cash-starved oil network, the executive said.

    Also: if Saddam could go this on the sly, surely the money can start flowing relatively soon.

    Source: Iraq Made $2 Billion a Year in Sanctions-Busting

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    Monday, May 19, 2003
    Tech Tip of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:09 pm

    If you are ever having problems logging into MT and you think that you have been locked out of your blog because even when you reset the password, the new password doesn’t work, rather than getting very frustrated, try clearing your cookies and then trying the new password.

    It beats having your blood pressure soar.

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    Fun with Quizzes

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:00 pm

    professor x
    You are Professor X!

    You are a very effective teacher, and you are very
    committed to those who learn from you. You put
    your all into everything you do, to some extent
    because you fear failure more than anything
    else. You are always seeking self-improvement,
    even in areas where there is nothing you can do
    to improve.

    Which X-Men character are you most like?
    brought to you by Quizilla

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    • Arguing with signposts… linked with GGRRR!
    ElBaradei Can’t Make Up His Mind

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:45 pm

    ElBaradei Warns of Iraq Nuclear Emergency:

    “I am deeply concerned by the almost daily reports of looting and destruction at nuclear sites,” International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said in a statement.

    This from the guy who said:

    Inspectors also have found “no indication” of “nuclear-related prohibited activities” in newly erected buildings or other sites identified by satellite, ElBaradei said.

    “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq,” ElBaradei said.

    Source: LA Times, 3/8/03, p. a1.

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    Ari Crisis?!?

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:10 pm

    I have been bemused (and semi-annoyed at times) by some of the hysterical coverage about Fleischer’s resignation. It is possible for a White House official to decide that it is time to move on, for crying out loud. It isn’t like being White House Press Secretary is a low stress job.

    And it isn’t like he can’t be replaced. To go by some of the stuff I heard on news coverage on a San Diego radio station that I was listening to Limbaugh on, you’d think that the SecDef resigned in the middle of a war or something.

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    Saddam Alive and Plotting?

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:45 pm

    I have my doubts:

    Saddam Hussein is hiding in Iraq with a small group, probably including his sons, and issuing orders to trusted supporters as he plots a return to power, according to former Iraqi generals returned from exile.

    Source: Saddam Plotting Return to Power, Ex-Generals Say

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    By Steven Taylor @ 10:38 am

    PoliBlog has been add to’s news links.

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    Adios, Ari

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:36 am

    Too bad-I’ve always liked Ari (although I always thought it would have been fun for Karen Hughes to have the job). I guess it is rather hard to relax much with that job:

    White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Monday he would be stepping down this summer to “relax a little” and pursue a career in the private sector.

    Source: Fleischer resigning White House post

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    Sunday, May 18, 2003
    Problems in Saudi Arabia

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:34 pm

    The Saudi situation is clearly rather volatile and evolving. The government is going to have to do some serious self-evaluation:

    Saudi authorities are investigating suspected illegal arms sales by members of the country’s national guard to al Qaeda operatives in the country, U.S. and Saudi officials said.

    Source: Al Qaeda Arms Traced to Saudi National Guard

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:05 am

    Thanks to A Fearful Symmetry for blogrolling PoliBlog.

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    Tiresome Dems

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:58 am

    I grow tired of this one: getting Saddam and Osama are important, but not the end-all of the conflicts. To hear Democrats argue, it would be better to have Saddam in custody than to have him out of power and the country in our control ("sure, we have conquered Iraq, freed the Iraqi people, captured terrorists, confiscated weapons’ labs, and are de-Baathifiying the government, but how can we say we have been successful until we get Saddam?"). Victory is not defined by getting the leader. This isn’t “capture the flag".

    Democratic presidential candidates challenged President Bush today on his handling of the war on terrorism, questioning the administration’s failure to find Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and asserting that Mr. Bush had failed to protect the nation adequately against further terrorist attacks.

    And where is the evidence for this:

    “We have let Al Qaeda off the hook,” Mr. Graham said, as members of the municipal workers union here rose in applause. “We had them on the ropes close to dismantlement, and then we we moved resources out of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight the war in Iraq. We let them regenerate.”

    We have been fighting al Qaeda daily since late 2001.

    Source: Democrats Say Bush Is Weak on Terrorism

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    Saturday, May 17, 2003

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:15 pm

    Thanks to Ulmann for linking to PoliBlog

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    I Can Feel the Excitement!

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:23 am

    It’s electrifying! What could be more gripping than a debate amongst Dean, Kerry and Gephardt on the topic of national health care reform!?!

    Health care coverage has been Topic A among the Democrats seeking the party’s nomination as they clash over the best way to help 41 million uninsured Americans.

    I mean, heck, it worked so well for Clinton and Bradely, after all…

    Source: Democrats Campaign on Health Care Reform

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    Bush-Cheney ‘04

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:19 am

    He’s running for re-election?!? Who knew?

    With little fanfare, President Bush took the first step in his race for a second term on Friday by filing legal documents that will allow him to raise campaign money and organize his re-election bid.


    Bush will not make a formal announcement speech any time soon, although on Wednesday night he will address the annual President’s Dinner that will raise up to $12 million for Republican congressional candidates. The first fund-raiser for the president’s re-election campaign will likely be in June.

    The creation of “Bush-Cheney ‘04 Inc.” was done quietly. An aide filed formal notice of Bush’s re-election bid with the Federal Election Committee, including a statement of candidacy and campaign organization.

    This allows Bush to raise and spend money and open a campaign headquarters, which will be established in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, probably Arlington. Letters asking for donations will go out in coming days.

    Source: Bush Takes First Step in Re-Election Bid

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    The Shifting Plans Continue

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:42 am

    This actually makes sense. It seemed to me that we were going too fast and worrying too much about being perceived as occupiers. We need to do this job correctly-not rush for appearances’ sake.

    Of course, all these changes do seem to indicates that we didn’t plan well for the post-war period. Things do seem to be getting on track, however.

    In an abrupt reversal, the United States and Britain have indefinitely put off their plan to allow Iraqi opposition forces to form a national assembly and an interim government by the end of the month.

    Instead, top American and British diplomats leading reconstruction efforts here told exile leaders in a meeting tonight that allied officials would remain in charge of Iraq for an indefinite period, said Iraqis who attended the meeting. It was conducted by L. Paul Bremer, the new civilian administrator here.

    Mr. Bremer, who was accompanied by John Sawers, a British diplomat representing Prime Minister Tony Blair, told the Iraqi political figures that the allies preferred to revert to the concept of creating an “interim authority” - not a provisional government- so that Iraqis could assist them by creating a constitution for Iraq, revamping the educational system and devising a plan for future democratic elections.

    Source: In Reversal, Plan for Iraq Self-Rule Has Been Put Off

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    By the Way…

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:34 am

    That last entry was my first post via my brand new HP Pavllion 2.4 ghz spiffy new notebook!

    Adios Celeron, adios Win98 first edition, hello coolness!

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    More Terror

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:27 am

    The politics of the latest terror attacks will be interesting, and probably at time pretty frustrating. To me this just proves that we are indeed in a War on Terror, and that this is therefore clearly an ongoing process (as the President has argued in the past). Indeed, anyone with any intelectual honesty really oughtn’t be surprised that there have been attacks in the post-Afghanistan/post-Iraq world. Really, the surprise should be that there have been so few major attacks world-wide since 911.

    However, Democrats (like Bob Graham a few days ago) and some pundits last night, are arguing that any attacks are evidence of the President’s failure in his efforts against al Qaeda.

    I would argue three things. 1) We have clearly wounded al Qaeda-the destruction of their cozy arrangement with the Taliban is huge and we have captured or killed a large number of their leadership and operatives, 2) al Qaeda is not a monolithic organization, but (as Bob Graham ought to know, given his status on the Intelligence Committee) rather a decentralizaed confederation of actors, and 3) no matter how successful we are, we aren’t going to totally eradicate terrorism. Look at Israel and the rather harsh actions in the last year against the Palestinians-and yet there continues to be suicide bomings.

    One last thing-it strikes me that both the attack in Saudi Arabia and the one yesterday in Morroco, while requiring resources abd planning, are far more typical terrorist-actions than the spectacular events of 911. Rather than showing that they have not been harmed at all, I think these attacks-using conventional terror tactics, against soft targets in countries will looser security shows that we have made progress, not that al Qaeda hasn’t been harmed at all.

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    • The American Mind linked with Morocco Blasts
    • Right Voices linked with 2003 Blog Round-Up
    Friday, May 16, 2003
    German Cooperation

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:18 pm

    I figured that of the Axis of Weasal, that the Germans would be the ones that would “amke nice” first. Plus, they did at least cooperate concerning some issue with out bases once the war started.

    Germany supports lifting Iraq sanctions.

    And no joke:

    “Our opinion is that the sanctions that have been placed no longer make any sense and that they should be lifted as soon as possible,” Schroeder said

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    Cheney Gets to Work

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:11 pm

    Hey look! The Veep is out of his undisclosed location:

    By a 51-49 vote late Thursday, the Senate approved a bill cutting individual income taxes and some business levies by $350 billion through 2013. Before passage, senators voted to slice the dividend tax in half this year, then suspend it completely for three years. That roll call was 51-50, with Vice President Dick Cheney arriving to cast the tie-breaking vote.

    Source:Senate Passes $350 Billion Bush Tax Cut

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    Back in the Saddle

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:00 pm

    All went well and middle son is home resting. He was a real champ.

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    Thursday, May 15, 2003
    On to the Conference Finals: SA 4, LA 2

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:52 pm

    Finally! A good 4th quarter against the Lakers in the playoffs!

    Game 6: San Antonio 110, LA 82

    And sorry, bro’-but the Lakers have had three turns in a row :)

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    Chill Wind?

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:50 pm

    Gee, I thought it was Ashcroft and the wicked Bush adminstration that tried to quell speech:

    Some students and professors are protesting the choice of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as the University of Georgia law school graduation speaker Saturday.

    The protesters say Thomas’ opinions on affirmative action and civil liberties are so extreme he does not deserve the honor of speaking

    A petition signed by 50 students and 11 faculty members complained that Thomas, who was born in Pinpoint near Savannah, was hastily selected as the speaker and that he offends many people.

    Source: | Metro | Justice Thomas’ UGA appearance under fire

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    Four Three Month Blogoversary

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:06 am

    I just realized-today is the four three-month blogoversary for PoliBlog.

    Update: James just rightly pointed out that I can’t count.

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    • OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY linked with 6 MONTHS

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:33 am

    Amusing/fascinating about the satellite tracking. And doesn’t the man know not to keep your code in your wallet?

    Two Colombian thieves found President Alvaro Uribe’s lost wallet and went on a spree, using his credit card to withdraw $4,225 before they were caught, the government said on Monday.

    Uribe, who is being tracked by U.S. satellite to protect him from assassination by Marxist guerrillas, lost his wallet during a visit to the northern city of Bucaramanga on Friday.
    The two thieves found Uribe’s wallet containing the president’s identification, his credit card and a note with the card’s secret number. They made withdrawals at 32 different automatic teller machines, a government spokeswoman told Reuters.


    “They are poor people. We have to give them a second opportunity,” the spokeswoman quoted Uribe as saying.

    He reclaimed the cash, however.

    Source: Colombia Nabs President’s Wallet Thieves

    Hat Tip: NPR.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:52 am

    Here’s my latest column, from the Mobile Register. According to the editor it was in last Sunday’s paper, but due to technical problems only made it to the web today.

    Carrier landing unnecessary, maybe, but justifiable


    Special to the Register

    “I am loath to think of an aircraft carrier being used as an advertising backdrop for a presidential political slogan, and yet that is what I saw.”
    -U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., on the floor of the Senate last week.

    Was the aircraft carrier landing and speech by President Bush on the first of May a political stunt? Sure it was.

    Was it necessary? No.

    Did it annoy - indeed, in some cases infuriate - die-hard Democrats? I suspect.

    Was it justifiable? I would argue that it was.

    The whole thing is here.

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    Saudi Neglect?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:24 am

    Not good, but not surprising:

    The United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia charged today that some weeks before the car bombs of Monday night, American intelligence operatives picked up signs of an imminent terrorist attack and urged the Saudi government to improve security at foreign compounds here, but got little or no response.

    And, there is something wrong when a rise in “regligious scholars” equals the rise of terrorism:

    A Saudi opposition figure, Saad al-Faqih, who heads the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, based in London, and who has no ties to Al Qaeda, said in a telephone interview today that support for the terrorist organization was growing in the kingdom, in part because of the emergence of “a new generation of religious scholars.”

    Source:U.S. Ambassador Says Saudis Didn’t Heed Security Request

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    His Sixteenth Minute?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:13 am

    It would be easier to take this seriously if one didn’t get the impression that Jackson didn’t care one whit about this until he saw in the paper that Price was getting the boot. And what is the logical leap to say that we should investigate the whole school? Some actual reason for such an investigation would be nice aside from the Crooms v. Shula business. Further, the irony here is that Jackson’t involvement probably decreased Crooms’ chances.

    The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday night called for an investigation into the University of Alabama’s hiring practices after the school chose a white head football coach over a black candidate.


    Jackson added the investigation should not be limited to the head coaching job but should probe the state university’s hiring practices in general.

    Source: Yahoo! Sports

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:05 am

    Not that any bloggers would get this joke:

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:00 am

    Some new arrests:

    Heavily armed U.S. Army forces stormed into a village near the northern city of Tikrit before dawn Thursday, seizing more than 260 prisoners, including one man on the United States’ most-wanted list of former Iraqi officials.

    U.S. troops encountered no resistance during the five-hour sweep, officers said. About 230 of those detained were being released later in the day, the military said.


    U.S. officials said one of those arrested Thursday was on the “top 55″ list but did not give the suspect’s name. The U.S. Central Command announced Thursday the arrest of Fadil Mahmud Gharib, former Baath Party chairman of the Babil district. It said he was No. 47 on the most-wanted list, but the statement didn’t say when or where he was arrested and it did not appear that he was arrested in Thursday’s raid.

    Five Iraqi special security forces offers also were caught in the raid including two Iraqi army generals and a general from Saddam’s security forces who had disguised himself as a shepherd.


    “I think it was very successful,” Silverman added. “We got one top-55 guy and about a dozen fairly bad guys off the street. And again we sent the message that we know the shadow regime is out there and it won’t be tolerated.”

    Source: U.S. Takes 260 Prisoners in Iraq Raid

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    Wednesday, May 14, 2003
    More Marstonalia

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:27 pm

    (BTW, Brettyou really need a comments feature on your blog!).

    To borrow a phrase from Brett, I’ve seen this argument before, but I can’t figure it out (from Marstonalia):

    Dems need to learn how to play the game of political nastiness if they want to counter the Republican tide of the past few decades.

    I really dont see the Democrats as being any less vociferous in their politicking than the Republicans. A few examples off the top of my head:

  • The Bork nomination
  • The current filibustering of Appeals Court nominees.
  • The constant statements that Republicans want to starve old people, or make them eat dog food (an argument I have never understood, as pet food is actually pretty expensive-moreso than a lot people food), or take away their Social Security, Medicare, etc.
  • The more arsenic in my water please commercials in the early Bush administration.
  • The legions of lawyers in the Florida (yes, the Reps had them too, but the Dems did start that one).
  • And the accusations that the Republicans are racist, homophobic, sexists or otherwise hate-mongers are also standard fare.
  • Really, anything Ted Rall ever wrote :)

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    Southern Strategery

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:58 pm

    A statement that I made earlier today concerning partisan re-alignment in the southern states has sparked a mini-debate amongst three polsci bloggersmyself, James Joyner of OTB (here and here) and Brett Marston of Marstonalia.

    My main point of contention is the exact relevance of Nixons Southern Strategy and the partisan re-aligning of the southern states from being solidly Democratic to their current status as bulwarks of Republicanism. My basic thesis is that the shift is in the South was not chiefly because of racism or because of Nixon, and indeed was longer-term and more complex thatn simply an issue of segregationist Democrats moving to the Republican party. As the data below some, there was a long-term evolution of Republican-izing the South, and that much of the transformation has only been complete recently. Yes, some Southern Dems bolted for the Reps (such as the infamous Strom), but that was not the main element of the realignment.

    Some brief background, for the uninitiated: Starting with the 1860 Presidential election (i.e., Lincoln I), where in most, if not all, places in the South (indeed, I think it was all, but hedge because I dont know for a fact), a Republican ballot was not available, to the Radical Republican control of Congress during Reconstruction (and the Republican governors during the Reconstruction period), it quickly evolved to be the case that to run as a Republican in the South was to run as a loser. So for over a century, most contests in the South were settled in the primary, not in the general election (for some local elections this is still the case). However, as we all know, the former states of the CSA are now fairly staunchly Republican, although perhaps not as much as some people think. The question becomes, what caused the shift?

    It is often charged, as Joe Klein did, as Brett does on his blog, and as was argued a great deal during the Trent Lott debacle back at the beginning of the year, that the basic explanation for partisan re-alignment in the South is due to segregationist Southern Democrats fleeing the party for the Republicans, especially as spurred on by Nixons Southern Strategy to exploit this discontentedness. As I noted on comment at OTB, this is empirically not the case, and further I consider it a not-so-subtle attempt to paint the Republican Party as the party of racism, which, again, I believe to be empirically untrue. Are their racists in the Republican Party? Of course. Are there in the Democratic Party? Yes. Are there some Southern Democrats (indeed, a good number) who switched because of the race issue? Yes. Is that the main reason for the re-alignment? No.

    (And speaking of Trent Lottif Lotts ridiculous comments were exposing some deep-seeded Republican truth, why was he drummed out of his position, left hanging by the White House, and largely excoriated by the entire universe of conservative punditry? Ok, back to the many story)

    For one thing, there was not radical re-alignment in the South during the early 1970s. Sure, Strom Thurmond and those of his ilk switched, but if one looks at the numbers, there was no wide-spread switch to Republicanism in the south at that time, electorally speaking, or in terms of candidates nor office-holders. Indeed, it is not until the 1990s that one can accurately say that most of the South was two-party competitive at all levels (with continued pockets of uni-partisan competition).

    I. Presidential Elections

    Further, it is valid argument that a significant part of the shift in the South was ideological. It is simply the case that the National Democratic Party did not nominate candidates who were as ideological compatible with conservative Southern Democrats, and so in some Southern state you do see some Southern states going Republican as early as 1920.

    Heres the breakdown:

  • Tennessee voted for Harding, a Republican, in 1920.
  • Texas went Republican in 1928 for Hoover (as did VA, TN, NC and FL)
  • Texas, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida went for Ike in 1948, as they did in 1952 (adding LA).
  • TN, VA and FL went for Nixon in 1960
  • In 1964 LA, MS, AL, GA, and SC went for Goldwater
  • In 1968 most of the Deep South went for Wallaceclearly for racial reasons.
  • In 1972 everywhere but MA and DC went for Nixon.
  • In 1976 only VA went Republican, the rest went for Carter.
  • In 1980, only GA went for Carter, and in 1984 only MN and DC went for Mondale.
  • In 1988 Bush won all of the South, with 92 and 96 being a split, and G. W. Bush swept the South in 2000.

    Starting in the 1980 election it becomes clear that the South has become pretty solidly Republican behind Reagan, but there are states which go for Clinton in 92 and 96.

    What is mainly going on here? The answer is that in many of these cases, dating back befoe Nixon was even in politics, the more conservative majorities in many southern states, even though they voted Democratic for everything else, found that on balance the national Democratic candidate was too liberal for them, so they held their noses and vote Republican for president (heck, in Texas there were Democrats for Ike billboards).

    To see the maps, go here (this link is nice for the electoral college maps through to 1996 and links to 2000 info).

    Get electoral college Box Scores and other info here (more complete data, actually).

    In short: while it may have been Nixons strategy to capitalize on the split in the Democratic party, it is hardly explanatory in terms of the Rep shift over time. For one thing, it didnt work very well for Nixon (in 1968 he lost most of the South, and in 1972 the whole country voted for Nixon (making a poor test case), and I would argue that McGovern was clearly too liberal for the Southern conservatives, and would have lost that election without any Southern Strategy on Nixon’s part).

    And, as James aptly points out, there were ideological differences of relevance beyond race that affected these electoral outcomes.

    II. Senatorial Elections

    The lack of partisan re-alignment in the 1970s (and yes, Brett is right-there was not wholesale forgiveness for Reconstruction at this point, but neither was there wholesale re-alignment to the Reps at this point either) is even clearer if one looks at Senate races. Heres some stats for former Confederate states, leaving aside Florida, simply because it isnt a wholly Southern state.

  • Alabama elects it first post-Reconstruction Republican US Senator in 1980. The state doesnt have two Republicans until 1997. One of the current Senators (Shelby) was a Democrat until 1994.
  • Arkansas has had one post-Reconstruction Rep Senate: from 1997-2003.
  • Georgia has elected all of three post-Reconstruction Republican Senators. and has never had two Rep Senators at the same time. They were elected in 1980, 1986 and 2002.
  • Louisiana hasnt had a Republican Senator since 1883.
  • Mississippi elected its first Republican Senator in 1978, and had two Reps starting in 1989.
  • NC has had 5 total Rep Senators since Reconstruction. Jesse Helms came to office in 1973 (the rest coming in the 1980s or later).
  • SC has had only twothe party-switching Strom Thurmond, and his successor, Lindsey Graham.
  • TN has had 5 post-Reconstruction Era Reps.
  • Texas has had four Republicans in Senate seats (first one was in 1961, the second (who replaced the first) was in 1985), and only had two at the same time starting in 1993. Ironically, two of the first three Republicans were elected in special elections (John Tower took over when LBJ became VEEP and Kay Bailey Hutchison won Lloyd Bentsens seat when he became Clintons first SecTreas).
  • VA has had four Senators in the 20th Centurythe first was in 1972.

    If you want to check the histories yourself, go here.

    I havent done the House at this point, because, quite frankly, it is more work. However, I would point out that in general, there was only moderate changes in partisan make-up in the Congress during the 1970s and through the 1980s, because conservative Southern Democrats, even if they were more ideologically close to the Republicans (such as Phil Gramms famous resignation and party swithcheroo in the early 80s) because they liked being in the majority, especially in the House, where the majority is king (indeed, the main reason the Democrats retained control of the House as long as they did, ws because of Southern Democrats). It isnt until 1994, and the stunning (and unpredicted) Republican Revolution that one sees wholesale changes in Southern congressional candidates and members of Congress (you see several party switches at this time, such as Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, who decided that the Republicans were more to his liking ideologically, and the fact that there were in the majority was nice, too). Indeed, there were five such switches in 1995 alone, two in the Senate (Shelby and Campbell of CO): and three House examples: Nathan Deal (GA), Greg Laughlin (TX), and Billy Tauzin (LA). Note that all but Campbell were Southern Democrats. And they switched for a combination of ideological reasons, and practical legislative politics, not for race-related issues.

    III. State-Level Politics

    A few tidbits:

  • Texas has only elected three Republican to the Governors Mansion in five elections (counting re-elections)Bill Clements was elected to non-consecutive terms in 1978 and 1986. George W. Bush was elected in 1994 and 1998, and Rick Perry was elected in 2002.
  • Georgia elected its first Republican Governor just last year (2002).
  • Guy Hunt in 1986 was Alabamas first Republican Governor since Reconstruction, Fob James the second in 1994 (he was Governor as a Democrat in 1978), and the third was Bob Riley, elected in 2002.
  • Mississippi had had one post-Reconstruction Rep Gov: Kirk Fordice, from 1992-2000.


  • Neither of Alabamas house of the State Legislature has ever been held by the Republicans.
  • Texas Republicans won the state Senate for the first time in the late 1990s and only won control of the State House for the first time in 2002.

    In short, Nixons Southern Strategy is not the main reason for the Republican transformation in the South. If anything, the transformation writ large did not happened to after Nixon was well out of office (indeed, until after he was dead). And while race was a factor (it is a factor in much of the politics of the South), ideological reasons, as well as practical political reasons, are quite relevant as well.

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    Stossel to Anchor

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:26 pm


    ABC veteran John Stossel will join Barbara Walters as co-anchor on “20/20,” said ABC News president David Westin, who described him as “one of the most distinctive voices in network news today.”

    Source: Stossel Fills ‘20/20′ Anchor Chair

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    Klein on the Dems

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:51 pm

    Joe Klein’s piece in Time, although (as usual) containing some annoying stuff (see below) is on target here:

    There are futility metaphors aplenty here: The contrast between the swaggering President and the squabbling Dems. The nonargument over periphera. The absence of an audience. But then, the Democrats have excelled at futility for more than 30 years. They have elected two Presidents during that time, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Both were Governors of Southern states. Neither was a well-known party leader. Neither ran on what many Democrats would consider a traditionalthat is, liberalagenda. Carter was the first born-again Christian President; Clinton once owned a pickup truck with AstroTurf carpeting in the back. Carter won because he seemed a simple, honorable antidote to the excessive dishonesty of the Nixon era. Clinton won because he was far more talented than his opponentsGeorge H. W. Bush and Bob Dolebut also because he rejected his party’s orthodoxy on crime (especially the death penalty), welfare reform, free trade and fiscal conservatism. One could argue that the only winning strategy for Democrats in the past nine presidential campaigns has been camouflage.

    And, indeed:

    And the Democrats enter the fray with all the shape and substance of fog. “People have no idea what we stand for,” says Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster. “They have a vague sense that we were against the war in Iraq and a vaguer sense that things were somehow better economically when we were in power. Beyond that, nothing.”
    And his three recommendations are accurate, as is his conclusion:
    If the world stays quiet and the economy picks up, the Democrats may face an unbeatable incumbent in 2004, no matter how hard they try. All the more reason to act as Democrats haven’t in quite a while: Speak your minds, dream a little, tell people some truths they don’t want to hear. Get angry. Be funny. But, above all, provide a real alternative.

    It does always come down to the need for economic disaster to give the Dems hope, doesn’t it?

    Now, on to the annoying part: I so tire of this meme:

    The last transformational election was not 1936 but 1968-the year that Richard Nixon created a new political reality by exploiting Southern white resentment of the civil rights movement (and of Vietnam War protesters). The solid Democratic South became the solid Republican South, a truly momentous event in American political history, and the pendulum has been swinging right ever since.

    For one thing, the Republican party in the 1960s was the Party primarily responsible for passing the Civil Rights Bills, given the obstructionism of many Southern Democrats. Now, racial politics are part of the reason for the realignment in the South, but to focus solely on that issue to wholly miss the point. The bottom line is that conservative Southern Democrats were actually a better fit in the Republican Party, but Reconstruction-linked resentment had made it impossible to be a Republican in the South. However, over time it became clear that Southern states favored the Republicans in national elections for ideological reaasons (not racism) and a slow transformation began that really only recently has been complete (as the Texas story that I discussed this morning illustrates).

    And I hate to tell Klein, but the following does not follow logically. This is like what my stats prof in college used to call the “Howard Cossell Law of Averages"-the idea that because a good batter has been on a cold streak he is “due". There is nothing in politics that says all ideological shifts in a country have to swing like a pendulum:

    The laws of politics, to say nothing of physics, would indicate that a second conservative transformation, an election that moves the center of gravity even further to the right, is unlikely.

    Source: TIME Magazine: How to Build a Better Democrat

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    By Steven Taylor @ 11:47 am

    Thanks to The Ranting Rationalist for blogrolling PoliBlog.

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    A Long Climb Ahead

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:33 am

    Again, polls at this point are premature, but still, the latest CBS/NYT Poll indicates that the Democratic challengers have a long hill to climb. The damning numbers are the second set, which show name-recognition of the candidates among Democratic voters:

    All Americans
    No, cannot recall any
    Joe Lieberman
    John Kerry
    Richard Gephardt
    Bob Graham
    John Edwards
    Al Sharpton
    Howard Dean

    Among Democrats
    No, cannot recall any
    Joe Lieberman
    John Kerry
    Richard Gephardt
    Bob Graham
    John Edwards
    Al Sharpton
    Howard Dean

    Source: Poll: Economy Remains Top Priority

    Lots of interesting numbers, btw.

    Hat tip: Drudge.

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    Speaking of Graham…

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:00 am

    This strikes me as a rather premature criticism, and one that may not bear the test of evidence over time:

    Democratic presidential contender Bob Graham said on Tuesday the deadly bombing attacks in Saudi Arabia showed al Qaeda had rebuilt itself while the Bush administration was preoccupied with its pursuit of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.


    “Al Qaeda was on the ropes 12 to 14 months ago, but we didn’t pursue the war in Afghanistan to its conclusion and break al Qaeda’s backbone,” Graham said in a statement.

    First, a day after the attacks, it is a little early to make such assessments. Second, there has been some substantial progress made against al Qaeda (arrests, the killing of leaders, etc.), and the campaign against them has continued. Third, there were al Qaeda cells and operatives in Iraq, and they have been broken or arrested. Fouth, it is just as likely that al Qaeda picked this target because it was relatively easy, a sign of their weakness, rather than saying that any attack must be a sign of their strength. And, finally, no matter how effective we are in our war against them, it is impossible to utterly wipe them out.
    Democrat Graham Criticizes Bush on Saudi Bombings

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    Graham v. Bush

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:52 am

    Granted, polls this far out are of dubious usefulness, but this is still interesting, and will blunt Graham’s argument that he is more electable than the other Democrats because of Florida.

    Analysts say Sen. Bob Graham’s strength for his bid for the presidency is centered in Florida, the nation’s biggest swing state, but a new poll doesn’t show it.

    A telephone survey of 600 registered voters Florida released Monday shows the Democratic senator trailing President Bush by nine percentage points, 52-43. Five percent of the voters were undecided.

    Graham is undefeated in five statewide elections for governor and senator, but the president’s popularity appears to be too much at the moment for him to win the state’s 27 electoral votes.

    Source: United Press International: Bob Graham trails Bush in Florida poll

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    Back to Texas

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:36 am

    Setting aside the drama of the situation, what we are really seeing here is the final results of partisan realignment in Texas. The following is true, but the reasons for it aren’t well identified in the article:

    It was four years ago that the presidential hopeful held up the Texas Legislature as a national model for bipartisan cooperation.

    Now, the House is riven by infighting.

    It is true that in Texas in the late 1990s, there was a great deal of bipartisan cooperation. There were several reasons for this, the least of which was the deft hand of Governor Bush. I do think that the then-governor was good at reaching across the aisle, but his willingness to work with Democrats was not the main cause of the cooperation. Rather, Texas was still in the process of going from a Democratic state to a Republican one (in terms of local politics-by the late 90s the statewide offices were firmly Republican), even as recently as a few years ago (most of the South is either still in this process, or has just completed it).

    Bipartisan cooperation was rampant in the Texas House for several reasons. The first was that the division in he House was close between Reps and Dems in the late 90s, making some accommodation necessary. More importantly, however, some of the long-standing Dems were actually more Reps (i.e., conservative Democrats), but historical trends had meant that you had to be a Dem in Texas. Further, it was clear, even in the early 1990s, that the Dems’ days of dominance were drawing to a close. So, the combo of the Dems losing power and a lot of conservative Dems being in office led to cooperation. Now most of the conservatives are Reps.

    Also, the current clash is clearly partially the result of the fact that this is the first time since Reconstruction (about 130 years) that the Republicans have controlled the legislature. As a result, there is little doubt that they are a bit heady with their newfound status-and, the Democrats are no doubt having a hard time adapting to being the minority. The result is some childish behavior on both sides.

    That having been said, I still maintain that the Democrats are behaving dishonorably, and should take their lumps in the legislature. They are in the minority, and minorities usually lose votes. Its a mathematical thing. Further, they are being somewhat disingenuous in their objections-at least one of the districts that they are defending (the Tenth, which is most of Travis County (i.e., Austin)) is a radically safe Democratic district. If districting in a way that protects one party is bad, there is no intellectual integrity in protecting any safe district. Further, there can be no doubt that over the last couple of decades that as Republicans began to make progress in elections to national office in the state that the Democratically controlled Legislature has drawn lines to blunt the growth of Republican electoral influence. So to cry foul now really is a tad hypocritical.

    Source: Parties working to deflect deadlock’s blame

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    The New Sheriff is in Town

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:01 am

    While this has the potential to cause problems, I am not sure what else you do. Indeed, it is something we probably should have been willing to do before now:

    United States military forces in Iraq will have the authority to shoot looters on sight under a tough new security setup that will include hiring more police officers and banning ranking members of the Baath Party from public service, American officials said today.

    The far more muscular approach to bringing order to postwar Iraq was described by the new American administrator, L. Paul Bremer, at a meeting of senior staff members today, the officials said. On Wednesday, Mr. Bremer is expected to meet with the leaders of Iraqi political groups that are seeking to form an interim government by the end of the month. “He made it very clear that he is now in charge,” said an official who attended the meeting today. “I think you are going to see a change in the rules of engagement within a few days to get the situation under control.”

    Order is the first business of governement-without it, no other function of government, including protection of basic freedoms, is possible. It is interesting that the guy to “get tough” is the man from State. It is actually likely easier for Bremer to get tough than it was for Garner-who, as the man from Defense, would have been more highly criticized for the use of force.

    Source: New Policy in Iraq to Authorize G.I.’s to Shoot Looters

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    Tuesday, May 13, 2003
    Not Texas Redistricting

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:50 pm

    I finially hopped over to IMAO, home of the humor of Frank J. I highly recommend it. While I have noted some refs to this site over at OTB, I had never actually visited. It is now duly blogrolled.

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    More Districts

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:08 pm

    I went looking for other districts as examples of long, drawn-out geography. Here are a few from CA (another of my former homes) and a few other places where I could find decent maps:

    • California’s First District (kind of looks like the Texas one that Kevin shows).
    • CA’s 3rd.
    • Here’s the whole state.
    • Here’s Florida 1996-2001. Note in particular the skinny, costal District 4 and how District 23 is surrounded by District 16.
    • Here’s Texas in PDF format.
    • Here’s Alabama. Of course, as states have less population, the districts are less goofily shaped, given populaiton distributions.

    I am not playing “gotcha” btw-just pointing out that funny shapes are fairly normal.

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    Texas, Redistricting and the Supremes

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:29 pm

    The story of the Killer Ds in Texas has led to some discussion at CalPundit and OTB about the constitutionality of districts (shapes, motives for redsitrcting, etc.). In looking at recent Supreme Court rulings on this issue (Shaw v. Reno, Shaw v. Hunt, and Hunt v. Cromartie) I have reinforced some of my understanding of what the Court might, or might not, find to be acceptable.

    • One clear ruling in all three cases is that you cant gerrymander districts for the clear and expressed purpose of favoring a specific race, as such a policy violates the Equal Protection Clause.
    • The Hunt case makes it clear that a legislature purposefully drawing a district for political advantage is not sufficient reason to declare the district illegally gerrymandered, and
    • the district in Texas that Kevin highlights should easily pass muster, as it really isn’t all that unusual in its shape.

    So, really, this is looking more and more to me like a case of sour grapes on the part of Texas Democrats who are simply suffering what other political minorities suffer across the country, including California, where the Democrats have effectively drawn districts to their favor.

    Shockingly, this is all about politics.

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    As Punishment, They Should be Forced to Stay in Oklahoma

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:01 pm

    An update on the Dems on the lam:

    One answer to the mystery of the Filthy Fifty, the Fire Ants, or, collectively, Waldo-as in the children’s book Where’s Waldo?-could be found Monday night in an inconspicuous hotel in Ardmore, Okla.

    There a group of at least 50 of the 53 missing House Democrats were holed up, just over the state line and out of reach of a Texas trooper manhunt.

    “This is not a cowardly act. This takes a great deal of courage and conviction to take steps to make sure democracy prevails,” said Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston, speaking for the exiles.

    And this is classic:

    Back in the House Chamber, Rep. Dianne Delisi, R-Temple, passed around “most-wanted” playing cards like those the military is using to catch Iraqi leaders. In her deck, made on a computer, Fort Worth Rep. Lon Burnam, a Craddick critic, is the ace of clubs. The Democratic Party is the ace of spades.


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    A Thought

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:41 am

    If Bush’s Lincoln photo op had turned out to be more Dukakis than Top Gun, would the Dems be worrying about its cost?

    I ’spect not.

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    Proof You Need PoliBlog :)

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:15 am

    I notice that eveyone is talking about the Texas legislator story today (for example, The Corner, Daily Pundit, and Common Sense and Wonder (twice: here and here), to name a few (not to mention the front page of WaPo).

    But, of course, you heard it here first. :)

    So keep coming by and link like crazy-I’m bound to get a story first again at some point!

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    New 20s

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:58 am

    Source: Yahoo.

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    This’ll Drive Krugman Nuts

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:25 am

    The corporate media juggernauts roll onward: F.C.C. Prepares to Loosen Rules on Media Ownership. Clearly, we’re doomed. Soon all our information will come from one middle age white guy sitting a cubicle in Des Moines, Iowa-who takes all his orders from Darth Murdoch.

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    How Sweet

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:20 am

    I am not one to say that Israel bears no guilt, but there is no moral equivalency bwetween the IDF and Hezbollah.

    Iranian President Mohammed Khatami met Tuesday with Hezbollah chief Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah to reaffirm his country’s support of Lebanon and its anti-Israel stance.

    “Defending the land and expelling occupation is resistance while terrorism is occupation of land and ousting its inhabitants and this is what Israel is doing,” Khatami was quoted as saying by Hezbollah-run al-Nour radio.

    Source: Khatami meets Hezbollah chief

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    Krugman on the Media

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:06 am

    Krugman strikes again. The following is ridiculous on various levels:

    A funny thing happened during the Iraq war: many Americans turned to the BBC for their TV news. They were looking for an alternative point of view-something they couldn’t find on domestic networks, which, in the words of the BBC’s director general, “wrapped themselves in the American flag and substituted patriotism for impartiality.”

    First, the percentage of persons in the US who sought out the BBC for news of the war had to have been minuscule at best (and I likely overestimate). Second, I try of this ongoing tirade of many on the left who give bemoaning the lack of media diversity and especially the shrill, and empirically ridiculous, claim that because of big business, we in the US have less access to mass media.

    I keep hearing this argument: that big corporate ownership of broadcast media is squelching voices and cutting down on our news options. This is utter poppycock. Let us take a quick trip down memory lane, shall we? When I was in elementary school in the 1970s, there were only the Big Three broadcast networks for TV news, and the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour. By the time I was in the middle school through to early grad school (the 1980s through to the mid-to-late 1990s) there were the Big Three, The New Hour with Jim Lehrer, and CNN. Just about the time I earned my doctorate (in 96), Fox News, CNBC and MSNBC either premiered or became widely available on cable systems. Not to mention that at the same time the explosion of the internet (that allows me to easily and conveniently read, and be annoyed by, Krugams column) provided a plethora of information options.

    There is also, the great Clear Channel Bugaboo thesis that argues that talk radio is monolithically conservative because of corporate bias, and that in some mythic past there was more diversity on the radio. More nonsense: I have been an avid information radio listener since at least 4th grade, where the only news radio of any kind, beyond simple headlines was NPR. Indeed, in the late 1970s AM radio was in its final death-throes for music as FM had fully established itself, but AM had not yet gone the newtalk route en masse. In the 1980s in the Los Angeles market, AM talk-radio was either the 24-hour headline variety or local talk radio shows-and there werent a lot of options-even when I moved back to Texas in 1990, the local radio scene was fairly limited. The death of the Fairness Doctrine in the mid-80s, and the success of Rush Limbaugh, especially in the very late 80s and early 90s, led to an explosion of talk radio programs. There is far more on the radio to listen to today in the talk-genre than there was even ten years ago, and twenty years ago there wasnt much at all. And the reason that conservative shows dominate is because they garner the ratings-plain and simple. I doubt Clear Channel, or any other media corporation gives a rats rear end as to the ideological predilections of the hosts, so long as they make money for the corp-which is why the durn things exist in the first place. Indeed, talk radio demonstrates the power of the market and of profit. Ditto (if you will pardon the term) cable tv news.

    In short (ok, not so short), where is all this lack of news option that so many on the left seem to be concerned about?

    And if Krugman thinks that major media in the US kowtow to the government, he hasnt been watching the same stuff I have been watching.

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    Texas Two-Step

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:35 am

    More on the fun from the Lone Star State:

    Republican Gov. Rick Perry immediately dispatched police to track down the missing legislators, arrest them and bring them back to do the state’s business - even asking neighboring New Mexico if the Texas Rangers were empowered to make arrests there. (New Mexico’s attorney general - a Democrat - said no.) But all signs were that the legislators were on the lam - some, perhaps, fleeing to Mexico - putting them beyond the reach of Lone Star justice and of GOP ambitions.

    And you have to love it when politicians get cute:

    Today, New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid said lawyers for Perry asked her if Texas Rangers might be allowed to make arrests in New Mexico. Madrid, a Democrat, said no. “Nonetheless,” she added in a statement, “I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the lookout for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy.”

    Source: GOP Plan Prompts A Texas Exodus

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    Monday, May 12, 2003
    More Evidence of Why I Barely Watch Network TV

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:15 pm

    This sounds like a parody, not a real show:

    In addition, NBC plans to introduce a new reality show featuring Donald Trump this season, “The Apprentice,” in which 16 contestants will compete for a job as the real estate tycoon’s personal assistant.

    I don’t watch any of these “reality” shows, but at least I can understand the premise of something like American Idol, or even Are You Hot? (or whatever it is called), but a show to become Donald Trump’s assistant? How boring is that?

    Of course, this does inspire the idea of a Bill Clinton reality show called The Intern, but since this is a family blog, I shan’t go any further…

    Source: NBC Unveils Star-Studded New Fall Lineup

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    Carpe Agendum

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:02 pm

    More evidence that Bush is, as I have argued, skillfully controlling the agenda:

    When asked specifically about the tax cuts Bush is proposing, 52% say they are a good idea at this time, while 41% say they are a bad idea. In just about two weeks, opinion has shifted on this issue. An April 22-23 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed Americans, by a 47% to 42% margin, saying the tax cuts were a bad idea.

    Read the whole thing, it has graphs and everything! Gallup Poll Analyses - Americans Warming to Idea of Bush Tax Cuts

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    By Steven Taylor @ 2:38 pm

    Thanks to Bunkshooter for linking to PoliBlog.

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    Proof that Moore is Nuts

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:02 pm

    The more I learn about Michael Moore, the more I come to the conclusion that he is plain nuts.

    To the astonishment of Bob Costas, Friday night on HBO far-left crank/movie producer Michael Moore claimed, during an interview on Costas’ show, that the Bush administration “absolutely” knows where Osama bin Laden is located and doesn’t go after him “because he’s funded by their friends in Saudi Arabia!”

    I mean, even if we assume Bush to be a cad and a rat, surely in the interest of personal gain, he would go get Osama and guarantee his own re-elecion. And further if, as many have claimed, the President is only after oil, wouldn’t the Saudi’s shielding Osama be a perfect reason to go take over the Mother of All Oil Fields? Not to mention that there are those in the administration who aren’t too happy with SA and would probably like to take it over.

    Source: Media Research Center

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    • Arguing with signposts… linked with Raving Lunatic, pt. 3241358^10
    • The American Mind linked with Conspiracy Nut
    The Jack of Spades, Too

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:45 pm

    Another card falls:

    Ibrahim Ahmad Abd al Sattar Muhammad al Tikriti, listed as No. 11 on the U.S. list of the top 55 most-wanted Iraqis and designated as the jack of spades in the U.S. deck of cards of fugitive Iraqis, also was in the control of U.S. forces.

    Source: Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage

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    Dr. Germ Goes Down

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:57 pm

    Another member of the League of Really Bad Chemists is in custody:

    U.S. forces have taken into custody the British-educated Iraqi microbiologist dubbed “Dr. Germ,” who spearheaded the biological warfare program under toppled President Saddam Hussein, officials said on Monday.

    Source: Iraq’s ‘Dr. Germ’ Now in U.S. Custody

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    • ScrappleFace linked with Iraq's 'Dr. Clorox' Surrenders to Coalition Forces
    Minority Report

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:46 pm

    Antics by the minority in legislative bodies seem to be at an all-time high. There is, of course, the filibustering ways of the US Senates Democratic minority who are blocking two Appeals Court nominees, the actions of Republicans and pro-Governor Riley Democrats in the Alabama State Senate, who are stopping floor business in the Senate because of objections to power-sharing arrangements over committee assignments and such, and now Democrats members of the Texas State House are hiding so as to make it impossible to have a quorum, and hence blocking business in the State House:

    More than 50 Democrats - enough to break the quorum needed to do Texas House business - did not show up Monday morning when the House convened, prompting Republican Speaker Tom Craddick to order state police officers to find them.

    The walkout, which coincides with the scheduled debate for a divisive congressional redistricting bill, halted House business.

    Partisan tension has been building all legislative session. Republicans and Democrats have clashed over a no-new-taxes budget, sweeping lawsuit limitation legislation and most recently, a push by the GOP leadership to redraw congressional voting lines to favor Republicans.

    This leads to the somewhat amusing spectacle of state police being charged with seeking out and arresting wayward legislators, and forcing them to the floor:

    The latest group of quorum-busters planned to leave the state to avoid having state police detain them and forcibly return them to the House floor, if necessary.

    Now, in all these cases I will accept the argument that when tools exist (filibusters, breaking quorum, etc.) they can be used at times, but by the same token there is something profoundly dishonorable in employing them in except the most extreme of circumstances. When your side has lost the political battle at the ballot box, which in turn constitutes the makeup of a legislative body, then you have to take your lumps, so to speak, if you lose the argument in that legislative body.

    Now, it is worth noting that these things have happened in the past, but rarely. I would hope that in all these cases (and any I may be missing) that the voters take note and act accordingly.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 9:19 am

    Thanks to Arguing with Signposts for blogrolling PoliBlog.

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    • Arguing with signposts… linked with Check Him Out!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:53 am

    I can’t decide how much of this: U.S. Overhauls Administration to Govern Iraq is the result of te need to adapt as circumstances passes, or the lack of a solid plan. I fear that it may be more of the latter than the former.

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    The Proper Use of Congress?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:24 am

    First off, I have always wondered as to the efficacy of these kinds of programs:

    With a television advertising budget worthy of a Hollywood movie rollout or a tight Senate race, the seat belt safety campaign will take to the airwaves for two weeks, beginning on Monday, with heavy emphasis on the WB Network, Univision, BET and ESPN.

    Extensive use of paid advertising, approved by Congress last year, partly replaces events like police roadblocks staged for news coverage of crackdowns on people driving unbelted or drunk. That got the word out to many drivers, but not the ones most likely to drive without belts, men ages 18 to 34, experts say. Those drivers “don’t watch Tom Brokaw or CNN,” said Philip W. Haseltine, an organizer of this year’s campaign.
    But they do watch Nascar, baseball, “Fear Factor,” “Black Star Cinema” and “Cine de Estrellas,” according to the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign, which organizes an annual enforcement effort around Memorial Day.

    And even if they do, I have to say that this doesn’t strike me as appropriate work for the US Congress:

    Last year Congress appropriated $25 million for broadcast advertising, of which $9.6 million will be spent by the safety campaign, and the remainder by 43 states. Of the 43, 31 will use the campaign’s “Click it or ticket” theme.

    It is hardly Article I, Section 8 kind of stuff…

    And, indeed:

    And there will be a lot of flashing lights: 12,000 law enforcement agencies from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have said that they will participate in an enforcement campaign that will run from May 19 through June 1.

    “Ads by themselves are proven not to do anything,” Mr. Haseltine said.

    Source: TV Ad Campaign for Seat Belts to Focus on High-Risk Drivers

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    Sunday, May 11, 2003
    Grist for the Barone Mill

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:38 pm

    Michale Barone’s column in US News has caused a mini-debate in the blogosphere (which James at OTB mentioned today)about our mediocre 18 year-olds and our exceptional 30 year-olds.

    James notes that Barone’s reasoning is sound, but anecdotal. However, here’s some survey data which demonstrates that there are some key shared perceptions that support at least part of Barone’s argument:

    Most Americans believe someone isn’t grown up until age 26, probably with a completed education, a full-time job, a family to support and financial independence, a survey said on Thursday.

    But they also believe that becoming an official grown-up is a process that takes five years from about the age of 20, concluded the report from the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center.

    Source: Yahoo! News - Are We Grown Up Yet? Study Says Not ‘Till 26

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    A Start…

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:25 pm

    Give Bush credit-his “Arafat must go” stance appears to be paying off, and despite criticisms that he hasn’t done enough, it would appear that he may have re-ignited the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks:

    “We have accepted it [the Road Map] as it is,” Abbas said. “True, maybe we have some reservations. But in order to give a way for the peace process, we have dropped down all our reservations, and we said that we accept it as it is.”

    And the free trade proposal for the region that I blogged yesterday shows some vision for the region.

    Source: Yahoo! News - Palestinians Ready to Start Peace Plan

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    Good for Rafe

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:19 pm

    Maybe 500 home runs ain’t what it used to be, but still-rather impressive. And it was cool he did it on his last bat at home before a road trip:

    Texas slugger Rafael Palmeiro hit his 500th career homer in his last chance to get it at home.

    Palmeiro hit a three-run homer in the seventh off Cleveland right-hander David Elder to become the second player to reach the milestone this season as the Rangers beat the Indians 17-10 Sunday.

    Source:Yahoo! Sports

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    Well, at Least My Brother is Happy..

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:08 pm

    I hate it when the Spurs blow a big lead against the Lakers in the playoffs (something thay have been good at doing the last two years).

    And Bill Walton is most annoying.

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    Where’s Dandy Don When You Need Him?

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:22 pm

    Turn out the lights, the party’s over:

    The U.S. commander of coalition forces in Iraq told Iraqis on Sunday that Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party was dissolved and asked them to surrender all of the group’s possessions.

    Source: Yahoo! News - U.S. Commander Tells Iraqis Baath Party Dissolved

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    Still Not 100% Sure, But Closer…

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:00 am

    More info on the bio-lab truck:

    A team of experts searching for evidence of biological and chemical weapons in Iraq has concluded that a trailer found near Mosul in northern Iraq in April is a mobile biological weapons laboratory, the three team members said today.

    Although, this doesn’t inspire fully confidence:

    Describing their four-day examination of the lab for the first time and on the condition of anonymity, the members of the Chemical Biological Intelligence Support Team-Charlie, or Team Charlie, said they had based their conclusion on a thorough examination of the gray-green trailer, with the help of British experts and a few American soldiers.

    Trailer is a Mobile Lab Capable of Turning Out Bioweapons, a Team Says

    A team of experts searching for evidence of biological and chemical weapons in Iraq has concluded that a trailer found near Mosul in northern Iraq in April is a mobile biological weapons laboratory, the three team members said today.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 7:56 am

    This story(Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception), first blogged here, is utterly amazing:

    In an inquiry focused on correcting the record and explaining how such fraud could have been sustained within the ranks of The Times, the Times journalists have so far uncovered new problems in at least 36 of the 73 articles Mr. Blair wrote since he started getting national reporting assignments late last October. In the final months the audacity of the deceptions grew by the week, suggesting the work of a troubled young man veering toward professional self-destruction.

    Mr. Blair, who has resigned from the paper, was a reporter at The Times for nearly four years, and he was prolific. Spot checks of the more than 600 articles he wrote before October have found other apparent fabrications, and that inquiry continues.

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    Saturday, May 10, 2003

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:57 am

    An itnriguing idea: Bush Seeks a Free Trade Zone With the Mideast by 2013

    President Bush today offered a powerful economic incentive to the nations of the Arab world by proposing the creation of a United States-Middle East free trade area by 2013.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:03 am

    I saw X2: X-Men United last night, and I give it a big “thumbs up.” They have done a really good job of capturing the comic. This one is better than the first one, in my opinion. All the casting it terriffic (although Anna Paquin doesn’t fit my image of Rouge), but Magneto, Xavier and Wolverine. McKellen, Stewart and Jackman are especially perfect.

    And they clealry set up X3.

    Also, the trailer for Matrix Reloaded is fantastic-I need to finally see the first one so that I can go see the second one! The Hulk trailer was interesting, but I was more intriguied by Sean Connery’s new flick: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

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    Friday, May 9, 2003
    Speaking of Samizdata and Flags…

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:43 pm

    Yesterday, I noted that Georgia was going to remove the Confederate battle flag entirely from their state flag. At the time, I had not yet seen the new flag.

    Well, has a rather amusing comment on the new flag. Ends up the new Georgia state flag is radically similar to the “Stars and Bars” of the CSA.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 12:32 pm

    Thanks to Samizdata for linking to PoliBlog!

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    Blogrolled! (x2)

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:19 pm

    Thanks to Attaboy and BrykMantra for blogrolling PoliBlog!

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    By Steven Taylor @ 9:50 am

    The following appeared in the May 8th, 2003 edition of the Birmingham Post-Herald. (One minor correction: Bush gains seven electoral votes as a result of re-apportionment, not eight as the column states).

    2004 Campaign is Not the Elder Bush’s Election Cycle

    Steven L. Taylor, Ph.D.

    Amazingly, the 2004 presidential campaign is well underway, a mere 500-plus days from the actual election itself. A clear sign that the process is crackling along is that the nine declared candidates for the Democratic Partys nomination assembled this weekend for the first debate of the campaign season.

    A casual perusal of the news might give one a profound sense of dj vu: a man named George Bush is in the White House, the United States has just won a decisive military victory in Iraq, the President is enjoying high approval numbers, and a key political issue is the health of the economy. Indeed, it could very well be May, 1991, rather than May, 2003. The Democrats hope that the parallels continue to include a plunge in the popularity of the incumbent President, and his eventual defeat at the polls in November of next year.

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    Thursday, May 8, 2003
    Speaking of the Politics of Race…

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:51 pm

    This is just sad: White only prom returns in Georgia

    (and I bet I know how some of these folks will vote on the flag issue…)

    Hat tip to both Andrew Sullivan and The Corner.

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    The Right Thing to Do.

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:37 pm

    Georgia unveiled (and, indeed unfurled) a new flag today:

    The 2001 flag was a blue banner that contained a small Confederate emblem along the lower edge. It succeeded Georgia’s 1956 flag, which was dominated by a large Confederate emblem that was added by the Legislature at the height of Southern resistance to integration.

    The brand-new flag that was hoisted Thursday contains the Georgia coat of arms and the words “In God We Trust” on a blue field in the top left corner, with three red-and-white stripes to the right.

    Georgia voters will pick between the new flag and the 2001 flag in a referendum next March. Few give the old flag any chance to win.

    Many groups had lobbied for Perdue to veto the bill, but the governor said it would be in the state’s best interest to move on.


    I know a lot of Southern conservatives (and, indeed, a lot of white Southerners in general) who argue that the battle flag is part of the South’s heritage. Maybe so (although I would argue a part of our heritage that we perhaps ought not be overly proud of, quite frankly), but even if we think of such issues as states rights and regional autonomy in their most benevolent iterations (and “states rights” need not be code for racism, but for real federalism, but that’s another discussion), one has to admit that the main reason Southern states started using the battle flag (either alone or as part of their state flags) was to symbolically stick it to anti-segregationists in he mid-1950s. That is hardly a heritage to extol. Plus, it is manifestly evident hat the rebel battle flag is highly offensive to a large percentage of the population-a reason by itself to take it out of a symbol that should unite the citizens of state, not divide them.

    Of course, now the ACLU will freak out about the In God We Trust Slogan on a gasp, STATE symbol.


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    Fun with Final Exams

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:01 pm

    The bonus question on my “Political Theory” final exam was “To What School of Thought does Peter Singer belong?” The answer is “utilitarianism.” One student answers “Singer was a crazy political thinker.”

    Ok, not the right answer, but not entirely inaccurate, either. For evidence, check this out: All Animals Are Equal.

    A nice snippet:

    It is an implication of this principle of equality that our concern for others ought not to depend on what they are like, or what abilities they possessalthough precisely what this concern requires us to do may vary according to the characteristics of those affected by what we do. It is on this basis that the case against racism and the case against sexism must both ultimately rest; and it is in accordance with this principle that speciesism is also to be condemned. If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit nonhumans?

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    Whom Should You Blame?

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:30 am

    While on the subject of liberal columnist criticizing other liberals, and noting lessons that some Democrats need to learn, Richard Cohen’s WaPo column is also worth a read. He echoes what Jean Kirkpatrick said almost twenty years ago (man, time doth fly…), when she decried the “blame American first crowd.”

    The Money Pargagraph:

    Yet the impulse to blame America first lingers, an atavistic reflex that jerks the knees of too many on the left and has cost the Democratic Party plenty over the years. Jeane Kirkpatrick, a former Democrat, put her finger on it 19 years ago. It’s about time the Democrats listened to what she had to say.

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    The Liberals’ Blind Spot

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:20 am

    Jonathan Chait’s column in WaPo, Blinded by Bush Hatred, is worth a read, and, I think, helps underscore (although this isn’t the point of the column) one of the Democrat’s main problems vis-a-vis Bush. It is part of the reason they keep underestimating him, and why they keep losing (policy-wise, PR-wise, and election-wise):

    Perhaps the most disheartening development of the war - at home, anyway - is the number of liberals who have allowed Bush-hatred to take the place of thinking. Speaking with otherwise perceptive people, I have seen the same intellectual tics come up time and time again: If Bush is for it, I’m against it. If Bush says it, it must be a lie. Their opposition to Bush has made liberals embrace principles - such as the notion that the United States must never fight without U.N. approval except in self-defense - to which the Clinton administration never adhered (see Operation Desert Fox in 1998, or the Kosovo campaign in 1999). And it has made them forget that there are governments in the world even more odious and untrustworthy than the Bush administration.

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    Brother, Can you Spare a Dime?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 am

    OK, I know that there are folks out of work, but the current unemployment figures are hardly at historically high levels. However, Bob Hebert seems to think that the End is Near:

    You want shock and awe? Come to New York City, where jobs are hard to find and the budget (as residents are suddenly realizing) is a backbreaking regimen of service cuts, tax increases and that perennial painkiller, wishful thinking.

    The biggest wish, of course, is that the national economy will suddenly turn around and flood the city and state with desperately needed revenues. Meanwhile, the soup kitchens and food pantries are besieged.

    And there kinds of quotes always annoy me, insofar as you could find someone to say something similar during the best of times. There is always someone who isn’t doing well:

    “This is the worst situation I’ve been in,” said Alfonso Shynvwelski, an unemployed waiter who stood in a long line of people waiting for food at the Washington Heights Ecumenical Food Pantry on Broadway in upper Manhattan. Mr. Shynvwelski, 36, has worked at a number of upscale restaurants, including the Russian Tea Room, which has closed. He’s been unemployed for a year.

    This isn’t to say that there aren’t people who are suffering, but if the goal here is to evaluate the overall economy, a macro-view must be taken, not a micro-level, woe is he, approach.

    And in regards to state-level budget problems-that is largely the result of states overspending during the boom of the 90s.

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    So Much for the Hand-Wringing…

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:44 am

    Now the anti-warites will have to find something else to worry about:

    Teams of American investigators searching in Iraq have recovered more than 700 artifacts and tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts that had been missing from the collection of the National Museum in Baghdad, some of them stored in underground vaults before the American invasion, American officials said today.


    The discovery of so many valuable artifacts would support the view of Iraqi museum officials and American investigators who have said that while many irreplaceable antiquities were looted from the museum during the fall of Baghdad last month, the losses were less severe than thought.
    Earlier this week, a top official of the British Museum,

    Source: U.S. Says It Has Recovered Many Artifacts and Manuscripts in Iraq

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    Looks Like this May Be the Real Deal

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:20 am

    I share James’ (OTB) concern that these announcements come out before we really know for certain what we have, but this looks like they are pretty sure. Indeed, this is been commented on quite differently than previous “finds.”

    Aboard the trailer was equipment that can be used to make biological weapons - living microorganisms or biological toxins used deliberately to spread disease - including a fermenter that could help produce germ warfare agents, he said.

    Other equipment included gas cylinders to supply clear air for agent production and a system to capture and compress exhaust gases to evade detection of weapons production.


    Cambone said the truck was very similar to those described by an Iraqi defector who has helped U.S. officials understand the Iraqi weapons program.

    U.S. Finds Iraqi Mobile Germ Warfare Lab -Pentagon

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    Wednesday, May 7, 2003
    If this is the Best They’ve Got…

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:41 pm

    Why talk about tax cuts and judicial nominees when you can talk about this:Democrats Question Cost of Bush’s Sea Landing.

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    Uribe Responds (Colombia)

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:13 pm

    Here’s Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s response to the story I blogged earlier today:

    President Uribe, whose father was killed by rebels and who is himself a former Antioquia governor, said his hardline policies would not change.

    “In this moment of pain, Colombia cannot surrender,” he said.

    “Now, we have to fortify our decision to defeat terrorism.”

    And the issue of the kidnapped conitnues:

    The FARC is still holding hundreds of hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, senators, governors, mayors, police officers and members of the military.

    Three Americans who were captured when their surveillance plane was shot down earlier this year are also being held by the rebels.

    The whole affairs raises questions as to the appropriate way to deal with kidpnapping and terrorist tactics. And, as I continue to note, what the FARC really wants and how they think these kinds of activities are going to lead to substantial social and political change in Colombia.

    Source: Uribe defiant after failed rescue

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    Are They Trying to Make Me Feel Old?

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:27 pm

    And I thought “Franco-American” made Chef Boyardee stuff and Spaghetti-Os, not video games. Man, the world is so confusing.

    Franco-American video game publisher Infogrames Inc., in an effort to increase its profile with consumers by reaching back into gaming history, said Wednesday it will change its name to Atari.

    Source: Infogrames gives Atari new video game life

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    Speaking of Edwards

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:54 am

    After seeing my headline for the campaign finance story on Edwards below it occurs to me: Edwards is already in trouble, because he clearly has no original ideas and comes across as a featherweight, even among that crew that I like to call the Nine Dwarves. I am not even sure he would beat Carol Mosely Braun in a one-on-one debate. Although I think he could take Kucinich.

    His only shot at the 2004 ticket will be as the Veep nominee.

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    Really, Dear, It Was Just Mistaken Identitiy

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:35 am

    Ya gotta love it:

    An Israeli policeman responding to neighbors’ complaints about a rowdy hen party received an unexpected welcome at the door when revelers mistook him for a stripper and began to take off his clothes and stroke him.
    And what in the world is a “hen party"?

    Source: Israeli Cop Mistakenly Undressed, Fondled at Party

    Hat tip: The Agitator

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    Edwards May Be in Trouble

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:21 am


    Sen. John Edwards presidential campaign finance documents show a pattern of giving by low-level employees at law firms, a number of whom appear to have limited financial resources and no prior record of political donations.


    In many instances, all the checks from a given firm arrived on the same day from partners, attorneys, and other support staff.

    Some of these support staff have not voted in the past, and those who have voted include registered Republicans, according to public records on file with various county registrars of voting.


    Several newspapers have reported that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has begun a criminal investigation into donations to the Edwards campaign from an Arkansas personal injury law firm. Michelle Abu-Halmeh, a legal assistant at Turner & Associates, told The Washington Post last month that she expected to be reimbursed by her boss for her $2,000 contribution.

    According to the Federal Election Campaign Act, contributions by an individual or entity to a political campaign in the name of another person are prohibited. Both the named and concealed donors are liable. The campaign is also liable if it knowingly accepts conduit funds.

    This could be a big deal. A lot of the info in the article is circumstantial, but there appears to be a lot of places to look for more substantial evidence.

    Source: Donations to Sen. Edwards questioned

    Hat tip: Drudge

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    Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, Dubya?

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:10 am

    The following column in today’s NYT is worth a read. It puts a rather interesting spin on the Powell-Rumsfeld conflict-and on Bush’s style in general.

    Hat tip: Occam’s Toothbrush

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    Telling Poll Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:16 am

    While we are all likely aware that Bush has a 73% approval rating, here are some other significant numbers from the latest CBS/NYT Poll:

    2. Do you feel things in this country are generally going in the right direction or do you feel things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?

    56% say right track, 36% wrong track, and 9% don’t know

  • On the economy, Bush gets 46-41-13 (approve, disapprove, don’t know)
  • On Iraq it is 79-17-4
  • 54% expressed confidence in the President’s ability to handle the economy, and 66% are confident in his ability to handle international affairs.
  • 78% approved on the war in Iraq.

    If Bush continues to have high numbers on national security, and majorities or high pluralities on the economy, I don’t see a Democrat who can beat him. And the right track/wrong track numbers tend to be quite significant in predicting electoral outcomes, so keep an eye on that one.

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    Colombian Guerrillas Kill Hostages

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:00 am

    I find the kidnapping itself appalling enough, but I really find it hard to take events like this and accept the rhetoric that the FARC are fighting “for the people":

    As army troops began a rescue effort this morning, Marxist guerrillas executed a provincial governor, a former minister of defense and eight others they had been holding hostage in the mountains of northern Colombia, the presidential palace said in a statement released late tonight.
    Elite combat troops dropped into the heavily forested area near the town of Murindo found nine bodies, including those of Gov. Guillermo Gaviria of Antioquia Province and Gilberto Echeverri, a former defense minister. The other seven victims were soldiers, all under the rank of lieutenant. An eighth soldier died later from his wounds.

    The presidency said some victims had been shot in the back of the neck or behind the ear. Three soldiers who had also been held captive survived the ordeal, the government said.
    The statement said the survivors reported that when the guerrillas heard the army helicopters, a rebel who went by the nom de guerre Paisa “gave the order to murder the hostages.” The government of President lvaro Uribe, who is from Antioquia and has pledged to step up military strikes against the rebels, insisted that government troops never engaged the rebels in combat.


    “I am really shaken up and appalled,” said Ernesto Samper, a former president under whom Mr. Echeverri had served. “This is something without precedent in the history of the country.”

    The rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or the FARC, blamed the “fascist army” for the deaths, implying that the 75 soldiers dropped into the region touched off the violence.

    Source: Rebels Execute 10 Hostages in Colombia

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:32 am

    If one ignores the swipe at Bush and the Florida election (the man has been President for over two years, can we please get over it? Not to mention, could these people look at the empirical evidence which shows he won, for cryin’ out loud?), Dowd’s column is fairly amusing. I have not seen the Ali G show, but have read about it before. Where I the target of the interviews, I would likely be rather annoyed, but some of the dialog in the column is mighty funny.

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    McC-F Fallout/Court Watching

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:21 am

    Something occurred to me about this whole McC-F situation and the appeal to the Supremes. Given that it is unlikely that they will take the case and deal with it over the summer, I am wondering if this may affect some retirement decisions. Most specifically I am thinking Rehnquist. I really expected him to retire this summer, and now I wonder, given his interest in the past in the campaign finance issue (and his participation in all the major campaign-finance cases from Buckley onward), that this might entice him to stay longer.

    And if he stays, does he retire in an election year? Or does he hang on and hope that Bush is re-elected. It should be interesting to watch.

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    Tuesday, May 6, 2003
    Why Would They Want to Leave?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:49 pm

    I mean, Cuba’s a worker’s paradise and all that…

    Three Cuban refugees swam two miles to shore near Key Largo on Tuesday after jumping from their vessel into waters off shore.

    Cuban migrants who reach U.S. soil generally are allowed to remain in the country, while those intercepted at sea usually are repatriated.

    Source: Three Cuban refugees make it to shore

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    • Heretical Ideas linked with THIS DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE
    Bill Maher

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:23 pm

    Bill Maher is currently appearing on the Hardball College Tour. Is it just me or has he gotten bitter and even less funny than he used he used to be? Although I will admit, I was finding him rather grating even at the end of his ABC run.

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    Appealing McC-F

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:00 pm

    No surprise here:

    Lawyers on both sides of the fight over the constitutionality of the nation’s campaign finance law have informed a federal court they will appeal its ruling striking down some of the new rules and upholding others.

    Source: NRA, U.S. to Appeal Campaign Ruling

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    Paks Willing to Give up Nukes?

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:41 pm

    Interesting, although I find this to be rather unlikley:

    Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan had told reporters in Islamabad that Pakistan was ready to “denuclearize” provided that India does the same. “But it will have to be mutual.”

    Source:Pakistan offers to denuclearize

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    More Nicknames

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:49 pm

    So, Mrs. Anthrax is also known as Chemical Sally-man, this really is confusing.

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    Some “Commentary” on the LoTR

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:22 pm

    Some classic “commentary” on the Fellowship of the Ring (Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan via Common Sense and Wonder):

    McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Unused Audio Commentary By Howard Zinn & Noam Chomsky, Recorded Summer, 2002, for The Fellowship of the Ring Platinum Series Extended Edition DVD, Part One

    Zinn: Right. And here we receive our first glimpse of the supposedly dreadful Mordor, which actually looks like a fairly functioning place.

    Chomsky: This type of city is most likely the best the Orcs can do if all they have are cliffs to grow on. It’s very impressive, in that sense.

    Zinn: Especially considering the economic sanctions no doubt faced by Mordor. They must be dreadful. We see now that the Black Riders have been released, and they’re going after Frodo. The Black Riders. Of course they’re black. Everything evil is always black. And later Gandalf the Grey becomes Gandalf the White. Have you noticed that?

    Chomsky: The most simplistic color symbolism.


    Chomsky: A terrible thing the Orcs do here, isn’t it? They destroy nature. But again, what have we seen, time and time again?

    Zinn: The Orcs have no resources. They’re desperate.

    Chomsky: Desperate people driven to do desperate things.

    Zinn: Desperate to compete with the economic powerhouses of Rohan and Gondor.

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    Goldberg on Bennett and Moralizing

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:44 am

    Jonah Goldberg’s NRO column on Bill Bennett is worth a read.

    I would note, I am neither in the “get off Bennett’s back” camp nor the “how could he?” camp. I do think that the gambling is chiefly his business in the sense that if that is how he wants to spend his money, he has every right. Although, given his public status, I would also say that it is fair game for discussion.

    Further, while I somewhat agnostic on the general topic of recreational gambling, with a slight “anti-” leaning, I would note that if one is going to make a career talking about virtues, then one can expect a negative reaction when one if found out to have engaged in a behavior widely considered to be a vice. In short, given some of his political and career choices, perhaps this wasn’t the smartest hobby to have.

    Having said that, I would say that the “startling revelation” hardly vitiates his point of view, or damages him beyond repair. As Goldberg notes:

    So, if Bill Bennett has made a mistake in his personal life, he must have been wrong about the educational utility of everything in his book. And, come to think of it, every other virtue and moral and fable and story he ever promoted, advanced, or advocated must be wrong now as well. It’s okay for kids to do drugs now, too, I suppose. And I guess it’s okay for the president of the United States to enforce sexual-harassment laws while he plays the Sultan and the Slave Girl with an intern and then lies about it under oath. Hell, it must be okay for terrorists to blow up the World Trade Center now.

    This sea change is all because Bill Bennett plays high-stakes video poker from midnight to 6:00 AM.

    The main story, really, is that Bennett is seen as someone who likes to tell other people what they ought to do, and therefore those who dont like to be told what they ought to do (especially if the basis of the telling is religion, virtue or morals), in turn want to play gotcha! Of course, as Goldberg points out, it seems to be ok to tell people what they ought to do, so long as ones basis for doing so derives from personal convictions, or because one is following ones heart or some other claptrap. It is the infusion of some sort of moral standard that gets peoples hackles up.

    As Goldberg notes:

    You might have noticed that I keep putting quotation marks around the word “moralizer.” I do this for the simple reason that Green, Alter, Marshall, and the legions of other liberals who don’t like “moralizers” are shocking hypocrites if not outright liars. Everyone moralizes. The suggestion that liberals aren’t moralizers is so preposterous it makes it hard for me to take any of them seriously when they wax indignant about “moralizers.” Almost everyday, they tell us what is moral or immoral to think and to say about race, taxes, abortion — you name it. They explain it would be immoral for me to spend more of my own money on my own children when that money could be spent by government on other peoples’ children. In short, they think moralizing is fine. They just want to have a monopoly on the franchise.

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    And I was so Looking Forward to it..

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:32 am

    Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura’s planned MSNBC show is mired in preproduction difficulties, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

    “[Ventura] has been having just a terrible time,” says a source with direct ties to the project. “The rehearsals have been extremely trying. It doesn’t look good.”

    Source: DRUDGE REPORT 2003

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    Just Sad, Larry

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:35 am

    As I Rangers’ fan, I am thankful for the Detroit Lions:

    It doesn’t happen often, so the Detroit Tigers can be forgiven for being uncertain how to celebrate their first winning streak since August.

    After the Tigers won a second straight game by beating the Baltimore Orioles 6-1 Monday night, some of the players whooped it up in the clubhouse.

    They are currently 5-25. which is .167 ball.

    Source: Yahoo! Sports

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:36 am

    Thanks to Bill at HobbsOnline for linking to PoliBlog!

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    On the Verge of Rodent-hood

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:32 am

    PoliBlog has moved to the status of “Flapping Bird” on the Truth Laid Bear Blogospher Ecosystem and I am on the verge of being an “Adorable Little Rodent". So, feel free to link the site like crazy :)

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    More on Campaign Finance

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:23 am

    In the comments section of this post, the question arose as to exactly how and where the Supreme Court equated money to political speech. I finally got around to looking it up. In the case of Buckley v. Valeo, 424 US 1 (1976), the Court wrote:

    A restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign necessarily reduces the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration, and the size of the audience reached. This is because virtually every means of communicating ideas in today’s mass society requires the expenditure of money (I-A).

    The case of Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee, et al. v. Federal Election Commission 518 U.S. 604 (1996) further extended that idea to include what came to be known as soft money.

    Indeed, I have argued that unless the Court reverses itself on the logic quoted above, that there is no way that Congress can regulate soft money donations and expenditures. Of course, I argue as a political scientist, and not as an attorney.

    The only limitation that the Court has consistently upheld have been limiting the amount of money given to candidates.

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    • Confessions of a G33k linked with Money is speech, so sayeth the Supreme Court
    Thomas on Bennett

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:09 am

    Cal Thomas makes a key point in his column on Bill Bennett’s gambling:

    Bennett’s enemies will use his gambling problem as a kind of reverse sermonizing, but what are they going to do - come out for debauchery, chicanery and vice? They pay homage to virtue by their condemnation of Bennett, acknowledging that a standard for human conduct does exist, otherwise it wouldn’t matter what he said or did.


    Source: Virtue is as virtue does?

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    Will on the Nine Dwarves

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:06 am

    George Will’s column on the Democratic candidates is worth a read. This is the amusing bit:

    The six serious candidates must endure these events until caucuses and primaries weed out the unserious. Carol Moseley Braun is trying to use as a stepping stone to the presidency the ambassadorship to New Zealand, where she went after failing to be re-elected to the U.S. Senate from a state, Illinois, that has elected only one Republican-her 1998 opponent-to the Senate in the last eight elections. The Rev. Al Sharpton, theologian and thespian, offers his career in the street theater of perpetual New York City protest as his claim to presidential considerations. Rep. Dennis Kucinich is the answer to a trivia question: Who is the only presidential candidate to have presided over the bankruptcy of a major American city? (Cleveland, where he was mayor from 1977 to 1979.) His big idea Saturday night was to “get the profit out of health care,'’ which certainly would change the incentives to provide health care.

    He also makes some salient comments on the perils to the Democrats of the forthcoming compressed nomination cycle.

    Source: Democratic tossed salad in South Carolina

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    Interim Government Starts to Form; Chalabi Plays Hardball

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:57 am

    Interesting. The formation of a legislative body is the right step-and one that I did not think they would get to this quickly:

    The main Iraqi opposition groups have agreed to help put together a national assembly of more than 350 deputies that would meet this month to name an interim executive council or prime minister to run the country.

    And, this is intriguing. I don’t know enough about Chalabi to say that he’s “the man", but you have to like this:

    When Abu Dhabi television asked Mr. Chalabi last week to respond to reports that he was under arrest by the United States Central Command for embezzlement, Mr. Chalabi went on the air to respond. He brought files he said were taken from the Iraqi secret police. He asserted that they showed that a number of reporters for Al Jazeera television, the satellite channel that broadcast the accusation that he was under arrest, were working for Iraqi intelligence.

    “We will not allow this channel to continue its destructive work, which might lead to civil war in Iraq, through their lies and the spreading of rumors, because rumors are worse than killing,” Mr. Chalabi said. On the air, he held up documents and read from them, saying they were Iraqi intelligence reports on the successful recruitment of Al Jazeera journalists as informants.

    Al Jazeera has yet to respond to the charges.

    Source: Opposition Groups to Help to Create Assembly in Iraq

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    More Than Pocket Change

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:39 am


    In the hours before American bombs began falling on the Iraqi capital, one of President Saddam Hussein’s sons and a close adviser carried off nearly $1 billion in cash from the country’s Central Bank, according to American and Iraqi officials here.


    The sheer volume of the cash was so great some $900 million in American $100 bills and as much as $100 million worth of euros that three tractor-trailers were needed to cart it off, the Iraqi official said. It took a team of workers two hours to load up the cash. Their work was completed before employees of the downtown Baghdad bank arrived for work.

    And, indeed:
    “When you get an order from Saddam Hussein, you do not discuss it,” said the Iraqi official, who held a senior position in a bank under Mr. Hussein’s government

    Source: Hussein’s Son Took $1 Billion Just Before War, Bank Aide Says

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    Monday, May 5, 2003
    Trying to Get into the Axis of Evil?

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:03 pm

    Hmm, I wonder if part of the problem is that Mugabe is a murderous, selfish thug? My extensive study of politics has indicated that when greedy, egotistical dictators run countries for decades, bad things happen to citizens. Of course, that’s just a working hypothesis…

    At the end of an afternoon of whirlwind diplomacy in Zimbabwe today, three of Africa’s most powerful presidents failed to break a stalemate between President Robert Mugabe and his leading opponents that has pushed the country to the brink of economic collapse.


    Zimbabwe has been ravaged by soaring inflation and unemployment, shortages of food and fuel, and cycles of state-sponsored violence against those thought to be government opponents. Two weeks ago, the tensions gave way to mixed hope and confusion when Mr. Mugabe, 79, made veiled comments to news organizations that he could be ready to retire, ending 23 years in power.

    Negotiations in Zimbabwe Fail to Break Political Crisis

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    They All Have Such Charming Nicknames…

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:59 pm

    ‘Mrs Anthrax’ held by US forces.

    Really, the whole crew sounds like one of those pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC-comic alternative universe set of characters: Chemical Ali, Dr. Germ, and Mrs. Anthrax: the League of Really Bad Chemists from Earth-WMD. Where’s Captain Comet when you need him? Perhaps at the next JLA-JSA annual picnic they could go mop up Iraq.

    (To the non-comic literate, just ignore this post and move along.)

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    More on the Nine Dwarves

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:34 pm

    An astute observation:

    The “debate’s” most interesting talk was saved for Iraq, where all candidates seemed to have a thoughtful position that they were happy to discuss. All of which means the real winner from Saturday’s debate was … the president.

    In other words, Bush has set the agenda. Indeed, as the article also points out, Bush’s tax issue was also on center-stage (even Gephardt’s medical plan is couched in terms of the President’s tax cuts). which is further illustrative of the fact that the President is firmly in control of the debate.

    It would appear that the Democrats did not learn the lesson of the 2002 elections all that well-that just being against the President is not enought to win. Only Gephardt seems to understand this, and even he seems to have an incomplete package at this point.

    Source: The Democrats debated, and Bush won

    Hat Tip: Neophyte Pundit.

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    You Know, the Seats aren’t Comfortable Enough WITH Clothes…

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:15 pm

    You know you are living in far-too affluent a society when…

    When the flight reached cruising altitude, 87 passengers took off more than their seat belts - they removed their clothes.

    The nude flight, billed by organizers as the first one of its kind, took off Saturday afternoon from Miami International Airport, headed for Cancun.

    Of course, as per the comments on this OTB post, sticking this strory on my blog ought to help search-engine related traffic :) - Travel Getaways - First Nude Flight Leaves Miami Bound For Cancun

    Hat Tip: Drudge.

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    MT Question

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:32 am

    Does anyone know what this means?

    MT::App::CMS=HASH(0x8359238) Use of uninitialized value in concatenation (.) or string at lib/MT/App/ line 2415.

    I have been getting it off and on when I post stuff to the blog.

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    More on Colombia

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:27 am

    More on the US-Colombia link that I have mentioned a few times lately. This is especially interesting because of its overt “War on Terror” link:

    Opening a new front in the war on terrorism, Colombian soldiers trained by the US military have killed or captured at least six guerrilla leaders as part of a ‘’decapitation strategy'’ to defeat the country’s rebel groups and strike a blow against the drug trade, American military and intelligence officials told the Globe.

    A new commando unit began tracking rebel commanders in the jungles of Colombia about three weeks ago and carried out some of the attacks in recent weeks. It is the first unit in the Colombian Army to receive US special-forces training under a new program approved by President Bush expanding US military assistance from fighting drug cartels to battling insurgent groups that the administration considers ‘’narco-terrorists.'’

    The unit, organized to resemble a US Army Ranger battalion of 600 to 800 soldiers, is designed to hunt down and capture or kill top commanders of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish initials as the FARC; the rightist National Liberation Army, or ELN; and the paramilitary United Self Defense Forces, or AUC. Those groups have tightened their grips on drug and arms trades in the region and have growing links with other terrorist groups around the world, the American officials said.

    Trained by US, Colombia unit gains

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    I’m Shocked! Shocked, I say!

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:57 am

    “We’re learning that Tariq Aziz still doesn’t know how to tell the truth,'’ Bush told reporters outside his Crawford ranch.

    Source: Bush: Iraqi deputy lying to U.S.

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    The Mother of All 404s

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:33 am

    This is utterly classic: Error 404

    Hat Tip: John Hudock at Common Sense and Wonder.

    (and I love Lilek’s 404 as well, which I had never seen before-I have been a Trekkie since I was like 5).

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    By Steven Taylor @ 10:12 am

    An amusing juxtapostion (ok, not too amusing if you are Ashleigh Banfield):

    Winter 2002. Ashleigh Banfield is in Ramallah, the West Bank, interviewing Yasir Arafat. At 34, she is the anchor of her own prime-time program on MSNBC, the cable news network owned by NBC and Microsoft.

    Spring 2003. Ashleigh Banfield is on Tennessee State Route 374, interviewing people at a sparsely attended Saturday afternoon support-the-troops rally 6,700 miles away from the action in Iraq. She is just another NBC News correspondent fighting for face time.

    I always found her tolerable (which is not something I can say about all her colleagues) and was somewhat surprised at her fall from grace.

    Source: Ashleigh Banfield’s Career No Longer Seems to Shine as Bright

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    Safire Chimes in

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:08 am

    Bill Safire provides his views on “The Carolina Nine”, and he, too, picked Lieberman as a winner, but he adds Gephardt as well.

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    Kurtz Reviews the Dems

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:30 am

    Howard Kurtz reviews the Democratic candidates in WaPo. It is worth a read. He seems to think Liberman did the best.

    The column also has some comments on the President’s Lincoln speech.

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    Attack of the CannabisMen!

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:40 am

    Source: Yahoo.

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    Sunday, May 4, 2003
    Electoral Math

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:58 pm

    Some early electoral math:

    • If in the 2004 election Bush only wins the same states he won in 2000, he will come out 7 electoral votes ahead as result of reapportionment.
    • There are four states where Bush lost with vote differentials that were less than 2% (in most cases less than 1%): Iowa ((7 evs), New Mexico (5 evs), Oregon (7 evs), and Wisconsin (10 evs) for a grand total of 29 electoral votes. Considering that Bush was the challenger, Gore the incumbent Veep during a healthy economy, and Bush is now a pretty successful president, I would argue these states are all likely to go Bush in 2004.
    • Minnesota, with 10 electoral votes was just over a 2% differential in 2000, and is also likely to go Bush.
    • The only states not named Florida that were really close, but went to Bush were West Virginia (5 evs) and New Hampshire (4 evs).
    • Florida will be in play, but it will depend on who the nominee is. And the Democrats cannot count on 2000-recount-driven anger to hand them the state, as Jebs 12.8% victory for re-elction in 2002 demonstrates.
    • So, if all the close ones go to Bush in 2004, he should win with at least 300 electoral votes.
    • And, it is possible to lose Florida and still win, if he picks up most of the close mid-western state noted above.

    Indeed, most of the close states should break his way, given he is a fairly popular incumbent. All standard caveats pertaining to economic disaster do, of course, apply.

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    • Signifying Nothing linked with PoliBlog handicaps 2004
    Dim Days Ahead for Dems?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:18 am

    Bob Novak writes:

    Democratic insiders, acknowledging little chance of recapturing the House in 2004, have all but given up hope of winning a Senate majority, unless there is such a transcendent development as an economic collapse.

    The early calculation in Democratic circles is for a net loss of four additional Senate seats, extending the present 51-49 Republican majority to 55-45. Democratic seats are in real jeopardy in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, South Dakota and Nevada.

    In contrast, Alaska is the only Republican Senate seat up next year that clearly tilts to the Democrats.

    Source: Robert Novak: Inside Report: No Democratic Senate

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    Forty-One v. Forty-Three and the Base

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:12 am

    As I continue to think about the pending 2004 elections, several thoughts come to mind as to how, despite some cosmetic similarities, that Forty-Three’s chances are radically better than were Forty-One’s. First, and foremost is, as I have oft-stated: national security. For Forty-One, national security was off the table by the time the elections rolled around, and the Gulf War victory was seen as a conclusion, not part of a broader conflict. For Forty-Three national security will be front and center, and the victory in GWII will be evidence that Forty-Three is winning the broader War on Terror.

    Another key difference is the relationship between Forty-Three and the Republican base-it is quite different than that relationship that Forty-One had with the base in 1992.

    By 1991 the Republican base was rather dissatisfied with Forty-One. Indeed, one could argue that he never really had their hearts, so to speak. Sure, he was the Gippers Veep, but he wasnt the Gipper. Sure, he was better than Dukakis, but I recall that many thought his inaugural speech, with the promise for a kinder, gentler nation was a slam at Reagan and his confrontations with Democrats in Congress. And then there was Read my lips: no new taxes and the subsequent tax hike. Even with the Gulf War victory he faced a protest challenge from Patrick J. Buchanan in the primaries. Buchanan took 36.5% of the vote in New Hampshire in 1992, signaling some clear discontent amongst the Republican faithful. I vividly recall many a caller to the Rush Limbaugh show stating, as they pondered Perot, that it cant get any worse.

    By contrast, Bush is almost as popular with Republican voters as Reagan was. Granted-having the base locked up does not guarantee victory, but it is a great foundation upon which to build. Further, it is an issue of comparison between father and son that I think has largely been overlooked in the Bush I v. Bush II comparisons in the press.

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    Nine Democrats All in a Row

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:45 am

    Yup-reading this (Democrats’ First Presidential Debate Shows Party Fissures) I am convinced it would have been more amusing to watch than was SNL. Really, I have a hard time seeing any of these guys beating Dubya sans some sort of disaster occurring.

    For one thing, Lieberman is right about this:

    “No Democrat will be elected president in 2004 who is not strong on defense, and this war was a test of that,” he said. Mr. Lieberman said the position of those two candidates “will not give the people confidence about our party’s willingness to make the tough decisions to protect their security.”

    Now, even if a Democrat is nominated who is strong on defense, I think Bush still comes out the winner. It is like this: if you have a Super Bowl MVP as your starter-and he is healthy and has several mores years in him, are you going to bench him because you have acquired a free agent back-up who has similar skills, but isn’t game-tested? I think not. If national security is going to play a huge role in the upcoming elections (and I think that it will), why would the electorate bench a successful war-times president, who has shown keen leadership skills, in favor of an untested replacement? It really doesn’t track.

    Again, as I keep harping on, the Democrats need serious problems to arise in the economy to have a chance to win. A national security crisis could aid the Dems also, but only if that crisis could be credibly blamed on the President.

    Gephardt is probably the most serious candidate, insofar as he at least has a clear domestic issue to campaign on. Now, I don’t think that national health care will light a fire under your median voter, but it will excite the Democratic base.

    I have a hard time taking Edwards seriously-at least Kerry, Gephardt and Lieberman have fairly lengthy national political careers. Edwards is really a neophyte, and given the grand problems of the day, seems altogether too boyish to be placed into the Oval Office. Plus, he comes across as trite and somewhat dim, in my humble opinion.

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    Saturday, May 3, 2003
    This Was Probably Funnier than SNL

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:43 pm

    This sounds like it may have been a better skit:Democrats discuss Iraq early in debate. This line alone tops anything in the SNL bit:

    “The way to move a donkey is to slap the donkey,” Sharpton, warming up for the debate, told delegates at the state party convention Saturday afternoon. “I’m going to slap the donkey until the donkey kicks and we are going to kick George Bush out of the White House.”

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    SNL Lame-osity

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:39 pm

    Tonight’s skit of Bush on the Lincoln was rather unfunny (and I prefer my comedy to be on the funny, if not rip-roarin’ hylarious, side). The only semi-funny part was where he asked them which country they would prefer to invade next, and France got a hardy round of applause. However, on balance, quite lame.

    Plus, I miss Will Ferrell. The new Bush stinketh.

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    More Happy Saddam-ness

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:52 pm

    Iraqis, U.S. Marines Uncover Grave, Dozens of Bones

    “Some of the skulls appear to have been cut open, maybe they were experimenting with the prisoners. Some were executed, you can see bullet holes in their skulls. Some were still strapped to metal structures.”

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:41 pm

    I just noticed that the Invisible Adjunct has graciously linked to PoliBlog. Thanks!

    Maybe my plug the other day helped :)-plus, I noticed that John Lemon has linked her site as well.

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    More on the Weird Economy

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:09 pm

    This is a couple of days old, but is significant nonetheless. And again, conterbalances, to some degree, the jobs news and underscores the consumer confidence numbers:

    The Commerce Department said Monday that consumers’ spending rose by 0.4 percent as fears of worst-case scenarios in Iraq dissipated with the onset of the war.

    In February, spending had risen by a lackluster 0.1 percent after having fallen by 0.1 percent in January, reflecting harsh winter weather and plunging consumer confidence because of growing anxiety about the war.

    Personal incomes also rose by 0.4 percent in March, double the February gain. : Consumer Spending, Personal Incomes Up

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    Book Corner with PoliBlogger

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:46 pm

    I am reading the tenth book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, Crossroads of Twilight. I have really enjoyed the series, but I don’t think I have read a book recently where after 400 pages one feels as if not all that much has happened. Indeed, the book feels like a “I’ve got a contract obligation to fill” book, and one begins to wonder if Jordan knows where the story is going. Having read between 6,000 and 7,000 pages with the promise of a major battle for the ages between good and evil to conclude the series, I sure as High Heck hope he plans to actually finish the thing at some point!

    I will say that I am glad I found the series late in its existence-I was able to read the first nine books pretty much all at once. I would hated to have been at this waiting game for over a decade!

    Meanwhile, here’s hoping George R.R. Martin is close to finishing the next tome in the Songs of Fire and Ice series!

    (and now back to your regularly scheduled political blogging….)

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    Good for Duncan

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:40 pm

    Spurs center repeats as MVP of league

    Duncan becomes the first player since Michael Jordan in 1991 and 1992 to win the league’s most coveted individual award in consecutive seasons.

    Duncan led the Spurs to the league’s best record, 60-22, while averaging 23.3 points and career highs in rebounds (12.9), assists (3.9) and blocks (2.92).

    And some pretty impressive company:

    Duncan is the seventh player to win the award in consecutive seasons, joining Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

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    So Much for “Censorship”

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:56 am

    How anyone (are you listening, Senator Clinton?) can argue that there were serious repercussions for speaking out against the war are being willfully blind and ignorant. Let’s take the Chicks-who have gotten more publicity as a result of Maines’ comments than they could have purchased outright. Further, rather than being silenced of blacklisted, their words have been printed, broadcast and talked about constantly, and globally.

    And business has hardly been damaged all that much:

    As it turned out, the sold-out, 15,000-strong crowd was rabidly enthusiastic and the protesters were few.

    Source:Politics is in the air as Dixie Chicks open tour in S.C.

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    Sharing the Wealth

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:10 am

    This is an intriguing concept:

    Alaska’s most popular institution, a trust fund that pays annual dividends to nearly everyone in the state, is being eyed as a possible model for spreading Iraq’s oil wealth among its citizens.

    The Bush administration is viewing the $23.8 billion Alaska Permanent Fund, built with contributions from North Slope oil royalties, as a way the Iraqis can be owners “not only of their government, but of that key resource of oil,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday.

    I have philosophical issues with social ownership, but this idea has some merit and warrants consideration. In the Iraqi context it certainly would give clear confirmation to our rhetoric that the oil belongs to the Iraqi people. It would also vitiate the “blood for oil” arguments.

    As a side note-it has often amused me that Alaska, with its fiercely individualistic political culture, has this type of public dividend.

    Source: Alaska Fund Offered as Model for Rebuilt Iraq

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    Not About Campaign Finance

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:55 am

    What a choke job:

    With a win in Game 7 Sunday, the Blazers would become the first team in NBA history to overcome an 0-3 deficit in a best-of seven series. Portland would then head straight to Sacramento to get ready for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Kings.

    I am a Spurs fan, so this doesn’t bother me, but the possibility of being 3 up, and then blowing a series is incredible. Of couse, if the Blazers do win, the Kings will crush them.

    Source: Yahoo! Sports

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    Peacekeeping in Iraq Moves Forward

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:38 am

    This sounds promising. And while I agree that the UN has a humanitarian role to play, I utterly agree with keeping them out of the peace-keeping duties:

    The United States plans to set up an international military force in three regions of Iraq, with Poland and Britain controlling two zones and U.S. forces the third, a senior Bush administration official says.

    Six European countries have agreed to provide troops for the international stabilization force, the official said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    The United States and Britain also are preparing a Security Council resolution that gives the United Nations a role in humanitarian relief in Iraq but not peacekeeping, the official said.

    The draft resolution would limit the U.N. role to helping with refugees and displaced people, reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, the official said. The United States and Britain agree on all but a few of the fine details of the resolution, the official said, though there is no timetable on when it would be introduced.

    U.N. officials are already in Iraq providing humanitarian relief.

    U.S. Plans International Force in Iraq

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    Money Fallout

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:13 am

    It occurs to me that if the campaign finance rules are left in limbo too long, that the Democrats will be more negatively impacted, insofar as soft money is going to be more important to the Dems, for a variety of reasons, than to the Reps. This is especially true in the presidential contest, as Bush is going to have a huge war chest that can be spent during the primary season attacking the Dems, or doing generic campaigning, while the Dems are going to have smaller budgets, and have to fight one another.

    Once a nominees is determined, the Dems will want to turn their attacks to the President, but will they be able to use soft money to do so? It should be interesting.

    Really, anything that curtails soft money to parties will more negatively affect the Dems, as they are more reliant on it in general. Contrary to what many may think, Republicans do far better than Democrats in small hard money contributions. Of course, there have already been attempts to find ways to funnel the money through state parties to at least partially counter-act the law.

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    More McC-F

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:53 am

    This clarifies some of the situation, but does demonstrate how screwed up it still is, and clearly the Supremes are going to have sort this mess out.

    In regards to soft money, we are back where we were in the early days of soft money-and back to determining what “party building” actually constitutes:

    In essence, two of the three judges today said Congress was within its rights to prohibit the national parties from using soft money for advertisements that attacked or supported candidates. The law’s supporters say that its major purpose was to prevent unlimited contributions from being used for such attack ads, circumventing limits on contributions to candidates. Most of the soft money raised has been used in this manner.

    The two judges, both of whom sit on the Federal District Court here, are Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and Richard J. Leon. Judge Leon, though, found it impermissible to prevent national parties from using such donations for activities like increasing party registration or getting out the vote.

    And if this part of the ruling stands, then a substantial part of the soft money ban remains in place.

    And, what a mess McC-F hath wrought:

    As a result, it appears almost certain that the Supreme Court will not hear arguments in the case until the fall. That means a final ruling on what kind of campaign finance system would be constitutional might not come until winter, just as the parties’ presidential primaries are getting under way.

    Like I said last night, all this does is make the process murky and complex while encouraging candidates and other interested parties to find creative loopholes. The one thing these laws manifestly do not do is curtail the amount of money that enters into, and attempts to influence, politics. I guarantee that no matter what the outcome is, the aggregate amount of money spent on political campaigning will continue to skyrocket. The only thing these laws do is also result in higher fees paid to lawyers to sort out the arcane rules.

    Source: U.S. Court Issues Discordant Ruling on Campaign Law

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    Friday, May 2, 2003
    More on McCain-Feingold

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:56 pm

    I must admit, I am stunned at the length of the opinion. While I still think that the basic upshot is that the key provisions have been taken out of the bill. The more I read about the decision, the more it seems there is a lot of muddy water out there, and knowing what one can and cannot do as a candidate is rather confused at this point.

    Still, to me, the main issues are the definition of soft money, and to whom it can be donated, and the definition of “issue advocacy” and what that definition means in terms of whom can say what.

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    McCain-Feingold RIP (?)

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:48 pm

    By now this isn’t new news, but I really wanted to comment on it, as I have believed from the very beginning, that this law was a bad idea, bad public policy, and likely to be overturned. While campaign finance law is not a main area of research for me, I did write a few entries on the subject for the Encyclopedia of American Law and the Encyclopedia of Public Administration and Public Policy. Quite frankly, I see nothing wrong with unlimited contributions so long as there is full and complete disclosure. On balance all the campaign finance laws do is obscure who is doing what, while encouraging political actors to look for loopholes. One thing that these laws do not do is “get the money out of politics.” As long as the Congress is going to spend $2.2 trillion out our $10+ trillion economy, people are going to want influence who sits in those seats on Capitol Hill.

    Here are the key provisions that were struck down

    By a 2-1 vote, the panel largely struck down the ban on soft money contributions to national political parties. This means that unions and corporations, the biggest donors, will once again be able to give large contributions for general party activities.

    I suspect that the court was following the Supreme Court’s logic in prior rulings that money is tantamount to speech. Since the main way one communicates politically in this society is via TV, one has to have money to have political speech, and by extension to curtail a group or individual from spending money on political speech is a violation of their free speech rights.

    The panel also voted 2-1 to declare unconstitutional the section of the law that limits soft-money contributions to state and local parties, with some qualifications. But it upheld the limits for federal officeholders and candidates.

    Same basic deal, although I will be interested to see what the “qualifications” are. I am not surprised officeholder and candidate limits were upheld, although I would lift them, if it were up to me.

    The law restricted broadcast ads by outside groups shortly before elections. By a 2-1 vote, the court struck down this provision for the law’s primary definition of issue ads.
    This was the provision I always knew would be stricken-it is an utterly remarkable curtailment of political speech. How any member of Congress could vote for it in good conscience is beyond me. How one of the three judges could have voted to uphold it is amazing as well.

    I expect that the Supreme Court will either let this ruling stand, or end up strengthening it by hearing the case and rendering an opinion.

    And while the story reads “parts"-the court essentially gutted the bill. The stuff that made McCain-Feingold McCain Feingold are now all gone.

    Source: Court Throws Out Parts of Campaign Finance Law

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    • Confessions of a G33k linked with Money is speech, so sayeth the Supreme Court
    Will the Drug War go Hi-Tech?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:20 pm

    While I have long had qualms about the general efficacy of the drug war itself, it is clear that the guerrillas are going to have to be militarily defeated, or at least forced to negotiate. And at this point the anti-guerrilla war and the anti-drug war are the same thing. And I suppose that application of some of the drone technology that was on display in Iraq could be of great use in Colombia. I continue to think that some sort of serious escalation is coming, and one that will involve the US, although not in any full scale manner.

    Colombian President Alvaro Uribe confirmed on Friday that he wants the United States to supply Colombia with sophisticated weaponry that will not be needed in Iraq anymore.

    Uribe, who is mainly eyeing weaponry that would bolster his aerial intelligence gathering capabilities, wants to use the equipment to fight terrorists and find three Defense Department civilian contractors kidnapped by guerrillas in February.

    Trying to defeat three guerrilla groups waging a 40-year-old civil war that claims 3,500 lives a year, the Colombian leader is not seeking the deployment of U.S. troops.

    Source: Colombia Eyes U.S. Military Equipment Used in Iraq

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    But is it a Joke?

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:15 pm

    With the UN, it is hard to tell. A good one from the Skeptician: Larry Flynt to Chair UN Council on Women’s Rights

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    Another Fidel Toon

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:48 pm

    Source: Cox and Forkum

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    By Steven Taylor @ 12:38 pm

    I guess there are still “useful idiots” around.

    HAVANA (Reuters) - More than 160 foreign artists and intellectuals, including Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, have come out in defense of Cuba even as many of their peers condemn recent repression on the Communist-run island, one of the campaigners said on Thursday.

    Latin American Nobel laureates Garcia Marquez, Rigoberta Menchu, Aldolfo Perez Esquivel and South African writer Nadine Gordimer, also a Nobel prize winner, have signed a declaration of support, Mexican sociologist Pablo Gonzalez said.

    U.S. singer Harry Belafonte and U.S. actor Danny Glover are also among the personalities who have signed the two-paragraph declaration “To the Conscience of the World” so far, Gonzalez announced to a May Day rally in Havana.

    “A single power is inflicting grave damage to the norms of understanding, debate and mediation among countries,” the declaration says, referring to the United States and the war in Iraq.
    “At this very moment, a strong campaign of destabilization against a Latin American nation has been unleashed. The harassment against Cuba could serve as a pretext for an invasion,” it continues.

    President Fidel Castro’s government has come under unprecedented international criticism from friends and foes after sentencing 75 dissidents to long prison terms

    Reminded me of this toon:

    Source: Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage

    Hat Tip to K Lo at The Corner

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    More on Jobs

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:03 pm

    Neophyte Pundit links to this story which points out that the job report was actually better than expected:

    Treasuries fell after a government report showed the economy lost fewer jobs in April than economists forecast, reducing the chances the Federal Reserve will lower interest rates to help accelerate growth.

    So, again, the economic news continues to be mixed.

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    The Doris Kearns Goodwin Award Winner?

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:32 am

    How can you write for a living and do something like this? It is insane.

    Jayson Blair, the New York Times reporter who copied portions of a Texas newspaper’s story about a woman whose son died during the war in Iraq, resigned under pressure yesterday.


    Raines said Blair’s story last Saturday “incorporated passages from another newspaper’s coverage of the family, in Los Fresnos, Tex., and we have been unable to determine what original reporting he did to produce it.”

    The national staff reporter quit during a Times investigation of whether he had plagiarized quotations and detailed descriptions from the San Antonio Express-News in writing about Juanita Anguiano. The similarities were so great that it was not clear whether Blair had actually interviewed Anguiano.


    He has been involved in a number of controversies and the paper has run 50 corrections on his stories.

    Source: Reporter Resigns Over Copied Story (

    Hat Tip: The Tony Kornheiser Show.

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    The “Invisible Adjunct”

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:51 am

    I found the following blog, the Invisible Adjunct, hopping the blogosphere. It will be of interest to those in academe.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 10:05 am

    I have been linked to POLITICALTHEORY.INFO, which looks like a really useful and interesting site-especially to the PoliSci types out there.

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    Another Bush Image

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:05 am

    To add to my list of last night, I remembered another image I meant to include-Bush throwing out the first pitch at Yankee stadium to restart the 2001 season after the Towers fell.

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    The Cards Continue to Fall

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:26 am

    U.S. Says Three More Top Iraqi Officials Captured

    At least three additional top Iraqi officials have been apprehended, including the former head of the Iraqi ministry in charge of developing weapons, U.S. officials on Friday.

    U.S. Central Command said in a statement that Abdul Tawab Mullah Hwaish, minister of military industrialization and No. 16 on the “most-wanted” list was in custody.


    Also apprehended was No. 42 on the U.S. list, Taha Mohieddin Ma’rouf, an Iraqi vice president and member of Saddam Hussein Revolutionary Command Council, Centcom said.


    A U.S. official in Washington said former Transport Minister Ahmed Murtada Ahmed Khalil had also been arrested in recent days. He was not on the most-wanted list and the official did not have details of his arrest.

    ABC News reported that another former official had been captured and said he was No. 41 on the most-wanted list, Mizban Khadr Hadi, a member of Saddam’s Revolutionary Command Council and a top Baath Party leader. U.S. officials in Washington said they could not confirm this arrest.

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    The Weird Economy Continues to Continue

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:54 am

    As I noted a couple of days ago, we continue to subsist in a weird economy-news is neither all good or all bad. Today we have bad news: Unemployment Climbed to 6% in April as 48,000 Jobs Cut

    The economy has lost more than half a million jobs in the past three months as the number of unemployed workers surged to 8.8 million. Nearly 2 million people have been jobless for 27 weeks or more.

    to offset the good news of a couple of days ago: United Press International: Consumer confidence jumps

    The private research group said its index measuring consumer confidence, which uses 1985 as a base of 100, surged 19.6 percentage points to 81.0 from 61.4 in March.

    The overall good news is that if consumer confidence remains strong, there will be more spending. More spending will lead to more job creation.

    Still, the mixed messages persist.

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    Iraq isn’t 100% Peaceful? Shocking.

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:47 am

    The interesting thing about this piece: The Fog of Peace, is that it describes the following with something of an air of surprise, or perhaps a hint of failure on the part of the operation:

    Apache helicopter gunships zoomed toward a band of paramilitary fighters who were stealing crates of ammunition from an arms cache near Saddam Hussein’s hometown, Tikrit. As the Iraqis tried to make a getaway, the Apaches opened fire, turning the paramilitaries’ truck into a hunk of twisted metal and killing 14.

    This is not an old war episode. It took place Wednesday night, just a day before President Bush flew to the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to announce the end of major combat operations in Iraq. And it illustrates the complicated mission American forces now face as they try to bring stability to Iraq.

    But, really, anyone who expected that once the country was militarily subdued that there wouldn’t continue to be problems and violence was awfully naive. There are going to confrontations and security problems the entire time we are there. Not only is this a major operation in country where some of the population is predisposed not to like us, the bottom line is that human nature is such that some people are going to loot, steal, engage in black marketeering, and attempt to take power that is not rightfully theres. This should not be a surprise.

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    Thursday, May 1, 2003

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:57 pm

    Thanks to PoliSci major Michael and his blog Armchair Analyst for blogrolling PoliBlog!

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    Advantage: Bush

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:48 pm

    The Joe Scarborough show (which I am still not sure if I like or not) started this evening with a series of Bush sound and video bitesI just flipped in during it, so didnt see the whole thing. However, it got me thinking about something that has already been on my mindthe 2004 elections and what advantages I believe Bush has going into that contest. I have argued online in various places (and hopefully in print this Sunday, but I havent heard back from the News concerning my latest submission) that Bush has a huge advantage on the national security front going into his re-election bid. The tv montage made me think of the sources of campaign-commercial fodder that the President has at his disposal, and there is quite a lot. Really, the forty-third President has had a rather eventful first term.

    Here are some of the possible sound/video bites, or sources of same, of note, that none of the Democratic contenders can match:

    The first is the impromptu I can hear you, the American people can hear you, and the people who knocked down these building will hear from all of us soon. moment. This is the Dubya moment-like Reagans Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall, Kennedys Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country, FDRs nothing to fear but fear itself, Nixons I am not a crook, and Clintons I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky (you know the rest). Each set of words helps to define the President who uttered them.

    From there, it is hard to rank the images or quotes. Image-wise, todays event are hard to top: Emerging from a Navy jet in a flight suit looking like a war hero.

    Each of the following has great lines that will be great political-commercial fodder:

    • His post-9/11 speech at the National Cathedral

    • His post-9/11 speech to the joint session of Congress.
    • The speech on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln

    Various images:

    • Greeting and comforting the victims families after 9/11
    • Numerous speeches to military personnel, including today,
    • The typical President with foreign leaders stuffespecially Tony Blair.
    On balance, rhetorically and image-wise, the Democrats are seriously handicapped. As I have noted here, and as I did in an e-mail earlier tonight, the Democrats have to hope for something bad to happen-either in the economy, or in terms of a national security failure-which is not an enviable political position to be in.

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    A Good Speech

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:53 pm

    While there was no new bombshells in the speech (although I thought that the re-emphasis on the Bush Doctrine was significant), I will say that I think it was a good an appropriate speech.

    One thing I will say, and that is to echo what many commentators have noted today-this President has a clear and genuine connection with the troops.

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    Condi, Less So…

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:57 pm

    Ok, maybe Condi isn’t quite in the same league…

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    He Looks the Part

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:45 pm

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    Abortion Obsessed

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:50 pm

    First the promise that all his judicial nominees would have to be firmly pro-choice, now this:

    Senator John F. Kerry said yesterday that he will stop declaring that his first speech on the floor of the US Senate highlighted his support for the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights, a recollection he has learned is not true.

    Not to mention that he is prone to wanting to say what people want to hear-a pathology that got Gore in a lot of trouble in 2000.

    Source: Kerry admits to an error in boast about 1st speech

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    • ScrappleFace linked with Kerry Admits, Corrects 'First Speech' Gaffe

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:43 pm

    Thanks to Paul K. MacDonald (a polisci grad student at Columbia) of
    Casus Belli for linking to PoliBlog.

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    President Flyboy

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:08 pm

    For those who have tv access, the President is supposed to land at 2:50 edt.

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    Gee, If Only We Were More Like Europe…

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:45 am

    This reminds me,I need to put out some fire-ant poison.

    GERHARD Schrder’s unpopular government has acted decisively to protect workers’ rights - worker ants’ rights, that is.

    In an effort to protect the humble German ant from the nation’s over-zealous gardeners, 85 ant-protection officers have been appointed.

    German homeowners and gardeners who attempt to destroy an ant hill or subterranean nest will be subject to hefty fines if caught.

    They must now apply for a permit from their local forestry office to have the ants carefully moved to local woods.

    “People with an ant hill in their garden must under no circumstances resort to the use of poison,” said ant officer Dieter Kraemer. “This is a violation of federal nature protection laws and punishable with hefty fines.”

    He said ants are highly valued by German foresters for eating insects which attack trees. A high ant population can prevent costly and environmentally unfriendly woodland spraying aimed at pests, such as the nun moth which attacks pines and other conifers.

    Source: Killing ants is punishable by law

    Hat Tip: Rantburg

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    Quote of the Day (Judicial Politics)

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:38 am

    You’ve gotta love it:

    In the beginning of Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Bush nominee John G. Roberts Jr., Chairman Orrin Hatch praised Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer of New York for asking “intelligent” questions, but then Hatch switched gears.

    “Some [of his questions] I totally disagree with,” Hatch of Utah said. “Some I think are dumbass questions, between you and me. I am not kidding you. I mean, as much as I love and respect you, I just think that’s true.”

    A stunned Schumer asked if he heard the chairman correctly, to which Hatch said yes. Again, Schumer asked Hatch if he would like to “revise and extend his remark,” congressional speak for change his mind.

    Hat Tip: Rantburg

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    By Steven Taylor @ 10:16 am

    Worms survived Columbia disaster

    Hundreds of worms that were part of an experiment aboard the doomed space shuttle Columbia have been found alive in debris recovered from the crash site, Nasa officials say.

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    More on Why I was Bumped Last Night

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:02 am

    For those interested in the unfolding soap opera that is the University of Alabama coaching scandal (and the reason I was rescheduled for my radio interview last night):

    First, we have some strip-clubbery and then, a very hungry young woman.

    Can we say: “not very smart"? Yes, I bet we can.

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    Further Evolution

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:12 am

    From Crawling Amphibian to Slithering Reptile in a day: The Truth Laid Bear.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:56 am

    Congrats to James of OTB, as he is now in the famed Axis of Weevil atpossumblog.


    [UPDATE: Thanks to Janis for pointing out to me the non-plural nature of Weevil]

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    And the 2004 National Champion Is…

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:29 am

    I remain amazed at the earliness of the 2004 campaign, and the various references to polls at this very early stage. It is like starting the BCS poll in August and taking it seriously.

    Here are the latest (mid-April) numbers from NH:

    John Kerry is maintaining his lead among likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire while Howard Dean has lost some of his pre-war momentum from a month ago. Preference for Kerry is at 24% while preference for Dean has dropped back to 19%. Preference for Dick Gephardt is at 15% and preference for Joe Lieberman is at 13%.

    I am somewhat surprised at the basic breakdown, but am also firmly of the opinion that these will not be the finale numbers by a longshot-for example, if Dean comes in second, I will be fairl surprise, even though he is a New Englander.

    Source: The New Hampshire Poll

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    The Ultimate Boycott

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:22 am

    Boycott Hollywood is being closed down, having run afoul of attorneys.

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    The Need for Modernization

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:02 am

    There is a lot of unkind ways to comment on this, but this problem does bespeak of the need for modernization in the Arab world where traditionalisitc practices such as these prevail:
    Saudi Arabia Awakes to the Perils of Inbreeding.

    Across the Arab world today an average of 45 percent of married couples are related, according to Dr. Nadia Sakati, a pediatrician and senior consultant for the genetics research center at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.

    In some parts of Saudi Arabia, particularly in the south, where Mrs. Hefthi was raised, the rate of marriage among blood relatives ranges from 55 to 70 percent, among the highest rates in the world, according to the Saudi government.

    Widespread inbreeding in Saudi Arabia has produced several genetic disorders, Saudi public health officials said, including the blood diseases of thalassemia, a potentially fatal hemoglobin deficiency, and sickle cell anemia. Spinal muscular atrophy and diabetes are also common, especially in the regions with the longest traditions of marriage between relatives. Dr. Sakati said she had also found links between inbreeding and deafness and muteness.


    Among more educated Saudis, marrying relatives has become less common and younger generations have begun to pull away from the practice. But for the vast majority, the tradition is still deeply embedded in Saudi culture.


    “Saudi Arabia is a living genetics laboratory,” said the executive director of the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research, Dr. Stephen R. Schroeder, an American geneticist who has been doing research in Saudi Arabia for the last year. “Here you can look at 10 families to study genetic disorders, where you would need 10,000 families to study disorders in the United States.”

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    Hmm, Ya Think?

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:54 am

    And the winner of the “no, kidding” award for today is the following headline in today’s NYT: ‘Road Map’ Will Require Bush to Balance Host of Opposing Forces. And here I thought that peace could be achieved without balancing opposing views.

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    How Long Until Everyone is Sick of Them?

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:41 am

    Howard Fineman has an interesting piece on MSNBC: It’s Early, But Democrats Are Active. One wonders if this hyper-early opening of the Democratic Primary season might not have an overall negative effect for the Democrats. Not only are they going to be seen as fighing one another for over half a year before the first vote is cast, they run the risk that the public will get tired of them well before the actual primaries start.

    Fineman’s observation of the importance of the net for the campaign is accurate, I think. However, I think he overestimates the likely impact of young voters.

    And, interesting:

    Winning campaigns usually, though not always, are led by candidates and managers who havent been around Washington and the upper echelons of electioneering. Recent examples include the Reaganites, who came out of California circles, and the Clinton campaign, which was led by a cadre of younger hands who hadnt managed a presidential campaign before.

    Thats not true this time. Each of the Big Five campaigns is being run by a member of the Washington Democratic management elite. That includes the outsider Dean, whose main man is Joe Trippi, a savvy veteran who began his career working on Walter Mondales campaign in 1984. At least Trippi has moved to Vermont, where Dean was governor for a decade. The rest of the Trippi family is about to follow him north. I love it up here, he says. He sounded like he meant it. But the rest of his consulting firm is still in Washington.

    I think I will give Karl Rove the nod in this fight.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 7:13 am

    Well, u- um, can we come up and have a look?

    What Monty Python Character are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

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    By Steven Taylor @ 6:56 am


    To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Hat tip: Common Sense and Wonder.

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