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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Final Plame Post of the Night (I Think!)

By Steven Taylor @ 8:10 pm

Andrew Sullivan’s post on his basic position on the Plame story fits my own quite well:

I’m not downplaying the gravity of this Wilson/Plame affair. I’ve already said that if someone leaked the name of an undercover agent, he/she should be fired and prosecuted. If true, it’s appalling. I’m just mystified by many details, I’m suspicious of multiple agendas swirling around, and think we know very little that’s categorical at this stage. This isn’t like the Trent Lott affair, when all the facts were available from day one. It’s murkier and, I’ll bet, will get murkier still. So let’s wait and see what comes out. Okay?


I agree that the person who leaked the information should be fired, and prosecuted if appropriate. The main thing I continue to want to know is: what was/is Plame’s exact status vis-a-vis this story and what damage was done? Before we can determine what the punishment should be, it would be nice to know exactly what harm was done. The law in question was written to protect peoples’ lives. Were lives threatened by this? Were precious intelligence sources compromised? Was this just inconvenient? It is impossible to know at this point.

Defenders of the administration shouldn’t be dismissive, but those scraping for a fight have to realize that this is hardly Watergate. Or do people really think that this goes to the President? It seems rather unlikely, quite frankly.

I will grant, if Karl Rove was in fact involved, that would be major. However, there is no evidence there, either, save for Wilson’s accusations, which hardly constitute anything approximating hard data. Indeed, from the very beginning I have thought that part of what turned this all into a feeding frenzy for those wishing political harm on the Bush administration was the whiff of a possibility that they could take down Rove, who is clearly one of the Democrats least favorite administration figures. The politics go further, in fact, because the situation gives them the chance to criticize the DoJ, and another of their least favorite types: John Ashcroft.

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Comment Response

By Steven Taylor @ 8:06 pm

Rather than respond in the comments section, here’s a response to some of the commentary on the Plame affair-aimed at JohnC mostly, but to a more general audience as well:

If you read carefully what I have written you will note that much of my discussion of the law and the DoJ investigation have hardly been doctrinaire. I initially saw reports of 50 or referrals to the DoJ and took that to mean similar types of problems (and as I noted, I was unsure if that was the case, but the reportage seemed to indicate it was). When it was cleared up by WaPo this morning, I cleared it up on my blog. I really don’t think I can be accused of being dismissive of the gravity of this situation, but rather have been engaged in wondering what was really going on.

But trust me on the CIA investigation angle-if they really knew who it was, he/she would be in cuffs by now. They know that there was a leak-but they don’t know who leaked it. This is clear. And I haven’t ascribed any motives to the CIA-although I saw several TV pundits doing so this evening.

And yes, the CIA full well knows Plame’s exact status. I have only been asking on the Blog as to what that status was/is. There has been some contradictory reporting on this subject, but as things have settled out, it seems clear she was undercover. Ok, but that still doesn’t answer the question of what that means in this context-i.e., the exact amount of harm done. I am not defending the leak, nor have I done. Mostly I have asked questions. Some have been answered, others not.

To summarize some of my recent postings:

  • As James of OTB, Matthew Yglesias, and myself noted, the initial coverage was uneven.
  • Novak claims that she wasn’t undercover, but was an analyst. Plus his clarifications seemed to dispel parts of the story (here, here and here). This made it sound like much ado about nothing. Indeed, part of what he has said is contrary to what has been reported elsewhere, leading me to think that someone is lying, mistaken, or confused (or all three). I tend to have high regard for Novak’s reporting (although not so much his TV punditry), so I have to admit that his version of events makes me wonder what is going on.
  • The first stuff I read on the CIA referral to DoJ made me wonder how common such situations are. Careful readers will note that I did not claim that the affair was pro forma, but rather that the reporting made it have a “pro forma feel"-and I noted that I was highly unsure as to whether that was an accurate impression or not. Indeed, I pondered as to what the normal procedure was and even read the legislation to see if I could get a clue, I was unable to do so, as I stated.
  • When WaPo reported that this was a unique event amongst those 50 referrals, I blogged that fact. I also noted in that post that it appeared that she was indeed undercover.
  • I later noted that leakers are hard to catch.

    Really, I am not sure how any of this qualifies as “spin” or how it places me in the rabid right-wing blogger camp. Mostly I have reported the story as it has unfoled, analyzed the info at hand, and asked questions.

    On balance I am only sure of two things:

    1) This ain’t Watergate II, and it won’t bring down the Bush administration, unless there is some shocking ramification of this leak we are unaware of.


    2) Someone did do something wrong, and should be appropriately punished.

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    Woolsey on the Leak

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:09 pm

    Via CNN, here is part of a transcript from an interview with former CIA Director, James Woolsey. The first snip underscores what I said in a comments section a little earlier today: leakers are rarely caught:

    WOOLSEY: […] CIA refers crimes report over about once a week to the Department of Justice whenever there’s a leak or any other potential violation of law that they come across.

    And it’s relatively routine thing. These leaks get investigated all the time. Occasionally somebody gets caught, but it’s pretty rare. It’s a lot rarer any directors of Central Intelligence would wish.

    HEMMER: Listening to your answer there, it appears that you’re throwing water on to this story. Are you?

    WOOLSEY: No, not necessarily. It was a bad thing to identify an agent, an asset, an officer actually who is identified as a CIA officer. And whoever did it ought to be caught and punished. It’s just that it rarely happens.

    Also of interest:

    HEMMER: What does it mean if she’s an analyst or operative and not a spy? Is that less serious? Is that the suggestion?

    WOOLSEY: Well, most of the time in the business, people don’t really use the word “operative.” Analyst would normally mean - if that’s true - that she worked usually in Washington, that she would be able to admit to people that she worked at the CIA. And it would not be nearly so serious a thing.

    If she was a clandestine service officer, an officer who worked in the field, recruiting informants, spies, or undertaking covert action, then naming her really would be a serious matter. And we apparently have a factual dispute, from what Mr. Novak said there, about whether she was a clandestine service officer or not.

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    Generals in Politics

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:53 pm

    I just came across this piece (A War Is Nice on the Rsum, but It May Not Get You the Job) from Sunday’s NYT on generals in politics-a nice little read.

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    More on Plame

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:27 am

    Daniel W. Drezner has more on the Plame affair, specifically info on the now full-fledged Justice Department investigation.

    He also provides a link to a WaPo story which discusses the relevant legal issues. Some of the basics:

    The statute includes three other elements necessary to obtain a conviction: that the disclosure was intentional, the accused knew the person being identified was a covert agent and the accused also knew that “the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent’s intelligence relationship to the United States.”

    The law says no person other than the one accused of leaking the information can be prosecuted, a provision that would protect journalists who report leaked classified information identifying a covert agent. But there is one exception to that protection.

    The article answers one of my basic questions: while memos requesting investigations of breach of classified information are common, the specific type of incident here is not common. Indeed,

    The CIA makes about one referral a week to the Justice Department concerning possible unauthorized disclosure of classified information, according to officials.

    However, my other main question remains: and that is the exact (not the inferred) status of Ms. Plame, as it bears not only on the overall affair, but to the legal questions specifically. Although one would think from this

    In mid-September, the agency sent follow-up material that answered a series of questions such as whether the officer’s identity was already in the public domain, according to a U.S. intelligence official.

    that is, if her name was in the public domain, then this would have been dropped.

    Of course, a fundamental question is going to be: who initially let the cat out of the proverbial bag, as it may be that the “leaker” got the info from another source, who be the actual person who committed a crime.

    At any rate, accusations of guilt, or statement of exoneration would both be premature.

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    Arianna Online Ad

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:14 am

    PoliPundit points us to Arianna’s latest online ad.

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    Slate on the “Plame Game”

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:19 am

    JackShafer has a piece in Slate on everyon’e favorite budding scandal.

    He reaches this conclusion, which I suspect is correct:

    But unless some startling news surfaces about the leakers, their identities, and their motives, I doubt this summer scandal will ripen into delectable fall fruit.

    And has this to say about Plame:

    Who exactly is Valerie Plame? Corn writes that she “is known to friends as an energy analyst in a private firm,” which is not as convincing as Corn writing that she is an energy analyst in a private firm. (It sounds to me as if “energy analyst in a private firm” is the polite cover all of her friends use, knowing that she works at the CIA. It could be that Plame’s “secret” is no secret at all.) I find no mention of her on Nexis prior to the current scandal, and the only pre-scandal mention I found on the Web was Wilson’s bio sheet on the Middle East Institute’s Web site in which she is described as his wife, “Valerie Plame.”

    Can we really imagine that Wilson’s wife used her name, Valerie Plame, to go undercover for the CIA? Children and dogs have Web pages that identify their interests and accomplishments. You’d imagine that an “energy analyst at a private firm” would have left some sort of HTML trail for Google to pick up. Unless reporters and investigators ferret out any new information, the Justice Department is not likely to find that any lasting harm was done to national security. Instead of prosecuting, Tenet might have his druthers this time and fire whoever leaked the information from the CIA and recommend the president do the same at the White House.

    The whole piece is worth a read.

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    Another Guantanamo Arrest

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:58 am

    Guantanamo Translator Is Arrested

    A physician working as a translator at the U.S. prison camp for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was arrested Tuesday, a federal law enforcement official said.

    The official, describing the apprehension at Boston’s Logan International Airport, identified the suspect as Ahmed Mehalba. The official, who discussed the case on grounds of anonymity, said Mehalba had stopped in Boston Monday after arriving on a flight from Cairo.

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    Presidency Wars

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:57 am

    David Brooks piece in the NYT’s today is worth a read.

    The money paragraph:

    The fundamental argument in the presidency wars is not that the president is wrong, or is driven by a misguided ideology. That’s so 1980’s. The fundamental argument now is that he is illegitimate. He is so ruthless, dishonest and corrupt, he undermines the very rules of civilized society. Many conservatives believed this about Clinton. Teddy Kennedy obviously believes it about Bush. Howard Dean declares, “What’s at stake in this election is democracy itself.”

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    Plame Updates

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:48 am

    On the media-front, NPR did note the story in the headlines section of Morning Edition today, mostly highlighting the calls by some Senate Democrats for an independent investigation. There were no new facts, and indeed, the basic report on the incident sounded very much like the Sunday WaPo story.

    Meanwhile, BlogMaster InstaP has a lengthy new post on the subject, with some interesting links, as does Daniel Drezner.

    Ogged has the following which inludes info from today’s WaPO which states that Plame was indeed undercover. While I have no cause to doubt that fact, I am still confused that if that was the case, why did the CIA confirm to Novak that she as an employee? Further, he stated yesterday that he had confirmed that she was just an analyst. Overall, someone somewhere is wrong, confused or lying.

    The WaPo story also sheds some light on the CIA memo to Justice, which indicates that this is perhaps not routine:

    Three weeks ago, intelligence officials said, the CIA returned to the Justice Department a standard 11-question form detailing the potential damage done by the release of the information. Officials said it may have been the first such report ever filed on the unauthorized disclosure of an operative’s name. Word of the Justice probe emerged over the weekend after the CIA briefed lawmakers on it last week.

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    Monday, September 29, 2003
    Novak Speaks/Analyst v. Agent

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:46 pm

    Here’s more on Novak’s statements tonight via CNN.

    Novak said Monday that he was working on the column when a senior administration official told him the CIA asked Wilson to go to Niger in early 2002 at the suggestion of his wife, whom the source described as “a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction.”

    Another senior administration official gave him the same information, Novak said, and the CIA confirmed her involvement in her husband’s mission.

    In his column, Novak attributed the information about Plame’s involvement in Wilson’s trip to Africa to two unnamed senior administration officials. But he did not attribute her name to them.

    “[The CIA] asked me not to use her name, but never indicated it would endanger her or anybody else,” he said.

    The crux of the matter:

    Novak said a confidential source at the CIA told him Plame was “an analyst, not a spy, not covert operative and not in charge of undercover operatives.”

    Other CIA sources told CNN on Monday that Plame was an operative who ran agents in the field.

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    The Passage in Question

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:20 pm

    For anyone who hasn’t actually read the Novak piece in question, here’s the passage that is causing all the uproar:

    Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. “I will not answer any question about my wife,” Wilson told me.

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    The Same Topic Continued…

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:56 pm

    Here is a similar set of statements from a piece:

    The CIA triggered the Justice inquiry with a memo saying that there may have been an unauthorized disclosure about the wife of Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador.


    The CIA is required to notify Justice if it believes there may have been an unauthorized disclosure.

    There is a certain pro forma feel to the procedure, but again, that may be the reportage.

    (Thanks to commenter “ewinger” for the link).

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    CIA Referral

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:25 pm

    I would be curious precisely what it is that normally triggers such a referral. Is it just the mention of CIA personnel in the press? Is there some other specific tripwire?

    The Justice Department receives about 50 CIA referrals a year seeking a preliminary investigation into leaks of classified information, a senior administration official said. Very few ever get beyond the preliminary investigation.

    Investigators have to answer a number of questions before deciding whether to begin a full-blown criminal investigation, the official said.

    Among the most difficult to determine is how many people in the government might have been privy to the classified information. Other key questions are how much damage was done by disclosure, whether the leaker was aware the information was classified and whether that person had intended to violate the law.


    After Novak’s column was published, the CIA’s Office of General Counsel sent a letter in late July to the Justice Department, saying that a violation of the law had apparently occurred when someone provided Novak with the CIA officer’s name. The letter was not signed by CIA Director George Tenet and did not call for a specific investigation of the White House.

    It does appear that those calling for a independent investigation may have jumped the gun a bit, for even if there is something serious here, such an action seems premature at this point.

    Source: White House Denies Leaking CIA Agent’s ID

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    More Leaky Info

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:19 pm

    Speaking of Unfogged, they have several postings on this subject.

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    More on Novak/Plame

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:17 pm

    Ogged quotes a Drudge posting that quotes Novak noting that the CIA asked him not to use Plame’s name, but “but never indicated it would endanger her or anybody else.” This revelation, which seems to be a different quote than the Crossfire bite I heard earlier, is interesting, but continues to leave this whole story in a somewhat strange space, conclusion-wise.

    Ogged thinks this proves that two senior administration officials committed a crime. I am not so sure, insofar as it makes no sense (whether the CIA wanted her name used or not) that they would confirm, over the phone to a reporter that Plame was an employee if that was classified information. Indeed, it makes no sense whatsoever for them to so much as discuss her, if, in fact, revealing her identity would compromise covert operations.

    The whole thing boils down to whether or not she was covert operative, or just an analyst.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 4:05 pm

    According to a radio report I just heard, Novak said on Crossfire today that he did not get the Plame info from a leak, but from an interview, and that when he called the CIA to confirm that she worked for them, they confirmed that fact-which would be strange if she was indeed some covert operative.


    UPDATE: K-Lo of NRO is reporting the same..

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    Plame Coverage

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:56 pm

    Following on James of OTB’s discussion (here, here, and elsewhere)of the lack of coverage of the Plame story, it is noteworthy that a Google News search on “Plame” shows only a handful of entries, and WaPo and Slate are the only major (ok, major and mid-level) sources listed.

    UPDATE (4:24pm, cdt): Since I origially posted this, a few more stories have emerged (Newsday, VOA, WaTi, and CNN now all have stories).

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Valerie Plame
    Plame Affair

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:51 pm

    I still feel as if I am not quite up to speed on the Plame affair, not so much because I haven’t now been exposed to the story in its current totality, but because the whole thing doesn’t fully track for me. For the example that I cannot understand why anyone would have, as reported in WaPo on Sunday, “outed” Ms. Plame for “revenge.” It isn’t that I don’t see the damage, but rather, of the things that could be done to punish Ms. Plame’s husband, Mr. Wilson (a critic of the administration and a central figure in obviating the claims that Iraq tried to purchase “yellowcake” from Niger), how this was considered to be a efficacious way to do so.

    I am not saying that it didn’t happen, or couldn’t have happened, nor am I defending the administration. I am just saying the whole thing makes no sense. Especially the whole calling the media and “shopping” the info. Especially from a notoriously leak-averse White House.

    Of interest is an NRO column by Clifford May which asks:

    Who leaked the fact that the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV worked for the CIA?

    What also might be worth asking: “Who didn’t know?”


    That wasn’t news to me. I had been told that but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhand manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.

    The rest of the column is an interesting critique of Mr. Wilson, but one that does not directly, in my view, deal with the Plame “outing” issue.

    Now, Mr. May is a pro-administration partisan, but if what he says is true, then that puts a interesting spin on the overall situation, not to mention the “revenge” issue itself. A legitimate question at this point, to me, is what exactly was Mr. Plame’s status? Another question, that is inferred from Mr. May’s critique of Mr. Wilson is this: if Ms. Plame’s status was that delicate, why would the CIA assign her husband to this delicate and WMD-related task (WMD’s is Ms. Plame’s expertise)?

    As I have noted, the whole story feels incomplete.

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    Speaking of the Clark Column…

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:29 pm

    I am scheduled to make a return appearance on the Birmingham area Lee Davis show on WYDE (101.1 FM) tonight at about 7:30.

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    PoliColumn (eVersion)

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:23 pm

    The following is the submitted version of a column published yesterday in the Birmingham News under the title “Initial excitement over General Clark could wane". The online News version is still screwed up, and I don’t know if they will fix it. Some editing was done, so this version isn’t the same as that which was published:

    Initial excitement over General Clark could wane
    Birmingham News, Sunday September 28, 2003

    And so the Nine becomes the Ten. Retired four-star General Wesley Clark, former NATO Commander and CNN military analyst, has entered the competition for the Democratic Partys presidential nomination, immediately. In two national polls (CNN/USA Today/Gallup and Newsweek), Clark registered as the front-runner in the Democratic field, and according to the Gallup poll is in a statistical tie with President Bush. Two questions arise: first, how seriously should these initial poll numbers be taken, and second, what are his actual chances for winning his party’s nomination?

    There is no doubt that Clark, despite some gaffes (such as saying a day or so after his announcement that he would have voted for the war resolution authorizing the use of military force in Iraq, and then, the next day, reversing himself and emphatically stating that he would never have voted for the resolution), has had an impressive debut. Still, how should we interpret these numbers, and will Clark have staying power? Clearly, Clarks early popularity is at least a partial reflection of the weakness of the existing Democratic field, and also a product of the dissatisfaction of roughly half the population with the Presidents handling of Iraq. These factors, combined with an avalanche of news coverage of Clark in recent days, have helped propel Clark to the top of the charts.

    It is far too early to know if Clark will stay at the topindeed, the likelihood is that he will fade somewhat. For one thing, we do not currently know how Clark is polling in early caucus/primary states, such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. It should be remembered that national popularity is not the main metric in a nomination fight, but rather it is in the trenches of early state primaries that we truly sort out who the front-runner is to be. Once those numbers come out, we will have a better idea of his actual standing.

    Also, part of Clarks appeal is also a potential weakness, i.e., that we dont know much about him, apart from his impressive military resume. The blankness of his political canvas is both an asset and a potential pitfall: it allows supporters of myriad stripes to flock to his banner with the hope/assumption that Clark believes as they do on a host of domestic issues (hence high poll numbers). Of course, this also means that once he elucidates his positions, he may start to alienate current supporters who thought/hoped that he held different positions. Much of what Clark thinks on a host of issues is quite unknownindeed, he did not officially declare that he was a Democrat until September 3rd of this year.

    Indeed, Clark comes into this race with a number of problems that he must overcome if he is to win the nomination. First, he is a political neophytehe has never run for elective office at any level, let alone held one. Running for President is the biggest stage there is, politically speaking. Every word, every movement is videotaped, and every misstep is broadcast ad infinitum on twenty-four hour global television.

    Second, he is a late-comer into a crowded field. While it is true that we are many months away from the actual start of the primary season, it is also true that the current field has been raising money and currying favor with key voting populations and interest groups for most of this past year. For example, Clark starts his campaign with no actual funds and pledges of $1.5 million, while top-tier candidates such as Howard Dean and John Kerry have cash available in the $10 million (or more) rangeand they have already spent millions. Further, the candidates have been blanketing early delegate-selection states such as Iowa and New Hampshire with commercials and personal appearances. Clark will not only have to compete in those states immediately, he will have to work to change the minds of voters who have already been swayed by existing candidates.

    Third, historical patterns arent in Clarks favor. The last time that a political rookie was elected to the Presidency was in 1952 when Dwight David Eisenhower defeated Adlai Stevenson. Indeed, that was the last time that either of the two major parties so much as nominated a political neophyte, let alone elected one. One has to go back to 1940 and Republican Wendell Wilkie to find the next most recent example of a major party nominee who had never held prior elective office.

    Now, before people say, in regards to the Eisenhower model: “See! He was a GENERAL! It proves Clark has a significant shot!” let’s remember: being the victorious Supreme Commander of Allied Forces after World War II, and being a global hero, is a tad more impressive than being the commander of NATO who oversaw the Kosovo campaign. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe is hardly a household name (for example, the current one is General James L. Jones of the U.S. Marine Corps, for anyone who was wondering).

    Once the dust settles, and the hype dies down a bit, look for Clark to find himself polling more in the middle of the pack, not necessarily in national polls, but in the polls which count: state-level numbers from early primary states. Clark will generate a great deal of short-term buzz, but the question persists as to precisely how well that he will do. However, he may well ultimately be running more for a Vice Presidential nod, rather than the top slot. His rookie status, his lack of money and the fact the he is likely too moderate for the Democratic primary voters means that his chances of winning the nomination are small, even with the initial excitement he has generated.

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    News and the Plame Affair

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:45 am

    James of OTB noted yesterday that the news coverage of the Plame “outing” has seemed uneven. Now, he admits to having paid less than normal attention to the news, and I was in slow-news mode over the weekend myself (note the light blogging), but have noted this as well.

    I listened to NPR on the way to work this morning (although I admit to some channel flipping) and didn’t here anything-and I expected it to be part of the headlines section. In flipping TV channels last night I saw Geraldo, Gertz and some other guy (an ex-CIA type) talking about it. I don’t think it was on the front page of the local paper, nor has it been tops on a lot of news websites. Rather, it has been big in the Blogosphere, WaPo, and Drudge.

    It isn’t on the home page of the NYT nor on the actual front page (indeed, while I may have overlooked it, there doesn’t even appear to be a story in the NYT on this topic today).

    Anybody else had a similar experience?

    There are two new stories in WaPo, however:

  • Bush Aides Say They’ll Cooperate With Probe Into Intelligence Leak
  • Media Review Conduct After Leak

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    Sunday, September 28, 2003
    Arnie Gaining Steam

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:33 pm

    Maybe McClintock doesn’t need to drop out after all:

    In a new poll of probable voters released Sunday, support for the recall of Gray Davis has reached 63 percent, and recall candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger leads the other candidates with 40 percent. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante was second with 25 percent support.

    The poll, conducted by CNN, USA Today and the Gallup polling organization, showed that support for firing Davis stronger than many other polls suggested and that Schwarzenegger may finally be reaping the rewards of a solidified electorate.

    And Davis is looking mighty toasty, to be sure.


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    By Steven Taylor @ 3:53 pm

    For the Bama folk out there who get the News, I have a column in today’s opinion section on the Clark candidacy. The online version was improperly loaded, and is therefore truncated. If they don’t fix it by tomorrow, I will post the full text here.

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    Saturday, September 27, 2003
    More New Hampshire Polling

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:01 pm

    Zogby has a new poll on New Hampshire, and like the one from earlier in the week, has Dean way ahead and Clark a distant third:

    Dean earned 30%, compared to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry’s 20%. Newly-announced contender retired General Wesley Clark placed third in the Granite State at 10%

    The numbers are almost the same as the Marist College Poll. And, this further bolsters my argument that the national polls aren’t really the place to watch, and that the “Clark is the front-runner” thesis is incorrect.

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    Conventional Weapons Cache Seized in Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:18 pm

    U.S. Forces Find Weapons Cache in Iraq

    U.S. troops uncovered one of their biggest weapons caches to date Saturday at a farm near Saddam Hussein’s birthplace, including anti-aircraft missiles and a huge quantity of explosives used to make the homemade bombs that have killed numerous American soldiers.

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    Parade of Trolls Redux

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:27 am

    A while back I proposed an idea, called The Parade of Trolls that was intended, in Carnival of the Vanities fashion to allow the Blogosphere to share (and be amused by) various example of Trollishness in the comments section of various blogs. I have been meaning for some time to comment on that rather failed experiment, so here we go.

    By Troll I mean an individual who lurks in the comments section of a blog, leaving strange, often annoying, but normally negative or nonsensical posts. And more than just being annoying they typically range to the level of funny (but not on purpose), although sometimes they are simply abusive. If anything Trolls typically provide mind-boggling feats of illogical. One thing is clear, and what separates a Troll from simply a dissenting voice in ones comments section, is that the Troll really has no interest in reasoned argument, but rather simply wants to spew. Along with bandwidth issues, there is no doubt in my mind that Trolls are one of the main reasons that many blogs dont have comment sections.

    It is also noteworthy, however, that they can also kind of pathetic, insofar as one wonders why some of these people read stuff (often on a daily basis) that they clearly dont like and then take the time to conjure half-baked responses to them. So, in addition to being funny and maddening, they are also rather sad.

    Anyway, the response to my initial request for examples was two-fold, there was a lot of interest in the concept on a general level (for example: here, here, here, here, here and here) but very little in the way of actual examples to showcase. While some of the contributions were clearly example of Trollishness, none were particularly funny, although some did highlight noxious behaviorwhich is less entertaining.

    Indeed, part of the problem may also be that crystallizing Trollish behavior into a single example isnt too easy. For example, here at PoliBlog I have a Pet Troll (to be defined as an individual Troll who, for whatever reason, reads your stuff daily (indeed, usually multiple times a day) and feels the need to toss out commentary), but it is difficult to find a single post that fully captures the overall contributions of the fellow.

    It also leads me to the conclusion that, perhaps, one mans Troll is another mans Freedom Fighter or some suchat least that obnoxiousness in the eye of the beholder. Part of it, too, may be that like stray cats, bloggers think it unwise to feed the Trolls, and the fact that it isnt nice to make fun of people who may not know any better

    So, I had a parade, and basically nobody came. And thats finefor as I like to point out in Real LifeTM, parades are Nineteenth Century entertainment anyway, so why would I want to go to one?

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    ReCAL Round-Up

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:31 am

    As James of OTB notes in a worth-a-read round-up of the current status of the ReCal, Tom McClintock may end up damaging himself in terms of his long-term political future if he stays in the race-because many may not forgive him for being a “spoliler". However, if he will fall on his sword for the good of the party, he could build sufficent goodwill to aid him in a future run at statewide office. However, his willingness to accept Indian gambling money may not help, as it is perceived as simply the tribes actually supporting Bustamante by trying to boost McC vis-a-vis Arnold.

    And McClintock’s defense of the funds will, I think, make him look foolish in the long-run:

    McClintock’s campaign rejected the charge that the tribal contributions were part of a secret plot to boost Bustamante’s campaign. The conservative Ventura County lawmaker maintains the donations reflect his 20-year record of supporting tribal sovereignty.

    McClintock’s campaign, which has been struggling to raise $500,000 for commercials scheduled to run next week, welcomed the independent expenditure by the tribe.

    It seems to be clear to almost all observers, save the cash-strapped McClintock camp, that these gambling interests are trying to elect Bustamante-much in the same way Gray Davis spent a ton of money in the 2002 Republican primaries to aid Bill Simon in his race over Richard Riordan-as Davis knew he would have a better shot against Simon.

    Indeed, as a spokesperson for the Schwarzenegger camp put it:

    “The Indian casinos are underwriting the candidacies of Bustamante and McClintock, (but) they don’t want them both to win,”

    Meawhile, Bob Novak reports that

    A principal drafter of President Bush’s tax cuts is now advising Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Republican candidacy for governor in the California recall election.

    Cesar Conda, Vice President Dick Cheney’s economic aide until last week, was one of the Bush administration’s leading supply-siders and tax cut advocates.

    This addition is especially interest because

    Murphy is a top practitioner of “earned media” - unpaid television coverage. Earned media has not been a factor in recent California elections because of limited news coverage, but television has been covering the current recall campaign. Former Gov. Pete Wilson’s political team, which had full control of Schwarzenegger’s campaign until Murphy arrived, is expert in paid media but not in earned media.

    At the end of the day, the outcome of this election probably can’t be fully captured by the polls, since there will be a whole lot of new voters this go ’round (meaning “likely voter” and even “registered voter” samples the last month may have missed important elements of state opinion), because voter registration is on the rise which indicates that the recall has fueled the political interest of individuals who did not vote in the past:

    The number of Californians registered to vote in the Oct. 7 recall election now is greater than it was for last November’s gubernatorial election, and the big gain is among voters who want to affiliate with none of the state’s political parties.

    An unofficial analysis of registration figures shows Republicans have made more significant gains than Democrats in key GOP counties and suffered fewer losses in key Democratic counties, which would seem to improve the chances that Gov. Gray Davis could be recalled.

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    Friday, September 26, 2003

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:52 pm

    “Doctor Who” set to return to TV

    Legendary science fiction hero Doctor Who is time jumping once more, set to return to British television more than a decade after he disappeared into space, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said on Friday.

    Here’s a longer story from the BBC.

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    248 Foreign Fighters Held in Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:59 pm

    Intresting: U.S. Holding 19 al-Qaida Suspects in Iraq

    U.S. forces in Iraq are holding 19 suspected members of the al-Qaida terrorist network, the American civilian administrator said Friday.

    The suspected al-Qaida members are among 248 non-Iraqi fighters being held by the Americans in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer said in a Pentagon news conference.


    The largest number of foreign fighters 123 of the 248 came from Syria, Bremer said. The next-highest numbers came from Iran and Yemen, he said, adding he did not have precise figures for those countries.

    This is the first time I have come across these numbers, and specifically the country of origin info.

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    Presidential Polls an Re-election

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:15 pm

    Time to put President Bush’s poll numbers in historial perspective. His current Gallup poll numbers (from 9/19-21/03) put him at 50%, his lowest rating in the poll since he came to office.

    Here are the Presidential Approval numbers for the past several Presidents at the same point in their time in office as President Bush. (All are Gallup Poll numbersthe historical data an be found at the Roper Centers website).

    Clinton: 9/11-17/95, 44%; 9/22-24/95, 48%
    Bush (G.H.W.): 9/5-8/91, 70%
    Reagan: 9/4-12/83, 47%
    Carter: 9/7-10/79, 30%
    Nixon: 8/27-30/71, 49%
    Johnson: 9/14-19/67, 38%
    Eisenhower: 9/15-20/55, 71%
    Truman, 9/12-17/47, 55%

    Of most interest would be Clinton, Reagan, Nixon and Eisenhower, as they were all full two-termers.

    Certainly this shows us that poll numbers a year and about two months before the general elections isnt a very good predictor of electoral success (look at Forty-Ones numbers, for example). It also shows us that Bushs current numbers are not historically out of line with Presidents who have managed to win second terms.

    Mostly they show that the analysis that Bushs numbers are in free fall (as Talking Points Memo termed it (and was noted by WaPo and the Dead Tree version of WSJ (and responded to by TPM here) are engaged in incorrect analysis, insofar as Bushs numbers have been high due to a compounding of the rally around the flag effect and have remained high for an unusually long period of time, so what we are seeing right now is the post-911 boost and the Iraq War boost fading, and the numbers have settled back to what would be “normal” in historical terms. As such, characterization of Bushs approval rating being in “free fall” are wishful thinking on the part of Democrats. Although, there is no denying that they are down in terms of his own numbers (although he seems to have bottomed out have had an uptick in the latest Zogby poll).

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Perfumed Prince Report - 9/29/2003
    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Perfumed Prince Report - 9/29/2003
    Musings on the “Do Not Call List”

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:57 am

    I know that telemarketers are annoying (and that they drive my wife, in particular, crazy), however as I watch this do not call brouhaha emerge I have to ask myself, is this really the kind of the thing that the federal government ought to worrying about? (Indeed, it has been a trifecta, with the legislative, executive and judicial all getting involved here). Is this the proper way to spend the time of legislators, bureaucrats, and judges?

    I am sufficiently libertarian (and capitalistic) in my leanings to think that a market-based solution is sufficientif enough people dont buy things from telemarketers, then the whole thing will cease to exist. Dont buy products from companies who call your house, and tell them so over the phone. I just hang up on them. Or, just use call waiting or your answering machine to screen calls. Heck, my brother has a set up now where your number doesnt ring through if it isnt on a list (kind of like a spam filter for the phone). On the one hand, one might say I shouldnt have to go to such extremesbut on the other, is it the proper role of government to keep us from being annoyed? The whole thing smacks of there oughta be a law syndrome which ultimately does nothing more than expand, over time, the reach of the government over our daily lives. While there is nothing nefarious about a do not call list, per se, there is something that I dont like about using the government to deal with a minor annoyance.

    Overall I simply get itchy when the government at any level gets overly involved with the minutiae of our daily lives, or attempts to micromanage inconvenience.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 6:44 am

    Clearly, at this point anyway, the other Dems don’t see Clark as the front-runner, but rather still see Dean as the occupier of that slot:

    Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark was the object of curiosity, while former Vermont governor Howard Dean was the target for attack.


    In contrast to Clark, Dean was very much at the center of the action throughout the debate, most of the time on the defensive.

    That is to say that if the other Nine felt more threatened by Clark, there would have been more attacks-the opportunity was certainly there. As it is, they clearly consider Dean the main threat (as the poll numbers from NH show) and are going to wait and see on Clark. I still think a lot of them are thinking he would be a great running mate, and so will probably not attack unless he becomes a bigger threat to their positions.

    Source: Among the 10, Two Are Tested the Most

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    Thursday, September 25, 2003
    Pres Polls

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:08 pm

    My reaction to the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll the other day that had Bush and Clark tied (and all the other Democrats much closer to Bush than all the previous polls) was that I thought that Gallup had over-sampled Democrats. Three new polls seem to support that hypothesis.

    If you check out’s latest round-up you will see that in the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, Bush bests Clark 46-37, in the latest Zogby poll, Bush 45, Clark 35, and the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has the Bush v. Clark head-to-head at 45-38.

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    NH Poll

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:35 pm

    As I was saying the other day, true front-runner status in the Dem nomination process is going to be predicated on the state-by-state polls. And a new Marist College poll has Clark more where I expected him to be, in the low double-digits:

    Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean leads the field of Democratic presidential candidates for the 2004 New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary with 35%. Senator John Kerry receives 22%, followed by General Wesley Clark with 11%. The other candidates trail with single digits.

    Source: Marist Poll :: Home

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    Interesting: CA GOP Seeks Unity

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:19 pm

    California GOP leaders discuss unity

    Republican leaders from across California were to meet Thursday to discuss a strategy for “uniting” the party ahead of the October 7 recall election to prevent Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante from taking over if Gov. Gray Davis is voted out.

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    Arnie Picking Up Steam

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:23 pm

    Schwarzenegger picking up GOP endorsements

    Bill Simon, a conservative businessman who ran unsuccessfully against Democratic Gov. Gray Davis last November, will offer his endorsement at a news conference with Schwarzenegger later Thursday, sources said.

    Friday, Rep. Darrell Issa, the man who used his personal fortune to finance the petition campaign that triggered the recall, will also endorse Schwarzenegger, sources close to Issa told CNN.


    For his part, McClintock vowed again Thursday not to drop out of the race,.

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    Edward Said, RIP

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:07 pm

    I was unaware that he was ill: Edward Said, Leading Advocate of Palestinians, Dies at 67.

    I read one of his books whilst in graduate school and recall finding it rather annoying (as I did later with many of his articles). Indeed, I suspect there is very little over which he and I agreed. Still, a shame, and for these days, too young.

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    Yet Even More on ReCAL

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:13 am

    Carl Luna of the San Diego Union-Tribune has his own Recall blog, >and provides his own commentary on the debate last night. His basic assessment dovetails well with mine, epsecially on McC:

    my bet is the evening didnt swing any votes to McClintock, which will probably prove fatal to his delectability, if not his candidacy

    And this seems to be the emerging consensus:

    Arnold didnt choke. He didnt particularly shine, for sure his answers were a bit vague, his punch lines a bit prepared but, on the whole, he looked competent, which seemed to be the minimal bar he had to clear.


    I stand by my original bet that, since he proved he can chew gum and walk at the same time, hes going to see a five point bounce in the polls by the weekend and comes out of this the front runner.

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    And the Winner Is…

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:09 am

    Kevin at LA Observed well illustrates that winning a debate is in the eye of the beholder.

    For my own part, I find it hard to declare a winner. Partially it depends on what the goal was.

    One could say that Arnold won, because he didn’t screw up.

    McClintock, though the most thoughtful, lost, because he didn’t do anything that would expand his base of voters.

    Arianna could be said to have won, because she will get lots of pub out the whole affair, which seems to be what she is after (surely she knows she can’t win, so PR is all there is get here). Indeed the rather ugly, but rather apt term “media whore” keeps springing to mind. Anyone have a more polite appellation that I could use that is still as evocative??

    Camejo lost, but then again, who cares? If he gets more than 2% of the vote it will be amazing. Although I will give him points for being intellectually honest and consistent.

    Cruz seemed the calmest and most knowledgeable about state government, so maybe won in terms of “points” (or maybe tied with McC), but like McC, I am not sure he did anything to help exapnd his voting base. Plus, he came across as a tad arrogant.

    I think I just talked myself into saying that Arnie won because he held his own and may have convinced a few fence-sitters that he could maybe really be governor. As PoliPundit put it:

    Ordinary viewers don’t watch debates like journalists do. They’re voting for governor, not judging a debate. What voters are asking is, does the phrase “Governor Schwarzenegger” pass the smell test? After last night, it does.

    If true (and I think it is), I guess Schwarzenegger was the winner.

    Still, the proof will be in the numbers.

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    • The World Around You linked with California Debate Coverage
    Even More ReCAL Debate Round-Up

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:54 am

    Speaking of Kaus, he has some solid post-debate comments as well.

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    Arianna Speaks

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:53 am

    Kaus points us to this rather lame attempt by Arianna to explain her political “transformation”.

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    More ReCAL Debate Blogging

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:17 am

    Priorities & Frivolities has some worthwhile commentary and lots o’ links on last night’s debate.

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    More Debate After-Action Reporting

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:56 am

    A few tidbits:

  • It seemed that neither the Fox News folks, nor the panoply of pundits on Hardball last night thought Cruz did all that well. As one commentator observered: Arianna did all the attacking, leaving the only thing for Cruz to do was apologie for the mistakes that had been made in CA fiscal governance.
  • Another rather important observation that several folks made: McClintock didn’t attack Arnold-which is interesting, given that Arnie is Tom’s main foe n this contest in many ways. If McC wants to win, then he has to take Arnie out-and he didn’t even try last night.
  • Another good observation in re: McClintock was that while he did a really good job of presenting his conservative solutions to the state’s woes, he didn’t say anything that would help expand his appeal. In other words, based on what he said last night, he at best solidified his conservative support, but did nothing to expand his potential voting base.
  • Back to Cruz-he clearly is confident that he is the front-runner, and decided that a passive, above the fray, “I’m the professional amongst the clowns” approach was the way to go.

    I am interested to see the net set of poll numbers.

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    • The World Around You linked with California Debate Coverage
    Wednesday, September 24, 2003
    ReCal Debate Round-Up

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:25 pm

    Here’s my basic round-up of the debate for anyone who missed it:

    Huffington: Every answer was some obnoxious statement about it being either Bushs fault or Pete Wilsons fault, and those big companies, too. Oh, and Bush is a very bad man. Bad Bush. Bad.

    Arnold: Most answers were a canned quip (often amusing), followed by an attack on politicians in general. His strength was in the general are of supporting businessalthough his WSJ column was better.

    Camejo: Clearly increasing taxes on the top 1% will solve everything. Did I mention that the tax system was unfair?

    McClintock: He said solid conservative stuff in a fairly unexciting, but well reasoned fashion, that wont get him enough votes to win.

    Cruz: A clucking of the tongue while he calmly explains to Arnold and Arianna as to how they just dont understand the way government works. And, further, everything is actually fine, so long as we can raise another $8 billion in taxes. And, clearly, anything that is wrong in the state isn’t his fault.

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    • The Accidental Jedi linked with A confession
    Debate Fun

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:16 pm

    James of OTB has a pretty good round-up of the ReCAL debate from tonight. I agree with his basic assessments. The only quibble I have is that I am not sure I would declare Bustamante the winner, except by default, as I found him a bit contradictory and condescending.

    Still, for a “scripted” debate, it was fairly lively.

    I agree with James that I fail to see the need for Camejo and Huffington to be on the stage.

    And, speaking of Huffington, where does she get off calling for Arnold to be honest about who he is? I mean, please, that is a little tough to take given her rather radical (and largely unexplained) make-over in the last several years. And it took some serious cheek to attack Republicans on the “sexual morality” issue, since she pretty much built her early career on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Not to mention she is the only one on the stage to even come close to bringing up the issue by attacking Arnold on the issue of his treatment of women.

    All in all, it was entertaining, although precisely what it accomplished remains to be seen.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 4:37 pm

    Here’s a link to Wesley Clark’s Official Campaign Web site.

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    Former DefMin Given “Effective” Immunity

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:07 pm

    Interesting: Iraqi Defense Minister Said Given Immunity

    Iraq’s former defense minister, who surrendered to U.S. forces last week, was given “effective” immunity from prosecution and the United States hopes he will provide significant information on Saddam Hussein’s weapons activities, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.

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    A Question Restated

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:46 am

    Sully has a more complex iteration of the question that I asked last week.

    The answer, however, is pretty much the same.

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    Just a Rounding Error

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:04 am

    NZ Bear has a great post on the issue of casualty rates and the inherent problem with rounding such figures.

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    Arnie in the WSJ

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:47 am

    Schwarzenegger has a coulmn in today’s WSJ and the first paragraph will be music to the ears of the fiscally conservative:

    I have often said that the two people who have most profoundly impacted my thinking on economics are Milton Friedman and Adam Smith. At Christmas I sometimes annoy some of my more liberal Hollywood friends by sending them a gift of Mr. Friedman’s classic economic primer, “Free to Choose.” What I learned from Messrs. Friedman and Smith is a lesson that every political leader should never forget: that when the heavy fist of government becomes too overbearing and intrusive, it stifles the unlimited wealth creation process of a free people operating under a free enterprise system.

    The piece is an optimistic ode to the need to get government out of the way of business and a reflection on California as a land of opportunity for immigrants.

    If he can get this message out, he will be able to siphon off some of those McClintock voters.

    He proposes the following:

  • First, on taxes, I believe that not only should we not raise tax rates on anyone in California, but we have to reduce taxes that make our state uncompetitive.

  • Second, the California state budget should not grow faster than the California family budget… We need to put teeth into a spending limit law through a constitutional amendment that caps state budget growth…It’s time to live by the basic rule of good business behavior that you can’t spend money that you don’t have.
  • Next, the worker’s compensation system needs an overhaul…Businesses in California pay workers’ compensation costs that are more than double other states.
  • Fourth, I am a fanatic about school reform. To attract world-class, 21st-century businesses, we need a world-class education system. I will maintain the state’s testing program and bring school authority and spending closer to students, parents and local taxpayers and take it away from Sacramento bureaucrats. If schools are systematically underperforming, we will expand choice options for parents with charter schools and enforce public school choice provisions in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
  • He concludes:

    Our state will prosper again when we commit ourselves in California to “Free to Choose” economics. This means removing, one by one, the innumerable impediments to growth-excessive taxes, regulations, and deficit-spending. If we do this we will bring California back as the untarnished Golden State.

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    Tuesday, September 23, 2003
    Getting Through to Students

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:06 pm

    James of OTB points to a post by Greg Goelzhauser concerning the classroom and whether or not it is reasonable for students to know what a professor thinks they should know. While Greg makes a legitimate point (i.e., that sometimes a concept is so obvious to the prof, that the prof cant understand why the students dont get it), I think that Bret Marston is more on target: learning is hard, and students rarely make the effort that they should in regards to their studies.

    For example, every couple of semesters I find it necessary to abruptly cancel class once it becomes evident that no one has done the readings. After calling on a few folks, and getting squat, I tell them that I am no longer going to waste my time in class, tell them that I am going to work in my office ,and that they ought to take the opportunity to go read. Further, I make it rather clear that I am not happy about the situation.

    Now, the first time I did this I knew there was a risk that they would consider the time off a welcome break and a reward for slacking. Quite the contrary: the next class period, they had read, and were ready to discuss the material. Indeed, the event had a nifty unintended consequence: it became a story on campus about how I went off in class and how I expect them to work, etc. It doesnt mean they read all the time, but it clearly affects some of them. And, of course, I have to have an eruption from time to time to keep the legend alive.

    Teaching at a university is sometime like psyops.

    In short: students will often do as little as possible, and require substantial motivation. This doesn’t fully address Greg’s point, but it is part of the issue, without a doubt.

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    Image That

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:10 pm

    I’m shocked! Bush U.N. speech draws mixed, partisan reviews.

    Strangely: Republicans, on balance, liked the speech. Democrats, however, did not. And those Democrats running for President really didn’t like it.

    What a wacky, wacky world.

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    What’s In a Name?

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:54 pm

    Radical changes at UPN: Enterprise Now Trek.

    Imagine that:

    UPN confirmed to SCI FI Wire that its prequel series Enterprise will officially change its name to Star Trek: Enterprise with the Sept. 24 episode. “It’s just a natural tie-in,” a UPN source said in an interview. “Everyone calls it Star Trek anyway.”

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    By Steven Taylor @ 3:29 pm

    I heard this discussed on yesterday: The Big Mac Index. The Index purports to do the following:

    Burgernomics is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity, the notion that a dollar should buy the same amount in all countries. Thus in the long run, the exchange rate between two countries should move towards the rate that equalises the prices of an identical basket of goods and services in each country. Our “basket” is a McDonald’s Big Mac, which is produced in about 120 countries. The Big Mac PPP is the exchange rate that would mean hamburgers cost the same in America as abroad. Comparing actual exchange rates with PPPs indicates whether a currency is under- or overvalued.

    The link above goes to a whole site with various pieces from the Economist on the Big Mac Index. It is actually quite interesting and worth a looksee.

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    An Endorsement for Arnie

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:13 pm

    This isn’t “news” insofar as the info dates to 8/28/03, but I was unaware of it. However, it is interesting to note that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association (the Prop 13 Guy) endorsed Schwarzenegger for governor.

    I found this out by listening to a CA radio station over the ‘net and heard a well-produced Arnie for Gov commercial on taxes, and it noted the endorsement.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 11:09 am

    According to radio reports out of CA, the Ninth Circuit has overturned the 3-judge panel, and has ordered the election to proceed.

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    Inside the Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:08 am

    Drayton Nabers, state finance director of Alabama explains some the numbers linked to the state
    s shortfalls.
    He basically addresses the following question in a piece in the Birmingham News:

    Articles in this newspaper have emphasized a $77 million reduction in appropriations in next year’s proposed budget compared to the current one. If our shortfall is $675 million plus, why then are appropriations only $77 million below that of last year?

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    Clark Polls (and the Other Guys, too)

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:02 am

    Some new poll numbers that will make Clarkites happy:

    Democrat Wesley Clark, in the presidential race for less than a week, is tied with President Bush in a head-to-head matchup, according to a poll that shows several Democratic candidates strongly challenging the Republican incumbent.

    Clark, a retired Army general, garnered 49 percent support to Bush’s 46 percent, which is essentially a tie given the poll’s margin of error. The CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll was conducted Sept. 19-21, beginning two days after Clark announced he would become the 10th Democratic candidate for the party’s nomination.

    Although, the numbers should please other Dems as well:

    In the head-to-head confrontations, it was Kerry at 48 percent to Bush’s 47 percent; and Bush’s 48 percent to Lieberman’s 47 percent. Bush held a slight lead over Dean, 49-45 percent, and had a similar advantage over Gephardt.

    So, there is some general Bush-related weakness out there at this moment. I would argue that this is not radically surprisings, as the “rally around the flag” effects from the war have finally faded, Clark has been getting a ton of attention, the Other Nine have been furiously campagning, and Bush hasn’t been doing much.

    I find the overall uptick in support for all the Democratic candidates interesting, as it is quite different than a serious of relatively recent polls. Either this poll has some bias toward Democratic voters, or it is capturing an important shift in the electorate. Time will, of course, tell.

    I would argue that once the President starts being more active (such as the speech tonight, and once we hit prime legislation time over the next couple of months) his numbers will rise (although not radically). And, especially, once he himself actually starts campaigning in full force next year.

    I still maintain that the Clark boomlet will subside somewhat. I am still primarily interested in the individual state polls, rather than the national ones.

    Source: Clark Tied With President Bush in Poll

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Perfumed Prince Report - 9/23/2003
    Monday, September 22, 2003
    Feel the Excitement!

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:13 pm

    The current system that governs the difference between “official” and “non-official” candidates is borderline silly: Braun Enters Presidential Race-as if she hasn’t been running the whole time.

    At least she has better timing than John Edwards!

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    Perspectives on Rebuilding Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:14 pm

    Larry Lindsey has a column in USAT from yesterday on the costs of rebuiling Iraq. He notes

    Critics are using words like “massive” and “staggering” to describe the cost. But what we really should ask is: Compared with what? We cannot walk away. If we have no choice but to fight, it makes sense to spend what it takes to win. While any dollar amount in the billions is substantial, it’s important to put it into perspective. The Vietnam War cost 12% of GDP at the time and World War II cost 130% of GDP.

    The cost to defeat Saddam was less than half a percent of America’s annual income (measured as gross domestic product). If spending continues at the current pace, our involvement could cost us 0.4% of our income for the rest of this year. If President Bush’s request for $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan is approved, the cost of these two fronts will amount to about 0.8% of our income next year.

    But what does that really mean? Each year American households spend about 1% of their income on alcoholic beverages and another 1% on tobacco products. We spend about 0.7% of our money on cosmetic products. In other words, our combined operations to combat terror in the Middle East cost a bit more than we spend on makeup and shampoo and a bit less than we spend on booze or tobacco.

    And he hits the real “cost” nail on the head here:

    What truly matters, however, is what would have happened had we not deposed Saddam. This is necessarily hypothetical. But we do know that taxpayers funded an extra $40 billion in federal spending immediately after 9/11. This came on top of the costs paid by others, notably insurance companies, and reflects the direct costs, not the cost of the disruption to our economy. Moreover, the lives lost on that day remain priceless.

    Not to mention the ongoing cost of the no-fly zones and other aspects of the containment process: that wasn’t free.

    This piece dovetails well with Michael Barone’s recent piece on the rebuiling from US News

    Today’s media have a zero-defect standard: the Bush administration should have anticipated every eventuality and made detailed plans for every contingency. This is silly. A good second-grade teacher arrives in class with a lesson plan but adapts and adjusts to pupils’ responses and the classroom atmosphere. A good occupying power does the same thing.

    And, indeed:

    The media also have the wrong standard for what is news. It is news when there is a fatal accident at Disneyland and not news when there is not. But Iraq is not Disneyland. In a country that is occupied after decades of a brutal dictatorship, good news is news. Yet with only a few exceptions-see Michael Gordon’s story in the New York Times on the 101st Airborne in northern Iraq-the good news is not being told. More than 6,000 Iraqi civil affairs units-local governments-have been set up. Hospitals have been reopened. A court system has been set up. Mistakes, inevitable in a chaotic world, are being corrected: A Baathist leader put in charge in Najaf was soon removed.

    Rather, the media have covered this the way they cover LA local news: like a never-ending crime report that scares you so much you wouldn’t want to leave your house.

    Hat tips: Viking Pundit for the Lindsey piece and BlogMaster InstaP for the Barone piece.

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    Memory Lane-Terrorists in Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:33 am

    Apropos of the prior post, here’s a reminder: U.S. captures mastermind of Achille Lauro hijacking.

    Abu Abbas, a convicted Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro on which a wheelchair-bound American was killed, was captured by U.S. Special Forces in the outskirts of Baghdad, U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.


    The Palestine Liberation Front, one of multiple offshoots of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was initially based out of Tunisia, but relocated to Iraq after the Achille Lauro hijacking. His group also was responsible for many attacks in Israel.

    While not al Qaeda, the fact that Abu Abbas was allowed to operate in Iraq (and train operatives/plan attacks) is a clear illustration of the fact that Saddam was willing to aid terrorist groups, and that the war in Iraq can legitimately be seen as part of the broader war on terrorism. Clearly Iraq was a state which harbored terrorists and therefore enabled them to act in the region.

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    • Signifying Nothing linked with 9/11, Terror, Saddam, ad nauseum
    Iraq and al Qaeda

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:29 am

    The WSJ’s (registration required) editorial today rightly makes the argument that there are reasonably supported linkages between the former regime in Iraq and al Qaeda, including, but not limited to:

  • About a month after September 11, reports surfaced that lead hijacker Mohammed Atta had met in Prague with an Iraqi embassy official and intelligence agent named Ahmed al-Ani. Al-Ani was a later expelled from the Czech Republic, in connection with a plot to bomb Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Iraq. Despite repeated attempts to discredit the report of a meeting between the two, Czech officials at the cabinet level have stuck by the story. Al-Ani has been captured in Iraq, and the public deserves to know what he’s telling U.S. officials about that meeting.

  • Also in October 2001, two defectors alleged that a 707 fuselage at Salman Pak, south of Baghdad, was being used to train terrorists in the art of hijacking with simple weapons such as knives. Though no link to al Qaeda was alleged, some of the trainees were said to be non-Iraqi Arabs. The fuselage was clearly visible in satellite photos, and has since been found.
  • Press reports, which had begun in 1998, resurfaced that former Iraqi intelligence chief and then-ambassador to Turkey Faruk Hijazi had met with bin Laden and associates on multiple occasions. Hijazi is in U.S. custody too, and has reportedly confirmed some of the alleged contacts.
  • Indeed, given Saddam’s willingness to work with terrorists (e.g., money to the families of Palestinia, amongst others), it is not a ridiculous leap of logic to think that Saddam rendered aid to al Qaeda.

    Further, it is often forgotten in the analysis of this issue that al Qaeda is a loose confederation of actors, not a monolithic, highly institutionalized organization. It isn’t like there was going to be a treaty signed with Iraq or an ambassador from al Qaeda to Baghdad.

    As such, if the Saddam regime did, in any way aid members or cells of al Qaeda, it is legitimate to call such aid a “link to al Qaeda"-especially since transient organziations without a state “home” need such linkages to survive and act.

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    • Signifying Nothing linked with 9/11, Terror, Saddam, ad nauseum
    Clark Link-o-Rama

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:16 am

    Jeff Quinton of Backcountry Conservative has started the “Perfumed Prince Report"-a weekly/more often if he feels like it, link roundup from the Blogosphere and the news on Wesley Clark. The first edition is here and the most recent version is here.

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with The Perfumed Prince Report - 09/21/2003
    UN Hardly Off Limits

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:27 am

    More evidence that the UN is by no means safe from terrorists: Car Bomb Explodes Outside U.N. Mission in Baghdad

    The site of the bombing seemed calculated to send a message that one month after the devastating bombing at the same compound, which killed the chief United Nations representative to Iraq, the United Nations remains a target.

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    Sunday, September 21, 2003
    Name Recognition

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:10 pm

    Clark leads amongst the Ten in a Newsweek poll:

    CLARK WON SUPPORT from 14 percent registered Democrats and democratic leaners, outpacing former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (12 percent), Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (12 percent), Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (10 percent) and Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt (8 percent).

    This doesn’t surprise me, given the Clark coverage this week-and 14% is hardly taking off from the pack. Further, as I have noted concerning Lieberman, these national polls are basically name-recognition polls. The real question is how Clark is doing in NH, Iowa and SC (and, maybe, AZ).

    I would compare Clark’s situation to Schwarzengger’s-lots of media buzz and excitement, which will fade to some degree once things settle down a bit, and Clark starts saying more.

    I still expect him to settle out int he middle-ish of the pack.

    The interest is Clark is interesting in terms of excitement in some Dem quarters, as it demonstrates the lack of interest in the original Nine. Also, right now, Clark is getting a lot of attention by the press because he is representing sometin new to talk about.

    In short, I don’t think we really are going to know where Clark ranks for real for at least a couple more weeks.

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with The Perfumed Prince Report - 09/21/2003
    Voting Rights Deadlock

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:43 pm

    The Advertiser notes this morning that Legislators try to bridge gaps [in the budget]. Much of the deadlock currently is over the restoration of voting rights to ex-felons, a bill which caused contention earlier in the year when Riley vetoed it.

    Members of the black caucus want restoration of voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences. Riley vetoed a similar measure in the summer at the request of the Republican caucus.
    Some Republicans balked at a bill that combined board expansion with rights restoration, preventing House consideration of the $1.2 billion General Fund. That budget must be in place by Oct. 1 to prevent a shutdown of state government.

    The raw politics of this is that Democrats assume that the ex-felons will likely vote for their party, and the Republicans believe this as well, hence, I think, much of the vehemence in both the pro- and anti-positions. There are clearly some civil rights and law-and-order issues here as well, but I really have a hard time accepting that either is the overriding issue.
    And, to be honest, my guess is that most ex-felons wont be doing much voting anyway, and certainly not enough to affect elections in a major fashion.

    Ultimately, I am not sure why this would be a bad trade-off for the Governor. Indeed, had he not vetoed that bill earlier in the session, he might have had more vigorous support from black democrats for his reform package.

    And, to be honest, I am not sure what the argument is for not restoring voting rights once a person has served his or her time. I figure that once your punishment is done, its done.

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    Bama Bloggin’

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:55 am

    The Montgomery Advertiser had a front-page story (yes, slow news day :) on Alabama bloggers yesterday: Blogs give writers a voice. Included in the piece are PoliBlog blogrollees Kristopher of The World Around You and ye olde Keeper of the Weevil hisself: Terry of Possumblog.

    (And, as always, Glenn gets a mention, too).

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    Saturday, September 20, 2003

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:55 am

    No more blogging this morning, hopefully normal voulme will resume by tonight/by tomorrow morning.

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    Not Good

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:38 am

    Iraq Council Member Shot, Critically Hurt

    Aquila al-Hashimi, a member of Iraq’s Governing Council, was shot and critically wounded Saturday in an assassination attempt outside her home in western Baghdad, police and doctors said.


    The Governing Council member, Al-Hashimi, was in critical condition with abdominal wounds, a doctor at al-Yarmouk hospital said on condition of anonymity. After surgery she was moved to an unspecified location in a convoy of American armored vehicles and military ambulances.

    Three of her bodyguards also were injured, said Mohammed Abdul Ghany, a security official at the al-Yarmouk hospital.

    Members of al-Hashimi’s security detail said the attack was carried out by men in two new SUVs. They fired rocket-propelled grenades that missed her car, then opened fire with Kalashnikov assault rifles.

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    Friday, September 19, 2003
    More on the UN

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:49 pm

    Danie Henninger’s coulmn in today’s WSJ is apropos of my earlier post today on the UN. Firstly, he has some interesting poll numbers of American’s view of the UN. Not surprisingly, the UN’s negatives are quite high with the American public.

    Secondly, he raises a rather legitimate, if uncomfortable to some, point, which is that the world has to take US power and goals seriously, whether they like it or not. And, further, that European snobbery vis-a-vis the US is misplaced.

    Well before Iraq, one of the elite criticisms of the U.S., heard mostly in Europe and in the American academy, has been that the U.S. is compulsively trying to “impose its values” on the rest of the world. In the mind of, say, Jos Bov, France’s most famous farmer, this means McDonalds or Mickey Mouse. Or it is about genetically modified food production or refusing to sign global environmental treaties. But from Germany and Japan after World War II and on up to Kosovo, Afghanistan and now Iraq, I am aware of only one “value” America has tried to impose and it’s not Mickey Mouse. It is democracy, or at a minimum, liberty.

    Indeed, this “idealism,” if that’s what it is, extends generally to American views of the U.S. role in the world. While “foreign aid” is a perennial bugaboo, a German Marshall Fund survey last year found that Americans by margins between 75% to 85% support spending money to help other nations with food, medicine, women’s education and AIDS. But the days are gone when the “international community” could equate this long-standing idealism to American naivete about the affairs of the world.

    And there is something to the idea that how the rest of the world attempts to deal with US will, in turn, affect how US power affects them:

    Like it or not, the American superpower is going to be in the world. Isolationism isn’t an option, But there are two post-9/11 Americas on offer to the world.

    You can either get the benign version of the American superpower, the one that comes with American values, such as a belief in self-determination even for the wogs, a version that most likely will include continued support for institutions such as the U.N. Or, amid derision and abuse, you may get the truly realpolitik version, which will be mainly about cold-bloodedly protecting the superpower’s commercial interests, and will include little or no interest in the U.N. and similar platforms. Americans are patient. But they aren’t punching bags.

    A bit over the top/simplistic, perhaps, but nonetheless true.

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    UN Needs a Make-Over

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:39 am

    Indeed: U.N. Senses It Must Change, Fast

    Mr. Annan, who says he will outline plans for reform as the annual General Assembly gathers next week, has said that only “radical” revisions in the institution are likely to preserve it. Iraq has shattered any global consensus on handling security issues, and, as last week’s meeting in Cancn showed, there is no consensus on trade issues.

    Not, of course, that there ever was any global concensus on security or trade, but clearly we have moved into a distinct new era of global affairs and the current UN model isn’t working too well.

    And maybe Senator Levin will read this piece, and he will understand how ridiculous his claims have been that a UN mandate would have quelled the violence in post-Saddam Iraq:

    Salim Lone, the communications director of the Baghdad mission and a survivor of the bombing, said, “It was clear to many of us in Baghdad that lots of ordinary Iraqis were unable to distinguish our U.N. operation from the overall U.S. presence in the country.”

    “This perception is growing in the Middle East,” he said. “Extremists prosper from that, which is why I am afraid that a terrible line has been crossed by this bombing and given other groups a new terror option.”

    And, this sounds about right, in terms of how the UN is viewed (whether the views, of say Europe, are correct, we will leave for another time…):

    Europeans today view the United Nations as the embodiment of international law and world order. The United States seems to view it as a tool to be used when handy. Africans and Asians tend to have more case-specific uses for United Nations diplomacy and its general advocacy for the poor and disadvantaged who are not much in the minds of rich nations.

    This is the key, and it may be an impossible balance to strike.

    “The worst fear of any of us,” said Shashi Tharoor, an under secretary general whose entire career has been spent at the United Nations, “is that we fail to navigate an effective way between the Scylla of being seen as a cat’s paw of the sole superpower and the Charybdis of being seen as so unhelpful to the sole superpower that they disregard the value of the United Nations.”

    Indeed, the real solution for truly enhancing global security may be an institution of just liberal democratic states, rather than an institution which tries to be all things to all nation-states. Of course, a non-inclusive organization would have its own set of problems.

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    Thursday, September 18, 2003
    Some ReCAL Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:21 pm reports the following numbers from Sec of State’s office in regards to their argument that the recall should go on as scheduled:

    They said about 2 million absentee ballots had been mailed statewide, 375,000 of them had been returned and as much as $50 million in special election costs incurred.

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    Will on the Ninth Circuit

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:19 pm

    George Will, in his most recent column casts some grumpy analysis in the direction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and echoes part of my own sentiments on this case:

    The panel of three 9th Circuit judges, the left wing of a left-wing court, illustrates the axiom that the pursuit of perfection prevents achievement of the satisfactory.

    And he further provides this amusing observation by McClintock:

    In an interview three hours after the judicial panel ruled, McClintock was characteristically blunt in disdaining the ruling: “We held elections on schedule during the Civil War.”

    However, I will note that Will’s waxing poetic on the potentiality of a Thatcherite moment in California smacks of being too clever for his own good in trying to fill out a column. Further, his optimism in McClintock is, in my opinion, misplaced.

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    A Question for the Candidates and/or Their Supporters

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:28 pm

    Since it is becoming manifestly obvious that the French (with their veto power) will stand in the way of US goals in Iraq vis--vis the UN, how should we evaluate the statements by the various Democratic presidential candidates who say they would have gone/would go to the UN and get the help we need and that the lack of UN help is simply a failure on the part of the Bush administration?

    a. It is a disingenuous attempt to manipulate the public, as they full well know that it is impossible to do what they are claiming should have been done and can be done.

    b. A manifest example of how these individuals really dont understand international relations, and therefore calls into question whether they ought to be Commander-in-Chief and chief diplomat of the US government.

    c. A sterling example of the egoism of politicians, who, even in the face of contrary evidence, nonetheless believe if it only they were in office, they could have pulled off the impossible.

    Likely, it is a combo of all three, and, certainly a hefty helping of c. Still, the constant insistence that simply going to the UN is the solution to all ills and the universal fix to the complexities of Iraq and the war on terror is rather vacuous.

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    Commentary on the Ninth Circuit Decision

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:06 pm

    Both Daniel Drezner and James of OTB provide some worthwhile commentary on the Ninth Circuit decision in CA.

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    Is Clark Weird?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:25 am

    Given the current boomlet about Wes Clark, here’s more on the topic.

    To be honest, despite the fact that I obviously don’t think that Clark can win the nomination, this question (as posed by Ricahrd Cohen in his WaPo column today) never occurred to me:

    Is Wesley Clark too weird for prime time?

    Although really what Cohen seems to asking is whether Clark has the temprament to run for the Presidency (and indeed, if he has the personaility needed to govern). I expect this to be a major question among columnistas and the chattering class over the next week or so.

    Cohen clarifies the reason that he asks the question in the first place:

    Let me first tell you why I asked the question: It’s because Clark in effect got fired from the Pentagon. Not to put too fine a point on it, then-Defense Secretary Bill Cohen, joined by many of Clark’s colleagues, came to just plain dislike him.
    Some of this had to do with policy - the Kosovo campaign - and some with their suspicion that Clark went over their heads to the White House. But some of it was deeply personal. Clark is sometimes compared to Eisenhower, another general who went into politics. But Ike was beloved. That’s a word that never comes up when Clark is discussed.

    Something about Clark makes people bristle. He is undoubtedly brilliant - a Rhodes scholar and first in his class at West Point. He is a fine athlete and a Vietnam combat veteran who was decorated for bravery. He won the respect, even the awe, of his colleagues, but too much of the time he did not win their friendship.

    The rap on Clark is that he lacks precisely those qualities that define a politician, particularly warmth and affability. David Halberstam, in his book “War in a Time of Peace,” writes of Clark that even his most steadfast champion in the army, Gen. John Shalikashvili, recognized that Clark was too brash, too cocky, too driven, too self-absorbed, too hard on subordinates, too dismissive of critics and criticism - but also too brilliant and talented to be overlooked. Shali promoted him.

    Indeed, I start to see a pattern in much of the writing on Clark: the need to affirm, up front, that he has an impressive resume, but then to launch into the “However” part of the analysis.

    It is noteworthy much of this comports with Kevin Drum’s reading of Clark’s book(Hat Tip: James of OTB).

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with The Perfumed Prince Report
    Wednesday, September 17, 2003
    We Don’t Wanna Pay, We Just Want Stuff

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:05 pm

    I half-hope that this is true: Ag chief calls cuts payback , insofar as I would find it funny on one level if Riley indeed had the wherewithal to stick to agriculture:

    Agriculture Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks said Tuesday that Gov. Bob Riley is trying to punish the farming industry because of its opposition to Amendment One.
    Riley proposed cutting the Department of Agriculture Industries budget by 32.85 percent. Sparks said that was unfair because Riley proposed cuts of 18 percent to most other agencies.

    However, the real reason is this:

    But cuts to Agriculture Industries included $1.8 million in “pass through” spending, which the Riley administration called “pork.” The agency’s operating budget was cut by 18 percent, like most other agencies, said Riley’s finance director Drayton Nabers.

    For the non-Bamians, “pass through pork” is basically money that is filtered through a department to a district and is spent on special pet projects by the legislator. It is patronage-based pork-barrel spending at its worst.

    Regardless, it takes some cheek for the farmers to demand that they pay barely anything in property taxes (indeed, in taxes in general) and then gripe that they aren’t getting enough stuff from the state government. Classic.

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    DNC Bloggin’

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:34 pm

    Umm, wouldn’t this be a better name for an RNC Blog? DNC: Kicking Ass.

    I honestly had to double-check to make sure it wasn’t a parody site. Maybe they should have taken up Sharpton’s line, and called it “Slapping the Donkey.” Although I must admit that that sound vaguely obscene…

    Hat tip: Viking Pundit.

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    Speaking of Money…

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:56 pm

    Going back to the 6/30/03 reporting period, here are the “cash on hand” numbers for the Nine from WaPo:

    Braun: $22k
    Dean: $6.4 million
    Edwards: $8.1 Million
    Gephardt: $6.3 million
    Graham: $1.2 million
    Kerry: $10.6 million
    Kucinich: $1.1 million
    Lieberman: $4.0 million
    Sharpton: $12k

    And, of course, they have all (with maybe the exception of Braun) raised quite a bit more in the last 2-plus months.

    Clark enters with pledges of $1.5 million.

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    Money Matters, Too

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:54 pm

    As I have noted before, Clark is going to have money problems:

    General Clark joins a contest in which candidates have scoured the country for money and support for two years, dividing the pool of Democratic donors and fund-raisers. How much a late-comer can siphon off is an open question. General Clark has no hard cash yet, though supporters have pledged at least $1.5 million. By contrast, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts has $16 million.

    Source: Gen. Clark Confirms ‘04 Run, Joining a Crowded Field

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    Third Time the Charm?

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:44 pm

    Texas House Approves GOP Redistricting Plan

    The saga of the Texas Redistricting War of 2003 continues:

    The monthslong struggle over congressional redistricting made it past a major hurdle as the state House gave preliminary approval to a Republican-drawn map, which awaits a tougher battle in the Senate.

    For the third time this summer, the House approved a map sponsored by Republican Rep. Phil King that would likely give Texas Republicans an edge over Democrats in Congress.

    Maybe the Dems will go to Louisiana next :)

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    By Steven Taylor @ 2:20 pm

    Clark on voting:

    He told us in an interview the other day that he is new to the party - it’s not that he’d been a Democrat all along and kept his affiliation private for reasons of propriety. Asked whether he had voted for Republicans along the way, Mr. Clark said, “I don’t even remember.” Had he voted for a Republican for president? “I imagine that I voted for Reagan at one time or another,” he said. It will be interesting to see how that plays with Democratic Party activists.

    Ok, either he is covering because he hasn’t really been all that “political” and it would be embarrassing to admit when he is running for Pres, or he voted Republican predominantly in the past, and it would be embarrassing to admit that now that he has declared himself to be a Democrat, or he isn’t too bright and really doesn’t remember for whom he voted.

    None of these are good options. I mean, please-he’s a Rhodes Scholar and retired 4-star general and he can’t remember for whom he voted, nor can be fully confirm with certainy if he voted for Reagan or not “at one time or another?”

    And certainly it demonstrates the political neophyte problem that he has (and that I have mentioned many a time).

    Source: Source: Enter Wesley Clark

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    Top Docs

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:06 am

    US News is conducting an online poll: The People’s Vote: 100 Documents that shaped America. Go give it a look and vote.

    My Ten (and it was hard to choose the last several):

  • Declaration of Independence
  • “Federalist Papers, No. 10 & No. 51″
  • Constitution of the United States
  • Bill of Rights
  • Marbury v. Madison
  • McCulloch v. Maryland
  • 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Civil Rights
  • 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery
  • 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
  • Federal Income Tax

  • Truman Doctrine

    Hat tip: Kristopher of the World Around You

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    Noteworthy (ReCAL)

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:55 am

    It is noteworthy, that despite the fact that the CA SecState Office’s position is that the punch-card machines should be replaced (and, indeed, will be), that they will be arguing before the Ninth Circuit that the election should go forward next month:

    Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said he would ask the panel to reverse Monday’s decision, permitting the election to go forward as planned Oct. 7.

    In a statement issued by his office, Shelley said he believed it was “in everyone’s best interest that this case be heard swiftly and considered thoroughly, so the court can resolve these legal issues with the finality that the voters expect and deserve.”

    So, no, it isn’t just rapid right-wingers who think that the election process should continue as scheduled.

    Source: Recall May Get Second Hearing

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    Clark Roundup

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 am

    James of OTB has a round-up of the day’s columnistas on the Clark announcement.

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    Problems With Changing Course Mid-Stream

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:27 am

    There are serious problems with changing the rules in the middle of the process, for example: Frustrated officials say ballots may be tossed

    As of Monday, voters had returned about 31,000 absentee ballots in Placer, El Dorado, Sacramento and Yolo counties, officials said, out of 234,107 that had been mailed out.

    If the election is postponed, those ballots will be stored for a while, as required by law, and then will be stored for a while, as required by law, and then will be “pulped,” Oakley said.

    Los Angeles County alone already had 30,000 absentee ballots returned as of Monday afternoon, and an official there said they would await word from Shelley on what to do with them.

    Experts said it appears likely that a March election means the ballots will have to be destroyed.

    Not to mention the money already spent in preparation for an October vote-what happened to all the pro-Davis forces which were complaining about how much this was all costing?

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    Tuesday, September 16, 2003
    More Data to Digest

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:38 pm

    (Note: links below are to PDF’s)

  • Here’s the Map of Voting Equipment used by county in 1999. A quick scan say stht only Oklahoma, New York and Mass. had fully uniform voting systems.
  • Here is a table with the error rates per machine type.

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    Voting Tech on Parade

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:27 pm

    From the League of Women Voters, here’s an additional summary of the Caltech-MIT study which highlights part of the basic problem:

    First, yes, it would be best to get rid of the punch-cards:

    Most uncounted or spoiled ballots-called “residual” votes in election parlance-occur in precincts using the infamous punch-card machines. Punch-card machines were used predominantly in Florida in 2000, adding “pregnant” and “dimpled” chads to the national lexicon as a spellbound nation watched Sunshine State officials struggle to determine voter intent on thousands of partially punched ballots.

    But, of course, electronic voting is not necessarily a magic bullet:

    Some direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines were nearly as error-prone as the punch-card machines, said the Caltech-MIT researchers. DRE is the generic category of machines that count votes directly and electronically, as they are cast, without producing a paper record of the vote.

    Although, Florida did see some improvement after they switched: Caltech-MIT Team Finds 35% Improvement in Florida’s Voting Technology :

    The residual vote rate, it appears, has been substantially reduced as a result of the election reform efforts of the past year. On average, 2.0 percent of Democratic voters recorded no vote for governor in these seven counties. In past elections, the average has been 3.1 percent. This is a 35 percent improvement in performance.

    Although, if you look at the table in the article, you will note that in some counties the improvement was negligible.

    But, back to the LWV story,

    In the final analysis, the researchers concluded that lever machines, precinct-counted optically scanned, and hand-counted paper ballots accounted for the fewest “lost” votes. Optical scan ballots resemble high-school achievement-test cards, in which a voter blackens in a “bubble” corresponding to his choice. Then the marked ballots are fed into a scanner, where the voter can verify his vote.

    Ok, sounds good, but most states are going to DRE’s rather than optical scan, which I agree is pretty hard to screw up (most of Alabama uses this tech-it will spit the ballot back at you if you double vote or otherwise miss-mark the ballot):

    The researchers’ favorite voting systems were those that use optical-scan ballots that can be counted at the precinct level, because they allow voters to double-check their votes before leaving the polling place and produce a verifiable “paper trail” that can be used in a recount.

    But, of course, the optical scan ballot isn’t the best for everyone:

    Unfortunately, optical scan machines present major obstacles for the disabled and for non-English speakers and illiterate voters. The blind cannot use pencils to mark scanned ballots without someone to help them and thus would not be able to cast a secret ballot. Like non-readers and language minorities, the blind prefer DRE technology that has been specially designed with audio capabilities so voters can receive audio instructions and vote verification.

    Groups representing the disabled and language minorities have gone to court to block some states that have tried to buy all optical-scan equipment. “As we move to replace old voting machines, it is important that the new machines be accessible to all,” says Jefferson-Jenkins, pointing out that 17 years after Congress recommended that all polling places be made handicapped-accessible, more than half of all polling places are still inaccessible to voters in wheelchairs.

    So, while the DRE’s may have their own problems, they more accessible.

    In short, there is no perfect system.

    Now, I am all for trying to get as close as we can, within reason, but I think that such changes should not be imposed in the middle of an ongoing process.

    Plus depending on the numbers, there is a point at which maginal gains in fairness aren’t the other costs in time, money, and the rights of others to be heard.

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    Going to the Entire Circuit Court

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:11 pm

    Court to Re-examine California Recall Delay

    A federal appeals court said Tuesday it will consider whether to re-examine its three-judge panel’s postponement of the California recall election.

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked California election officials and recall proponents to file briefs by Wednesday afternoon on whether they want all 11 judges on the appeals court to rehear the case.

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    Another Way of Looking at the Voting Error Issue

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:28 am

    Basically, part of what I am getting at is this: since there will be error no matter what, the real question should be as follows. What will the estimated error be under the new system, and will the difference between the old error and the new system truly justify the setting aside of the time provisions for the recall as set down by the California state constitution?

    Again, one might assume that the choice is between the potential loss of 40,000 or so votes and perfection, but it isn’t. The real choice is between the potential loss of 40,000-some vote and some smaller number. Again: there is vote-counting error in every election.

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    Clark to Enter the Race

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:07 am

    So says the NYT’s: Gen. Clark Reportedly Decides to Seek ‘04 Nomination

    General Clark, who is retired, was meeting with his political advisers today in Little Rock, Ark.Mark Fabiani, a California strategist and adviser to General Clark, said “He’s made his decision and will announce it tomorrow in Little Rock,'’ though he did not say what the decision would be.

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    Further Clarification of the Vote Error Issue

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:25 am

    Comments to the post below on the Ninth Circuit ruling have noted some confusion as to my argument. The point is this: the 40,000 votes cited in the argument by the ACLU before the Ninth Circuit are hypothetical based on known error rates in the election process-and it makes it sound as if changing the tech will guarantee no errors. This is not the case.

    My point is manifold:

  • First, there are errors in all elections using all types of technology. Indeed, some will argue that the same voters who are allegedly going to have trouble with the punch cards will have trouble with touch-screens because they aren’t used to computers. The problem here is the same as with the punch-cards, it largely (although not exclusively) is a voter-education issue.

  • Second, since we currently do not have, nor are we going to have, uniform voting equipment across all counties in all states across the US, then the Ninth Circuit’s decision, when driven to its logical conclusion, raises substantial questions about all voting across the country. Because if the issue is equal access to the same error rates, we have never had that and unless there is a multi-billion dollar expenditure to make it happen, we are never going to have it. Plus, it is unclear as to whether it would be constitutional to make all the state use the exact same equipment.
  • Third, even with the same equpment, not all voters are going to have the same probability of properly casting a vote. The illiterate voter is more likely to make a mistake than the literate one, the elderly voter with vision problems is going to have more trouble than the 24 year-old, the more educated voter will have a better time in general than the under-educated one, and so forth. It is, therefore, likely impossible to ever guarantee that every voter’s vote has the exact same chance of being counted.

    This is not a partisan argument-it is a fact that there is always error is every election. There are always votes that don’t get counted and it is impossible to prevent this fact, although it can be mitigated. The only reason we never talked about it much prior to 2000 is that it rarely made any difference in any election. Indeed, the Caltech-MIT voter project estimates that 6 million votes weren’t counted nationwide in 2000.

  • Fourth, the whole thing raises the mathematical question of how much error is too much, and therefore when should elections by stopped?
  • Fifth, there is no guarantee that the new machines won’t have substantial error problems next March-whether from human error by the voter, or by the operators because the tech will be brand new.
  • Sixth, the Bush v. Gore decision was a ruling on differing standards of counting the exact same kinds of ballots, not on differing methods of casting ballots.
  • Seventh, the punch-card system in question has been used for at least 25 years in CA (as I noted before, I have used it myself). It has worked well, and has clearly not created any controversies. The controversy was created in and by Florida-not by an incident in CA.
  • Eighth, from a politico-legal perspective it is noteworthy that none of the litigants who raised the case this go ’round objected to the system (in a legal sense) when it effectively re-elected Gray Davis in 2002.
  • Ninth: voter education is a legitimate issue. It is no doubt the case that with sufficient public education, and training of poll-workers, that the error rates associated with the punch-card system could be reduced. This is a legitimate avenue to pursue. And I say again: after Florida in 2000, it is highly likely that voters are far more aware of the pitfalls of the punch-card ballots and will therefore be more diligent in their punching.

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    Monday, September 15, 2003
    More on the Ninth Circuit Decision

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:27 pm

    While my earlier post on the Recall decision was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, there is a point. As another earlier post noted, all voting machines have error rates. There is no such thing as a perfect election. Further, if you look at the CalTech-MIT study that I cited, there is a nifty graphic that shows that in practically every state there is variation by county in terms of equipment used within the states. By the Ninth Circuit’s logic, none of those states should be allowed to have elections until they have uniform equipment, and all elections in the past should be consider tainted, including the 2002 election in which Mr. Davis was re-elected (and elected the first time in 1998).

    Also, the Ninth Circuit’s logic would dictate that evey voter in the land would have to use the same equipment for all elections to meet the Equal Protection standard-this may indeed be a worthwhile goal, but it is a practical impossibility in the short or even medium term. And, again, we have been conducting election like this for decades and decades.

    The main problem appears to be more an educational level issue than anything else. So, it is possible that perhaps some public education could solve part of the problem here and allow the election to continue as the California state constitution requires. Further, after the Florida debacle it is hard to argue that people aren’t aware that punching the card all the way through is a really good idea.

    There are some real issues here of whether this is a necessary delay, as well as the issue of the rights of those who followed the CA constitution and their rights to have this process work as it is supposed to under the law.

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    McClintock Update

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:08 pm

    Daniel Weintraub reports: McClintock to run for both offices if it comes to that

    Folks who think this ruling might be a convenient way to get Tom McClintock out of the race, think again. If the election is delayed until March, McClintock just told me, he will launch a campaign for reelection to his state Senate seat concurrently with the campaign for governor. His campaign manager believes this is possible because the recall is a special election and the Senate campaign would be a regular election, two separate events even if they are held on the same day.

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    Links on Terrorist and Insurgent Organizations

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:37 pm

    Setting aside ReCAL issues, I was doing some research and came across this very interesting online resource via the Air University Library at Maxwell AFB: Insurgent Groups/ Terrorism.

    It provides a list of terror and insurgent groups from around the world and urls and bibliographies references for each.

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    Elections are Unconstitutional

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:14 pm

    I just had an epiphany: since all elections will have errors (i.e., none can be perfect), then there will always be voters whose votes aren’t counted, I guess that now means, by a 14th Amendment Equal Protection argument, that electoral democracy is unconstitutional!

    Sure makes governing easier…

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    • The American Mind linked with Ninth Circle of Hell
    ReCAL Reactions

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:11 pm

    Sean of The American Mind has some initial reactions to the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

    He also links to a related link-fest at

    James of OTB also has some worthwhile observations and links.

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    Advantage: Democrats (ReCAL)

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:02 pm

    Michael Medved raised a key point on his show this afternoon: a shift to March creates a profound advantage for Davis/Bustamante, as the March primaries will be focused on the Democratic Presidential Primary and will, by definition, have a greater Democratic turnout.

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    Punch Cards

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:52 pm

    By the way, I have voted on the exact voting machines under contention now in CA, as they were used in Orange County, CA during the time I lived there in the late 1980s. They really aren’t that hard to use.

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    • The American Mind linked with Ninth Circle of Hell
    Putting Voting Technology Into Perspective

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:30 pm

    For an excellent overview of the issue of voting machines and error-rates, see the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project.

    In terms of a straightforward summary of some of the informaiton in that study, here’s an excerpt of an article on Ballot Reform that I wrote for David Schultz, Ed. The Encyclopedia of Public Administration and Public Policy, New York: Facts on File, 2003. (forthcoming).

    Currently there are five different types of voting methods in the United States: paper ballots, lever machines, punch cards, optical scan and electronic voting. Each of these reflects differing levels of technology and represents differing actual methods of casting and counting votes. The paper ballot system is, as the name implies, simply a piece of paper that a voter marks preferences upon. These ballots are counted by hand. Level machines directly record votes that are entered by flipping levers on the machines. Such machines have been in use since the late nineteenth century. Punch card ballots are read by computers, and require the voter to punch out a small hole in the card by knocking out a pre-perforated chad. Optical scan ballots are also read by computer, but voters instead use a pen to mark the ballot to indicate their preferences. Electronic voting entails the use of computers which record votes likely entered by keyboard or touchscreen.

    The main issue is the question of residual votes which are defined by the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project as the combination of uncounted ballots, unmarked ballots and overvoted ballots. Residual vote rates for the 1988-2000 period for presidential elections are as follows: paper (1.8%), level machine (1.5%), punch card (2.5%), optical scan (1.5%), electronic (2.3%). The rates are quite higher for Governor and Senator during this same period: paper (3.3%), level machine (7.6%), punch card (4.7%), optical scan (3.5%), electronic (5.9%). Such numbers demonstrate that differing technologies do indeed have important effects on the balloting process.

    The numbers on the electronic machines are partially based on older machines than the current touch-screen variety. There is no large pool of data to judge the touch-screen systems at this point, and the Caltech-MIT study deems that technoogy as “unproven.”

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    ReCAL on Hold

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:52 pm

    Appeals court postpones Oct. 7 recall vote

    A federal appeals court postponed California’s Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election, ruling the historic vote cannot proceed as scheduled because some votes would be cast using outmoded punch-card ballot machines.

    In what was the last of about a dozen legal challenges trying to delay or thwart the recall to unseat Gov. Gray Davis, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Monday it is unacceptable that six counties would be using outdated punch-card ballots, the type that sparked the “hanging chads” litigation in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.

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    Poor CNN

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:33 am

    My question is: how?

    CNN’s top war correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, says that the press muzzled itself during the Iraq war. And, she says CNN “was intimidated” by the Bush administration and Fox News, which “put a climate of fear and self-censorship.”

    As criticism of the war and its aftermath intensifies, Amanpour joins a chorus of journalists and pundits who charge that the media largely toed the Bush administrationline in covering the war and, by doing so, failed to aggressively question the motives behind the invasion.

    And this strikes me as sour grapes over the fact that CNN is no longer the only cable news network-indeed, not even the top net:

    Said Amanpour: “I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I’m sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did.”

    I mean, what? The Fox guys were going to beat up the CNN guys with their bare fists if the CNN guys didn’t report the story the way the Fox guys wanted? I mean, please.

    And this from the network that admitted that they downplayed stories (indeed, often didn’t cover them) about the horrors of Iraq because they didn’t want Saddam to shut down their Baghdad bureau. I don’t recall Christiane complaining about “intimidation” back then.

    Source: Amanpour: CNN practiced self-censorship

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    And So It Begins…

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:16 am

    The Alabama Legislature goes into special session today to consider the ramifications of the failure of the vote last week, and to put together the budget that has to go into effect on October 1st. The Governor has proposed the following cuts:

    Erase a total of about $120 million that was spent this year on more than 100 separate budget items. For instance, Riley wants to erase $11.7 million that lawmakers got this year for special projects in their districts, $4.7 million that Tuskegee University got and $346,872 that Miles College got this year.

    Cut this year’s General Fund spending for many state agencies by a total of about $56 million. Spending for courts, for instance, would fall by $14.6 million, 9.9 percent.

    Chop $75 million that was spent this year on textbooks, technology, library books, teacher training and other items for public kindergarten through 12th grade.

    The revenue increases in Riley’s plans include:
    A $265 million federal windfall. Congress gave all states special grants they could spend this year or next year.

    $58 million from higher health insurance co-payments by employees of public schools and state agencies, and from payments by universities for their retirees’ health insurance.
    $23 million in extra state income tax collections expected because of changes in federal income-tax law.

    The real fun will be next year when the $265 million in federal funds will not be available. The only short-term revenue hopes are that a growing economy will lead to increased tax receipts, although that is unlikely to be sufficient to fill the holes.

    Source: Lawmakers set to begin budget cuts

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    Sunday, September 14, 2003
    The Parent’s Dictionary

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:53 pm

    Clean-up time (v): The time when the children rediscover their toys, and therefore must stop and play with them right now rather than picking up. After all, they haven’t seen some of this stuff in days, owing to the fact that it has been strewn all over the house.

    My Favorite Toy: (n): The status of whatever it is Mom or Dad have decided can be thrown away or given to charity.

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    Stanford ReCAL Poll Info

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:13 am

    Interesting: Schwarzenegger ahead of Bustamante in Internet survey on California recall vote. My first reaction is “Internet poll? Can’t be reliable.” However, this is a Stanford University poll conducted by some serious polisci types, including Morris Fiorina (the polisci geeks in the audience will no doubt recognize the name).

    I am curious as to the exact methodology, but the poll does claim to capture a representative sample. My meager statistical skills lead to wonder how one does this with an internet based poll. Presumably there is some sort of stratified sampling or cohort sampling in the process, but it would seem that there would still be populations that would not be adequately sampled.

    At any rate, here’re the numbers:

    Should Gray Davis be recalled as governor?
    Yes 58% (493)
    No 42% (355)

    If the governor is recalled, the candidate who receives the most votes will be elected as the new governor. Please select the candidate that you are most likely to vote for.
    McClintock 6%
    Huffington 2%
    Bustamante 24%
    Schwarzenegger 37%
    Ueberroth 4%
    Other (Write-ins) 14%

    All the numbers are here: Appendix to the Stanford University/Knowledge Networks California Ballot Survey.

    The press release is here: Schwarzenegger ahead of Bustamante in Internet survey on California recall vote.

    Hat Tip to: The Political Times

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    • Signifying Nothing linked with The state of the art (of polling)
    More Evidece of Mugabe’s Thuggishness

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:53 am

    What a mess Zimbabwe is in-and a clear example of how to ruin a country through personalistic, authoritarian rule.

    The latest:

    Armed police officers in Zimbabwe’s capital unexpectedly shut down the nation’s biggest daily newspaper, The Daily News, on Friday after the country’s highest court ruled that the paper was publishing illegally.

    The move silenced, at least temporarily, one of the few independent news outlets in an increasingly authoritarian state. The newspaper’s editor said the action was one more sign of Zimbabwe’s deepening political and economic crisis under President Robert G. Mugabe.


    …the law required reporters to disclose their political affiliations and home addresses, forced privately owned publications to surrender business secrets and made journalists criminally liable for reporting inaccurate information. More than a dozen journalists have been charged since the new law took effect.

    Source: Zimbabwe Police Close Down Nation’s Largest Daily Paper

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    Saturday, September 13, 2003
    I Did Not Know That…

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:05 pm

    I was utterly unaware of this, but John Ritter, amongst his many credits, was also the voice ofClifford the Big Red Dog on the PBS Kids series. My kids love the show, and so I have seen it often (we even own some of the videos), but the I never made the connection with the voice.

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    Abortion Stats

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:45 pm

    Just to put my previous post in perspective, here are some stats from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which is a pro-choice think-tank:

  • 49% of pregnancies among American women are unintended; 1/2 of these are terminated by abortion.

  • In 2000, 1.31 million abortions took place, down from an estimated 1.36 million in 1996. From 1973 through 2000, more than 39 million legal abortions occurred.
  • Each year, 2 out of every 100 women aged 15-44 have an abortion; 48% of them have had at least one previous abortion and 61% have had a previous birth.
  • Each year, an estimated 46 million abortions occur worldwide. Of these, 20 million procedures are obtained illegally.
  • How anyone can read those numbers and not see a bitter tragedy is vexing to me, to put it mildly.

    It is staggering: 1.3 million abortions in the US alone just last year, and 46 million on average globally, with 88% of those in the US being in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when it is highly unlikely that the health of the mother is a relevant question.

    Indeed, according to the same source:

  • On average, women give at least 3 reasons for choosing abortion: 3/4 say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities; about 2/3 say they cannot afford a child; and 1/2 say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Abortion Statistics
    • The American Mind linked with Lazy Weblogger
    Could I Care Less?

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:09 am

    No, I think not. Media Hunker Down for On-Off Lopez Nuptials.

    Indeed, all it is good for is joke-fodder.

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    Unviable Tissue

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:08 am

    Yup, just keep telling yourself that.

    And, really, it is just a choice, right?

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    • linked with The Face Of A Fetus
    ReCAL Ballot

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:00 am

    On the Fritz has received his absentee recall ballot, and has scanned it for all the world to see.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:58 am

    Also, my thanks to the following, who have blogrolled PoliBlog in recent weeks:

  • The Southern California Law Blog
  • SwimFinsSF
  • Liberty Father
  • On the Fritz

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:36 am

    A belated thanks (I have meant to post this for over a week) to for adding me to their list of Alabama bloggers.

    Also added is the Keeper of the Weevil himself (and PoliBlog blogrollee), Terry Oglesby, of Possumblog.

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    And So it Begins…

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:29 am

    It has taken a little while, but it would appear that we are moving into more intense in-fighting amongst the Nine (soon to be Ten?): Gephardt Shifts Attacks to Dean

    Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) launched a sharp attack against former Vermont governor Howard Dean here today, charging that his rival sided with former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in Republican efforts to scale back and rewrite the Medicare program in the mid-1990s.

    And, really, Gephardt seems to be on thin ice here, as the following is hardly radical (although I will grant, it won’t play well with some of the Dem base):

    Gephardt based his attacks on a series of articles describing Dean’s position in the early and mid-1990s. One article said of Dean that he “supported more managed care for Medicare recipients and requiring Medicare recipients to pay a greater share of the cost of their medical services.”

    In a statement issued by his campaign, Dean accused Gephardt of engaging in the “politics of the past” and that he was “deeply saddened” by the attack from someone he considered a friend.

    And, to be fair to Dean, his current proposal for shifting the Bush tax cuts into health care seems to trump any past proposals he may have made.

    And, as I pointed out a while back, Dean had some rather negative things to say about Gingrich and welfare reform in general.

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    The Palestinian Mess

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:11 am

    Charles Krauthammer’s piece in yesterday’s WaPo is a depressing overview of the number of times that the Palestinians have turned down the chance to work towards their own state. And clearly, Yasser Arafat is a key obstacle. However, I am not convinced that the Israeli solution of exile (or any other type of “removal") is a good idea-as it seems to me that all that would do is lead to escalation and an entrechment of radicals in leadership positions.

    Of course, as long as Arafat stays in charge, we maintain the current status quo.

    I do concur that Bush administration should maintain its policy of not negotiating with Arafat, and should, as Krauthammer suggests, extend such policy to any clear agent or puppet of Arafat’s, which is what we seem to have with this new PM.

    Like I said: depressing.

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    InstaCountry: Just Add Water

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:50 am

    This really is the crux of the matter, isn’t it?

    “Nobody wants to turn sovereignty back to the Iraqi people as fast as the United States does, President Bush does and I do,” Mr. Powell told France 2, a television network. But he said that the American occupation under “can’t suddenly just step aside and turn it over-to whom?”

    Clearly, since the real goal here is to establish a secular, stable and democratic Iraq, then it will take some time. Heck, the governmental infrastructure still hasn’t been restored.

    Source: U.S.-French Rift Reopened as Powell Arrives for Talks

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    Friday, September 12, 2003
    What? We Don’t Like a French Plan?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:00 pm

    Imagine that: Powell Rejects French Timetable for Iraq

    Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday rejected as “totally unrealistic” a French timetable for the full transfer of authority in Iraq to local control, starting with the establishment of a provisional government next month.

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    And, Session Three Starts Monday

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:42 pm

    Texas governor calls third special session

    Republican Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday called a third special session of the Legislature to take up a congressional redistricting plan that has twice been thwarted by walkouts by the Democrats. Perry said the session would begin on Monday.

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    Interesting: The Texas Redistricting Affair Continues

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:40 pm

    Federal Panel Rejects Texas Dems’ Lawsuit

    A three-judge federal appeals panel dismissed a lawsuit filed by senate Democrats hoping to derail a new round of Republican-led congressional redistricting in Texas.

    The Democrats argued that Senate rule changes by Republicans to further the redistricting effort violated federal law. The judges, who listened to two hours of arguments Thursday in Laredo, dismissed those claims.

    The ruling represented another setback for Democrats who have been fighting for several months to thwart GOP efforts to redraw the state’s congressional map. They say it would hurt minority representation in Congress.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 4:01 pm

    Christian Bale to be new Batman

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    Wild: Dave to be a Dad

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:40 pm

    David Letterman to Become a Father at 56

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    Dean and the Middle East

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:15 pm

    This statement won’t come back to haunt him:

    But he [Dean] also said that “there is a war going on in the Middle East, and members of Hamas are soldiers in that war, and, therefore, it seems to me that they are going to be casualties if they are going to make war.”

    All kidding aside, that statement has some profound implications, especially if he were to become President.

    Source: Dean defends Middle East remarks

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    Polls and the ReCAL

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:55 pm

    Dr. David Hill, of, oddly enough. The Hill has some interesting analysis of both the CA recall. And, like I’ve said, toast:

    Some recent polls have suggested that California Gov. Gray Davis (D) may be making progress in his bid to stymie a recall vote. Don’t believe it. Davis is toast.

    More importantly, I fully agree with this analysis (indeed, I pointed this out a while back):

    The more prescient poll was the one taken last month by the Field organization that had 76 percent of registered California voters saying the state is on the wrong track.

    Because Davis offers no credible prospects for real change from the sorry status quo in his state, voters are going to send him packing.

    Elections are almost always about a choice between maintaining the status quo or embracing change. That’s why the traditional “right direction” or “wrong track” question offered by most political pollsters provides such insight into any incumbent’s reelection prospects. Typically, strong, “wrong track” sentiment signals an incumbent’s defeat.


    Source: Ease with risk will help Bush win

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    By Steven Taylor @ 12:32 pm

    I’m sure none of his opponents will bring this up:

    Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), who is running for president, showed up for only 10 percent of the roll calls, the worst attendance record in the House so far this year.

    On average, members showed up for 95.8 percent of the 457 votes between the start of the 108th Congress in January and the summer recess. The study did not make a distinction between substantive and minor procedural measures.

    Source: Four local congressmen on AWOL list

    Hat tip: Drudge.

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    Clark Update

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:58 am

    Clark rules out vice presidential bid for now - Sep. 12, 2003

    “There’s only one decision to make: Run for president or stay in private business,” Clark said during an interview on CNN’s American Morning.

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    Votes Can Haunt

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:44 am

    This piece in today’s WaPo, Past Votes Dog Some Presidential Candidates, illustrates at least part of the reason it is difficult for legislators to be nominated by their party to run for the Presidency.

    Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt & co. can criticize the Bush administration for the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and so forth, but then Dean can turn the tables on them, and blame them as well, since they all voted for those measures.

    Presidential candidate John F. Kerry is bashing President Bush’s policies on Iraq, education and civil liberties. What he rarely mentions, however, is that his Senate votes helped make all three possible.

    The Massachusetts Democrat is not alone. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) - who is calling Bush’s Iraq policy a “miserable failure” - led the House fight last year to allow the president to wage the war without the international help the lawmaker now demands. Gephardt, then the House Democratic leader, also voted for the USA Patriot Act, which expands the government’s surveillance powers, and for Bush’s No Child Left Behind education program. He often criticizes the policies now.

    Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) is calling for Bush to enlist the help of the United Nations in Iraq, even though he, like Kerry and Gephardt, had the opportunity to vote against the war resolution and in support of one measure demanding U.N. involvement during last fall’s congressional debate. Edwards is also calling for changes to the Patriot Act, for which he voted, and more funding for the education plan, which he voted to authorize. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) voted with Bush on all three, too.

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    Thursday, September 11, 2003
    Rush and Riley

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:16 pm

    Limbaugh was commenting on the Alabama tax vote yesterday, and he made a comment that Riley was an example of a Republican who gets into office and tries to buy votes by resorting to give-away programs. He was chiefly talking about the element of the Riley plan that would have provided scholarships to B-average and above students to attend Alabama colleges and universities. I must admit, even though it was a portion of the package that would have directly benefited me, it was not my favorite part of the package, and indeed, went against my fiscal-conservative leanings. Nevertheless there are two issues that Limbaugh utterly missed here.

    The first is that in any legislative process (and the plan had to be legislatively approved by 60% of both houses of the state legislature before it could move on to the voters), one has to make deals. So there was give, and there was take. Since the perfect is the enemy of the good, I was willing to vote for a plan that was not perfect, but was far better than the alternative.

    Second, and more significantly, Limbaughs political analysis of Rileys electoral motivations are faulty. Indeed, by sticking his neck out on a bold plan that included tax increases (and it wasnt just a tax increase package, but rather the most comprehensive reform package that the state has seen since the reform of the judiciary back in the 70s) he likely has committed political suicide. While he has time to reconstruct his political career, he is almost certainly going to have a struggle to get re-nominated in 2006. Riley supported this plan for a lot of reasons, but he knew full well it was a gamble, and by no means a way to curry easy favor with the voters.

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    • The World Around You linked with Limbaugh Shock
    Have I Mentioned that Davis is Toast?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:41 pm

    You know, when you are facing a recall, and need every, single vote that you can get, being nice might work to your advantage, especially when your personality is part of your problem. Or, if you’re Gray Davis, you can be something of a jerk anyway:

    Questioned again about the incident on KGO radio in San Francisco on Wednesday, Davis expanded on his initial response that he was just “joking around” with a voter.

    “It was a poor joke, I shouldn’t have done it,” he said. “If people want to hear me apologize, I apologize for it. … This was not a public remark. But if people find it offensive, then I want them to know that I am apologizing because my whole governorship has been reaching out, including people, offering them opportunity, because I think that is the path to a stronger California. …”
    Davis added that he would “rather eat humble pie than have one Californian think that I don’t fully appreciate, which I do, the role that immigrants have (played) in our society.”

    The Democratic governor made it clear, however, that he was not necessarily apologizing to Schwarzenegger, the GOP front-runner in the campaign to replace him whom Davis has begun to attack regularly at campaign events.

    No, I’m not apologizing to him in person,” he told radio show host Ed Baxter. “I’m apologizing for making a remark. I do believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger himself should apologize for having supported Proposition 187. I believe he should apologize for trying to undo the driver’s license bill I just signed, which recognizes the enormous contribution that immigrants make to our economy.”

    And I saw video of this (or a similar set of statements, I am not sure which) and Davis’ demeanor was anything but humble.

    Source: Governor apologizes for his accent ‘joke’

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    Too Funny

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:34 pm

    This demonstrates the power of the press.

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    ReCAL Update

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:24 pm

    McClintock is already making noises that indicate a softer stance on his candidacy than seemed to be the case as recently as a day or so ago. The SacBee reports:

    “There’d be no need to pull out in that case,” McClintock said on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes” show. “My support would go to Arnold if it looks like Arnold’s the only hope of stopping Cruz Bustamante, and I think Arnold’s support would come to me if our momentum continues and they realize they can actually have their first choice and he can win.”

    Still, he said he will not follow the lead of former Republican candidate Peter Ueberroth, who left the race Tuesday.

    Further, SacBee reporter Daniel Weintraub offers some interesting possible “peace plans” that might emerge between Schwarzenegger and McClintok on his blog.

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    Dean’s Still Angry

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:51 pm

    Dean Esmay is still angry. I can’t say that I disagree. His pictoral reminder is worth a review as well.

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    Tacky Kerry, Slick Edwards

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:23 pm

    I was struck by a line from John Kerry the other night during the Nine’s debate. It was an unnecessary attack on John Ashcroft:

    Tuesday night Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry - who at least has the good grace to acknowledge his vote in favor of the Patriot Act - noted, as he surveyed the debate audience, that there were “people from every background, every creed, every color, every belief, every religion. This is, indeed, John Ashcroft’s worst nightmare here.” Mr. Kerry got his laugh, but he sullied himself in the process.

    What is the point of such a slur? It was unnecessary, unkind and, as far as I can tell, unrelated to any actual action or statement of Ashcroft’s. It was simply a cheap shot at man who is an easy target because he is widely disliked by the left.

    As the WaPo editorial cited above put it, Ashcroft has become (especially in that debate) an “all-purpose bogeyman".

    Interestingly, I could only find two references to that quote via a Google News search, the editorial quoted above, and a column in the Progressive.

    And, the intro to the editorial is worth noting as well, as it shows some serious hypocrisy on the part of John Edwards:

    I SUPPORT DRAMATIC revision of the Patriot Act. The last thing we should be doing is turning over our privacy, our liberties, our freedom, our constitutional rights to John Ashcroft.” So said North Carolina Sen. John Edwards during the Democratic presidential candidates debate in Baltimore Tuesday night. Surely, then, Mr. Edwards voted against the anti-terrorism law rushed through Congress after Sept. 11? Well, no. When he rose on the Senate floor to speak on the proposal two years ago, he said: “The bill is not perfect, but it is a good bill, it is important for the nation, and I am pleased to support it.” Indeed, Mr. Edwards voted against all four amendments offered by Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) to ameliorate some of the civil liberties concerns that Mr. Edwards now seems to feel so keenly - and that the Democratic audiences he is wooing respond to with such fervor.

    Source: Source: Patriot (Act) Games

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    What Iraqis Think

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:07 pm

    AEI - News & Commentary has some interesting info from a Zogby poll on Iraqis’ views of their current situation. Of particular interest are the numbers which show that an Islamic state is actually an unlikely outcome in post-war Iraq.

  • Our interviewers inquired whether Iraq should have an Islamic government, or instead let all people practice their own religion. Only 33 percent want an Islamic government; a solid 60 percent say no. A vital detail: Shiites (whom Western reporters frequently portray as self-flagellating maniacs) are least receptive to the idea of an Islamic government, saying no by 66 percent to 27 percent. It is only among the minority Sunnis that there is interest in a religious state, and they are split evenly on the question.

  • Perhaps the strongest indication that an Islamic government won’t be part of Iraq’s future: The nation is thoroughly secularized. We asked how often our respondents had attended the Friday prayer over the previous month. Fully 43 percent said “never.” It’s time to scratch “Khomeini II” from the list of morbid fears.
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    Has it Really Been Ten Years?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:52 am

    You know you are getting old when the “new guy” is celebrating his tenth anniversary.

    UPDATE: Another sign of aging: I’m am fully with Daniel Drezner on this point:

    In those ten years, I’ve gone from someone who would watch the show on occasion to someone who desperately needs to be asleep by the time he’s on.

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    • The American Mind linked with 10 Years of Conan
    Speaking of Clark…

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:28 am

    This sounds vaguely famaliar. I wonder where I have heard it before? Clark faces major hurdles if he runs for president

    But if the retired Army four-star general announces next week, as expected, that he will join the field of nine Democrats running for president, he will have to maneuver quickly to survive on the political battlefield. And yet, analysts say, Clark brings a resume that could rattle John Kerry, who has struggled as former Vermont governor Howard Dean has pulled ahead in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two contests.

    Campaign observers say Clark’s late start would put him far behind other Democratic candidates in fundraising and organization. And despite winning a war and appearing on TV as a CNN military analyst during the Iraq War, Clark is not Dwight Eisenhower or even Colin Powell. Unlike those generals, also the subject of draft movements, most people have never heard of Clark.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:25 am

    Gen. Clark Reportedly Is Asked to Join Dean

    Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has asked retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark to join his campaign, if the former NATO commander does not jump into the race himself next week, and the two men discussed the vice presidency at a weekend meeting in California, sources familiar with the discussions said.

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    In Remembrance

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:35 am

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    Wednesday, September 10, 2003
    First Opus, Now S&G

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:48 pm

    It must be blast-from-the-past week: Cam Edwards is reporting (fom Yahoo) that Simon and Garfunkel are actually going to reunite for a natiowide tour.


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    ReCAL Shuffle

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:16 pm

    Here’s the current low-down on the effects of the Ueberroth exit:

    Experts had expected GOP front-runner Arnold Schwarzenegger to pick up most of Ueberroth’s 5 percent support in the race to replace Gov. Gray Davis in the Oct. 7 election.

    But a Field Poll released Wednesday showed Schwarzenegger and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat, each picked up 2 percentage points with Ueberroth out of the mix.

    State Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Northridge, the leading conservative in the race, took the final 1 percent of Ueberroth’s supporters, going from 13 percent to 14 percent.

    Of course, since Arnie and Cruz were within the MOE of each other before, and we are talking about only 5 points anyway, it really is rather hard to say who got what or not.

    Surely McClintock, despite protestations to the contrary, will eventually drop out. He hasn’t a prayer and all his candidacy will do is help Bustamante.

    Of course, never bet against the ego of a politician, I guess. Still, I think he will get out at some point. Remember: both Issa and Simon both said were in no matter what, but both dropped out, sometimes within a day of saying that they were staying.

    Source: Candidates vie for Ueberroth’s votes now that he has stepped down

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    “Special” Interests

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:53 pm

    For those not paying attention to things I have written before (and there are some, based on some of today’s comments), what I have said about “special interest” is that the very concept is problematic. It is problematic not because there are no interests, nor because there aren’t groups which try to influence public policy. Rather, the point is that we all have interests and the only difference between a “special” interest and a “vital” interest tends to be whose positions get helped-i.e., a “special” interest helps someone else and “vital” interest helps me.

    In the context of Alabama politics, my criticism of the idea of “special interest” in the essay I posted last Sunday went like this:

    However, if one does a little digging, one finds that the largest contributors to this organization is the Alabama Farmers Federation, through its country chapters, and their affiliate, ALFA Insurance. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with a group of individuals seeking to promote their best interests in government, it is rather difficult to consider these organizations little guysindeed, the Alabama Farmers Federation is one of the largest special interest groups in the state. According to the Secretary of States office, other key contributors to the opposition include Southtrust Bank and Gulf States Paper Corp. Again, these contributors, who gave tens of thousands of dollars, are just as much involved in Montgomery politics as any other group, making their commercials, which claim to eschew insider politics, hypocritical at best, and purposefully misleading at the worst.

    So, if one is motivated to vote no by a misguided belief that the yes forces represent special interests and politicians, and the no forces represent only the little guy, think again. Find out who it is that is opposed and what interests they are protecting. Information is key for making a choice. Remember: ones own interest is vital; other peoples interests are special. The question in regards to the September vote is whether the interests one is voting for are indeed ones own (and the states), or whether one is being persuaded to protect one specific group of interests, i.e., keeping property taxes low for large farms. (Again: under the plan, the first 200 acres of a residential farmstead will be exempt from property taxes. This plan does not target small family farms).

    The point being that anyone who is organized to influence politics has “interests” and that’s fine (indeed, it is good and an outgrowth of democracy-see Federalist #10).

    The correct analysis is to talk about a constellation of myriad interests. The false analysis is to speak of a dichotomous relationship between “the little guy” and “special interests". Indeed, on any given issue there will be a whole host of interests on each side. It really is a key element of representative democracy.

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    Very Interesting

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:33 am

    D.C. School Voucher Bill Passes in House by 1 Vote

    The House of Representatives approved the nation’s first federally funded voucher program by a single vote last night, sending the Senate a plan that would provide $10 million in private school tuition grants to at least 1,300 D.C. children next year.

    Although if it was that close in the House, one wonders if it has a prayer in the Senate.

    Indeed, the article concludes with the following:

    In the Senate, Democrats debated their strategy on the voucher issue, which now appears unlikely to reach the Senate floor before next week at the earliest.

    Norton said that instead of waging a filibuster, Senate Democrats would hold an open debate on the merits of the voucher concept.

    But a Senate Democratic aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the strategy remained undecided. While Democrats want to make clear that they seek an open debate, the aide said, “all tools remain available to Democrats to defeat this legislation.”

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    Down in Flames

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:30 am

    The Alabama vote is in, and the Riley Plan lost 68% to 32%.

    And now the fun begins: Riley hears message; cuts coming

    Of course, as I said the other day:

    Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We have done the same thing for decadesunder-funded our schools and hoped that they would eventually improve. They havent . We arent ranked fiftieth, or near fiftieth in key educational indicators by happenstance.

    Also, one wonders if Riley doesn’t now become essentially a lame duck, despite this being his first year in office.

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    • The World Around You linked with Amendment 1 Defeated, Where Do We Go from Here?
    Tuesday, September 9, 2003

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:02 pm

    Good deal: Opus the Penguin Back In the Funny Business.

    I was always a big fan of Bloom County.

    The new strip will be Sunday’s only-like Outland (which wasn’t as good as BC).

    Hat tip: Betsy’s Page.

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    • Tiger: Raggin’ & Rantin’ linked with The Prodigal Penguin is returning
    • The Accidental Jedi linked with Opus returns!
    I’m Depressed

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:32 pm

    In watching the Nine debate on TV tonight I have learned what a wretched country we live in.

    It is apparently really, really bad out there.

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    Bush’s DUI Arrest

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:41 pm

    More trips down memory lane-in this case, the Bush DUI story. Since this was brought up in a comment below, I thought I would refresh my memory:

    Wayne Slater, the Austin bureau chief of The Dallas Morning News, thinks he nearly had the DUI story straight from Bush’s mouth back in 1998, when Bush was running for re-election in Texas. Slater wrote about Bush’s arrest for stealing a holiday wreath while a student at Yale. Soon after that story ran, Morning News reporters turned up a document from Bush’s National Guard days that indicated he had been convicted of a crime. Slater asked Bush about it, and was told it was the wreath incident. He pressed, asking Bush if there were other arrests. Bush told him there were not. But then, Slater says, Bush started to elaborate. “He said something like, ‘Well, let’s talk about this.’” That’s when Slater says the Bush spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, cut him off. “It was clear to me that he wanted to amend his answer,” Slater says. “But at some point after that they made the decision to not talk about it.”

    Now, I would agree that Bush lied here. I would say that was, in a word: “bad.” He shouldn’t have done it and, I would note, that it came back to haunt him politically. In the close race that was 2000, there is little doubt in my mind that this story cost him votes.

    Of course, that is the argument I keep trying to make about Gore: that his his to self-aggrandize at a near-pathological level, was a poltical problem for him as well, and that it, too, cost him votes in a very close election. I remain amazed that some of my readers find this thesis so outrageous.

    Although to fully fit the bill, one would need to find a pattern of Bush lying to the press about his past (and please, no WMD-based arguments).

    Source: Colombia Journalism Review

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    ReCAL Shake-up

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:49 pm

    Is McClintock next? Ueberroth Said to Drop Out of Recall Race

    Peter Ueberroth, the Republican business executive who built a career taking over troubled situations and turning them around, is reportedly dropping out of the California gubernatorial recall race.

    Hat tip: Drudge

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    Gore and Fema: I Rescind My Concession

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:41 pm

    The Great Gore Rehash of 2003 continues. (also here, here, and here)

    Ok, I rescind my correction, because after looking at the transcript of the first debate in 2000 (as published by the NYTs on 10/4/00, page A30), the FEMA thing does fit pattern that I am describing. Gore is like the kid in the class who yearns to the be smartest, so has to one-up everyone.

    The reason I say this fits, is because Bush references a specific fire, and yet Gore has to say I was there, too!. Is it a lie? Maybe. Could he have misremembered, given the facts below, unlikely. Did he go to Houston to be briefed, sorta (see below). Is Houston near Parker County? Noit is up near Fort Worth.

    MR. BUSH I - you know, as governor, one of the things you have to deal with is catastrophe. I can remember the fires that swept Parker County, Tex


    MR. GORE Yeah. First I want to compliment the governor on his response to those fires and floods in Texas. I accompanied James Lee Witt down to Texas when those fires broke out. And FEMA has been a major flagship project of our reinventing government efforts. And I agree, it works extremely well now.

    Again, this can be interpreted as an innocent mistake, but in the broader context of a constant need to self-aggrandize, it fits the pattern, which is the ongoing need by Gore to make himself sound better, even on rather trivial matters. Plus, this is a pretty specific claim.

    According to (that HQ of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy) reported on this as follows:

    Issue: The Texas Fires

    What Gore Said: In his response to moderator Jim Lehrers question about your ability to handle the unexpected, Bush cited his handling of the fires that swept through Parker County Texas in June, 1998. I accompanied [Federal Emergency Management Agency Director] James Lee Witt down to Texas when those fires broke out, Gore said in his response.
    Fact: Gore did travel to Texas in late June, after the fires broke out, but he was there to address the Texas Democratic Party, not to inspect fire damage. And Witt was not with him at any point during the trip.
    Response: I was there in Texas. I think James Lee Witt went to the same fires. Ive made so many trips with James to these disaster sites. … if James Lee was there before or after, then, I got that wrong then, Gore told Good Morning America.

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    TexDems Coming Home

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:38 am

    Texas Senate Democrats to End N.M. Exile.

    The fight isn’t over yet, clearly, but this chapter is done.

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    Since This Got So Much Play Last Time…

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:34 am

    Since the last time I mentioned this, it got a lot of attention, here’s some more news: Constantine Cast Grows.

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    Arab League Recognizes New Iraqi Government

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:47 am

    Interesting, and a step in the right direction:

    Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari took his country’s seat at the Arab League on Tuesday, settling a two-month dispute within the pan-Arab body over whether to recognize a government set up by the U.S. occupiers.


    The other members of the 22-member league had decided to accept Zebari hours earlier after a late night, six-hour debate. The league said the Iraqi Governing Council, the U.S.-appointed interim authority, had been granted Iraq’s seat until the formation of a legitimate Iraqi government under a new constitution.

    “This decision was agreed upon unanimously,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told reporters.

    By winning increased legitimacy, the Governing Council helps boost U.S. plans to establish a moderate, representative Iraqi government to replace Saddam’s bloody three decade-long rule.

    Also good:

    The president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Abdullah Bin Hamad al-Attiyah, has been quoted as saying the oil cartel will invite the Governing Council’s oil minister to its Sept. 24 meeting in Vienna if the United Nations recognizes the interim Iraqi government.

    Source: Iraq Takes Seat at Arab League Meeting

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    That Sand Can’t Be Comfy

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:43 am

    The nude protesters are back-this time they disrobe against the WTO.

    Anti-globalization protesters stripped out of their clothes and spelled out the words “No WTO” with their naked bodies Monday, the first of several actions against the World Trade Organization meeting in this Caribbean resort.

    Can you feel the power?

    Source: Protesters Flock to Cancun for WTO Summit

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    New CaliPoll

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:37 am

    Davis is still toasty:

    The Field Poll of 505 likely voters also found that 55 percent favored the removal of Democrat Gov. Gray Davis

    And Cruz is still ahead:

    The poll from Sept. 3-7 found 30 percent favoring Democrat Bustamante, compared to 25 percent for political neophyte Schwarzenegger. It had a 4.5 percent margin of error.

    Although really, that is too close to call.

    The interesting part is this:

    “The polls finds that if McClintock were to drop out of the race, most of the state senator’s supporters would prefer Schwarzenegger, moving the actor slightly ahead of Bustamante in voters’ preferences, 33 percent to 31 percent,” poll researchers Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field wrote.

    And, perhaps because the other conservative, Bill Simon, got out of the race?

    The poll showed Republican State Senator McClintock in third place at 13 percent, up from 9 percent last month.

    I mean, not really a surge.

    Source: Schwarzenegger Trails Democrat in Latest Poll

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    Monday, September 8, 2003
    Here are Some More

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:03 pm

    More from the NR pages (and before anyone tries the “National Review is a conservative rag” argument, note that all of these cite mainstream newspapers):

    Washington Post, Sept. 24
    CLAIM: At Sept. 22 press conference, Gore says, I’ve been a part of the discussions on the strategic reserve since the days when it was first established.
    TRUTH: President Ford established the Strategic Petroleum Reserves when he signed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) on December 22, 1975 two years before Al Gore became a congressman.

    February 20, 2000; New York Times
    CLAIM: Gore said he has always, always, always supported Roe v. Wade.
    TRUTH: In 1977, Rep. Gore voted for the Hyde Amendment, which says that abortion takes the life of an unborn child who is a living human being, and that there is no constitutional right to abortion. He cast many other votes favorable to the pro-life cause and earned an 84 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

    December 1, 1999; Concord High School, Concord, N.H.
    CLAIM: I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal. I had the first hearing on that issue.
    TRUTH: In October 1978, Gore did hold congressional hearings on Love Canal which he apparently found two months after President Carter declared it a disaster area and the federal government offered to buy the homes.

    November 1, 1999; Time interview
    CLAIM: I was the author of that proposal [the Earned Income Tax Credit]. I wrote that, so I say [to Bill Bradley], Welcome aboard. That is something for which I have been the principal proponent for a long time.
    TRUTH: The original EITC law was enacted in 1975. Gore entered Congress in 1977.

    February 16, 1992; C-SPANs Booknotes
    CLAIM: Gore said his sister was the very first volunteer for the Peace Corps.
    TRUTH: Nancy Gore Hunger was a paid employee at Peace Corps headquarters, 1961-64.

    February 1988; two ads
    CLAIM: Im Al Gore. I grew up on a farm, and growing up in Carthage, Tennessee, I learned our bedrock values . . .
    TRUTH: Gore, the son of a senator, grew up primarily at the Fairfax Hotel in Washington, D.C., in a suite of rooms overlooking Embassy Row. He graduated from the ritzy St. Albans National Cathedral School, also in the capital.

    1988 campaign video
    CLAIM: Narrator calls him a brilliant student.
    TRUTH: His grades were uneven, never approaching the plateau of As and Bs that might be expected of one who possesses such a pedagogical demeanor, reported the Washington Post (3-19-00).

    1984 Senate ad
    CLAIM: Narrator says Gore wrote the bipartisan plan on arms control that U.S. negotiators will take to the Russians.
    TRUTH: Ken Adelman, director of U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency: He had nothing to do with what we proposed to the Soviets (Boston Globe, 4-11-00).

    I skipped a lot of them, especially ones that could be reasonably inferred as mistakes. And I will grant that some of these are open to interpretation, although not most of them. There are some pretty egregious ones here that I had forgotten about, like Love Canal, the Strategic Oil Reserve, the EITC and the abortion claims.

    Are we still saying that there is no pattern here?

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    • Insults Unpunished linked with Why Does Al Gore Feel He Needs To Lie?
    I Do Love a Challenge

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:52 pm

    Despite my best efforts to avoid more research on this Gore thread, all of the comments on the various posts have driven me to further dig up some stuff. For example, on the tobacco issue:

    TOBACCO #1
    March 1, 2000; San Jose Mercury News
    CLAIM: Its not fair to say, Okay, after his sister died, he continued in the same relationship with the tobacco industry. I did not. I did not. I began to confront them forcefully. I dont see the inconsistency there.
    TRUTH: The same month Gores sister died in 1984, he received a $1,000 speaking fee from U.S. Tobacco. The next year, he voted against cigarette and tobacco tax increases three times and favored a bill allowing major cigarette makers to purchase discounted tobacco. In the 1988 campaign, Gore bragged of his tobacco background: I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I put [tobacco] in the plant beds and transferred it. Ive hoed it, Ive dug in it, Ive sprayed it, Ive chopped it, Ive shredded it, spiked it, put it in the barn, and stripped it and sold it (Newsday, 2-26-88).

    TOBACCO #2
    March 1, 2000; San Jose Mercury News
    CLAIM: My family had grown tobacco. It was never actually grown on my farm, but it was on my fathers farm.
    TRUTH: Gore had already admitted growing tobacco on his own farm: On my farm, we stopped growing tobacco some time after Nancy died (Cox News Service, 4-26-99). Also, Gore received federal subsidies for growing tobacco on his farm (Wall Street Journal, 8-10-95).

    While the info above has the actual citations, the source of the above is National Review..

    More later… (and there is quite a bit more)

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    • Insults Unpunished linked with Why Does Al Gore Feel He Needs To Lie?

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:16 pm

    Via’s The Note

    Is it an announcement phone call or a rock concert? You decide. When Senator John Edwards told his staff over the weekend that he would bow out of the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, he did it by conference call. All satellite offices tuned in, campaign sources tell us, and both campaign manager Nick Baldick and the fully decided presidential candidate were announced to the troops over the rollicking strains of John Mellencamp’s “Small Town.” Edwards told his cheering staff that he was fully committed to the race for the presidency.

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    Unlikely Headline of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:12 pm

    Skakel lawyer to seek new trial based on evidence from Kobe Bryant kin

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    Davis Unplugged

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:07 pm

    One the one hand, if this is the best he’s got, he’s still toast:

    Talking to a voter, Davis reportedly said “you shouldn’t be Governor unless you can pronounce the name of the State.”

    On the other, can one imagine if the person saying this was a Republican and the guy with the accent was a Democrat?

    On the third hand, it is vaguely amusing (and Davis did say it was a joke).

    On the fourth hand, it somehow seems to fit into the whole Recall Campaign ambiance.

    Source: 29 Days & Counting to the Historic Recall Election

    UPDATE: Based on Matthew’s comment, I went looking for more info:

    Whipped into an anti-Schwarzenegger frenzy at the picnic, one crowd member screamed, “He’s a foreigner!” as Davis criticized Schwarzenegger, who hopes to take over his seat in the Oct. 7 recall election.

    The man who made the foreigner comment later apologized to Davis for making the remark.

    Davis told him not to worry, the Bee reported, and added with a smile, “You shouldn’t be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state,” in an apparent reference to Schwarzenegger’s Austrian accent.

    When later asked about his remark, and Schwarzenegger’s demand for an apology, Davis, flanked by Hispanic lawmakers at an East Los Angeles Mexican Independence Day parade that Schwarzenegger had planned to attend before organizers booted him out, said he made it in jest.

    “I was just joking around with someone in the crowd,” Davis said after the parade

    But it’s okay to placate a xenophobe in the audience, because after all, Arnie’s a White Austrian-American. Yeesh.

    Source: Report: Davis Slams Schwarzenegger’s Accent

    And the original SacBee story: Governor takes dig at accent and today’s follow-up: Davis says he was ‘just joking’ about Schwarzenegger’s pronunciation.

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    Speaking of Edwards…

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:25 am

    I had meant to blog this last week, but clearly Edwards won the Panderbear AwardTM at the debate in NM last week:

    Edwards also wants to […] create a national translation center-"so we don’t have children of Hispanic adults translating to doctors about the problems their parents are facing.”

    I heard the sound bite, and he wants a national 24-hour translation center in DC that Doctor’s and such can call.

    I mean, gee whiz, how do people get by without federal programs?

    And if one looks at Edwards’ policy proposals, one sees quite a bit of additional spending (like free college for all Americans, to name one), so I am not so sure Mr. Edwards has the grounds to gripe about the current deficit.

    Source: ABQjournal: What They Said

    Hat Tip: Michael Medved Show.

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    Gore and Quayle (in ‘04!)

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:28 am

    This came to mind as I was driving to work today: for those who think that the whole Gore-as-exaggerator thesis was a media construct sans merit, I am curious if you also think that the Quayle-as-mental-midget thesis was just a media construct and “partisan slur” (as one commentator described the Gore thesis).

    I won’t even offer my own perspective on this one at this point.

    I would say that in both cases, there were clear political ramifications, and that both have to do with the complexities of reality and perception.

    (And what could be more fun than a bipartisan, Gore-Quayle ticket in 2004? The Attack of the Veeps!)

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    Wild, Bold and Stupid?

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:33 am

    I heard this last night prior to the President’s speech: A Presidential Contender Rules Out a Senate Race, i.e., that John Edwards is not going to seek re-election to the US Senate. I was surprised by the move, which can be said to be both bold and stupid. Bold, in that it was decisive (although one could also argue that it was an attempt to get press coverage, as there has been little attention paid to Edwards’ campaign to date). Stupid in that his odds of winning the nomination are slim, and he is likely to find himself out of a political job soon. Plus, he may have increased the odds that the Republicans will win his Senate seat in ‘04.

    Of course, if the goal was in any way publicity, it was a rather lame attempt-given that the letter was issued on Sunday, during the NFL’s kick-off weekend just prior to the President’s speech.

    If it was in any way done to generate buzz, then given the timing, I think we can see why his campaign isn’t doing so well…

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    • The World Around You linked with Edwards to Give Up Senate Seat
    • The American Mind linked with Edwards Won't Run for Re-election
    Sunday, September 7, 2003
    Fiscal Conservative?

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:43 pm

    James of OTB quotes Sully on the issue of Howard Dean as fiscal conservative. I have to say, ok, fine, the Vermont budget was balanced under Dean, and he likes to talk about doing the same at the national level. However, it is hard to fit the square peg of creating national health care (by redirection of the Bush tax cuts) into the round hole of “fiscal conservatism.”

    Plus, a remarkable thing has happened in this debate, as I agree something that Dennis Kucinich said when he pointed out in the NM debate that Vermont doesn’t have a military-and while that means something different to Mr. “Department of Peace” than it does to me, it does point out the far-more complex nature of dealing with the national budget.

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    Bama at the Bottom

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:21 pm

    The following editorial from Thursday’s Montgomery Advertiser helps explain why I am for the tax package, and why our state slogan can’t be “Be Like Bama!":

    [T]he Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., took a different tack. An editorial used Alabama as a case in point of how far some national anti-tax groups will go in opposing taxes.

    The newspaper wrote: “Ever wonder how far anti-tax groups such as Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union and the National Taxpayers Union would let a state slip before they’d agree to a tax hike? Well, look at Alabama and you’ll get your answer.

    “Alabama currently spends less per child on education than any state in the nation. It has 28,000 prisoners squeezed into prisons designed for 12,000…. Some nights thousands of miles of roadway are monitored by a half-dozen (state police) officers. It has a tax structure that … imposes an effective tax rate of 3 percent on Alabama’s wealthiest citizens and 12 percent on its poorest residents. A family of four subsisting on $4,600 a year has to pay income taxes, but out-of-state timber companies get by paying only $1.25 an acre in property taxes.”

    The editorial goes on to lament that, despite the state’s problems, these national anti-tax groups are opposing the tax increase here anyway.

    “For them, the Alabama experience suggests, there is no bottom line, no point at which shoddy schools or overcrowded prisons or unsafe highways outweigh the desire to keep taxes low. Fiftieth in spending among the 50 states isn’t low enough.”

    Indeed, I have been rather frustrated with some national conservatives, like Dick Armey and Grover Norquist, who have had a knee-jerk reaction to the phrase “tax increase” without looking at the structural conditions in this state.

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    Critics and Criticism

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:06 pm

    James of OTB has an excellent post on the issue of criticism which builds on a post by Daniel Drezner (which, in turn, was initially inspired by this essay).

    There is much here that many denizens of the blogosphere ought take to heart.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 11:08 am

    I had written this for publication in support of the upcoming vote in Alabama, but it wasn’t picked up. So, here it is:

    Will Alabama Make the Rational Choice?

    There is a school of thought in the discipline of political science called rational choice theory which argues that the best way to understand political behavior is to understand that individuals are rational (i.e., use reason to make decisions) and are self-interested (and therefore weigh options in terms of cost and benefit to self). Therefore, says this theory, the best way to understand political action is to understand how individuals perceive their own self-interest. Further, this theory assumes that people will make the right choice (i.e., the choice that is in their best interest) if they have adequate information. The upcoming September 9th vote will be an interesting test of this theory, and perhaps provide some theorists somewhere with quite a bit of grist for their academic mill.

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    • Insults Unpunished linked with Tax Increases In Alabama
    • Signifying Nothing linked with Rationality and taxes
    • Modulator linked with Late Night Reading
    • Insults Unpunished linked with Paul Krugman Decides To Become An Economist Again
    Cal Thomas on the Commandments

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:59 am

    I came across Cal Thomas’ column on the Ten Commandments flap down here in Alabama. He sums up my position pretty well, which is that many who are focused on the monument are distracting themselves from the real work of their faith. I also concur about his view of government in promoting religion:

    It’s worrisome when Congress thinks it needs to defend or proclaim faith, especially when it has difficulty solving the temporal problems members have been elected to address. And I worry more when people who say they serve a King and Kingdom that is “not of this world” call upon government to proclaim their particular faith. My worry is not for the reasons stated by those bringing lawsuits to cleanse the public square of any reference to God. It is for the believers who are distracted from the main and more difficult task their heavenly Commander-in-Chief has called upon them to do. They are focused on trivialities and diverted from more important work.

    And this occurred to me as well (and actually, from a very different point of view, echoed some of what Christopher Hitchens wrote on this topic):

    Some reporter should have asked today’s Alabama protesters how many of the Commandments they could recite. Probably not many. The protesters say American law is based on the Commandments. A reporter should have asked, “All of them?” There are only two commandments that relate to secular law (not counting the one about adultery, for which you cannot legally be deprived of life or liberty, property being a matter for divorce courts). One prohibits murder, the other outlaws stealing. The rest are about relationships between God and man and between humans. Do the protesters want laws that force people to honor their mothers and fathers, or not “covet” their neighbor’s property, or “honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” or worship only their God? Isn’t state religion what we’re fighting against in Iraq and Afghanistan?

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    What is Levin Smoking?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:33 am

    Seantor Carl Levin is on Fox News Sunday claming that if we had just petitioned the UN for help, our troops would be “less of a target” and there wouldn’t be a “jihad against the West". So, just having a UN mandate would have stopped the Islamic extremists from engaging in terrorism?

    He did note that they bombed the UN HQ, right?

    Regardless of one’s position on this whole Iraq/War on Terror policy, can anyone actually defend the position that a UN blessing on the event would have stayed the hand of al Qaeda and similar groups?

    I will grant that the administration, and many on the right, have not enough respect for the UN, but some on the left ave an almost mystical belief in its ability to solve problems. Amazing.

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    Saturday, September 6, 2003
    National Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:22 pm

    James of OTB (via DailyKos) reports on the latest national polling data on the Nine.

    He rightly identifies the significance of “other"-and I think that you can apply similar analysis to “Not Sure". And I agree with James- equating “Clark” with “Other” is a stretch. When 21% aren’t even sure, you can bank on the fact that a lot of folks don’t even know Clark is considering a run.

    The one thing I wanted to add was that the best way to look at these national polls right now is as “name recognition” surveys, rather than actual vote-predicting polls. The only polls that really matter at this point, and they are, of course, tenuous, are the NH, SC and Iowa polls-and there Liberman is not faring too well.

    Not only will these be the places which set the tone, but those folks have already been bombarded with info and are more likely to have formed an opinion, whilst people elsewhere, even committed Democrats, are not really paying attention.

    Indeed, this dynamic is part of what I have talked about before when I have noted that many seem not to understand the primary process. Even with the compressed schedule this year, it really isn’t a national contest.

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    Ok, Take the Politics Out of it for a Minute

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:28 pm

    From much of the commentary on this whole Gore thread, it is clear that partisanship is a major force in how we all look at this issue. Lets set aside politics and specific politicians and look at it like this:

    Lets say that you are my new colleague in my department and over the course of the next academic year, you hear me say things like the following:

    -I founded the political science department here at the university.

    -Im a columnist for the local paper.”

    -I took the initiative in bringing the current childrens Wednesday night program to my church.

    -I have numerous publications in the area of campaigns and campaign finance issues.

    -I know Colombian ex-President Andres Pastrana fairly well.

    Then, as you get settled in you find out the following:

    -While, I was a major player in the reform of the curriculum just prior to the establishment of political science as an independent department, but that the major had existed for decades, that the curriculum review I worked on really had nothing directly to do with establishing the department as an independent entity, and further, I was not the only one who worked on the project.

    -That I write occasional freelance columns for the local newspaper but have no permanent relationship with the paper.

    -That while I was part of the founding leadership team for the program at my church, I volunteered well after the program had been brought to the church, and would have been implemented whether I helped or not.

    -That while I do have several publications on that topic, that there are only a handful, and they arent long form pieces but short entries in an encyclopedic text.

    -I once interviewed Pastrana for about an hour, and it was several years before he was president.

    Each statement above could be interpreted as containing more truth than untruth, and maybe at a given moment I misspoke, or was trying to put my best foot forward to a new colleague, and simply went overboard. However, if I did it repeatedly, whats your opinion going to be of me at the end of that first academic year working with me?

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    Not Surprising; Not Good

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:39 am

    Not that this surprises me, and not that I was terribly sanguine about the chances for his success, still, not good: Abbas Quits in Blow to Mideast Peace Plan.

    The worst part is that it brings Arafat back to center stage.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:00 am

    I have noted this in several comments, but thought I should post it on the main blog. I retract the FEMA story in re: Gore. I had misremembered it as Gore saying he went to Texas, when he did not. In fact, the issue was that he said h went to Texas with the director of FEMA, when he gone with some lower-level types. This is a reasonable mistake, so I take it out of the mix.

    However, I would note that once one finds oneself with the reputation of an exaggerator, little things like that tend to be amplified, and it was at the time, and hence its sticking in my head.

    UPDATE: Upon further review, I rescind this correction.

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    • Wizbang linked with Bonfire of the Vanities - Week 10
    • Wizbang linked with Bonfire of the Vanities - Week 10
    • Wizbang linked with Bonfire Of The Vanities - Week 26
    • Wizbang linked with Bonfire Of The Vanities - Week 26
    The Point

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:54 am

    Really, the point of all this Gore discussion is that Kerry’s treatment of his vote on Iraq, and his whole new “anger at Bush as motivation to run” bit reminds me of Gore, to some degree. Less for the similarity in actual action, but for the fact that I think it will damage him in his bid for the nomination. And for the degree to which unnecessary lies will, in both cases, be politically costly.

    Why couldnt Kerry just say that he voted for the war, supported the idea of the war, but in the end is upset with the way it was executed? Why this whole I was voting for a threat, not a war? And why not say my anger at Bush simply adds fuel to my fire to win instead of cited it as the motivation for the campaign itself? The answer is that he doesnt think the voters will like the real answers, so he fudges. However, I am arguing that the fudging will be more damaging, because it will fuel the currently burgeoning perception that he is a waffler. Further, it all plays into Dean’s hands, as Dean is running as the “straight talker” in this race. Also, since the Democrats want to run on the “Bush lied’ thesis, their candidate has to be safe from the same criticism.

    Personality clearly matters, as does perception of that personality.

    Just think, if Gore had avoided this litany of embellishment, he probably would have won. And what is more remarkable, telling the exact truth in each of these cases would not have been damaging. They werent even strategically good lies.

    And while I clearly did not like Gore, and dont want Kerry to win, I am just looking at the politics of the situation. And clearly while I know that partisanship affects the way people look at this issue, my post below from Newsweek, The Boston Globe and WaPo hardly counts as a coterie of right-wing conspirators.

    Also, part of my motivation was to rise to the challenge of some of the comments. While the posters in question may not be convinced by my evidence, I find myself more convinced than when I started this process.

    And I will allow that any one of these examples can be explained away-that’s not the point. The point is that there is a significant pattern here that led to an important vulnerability for Gore. And forget any need to defend Gore, as at this point it really doesn’t matter-can anyone out there actually say that this was unimportant to the race in 2000? That is the analytical point here, not whether you think that the perception of Gore is wrong, or can be explained.

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    Friday, September 5, 2003
    Unfortunate Typo of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:52 pm

    I was trying to catch up on some Trek news at The Trek Nation and saw this from a description of season two’s penultimate episode:

    UPN Synopsis: “After contracting a virus on an away mission, T’Pol begins to prematurely experience severe symptoms of Pon Farr, the Vulvan mating cycle in which she has to mate or else die.

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    More on Poor Gore

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:37 pm

    These two post (here and here), and ensuing comments from Nathan Callahan, has sent me to Lexis/Nexis to refresh my memory on Mr. Gores penchant for exaggeration. It always struck me as odd, because most of the stories would have been fine in their less enhanced versions, and, on balance, the enhancements didnt really gain Gore anything. I think it made him look insecure, and, made me wonder that if he had trouble with small truths, if he wouldnt have trouble with larger ones as well.

    Plus, he had a clear need to be the smartest guy in the room, and that is a behavior that I have always found to be troubling.

    A 2000 Newsweek piece by one Gore biographer, Bill Turque, put it quite well

    What makes it especially puzzling is that, for the most part, the statements in question aren’t huge “I-did-not-have-sexual-relations-with-that-woman"-sized lies, but small, often silly and self-aggrandizing distortions of his background. Gore never met a personal anecdote he didn’t like well enough to stretch further than the facts would allow.


    Most of Gore’s tales are tethered to a sizable chunk of reality. In nearly every case, the straight story would have been just as interesting or praiseworthy. Gore did not, as he told Wolf Blitzer in 1998, take “the initiative in creating the Internet.” But he did sponsor legislation that invested billions in critical fiber optics research than paved the way for the Internet we have today. And while he was not the basis for the Oliver Barrett character in Love Story, author Erich Segal says Barrett was a combination of Gore and his Harvard pal Tommy Lee Jones. Gore’s work as a reporter in Nashville did not, as he claimed in 1988, result in jail time for two members of the city council. But they were indicted on bribery charges as a result of Gore’s investigation.

    It’s a self-destructive, neurotic tick in the character of a man who is usually at home in the world of facts and ideas. I have no definitive explanation for Gore’s tendency to embellish.

    Or, from a Boston Globe piece:

    Vice President Al Gore brings a remarkable life story to the presidential race: His father was such an unwavering supporter of civil rights that it cost him his Senate seat. His older sister was the first-ever volunteer in the Peace Corps, that heroic outpost on President Kennedy’s New Frontier.

    By Gore’s account: He was raised in hardscrabble Tennessee farm country. He was a brilliant student, in high school and at Harvard. And despite his political pull, he received no special treatment, opting instead to go to Vietnam where he was “shot at.” After his Army service, he spent seven years as a journalist, and his reporting at the Tennessean in Nashville put corrupt officials in prison.

    As a junior member in the US House, he was a major force: He wrote and then spearheaded passage of the Superfund law. He even authored the US nuclear negotiating position. And at a time when President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev faced off on the superpower stage, Gore had his own meeting with Gorbachev.

    And, of course, he created the Internet.

    At various times in his political career, Gore, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has said all those things about himself and his family.

    None are quite true.

    Some are exaggerations grown up around kernels of biographical fact. Others are simply false. A few, like the boastful claim about the Internet, have become comic fodder, even for Gore.

    The mystery, even for Gore’s friends, is why he has persistently embroidered a political resume and pedigree that shorn of embellishments are impressive by any measure. Gore did press for early funding of the network that grew into the Internet. He served in Vietnam when he could have arranged a safer setting, unlike his Republican rival, George W. Bush. His journalism did unearth corruption. And in Congress, he exerted uncommon influence on technology and national security matters, notwithstanding his lack of seniority.

    But for Gore, the facts have never been quite enough.

    And to add to the list of exaggerations:

  • His claim that his Mom used to sing him the Union Label song when he was a kid, even though the song was written in 1975 (when he was 25).
  • This truth-telling issue first began to haunt Gore when he ran for president, at 39, in 1988. Reporters were struck by the fact that Gore, a senator and former congressman, described himself as a farmer and home-builder. The farm was a 20-acre patch in Tennessee, where cows were trucked in to provide a backdrop for his announcement speech, while the home-building enterprise was an investment he apparently spent little time managing. (WaPo-see below).

    This was more than just a few incidences, and more than just a media persona. And it isnt just an observation made by conservatives:

    An aide warned Gore in 1988 that his image “may suffer if you continue to go out on a limb with remarks that may be impossible to back up.” (also from the WaPo story).


    Robison, Walter V. and Michael Crowley. Record Shows Gore Long Embellishing the Truth. The Boston Globe. April 11, 2000, page A1.

    Turque, Bill. Gores Truth Troubles Newsweek. September 22, 2000.

    Von Drehle, David and Ceci Connolly. GOP Homes In on Gore’s Credibility; Final Assault Links Embellishments to Flaws of Clinton Era. WaPo, October 8, 2000.

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    Econ Bad News

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:51 pm

    Layoffs Rose Sharply Last Month, Report Says

    Employers continued to shed workers in August, the Government reported this morning, but despite the drop in payroll employment the nation’s unemployment rate ticked slightly lower last month.

    In its monthly employment survey, which it said was probably not impacted by the August 14 blackout in the Northeast, the Labor Department said that non-farm payroll employment fell by 93,000 last month. It is the seventh consecutive decline in employment, and was the biggest monthly decline since March.

    Meanwhile, the nation’s unemployment rate dipped to 6.1 percent, from 6.2 percent in July.

    The job loss numbers were a surprise and a disappointment to many private economists, who had been expecting that payroll employment would be unchanged or perhaps slightly higher. Compounding the concern is the fact that other indicators suggest the economy is growing vigorously in the current quarter.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 4:47 pm

    Interesting, ABC news is reporting:

    President Bush will address the nation on Sunday night about the war on terrorism with a focus on Iraq, the White House announced.

    White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters on Friday Bush’s speech came as the United States was in a “critical moment in the war on terrorism.”

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    Gore and the Net

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:12 pm

    Not to dredge up too much of the past, but a comment in my post below on Kerry challenged the whole Gore/internet thing.

    The post was quite thoughtful, but I disagree with the thesis, which was that the Gore quote about taking the initiative in creating the internet was true, and therefore a bad example of a political lie. Said Nathan Callahan:

    Im no great fan of Al Gore, but Im also no great fan of perpetuating a misconception.

    Gores remark about his involvement in the creation of the Internet took place on March 9, 1999 during CNN’s “Late Edition” show. Specifically, what Gore said was “I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”

    The fact of the matter is that he did.

    In 1986, Gore wrote in favor for funding of the National Science Foundation Authorization Act. That was only one year after Dennis Jennings chose TCP/IP as the protocol for the planned National Science Foundation Network (NSFnet). Isnt that what you call taking the initiative?

    Lets put Gores action into historical context, not Coulteresque hyperbole. When Gore endorsed the NSFnet, the IBM PC was only four years old. The Apple II computer was still in widespread use. The number of hosts on the Internet was 5,089. Entire universities were just beginning to make their initial online connection. Isnt it fair to say that the Internet was literally being created?

    In 1988, Gore argued for the creation of a high-capacity national data network. He urged the federal government to consolidate several dozen different and unconnected networks into an “Interagency Network.” He worked with the Reagan and Bush administrations, to secure the passage of the High Performance Computing and Communications Act.

    Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work (and gives you the technology to snipe about Gore), have gone on record confirming Gore’s role in U.S. Internet development.

    No other elected official to our knowledge, they said, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time.

    Writing about Gore they concluded, The Vice President deserves credit for his early recognition of high speed computing and communication and for his long-term and consistent articulation of the potential value of the Internet to American citizens and industry and, indeed, to the rest of the world.

    A word of advice: Next time you give an example of a political lie or embellishment be sure its not your own.

    Given the basic challenge of the last line, not to mention the “Coulteresque” ref, I had to respond on the main blog! ;)

    I think it is quite clear that Gore did not help “create” the interent. I think it is far closer to the truth to say that he helped in its growth. ARPANET, USENET, BITNET and other elements of what we now refer to as the internet existed well before the time period ref’d above (indeed, it started back in the 1960s). So I stand by this as an example of an exaggeration that was the hallmark of Gore’s discourse.

    Check out this timeline, for example (or an even better timeline here). For more detail, go here. Links to a list of histories can be found here.

    Indeed, the whole point is that instead of just saying he was a “supporter” of the development of the internet, or that he was involved in key funding that helped the internet grow, or focusing on NSFNET, he had to make himself sound almost like the father of the internet. There is a substantial difference. I don’t deny his role in promoting the ‘net’s evolution.

    I can accept, however, that it hardly is the most egregious example of his fibbing problem. Mostly I find this one the most amusing, however. Further, if that was the only example of such embellishment, it wouldn’t be that noteworthy. But in the overall pool of examples, it is amplified.

    And even if I drop that one from the post, we still have the whole “Love Story” being based on he and Tipper and the the FEMA example from the first debate with Bush still stands, amongst others. Even if you want to split hairs on the internet quote, I don’t think that it obviates the basic point.

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    Golf Pledge of the Week

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:32 pm

    I will bring water with me! Man, it was humid today-and somebody stole the one water cooler on the course.

    And in regards to last week, I half did

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    Non Sequitur! Illogical! Illogical!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:48 am

    This headline causes one’s synapses to skip a beat: Spears Says Mom Approved of Madonna Kiss:

    “Well, my mom liked it actually. I was really kind of nervous! I was like, `Oh my God, my mom … she’s going to see this!’” Spears told Billy Bush in an interview on “Access Hollywood.” Excerpts from Thursday night’s show were released in advance.

    “But no, she liked it! And my dad, weirdly enough, he thought it was fine, too. I mean, come on … it’s Madonna. If you can kiss any girl in the world, that has to be her.”

    This all hits my brain like one of those old scifi shows in the 1950s and 1960s when a human is able to lock up a computer or robot by feeding it data that doesn’t make sense. Usually resulting in said machine shouting: “Illogical! Illogical!!” whilst it smoked, sparked and shut down as our hero ran for his ship.

    Kirk did it on nearly a weekly basis on TOS. The most notable example would be in “I, Mudd” where he and the crew thwart Norman the Android.

    And further, is it any wonder that some argue that our culture is in decline? :)

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    Kerry: Gore Part II?

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:40 am

    While the examples are not as egregious, I am starting to think that Kerry has Al Gore’s problem of embellishing the truth because he so badly wants to win. In Gore’s case it was stuff like the whole inventing the internet brouhaha, or worse, remembering a trip to Texas with FEMA officials that didn’t happen, amongst others. Kerry less makes stuff up, as tries to re-interpret the past to fit his current political needs, like telling Russert on MTP the other day that the reason he was running for the Presidency was that he was angry at the way the Bush administration had executed the war. While he may well be angry at the way the administration has run the war, it is manifestly untrue that that was Kerry’s motivation for running, since he was obviously in the race well before the war started.

    However, it sounded good.

    Indeed, Kerry is trying to re-interpret much about his recent political past vis-a-vis Iraq, as Charles Krauthammer points out:

    In relaunching his presidential campaign on Tuesday, John Kerry did not just recalibrate his campaign. He recalibrated his position on the war in Iraq. In his announcement speech, he claimed that he had voted just to “threaten'’ war with Iraq, which is an odd way to characterize voting in favor of a resolution that explicitly authorizes the president to go to war if and when he pleases.

    I bring up Gore because I think that one of Gore’s weaknesses was the perception (that I think was accurate) that he wasn’t always genuine, and that, specifically, he wanted to win so badly that he was willing to lie if it helped him. Indeed, it sometimes seemed that he couldn’t help himself.

    While Kerry hasn’t made anything up, per se, I think that he is going to be tagged, mostly by Dean (who is perceived as the straight-shooter in this race), about this “flexibility” in interpreting the past. And I think it will damage him. He comes across not as someone running on convictions as much as someone tweaking convictions and finding motivations to support the running.

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    Thursday, September 4, 2003
    Bad News for Joe

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:41 pm

    ABC News reports that current polls in South Carolina show a tie amongst Kerry, Edwards, Dean and Liberman. Since Liberman’s main hope (as he isn’t going to win Iowa or NH) is SC, this doesn’t bode well for him. Granted, half of the possile voters haven’t made up their minds, Lieberman clearly has his work cut out for him, despite the fact he ranks well in national polls.

    Three Democrats have pulled even with Joe Lieberman atop a new poll in South Carolina that shows almost half of likely primary voters remain undecided.

    John Edwards, John Kerry and Howard Dean were grouped with Lieberman, though none were above 10 percent in the poll released Thursday by Zogby International. Some 46 percent said they were unsure about which candidate to back, a number unchanged from March.

    There is clearly a lot that will happen here in the next several months.

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    Armstrong to Divorce

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:24 pm

    Speaking of problems in some marriages, here is some unfortunate news: Tour de France champ Armstrong undergoing divorce. A shame mostly because of the three children involved.

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    My, How Things Change

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:06 pm

    This is somewhat surprising (tho’ not radically so, I guess). It is funny that it wasn’t that long ago that the partisan shoe was on the other foot in Georgia: Dems Can’t Find Candidate for Ga. Senate

    Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia is retiring, and the party’s pool of 2004 candidates looks emptier than the vegetable drawer in a frat-house refrigerator. (who writes this stuff? -ed.)

    The potential candidates include two men in their 70s who have not even committed themselves to the race; a political neophyte whose main asset is her last name; a freshman congressman unknown outside of his district; and a state legislator famous only for calling the governor a racist and then running off in tears.

    Of course, given the way Zell votes, it may really not represent much of a change.

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    Shocking Headline of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:11 am

    Who’da thunk it? France, Germany skeptical of U.S. resolution

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    By Steven Taylor @ 10:12 am

    Embattled Estrada Withdraws as Nominee for Federal Bench

    Miguel Estrada, President Bush’s embattled nominee for a federal appeals court judgeship, has withdrawn his name from consideration, ending a bitter battle with Senate Democrats who blocked his nomination, administration officials said Thursday.

    Estrada wrote a letter to Bush explaining his reasons, and an announcement could be made as early as Thursday, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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    Wednesday, September 3, 2003
    Bama Politics

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:43 pm

    James of OTB excerpt a column by JSU prof Harvey Jackson on the pending Alabama vote. It is right on target.

    Indeed, financially and policy-wise this is far more radical package than the lottery proposal in 1999 (which I thought was amorphous and not up to the promised task). And Jackson is right, the old style rules about who will align where is out the window for this election. It really is the agricultural interests who favor a 19th centuray economy v. everyone else. The sad thing is that “everyone else” doesn’t realize that this package is in their best interest.

    Indeed, if Riley could find a way to get lower-middle and lower-income voters to realize that, in fact, this plan is good for them, it would pass overwhlemingly. Unfortunately, the timber interests and ALFA are very good at tapping into tax-fears and anti-Montgomery sentiment in this state. Indeed, they’ve convinced people who will get a tax cut that their taxes will go through the roof.

    It is rather frustrating, to be honest. And, as you know, I am typically anti-tax.

    But, unless there is a miracle changing of minds, or there is a highly skewed turn-out, this thing is going down in flames.

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    The Silver Carnival

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:37 am

    The 50th edition of the Rhetorica: Press-Politics Journal: Carnival of the Vanities is up at

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    The Dow is in a Good Mood

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:30 am

    I noticed a triple-digit climb yesterday, and the numbers are up today as well: Stocks Rise on Optimism

    Wall Street extended its buying momentum into a fourth day Wednesday as investors grew more optimistic that the economic recovery is firmly on track.

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    I’m So Relieved!

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:28 am

    Affleck and Lopez Reportedly Set Wedding Date

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    By Steven Taylor @ 11:27 am

    Palestinian PM Abbas to Quit Without More Powers:

    Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas will quit if parliament fails to back him in a power struggle with President Yasser Arafat by granting him new powers to take steps for peace, officials said Wednesday.

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    More Fun with Primaries

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:39 am

    An anonymous soul left the following analytical gem in a comment last night:

    Wesley Clark is the most electable of the candidates in the Dem perception. They want to nominate the most electable candidate. Therefore, Clark wins. This is not rocket science.

    To which I would reply as follows:

    First, at this point we really don’t know enough about Clark to say he is the most electable or not. This just goes to the whole “blank slate” situation I mentioned before. Aside from some information on his military career and his CNN gig, we really don’t know much of anything about the man. He could come out and wow the country, or he could come out and embarrass himself. Or he could be just plain boring. We really don’t know.

    Second,the primary process doesn’t always produce the most electable candidate. Was Dukakis really the best candidate in 1988 out of that field? Dole in 1996? These were the most electable persons in their parties at those times?

    Third, there will be disagreement amongst Democratic voters as to whom it is they think is most electable. People keep forgetting that this is a collective action, not a monolithic one. The Democratic Party is not a group mind.

    Fourth, partisans don’t always support the most electable candidate, even if they know he/she is the most electable. Evidence? The Republicans in CA who are splitting up their support in the CA recall.

    Really, there appear to be a lot of people who really do not understand the primary process.

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    Tuesday, September 2, 2003
    Contractors and the Military

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:08 pm

    Here’s an interesting piece from the CS Monitor on the increasing use of contractors by the US military: US’s ‘private army’ grows | It focuses a great deal on Colombia, but mentions Iraq and Afghanistan as well:

    Contractors are performing “the entire spectrum of military services,” says Peter Singer, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington and author of the new book, “Corporate Warriors,” about the growth of the privatized military. He says US civilians in conflicts around the world do everything from handling mail services and feeding troops to training foreign troops and devising war games. Most are retired military personnel or former special forces.


    Mr. Singer says nearly 10,000 private military contractors are currently working in Iraq, training a new Iraqi military, protecting the Baghdad and Basra airports, and feeding and housing US troops.

    Several hundred contractors remain on the ground in Afghanistan as well, providing such services as security for President Hamid Karzai. In Liberia, the US recently hired Pacific Architects and Engineers to provide logistics for the Nigerian security force charged with keeping peace after the departure of President Charles Taylor.

    Singer says the exponential growth in contractors during the 1990s - there have been nearly 10 times as many contractors used in the 2003 Iraq invasion as in the 1991 Persian Gulf War - is the result of several factors: the downsizing of the military, the fact that US troops are stretched thin because of their several global commitments, and a lack of planning by the Pentagon.

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    Texas Standoff Coming to a Close?

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:37 pm

    Interesting: Texas 11 senator plans return to Austin

    The 37-day Democratic protest against redistricting by 11 Texas senators appeared to be unraveling Tuesday after one of them said he was planning to return to Texas today.

    Sen. John Whitmire of Houston, the dean of the Senate, said he wanted to go back to Austin for what he realizes would be a losing fight with the GOP majority over redistricting- but that he was prepared to flee the state again if he couldn’t make that happen on his own terms.

    “I believe it is time for a serious cooling-off period and a serious discussion for arriving on an exit strategy,” Whitmire said.


    He said he planned to talk with them about going back to Texas, because there is no exit strategy to remaining in New Mexico indefinitely. But he also said he remained adamantly opposed to redistricting and committed to fight against the effort.

    But the time has come to return, put up one heck of a fight on the Senate floor and then hope that the redistricting bill the Republican leadership wants will be ruled unconstitutional in federal court.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 10:41 am

    Here’s further evidence (Democrats still campaigning for name-recognition) to back James’ thesis from yesterday.

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    “Special” Interests

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:43 am

    I must admit, Arnold’s whole populism shtick is rather tiresome. This whole “I’m not supported by ’special’ interests” thing is pretty silly:

    “I will never take money from the special interests and the Indian gaming or from the unions or anything like that,” he said as thrill seekers tethered on a bungee cord jumped from atop a nearby crane.

    “I get donations from business and from individuals.”

    Indeed, that whole approach is one of my pet peeves in politics. There is nothing wrong with interest groups. And usually a “special” interest is simply one that doesn’t agree with me. And even if he doesn’t take any money, some of these groups will work to get him elected because they prefer him to the other candidates. It’s called democracy.

    Source: Labor Rallies for Davis, Arnold Wows Calif. Crowds

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    Monday, September 1, 2003
    The Primary Process, Clark and the Density of Trolls

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:33 pm

    (Pet Trolls are useful for one thing: if one responds to them in one’s comment section, it often leads to post-worry text. Although the problem with such postings is, of course, like feeding a stray cat, it means said Troll likely sticks around… I guess it is the professor in me that makes it difficult to not want to correct poor thinking).

    For anyone struggling (and I know at least one person who is) as to the way the primary process works, and why I say it is likely too late for Clark to have a legit shot at the nomination, here’s some elaboration. I think there are other reasons (e.g., money and the general lack of hard knowledge about him), but here are some systemic reasons why he will have hard time winning the Democratic nod. Although, like I said yesterday, I could see a Dean-Clark ticket emerging from all of this (certainly moreso than a Dean-Kerry ticket :).

    Clearly all the relevant Democratic constituencies will coalesce around the eventual nominee. That isnt the issue. The issue is, especially given the highly compressed nature of the nomination process, that to get nominated one needs a clear constituency immediately. If one does not, garnering the nomination is difficult, because one will lose the early primaries.

    For example, if Gephardt initially captures the labor vote, it isnt available to other candidates. Certainly once a nominee emerges, the labor vote will throw itself behind that person. However, that is how the primary process is different than the general election: in the primary, the parties break up into various groups which seek out their preferred candidate. The question I raised the other day was what was Clarks natural constituency amongst primary-voting Democrats, and my answer was: there isnt one, and if there is Dean has most of it (the angry at Bush crowd) and Lieberman has a lot of it (the moderate security-conscious crowd).

    Since the lack of a natural constituency will make it difficult for Clark to win early, before the field is culled, he will have trouble winning over the long haul as well. If one loses the early primaries one loses precious media coverage, one loses contributions (people dont give money in large quantities to losers) and one loses voters (the downstream, so to speak, primary voters tend to be less inclined to vote for someone who won 3% of the vote early on than someone who won 30% or 40%).

    Theres a reason why these candidates spend so much time in Iowa and New Hampshire, and, to a lesser degree, South Carolina. It certainly isnt because of their vast populations.

    I challenge anyone to 1) demonstrate how the above has anything to do with my particular partisan leanings, and 2) demonstrate how it is empirically incorrect.

    Ranting is not allowed, but research is. Grades will be issued at the end.

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    Happy Labor Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:19 am

    Which I am celebrating (at least so far) by doing squat, including not much blogging.

    I have barely read any news, and the only political story on the NYT worth commenting upon has already been handled by James at OTB.

    Meanwhile, there are posts over at Dallas Cowboys Football by James and myself on the latest roster moves, and I may eventually post on UT’s destruction of NMSU over at Sportsblog.

    For more fun, I came in first in Kevin’s Caption Contest over at Wizbang! and second in James’ latest.

    And, I haven’t forgotten about the Parade of Trolls, just haven’t gotten around to it yet, plus I think it is going to need some rethinking. If you have any examples of entertaining trollishness, feel free to send it along.

    I think it is almost time to put the hamburgers on the grill, so catch y’all later.

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