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Friday, October 31, 2003
Drug Politics-It is More Complicated Than it Looks

By Steven Taylor @ 9:01 pm

No surprise here: Afghan Farmers Turn to Opium Poppy to Survive

They are already sowing next year’s poppy crop in the fields of Afghanistan’s remote and mountainous North, openly farming the opium that will one day end up as heroin on the streets of Europe.

[…]

“During the civil war people lost everything, and it is only through poppy farming that they are able to provide for their families and build a decent home,” said Haq Abdur Rahim, standing among his fields as his workers plowed and sowed.

The economics make this inevitable:

Rahim says he earns $3,000 for the 22 pounds of opium he can produce from a single, tiny field, compared with just $10 for growing the 132 pounds of wheat the same plot would yield “which isn’t even enough to pay the wages of the workers.”

It is hard to blame these people for planting, and it raises the question of how you create the appropriate incentives to stop them in the first place.

And then you have this tale from Peru: Peruvian Coca Farmers Ripe for Bolivia-Style Revolt

Coca leaf growers, or “cocaleros,” were a key part of a bloody revolt this month that toppled the president of Bolivia, the world’s third-largest cocaine producer, removing a key U.S. ally in the anti-narcotics war.

Across the Andes in No. 2 producer Peru, some 200,000 angry coca farmers are gaining political clout. Critics say if Washington wants to prevent a repeat of the Bolivian crisis, it should re-examine its drug policy there.

“This should be a wake-up call to U.S. policymakers as to coca eradication policies which basically come with the promise of development and leave people to feel like they’re holding nothing,” said John Walsh, senior associate for the Andes and drug policy at the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank.

Our current policies aren’t working, and further, as I pointed out the other day, they are helping to provide the fund to fuel terror (here and here).

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Some Good News for Clark

By Steven Taylor @ 2:52 pm

Since I have been quite the critic of Clark and his chances to win the nomination, it is only fair to report some good news for him: Poll Shows Clark Taking Lead in S.C.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark has taken the lead in South Carolina, bumping John Edwards from the top spot in the state with a Feb. 3 presidential primary, according to a poll out Friday.

Clark had the support of 17 percent, while North Carolina Sen. John Edwards had the backing of 10 percent in the poll by the American Research Group of Manchester, N.H. More than a third, 36 percent, were undecided.

Although this is clearly bad, bad news foe Edwards.

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  • Independents For Clark linked with Halloween Clarkbot
Ugly Unis

By Steven Taylor @ 2:38 pm

Perhaps I am getting old, and I have always been terminally unhip, but what’s with the ugly new uniforms in the NBA this season? First I flip past the Phoenix game last night and thought I had found some minor-league basketball game (what’s with the logo that looks like an airport code?) and now the Mavs waive new uniforms after 1 game. I didn’t see Dallas’ new duds live, but the photo speaks volumes. Shiny silver? Who thought that was a good idea?

Cross-post: SportsBlog.

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Interesting

By Steven Taylor @ 2:00 pm

CNBC Hires Dennis Miller to Host Show

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B*S No More

By Steven Taylor @ 12:34 pm

I meant to mention this yesterday, but Matthew J. Stinson has moved to his own host, leaving his B*S-based blog behind.

Go pay him a visit.

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Trivia: A Milestone in US-Colombian/Panamanian Relations

By Steven Taylor @ 9:53 am

November marks the 100th anniversary of the independence of Panama from Colombia with the (*cough*) help of the United States.

Source: EL TIEMPO.COM - Anlisis -> Panam, una historia de permanente presencia militar de Estados Unidos

Filed under: Latin America | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Bush and the Politics of the Economy

By Steven Taylor @ 9:19 am

Lest anyone think that in my comments on the economy I am in any way stating that Bush is responsible for the recovery, please note that I agree with James of OTB on this subject: Presidents get too much credit for good economies and too blame for bad ones.

Indeed, I have noted before that Presidents have less control over budgets (especially vis-a-vis deficits and surpluses) than they like to pretend. I made specific comments on Presidents and the economy itself here.

Now, I do think that various policies, such as the monetary policy fostered by the Fed, and the tax cuts, helped, but I do not believe that they explain the recovery.

However, it is clear, that regardless of where the credit should be placed, there is one thing that is clear: if the economy is good, that helps a president running for re-election.

Also, enough with the “Is she going to run?” stories on the cable news nets. She isn’t-especially if the economy is going to recover (and if you don’t know who “she” is, what are you doign reading a political blog? :)

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The Politics of the Economy

By Steven Taylor @ 9:04 am

Joining the, “Yes, 7.2% growth is nice, but will it conitue, and what about the jobs?” crowd is Paul Krugman.

While I take the point that one quarter does not a recovery make, most analysts seems to think that there is more going on here than one good quarter, althought granted, we shall see. Still, it is hard not to read some of these pieces with a straight face, as it so clearly the case that partisanship is radically coloring the analysis. (What? Paul Krugman placing partisanship before good analysis, surely you jest!-ed.).

Another example is a Slate piece from yesterday.

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Recovery Fever

By Steven Taylor @ 8:53 am

This is undoubtedly true: Economic Memo: Are Happy Days Back for the Economy? Bush Hopes So (although my guess is that pretty everyone hopes so…).

The article itself it worth a read, as it contain a rundown of several key factors concerning the propsects of a strong recovery.

One key political point was made, and it is quite true, if overly simplistic:

It could even turn out that the difference between the two Presidents Bush was a matter of timing as much as anything else.

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Thursday, October 30, 2003
Care for a Snack?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:25 pm

Cocaine found in snack peanut bags on Avianca flight to Miami

Federal investigators Thursday found about $20,000 worth of cocaine disguised as snack-sized bags of peanuts on an Avianca flight from Colombia to Miami.

No passengers on the plane ate any of the 51 bags of peanuts that held a total of 2.6 pounds of the drug

Good thing, cuz:

“Our concern is that people who eat them just rip the bags open and pop them in their mouths,'’ Mann said. “For all practical matters it would have killed them.'’

Filed under: Latin America | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Not Good

By Steven Taylor @ 6:43 pm

Oh, my.

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It’s Official: Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace

By Steven Taylor @ 3:05 pm

Snow is out, and Wallace is in and Howard Kurtz has a report on the switch.

Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Not Vietnam

By Steven Taylor @ 11:04 am

Apropos of my post on “freedom fighters” the othetr day, Thomas Friedman has a great column in the NYT today. Concerning the recent attack he notes:

The first thing is to understand who these people are. There is this notion being peddled by Europeans, the Arab press and the antiwar left that “Iraq” is just Arabic for Vietnam, and we should expect these kinds of attacks from Iraqis wanting to “liberate” their country from “U.S. occupation.” These attackers are the Iraqi Vietcong.

Hogwash. The people who mounted the attacks on the Red Cross are not the Iraqi Vietcong. They are the Iraqi Khmer Rouge-a murderous band of Saddam loyalists and Al Qaeda nihilists, who are not killing us so Iraqis can rule themselves. They are killing us so they can rule Iraqis.

Have you noticed that these bombers never say what their political agenda is or whom they represent? They don’t want Iraqis to know who they really are. A vast majority of Iraqis would reject them, because these bombers either want to restore Baathism or install bin Ladenism.

The whole thing is worth the time needed to read it.

(Along the same lines, James of OTB linked to a Ralph Peters column in yesterday’s NY Post on the same topic).

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Great Econ News

By Steven Taylor @ 10:25 am

That sound you hear are the Nine pounding their heads against the nearest wall, as one of their main campaign issues appears to be evaporating:


Source: Yahoo

The 411:

The economy grew at a blistering 7.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter in the strongest pace in nearly two decades. Consumers spent with abandon and businesses ramped up investment, compelling new evidence of an economic resurgence.

[…]

The 7.2 percent pace marked the best showing since the first quarter of 1984. It exceeded analysts’ forecasts for a 6 percent growth rate for third-quarter GDP, which measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States.

(And, James’ post the other day on the “Bush Economy” is certainly about to come true. Or, at least, different people will be using the phrase than have been doing so.)

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  • OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY linked with HAPPY DAYS: HERE AGAIN?
More Flag Politics

By Steven Taylor @ 10:08 am

A caveat to my post below: I am not saying that anyone who supports/likes/flies the Battle Flag is a slavery-supportin’ racsist. That isn’t the point. Indeed, I have known plenty of folks who truly see it simply as a symbol of the South itself, and an emblematic of defiance vis-a-vis the North in a very generic way. Still, to argue that it has nbo other connotation is to be willfully blind.

My question to those who are adamantly in favor of the flag: why? What does it uniquely mean to you about your Southern heritage? And even if it means something dear to your heart, isn’t whatever it is you wish to extol being tainted by what the flag signifies to others?

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  • Signifying Nothing linked with What they said
Flag Politics

By Steven Taylor @ 6:56 am

While I agree that people, in general, are too easily offended these days, and that too much pressure is often applied to make sure no one’s feelings get hurt, but sometimes things are truly offensive to a substantial percentage of the population. One such example is the Confederate battle flag, which has become an issue in the upcoming Mississippi governor’s election. Given that an underlying rationale for the Civil War on the part of the South was to maintain slavery as an institution, it is no wonder that blacks see the flag as a symbol of slavery, and since it was hoisted over many a state capitol at exactly the same time many southern states were defying desegregation, it is no wonder many blacks see it as a symbol of segregation.

Note to my fellow Southerners and Southern Republicans: those are offensive and shameful parts of our history, and whether you think the flag represents those ideas or not, it is clear that they do to many, many people.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Loans no More

By Steven Taylor @ 9:15 pm

Lawmakers Reach Iraq-Afghan Aid Deal

Congressional negotiators agreed Wednesday on an $87 billion aid package for Iraq and Afghanistan that meets a White House demand that none of the money be provided as loans.

Despite rising criticism in Congress over the handling of the war, the package worked out by House-Senate negotiators largely resembles the proposal submitted by President Bush. The House and Senate are expected to act quickly to give the bill final approval before it goes to Bush for his signature.

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Klein on Clark

By Steven Taylor @ 9:03 pm

Even Joe Klein (no conservative, he) is on Clark’s back about his stance on the $87 billion. Like myself, and William Saletan, Klein finds Clark’s position to be problematic (shall we say), or as Klein himself wrote last week in Time

Clark’s initial position was laughable. He refused to say how he would vote on the $87 billion because he wasn’t a member of Congress. Chastened by a Washington Post editorial that called his position “astonishing,” he retreated: the $87 billion, he said, should be sent “back to the drawing board.” The general was suffering from laryngitis when I called, so an aide told me that Clark favored two separate bills. One would be money for the troops; the other would be for reconstruction with a dollar amount scrubbed more carefully than the Bush Administration’s rather flabby $20 billion and with greater international cooperation, a quicker, clearer transition to Iraqi authority and restrictions on the contracts going to American corporations like Halliburton.

He goes on to note that most of the Nine have incoherent positions on the $87 billion as well (all but Lieberman and Gephardt).

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That’s Just Sad

By Steven Taylor @ 2:30 pm

Via SportsBlog: Bartman is Chicago’s most popular Halloween costume.

I still say that if if the Cubs had done their job, the Bartman thing wouldn’t have mattered.

I am thinking that the guy should’ve taken Jeb’s offer and moved to Florida.

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Howard Dean: Confused Metrosexual

By Steven Taylor @ 2:17 pm

Via Drudge we get this amusing bit from the Denver Post

Dean declared himself a “metrosexual,” the buzz phrase for straight men in touch with their feminine sides, as he touted his accomplishments in “equal justice” for gay and lesbian couples.

But then he waffled.

“I’m a square,” Dean declared, after professing his metrosexuality to a Boulder breakfast audience with an anecdote about being called handsome by a gay man. “I like (rapper) Wyclef Jean and everybody thinks I’m very hip, but I am really a square, as my kids will tell you. I don’t even get to watch television. I’ve heard the term (metrosexual), but I don’t know what it means.”

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Things Senators Should Stay Out of #1,345,567

By Steven Taylor @ 1:45 pm

Don’t y’all have other stuff to worry about? Senators Say Football Bowls Need Changes

And, I’m sorry, but if TCU was in the Big XII, SEC or one of the other BCS conferences, they wouldn’t be 8-0. Ditto the other schools.

Cross-posted at SportBlog.

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  • SportsBlog linked with Stay in the Senate
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Edwards

By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 am

Here’s the question:

Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) is burning through dollars in an attempt to get his campaign where early expectations said it should be. He was campaigning in Florida last week when I asked him why he would spend vital resources in a state that won’t even hold its primary until March 9, when most political analysts believe the race will be essentially over.

Here’s the answer: he is living in a fantasy land and clearly doesn’t have the discernment to be the nominee, let alone the President.

There was a point, well over a year ago, when I thought he might be a contender. However, after that point in time, I heard him speak. His rhetoric is amongst the emptiest of the Nine. He speaks mostly in cliches and vacuous phrases.

Source: Whither John Edwards?

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  • OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY linked with CLICHED
Saletan on Clark

By Steven Taylor @ 8:41 am

William Saletan, in his Slate column, makes some interesting observations both about Wesley Clark, and about the $87 billion. It is noteworthy that Saletan is “angry” at President Bush over using the war on the terror as a rationale for the Iraq war. I will leave that argument alone for a moment, but thought it a noteworthy caveat.

Notes Saletan about Bush’s responses to the press yesterday in the face of suicide bombings in Iraq:

I’ve seen this struggle for the psychology of a nation at war before. Four years ago, NATO’s military commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, faced a similar barrage of pessimism from the press and from members of Congress hostile to President Clinton’s war in Kosovo. The skeptics argued that our adversary, Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, had proven to be too mentally strong for us and that we should back off. Clark turned that argument on its head: By refusing to let Milosevic break our will, we would break his. Milosevic “may have thought that some countries would be afraid of his bluster and intimidation,” said Clark. “He was wrong. He thought that taking prisoners and mistreating them and humiliating them publicly would weaken our resolve. Wrong again. We’re winning, Milosevic is losing, and he knows it.”

Saletan points out what I think is obvious, but clearly isn’t obvious to many critics of the President (including, now, Clark):

We can’t crumple under this pressure any more than we could have crumpled four years ago in the showdown with Milosevic. Bush is right, just as Clark was right: War is a contest of wills.

He concludes about Clark:

That’s why it’s so troubling today to see Clark join in the same self-fulfilling wave of determined pessimism and obstruction he battled four years ago.

And further, correctly states:

I don’t know whether we’ll win the postwar if Congress approves the money Bush asked for. But I know we’ll lose it if Congress doesn’t. That’s what happens when a nation at war starts to think like the Wes Clark of 2003. Just ask the Wes Clark of 1999.

In regards to Clark in specific, this example strikes me as yet another case of what is increasingly looking like an extremely cynical run by Clark for the White House. From his very recent conversion to the Democratic Party, to his switch from Bush admin praiser to Bush admin detractor, from his flip flops on issues such as the war resolution itself (and now on the $87 billion-he now says he would vote against, when a week or so ago, he had no position), it seems that Clark is less interested in “straight talk” and principle than he is in trying to figure out the right things to say.

Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
  • Independents For Clark linked with Wednesday Clarkbot
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
OpinionWeek?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:15 pm

First it was the Limbaugh story, and now this cover, with the screaming headline “Bush’s $87billion Mess":

How can that be the headline for an alleged news magazine? If they want to be an opinion journal, no problem, please change the name to OpinionWeek and be done with it.

Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
To NATO or Not to NATO

By Steven Taylor @ 9:09 pm

Bret is a bit hacked that the President wants a NATO conference to be rescheduled because of graduation dates in New Haven and Austin. James of OTB provides his take. Here’s the WaPo story with the info at issue.

I just got home from family dinner night for my son’s 1st grade class at the local elementary school, so I am perhaps too tired to have a coherent opinion. I agree with James that the schedulers should have known/thought about the whole thing in the first place, and that the domestic fallout is likely to be slight. And I agree with Brett that there is a great deal of symbolic importance to Bush being at the NATO meeting. My guess is that it will all get worked out and end up being much ado about not too much.

One thing that strikes me is that this is the kind of thing that is likely to make Bush detractors quite angry and cause Bush supporters to largely yawn.

Filed under: Global Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Trivia About the President of Colombia

By Steven Taylor @ 3:47 pm

I knew about the degrees, but not the stint at Oxford:

Alvaro Uribe holds a degree in law from the Universidad de Antioquia and a post-graduate degree in Management and Administration from Harvard University. From 1998 to 1999 after being awarded the Simon Bolivar fellowship by the British Council in Bogot, he worked as an associate professor at Oxford University.

Source: H.E. Alvaro Uribe Velez

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Who?

By Steven Taylor @ 2:10 pm

Schultz planning national talk show. Who? I have heard of Charles Schulz and Sgt. Schulzt, but Ed Schulzt?

Democratic lawmakers in Washington are asking a North Dakota radio personality to take on Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other conservative talk show hosts.

Ed Schultz, who earlier considered running for governor, has been tapped by national Democratic leaders for a talk show to start in January.

Democratic lawmakers in Washington are raising money for the show, and Democrats have pledged about $1.8 million over two years to get it off the ground, Schultz said Monday. He said a half-dozen stations are looking at whether to carry it.

More power to them. I would welcome a good liberal talkshow to the airwaves.

However, I don’t think the liberals get it: Limbaugh and Co. didn’t get on the radio because a bunch of people with a political agenda got together and raised money. Rather, Limbaugh got his initial job to make money for a broadcast company, and succeeded because he found a market niche that was untapped. The thesis that the Borg-like Clear Channel made stations play conservative talk is an utter myth.

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No Surprise Here

By Steven Taylor @ 1:43 pm

Fed Holds Rates Steady

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Clark Starting to Slip

By Steven Taylor @ 11:30 am

Imagine that:

The small boom of support for retired Gen. Wesley Clark, which pushed him to the front of national polls in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, appears to be ebbing, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

Hmm, seems like I remember someone predicting he would slide. Seems like I read someone write “I still expect him to settle out in the middle-ish of the pack.“-but I am not sure where I read it. And while Clark isn’t quite in the middle-ish in the national polls, he will likely get there. He is in the cellar in NH.

Source: Poll: Support for Clark ebbing

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  • Independents For Clark linked with Tuesday Clarkbot
CC@OTB

By Steven Taylor @ 11:01 am

BTW, OTB has a caption contest running with a pic that must be seen.

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“Freedom Fighters”

By Steven Taylor @ 8:24 am

An oft-quoted cliche is that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” This sounds all nice an equalitarian, or, at least, tolerant and non-judgemental.

However, before anyone decides to label any of these attacks in Iraq as the work of “freedom fighters” battling a foreign occupation (a quick Google news search provides at least one such example on the blog Notes from Another Country), let’s consider a few facts:

  • If we assume that these are pro-Saddam forces, it is rather difficult to argue that they are fighting for freedom.
  • If they are al Qaeda-esque jihadists, the same is true (unless anyone wants to argue that a regime along the lines of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan constituted freedom).
  • If one is attacking civlians (via car bombs), aid facilities (like the Red Crescent or UN), and infrastructure needed by everyday Iraqis, then one has to wonder about motives. (And yes, I understand the idea of destabilization as a means of causing civlians to put pressure on the Americans, but at what cost if one is truly dedicated to the Iraqi people?)
  • Plus, surveys have shown (crude as they may be) that the vast majority of the Iraqi population wants to US to stay and be successful in their mission.

    I do think that there are times that guerrilla warfare against a brutal government or occupier can be justified, and that some collateral damage is to be expected. However, the use of terror against civilians is not the tool of a freedom fighter, plain and simple.

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    Another Suicide Bombing in Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:59 am

    The NYT reports:

    A suicide bomber blew up a car near a police station in the flashpoint Iraqi town of Falluja Tuesday killing himself and four civilians, police said.

    Again, while I want to say that I remember some training of suicide bombers by the Saddam regime, and it is clear that the regime supported the Palestinians in their suicide bombings, it strikes me as highly unlikely that pro-Saddam forces who hope to regain control of the country would be engaging in suicide bombings, especially when their supply of personnel has to be rather limited. Rather, these kinds of attacks almost certainly are coming from foreigners set to drive the infidels out of Iraq.

    Filed under: Iraq | Comments(3) | Trackbacks (0)
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    Monday, October 27, 2003
    Coordination of Attacks in Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:54 pm

    The CSM at least partially answers James’ question from this morning:

    Investigations are just beginning, but the incidents fit a pattern of increasingly organized attacks that hit soft targets to demoralize foreigners and locals working with the coalition. Iraqi police have been singled out - dozens of lightly guarded stations in Baghdad are easy targets.

    And this has struck me before:

    Still, the use of suicide bombers indicates a religious motivation rather than loyalty or love for Saddam Hussein’s regime. In modern history only Islamist groups, radical Marxists, and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka have used this weapon. “We think it’s probably foreign Islamists, judging by the fact that they’re using suicide as an attack. I don’t know, but it could be Al Qaeda,” says Yass, the serious crimes’ head. “We’ve never had these types of attack in our history before.”

    Filed under: Iraq | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Snow Info

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:50 pm

    James of OTB has more on the Tony Snow story first mentioned here a few days ago.

    Filed under: Pop Culture | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Iraq: Broken Even Before the War

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:37 pm

    Ana Palacio, Foreign Minister of Spain, has an interesting piece in the dead tree version of the WSJ. She start with two key stats:

  • Twenty-five years ago, Iraq’s per capita income was $3600, roughly the same as Spain’s at the time.,
  • From 1980 to 2001, Iraq tumbled 50 slots in the UN"s Human Development Index.

    As she writes:

    A country boasting a wealth of natural and human resources has fallen into ruin because of decades of pillaging and misgovernment.

    Hence, it is hardly surprising that much of the coutnry’s infrastructure is in disrepair. It is remarkable to reflect on the spending that Saddam lavished on himself (think: palaces, for one example) and how little was spent on the Iraqi people.

    Some telling stats from the CIA World Factbook:

  • Infant mortality rate:
    total: 55.16 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 48.95 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
    male: 61.09 deaths/1,000 live births

  • Life expectancy at birth:
    total population: 67.81 years
    male: 66.7 years
    female: 68.99 years (2003 est.)

  • Literacy:
    definition: age 15 and over can read and write
    total population: 40.4%
    male: 55.9%
    female: 24.4% (2003 est.)

  • GDP - per capita:
    purchasing power parity - $2,400 (2002 est.)

  • Radio broadcast stations:
    AM 19 (5 are inactive), FM 51, shortwave 4 (1998)

  • Television broadcast stations:
    13 (1997); note - unknown number were destroyed during the March-April 2003 war

  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
    1 (2000)
    Internet users:
    12,500 (2001)

  • Filed under: Iraq | Comments(2) | Trackbacks (1)
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    • OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY linked with BUT I THOUGHT IT WAS DUBYA'S FAULT?
    Shocking

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:30 pm

    Red Sox Let Manager Grady Little Go

    Red Sox manager Grady Little will not be back next year, paying the price for his decision to stick with Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the AL championship series.

    (And, yes, the subject line is to be read sarcastically).

    For those looking for an entertaining toon that is apropos of this news, click here.

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    Foreign Terrorist in Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:25 pm

    Here is some evidence to confirm that much of the attacks in Iraq are form non-Iraqis:

    A U.S. general said the one attacker captured in the bombings that killed 34 Monday had a Syrian passport, fueling suspicions that foreign fighters were behind a rising tide of violence.

    […]

    “He’s a foreign fighter. He had a Syrian passport and the policemen claim that as he was shot and fell that he said he was Syrian,” Hertling told a news conference.

    Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Ahmad Ibrahim told the news conference the wounded attacker was now unconscious in hospital.

    Hertling said suicide attacks were not typical of supporters of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who have been blamed by the U.S. military for most of guerrilla attacks on its troops and other targets in postwar Iraq.

    “There are indicators that certainly these attacks have a mode of operation of foreign fighters,” Hertling said, adding that possible foreign links among the attackers would be investigated in the days to come.

    This (along with statements Paul Bremer made over the weekend on Fox News Sunday) lends credence to the “flypaper theory"-at least in terms of the current situation clearly attracting foreign terrorists. And, there is something to the idea, I think, that in bringing them to Iraq to fight it means they aren’t bombing elsewhere.

    Major combat operations associated with the invasion of Iraq, and the toppling of its former regime, are indeed over. However, Iraq is clearly a central battleground in the broader terror war. If a secular, even quasi-democratic, state emerges in Iraq, it will be a tremendous blow to the jihadists. As such, those who seek a quick pull-out from Iraq are being especially short-sighted-bot in terms of the well-being of Iraq, but in terms of long-term US security goals.

    Source: ‘Syrian’ Bomber Caught Alive in Baghdad, U.S. Says

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    41K

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:19 pm

    Well, despite light blogging over the past several days (due both to Real Life and technical problems) I still managed to top 41,000 hits as of this afternoon.

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    Things that Suck

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:14 pm

    Having no Internet at the house until late in the afternoon…

    Hopefully they have finally gotten this resolved.

    Filed under: Computer Junk | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Terror in Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:08 am

    First UN HQ, now the Red Cross. Clearly this is a fight not just against Americans (so would all those who think that if we just had more UN support, the attacks would stop, please put that argument away). Further, the goal is clearly to either return Iraq to the status quo ante or to establish a new dictatorship along the lines of what was in Afghanistan.

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    Sunday, October 26, 2003
    Clark in NH

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:11 am

    Clark has officially opened his campaign HQ in NH. All well and good, but it begs the question: what has he been doing in the last month? If he indeed had spent weeks pondering whether or not to run, one would have thought that part of that time would have been used in planning. Further, one would have thought that one of the first things he would have done would have been to set up camp in NH. As the NYT’s notes:

    The campaign has lost valuable time since General Clark joined the race Sept. 17 by failing to plant the flag aggressively here until now. He has been in New Hampshire all week, with side trips to raise money in New York and Boston. But a case of laryngitis, and limited appearances at photo opportunities-with nonvoting high school students and toddlers-have kept him from the kind of give and take that voters here expect.

    As a result, the campaign here had stalled just as potential supporters were looking for signs that General Clark could become an effective candidate and organize a presidential-level campaign. The state will be his first electoral test because he has decided to skip the caucuses in Iowa, which votes a week earlier.

    If the argument for skipping Iowa was that he couldn’t run and really couldn’t engage in the requisite retail politics, then skipping NH seems in order as well, with focus on Arizona and South Carolina (of course, that would show weakness, but then again I argued that skipping Iowa showed weakness as well).

    Further, if part of his argument concering Bush’s Iraq policy is that the administration failed to engage in suffcient advanced planning for post-war Iraq, then one has to ask whether Mr. Clark really would have done a better job given the obvious lack of planning and advanced thought that went into his presidential campaign to date. Let’s face facts: mapping out a run at a party’s nomination is less complicated than rebuilding a country after decades of tyranny.

    Source: Clark Campaign Embarks on New Hampshire Mission

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    By Popular Demand: A Caption Contest

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:35 am

    Since James of OTB is out of town, there are apparently some CC withdrawal symptoms out there. So, as suggested by a reader, here’s a CC to get you through the lull at OTB:

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    Congrats to the Fish

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:32 am

    I really thought that they were going to lose it all after they fell in Beckett’s first start in game 3. However, an impressive Series, and an especially impressive performance from Beckett last night.

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    Congrats to the Fish

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:32 am

    I really thought that they were going to lose it all after they fell in Beckett’s first start in game 3. However, an impressive Series, and an especially impressive performance from Beckett last night.

    Filed under: Sports | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Saturday, October 25, 2003
    PoliBlog Status

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:04 am

    Well, the cable modem has been down all morning, hence the lack of bloggage. I will hopefully be back up to speed this evening.

    Filed under: Blogging | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Friday, October 24, 2003
    Lots o’ Links

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:06 pm

    If anyone is in need of links on the topic of terrorism, the Dudley Knox Library at the Naval Postgraduate School has plenty.

    Filed under: War on Terror | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Thanks for the Support, But…

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:12 pm

    Hmm, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

    Dean Dominating in NH

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:09 pm

    The newest Zogby poll has Dean in a commanding lead in NH:

    Dean earned 40%, compared to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry’s 17%. None of the other candidates have exceeded single digits in the polling. Retired General Wesley Clark and North Carolina Senator John Edwards are tied for third with 6% each.

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    • Independents For Clark linked with Friday Clarkbot
    Donor Conference Show Success

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:02 pm

    Surprisingly (at least to me), the donors conference in Madrid appears to have been a success:

    International donors pledged at least $33 billion in aid and loans over the next four years to help rebuild war-ravaged Iraq on Friday as the response to a U.S.-led drive for funds far outstripped expectations.

    […]

    “If you take the American contribution which is hopefully totally a grant, then we have at least $33 billion, of which $25 billion is grants,” said Marek Belka, a former Polish finance minister who is spearheading the fund raising efforts of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

    […]

    The World Bank said it would make between $3-5 billion available up to 2008, while the IMF promised support of up to $4.25 billion over three years.

    Japan made the largest offer after the United States, pledging a further $3.5 billion in medium-term loans to bring its total promised aid to $5 billion.

    Saudi Arabia announced a $1 billion financing package and promised to look at reducing Iraq’s debt burden, estimated at $120 billion, within a wider framework of debt forgiveness.

    Source: Donors Promise Iraq $33 Billion, Smashing Expectations

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    Thursday, October 23, 2003
    Re-Run RIP

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:13 pm

    Actor Fred ‘Rerun’ Berry of ‘What’s Happening!’ fame dies at 52

    Fred Berry, the bulb-shaped, squeaky-voiced actor famous for playing red-beret-wearing Rerun on the 1970s TV sitcom “What’s Happening!” has died at age 52, police said Wednesday.

    Berry died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles of apparent natural causes, police Officer Jason Lee said. The county coroner was investigating the exact nature of the death, but friends said Berry had been in ill health due to a recent stroke.

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    Tony Snow Moving On?

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:01 pm

    Accroding to WaPo Tony Snow is heading to a radio dial near you, and will be leaving his Sunday show.

    Tony Snow is leaving “Fox News Sunday"? Well, according to Fox News Channel, he is getting his own Washington-based, nationally syndicated radio show next year, which will require him to “relinquish his duties” as host, though he’ll remain a contributor to the channel.
    .

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments(130) | Trackbacks (1)
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    • The American Mind linked with Snow Leaving FNS
    More Good (albeit Moderate) Job news

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:17 am

    Jobless Claims Edge Lower Last Week

    The total number of American applying for initial jobless claims fell slightly last week, the government said on Thursday, suggesting the labor market was inching slowly toward health.

    […]

    The general trend has been going down as claims have fallen 15,000 since mid-September.

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    Weird

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:11 am

    Ricin Found in Letter in South Carolina

    U.S. postal workers have found an envelope containing the deadly toxin ricin at a postal facility in South Carolina but officials said on Wednesday there was no sign terrorism was involved.

    A U.S. law enforcement official in Washington said the letter, found late last week at the postal facility in Greenville, South Carolina, contained a sealed container which had a small amount of a substance that tested positive for ricin.

    From the AP:

    A vial containing ricin was found inside an envelope at the postal facility in Greenville, about 110 miles northwest of Columbia, federal officials said Wednesday.

    […]

    Terrorism was not suspected but Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the package was “related to threats criminal in nature.”

    A letter inside the envelope referenced legislation in Congress involving truckers and included an extortion threat against the government, according to a federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The envelope carried the typewritten message “caution-Ricin-poison” on the outside, according to a statement by the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office. It arrived at a facility between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Oct. 15, the sheriff’s office said.

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    Wednesday, October 22, 2003
    Bad Day on Wall Street

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:35 pm

    Dissappointing earnings reports lead to a 149.40 fall of the Dow today.

    Filed under: The Economy | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    FARC-o-nomics

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:57 pm

    More on the FARC and drug money in specific:

    Until the 1980s the growth of the FARC was slow, restricted mainly to the outer reaches of the country where hardy peasants had carved land from the jungle and where the state has neglected to follow them.
    But then the FARC discovered drugs - not consuming them, which is prohibited in the rebel ranks, but taxing them.

    Now they tax every stage of the drug business, from the chemicals needed to process the hardy coca bush into cocaine and the opium poppy into heroin, right up to charging for the processed drugs to be flown from illegal airstrips they control.

    And they make at least $300m from the drug trade every year, added to which is their income from kidnapping and extortion, making them probably the richest insurgent group in the world.

    Source: :Colombia’s most powerful rebels

    (Can anyone tell what I have been working on lately?)

    Filed under: Latin America | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    FARC Leader Killed

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:51 pm

    Colombian forces kill rebel leader

    Edgar Gustavo Navarro, the No. 2 leader of an elite unit of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was killed during a gunfight Sunday along with 10 other rebels, Army Gen. Hector Martinez said.

    “It is a major blow for this terrorist group,” Martinez said Monday on local radio. He said Navarro died during clashes near San Vicente del Caguan, 175 miles southwest of the capital, Bogota.

    Martinez said Navarro was behind the capture of three Americans _ Tom Howes, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell - after their single-engine plane crash-landed in FARC-controlled territory on February 13 while on a counternarcotics mission.

    […]

    Navarro is accused of being behind a car bombing that killed 12 people, the assassination of an army general and the kidnapping of at least half a dozen politicians, including that of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who holds dual Colombian and French citizenship.

    Navarro also planned the hijacking of a domestic airliner in February 2002 and the kidnapping a prominent senator who was on board - an attack that led former President Andres Pastrana to cancel two years of fruitless peace talks with the FARC, authorities said.

    Filed under: Latin America | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    NarcoEconomics

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:27 pm

    I mentioned the other day that the ability of terrorists to use drug profits to fund their activities may evenutally cause the US (and others) to rethink current prohibitionist policies. There is no doubt that drug profit fuel the conflict in Colombia, and are of use to the Taliban and terrorists in Kashmir.

    For example:

  • The international illicit drug business generates as much as $400 billion in trade annually according to the United Nations International Drug Control Program. That amounts to 8% of all international trade and is comparable to the annual turnover in textiles, according to the study.

    Source: United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Economic and Social Consequences of Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (New York, NY: UNODCCP, 1998), p. 3.

  • According to the United Nations, profits in illegal drugs are so inflated, that three-quarters of all drug shipments would have to be intercepted to seriously reduce the profitability of the business. Current efforts only intercept 13% of heroin shipments and 28%-40%* of cocaine shipments. (*At most; the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention notes that estimates of production and total supply are probably understated by reporting governments.)

    Source: United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Global Illicit Drug Trends 1999 (New York, NY: UNODCCP, 1999), p. 51.

  • According to the United Nations, illegal drugs create enormous profits - a kilogram of heroin in Pakistan costs an average of $2,720, and sells for an average of $129,380 in the United States.

    Source: United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Global Illicit Drug Trends 2000 (New York, NY: UNDCP, 2000), p. 165.

    Source for the factoids (and there are far more): Drug War Facts.

    I am no fan of illicit drug use, and indeed wonder about the sanity of people who would willingly put these substances in their bodies. However, the obscene profits that can be made from these drugs means that stopping there distribution may well be impossible. From a cost-benefit perspective I have serious, serious doubts that prohibition (and the “Drug War” in general) is wise policy. Indeed, I am fairly certain that it isn’t.

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    Don’t Forget

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:48 pm

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    Blog Status/CoV Status

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:08 am

    I have been too busy to blog today, but if you are lookin’ for readin’, check out the latest Carnival of the Vanities at Eric Berlin’s site.

    The next Carvnival will be hosted by Who Censored Blogger Rabbit?

    Filed under: Blogging | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Tuesday, October 21, 2003
    Hosting Matters Still Under Attack

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:32 pm

    As may have been noticed, PoliBlog, OTB, Blogmaster InstaP, VodkaPundit, and others were all down today. Apparently, Hosting Matters is still have denial of service attack problems:

    OK, here’s the latest.

    The attacker is still going after the old clotho IP, even though that is no longer bound anywhere. Since it is still routed, however, the traffic still tries to get to the location where it is advertised (i.e., the Jacksonville facility). None of the upstreams appear to be equipped to deal with the attack, for whatever reason, and we’ll reserve our commentary on that).

    This is what we’re going to do: since the attacked is still going after that old IP, we are requesting that Peak10 (via AT&T and Qwest, who advertise our routes) break out our /20 and start advertising the individual /24s instead, and then drop the /24 containing the target IP. What this means is that instead of advertising all of our IPs, from the first one to the last, they will advertise each block on its own, from 0 through 255.

    What this also means is that we have to change the IPs on every server that is bound to an IP within the same block as the IP the attacker has targeted. This will involve about 25 servers, and at least one of our own nameserver IPs. We are headed to the NOC to do this right now. Peak10 is working with Qwest and AT&T to get the individual /24s readvertised with the exception of the affected block.

    We will update from the offfice when this procedure is complete, and post any further information from the upstreams.

    Oh, what fun.

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with More Hosting Matters
    Reagan Mini-Series

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:48 am

    Um, isn’t having James Brolin play Reagan in the upcoming CBS mini-series like having Charlton Heston play Clinton?

    Mr. Brolin said he, too, hoped that the film would prompt Americans to be more suspect of their leaders. “We’re in such a pickle right now in our nation,” he said, “that maybe if learn something from this.”

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    New NH Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:45 am

    Dean is still ahead, but Kerry has made up a little ground, according to a new NH poll

    Dean was favored by 25 percent while Kerry, the Massachusetts senator, was backed by 19 percent. Dean led 26 percent to 17 percent last month.

    In this poll, Kerry’s favorable rating increased from 58 percent in late September to 66 percent in mid-October. Almost that many, 60 percent, viewed Dean favorably.

    Wesley Clark was at 11 percent, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman at 8 percent, Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt at 7 percent, and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards at 4 percent. Carol Moseley Braun was at 1 percent, along with Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Al Sharpton was at 0 percent. About 23 percent in the poll were undecided.

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    Monday, October 20, 2003
    Speaking of the FARC

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:36 pm

    This BBC story, Colombia’s most powerful rebels, illustrates the point made below:

    And they make at least $300m from the drug trade every year, added to which is their income from kidnapping and extortion, making them probably the richest insurgent group in the world.

    That is a rather remarkable amount of money-and one that can buy a lot of guns and support a lot of troops.

    And, Human Rights Watch notes that paramilitary groups pay moonlighting solidiers $500 a month, which in rural Colombia is good money. And, like the guerrillas, the paramilitaries make their money via narcotics.

    Filed under: Latin America | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    FYI: CotC #2 is Up

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:11 pm

    Jay Solo has the Carnival of the Capitalists #2 available for your viewing pleasure.

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    Drug Money and Terror

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:42 pm

    The CSM has an interesting story on Kashmiri rebels using drug profits to fuel their fight against India:

    Most worrisome, Indian officials say, is that Kashmiri militant groups may soon have enough funds from narcotics to operate independently of their former patrons, Pakistan, which has officially banned and cut all ties to the 14-year insurgency that has killed 40,000 so far.

    “This is easy money for the militants, and they use it to fund their activities,” says Lt. Col. Mukhtiar Singh, spokesman for the Indian Army in Srinagar. “In addition to that, foreign mercenaries use it,” he says.

    This example, along with guerrillas and paramilitaries in Colombia and the Taliban in Afghanistan, demonstrate why we need to rethink the current legal regime concerning narcotics. The high prices that prohibition creates for these substances is staggering and provides remarkable amounts of cash for those engaged in armed struggles against legitimate authority. Indeed, it creates a near endless supply of cash that can easily be used to purchases weapons.

    Source: Heroin money could fund Kashmir’s militants

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    Criticism is Easy, Solutions are Hard

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:11 pm

    The NYT’s lead editorial today, Waiting for Democrats on Iraq, raising a rather legitimate point for the Nine: what’s the solution? It is rather easy to criticize Bush’s (or anyone’s) policies; the hard part is suggesting viable alternatives.

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    Adios, Iowa

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:25 am

    Interesting: 2 Top Democrats Will Not Contest Iowa’s Caucuses

    Two prominent Democratic presidential candidates, Gen. Wesley K. Clark and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, have decided to bypass Iowa’s presidential caucuses, angering some party leaders there and signaling what could be a very different nomination battle next year.

    Actually, what it signals is that having high-ish national poll numbers doesn’t translate into state-level success and that Clark and Liberman are in a weak position. This will be spun as strategy, but it simply demonstrates a lack of strength by both candidates with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. This is problematic for both candidates, as much of the nominating electorate is made up of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

    This will also allow the other candidates the opportunity to paint the two of them as running away from a fight.

    Plus, this has been tried before, and it hasn’t worked.

    The important part of this is that it will give Dean, Kerry and Gephardt center stage at the first big Democratic event, media-wise-at just the time a lot of voters will start paying attention.

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    • Independents For Clark linked with Monday Clarkbot
    Sunday, October 19, 2003
    PoliColumn

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:30 am

    I have a column in today’s Mobile Register:

    Religious issues are on the table
    10/19/03
    By STEVEN TAYLOR
    Special to the Register

    Among the more contentious issues in public discourse in the United States in recent decades is the role of religion in public life - a proposition easily confirmed by recent events in our own state concerning Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Ten Commandments monument.

    The whole thing is here

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    Saturday, October 18, 2003
    Back to Fencing

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:56 am

    Blogging will be light until it isn’t.

    Filed under: Blogging | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Brooks on the $87 billion

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:54 am

    David Brooks’ NYT column is worth a read.

    The money paragraph #1:

    Saddam Hussein would be jubilant in Pelosi’s Iraq. He has long argued that America is a decadent country that will buckle at the first sign of trouble. If the Pelosi Democrats had won yesterday’s vote, the Saddam Doctrine would be enshrined in every terrorist cave and dictator’s palace around the world: kill some Americans and watch the empire buckle.

    The money paragraph #2:

    The Bayh Democrats are centrist but not visionary, and they seem to worry more about adding an extra $10 billion to the deficit than about the future of the Middle East. They may have read memos from the Democratic pollsters on the unpopularity of the $87 billion plan, but they don’t seem to have read about the Versailles Treaty and what happens when strong nations impose punitive burdens on proud ones.

    Filed under: Iraq | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Getting the Call

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:48 am

    Obscure columnist Bob Novak reports the following interesting tidbit concerning the negotiations over the $87 billion:

    Republican Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, who had been demanding changes in the $87 billion appropriations bill for Iraq, ended up fully supporting the measure thanks to a heart-to-heart talk with President Bush.

    Wamp, who usually is a dependable vote for the administration, wanted to turn the $20 billion appropriation for Iraqi reconstruction into loans. He changed his mind about loans, as the saying goes on Capitol Hill, when the White House “called him down to the principal’s office.” After being lectured by the president in the Oval Office, Wamp made a vigorous floor speech on behalf of the bill Thursday.

    Word about getting dressed down by “the principal” may have impeded lobbying efforts to change the bill by conservative Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California. Rank-and-file GOP lawmakers did not relish having to go through Wamp’s experience.

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Friday, October 17, 2003
    Status

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:59 pm

    Well, I spent the morning working on a writing project and the afternoon working on a fence for the backyard. Neither is finished.

    Blogging will be light tomorrow whilst I fence.

    Filed under: Blogging | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Yesterday’s Outage

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:25 am

    BTW, PoliBlog was down last night, as was OTB and presumably many other HostingMatters hosted sites. James has the reason why.

    Hopefully my reader wasn’t overly dissappointed last night.

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    To Loan or Not to Loan

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:19 am

    The Senate voted to make part of the monies to be sent to Iraq a loan, rather than a grant.

    Defying weeks of intense White House lobbying, a narrowly divided Senate voted last night to convert half of President Bush’s $20.3 billion Iraq rebuilding plan into a loan that would be forgiven if other donor nations write off the debt incurred by the ousted government of Saddam Hussein.

    Of course, it isn’t over with yet:

    The 51 to 47 vote came an hour after the Republican-controlled House defeated a similar loan amendment, 226 to 200, setting up potentially difficult House-Senate negotiations next week as lawmakers rush to conclude a final spending plan for Iraq before an international donors conference next Thursday in Madrid.

    Indeed, my guess is that it will eventually end up being a grant.

    I understand that we have a deficit, and I undestand that Iraq has all that oil, and such. However, we did break the place, and there is something untoward about imposing a loan on a country which does not have a functioning government. Not to mention that such a policy route would help to reinforce the views of some in the Middle East who believe that we are in Iraq specifically for the oil.

    I understand Senator Graham’s objections to arguing in regards to perceptions:

    “I don’t want to give in to a great lie. You can’t buy your way out of this problem,” said Graham, one of the five Republican co-authors of the Senate’s loan provision. “You can’t take $10 billion of taxpayer money, [while] people are losing their jobs, to buy your way out of a great lie. It would be terrible if the people of this country who have sacrificed so much wound up not getting a dime back.”

    However, this hardly addresses the fact that we invaded, we have vital national interest in the region, and that there is no government in place in Iraq to agree to a loan. Also, I tire of the whole “but we could spend the money at home” argument insofar that is true of all foreign aid. We spend money abroad (in Israel, Egypt, and Colombia, to name the top three recipients) because we have determined that it is our interest to do so, and such policies are far more complex than a zero-sum calculation over a dollar to fill a pothole in NYC v. filling one in Baghdad.

    Source: Senate Defies Bush On Iraq Assistance

    UPDATE: James of OTB weighs in on this topic as well.

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    Ouch

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:05 am

    Man, I was certain that the BoSox had that game last night. They should’ve pulled Pedro earlier. I am not a Sox fan, but rather an Anti-Yankees fan, but I bet there are some depressed folks in Boston today.

    And, sadly, all of us are going to have to hear about the curses of both the Billygoat and the Bambino for at least another year.

    Ah well, Go Fish!

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    Thursday, October 16, 2003
    PoliColumn

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:47 pm

    The following was published in the Birmingham Post-Herald on Monday, October 13, 2003, page A7.

    Gorbahev visit is blast from the past

    Former General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev made a trip to Alabama this week to speak to a crowd of about 5,000 at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum on the campus of Auburn University. Gorbachev, who ruled the Soviet Union from 1985 until its collapse in 1991, is clearly one of the pivotal figures of the twentieth century, making an opportunity to hear him speak in person an opportunity of a lifetime.

    One rarely gets the chance to see the makers of history live and in the flesh, and while the view is better from ones living room via TV, there is still something special about getting the chance to witness history firsthand.

    Certainly the visit was a coup for Auburn, as it was only one of a handful of schools that the former Soviet leader was visiting during his current trip to the United States. It was Gorbachevs first visit to Alabama, his 38th state as he noted twice during his speech. Certainly it was also a wonderful opportunity for students, faculty and the public at-large to get the change to encounter a key historical figure, and underscores the services that universities can play in enhancing public education in addition to the work they do in the classroom.

    Several of my students from Troy State, along with members of the faculty, made the trip to hear the presentation. Events such as this provide ample impetus for thinking about politics and for fueling interest in the study of that field.

    The speech itself, while interesting (especially to a political junkie such as myself), was hardly dramatic. There was some admonishment of current US foreign policy, especially vis--vis Iraq, as well as an exhortation to global communication and democratization. He further warned of the tendency of some people around the world to seek the firm hand of authoritarian rule. All of which are issue worth consideration as we move into the 21st century.

    Mostly, however, the speech, and Gorbachevs very presence, reminded me of how much the world has changed in the past roughly fourteen years, from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, to the fall of the Twin Towers in 2001 to the fall of the statues of Saddam this year.

    I am a child of the Cold War; I vividly remember a bipolar world where international relations were cast almost exclusively in terms of USA versus USSR, a world in which it wasnt hyperbole to speak of devastating nuclear war. Indeed, the dramatic confrontation of these two nations, and their allies, were part of what interested me in politics, driving me to the study of political science. As such it is often amazing, and somewhat amusing, to discuss in my classes with students that period of our history, which to many is a vague memory at best.

    That world started to fade when the Berlin Wall fell, and Eastern Europe began to assert its independence from Soviet domination, and it disappeared entirely in 1991, when a coup by hard-line communists attempted to take Gorbachev from power, but instead led to the take-over of radical reformists, such as Boris Yeltsin, and the dissolution of the USSR. Democracy and capitalism were the buzzwords of the day; the United States of America had won the Cold War.

    It seemed, from roughly 1992 until September11, 2001, that the world, and especially the United States, had entered a Golden Era: we were the lone superpower (economically and militarily), our economy was booming, and there appeared to be peace in the land. Further, that period of time saw a significant growth in the number of countries governed by democratic means (granted, often imperfectly executed democracy, but democracy still).

    International relations experts warned that the world was perhaps less safe than it appearedyes, the specter of global nuclear war was gone, but the weapons still existed, and it was unclear how well they were controlled.

    However, that Golden Era ended with a crescendo the morning of September 11th, 2001, with the surreal sight of those airplanes slamming into the World Trade Center. The attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon shook our perception of the world and thrust us into a new era, one marked by international uncertainty and a war on terrorism.

    The ironic thing about this new era, which in many ways is less threatening in absolute terms than the Cold War Era (terrorist are rather unlikely to destroy large parts of the world), it is more threatening to us in specific, personal terms (the odds of being on a plane, or being in a building that might be bombed has increased). And, aside from a perception of enhanced personal risk, the world itself is more unstable.

    One benefit of the Cold War was the ability of the two powers to keep, for the most part, their allies and client-states in check. However, that is no longer the case and smaller scale, yet potentially quite devastating, conflicts can more easily erupt. And certainly the United States is less constrained than it was during it time of conflict with the Soviets (the Iraq War would have been unthinkable when the Soviet Union still existed).

    In short, it is remarkable how the world can change in a relatively short amount of time. Opportunities such as that which Auburn provided this week help to remind us of where we have been and perhaps to get us to think about where we may be going. Also, just as Mr. Gorbachev in emblematic of at least part of what inspired many of us in the 1960s, 70s and 80s to study politics, so to many are being inspired today by the current turmoil; to those who as so inspired, I say: welcome aboardyou are in for quite a ride.

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    Post-Ritter Rules

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:23 pm

    Certainly this is a move that will help keep Ritter’s show alive: James Garner to Play ‘8 Simple Rules’ Grandfather

    The producers of ABC’s “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” have recruited one of television’s most enduring stars, James Garner, to help shore up the series after the death of its lead actor, John Ritter, a network source said on Thursday.

    […]

    Garner’s character will come to comfort his daughter and remain in the house.

    Ironically, I never watched the show before, but may tune in now as I am a big fan of Garner’s.

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    Scalia’s Recusal

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:17 am

    Here’s an interesting piece on Scalia’s recusal from the Pledge case: High Court’s Colorful Justice Sidelined

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    Good Job News

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:55 am

    Good news on the job/economy front: Data Show U.S. Economy Picking Up Steam

    The Labor Department said first-time filings for state unemployment aid fell 4,000 last week to 384,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said. The number was broadly in line with analysts’ expectations that claims would be 388,000.

    “The jobless numbers were certainly encouraging. We got a decline and it suggests that the labor market is recovering,” said Parul Jain, Nomura Securities International.

    It was the second week in a row that claims came in under 400,000. Economists say claims above 400,000 suggest a deteriorating jobs market.

    The drop also brought a decline in the closely watched four-week moving average of initial filings, seen as more reliable because it irons out weekly fluctuations.

    The department said the average fell 4,250 to 390,750, also the lowest since early February.

    Of course, the news, whiel encouraging, isn’t perfect:

    While the report suggested layoffs are slowing, it also showed unemployed workers are still having a tough time finding new jobs. For the week ended Oct. 4, the number of Americans claiming benefits after filing an initial claim climbed 58,000 to 3.67 million.

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    Arrests Made in Convoy Bombing

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:52 am

    I must say, I am surprised that the Palestinians both investigated and acted: Seven Arrested in U.S. Convoy Bombing

    Palestinian police arrested seven suspects Thursday in a deadly attack on U.S. diplomats, briefly exchanging fire with militants during a raid in this shantytown, security officials said.

    The suspects are members of the Popular Resistance Committees, a group of dozens of armed men from various factions, many former members of the security forces and disgruntled followers of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement.

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    UN Resolution Passes

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:29 am

    While it may mostly be symbolic, this is pretty amazing: U.N. Unanimously Adopts Iraq Resolution

    In a diplomatic victory for the United States, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday aimed at attracting aid to stabilize Iraq and putting it on the road to independence.

    […]

    The United States also won backing from China and Pakistan, and finally and most surprisingly from Syria, the only Arab nation on the Security Council and a staunch opponent of the U.S.-led war. Earlier Thursday, a U.S. official had said an abstention by Syria, rather than a vote against, would be “a huge win.”

    Germany, France and Russia had announced their decision to vote “yes” after a 45-minute conversation earlier Thursday, in a bid to bring international solidarity to the reconstruction effort.

    It should help the rebuilding effort, although I doubt that much in the way of troops and money will be forthcoming.

    The politics have been interesting to watch as well, with the US relying on Russia to help with the Germany-France alliance. Funny how time changes the configuration of interests.

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    The Cubs

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:25 am

    I guess that the Cubs engaged in an act of self-sacrifice to save the city from destruction.
    And forget the guy who interefered with the foul ball-if you are up 3-1 in a series, and drop three straight, it is more than about one play.

    BTW, congrats to Pudge Rodriguez for being the series MVP.

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    The Santa Theory of Development

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:26 am

    From an e-mail that I received today, which I found to be amusing:

    THE FOUR STAGES OF LIFE:

    1) You believe in Santa Claus.
    2) You don’t believe in Santa Claus.
    3) You are Santa Claus.
    4) You look like Santa Claus.

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    Wednesday, October 15, 2003
    Will Chicago Burn?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 pm

    It’s the fifth inning and Chicago is up 5-3. Here’s the question: if the Cubbies beat the curse of the goat and go to the Series, how much of Chicago will burn tonight?

    Not to be a cynic, but I am guessing there will be more damage than your typical Bulls championship…

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    Another Celeb Gov?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:47 pm

    This time, TV’s Pat O’Brien?

    A friend and fellow celebrity of Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Wednesday he wants to join the actor-turned-politician at future gubernatorial conventions by getting elected chief executive of South Dakota.

    Pat O’Brien, a graduate of the University of South Dakota who also studied international economics at Johns Hopkins University, said he is seriously considering challenging incumbent Republican Mike Rounds in the 2006 election.

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    Line of the DayTM: Goddess of Peace Edition

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:03 pm

    “I am running for president of the United States to enable the goddess of peace to encircle within her arms all the children of this country and all the children of the world.” -Representative Dennis Kucinich

    Hat tip: Best of the Web

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    Did She Really Say That?

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:01 pm

    Dave of the Hedgehog Report brings our attention to this gem from WaPo:

    Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who said he probably would have voted for the war resolution and later said he would have opposed it, has joined other Democrats in criticizing the administration’s current course in Iraq. But spokeswoman Kym Spell said Clark had no position on the $87 billion request. “He’s not in Congress,” she said. “He’s running for president.”

    That is a stunning statement. One, presidential candidates are supposed to have positions on everything (whether they really should or not). Second, and more importantly: how can one be a candidate for president and not have an opinion on a key element of Bush’s Iraq policy. Utterly remarkable.

    The WaPo story has the opinions of all the candidates, and Dave breaks out the key ones on his site.

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    Parenting Truth of the DayTM

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:56 pm

    You can lead a child to the math sheet, but you can’t make him sum (at least not quickly).

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    CoV: 56

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:53 pm

    The 56th weekly Carvinal of the Vanities is over at Priorities & Frivolities, so go take a look.

    (You should visit the site anyway, cuz the guy who runs it has a cool nickname).

    Carnival 57 will be hosted at Eric Berlin’s blog, which is coming out of retirement to host the Carnival!

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    He’s in the Money

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:39 am

    Bush Campaign Raises A Record $49.5 Million

    President Bush’s reelection campaign yesterday reported raising $49.5 million in the third quarter, a decisive record for a three-month period. Since launching his fundraising effort in May, Bush has collected $83.9 million.

    And while the Nine duke it out and spend their money against one another, Bush can start his re-election campaigning whenever he wants.

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    Tuesday, October 14, 2003
    A New Carnival is in Town

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:17 pm

    I have been meaning to note the newest Carnival for a couple of days. So if you have missed it, go check out the Carnival of the Capitalists #1 at BusinessPundit.

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    More on the Dow and that Magic 10k Figure

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:23 pm

    The point of the Dow 10k reference is that it would be a powerful symbol of economic recovery for the Dow Jones Industrial Average to return to five digits. The economy is very much an issue of perception. This is true in terms of politics, as voters dont really know all that much about the economy except what happens to them personally and what they hear on the news. Further, most people dont delve into the business and economy sections of the paper; rather, they react to casual economic news. Things like the Dow, the unemployment rate, layoffs (or not), profits for corporations (or not), as reported in the news are the ways by which many people assess the health of the economy. Indeed, I would argue that in the late 1990s the Dow became, in the minds of many, the variable which captured the health of the economy. Understand that I full well know that the DJIA is hardly an all encompassing economic indicator: thats not the point. The point is that many see the Dow as such. And, it is noteworthy that we have become a stockholding society, so there are positive ramifications for many of us when the Dow is up (even if it is just our 401k statements).

    Not only is the perception of the economy a political issue, it is also important to the health of the economy itself. Thats what the consumer confidence index is about. Do you all really think that consumer confidence is driven solely by well studied empirical data? No. Rather, it is fueled by the perceptions of the public (i.e., how I am personally, how my family and friends are and what I see on the news). And when people have a favorable impression of the economy, they tend to spend more money, which, in turn, helps the economy.

    While I am hardly saying that if the Dow hits 10k or more (and stays there) that that guarantees any particular outcome in the 2004 elections, can anyone argue that it wouldnt help President Bush? Can anyone make the argument that a falling or stagnant stock market doesnt help the Democrats?

    The election will turn on multiple factors, and the economy is always one them. So, good economic news, especially good economic news that is widely disseminated and fairly easily understood, certainly helps the party in power.

    For that matter: can anyone cite an economic stat that is more in the public eye than the DJIA? It is a daily index and it is reported multiple times a day on radio, television and the internet. Even if the only news one hears in the top of the hour headlines on the classic rock station, one hears the Dow and NASDAQ numbers.

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    Dow 10k?

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:44 pm

    Could we be getting back to Dow 10k? And just in time for the 2004 campaign? The market closed today at 9812.98.

    Although, the health of the job market remains unclear.

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    Medical Marijuana OK?

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:12 pm

    Also interesting: Supreme Court Clears Way for Medical Pot

    The Supreme Court cleared the way Tuesday for state laws allowing ill patients to smoke marijuana if a doctor recommends it.

    Justices turned down the Bush administration’s request to consider whether the federal government can punish doctors for recommending or perhaps just talking about the benefits of the drug to sick patients. An appeals court said the government cannot.

    Quite honestly, I see no reason why medical marijuana ought not be legal. Or, at a minimum, that the ability to experiment with the substance for these purposes should be allowed.

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    Supremes to Hear Pledge Case

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:53 am

    Interesting: Supreme Court to Decide Pledge Case

    The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will decide whether the Pledge of Allegiance recited by generations of American schoolchildren is an unconstitutional blending of church and state.

    […]

    The court will hear the case sometime next year.

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    • The World Around You linked with Supreme Court will Rule on Pledge Case
    CoV

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:06 am

    For those, such as myself, who keep forgetting about Ye Olde Carnival, Priorities & Frivolities is the host this week and the deadline is today.

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    Let the Lawsuit Begin

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:35 am

    Texas Governor Signs Redistricting Map Into Law

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Monday signed into law a congressional redistricting map designed to boost Republican power in Washington.

    Perry’s signature ends six months of often dramatic legislative battles that prompted Democrats to leave the state twice and caused Republican infighting over how to draw the map.

    The only viable attack, lawsuit-wise, is going to be on racial lines, since the Supremes have said that partisan gerrymandering alone isn’t enough to overturn lines. I am unsure, based on what I have read, if there is a strong race-based claim with these districts. My impression has been not, but it isn’t an especially strong impression. We shall see.

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    The Necktie Corollary to Murphy’s Law

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:51 am

    If you are running late you will have to tie your tie at least thrice, for once it will be too short, and then it will be too long.

    Which, now that I think about it, also sounds a lot like my putting…

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    Monday, October 13, 2003
    Politics, Culture and TV

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:23 pm

    Interesting how prevailing situations in real life affect “reality” tv:

    Colombia’s version of the global TV hit, “Big Brother,” where 20- and 30- somethings live for weeks under the glare of the cameras. The viewing public decides who stays and who goes.

    On other versions of the show in places like United States and Britain, the audience tends to keep troublemakers around for their entertainment value.

    But in a country torn by decades of civil war and riven by class and racial prejudices, where convivencia - peaceful coexistence - is rare, Colombia’s viewers have sent a different message: Either get along - or get out. Reality TV, which dominates the airwaves here, has emerged as an unlikely forum for Colombians to express their desire for peace.

    “The subject of living peacefully together is very important to me,” says Cecilia Arbelaez, a Bogot housewife and avid reality-TV viewer. “I think it is one of the problems that the country faces most at this time.”

    Source: Colombians want real life to mimic reality TV

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    Speaking of the $20 Bill Campaign…

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:56 pm

    USAT has an editorial on the ad campaign for the new twenties: $30M sell for a $20 bill? I must admit, I have to concur with this:

    But why the bureau thinks that news requires paid ads and “product placements” on such shows as Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Wheel of Fortune remains unclear. Given the wide media attention the makeover has attracted, the bureau would have been wiser to remember another adage: A dollar saved is a dollar earned, even if $30 million is a tiny fraction of a $2.3 trillion federal budget.

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    Democratization in the Middle East?

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:37 pm

    While hardly the dawn of unfettered democratic governance in Saudi Arabia, this is an interesting move: Saudi Arabia to Hold First Elections

    Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, announced Monday it would hold its first elections to vote for municipal councils, seen as the first concrete political reform in the Gulf Arab state.

    Of course, exactly how free and fair the elections will be, and what powers these councils have are both key issues. And, according to the story, only half of the council members will be elected.

    Liberalization like this, in the face of political pressure, either placate, and therefore do nothing, or they create more pressure for reform over time.

    It should be interesting to watch. I am not all that optimistic at this stage, but it is of significance that the Saudi government feels the need to engage in this move.

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    OTB on Limbaugh

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:31 am

    James of OTB comments on the Newsweek piece on Limbaugh as well (joining myself and Stephen Green).

    James makes a legitimate point: becoming a cocaine or heroin addict is different than becoming a prescription drug addict insofar as in the case of the former one has to start with an illegal act to become hooked, which is not necessarily the case for the latter. This does not excuse illegal actions by anyone who acquires prescription drugs illegally, but nonetheless is an important distinction.

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    Timing is Everything

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:26 am

    The funny thing is, it seems like it is more time for him to drop out, rather than to officially annouce: Kucinich Makes It Official Today

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    $20 Roll Out

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:37 am

    I know that it is necessary to get the word about about changes to the currency, but are they laying it on a bit thick or what? I have seen ads in SI, have been assualted by webvertisements, and have seen numerous TV ads.

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    Speaking of Newsweek

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:34 am

    It occurred to me this morning that last week’s cover story was about Kobe Bryant and a central theme of the story was that Kobe was a self-absorbed loner who has trouble relating to women and this’s week Limbaugh cover story contains a central theme that Rush was a self-absorbed loner who has trouble relating to women.

    I don’t mean to make anything more of this to make the observation.

    The stories were, by the way, written by different authors.

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    Green on Limbaugh

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:26 am

    Stephen Green of VodkaPundit has a post on the Limbaugh situation that is worth reading. He also critiques the Newsweek piece I wrote about yesterday in addition to thoughtful commentary on the overall subject.

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Sunday, October 12, 2003
    Iraq Round-Up

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:32 pm

    Fareed Zakaria’s column in Newsweek, Why the War Was Right helps to refocus what the war was really about/what it means for long-term policy. He notes the choice that was before the US prior to the invasion:

    Either we could lift sanctions and welcome Saddam back into the community of nations, or we could rid Iraq and the world of one of the most evil dictatorships of modern times.

    And he noted the high value of winning (a view shared by Thomas Friedman):

    Iraq was a threat, but more important, it was an opportunity. “A pre-emptive invasion of a country gives one pause,” I wrote in that August 2002 column, “but there is another massive benefit to it. Done right, an invasion would be the single best path to reform the Arab world. The roots of Islamic terror reside in the dysfunctional politics of the region, where failure and repression have produced fundamentalism and violence. Were Saddam’s totalitarian regime to be replaced by a state that respected human rights, enforced the rule of law and created a market economy, it could begin to transform that world.”

    I concur with this thesis.

    The lead editorial in WaPo today is also along these lines and is worth a read.

    In summary: there were more reasons to go to war in Iraq than the threat of WMDs, and it may well be the case that those goals will yet be met.

    Also, I would note, that I am not sure how anyone could have not known that this entire affair was going to take a lot of time, require lots of troops, and cost a lot of money. Yes, the administration downplayed these facts, but the opposition can’t pretend like this is all a surprise and that they thought that they had been promised InstaDemocracy within 6 months of Saddam’s ouster.

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    On Limbaugh and Newsweek

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:20 pm

    Newsweek has a rather gleeful expose on Rush Limbaugh as their cover story this week (as noted by Drudge).

    I must admit, the first line of the story: Rush Limbaugh has always had far more followers than friends sets the tone, to some degree (plus it hit me as no duh, as it rather hard to have millions of friend, no matter how affable one is). I suppose that the thesis is: no wonder the guy got addicted to drugs, his personal life sucks. However, the tone of the story seems to be mostly a somewhat pleased: gee, is this guy a wreck, or what?

    Not only that, there are subtle (and not so subtle) suggestions that really, Limbaughs a fraud, i.e., not only is he a hypocrite concerning drugs, he really doesnt believe anything that he says.

    But Limbaughs story owes more to the Wizard of Oz than The Scarlet Letter. The man behind the curtain is not the God of Family Values but a childless, twice-divorced, thrice-married schlub whose idea of a good time is to lie on his couch and watch football endlessly. When Rush Limbaugh declared to his radio audience that he was your epitome of morality of virtue, a man you could totally trust with your wife, your daughter, and even your son in a Motel 6 overnight, he was acting. (emphasis theirs).

    []

    Granted, Limbaughs act has won over, or fooled, a lot of people.

    First, Limbaugh never made any bones about his failed marriages (or his failures at jobs, school, and a variety of other things). Further, the Motel 6 line (which he has stated for years, and always sounded a bit silly to me) is clearly meant to be shtick. (ed.: does anyone know what a schlub is? Websters online apparently is unfamiliar). And I dont think most people considered him a high priest of morality, but rather a commentator on politics. While he makes paeans to God and supported religiosity generically, it was clear that he was no hardcore evangelical. It was quite obvious that his theology was rather vague at best. Indeed, he used to speak of being a conservative above the neck. However, I will say that as someone who has listened to his show since 1988, I dont recall this little revelation:

    Despite his fervent moralizing, he smoked a little pot and watched a little porn (as he has publicly admitted).

    Now, I dont doubt either, but the presentation makes it sound like it was a normal weekend for the man. Perhaps it was, but the likelihood that any such admission were about his past. Further, they seem (like the water balloon story from his youth) rather gratuitous, and not furthering the story, per se. Perhaps it is my propensity to like essays to have a thesis that is getting my hackles up here, but I must say that one balance this story reads like a string of negative anecdotes.

    Much of what is written doesnt surprise me (i.e., that he isnt brimming with friends, that he is a loner in many ways), but I would say that the slant is clearly meant to paint a rather pathetic picture of Limbaugh. For example, it doesnt mention that he is currently married (and, as far as I know, happily so) until the last third of the piece, and he must have some friends (I know I have seen several folks on TV lately, such as Brent Bozell, who at least claim to be Limbaughs friendplus, the man has to play golf with somebody-although granted, golf doesnt require friends). Indeed, like the mention of his current wife, there are references to friends in the last third of the story.

    I recognize the legitimacy of noting that when someone who has been a moralizer does something immoral that this creates a reasonable and understandable line of attack. However, I am not sure if that is what this storys purpose really is. Indeed, aside from
    two references that I have seen in the press (a 1995 quotation and a ref from 1997), I dont recall Limbaugh being particularly rabid on the drug issue, which would have made for a better story, no doubt (although I know he was pro-Drug War). I will concur, that he as clearly been a law-and-order type, so there is a clear hypocrisy issue there. I will note (and the press has yet not noted this one, he often sarcastically refers to long-haired, maggot-infest, dope-smoking FM types on his program.

    It is interesting to see the dichotomy that emerged rather quickly in the press, where hard-core detractors of Limbaugh want to paint him as a big mouth actor, and those who support him discuss him as a serious commentator. I think it is fair to note that he has done something clearly wrong, and may well face criminal sanctions as a result.

    I am a fan of talk radio, especially political talk. I have been listening to NPR news programs since I was I in fourth grade. I have listened to straight news, and various types of political and non-political talk for years. I found Rush Limbaugh on KFI 640-AM in Los Angeles when I was in college during Limbaughs first year on national radio. Living in SoCal means lots of time in the car and I listened to a variety of programs, and still do. One thing is for sure: Rush Limbaugh essentially created talk radio as we currently know it and that fact is something that his detractors dont give him enough credit for. And I dont mean conservative talk, but political talk period.

    I would agree that his shtick gets to be a bit much at times, and that his analytical skills are not almost as well honed as he may think, however he actually is a pretty good commentator, and he can be amusing. I also concede that I can full well understand why liberals wouldnt like him, or, indeed, why he could turn people of a variety of political persuasions off.

    On balance it is difficult not to read stories such as this one (rather than the fairly newsy stories in WaPo and the NYT when the news broke) without recalling that there is a great deal of dislike for Limbaugh on the left-and I don’t mean because he is annoying, but because he is actually effective in communicating his politics. As such, the desire seems to be not to do a legitimate story, but to do a hit piece, which is an unfortunate choice for Newsweek to make>

    I agree that this is a legit news story, and I concur that Limbaugh may well deserve legal sanction. However, it strikes me as unnecessary to crudly rejoice in his predicament.

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    Rebuilding the Democratic Party

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:07 pm

    Daniel W. Drezner has an interesting post on what ails the Democrats and the efforts of some in the party to remedy those problems.

    Take a look.

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    Emerging Grass Roots Democracy in Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:01 am

    Thomas Friedman’s column today, The Least Bad Option, highlights some good news concerning democratization in Iraq:

    …the U.S. has already done more to build that at the grass roots than most people realize.

    […]

    Oh yes, these councils have their crooks and power hogs, some of whom have already been purged by their colleagues. But even with their warts, they are providing Iraqis a forum for the kind of horizontal conversation between Sunnis, Shiites, Turkmen, Christians and Kurds that Saddam never allowed and must happen for any Iraqi democracy to have a solid base.

    And he is quite right about those currently mounting the attack on US forces and the Iraqis who are working with them:

    These attackers don’t want Iraqis to rule themselves, these attackers want to rule Iraqis. Why do you think the attackers never identify themselves or their politics? Because they are largely diehard Baathists who want to restore the old order they dominated and will kill anyone in the way.

    Which is why he concludes (and I concur) the the current demands by the UN for an immediate turn-over of power to an interim Iraqi authority are a bad idea.

    And, indeed:

    I also spoke the other day with Nasreen Barwari, Iraq’s new (Harvard-trained) minister of public works. She made it very clear to me that she and her colleagues want sovereignty as soon as they are really able to run things. But to those demanding early sovereignty in Iraq, as a precondition for helping, she said: “If you want me to be sovereign, come and help me reconstruct my country. . . . Help me get ready quicker.”

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    The Enemy of My Enemy is My Buddy

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:29 am

    More evidence that Dean is the true frontrunner: 2 Dean Rivals Unite Against Mutual Threat

    Perhaps it was not so surprising to see Representative Richard A. Gephardt and Senator John Kerry arm in arm, all smiles, whispering in each other’s ears on stage at the Democratic debate Thursday night in Phoenix.

    These two presidential contenders, who for months have been eclipsed by the surging campaign of Howard Dean, have been fairly chummy of late-at Dr. Dean’s expense.

    […]

    Aides to both men say there is no overt conspiracy, but they acknowledge that at least at a staff level, the Gephardt and Kerry campaigns are more than friendly: they are sharing information about Dr. Dean that helps fuel each another’s attacks.

    Indeed, think this is clearly the case:

    For the two candidates, attacking Dr. Dean may be a matter of survival, said Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

    “There is a great danger that Dean could neutralize Gephardt in Iowa, and then neutralize Kerry in New Hampshire, and then even if Dean stumbles later on, they can’t recover from that,” he said.

    “So it is manifestly in their interest to make sure that the stumble occurs before Iowa and New Hampshire.”

    However, I don’t think it is going to work.

    Barring a major stumble, I think that Dean is the nominee, i.e., that it is his to lose and there isn’t much that Gephardt or Kerry (or any of the others) can do to overtake him. He best taps into the anger of the Democratic base over Bush (especialyl on Iraq), his experience as a chief executive rather than a legislator redounds well to him, he is more dynamic and intense than any of the others, and I think his outside the beltway (semi-plug for James, -ed. persona is also a plus. Further he has come across as competent on the issues and the whole “straight talker” mantle is his for this electoral cycle.

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    Saturday, October 11, 2003
    For the Curious

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:18 am

    For anyone who was wondering (like I was) what locale ER used to simulte the Congo in recent episodes, it was Hawaii.

    Also, Carter’s extended stay in the jungle is the result of Noah Wylie taking off six weeks from the show due to family leave (he has a new son).

    Ok, back to politics…

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    Tightening the Screws on Castro

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:23 am

    I have to agree with Rep. Flake (unfortunate name for a politician-.ed.): Bush Seeks Tighter Curb on Cuba Travel

    “For more than 40 years now, our Cuba policy has had the same effect as beating our head against a wall. By tightening enforcement of the travel ban, we will essentially just be beating it harder,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

    “At some point,” Flake continued, “we need to concede that our current approach has failed and try something new.”

    Really, liberalization would likely hasten the end of the Castro regime as it currently exists, and at a minimum it would start to mitigate its effects on the Cuban people. On balance our policy seems to be motivated by a desire to punish Castro and to placate the ex-pat Cuban population in the US, more than anything to do with changing the regime more quickly.

    There are only two ways to affect change in the Cuban regime: the first will result in radical change, which will occur when Castro dies. The other is to allow more gradual changes in the economy and society, which will effect the political, by allowing liberalization of relations with the US.

    I agree that Castro is worthy of punishment, but the current policy really doesn’t punish him much, and simply serves to help keep him in power as the Embattled Defender of the Cuban People until he finally passes on. Quite frankly, I think that in the post Cold War period US policy has helped to prop him up as much, if not more than, it has damaged him.

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    Friday, October 10, 2003
    Parental Observation

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:03 pm

    I would note that almost any food item is, in the hands of a two-year-old, a Weapon of Mess Construction.

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    Limbaugh Speaks

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:52 pm

    Limbaugh is currently discussing his pain pill situation on the air. He has admitted that indeed he is addicted to prescription pain pills, which started after unsuccessful spinal surgery.

    He is checking himself into treatment for a third time after his show today for thirty days.

    He says that authorities have asked him to limit his comments on the investigation and has said only that there are “distortions” in published reports.

    UPDATE: As of the top of the hour, Drudge is headling the story sans link to full text.

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    Line of the DayTM: Special “Huh!?!” Edition

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:16 pm

    “I was like, ‘Look, if you want me to be some kind of sex thing, that’s not me.’ I will never do that.”

    -Britney Spears in Esquire

    Source: She’s not that innocent-about image

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    Thursday, October 9, 2003
    A Somewhat Overlooked ReCAL Subplot

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:38 pm

    California’s new odd couple not quite ‘Twins’

    One is tall, muscular, tanned, and handsome. The other is squat, pale, balding, and bespectacled. One has strength, brains, and personality. The other is an undersized, genetic mutant with criminal tendencies.

    This script premise of the 1988 movie, “Twins” - which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito - is already being trotted out, only half in jest, to draw parallels with the real-life plotline now unfolding at the California statehouse.

    With the dramatic election win of the Republican Mr. Schwarzenegger and the loss of Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the dueling duo could now become the strangest political bedfellows in American history.

    Mr. Bustamante becomes the first lieutenant governor in the US to have run against the same candidate he will now serve under.

    And you all thought that the movie analogies were over with! Seriously, this is one interesting, and amusing in its own way, result of this rather extraordinary process.

    Amd speaking of Cruz, if one wants a real dramatic end to the tale worthy of Hollywood, Kaus notes the follow “Scruz Bustamante” scenario:

    2. Can’t Gray Davis really screw Bustamante by resigning a few days or hours before Arnold Schwarzenegger takes office, thereby making Bustamante governor for a few days or hours, after which Bustamante would (under one statutory interpretation) not return to being lieutenant governor but instead be completely out of a job?

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    NH: Dean in the Lead; Clark Well Behind

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:14 pm

    American Research Group of New Hampshire has released the latest New Hampshire Poll and Dean is well ahead, and Clark in the single digits:

    Howard Dean is maintaining his lead in the New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Preference Primary. Ballot preference for Dean is at 29%, with John Kerry at 19%. Dean and Kerry continue to lead in favorability at 63% each. Wesley Clark’s awareness is now at 90%, with 5% ballot preference.

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    An Appropriate Portrait

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:27 pm

    First off, I want to say that I actually have a lot of respect for Jerry Brown, despite a good number of ideological and policy differences. That having been said, is this not an appropriate official portrait, or what?

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    What’s in a Name?

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:38 am

    MickeyKaus notes something i pointed out in class yesterday:

    A man named George B. Schwartzman finished a suprising ninth in the California recall race with 10.945 votes, right behind Gary Coleman. It’s not hard to figure out why.

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    Good Job News

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:05 am

    It isn’t gangbusters, but it is good news: Jobless Claims Fall to 8-Month Low

    The department said the average fell 11,500 to 393,500 last week, marking its first drop below the key 400,000 level in six weeks. Economists say claims above 400,000 suggest a deteriorating jobs market, while claims below that signal improvemen.

    It has made the market happy, at least.

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    Trouble in the Kerry Camp

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:42 am

    WaPo has an interesting (and telling) piece on the Kerry campaign and its internal problems that is worth a read. It is further evidence that Kerry lacks focus and vision (which, along with his need to be on all sides of the Iraq issue, and his need to re-launch his campaign a while back, doesn’t bode well for his nomination chances).

    The basic problem:

    Kerry was the early front-runner for the Democratic nomination, but his campaign idled for much of the summer as former Vermont governor Howard Dean galvanized liberal Democrats with his opposition to the war in Iraq. More recently, retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark entered the race with momentum, grabbing media attention and standing in the polls. At critical moments, Kerry has seemed hesitant, cautious, even programmed. He has struggled to articulate why he is the centrist alternative to the surging Dean, and why, as an avowed antiwar candidate, he voted last year for a Senate resolution that paved the way for President Bush’s plans to invade Iraq.

    And part of the reason for the problem:

    Kerry, for example, is advised by two pollsters, two media and advertising experts, and two speechwriting consultants. He also has two inner circles: one composed of hired hands in Washington; the other of old friends, family members and longtime loyalists in Boston.

    This has made Kerry’s operation the punch line of a joke in political circles: How is John Kerry’s campaign like Noah’s Ark? Both have two of everything.

    The rivalry and duplication may also help explain the persistent criticism of Kerry - both from Democratic Party operatives and from the media - that his campaign lacks focus, speed and discipline.

    This all reminds me of Gore saying, after the 2000 elections, that if he ran again he would “speak from the heart” and not listen to the consultants. In other words, Kerry seems to be duplicating a lot of what Gore thought was wrong with his campaign.

    Despite the fact that he was one of the biggest names to enter this race, I have a hard time seeing him getting the nomination at this point.

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    Wednesday, October 8, 2003
    That Darn Lex Luthor!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:49 pm

    For those who recall Lex Luthor’s nefarious plot to dump the California coast into the Pacific back in Superman: The Motion Picture back in the late 1970s, I give you this map. Had Lex’s plan worked out, Arnold would have carried the whole state.

    Similarly, the whole state would have recalled Davis. Oh, those darn coast-dwellers!

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    Wishful Thinking: Interpreting the Recall, Part I

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:55 pm

    The current spin from the Democrats (Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and Terry McAuliffe to name three) that the recall vote yesterday foreshadows a wave of anti-incumbency that will sweep away President Bush is a bit off the mark. While I will concede that there is some significant anger in the electorate (because of Iraq, the economy, etc.), anger which may propel Howard Dean to the Democratic Partys nomination in 2004, the attempt to analogize a national scenario from the California example is misplaced.

    First, it is impossible to discern or analyze a pattern here a pattern, as the number of elections from which one might wish to generalize is one. To make an argument for a generalized anti-incumbent sentiment in the electorate at a national level is wishful thinking, plain and simple, and the closest thing to a happy face that can be put on the recall results by the Democrats (the second place happy face is: ha ha, now he has to fix California).

    Second, the anger in question was very directly, and specifically, aimed at Gray Davis. I agree that there is some over-simplification on the part of voters in terms of assigning blame when economies go awry, but it is clear that Davis 24% approval rating bespeaks of more than just a throw the bums out mentality, and one focused specifically on the personage of Davis. To hope that that the level of frustration can be generalized to the whole nation, and the President specifically, is to ignore the facts on the ground. Davis was held personally responsible by many, many voters for the California energy debacle; many believe he was untruthful concerning the budget deficit; the much-hated car tax is Davis as well, as was a long-term pattern of highly negative campaigning. Only once those factors are considered can one can add more generalized unhappiness with the California economy. Plus, can any observer of the recall campaign discount the idea that Davis had clearly lost any kind of rapport with the voters of his state?

    Really, the Democratic Party (both at the state level and the national level) made a substantial strategic error by deciding to fight the recall and support Davisthe smarter thing to do would have been to have told Davis his day was done, and have found an attractive (i.e., not Cruz Bustamante) Democrat to run for Davis replacement. As such both McAuliffe and Art Torres (CA Dem Chair) have some blame to share for losing the Golden States governorship to the Republicans.

    (I will comment further on the party politics of this later, specifically on what the Republicans gained and did not fain as a result of the electoral outcome).

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    Texas Redistricting Fight Finally Over

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:28 pm

    That other political circus (you know, the one without porn stars and such) is also now finished: House, Senate agree on redistricting map

    After nearly six months of partisan wrangling, exhausted House and Senate negotiators finally reached an agreement Wednesday on redrawing congressional boundaries, according to negotiators.

    […]

    The new plan could net Republicans an additional six or seven seats among the states 31-member congressional delegation. At present, Democrats hold a 17-15 advantage.

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    ReCAL: Inside the Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:50 am

    Some interesting exit poll numbers on yesterday’s election:

    Despite the governor’s efforts to rally Democrats to his side, a quarter of liberals and at least 3 in 10 moderate Democrats voted “yes” on the recall, according to the survey of voters. Members of traditional Democratic constituencies — such as union members and Latinos — voted against the recall, but not in overwhelming numbers.

    […]

    Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante collected just under two-thirds of liberal voters, but won fewer than 3 in 10 independents and a small fraction of Republicans. He also garnered slightly less than 60% of the Latino vote a smaller share than his campaign had hoped to win.

    This is interesting, insofar at the LAT groper stories and Nazi stuff seemed not to have much of an effect:

    People who made up their minds about the election in the last few days when the campaign was dominated by allegations of sexual impropriety by Schwarzenegger voted mainly for the recall.

    This stands to reason:

    Schwarzenegger, who attempted to rally support among Californians who have not participated in the political process, appeared to gain the most from first-time voters. Nearly half of them supported him, and nearly 3 out of 5 voted for the recall.

    Source: Many Democrats Vote Against Davis and for a Republican

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    ReCAL: An Easy Night After All

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:46 am

    So much for the hand-wringing over lines, chads, too-close-to-call votes tallies, lawsuits and recounts: Voters Recall Davis; Schwarzenegger’s In.

    Indeed, the only drama was how were the cable news folks going to keep up the facade that they didn’t know the outcome until it was miraculously revealed to them one minute after the polls closed.

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    Tuesday, October 7, 2003
    Line of the DayTM: Prophetic Edition

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:23 pm

    “I have always trusted the voters of California and I know they’re going to do the right thing today.” -Gray Davis (ex) Governor of California.

    Source: California Recall Vote Enters Final Hours

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    ReCAL: Turnout

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:21 pm

    Record Numbers Vote in California Recall Election

    The California Secretary of State’s office said that when voting ends at 8 p.m. PDT (11 p.m. EDT) almost 10 million people will have voted - 2.3 million more than the last gubernatorial election and the highest number of voters for any governor’s race in state history - about 65 percent of registered voters.

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    Trouble in ClarkLand?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:04 pm

    Interesting: Wesley Clark’s campaign manager quits

    Wesley Clark’s campaign manager quit Tuesday in a dispute over the direction of the Democratic presidential bid, exposing a rift between the former general’s Washington-based advisers and his 3-week-old Arkansas campaign team.

    Donnie Fowler told associates he was leaving over widespread concerns that supporters who used the Internet to draft Clark into the race are not being taken seriously by top campaign advisers. Fowler also complained that the campaign’s message and methods are focused too much on Washington, not key states, said two associates who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Looks like some of the “political rookie” woes are showing.

    Hat Tip: Drudge.

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    Beyond Trollishness

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:40 pm

    In a vein similar to events chronicled here Kevin of CalPundit reports on unfortunate behavior that goes well beyond Trollishness. Indeed, the behavior he describes is an extreme version of a kind of behavior that I see in the Blogosphere that I really don’t get: acting like some drunken sports fan who paints their body in greasepaint to support their team, but doing such about politics.

    Firstly, despite the fact that blogging is fun, and sure a little sarcasm and snarkiness can be amusing, there really is no need to be nasty or personal.

    Secondly, if the goal is an actual conversation about politics, some reasoned discourse would be nice, rather than invective and vituperation.

    Thirdly, calling people’s houses in the name of a blog (especially someone else’s blog) is plain loco.

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    ReCAL: From the Front Lines

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:38 pm

    CalPundit has a brief report from the ReCAL front lines.

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    The Significance of the Plame Affair

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:53 am

    Howard Kurtz in his Media Notes column today hits on the real force behind the current leak investigation:

    The reason the story packs a punch is that it’s a proxy for the larger doubts about the way the White House handled its prewar claims about Iraq. If the administration tries to discredit Wilson, the man who blew the whistle on the bogus uranium claim, by going after his wife, what does that tell us about how tenaciously the Bushies are clinging to their still-unproven WMD rhetoric? What does it tell us about how they respond to critics? What does it tell us about the culture of the Bush administration?

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    ReCAL: Ballot Design

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:43 am

    Slate has a nifty piece on ballot design as it pertains to today’s election that is worth a read.

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    ReCAL: The Winners

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:14 am

    No, not the electoral winners, but the winners of the Poliblog Extra-Special ReCAL Caption ContestTM.
    (more…)

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    ReCAL: Drawn Out Count?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:05 am

    Hopefully, this will not come to pass: Officials Warn of Absentee Vote Factor in Recall Election

    More than 2 million absentee ballots had been returned to election officials by Monday, state officials said. But about 1.2 million absentee and other ballots will not be counted until well after the election, and officials said on Monday that those votes could decide a potentially close race, raising the specter of an election with no clear winner for weeks.

    Seems to me that it raises questions about deadlines for the ballots (i.e., why are 1.2 million still out there?), and also, why do so many people qualify for absentee ballots?

    Hopefully it won’t be close, so that we won’t have a drawn out count…although my guess is that if it is close, and Davis is on the losing end, he won’t concede until the last vote is counted. I just hope that we avoid the lawsuits.

    In regards to the deadlines, for some reason, the ballots might not be counted for almost a month:

    Ms. Atkinson added: “We’re not enough to throw off the statewide average, but anytime there is a close contest, you can’t predict the results until all the ballots are counted and that’s not until 28 days after the election in some cases. I think this may be one of those cases.”

    Raising the question: what were the lawmakers thinking? Such a rule either assumes that absentee votes really don’t matter, so counting them later is no big deal, or it assumes that putting off the electoral results for up to a month is no big deal.

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    Monday, October 6, 2003
    No More Blogging Today

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:56 pm

    I’m off to see Mikhail Gorbachev at Auburn University. If there is anything blogworthy from the talk, I will let you all know tomorrow.

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    Quite the Resume Line…

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:46 pm

    Drug kingpin’s killer seeks Colombia office

    While film star Arnold Schwarzenegger is running for governor in the California recall election, Aguilar, a real-life “Terminator,” is seeking to become the next governor of Santander Province.

    A decade and 300 miles now separate Aguilar from a rooftop in Medellin where he ended the reign of the world’s undisputed king of cocaine, Pablo Escobar, with a single shot to the head from his 9mm pistol. But each day the images of that final shootout, worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, roll through his mind.

    “There was no other alternative. It was him or us,” Aguilar said, during a brief break recently in his hectic campaign schedule. “When the shootout began, we had to use all the firepower we had.

    “When he fell on the roof he was dead,” he said. “That ended the story of Pablo Escobar.”

    A close friend and ally of President Alvaro Uribe, Aguilar is running on an independent ticket in the Oct. 26 local elections to choose governors in the country’s 32 provinces and mayors in more than 1,000 towns.

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    ReCAL Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:38 pm

    Daniel Weintraub has has an interesting post on the potential effects of Q2 skippers in tomorrow’s election.

    Ok, I Can’t Resist (Bonus ReCAL CC)

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:45 pm

    While the caption contest is primarily OTB’s domain, I can’t resist a bonus ReCAL Caption Contest, which will also be announced tomorrow:

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    Caption Contest Reminder

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:41 pm

    PoliBlog’s special ReCAL Caption Contest winner will be announced tomorrow morning. So check out the pic and let the witty captions fly.

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    Line of the DayTM

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:46 am

    Today’s Line of the DayTM is inthe form of “Understatement of the Day":

    “There’s no burning enthusiasm for the governor,” acknowledged Miguel Contreras, executive secretary and treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

    Source: Davis losing among blue-collar base

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    All Rise

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:28 am

    The Court is now in session: Supreme Court’s Docket Includes 48 New Cases

    As usual, some interesting stuff, including school-choice, the appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s “Pledge” case, Miranda rights and districting.

    An interesting bit of trivia:

    When all nine justices take the bench then, the public will be treated to the rare sight of a court entering its 10th term without turnover, the longest stretch of Supreme Court stability since the 12-year interval from 1811 to 1823.

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    Sunday, October 5, 2003
    Plame Update

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:56 pm

    So, someone in the administration, but not in the White House-I wonder why he keeps changing his mind?

    Wilson said it now appeared his wife’s name was actually leaked by someone outside the White House, as an act of revenge to stop him and others from questioning the intelligence used to go to war with Iraq.

    And clearly, this isn’t good:

    The New York Times reported on Sunday Plame had “nonofficial cover,” what the CIA calls a “Noc,” the most difficult kind of false identity for the agency to create, often involving especially dangerous jobs. Plame passed herself off as a private energy expert, the newspaper said.

    Source: Agent in Leak Controversy Worried for Her Safety

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    PoliColumn

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:51 am

    I have a new column in today’s Mobile Register

    TOTAL RECALL
    10/05/03
    By STEVEN L. TAYLOR
    Special to the Register

    I n just two days, the voters of the state of California will be faced with two questions: 1) whether to remove their current governor, Gray Davis, from office, and 2) whom they would prefer for his replacement.

    Read the rest here.

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    Saturday, October 4, 2003
    Sullum on the Do-Not-Call List

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:43 am

    Jacob Sullum has a good piece on the do-not-call list at Reason online. It echoes my basic sentiments on the situation.

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    Linkage

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:30 am

    My thanks to the following for blogrolling PoliBlog:

  • The Sake Of Argument
  • A Republican’s Blog
  • BushBlog

    Also, my thanks to Peaktalk for making PoliBlog part of “This Month’s Reading” for October.

    PoliBlog has also been included in al.com’s new and more complete list of Bama Bloggers (and a new button has been added on the left-hand sidebar to note this).

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    Arnold the NaziFighter

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:26 am

    From Hitler-lover to NaziFighter: ain’t politics grand? As I tell my classes all the time: you can’t make this stuff up: AP Exclusive: Schwarzenegger helped disrupt Nazi gatherings

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    Happy Blogoversary

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:24 am

    Tiger has been at it for six months as of today, so go say “hi".

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    What a Difference a Word Makes

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:39 am

    Wile it is clearly the case that it is a safe bet that one should avoid ever making positive statements about Hitler, a word here or there in a sentence can mean quite a bit, as this story (Schwarzenegger Stays on Message as Wife Extends Support) from todays’ NYT demonstrates:

    The book proposal presented what it called verbatim excerpts from the filming of “Pumping Iron,” in which the actor said he admired Hitler because he “came from being a little man with almost no formal education up to power. And I admire him for being a good public speaker.”

    Mr. Butler said in an interview late Thursday night that he had found original transcripts of the interviews and that Mr. Schwarzenegger went on to say of Hitler, “I didn’t admire him for what he did with it.”

    The NYT has a longer version of the story with more quotes from the Butler intereview here.

    The most interesting thing about this bit of info is to see how the press and by Schwarzenegger’s opponenets over the next several days.

    The LAT does repot the same info in today’s paper.

    As does the Bee, which provides the following:

    Butler was quoted as saying he had never “witnessed or heard Schwarzenegger making remarks that are derogatory to anyone of the Jewish faith.”

    He also said his quotes in the book proposal weren’t accurate and provided this from his original transcripts of interviews with Schwarzenegger:

    “In many ways, I admired people - it depends for what. I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. And I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for his way of getting to the people and so on.

    “But I didn’t admire him for what he did with it. It’s very hard to say who I admired and who are my heroes. And I admire basically people who are powerful people, like (President) Kennedy, who people listened to and just wait until he comes out with telling them what to do. People like that I admire a lot.”

    Butler added that the quotes “were not in context and not even strictly accurate.”

    Charles Gaines, who wrote and narrated “Pumping Iron,” the Butler-directed movie starring Schwarzenegger, also told The Bee earlier that he never heard Schwarzenegger praise Hitler.

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    Friday, October 3, 2003
    Newest ReCAL Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:54 pm

    These are pre-Herr Groper stories, but here are the latest Field Poll numbers:

    Four days before the California recall election, voters are strongly in favor of removing Gov. Gray Davis from office and appear poised to elect film star Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace him, a new Field Poll released on Friday showed.

    The poll found that likely voters were planning to vote “yes” to recall Davis by a 57 percent to 39 percent margin. The poll also showed that Schwarzenegger, the Republican front-runner, was favored over the leading Democratic candidate Cruz Bustamante, by a margin of 36 percent to 26 percent.

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    Another Ideological Test: The Plame Version

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:40 pm

    I already posted one ideological test today, so here’s another, this time dealing with the Plame affair. which is also a test of intellectual honesty:

    1) You are a hard-core Democrat/anti-Bushite if you come at this story from the fact that it almost certainly was Karl Rove who did the leaking. And that really, this defines your whole perception of the affair. Further, if it was Rove, Bush had to have known about it.

    A slightly diluted version would be that the phrases “the White House” or “the Administraion” means that Buch is guilty, QED.

    2) You are a diehard Bushite if your point of departure is that Novak said she was just an analyst, therefore there was no crime here.

    I would define the reasonable position as acknowledging at least the following:

  • An acknowledgement that we dont know who the leaker is, and the only people who know for sure are: the leaker him/herself and the journalists to whom the info was leaked. (Although much guessing has ensued, such as here and here).
  • That it has now been firmly established that Plame was undercover(CalPunidt has an interesting list of quotes on this topic), BUT that the degree of damage to Plame, the CIA and US intelligence in general has not yet been determined.
  • That it is possible that no one of great consequence will be implicated here, and indeed, it may be that no one of great consequence is culpable; and, conversely, that it is possible that someone of consequence is guilty. We really don’t know.
  • That calls for a Special Counsel, at this stage, are motivated more by politics than a thirst for justice-as are calls not to have one. Democrats have to deal with the fact that they hated the way Clinton was dealt with by Starr, and Republicans have to admit that they liked it-and that many on both sides are being a tad hypocritical at this stage on the topic of independent investigations of the executive branch.

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    Can You Say “Ouch"? I Bet You Can

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:21 pm

    Man Dies After Wife Crushes Testicles

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    Defending Rush (on McNabb)

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:42 am

    Allen Barra defends Limbaugh’s assessment of McNabb in today’s Slate: Rush Limbaugh Was Right - Donovan McNabb isn’t a great quarterback, and the media do overrate him because he is black.

    (FYI: Barra is a sportwriter and author, and, according to the article, an Eagles fan).

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    Good Job News

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:26 am

    Or, at least, decent job news (for a change). James of OTBhas the story here, which I heard on the news this morning, and was going to blog myself, but he beat me to it.

    Filed under: The Economy | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    GA Senate Race Update

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:24 am

    Yesterday, I noted that it was unclear if Georgian Democrats were going to have a major Democrat running for their nomination in the US Senate race, today USAT reports: Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young says he will not run for U.S. Senate

    After keeping Democrats on the edge of their seats for days, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young announced Friday that he will not run for the U.S. Senate.

    That leaves the post being vacated next year by retiring Sen. Zell Miller without a significant Democratic challenger.

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    Wild Lawsuit of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:18 am

    Indeed, this is a wild tale all the way ’round:

    The daughter of a CIA pilot shot down and executed during the Bay of Pigs invasion filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Cuban government under an anti-terrorism law.

    Alabama National Guard pilot Thomas “Pete” Ray became a pawn in the cold war when Cuba put his body in cold storage and kept it there for 18 years while the United States officially denied he was authorized to be in Cuba.

    Ray’s body was returned in 1979, but it took until 1998 before the CIA openly acknowledged his role in the failed attempt to oust President Fidel Castro in 1961.

    […]

    An autopsy performed at the University of Alabama Birmingham concluded Ray died of a contact gunshot wound to the right temple.

    His frozen body was displayed at a Cuban morgue in a glass case “as an exhibit, as a reward,” Weininger said. “They would at times spit in his face.”

    Starting at age 15, she wrote more than 200 letters to Castro asking about her father.

    Source: :Daughter of executed Bay of Pigs pilot sues Cuba

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    Partisanship Test of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:14 am

    If one is one side of the Iraq War question, one will highlight this:

    David Kay, the chief inspector named by George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, to coordinate the weapons hunt, testified in a series of closed-door briefings that “we have not yet found stocks of weapons.”

    However, if one is on the other side of the Iraq War question, one will highlight this:

    Dr. Kay testified that the Iraq Survey Group, the weapons hunting team he leads, had discovered evidence of equipment and activities that were never declared to United Nations inspectors in the years before the war, according to the statement. He said his team had found signs of research and development involving biological warfare agents, signs that Baghdad had explored the possibility of chemical weapons production in recent years and signs that Mr. Hussein retained an interest in acquiring nuclear weapons.

    Astute readers can, I think, decide which side is which.

    Source: No Illicit Arms Found in Iraq, U.S. Inspector Tells Congress

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    Things I Hate

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:11 am

    I hate getting up to read the news online whilst I break my fast, only to have my internet service down. That makes four out of five mornings this week. UGH.

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    Thursday, October 2, 2003
    Not as Bad as Rush’s Day, But…

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:47 pm

    Arnold is having a bad day, too, despite starting it with encouraging poll numbers. ABCNEWS.com follows up this morning’s <LAT six-fold tale of groping with quotes from the 1970s in which Arnie speaks admiringly of Hitler’s leadership skills.

    Amazing how all of this is coming out now…

    At this point, my guess is that none of this will be enough to derail him, but it will effect his margin of victory. Much more of this stuff, though, and Cruz may start getting optimistic.

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    Back to the Nine

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:35 pm

    FOXNews.com is reporting that Bob Graham will announce his withdrawal from the Presidential race tomorrow.

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    A Bad Day for Rush

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:57 pm

    In case you hadn’t heard, Rush Limbaugh is having a very bad day.

    James of OTB comments on the ESPN aspect of this story and there has been quite a bit of chatter on this topic at NRO’s The Corner. In particular, Jonah Goldberg makes some worthwhile points regarding Rush’s free speech defense and provides an evaluation of Rush’s McNabb commentary with which I basically concur.

    In regards to the drug story, Rod Dreher makes a good point about hypocrisy.

    Also in regards to the drug story, I certainly hope that it isn’t true, and the fact that the main source of the story in the National Enquirer does give one pause. Still, Limbaugh’s ear problems and the radical surgery that he underwent to correct it does make an addiction to painkillers a legitimate possibility.

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    Blogger Seeking Advice

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:21 pm

    Kristopher of The World Around You: OPEN POST would like your input on his blog. Go give him a visit.

    Filed under: Blogging | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    Funny

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:55 pm

    For anyone who has spent nay time in Latin America, you will find this story amusing: Tardy Ecuadoreans begin national punctuality drive.

    People habitually arrive 15 to 30 minutes late to parties, social events and even business meetings in this nation, where tardiness is jokingly known as running on “Ecuadorean time.”

    I remember having to force myself to be late to appointments, especially social events, when we lived in Colombia. One time my wife and I purposefully were over an hour late for a birthday party, and we were still the first people to arrive.

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    Graham Spokesman Resigns

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:39 pm

    Bob Graham Spokesman Resigns

    The spokesman for Democrat Bob Graham’s presidential campaign resigned Thursday as his staff considered how to save his lagging candidacy.

    What?! Graham’s candidacy is “lagging"? Who knew?

    Filed under: 2004 Campaign | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Plame Clarity

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:50 am

    The NYT’s finally has a clear account of Ms. Plame’s status:

    Valerie Plame was among the small subset of Central Intelligence Agency officers who could not disguise their profession by telling friends that they worked for the United States government.

    That cover story, standard for American operatives who pretend to be diplomats or other federal employees, was not an option for Ms. Plame, people who knew her said on Wednesday. As a covert operative who specialized in nonconventional weapons and sometimes worked abroad, she passed herself off as a private energy expert, what the agency calls nonofficial cover.

    I can now stop using the conditional in some of my statement in regards to this matter: clearly someone, somewhere broke the law when the revealed that Ms. Plame was a CIA agent. Someone should be prosecuted.

    Now the quesion is: who? And further, where in the info-chain was the info illegally divulged. This may not be just a White House problem, but a CIA problem-i.e., how did the WH leaker get the info in the first place?

    I also still want to know the extent of the damage to US intelligence of the leak.

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    • The World Around You linked with Plame/Wilson Controversy
    Amazing ReCAL Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:21 am

    If true, this would be utterly amazing-especially in terms of voter behavior, especially given the structure of the rules:

    If the latest polls hold true on Election Day, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger could succeed in gaining more votes than Gov. Gray Davis, a stunning scenario that seemed impossible just a few weeks ago.

    And the story rightly points out that if (and I will somewhat surprised if it does happen) Arnold gets anywhere near the same votes as Davis, it blunts much of the criticisms of the recall by supporters of the Governor:

    For months, Democrats have assailed the recall by arguing that while Davis needs more than 50 percent of the vote to stay in office, a replacement candidate could win with as little as 15 percent, considering the crowded field of contenders.

    Not to mention the whole “hijacking democracy” thesis will be out the window.

    On balance I never expected the winner, no matter who it was, to get 40% or more of the vote-I always thought it would be mid-30s at best. So, it shall be interesting to see how it all pans out.

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    GA Dems Seek Candidate

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:12 am

    It seems that the transformation of Georgia politics is compelte, i.e., the switch from a heavily Democratic state to one in which Republicans have the upper-hand in statewide voting. First the 2002 brought the first post-reconstruction Governor and Senator to the state, now the Democrats are having troubling fielding a strong candidate for next year’s elections:

    Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young is keeping Democrats guessing about his plans for a Senate bid, telling congressional Democrats Thursday that he is “in the process” of preparing a campaign one day after close friends said he was leaning against running.

    […]

    Two other potential candidates - Michelle Nunn, the 36-year-old daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, and Rep. Jim Marshall, a freshman Democrat, have said they would not run if Young enters the race.

    Meanwhile, the Republican field is already crowded:

    four Republicans, including Reps. Mac Collins and Johnny Isakson, are already campaigning.

    Source: Young still on the fence about Georgia Senate bid

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    Wednesday, October 1, 2003
    Try to Keep it All in Perspective

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:23 pm

    Let me be clear on something (as it seems some of my commentators keep missing this point): I think that there should be punishment for whomever it is that leaked Plame’s name. And I support the investigation. However, the reaction needs to be commensurate to the harm done, and the nature of that harm has not been spelled out to my satisfaction.

    Many Democrats have been a bit hyperbolic on this affair (such as Schumer’s statement that this leak is like putting a gun to Plame’s head) to the degree that one would think that the head of covert ops in Moscow in the days of the Cold War was published on the front page of the New York Times.

    It really does matter as to the exact nature of her job, and the harm to her role it the CIA when it comes time to determine the appropriate punishment for the leaker(s)-assuming they can even be found

    As I have stated at least twice-the defenders of the admin shouldn’t dismiss this situation as trivial, but similarly it seems reasonable to ask those who oppose the admin to tone it down. In other words, a little proportionality would be nice for a change (but then again, I sometimes may be too much of an optimist…).

    Another point that seems to have been missed by some: much of my language in discussing this affair has been tentative, not declarative.

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    Caption Contest

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:06 pm

    Since James of OTB is busy painting and moving and such, I shall appropriate his Caption ContestTM for the moment with this pic:


    Source: AP

    I figure that if I wait for James to get back online we won’t have Gray Davis to kick around anymore. So get to it, time’s a wastin’.

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    • PoliBlog linked with Caption Contest Reminder
    • Wizbang linked with Current Caption Contests
    • Wizbang linked with Current Caption Contests
    What’s in a Party Affliation?

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:56 pm

    Funny: Wesley Clark: Still Not a Democrat

    Turns out the Presidential candidate hasn’t yet changed his party affiliation as a registered independent in Arkansas

    In reality, not that big a deal. Still, something one might want to deal with if one is going to run for political office.

    Hat tip: Cam Edwards

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    Rove in the Water

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:29 pm

    Today’s editorial in the WSJ agrees with at least part of my assessment from last night, i.e., the possibility of nailing Karl Rove is much of the motivation for the ferosity of the anti-admin folks.

    Also, it occurred to me this morning that another reason that the Democrats would like to see a Special Consel appointed is that such an investigation would allow a more open investigation of the Bush administration’s evidence vis-a-vis going to war in Iraq, which would potentially produce politically useful information going into next year.

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    ReCAL Poll Numbers

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 am

    The LAT poll is out and Governor Gray Davis is in trouble. The LAT poll has been, in the past, the most favorable to Davis of all the CA polls, and this one has the recall passing 56% to 42%.

    The LAT numbers also show Schwarzenegger in the lead to replace Davis:

    The Republican actor is favored by 40% of likely voters, followed by Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat, with 32%, and state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) with 15%.

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    • The World Around You linked with How Long Will Davis Continue to Deny, Deny, Deny
    Novak Speaks Again

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:50 am

    Bob Novak’s column today explains the whole Plame situation in more detail.

    First, he describes how he got the name:

    During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He (ed., note the gender-the “leaker” ain’t Condi) said Wilson had been sent by the CIA’s counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. (ed.: i.e., NOT Karl Rove) When I called another official for confirmation, he said: “Oh, you know about it.” The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.

    Second, he clarifies his contact with the CIA:

    At the CIA, the official designated to talk to me denied that Wilson’s wife had inspired his selection but said she was delegated to request his help. He asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause “difficulties” if she travels abroad (ed., hardly the “gun to ther head” described by Senator Schumer yesterday). He never suggested to me that Wilson’s wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name. I used it in the sixth paragraph of my column because it looked like the missing explanation of an otherwise incredible choice by the CIA for its mission.

    If this is all true, then the “much ado about nothing” (at at least, much ado about not all that much) thesis comes into play. At least in terms of actual harm. The law may still have been broken, but not in a devastating fashion. Again, this may not be the case, But consider, if Ms. Plame’s duties were extremely sensitive, to the degree that having her identity revealed could jeopardize senstive intelligence on WMDs, then why in the world would the CIA want to use her husband for a high profile mission in that same topic area? And why, if having her identity revealed would lead to mass chaos, would Wilson draw attention to himself by writing an op-ed for the NYTs?

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