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Monday, May 31, 2004
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By Steven Taylor @ 2:23 pm

An on-target Kerry ‘toon.

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  • The Flying Space Monkey Chronicles linked with Kerry Cartoon
Here’s a Schocker: Moore Won’t Ask Riley for Return of his Job

By Steven Taylor @ 2:08 pm

Moore won’t ask Riley for job

Some supporters of ousted Chief Justice Roy Moore have suggested that the perfect candidate to fill his seat on the Alabama Supreme Court would be Roy Moore.

But Moore says he won’t ask Republican Gov. Bob Riley for his old job back. He said he asked Riley last year to help him keep the Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama Judicial Building and the governor turned him down.

“I won’t ask the governor for anything,” Moore said. “I asked the governor to defend the right to acknowledge God by protecting the movement of the monument and the governor declined along with his legal staff.”

However, I still have a sinking feeling he will be asking for Riley’s job come June of 2006.

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Is This Worth the Ill-Will?

By Steven Taylor @ 11:01 am

Iraqis Chafe at U.S. Block on Choice of President

Deadlock set in Sunday after a prime minister and key cabinet posts were broadly agreed to, prompting U.S. officials to ask the Iraqi Governing Council to put off until Tuesday further talks on filling the largely ceremonial post of head of state.

The U.S.-appointed Council favors its present leader, Ghazi Yawar, a prominent tribal leader with support from various ethnic and religious groups. Council members said U.S. governor Paul Bremer and U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi were pressuring them to back Adnan Pachachi, an 81-year-old former foreign minister.

“There’s quite a lot of interference. They should let the Iraqis decide for themselves. This is an Iraqi affair,” Mahmoud Othman, a Kurd on the 22-member Council, told Reuters.

If the position is largely ceremonial, why start a fight with the Governing Council? It makes little sense.

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Memorial Day

By Steven Taylor @ 10:51 am

In an attempt to note the significance of Memorial Day, here is a round-up of those on my blogroll remembering today:

Rosemary Esmay, QOAE: Memorial Day.

Andrew Cline of Rhetorica: Thank you…

Jeff Soyer at Alphecca: Alphecca: Memorial Day (via Dean Esmay).

Moe Freedman has a cartoon to help us remember why we fight at Occam’s Toothbrush.

Sgt Hook seeks to remember all who have died in the Global War on Terror (via Jen).

Jeff Quiton: Memorial Day 2004.

A special thanks to those veterans in my family: Walter A. Kinney, Jr. who served in the Pacific theater in WWII and his brother Burch Kinney who also fought in WWII, my late Great-Uncle L. M. Golden who served in the Navy during WWII, my father Roy L. Taylor, who served in the Air Force in the mid-to-late 1960s and his brother Clifford D. Taylor, who was stationed in Viet Nam during the war.

  • Backcountry Conservative linked with Memorial Day in the Blogosphere
  • Welcome to Castle Argghhh! The Home Of One Of Jonah’s Military Guys. linked with Memorial Day 2004
  • Welcome to Castle Argghhh! The Home Of One Of Jonah’s Military Guys. linked with Memorial Day 2004
  • Welcome to Castle Argghhh! The Home Of One Of Jonah’s Military Guys. linked with Memorial Day 2004
  • Common Sense and Wonder linked with Memorial Day
Sunday, May 30, 2004
The New Blues Brothers Have Been Revealed

By Steven Taylor @ 6:43 pm

And here they are.

UPDATE: It seems great minds thinks alike and all that jazz.

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Bonfire Reminder

By Steven Taylor @ 6:27 pm

Don’t forget, PoliBlog will be hosting this week’s Wizbang: Bonfire Of The Vanities-send submissions to: bonfire at

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Al Qaeda Stand-Off in Saudi Arabia is Over

By Steven Taylor @ 8:07 am

Saudi Commandos Free Hostages in Copter Raid

Saudi commandos jumped from helicopters to storm a housing complex Sunday and free dozens of foreign hostages from militants who had killed at least 17 people in an assault on the vital Saudi oil industry.

Security sources said several hostages were killed during the rescue operation at the upmarket Oasis compound to end a 25-hour drama in the oil city of Khobar in eastern Saudi Arabia. The final death toll was not immediately clear.

An Internet statement purporting to come from Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)’s al Qaeda network said it carried out the unprecedented hostage-taking, which raised the stakes in a battle the world’s biggest crude exporter has waged against the group for a year.

A later statement signed by the “al Qaeda network in the Arabian Peninsula” vowed to rid the peninsula of “infidels.”

In a dramatic end to the standoff, television pictures showed helicopters dropping commandos onto the roof of the complex. After freeing about 50 hostages, Saudi forces arrested several gunmen, including their leader.

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PoliColumn II

By Steven Taylor @ 7:45 am

From today’s Mobile Register:

Strict interpretation, activism can clash
Sunday, May 30, 2004
Special to the Register

One of the philosophical mainstays of conservatism is that the job of the courts is to read and apply the law as written by legislatures. This principle is called “judicial restraint.”

Conservatives often gripe that liberal judges tend to go beyond the law as written and insert their own views into their rulings. This idea is often referred to as “judicial activism” or “legislating from the bench.”

The whole thing is here.

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PoliColumn I

By Steven Taylor @ 7:43 am

From today’s Birmingham News:

Tuesday’s primary more than a yawn
Sunday, May 30, 2004

One’s initial response to the Tuesday primaries in Alabama is likely a deep, sustained yawn. In terms of the races in the Republican and Democratic parties to choose their candidates for the presidency, that decision has been made for months (indeed, there are days when it seem like years). All we have to do in regard to those races is choose the delegates to attend the parties’ conventions in Boston and New York this summer. This is hardly the kind of stuff that gets citizens running to the polls ready to exercise their piece of sovereign power.

The whole thing is

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Saturday, May 29, 2004
Saddam and al Qaeda, II

By Steven Taylor @ 9:17 pm

This Weekly Standard piece, PREVIEW: The Connection, is also worth a read.

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Saddam and Proven al Qaeda Lnks?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:29 pm

From the WSJ:

One striking bit of new evidence is that the name Ahmed Hikmat Shakir appears on three captured rosters of officers in Saddam Fedayeen, the elite paramilitary group run by Saddam’s son Uday and entrusted with doing much of the regime’s dirty work. Our government sources, who have seen translations of the documents, say Shakir is listed with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

This matters because if Shakir was an officer in the Fedayeen, it would establish a direct link between Iraq and the al Qaeda operatives who planned 9/11. Shakir was present at the January 2000 al Qaeda “summit” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at which the 9/11 attacks were planned. The U.S. has never been sure whether he was there on behalf of the Iraqi regime or whether he was an Iraqi Islamicist who hooked up with al Qaeda on his own.

It is possible that the Ahmed Hikmat Shakir listed on the Fedayeen rosters is a different man from the Iraqi of the same name with the proven al Qaeda connections. His identity awaits confirmation by al Qaeda operatives in U.S. custody or perhaps by other captured documents. But our sources tell us there is no questioning the authenticity of the three Fedayeen rosters. The chain of control is impeccable. The documents were captured by the U.S. military and have been in U.S. hands ever since.

As others have reported, at the time of the summit Shakir was working at the Kuala Lumpur airport, having obtained the job through an Iraqi intelligence agent at the Iraqi embassy. The four-day al Qaeda meeting was attended by Khalid al Midhar and Nawaz al Hamzi, who were at the controls of American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon. Also on hand were Ramzi bin al Shibh, the operational planner of the 9/11 attacks, and Tawfiz al Atash, a high-ranking Osama bin Laden lieutenant and mastermind of the USS Cole bombing. Shakir left Malaysia on January 13, four days after the summit concluded.

That’s not the only connection between Shakir and al Qaeda. The Iraqi next turned up in Qatar, where he was arrested on September 17, 2001, six days after the attacks in the U.S. A search of his pockets and apartment uncovered such information as the phone numbers of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers’ safe houses and contacts. Also found was information pertaining to a 1995 al Qaeda plot to blow up a dozen commercial airliners over the Pacific.

After a brief detention, our friends the Qataris inexplicably released Shakir, and on October 21 he flew to Amman, Jordan. The Jordanians promptly arrested him, but under pressure from the Iraqis (and Amnesty International, which questioned his detention) and with the acquiescence of the CIA, they let him go after three months. He was last seen heading home to Baghdad.

As they say: developing.

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Words, Like, Mean Things and Stuff

By Steven Taylor @ 7:04 pm

So Joe Carter correctly notes.

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Phone Numbers on Checks

By Steven Taylor @ 5:58 pm

is it just me, or is having to put your work number on a check one of the dumbest things that merchants make customers do? For one thing, if I am willing to float a bad check, am I not also rather likely to give a bogus work number? And since I always give my office number, if they call they are going to get me-what good does that do them? And what does my place of employ have to do with my checking account anyway?

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Nation-Building v. Nation-Building

By Steven Taylor @ 2:15 pm

This post over at OTB indirectly reminded me of a simple point I have been meaning to make for a while (and, indeed, started a longish post that is not yet complete) on the subject of nation-building. (And this post isn’t an argument with James, but simply his post reminded me of the topic-although I would quibble with his ref to nation-building, as will be clear by reading this post).

It is an oft-cited criticism of Bush that he campaigned against nation-building in 2000 and is nonetheless involved in two of the most audacious nation-building projects since the Second World War (i.e, Afghanistan and Iraq).

However, I would note that there is a radical difference between nation-building for the sake of nation-building, a la Somalia, and nation-building for the sake of national security, which is the goal in Iraq.

One can very easily argue that the experiment in Iraq is ill-conceived or the execution of the policy can be criticized, etc, etc., however, that doesn�t change the fact the goal in question is not simply democratization for democratization�s sake, or nation0building because we thought it would be a nifty thing to do.

However, it is clear that the nation-building exercises that we currently find ourselves engaged in are not the same sorts of deployments we were seeing in the 1990s where the national security ramifications of the policies were either questionable or non-existent. In my opinion there is a fairly realist argument to made for these actions, and the commensurate nation building-that the goal here is simply to further the national security of the United States by whatever means are necessary, and if the by-product of that action is democratization of Iraq, so much the better.

In short: to me the primary goal in Iraq and Afghanistan is security, not nation-building or even democratization. Democratization is a means to an end (although, granted, a desirable end of itself as well). And regardless of one’s position on the war, I think it is clear that the “nation-building” that we are currently engaged in isn’t the type that the President was campaigning against in 2000.

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Colombia Seeks to Expand Coffee Market at Home and Abroad

By Steven Taylor @ 12:11 pm

Here’s an interesting piece on one of my favotire topics: coffee. Colombians Urged to Drink More and Better Coffee (Their Own)

“Colombian coffee is the smoothest in the world,” Ms. Celeita said, “but what does that matter if it comes out too bitter, or if it comes out with no taste at all?” She then explained how everything from the cleanliness of the machine to the temperature of the water helps determine the quality of a cup of coffee.

The concept may be alien. In this country of rolling coffee pastures and Juan Valdez - the mythical coffee farmer used for promotions since 1959 - it has not been easy to find a good cup of coffee.

The premium beans have traditionally been exported. What is left behind has wound up as a tepid, flavorless drink that Colombians call tinto, a colloquialism for black coffee but, perhaps not coincidentally, the Spanish word for stained.

In also means “red wine” in most of Latin America and “black ink". Indeed, I have never heard it translated as “stained” before, but I suspect that Forero’s spanish is better than mine. He is certainly correct that tintos aren’t all that strong.

The whole idea of building a market in Colombia itself for premium coffee is pretty interesting, and somewhat ironic:

For years, Colombians’ penchant for watered-down coffee was just fine with the federation and the 550,000 coffee farmers it represents.

Then a drop in consumption, coupled with a glut in production, led to a steep plunge in prices. A pound of Colombian coffee now goes for 79 cents at wholesale, an improvement over the 55 cents it brought in 2001, but still low compared with the 1999 price of $1.23.

So the federation is seeking new ways to market its coffee. That includes going after a largely untapped market, Colombia’s 42 million people, a population as big as that of Spain, where people drink twice as much coffee.

Most Colombians, even children, drink coffee. But the rate of consumption is just half that of the United States and less than in many European countries. Colombians also prefer to drink their coffee cheap; they would never pay the $3.50 a cup charged by New York cafes.

“The Colombian has not been accustomed to drinking a cup of coffee of any real quality,” Gabriel Silva, the federation’s general manager, said in an interview in his Bogotá office. The federation has watched with interest as the world’s coffee powerhouse, Brazil, which can produce up to 40 million sacks a year, doubled internal consumption to 14 million sacks through an aggressive advertising campaign in the 1990’s.

In Colombia, where only 1.2 million of the 12 million sacks produced annually are consumed, the strategy is to increase domestic consumption quickly, to three million sacks within five years. “We think it’s possible,” Mr. Silva said, “because we’re starting from such a low base.”

The overall business strategy is interesting as well:

In a multipronged effort to revitalize the industry, which employs up to four million people during the twice-a-year harvests, the federation is helping farmers grow organic coffee and other specialty types. It is also stepping up marketing efforts worldwide with Juan Valdez, his trusty mule at his side.

In its drive to win more of the world’s $8.4 billion specialty coffee market, the federation will open a Juan Valdez cafe in Washington in late August. The second United States cafe will follow quickly, in September, at 57th Street and Lexington Avenue in New York. The federation wants to open 300 cafes worldwide within five years.

It is also going into the coffee-machine-making business. In a joint venture with Salton Inc. of Chicago and Rossi of Italy, it wants to sell sleek single-cup machines, featuring the Juan Valdez label. Mr. Silva said the machines, designed by Rossi, built by Salton and featuring coffee pots made by the federation, could represent $300 million in annual sales.

The strategy is, in part, to reduce the reliance on the middleman, giving Colombia’s coffee growers a bigger slice of the pie.

Getting Colombians to drink more coffee, either at the 11 new Juan Valdez cafes around the country or by prodding them to buy more expensive brands, is another tactic.

“There’s no magic bullet,” Mr. Silva said, “but a basket of solutions.”

And here’s a job:

Here in Bogotá, at the federation’s gleaming offices, researchers in white lab coats ensure that Colombian beans produce a premium cup of coffee.

In one room, metal jars, carefully catalogued, contain samples of beans produced nationwide. In another, beans are roasted and coffee is brewed, with rows of cups set up for taste testers.

David Acuña, a physicist who coordinates the operation, said the laboratory is especially important with the federation focusing on selling quality coffee at home.

Sipping a cup of coffee, Mr. Acuña smiled.

“I love that foam, I’m sorry, but I just love it,” he said. “You know, this really is very good.”

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The Moore Party?

By Steven Taylor @ 11:19 am

This story in today’s Montgomery Advertiser is interesting in terms of state Republican politics: Lawyers’ green finances 3 Supreme Court candidates. We have primaries on Tuesday, and the only races of real interest are those for the state’s supreme court, and the main drama is within the Republican party where many each of the three races features a pro-Roy Moore (the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who was removed for not following a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building) and those who are running campaigns that don’t even mention Moore.

I think that the outcome of the race could have a profound effect on the state’s Republican Party, because if the Moore-ites are successful this go ’round, I think that there will be more Moore-ites running in 2006, especially for the governor’s office.

The Advertiser piece in question confirms that there are more than casual connections between the three Moore-ites running:

Green is a primary color in Alabama’s judicial races, with nearly $3 million in campaign contributions pouring into Supreme Court candidates’ coffers as of Thursday, the deadline for preprimary financial filings.

And nearly $1 million in campaign money has been funneled to three Republicans by trial-lawyer funded political action committees, a group more traditionally supportive of Democratic candidates.

Seven Alabama firms channelled nearly $1 million through a series of PACs, before it reached the accounts of the “Roy Moore slate” of judicial candidates - Tom Parker, Pam Baschab and Jerry Stokes, according to campaign records filed at the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. And the records also show that Parker and Stokes failed to report $150,000 and $173,000 in trial lawyer contributions to the state.


Alabama’s business community and trial lawyers have been duking it out over Supreme Court seats for more than a decade. And as the fight continues, the amount of money invested in Alabama’s Supreme Court races has become the object of national attention.

In 2000, Alabama’s judicial races were among the five most costly in the nation.

In the past, the issue of tort reform has dominated the elections, with trial lawyers and business interests donating heavily in the races.

But publicity over former Chief Justice Roy Moore, whose removal from office over his refusal to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the Judicial Building rotunda, has added a new element.

Baschab, Parker and Stokes, the three judges bankrolled by trial lawyers, are running as Moore sympathizers and Moore has voiced support for them. Parker, who served as Moore’s spokesman in the Supreme Court, said the Moore issue has generated interest, and money for his campaign.

I have no problem with PAC money-what I find interesting is the clearly concerted effort to support the pro-Moore candidates.

However, the following is interesting, and bespeaks of some monkey-business:

Four newly formed PACs compose the bulk of the trial lawyer money given to Stokes, Baschab and Parker - Honor PAC, Venture PAC, Covenant PAC and Conservative Response PAC.

Brant Crawley, who works for Baschab’s campaign and was listed as being reimbursed about $1,000 for travel and lodging on Baschab’s expense reports, is listed as the treasurer for all four PACs.

While Baschab could not be reached for comment on Friday, in an interview on campaign contributions last week, she told the Montgomery Advertiserthat she pays no attention to who donates to her campaign.

“I don’t find out who my contributors are. I really don’t want to know,” said the Court of Criminal Appeals judge, who walked the length of Alabama in 2000 to protest the amount of money spent on campaigns in the state.

Out of a total of $543,145 raised by Baschab, $537,950 came from the trial lawyer PACs.

Further, the interesting thing here is that the last time Baschab ran (and lost) she vowed not to take any PAC money whatsoever. I guess she has a change of heart, or of poketbook, anyway. She also has wisely dropped her previous campaign slogan of “Baschab can do the job.”

Filed under: Alabama Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
  • Political State Report linked with AL: Supreme Court Primaries

By Steven Taylor @ 10:45 am

I have only spottily watched the last two seasons of Enterprise-it is a decent enough show, but it has never really become “habit tv” for me. Further, the show to date has largely missed the opportunities that the premise afforded them, i.e., the whole “formation of the Federation” bit-and don’t get me started on how the Vulcans have been portrayed. Really after the pilot the atmosphere of the show never really felt like they were exploring the original space of the Trek universe. Rather, it mostly came across as just another Trek show with somewhat different parameters.

At any rate, I watched the last couple episodes of the season, which were pretty good, including the finale that I finally watched on tape yesterday. The inclusion of the Andorians was nice, although I have never been fully happy with the whole “Temporal Cold War” bit. I will say for sure that given the ending, I am quite pleased that the show has been renewed for another season. It would have been painful for the show to end at that point.

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Friday, May 28, 2004
Boldly Exploring Blogging Software: A Initial Review of ExpressEngine (With Some Comments on WordPress Thrown in)

By Steven Taylor @ 8:52 pm

While I have not made the full migration to ExpressEngine from MT as yet, I have been working to figure out how it works to determine if I will make the move. Right now I would put the odds at 70-30 in favor of a switch, as I have figured out a great deal about the program. I find EE itself to be more sophisticated than MT in terms of features and flexibility. However, the increased sophistication leads to more complexity, and therefore more to learn.

I also did some experimentation with WordPress, which is far less complex and was a breeze to set up and has an elegant interface. WordPress looks move to me like the next MT (i.e., a free, nicely written blogging packing), and EE has the feel of a professional package. I will say the WP feels a tad incomplete, but that may be due to my lack of experimentation.


My initial trial run with EE was not successful (see here and here). However, I have messed with it some today and have found some errors in my approach and/or understanding of the program. Here are some observations:

  • Trying to do a quick, down and dirty, upgrade without really understanding the new software is a mistake-EE doesn’t work just like MT, and to assume that it does can lead to frustration.
  • Essentially I did the classic male/technogeek route and didn’t read any of the documentation. Reading the docs was quite helpful.

    EE STUFF I LIKE (in no particular order)

  • more stats (both in the control panel and for display on the blog)
  • template management is more complete than in MT.
  • The in-program new entry area and the bookmarlet have more features and HTML tags (which are customizable) than MT (also true of WordPress). Indeed, using the bookmarklet is about halfway between the features of MT and those of w.Bloggar.
  • the Deny Duplicate Data feature is a great anti-comment spam tool, given that lately I have been hit (even with the new MT-Blacklist) of multiple identical posts.
  • the built-in CAPTCHA support is nice.


  • being used to static pages in MT, it takes a bit of a mental change to think it terms of dynamic pages.


  • The bookmarklet has checkboxes to allow you to ping other blogs
  • which not as nice as Mt’s automatic pinging, it isn’t a big deal, and it does work. For some reason the control panel version of the publish screen doesn’t have the checkbox. I had problems with manually cutting and pasting the trackbacks.

  • In test the EE test blog successfully pinged,, and blogrolling without any problems (I did not follow-up on technorati). I have had an intermittent problem with, however.
  • I have not testing to see what happens if a url is cut and pasted into the entry in terms of whether it will auot-trackback like MT.


  • The first time I tried to use the captcha system to block comment spam, I rec’d an error stating something about not being able to retrieve the glyph or somesuch-and the word did not appear in the catpha box. By going to Image Preferences (under System Preferences in the Admin menu), and turning off TrueType for Captcha solved the problem.
  • Make SURE you place the blogs name in the appropriate EE tags in the index page-otherwise it might call info from the wrong blog. Indeed, I would highly recommend reading the sections of the User Guide on templates and tags carefully, especially if you are used to static pages such as in MT.

    One I figured out the templates and their linkage to the individual weblogs in the Admin section and the EXP tags, having multiple blogs was a snap. And while this process is initially more involved than MT, I can see that EE provides more flexibility.

    In fact I think that it was misapprehension of the way the tags worked within the templates that caused the problems I had with comments the first time I tried to use EE.


  • Captcha info: words are stored in /lib/words.php
  • The query, tag and dynamic page cacheing, if it works as advertised, allays some of my fears about user-end speed.
  • You can ping pmachines to show updates on their site as well. The UserGuide has the info.


    If you are looking to do an easier migration from MT to a new platform, the more to WordPress is easier-mostly because it is a less complex program than EE and therefore there is less to learn.

    The importation for both platforms was relatively easy, although I hit a few bumps with EE when I messed with it last weekend and eventually scrapped it and started from scratch. However, the problems were as much my lack of understanding of the way EE worked as it was anything to do with EE. Plus, I tried to do the templates and everything immediately, which was part of the problem.

    The WordPress import was a breeze-although I never tried to set up the templates and such.


    blogoSFERICS: Template Work Is on Today’s Agenda

    Boots and Sabers: ExpressEngine after action report. - ExpressionEngine Site Now Live


    Apropos of Something » The upgrade: sixteen hours later

    Insults Unpunished Plus!! and MT 3.0 And WordPress

    On The Third Hand : MT 3.0 redux


    Wizbang: WordPress vs. Expression Engine

    Blog Software Breakdown (via OTB)

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Blogging Software II
    url Weirdness

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:57 pm

    Hmm. All of a sudden if I leave off the “www” from “” in trying to load any page on my server it bogs down and won’t load.

    In other words, loads like normal, just keeps loading and loading and loading and loading, etc.

    Any ideas?

    UPDATE: It was some sort of browser problem that I don’t understand: closing Firefox and re-starting it solved the problem. Odd.

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    • Weblog1 linked with PoliBlog: url Weirdness

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:13 pm

    Robert Tagorda has an interesting post on the the nomination of Ayad Allawi to be the transitional Iraqi PM.

    Filed under: Iraq | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    But Wasn’t Daisy the Smart One in the Family?

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:48 am

    Jessica Simpson May Play Daisy Duke.

    I will grant that “Smartest Duke” may be a difficult contest to judge, but…

    And, may I add, of the things we need, a Dukes of Hazzard Movie ain’t one of ‘em.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam
    Keeping Secrets is Difficult

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:44 am

    This happens in some village in Zambia, and the world finds out about it, yet there are people who think that the US government could hide alien spaceships from us for decades.

    Yeah, right.

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    Gasoline Tax Fallacies

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:51 am

    Mark Kleiman makes an argument I have heard several times of late:

    The right-wingeres who pretend not to understand why raising gasoline prices through taxation - which means we get to keep the money - is better than having them raised for us by the oil cartel - thus sending the money to Riyadh - clearly hate the American government worse than they do the Saudi government. I suppose it would be too rude to suggest that they move, but might I politely ask them to shut up?

    (emphasis mine)

    Yet there is a glaring problem with this logic: Riyadh (and all the other oil-producing capitals) will still be getting the money they are getting now, as that cashflow is predicated on the price of oil, not on the tax rate set internally in the US. In other words, the only money we would get to keep would be the taxes levied on ourselves, which, in terms of the price at the pump, would be in addition to the price of oil. I am quite familiar with (and respect) Mark’s work on narcotics policy, so I know he understands basic economics.

    In short: raising gas prices does not take any money out of the hands of oil-producers until such a time that we stop buying oil entirely. I understand that that is the goal, but how long will that take and what will be the effects on our economy during that period of time? I also know that the point is that artificially raising the price now could (and I stress that word) avoid a long-term trend in which eventually the market would take prices to European-like levels even sans higher gas taxes. Considering that, adjusted for inflation, we aren’t even at all-time highs yet, I would venture to say that it will be a looong time before gas prices naturally hit European-like levels.

    The problem of raising gas prices dramatically is the broader economic effects insofar as transportation costs impact the cost of just about everything. Indeed, if the current gas prices are as painful as many are making them out to be, then surely even a moderate move in the direction of Europe would be even more economically painful.

    And while I concur that higher gas prices increase the incentive for innovation in alternative fuel source-but higher gas prices don’t guarantee technological innovation: if they did, why haven’t the Europeans fallen all over themselves to create their own independence from foreign energy sources?

    Profitability will be the key, and it isn’t as if innovation isn’t happening: the coming generation of gas hybrid vehicles looks to be a truly significant step in the right direction. The Toyota Prius gets 55 miles to the gallon and Ford is about to release a hybrid SUV, the Escape, that is supposed to get 35-40 mpg, which is better than my Toyota Corolla. No doubt that this is at least in part a result of CAFE standards and getting fleet mpg to a certain level, but a hybrid SUV is as much about profits and the market as anything else.

    To assuage Mark’s concerns to some degree, he will be pleased to know that some righty types are also in favor of increased gas taxes, including Charles Krauthammer and Andrew Sullivan.

    I don’t deny that higher gas prices increases the odds that the public will demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, which in turn will spark innovation (although, as noted above, radical technological innovation-which is what we need to have true energy independence-is hardly guaranteed), but I am not willing to undergo the broader inflationary effects of higher gas prices in the hope that it will produce energy independence.

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    • Weblog1 linked with PoliBlog: Gasoline Tax Fallacies
    • Arguing with signposts… linked with Politics-Free update
    Voting Machine Issues in Venezuela

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:17 am

    Venezuela owns stake in ballots

    A large and powerful investor in the software company that will design electronic ballots and record votes for Venezuela’s new and much criticized election system is the Venezuelan government itself, The Herald has learned.

    Venezuela’s investment in Bizta Corp., the ballot software firm, gives the government 28 percent ownership of the company it will use to help deliver voting results in future elections, including the possible recall referendum against President Hugo Ch�vez, according to records obtained by The Herald.

    The deal to scrap the country’s 6-year-old machines - for a $91 million system to be built by two fledgling companies that have never been used in an election before - was already controversial among Ch�vez opponents who claimed it was a maneuver to manipulate votes amid growing political turmoil.


    Until a year ago, the Bizta Corp. was a struggling Venezuelan software company with barely a sales deal to its name, records show. Then, the Venezuelan government - through a venture capital fund - invested about $200,000 and bought 28 percent of it.

    The government’s investment in Bizta made Venezuela Bizta’s largest single shareholder and, ultimately, its most important client.

    The decision to replace the $120 million system built by Omaha-based Election Systems & Software was made Feb. 16 under unusual circumstances. Two of the five National Electoral Council members sympathetic to the opposition complained that they had been largely shut out of the process.

    I fear that this entire situation isn’t going to end well.

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    More Trade News

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:01 am

    U.S. and Bahrain Reach a Free Trade Agreement

    The United States reached a free trade agreement with the tiny gulf kingdom of Bahrain Thursday, the first with a Middle East nation since President Bush announced his goal of creating a free trade area for the region.

    Robert B. Zoellick, the United States trade representative, said at a news conference here that the new trade agreement would eliminate all duties on consumer and industrial products in the annual two-way trade of $887 million in goods.

    Although that is a small figure, Bahrain is a financial and banking hub and the first country in the Persian Gulf region to sign a free trade agreement with the United States. Mr. Zoellick said the agreement provided an example for “reformers in a region that is searching for a fresh wind.'’

    Though a small start, I think this is a positive move for the US-Middle Eastern relations. And, in general, free trade is a good thing.

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    In Case You Haven’t Noticed

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:57 am

    The news coverage of this is woeful, yet this is pretty important, and likely to become a campaign issue: Trade pact signing today / Central America agreement covers U.S., 5 nations

    U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick is expected to sign the Central America Free Trade Agreement today, the latest in a series of treaties backed by both the Clinton and Bush administrations designed to remove barriers to the flow of goods and services.

    Here are the basics:

    What it does: The treaty removes tariffs on most goods traded between the United States and five Central American nations, including farm products and textiles.

    What countries are involved: Signatories are the United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The Dominican Republic is expected to join later.

    What happens next: The Senate and House of Representatives must both approve the treaty before it can take effect. The measure won’t be considered until after the November elections.

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    • The American Mind linked with On the Right Path
    Chavez and the Recall Drive-Observer Problems

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:47 am

    Venezuela demands OAS official leave

    Citing alleged bias, Venezuela demanded Thursday that the Organization of American States withdraw a top elections observer before a weekend petition drive for a presidential recall.

    Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said Fernando Jaramillo must step down as head of the OAS observer mission for allegedly siding with the opposition, which is seeking a recall vote on President Hugo Ch�vez.

    ‘’Either Jaramillo leaves or we won’t accept their [OAS] presence in the country. It’s as simple as that,'’ Rangel said at a news conference.

    Venezuela also said it would no longer recognize the United States as a member of the six-nation ‘’group of friends'’ created two years ago to encourage Ch�vez and his opponents to work toward a peaceful resolution.

    Washington ‘’is totally on the side of the opposition in a plan to destabilize Venezuela’s democratic institutions,'’ Ch�vez’s ambassador to the OAS, Jorge Valero, told the Washington-based hemispheric group Thursday.

    Somehow I don’t think that the goal of the Chavez government is to protect “Venezuela’s democratic institutions.”

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    Thursday, May 27, 2004
    Poorly Written Headline of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:58 pm

    Group Uses Film to Promote Global Warming

    To paraphrase Inigo Montoya: “I don’t think that means what they wanted it to mean.”

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    I Wonder How Bush-Dean Would Poll?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:55 pm

    Poll: Kerry-McCain Would Beat Bush-Cheney

    Kerry-McCain has a 14-point advantage over Bush-Cheney among registered voters, 53 percent to 39 percent, in the latest CBS News poll. The results were released Thursday.

    The lead is nearly double the edge Kerry alone enjoys over Bush.

    So, what does that say about Kerry?

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    When Gores Attack

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:13 pm

    Ok, it’s one thng when James Joyner notes (correctly, btw) that the former Vice President’s speech yesterday was evocative of “Jesse Jackson on crack” but you know it’s bad when Maureen Dowd notes that

    Mr. Gore hollered so much, he made Howard Dean look like George Pataki.

    And would someone please send Ms. Dowd an American government textbook with the passages on how the president is elected highlighted in neon yellow. It appears she still hasn’t gotten the memo on that whole electoral college v. the political vote thingie.

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    Believe it or Not…

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:21 pm

    Lyndon LaRouche is actually running radio ads in Alabama in anticipation of the June 1 primary.

    My favorite soundbite from the commercial: “people don’t like what I would do, but it would work!”

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    History Started in January of 2001 (or So it Seems for Gore)

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:19 pm

    Robert Tagora notes that people who live in glass Chalabis shouldn’t cast stone. Or something like that.

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    Former Alabama Governor Indicted

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:16 pm

    Feds Indict Former Alabama Gov. Siegelman

    Former Gov. Don Siegelman and two others were indicted in a bid-rigging scheme, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

    The charges accused Siegelman and former Chief of Staff Paul Hamrick of helping Tuscaloosa physician Phillip Bobo rig bids for a maternity care program while Siegelman was governor.

    Siegelman and Hamrick are accused of moving $550,000 from the state education budget to the State Fire College in Tuscaloosa so Bobo could use the money to pay off a competitor for a state contract for maternity care.

    Wowie. Although not surprising.

    Hat tip: Mark the Pundit

    The World Around You also notes the story. has more details: Former Gov. Don Siegelman, two others indicted

    Bobo, Siegelman and Hamrick are each charged with conspiracy, health care fraud and program fraud, which involves theft from a federally funded program. Bobo is also charged with two counts of witness tampering and one count each of wire fraud, lying to the FBI and perjury.

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    Kerry to Remain Largely Silent on Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:07 pm

    Kerry to Highlight Foreign Policy Differences

    on the central question of the day, the future of Iraq, Kerry may have less to say than some voters expect. Aides said that none of Kerry’s speeches, the first of which he will deliver Thursday here in Seattle, will deal directly with Iraq. Instead, he will seek to provide a broader vision of how he sees the U.S. role in the world and reassure voters that he can step into the role of commander-in-chief during a period of war.

    Kerry advisers said his views on Iraq are well documented, the most recent coming in a speech last month in Fulton, Mo. Critics say that Bush’s recent initiatives, particularly his outreach to the United Nations to put together a new government in Iraq, have narrowed the differences between the two men and that Kerry will have an increasingly difficult time explaining what he would do differently in the future.


    Aides said Kerry on Thursday will draw sharp distinctions with the president by highlighting his support of stronger alliances with U.S. allies, greater respect for other nations and their leaders, transforming the military and increasing spending to defend the homeland and reward veterans. The speech will serve as framework for Kerry’s worldview on the nature of current threats and combating terrorism offensively and defensively.

    A top adviser, who requested anonymity to discuss internal strategy, said the 11-day campaign is designed to clear a big hurdle: convincing voters Kerry has superior ideas for protecting the United States here and abroad and winning the war on terrorism. In the early days of the campaign, this has sometimes proved a more difficult task for Kerry. Several polls show Bush is still viewed as a stronger leader in the war on terrorism, which is troubling to some Kerry advisers.

    But Kerry will not offer new plans for ending the conflict in Iraq, which could complicate his efforts to distinguish himself in this key area. Kerry advisers said they see no reason to respond to Bush’s Monday night speech in which he outlined his objectives for Iraq.

    Given that this election is going turn largely on Iraq, this strikes me as odd and a mistake.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 11:03 am

    Click here.

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    • I love Jet Noise linked with Mixing It Up
    There’s a Shocker

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:35 am

    More Shrek Sequels Coming

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    Richard Biggs of Babylon 5 Dies

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:37 am

    “Babylon 5″ Star Dies

    Biggs, who played Dr. Stephen Franklin on the 1994-98 series and in three subsequent TV movies, died Saturday, his Website said. He was 44.

    In a message posted to a Babylon 5 newsgroup Saturday, show creator J. Michael Straczynski said paramedics who treated Biggs suggested the cause of death was “either an aneurysm or a massive stroke.”

    “What seems to have happened, happened quickly,” Straczynski wrote. “He woke up, got up out of bed…and went down.”


    Survivors include his wife and two sons.

    Wow. How sad.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Richard Biggs, R.I.P.

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:33 am

    Muslim Cleric Al-Masri Charged by U.S.

    Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, arrested at his London home early on Thursday, was indicted on hostage taking and other “terrorism charges” in an 11-count indictment in Manhattan federal court, officials said.

    The indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury on April 19, charges Abu Hamza al-Masri with hostage taking in connection with an attack in Yemen in December 1998 that resulted in the death of four hostages.

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    The Story that Would Not Die

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:08 am

    Look, I’m just no buying it (I buy that DC is abuzz-kinda-but the whole Kerry-McCain thing? Please.): Kerry-McCain alliance the talk of Washington

    Washington is abuzz with rumors that John McCain, one of the most popular Republicans in Congress, could team up with Democratic contender John Kerry in the race for the White House.


    McCain has repeatedly denied interest, but top Democrats refuse to let the rumour die. Senator Hillary Clinton (news - web sites) fueled speculation by saying Sunday she would have no problem supporting the maverick Arizona senator.

    “I’m a big admirer of John McCain’s,” Clinton said.

    So, if he had been nominated in 2000 by the GOP, Hillary would have been thrilled? No, of course not, she would have attacked him in his run for the White House as she supported Gore, and rightfully so. This is simply ridiculous. She only would suport McCain as veep because she thinks it would damage Bush, not because she holds McCain’s views all that dear.

    Further, as good as this sounds now, I repeat that McCain’s war hero bona fides would overshadow Kerry’s, Kerry would have to seriously deal with the whole “war criminal” bit if McCain were his runing mate, and McCain would have to endlessly explain why he, Mr. Straight Talk, so went back on his word.

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    You Don’t Say?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:54 am

    “I think it’s important to show them you have a plan. If you don’t have a plan, I don’t think people are going to have much confidence in you."-Senator John F. Kerry, last week.

    In fairness, Kerry went on to say

    “But I have a plan. I have a specific plan about manufacturing jobs, a specific plan about how we’re going to fight for a fair playing field, a specific plan about science, technology investment. A specific plan about health care.

    “I think you have to run an affirmative campaign, and I think you have to - I have to - show America that I have a plan for the country,” Mr. Kerry said. “And I do have a plan. And that’s what I’m doing.”

    I do notice a rather glaring omission in that list (hint: it is a word ending in the letter “q").

    Further, while it is clearly the case that I am not a fan of the Senator’s, as a political analyst I honestly have to say that running on what is essentially a recycled list of standard Democratic issues. It simply isn’t enough. Indeed, it isn’t very different than Dole’s run in 1996: basically a combo of standard Republican issues (taxes, defense, etc..) and statement to the effect that he would be a better President than Clinton had been. This is a hard enough sell under normal circumstances, and we are hardly in normal circumstances.

    One thing that is especially interesting is that there appears to be no grand strategy for Kerry’s campaign apart from “Kerry should be President, not Bush". Where is the vision? Where is the rationale for why Kerry would make a better leader than Bush? Instead, the piece notes a debate between:

    Some party officials say that with three new polls showing President Bush more embattled than he has ever been, Mr. Kerry’s wisest course would be to take few chances and turn the election into a referendum on a struggling president. “People have won a lot of campaigns by just saying, `It is time for a change,’ ” said Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster.


    But other Democrats warn that such a strategy entails risks of its own, banking on the proposition that Americans would be willing to fire an incumbent during war time and replace him with someone they know little about. “I don’t think anybody in their right mind is going to run for president on a strategy of `people hate the other guy and that’s enough for our guy to win,’ ” said Douglas Sosnik, the White House political director for President Bill Clinton.

    It is this lack of an argument for why Kerry should be President that I think will start to damage him late in the summer/early in the Fall when people start really paying attention. Will swing voters want to elect a man to the presidency who doesn’t really seem to have a good argument for why he should be president (or when he should accept the nomination) in an era of such international turmoil? I have my doubts.

    Certainly thoughtful Republicans have issues with the President, but I find it hard to believe that thoughtful Democrats are imbued with rock-solid confidence in Senator Kerry.

    Source: Democrats Wonder if Kerry Should Stay on Careful Path

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    By Steven Taylor @ 8:29 am

    Colombia Seeks Russian Investments

    Speaking at a business forum in Cartagena Colombian president Alvaro Uribe announced that Colombia is very interested in developing overall trade and economic ties with Russia. Colombian President specifically pointed out that oil and power sectors of the Colombian economy are seen as the most promising in terms of Russian investment, because of the expertise that is possessed by Russian companies in these areas.

    And, not surprising:

    Meanwhile some Russian companies express a lot of pessimism about prospects of working in Colombia. Rosneft oil company which developed the Surroriente oil field in Colombia in cooperation with local companies Petrotesting Colombia and Holsan Chemicals decided to quit the project. Dmitry Pontileev from Rosneft�s press service told MosNews that the company is exiting oil projects in Colombia �due to political risks [that can affect] safety of the personnel�. He declined to comment on the possible actions of other Russian companies that may decide to invest in Colombia, but said that Rosneft �deems its exit [from Colombia] necessary�.

    Indeed, Colombia’s diminishing production is because of violence and inability to protect pipelines rather than a lack of petroleum in the ground.

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    OK, That Didn’t Work, So How About…?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:17 am

    Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire notes the following story in today’s BoGlo: Kerry rules out delaying tactic

    One idea under consideration within the Kerry campaign is petitioning the FEC for permission to continue raising and spending private funds until Bush receives his federal allotment in early September, according to campaign spokesman Michael Meehan. The FEC has not indicated how it would rule on Kerry’s campaign spending options. But Republicans are almost certain to oppose a rules change in the midst of a campaign.

    I am not unsympathetic to a rule that states that the nominees get the cash on the same date. However, what I am not sympathetic to is the notion that the rule should be changed mid-campaign. At one point the Democrats wanted an early convention so that they would have money earlier because of a fear that a long primary fight would exhaust their candidate’s cash-flow. Now that that did not come to pass, they aren’t happy with the process. I am a big believer in establishing the rules and then playing the game. And if there is a flaw discovered in those rules, you wait until next season to fix it. Everyone know what they are going in, and gameplans accordingly.

    And I still maintain that all this public scenario-shopping and indecision over a relatively easy issue is not helping a candidate whose main argument is that he would exhibit better leadership than the current occupant of the White House.

    And this statement is just shameful, because it isn’t true-they are both operating under identical rules, just different timetables. The statement is especially galling, as he made no move to change these rules when he was in the Senate, and was a supporter of the existing campaign finance regime:

    ‘’The decision that I made today raises the bar, because there will be a five-week period when I’m living under different rules than the Republicans are, which is not sensible, but it’s the way it is,” he said last night at a Seattle fund-raiser, several hours after issuing a statement announcing the decision.

    Another transparently ridiculous statement:

    ‘’I made that decision because I believe it’s the right thing to do. I believe it’s right for us to have a good convention, to nominate and speak to the country, to have a finality of the process of nomination. But I know it puts us at a disadvantage financially, and so I’m relying on you who helped bring us to this point.”

    If accepting the nomination at the convention was the “right thing to do” why almost a week of consideration? No, the trial balloon sank and/or the legal issues didn’t play out to the Senator’s liking. It doesn’t take several days to figure out the “right thing to do” on a decision like this one. It isn’t like he had to decide whether his dying mother should have painful and highly risky surgery or somesuch. My word. “Leadership” indeed.

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    Wednesday, May 26, 2004
    Kerry Decides to Accept Nomination at Convention

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:46 pm

    Eric the Viking Pundit reports that Kerry will accept the nomination at the convention after all.

    What a relief!

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    Nichols Convicted on 161 Counts of Murder in Oklahoma

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:48 pm

    Nichols convicted on state murder charges for Oklahoma City bombing

    Nearly a decade after the Oklahoma City bombing, Terry Nichols was convicted of 161 state murder charges Wednesday for helping carry out what was then the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil. He could get the death sentence he escaped when he was convicted in federal court in the 1990s.

    The verdict came only five hours after the jury started deliberating.

    I’ve always used the Oklahoma City bombing in class as example of how one can break numerous laws in one set of criminal actions, specifically noting that if McVeigh had somehow escaped the death penalty in the federal case that he would’ve been tried in Oklahoma for violating state law. Now Nichols’ case fully proves the point.

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    Air Kerry

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:35 pm

    Okay, giving credit where credit is due, this is a nice little bit of self-depricating humor:

    “In the event of emergency, my hair can be used as a flotation device,'’ Kerry quipped on board the inaugural flight of the refurbished Boeing 757 from Reagan Washington National Airport.

    But, my goodness, can the man not lay off the Nam refs?

    Comparing the plane to aircraft that brought U.S. troops to and ferried them home from Vietnam, Kerry called the plane his “freedom bird.'’

    If the man really does see Viet Nam everywhere he looks, perhaps he needs to see a therapist.

    Source: Hopes for Kerry’s campaign take flight

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    Google-Bomb Success

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:08 pm

    `Waffles’ brings up Kerry site in prank

    With the presidential election approaching, computer geeks on a mission are having fun playing spoofs on search engine Google.

    Since Thursday, the top result on Google from typing in “waffles” has been Democratic candidate John Kerry’s official campaign site.

    The phrase appears nowhere on Kerry’s site. But conservative bloggers skewed the search engine results by posting the phrase on their own Web pages and linking it to the Kerry site, in a technique called Google-bombing.

    And this is amusing and clever:

    Even the Kerry campaign weighed in. It purchased Google AdWords, text ads that come up beside Google search results when certain words are typed in. The links referred to Kerry’s Web site, and reportedly suggested that users “read about President Bush’s Waffles.”

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    McGovern to Kerry: Don’t Delay Acceptance

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:05 pm

    McGovern: Kerry Shouldn’t Delay Nomination

    The liberal South Dakotan told The Associated Press that Kerry’s proposal to delay accepting the Democratic nomination would show that “money is king and everything else takes a back seat.” And while McGovern said he wished he’d had more funds in his unsuccessful campaign against Republican Richard Nixon, he said money isn’t everything.

    My initial snarky reaction is: well, if McGovern says not to delay, then he should.

    Of course, since I made this point myself yesterday I guess I will have to agree with McGovern.

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    John Kerry Considering Tom Delay as Veep!

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:29 pm

    From the LAT: Kerry Close to Decision on Delay, Sources Say.

    Wow! And we all thought that the McCain speculation was radical. Can you imagine? A Kerry-Delay ticket? Now that’s bipartisanship-especially since Delay has been so involved in planning the Republican’s convention in New York. And a risk, too, given the accusations about Delay’s campaign fundraising and all of that.

    Man, that Kerry is quite the revolutionary-a true unity government could come to Washington!

    [Have you read the piece?-Ed.]


    Never mind.

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    Colombian-Venezuelan Arms Race?

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:30 am

    Venezuela seeks arms edge over Colombia

    Venezuela has embarked on a weapons procurement programme to gain the advantage in its military balance with neighbouring Colombia, edging the two countries towards an arms race.


    [A]ccording to defence industry sources, President Hugo Chávez has in recent weeks initiated closely guarded plans to buy military equipment from suppliers in Europe and the Middle East.


    Mr Chávez, who is resisting an opposition drive to secure a recall vote on his rule, claims that the “mercenaries” were part of an “invasion” force hired by domestic opponents with links to Colombia and the US.


    “Fears of a Colombian ‘invasion’ are unfounded and have more to do with the paranoia of the Venezuelan government,” said Carlos Malamud, senior Latin America analyst at the Royal Elcano Institute in Madrid. “But to brandish the ghost of an invasion is an excellent excuse to justify a procurement process.”

    Mr Chávez’s government is also lobbying Spain to cancel a contract, signed by former prime minister Jose María Aznar, to supply Colombia with 43 AMX-30 tanks.

    The Uribe government has welcomed the Spanish offer as a politically symbolic sign that the military aid it receives to combat its domestic insurgency is not limited to the US but also comes from Europe.

    However, Colombian officers say the tanks - if delivered - will be ineffective for their war on guerrillas, and will likely be deployed on Colombia’s border with Venezuela, inflaming tensions.

    “Armed conflict between the two countries could arise if the tank sale from Spain is not suspended,” said Edis Ríos, deputy head of Venezuela’s legislative defence and security commission.

    This is bizarre and not good on a host of levels. While I think that a war between these two countries is unlikely, there has been tension between Colombia and Venezuela ever since Chavez took power, owing largely to actions on the border by the FARC, and rhetorical support for the guerrillas by Chavez.

    Further, as Chavez is threatened by internal pressure for a recall, he may attempt any number of actions as a distraction.

    It is remarkable how far Venezuela has degenerated politically-given that it was once considered one of the most democratic states in Latin American history.

    I would also note that Venezuela is a member of OPEC and sells a great deal of oil to the United States.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam
    Two Years!

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:31 am

    Congrats t Robert Prather of Insults Unpunished for hitting his two-year blogoversary today.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 9:47 am

    James Joyner has historical data that helps place the death toll in Iraq into perspective.

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    More on the Bush Speech

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:26 am

    Joe Gandelman has one of the longer discussions/round-ups regarding Bush’s Monday night speech (which reminds me, I miss Monday Night Football).

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    More Tales from the Campaign Finance Zone

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:09 am

    An editorial in yesterday’s WaPo details another tale from the Campaign Finance Zone. In today’s installment they detail how the RNC and DNC are making up for the fact that they no longer are allowed, due to BCRA (a.k.a., McCain-Feingold), to accept uncapped soft money contributions:

    Instead of six-figure or higher donations from corporations, labor unions and wealthy people, the parties are limited to individual donations that are capped at $25,000 a year. And so, like their candidates, the parties are more reliant than ever on fundraisers with well-stocked Rolodexes - the kind of folks who can coax $10,000 or $25,000 checks from many friends and associates.

    Of course, as with all restrictions on the amount that can be contributed comes the result that the money has to raised in smaller increments, and hence more time is spent raising money. So, rules meant to allegedly decrease the importance of money end up creating a situation in which the parties spend an increasing amount of time focused on fundraising.

    Then we get the hypocrisy part of the story:

    Both the Republican and Democratic national committees have set up new programs as an incentive for such bundlers. The RNC has just launched its “Super Rangers,” modeled after the $100,000 Pioneers and $200,000 Rangers who have swept up checks for the Bush campaigns. Attaining Super Ranger status requires producing $300,000 in contributions for the party by Aug. 15. On the Democratic side, there are two similar entities: Patriots, who collect $100,000 for the party, and trustees, who bring in a combination of $250,000 for the party and Sen. John F. Kerry’s presidential campaign (Mr. Kerry gets the first $2,000 from an individual contributor, and the party gets the rest.).

    But there is a significant difference between the approaches of the two parties - and it’s not just that the Republicans set the money bar higher. The RNC plans to post the list of Super Rangers on its Web site, just as the Bush campaign does with its Pioneers and Rangers. The DNC says it will not disclose the names of its Patriots and trustees. This is wrong. It is inconsistent with Democrats’ professed belief in the importance of full disclosure.

    And this is from the party of campaign finance reform? Really, there is no justification for not revealing the names of all donors. Indeed, I would argue that that should be a key aspect of the entire campaign finance system: if you give money, that fact should be public. Rather than hand-wringing over the dread influence of money in politics, how about just letting the voters know from whence came the cash, and let us decide.

    The editorial notes, to his credit, that Senator Kerry is releasing the names of all those who donate to him, including those who engage in large-scale bundling (i.e., helping to raise multiple $2,000 contributions).

    Hat tip: Eric the Viking Pundit.

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    Tuesday, May 25, 2004
    Clancy and Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:35 pm

    I have never read any of Clancy’s non-fiction, and I suspect I won’t be starting anytime soon. And it has nothing to do with the fact that he is criticizing the Bush administration in his latest book co-authored with Anthony Zinni but rather I have a hard time reading non-fiction of this nature from someone who is predominantly a fiction writer-although I will grant Clancy is quite knowledgeable about military affairs and hardware.

    Further, having read Red Storm Rising, which struck me as simply an excuse to write a lengthy tome about military equipment (were their actual characters in that book?), I have always figured that Clancy’s non-fiction would be a bit dull.

    Professor Bainbridge is concerned that having someone like Clancy criticizing the war may mean that Bush is in serious trouble. I can’t disagree that this is bad news for the President-certainly moreso than the Clarke book, in my opinion.

    I do find it a odd (although not surprising from a marketing POV) that a non-fiction book is packaged exactly like one of Clancy’s novels.

    And, for what it’s worth, my favorite Clancy book is The Cardinal of the Kremlin followed by The Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger.

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    Frivolous Response

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:08 pm

    Robert Tagorda ain’t none too impressed with Kerry’s response to Bush’s speech last night.

    Indeed, Robert notes, essentially, what I think is one of Kerry’s main problems, and that is that his main argument for why he should be President is “I will do better, so pick me!” However, especially on Iraq (and foreign policy in general) he never really says how.

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    • The American Mind linked with Kerry's House of Ketchup #13
    Battleground States

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:58 pm

    Ads apparently help Kerry catch up to Bush in 17 states

    The $25 million in TV ads he’s run the past three weeks seems to have helped pull Sen. John Kerry even with President Bush in states likely to decide who wins the White House in November.

    A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll done Friday through Sunday showed that in 17 states considered to be key to the race, Kerry and Bush were tied among registered voters. Kerry spent $25 million to air two biographical ads in most of those states.

    In mid-February, at the height of his success in Democratic primaries, Kerry held a 15-percentage point lead over Bush in the 17 states. But by late March, Bush was ahead by 10 points. Political scientists and communication experts said at the time that the Bush campaign’s mostly negative TV advertising, along with Kerry’s relatively small ad presence, was hurting Kerry in the polls.

    Ok: up by 15, down by 10, now tied: these locales are living up to the concept of “battleground.”

    I am of the opinion that this race will not start to fully crystalize for at least another two months. I think this for following reasons:

    1) I remained unconvinced that voters really “know” Kerry as yet. This means numbers could go either way.

    2) The Bush campaign and the pro-Republican 527s have a ton of money yet to unleash.

    3) The improvement of the economy seems to not to have fully filtered into the public consciousness yet-plus gad prices are likely to start going down somewhat.

    4) And there is the wildcard of how things will develop in Iraq over the summer.

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    Posting Problems

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:42 am

    If anyone has had posting or trackback problems today, they should now be fixed. The string “http” was Blacklisted, hence the problems.

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    A New Bonfire

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:12 am

    There’s a new Bonfire of the Vanities up for your entertainment pleasure.

    Next week’s Bonfire will be hosted here at PoliBlog.

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    Scientific Polling at its Best

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:52 am

    Go vote for President at

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    What!? Some Folks Weren’t Paying Attention? The Horror!

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:38 am

    Drudge links to this story, in his characteristic BIG FONT: Russert BC speech stresses values, although he focuses not on the speech, but on this:

    Although parts of Russert’s speech were punctuated by cheers and laughter, some graduates napped throughout the ceremony, or shook off sleep only long enough to applaud now and then. Others wore sunglasses, even though bad weather had pushed the ceremony indoors.

    Megan Monaghan brought a copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” to ward off boredom, but said she ended up enjoying Russert’s speech.

    Really, can this be any different than almost every commencement speech ever given? It seems silly for the BoGlo to even note the fact that some of the audience dozed off, and doubly silly for Drudge to make a big deal out of it.

    Given that many graduate don’t get a good night’s sleep before commencement (to put it mildly), this is supposed to be a huge story?

    And give me Russert at his most boring over practically any of the commencement speakers we have had at Troy the last six years.

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    “Deferring Acceptance” and Other Tales of Campaign Finance Lunacy

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:16 am

    Part of Kerry’s problem regarding the idea of deferring his acceptance of his party’s nomination is solely symbolic, and part of it raises a more concrete problem in terms of following established rules.

    The symbolic problem is obvious, and has three prongs. The first is the one that baffles me the most about the entire affair: it reinforces Kerry’s image as a man who can’t make up his mind, and who wants to be on all sides of a given issue. If he thinks he has to defer, then all this public “consideration” of the idea makes him looks indecisive. Do I think that it is an especially damaging situation by itself? No, but it does help to contribute to an image that I think works against him: that he isn’t a leader. Given that one of Bush’s strengths is that he is perceived as decisive and resolute, this kind of public thinking out loud over a relatively simply decisions (you accept it at the convention or not) isn’t helpful to his image.

    The second symbolic prong is that this makes the entire situation come across as being about money. While that may well be true, is that really the message a candidate wants to send?

    The third symbolic prong is that in the post-reform (i.e., early 1970s) era, the only substantive function that the convention has is to formally nominate the candidate. It is the crescendo of the event. Otherwise the entire affair is combo preaching to the choir session and infomercial. And yes, they write the platform, but given that no candidate is bound that that platform it is really not much more than a series of partisan platitudes.

    Institutionally and legally speaking, there are other issues as well. Since the passage of the Federal Election Campaign Act, the convention has been a legal point of reference in the campaign finance system. Further, the federal government provides millions of dollars (I think it will be about $15 million this year) to each party to help defray the costs of the conventions. Setting aside whether that is a good idea or not, there are implications for providing federal funds for a nominating convention that does not produce a nominee during the actual temporal bounds of the convention itself.

    Indeed, the BoGlo notes that

    two prominent campaign finance watchdogs questioned whether it would be legal for the host committee to spend $15 million in federal funds to stage the Democratic National Convention if the event does not produce Kerry’s nomination.

    “I think there is a very strong case here that it would be illegal,” said Fred Wertheimer, who runs a campaign finance organization called Democracy 21. “They received the money to conduct a nominating convention, and a nominating convention tends to include the concept of a nominee. At a minimum, they face real legal questions.”

    Representative Martin T. Meehan of Lowell, a fellow Democrat and coauthor of the country’s new campaign finance law, agreed that the $15 million is at risk. “The question is whether it could be made up in private contributions,” the congressman said.

    Now, if they want to renounce the $15 million, fine by me. Of course, if they do it just proves that the feds don’t need to be funding either convention. However, if they take the money, they should nominate a candidate and that candidate should accept at the convention. To take the money and fail to have an official nominee at the end of the convention smacks of trying to change the rules in-process. Part of my reaction to this strategy is that is has long been the Democratic Party who has been the primary champion of the campaign finance rules, and yet now that they are inconvenient, they want to play games. It isn’t like they DNC didn’t know that having the convention first wasn’t going to result in this scenario.

    And if anyone can read the following paragraph in the context of this situation and not think that our campaign finance system is a hopeless joke, I don’t know what to say

    The Kerry campaign is studying alternatives, including the use of a lesser-publicized option that would enable individuals to give as much as $57,500 to national and state parties for advertising that would independently boost Kerry’s candidacy. While individuals are allowed to give no more than $2,000 to Kerry for the primary campaign, Wertheimer said they can give an additional $25,000 to the national party and $10,000 to state parties, with an overall two-year limit of $57,500.

    What a hopeless morass of rules that neither really curtail the collection nor the spending of money. How anyone can argue with a straight face that this system does anything more than confuse a lot of people and employ a lot of lawyers is beyond me.

    And this little historical analysis by Kerry is pretty poor, because it misses two major points: 1) the convention used to actually deliberate and then nominate the candidate, rather than rubber-stamping the results of the primaries, and 2) the conventions in the period he references had nothing to do with the campaign finance system. This is a poor excuse for an argument that what he wants to do is “normal":

    “Once again, the Republicans don’t know history, and they don’t know facts,” he said. “The truth is that it used to be that the convention, after nomination, traveled to the home or the state of the nominee to inform them they’ve been nominated. Woodrow Wilson was at his house in Princeton, N.J.; Harry Truman was in Independence,” Mo., he said. “They’re trying to make an issue out of something that they’re surprised by, because . . . they’re very upset someone might have a way of neutralizing their advantage.”

    To BoGlo’s credit, they do note at least part of the historical problem with Kerry’s argument:

    The nominations of Wilson and Truman occurred in the days before public financing of presidential campaigns and federal election rules about campaign fund-raising.

    There is a simple way to avoid this kind of nonsense in the first place: trash this entire campaign finance system. If Kerry wasn’t getting money from the federal government, none of this story wouldn’t exist. And that is the bottom line.

    Hat tip: OTB for the BoGlo story.

    UPDATE: This post is part of today’s Beltway Traffic Jam

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    Monday, May 24, 2004
    Bush Speech

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:05 pm

    I missed the speech entirely, owing to the fact that we were out and about. interestingly by 8:20ish central time, all the nets were closing up their coverage. The only exception was Bob Woodward on Larry King-which I have a hard time taking seriously as a news analysis program.

    I have only seen the sound bite of Bush promising to demolish Abu Ghraib-and pronouncing it three different ways. I will say that I like the symbolism of tearing the place down.

    James Joyner has a review and brief link round-up of blogospheric reactions.

    Many bloggers appear not to have covered the speech. Daniel Drezner has the lamest excuse: it’s his wedding anniversary. I mean, gee whiz-where’s the dedication? Of course, he does promise to watch it later.

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    News Understatement of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:35 pm

    An NPR piece this afternoon noted that the collapse of the terminal at the Paris airport had likely dashed the hopes of the French government that the Charles de Gaulle airport would become the new major hub of air travel in Europe.

    Ya think?

    And this amidst reports that additional cracking has been found.

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    Cell Phone Companies

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:31 pm

    Is it just me, or do cell phone companies, in general, simply suck at customer service? I have had at least four companies over the last nine years that I have had cell service and there isn’t one of them that hasn’t made me think “Gee, I can’t wait for my contract to expire so that I can try someone else.”

    AT&T had somehow messed up the classification of my account, so sent me a letter saying I had to call them. Once I did so I was told that they would fix it, it would be no big deal, it wouldn’t effect my billing or service. Then I had to wait on hold for at least fifteen minutes while this irrelevant fix was executed. In short: they bothered me, made me sit on hold, and all for nothing.

    Further, I inquired with the guy about a potential upgrade on the account, and not only was he lousy at giving information, he seemed utterly uninterested in helping me figure out whether such a move would do what I wanted.


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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam
    • Sortapundit linked with Cell Phone Customer Service - As A Race, We're Pre
    National Party Conventions

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:39 pm

    You know, all of this brouhaha about Kerry, the nomination and the campaign finance system not only raises substantial questions about the campaign finance system itself but also of the need for the national conventions.

    There hasn’t been any drama at the conventions since the current primary rules were adopted in the early 1970s and the televisions networks have been yawning about the whole thing for at least a decade, so why even have them?

    Heaven knows that only political junkies will pay them much attention.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 10:48 am

    Writes Michael Barone

    To the criticism that they report and overemphasize bad news, reporters say, correctly, that bad news is news. But in a country like Iraq, ruled by a vicious dictator for the last 35 years, good news is also news. Reporters readily fan out to find bad news. But they seldom seek the good news - readily available in Iraqi and military weblogs and confirmed in polls of Iraqis - that incomes, electricity, schools, water quality, medical care, religious freedom and security are improving in Iraq. Some reporters, as the Daily Telegraph’s Toby Harnden reports from Iraq, deliberately avoid good news because they think it might help George W. Bush win re-election.

    When Bush speaks to the public, he might follow the example of one considerably below him in the chain of command, Marine Corps Maj. Ben Connable, who wrote is USA Today: “This is my third deployment with the 1st Marine Division to the Middle East. This is the third time I’ve heard the quavering cries of the talking heads predicting failure and calling for withdrawal. This is the third time I find myself shaking my head in disbelief. … Just weeks ago, I read that the supply lines were cut, ammunition and food were dwindling, the ‘Sunni Triangle’ was exploding, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was leading a widespread Shiite revolt and the country was nearing civil war. As I write this, the supply lines are open, there’s plenty of ammunition and food, the Sunni Triangle is back to status quo and Sadr is marginalized in Najaf. Once again, dire predictions of failure and disaster have been dismissed by American willpower and military professionalism.”

    The president needs to put things in perspective. Iraq is not Vietnam. My Lai was a massacre; Abu Ghraib was abuse. Hundreds of thousands of enemy attacked in the Tet offensive; a few thousand fought for Moqtada al-Sadr, and they are being rejected by his fellow Shiites.

    The gains to be won by persevering in Iraq are great - an example of decent government can change the Middle East. The losses to be suffered by not persevering are even greater: Vast gains by terrorists determined to attack everything we hold dear.

    George W. Bush must set out our next steps and show, once again, that the media have got it wrong.

    Hat tip: Instapundit

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    By Steven Taylor @ 10:28 am

    The following was in Sunday’s Mobile Register, but wasn’t posted to their web site until this morning:

    Technology changing the way we process information
    Monday, May 24, 2004
    Special to the Register

    The photos of the abuses in Abu Ghraib and the gruesome videotaped beheading of Nick Berg illustrate the revolution in information dissemination that digital technology and the Internet have brought to the world.

    This revolution is both good and bad. The positive element is that there is practically no way for report ers and editors to filter the information that the public receives. But the negative aspect is the same: Information is now disseminated without the virtue of fact-checking or the establishment of context.

    Read the entire column here.

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with PoliColumn
    The Latest CotC is Up

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:30 am

    This week’s Carnival of the Capitalists is at startup

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    Line of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:15 am

    “We have freedom in Iraq. Now we say anything we want. Under Saddam we whispered."-Salah Zinad, whose hands were amputated in 1995 by Saddam’s regime.

    Source: For Seven Iraqis, A Vital Part of Life Is Restored

    Hat tip: Outside the Beltway

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    Sunday, May 23, 2004
    Broken Campaign Finance System

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:30 pm

    Even this editorial in WaPo seems to understand that the current system for financing presidential campaigns isn’t working too well.

    And what a shocking revelation that is.

    Of course, my guess is that the editorial board at WaPo wants more restrictions in the system. The piece isn’t clear on that, however. They do note, rightly, that the primary/general election bifurcation is rather silly (my word, not theirs), given the evolution the nomination process.

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    He’s One of the Opponents, Rigjt?

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:48 pm

    Nader Advises Kerry on VP Candidates

    Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader said Sunday he had advised John Kerry to choose North Carolina Sen. John Edwards or Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt as his running mate on the Democratic ticket.

    One wonders if Nader is just looking for camera time.

    One further wonders if having Nader suggest Edwards means Edwards now has no shot.

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    Why Immigration Control is Difficult

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:07 am

    As I have noted before, when people are willing to die in the attempt of getting to the U.S., controlling immigration is difficult, if not impossible. It is noteworthy, in terms of establishing causation, that the period being measured is October 1, 2003 through April of this year. Bush made his announcement in January, if memory serves. The question, that the reporter fails to address in the piece, is whether the number of apprehensions spiked after the announcement-a stat that would have been of interest.

    In general this is a really a fairly typical piece on the border, with the issue of the Bush immigration proposal being something new in the mix. On balance this is yet another recounting of the simple fact that many people will face death to get here-and will make the attempt multiple times, even after having been arrested.

    No doubt the Bush proposal has sparked increased immigration, but the data in the piece doesn’t really support the argument and that rather what we have here is an ongoing problem that isn’t going to go away.

    Border Desert Proves Deadly for Mexicans

    At the bottleneck of human smuggling here in the Sonoran Desert, illegal immigrants are dying in record numbers as they try to cross from Mexico into the United States in the wake of a new Bush administration amnesty proposal that is being perceived by some migrants as a magnet to cross.

    “The season of death,” as Robert C. Bonner, the commissioner in charge of the Border Patrol, calls the hot months, has only just begun, and already 61 people have died in the Arizona border region since last Oct. 1, according to the Mexican Interior Ministry-triple the pace of the previous year.

    The Border Patrol, which counts only bodies that it processes, says 43 people have died near the Arizona border since the start of its fiscal year on Oct. 1, more than in any other year in the same period.

    Leon Stroud, a Border Patrol agent who is part of a squad that has the dual job of arresting illegal immigrants and trying to save their lives, said he had seen 34 bodies in the last year.

    And to understand why they are moving into the desert, it is because we have gotten better at controlling urban borders:

    For years, deaths of people trying to cross the border usually occurred at night on highways near urban areas, killed by cars. But now, because urban entries in places like San Diego and El Paso have been nearly sealed by fences, technology and agents, illegal immigrants have been forced to try to cross here in southern Arizona, one of the most inhospitable places on earth.

    The telling fact is that so many will try again and again, despite the risks

    Ramínez Bermúdez, 26, walked for four days in 100-degree heat, and said he knew full well what he was getting into. He had been caught four times before his apprehension this week, he said.

    Though he has a 25-acre farm in southern Mexico, Mr. Bermúdez said he could earn up to $200 a day picking cherries in California. He was distressed, though, at getting caught and at the failure to meet a coyote, or smuggler, who had agreed to pick him up and members of his group for $1,200 each.

    As always, the power of the market is rather difficult to combat.

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    Saturday, May 22, 2004
    Nothing Like Being Decisive

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:18 pm

    Kerry Undecided on Delaying Nomination.

    I find it odd that they are making this such a public process. Plus, does it really do hi any favors to appear indecisive on what is a relatively easy question?

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    More on Deferring the Nomination

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:16 pm

    Betsy Newmark notes that the idea of deferring the nomination may not site well with Bostonians: i - Election 2004 News: Voters tell senator: `Don’t put us on hold’

    Many Bay State voters forced to put up with a week of gridlock because of the Democratic National Convention will consider themselves slapped in the face if Sen. John F. Kerry [related, bio] doesn’t accept the nomination here.

    “I think (that would be) a cheap shot from the junior senator to all of his supporters in Massachusetts,'’ said Henry Santoro, who is preparing for the worst as he commutes daily from Brookline to Lynn. “It’s just one of those cases of `Get your ass here and get the job done.’ This is an anybody-but-Bush-state. Do not put us on hold.'’

    James Murphy, who runs a painting and contracting company out of Swampscott, said he can’t believe Kerry would snub his homestaters.

    “How does a senator of a state - when the DNC is here - not honor his state by declaring his nomination here?'’ said Murphy, 38. “I would wonder whether this, in the long run, is going to work against him. I very well think it could.’

    It also occurs to me that this could set off Viet Nam-inspired deferment jokes.

    Betsy also notes that the TV folks ain’t none too happy with the idea, either: Democrats’ delay tactic may turn into big TV turnoff

    Stalling his presidential nomination might end up costing Sen. John F. Kerry [related, bio] the one thing he really wants at a convention - live prime-time television.

    At least one major television network yesterday frowned on the idea of Kerry delaying.

    “If this comes to pass, we don’t like hearing about one more piece of news that will not happen at a convention,'’ said Mark Lukasiewicz, executive producer of NBC News’ election coverage.

    The more I think about this, the more unlikely it seems.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 12:03 pm

    Out of curiousity, is anyone out there even using ExpressEngine?

    I have fiddled with it some more this morning, this time just with a test blog without trying to import my MT stuff and it still isn’t pinging properly. I am wondering if anyone has had any luck whatsoever with the darn thing,

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    Speaking of PR Issues

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:03 am

    Apropos of the previous post Bill Quick is looking for bumper sticker slogans.

    My favs to date:

  • “That Wasn’t My Nomination, It Was My Families.”
  • “John Kerry: The Courage To Lead, Just As Soon As I Spend All The Money”
  • “The Democratic National Convention: Full Of Sound And Fury, Signifying Nothing”
  • “I actually declined the nomination before I accepted it” (which James Joyner had as well this morning, and he didn’t even know he was in the contest).

    Hat Tip: InstaP

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    Yet More Evidence that the Entire Campaign Finance System is Loony

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:40 am

    Kerry May Defer Nomination.

    And why might he do that, you ask? There are two distinct periods in the campaign finance system for presidential campaigns: pre and post convention. Pre-convention candidates raise and spend their own money, post-convention they get a grant and that is all they are allowed to spend-both campaigns will get $74.69 million this go ’round.

    So, if Kerry accepts the nomination as scheduled on July 26th, he will have to make his federal check stretch longer than Bush’s, which won’t kick in until a little over a month later. Bush could be raising money during that period and spending it, hence the dilemma for Kerry’s campaign.

    This has led the Kerry people to consider not actually accepting the nomination officially at the convention-which strikes me as a PR problem, but we shall see. Indeed, I suspect that they will end up rejecting that plan.

    And the entire idea that the grants equalize the spending on both sides and therefore “takes the money out of politics” will be shown once again to be the sham that it is as the 527s and other groups find ways to raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars during this time period.

    So, as usual, the campaign finance system is shown to be a joke and, in this case, a specific and monumental waste of federal dollars.

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    Friday, May 21, 2004
    A Short-Lived Test With ExpressEngine

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:44 pm

    Well, I tried to migrate to ExpressEngine today but with unsatisfactory results. Not only did it take far, far more time than I wanted it to take, I had the following problems:

    1) Pinging: it did not properly ping Blogrolling and other sites. Further, I tried to link to OTB earlier and that trackback failed as well.

    2) The comments pages would take almost a full minute to load.

    While I was overall quite impressed with the software (it have many more features than MT), I refuse to give up trackbacking and I while I have flirted with getting rid of comments, I am not ready to do so at this stage, if I ever will be.

    I spent the better part of the day messing with the darn thing, and driving myself nuts in the process. I am not entirely ready to give up on it, but am close. Mostly I am frustrated with the loss of time given that I was unable to resolve the problems.

    And, I appear not to be the only one.

    Maybe I will try WordPress ;)

    Note: This is part of today’s Beltway Traffic Jam.

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    There He Goes Again…

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:01 pm

    I saw this story yesteday, but didn’t have time to read it. Limbaugh made mention of the overall topic, so I went back gave it a look. Kerry Open to Anti-Abortion Judges.

    First off, this strikes me as pure rhetoric. If the Democrats in Senate proved anything this term, it is that to the vast majority of them, the miniimum requirement to sit on the bench is that the nominee cannot even have the whiff of someone who might threatened abortion.

    Second, there he goes again: He first notes that voting for Scalia was a mistake and then cites that vote as an example of how he could support pro-life nomineess.

    Kerry, the presumptive nominee of a party that overwhelmingly favors a woman’s right to abortion, struck a moderate note as he lashed out at one of the high court’s most conservative justices, telling The Associated Press he regrets his 1986 vote to confirm Antonin Scalia.

    “If you’re looking for me to admit that I made a mistake in my years in the Senate, there you go-there’s one,” said the four-term Massachusetts senator.

    Yet in the same story he says:

    Kerry said he has voted in favor of “any number of judges who are pro-life or pro-something else that I may not agree with,” some of whom were nominated by Republican presidents. “But I’m going to make sure we uphold what I believe are constitutional rights and I’m not going to pick somebody who’s going to undermine those rights.”

    “Do they have to agree with me on everything? No,” Kerry said. Asked if they must agree with his abortion-rights views, he quickly added, “I will not appoint somebody with a 5-4 court who’s about to undo Roe v. Wade. I’ve said that before.”

    “But that doesn’t mean that if that’s not the balance of the court I wouldn’t be prepared ultimately to appoint somebody to some court who has a different point of view. I’ve already voted for people like that. I voted for Judge Scalia.”

    And, of course, this led to the need for a clarification:
    Later, aides said “some court” was not a reference to the Supreme Court, only lower federal benches. Kerry tried to clear up the matter with a written statement that said: “I will not appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who will undo that right” to an abortion.

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    • The American Mind linked with Kerry's House of Ketchup #13
    Line of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:44 am

    “Yesterday, John Kerry and Ralph Nader met face to face, it was a historic meeting. Astronomers said their meeting actually created what is called ‘a charisma black hole."‘-Jay Leno (5/20/04)

    Source: Yahoo!

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    Not Smart

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:09 am

    Sen. Frist’s Son Charged with Drunk Driving

    U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s 21-year-old son was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated in Princeton, New Jersey, police said on Thursday.

    William Harrison Frist, Jr., a Princeton University sophomore, was stopped early on Wednesday for passing a vehicle improperly and was found to be impaired after he failed a test for balance, Lt. Dennis McManimon of the Princeton borough police said.

    He was taken to the station where a breath test showed his blood alcohol level was above 0.10, or above the legal limit. The charge is punishable by a seven-month suspension of Frist’s driver’s license plus fines, McManimon said.

    Not smart for a whole host of reasons.

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    • Rooftop Report linked with Frist dispells book title
    I Checked the Date, and it Ain’t April First…

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:21 am

    David Hasselhoff to turn into rapper Hassel The Hoff!

    Sexy Baywatch star David Hasselhoff is to turn himself into a rapper.


    Apparently rapper Tracy Morrow, popularly known as Ice, sees the makings of a great rapper in David.

    Ice has reportedly agreed to produce Hasselhoff’s debut hip hop album.

    “The man is a legend. We are going to show a whole new side of him,” The Sun quoted Ice as saying.

    Ice and Hasselhoff are neighbors in Los Angeles and have instantly struck a great rapport with each other. Ice who has full faith in David says, “He’s gonna come out as Hassle The Hoff and will surprise people with his rap skills and humor.”


    Hat tip: The Colin Cowherd Show.

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    • Obsidian Wings linked with DO NOT VISUALIZE.
    Add This to the List of Things I Don’t Get

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:13 am

    Get Out Your Boards: Extreme Ironing May Soon Be Hot

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    Those Darn Kids

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:11 am

    This little tale over at Wizbang reminded me of an incident earlier in the week that I meant to blog.

    I am driving home earlier this week and I see that our van is parked in the driveway and then I notice, while still several house away, that on the TOP of our Dodge Grand Caravan is my two-year-old son. He’s just sitting there looking around. Before I could pull up and get out to get him down, my wife came flying out of the house to extricate the child from his perch. It seems he pulled his BigWheel in front of the van, climbed from there to the bumper, to the hood, up the windshield to the top of the automobile.

    When asked why, he noted “because it was there".

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    Giving Blogs and Interns a Bad Name

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:03 am

    Of course, the Clinton administration did more for giving interns a bad name than this story could ever do: Senator undecided on firing aide over sex blog. Of course, the whole Chandra Levy/Gary Condit story in 2001 didn’t help much either.

    What I want to know (assuming that the info in the blog is true) is why this girl was so stupid as to blog in such a way as to be able to be so easily identified.

    Kevin first noted this story earlier in the week at Wizbang (here and here orginally via Wonkette).

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    Confirmation of Arrests in Berg Killing

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:25 am

    This story was out earlier in the week, but there had not been confirmation. Yahoo! News - Four Arrested in Iraq for Berg Killing

    Iraqi police have arrested four people in the killing of American Nicholas Berg, an Iraqi security official said Friday.

    The suspects were former members of Saddam Hussein’s Fedayeen paramilitary organization, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They were arrested a week ago in a house in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad.

    The group that was involved in the killing of Berg was led by Yasser al-Sabawi, a nephew of Saddam Hussein, the security official said. He said American intelligence had asked Iraqi authorities to hand over the suspects, but they were still in Iraqi hands.

    Al-Sabawi was not among those arrested, the Iraqi official said.

    American officials have said they believe Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian wanted for allegedly organizing terrorists to fight U.S. troops in Iraq on behalf of al-Qaida, carried out Berg’s killing.

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    Thursday, May 20, 2004
    Doggin’ A-Rod

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:23 pm

    The DMN asked it readers for the best signs Welcoming back A-Rod back to the Ballpark. Click the link to see the winners.

    My favorite: “You forgot to take Chan Ho with you".

    Filed under: Sports | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    A Not So Moderate Move

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:41 am

    The Moderate Voice has new TypePad digs.

    Go check it out.

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    With Praise Like That…

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:39 am

    Kerry Woos Nader, Who Deems Him ‘Very Presidential’

    Mr. Nader called Mr. Kerry “very presidential,” fondly recalled his antiwar leadership in the 1970’s, praised his skills as a politician and quite favorably compared Mr. Kerry to Vice President Al Gore.

    Amusing (to me, anyway).

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    Interesting/Odd/Hmm: Chalabi House Raided

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:34 am

    U.S. Troops Raid Chalabi’s House in Iraq

    U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police raided the residence of Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi on Thursday, and aides accused the Americans of holding guns to his head and bullying him over his criticism of plans for next month’s transfer of sovereignty.


    Musawi said the U.S.-Iraqi force surrounded the residence about 10:30 a.m. while Chalabi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council was inside. They told Chalabi’s aides that they wanted to search the house for Iraqi National Congress officials wanted by the authorities.

    The aides agreed to let one unarmed Iraqi policeman inside to look around.

    “The Iraqi police were very embarrassed and said that they (the Americans) ordered them to come and that they didn’t know it was Chalabi’s house,” Musawi said. “The INC is ready to have any impartial and judicial body investigate any accusation against it. There are American parties who have a list of Iraqi personalities that they want arrested to put pressure on the Iraqi political force.”

    Abdul Kareem Abbas, an INC official, said Chalabi’s entourage objected to the raid but “we couldn’t because they came with U.S. troops.”

    “They came this morning, entered the office of Dr. Ahmad Chalabi and said that they were looking for people,” said Abbas. He said they wanted to make arrests.

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    Wednesday, May 19, 2004
    Somewhat Snarky (Yet Accurate) Question/Observation of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:16 pm

    It seems that throughout my adult life I have heard how little we (i.e., citizens of the United States) pay for gasoline by many on the leftish side of the political spectrum. Oh, I have heard it said, how we should be more like Europe! Why, did you know that they pay multiple dollars a gallon there? Indeed-’tis true!

    However, we reach the $2 mark and times are truly dire (and we won’t get into that whole complicated inflation thingie). And, further, Kerry Faults Bush for High Gas Prices-well, whaddaya know!

    Now, as someone who drives over thirty miles one way to work, I have reason to be unhappy with the gas prices, however, I still have my snarky question for the left: why aren’t they happier that we are being more like Europe?

    Could it be that because the hike is prices came about not as a result of higher taxes? Hmm, yes. That might be it,

    Snark done, back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

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    • The Bemusement Park linked with GAS PAINS
    • Priorities & Frivolities linked with Partisan Hacks
    • The Kudzu Files linked with Thoughts of the day
    How Nice

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:46 pm

    Families Heckle Giuliani at 9/11 Hearing.

    I can understand the grief, and further, there were clearly failures in the system, but this isn’t constructive in any sense of the term. The need to blame clearly is subverting reason.

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    • Just A Girl linked with Rudy Rants
    Safire on Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:38 pm

    Bill Safire’s Sarin? What Sarin? is today’s required reading (to steal from Stephen Green, who is too busy to make recommendations anyway).

    Filed under: Iraq | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
    • Outside the Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:18 pm

    What are they talking about?

    Shrek’ goes after big market: everybody.

    I haven’t seen any commercials. Are they sure this flick is even coming out? Indeed, I am shocked at the lack of marketing for this movie.

    Update/note: Go back and re-read assuming a sarcastic tone.

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    Student Eval Blogging

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:16 am

    I just got back my student evaluations for the Spring (which is a record turnaround) and, as usual, they’re fine.

    Still, a few observations:

    1) Students often complain that there aren’t enough tests/assignments in a class. While it is true that on a given assignment one might do unusually poorly (or unusally well), I would point out that, on balance, the number of assignments and exams is irrelevant. “A” students tend to do “A” work regardless of the number of units for measurement and “D” students tend to do “D” work.

    2) Some student comments vex me: in a class this term in which a great deal of class participation took place, and where it was clear I was willing to deviate from my prepared notes if the students wanted to discuss an issue (obvious, because it happened on a weekly, if not classly, basis) I get the comment that I need to do more to encourage lively debate and discussion in class. This kind of comment always floors me because it makes me wonder if the student in question was in the same class as me, and, more importantly, since I actively encourage class participation my response to the comment is a question: if you wanted to talk and debate, why didn’t you?

    This also reminds me of comments that my former colleague, James Joyner, used to note: which was that he would get comments that he didn’t turn the grades back to them fast enough in a course which he would always have their grades on the internet within hours of the time they took the test.

    3) It is invariably true that in the class with students who, on average, have lower GPAs (they have to indicate their GPA on the form and I get a breakdown) that I get lower rankings and if the students have higher GPAs I get higher rankings.

    4) Students clearly interpret the question “Showed an interest in student achievment” to mean “I got a good grade in the class.” (Indeed, on balance, it is fairly clear that every question is at least partially interpreted as “I got a good grade in this class.")

    5) Students like to gripe about textbooks.

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    • Rooftop Report linked with Morning Bang
    Campaigns and the Net

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:21 am

    Bush’s site neck and neck with Kerry’s in traffic race

    The total number of Americans visiting the campaign sites for Bush and for Sen. John Kerry was virtually the same in April, according to numbers released by Nielsen/NetRatings.

    U.S. visitors to the Kerry campaign Web site numbered 1.6 million last month, while the Bush site attracted 1.5 million, the measurement company said.

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    Tuesday, May 18, 2004
    Web Page Critique

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:12 pm

    I have revamped my academic home page-it appears to render properly in IE and Firefox. Give it a look and see if something seems wrong or is in need of fixing.

    I still have some tweaking to do, but the basics are done. Mostly I want to make sure that it doesn’t cause anyone any browser problems.

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    Four More for Greenspan

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:36 pm

    Bush Renominating Greenspan-White House

    The White House said on Tuesday that President Bush plans to renominate Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to a fresh four-year term at the helm of the U.S. central bank.


    Bush is nominating Greenspan for a fifth term as Fed chairman. His current term was slated to expire June 20.

    If approved by the Senate, the nomination would likely keep Greenspan, 78, at the top of the Fed at least until his separate term as a member of the central bank’s board expires at the end of January 2006.

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    Agreement Reached on Some Judicial Nominees

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:34 pm

    Bush, Democrats Reach Deal on Nominations

    Breaking a months-long impasse, the White House and Senate Democrats on Tuesday struck a deal allowing Senate confirmation of dozens of President Bush’s judicial nominations in exchange for a presidential promise not to bypass the Senate again this year.

    Under the agreement, Democrats will allow votes on 25 non-controversial appointments to the district and appeals courts. In exchange, Bush agreed not to invoke his power to skip around the Senate and give one- and two-year appointments to his judicial nominees, as he has done twice in recent months.

    While no doubt necessary, this strikes me more as capitulation by the White House than a compromise.

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    Berg, Aljazeera and the Blogosphere

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:48 am

    The Nick Berg video and the Blogosphere continue to be soldily linked. Now Aljazeera has based a story on that fact that some Bloggers doubt Berg execution video.

    It is a cleverly written piece in which a variety of conspiracy theories about Berg’s death are put forth, but not as the story in and of itself, but simply as reporting what bloggers are saying. And these are, indeed, all things I have read online. However, given that I cast a jaundiced eye at Aljazeera, this reads to me like a deliberately crafted propaganda piece designed to cast doubt on the Berg murder.

    Interestingly, there are no links to the blogs in question.

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    Tony Randall, RIP

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:31 am

    Tony Randall Dies at 84

    Tony Randall, the comic actor known for playing lovably prissy characters, has died. He was 84.

    Randall died in his sleep Monday night at NYU Medical Center, according to his publicist, Springer Associates.

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    Can We Say “Wishful Thinking"?

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:29 am

    The only problem with this Reuters piece, Iraq War Weakens Bond Between Bush, Evangelicals, is that it appears to be based solely on anecdotal evidence and speculation. It starts with this thesis:

    Concern among evangelical Christians over the course of the war in Iraq is opening a crack in their strong bond with President Bush (news - web sites) and the Republican Party, political analysts who track this powerful voting group said.

    To support that proposition, however, the piece provides such evidence as:

    “I know there are a lot of evangelicals who are disillusioned with the war and worried about a lot of things, the Woodward book, the Clarke book … (and) how we got into this thing,” said Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., referring to recent books on the al Qaeda threat and the Iraqi war and occupation.

    I kept reading the piece to see if it was based on a poll or somesuch, but no go. Another example:

    “I don’t see anything but trouble over there (in Iraq). People could increasingly become disenchanted with George Bush, evangelicals too,” said Derek Davis, director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University.

    “I think the war could have an effect on the evangelical vote,” he said but estimated it would cost Bush no more than 10 to 15 percent of support among evangelicals at the most. He noted that in the 2000 election Bush received about 80 to 85 percent of the evangelical vote.

    While I suspect that continued bad news will damage the President, and may supress turn-out, but it is a spurious claim that this would uniquely affect evangelicals.

    This story represents some shoddy reporting. Clearly the author had an idea, called a few people who said things that might be construed as confirming his hypothesis, and then wrote a story around the quotes in a serious tone to make it sound as if there is a real issue here. And even if they hypothesis has merit, there is nothing in this piece that would confirm or reject it.

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    This May Be the Only New Show That I Will be Interested in Next Fall

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:02 am

    Mark Hasty reports (although I must admit I am skeptical that they will be able to pull it off).

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    Blogiversary Gifts

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 am

    Robert Prather’s Insults Unpunished is about to turn two and he wants gifts. Shockingly, he wants what all bloggers want: links that lead to traffic. So here’ one from me, along with a request you go pay him multiple visits in anticipation of his blogiversary on the the 26th. His goal is to hit 500,000 by that date.

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    Monday, May 17, 2004
    Maybe Network TV Sitcoms are Dead After All…

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:14 pm

    NBC Plans to Add Five New Series for Fall

    The “Frasier” time slot at 9 p.m. Tuesday will be filled with an animated comedy, “Father of the Pride,” about the lions that perform in Siegfried and Roy’s Las Vegas show.

    This sounds more like one of those Scooby Doo celebrity match-up cartoons (like Scooby Doo meets Batman) than it does a primetime show on a major broadcast network.

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    How Far We Have Come

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:39 pm

    Much is being said about Brown and how far we have come or not come and what may or may not need to be done.

    However, as the following from today’s Montgomery Advertiser clearly illustrates, we have, thankfully, made some substantial progress.

    Attitudes change, but segregation returns

    On May 17, 1954, Montgomery Advertiser reporter Jack Freeman stopped by then all-white Sidney Lanier High School with his pad and pen to query students about the news of the day: The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Brown v. Board of Education in Topeka, Kan., a decision that banned legal school segregation.

    Freeman returned to the newsroom with a notebook full of quotes that nowadays would be considered politically incorrect or to harbor hate.

    “They aren’t as civilized as we are,” one student said.

    “Next thing you know, they’ll be riding with us on the buses and everything,” another one said.

    “A lot depends on the first Negroes who come to Lanier. If they have the right kind of humility - not the shoe-licking kind, but ordinary humility - there shouldn’t be any trouble,” noted another. “It’s going to be a lot harder for them than it will be for us.”

    There is still a ways to go in the matter of race relations, but we have come an awfully long way in the last fifty years.

    Note: This post is part of the Beltway Traffic Jam.

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    A Long Way to Have Fallen

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:00 pm

    Ex-Congressman Janklow Released from Jail

    Former South Dakota Rep. Bill Janklow was released from jail on Monday after serving 100 days on a manslaughter conviction for speeding through a stop sign and killing a motorcyclist.

    Janklow looked noticeably thinner as he left the Minnehaha County Jail in Sioux Falls, S.D., accompanied by his son Russell Janklow, flashing a broad smile to the throng of media covering his release.

    Janklow, 64, a Republican who also served four terms as governor of the Midwestern state from 1979 to 1985 and again from 1995 to 2003, did not speak as he entered a silver sport utility vehicle driven by a long-time friend. His future plans were not known.

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    He Said It

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:17 pm

    We were coming home from church yesterday (including a baby shower for a member of our Sunday School class which included lunch) and our oldest (he’s seven) stated, in his attempt to convince us he should play outside when we got home (not a hard sell, mind you), the following: “You don’t want me in the house! I’ve had caffeine!!”


    Filed under: Kids | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Sarin Gas in Iraq?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:16 am

    Sarin Gas Released by Iraq Roadside Bomb

    I will wait for further confirmation of this story, as it has been reported that WMD has been found before, only to turn out to be not such.

    Still, if accurate, this is an important development

    A roadside bomb containing sarin nerve agent exploded near a U.S. military convoy, the U.S. military said Monday. Two people were treated for “minor exposure,” but no serious injuries were reported.

    “The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155-millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt (search), the chief military spokesman in Iraq. “The round had been rigged as an IED (improvised explosive device) which was discovered by a U.S. force convoy.

    “A detonation occurred before the IED could be rendered inoperable. This produced a very small dispersal of agent,” he said.

    The incident occurred “a couple of days ago,” he said.

    The Iraqi Survey Group (search) is a U.S. organization whose task was to search for weapons of mass destruction after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in last year’s invasion.

    Also: if true and if insurgents have access to these weapons, even in small amounts, this increases the danger to our troops and to innocent Iraqis.

    This clearly qualifies as “developing.”

    UPDATE: Citizen Smash has an excellent discussion of the story and a news/Blogospheric round-up.

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    • Citizen Smash - The Indepundit linked with SARIN FOUND IN IRAQ
    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Sarin

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:11 am

    Down but Not Out, Kucinich Keeps On Fighting

    This reminds me of those stories of Japanese solidiers on islands in the South Pacific who keep fighting for years because no one told them that the war was over.

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    Wardrobe Malfunction?

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:58 am

    Both Chris Lawrence and James Joyner note the, um, revealing nature of a dress worn by Senator Kerry’s daughter at Cannes (Joyner has the pic, as does Drudge and likely any number of sites).

    This kind of thing, not unlike the under-age beer buying of one of the Bush daughter’s a while back always raise tis kind of question in my mind: You do know that your Dad is running for/is President, don’t you?

    I mean, gee whiz, in the grand scheme of things no big deal (and as Ogged notes, flash photography is part of the issue here) but it would seem that more thought might ought to go into such activities if one would like not to draw undo attention to one’s self, and especially one’s father.

    In short: I am hardly scandalized by the dress-not that I would want my daughter to wear such, if I had a daughter-but the lack of thought that goes into some of these things is always remarkable to me.

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    This Continues to be Troubling

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:28 am

    Transfer Date Is Clear, but Not Much Else Is

    For weeks, the American occupation authority in Iraq has been updating the timetable leading to the day it is supposed to go out of business, on June 30, declaring on its Web site on Sunday that there were “46 days until Iraqi sovereignty.”

    Yet nowhere on the Web site, or anyplace else in official American statements, can be found the identity of the new Iraqi leadership or the precise powers of the new Iraqi government over many important matters, including the full authority over Iraqi armed forces.

    While I have been persuaded that the Jne 30th deadline needs to be adhered to, the lack of an Iraqi face on this process baffles me. Right now the most well-known Iraqi not associated with Saddam is al Sadr., which isn’t a good thing.

    I would also argue that the administration has done a terrible job at getting information out as to what is going on in terms of reconstruction and transition.

    And I also blame the press for lack of reporting on the entire story. As such, Jeff Jarvis has an excellent suggestion:

    If I were in charge of a bureau of reporters in Iraq - are you listening NY Times, Washington Post, FoxNews, NBC, CBS, ABC, Reuters, BBC? - I would assign one reporter, just one, to the rebuilding beat.

    There are plenty of reporters - hell, every reporter in the country - assigned to the police beat, the blood-and-guts beat, the who-shot-whom today beat. When I worked in Chicago and San Francisco and New York, we had one or two reporters in the cop shop covering all that. We had hundreds of reporters covering the rest of life.

    Why this hasn’t been the case is beyond me. And why there hasn’t been a concerted effort on the part of the administration to promote information along these lines is beyond me as well.

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    Suicide Bombing in Iraq Kills Head of Governing Council

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:55 am

    Power Transfer to Stay on Track Despite Killing, U.S. Says

    A suicide car bombing near an entrance to the coalition headquarters here killed the head of the Iraqi Governing Council, dealing a further setback to the American effort to stabilize Iraq in advance of a June 30 handover of sovereignty.

    Ezzidin Salim was the second member of the American-appointed council to be assassinated. He was killed while waiting in a Governing Council convoy at a checkpoint leading to the Green Zone, the coalition headquarters in central Baghdad.

    L. Paul Bremer III, the top American administrator in Iraq, condemned the bombing as a “shocking and tragic loss.”


    The killing of Mr. Salim, a low-profile council member who held the rotating and largely ceremonial position of council president, is another blow to the American-led coalition, which is also grappling with a tenacious insurgency and the fallout from the prisoner-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison.

    This does not speak well of security in an area that is supposed to be amongst the most secure in the city. It also underscores the fact that those fighting the CPA are fighting on the side of chaos and not for the betterment of the Iraqi people.

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    Sunday, May 16, 2004
    More Evidence MT May Be in Trouble

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:18 pm

    I was on the pMacine web site tonight and it was slooooow.

    One wonders if the MT brouhaha hasn’t sent a ton of people looking at the possibility of making a switch-and pMachine’s offer of free software to the first 1000 takers seems to be garnering them some attention.

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    Yet More Evidence that Campaign Finance “Reform” Doesn’t Work

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:54 pm

    Yahoo! News - ‘Soft money’ may help GOP launch wider attack on Kerry

    After holding back for months, Republican political operatives say they will compete with Democrats in raising and spending millions of dollars in unregulated “soft money” on this year’s presidential election.


    Most activity by independent political groups - known as “527s” for the section of tax law under which they are organized - has been among Democrats. That has helped to counter Bush’s campaign fundraising advantage. While the Bush and Kerry campaigns are limited in what they can collect, the outside groups can take multimillion-dollar donations from wealthy partisans such as financier George Soros.

    If the FEC fails to enact regulations, “it will be abundantly clear that 527s are going to play a major role in the election,” Hirschmann said. “We do not want to see Soros and the unions and the liberal Democrat 527s go unanswered.”

    *sigh* When will legislators learn that they can’t stop money from flowing into politics? If companies that sell hamburgers and soda will spend millions and millions annually to get us to buy their products, why is it such a shock that groups and individuals will spend millions and millions to help elect the leader of the free world?

    A system that allows unlimited contributions to parties and candidates with full and immediate disclosure on the internet would certainly be a far more transparent system than the one we currently have. And it would have the virtue of leaving the First Amerndment alone.

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    Great Fun at Conferences

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:19 pm

    Daniel Drezner has evidence that academic conferences can, indeed, be fun. (Who knew?)

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    There’s a New CotC in Town

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:16 pm

    And Josh Cohen online has it.

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    • Josh Cohen online linked with COTC M&M;
    With Friend Like These II

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:14 pm

    Check out the JFK in 04 Vintage Style T-Shirt. Where did they get the “model"-a park bench? Is he about to drop acid in the photo?

    Of course the anti-Texas shirts annoy me even more, but whaddya gonna do?

    Hat tip: Betsy’s Page

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    Is it Sybok?

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:40 pm

    Hmm, it occurs to me that MT 3.0 may be to MoveableType what ST V was to Trek.

    (If you aren’t at least a casual Trekkie, let me clue you in: that ain’t good).

    Lest thou doubteth mine conclusions. Check this out.

    Update: The Luney Bin does an excellent job of encapsulating why the uproar has occurred. As Wade notes

    I think the biggest cause for the backlash is the silence from Six Apart on the change. For a company that specializes in communication software, they’ve been remarkably silent on upcoming changes. Their website and corporate news blog show about a post a month, of which few posts actually contain useful information.


    The personal license was written by someone on crack

    I mean, come on. You can only install the personal edition on a system with a single CPU? What is this, 1995? That clause right there is a sign that someone didn’t have their head on right when developing this new license. Honestly.

    Double indeed.

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    This is Getting Silly

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:28 pm

    McCain Urged to Join Ticket with Kerry

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    With Friends Like These…

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:27 pm

    Jerry Springer Named Democratic Delegate

    Ohio Democrats have chosen talk-show host Jerry Springer to be an at-large delegate for the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

    “He’s made 50 appearances at Democratic events this year. He’s been an outspoken advocate for the party,” said Dan Trevas, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party.

    Of course, to be fair there are a number of embarrassing Republicans as well.

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    What Did Congress Know and When Did They Know It?

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:21 pm

    Yahoo! News - Congress Members Told of Abuse Months Ago

    Two months before pictures of Iraqi prisoner abuse became public, the family of one accused soldier wrote to 14 members of Congress that “something went wrong” involving “mistreatment of POWs” at Abu Ghraib prison.

    Separately, a suspended Army officer in Iraq wrote to Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania that he was being unfairly punished after “pictures of naked prisoners” were discovered. He sent the letter six weeks before the CBS program “60 Minutes II” first broadcast photographs of the prisoners on April 28.

    The strongest reply any of them got was a note saying what they already knew — that the Army was investigating, according to documents released last week by Specter’s office and the family of Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick.


    On March 18, Lt. Col. Jerry Phillabaum, formerly second-in-command at Abu Ghraib, wrote an e-mail to Specter mentioning “digital pictures of naked prisoners,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Saturday. At the time, Phillabaum had been suspended as commander of the 320th Military Police Battalion while Army investigators probed the alleged abuse. He has since been reprimanded and relieved of command.

    In the letter, Phillabaum sought Specter’s help in expediting the investigation so he could return to his family in Lansdale, Pa.

    And for those keeping score at home, the 60 Minutes II story was aired, as noted above, on April 28, but the letters in question came two months before that and on February 23rd Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) received a letter from a guard who had been relieved of duty and that on January 12th the army announced they were investigating the prison. Further, Specter had correspondence on March 18th that informed him an investigation was under way.

    (I note the dates not to exonerate, or to state that all was done properly, but to establish a basic timeline).

    First off, Senators can’t be expected to go to red alert over a letter from a service member’s family. Second, criticism can be levied that a full report was made sooner to the Congress, given the obvious knowledge of the photos prior to their airing on TV.

    However, several other things are clear as well: 1) righteous indignation by Congress at not being informed has been a tad overblown, 2) there was an investigation ongoing, and one suspects that one it was complete, a report would have been made to the appropriate committees in Congress, and 3) the affair illustrates, however, how the timeline for reporting to the Congress, the upper echelons of the Pentagon and to the President likely need to be re-assessed given the ease at which digital images are taken, and distributed. Even ten years ago had this abuse taken place, the odds of there being any pictures, let alone so many high-quality easily copied ones, is unlikely. As with most technology, the government is clearly taking its time to adjust-ditto the mass media.

    Indeed, both the Abu Grhaib photos, and the Berg video, clearly demonstrate that the availability of images of just about anything that happens has radically increased, and that their distribution has become the stuff, literally, of child’s play.

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    The Answer

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:56 pm

    And the question is: what is the most important thing that could be done to help improve the economic circumstances of African-Americans (indeed, anyone and everyone)? Cynthia Tucker has the answer in her column today which discusses the 50th anniversary of the Brown decision. She notes about her own education in the slow-to-integrate Alabama of the early 1970s:

    Nevertheless, I received a pretty good education. That’s because my parents saw to it that second-class schools would not hold their children back. They limited our time in front of the television; they supervised our homework; they helped us fill out membership cards to the neighborhood (segregated) library. My mother, who taught high school English, exposed me to everything from the Bobbsey Twins to Beowulf.

    In general she notes:

    A half-century after the Brown decision, there is still a large gap between the academic accomplishments of white and black students. And that gap results partly from black students’ adoption of a perverse culture that dismisses scholarship as “trying to be white.” Among many black boys, apparently, getting caught reading a novel is nearly as bad as being caught taking piano lessons.


    Whatever the failed promise of Brown vs. Board, there is no good reason for the persistence of the achievement gap. If black parents insist that their children take scholarship seriously, their grades and test scores will rise. If black parents join the PTA, inspire their children to read books and newspapers and enroll them in advanced placement classes, the achievement gap will disappear in a generation.

    What would happen if the television were turned off in every black household for a month? (Well, the Nielsen ratings would suffer, surely, since black viewers watch, on average, 10 hours of TV a day, compared with less than seven hours a day for white viewers.) Kids might wander into a good novel, a game of chess or a copy of Sports Illustrated. They might complete a book report or research paper ahead of time - so that Dad could proofread it for errors. They might stumble across a biography of Jackie Robinson or Ida Wells-Barnett.

    These days, civil rights activists’ interest in schools is usually about ensuring prominent positions for black teachers or principals. There is little glamour - and, therefore, little interest - in pushing black students away from basketball and toward books or in urging black parents to prepare their children for advanced placement classes.

    You wonder what happened to all those dreams that inspired black parents to send their children into the hostile hallways of previously all-white schools in Little Rock or Raleigh or Greenville. What happened to the fervent desire for the best in educational opportunity that pushed those children to succeed despite the jeers of white classmates and the threats of white parents?

    In documentaries and old photos, we see the determined looks on the faces of brave black children who became the pioneers of school integration. Black students today ought to honor their sacrifice with brilliant academic performance.

    There can be no doubt that parental involvement is the key, whether one is rich or poor, black or white, native born or an immigrant. Are there disparities in schools in the US from district to district, state to state? Absolutely. Are blacks and hispanics disproportionately in poor preforming schools? Yes. However, no amount of governmental policy if going to fix that problem-ameliorate, yes, but fix? No.-absolutely not. The fix is active parents.

    One thing is true about the United States that many who see only its flaws dismiss: if you work hard, you will succeed. You aren’t going to be Bill Gates, but you can live well. And no amount of government funding is going to take the place of parents who encourage reading, insist on homework being done properly, and inculcate good behavior in their children.

    Many of the students I have had in my six years at Troy University, both black and white, have come from sub-standard (and, by the way, integrated) schools. Many of the county school systems (indeed, most) in Southern Alabama are severely underfunded. Yet, the students who work hard, and have had parents, or a parent, who made sure that they worked to overcome their circumstances excel-however, this is not the case for all.

    Would more funding help these schools? Without a doubt. Would better trained teachers improve them. Absolutely. Yet is that The Answer? No-only involved parents who will turn off the TV and encourage learning in their children come anywhere close to filling that bill.

    It is shame that more of focus isn’t put on this fact , especially amongst many so-called Civil Rights “Leaders” who almost exclusively focus on issues of funding inequities and ignore the true root problems. Indeed, as I have been reading, the issue of funding is apparently the new frontier, so to speak, in terms of educational justice. There are issues that may well need to be addressed, but I guarantee that even if funding were utterly equal across the board that the schools will not improve the way that many critics of the current circumstances think that they will.

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    The Death of WordPerfect

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:27 am

    I used to be an avid WordPerfect user-from 4.2 until the Win98 version-I think it was 7. I wrote my dissertation in WordPerfect and even when I started working at Troy, which had Microsoft products, I intended to use WP. However, Suite 7 (or maybe it was had terrible HTML capabilities-it screwed up the formatting for even simple documents. This lead to me to start migrating to Word. Even though I don’t use Word for my actual web pages, it was helpful to be able to translate pre-existing docs to HTML (like syllabi).

    It was a shame, as there were a lot of features (like the Reveal Codes ability) in WP that I highly preferred to Word.

    My most recent computer purchase included a copy of WordPerfect 10, and I thought I would give it a try. However, very little had been improved over the years, and the HTML capabilities were still the same-which is a remarkable fact given the explosion in usage of the web since 1998.

    I find MS products to be vexing and annoying, but the lack of WP’s ability to compete is clearly their own fault-they have consistently done nothing to make their product competitive with MS Office, which is a shame.

    WordPerfect Office Upgrade Breaks Little New Ground

    The help files in WordPerfect Office 12 lack the usual “what’s new” section touting the improvements in this year’s release. I can see why it’s missing: This release is the least consequential upgrade I’ve ever used.

    I can’t see why an owner of either the Office 11 Corel released last year or any reasonably current version of Microsoft Office would bother paying the $150 upgrade price (Win 98 or newer required) for this bundle of WordPerfect, the Quattro Pro spreadsheet and the Presentations slide-show editor.

    Nor can I see too many home users lining up to pay $300 for the full release, not when OpenOffice ( provides comparable utility and better Microsoft Office file-format compatibility for free.

    What I do see: A suite that once dominated the market is slowly choking on its own irrelevancy. Aside from the people who will get this software bundled with their new computers, who will rush to buy WordPerfect Office 12?

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    • Signifying Nothing linked with The decline of WordPerfect

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:50 am

    Well, I am glad I didn’t stay up to watch this: Lakers 88, Spurs 76.

    After the Spurs-pulled-it-out-OH NO-the-Lakers-won bit on Thursday I was pretty sure it was over. But man, what happened to the team that played those first two games?


    Well, as noted before, my brother is happy, so that counts for something.

    Congrats to him, Robert Tagorda and all the other Lakers’ fans out there.

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    Saturday, May 15, 2004
    On All Sides of the Issue

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:21 pm

    Kerry Again Opposes Same-Sex Marriage

    With his home state set to begin marrying same-sex couples on Monday, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) reiterated his opposition to the idea yesterday, even as he met with gay and lesbian groups to shore up their support.

    The presumptive Democratic nominee has long opposed gay marriage, favoring instead state-sanctioned civil unions that extend legal protections to gay couples.

    Yet Kerry has taken several positions on the issue: He voted against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union only of a man and woman, saying it amounted to gay-bashing. Kerry has opposed President Bush’s call for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage but said in February that he favors such a ban in Massachusetts.

    “If the Massachusetts legislature crafts an appropriate amendment that provides for partnership and civil unions, then I would support it, and it would advance the goal of equal protection,” he told the Boston Globe.

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    • The American Mind linked with Kerry's House of Ketchup #12
    That’s a Lot of Coke

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:34 pm

    At least he broke a state record.

    800-pound cocaine bust nets guilty plea

    Jaime Delacruz Bustamante was arrested for possession and transportation of almost 800 pounds of cocaine on May 1 and indicted by a federal grand jury five days later. The cocaine had an estimated value of $35 million.

    The largest previous cocaine seizure in Kentucky was less than 100 pounds.


    State police arrested Bustamante after a traffic stop near New Castle in Henry County on Interstate 71. Upon searching the motor home, officers found 798.6 pounds of cocaine, according to court records.

    The cocaine was under a bench seat behind the driver, under a bed at the rear of the vehicle and in a cargo container on top of the motor home.

    Smaller shipments might have been wiser.

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    MT in Trouble?

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:47 pm

    Hmm. Kevin Alyward notes that Kevin McGehee ain’t none to happy with his MT 3.0 upgrade experience. As such the anti-MT sentiment that has recently welled up in the Blogosphere appears unlikely to abate.

    Meanwhile, as Kevin A. notes, Hosting Matters is recommending other software, due to potential problems with the license-although as one reads the thread, some of the issue have been cleared up. Still, it is clear that since HM would have to enforce the rules of the license, they are clearly a bit skittish about the new terms.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with MT: Jumping the Shark?
    • Arguing with signposts… linked with All MT all the Time
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    • G’Day Mate - Reviews! linked with Blog Roundup
    James Joyner Gets Polled

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:24 pm

    And we all know how painful that can be.

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    This Beats the Scorpion Story

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:54 am

    First the scorpion in the Senate, now this: Colombian Smuggles Grenade in Vagina, Three Killed

    A woman hid a grenade in her vagina and smuggled it into a Colombian prison, where it exploded and killed three inmates on Tuesday, prison authorities said.

    The woman delivered the grenade during a visit to the all-male Villa Hermosa prison in the city of Cali and inmates were fooling around with it when it went off, said prison spokeswoman Lina Maria Hoyos.

    “A woman brought it in her vagina,” she said, adding that guards were not allowed to inspect female visitors’ genitals and that the woman had left the prison without being caught.

    Colombia’s jails are notoriously violent and anarchic. In some prisons, powerful inmates are heavily armed, invite prostitutes for visits and order their meals from restaurants.

    The grenade killed three prisoners and injured 15, said Cali police commander Col. Mario Gutierrez, adding that guards would search the prison to see what else inmates were hiding.

    I will grant that Colombia can be a colorful place, but this is getting ridiculous.

    Hat Tip: Note-It Post.

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    • Cranial Cavity linked with And The Question of The Day is......
    Not All Kid’s Shows Are Created Equal (in their ability to annoy)

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:14 am

    With children who are seven, four and two, there are often annoying shows on our TV. However, some are more tolerable than others.

    For example, Jay-Jay the Jetplane inspires within me a deep desire for surface-to-air missiles.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 9:23 am

    The NYT has the latest Veep speculation, focusing on a fantasy Kerry-McCain ticket: Undeterred by McCain Denials, Some See Him as Kerry’s No. 2.

    First off, I just don’t see it. As annoying as McCain can be, I simply don’t see him jumping ship and he has given me no reason to think that he would so radically go back on his rather clear statements that he will not accept a veep slot.

    Second, what does all of this say about Kerry? When he thought he was the shoe-in for Democratic nomination last year, he was willing to vote for the war resolution and support the president in regards to Iraq. When he thought he was going to lose the nomination to Dean, he became a major war critic (to the point I thought he was going to suggest withdrawal), voted against the $87 billion to fund the policy and was highly critical of the entire effort, even when things were going fairly well. Now that he is trying to overtake Bush in the polls he is thinking about adding a Republican who is extremely hawkish on this war to his ticket?

    Further, I would note, the other day, when asked about who he he would replace Rumsfeld with, he cited McCain and Senator Carl Levin. Now, those are two rather substantially different persons who have almost diametrically opposed visions of US defense policy. They certainly view the Iraq situation and the war on terror rather differently. It’s like saying that to replace Rehnquist as Chief Justice he might consider either Scalia or Bader-Ginsburg-it is a statement that tells us nothing about the man’s values or policy goals. It is simply something that sounds good in the hopes of generating political support. Citing McCain might appeal to Reps and Levin appeals to liberal Dems. All he is doing is covering as many bases as possible.

    Back to McCain as veep, and this absurd notion from the NYT piece:

    “Senator McCain would not have to leave his party,” Mr. Kerrey said. “He could remain a Republican, would be given some authority over selection of cabinet people. The only thing he would have to do is say, `I’m not going to appoint any judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade,’ ” the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, which Mr. McCain has said he opposes.

    First, I love how everything always boils down to abortion. Second, the notion that McCain would be some kind of co-president is ludicrous.

    What strikes me the most about this is that it isn’t a principled stance by Kerry & Co. that McCain is the right man for what Kerry believes in, but simply an electoral ploy.

    Further, it is a move that would likely have a backlash at the core of the Democratic Party:

    Such an offer would undoubtedly be controversial among Democrats. Some say Mr. McCain would upstage Mr. Kerry; others regard him as too conservative. Among the latter is Donna Brazile, who ran Al Gore’s campaign in 2000. “McCain has not been pro-choice; he’s not been out front on affirmative action,” Ms. Brazile said. “He’s not been out front on core issues that have defined the Democratic Party.”

    And why would McCain give this up:

    For Mr. McCain, 68, joining a Kerry ticket would mean giving up his Senate seat, since he is up for re-election this year. He is also in line to become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee when the term of the current chairman, John W. Warner, expires in 2006.

    Further, since McCain has stated on numerous occasions that he thinks Bush should be re-elected, and since he has said he will not be anyone’s veep, would not much of his forthright plain-speaking be blunted by this move, and hence damage his value to Kerry?

    No, this is an absurd fantasy on the part of some in the press and amongst some Democrats.

    UPDATE: And this would make for some interesting interviews and stories:

    The two senators were not instantly close. When Mr. Kerry first ran for the Senate in 1984, Mr. McCain, then a freshman House member, went to Massachusetts to campaign against him. Mr. McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent more than five years in captivity, had little use for Mr. Kerry, who became a war protester and famously threw away his ribbons.

    “I didn’t approve of it,” Senator McCain said in an interview. “I still don’t approve of it.”

    Plus, by comparison, wouldn’t McCain’s Viet Nam experience diminish Kerry’s? The more I think about this, the worse of an idea for Kerry this becomes.

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    • Priorities & Frivolities linked with The John McCain Strategy
    Friday, May 14, 2004
    Journalism, Abu Ghraib and Berg

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:16 pm

    Bryan of AWS (who is skirting close to the edge on his “no politics” pledge) argues that there are good journalistic reasons for not covering Abu Grhaib and the Berg killing in the same fashion.

    He makes some valid points, although I don’t think that the reasons given fully explain why they were both treated somewhat differently from the beginning-although I will grant Abu Ghraib is a story because it is scandal involving US servicemen, while the Berg killing is yet another example of what we already knew: that terrorists are evil thugs.

    Of course, one prediction that may be wrong: given the odd revelations about Berg this morning, I don’t think that this story is done. Not to mention the fact that al-Zaraqwi was implicated.

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    Ways to Improve C-SPAN’s Ratings

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:13 am

    Scorpion panic as Colombia election bill advances

    A bill that would allow popular Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to stand for a second term passed another legislative test on Friday after a raucus late-night session in which a senator thrust a scorpion at a rival.


    Early in a session that started late Thursday and continued past midnight, a independent who supports the bill, Carlos Moreno, thrust a plastic box containing a scorpion at an opponent, who brushed it away.

    Pro-Uribe Sen. Claudia Blum jumped on a chair until a police officer stamped on the scorpion.


    “The scorpions should leave me alone, and let Uribe play!” repeated Moreno on Friday morning in his gravelly voice. He has previously enlivened debates by bringing skulls, rats and human organs into the chamber.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam
    • Obsidian Wings linked with Life, meet the Onion
    Non-Political Thought of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:32 am

    Do dogs embody the maxim “ignorance is bliss” or what?

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    One Thing That is Wrong With Having Comments

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:04 am

    (Well, actually, there are several-although to date the good of having them outweighs the bad. However, I fully understand why some sites don’t have them).

    My observation for today is that one problem with comments is that search engines often find asinine statements and/or hideous misspellings in the comments of one’s blog, but the search results make it look like they belong to one’s blog.

    Not good.

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    The Berg Story Continued

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:52 am

    More and more, this tale fits into the “truth is stranger than fiction” category. From comes: What Led Him to Iraq?

    In regards to his arrest prior to his kidnapping:

    The source said that in addition to his passport, cash and a laptop, Berg had two books when he was arrested in Mosul on March 24 that aroused suspicion: the Koran and a book that authorities somehow interpreted as “anti-Semitic.”

    Friends say it’s unlikely that Berg, a practicing Jew, would have carried an anti-Semitic book but that reading the Koran and other local texts was very much in line with his intellectual curiosity.


    On March 24, Berg was arrested while riding in a taxi in downtown Mosul. The military source in Iraq, who spoke with the Daily News by telephone, said he was jailed because unescorted Americans aren’t usually seen downtown and “they didn’t know what to do with him.”

    He said police were suspicious because of “his demeanor,” and authorities also wanted to know why he had the Koran and a book that the source said may have been called “The Jewish Problem” or “The Jewish Solution.”

    Hollinger said it wouldn’t be surprising that Berg was found with the Koran and various books in Iraq. “It would have surprised me if he wasn’t studying up on the culture of that land,” he said. “He was an avid reader. He always did his homework and wanted to learn about the culture of the country he was in.”

    The source said it’s unclear exactly why Berg spent close to two weeks in jail. Although he insisted that Berg was under Iraqi control, the FBI also questioned Berg three times and visited his parents back in West Chester.

    In regards to the issue of whether or not his detention led to him staying in Iraq longer than planned, and hence leaving him open to capture, we have this:

    On April 6, after Berg’s parents filed suit seeking his release, he was visited in jail by an American delegation that took him aside in a small room.

    “He refused to accept any money to go home,” the source said. “He refused to accept an airplane ticket. He refused any escort.

    “He didn’t want us. He said, ‘You don’t understand these people like I do. You’re here for a reason - and so am I.’ “

    His friends say that while he was in jail, Berg had no way of knowing that four American contractors had been burned and hanged from a bridge in Fallujah, or that the situation in Iraq was sliding downhill.

    “I don’t think he understood the gravity of the situation because he was in prison and didn’t know what was going on outside,” Hollinger said.

    After his release, Berg went to a Baghdad hotel and decided he would try to come home after all. But he still wanted to do things his own way - spurning an offer from U.S. consular officials for help in leaving from Jordan. He said he would leave from Kuwait - but never got there.

    However, I will grant, this could be CYA. Still, the whole story is simply strange.

    The same site links to a Philadelphia Inquirer story, A Chance Link Delayed Berg, that notes the following about Berg’s detention, and leaves things confused as to what happened:

    But it seemed clear that the detention wasn’t happenstance. Brig Gen. Carter Ham said yesterday in Mosul that the FBI asked Iraqi police to keep Berg until his identity and purpose could be verified. Friends say Berg told them he had been held initially by Iraqi police for several hours and then was transferred to coalition custody.

    Berg carried electronic equipment for his work climbing communications towers, and that may have added to suspicions, a friend said.

    A State Department spokeswoman said a U.S. consular official in Iraq spoke with Berg on April 10 and offered to “assist him in departing Iraq by plane” for Jordan. She said Berg declined and said he planned to travel overland to Kuwait.

    And then there’s this: Berg’s Dad Blames President:

    Also yesterday, Michael Berg said he has been a member of International A.N.S.W.E.R. - Act Now to Stop War & End Racism - for the past year and has participated in several anti-occupation marches. He said he plans to march on the Pentagon with the group - which is calling for Bush to bring the troops home now - on June 5.

    The story on the alternative blog site theorized that information about the Bergs and the “enemies” list made its way to the FBI and, eventually, into the hands of those in Iraq who track or harass anti-war activists entering the country.

    The list appeared on, a neo-conservative, pro-war Web site, on March 7. It posted questions from an unidentified reporter from yesterday.

    Berg said his son was a supporter of Bush up until he died.

    Again, one can’t make this stuff up.

    Indeed, given the whole al Qaeda/911 connection, however coincidental it may have been, and the activities of the father, I am guessing that the FBI/CPA were wondering what the guy was doing in Iraq, especially since he was supposedly going around by himself. I am not suggesting he was up to anything other than fixing radio towers, but one could certainly see how he might have been suspicious.

    Hat tip: Wizbang (although I would note that as odd as all this is, I would caution Paul not to draw any conclusions at this point. And, I would add a personal note: while I don’t fully understand the father’s position in all of this, I am of the opinion that he is to be afforded understanding given that his son was gruesomely murdered, essentially in public-worse, really-so whatever rants the father goes on are understandable).

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    On a Much Lighter Side II

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:07 am

    I watched the Fraiser finale last night. Overall, it was decent-it had most of the requisite final episode elements, and it was amusing overall and quite funny in places. It wasn’t one of the great finales of all time, however-although the show itself was arguably one of the top ten sitcoms of all time.

    Like James Joyner I grew weary of the show back during the Niles-leaves-his-wife-and-Daphne-jilts-her-finance-at-the-altar-and-they-ride-off in-an-R.V. bit (it was really rather difficult to find amusement and warm feelings over such a scenario).

    From there, we really didn’t watch it-although I caught a few episodes now and then, and it did seem to recpature much of its wit.

    The finale was fine, although I must confess to some annoyance that they didn’t wrap up Frasier’s fate a bit more.

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    On a Much Lighter Note

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:23 am

    How could the Spurs let the Lakers win that game with .4 seconds on the clock (yes, POINT 4).


    At least my brother is happy.

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    Thursday, May 13, 2004
    Most Bizarre

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 pm

    From CNN: Berg’s encounter with ‘terrorist’ revealed

    Michael Berg said the FBI investigated the matter more than a year ago. He stressed that his son was in no way connected to the terrorists who captured and killed him.

    Government sources told CNN that the encounter involved an acquaintance of Zacarias Moussaoui - the only person publicly charged in the United States in connection with the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

    According to Berg, his son was taking a course a few years ago at a remote campus of the University of Oklahoma near an airport. He described how on one particular day, his son met “some terrorist people - who no one knew were terrorists at the time.”

    At one point during the bus ride, Berg said, the man sitting next to his son asked if he could use Nick’s laptop computer.

    “It turned out this guy was a terrorist and that he, you know, used my son’s e-mail, amongst many other people’s e-mail who he did the same thing to,” Berg said.

    Government sources said Berg gave the man his password, which was later used by Moussaoui, the sources said.

    The sources said the man who used Berg’s e-mail knew Moussaoui, now awaiting trial on federal charges that could bring a death sentence. But the sources would not disclose details of how the men were connected.


    Berg said his son cooperated fully with an FBI investigation into the matter.

    Could this story get any stranger?

    Th FOX News version, FBI Interviewed Berg on Possible Moussaoui Link states:

    FBI agents interviewed Berg a few years ago when they were investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, sources said. He was interviewed because, unbeknownst to him, Moussaoui had used his e-mail account when he was in Oklahoma.

    Sources close to the situation told Fox News that they believed the link to be “coincidental.”


    Sources said that the FBI concluded that Berg had innocently given his e-mail account to someone and it had landed in the hands of other people, including Moussaoui.

    James Joyner has a few more tidbits.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 6:15 pm

    For some reason the Berg incident is bringing out the worst in terms of comments. I have, therefore, closed them on my main Berg post and may have to close others.

    And a hint to one of my visitors: “Iraqi” isn’t spelled “iracy".

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    By Steven Taylor @ 5:33 pm

    My blogroll keeps going down, so I have removed the script for the moment, as it was radically slowing down the page.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 5:25 pm

    After posting the link to the DMN editorial earlier today I got to thinking about what kinds of still photos were circulating about the Nick Berg beheading that could be used on TV news and in print. I was surprised that searches via Yahoo News, Reuters and so forth did not bear much fruit.

    I have chosen four photos so as to at least semi-illustrate the event for those who do not wish to view the video. As I have thought about this event I am becoming increasingly of the opinion that there is actually substantial undercoverage of the situation in terms of its horror and import to the broader war on terror.

    As the DMN editorial noted: “This is the Enemy” and hence, “Why We Fight".

    The photos are in the extended entry-they are not graphic, but they are disturbing.

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    DMN Shows Image

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:41 pm

    Glenn Reynold’s post on the Big Media v. the Internet on the Berg incident notes that the Dallas Morning News did show an edited version of incident, showing an al Qaeda assassin holding his victim’s head.

    The editorial is worth reading, even though one has to register to do it: This is the Enemy: Vile image shows world why we fight. The editors note:

    We have chosen to obscure Mr. Berg’s face. But it is important that our readers see in as much detail as reasonably possible what the Islamists have done to an innocent American civilian. It’s important because this is the fate al-Qaeda and its allies intend for every one of us in the West, and for the many Muslims who oppose their plans. (Though Arab media have generally downplayed this atrocity, it’s actually more important for the world’s Muslims to see what is being done in their name.)

    Presenting this photograph, which was taken from an al-Qaeda-affiliated Web site, is important because of the power of image to shape public opinion. Shocking photographs have driven the Abu Ghraib prison atrocity story, which has now become a national crisis of confidence in this nation’s civilian and military leadership, and the mission in Iraq. If we show you images of Abu Ghraib abuses, and of soldiers’ coffins at Dover Air Force base because we think you should know the truth about this war, then we should show you this image, too.

    This presentation makes me slightly revise my “understanding” concerning the lack of display of these images by the tv nets. This presentation by the DMN demonstrates that there is a way to visually remind us all what is going on without having to give us all the gruesome details.

    It does strike one that there does clearly seem to be politics being played here with this event, in terms of the way the mainstream newsrooms are playing Abu Ghraib v. the Berg execution.

    The DMN concludes with this graph:

    Nick Berg was but the latest victim in the terrorist war on civilization. Al-Qaeda doesn’t intend him to be their last. To paraphrase British Prime Minister Tony Blair, al-Qaeda members killed one, but if they could have killed 100,000, they would have rejoiced in it. Look at the photo of what they did to this young Pennsylvanian, and understand that this is why we Americans fight, however imperfectly, and that this is why we dare not lose faith in the justice and necessity of our cause.


    UPDATE: This post is part of today’s Beltway Traffic Jam.

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    The Nick Berg Video, the Press and the Net

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:29 pm

    I noted yesterday that I did not personally want to see the Berg video-just knowing it happened and reading text descriptions is more than sufficient. Further, I have no illusion about the evil that these men are capable of that needs to be dispelled. I can even understand why US TV networks haven’t shown it.

    If anything, however, the radical amount of internet traffic that has been generated over this clip (and the fact that it was distributed by the internet in the first place) underscores the revolution that has taken place in terms of news and information dissemination. Not only is it now possible to directly access information even if the mainstream press chooses not to provide it, but because of the nature of digital media, the information in question can be copied and stored elsewhere, and can be distributed with relative ease. Indeed, both this event and those in Abu Ghraib demonstrate how digital cameras and video, coupled with the internet, have taken the traditional role of the mainstream press as information filter out of their hands. This is a revolution as great, perhaps greater, than the usage of satellites in mass media.

    Of course, even so, the utter demand for this video clip has caused several sites to cease linking to it-having caused the site to have been shut down-LGF links to two such sites and Stephen Green removed his to link to his stored version of the video, due to corrupted files. Elsewhere Wizbang has several links to the video and the most comprehensive set of links to the clip is here: Backcountry Conservative: Nick Berg Beheading Video.

    Hopefully those seeking this film are doing so because they simply feel the need to have the information, and not for the purpose of a cheap thrill.

    If anything, it is tragically sad that this young man went from anonymity to this most horrible kind of celebrity.

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has a lengthy post on the internet v. Big Media on the topic of Abu Ghraib and Nick Berg-inlcuding both Big Media statements and lots of blog and ‘net-related info.

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    • VodkaPundit linked with The Way of the Dinosaurs
    • Rooftop Report linked with Nick Berg Beheading Video
    Yet More Trouble for Air America

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:02 pm

    Reuters News Article

    Air America has shut its sales offices in Los Angeles and Chicago and is recasting its business plan, the network’s president said on Wednesday as troubles beset the liberal talk show network.

    What!?! they had a business plan? Who knew?

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    Berg Beheaded by al-Zarqawi says CIA

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:39 pm

    CIA Says Al-Zarqawi Beheaded Berg in Iraq

    U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the person shown on a video beheading an American civilian in Iraq, based on an analysis of the voice on the video, a CIA official said Thursday.

    Intelligence officials conducted a technical analysis of the video released on an Islamic web site May 11 and determined “with high probability” that the person shown speaking on the tape wearing a head scarf and a ski mask is al-Zarqawi, a CIA official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.


    Berg’s body was found in Baghdad on Saturday. On Tuesday, an Islamic Web site released the video, titled “Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi slaughters an American infidel with his own hands.”


    Al-Zarqawi is thought to be in Iraq, operating his own terrorist network, known simply as the “Zarqawi network.” A specialist in poisons, he is thought to have extensive ties across the militant Islamic movement and is considered an ally of Osama bin Laden.

    Here’s a BBC Profile: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

    From the profile:

    In the run-up to the Iraq war in February 2003, US Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations Mr Zarqawi was an associate of Osama Bin Laden who had sought refuge in Iraq.

    A ‘wanted’ poster for Zarqawi: there is $10 million bounty on his head

    Intelligence reports indicated he was in Baghdad and - according to Mr Powell - this was a sure sign that Saddam Hussein was courting al-Qaeda, which, in turn, justified an attack on Iraq.

    But some analysts contested the claim, pointing to Mr Zarqawi’s historical rivalry with Bin Laden.

    Both men rose to prominence as “Afghan Arabs” - leading foreign fighters in the “jihad” against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

    From CNN (4/6/04) Al-Zarqawi claims responsibility for wave of attacks:

    Al-Zarqawi, an associate of Osama bin Laden, had been named by the Bush administration as an al Qaeda member who fled to Iraq from Afghanistan in May 2002 for medical treatment and then stayed to organize terror plots. He came to Iraq with about two dozen al Qaeda terrorists, according to the administration.

    If the CIA is correct, and they likely are, this event re-inforces the idea that al-Zarqawi is directly linked to al Qaeda, as the administration charged from the beginning. However, I note that the ABC story doesn’t bring up al Qaeda at all.

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    MT 3.0-Changes are Afoot

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:16 pm

    MT 3.0 is out, kinda. It appears that a for fee version is now available, while free version will be forthcoming(see also here).

    I won’t, as may are doing, gripe about this fact. None of us has the right to free software. Indeed, while some are saying that the new free version will be crippleware, that doesn’t appear to be the case based on my reading of Mena’s post. The licensing fee appears to get one support and service, rather than special software features.

    Still, we shall see how it pans it out.

    Given that several blogs have started to move to WordPress, one wonders if this will start other folks to shift.

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    This Just Keeps Getting Uglier

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:22 am

    Some of the information that is trickling out in regards to the Abu Ghraib abuses isn’t going to help those accussed on the crimes.

    For example: Pennsylvania Soldier, Girlfriend Accused In Iraqi Prisoner Abuse

    Spc. Charles Graner is one of the soldiers seen smiling and posing for photos standing over naked Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.

    Before the Army Reserve called him up for active duty, Graner worked as a prison guard at Greene Correctional Institution. According to records obtained by NBC 10, Graner was accused of abusing his ex-wife in the past. Employment records also showed a less-than-stellar record, but unlike in Iraq, he was never accused of mistreating prisoners in Pennsylvania.

    The Army has accused Graner, 35, of abusing prisoners. Also in trouble is Graner’s girlfriend, Army Pfc. Lyndie England, who was seen posing in many of the photos with him. England is from West Virginia and is now pregnant with Graner’s child.

    These facts raise a number of issues-not the least of which is that given that he is a prison guard the idea that he had no idea what he was doing was wrong is rather dubious, shall we say.

    James Joyner notes this story from the NY Post: Leash Girl’s Sex Pix

    Shocking shots of sexcapades involving Pfc. Lynndie England were among the hundreds of X-rated photos and videos from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal shown to lawmakers in a top-secret Capitol conference room yesterday.

    “She was having sex with numerous partners. It appeared to be consensual,” said a lawmaker who saw the photos.

    And, videos showed the disgraced soldier - made notorious in a photo showing her holding a leash looped around an Iraqi prisoner’s neck - engaged in graphic sex acts with other soldiers in front of Iraqi prisoners, Pentagon officials told NBC Nightly News.

    “Almost everybody was naked all the time,” another lawmaker said.

    Many members of Congress left the 45-minute viewing session early, thereby missing the porno performance by England, but there were enough other images of torture, humiliation and intimidation to sicken anyone.

    “It was pretty disgusting, not what you’d expect from Americans,” said Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). “There was lots of sexual stuff - not of the Iraqis, but of our troops.”

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who also characterized the photos as “disgusting,” agreed, noting, “It’s hard to believe that this actually is taking place in a military facility.”

    Utterly amazing-and I must concur with Feinstein.

    Certaily if England was engaged in the above-described activities, it makes these statements somewhat less credible

    Before the pictures of England’s sex romps were shown to Congress, the 21-year-old reservist from West Virginia tried to portray herself as a reluctant participant who was just following orders.

    “I didn’t really, I mean, want to be in any pictures,” England told a Denver TV station.

    “I was instructed by persons in higher rank to ’stand there, hold this leash, look at the camera,’ and they took picture for PsyOps [psychological operations],” she told KCNC-TV.

    England acknowledged “it was kind of weird” when she was photographed smiling, with a cigarette in her mouth, as she leaned forward and pointed at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi at Abu Ghraib prison.

    England has refused to identify who gave her the orders, saying only that they came from “persons in my chain of command.”

    One thing is for sure: this as been ugly, and continues to get uglier.

    Meanwhile, the BoGlo got a tad over-zealous in the photo department.

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    Mucho Rummy

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:53 am

    While the big story in the Blogosphere today is obviously the Nick Berg execution, there is also quite a bit to note concerning the SecDef: Rumsfeld Pays Surprise Visit to Iraq

    Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived in Iraq Thursday afternoon in a surprise visit to reach out to U.S. soldiers and to meet privately with his top generals in the field.


    Rumsfeld said the whirlwind trip is not intended to quell Iraqi concerns about those abuses, although he said he plans to speak to officials of the occupation authority as well as those in charge of U.S. detainee operations in Iraq to hear their thoughts on the situation.

    “We’re not on an inspection tour,” Rumsfeld told reporters Wednesday afternoon aboard an Air Force on his way to Baghdad. “If anyone thinks I’m there to throw water on a fire, they’re wrong.”

    Reuters notes that during the trip Rumsfeld Visits Abu Ghraib, Eye of Abuse Storm

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison Thursday, flying into the eye of the storm over Americans torturing prisoners that has shredded Washington’s credibility in Iraq.

    Hours after U.S. lawmakers viewed “sadistic” new photographs of abuse, Rumsfeld arrived at what was Saddam Hussein’s most notorious prison, where seven U.S. military police reservists are charged with sexually and physically tormenting detainees.

    Four hours into the announced trip to Baghdad, he had already met Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander in Iraq, and Major General Geoffrey Miller, the new prisons head there.

    Meanwhile, James Joyner has two posts on Rumsfeld-Rumsfeld Has Doubts About Iraq and Rumsfeld Set To Shake Up Leadership

    The stuff on the changes that Rumsfeld is instituting to PACOM is especially interesting.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Rumsfeld Goes into Lion's Den
    • small dead animals linked with On His Way Out?

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:32 am

    Between reviewing a manuscript yesterday afternoon, a church function last night, and a function at my son’s school this morning, I have been out of the blogging loop since yesterday afternoon. Although I will note that my traffic is booming-first someone on the FreeRepublic message board linked to a months-old post on polls that gave me a spike last night and this morning I am getting a serious ripple from the Nick Berg video-related traffic that Jeff Quinton is getting (his post on the topic links to mine from yesterday).

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    When Google Attacks

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:27 am

    Jeff Quinton of Backcountry Conservative is being deluged with search-engine generated traffic over his Nick Berg posts.

    If you are so inclined, he would appreciate you hitting the tip jar at his place to help defray the costs.

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Nick Berg Google-lanche: Help Needed
    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Nick Berg Google-lanche: Help Needed
    Wednesday, May 12, 2004
    A Mixing of Media

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:58 pm

    James of OTB will be on NRA Radio as the guest of radio bloggin’ guy Cam Edwards discussing the topic of bloggers and press credentials.

    One can watch and listen to Cam here.

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    Outrageous Statement of the Week

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:33 pm

    “Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam’s torture chambers reopened under new management � U.S. management.” -Senator Ted Kennedy.

    Now, as bad as the Abu Ghraib photos have been, can anyone justify this statement? This is some remarkable hyperbole, to say the least. And it cheapens the Senator’s ability to present credible critiques of the administration.

    Source: WaTi

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    Blogging as an Academic Medium

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:21 pm

    Andrew Cline notes:

    While some of the best bloggers are academics, the weblog form has yet to spark much interest in academia as a venue for publishing research or criticism. That’s to be expected. What’s been interesting for me, however, is how much I’ve had to defend the form as a venue for public dissemination of my academic thinking. But, then, many academics, working under the pressure of publish-or-perish, are loathe to engage the public with work that’s unlikely to count toward tenure. And some are just loathe to engage the public for any reason at all.

    I think that clearly the tenure issue is relevant, but I think that there are three others reasons of note why blogs have not become a more mainstream academic medium.

    Th first is that instant analysis tends to have a less than academic quality to it, as it is typically made without the rigorous research that the academy tends to require. Indeed, punditry can be dangerous, as it often requires conclusions when there is likely insufficient information to reach a conclusion. It is something I must admit I struggle with myself.

    The second is the lack of peer-review prior to publication. If you think that the problem of non-edited newspaper blogs was an issue, you can be guaranteed that was nothing as compared to the issue of peer-review in the academy.

    The third is simple, and likely the best explanation: go look at the web sites of most profs and you will find that they are either quite lame, nonexistent, or a cookie cutter put together by some web guy on campus. The academy hasn’t fully figured out how to use the web to disseminate basic information (although it has gotten radically better at it in the last 5 years), so it is no surprise that they haven’t figured out blogs. My guess is that most academics don’t even know what a blog is.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam
    How Helpful of Him

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:30 am

    Kerry Names Replacements for Rumsfeld

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Another Reason Not to Vote for Kerry
    • Modulator linked with Voting for....?
    Abu Ghraib and Berg

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:02 am

    I have been silent on these issues, but feel the need to make a few observations.

    Starting with the Berg execution: clearly this was a horrific incident and simply underscores who the enemy is. The execution is a clear example of terroristic tactics: the event itself has no military significance, but has the effect of horrifying civilian populations in the hope that they will out pressure on the administration to withdraw from Iraq. Further, it has the effect of making rebuilding difficult, as it increases the general level of fear and uncertainty on the ground in Iraq.

    If anything it reminds us that al Qaeda and their ilk are truly evil.

    I have not seen the video, nor do I plan to do so. Of the things in life that I feel the need to see, the beheading of an innocent civilian isn’t one of them. Further, seeing the video would do nothing to affect my opinion of the Iraqi conflict, the administration, al Qaeda or the the War on Terror in general.

    I have not decided how to react to the fact that CBS (indeed, to my knowledge, any US network) is not going to show the video.

    Some are suggesting that the decision is based on the fact that the video would galvanize public opinion in the favor of the administration. To be honest, I find this to be a dubious position, as I think the main motivation is the same reason that I don’t want to see the video: it is simply too graphic an image. Further, it is bad enough that I have to change the channel from the news when my kids are in the room as a result of the relentless showing of the Abu Ghraib photos, the last thing I need to is to have to worry about a beheading. Further, if they show it once, they will show it a hundred times-and do we really want that? Do we need that?

    The visceral reaction to this event is understandable, and it is easy to overly entangle it with Abu Ghraib. In this regard James Joyner rightly notes

    Morton Kondracke got it right on Fox News tonight when he argued that this should galvanize American support for the war on terrorism because this exemplifies the nature of the enemy. The Corner’s Andrew McCarthy also gets it right, though, in urging that the Right not play the idiotic moral equivalency game we criticize the Left for by arguing this proves Abu Ghraib wasn’t all that bad.

    Indeed, while I understand that the fact that we are talking about pictures and the fact that the executioners said that the killing was revenge for Abu Ghraib, it is a mistake to overly mingle these two incidences.

    The Berg murder is about the evil that al Qaeda will perpetrate in their Jihad against civilization. Abu Ghraib is about the fact that America has certain values that it needs to maintain and that some members of our military let us down.

    Just because both were recorded on digital media doesn’t mean that they are actually comparable events, or that one should inform our understanding of the other.

    The Berg murder reminds us why we have to fight a war on terror. Yes, it is true that the specific incident would not have happened if we were not in Iraq. However, the invasion of Iraq did not create al Qaeda, and the evil that motivates these Jihadists existed prior to any action that we have undertaken. They are at war with civilization and we have no choice but to fight back.

    In regards to Abu Ghraib-I am currently weary of the story, hence my silence. I am saddened by it, I am disgusted by it. However, I really do not know what the proper conclusions are at this point, aside from the fact such things shouldn’t happen under US military control. What steps must be taken in that regard cannot be outlined until we know how much was ordered (and by whom), and how much was spontaneous idiocy.

    Others on this Topic:

    Joe Gandelman has a worthwhile post on this subject.

    Paul at Wizbang! has a link-round up and argues that there has been a partisan response to the event.

    Kevin Drum rightly notes

    This kind of barbaric behavior will have the same effect it usually has: it will make civilized people around the world more determined than ever to exterminate al-Qaeda and its likeminded brethren.

    Jeff Quinton has done his normally fantastic job of compiling a mega-round-up of the Blogosphere on this topic.

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    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Nick Berg Beheading Video
    • Drink this… linked with Outrage over the beheading of this...
    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Nick Berg Google-lanche: Help Needed
    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Nick Berg Google-lanche: Help Needed
    A Question

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:43 am

    How can an e-mail spell checker not have “spam” in its dictionary?

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    Kerry Wins Nebraska; WV!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:18 am

    Democratic Primaries Results

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    “Hockey” + “Free Beer” = “Probably Not a Good Idea”

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:15 am

    Tampa Bay Lightning May Offer Free Beer

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    A Shocking Revelation!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:12 am

    Who knew?

    Boys Prefer Video Games to Toys

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    Tuesday, May 11, 2004
    Drug War Displacements

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:58 pm

    Crisis Facing Colombians Is Called Worst in Hemisphere

    Colombia’s drug wars have created the largest crisis for civilians in the Americas, driving two million people from their homes and threatening Indian tribes with extinction, a United nations official said on Monday.

    The official, Jan Egeland, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, said the country was mired in debt and reluctant to divert military funds to an army of uprooted people escaping the fighting or forced off their land by cocaine traffickers.

    “Colombia is therefore by far the biggest humanitarian catastrophe of the Western Hemisphere,” he said at a news conference.

    “It has the biggest number of killings in the Western Hemisphere. It’s the biggest humanitarian problem, human rights problem, the biggest conflict in the Western hemisphere.”

    He said that only Sudan and Congo had more displaced people.

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    • The Kudzu Files linked with A case for intervention?
    Looking into the Patriot Act

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:20 pm

    Pejman notes the following WSJ piece on the USA Patriot Act by Michael Mukasey, chief judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.

    Judge Mukasey notes what I have long-thought, that the very name of the law is part of the problem (I have long maintained that it is “creepy"):

    I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism.” You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute.


    In regards to what the Act does, there is an interesting note on the wire-taps, which I was aware of:

    I think most people would have been surprised and somewhat dismayed to learn that before the Patriot Act was passed, an FBI agent could apply to a court for a roving wiretap if a drug dealer switched cell phones, as they often do, but not if an identified agent of a foreign terrorist organization did; and could apply for a wiretap to investigate illegal sports betting, but not to investigate a potentially catastrophic computer hacking attack, the killing of U.S. nationals abroad, or the giving of material support to a terrorist organization. Violations like those simply were not on the list of offenses for which wiretaps could be authorized.
    As well as the now-infamous “Wall":
    Well, there is one documented incident involving an FBI intelligence agent on the West Coast who was trying to find two men on a watch list who he realized had entered the country. He tried to get help from the criminal investigative side of the FBI, but headquarters intervened and said that was not allowed. That happened in August 2001. The two men he was looking for were named Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. A few weeks later, on Sept. 11, they were at the controls of the airplane that struck the Pentagon. This provision of the statute, permitting information sharing, could not pass Congress without an agreement that it would sunset on Dec. 31, 2005, and so unless that provision is changed, come Jan. 1, 2006, we will be back to the rules that prevailed in August 2001.

    And on the “Sneak and Peak” Warrants that I was only semi-aware:

    The statute also codifies the procedure for issuing and executing what are called “sneak and peek” warrants that allow agents, with court authorization, to enter premises, examine what is there and then leave. These warrants had been issued by courts before the Patriot Act was passed, including my own court-although I have never issued one myself-on the fairly simple logic that if it is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment to enter premises and seize things, it should also be reasonable to enter premises and not seize things. The statute permits agents to delay disclosure of their presence to the person who controls the premises, again with court authorization. Here too, the logic seems obvious: If you leave behind a note saying “Good afternoon, Mr. bin Laden, we were here,” that might betray the existence of an investigation and cause the subjects to flee or destroy evidence. There are analogous provisions that were in existence long before the Patriot Act permitting a delay in notifying people who are overheard on wiretaps, and for the same reason.
    And about the much-feared library-record subpoenas:
    What about the section the librarians were so concerned about, Section 215? Well, it bears some mention that the word library appears nowhere in that section. What the section does authorize is the issuance of subpoenas for tangible things, including business records, but only upon approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Such a subpoena can direct everyone, including the record keeper, not to disclose the subpoena to anyone, including to the person whose records were obtained. That section also specifically forbids investigation of a citizen or a lawful alien solely on the basis of activity protected by the First Amendment. It requires that the Justice Department report to Congress every six months on subpoenas issued under it. At last report, there have been no such subpoenas issued to libraries. Indeed, there have been no such subpoenas, period.

    Let me hasten to add that it is not impossible to imagine how library records might prove highly relevant, as they did in one case, very much pre-9/11-the case of the “Unabomber,” Ted Kaczynski. Some of you may recall that Kaczynski was apprehended soon after a newspaper agreed to publish his manifesto, and was caught based principally on a tip from his brother, who read the manifesto, and recognized the rhetoric. But one of the ways that tip was proved accurate was through examination of library records, which disclosed that the three arcane books cited in the manifesto had been checked out to Ted Kaczynski from a local library-a devastating bit of corroborative circumstantial evidence.

    Indeed, while I have been open to the idea that there is something wrong with the Patriot Act, I have yet to be given information that would persuade me of its evils. Rather, I have noted that many people take whatever they don’t like about the War on Terror (such as the prison camps in Guantanamo or the holding of Jose Padilla) as being a result of the Patriot Act. I had a mini-argument with a student in one of my classes about how are rights are being taken away because of the Patriot Act, and when I asked what specifically was concerning her, she cited Guantanamo-and that was it.

    As the sub-title of the column note: “Before attacking the Patriot Act, try reading it.

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    Avoiding Plagiarism

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:54 am

    Mark Steen of OrangePhilsophy, has some useful tips on -and it is pretty good. Some that he notes, that I myself have seen:

    1. Bad Writing/Good Writing
    This, of course, is the most common cause for alarm, and sets bells off in even the beginning TA. Several paragraphs or sentences of piss-poor prose or moderate writing is followed by excellent writing, profundity, etc.

    2. Differences of Style
    Often plagiarism is indicated not merely by the above irregularities, but less severe changes in style, where the quality overall is consistently poor or moderate. This often happens when a student buys a paper from a paper-mill site which, while on the same rough topic, is different enough so that the student had to customize it to fit the bill. Look especially for an introduction and conclusion that do not match the body of the paper in style, or coverage of one issue that differs in style quite a bit from the rest of the paper.


    4. Content Indicators


    Look for terminology that you didn’t use in the course and is unexplained in the student paper.

    The first one is a dead give-away and usually a quick Google search on a key phrase leads me to the source of the material. Sometimes I have to use ProQuest or a similar database. On balance, however, plagiarizers are lazy, and simply use Google to find the material they steal.

    The terminology one is a dead giveaway as well: given that the students often gripe about my using “big words” and/or they don’t look up words in the readings they don’t know, it is odd when they start writing like they are William F. Buckley.

    Hat tip: Matthew Yglesias

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    There’s a Shocker

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:10 am

    Across America, War Means Jobs

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    Sports I am Unlikely to Take Up

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:55 am

    How to Catch Fish in Vermont: No Bait, No Tackle, Just Bullets

    Fish shooting is a sport in Vermont, and every spring, hunters break out their artillery-high-caliber pistols, shotguns, even AK-47’s-and head to the marshes to exercise their right to bear arms against fish.

    Who knew?

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    Continuing the Civil War Thread

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:48 am

    While I dealt with this as length here yesterday, here’s the short(er) version (I got going again…):

    What matters to me is far less an argument as to whether there were reasons why men fought in 1861 other than slavery-but how we are going to treat with the totality of the event today/. What price do we pay today in romanticizing the plight of the South during the Civil War? Many of the comments I have received have tried to explain why the citizens of the South did as they did for reasons that may have been apart from slavery, such as loyalty to state and the values of honor and duty. Now, even setting aside the fact that slavery is still intertwined in those things, the issue for me is not to explain the motivations of persons a century and a half ago. Rather, the issue to me is how propagation of a tainted myth affects us now. Not only in terms of race relations, which I think is still quite serious and is damaged by symbolism linked to the Confederacy, but simply in terms of the development of the states of the former CSA, especially the Deep South states.

    Apart from race, I think that there are far too many folks in the South (by no means all, but an appreciable number) who are fixated on the past, and therefore aren’t looking forward. Often we dwell either on the defeats of the past, or on a misremembered mythical past that we wish to reconstruct. Neither is healthy, and instead stunts the development and growth of the region. It certainly affects the state of Alabama-where our political structures are stuck in place by the 1901 constitution, which was written by people who truly were of the “Old South” in the negative sense-a constitution written to keep upper class landed interests empowered, and to disenfranchise blacks and poor whites. Now, the most egregious of those issues has been rememdied, but the influence of the past is unmistakable, and it clearly makes economic development far more difficult than it ought to be,

    In short: when I look back, I certainly can see good people (such as dear, and now deceased, Great Uncles and Aunts of mine who lived in a one-time mining town outside Birmingham) and I see values of faith, family and hard work which are truly the heart of the South , but I see little in terms of the rules of the day (i.e., governmental institutions, and economic and social structures) that I would wish to return to in any way, shape or form.

    So, to me, this issue matters greatly, as I plan to live in Alabama for the duration-and I am raising three boys here. As I noted before, I am pleased to do so, as I think that this is a great palce to riase children. However, I would encourage some introspection on this issue (which is sorely lacking in some quarters, based on my own observations) and, further, I would encourage thinking more about the now and the future, rather than focusing on the past.

    Also: 3108 has 3108 »some personal observations on this topic as well.

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    Sadr Facing Some Iraqi Opposition

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:40 am

    Hundreds Call on Sadr Militia to Quit Iraq’s Najaf

    Hundreds of people marched in Najaf on Tuesday calling on rebel Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to pull his militia out of the Iraqi holy city.

    Witnesses said they marched to the central shrine area of the city before dispersing peacefully. Some Sadr gunmen fired in the air toward the end of the march, but most marchers had dispersed by then.

    The demonstration, organized by Sadr’s political foes, followed a smaller one on Monday and reflected increasing pressure from Shi’ite elders on Sadr to move his men out of the city as U.S.-led forces tighten their noose around it.

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    • King of Fools linked with The Understory
    Monday, May 10, 2004
    The Joys of Academic Employment

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:56 pm

    Chris Lawrence (who hasn’t actually told us yet who his new employer is), is finding one of the perks of academia: free books, and one of the downsides: the fact that the APSA is a socialist organization, ratcheting up their membership fees based on how much money you make (although maybe his new employer will foot the bill for the conference fee and travel expenses. Indeed, one of the true joys of employment is that the grad school days of sharing a hotel room with five other people so one can attend an academic conference should go away).

    UPDATE: I should read more carefully-Chris notes his new employer on the right hand side-bar: Millsaps College.

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    Being Hasty

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:48 pm

    I knew there was a reason I liked Mark Hasty

    19. I have, however, drank so much coffee that I required medical attention.

    Although this gives me pause:

    43. I liked Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football.

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    Forgive Me, But I Can’t Resist

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:37 pm

    Is this Sargent Schultz in drag?

    Quite clearly, one wants to know nothing and see nothing.

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    Things You Don’t Want to Have Happen

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:30 pm

    Man Fatally Bitten by Sexually Aroused Horse

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    • Rooftop Report linked with Nothing to do but concur
    Minor, Yes-Also Mildly Annoying

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:14 pm

    I find it remarkable that students can submit work to me and misspell my name. It isn’t so much that I find “Stephen” to be particularly offensive, but rather find it amazing as to how little they pay attention to such things, especially since my name is all over course documents. At a minimum it makes me wonder what other details they aren’t paying attention to.

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    Why I Care About the Civil War Issue

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:49 pm

    Over the weekend I wrote numerous posts on the topic of the Civil War and the issue of slavery (such as here, here, and here). The question might be: why am I blogging on this topic, of all things (which, as Chris Lawrence rightly notes, has the character of complicating my life)? Well, again, the proximate cause was some of the recent discussion (such as here, here and here) about the Hunley. However, the issue at hand for me is one of how we ought, right now, deal with this portion of our past-especially by those who romanticize the pre-Civil War South. This is something that has been of clear issue to me since I moved to Alabama in 1998.

    While, as I have noted, I lived most of my life in a former Confederate state, Texas, it wasn’t until I moved to Alabama that I began to give all of these issue a great of thought-some, but not a lot. Why? Was I less sensitive then? Well, no. More specifically the Civil War and its aftermath are simply not as important to the general psyche of Texans. Indeed, while one does see Confederate Battle Flags on pickup trucks and such in Texas, it is far, far less part of the self-image of the state. It is not a symbol of “our heritage” to Texans. The mythos of Texas is far more grounded in the legends of the Alamo, San Jacinto and the Republic of Texas. From there there is also the general cowboy ethos and the legends of oilmen and ranchers. Who wants to remember the Civil War?

    However, I noticed once I moved to the Deep South that there was a far greater propensity for the general citizenry to the Battle Flag and the Civil War past of the state to be quite important. In many ways it seems to me that many folks in the Deep South have not yet fully come to terms to with what the war was and what it meant.

    In short: the issue is less about what all the intricacies of the actions of the Southern states were in 1860, and more about how we should look back on the totality of the era now. Is appealing to the Civil War Era as the “heritage” of the South, what are we saying?

    If it is the fact the case that the most fundamental reason for the secession of the Southern States was to protect the institution of slavery (and I cannot see any argument that can give a more fundamental reason than that), then what does that mean to us now?

    The “states rights” argument as a response is wholly inadequate. I will grant that using that as the main rationale for war gives one the ability to see something noble in the South’s position. However, since, as I have hammered, the right in question was first and foremost the right to hold slaves, there is little noble that can be defended here.

    Yes, the soldiers were fighting for their states, but the elites who directed the fight itself had instigated the war to protect their power positions, which required slaveholding.

    All of this matters not simply because of some historical argument. It matters because of how we deal with the legacy of the CSA in the now. It all started, for me, with a renewed consideration of the Confederate Battle Flag issue-and the desire of many Southerners who look back on the Confederacy as part of “their heritage” as if this is a good thing.

    Now, no doubt the CSA is part of the South’s legacy, and no, not everything that happened during that period of time was bad. However, the Battle Flag issue, which I used to consider much ado about not that much, is what got me thinking about this issue in more detail. I had to ask myself, what does that flag actually represent? I think it is a question that many in the modern South don’t ask themselves. And the flag is everywhere around here: on t-shirts, trucks, hats, etc.

    However, I started to ask myself: if I were a black person, how would I view that symbol? How would I view the idea that the Battle Flag represented the “good ol’ days"? For that matter, how would I feel about the idea that many, many White Southerners seem to think that the “new” South is missing something good from the past?

    Given that that flag flew over battlefields in which armies clashed over the right to own other human beings with darker skin, it is no wonder that it is considered offensive by many. Part of my point is that it seems to me that it should be offensive to non-blacks as well. And I don’t mean is just some sort of bleeding heart, gosh I want everyone to feel good, kind of offended, but in the sense that the flag symbolizes a fight for slavery which utterly offends my classic liberal values. The flag of the Soviet Union is offensive for similar reasons-and would wonder about people who put hammer and sickle stickers on their cars or who bought bibs for their babies with the Soviet flag on them. Further, the flag was flown over many state capitols to protest school de-segregation orders in the 1950s. Not to mention that appeals to the “old South” is not just slavery, but the Jim Crow era that dominated over half of the Twentieth Century.

    Given all of this, how could that flag not not be seen as harkening back to the negative by blacks in the South and how could White southerners not see how saying that the Battle Flag is about Southern “heritage” is heard by many (white and black, Southern and non-Southern) as longing for a past replete with racial injustice? Indeed, it is not saying that that “heritage” of the South is one that has no place for blacks, who are a substantial percentage of the population?

    I do know that most people who display the Battle Flag do so with a very general feeling that they are supporting the uniqueness of the south, such as traditional family values, hard work and faith which are quite dominant in the South. Clearly, too, it is considered a symbol of independence from the influence of the North in a generic sense. And, don’t get me wrong, there are many, many things I like about Southern culture and am quite pleased to raise my children here. Indeed, I consider myself to be Southern. This is not an issue of South-bashing (indeed, I think that the South is given a bum rap by much of the country), but rather an issue of swallow thinking-bashing.

    There is a profound lack of acknowledge in the minds of many as to what the Civil War was fundamentally about, and what the symbols of that war represent. To gloss over the real crimes of the past under the veneer of “states’ rights” is to put blinders on.

    As such, romanticizing that period of our history strikes me as problematic. And as long as we do, it seems to me that it hinders our ability to put it all truly behind us.

    Further, it damages legitimate arguments for the rights of states within the federal framework-by saying that the Civil War was over “states’ rights” gives the critics of present-day attempts at limiting federal power a weapon (see! it really is code for racist policies!). Claiming the Battle Flag as part of “our heritage” allows arguments that Republicans are engaged in a “Southern Strategy” that is about promoting racial politics. Further, by turning a blind eye to the crimes of the past make it more difficult for us to move forward in terms of a truly color-blind society.

    So, I think that there are real present-day issues that are relevant to this topic. And I realize that these views will not be popular with many of my fellow conservatives in the South. However, I see no way around it.

    I very much believe in a stronger federalism than is currently practiced in the US and I most certainly believe in burying racism and allowing all of us to operate on the basis of merit, not skin color (and yes, we have made great strides in that area, although it is an incomplete journey). To me, romanticizing the Confederacy makes both of those goals difficult.

    UPDATE: This is post is part of today’s Beltway Traffic Jam.

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    • The American Mind linked with How the Past Touches Today
    • 3108 linked with The Cival War Revisited
    • The World Around You linked with The Civil War's Relevance Today
    • Insults Unpunished linked with American By Birth
    • linked with Poliblogging the CSA
    • Cobb linked with Abolition & The Civil War
    Dow Drops Below 10k

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:01 pm

    Dow Closes at 9991.65.

    U.S. stocks drop as rate-hike jitters weigh

    The Dow Jones industrial average fell 143 points, or 1.41 percent, to 9,974, while the broader S&P 500 Index dropped 13 points, or 1.18 percent, to 1,086. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index gave up 21 points, or 1.11 percent, to 1,897.

    Stubbornly high oil prices were also weighing on investors, Luke said.

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    Sadr’s Offices Destroyed

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:32 am

    U.S. Destroys Cleric’s Baghdad Office

    American forces destroyed the Baghdad headquarters of a rebel Shiite cleric early today, hours after troops killed at least 19 of his militiamen in clashes in the Sadr City slum district, the military and witnesses said today.

    American armored vehicles bombarded the walls of the compound, which contains the offices of the cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, and a small mosque, witnesses said. The building had been evacuated and there were no casualties, witnesses said.

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    This Doesn’t Surprise Me; Indeed, I Expected it

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:19 am

    Writes Bob Novak:

    The Bush administration has been alerted that Chairman Alan Greenspan will guide the Federal Reserve Board to a small interest rate boost before the presidential election, and President Bush is reported to be satisfied.

    According to these sources, the central bank this fall will raise the federal funds (interbank lending) rate from the current historic low of 1 percent to 1.25 percent. The Fed is expected to push the rate to 1.5 percent later this year after the election, and up to 2 percent early next year.

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    Sunday, May 9, 2004
    Alan King, RIP

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:23 pm

    Comic Legend Alan King Dies at 76

    Alan King, whose tirades against everyday suburban life grew into a long comedy career in nightclubs and television that he later expanded to Broadway and character roles in movies, died Sunday at the age of 76.

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    The Conflation Continues

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:05 pm

    Last Sunday I noted that Fallujah wasn’t, in and of itself, Iraq. It was a mere week ago that the entire Iraq policy was allegedly falling apart because of Fallujah, Najaf and Sadr and those were the only three words that critics of the conflict in Iraq needed to know. Now the only words of consequence appear to be “Abu Ghraib". So it seems incumbent upon me to note that as serious as the Abu Ghraib situation is, it isn’t all that there is to know about about Iraq—and whatever comes about as a result of these events will not be the final word on the success or failure of the policy.

    It is becoming increasingly clear that the opponents of the conflict in Iraq walk around with the conclusion in their heads that the policy is a failure (and always has been) and that it is due, in large part to ineptitude at the upper levels of the administration. Then, whatever is happening badly in a given week (the worse the better), then they haul out the conclusions which they think have now been confirmed.

    Some evidence to this end is that the words “Fallujah, Najaf and Sadr” have left the lexicon of criticism-and not because those issues are settled, but because a new and better line of attack has emerged.

    Further, the conflation of the latest crisis with the entirety of the policy is simply an incorrect way to evaluate policy.

    This is not to say that there aren’t real problems with all of these situations; there are. And it may well be the case that they sum to failure. However, I tire of overly simplistic arguments which are clearly borne out of a desire to score political points rather than to actually evaluate the overall situation.

    Further, I would note that there have been successes in the rebuilding process, and that there are large parts of the country in which there are no major problems. An honest evaluation has to take the whole picture into account-not just the best or the worst.

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    New Resignation Policy

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:16 am

    It would appear that the new standard in Washington is that if a subordinate commits an illegal act, then the head of the Department or Agency in which said criminal acts were committed must resign because, ultimately, he or she is responsible.

    As such, I hereby call for the resignation of all persons with any managerial responsibilities in the entire US government and the governments of all the states and territories, as clearly there are examples of illegality and malfeasance of some type of at all levels of government.

    That should solve all the problems.

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    • The Galvin Opinion linked with IT'S GIULIANI TIME

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:47 am

    I watched the intro skit to SNL last night (the Dubya-Rummy, Friends thing).

    First off, the guy playing Bush: not a good Bush, not funny.

    Second, the dialog: not funny.

    Third, Hammond has done a funny Rumsfeld in the past. However, last night: not funny.

    Fourth, things I don’t want to see: Rummy and Dubya full-mouth kissing. While it might sound like it might be funny, trust me: not funny.

    Fifth, the Bush skits haven’t been funny since Will Ferrell left.

    Indeed, on balance, SNL is in a “Not Funny” era.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 7:39 am

    From today’s Mobile Register:

    Many Band-Aid actions
    Sunday, May 09, 2004
    Special to the Register

    In recent years there has been a trend at major sporting venues of selling the name of the stadium or ballpark so as to raise revenue. That’s how, for example, we got the renaming of Troy State University’s Memorial Stadium to Movie Gallery Stadium.

    The whole thing can be found here.

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    Saturday, May 8, 2004
    Rummy Get Props From The Man

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:41 pm

    Rice Says She and Bush ‘Strongly’ Support Rumsfeld

    Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld retains “the strongest possible support” from President Bush and the White House, the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said Saturday, a day after Mr. Rumsfeld testified for six hours in Congress about the abuse by Americans of Iraqi prisoners.

    “The president strongly supports Donald Rumsfeld and so do his colleagues, and I strongly support him,” Ms. Rice said in an interview. “He’s doing a good job as secretary of defense in one of the most challenging periods in American history.”

    The fact that Rice figures so prominently is somewhat amusing, given this from the NYT this morning:An Assessment: In the Balance: Rumsfeld’s Job

    But a person close to Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, speculated that Ms. Rice, who has a history of tense dealings with Mr. Rumsfeld, might not be unhappy if he resigned.

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    Abu Ghraib

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:22 pm

    Tomorrow’s NYT has a lengthy story on Abu Ghraib. Two initial responses:

    1) There have clearly been administrative, training and staffing problems-however, none of that explains the events captured in the photos we have seen. Poor administration, under-staffing and inadequate training cause problems, but they don’t automatically lead to nude prisoners on leashes or human pyramids made of naked prisoners.

    2) It is clear that that Military Intelligence wanted the prisoners off balance and of a mind to talk. However, it is uncelar at to what the actual policy was in terms of what the guards were instructed to do. The real question here is one of what official (and unofficial) policy was in regards to preparing prisoners for interrogation.

    I must admit, that if making a prisoner who has information that might save lives stand around in women’s underwear means that he will divulge the info because he is so embarrassed, well I have a hard time getting upset about that. I have no problem with the idea of sleep deprivation or similar psychological tools. However, treating the prisoners like circus animals and taking trophy photos of the behavior is clearly well beyond acceptable-as are the simulated, and perhaps real sexual acts are utterly criminal. I stand revulsed by what I have seen and am angry that it is has happened for a variety of reasons. I have not blogged much on it to date, as I am reserving my full evaluation until all the relevant information is available. I wish to neither be insufficiently critical, or overly so, until I am certain what level of indignation is warranted, and at whom my ire ought be directed. At this point it is unclear who is responsible, and what they are responsible for.

    I think it is possible to both under- and over-react to this story.

    UPDATE: by the above I mean that some have argued that this is how totalitarian regimes begin, or have indicted the entire military. This is over-reaction, clearly-especially when we do not yet know the totality of who did what. Now, it is clear, the actions that were photographed were appalling and wrong and have created substantial (to put it mildly) public diplomacy problems for the US in Iraq and the MIddle East. Further, the acts that have been perpetrated are clearly human rights abuses-the depths of which had not been fully defined.

    One thing I am certain of: I find it highly disturbing that contractors were used for some of these jobs, and further it is inexcusable that if it was in fact the case that these prisoners had vital information that there wasn’t an appropriate set of properly trained guards at the facility

    In regards to the photographs, the piece the following, contradictory, stories:

    Colonel Phillabaum pinned the bulk of the blame on two of of the 372nd’s soldiers, Sergeant Frederick and Specialist Graner, who are both corrections officers in civilian life. Neither of the two have spoken publicly about the episode.

    “These two people were really the ringleaders of this whole thing,” Colonel Phillabaum said. “Everybody else followed.”

    They were the natural leaders in the military police company, he said, since they spoke of their work experiences.

    “Taking these prisoners out of their cells and staging bizarre acts were the thoughts of a couple of demented M.P.’s who in civilian life are prison correction officers who well know such acts are prohibited,” Colonel Phillabaum said.

    He said the abuses that were photographed only occurred between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., times that Sergeant Frederick and Specialist Graner knew no commissioned officers would be checking in. He said the digital photos are all time-coded, and they are all taken over a couple of weeks in this brief window.

    “If they thought these acts were condoned, then why were they only done a few nights between 0200 and 0400 instead of during any time between 0600 and 2400 when there were many others around?” Colonel Phillabaum asked.


    Sergeant Frederick’s uncle, William Lawson, said his nephew had told him the soldiers were photographing the Iraqi prisoners at the direction of military intelligence officers as an interrogation tool.

    “Somebody photographed the Iraqis with the intent of using those photographs to show new prisoners that came in, `This is what can happen to you,’ to loosen them up psychologically,” Mr. Lawson said.

    In a letter to his family last year, Sergeant Frederick wrote that military intelligence officers encouraged mistreatment like confining naked inmates for three consecutive days without toilets in damp, unventilated cells with floors 3 feet by 3 feet. Inmates were also handcuffed to cell doors and forced to wear female underpants.

    “We have a very high rate with our style of getting them to break,” Sergeant Frederick wrote to a relative, Mimi Frederick, in an e-mail message on Dec. 18, 2003, according to a copy of the communication. “They usually end up breaking within hours.”

    Along with
    General Karpinski has also said that she believed the military police were “coached” in their abusive actions by military intelligence officers. Neal Puckett, General Karpinski’s lawyer, said the military police “took all their instructions from military intelligence interrogators, who instructed them to bring the prisoners to and away from these interrogation facilities, and sometimes perhaps to soften them up.”

    He suggested that the interrogators had instructed the guards to “bring them back naked this time, leave them naked tonight, don’t give them any clothes. We think that escalated over a period of time until it ended up in what we see in the pictures.”

    It seems that the running theories are either that a) it was a bunch of nut-jobs having “fun", or b) these actions were the result of instructions from Military Intelligence that were either ba carried out as given, or b2 mis-interpreted due to either insufficient training or over-zealousness on the part of the guards.

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    Fun with Silly Quizzes

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:44 pm

    What Type of Villain are You?

    Hat tip: Jay Solo of Accidental Verbosity who is a Double Agent, and therefore cannot be trusted.

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    The Right to Secede

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:28 am

    It is noteworthy that the argument for secession in the case of SC was the idea that the Federal government, and the governments of some of the other states, were violating Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3, which stated:

    No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

    And the issue here: run away slaves.

    Here’s the South Carolina Secession Declaration.

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    For Example

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:21 am

    The following is from a speech on the floor of the Senate by Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina on 6 February 1837. Calhoun can be said to be one of the intellectual fathers of the Confederacy, and was a leading proponent of the ideas of nullification (the right of a state to reject an act of Congress) and the right of secession.

    It is difficult not to come to the conclusion that the main issue at hand was slavery:

    Abolition and the Union cannot coexist. As the friend of the Union I openly proclaim it, — and the sooner it is known the better. The former may now be controlled, but in a short time it will be beyond the power of man to arrest the course of events. We of the South will not, cannot, surrender our institutions. To maintain the existing relations between the two races, inhabiting that section of the Union, is indispensable to the peace and happiness of both. It cannot be subverted without drenching the country or the other of the races. . . . But let me not be understood as admitting, even by implication, that the existing relations between the two races in the slaveholding States is an evil: — far otherwise; I hold it to be a good, as it has thus far proved itself to be to both, and will continue to prove so if not disturbed by the fell spirit of abolition.

    Or, you can read Calhoun’s Southern Address in which the main issue of contention is slavery (and was signed by the thirty-six Congressmen from the South).

    There’s also the Democratic Party Platform (Breckinridge), 1860 (i.e., the Southern Democrat-Douglas ran in the North). Note the numerous references to “the rights of persons and property” in the Territories, and the desire to see to it that the Fugitive Slave Law was enforced in all states.

    And there is always Gov. Pickens’ Address from the Charleston (SC) Courier, 12/18/1860

    In the Southern States there are two entirely distinct and separate races, and one has been held in subjection to the other by peaceful inheritance from worthy and patriotic ancestors, and all who know the races, well know that it is the only form of government that can preserve both and administer the blessings of civilization with order and in harmony. Any thing tending to change or weaken this government and the subordination between the races not only endangers the peace, but the very existence of our society itself. We have for years warned the Northern people of the dangers they were producing by their wanton and lawless course. We have often appealed to our sister States of the South to act with us in concert upon some firm and moderate system by which we might be able to save the Federal Constitution, and yet feel safe under the general compact of union; but we could obtain no fair hearing from the North, nor could we see any concerted plan, proposed by any of our co-States of the South, calculated to make us feel safe and secure. Under all these circumstances, we now have no alternative left but to interpose our sovereign power as an independent State, to protect the rights and ancient privileges of the people of South Carolina.

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    More Civil War Blogging

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:44 am

    Okay, let’s take the challenge up a notch.

    Readers have (politely, I would note) proferred the following arguments:

    1) “The primary issue was not slavery, but the rights of the states.”

    2) “At the time, people generally regarded themselves as “Virginians first, Americans second". We can’t really conceive of that now, which has a lot to do with the effect of the Civil War.”

    3) That the states had the right to leave.

    In regards to the first two arguments: the question then becomes, what “right” were they fighting for? The answer: the right to hold slaves. I just don’t see how one can get around that. What other rights were they fighting for? The right to secede? But then you have to tell me why they wanted to secede. I am familiar with this line of reasoning, as it is one I have engaged in myself-and one that I eventually rejected by taking it to its logical conclusion. The argument that the Confederate states went to war on the principled abstract issue of the rights of states falls flat because all analytical roads lead to the fact that the issue was slavery. Name me the other right that the Southern states were willing to take up arms to defend. The bottom line is that it makes us feel better to say that the war was fought over a principle, states’ rights, than the institution of slavery.

    What was the oppression of the South by the North that would necessitates the taking up of arms? Where were the actions by the Congress that created the ire that grew in the South? FInd me the issue that isn’t directly linked to slavery, and I will re-evaluate my position.

    In regards to the “right to leave"-yes, that was argued at the time, by Southern politicians, as well as the right to nullify the acts of Congress by the states. However, neither secession nor nullification, are constitutional principles.

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    Sending Rummy Packing

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:18 am

    I can think of the following reasons which might reasonably result in Rumsfeld reisgning, or being asked to resign, in regards to Abu Ghraib:

    1) His orders led to the abuse.

    2) He covered up the abuse.

    3) His removal would lead to a boost in military morale and effectiveness,

    4) His removal would erase the public diplomacy damage created by the photos.

    It strikes me that none of these circumstances exist or would be created by Rumsfeld’s removal. As a result, I see no need for it.

    While there are reasonable people who think he should resign (such as Megan McArdle), I simply don’t see such an act as accomplishing anything. Rather, barring additional information, it seems to me to be an over reaction to call for his head.

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    Sitemeter Fun

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:53 am

    After getting nothing all day yesterday, this message greeted me last last when I tried to see what the deal was with my Sitemeter:

    Friday, May 7th Dear Valued Customer:

    Today the hard drive of the SM5 Site Meter server, where your account is located, failed. When we attempted to restart the server, the hard drive in it would not boot.

    We have setup a new server and are currently working to recover the files from the old server and will have it back up as soon as possible.

    Thank you for your patience during this process.

    Ah well. And I was having a really good week traffic-wise, too.

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    Friday, May 7, 2004
    Agreeing with Drum

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:52 pm

    Since I have been criticizing Kevin Drum of late, I will note thatwe do agree on the best ballot format:

    Overall, I’m still a fan of fill-in-the-bubble ballots, which are paper based, highly reliable, easy to count, and leave an automatic audit trail.

    I have stated before that the knee-jerk move to touch screens was a mistake and that optical scan ballots are the way to go.

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    More Economic News

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:47 pm

    Robert Tagorda has a nice post on the current job numbers and the political significance thereof.

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    Civil War Blogging

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:43 pm

    Several weeks back, a debate emerged in regards to how to view Confederate soldiers, specifically those from the CSS Hunley who were recently given a funeral. I started to write on it at the time, but never got beyond some partial thoughts. However, yesterday Jeff Quinton had a lengthy post on the Hunley yesterday, which re-sparked my thoughts on this subject.

    Let me say, I find this to be a difficult topic, and I am by no means trying to pick a fight with anybody. However, over the last several years I have found myself thinking quite a bit about the appropriate view of the Civil War, and specifically how we should view those who fought for the CSA, especially in terms of memorializing them as equal to those who fought for the Union. While there is a certain amount of respect that should be afforded to anyone who defended, to death, their homes, it is the case that what one fought for matters greatly.

    The debate emerged, in part in response to this NRO piece by W. Thomas Smith Jr. which discussed the funeral for the crew of the CSS Hunley. Wrote Smith

    True: Slavery is indeed the greatest scar on the national soul. But chances are the men who went down with the Hunley would have been no more concerned with whether-or- not slavery would have continued (or been extended into the western territories of North America) than a 21st-century soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine might have concerned himself with what particular U.N. resolutions Iraq violated prior to March 2003. For the most part, American combatants-then as now-take up arms for one reason only: Their nation calls them to do so.

    This fact is best illustrated in one of the more popular stories of the Civil War. During a lull in the fighting, a Union officer asked a captured Confederate soldier if he was a slaveowner. When the young Confederate answered, “no,” the officer asked why he was fighting on the side of the rebellion. The prisoner simply responded, “because you’re here.”

    This provoked Steve Bainbridge to say

    In my book, the Hunley’s crew were traitors and rebels who tried very hard to rend asunder the nation Lincoln called “the last best, hope of earth.” When I think of the dire consequences a confederate victory would have had not just for Americans but for the whole world, I cannot have much sympathy for those who perished on the Hunley.

    And while I admit to having reservations at employing the terms “traitors"-strictly speaking it is not incorrect. And while Smith refers to them as coming to the call of “their nation"-in point of fact, they did not. The were citizens of the United States of America until such a time as their states illegally withdrew from that entity and took up arms against “their nation".

    As a conservative of southern heritage-with my Mother and her family coming from Alabama specifically (so I am not just a southerner by way of Texas, which isn’t the Deep South, but I have a substantial Deep South branch of my family tree), I am not what feddie of Southern Appeal warns against: “non-Southern Conservatives bashing the Confederate cause". I have spent the preponderance of my life in former Confederate states (Texas and Alabama) and all of my family, to my knowledge, are from Southern states. I was given a generally positive view of the South, and while I remember being told at a fairly young age that it was good that the Union won, there was still a sense that the CSA had some justification in the war. This is a prevalent view, I think, but I also think that most people in the South who hold that view don’t really give the issue the consideration that it deserves.

    However, as noted above, I have given this topic a great deal of thought since moving to Alabama in 1998, and can’t get around the following: the main reason, indeed really, the only reason that the Civil War was fought was to protect the institution of slavery. Yes, the battle cry was over “states’ rights” but in this case the state right in question was the right to hold slaves. (And I am not one who thinks that the modern usage of the phrase “states’ right” is racist code. However, in the 1860s, it is rather difficult, to put it mildly, to argue that it meant anything other than the “right” of states to allow slavery.)

    And it wasn’t as if the Union Army preemptively invaded the South to eradicate slavery. Indeed, the South made the first move, militarily speaking.

    The funny thing is that I used to be more agnostic, if you will, on the Confederate battle flag and held less intense opinions on the general subject of the Civil War prior to moving to Alabama. My experiences here have brought into sharp focus the fact that clinging to, and glorifying, the Civil War period does two very damaging things to the South. First, it exacerbates racial divisions, which have not fully healed, and second, it keeps a large percentage of the population looking backwards, rather than forward.

    It is therefore no leap to note that memorializing the Hunley soldiers has problematic overtones.

    Jeff’s recent post also re-raises the “treason” question. He asks

    If the men fighting for the Confederacy were all traitors then why did they all eventually have their citizenship restored and why were none of them, including Jefferson Davis who was held in Fortress Monroe for a time after the war, tried for treason?

    This is actually pretty easy to answer: in internal wars, such as the US Civil War it is normally quite necessary to allow some, if not all, of the defeated belligerents to resume their roles in civil society, sometime even in prominent political positions, given the delicate nature of turning armed factions into non-warring ones (there are a number of very good examples from Twentieth Century Latin America). To fail to do so might lead to the resumption of violence. It is a practical consideration that often even is necessary in wars between

    The bottom line in all of this is that I am not sure what the justification is today for seeing Union and Confederate soldiers as moral equivalents. For that matter, the continued exaltation of the symbols of the Confederacy, including the Rebel Battle Flag, strikes me as wrong and not really about “heritage” (although I am in the decided minority on this one where I live).

    As someone who is, at my ideological core, a classical liberal who believes that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is it hard for me to not see slavery as the greatest crime that this country has ever committed, in a collective sense. Given that the primary purpose of the rebellion that led to the formation of the CSA was to protect the institution of slavery, how can I support the exultation of the symbols of the Confederacy? Especially when one considers that a military victory by the CSA would have resulted in the dissolution of a country that has grown into the greatest example of liberal democracy the world has ever seen?

    Surely the decision to decide which side was “Right” in a war is the one whose victory is the most desirable outcome. And there can be no doubt, therefore, that Union represented the “Good Guys"-that only leaves, like it or not, the “Bad Guys” for the Confederates. I just don’t see any logical way around this fact.

    I would further note, that had the CSA won, the South would be far worse off economically than it is now. Had the South won, the social and economic structure that was in place would not have led to industrialization, but rather to an agricultural economy not unlike many of the poorer Latin American countries in the late Nineteenth Century (i.e., land concentration in the hands of a few with vast number of free poor persons, and, of course, a slave class). It was in the interest of the citizens of the CSA to have lost, to be honest.

    (Ok, let the slings and arrow fly…)

    UPDATE: Posted as part of today’s Beltway Traffic Jam.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 2:37 pm

    Is it just me, or does the press go into spasmodic joy every time someone apologies for something?

    They about busted a seam when Bush said he told the King of Jordan that he was sorry about the Iraqi prisoner scandal, and now they are pleased as punch that Rumsfeld has apologized.

    If you need to get your apology fix, I would recommend this one.

    While I am by no means opposed to the concept of apologies, and do think they are warranted at times-I just find the recent fixation on them to be remarkable.

    And, I might say, Go Joe, as Senator Lieberman rightly noted this morning, that al Qaeda hasn’t apologized, nor has anyone from Fallujah apologized for killing and mutilating those contractors. I haven’t been able to find the actual bite in text form yet, but have heard on the radio several times now.

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    John O’Neill

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:53 pm

    Kos (whom I had quit reading, but came across in searching for some info), dubs John O’Neill, a member of the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth (and more here from 5/4’s WSJ), a “GOP hack".

    He main proof? O’Neill clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. Now, I hate to break it to Kos, but it is not the case that SC Justices simply select ideological clones as their clerks (Antonin Scalia, for example, often chooses clerks who don’t agree with him ideologically, on purpose (for example, from this week’s Newsweek: Scalia likes to hire liberal clerks who spar with him in his book-lined chambers.”)). And, quite frankly, I would be of the opinion that anyone who was bright enough to clerk for any SC Justice, liberal or conservative, is almost automatically not a “hack"-whether they are libs or cons. (Further, the suggestion is that Rehnquist himself is a “GOP hack"-which it ridiculous on its face).

    Now, clearly, O’Neill is a conservative, and a Republican. Yes, Nixon thought him the perfect foil for the young Kerry, but none of that makes the man a “hack.” And the fact that seems to scandalize Kos the most is that one of O’Neill’s law partners was a General Counsel to Governor George W. Bush-which hardly means much of anything vis-a-vis O’Neill. Indeed, having now read the information that Kos provided, I am more prone to take O’Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans far more seriously.

    I am not arguing for a return to the debates of the 1970s (as I have noted before), but it seemed worth noting who at least one of the more prominent SBVs is-and to defend him from unfair characterizations.

    Here’s the link to O’Neill’s firm: Clements, O’Neill, Pierce, Wilson & Fulkerson.

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    More Trouble for Air America

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:13 pm

    Chairman, partner leave Air America

    In yet another sign of trouble for Air America Radio, the liberal talk network’s co-founder and chairman, Evan Cohen, resigned Thursday along with his investment partner and vice chairman, Rex Sorensen.

    The company also failed to make its scheduled payroll Wednesday, leaving its staff of roughly 100 writers and producers unpaid until Thursday.

    The radio network has been on the air for only five weeks. On April 30, it was pulled off Chicago’s airwaves because of a payment dispute.


    Last week, co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Walsh resigned (he remains a senior adviser), and programming chief Dave Logan was forced out.

    So much for the idea that one can create such a network over night.

    And lest I be mis-undetrstood: I would applaud a successful liberal show or network. What I have scoffed at from the beginning, however, is the idea that they could create such a network out of thin air without the commensurate hard work necessary for any successful business venture. It demonstrates a remarkable lack of understanding about markets.

    And, why would a talk radio outfit need writers?

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    Atkins Takes a Bite out of Krispy Kreme

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:06 pm

    High-flying doughnut maker Krispy Kreme hit by low-carb craze

    The low-carb diet craze could mean some belt-tightening at the onetime high-flying doughnut company, Krispy Kreme.

    For the first time since becoming a public company in 2000, Krispy Kreme is warning of lower profits for the upcoming fiscal year - about 10 percent below prior forecasts.

    Somehow, this just strikes me as so very, very wrong.

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    Status II

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:11 pm

    Sorry about the slow load on the site today. Something is wrong with my sitemeter-which hasn’t been working since this morning.

    I am going to move the code to help the thing load faster. I don’t know what the deal is-hopefully it will come back to life shortly.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 10:23 am

    I have been out and about running errands and such, hence the lack of bloggerific pontification.

    Normal blogging should resume later today.

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    Thursday, May 6, 2004
    Gee, We Wouldn’t Want to Commercialize Baseball!

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:25 pm

    Hmm, I wonder which fans protested? Surely no one with a corporate sponsorship of their stadium. Maybe it was the team that has no rotating billboards behind homeplate, or ads on their scoreboard. Maybe they root for the team that has all the guys who play for free. Probably it was the guys whose team has no commercials during broadcasts and that gives away tickets for free. Yup, the good ol’ traditionalists.


    Spider-Man Gets Picked Off Base

    Spider-Man ads on bases didn’t fly with baseball fans. A day after announcing a novel promotion to put advertisements on bases next month, Major League Baseball reversed course Thursday and eliminated that part of its marketing deal for “Spider-Man 2.”

    “It isn’t worth, frankly, having a debate about,” commissioner Bud Selig said in Oakland before the Yankees-Athletics game.

    “I’m a traditionalist,” he said. “The problem in sports marketing, particularly in baseball, is you’re always walking a very sensitive line. Nobody loves tradition and history as much as I do.”

    After Selig and others heard the backlash, Spider-Man got picked off base.

    And, at the same time I saw this story, I received an e-mail alert from the Dallas Morning News with this info: Ballpark to become Ameriquest Field in Arlington

    Texas Rangers’ officials will announce Friday that their home stadium will be known as Ameriquest Field in Arlington.

    The team reached an agreement with Ameriquest Capital, the parent of Ameriquest Mortgage Co., after months of negotiations. It’s expected to be a 30-year deal worth about $75 million.

    The horror! Oh, where has all the purity gone in sports?

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    By Steven Taylor @ 4:39 pm

    Chris Lawrence has been made an offer. One guesses he took it.

    Congrats to him, because being a newly minted Ph.D. without a job ain’t no fun.

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    Good Jobs News

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:12 pm

    Jobless Claims Hit 2000 Low

    America’s employment outlook brightened on Thursday after the government said jobless claims dropped last week to their lowest since 2000, bolstering expectations for strong numbers in the April jobs report.

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    More Blogging Advice

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:38 pm

    Michele of A Small Victory has a useful post on blogging. I especially like her suggestions on e-mail from readers (not that I get all that much).

    I especially like her statements regarding the fact that blogs aren’t newspaper-I do get some of the “Why aren’t you covering X!” mail and comments. Simple answer: “I didn’t want to for any number of 100 or more reasons, but no, it is not a tacit admission that I support X and/or am trying to hide it.”

    My own .02 cents on the subject of why people may or may not link to a post: what one thinks is a brilliant or interesting post may not be thought to be so by anyone beyond yourself. I have written posts (like this one from last Sunday) and then think “someone will probably link to this one, or at least comment on it” and then I get nothing. Sometimes an utter throw-away post gets some attention (this one that got three links and a decent amount of traffic) or a normal post generates a lot of traffic (like my Moore post yesterday) that I by no means expected

    In short: never expect that a particular post will receive any notice. Just write what you find interesting and then find polite ways of generating attention for your site.

    Ain’t nothing you can do to guarantee success.

    And James is right: the best thing you can do is go back in time and start before there was so much competition.

    Hat tip: OTB

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    A Suggestion for the Weekly Standard

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:00 pm

    Jeff Goldstein notes that the Weekly Standard lacks a weblog. Now, I know that James Joyner has said he’d be happy to blog for them, and while Robert Tagorda is gunnin’ for the Atlantic Monthly, I suspect he’d be happy writing for the Standard, and, as pointed out earlier, I am struggling to get out from under the Thumb of the Man.

    This strikes me as an obvious synergy that Barnes and Kristol need to pay attention to, as I suspect that Jeff, James, Robert and myself would be happy to group blog for the Standard. And what more could they ask for? Two polisci PH.D.s., an English Prof and guy who is going to Harvard for grad school.

    It strikes me, at least, as a no brainer.

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    The Last Episode

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:09 am

    Unlike many I am quite ambivalent about the end of Friends-I have likely watched no more than two complete episodes, and a handful of snippets via channel-flipping over the years. One of the ones I did see was where Ross had to figure out where to send his pet monkey, and engaged in a search of zoos akin to a parent looking for the proper college for their child, and it was amusing-although clearly it didn’t hook me. (As James Joyner notes-you can spend all day reading about Friends, if you would like).

    However, all of this has me thinking of the phenom of the “Last Episode” and was trying to think of last episodes from long-running shows and whether or not they lived up to expectations.

    First, my vote for Best All Time Last Episode: Newhart-the idea of having Bob Newhart wake up in bed next to Suzanne Pleshette in the bedroom set from the Bob Newhart Show, and therefore having the entire run of Newhart having been a dream was one of the most inspired, perhaps the most inspired, end of a show ever.

    Most Disappointing Last Episode of All Time: Seinfeld. Now, I have seen this final Seinfeld several times in re-runs and have enjoyed it more now than I did the night it ran. I enjoy the clips, having all the bit characters show up was cool, and in many ways Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer deserve what happened to them. However, it is still a downer and certainly not up to the level of the high quality of the show. I would have preferred that they did go to the West Coast and Jerry get his show.

    One of My Personal Least Favorites: Mad About You-while I always like last episodes to say what happens next, the idea that Paul and Jamie would get divorced (even though they got back together) seem to fly in the face of a show that was called Mad About You and was about, well, how madly in love the couple was supposed to be.

    Other shows:

    Star Trek: The Next Generation: I enjoyed the last episode, even though the future that it projected bears no resemblance to what came later in the development of Trek.

    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: It was too confused and convoluted a plot and too faux-spiritual. I rate it as OK.

    Star Trek: Voyager: I enjoyed that one, and it did what most last episode should do: it gave you some idea of what came next while taking care of key lingering questions from the show (in this case: the “do they make it home?” question).

    Cheers: It was ok. As I recall, I was dissatisfied with the way they handled the return of Diane.

    I remember watching the last episode of M*A*S*H when it first aired, but I remember practically nothing about it.

    I am blanking on any other examples. Of course, there are only so many many shows that last long enough to go out on their own terms and have a Big Final Show.

    Any one else have any suggestions?

    UPDATE: A reader reminds me of what may well by my overall favorite: “Sleeping in Light,” the last episode of Babylon 5. Truly an excellent capstone to an excellent series.

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    Kerry Link-fest

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:38 am

    Sean Hackbarth has his latest House of Ketchup.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 9:36 am

    I had an epiphany yesterday-after reading about Michael Moore’s plight regarding his movie and Disney’s decision not to distribute it, I noted he said the following:

    “At some point the question has to be asked, `Should this be happening in a free and open society where the monied interests essentially call the shots regarding the information that the public is allowed to see?’ “

    This is where my epiphany comes in, as I realized that I have been a victim of the same sort of manipulation by monied interest! Yes, it is true! I have toiled to write columns (that were no doubt brilliant) and yet, have had editors pass on them-indeed, in some cases multiple editors! Further, I have no syndication deal and no one has offered to pay me to blog.

    Yes, it is clear, the Man is keeping me down.

    Where is the justice? Where is the outcry? Why can’t I do whatever I want, say whatever I want and have other people pay me for it? Is the public not being denied my views? My wisdom?

    Fight the Power!

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    Wednesday, May 5, 2004
    Crminals Overtake Guerrillas

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:10 pm

    Criminals Supplant Rebels in Kidnappings

    Common criminals for the first time supplanted Colombia’s main rebel group as the worst kidnappers, carrying out 27 percent of 314 abductions reported in the first three months of this year, authorities said Monday.

    The overall number of kidnappings, however, continued to decline, with a massive 46 percent drop from January to March 2004 compared to the same period last year, the government’s Planning Department, which is in charge of statistics, said in a report.

    The leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, took 66 people hostage-a 67 percent decline compared to the first trimester of 2003. Common criminals were blamed for 85 abductions.

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    Bush to Request More Funds

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:47 pm

    Bush to Seek $25 Bln More for Iraq, Afghanistan

    President Bush will ask Congress for an additional $25 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, breaking a pledge not to seek more money before the November election, congressional aides said on Wednesday.

    White House budget director Joshua Bolten and other senior administration officials have started briefing key lawmakers on the revised spending plan, which would add the money to Bush’s proposed budget for fiscal 2005 starting Oct. 1.


    The $25 billion would come on top of Bush’s two previous spending bills for Iraq and Afghanistan totaling some $160 billion.

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    Campaign Like it’s 1971

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:39 pm

    This isn’t a new story, but I thought it interesting to note that it has hit the mainstream press, and in Kerry’s hometown newspaper no less: Kerry’s commanders speak out against him

    A group of former officers who commanded John F. Kerry in Vietnam more than three decades ago declared yesterday that they oppose his candidacy for president, challenged him to release more of his military and medical records, and said Kerry should be denied the White House because of his 1971 allegations that some superiors had committed ‘’war crimes.”

    This is really starting to feel like a bad flashback to the early 1970s. Indeed, one of the organizers tangled with Kerry right after the war:

    Meehan said the commanders were motivated by partisan politics and noted that a lead organizer, John O’Neill, had ties to the Republican Party stretching back to the Nixon White House. The Kerry campaign showed reporters a photo of O’Neill meeting with President Nixon in 1971 and copies of favorable evaluations of Kerry by Elliott and Hibbard.

    As I pointed out the other day, we withdrew from Viet Nam over a quarter-century ago and so all of this borders on the silly. Could we please debate the relative merits of the two candidates’ political careers?

    And I agree with James Joyner, this isn’t going to damage Kerry very much, if at all.

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    Who Studies this Stuff? (and Why?)

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:22 pm

    Britons Using Text to Break Up More Often

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    Enough with the Hillary ‘08 Conspiracies

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:17 am

    Joe Gandelman outlines some of Dick Morris’ theories about why the Clinton’s memoir is due in June. The short version: to screw Kerry cuz Hillary wants Kerry to lose so she can run in 2008. Joe is skeptical, as am I. Indeed, the whole “Hillary wants the Dems to lose” theory has struck me as ludicrous from the beginning. That Hillary wants to be President, I have little doubt, but that she would sabotage the Democratic Party in 2004 (aided and abetted by Bill) strikes me as over-the-top. For one thing, while the Clintons are influential and powerful, they aren’t that powerful. For another, that seems to take the whole paranoia about the Clintons to a ridiculous level. And as I like to point out: Bill couldn’t keep his dalliance with Monica a secret, yet he and his wife are going to manipulate the 2004 elections and no one is going to find out?

    Here’s a more plausible theory as to why Bill’s book is coming out in June (or any time prior to the election, for that matter): to capitalize on High Political Season. Since people will be focused on politics, why not release the book into that climate?

    Publishing is a business, after all.

    Another theory: that’s when the book will be finished and ready for distribution-it is no secret that Bill has been slow in the writing of the book and the publisher, which paid a hefty advance, likely wants to book as soon as it possible, and summer reading season/the aforementioned political season would be pretty decent timing.

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    • The American Mind linked with Kerry's House of Ketchup #10
    Moore and the Mouse

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:45 am

    The NYT has the following story concerning Michael Moore’s new film, Fahrenheit 911 and Disney’s decision to block Mirmax (which they own): from distributing the film: Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush.

    The charge from the Moore people is as follows:

    Mr. Moore’s agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney’s chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush’s brother, Jeb, is governor.

    I find that to be a dubious charge, as I question whether the governor of Florida has those kinds of powers. More likely than not, this is a PR issue-and Disney sorely needs good PR these days, and wants to avoid bad press (although this move is going to generate some). There can be little doubt that Moore is controversial and I have not doubt that this new film will be inflammatory. Hence, this makes sense to me (especially given Disney’s recent PR woes):

    “It’s not in the interest of any major corporation to be dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle,” this executive said.

    The story notes:

    Miramax is free to seek another distributor in North America, but such a deal would force it to share profits and be a blow to Harvey Weinstein, a big donor to Democrats.

    Of course, Moore claims it is some kind of censorship:

    Mr. Moore, who will present the film at the Cannes film festival this month, criticized Disney’s decision in an interview on Tuesday, saying, “At some point the question has to be asked, `Should this be happening in a free and open society where the monied interests essentially call the shots regarding the information that the public is allowed to see?’ “

    This is amusing because, 1) he has no problem with “monied interests” when they are bankrolling his projects, and 2) movie making is a business (certainly not a right), and 3) it isn’t as if Moore is being denied the right to make his film, show his movie, or even have his movie distributed-it is just a question of whether Miramax is going to do it. I guarantee that the movie will be distributed and the Moore will go on tv stations and radio stations across the land (all controlled by “monied interests") to promote the film. And, I suspect he will make some cash along the way.

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    Fruit Politics

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:27 am

    Since I am constantly given the state legislature a hard time, I figured I should point out when they do something I approve of, albeit over a small thing: House turns down plan to label produce

    The Alabama House voted Tuesday night not to consider a bill that would have required grocery stores to put labels on fruits and vegetables showing the country of origin.

    The bill, proposed by Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, failed when it did not receive the three-fifths vote required to bring a measure up for consideration.

    Supporters said it would have protected consumers by letting them know if fruits and vegetables were coming from a country with lower health and sanitary standards than the United States.

    Let’s face facts: the goal here wasn’t public health, but a hope that if produce was labelled “grown in Alabama” or “grown in the US” that some folks would buy it instead of stuff grown in Mexico or Chile. It was at worst a blatant attempt to appeal to xenophobic tendencies in the minds of some, and at best a crude marketing ploy.

    To suggest that foreign grown fruits are somehow dangerous because they come from “dirtier” countries is playing to stereotypes. Further, considering that Latin American fruit has been a staple in grocery stores around the country in substantial quantities for over twenty years (in the case of some products, longer than that), I would think that it is pretty obvious that they do not present a health risk.

    And yet, you get this rather remarkable statement:

    “We need to know where that fruit and those vegetables are coming from so we know whether or not to eat them,” said Rep. Allen Layson, D-Reform.

    And, of course, labelling would simply drive up the price of all the fruit, both foreign and domestic, which is bad for consumers.

    Not to mention there are enough stupid little stickers on my fruit as it is.

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    Carnival News

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:45 am

    Confessions Of A Political Junkie: Carnival will be hosting next week’s Carnival. Send him a link to get in on all the bloggy goodness.

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    Tuesday, May 4, 2004
    More on Rall

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:01 pm

    Joe Carter notes more insanity from Ted Rall. I normally think things like what I am about to say are trite and a poor excuse for rational discourse, but one does wonder why Mr. Rall continues to live in a country defended by what he sees as the moral equivalent of the Nazi SS. The man’s bile is so remarkable that one has to wonder if it isn’t all an act designed to acquire as much attention as possible.

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    What Do I Know?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:56 pm

    Ok, I will admit that I know next to nothing about American Idol, save that I know that Ruben won last time (and I know that as much from the fact that he is from Alabama as any other reason) and that he beat some guy named Clay and that it appears that Ruben could eat three or four Clays for a snack. I know Simon is obnoxious and that some Asian-ish fellow sang really poorly on the show and got a record deal.

    That exhausts my Not-Very-Hip-Guy (and never was) knowledge of this pop culture phenom. Even if I was Hip, I never have cared for these talent show things.

    At any rate, I also know that Elton John (him I am aware of) alleged that the show was racists in its voting.

    However, I have seen the current cover of Entertainment Weekly, which has the six finalists from the show and the group consists of four African-Americans, someone who could be of Asian or Hispanic descent, someone who could be Italian or Hispanic descent and a white dude.

    Where, pray tell, is Sir Elton seeing racism?

    Granted, no big in the grand scheme of things, but it simply struck me as odd.

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    Wilson on the GOP

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:34 pm

    That’s okay-I am pretty sure that most Republicans think the same thing about Joe Wilson ;)

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    In Defense of Bainbridge

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:20 pm

    Steve Bainbridge attempts to make a point about elitism and secularism in the leadership of the Democratic Party. This has led Kevin Drum to come down on him for class-based economic reasons and Matthew Yglesias seems to think that the issue is race.

    In the Prof’s defense, may I point out the Drum isn’t reading Bainbridge very carefully, as he thinks that Bainbridge is stating that the Republicans are good for the middle class, while Drum thinks that the Republicans are taking away from the middle class and giving to the wealthy. Setting aside for a moment that thesis (which is incorrect, in my opinion), economic class issues aren’t Bainbridge’s main point-and not the reason he uses the term “Middle America". For one thing, he is using a very specific definition of “Middle America” (which he cites from a book by Lasch (which I am unfamiliar with) that is essentially dealing with cultural issues-ye olde “family values", religiosity, traditional (in the man-woman v. other combos sense) view of marriage, and so forth, i.e., the traditionally conservative view often associated with “Middle America” in a metaphorical sense-and how those values are viewed scornfully by many at the elite level in Democratic Party circles.

    This is neither a race-based argument, nor even one specifically about economic class. It is about basic value conflicts in our politics, and one of the more significant ones in current partisanship: the secular v. the religious.

    I am somewhat baffled by Drum’s argument that the Republicans are shifting the tax burdens from the upper to the middle classes. Speaking as about as a middle class taxpayer as one can find, the Bush tax cuts have been quite helpful to me. Of course that is anecdotal and a single case. However, if we look at the federal income tax the IRS data (excel sheet-ref page here) show that the top 50% of wage earners pay 96.03% of the income taxes, and the top 5% pay 53.25%-hardly illustrative of a transfer of tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class. I am aware that these percentages do not hold for payroll taxes. However, empirically I don’t see this great transfer of wealth from the middle to upper.

    UPDATE: I shouldn’t carp too much about people not reading carefully enough, as Prof. Bainbridge has already defended himself and quite well, I might add. He rightly notes that Drum missed the point and/or changed the terms of the debate.

    UPDATE II: Steve Verdon weighs in on the fiscal part of the discussion.

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    In Defense of Kerry

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:09 pm

    Hugh Hewitt notes the following:

    John Kerry, speaking today at an Anti-Defamation League event:
    “For all of its history, ADL has been self-asked to live up to one of the oldest most fundamental principles of civilization. It is actually one of the Commandments as we know: ‘Love your neighbor.’ And all of you are yourselves showing courage, because it can be bitter, it is tough. Bigotry, hatred, fear, drive people to do things that are inexplicable, and it is hard in any community to stand up against that, but it is vital.”
    John Kerry -connecting again with yet another audience. ADL is a largely Jewish organization, which is not likely to recognize John Kerry’s “commandment” as one of the big 10.

    Now, to be fair, while the admonition to “love your neighbor as yourself” is associated primarily in the US with Jesus, it is an Old Testament commandment, although not one of the “Ten” (you know, the one’s made famous first by Moses, and later by Roy Moore).

    Jesus discusses the two “greatest commandments” in Matthew 23:34-40, in response to the question, posed by the Pharisees, as to which was the greatest commandment.

    Jesus quotes the Old Testament, including the greatest commandment, in Deuteronomy 6:5, which refers to loving God, and to Leviticus 19:18:

    You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

    It is hard to get more jewish than Leviticus. It is certainly a command from God to the Jews.

    Now, it may well be that Kerry thought he was referencing the Ten, but it is also possible that he knew what he was doing. In short: of the many criticisms one can level at Kerry, this one won’t fly.

    Hat tip: Ipse Dixit.

    UPDATE: This is my entry in today’s Beltway Traffic Jam

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    • Brain Shavings linked with Rev. Kerry's Commandments
    • Brain Shavings linked with Rev. Kerry's Commandments
    Fed Stands Pat

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:36 pm

    Fed Holds Interest Rate at 46-Year Low

    The Federal Reserve held a main short-term interest rate at a 46-year low Tuesday in an attempt to keep the economy humming.

    And if anyone needs the Words of the Fed translated, economist Brad DeLong does the honors.

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    Let the Excitement Begin!

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:33 pm

    Gore to Buy NewsWorld Cable

    Former Vice President Al Gore plans to announce on Tuesday that he has acquired cable television channel NewsWorld International from Vivendi Universal to launch a new liberal network, a source familiar with the matter said.

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    • EGO linked with GORE TV
    Things in the News That I Really Don’t Want to Hear About

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:28 pm

    Today’s entry: Michael Jackson’s underwear.

    Talk about the stuff that nightmare are made of…

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    Awash in Cash

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:09 am

    Bush, Kerry Awash in Money

    This year’s presidential race-fueled by more than a million donors, including many who have never given before-is well on its way to becoming the country’s first $1-billion political campaign, experts say.

    The money is coming in small donations and large ones, online and in the mail, from wealthy philanthropists and immigrants who can’t even vote. In part, it represents unprecedented interest in the campaign from people throughout the country.

    and, I hear, from a fox in a box and on a train in the rain…

    The only question now is how long before the hand-wringing starts in earnest about all that awful money in politics.

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    Blogs Hit the Academy! (Sorta)

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:59 am

    For the first time, I am getting student papers that cite blogs in their bibliographies. Amusingly, one student cited PoliBlog (this post on Mill’s Harm Principle), however I am fairly certain that the student didn’t know who owned the site. Rather, the second item that comes up on a Google search of “harm principle” gives PoliBlog so I suspect the usage was utter serendipity. A second paper, in another class, cites one of Joe Carter’s posts on immigration at the Evangelical Outpost.

    Of course, what this actually reflects are the poor research skills of students who think that putting keywords into Google equates to research. It further demonstrates that they lack the skills needed to discern whether what they have found is news, opinion or scholarly analysis.

    More evidence that Google is the new “research” tool: another student made wide use of Wikipedia.

    Back to blogs: what this further demonstrates is the prevalence of blogs in search engine results. We are everywhere.

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    More Evidence of Why I Should Utterly Avoid Rall

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:43 am

    Normally I avoid Rall-but this (in the context of his Pat Tillman toon being pulled from seemed worthy of comment:

    Rall said in the cartoon that Tillman - who gave up a $3.6-million National Football League contract to join the military and then died last month - “falsely believed Bush’s wars against Iraq and Afghanistan had something to do with 9/11. Actually, he was a cog in a low-rent occupation Army that shot more innocent civilians than terrorists to prop up puppet rulers and exploit gas and oil resources.


    Rall, who risked his life in Afghanistan himself as a visiting cartoonist/writer after 9/11, told E&P: “The word ‘hero’ has been bandied about a lot to refer to anyone killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. But anyone who voluntarily goes to Afghanistan or Iraq [as a soldier] is fighting for an evil cause under an evil commander in chief.”

    “Tillman gave up millions of dollars,” Rall added. “To that extent I think he’s admirable, but the cause is not. … He would have been a better person and a better husband if he took the $3.6 million and played football and left the poor and beleaguered people of Afghanistan and Iraq alone.”

    First, I can accept an argument that states that the Iraq war has nothing to do with 9/11, or even with the war on terror (I disagree, but can see a reasonable argument for the position), but to claim the conflict in Afghanistan has nothing to do with 9/11 is patently false. Further, regardless of what one thinks about Bush, to pretend that the Afghan people were better off under the Taliban is insane.

    And, while it is accurate to say that anyone who goes to Afghanistan is risking one’s life, to compare going over as an Army Ranger vs. as a “cartoonist/writer” is perhaps one of the most absurd comparisons I have seen in some time.

    Hat tip: The American Mind.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 9:26 am

    Who is this “Dennis” of which you speak?

    Race Continues for Kucinich.

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    Excessive Cliche Usage! Five Yards and Repeat the Down

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 am

    First, the title: Heinz Co. Relishes Political Neutrality.

    Then the first sentence: “H. J. Heinz Co. is in a pickle.”

    Make that ten yards.

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    Running for School Superintendent-in-Chief

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:47 am

    Ok, this is one of my pet peeves (and both parties do it): Kerry Blasts Bush’s Education Policy.

    Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry pledged Tuesday to push for 1 million more high school graduates within five years and blamed President Bush for failing to provide enough money to help schools raise academic standards.

    What, I ask, does the President of the United States have to do with graduation rates in High Schools? (Plus, there is another pet peeve here: the use by politicians of those perfect big, round numbers like 1,000,000 or 100,000, etc.).

    And can anyone spot the irony is this statement?

    “It is time to stop shortchanging our education reforms and get this done right,” Kerry said in remarks prepared for a campaign appearance in Albuquerque, N.M. “This administration is not paying attention to graduation rates and is hiding the fact that more than 1 million kids drop out every year. We cannot let empty rhetoric and misleading test scores count as real results.”

    We won’t get into the fact the Kerry voted for the No Child Left Behind Act.

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    Roy Moore Updates

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:18 am

    The World Around You brings us more Moore 4 Prez rumors and news that that the deposed Chief Justice is getting his own radio show in Birmingha.

    Like the state doesn’t have a enough problems.

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    Whaddya Know: Economic Growth is the Key

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:10 am

    Federal Deficit Likely to Narrow by $100 Billion:

    Smaller-than-expected tax refunds and rising individual tax receipts will pare back federal borrowing significantly for the first half of this year and could reduce the $521 billion deficit projected for the fiscal year by as much as $100 billion, Treasury and congressional budget officials said yesterday.


    “The 5.5 percent average [economic growth] pace in the latest three quarters was the largest since 1984,” said Mark J. Warshawsky, assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy, in a statement to the department’s borrowing advisory committee. “With the assistance of tax cuts, growth has become self-sustaining.”

    So the supply-siders will point out that tax cuts that lead to economic stimulus do help tax receipts, while the anti-tax-cutters will point out that if the tax cuts were smaller, then the deficit would be even smaller. Of course, we won’t get into the question of whether we wouild’ve had allt hat growth without the stimulus.

    And both sides will have to live with the fact that a lot of this is cyclical.

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    Monday, May 3, 2004
    The “Biographical Fallacy”

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:11 pm

    John Zimmerman, writing in the Oregonian, discusses John Kerry and the biographical fallacy of politics

    So Kerry is more qualified to lead the country in its current war, right?

    Wrong. Kerry might well be the better war president, but the reason has nothing to do with his own exploits in battle. By invoking his wartime heroism, Kerry’s supporters reflect one of the worst trends in modern U.S. politics: the biographical fallacy.

    The fallacy goes like this: To know something you must experience it - directly, immediately and personally. So Politician A understands poverty, because he was born into it; Politician B understands business, because he succeeded in it; Politician C understands cancer, because she survived it.

    And Politician D knows all about war, of course, because he fought in it.

    As has been said, read the whole thing.

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    Basketball Blogging

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:54 pm

    Looks like Matthew Yglesias and I have something in common. Meanwhile, Prof. Bainbridge is on my side, too-but not so much becuase he is for the Spurs as it is he is against what the Lakers represent. Although Matthew’s position appears also to be less pro-Spurs than anti-Lakers.

    Still, I feel the warm glow of bipartisanship in the air.

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    Turks Nab Possible al Qaeda Militants

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:36 pm

    Turkey arrests suspected Al-Qaeda linked militants with NATO bomb plans

    Turkish anti-terrorist police have detained several militants with links to the Al-Qaeda Islamic extremist network who were preparing to carry out bomb attacks against a NATO summit in Istanbul next month.

    Sixteen suspects were detained in the northwestern city of Bursa after police tracked them for a year as they hatched plans to attack the Istanbul summit but also a nearby synagogue, Bursa governor Oguz Kagan Koksal told a press conference Monday.

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    Phrases I Don’t Expect to See…

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:16 am

    Nor one I expect to last:

    “The Rangers, the best-hitting team in the majors and the AL West leader…”

    Source: Rangers 4, Red Sox 3, 1st game; Rangers 8, Red Sox 5, 2nd game

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    Quip of the Weekend

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:12 am

    “It really gets me when the critics say I haven’t done enough for the economy. Look what I’ve done for the book publishing industry.”

    -President Bush, White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

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    Projecting the Election

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:22 am

    Election Projection has its newest analysis of the poll and is currently projecting a repeat of 2000.

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    I Guess Even He Thinks Air America is Doomed

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:52 am

    The Political Wire reports that Al Franken is considering a career move.

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    More Problems with France

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:50 am

    Eric, the Viking Pundit, reports on a serious short-coming of the French.

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    More Evidence that Campaign Finance Laws Don’t Work

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:17 am

    The real irony here is that both Bush and Kerry chose not to adhere to the spending caps during the primary, which is a process that is supposed to encourage small donors (because agreeing to the cap means getting federal matching funds from the feds for small donations): Small Donors Grow Into Big Political Force.

    From the ability to finds ways around campaign finance laws (e.g., the 527s and BCRA), to the fact that the stated goals of campaign finance laws don’t appear to come to pass (FECA was supposed to reduce the amount of money in politics, but it has steadily climbed upward since its initiation), one would think that policy-makers and analysts would see what a sham these laws are. Instead we ended up with the First Amendement-bending BCRA.

    Campaign finance legislation is almost always motivated by the misguided notions that 1) money in politics is bad (it’s not, it is a neutral fact of life), 2) that money can be taken out of politics (it can’t-politics is, by definition, about money), and 3) that good intentions trump reality (they don’t).

    Further, the laws tend to forget the idea that giving money to campaigns is a mode of participation, as the cited WaPo piece illustrates.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Taking the Politics out of Politics
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    VeepWatch 2004

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:38 am

    Kerry’s Pick for No. 2 Remains Guarded.

    In interviews with more than 20 Democratic and campaign operatives with some direct or indirect knowledge of the process, it is clear that Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) are being officially investigated by Washington lawyers. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack apparently is also under consideration, as is Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) - each viewed as a moderate, midwestern balance for the Massachusetts senator.

    Of course, the lede cracks me up:

    Rarely has so much speculation generated so little information.

    As we go through this every four years-who will he pick? Could it be him? Could it be her? What about that guy? What about the electoral connection? What about the personalities? What about experience? etc. In this case there is clearly nothing new under the sun.

    What’s even funnier is that after saying that had so little info, they go on to give some of the hardest information that I have seen to date.

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    Sunday, May 2, 2004
    They Are Trying to Make Me Feel Old

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:34 pm

    They are currently showing Star Trek III: The Search for Spock on American Movie Classics-don’t they know that that’s the channel wih all the old movies?

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    He Said/He Said

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:12 pm

    I’m with Stephen Green: there’s no way to know whose account is accurate (go here to see what the story is), but I lean towards Bush. Just partisan politics? No - I have always found Clinton’s claim that terrorism was a huge priority to for him to be difficult to accept, and further it was hard to believe that he told Bush that bin Laden was the “#1 problem” for the new administration.


    Because there is little empirical evidence to suggest the Clinton administration was making terrorism and OBL a top ten priority, let alone anywhere near number one.

    Just consider the reactions (or lack thereof) to the Cole, the embassy bombings, and the Khobar Towers, to name three examples.

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    Drumming on Fallujah

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:10 pm

    Kevin Drum argues that the situation in Fallujah leads to the following:

    The conclusion is obvious to anyone willing to accept hard facts: conventional military force is simply not the right weapon for the war on terror.

    My initial reactions are as follows:

    1) Regardless of whatever very real criticisms that can be levelled at the handling of Fallujah, considering that the situation has not come to full completion, one cannot draw any hard and fast conclusions at this point, especially one that is as encompassing as the one he draws.

    2) Indeed, one cannot generalize to the entire war on terror from the events in one city.

    3) Military action has worked out fairly well in Afghanistan in terms of destroying the Taliban as a governing body, and eliminating Osama bin Laden’s training camps.

    4) Really, conclusions regarding the effects of the war in Iraq vis-a-vis the war on terror are wholly premature.

    5) The only real measure of the efficacy of the general policies in place would be a) number of major attacks on the US since 911 (that would be zero), b) the number of major international attacks since 911 (there have been some, most notably the Bali attack, the Madrid bombing and the attacks in Saudi Arabia-although the degree to which US failing are responsible for any of these is questionable), and/or c) the number of al Qaeda operative and leaders arrested (not to mention assets and such seized)-and there have been a number of those, owing in many cases to military action.

    6) Since Kevin states that “George Bush has fought this war foolishly, but that’s been clear for over a year at least” it seems that he really isn’t reaching conclusions based on careful consideration of Fallujah, but rather simply restating an opinion that he has had before the invasion of Iraq even started, and using Fallujah as an excuse to do so.

    Indeed, quite the opposite to Kevin’s “obvious” conclusions, it would seem that if one looks at the facts, the militarized approach to the WoT has been successful, albeit not perfect-but what is?.

    I will concede that Kevin does note that military action will be necessary at times, and that he is talking primarily about troops on the gound-which really is mostly a criticism of the Iraq policy, not so much the more general conclusion that “convention military force is simply not the right answer.” And, I suppose, it depends on how one defines “conventional military force.” If he means an invading force, then again, this is a critique of Iraq as part of the war on terror, not on the way the war on terror has been prosecuted in general. However, that conclusion is hard to reach as well, since he argues that Bush doesn’t understand how to fight this war, so I suppose he is including Afghanistan and all of the points made above (#5). There have been successes in the WoT and, to borrow a phrase, “anyone willing to accept the hard facts” has to come to the same conclusion. It may be that Kevin’s argument is that a different approach would have been more successful, or, it may be that he see not successes at all. Still, his critique is clearly aimed at Iraq-if so, fine, but then the intellectually honest thing to do is not to conflate all of the anti-terror policies of this administration into Iraq, or, even worse, simply into Fallujah.

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    • VodkaPundit linked with Required Reading
    • Wizbang linked with Slam Dunk
    Amusing Facts about Alabama’s “State Spirit”

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:29 pm

    From Conecuh Ridge declared state ’spirit’ we find:

  • “Conecuh Ridge has been given as gifts to Korean automobile officials and to Fidel Castro in Cuba, so it is making a name for itself in many places”
  • It has only been a legal product for about a year and a half: “Conecuh Ridge hit the shelves 18 months ago and is available in ABC store all across the state and is moving into Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi."-prior to that it was moonshine (from 1940 to 1990).
  • Currently, it isn’t even made in Alabama: “Conecuh Ridge is being made at a family distillery in Kentucky, but May said plans are to begin making the fine whiskey at a Conecuh Ridge distillery in Alabama in the near future.”

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    • The World Around You linked with Alabama's State Spirit
    Druming up Support for the ‘Skins

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:29 pm

    Steve Bainbridge is trying to get loyal Cowboys fans to root for the Redskins.

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    Short Memories, Poor Analysis and the Press

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:27 pm

    I wonder to the degree to which this is as unique as many analysts are currently trying to make it out to be:

    amid all this sound and fury, many strategists in both parties think that “real world” developments in the economy, the struggle against terrorism and the occupation of Iraq are likely to influence the November result more than anything the campaigns do.

    Source: LAT

    Isn’t this just a complicated way of noting that typically it is the incumbent’s job to lose? I would submit that an incumbent and challenger never start off on equal footing and that the incumbent either has to have done something specific to warrant firing, or events have to be such that a change is deemed in the country’s best interest.

    Let’s look at some recent examples where incumbents were running for re-election:

    1996: What cause was there to choose Dole over Clinton, save for partisan policy preference? The economy was in good shape and there was relative peace in the land.

    1992: Had the economy been booming, or at least not in recession and/or if the Cold War had not ended, Bush would have likely been elected. The fall of the Wall took foreign policy off the table and so it was all about the economy, which was outside of Bush’s control.

    1984: One could apply similar logic to this race. The only question would be why such a gigantic landslide? From there we can get into personalities and policies (such as Mondale’s promise to raise taxes).

    1980: Surely the economy and that pesky problem with the Iranians had something to do with Carter’s demise, not just the fact that Reagan put on a great campaign. And certainly those issues were well out of Carter’s control by the election campaign.

    1976: Surely the single most important issue in that race was Watergate and Ford’s pardon (which, as least, is a specific action linked to the President. And while the pardon was of Ford’s making, the general political climate in the Watergate era wasn’t.

    1968: The fortunes of the Viet Nam war caused Johnson not to seek re-election. Yes, his polcies in Viet Nam were on trial, but the degree to which he could “control” those events was small.

    Now, it is the case that the incumbent president’s action concerning on-going events are key in re-election bids, but such elections are always affected by events outside the control of the incumbent, so I am not sure what is suposedly so sui generis in this election. Indeed, the economy is always beyonf the “control” of the President, despite what Presidents themselves say, and what the press thinks.

    Indeed, if one wants to get simplistic, isn’t a president’s re-election always predicated on the basic issues of peace and economic prosperity? While presidential actions affects those issue, they are certainly not controlled by anyone.

    The only thing different about this race than any since perhaps 1980 is that there is a major ongoing foreign policy operation underway that was initiated by the sitting president, but whose outcome is far from certain. However, this is hardly a unique event in the electoral history of the United States-indeed, it would seem that it closer to the norm than not.

    Really, the fact of the matter is that elections always turn on events outside of the control of the incumbent, and when things are going poorly, or are uncertain, this gives the challenger an opening through which to attack. Part of Kerry’s challenge isn’t that thing are demonstrably bad at this point, simply uncertain. Indeed, while uncertainly provides an evenue of attack, the advantage still remains with the incumbent, as making a change at the top simply fuels uncertainty. Of course, if thing go especially poorly in Iraq or in the economy, then a clear opening for a argument for change emerges.

    Still, I would reiterate: this is hardly a historically unique situation. Rather, this is just another example of the press looking so hard for a story that they ignore passed political patterns.

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    Biden is Correct

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:14 am

    Senator Biden is on Fox News Sunday and called the abuse of the prisoners the “single most undermining act” that has occurred in Iraq.

    I mst agree.

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    • The Daily Lemon linked with A little overboard?
    Not Good (To Put it Qute Mildly)

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:03 am

    Officer Suggests Iraq Jail Abuse Was Encouraged

    An Army Reserve general whose soldiers were photographed as they abused Iraqi prisoners said Saturday that she knew nothing about the abuse until weeks after it occurred and that she was “sickened” by the pictures. She said the prison cellblock where the abuse occurred was under the tight control of Army military intelligence officers who may have encouraged the abuse.

    The suggestion by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski that the reservists acted at the behest of military intelligence officers appears largely supported in a still-classified Army report on prison conditions in Iraq that documented many of the worst abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, including the sexual humiliation of prisoners.

    The New Yorker magazine said in its new edition that the report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba found that reservist military police at the prison were urged by Army military officers and C.I.A. agents to “set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses.”

    This partially rings of buck-passing, but hopefuly the truth will out. Further, I would like to think that setting “mental conditions favorable for interrogation” would not mean raping people with llight bulbs and broom handles. My word.

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    Good News

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:37 am

    American Hostage Is Found by U.S. Forces in Iraq

    American hostage Thomas Hamill, kidnapped three weeks ago in an insurgent attack on his convoy, was found by U.S. forces Sunday south of Tikrit after he apparently escaped from his captors, the U.S. military said. An official said he was in “good health.'’

    Hamill, 43, of Macon, Miss., was discovered when he approached a U.S. patrol from the 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry, part of the New York National Guard, in the town of Balad, 35 miles south of Tikrit, a spokesman for U.S. troops in Tikrit said.

    He identified himself, then led the patrol to the house where he had been held captive. The unit surrounded the house and captured two Iraqis with an automatic weapon, said the spokesman, Maj. Neal O’Brien.

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    Saturday, May 1, 2004

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:56 pm

    For anyone who would like to have a link to a dedicated page with this week’s Toast-O-Meter, go here.

    I am experimenting with this idea to see how it works out. This is based on the following suggestion. The idea is not to replace the link to the posted T-O-M, but rather to allow for a static address that would contain the weekly updates if one wanted to put a “Toast-O-Meter” link on one’s site.

    Hmm, I think I need to make a button for distribution…

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    More Concerns About Kerry

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:44 pm

    Tomorrow’s NYT has this depressing (if one is a Kerry supporter) title: Kerry Struggling to Find a Theme, Democrats Fear, and includes these rather remarkable examples of what would appear to be quite the errors on the part of the Kerry campaign:

    In Ohio, the state that strategists for Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush view as perhaps the most critical battleground, Mr. Kerry has yet to hire a state director or open a campaign office. His operation is relying so far on the work of committees working independent of the Kerry campaign.

    By contrast, Mr. Bush appointed an Ohio state director on Jan. 1, and opened a headquarters in Columbus, staffed by 13 people, three months ago, his aides said.

    The Kerry campaign has yet to open its own full-fledged campaign “war room"-staffed with researchers, tacticians and press aides-to deal with Republican attacks and systematically marshal surrogates to make Mr. Kerry’s case.

    One would think that a “war room” would have been set up immediately and that Ohio would be a key state for Kerry, given the outsourcing issue.

    All in all, rather remarkable.

    Hat tip: Frequent PoliBlog commenter and occasional guest-blogger on WizBang, Paul.

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    • Sha Ka Ree linked with Kerry Struggling for Theme?
    Cheney and The Man

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:07 pm

    From tomorrow’s NYT’s comes this interesting piece: The Ventriloquist Jokes Don’t Bug the White House.

    Some highlights:

    >Mr. Bush and his vice president of course sat side by side, and Mr. Bush did most of the talking. Commission members said the president answered tough questions without hesitation, and with little help from Mr. Cheney and Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel who also attended the session.

    This was hardly news at the White House, where no one doubts who is in charge. Although Mr. Cheney is the most powerful vice president in history, it is Mr. Bush who makes the decisions, overruling, if necessary, Mr. Cheney.

    Mr. Bush, for example, went to the United Nations over the vice president’s strong objections in the fall of 2002 to seek international support for a war on Iraq and overruled Mr. Cheney when the vice president wanted to inoculate every single American against a potential outbreak of smallpox.

    Bob Woodward’s new book, “Plan of Attack,'’ which is not uniformly positive for the Bush administration, nonetheless portrays Mr. Bush as decisive and engaged, and quotes Mr. Cheney as referring to the president when he is not around as “the Man.'’

    And I know people who think that this is true:

    Yet the perception persists among Mr. Bush’s most fervent critics: Mr. Cheney is de facto president, and a clueless Mr. Bush takes his orders from him. An angry left, still stinging over the 2000 election and now furious over the shifting reasons for war in Iraq, sees in Mr. Bush’s less-than-articulate news conferences a less-than-sharp mind. Therefore, Mr. Cheney must be running the country from under Mr. Bush’s Oval Office desk.

    “People on the left hear Bush discuss things in such simple ways, and yet carry off what seem to be diabolical plots so effortlessly, that they can’t believe it’s really him,'’ said David R. Gergen, the communications director to another president, Ronald Reagan, who was perceived by his critics to be manipulated by a powerful White House staff. “It’s almost impossible for people on the left to believe that simple-speaking people can be successful at politics, or can successfully govern.'’

    Which I just don’t get. True, Bush isn’t Mr. Eloquence off the cuff, but the idea that he is really a puppet of Cheney borders on the absurd. Sure, Clinton couldn’t hide hie Lewinsky fling, but Cheney can hide the fact that he’s the Man Behind the Curtain? Please. Especially with Bob Woodward poking around for two books in three years.

    And I think these are apt observations:

    Historians say that the perception that Mr. Cheney is in charge continues in part because he reflects a more recent trend, started under Bill Clinton, of influential vice presidents. In an earlier era, the historian Robert Dallek noted, Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy would never have wanted their vice presidents at their sides before a high-level commission.

    “Kennedy was very concerned not to let Johnson steal the show, particularly on domestic affairs,'’ Mr. Dallek said. “He pushed him into a corner. Bush doesn’t seem to be bothered by that, and maybe that speaks well of him.'’

    All of this discussion of Bush’s self-assuredness and his being “hands-on” and “in charge” will aid him greatly going into November, especially given Kerry’s current image woes.

    Although there is a downside: if things go poorly in Iraq (to truly disastrous levels) this will mean Bush will bear more direct blame.

    Query: Who’s old enough to get the ref in the post’s title?

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    It’s Back: The Mayday Edition of the Toast-O-Meter

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:59 pm

    -Toast: It’s not Just for Breakfast Anymore!-

    The Toast-o-meter: A Weekly Assessment of the Race to Be Either the Next President of the United States or, well, Toast.

    After a two week hiatus, the Toast is back in town!

    I am going to be experimenting with the Toast-O-Meter over the next several editions to tweak the format. Feedback is always welcome.

    -Who’s Looking Toastier this Week?-

    If one simply looks at the most recent numbers, it is clear that we remain where we have been: basically a statistical tie. For example, one can consult the following:

  • Some state-level numbers are out and Polls Give Encouraging News to Bush. More state-by-state numbers here.
  • Other polling news here and especially here.
  • And here are the Zogby numbers.

    So, let’s look into the key questions of the week:

    This week’s Slice2Slice Q&A (a.k.a., “Riddle Me This, Toastman!"):

    Q: Will Nader siphon any consequential votes from Kerry?

    A: Nader may not even make it to the ballot in all fifty states, and right now there is sufficient anger aimed in his direction, that I think he will have far less impact this go ’round. Currently polling is exaggerating his effect, in my opinion.

    Q: Will Kerry be able to adequately excite the base?

    Answer: At this stage, and I think this will hold, the answer is NO. The base will be excited, however, to vote Bush out of office. Kerry will not be a huge motivation for voting, however. This will help the Democrats, but not as much as they would be helped by both a passion to oust the incumbent and an exciting candidate. This is like Dole v. Clinton-the Rep base wanted Clinton to go, but Dole was hardly a motivating force in and of himself.

    Q: Will frustrated conservatives, or which there are some, stay home? (for example).

    A: I predict much of this frustration will dissipate, or at least be sublimated, in time for November. And the phrase “President Kerry” should be sufficient to allay some of the annoyances that some Cons feel towards Bush.

    Q: Will a Roy Moore movement emerge and place him on the ballot as a Constitution Party candidate, and if so, will be a “Nader of the Right"?

    A: While I think there is a chance Moore’s ego will drive him to the Constitutional Party, I have a hard time seeing him siphon off too many Bush votes. For one thing, Bush is quite popular in the evangelical community, which is where Moore would theoretically have a shot. I see him getting less than Buchanan did in 2000. I am not even certain that the CP can get on all 50 state ballots.

    Q: Doesn’t the Viet Nam issue help Kerry, given Bush’s Guard problems and Cheney’s deferments?

    A: There are four reasons why I think that Viet Nam really isn’t as big a help to Kerry as he thinks it will be:

    1) He has reached the point of a near-pathological need to mention Viet Nam at every turn. Not only does it come across as odd after a while, it also makes him sound at though he is living in the past. And the President must be looking forward, not backward. Plus, six-ish months of service in Viet Nam is only part of his record-he needs to do more than highlight one set of events.

    2) The real issue for these men are what they have done lately, i.e., Kerry’s service in the Senate (and to a lesser degree as Lt. Gov. of Mass.) and Bush as President. Viet Nam was 30+ years ago. Bush’s service at the White House and Kerry’s in the Senate are far more immediate. Clearly, Kerry is trying to build his defense bona fides in Viet Nam. Bush builds his on his time as President. In terms of resume items, Bush’s is a stronger foundation: he wants to be re-hired as President. If they were both applying for jobs as Navy Lt’s in the Mekong, Kerry would have the edge.

    3) The Viet Nam business also evokes flip-floppery, after he stated in 1992 that bringing up service in Viet Nam wasn’t appropriate in a campaign-back then, however, he was protecting fellow Democrat, Bill Clinton. Anything that reinforces Kerry’s waffle problem is bad news for his campaign.

    4) There is an inherent liability for Kerry in Viet Nam: his post-war experience, and simply because he was anti-war. The problem emerges that he both wants to be a War Hero and an Anti-War Hero. Even more significant than that, he wants to be a War Hero, but also a self-proclaimed War Criminal who exposed the Evils of the War. These are mutually exclusive positions. Not only does self-identifying as a war criminal raise a host of problems, but also trying to proclaim oneself a hero at the same time raises the whole flip-flop issue in spades.

    The Real Question of the WeekTM: what will be more persuasive to swing voters: Kerry’s critique of Bush and the argument that he will do better, or will Bush’s resoluteness and arguments that he has been a successful war president carry the day?

    A: My guess is that Kerry is going to have a hard time making in-roads with swing voters. Let’s fact facts-he is having a hard time with his natural constituency (some examples: here, here, and here-not to mention the Gore Part II business). I predict that once we reach the summer and into the general election campaign, when voters really take a good look at the candidates, that Bush will come out substantially ahead on the issue of terrorism and Iraq. And the economy appears to be in full recovery, taking that issue mostly off the table, and in Bush’s favor.

    Kerry’s problems are twofold: 1) he offers no clear alternative (save for the fact that he isn’t Bush, and he isn’t even making the argument for a fresh face very effectively) and 2) he has acquired a reputation of irresoluteness. Those in favor of Kerry can argue that the reputation is unfair or GOP-generated all they like, but the point is he has a real problem-even Maureen Dowd (April 29th-linked above) describes Kerry as “a challenger who seems unable to stick to one side of any decision, right or wrong” and states that “Mr. Kerry errs on the side of giving the answer he thinks people want to hear"-so this isn’t some artifact of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

    THIS WEEK’S READING OF THE TOAST-O-METER: Kerry is looking toastier, but Bush is still feeling some heat. The final toasting is far from being complete.

    -News and Topics Shaping the Direction of the Campaign Trail-

  • The economy is an issue, and while much looks Bush-ish such as the GDP figures, PoliBlog: consumer confidence and improving job situation, but as USAT notes there are numbers that help Bush and Kerry.
  • The Economist discusses The warrior president.
  • Kerry had a “jokes that write themselves” couple of weeks: SUVs, PBJs, River Deltas, and batmen. All of which adds up to continued reinforcement of his waffler problem.
  • Kerry and the Communion Flap: Kerry Takes Communion After Vatican Edict.
  • Of course, the Kerry medal flap was one of the major stories of the past two weeks.
  • Kerry got a little cash boost from Gore.
  • It would seem that we are going to have to continue to re-live the Viet Nam draft issue some more: Cheney’s Five Draft Deferments During the Vietnam Era Emerge as a Campaign Issue. One interesting observation about the Cheney situation, is that Kerry is inadvertently helping to make the President look Presidential, while lowering himself to attack-dog status by going after the Veep, rather than the Prez.
  • The BBC has more on the Viet Nam-based tactics of the Kerry camp: Kerry queries Bush on Vietnam.
  • The prisoner scandal is likely to persist for a while, as all the facts emerge: Iraq Prisoners Faced ‘Sadistic’ Abuses-Magazine.
  • Kerry Decries Treatment of War Veterans.
  • The handling of Fallujah will be significant in the debate over the war-the questions will be: can Kerry capitalize? and, will it damage Bush? (aside from the military issues at hand, of course). More links here.
  • And there was the Nightline business. Kevin Drum comments on it here (with linkage to other coverage as well).
  • Bob Novak reports that some are urging Biden for Vice President
  • Kerry’s VP suitors lend, not extend, a hand
    (i.e., NADER)
  • Nader Wants Filmmaker Moore to Come Home
    Ralph Nader wants renegade filmmaker Michael Moore to end his dalliance with the Democratic Party and return to his anti-establishment roots.

  • The unwelcome candidate? Nader’s Tough Road Ahead

    As the Green Party candidate in 2000, Ralph Nader was on the ballot in 43 states and Washington, D.C., and received 2.7 percent of the national vote. This year he is experiencing the wrath of Democrats and many Greens because of his decision to run again in 2004. Called everything from a spoiler to words not fit for print, Nader is undeterred and has vowed to continue his quest to get on the ballot in all 50 states.

  • Nader’s former media adviser says Nader shouldn’t run this time.

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    • Outside the Beltway linked with Toast-O-Meter Update
    • From Behind the Wall of Sleep linked with Fine Political Commentary
    • Signifying Nothing linked with Toast returns from haitus
    • Wizbang Sideblog linked with PoliBlog
    • King of Fools linked with Monday Morning Toast
    What a Colossal Headache

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:48 pm

    Computer Woes Ground All Delta Flights

    All Delta Air Lines flights were grounded by a computer glitch Saturday afternoon, company officials said.

    “Right now, there are no flights going out,” said Liza Caceres, a company spokeswoman. “Our main computers are down. We are working as fast as we can to get our passengers back in the air.”

    Wowie. I am certainly glad that I am not flying this weekend.

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    The Eastern Bloc: Dead and Buried

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:35 pm

    European Union’s New Nations Mark Entry

    The EU swelled from 15 nations to 25 by taking in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, along with the Mediterranean nations of Cyprus and Malta. Together, they boost the EU’s population to 450 million.

    Ireland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, kicked off a “Day of Welcomes” with festivities ranging from Slovak folk dancing in Cork to a Hungarian poetry reading in Sligo to a banquet of eastern European delicacies in the streets of Dublin.

    Spirits were high across most of the region, where hundreds of thousands were celebrating their countries’ return to the European mainstream 15 years after shaking off communism.

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    More Fun with the Alabama State Legislature

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:49 pm

    Writes the editors of the Montgomery Advertiser today:

    Thanks to their Legislature, Alabamians now have had their lives enriched and their pros pects enhanced by the addition of new official state stuff. The citizenry is blessed now with an official state spirit - a whiskey that is the first commercial product ever so designated and should be the last - and with an official state fruit.

    Devotees of the blackberry prevailed in the debate over naming a state fruit. A Chilton County legislator pitched the peach for which his county is justly famed to join the blackberry as a sort of co-official state fruit. (If this keeps up, there may soon be an official state fruit salad.) The watermelon and tomato had support as well, but in the end the blackberry got the nod.

    Earlier in the week, the queen honey bee won the unanimous approval of the Alabama House of Representatives to be the official state insect, a stinging defeat for partisans of the mosquito and the boll weevil.

    Even with these weighty matters settled, there is plenty of official state business to attend to. The General Fund budget comes to mind.

    No joke.

    This echoes my column from a couple of weeks back.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 11:37 am

    Trying to explain the technical drawbacks of cassette tapes to a four year-old who is used to CDs and DVDs can be quite a challenge. The concept of having to wait for the thing to rewind/explaining that it won’t keep repeating like the CD are both lost on the child in question.

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    Souter Assaulted on Jog/Suffers Minor Injuries

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:28 am

    Justice Souter assaulted during jog

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter was assaulted by several men Friday night and taken to a hospital with minor injuries, according to a court spokeswoman.

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    Once Again: No More Moore

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:58 am

    Alabama Chief Justice’s Ouster Upheld in Ten Commandments Case

    n ad hoc Alabama Supreme Court on Friday denied the appeal of Roy S. Moore, the former chief justice who was removed from office in November for defying a federal judge’s order to stop displaying a Ten Commandments monument in the State Judicial Building in Montgomery.

    The temporary court voted 7 to 0 to uphold Mr. Moore’s ouster, writing that the evidence against him was so “sufficiently strong and convincing” that the lower court “could hardly have done otherwise.” Mr. Moore responded in a statement that the court was “illegally appointed, politically selected,” and that “the people of Alabama have a right to acknowledge God and no judge or group of judges has the right to take it from them.”

    One wonders when he will finally get the hint.

    This June’s Republican Primaries in Alabama will be an interesting test of Moore’s political strength, as several of the candidates are linked to Moore and thus his influence over the Republican Party of the state will be put to the test.

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    Most Annoying Song of All Time?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:38 am

    While I recognize that there is a vast universe of awful songs out there, I am thinking in terms of song that endure over time and that one has an actual chance of encountering in commercials, at restaurant, in movies, on TV and as muzak. Further, it is a song that gets easily stuck in one’s head.

    I nominate: Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore"-further, it has some of the dumbest lyrics of all time.

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    Space Opera

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:32 am

    Sounds like someone has been reading the Kim Stanely Robinson Mars books, and have taken them a tad too seriously.

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    BobbleHeaded Politics

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:13 am

    Schwarzenegger: Stop making bobblehead dolls.

    Okay, I am not sure I get the problem here, because it seems to me that this sort of thing is common once one has been elected to office. However, I am not sure what the law on the subject is. Still, I can’t imagine, for example, that the President can object to similar items, or that he gets royalties for the use of his image.

    Further, since this is a charity item, I am not sure Arnold is doing himself any PR favors here.

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    The Carrier Speech

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:26 am

    If I may point out, those who wish to characterize the Bush speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln and the declaration of the end of major combat operations (and yes, the “Mission Accomplished” banner as a speech intended to proclaim our entire involvement in Iraq to be complete, I would note the following quotes from Bush’s speech:

  • “We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We are pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We have begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated.”

    (And yes, I know the response from some on the WMD question-I still think that that issue is not wholly solved, as while I do not think that caches will be found, the weapons that he did have have still not been accounted for).

  • “We are helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools for the people. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave - and we will leave behind a free Iraq.”

    Source: Text of Bush’s speech

    I can accept an argument that the speech did not sufficiently deal with the issue of rebuilding. I will concede that the administration has consistently done a poor job of clearly outlining what has to be done. However, to argue that this event was supposed to signal that that mission is Iraq was over is to ignore the words spoken that day. The mission that was accomplished was the toppling of Saddam-that we did accomplish.

    I agree that the speech is primarily remembered for the banner, which fits into my Iron Law of Speeches: the sound bites are what matter (in this case, a specific image). And, I certainly understand how critics of the administration didn’t like the landing at the time, or now

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