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Friday, December 31, 2004
One of My Favorite ‘Toons of All Time

By Steven Taylor @ 9:39 pm

A couple of months ago, I was griping about comment spam and mentioned a Peanuts cartoon in which Linus provides Snoopy with one of the best threats ever-a threat that I wanted to become the Blogger’s Anti-Spam Creed. At the time I asked if anyone had the toon that I would love to have a copy of it. Well, reader Danny Pifer came through:

And if you look at my original post, I did a fairly good job of remembering the line-not bad for a cartoon that I haven’t seen in 18-ish years.

Many thanks Danny!

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A Sure Sign of Age

By Steven Taylor @ 9:13 pm

With the exception of a professional display, I officially hate fireworks: they wake up the kids, scare the dog, can cause a fire, and somebody could get hurt. Do I sound like someone’s Dad yet? (Oh, yeah, I am someone’s Dad…).

Plus, as a bonus sign of age: I really couldn’t care less if I am up tonight at midnight or not.

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On Terrorism and Revolutions

By Steven Taylor @ 3:18 pm

Leopold Stotch, blogging at Outside The Beltway, hits one of my pet-peeves:

What Americans need to realize is that there really is no such thing as terrorism; there are revolutions you support (freedom fighters) and those that you don’t (terrorists). But to label a person or a group “terrorist” is to say nothing more than that you disagree with their claims and their cause.

I wholly disagree with the whole “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” line of thinking. For one thing, not all who fight for freedom use terrorism, and certainly it would seem that most who employ terror aren’t fighting for freedom. I see, for example, no freedom fighting in what al Qaeda has done, and certainly the PLO’s utilization of terror has hardly resulted in much freedom for anybody.

Terrorism is largely a tactic, and a group is defined by the degree to which that tactic accurately describes its basic operation. I see terrorism (and I defined it online here) as the specific targetting of civilians in order to foment fear, which, is created in hopes of changing the policies of governments. I do not see all collective political violence as terrorism-I certainly don’t see guerrilla movements as terrorists, per se (although they may engage in terroristic tactics at times, which, granted, blurs the lines a bit). However, if one takes a group like al Zarqawi’s that detonates car bombs in markets and kidnaps workers and beheads them on camera, one is dealing with something quite different than, say, the FSLN in Nicaragua prior to the revolution (or the Contras after the revolution) or the FMLN in El Salvador during its civil war. In one case you have a very small group that is trying to create terror in the population, in another you have an army that emerges to attempt to confront the state militarily.

I had a piece along these lines at TCS a while back (What’s an Insurgent? What’s a Terrorist?).

Further, I disagree with Stotch’s oversimplification of all groups which utilize violence as being part of a revolutionary movement. Not all collective political violence is necessarily revolutionary in nature-certainly I am not certain that I would want to term al qaeda’s aims as “revolutionary” in the normal usage of the term (at least as a term of art in political science/sociology).

Of course, I don’t consider the American Revolution a true “revolution” (in the French, Russian, Chinese, Cuban, Iranian or Nicaraguan sense), but rather a war of independence. That, however, is perhaps a discussion for another time.

Update: This is from a comment I left below, which may help illustrate my position further:

Pablo Escobar, of the Medellin Cartel, used car bombs in places like shopping mall garages in Bogota in the 1990s to scare the upper class so that they would force the government to capitulate to certain demands by the cartels. This was clearly terrorism, but was there was no freedom fighting involved and no revolutionary aims were present, yet it empirically was terrorism. No need to be normative in my definition, either: quite straight-forwardly a group of persons who could not militarily challenge the state used the fomentation of fear in the population in the hopes that that fear would lead to governmental action-in this case, the cessation of extraditions to the US of Colombian nationals. It worked, by the way.

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Another Major Extradition from Colombia

By Steven Taylor @ 2:29 pm

Colombia Extradites Rebel Leader ‘Trinidad’ to U.S.

The most important rebel commander ever captured by Colombia was sent to the United States on Friday to face cocaine smuggling and kidnapping charges.

Colombia’s president authorized the extradition of Ricardo Palmera, alias “Simon Trinidad,” after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish initials FARC, failed to comply with an ultimatum to free 63 hostages including three Americans.

A federal court in Washington wants Palmera for trafficking 11 pounds or more of cocaine and involvement in kidnapping the FARC’s American hostages.

Palmera, arrested in neighboring Ecuador in January, was handed to U.S. officials at a Bogota military airport and put on a U.S.-bound plane

This will, no doubt, infuriate the FARC leadership. It is also a demonstration of the continued unprecedented level of cooperation between Colombia and the United States.

President Uribe is, without a doubt, the most pro-US president Colombia has ever had. It is remarkable that his popularity remains as high as it has given that fact. OTOH, his high popularity allows him to do things like this.

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Those Stingy Americans

By Steven Taylor @ 12:34 pm

Via ABC News/Reuters: U.S. to Increase Tsunami Aid to $350 Million

The United States plans to increase its aid to victims of Asia’s devastating tsunami to $350 million from $35 million, CNN reported on Friday.

Now, will there be retractions coming from certain quarters? We shall see.

Here’s the CNN story.

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Gifts to the Supremes (Especially Thomas)

By Steven Taylor @ 12:32 pm

Via the LAT we have an ineresting piece on gifts given to Justice Thomas and some of the other Supremes: Justice Thomas Reports Wealth of Gifts.

My first reaction was that the scrutiny of Thomas is beginning, given that he had been rumored to be Bush’s first choice to replace Rehnquist as CJ.

My second was that there is certainly something unseemly about the numbers in question vis-a-vis Thomas.

My third is that I am not sure where to draw the line, however, and that is doesn’t seem that there is an any evidence of these gifts being any time of serious potential influence over Thomas’ decision-making on the Court.

My fourth is that there is something to be admired, however, that several of the Justices have received little of no gifts of this type-although it bespeaks of Mr. Souter’s seemingly hermit-like exisitence that he seems to take no trips, give no speeches, etc.

In looking at the gifts, it strikes me that some of this is much ado about nothing. For example:

* $19,000 Bible from Republican donor

* $15,000 for a Lincoln bust from the American Enterprise Institute

Unless Thomas turns around and sells that stuff, I am not sure that the dollar figures matter all that much. The Bible, which is a lavish and nifty gift, is a symbolic one and doesn’t actually enhance Mr. Thomas’ wealth (again, unless he sells it). If one has a very wealthy friend, one might get that kind of gift. Of course, given that the wealty friend in question has direct links to the funding of the Swift Boat folks, the political synergy is quite significant.

Further, the statue from AEI is also not something that actually enhances his wealth, per se, and is more or less an award/a token of recognition (if one can call something worth $15k a “token").

The “$5,000 cash gift from a mobile [that should be “motor"-Ed.] home enthusiast” which was apparently used to “help pay a relative’s education expenses” does strike one at first as being possibily problematic. The story describes it as follows:

Another businessman who calls Thomas a friend is Earl Dixon. A pest control company executive in Jacksonville, Fla., and former Republican state legislator, Dixon is also a motor-home enthusiast — a hobby shared by Thomas. He said they met about four years ago at a motor-coach repair shop in Florida.

Their friendship grew, Dixon said, and when he learned that Thomas was raising a grand-nephew, he gave the justice a $5,000 check to defray his education costs.

“I enjoy talking with him. I enjoy visiting with him. He’s a class act,” Dixon said of the justice.

So, in many ways, it was gift to the young man in question.

Some of the gifts are simply the kinds of thing one gets for being a celeb and engaging in certain public events: “an $800 Daytona 500 commemorative jacket after Thomas served as grand marshal at the race in 1999″ and “$1,375 in cowboy boots, Stetson hats, rawhide coat and a silver buckle after engagements in Texas in 1995 and 1996″ (and I guess none of it was used much, if at all).

The bottom line is that it is clear that Mr. Thomas has made friends and received gitfts because of his position, which does create an unseemly air of profiting from his office. While individual gifts can be explained it is also the case that perhaps Mr. Thomas should tone it down a bit.

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Yanukovych Resigns

By Steven Taylor @ 12:05 pm

Via the AP: Yanukovych Resigns Post As Ukraine PM

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych resigned Friday, making a grudging admission that he was unlikely to reverse the presidential election victory of his rival and saying he could not work under him.

Vanukovych announced his move in a televised New Year’s Eve address, saying he would push ahead with his appeal to the Supreme Court against the election results that showed pro-Western reformer Viktor Yushchenko as the winner — though he admitted it was likely futile.

“We are still fighting, but I don’t have much hope,” Yanukovych said

“I have made the decision to submit my formal resignation,” he said. It appeared his resignation was effective immediately.

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By Steven Taylor @ 10:06 am

Briton Surfs Tsunami, Survives

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Yanukovych Loses First Appeal

By Steven Taylor @ 10:03 am

Via the AP: Yanukovych’s Appeal Rejected in Ukraine

Ukraine’s election commission rejected the entire appeal by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych against results showing he lost this week’s repeat running, saying he had not proved there were any mass violations, a commission member said.

Yanukovych will now appeal to the Supreme Court, said his campaign manager, Taras Chornovyl.

Hmmm, maybe he can move to the US and join a third party.

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Drezner on Aid

By Steven Taylor @ 9:53 am

Daniel W. Drezner has a lengthy, and interesting, post on the question of US international aid. It is based on like data and empirical evidence and stuff, and therefore better than, ya know, emotions and ideology.

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Bowl Blogging

By Steven Taylor @ 9:18 am

Well, so much for all the hoopla about how Cal was hosed out of the Rose Bowl, as they were pasted by Texas Tech last night in the Holiday Bowl: (23) Texas Tech 45, (4) California 31.

BTW, for the record, Texas beat Tech 51-21 this season.

Meanwhile, the Troy Trojans, in their first bowl game ever, jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead on Northern Illinois in the Silicon Valley Classic [if it is only 5 years old, how can it be a “Classic"-Ed.] and looked to be heading for a route, but couldn’t do much of anything after that, leading to a loss of 34-21. I watched the first half, but TiVo’d the rest (I am certainly glad I didn’t stay up to 2am to watch a loss-of course, it was pretty clear tht by the end of the 1st half that Troy was toast).

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Can You Say “Nuisance?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:10 am

Via the AP: Candidates Want Second Ohio Recount

Two third-party presidential candidates asked a federal court Thursday to force a second recount of the Ohio vote, alleging county election boards altered votes and didn’t follow proper procedures in the recount that ended this week.

Lawyers for Green Party candidate David Cobb and the Libertarian Party’s Michael Badnarik made their request in federal court in Columbus.

The two candidates, who received less than 0.3 percent of the Ohio vote, paid $113,600 for a statewide recount after the vote was certified earlier this month by the secretary of state. They have said they don’t expect to change the election results, but want to make sure that every vote is proply counted.

Earth to Cobb and Badnarik: this is a pointless waste of time and money. Go home and take up a hobby.

(And you aren’t doing the already tenuous image of third party candidates any favors).

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Update on US Aid to Tsunami Victims

By Steven Taylor @ 9:02 am

Via the AP: U.S. Expands Tsunami Disaster Response

The Bush administration broadened its response to the earthquake and tsunami disaster in South Asia and Africa with plans for Secretary of State Colin Powell to visit the region and assess what more the United States needs to do.


The president’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has experience with extensive hurricane damage in Florida, will travel with Powell. A congressional delegation headed by Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, a former U.S. foreign service officer, is scheduled to visit Thailand and Sri Lanka next week.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who often travels to blighted areas, said Thursday he plans to visit India to try to help victims of tsunamis that have left millions of people at risk of disease.

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Thursday, December 30, 2004
The Power of UN Demands

By Steven Taylor @ 3:32 pm

Whilst researching, I cam across UN Security Council Resolution 1267 on Afghanistan - Taliban Sanctions, adopted October 15, 1999, which includes the following:

Strongly condemning the continuing use of Afghan territory, especially areas controlled by the Taliban, for the sheltering and training of terrorists and planning of terrorist acts, and reaffirming its conviction that the suppression of international terrorism is essential for the maintenance of international peace and security,

Deploring the fact that the Taliban continues to provide safe haven to Usama bin Laden and to allow him and others associated with him to operate a network of terrorist training camps from Taliban-controlled territory and to use Afghanistan as a base from which to sponsor international terrorist operations,

Noting the indictment of Usama bin Laden and his associates by the United States of America for, inter alia, the 7 August 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and for conspiring to kill American nationals outside the United States, and noting also the request of the United States of America to the Taliban to surrender them for trial (S/1999/1021),


2. Demands that the Taliban turn over Usama bin Laden without further delay to appropriate authorities in a country where he has been indicted, or to appropriate authorities in a country where he will be returned to such a country, or to appropriate authorities in a country where he will be arrested and effectively brought to justice;

It sure helped that the Security Council did all that “condeming", “deploring” and “demanding", now didn’t it?

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A Source for Tsunami Video

By Steven Taylor @ 3:11 pm

I have discovered an alternative to trying to find hosted video of the tsunami: Bit Torrent. I had read about, but never used the file sharing tech until today. Via Iso Hunt I was able to find, with relative ease, several amature videos from more than one locale from the Indian Ocean tsunamis.

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Lessons in Supply and Demand

By Steven Taylor @ 2:07 pm

I am doing some work on a conference paper/article and came across the following graphics on Afghan opium production. Note the radical reduction in production in 2001 in the first graph, and then note the price in the next graph. Also note how price over time once production resumed.

Source: The United Nations’ Afghanistan: Opium Survey 2004.

Update: Part of today’s Traffic Jam.

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Washington Governor’s Race Update

By Steven Taylor @ 1:04 pm

Via the Seattle Times: Gregoire declared governor-elect, but Rossi wants new vote

After three vote tallies and 58 days of waiting, Democrat Christine Gregoire was declared Washington’s governor-elect today. But her Republican rival did not concede and wants a new election.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican, certified Gregoire, the three-term attorney general, as the winner of the closest governor’s race in state history. She won a statewide hand recount by a scant 129 votes out of more than 2.8 million cast.

But Republican candidate Dino Rossi, a former state legislative leader and real-estate investor, said the election was hopelessly flawed and that the Legislature should authorize a new election. He won both of the earlier counts.

Rossi also held open the possibility of contesting the election in the courts.

As painful as it may be for Rossi and for Washington Republicans, I am afraid that unless there is evidence of legitimate votes that have been uncounted, the only honorable and proper thing to do is to accept defeat and then work to win in 2008. It is the route John Thune took in 2002 (and that Richard Nixon took in 1960, for that matter). I thought that Al Gore’s court-based strategy was wrong in 2000, and I think that taking this to court for a protracted fight will be more damaging to Washington and Rossi than simply accepting the results.

Even without the court-allowed ballots, Gregoire won by 10 votes in the hand recount. Under the law, that is the method to determine the winner. A re-vote strikes me as problematic on a whole lot of levels. Rossi should work to fix whatever problems existing in this process and use that fight as a platform to further elective office.

Having said that, I have been most unimpressed with the statements I have read from the Gregoire camp, such as:

“This ain’t golf. No mulligans allowed here, folks,” Gregoire’s spokesman, Morton Brilliant, said Wednesday. “It’s irresponsible to spend $4 million in taxpayer money on a new election just because you don’t like losing this one.”

This is from a campaign that didn’t win until the third count. Yes, it was a legal count, but it was the third one-and of the three the one most likely to contain the highest percentage of errors (machine counts are more accurate than hand counts) and they make the rather unstatesman-like statement that there are “[n]o mulligans allowed"? I find that rather remarkable. Surely, gven the circumstances, a more understated approach would be warranted.

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Tsunami Video

By Steven Taylor @ 12:02 pm

Wizbang has links.

Update: An alternative source of video linked from here.

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By Steven Taylor @ 10:53 am

“Not everyone distinguished himself. What to say of those who’ve latched on to the tragedy to promote their political agendas, from the U.N. official who raced to call the U.S. “stingy,” to the global-warming crowd, to administration critics who jumped at the chance to call the president insensitive because he was vacationing in Texas and didn’t voice his sympathy quickly enough? Such people are slyly asserting their own, higher sensitivity and getting credit for it, which is odd because what they’re actually doing is using dead people to make cheap points.” - Peggy Noonan in today’s WSJ

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On the Politics of Contributions

By Steven Taylor @ 9:31 am

There is a graphic in yesterday’s Montgomery Advertiser which shows the initial pledges for tsuanmi aid as of 5 am cst on 12/28/04. (I have looked online in numerous places, but haven’t been able to find it. ) In the graphic, which shows the initial US pledge of $15 million (with a footnote indicating that the total was actually at $35 million), we see that at the time, Japan topped the US with a pledge of almost $30 million. Third on the list was Australia with $7.9 million.

Other initial pledges included: $3.9 from the European Comission, $3.3 million from Canada, $2.6 from the Netherlands, $1.8 from Denmark, $1.3 from Germany, $150,000 from South Korea and $100,000 from the UK.

Now, these are the numbers that were released at the time that so many were jumping on the US for not giving enough. If the issue was sincere criticism for lack of contributions, where was the outcry for the small sums form elsewhere?

Of course, as I noted yesterday, the bottom line was that cush criticisms were noting more that ideologically motivated statements. Further, as I also noted, initial pledges tell you nothing.

Here are some of the latest numbers from Reuters:

AUSTRIA: Pledged 1 million euros ($1.4 million) in aid to the countries hit.

BELGIUM: Military plane due to stop at Dubai to load most of its cargo - UNICEF aid such as tents, vaccines.

BRITAIN: Pledged 15 million pounds ($28.9 million) to the devastated area and has sent plastic sheets and tents worth 250,000 pounds to Sri Lanka. Contributing 370,000 pounds to EU aid and $100,000 to World Health Organisation.

CANADA: Initial contribution of $C1 million ($814,000) to appeal for $6.5 million by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

CHINA: Offering 21.6 million yuan ($2.6 million) of aid to India, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Sent planes to Sri Lanka and Thailand with drinking water and medicine, part of pledge of aid worth 10 million crowns ($446,000).

DENMARK: Increased aid pledge by maximum 85 million Danish crowns ($15.6 million) after spending almost all initial 10 million crowns pledged. Aid will cover immediate needs - medical supplies, food, water, shelter - and reconstruction.

UNICEF flight from its Copenhagen depot taking 45 tonnes of supplies to the area, including oral rehydration salts and medical supplies for 150,000 people for three months.

EGYPT: Egyptian Red Crescent Society sending a plane with 500,000 Egyptian pounds ($81,000) worth of medicine and other aid as initial step.

EUROPEAN UNION: Ready to release up to 30 million euros on top of 3 million euros already allocated to IFRC.

FINLAND: Pledged 2.5 million euros spread among World Food Programme, UNICEF, WHO and IFRC. Local aid groups contributed further 75,000 euros. Finnish Red Cross has sent a field hospital with 15 staff to Sri Lanka and 31 aid workers to Thailand.

FRANCE: Foreign Minister Michel Barnier in Sri Lanka, then Thailand. Has earmarked 100,000 euros for relief, sent 16 rescuers to Thailand, 10 tonnes aid to Sri Lanka.

GERMANY: Doubling emergency aid to 2 million euros. Air force medical evacuation plane to set off for Phuket, two more planes chartered to take disaster relief teams, medicines and consular officials there. Germany’s largest utility E.ON to donate 1 million euros.

GREECE: Sending C-130 transport aircraft carrying 25 rescue workers to Phuket on Thursday to help with rescue operations.

Has sent plane to Sri Lanka carrying five tonnes of food and clothing, and offered 150,000 euros in aid to each of the two countries.

ISRAEL: Sent one medical team to Sri Lanka, one to Thailand. Military search and rescue team due in Sri Lanka, held up by coordination problems.

ITALY: Will send 2 Hercules aircraft, one to Sri Lanka, one to Thailand.

JAPAN: Pledged $30 million in aid, sent three navy vessels to Thailand to help rescue survivors.

KUWAIT: Pledged aid supplies worth $2 million, sent $100,000 immediate aid.

NETHERLANDS: Contributing 2 million euros to Red Cross-Red Crescent appeal, plus participating in EU aid programme.

NORWAY: Preliminary contribution of 50 million Norwegian crowns ($8.2 million) for emergency relief, including basic necessities, medicines, food, clean water and shelter.

POLAND: Earmarked 1 million zlotys ($336,000) for Polish NGOs involved in relief.

SAUDI ARABIA: Pledged $10 million aid package - $5 million of food, tents and medicine to be distributed via Saudi Red Crescent, $5 million for international aid groups such as the Red Cross and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

SINGAPORE: Contributing some $1.2 million to global effort, military medical teams and supplies ready to fly to Indonesia.

SOUTH KOREA: Raises aid to $2 million, may send military cargo plane to move aid workers and supplies.

SPAIN: Sent aircraft to Sri Lanka with first aid, sanitary equipment and 19 volunteers, promised 1 million euros.

SWEDEN: Sent 2 communications specialists to help U.N. relief efforts in Sri Lanka. Sending tents and communications equipment to the Maldives. Swedish Red Cross to contribute $750,000 to IFRC appeal.

TAIWAN: Pledged additional $5 million to South and Southeast Asian countries, after giving $100,000 to Indonesia, $50,000 each to Thailand, India and Sri Lanka. Sends more than 100 relief workers.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Pledged $2 million in aid and its Red Crescent society will donate 30 tonnes of food, blankets and clothing to earthquake victims to be transported over this week.

UNITED STATES: Pledged initial $35 million. Pentagon ordered 12 vessels to region, though no decision taken on their role.

INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS: Cargo plane flying from Kenya to Sri Lanka carrying 105 tonnes of supplies, provide aid to 150,000 people in north and east. Trying to raise more than 50 million Swiss francs ($44 million).

IMF: Intends to provide assistance, no specific pledges.

UNHCR: Initially distributing $380,000 of non-food relief items, including 23,500 plastic sheets for shelter, 24,500 plastic mats, clothing, towels and 20,000 kitchen sets.

UNICEF: Delivered 50 water tanks to southern India, 45-tonne shipment of water purification tablets and water systems due to reach Sri Lanka on Thursday. WHO and UNICEF said they were providing four emergency kits to Indonesia to cover 40,000 people for three months, providing shelter, food and clothing.

U.N. WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: Sends 168 tonnes of commodities to Sri Lanka, plus more than 4,000 tonnes of rice, wheatflour, lentils and sugar, enough to provide 500,000 people with emergency rations for two weeks.

U.N. DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME: Provided $100,000 each to Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, the Maldives and Thailand to help assess damage and coordinate emergency needs.

U.N. POPULATION FUND: Earmarked up to $1 million and extra staff to help health needs of pregnant and nursing women.

And, no doubt, more is to follow.

According to a statement I read from SecState Powell, US aid will easily cap $1 billion.

On the issue of comparaite generosity, see: Outside The Beltway : U.S. Generosity.

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Trouble Brewing in Ukraine?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:13 am

Via the AP: Yanukovych Shows No Sign of Conceding

Ukraine’s pro-Russian prime minister showed no signs of giving in to pressure to step down following his defeat in the country’s repeat presidential election.

Viktor Yanukovych has refused to accept Western-leaning Viktor Yushchenko’s solid victory and on Wednesday asked the election commission to invalidate the vote. He has also dismissed as illegal a Dec. 1 parliamentary vote of no confidence in his government that gives him a maximum 60 days to leave office.

“It is a matter of my principles not to submit a resignation,” Yanukovych told reporters Wednesday. “I know why they insist on that … they are shivering with fear.”

The power-play over the resignation order is bad enough, but delaring that he won’t accept the election results (coupled with Russia’s statements from earlier in the week) doesn’t bode well for the current situation.

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Map of the Event

By Steven Taylor @ 8:44 am

Here’ s a fascinating map from the UN:

Not only does it give a better idea of the area of effect, but it also shows that while the tsunami took 2 hours to get to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia weren’t so lucky.

The yellow dots are major cities and the red dots are major coastal cities.

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Death Toll Continues to Rise

By Steven Taylor @ 8:19 am

Via Reuters: Tsunami Death Toll Jumps Over 120,000

The mercilessness of Asia’s tsunami grew clearer on Thursday as worst-hit Indonesia sharply raised its death toll, taking the number of fatalities around the whole Indian Ocean region above 120,000.

Health Ministry sources told Reuters just under 80,000 had died in Indonesia’s northern Aceh province that was close to the undersea quake, some 28,000 more than previously announced. Two sources said the toll would be officially announced soon.

Aceh, already suffering a prolonged conflict, has emerged as the “ground zero” of Sunday’s great earthquake just off its coast. It triggered monstrous waves all the way to Africa that killed thousands more in India, Thailand and elsewhere.

Sri Lanka, severely afflicted, raised its toll on Thursday by just under 3,000 people to 27,268.

Millions of people on Indian Ocean shores scrambled for food and clean water as disease, thirst, hunger and panic threatened survivors of the world’s most lethal natural disaster since a cyclone in Bangladesh killed 138,000 people in 1991.


And that last paragraph answers a questions I had from earlier in terms of natural disasters of similar scale.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004
More on the Politics of Disasters

By Steven Taylor @ 10:10 pm

I concur with Bryan of Arguing with signposts… and his assessment of the early warning problem and the tsunamis of earlier in the week. The bottom line is that when something like this happens, we want to blame somebody or something. It is, as I noted earlier, a key part of our modern mindset.

Bryan rightly dubs the speculation about might have been “irritating.”

Another irritating element of this story (from some quaters) are the gripes that a) Bush didn’t say something immediately (sorry, I really don’t expect, or want, an immediate reaction to everything in the world that happens from the President). Further, since any words he would utter are symbolic only (and the victims hardly have TVs to watch him on), then what difference does it makes whether there was an immediate reaction? I will grant that no doubt President Clinton would have been better at the cameras making a speech. Still, we are talking pure symbolism here.

Nevertheless, one gets thoughtful criticisms such as the following from MSNBC’s Eric Alterman:

Is this president interested only in killing people, [emphasis his] but can’t be bothered when given the chance to help save them? His morally callous parsimony in the face of this, the greatest natural disaster in modern history, seems determined to give the rest of that world exactly that impression. George W. Bush shames our nation with large talk and small deeds; with his want of character and smallness of spirit.

Then we get this genius advice from Juan Cole:

If Bush were a statesman, he would have flown to Jakarta and announced his solidarity with the Muslims of Indonesia (which has suffered at least 40,000 dead and rising).

Does Dr. Cole really think that what a disaster site needs right now is a visit from a foreign dignitary, with the security, pomp and whatnot that that would require? Does the Indonesian government really need to be distracted by such a visit? Should resources that are needed for diaster relief be diverted to deal with a visiting President? And if Bush did go, would he not be vilified for grandstanding? Cole knows more about the region than I ever will, and holds a far more prestigious position that I will ever have-nonetheless, his analytical powers on these kinds of issue fail to impress.

b) Another irritation is the immediate criticism that $15 million was a “paltry” sum (also a Cole criticism). My, but many are quick to criticize. As we know, the number is already at $35 million and will certainly rise from there (quite considerably). And, as I noted earlier, such a figure does not include all aid (such as food, transport costs, the services of the hospital on the USS Abraham Lincoln, private monies and so forth. Again, Cole allows his ideological blinders get in the way of his thinking: anyone who paused for a minute when the initial figure was announced would have known that figure would grow. It isn’t as if the President has a giant checkbook out of which he can write checks at will. Assessments have to be made and processes have to be followed.

I mean, gee whiz, people: the event took place late Christmas Day (our time)-about 4 days and two hours ago, more or less. Is it really reasonable to expect that by now we would already know how much money will be spent in aid? We don’t even know the extent of the damage yet.

And certainly, it is rather unfair to criticize the US and its relief efforts, at least in a comparative sense. As the NYT notes:

Andrew S. Natsios, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, said on Wednesday that American funds for disaster relief alone were $2.4 billion last year, 40 percent of the worldwide contributions for this purpose. “We are by far the largest donor,” he said. “No one even comes close to us.”

Now, one can criticize the whole of the international community for not giving enough in absolute terms, perhaps. However, no fair argument can state that the US is, any any relative sense, “stingy” with its aid money. Further, it is our military hardware (planes and ships) that often are the only mechanism for rapid distribution of aid.

A horrible tragedy has taken place: ultimately millions will be affected by these events, yet the first reaction of many is to use this event the criticize the President and the US in general. I simply don’t understand it.

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The Horror Only Grows

By Steven Taylor @ 5:00 pm

Death toll reaches 100,000

The death toll in the tsunami disaster soared past 100,000 today - and is set to climb higher.


The UN said there were now strong grounds to believe that the toll in the Sumatran province of Aceh, the worst affected area, would be as high as 80,000. The number dead has now climbed in every country affected, including:

# Thailand: 1,700 confirmed dead, including 43 British tourists.

# Indonesia: more than 42,000 confirmed dead.

# India: nearly 7,000 dead, and many coastal areas including parts of Kerala still to be searched.

# Sri Lanka: 22,500 are confirmed dead and there are fears for hundreds of independent British travellers on the east coast.

It really is difficult to comprehend.

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Wife to Fill in for Active Duty Husband in Texas State Legislaure

By Steven Taylor @ 4:56 pm

From the Houston Chronicle: Lawmaker on active duty chooses wife to fill his seat

A state constitutional amendment passed last year allowing legislators who are called up to active military duty to designate their replacement until they return or their term of office expires. Noriega won re-election last year while on active duty in Afghanistan.

When asked why her husband chose her as his temporary replacement, Melissa Noriega said, “For one thing, I’ll give it back.”

The procedures for how she will replace him are not completely in place. But most likely he will be sworn in from Afghanistan when the Legislature convenes Jan. 11. Then he will notify the House chief clerk and parliamentarian of his choice of surrogate.

Sounds reasonable to me.

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Talk to the Animals?

By Steven Taylor @ 2:21 pm

As Shaking Spears notes, animals may have some sort of way to detect coming disaster.

Indeed, via Reuters wer get the question: Where are all the dead animals? Sri Lanka asks.

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Two Hours

By Steven Taylor @ 1:38 pm

Via the Glendale Oregon News we find that Two Hours Precious Time Lost To Warn Victims Of Tidal Waves.

This answers a question that I had earlier, which was what was the time between quake and tsunami, which gets to the issue of early warning systems.

The answer is two hours. (Update: that would be for Sri Lanka only-other locations, including Indonesia and Malaysia, would have had far less time-in the case of Indonesia, that would be almost no time).

The story notes that typically data from major quakes is reviewed by the US Geological Survey monitors within a few hours of the event.

Keep in mind also, that the quake occurred at 00:58.53 (UTC) on 12/26/04, which was 7:58:53 PM EST on 12/25/04. I have no idea what the monitoring rules and procedures are the USGS, but my guess is that they aren’t operating optimally on the evening of Christmas Day.

However, there is evidence to suggest that there was an attempt to warn the region by the USGS: US seismologists: We had no one to warn

US seismologists who tracked the massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra on Boxing Day said they knew a tsunami was moving through the Indian Ocean but had no contacts in the eventually affected countries.

That meant they could not pass along warnings - and when they were able to do so, as in Thailand and Indonesia, there was no response strategy in place to warn the affected communities.

Jan Egeland, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the affected nations have been more concerned with tracking the monsoons that are a frequent event and had devoted no resources to the once-in-a-century possibility of a major tsunami.

But Hilton Root, a Milken Institute senior fellow and a former US representative to the Asian Development Bank, points to a more basic problem than preoccupation with monsoons.


Existing systems of “tsunami meters” designed to give quick reaction time for the populations of the US, South America, the Philippines and Japan, for example, could be extended at a modest cost.

Scientists wanted to place two more of the devices in the Indian Ocean, including one near Indonesia, as part of a global warning system, but the plan has not been funded, said Eddie Bernard, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.

The tsunameters each cost $250,000 and take about a month to build, Bernard said. “It has been vetted through a [United Nations commission] and they support it but there’s always a delay between proposal writing and deployment of the funds.”

But differences in the region - and even a robust antipathy to foreigners of any stripe - are a big obstacle, one that has impaired even some rescue and aid efforts.

So precisely how one can blame the situation on the US (let alone on the war on terror) is beyond me.

As the NYT notes, Sounding the Alarm on a Tsunami Is Complex and Expensive

If only people had been warned. An hour’s notice for those living and vacationing along the coastlines of the Indian Ocean might have saved thousands of lives.

But predictions, and acting on them, are not simple, geoscience experts say.

“It’s an inexact science now,” said Dr. Laura S. L. Kong, a Commerce Department seismologist and director of the International Tsunami Information Center, an office in Honolulu run under the auspices of the United Nations.

According to a NASA Web site devoted to tsunamis, three of four tsunami warnings issued since 1948 have been false, and the cost of the false alarms can be high.

An evacuation in Hawaii could cost as much as $68 million in lost productivity, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Since the 1960’s, Dr. Kong said, there have been two warnings of tsunamis in Hawaii that ended in evacuations, and both were false alarms.

Dr. Kong said the predictions of tsunamis were, in fact, accurate: the waves do arrive, whether they are 40 feet high or a mere two inches. It is the destructive power of the wave that is hard to predict. That depends on many factors, including the configuration of the ocean floor and the shape of a bay.

The story notes that the Indian Ocean event’s destructive power was predictable, but that is knowing the magnitude of the quake. The above-cited stats on tsunami warnings does explain why these countries might have not pursued such a system in the past (although, no doubt, they will build them now).

On balance, however, the reaction that the devastation was preventable is a clear bias in our modern minds that says technology can fix anything. While there is no doubt in mind that an early warning system could have save some lives, I am similarly certain that the numbers of deaths would still have been stageringly high-it was simply that dramatic of an event.

Not only do I think it unlikely that a perfect system is possible to build, but I have doubts as to the degree to which people would have paid attention to the warning (heck, look at the people who ignore hurricaine warnings). Further, two hours isn’t all the long a period of time to disseminate the information-and that would assume immediate action from the moment that the earthquake was detected and a very good system for spreading the info in a very large and diverse place (far larger than Hawaii).

Again: I think that once this is done there is going to be a serious evaluation of such early warning systems (indeed, via Reuters: India says will set up tsunami warning system). However, my point from earlier was this isn’t the time to point fingers or to try and score political points. And above all, in our desire to assign blame we have to have a realistic view of exactly how preventable this situation really was.

Update: Part of today’s OTB Traffic Jam.

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When Colemans Attack!

By Steven Taylor @ 12:55 pm

The Blogosphere is abuzz about Nick Coleman’s column on Power Line. However, no attention has yet been paid to the fact that Coleman’s piece contains a veiled attack on me! That’s right, he apparently didn’t have the cajones to attack me directly, but what else can one make of this:

Time magazine’s “Blog of the Year” is not run by Boy Scouts. It is the spear of a campaign aimed at making Minnesota into a state most of us won’t recognize. Unless you came from Alabama with a keyboard on your knee.

Given that I live in Alabama and primarly use a laptop, which means I occassionally blog with the keyboard on my knee, how else can I interpret this heinous statement? (Further, I was once a Cub Scout).

Actually, to be honest (and in all seriousness), the line makes no sense. I assume he is trying defame Alabama, suggesting that the nefarious Powerline Cabal seeks to turn Minnesota into Bama, because that would be a bad thing. Precisely why, I’m not certain, but clearly, Alabama=bad. Very nice-nothing like blind prejudice. (Coleman appears to have a thing for Alabama. And, for what it’s worth, I supported Amendment 2).

Of course, as numerous folks have pointed out (the best being the fisking by ), Coleman’s column and his argumentation leave a tad to be desired. Largely he seems to be a tad jealous. Quite honestly, it is difficult to be objective and not see the role Powerline played in the RatherGate story as an important conduit of information and, in that case, as an actual source of news.

Update: bLogicus has more Blogospheric reactions.

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Car Bomb in Riyadh, SA

By Steven Taylor @ 12:31 pm

Via ABC: Large Explosion Reported in Riyadh

A large explosion went off in central Riyadh on Wednesday evening, witnesses said, and ambulances and police cars rushed to the scene.

Three helicopters were seen hovering over the area, as sirens were heard soon after the 8:35 p.m. blast. Al-Jazeera reported that the explosion was from a car bomb that went off at a building close to the Interior Ministry.

Police sealed off roads leading to the area.

CNN Radio News is reporting that there were two explosions.


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Sour Grapes (or, more Accurately, Oranges) in Moscow

By Steven Taylor @ 12:12 pm

Moscow refuses to accept poll results

A fresh crisis in relations between Russia and the West over Ukraine has threatened to erupt after Moscow said international monitors who gave the country’s presidential election a clean bill of health were not objective, just as European leaders hailed the result.

The Russian statement, the first from Moscow since the weekend’s election results were announced, suggested that the Kremlin might refuse to recognise the victory of Viktor Yushchenko, who led the “orange revolution".

I am guessing that the “might” above is crucial and that this is posturing by Russia. Ultimately I cannot see how they can fail to recognize these results.

Further: they should be careful, as the Putin administration is going to encourage east Ukrainian separatism with this kind of statement. And while that portion of Ukraine is pro-Russian, I can’t imagine that civil strife in Ukraine is really in Russia’s best interest.

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The Man from the Cat Detector Van

By Steven Taylor @ 11:08 am

This (referencing this) reminded me of this:

C: Look, it’s a bleeding pet, isn’t it? I’ve got a license for me pet dog Eric, and I’ve got a license for me pet cat Eric…
S: You don’t need a license for your cat.
C: I bleeding well do and I got one. He can’t be called Eric without it-
S: There’s no such thing as a bloody cat license.
C: Yes there is!
S: Isn’t!
C: Is!
S: Isn’t!
C: I bleeding got one, look! What’s that then?
S: This is a dog license with the word ‘dog’ crossed out and ‘cat’ written in in crayon.
C: The man didn’t have the right form.
S: What man?
C: The man from the cat detector van.
S: The looney detector van, you mean.
C: Look, it’s people like you what cause unrest.
S: What cat detector van?
C: The cat detector van from the Ministry of Housinge.
S: Housinge?
C: It was spelt like that on the van (I’m very observant!). I never seen so many bleeding aerials. The man said that their equipment could pinpoint a purr at four hundred yards! And Eric, being such a happy cat, was a piece of cake.
S: How much did you pay for this?
C: Sixty quid, and eight for the fruit-bat.
S: What fruit-bat?
C: Eric the fruit-bat.
S: Are all your pets called Eric?

Which, of course, is lampooning this:

We have a fleet of detector vans, plus, our enforcement officers have access to hand-held detection devices capable of detecting a magnetic field when a TV is switched on. In fact, we catch an average of over 1,000 people watching TV without a licence every day.

Yet another reason to live in the good ol’ U S of A.

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Politics and Disasters

By Steven Taylor @ 10:40 am

James Joyner has more examples of the unfortunate mixing of the crassest of politics and the tragedy of the Asian tsunamis.

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Literally Overtaken by Events

By Steven Taylor @ 10:03 am

Matt of Overtaken by Events notes the following:

Vicky and I attend a small Continuing Anglican church here (rather a compromise between her Catholic heritage and my protestant upbringing), and it happens that our Rector is a native of Bangalore, India. He spent many years working as a priest in and around Chennai (Madras for the pre-independence folks), building orphanages and other relief centers.

After contact with family and former co-workers in the area, he’s found that most, if not all, of the families he once ministered to are either gone or left without anything. As a result we’ve set up a relief blog on our church’s site to collect donations, specifically for the orphanage, but also for the surrounding families that have been affected.

He has specific info on how to help here: St Gabriel’s Episcopal Church Tsunami Relief: More Local News Coverage and here.

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Jerry Orbach, RIP

By Steven Taylor @ 9:58 am

Via the AP: ‘Law & Order’ Star Jerry Orbach Dies

“Law & Order” star Jerry Orbach has died of prostate cancer at 69, a representative of the show said Wednesday.

Orbach died Tuesday night in Manhattan after several weeks of treatment, Audrey Davis of the public relations agency Lippin Group said.

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Reggie White Update

By Steven Taylor @ 9:41 am

Preliminary report says Reggie White died from lung ailment

NFL great Reggie White may have died because of a respiratory disease combined with other health problems, a preliminary autopsy report said Monday.

White most likely had a condition that affected the amount of air his lungs could hold, resulting in “fatal cardiac arrhythmia,'’ said Dr. Mike Sullivan, the medical examiner for Mecklenburg County and a forensic pathologist.

The report issued by Sullivan’s office also said sleep apnea may have been a factor.

The report is a preliminary one; determining a final cause of death could take up to three months, Sullivan’s office said.

White died Sunday at Presbyterian Hospital in Huntersville after being taken there from his home in nearby Cornelius. His wife, Sara, called 911.

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By Steven Taylor @ 9:35 am

Via the BBC: Sri Lanka rejects Israel rescuers

Israel has cancelled plans to send a 150-person rescue mission to Sri Lanka after the devastated island objected to the military composition of the team.

The delegation - including 60 soldiers - had been due to set off on Tuesday to help after Sunday’s tsunami disaster.

Instead, a smaller team will escort a convoy carrying emergency supplies, Israeli officials said.

Sri Lanka restored diplomatic ties with Israel in 2000, despite objections from the island’s Muslim minority.

Neither side has officially explained the change of plan, although some reports say the objection came from Sri Lanka’s military.

H/T: Betsy Newmark.

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By Steven Taylor @ 9:33 am

“It’s really not all about us, but prepare for the rank exploitation of the tsunami tragedy as an occasion to criticize the United States."-Ann Althouse.

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Human Tragedy and The the Time for Politics

By Steven Taylor @ 9:21 am

As the latest story from the NYT notes, the death toll from the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean continues to grow: Dead Near 70,000 as Bodies Wash Ashore-Many Missing

The waters that stole tens of thousands of people from the shorelines of Asia and East Africa on Sunday spewed their bodies back onto beaches on Tuesday, pushing the official death toll near 70,000. Meanwhile, scores of international rescue teams arrived hoping to stave off disease and homelessness.

With tens of thousands still unaccounted for, especially in remote regions, the toll seemed certain to continue climbing. Indonesia alone already estimates 36,000 dead and Sri Lanka more than 22,000, with 4,000 people missing.

I have not yet seen any comparative data, but this has to be one of the greatest single-day tragedies of all time. Indeed, the magnitude of the event is only now sinking into my mind. The devastation is enormous and the human tragedy is impossible to fully comprehend.

The true magnitude of this situation will not be known for some time.

Given the utter horror that has occurred here as the result of a natural disaster, could I please suggest to many in the Blogosphere, that this isn’t the time to score crass political points vis-à-vis the Bush administration?

For example, “MD patriot” at the very popular site Daily Kos, wrote:

The evil Bush has caused more than twice the number of deaths with his brutal crusade for oil in Iraq, and they were all easily preventable. But we had five felons on the Supremes who violated our constitution and installed this madman in office.

No deaths are easy to take, but the tsunami deaths can not be blamed on anyone. This is in marked contrast to the deaths in Iraq which can all be laid at Bush’s feet. Now the Chimp will dole out a little miserly aid, and he would not deign to cut down the pomp of his coronation to aid others- he simply doesn’t give a damn about anyone else.

Bush is evil- impeach the Chimp.

Now, can anyone please tell me how that is helpful? (Not to mention that it hardly qualifies as thoughtful analysis).

Paul at Wizbang noted the following from MahaBlog (which is currently down):

President Bush has shamed our nation by pledging only $15 million for disaster aid. His upcoming coronation is expected to cost more than twice that. So, as want and disease and famine and grief spread over much of the earth, the Boy King will be whooping it up in grandly austentatious [sic] style. …

Now, for the record, the US pledge has already hit $35 million (and no doubt will climb) and this doesn’t include food aid or the the money needed to pay for USAF transport planes or the hospital services of the USS Abraham Lincoln which has been dispatched to the area. Further, it doesn’t account for the private monies that will no doubt flow from the US. At the moment, the US pledge is the largest in the world (seconded by Japan’s $30 million) and tops the French pledge of $136,000 (granted: this was all of of last night and are all subject to change).

Hal at Hellblazer noted:

Sure glad all those Asian countries have spent billions tracking down terrorists for the US instead of updating their emergency communications and preparedness. Seems like money truly well spent now, doesn’t it?

Now, his point that more could have been spent on preparedness is well taken (especially in retrospect), but the clear political juxtaposition with the war on terror and the clear critique of US war on terror policy is clear and unwarranted and inappropriate at this time. Further, given the situation (i.e., the developing world) the things that are needed (such as building codes that would help withstand these things) are impossible to make happen. And, more than that: we are talking about a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. The long-foretold “Big One” that is supposed to hit SoCal is predicted to be in the 8-range, and when it comes the destruction and death in California is going to be great, even with all of the preparation that has gone into the state (the Northridge quake in 1996 was a 6.7 and 9,000+ were injured and did $20-25 billion in damage-and understand, the Richter scale is not arithmatic, it is logarithmic). A 9.0 quake is impossible to fully prepare for. Althought granted, if no one had been on the coast, this wouldn’t have happened. But getting people not to be on the coast is rather difficult to achieve, shall we say.

Still, no amount of money in the world would have allowed the prediction of a 9.0 earthquake (or any sized quake) and while the ability to evacuate the beach was possible (although I am unclear at this moment how fast the tsunamis reached the shore after the quake), let’s not kid ourselves as to the ability of human beings to have avoided this tragedy. And certainly trying to create the false possibility that but for the foolishness of the Bush administration that this could have been avoided is exploitation of a human tragedy for crass political points that ought to be avoided, especially at this critical moment in time.

Indeed, as a piece in The Age noted (h/t: OTB) (Be prepared for the next disaster)

When such an event does occur, there is often a need to seek someone to blame - usually government. The manner in which regional governments have been gently berated by the US Geological Service since Sunday’s catastrophe over their failure to have a tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean is one example of this. The US established such a system in the Pacific after a huge tsunami event in Alaska in 1964. Yet the last tsunami of any consequence in the Indian Ocean followed the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano. It claimed 36,000 lives - but occurred well outside living memory. A warning system, even so, is no guarantee that lives will be saved.

The main problem in this case was the huge number of people living on coasts-often in sub-standard housing.

At any rate: while there will be time to use comparative death statistics to Iraq or to gripe about the amount of donations or the politics of early warning devices, I would submit that right now isn’t the time. And, further, it is grossly inappropriate to use this event to critique the Bush administration, as there is nothing that the Bush administration did or did not do that is remotely responsible for this event. This is one of those cases that 1) we should be proud that our country is trying to help, regardless of which party occupies the White House, and 2) if one’s first reaction is to criticize the administration, I would suggest that one think back to the Clinton administration and remember how one felt with some from the Right would make ridiculous claim/assign blame to Clinton and wonder if one isn’t doing the exact same thing at the moment.

More at WizBang!

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Oh No! Bush Loses Votes in Ohio!

By Steven Taylor @ 9:07 pm

Instead of wining by 118,775 he has won by the radically lower total of 118,457. Oh, the injustice of it all!

Certainly finding that out was worth the $113,600 that the Greens and Libertarians raised and the $1.5 million that the Ohio SecState estimates it ultimately will have cost.

Source: Ohio Recount Ends, Shows Vote Closer.

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And People Make Fun of Alabama…

By Steven Taylor @ 9:01 pm

Via the AP: Missouri Approves Fishing With Bare Hands:

Known variously as noodling or hogging, handfishing has long been a misdemeanor punishable by fines, because state officials fear it depletes breeding-age catfish. It can also be dangerous: Noodlers hold their breath for long periods under water and sometimes come up with fistfuls of agitated snakes or snapping turtles instead of fish.


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  • The Jawa Report linked with Anyone Game for Some Noodling?
  • Physics Geek linked with I just had a vacation in Missouri
Colombian Drug Lord Captured

By Steven Taylor @ 8:59 pm

Via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Colombia nabs reputed drug cartel leader

Police captured a reputed leader of the Norte del Valle drug cartel Tuesday, the latest arrest in a U.S.-backed effort to dismantle a gang accused of trafficking half of all cocaine sold in the United States in the 1990s.

Dagoberto Florez, a reputed capo or leader in the cartel, was on a list of most wanted alleged cocaine kingpins sought by U.S. authorities under a court order handed down in New York in May. The U.S. government offered a $5 million reward for his capture.

Police seized Florez early Tuesday in a rural area outside Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city 250 miles northwest of the capital, the national police chief, Gen. Jorge Daniel Castro, told reporters. He declined to provide details on the capture, and said it hasn’t been decided who, if anyone, would receive the reward money.

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  • Diggers Realm linked with Norte del Valle Cocaine Kingping, Dagoberto Florez, Captured Near Medellin
Darren Woodson to Retire

By Steven Taylor @ 2:27 pm

Via the AP: Cowboys’ Woodson Headed to Retirement

The Cowboys are ready to bid farewell to Darren Woodson, the last player left from their teams that won three Super Bowls in the mid-1990s.

The 35-year-old safety hasn’t played all year because of injuries and was expected to retire or be released after this season. Team owner Jerry Jones said on his weekly radio show it’s only a question of “when we and he will make it official.” Coach Bill Parcells said Monday an announcement was coming as soon as this week.

While I was hoping for one more season, I figured that the odds were good that he would never play again. He always seemed to be a class at and so I bid him a fond farewell.

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More on Dealing with Ideological Rivals

By Steven Taylor @ 1:16 pm

On Christmas Eve Eve, I posted a lengthy piece entitled On Talking to (and Viewing) the Opposition. The inspiration of my post was a piece on Barbara O’Brien’s The Mahablog wherein she criticizes Bush supporters and “righties” generically (and rather harshly). Because I had had some (granted limited) pleasant personal contact with Barbara over her book on blogging, I thought I would take her post as a starting spot for a discussion (hopefully on numerous blogs) to deal with, in a modest way, the rather poisonous position that appears on a multiplicity of blogs that a give “side” (right, left, Republican, Democrat, pro/anti Bush, pro/anti the Iraq War, whatever) is so overwhelmingly right (as in “correct”) that they have to right (as in “privilege”) to excoriate their opponents.

Please understand: I am not trying to start a flame war with anybody, nor am I attacking Barbara O’Brien personally. I am attempting to engage in a conversation with whomever it is that would like to talk. I will admit that I take exception to a lot (quite a bit, in fact) of what she writes on her blog, but in the spirit of what I am trying to get at here (i.e., increasing the quantity and quality of political discourse) I am not going to get involved in a food fight. Indeed, by not going bonkers over her characterization of “righties” I am trying to demonstrate that she is simply incorrect in her views on this subject. At a minimum it should be quite clear that overly broad generalizations are neither correct nor helpful.

While I fully understand the fact that anyone who has an opinion on anything is likely to wish to defend it, and further, that political opinions are especially likely to inspire passion, but I have to question the desire from any ideological position to feel an entitlement to demonize one’s opponents—especially in a liberal democracy such as the United States. Surely we have sufficient common ground that we can, at a minimum, engage in discourse. None of us has a monopoly on truth, given that even if we have some possession of truth, none of us is perfect in either our understanding of that truth or in our articulation thereof (setting aside any question of whether there is truth or not). Further, when it comes to things like public policy debates it is unlikely that there is a Truth so perfect as to be beyond debate.

Perhaps the only issue that I understand as one that is difficult to come to compromise on is abortion, and even there it is possible for intelligent people to engage in fruitful conservation. Sure, there are deep feelings and diverse opinions on the Iraq War, but I can’t see it as a topic that should result in lack of conversation. And certainly moving to issues of taxes, Social Security, Medicare, education, or whatever, there is room for discourse. Look, you want to assert your right to commit genocide, then the opportunity for conversation is out the window (or say things like this and dialog is, shall we say, a tad hard to accomplish).

As such, I was quite disappointed that Barbara’s response to my post was a polite e-mail stating that she didn’t want to engage in a conversation. Quite frankly, to dismiss one’s opposition, and to not wish to engage them on the playing field of ideas is an extremely illiberal position, and therefore a very disappointing one.

Really, my ultimate goal here was twofold: 1) an encouragement of recognition on all sides that any claims of utterly perfection are misguided, to say that least, and 2) that civil discourse is a vital part of liberal democracy.

Again, I would remind us all of the words of J.S. Mill:

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.

First: the opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority may possibly be true.


Let us now pass to the second division of the argument, and dismissing the supposition that any of the received opinions may be false, let us assume them to be true, and examine into the worth of the manner in which they are likely to be held, when their truth is not freely and openly canvassed. However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.


But there is a commoner case than either of these; when the conflicting doctrines, instead of being one true and the other false, share the truth between them; and the nonconforming opinion is needed to supply the remainder of the truth, of which the received doctrine embodies only a part. Popular opinions, on subjects not palpable to sense, are often true, but seldom or never the whole truth. They are a part of the truth; sometimes a greater, sometimes a smaller part, but exaggerated, distorted, and disjoined from the truths by which they ought to be accompanied and limited. Heretical opinions, on the other hand, are generally some of these suppressed and neglected truths, bursting the bonds which kept them down, and either seeking reconciliation with the truth contained in the common opinion, or fronting it as enemies, and setting themselves up, with similar exclusiveness, as the whole truth. The latter case is hitherto the most frequent, as, in the human mind, one-sidedness has always been the rule, and many-sidedness the exception.

Now, no one is, per se, advocating the silencing of the opposition in this particular case, but I would argue that by failing to engage in multi-party discussion, the basic result is the ignoring of other points of view, and therefore in silencing those views for oneself. Silence is silence, and if one utterly refuses to engage the other sides of an issue, one falls prey to one or more of the problems that Mill describes above.

The issue that seemed to hit home with the other bloggers who responded (such as Joe Gandelman, Jon Henke at QandO, and Doug Petch) was the fact that ideological/news and commentary self-isolation is clearly problematic and creates intellectually unhealthy mindsets.

I study politics and blog on politics because I find politics truly fascinating. As a result of studying and pondering the political world I do, in fact, develop opinions and views on a whole host of topics. However, my goal in doing this, and in pursing a career that is focus on things political, is to increase my knowledge and understanding of the political world, not to get everyone to agree with me. Do I like it when people agree with me? Sure I do, but I don’t see those who don’t to be my enemies.

If one wishes to be taken seriously, one has to be willing to take the views of others seriously as well. At a minimum one cannot truly refute a wrong opinion lest one thoroughly understands that opinion.

I am not espousing a simplistic Rodney King-esque “can’t we all just get along” intellectualism. However, as a member of the academy, and as one who believes in the value and power of words, facts, logic and reason, I am at a loss as to why intelligent persons who claim to be students of politics, cannot engage in meaningful dialog, but would rather simply call names and stay in their clubhouses hangin’ with their peeps and their peeps alone.

Others who commented on my original post: Dean Esmay, Rick Heller at Centerfield, Whispers in the airstreams, The Myopist, and Signifying Nothing (x2).

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On the Airline System (Line of the Day)

By Steven Taylor @ 11:53 am

Quoth James Joyner:

One would think retarded monkeys could manage the system more efficiently.

No joke.

And I concur with him that eventually the market will sort this out. Indeed, the less government interference the better. The bottom line is that there is a need for the service and substantial demand, but an industry that is utterly screwed up.

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By Steven Taylor @ 11:29 am

Via the AFP: Quake rattled Earth orbit, changed map of Asia: US geophysicist

An earthquake that unleashed deadly tidal waves on Asia was so powerful it made the Earth wobble on its axis and permanently altered the regional map, US geophysicists said.

The 9.0-magnitude temblor that struck 250 kilometers (155 miles) southeast of Sumatra island Sunday may have moved small islands as much as 20 meters (66 feet), according to one expert.


The northwestern tip of the Indonesian territory of Sumatra may also have shifted to the southwest by around 36 meters (120 feet), Hudnut said.

In addition, the energy released as the two sides of the undersea fault slipped against each other made the Earth wobble on its axis, Hudnut said.

Now, that’s an earthquake.


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Georgia Democrats Start Lining Up to Face Perdue

By Steven Taylor @ 9:55 am

Via that AP: Cox Files to Begin Ga. Governor Campaign

Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox announced Monday that she will run for governor in 2006, making her the second Democrat working to deny re-election to Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue. Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor announced earlier.

In an announcement posted on her Web site, Cox said she believed the time was right for her to run. She filed the paperwork Monday that allows her to begin raising money for the campaign.

I am unfamiliar with the specifics of Georgia politics, and therefore know nothing about Ms. Cox. However, at the macro-level, I have to think that any Democrat will have a hard time winning in Georgia in 2006-the partisan re-alignment in that state has been that dramatic.

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Stop the Presses!!

By Steven Taylor @ 9:24 am

Who knew? College Bowl Scene Is Flush With Corporate Dollars.

That there’s Pulitzer material.

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Difficult to Comprehend

By Steven Taylor @ 8:42 am

Tidal Waves Death Toll Rises to 44,000

More than 18,700 people died in Sri Lanka, more than 4,000 in India and more than 1,500 in Thailand, with numbers expected to rise. The Indonesian vice president’s estimate that his country’s coastlines held up to 25,000 victims brought the potential toll up to 50,000.

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Monday, December 27, 2004
Isn’t That Sweet?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:46 pm

Via Reuters: ‘Bin Laden’ Endorses Islamist War on Iraq Vote:

“Anyone who takes part in this election consciously and willingly is an infidel,” said the tape broadcast on Al Jazeera.

“I consider the prince of the mujahideen, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi a true soldier of God,” it said. “He is the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and everybody should follow him and obey him.

That’s one wacky God bin Laden has there: he’s anti-voting, but pro blowing-up innocent bystanders and beheading hostages.

Who wouldn’t want to follow a God like that?

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Good for Dave

By Steven Taylor @ 11:01 am

Via the AP: Letterman Tapes Christmas Eve Show in Iraq

David Letterman brought his late-night show to Marines serving in Iraq on Friday, loosening up the Camp Taqaddum crowd with the line, “Anybody here from out of town?”


“Paul and I were in Afghanistan three years ago, and last year we were in Baghdad,” Letterman told the crowd. “We wouldn’t want it any other way. We’re sorry we keep having to come back. If you ever come to New York City, come see us and we’ll treat you like big shots.”

In fact, a friend of mine who was recently re-deployed to Iraq was in the audience (he told his wife about it via phone).

Hat tip: TMV.

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By Steven Taylor @ 10:28 am

Via AP: Tsunami Kills 22,000 in Nine Countries

Rescuers piled up bodies along southern Asian coastlines devastated by tidal waves that obliterated seaside towns and killed more than 22,000 people in nine countries, and officials indicated Monday the death toll could climb far higher.

Hundreds of children were buried in mass graves in India, and morgues and hospitals struggled to cope with the catastrophe. Somalia, some 3,000 miles away, reported hundreds of deaths.

The death toll rose sharply a day after the magnitude 9 quake struck deep beneath the Indian Ocean off the coast of Indonesia. It was the most powerful earthquake in the world in four decades.

Utterly tragic.

And Magnitude 9! That is difficult to imagine. If you have ever lived in a place with earthquakes (and I have) then you have some idea was a 9.0 would be like (and it isn’t anything I would want to even be close to experiencing). The one that hit during the 1989 World Series was a 7.1 (here’s a list of signif quakes in CA for comparison purposes).

Joe Gandelman has a round-up of blogging from the sites of the diaster.

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Sunday, December 26, 2004
Yushchenko Declares Victory

By Steven Taylor @ 11:10 pm

Via Reuters: Opposition Leader Declares Victory in Ukraine Poll

Western-leaning opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko claimed victory on Monday in a re-run of Ukraine’s rigged presidential election, hailing the beginning of a new era in the former Soviet republic.


With 80 percent of Sunday’s ballot counted, the Central Election Commission said Yushchenko had won just over 55 percent of the votes compared with 41 percent for Moscow-backed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.

Good for the Ukrainians.

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Nice Fatherly Moments

By Steven Taylor @ 2:34 pm

It’s a nifty thing to be able to fix your son’s bike and teach him about PSI and the proper way to inflate a tire.

It is also nice that we managed to avoid the question of why a bike that Santa just brough would need some fixing (minor chain-related issues). We also have thus far avoiding the question of why a bike made at the North Pole would have a “Made in China” sticker on it

(And the techno-cherry on the sundae is that because of the magic of TiVo, I didn’t miss Manning tying Marino’s TD record).

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Annoying Color Commentary

By Steven Taylor @ 2:22 pm

I recognize that doing color commentary for a football game is a lot more difficult than it looks. Indeed: most guys who do it aren’t very good.

Among the most annoying, to my mind, is Randy Cross, who is doing today’s SD@Indy game. Not only does he have a penchant for stating the obvious, he does it in a way that conveys that feeling that he thinks he is awfully smart to be stating such. He has a penchant for finding something negative that one team is doing and then hamering that issue ad nauseum. For example: there was a game (heck, over ten years ago now, I think) in which Dallas was playing Philly at the Vet in the rain. Dallas was having hard time with the pass, but was running all over the Philly D. In fact, Emmitt Smith had a career high in yards that day with 200+. However, despite the fact that Dallas was winning, and Emmitt was all over the place, all Cross could talk about was how bad Aikman and the Dallas passing attack was.

He is rightly critical of the Indy offense today, but to the point of being over the top. Sometimes I wonder if once he can’t think of anything else to say.

However, this gem was my favorite today. Said Cross: “Remember that cartoon, ‘I thought I saw a Puddy Tat?’ Well, the Indianpolis Colts have running back who are turning the defenders into Puddy Tats.” (This was before he started doggin’ Indy’s O).

Does that make sense to anyone?

Update: The game was in 1993 and Emmitt rushed for 237 yards including a 62 yard run and 1 TD (Source). Dallas won the game 23-10.

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Predcitions: Chief Justice Michael W. McConnell?

By Steven Taylor @ 12:27 pm

Bill Kristol on FNS predicts that Bush will appoint Michael W. McConnell to be Chief Justice.

I am vaguely aware of McConnell, so really can’t comment at the moment. Still, as the link above notes, he has an impressive resume.

I must admit, the idea of appointing a constitutional law scholar who also has practical relationship in the area of the judiciary strikes me, at least generically, as a good one.

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  • Legal XXX linked with Chief Justice McConnell?
Sad News: Reggie White Dead at 43

By Steven Taylor @ 11:27 am

Very sad indeed: he was an awfully young man (just turned 43) to die of a heart attack.

James Joyner and Jeff Quinton have more.

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  • Backcountry Conservative linked with Reggie White dead at 43
  • bLogicus linked with Football Player and Minister, Reggie White, is No Longer with Us
  • Nominal Me linked with RIP Reggie White
Happy Boxing Day

By Steven Taylor @ 10:45 am

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas. To wish you all a happy Boxing Day here are some Christmas Day images from the Taylor household. Mostly this is an easy way for family and friends who read my blog to see some family pics…and, maybe I can enhance family-generate traffic by posting pictures for those who don’t want to read what I write :)

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Saturday, December 25, 2004
Merry Christmas to All

By Steven Taylor @ 12:00 am

Isiah 9:6

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

  • bLogicus linked with Merry Christmas from Around the Blog
Friday, December 24, 2004
Speaking of Voting Problems…

By Steven Taylor @ 2:42 pm

Via the NYT comes a tale of woe: Voting Problems in Ohio Spur Call for Overhaul

William Shambora, 53, is the kind of diligent voter who once assumed that his ballot always counted. He got a rude awakening this year.

Mr. Shambora, an economics professor at Ohio University, moved during the summer but failed to notify the Athens County Board of Elections until the day before the presidential election. An official told him to use a provisional ballot.

But under Ohio law, provisional ballots are valid only when cast from a voter’s correct precinct. Mr. Shambora was given a ballot for the wrong precinct, a fact he did not learn until after the election. Two weeks later, the board discarded his vote, adding him to a list of more than 300 provisional ballots that were rejected in that heavily Democratic county.

“It seems like such a confused system,” said Mr. Shambora, a John Kerry supporter who blames himself for the mistake. “Maybe if enough people’s votes had counted, the election might have turned out differently.”

This is just plain silly: this isn’t a “confused system"-Professor Shambora should have registered to vote at his new address when he moved back in the summer. One of the first things I do when I move is change my voter registration so that I don’t get to election day and not be able to vote-because if I move and fail to fill out a 3x5 card with my address and such and then I don’t get to vote, it’s my fault.

To describe the professor as a “diligent voter” in the story is ridiculous: the man failed to engage in a fundamental aspect of the system: registering to vote. Gee whiz, the guy has a Ph.D. in economics-it is hardly unreasonable to assume that he can take care of his own voting status-it isn’t like we are talking about the tax code here. If this is the best vignette that the reporter could find to lead the story, then I am thinkging that things are largely fine in Ohio.

Indeed, the provisional ballot system, as I understand it, isn’t even meant for people like Shambora, who failed to properly register. Rather, it is for people who have, in fact, registered but the poll workers don’t have the appropriate records.

Now, I will grant, things such as the following are problematic:

From seven-hour lines that drove voters away to malfunctioning machines to poorly trained poll workers who directed people to the wrong polling places to uneven policies about the use of provisional ballots, Ohio has become this year’s example for every ailment in the United States’ electoral process.

However, the following reaction is a tad over the top:

“This has fundamentally shocked people’s sense of whether any election can be accurately counted,” said Daniel Hoffheimer, counsel to Mr. Kerry’s Ohio campaign.

The truth of the matter is that an overwhelming super-majority of ballots are properly counted and that there will always some level of error. No process involving human beings is perfect, so why should there be an expectation that a voting process should (or can) be perfect?

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Florida II: Washington 2004

By Steven Taylor @ 2:16 pm

Here’s the bottom line in the Washington state recount: if it was valid for the disputed ballots in King county to be reviewed to assure that no vote had been wrongly discarded, then a statewide canvassing to guarantee the same treatment to all ballots which might have been wrongly rejected ought to take place as well.

In this close of an election is it wholly legitimate to double check to insure that no ballot was wrongly rejected. If a voter filled out the ballot properly and was properly registered, then their vote should be counted. It would be wrong to allow a clerical error to stop such a vote from being counted. Washington state Republicans who tried to stop those types of ballots from being counted were wrong to do so-and therefore open themselves up to charges of hypocrisy for seeking out such votes that may aid them now.

However, the state Democratic Party has demonstrated that the fundamental issue for them isn’t “letting every vote count” because if it ws, they would working with the Republicans to gather all such votes to guarantee that no legitimate vote is let uncounted.

Both sides have cause to be suspicious of the other, and so somebody, somewhere is going to have to display leadership and diplomacy and try to start some healing. Gregoire giving Rossi the advice that he should conceed doesn’t qualify.

Sadly, Rossi is correct:

“I know many Washingtonians are hoping this will end soon, but I’m also sure that people across this state want a clean election and a legitimate governor-elect,” Rossi said after the final tally from a grueling hand count was announced Thursday. “At this point, we have neither.”

Meanwhile, Gregoire is missing the boat here, if (and I emphasize if there are King County-like clerical errors elsewere in the state):

“The election is over,” Gregoire said. “I hope we can move forward, unite our state and address the problems our state is facing.”

Focusing just on King County smacks of the Gore-team focus on Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward Counties in 2000 (and I am missing one, I know). If one is going to allege that a recount is needed, one can’t focus on counties that are tilted heavily towards one’s own party.

James Joyner has more.

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  • CALIFORNIA YANKEE linked with Is It Over?
The Yankee or Dixie quiz

By Steven Taylor @ 1:10 pm

Take the Yankee or Dixie quiz (it is actually rather interesting).

My score: 56% (Dixie). Barely into the Dixie category.

I wengt back and didn’t change anything whilst taking the test (and changed my caught/cot to “don’t know") and got: 78% (Dixie). That is a pretty strong Southern score!

I question the “pillbug” classification. I grew up in Texas and learned the name of the things from my mother, who was born in Alabama and raised in Alabama and Texas. (Update: Mom informs me that she grew up calling them “roly-polies” so “Pillbug” was clearly some kid of Yankee infiltration into the family vocab).

Also: I take issue with the caught/cot question-as I am not sure how much a of diffrence in pronunciation qualifies as a true difference for the quiz. What they need is a question on the pronunciation of pin/pen (if you are from Texas or the Southeast, you almost certainly pronounce them in identical fashion, hence people ’round here saying things like: “ink pen” and ‘’stick pin” so that folks will know what you’re talking about).

Some other indicators:

  • If you pronounce “boil” and “bowl” (or “bohl") the same way, then you are from the deep South-also you say “oil” like “ohl.” This one took a while for even my Texas-trained ear to digest-when I first heard a local advertisement for a “crawfish boil” I thought the guy said “crawfish bowl"-like it was a football game or something.
  • Do you pronounce Kerry and Carey differently? According to a friend from Boston, the folks up north do, while the folks down here, not so much.
  • How do you pronounce “roof"?
  • How do you pronounce the first syllable of “syrup"? If you say “sur” you are probably from the South-it has been my observation that the more northern types say it like “sear".
  • And, of course, as Jeff Foxworthy has noted:
    we have words in the south they don’t have in other parts of the country. We goin to the mall, yu’nt to?


    I like this word alot…aight. That’s a word in Texas…aight. Round lunch time every day, you’ll hear somebody say, “hey jeet yet, naw, dju? Yu’nt to? Aight.”

    If you can translate that last sentence, and it makes perfect sense to you, then you, too, must’ve lived in Texas or the South.

Feel free to add your own.

Hat tip: OTB.

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  • Interested-Participant linked with Yankee or Dixie?
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As Expected: Bush to Re-Nominated Rejected Judges

By Steven Taylor @ 12:10 pm

Via the NYT: Bush Tries Again on Court Choices Stalled in Senate

President Bush said Thursday that when the new Congress convenes next month he will renominate 12 candidates to the federal appeals courts who were denied confirmation in his first term. In doing so, he signaled his willingness to begin what is expected to be another bitter fight with Senate Democrats over what they assert are his efforts to shift the courts in a markedly more conservative direction.

And so the gauntlet has been thrown down, and we shall see how the new Democratic leadership in the Senate reacts. Despite their diminished number, and specifically the loss of their old leader, one might expect the Democrats to be a tad less hardline on this topic. However, based on the intereviews I have seen with Reid since his selection to replace Daschle, I am not so sanguine on that potentiality.

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Tracking Santa

By Steven Taylor @ 12:07 pm

Well, I must say, this is radically cooler than when I was a kid and all they had was that the weatherman and that green radar with the sweeping hand like in the WWII movies to help track Santa.

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Florida 2004: Not So Bad, After All

By Steven Taylor @ 11:10 am

Via the AP: Fla. Said to Have Few Election Challenges

The horde of partisan lawyers dispatched to Florida in anticipation of widespread Election Day voter-eligibility challenges wound up with precious little to do: Only a relative handful of challenges were posed statewide, according to a newspaper report.

Only 63 challenges were made among about 7.6 million votes cast Nov. 2, The St. Petersburg Times reported in Friday editions, citing data from elections supervisors’ offices obtained through public records requests.

Those challenges focused on people who were not registered, voting in the wrong precinct or convicted felons. It could not be determined how many challenged ballots were rejected.

I wonder how much of this was the result of successful reform and how much of it was simply because there was a serious gap between the two candidates.

As Washington state demonstrates, when an election is radically close, one finds all kinds of problems.

No doubt that Florida did fix a number of important problems, but still, the lack of closeness was clearly part of it.

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Christmas Eve Cat Blogging

By Steven Taylor @ 6:00 am

Merry Christmas Eve from Tigger.

After two and half catless years after an initial twelve with a cat, we are catted again.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004
Surprise! Rummy in Iraq

By Steven Taylor @ 10:07 pm

Via ABC News: Rumsfeld Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq.

OK, not as good as the Prez on T-Day last year, but a nice gesture.

I wonder how long before he is accussed of doing this solely to get the heat off over the machine-signed condolence letters?

The story does, of course, mention it:

He faced another firestorm earlier this week because he was not personally signing condolence letters to the families of dead soldiers, as the president does. Critics fault him for poor postwar planning and for a steadily growing list of problems, from failure to strangle the insurgency to prisoner abuses in Iraq and Guantanamo.

He went to the base in Mosul that was attacked:

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited wounded soldiers and brought holiday greetings on Christmas Eve amid tight security at an air base in northern Iraq where an insurgent’s attack killed 14 U.S. troops and eight other people earlier this week.

Hoping to demonstrate compassion for the troops’ sacrifices, Rumsfeld landed in darkness and walked immediately from his plane to a combat surgical hospital where many of the bombing victims were treated after Tuesday’s lunchtime attack on a mess tent. The most seriously wounded already have been transferred to a U.S. military hospital in Germany.

Good for him.

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Mas Festivus

By Steven Taylor @ 8:32 pm

Fooey to the World: Festivus Is Come

The first surprise is that from Tampa Bay, Fla., to Washington, from Austin, Tex., to Oxford, Ohio, many real people are holding parties celebrating Festivus, a holiday most believe was invented on an episode of “Seinfeld” first broadcast the week before Christmas in 1997.

“More and more people are familiar with what Festivus is, and it’s growing,” said Jennifer Galdes, a Chicago restaurant publicist who organized her first Festivus party three years ago. “This year many more people, when they got the invite, responded with, `Will there be an airing of the grievances and feats of strength?’ ”


the holiday occurs on Dec. 23, features a bare aluminum pole instead of a tree and does not end until the head of the family is wrestled to the floor and pinned.

The actual inventor of Festivus is Dan O’Keefe, 76, whose son Daniel, a writer on “Seinfeld,” appropriated a family tradition for the episode. The elder Mr. O’Keefe was stunned to hear that the holiday, which he minted in 1966, is catching on. “Have we accidentally invented a cult?” he wondered.

Too funny.

And meguesses it is the last one:

To postulate grandly, the rise of Festivus, a bare-bones affair in which even tinsel is forbidden, may mean that Americans are fed up with the commercialism of the December holidays and are yearning for something simpler. Or it could be that Festivus is the perfect secular theme for an all-inclusive December gathering (even better than Chrismukkah, popularized by the television show “The O.C."). Or maybe, postulating smally, it’s just irresistibly silly.


The whole piece is a worthy read for any who find any amusement in Festivus.

Quite honestly, methinks the article occassionally takes the subject a tad too seriously. While I take the whole secular appeal (to a point) but mainly this just sounds not all that different then Trekkies who take their devotion to a fictional universe a tad too far…

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More from the Front (i.e., Washington)

By Steven Taylor @ 6:09 pm

Brian Crouch, posting at Sound Politics has a video capture of a TV report showing a dubious “vote” in the Washington gubernatorial contest.

I am all for letting all the valid votes count, but there is sufficient ambiguity on something like this to get one pause. It could be an attempt to vote, it could be a stray mark-how can we really know?

If you can’t bubble in the oval (it is to the left of the name-granted on the screen capture it is hard to see), then I don’t have a lot of sympathy. For example, if we assume that the mark was made by a voter who didn’t understand they had to fill in the oval, how do we know that they intended to vote for Gregiore? Seriously: if one is sufficiently challenged as to not understand the oval, can we reasonably infer they the person in question is capable enough to understand which name the stray mark is supposed to be linked to?

Really: counting ballots of people incorrectly rejected by the system is one thing, guessing what a mark means is another.

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On Talking to (and Viewing) the Opposition

By Steven Taylor @ 3:15 pm

After having given her book a positive review earlier in the week, I hate to pick on Barbara O’Brien of MahaBlog, but in a post this morning she makes some claims that I think require discussion and scrutiny—and hopefully a worthwhile dialog can be established as result.

To be honest, my inspiration for writing this post (aside from the fact that I am avoiding some grading I need to do) is that her post is indicative of stuff I see all the time in the Blogosphere, i.e., wherein an ideological blog thinks its side is the nicer one, and the other side is just full of angry rubes who don’t deal in facts, but only diatribes and emotions.

Barbara makes a couple of claims that I think are over the top.

For example:

If you spend time cruising both sides of the blogosphere, IMO there is a marked difference in overall tone between right and left. There’s plenty of snarkiness all around, and it’s no secret that left and right don’t trust each other. But generally, leftie bloggers post about current events and explain (with reason and factual support) what the blogger likes or does not like about said events. And generally, rightie bloggers just spew out hate.

I find this to be grossly unfair and patently false (and, btw, I have seen righty blogs saying the same thing about lefty blogs—both “sides” have a tendency to assume the best about their side and the worst about the other). No doubt one reads criticisms of one’s own views and that criticism seems angrier and meaner than things written by people with whom one agrees.

When I read Kos or Atrios, they often seem quite angry to me (if not mean), but I suspect that when Barbara reads them, she probably thinks they are being eminently fair. One has to recognize the lens through which one views such things.

Further, I would note that it really isn’t fair to state that lefty bloggers uses facts and reason and righty bloggers don’t. Quite frankly, most bloggers don’t use either as much as they think they do. And, for that matter, both sides use facts and reason that often appeal to their point of view.

Further, I would say that blogs that I would think fall into the “righty” camp such at InstaPundit, Outside the Beltway,, and Signifying Nothing, do a good job of being both reasonable and non-angry.

Along the same line there are those in the “lefty” camp who argue well, even if I don’t agree with them or find them annoying, sarcastic or even dead wrong at times, if not often. For example, I often read Kevin Drum, Brad DeLong, Mark A. R. Kleiman, among others, with whom I may not share ideological kinship, but who write intelligently on their blogs.

Along these lines, I just don’t get this statement:

The few rightie bloggers who manage a civil tone are still intellectually dishonest about it, dismissing any news story that violates their ideological sensitivities as “liberal bias.” Whether the facts presented in the story are or are not true is rarely a consideration.

This is simply painting with too broad a brush. Not only is this statement rather condescending in the sense that it is assumed only a handful of rightie bloggers can manage civility, it further slams those by accuing them, writ large, with intellectual dishonesty. Let me note for the record: it is possible for someone to be in disagreement with another person and have both parties operating with intellectual honesty. In other words: even if I am wrong, it doesn’t mean I am being intellectually dishonest.

Another point where I think Barbara is off the mark is here:

However, that’s not the kind of post rightie trolls leave. Rightie trolls leave posts that say you’re a liberal so you stink, except with more vulgarity. Rightie troll posts rarely come with reason or factual support. Usually rightie troll posts are nothing but gratuitous insult.

What I would say here is that if one strikes the word “rightie” from the paragraph, and aim it just at trolls, then she has a point. The bottom line is that trolls are trolls, left, right, center, whatever. To state that only “rightie trolls” are rude is to demonstrate that perhaps one hasn’t looked enough at the comments sections of other blogs. It is no doubt the case that if one has a right-leaning blog, one’s obnoxious trolls probably come from the left, and if one runs a left-leaning blogs, the obnoxious trolls are righties. Still, trolls are trolls, and from personal experience I can readily state that there are no ideological monopolies on rudeness or stupid comments.

As a generic point, I would note that citing Freepers as being a representative sample of conservatives is an disingenuous as saying that the Democratic Underground is representative of liberals. Both sides need to come to grips with the fact that there are obnoxious people on both sides of aisle.

I think that we all tend to get to isolated in our own little ideological worlds, especially in the current world of niche media. We all spend too much time reading columnists and blogs that agree with us, listening to radio that agrees with us and watching cable news shows that agree with us. As such, we find our own view reinforced, while the other side seems more and more foreign (and wrong). Perhaps the we should all take a trip on the other side of the aisle more frequently and try to view our own positions through alternative lenses. At a minimum, one will find that one is better able to defend one’s own positions if one knows how the other side will attack. And beyond that, it might actually cause us to actually think more deeply about our own views. Such a concept, yes?

Of course, when Barbara makes the following statement, intelligent debate becomes difficult:

The bald truth is that to be a Bush supporter means that you are (a) ignorant of what’s going on; (b) suffering massive cognitive dissonance; or © are a soulless sociopathic bastard.

She certainly has the right to subscribe to such a position, but really, this is hardly helpful, constructive, or true. This is simple demonization which does nothing to further intellectual discourse.

She continues:

I postulate that rightiness (as opposed to actual political conservatism, which is something else entirely) is less an ideology than a pathology, bordering on sociopathy. Those who don’t tidily conform to their world view are not human beings, in their minds. Democrats, liberals, neighborhood children who might be electrocuted, the poor, and often minorities -are not human beings. Just caricatures. They don’t bleed. They don’t think. They don’t have souls, or mothers. Therefore, it’s easy for righties to suggest that killing a few of these vermin might be a good thing, and no twinge of conscienceness stops them. This is sociopathy on its face.

Well, I shan’t argue the point, if her definition is correct (which I dispute). However, I am unaware of any substantial number of persons who believe such things. Oddly, by describing “righties” in such a way, Barbara is engaging in the same kind of dehumanizing sociopathic classification of her fellow citizen that she is accusing “righties” of doing. Really, if these people (i.e., “righties"/"Bush supporters") really think this way, why take them seriously? Why treat them as fellow citizens who ought to be treated with any modicum of respect?

Perhaps I am missing her definition of “righties” but since it seems to encompass “Bush supporters” I am at a loss to construct a particularly narrow definition.

Bloggers such as Stephen Green, Dean Esmay, James Joyner, Betsy Newmark, Glenn Reynolds, Sean Hackbarth, Ann Althouse, and myself (to list a few) are all definable as “Bush supporters” to one degree or another, yet I don’t think any of us are sociopaths.

Now, I will readily grant, there are some hateful, angry blogs out there, but they are on the right and the left-anger and hate are non-ideological, equal opportunity nouns.

I think she needs to rethink her position on this topic.

She concludes her post stating that she respects “conservative opinion,” but not sociopathy. Let me join her is condemning the sociopathic, but I am vexed as to her exact definition of “conservative opinion” and to degree to which she sincerely respects it (since at one place she links it to intellectual dishonesty and seems to link it to sociopathic thought processes elsewhere). And, of course, I dispute her broad-brushing large swaths of Americans as sociopathic.

At any rate, I offer up this post as the basis for discussion with Barbara and anyone else who wishes to get into the act—all in the spirit of classic liberal discourse.

Generically, it seems that there is a cautionary tale here for all of us in the way in which we view our ideological rivals.

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Space-Station Gazing

By Steven Taylor @ 1:53 pm

Space Station May Be Visible Over Holidays

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More Info on Mosul Bomber

By Steven Taylor @ 1:45 pm

Via the AP: Mosul Bomber Was Wearing Iraqi Uniform

The suicide bomber who blew himself up in a U.S. military dining tent this week, killing more than 20 people was probably wearing an Iraqi military uniform, the U.S. general in charge of the region said Thursday.


“What we think is likely, but certainly not certain, is that an individual in an Iraqi military uniform, possibly with a vest-worn explosive device, was inside the facility and detonated the facility, causing this tragedy. That’s preliminary. We’ll find out what the truth is and take necessary actions as we gain more information.”

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And Speaking of Festivus

By Steven Taylor @ 11:14 am

Via the Miami Herald: Nativity scene attracts Festivus

When a church group insisted on putting a Nativity scene on Polk County public property, officials warned it might open the door to other religious, and not-so-religious, displays.

It turns out the warning was on the mark.

Since the Nativity was erected, displays honoring Zorastrianism and the fake holiday Festivus, featured on an episode of the TV show Seinfeld, have also appeared.

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Happy Festivus

By Steven Taylor @ 11:12 am

Taxpayers Celebrate Festivus!

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today marked its first celebration of Festivus to acknowledge the disappointments and successes of 2004. In the sitcom “Seinfeld,” Festivus is a fictional holiday invented by Frank Costanza (George’s father) to protest the commercialization of other December holidays. The Festivus dinner begins with the Airing of Grievances, where the celebrant tells family and friends all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. Similarly, CAGW will now tell politicians all the ways they have disappointed taxpayers over the past year. Festivus is not considered over until the head of the family has been pinned by another participant in the Feats of Strength. Likewise, CAGW will end Festivus by recognizing the times taxpayers triumphed over Washington’s big spenders.

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Gift Ideas

By Steven Taylor @ 9:41 am

Speaking of Sean, he has his latest in a series of last minute gift ideas.

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Which One?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:38 am

That was the first question that came to mind upon seeing the following headline:

Jennifer Lopez’s Ex-Husband Sues Her

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Things I Don’t Get (Bookstore Edition)

By Steven Taylor @ 9:36 am

This one is for Sean Hackbarth (since he has been giving me a hard time of late): what’s up with putting the price sticker on books over portions of the blurb on the back, so that one can’t actually read the darn thing. I have noticed this at several book stores. I am sure that they don’t do it at Sean’s store :)

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Make it 10

By Steven Taylor @ 9:09 am

Via the Seattle Times: Gregoire leads by 10

Dino Rossi’s bid to become Washington’s first Republican governor in two decades unraveled in a big way yesterday.

After winning the first two counts in the state’s closest race ever, Rossi fell behind Democrat Christine Gregoire by 10 votes in what was supposed to be the final day of an unprecedented statewide manual recount.

And he could drop even more after the state Supreme Court yesterday rejected a Republican attempt to block King County from reconsidering more than 700 ballots that the county said had been mistakenly disqualified.

Although, it strikes me that “not so fast” is the appropriate response:

Rossi and the Republicans vowed to fight on. They talked of contesting the results in court or pressing county auditors around the state to reconsider disqualified ballots from Republican voters.

“This is the election without end,” said state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance. “This is the election without rules.”

Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane pointed out that after Gregoire lost the first two counts by narrow margins, she called the race a “tie.”

“We’re not going to call this a tie but it is extremely close. It’s certainly too close to call and Dino is not conceding,” Lane said. “This election is not over.”

I must admit, the Dems do look too eager to claim this event as definitive when they did want to call the prior two counts as too close to call.

On the one hand, the whoel affair has the feel of “count ’til we get the result we want” but on the other, if it is clearly the case that ballots were improperly rejected, then I don’t see the basis for excluding them. Of course, if they are going to reconsider the rejected ballots in King County, they need to reconsider them statewide.

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The Washington Recount

By Steven Taylor @ 8:52 am

Stefan Sharansky of Sound Politics has an interesting post on the inner-workigs of electoral politics in Washington, specifically the manner under state law in which homeless voters are registered, inlcuding the fact that 527 of the 763 active voters in precinct 1823 are all registered at the King County Administration building,

While he notes that he isn’t alleging fraud (this situation conforms to state law), but notes that questions about the process of verifying the eligibility of these voters-especially since some give overseas mailing addresses.

When the result of the vote is 8 votes (or 42), such processes raise eyebrows, to be sure.

Go read the whole thing.

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Kerik Quits Giuliani Firm

By Steven Taylor @ 8:35 am

Abortive Bush Cabinet Nominee Quits Giuliani Firm

Bernard Kerik, New York’s former top police officer who withdrew as a Bush administration cabinet nominee, resigned on Wednesday from a consulting firm with former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Giuliani said.

So, you think ol’ Bernie wishes he had never heard of the Department of Homeland Security, or what?

Update: I was browsing the current Yahoo! News most popular stories, and noted this rather unfortunate juxtaposition of photo and headline:

Kerik doesn’t appear in the story, but his photo is there as part of a Homeland Security slideshow (either that, or the Yahoo computers have a sense of humor).

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PoliColumn: Alabama Christmas List

By Steven Taylor @ 8:16 am

This is from today’s Mobile Register, but didn’t make it online, so here’s the pre-published version:

An Alabama Christmas List

Steven L. Taylor

There is a Christmas song of relatively recent vintage entitled “My Grown-up Christmas List.” That song contains, as one might expect, if one is unfamiliar with the tune, wishes for such things as wars that never start and love that never ends. While I certainly won’t argue with those sentiments, I have a far humbler set of requests as I contemplate a grown-up Christmas list for our state, and it is one that is full of things that are certainly difficult to obtain, but are imminently possible.

Now, if we are going for pie in the sky the obvious things to include would be ending poverty, crime, and disease. However, the goal of a Christmas list isn’t to ask for the impossible. Rather, I look out over the political landscape of Alabama and it is clear-crystal clear, in fact-that any realistic wish list for improving our state has to start with the 1901 Constitution.

We should, by now, know the basics: out state constitution is a copious, confusing, overly detailed document that was written to empower the elite of the day (i.e., landowners, especially owners of large amounts of land) and to disenfranchise the non-elite (i.e., everybody else, but especially poor whites and blacks). Further, the document refuses localities the ability at serious self-government and concentrates the power of the state government in Montgomery. Then, to make sure that very little actual governing is done, the constitution limits what the state government can do as well. Evidence of the latter point can be found in the detailed, often silly, amendments we have to pass every two years to get basic governing done in the state.

As such, I would state without any hesitation, that our state’s constitution creates a dysfunctional, arguably broken, state government and that it needs to be replaced. Along those lines let me detail a few of my Christmas wishes vis-à-vis our constitution. Given that I could write several columns (if not a book) on this subject, these are just some selected highlights from a long, long list.

My first wish is the broadest and the on that needs to be granted first so that the others might stand a chance. That wish is that the citizens of Alabama would come to grips with the reality of the 1901 Constitution. Despite the arguments that many groups in the state have made, and that are subscribed to by many well-meaning citizens, the fact of the matter is that the origins of our constitution are not noble. The 1901 Constitution was not written to strengthen democracy, does not uphold worthy traditions nor, despite the preamble, was its main goal religious in any way. The goal was, as noted, to empower a minority at the expense of the majority—by definition, therefore, it was written with anti-democratic intentions. These facts undercut the myth that the document is worth preserving. My wish is that that myth would dissipate. I guarantee that any serious examination of the fact concerning the origins or content of the document will certainly help such dissipation. Knowledge is, after all, power.

A second wish is linked to the first: that the citizens of Alabama would recognize that government is necessary, and worthy of being fixed. As James Madison noted in Federalist #51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary” and since none of us are angels, there is no denying the need for government. So, since it is not going away, we Alabamians ought to insist on the best government possible, not the dysfunctional mess we are currently saddled with.

A third wish is (theoretically) pretty easy: I would like to see the current constitution recompiled so that it will be topically consistent and so that all of the deadwood (i.e., the portions that have been declared unconstitutional) is removed. Such an action would take out the odious segregationist language that still abides in the document after the failed attempt to remove it last November. This idea has been proposed by Governor Riley, but thus far has not been successful. Such a move would not solve our governance problems, but would at least make the document more understandable.

A fourth is increased home rule for localities. It is ridiculous that basic local governance often requires making requests to the legislature for local bills when the power to decide how to govern cities, school districts and such should be held by the people closest to the problems at hand.

A fifth wish would be that we could have a state constitution that would promote economic activity in our state, rather than trying to stand in its way (see Section 93).

A sixth wish would be that the practice of earmarking would end, and instead that budgets would be constructed based on democratic principles of representation (not the entrenched power of a handful of groups). This is another proposal suggested by Governor Riley, but that has gone nowhere.

My wish-list could easily go on, and much more could be said about each wish, but space dictates that I stop here.

Now, if all these Christmas wishes were granted would Alabama become paradise? Certainly not. Would government always do the right thing? No, because it would still be a government by men over men. However, would there be better governance and enhanced democracy in our state? Absolutely.

Certainly all of these would make worthy Christmas gifts for our state. If one is inclined to disagree with me on these ideas, all I would ask is that seriously thought be given to why—and if the argument is that things are fine in the state I would simply point to the state’s rankings in areas of education, poverty and economic development and ask if “fine” is the appropriate description of the state of our state.

Regardless of one’s views, let me end by wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004
What He Said (More BCS BS)

By Steven Taylor @ 10:02 pm

Chris Lawrence of Signifying Nothing has some spot-on comments on the pull out of the AP from the BCS. Indeed, I was planning on making a comment on the AP"s hypocrisy basing their pull out on not wanting to “make the news, but report on it". Not only are they making the news right now, but it is utterly silly to have a poll and think that one isn’t making the news-in the BCS or not. As Chris wrote:

Now, if only the Associated Press would go one step further and acknowledge that the act of producing a poll in and of itself undermines the independence of the AP from the sport it is covering, I might be able to respect this decision. But the AP’s choice to distance itself from a controversial system without also taking stock of the reality that the AP’s football and basketball polls are key determinants of the attention given to, and thus the profitability of, all college “revenue"sports-not just the BCS championship game, but also regular-season matchups and, via the NCAA selection committees, the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments-smacks of hypocrisy.


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The Wasington Supremes: Count ‘Em

By Steven Taylor @ 3:58 pm

Via the AP: Wash. Court: New Ballots Can Be Counted

Washington state’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that hundreds of belatedly discovered ballots from Seattle’s King County should be counted in the extraordinarily close governor’s race - potentially enough to tip the balance in favor of Democrat Christine Gregoire.

Which means: here come some more lawsuits as the Republicans will attempt to get other ballots counted.

Thanks to crushkerry.cpm for the tip/

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Speaking of Christmas…

By Steven Taylor @ 3:43 pm

Joe Gandelman has A Politically Correct Xmas Carol for your enjoyment.

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Goldberg on Christmas

By Steven Taylor @ 1:53 pm

Jonah Goldberg (Lighten up, it’s Christmas) writes:

Christmas is a joyous holiday, and joyous people tend not to behave like Torquemada. By my rough calculation, 99.87 percent of Christians who say “Merry Christmas” to people who aren’t Christian do so because they’re trying to be nice. And, by my equally rough calculation, 97.93 percent of people who take real offense when they’re on the receiving end of such Yuletide wishes are trying to be a pain in the-uh, well, they’re trying to be a pain. Let’s put it this way. If you were in Morocco (and a non-Muslim) and someone said to you, “Have a nice Ramadan,” you’d probably say thanks respectfully and leave it at that.


Also indeed (on multiple points):

Closer to home, my wife works at the Department of Justice, where not even America’s most feared Christian, John Ashcroft, could successfully keep the Department of Justice from celebrating Gay Pride Month just downstairs from his office. But I’m supposed to buy that it would be outrageous for the DOJ to have a Christmas — not holiday, but Christmas — party one night after work?

Tolerance must be a two-way street. If minorities want the majority to be tolerant of them, minorities in turn need to tolerate at least some of the norms of the majority. Simply because there are more Christians than Jews or Muslims or atheists, doesn’t mean that Christians should always get the shaft. That said, Christians — or at least the politically organized ones — don’t do themselves any favors when they start talking like just another identity politics group.

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The Beginning of the End of the BCS?

By Steven Taylor @ 12:53 pm

Via SI: AP decides to pull its poll out of BCS formula

The Associated Press has decided to pull its football poll from the Bowl Championship Series formula beginning with the 2005 season.

Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg told the Boston Globe that the AP sent him a letter stating its concern about participating in the BCS formula, which is used to select teams for the national title game as well as the three other BCS bowls.

Since the underlying logic of the BCS was to make a split national championship impossible (oops, screwed that one up last year) by guaranteeing that #1 plays #2, it would seem that the removal of one of the polls from the BCS formula means that whatever tenuous justification for the existence of the BCS is now gone.

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A Worthy Read

By Steven Taylor @ 12:46 pm

Lileks: The Blog of the Year, or the Year of the Blog?

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Decline in Foreign Students to US Universities?

By Steven Taylor @ 10:53 am

Via the NYT: U.S. Slips in Attracting the World’s Best Students

Foreign students contribute $13 billion to the American economy annually. But this year brought clear signs that the United States’ overwhelming dominance of international higher education may be ending. In July, Mr. Payne briefed the National Academy of Sciences on a sharp plunge in the number of students from India and China who had taken the most recent administration of the Graduate Record Exam, a requirement for applying to most graduate schools; it had dropped by half.

Foreign applications to American graduate schools declined 28 percent this year. Actual foreign graduate student enrollments dropped 6 percent. Enrollments of all foreign students, in undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral programs, fell for the first time in three decades in an annual census released this fall. Meanwhile, university enrollments have been surging in England, Germany and other countries.

The initial headline, and even the opening paragraphs of the story, are more alarmist than the actual numbers would seem to indicate.

While citing such stats as a 50%+ decline in GRE exams taken by students form China and India sounds like near disaster, the reality of a 6% decline in enrollments, while indeed significant, is a whole lot less dramatic and dire than the testing stats. And the only actual numbers given relate to graduate studies. While the stories notes a decline in undergraduate enrollments, it doesn’t cite a figure, which I would have liked to have known.

Further, pointing out that application declined by 28%. but enrollemnt declined only 6% indicates that there are an awful lot of applicants who don’t get admitted to school. My point being that a decline in applications (or even a decline in people taking the GRE) isn’t the right measure-indeed, if one is getting poor applicants or if people taking the GRE aren’t doing well, then it is actually a good thing that there are less of both). Enrollment is the issue.

Here’s the story’s graphic on the GRE (noting China, India and South Korea):

Again, while these are significant numbers, it is as if the authors of the story picked the most alarming stat to display.

It stands to reason that European and Asian institutions would be seeking to reform their curricula and thereby attempt to keep more of their students at home. Indeed, it is surprising that the Europeans haven’t tried to do so decades ago. Of course, since the value of a degree is very much a function of reputation, the fact of the matter is that the established universities will continue to have a substantial leg up.

Not doubt that part of the decline is linked to the increased difficulty in obtaining visas in the post-911 world:

Some of the American decline, experts agree, is due to post-Sept. 11 delays in processing student visas, which have discouraged thousands of students, not only from the Middle East but also from dozens of other nations, from enrolling in the United States. American educators and even some foreign ones say the visa difficulties are helping foreign schools increase their share of the market.


American educators have been concerned since the fall of 2002, when large numbers of foreign students experienced delays in visa processing. But few noticed the rapid emergence of higher education as a global industry until quite recently.

The question becomes, of course, exactly how many potential students have had such troubles, and how much that affected the enrollment issue. I would wager that a significant portion of that 6% decline is linked to this issue. I know that our foreign students have had increased trouble with their visas and there have been several stories in the press about foreign faculty having visa troubles.

On balance, I would think that global competition for students is likely on the rise, but I also think that the tone of the story is unnecessarily alarmist.

Hat tip: The Big Picture, which takes a dimmer view of the situation than do I.

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Democrat Gregoire Unofficially Ahead in Washington

By Steven Taylor @ 9:41 am

Via the Seattle Times: Gregoire catches Rossi, Democrats say

After losing the first two counts in Washington’s closest-ever race for governor, it appears Democrat Christine Gregoire has pulled even with-or possibly overtaken-Republican Dino Rossi on the final day of a contentious statewide manual recount.

King County, the last to complete the recount, is not expected to release new vote totals until this afternoon. But state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said last night the party’s calculations indicate that, with virtually all of the votes tallied, Gregoire is ahead by eight votes.

“Based on the data we’ve received, we’re confident she’s taken the lead,” Berendt said.

Republicans said they were still crunching King County’s figures and weren’t sure who was ahead. But they confirmed the margin is likely fewer than a dozen votes.

There are still the disputed 735 ballots from King County, which the court has yet to rule on. Further, if those ballots are allowed, look for the Reps to file suit based on a host of other ballots across the state which were similarly rejected.

Update: James Joyner has more.

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The Splenda Crisis!

By Steven Taylor @ 9:33 am

Via the NYT: A Something Among the Sweet Nothings

The company that makes sucralose, Tate & Lyle of London, informed customers last month that it could not keep up with demand and that all shipments would have to be rationed on a monthly basis and calculated from past sales.

“Tate & Lyle has decided that we will not be in a position to supply any new customers effective today,” Tate & Lyle’s vice president for sales, Robert Turner, wrote. Because sucralose is under patent, there are no other manufacturers.

From a pure business perspective, this is interesting, insofar as the article notes that the sucralose shortage is affecting the ability of beverage companies to roll out new products next year-and one pressumes that given the greater flexibility of sucralose over the other artificial sweeteners that other food products that would have been produced won’t be because of the lack of the product and the fact that the oter sweeteners aren’t usable for any process using high heat.

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3Q Growth Revised Slightly Upward

By Steven Taylor @ 9:29 am

Via USAT: Economic growth revised up in 3rd quarter

The economy grew at 4%, a slightly stronger rate than previously thought in the third quarter because imports were not as hefty as first estimated, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, but corporate profits weakened.

Gross domestic product, the measure of total goods and services production within U.S. borders, expanded at a 4% annual rate in the July-September quarter instead of 3.9% as previously reported, Commerce said.

That is a relatively robust pace that implies steady and sustained growth. It beat economists’ forecasts that third-quarter GDP growth would be unrevised at 3.9% and was a step up from the second quarter’s 3.3% annual rate of GDP growth.

Looking ahead to the current October-to-December quarter, analysts believe the economy will perform solidly. Estimates for fourth-quarter growth range from a 3.5% rate to a 4.5% rate.

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NY-AZ-LA Deal Deep Sixed

By Steven Taylor @ 9:23 am

Via Reuters: Big Unit Deal Nixed by Dodgers

Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta announced Tuesday night that the trade was not beneficial to his club. “The deal is no more. I was saying all along I wouldn’t do a deal unless it made sense for ‘05 club. At the end of the day, I feel that was the case.”

Isn’t that the sort of thing you are supposed to figure oute before you agree to a trade?

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Today’s Coffee News: Commodity Prices Surge

By Steven Taylor @ 9:07 am

Via The Economic Times: Coffee has some steam left for another rally

A searing rally that lifted coffee prices to their highest in over four years may have the firepower behind it to hit even loftier levels, analysts said.

The catalyst for the surge has been projections that global coffee production will be outstripped by demand in %u201905-06, with output falling in leading producer Brazil and key grower Vietnam.

The world’s most popular hot beverage galloped past the key mark of 100 cents a pound in the New York Arabica coffee market in the last two weeks, and is at its highest since the middle of ‘00 when it was trading between 110 and 120 cents a pound.

The key March Arabica futures contract on the New York Board of Trade rose to a contract high on Monday of 107.4 cents per pound to mark the commodity’s highest in four and a half years.

It was only three years ago that prices had sunk to their lowest in decades in the face of a world-wide glut as coffee crops far outpaced consumption in the big coffee drinking countries.

One wonders if this will filter down to the growers, the plight of which was noted here.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Things I Don’t Get (Christmas Shopping Edition)

By Steven Taylor @ 5:08 pm

Here’s a few things I don’t get:

  • Three workers, long line of customers, yet only one register is open.
  • People who work at stores who don’t say a single word to you, even while they are “helping” you.
  • Self-serve check-out (which I use because it is allegedly faster than the normal one) that requires a clerk to come check your credit card or debit card. This has happened at Home Depot and Wal*Mart. If I wanted to deal with clerks (especially if I have to wait for clerks), I wouldn’t use the self serve line.
  • The fact that an ad (with a picture and all the requisite details) wasn’t enough to get the sale price on an item, but rather required a good bit of waiting while the guy at the register went somewhere and finally came back and gave me the right price. (Corollary: why in the age of computer the appropriate sale price didn’t come up when the item was scanned is beyond me as well).
  • Stores that don’t have stuff from their ads in stock (actually, I do understand the bait-n-switch, but it still annoys me).

Feel free to add your own via comments or by posting a happy holiday shopping story from your own blog (trackback this post and get a link below). Think of it as a holiday shopping linkfest a la the Beltway Traffic Jam


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Video: The Argument Clinic

By Steven Taylor @ 1:01 pm

For those who are unfamilar (how sad) with the Argument Clinic sketch I mentioned the other day, I have found an online video of it.

Click and enjoy.

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Book Review II: Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man

By Steven Taylor @ 9:52 am

Here’s the second in a series of book reviews to help aid you in your last-minute Christmas shopping.

A while back, I was sent a copy of David T. Hardy and Jason Clarke’s Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man. I read it months ago, but never got around to reviewing it, so here we go.

The book is a collection of original research and commentary by Hardy and Clarke (the bulk of the book) interspersed with previously published essays/columns by other authors. Of the authors of the extra pieces (five) the most prominent is Andrew Sullivan. The other name I recognize is Tim Blair.

I have only thumbed through Mr. Moore’s books, but my limited knowledge of those pieces make me think that part of Hardy and Clarke’s goal was to create a semi-parody of Moore’s work. The writing style, the chapter titles, and the book jacket are all reminiscent of Moore’s various books. As such the writing style is quit casual (also an artifact of the fact, I am betting, that the book was written in something of a hurry to correspond to the release and subsequent media firestorm over F911. It makes for a very readable book (and a fairly quick read, for that matter).

The book is a broad overview of Moore’s career and addresses mostly his pre-F911 career by looking at his movies and books. There is a chapter on F911, although it was written without a viewing of the film. What the chapter does is cull Moore’s previous work to find his views on such issues as the Taliban, 911, Saudi Arabia, terrorism and so forth. Many of the predictions ended up to be correct.

There is a forty-plus section of notes and sources. As such, the book provides the basis for further research on Moore, should one wish to engage in such work. I do wish, however, that the chapters had been footnoted so that the exact sources could be clearly linked to the nuggets of info in the chapters. It isn’t hard to figure out the link between a given piece of information and a given source, however. Still, being the academic type that I am, I really would have preferred footnotes.

This text is of interest to anyone wishing to get a critical overview of Moore, although as noted above, it could have been an even stronger text if the authors had ditched the semi-parody of Moore’s work and even more directly dealt with the factual and ideological foibles of Mr. Moore.

One bit of trivia that I did not know about Moore, but learned from the book, is that he was briefly the editor of Mother Jones, but was fired a few months into his tenure He sued the magazine for $2 million, but settled for $58,000. He used the cash from the settlement to start work on Roger & Me.

One of the things I found funny is that the books publisher, Regan (a division of Harper-Collins) also published Moore’s Stupid White Men.

Unless one is especially focused on Mr. Moore, this book is sort of a bargain bin/lender kind of book.

I give it two and half cups (out of five):

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Dallas QB Change on the Way (Maybe)

By Steven Taylor @ 9:04 am

As DCF, James notes: Quarterback Change Possible in Dallas.

Let me toss in my two cents: time to sit Vinny and see what te team has in both Romo and Henson. Losing while learning is actually a better thing for Dallas to do at this point than would be winning and not knwoing what the team needs going into 2005.

Clearly, we have some bright spots: at TE Jason Witten is finally the player we have been looking for to replace Jay Novacek. Further, once healthy, Dan Campbell creates a one-two punch at TE the team hasn’t ever had (at least in my memory).

Further, Julius Jones is clearly a real running back, which is huge.

At WR, despite their age, Keyshawn and Terry Glenn are quite good, and Quincy Morgan is solid (although it is unclear if the trade for Bryant was the right one) and I have been impressed with Copper.

The OLine has been decent, but could always be improved, bo doubt.

It would seem, that if the team knows what it needs at QB then those two #1s next year should be used on defense. There is an obvious need at right corner and a similar one on the D-line.

Cross-posted at DCF and SportsBlog.

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Today’s Coffee News

By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 am

Via the Seattle Times: Coffee shops perking up Oregon town

Just how coffee-crazy is the Northwest?

Consider this southwestern Oregon city of 24,790, which has 23 places where you can drive by, walk up or sit down for espresso drinks %u2014 one for every 1,078 people.

That far exceeds the national average of one gourmet coffee outlet for every 18,380 people, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America in Long Beach, Calif.

With so many to choose from, there is a real range, The Oregonian reports. You can grab a mocha and an oil change at Lube N Latte, unload your recycling while ordering a cappuccino at Xtreme Bean or sample hemp lattes at JoeBuzz.

Hmm, I think I’ll skip the hemp latte-I am not really a latte guy anyway. Just give me the straight stuff.

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By Steven Taylor @ 8:45 am

J.K. Rowling’s sixth Potter novel due July 16

The sixth novel in J.K. Rowling’s blockbuster Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, will go on sale in Britain and the United States on July 16, publishers said Tuesday.

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Gitmo: The Next Scandal?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:44 am

From USAT: Interrogators may have posed as FBI agents

Pentagon officials are investigating new allegations by a civil liberties group that military interrogators at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay used abusive tactics to question detainees under the guise of friendlier FBI agents.


In one [e-mail], the writer described seeing a “detainee sitting on the floor of the interview room with an Israeli flag draped around him, loud music being played and a strobe light flashing.” Another Guantanamo prisoner has, in a court petition, described detainees wrapped in Israeli flags, among other allegations. At the time, a Guantanamo Bay spokesman denied his statements.

In another message, dated from August, the writer reports more than once witnessing prisoners chained to the floor in a fetal position, with no food or water. They had often soiled themselves. On one occasion, the temperature in a room was lowered so much the barefooted detainee shivered. In another, the room was so hot the detainee had pulled out some of his hair before passing out.

The big political issue, will be this:

The e-mails, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also describe some harsh interrogation techniques and a suggestion they were approved by President Bush.

We shall see.

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Monday, December 20, 2004
Mr. President, Retire That Phrase

By Steven Taylor @ 10:35 pm

From today’s Press Conference

Q Thank you. (Laughter.) You talked about the big picture elements of the Secretary’s job, but did you find it offensive that he didn’t take the time to personally sign condolence letters to the families of troops killed in Iraq? And, if so, why is that an offense that you’re willing to overlook?

THE PRESIDENT: Listen, I know how - I know Secretary Rumsfeld’s heart. I know how much he cares for the troops. He and his wife go out to Walter Reed in Bethesda all the time to provide comfort and solace. I have seen the anguish in his - or heard the anguish in his voice and seen his eyes when we talk about the danger in Iraq, and the fact that youngsters are over there in harm’s way. And he is - he’s a good, decent man. He’s a caring fellow. Sometimes perhaps is demeanor is rough and gruff, but beneath that rough and gruff, no-nonsense demeanor is a good human being who cares deeply about the military, and deeply about the grief that war causes.

Every time I hear that phrase I think of Putin, and I am not so sure the President’s heart-gazing was all that accurate when it came to ol’ Vladimir.

Further, while I think I understand where he is coming from, it sounds a tad triate, to say the least.

So, my political advice for Christmas Week: that phrase should be retired.

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Speaking of Coffee

By Steven Taylor @ 9:41 pm

Via USAT: Single-serving coffee can heats itself

Beginning Jan. 2, consumers can buy a 10-ounce container of Wolfgang Puck gourmet latte at the store and heat it by pressing a button. No electricity. No batteries. No appliances.


How does the can do it? A single step mixes calcium oxide (quicklime) and water. It heats the coffee to 145 degrees in six minutes-and stays hot for 30 minutes.


“This will change the way people drink coffee,” says Jonathan Weisz, CEO of OnTech. He insists that the technology is child-safe and eco-friendly. The technology also could be used to heat tea, cocoa and soup products. By mid-2005, it will be tested on foods from rice to fish.

Interesting on several levels. However, on balance I can’t imagine that reheated coffee (even if reheated in a techno-cool, push-button fashion) can top fresh brewed coffee.

Still, I can see applications for the concept. Most interesting.

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The Scourge of Coffee

By Steven Taylor @ 9:37 pm

Via New Coffee becoming ‘drug’ of choice worldwide:

Compared to hardcore narcotics and cigarettes, coffee is relatively harmless, but it can have its side effects and lead to addiction, say scientists.

Stop the presses! Who knew? Oh, that’s right, we all knew that. I have little doubt that I am addicted to the stuff. When Ivan blew threw here and I had no power for a couple of days, I did get a headache one morning until I went to get some coffee. The horror!

Indeed, I concur:

A person who regularly drinks three cups of coffee, for instance, will require at least one cup in order for the brain to work in “normal” mode. Many people attest to the fact that they can’t fully wake up in the morning without a fresh brew.

However, it is rather unlikely that I, or any of my ilk, will find it necessary to knock over a 7-11 to get the dough needed to get a “fix.”

And Beware the Cartel!

Of course the coffee empire of Starbucks has gone a long way to boosting caffeine consumption and making coffee drinking cool among the younger crowd, shied away from traditional cafes with their stale interiors and gilded porcelain cups.

Every day the Seattle-based company opens up four new shops around the world and hires 200 new employees.

Who writes this stuff?

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Last Minute Gift Ideas: Books I

By Steven Taylor @ 5:55 pm

I have been remiss in reviewing a number of books that have been sent to me for that purpose.

The first one I will mention is Barbara O’Brien’s Blogging of America. If you are looking for something that explains the basics of blogging, this is a great book—especially the prolog, first chapter and the glossary of blogging terms. If you have a techno-challenged family member who doesn’t quite “get it” this book could very easily help.

The book also features blogging examples from well-known bloggers such as Stephen Green from Vodkapundit, Kevin Drum (from his CalPundit days), Andrew Sullivan John Hawkins and Robert Garica Tagorda (amongst others) and even folks such as myself.

Specifically the book dedicates chapters on the blogging of the 2004 State of the Union and the Gay Marriage issue and other issues such as the economy and the draft Wes Clark movement and its linkages to the internet.

The shortcoming of the book is that, by definition, a book on blogging will be out of date before the pages are printed (indeed, the fact that Kevin Drum, now of Political Animal, days at CalPundit seems like eons ago underscore the difference between blog time and print time). However, the subtitle of the text, political discourse in a digital nation, underscores that the point of the book isn’t to provide a chronicle of blogging, per se, but to issue at least an initial report on the growing significance of this medium to the political conversation in the United States.

The author is Barbara O’Brien who runs The Mahablog and who has a background in journalism. While Barbara’s blogging is decidedly from the Left, I will say that she did a very balanced job in her book.

I would recommend this book to any who either want to learn more about blogging generically, or for anyone who wants to have a slice of the early history of the Blogosphere on their shelves. The text is readable, interesting and furthers understanding of its subject: what more cold one ask for from a book?

Coming shortly: reviews of Denny Hastert’s Speaker and Hardy and Clarke’ Michael Moore is aBig Fat Stupid White Man and perhaps some others.

Update: Part of today’s OTB Traffic Jam.

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And, Remarkably, the Man Wants to be Re-elected

By Steven Taylor @ 4:50 pm

Indeed, fought to get the constitution reformed so that he can do so.

Via the BBC: Police foil plot ‘to kill Uribe’

Colombian police say they have thwarted a plot by rebels to kill President Alvaro Uribe by attacking his plane.

A spokesman said officers arrested two suspected members of the left-wing Farc group, and took more than 100kg (220lb) of explosives, in raids in Cartagena.

The news comes three days after police in the capital, Bogota, said they found a car bomb they believe was for use in an assassination bid against Mr Uribe.

The president has survived more than 10 attempts on his life.

The spokesman in Cartagena said officers found two homemade mortars and documents describing Mr Uribe’s previous visits to the northern city, where he has an official residence.

The BBC’s Jeremy McDermott in Colombia says Farc - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - has intensified its efforts to kill Mr Uribe, who is seeking to change the constitution so he can be re-elected.

And, I should hope:

The Colombian president is already the most highly protected Latin American leader

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Whaddya Know: Bush Understands both the Press and Separation of Powers

By Steven Taylor @ 12:27 pm

However, the press either doesn’t understand SoP or, at least, pretends not to.

From today’s Press Conference

Now, the temptation is going to be, by well-meaning people such as yourself, John, and others here, as we run up to the issue to get me to negotiate with myself in public; to say, you know, what’s this mean, Mr. President, what’s that mean. I’m not going to do that. I don’t get to write the law. I will propose a solution at the appropriate time, but the law will be written in the halls of Congress. And I will negotiate with them, with the members of Congress, and they will want me to start playing my hand: Will you accept this? Will you not accept that? Why don’t you do this hard thing? Why don’t you do that?

While I fully understand the collective desire on the part of the press to have definitive answers on a long list of issues, there really is a gross oversimplification on this topic (which is common with such matters) in which the questioning seems to start from the proposition that it will be president himself (or, at least, the White House) that will be writing the legislation. Further, the questioning on this topic has a certain feel of an attempt to find a “gotcha” soundbite. This isn’t to say that many of the questions aren’t good ones. And, further, they are questions that the president has invited by raising this topic.

On a related note, Bush has been as good as he hs ever been in these post-election press conferences, If he been like this during the campaign (and especially the debates) I believe that his victory would have been more decisive. It is as if winning has erased any tentativeness that he was feeling. I will grant that to some degree it is not unexpected: being re-elected is a transformative experience.

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It’s a Wonderful Flick

By Steven Taylor @ 12:10 pm

And the Seattle Times has some Facts of “A Wonderful Life” even faithful may not know

The whole thing is worth a read, but the most interesting (which I did not know at all) is the following:

it was the first movie Stewart made after his four-year, two-month stint as a genuine World War II hero. He left Army Air Forces active duty as a colonel. Biographer Fishgall states, “Among the first to answer the call to arms, he sustained a record of achievement that few of his peers had equaled and none could better.” Although Stewart never made a public display of his valor, he flew 20 bombing missions over Europe

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Chuck Shows the Way

By Steven Taylor @ 8:15 am

Via the NYT: Schumer Shows Senate Democrats His Way to Re-election

Charles E. Schumer, New York’s press-savvy senior senator, has made a name in his state with weekly Sunday news conferences, where he chases headlines on a slow news day. Now, his Democratic colleague in Minnesota, Mark Dayton, is doing the same with his re-election in 2006 approaching.

Mr. Schumer has also lifted his profile in New York by traveling to every major city at least once a month, like a candidate trailing in the polls. Now, a Democratic colleague in Washington, Maria Cantwell, is embarking on a similar schedule in that state until Election Day 2006.

Coincidence? Not exactly. You might think of it as Schumer 101.

Man, I’m getting tired just reading the list.

Still, one can’t argue with the smartness of this kind of activity. Not only does it demonstrate that Shumer is actually trying to represent his constituents it sends a strong symbolic message that he is connected to the citizens of the state.

And you have to love this:

Even Republicans say that while it may be tempting to caricature the senator as the sort of Democrat that voters seemed to reject in November - a liberal-leaning Northeasterner - it would be dangerous to underestimate Mr. Schumer, a man so seemingly driven that he met a challenge from a magazine reporter to draw all 62 New York counties freehand.

It is an interesting piece that details one of the key elements of being a member of congress: the representational aspect of the job in which contact with constituents is key. Further, it demonstrates a maxim of most textbooks on congress: that local media tend to be positive and easyily accessed. Here we see that Shumer fully understands this and exploits the circumstance quite ably.

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Shaq v. Kobe

By Steven Taylor @ 8:05 am

Hmm, the Heat having a winning percentage of .731 and the Lakers a winning percentage of .565. Granted, it’s early, but I wonder which of the Ego Twins (Ego Twins Powers, activate!) in the more valuable player?

Somehow I can see Miami having a legit shot at the Finals, and the Lakers, not so much (I can’t see LA getting past San Antonio, Seattle or Phoenix at this point).

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Speaking of the “Person of the Year”

By Steven Taylor @ 8:01 am

Via the AP (Time Selects Bush As Person of the Year) we find the following, which I was going to look up yesterday, but never got around to (proving that procrastination can pay off). Here are the presidents who have been named twice by Time to their annual Man/Person/Thing of the Year:

Bush, tapped in 2000 by Time, joins six other presidents who have twice been named the magazine’s Person of the Year: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower (first as a general), Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Franklin Roosevelt holds the record with three nods from the editors.

Seems to me that Ike doesn’t count in this category, while he did get named twice (as did Churchill, amongst others) but not as Pres.

So, the Presidential two-fers are:

FDR (x3)
Bush 43

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More on the Bombings in Iraq

By Steven Taylor @ 7:57 am

Via Reuters: Iraqis Round Up 50 After After Najaf Suicide Bomb

Fifty people suspected of involvement in Iraq’s insurgency have been detained in Najaf following Sunday’s suicide car bombing in which the death toll has risen to 52 killed and over 140 wounded, the governor said.

Provincial governor Adnan al-Zurfi gave few details at a news conference but said at least one suspect held a foreign Arab passport.

If true about the passport (what was the guy doing carrying it, if he was in fact just involved in the bombing?) then it does underscore that this is not some sort of nationalist anti-occupation movement. I remained wholly unconvinced that these attacks are simply the result of outrage over occupation. These are clearly anti-democracy forces, both indigenous and foreign (it would be quite interesting to know the exact mix).

Sadly, we can expect more of this sort of outrageous attacks on the innocent as we approach the elections.

Sunday, December 19, 2004
“Merry Christmas” from Fidel

By Steven Taylor @ 8:06 pm

Cuba Erects Iraq Abuse Billboards Near U.S. Mission

Cuba put up several huge billboards near the U.S. mission on Friday with pictures of abused Iraqi prisoners and American soldiers pointing a rifle at children, in response to a U.S. Christmas display in support of imprisoned Cuban dissident.

Two billboards with photos of hooded and bloodied inmates at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, a swastika and the word “fascists” in bold red letters were erected across the street from the U.S. diplomatic mission, where the display of Christmas lights includes the number 75, in reference to 75 pro-democracy activists imprisoned for lengthy terms last year.

Another billboard faces the back of the building, with large photos of U.S. soldiers searching and pointing a rifle at children, presumably in Iraq.

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Things I Said Today

By Steven Taylor @ 4:46 pm

To Youngest Son: “Why are you putting that spoon in your underpants?”

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  • Read My Lips - the blog linked with Dec. 20, 2004
Time’s Blog of the Year

By Steven Taylor @ 1:40 pm

Congrats to Power Line for being named Time’s Blog of the Year.

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  • Diggers Realm linked with Around The Blogosphere In 80 Seconds #10
Coffee Farmers in Dire Straits

By Steven Taylor @ 1:26 pm

In Designer Coffee Age, Growers Go Hungry

Jose Alerio grows some of the finest coffee beans in the world, which sell for premium prices in the United States and Europe.

But in Colombia, farmers like Alerio aren’t seeing any of the profits.

“I think we’re going to starve to death,” he says. “I can’t afford to keep this farm going.”

Alerio’s five children got just one meal the day ABC News visited — beans and bananas.

It really is remarkable, given world demand and what people pay for coffee that this is the case. Nevertheless:

In 1997, Colombian growers were paid $3.80 for a pound of coffee. This year, they’ve been getting 70 cents.

And the implications go beyond that steamin’ cup o’ joe (mmmm, coffee…):

In Colombia, the crisis is about much more than coffee. It threatens to undermine U.S. efforts in the South American country to combat guerrillas and the drug trade — as guerrillas find willing recruits amongst unemployed farm hands and as desperately poor coffee growers switch to growing heroin and cocaine to keep their families fed.

Yup, the fun never stops.

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Correlating Facial Hair and Tenure

By Steven Taylor @ 8:36 am

I have an alternative hypothesis to that raised by The Cranky Professor who suggests in his post a causative relationship between the two (i.e, that perhaps facial hair increases one’s chances for academic promotion).

My hypothesis: the higher one’s academic rank, the less one cares about fooling with shaving. (Otherwise known as the “Screw it, I have tenure” hypothesis, which often has multiple applications. We won’t get into what you call it when you’re a full Professor).

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Senator Biden

By Steven Taylor @ 8:19 am

Senator Joe Biden is on MTP and a question comes to my mind: is there a member of the Senate (nay, the Congress) who thinks more highly of themselves than does Joe Biden? I think not.

Even when he says things I agree with, I find him to be remarkably smug in his delivery.

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PoliColumn: Suburban Homeland Security

By Steven Taylor @ 7:57 am

From today’s Birmingham News:

What in the world is homeland security?
Sunday, December 19, 2004

There is no doubt the events of Sept. 11, 2001, alerted American to the vulnerability of the homeland. And as a result, Congress authorized the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in December 2002.

It would seem that homeland security mania has now swept southward, as the Birmingham suburb of Hoover (population 63,000) has become the first municipality in the state to form its own Department of Homeland Security and Immigration.

The whole thing is here.

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Saturday, December 18, 2004
An Unintended Blogging Experiment

By Steven Taylor @ 9:52 pm

My traffic has been down the last two days or so-noticeably so. I figured it was a combo of the holidays, my slightness of blogging since Wednesday and the weekend. However, I just noticed that I wan’t updating in Blogrolling and checking my Options in WordPress, I noticed that I had removed the blogroll link from my “Update Services” box.

Since learning that pinging blogrolling was interfering with trackback pinging, I have had to often delete the pingback to blogrolling from within WordPress (so the trackbacks to other blgos would go), and then restoring it. However, I must have not restored it sometime in the last couple of days (indeed, I noticed yesterday or maybe even Thursday, that I was having no trackback problems all of a sudden) but didn’t think to look to see why.

So, this amounts to an unintended bit of research which confirms the hypothesis that blogs that do not ping bogrolling lose out on traffic.

It also shows (which is nice to know) that a lot of people still come around here even without blogroll updates.

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  • Read My Lips - the blog linked with Dec. 19, 2004 [Pre-game edition]
Man, the 49ers Stink

By Steven Taylor @ 5:42 pm

There can be no doubt that San Francisco 49ers are absolutely horrible.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that! ;)

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Thanks for the Linkage

By Steven Taylor @ 2:35 pm

As usual, I am a waaay behind in acknowledging new links to PoliBlog, but here’s the latest batch.

At any rate, my thanks to the following:

  • Benedict
  • Conservative Revolution
  • Earl’s log
  • Mad Minerva
  • Neutiquam erro
  • Brian Patton
  • RoguePundit
  • A Stitch in Haste
  • Suman Palit
  • Vista On Current Events
  • Jeff Vreeland’s Blog

My link policy is here.

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  • Jeff Vreeland\’s Blog linked with Poliblogger
Let’s Do the Twist

By Steven Taylor @ 2:13 pm

Via the AP: ‘Spawn’ Publisher in Bankruptcy Court

A jury in St. Louis awarded former NHL player Tony Twist $15 million after concluding that McFarlane and his company profited by using Twist’s name without permission and that Twist’s publicity rights were infringed.

McFarlane gave the name Antonio “Tony Twist” Twistelli to a New York mob boss character in his “Spawn” comic books in the early 1990s.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January rejected without comment an appeal by McFarlane arguing that his work was free speech.

Not knowing the facts of the case, there must be more to the story than this, but quite frankly on the face of it, this makes no sense.

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Good Luck

By Steven Taylor @ 2:06 pm

Via the AP: Democrat Seeks to End Iowa, N.H. Power

“Iowa and New Hampshire should not go first in the primary calendar, and we need to create a system that allows other states to have equal footing,” said Rosenberg, president and founder of the New Democrat Network, a centrist issue advocacy organization based in Washington.

“I have no problem with Iowa and New Hampshire being part of the early states, but their days as the sole arbiters of who our nominee is should come to an end,” he said Friday.

I can’t disagree with the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire have far too much influence over the process, and there aren’t especially representative of much of anything. Still, I can’t, for the life of me, believe that it will be possible to extricate those states from their current positions.

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Moore May Seek Governorship

By Steven Taylor @ 12:15 pm

Via the Montgomery Advertise: Ex-justice Moore may run for governor

Ousted Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore said Friday he is considering running for governor in 2006 because he has received so much encouragement to make the race.

“I’ll be praying about it and considering it,” Moore said at a meeting with reporters.

Moore was ousted from his job as Alabama’s chief justice in November 2003 for refusing to follow a federal judge’s order to remove his 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument from public display in the state judicial building. He appealed his ouster to the U.S. Supreme Court but lost.

Moore, who has always run as a Republican, said that if he returns to politics, it would “more than likely” be as a Republican. That could possibly put him in a head-to-head GOP primary battle with Gov. Bob Riley, who has not yet said whether he will seek a second term.

Riley’s spokesman, John Matson, said Moore’s announcement was no surprise because there had been speculation for months about a possible bid.

Certainly this is no surprise, but this is as openly as he has talked about it to date.

I can think of no more damaging possibility for this state, politically speaking, than to have Roy Moore as governor.

I would further note that Bob Riley, though he has been largely unsuccessful to date, has been perhaps the most-reformed minded governor we have had in some time, if ever.

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Blogging: The Next Generation

By Steven Taylor @ 10:41 am

The next generation of blogging Newmarks, anyway.

Betsy Newmark’s daughter, Katie, has started her own blog: A Constrained Vision. Katies is a recent graduate from Duke and works at AEI.

While some bloggers can claim to have “blogchildren” in this case, Craig and Betsy literally do.

Although I will say that the young lady needs to add trackbacks to her blog. Ya gots ta have the trackbacks (one of Taylor’s Credos on Blogging).

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Holy Junk Food, Batman!

By Steven Taylor @ 10:19 am

If you read/collectd comics in the late 1970s you will get a kick out of this.

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Meanwhile, Back in Washington State…

By Steven Taylor @ 9:35 am

Via the Seattle Times: Judge blocks count of disputed ballots

A Pierce County judge yesterday sided with Republicans and blocked King County from counting hundreds of disqualified ballots in Washington’s absurdly close race for governor.

The ruling was at least a temporary victory for the state Republican Party, which sued to stop King County from tallying 735 ballots the county says were mistakenly rejected by election workers.

On the one hand, there is the feeling here that the Democrats of the state want to keep counting until they get the desired results (and there certainly have been some questionable “findings” of ballots).

However, if there were ballots that were incorrectly not counted, then it seems to me that they should be counted at this stage-indeed, it seems to me that that is the main purpose of a hand recount. If, as is noted below, there were votes that were properly cast, with signatures on file on paper, just not in the computer, I am not sure what the justification for not counting them would be:

County officials say the ballots were disqualified because election workers didn’t find images of those voters’ signatures in the computer system, and the workers failed to follow proper procedure by looking for the signatures on registration cards in the county’s paper files.

“These are valid registered voters who signed their ballots and got them in on time,” Logan said. “What weighs heavily on me is my administration made the error. The voters did nothing wrong.”

If true, those votes should be counted.

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An Attack on the Judiciary in Ecuador

By Steven Taylor @ 9:24 am

Via NYT: Firings on Ecuador’s Top Court Stir Opposition’s Wrath

The judges of Ecuador’s Supreme Court still arrive at work each day in their Italian-style suits, briefcases under their arms and somber expressions on their faces. But they no longer have clerks, nor perks like chauffeur-driven cars.

They no longer convene in Ecuador’s modern Supreme Court building but rather in the cramped Room 701 of Catholic University.

This is what has become of Ecuador’s highest tribunal a week after a majority in Congress, in a special session called by President Lucio Gutierrez, fired 27 of the court’s 31 judges and named a new court.

The move has plunged this oil-rich country, which is chronically unstable, into uncertainty and raised questions over whether Mr. Gutierrez is trying an institutional coup to consolidate power. The court was dissolved weeks after Congress replaced judges on the country’s Electoral and Constitutional Courts, stacking both bodies with government allies.

I am no expert on Ecuadorian politics, and therefore don’t know the players involved, nor the basic background (save in sketchy terms). However, as one who studies institutions and democratization, I do know that this kind of attack on judicial authority is never a good thing. Latin American judiciaries are notoriously weak vis-a-vis executives and the compliance on the legislature in this action doesn’t bode well for the health of Ecuadoran democracy.

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Books from Barack

By Steven Taylor @ 8:39 am

Via the AP: Barack Obama Gets $1.9 Million Book Deal

U.S. Sen.-elect Barack Obama, whose 1995 book jumped onto best seller lists after his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, has landed a three-book deal worth $1.9 million.

Crown Publishing Group and Random House Children’s Books, divisions of Random House Inc., announced Friday that Obama will write two books for adults and one for children.

He’ll be paid an $850,000 advance for each adult book and $200,000 for the children’s book, said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. Proceeds from the children’s book, which Obama will work on with his wife, Michelle, and their two young daughters, will go to charity, Gibbs said.

The contract is contingent on the approval of the Senate Ethics Committee, he said.

It is always unseemly when a member of Congress is offered a deal like this, although they are getting to be more common. Certainly Newt Gingrich got in trouble over a book deal and Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows with hers.

On the one hand, these are all people from whom the public will buy books, on the other it is problematic that sitting members of government are able to cash-in on their office.

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Friday, December 17, 2004
Oh, That Snoop Dogg!

By Steven Taylor @ 6:00 pm

Snoop Dogg Endorses Marijuana Flavoured Sweets.

And Paris Hilton does, too, according to the story.


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Yushchenko Given the “Good Stuff”

By Steven Taylor @ 4:09 pm

Via the AP: Yushchenko Poisoned With Pure TCDD

Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned by TCDD, the most harmful known form of dioxin, the scientist who conducted tests on the presidential candidate’s blood said Friday.


That rules out many sources, such as an incinerator or factory. It means the poison could only have come from one of three sources, said dioxin expert Dr. Arnold Schecter, a professor of environmental Sciences at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas.

“If it’s pure TCDD that means it could only be labs that buy or sell TCDD (for research purposes), government biological or chemical weapons units or a clever chemist,” Schecter said.

Curiouser and curiouser.

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  • Diggers Realm linked with Around The Blogosphere In 80 Seconds #10
Speaking of Palestine…

By Steven Taylor @ 9:39 am

Via the NYT: Donors Consider Large Increase in Aid to Palestinians

The United States, Europe and Arab countries are considering greatly increasing - maybe even doubling - aid to the Palestinians on condition that they and Israel take certain steps toward reducing their conflict, American and Palestinian officials say.

A four-year package of $6 billion to $8 billion would be forthcoming, they said, if the Palestinian elections set for Jan. 9 occurred successfully and if the new government cracked down on militant groups and Israel lifted scores of roadblocks and checkpoints to ease the transit of goods and people in Palestinian areas.

If it promotes democracy and helps to diminish violence, then this may well be a very good investment.

Certainly part of the solution to the Palestinian problem is the construction of adequate institutions and basic infrastructure-both of which takes money (and lots of it).

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  • Legal XXX linked with Falling Off the Edge of the World--Aural Six!
What? We Aren’t all Going to Die of the Flu After all?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:22 am

Via the AP: U.S. Weighs Easing Flu Shot Restrictions

Two months after the government recommended that scarce flu shots be reserved for people most at risk, health officials are now worried that tens of thousands of doses could go to waste, and they are considering easing the restrictions.

It turns out that the furor over the vaccine shortage and the government’s response have had an unintended effect: More than half of all elderly or chronically ill adults have not even tried to get flu shots because they figured they would not be able to get one, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is expected to hold an emergency conference call Friday to discuss whether to amend its earlier response to the vaccine shortage and recommend that more people be allowed to get shots.

Granted: the initial government position on this has caused the lack of demand, so it is unfair to state that we actually ended up with plenty of vaccine. Further, the real effects of the shortage won’t be known for some months, but the current situation does underscore what a false panic was created by this issue back in October (and that was radically amplified by the presidential campaign).

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An Opening in the Israeli-Palestinian Situation?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:19 am

Via the AP: Sharon Links Palestinian State to Peace

Declaring 2005 a year of opportunity, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held out the prospect of an independent state for the Palestinians if they stop violence and said he is ready to coordinate a Gaza pullout with them.


When Arafat was still alive, Sharon insisted on a unilateral pullback, saying he had no Palestinian partner. On Thursday, he said he is ready to coordinate the withdrawal with the new Palestinian leadership.

I once told a colleague that Arafat was “worthless” and that the peace process would never move forward as long as was in leadership. While I am hardly pollyannish about the chances for total peace, it does seem that with Arafat out of the way that there is at least a chance for progress.

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And Would You Like a DFMB with Your Thickburger?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:12 am

Via the AFP: Deep-fried Mars bar taking Scotland by storm

At least it isn’t just Americans who eat poorly.

Update: Deep-fried at Friday’s Traffic Jam.

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  • Mark the Pundit linked with Lunchtime
  • Mark the Pundit linked with Lunchtime
Webb Wants DNC Gig

By Steven Taylor @ 9:11 am

Via the AP: Ex-Denver Mayor Announces Run for DNC

Former Mayor Wellington Webb formally announced his candidacy Thursday to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The list grows.

Webb’s interest in the job was widely known; he made a pitch to the committee on Dec. 10 in Orlando, Fla.

“I am running because I believe this historic election for chair will determine the future of our party,” Webb said.

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Too Little, Too Late

By Steven Taylor @ 9:09 am

Via the AP: Lakers’ Bryant Would Apologize to Shaq.

Is is just me, or is it rather difficult to take Kobe seriously or believe what he says at this stage?

I saw Charles Barkley on PTI the other night and he made a very interesting point. He noted his dissappointment in Kobe for ruining a situation (i.e., by running off Phil Jackson and Shaq) where conditions were ripe for more championships. He noted it was a real slap in the face to players like himself who never won a ring, and here was Kobe throwing away his best chances at more championships.

Cross-posted at SportsBlog.

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  • SportsBlog linked with Too Little, Too Late
  • linked with Kobe
Soon to be Johnson v. Schilling?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:02 am

Randy Johnson on Verge of Joining Yankees

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Thursday, December 16, 2004
Holidays are Tiring

By Steven Taylor @ 7:45 pm

And I never knew just how tiring until I had kids. Today was a good example: Christmas program at my middle son’s preschool, then the parent’s Christmas party, then later in the afternoon to my oldest son’s school for his Christmas party (with the other two children in tow because my wife had a conflict) and then tomorrow my wife has to go help with the middle son’s Christmas party while I act as driver for oldest son’s “surprise field trip” to the movies to see The Polar Express (also with youngest son in tow).

Granted: this doesn’t sound all that tiring, but trust me-it is life-sucking tiring.

However, the broader point about holiday’s being busy with kids has really come home to me the last several years as I have realized exactly how much work my parents had to go through in preparing for Christmas and fixing dinners and doing the ol’ Christmas Eve set up and so forth. By mid-day on Christmas I am seriously in need of a nap!

(Indeed, one doesn’t fully understand or appreciate one’s own parents until one has children, of this I am convinced).

Thankfully all the shopping save for a couple of things are done.

Although I had better get wrapping soon (I am the designated wrapper in the family).

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Cahill Missed the SwiftBoat

By Steven Taylor @ 12:05 pm

Via the AP: Cahill: Kerry Camp Underestimated Ads

The campaign manager for Sen. John Kerry’s failed presidential bid said Wednesday she regrets underestimating the impact of an attack advertisement that questioned Kerry’s Vietnam War record.

I would take it a step further (indeed, several steps): the Kerry campaign utterly underestimated the impact of Kerry’s post-Viet Nam “adventures” and wholly over-estimated the degree to which his service equated into an automatic view by the public of Kerry as CinC material.

To simply say that the SwiftBoat ads were the whole story is just further evidence that the Kerry campaign had some serious blind spots about their candidate’s career and how that, in turn, influenced voters’ perceptions.

Even beyond that: the Kerry campaigns’ over-focus on a specific slice of his biography made him extremely vulnerable to attack. It was classic putting all of one’s eggs in one basket.

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  • Wizbang linked with Kerry Should Have Hired Me
And There’s Always the San Diego Mayoral Race…

By Steven Taylor @ 7:59 am

Via the LAT: Frye’s Unofficial Margin Widens

A two-day examination of ballots-requested and paid for by news organizations and Woocher’s clients-uncovered 5,547 ballots on which voters had written in Frye’s name but did not darken an oval on the line next to the name.

The registrar of voters did not include such ballots in the official count.

Even some voters who backed Murphy said the revelation of the two-day tally—although unofficial and nonbinding-made Murphy unacceptable to remain in office.

“Filling in the bubble doesn’t matter,” said Pat Lecoq, a law firm receptionist. “Somebody took the time to write her name in. She clearly had the most votes.”

First off: since Frye was a write-in candidate, it is less shocking that people didn’t bubble in the ovals. This is, therefore, a technicality

Second: it would seem that in such a case that voter intent is clear-I am not sure how one can argue otherwise. This isn’t an issue of whether a chad is “dimpled” or “pregnant” or whatever.

The problem here, it appears, is that the law doesn’t account for this eventuality of the write-in sans the oval.

And, of course, the whole thing is made especially complicated by the fact that Murphy has been sworn in as the winner. State law allows for a challenge to the election by January 7th. It would seem to me that such a challenge is likely.

What makes the whole thing even more convoluted is that Frye was a write-in candidate and there were legal challenges to her candidacy on the grounds that the city charter doesn’t allow for write-ins.

For a story on Frye’s candidacy go here.

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The Mess in Washington State

By Steven Taylor @ 7:36 am

You want a sequal to Florida 2000? Forget Ohio, try Washington.

Via the Seattle Times: New look at 573 ballots may close Gregoire gap

A divided King County Canvassing Board yesterday took the first step toward counting 573 previously rejected ballots that are expected to boost Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire’s vote total.


As of last night, after three more counties completed tallies, Rossi had gained 79 votes more than Gregoire in the manual recount, which would effectively give him a lead of 121 votes.

If all of the 573 contested King County ballots are counted, they could close the gap for Gregoire. Those ballots are from 480 precincts, and if they follow the same pattern as absentee ballots from those precincts, they would boost Gregoire by about 140 votes.

It is uncertain how many of the disputed ballots will be counted. Election officials so far have found signatures for 245 of the voters. The canvassing board yesterday asked an attorney for an opinion on whether it is too late to accept new signatures from other voters.

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New Bin Laden Tape Released

By Steven Taylor @ 7:19 am

Via Reuters: Bin Laden Alive, Releases Audio Tape - Web Site.

Doesn’t he know that, like, nobody uses magnetic tapes anymore? Can’t the guy release his stuff on digital media?

And a plain ol’ web site? That’s so 1990s. How about a blog or a “Death to America” Wiki?

I mean, come on, it’s like almost 2005.

Of course, when you live in a cave with goats, whaddya expect?

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  • Diggers Realm linked with New Osama Bin Laden Audio Tape Released On Internet
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
FARC Bigwig Captured

By Steven Taylor @ 8:44 pm

Via Reuters: Colombia captures ‘chancellor’ of FARC rebel group

The chief of international relations for Colombia’s biggest leftist rebel group, who once sought support from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, was arrested after a months-long manhunt, police said on Wednesday.

The capture of Rodrigo Granda, known as “the Chancellor” of the 17,000-strong Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was a “an important blow” against the guerrilla group waging a 40-year war for socialist revolution in this Andean country, National Police Chief Jorge Daniel Castro told reporters.

“He was responsible for a campaign of disinformation that hurt the international reputation of Colombia over the last 10 years, principally in Europe and Latin America,” Castro told a news conference in Bogota.

The official said the 55-year-old Granda had visited 16 countries since 1994 in a effort to bolster the reputation of the rebel group, which funds its activities with ransoms paid by the families of kidnap victims and by taxing the proceeds of Colombia’s huge cocaine trade.

He was captured on Monday in the city of Cucuta, 250 miles (400 km) northeast of the capital near the Venezuelan border, Castro said.

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Ya Think?

By Steven Taylor @ 3:02 pm

Kerik debacle raises questions on vetting.

However, “debacle” may be too strong a word. It may well be a debacle for Mr. Kerik, but as a story vis-a-vis the Bush administration, this one will blow away in the wind the way Zoe Baird, Linda Chavez, et al., has in the past.

Had this gone to confirmation the embarassment felt by the admin would have been higher, but still, not devastating. Jim Tower hardly had a fun comfirmation process, but the Bush 41 administration recovered, and the second-choice guy did pretty well for himself.

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Academic Bias IV

By Steven Taylor @ 2:00 pm

I heard a passing reference to this story on TV last night, but since my wife wasn’t home and I was engaged in feeding the boys, I didn’t really pay attention.

Dodd Harris of Ipse Dixit points to the delightful tale of his alma mater wherein a Lecturer in Sociology, one Dr. John McTighe, stated in class, regarding the 2004 elections:

“It was the religious zealots who say they are voting on morals. I think we should all buy AK-47s and shoot them all! That’s what I would suggest, if it were allowed.”

Source: UofL withdraws contract with instructor.

Now, that it is a ridiculous, hateful thing to say, although one will allow that context would be helpful, among other things. Further, I am not of the opinion that punishing speech is a good idea, and further I especially have to caution against judging someone on one sentence or to fire someone over it. Indeed, since most of the charges came from a column in a conservative-oriented student newspaper, one has to be fair in weighing the charges (that is to say I don’t fully trust the judgment of students who may have axes to grind-especially since the studnet who wrote the column did not witness the events in question). Still, if the charges in the column are anywhere near accurate, Dr. McTighe needs to engage in some introspection and it is not a surprise that the University would want to wash their hands of him.

The especially stupid aspect of McTighe’s comments is that he is freshly minted Ph.D. who was a part-time lecturer at Louisville on a term-by-term contract. So not only has he screwed himself out of a teaching gig for the Spring, but he hasn’t exactly broadcast positive vibes about his judgment into the job market. And while his remarks may indeed resonate with some search committees out there, the bottom line is that in a job market that is steeped in applicants, committees are normally looking for reasons to cull applications from the pile. Dr. McTighe has now ably provided such a reason.

I also find it highly ironic that, according to the University of Louisville Department of Sociology’s web page that one of the courses that McTighe taught for them was “Diversity & Inequality.”

I wonder what Dr. McTighe’s response would have been to a student in that course who suggested that the best way to deal with vocal minorities had anything to do with AK47s.

Certainly the situation underscores the tenuous position that part-time faculty occupy. Had McTighe been tenured, this would just be a PR issue, and were he tenure-track he would be teaching in the Spring, but perhaps sweating the impact of the event on his long-term status.

Regardless: educational attainment clearly is not always indicative of intelligence, it would seem. One thing is certain: there are a lot of people running around out there who consider themselves liberally-minded champions of diversity and tolerance who are, instead, amongst the most intolerant people on our college campuses today.

Other coverage:

  • Lexington Herald-Leader | 12/14/2004 | Lecturer accused of urging violence against conservatives.
  • UofL gets 1,600 e-mails over instructor’s remark.
  • Blogging: Wes Roth: Completely off.the.hook.
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    And the Records Keep Getting Broken

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:20 pm

    Via Reuters: Kenya Seizes Record $65 Mln Cocaine in Raid

    Kenyan police seized cocaine with an estimated street value of $65 million - a record for the country - and said on Wednesday smugglers had been trying to move the drug from Colombia to Europe.

    There should be a Guinness Book of World Drug Records. Of course, it should be an ebook to make the constant updating easier…

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    • Outside The Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:52 pm

    I am 100% with Professor Bainbridge on this one:

    Does McCain have any notion of what the phrase “limited government” mean?

    The question emerges in regards to McCain’s recent demands over a federal boxing commission on the heels of his steroids stuff.

    Message to Congress: stay out of sports, it ain’t your job.

    I hear that Nancy Pelosi is threatening getting involved in the BCS business because Cal got the shaft. Aren’t there more important issues for Congress to address? Yes, I think there are.

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    He’s Zellacious!

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:42 pm

    OTB reports: Fox News Hires Zell Miller.

    Fox could give Zell a show up against Matthews, thus fulfilling the duel threat.

    I can see it now: Spitball, With Zell Miller.

    Filed under: Cable News | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    More Stupid Judge Tricks

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:53 am

    Judge Suspended For Wearing Blackface To Party

    The Louisiana Supreme Court has given a judge a six-month suspension for wearing blackface makeup, handcuffs and a jail jumpsuit to a Halloween party.

    Judge Timothy Ellender will lose all of his pay during the suspension. That totals more than $50,000.

    Ellender, who is white, said the costumes worn by him and his wife were meant as a joke. She dressed as a policewoman. And the party’s host, Ellender’s brother-in-law, was dressed as Buckwheat.


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    • Diggers Realm linked with Around The Blogosphere In 80 Seconds #9
    • ISOU linked with Some Catching up
    A Record One Doesn’t Want to Set

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:31 am

    Via the AP: Tests Reveal Yushchenko’s Dioxin Level

    New tests reveal the level of dioxin in the blood of Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko is more than 6,000 times higher than normal, according to the expert analyzing the samples.

    The concentration, about 100,000 units per gram of blood fat, is the second highest ever recorded in human history


    And may it be so:

    Experts say Yushchenko, whose face has been pockmarked and disfigured, has probably experienced the worst effects already and should gradually recover, with no impairment to his working ability.

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    Moore of the Same

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:24 am

    Via the AP: Ala. Judge Wears Ten Commandments on Robe

    A judge refused to delay a trial Tuesday when an attorney objected to his wearing a judicial robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered on the front in gold.

    Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan showed up Monday at his Covington County courtroom in southern Alabama wearing the robe. Attorneys who try cases at the courthouse said they had not seen him wearing it before. The commandments were described as being big enough to read by anyone near the judge.

    Attorney Riley Powell, defending a client charged with DUI, filed a motion objecting to the robe and asking that the case be continued. He said McKathan denied both motions.

    “I feel this creates a distraction that affects my client,” Powell said.

    As a Christian, I would state that this is about as close to self-parody (and self-defeating parody) as one can get.

    As a general observer of politics, I would note that the point of judicial robes is solemnity. If one becomes a walking billboard, the word “solemn” goes out the window.

    As one predisposed to believe in judicial restraint, I would point out to my conservative brethen who support this sort of nonsense that it is judicial activism.

    As a resident of Alabama who is likely to live here the rest of his life here: couldn’t y’all knock this off, or at least do it in Mississippi or Arkansas?

    Hat tip: Southern Appeal.

    Filed under: US Politics: Alabama Politics: Courts/the Judiciary | Comments(3) | Trackbacks (1)
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    • Sha Ka Ree linked with More Judge Stupidity
    Grading Fun

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:06 am

    Professor Chaos provides an example.

    Filed under: Academia | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    Joe Won’t Go; Says No; Please, Don’t Ask no Mo’

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:29 am

    Lieberman rejects White House overtures

    Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman has twice in recent days said “no” when approached about the possibility of a major job in the second Bush administration, CNN has learned.

    The Cabinet vacancy at the Department of Homeland Security was the subject of the latest overture, according to congressional and other government sources. Those sources said the earlier overture was to see whether Lieberman might be interested in becoming the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

    But what about bipartisanship?

    Hat tip: The Political Wire.

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Another Hat in the DNC Ring?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:04 am

    Is it the ABH movement?

    Roemer May Try for Democratic Chairman

    Former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer said Tuesday that he is considering whether to join the race for Democratic National Committee chairman.


    Roemer, president of the nonprofit Center for National Policy, served in Congress from 1991 through 2002. He also served on the Sept. 11 commission that investigated the 2001 terror attacks.

    In a statement, Roemer said several prominent Democrats have asked him to consider leading the party. He said he is consulting with family and friends and will make a decision soon.

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    First Up: Chemical Ali

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:02 am

    Via Reuters: ‘Chemical Ali’ Will Be First Saddam Aide Tried.

    Since this is clearly an attempt to remind the soon-to-be-voters of Iraq of the previous regime, Ali Hassan al-Majid is certainly a good place to start.

    Filed under: Iraq: Global Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Tuesday, December 14, 2004
    Brothers in Legislation

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:27 pm

    Via the AP: New Congressmen, Brothers, Room Together

    Colorado’s newest congressmen didn’t have to look far for roommates. Rep.-elect John Salazar and his younger brother, Sen.-elect Ken Salazar, have rented an apartment together on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington.

    “I think we can get along,” John Salazar joked this past week. “Maybe he’ll give me a ride up to the Capitol each day.”

    The two Democrats captured open seats Nov. 2 that had been held by Republicans.

    Ken Salazar is wrapping up work as the state’s attorney general, while John Salazar is hiring staff and making a final swing around his sprawling 3rd District to meet with constituents before heading to Washington.


    Filed under: US Politics: 2004 Campaign | Comments(4) | Trackbacks (0)
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    Unfaithful Elector Alert!!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:31 pm

    MN Elector Votes For Edwards

    An unknown Minnesota Democrat earned a footnote in history Monday by casting one of the state’s 10 Electoral College votes for John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential running mate for John Kerry.

    The Edwards vote apparently gives Minnesota its first ever “faithless elector,” the dubious name for Electoral College members who snub the candidate who won the state’s popular vote in the general election. Kerry, who beat President Bush in Minnesota but lost overall, wound up with nine of the state’s electoral votes.

    No one claimed credit for the Edwards vote. Several electors said they suspected that someone unconsciously mixed up the two Johns on the ticket rather than purposefully made a political statement.

    “If it was meant to be a protest-type vote I would be upfront and say `This is how I voted,’ said elector Frank Simon of Chaska. “It doesn’t seem like anyone is coming forth to say that.”

    My guess is that someone did want to make a statement, but is to bashful to say so.

    Of course, if it was a mistake it is just more salt in Kerry’s wounds.

    From a polisci perspective it just proves what I always tell my students: the actual vote for President belongs to the Electors and is cast in December.

    Correction: The story notes

    Edwards received all 10 Minnesota votes for vice president in a separate round of balloting.

    Hence, it probably was an error. It is Kerry’s reward for having a Veep nominee with the same first name.

    Hat tip: Ohio Voter

    Filed under: US Politics: 2004 Campaign | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    Dean on Scalia: the Exact Quotes

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:16 pm

    On Sunday I promised to post the MTP transcript with Dean’s comments on Scalia.

    I don’t have to now, because Ann Althouse already has.

    Filed under: US Politics: Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    Bah, Humbug and all that Rot

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:06 pm

    Via the CSM: In schools and cities, battles over ‘Christ’ in Christmas.

    Ok, while I fully understand not wanting theology taught in school, but I don’t get the hostility that a small minority has against Christmas-a holiday that is an much a part of American culture as it is part of a specific religious tradition.

    Here’s part of what I simply don’t get about this conflict: if one is a person who thinks all of this religious stuff is myth, why get so exctied about it? If it is fiction, it is a nice little story about a baby in a manger, with some angels, shepherds and stuff. Where’s the threat? Why must we say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas"?

    Further, I would argue that Christmas has, at least on one level, become as much a secular holiday as a religious one. Surely this is quite obvious (just think of the iconic image of Santa drinking a Coke and then tell me that this is all about religion).

    The money line from the CSM story:

    True, 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, according to a 2003 Gallup poll. But other religions and traditions, from Ramadan to Kwanzaa, are increasingly part of the culture.

    Ok, I am not grand methodologist,, but I am pretty sure that 95% is a pretty big and significant number.

    I would argue that all of this anti-Christmas stuff is really about a really vocal and very, very tiny minority and their inability to abide anything with a whiff of religion rather than any geniune attempt at tolerance of minority views.

    And again: I wold note the cultural signifiance of Christmas, its clear ecular side and the fact that if the Christmas story is a myth, why get one’s shorts in a knot? The ACLU doesn’t freak over cities having Halloween displays, so why freak over a nativity scene?

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments(5) | Trackbacks (0)
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    By Steven Taylor @ 7:01 pm

    Magneto Spinoff Develops

    Sheldon Turner will write the script for Magneto, a film spinoff based on Ian McKellen’s character from 20th Century Fox’s hit X-Men series of films, Variety reported. The project marks the second extension of the studio’s X-Men comic-book franchise, following a Fox deal with Troy screenwriter David Benioff to write Wolverine, who is played by Hugh Jackman in the films.

    Sounds like a plan to me.

    Filed under: Pop Culture: Movies: SciFi | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    I’ll Take “Things that are Impossible for $500″, Alex

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:22 pm

    Answer: “An Oldsmobile Eighty Eight 4-door sedan”

    Question: “Something in which 3 teenage boys can try and look cool in, but will utterly fail.”


    (and yet, there they were today in front of me in, no doubt, Mom’s Olds, trying to make it hop at the stoplight, and in general looking liking three kids trying waaay too hard to look cool)

    Filed under: Not politics | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    My Guess is that Ultimately, Neither Will be Happy

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:10 pm

    Pedro Says He’s Going to the Mets

    Filed under: Sports | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    Further Evidence that Rehnquist is Failing

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:13 am

    Via USAT: Rehnquist further reduces workload

    Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote a Supreme Court opinion Monday but dropped out of two other cases. The court also announced that he might not vote in as many as 12 cases the justices heard during the first two weeks of November. The moves renewed questions about whether Rehnquist’s battle with thyroid cancer is limiting his ability to lead the nation’s highest court.


    On Monday, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the chief justice has decided not to take part in the dozen cases the court heard during the first half of November unless his colleagues become deadlocked, 4-4, in deciding any of the disputes. Rehnquist does plan to vote in cases that were heard this month, Arberg said.

    Rehnquist’s decision means that he will sit out roughly one-sixth of the court’s workload for the 2004-05 term.

    I find it hard to believe that he won’t be retiring very soon. I further have a hard time believing that he will be able to attaned the inauguration.

    Filed under: Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    But do they Expect the Spanish Inquisition?

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:02 am

    Crime: Nobody Expects the Expectant

    (Answer: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!)

    Filed under: Criminal Justice | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:59 am

    Via the AP: Google to Scan Books From Big Libraries

    Books are cool.

    And the library-related quote of the day:

    “The librarians at Harvard are very punctilious about protecting their great treasures,” Verba said.

    Filed under: Books | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    The Start of the Saddam-linked Trials?

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:56 am

    Via Reuters: Trial of Saddam Aides to Begin Next Week -PM

    Speaking to Iraq’s National Council, he did not name the lieutenants that would go on trial or say when Saddam himself would appear in court.

    Interesting, as I expected that none of those proceedings would start until after the election. I wonder if part of the idea is to remind people where they were in anticipation of the elections.

    Filed under: Iraq: Global Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Monday, December 13, 2004
    Academic Bias III (This is a Short One)

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:08 pm

    I will note that for the first time (that I can recall), a student did accuse me of conservative bias in class just a few weeks back. When asked by this student if the situation in the Ukraine was really any different than Florida 2000, I responded that there was by no means any evidence that there was anything like the systematic fraud found in the Ukrainian elections in the 2000 election in Florida. After my answer the student looked displeased. The student told me that my answer was “a conservative opinion.” I replied that it was an empirically based statement: that regardless of what irregularities that may or may not have been present in Florida, they came nowhere close to the the Ukrainian situation. When I asked why my statement was labeled “conservative” the student simply responded that there had been people who were disatisfied in Florida in 2000, but went no further than that.

    Filed under: Academia | Comments(4) | Trackbacks (0)
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    Academic Bias II (Wherein I Get a Tad Long-Winded…)

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 pm

    My post from earlier on the question of academic bias and the question of professors who allegedly grade on “opinion” caused the following to occur to me: there is another flaw to the survey cited by Bainbridge, insofar as it has been my experience that students don’t really know the appropriate definition of the term “opinion” in the first place. If one has ever taught a course (or taken one) that requires writing of any kind one has heard this question from a student in the course: “can we include our own opinions?” The student means (usually) some nod to the idea that they would be including original thoughts in their work, rather than just reporting on the thoughts of others. However, most undergraduates (and some graduates, sadly) don’t really comprehend the concepts of synthesis and analysis, let alone fully grasp the difference between a “report” and an “analytical research paper.” Usually they view the universe of ideas as being of two species: “stuff out of my head” (SOoMH) v. “stuff I got from somewhere else” (SIGfSE).

    (We won’t even go into the fact that one of the most challenging things to teach is how to judge the usefulness and quality of the SIGfSE).

    Students often equate SOoMH as “opinion” since they don’t understand that there are actually sub-species of SOoMH ranging from simple preference to original thought (with quite a bit in between).

    Another problem is the lack of understanding over what an “argument” is. Often they think it is this (more GeekPoints for id’ing it, but surely most of you know this one):

    M: (Knock)
    A: Come in.
    M: Ah, Is this the right room for an argument?
    A: I told you once.
    M: No you haven’t.
    A: Yes I have.
    M: When?
    A: Just now.
    M: No you didn’t.
    A: Yes I did.
    M: You didn’t
    A: I did!
    M: You didn’t!
    A: I’m telling you I did!
    M: You did not!!
    A: Oh, I’m sorry, just one moment. Is this a five minute argument or the full half hour?
    M: Oh, just the five minutes.
    A: Ah, thank you. Anyway, I did.
    M: You most certainly did not.
    A: Look, let’s get this thing clear; I quite definitely told you.
    M: No you did not.
    A: Yes I did.
    M: No you didn’t.
    A: Yes I did.
    M: No you didn’t.
    A: Yes I did.
    M: No you didn’t.
    A: Yes I did.
    M: You didn’t.
    A: Did.
    M: Oh look, this isn’t an argument.
    A: Yes it is.
    M: No it isn’t. It’s just contradiction.
    A: No it isn’t.
    M: It is!
    A: It is not.
    M: Look, you just contradicted me.
    A: I did not.
    M: Oh you did!!
    A: No, no, no.
    M: You did just then.
    A: Nonsense!
    M: Oh, this is futile!
    A: No it isn’t.
    M: I came here for a good argument.
    A: No you didn’t; no, you came here for an argument.
    M: An argument isn’t just contradiction.
    A: It can be.
    M: No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
    A: No it isn’t.
    M: Yes it is! It’s not just contradiction.
    A: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
    M: Yes, but that’s not just saying ‘No it isn’t.’
    A: Yes it is!
    M: No it isn’t!
    A: Yes it is!
    M: Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.
    (short pause)
    A: No it isn’t.
    M: It is.
    A: Not at all.
    M: Now look.
    A: (Rings bell) Good Morning.
    M: What?
    A: That’s it. Good morning.
    M: I was just getting interested.
    A: Sorry, the five minutes is up.
    M: That was never five minutes!
    A: I’m afraid it was.
    M: It wasn’t.
    A: I’m sorry, but I’m not allowed to argue anymore.
    M: What?!
    A: If you want me to go on arguing, you’ll have to pay for another five minutes.
    M: Yes, but that was never five minutes, just now. Oh come on!
    A: (Hums)
    M: Look, this is ridiculous.
    A: I’m sorry, but I’m not allowed to argue unless you’ve paid!
    M: Oh, all right.
    (pays money)
    A: Thank you.
    short pause
    M: Well?
    A: Well what?
    M: That wasn’t really five minutes, just now.
    A: I told you, I’m not allowed to argue unless you’ve paid.
    M: I just paid!
    A: No you didn’t.
    M: I DID!
    A: No you didn’t.
    M: Look, I don’t want to argue about that.
    A: Well, you didn’t pay.
    M: Aha. If I didn’t pay, why are you arguing? I Got you!
    A: No you haven’t.
    M: Yes I have. If you’re arguing, I must have paid.
    A: Not necessarily. I could be arguing in my spare time.
    M: Oh I’ve had enough of this.
    A: No you haven’t.
    M: Oh Shut up.

    So, since they don’t understand what analysis is, or how to make an argument, they assume that all SOoMH (including the Stuff out of the Professor’s Head) is nothing more than “opinion” and since they haven’t learned (at least those types of students of whom I am currently discussing) to make serious arguments yet, they assume that their opinions and the opinions of the Professors are roughly equivalent. So, that if there is a conflict of “opinion” they have about how Congress works or how parties function in proportional representation systems, or how Cuban communism functions, then, really, the Professor is just grading on “opinion” and that’s not fair.

    Certainly proclaiming it “not fair” and “opinion”-based removes the sting that comes from the fact that the student in question doesn’t really know what he or she is talking about. Indeed, I have had students get incredibly upset over such conflicts of “opinion”. To my recollection, I have never asked a question that has a particular ideological perspective to it, in the sense that the respondent had to agree with my view of the subject. All I ever want is demonstrated knowledge of the subject and the ability to defend one’s assertions about the subject at hand (as well as a capacity to answer direct questions about the subject under scrutiny).

    Granted: my theoretical views of the way politics works affects what books I chose, what theories and concepts I focus on, and what I lecture on. However, I have always rejected any notion that I am to indoctrinate anybody. While the list of things I am willing to make direct statement on (like the fact that I normatively prefer democracy, think that our drug policies are an utter failure and that the Alabama state constitution needs to be replaced) has grown, I have never required anyone to agree with me on any of these topics. (The irony is: many of the things that I have made public pronouncements on are unlikely to be construed as “conservative” in Alabama, as many come from my more libertarians predilictions or my classic liberal convictions). No doubt many of my students have a pretty good idea how I voted in the last elections, but I never directly stated such. (Of course those who read my blog-a small number-likely have no trouble figuring such things out).

    In terms of my own academic career I can only think of one case in graduate school where I thought that professor’s worldview affected my grade. Conversely I recall one key case in which a paper I did on medical policy reform, though in contradiction to the professor’s stated preference of universal healthcare nonetheless received a good grade, and the compliment of compliments from a professor that my argument made the professor “think” about my position on the subject.

    I recall a history professor that I had as an undergraduate asking some specifically ideological questions on an exam that required accepting certain predicates, but that did not necessarily require “agreement” per se, but certainly it was wise to avoid certain ways to answer the question. Indeed, I would interpret these question cited by Stephen Bainbridge (from Division of Labor) as falling into that category:

    In a five-page, double spaced paper in a 12-point font, write a memo to President Bush on how to assure that in his second term he become known as a persident who unites rather than divides the American people. In your memo you should concentrate particularly on the models past presidents provide for success as uniters. You might also point out the mistakes made by past presidents that President Bush ought to avoid.


    Write a memo on the actions President George W. Bush ought to take in the first one hundred days of his second term to deliver on the promises he made during the election AND to build a strong legacy for his presidency overall.

    In your essay you should be mindful of the following observations made by seasoned pundits David Gergen and William Schneider:

    “[The Bush Administration] has already shown ominous signs of ‘group-think’ in its handling of Iraq and tha nation’s finances. By closing down dissent and centralizing power in a few hands, he is acting as if he truly believes that he and his team have a perfect track record, that they know best, and that they don’t need any infusion of new heavyweights. He has every right to take this course, but as he knows from his Bible, pride goeth before…” (David Gergen, “The Power of One,” The New York Times, Nov. 19, 2004).

    “Rallying his conservative base paid off for Bush. But he did it by running on divisive social issues, such as same-sex marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, and a ban on late-term abortions. His strategy will make it harder to heal the painful divisions created by the 2004 campaign. Just wait for Bush’s first Supreme Court nomination.” (William Schneider, “Exploiting the Rifts, ” National Journal, Nov. 6, 2004).

    “The post-election Times/CBS News poll asked whether, in the next four years, Bush’s presidency will bring Americans together or divide them. The results were closely divided but tilted toward pessimism: 48 percent said Bush will divide the country, while 40 percent predicted that he will bring America together. In other words, the country remains divided-even over whether Bush will continue to divide the country.” (William Schneider, “Divided We Stand,” National Journal, Dec. 4, 2004.)

    I do agree that the quotes cited put a clear spin on the professor’s point-of-view, but I also think it is possible for a conservative student to answer the question without compromising his or her political views. I find the question’s formulation unnecessary and slanted, but not scandalous. (Chris Lawrence comments on this one as well). I wouldn’t ask a question like this that proclaiming a position on the topic the student is supposed to be writing on. Further, on balance, I am not a fan of the “write a memo to” kinds of questions.

    In short (ok, in long): most students don’t even know what the word “opinion” means in this context, and hence students who claim that professors are grading on “opinion” probably don’t know what they are talking about.

    Such a fact does not erase the fact that there are professor who clearly try to foist their ideologies on their students, I just don’t think this is the main vehicle. Mostly I think what happens is that liberal-leaning professors feel far too free with “sharing” their view and, in turn, creating a chilling effect on speech in their classrooms. It is shame, because limited intellectual discourse ought to be anathema on a college campus.

    BTW: I am not picking a fight with the good Professor Bainbridge. I concur with his overall points about bias in the academy as discussed here and in his recent TCS piece. Indeed, I suspect I will comment along those lines as well at some point.

    Update: Because a post this long should get at least one external link, it has been added to the OTB Traffic Jam.

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    May it Be So

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:58 pm

    Via the CSM: Weary Taliban coming in from the cold

    “If the government will let us peacefully return to our villages and our children, we will come,” he says. “We are tired living on the run in these snowy mountains.”

    The two soldiers expressed views that intelligence circles across southern Afghanistan have been hearing for months. Many officials, military strategists, and diplomats here are increasingly optimistic that the Taliban are largely a spent force, made up in great parts by disillusioned, worn out foot soldiers like the Akhund tribesmen.

    That’s why President Hamid Karzai plans a general amnesty for Taliban rank and file as one of his first major initiatives since winning national elections in October and being inaugurated last week.

    His fellow tribesman, Sarwar Akhund, goes one step further: Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and terror kingpin Osama bin Laden, he charges, tricked followers like him into believing they were fighting a holy war against infidels, “when really they just wanted to consolidate their own seats of power.” If allowed back into society, he pledges to “do whatever I can” to help kill or capture the fugitive leaders.

    The evidence continues to mount that the war in Afghanistan has been a huge success. I say that realizing that it is far from a paradise, given the continuing warlordism and the burgeoning opium problem. However: as a war to bring down the Taliban, liberate the people of Afghanistan, and remove a state in which al Qaeda could train and base operations it has been a remarkable success.

    Indeed, given the past failures of foreign incursions into Afghanistan, this has been a truly historical undertaking.

    Filed under: Global Politics: War on Terror | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
    • Pennywit.Com linked with Karzai Reaches Out to Taliban Rank and File
    Peterson Gets Death

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:00 pm

    Peterson gets death penalty

    A jury in Redwood City, California, has decided that Scott Peterson should be executed for killing his wife, Laci, and her fetus [i.e., unborn baby-Ed.].

    Jurors made their decision on the third day of deliberations


    Jurors took the weekend off following 8 ½ hours of deliberations Thursday and Friday. They were sequestered at a hotel over the weekend.

    I must confess: I shall shed no tears for Scott Peterson.

    On a less serious note, I am proud to say this is the first time I have so much as mentioned the Peterson trial on my blog for over a year.

    Update: Scott Ott has more.

    Filed under: Criminal Justice | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
    • Never Sway linked with Breaking News: Jury recommends death for Scott Peterson
    The Horror!

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:13 pm

    Ohio Electors Vote Despite Challenge

    he Ohio delegation to the Electoral College cast its votes for President Bush on Monday, hours after dissident groups asked the state Supreme Court to review the outcome of the state’s presidential race.

    The 20 GOP electors voted unanimously for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

    And this reminds me of my favorite quote about Jesse Jackson: The Rev. Jesse Jackson and attorney Cliff Arnebeck of the Massachusetts-based Alliance for Democracy accused President Bush’s campaign of “high-tech vote stealing.”

    Filed under: US Politics: 2004 Campaign | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    More 2008 Speculations

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:00 pm

    OTB notes a sign that US Senator George Allen might be considering a run in ‘08.

    Filed under: US Politics: 2008 Campaign | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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    PoliColumn: Medical Marijuana

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:25 pm

    From yesterday’s Mobile Register (although it didn’t make it to the web until today:

    To toke or not to toke?
    Monday, December 13, 2004
    Special to the Register

    On Nov. 29, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Ashcroft vs. Raich, over the issue of whether California’s medical marijuana law could co-exist with federal laws that ban the production, sale or use of the substance.

    Among the documents submitted to the court regarding the case was a brief supporting California’s position filed by the state of Alabama (in conjunction with the states of Mississippi and Louisiana).

    The whole thing is here.

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    Pinochet Indicted

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:01 pm

    Judge Indicts Chile’s Ex-Dictator Pinochet

    Gen. Augusto Pinochet was indicted Monday for the kidnapping of nine dissidents and the killing of one of them during his 1973-90 regime, and the former dictator was placed under house arrest.

    Judge Juan Guzman made the announcement nearly three months after questioning the 89-year-old former ruler and having him examined by doctors to determine whether he can stand trial.


    Earlier this month, an appeals court stripped Pinochet of immunity from prosecution for a 1974 car bombing that killed an exiled Chilean general and the man’s wife.

    The 14-9 decision by justices on Santiago’s Court of Appeals opened the possibility Pinochet could stand trial for the bombing that killed former army chief Gen. Carlos Prats and his wife, Sofia Cuthbert, in Buenos Aires.

    Prats, a former chief of the Chilean army, had opposed the 1973 coup that put fellow general Pinochet in power, and was among the first of an estimated several thousand people killed during Pinochet’s rule.

    One guesses that justice will not be adequately brought to Pinochet in this life.

    Filed under: Global Politics: Latin America | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Academic Bias

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:00 pm

    Stephen Bainbridge notes the following from the UCLA student newspaper:

    Nearly one-third of the students attending some of the nation’s top colleges and universities, including UCLA, reported that they had to agree with the political views of some professors in order to get a good grade, and 46 percent believed that some professors use the classroom to present their personal political views.

    On the one hand, there is no doubt that there are professors who at least partially grade through such a filter that therefore their students feel like they must conform in their answers.

    However, while I agree with Prof. Bainbridge that there is a clear bias in the professoriate, this kind of student-perception is often quite skewed. Students often blame their poor grades on their professor. I once had a student e-mail on Christmas Day (yes, Christmas) that I was the worst professor she had ever had and that clearly I graded based on my opinions and that students had to agree with me. Now, setting aside the fact that it was a comparative government class and there wasn’t even a very good opportunity for ideologically-based grading given the assignments, the bottom line was that she wasn’t a very good student and the papers she turned in were poorly researched and poorly written.

    And from reading student evals for years, and the fact that students often scapegoat their own inadequate performances, I always discount these kinds of surveys.

    However: I do not discount the fact that some profs impose their views on students.

    Update: This post is Jammed! and that can mean ony one thing, and isn’t Lone Star (get the ref, score a geekpoint-and, wuite frankly, this is an easy one).

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    Forget The Nanny: This Show is As the World Turns

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:48 am

    Via the NY Daily News we find that undocumented workers were the least of Kerik’s problems: Now his double affair laid bare

    Former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik conducted two extramarital affairs simultaneously, using a secret Battery Park City apartment for the passionate liaisons, the Daily News has learned.

    The first relationship, spanning nearly a decade, was with city Correction Officer Jeanette Pinero; the second, and more startling, was with famed publishing titan Judith Regan.

    His affair with Regan, the stunningly attractive head of her own book publishing company, lasted for almost a year.

    Dramatically, each woman learned of the existence of the other after Pinero discovered a love note left by Regan in the apartment.

    And the guy thought this wouldn’t come out in the confirmation process?


    And it continues:

    Yesterday, The News reported that a six-month investigation showed Kerik had accepted thousands of dollars in cash and gifts without proper disclosure, and had ties to a construction company that investigators believe is linked to the mob.

    Now revelations about his private life also cast a shadow on his suitability for one of the administration’s highest-profile cabinet positions.


    Joe Gandleman has more.

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    Report: Leavitt to HHS

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:44 am

    Via the NYT: Bush Nominates E.P.A. Chief for Health Secretary

    President Bush has chosen Environmental Protection Agency head Michael Leavitt to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, government officials told The Associated Press on Monday.

    Leavitt, Utah’s governor before joining the Bush administration in late 2003, would succeed Tommy Thompson, who recently resigned.

    And the McClellan rumor?

    As recently as last week, Dr. Mark McClellan, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, had the inside track for the HHS job, White House officials and many health care analysts said.

    But McClellan is overseeing the new Medicare prescription drug law, which takes full effect in 2006, and Bush was said to be reluctant to take McClellan from his post during this critical period.

    McClellan, the brother of White House press secretary Scott McClellan, previously served as administrator of the Food and Drug Administration and as an economics adviser to Bush.

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    Ohio: The Stealth Recount

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:20 am

    Yahoo! News - Kerry Lawyer Seeks Ohio Ballot Inspection

    Democrat John Kerry is asking county elections officials to allow his witnesses to inspect the 92,000 ballots cast in Ohio in which no vote for president was recorded, a Kerry lawyer said Sunday night.

    The request is one of 11 the Kerry campaign made in a letter sent over the weekend to Ohio’s 88 county boards of election, which will begin recounting presidential ballots this week.

    “We’re trying to increase the transparency of the election process,” said Donald McTigue, the lawyer handling the recount for the Kerry campaign. But he added that several requests — such as using independent experts to check election equipment, “are trying to push the edge of envelope.”


    Kerry’s campaign supports the recount, while Bush’s campaign has criticized it, but both sides agree it won’t change the outcome of the election.

    I have no problem with the recount, per se, although I do wonder as to the purpose, aside from helping to feed the thoughts of the conspiracy-minded.

    It is almost like it is a stealth version of Florida 2000 that really doesn’t mean anything except that it feeds the need of a tiny minority to have the promised 2004 election scandal actually exist.

    Filed under: US Politics: 2004 Campaign | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Blogs and Politics

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:59 am

    From the WSJ, John Fund writes on blogs and politics. He notes:

    Indeed, the real power of bloggers in politics is how they interact with their mainstream media counterparts. Online journalism gives critics of the media a way to talk back, a platform from which to point out bias, hypocrisy and factual errors. And if the criticisms are on target, old-media institutions can’t help but take note.

    I think this is correct. Indeed, despite all the talk about blogs v. the MSM or the silly idea that blogs will supplant the MSM, the truth of the matter is that the main way by which we know if blogs are having an effect is by the way the MSM reacts to the them. This is to say that blogs need the MSM to report on them.

    There is a synergistic relationship here far moreso than there is an adversarial one. Not only does this manifest as MSM blogs, but also in the fact the MSM has been increasingly willing to cite blogs and bloggers in their stories.

    Filed under: US Politics: Blogging: 2004 Campaign: MSM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Lieberman to the Rescue?

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:25 am

    The Political Wire notes the current speculatin that Joe Lieberman could the nominee to replace Kerik.

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    • The Myopist linked with Joe, again?
    Kerik: An Embarrassment for Rudy as Well

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:19 am

    Strain Is Seen in Giuliani Ties With President

    Ultimately, Mr. Giuliani said, the most damaging part for him about the turn of events over the last two weeks is not the political implications.

    “It is a personal embarrassment,” he said. “I don’t like making mistakes. This is something that could have been avoided.”

    My guess is that while this is certainly embarrassing, it will hardly have the effect of seriously damaging his relationship with the President or the White House writ large.

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    Sunday, December 12, 2004
    Some Folks Need a Philosophy Class or Two

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:49 pm

    I hate to tell tell Kevin Drum, but a belief in natural law is hardly all that radical.

    Certainly it isn’t a reason to join Harry Reid in proclaiming Clarence Thomas to be an embarassment.

    I would note that the very fount of classical liberalism, John Locke, adhered to the concept of natural law. Indeed, said list is quite long and regardless of what Drum’s commenters may think, the issue isn’t one of imposing religion on people.

    Indeed, regardless of one’s position on God, the statement that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a direct statement of natural law which really does not require any particular theistic view of the universe to accept: the bottom line is that human beings have rights because of their very existence, not because the state grants them. Now granted, natural law scares the diehard atheist who doesn’t wish to acknowledge the possibility of a higher moral authority than the mind of man. Indeed, this is the man trouble with a wholly secular view of morality: it is simple something that someone thought up. If there are no natural laws, then really there is no morality save what we say it is.

    If we utterly reject the natural law foundation of our constitution just because it suggest some icky connection to something that might have something to do with God or something, then we vitiate our own rights and define them not as our birthright, but as a gift from the state. And as we all know: if the state giveth, the state can taketh away.

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    • Signifying Nothing linked with Locke out
    Lame Story of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:29 pm

    Via the AP: McCain’s Steroids Push Puts Him in ‘08 Mix

    Sen. John McCain, the straight-talking Republican who often challenges the GOP establishment, has taken on a headline-grabbing issue-steroids in baseball-and generated talk of a presidential bid in 2008.

    Where has the author of this piece been, under a rock? There has been talk of McCain in ‘08 ever since he lost the nomination bid in ‘00.

    And somehow I don’t see steroids in baseball as the issue the that will land a candidate in the WH in 2008.


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    The Mathematics of Protest

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:22 pm

    Via thet AP: Protesters Urge Delay for Ohio Electors

    As it has done for 200 years, Ohio’s delegation to the Electoral College is to meet Monday to cast ballots for president and vice president %u2014 but this time, there are demands that the electors wait until after a recount. A demonstration was held Sunday as about 100 people gathered outside the Ohio Statehouse to protest the delegation’s vote.

    Do a hundred people really qualify as a newsworthy protest?

    Not to mention that aren’t exactly living in reality.

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    • Ohio Voter linked with Conspiracy Theories Everywhere...

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:10 pm

    Via the NYT: Kerik’s Position Was Untenable, Bush Aide Says

    Only hours earlier on Friday, Mr. Kerik informed the administration that, contrary to assurances he had given the White House counsel’s office before the president nominated him on Dec. 3, a nanny he had employed appeared to have been in the country illegally and that he had failed to pay taxes on her behalf.

    Well, at least this answers the question as to whether or not the White House at least asked the right questions. What a boneheaded move by Kerik. Although one would think that they would do more than just ask after the Linda Chavez experience.

    No joke:

    Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor and now a business associate of Mr. Kerik’s, called the discovery “an embarrassment to me and to Bernie and to those of us that supported him because we should have disclosed this, we should have found out earlier.”

    The tangential issue here is that these types of disclosures continue to underscore the existence of a vast underground economy that underscores not only the need for immigration reform but also the fact that this is a qwell entrenched economy that isn’t going away anytime sonn (indeed, if ever).

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    Dean: The Sarcastic Need Not Apply

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:27 am

    Howard Dean was on MTP this morning stating that Antonin Scalia ought not be on the Supreme Court, let alone be Chief Justice, because he lacks “judicial temprament” meaning that he can be sarcastic from the bench. Why is this problematic? Because his sarcasm and “mean spiritedness” (I think he used that term) might make the losing side feel like they weren’t treated fairly.

    First off, I find it difficult to accept that a person and their attorneys could go through the process from trial court to the Surpreme Court and then leave with their feelings hurt just because Scalia asked a sarcastic question from the bench.

    Second, I have a hard time believing that Scalia is singularly sarcastic either in the history of the SC or across the current occupants of the federal bench.

    Third, surely this isn’t the best way to judge whether a judge/justice is qualified to sit on the bench is whether or not they have a sharp tongue/wit or not.

    I will post Dean’s statements once the MTP transcript is available.

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    Congrats to a Geriatric Blogger

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:58 am

    Congrats to Sean Hackbarth of The American Mind for reaching his 5-year blogging anniversary. That is an impressive tenure in the Blogosphere, which has surpassed 5,000,000 blogs, according to Technorati.

    So while I fully understand where Sean is coming from when he laments the difficulty of climbing the long ladder of blog popularity, I would encourage him to note that despite the remarkable influx of bloggers onto the scene in the time during which he has been blogging that he is really in the elite level of bloggers (of course, I will grant that his goal is to be in the elite of the elite).

    I will also take this opportunity to thank Sean for being one of the first of the bogger blogs to add PoliBlog to its list of links and also for being a regular linker to my stuff.

    Filed under: Blogging | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Saturday, December 11, 2004
    A Sad, Bizarre Tale

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:47 pm

    Via the AP: Thurmond’s Daughter Tells Story in Book.

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    Sadly, I will Believe it When I See it…

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:08 pm

    Via MSNBC: Rehnquist to administer oath to Bush

    Chief Justice William Rehnquist will deliver the oath of office to President Bush on Jan. 20, the Supreme Court confirmed Friday, quelling speculation that he could resign because of his announcement that he had thyroid cancer six weeks ago.

    I am afraid this really doesn’t quell anything. After all: he also announced he was going to be back on the bench on November 1, and that didn’t happen. Indeed, he as yet to return.

    On begins to wonder if the Chief isn’t living in serious denial.

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    Helping You Feel Old: Now on DVD

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:43 am

    I remember when the durn (and after a while, annoying) song came out: ‘We Are the World’ Turns 20 on DVD

    The 20th anniversary of the release of USA For Africa’s charity single “We Are the World” will be marked Feb. 1 with the DVD “We Are the World: The Story Behind the Song.”

    And how does one mamage to turn a song into a double-DVD set?

    “The Story Behind the Song” will include a 10th anniversary documentary about the song and two hours of rehearsal and recording footage.

    Fans will also be able to use a newly created karaoke function to sing over the song’s chorus and instrumental breaks.

    I can hardly wait.

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    Winning Does Wonders

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:54 am

    Although, actually, the climb in approval started before the election, which, of course, makes sense: Bush Ratings Climb 4th Month In A Row As Even Foes Warm

    The IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index rose 3.9% to 55.4 in December, its fourth straight monthly gain and highest level since January, after Saddam Hussein was captured.


    Approval of Bush among Hispanics rebounded 36% to 51.8 from a 2004 low of 38.0 in November.


    Bush also gained among Democrats, up 18% to 27.7 (vs. 89.1 for Republicans); Northeasterns, up 20% to 53.2, and Westerners, up 9% to 55.3.

    In so-called “blue,” or Democratic, states, Bush’s approval rose 10% to 51.9.

    However, not surprisingly:

    Besides Democrats, groups giving him the lowest ratings are blacks (27.4), those with incomes under $30,000 (43.1) and single women (43.5).

    Of course, not having daily attacks and counter-attacks on tv helps. Regardless, the President is currently in a very good position to govern, so if he is going to do something big, it had better be soon before all of this starts to fade (which is the normal historical pattern).

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    It’s Dioxin

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:47 am

    Via Reuters: Ukraine’s Yushchenko Poisoned by Dioxin-Doctors

    Ukrainian presidential hopeful Viktor Yushchenko was a victim of dioxin poisoning, but it remains unclear if it was the result of a deliberate act, Austrian doctors treating him said on Saturday.


    “There is no doubt,” Dr Michael Zimpfer, president of the Rudolfinerhaus clinic where Yushchenko is undergoing treatment, told a news conference."There were high concentrations of dioxin, most likely orally administered.”

    It was impossible to determine, he said, how the poisoning had taken place. “We weren’t there and we will leave that to the legal authorities to decide.”

    Zimpfer said dioxin was soluble and would therefore be easy to administer in something like a cream soup.

    “We suspect a cause triggered by a third party,” he said.

    Curiouser and curiouser.

    Update: Comparison photos here and here.

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    • Signifying Nothing linked with Then again, maybe he just grew up in Love Canal
    Friday, December 10, 2004
    Man! Now They are Resigning Before They are Even Confirmed!

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:20 pm

    Via the NYT: Kerik Withdraws Name for Homeland Security Chief.

    The reason? It’s the dreaded Domestic Worker problem that has bitten many who have come before:

    In a surprise move, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik abruptly withdrew his nomination as President Bush’s choice to be homeland security secretary Friday night, saying questions have arisen about the immigration status of a housekeeper and nanny he employed.


    Kerik said the problematic issue arose as he was completing documents required for Senate confirmation. “I uncovered information that now leads me to question the immigration status of a person who had been in my employ as a housekeeper and nanny. It has also been brought to my attention that for a period of time during such employment required tax payments and related filings had not been made.”

    Not good when you are to be the guy in charge of border security…

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    • Diggers Realm linked with Bernard Kerik Pays For Hiring An Illegal Alien, Withdraws DHS Nomination
    • The Command Post - Global War On Terror linked with Bernard Kerik Pays For Hiring An Illegal Alien, Withdraws DHS Nomination
    • Diggers Realm linked with Bernard Kerik Pays For Hiring An Illegal Alien, Withdraws DHS Nomination
    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Bernard Kerik Pays For Hiring An Illegal Alien, Withdraws DHS Nomination
    • Diggers Realm linked with Bernard Kerik Pays For Hiring An Illegal Alien, Withdraws DHS Nomination
    • Diggers Realm linked with Bernard Kerik Pays For Hiring An Illegal Alien, Withdraws DHS Nomination
    • Sortapundit linked with Nanny, Nanny, Nanny, Nanny, Batman!
    • Sortapundit linked with Nanny, Nanny, Nanny, Nanny, Batman!
    • Pirate\’s Cove linked with Kerik Steps Aside
    • Rooftop Report linked with At least she wasn't Fran Drescher
    • The Myopist linked with My own, largely unheralded, Kerik post
    Headline of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:06 pm

    Cocaine Dealer Dreaming of a White Christmas

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    More Fuel News (This Time: Iraq)

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:55 pm

    (Petroleum seems to be the topic of the day…)

    Via Reuters: U.S. Officials Sound Alarm Over Iraq Fuel Crisis

    U.S. officials in Baghdad fear that a fuel crisis, which has left Iraqi homes cold and dark and drivers waiting days for petrol, may inflame unrest before next month’s election.

    “If the current situation does not improve quickly, public confidence in the government may deteriorate significantly,” a diplomat wrote this week in a note circulated among the U.S.-led coalition occupying Iraq and obtained by Reuters.


    Iraq has oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia but wars and sanctions have so crippled its refineries that it relies heavily on imports along guerrilla- and bandit-prone highways as well as pumping fuel along vulnerable pipelines.

    This is decidely not good and certainly is the opposite of what was expected by now: that oil would be part of Iraq’s salvation.

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    Swannie for Gov?

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:31 am

    Roebert Prather at Signifying Nothing notes that Former Pittsburgh Steeler May Run For Governor

    Former Steelers great Lynn Swann is reportedly considering running for governor on the Republican ticket in 2006.

    Swann is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and former wide receiver for the Steelers.

    He has been discussing the idea with his family, friends and political insiders.

    Robert Asher, Pennsylvania’s national GOP committeeman, told the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News that Swann had called him seeking his support.

    He was the bane of my existence when he played the Cowboys in those 70s SuperBowls (the man made catches that shouldn’t have been possible), however, he certainly seems like a nice guy and this could be a very intriguing move.

    Hat tip: Jeff Quinton

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    Nicholson to Veteran Affairs

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:08 am

    Via Reuters: Bush Taps Republican Activist as Veterans Chief

    President Bush tapped a former Republican Party chairman to lead the veteran affairs department on Thursday, and the White House confirmed that four other Cabinet secretaries will be staying on.


    Jim Nicholson, the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, was chosen for secretary of veterans affairs, the government’s second-largest department.

    “Jim Nicholson is a patriot, a man of deep conviction, who has answered his country’s call many times,” the president told a ceremony at the White House.

    A decorated Vietnam veteran who later became a lawyer, Nicholson was an activist in the Colorado Republican party during the 1980s and became the national party chairman in 1997. Nicholson replaces Anthony Principi, whose resignation from veteran affairs was announced on Wednesday.


    Nicholson, 66, grew up in Iowa in a family of modest means. He attended West Point military academy and became an Army Ranger and paratrooper before reaching the rank of colonel.

    Clearly the author of the Reuters story thought that the most important part of Nicholson’s resume (and the most newsworthy part of the appointment) was the fact that Nicholoson was RNC Chair, as that is the only info about who was appointed in the headline and the first paragraph (granted: editors write the headlines).

    It isn’t until the fourth paragraph that the man’s name is mentioned. Now, I will grant that Bush’s pattern of naming politically loyal individuals to cabinet slots is noteworthy, but you’d think they mention the appointees name by the second paragraph.

    Actually, the story doesn’t flow well, and may be the result of the melding of two wire stories into one (the one about Nicholson and the one about how some of the cabinet is staying).

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    Speaking of Oil…

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:48 am

    Via WaPo: Major Fuel Spill Reported in Alaska

    A major spill of dense, viscous fuel from a freighter that ran aground was menacing sensitive wildlife habitat in the Aleutian Islands, but finding the six crew members lost at sea remained a priority - despite their diminishing odds for survival.

    Thousands of gallons of heavy bunker fuel and diesel spilled from a soybean freighter that was ripped clean in half off the shore of Unalaska Island. Near a wildlife refuge, the area is home to sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, tanner crabs, halibut and kelp beds.

    Not good.

    Hopefully they will find the missing crew, but it doesn’t look good.

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    OPEC to Cut Production

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:43 am

    Via the AP: OPEC Approves Cutting Oil Production

    The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries still has to officially approve the decision. But delegates to the group’s formal meeting Friday said that consent was just a formality.

    If implemented, the 10 OPEC members bound by quotas would pump about 1 million barrels a day less than they currently are to scale back to the group’s overall ceiling of 27 million barrels a day.

    Of course, this assumes that the countires in the organization abide by the agreement, which is always doubtful.

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    Prominent Atheist Changes His Mind

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:32 am

    Via AP: Famous Atheist Now Believes in God

    A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God — more or less — based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.

    At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

    Flew said he’s best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people’s lives.

    I must confess that I have not, to my recollection, ever heard of Flew. However, I found the piece interesting given recent blogospheric ruminations about Intelligent Design and the origins of the universe, as Flew is basically saying that he sees evidence of such intelligence in nature, and hence his position shift.

    I don’t take such a fact to be anything other than interesting, however.

    Fellow atheists needn’t worry, however:

    Last week, Richard Carrier, a writer and Columbia University graduate student, posted new material based on correspondence with Flew on the atheistic Web page. Carrier assured atheists that Flew accepts only a “minimal God” and believes in no afterlife.

    That’s a relief!

    Flew’s “name and stature are big. Whenever you hear people talk about atheists, Flew always comes up,” Carrier said. Still, when it comes to Flew’s reversal, “apart from curiosity, I don’t think it’s like a big deal.”

    I guess he is just a semi-theist now.

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    • Outside The Beltway linked with Famous Atheist Antony Flew Now Believes in God
    • Hennessy\’s View linked with C.S. Lewis Foe Turns to God
    • Pajama Hadin linked with Famed atheist concedes: evidence points to God
    • Diggers Realm linked with Leading Atheist, Antony Flew, Now Believes In God
    Thursday, December 9, 2004
    Aural Blog-o-Rama

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:50 pm

    There are a mess o’ bloggers sitting in for Hugh Hewitt right now. You can listen in via KRLA online.

    The guest hosts are bloggers, and at the moment so are the callers: Joe Carter of the Evangelical Outpost is on right now.

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    Report: B5 Movie to Start Filming in April

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:21 pm

    Via Cinescape: B5`s MEMORY OF SHADOWS emerges from the darkness

    According to the website the movie will begin filming come next April in the United Kingdom under the direction of Steven Beck. Straczynski wrote the movie’s screenplay and story, and this is how Production Weekly describes it:
    “The technology of the ancient and extinct Shadow race is being unleashed upon the galaxy by an unknown force, and Earthforce intelligence officer Diane Baker, whose brother was recently killed in a mysterious explosion, is out to find out who is behind the intergalactic conspiracy. Joining her in her investigation is Galen, a techno-mage who has been charged with keeping the technology out of the hands of those who would abuse it.”

    While I would hope to see some of the other main characters, it would be most spiffy to have Galen return,

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    • Sha Ka Ree linked with Good News, Bad News on B5
    Biden to Run in 2008

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:52 pm

    Via USAT: Biden sets foot on road to 1600 Pennsylvania

    Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., on Wednesday became the first to declare his 2008 intentions, if not his candidacy, in what may well turn into a stampede of hopefuls in both parties.

    “Are you going to run this time?” Don Imus asked him on MSNBC’s Imus in the Morning.

    “Well, I’m going to proceed as if I’m going to run,” Biden said. He said he would make a “hard” decision in two years, based on whether he thinks the country is ready for him and his ideas. “I don’t want to do this for the exercise,” he said.

    Of course, his spokesperson immediately backpedaled:

    Biden spokesman Norm Kurz made light of his boss’s remarks, noting there are 90 to 95 senators who think they belong in the White House.

    “Of course he’d like to be president. Who wouldn’t?” Kurz said. “Did he announce his candidacy today? I don’t think so.”

    Still, it won’t surprise me if he runs. I also think he hasn’t got a shot at the nomination.

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    • PunditGuy linked with Is it Ever Too Early?
    • Presidential Primaries 2008 linked with PoliBlog � Biden to Run in 2008
    • Slightly Off Center linked with Friday Launching Pad
    MoveOn: We Bought and Paid for the DNC

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:49 pm

    Via the AP: MoveOn to Democratic Party: ‘We Own It’

    Liberal powerhouse MoveOn has a message for the “professional election losers” who run the Democratic Party: “We bought it, we own it, we’re going to take it back.”

    A scathing e-mail from the head of MoveOn’s political action committee to the group’s supporters on Thursday targets outgoing Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe as a tool of corporate donors who alienated both traditional and progressive Democrats.

    Hmm. I am not sure this kind of thing will help the Democratic Party to become a majority party again. However, I fully understand their desire to dis Terry McAuliffe.

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    • too much truth to swallow linked with having delusions of adequacy
    People Drink Folgers?

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:50 pm

    Folgers Brews 14 Pct. Coffee Price Hike

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    What a Nice Headline

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:49 pm

    Iraq’s Shiites Announce List of Candidates

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    What Would We Do Without Studies?

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:50 am

    Smoking Is Bad for the Brain - Study.

    Who knew?

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    Hey Look: More Non-Resignations

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:49 am

    Via Reuters: Mineta, Chao, Norton, Jackson Stay in Cabinet

    The White House said Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson will stay.

    Although there was another resignation I was unaware of: Veterans Affairs.

    Bush was to announce on Thursday morning his nomination for veterans affairs, after the resignation on Wednesday of Anthony Principi.

    Considering I couldn’t have named Principi as a member of the cabinet, I guess it is no surprise that I didn’t notice his resignation.

    So far there have been nine departures, which, I think, puts Bush only a tad above average on cabinet shakes-up for a second term.

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    The Horror!

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:08 am

    My thoughts go out to Jay. Buddy, I feel your pain.

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    Pardon Me, While I go Google-up a Response…

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:39 am

    Via the AP: Online Research Worries Many Educators

    Go to Google, search and scroll results, click and copy. When students do research online these days, many educators worry, those are often about the only steps they take. If they can avoid a trip to the library at all, many students gladly will.

    Young people may know that just because information is plentiful online doesn’t mean it’s reliable, yet their perceptions of what’s trustworthy frequently differ from their elders’ — sparking a larger debate about what constitutes truth in the Internet age.

    In some ways this is just a new version of an old problem: lazy students who don’t want to do real research. In Ye Olden Days it manifested as papers based on outdated encyclopedia articles from the set of World Book Encyclopedia’s your parents bought ten years previous and old issues of Time magazine found at the dentist’s office. These days it consists of doing a Google search and referencing your professor’s blog without knowing what a blog is, or that it belongs to your professor.

    I will say that I think that the level of laziness has radically increased, as the assumption that “it’s on the net” somewhere is pervasive. Still, the bottom line is that te good students do a good job, the average students an average job and the poor students gets Ds and Fs.

    How’s that for time honored traditions?

    I will say that I have to work hard to teach them how to sift through information-something that the internet makes more difficult than when it was when it was the library or nothing.

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    Wednesday, December 8, 2004
    Snow Not to Go

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:45 pm

    Fox News reports that President Bush has asked Secretary of the Treasury Don Snow to stay on and he has agreed to do so. This contradicts widely reported statements that he would be leaving shortly.

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Confirmed: Yushchenko was Poisoned

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:06 pm

    A few weeks back, it was speculated that Viktor Yushchenko, who has undergone a radical physical transformation, was poisoned. Doctors have now confirmed that this was the case: Doctors say Ukraine opposition leader Yushchenko was poisoned

    Ukraine’s opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned in an attempt to kill him during election campaigning in September, a British daily reported, quoting the doctor who oversaw his treatment.

    Doctors at Vienna’s Rudolfinerhaus clinic are within days of identifying the substance that left Yushchenko’s face disfigured with cysts and lesions, Doctor Nikolai Korpan was quoted as telling The Times in a telephone interview.

    Specialists in Britain, the United States and France had helped to establish that it was a biological agent, a chemical agent or, most likely, a rare poison that struck him down in the run-up to the presidential election, he said.


    “This is no longer a question for discussion,” Doctor Korpan said. “We are now sure that we can confirm which substance caused this illness. He received this substance from other people who had a specific aim.”

    Asked if the aim had been to kill him, Korpan said: “Yes, of course.”


    And no joke:

    Proof that Yushchenko was deliberately poisoned would be a devastating blow for his rival, the prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, as the two candidates prepare for a repeat of a presidential run-off on December 26, The Times said.

    It would raise questions about whether the poisoning was ordered by Yanukovich, his allies, or even the Kremlin, which fears that Yushchenko will take Ukraine out of its sphere of influence by joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, it said.

    Filed under: Global Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
    • Conservative Revolution linked with Abraham Linkin' 2
    Julius Jones Stat of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:00 pm

    Rookie Jones has Cowboys feeling good again

    In his first start, Jones had 30 carries for 81 yards, and four days later carried 33 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns in a Thanksgiving Day win over Chicago. Only Emmitt Smith (237 yards) and Tony Dorsett (206) have rushed for more yards in a Cowboys game than Jones did against the Seahawks.

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    That Classy

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:49 pm

    Florida won’t let Zook coach Gators in Peach Bowl

    Athletic director Jeremy Foley said Tuesday that he called Zook, who was fired in October, to tell him he has coached his last game for the Gators.

    With Zook - who was introduced as Illinois’ new coach on Tuesday - no longer tied to Florida, Meyer is clear to begin contacting recruits. Meyer will coach Utah in the Fiesta Bowl against Pittsburgh before fully assuming his duties with the Gators.

    Granted, I may be missing something, but why no let Zook coach one more game with his players if that is what he wants to do?

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    Dollar Gains a Little Ground

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:10 pm

    Dollar Rallies Against Euro, Yen

    The dollar soared more than 2.5 percent against the Australian dollar after the Reserve Bank of Australia opted to keep interest rates unchanged. It rose nearly 2 percent against the Canadian dollar, adding to sharp gains on Tuesday after the Bank of Canada also opted to keep rates flat.


    The dollar also jumped more than 1 percent against the euro and nearly 2 percent against the yen and Swiss franc. By midmorning in New York, it was trading at 1.3255 per euro , 104.54 yen and 1.1577 Swiss francs .

    However, dealers said they believed the dollar’s sharp turnaround was just a blip in the long-term story of dollar weakness.

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    Thunderbird 1.0 Released

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:50 am

    Thunderbird 1.0 email client bids to repeat Firefox success

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    Who Says the Academy Doesn’t Do Important Work?

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:00 am

    Via the AP: Linguist Deciphers Uses of Word ‘Dude’.

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    • Read My Lips linked with Dec. 8, 2004 [R.I.P. John]
    Sadly, No Video

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:12 am

    Still, amusing: Big Catchphrase of ‘04″ award presented by William Shatner.

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    Washington Recount Fun

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:20 am

    Via the Seattle Times: Top vote-getter? We may never truly know

    Washington may never know for sure whether more people voted for Republican Dino Rossi or Democrat Christine Gregoire, even after the hand recount that starts this week.

    From Spokane to Seattle, elections offices are about to begin the staggering and unprecedented task of hand counting 2.8 million ballots. But will the hand count in the governor’s race really be any more accurate than the two previous counts?

    Even experts can’t agree. It’s not clear whether humans or machines are better at vote counting.

    It is like I tell my students about Florida 2000: with that many votes and a margin that close, one really has a tie for all practical purposes, and no amount of recounting will ever result in surety:

    Why? Elections work fine when candidates win by a large margin. When victory comes down to roughly the capacity of a Metro bus, small errors — stray marks on ballots, punch cards that weren’t punched properly and human mistakes — can cloud the final vote tally.

    Like survey polls that try to show what people are thinking, elections have what statisticians call a margin of error.

    “There is a margin of error in connection with any measurement system, whether we’re counting fish in a lake or counting votes for a governor,” said Kirk Wolter, a statistics professor at the University of Chicago who did research on what happened in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.

    Indeed, anyone who has ever dropped a pack of playing cards and then counted to make sure that they had gotten all 52 and got a count of 53 and then a count of 51 knows that a simple count is easy to screw up. And we ain’t dealing with 52 ballots:

    Ultimately, each person counting is expected to go through several hundred ballots a day, or more than 11,000 during the entire process. They’ll work every day, with half shifts on weekends so people will get a day off.

    Given the 42-vote margin, I don’t blame Gregorie for wanting the hand recount:

    Reed says that given the inherent uncertainty in a close tally, he would have been comfortable stopping after the last recount. “I’m not sure what the value is in doing another recount.”

    That said, the candidates have the right under state law to call for a second recount, he said.

    He just hopes it ends there. “By having another recount, they will have exhausted the alternatives under Washington state law. To continue to pursue this, trying to get court rulings to give them another shot and delay the election longer, is not going to accomplish anything positive for the state of Washington.”

    The fun starts today.

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    Ukrainian Parliament Acts

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:06 am

    And perhaps has calmed the crisis.

    Via Reuters: Ukraine Parliament Backs Changes to End Poll Crisis

    Ukraine’s parliament approved on Wednesday a series of laws and constitutional changes aimed at resolving the post-election crisis which has pushed the ex-Soviet state into turmoil.

    A total of 402 members in the 450-seat assembly, sufficient to approve amendments to the post-Soviet constitution, backed changes to the electoral law to prevent a recurrence of fraud which hit last month’s presidential run-off vote.


    By the same vote, members also approved changes to the constitution to reduce powers of the president and increase those of parliament.

    Regions will also get additional powers to reduce tensions between the nationalist west and Russian-speaking east of the country.

    When all this started I noted that I hoped an institutional solution could solve the probem, and thusfar, with pressure from the people in the streets, it seems that an institutional route has been found.

    Of course, it ain’t over yet.

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    Tuesday, December 7, 2004
    Kerfuffle Over Rodriguez Orejuela Extradition

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:41 pm

    Via Reuters: Colombia says U.S. could jeopardize extraditions

    Colombia on Tuesday warned the United States that future extraditions of drug smugglers could be jeopardized if former Cali cartel boss Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela is tried in Miami for crimes committed before 1997.

    Media widely quoted U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Marcos Daniel Jimenez as saying on Monday Rodriguez Orejuela could be tried for pre-1997 crimes. The United States later said the official’s statements were misinterpreted.

    In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Colombia’s acting Foreign Minister Jaime Giron Duarte said trying the drug lord for acts before Colombia ended a ban on extraditions would violate the terms under which he was handed to the United States.

    Rodriguez Orejuela, one of the most powerful drug lords ever extradited by Colombia, admits to drug trafficking before 1997. But says he is innocent of charges he ran a drug smuggling ring from a prison cell in Colombia after this date.


    Rodriguez Orejuela is charged with drug trafficking and money laundering offenses in an indictment that says that he and other defendants committed crimes over a period from 1990 to 2002.

    As I noted the other day, the extradition issue is a touchy one in Colombia, and this incident illustrates.

    Indeed, the story rightly notes:

    The letter was a rare protest from one of the closest U.S. allies in Latin America, which has received more than $3 billion in anti-drugs aid from Washington over the past four years.

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    House Passes Intel Reform

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:57 pm

    Via the AP: House Approves U.S. Intelligence Overhaul

    The House voted Tuesday to overhaul a national intelligence network that failed to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks, combining under one official control of 15 spy agencies, intensifying aviation and border security and allowing more wiretaps of suspected terrorists.


    The House voted 336-75 to send the Senate legislation to create a new national intelligence director, establish a counterterrorism center, set priorities for intelligence gathering and tighten U.S. borders. The measure would implement the biggest change to U.S. intelligence gathering and analysis since the creation of the CIA after World War II to deal with the newly emerging Cold War.

    I remain unconvinced that this is anything more that bureaucratic reshuffling, but I have to admit that I have not looked at the details as yet.

    We shall see.

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    Return of the Shuttle?

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:44 pm

    Via NASA’s Return to Flight on Track, Shuttle Officials Say

    NASA is close to meeting all of the return-to-flight safety requirements set by Columbia accident investigators and should be able to launch a shuttle by May 2005, shuttle program officials said today.

    Good news, although I was really struck at the age of the Shuttle and its technology when I visited the NASA museum in Huntsville last month. One wonders when the next generation of space vehicles will come about.

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    Spitzer to Seek Governship of NY

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:00 pm

    Via the AP: Spitzer to Run for Governor in New York

    New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whose investigations of white-collar crime have shaken the nation’s financial institutions, said Tuesday he will run for governor in 2006.


    Republican Gov. George Pataki has not yet said if he will seek a fourth, four-year term in 2006, although new state GOP Chairman Stephen Minarik said Friday that he expected the governor would run for re-election.

    No surprise here. I had heard that Pataki might run for the Senate against Hillary and that Giuliani might run for the Governorship. But I also thought Pataki was term-limited, which is not the case.

    Still, there should be some interesting in-state politics in NY in ‘06. A Giuliani-Hillary matchup for the Senate would be most intriguing, were it to materialize.

    Filed under: US Politics: 2006 Campaign | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    A Little Quiz

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:44 pm

    Question: What was worth having a contract terminated that owed you $19 million, receiving public ridicule and likely damaging your marriage?

    Answer: A $40 dalliance with

    Source: Rocky Mountain News.


    (And note: I wouldn’t condone the action if the women was drop-dead gorgeous, but still: ick).

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    Trouble in the Ukraine

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:36 am

    Via Reuters: Ukraine in Turmoil as Agreement Crumbles

    Ukraine’s outgoing leader denied on Tuesday he had agreed on concessions with his opponents to end a crisis that has plunged the country into turmoil and driven a wedge between Russia and the West.

    Not good/developing.

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    The Real Deal

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:10 am

    No more doubts: Julius Jones (198 yards and 3 TDs last night) is officially the Real Deal.

    Also no more doubts: the OL is actually pretty good, it is just Eddie George and all the other running backs on the staff who aren’t.

    Jones, in basically three games, has more yards than Eddie George has for the season (445 v. 424).

    Update:: I would note that while running well against Seattle isn’t exactly a major feat, I would say that 198 and 3 TDs against anybody is quite good. Further, Jones has run well in three straight games against Baltimore, Chicago and now Seattle, hence my willingness to call him “the real deal.” Further, it was obvious in both the Baltimore and Chicago games that when any other RB was in the game that there was a massive drop off, hence my contention that the OLine is pretty good, but that most of the Dallas running backs aren’t.

    Update 2: James has more on last night’s game.

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    Karzai Officially Sworn in

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:58 am

    Via the AP: Hamid Karzai Sworn in As Afghan President

    Hamid Karzai was sworn in Tuesday as Afghanistan’s first popularly elected president, calling for sustained help from the international community to bolster a young democracy that still faces the twin threats of terrorism and drugs.


    Karzai repeated the oath of allegiance read to him by Afghanistan’s white-bearded chief justice, Fazl Hadi Shinwari. He then swore in his two vice presidents, Ahmad Zia Massood and Karim Khalili, members of the country’s two largest ethnic minorities.

    Kabul was calm amid massive security for the ceremony, but overnight attacks near the Pakistani frontier that left 12 dead provided a strong reminder of threats to the nation’s stability.

    In his inaugural address, Karzai said the hopes of ordinary Afghans would drive him during what is likely to be a tough five-year term. He reiterated his main pledges — cracking down on the booming opium trade, disarming militias and lifting living standards.

    Certainly, not a job I would want-and the country is still a mess, to be sure. Still, the changes to this point have been remarkable. Certainly in 2001 the idea that there would be a popularly elected President in Afghanistan by late 2004 would have been considered insane at best.

    That the Taliban are no long tyrannizing the people of Afghanistan is a major achievement. Of course, their remnants, linked to burgeoning opium trade present monumental problems.

    Source: The AP.
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    In Remembrance: Pearl Harbor Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:44 am

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks(7)
    • Backcountry Conservative linked with Remembering Pearl Harbor
    • Rooftop Report linked with Remembering
    • TacJammer linked with Pearl Harbor, and a Lesson - 2004 Edition
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    • Argghhh! The Home Of Two Of Jonah\’s Military Guys.. linked with 63 Years Ago...
    • Intermittent Stream linked with Infamy Today
    • Argghhh! The Home Of Two Of Jonah\’s Military Guys.. linked with 63 Years Ago...
    Monday, December 6, 2004
    It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Super-Coca!

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:46 pm

    Via the Financial Times: It’s super-coca! Modified bush boosts narcotics output

    Colombian police have identified a genetically modified and super-hardy coca “tree” that yields up to eight times more cocaine than a traditional shrub.

    The discovery, detailed in a counter-narcotics police intelligence dossier obtained by the FT, underscores the lengths to which Colombian producers are going to outsmart US efforts to curb the drugs trade.

    “In their search for greater profits, drug traffickers appear to have entered the world of genetically modified crops,” the dossier says, referring to a new variety of coca found in the remote Sierra Nevada in northern Colombia.

    Where there’s demand…

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    More Promising Enterprise News

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:41 pm

    Sounds like there are a number of interesting episodes brewing.

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    Better than a Ring of Fire

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:10 pm

    Via Reuters: Karzai Set to Be Afghan President in Ring of Steel

    Filed under: Global Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:01 pm

    The MNF opener tonight was about, get this, football.

    What’ll they think of next?

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    No, Not the Bat Cave…

    By Steven Taylor @ 5:23 pm

    Via the APF: British archaeologist discovers ‘John the Baptist’ cave near Jerusalem

    A British archaeologist has uncovered a cave in the mountains near Jerusalem which he believes conclusively proves that the Biblical figure of John the Baptist existed.

    “The first concrete evidence of the existence of John the Baptist has been found on site,” 46-year-old Shimon Gibson told AFP.

    Gibson, who holds a degree from University College London and has written several works on Biblical archaeology, believes the discovery to be “the first archaeological proof of the historical veracity of the Gospels".

    Other archaeologists, however, believe Gibson’s conclusions go too far, and that the discovery of an ancient place of worship linked to John the Baptist does not prove that he actually existed.

    Interesting, at any rate.

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    Pontiac Game Changing Moments

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:42 pm

    If you asked my opinion as to which to clip to vote for, I’d suggest Rumble Young Man!

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    New Intel Vote on the Way?

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:25 pm

    Via the AP: House Said Ready for Anti-Terror Bill Vote

    Congressional negotiators reached a deal Monday with the chief House Republican opponent of legislation revamping the nation’s intelligence agencies, clearing the way for a final vote, a House GOP leader said.


    If lawmakers fail to pass an overhaul this year, they’ll have to start from scratch next year. With the new Congress in January, bills that failed to pass in the current session expire and new lawmakers and committee leaders would have to consider any new legislation.

    I must admit, a week ago I didn’t think they’d get a bill before the year was up.

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    Oliver Stone’s Next Project

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:35 pm

    Margaret Thatcher?!?!

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    Who Goes There

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:28 pm

    It is quite brief, but here’s the online Teaser for the new Doctor Who series.

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    Proof that Being Rich and Talented Doesn’t Make you Smart

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:52 am

    Via the Rocky Mountain News: Rockies’ Neagle arrested for solicitation of prostitution

    Colorado Rockies pitcher Denny Neagle was arrested early Friday for allegedly paying a woman $40 for oral sex, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

    According to the paper, Neagle was pulled over by police for speeding on a Denver street, at which time an officer noticed the pitcher’s watery and bloodshot eyes and detected an odor of alcohol.

    The officer also noticed Neagle’s pants were undone, and when queried about it, Neagle reportedly told the officer that he was “just getting comfortable.”

    But a woman inside the car told police she had performed oral sex on Neagle for a fee of $40, and Neagle, who then admitted he was in the area looking for sex, was ticketed for solicitation of prostitution by police.

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    Taliban Threaten to Crash Karzai Inauguration

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:46 am

    Via Reuters: Taliban Threaten to Attack Karzai Inauguration

    The Taliban threatened Monday to launch attacks during the swearing in of Afghan President Hamid Karzai while the U.S. military said every precaution was being taken to protect a ceremony to be attended by top U.S. officials.

    The inauguration will take place on Tuesday morning at Karzai’s fortress-like presidential palace in Kabul, and will be witnessed by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, as well as other foreign dignitaries.


    Mullah Dadullah, the most senior Taliban military commander and a member of the movement’s 10-man leadership council, warned people they should stay away from government and military installations throughout Afghanistan during the inauguration.

    And to be flippant for a moment, but that name sounds more like a cartoon character than the leader of a terrorist organization.

    And, if I may, “yeah, right":

    “We do not want to harm innocent people,” he [Dadullah] said,

    Somehow, it is difficult to take a jihadist seriously when he makes such a claim.

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    More BCS Blues

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:22 am

    Via the LAT: Call It a Blowout Loss for Cal in the BCS

    California’s first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1959 got sideswiped Sunday by, in the words of a depressed Pacific 10 Conference Commissioner Tom Hansen, “bad luck, bad timing and a hurricane.”

    Only in the bowl championship series can a team’s bowl destination sound like lyrics to a country song.

    No joke.

    The whole column is worth a read. As I said yesterday: I am glad Texas got the shot to play in the Rose Bowl, but do agree that Cal got shafted.

    And this still sounds like a mess, if you ask me:

    Starting in the 2006 season, when the new BCS contract kicks in, there will be two additional at-large spots available when the system switches to the “double-hosting” format in which each BCS bowl will stage a second game every fourth year.

    In January 2007, for example, the Fiesta Bowl will play host to its game and then a national-title game about a week later. In 2009, the Rose Bowl will play host to two games.

    In the new format, there will be no automatic bid for the No. 4 team or for a non-BCS team that finishes in the top six.

    In the new format, a school that finishes in the BCS top 12 will be eligible for one of four at-large bids. A non-BCS school will get an automatic bid if it finishes in the top 12.

    If the new format were in effect this year, Cal would go to the Rose Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl could match Utah against Texas and everybody but Auburn would walk away happy.

    Somehow, I am not so sure that any iteration of the BCS will result is everybody but one team walking away happy…

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    US Consulate in Saudi Arabia Attacked

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:08 am

    Via the NYT: Gunmen Raid U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia

    “I can confirm there has been an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jidda,” Reuters quoted a United States Embassy spokeswoman, Carol Kalin, as saying. “The incident is ongoing with Saudi security forces trying to secure the building.” She said there was no word on American casualties.

    From reading the story it appears that the fighting is over with, but it isn’t entirely clear.

    Update: More here via the AP:

    The statement by a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, said a “stray bunch"-a reference to Islamic militants-threw explosives at the gate of the consulate, then entered. Saudi security forces engaged the attackers, “killing three aggressors, and two were captured after they were hit,” the statement said.

    “The situation was brought under control,” the statement said. It gave no further details.

    A senior Saudi official in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the attackers took several hostages, mostly Sudanese and Indian, but the Americans were evacuated.


    Security forces freed the hostages, the official said.

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    • linked with U.S. Consulate Attacked in Saudi Arabia
    • The Jawa Report linked with US Consulate Attacked in Saudi Arabia (UPDATED)
    Snow to Go, Replaced by Whom, We do not Know

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:01 am

    Via Reuters: Bush to Replace Treasury’s Snow -NY Times

    President Bush plans to replace John Snow as U.S. Treasury Secretary and possible successors include Andrew Card, currently the White House chief of staff, the New York Times reported Monday.

    A definite decision has been made to replace Snow as soon as a successor is named, an adviser to the White House told the newspaper, but it is unclear how close Bush is to a decision on a replacement or if he has already made one, the Times said.

    Aside from Card, other candidates for the Treasury post include former Sen. Phil Gramm and lawyer and venture capitalist Gerald Parsky, Republicans with ties to the White House told the Times.

    Actually, we pretty much knew this from a WaPo piece over a week ago.

    I do like the Gramm possibility, but if the current pattern holds, it’ll be Card.

    Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Sunday, December 5, 2004
    Heh. Indeed

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:12 pm

    Via Time; 10 Questions For Tavis Smiley


    Bush’s Cabinet. It is ironic that a Republican President has an Administration that is more inclusive and more diverse than a so-called liberal-media-elite network.

    Hat tip: InstaP.

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    Meltdown at Madame Tussaud’s

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:10 pm

    Hugh Grant horrified by waxwork double

    “In 1994, they asked me whether I wanted to work with them in creating a wax figure and let myself be measured up, or they would do it from photos,” he said. “To make sure the result was good, I played along and let every inch of me be measured. The result is awful! They ought to put my figure into the chamber of horrors alongside the mass murderers. I look like Julie Andrews on heroin.”

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    A Multiple Choice Quiz

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:31 pm

    Today, my three year-old:

    A) Drew on his bedroom wall with a black marker so that to repair the damage some re-painting will need to be done.
    B) Decided to swing a hand towel around the bathroom, so as to break a ceramic Christmas ornament that was on the vanity.
    C) Peed in the bathtub as I was running the water for his bath (and I don’t mean while he was in the bath, I mean from outside the tub as if he was peeing in the toilet (which was just to his left)). When asked “is this a toilet?” he responded: “yes.” He spent some time in his room, shall we say.
    D) All of the above.

    I think you know the answer: and this was within a two hour timespan.

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    • Hennessy\’s View linked with Boys
    Hookin’ Roses

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:58 pm

    Well, Texas got bumped to #4 in the BCS, meaning that Cal got hosed instead of Texas. I still think that the system stinks and that Cal deserves to be in a BCS bowl far more than, say, Pitt. However, from a wholly partisan position I have to admit that if a team has to get the shaft, I am pleased it wasn’t mine. I will aslo say that Cal hardly played like the fourth best team in the country last night.

    Still, a trip to the Rose Bowl against Michigan is a ton more exciting than the Cotton Bowl versus Tennessee.

    Update: others blogging on this subject: Bryan of Arguing with Signposts (and here and here), Eric at the Fireant Gazette and PubliusTX.

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    • Outside The Beltway linked with Time to End the BCS
    Reid on Social Security Reform

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:13 pm

    Minority Leader elect Reid was on Meet the Press this morning, and I was not impressed with the following interchange over Social Securtiy reform:

    MR. RUSSERT: Private accounts for Social Security-the president has made that a priority of his domestic agenda. Will you work with him in privatizing part of Social Security?

    SEN. REID: Tim, I can remember as a little boy my widowed grandmother with eight children. She lived alone, but she felt independent because she got every month her old age pension check. That’s what this is all about. The most successful social program in the history of the world is being hijacked by Wall Street. Yes, Social Security is a good program. And if the president has some ideas about trying to improve it, I’ll talk to him, and we as Democrats will, but we are not going to let Wall Street hijack Social Security. It won’t happen. They are trying to destroy Social Security.

    First, this is a classic politician non-answer. Second, no one, absolutely no one is trying to abolish Social Security or keep widows from their “old age pension check[s].” So, please: can we get away from the threat implicit here that somehow reform=destroying the system? Although, Reid did trot out that canard:

    MR. RUSSERT: No private accounts?

    SEN. REID: They are trying to destroy Social Security by giving this money to the fat cats on Wall Street, and I think it’s wrong.

    and later made his assertion explicitlty partisan:

    SEN. REID: […] when Social Security came before the Congress, who opposed it? The Republicans. And they have a long memory. They’ve been trying to destroy Social Security for a long time and now they think they have an opening to do it.

    This is hardly the best way to start a bipartisan dialog, I must say.

    Really, the argument isn’t over keeping SS or not, it is over what is the best way to generate the wealth needed to fund the retirements of Americans. The current system has a lousy return-on-investment when compared to the stock market, and certainly the pending retirement of the baby boomers makes reform a must.

    Let me put it this way: if one has a 401k or some other investment-based retirement program, what is one likely to be most relying on to provide for a comfortable retirement: those investment-baed accounts, or Social Security? I know that I have far more faith in the Retirement System of Alabama, which is based on private sector investments, than I do in SS and it is what I am looking to provide for my retirement. Further, I put money into a 403b as a supplement. I surely would love to be able to have some (indeed, all) of the payroll taxes that are extracted from my paycheck put into private investment.

    Certainly I personally know retired persons who are living quite well off of their investment-based retirement accounts, and consider Social Security simply a supplement at best.

    If Social Security is such the end-all of retirement accounts, why is it that members of Congress have 401k-like programs to provide for their retirements?

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    I am Pretty Sure We Knew That…

    By Steven Taylor @ 2:08 pm

    Musharraf: Bin Laden’s Location Is Unknown

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    Lieberman to UN?

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:42 pm

    According to Bill Kristol on Fox New Sunday this morning the Bush administration wants Joe Lieberman to be the US ambassador to the UN, and has allegedly contacted him for the job. If so, I think that would be an excellent move.

    (And it may make Matthew Yglesias happy, too).

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    I’m Shocked!

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:27 pm

    ‘McEnroe’ Canceled by CNBC After Four Months

    A few times it garnered a 0.0 rating in households, according to Nielsen Media Research.

    I didn’t even realize it was still on.

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    Martin on Tut

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:04 am

    A classic bit in today’s NYT: The King and I

    It does strike me as ironic that the song has become the standard reference work on the subject of King Tut. Many of the lines in the song are now believed to be fact. In this article I should - as a serious scholar - set the record straight:

    King Tut was not “born in Arizona.”

    He did not live in a “condo made of stone-a.”

    King Tut did not “do the monkey,” nor did he “move to Babylonia.”

    King Tut was not a honky.

    He was not “buried in his jammies.”

    The song does, however, make a valid assertion that scholars still regard as a breakthrough: King Tut was, as explained in the song, “an Egyptian.”

    Read the whole thing.

    I think I used to have a 45 of the song.

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    Alabama Files on Behalf of California in Marijuana Case

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:52 am

    Via the AP: Ala. Joins Calif. on Medical Marijuana

    Alabama, which has some of the nation’s toughest drug laws, has become an unlikely ally of California on medical marijuana use.

    In a legal brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments Monday on California’s medical marijuana law, Alabama Attorney General Troy King said states, not the federal government, should have the right to decide drug-control policies.

    “I could not disagree more with the public policy that underlies the California law. I think it’s flawed. I think it’s bad public policy,” King said in an interview. “But if somebody can go in and tell California you can’t regulate drugs the way you want to regulate them in California, the next step is they could come to Alabama and tell us we can’t do it.”

    Interesting. Given that there has been some discussion as to whether conservative forces’ belief in federalism would trump their opposition to marijuana usage, this is at least one answer.

    And interesting:

    If things had gone differently 25 years ago, Alabama might have had the medical marijuana case before the Supreme Court rather than California.

    In 1979, when medical marijuana was first being discussed nationally, the Alabama Legislature passed a law allowing a marijuana research program for chemotherapy and glaucoma patients to be supervised by the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners.

    Even though the experimental program did not prove successful, the Legislature has never repealed the law allowing it.

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    The Remnants of Campaign 2004 in Louisiana

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:48 am

    Via Reuters: Republicans, Democrats Swap Louisiana House Seats

    The 2004 U.S. elections ended on Saturday with Republicans and Democrats swapping one U.S. House of Representatives seat each in runoff elections in Louisiana.

    Democrat Charlie Melancon won the race to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin in Louisiana’s 3rd District. Melancon, a former state lawmaker, took the seat by about 500 votes over Tauzin’s son, Billy Tauzin III, in the younger Tauzin’s first run for public office.

    In the state’s 7th District, which includes the city of Lafayette and the Cajun areas of southwest Louisiana, retired heart surgeon Charles Boustany, a Republican, will succeed four-term Democrat Chris John, who gave up his seat for an unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid. Boustany handily beat his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Willie Mount, by a 10-point margin.

    I must say that it is probably for te best not to have a son immediately replacing a father. Still, fairly remarkable that he lost.

    And so, the final numbers:

    With the results in Louisiana, Republicans will have a 232-202 majority in the House when the next group is seated. There is one independent who usually votes with the Democrats.

    I would say that Mr. Sanders (I-VT) “usually” vote with the Democrats more than some Democrats.

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    Saturday, December 4, 2004
    PoliReview: Enterprise

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:10 am

    (Warning: Some spoilers insisde, if for some reason you haven’t seen the episodes yet.)

    Regardless of anything else one can say about the recent Vulcan trilogy on Star Trek: Enterprise, there is one above all else that makes those episodes an unadultered success: they fixed the Vulcans!

    One of my biggest gripes about Enterprise is that, from the beginning, the Vulcans were screwed up. It was clear from the first episode that the pointy-eared dudes on screen weren’t the same guys as Spock, Sarek, Saavik, Tuvok and company. Yet, they it a three-episode span they have managed to undo that damage and more or less satisfactorily fixed the problem.

    And certainly the character who benefited the most from the explanation/transformation was Soval (amazing what some good writing can do for a character and an actor). I certainly hope we see more of his character, who went from an annoying prop to the pantheon of important character in the history of Trek.

    Really, this season has been a huge improvement-kudos to Manny Coto. For the first time in Enterprise’s run I have actually looked forward with anticipation to the next episode. I haven’t felt that way about Trek since back during the middle of DS9. (Of course, having TiVo to record the show without me having to remember it helps-but even during the end of the third season, when I first got TiVo, I still wasn’t especially interested).

    In regards to the final installment, Kir’Shara, here are some reactions:

    • I was pleased that the Kir’Shara itself didn’t turn out to be some mystical-magical artifact (I feared a Deus ex machina kind of device). Having it be the original writings of Surak made a lot of sense and could help explain a transformation of Vulcan society. Although why there was a holographic light show associated with the object, I couldn’t explain. It that a logical way to store data? I think not.
    • I never was fully convinced by the actress playing T’Pau. Still, it was nice to see the TOS tie-in.
    • The Romulan connection at the end was inspired-as the combination of Romulan influence and deviation from Surak’s teachings provides a (dare I say) logical explanation for the behavior of the High Command. (Minor Trek gripe: although speaking of the Romulans, I have never liked the additional of the forehead ridges to the Romulans-I prefered it when they looked exactly like Vulcans. I mean, why would leaving Vulcan have led to the evolution of weirdo foreheads? It makes no sense).

      I think it works because if Spock was dedicated to Vulcan-Romulan re-unification at the time of TNG after a couple of centuries of hostilities between the Federation and the Empire, it isn’t a stretch to think that a Vulcan of Enterprise’s era (especially one who denied substantial portions of Surak’s teachings) would be prone to be interested in unification, especially a Vulcan clearly obsessed with the security of Vulcan in a realpolitick kind of way.

    • I liked Trip’s Kirk-like willingness to eschew orders and gamble to do the right thing.
    • Love the Andorians-one thing Enterprise has done well is the Andorians. And this episode clearly laid the foundation for movement toward the Federation. I look forward to the Andorian-Tellarite arc early next year. Jeffrey Combs continues to do an excellent job as Shran.
    • Kos’ release of T’Pol from the marriage was logical, but also a bit weak. Of course, part of the reason that I thought it was weak was that Vulcan marriages are supposed to involved mental bonding and so it seemed to me too easy. However, it just occurred to me that in the pre-Syrannite revival, I guess that such mental bonding did not take place. So maybe it wasn’t so weak after all.
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    Zook to Illinois

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:39 am

    According to ESPN Radio, Ron Zook is going to be announced as the new coach at Illinois on Monday.

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    Biggest Extradition Ever…

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:45 am

    …at least in terms of US-Colombian relations.

    Source: El Tiempo

    Via the NYT: Colombia Plans to Extradite Drug Kingpin

    President Alvaro Uribe signed the final order on Friday to extradite Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, who would be the most prominent cocaine kingpin sent to the United States to face justice.

    Prison authorities waited for the final word to transport Mr. Rodriguez Orejuela, the 65-year-old former leader of the powerful Cali cocaine cartel, to the airport, where he was to be put on a plane belonging to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and flown to Miami.

    In many ways, this is old news: the Cali Cartel was broken up in 1995 under the administration of Ernesto Samper (that was two presidents ago). However, wherein Samper’s visa to the US was revoked after it was demonstrated that his campaign had taken money from the Cali Cartel (lot of good that did them), Uribe and the US get along splendidly. (Of course, Samper took the Barry Bonds defense).

    Nevertheless, the extradition of a major figure such as Rodriguez Orjuela is a major symbolic action by the Uribe government, as it sends a signal to others of his ilk (and to guerrilla and paramilitary leaders) that they, too, could be sent north.

    And the NYT is quite correct here:

    The impending extradition underscores the close cooperation in the fight against drugs between the Bush administration and President Uribe, who has extradited more suspected traffickers to the United States than any other Colombian leader.

    Uribe’s ability to do this also underscores his political popularity in Colombia. It is not popular in all sectors of Colombia to extradite these folks, as it is seen as a blow to Colombian sovereignty (which it is) and a critique of the Colombia criminal justice system, (which it is). Think of it this way: if the US had to send all of its most notorious criminals to another country so that they would get “proper justice” methinks it would generate some resentment here in the US-especially if most of the actual crimes committed by the person in question took place on US soil and where the criminal in question was an American citizen.

    Indeed, the tension over extradition was once so great that it spawned substantial urban violence in Colombia perpetrated by the drug kingpins who didn’t want to be sent to the US. This, combined with the resentments noted above, led to a period of time when it was unconstitutional to extradite Colombians.

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    Bush Loses 17,000 votes in Ohio, Still Wins

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:28 am

    Via the AO: Bush’s Ohio Win Was Closer Than Thought

    Bush’s margin of victory in the state that put him over the top in his re-election bid will be about 119,000 votes, which is smaller than the unofficial margin of 136,000, the county election board figures showed. That means Kerry drew closer by about 17,000 votes.

    The margin shrank primarily because of the addition of provisional ballots that were not counted on Election Day and were not included in the unofficial tally. Overseas ballots also were added to the count in all 88 counties.

    And about a quarter of Kerry’s gain was the result of an electronic voting system glitch that gave Bush 3,893 extra votes in a suburban Columbus precinct. The extra votes had been included in the unofficial count, but aren’t part of the official tally.

    Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell will certify the results Monday.

    The president’s margin of victory was about 2 percent, not close enough to require an automatic recount. That happens only when the difference is 0.25 percent or less.

    Pretty much a yawner, really.

    This is fairly interesting from a technical point of view:

    Out of 156,977 provisional ballots checked, 121,598 were pronounced valid and were accepted, meaning about one in five was thrown out, according to an AP tabulation. Provisional voters are cast when poll workers cannot immediately confirm if a voter was properly registered.

    How many provisional ballots were cast for Bush and how many were cast for Kerry were not known, because most county election boards did not break down the votes that way. Most boards combined provisional ballots with overseas ballots and those cast on Election Day, then counted the entire batch to reach their final tallies.

    I would’ve thought that there would have been a slightly lower success rate on the provisionals.

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    Friday, December 3, 2004
    More on Meyer

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:37 pm

    Mark Hasty of The Bemusement Park is spot-on in his analysis of the Notre Dame coaching situation:

    this just establishes another parallel between Notre Dame and Nebraska: both declining traditional powers who fired a coach with a winning record without having a suitable plan B in place. Enjoy your (continued) descent into irrelevance, Notre Dame. Now would be an excellent time for you to join the Big East.

    Indeed on the lack of a Plan B and joining the Big East would probably be a great idea.

    Notre Dame needs to face facts: it isn’t Notre Dame anymore in terms of college football.

    Times have changed.

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    It’s Official: Meyer to Florida

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:35 pm

    Meyer accepts Florida job

    eyer seemingly has snubbed Notre Dame, where he worked as the receivers coach for five years, and agreed to a seven-year, $14 million deal with Florida, according to The Gainesville Sun.


    Meyer’s father, Bud, said his son had accepted the job.

    “All the reports that are out there are correct,'’ he told the St. Petersburg Times. “He told me this morning that he was going to tell Florida he was coming.'’

    Indeed, Florida has more talent for Meyer to work with than does Notre Dame, not to mention the money is better. Further, being an SEC school with guaranteed good competition and an automatic BCS bid for the conference champ, the chances of winning a national title are higher at Florida than at Notre Dame.

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    Meyer to Florida?

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:50 am

    According to ESPN Radio, the Florida Gators have offered Urban Meyer over $2 million and that he is going to accept.

    If true, ND fired Willingham for nothing (as I agree with the Michael Wilbon thesis that ND fired Willingham because they had fallen in love with Meyer).

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    Ukrainian Supremes Call for a New Run-off

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:06 am

    Via Reuters: Ukraine Supreme Court Declares Election Invalid

    Ukraine’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a disputed presidential election officially won by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich was invalid.

    Chairman Anatoly Yarema, delivering the court’s ruling after five days of deliberations, said a “repeat vote” was required.

    He said this ballot should take place three weeks counting from Dec. 5 - meaning Dec. 26 - suggesting it would be a re-run of last month’s run-off vote which opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko alleged was rigged by authorities.

    Quite the victory for Yushchenko.

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    Thompson’s Turn

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:05 am

    Via Reuters: Thompson Resigns as HHS Secretary.

    No surprise here.

    In fact, the only real surprise thus far has been Danforth’s resignation from his UN position.

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    Professorial Complaint

    By Steven Taylor @ 10:15 am

    Why is it that some publishers give away textbooks like candy to whomever it is that asks for them (and sometimes without asking), yet in other cases one has to jump through fiery hoops to get a copy for a book one is using in one’s class? And it isn’t a function of size of the publisher, either.

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    More Steroids News

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:19 am

    Via Reuters: BALCO Head Says Helped Marion Jones Use Steroids

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    • Read My Lips linked with Extra! Extra! Another athlete accused of steroid use
    • Read My Lips linked with Extra! Extra! Another athlete accused of steroid use
    When is Robert Byrd Going to Retire?

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:02 am

    Via Chris Lawrence at Signifying Nothing, we learn of the following in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
    Colleges Would Be Required to Teach the Constitution, Under Provision Tucked Into Spending Bill

    Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat and the Senate’s unofficial constitutional scholar, has inserted language into the final $388-billion spending bill for 2005 requiring that any educational institution that receives federal aid offer its students an instructional program on the U.S. Constitution each September 17, the anniversary of its signing.

    While radically less onerous than the attempt by an Alabama state legislator to try and control (among other things) the books in university libraries, it is of the same category of behavior: the abuse of the budegtary process to micro-manage the activities of public institutions.

    When one considers that only 8% of the funding for K-12 comes from the federal budget, one wonders why they should have control over curriculum. One guesses that the percentage of funding to colleges and universities is smaller than that. (Not that greater funding levels should lead to curriculum control). However, the situation certainly underscores the problem with Congress acquiring policy control via fiscal policy rather than via constitutional authority (and there is no constitutional power for Congress to regulate education in the US).

    And while I can hardly argue with the following, mandating an annual day to study the Constitution isn’t going to solve anything:

    In a written statement, Senator Byrd said Americans need to better understand the Constitution and its importance. “We can build upon the respect and reverence we still hold for our Constitution,” the senator said. “But we had better start now, before, through ignorance and apathy, even that much slips away from us.”

    Not to mention that odds are good that the vast majority of faculty in K-12 (and, for that matter, in higher ed) aren’t qualified to provide such instruction.

    And I agree with Chris:

    Perhaps we political scientists (who, doubtless, will be the individuals subject to this unfunded mandate) should also devote another day—say, December 3—to teaching about the practice of including non-germane provisions in conference reports, thus circumventing the committee system and the rest of the ordinary legislative process.


    At any rate: any students wishing to learn more about the Constitution feel free to take my American National Government course. More specifically, the honors version of the course is designed specifically around that document, so come on down.

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    Now I Kinda Know How Ashcroft Felt…

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:29 am

    I don’t mind losing this: 2004 Weblog Awards: Best of the Top 100 Blogs, however, Allah is in the House is defunct (there hasn’t been a post since October 21st), yet he is in 2nd place.

    Losing to a dead blog just ain’t right.

    (Of course, I am third to last, so dead blogs aren’t my main competition).

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    • Hennessy\’s View linked with Colin Powell Resigns
    Oh, The Irony…

    By Steven Taylor @ 7:02 am

    Via the NYT: Music Industry Turns to Napster Creator for Help

    The major record corporations, who accused Mr. Fanning’s Napster of ravaging CD sales and weakening the underpinnings of the industry, now say that a licensed file-sharing system could bolster their position in their legal fight against piracy as well as increase digital music sales.

    Heck, I knew that three or four years ago when the whole peer-to-peer business was becoming the stuff of lawsuits. Clearly the paradigm of the album/CD is on the wane and the new paradigm of MP3s, iPods and random acces to songs is full bloom. It struck me at the time when they were suing Napster that the trick for the music industry wasn’t to shut down internet music transfers, but to find a way to make money doing it.

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    • Slightly Off Center linked with Friday Quick Hits
    Bonds “Unknowingly” Took Steroids

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:56 am

    Via the NYT: Bonds Reportedly Testified He Had Unknowingly Taken Steroids

    Barry Bonds testified to a grand jury that he used a clear substance and a cream given to him by a trainer who was indicted in a steroid-distribution ring, but said he didn’t know they were steroids, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

    Bonds told the federal grand jury last year that Greg Anderson, his personal trainer, told him that the substances he used in 2003 were the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis, according to a transcript of his testimony reviewed by the Chronicle.


    Bonds testified that he didn’t think any of the substances worked but kept using they out of loyalty to Anderson. He also said he never consulted with the Giants about what Anderson gave him.

    I suppose this is possible, but it strikes me as difficult to believe.

    Sheffield had a similar story:

    Sheffield also testified to the grand jury that Bonds arranged for Anderson to give him “the clear,” “the cream,” and another steroid from Mexico but also did not know they were steroids.

    And this is just plain weird on several levels:

    Bonds said he never paid Anderson for drugs or supplements but did give the trainer $15,000 in cash in 2003 for weight training and a $20,000 bonus after his 73-homer season.

    Bonds said that Anderson had so little money that he “lives in his car half the time.” Asked by a juror why he didn’t buy “a mansion” for his trainer, Bonds answered: “One, I’m black, and I’m keeping my money. And there’s not too many rich black people in this world. There’s more wealthy Asian people and Caucasian and white. And I ain’t giving my money up.”

    Why in the world would a multi-million dollar athlete at the pinnacle of his career employ a trainer who was semi-homeless? I will grant that Bonds didn’t need to buy the guy a house, but you are letting a guy who “lives in his car half the time” to use unknown substances on your body? Most strange.

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    • Signifying Nothing linked with Bonds was juiced, news at 11
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    Thursday, December 2, 2004
    Confirmed: Kerik’s the Man

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:03 pm

    Kerik Named to Lead Homeland Security.

    This really does seem to be an excellent choice.

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    Fun Football Fact of the Day

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:47 pm

    Via TMQ at

    Priest Holmes has not played in three weeks, and still has more touchdowns than the entire Washington Redskins.

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    Gay Book Ban Proposed by Alabama Legislator

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:30 pm

    Via the Birmingham News: Gay book ban goal of state lawmaker

    An Alabama lawmaker who sought to ban gay marriages now wants to ban novels with gay characters from public libraries, including university libraries.

    A bill by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would prohibit the use of public funds for “the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.” Allen said he filed the bill to protect children from the “homosexual agenda.”


    Allen said no state funds should be used to pay for materials that foster homosexuality. He said that would include nonfiction books that suggest homosexuality is acceptable and fiction novels with gay characters. While that would ban books like “Heather has Two Mommies,” it could also include classic and popular novels with gay characters such as “The Color Purple,” “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “Brideshead Revisted.”

    The bill also would ban materials that recognize or promote a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws of Alabama. Allen said that meant books with heterosexual couples committing those acts likely would be banned, too.

    It does beg the question as to what some legislators are thinking. I can understand objections to books on homosexuality being introduced to small children (I am not prepared to explain homosexual relationships to my seven year-old) but this is ridiculous. And really, the legislature has no business getting involved in library acquisition policies, especially at universities.

    Really, one woul think that legislators would learn to leave books and such alone.

    And for those wanting to jump all over the state, please note:

    Allen has sponsored legislation to make a gay marriage ban part of the Alabama Constitution, but it was not approved by the Legislature.

    Given that we amend the state constitution almost as often as we breath down here, I think it is fair to say that there is hardly an anti-gay frenzy going on on Goat Hill.

    Other blogging: James Joyner and Kristopher at The World Around You.

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    It’s Official: Corzine Tosses Hat into Ring

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:35 pm

    Via the AP: Corzine Announces Bid to Be N.J. Governor

    “I believe I can do more for the state of New Jersey and its citizens as governor.”

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    Street Prices of Cocaine and Heroin Hit 20-Year Lows

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:29 pm

    Cocaine, heroin prices low

    Prices of cocaine and heroin have reached 20-year lows, according to a report released Tuesday.

    The Washington Office on Latin America called into question the effectiveness of the two-decade U.S. war on drugs.

    A White House official said the numbers were old and didn’t reflect recent efforts in Colombia to curb drug cultivation.

    The Washington Office on Latin America, citing the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the street price of 2 grams of cocaine averaged $106 in the first half of 2003, down 14 percent from the previous year’s average and the lowest price in 20 years.

    An official with the Office of National Drug Control Policy confirmed the figures, which haven’t been publicly released.

    The report comes as the Bush administration and Congress work with Colombian authorities to craft a successor to Plan Colombia, which will end late next year after pumping more than $3 billion into Colombia to fight drugs since 2000.

    While it is likely the case that the effects of the eradication efforts in Colombia are not fully reflected within the numbers in questions, I would wager that once those effects are clear, the difference in street price is going to be neglible.

    Further, it isn’t as if we just started crop eradication in the past year. Plan Colombia started under Clinton and even prior to that initiative there were ongoing eradication programs in Latin America.

    One thing is for certain: we are getting lousy return-on-investment here.

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    Best of the Top 100 Blogs

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:22 pm

    I just noticed that PoliBlog was nominated for the 2004 Weblog Awards: Best of the Top 100 Blogs.

    My thanks to whomever it was who nominated me.

    So, go vote early and vote often (the rules allow “One vote per day, per poll."). And since I know members of my family read my blog, I am expecting at least a few votes!

    However, given my competition-including Daniel Drezner, Dean Esmay, Jeff Quinton, Kim Du Toit and a whole list of worthy opponents-I am guessing that I am doomed.

    To vote in all the categories, head here.

    I will post my endorsements in several categories soon.

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    The Rapid Progression of Sports Scandal

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:08 pm

    Dan Patrick just made an excellent/depressing point: just over a week ago the major scandal in sports was the TO NFL MNF opener with towel-girl. However, since then we had the NBA brawl and how the Giambi steroids story. (And in between it has been a ton of coach-firings, not the least of which being the Willingham firing at ND and the race-tinged element of that story).

    I think I liked it better when the scandalous stuff was just the MNF opener…

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    Ricky Declines NFL’s Offer

    By Steven Taylor @ 12:08 pm

    Via ESPN: Attorney: Ricky Williams’ football career is over

    Ricky Williams’ career as a football player may be over after he decided not to accept a proposal to re-enter the NFL and serve a four-game suspension for violations of the drug policy, according to his attorney, David Cornwell.

    I just don’t see him coming back.

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    Kerick to HS?

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:46 am Kerik tops list to be Homeland chief

    Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik is the likely choice to head the federal Homeland Security Department during President George W. Bush’s second term, according to sources close to Homeland Security officials.

    Kerik would replace Tom Ridge, the first head of the department, who on Tuesday announced his intention to resign once a successor is in place.

    Kerik, 49, served as police commissioner for 16 months during 2000 and 2001 and gained national prominence during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He previously was city corrections commissioner.

    After leaving the police post, he undertook a mission for the Bush administration to help train Iraqi police. He earned his spurs as a Bush political loyalist by delivering a prime-time speech praising the president during the Republican convention and campaigning for him in the fall.

    Speculation about a move to Washington increased recently when Kerik sold $5-million worth of stock in Taser, the stun-gun manufacturer.

    The White House declined to comment on the appointment last night.

    Interesting-and potentially a very good choice: someone with hands-on security experience.

    Hat tip: Mark A. Kilmer’s Political Annotation

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    Florida’s Coaching Wishlist

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:40 am

    1. Steve Spurrier
    2. Urban Myer
    3. ….?


    Who’s next? I am guessing Boby Petrino moves to the head of the list.

    Still, one begins to wonder if Florida didn’t fire Zook assuming they could get Spurrier, and that worst case would be Meyer.


    (Granted: Meyer hasn’t signed with ND yet, but it looks likely).

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    By Steven Taylor @ 11:16 am

    NBA - Bulls 92, Lakers 84.

    Wowie. Of course, Kobe doesn’t need Shaq…

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    Oil Prices Continue to Drop

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:13 am

    Via Reuters: Oil Drops Another 6.5 Percent, Below $43

    Oil prices crumbled to a 12-week low below $43 a barrel on Thursday, suffering the biggest 2-day slide since the Gulf War after a rise in U.S. heating oil stocks triggered furious selling from big-money speculative funds.

    U.S. crude oil futures fell $2.99 a barrel, or 6.5 percent to $42.50, the lowest level since September. London Brent was down $2.71 at $39.60, the first fall below $40 a barrel in three months.

    U.S. prices plunged $3.64 on Wednesday. The combined two session fall is the fourth biggest in the New York Mercantile Exchange’s history and the steepest since the 1990/1991 Gulf War, according to Reuters figures.

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    And This is Surprising?

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:00 am

    40 Percent in U.S. Use Prescription Drugs.

    If one just considers birth control, allergies, cholesterol, arthritis, and migraines one would guess that a large number of persons take prescription drugs on a daily basis. Of course, there’s acid reflux, ADD, ED, depression, and a host of age-related ailments, this is hardly news.

    Indeed, birth control, infertility and menopause are likely part of the issue:

    Nearly half of all women were taking prescription drugs - 49 percent - compared to 39 percent of men.

    However, Drudge has it as his headline at the moment, with a photo and everything (although the font isn’t too large).

    On balance, I think that prescription drugs make our lives better, and allow us to live longer. Clearly, however, there are many who take things they don’t need.

    Still: major news? I think not.

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    New Kid on the Blog-hosting Block

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:53 am

    Via the AP: Microsoft Debuts MSN Spaces for Bloggers

    Hoping to keep more Internet users in its branded universe, Microsoft Corp. has become the latest company to offer blogging to the masses.

    MSN Spaces, which debuts in test form Thursday, makes it easy to set up Web journals without needing highly technical skills. It is targeted at home users who want to share vacation pictures, text journals or a list of favorite songs.

    It is free to anyone with a Hotmail e-mail or MSN Messenger account, both of which also are free. MSN Spaces will be supported by banner ads.

    Update: James Joyner has more.

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    New Ukrainian Elections Move Closer

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:51 am

    Via the NYT: A New Election for Ukrainians Appears Likely

    Ukraine appears to be headed toward holding a new election under an agreement announced Wednesday night to adopt a sweeping reorganization of political power.

    The agreement, brokered between President Leonid D. Kuchma and the two men aspiring to succeed him, seeks to defuse a crisis that has brought the country to a standstill after a runoff election on Nov. 21 that was marred by accusations of fraud. The three politicians, meeting with European mediators, agreed to begin drafting “appropriate proposals for the completion of the election” after the Supreme Court rules on the fraud accusations.

    It appears increasingly likely that the court will rule to overturn the results.

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    By Steven Taylor @ 9:33 am

    Via the AP is a piece on and their future plans Moves on to New Battles. It is largely a rambly piece with the central thesis that isn’t going away. I must confess: this is no shocker, as one would expect the group to reorganize and move forward to tackle new political goals.

    However, I have noticed that some in the press as overly enamored of not because of its political predilections, but because of the fact that they are internet-based. It is as if the technology makes it magic or something. (This is something I notice in the academic community, btw. Those who are finally figuring out that lots of nifty educational stuff can be done via computers and the ‘net means to them that therefore anything linked to computers and the net is vested with some special kind of voodoo power). As such, just because a political group utilizes the internet, doesn’t make it a wholly new kind of organization. The bottom line is still composed of organization, communication and funds. The internet is a tool, and a more powerful tool for many of these activities (especially communication) than has ever existed before.

    Indeed, the fact that isn’t all that radical an organization (or, at least, that their prominence in 2004 was largely the result of a non-internet influence) is contained in the following paragraph:

    Armed with over $30 million raised from donors ranging from students to billionaire financier George Soros, MoveOn moved well beyond cyberspace — organizing star-studded concerts, airing television ads produced by A-list Hollywood directors and mobilizing 70,000 members to walk precincts in key battleground states.

    Sounds pretty traditional to me.

    As for what’s next, I don’t think that they have decided yet:

    MoveOn plans a formal announcement in the next few weeks to lay out its agenda for the coming year. But at the November house parties members voted to prioritize efforts to remove barriers to voting, such as requiring electronic voting machines to produce paper receipts. They also vowed to pursue ways to create a media counterbalance to right-tilting Fox News.

    Side-note: regardless of one’s opinion of Fox News, the idea that there is no adequate counter-balance out there is absurd. The left needs to get over the idea that there are right-leaning news outlets out there and further to do so while pretending there are no left-leaning ones. Whining about bias is just that: whining (this rule applies to the right, left, center, btw). I am not saying that either side shouldn’t point out clear bias which it exists (*cough* MemoGate *cough*), but please, it isn’t like Fox News is the only news available to the population.

    At any rate: good luck to them in their pursuits. I am all for enhanced political discourse.

    Update: Part of todays’ OTB linkfest.

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    Sadly, No Surprise

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:58 am

    Via Reuters: Report: Giambi Admits to Using Steroids

    According to a report, New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi claimed in his grand jury testimony that he took a human growth hormone in 2003 and also used steroids for at least three seasons.

    The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Giambi testified in December 2003 that he obtained several different steroids from Greg Anderson, who is Barry Bonds’ personal trainer.

    However, since then Giambi has told the public that he has never taken performance-enhancing drugs.

    Baseball had better start taking this seriously (which they have yet to do). If this is true about Giambi, and it seems likely that it is, then he is just another example of a baseball player who damaged his health using these substances.

    Further, if fans aren’t sure if their favorite guy is doped up or not, it is going to affect interest in the game. Surely this cast further suspicions on Bonds, who likely has taken the stuff as well, and therefore has tainted his career.

    Others blogging on the subject: Jeff Quinton, James Joyner.

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    • The MUSC Tiger linked with Jason Giambi Admits to Steroid Use
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    Wednesday, December 1, 2004
    May the Trend Continue

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:08 pm

    Via Reuters: Oil Tumbles as Winter Fuel Stocks Rise

    Oil prices slid more than $3.50 a barrel on Wednesday, the biggest drop since September 2001, as a larger-than-expected build in U.S. heating stocks soothed worries about a winter fuel deficit.

    U.S. crude settled down $3.64 a barrel to $45.49 a barrel, off 7.5 percent. London Brent crude, benchmark for European imports, fell $3.20 to $42.30 a barrel, off 7 percent.

    Source: The AP

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    Uribe to Get Shot at Re-Election

    By Steven Taylor @ 9:00 pm

    Via Bloomberg: Colombia Congress Approves Uribe’s Re-election Bid, Tiempo Says

    Colombia’s Congress approved President Alvaro Uribe’s bid to change the constitution, allowing him to seek a second term in office, El Tiempo said.

    Congress last night voted 115-15 in the eighth and final round required to approve Uribe’s push to run again in 2004. Passage of the bill must now be examined by the Constitutional Court, the newspaper said.

    Uribe, whose efforts have helped restore business confidence and attract investment to Colombia, has said he needs more time to crush the guerrillas and drug traffickers who have made his country one of the most violent in the world.

    Under the current constitution (0f 1991), Colombian presidents are limited to one four-year term. Under the previous constitution (of 1886) president could srve non-consecutive terms.

    Uribe is quite popular in Colombia (and in Washington) and assuming this process is certified (which it should be), I would expect him to easily win re-election.

    (FYI: El Tiempo is Colombia’s leading newspaper).

    More here:

    Uribe, 52, whose approval rating is above 70 percent after two years in office, said in an interview in April he wants a second term to continue his fight against guerrillas and drug traffickers who have been engaged in a four-decade war.


    Uribe would be the first president to hold a consecutive term since Simon Bolivar, who took Colombia from the Spanish in 1819.

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    Even More Troops to Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 4:30 pm

    Via the AP: U.S. to Send 12,000 More Troops to Iraq

    The United States is expanding its military force in Iraq (news - web sites) by 12,000 troops, to the highest level since the war began in March 2003, in order to bolster security in advance of national elections, officials said Wednesday.

    The expansion will be achieved by sending about 1,500 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C., this month and by extending the combat tours of about 10,400 troops already in Iraq.

    Certainly a far cry more than the 1,500 I noted ealier today. I am not certain if this is enough, but it is certainly a step in the right direction, I would think.

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    Name Game

    By Steven Taylor @ 3:01 pm

    It appear that I wasn’t the only one to noteice WaPo’s piece on celebrity baby names. Stephen Bainbridge comments as well.

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    More Troops to Iraq

    By Steven Taylor @ 1:21 pm

    Via CNN: U.S. sending 1,500 more troops before Iraq vote

    The Pentagon plans to send 1,500 soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq as part of its effort to shore up security for the Iraqi elections, which are scheduled for January 30, sources tell CNN.

    The troops are two battalions of the 82nd Airborne’s Division Ready Brigade, which is on standby to be deployed anywhere in the world on 18 hours notice.

    Deployment orders for the 82nd Airborne troops, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, say they can be deployed for up to 120 days, an official said.

    We should make sure that there is more than adequate security in Iraq for the elections. One doubts that 1500 is anywhere near enough, in fact.

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    Stock Markey VERY Happy Today

    By Steven Taylor @ 11:49 am

    Via CBS MarketWatch: U.S. stocks rally on fall in oil prices, positive data:

    Blue chips posted a triple-digit gain Wednesday and the Nasdaq rose to its best level since January as an increase in U.S. oil inventories sent crude prices tumbling.

    A key economic report showing the U.S manufacturing sector in solid health lent further support.


    A lot of the concerns about the economy tapering down have washed out to sea, “said Alfred Kugel, senior investment strategist, at Stein Roe Investment Counsel.

    “Income and expenditure numbers were better-than-expected, with spending at a rate that is above 8 percent annually, which is very strong.”

    “Then we got the purchasing managers’ index where new orders and employment were strong.”

    In the first economic report of the morning, the Commerce Department reported a 0.6 percent rise in personal income in October, slightly outpaced by spending, which grew 0.7 percent.

    Both income and spending exceeded expectations.

    And in another boost for investor sentiment, the Institute of Supply Management reported an unexpected rise in its monthly index of national manufacturing activity.


    Crude-oil futures tumbled after the Energy Department said distillate supplies rose 2.3 million barrels to 117.9 million for the week ended Nov. 26. Distillate supplies include heating oil, which is closely watched as the country heads into the winter.

    Crude inventories rose for a tenth week by 900,000 barrels to total 293.3 million, while gasoline stocks were up 3 million barrels to 205.7 million barrels.

    Data from the American Petroleum Institute confirmed the supply build.

    “This shows we will have adequate supplies for the next three months and if we can develop a trend of consecutive inventory builds in the next month, prices will absolutely start to decline,” said John Person, president of National Futures Advisory Services.

    The benchmark January contract was last down $2 or 4.1 percent, at $47.05 a barrel.

    Of course deficit issues and the weakness of the dollar continues to worry economists, althought clearly not enought to negatively influence the markets today.

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    No Surprise: Corzine to Seek Governorship

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:50 am

    Via WaPo: Corzine to Seek Governorship

    Sen. Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.) plans to announce that he will run for governor of New Jersey next year and is widely regarded as the strong early favorite to win, according to party sources.

    Corzine, who will retain his Senate seat while campaigning for the governorship and would name his successor if he won, will announce his candidacy as soon as tomorrow, the sources said.

    What more could you ask for?

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    More West Coast Election Fun

    By Steven Taylor @ 8:40 am

    This time is it is down south in San Diego (via Reuters): San Diego’s Mayoral Election Results Put on Hold

    A California appeals court halted certification of the San Diego mayoral election on Tuesday while it considered a legal challenge to the tumultuous contest.

    Republican Mayor Dick Murphy declared victory over Democrat Donna Frye last week after a final, but unofficial, vote count showed Murphy winning re-election by a razor-thin margin of 2,205 votes. Murphy received 157,459 votes, while Frye got 155,254, according to the final vote count.

    Just hours before the County Registrar of Voters was expected to certify the election results on Tuesday, the 4th District Court of Appeals in Santa Ana issued a stay, barring the certification.

    The reason:

    The action came in response to a lawsuit by a San Diego attorney who argued Frye should have been barred from running under the city charter.

    Frye, 52, a surf shop owner, entered the campaign just five weeks before the Nov. 2 vote.

    San Diego has only had one Democratic mayor in the last 30 years, but Frye’s campaign was driven by voter anger over a pension scandal that rocked the seventh-largest U.S. city.

    The justices did not explain their reason for issuing the stay, but they tentatively scheduled arguments in the case for Friday.

    Another Republican mayoral candidate, Ron Roberts, had filed a separate suit in federal court, asking U.S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez to bar certification of the election results.

    Roberts also claimed the city charter should have prevented Frye from running. He sought a special run-off election with Murphy.

    One has to wonder how Mr. Roberts thinks he could win a run-off if he forces one: hacking off the voters by putting them through this mess will hardly endear him to the populace. Not to mention that Murphy can point out that Roberts is wasting taxpayer money and time in forcing the situation, calling into question his commitment to the city of San Diego versus his own personal political gains.

    Further, people in general aren’t too hip on lawsuits affecting elections.

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    Reform at the UN?

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:56 am

    Via the NYT: U.N. Report Urges Big Changes; Security Council Would Expand

    The Council now has 5 veto-bearing permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - and 10 members elected to two-year terms.

    One alternative would add 6 new permanent members - the likely candidates are Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Egypt and either Nigeria or South Africa - as well as 3 new two-year term members.

    The other would create a new tier of 8 semipermanent members chosen for renewable four-year terms and one additional two-year term seat to the existing 10.

    The right to cast vetoes, a power coveted by the nations seeking permanent status and one they are likely to press for, would continue to be limited to the 5 original permanent members.

    Politically, extending the right to veto to new permanent members will be tricky, although if you don’t give them that power, I am not sure what having permanent status really means aside from simply never having to run for election. It is something, but it is a second-class permanent membership.

    Of course, in terms of veto power, I don’t see the justification for adding Egpyt, Nigeria, South Africa, or Brazil to be honest, save for an attempt at geographical diversity. The hallmark of the permanent members and their veto power is that they are all significant global powers. As such, I can see, and would support, the inclusion of Germany, India and Japan.

    Really, to more than double the permanent members all at once (assuming you give them veto power, which, granted, the proposal doesn’t do) is a bit much.

    However, if the goal is simply to ensure geographic diversity on the SC, then add these six and forget about ever extending the veto to anybody.

    I can see a strong agument, however, for simply adding a handful of key cases and giving them veto power, as noted above. However, whether thay would sell or not is an entirely different subject.

    And, no kidding:

    The panel was very critical of the Human Rights Commission, a body that has often brought the United Nations into disrepute by incorporating some of the worst rights violators like Cuba, Libya and Sudan into its membership. The commission, which is based in Geneva, “suffers from a credibility deficit that casts doubt on the overall reputation of the United Nations,” the report said. The official who briefed reporters added that too often the chief motivation for countries to join was to deflect attention from deplorable rights conditions at home.

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    • Outside The Beltway linked with UN Security Council Expansion Proposed
    Ukrainian Parliament Ousts Yanikovich;s Government

    By Steven Taylor @ 6:41 am

    Via Reuters: Yahoo! News - Ukraine Parliament Votes to Sack Government

    Ukraine’s parliament on Wednesday voted to sack the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, boosting opposition efforts to end a political crisis triggered by his contested election last month as president.

    The plot continues to thicken.

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