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Monday, January 31, 2005
Filed under: US Politics | Comments(2) | Trackbacks (0)
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Iraq in Transition

By Steven Taylor @ 8:57 pm

Andrew Cory blogging at Dean’s World correctly correctly notes in re: Iraq that

Elections qua elections are not good enough.

Certainly one election does not a demoracy make. (Although I would note the Andrew takes a somewhat more negative tone than I think the event warrants-still his post made me think of a couple of things).

I will state, as one who studies political development and democratization, that it will be a good number of years before we can declare Iraq any kind of true democratic success. At a minimum the standard tends to be two full electoral cycles and only then if the second of those elections represents a peaceful transfer of power from one party to another. It is not a hard and fast rule, but multiple cycles are necssary to truly say that democracy has been institutionalized, and the ability of the loser to accept losing, and for the winners not to abuse their victories are both key tests that many societies trying to acheive democracy fail.

In point of fact it will be at least a decade before any serious evaluations can be completed (although it certainly will be possible to make interim evaluations along the way). This was obvious to me before the war even started (and, for that matter, I have always expected a long deployment of US troops in the country to achieve these policy objectives).

However, while one election does not a democracy make (nor do elections equal democracy, even over time-look at the Soviet Union, or Mexico prior to 2000 for a less stark example) it certainly takes an election to be placed seriously upon the road to democratization.

Iraq is firmly on that road, at least for the moment, and hopefully will be able to stay upon it-certainly that is the main significance of yesterday’s election. The dictator has been deposed, an interim govenrment formed, an interim constitution written, and now a constituent assembly/acting parliament has been elected to write a permanent constitution that will have to be ratified by the Iraqi people. This all sums to a very good start.

The current challenges include boslterig the security capacities of the state and reaching a political settlement with the Sunnis (which, I would argue, is quite possible to achieve: the lack of voting in some areas will not preclude the inclusion of Sunnis in this process).

There is no doubt that it could all fall apart. However, there is also the chance that it all could work.

At this moment in time I would argue that Iraq is in the process of transition from authoritarian rule to democractic governance. The transition period will last years as they move to the consolidation phase. However, it will be, as I noted above, at least a decade, if not more, before we will truly be able to say whether or not a truly democratic state has been institutionalized in Iraq. This is a long and tricky process that requires patience.

Filed under: Iraq: Global Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

WP Weirdness Solved (?)

By Steven Taylor @ 8:37 pm

The ever wonderful Kathy Kinsley appears to have fixed my WP problem. However, if anyone encounters the weirdo login problem when trying to post a comment, please drop me an e-mail to let me know.

Thanks.

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More on the Gitmo Detainees

By Steven Taylor @ 8:33 pm

Sean Hackbarth disagrees with me on the ruling earlier today regarding the detainees at Gitmo.

While I understand where he is coming from, I do think that at some point we have to make a choice about these people we have detained and I think some modicum of due process is in order. There is the very real chance that there are individuals detained who are innocent, or, even if they not, don’t deserve indefinite detainment.

As I have stated before: if there is proof that these individuals are a serious and abiding danger to the secruity of the United States, then detainment in warranted. However, some at least moderately transparent process must be utilized to establish that guilt. While I am not fond of the cliche about how we are “becoming like our enemies” I will say that if we aren’t careful, we risk seriously violating our own sacred ideals. Indeed, I am unfortunately certain that in some case we have done so.

I am persuadable that full constitutional rights should not be conveyed on these prisoners, however, the US government hasn’t not provided a viable alternative, since (rightly, I would argue at this stage) it has determined that these individuals are not protected by the Geneva Conventions since they are un-uniformed irregular soldiers.

However, some standard needs to be constructed, and it is unfortunate, and a failure of the government’s, that such a standard does not exist.

And while I may be one of the biggest international law skeptics you are likely to encounter, it may well be that an international agreement to amend the Geneva Conventions is in order to deal with these types of detainees.

My general skepticism concerning government, my knowledge of the corrupting influence of power in these kinds of cases, and my abiding respect for the fundamental rights of all human beings requires that I demand a high standard from my government, even in this type of case where no doubt a good many of these individuals do not deserve such consideration.

The problem becomes: without a defined process, and an acquiescence to the fact these are human beings (even if they have been labeled terrorists) we cannot determine in any just manner who deserves punishment and who does not.

Just “playing it safe” doesn’t justify the denial of basic human freedom. As such I grow increasingly concerned about these camps and the interrogations within them.

Filed under: US Politics: War on Terror: Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

On Ward Churchill

By Steven Taylor @ 4:10 pm

I have not commented on the Ward Churchill brouhaha, because I have been otherwise occupied and really had nothing new to say about it. However, as bits and pieces of the story have come to roost in my mind, I must admit that the ability to comment has emerged. The factor that got me to address the situation was the combination of a partial interview I read (see below) and when I learned via radio this afternoon that Churchill, a department chair at a major university doesn’t even have a doctorate.

Yes, I found Churchill diatribe about the victims of 911 to be ridiculous-but am sufficiently enured to such lunacy that I tend to ignore it. But really, the whole situation raises serious questions about the wisdom of CU and of the validity of its ethnic studies program. Generically I have serious academic doubts about most ethnic studies departments (as I am unclear as to why the disciplines of literature, anthropology, sociology, political science, history, etc. are insufficient to study the human condition). It seems to me that if the argument is that these disciplines ignore certain groups or events, then the solution is to find people who study those things and put them into the appropriate department.

Further, it is my experience that such programs aren’t especially academic, but rather quite ideological, trafficking usually in the more nonsensical ideas of the left. Indeed, I was going to comment on this aspect of the story when I read this interview with Ward Churchill from the magazine Satya, but never around to it. Just read his responses and then tell me that this individual isn’t both pretentious and intellectually obtuse (to be kind). In fact, the picture that accompanies the interview alone is enough to bring into question his connection to reality. The whole thing strikes me as a Guevarist version of a Trekkie. Imagine an interview with a philosophy professor who specializes in logic dressing up in Vulcan robes for an interview and speaking deeply about the teachings of Surak? And if one can imagine such an event can one then actually imagine taking that person seriously as an scholar?

Throw in the fact that man doesn’t even have adequate academic training/credentials and the farcial nature of the entire affair is wholly complete.

Remarkable.

h/t: Dennis the Peasant for pointing out the article in Satya and to Roger L. Simon for noting the piece by Dennis.

Filed under: Academia | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
  • Rooftop Report linked with Ward Churchill - Member of the Idiot Club
Another Blogiversary Congrats: ASV

By Steven Taylor @ 3:31 pm

Michele of A Small Victory has actually been at it for four years as of today-eons in Blogtime.

Congrats to her on her longevity and readership.

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Proud Papa

By Steven Taylor @ 3:28 pm

I meant to blog this yesterday: The Misanthrope - Sunday’s Lighter Side Daughter’s Presidential Edition.

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And This is Surprising Because?

By Steven Taylor @ 1:12 pm

Via the AP: Yes, It’s True: Eagles Fans Booed Santa

Filed under: Sports | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Headline Reaction

By Steven Taylor @ 1:11 pm

DiCaprio Gets Lifetime Achievement Award

Is he old enought for a lifetime acheivement award? He’s what? 12?

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Senator Clinton Collapses Due to Stomach Virus

By Steven Taylor @ 1:08 pm

Via the AP: Sen. Clinton Recovers After Collapsing

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton collapsed Monday during a speech on Social Security, moments after complaining about a stomach virus.

“She fainted after not feeling well, got medical attention and is proceeding with her planned schedule,” according to a statement released by her office in Washington.

I am glad to hear that it wasn’t anything serious. The initial report I heard was imply that she had collapsed at a public event.

Filed under: US Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
This Strikes Me as Just

By Steven Taylor @ 1:03 pm

Via Reuters: U.S. Judge: Guantanamo Suspects Have Rights

While I am amenable to the argument that non-citizens may not have the same rights under the Constitution as citizens (depending on the exact circumstances), I do adhere to the notion that there are fundamental hunan rights, many of which are, in fact, detailed in the US Constitution. As a result I cannot abide by the concept that we have the right to indefinitely detain human beings who “might” be a threat. Either they are a threat or they are not, and there needs to be a legitimate process by which to determine that fact.

The issue to me is that there has to be some standard applied to these detainees, and since it seems we have been unable to construct a viable one, I am not sure the proper course isn’t the Constitution.

Said

U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green in her ruling:

The main part of her ruling held the suspects can challenge their confinement and rejected the government’s position that all the cases must be dismissed.

“Of course, it would be far easier for the government to prosecute the war on terrorism if it could imprison all suspected ‘enemy combatants’ at Guantanamo Bay without having to acknowledge and respect any constitutional rights of detainees,” Green said.

“Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action under the leadership of the commander in chief to protect itself against enormous and unprecedented threats, that necessity cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over two hundred years,” Green said.

“In sum, there can be no question that the Fifth Amendment right asserted by the Guantanamo detainees in this litigation - the right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law - is one of the most fundamental rights recognized by the U.S. Constitution,” she said.

I can find no basic fault with line of reasoning.

Filed under: War on Terror: Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) | Trackbacks(3)
Perpsective

By Steven Taylor @ 12:28 pm

I am hearing some debate and commentary regarding the Iraqi elections by those who opposed the policy in the first place who are now downplaying the significance of the events of yesterday. As I noted yesterday: yesterday was not the pinnacle of victory in the sense that it was not the end of a very long process, or that it was a perfect process. Still, to deny the success of the day as an event is to be blinded by partisanship.

However: one can celebrate the events of yesterday and still acknowledge the difficult road ahead. Such a response is neither myopia nor triumphalism, rather it is a fair assessment. The fact of the matter is that millions of Iraqis were willing to dare danger, walk to the polls, vote and be marked in a very conspicuous way-these are remarkable facts which underscore the potential (and that word is the appropriate one) for the construction of democratic governance in Iraq.

The vote yesterday was not primarily a signal that the Iraqis want the American out-although I have encountered several arguments to that effect. Do I think that some knew that a road to the end of the occupation was the vote to move to the creation of a permanent Iraqi government? of course they did. However, the fact that the road to the end of the occupation is the construction of a stable, permanent Iraqi government is quite signigicant-and the fact that a majority of the population has agreed to use elections as the method to establish that government is rather important. Those millions could have instead chosen to support or join the insurgency-and yet they did not do so.

Those who seek to minimize the signifiance of the events of yesterday have to deal with that fact, and I do not, at this point, think that many (if any) of them are doing so.

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Congrats to OTB

By Steven Taylor @ 10:55 am

It’s James’ Two Year Blogiversary.

From nowhere to major blog presence in that period of time is an impressive feat-and it would appear to me that his growth has not yet abated.

Congratulations to him (and his co-bloggers as well) for good work and I wish them all continued success.

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Touring the Editorial Pages on Iraq

By Steven Taylor @ 8:58 am

Here are some of the editorial page responses to the elections of yesterday. They are all celebratory and congratulatory to the Iraqis. Most feel the need to provide a caveat elector and point out that the elections don’t solve everything (which we all know, I should think) and there is much hand-wringing over the Sunnis. General comment on Bush administration policy is at a minimum in the pieces in question. The LAT specifically notes that the administration was correct in sticking to the election timetable.

The NYT: Message From Iraq

This page has not hesitated to criticize the Bush administration over its policies in Iraq, and we continue to have grave doubts about the overall direction of American strategy there. Yet today, along with other Americans, whether supporters or critics of the war, we rejoice in a heartening advance by the Iraqi people. For now at least, the multiple political failures that marked the run-up to the voting stand eclipsed by a remarkably successful election day.

The piece starts with a general congratulatory tone, but concludes with much hang-wringing about the Sunnis. While I concur that the political question of how to deal with the Sunni minority, I find the obsession with the Sunnis to be remarkable, insofar as one would think that 20% of the population is somehow more important than the remaining 80%.

WaPo’s lead editorial (A Vote to Persevere) on the subject is more straightforward, while expressing an obligatory “this isn’t the end” quite of statement, the first paragraph of the piece focuses on the most stunning aspect of yesterday’s vote: the courage of the Iraqi voters:

FOR MONTHS news from Iraq has told the story of the extremists, those who destroy themselves to murder others and to proclaim the cause of a religious or Baathist dictatorship. Yesterday the world saw and heard, at last, another Iraq, one in which millions of people from all over the country turned out to vote - even in places where their nominal leaders had proclaimed a boycott, even at polling stations where mortar rounds fell or gunfire rang out. Some danced or distributed chocolates, some wept with joy, others grimly pressed forward as if their lives literally depended on it. A 32-year-old man who lost his leg in a suicide bombing arrived at the polls in Baghdad and told a Reuters reporter, “I would have crawled here if I had to.” There were nine suicide bombings, and at least 44 people died, including one U.S. soldier. But the day’s message was unmistakable: The majority of Iraqis support the emerging democratic order in their country, and many are willing to risk their lives for it.

The LAT piece is similar in tone to WaPo’s, although with some Sunni-concern thrown in a la the NYT: Courage Under Fire

It takes courage to vote with the sound of mortars and gunfire still ringing and memories of terrorist beheadings still fresh. Whatever the final tally of the turnout Sunday in Iraq, the willingness of millions to defy suicide bombers and killers who threatened havoc at the polls provided some unequivocal good news. Not least, the world could honestly see American troops making it possible for a long-oppressed people to choose their destiny.

The DMN proclaimed it “A Magnificent Day”:

Here is what did not happen in Iraq yesterday: the mass murder of voters promised by insurgents.

Here is what did happen: Men and women who have lived under tyranny for as long as they can remember risked their very lives to vote.

Here is the unexpectedly good news: All things considered, it was a magnificent day in Iraq.

Indeed.

USAT provides a list of things that need to be done in their piece (Despite challenges, a day to celebrate democracy in Iraq), but adhere to the general positive celebratory tone of all the pieces:

By any measure, Sunday’s elections in Iraq were a success, though one that brings with it a new set of challenges.

[…]

For one day, however, Iraqis can take pride that they braved insurgents’ threats, bombs and bullets to cast ballots. And Americans who don’t bother to vote even under ideal conditions should take note of the enduring potency of the idea that each person can make a difference. The millions of Iraqis who risked their lives to vote on Sunday were an inspiring reminder of democracy’s appeal — and brought at least the hope of a new beginning for their tormented country.

Filed under: Iraq: Global Politics: MSM: The Press | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
A Picture, a 1000 Words, and All That

By Steven Taylor @ 8:23 am

An excellent example of the adage from Cox & Forkum:

Ok, This is Getting Ridiculous

By Steven Taylor @ 8:09 am

As I mentioned last week, I have been a weird problem with WordPress (as have some readers trying to comment) wherein the login screen pops up for no reason. Indeed, it seems any attempt to access WP fucntions can cause this to take place. So, for example, the acting of hitting “Publish” can cause the screen to pop up, which means the post that I was in the process of publishing goes away forever.

Does anybody have any idea what the problem could be? Has anyone had a similar problem?

I am beginning to be concerned about WordPress’s stability.

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Initial Vote Counting Go Smoothly

By Steven Taylor @ 6:45 am

Via Reuters: Counting ‘Going Well’ in Iraq’s Historic Vote

Iraq’s Electoral Commission said counting in the country’s historic poll was going smoothly on Monday, as millions of Iraqis anxiously settled down to wait for the results, a process that could take up to 10 days.

Electoral officials estimate about eight million people cast ballots in Sunday’s election, a little over 60 percent of those registered and a greater number than expected, even if there is evidence turnout was low in many violence-torn Sunni Arab areas.

Filed under: Iraq: Global Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, January 30, 2005
57%

By Steven Taylor @ 10:05 pm

A broadcast report on MSNBC had a revised turn-out figure of 57%.

As former CIA Director Jim Woolsey said on Hardball: anything at 51% or higher will be a huge success.

Filed under: Iraq: Global Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Brand Name Wars

By Steven Taylor @ 4:31 pm

Via Reuters: Apple Edges Google as Top Brand

Arabic media channel Al Jazeera has been voted the world’s fifth most influential brand in a poll of branding professionals that gave the top slot to U.S. iPod and computer icon Apple.

In some small way maybe this is indicative of some inculcation of capitalism in the Arab world. Regardless, there is no denying the global brand-identity of al-Jazeera.

Here are the lists:

GLOBAL AND REGIONAL TOP FIVE LISTS (1,984 respondents to the question “which brands had the most impact on your life in 2004?")

GLOBAL

1. Apple

2. Google

3. Ikea

4. Starbucks

5. Al Jazeera

CENTRAL & LATIN AMERICA

1. Cemex

2. Corona

3. Bacardi

4. Bimbo

5. Vina Concha y Toro

ASIA-PACIFIC

1. Sony

2. Samsung

3. LG

4. Toyota

5. Lonely Planet

EUROPE & AFRICA

1. Ikea

2. Virgin

3. H&M

4. Nokia

5. Al Jazeera

NORTH AMERICA

1. Apple

2. Google

3. Target

4. Starbucks

5. Pixar

In the survey of almost 2,000 ad executives, brand managers and academics by online magazine Brandchannel, Apple ousted search engine Google from last year’s top spot, but the surprise to many will be Al Jazeera’s entry into the top five.

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  • Truth. Quante-fied. linked with Top Brand Names of 2004 - A Surprise
Pardon Me While I Snicker…

By Steven Taylor @ 4:18 pm

Via the AP: Sen. Barbara Boxer Steps Into Spotlight

She’s being touted on liberal blogs as the Democrats’ best hope for president in 2008.

I guess that just shows that blogs aren’t an automatic fount of wisdom.

The piece makes an apt observation:

Maybe it’s not that Boxer’s gotten louder but that other Democrats can barely be heard at all.

One does wonder where the leadership is in the Democratic Party. One thing I can guarantee: the part will not succeed if their loudest voices are Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer.

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“Vote or Die"-Indeed.

By Steven Taylor @ 3:05 pm

Frank J. makes an apt observation:

We have here our idiotic “Rock the Vote” and “Vote or Die,” but the Iraqis faced the prospect of “Vote and Die” and turned out anyway. Most of us never has to face such danger for something we consider so simple (or even an inconvenience).

Filed under: Iraq: Global Politics | Comments (0) | Trackbacks(2)
  • Sortapundit linked with Election Day Round-Up
  • Sortapundit linked with Election Day Round-Up
An Interesting Juxtaposition

By Steven Taylor @ 2:29 pm

For whatever reason, John Kerry is the other big story today, mostly because he was the main guest on MTP, causing a great deal of blogospheric reactions. This strikes me as an interesting juxtaposition to the Iraqi election story.

There is also an interesting story from Bloomberg in which George Soros criticized the Kerry candidacy: Soros Says Kerry’s Failings Undermined Campaign Against Bush

Billionaire investor George Soros, the biggest financial contributor to the failed effort to defeat President George W. Bush in November’s election, said Democratic challenger John Kerry was a flawed candidate.

Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC, spent $26 million in last year’s campaign that he said was undermined by the candidate he supported.

“Kerry did not, actually, offer a credible and coherent alternative,'’ Soros, 74, said yesterday in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “That had a lot to do with Bush being re-elected.'’

Indeed.

Update: Stephen Bainbridge has some apt comments on Soros.

(Note: all quotes below from today’s MTP).

I was struck by his response to today’s news out of Iraq, as it struck me as disingenuous:

MR. RUSSERT: Election day, Iraq. Condoleezza Rice, the new secretary of State, has just told the United States and the world, “It has gone better than expected.” What is your sense?

SEN. KERRY: I think it’s gone as expected.

That may well be the case, but I honestly find it very difficult to believe that he thought that turnout would be high and that violence would be low.

Generically, his capacity for being on both sides of an issue in a given response continues to amaze me. In regards to Senator Kennedy’s speech this week, Russert asked the following:

MR. RUSSERT: Specifically, do you agree with Senator Kennedy that 12,000 American troops should leave at once?

SEN. KERRY: No.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe there should be a specific timetable of withdrawal of American troops?

SEN. KERRY: No.

MR. RUSSERT: What would you do?

SEN. KERRY: I understand exactly what Senator Kennedy is saying, and I agree with Senator Kennedy’s perceptions of the problem and of how you deal with it. I would-in fact, last summer, if you’ll recall, I said specifically that if we did the things that I laid out-the training, the international community, the services and reconstruction, and the elections and protection-we could draw down troops and begin to withdraw them. I think what Senator Kennedy is saying-and here I do agree with him-is that it is vital for the United States to make it clear that we are not there with long-term goals and intentions of our presence in the region. I agree with Senator Kennedy that we have become the target and part of the problem today, if not the problem. Now, obviously, you’ve got to provide security and stability in order to be able to turn this over to the Iraqis and to be able to withdraw our troops, so I wouldn’t do a specific timetable, but I certainly agree with him in principle that the goal must be to withdraw American troops.

Ok, he initially says that he doesn’t agree with any of Kennedy prescriptions, but then goes on to state that he largely agrees with Kennedy.

Yes, I see the distinction he is making, but it still has that typical Kerry formulation of saying yes and no in the same answer. It is problem that he needs to address if he has any aspirations of running in 2008 (which seems to be the case). Of course, I don’t think he will ever be able to overcome it, however.

Same thing here—Rice is qualified to be SecState, but she isn’t:

MR. RUSSERT: But you voted against Condoleezza Rice to be secretary of state. That’s not finding common ground. She is qualified to hold that job, no?

SEN. KERRY: Yes, and I said so. But I also said that she was a principal architect, implementer and defender of a policy that has made the United States of America less secure in the world. And that was a fight that was central to my campaign. It is central to what I think is one of the major issues that faces our country. And I think it’s important to have accountability. I paid her a great tribute for her journey of life. I mean, I think she’s a remarkable person. And I think she’s obviously accomplished a great deal. But I wasn’t voting on whether she was just qualified. I was voting on the judgments that she brought to the table. I was voting on the answers that she gave us in committee. And I was voting on the vision that she offered to the country. And I found all three, frankly, faulty.

MISC OBSERVATIONS

  • There is no doubt in my mind that he is planning on running again in 2008, despite the fact that he claims to not be thinking about 2008 at all.
  • Kerry stated his generic support for Dean for DNC Chair. He also praised the job did by McAuliffe.

Some blogospheric reactions to the interview:

  • Ann Althouse’s response to the interview squares pretty evenly with my overall impression:
    The Kerry interview on today’s “Meet the Press” is exactly what you would expect. There are many of the familiar lines from the campaign, including the repeated assertion that he had a better way to handle things in Iraq. Now, success in Iraq depends entirely on the “four-point plan,” which he (he says) articulated precisely and clearly during the campaign and which still applies.

  • Michelle Malkin notes the Russert-Kerry interchange over the SwiftVets business.
  • Powerline addresses the same issue.
  • PoliPundit: Sourpuss Kerry
  • Captain’s Quarters: John Kerry’s Tone Deafness Continues.
  • Mark Griffith, a.k.a. Political Man notes the following quote from Betsy Newmark:
    Hmmmm. Whom would you rather watch on the Sunday shows? John Kerry explaining how the President should have listened to his four-point plan to Tim Russert? Or Condi Rice talking about the Iraqi elections while wearing some high heeled, kick a** black leather boots?

    Indeed.

  • Update:: Jim Geraghty of NRO’s Kerry Spot e-mails to note he has a post on today’s MTP performance as well. Amongst several salient observations he hits the nail on the head as to why the booking of Kerry on today’s show had such an odd feel (at least to me):
    The Kerry Spot on National Review Online
    You are no longer the Democratic presidential nominee and the face, and most important voice, of your party anymore, Senator. You’re just the junior senator from Massachusetts.

    Exactly right.

  • Bryan S. asks: “Where’s someone who can talk about TODAY?!". Indeed.
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  • Truth. Quante-fied. linked with A Bright New Day in Iraq
Blogospheric Round-Up: Elections in Iraq

By Steven Taylor @ 11:50 am

A trip around the Blogosphere (and yes, with a heavy dose of my blogroll, although not exclusively):

  • From on the ground, Omar at Iraq the Model has post called “The People have won.” The money quote:
    I walked forward to my station, cast my vote and then headed to the box, where I wanted to stand as long as I could, then I moved to mark my finger with ink, I dipped it deep as if I was poking the eyes of all the world’s tyrants.

  • Along those lines Kevin Alyward notes: Iraqis Give Terrorists The Finger (and has a great pic)-Jeff Goldstein had a similar thought: Iraqis Give Zarqawi the (ink-stained) Finger..
  • James Joyner sees that: High Turnout in Baghdad Points to Early Success and describes the initial turnout figures as “stunning “.
  • Dean Esmay has a message for the nay-sayers.
  • Roger L. Simon: “Wowee!” (and he has several links to various stories on the election).
  • Daniel W. Drezner comments and provides some linkage as well.
  • Ann Alhouse compares the coverage of CNN and the NYT.
  • Dave Wissing also comments on MSM and blog coverage.
  • Friends of Democracy has tons of coverage: click and scroll.
  • Hennessy’s View : Better Than Expected.
  • Matthew Yglesias seems to be begrudgingly admitting that elections were more successful than expected, but that really it doesn’t matter (here and here). Indeed, his first two election post are essentially big “buts,” and the third resorts to sarcasm.
  • Armando blogging at Daily Kos: “This Election is simply, in my estimation, an exercise in pretty pictures.”
  • Despite some wild speculation about Bush and the new Iraqi government, Barabara O’Brien at The Mahablog acknowledges the import of the initial turnout reports:
    Reuters reports that Iraqis are turning out to vote in large numbers, in spite of the danger. This is good news for all of us. A large voter turnout, seems to me, will confirm the legitimacy of the new government and prevent the nation from becoming a failed state.

  • bLogicus: Iraq Makes History, Elections Begin :: Iraq (and he has a round-up).
  • Pejman notes: Hope Springs Anew-As Does Myopic Pettiness. Indeed.
  • The Belmont Club has some interesting stuff, including a regional break-down of the voting from the BBC.
    Juan Cole is cherry picking negative news and blogging that. That isn’t exactly sound methodology if one is seeking a useful evaluation of the event.

  • The Pajama Hadin ask: - Was the Iraq Election a success?
  • Oliver Willis yesterday:
    You know, I really wish Iraq were having an honest, safe, real election. But that isn’t happening, and that’s a shame. Even if you were and are opposed to this war, as I am, you would wish the Bush people would do things right just for the simple reason that it would help our standing in the world. But they can’ even do that.

    Acknowledging that the event was far from perfect (there was violence, the lack of public campaigning, etc.) I am at a loss to undertand this evaluation-especially since it was posted before the election actually took place.

  • Hugh Hewitt has lengthy comments on the events of the day and the coverage thereof.
  • Powerline notes: A Smashing Success and has several other posts on the subject.
  • As of noon, central nothing from Atrios, Josh Micha Marshall or Crooked Timber (just to note that I have looked). Noting from Stephen Bainbridge nor Stephen Green as yet (as of 12:23 central). The silenece of the major leftish blogs is noted by Michelle Malkin (and others) as well. Update: John Quiggin of Crooked Timber makes some interesting observations.
  • Truth. Quante-fied. notes: A Bright New Day in Iraq.
  • Michelle Malkin specifically highlights women voting in Iraq.
  • John Cole issues a challenge. He also notes The Shifting Goalposts.
  • Joe Gandelman notes A Day Of Hopeful Tears.
  • James Joyner round-ups up headlines from the NYT.
  • Kevin Drum comments on the positive MSM coverage.

This election isn’t the end, but a beginning, and it may yet go sour. As such, it is easy to get overly celebratory about the day’s events. Still: the building of a stable state, like any other endeavor is a step-by-step affair. To consider the events of January 30, 2005 anything other than a success is to be blinded by partisanship. Of course, to pretend like this is success defined is also to be similarly blinded.

Still, there seems to be more of the former than the latter. I find it dissappointing, and vexing, to note that there are those so infected by partisanship that they cannot at least acknowledge these elections are a step in the right direction.

The bottom line is: not every event in the world is part of a game between Reps and Dems where one side scores and the other side falls behind. Too many people treat the world like one football game where their team can do no wrong, and the other team must lose.

(Feel free to link up with your own election comments-positive, negative or neutral. Plus, I am updating as well)

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  • Truth. Quante-fied. linked with A Bright New Day in Iraq
  • The MUSC Tiger linked with "This is Democracy": Voting in Iraq
  • Pirate\’s Cove linked with Iraqi Elections
  • Darleen\’s Place linked with Iraqis vote - who's happy, who's not
  • Signifying Nothing linked with Signified Elsewhere: Iraq elections edition
  • protein wisdom linked with Iraqis Give Zarqawi the (ink-stained) Finger
  • Mark the Pundit linked with The Iraqi Vote
  • EtherHouse linked with Iraq vote "not legitimate"; Berlin Wall "torn down by a few lawless vandals."
  • EtherHouse linked with Iraq vote "not legitimate"; Berlin Wall "torn down by a few lawless vandals."
  • EtherHouse linked with Iraq vote "not legitimate"; Berlin Wall "torn down by a few lawless vandals."
  • The Moderate Voice linked with Iraqis Overwhelmingly Endorse Democracy And Defy Terrorism
  • The Moderate Voice linked with Iraqis Overwhelmingly Endorse Democracy And Defy Terrorism
  • Outside The Beltway linked with Iraqi Elections: Right Wing Gloating?
  • HerbEly linked with Iraqi Elections: Not a Matter for Scoring Debating Points
  • The Jawa Report linked with Religion of Peace Update 1/31/05
  • PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » For Want of Reasonable Dialogue linked with a pingback
Initial Iraqi Election Round-Up

By Steven Taylor @ 10:39 am
  • Via the NYT: Amid Attacks, a Party Atmosphere on Baghdad’s Closed Streets
    After a slow start, voters turned out in very large numbers in Baghdad today, packing polling places and creating a party atmosphere in the streets as Iraqis here and nationwide turned out to cast ballots in the country’s first free elections in 50 years.

    American officials were showing confidence that today was going to be a big success, despite attacks in Baghdad and other parts of the country that took at least two dozen lives. Agence-France Press reported that the Interior Ministry said 36 people had been killed in attacks.

    Preliminary figures showed that 72 percent of registered voters turned out to vote, said a member of the Independent Electorial Commission, Adel Lami, excluding the mainly Sunni Muslim provinces of Anbar and Nineveh. But another official said the early figures should be treated with caution.

    Now, the 36 number, I fear, will likely rise. However, while I would not make light of one death, any reasonable observer has to admit that that number if far lower than even the optimists would have predicted (it is certainly far lower than what I expected).

    Further, the 72% turnout number, if it holds anywhere near that level, will have to be considered a remarkable success. Of course, that is a preliminary number and the caveat that it excludes two Sunni provinces provides a rather large caution flag.

    Really, anyone who thinks that the elections today turned out exactly as expected (which is what Senator Kerry said on MTP this morning) is being, in my opinion, disingenuous. If these numbers are anywhere near accurate, then there is no way to declare the election, warts and all, anything but a success.

  • Via CNN, here’s the basic low-down: Iraqis vote amid violence
    Polls have closed in Iraq’s first free election in a half century, with officials reporting a higher than expected turnout of registered voters amid attacks and threats of violence.

    Insurgents carried out more than a dozen attacks across the country on Sunday, killing at least 25 people and wounding 71 others.

    At least eight suicide bombings took place during the voting. There are reports of a ninth, but CNN has not confirmed those reports.

    There were eight other types of attacks as well, including one in which insurgents identified Iraqi civilians as having voted - based on the ink on their fingers - and threw grenades at them, killing them.

    A Hercules C-130 British military plane also crashed Sunday in Iraq, the British Ministry of Defense said. There was no immediate word on location or casualties. It was not clear how many people were on the plane

  • Via Reuters, which provides a good regional round-up of the elctions, Defiant Iraqis Vote in Their Millions Despite Bombs
    Some came on crutches, others walked for miles then struggled to read the ballot, but across most of Iraq millions turned out to vote Sunday, defying insurgent threats of a bloodbath.

    Suicide bombs and mortars killed at least 33 people, but Iraqis still came out in force for the first multi-party poll in 50 years. While in some areas turnout was scant, in most places, including violent Sunni Arab regions, it exceeded expectations.

    Many cheered with joy at their first chance to cast a free vote, while others shared chocolates with fellow voters.

    Even in Falluja, the Sunni city west of Baghdad that was a militant stronghold until a U.S. assault in November, a steady stream of people turned out, confounding expectations. Lines of veiled women clutching their papers waited in line to vote.

    “We want to be like other Iraqis, we don’t want to always be in opposition,” said Ahmed Jassim, smiling after he voted.

    In Baquba, a rebellious city northeast of Baghdad, spirited crowds clapped and danced at one voting station. In Mosul, scene of some of the worst insurgent attacks in recent months, U.S. and local officials said turnout was surprisingly high.
    That said, there were also areas of the Sunni heartland where turnout was scarce and intimidation appeared to have won. .

    […]

    Even in the so-called “triangle of death,” a hotbed of Sunni insurgency south of Baghdad, turnout was solid, officials said.

    […]

    Western Baghdad polling stations were busy, with long queues of voters. Most went about the process routinely, filling in their ballots and leaving quickly without much emotion.

    […]

    In Samarra, a restive Sunni-Shi’ite city north of Baghdad, only about 100 people voted at one of two polling sites. One woman, covered head-to-toe in black robes, kept her face concealed, but said she had voted with pride.
    In nearby Baiji, some people were unable to vote because electoral officials failed to turn up. “We are waiting for the manager with the key,” said an election worker, apologizing.

    […]

    In Kirkuk, Kurds turned out in force, as expected, but Arabs and Turkmen appeared to boycott, angered by what they saw as voting rules that favor Kurds.
    By the end of the day in Baghdad, voters were running to polling stations to get there before polls closed at 5 p.m. (1400 GMT). Some old women were pulled along by young sons. One of the biggest surprises was Mosul, a mixed Sunni Arab and Kurd city in the far north, where U.S. army officers said they were surprised to see long lines at many voting centers.

    Baghdad’s mayor was overcome with emotion by the turnout of voters at City Hall, where he said thousands were celebrating.
    “I cannot describe what I am seeing. It is incredible. This is a vote for the future, for the children, for the rule of law, for humanity, for love,” Alaa al-Tamimi told Reuters.

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  • Hennessy\’s View linked with Better Than Expected
  • Pajama Hadin linked with Iraq Election Facts, Military Blogs and News on the Ground
Initial Impressions: Through Media Lenses

By Steven Taylor @ 10:05 am

Due to a relapse in the flu./sinus infection (or stubborn lingering, as the case may be) I slept in this morning and am only now getting to the post-election info. I have sampled a few minutes of coverage on Fox News, CNN and the initial report at the top of MTP (which was waiting for me on TiVo).

The contrast between the Fox coverage and the NBC report from Brian Williams was remarkably stark. The Fox coverage was extremely upbeat/optimistic and the NBC coverage dour. For example: Fox had Reuters numbers of high turnout, while Brian Williams repeatedly pointed out that it was impossible to know hard numbers at this point.

I would split the difference: we aren’t going to know especially good numbers for over a week, but we can tell a) if the insurgency was effective in stopping the election (it appears that they were quite anemic overall) and b) what the general turnout was (was it good, bad, etc.—it appears to have been pretty good). Neither of those factors require perfect numbers to assess.

Quite frankly, the Fox people looked perhaps too ready to celebrate, but the NBC folks were far too eager to underscore all the negative.

The little I saw on CNN seemed a bit more straight news—but I caught it mostly during commercials, so can’t provide a sufficient impression at this time.

Ok: time to surf the newspapers, cable sites and blogs to see what there is to know.

(Side note: John Kerry all hour on the day of the Iraqi elections? What’s up with that? I don’t want a rehash of the 2004 elections at the moment—there is breaking news to discuss. Odd choice).

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Saturday, January 29, 2005
More Info on the Elections

By Steven Taylor @ 10:50 pm

Via CNN: Milestone elections begin in Iraq

A steady stream of Iraqis have began voting in milestone elections designed to steer the country down the road of democracy.

Polls opened across Iraq at 7 a.m. (11 p.m. Saturday ET), under the watchful eye of Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops.

[…]

After navigating security checkpoints to get to their polling places, Iraqi voters face a lengthy ballot on which they may choose one of 111 electoral slates competing for National Assembly seats. Due to security concerns, names of the 7,000 candidates vying for office weren’t revealed until the final days of January.

Each slate will get a number of seats in the new assembly proportional to the vote it receives nationwide. Two broad-based slates - the United Iraqi Alliance and the Iraqi List - are expected to lead the pack.

The United Iraqi Alliance is a Shiite-dominated slate of candidates backed by a leading cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. While most of its support comes from the Shiite majority - about 60 percent of the population - the alliance also includes some smaller Sunni and Kurdish groups.

Included in the alliance is the Iraqi National Congress, led by Ahmed Chalabi, who had a close relationship with Washington before the war but later fell out of favor amid questions about whether he had supplied misleading information about Saddam’s weapons capability.

The Iraqi List is led by Allawi, who became the face of Iraqi government after sovereignty was restored in June. The slate contains both Shiite and Sunni candidates but is largely secular.

Also likely to do well in the vote is the Kurdistan Alliance List, a united slate that includes the two main Kurdish political parties and nine smaller Kurdish parties.

I am heading to bed and hope to awake to news of relative calm and decent turnout.

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Voting Has Begun

By Steven Taylor @ 10:48 pm

Via the AP: Polls Open, Voters File in Across Iraq

Voters trickled into polling stations under tight security Sunday in Iraq, casting ballots despite promises by insurgents to sabotage the country’s first free election in a half-century.

Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer was one of the first to vote at election headquarters in the heavily fortified Green Zone, calling the action his country’s first step “toward joining the free world.”

Across the nation, the nearly 5,200 polling stations opened on schedule, with workers checking voter identifications and police standing guard.

There were no immediate reports of violence, but an explosion was heard at the U.S. military base at Kirkuk in the north. Scattered small arms fire was heard near another U.S. base near Baghdad’s airport.

As poll workers watched, al-Yawer marked two ballots — one for the 275-member National Assembly and the other for provincial legislatures — and then dropped them into boxes. A poll worker handed him an Iraqi flag as he left.

“I’m very proud and happy this morning,” al-Yawer told reporters. “I congratulate all the Iraqi people and call them to vote for Iraq.”

Excellent news-while it be over until it’s over, every minute that passing without major violence is on step closer to successful election day.

I am certainly pleasantly surprised that Saturday passed without a major attack-logically Saturday or early Sunday would be the perfect time to launch a massive strike to discourage voter turnout and to demonstrate power over the process.

Of course, there is the alternative theory, whicj would be to allow a false sense of calm and then strike during the heart of the day to inflict a largere level of death and destruction. Hopefully, however, that will not come to pass.

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Quick TV Reviews

By Steven Taylor @ 8:08 pm

Enterprise: This week’s episode, Babel One was extremely interesting, and sets the stage for a storyline about the founding of the Federation. Indeed, this episode (and all of the three story arcs—of which this is the first part of three) have been excellent and exactly what I wanted out of Enterprise in the first place, but had to wait through three seasons (much of which I did not watch) to get to. One only hopes that now they have got it right that they can get renewed for next year.

It also occurred to me that there is a logical reason why no one sees the Romulans until TOS, as the story in the Vulcan trilogy made it clear that they don’t want to be seen.

One criticism of this episode: some of the technology used by the Romulans seems too advanced for the era.

The make-up, writing and acting for the Andorians and Tellarites was perfect.

If you are a Trek fan who gave up on Enterprise you should catch the repeat on Sunday.

Monk: The new season of Monk started last week with the introduction of a new assistant for Adrian. Given that the Sharona-Monk relationship seemed to have gone as far as it could go, this was likely a good move. This week’s episode, “Mr. Monk v. The Cobra” was quite good: it presented an interesting mystery and provided some character insights, while largely being light-hearted.

And one I meant to mention earlier this week:

Boston Legal: The episode from last Sunday was a return to what I like about the show (i.e, mostly Denny Crane and Alan Shore and more generically quirky cases and characters) after the two week Ham-fisted Politics Fest. The confrontation between Paul and Denny was interesting and should foretell of interesting stories to come and perhaps an atually interesting usage of Candace Bergen’s character.

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The Case of the Missing Hard Drives: Solved!

By Steven Taylor @ 2:58 pm

Here’s a blast from the past: Report: ‘Missing’ Disks Never Existed

A report concludes two computer disks that disappeared-prompting a virtual shutdown at one of the nation’s leading nuclear weapons laboratories-never existed.

Charming. Of course, that beats having had them stolen.

Ex-Pat Voting Continues

By Steven Taylor @ 2:30 pm

Via the AP: Iraqis Worldwide Continue Casting Ballots

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, which is conducting the expatriate vote for the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, said 84,429 of the 280,303 registered Iraqis cast ballots on Friday, the most recent figures available.

Of those, the United Arab Emirates recorded the highest proportion, with 49 percent of those registered — or 6,154 — voting. In the United States, that figure was 22 percent — or 5,643. Just 183 Iraqis — about 18 percent of those registered — voted in France, the lowest proportion in any of the 14 countries.

The news followed a disappointing registration turnout, with only a quarter of the 1.2 million eligible Iraqis worldwide signing up to vote, despite two extensions of the deadline.

Organizers said they were hopeful that most of those registered would cast ballots by Sunday.

The turnout Saturday was lighter but still “very satisfactory. There’s a constant flow of voters heading to the stations,” IOM spokeswoman Monica Ellena said in Iran.

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  • Truth. Quante-fied. linked with Iraq Election Coverage - (Un)Fair and (Un)Balanced
Today’s Iraqi Election Round-Up

By Steven Taylor @ 2:04 pm

Here’s some more news and views on the Iraqi elections:

  • As noted below, the violence, as expected, continues.
  • USAT has a nifty interactive version of the ballot as well as one that overviews the election..
  • The LAT has an excellent overview section related to the elections.
  • MSNBC has its own “Iraq Votes” section.
  • Jeff Jarvis has a remarkable round-up of his own.
  • Via Reuters we find that the first days of ex-pat Iraqi elections was successful: Some 30 Pct of Iraqi Exiles Voted on First Day-IOM
    A total of 84,429 Iraqis abroad, or 29.8 percent of the 280,303 who registered, voted on Friday. Those who registered number only a quarter of expatriates entitled to vote.

    Nevertheless, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which runs the Iraqi out-of-country voting program said the poll reflected strong desire by exiles to participate in their homeland’s political future.

    Indeed, I am not sure of the “nevertheless” in the piece, as it was the first of three days of voting-and today and tomorrow are weekedn days, when one would expect increased turnout given that in many cases significant distances must be traversed to get to the polls.

  • Also via Reuters, we find that the Iraqi President is optimistic: Iraqi President Says Expects Most Iraqis to Vote.
  • WaPo’s write-up (Iraqis Prepare To Go to Polls Amid Threats Of Violence) notes:
    For all their importance, the elections are still a mystery to many Iraqis. Almost half the probable voters think they will be picking a president, according to polls; they will not. They will choose 275 members of a National Assembly from among 111 political parties and coalitions whose individual candidates still remain largely unknown to voters. The assembly will select a president and prime minister and write a constitution.

    There will be 5,000 polling centers and nearly 30,000 polling stations, a large number designed to keep lines short, and therefore less vulnerable to attack.

    Not surprising that there is insufficient information on the elections in the populace given the even in our system, with news aplenty, a large number of folks often don’t know what is going on. Good deal about attempts to minimize lines. I will note, however, that I find it odd that everyone keeps noting that if 60% of the population in made up of one group, that that group would dominate the polling. Isn’t that pretty axiomatic?

  • William F. Buckley notes: Look Who’s Voting.
  • Bill Hennessy has some views on the subject. He also notes that Friday’s coverage of the elections in the NYT wasn’t exactly positive (something that had Dean Esmay rather upset).
  • Robert Tagorda comments at OTB on the first day of voting.
  • Bryan of AWS has some observations as well.
    Andrew Sullivan provides his criteria for a successful election on Sunday:
    Here are my criteria: over 50 percent turnout among the Shia and Kurds, and over 30 percent turnout for the Sunnis. No massive disruption of voting places; no theft of ballots. Fewer than 500 murdered.

    This strikes me as a wholly reasonable set of standards.

  • Hindrocket at Powerline has a touching election-related photo.
  • Roger L. Simon notes that to this point, the promised massive violence has yet to occur. Here’s hoping that his optimism concerning the strength of the anti-democracy terrorists is well founded.
  • Quote of the day from Mohammed of Iraw the Model:
    On Sunday, the sun will rise on the land of Mesopotamia. I can’t wait, the dream is becoming true and I will stand in front of the box to put my heart in it.


Source: LAT

Update: Two more round-ups: Truth. Quante-fied and Pajama Hadin as well as comments and news from Paul at WizBang!.

If you have your own post on the election, please free to link to this round-up (and any trackbacks will get an inline link at the end of this post).

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  • Pajama Hadin linked with Iraq Election Facts, Military Blogs and News on the Ground
  • Truth. Quante-fied. linked with Iraq Election Coverage - (Un)Fair and (Un)Balanced
  • bLogicus linked with On the Eve of Elections Iraq Needs Christian Voters
  • Michelle Malkin linked with IRAQI ELECTION NEWS
  • Arguing with signposts… » Iraqi vote half-empty, no! half-full! linked with a pingback
  • Myopic Zeal linked with Iraqi Election Round-Up
  • On The Third Hand linked with Election Links.
Rocket Attacks on US Embassy in Iraq

By Steven Taylor @ 12:16 pm

Breaking news from the BBC: there appears to have been a rocket attack on the US Embassy in Iraq. No details as yet.

Update 1: ABC News now has a headline stating 2 killed and several wounded. No write-up is available at the moment.

Update 2: CNN has a write-up: Deadly attacks escalate in countdown to elections

On the eve of Iraq’s landmark elections, a mortar round hit the U.S. Embassy inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, killing a U.S. military member and a civilian, U.S. military officials said.

Update 3: Via MSNBC: 2 die in attack on U.S. embassy in Baghdad

A rocket hit the U.S. embassy inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone on Saturday, killing two people and wounding at least six, a diplomatic source said. NBC News reported that the embassy is in lockdown.

The rocket struck after dark on the eve of Iraq’s elections. An explosion could be heard across the city center and sirens sounded in the Green Zone shortly after the blast. A U.S. embassy official confirmed the blast.

“It was a rocket. Two people are dead and at least six are wounded,” the source told Reuters.

Update 4:


Source: CNN

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Headline of the Day

By Steven Taylor @ 11:28 am

Via Reuters: Meal from Hell Whets Appetite for US-Iran Clash.

The whole description of the meal (an attempt at Davos to open a dialogue between the US and Iran) is worth a read and is so involved that it defies adequate excerpting.

However, I find this graf amusing

Biden finally arrived an hour and 20 minutes late, having gone to the wrong hotel. His wife’s figure-hugging leather pants and a top that left her arms bare from the shoulders were in stark contrast to Vice-President Masoumeh Ebtekar’s all-enveloping chador, although both wore black.

Several reactions occur simultaneously. One is that is seems unnecessary to describe a Senator’s wife’s clothing as “figure-hugging” (sorry, no photos could be found) when whatever she was wearing would have been a stark contrast to “an all-enveloping chador” - gee, whiz, a sweatsuit would have been a stark contrast. Another initial reaction was that it must be the week for diplomatic clothing commentary-first Cheney, now this.

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Ickes Backs Dean for DNC Slot

By Steven Taylor @ 11:04 am

Quite intriguing-via the AP: Ex-Clinton Aide Ickes Backs Dean for DNC

Harold Ickes, a leading Democratic activist and former aide to President Clinton, said Friday he is backing Howard Dean to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee-giving a powerful boost to the front-runner.

[…]

Ickes, who is chairman of the political action committee of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said the endorsement was his alone and “does not reflect Sen. Clinton’s opinion.”

While Ickes would not comment on the Clintons’ preferences, he is a close ally and would not be endorsing Dean against their strong objections.

Extremely interesting. Not only does this enhance Dean’s chances greatly, it also should put to rest the speculation in some quarters that the battle for the DNC was somehow Dean v. Clinton (for example see: MSNBC - Now Playing: ‘Anybody But Dean, Part 2′).

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Friday, January 28, 2005
Intriguing

By Steven Taylor @ 10:03 pm

According to the AP, TV prices are going to continue to fall through this year and into 2006: Want a Huge TV? Your Wallet Says to Wait.

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The Joys of Childhood

By Steven Taylor @ 3:33 pm

My two youngest sons (3 and almost 5) went to a birthday party this afternoon. Upon returning home this the first thing each told me (separately) was: “Daddy, I got M&M’s!”

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A Mystery

By Steven Taylor @ 3:10 pm

Here’s a question: who listens to AM radio stations for music anymore? The last time I remember listening to an AM station for music was when I was in middle school in Temple, Texas and the popular pop station, KTEM, was an AM station (last time I drove through Temple, KTEM was a talk radio station). I also remember that my “first” radio station (i.e., one that I purposefully tuned in to listen to on my very own radio) was WBAP in Dallas, which at the time was a major country music station in the metroplex. WBAP is now a major talk radio station in the Metroplex. I used to listen to WBAP as a country station was I was 5 or 6 years old.

However (and this is the mystery that raised the issue) is that one of the local talk radio stations in Montgomery has gone to an all-music format in the afternoon and evening (leaving some mediocre local talk on in the morning). On balance, this is no big deal to me, as I can listen to Michael Medved via the internet, but still: who in the world are they getting to listen to music on the AM when you can get the same programming on the FM dial (yes, I remember when it was a dial) and in stereo, no less.

Speaking of Medved, Sully is on right now talking about the “was Lincoln gay?” meme.

And speaking of radio via the internet, having listened to two different Los Angeles-based stations today via the ‘net, I would note that the radio news coverage of the Iraqi elections has been pretty positive-especially the local coverage on KRLA and KFI. Even the CNN radio broadcast I heard was pretty positive.

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New Blog

By Steven Taylor @ 2:04 pm

I just came across a new blog that is worth a look: The Conservative Philosopher.

It is a group blog of conservative philosphy profs and contains some very interesting stuff.

One will learn, however, that philosophers tend to be even more long-winded that political scientists.

H/T: The Maverick Philosopher who himself is a contributor.

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Fun with Logos

By Steven Taylor @ 1:23 pm

Bryan of Arguing with signposts ponders a theological question regarding the usage of appropriated corporate logos in some Christian t-shirts. (He takes the point even further here).

While I am not especially upset by such t-shirts, they have always struck me as a bit silly and juvenile and always came across as knock-off products one might buy at a flea market.

I don’t see them as especially good tools for sreading the Word.

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  • Backcountry Conservative linked with Christian Kitsch
Yeesh

By Steven Taylor @ 1:09 pm

Via the BBC: LA suicide crash ’spawns copycat’

A second California man has been arrested on suspicion of trying to kill himself by causing a train crash like Wednesday’s incident in which 11 died.

Tigran Kashkarian, 25, allegedly parked his car on railway tracks but later drove off and was arrested after a car chase near Los Angeles, police said.

My word.

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Pre-Election Round-Up

By Steven Taylor @ 11:33 am

In addition to the posts below (here and here), here are some links to even more pre-Iraqi election coverage:

  • James Joyner has a round-up of relevant stories, including the news of a candidate killed on videotape by terrorists.
  • Also at OTB, Robert Tagorda provides The OTB Guide to the Iraqi Elections.
  • Bill Hobbs has info on early voting for Iraqis in Tennessee (and even has a photo).
  • Feddie raises the question of whether Iraq represents a just war .
  • Reuters reports: Basra Polling Stations Brace for Worst After Blasts
  • Via the NYT: Pre-Election Violence Continues in Iraq as Bomber Targets Police
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  • Hennessy\’s View linked with 48 Hours
The Gingrich Model? I Have My Doubts

By Steven Taylor @ 11:10 am

Notes WaPo’s Howie Kurtz: Gingrich Redux?

Suddenly, it seems, Newt Gingrich is the Democrats’ new role model.

More specifically, the Gingrich-led GOP’s torpedoing of Hillarycare in ‘93 and ‘94 is being touted by some party strategists and liberal journalists as the obvious playbook on Social Security ‘05.

There is a major problem with this kind of strategery, insofar as a major advantage that Gingrich had was that the moderate-to-conservative Southern Democrats (both in terms of office holders and voters) had not yet made the jump to the GOP. As such, there were votes to be had in Congress and in the electorate. There is no such bloc in either place to exploit at this moment in time. I believe this fact to be vital to understanding the Gingrich “revolution” and the general shift in the partisan make-up of the Congress—and it is a fact that oft ignored by the press (and by politicians in general).

One more minors levels, I would argue that the political operation in the White House now is more able and aware of how DC works than did the early Clinton WH (indeed, since we are talking about a second term administration, that observation is axiomatic-but also the Bush admin has always had more DC insider types than did the early Clinton admin).

There is also the question of how much the fortunes of Daschle will come into play: he tried the obstruct at all cost game and lost. My initial assessment of that situation is that while it may make judicial votes easier (a tad so, anyway) that it won’t have any kind of general legislative effect. Minority Leader Reid, for example, has signaled quite clearly that he isn’t going be Mr. Cooperation.

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Illicit Crop Eradication Problems in Afghanistan

By Steven Taylor @ 8:33 am

I noted this story in the CSM a couple of days ago and thought it interesting: Crop spraying draws controversy in Afghan drug fight

Shortly after becoming Afghanistan’s first democratically elected president, Hamid Karzai declared war on one of his country’s most lucrative exports: opium. Three months on, the president has won an early skirmish over tactics by prevailing upon the US to shelve plans for aerial spraying of Afghan poppy crops.

Crop spraying is a major part of Washington’s war on drugs in Latin America. But in Afghanistan, where income from the crop is crucial to many farmers, spraying has proved controversial.

[…]

By ruling out crop spraying, the government has removed one of the few quick methods of combating the opium trade. But many analysts say that development efforts, such as finding alternatives for farmers, are more likely to succeed in the long run.

Further, there wasn’t enough money allocated to really be effective in any event. The entire situation underscores the grave difficulties (arguably impossibilities) when it comes to US crop-eradication policies.

The situation is compounded in Afghanistam by the fact that if these crops were in fact eliminated, a human disaster might break out, as currently there is a huge proportion of the population dependent on growing opium poppy for survivial, not to mention the poplitical implications:

Rubin also warns against eradicating poppy farms too quickly or before taking out the traffickers and the drug lords, as many farmers are still financially indebted to their “bosses” and could revolt against the Karzai government.

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Major Merger

By Steven Taylor @ 7:29 am

It’s corporate news-o-rama these days: yesterday it was SBC and AT&T and now Procter Reaches $57 Billion Deal to Buy Gillette

Procter & Gamble, the consumer products company, announced today that it had reached an agreement to acquire the Gillette Company, the shaving-products and battery maker, for about $57 billion in stock.

In a statement on its Web site today, Procter & Gamble said the deal, which is subject to approval by regulators and shareholders, is expected to close next fall.

“This combination of two best-in-class consumer products companies, at a time when they are both operating from a position of strength, is a unique opportunity,” the chief executive of Procter & Gamble, A. G. Lafley, said in a statement.

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Preparing for the Elections

By Steven Taylor @ 7:22 am

Of course (and sadly), voting in SoCal by ex-pat Iraqis (see below) will be much easier than voting in Iraq itself.

As the LAT reports: Iraqis Get Ready for the Worst

Amid excitement and fear over Sunday’s election, Iraqis are in a mad rush to prepare for an unprecedented three-day national lockdown. With insurgents vowing to disrupt the balloting and kill voters, U.S. and Iraqi security forces have imposed a lengthy set of emergency security measures.

Starting Saturday, borders will be sealed and the airport will be shut down. Government offices and most companies will take a three-day holiday. Nightly curfews begin at 7 p.m. and last until 6 a.m.

In addition, cars will be banned from roads unless occupants have special election badges, except in cases of medical emergency.

This weekend’s vote will tell us a lot-exactly how dedicated the Iraqi people are to try and construct a democratic government as well as how dedicated the insurgents are to kill so as to stop it.

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Overseas Iraqi Voting Starts Today

By Steven Taylor @ 7:16 am

Via the LAT: Iraqi Voters Look Homeward

They fled war and repression in Iraq. They renewed their lives in America. Now they stand ready to help recast the destiny of their embattled homeland after decades of dictatorship.

Three Iraqi immigrants in Southern California %u2014 Maha Yousif, a Muslim orthodontist; Father Noel Gorgis, a Chaldean Catholic priest; and Saman Shali, a Kurdish telecommunications entrepreneur %u2014 are among those poised to vote in Iraq’s landmark democratic election. Three days of overseas balloting were set to begin today in Irvine and four other U.S. cities, along with 13 other nations.

All told, 280,303 Iraqi expatriates worldwide have registered to vote in Iraq’s election for a transitional national assembly, a right granted to those born in Iraq or the children of an Iraqi father. The U.S. registrants totaled 25,946, including 3,903 from Western states voting in Irvine.

Regardless of one’s position on the war itself, I would like to think that we can all rejoice at this opportunity for human beings who once lived under a brutal dictator who can now participate in the construction of a new government via the fundanmental democractic act: voting.

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Good Deal: 2 More Zarqawi Associates Arrested

By Steven Taylor @ 7:06 am

Via the AP: 2 Associates of Zarqawi Arrested in Iraq

The government on Friday announced the arrests of two close associates of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, including the chief of the terror mastermind’s Baghdad operation. The announcement came two days before historic elections that extremists have vowed to subvert.

[…]

Qassim Dawoud, a top security adviser, told reporters that the arrests of the al-Zarqawi lieutenants occurred in mid-January but gave few details. Dawoud said one of the men, Salah Suleiman al-Loheibi, headed al-Zarqawi’s Baghdad operation and had met with the Jordanian-born terror leader more than 40 times over three months.

The other was identified as Ali Hamad Yassin al-Issawi.

The announcement brings to three the number of purported al-Zarqawi lieutenants arrested this month. The announcement appeared aimed at bolstering public confidence in security forces in advance of Sunday’s election.

Now, if they could just get the big guy.

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Thursday, January 27, 2005
The Free Flow of Ideas?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:01 pm

Apropos of a comment from today’s George Will column comes the following from the CSM: Harvard flap prompts query: How free is campus speech?

Dr. Summers’s comments - which he said were intended to provoke discussion about why women were underrepresented in top science posts - have ended up raising an even larger question: Have universities become so steeped in sensitivities that certain topics can’t be openly discussed?

Historically, ivory towers have been society’s bulwarks of free intellectual exploration. But critics say that role is jeopardized on issues ranging from gender and race to religion and the politics of the Middle East.

“I could give example after example where speech that is considered offensive by any particular group that has a disproportionate amount of power on the campus is subject to censorship and repression,” says David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties organization that works on college campuses. “It gives the most sensitive person the veto power on debate and discussion.”

Many disagree with that assessment. But the Summers flap has revived a longstanding debate on the subject - often waged along ideological lines over whether campuses are hostile to those with conservative ideas.

The whole piece is worth a read.

I do think that there is something to this, insofar as many universities, especially the more elite ones, tend to be bastions of political correctess and hypersensitivity. As such, the free flow of ideas is often staunched in places where people shouldn’t be afraid of ideas, which is a shame and a waste.

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Isn’t That Special?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:52 pm

Via CNN: Colombia arrests head of airport drug dog unit

Authorities arrested the head of the Colombian police’s drug-sniffing dog unit at Bogota’s international airport Thursday on suspicion he helped traffickers smuggle cocaine onto commercial planes bound for the United States.

Freddy Antonio Castro was detained along with 16 civilians during an operation aimed at shutting down a trafficking ring run by retired police Col. Leonel Mendoza, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said on condition of anonymity.

Investigators believe Castro was being paid to inform smugglers when the dogs were on a break or too tired to sniff out cocaine or heroine, thereby allowing them to get through security checks undetected, the spokesman said.

It sure it tough when the dogs are too tired to sniff.

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Speaking of Human Rights

By Steven Taylor @ 3:59 pm

Here’s one of my favorite selections from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government from Chapter 2, Section 6:

The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our’s. Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.

And to the secularist in the audience, don’t get too hung up on the “maker” part and focus on the logic: there is no justification for the subordination of one human by another, and further, if we would apply reason to the situation this is clear, becuase the only way that I can live in safety and freedom is to respect the security and freedom of others-the only other option is to going to war with my fellow man. Self interest dictates that we should treat each other with equality.

And, from Section 7:

In transgressing the law of nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equity

and he becomes, what Locke terms a “noxious creature.”

Any other system apart from a system of natural rights, will be predicated on whatever system the strong can impose on the weak.

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On Human Nature

By Steven Taylor @ 1:31 pm

George Will has an interesting column that is focused on the Larry Summers flap regarding his comment over whether men and women have genetic differences vis-a-vis certain aptitudes. Given that I am wholy unqualified to deal with the question of genetics and mental abilities, I have not taken a foray into this topic.

However, within the column Will points to a debate that is utterly fundamental to all discussions of politics, but one that is rarely directly discussed in public discourse on politics:

The philosophy of natural right - the Founders’ philosophy - rests on a single proposition: There is a universal human nature.

From that fact come, through philosophic reasoning, some normative judgments: Certain social arrangements - particularly government by consent attained by persuasion in a society accepting pluralism - are right for creatures of this nature. Hence the doctrine of “natural right,” and the idea of a nation “dedicated,” as Lincoln said, to the “proposition” that all men are created equal.

The vehemence of the political left’s recoil from this idea is explained by the investment political radicalism has had for several centuries in the notion that human beings are essentially blank slates. What predominates in determining individuals’ trajectories - nature or nurture? The left says nature is negligible, nurturing is sovereign. So a properly governed society can write what it wishes on the blank slate of humanity. This maximizes the stakes of politics and the grandeur of government’s role. And the importance of governing elites, who are the “progressive” vanguards of a perfected humanity.

This debate is fundamental to the debate between those who believe that only in a context of freedom can human beings truly flourish and those who believe that a sufficiently well crafted application of the mind can design the “best” state.

It was at the core of the East-West conflict in the Cold War, it was at the core of the war against Hitler (and today’s observance of the horror that was Auschwitz is a testament to the evil the human mind can create), and is the philosphical basis of Bush’s second inaugural address, as well as the hope behind the elections in Iraq this Sunday.

Perhaps the assumption that there is a universal human nature is flawed. However, the alternative is a view of human beings in which ascriptive characteristics or specific behaviors become the delineator of human nature-and that is a dangerous road to take. If some of us have different natures, Auschwitzes become far easier to construct.

Update: Part of today’s OTB Traffic Jam.

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  • Sha Ka Ree linked with Universal Rights
The Irony

By Steven Taylor @ 1:03 pm

As I have noted before, it is via RSA (Retirement Systems of Alabama) that I expect to base my post-retirement income, not Social Security. Now, the RSA system is one which uses personalized accounts, including the ability to receive a lump-sum refund of your contributions (and, depending on the circumstances, a substantial amount of interest) and the actual revenue used to support retirees comes from managed investment in a diversified portfolio, the majority of which is linked to the private economy in one way or another (stock investments, real estate, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, etc.) along with government bonds, securities and so forth (which are a far smaller portion of the fund).

Now, I was looking at the monthly RSA newsletter this morning and noted that in the February issue there is a reprinted editorial criticizing the idea of Bush’s Social Security reform.

Am I the only one who sees the profound irony here?

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Travels with Tom

By Steven Taylor @ 11:48 am

On balance, I like NYT columnist Thomas Friedman, even when I disagree with him. Indeed, on several levels, he and I have similar views of what the appropriate prescriptions are for the problems of global development.

However, as someone who takes political analysis quite seriously, I tire of his “methodology” of dining with people on his travels and then using it as a means of making an argument.

As is often noted (although clearly not enough): anecdotes ain’t evidence. This is something I wish journalists in general would be taught in J School-and if they are being taught such there is some serious widespread amnesia going on.

OTB has an appropriate re-Joyner to this oft-employed tool of Friedman’s.

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Injustice

By Steven Taylor @ 11:04 am

Here’s an illustration of the fundamental unjustness of the universe: yesterday, a perfectly legitimate comment could not be entered on my blog by a legitimate real live reader of the site. Indeed, I have had less comments than usual, leading me to believe that she was not the only one to have trouble. Yet, I just received a ton of comment-spam comments that seemingly had no trouble posting.

And so, I ask: where is justice in cyberspace?

What would Glaucon and Thrasymachus say? Indeed, one guesses that were he around to today, Thrasymachus would be a comment spammer.

Where, oh where, are the Guardians, to stop such unwanted assualts upon my little corner of the Polis that is the Blogosphere?

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A Republican Zell?

By Steven Taylor @ 10:55 am

Via WaTi: Whitman book hits Bush, Rove

The Republican Party is being “dictated to by a coalition of ideological extremists,” a former Bush administration Cabinet official says in a new book that blames President Bush and his top political strategist for failing to bring more “blue states” into the Republican column in November.

Christie Whitman, the former Republican governor of New Jersey who resigned her post as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in May 2003, says Mr. Bush and adviser Karl Rove were wrong in their strategy of boosting turnout among the party’s voting base of political “extremists” on the right, including evangelical Christians.

In her new book, “It’s My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America” — due in bookstores Jan. 31 — Mrs. Whitman says the Republican Party has failed to reach out to “moderates” like herself.

Ok, Whitman can’t match Zell in terms of colorful rhetoric, but no doubt this book will get a lot of press.

I heard a few sound bites from her appearance on the Today Show it seems that he big issue is that of abortion and the political crtitqieu is aimed at the influence of religious conservatives in the party.

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Things I Don’t Get2

By Steven Taylor @ 10:13 am

Via Reuters: State Senator Wants Cockfights, with Gloves

An Oklahoma senator hopes to revive cockfighting in the state by putting tiny boxing gloves on the roosters instead of razors.

Okaaay. First: I don’t get cockfighting in the first place: what is the big appeal of watching a couple of chickens trying to kill one another?

Second, you’ve got to be kidding me:

State Sen. Frank Shurden, a Democrat from Henryetta and a long-time defender of cockfighting, said the ban had wiped out a $100-million business.

To try to revive it, he has proposed that roosters wear little boxing gloves attached to their spurs, as well as lightweight, chicken-sized vests configured with electronic sensors to record hits and help keep score.

“It’s like the fencing that you see on the Olympics, you know, where they have little balls on the ends of the swords and the fencers wear vests,” said Shurden. “That’s the same application that would be applied to the roosters.”

All of which raises the age-old question: exactly what is the gentleman smoking?

Not to mention: a $100 million business? Egads.

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Gallagher Speaks

By Steven Taylor @ 9:59 am

In response to yesterday’s revelations concerning her contract work for HHS, Maggie Gallagher responds in a column.

In reading her account, and the quots she gives from the contract she had with HHS, it appears that her situation is far differnt than that of Armstrong Williams and it may well be that the initial reaction (mine included) was to see it as a bigger pattern before the situation was adequately analyzed.

She notes:

The contract did not authorize a general consulting fee. Instead it authorized payment for actual work performed, to be submitted and approved via separate invoice.

By my records, I was paid $21,500 from HHS in 2002.

Is it acceptable for someone who writes a newspaper column to do research and writing for the government?

I see no problem with someone who writes a column to do legitimate contract work in their are of expertise for the government or any other party, for that matter.

I was not paid to promote marriage. I was paid to produce particular research and writing products (articles, brochures, presentations), which I produced. My lifelong experience in marriage research, public education and advocacy is the reason HHS hired me.

However, as she notes, it likely would have been wise to disclose that she had done marriage-related work for HHS in columns about HHS marriage policy.

To me the most significant differences between this case and the Williams case are the facts thetr Gallagher focuses on marriage issues, while Williams is not an educational expert, and Gallagher was paid for work produced, not general promotion, as Williams was.

While I am unclear on her exact credentials, Gallagher has written three books on marriage, therefore it is at least reasonable to consider her an expert on the subject and hire her to do independent research on the topic.

The question os whether HHS needs to commission such work is, of course, a wholly different issue. One wonders if there isn’t suffcient scholarly work that can be obtained for free so as to make this sort of contracting unnecessary.

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  • Outside The Beltway linked with Gallagher Headlines
Brady/McNabb ain’t Going to DisneyWorld/Land

By Steven Taylor @ 9:08 am

Via USAT: ‘I’m going to Disney World’ takes vacation

After 19 years, the Magic Kingdom this year is canceling its Super Bowl promotional series in which a star of the game proclaims he’s headed next for the Florida theme park.

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Let 2006 Begin!

By Steven Taylor @ 7:50 am

I always tell my students that as soon as a new Congress is sworn in that the members start looking to the next election, especially in terms of fundraising. Via the AP we have an example of that phenomenon: Frist, McConnell Join Dole in Fund-Raising

The Senate’s top two Republicans have signed on to help their party fund-raising committee collect donations for the 2006 elections.

Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Majority Whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will lead two of the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s major fund-raising programs, the committee announced Tuesday.

Really, the elections are just around the corner…

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Wow

By Steven Taylor @ 7:46 am

Via Reuters: Sharon Says ‘Very Satisfied’ with Abbas

“There is no doubt that Abu Mazen (Abbas) has begun to work,” Sharon told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

“I am very satisfied with what I hear is happening on the Palestinian side, and I have a serious interest in advancing the process with him.”

While one doesn’t want to make too much of such pronouncements (a few sentences does not a peace make), those are still some pretty amazing things to hear from Sharon’s lips. This is especially true if one considers his relationship (if one can call it that) with Arafat.

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SBC, All Grown Up, Seeks to Buy Momma

By Steven Taylor @ 7:42 am

Via the NYT: SBC Said to Be in Talks to Buy AT&T

A deal, if reached, would be the final chapter in the 120-year history of AT&T, the first technological giant of the modern age and the original model for telecommunications companies worldwide. A deal would be a reunion of sorts, putting back together some of the largest pieces of the Ma Bell telephone monopoly, which was broken up in 1984.

Interesting, insofar as who would have ever thought one of the “Baby Bells” would ever grow to such economic stature as to be able to come back and potentially purchase the mother company?

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Giuliani v. Clinton?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:17 pm

Via the AP: GOP Head Wants Giuliani to Run Vs. Clinton.

I suspect he does. Indeed, so would I: it would make for a fascinating race.

It looks like Pataki is out of the mix for sure:

Gov. George Pataki has said he will likely not run against Clinton for her seat and won’t make an announcement about running for a fourth term as governor until summer.

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Rice Confirmed 85-13

By Steven Taylor @ 12:37 pm

No surprise here.

Via the AP: Senate Confirms Rice As Secretary of State

The Senate vote showed some of the partisanship that delayed Rice’s confirmation vote by several days. Twelve Democrats and independent James Jeffords of Vermont voted against Rice. The Democrats included some of the Senate’s best-known members such as Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry, who was the party’s presidential candidate in last year’s election. Thirty Democrats voted for her.

Dave Wissing has the list of the 13 nays.

And this is interesting, and echoes, to some degree, my position of the extended debate on Rice’s confirmation vote:

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., suggested Democrats are sore losers. Rice had enough votes to win confirmation, as even her Democratic critics acknowledge, McCain said.

“So I wonder why we are starting this new Congress with a protracted debate about a foregone conclusion,” McCain said. Since Rice is qualified for the job, he said, “I can only conclude that we are doing this for no other reason than because of lingering bitterness over the outcome of the election.”

And along those lines, I concur with James Joyner, who ponders exactly what these 13 gained for themselves or their party in this process.

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More Columnist Payola

By Steven Taylor @ 12:33 pm

Dave Wissing reports of The Another Columnist Paid Off. This time it was Maggie Gallagher, who allegedly had a contract with HHS for $21,500 to help promote the administration’s marriage policy for the poor.

Update: OTB has more.

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Sad that it has to be Said

By Steven Taylor @ 12:05 pm

Via Reuters: Bush Says Won’t Pay Commentators to Promote Agenda

President Bush on Wednesday ordered his Cabinet secretaries not to pay media commentators to promote his legislative agenda, saying payments by the Education Department were improper and new leadership was now in place.

In his most direct criticism to date, Bush leveled blame at officials at the Education Department for paying conservative commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to tout his landmark education plan, “No Child Left Behind.”

Bush said it was an improper use of government funds, and told a news conference: “I expect my Cabinet secretaries to make sure that that practice doesn’t go forward. There needs to be independence.”

Really, it is a remarkable thing to have to say. I am still flabbergasted by the Armstrong Williams case and find the very thought that an agency of the federal government would pay a commentator to promote a policy to be appalling. Further, it is unconscionable that a commentator would take the cash.

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WordPress Weirdness

By Steven Taylor @ 11:19 am

Starting yesterday WordPress keeps intermittently asking for my username and password when I login or use Press It. Often when I give it the proper username/password I then get a 404 error and then when I retry it does what I want and doesn’t ask for the password. At first I thought it might be a cookie issue, but it has happened on two different machines and has happened multiple times on both.

Now I have received an e-mail from a reader wanting to post a comment and she tells me that she is being asked for a username/password to post a comment-yet I have not changed any of the settings so as to require such.

Anybody have a clue?

Also: how does one backup/export entries in WP? It was quite easy in MT, but I see no obvious method for WP and if something is going haywire, I need to back up the blog (indeed, I need to anyway).

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Googling TV

By Steven Taylor @ 8:13 am

Intriguing: Google switches on TV search beta

Google has launched a service designed to search TV content from US broadcasters including PBS, NBA, Fox News and C-SPAN.

The Google Video beta enables users to search across the closed captioning content of a growing number of TV programmes that the firm began indexing in December 2004.

Entering a query will return a list of relevant programmes with still images and text excerpts from the exact point in the programme where the search word or phrase was spoken, the search giant claimed.

“What Google did for the web, Google Video aims to do for television,” said Larry Page, Google co-founder and president of products.

It seems to work and is rather interesting, and potentially of use ot bloggers who want to grab a quote or bit of info from TV to use on their blogs. It must index farily quickly-I found stuff from last Sunday quite easily (indeed, a bit more tinkering and I found stuff from yesterday).

Here’s the link: http://video.google.com/.

Update: James Joyner noticed this yesterday, but I was so busy yesterday I barely read the news, let alone other blogs. His reaction to the accessibility to TV transcripts is the same as mine (ditto Glenn Reynolds’, for that matter, who calls it “Bloggers Delight"). And yes, I know both those are links from yesterday-and reporting news that is a day old is so Old Media, but so it goes.

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31 Dead in Helicopter Crash in Iraq

By Steven Taylor @ 7:59 am

Via the AP: Marine Helicopter Crash Kills 31 in Iraq

A U.S. Marine helicopter transporting troops crashed Wednesday in the desert of western Iraq, killing 31 people, American military officials said. The crash was believed to be the deadliest single incident involving U.S. troops in Iraq.

A terribly sad event.

I must say, it is remarkable that this is the single deadliest event in the war to date.

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Israeli-Palestinian Progress?

By Steven Taylor @ 7:53 am

Via the NYT: Israel Resumes Diplomatic Contacts With Palestinians

srael and the Palestinian Authority resumed diplomatic contacts Wednesday after a two-week freeze, and Israel agreed to suspend targeted killings of Palestinian militants - two more steps toward a cease-fire and a resumption of peace talks.

Also Wednesday, Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs held their second meeting in several hours on completing plans for the deployment of 1,500 Palestinian officers at flashpoints in central and southern Gaza. Commanders met at a key junction in southern Gaza, ahead of Thursday’s deployment.

I am heartened by the apparent willingness of Prime Minister Abbas to utilize Palestinian security forces to curtail anti-Israelie violence.

Of course, this isn’t helpful at all:

About 100 Jewish settlers came to the junction to protest the security coordination. Settlers flattened tires of Palestinian police vehicles, one of the Palestinian commanders said.

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Fox is The Hitler News Network…

By Steven Taylor @ 6:43 am

…or so says Ted Turner

From Broadcasting & Cable: Turner Compares Fox’s Popularity to Hitler

Ted Turner called Fox a propaganda tool of the Bush administration and indirectly compared Fox News Channel’s popularity to Adolf Hitler’s popular election to run Germany before World War II.

[…]

While Fox may be the largest news network [and has overtaken Turner’s CNN], it’s not the best, Turner said. He followed up by pointing out that Adolph Hitler got the most votes when he was elected to run Germany prior to WWII. He said the network is the propaganda tool for the Bush Administration. “There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s certainly legal. But it does pose problems for our democracy. Particularly when the news is dumbed down,” leaving voters without critical information on politics and world events and overloaded with fluff,” he said.

Lovely. I respect Turner for his vision vis-a-vis cable TV and cable news in particular and his business success in general, but please. He frequently comes across as something of a loon.

Of course, this isn’t Ted’s first flirtation with Godwin’s Law and Fox News. In 1996, which FNC was launched,

Turner compared Murdoch to Adolf Hitler, but later qualified his remarks, saying he was only referring to “the way Hitler managed the news in Germany.”

Although, according to USAT he later backtracked a bit:

At a Time Warner shareholder meeting just hours earlier, in response to a question, he said he was indeed sorry he’d compared competitor Rupert Murdoch to Adolf Hitler.

“Yes. I should have said he’s a disgrace to journalism,” Turner added, cracking a smile. “But an Australian disgrace to journalism.”

I found the Fox New press release on the subject rather amusing:

“Ted is understandably bitter having lost his ratings, his network, and now his mind,” said a Fox News spokesperson. “We wish him well.”

Indeed.

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Ok, But it Needs a New Name

By Steven Taylor @ 6:26 am

Via the NYT is a story on the “military death gratuity: For Families of Fallen Soldiers, the 2nd Knock Brings $12,000

The military death gratuity, the Defense Department calls it. It is a one-time payment of $12,000 to the survivors of military men and women killed in the line of duty.

[…]

The idea behind the check […] dates to Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. Some senators who took the floor in the debate before the gratuity was approved in 1908 had fought in the Civil War.

The money - six months’ pay at first, only a few hundred dollars in those days - was meant to help grieving families cover expenses in an era when life insurance for soldiers was all but unavailable. Underwriters considered a military career too risky.

The “death gratuity” is in the news because US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is pushing to increase the amount to $100,000. I support in principle the idea of raising the amount, although am agnostic on what the exact amount ought to be. Even with insurance and other benefits that exist now, but did not exist when the policy was created, it seems the least that the government can do for a family who has suffered a loss is make sure that they have ready cash to deal with whatever immediate expenses they may have-even if it something as seemingly mundane as getting the proper clothing for the funeral or providing transportation for family to attend, and all the other expenses that emerge during life’s crises.

However, for goodness’ sake, call it something other than a “gratuity"-that sounds like the soldier’s family is getting a tip as the result of a death.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Dean Gains Steam for DNC Slot

By Steven Taylor @ 8:46 pm

Via the AP: Key Blacks Back Dean for DNC Chairmanship

Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor whose appeal with minorities was questioned during his presidential race, won support Tuesday from several black Democratic National Committee members for his bid to be DNC chairman.

Dean, one of seven candidates for the chair position, won the support of Yvonne Atkinson Gates, chair of the DNC’s black caucus, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois and Minyon Moore, a longtime DNC member and former aide to President Clinton

[…]

On Tuesday, Dean also announced the backing of Bob Farmer, former finance chair for John Kerry’s presidential campaign, and Joe Cari, a former finance chair for the DNC. Dean also is getting the backing of former national party chairs David Wilhelm and Steve Grossman, who was a key supporter in his presidential race.

Things are starting to look pretty Deanie.

Plus, MoveOn.Org is getting in on the act:

In another development, MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group, announced plans to get involved in the race for DNC chair. The involvement of the group, which mounted an active Internet and grassroots effort during the presidential campaign, initially would seem to help Dean — with the organization calling for election of a chair who will express “strong opposition to Republican extremism” — though it also could help build opposition from the moderate wing of the party.

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Rumors of Trek Coolness

By Steven Taylor @ 4:09 pm

(Spolier warning)

TrekToday has some intriguing rumors about the upcoming Mirror universe episodes of Enterprise.

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Roy Hallums Update

By Steven Taylor @ 10:27 am

Rusty Shackleford, at The Jawa Report has extensive coverage of the Hallums situation.

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Iraq: New American Hostage Video; Judge Assassinated

By Steven Taylor @ 7:31 am

Via Reuters: Militants Show Video of U.S. Hostage; Judge Killed

Insurgents distributed a video Tuesday showing a U.S. hostage pleading for his life, and militants assassinated a senior judge in Baghdad, pressing their campaign of violence ahead of Sunday’s watershed election.

The undated video shows American contractor Roy Hallums, who was seized with five colleagues in Baghdad in November, sitting cross-legged in front of a black background anxiously rubbing his hands as he makes an appeal to the camera.

Sadly, the first thing that came to mind was that I was shocked the man was still alive (assuming he is) after being held since November.

In regards to the slain judge:

Judge Qais Hashim Shameri was killed along with his son in an ambush as they left home in eastern Baghdad during morning rush hour, police sources said. The attack again showed the ability of insurgents to strike at the heart of Iraq’s U.S.-backed interim government.

[…]

Judge Qais Hashim Shameri was killed along with his son in an ambush as they left home in eastern Baghdad during morning rush hour, police sources said. The attack again showed the ability of insurgents to strike at the heart of Iraq’s U.S.-backed interim government.

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Monday, January 24, 2005
What About Ye Olde Probable Cause?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:18 pm

Via USAT: Court OKs dog sniff during traffic stop

The Supreme Court gave police broader search powers Monday during traffic stops, ruling that drug-sniffing dogs can be used to check out motorists even if officers have no reason to suspect they may be carrying narcotics.

While having a dog sniff around the car may not be as “intrusive” as opening the trunk and poking around, surely the police should a reason to search the vehicle, even if by sniffing dogs, during a routine traffic stop. Do we really need to encourage a more aggressive posture by the police vis-a-vis citizens who may be guilty of nothing more than speeding?

From the LAT version of the story we have the following from the opinion:

“In our view, conducting a dog sniff would not change the character of a traffic stop that is lawful at its inception and otherwise executed in a reasonable manner,” said Justice John Paul Stevens for the court.

I’m sorry, but if I get pulled over for going 65 in a 55 and there is patrolman with a drug-sniffing dog around my car that certainly changes the character of the stop, as far as I am concerned. It is far cry from the officer calling in my license and issuing a citation.

I have to agree with Souter and Ginsberg, who said in dissent:

“Today’s decision clears the way for suspicion-less, dog-accompanied drug sweeps on parked cars along sidewalks and in parking lots,” said Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter.

Call me old fashioned, but I like for the state to have a reason before it starts using its powers against the citizenry.

The AP version of the story quotes the following from the majority opinion:

“A dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment,” Stevens wrote.

Logically, then, if technology is developed that can scan for any given illegal substance, the government has the right to indiscriminately scan homes for that substance just in case it is in the house?

I need to read the ruling to see whether my objections are well founded or if I am missing something.

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The “Calm Before the Storm"?

By Steven Taylor @ 7:27 pm

Via Reuters: Iraq Insurgents Said Planning Big Pre-Poll Attack

Iraqi insurgents have reduced the level of violence in recent days, but may be planning a “more spectacular” attack just before or during Sunday’s elections, a U.S. general said on Monday.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, deputy director of operations in Iraq, said in an interview from Baghdad with CNN that there had been a 50 percent drop in attacks by insurgents in recent days.

“We think it’s a calm before the storm, that they’re unable to sustain the level of attacks that they’ve had, but they’re saving up for something more spectacular in the days preceding elections and on election day,” Lessel said.

Sadly, this is likely true. However, one would expect that it might come the day before so as to depress voter turnout on election day itself.

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Adios, Asa

By Steven Taylor @ 12:48 pm

Via the AP: Hutchinson Leaving Homeland Post

A top Homeland Security Department official resigned his post Monday after he was passed over twice by the Bush administration to be secretary of the agency.

Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, in charge of border and transportation security issues, submitted his letter of resignation to the White House early Monday morning, said a DHS official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not yet been announced.

Hutchinson is a former Arkansas congressman and former federal drug czar who is believed to be considering a run for Arkansas governor next year. His resignation is expected to be effective March 1.

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One Piece at a Time

By Steven Taylor @ 12:37 pm

Via the BBC: Iraq captures ‘top Zarqawi ally’

Iraq has captured the “most lethal” ally of militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the interim government announced, days before the election.

Sami Mohammad Ali Said al-Jaaf, also known as Abu Omar al-Kurdi, is accused of many bombings, including a blast at the UN headquarters in Baghdad in 2003.

The arrest was reportedly made on 15 January, but not immediately revealed.

Great news.

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The Great Carnac

By Steven Taylor @ 8:08 am

Driving to work this morning there were some folks on the radio reminiscing about Carson and the Tonight Show and it reminded me of my favorite Carnac answer/question of all time:

The Answer: “sisboomba”

The Question: “What is the sound of an exploding sheep?”

Truly classic. I remember seeing that one live one night many, many years ago and enjoying again over time on Carson’s prime time anniversary specials.

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A Secular Pledge from Iraqi Shiites

By Steven Taylor @ 6:46 am

Via the NYT: Shiites in Iraq Say Government Will Be Secular

With the Shiites on the brink of capturing power here for the first time, their political leaders say they have decided to put a secular face on the new Iraqi government they plan to form, relegating Islam to a supporting role.

The senior leaders of the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of mostly Shiite groups that is poised to capture the most votes in the election next Sunday, have agreed that the Iraqi whom they nominate to be the country’s next prime minister would be a lay person, not an Islamic cleric.

The Shiite leaders say there is a similar but less formal agreement that clerics will also be excluded from running the government ministries.

“There will be no turbans in the government,” said Adnan Ali, a senior leader of the Dawa Party, one of the largest Shiite parties. “Everyone agrees on that.”

This strikes me as excellent news and should quell some of the concerns over the creation of an Iran-like state or for creating a condition that could more easily contribute to civil strife.

The article continues:

The decision appears to formalize the growing dominance of secular leaders among the Shiite political leadership, and it also reflects an inclination by the country’s powerful religious hierarchy to stay out of the day-to-day governing of the country. Among the Shiite coalition’s 228 candidates for the national assembly, fewer than a half dozen are clerics, according to the group’s leaders.

The decision to exclude clerics from the government appears to mean that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a cleric who is the chief of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the scion of a prominent religious family and an oft-mentioned candidate for prime minister, would be relegated to the background. The five Shiites most likely to be picked as prime minister are well-known secular figures.

And, interesting:

The conviction that the Iranian model should be avoided in Iraq is apparently shared by the Iranians themselves. One Iraqi Shiite leader, who recently traveled to Tehran, the Iranian capital, said he was warned by the Iranians themselves against putting clerics in the government.

“They said it caused too many problems,” the Iraqi said.

Indeed.

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The Friendly Hand of Bipartisanship

By Steven Taylor @ 6:33 am

Via the AP: Democrats Stall Vote on Rice Confirmation.

Given all the talk that is bandied about over “reaching across the aisle” and extending a hand to opposition” one has to wonder what the goal of this is, except to remind Bush that it can be done. It strikes me as a fairly petty and small show of “power” that serves no purpose except to tweak the President. Which is, of course, fair within the system, but one wonders as to the wisdom of starting off the second term with unnecessary obstructionism.

Now, if the goal was a serious debate, as the statement issued by Reid and Biden stated suggests, then fine:

Rice is a chief architect of the Bush administration policies in Iraq and in the overall fight against terrorism, and her record should be reviewed with care, Reid and Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said in a statement Friday.

“To suggest that the Senate should not have any debate about Ms. Rice’s performance and the future direction of American foreign policy shows not only a high level of arrogance on behalf of some Republicans, but also a blatant disregard for our constitutional responsibilities,” the Democrats said.

However, the likelihood is that it will simply be an opportunity for bloviation, not debate-especially since the outcome of the event is foregone. This “debate” will have no more substance or practical effect than Senator Boxer’s forced “debate” over electoral reform when she delayed the EC vote or the deep and serious questioning of Alberto Gonzales earlier this month.

Despite its reputation, the Senate’s version of debate is sadly often nothing more than a joint press conference of 100 members seeking a sound bite on the evening news—especially, unfortunately, when it comes to confirmation politics.

Back to the bipartisanship issue: if Reps and Dems can’t play nice on a vote that we all know is going to overwhelmingly go in Rice’s favor, where the concensus is that she is highly qualified for the position, when can they ever be expected to get along?

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Sunday, January 23, 2005
King of Late Night Dead at 79

By Steven Taylor @ 2:51 pm

Via the NYT: Johnny Carson, America’s Late-Night Host for Decades, Dies

Johnny Carson, the droll, easy-going comedian who dominated late-night television for 30 years, becoming a national institution tucking millions of Americans into bed as the host of “The Tonight Show,” has died, NBC announced today. He was 79 years old.

The cause was emphysema.

A shame. Carson was a class act and truly one of the all time giants of television history. It is still hard to believe the he has been off the air over 12 years (in some ways Jay Leno still seems like “the new guy” to me). Of course, my students know as much about Carson as I do about Jack Parr (maybe even less)-but such in the nature of my own aging. I always thought it was unfortunate that Johnny simply disappeared after he left The Tonight Show.

His was quite a career-and no one did late night like Johnny did:

During his reign, Mr. Carson was one of the most powerful performers on television, discovering new talent, rescuing old performers from oblivion and earning millions of dollars for his network, the National Broadcasting Company. In his heyday he generated approximately 17 percent of the network’s total profit and was, by any reasonable assessment, its most lustrous star since Toscanini. He held an overwhelming majority of the late-night viewers in the palm of his hand and his show was the biggest single money-maker in NBC history.

Too bad that his life was cut short by a disease no doubt brought on by smoking.

The Times has his last monologue and Frank Rich’s 1992 column on Carson.

I noted the news of Carson’s death at OTB.

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Ok, Who Monkeyed Around with the Schedule?

By Steven Taylor @ 11:45 am

I was expecting an NFL playoff game at 11:30 central, but I find I have to wait unil 2pm? What’s up with that? Tradition dictates an 11:30 game during the playoffs!!

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Speaking of Peru…

By Steven Taylor @ 11:40 am

Via the Miami Herald: Toledo beset by new scandals

The latest twist in Peru’s presidential saga was the publication last week of photographs - regarded by most analysts as frauds - of a naked Toledo sprawled across a bed with an unidentified woman.

Toledo and his aides immediately blamed the photos on the ‘’mafia'’ that he has long insisted is bent on toppling him - followers of former President Alberto Fujimori and spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos, who ran Peru with a strong and corrupt hand in the 1990s. Montesinos is now in prison here; Fujimori is in exile in Japan.

But even neutral analysts say an inept Toledo has dug much of his own hole, resulting in his single-digit support in recent public opinion polls.

‘’Of course there are people linked to Montesinos actively working to destabilize the administration, but the president cannot blame everything on them. The government needs to respond by doing intelligent things, and we are not seeing this,'’ said Luis Nunes, Peru director for the U.S. National Democratic Institute.

The recent scandals and allegations against Toledo range from the ridiculous to the serious:

• Some media outlets have published copies of two credit card receipts from 1998 showing Toledo bought some $8,000 worth of gifts at a pharmacy - saying that this supports past allegations that Toledo was involved in a drug-fueled orgy at the time. The two receipts do not appear to be signed by the same hand, and there was no explanation of where the receipts have been for the past seven years.

• The newspapers that published the alleged photos of Toledo never explained how they got them. Toledo has always insisted that at one point in the late 1990s he was drugged by Fujimori agents and perhaps photographed.

‘’When I turn on the television, I’m not sure I’m watching the news or a horror film,'’ Nunes said.

But other events have been more serious.

• A strange New Year’s Day rebellion by retired Army Maj. Antauro Humala and 150 followers in a remote Andean town, demanding Toledo’s resignation, left six dead and forced the resignation of Interior Minister Javier Reategui, who oversees the National Police.

• Toledo’s sister Margaret was put under house arrest on charges of organizing the ‘’forgery factory'’ that churned out more than 1.2 million signatures needed to register his political party for the 2000 presidential race against Fujimori. The 18 million names submitted by all the parties were one-third more than the 12 million registered voters. The president announced on thursday that he would testify before the congressional commission investigating the signature fraud.

• Cesar Almeyda, Toledo’s former personal lawyer and head of the country’s intelligence service, is under investigation for allegedly accepting a $2 million bribe from Colombia’s Bavaria brewery to buy Peru’s only beer company. The main witness in the case claims Toledo got a cut from the bribe, which Bavaria denies paying and Almeyda denies receiving.

Like I said in the previous post: “basket case” and not exactly the kind of thing that US foreign policy can fix ;)

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Senator Nelson on Latin America

By Steven Taylor @ 11:21 am

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) has an opinion piece in today’s Miami Herald. While I would say that he makes some valid points, I also question many of his assertions and conclusions vis-à-vis US-Latin American relations.

I would agree that despite early assumptions, the Bush administration has had an anemic set of policies toward the region. Like many other issues, this is a direct result of 911. Not only did that event shift the administration’s attention, but the subsequent Iraq policy led to tensions with Mexico.

(It is also noteworthy that anemic policies vis-a-vis the region are not new to this administration).

Below is Nelson’s piece with some responses.

one fact remained abundantly clear: U.S. policy toward South America has been absent.

“Absent” isn’t really the best term, given that Colombia is a major recipient of US aid. Further, there has been some movement in the direction of FTAA. Although I will grant that perhaps the most significant trade-related movement was with Central America and CAFTA (which has yet to be approved by Congress). I would like to see more trade promotion in the area, and there is room to work in that direction, to be sure.

Nelson continues:

While on a bipartisan congressional trip to South America last week, with two of my Senate colleagues, I learned that terrorists continue to grab hold in that troubled region. In the so-called tri-border area - where the frontiers of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet - there are at least two major terrorist groups engaged in drug trafficking and smuggling counterfeit goods.
So far, most of the activity by Middle East terrorists has been limited to fund raising and related money laundering. But the continued climate of lawlessness and public corruption in the region also offers a nexus of funding for al Qaeda.

As I have argued in my own professional academic work, I agree that the illicit narcotics trade has the very serious potential to be a means of funding terrorist activities. I am skeptical at this point, however, as to the degree to which terrorist groups “with global reach” (i.e., the type that the Global War on Terror is aimed at fighting) are especially likely to use South American drugs and contraband to substantially fund their activities when there is an overabundance of opium poppies to exploit in Afghanistan and elsewhere in Asia.

The reports of al Qaeda fundraising in the border regions of Brazil are not new—they are over a year old and while they are interesting and concerning, they are also easy to over-sensationalize. In practical terms, aside from financial controls such as those that are in place globally to stop “charities” from contributing to terrorists, I am not certain what US policies can be put into place to police fundraising in the frontier regions of Brazil, Paraguay an Uruguay—areas of the region wherein there is very little actual state presence.

Nelson’s attempt to blame the Bush administration is misplaced, however, and not well reasoned:

One of the reasons this is happening is that the administration has allowed democratic governments in South America to flounder. Crisis after crisis has come to countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

It is unclear to me how terrorist activities in the border regions within the Southern Cone can be linked to political crises in the Andean regions of the continent. Further, the problem really isn’t democratic anemia, but rather an issue of state strength in Latin America. As much as I believe in the strengthening and growth of democracy in the region, the bottom line is that the weakness of Latin American states is nothing new and nothing that be hung around the necks of any particular US administration.

Further, historically speaking, we remain in Latin America’s most democratic era, despite serious problems in the majority of the regimes I questions.

Nelson then asks us to consider the following examples

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez continues to stir concern over stricter new media laws, private property seizures and pro-Chávez judicial appointments, not to mention his intention to reduce Venezuela’s dependence on U.S. oil purchases.

Aside from the botched response to the temporary coup against Chavez—I am not certain what specifics of US-Venezuela foreign policy Nelson wishes to see changed. As unpleasant of a fact as the Chavez administration is, he is the product of domestic politics, having initially been legitimately elected and having own numerous votes since. He is immensely popular with the lower classes, which makes up the majority of the population.

Chavez is a concerning figure, to be sure. Still, I am unclear what the US can go to further democracy in Venezuela, aside from funding opposition groups. Stopping the purchase of Venezuelan oil, for example, won’t lead to Chavez’s ouster.

He continues:

In Bolivia, earlier this month, widespread labor unrest brought commerce to a halt.

The US does bear some responsibility for political woes in Bolivia, insofar as our anti-coca policies did stir a great deal of unrest from coca farmers who cultivate the product for traditional uses (i.e., not for making cocaine). However, if Nelson thinks we are going to change our eradication policies (even if perhaps we should), he is, of course, incorrect. However, I don’t think current labor unrest is directly linked to this issue anyway.

Nelson further notes

In Peru, the democratically elected President Alejandro Toledo remains in single digits in the polls.

Peru has been a basket case (to get technical) for, well, forever. How the Bush administration can bolster (or even should bolster) the Toledo administration is beyond me.

Nelson then ponders:

I don’t want to be an alarmist, but no one should think for a moment that terrorist groups won’t try to take advantage of weak governments in South America to gain a foothold and proximity to a more-attractive target - the United States.

I actually have a hard time seeing a state-linkage to al Qaeda or their allies in Latin America. The whole radical Islam v. Catholicism thing comes into play, amongst other. Further, while there are exploitable resources in Latin American (e.g., drugs, areas of statelessness) these same resources exist in the Middle East and Central Asia, so I am not sure how moving to Latin America would be a big advantage for these groups.

The piece continues:

Fact is, there has been a disturbing rise in anti-American views all across the region.

This really isn’t anything new. The US government and its policies has never been especially popular in the region.

Nelson them makes some suggestions

• Expand the Peace Corps as a means of bolstering democracy, judicial reform, economic reform, education, the environment, agriculture, healthcare and transportation.

Nothing to really argue with here, although a lot of that is rather vague suggestions.

• Revitalize the Organization of American States. The OAS is an essential forum for hemispheric cooperation, but recent experiences in Bolivia and Venezuela teach us that the OAS must define more-precise commitments from its members to defend democratic governments facing nonconstitutional threats.

U.S. leadership in the OAS, not unilateral decisions favoring some democratic regimes over others, is essential for it to be effective as a guardian of democracy.

Ok, “revitalizong” the OAS assumes that the organization was once vital and efficacious. It has never been an especially effective organization and if the US tries to assert too much leadership within it, all that will garner is resentment from other member states.

• Dramatically expand the security dialogue with far more, and more regular, meetings of the hemisphere’s defense ministers, intelligence chiefs and anti-terrorism experts.

At the same time, we must encourage dialogue between neighboring countries that have historically tended to mistrust each other, such as Venezuela and Colombia.

Ok, fine. Dialogue is good and I won’t argue about that fact (although some dialogues, such as those that created Operation Condor in the 70s may not be so good) but talking does not mean that anything gets solved or fixed—as such this is one of those suggestions that sounds good, but often means little.

• Move aggressively to improve the economic conditions that affect people’s daily lives and their attitudes toward democracy.

Who could argue with that? What is means, however, is a whole other issue.

• Seek expanded economic opportunities by pressing for free-trade agreements that respect labor and environmental concerns, as well as addressing import-sensitive commodities. While the FTAA is the ultimate goal, we should not lose sight of the value of bilateral and sub-regional trade agreements.

I whole-heartedly agree with this: economic liberalization is a key component to improving economic and political conditions in the region.

• Reach out to the abundance of talent, knowledge and ties to South America that already exist around Florida. We have U.S. citizens and soon-to-be U.S. citizens from every country in the region, outstanding academics studying every aspect of every country and a vigorous private sector that has made Florida a gateway to South America.

Ok: again, this strikes me as platitudinous that really isn’t a recommendation, per se.

He concludes:If successful, we will achieve the added benefit of closing off a dangerous avenue through which international terrorism may try to wreak havoc on us.

Perhaps, but I still maintain that this idea that South America is the next hotbed of international terrorism is overblown (but in this piece, and by the Bush administration, for that matter).

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More SNL Lameness

By Steven Taylor @ 8:49 am

The twins skit last night was quite lame.

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Negroponte

By Steven Taylor @ 8:49 am

I just watched Ambassador John Negroponte on MTP and one thing’s for sure: no one can accuse the man of being charismatic.

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PoliColumn: Moore for Governor?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:45 am

From today’s Birmingham News:

Early poll indicative of Moore’s strength

Sunday, January 23, 2005
STEVEN L. TAYLOR

A Mobile Register/University of South Alabama poll released last week showed former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore leading Gov. Bob Riley by eight points among likely Republican voters in a potential primary matchup. Further, the poll found that Moore has a 72 percent favorable rating in the state among likely Republican voters.

The whole piece is here.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005
Not a Surprise to Me

By Steven Taylor @ 9:36 pm

However, it seems that the folks at WaPo are easily confused, as they found it necessary to provide us with the following helpful headline: Bush Speech Not a Sign of Policy Shift, Officials Say.

I must admit, I am unsure how one could have interpreted the speech as a policy shift. It seems to me to be a farirly firm reiteration of Bush’s basic foreign policy approach post-911, or , as the piece puts it:

Bush advisers said the speech was the rhetorical institutionalization of the Bush doctrine and reflected the president’s deepest convictions about the purposes behind his foreign policies.

Now, it had a grander, more dramatic flare to it, and certainly enshrined the goal of exporting freedom in high rhetoric and theoretically into the long-term foreign policy vision of the United States. However, it hardly should have anyone thinking that it consisted of any kind of policy change.

Surely the Post’s reporters have been paying some modicum of attention the last four years, yes?

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Yet More on the Hook’em Sign

By Steven Taylor @ 6:27 pm

Via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: MIXED SIGNALS

in Norway and some other parts of the world, a nearly identical hand gesture is considered an insult or, worse, a sign of the devil. In Mediterranean countries, it implies a man is a cuckold, the victim of an unfaithful wife. In parts of Africa, it’s used as a curse, and in many European countries it’s used to ward off “the evil eye.” In Russia, it’s a symbol for so-called New Russians, the newly rich, arrogant and poorly educated.

In sign language, it means “bull—-,” which elicited a surprised giggle from the first lady’s press secretary, Gordon Johndroe of Fort Worth, himself a UT grad. When told its meaning by the New York Daily News, Johndroe replied, “Texans have been known to BS every once in a while.”

Indeed.

In fact, I am surprised I didn’t know that, as one would think that the Aggies would point it out with significant regularity (of course, that would assume that an Aggie somewhere did some research…).

Via the story some more translations:

A closed fist with index and pinkie fingers raised can have various meanings:

• Texas: Horns of a longhorn

• Mediterranean countries: Implies that a man’s wife has been unfaithful

• Many countries: Sign for Satan

• Sign language: Vulgar word for nonsense

• Heavy metal fans: Compliment

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Administering Universities

By Steven Taylor @ 4:49 pm

Leopold Stotch (a pseudonymous political science professor), blogging at OTB is angry over Princeton University’s decision to cap A’s at 35% per class-effectively creating an official semi-curve.

Without getting into the issue of grade inflation itself (which is a current bugaboo in the academy)I will echo his general sentiments on one of the major problems with the administration of colleges and universities: most of those who do so haven’t ever taught and a lot of them don’t even have academic bakgrounds of any kind. This creates a substantial “culture gap” where the professoriate and the educracy see the university in radically different ways. So you get silly rules like this one.

Plus, generically speaking as a professor I resent any outside interference in how I teach my class, so a rule like this one would rankle me as well.

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Texas Universities and Hand Signs

By Steven Taylor @ 3:44 pm

Indeed, the idea of hand signs (see the post below for why I even bring it up) for university football teams is one that is well known to anyone who grew up in Texas. From my youth I recall the two mainstays (hook’em horns for UT and gig’em Aggies for A&M) as well as the Baylor Bear Claw, the Texas Tech thumb-and-forefinger six-shooters , and the horned fist for TCU.

Here’s the lowdown on those and others from Texas Monthly: Football Hand Signs

Blame it all on an Aggie named Pinky Downs. A 1906 Texas A&M graduate, Downs was a member of the shcool’s board of regents from 1923 to 1933. He was the kind of Aggie who wore a maroon tie every day and who prodded the school into spending an extra $10,000 so that its new swimming pool would be longer than the one at the University of Texas. When the Aggies had a yell practice before the 1930 TCU game, Downs naturally was there. “What are we going to do the those Horned Frogs?” he shouted. His muse did not fail him. “Gig ‘em, Aggies!” he improvised, appropriating a term form frog hunting. For emphasis, he made a fist with his thumb extended straight up. The Southwest Conference had its first hand sign.

[…]

For a quarter of a century after Pinky Downs’s moment of inspiration, the Aggies had a monopoly on official gestures. But by 1955 archrival UT had fallen on hard times, made harder by a corresponding rise in the fortunes of A&M. A UT cheerleader named Harley Clark syllogized: (1) A&M has a hand sign, (2) A&M is winning, (3) UT has no hand sign, therefore (4) UT is losing. (Such reasoning prowess would later lead Clark, as an Austin judge in 1987, to conclude that the state’s system of financing public schools was unconstitutional.) At a pep rally before the TCU game, Clark held up his right hand in a peculiar way. The index and little fingers were sticking up, while the thumb held down the two interior digits-the head of a Longhorn, Clark said. The creation proved not to be the immediate answer to UT’s football plight, however, as signless TCU won the next day, 47-20.

Once A&M and UT had hand signs, everyone else wanted one. Even before 1955, SMU students had been raising their index and middle fingers in a generic V for victory. By the late fifties, Mustang rooters had changed the meaning to . . . pony ears. Baylor was next. In 1960 cheerleader Bobby Schrade came up with the idea of holding the hand aloft with all five fingers curved to suggest a bear claw. Only alcohol had a harder time getting accepted on the Baptist campus. For twelve years students and administrators argued whether the sign was sufficiently dignified before it was formally blessed in 1972.

When the University of Houston was seeking admission to the conference in 1972, cheerleaders decided that U of H needed a hand sign, too. The result-the UT sign with the middle finger added-officially represents a cougar claw; unofficially, it indicates the students’ attitude toward UT. At Texas Tech, members of a spirit organization called the Saddle Tramps decided in 1971 that the Red Raiders were getting left behind. Emulating Raider Red, the costumed mascot who discharges a brace of large pistols after each Tech score, the Saddle Tramps began brandishing thumb-and-forefinger pistols of their own. TCU cheerleaders began experimenting with hand signs in 1980 on the way to a cheerleading camp in Tennessee. To represent Horned Frogs, they first tried the UT sign with the outer fingers bent at the knuckles. No good: it could be seen as an admission that TCU was only half as good as UT. So they switched to bent index and middle fingers.

Even Rice students occasionally use a sign, but it is not pictured here because university officials, suspecting that a middle finger poked outward has a meaning other than “peck ‘em, Owls,” have declined to sanction it.

All harmless fun, no doubt.

Or is it?

Perhaps Pinky Downs was secretly an agent of the Devil who used his dastardly powers to trick UT into adopting the hook’em sign so as to propagate the powers of Satan and give rise to the Illuminati and the One World Governement of the Trilateralists!

Or, maybe it is all a bunch of college football nonsense.

You be the judge.

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Yes, Some People Are Nuts

By Steven Taylor @ 3:25 pm

As predicted, some folks are going to insist that Bush’s “Hook’Em Horns” has a more nefarious meaning.

For example, this link left in my comments section.

A note to the paranoid: yes, Satanist and Death Metal bands do the same symbol, but for different reasons. Gee whiz, just watch any UT football game-the whole crowd does it. Texans love all things Texas and this is just a manifestation of that fact. If the Aggie band had been there, he certainly would’ve given them a gig’em (he was Governor of Texas, after all-and his Dad’s library is at A&M).

File this one under: get a life. (Of course I have no patience for any kind of Illuminati talk anyway).

(And the Stuart Little and Spider-Man examples are just plain lame-for one thing, in the Stuart Little pic he isn’t even doing the horns thing-it’s more the “hang loose” sign,. And most of the other examples are of people doing the “I Love You” sign).

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Friday, January 21, 2005
I’m Shocked, Shocked

By Steven Taylor @ 2:24 pm

Via the AP: Review: Microsoft Anti-Spyware Ineffective

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DNC Race Update

By Steven Taylor @ 12:07 pm

Via the AP: Dean Gaining Early Momentum in DNC Race

On Tuesday, the former Vermont governor announced he had the unanimous backing of the Florida delegation to the DNC and also the support of Democratic chairs in Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma, Washington state and Vermont. He plans house parties around the nation later this week, like the ones he used while trying to gain the Democratic presidential nomination.

Of course, he seemed to have the organizational prowess going into Iowa as well, so I will refrain from failing for that one too quickly.

Still, his chances are looking better all the time.

The other contenders:

_Simon Rosenberg, a shrewd party strategist who founded the centrist New Democrat Network and led an aggressive campaign to win Hispanic voters to support Democrats.

_Martin Frost, a former Texas congressman who led the Democrats’ congressional campaign committee and raised $80 million over two election cycles.

_Tim Roemer, a former Indiana congressman and the most conservative of the group, who could win support of some moderate DNC members but also could face opposition from advocates of abortion rights.

_Wellington Webb, former mayor of Denver, who is the only black candidate and has long-standing ties within the Democratic Party.

_David Leland, a former Ohio Democratic chairman and veteran party activist who touted his success helping President Clinton win Ohio eight years ago.

_Fowler, an up-and-coming Democratic strategist and son of a former national chairman, with experience running campaigns in more than a dozen states.

Roemer, a I have noted before, has no shot. Frost may be the fall-back position for those afraid of Dean-he’s from Texas, is an insider with deep ties in the party and has demonstrated strategic abilities in the past. It is hard to really handicap the others.

Of course, with analysis lke this, Fowler ought to win hands down:

“The question about Dean is: While he will have a third of the vote easily, can he get to 50 percent?” said Donnie Fowler, one of Dean’s opponents. Then Fowler referred to Dean’s presidential campaign.

“Dean had the oranges,” Fowler said, “but he couldn’t make orange juice.”

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The “No Duh” Headline of the Day

By Steven Taylor @ 11:01 am

Bush Sworn-In, Swift Boat Vets Glad It’s Not Kerry.

Ya think?

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Powell to Leave FCC

By Steven Taylor @ 10:38 am

Via the LAT: FCC Chairman Plans to Leave Post Early

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell plans to step down from the job he’s held for four years, two agency officials said today.

Powell, who maintained a light regulatory hand as the nation’s chief media watchdog but collected some of the largest indecency fines against U.S. broadcasters, planned to issue a statement today but was not expected to hold a formal news conference, these officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

On balance, I prefer a “light regulatory hand” but have had some concerns about the FCC’s desire to try and micromanage specific events and behavior via fines under Powell’s watch. While I hardly support wardrobe malfunctions or Stern-like antics, I also think that the market will fix this issues (as was evident in the Janet Jackson case)-not to mention that some of this stuff is, quite frankly, a response to the market.

I don’t see the current fine system as effective and don’t long for a more effective one, as no doubt the cure would be far worse than the ailment.

Of course whether Powell’s departure affects any of this one way or another remains to be seen.

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Could it be….Satan?

By Steven Taylor @ 10:20 am

Apropos of my post yesterday comes this from the AP: Norwegians Confused by Bush Salute

Many Norwegian television viewers were shocked to see U.S. President George W. Bush and family apparently saluting Satan during the U.S. inauguration.

But in reality, it was just a sign of respect for the University of Texas Longhorns, whose fans are known to shout out “Hook ‘em, horns!” at athletic events.

The president and family were photographed lifting their right hands with their index and pinky fingers raised up, much like a horn.

But in much of the world those “horns” are a sign of the devil. In the Nordics, the hand gesture is popular among death metal and black metal groups and fans.

“Shock greeting from Bush daughter,” a headline in the Norwegian Internet newspaper Nettavisen said late Wednesday above a photograph of Bush’s daughter, Jenna, smiling and showing the sign.

Bush, a former Texas governor, was simply greeting the Texas Longhorn marching band as it passed during a Washington D.C. parade in the president’s honor, explained Verdens Gang, Norway’s largest newspaper.

Amusing. Although no doubt some will continue to think he was saluting the devil…

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Thursday, January 20, 2005
Things a Professor Loves to Hear

By Steven Taylor @ 8:20 pm

Click.

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Gratuitous Inaugural Hook ‘Ems

By Steven Taylor @ 6:49 pm

The Eyes of Texas are Upon You…


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The 55th Inaugural

By Steven Taylor @ 5:41 pm

I did not see any of the inauguration today, as I had an appointment I had to keep at almost the exact same time as the festivities. I did, however, make it to the car in time to hear the swearing in and the inaugural address. I have seen/heard/read very, very little analysis or discussion of the event (I am fighting the flu, so ended up taking a nap) so these reactions are the result of just hearing the speech.

The first thing I noted is that the Rehnquist really sounded substantially weaker than he did in 2001. This was not a surprise, but the change in his voice was quite stark if one had recently heard the 2001 sound clips (which I had as early as yesterday).

I thought Bush’s speech itself was quite good, although it started to peter out towards the latter half/third. The first portion was poetic at times and well written, and I, would argue, well delivered. The degree to which it even has a chance of being of historical significance, however, depends on what happens over time in Iraq and Afghanistan and the degree to which the US truly seeks to promote democracy and freedom as a core part of our foreign policy.

Of course, there is also the simple fact that even if we are dedicated to these goals, it is difficult to be the propagators of democracy all by ourselves. And while I do believe that US national security is enhanced by any increase of global democracy, it is also true that there are often pragmatic choices that have to be made, such as allying with non-democratic regimes, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

To the speech itself, I think the passage that impressed me the most was the following:

For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire.

We have seen our vulnerability - and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

From both a rhetorical/literary point-of-view, as well as simply an excellent description, I very much like the phrases “shipwreck of communism,” “years of sabbatical,” and “day of fire.”

And while there is poetry and high ideals in the following passage, I have to wonder as to the actually practicality of it all:

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.
The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.”

It reflects the way I would like the world to work, but I wonder as to whether US foreign policy can actually work they way.

More, no doubt, on this topic later…

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In Case Your Were Curious…

By Steven Taylor @ 9:32 am

Here are the lyrics (so you can sing along today):

Hail to The Chief

Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.

Yours is the aim to make this grand coun-try grander,
This you will do, That’s our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!

Via: Patriotic Song Lyrics!

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Rosie O’Donell Returns

By Steven Taylor @ 9:28 am

First, anti-gun Rosie is found to have a pistol-packing bodyguard, and now everyone’s favorite filmaker joins the ranks of the hypocritical: Michael Moore’s Bodyguard Arrested on Airport Gun Charge

Filmmaker Michael Moore’s bodyguard was arrested for carrying an unlicensed weapon in New York’s JFK airport Wednesday night.

Police took Patrick Burke, who says Moore employs him, into custody after he declared he was carrying a firearm at a ticket counter. Burke is licensed to carry a firearm in Florida and California, but not in New York.

I don’t blame the man for wanting a bodyguard. I don’t blame him for wanting an armed bodyguard.

However, since he runs around like he is the representative of The Common Man and since he made a great deal of money criticizing guns, this is pretty amusing (and telling).

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Signs of a Strengthening Dollar?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:22 am

Via the AFP: Euro falls to two-month low against dollar

The euro fell to a two-month low point against the dollar, largely for technical reasons, while the US currency was underpinned by expectations of another quarter-point rate hike when the US Federal Reserve meets early next month, analysts said.

[…]

The dollar’s position has been strengthened in recent days by a raft of positive economic data, including capital flows figures, that have eased market concerns over whether the United States was attracting sufficient foreign funding to cover its twin deficits.

The greenback has been lifted also by news of tame inflation and strong housing in December, as well as solid employment figures in the latest week.

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Ouch

By Steven Taylor @ 9:18 am

If you have had kids, you know exactly how huge this kid was: Woman Gives Birth to Giant Baby, and if you are a woman who has had children, you know exactly how painful this kid must’ve been (and I am only going on watching my wife have three).

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Brazil Offers to Mediate Col-Ven Dispute

By Steven Taylor @ 8:56 pm

Via Reuters: Brazil offers to mediate Colombia-Venezuela spat

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva on Wednesday offered to mediate in a diplomatic spat between Colombia and Venezuela, in a move analysts said might provide a way to smooth over differences.

“President Lula has offered to facilitate the dialogue we have been looking for,” Colombian Foreign Minister Carolina Barco told reporters in the Colombian Amazon town of Leticia after a meeting between Lula and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recalled his ambassador to Bogota and suspended bilateral projects with Colombia last week until he received an apology for the apparent kidnapping of a Marxist rebel in Caracas in December.

Rodrigo Granda, whom Colombian police dubbed the “foreign minister” of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was seized by bribed Venezuelan police and bundled across the border to Colombia, Venezuelan authorities said.

Instead of apologizing, the Colombians, close allies of Washington, said they would send the Venezuelan government proof that its officials had helped Granda and that more FARC rebels were present in their country.

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This Can’t be Good…

By Steven Taylor @ 5:01 pm

Via Reuters: Moscow Plans First Stalin Monument Since 1960s

In another sign of Stalin’s growing appeal, state television channels have shown a number of prime-time television shows in recent months depicting him in a positive light.

According to the story, the monuments, and the praise of Stalin, are all linked to defeating Hitler. Not only does rehabilitating a mass murder give one pause, but if the Russians are feeling the need to generate nationalistic pride by looking that far back in the past, that is concerning as well. It certainly doesn’t bespeak of a forward-looking, optimistic society.

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Toldja: There isn’t Going to be an FMA

By Steven Taylor @ 4:39 pm

As I noted on Sunday: there isn’t going to be a big push for a Federal Marriage Amendment. I knew it before the election and it remains clear now. The votes aren’t there and so Bush can comitt as much “political capital” to the issue as he wants and it won’t matter. He could spend every waking momemnt between now and January 20, 2009 and it still won’t matter.

Nevertheless, via WaPo: Bush Upsets Some Supporters

Social conservatives who helped stoke record turnout for Bush in the 2004 election expressed concern that he is dropping the issue he passionately touted during the campaign now that he has been reelected. “The president is willing to spend his political capital on Social Security reform, but the nation is greatly conflicted on that issue,” said Minnery, vice president of public policy for Focus on the Family. “The nation is united on marriage. The president’s leadership is desperately needed.” Minnery and Perkins called the White House to complain about Bush’s position.

While I have noted my position on gay marriage before, I remain unpersuaded that a Federal Marriage Amendment is the way to go. And since I know it won’t pass, I don’t see the point of dwelling on it.

As I noted earlier, the main way Bush can further his social agenda is throught the courts, and even then he isn’t going to be able to guarantee anything.

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Stan Lee v. Marvel

By Steven Taylor @ 4:22 pm

Via Reuters: Marvel Ordered to Pay Spider-Man Creator

A federal judge has ordered Marvel Enterprises Inc. to pay the creator of the comic book character Spider-Man 10 percent of Marvel’s profits from the “Spider-Man” movies, Marvel said on Wednesday.

Marvel, a comic book publisher that licenses its characters, said the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered it to pay Spider-Man creator Stan Lee a share of proceeds it has received since November 1998 from movies, television shows and movie-related toys manufactured by Marvel.

And no doubt 10% of all of that would be a serious chunk of change. Marvel will no doubt appeal, so Stan doesn’t get a check as yet. I wonder what the grounds were for his suit? Surely it isn’t just the fact that Lee co-created Spider-Man. as in the past the fact ones creates something under contract hasn’t meant much of anything.

I wonder if Steve Ditko gets anything (and if he is even still alive…). Odds are good this is some kind of contractual issue, not simply based on the fact Lee was the character’s creator.

Update: The AP version of the story has more details:

The Monday ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet found that Lee was entitled to a 10 percent share of the profits generated since November 1998 by Marvel productions involving the company’s characters, including those created by the prolific cartoonist.

[…]

The 82-year-old Lee filed suit in November 2002, claiming an agreement he had signed four years earlier entitled him to 10 percent of Marvel’s haul from its television and movie productions, as well as merchandising deals.

He already earns a $1 million a year salary from Marvel as part of the agreement, but felt he was getting stiffed on additional income due him under the deal.

The money involved was substantial, particularly involving the Spider-Man and Hulk movies. Spider-Man earned $114.8 million on its opening weekend, with Marvel eventually collecting more than $50 million in profits. “The Hulk” earned more than $125 million in the United States alone.

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And this is a Surprise Because…?

By Steven Taylor @ 1:19 pm

Via WaPo: The Barriers Between President and People

When President Bush retakes the oath tomorrow, he will be surrounded by a broad buffer zone of protection. You can already feel it in the wire mesh caging in Lafayette Park and the Jersey barriers and portable fencing along downtown avenues.

You may want to get close to the pageantry, to join in the exquisite ritual that defines our nation, but unless you are a close friend or follower of this president, chances are you will have to watch it from afar. He may seem looser, more relaxed this second time around, but no closer to us really.

Really, since JFK hasn’t this been the trend? And certainly 911 makes the need for security even greater, yes? What’s the news here?

These kind of stories annoy me because they make it sound like all of this is somehow new.

Lichtman predicts that most ordinary folks “aren’t going to get within hailing distance of the parade. Bush is not out there among the people, he is in a cordon sanitaire of security.”

If you don’t have a lot of money or a long-term stake in Bush’s success, Lichtman says, you won’t really be a part of this inauguration.

But hasn’t that been true for decades? Did ordinary folks get to shake Clinton’s hand? H. W. Bush’s? Reagans? I think not.

Between the sheer growth in the size of our population and the sad fact that there are people out there who would do violence to the President (any President) what else can be done?

On the other hand because of television the whole country can actually partake of the event-instead just of a handful of citizens (relative to the whole popultion) who live in the DC area.

Sure, many President’s in the 19th Century actually opened the White House gounds to the public-but what percentage of the population outside of the immediate area even knew what the President even sounded like back then? In some ways we are far closer to our Chief Executives now than we have ever been even with the “cordon sanitaire of security” that will be present at tomorrow’s events.

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A Shocker!

By Steven Taylor @ 12:33 pm

Via Reuters: Chief Justice Refuses to Stop Inaugural Prayers.

The real question: what will Newdow do next?

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Rice Passes First Hurdle: Boxer and Kerry Dissent

By Steven Taylor @ 11:15 am

Via ABC News: Senate Panel Gives Rice Confirmation Nod

Pending approval by the full Senate, Rice would be the first black woman to hold the job. She was confirmed by a 16-2 vote with Democrats John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California voting no. A vote by the full Senate was expected by Thursday.

The result of the vote is no surprise, and Boxer’s vote is hardly a surprise. Kerry’s vote isn’t so much a surprise (he telegraphed his position yesterday), but is interesting. He continues to do things that make me think he is planning to run in 2008. He clearly learned that votes can come back to bite him, so he appears to be setting himself up to avoid any criticisms of his voting record vis-a-vis the the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

All well and good-although I still think that he hasn’t got a shot at re-nomination.

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Interesting

By Steven Taylor @ 10:42 am

Via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Laura Bush to skip tea time with Moore.

The Moore in question is Roy Moore.

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News from the Economy

By Steven Taylor @ 9:49 am

Via Reuters: Consumer Prices Drop, Housing Starts Rise

A drop in energy costs pulled U.S. consumer prices down last month, but core inflation moved up modestly and housing starts surged, according to data on Wednesday that bolstered expectations for a steady diet of interest-rate rises.

In addition, initial claims for state unemployment aid plunged by 48,000 last week, the biggest drop in more than three years - a further suggestion of the economy’s fundamental strength.

The Consumer Price Index, a widely used inflation gauge, fell 0.1 percent in December, the Labor Department said. However, excluding food and energy, consumer prices moved up a moderate 0.2 percent for the third straight month.

The rise in the core index matched expectations in financial markets, which had expected overall prices to hold steady.

The article has specific info on CPI and the likelihood that moderate interest rate hikes from the Fed are in the card.

Remarkably, the housing boom continues, although for the year have slowed:

housing starts shot up 10.9 percent last month, the biggest jump in more than seven years as groundbreaking activity increased across the nation.

Housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.004 million units in December, well ahead of analysts’ predictions, from a 1.807 million pace a month earlier. It was the largest gain since an 11.2 percent rise in September 1997.

For the full year, housing starts rose 5.7 percent to a 1.953 million rate, the slowest pace since 2001.

The jobs numbers wre positive as well.

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Tsunami Death Toll Rises

By Steven Taylor @ 9:23 am

Via Reuters: Global Tsunami Death Toll Tops 226,000

The global death toll from the Asian tsunami shot above 226,000 Wednesday after Indonesia’s Health Ministry confirmed the deaths of tens of thousands of people previously listed as missing.

The ministry raised the country’s death toll to 166,320. It had previously given a figure of 95,450 while Indonesia’s Ministry of Social Affairs had put the death toll at around 115,000 before it stopped counting.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Roemer, the DNC and Abortion

By Steven Taylor @ 4:46 pm

Via CNN we find that Roemer lashes out in DNC chairman race

The campaign for Democratic chairman turned contentious over the weekend when Tim Roemer lashed out at criticism of his views on abortion and accused opponents of negative campaigning.

The candidate told a gathering in St. Louis that he wanted to have “a conversation” on issues but that he is “having trouble doing this because of negative campaigning and litmus tests.”

As much as I oppose abortion, I must admit, Roemer has to know that he is fighting a losing battle (and was from the begininng). He has the same chance of becoming DNC chair as I do.

As such, Oliver Willis gets it right:

Dogmatically being anti-choice, combined with a sad habit of voting against Democratic economic policies but in favor of Republican ones may be necessary to hold on to a House seat, but for a guy who’s supposed to keep the party together, that’s a non-starter.

In the same post, Oliver makes the following comment:

I, and most Democrats, do not believe in abortion on demand anyplace, anywhere, and any time - but the right of a woman to choose what she does with her own body is a fundamental bedrock of the values of the Democratic party.

He is quite right: abortion is a foundational issue for the Democratic Party and hence Roemer has no chance (any more than a pro-choicer has a shot at being RNC chair).

However, while I will take him at his word as to his position on abortion, and even that it may reflect a signficant portion of the Democratic Party’s view of the subject, but (and this is a big but) the voting record of Democrats in Congress (en masse) and of the rhetoric that comes out of the Democratic estalblishment is that the abortion on demand in the standard. And it is this area that the Democrats have a serious problem-there appears to be no reasonable restriction on abortion that the party will support-the most striking example being partial birth abortion, or whatever you want to call it. There is also the fact that Democrats tend to oppose fairly moderate reforms, such as waiting periods, parental notification or promotion of adoption. It is also clear that despite generic fulminations from Senators about “mainstream” nominees, that the main issue that blocked every one of Bush’s Appeals Court nominees last term was abortion.

While President Clinton did speak of making abortion “safe, legal and rare” is it unclear to me that any actual action by the Democratic Party has moved the country in that direction. And if anything, from a wholly political/PR point of view, the Democratic Party has an image of being for any and all abortions, any time, any place. I do think that that image is one they need to rectify, if such is even possible.

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I’m With Drum on This One

By Steven Taylor @ 3:45 pm

Wrote Kevin Drum today:

I would like lead a crusade to forever ban the phrase “speaking truth to power,” especially in academic settings.

Indeed.

It has always struck me as a pretentious turn of phrase that is almost always used in a way that is incorrect (which is certainly true is this context, as Drum notes).

Plus, it ain’t the 1960s anymore folks.

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You Don’t Say?

By Steven Taylor @ 10:38 am

Who writes these headlines? What’s next: “Sun Continues to be Bright” or “Water Continues to be Wet"?

Via WaPo: Political Divisions Persist After Election.

Further, the piece takes a decidely negative view:

President Bush will begin his second term in office without a clear mandate to lead the nation, with strong disapproval of his policies in Iraq and with the public both hopeful and dubious about his leadership on the issues that will dominate his agenda, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

For one thing, I am not a big fan of the “mandate” concept. And, for that matter, surely Bush’s first term shuold dispell the myth that a strong “mandate” is needed for a President to be successul legislatively speaking (which Bush was-and I am taling pre-911).

Further: winning is better than losing (ask Kerry what kind of mandate does he has) and the fact that the Reps have more House and Sente seats strikes me as meaning that Bush is in a pretty good position to succeed, regardless of the approval polls.

And not to diss the pollsters: but when it comes down to it, it is the Congress who votes, not the folks who are sampled for polls. Yes, the polls affect Congress, but one cannot figure out what the Congress is going to do based on the polls.

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Pass the Rolaids

By Steven Taylor @ 10:04 am

From the Mobile Register: Poll shows Moore with lead for GOP gubernatorial nomination

A new poll shows Roy Moore with a lead over Gov. Bob Riley in the race for the 2006 Republican gubernatorial nomination, a potential boost for the former chief justice should he decide to run for the office.

A Mobile Register-University of South Alabama poll of likely Republican primary voters shows Moore with a lead of 8 percentage points over Riley in a hypothetical primary matchup. Moore drew support from 43 percent of respondents, while the governor garnered 35 percent.

[…]

The poll found that Moore had a favorable rating of 72 percent — a number University of Alabama political scientist William Stewart described as potentially “intimidating to the governor.”

[…]

Poll director Keith Nicholls, a political scientist at South Alabama, said the results indicate the 2006 nomination is “Moore’s for the taking.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if Moore could beat Riley in the primary-although I think that two years out sans any actual campaiging, it is impossible to base anything on such polling (except that Moore is a legitimate candidate).

Still, I am of the opinion that having Moore as governor is one of the worst things that could happen to this state.

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Good for Alabama

By Steven Taylor @ 9:39 am

(And no: the headline isn’t a mistake).

Via WaPo: Hyundai Now a Contender

A few years ago, such hype for a Hyundai might have seemed funny, given the South Korean company’s reputation for cheap, shabby products. But this week’s bold unveiling of the Sonata was greeted soberly by rival U.S. automakers, who now compare South Korea to the up-and-coming Japan of the 1980s.

[…]

Hyundai has reached this point gradually, increasing its sales for each of the past six years after stumbling badly in the 1980s with poor-quality products. Last year, the company overtook Honda and Nissan to become the world’s seventh-biggest automaker. Also last year, U.S. consumers rated Hyundai and Honda as tied for second-best in overall quality in an influential J.D. Power and Associates survey - ahead of Mercedes-Benz and behind only Toyota.

Beginning this fall, Hyundai will start producing Sonatas at its first American plant, recently completed in Montgomery, Ala. The new version of the car is bigger than either of the industry’s current top mid-size sedans, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. It will have a suite of standard safety features unmatched by its competition, including six air bags and electronic stability control. And it is planned to have a base price below $20,000.

If Hyundai can pull off that combination, as well as keep its newly minted reputation for quality, it stands to cause serious problems not only for Detroit, but for Japanese companies as well.

Competition is always good, as consumers win-and if the company itself takes off that will be good for the Montgomery, AL area, which could use as many economic boosts as it can get.

Of course, if one wants to measure the development level of this part of the state, all one needs to note is that a company from what until recently was a Third World economy (and even now is on the lower edge of “developed” or “First World” countries-indeed, I am not certain precisely how I would want to categorize SK’s economy) to help spur economic development here.

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When One Wishes Newspapers Came with Video

By Steven Taylor @ 9:15 am

Via WaPo: washingtonpost.com: Howard Dean: He Still Has The Power

Sharpton greets his former campaign homey with a big hug. Sharpton mimics the state-by-state rant that preceded Dean’s infamous scream - “We’re going to South Carolina, Washington . . .” Sharpton yells. And Dean waxes nostalgic about the “fun” he and Sharpton had on the campaign trail. He praises Sharpton for his convictions and his plain-spoken eloquence during the campaign.

“Al sure did energize the Democratic Convention when he went off-script,” Dean says, referring to Sharpton’s flouting of his party-sanctioned remarks and time limit in Boston last summer.

This is an easy applause line for a Sharpton audience, but also distills why so many wonder if Dean is a good fit for such a party-line job. What if Dean were chairman when Sharpton went off-script? “You deal with that when you deal with that,” he says.

Give Al credit: he brings energy to a room…

Gee, is Dean campaiging for this job, or what?

And when did “campaign homey” get inserted into the Post’s style sheet?

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Hmm, Could it be that the Airlines are in Trouble?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:42 am

Via the AP: Midwest Giving Pets Frequent Flyer Miles

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Good News

By Steven Taylor @ 8:33 am

Via Reuters: Kidnapped Iraq Bishop Freed, Says No Ransom Paid

The Iraqi Catholic archbishop of Mosul who was kidnapped at gunpoint Monday was freed Tuesday and said no ransom had been paid.

While it is a horrible when anyone is kidnapped, it seem an even greater crime when criminals and terrorists prey on individuals how are working to help others and to work for peace.

It would appear that the Bishop’s kidnappers realized that the PR problems of this kidnapping was more trouble than it was worth:

Casmoussa told Vatican Radio he had been treated well during his one day in captivity.

“As soon as they found out I was a bishop, their attitude changed … I think that my abduction was a coincidence. In recent times, there have been numerous kidnappings around here,” Casmoussa said.

“Based on the conversations I had with them (the kidnappers), it didn’t appear to me that they wanted to strike at the Church as such.”

I must confess: this surprises me a bit. I wonder who ikidnapped him-this kind of decsion doesn’t sound like al-Zarqawi.

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Monday, January 17, 2005
Kerry Re-Emerges

By Steven Taylor @ 9:00 pm

And in so doing makes some inflammatory remarks.

Via the AP: Kerry Addresses Voter Disenfranchisement:

The Massachusetts Democrat, Bush’s challenger in November, spoke at Boston’s annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast. He reiterated that he decided not to challenge the election results, but “thousands of people were suppressed in the effort to vote.”

“Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways. In Democratic districts, it took people four, five, eleven hours to vote, while Republicans (went) through in 10 minutes-same voting machines, same process, our America,” he said.

If this is true, and he has specific information rather than vague inneundo, then one would think as a US Senator he ought to be trying to do something about the problem. At a minimum it would quite helpful (and I am dead serious) to provide the information to the pre as to what happened and where. However, I suspect no specifc information will be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, it appears that the Senator may indeed be gearing up for 2008, as he has been talking to his foreign leader friends again:

“Throughout Europe, as I met with European leaders, it’s clear that they’re prepared to do more, but the (Bush) administration has not put the structure together for people to be able to do it,” he said.

Kerry declined to specify which leaders expressed a desire to help more with Iraq, or how. He met separately last week with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Both leaders have been critical of the U.S.-led invasion.

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Challenges to TiVo

By Steven Taylor @ 5:57 pm

Via MSNBC/the AP: MSNBC - TiVo faces threat as options multiply

TiVo has been synonymous with digital video recording since it pioneered the industry five years ago, controlling an estimated one-third of the market in 2004. That lofty perch is now beginning to crumble.

Such is the nature of competition. Hopefuly TiVo will be able to adapt. Indeed, that is what the recent brouhaha over the pop-ups is all about.

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Disturbing News

By Steven Taylor @ 2:49 pm

Rusty Shackleford reports that the Archbishop of Mosul has been kidnapped.

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  • Diggers Realm linked with Basile Georges Casmoussa, Catholic Archbishop, Taken Hostage In Iraq
Other MLK Postings

By Steven Taylor @ 2:32 pm

*Dean Esmay posts The Speech. If you have never read it, you should.

*Joe Gandleman remembers the day King was shot.

*The Glittering Eye has a round-up of MLK links as well.

*LaShawn Barber reprints a column from 2003 that is worth a read and dovetails with much of what I wrote below.

If you have a post on the topic, feel free to link up and send a trackback.

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My MLK Day Post

By Steven Taylor @ 2:16 pm

This morning I thought I would make a comment on the fact that today is MLK day, but all I could think of was trite, so I posted nothing. However, some of what I have read in regards to the Ahmad Al-Qloushi business made me think about the fact that many folks have a hard time criticizing the US, and the Civil Rights movement was very much about criticizing the US, which is why it made (and still makes) some people itchy. However, the movement was about trying to make the US (its government and citizenry) to live up to own our proclaimed ideals. Hence, comes the linkage to the essay.

It seems to me a settled issue that the fact that the essay in question wasn’t very good (myself, James Joyner, “Leopold Stotch” (in comments at OTB and PoliBlog) and Chris Lawrence, all non-Marxist political science professors (or former ones) of non-left persuasions have all noted that the essay deserved a very poor grade as has AP Government teacher Betsy Newmark). Now, the issue of what Dr. Woolcock allegedly said is another issue, which I won’t deal with here. The part of that story that is relevant to MLK is to be found in the question Dr. Woolcock asked of his students and that some bloggers have reacted rather negatively to:

Dye and Zeigler contend that the constitution of the United States was not “ordained and established” by “the people” as we have so often been led to believe. They contend instead that it was written by a small educated and wealthy elite in America who representative of powerful economic and political interests. Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America’s elite interest.

The reaction of many who are Rightwardly oriented is to see that question as an unfair critique of the United States and is intended to indoctrinate students against the US. For example: a commenter at Betsy’s Page , several comments at WizBang, and the statement at Watcher of Weasels that “I find the nature of the assignment itself to be incredibly disturbing". And while I concur with Cassandra at Villianous Company that professors should not use their classrooms to indoctrinate their student to the professor’s opinions, it is also the case that there is nothing about the question that was asked that actually required the student to have a particular point of view of the US. Now, I will grant the way the essay is graded may reflect bias, but we really don’t have enough evidence to render an opinion on that topic. All we know for sure is the question itself and the response given.

There is little doubt that the question, and the assertion contained in it are a critique of the dominant view of the Founding. It is likely that the professor was even trying to make a point by asking this question. My response is: so what? While I am not in favor of indoctrination by any stretch, I find nothing wrong with challenging the entrenched beliefs of students. Being able to defend one’s beliefs is a skill we all need, and one of the best ways to do that is to have to deal with alternative arguments—especially those which directly challenge one’s own.

First off, Dye and Zeigler are correct (facts are stubborn things): it is more myth than reality that the US Constitution of 1789 was ordained and established by the people, if by that one means the literal mass of persons living in the United States at the time. This really isn’t a controversial statement if one knows even a little bit about US history. There are clear philosophical linkages to concepts of popular sovereignty in our founding, and it is further true that the process patently rejected aristocratic governance, but the “people” really weren’t involved en masse int he founding. Even to say that the document was radically democratic for its day doesn’t change these facts.

When compared to current conceptions of democracy, let alone the very abstract ideals espoused at the time, the Constitution and it application at the time of the foudning failed on many levels. There is no denying, as I noted yesterday, that the vast majority of persons living in the US at the founding were excluded from participating in the governmental process (e.g., blacks, women, non-propertied white males). By no objective standard of democracy can we say that Woolcock’s question, or Dye and Ziegler’s assertions are unfair to the Founders or to the US in general. Further, the electoral college as originally conceived, the Senate and the Supreme Court were all designed to be insulated from the power of the general populace. In the original conception of our government, only the House of Represenatives was wholly democratic as we currently understand the term.

Further, it is absolutely, rock-solidly the case that specific economic interests were represented in the Philadelphia Convention. While I do not wholly subscribe to Charles Beard’s economic interpretation of the founding, I also cannot wholly dismiss the profoundly important influence of those interests on the entire affair—including the reasons for the Revolutionary War itself.

How does this relate to MLK and civil rights? Well, it relates because part of the critique that Dye and Ziegler are leveling is that the US was not conceived in perfection and despite a preponderance of wonderful language in various documents, we have not always been the beacon of democracy and rights we want to be. We are far closer today than we were in 1789 to be sure, although I would argue we still have work to do.

We have committed national sins and we are still dealing with the consequences of those sins. Slavery was a betrayal of the fundamental tenets upon which our country was founded, and when one betrays one’s fundamental beliefs, there is a price to pay—and it is often a deep, complex and long-lasting price. We did deal with slavery over 100 years ago, but its legacy-Jim Crow, segregation and racism-persisted after that. Indeed, it is not a stretch to state that we did not have true universal suffrage in the US until the late 1960s/early 1970s (and some would argue we still don’t, although I have yet to see evidence that convinced me of that fact).

It is also the case that the problems of the segregationist politics of the past continue to plague current race relations. I certainly see it here in Alabama, not to mention on the national stage.

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day we should acknowledge that all is not healed, all is not fixed, and solutions to these divisions remain in the future. It is important for conservatives to at least realize this fact and be willing to say that we, collectively as a nation, did make massive mistakes (even if we personally did not committ these acts, it is inescapably true that our government did, and we therefore bear some level of responsibility). However, liberals must recognize that there is only so much that can be made of these facts. The past is gone, and those who directly committed many of these sins are dead and buried. While conservatives must acknowledge that the past happened as it did, liberals cannot live in that past.

An easy example of what I am talking about is the Rebel Battle Flag, which I have blogged on before (here, here and elsewhere). The bottom line is that the flag was flown over Civil War battlefields wherein in the root cause of the war was the right of southern states to hold slaves (one can argue all day long that it was about states’ rights, but the right in question was to hold slaves, so the war was about slavery—period). Not only that, the flag became a prominent symbol of recalcitrance against desegregation in the 1950s—so to say that it is simply a symbol of “heritage” is to ignore what heritage one is claiming.

The Amendment 2 vote in Alabama last year also underscores the kind of thing I am talking about.

Liberals, however, have to acknowledge that when one looks at the poorer strata of most cities one find it populated by an alarming number of very young African-American females who are having a number of children out of wedlock—such a situation is a sure ticket for those children to remain in poverty. While it is true that in many cases the poverty in question can be traced to slavery or discrimination (although by no means all, as there is a growing African-American middle class in the US, so failure is not pre-ordained) it is also true that there are behaviors in many of these communities that perpetuate the problem rather severely.

And, as Bill Cosby has rightly noted: there are responsibilities within the African-American community itself. And he also correclty note that education is the key to solving these problems. That means that in some cases conservatives are going to have to be willing to commit more resources to public education, which in some localities (like almost all of Alabama) means more tax revenue. Is more money the solution? No: but adequate funding is a requisite for public education, and in many places in the US there is a lack of adequate funding.

One wonders as to whether some of the current black leadership is fully appreciating the significance of King’s legacy. For example, I am not sure that today’s commemoration should be used to attack Bush’s Iraq policy, as, for example, Representative John Lewis did today. Not only do I think it inappropriate, to put it mildly, to put words in the mouths of the dead, I am not sure that if King had one message to share with the US today that it would be about Iraq, but more likely about educational attainment and family stability.

Clearly, we all have a long way to go.

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More on theVen-Col Dispute

By Steven Taylor @ 12:01 pm

Via Reuters/the NYT: Colombia Says Rebel Was Protected in Venezuela

A top Colombian guerrilla was protected by Venezuelan officials before his capture, an action that has triggered the worst dispute in years between the Andean countries, Colombia said on Sunday.

Far from apologizing for what Venezuela calls the illegal abduction of the rebel leader, Rodrigo Granda, from Caracas last month, Colombia upped the diplomatic ante by saying he was being sheltered in Venezuela.

This is a follow-up to a story I noted this weekend.

(On a different note: this story utilizes one of my journalistic pet peeves: a declarative statement that includes a charge that ends with “xxx says” so that a casual read makes one think that the declaration is a report of fact, not one person’s opinion. And normally it is an unnamed source, making the usage of the structure more egregious in my opinion. This is often used, I would argue, so that the reporter can assert what they think to be true, while covering themselves by the way the opinion is reported. I am not asserting this is the case here, but it still bugs me).

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Good for the Major

By Steven Taylor @ 9:37 am

Via the Austin-American Statesman: Applewhite hired at Syracuse

Major Applewhite left Texas as the most prolific passer in school history.

He officially began the next phase of his career Sunday. Applewhite was named the quarterbacks coach at Syracuse.

After a brief visit to a NFL training camp (I want to say it was New England), Applewhite was a graduate coaching assistant at Texas.

During the past season at Texas, Applewhite served as an assistant to offensive coordinator Greg Davis and also as an advisor to starting quarterback Vince Young, who said conversations with Applewhite this season helped him with the nuances of the position. Applewhite worked mostly with the offensive line in his first season at Texas.

It seemed at the time of his retirement, so to speak, from playing, that coaching was in his future. He was clearly a very smart player whose mental skills overcame some of his physical shortcomings (if you ever saw him play he hardly looked the part of starting QB for a mjor program). Nonetheless:

Applewhite went 22-8 as a starter and set school records for passing yards (8,353), TD passes (60), total offense (8,059), completions (611) and attempts (1,065) from 1998-2001. He was the Big 12 co-Offensive Player of the Year in 1999.

I suspect we will being hearing from Applewhite again in the future as he works his way up the coaching ranks.

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Boston Legal

By Steven Taylor @ 9:25 am

One of the great things about TiVo is that trying a new show has almost no cost-you set the thing, watch the show whenever you want, and you don’t even have to watch any commercials whilst you are deciding if you like the show and if the show stinks, you have the ability to delete the show to demonstrate your disdain.

One of the shows we tried out recently was Boston Legal-I was curious as to Shanter’s performance, having heard that he was well received on the final episodes of The Practice and so we gave it try from the beginning. As bizarre as the show can be, we have enjoyed its quirkiness and its colorful characters-especially Denny Crane and Alan Shore.

However, the last two shows-the ones with Candace Bergen-have not been too impressive. While the skillet-killer storyline has been amusing its own odd kind of way, the attempt to infuse politics into the show (first the ludicrious Sudan lawsuit last week and the “ripped from the headlines” ID v. Evolution business this week) has hardly been impressive. I am not oppossed to politics in my TV shows (obviously) and I am not one who needs to agree with everything I see. However, a major pet-peeve of mine is ham-fisted and preachy insertions of politics into tv shows, movies and novels. Whenever I feel like I am being beat over the head with a point of view, I get turned off in a hurry (even if it is a view I agree with)-and that is how I have felt the last wo weeks. Most important of all, the writing in both cases have been quite poor. Part of the problem is (and this is a general one): it is impossible to do justice to a complex political problem in one of three or four segments of a one-hour drama (that really is less than 45 minutes in length once you deduct the commercials). So, to try and treat with US foreign policy vis-a-vis the Sudan, or educational policy on the origins of life in fifteen-ish minutes is simply absurd. The results of such an attempt are trite writing and low-rent moralizing-which leads to a poor program.

For example, the ending scene of last night’s episode, where Bergen’s character is taling to another attorney and she states something along the lines of “But God forbid that some court somewhere bans the teaching of evolution.” This is stated after the firm has successfully defended the right of the Boston scholl board (or maybe it was the whole state) to inclued ID in science classes. Regardless of one’s position on this topic, that’s some pretty lame writing-not to mention that it is a radical stretch that allowing ID might lead to the abolition of evolution from the classroom.

Also: there should be a rule for all courtroom dramas: if the “big finish” for your story is an impassioned speech from the bench, where the judge puts one side or another in their place whilst asserting some specific political view, then you should scrap the scirpt and start over. That, my friends, is plain lame.

Hopefully the show will turn back to quirky charaters and odd legal quandries and leave the politicking to the professionals.

We shall see.

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Part of the Political Pantheon?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:53 am

Via WaPo: The Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Now the Bushes

The president’s victory also establishes firmly a fact that earlier was open to dispute: The Bushes now belong in the top tier of political families in U.S. history.

[…]

By any objective measure, political scholars say, Bush is a name that belongs next to Adams, Kennedy and Roosevelt as a force whose influence spans decades.

On one level, this is all trivia/novelty-i.e, a bunch of people from the same family having political success. Although the practical element that success often begets success is also part of it.

In terms of American political dynasties, I think that really the Kennedys and Bushes are in a class by themselves. For one thing, the two Roosevelts were not part of the same nuclear family. In the case of both the Kennedys and Bushes, the direct connection of the various politicos is much closer.

One could argue that the Bush dynasty is perhaps the most impressive: the Grandfather was a US Senator, Daddy was a Congressman, Veep and President (amongst a ton of other posts of significance), and one son was a two-term governor (ok, 1.5 terms) of a major state and a two-term President while the other son was a multi-term governor of another major state.

If one is scoring on offices alone, the Bush family “wins"-for whatever that is worth.

The Kennedys have a list of intangibles, not the least of which being the fact (sad though it may be) of JFK’s assassination in office, which changed perception of him forever. Further, there is the whole “Camelot” business-the glamour that so many swoon over in re: JFK and that is clearly not present in the Dubya administration.

Ultimately this is all a somewhat silly exercise, but also interesting.

A side note, I found this paragraph curious:

Robert Dallek, author of a recent book on JFK and of other presidential biographies, is not an admirer of Bush policies but acknowledged that Bush’s victory vaults father and son to a new historical plane.

Of what relevance are Dallek’s views of Bush’s policies? Surely whether he is pro-Bush, anti-Bush or neutral on Bush the issue should be his academic abilities as a historian and author, not his political views. It is as if he would be tainted by saying the obvious (i.e., that the Bush family has been politicaly successful) unless there was a qualifier in place to note that he really doesn’t like Bush.

It reminds me of a professor who was introduced to a gathering at the Southern Political Science Association who noted that he worked for the Heritage Fondation, but “don’t worry, I’m a Democrat"-because Heaven forbid that a group of other academics might think you are a Republican.

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A Potentially Significant Start

By Steven Taylor @ 8:02 am

Via the AP: Palestinians Try to Prevent Attacks

The Palestinian Cabinet on Monday asked the security forces to prevent attacks against Israel and ordered an investigation into a shooting at a Gaza crossing that killed six Israeli civilians last week, ministers said.

“A decision was taken that we will handle our obligation to stop violence against Israelis anywhere,” said Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat. He did not provide details.

The real test, of course, will be the actions which back up (or fail to do so) these words. Still, it is symbolically a good step and one that hopefully will be actually taken.

I am cautiously hopeful that a new era of Israeli-Palestinian relations can begin with the death of Arafat. Certainly the opportunity is now present for oen to begin. I don’t expect a perfect peace, but any progress will be welcome at this stage of the game.

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Kennedy “Leaning Against” Gonzales

By Steven Taylor @ 7:58 am

Via WaPoOn Gonzales, Kennedy Breaks With Colleagues

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) broke with his colleagues yesterday and said on television that he is “leaning against” supporting Gonzales at the moment.

Kennedy said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he had not been satisfied with the nominee’s answers at his Jan. 6 confirmation hearing, where Gonzales said the administration will not tolerate torture but defended his conclusion that the protections of the Geneva Conventions do not apply to alleged terrorists.

Not surprising, and certainly within his pergogative as a Senator. However, it still seems to me that if some Senators think that Gonzales’ role was as bad as some of the questioning suggested then it seems to me that more than a day of grandstanding on TV followed up by some sound bites and an eventual vote against him is in order.

If it is that serious, then treat it as such-not as simply a means by which to criticize the President.

Further, one gets the feeling that no matter who Bush nominates, a large number of Democrats will attempt to demonize the nominee. It is like a game. It really does make one wonder why anyone would want the job in the first place.

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Sunday, January 16, 2005
Is That a Threat?

By Steven Taylor @ 10:00 pm

Via the AP: Dean in Mo. Pursuing DNC Leadership Spot

Former presidential candidate Howard Dean said Saturday he will not run for the White House in the next campaign cycle if he is elected to head the Democratic National Committee

Make me DNC Chair or else?

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The Nicest Thing Said About Me Today…

By Steven Taylor @ 8:34 pm

Via Carpe Bonum: “Steven Taylor at Poliblog, a real life Political Science professor and no Moonbat…”

I may have to start one of those sidebar quote lists ;)

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Marriage Amendment Politics

By Steven Taylor @ 8:00 pm

I am beginning to tire of the politics of the Federal Marriage Amendment. For one thing, as significant as the issue of gay marriage is, the bottom line is that there isn’t going to an amendment any time soon, if ever. Hence, to me at least, talking about it is an utter waste of time.

Further, I have never thought that Bush would pursue this matter after his re-election, despite the much-ballyhooed role allegedly played by gay marriage and the religious right in the election (I don’t deny the role of either, but I do question the degree of importance assigned to them by many “analysts” in the MSM).

As such, the following is no surprise to me: Via WaPo, we get: Transcript of Bush Interview

The Post: Do you plan to expend any political capital to aggressively lobby senators for a gay marriage amendment?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I think that the situation in the last session - well, first of all, I do believe it’s necessary; many in the Senate didn’t, because they believe DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act] will - is in place, but - they know DOMA is in place, and they’re waiting to see whether or not DOMA will withstand a constitutional challenge.

The Post: Do you plan on trying to - using the White House, using the bully pulpit, and trying to ->

THE PRESIDENT: The point is, is that senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I’d take their admonition seriously.

The Post: But until that changes, you want it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, until that changes, nothing will happen in the Senate. Do you see what I’m saying?

Ok, that is what I expected. The numbers aren’t there. This echoes the kinds of things Bush has rightly said about a Right to Life Amendment.

Still, this morning I hear counselor to the President Dan Bartlett say the following on MTP this morning:

MR. RUSSERT: The president had an interview with The Washington Post and he said he will no longer push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, which was quite surprising because in the middle of the campaign in February of 2004, the president said, “We must enact this.” In his convention speech, he talked about it. The party platform pledged it. And now he gets re-elected, and he seems to be backing off it. Was this a wedge issue to galvanize evangelical Christians and, now re-elected, the president saying, “Well, you know what? I’m not going to push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage"?

MR. BARTLETT: Absolutely not.

MR. RUSSERT: He’ll push for it?

MR. BARTLETT: He has said publicly and he will continue to say publicly that he is for it. What he was speaking to in that specific interview was the vote counting in the United States Senate. Remember, it requires 67 votes to get this passed in the United States Senate. And what the reality there, as this issue was brought forward and debated in the United States Senate, or at least attempted to, was that too many senators believe that the Defense of Marriage Act, the current law on the books, should be challenged or overturned before we take that next step. So President Bush was talking about a legislative reality. That is not going to stop him from spending political capital or continuing to express his position, which he believes, that marriage ought to be between a man and a woman and that we ought to protect this sacred institution from courts that do not reflect the people’s will. And that’s something that he will continue to advocate and continue to push for.

MR. RUSSERT: But he will push a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the Congress?

MR. BARTLETT: He’s for it and he will continue to push for it.

MR. RUSSERT: Hard?

MR. BARTLETT: He will spend political capital to do so. He was just speaking to the legislative reality in the United States Senate.

Now, in terms of what the President is going to do, I will take what the President himself says over what an adviser says. And I fully expect that there will be no additional vote on this amendment.

Still, the White House has not been clear on this issue. Not only do you have statements like Bartlett’s, but other surrogates have also suggested that the President is going to fight for an amendment. This strikes me as either a lack of communication within the political appartus of the administration or a purposefuly obfuscation of the President’s position in the hopes of scoring points with social conservatives. Either way: I am not impressed.

Any fight for this amendment would be a massive watse of “political capital.” If Bush is going to wage a fight with Congress that will benefit the goals of social conservatives it will be over the issue of judicial nominations. And this is a fact that social conservatives would do well to understand and remember.

Some things aren’t going to happen, and a Federal Marriage Amendment is one of them.

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A New Chapter in a Sad Tale

By Steven Taylor @ 5:45 pm

Via the AP: Former Raiders Center Shot by Police

Former Oakland Raiders center Barret Robbins was shot and critically wounded during a struggle with a police officer investigating a burglary at a South Beach office building.

Robbins, a former All-Pro known best for going AWOL during the 2003 Super Bowl and other erratic behavior, was hospitalized in critical condition.

Robbins was shot several times in the torso during a “violent struggle” with a Miami Beach detective Saturday night, police spokesman Bobby Hernandez said.

“The officer was literally fighting for his life, trying to get Mr. Robbins from getting his gun. That’s when the shots rang out,” Hernandez said.

Robbins, 31, was confronted in a second-floor office in a building that also houses a nightclub, gym and jewelry store. He was considered a burglary suspect, though no charges had been filed, Hernandez said.

From being a professional athlete on a team that made it to the Super Bowl to being shot because one is a robbery suspect is a pretty remarkable fall. The man clearly has serious problems.

The often-troubled player is best remembered for disappearing the night before the 2003 Super Bowl in San Diego. He spent Super Bowl Sunday in a hospital and later acknowledged that he had stopped taking his medicine for depression and bipolar disorder. The Raiders lost 48-21 to Tampa Bay.

Robbins was released by Oakland in July, a week after he and two other players were fined three game checks for testing positive for the steroid THG.

Robbins played all nine of his pro seasons with Oakland and made the Pro Bowl after the 2002 season, but did not play in the game. A year after missing the final 14 games of 2001 with an injured right knee, he was a pivotal part of an offensive line that helped the Raiders produce the league’s top offense.

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More Details on the Foothill College Story

By Steven Taylor @ 5:38 pm

The low down on the story below can be found here.

The page is from SAF: Students For Academic Freedom.

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  • Signifying Nothing linked with Bad essay gets bad grade, news at 11
Free Grading

By Steven Taylor @ 4:44 pm

Paul of Wizbang notes the following story from WaTi ("California professor flunks Kuwaiti’s pro-U.S. essay") and e-mailed me to see if I would grade the essay.

Part of the context is the following:

Ahmad Al-Qloushi, a foreign student at Foothill College near San Jose, Calif., said he was told by professor Joseph A. Woolcock to get psychological treatment because of the pro-American views expressed in his essay.

If that is true (and these cases it is often hard to know, but that strikes me as an odd thing to make up if it isn’t true, but still, one has to reserve judgment) then that is hideoulsy offensive.

However, having read the piece, I must confess that I would have given the essay a pretty low score-given that it isn’t my class, and since I don’t know the exact context of the question and so forth, it is hard to say what exact score I would give it. My initial reaction is that I would give a low D.

Now, the reason I would do so has nothing to do with the pro-American stance of the piece. The reason it would get a low score (maybe even a failing score) is because the student did not answer the question. What the student wrote is fluffy and subjective. And while some of may be correct, its correctness is moot because it doesn’t answer the question asked.

The question notes, correctly, that the Constitution of 1789 was written by the elites of the day and it is further true that the document limited democratic participation. While it is certainly the case that the Constitution of 1789 was the most democratic ever to exist at that time, it is also true that most blacks couldn’t vote (indeed, most were slaves), women couldn’t vote (regardless of color) and in most states there was a property requirement for white males to vote. Regardless of one’s political point of view, there is no denying the truth of these facts. Further, it is also true that the interests of the elites who wrote the constitution influenced its writing-just look at the 3/5th compromise.

Ours is a country that was founded upon a set of high ideals, but also one that committed (from the get go) a number of sins that betrayed those ideals. We had to grow into them (and, indeed, we may have yet to attain them). To deny this is to have a sanitized view of US history in one’s head.

Some other things:

  • The essay goes astray almost immediately by incorrectly stating that the question asserts that Founders had only their own interests in mind. The question does not assert this.
  • It would have been possible to both answer the question and argue that the Constitution was a progressive document for its time.
  • The student seems not to understand (or at least it is unclear what he knows) about the concept of “"direct democracy".
  • Ditto “nationalism.”
  • The question asks about the founding, but the response really talks about the 20th and 21st centuries, not the 18th.

While it very well may be the case that the prof in question is anti-American, the answer to the question under examination here wasn’t very good. I must confess that I am rarely particularly merciful when a response isn’t actually directed at the question that has been asked. I can see how this essay resulted in a failing grade.

Update: James Joyner grades the piece as well. Professor Leopold Stotch agrees that the response is bad as well (in the comments section).

Update 2: Yet another Real Life PoliSci ProfTM would fail the thing: Chris Lawrence.

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Overly Simplistic

By Steven Taylor @ 8:38 am

Via WaPo: Bush Says Election Ratified Iraq Policy

President Bush said the public’s decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

“We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections,” Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me.”

Dare I say that perhaps a more nuanced interpretation of the elections results are in order? Of course, this is a typical reaction by a recently re-elected President-yet that doesn’t mean that the interpretation is correct. Clearly the voters preferred Bush to Kerry on a host of issues, not the least of which was Iraq (where Kerry never articulated a clear set of policies, in my opinion). However, re-election does not mean that the voters have given a 100% approval rating to every single thing that Bush did in his first four years.

Further, from a political POV I would advise the President that such statements simply feed the perception that he is arrogant and unwilling to admit mistakes. While his resoluteness has been a political asset overall, there are times when it ought to be tempered (as he did earlier in the week when discussing some of his War on Terror rhetoric).

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SNL’s Current Dubya: Not Good

By Steven Taylor @ 8:32 am

I watched the intro sketch of SNL last night: most lame. The guy currently doing Bush is simply not any good at it (granted, Will Ferrell’s shoes were big ones to fill, but still). Further, the writing for the Bush skits have been quite pathetic of late. Take last night: it was essentially the same joke over and over and over and over and over and over (ok, you get it), which was : Clinton was a smoother speaker than Dubya. I think we knew that. Could that be made to be funny? Absolutely-but multiple jokes in a multi-minutes skit are kinda nice. Plus, you have Darrell Hammond there playing Clinton and that’s the best you can do? And the Bush 41 guy was pretty much a prop.

When SNL is on target, it can be terrific (the 2000 debate sketches are classics-and every single one of the Ferrell Dubya sketches were funny, if not hilarious). However, when it is bad, it is bad.

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WP Troubles?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:07 am

I have had the experience, for some time now, where I seem to be having trouble accessing WordPress. By this I mean that I can get to the main page of PoliBlog, but can’t get to the admin functions, nor can I get the Press It popup to work. It also manifested this morning where I couldn’t get the permalinks on the site to work. After about 15 minutes or so everything was fine. I frequently have to try for several minutes to get in to edit a post and often have to try a few times to get the Press It pop up to load.

Anyone else have similar experiences? Any suggestions as to cause/solution?

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Vinny #1 in 05?

By Steven Taylor @ 7:35 am

Reports ESPN:

Head coach Bill Parcells has yet to weigh in on the matter, at least publicly, but owner Jerry Jones reiterated Friday that the Dallas Cowboys quarterback depth chart figures to remain status quo for the 2005 season.

There have been plenty of unsubstantiated rumors that the Cowboys, who ranked 15th in passing offense in 2004, would bolster the quarterback position, perhaps with a trade for San Diego starter Drew Brees, by signing an unrestricted free agent such as Matt Hasselbeck of Seattle or by packaging their two No. 1 choices to move up in the first round and draft a promising rookie.

Even as those rumors of change swirled, the indications from inside the organization were that there would be no changes … and that likely will be the case.

Dallas officials have already told incumbent starter Vinny Testaverde they want him back for 2005. Testaverde, who signed a one-year contract for 2004 with a base salary of $1.1 million, wants to return rather than become a free agent.

Hmmm. On the one hand, it is clear that Testaverde is the QB most likely to win, as Henson ain’t no Roethlisberger, shall we say. On the other, Vinny is old and one has to find out what Henson can do at some point. My fantasy would be to acquire Brees. However, the cost for that will likely be far too high.

I do think that a Testaverde-led offense which has Julius Jones from Day One and Terry Glenn and Dan Campbell back in the lineup should be pretty good. Still, I can’t escape the facts that Vinny is old and that he is no long-term solution.

Cross-posted at DCF .

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Sports Round-Up

By Steven Taylor @ 7:26 am

Misc. observations about yesterday’s sporting events:

  • Vick-tory in Atlanta. Michael Vick certainly lived up to his billing last night and St. Louis looked like the team the cat dragged in. Let’s face facts: the only reason they were in the game was because their first-round opponents was the Seahawks. Still, given the fact that it was an indoor game I expected better of the Rams. Have Bruce on the sidelines was a problem, however. While it is still too early too to start talking about it, you know the nets and sportswriters are starting to salivate over the possiblity of a Manning-Vick SuperBowl.
  • J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets! Give the Jets credit-I thought they’d lose convincingly to San Diego and a certainly thought that the Steelers would win by more than a FG in OT. Both the Jets@SD game and this one underscore why Mike Ditka used to say how he hated kickers. If anything, the Jets have played in two of the best playoff games of this year’s post-season.
  • Lakers best Golden State by 2 sans Kobe. Of course, even with the win, Golden State is only 11-27. (One wonders if Kobe actually wants the team to win while he’s hurt…).
  • Man, what happened to my Spurs? Houston 73, San Antonio 67. Holding a team to 73=good. Only scoring 67=bad.
  • Of course, they weren’t the only team to have an off-night: Phoenix lost to the Wizards.
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PoliColumn: The 55th Inauguration

By Steven Taylor @ 7:13 am

From today’s Mobile Register:

Transfer of power is a signature achievement of our democracy

Sunday, January 16, 2005

By STEVEN L. TAYLOR
Special to the Register

This week, a miracle of history will be on display, although most of us won’t be looking at it that way. Most of us will greet the event with yawns; after all, what’s the big deal, given that we do it every four years?

The entire piece is here.

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Saturday, January 15, 2005
You Know its Comment Spam When…

By Steven Taylor @ 2:59 pm

…the poster spells “blog” with two g’s (i.e., “blogg").

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Election ‘04: Final Tallies

By Steven Taylor @ 2:29 pm

Via WaPo: Election Turnout in 2004 Was Highest Since 1968

The final numbers are in - and turnout in the 2004 presidential election, it seems, was a bit more impressive than previously believed.

The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate reported yesterday that more than 122 million people voted in the November election, a number that translates into the highest turnout - 60.7 percent - since 1968.

President Bush officially won 62,028,719 votes, which was 50.8 percent of the ballots cast and 11.5 million more than he won in 2000. Sen John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) took 48.3 percent, or 59,028,550 votes. That was about 8 million more than Al Gore won in 2000. Independent Ralph Nader won 440,513 votes, less than 0.4 percent of the total. In 2000, he won more than 2.8 million votes.

Turnout was 6.4 percent higher than in 2000, the largest uptick in voter participation since the 1952 election. The numbers are a bit higher than the research group’s initial estimates, which were based on unofficial tallies and released days after the election.

Impressive all that way around-although even as early at November 3rd it was clear that the tunrout was going to be in the 60% range (and that was higher than the 55% I had predicted).

The numbers support the general hypothesis about turnout that a closely competitive race bolsters turnout and also underscores the very successful get-out-the-vote efforts by both parties.

And, as usual, lots of folks stay home:

The report noted that although turnout reached new heights, more than 78 million Americans who were eligible to vote stayed home on Election Day. The group estimated that Bush won just 30.8 percent of the total eligible voters.

A Request for Help (Computer-wise)

By Steven Taylor @ 2:12 pm

A little over a week ago I had a bad-boot on my computer, which after a re-boot seemed to be fine. However, my Quick Launch toolbar had dissappeared and when I try to access it, I got an error message that states “Cannot Create Toolbar". I tried using System Restore but that didn’t do the trick.

I miss my toolbar-any suggestions?

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Colombian-Venezuelan Tensions

By Steven Taylor @ 2:05 pm

Via Bloomberg: Colombia Defends Rebel’s Seizure After Venezuela Cuts Ties

Colombia denied it had violated Venezuelan sovereignty and defended its policy of offering bounties on alleged terrorists after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez suspended ties over the capture of a Colombian guerrilla.

Chavez is demanding an apology from Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for allegedly bribing members of the Venezuelan security forces to seize Rodrigo Granda, a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, in Caracas on Dec. 13.

Granda was a “known and notorious spokesman'’ of the group known by its Spanish acronym, FARC, Uribe’s office said in a statement issued in Bogota last night. The UN prohibits member counties from harboring known terrorists, the statement said.

“The Colombian government reiterates its call for the entire world to help us in the capture of terrorists who have kidnapped, massacred and impoverished the Colombian people,'’ said the statement.

The break comes as trade - amounting to about $2 billion in the first nine months of 2004 - has been booming, helping Colombia’s economy to grow at nearly its fastest pace in a decade. Colombia, in its nine-point statement, reiterated a goal of constructive relations with Venezuela and urged creation of a bilateral commission to resolve the impasse.

What with conferences, the start of the semester and druken truckers, I have only been tangentially aware of this story. The Chavez government has never gotten along well with the Colombian government-neither the current Uribe administration nor of the prior Pastrana administration. There is a long-standing suspicion that Chavez sympathiseizes with, or perhaps even supports to some degree, the insurgency in Colombia.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Venezuelans have suspended all economic interplay between the two coutntires:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez froze ongoing bilateral accords and energy deals with Colombia on Friday in retaliation for the abduction of a leading Colombian Marxist rebel from Venezuela.

Chavez stopped short of breaking diplomatic relations with Bogota but demanded a public apology from Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for what he called a violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty.

On the one hand, it is always amusing to me how if one side says “sorry” the other side will give in. On the other, it appears unlikely that the Uribe administration is going to apologize.

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Overseas Voting for Iraqis

By Steven Taylor @ 10:05 am

In this case that means voting in the US. Via the LAT: Iraqis to Vote at El Toro Polling Station

The former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine will serve as the sole voting station for as many as 67,000 Iraqi Americans in the western United States to cast ballots in their homeland’s groundbreaking democratic election, officials announced Friday.

Voter registration begins Monday to elect Iraq’s 275-seat Transitional National Assembly. The voting will take place Jan. 28-30 in five U.S. cities and in 13 other nations.

Interesting-it hadn’t occurred to me that such prodecures would ne necessary, but it stands to reason.

There is an entire web site dedicated to the Iraqi out-of-country vote.

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Cool: The Surface of Titan

By Steven Taylor @ 9:50 am

Via the AP: New Photos Show Titan Has Orange Surface.


Most cool. The linked story above also has a slideshow worth checking out.

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Trouble for Abbas?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:36 am

Via the AP: 46 Palestinian Election Officials Resign

Forty-six members of the Palestinian election commission, including top managers, resigned Saturday, saying they were pressured by Mahmoud Abbas’ campaign and intelligence officials to abruptly change voting procedures during the Jan. 9 presidential poll.

[…]

The resignations raised questions about Sunday’s vote giving Abbas an overwhelming victory, though the officials who quit said the alleged irregularities did not fundamentally affect the final vote tally.

Hmm. Given the exit polling and the general Abbas’ general political advantages heading into the election, I am dubious as to any need for fraud-not that that hasn’t stopped some imany politicians in the pst who wanted a little “insurance".

Of course at this point one wonders about the motives of any such set of accusations or resignations, given the political divisions within Palestinian politics.

It shall be interesting to see how this unfolds.

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Friday, January 14, 2005
I Have My Doubts

By Steven Taylor @ 8:33 pm

Via USAT: Prediction: India, China will be economic giants

By the year 2020, China and India will be vying with the United States for global economic supremacy, the nation’s top intelligence analysts predict,

While I do agree that the economic power of both of these countires will have grown substantially by 2020, I have my doubts as to their capacity to obtain economical rivalry with the United States.

There are numerous reasons, but I would note that both of these countries have substantial peasant sectors, which have to be thoroughly modernized to allow for a radical jump in each country’s overall economic status. Further, India has a number of religio-ethnic issues iternally that need to be resovled before it can be become a true First World power (let alone the whole caste system that persists in some segments of the society).

So while I see substantial development, I don’t see parity with the US or the EU. Rather, it is likely that in some sectors these economies will compete with the US and other major economies, but not at all levels.

Of course, the column is unclear as to the exact nature of the predicted growth, and indeed the headline and first paragraph are more sensationalistic than some of the info in the main body.

If we look at a basic economic indicator: GDP per capita (along with raw GDP), it is pretty clear that both China and India have a ways to go (data from the CIA World Factbook):

China: GDP $6.449 Trillion/GDP per capita $5,000
India: GDP $3.033 Trillion.GDP per capita $2,900

Both are powerful economies in the aggregate, but those GDP per capita figures are clearly Third World level and bespeak of serious gaps in economic productivity for huge percentages of the population and general economic disparaties. These are serious development issues.

For comparative purposes, here are some other numbers: Mexico has an overall GDP of $941.2 billion and a GDP per capita of $9,000, Canada a GDP of $958.7 billion and a GDP per capita of $29,800. The US’s ovearll GDP is $10.99 trillion with a GDP per capita of $37,800.

(All figures are 2004 estimates and GDP per capita numbers are based on PPP).

For those who might be interested, here are the world’s economies ranked by GDP per capita.

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Speaking of Apple

By Steven Taylor @ 11:09 am

Via Computer Business Review: Apple stuns Wall Street with record results

“We’re pleased to report 74% revenue growth, 26% Mac unit growth, and 525% iPod unit growth,” said CFO Peter Oppenheimer. “Looking ahead to the second quarter we expect revenue of about $2.9 billion and earning per diluted share of about $0.40.”

During the last three months, Apple shipped a record 271,000 iBook laptops and made $1.2 billion from selling 4.58 million iPods, a 525% boost from the holiday quarter of 2003.

The success of the iPod has made Apple something of a Wall Street darling, and the company has sold more than 10 million of these devices since their debut in 2001. In the past year alone, Apple’s share price has tripled, and the company holds 65% of the hard drive portable music market.

Wowie.

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That’s Just Sad

By Steven Taylor @ 8:49 am

Via CBS Sportline: Vermont high school hoops game nets seven points

Hard to imagine a 3-pointer in the second quarter of a high school boys’ basketball game would turn out to be the winning basket - unless it’s one of only three made in the entire game.

That basket, along with an earlier field goal, was all Bellows Free Academy-Fairfax needed to beat Milton on Wednesday night. The final score: 5-2.

I thought torture was illegal in the United States.

H/t: Clint of Southern Sense.

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Do They Have Any Other Option?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:16 am

Via Yahoo Sports: Lott: 49ers should raise bar.

When you are at the bottom, all you can do is raise the bar, methinks.

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Not a Hopeful Start

By Steven Taylor @ 6:44 am

Via Reuters: Palestinian Militants Defy Abbas, 9 Dead in Gaza

Thousands of Palestinians marched on Friday to celebrate the killing of six Israelis by militants who mounted their strongest challenge yet to President-elect Mahmoud Abbas and his call for non-violence.

Three Palestinian gunmen were also killed during the bombing and shooting assault at Karni, the main cargo crossing between Israel and Gaza, late on Thursday.

Arafat’s legacy in action, it would seem: violence and hatred.

Still, this is not a surprise nor does it mean that no progress will be made. Regardless, it is very sad not only in terms of the specific lives lost, but also on the level that death leads to a parade.

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Thursday, January 13, 2005
Intriguing

By Steven Taylor @ 8:37 pm

Via Reuters: Iceland’s Hydrogen Buses Zip to Oil-Free Economy.

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Does the Man Have Nothing Better to Do With His Time?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:29 pm

Via the AP: Atheist Protests Inauguration Prayer

Michael Newdow-best known for trying to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance-told U.S. District Judge John Bates that allowing an overtly Christian prayer at the Jan. 20 ceremony violates the Constitution by forcing him to accept unwanted religious beliefs.

Attorneys representing Bush and his inaugural committee argued that prayers have been widely accepted at inaugurals for more than 200 years and that Bush’s decision to have a minister recite the invocation is a personal choice the court has no power to prevent.

Bates said he would issue a ruling Friday.

Ok, we get it: Newdow doesn’t like God but does like being on TV.

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Bye-Bye Bob

By Steven Taylor @ 8:27 pm

James Joyner reports: Bob Shrum Ends Consulting Career, which raises the burning questions: did Bob Shrum ever actually have a consulting career?

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Speaking of Prominent British Sons

By Steven Taylor @ 2:19 pm

Via the BBC comes the ongoing saga of Mark Thatcher and his bizarre tale of coup plotting (or, at least, mercenary funding): Thatcher fined over ‘coup plot’

Sir Mark Thatcher has pleaded guilty in South Africa over his part in an alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea.

The son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was fined three million rand [265,000 in pounds] and received a four-year suspended jail sentence.

Sir Mark, who denies any knowledge of the plot, agreed a plea bargain and will now co-operate with investigators.

He admitted breaking anti-mercenary legislation in South Africa by agreeing to finance a helicopter.

At least there was no mention of swastikas.

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Can You Say “Sheer Genius"?

By Steven Taylor @ 2:11 pm

Yes, I think you can.

UK’s Harry Rules Out Auschwitz Visit in Nazi Row

Jewish groups had demanded the 20-year-old grandson of Queen Elizabeth make the symbolic gesture as a way of apologizing for wearing a swastika armband and an army shirt with Nazi regalia at a costume party on Saturday.

The prince has apologized for his “mistake” but Jewish rights groups and politicians said he should do more.

Gee whiz.

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Deficit Politics

By Steven Taylor @ 9:28 am

Via the AP: Bush Makes Progress in Halving Deficit

One guiding star in the $2.5 trillion budget that President Bush ships Congress next month will be his goal of cutting the federal deficit in half by 2009.

Bush first proclaimed that objective in his spending plan last year. That was months before the 2004 federal budget shortfall came in at a record — but less than expected — $412 billion.

The White House touts the goal as part of its commitment to get the budget under control, while critics mock it as a feeble feint at fiscal prudence.

Three quick observations:

1) I am not particularly pleased with Bush’s budget politics.

2) Projections like this are typically worthless.

3) If the deficit is indeed lowered, it will be because of economic growth primarily-and since 2004 was a good year in terms of growth, and 2005 is likley to be as well, look for the deficit to shrink somewhat.

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Crossfire, RIP

By Steven Taylor @ 8:43 am

Via Reuters: CNN Backs ‘Crossfire’ Axing

CNN Wednesday defended its recent cancellation of “Crossfire,” the debate show that ran on the news network for 23 years.

“We’re not going to try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, but it wasn’t doing well from a ratings standpoint,” Jim Walton, president of CNN News Group, said during the network’s presentation at the Television Critics Assn.’s winter press gathering in Universal City.

“We thought we could do better,” he added.

No shock to me on the ratings and “indeed” on the idea that they thought they could do better.

In fact, when they started tryig gimmicks (e.g., the live audience), you knew that the shows days were numbered. Indeed, the live audience is probably when Crossfire “jumped the shark.” (Although, really, the jumping started when Kinsely left).

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Thanks

By Steven Taylor @ 7:46 am

Thanks to all who posted kind words on my previous post.

All appears to be well, on balance, although I am dreading dealing with the insurance folks…

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Driving Sucks When…

By Steven Taylor @ 8:06 pm

Driving sucks when you are minding your own business driving home (to church directly from work, actually) and an eighteen-wheeler attempts to occupy the same space as your Corolla, causing you to be spun across the left lane and into the median of a four-lane divided highway, which, by the Grace of God, was very muddy, and hence slowed my wayward Corolla sufficiently before I entered southbound traffic.

Yes, I would attest, that that is definitely when driving sucks.

And to make it extra-special sucky, the truck driver in question had been drinking (just “two beers” of course, causing one of the police officers to ponder to me at one point as to the size of said beverages). The trucker’s exact fate was unknown as he waited in the back of the patrol car after I had concluded my business at the scene.

And yes, I’m fine, thank the Lord. Although I suspect I will be quite sore in the morning.

And, ironically, we finally settled all the insurance issue on the van just yesterday. We have been married for 14.5 years and for the first 14+ no auto accidents, and now two (neither our fault) since October 1st.

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Call for Bloggers

By Steven Taylor @ 12:41 pm

Are there any blogging academics out there from Alabama or from nearby states who might be interested in a panel/roundtable on the topic of political blogs for the upcoming Alabama Political Science Association meeting that will be in Jacksonville, AL on April 1st and 2nd? If so, drop me a line.

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iPod Shuffle

By Steven Taylor @ 12:21 pm

Here a picture of the iPod Shuffle that I mentioned yesterday (a post that drew more commentary than my serious, time-consuming posts).

Cool looking, to be sure. (And beats the Walkman of my youth…).

Update: The Shape of Days has noted some useful iPod Shuffle advice.

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Supreme Court Limits Detention of Immigrants

By Steven Taylor @ 12:17 pm

Yahoo! News - Supreme Court Limits Detention of Immigrants

The U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) ruled on Wednesday that the government may not indefinitely imprison immigrants who have been in the United States illegally for years and cannot be deported to their home countries.

The high court’s 7-2 ruling was a defeat for the U.S. Justice Department, which said the issue affected more than 2,000 detained immigrants who cannot be deported. Nearly half of them had arrived in the United States illegally from Cuba as part of the 1990 Mariel boatlift.

[…]

In the court’s majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia rejected concerns by the government that the security of the U.S. borders will be compromised if the immigrants must be released. If need be, Congress can act, he said.

Scalia said that after the 2001 ruling Congress adopted a law authorizing continued detention of certain immigrants, including those who present a national security threat or have been involved in terrorist activities.

Given that this case has some bearing on issues of the detention of illegal combatants, potential terrorists, etc., it is likely worth reading. I ceratinly can’t see any justification for holding people indefinitely sans charge. There are issues of basic human rights that are relevant here. Further, one guesses that in a lot of these cases the actual cost of holding them far outweighs the benefit.

It is an open, and difficult, question as to what to do with illegal immigrants who are rejected by their country of origin when the US seeks to deport them. What do you do with such people? You can’t just drop them in the ocean and just keeping them in jail doesn’t seem like a very good idea.

(FYI: Thomas and Rehnquist dissented).

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More on Chertoff

By Steven Taylor @ 7:53 am

Fromt the NYT we get Security Nominee Is a Hard Charger on Legal War on Terror, which includes some more details about Mr. Chertoff, for example:

Mr. Chertoff, a rabbi’s son who was born Nov. 28, 1953, in Elizabeth, N.J., first earned a reputation prosecuting mob cases as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan before moving to the United States attorney’s office in Newark and being named in 1990 by President Bush to lead the office. After a stint in private practice, he returned in 2001 to head up the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Even some critics who took issue with the department’s aggressive antiterror tactics under Mr. Chertoff’s leadership said they respected his legal intellect and integrity. They noted that Mr. Chertoff was willing at times to distance himself from administration policies, as he did in an opinion article in 2003 for The Weekly Standard in which he questioned the practice of holding enemy combatants indefinitely without charges.

“He was an aggressive prosecutor, but he was never an ideologue,” said David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University who has been a frequent critic of the Justice Department and has debated Mr. Chertoff several times. “We’ve differed on many aspects of the war on terrorism, but I think he’s a thoughtful and independent thinker on a lot of these issues, and not insensitive to civil liberties concerns.”

Still, the likelihood is that some civil liberties related criticism will be coming his way because of the following:

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, senior Justice Department officials were scrambling to find new ways to prevent terror suspects from slipping away. Michael Chertoff, a tough-minded prosecutor who was in charge of the department’s criminal division, pushed a new tactic - declaring suspects to be “material witnesses” and locking them up without charging them with any crime, just as Mr. Chertoff had done with mob figures before.

“Mike was the one pushing to say ‘Hey, we ought to look at using this more aggressively against terrorists,’ ” a former senior Justice Department official recalled Tuesday. “He was the one who made us realize how this tool could be used legally.”

The tactic would prove controversial, as many civil rights advocates objected to the department’s detentions of dozens of uncharged terror suspects as material witnesses.

Still, I am pleased that he has reservations about the indefinite holding of prisoners without charges-a procedure that I am not in favor of.

There is more biographical info on the second page of the piece.

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Oh, the Irony

By Steven Taylor @ 6:41 am

Via Reuters: Kennedy Urges Democrats to Promote Unifying Values. In said presentation he stated:

“Unlike the Republican Party, we believe our values unite us as Americans, instead of dividing us,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a speech prepared for delivery at the National Press Club.

Two thoughts come immediately to mind: 1) does he not see the deep irony of asserting how one’s value unite whilst essentially slamming half the voters? and, 2) the Democrats may “believe” that their values unite all Americans, but electorally, this would appear not to be the case. Indeed, it is rather difficult for a single party to adequately achieve that goal, at least in terms of policy. There is plenty that we can agree on, but neither party is the party of unity—indeed, that pretty much would vitiate the entire idea of party.

Further, on a practical political level, Kennedy appears to be propagating the idea that the Democrat’s main problem is that they aren’t adequately articulating their message. This is what they have been saying since at least their poor showing in the 2002 mid-terms, yet their numbers continue to dwindle. Methinks it isn’t an issue as simple as a lack of communication.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Um, Didn’t We Already Know This?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:49 pm

Via the AP: Dean to Seek Democratic Chairmanship

Former presidential candidate Howard Dean, once the early front-runner for the Democratic nomination whose candidacy stumbled, has decided to seek the party’s chairmanship.

Ok, so it wasn’t official, but he was obviously gunnin’ for the job for the last month plus.

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Can it Get Any More Vacuous Than This?

By Steven Taylor @ 3:03 pm

“Newlyweds” Sympathize With Brad and Jennifer

Singers and “Newlyweds” stars Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey sympathize with Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s recent split because they’ve also suffered under the media’s scrutiny.

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Going the Cheap Route at Apple

By Steven Taylor @ 2:56 pm

Via USAT: Apple to make $499 Mac, $99 iPod.

The advent of the cheaper computer I had already heard, but am intrigued by this:

The iPod Shuffle, available immediately, is smaller than most packs of gum, weighing less than an ounce.

Unlike the hard drive-based iPod Mini, it doesn’t have a display. There’s a scroll wheel for the controls so a user can either play the songs in order or have the device automatically shuffle stored songs in a random order.

Apple is selling two versions of the iPod Shuffle.

The smallest will have 512 megabytes of storage and cost $99. A one-gigabyte version, which holds 240 songs, will sell for $149. The lowest cost iPod is the mini, which costs $249 for four gigabytes-enough to store about 1,000 songs.

Interesting. A display is cool, but I guess not necessary. Of course, that means no playlists, which I assume you can have on the standard iPod.

While I have no portable MP3 device (unless you count my laptop) I must admit that the concept gets more and more appealing all the time-like last night there was a specific song I was looking for, but couldn’t find the darn CD it resides on. For that matter, I am getting to the point where I prefer thinking in terms of individual songs and not whole albums.

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Another Appointment

By Steven Taylor @ 10:16 am

Via Yahoo: Bush Names Ex-GOP Chair Economic Adviser

President Bush has named as his top economic adviser an Indiana businessman and former state Republican Party chairman who was one of Bush’s top fund-raisers for both presidential campaigns.

And you can feel the excitement.

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Bush Makes HS Pick

By Steven Taylor @ 10:09 am

Via the AP: Bush Picks Ex-Prosecutor for Homeland Post

President Bush on Tuesday chose federal appeals court judge Michael Chertoff to be his new Homeland Security chief, turning to a former federal prosecutor who helped craft the early war on terror strategy.

[…]

Chertoff headed the Justice Department’s criminal division from 2001 to 2003, where he played a central role in the nation’s legal response to the Sept. 11 attacks, before the president named him to appeals court position in New Jersey.

Not as sexy a choice as Kerik was initially, but in retrospect, that is a very good thing.

Apparently, however, part of the new job description includes a bald pate and facial hair.

Maybe the President meant to pick this guy all along and told Card to “pick the bald guy with the mustache” and he accidentally got Kerik. So, really, there was no vetting problem…

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Update: James Joyner has more, including links to Chertoff’s resume and a little about his history. No scintillating hair commentary, however.

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Latin American Outlook 2005

By Steven Taylor @ 7:55 am

The CSM has an interesting piece from last week that I missed on the 2005 outlook for Latin America: Can Latin nations build on 2004 gains?

The story include the following table, which details the economic success of the region from last year. Quite striking is the economic circumstances in Venezuela, which will cement Chavez’s hold on power. Also noteworthy is the recent growth in Argentina-it wasn’t that long ago that their economy was an utter basket case.

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Roemer, Snowballs, Hades and Such

By Steven Taylor @ 7:06 am

Via the AP: Mass. Dem Opposes Anti-Abortion Chairman

The chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party said Monday that it would be “extremely foolish” for Democrats to chose someone who opposes abortion rights to lead the party.

Not to mention extremely unlikely.

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No Surprise: Manning Named MVP

By Steven Taylor @ 5:46 am

Via USAT: Manning of the year: Colts QB MVP once again.

Manning’s phenomenal season earned him his second straight Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player Award — and he came within one vote of being a unanimous choice. He joined the likes of Joe Montana, John Unitas, Steve Young and Kurt Warner as quarterbacks with two MVP awards. Brett Favre is the only player to win it three times.

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Inaugural Politics

By Steven Taylor @ 5:40 am

Via WaPo: U.S. Tells D.C. to Pay Inaugural Expenses

D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week’s inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects.

Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years - money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack.

Considering the level of private donations for what amounts to a big party (albeit a symbolically very important party), this just strikes me as bad politics and a potential PR diaster for the administration. This is especially true depending on what the precedent is, and the degree to which the Bush team is breaking it. As is often the case in the press, inadequate data is given in the piece to allow the reader to understand the context.

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Monday, January 10, 2005
CBS Report Released

By Steven Taylor @ 11:41 am

Via CBS News (insert your own joke here: CBS Ousts 4 For Bush Guard Story

Four CBS News employees, including three executives, have been ousted for their role in preparing and reporting a disputed story about President Bush%u2019s National Guard service.

The action was prompted by the report of an independent panel that concluded that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece. The panel also said CBS News had compounded that failure with a “rigid and blind” defense of the 60 Minutes Wednesday report.

No joke. I don’t think Rather has yet to admit that the documents were obvious forgeries.

Asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard; and Howard’s deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy. The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was terminated.

And while they don’t conclude partisan bias:

While the panel found that some actions taken by CBS News encouraged such suspicions, “the Panel cannot conclude that a political agenda at 60 Minutes Wednesday drove either the timing of the airing of the segment or its content.”

They still do note:

The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was also faulted for calling Joe Lockhart, a senior official in the John Kerry campaign, prior to the airing of the piece, and offering to put Burkett in touch with him. The panel called Mapes’ action a “clear conflict of interest that created the appearance of political bias.”

Gee, ya think?

Update: My original posting was interupted by a phone call, so I missed this incredible nugget (which I noticed in James’ response to the document at OTB):

While the panel said it was not prepared to brand the Killian documents as an outright forgery, it raised serious questions about their authenticity and the way CBS News handled them.

You have got to be kidding me. That those documents were produced on modern equipment was plainly obvious (for a refresher, look at this).

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Imagine That

By Steven Taylor @ 9:54 am

Via Yahoo: Porn Business Driving DVD Technology.

Shocking!

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In Case You Were Concerned

By Steven Taylor @ 8:42 am

Via the AP: Plum Job Opportunities Await Old Cabinet

Departing members of President Bush’s Cabinet will not have to scour the classifieds to find plum jobs. Secretary of State Colin Powell can revive a lucrative book-writing and public speaking career. Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson will be highly sought in the corporate world because of their background and connections.

[…]

“Seven figures wouldn’t be a problem,” said Tom Donohue, president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobby.

And people wonder why these folks quit after four or less years. Let’s see: trade extreme levels of stress, media criticism, and relatively low pay (in terms of comparison with the private sector) for seven figures at the top of one’s field and/or just giving speeches. One guesses, for example, that going on the speaking circuit is a bit less stressful than being a Cabinet Secretary.

And yet when these people leave, there is all this hoopla over their departure like it means something about a given administration.

Quite frankly it is a miracle any of them stay on for four more years.

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Shock of the Day

By Steven Taylor @ 8:37 am

Via Reuters: UN Audits Find Mismanagement in Iraq Oil-Food Deal

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Things Not Worthy of Celebration

By Steven Taylor @ 6:35 am

Proving, yet again, that some people have too much time on their hand, we have the following from yesterday’s Montgomery Advertiser: Fiery speeches praise secession anniversary

A small but dedicated group of “Lost Cause” supporters gathered Saturday morning at the Capitol to commemorate Alabama Secession Day.

It was held three days earlier than the actual anniversary date - Jan. 11, 1861 - but they seemed more interested in the message than the moment.

“This is, indeed, hallowed ground,” said Tyrone Crowley of Prattville, who called secession “the legal right of free men anywhere in the world when they are dissatisfied with their government and believe it’s working against them.”

Crowley compared the unsuccessful Southern secession movement of 144 years ago with the successful breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989.

Hmm, the dissolution of the Soviet Union came about as the result of the collapse of a authoritarian dictatorship. The US Civil War erupted over the issue of whether human beings could be owned by other human beings because one set of human beings was darker-skinned than the other. Yes, the historical parallels are clear.

Honestly, the whole thing is rather remarkable, if not frightening. Of course, some of it almost sounds like a parody:

Some spectators, such as Ellen Gilmore of West Point, Ga., drove long distances to attend the ceremony. She held an umbrella with a Confederate flag design and wore Confederate earrings.

Gilmore called Abraham Lincoln, who was president during the Civil War, “Lincoln the liar” and said that, while she has been unable to trace her ancestry to the war, said “I love the South and my Southern heritage.”

She contended that the Confederate government “never surrendered” and added: “We’re living under an occupation.”

Yeesh.

Thankfully it was a small event.

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Another High Profile Assassination in Iraq

By Steven Taylor @ 6:23 am

Via Reuters: Baghdad Deputy Police Chief Assassinated

Gunmen assassinated Baghdad’s deputy police chief and a suicide bomber driving a stolen patrol car killed three people at a police station on Monday as insurgents pressed a campaign to wreck Iraq’s Jan. 30 election.

[…]

The shooting of Brigadier Amer Nayef, the second-ranking police commander in the capital, came just six days after guerrillas assassinated Baghdad’s provincial governor.

Gunmen killed Nayef and his son, a police officer, as they left their home in the southern Dora area of the capital, police said. Reuters television pictures showed their bullet-riddled body lying on a stretchers in a Baghdad morgue.

Minutes later, a suicide bomber who had apparently commandeered a patrol car and packed it with explosives blew himself up at a police station in southern Baghdad, killing three Iraqis and wounding several more, police said.

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Sunday, January 9, 2005
I Just Don’t See it Happening….

By Steven Taylor @ 8:09 pm

But, you never know: via the AP, Gingrich Open to 2008 Presidential Run

The former House speaker who led Republicans to power a decade ago said he soon will visit Iowa and New Hampshire to promote his book, try to influence public policy and keep his political options alive.

“Anything seems possible,” including a White House race, Gingrich told The Associated Press.

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They Said It

By Steven Taylor @ 8:01 pm

From “Things you really don’t want to hear whilst you are relaxing for a few minutes in front of the TV":

Said Middle Son to me, after he had emerged from his room (where he was in bed): “There’s something in my underpants. It’s kinda squishy.”

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Playoff Blogging

By Steven Taylor @ 7:14 pm

Some observations:

  • No shock that St. Louis beat Seattle. Adios, Mike.
  • As I expected, the Jets@SD game was the best of the weekend, but I was surprised at how close it was. Too bad about the rookie kicker, however.
  • Manning continues to impress. The game next week should be quite good.
  • Man, what happened to Favre? Yikes.
  • Looks like Tice saved his job today.
  • Looks like Moss underscored, once again, that he is both highly talented and a big jerk.

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Payback Time

By Steven Taylor @ 6:28 pm

As I go though the house turning off lights, ceiling fans, lamps and various electronic devices I realize that I am now paying for all the electricity I wasted when my father had to go around turning off the stuff I left on.

It is some kind of parental karma.

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Just Pick Somebody, Already

By Steven Taylor @ 2:32 pm

Via the AP: Ex-Rep. Roemer Joins Race for DNC Chairman

Former Rep. Tim Roemer said Sunday that he’s joining the race to lead the Democratic National Committee-a move certain to spark a heated debate about the abortion issue.

Roemer, a Catholic who opposes abortion, wants to lead a party whose platform supports abortion rights.

Can you say “doomed candidacy"? I bet you can.

Of course, we have to wait until Februrary to know for sure (and, no doubt, more candidates coming and going in the meantime):

Roemer joins a field that includes former Texas Rep. Martin Frost, Democratic activists Simon Rosenberg and Donnie Fowler, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and former Ohio Democratic Party chirman David Leland. Howard Dean, a former Democratic presidential candidate, is considering whether to join the race.

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Homeland Security Pork

By Steven Taylor @ 2:05 pm

As I have noted in the past, homeland security has become the newest source of pork for the states.

Via the AP comes the latest evidence: Audit: Texas Improperly Spent Terror Funds

An audit of the state’s spending of nearly $600 million in federal anti-terrorism funds found that some of the money was spent improperly, including to buy a trailer that was used to haul lawn mowers to “lawn mower drag races.”

The state auditor’s office pointed out several cases in which poor monitoring by the Texas Engineering Extension Service may have allowed abuse.

One county bought 18 radios and other communication equipment from a company owned by one of its county commissioners, according to the report released Thursday. Another jurisdiction used a trailer ostensibly bought as emergency equipment to haul lawn mowers to races, the report says.

Of course, the odds are good that Texas is safe from lawn-mower racng member of al Qaeda.

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As Expected: Abbas Appears to Have Won Elections

By Steven Taylor @ 1:59 pm

Via Reuters: Exit Polls: Palestinians Elect Abbas to Succeed Arafat

Mahmoud Abbas, a Palestinian moderate aiming to talk peace with Israel, was on course for a landslide victory in an election for a successor to Yasser Arafat Sunday, exit polls showed.

And, of course, this is helpful:

But Abbas’s bid to usher in a new era of diplomacy will be vulnerable to militants who boycotted the vote and fired two rockets into Israel during polling in a show of force against his calls for a cease-fire.

Minor Tweak

By Steven Taylor @ 1:56 pm

Borrowing a page from Dean’s World, I have gone back and amended the titles of all of Steven L.’s posts with “(Steven L.)". Between the fact that casual readers might not have noticed that I had noted Mr. L’s presence and that we have the same first name, I figured that I would make it clearer at to whom was writing what.

Futher, Steven L. has a standing invitation to post whenever he likes, it will make it will draw attention to the fact that a post is from him and not me. Not that I am trying to distance myself, lest anyone should wonder :) - just trying to be as clear as possible.

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Status

By Steven Taylor @ 8:31 am

Normal blogging should resume shortly.

My thanks to Steven L. for helping out the last several days. He will likley pop up now an again as the mood strikes and hopefully on those occassions when my ability to blog is limited.

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Saturday, January 8, 2005
Acoustical Coolness (Steven L.)

By Steven L. @ 5:38 pm

I highly recommend the following:

(1) Take this link to Amazon’s music download section and get The Theme to Spiderman - Acoustic Flamenco Solo Guitar Instrumental. It is free.

(2) Fire up the MP3 player and listen as 60’s Spiderman meets flamenco.

(3) Go back and buy the CD.

(4) Listen some more.

Still here?

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Microsoft Rolls Out Free Software? (Steven L.)

By Steven L. @ 4:33 pm

Microsoft annonuces plans to distribute free anti-virus software and pop-up blocker. An article discussing the plan is here. (Motley Fool)

While the company claims that the antivirus software will simply enhance existing premium products by McAfee (NYSE: MFE) and Symantec (Nasdaq: SYMC) in order to provide a more pristine computing experience, let’s not be naive. That’s how the dance starts.

That certainly has to be a concern of the two companies. To my memory, Microsoft’s early ventures into practically every niche market had clunky first generation programs that were inferior to the primary competitor. Wordperfect in word processing and Netscape in browsing come to mind - probably spreadsheeting and a host of others, too.

Only after 4-5 versions had been generated - each gaining functionality to mimic the functions of the front-runner - did MS manage to put out something truly comparable. Most companies could not afford to wait that long before putting out a decent alternative, but MS has the funds to do so.

Likewise, it has the funds to send out these programs for free - if it helps boost their other sales, especially. If the free product ever does away with all the competition, however, you have to wonder if it will remain free.

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Duplicate Posting Embarasses Guest Blogger (Steven L.)

By Steven L. @ 4:32 pm

This posting will probably be deleted once the Blogger-in-Exile returns.

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UN Almost Ready to Prepare to Think About Beginning the Process That Will, in All Probability, Lead Directly to the Chance for Action (Steven L.)

By Steven L. @ 10:23 am

The BBC News, here , gives Kofi Annan’s comments regarding Darfur.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has warned that swift action must be taken over the security situation in Darfur or intense violence could break out.

“Could break out.” Right. I suppose that is possible.

The “swift action” being referred to, you ask?

The Security Council has passed two resolutions threatening sanctions against Sudan if the violence, which has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, does not end.

But the members are unable to agree on the next step.

Mr Annan’s report will be discussed by the Security Council early next week.

Obviously this is not a situation that can be easily fixed. At the same time, this is looking exactly like Rwanda all over again - the UN is going down the same predictable path, and those intent on killing people are using the UN’s process and inertia to their benefit. Just like in Rwanda, and just like in Iraq.

I eagerly await the swift action - this conflict has been going for a year already.

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Back to the Conference

By Steven Taylor @ 7:21 am

Well, I am about to head to my panel and then hit the road, so whatever blogging that is going to take place between now and tonight, if not tomorrow morning, is going to come from the Other Steven.

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NYT to Charge?

By Steven Taylor @ 7:14 am

Via Reuters: New York Times Mulls Charging Web Readers

Newspaper industry consultant John Morton, who heads Morton Research Inc., said he thinks many newspapers want to wean readers off free online content and transform their Web sites into paid-only publications.

Free editions of newspapers on the Web are “quickly falling out of favor,” he said. “I think you will see newspapers selling electronic subscriptions or print subscriptions, or a combination of both, which is what the Wall Street Journal does, and has been very successful at.”

Which is why I don’t read the WSJ and read the NYT. On the one hand, I fully appreciate the need for these news outlets to make money, and presumably they make money off of ad revenues (which will decline if they go subscription-only, because their page views will radically drop). Further, unless everybody does it, I have a hard time seeing it working. If the NYT goes subscription, I still have WaPo, the LAT, the Miami Herald, the DMN, not to mention Reuters, the AP, CNN, MSNBC and various other online news services. I just don’t see it working. Indeed, my guess is that it workd for the WSJ because it fits a specific niche audience. If one wants general news (as I have noted above) one doesn’t have to pay the Times to get it.

Although, as Betsy Newmark notes:

Well, that is one way to cut down on blogger criticism.

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More Violence in Iraq

By Steven Taylor @ 7:11 am

Via the NYT: Militants Kidnap Three Iraq Officials

Militants abducted three senior Iraqi officials, beheaded a man who worked for the U.S. military and killed at least four others, officials said Saturday, a day after a U.S. general warned that insurgents may be planning “horrific'’ attacks ahead of Jan. 30 elections.

I fear the same: that this is the insurgents best chance to seriously damage the process of building a viable government in Iraq, and that they will at least try some dramatic attack to send fear into potential voters.

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Foreign Fighters in Iraq

By Steven Taylor @ 7:05 am

Via the NYT: Captured Insurgents: U.S. Said to Hold More Foreigners in Iraq Fighting

After raids in recent months that captured hundreds of insurgents in Iraq, the United States has significantly increased the number of prisoners it says are foreign fighters, a group the Bush administration contends are not protected by the Geneva Conventions, American officials said.

A Pentagon official said Friday that the United States was now holding 325 foreign fighters in Iraq, a number that the official said had increased by 140 since Nov. 7, just before the invasion of Falluja. Many of the non-Iraqis were captured in or around that city.

Many of them are suspected of links to Al Qaeda or the related terror networks supporting the insurgency in Iraq, senior Bush administration officials said this week.

While it is undoubtedly true that foreign irregular comabnatants don’t fall under the Geneva Conventions, I think we need to figure out what that means in far clearer terms than we have heretofore laid out.

Plus, it would help if the press woulld be a tad mroe clear about what the Geneva Conventions are and why it might be that they don’t apply to certain persons.

To me the more interesting fact in this story is that there have been the capture of hundreds of foreign fighters.

And I still say that keeping these people indefinitely “just in case” isn’t sound policy.

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Rossi to Contest

By Steven Taylor @ 6:59 am

Via the AP: Rossi to Contest Wash. Governor Election

More than two months after Washington voters cast their ballots, Republican Dino Rossi is hoping the courts will give them another chance to pick their next governor.

Rossi and the state GOP announced Friday they will contest the gubernatorial election that gave Rossi’s Democratic foe, Christine Gregoire, a 129-vote victory.

Republicans have been building a case over the past few weeks, gathering evidence of voting irregularities, including illegal provisional ballots and a handful of votes cast by dead people. They are pushing for a revote, an unprecedented step in a statewide election.

“There are so many improperly cast and counted ballots that this election is invalid,” said Rossi, a real-estate millionaire and former state senator. “You cannot tell who won. The only way for us to get out of this problem is for us to have a revote.”

While I will be curious to see the evidence, I remain unconvinced that this is the right move. I am not in favor of the litigation of elections unless there is truly remarkable evidence of fraud.

Further, I maintain that from Rossi’s point of view, that politically he would be better off being gracious and coing back to fight another day. I predict that if he is able to force a re-vote, he will lose.

The problem here reamain that it is, for all practiacl purposes, a tie and Gregoire won using the established rules. Are there some irregularities? Yes, of course. Does that mean that in a race this close that those irregularities may have caused Gregoire to win-maybe. Is there any way of knowing for certain-no (and that’s the crux of the matter).

Perhaps there ought to be a law in all states that if the votes is within a miniscule percentage that a revote of the top top candidates is automatic. That is the only way I can think of to solve this kind of problem.

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Friday, January 7, 2005
One Thing’s For Sure

By Steven Taylor @ 8:01 pm

New Orleans has good food.

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Mark Steyn Returns (Steven L.)

By Steven L. @ 4:51 pm

Mark Steyn returns from his December vacation with an opinion piece in the Washington Times regarding the tsunami, aid, the UN, and Cole Porter. Or something.

I had to mention it because of one proposed song about the attitudes about the United States:

You’re The Pits
With your massive armies
You’re The Pits
And you cause tsunamis.

Priceless.

The whole thing is here

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Worst Written Headline of the Day

By Steven Taylor @ 4:33 pm

Via Reuters: Job Gain Less Than Expected, 2004 Strong.

Really, shouldn’t the headline be something like “2004 Job Growth Strong” or “2004: Best Year for Jobs Since 1999″? Does the fact that December had 18,000-ish less jobs than expected mean that a mention of not meeting expectations was needed in the headline?

U.S. employers added 157,000 employees to payrolls in December, completing the strongest year for job growth since 1999, according to a government report on Friday that cemented expectations of rising interest rates in 2005.

While the Labor Department reported slightly fewer new December jobs than the 175,000 Wall Street had anticipated, it also revised up the numbers for each of the two prior months to 137,000 new jobs in November and 312,000 in October from 112,000 and 303,000 respectively.

Indeed, the body of the paragraph uses the phrase (as highlighted) “slightly fewer” jobs than expected.

The issue of job growth, loss and the true severity of unemployment were huge political footballs in 2004-and it would seem that they continue to be so for at least one editor at Reuters.

Update: The headline in the NYT: Economy Adds 157,000 Jobs, Ending Best Year Since 1999.

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Conference Blogging, Day Two

By Steven Taylor @ 4:33 pm

Day Two is in the books and it went pretty well. I was involved in what I thought was an interesting discussion over the nature of anti-terror policy in the US and how to measure its success (I was discussant on panel on the general topic of terrorism). There was a paper on civil-miltary relations, one on US power and its ability to affect international norms and one that attempted to measure the necon paradigm.

In deference to Chris Lawrence of Signifying Nothing, whom I met face to face today, I shall refrain from any griping about quant.

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Victor Hanson/NRO on Attitudes of World, America (Steven L.)

By Steven L. @ 8:52 am

Professor Victor Hanson, a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution writing as a contributor for NRO, uses the western as a metaphor for not only the US as “sheriff,” but also the western world as the townspeople who simultaneously benefit from the sheriff’s actions while complaining about the way he does the job.

There is a new strange mood of acceptance among Americans about the world beyond our shores. Of course, we are not becoming naïve isolationists of 1930s vintage, who believe that we are safe by ourselves inside fortress America — not after September 11. Nor do citizens deny that America has military and moral obligations to stay engaged abroad — at least for a while yet. Certainly the United States is not mired in a Vietnam-era depression and stagflation and thus ready to wallow in Carteresque malaise. Indeed, if anything Americans remain muscular and are more defiant than ever.

Instead, there is a new sort of resignation rising in the country, as the United States sheds its naiveté that grew up in the aftermath of the Cold War.

* * *

In fact, an American consensus is growing that envy and hatred of the United States, coupled with utopian and pacifistic rhetoric, disguise an even more depressing fact: Outside our shores there is a growing barbarism with no other sheriff in sight. Any cinema student of the American Western can fathom why the frightened townspeople — huddled in their churches and shuttered schools — almost hated the lone marshal as much as they did the six-shooting outlaw gang rampaging in their streets.

He skillfully conjures images of High Noon and the rhetoric (meant in a good way) will certainly appeal to a large number of Americans who feel that it is the continual target of constant foreign crticism and sniping. Certainly, one can easily create a list of news items from most major European countries’ news agencies that seem to be uniformly slanted to a lesser or greater degree against the US, and the almost constant refrain against the current administration (from the small matters all the way to the French treatment of 9/11 conspiracy claims, for example) wears on the nerves.

I found the article interesting, but am wary that the article may feed a certain knee-jerk viewpoint on the “right” that crticism of America springs in part from a type of envy (a word used above), and that the crticism is almost always unfair. That type of feeling from Americans merely feeds the equally knee-jerk viewpoint in many countries that Americans are arrogant and don’t care about world opinion.

That is a self-perpetuating cycle that worries me. Sniping from Europe, regardless of the US’s actions or intentions, is beginning to wear thin, at least for a significant segment of the US population. If those people become convinced - rightly or wrongly - that the US will take it on the chin regardless of its actions, then those people will indeed stop caring in truth about world opinion. That attitude will spur even more anti-US sentiment abroad, as the US will be vewed as uncaring and arrogant. That attitude, in turn, hardens even more Americans against world opinion, and so the self-feeding circle of disdain perpetuates itself.

Professor Hanson himself alludes to this process in his concluding paragraph:

All this hypocrisy has desensitized Americans, left and right, liberal and conservative. We will finish the job in Iraq, nursemaid democratic Afghanistan through its birthpangs, and continue to ensure that bandits and criminal states stay off the world’s streets. But what is new is that the disenchanted American is becoming savvy and developing a long memory — and so we all fear the day is coming when he casts aside the badge, rides the buckboard out of town, and leaves such sanctimonious folk to themselves.

This desensitization that he identifies appears to be a very real danger at a time when the western world really needs to be working more closely together. I am not sure that the US can ever “cast aside the badge” in this case, as we cannot simply ride a buckboard anywhere. Perhaps if we could relocate the entire country to another planet, we could afford to throw the badge down and sit back and wait to see how the townsfolk reacted. But we do not have that luxury - we are stuck in this town, and there will always be another gang of outlaws coming.

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TXE

By Steven Taylor @ 7:54 am

Along the line of the discussion over the “Yankee v. Dixie Quiz” comes the following via the Chicago Tribune/Yahoo: Y’all listen up!

If you ever find yourself in a group of Southerners and want to spot the Texan in the bunch, listen hard for the y’alls. Most of them will surely use the expression-a contraction of “you all"-to refer to a group of people ("Are y’all goin’ to the store?"), but the Texan is more likely to employ it to refer to a single individual as well.

That’s just one of the unusual discoveries made by two linguistics professors at the University of Texas-San Antonio who are studying Texas Twang, the distinctive dialect of English proudly spoken by natives of the Lone Star State-and sometimes ridiculed by the rest of the country.

The husband-wife team, Guy Bailey and Jan Tillery, are fixin’ to complete the last of their research this summer. When they’re done finished with their work, which is underwritten by the National Geographic Society, they might could write the definitive guide to what they lovingly call TXE, or Texas English.

“Texas is different-it’s the only state that was its own country at one time and has its own creation story,” said Bailey, a native of Alabama and provost and executive vice president of the university. “Out of that has come a sense of braggadocio and a strong desire to hold on to a unique way of speaking.”

What? Texans have an attitude? Not that I have ever noticed…

I plead guilty to “y’all” (I also say “howdy” on occassion). “Y’all” is no doubt a most useful contraction and rolls off the tongue far better than “you guys” (which I noticed was the prevalent second person plural formulation in Southern California when I moved there in High School -and during which time I initially acquired the nickname of “Tex"-so I guess I sounded different to them as well).

Amusing that one of the researchers is from Alabama and that he notes that the Texas accent is different than that from the Deep South.

Now, back to y’all:

But Texans, in a kind of defiant counterreaction to the mass appropriation of their beloved term, now also use it to refer to one person as well as many ("Y’all are my beautiful wife"), Tillery said. That, of course, is precisely the kind of confusion that y’all evolved to clear up in the first place.

I ain’t done never used y’all like’n that. In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing it used as such.

On the topic of pronounciations:

Most native Texans, for example, use a flat “i", saying “naht” for night and “rahd” for ride, and they don’t make any audible distinction when pronouncing such words as “pool” and “pull” or “fool” and “full.” Midwesterners, by contrast, exhibit their own characteristic linguistic quirks, such as something experts call a fronted “o” in words like “about.”

[…]

The infamous double modal ("might could,” “may can,” “might would"), a hedging construction denoting less certainty than “might” alone, remains more elusive, however.

I plead guilty to having done the pool/pull fool/full thing, although I think that I have at lest some difference in the way I say those words-although I certainly have heard Texan compadres who pronounce them identically. I would say ennuciate “night” and “ride” suffciently as not to fall into the “aht"/"ahd” category.

Of course, I don’t think I have an especially strong accent. It depends on what I am saying, and to whom. I have noticed that when tired or angry it often pops up a tad more. Of course, the accent is often in the ear of the beholder: some people think I have no accent at all, others claim it is quite distinct. Who can say?

Now, if I want an especially strong accent, I can certainly generate one…

In terms of vocab:

Interviewees are asked 250 questions to check unique Texas pronunciations and determine whether they use certain words and phrases, such as “polecat” for skunk or “snake feeder” for dragonfly. Some of the terms are used elsewhere across the Southern U.S. as well, but many combinations are distinctively Texan.

I am familiar with “polecat” but have always used “skunk” (come to think of it, I think I know “polecat” mostly via Yosemite Sam). I am unfamiliar with “snake feeder".

Also:

The infamous double modal ("might could,” “may can,” “might would"), a hedging construction denoting less certainty than “might” alone, remains more elusive, however.

“It’s very easy for people who move into Texas to pick up `y’all,’” Bailey said. “It’s a little bit harder to pick up `fixin’ to.’ But `might could’ is another matter. We have found that unless you’re born and raised in Texas, you don’t pick up the double modals.”

I have been known to employ “fixin’” but not all that much. I am fairly certainyl I have said “might could” but it is hardly something I frequently employ (I never really thought about that one too much before now).

To conclude:

When all is said and done, do Texans sound funny?

“Not to Texans,” Bailey said, “and not really to other people in the South.

Which, of course, stands to reason. (And, to be honest, lots of folks from the Midwest, North and Northeast sound a but funny to me at times).

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Thursday, January 6, 2005
Steven Taylor’s Non-Absence

By Steven L. @ 9:58 pm

I knew I should have changed the locks.

Update (from, Steven T.): I am rather difficult to get rid of, to be sure. Not to worry, however: I will be heading in a bit, and you will have the place all to yourself again.

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More TiVo News

By Steven Taylor @ 9:42 pm

Via ABC News: TiVo to Launch Integrated Video Recorder.

Not a big deal to me, as I don’t have a cable converter box. Still, anything that forwards TiVo is ok by me.

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Schwarzenegger in Command

By Steven Taylor @ 9:18 pm

Arnold, who has been far more successful as governor than almost anyone predicted, is clearly not interested in resting on his laurels: Schwarzenegger seeks big changes / Governor takes combative tone with lawmakers

Schwarzenegger devoted much of his speech to his desire for changes in four areas. His proposals include:

- Placing a stricter spending cap on the state budget that would require across-the-board cuts in virtually every state expense, including education, if revenues fall short.

- Changing the way state employee pensions are handled to require future employees to individually invest their pensions similar to a 401(k) plan instead of using the state’s pension board.

- Tying teachers’ salaries to performance in the classroom rather than length of tenure by requiring each school district to establish criteria for grading teachers.

- Taking the once-a-decade process of drawing up legislative districts out of the hands of lawmakers, instead allowing a group of retired judges to set up districts.

All of this is pretty bold and the change to districting would have potential national implications. As it stands the state is gerrymandered into safe Dem and Rep districts. I am increasingly becoming disenchanted with the noncompetitve districts that state legislators draw, and therefore like the idea of reform that could lead to greater competition.

Regardless of the specifics, the situation in California is interesting to watch insofar as Schwarenegger is essentially a political rookie who has nonetheless been quite effective in Sacramento to date. Further, his ability to effectively wield the ballot initiative creates an intriguing political game of chicken with the legislature.

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Confirmation Politics

By Steven Taylor @ 8:45 pm

Despite the very serious issues being dealt with in the Gonzales confirmation hearings, I find it difficult to take the hearings themselves all that seriously. The reason: neither side is geniunely trying to obtain new information or get at *gasp* the truth. Rather, the Senators are simply trying to score points for “their side".

Instead of serious process, we get Senator Kennedy reading prepared questsions, Senator Leahy lecturing the nominee and Senate Specter asking such penentrating questions as “Do you approve of torture?”

As such, the hearings really serve no purpose and demean any real issues that may, in fact, deserve true public scrutiny.

In this particular case the result of this type of partisan gamesmaship will be that those opposed to the President will simply have their suspicions that he is an enemy of civil rights inflamed (if not confirmed) while those who favor this administration will assume that the discussion is a much ado about nothing fueled not by sincere concern but only partisan bloviation. The non-political amongst us will think it all a bunch of nonsense, and likely tune it all out.

One wonders if the Senators ever think about how their grnadstandig affects the body politic aside from whatever electoral points they think that they are scoring.

ABove all else one wonders if this process really gives us any idea if Gonzales is the right man for this job or not.

(And just think: this is mild compared to what the likely Supreme Court nominations are going to bring).

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

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Conference Blogging

By Steven Taylor @ 7:52 pm

All is well in New Orleans after Day One of the SPSA. Nothing earth-shattering in the panels today, although my suspicion that some political scientists use quantitative methods just so they can write a paper around some fancy numbers was further bolstered. Clearly some use them to good avail, but, sadly, the former are more plentiful than the latter. I am wholly convinced that a lot of PoliSci Ph.D. programs teach these methods (and push them as The One True Political Science) while ignoring the fact that they aren’t good for everything. Of course, I am not a quant guy, so perhaps I am biased…

For example: I learned today that divided government means that a president is less likley to be successful with his legislative agenda. Further, the greater the ideological space between a Chair of a Senate committee and a given President, the less legislative success that President will have vis-a-vis that committee. Now, I am pretty sure I knew that, but since these results were statistically signcant at the .01 level, I now know its true.

Meanwhile I see that Steven L. has been doing a great job keeping PoliBlog going in my semi-asbsence. It is pretty nifty to have original content to red on one’s own blog.

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Polipundit Wonders If Dems Have Lost It (Steven L.)

By Steven L. @ 5:37 pm

Working into my theme of becoming an Image Consultant to the New Democratic Party, Polipundit notes that the Democrats have engaged in a strategy which seems . . . ill advised.

You’ve got to stand back in sheer awe at the lunacy of what Senate Democrats will be doing today. They will:

1. Beat up on the first Hispanic ever nominated to become Attorney General.
2. Beat up on him for being too harsh on our terrorist enemies.
3. Formally challenge the legitimacy of a presidential election that was decided by 3.5 million votes in the largest turnout ever.

That seems to nail it fairly well.

All I am saying, Democratic Party, is that I am available for consultation and even if my advice is horrid, it would still be two steps up from whatever advice you are getting now.

Call me.

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More Gonzales/Torture (Steven L.)

By Steven L. @ 4:44 pm

If they want to pass a measure to stop these kinds of confirmation hearings under international law on torture, I think they’d have a case.

It seems obvious that this type of hearing - one where speeches are made for the television cameras - is a poor place to debate something as important and sensitive as prisoner detention and questioning methods. Regardless, the tack taken by the questioners speakers seems to be an attack on the policies and procedures the US put in place via a trip through Abu Ghraib.

But it seems pretty well accepted that Abu Ghraib violated the standards already in place. Given that, what relevence does it have to the policies themselves? Is there any evidence that the policies led to those abuses? If so, I have not seen the proof trotted out on C-Span yet.

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Gonzales Confirmation Hearings Underway (Steven L.)

By Steven L. @ 10:48 am

Link to Yahoo News

Obviously, I need to get the hang of this “link” thing.

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales vowed on Thursday to abide by international treaties on prisoner treatment if confirmed, but Senate critics asserted that policies he supported led to the torture of terrorism detainees and protested his closeness to President Bush.

* * *

Gonzales responded tersely in his opening statement to the panel. “I will no longer represent only the White House. I will represent the United States of America and its people. I understand the difference between the two roles.”

While I suspect that the panel also understands the difference between giving legal advice to the Executive branch and acting as Attorney General, I am betting that none of them will acknowledge that distinction as long as blurring the lines will allow them to make political hay.

Provoking committee questions was Gonzales’ role in Bush’s 2002 decision that the president had the authority to bypass international anti-torture accords.

Leahy told Gonzales that treatment of prisoners under that policy was “tantamount to torture.”

“I hope things will be different if you are confirmed, Judge Gonzales,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told the former Texas Supreme Court justice.

I hesitate to point this out, but “tantamount to torture” is not “torture” under the anti-torture accords. We may justifiably reject harsh treatment that is not torture, but still goes too far. But too many senators are playing semantics games by seizing on opinion language stating that certain activities either are or are not torture under the accords, or that the accords do not govern in the present situation.

Neither opinion from Gonzales (or anyone else) on that particular subject advocates the use of torture or harsh treatment “tantamount” to torture. There is plenty of scope for disagreement without attempting to spin a requested legal opinion on the applicabuility of the accords into some sort of advocation for a particular policy. If such advocations exist, then they are fair game. But the legal opinions that I have seen referred to have nothing to say on that particular subject: to say that the US can do something is not the same as saying that it should.

Background on the actual memos and related material can be found here (another one of them link thingees):

Link

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Better Dead Than Red (State) (Steven L.)

By Steven L. @ 10:15 am

Since the election, everyone is probably as tired as I am of the entire Red State/Blue State analysis that has been pouring forth like well water in Disney’s Fantasia. This late in the process, I hesitate to even mention the topic.

However, this guest-blogging gig, lucrative though it is, cannot last forever. I need to think about the future - my future. Where some people see dissention and acrimony, I (from my lawyer training) see a lucrative opportunity. I would therefore like to take advantage of this free forum to announce my availability as an Executive Image Consultant for the New Democrat Party.

Shortly after the election (prior to the recent tsunami, widely considered the “worst disaster in human history"), there was a temptation amongst some Democrats to reexamine their policies and positions in an attempt to gain ground with moderate voters. This temptation, however, appears to have been fought off rather successfully. A majority of the pundits have instead focused on creating a new image, rather than making any substantive changes in their actual positions. This calls for marketing, and I would like to offer my services. As someone living in a very red state, I can assist you in repackaging the same message into something a little more palatable to a typical “red state” voter.

While I do not want to give away my services, I can offer a brief example in the hopes of showing the Democrat party my value. The real focus of this new marketing campaign, as put by a poster on one private message board I lurk on, is “how to reach out to the buck-toothed Neanderthals in those red states.” (only a slight paraphrase)

This is tip number one:

Avoid using phrases like “buck-toothed Neanderthal” when speaking to red state voters. There is the tiniest chance that one or two of those voters will crack your code and begin to question your attempts to drag him from the dark pits of his own ignorance into the light of reason.

Other phrases to avoid:

“ignorant, in-bred trailer trash”

“knuckle-dragging, cousin-kissing Jesus freak”

“racist, homophobic, red-necked Nazi”

I will admit that my advice is in stark contrast to that being offered by many consultants who are also out to help the Democratic Party:

“We must learn to speak to all of the people. But we mustn’t be afraid to sneer when we do it. . . . [U]ntil you finally learn to respect yourselves, we can’t respect you, and we therefore can’t be bothered to give a rat’s ass about you.”
- a self-proclaimed representative of “The New Democrat Outreach Program” Source

Similarly, Jane Smiley feels that it would be better to woo new “red state” voters in a “dialogue” with them by referring to them as some combination of “sexist, racist, and homophobic” or perhaps “greedy, pompous, or ignorant.” Source

There are more examples. They are, in fact, too numerous to even begin to cover them.

Okay. I’ll be the first to admit that those are pretty catchy slogans and I can certainly understand why Democrats find them appealing - but I think that I can do better. And really, looking back over the results of the past 4 years - could I do much worse for you?

So, please, when the “New Democratic Outreach Program” begins, please think of using my services. I assure you, my advice is not nearly as costly as the advice of the people you listened to for the last election.

Steven L.

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Peaceful Coup (Steven L.)

By Steven L. @ 9:21 am

Steven L. here, filling in briefly for Dr. Taylor while he is on the run from creditors out of town at an academic conference.

He has foolishly allowed me access to his blog and I am losing no time in abusing the almost limitless power afforded me. I have already placed my feet on the coffee table, and this afternoon I plan to drink the milk straight from the carton.

I plan to update the site a few times per day - we’ll see how that works out - and I hope you enjoy the site during Dr. Taylor’s absence.

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Status/Guest-Blogger

By Steven Taylor @ 7:12 am

I am about to head out to the Southern Political Science Association conference and while I will have net access (unlike the horrid hotel in Vegas) I have asked a friend of mine, and regular PoliBlog commenter, Steven L. (yes, only Steven-blogging on this site), to lend a hand with some guest blogging today, tomorrow and Saturday. I will allow Mr. L. to introduce himself, but will say that he is a good friend of mine whom I have known for over twety years.

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Adios, Crossfire

By Steven Taylor @ 7:09 am

Via the NYT: CNN Will Cancel ‘Crossfire’ and Cut Ties to Commentator

CNN has ended its relationship with the conservative commentator Tucker Carlson and will shortly cancel its long-running daily political discussion program, “Crossfire,” the new president of CNN, Jonathan Klein, said last night.

Mr. Carlson said he had actually quit “Crossfire” last April and had agreed to stay on until his contract expired. He said he had a deal in place for a job as the host of a 9 p.m. nightly talk program on MSNBC, CNN’s rival.

I had heard a rumor that Carlson was leaving, but didn’t know that Crossfire was in the crosshairs. Quite frankly, I am no fan of Carlson’s and I haven’t watched Crossfire with any regularity (ok, at all) for years and years.

While Crossfire was revolutionary in its day (although, granted, it was just a daily, stand-alone version of 60 Minutes’ Point-CounterPoint segment), it has long since been passed up by the evolution in cable news. Quite frankly the show hasn’t been the same since Michel Kinsely left.

Clearly, CNN is trying to re-think itself:

Mr. Klein said, “We just determined there was not a role here in the way Tucker wanted his career to go. He wanted to host a prime-time show in which he would put on live guests and have spirited debate. That’s not the kind of show CNN is going to be doing.”

Instead, Mr. Klein said, CNN wants to do “roll-up-your-sleeves storytelling,” and he said that was not a role he saw for Mr. Carlson.

What, like Larry King Live? CNN likes to pretend like its all hard news, but given that they let Larry King anchor major political news events, that is hard to swallow.

Mr. Klein said he wanted to move CNN away from what he called “head-butting debate shows,” which have become the staple of much of all-news television in the prime-time hours, especially at the top-rated Fox News Channel.

“CNN is a different animal,” Mr. Klein said. “We report the news. Fox talks about the news. They’re very good at what they do and we’re very good at what we do.”

Indeed, I think that part of CNN’s problem in competing with Fox is that CNN has done a poor job of finding on air talent for their non-hard news shows. Further, even when they are trying to do commentary programming they haven’t done a good job of making it interesting.

Further, if one wants just news, there’s Headline News. If CNN wants to best Fox, they have to have some infotainment shows as well.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2005
Wow: That’s a Pledge

By Steven Taylor @ 9:56 pm

Via the AP: Australia Pledges $810M in Tsunami Relief

The meeting came just hours after some nations increased their pledges. Australia promised $810 million-the largest so far-topping a $674 million German aid package.

Definitely not stingy.

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The New Thing in Blogging, 2005?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:40 pm

Instead of just posting on a scandal, create its own blog? Maybe so: Turkeygate.

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More GMail Invites

By Steven Taylor @ 9:39 pm

If you would like one, let me know. I have 4 to dole out.

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Is the Dem Bench Really That Shallow?

By Steven Taylor @ 1:47 pm

Via ABC News: Another Term for McAuliffe as DNC Chair?

Top Democrats are working to convince current Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe to remain in his post for at least another 12 months as the party prepares for the 2006 midterm elections.

[…]

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is aware of the efforts to convince McAuliffe to stay, Democratic sources said, and has not put the kibosh on the idea. Some Democrats said Reid had tacitly encouraged the scenario if no front-runner emerged soon.

Sen. Charles Schumer, the new head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has been among the most vocal of those urging McAuliffe to remain, party sources said.

“There are many good candidates for DNC chair,” Schumer, D-N.Y., told ABC News. “Terry McAuliffe has been a great chair and could continue to be one.”

Electorally speaking, the Democratic Party has been in substantial decline since the selection of McAuliffe, so this strikes me as a odd move in the extreme. I am not sure that even Howard Dean wouldn’t be a better candidate than McAuliffe.

Most, most strange.

(Although, according to the story, this is a moe designed to stop Dean).

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A Tale of Turkeys

By Steven Taylor @ 1:35 pm

Paul of Wizbang just e-mailed to draw my attention to John Conyers’ staff and the Case of the Purloined Turkeys.

Utterly remarkable:

The director of a Detroit food bank wants to know what happened to 60 turkeys - 720 pounds of frozen birds - that his charity gave to members of U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ local staff two days before Thanksgiving to give to needy people.

Conyers’ Detroit office promised an accounting of any turkey distribution by Dec. 27, but the Gleaners Community Food Bank had received no paperwork as of Tuesday, said the charity’s director, Agostinho Fernandes.

Fernandes said he became suspicious that the turkeys didn’t get to poor people after hearing from a friend that a federal court worker had said he was offered free turkeys from a member of Conyers’ staff.

[…]

A Conyers staff member who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal told the Free Press that Grubbs and her cousin, Conyers’ Detroit deputy chief of staff Marion Brown, along with a former Conyers aide, DeWayne Boyd, picked up the turkeys and later gave contradictory accounts of what happened to the birds.

The unnamed staff member raised concerns in a memo sent to both the FBI and House ethics committee. Conyers was the target of an informal ethics committee inquiry last year following a Free Press investigation about use of staff members during work hours for political campaigns.

Lovely. It certainly would seem that the real turkeys are the one working for Conyers.

Maybe this is why Conyers wants to talk about the Electoral College

And I think that Brain Shavings is correct:

If he keeps ignoring this story and the blogosphere goes nuclear, you’ll be seeing another demonstration the power of the tail

Given that Glenn and Drudge have both posted this, I suspect the heat will grow rather rapidly.

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  • Brain Shavings linked with Blog swarm gathers around Conyers
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Now That’s the “Potential Juror of the Year”

By Steven Taylor @ 12:50 pm

Via the AP: High Court Justice Shows Up for Jury Duty

No one took any notice of the tall, slim man who appeared Tuesday for jury duty. Had he worn his black robe, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer no doubt would have drawn more attention.

Even Marlborough, Mass., District Court Judge Thomas Sullivan Jr. didn’t recognize Breyer until he read the justice’s name on a document listing potential jurors for cases he was hearing.

And no shock here:

Two cases were to be heard, one for drunken driving and another for assault. Enough jurors were picked for the assault case before Breyer’s name was called, and the defense attorney in the drunken driving case excluded the justice from that jury.

According to Sullivan, the defense attorney said, “The last thing I need is two judges on the case.”

And, indeed:

Breyer, 66, said he felt it was important to do his civic duty and report to the courthouse, located about 30 miles west of Boston. He divides his time between Washington and Massachusetts.

“It proves that everyone can participate, and in a democracy that is important,” Breyer said.

Good for him.

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And the Point Would Be?

By Steven Taylor @ 12:42 pm

Via the AP: House Dems to Contest Electoral Vote Count

A handful of House Democrats plan a long-shot effort to snarl President Bush’s formal re-election by preventing Congress from counting Ohio’s pivotal votes when lawmakers tally the electoral vote on Thursday.

[…]

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has sent letters to senators seeking their support for his plan to object to the counting of Ohio’s 20 electoral votes, which gave Bush his November victory over Kerry. Some Ohio voters have complained of Election Day fraud, citing a shortage of voting machines at precincts with minority voters, unusually long lines and computer problems.

“I am hoping that you will consider joining us in this important effort to debate and highlight the problems in Ohio which disenfranchised innumerable voters,” wrote Conyers, top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

The House Democrats’ chief hope of finding a supportive senator may be Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Her spokesman, David Sandretti, said Tuesday that she has been asked to sign the complaint “and she is considering it.”

Now, if there was no challenge in 2000, what in the world would be the justification for such a challenge in 2004? My guess is that Boxer will end up not going along.

More:

Bush won the 2004 election by 286 to 252 electoral votes, with 270 required for victory. By law, the House and Senate will meet Thursday in joint session to tally the states’ electoral votes.

Should a senator and House member formally challenge a state’s results, the two chambers must meet separately and consider the objection. That scenario would still ensure Bush’s re-election because both bodies are controlled by Republicans.

A recount last week showed Bush winning Ohio by 118,457 votes over Kerry, according to an unofficial tally by The Associated Press. Some critics have asked the federal courts to force a second recount, but few Democrats believe enough irregularities can be documented to reverse Bush’s winning margin.

Kerry is traveling in the Middle East and will not attend Thursday’s joint session. In a written statement, spokeswoman April Boyd seemed to provide little support for Conyers’ effort.

“Senator Kerry conceded the election on November 3rd. … He has been very clear all along that voting irregularities must be examined, not because it would change the outcome of the election but because it’s critical to our democracy,” Boyd said.

In January 2001, some House Democrats challenged Florida’s electoral votes but no senators joined in the effort, dooming it.

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Kidnappings Down in Colombia

By Steven Taylor @ 10:55 am

Via Bloomberg: Colombian Kidnappings Drop to Eight-Year Low on Uribe Crackdown

Colombia, where kidnappings are frequent enough to hurt the economy, probably had its fewest abductions since 1996 last year after President Alvaro Uribe improved security against armed rebels.

Kidnappings fell 41 percent to 1,300 in 2003, according to an estimate by the Bogota-based Security and Democracy Foundation, a watchdog group that monitors Colombia’s 40-year civil conflict. Abductions peaked in 2000 to a record 3,706. The government reports 2004 figures today.

Rebel groups use ransoms to help finance the conflict, while criminal gangs stage abductions to extort payments from wealthy residents. Last year’s decline in kidnappings and truck hijackings helped improve consumer confidence, boost investment and accelerate economic growth in Colombia to almost 4 percent from 1.9 percent when Uribe took office in 2002.

Data such as these help explain Uribe’s popularity, no doubt. Ditto:

Direct foreign investment rose 50 percent to $2.1 billion in the first nine months of 2004 from a year earlier. The peso rose 18 percent against the dollar last year and the IGBC stock index had the world’s second-best performance in dollar terms, according to Bloomberg data.

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109

By Steven Taylor @ 8:58 am

As we all know, the 109th Congress was sworn in yesterday. Setting aside any partisan positions, all Americans should feel pride at these types of events-218 years of unbroken elections and biennial ceremonies installing new Congresses. It is a testament to the strength and enduring nature of our democracy. Further, as annoying as Congress and individual legislators can be, it is always worth remembering that the very heart of democratic governance is the legislature. Such an institution embodies the idea of power from the people in terms of both their manner of election and the fact that their job is to attempt to represent a myriad of interests in the public as a whole. A legislature is an institution in which the power to make policy is dispersed among a number of persons, unlike the executive in which there is only one elected official wherein power is consolidated.

Further, as one of three branches in a system of separated powers and checks and balances, the Congress of the United States is iconic of the genius of the US Constitution.

Indeed, the mundaneness of the event demonstrates the degree to which democratic institutions are wholly engrained in our minds and culture.

All of his is something to think about as the Afghans and Iraqis attempt to construct functioning democratic institutions in their own countries.

So, yes, yesterday was a great day for the United States.

Of course, WaPo wasn’t in an especially romantic mood yesterday, given the first sentence from its write-up of the day (109th Congress Convenes With Larger GOP Majorities

Friends call them “the magnificent seven,” although some liberals might contend that “malevolent” is a better term.

And the AP is already looking for a fight (also the first sentence of the piece):

Setting the stage for an early showdown in the new Congress, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist intends to seek quick approval for one of President Bush’s judicial appointees, threatening a rules change if Democrats try to block action.

The NYT piece actually focuses on the swearing in and stuff.

Perhaps the reporters at the Post and the AP have been in DC too long and have gotten a tad jaded, shall we say.

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Hail the Spam King (Not)

By Steven Taylor @ 8:31 am

Via the Miami Herald: ‘Spam King’ to ease off, for now

Under an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, a man known as the “Spam King” will stop infecting computers with advertising programs until a federal lawsuit against him is resolved.

Well, isn’t that nice of him.

Sanford Wallace and his companies, SmartBot.net Inc. of Richboro, Pa., and Seismic Entertainment Productions Inc. of Rochester, are required by the agreement to send online ads only to people who visit their Web sites.

The government says Wallace used spyware to infiltrate computers, overwhelming them with ads and other programs. Then, he tried to sell programs he claimed would fix the problems. The government said the remedies do not work.

I remain skeptical that this kind of thing can be regulated (although I think Spyware moreso than Spam). Still, it is sufficiently problematic that one hopes that something can be done.

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Speaking of Sports…

By Steven Taylor @ 7:59 am

Hey, look: the Spurs beat the Lakers, again.

San Antonio 100, LA Lakers 83.

(Mostly this is just to tweak my brother….Plus, I like it when the Spurs beat the Lakers).

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As They Say in Texas: OU Sucks

By Steven Taylor @ 7:51 am

Sadly, out of Big XII pride, I was hoping they’d win, despite their status as enemy Number One of the Longhorns. (On the other hand, with OU and A&M (both archnemeses of UT) embarassing themselves in big bowls it does kinda make Texas look even better being the only major conference winner-still, I would have preferred a better Big XII showing).

Congrats to the Trojans for playing a dominant game. I would say that the LAT got it right with this one-word headline: Conquest!

Megusses that Leinart locked himself as the next San Francisco 49er QB yesterday…

Leinart completed 18 of 35 passes for 332 yards and threw three touchdown passes to Steve Smith and one each to split end Dwayne Jarrett and tight end Dominique Byrd.

Here’s the final AP Top Ten:

1. USC (62) (13-0) 1,622 1
2. AUBURN (3) (13-0) 1,559 3
3. OKLAHOMA (12-1) 1,454 2
4. UTAH (12-0) 1,438 5
5. TEXAS (11-1) 1,391 6
6. LOUISVILLE (11-1) 1,261 7
7. GEORGIA (10-2) 1,204 8
8. IOWA (10-2) 1,111 11
9. CALIFORNIA (10-2) 1,060 4
10. VIRGINIA TECH (10-3) 996 9

And the final ESPN/USA TODAY (Obviously, the superior poll):

TEAM PTS PVS
—- — —
1. USC (61) (13-0) 1,525 1
2. AUBURN (13-0) 1,460 3
3. OKLAHOMA (12-1) 1,366 2
4. TEXAS (11-1) 1,324 5
5. UTAH (12-0) 1,300 6
6. GEORGIA (10-2) 1,191 7
7. LOUISVILLE (11-1) 1,166 8
8. IOWA (10-2) 1,022 13
9. CALIFORNIA (10-2) 937 4
10. VIRGINIA TECH (10-3) 906 9

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Tuesday, January 4, 2005
Two Less Running for DNC Slot

By Steven Taylor @ 6:30 pm

Via the AP: Ickes, Kirk Pull Out of DNC Chair Race

Former Clinton aide Harold Ickes and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk let top Democrats know Tuesday that they won’t be running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

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What’ll They Think of Next?

By Steven Taylor @ 6:27 pm

Heroin stitched inside dogs

Police discovered six dogs with bags of heroin stitched into their stomachs during a raid on Tuesday on a farmhouse in northwest Colombia, authorities said.

An anonymous phone caller reported to authorities that drug traffickers were using the farmhouse on the outskirts of Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city, to produce heroin bound for the United States and Europe, police said.

Investigators initially found seven plastic bags containing liquid heroin, surgical equipment and six Rottweilers and Labradors with scars on their bellies, police said in a statement. The suspected traffickers had already fled.

After performing x-rays on the dogs, police identified 10 more bags filled with heroin surgically implanted in the animals’ abdomens. Veterinarians tried to remove the bags of heroin, but three of the animals died, said Medellin police spokesman Gabriel Salazar.

Amazing.

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Be Prepared to Take Off Your Watch Along With Shoes

By Steven Taylor @ 11:45 am

Via MSNBC: New domestic security concern: watch-lighters

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Color Me Skeptical (But Hopeful)

By Steven Taylor @ 9:14 am

Drudge links to a report from ITAR-TASS, that if true, would be HUGE: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi reportedly arrested in Iraq

Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, whom the US occupation authorities declared to be the “target number one” in Iraq, has been arrested in the city of Baakuba, the Emirate newspaper al-Bayane reported on Tuesday referring to Kurdish sources. Al-Zarqawi, leader of the terrorist group Al-Tawhid Wa’al-Jihad, was recently appointed the director of the Al-Qaeda organisation in Iraq.

The newspaper’s correspondent in Baghdad points out that a report on the seizure of the terrorist, on whom the US put a bounty of 10 million dollars, was also reported by Iraqi Kurdistan radio, which at one time had been the first to announce the arrest of Saddam Hussein.

Of course, such reports have come out before and been reported on by news sources (so to speak), like ITAR-TAAS and have ended up to be false.

Still, I will cross my fingers (but won’t hold my breath).

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  • Nominal Me linked with Updates: News / Blogs of the Day
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Indeed, but…

By Steven Taylor @ 9:11 am

Via the WSJ: We Are the World

not only are food, fresh water and other necessities streaming in from the free societies of the world, but also that a large portion of those necessities are arriving on American military transports.

This may seem unremarkable in America. After all, it is the U.S. military that has the “lift” capacity. But this tsunami is putting on display exactly what United Nations and European bureaucrats are loath to admit: that the U.S. and its military are forces for good in the world. From the wealth and freedom that allow Americans to generously give to those in need to the military infrastructure that enables much of that aid to be delivered, this natural disaster is an advertisement for the type of societies that best serve the people of the world.

There is no doubt that the abilities of the US military to deliver aid are vital in a situation like this and is unparalleled in the world. Without the US military, the capacity to so quickly deliver aid would not exist. What other country or organization could have deployed the ships and helicopters needed to do what has been done in the last several days? Answer: no one.

However, I am doubtful that that lesson is going to be absorded, either by critics of US military policy at home, nor by those around the world who criticize our military power.

Perhaps the unique good that our military can do will be recognized, but I am not optimistic of that fact.

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Blogs Rock

By Steven Taylor @ 8:09 am

Via the BBC: Blog reading explodes in America

Americans are becoming avid blog readers, with 32 million getting hooked in 2004, according to new research.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, showed that blog readership has shot up by 58% in the last year.

Some of this growth is attributable to political blogs written and read during the US presidential campaign.

Despite the explosive growth, more than 60% of online Americans have still never heard of blogs, the survey found.

[…]

Only 7% of the 120 million US adults who use the internet had created a blog or web-based diary.

Getting involved is becoming more popular though, with 12% saying they had posted material or comments on other people’s blogs.

The story itself is a few days old-but I hadn’t seen all of those stats. There is a nice summary box in the BBC piece with the numbers.

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If this wasn’t Such a Serious Situation…

By Steven Taylor @ 7:47 am

…this would almost be humorous:

The main airport at Indonesia’s tsunami-battered Sumatra island was closed for hours Tuesday after a relief plane hit a herd of cows, hampering the world’s still-fragile efforts to get aid to victims of the disaster.

Certainly it has a Dave Barry-esque quality to it.

The good news is that according to NPR they were able to clear the runway.

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Update on Baghdad Governor Assassination

By Steven Taylor @ 7:44 am

According to Reuter, Zarqawi’s group has claimed responsibility: Zarqawi Qaeda-Linked Group Kills Iraq Governor-Web

A group led by al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said it had assassinated Baghdad governor Ali al-Haidri Tuesday, according to an Internet statement.

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  • Diggers Realm linked with Zarqawi Group, al-Qaeda In Iraq, Claims Assassination Of Baghdad Governor Releases Video
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Smart Move

By Steven Taylor @ 7:29 am

Via the NYT: House G.O.P. Voids Rule It Adopted Shielding Leader

Stung by criticism that they were lowering ethical standards, House Republicans on Monday night reversed a rule change that would have allowed a party leader to retain his position even if indicted.

Lawmakers and House officials said Republicans, meeting behind the closed doors of the House chamber, had acted at the request of the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay, who had been the intended beneficiary of the rule change.

Quite frankly I can’t believe that they ever let this whole thing come up. To change a rule in the midst of a potential investigation of a member of leadership simply stinks. And while I understand the fact tha indictments can be poltiically motivated and manipulated, it probably is a good idea for a leader under indictment to temporarily step down.

Really, the move to change the rules is that kind of hubris the Republicans used to accuse the Democrats of possessing. Being in the majority tends to blind a party to their own foibles.

Really, I would prefer that members of Congress have to adhere to very high standards.

I am not sure where I stand on the proposed tie rule.

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  • Running Scared linked with GOP Gains Ethics and Morality
Baghdad’s Governor Assassinated

By Steven Taylor @ 5:43 am

Via Reuters: Baghdad Governor Assassinated; Bomber Kills 11

Gunmen killed Baghdad’s governor in Iraq’s highest-profile assassination for eight months and a suicide bomber killed 11 people on Tuesday in an escalating campaign to wreck the Jan. 30 election.

The shooting of Governor Ali al-Haidri in a roadside ambush showed insurgents’ power to strike at the heart of the governing class, raising fresh doubts as to whether security forces can protect politicians and voters as the ballot draws near.

[…]

Voicing sadness at Haidri’s assassination, Secretary of State Colin Powell said: “It once again shows that there are murderers and terrorists and former regime elements in Iraq that don’t want to see an election.

“They want to go back to the tyranny of the Saddam Hussein regime and that is not going to happen,” he told a news conference in the southern Thai resort island of Phuket as he began a visit to tsunami-hit countries in Asia.

Indeed.

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Monday, January 3, 2005
People Whose Voices Should Keep Them off of TV

By Steven Taylor @ 8:24 pm

My nominee for tonight: Terry Bowden.

He has a voice for print.

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Only in Their Dreams

By Steven Taylor @ 8:04 pm

Richard Skinner at PolySigh has a list of five People Who Will Never Be President. He nails all five.

It is a correct, and amusing, list. My favorite line is the following about George Pataki:

All of Rudy’s problems, none of his assets. Could be Secretary of Transportation someday.

Indeed.

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Hey, Look!

By Steven Taylor @ 7:22 pm

I won something.

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Reid is Starting off with a Bang

By Steven Taylor @ 4:59 pm

If you have not yet read it, check out James Taranto’s research on Harry Reid’s example of Clarence Thomas’ alleged (by Reid) inpetitude.

Most pathetic.

Update: Betsy Newmark has the Line of the Day on this one:

Senator Reid, I’ve taught 8th graders. They don’t write like this except when they’re plagiarizing Supreme Court justices.

Indeed.

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Plot Foiled in Kuwait?

By Steven Taylor @ 4:36 pm

Via the BBC: Kuwaiti troops held over ‘plot’

The Kuwaiti army has confirmed that a number of soldiers have been accused of involvement in a plot to attack what it terms friendly forces in the emirate.

The troops were arrested last week, a Kuwaiti security source told Reuters news agency.

[…]

“The military intelligence security service is questioning some soldiers, following information concerning their intention to carry out an attack on friendly forces,” Kuwaiti army spokesman Yousef Abdelrazzak al-Mulla was quoted as saying by the Kuna news agency.

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Speaking of Dave Barry

By Steven Taylor @ 3:07 pm

He is officially on hiatus (and we all know how painful that can be).

From his last column:

But many of my favorite columns were suggested by you readers, an amazingly alert group. If an important news event occurs - a toilet exploding, for example; or a boat being sunk by a falling cow; or a cow exploding - I can count on my readers to let me know about it. On the other hand, if I write something that turns out - despite my relentless fact-checking - to be inaccurate, such as that Thomas Jefferson invented the atomic bomb, I will receive dozens of letters, often very irate, correcting me. I cherish those letters most of all.

So this is a great job. And yet I’m quitting it, at least for now. I want to stop before I join the horde of people who think I used to be funnier. And I want to work on some other stuff.

So for the next year, I won’t be writing regular columns, though I hope to weigh in from time to time if something really important happens, such as a cow exploding in a boat toilet.

At some point in the next year, I hope to figure out whether I want to resume the column. Right now, I truly don’t know.

The whole thing is worth a read, and all that.

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Who Could Argue with That?

By Steven Taylor @ 3:01 pm

Via the BBC: Butt shows long-term potential.

H/T: Judi at Dave Barry’s Blog.

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California Goes After Spyware

By Steven Taylor @ 2:17 pm

Via the BBC: California sets fines for spyware

The makers of computer programs that secretly spy on what people do with their home PCs could face hefty fines in California.

From 1 January, a new law is being introduced to protect computer users from software known as spyware.

The legislation, which was approved by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is designed to safeguard people from hackers and help protect their personal information.

Spyware is considered by computer experts to be one of the biggest nuisance and security threats facing PC users in the coming year.

[…]

The state’s Consumer Protection Against Spyware Act bans the installation of software that takes control of another computer.

It also requires companies and websites to disclose whether their systems will install spyware.

Consumers are able to seek up to $1,000 in damages if they think they have fallen victim to the intrusive software.

The new law marks a continuing trend in California towards tougher privacy rights.

A recent survey by Earthlink and Webroot found that 90% of PCs are infested with the surreptitious software and that, on average, each one is harbouring 28 separate spyware programs.

Good for California. I hate spyware more than I hate spam, and I pretty much loathe spam (especially automated comment spam).

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  • bnoku linked with qleoudau
Trial of Bomb-Plotters Starts in France

By Steven Taylor @ 1:42 pm

Via the BBC: US embassy bomb plot trial opens

A group of six suspected militant Islamists has gone on trial in Paris on charges of planning a bomb attack against the US embassy in France.

The alleged organiser, Djamel Beghal - a French-Algerian - was arrested in Dubai in 2001.

According to the authorities there, Mr Beghal confessed, and said the idea had come from Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan.

But he has withdrawn that statement, saying it was extracted by torture.

Mr Beghal also allegedly identified the professional football player Nizar Trabelsi as the chosen suicide bomber.

Mr Trabelsi is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence in Belgium, on other charges.

The plot is reported to have included plans to target a US cultural centre in Paris as well as the US embassy.

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Braving the “Desert of Death” for Heroin Profits

By Steven Taylor @ 1:38 pm

Via the NYT : Armed and Elusive, Afghan Drug Dealers Roam Free

With its forbidding reputation as the “desert of death,” it deters most travelers but is the favored route of drug traffickers taking opium, heroin and hashish produced in Afghanistan to Iran for smuggling to Turkey and Europe. They cross in armed convoys of 10 to 20 pickup trucks, at such high speed that police officials say they cannot catch them.

“The smugglers know the desert very well,” said the police chief of Nimruz Province, who goes by one name, Asadullah. “They have very powerful cars, Land Cruisers that go at 250 kilometers an hour,” he said. That is more than 150 miles an hour. The desert is so smooth that the drivers can indeed move at high speeds. The 300-mile border that Nimruz Province shares with Pakistan and Iran is wide open for them, he added.

The desert crossing is part of a lucrative drug trade that threatens to turn Afghanistan into a narco-mafia state, United Nations and Afghan officials warn. Afghanistan, the biggest producer of opium in the world, is now the source of 90 percent of the heroin on Europe’s streets, the United Nations antidrug agency says.

Although farmers all over Afghanistan have been turning to poppy cultivation - causing such farming to increase by 60 percent in 2004 - they often remain impoverished, while big profits are being made by the dealers and traffickers, they say.

The basic paralles with Colombia are stark: poverty-induced cultivation, enrichment primarily of traffickers not growers, and market forces driving traffickers to amazing activities to get their product to market.

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Alexander v. Holmgren

By Steven Taylor @ 1:07 pm

Via a column in the Seattle Times: Holmgren wrong to deny Alexander his stat crown

On a day when the Seahawks won the NFC West by less than 3 feet, Alexander came a yard short of the NFL’s rushing title. A yard he believes he could have gotten on Seattle’s last offensive play, when the Seahawks were at second-and-one on the Atlanta Falcons’ 1-yard line.

For three straight plays, Alexander carried the ball from the Falcons’ 16 to the shadow of the end zone. Then, instead of handing off to Alexander for the crowning run that would have tied him with the Jets’ Curtis Martin with 1,697 yards, Holmgren called for a quarterback sneak. He sent Matt Hasselbeck lunging over the line, passing arm outstretched, until Hasselbeck disappeared in a pile of Falcons jerseys.

“We were going to win anyway, we were on the freaking goal line, and I got stabbed in the back,” Alexander said in the locker room afterward before being quieted by a Seahawks media-relations employee.

Too late, the words were out.

Later, as he walked out of the stadium, Alexander paused by the exit and said: “We didn’t want to win that rushing title.”

Asked if when he said “we” he meant Holmgren, he said, “Yes.”

Asked again if he was sure he wanted to say this on a day the Seahawks won their way into a division championship, he again said, “Yes.”

Strange, all the way ’round. Arguably, Holmgren probably thought he was faking out the defense by not giving it to Alexander. On the other, with two tries, why not reward your running back and, for that matter, your best offensive player?

Also, it doesn’t speak well of Holmgren’s coaching skills to have allowed this much animosity grow in this relationship.

Granted, Alexander should keep his mouth shut out of respect for his coach, but it is rather strange that the Coach has allowed this kind of situation to exist on the team.

Quite frankly, as good as Holmgren was as Green Bay (and obviously Ron Wolf as GM and Brett Favre at QB helped a lot), I have been quite unimpressed by his run with the Seahawks.

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X-Presidents

By Steven Taylor @ 11:21 am

Well, two of them, anyway.

James Joyner notes that President Bush has tapped his father and President Clinton to (according to CNN) “to lead nationwide charitable fund-raising effort for tsunami victims.”

This strikes me as a worthy symbolic and practical measure.

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Rehnquist’s Status

By Steven Taylor @ 9:37 am

It continues to look like Rehnquist is in bad shape and raises the question of whether he really ought to retain his post at this point.

Vai WaPo: Rehnquist’s Health and Vote Contingencies

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, has announced that he will not vote in the 12 cases the court heard during the first two weeks of November, unless the case would end up in a 4 to 4 tie without his participation.

Not only does this show tha Rehnsquist is effectively already done, but raises this question on any votes he might participate in:

What happens if Rehnquist’s fragile health deteriorates so much that he either dies or chooses to step down after he cast a vote at conference but before the court announced its ruling?

The piece it quite interesting and gives some insight into the inner-workings of the Court.

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  • Outside The Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam
Congrats to Wizbang!

By Steven Taylor @ 9:16 am

Congrats to Wizbang and Paul for getting a ref in the NYT.

Of course, the reporter demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the Blogosphere by referring to the Democratic Underground as a “blog” and for confusing the authors of Wizbang with the commenters.

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TiVo on the Move

By Steven Taylor @ 9:00 am

Via the AP: TiVo Unveils Portable Transfer Service

TiVoToGo will be an automatic, free service upgrade for subscribers who own standalone Series2 TiVo DVRs. It will not work for subscribers owning DirecTV-TiVo satellite boxes. Also, the technology will work only with computers based on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP or 2000 operating systems, although a version for Macintosh computers is planned, TiVo officials said.

The recorded shows are transferred to PCs or laptops via a home computer network. Users would have to download free desktop software from the TiVo Web site onto the computers. A media access code and password is assigned to each user’s account, essentially restricting the transferring and playback of shows to household members with the same access code.

TiVo officials have tried to strike a balance between what they consider consumers’ rights and Hollywood’s copyright concerns. They say the video files being transferred are encrypted and need the corresponding media access code for playback.

If users try to e-mail the files to others or send the files over the Internet, their accounts could be revoked, Kelly said.

“We’re trying to send a clear message that TiVoToGo is for personal use only,” said Jim Denney, director of product marketing at TiVo. “And we’re putting appropriate safeguards in place to keep people from rampantly sharing the content.”

Nifty. Aside from the technogeekiness of it all, I am not sure what I would use this for at the moment, but still: cool.

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Lieberman Doesn’t Want a Cabinet Slot

By Steven Taylor @ 8:51 am

Via the AP: Lieberman Shows No Interest in Cabinet

Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman said Sunday he is not interested in becoming President Bush’s national intelligence director or homeland security chief, shooting down speculation he might be under consideration for those jobs.

“I’m not. I appreciate the floating. It’s a quadrennial game here in Washington when a new administration takes shape,” Lieberman told ABC’s “This Week.”

No surprise, to be sure, given the political implications for Lieberman if he were to make such a move. For one thing, it would lead (at least temporarily) to another Republican seat in the Senate. Further, once one becomes part of an administration of the other party, one becomes absorbed by that administration’s party. Sure, William Cohen was a Republican, but how many people thought of him as a Republican when he served in the Clinton administration?

Granted: Lieberman would be such a high profile Democrat in a Republican administration that this would work differently-and certainly at first he would be treated by the press as an oddity, a political sideshow feature. However, over time he would be (as the NID or as the Sec of HS) clearly and publically identified with the President and his policies. Ultimately he would be of neither world: neither a Democrat nor a Republican. What would he then do after the end of the Bush administration? It would complicate a further political career one would think. How long before such a “bipartisan” figure is considered a traitor to their own party or how long before it is said that he “wasn’t really a real Democrats anyway?” (Zell Miller, anyone?).

And to those who think that the President is failing at the test of bipartisanship in terms of the cabinet, this situation, with the most likely high profile Democrtic candidate for a slot, reminds us that it takes two to tango.

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The Economic Impact of the Tsunami

By Steven Taylor @ 8:39 am

Via the NYT: Disaster’s Damage to Economies May Be Minor

In the economies of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand and the other affected countries, the tsunami is likely to register more as a small wave, because the two industries most heavily hit - tourism and fishing - make up small percentages of the overall economy.

It is in individual lives, as well as the countries’ infrastructures, that the true cost will be felt.

[…]

Wing Thye Woo, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, said, “It’s a blip, but a blip that is concentrated among the poorest of the population.”

Even as it has destroyed the livelihoods of millions of families in South Asia, the tsunami will shave only a few points off the region’s economic growth this year. Depending on the importance of tourism in each country, the decrease is expected to range from less than 1 percent for Thailand to 2 percent for Sri Lanka and 4 percent for the Maldives, according to estimates by Standard Chartered Bank.

Aceh, which bore the brunt of the tsunami damage in Indonesia, accounts for only 2 percent of Indonesia’s economy. The tsunami apparently did not damage the region’s most lucrative properties, oil and gas production facilities.

Most of Aceh’s population depend on agriculture for their livelihood - rice, peanuts, soybeans, maize, cassava and potatoes. It is unclear how much agricultural land was flooded by the tsunami.

On one level, this makes some sense, given the specific industries affected. On another, one would think that the amount of death in some locales (most specifically Aceh, Indonesia) would result in other types of effects-not to mention the money that goes into clean-up. Of course, as the hurricanes in Florida demonstrated, the rebuilding after a natural disaster can lead to an economic boomlet.

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Sunday, January 2, 2005
This Can’t be a Good Idea

By Steven Taylor @ 10:12 pm

Via today’s WaPo: Long-Term Plan Sought For Terror Suspects:

Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries, according to intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.

The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions, including for hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts.

Ok, I can accept the idea that illegal combatants might be detained without charge for relatively brief periods of time while combat is ongoing, but if there are detainees for whom there is insufficient evidence to charge them in some way somewhere, then I don’t see the justification for indefinite detention (let alone lifetime imprisonment). If the US government thinks that there is sufficient reason to detain someone for that length of time one assumes there is enough evidence to share in the light of day. Governments should not be able to arbitrarily deprive human beings of their personal liberty just because there is some chance that that person might commit violence in the future. Such a detention is an affront to the basic liberty of man.

I understand the need for a facility to deal with these new types of prisoners. However, suspected terrorists or not, we are talking about human beings here and there is a need to devise a better set of policies to deal with this situation.

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Powell on the US Response to the Disaster

By Steven Taylor @ 9:48 pm

From today’s MTP comes what I thought was a very good response from Secretary of State Powell to the US’ response to the tsunami in the Indian Ocean:

MR. RUSSERT: As you well know, there’s been a lot of discussion about the administration and its response to this crisis. The New York Times on Thursday wrote this editorial. “We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world’s poor countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world’s richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That’s less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.”

It’s now up to $350 million, but was the initial response too timid?

SEC’Y POWELL: No, I don’t think so. These things have a life cycle. Last Sunday we all started to receive word of this tragedy, and it looked like several thousand lives were lost. The enormity of it had not yet hit. But what we do in circumstances such as this is our ambassadors on the ground immediately offer aid, which they did. It’s not much, $100,000 in each of the countries, but it shows that we are committed and engaged. By last Sunday afternoon, evening, I had started calling all the foreign ministers of the immediately affected nations and on Sunday evening, and then getting them all finally on Monday morning with time changes, I said to them the United States was following; “Let us know what you need. Please let our embassy know what you need,” and reached out to them. So they knew we were committed right away, on Sunday afternoon.

The president then, Monday and Tuesday, called heads of government and state, said the same thing. The first request we got for aid was from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. On Sunday they asked for $7 million. The United States immediately gave them $4 million of the $7 million. That’s a pretty good start. On Monday we upped it to $15 million. By Tuesday, when things were starting to jell a little more with respect to what was needed, we upped it to $35 million. And then we waited to get some assessments in. But while waiting, we dispatched teams, we diverted ships with food, we launched our military forces from our Pacific Command. The Bonhomme Richard has been launched. The Abraham Lincoln carrier was launched. So we really started to move out.

We began working with the international community. The president made a statement on Wednesday which demonstrated his concern and also created a core group to begin making sure that all of our efforts were aligned. The president was kept informed constantly from Sunday afternoon on. I spoke to him on Monday, noon, before I went out and made my first press statement. And as we got our assessments in and as the magnitude of this really hit us, then the president decided, based on a recommendation from me and administrator of the AID, Natsios, that we should go to $350 million.

This is also consistent with what other nations had been doing. I’m so pleased the Japanese have gone to $500 million, but they also started out at a much lower number, as did so many other nations. After you see the impact of this and the enormity of it, then you scale up your efforts. But it is not just a matter of money. It’s a matter of getting supplies to the region and then, once you get these supplies to airports and ports, how do you make retail distribution out to the people in need? And this is where trucks, helicopters, C-130 aircraft, they come into play. There’s no point spending a lot of money to put all of these supplies in the region unless you can distribute these supplies.

So one of the things that I will be looking at on my trip with Governor Bush and our FEMA director and other people is, is there anything we can do to help these countries, which have never been exposed to this kind of catastrophe, to help them organize themselves to deliver the aid, and also to consider the reconstruction effort that’s going to be required?

I might add two other points, if I may, Tim. One: Our Defense Department is spending a great deal of money, which doesn’t count as part of the $350 million, to put our assets in the region and to fly our helicopters and other aircraft and ships to assist with this. And the other thing that’s so exciting is the response from the private sector of America. I mean, companies are matching the contributions of employees. I know that you’re doing things right here at your network, so many other networks. Amazon.com is allowing you to one-click a contribution to the American Red Cross. So tens and tens of millions of dollars are being raised within the private community, which suggests the nature of our society, the compassion that we have for people in need.

So I think the American response has been appropriate. It has been scaled up as the scale of the disaster became more widely known. And the reason I want to linger on this a bit is I want the American people to understand that their government and our society has responded appropriately. I will tell you who is not churlish or disappointed in our response, and that’s the nations who are receiving aid. They have been very thankful and very appreciative of what we have done, and we will do more.

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  • The Jawa Report linked with Sit Still While Thousands Perish
  • Arguing with signposts… » Powell will be missed linked with a pingback
  • InTheBullpen.com linked with a pingback
Representative Robert Matsui, RIP

By Steven Taylor @ 9:29 pm

Via USAT: Longtime congressional Democrat from California dies

Rep. Robert T. Matsui of California, who spent time in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans as an infant during World War II and went on to serve 26 years in Congress, has died of complications from a rare disease, his family said Sunday.

The 63-year-old died Saturday night at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., near Washington.

Matsui was the third-ranking Democrat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, where he was his party’s point man on Social Security legislation. He also recently chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where he led the party’s unsuccessful effort to regain control of the House.

Very sad as he was quite young. I was aware of his name, but really didn’t know all that much about him. I certainly was unaware he was ill.

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  • Diggers Realm linked with My Congressman, Robert Matsui, Dead At 63
  • The Command Post Op-Ed Page linked with My Congressman, Robert Matsui, Dead At 63
  • Diggers Realm linked with My Congressman, Robert Matsui, Dead At 63
If My Life was a Videogame…

By Steven Taylor @ 7:44 pm

One of the levels would be called ShoeQuest, wherein one would have to search the house for one (or both) of one (or more) of the children’s shoes. Further, there would be some time constraint involved, like being late for church or somesuch.

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Hook’Em 2

By Steven Taylor @ 8:34 am

Yup: “Texas won a truly big game. Texas proved it rightfully belongs in the BCS mix. Texas won as Davis called plays for a quarterback who took over the game and emphasized the tight ends."- Austin-American Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls.


Source: The AAS

And, Hollywood ending, indeed:

Dusty Mangum envisioned the scenario %u2014 he called it his personal Hollywood ending %u2014 for two weeks. In his dream, his contribution to the Rose Bowl would be a lone field goal, and it would come with just seconds remaining to lead Texas to a victory over Michigan.

On Saturday night, with two seconds remaining and with the Wolverines’ lead at a tenuous 37-35, Mangum’s hopeful vision became reality.

Quite the way for a graduating senior kicker to end his career, to be sure.


Source: The LAT and the DMN

The LAT has a nice write-up: Young Is ‘Horn of Plenty.

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There’s Oil in Them There Dunes

By Steven Taylor @ 8:05 am

Via the NYT: Libya Is Enticing U.S. Executives With Its Abundant Oil Reserves

For the first time in a decade, a new oil territory is opening up. Reopening, that is.

American oil executives have recently been flocking to Libya, crowding the lobby of Tripoli’s only luxury hotel and literally standing in line to meet local officials. The executives are bent on finding out whether this oil-rich North African country - long walled off from foreign investment because of its anti-American regime and ties to terrorist organizations - could become the next frontier for exploration.

What the petroleum crowd is after lies hundreds of miles south of this enclave founded by Phoenician traders in the seventh century B.C., beneath a desert the size of Alaska that holds oil reserves estimated at over 36 billion barrels. That is enough to meet the daily imports of the United States for eight years.

And that may be just a starting point. At a time when oil around the world is harder to come by, Libya is dangling the rights to explore and develop new sources of petroleum. The country holds the largest oil reserves in Africa, but as a producer it trails Nigeria and Angola. And, as every Libyan official inevitably points out, only a quarter of the country has properly been explored for oil.

Of course, it ain’t all sunshine and roses:

But that is where the problems start. Libya is a highly authoritarian state, fraught with tangled bureaucracy, rampant corruption and arbitrary enforcement of laws. Its regime is based on an elaborate fusion of socialism and Islam - dubbed the Third Universal Theory - that was Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s answer to both capitalism and communism after he took control of the country in the late 1960’s.

Bottom line: he may have decided to come clean on the WMDs, but dealing with Qaddafi and his buddies still isn’t an especially appealing prospect, I must admit.

One would like to think that the influx of foreign direct investment and foreigners would help spur Libya onto change-but one isn’t overly sanguine about the prospect.

This also illustrates that US policy isn’t driven solely by oil, if it were, we would have made peace with Qaddafi a looong time ago.

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Saturday, January 1, 2005
Bowl Blogging: Hook ‘Em!

By Steven Taylor @ 8:06 pm

It was quite a game, and for a while I thought Texas has lost it. Still, Vince Young had a career day (even with the interception) and I must say, Michigan looked quite good.

Noneletheless, who’s the pantywaist now? ;)

In other Bowls:

  • Did A&M embarass the Big XII, or what? Ouch.
  • What an ending for Iowa over LSU in the Capitol One Bowl.
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  • Down deep in Texas: The View from Waco linked with Ouch!
  • Arguing with signposts… » Texas 38, Michigan 37 linked with a pingback
Japan Ups Aid Ante to $500 Million

By Steven Taylor @ 4:06 pm

Via WaPo: Japan Raises Its Aid Contribution to $500 Million

Japan on Saturday raised its contribution of financial assistance to Indian Ocean nations affected by the tsunami to $500 million in a pledge that makes Tokyo the single largest donor of aid for the disaster.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced the increase, from an initial pledge of $30 million, after damage assessments continued to mount in nations still reeling from Sunday’s devastating earthquake and ocean surges.

Wow. Good for the Japanese.

This does underscore my point from earlier in the week that we we really won’t know what the final contribution totals will be for some time.

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Isn’t it Romantic?

By Steven Taylor @ 3:32 pm

Via USAT: Saudi man with 58 wives stirs polygamy debate

In 50 years, he says, he has married 58 women and has forgotten the names of most of them. He knows he has had 10 sons, but ask about daughters and he counts on his fingers: 22. No, no, 28. No, that’s too many. He settles on 25.

And no joke:

Al-Sayeri’s story might seem a bizarre curiosity, but it touches a nerve in Saudi Arabia, the status of whose women is a matter of international controversy.

And truth is certainly stranger than fiction:

Fahd al-Sayeri, who inherited his father’s passion for horses, recalled a desert hunting trip some 15 years ago in the remote Empty Quarter. He and his friends had gone in search of gasoline when they heard celebratory gunshots coming from a tent. They had come across a wedding.

“Out of politeness, we asked who’s wedding it was,” Fahd said.

“The guests responded with my father’s name. I was shocked,” he added.

It’s not that the elder al-Sayeri hides his marriages. He just doesn’t always bother to spread the word. He said two of his daughters learned they were sisters and two sons they were brothers at school.

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New Year’s Resolutions

By Steven Taylor @ 3:08 pm

A tradition that I normally do not partake of is the New Year resolution. However, this year my wife and I both have resolved to get on the treadmill each morning and get in a little exercise (granted, not original, but I need some exercise).

Here are some Blogospheric resolution that I have come across. Feel free to link up with your own:

  • Maverick Philosopher is looking for more efficiency in paper-handling.
  • Chris of Crooked Timber resolves to improve his German-language skills. He also has some reading he wants to get to.
  • Michelle of ASV doesn’t call it a resolution, but she sets a goal for 2005-and a resolution by any other name is just as easy to break. (Scrolling down I see she has a list of nifty resolutions that she posted yesterday.
  • Guest-blogging at IMAO, RightWingDuck has the best king of resolutions of all: ones for other people.
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Aceh, Indonesia: Before and After

By Steven Taylor @ 12:47 pm

These all come from a remarkable interactive feature at the NYT:








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  • Legal XXX linked with New Year's Aural Six
  • Jen Speaks linked with Helping Out
An Obligatory Wacky 2004 Post

By Steven Taylor @ 12:06 pm

Via Reuters: Sex, dogs and chickens - weird headlines of 2004

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Interesting

By Steven Taylor @ 12:04 pm

Via Reuters: Migraine Patients May Have Genetic Abnormalities

People who suffer from migraine headaches appear to express more genes that produce platelets, the specialized components in blood that are involved in clotting, researchers report.

[…]

A group of platelet genes was “upregulated” - expressed at a higher level than normal - in the migraine group, and different expression patterns were seen in people who had occasional migraine and those with chronic migraine.

Compared with controls, 40 genes were upregulated in migraine and 353 were upregulated in chronic migraine.

Now, if they can just figure out a way to stop the durn things…

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Patrick Kennedy Decides Against Senate Run

By Steven Taylor @ 11:56 am

Via the AP: Rep. Patrick Kennedy Says No to Senate

Rep. Patrick Kennedy has decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps and make a bid for the U.S. Senate-at least not yet.

The 37-year-old Kennedy, about to begin his sixth term in Congress, believes he can better serve Rhode Islanders from his place on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said his spokesman, Ernesto Anguilla, ending speculation that the congressman would try to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee in 2006.

[…]

The younger Kennedy moved to Rhode Island to attend Providence College. While still a student, he was elected to the state’s House of Representatives, where he served for six years until his 1994 election to Congress.

Filed under: US Politics: 2006 Campaign | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
The 2004 TAM Awards

By Steven Taylor @ 10:46 am

Sean Hackbarth presents:

The 2004 TAM Weblog Awards.

The 2004 TAM Book Awards.

and

The 2004 TAM Music Awards.

Filed under: Blogging: Books | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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