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Thursday, February 3, 2005
FEC Raises Contribution Limits

By Steven Taylor @ 9:24 pm

Via the AP: Campaign Donation Limits Get Boost

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday raised donation limits to compensate for inflation, the first time it has done so. That means congressional candidates and national party committees can now ask donors for more money.


Under the new limits, congressional candidates can raise $2,100 for their primary campaigns and another $2,100 for general-election campaigning from each individual donor. Previously, candidates could only ask individual givers for up to $2,000 for the primaries and another $2,000 for the general election.

National political party committees can now ask individuals to give up to $26,700 a year, an increase of $1,700 over the old limit.

The FEC also raised the overall amount an individual donor can give on the federal level.

A contributor can now make a total of $101,400 in congressional, party and political action committee donations during the 2005-06 election cycle. The previous two-year limit was $95,000.

The commission will index contribution limits for inflation again in 2007, when the next crop of presidential candidates can begin raising money.

Interesting, as I was unaware they were empowered to do that. Perhaps it is due to a provision of the copius BCRA.

Interestingly, if the original $1000 limit (which was raised to $2000 in 2002) was indexed for inflation it would be over $3000 (if memory serves).

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Religious Breakdown of 2004 Vote

By Steven Taylor @ 7:31 pm

Via the AP: Poll: Catholics Favored Bush Over Kerry

John Kerry (news - web sites) managed the best showing in decades for a Democratic presidential candidate among mainline Protestants, but his failure to capture a majority of Roman Catholics — people of his own faith — gave President Bush an important advantage in last November’s election, according to a new survey.

Bush’s showing also improved dramatically among Hispanic Protestants, 63 percent of whom supported him in 2004 — a 31 percent gain over 2000.


Among non-Hispanic Catholics, Kerry won the support of 69 percent with those with liberal or “modernist” beliefs, while 72 percent of “traditionalists” favored Bush. But importantly, 55 percent of the key swing group of “centrists” picked Bush over Kerry, who was criticized by bishops for his support of abortion rights.

The upshot: A one-time Democratic mainstay, Catholics gave Bush an overall edge of 53 percent to Kerry’s 47 percent.

Overall, the mainline Protestant vote split evenly, the poll found, with a Bush decline of 10 percent from 2000 and the best showing for a Democrat since the 1960s; results before then are unclear.

Interesting all around.

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Hopefully, Senator Kennedy Can be Happy Now

By Steven Taylor @ 5:47 pm

Asked Senator Kennedy today:

“We want to know when Iraqis will go out there and shed their blood like Americans have,'’ Kennedy said to Wolfowitz, who appeared for questioning today along with Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and others.

As requested: 19 Killed in Insurgent Attacks in Iraq

Insurgents struck back with a vengeance following a post-election lull, waylaying a minibus carrying new Iraqi army recruits, firing on Iraqis heading for work at a U.S. base and gunning down an Iraqi soldier in the capital, officials said Thursday. Two U.S. Marines were killed in action.

Not to mention:

About 1,342 Iraqi soldiers have been killed while fighting insurgents, Wolfowitz said, citing U.S. estimates that he added were likely to be low

Could there be a more ham-fisted way to criticise this policy?

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I Agree with Oliver Willis

By Steven Taylor @ 5:15 pm

I agree with this-and I have thought it for years. I don’t care who the President is, the “rebuttal” is a waste of time and a pathetic offering to the idea of equity and it doesn’t work.

And, in case you missed it, here’s my ode to the rebuttal.

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Gonzales Confirmed

By Steven Taylor @ 4:15 pm

Via ABC News: Senate OKs Gonzales As Attorney General

The Senate voted 60-36 to put the first Hispanic ever into the job, with all of the “no” votes coming from Democrats.

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A Remarkable Saga

By Steven Taylor @ 3:58 pm

If you have not yet encountered the saga of 13-year-old Austin read all about it here.

Man, but some adults can act like children…

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On Blogging Professors

By Steven Taylor @ 2:49 pm

Chris Lawrence (a polisci prof) comments on blogging and The job of the professor.

The immediate reason for this is the result of a post on the Yin Blog by Kevin Jon Heller, a professor of law at the University of Georgia, who received an e-mail from a reader who objected that Professor Heller was blogging during “working hours” and that the e-mailer (an alumus of the school where Heller works) was going to file a complaint with:

both the Georigia [sic.] House and Senate Committee [sic.] on Higher Education, the Department of Human Resources of Georgia, the Chair of the Board of Regents, Michael Adams, President of the University of Georgia and Dean Rebecca White, Dean of the Law School.

The e-mailer further intends

to file formal written complaints with each of these entities and will not cease doing so until this misuse of taxpayer dollars and abuse of position ceases.

First reaction: some people have too much time on their hands.

However, beyond that this raises a host of issues. There are a couple of levels working here. First is a question about what the “job” of a professor is and when he/she is “on the clock” and is wholly outside the issue of blogging. The other level is the question of whether or not blogging can legitimately be seen to be seen as a part of being a professor, or if it is something apart from, outside of, or in addition to being a professor.

As Chris notes, on of the elements of being a professor (apart from “just” being a teacher) is that one is, by definition, a public intellectual whose purpose is to in general disseminate knowledge and information on the topics which we study.

In regards to “being on the clock” I would note that, on balance, there really isn’t such a thing as being “on the clock” if one is a professor. In terms of contractual obligations, one has a teaching load, and one is expected to be in the classroom during that time, and one has office hours requirements (I am required to have 10 hours a week—which is a high number, on balance). As such I am currently “required” to be in a specific location 22 hours a week. Now, does that mean I only work 22 hours a week? Not so much.

Trust me: if that was all I did, not only would I not have gotten tenure, I likely would’ve been shown the door no later than my third year in the position. For that matter, I am often answering student e-mails at 6am or 11pm or I might be working on a paper at night or preparing for class or doing something “professorial” on a weekend. There isn’t a clear schedule, so really the e-mailer cited above simply doesn’t get the work schedule of a professor.

I have friends and family members who think that pretty much that is what I do (those 22 hours) and that I have a boatload of free time. I certainly have more flexibility with my time than if I had become a lawyer or entered a more “normal” profession, but it is hardly the case that I simply can do whatever I want when I am not in the office or in the classroom. Further, given that my job is to know things (to over-simplify for a moment) then a vast amount of news and information consumption is part of my job. Hence, blogging actually enhances my job, rather than distracting from it.

Heidi blogging at Letters of Marque, though not a professor (she’s a law student) gets it:

The job colonizes you. You can’t switch it on and off; for every day that you mess around and feel vaguely guilty about getting nothing done, there’s another one where you’re super-charged, and you surmount obstacles and get a lot done, ignoring the people who love you and want to talk to you far into the night. It’s not about how you spend your working hours; it’s about getting a job done within the constraints of time and tenure.

Looked at another way, the University of Georgia is paying Heller to spend his own time as he sees fit. They don’t say, “Professor Heller, we’d like to requisition a publishable article from you arguing that blah blah blah, and we’ll pay you so many dollars per hour to research and write it.”


As far as I can tell, professors are paid to be curious in quantity. When it comes down to it, forcing them into a civil servant model would give us a very different type of university professor. We may not like this system; many don’t. But it is the way it is set up. If it means that law professors are lucky bastards, well, so, that’s hardly a surprise.

Not only is she correct when she notes that the job “colonizes you” she is also right that that the professorial life is a good one. I wouldn’t trade it, but to maintain it takes effort (and it took effort to get here, for that matter). I feel quite lucky to have the job that I have (as I have friends and colleagues who worked very hard and never got a tenure-track job).

If a professor, who is not only supposed to know a lot of things, but more importantly is supposed to be an expert about a few specific items, is not constantly enhancing their education, then that person isn’t doing their job. A civil service model would kill the professoriate as we know it (and I would note that we have the best higher education system in the world).

Along the same lines Chris Lawrence (as already noted, a professor) explains:

being a professor (as opposed to a teacher, instructor, or lecturer) necessarily transcends the status of “jobhood” into a (dare-I-say?) existential realm; the occupation defines one’s existence, in a way that being a secretary, janitor, lawyer, or medical doctor doesn’t [As James Joyner notes in the comments, other professionals likely also get consumed by their jobs as well].

As such, professors are never truly “off the clock,” nor are they ever truly “on the clock”—professors have professional responsibilities to teach, to counsel and advise students, and to participate in shared governance of the university or college, but the scheduling of classes and meetings are concessions to the temporal nature of the world at large rather than exercises in “clock punching.”

Further, I would note that there is often a mis-perception about the exact nature of employment and funding at a public college or university. Many assume that is identical to being a school teacher or a bureaucrat, i.e., an employee of the state who receives all of their remuneration directly from state coffers. Now, I cannot speak to every institution in every state, but I would point out that this is rarely (if ever) the case. Most public four-year institutions aren’t, strictly speaking, simple governmental entities. Rather it would be more accurate to think of them as quasi-public of “publicly supported” institutions rather than publicly funded ones. Institutions of higher education rely on tuition and fees, grants, private donations and variety of funding sources in addition to state monies. For example, it is my understanding that the University of Alabama receives less than 20% of its budget from the state of Alabama and Troy University receives roughly 27%. As such these are more subsidized by the state rather then being paid for by the state.

I am not discounting the significance of those funds, or to suggest that a professor owes nothing to the state for which he or she works. However, I would note that it is a gross over-simplification to say “you are an employee of the taxpayer so you have to behave like a member of the civil service.” It simply doesn’t work that way. For that matter, I can’t imagine that one could take academics and make them into bureaucrats, or that it would be a good like for higher education for us to do so.

In regards to blogging and whether it can be construed as part of my job or a distraction from my job, I would note (as pompous as it may sound) that part of the job of a professor is to think. And clearly blogging helps me think. Sometimes I even blog on things that I am researching. Certainly I constantly blog on things that I later use in the classroom (or that are relevant to my teaching)—often the blogging allows me to take a first shot at an idea that further develops into a useful element of teaching or writing.

Further, as noted, being a professor is to be a public intellectual, which would mean that it is incumbent upon the professor, as a seeker of knowledge, to share that knowledge in a public fashion. Certainly professors are frequently full of beans, and no one in the public is required to pay any attention to us. Still, blogging is the biggest boon to the role of public intellectual that has ever existed. In the past, the only way to daily discuss ideas was to do so with a small group of colleagues-now we can do it with the world with ease.

My main goal as a blogger is to be an analyst in the public square. I am exceedingly pleased that anyone notices, but never expected it to happen.

Now, granted, many of my postings are not the result of deep thoughts, and often have nothing to do with politics. But, setting aside from the fact that the “on the clock” paradigm doesn’t fit, even if one is inclined to think that it should: am I not entitled to a little break to blog on Trek or the Dallas Cowboys now and again? I mean, gee whiz, some people are far too interested in micro-managing the lives of others. I am guessing that the individual who complained to Professor Heller doesn’t give 100% of every second to his/her employer during “working hours".

One final note: on balance, universities like the attention that results from their professors being featured in the media (unless one is Ward Churchill-like). I know for a fact (because one of our PR guys told me) that my University noticed that I was writing newspaper columns (they have a clipping service that gathers all mentions of the school) and they like it. Why? Because as long as I am not embarrassing the school I am promoting it (and if universities traffic in anything, they traffic in perception—and the more people know about your school, the better off you are. It is one of the reasons schools have sports and want to play at the IA level). Does anyone think that the University of Tennessee Law School is upset that Professor Glenn Reynolds is perhaps the most famous blogger of all? I think not. Does anyone think that they are worried that he blogs during “working hours”? Hardly.

    Also: Professor Trung Yin also comments.

    Update: This post is part of today’s OTB lnkfest.

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Lessons in PR

By Steven Taylor @ 1:49 pm

Is it just me, or does it seem that a number of companies have made potential Super Bowl ads so that they just end up “pulling” them so that they get press for “realizing” that in the Post-Janet Boob Era that they need to be more “sensitive?

The latest example: Ford Unit Pulls Lustful Clergy Ad from Super Bowl.

Before that we had Mickey Rooney’s buut and it seems like at least one other.

I also think that the transformation of The Best Damn Sports Show into The Best Darn Super Bowl Pre-Game Show was for PR and only PR.

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A Shame

By Steven Taylor @ 1:39 pm

An “Enterprise” Lost

Star Trek: Enterprise is going where no Trek spinoff has gone before: To a (relatively) early grave.

As I have noted before, they finally seemed to get it right this season, but it was too little too late, it would seem. I am not surprised, but had hoped that they would have managed to win one more year at least.

So it goes and it may be time for hiatus from Trek anyway. This seems to be the case:

If Paramount doesn’t come up with a Starfleet-staffed show for the fall, and there is no indication one is the offing, it’ll be the first time in a decade that an outgoing Trek series has not replaced by an incoming Trek series.

Couple that with the franchise’s space-docked big-screen program, and Star Trek, in the words of one Federation expert, “may have run its course.” At least for now.”

I have no doubt it will be back in some form, as it is too much of a cash cow to be left on the shelf forever. A note to Paramount next time: build from your base first-one of Enterprise’s initial mistakes was to assume that the base would love the show no matter what and that they should try and appeal outside of Trek first. That’s a bad strategy, because if you don’t make the base happy, you have nothing to build off of.

There are, at least, some intriguing episodes left this run and I plan to enjoy the rest of the season (which, ironically, will probably have a ratings spike now that the show has gotten the publicity about its demise):

in its current and, as it turns out, final season, the show rallied and “became the fans’ ultimate dream.”

Taking advantage of its position in the Trek timeline as a forerunner to the days of captains Kirk, Picard, Sisko and Janeway, Enterprise “dealt with the roots of Vulcan logic, the founding of the Federation, and it will soon even air two episodes explaining why the Klingons didn’t have bumpy foreheads in the original series, but do now,” Sparborth said.

Too bad they didn’t start out this way.

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Too Bad

By Steven Taylor @ 1:33 pm

Via Reuters: Zarqawi Barely Avoids Capture in Iraq

U.S. and Iraqi security forces may have come close to capturing Iraqi al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the past two weeks and are weakening his network, Iraq’s interior minister said on Thursday.

“We are following him,” Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib told Pentagon reporters in a videoconference from Baghdad. “I think we missed him twice or three times, but hopefully next time we will be able to capture him.

“I think we arrived a bit late. Maybe we missed him by one hour. … You know, he is not staying in one place. He is moving from one area to another. So, we will get him - very soon, hopefully,” Naqib added.

One would hope.

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A Stylistic Question

By Steven Taylor @ 11:39 am

Usually it seems to be the case (and is my preference) that the best part of the speech should come first, because one loses audience (and the attention of the audience who continue to watch) as time goes by.

To my mind, the best part of Bush’s speech was the later third, and the key moment was The Hug. And, despite the substantial focus on the Social Security issue, the evaluation of this speech seems to be focused on that segment of the speech.

Could it be that saving the best for last is the better way to go?

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Not a Laundry List?

By Steven Taylor @ 11:27 am

I am listening to Limbaugh’s response to the SOTU (he thinks it Bush’s best speech ever). He started the show by stating that it wasn’t your typical laundry list of government programs. Did I hallucinate last night, or wasn’t the first half of the speech chock full of government programs and spending?

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The Blogger’s Lament

By Steven Taylor @ 11:24 am

Between some oversleeping and a meeting this morning, I have blogged nothing to this point. Now I feel out of touch and out the loop. What has been said today? Will blogging 4 or so hours later than usual mean that I am coming to the day’s news too late? Oh, the torrid speed of information in the internet age!

Perhaps I should just wait and see what’s on Nightline….

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Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Nightie Night

By Steven Taylor @ 9:51 pm

Well, he seems to be getting good reviews (better than I expected). However, I am tired some am shutting down.

More tomorrow.

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The Rebuttal

By Steven Taylor @ 9:45 pm

I hate the opposition rebuttal

I hate it when my guy wins
I hate it when its my guy who spins
I hate it cause it’s a huge bore
I hate it each year more and more

Update: I agree with John.

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SOTU: Wrap-up

By Steven Taylor @ 9:19 pm

It was a fairly pedestrian speech, although it certaily contained some significant policy issues, although nothing especially new on those topics.

It was too a laundry list (which is not unusual for SOTUs, but this one seemd especially listy, at least for Bush).

The delivery was fine and I can’t fault the writing. While I understand the political reasons for doing so, leading with domestic policy and then going to foreign policy seemed stylistically odd for this president. I think this was better than last year’s speech, if memory serves.

As for Taylor’s Iron Law of Political Speeches, I am not sure what the key sound bites will be at this point.

More wrap-ups:

  • James Joyner.
  • Glenn Reynolds was quite impressed, stating “Bush’s best speech ever” which strikes me as a bit of a stretch. The latter half was superior to the first. I agree with Glenn that the President seems quite comfortable.
  • Ann Althouse: “Generally, I think Bush sounds strong and confident, giving one of his better performances.”

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SOTU VII: The Foreign Policy Part

By Steven Taylor @ 9:13 pm

It took the foreign policy portion, towards the very end, before there was any good rhetoric. Not surprising, I guess. Of course, it was mostly re-run-ish from the inaugural.

Bush is simply more poetic and seems more sure of his general vision when it comes to the foreign policy side of the coin.

I liked this part:

One of Iraq’s leading democracy and human rights advocates is Safia Taleb al-Suhail. She says of her country, “we were occupied for 35 years by Saddam Hussein. That was the real occupation. … Thank you to the American people who paid the cost … but most of all to the soldiers.” Eleven years ago, Safia’s father was assassinated by Saddam’s intelligence service. Three days ago in Baghdad, Safia was finally able to vote for the leaders of her country — and we are honored that she is with us tonight.

Certainly the part about Sargent Norwood was the most remarkable portion of the evening-especially since the President himself appeared to be tearing up and the embrace between Mrs. Norwood and Ms. al-Suhail was quite remarkable in its symbolism.

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SOTU VI: The List

By Steven Taylor @ 9:05 pm

This SOTU is living up to the adage that the speech is often nothing but a laundry list of items that the President wants. Further, it seems to lack a coherent theme.

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SOTU V: Gay Marriage

By Steven Taylor @ 8:59 pm

The marriage amendment statement strikes me as a pander, because he has to know that it has no shot. He may well believe in it, but there is no way that it is going to pass 2/3rds of either chamber, let alone both.

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By Steven Taylor @ 8:54 pm

Some observations:

  • He did a pretty good job of explaining the problem without too much “crisis-ese":
    Social Security was created decades ago, for a very different era. In those days people didn’t live as long, benefits were much lower than they are today, and a half century ago, about 16 workers paid into the system for each person drawing benefits. Our society has changed in ways the founders of Social Security could not have foreseen. In today’s world, people are living longer and therefore drawing benefits longer — and those benefits are scheduled to rise dramatically over the next few decades. And instead of 16 workers paying in for every beneficiary, right now it’s only about three workers — and over the next few decades, that number will fall to just two workers per beneficiary. With each passing year, fewer workers are paying ever-higher benefits to an ever-larger number of retirees.

    So here is the result: Thirteen years from now, in 2018, Social Security will be paying out more than it takes in. And every year afterward will bring a new shortfall, bigger than the year before. For example, in the year 2027, the government will somehow have to come up with an extra 200 billion dollars to keep the system afloat — and by 2033, the annual shortfall would be more than 300 billion dollars. By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt. If steps are not taken to avert that outcome, the only solutions would be drastically higher taxes, massive new borrowing, or sudden and severe cuts in Social Security benefits or other government programs.

    Of course the bankruptcy date will be contested.

  • The booing/harumphing from the opposition almost sounded like the House of Commons.
  • The litany of Democrats who had Social Security reform ideas was a smart idea.

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By Steven Taylor @ 8:40 pm

If you you thought that the second inaugural was too broad, overly visionary and lacked details, you should be loving this speech. So far it is a rather looong list of details.

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Other SOTU Blogging

By Steven Taylor @ 8:28 pm

The always entertaining Stephen Green is live blogging also.

As is Andrew Sullivan.

James Joyner was, but the computer ate his homework.

Also: Truth. Quante-fied.

Kevin Drum live-blogged as well.

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SOTU: The Speech Itself

By Steven Taylor @ 8:27 pm

Read ahead if you like: Full text of 2005 State of the Union speech

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By Steven Taylor @ 8:24 pm

What’s that state?

“Confident and strong.”

I am always curious as to what adjectives the Pres(any Pres) will use. Those’ll work.

And while I am for SS reform, I am still not sure that the crisis line of attack is the way to go (i.e., the “what will the state of the union be for our chidlren” bit).

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By Steven Taylor @ 8:22 pm

Nice opening line about the elections in Afghanistan, Palestine, Ukraine and Iraq-fits well with the second inaugural.

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PoliBlog is Go!

By Steven Taylor @ 8:07 pm

Just in time to live blog the SOTU.

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SOTU Blogging

By Steven Taylor @ 4:50 pm

I expect to be blogging the SOTU tonight, but since I direct the Awana program at church (see below) I may be slightly TiVo-delayed.

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Right Wing Loses Sway at White House!

By Steven Taylor @ 4:47 pm

Despite all the much-ballyhooed influence of the Right Wing Fundamentalists on the White House, the SOTU is being held on a Wednesday Night. Now, Blue Staters may not realize this, but the Bible Belters are in church on Wednesday night, so what is the President doing dissin’ the Christian Right?

Has Karl Rove lost his touch?

Inquiring minds want to know!

(Tongue must be in cheek to fully comprehend this post, jsut in case you wanted to know).

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Koppel to This Week?

By Steven Taylor @ 4:44 pm

May it be so: New York Post Online Edition: entertainment

There is talk that the venerable host of “Nightline,” whose contract with ABC News expires next year, is being considered as the new host of the Sunday morning public affairs show, “This Week,” according to published reports.

The current host of “This Week,” former White House spokesman George Stephanopoulos, is rumored to be Koppel’s replacement on “Nightline.”

Back before Stephanopoulos took over This Week I thought that Koppel would be the perfect host for the show. Back in the pre-cable news days I liked to watch Koppel but in the internet/24 hours news & commentary cycle, why would I want to wait until 10:30 at night to get the “latest” news and comment on a topic that I probably read about and blogged on 14 hours earlier in the day?

Further, I have never been much of a fan of the current incarnation of This Week with its faux NCC-1701 set and whatnot. I still TiVo it to watch the panel, but often don’t even do that.

Koppel is a more serious and interesting journalist than Stephanopoulos (plus his name is easier to type). If this moves takes place it will enhance the weight of ABC’s Sunday morning show considerably, but no one will notice what happens to Nightline.

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The Arnold Amendment?

By Steven Taylor @ 1:55 pm

Via the LAT: Maybe Anyone Can Be President

In 1772, Austria joined Prussia and Russia in dividing up Poland, which had been weakened by the election of a foreign-born head of state.

Fifteen years later, America’s Founding Fathers, leery of repeating Poland’s experience, added the following to their new Constitution: “No person except a natural born citizen … shall be eligible to the Office of President.”

Today, a national — if fledgling — campaign is underway to allow foreign-born citizens to hold the nation’s highest office. Supporters expect congressional hearings on the proposal this year.

If the constitution is to amended anytime soon, this amendment probably has the best chance of any serious proposal of which I am aware. Mostly because if it is written in a way that precludes Schwarzenegger from running it won’t be radically controversial, but will have seem reasonable. Plus, it isn’t like it would cause a firestorm of change to much of anything given that the number of actual foreign-born candidates is likely to always be quite low.

Still, politicians like Schwarzenegger and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm have demonstrated to both parties (and voters) that there may in fact be foreign-born candidates worthy of the position in the future.

Still, I won’t lay any bets as yet:

Polls show that most Americans oppose amending the “natural born clause,” though a Gallup Poll released recently showed that opposition fell — from 67% to 58% — when Schwarzenegger’s name was mentioned to those surveyed. A Field Poll last fall found that even in California, where Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings then approached 70%, nearly 60% of registered voters surveyed opposed a constitutional amendment.

Regardless, this amendment would have a far higher probability of passage than, say, the Federal Marriage Amendment.

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I Wish I’d Thought of That

By Steven Taylor @ 12:57 pm

Just click and scroll you’ll either get it, or you won’t

(and that is one of my favorite flicks)

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The Classics Continue

By Steven Taylor @ 12:36 pm

Via TCS: Toy Soldiers

19 January 2005: The Slinky betrayed us. I should have known. I never trusted him. He was an unstable character, always going back and forth, back and forth, never showing a shred of backbone. “Come, senor, I know the way to the insurgents’ headquarters,” he rasped. The fact that he was an Arab toy speaking with a stereotypical Spanish accent should have tipped me off. But hindsight is always 20/20. Literally. I can turn my head 360 degrees.

The whole thing is a hoot.

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By Steven Taylor @ 11:05 am


And here.

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The Year of the Lakers Continues

By Steven Taylor @ 11:02 am

Tomjanovich contemplating resignation as Lakers coach

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Deanie v. Donny

By Steven Taylor @ 8:54 am

Frost is out, and Dean’s chances increase. Via the LAT: Dean Advances Toward DNC’s Top Post as Frost Withdraws

In a statement, Frost suggested that he thought the former Vermont governor had the race sewn up.

And if there is any doubt that Dean will be an interesting (to put it mildly) choice for the position, note the following quote (Source: Investor’s Business Daily:

“I hate the Republicans and all they stand for,” he told one New York City audience this week while admitting that he admired the GOP’s “discipline and organization.”

There’s a successful party-building strategy if I’ve ever heard one…

And note: the DNC Chair is likely to be a key face and voice of the party this year and into the foreseeable future (moreso than normal) because of the current lack of a clear leader of the Democratic Party.

Further, because Dean always has the potential to produce an outrageous soundbite (see above) he will received invites a-plenty for TV talk shows.

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Letterman on Carson

By Steven Taylor @ 8:30 am

Fellow TiVite Ann Althouse did the same thing I did last night: she watched Letterman’s tribute to Carson from Monday night.

I agree with Ann’s assessment: it was a lovely program. And the revelation (that I first read about at Wizbang on Monday) that Carson had been sending Dave jokes for his monologue for years was a nifty one. Indeed, Dave’s entire monologue from Monday night consisted entirely of jokes from Johnny.

The funny thing is when I heard the monologue I commented to my wife that the jokes all seemed like they all old in relative terms—i.e., based on events from weeks or months gone by (and further, I was semi-surprised Dave was doing a seemingly straight monologue on a tribute show). Once all the pieces fell together, however, there couldn’t have been a better way to start the show.

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On Electoral Boycotts

By Steven Taylor @ 6:55 am

Via Reuters: Iraqi Sunni Clerics Say Poll Lacks Legitimacy

A leading group of Iraqi Sunni clerics said on Wednesday any government emerging from Iraqs landmark election would lack legitimacy because many people had boycotted the poll.
Setting aside all other considerations for a moment, the logic that a boycott=de-legitimization of an electoral process is an long-standing ploy that has been attempted by many, many groups over the decades, but that essentially never works. By the time one gets to the point of an election taking place, a boycott tends to only have the effect of damaging the boycotters.

The inexorable logic of elections is that for every person who does not vote, the relative significance of those who do vote is augmented. As a result, any electoral boycott has the dual effect of damaging the boycotters (because you can’t win anything if you don’t participate) and enhances the power of the parties with which the boycotters are feuding.

The only hope that an electoral boycott has is if it is wide and deep-and even then the boycotters will be shut out in at least the short term (and likely longer) from government.

While the significance of Sunni participation in the government is key it isn’t the entirety of the process and I predict that self-interest will eventually drive the Sunnis to the table. Unless they plan to secede (which would be a trick because they are not perfectly concentrated in one are, plus even if that would work, they would be enveloped by Shi’a Iraq on one side and Shi’a Iran on the other) I don’t see how they manage a long-term boycottof the whole process. What would it gain them? Further, I am not certain it is wholly proper to speak of the Sunnis in such monolithic terms, as the press is in the habit of doing. It shall be interesting to see if there are any Sunni victors one the votes are counted, for example. My guess is that there will be. I further suspect that Sunni will be offered slots in the assembly in any event.

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An Observation

By Steven Taylor @ 6:43 am

It is not a coincidence that the a minor alteration of the word “pets” produces the word “pest".

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There’s a Shock

By Steven Taylor @ 6:40 am

Via WaPo: Infighting Cited at Homeland Security.

So, you take disparate parts of the federal government from various other departments, give them a monumental task and then there’s in-fighting?!? Say it ain’t so!

Seriously, the list of problems in the article are pure bureaucratic politics and shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. That fact may not excuse the problems, or make us all feel safer, but it is nonetheless true.

Update: Betsy Newmark notes that this piece is perfect for her unit on bureaucracies. It appears she wasn’t too shocked by the story either.

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Headline Reaction

By Steven Taylor @ 6:32 am

Who hasn’t?

Planned Parenthood Chief Criticizes Kerry

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Tuesday, February 1, 2005

By Steven Taylor @ 8:52 pm

I managed to miss the Big Blog Comment Debate today, but thankfully James Joyner summarized it for me.

Apparently Kevin Drum (yes, again) finds it “mock worthy” that conservative blogs who like to talk about the self-corrected nature of the Blogosphere don’t have comments (at least the Biggies don’t).

Kevin finds this to be a feature of conservatism:

Tight message control has always been a key characteristic of conservative politics. It’s emerged as a key characteristic of the conservative blogosphere too.

I must admit, I find that statement off-putting and the tone unnecessarily sneering, but oh well. I would note that the main issue here is traffic more than ideology and if he he wants to test his hypothesis he is going to have to do a bit more research than looking at the TTLB top ten.

But to the “self-correcting” issue: as James notes, the ability of blogs to self-correct is more about other blogs blogging about what other blogs have said incorrectly than about the comments section on a given blog. To be honest, this strikes me as patently obvious. The comments on a given blog are like notes in a drawer-you have to open them up and look for them. To assert that comments sections are the essence of blog self-correction is ignore the blog itself.

I will grant that a lot the self-congratulations in the Blogosphere gets laid on a bit thick at times, but if we are going to criticize it, criticize it properly. Indeed, my posting on this topic proves the point: Jame read Kevin and Atrios’ posts, commented about them on his blog, which I linked to and have further commented upon. Now, it may well be the case that Kevin will nver read my comments, but I am not 100% sure he would read a comment that I left on his blog for that matter. I have also noticed that Bryan of AWS has commented on this thread on his blog as well. Whadday know: a discussion! Or, at least, an opportunity to correct: like pointing out the flaw in Drum’s reasoning or to at least ask whether comments sectioins are necessarily so important.

I like to be able to leave comments on a blog, but hardly find it a vital part of blogging. It strikes me that at some point comments aren’t worth it. I often wondered if Kos or Drum actually read all those comments-maybe they do, but I don’t see how. Further, as a reader of a blog, I might stop and read 5, 6 or 15 comments, but it is major rarity that I to wade through 200+ when usually most of them aren’t very good.

I must admit, I am with James on this one:

I’m more annoyed with sites that lack TrackBack than with those without comments sections.

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The Wingnut Saga

By Steven Taylor @ 8:37 pm

It appears that Kevin Drum’s unnecessary tarring of Ann Althouse as a “wingnut” because she objected to the NYT changing the headline of an online story has resulted in propigation of an unwanted type (i.e., a reprint of the post, verbatim, in Howard Kurtz’s WaPo column).

As Ann rightly notes:

I’d really prefer not to see myself referred to as a “wingnut” in The Washington Post!

I can certainly appreciate that stance.

I have never met Professor Althouse, although I do read her blog on a regular basis and have exchanged a few e-mails with her. She comes across as pleasant enough and is no wingnut.

I have also been a regular read of Drum’s site for some time (dating back to the CalPundit days) and have also exchanged e-mails with him in the past, which were also largely pleasant, although I will state for the record that he has a rather difficult time conceding points in a debate, which in this case appears rather unnecessary (indeed, I have noticed that especialy since he moved to the Washington Monthly that his propensity to lecture has seemingly increased and so Ann’s description of his e-mail as “lectures” doesn’t surprise me). Why he can’t concede that he may have misconstrued Ann’s position and post an update is beyond me.

I have defended Drum as reasonable in the past (and usually get dinged by readers when I do so), and will not wholly retreat from that position at this time, but I think that perhaps he has let his blogging fame and need to feed the partisan posters at his site go a bit to his head.

I would agree with Ann that Drum ought to issue an apology for the characterization.

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Pope Taken to Hospital

By Steven Taylor @ 6:44 pm

Via the BBC: Pope John Paul taken to hospital

Pope John Paul II has been rushed to hospital in Rome suffering from breathing difficulties brought on by flu, the Vatican has confirmed.

The Vatican said in statement that the Pope, 84, was suffering from an acute respiratory infection.

He was admitted to the Gemelli hospital as precaution and is not in intensive care, the Vatican said.

The Pope also suffers from Parkinson’s disease and painful joint conditions.

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Apple News

By Steven Taylor @ 12:20 pm

Since for the first time in my life I am considering looking at Apple the next time I buy a computer (which won’t be for some time), I find news of their products of interest (especially when phrases like “lowers pricing” is involved): Apple Upgrades PowerBook, Lowers Pricing

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More on Trackback Spam

By Steven Taylor @ 12:13 pm

James Joyner was hit as well as did Kathy Kinsely who also offers some advise on the subject.

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For Want of Reasonable Dialogue

By Steven Taylor @ 10:33 am

Ann Althouse laments her “sad experience” with the seeming lack of desire of many in the Blogosphere to engage in useful, rational, reasonable debate. (I assume it was this that got her attention-mostly because of the innovation of the term “wingnut"-which struck me as unnecessary).

I share this lament (as I have noted here and here-the second post being more indicative of my general disappointment as I wrote it after a polite invitation to serious discussion was declined in a very exclusionary way-i.e., that the left needed to talk to the left only about the issues in question).

Certainly we all get caught up in our “side” of issues, but usually the world isn’t really confined to two clear “sides.” More likely than not there is a spectrum of positions on a given topic and sometimes the only way (certainly, normally at least, the best way) to fully understand an issue is through vigorous discussion. Why is it that so many are afraid of that? (and I don’t cast this critique at any particular portion of the ideological spectrum).

We should all remember that while our party system requires, on balance, dichotomization-the real world doesn’t. To re-iterate a point I made in regards to the Iraqi elections (at the bottom of this), and an idea that some day I plan to better develop: politics isn’t a football game in which every action is about advancing towards a score to the detriment of the other “team.”

And while I certainly have partisan preferences, the promotion thereof are not my main goal here (and granted, many blogs exist to promote not the discussion of politics, or the promotion of a given set of philosophical positions, but, rather, hardcore partisanship, and that is part of the problem). I blog primarily because I enjoy it, but I really do like the idea of contributing to a broader political discourse. I am willing to engage in debate, accept criticism and to adjust my thinking over time (I don’t subtitle this place “A Rough Draft of My Thought” for solely whimsical reasons).

We should not caricature bloggers based on whom it was they voted for in November, or whether they support the Iraq War or not (which seems to be the simplified lenses through which many-including pundits, professors and politicians-view the world). Such a stance on the complexities of the given political views of a specific individual is ludicrous in the extreme. Indeed: if any who read this, for example, actually feel that they are perfectly represented in every way by the ideological positions and policy outputs of their political party of preference, drop me a line, as I would like to chat with such a rarity.

(Also: Ann makes some interesting observations about left and right in the Blogosphere in her experiences at any rate).


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Vile, Evil, Nassssty Linksees

By Steven Taylor @ 9:54 am

Jay of Accidental Verbosity, points to this intereview with a vampire link spammer.

Jay notes:

We hates him, yes we do.


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Drug War Fact of the Day

By Steven Taylor @ 8:50 am

Those darn Canadians! Canuck pot seizures soar

The vast majority of marijuana seized at U.S. borders comes from Mexico, the report said. Though Canada accounts for only 2% of pot seized, it is still the second-largest supplier, followed by Colombia and Jamaica.

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Pettiness isn’t Good Politics

By Steven Taylor @ 8:46 am

Dave Wissing notes the following from yesterday’s “pre-buttal.” I heard it as well and meant to blog it, but since he has done so, I don’t need to.

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Sully in Transition

By Steven Taylor @ 8:36 am

Andrew Sullivan is giving up blogging as we know it.

h/t: Kevin Drum.

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More on Iraq in Transition

By Steven Taylor @ 8:27 am

James Joyner reiterates a point I made last night:

it takes more than just one successful election to achieve democratic order; we need to see, at the very least, a peaceful transition that follows another fair contest. January 30 deserves a special place in history. But, if we’re serious about democratization, then we’ll treat it as the beginning - not the culmination - of comprehensive political reform.

Indeed. And if we are to avoid the failures of Vietnam (which is the context in which he discusses the issue), we have to be serious about not just elections, but democratic institutions and practices (and therefore not just in promoting a pro-US government-the ideal is that the new government would be at least moderately pro-US because of gratitude and self-interest, not because we installed puppets).

Further, the need to work hard for long-term stability is why talk of immediate withdrawal (a la Ted Kennedy) is reckless and simply wrong.

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New Spam Wave

By Steven Taylor @ 7:53 am

Well, a while back I was able to get my comment spam under control (with some plugins installed with Kathy Kinsely’s help) and for the most part the comment spam since then has been light and manageable. However, it would appear that the new trick is Trackback spam, as the 200-plus poker-related trackbacks that I have received (and am continuing to receive) would indicate. Clearly the existing protections against comment spam don’t work against trackbacks.

All I can say is that these spamming idiots are a bunch of reprehensible bastards. At least is is just card-playing adverts and not incest and bestiality links (which, no doubt, will be arriving shortly).

Along the same lines, the NYT today has a story about the failure of federal anti-spam laws (there’s a shock):

Since the Can Spam Act went into effect in January 2004, unsolicited junk e-mail on the Internet has come to total perhaps 80 percent or more of all e-mail sent, according to most measures. That is up from 50 percent to 60 percent of all e-mail before the law went into effect.

To some antispam crusaders, the surge comes as no surprise. They had long argued that the law would make the spam problem worse by effectively giving bulk advertisers permission to send junk e-mail as long as they followed certain rules.

“Can Spam legalized spamming itself,” said Steve Linford, the founder of the Spamhaus Project, a London organization that is one of the leading groups intent on eliminating junk e-mail. And in making spam legal, he said, the new rules also invited flouting by those intent on being outlaws.

Lovely, but not surprising. Not to mention that given the nature of the ‘net, I have a hard time seeing a legislative solution to this problem.

As one spammer rightly noted:

“There’s way too much money involved,” Mr. Gillespie said, noting that his service, which is currently down, provided him with a six-figure income at its peak. “And if there’s money to be made, people are going to go out and get it.”

The laws of supply and demand and all that.

The only possible solutions are going to have to be tech-based, not legislative in nature. Indeed, while i get a fair share of e-mail spam, Thunderbird does a pretty decent job of filtering most of it.

Update: Looks like I’m not the only one.

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What’s in a Name?

By Steven Taylor @ 7:27 am

Best Blog new blog name that I have seen of late: Postcards from the Lege, which is the Austin-American Stateman’s in-house blog focused on the Texas state legislature.

Certainly a better and more clever route than stealing an existing blog name and subsequently coming up with a lame alternative.

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As I Would Expect

By Steven Taylor @ 5:46 am

While there is no doubt that there are a large number of Iraqis who want the US troops to go (as would any set of citizens of an occupied coutnry, regardless of the reason for that occupation), it seems to me that the level-headed amongst them will recognize the necessity of US troops remaining. Further, it is possible to want them gone and to want them to stay at the same time.

Via the AP: Iraqi President: U.S. Troops Should Stay

Iraq’s president said Tuesday it would be “complete nonsense” to ask foreign troops to leave the country now, although some could depart by year’s end. Officials began the second-stage counting from elections to produce a government to confront the insurgency.

During a news conference, President Ghazi al-Yawer was asked whether the presence of foreign troops might be fueling the Sunni Arab revolt by encouraging rebel attacks.

“It’s only complete nonsense to ask the troops to leave in this chaos and this vacuum of power,” al-Yawer, a Sunni Arab, said.

He said foreign troops should leave only after Iraq’s security forces are built up, the country’s security situation has improved and some pockets of terrorists are eliminated.

“By the end of this year, we could see the number of foreign troops decreasing,” al-Yawer said.

Al-Yawer had been a strong critic of some aspects of the U.S. military’s performance in Iraq, including the three-week Marine siege of the Sunni rebel city of Fallujah in April.


“There were some mistakes” in the occupation “but to be fair … I think all in all it was positive, the contribution of the foreign forces in Iraq,” al-Yawer said. “It was worth it.”

All of that seems reasonable. Until the Iraqi state is wholly capable of protecting itself, a serious drawdown would be unwise. And I maintain that we are likely to have troops ther for some time, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it the issue is less whether they are there, but what they are doing while there.

Quite frankly, aside from al Zarwaqi and friends, I think that the groups most interested in pushing the ida of a quick withdrawal are certain segments of the press and the American left.

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