12 September 2006
Smut as a wedge issue

No, not wedgie issue. Pay attention.

Eric Sapp sees the potential:

When I talk about "wedge issues," I'm talking about issues that divide the Republican religious base from the Republican Party leadership and force Republican voters to face the hypocrisy of the overly-simplistic (but heretofore extremely effective) approach of Republican strategists to electoral mobilization and policy development.

And what issue might do that? Why, pr0n, of course:

One in eight Internet websites is pornographic, and the on-line porn industry generated $12 billion in largely untaxed revenues in 2004, which equals the revenue of ABC, NBC, and CBS combined. If ever there was a family-values issue that affects our children, it is this one. And believe it or not, Dems have a brilliantly-crafted legislative solution: S. 1507/H.R 3479, which require credit card age verification before anyone would be allowed to view any on-line pornographic content. What makes this bill a work of legislative art is that it would pay for the substantial costs of enforcing these regulations by imposing a 25% tax on the internet porn industry.

Anyone figured out why this is a winner for us yet? You've got it, the Republican leadership has been holding up this legislation because they don't like the tax on business! It's hard to imagine a stance more counter to family values and anathema to religious voters than not protecting our children from internet porn because we don't want to tax the on-line porn industry. But that's the position the Rs have taken so far. The White House has also sided with the telecommunication companies and turned a deaf ear to evangelical Christian leaders who have pleaded with them to regulate streaming video on cell phones to prevent our phones from being spammed with streaming pornography. We all know what Jesus said about where one's treasure is, and since the R political machine is run on big-business and lobbyist money, it's no surprise that's where their heart is.

I've regulated streaming video on my cell phone: I've got a phone that won't receive it.

But Sapp has a point: when the big-bucks and the Dr. Dobson segments of the GOP base are in conflict, bet on Mr. Moneybags to win out.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:19 AM)
Such a caucus-teaser

This came in as a Google search last night: member of congress senile or sickness.

Nice to know we have a choice.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:54 AM)
13 September 2006
Chafing the elephant

News item:

Sen. Lincoln Chafee snatched victory in the [Rhode Island] Republican primary Tuesday, giving hope to the GOP that it might be able to keep the seat and the Senate out of Democratic hands. With control of the Senate and President Bush's agenda at stake in the midterm elections, the National Republican Senatorial Committee poured more than $1 million into defending the mild-mannered, moderate Chafee against the conservative mayor of Cranston, Stephen Laffey. Committee officials said only Chafee could beat a Democrat in November and promised to abandon the state if Laffey were to secure the nomination.

Shorter National Republican Senatorial Committee: "If we're going to have a Democrat in this seat, we might as well have a Democrat who will caucus with us."

I'm waiting for a reaction from Joe Lieberman.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:27 AM)
15 September 2006
Half-breed interference

Sean Gleeson searches for a word that fits people who don't identify as either liberal or conservative, and neither "centrist" nor "moderate" will do:

A true centrist would be one whose opinions fell in the middle on every issue. For instance, he would want a half-victory in the war; he would half-abort and half-euthanize innocent lives; and he would half-ban firearms and prayer. True centrists are a little weird, and more than a little scarce.

By contrast, an X21's policy preferences do fall on one or the other side of the spectrum, just not on the same side for each issue. He is Right on some, and Left on others. He might want legal abortion, but also victory in the current war. Or, he might be against abortion, but also advocate our abject surrender. In other words, the typical X21 is not in the middle; he's in a muddle.

The label we seek is obviously not 'moderate,' 'fence-sitter,' or any other word with a 'centrist' meaning.

"Moderate" never did impress Chris Lawrence much:

[N]obody with a well-developed political ideology is a moderate. By definition, if you are liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, communist, Enviro-wacko, batshit neocon, or whatever the hell Pat Buchanan and Bob Novak are (paleo-pseudo-con?), you cannot be moderate. George Bush isn't moderate. Nor is Colin Powell, Janet Reno, Howard Dean, Glenn Reynolds, Megan McArdle, or Kevin Drum. Nor am I.

Most Americans and most people the world over, in fact don't have consistent, ideological belief systems. The absence of those belief systems makes them moderate, because they just react to whatever's going on in the political ether; if you're lucky, you might be able to pin their beliefs to some overarching fundamental value ("hard work", "equality", "liberty").

I noted at that time that I was "definitely for liberty and equality, and violently opposed to hard work."

But this doesn't make the lexicographer's task any easier. Once again, Sean Gleeson shoulders the burden:

Any apposite label will be based on the notion that these folks have custom-mixed their own ideologies with selections from both sides.

I fired up the old thesaurus, and found some interesting synonyms for 'mixture,' including alloy, composite, fusion, goulash, hodgepodge, jumble, mash, medley, miscellany, mishmash, mosaic, mélange, pastiche, patchwork, potpourri, quilt, salmagundi, and union.

But since some of these seem to lack quantifiability or seriousness or curb appeal, here's the term of choice: Hybrid.

It reeks of scientific precision. It conveys the impression that we've borrowed material from two species to create a third one, that's better than either of its parents, an impression I think would flatter the X21s. 'Hybrid' may not be perfect, but it's as close as we'll get, so it must be the right answer.

Me, I think I like "goulash," but this may be because I skipped breakfast.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:46 AM)
One step forward

I grumbled back in July that Dana Orwig, Democratic candidate for House District 87, didn't have a Web site, and when she dropped by the palatial Surlywood estate, I asked her about that.

Now she does, which puts her one up on her opponent this fall. (VoteWorthen.com comes up 404 at this writing.) Issues she's supporting are here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:39 PM)
19 September 2006
Regular guys

One political pitch I'm seeing more of these days runs something like this:

I found this ad from Burrage particularly funny. On the front, in an obviously posed photo, he's sitting in a porch rocker reading a newspaper and the caption says, "What makes this guy different from you?" On the inside, in huge letters it says, "NOTHING," then below that, in smaller letters, "And That's The Reason He's Our Best Choice For State Senate."

Really!? Someone "just like me" is the best choice for State Senate? Maybe I should run. The really funny and insulting thing about this is that Sean Burrage is not just like me. This ad is not aimed only at me, of course; it's aimed at everyone in his district. So is he saying that we are all alike? I know a few people besides myself who would take exception to that assumption.

There's an unspoken assumption behind this to the effect that if you're not just like our candidate, well, you're weird, and we don't want your stinking vote anyway, you weirdo. (Well, actually, we do, but we'd prefer you didn't tell your wacky friends about it.)

Burrage is a Democrat, but this ploy can also be found in the Republicans' toolbox. I got one today from Trebor Worthen, House District 87 incumbent, with the following shibboleth: "He Shares Our Values." Some of them, maybe; some of us, maybe.

Do I want someone like me in the Legislature? Let's see: cheap so-and-so, check; principle before expediency, check; vicious, nasty demeanor, check and check again. Hmmm. When's the filing date for 2010?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:44 PM)
21 September 2006
Boren says he's staying put

Rep. Dan Boren is the lone Democrat in the state's Congressional delegation, and his voting record is not exactly typical of Democrats in Congress; after speculation at The Hill that Boren might jump to the Republican side of the aisle, the Oklahoman revealed today Boren had told them last week he had no such plans.

"There's not a chance that I would ever change parties," said Boren, though he admitted that he had registered as an Independent during a period when he was working for Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode, a Republican who sought a Congressional seat of her own this year.

I feel for the guy. I twitch at some of the things national Democrats come up with, but I have no reason to think I'd feel any more comfortable were I to throw in my lot with the GOP.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:11 AM)
23 September 2006
Dogging Trebor

Last year I was the recipient of a flyer from the mysterious "Citizens Against Corporate Welfare," which took Rep. Trebor Worthen to task for supporting a couple of bills which they (and, for that matter, I) didn't much like.

The Citizens, whoever they may be, are now cranking out material as "Citizens for Corrupt-Free Government," which sounds a little awkward "corrupt" works better as an adjective or a verb, I think, than as a noun but while they may have changed their name, they haven't changed their target.

Worthen, says their new flyer, was one of 32 Republicans running for the Oklahoma House who got money from Ernest Istook's First Freedom Fund PAC; what's more, the first contribution to said PAC came from your friend and his, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

I'm just jaded enough to wonder if this is a first: Istook bestowing funds on something actually in Oklahoma.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:48 AM)
24 September 2006
Beyond dumbed down

Elton Gallegly represents California's 24th Congressional District, and if you're a constituent of his, here's how to reach him by email:

  1. Go to Write Your Representative at http://www.house.gov/writerep (or click on the Write Your Representative icon above).

  2. When the Write Your Representative page loads, on the right you will notice a drop-down box and two data boxes. The drop-down box is the one that states "State" next to it. With your mouse, click on the arrow to the right of the words "Choose one." A list of states will appear. Using your mouse, click on California. California should now appear alone in the drop-down box.

  3. Below the drop-down box is the word "ZIP." To the right of ZIP is a text box. Using your mouse, click inside the box and then type your 5-digit postal ZIP code using your keyboard. To the right of that are the words "+4 (if required)." Some Congressional Districts cross ZIP codes. If your ZIP code is in two or more Congressional Districts, you will need the extra four ZIP code digits to complete the process. If you do not know whether or not you need the "+4," use your mouse to click on the "Submit" button below the "ZIP" box. If you reach a page that says, inside a blue-bordered box at the top of the page, "You are represented by the Honorable Elton Gallegly," then you don't need the "+4" and can skip Step 4 and proceed to Step 5. If you reach a page that states "Finding Your 9-digit Zip Code There are multiple Representatives who share your 5-digit ZIP code...." then go to Step 4.

  4. Using your mouse, click on the blue-highlighted words "ZIP+4 Lookup" in the red-bordered box with the heading "Finding Your 9-digit Zip Code." You will first go to a page that says you are leaving the U.S. House of Representatives and the House is not responsible for anything outside its domain. Wait a moment and the U.S. Postal Service¹s ZIP+4 Code Look-Up page will load. You only need to fill in four boxes. First, using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of the words "Delivery address (required)." Using your keyboard, type in your street address. Using your mouse again, click inside the box below that, to the right of "City*." Using your keyboard, type in your city. Using your mouse again, click inside the box below that, to the right of "State*." Using your keyboard, type in CA. Use your mouse to click in the box below that to the right of "ZIP." Using your keyboard, type in your 5-digit ZIP code. Using your mouse, click on the "Process" button below the "ZIP" box. You will come to a page that states "The standardized address is:" and then list your address with the ZIP+4 Code. Write down your ZIP+4 Code for future reference. At the top of the page, use your mouse to click on the "Back" button. Do it again. And again. One more time and you should be back at the main Write Your Representative page. Your state and ZIP should still be displayed. Using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of "+4 (if required)." Using your keyboard, type in the final four numbers of your ZIP+4 Code. Using your mouse, click on the "Submit" button below the "ZIP" box.

  5. You are now at the page that states inside a blue-bordered box at the top of the page "You are represented by The Honorable Elton Gallegly". Below the blue box and to the right are a series of text boxes with red words to their left, followed by some boxes with black words to their left. You are required to fill in the boxes to the right of the red words. The boxes to the right of the black words are optional, but would be helpful. First, using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of "Name*." Using your keyboard, type in your name. Using your mouse, click inside the box below that, to the right of the word "Address*." Using your keyboard, type in your street address. If your address not counting your city, state and ZIP uses more than one line, you can use your mouse to click inside the box below that and, using your keyboard, type in the second line to your address. If your address not counting your city, state and ZIP uses more than two lines, you can use your mouse to click inside the box below that and, using your keyboard, type in the third line to your address. Using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of the word "City*." Using your keyboard, type in your city. Your State, ZIP is already displayed. Using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of the words "Phone Number." Using your keyboard, type in your phone number. Using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of the words "E-mail Address." Using your keyboard, type in your e-mail address. Underneath that box is a button that states "Continue." Using your mouse, click on that button.

  6. You are now at the page where you can write your e-mail message and send it. At the top is a personalized message from Congressman Gallegly. Scroll down the page until you come to a text box below the words "To the Honorable Elton Gallegly." Using your mouse, click inside that box. Using your keyboard, write your e-mail message. Once you have finished composing your message, you will notice a button below the text box that states "Send your message." Using your mouse, click on that button.

  7. You should now be looking at a page that states: "Your message has been sent to your Representative. Thank you for writing." That completes the process.

I am, of course, gratified that he made sure you were supposed to write your e-mail message using your keyboard.

"Surely our Oklahoma Congressmen don't inflict this on us," I mused, and sure enough, they don't; at least our pack of pols assumes we can read actual forms and can fill them in without pages and pages of exposition. Lucas, Cole and Istook (3/4/5) send you through the ZIP+4 check, after which they have their own contact forms; Sullivan and Boren (1/2) take you right to their forms, although they will ask you for ZIP+4 thereupon. (The ZIP check, of course, is to make sure you really, truly live in their district.) Of course, if you have no idea who your Representative is, the generic "Write Your Representative" page to which Gallegly sends everyone is useful; if, however, you know you're in Gallegly's district and why else would you be using an email contact form to reach him? by the time you've completed all this you're going to wish he'd stuck with his decision to step down after this term.

(Via Doc Searls, who lives in California's 23rd District. "A pile of email instructions," he says of the Gallegly page, "that are only a little less complicated than those for, say, operating a zero-gravity toilet.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:46 AM)
25 September 2006
If the chairs become musical

Chris Casteel of the Oklahoman's Washington bureau (I mention this in case some of you had no idea the Oklahoman even had a Washington bureau) talked to the state's Congressional delegation about the possibility of a Democratic resurgence sufficient to regain the majority.

Dan Boren, the lone Democrat in the bunch, took a collective view:

Undoubtedly, as a delegation, we would lose some clout. But it also produces a unique opportunity for someone like myself who has been willing to work across the aisle and be bipartisan.

Those who consider Boren a DINO, I suspect, will continue to do so.

John Sullivan echoed Boren's concerns about clout, but was confident the Democrats would come up just short of winning control. Tom Cole worries about seniority: the average House member, he says, has 11 years in, and with Ernest Istook departing, only Frank Lucas comes even close to that.

And Lucas admits he enjoys his chairmanship of an Agriculture subcommittee:

It's a lot more fun to have your hand on the gavel or at least be close enough to see the wood grain.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Tom Coburn, Scourge of Pork, isn't worried about losing his subcommittee:

I'll have an extra three hours a week to use to make trouble on the [Senate] floor.

The Big Spenders are herewith put on notice.

Predictions from yours truly, as posted New Year's Day: Republicans lose 13 seats in the House, two in the Senate, but retain a (thinner) majority.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:00 AM)
27 September 2006
"Macaca" was just the beginning

Slate presents: The George Allen Insult Generator!

And even better, Allen explains himself at the push of a button. It's like Real Life, only slightly less three-dimensional.

(Found at Wonkette.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:44 AM)
28 September 2006
It's off to the Elephant Bar

Press release, Wednesday: The Republican National Committee today announced that its Site Selection Committee has voted to recommend Minneapolis-St. Paul to host the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The following somehow missed the cut:

  • Babylon
  • Pleasantville
  • Pluto
  • New Orleans
  • Pottersville
  • Baghdad
  • Talos IV
  • Guantánamo
  • West Hollywood
  • Truth or Consequences

The Democrats are reportedly split; their top choices include Caracas, the Gaza Strip, and Noam Chomsky's back yard.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:36 AM)
2 October 2006
It's in subsection B9 of your lease

British TV chef Jamie Oliver has been on a crusade to encourage healthier eating by children. And he's being heard: last year Her Majesty's Government agreed to put up £280 million toward the improvement of school meals.

Friday night Oliver appeared on Jonathan Ross's talk show on BBC One, and Ross suggested, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that maybe people who live in council estates ought to refrain from spawning:

"Do you think we should put something in the water supply, stop some people having children in the future?" the presenter asked chef Jamie Oliver.

After the star made the comment, Oliver asked: "What, you mean like lead?"

The BBC reported 61 complaints about the Ross remark.

This idea does not strike me as feasible. If people in council housing need lead, there's always a paint chip or two nearby, and it wouldn't achieve the desired results anyway. And I don't think it would fly Stateside, either: while the minions of the Nanny State are generally happy to impose goofy rules, most of them would consider it beyond the pale even to suggest that public-housing tenants or, indeed, anybody ought to screw less. Not even Bloomberg would go that far.

(Via Fark.com.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:49 PM)
Schwarzenegger slaps it down

The Governator issued a flurry of vetoes at the end of September, including a bill which will have to be killed in lots of other places:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill Saturday that would have given California's electoral votes in presidential elections to the winner of the national popular vote, rather than the candidate who captured the state.

The bill could have gone into effect only if states with a combined total of 270 electoral votes (the number now required to win the presidency) agreed to the same process.

Schwarzenegger said the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Umberg, a Democrat, disregards the will of a majority of Californians.

Muses Laura:

I can't imagine the plan was constitutional, but who knows what the wacky 9th Circuit Court of Appeals might have done. Fortunately the Governor has spared us finding out, at least for now. Assemblyman Tom Umberg is threatening to put the measure on the ballot via the initiative process.

If he does, and if it should actually get on the ballot, I think we in the other 49 states should be allowed to vote on it. It would, after all, be consistent with Umberg's [lack of] logic.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:24 PM)
4 October 2006
All the young dudes carry the news

The big story around here at the moment is that "Wild Bill" Kerr of Passionate America tracked one of Mark Foley's IM "buddies" and found him working for the Ernest Istook gubernatorial campaign here in Oklahoma City. (How big? A chap from the Oklahoman called me, hoping I had Bill's phone number. I don't.)

I guess the good thing about this is that the Foley experience didn't sour the poor lad on the sport of politics.

Update, 5 October: The Oklahoman's take.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:35 PM)
5 October 2006
Who will protest the protestors?

These guys at Penn:

Six students, led by Engineering junior Tal Raviv, began a ceremonious walk outside Huntsman Hall at noon and processed east toward College Green, where they chanted phrases like "No more protests!" and "Down with activism!"

Raviv said the group was a "very close-knit group of friends" trying to bring some humor to Penn's campus, which he described as "not funny enough."

Now that's what we need: student inactivism.

(Via Jonah Goldberg.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:05 PM)
9 October 2006
It's my party and I'll buy if I want to

"Some businesses, things and people," says Miriam, "just seem to naturally belong to one political party or the other." A few of her examples:

Target, Democratic; Wal-Mart, Republican. Sears, Democratic; Macy's, Republican. Margarine, Democratic; butter, Republican. The miniskirt, Democratic; the little black dress with pearls, Republican. Tattoos, Democratic; Botox, Republican. Hot dogs, Democratic; knackwurst, Republican. Kraft cheddar cheese, Democratic; havarti cheese, Republican. Mustard, Democratic; mayonnaise, Republican.

Obviously none of this is graven in stone, and I expect protests on some of them since when is mayonnaise Republican? but there is some sense to it, perhaps.

My own thinking:

Democratic: Volvo, Panera Bread, TJ Maxx, Lifetime.

Republican: Buick, Burger King, JCPenney, ESPN.

Green: Segway, Whole Foods, Goodwill, C-SPAN.

Libertarians, of course, buy what they damn well please.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:22 AM)
11 October 2006
Can we borrow your tones, Mr. Stentor?

Lileks explains one way to make your campaign ad more effective:

Use the same narrator who's appeared in every other campaign ad since 1978. You know, that guy. The one with the voice? Him. We all know he's the true ruler of the country, and if he gives his tacit stamp of approval, I know the candidate has the backing of the Hidden Cabal that runs the government from a mountain in Colorado. They weren't behind 9/11, but they were behind 5/30. Oh, you didn't hear about 5/30? That's how secret they are.

Of course, There Is No Cabal.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:10 PM)
12 October 2006
The new GOP front-runner

As you all know, the lesser of two evils would still be lesser.

(Darth Rove snickers in the Eighth Circle.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:31 AM)
15 October 2006
And away it goes (2)

Last year, stewardesses stripped for a calendar to protest the increasing uncertainty of ostensibly-guaranteed pensions.

They're doing it again:

We decided to produce the 2007 "More Stewardesses Stripped" calendar because the pension default problem is escalating. We hope our message continues to create national awareness, not only to the pension debacle, but also to the pay cuts, layoffs and loss of medical benefits.

Why are workers forced to take cuts in salary and give concessions while top management gives themselves raises, bonuses and secures their own personal pension funds?

I'm not entirely sure that taking your clothes off for a calendar is exactly the way to do this it may raise something other than "awareness," if you get my drift but I bought last year's version, and I intend to get this year's as well. For purely political reasons, of course.

Oh, and last year they said that "one of us is a grandmother." This year it's three of them.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:25 PM)
16 October 2006
One last bit of exFoleyation

This editorial in The Week baffles me:

Of all the lessons being drawn from the Mark Foley scandal, the most laughable is that this is what happens when you put gay men in Congress. "Whether we admit it or not," said columnist Pat Buchanan this week, "many male homosexuals have a thing for teenage boys." I'd restate that sentence a bit more broadly. Whether we admit it or not, many men have a thing for teenagers and they no longer feel very guilty about it. Let us not forget that when she was the same age as Foley's page friends, Britney Spears was our culture's biggest sex symbol. Of the dozens of sex scandals in Washington's recent past, 98 percent have involved straight men and much younger women. So if we really want a Congress free of scandal and drooling predators, it's not gay men we should purge from politics. We should stop electing men.

Because women, of course, would never stoop so low.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:00 PM)
18 October 2006
Well, shoot

I have received the official state endorsement list from the National Rifle Association. Then again, I'm a member; you can see the same list here.

Noteworthy:

  • When two candidates get the same legislative rating from the organization, they tend to endorse the incumbent: Brad Henry over Ernest Istook (governor), Cliff Branan over Pat Potts (Senate 40), Drew Edmondson over James Dunn (AG). But "tend to" doesn't mean "always"; they made no endorsement for lieutenant governor. (All these folks, including Jari Askins and Todd Hiett, got A's from NRA.) And in House 44, incumbent Bill Nations (B-plus) was preferred over challenger Gary Caissie (A).

  • For some inscrutable reason, they list Mary Fallin's opponent for the 5th District as "Mike Erickson," who is running for the 5th District in Oregon.

  • Only two candidates rate an actual F from the organization: Cory Spocogee (House 69) and Dana Orwig (House 87). Since both are political neophytes, I have to assume that their questionnaire responses were deemed unsatisfactory. (There are rather a lot of question marks, which presumably go to candidates who don't respond.) Still, this is inconsistent with their definition of an F: "True enemy of gun owners’ rights. A vehement anti-gun candidate who always opposes gun owners’ rights and/or actively leads anti-gun legislative efforts, or sponsors anti-gun legislation." A check of their Web sites reveals that neither of them mentions guns as an issue at all, so "actively" seems at best premature.

If nothing else, this little exposition explains why I'd make a truly lousy single-issue voter.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:19 AM)
19 October 2006
Paging Philip Nolan

If this catches on well, read it yourself:

Dear Senator Sarbanes,
As a native Marylander and excellent customer of the Internal Revenue Service, I am writing to ask for your assistance. I have contacted the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to determine the process for becoming an illegal alien and they referred me to you.

My primary reason for wishing to change my status from U.S. Citizen to illegal alien stem from the bill which was recently passed by the Senate and for which you voted. If my understanding of this bill's provisions is accurate, as an illegal alien who has been in the United States for five years, all I need to do to become a citizen is to pay a $2,000 fine and income taxes for three of the last five years. I know a good deal when I see one and I am anxious to get the process started before everyone figures it out.

Simply put, those of us who have been here legally have had to pay taxes every year so I'm excited about the prospect of avoiding two years of taxes in return for paying a $2,000 fine. Is there any way that I can apply to be illegal retroactively? This would yield an excellent result for me and my family because we paid heavy taxes in 2004 and 2005.

(Note: Not this Philip Nolan. Via Tinkerty Tonk.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:34 AM)
20 October 2006
Bush's third term

Not gonna happen, you say? This guy thinks otherwise:

Amendment XXII is quite clear. It applies only to "elected" presidents or to presidents that are serving out a term to which someone else has been "elected". The 2001-2005 presidential term was filled by a court appointed official and therefore exempt from this Amendment.

Sure, there will be objections and legal challenges from the party of whiners. They will probably fight it all the way thru the court systems. However, I think we all know who the Supremes sing back-up for.

According to Berry Gordy, it was Diana Ross. (And if she runs as a Democrat against John McCain, I'll vote for her.)

Seriously, this has about as much chance of standing up as Christopher Reeve, and he's dead. (In case John Edwards is reading.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:33 AM)
Things turn nasty

I missed this in this morning's Oklahoman, probably because I didn't actually read it until I got home from work, about twelve hours after it arrived.

Anyway:

The race for Oklahoma City-based House District 87 has taken a negative turn.

Last week, residents in the district received a flier on their door calling on Rep. Trebor Worthen to return money from U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook's First Freedom Fund. The Fund donated $29,000 to charity earlier this year to account for money donated to the fund from disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients.

The flier, paid for by a group called Citizens for Corrupt-Free Government, called on Worthen to return what it called "dirty Washington, D.C. money."

Worthen's Democratic opponent, Dana Orwig, said she was not responsible for the flier distribution.

I think it's a safe bet that Orwig indeed had nothing to do with this; I got my first flier from the mysterious "Citizens" last year, and apparently they're selective and/or haphazard about their distribution, since I got the flier with the Abramoff story a month ago.

Then there's this:

Orwig also called on Worthen to "stop spreading lies" about her wanting to legalize marijuana in his campaign mailings. The issue was raised in a candidate survey earlier this year by the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma, which asked whether the candidate supports patients' rights to use medical marijuana with a doctor's prescription.

Orwig said yes, but says the question did not address legalization specifically.

Right on schedule. This is just about the point in 2004 when Worthen dropped a reference to an endorsement of opponent John Morgan by GayOKC.com into his flood of mailings. I suspected at the time (since I know John Morgan; he's a neighbor) that they weren't so much pro-Morgan as anti-Worthen, but there are still pockets of this district where a little gay-bashing scores political points.

(If you're looking for reasons to vote for Orwig, Kurt Hochenauer lays out the case in her favor.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:40 PM)
21 October 2006
See you at the polls

Around Spokane, and some other locations in Washington state, they've gone to balloting by mail, and, says Terry, it's just not the same:

I received my ballot in the mail and filled it out sitting at the table. My power of anonymity is gone as I sign the envelope to mail it in. The post office could discard my plainly marked envelope. Should an unethical official wish, they could know how I voted. They could choose not to count my vote at all and I’d have no way of knowing.

As I put a stamp on the envelope and put it in the mailbox, I felt a little melancholy. This doesn't seem like progress to me. I used to feel important in the election process; now I'm just another little cog in a machine that would easily roll on without me. Sadder still is the idea that my 2 youngest children will never know the feeling of power I did in casting [my] first vote. They won't get that tangible statement of signing it at the table and feeding their ballot into the machine themselves. Voting now may have no more significance that filling out a product survey.

This may be cheaper and more efficient but we've given up a lot for those small gains. Voting is now an impersonal enterprise rather than the community experience it once was. I don’t think the "progress" was worth it.

If turnout happens to go up, they'll claim that it was so worth it.

And there's one further objection to the concept, noted by Stefan Sharkansky:

If a voter mismarks her ballot at a polling place, the tabulator can give the voter instant feedback that there was an error and the voter can correct it. With vote-by-mail, the voter receives no feedback and no opportunity to correct any mistakes.

Yeah, I could vote absentee and save myself a trip to church. (Yes, children, my polling place is in a House of Worship. The ACLU presumably knows about it.) But geez, it's not like the country is asking me to do a whole heck of a lot else other than fork over several thousand bucks in taxes every year, of course.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:12 AM)
Rout 101

It doesn't look good for the Republicans, says Chad the Elder:

... I happened to be seated next to a high ranking GOP campaign operative and he told me that the party's internal polling shows that the outlook for the election is even worse than is being presented in the media. In fact, he said as it stands now Republicans are trailing in all 435 House races, the 33 Senate seats up for grabs, and the 36 statehouses at stake. He said that at this point the most the party can realistically hope for is to hold on to the Coeur d'Alene dogcatcher's seat, although even that is up for grabs. He also urged Republican voters to not only stay home on November 7th, but to slit their wrists in a warm bath to avoid the inevitable agony.

This, I surmise, is something of an exaggeration. For one thing, Coeur d'Alene dogcatcher isn't an elective position.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:16 PM)
23 October 2006
So it's come to this

"Senator, did you or did you not burn ants with a magnifying glass on your mom's porch?"

Addendum: "And have you ever done anything which would motivate someone to recreate you as an action figure?" (Hat tip: Thad.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:08 AM)
27 October 2006
Webb sight

Try as I may, I can't get worked up over James Webb's fictional sex scenes. George Allen's people, who apparently didn't have to try, came up with this:

Webb’s novels disturbingly and consistently indeed, almost uniformly portray women as servile, subordinate, inept, incompetent, promiscuous, perverted, or some combination of these. In novel after novel, Webb assigns his female characters base, negative characteristics. In thousands of pages of fiction penned by Webb, there are few if any strong, admirable women or positive female role models.

Why does Jim Webb refuse to portray women in a respectful, positive light, whether in his non-fiction concerning their role in the military, or in his provocative novels? How can women trust him to represent their views in the Senate when chauvinistic attitudes and sexually exploitive references run throughout his fiction and non-fiction writings?

Inasmuch as no one is actually talking about Webb's non-fiction, the Allen campaign apparently threw that in as part of the standard late-October kitchen-sink approach. As for the fiction, it can be dismissed simply because it's fiction. The idea that responsible people just don't think things like this is a crock: every last one of us has a Dark Side, a repository for the things that cross our minds no matter how much they may conflict with what we've been taught or with what we profess. (Good old Original Sin. Where would we be without it?)

Based on what I've read and I can't think of any good reason to spend money on the actual books if I'm going to fault Jim Webb for anything, it's for being an uninteresting, repetitive writer. The idea that this disqualifies him for the Senate is ludicrous: if anything, it suggests that he'd fit right in with the rest of the microcephalics. The fact that George Allen would come up with an attack this absurd, however, demonstrates that he is no less qualified. In a world where karma was both perfect and timely, both these guys would lose and we'd end up with Meryl Yourish in the Senate. Poor Virginia. The Birthplace of Presidents seems to be turning into a breeding ground for schmucks.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:52 AM)
29 October 2006
We pick 'em: 2006 edition

5th Congressional District

In years past, this was an easy choice: pick whoever wasn't Ernest Istook. This election, however, presents a dilemma: what with Congressional Republicans being generally feckless and Congressional Democrats being generally insane, the choice isn't exactly obvious. Mary Fallin's positions are closer to my own, but the GOP, bedeviled by voter revolt elsewhere, can't possibly pump enough money into this race to buy her a clue, and besides, I'm tired of this being written off as a safe-Republican seat, so I'm giving the nod to Dr. Hunter. He won't win, of course, but he's bound to do better than the sacrificial lambs the Democrats have sent up in years past, and perhaps he'll blaze a trail for whoever faces Fallin in 2008 assuming she hasn't messed up by then, which is a lot to assume. (Yes, there's an independent in this race, one Matthew Horton Woodson; the mere fact that he's pushing the Loose Change crockumentary takes him out of consideration.)

Governor

Applying the "whoever isn't Ernest Istook" rule, supra, I find myself backing Brad Henry. I am, admittedly, not crazy about the Bradster, but he's an effective advocate for the Goldilocks principle: nothing too hot, nothing too cold. Besides, a Henry victory will free up Istook to take the position he really wants: on Washington's K Street, as a sort of Abramoff Lite minus indictments, I presume. It's a win/win all around.

Lieutenant Governor

Jari Askins gets the nod over Todd Hiett for two reasons: (1) she's an old-school Democrat with a fair amount of accumulated smarts and (2) she's not Todd Hiett, whose Johnny-One-Note calls for tax cuts started to wear thin after we actually got some tax cuts, and who, I expect, would take credit for the sunrise if he thought he could get away with it. I still haven't come up with a good reason to support E. Z. Million, though Tom Elmore has.

Corporation Commission

Bob Anthony has been on the Commission since 1989, and were it possible to keep him there until 2089, it would be just fine with me. The Corp Comm has always been a hotbed of temptation; Bob Anthony has always been the man who resists. Michael Bates has background.

Treasurer

Scott Meacham took over when Robert Butkin retired; for the most part, he's followed Butkin's protocols, which were good ones. I like Howard Barnett, but he seems to think that the powers of the office should be enlarged he's assailed Meacham for being a "part-time" Treasurer and well, I'd rather that be left up to the electorate than to one fellow with ambition.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

This one I'm staying out of. I've seen quite enough of Sandy Garrett; on the other hand, Bill Crozier's prating about "bulletproof" textbooks makes him look like a complete and utter boob.

Commissioner of Labor

Last time out, I complained that Brenda Reneau always "rubbed me the wrong way," but didn't see any reason to prefer opponent Lloyd Fields. Reneau has been less of a disappointment than I expected, though, and in this slot, that might be good enough, especially since she's facing the same opponent.

Attorney General

Count me as a Drew Edmondson fan. The power structure is vaguely distrustful of him, which is always a good thing, and James Dunn hasn't made much of a case for himself.

Insurance Commissioner

Governor Henry appointed Kim Holland to succeed the ousted Carroll Fisher, and she did a pretty fair job of cleaning up the mess Fisher left behind. Of late she's been the target of some fairly nasty advertising, largely financed from out of state, which suggests to me that "pretty fair" might actually be an understatement: apparently she's ticked off some fat cats, which, to me, is another point in her favor.

State Auditor and Inspector

A rematch of 2002: Jeff McMahan and Gary Jones. McMahan won that one, and I'd just as soon he won this one too.

District Attorney

Wes Lane, I think, is following in the path of Bob Macy: he's starting to believe his own BS. For any politician, this is the beginning of the end. Better to retire him now, while he can still make something resembling a dignified exit. I'm not wild about David Prater, but he's still sane.

Senate District 40/House District 87

I have grouped these two together because they both have Republican incumbents who haven't annoyed me greatly, and because their Democratic challengers are making similar pitches. I've decided that Pat Potts' wealth of nonprofit experience is probably better left there, and will vote to keep Cliff Branan in the Senate; on the other hand, sensing that Trebor Worthen might be seeing himself as the second coming of Todd Hiett, an uncomfortable vision at best, I'm going with challenger Dana Orwig for the House.

County Assessor

Leonard Sullivan seems to have found his niche; an indifferent legislator, he's been a pretty decent assessor, and I see no reason to give him the boot.

County Commissioner, District 1

Despite the best (worst?) efforts of the other two Commissioners, Jim Roth has worked diligently to tend to the county's business without spending us into oblivion or getting embroiled in foolish side issues. With one of the two twits defeated in August, Roth's job will no doubt get easier; as far as I'm concerned, he's earned as many terms as we can give him.

I of course reserve the right to change my mind during the next nine days, but I don't really expect to have to do so.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 PM)
30 October 2006
Stuff received (first of a series)

In these last days before the election, I'm going to list all the political mailings and such that come to my door. (Phone polling and politicking will be mentioned only if they leave a message on my machine; I refuse to answer the phone for the next week.)

Today's batch:

  • Cliff Branan sent out two copies (clean up your mailing list, guys) of an imitation four-page newspaper called "Conservative Capitol Report", including a spiel about education, a list of donors, a letter from Mrs Branan, and a collection of quotes.

  • Leonard Sullivan's flyer today contains the interesting claim: "The only qualified person in the race!" Sullivan also takes a shot at the two County Commissioners who voted to disband the Budget Board back in 2005, one of whom is now out of office.

  • The reclusive "Citizens Against Corruption" have a new anti-Trebor Worthen flyer, claiming he's declared "War on the Middle Class" and citing his votes on five bills. The most interesting might be HB 3040, which, say the Citizens, "protect[s] organizations that physically or sexually abuse children with developmental disabilities." More precisely, it would bar punitive damages in suits against 501(c)(3) organizations that work with such children. I interpret this as another shot across the trial lawyers' bow.

I figure there's a lot more yet to come, so watch this space in the evenings.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:46 PM)
31 October 2006
Stuff received (Tuesday)

Two cards received today, both on behalf of Trebor Worthen, one mailed by his campaign committee (to someone who hasn't lived here in years), and one from the NRA, which has given him their endorsement. (I expected the latter, since I am a member.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:36 PM)
1 November 2006
Truthiness or consequences

If you ask me just how it is I came to pick this particular set of candidates, and some of you might, I might just refer you to The Caustic Tart:

The politicians, in the end, win. They’ve successfully muddied the waters. So how to decide who to vote for? Being a libertarian, I think I’m left with two solid options: pick the least lying liar, or make a choice based on who I dislike the least.

I haven't yet resorted to flipping a coin, but I'm not entirely ruling it out either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:57 AM)
Stuff received (Wednesday)

Yesterday was all GOP; today the Democrats drop in.

  • A card with a photo of all the statewide Democratic candidates, with the tag "Experienced Leaders You Can Trust." Brad Henry's in the middle; the tall guys at the ends are Cody Graves and Lloyd Fields.

  • A letter from Dana Orwig, addressed to "Dear Neighbor," complains about Trebor Worthen's "misleading and untrue allegations," and says, "In view of the trend of Mr Worthen's mailings, I suspect his campaign has further plans to 'go negative'." (I've mentioned this tendency before.)

See the wire? That's what we're down to.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:30 PM)
2 November 2006
Stuff received (Thursday)

One oversized card today, on behalf of Jim Roth, asserting that he "has made Oklahoma County safer," a reference to road and bridge improvements in District 1.

Overall, I think I've gotten more mail from the Roth campaign than from any other this year.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:39 PM)
3 November 2006
Stuff received (Friday)

In the waning days, it's a GOP blitz. Here's what showed up today:

  • A Trebor Worthen trifecta: three items from the Republican State Leadership Committee, all touting Worthen's tax stances and all citing the same bill: HB 1172, which scissored the top end of the income tax and repealed the estate tax. The RSLC's mailer, Targeted Creative Communications, Inc., has yet to figure out that there have been three owners of this house since the one to which these items were addressed.

  • Another RSLC card, magazine-sized: "Oklahoma State House Republicans: They did what they said they would do." See the previous item for address concerns.

  • Two cards from Cliff Branan in what appears to be somebody's handwriting. (If it's a font, it's a good one; seldom do any two iterations of the same letter look alike.) One of these is actually addressed to me.

Question to the readership: Should I include items which due to mail delays didn't show up until Election Day or after? Or should I knock this off after Monday evening?

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:14 PM)
4 November 2006
Stuff received (Saturday)

It's yet another GOP blitz, with basically the same mailing issues they've had before (see prior installments), and these items fall into three general categories:

  • Cliff Branan (positive): "Why We Believe Cliff Branan is a Great State Senator," with paragraphs by seemingly everybody from David Boren to the owners of Bennett's Decal and Label. Two copies received.

  • Trebor Worthen (positive): A handwritten card similar to the one I got from Branan yesterday. I don't think the text was machine-generated, and I note in passing that Worthen's penmanship is worse than Branan's, though still far better than mine.

  • Trebor Worthen (negative): This was the first look I've had at the "misleading and untrue allegations" Dana Orwig says Worthen has made. The most obvious problem with the list is that Worthen provides a source for only one of four alleged Orwig statements, and makes an unwarranted extrapolation from that one: one's position on medical marijuana is not an infallible indication of one's position on other proscribed drugs. (And that source, incidentally, is the 2006 Libertarian Candidate Survey, which Worthen apparently couldn't be bothered to take himself.)

On these mailing matters: Assuming that these addresses are obtained from voter-registration records of some sort, I'm wondering if maybe Mrs T (not her real initial), who lived here until 1997 or so, is still listed on the rolls at this address. Maybe I'll ask a staffer at the polling place on Tuesday if she's still in the book. (Better yet, maybe I'll ask Don Danz to come down and vote on her behalf.)

Addendum, 1 pm: As the block captain for the Neighborhood Association, I deliver the monthly newsletter on my block, and as I made the rounds today, I noticed a couple of flyers that had beaten me to the front doors. Here's what I found:

  • A card with Dana Orwig's photo and a sticker giving the location of the polling place.

  • A pair of sheets from Dave Mehlhaff, the larger of which complains that Jim Roth is getting outside-the-area contributions from the Victory Fund, a national GLBT PAC, and plays the by-now-dogeared "radical homosexual agenda" card. The Fund is indeed taking contributions for Roth; as for the "agenda," well, I attended the United States Holocaust Museum's traveling exhibit of gay and lesbian Holocaust victims, which Roth helped to bring here, and which Mehlhaff presumably would have preferred to be kept under wraps.

I have one concern: that people will come home, find all this stuff on their doors, and suspect they are in some way connected. They aren't. Orwig and Mehlhaff are political opposites; what's more, the Mayfair Heights Neighborhood Association has endorsed no candidates for office, and the arrival of its newsletter on this date was timed to remind residents of the monthly meeting Tuesday night, at which Ward 2 Councilman Sam Bowman (not up for reelection this year) will speak.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:55 AM)
5 November 2006
Last-minute roundup

I've already posted my endorsements, such as they are; regular readers may have ascertained the level of enthusiasm from the context, and have certainly noticed that I didn't mention any party connections.

So here's the Shorter Version, with party designation included, and 1 through 5 to indicate the firmness of my support. (Something about which I don't care in the slightest would score zero, but then it wouldn't get an endorsement, would it?)

5th Congressional District: David Hunter (D) (3)
Governor: Brad Henry (D) (4)
Lieutenant Governor: Jari Askins (D) (4)
Corporation Commission: Bob Anthony (R) (5)
Treasurer: Scott Meacham (D) (3)
Labor Commissioner: Brenda Reneau (R) (3)
Attorney General: Drew Edmondson (D) (3)
Insurance Commissioner: Kim Holland (D) (4)
State Auditor: Jeff McMahan (D) (2)
District Attorney: David Prater (D) (2)
Senate 40: Cliff Branan (R) (4)
House 87: Dana Orwig (D) (4)
Assessor: Leonard Sullivan (R) (5)
District 1 Commisioner: Jim Roth (D) (5)

Of people not on my ballot, I like Andrew Rice (D, Senate 46), Fred Jordan (R, House 69), Jennifer Seal (D, House 85), Lance Cargill (R, House 96), John Trebilcock (R, House 98), and J. M. Branum (I, House 99).

State questions:
724: Yes (5)
725: Yes (1)
733: Yes (5)
734: Yes (4)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:26 PM)
6 November 2006
A poll of unlikely voters

I suspect they'd sound like Deb:

[A]s for the argument that it's somehow un-American not to vote, I'd say it's un-American to shut up and do as you're told even if it makes you throw up a little. If you've got to hold your nose to even get near the ballot, maybe it's time to retain a little dignity and stay home.

Or, as Jim Hightower used to say, "If the gods had meant us to vote they would have given us candidates."

Update, Election Day: Jenn*fer rec*mmends th*s sh*rt.

Further update: This is probably what Deb means by holding one's nose.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:55 PM)
Stuff received (Monday)

These constitute last-ditch attempts, and truth be told, I wouldn't be surprised to find some of these in the last ditch in the next couple of days.

Anyway, here's what we have:

  • An expanded version with family photos, yet! of basically the same Leonard Sullivan flyer received last week.

  • A sort-of-amusing GOP flyer with a picture of a tombstone and the caption: "The Democrat Controlled State Senate. Where good bills go to die." Which may even be true, though some of the ones they cited didn't strike me as all that good, and a couple of them date all the way back to 2003, which is a long time to carry a grudge. (And, pace Dwayne, enough with the "pro-values" tag. If I ever am insane enough to run for office, I promise to run on an Anti-Values platform.)

  • An actual phone call, which I did not answer and wouldn't have had I been here at the time it came in, from Sheriff John Whetsel, singing the praises of Jim Roth. It gets mentioned here because Whetsel was canny enough to make the entire spiel fit into the meager thirty seconds I allow on my machine.

The polls are open from 7 to 7 tomorrow. [Insert joke about "twelve-hour election" here.]

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:44 PM)
7 November 2006
It's my party and I'll vote as I want to

Way back in 1997, in the blessed days of gridlock (in Vent #63, in fact), I said this:

Both the President and Congressional leadership routinely decry the other's tactics as "partisan politics", and call for a "bipartisan effort to solve the nation's problems" or something comparably high-minded. At the state level or below, things are little different.

"Bipartisan" is definitely all over the place politically, which makes me uneasy about its very ubiquity. Compared to its dictionary definition, its use in these contexts is accurate; a bipartisan accord, just as you might expect, becomes such when it is agreed to by both parties. Unspoken, but certainly implied by your favorite politico, is the notion that if both Democrats and Republicans can come to this particular agreement, it must therefore be a Good Thing. And farther down in the subtext is the notion that those two particular parties somehow manage to subsume the whole of American political belief: you got your Democrats, you got your Republicans, and what's left isn't worth a bucket of John Nance Garner's bodily fluids. As any registered Libertarian will tell you in those states where the bipartisan efforts of Republicans and Democrats have somehow failed to make it impossible actually to be a registered Libertarian this is a crock.

You might think from this that we may as well drop the damned veil and be partisan, and when we do, we'll find that Sean Gleeson is already there:

I am one of the only partisans in America, if you take everyone at his own word.

I know partisanship is out of fashion. Conservatives and liberals disown it, pundits and candidates denounce it. If I didn't know what 'partisan' meant, and had to guess at its meaning from reading modern political discourse, I would conclude it was a synonym of 'evil.' (For those of you who really don't know what partisan means, it means "supporting a party.")

Even partisans shrink from being partisans. A Google search on GOP.com turns up 3,000 results for 'partisan'.’ The same search on Democrats.org finds 1,800 results. According to our two greatest partisan institutions, 'partisan' is always what the other party is. Our party isn't partisan at all, you see, because we have principles.

Tomorrow [this was written on Monday], I'm going to the polls, and voting the straight Republican ticket. The whole slate of GOP candidates, even the doofuses. Not because these candidates happen to be the best individuals on the ballot, but because they happen to be the Republican candidates.

My partisanship is a result of the Democratic Party's drift into "insanity," as Dan Lovejoy charitably calls it. The Democrats in their current incarnation are unsuited to govern this country. While Lovejoy sees this as a reason to boycott the Democrats in Congressional races, I see it as a reason to boycott them in all races.

I'm not entirely convinced it's a "drift"; I believe it was a deliberate move in an effort to well, God only knows what they were thinking.

And really, Mr Gleeson's stance is no different from that of the classic yellow-dog Democrat, except for the party affiliation; if you're willing to complain about him, but not about them, you might want to see about having your Consistency Meter recalibrated.

What could persuade Sean Gleeson to vote for a Democrat? It would have to be a truly exceptional Democrat indeed, and even then it's not a certainty.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:15 PM)
Are you ready for some turnout?

I arrived at the polling place at 4:55. No lines, really two, maybe three people deep at the table at most and no waiting for a booth. I cast ballot #993 for the precinct, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the pollwatchers had side bets on when they'd hit a thousand. Elapsed time: five minutes, twenty seconds, and yes, I did both sides of the ballot. Not too shabby, if I say so myself.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Oklahoma voting system: you mark your ballot a substantial piece of card stock by filling in the center of an arrow pointing to the candidate or choice provided. You then take the ballot to an optical reader, which scans both sides as you slide it in, and flashes a green light if it finds no anomalies. If something's wrong, you get a red light, they hand it back to you, and if necessary give you a new ballot. A four-digit counter ticks over once for each good ballot. When the polls close at 7:00, the reader is disconnected, and the plastic box underneath it, where all the ballots have fallen, is sent, along with the appropriate register tape, to the county election board, which in turn is responsible for getting it to the state election board. Results are posted here starting at 7 pm and updated as new boxes are received. Seldom will you hear any horror stories about Oklahoma voting: it's fast, there's an actual paper trail, and it's relatively hard to screw up. In Presidential years there are longer lines, of course, but some people only come out every four years.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:30 PM)
8 November 2006
The view from here

Actually, it was a pretty good day to be an Oklahoma incumbent: of the statewide officeholders, only Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau was sent packing. More interesting is the apparent 24-24 tie in the state Senate, in which case Lt. Governor-elect Jari Askins, a Democrat, will hold the balance of power. (Senator Nancy Riley, who switched to the Democrats earlier this year, might well congratulate herself on her prescience.) The GOP still holds the House, though.

All the State Questions passed, although the only one that was never in doubt was 724, which cuts off state pay to an officeholder in jail, and which passed with better than a 7-1 margin.

I've seen no recount requests yet. If there are no challenges, the State Election Board will certify the results (current totals here) next Wednesday.

All in all, I can't complain with any degree of conviction: most of the folks I voted for actually won, which is far better than my usual track record, and it looks like I can retire my Big Book of Thad Balkman Jokes.

(Oh, and my predictions? Not so close.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:41 AM)
Tom Coburn on the election

Seen at the Instant Man's, and excerpted here:

Although this election represents a short-term setback for Republicans, it could be an important turning point for the Republican Party and, more importantly, the country. Every incumbent was reminded that the American people, not party establishments, hold the reins of government. Throughout our history, when the American people rise up and force change our country benefits. In our system, the wisdom of many individual voters still outweighs the wisdom of a few.

Many factors contributed to these election results. The American people obviously are concerned about the conduct of the war in Iraq. Members of both parties have an obligation to work together to offer creative and constructive solutions that will help our troops accomplish their mission.

The overriding theme of this election, however, is that voters are more interested in changing the culture in Washington than changing course in Washington, D.C. This election was not a rejection of conservative principles per se, but a rejection of corrupt, complacent and incompetent government.

I'll buy some of this, but not all of it. Clearly some voters, and not just in Blue-On-Blueland, have had it up to here with "conservative principles," and there's no point in denying it. On the other hand, it's equally clear that the GOP brought this on themselves while they had no monopoly on either corruption or incompetence, they set the pace for both, and their complacency was utterly mind-boggling and if it doesn't prove to be a learning experience for them, you can expect more Republicans to be turned out of office in 2008.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:32 PM)
9 November 2006
Voice your second choice

From 2005, Michael Bates explains Instant Runoff Voting:

Under IRV, voting is simple. Voters rank the candidates in order: I mark a 1 next to my favorite, then mark a 2 next to the name of the candidate who would be the my choice if my favorite weren't in the race, and so on down the list.

It's called instant runoff voting because it's equivalent to having a series of runoff elections, eliminating the low vote-getter each pass and choosing among the remaining candidates. The advantage of IRV over a series of runoff elections is that you only have to open the polls once. IRV is used to elect the President of Ireland, members of Parliament in Australia, and here in Tulsa it was used at the 1st District Republican Conventions of 2000 and 2004 to elect delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention. I first experienced IRV in college we used it in our fraternity to elect officers.

At the very least, Tulsa needs a runoff in special elections, but it would be better still to use IRV in all elections. As a charter city, Tulsa could choose to do that.

This week, voters in Minneapolis chose to use IRV in municipal elections, the result of a campaign by a "grassroots coalition of political parties, social justice and environmental groups, religious institutions, and others." (List here.) Admittedly, on the red/blue continuum, Minneapolis is just this side of indigo, but I have to believe that some of the handful of conservatives in town liked the idea. (If nothing else, there's the appeal to taxpayers: it saves the cost of runoffs when one candidate fails to win a majority. Maybe Lileks will weigh in one of these days.)

It would admittedly be tricky to adopt IRV to the Oklahoma optical-scan voting system, but surely it's not impossible.

(Via Swirlspice.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:20 AM)
11 November 2006
Our man in Ankara

They buried Bülent Ecevit today, and after a couple of minutes, I remembered where I'd heard that name before.

Ecevit was the Prime Minister of Turkey when I arrived there for a twelve-month tour of duty in the spring of 1974. He was a staunch secularist in this mostly-Muslim nation, and was generally considered friendly toward the US.

Things began to fall apart that year. In July, Archbishop Makarios, president of Cyprus, was deposed in a coup apparently sponsored by Greece; Turkey was opposed to the new Nikos Sampson regime, and Ecevit flew to London to enlist the help of the British, who had controlled the island before a treaty of independence was signed in 1959. The British declined to get involved, but the US, perhaps fearful for the future of NATO bases in Turkey, dispatched an envoy (Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Joseph J. Sisco) to the scene. Negotiations went nowhere, and Turkey invaded Cyprus, eventually gaining control over the northeastern third of the island. The US, upset, suspended arms shipments to Turkey; the Turks responded by curtailing US activities in Turkey that weren't specifically authorized by NATO. Our own base was covered by the NATO agreement, but some restrictions fell upon us anyway: we were barred from originating our own programming from our on-post radio station, and it seemed to take much longer to get approvals for surveillance flights. Ecevit suffered substantial political fallout from the invasion, and he was replaced as Prime Minister in November by Sadi Irmak.

Bülent Ecevit eventually returned to power, and in 1978 (I was long gone) Congress lifted the arms embargo. In 1979 he resigned again; following a coup in 1980 by the military, most political parties, including Ecevit's center-left Republican People's Party, were banned, and Ecevit was briefly imprisoned. In 1987, a referendum rescinded the ban, though Ecevit, then sixty-two, would never again have the influence he had had before.

Getting a grip on Ecevit's politics required a steady hand. While he favored greater participation in Western alliances and cultures, and firmly believed in the secular Turkey founded by Atatürk, his domestic policies tended toward the semi-socialist, occasionally perplexing Americans who were looking to open up Turkish markets. Some of us who were stationed in his country in those days tended to think rather highly of him, partly because he seemed to think rather highly of us, but perhaps also because we were overwhelmed by this utterly foreign yet somehow familiar land the Turkish language, while obviously influenced by Arabic and Persian, is written, per Atatürk's instructions, in a Western-style alphabet and we were inclined to cut everyone some slack.

Güle güle, sir.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:21 PM)
13 November 2006
We want our mommy

Swiped from Better Living Through Blogging:

Contessa Brewer of MSNBC did a short profile on the number of women elected to statehouses and Congress, and was interviewing the communications director of Emily's List, which she described as the "largest grass-roots internet site devoted to electing Democrats." The conversation turned to motherhood, and Brewer mentioned that Nancy Pelosi has five children and Claire McCaskill is a single mother, which she then turned into one of the most ridiculous questions ever posed on cable news:

"So how does motherhood translate into nurturing the country?"

Sheesh. Do you think that anyone has ever asked how fatherhood translates into nurturing a country, or how fatherhood translates into … what, teaching a country how to catch a baseball?

Of course not. Men, after all, are expendable, and they have no lessons to teach today; the important thing today is to minimize their baleful influence, which has perpetrated such blights on the landscape as NASCAR, Promise Keepers, and, um, Western civilization.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:13 AM)
16 November 2006
A Lott of nothing

Four years ago, I titled an item "The last, dear God, the last Trent Lott entry." Obviously I spoke too soon.

Chris Lawrence says it better than I:

Senate leadership positions on either side of the aisle aren’t exactly hotbeds of political power (thanks largely to the fundamental institutional feature of the Senate the filibuster that distinguishes it from the House), so the substantive effect of Lott being in the formal leadership will be approximately zero, but in terms of symbolism I can’t say I can conceive of a choice from the 49-member caucus that is worse than Lott. I mean, that would be like the Democrats appointing a former segregationist as president pro tempore of the Senate or something.

Not that either party is inclined to take advice from mere voters, after all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:19 AM)
B-1 out of mothballs

Ten years ago in Vent #9, I listed Republican alternatives to Bob Dole in order of increasing implausibility level:

Pat Buchanan or Benito Mussolini or a three-toed sloth or Bob Dornan.

Mussolini is out, being dead and all, the sloth presumably can't be bothered, but apparently Bob Dornan is back, reports the Union-Leader's Drew Cline:

I just got off the phone with former congressman and talk show host Bob Dornan, who is considering ... a run for President.

"I can't stand the thought of my party having as its three front-runners three open adulterers, Newt Gingrich, Giuliani, and McCain," Dornan said.

Cline doesn't think this will quite come off:

Somehow, I just don't foresee B-1 Bob leading the Republican Party back to its glory days on an anti-homosexual, anti-adultery platform. But he sure would make the 2008 [New Hampshire] primary a lot more fun, especially if his nemesis Newt decides to run. It'd be like Steel vs. Iron Man.

So ... anyone heard from Pat Buchanan lately?

(Via Wonkette.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:36 PM)
24 November 2006
Welcome to Splitsville

Is there sentiment for separating the northern counties of Virginia from the rest of the state? Kevin thinks there is:

It's time Northern Virginians finally got something they so richly deserve: their own state. This website will advocate on behalf of all Northern Virginians who want to move forward and prosper under their own state government, separate and apart from the Comm[on]wealth of Virginia.

If you have a sense of déjà vu about this, dating back to, oh, 1863 or so, well, you're not alone:

Been there. Done that. Wound up with Democrats controlling the state Legislature for 74 76 years, as well as the state Supreme Court and the Governor's Mansion for 56 of those 76 years.

Be careful what you wish for ...

Which, of course, is very likely what Kevin and friends have in mind.

Personally, I think it makes more sense for Northern Virginia to be annexed by the District of Columbia, since it presumably prefers direction from Washington to direction from Richmond.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 AM)
5 December 2006
Biden gets it, maybe

Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) was speaking to the Columbia (SC) Rotary Club, and he came up with this sensible observation:

"The mid-term election may have been a rejection of the policies of this administration," Biden said. "But it was not an embrace of the Democratic program or the Democratic Party. We're in a state of flux right now and have a lot of problems that need to be resolved."

And no, I don't think he plagiarized this address, since it also contained this howler:

Delaware, he noted, was a "slave state that fought beside the North. That's only because we couldn't figure out how to get to the South. There were a couple of states in the way."

John Ray complains about said howler:

Had he been anyone but a Democrat politician, his remarks would have been condemned in the media from coast to coast.

Which may well be true, but (1) South Carolinians, having lived with the likes of Strom Thurmond, know race-baiting when they see it, and this wasn't it, and (2) the Jesse Jackson wing of the party is busy these days complaining about comedians, fercrissake.

If nothing else, this indicates that Joe Biden isn't submitting his material for vetting by the Democratic groupthink committee, which must be considered a Good Thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:27 PM)
18 December 2006
Let there be jockeying for 2008

Somebody among the Democrats will face James (he's just not a Jim to me) Inhofe for that Senate seat in 2008, and so far, all we know is that it won't be Brad Henry.

The McCarville Report Web site is surveying the possibilities, and as of yesterday, the front-runners very close together were State Senator Jay Paul Gumm, AG Drew Edmondson, and District 1 Representative Dan Boren. Fourth was Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:11 AM)
19 December 2006
A reason to vote for Hillary

Political wiseguy Dick Morris says he'll leave the country if Senator Clinton is elected President.

Maybe he can borrow Alec Baldwin's vacation house.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:09 PM)
20 December 2006
Frank moves forward

So far, the possibility of a Frank Keating Presidential bid hasn't drawn much attention, though Sean Gleeson seems pleased with the prospect.

A former aide to Keating, from his gubernatorial days, sent this to the National Review folks:

I can assure you that he has one fundamental and very vital thing in common with Ronald Reagan: He gets the big picture and thinks in broad themes. He also has the same endearing quality RR had, a willingness to listen to his staff and a natural geniality that goes far in an age of contentious politics. Actually, he is the truest Reaganite to be mentioned in connection with the 08 race so far, with the possible exception of Newt, given his extensive service in the Reagan administration and his consistency on key issues like tax cuts to drive economic growth and the conservative social agenda. He's very close to Jack Kemp (he was his deputy at HUD) with similar gravitas on the key issues. Plus, he made a lot of friends in the ranks of Catholic lay people in chairing the sexual abuse panel, from which he wisely walked away when he saw that too many in the church's upper reaches were simply not taking the mess seriously enough. He has what Rudy brings to the table experience in leading the way through the aftermath of a brutal terrorist attack. Finally, his wife is major league FLOTUS material. He may or may not go, but if he does, don't be surprised to see him do very well in early debates.

Keating is in South Carolina today, testing the waters.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:50 AM)
28 December 2006
Robin Hood: Cheesehead in Tights

Persons of a libertarian stripe tend to define taxation as "legalized theft," a description that hasn't exactly caught on nationwide.

When the politicians start looking for methods of theft other than taxation, though, it's time to worry:

[Wisconsin State] Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) said today that the value of unused gift cards should go to the state treasury not to the merchant and that change will be part of a bill he'll introduce in the legislative session starting in January.

Kessler said millions of dollars a year go unused by gift card recipients, and retailers are allowed to book the unused values after the cards expire. He cited figures from Consumer Reports showing that 19% of all gift cards are not used because they are lost or expired.

Kessler called that a "windfall," which he said could be used to support schools, health care or roads. Under his bill, after a one-year expiration date on all cards, 80% of the value of unused cards would go to the state treasury. Merchants could keep 20% of the value of an unused card to pay for processing, Kessler said.

"I'd rather have people spend the money and use the gift card, but if they aren't, I'd rather the state get the money," Kessler said.

Um, Fred? This is theft. Period. And spare me the flapdoodle about schools, health care and/or roads: your moral compass doesn't have enough direction to lead your ass out of a paper bag.

(Via Hit & Run.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:45 PM)
29 December 2006
Don't just stand there

Has the Secretary of State done enough? Perhaps not:

Addendum: For the curious, where this song came from.

(Via Princess Sparkle Pony.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:38 AM)
31 December 2006
I think you'd call this pre-pre-primary

OK Blue Notes is polling state Democrats on their Presidential preference for 2008. At this writing, Wesley Clark (!) has the lead; John Edwards and Barack Obama follow; the rest (including my own current choice, which is subject to change) are way back. Unlike most of the online polls I've seen, this one can apparently take write-ins.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:02 PM)
3 January 2007
Old and busted: surnames

After yet another CNN blunder with a text overlay (though it pales by comparison to this one), Wonkette has a suggestion for Senator Obama:

Drop the middle name, drop the last name. Just go with BARACK, like Madonna or Prince or Beck. If this "rock star" crap is going to persist for the next 23 months, might as well go all the way.

Besides, you know Hillary and Rudy will, and Mitt probably won't.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:56 AM)
9 January 2007
Enough to share

Biting the hand that feeds you, I've always believed, is one of the four basic food groups. Right Wing News proprietor John Hawkins enjoys a snack with The 20 Most Annoying People on the Right.

Oh, George W. Bush is on the list:

[H]e showed a level of political incompetence last year that hasn't been seen since the Carter Administration and that had a lot to do with the drubbing Republicans took in 2006.

Also mentioned: Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily; ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert; and former Representative Katherine Harris, who ran "the worst campaign in America," which is going some considering the prodigious badness of George Allen's.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:55 AM)
13 January 2007
Contributing to the fog

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced something she calls the "Football Fairness Act of 2007", S. 249, which would grant professional football a limited exemption to the antitrust laws: just enough of one to permit NFL owners to oppose the move of one of their teams, such as the San Francisco 49ers, who by sheerest coincidence are seeking a new stadium in Santa Clara.

This, of course, assumes that NFL owners, thus empowered, would vote to block any movement by the 49ers, an assumption which I think is unwarranted. This take by SFist seems most reasonable:

[H]ere's the thing everybody seems to like this deal. The NFL does because it gives them more power. And the 49ers like it too because they have no problems calling San Francisco's bluff on this one. Probably with good reason. Since the NFL shares all their revenue, it makes sense that the NFL would let the Niners go off to Santa Clara if the Niners could bring in more money. Also, since nobody knows Bay Area geography, the rest of the NFL doesn't see much difference between the two places as it's only thirty-eight miles away. According to NFL rule, a franchise move is defined as a move of seventy-five miles. And since the 49ers would need the NFL's permission to move anyways because they want the NFL's help in building the stadium, this isn't going to change much.

In other words, Feinstein is basically, as my father used to say, "blowing off head steam."

I'm waiting to see if anyone from Washington state introduces a similar bill to insure "fairness" for basketball teams.

Update, 3:30 pm: Brian J. Noggle sees down this slippery slope.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:24 PM)
21 January 2007
Are we there yet?

Uzi Amit-Kohn writes to Mark Steyn to ease one of the columnist's concerns:

[A]s a father of four, I think that Nancy Pelosi's having had five children in six years is the perfect training to be Speaker of the House. As any parent of multiple small children will tell you, the most difficult part of parenting is getting all the kids to shut up long enough to let anybody else talk. And what is banging the gavel in the House of Representatives if not just such an exercise in parenting writ large, with 435 self-regarding children, all screaming for attention in the back seat?

Steyn responds:

Getting your children to behave like mini-Robert C. Byrds is impressive though they may sue you for it in later life.

What I'm waiting for, I guess, is a sub rosa video (which inevitably ends up on YouTube) in which the Speaker, thinking herself off-mike, complains that some Representative or other is acting like an effing baby. She will catch hell for it, of course, but she will almost certainly have been correct in her judgment.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:26 PM)
22 January 2007
The longer we wait, diverse it gets

Alan Sullivan looks in the ring and counts the hats:

Democrats are busy congratulating one another on their inclusiveness because a transnational, a woman, a proletarian trial lawyer, and a part-Hispanic are running for their nomination. Meanwhile Republicans can at least celebrate their ecumenism, even if the candidates are all white men. Primary voters can choose between a Mormon, an Episcopalian, a born Catholic, and a fervent Catholic convert. The latter is Sam Brownback, who could split the party in his bid for fundamentalist votes.

Wait a minute. Sam Brownback is white? How are the Democrats supposed to complain about his putative hatred of brown people when his very name exudes brownness?

And they're not all niche candidates, but they have niches to fit:

Long shot Tommy Thompson may yet join the race. He's a natural Republican counterpart to Bill Richardson: both of them have the demeanor of meddlesome aunts. Mormon Romney tries for the benevolent older brother; Obama, the winsome younger brother; McCain the crotchety but lovable grandfather. It's one big happy family of candidates. Hillary Clinton? Well, every post-modern family needs a wicked stepmother.

This is right up there with my semi-classic description of Joe Lieberman as "a common scold, occasionally rising to the level of uncommon scold." And I actually voted for the guy, too. Perhaps this suggests something for 2008.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:48 PM)
25 January 2007
Beats flipping a coin

A thought from Kevin D. at Dean's World:

Should the 2008 Presidential election come down between Rice and Clinton (and I don't think it will) how long do you think it will be before someone notes, "Men will vote for the woman they want to have sex with most"? Someone will say it. You know it.

I don't think I've ever made an election choice based on this criterion, but on the off-chance that there might be some guys who do, I think I'll start talking up Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:23 AM)
Keeping up with the cool kids

Greg Gutfeld explains the Hollywood left:

The thirst for fame is based on an unquenchable need for admiration. This thirst drives many people to Hollywood, in search of the love they so desperately crave. This adulation, however is never enough. Meanwhile it is this same need that drives all people to become liberals. When one becomes a liberal, he or she pretends to advocate tolerance, equality and peace, but hilariously, they're doing so for purely selfish reasons. It's the human equivalent of a puppy dog's face: an evolutionary tool designed to enhance survival, reproductive value and status.

In short, liberalism is based on one central desire: to look cool in front of others in order to get love. Preaching tolerance makes you look cooler than saying something like, "please lower my taxes." This is why the only true form of rebellion left on this planet is conservatism. Conservatism, by rejecting the trademark forms of romantic rebellion (anarchy, activism, nipple rings) turns out to be far more subversive than anything on the planet. The conservative, every day, knows that he or she says things that aren't considered cool among the media elite. Yet the conservative still comes out and says it. This is why Dick Cheney is closer to the Hell's Angels than Hunter S. Thompson ever could be. And why Jon Stewart is about as daring as a diaper filled with Nilla Wafers.

There are, I should point out, anarchists who might almost qualify under the contemporary definition of "conservative": they're generally somewhere around the far edge of libertarianism. And I am not persuaded that every single person on the left is either (1) faking it or (2) covered by two coats of Sherwin-Williams Insincerity Enamel (Pat. Pending); I've met enough counterexamples over the years. Then again, I have never felt the overweening need to present myself as a Kind and Caring Person, and I have this weird idea that results are more important than process cf. the ostensible War on Poverty, which costs at least as much as we spend perforating insurgents and has gone on for quite a bit longer without even the faintest suggestion of success. Or, for that matter, of an exit strategy.

Of course, I have no sense of entitlement:

On a more metaphysical (or, at least, less mercenary) level, I don't automatically assume that I have X coming to me by dint of Y; it has always seemed to me that my only legitimate and unassailable birthright is death. And this, I suspect, is not a commonly-held belief; on the contrary, the world seems to be largely filled with people who think that on the basis of some Y or other, they deserve all the X they can get.

Not that many of them are prepared to explain Y.

(Via Cold Fury.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:46 AM)
26 January 2007
I don't even like Real Audio

The Department of Homeland Security isn't the only source of bad government ideas, but they come up with some doozies, and one of the more egregious examples is the "Real ID" card, which, they insist, isn't really a national ID card. Oh, it's a card, it contains ID, and it's national, but somehow it's still not really a national ID card.

And it may not even be national, if Maine gets its way:

Maine lawmakers on Thursday became the first in the nation to demand repeal of a federal law tightening identification requirements for drivers' licenses, a post-September 11 security measure that states say will cost them billions of dollars to administer.

Maine lawmakers passed a resolution urging repeal of the Real ID Act, which would create a national digital identification system by 2008. The lawmakers said it would cost Maine about $185 million, fail to boost security and put people at greater risk of identity theft.

One could argue, I suppose, that the Feds already have pretty much all this data, but I fail to see the advantage of making it available in a single handy package especially if, as rumored, they're going to outsource the database work.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:04 PM)
30 January 2007
The raising of the wrist

Columnist Ron Hart considers a factor I hadn't thought of:

It was revealed by [Al] Gore only recently that Bill Clinton does not drink. This is troubling to me as it means he was stone sober when he hit on Paula Jones.

So in summary, here are the leaders who do not drink: Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, all al-Qaida leaders, Hitler, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.

By contrast, here are leaders known to drink: Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Jeb Bush and Jesus.

It's not quite so, you should pardon the expression, cut and dried. (And Nixon might have been hoisting a few in the Oval Office after all.) Still, I drank enough in my younger days to make me ever-so-slightly suspicious of teetotalers in positions of power, despite the fact that I hardly ever touch the stuff myself anymore. So if Hillary comes to town, consider this an offer to buy her a beer.

(Via Hit & Run.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:33 AM)
31 January 2007
Whereas losses are presumably encouraged

Is Bratislava positioning itself to become Berkeley East? Get a whiff of this:

Prime Minister Robert Fico said during a meeting with President Ivan Gašparovič on January 19 that health care insurance companies should not be allowed to make a profit, and that he would like to see all the money raised from health insurance go back into the health care system.

However, if parliament approves such a change to the law on health insurance, private insurers are likely to file suits against the state, the Sme daily reported on January 20.

In Fico's opinion, 4 percent of collected insurance payments would suffice to cover health insurers’ operating costs, while the rest could be re-invested into the system.

"We reject the fact that somebody collects health insurance from people, and takes part of it as profit," said Fico, a former communist.

"Whaddya mean "former"!?" asks Lemuel.

Petra Orogvanyiova puts this in perspective:

Slovak health insurers do not charge premiums as regular insurance companies but receive payments from the payroll tax on wages. Thus price competition is not possible. But this does not mean that there is no place for competition at all. Prohibiting insurance companies from making profits will discourage private investors from doing business. This means less competition, which subsequently leads to lower quality of services which is currently the most important issue over which the insurers are competing. In the worst case we will end up with one single state-owned insurance company, working at high levels of inefficiency. And, by the way, this is the scenario favoured both by the PM and the Health Minister. It should not be surprising to see these politicians advocate such policies, because it will be them who will capture and redistribute the rents thusly created.

Insurance companies are hardly benevolent; then again, neither are politicians. In the best of all possible worlds, neither would be allowed anywhere near anyone's health care.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:01 AM)
21 February 2007
And Tom wins it in a walk

If you were to judge strictly by MySpace friend counts, the 2008 Presidential contenders would be Barack Obama and Ron Paul.

And Paul, despite leading all the GOP contenders, would come in fifth overall. This can be explained in one of two ways:

[It is] a sign that Republicans have yet to fully embrace the Myspace phenomenon, or maybe they just realize 14-year-old girls can't vote.

Wonkette describes the environment this way:

It's a place where born-again illiterate Jesus freaks, tattooed and pierced illiterate suburban kids, fake gangsta illiterate urban youth, orange-skinned horse-faced illiterate high-school dropout gals who aspire to celebrity sluthood or a career in the Army, violent illiterate psychopathic "Juggalos" and a bedeviled minority of depressed semi-literate goth & emo teens in the Midwest all come together to show us what the United States will be like once the current crop of old people dies off.

Surely the GOP ought to be able to get a few votes out of this bunch: they can't all be Democrats.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:09 PM)
22 February 2007
Because they mind, I draw the line

Professor Bainbridge has an idea:

The national disgrace of gerrymandering has created a system in which the vast majority of House seats are safe for one of the two parties. As a result, the real action is in the primaries, which tend to be dominated by activists. As a result, we see the polarization of Congress, as GOP candidates tend hard right to win their primaries and vice-versa for the Democrats. Now the netroots plan to exacerbate the problem.

The solution seems obvious. A national system of nonpartisan redistricting designed to maximize the number of truly competitive seats. In such a system, candidates would succeed by appealing to the center rather than the extremes, which in turn would reduce the destructive influence of the rabid partisans on both sides of the net.

It is indeed true that damned few Congressional seats are "truly competitive," but I suspect this is a case where the solution is at least as unpalatable as the problem to be solved: gerrymandering is gerrymandering, whether it's done for purely partisan purpose or some ostensibly "nonpartisan" purpose.

(Aside: Is anyone truly nonpartisan? Or, more precisely, can anyone be nonpartisan without being wholly apolitical?)

James Joyner raises an objection of his own:

Communities are often quite naturally conservative and liberal, Democrat and Republican. I’d hate to see homogenized districts take that flavor away from the House. Indeed, representing localized interests is the whole reason to have districts in the first place; otherwise, we should just elect Representatives on an at-large basis in each state.

Which, if nothing else, would have the advantage of eliminating redistricting issues altogether.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:24 AM)
18 March 2007
1080p in 2008

A perhaps-unexpected factor in the Presidential election, a mere twenty months away: HDTV. Jane Galt's thinking:

Just as the introduction of television famously altered voter perceptions of the candidates in the 1960 election (those who listened to the debate thought that Nixon had won, but those who saw it on television overwhelmingly favoured the more telegenic Kennedy), HDTV could skew who we nominate and/or elect.

For example, though I've never met him, my understanding from those who have is that McCain's image of vitality is very carefully projected, and that when you actually meet him up close, he looks pretty frail. Will that come out on HDTV? How about Hillary? HDTV is least kind to older women; I'd bet it puts at least ten years on her. I suspect that Obama is the only candidate who will actually look good on HDTV; he's younger, and even light black skin ages better than caucasian.

Incidentally, all analog TV is supposed to end in this country by 17 February 2009, a month after the inaugural address. I question the timing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:39 PM)
19 March 2007
A tip of the salary cap

The children get an unexpected lesson in the natural order of things:

In class today we were talking about George Washington when one of my students asked me how much the president made a year. When I told the class what he makes [$400k a year], a number of jaws hit the floor. We began talking about how much the president earns and I tried to put it in perspective for them.

I asked them to picture the 12th man on the Sacramento Kings. You know, the guy who has no chance of seeing any playing time, riding the bench the whole season. I told them that guy earns $1 million a year, more than double that of the leader of the free world.

The Kings have 13 on their roster; with Maurice Taylor ($1.07 million) having been waived, the most likely "12th man" would be reserve center Vitaly Potapenko, who has played all of 9 minutes this year. He's making $3,674,584, though this is largely due to sheer longevity: Potapenko has spent ten seasons in the NBA. The classic story of this sort involves Babe Ruth, whose salary demand in 1931 was a whopping $80,000. It was pointed out to him that the President (Herbert Hoover) only drew $75,000; Ruth replied, "I had a better year than he did." And indeed, the Kings are only two games out of a playoff spot.

Or you could look at it another way: Members of Congress receive $168,500 a year. This year's NBA salary cap is $53,135,000. In other words, for what it costs to stock an NBA team (few teams are actually below the cap), you could buy 315 Congressmen and have enough left over for a small party on K Street.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:03 AM)
20 March 2007
Muzzle velocity

Geez. BushCo fumbles another one:

A NASA scientist who said the Bush administration muzzled him because of his belief in global warming yesterday acknowledged to Congress that he'd done more than 1,400 on-the-job [media] interviews in recent years.

This isn't as egregious as, say, the time the Dixie Chicks were imprisoned underneath a nuclear-fuel storage facility for questioning the Iraq war and still managed to make another album, but so long as the Bush administration is flailing about, making desperate and manifestly inadequate attempts at damage control, we can expect more stories like this.

(Via Wizbang!)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:06 PM)
Alberto, you've done a heckuva job

He is so gone.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:39 PM)
22 March 2007
Not quite down for the count

Elizabeth Edwards is going to have to go back on the offensive against cancer: this time it seems to have spread to a rib.

Rather than throw in some third-baked (two-thirds of "half-baked") commentary here, I shall simply wish her well; I hope she can keep fighting for a good, long time.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:13 PM)
24 March 2007
Holding up the Speaker

Around the first of the year, someone put in a search-engine query for "nancy pelosi leg photos," to which I responded with a comment to the effect that nobody ever asked for anything like that from Dennis Hastert. What the searcher was led to was Vent #398, "Dressed for the party," in which I scanned some photos from Harper's Bazaar that accompanied a goofy piece by Maureen Dowd (who else?) on the dodgy subject of whether Democrats or Republicans dress "better," in the Bazaar sense of course. On the basis of evidence presented, I declared a draw.

In the "competition," Pelosi was matched up against then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and I said this:

Two cases of, if not wardrobe malfunction, certainly misjudgment. Condi's white blouse, black jacket and belted trousers qualify as conservative, perhaps even self-effacing. Nancy's in a summery red California two-piece suit that pushes her waistline higher than it should and ends far enough below the knee to make her look more bottom-heavy than she might like.

Had Rice shown up that day in this dress, I suspect my judgment might have differed just a little though Pelosi too has come off better recently.

Maybe I just need a new scanner.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:51 PM)
29 March 2007
Foggy Bottom Blues

Well, it's not a song exactly, but the potential is there. An outline from Lileks:

I'm starting to think that you could put Godzilla in charge of State, and in two months he'd be four feet tall, breathing perfume, and proposing a Tokyo-reconstruction loan program and a six-point program for getting Mothra to sit down with Gamera.

Gamera, at least, is really neat.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
31 March 2007
I should have such a mismatch

Jeff Jarvis embeds a YouTube appearance by Elizabeth Kucinich, spouse of Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, and describes her as "[Kucinich's] magnificently mismatched wife."

Um, what?

Is there some compelling reason why in 2005 Kucinich, then 58, should not have married Elizabeth Harper, then about 27? I mean, yeah, I'm sure I'd creep out women in their twenties were I to express any interest, but far be it from me to snicker at May-December romances. And Jarvis is younger than I am, fercryingoutloud. Scratch a Web 2.0 pioneer, find an old fogy at heart.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:30 PM)
10 April 2007
Something here doesn't quite register

Mike Duncan
Republican National Committee
310 First Street SE
Washington, DC 20003

Dear Mr. Duncan:

Thank you for your kind letter and invitation to participate in your "GOP Census." I must point out, however, that inasmuch as I am not a registered Republican, the "Dear Fellow Republican" salutation notwithstanding, it might be inappropriate for me to respond positively at this time.

Sincerely,

CGHill

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:21 PM)
20 April 2007
So I thought I'd take a chance

Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) on John McCain's "Bomb Iran" shtick:

For those who weren't born, or don't remember, the Beach Boys hit song referred to by Senator John McCain in his comments ... was "Barbara Ann." It deals with a young boy enamored by a girl named Barbara Ann and his decision to ask her to dance.

For anyone, much less highly paid national political commentators, to suggest Senator McCain's comment was anything other than a play on words with no substantive meaning is truly absurd. The criticism of his comment aired by certain media outlets shows how desperate they are to attack McCain and try to discredit one of the nation's leading experts on national defense.

I would be happy to pay for any national commentator who called this either "grave" or "troubling" to download the Beach Boys album that includes the song "Barbara Ann," to his or her iPod, because they obviously need to get a sense of humor.

So I don't get thrown out of the League of Pedants, a couple of points:

  • The Beach Boys (who recorded this on Beach Boys' Party, with a non-Beach Boy Dean Torrence of Jan and on lead vocals) got this song from a doo-wop single by the Regents, circa 1961. The Who also cut a version, released in 1966.

  • In the wake of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980, Vince Vance and the Valiants rewrote the lyrics and issued a single called, yes, "Bomb Iran." Fred Fassert, a member of the Regents, who had written the original song, was duly credited as the composer. Mr Fassert, interestingly, comes from an Iranian-American family.

  • It is at least possible, I think, that John McCain has heard the Vince Vance version.

  • Vance also cut a "Bomb Iraq" song, set to Leiber/Stoller's "Yakety Yak." (Don't talk back.)

Okay, more than a couple. Consider it your birthday present.

(From Michael Bates' linkblog.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:43 PM)
23 April 2007
Listen closely and you can hear Snickers

Is nothing sacred?

Currently, there are laws mandating that products marketed as "chocolate" must contain a certain percentage of cocoa butter by weight. However, the FDA is reviewing a "citizens petition" to allow chocolate manufacturers to substitute vegetable fats or oils for the cocoa butter. Who are these citizens? [An L.A. Times columnist] reports that they belong to the Chocolate Manufacturers Assn., the Grocery Manufacturers Assn., the Snack Food Assn. and the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn.

One could argue, I suppose, that the FDA shouldn't be issuing its own definitions for products, but since they are, and since it's pretty likely that those definitions were influenced by the various manufacturers in the first place, can there possibly be any explanation for changing this definition, other than the desire by those manufacturers to charge the same amount for an inferior product?

One suggestion:

[H]ave such chocolates labeled "American Chocolate." Like "American Cheese", the name will be synonymous with something that's low-quality and bad-tasting. The FDA can then decide whether they want to debase the "American brand" by going through with this.

There's one possible hangup here: there are plenty of steps below "American Cheese," as Kraft well knows, having taken most of them.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:34 PM)
27 April 2007
In defense of John McCain

He's apparently willing to share a burger with Maureen Dowd.

(Via In Theory.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:11 PM)
3 May 2007
Initial reaction

I am not hopeful about Senator Jim Inhofe's not-necessarily-new immigration bill, partially because, well, it's Jim Inhofe's, but mostly because it's called ENFORCE: The Engaging the Nation to Fight for Our Right to Control Entry Act.

Stupid acronyms contribute to stupid governance, and this particular example is flagrantly ugly, charmlessly kludgy, insipidly, nonsensically, grotesquely stupid.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:57 AM)
18 May 2007
But all the candidates suck

Not like this, they don't.

(Via Eric Scheie.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:36 PM)
19 May 2007
A situation not unknown in the States

As of 2005, the United Kingdom has a Freedom of Information act similar to the American FOIA passed in 1966 and modified extensively since then. As with the Stateside version, the UK's FOI has a number of exemptions, including the sort of things one might expect to be protected under the Official Secrets Act.

And Parliament itself is about to be exempted from FOI rules: incoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he will not block a bill granting the exemption to MPs. The Commons has already voted to send the measure on to the House of Lords.

David Maclean, a sponsor of the bill, explained why the exemption for Parliament was necessary: "To give an absolute guarantee that the correspondence of Members of Parliament, on behalf of our constituents and others, to a public authority remains confidential."

Opponent Norman Baker counters: "It is an effrontery for the House of Commons to make the deeply hypocritical move of exempting itself from a law that applies to every other public body in the country."

Oh, in case you were wondering, Congress is exempt from FOIA.

(Via Stuffem.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:50 PM)
25 May 2007
Before you take the pledge

My idea of immigration reform is at least as vague as that being passed around the Congress these days, and I don't think Mike will blame me:

We can't just adopt a conservative or liberal viewpoint, because there isn't one. Some conservatives can't get enough illegal immigrants, some want to cleanse the nation of them. Liberals are also divided. Adding to the confusion is that much of the rhetoric spouted from both sides is ambiguous.

Of course, some of it isn't. Still, I'm happy to present Mike's three-part plan, on the basis that anything that is guaranteed to annoy both La Raza and Michelle Malkin can't be all bad. It goes like this:

First, we should secure the borders and enforce the law.

Second, increase the number of legal immigrants allowed to enter the country, adjusted to reflect the economic capacity of the nation at the time.

Third, institute mandatory civil service for everyone.

To expand on that third item:

In order to get the benefits of being an American citizen, each person would be required to serve their country in some fashion. This might include working in a hospital, a park, a prison, a school, a library, a charity, etc. And of course, military service would count too.

More "jobs Americans won't do"?

When completed, a person, and any of their dependents too young, or otherwise unable to complete their service, would be eligible to receive the many benefits of American citizenship.

There is one distinct advantage to this approach: we get to find out who really wants to be here, and who would be content with occasional guest-worker status.

And it beats the heck out of my Grand Scheme, which basically involves annexing the whole of Mexico and replacing its venal and incompetent government with our venal and incompetent government.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:11 PM)
27 May 2007
Poll-axed

Last year, Xrlq posed a rhetorical question:

Is there any [poll] question so wacky that one-third of the population will not answer it in the affirmative?

I commented on that here, and was reminded of it again this weekend while reading this:

[N]ow we hear that 13% of Muslims support suicide bombings under some circumstances. Scary, eh?

Really? Why? There is no context here. Do we have a corresponding figure for non-Muslims? Maybe we do if so the linked post would have been a good place to present it.

Are there lunatic Muslims? Sure, just read the papers. But again, they're human beings too, and if the same poll were performed on non-Muslims the numbers might not be much different, because there are plenty of wackos to go around among the rest of us too.

So the 13% number is misleading without having a corresponding number for non-Muslims.

I could point out here that non-Muslims don't do a whole lot of suicide bombings, generally, but the poll in question wasn't aimed at, um, "likely bombers."

And there are people in this country who will defend something almost as indefensible: the designated hitter.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:54 AM)
3 June 2007
When in doubt, buy 'em out

Jason Bontrager, commenting at Jane Galt's place, suggested this solution, if solution it be, to the Social Security/Medicare headaches soon to be visited upon the American taxpayer:

SS: buyout. $500K to each senior currently receiving full benefits (aged 70 and above). $450K to each senior aged 69. $400K to each senior aged 68. And so on in decreasing increments of $50K. Expensive, but it's a one-time expense and then it's just a matter of paying off the debt incurred in financing the buyout. Anyone with 10 or more years until full eligibility gets nothing, but no longer has to pay into the system and their employer's "matching contributions" go directly to the employees rather than the SSA. Everyone gets a de facto raise and employers' bottom lines are affected not at all.

Medicare: Medical Negative Income Tax and Health Savings Accounts. For any income (from all sources) less than, say, $50K/yr, citizens get $X/year (analogous to the Earned Income Tax Credit.... the less you make, the more you get, on some graduated scale) deposited directly into their HSA. Money in the HSA is available only for non-elective medical expenses and health insurance. Individuals may make their own, after-tax, contributions to the HSA as well. Heirs may cash out the HSA (and pay taxes on it) or roll it into their own HSAs and NOT pay taxes on it.

Details would have to be worked out of course, but this is a start. Make people the owners of their own healthcare expenses and let them keep more of their own money with which to prepare for their own retirements.

Not surprisingly, this package wasn't universally hailed. I tend to suspect that I won't ever draw anything from Social Security anyway, but I'm still a fair number of years away from retirement, unless the Gods of Powerball prove to be more generous than I anticipate. I will note, however, that were FICA withholding discontinued, I'd have roughly three times as much to stash into my 401(k). And if nothing else, this proposal would provide the acid test for the libertarian doctrine that the reason health care costs so damned much is simply that so much of it is paid for by government that the marketplace is severely crippled.

Yeah, I know: boring subject. Life is like that sometimes.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:45 PM)
11 June 2007
The highest standards of personal conduct

Never let it be said that Hillary can't overlook a little thing like impeachment. Remember Alcee Hastings?

You know, put his girlfriend (disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court) on to the public payroll, investigated for ethics violations, disgraced former judge currently being investigated by both the Florida and Federal Elections Commissions, so guilty of extorting a $150,000 bribe that even John Conyers voted to convict and impeach him, stripping him of his spot on the Federal bench (though, to be fair, he was acquitted at his criminal trial, though he did commit perjury and manufacture evidence), Alcee Hastings?

Yeah, that guy.

Well, he's just been appointed Co-Chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential Campaign.

It's enough to make you want Scooter Libby on the Supreme Court.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:43 AM)
14 June 2007
Blight refractions

In Missouri, at least, saying it's so doesn't make it so:

The Missouri Supreme Court narrowed the bounds of eminent domain Tuesday in rejecting the Centene Plaza plan for downtown Clayton and raising the bar for taking private property.

The upscale city failed to prove that property in the 7700 block of Forsyth Boulevard was blighted, the judges ruled in a 6-1 decision favoring landowners who fought condemnation.

Under the ruling, developers who seek to use condemnation to take land from other private owners will have to give proof that the property is not only old or of obsolete design but that it impacts health and safety as well.

Brian J. Noggle approves:

This is very good news for property owners. Now they cannot be thrown out for owning uncool buildings or not producing the maximum level of revenue possible (at least, not until another court determines that "impacts health and safety" means "doesn't provide sales tax revenue that funds local EMT services").

Given lawmakers' ability to find justification for damn near anything in the Constitution's Commerce clause, I am not entirely reassured.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:52 AM)
15 June 2007
Applauding the inactivists

Sometimes doing nothing is the right thing. From last month:

As with the Stateside version, the UK's [Freedom of Information act] has a number of exemptions, including the sort of things one might expect to be protected under the Official Secrets Act.

And Parliament itself is about to be exempted from FOI rules: incoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he will not block a bill granting the exemption to MPs. The Commons has already voted to send the measure on to the House of Lords.

And what did the upper chamber do with it? Nothing:

I've never really been a fan of the House of Lords but am thankful that that second chamber has denied the passage of the bill to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information act. The bill needed somebody to sponsor it in the Lords but by the end of yesterday's proceeding nobody had stepped forward to do so and so the bill is effectively scuppered.

And a fine bit of scupperisation it was, too.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:22 PM)
17 June 2007
Sweeping through town

Hillary Clinton's fundraiser last night in Oklahoma City brought in $282,000, substantially above the campaign's expectations: they'd hoped for $200k.

Senator Clinton's flight had been delayed because of bad weather, and no meetings with the press were scheduled.

Former Governor David Walters said he was backing Clinton "because she's not George Bush," which is not exactly a selling point, inasmuch as most of the Democrats in the race (and some of the Republicans) can make a similar claim.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:49 PM)
22 June 2007
I've heard better ideas

La Shawn Barber eviscerates that mostly-silly study which calls for Serious Action to counteract all those awful right-wing radio shows that I make a point of not listening to. (She's posted a PDF copy of it here.) For the most part, I agree with her conclusions: the left is trying to gain by governmental means what it likely could never obtain in an actual free marketplace.

But this invites the question: is broadcast radio truly a free marketplace? Certainly the FCC won't stop you from putting up a station of your own provided there's an open allocation, which there probably isn't. (You might be able to wangle an LPFM license, maybe; I can't, at least from where I live, as there are no open channels.)

In 1996, Section 202 of the Telecommunications Act established a sliding scale for how many stations an individual entity could operate in a given market: in the largest markets, up to eight stations can be under common ownership. We've had eleven years of this now, and can anyone actually say that radio is better today? It certainly isn't more profitable: Clear Channel, arguably the Wal-Mart of the industry, went private last year and sold off 30 percent of its stations after a succession of bad quarters. Disney unloaded ABC Radio onto Citadel, who had to unload 11 stations to comply with the Feds. CBS sold ten stations last year. None of this feverish station-trading changed the general sound of things very much.

That said, though, I have a philosophical bias in favor of more players rather than fewer, and the two think tanks who produced that study proposed a change in the cap laws which I don't think would be particularly unreasonable. They recommend a 5-percent cap nationwide no single entity can own or control more than 5 percent of the total number of AM and FM stations (do LPFMs and translators count?) and a reduced cap in individual markets: four in the largest (45 stations and up), three in the next group (30-44), then two, finally one in stations with 14 stations or fewer. Actually counting the stations might prove problematic: Radio-Locator.com lists 47 in and around Oklahoma City, but some of them are clearly duplicates (for instance, KGOU/KROU, or KQCV-FM and its two translators, or the Sports Animal AM/FM pair). I'm thinking we'd fall into the 30-44 group, in which case the local cap would be three. Almost a dozen stations would be up for grabs. There is of course no guarantee that things would suck less; theoretically, they could get worse. But I'm old enough to remember the old 7-7-7 rule: until 1985, you could own a total of 14 radio stations seven AM, seven FM and seven TV stations, no more than five of which could be on the VHF band. Now maybe that's too few for contemporary conditions; but until I see some evidence that ownership of truly huge segments of spectrum actually produces some benefits other than dubious economies of scale, I'm going to continue to believe that the way it was is better than the way it is.

Update, 2 pm: As of yesterday (when I wrote this piece) there is something called the Local Community Radio Act of 2007, which would loosen some of the restrictions on LPFM. Jesse Walker has the story.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:28 AM)
1 July 2007
Two for Téa

The coveted John Salmon endorsement:

Before you vote for a candidate, consider how he or she will look after four or eight years in office. It's unlikely to be a welcome sight, so therefore I call on the lovely Téa Leoni [to] run for the highest office in the land. Her qualifications may be mostly visual, but most of a Prez's real work is done in TV appearances anyway.

Hmmm. Let's see:

Tea Leoni

And there's one other advantage: you'd have freaking Fox Mulder on the premises, a boon to today's conspiracy-theory-driven politics.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:25 PM)
18 July 2007
Take a swing at it

Regular readers will recall that I have been a registered Democrat for thirty-five years, and while I have had substantial differences with some of the party's stated goals recently, it has never quite occurred to me to bolt for the door.

But this analysis of the Designated Hitter rule [link to PDF file] makes me wonder:

[W]e find that self-identified Democratic Party members are more likely to support the DH rule than are either independents or Republicans; the odds ratio of 1.90 suggests that, on average, Democrats are 90 percent more likely to support the rule than are independents.

And why is this?

Social–psychological studies of political conservatism note that one of the central principles of that philosophy is reverence for tradition and a corresponding resistance to change. Conversely, those on the political left are typically more accepting even welcoming of change, particularly when those changes can be shown (or are believed) to yield tangible benefits. This line of reasoning suggests that those on the political right will be less likely to favor the DH rule, while those on the left will be more likely to support it.

Reinforcing our change-based rationale for the right's opposition to the DH rule is its effect (actual or perceived) on the culture of the game. Opponents of the DH often make the claim that the practice seems to condone a lack of personal responsibility from the very players who play a pivotal (if not the pivotal) role in the game pitchers and sluggers. One of the bedrock Judeo-Christian values woven through American history and society, they argue, is the notion that individuals take responsibility for their own actions and fulfill their obligations to community and country. By allowing pitchers to avoid hitting, and some batters to avoid fielding, the DH rule is suggestive of a larger-scale decline in the culture of personal responsibility in America over the past several decades. To the extent that political conservatives are more likely than liberals to be receptive to this line of reasoning (cf. Feldman and Zaller 1922), it reinforces our expectation that it is political conservatives including individuals who identify with the Republican party who most strongly oppose the rule.

And what are these "tangible results"?

In nearly all circumstances, teams substitute pitchers who, lacking the motivation to practice batting, are often notoriously poor hitters with individuals who excel at the plate but who may be lacking in defensive skills. This means that, since 1973, teams in the American League have sent roughly 12.5 percent more true hitters to the plate (Freeman 2004, 94).

I must point out here that it's not how many hitters you have: it's how many runs you score.

Still, if ever I decide to become a one-issue voter, this is the issue.

(Via Rodger Payne at The Duck of Minerva.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:43 PM)
22 July 2007
The statue of Patton is snickering

Now this is productivity. Not only does this fellow go out of his way to tell us that Rudy Giuliani once said "Bullshit" in public, but he manages to produce a pretty good quantity of it himself:

I thought it might tell us something about the reliability and temperament of this man who is asking us to make him our next Commander in Chief especially now that he's trying to win the support of GOP "values voters."

Two words: "Howard Dean."

And while I am not numbered among the ranks of the GOP, I value very highly the ability to recognize bullshit, and even more so the willingness to describe it as such.

(Via Emperor Misha, who has never had any problems doing so.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:10 PM)
26 July 2007
Degrading on the curve

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars,
But in ourselves, that we wear underwire."

Are we done making fun of Hillary's rack yet? Please. There are plenty of reasons to object to Senator Clinton and her Presidential aspirations, but possession of standard female hardware should not be one of them. I mean, it's not like she's wandering around the Capitol wrapped in a Canadian goose pretending to be Björk's insane big sister.

We wouldn't treat a guy this way. Well, maybe John Edwards, and even he doesn't always deserve it. Of course, this may be due to the fact that for most of our history we've entrusted our government to guys in suits, and indistinguishable suits at that. (There was a brief period in the late 1960s when we saw an occasional dashiki, but otherwise, it's been one long Botany 500 parade.) And contrary to what we'd prefer to think, we pay a lot of attention to appearance:

Many analysts suggest that the decisive battle in the [1960] campaign was waged during the televised presidential debates. Kennedy arrived for the debates well-tanned and well-rested from Florida, while Nixon was recovering from a knee injury he suffered in a tiresome whistle-stop campaign. The Democrat was extremely telegenic and comfortable before the camera. The Republican was nervous, sweated profusely under the hot lights, and could not seem to find a makeup artist that could hide his five o'clock shadow. Radio listeners of the first debate narrowly awarded Nixon a victory, while the larger television audience believed Kennedy won by a wide margin.

And since that day, there's been a tendency to overanalyze a candidate's wardrobe, from Hillary's neckline to John McCain's totally-gay sweaters. (No, I'm not above this sort of thing either, in case you were wondering.) About the only saving grace in any of this is that low video resolution insures that nobody looks good on YouTube.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:29 PM)
27 July 2007
Speaking of overemphasizing appearance

Which, you'll remember, I was.

Fifth District Representative Mary Fallin, I note in passing, was named by D.C. news site The Hill (no relation) as one of the "50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill." What's more, at 52, she's the third-oldest of the bunch. (Perennial hottie Nancy Pelosi, 67, is the oldest.)

Says the article:

When Rep. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.) was in her 20s, she was an extra in a movie starring Molly Ringwald.

Fallin, 52, doesn’t remember the film's title, but was also an extra in several other independent, "walk-by-type" movies and did some modeling, too. The stylish blonde, with bangs and blue eyes, is still a knockout.

"I'm 5-foot-6, but I'm not going to tell you my weight," Fallin said, giggling.

This is almost not quite enough to make me miss Ernest Istook.

(Via Mike McCarville.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:00 AM)
28 July 2007
Campaign highlights

According to Ben Smith's The Politico, the Clinton campaign released this flyer prior to the Senator's speech to a convention of beauticians.

Pay attention to your hair

Well, I thought it was funny.

(Via Princess Sparkle Pony.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:23 PM)
31 July 2007
The anti-shootist

We all know what New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks about guns:

By now, I'm sure you’ve heard details of Michael Bloomberg and the city of New York hiring private investigators to conduct a sting on out of state gun dealers that are the source of crime guns in New York.

Okay, fine, Bloomberg doesn't like people who shoot guns. In fact, he doesn't even like people who shoot film:

[N]ew rules, which were proposed by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a public place for more than 30 minutes to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance. The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment. The permits would be free.

Text of the proposed regulation is here. Filmmaker Jem Cohen writes:

The Mayor's Office of Film deals primarily with big film shoots (i.e. commercials, features, TV) where permits and insurance are, understandably, a given. However, many photographers and filmmakers carry on an equally vital tradition in which spontaneous documentation of the urban environment is at the very heart of our work. Being a street photographer often means standing in a random location and waiting: for the right activity, the right light, the break in the traffic; the countless other unpredictable factors that need to fall into place to make a shot worthwhile… Permits would have to be obtained for specific dates and times and exact locations, and the insurance would be out of reach for many individuals.

The fact is that we simply CANNOT predict where, when, and how long we are going to film or photograph; we CANNOT afford expensive liability insurance policies; we occasionally NEED to work with other people or to use tripods to support our gear.

And what's perhaps most exasperating is that while you might not be able to take pictures in the city, the city has no problem taking pictures of you.

(Via Lindsay Beyerstein, an accomplished photographer in her own right.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:03 AM)
2 August 2007
Talk of the townsfolk

Will there be an attempt to restore the old-and-busted Fairness Doctrine for broadcast media? Not if Air America's Thom Hartmann has anything to say about it:

The "progressive has failed" frame is simply wrong. In just three short years, our format has gone from a small handful of progressive stations to 10% of the talk radio content of this country. If I'd started a soda pop business in my garage and in three years had taken 10% of Coca-Cola's market, my picture would be on the cover of Forbes! Nobody thinks of Apple as a failure, but they only have 4.8% of the U.S. computer market, and that's taken them 20 years! What if a new music format had taken 10% of the radio market in just three years? Everybody would be talking about it, it'd be moving onto bigger and bigger sticks, and programmers would be figuring out how to clone it in every local market across the country! Conservative Talk radio didn't catch on instantly, either. We don't need no stinkin' Fairness Doctrine, and we don't need to be lectured by failing talk show hosts. We just need a few more industry pros to take seriously the very real accomplishments and the ongoing potential of this format as it matures. Add to that a few shots at bigger sticks [industry jargon for radio towers], dedicated sales forces, and decent imaging and promotion, and maybe we'll be 20% within the next three years!"

There are a couple of things askew here Apple, once upon a time, had a market share far greater than 4.8 percent, and 10 percent of the content does not necessarily equal 10 percent of the audience but otherwise Hartmann's nailed it. New formats do not flourish overnight. But should they catch on in a few major markets, others will take notice. (Jack FM was on in Canada for a year and a half before any US station picked it up.)

And the competition? There is that panoply of right-wing commentators, but perhaps the biggest threat to commercial "progressive" broadcasting is good ol' National Public Radio, a reliably left-wing bunch, firmly entrenched, pretty much ubiquitous, and known to receive actual checks from some of us center-right types. It goes without saying, though, that there are people for whom NPR is insufficiently leftish.

I can see one other possible snag: old-time radio guys, a lot of whom are still around, hear the word "progressive" and think it's the old FM album-rock format from the 1970s. Ultimately it may be necessary to coin another term. What is not necessary, of course, is any sort of government action.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:14 PM)
6 August 2007
Waiting for a US version

Chinese President Hu Jintao is on an anti-corruption crusade, and one of the results of Hu's campaign is a deliciously-vicious online game:

An online game in which players can torture and kill corrupt officials that a Chinese local government set up to teach people about the perils of graft is proving a roaring success, state media said Thursday.

"Incorruptible Fighter," developed by the government of east China's Zhejiang province, was launched just over a week ago and is already so popular that it is being redesigned to accommodate more players, the China Daily said.

The game, which lets players get ahead by killing officials by means of "weapons, magic, or torture," has been downloaded more than 100,000 times, the Southern Metropolitan Daily said.

Hey, it beats the hell out of screaming your head off at C-Span.

(Via Purple Avenger.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:50 AM)
10 August 2007
I want a new drug

And here's a whole shelf full of them, from the Physicians' Derb Reference, compiled by John Derbyshire.

Sample:

Rudivir (manhattanic acid)

Description: Purgative, internal cleanser. Strengthens immune system. Though developed in the same northeastern laboratory, Rudivir is not structurally related to the rinozines (rocefelerin, patakizine, blumbergicon, etc.)

Indications and Usage: In field trials 1994-2001 Rudivir proved highly effective against bureaucratic inertia, fiscal hemorrhage, ethnotomas, and criminal pathogens.

Contraindications: Contraindicated for social conservatives, esp. gun owners.

Adverse Reactions: Occasional uncontrollable loss of temper; dose-related impairment of balance control (most commonly, of ability [to] lean right), alienation of family members.

Positioned elsewhere:

Barax (obamalic articulate)

Description: Regulates melanin production.

Indications and Usage: Effective with patients suffering from chronic situational dermatochromal anxiety i.e. self-perception as "not black enough" when among African Americans yet "too black" when among other groups. Barax induces a "chameleon effect" increased/decreased melanin production corresponding to perceived average shade of nearby persons.

Contraindications: Barax is contraindicated in patients with non-health-threatening anxiety levels and should not be prescribed for patients with well-established perceptions of their own racial identity.

Adverse Reactions: May cause severe mood swings, from amiable passivity to sudden aggression.

See your politicial-science provider to determine if these or similar preparations are right for you. Follow label directions explicitly. If adverse reactions occur, discontinue use and seek political advice.

(Spotted at the BatesLine linkblog.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:47 AM)
11 August 2007
More trains, less traffic

This is, in fact, a slogan of Virginia's Independent Green Party, but it played well in downtown Oklahoma City this morning, as about a hundred rail buffs, progressive activists, and old-fashioned penny-pinchers the latter group includes me gathered in front of Union Station to "Save the Rails."

And it's probably a good thing that they specified "Rails," because the station itself is in no danger. Heck, it's on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been for nearly thirty years. But the New Crosstown Expressway, currently advancing beyond the drawing-board stages, was cunningly (I suspect) designed to rip out the railyard behind the station, turning it from a viable transport hub into a stately but static relic.

While it's not surprising that the left would pick up on this issue most of the support for public transportation comes from that side of the aisle there's a fiscal-conservative angle as well, and it comes at you from two directions:

  • Estimates of the cost of the New Crosstown continue to rise. Right now, it's running around half a billion dollars. Repairing and upgrading the existing road wouldn't be inexpensive, and I suspect the $50-million figure suggested is a tad low, but even if it's twice that much it would still save $400 million. (Reminder: all the original MAPS projects combined cost less than $400 million.)

  • When Mayor Cornett put out a call for suggestions for a possible MAPS 3, the single most requested project, by more than three to one, was improved transit, so it's not at all inconceivable that the city would actually put a commuter-rail system into the MAPS 3 package as early as next year. And it makes no sense to trash a railyard that already has all the necessary connections in place, only to replicate it somewhere else at greater expense.

I talked with J. M. Branum after the speechifying, and we took a walk to the back of the station where the passenger facilities are. They've been left to deteriorate, of course, but they're not beyond repair, and the rail lines themselves need only a freshening here and there.

And we had one actual Presidential candidate on hand: Gail Parker, who hails these days from those Independent Greens in Virginia but who spent some of her childhood here in the Sooner State, and who was well received by the crowd. (She also schlepped along a Draft Bloomberg sign, which if nothing else indicates that she's keeping the options open.) I was hoping to hear Rep. Andrew Rice, who's working up a Senate campaign against Jim Inhofe next year, but he was stuck in traffic or something. The local NBC and Fox affiliates sent cameras to cover the event; so far as I know, only Branum and I represented local blogdom, and I'm pretty sure no one expected me. Certainly Tom Elmore didn't.

As these things go, this one went pretty well; there may be more rallies in months to come as the price tag on the Crosstown continues to rise and some of its boosters start feeling the heat.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:40 PM)
13 August 2007
Rhymes with "slithy tove"

News item: Karl Rove, the political adviser who masterminded President George W. Bush's two winning presidential campaigns, is resigning, the White House confirmed Monday. In an interview published this morning in The Wall Street Journal, Rove said, "I just think it's time."

Top Ten items on Karl Rove's agenda once he leaves the White House:

  1. Walk past Patrick Fitzgerald's house, whistle
  2. Redesign secret weather machine to produce pure carbon dioxide, then place it in stationary orbit over Al Gore
  3. Sign on to Emperor Palpatine's campaign
  4. Buy more Halliburton stock
  5. Join General Motors, become TV spokesman for Hummer
  6. Start fast-food chain to be called "Karl's Sr."
  7. Stop sending checks to right-wing bloggers
  8. Call up Harry Reid every half-hour, ask "Is your refrigerator running?"
  9. Cancel date with Maureen Dowd
  10. Mastermind George W. Bush's campaign for President of Mexico in 2012

Busy man.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
14 August 2007
Today at the polls

The primary election for Oklahoma County District 1 Commissioner is today. Five Democrats and two Republicans go in; one of each comes out. (There will be no runoff: the highest number of votes gets the nod.)

Also: Del City is looking to renew a 1.5-cent sales tax for five years; in Yukon. voters will be asked to approve a modification to a bond program; Forest Park is holding a franchise election for OG&E service.

The polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:00 AM)
Turnout may be described as "light"

In fact, it might almost be described as "weightless." At 5:15 I checked in at my local precinct, and the line was nonexistent; the precinct staffers gave me that "Thank God someone showed up" look I've seen entirely too many times before and the 116th ballot of the day.

There are those who say that low turnout means disgruntled voters, and surely some of them are I've been short on grunt for some time now but I prefer to think that in the main, instead of disgruntled, we are simply smug and complacent.

Update, 9:15 pm: It's Willa Johnson (D) versus Forrest Claunch (R). There were 5,996 Democrats and 2,067 Republicans. Assuming District 1 has one-third of the county population, there being three districts, this means a shade over 8,000 voters out of 230,000 residents.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:38 PM)
17 August 2007
Mugabe likes his job

And he's taking steps to keep it, too:

[Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party] is deliberately launching yet another political party against which it will have to fight in the elections.

To be strictly accurate, this is a resurrection rather than a birth. The Zimbabwe People's Party (ZPP) was initially formed in 2000, but has been lying dormant since then. Now it has money coming directly from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

And now, with former CIO heavyweight Justin Chiota at its head, it is campaigning vigorously for members, and ultimately for votes.

Which would theoretically make it harder for Zanu-PF to win seats in Parliament, except for this minor detail:

The aim of the ZPP is to confuse the voter, to split the vote, to complicate the ballot papers, to diffuse the inevitably strong opposition to the Mugabe regime.

Come election time, voters will choose ZPP as a protest vote against Zanu-PF, little realising this means the main opposition parties will lose votes. If by chance a ZPP candidate wins, he will sit solidly alongside Zanu-PF in parliament.

So the ZPP is Aquafina to Robert Mugabe's Pepsi. Downright ingenious, if I say so myself. The only way Mugabe loses this election is if he hires Bob Shrum.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:54 PM)
18 August 2007
The instant-karma machine

Because the state of Nirvana should be inclusive:

Clearly, if we, as Democrats, want to make life more fair and equitable for the great mass of our fellow Americans, which, as Democrats, surely we must, then we must reform the current unfair system of apportioning karma in this country. Relying on the free market and the occasional bodhisattva is no longer enough; the government must step in and regulate the market. Government regulation of karma and reincarnation assures, at long last, the equitable treatment everyone deserves. The bodhisattvas will, at last, be able to move into the eternal bliss of Nirvana that their good actions have earned for them, which has the added benefit of removing them from the scene in such a way that they will not be around to demand the accumulated Social Security checks the government owes them for all of their past lives.

You should probably not expect universal acceptance of this idea, at least at first:

There will be, no doubt about it, the usual carping from the Republicans, who will blather on about the free market and individual responsibility for their own karma and how Democrats are once again instituting another big expensive government bureaucracy without any idea of how the government intends to pay for it beyond jacking everyone's taxes through the roof, but this, frankly, is just the sort of thing you can expect from a party dedicated to perpetuating societal inequities from one life to the next.

And it goes without saying that if you don't support this idea, a subsequent Administration will see to it that you come back as a hedgehog with chronic urinary-tract infections.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:53 PM)
21 August 2007
Tax that moose behind the tree

Odd that these should show up the same day. First, Lileks, listening to the Michael Medved show:

[A] caller was hammering the host's doubts about light rail. "When the progressives take over, and have the courage to be progressives," the caller said, "we're going to tax the hell out of you, because your selfish single-occupancy vehicles are KILLING THE EARTH." As it happened, I was driving a single-occupancy vehicle, KILLING THE EARTH, I suppose. (The only EARTH KILLING I could see along the lush green parkway was the orange marks on the trees, indicating they had been infected with fungus or beetles.)

I have to ask: what do these people want me to do? How do they expect me to adjust? I telecommute a lot; I have put but 8000 miles on my vehicle in 15 months. Without the ability to use my car to take my child from Point A to Point K I wouldn't be able to do what I need to do. But the hell should be taxed out of me, because I am KILLING THE EARTH one of the more persuasive and rational justifications for steep tax increases, I grant.

Meanwhile in Norway, from Aftenposten via Scribal Terror:

The research web site www.forskning.no has calculated that the annual gas emissions from a moose are equal to those from an individual's 36 flights between Oslo and Trondheim.

A grown moose will burp and pass so much methane gas in the course of a year that it amounts to 2,100 kilos of carbon dioxide emissions.

Newspaper VG reported that a motorist would have to drive 13,000 kilometers in a car to emit the same.

Which is about 8,000 miles.

Summary:

  • Lileks' vehicle emissions: 8000 miles/15 months = 6400 miles/year.
  • Norwegian moose emissions: 8000 miles/year.

I conclude that we don't need to tax the hell out of Lileks: we need to tax the hell out of moose.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:25 AM)
24 August 2007
A balance of wonks

The proprietors of Wonkosphere have indexed about a thousand blogs so far, and three-fifths of them, including this one, are listed as "conservative." This seems a trifle high to me, and here they try to explain:

  1. It’s true. There ARE more conservative than liberal bloggers.

  2. The conservative Wonkosphere is more tightly connected than the liberal Wonkosphere, so it showed up more prominently in our spidering.

  3. Conservative bloggers are talking about the presidential candidates more than liberal bloggers. The directory generally only includes conservative or liberal blogs that actually discuss the 2008 race; there are many liberal blogs that are issue-focused rather than candidate-focused.

Of these, the third is probably closest to the mark: it took me all of three seconds to find a local blog on the left that deals with issues more than with candidates.

And if you're just estimating buzz, as Wonkosphere seeks to do, a nasty comment about Hillary Clinton on a right-wing blog counts exactly the same as a favorable comment on a left-wing blog which perhaps explains why Senator Clinton is way ahead in their buzz standings. (And this post should only add to her lead.)

Still: Patrick Ruffini among the liberals? I think they're paying too much attention to his tag cloud.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:32 PM)
26 August 2007
I bet this doesn't end well

The US has run afoul of the World Trade Organization, and the consequences may be direr than we think:

The tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua has taken the U.S. to court in the WTO over the U.S. prohibition of gambling on internet casinos hosted in Antigua. And Antigua has won its case! The WTO ruled that U.S. policies were discriminatory since the country does permit other forms of gambling online, such as "the purchase of lottery tickets, participation in Web-based pro sports fantasy leagues and off-track wagering on horse racing." Now the U.S. either has to rewrite its rules in a way that would de-legalize these forms of gambling as well, or offer compensation to Antigua.

Background in this New York Times article; you can also read the official WTO report.

The problem for Washington is twofold:

Complying with the WTO ruling ... would require Congress and the Bush administration either to reverse course and permit Americans to place bets online legally with offshore casinos or, equally unlikely, impose an across-the-board ban on all forms of Internet gambling including the online purchase of lottery tickets, participation in Web-based pro sports fantasy leagues and off-track wagering on horse racing.

But not complying with the decision presents big problems of its own for Washington. That’s because Mr. [Mark E.] Mendel [representing Antigua], who is claiming $3.4 billion in damages on behalf of Antigua, has asked the trade organization to grant a rare form of compensation if the American government refuses to accept the ruling: permission for Antiguans to violate intellectual property laws by allowing them to distribute copies of American music, movie and software products, among others.

Dean Esmay notes:

The US is trying to say that it can allow all sorts of gambling services within its borders, based on state and local law, but can forbid foreign providers of gambling services. Which suggests that "free trade" somehow does not apply when it comes to gaming services.

Which is fine, so long as the treaty sets aside gaming services as outside the scope of the treaty. But if it doesn't, the US is in violation.

From that Times article:

The WTO allowed that Washington probably had not intended to include online gambling when it agreed to the inclusion of "recreational services" and other similar language in agreements reached during the early 1990s, when the WTO was first established. But the organization says it has no choice but to enforce the plain language of the pacts.

Which presumably lays the fault at the feet of the US trade representatives at the time. Ultimately, I have to agree with Dani Rodrik on this one:

When the system serves to enforce new restrictions on domestic policy autonomy that would be wildly unpopular at home, it is time to rethink the system. My solution would be to redress the balance by restoring the residual rights to the domestic polity, but to do so under multilaterally designed and monitored institutional safeguards (to minimize risks of protectionist capture).

Rodrik's paper How to save globalization from its cheerleaders [PDF file] makes this suggestion:

A broadened safeguard agreement call it an agreement on social and developmental safeguards would enable countries to opt out from their international obligations under specified circumstances. The process for obtaining such an exemption would be a domestic one, as in the case of AD and safeguards currently, but it would be subject to multilateral review to ensure procedural requirements are met. Any interested party would be allowed to seek an exemption or opt-out. One requirement would be for the plaintiff to make a compelling case that the international economic transactions in question are in conflict with a widely shared social or developmental norm at home. For example, an NGO may try to make the case that goods imported using child labor violate domestic views about what is an acceptable economic transaction. Or a consumer body may want to ban imports of certain goods from a country because of safety concerns.

The trick, of course, is trying to push for this enhancement to WTO rules without having it look like the US is trying to buy its way out of the proceedings.

(Via Dave Schuler.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:38 AM)
27 August 2007
Obligatory Michael Vick reference

Mark Steyn notes at The Corner:

When something unexpected turns up, the trick in the punditry game is to figure out how quickly to fit the square peg into the round hole of your regular tropes the bridge collapse in Minneapolis happened because of Bush's illegal oil war, etc. Dr Michael Eric Dyson, "The Hip-Hop Intellectual", offered a magnificent demonstration of this skill when he was interviewed by our pal Michelle Malkin on Fox last night. It hadn't previously occurred to me that there was a "race card" angle on the Michael Vick dog thing, but Dr Dyson asserted that there are cultural factors we're missing when it comes to considering dog fighting in the African-American community and threw in that many whites treat dogs better than they treat blacks. And then, as proof of this thesis, he offered: "Lassie was on the air for 20 years but Nat 'King' Cole was canceled after six months."

That bitch.

Actually, in today's Hierarchy of Aggrieved Groups, transgender trumps ethnic, so put your race card back in your pocket, Doc.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:10 AM)
28 August 2007
Fetch ... the Comfy Chair!

Been there, even sat there, says Mark Steyn:

The jacket of Poems From Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak shows a photograph by Paul J. Richards of Agence France-Presse: a close-up of the shackles that chain a man's ankles to the floor while he's being interrogated. But what rang a bell with me was the strip of carpet you can glimpse just above it. I visited Gitmo last fall for Ramadan, as it happens and, among other highlights, got to visit the interrogation room. The detainees are questioned while seated on a La-Z-Boy recliner or a sofa blue plush with gold piping. I found this a sufficiently novel form of torture upholstery to ask the guard if he'd mind snapping a picture of me in the jihadist La-Z-Boy. It's sitting in a file at the Pentagon somewhere. But no doubt in 20 years' time I'll be running for public office and my opponent's oppo-research team will use it for an attack ad claiming I was a top al-Qaeda operative at the turn of the century.

And just in case you were curious:

I mention the La-Z-Boy recliner not to make a political argument so much as an artistic one. Presumably when Paul J. Richards snapped his pic for Agence France-Presse, either the La-Z-Boy or the sofa was in the frame. But the Iowa University Press chose to crop the furniture out of the cover shot. Why? You can figure they'd have left it in if there'd been a rickety wooden chair under a bare lightbulb swinging on a frayed cord. But a book with a La-Z-Boy on the front doesn't exactly shriek "Death camp!"

And let's face it, there are a lot of folks who'd feel awfully hurt if they didn't get to shriek "Death camp!"

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:43 PM)
2 September 2007
Enough with the synthetic compassion

Telegraph associate editor Simon Heffer is ready to cut off allowances:

Has anybody noticed that the more we spend on the underclass, the bigger it gets and the worse it behaves?

Has anyone noticed, either, that what we used to call the working class has shrunk? Not merely because, as surveys tell us, so many now think of themselves as "middle-class", but because something called the respectable working class has almost died out. What sociologists used to call the working class does not now usually work at all, but is sustained by the welfare state. Its supposed family units are not as the rest of us might define the term. It lapses routinely into criminality and lives in largely self-inflicited squalor. It has low educational attainment and is bereft of ambition. It is what we now call the underclass.

We have an underclass because we pay to have one. I do not mean that to be a glib remark, from which it could be inferred that, if we were to stop paying for one, it would magically disappear. What I mean is that 60 years of welfarism, far from raising people out of poverty and of the vices that sometimes (but not inevitably) go with it, has simply trapped them there. Welfarism has smashed the traditional, and vital, family unit. The state readily takes responsibility for families if those who should be running them decide, in part or in whole, to abdicate it. The huge outlay of money that allows this to happen is represented by politicians and not exclusively those of the Left as a great act of humanity and philanthropy. It is nothing of the sort. It is, rather, an act of sustained and chronic cruelty, and it leads to such horrors as happened in Liverpool last week.

Mr Heffer could probably repeat this column every few years with scarcely any changes, because that's what's going to happen to the policies that created the "underclass": scarcely any changes. The War on Poverty, as President Johnson called it, makes the Iraq "quagmire" look like a small patch of gravel.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:56 PM)
5 September 2007
Secret Asian man

Geez. Enough with the Hsu jokes, already.

Addendum: Adam Gurri adds: "I'm already sick of them, and I don't even know who the guy is."

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:00 PM)
11 September 2007
Not too indifferent

Two hundred twenty ballots cast by 5:50 pm over at Precinct 453, about ten percent higher than I'd anticipated but something short of a madding crowd. I'm expecting something like 56-44, Johnson over Claunch, but I won't be too unhappy whichever way it goes.

Update: Well, whaddaya know: 54-46, Johnson over Claunch.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:05 PM)
13 September 2007
A low response rate

Back in the spring, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) complained to the Detroit Economic Club that the Motor City's major economic powers, the makers of automobiles, were collectively dragging their feet on fuel-economy standards, "spending millions to prevent the very reforms that could've saved their industry." Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that sitting in the Senator's driveway was a gleefully-thirsty Chrysler 300C, and yeah, it's got a Hemi. Obama, redfaced, as it were, went out and bought a Ford Escape hybrid.

Personally, I think the Senator got a bad rap: at least he has some semblance of automotive taste. (I wouldn't cut him this slack were he tooling around in something with no discernible merit.) But this incident gave Frank Williams of The Truth About Cars an idea: he would write each member of the Senate and ask, "What's in your garage?"

The results, I have no doubt, would have been entertaining, but Mr Williams got exactly one reply to his query. The lone response was from Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who begged off on security grounds:

I am flattered that you have chosen to include me in your article on the personal transportation choices of national leaders. However, because of my public status, I am unable to answer personal questions such as these.

At least he responded, which is more than the 98 others Craig Thomas (R-WY) had just passed away bothered to do. And while I can sort of see the security issue here, I figure, you've seen one [fill in make and model of luxobarge], you've probably seen them all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:53 PM)
14 September 2007
Michael Wolff thinks I'm old

He wasn't thinking of me personally, of course, but apparently anyone who values news qua news is damned near antediluvian:

[M]ost of the people I know who are interested in news, rather than, say, social networking, or solitary blogging, who believe news media might thrive, online or in more classic forms, are old.

Barry Diller, the former Hollywood kingpin, who has remade himself as an Internet titan, has talked about his desire to start a new news thing online (indeed, I briefly try to convince him he should help start mine). But is his interest in news the result, I wonder, of his Internet acumen, or just an older mogul's hobby, similar to the interest of his friend the mogul David Geffen in buying the Los Angeles Times? Diller is 65. Geffen is 64. Rupert Murdoch may have paid billions for Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, but he is 76.

Arianna Huffington, the gadfly and publicity hound, has, at 57, actually succeeded in starting her own online newspaper, the Huffington Post, a kind of left-wing broadsheet competing with the right-wing tabloid Drudge Report (Drudge himself must be getting on in years). Then there is Jeff Jarvis, one of the original bloggers. He is an implacable believer in all things Internet, but, at 53, also no spring chicken.

Drudge is reported to be forty, which qualifies him for poulet du printemps, at least compared to this bunch.

I note here that I am older than Jarvis, who has been 53 for all of two days at this writing.

And after three pages, Wolff eventually gets around to making his point, which is this:

My civics-class generation continues to put high value on public life: the president, the Congress, the courts. But increasingly these dysfunctional bureaucracies are of interest only to strangely fixated people. Politics itself is, more and more, a kind of obsession. (Indeed, people who do want news are people who seem dysfunctional themselves obsessed, narrow-focused, militant, A.D.D.) Whereas a new generation, through the magic of the Internet, dispenses with this old idea of the commonweal and converts its private life into its public one.

In my capacity as someone who once sat through a civics class, I must demur: politics, at least to me, is less an obsession than a form of entertainment. And it's not just the cynicism talking, either; having rejected out of hand the notion that "the personal is political" and the inversion thereof, I find that I get the same buzz watching the candidates that I get watching dinner theatre, train wrecks (cf. Spears, Britney Jean), and other decidedly low-tech amusements.

Michael Wolff, incidentally, is two months older than I am, and gets far more traffic at Newser, which name proves he's around my age: he didn't spell it "Newsr."

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:20 AM)
Now here's some ballot access

I've complained before about the difficulty in getting access to Oklahoma ballots faced by third-party candidates, and there are at least ten good reasons to loosen up the requirements.

Chris Lawrence has linked to a sample ballot for his precinct in New Orleans, and inevitably it reflects Louisiana's unusual election system, which goes something like this:

Every state, local, and congressional election in Louisiana is decided by what's called an open primary. The rules are that all candidates for a single office, regardless of party, appear on the same ballot on Election Day, and all voters (again regardless of party) can vote for any one of them. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two vote-getters takes place a month later. It's completely possible for the open primary to produce a runoff between two Democrats or between two Republicans.

Which no doubt explains why there are thirteen candidates for Governor: five Democrats, a Republican, a Libertarian, four listed as "No Party" and two as "Other."

And running for State Senator District 6 is Louisiana's answer to Virginia "Blue Jeans" Jenner, ophthalmologist Monica L. Monica, last seen (by me, anyway) running for the 1st Congressional District seat now occupied by David Vitter, who says that the only place you can get a bad meal in New Orleans is at her house, which strikes me as an odd but effective form of branding.

"Voting is hard," complains Dr Lawrence. I don't think he'd like it any better were it Oklahoma easy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:02 AM)
15 September 2007
Closing the sneaker gap

After a couple of shoe-oriented rants, it's time for some hard data, and Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok is right on schedule:

Several years ago Bill Cosby chided poor blacks for spending their limited incomes on high-priced shoes and other items of conspicuous consumption instead of investing in education. Cosby was widely criticized but I went to the numbers, specifically Table 2100 of the Consumer Expenditure Survey and found the following for 2003:

Average income of whites and other races: $53,292.
Average income of blacks: $34,485.

Expenditures on footwear by whites and other races: $274.
Expenditures on footwear by blacks: $440.

Obviously white folks aren't shouldering (so to speak) their share of the burden. New Balance, here I come.

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:08 PM)
Where socialism actually works

Right here in the U. S. of A., in a place called the National Football League:

First of all, the league has a unique revenue sharing arrangement. Revenues from the ticket sales to the games are split equally between all 32 teams. Additionally, the NFL makes most of its money not from people attending the games, but from television. The NFL has a multibillion dollar television contract, and that is also split equally between all 32 teams.

The ramifications of this revenue sharing is that small market franchises such as the Green Bay Packers can compete with large market franchises such as the New York Giants.

This is not to say that every owner winds up with the same bottom-line numbers, but there exists enough parity to keep most of the teams competitive while insuring that everyone doesn't finish 8-8 every year.

And there's this:

Each team is allowed to spend the exact same amount on players. There is a minimum that must be spent, since some owners would prefer to field losing teams in order to line their pockets. The minimum forces them to try and compete. The maximum forces teams to make hard choices. Individual players can still earn astronomical salaries, but at the expense of their teammates. The term "capanomics" refers to teams that try to temporarily circumvent the cap using creative accounting methods, but when that credit card bill comes due, teams have a fire sale known as "salary cap hell."

The NBA has its own salary cap, though it seems to be honored largely in the breach: the Knicks spend more than twice as much on players as do the Bobcats, and are duly penalized for it. Major League Baseball, of course, has neither of these rules.

Still, if you're a confirmed socialist, you probably ought not to hope for the rest of the world to look like the NFL someday. It's a deliberately small operation thirty-two teams, fewer than 1700 players and at bottom, it's still intended to turn a profit, preferably a huge profit.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:43 PM)
18 September 2007
This thread is useless without pictures

Fabian Basabe interviews Ann Coulter, and let's face it, this isn't going to be some hard-hitting political commentary. Sample:

Basabe: We have both had our troubles with The New York Observer. They called you "the Republican Michael Moore," and "Rush Limbaugh in a miniskirt." Don't you think your legs are much better than Rush or Moore's?

Coulter: Don't knock Rush Limbaugh's legs they're better than Hillary's.

I'll, um, take her word for it.

What's weird about that is that the Observer, according to Basabe, felt the need to compare Coulter to a couple of fairly hefty guys, and if there's one thing Coulter isn't, it's bulky.

Well, that and the fact that the photo accompanying the article didn't show any legs at all, Coulter's or anyone else's.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:06 PM)
22 September 2007
Beyond R and D

I wasn't expecting to see this today:

Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform (OBAR) has the noble goal of making it easier for candidates to win a place on the ballot when they don't have "Republican" or "Democrat" beside their name.

This is, after all, the Oklahoman's editorial page. I might have anticipated "curious" or "implausible" or even "quixotic," but "noble"?

And I think they might even be serious:

Changing the law would acquire approval by the people of a referendum that OBAR hopes to get on the 2008 ballot. Of course, the Legislature consisting of only Republicans and Democrats could call an election and spare OBAR the expense of circulating an initiative petition.

Wouldn't that be nice? But don't hold your breath.

And while the paper's enthusiasm for the prospect does seem a bit limited, you'd have never heard this kind of talk from Gaylord, père or fils:

We urge Oklahomans interested in freeing up state election restrictions to consider supporting OBAR. The people deserve a chance to vote on this issue and perhaps give politics as usual a run for its money.

Me, I've been harping on this issue for years.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:22 AM)
24 September 2007
Thunder Road II

News Item: The Tennessee Department of Revenue said Friday that it will begin conducting surveillance of state-line tobacco retailers in other states. In July, Tennessee’s cigarette tax went from 20 cents per pack to 62 cents per pack, an incentive for many Tennessee residents to cross the state line to buy cigarettes at stores in neighboring states.

"Let me tell the story, with or without jokes,
About the mountain boys who hauled illegal packs of smokes;
Nashville raised the taxes, from 'low' to 'quite a load,'
And so once more the smugglers drove the length of Thunder Road."

Now is anyone, with the possible exception of the Tennessee Department of Revenue, at all surprised that people will go out of state to avoid paying a tax they think is too high?

And Tam wants to know:

[D]oes the tax increase cover the operating expenses of the new geheimes staatspolizei they'll need to stake out every cross-border convenience store and supermarket?

I suspect that when revenues fall short of projections, they'll, um, make the adjustments they deem appropriate.

(Submitted to the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:42 PM)
27 September 2007
Aw, nuts

Gerard Van der Leun speculates along lines I'd just as soon not think about:

To think, to really think, that Hillary has the only set of C-in-C brass balls among the Democrats may, in fact, turn out to be true. Yet one must always remember that for a Democrat, at this stage of their shady game, to claim to have balls of any metallic substance is an easy gambit. Teflon testicles are today's standard issue for the Crats. I'll admit that measured against someone like John Edwards the impression that Hillary possesses a penis may well have some truth to it, but it still will not likely measure much above two inches. Not nearly enough to get her the Boudica bump she needs.

Of course, there's always Photoshop:


Hillary's Big Secret

Prasutagus was not available for comment.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
30 September 2007
Ballot-access kerfuffle

Mike at Okiedoke inadvertently precipitated a brouhaha with this observation:

Dart: To Frosty Troy of The Oklahoma Observer for his support of Oklahoma voters having only two parties on the ballot. Frosty says a third candidate might screw up a close race between a Democrat and a Republican. Yeah, that would be terrible. And imagine what might happen if neither a Democrat or Republican was elected; I like to.

Which was followed by this blast by Red S. Tater, and a return volley by J. M. Branum, with mutual sniping along the way.

Tater, unfortunately, damages his case by raising the spectre of "fusion," the process by which candidates in some states can run on multiple party tickets, and quotes Dan Cantor at TPM Cafe, who sees it as a useful tool for Democrats, which indeed it could be. However, inasmuch as nowhere in the Oklahoma petition is there any reference to fusion or any language which would expedite it, Tater is showing us, you should pardon the expression, a red herring.

And just for historical perspective: the Republicans were originally a third party, ascending to the Big Two in the wake of the dissolution of the Whigs. (If they play their cards right, they could be just as dead as the Whigs.)

In the meantime, I will continue to believe that we'd be better off if we had actual Greens and Libertarians and such on the state ballot, and if they "screw up a close race" well, isn't that just too damn bad? No party, major, minor or minuscule, has any business thinking it's entitled to an office.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:03 PM)
9 October 2007
The day of reckoning is at hand

About thirty counties will have some sort of election today, and the one getting the most attention is Tulsa's so-called River Tax, which won't actually tax the river. I think. With all the misinformation floating around, it's hard to be sure.

Speaking of floating, the Oklahoma City Public Schools hope to float a bond issue of just under a quarter of a billion dollars, over and beyond the MAPS for Kids collections. It's been some time since anything of this sort hit the ballot, and I'm inclined to vote for it, because the district has worked steadily to improve itself in the last decade or so, and because the OCMAPS Trust, which oversees MAPS for Kids, will also oversee the bond projects. The lack of pie-in-the-sky promises in the pitch is also encouraging: this is a realistic package to meet ongoing capital needs for the district. Even the Oklahoman, not exactly the district's best friend forever, is endorsing the bond issue.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 AM)
There appears to be turnout

At a quarter to six, my precinct had recorded 279 voters for the OCPS school-bond issue, which, owing to the way the laws are written, wound up as four separate issues on the ballot. This is about half again what I'd expected, although we're still a long way from long lines at the polls. Traffic was hopelessly snarled, though this was due more to the reconstruction of 50th Street than to any likely electoral urgency.

Update, 9:20 pm: All four measures passed, by considerable margins:

  1. Gymnasiums, classrooms, roof replacements and HVAC work: 11,183 to 3,038.
  2. Classroom technology and programs to track student progress: 11,082 to 3,073.
  3. Replacement of old district buses: 11,003 to 3,121.
  4. Safety/security improvements: 11,080 to 3,018.

And really, turnout of a shade over 14,000 isn't too shabby in a district with fewer than 40,000 students. (More detail on the individual propositions, should you so desire.)

New millages are due out this month, but the number for OCPS is not expected to vary much from the current 57.07. (Property taxes in Oklahoma County include separate millages for the county itself, for individual municipalities, for the pertinent school district, and the vocational school and/or junior-college district.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:06 PM)
16 October 2007
The parting on the left

A bit of speculation from David Frum regarding Pon Farr [not his real name]:

[He] will run as a third-party candidate. He'll have the money, he'll have the ego, and he will have the cause. Will he have the votes? Maybe. If Hillary Clinton tacks to the center on national-security issues after Iowa & New Hampshire, as one assumes she will, or even if she appears to tack to the center, a space will open to her left, with at least 2% or 3% of the vote available there. That's not much but it may be enough to make a surprising difference.

Bill Quick buys the premise:

I've thought so for some time. What's really risible about [Farr's] candidacy, however, is that if he runs, he will primarily mine the demographic to the left of Hillary Clinton for votes. Which is a pretty funny place for a hard-core libertarian politician to be getting traction.

I dunno. The post-Postrel Reason seems a lot closer to Mother Jones than to Frum's perch at National Review.

Of course, the big worry for small-time scribes like me is that if he gets enough traction, we'll actually have to start saying his name out loud.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:49 PM)
18 October 2007
Unfortunately, they can still be elected

Jeff Jarvis finds this on the New Jersey ballot:

STATE PUBLIC QUESTION No. 4
Constitutional Amendment Concerning the
Right to Vote for Certain Persons

Shall the amendment of Article II, Section I, paragraph 6 of the Constitution, agreed to by the Legislature, revising the current constitutional language concerning denial of the right to vote by deleting the phrase "idiot or insane person" and providing instead that a "person who has been adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting" shall not enjoy the right of suffrage, be adopted?

First question: There are courts of competent jurisdiction in New Jersey?

Second question: What does New Jersey mean by this?

The answer to the latter [link to PDF file], anyway:

The phrase "idiot or insane person" is outdated, vague, offensive to many, and may be subject to misinterpretation. This constitutional amendment acknowledges that individuals with cognitive or emotional disabilities may otherwise be capable of making decisions in the voting booth and that their right of self-determination should be respected and protected in this regard. The amendment only denies the right of suffrage to those individuals determined by a court, on a case-by-case basis, to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting.

I'm waiting for Illinois or West Virginia to come up with a ballot item that, if passed, denies the right of suffrage to the deceased.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:54 AM)
21 October 2007
Even up

A letter by David R. Taylor of Ada, to the editor of the Oklahoman:

Mexico has millions of citizens who want to come to our country to work. The United States has millions of citizens who refuse to work. I'd like to propose a trade.

The trick will be in persuading the Mexican government that this somehow qualifies as a win.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:20 PM)
30 October 2007
Hollywood buys some '08 tickets

TV Guide this week (it will probably be on their Web site next week), based on a peek at the Federal Election Commission reports, offers a sampling of who in Tinseltown is backing whom. A few items of possible interest:

  • Law & Order creator Dick Wolf kicked in some bucks for former employee Fred Thompson.

  • Of the seven contributors listed for Hillary Clinton, six are female; the other is Jerry Springer.

  • Biggest names for Dennis Kucinich are Casey Kasem and Esai Morales.

  • Jimmy Smits is hedging his bets: he's contributed to Clinton, Bill Richardson and Barack Obama.

  • Lorne Michaels, not so much: he's contributed to John McCain and Chris Dodd.

And as of the time TV Guide checked the FEC lists, no one with any Star Status, and yes, Orson Bean has Star Status (he's a Giuliani fan), had sent a check to Stephen Colbert.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:38 PM)
2 November 2007
Will Saudi Arabia ever change?

Stephen Browne of Rants and Raves talks to Dr Ali Alyami, head of the Center for Democracy & Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, a US-based institution that hopes to change the rules in Riyadh.

The Center, it appears, has its work cut out for it:

"If you ask why women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia," Alyami said, "they will tell you, 'It is our religion.' But in reality it's politics and now it's becoming a big business for younger princes. If women are allowed to drive that would eliminate importations of millions of expatriate drivers who normally pay good money to middle men, princes, to get visas to work as drivers for Saudi families. The same for alcohol, the princes make money importing all the good liquor in Saudi. If it becomes legal, they would lose monopoly over the illegal trade."

And what do the Saudi royals want?

Dr Alyami said that the only agenda item the Saudi royals [have] is to stay in power, pure and simple. To that end they want to make Arabs and Muslims in general hated throughout the world. They hope that hatred will push them together and prevent their assimilation into modern, secular, tolerant society.

The Center's agenda:

Given its trenchant influence on 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide and its position in the world’s oil market, Saudi Arabia cannot be disregarded or surrendered to an absolute monarchy that encourages the oppression of women and religious minorities, and fosters domestic extremism and international terrorism. A constitutional, democratic government combined with the rule of law, is the best hope for the long term prosperity and unity of the people of Saudi Arabia. This prospect will give Saudi citizens a say in decisions that impact their daily lives and empower them to join the international community as respected equals. A democratized Saudi Arabia will no longer be an incubator for intolerance and terrorism; instead, the result will be a responsible, accountable and productive society, ruled by laws created by its members, not by leaders who invoke fear and resentment. This outcome is in the best interests of the Saudi people, the United States and all democratic societies.

So far, our politicians seem to be more or less evenly divided between "disregard" and "surrender."

Stephen Browne said he posted the interview at Rants and Raves "because there isn't a lot of interest elsewhere." Let's see if we can't stir up a little.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
7 November 2007
And doggone it, people like him

When Al Franken announced he was running for the Senate, the first thing I thought apart from the visions of Stuart Smalley dancing in my head, which mercifully departed quickly was "Geez, what would his fund-raising letters look like?"

Now I've gotten one, and, well, meh.

At least it starts out well, addressed to "Dear Person I'm Asking For Money." There are two mentions of the "Republican slime machine," which always makes me think of You Can't Do That On Television, which routinely slimed know-nothings (not to be confused with Know-Nothings). And Franken says that he is less beholden to guys with big bucks than, say, Norm Coleman: "In the third fundraising quarter, my average contribution was just $67."

And one quip near the end which speaks volumes:

We can change the balance in the Senate so that Democrats no longer have to govern by the skin of Joe Lieberman's teeth.

Biting, one might say. Not enough to suck $67 out of my wallet, though.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:58 AM)
15 November 2007
You earned it, but it's ours anyway

The very first official act by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the first hour after he was sworn in, was to roll back the 300-percent increase in auto-license fees imposed by predecessor Gray Davis. The Assembly, then as now controlled by Democrats, complained that it would reduce revenues, and indeed the Governator had to come up with some emergency funds for local governments, which had been counting on those extra bucks.

"Counting on," though, is one thing: insisting that government has a right to it is something entirely different. With the Golden State's budget looking more like zinc, it's apparently time to relive those wonderful moments of 2003:

"There is an ongoing gap between state expenditures and revenues that this governor helped create by slashing vehicle license fees and refusing to balance that loss with revenue from another source," Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, said in a written statement.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, echoed Perata's sentiment, adding that wiping out the increase in the fee has resulted in "squandering $20 billion [since 2003] so that an average car owner can pocket $200 a year."

Yeah. Who the hell are these "average car owners," that their pocketbooks should have precedence over Sacramento's?

Sometimes I miss California. This isn't one of those times.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 PM)
16 November 2007
Defacing up

Atomic Trousers lists the ten "most obnoxious" bumper stickers seen in leftish Madison, Wisconsin. I'll single out one that also perturbs me:

"Live Simply So That Others May Simply Live" The airheads with this little chestnut on their bumpers are confusing simple wordplay with incredible profundity. This bumper sticker sounds really deep until you realize that a.) it doesn't mean a damn thing and b.) the dork in your office who asks if you’re workin' hard or hardly workin' is making an equally clever play on words.

Since you asked: I have no bumper stickers, not even the AAA Plus oval they send me every year.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:00 PM)
20 November 2007
The Portuguese demand a recount

"How do I love thee?" saith Bill unto Hillary. "Let me count the ways."

(Via Fausta's blog.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:58 AM)
27 November 2007
Trent seeking

Trent Lott is stepping down from the Senate because, says E. M. Zanotti, he needs the bucks:

Not only is he not that wealthy (comparatively) his house was all but destroyed in Katrina and despite Bush's assurances to the opposite, no governmental help has come specifically marching to his door. He needs the eight hundred or so thousand per year he can make lobbying those he knew who still cling to the hope that for slightly less pay they can continue to stuff their districts with post offices, museum and trout-painted airplanes. The difference being that when you work in Congress, you have to take your payment in the form of free trips, free meals, free cigars and those nifty pens with the drug names on them that are unbelievably ergonomic; when you work outside of it, all of that value comes in the form of a paycheck. Trent needs the cash, not the trips, and since next year that line of work will be cut off (per lobbying reforms instituted post-Abramoff), he needs to get out while the getting's good.

I don't think this makes much of a case for a Congressional raise, though.

And given the possibility that next year for the Republicans will make 2006 look like a minor inconvenience, it's probably not a bad time to be a former Senator. Or, for that matter, a former Representative; Dennis Hastert turned in his resignation yesterday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:39 AM)
29 November 2007
Ready forum

The Media Gatekeepers have evidently decided that what we want no, what we need are irregular spurts of mass debating, interrupted at intervals by planted questions and by narcissists with video equipment. The inevitable result: candidates end up as commodities, and the "national dialogue" is exposed as several thousand monologues. If I never see another "debate" again, it will be too soon.

I'd watch this, though:

For the future, I’d like to propose what I call the Algonquin Round Table Debate. No moderator, no stopwatches, no buzzers or red lights, no YouTube, and, please, no Anderson Cooper or Chris Matthews. Instead, put all the candidates around a big table, ply them with first-rate food and liquor, and just let them talk and argue with one another until or beyond last call. Now that, for Democrats or Republicans, would be an event worth watching.

Over a period of years, it might even improve the quality of candidates, though I'm not getting my hopes up.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:38 PM)
5 December 2007
The candidates are coming

With one day to go in the filing period, five Democrats and eight Republicans have entered the Oklahoma Presidential primary, which is scheduled for the 5th of February and which will not move no matter what Iowa and New Hampshire do. Signed up for the Democrats so far: Clinton, Edwards, Kucinich, Obama and Richardson. GOP entrants include: Curry (who?), Giuliani, Hunter, Keyes, McCain, Paul, Romney and Tancredo.

I suppose we'll hear from Huckabee and Biden later today. The official list at the Oklahoma State Election Board will be here [link goes to PDF file] and will be updated as necessary, with the complete list available at the close of business this afternoon.

This is not, incidentally, a bid for linkage from Wonkosphere, which has been picking up my feed all along.

Addendum: If you're looking for Fred Thompson, BatesLine reports that the paperwork has been filed but corrections of some sort are being made.

Update, 5 December, 5:25 pm: No Biden. Thompson is in place, as is Huckabee. We have seven Democrats and eleven Republicans. And Jim Rogers, about whom more later, is back.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:52 AM)
Who is Jim Rogers?

We know one thing: he ponied up the filing fee to run in the 2008 Presidential primary as a Democrat.

Two years ago, he ran for Lieutenant Governor, and sent this biography to KFOR-TV. Background stuff:

I was born in Atoka County, OK and graduated from Atoka High School. I earned a Bachelors of Arts Degree at Oklahoma Baptist University and I earned Master of Science Degree at Wyoming University. I have an Educational Specialist Degree from Wyoming University and was an Honors Graduate there.

I have had further graduate studies at OSU, UT, KSU and NOSU.

I operated a small cattle heard in Atoka County when in high school and college. I was a teaching assistant part time at OSU. I taught at Connors College, Eastern Oklahoma State College, Western Wyoming College, Seminole State College and part time at Oklahoma Baptist University.

I ran for U.S. Senate for Oklahoma in 2002 and 2004. I think I came in third place for the democrats, but you might check with the election board records.

I am unmarried and currently living in Midwest City. It is a great city to live in, by the way, as is all the metro plex, Tulsa, and all of Oklahoma City and rural areas.

I did, of course, check with the election board records, and he did place third in both those primaries. His better showing was in 2002, when he got almost ten percent of the vote. In the '06 race for Lite Guv, he ran fourth with about 13 percent.

No campaign Web site yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:26 PM)
12 December 2007
Bold indeed

Nobody's going to accuse Mike Huckabee of a lack of vision, by Gawd:

I think we ought to be out there talking about ways to reduce energy consumption and waste. And we ought to declare that we will be free of energy consumption in this country within a decade, bold as that is.

Beat that, you quivering lumps of Kyotoplasm. "Free of energy consumption." Zero. I defy anyone to come up with a bolder plan than this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:00 PM)
16 December 2007
The ultimate in discouragement

It appears that there's no point in donating to Wendy Shorty-Muhammad's Presidential campaign.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:38 PM)
20 December 2007
Rejoicing at the 41st hour

About three years ago, the Bush administration adopted changes in the rules governing overtime pay, changes that were reviled by Democrats and which turned out to affect me not in the slightest. [Link goes to PDF file.]

This proposal, however, would actually put a few bucks in my pocket:

Congresswoman Mary Fallin [R-OK] has introduced legislation that would exclude overtime pay from gross income, making it exempt from the federal income tax. The bill immediately attracted several cosponsors and has been endorsed by Americans for Tax Reform.

The ATR endorsement says [link goes to PDF file]:

Taxes in general discourage economic activity. Taxing overtime wages sends a signal to hardworking Americans that no matter the extra hours they put in, the government will continue taking a share of their earnings.

In a time of uncertain economic conditions, encouraging productivity is a positive step for Congress to take.

Actually, had I my druthers, I'd just as soon the government taxed the overtime and let me off the hook for the regular hours, but that seems even less likely to become reality than Fallin's bill does. The opposition, I presume, will have to fall back on the "loss of revenue" argument, inasmuch as those Horrible Rich Folks who are always getting tax breaks wouldn't be getting anything out of this one.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:21 PM)
29 December 2007
Repelling the Ronulan Empire

It looks like they'll be busy in Azeroth for a while:

Republican presidential candidate Pon Farr's [not his real name] internet regiment has come to World of Warcraft a group of his supporters are planning to form a guild on Whisperwind and do a march from IF to Stormwind ... on New Year's Day at 8:30pm EST.

To E. M. Zanotti, this explains much:

World of Warcraft, if we aren’t mistaken, is centered around a lot of killing, and this is an ample opportunity to take out certain feelings of frustration with Paultards [her word, not mine] through wholly legal mutilation.

And there's this possible vulnerability:

Also, we can rest easy knowing that a key requirement to be a Pon Farr [still not his real name] supporter is not having a girlfriend, which explains why they have so much time to spam stuff and so much apparently disposable income.

I should point out that this doesn't work in reverse: there's no evidence to support "unlucky in love, lucky in delegate selection," which is just as well, because if there were I'd have done at least one keynote speech at a convention by now.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:09 PM)
4 January 2008
Lessons from the Iowa caucuses

By two guys who were half in the bag, so at least the bag's full, right?

  • Women who are old enough to get banged by Bill Clinton voted for Obama
  • If you're Born again you really do give a Huck
  • 495 people outside of San Diego are willing to vote for Duncan Hunter even though half of them confused him with Duncan Hines
  • John Edwards is willing [to] ride the wave to the White House, even if it includes slapping Hillary's thigh
  • Romney learned the hard way not to run on good hair in a state full of farm wives that home perm
  • Ed Rollins is a very angry man
  • Hillary Clinton has a bad poker face
  • Hillary's advisors will like have a poker taken to their faces
  • If two old white pasty lefty northeastern Senators drop out of a White House race, no one cares
  • The CIA should use Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, and that old fat bald guy who looks like Gorbachev without the splotches on his head to get confessions out of terror detainees. Spending four hours with this group without liquor protection would break the will of just about anyone.

And now, off to the primaries, where New Hampshire will be taken for Granite.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:23 PM)
5 January 2008
There's no place like Nome

An Alaskan legislator has prefiled a bill to move the state capital from Juneau to Anchorage. Rep. Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage, what a shock) says that contact with the legislature is difficult for most Alaskans because there are no roads to Juneau you can only reach the city by air or by boat and that that the expense of traveling to the capital is considerable.

Oddly, neither Ted Stevens nor Don Young offered to build a bridge.

I recognize, though, that isolation of a legislature has its consequences, and therefore I suggest that someone introduce a bill to move the Oklahoma capital to Guymon. Or even Juneau, if there's room.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:30 PM)
How 2012 should be

Steph Mineart offers a radical redesign of the election cycle which addresses both efficiency and voter fatigue:

The U.S. would have five days of political primaries, each a week apart, starting the last week of March. The first primary day would consist of the 10 states with the smallest voting population; the rest would increase upward until the fifth week when the largest voting states would hold their primaries in the final week of April. Then there would be a month of campaigning before nominating conventions in May.

The campaigning would be compressed into a shorter cycle that would make it easier for people to follow, and something would actually HAPPEN regularly, rather than endless shots of candidates' tour buses and baby kissing. The primary wins would actually be representative of the various states and we wouldn't be unduly influenced by states that don't really affect the election cycle.

Apart from her rather cavalier dismissal of the smaller states, this makes sense to me. If nothing else, it would call a halt to ever-earlier primaries. (The New Hampshire primary in 1968 was on the second Tuesday of March, fercrissake.) Iowans will probably object, but I suspect that apart from the inevitable activist types, Hawkeyes might be faintly embarrassed by that whole caucus thing and the attention it gets.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:50 PM)
11 January 2008
And sometimes Y

This would seem to cover most of the pertinent circumstances:

If men vote for a candidate simply because he's a man, it's because men are sexist pigs.

If women vote for a candidate simply because she's a woman, it's because men are sexist pigs.

(Via Tam.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:02 PM)
15 January 2008
Should we open the primary?

This morning, an Oklahoman editorial, noting the relative lack of candidate interest in the state's Presidential primary, hints that maybe we should:

Interest in the primary among Oklahomans isn't lacking. The Tulsa World reports a surge of voter registrations in the last two months of 2007, plus a wave of re-registration requests from independents who wish to participate in the Republican or Democratic presidential primary before, presumably, switching back to independent.

Unlike New Hampshire, whose primary allows independent participation, only those registered in a party can vote in a primary here. This is how it should be in most cases; perhaps the presidential primary should be an exception.

I haven't made up my mind about this yet. On the one hand, I hate to see the Independents and others frozen out of the process. Still, it's supposed to be an instrument for the use of the actual parties.

Any ideas?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
16 January 2008
I fought the straw, and the straw won

J. M. Branum is conducting what he calls the Oklahoma Blog Authors Presidential Primary Straw Poll, and it's simple: you email him your top three choices in the party of your registration he's not going to check your registration, so this is a lot more open than the real Presidential primary and he'll total up the numbers, counting 3 points for your first choice, 2 for your second and 1 for your third.

I sent in my list last night. (If anyone is wondering, I am registered as a Democrat, and I selected accordingly.) Votes will be taken through the end of the month, and cumulative totals will be posted from time to time.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:55 AM)
19 January 2008
Cited for failure to hate

Mitt Romney does the Tonight Show, and the following interchange ensued:

JAY LENO: When you were governor, did you have any interaction with either Barack or Hillary? Did you know them? Did you work with them?

MITT ROMNEY: I did not. I met the President, President Clinton, a couple of times. He's a very engaging person. I met Barack Obama. We both appeared at the Gridiron Club, where we told jokes and we had fun doing that together. He's got a lovely wife. My wife thinks she's just terrific.

JAY LENO: So you never really had any

MITT ROMNEY: No business with those guys. More business with Ted Kennedy. You know, I ran against Ted Kennedy.

JAY LENO: Right.

MITT ROMNEY: You know, he's a hard‑working guy. He does his best. I disagree with him on virtually every issue, but we came together a couple of times, and frankly, I like Ted Kennedy.

For some reason, this got Michelle Malkin's Hanes in a wad:

"Like" is not a word a conservative should use when referring to the Senate’s biggest windbag, eco-hypocrite, shamnesty supporter, race demagogue, and conservative judicial nominee slimer.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much. This is the Tonight Show, after all: some sort of camaraderie, even if forced, is the order of the day. Save the mud for Olbermann or O'Reilly.

Except that there isn't any mud to be saved. I have no reason to think Romney was being insincere. I have friends at least as far left as Ted Kennedy, and I don't feel compelled to burnish whatever conservative bona fides I may have by bashing them.

Besides, this was the next bit of the conversation:

JAY LENO: Who do you think has a bigger head, you or Ted Kennedy?

(Laughter.)

MITT ROMNEY: Oh, boy, it's a competition. All three of us could join. Do you know that?

Maybe it was the talk of big heads that motivated Malkin to make herself look small.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:57 AM)
21 January 2008
Who needs Super Tuesday, anyway?

It's going to be Obama over McCain, says Doctor Horsefeathers, and here's what you have to look forward to:

[G]et ready for a torrent of politically correct cant, and the replacement of neo-conservative utopianism by liberal utopianism. The neo-conservative faith in Democracy for all, with its accompanying fantastical belief that everyone craves freedom, will be replaced by the Liberal utopianism that believes all conflicts can be resolved using words and therapeutic empathy. When Islamic barbarism strikes again, we'll deploy cadres of psychotherapists and lawyers to help the aggrieved Jihadis, driven to despair by the unfair distribution of wealth and power. Remember this, however, it might have been worse; it might have been President Hillary.

Admittedly, he said this two and a half weeks ago, but I suspect he may be right.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:32 AM)
And lo, the eyes glazeth over

I realize that it's of dire importance to the Gods of All Media that we be fed every last scrap of election information, be it of marginal relevance or of no relevance at all stuff that is actually relevant either doesn't lend itself to the format or contradicts the narrative they're trying to sell but I'm paying as little attention to it as possible.

SeeDubya knows the feeling:

I'm very interested in the candidates themselves, their personalities, their policies, and especially their principles and character. But I'll confess right now, at the risk of being disbarred from political blogging, that amateur even professional electoral gamesmanship bores the hell out of me. (You know when the last time I went to Real Clear Politics was? The 2006 election.) There's a surfeit of internet quarterbacks out there trying to call the plays. I think it's like modeling global warming; there's eight million known variables out there and an unknown number of Rumsfeldian unknown unknowns on top of that. What's that, you say Farkins County, Delaware hasn't budgeted for road salt, making it difficult for senior citizens waiting for the sleet to melt to get down Farm-to-Market Road 47 and vote for McCain and still make it to the early bird special at the Golden Corral, so they'll stay home watching the History Channel and it's probably going to break for Huckabee? Well, doodley doodle doo.

I'm at the point where I want to tell the lot of them to do what the government itself ought to be doing, which is to get the hell off my lawn.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:15 PM)
Maybe John Edwards should sue

CNN screenshotRavenwood found this at CNN; since then, they've changed the photo and added a couple of words to the text, but the thrust of the article remains the same. The idea that any of these women might have other ideas apparently never occurred to anyone.

Continuing from the article:

No other voting bloc in the country faces this choice.

Democratic analyst Jehmu Greene says, "We've all wanted the day to come where there was a black person in the White House, where there was going to be a woman in the White House. I don't think we imagined it would be having to decide one or the other."

Almost makes you wonder whatever happened to Carol Moseley Braun.

Or, for that matter, Condoleezza Rice. Of course, she's not a Democrat.

Addendum: This made it to Fark with a DUMBASS tag.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:53 PM)
26 January 2008
A better stimulus package?

It will never fly people who've never saved a dime wouldn't get a cent but I like the sound of it. As posted by John Ellis:

It's the brainchild of one Leonard Yablon, my neighbor and friend and the former CFO of Forbes. And it goes like this:
  1. Allow individual 401K withdrawals of $12,000 for the next 100 days.
  2. Individual withdrawals up to $12,000 will be tax free.
  3. The result should be an immediate infusion of $120-180 billion into the economy.
  4. Which should stabilize the markets.

Before you ask: yes, I could do that. I'm loath to screw with retirement income, generally, but I figure the bulk of it is going to end up in my estate anyway.

Mickey Kaus calls it "exceptionally Republican ... but exceptionally fast."

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:22 AM)
27 January 2008
Happy birthday, dear wingers

How shall we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy? Suggestions in Comments, please.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:09 AM)
30 January 2008
Left behind

"A pox on you and your Grand Old Party," says Tam:

And before you even think about puffing up and sputtering something about "Are you just going to give Hillary the White House?" just put a sock in it, because it wasn't me, brother. It was all you idiots who put candidates out there that got tied up in pointless jackassery like rearranging the 'gay marriage' and 'flag burning' and 'stem cell' deck chairs after the USS Conservative had already hit the iceberg. Your typical Republican these days is worried more about what's printed on the money than where it comes from or what it gets spent on.

As the next-to-last right-of-center Democrat, I know exactly this feeling; I went through it myself, albeit backwards and in lower heels. And with both parties having abandoned any semblance of principle in favor of something called "electability," I figure they're probably not anxious to hear from me at the polls either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:54 AM)
To the back of the room with you

With Lance Cargill departing his post as Speaker of the Oklahoma House, lots of words flew up and around, but this comment by Rep. Gary Banz (R-Midwest City) seemed especially pertinent:

"For the most part, stuff that's been in the media with regard to Ethics Commission stuff and political kinds of things, most people kind of take that with a grain of salt. When it was taxes, it immediately connects with the people at an emotional level where they live."

Especially, you know, since we have to pay taxes on where we live.

Oh, well. It's not like we've never found feet of clay underneath a Golden Boy before. And as Michael Bates notes:

While many in the House Republican caucus have long had the desire to oust Cargill, it took a tax violation, just as it did with Al Capone, to force him out.

And now he's just one of a hundred and one, biding his time until term limits kick in unless the voters decide to kick him out.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:26 PM)
1 February 2008
Enjoy your petard, Senator

After all, you worked for it:

John McCain has a campaign finance problem. When his campaign was down and out, he agreed to take public funding for the primaries. Public funding comes with spending limits overall and by state. Also, a candidate who accepts funding cannot raise money from private sources. Now that it is possible he will be the nominee, McCain will want to be free of those fundraising and spending limits, but he cannot withdraw from the public system.

At least, not without a pass from the Federal Election Commission, but that isn't happening:

The FEC does not now have a quorum to meet and regulate. (The lack of a quorum was caused by Barack Obama's hold on a nominee to the FEC, but never mind).

He could always refuse public funding for the post-convention campaign:

[H]owever, he pledged to accept public funding for the general election if his opponent did so. Obama has taken a similar pledge. Also, McCain would get around some of this by using "outside groups" (527 groups and others) to fund his effort, but he has been a fierce critic of such groups and tactics.

Of course. They wouldn't play his way.

Maybe he can borrow a few bucks from his old pal Russ Feingold.

(Via Coyote Blog.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:11 PM)
3 February 2008
Don't buck the Huck

Michael Bates runs the numbers on Oklahoma Republicans, and concludes that if their first choice is not John McCain, regardless of their actual preference they should vote for Mike Huckabee:

If you're an Oklahoma Republican and want Mike Huckabee to have a chance at the nomination, vote for Huckabee. You won't be accidentally helping McCain.

If you're an Oklahoma Republican and want Mitt Romney to have a chance at the nomination, vote for Huckabee, even if you don't particularly like Huckabee. Huckabee has the best shot at denying McCain the delegates and the win here in Oklahoma and thus at slowing McCain's national momentum, which would give Romney the opportunity to fight on.

If you're an Oklahoma Republican and you don't like anyone left in the race this is my category vote for Huckabee. Denying McCain a win here helps to stop his momentum and leaves the door open for a new candidate to be chosen at the convention.

It appears that this might work in other states where Huckabee is running second to McCain, as the polls say he is in Oklahoma. And Bates offers a generalized version:

It comes down to this: If you don't want McCain to be the nominee, you need to vote for the non-McCain candidate who has the best poll numbers in your state.

Emphasis in the original. I am not a Republican, but should McCain prevail, I'll have no trouble voting against him in November.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:44 PM)
5 February 2008
Meanwhile at the precinct

Things were moving along swimmingly just after 6 pm: I cast ballot #867. At that one moment do not assume this applied all day there were twice as many Democrats in line as there were Republicans, which I sort of expected; there were twice as many black Republicans as black Democrats, which I didn't. Things went smoothly, as they usually do at this precinct, but I was greeted at the door by a faceful of sleet, which tipped my mood from "crabby" to "irascible," and then the clusterfsck at 50th and May there was already a road closure, but this time there were three fire engines at the intersection, and I didn't particularly feel like approaching it to find out why moved me just about all the way to "pissed." I expect, though, that the results of the voting will not disappoint me too horribly.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:36 PM)
Halfway home

Serious turnout, I dare say. With 55 percent of state precincts reporting, there are 220,000 votes counted on the Democratic side and over 150,000 on the Republican, which means that we've already beaten the 2004 primary total with lots of room to spare. (State record for a primary was 631,146, in 1996; we're on track to beat that handily.) Never underestimate the advantages of not having an incumbent.

Update, 9:30 pm: This was called for Clinton almost right after the polls closed; McCain has maintained about a four-percentage-point lead over Huckabee most of the evening, with Romney well back.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:53 PM)
6 February 2008
Goodbye, Rudy

Yale diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill (no relation), who served as chief foreign-policy adviser to the Giuliani campaign, says that Rudy's failure to get the message out killed his candidacy:

The candidate's focus on Florida at the expense of campaigning in the early primaries was a mistake, Hill said in an interview with the [Yale Daily] News on Friday. But it was also part of a larger failure on the part of Giuliani's communications staff to engage the media and, through them, the American public, Hill said.

Hill pointed to a foreign-policy speech Giuliani gave in September as emblematic of the campaign's inability to draw attention to its candidate.

"Giuliani gave a speech in London that was a very serious and impressive speech," Hill said. "It got very good press in London, and got no press here at all. Things that were done were not reported very well, and that, I think, was the fault of the communications team itself."

And the Giuliani campaign largely steered clear of the down-and-dirty stuff, which, says the man on whom nothing was lost, was also a mistake:

Hill said there were good advertisements that argued back, that Hill said seemed to him perfectly honest, but which Giuliani rejected for fear of appearing to unfairly attack his fellow Republicans.

"That approach, I think, doesn't work," Hill said. "When you're charged with something and you don't answer, then it's taken to be truth."

No secrets here: as belligerent GOP-lite guys go, I'd have much preferred Giuliani to John McCain. C'est la vie.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:27 AM)
7 February 2008
The next degeneration

This explains John McCain as well, or as badly, as anything else:

The classic problem with dynasticism is regression toward the mean: the formidable father has a less impressive son. Having already gone down that route with the Bushes, we're now embarking on a bizarre exercise in pseudo-dynasticism. Having witnessed the failure of the son, we're now enthroning the man who could be the failed son's crazy old coot of a favorite uncle.

Wait a minute. Bush 41 was formidable?

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:48 AM)
11 February 2008
The candidate as rock star

Doesn't really apply to Barack Obama, says Stan Geiger:

Last night, 60 Minutes profiled Obama. A point was made to mention that 650,000 donors have written checks to his campaign. The point was intended to paint Obama as the most popular American icon since Farrah's poster.

So 650,000 of 300 million two-tenths of one percent of the population have written Obama a check. My, my, that's quite the show of widespread love. I'll bet more people than that have sent checks to Oral freakin' Roberts.

Yeah, but did Oral freakin' Roberts ever win a Grammy Award? Barack has two.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:16 PM)
17 February 2008
Mahdi all the time

What the Islamists need, suggests Dr Weevil, is a dash of Apocalypse Now:

Barack Obama's weirdly Messianic campaign could conceivably turn out to be useful in the War on Terror. Why not start a rumor that he's the Twelfth Imam? That should freak out Ahmadinejad and his millennarian terrorist buddies. How better to be a 'Hidden' Imam than to arrange to be born in Hawaii, insist that you are not a Muslim, and run for presidency of the Great Satan? An imam can't get much more hidden than that.

I'm doing my part. And besides, the rumors are already being denied, which further advances the meme.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:17 PM)
18 February 2008
Good morning, Madam President

Sarah is wondering if there will ever be a female President.

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: But maybe not in 2009, which is not really what she wanted to hear:

Of course, no one is saying that you should select a less qualified candidate over a more qualified one simply because of gender. But as I told my friend I don't hold out a lot of hope for a "good" President, so if the choice is between Mediocre Candidate #1 (who is male) and Mediocre Candidate #2 (who is female), why can't we choose the female candidate?

For "no one" read "nobody who matters, anyway." And of course whoever survives the Battle of the Mediocrities gets to face Mediocre Candidate #3 in the fall.

But then there's this issue:

I've heard a lot of people say that their problem with Hillary Clinton isn't that she's a woman, it's because she's Hillary Clinton. Maybe that's true, but I wonder if there just wouldn't be some other excuse if another woman was running. I wouldn't know, it's not like I have a basis for comparison or anything.

For the purpose of argument, we will stipulate that Hillary Clinton is a biological female. That out of the way, it must be said that the Senator has some serious negatives: El Rushbo is supposed to have said that she screeches like an ex-wife, a noise which not only annoys once-divorced Joe Sixpack but also isn't necessarily endearing to the present Mrs Sixpack, who is inclined to say things like "For someone who's supposed to be over her, you certainly talk about her a lot." I'd be hard-pressed to find any female officeholder who draws this much vitriol, even Sarah's examples:

Where are the female leaders who don't elicit such a visceral reaction from a sizable segment of the population? Condi Rice? Plenty of people can't stand her. Nancy Pelosi? Yeah, right. People hate her as much as they hate Hillary. There are other female Congresspeople, and even one or two female governors, but I suspect that if they had the visibility of Rice or Pelosi, the reaction to them would probably be depressingly similar.

The thing is, though, distaste for Pelosi or Rice tends to be on policy grounds. The Speaker catches flak from the right for being yet another hack Democratic liberal; the Cindy Sheehan contingent dislikes her for being insufficiently devoted to the task of disemboweling Dubya. Dr Rice is attacked from the left for her seemingly-slavish devotion to the President; she's criticized from the right by the folks who think we should be waterboarding the UN Security Council. Neither of them, however, seems to draw the sort of hatred which one could legitimately call "visceral." And frankly, I'd vote for either of them for President in preference to any of the Three Mediocrities, supra.

In the meantime, I plan to sit back and watch the ceremonial rotting of the fruits of identity politics, convinced that eventually we will elect a woman to the highest office in the land, not so much because she's a woman but because she'll be so much better than any of the other candidates that time around. Given the sheer awfulness of some of the men we've seen, it's just a matter of time.

Addendum: Francis W. Porretto concurs with that last paragraph, but:

Hard to argue with that. However, your Curmudgeon will note that the president is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the United States. We haven't yet had a female chief of service, much less a female Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, nor a female Secretary or Undersecretary of Defense. The electorate will have to be mighty impressed with a female candidate for the presidency to elect her into supreme authority over all the above.

Britain's "Iron Lady," Margaret Thatcher, faced a piercing test of her suitability as Prime Minister when the Argentinean junta decided to invade the Falkland Islands. She passed with flying colors. But we would have to expect our enemies and don't kid yourself; we've still got plenty of them to mount tests at least as trying upon the resolve and political courage of a female president. Consider how many of our enemies are overwhelmingly the devotees of a hyper-masculine, hyper-patriarchal creed and culture.

If Mrs. William Clinton should secure the Democrats' nomination and win in November, whether by fair means or foul, she'll face a test of her willingness to use military means in defense of American lives, American property, or an American ally within three months of her inauguration. Remember that you read it here first.

Not at all an implausible scenario. On the upside, should she pass the test, think of the delicious dénouement: all those testosterone-ridden, socially-retarded yobs bested by a woman? You gotta love it just for the annoyance value.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:52 PM)
19 February 2008
A negative case for Obama

From the point of view of the world's tallest female econoblogger:

[H]ow can I support the man? Well, I wouldn't, if there were better alternatives. But my choices are Hillary Clinton and John McCain, whose goals may be slightly more moderate, but whose instincts are for regulating the hell out of any market outcome they don't like. McCain is not a classical liberal; he's the product of an intensely hierarchical honor culture that he seems to think would substantially improve the rest of us if we adopted more of its values. I have no shortage of respect for the military, and their willingness to place their own lives between the rest of us and war's desolation. But that doesn't mean I think America would be a better place if we had a more martial state. His record bespeaks little respect for spontaneous order and individual freedom. What free-market instincts he evinces seem to have come as part of the conservative ideas combo-pack he bought because it was cheaper than buying the parts individually all he really wanted was the national greatness and the moderately conservative social structure.

But what about taxes?

As libertarians go, I'm not a tax nut; I think deadweight loss is relatively low, and taxation is among the least intrusive actions the state can take. I'm far more concerned about regulation. The economic cost tends to be higher; it lacks the natural limits imposed by citizen resistance; and it doesn't so extensively accustom the citizenry to taking orders from the state. I have the terrible feeling that for both Hillary and McCain, that last is a feature of regulation, not a bug.

With regard to taxation being "among the least intrusive" actions, I demur: demanding payment more or less at gunpoint is always intrusive, and seriously so. On the other hand, regulation might well be worse, not only because it drives up costs for consumers but because it inevitably results in the system being gamed by those being regulated. (Corporate types embrace the regulations just as soon as they figure out how to turn a profit off them, which never takes long.)

Where, then, does this leave Pope Barack I? He enjoys the considerable advantage of not being either McCain or Clinton, which all by itself may be enough to put him over the top.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:12 PM)
20 February 2008
This calls for a subsidy

Correlation, of course, does not prove causation. Just the same:

So I moved, and Fidel Castro slunk off under a porch somewhere to die. Maybe rather than unloading the truck I should move again and see what happens to Kim Jong Il....

If we kept her on the road for thirty days or so, we could replace a lot of world "leaders" at one swell foop.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:04 PM)
21 February 2008
Fence? What fence?

Of all the immigration proposals out there, this is definitely one of them:

We stop guarding the US/Mexican border immediately. Any Mexican who wants to come to America may do so, no questions asked. If the number of Mexicans living in the US exceeds the number living in Mexico, then we get Mexico.

Effectively, the Mexican people will have voted with their feet, deciding they want to be Americans, not Mexicans. As we are a country that believes in majority rule, if most of them want it, we give it to all of them. Boom, instant citizenship for everybody, and land annexation for us. At which point they start earning minimum wage and paying taxes. And we get their cacti, tequila factories, and offshore oil fields.

The population of Mexico is upward of a hundred million, so it's going to take a whole lot of movement to achieve this particular, um, equilibrium. The hard part, of course, will be replacing their inept, bloated and corrupt government with our inept, bloated and corrupt government.

Still, it has potential as a Gedankenexperiment:

I'm actually more curious about what would happen (the chaos that would ensue) if we tried to implement this than I am interested in solving the issue.

My own "solution," which involves creating a wormhole at the Rio Grande that would instantaneously transport the undocumented to some random spot in the Southern Hemisphere, is perhaps less problematic, if most assuredly harder to implement.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:02 AM)
22 February 2008
Mother Moloch needs our help

Mark Peters identifies "BeelzeHillary" as "along with Beelzebama and McSatan, one of the lucky devils left in the race to be the next hellspawn-in-chief." (Citation here.)

Now if you're persuaded that there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the two Democrats, it perhaps won't bother you that both of them got the same linguistic treatment here. (Truth be told, McSatan doesn't seem to venture more than a quarter away these days.) But "Beelzebama" has the advantage of sounding almost apt, hence funny, which "BeelzeHillary" does not. I'm soliciting ideas for a suitable alternative term for the Senator from New York.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:18 AM)
23 February 2008
Prolonged stimulation

Not that I'm going to turn down a check for $600, but there might just be a better way, says Dalton Conley:

What if instead of giving rebates we helped create an investor society by seeding universal investment accounts? This would not only pump cash into the economy, through the slightly more indirect route of investment, it would also help us correct some of the near-fatal flaws in our long-term economic landscape.

The recent slowdown in gross domestic product growth is only a symptom of recession, not the cause. While there are many things to blame for the current crisis most notably the subprime mortgage mess one factor that has received little attention is America's low savings rate. In 2005, net private savings in the United States were negative. In other words, we were spending money that we didn't have, chipping away at our national wealth.

How this might work:

The simplest approach would be to seed universal mutual fund accounts for low-income Americans. The best way to do this would be through a so-called refundable tax credit deposited directly into a special investment account for each taxpayer. In future years, the government could contribute an additional 50 cents for every dollar the taxpayer deposited into this account. Think of it as a universal 401(k), but one that could be used not only for retirement but also for things like a down payment on a house, college expenses or unexpected health costs.

Such investment incentives would do more than just help stimulate business growth by providing new capital. They would fundamentally change taxpayers' lives. Some research suggests that asset-holders behave more responsibly and are more civic-minded than those without wealth. After all, they have a stake in the future of the economy and their community.

I suggest the following refinement: if you overpaid your Federal taxes for the year, as I did, by $400 or so, allow the option of having the refund plus any governmental matching funds, or any portion thereof, deposited to this investment account.

If this sounds like a variation on a theme by Hillary Clinton, it's certainly on a smaller scale: Dr Conley is not proposing a full-fledged (or even semi-fledged) retirement system, but a simple savings vehicle which can, but need not, be used for retirement income. But both these plans acknowledge the same fact: we've gotten out of the habit of saving money.

(Via Jeff Shaw.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:14 PM)
24 February 2008
Democrats erase red ink

The AP is reporting that the state Democratic Party, mired in debt in recent years, is now back in the black:

"We are now debt-free," state Democratic Party chairman Ivan Holmes said at the party's annual convention in Oklahoma City.

Holmes said the party climbed out of debt by adding about 90 new members to its "Rooster Club," signifying a donation of $1,000 apiece. That club had 17 or 18 members last year, but now has 109, Holmes said.

Three years ago, the party was nearly half a million dollars in the hole; in addition to finding new donors, they've cut expenses markedly, and to help matters, Holmes is drawing no salary.

Perhaps surprisingly, no mention of this has been made yet on the party's Web site or blog.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:31 PM)
28 February 2008
Inveighing he did go

I couldn't possibly have read everything written yesterday about William F. Buckley, Jr., who passed away at his Connecticut home at the age of 82, but I'm glad I happened upon this piece by Rick Perlstein, which deserves to be read in its entirety, but from which I excerpt a few paragraphs anyway:

I first met Bill in 1997. When I contacted his assistant to ask for an interview for a book I was writing about Barry Goldwater, Buckley was immediately accommodating, though I had very little public reputation at the time. He was, simply, generous with people who cared to learn about conservatism. I sat with him for a good half hour in National Review's offices on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, and he answered every damned question I asked, in searching detail, and then answered a few I hadn't even asked. He also opened his papers to me at Yale University without hesitation. Would that all conservatives honored these ideals of intellectual transparency.

The Goldwater book is Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001).

When [the book] came out, he was generous in his praise of it again, acknowledging all the while that we were ideological adversaries.

First came a very nice column. He called me "an ardent enthusiast for the America Left." Damn straight. Then he sought out my friendship. "I reproach myself" I'll never forget that impeccable Buckleyite locution for not reading the book earlier, he wrote in a personal letter. What a deeply sensitive, humane thing to say to a 31-year-old first-time author: an apology for not affording him his immediate attention.

The passage from my book he reproduced quoted a "liberal" reporter on Goldwater: "How could such a nice guy think that way?"

Why did I love WFB? Because he never would have asked such a silly question. The game of politics is to win over American institutions to our way of seeing things using whatever coalition, necessarily temporary, that we can muster to win our majority, however contingent and if we lose, and we are again in the minority, live to fight another day, even ruthlessly, while respecting our adversaries' legitimacy to govern in the meantime, while never pulling back in offering our strong opinions about their failures, in the meantime. This was Buckleyism even more so than any particular doctrines about "conservatism."

Nice people, friends, can disagree about the most fundamental questions about the organization of society. And there's nothing wrong with that. We must not fantasize about destroying our political adversaries, nor fantasize about magically converting them. We must honor that some humans are conservative and some humans are liberal, and that it will always be thus.

And some of us will be all over the political map, and quite unapologetic about it. There's room for us all. Mr Buckley knew that; Mr Perlstein knows that; I suspect it's occurred to you more than once.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:58 AM)
2 March 2008
Don't wait to be led

Timely advice from Tamara K.:

Folks, we have a serious perception problem in this country. A bunch of people seem to think we have "leaders" instead of "representatives". Bosses and not employees.

Folks, we hired them. We pay them. They work for you, not the other way around. If you are sitting around and waiting for leadership from this collection of do-gooders, used car salesmen, and former Student Body Treasurers, you might as well wait for Santa while you're at it.

These are the people we hire to schlep out our legislative trash in Washington, DC because we're too busy being, you know, productive to handle scutwork like that. We've given them a metaphorical Roto-Rooter and asked them to keep the navigable waterways clear; handed them a calculator and asked them to keep an eye on the national checking account. And, like a sixteen-year-old left home with a simple list of chores who instead gets into the liquor cabinet and invites her friends over for a party, look what's happened to them.

Similarly, P. J. O'Rourke: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

Folks, if you want "Political Leaders" you're living in the wrong country; the closest provision we have for a "Political Leader" in the Constitution is the guy we hire to mind the Army & Navy and shake hands with foreigners for us. This is the country where we're supposed to be leading ourselves, not waiting for solutions to be handed down from on high. Your representatives are supposed to be representing you, hence the name. They are not the legislative equivalent of grenades, where you pull the electoral pin, lob them towards Washington, and hope they go off the way you expected.

During those days when I was expected to be able to know how to hurl those little pineapples, I learned: "Once you pull the pin, Mr Grenade is no longer your friend." As evidence of this, each and every day the Federal Register accumulates more and more shrapnel.

Of course, there are those who don't wish to lead themselves, and will wait for solutions to be handed down. A small percentage of them become clever, thereby becoming the most dangerous of creatures.

"Watch the parking meters," adds Mr. Zimmerman.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:10 PM)
4 March 2008
Promising title of the day

"House Rules Committee Advances Dank Reform Bill."

You gotta admit, it takes a pretty strong committee to craft a reform bill that's really, truly dank.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:56 AM)
Getting the ball rolling, as it were

Turnout in Ye Olde Precinct looks to be pretty good for the "NBA tax" vote; I cast ballot number 558 at a quarter past five. I have no idea how the neighborhood actually voted, though the "Big League City" signs outnumber the "No Sales Tax" signs by a factor of seven to one. I think it will pass, though not overwhelmingly so.

Update, 9 pm: With about three-quarters of the precincts in, Mayor Cornett figures 60-40 is good enough to win, and maybe it is, though it still seems like jumping the gun to me. Then again, he presumably knows which precincts are still out, and I don't.

Update, 9:30 pm: Okay, he's right and I'm wrong. With everything in, though technically still unofficial, it's 62-38.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:37 PM)
8 March 2008
Down for the friction

A complaint from Stan Geiger:

According to Wikipedia, Oklahoma City has a population of about 540,000. So, roughly speaking, 8 percent of the citizens of Oklahoma City just stuck the other 92 percent with a tax increase. That's hardly a case of majority rule.

Well, around 25 percent of the citizens of Oklahoma City are under 18 and can't actually vote, so there's no point in blaming them.

On the other hand, the law specifies that ballots are counted only for voters who actually cast them, so if there's some Nixonian silent majority out there presumably keeping its mouth shut, you've got to wonder why they don't bother showing up at the polls, the only place their opinions actually matter. (About 30 percent of registered voters in the city turned out on the 4th, which is about twice the average for a city election.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:57 AM)
The Democrats shake their moneymakers

Or something like that.

[Safe for work, perhaps less so for one's digestion.]

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:11 PM)
Threat assessment

When last we heard from Rep. Sally Kern (R-OKC), she had come up with the dubious notion of creating a State Library Material Content Advisory Board, which would be tasked with making sure our precious little snowflakes didn't have any encounters with Teh Ghey.

After that little outburst, I figured she'd fade into the shadows once more. I figured wrong. And after a couple hundred search-engine queries with her name in them, I decided to go see what she'd gotten herself into this time, and happened upon this:

Studies show, no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted for more than, you know, a few decades.... I honestly think it's the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam.

Really? The biggest threat? This seems a trifle, um, overstated. In this corner, we have your GLBT (add letters as needed) types. In the other corner, we have your standard Islamic terrorists. Let us contrast and compare:

Item the First: You've offended members of the group. How does the group respond?

  • GLBT: Denounces you and, if you're an elected official, supports your opponent.
  • Islamists: Cuts off your head.

Item the Second: The group wishes to get the attention of the American public. What action taken by them is the most visible?

  • GLBT: Holds the occasional Pride Parade.
  • Islamists: Flies airplanes into buildings.

Item the Third: Summarize the changes in American law desired by the group.

  • GLBT: Extension of the rights and privileges of marriage to include them.
  • Islamists: Extension of the rules delineated in the Qu'ran to include everyone.

Bonus question: Where would you rather be on a Saturday night?

  1. 39th and Penn, Oklahoma City
  2. Riyadh

Thank you for playing.

(Via J. M. Branum.)

Update, 9 March, 2:40 pm: Fritz identifies the real threat.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:01 PM)
10 March 2008
An arrow through the head

Rep. Steve Martin (R-Bartlesville) evidently fancies himself a modern-day Robin Hood: he's introduced a measure to siphon off a portion of sales-tax collections from larger cities and redistribute it to the smaller ones.

How Martin's proposal is supposed to work:

The Oklahoma Tax Commission each month would take 1 percent of each city's sales tax collections and put it in a fund. The commission then would give each city or town an amount of money based on its population in comparison to the total population of all cities and towns that had a sales tax levy of at least 1 percent.

County levies don't count. Tulsa would have to fork over about $16 million over the next year; Oklahoma City, around $13 million.

Surprisingly, this isn't the worst idea Martin's come up with:

Martin has spent the past couple of years looking at a method in which shoppers would give their home city's tax code. But that would require businesses to install equipment and to train employees, not to mention informing shoppers how the process would work.

Even if the complicated, costly proposal could be implemented, shoppers perhaps would have to present some identification so that the correct city would be credited with the sales tax on the purchase, Martin said.

What is needed, but so far not forthcoming, is some way to make Oklahoma municipalities less dependent upon sales tax for revenue. [Link goes to Word document.] We'll have to wait for some other wild and crazy guy to solve that one.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:23 PM)
17 March 2008
Oh, those wicked subsidies

Let's see how many of the folks who complained about Oklahoma City's "NBA Tax" offer even the slightest criticism of this:

The District [of Columbia] has negotiated a $40 million deal with National Public Radio to keep the company's headquarters in the city, granting tax abatements over the next two decades and edging out a bid by downtown Silver Spring.

Imagine that: cities competing against one another. Whoever heard of such a thing?

Forty years after taking root in Washington, NPR will build a 10-story headquarters at 1111 N. Capitol St. NE., Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said [Wednesday]. The site, a warehouse of the former Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co., will feature a 60,000-square-foot newsroom in the up-and-coming NoMA community, the neighborhood north of Massachusetts Avenue near Union Station....

Neil O. Albert, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said that NPR will not pay property taxes on the building for 20 years, saving $40 million. The city has agreed not to raise property taxes by more than 3 percent on the station's Massachusetts Avenue building for two decades, or until NPR sells it.

Now that's what I call a sweet deal. And you know, there's something sort of comforting in the notion that soft-spoken NPR has some hard-nosed negotiators; it's almost as if they operate in the Real World or something.

(Via Fraters Libertas.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:26 PM)
20 March 2008
This is a call to all, I think

No argument from me: "[R]egardless of who gets the Democratic nod, the party will be left with an abundance of disenchanted votes that could be up for grabs by an Independent candidate."

Still: Dave Grohl for President?

"Every night when I'm on tour, I bring my message to thousands and thousands of people. There's 10 thousand people that woke up this morning and felt like America is the right place to be because at our show last night they were spilling beer all over themselves and tongue kissing for two hours. What other candidate can do that? With all due respect to Obama, Hillary, Huckabee and all the others, they've got nothing on me."

And let's face it, you're not gonna see that after a McCain rally.

(Via E. M. Zanotti.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:00 PM)
24 March 2008
Curses, FOIAed again

"Abolish the Freedom of Information Act," says Jeff Jarvis, and not because he wants government secrecy upheld. Quite the opposite, in fact:

Turn it inside-out. Why should we be asking for information about and from our government? The government should have to ask to keep things from us. Government information every act of government on our behalf should be free by default. We must insist on an aggressive ethic of openness. The exceptions should be rare: the personal business of citizens, national security, ongoing criminal investigations and court cases (while they are ongoing), and little else.

I wonder what Jarvis would think about the new Oklahoma rules, which require redaction of Social Security numbers, birth dates, full addresses, account numbers and other personal data from court filings available online.

In the meantime, I suspect that this "aggressive" openness is a long way off, not only because bureaucrats like to protect their turf, but because many existing Federal databases weren't designed to work well with each other, let alone with public interfaces.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:30 AM)
25 March 2008
Never mind the ballots

In Zimbabwe, there will be plenty to go around:

Zimbabwe's main opposition party has accused the government of printing millions of surplus ballot papers for the presidential and legislative polls.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says leaked documents show nine million papers have been ordered for the country's 5.9 million voters.

Vote fraud? In Zimbabwe? Not a chance. It's just that with inflation running around 66,000 percent, you get in the habit of printing really large quantities of paper documents.

(Via The Munchkin Wrangler.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:04 PM)
26 March 2008
Hugs, not thugs

Tom Ziller points out the obvious:

Here's a fact: A vast swath of America thinks the NBA is a haven for thugs. A lot of people see black skin, jewelry, rap music, and tattoos and think of gun play and drug trades. Of course, the NBA's police blotter has been no worse than those for the other two major sports. And it isn't like the NFL doesn't have black people, or baseball players don't get tattoos. But the 'thug' label continues to stick to the NBA in a way it doesn't to any other league.

I blame Latrell Sprewell.

Actually, I don't; there are plenty of hotheads shooting hoops, not all of whom have tried to choke P. J. Carlesimo (who, incidentally, is presently the coach of The Team Currently Known As The Seattle SuperSonics). But "hothead" does not equal "thug," and in the hopes of clearing this matter up, Ziller calls upon one man who could "help save the NBA": Barack Obama.

Here's why: After Obama's speech last Tuesday, Americans experienced one of those rare-as-Clippers-in-the-playoffs moments to discuss race issues in the media, at the water cooler, around the dinner table with something approaching civility. Sports fans haven't dealt with the issue in a big way since Jackie Robinson and Texas Western. Things have changed since the '60s, obviously. But racism is still around us. Heck, look at last year's Jazz-Warriors series.

Not that we should expect miracles:

This isn't to say the country's racial divide will be bridged in the next four (or eight) years under a President Obama, or that Commissioner Stern's work on this issue will ever be done. But talking about it and making people think about it, you could say, is half the battle. It's easy for someone to look at Caron Butler's tattoos or Chris Wilcox's hair and typecast. In a postracial America (or something close), that stereotypical standby is less of a presence, and some semblance of respect already given to shortstops and quarterbacks might [be] offered to two-guards.

As a citizen, I suppose a potential boost for the NBA's image is not a reason to vote for a candidate. But as a fan, I know who and what I'm rooting for: that someday, maybe the casual sports fan every sports fan will look at David Eckstein and Allen Iverson and see the same thing: players.

I am not quite so sanguine about Obama's true commitment to a "postracial" America, but to the extent that he's jump-started the dialogue and it seems fairly clear to me that, intentionally or not, he has done so he's made a genuine contribution to life in these United States, even if he doesn't survive the bloodletting at the Democratic National Convention. Whether that constitutes an actual reason to vote for the guy is left as an exercise for the student.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:07 AM)
12 April 2008
Gommel, you magnificent bastards

Every now and then I look in the referrer logs for something other than fodder for the "Strange search-engine queries" series, and one common reaction is "What in the hell are they reading?" So I follow the track, and sometimes I find myself just fast-forwarding through the next few days' worth of archives, partly to see if I can remember the context, partly to see if I'd done anything else worth reading back then.

Back in January, McGehee announced the formation of a political party of sorts, dubbed "Get Offa My Lawn!" A hundred comments rolled up in the next ten days, including one from southeast-Oklahoma operative The Local Malcontent, which went like this:

Odd, though, that no one has thought of this before.

Actually, someone had. From my own archives, June 2004:

Heh the slow decline and inescapable knowledge of the inexorable death to come is what conservatism's all about. That's probably why people turn conservative as they get older: at some point the admiration one feels towards the young and idealistic turns to irritation and all you want is for the hippies to get off your lawn. Well, that's how it took me anyway. (By the way, I think I'll form the Get Off My Lawn! Party. The GOML. "Gommel" will become a word in fifty years time. You just wait.)

No, I didn't say that. She did.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 PM)
15 April 2008
A night at the comic opera

Roberta X on that Obama utterance:

Y'know, the Democrats used to at least pretend to be in touch. It's not so much that the gloves are off as the mask has slipped.

But ... but Democrats care! It says so right on the bumper sticker!

"[I]n much the same way that a dairy farmer cares about cattle or the guys in Brokeback Mountain cared about sheep," Tam replies.

Meanwhile, this from Lileks:

What annoyed me about the Obama comments was the crude reduction of everything into economic terms, the most dismal prism through which to regard humanity. So the factories close, and the sullen mass of the lowly workers ball their fists, feel a strange sour bolus of resentment bolting up their throat, and think: must channel confusing emotions into unreasoning opposition to redefining marriage. If the factories magically reappear, does everyone sigh with relief, quit church and drop off their guns? I have money! No need for the Magic Carpenter and that poorly-worded amendment. Call off the border patrol, too there'll be jobs and upward wage pressure for everyone. It's not exactly an unusual thesis; I've encountered it for years. People cannot possibly believe these crazy things for their own sake; they must be driven to them by external forces.

And those things we "cling" to? They're guaranteed by the Constitution:

The Second Amendment permits me my weapons; the First Amendment permits me my faith and whatever "sentiments" I may embrace. The notion that I should not be allowed such "sentiments" is wholly un-American. (In fact, it's Canadian.)

It's times like this I almost wish we had Joe Biden back in the race. Almost.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
16 April 2008
It's only flat on the bottom

Back in January, Eddy Elfenbein did the math on a (not "the") flat tax, intending to determine what sort of rate it would take to come up with the same level of revenue. His numbers are based on a CBO report on historical tax rates [link to PDF file] released last year. The most recent data points are for 2005, for which Mr Elfenbein calculates that the same overall tax burden on the populace would have been achieved with a deduction of $35,725, and a tax rate of 31.85 percent.

So if this particular flat tax had been in effect for 2005, those earning less than $35,725 would pay nothing, and every dollar above that would incur 31.85 cents in tax. How this would work out in practice:

As a general rule, my flat tax is close to the current burden but it tends to be slightly more progressive. The major reason is due to social insurance taxes. Since so many lower income workers are completely exempt from any taxation under my theoretical flat tax, it's made up for with higher taxes at the upper end. The Top 1% pays about 30% more taxes while the other groups in the Top 20% pay about 5% to 10% more taxes.

This doesn't sound particularly "flat," as it were. A commenter at Megan McArdle's place made this observation:

The first $37,000 would be tax free, so in his model a really big chuck of the electorate would pay nothing. So I think a minimum tax of 5% should apply so that everyone pays something and feels the sting of government spending.

Which also doesn't sound particularly "flat," as it were. Of course, this scheme incorporates the existing income tax, FICA, and Medicare into a single unit; currently, lower-income taxpayers can escape the income tax or even get the Earned Income Credit, but are still liable for FICA and Medicare taxes. Interestingly, in 2005 the cutoff point for eligibility for the EIC was $37,263.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Unlike rather a lot of folks, I have no compulsion to stick it to the rich; moreover, I'd have saved $5800 had this actually been in effect in 2005, and I hate to endorse things from which I will benefit directly. (I have just disqualified myself forever from any public office.) Since presumably everyone has filed for 2007 by now, I figure it's safe to bring up the topic.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:37 AM)
20 April 2008
Nerdy passion

Does this mean I get credit for a neologism?

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:03 AM)
23 April 2008
Brad boosts Barry

Governor Brad Henry has decided not to wait until the convention to declare his choice for the Democratic presidential nomination: this morning the Guv announced for Barack Obama, giving the Illinois Senator one more superdelegate.

Said Henry:

"Senator Obama is uniquely positioned to unite our nation and move beyond the divisiveness and partisan skirmishes that too often characterize politics as usual in Washington."

This gives Obama three of the ten superdelegates from Oklahoma; Senator Clinton has one, and the rest remain undeclared. (Of the regular delegates, Clinton has 24, Obama 14.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:02 AM)
24 April 2008
Endorse is endorse, of course, of course

I have to admit, I really don't understand what state GOP chairman Gary Jones stands to gain by doing this:

Republican Party Chairman Gary Jones called upon Democrat Senators to follow Governor Henry's lead ... in making public their preferences for President of the United States.

Henry, you'll remember, endorsed Barack Obama. Jones apparently wants all these Democrats on the record:

"Oklahoma voters deserve to know who their Democrat Senators and aspiring Senators will support. Does Nancy Riley support Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? Will Charlie Laster follow the lead of his friend from Shawnee and throw his support to Obama? Who can the voters of southeastern Oklahoma expect Richard Lerblance to support?" Jones asked. "I hardly believe either Clinton or Obama reflects the conservative, pro-family, pro-Second Amendment values of that region. Who will it be, Senator Lerblance?"

What's it to you, Gary Jones? If you don't believe there's a dime's worth of difference between Clinton and Obama*, why do you think Senator Lerblance should worry about it?

This is standard-issue GOP ZOMGLIBRULS!!1! blather. It doesn't get any less tiresome with repetition.

* I calculate the difference at 7 cents, plus or minus a couple of mills.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:04 AM)
27 April 2008
Our conviction rate's too low!

That "innocent until proven guilty" stuff doesn't sit well with some prosecutorial types, nor with the legislators who carry water for them:

Defense attorneys would be banned from advertising their expertise with drunken driving cases under a bill advancing in the [Tennessee] Senate.

Sen. Rosalind Kurita, a Clarksville Democrat, successfully added the provision to a bill that would create an online registry of repeat DUI offenders in Tennessee.

Kurita says officials have a hard enough time convicting drunken drivers without lawyers advertising their expertise in the field and offering discounts to DUI defendants.

(Emphasis added.)

In fact, why allow any lawyers to advertise? Think how much more smoothly our courts would run if defendants never put up a fight. What's more, it's good for the environment: listings for attorneys take up over 120 pages in the Oklahoma City Feist YellowBook alone, and do you know how many trees had to die to print those ads?

Next thing you know, people will be expecting politicians to keep their campaign promises or something. Sheesh. They just don't understand the system.

(From The Agitator by way of The Bitch Girls.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:06 PM)
29 April 2008
This week in Kerndom

A few days back, Sarah described Sally Kern, who represents District 84 in the Oklahoma House, as "the gift that keeps on giving." And apparently this generosity is spread far and wide. For instance, the Munchkin Wrangler, reviewing his search traffic for potential snark, delivered the following commentary:

Sally Kern is a homophobic douchebag who knows even less about history and sociology than she knows about her own religion. She probably wouldn't be able to find her own ass if you filled it with radium and handed her a Geiger counter.

This was, I hasten to add, only one of the eight items singled out by the Wrangler, but it got by far the greatest response, including this gem by Roberta X:

[W]hat would be our opinion of Americans of Irish descent if we judged them on the basis of participants in St. Paddy's Day parades?

Tam saw an opportunity, and ran with it:

Damn Irish! You've seen what they do, shoving their Irishness up in my face at those parades! Pouring green beer in the river and peeing on lamp posts. Dyeing their hair green! And I've seen 'em infiltrating the schools, too! Hanging up their harmless little "St. Patrick's Day" decorations so that our children will grow up thinking it's normal to believe in leprechauns and vomit in the street. Why, last March, little Freddy came home from school and actually said "Faith and Begorrah!" Now, I don't have anything against the Irish myself, mind you. But they should keep it to themselves. I mean, even my husband and I enjoy a Guinness every now and again, but we wait 'til the kids are asleep!

Like Sarah says, the gift that keeps on giving. If they give "reality" shows to the likes of Kim Kardashian, surely they can find half an hour a week for Sally Kern.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:37 AM)
30 April 2008
Not with a ten-foot exit poll

Mark Alger tosses out this question, nominally to Democrats, though it would seem to apply across the board:

[W]hy would you vote for someone who thinks you're dumb enough to vote for him because he's cute or black or whatever other externality, rather than because he espouses principles you agree with? Are you into confirming stereotypes about yourself?

There's always the possibility that he thinks you're smart for voting for him, externality notwithstanding, but this would suggest a candidate who isn't openly contemptuous of the electorate, and these seem to be few and far between nowadays.

I admit to having engaged in various forms of, um, strategic voting, usually along the lines of "Well, if we send him to [higher level of government], at least he'll be farther away." This is also contemptuous, albeit in the opposite direction.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:57 AM)
5 May 2008
In case you weren't sick of brackets

CQ Politics has come up with something called VP Madness, in which you get to select John McCain's running mate, kinda sorta. (A similar scheme for the Democrats will be rolled out "once the nominee is set.")

It will be interesting to see how the results compare with the suggestions in Baseball Crank's GOP Veepstakes.

(Swiped from the California Yankee.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:11 PM)
6 May 2008
Oh, Mr Barnum, save a place for me

This, at least, you can't blame on Saul Alinsky:

Hillary Rodham, many years ago

(Heisted from HeatherRadish.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:13 PM)
9 May 2008
It was fun while it lasted

"What does not kill me," said Nietzsche, "makes me stronger."

If you've been enjoying the Barack Obama blooper reels, you might want to keep this in mind:

You know, a lot of conservative sorts of political observers have had a lot of fun watching Obama make a series of gaffes and get caught up in ill-considered personal relationships.

However, as long as these things are coming out in the primaries, they'll be old news by election time, and if Obama ends up the nominee, I think a long, bruising primary battle will have given him some inkling of what he'll face in a real election, so he'll be better equipped for the real election than if the Democrats had just crowned him early.

Then again, Hillary Clinton may yet boil Obama's bunny.

Update, 12 May: In regard to that last premise, Steph Mineart notes:

It's a shame all these jackhole guys are tarnishing their chosen candidate with their behavior. I was going to be happy to vote for Obama, but now all I can think about is guys comparing Clinton to Fatal Attraction. I don't think they understand who the villain in that movie actually was, and who was the victim.

So there.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:21 AM)
12 May 2008
Will Old Navy take up the slack?

No more couture for Hillary Clinton, reports the Times:

"She no longer buys from us," an insider at Donna Karan told me sadly. "I think somewhere along the line, someone's advised her that she can't be seen wearing anything expensive. We're a puritanical nation what can I tell you?"

I'll believe this when I see John Edwards at Supercuts.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:48 AM)
More goofy than plutocrat

Seen at Coyote Blog:

Kevin Drum is discussing a book by Larry Bartels that argues the bottom third of the US population (as measured by income) are disenfranchised, as their preferences seem to have no discernible effect on legislative votes. I have not read the book, but I find this an astounding assertion on its face, particularly given that the US government is nearly entirely paid for by the other 2/3. We exploiters don't seem to be doing a very good job of taking advantage of our oligarchy. (By the way, if "oppressed" is defined as having one's preferences have no impact on Congressmen, then add us libertarians into the oppressed.)

I haven't read Bartels' book either, but he's discussing it at TPMCafe, and he brings up this point:

There are big differences in policies between Democratic and Republican elected officials, even when they represent exactly the same constituents. Political scientists have an elegant theory explaining why this shouldn't happen: if voters choose the candidate closest to their own policy positions, Democrats and Republicans alike must move to the center in order to get elected. The only problem is, they don't. A figure in the book compares the behavior of Democratic and Republican senators representing liberal and conservative states. The difference in behavior between a Democrat and a Republican representing the same constituents turns out to be much greater than the difference in behavior between a Democrat representing the most liberal state in the country and a Democrat representing the most conservative state in the country. Party and ideology dominate constituents' preferences in shaping legislators' roll call votes.

Not to mention our friends on K Street.

Still, there's something askew here, and I think it's this: the theory, says Bartels, insists that "Democrats and Republicans alike must move to the center in order to get elected," which more often than not turns out to be true, but once they're elected they tend to slide sideways, Democrats leftward, Republicans to the right. This suggests that if anyone is being disenfranchised, it's those in the political center. Then again, the exact location of the center itself is arguable.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:40 PM)
13 May 2008
At least the count will be quick

My ballot at 5:55 pm was the 206th to be cast in my precinct, which suggests that turnout will be something less than huge: in fact, I got all the way home before I realized Oh, crap, there's an election today and set out for the polling place, and I'm pretty sure a lot of people have memories at least as short as mine.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:47 PM)
14 May 2008
Shake it and see if there's any change

News Item: Republicans will counter the Democratic push for change from the years of the Bush administration with their own pledge to deliver, drum roll please, "the change you deserve."

Top Ten political slogans rejected by the Republican Party before deciding on "the change you deserve":

  1. "Staff white people like"
  2. "We pick our losing candidates early"
  3. "Wingnut > Moonbat"
  4. "We put the 'Old' in 'Grand Old Party'"
  5. "Rule 6: No Clintons"
  6. "You deserve a tax break today"
  7. "Our babes are hotter than their babes"
  8. "Now 100% Berkeley-Free"
  9. "2 Centuries 1 Idea"
  10. "We're good bad, but we're not evil"

(Suggested by Michelle Malkin.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:00 PM)
23 May 2008
Government-subsidized growth

Those of us who snipe at the Nanny State often point northwards, to a point beyond the 49th parallel, and say "See what we mean?"

Well, in this case, Canadians are going in a different direction entirely:

Thousands of Toronto welfare recipients could soon be able to cash in on their belly bulge.

While it would be certain to cost the province millions, the McGuinty government says it will consider the controversial proposal to redefine the obesity boundaries. Welfare recipients with a body mass index (BMI) above 40 currently get a special diet allowance of $20 a month.

Under the plan, the $20 monthly allowance would expand by more than 150% to nearly $51.

See what I mean? Stateside, Big Nanny wants to curb chubbiness or die trying; the Canadians have the temerity to subsidize it. If this doesn't get kudos from Michael Moore, his Net connection must be down.

There remains, however, one similarity between our land and theirs:

The number of Toronto welfare recipients collecting the meal ticket has grown by at least 20% since 2005, despite a supposed provincial clampdown.

Where there's a dole, there's invariably a queue.

(From Halls of Macadamia via Kathy Shaidle.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:22 PM)
25 May 2008
Driving for dollars?

Jim Ray is the Acting Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. And I suspect that "Acting" is more than just a temporal description, given his ability to keep a straight face while pronouncing the following:

According to our latest estimates, fewer cars on the road has translated into a 9 million metric ton decline in greenhouse emissions for the first quarter of 2008 alone.

Which had at least as much effect on the climate as not leaving the refrigerator door open. But that's not Ray's angle:

It's a challenge with massive financial consequences the less Americans drive, the less revenue is generated for the Highway Trust Fund. The less revenue in the Highway Trust Fund, the less funding is available for states to keep roads healthy and efficient resulting in more traffic tie-ups, more inefficiency, reduced driving and even less funding.

The solution:

The system invented by President Eisenhower over 50 years ago got America this far … but it can't take us much further. New funding methods that are not dependent on fuel consumption are needed and needed now.

Or you could just raise the fuel tax and take the heat from the two Presidential candidates who sought to buy votes by suspending it. Rotsa ruck.

I just wonder what these "new funding methods" might be, and out of whose pockets they will be siphoning. In the interim, the Bush administration's idea of addressing the problem apparently is borrowing out of the not-yet-tapped-out Mass Transit Account.

(Via Chris Lawrence.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 PM)
29 May 2008
Barr being set

The Libertarian Party of Oklahoma reports that Presidential candidate Bob Barr will need 43,913 valid signatures [link goes to PDF file] to get on the ballot in Oklahoma. (A downloadable petition in PDF format is here.)

I figure there are at least that many people in the state who'd like to pick up some Claritin at Target without being treated like REO Speedwagon fans meth lab operators.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:12 AM)
1 June 2008
Best endorsement ever

Patterico recommends Michael J. O'Gara for Office No. 94 of the Los Angeles Superior Court:

You must vote for Mike O'Gara in this election or I will ban you from my blog. 'Nuff said.

Emphasis as in the original.

I haven't lived under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Superior Court in twenty years, but what the hell. Maybe I'll have a deceased friend in Chicago cast a ballot on my behalf.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:46 AM)
3 June 2008
Wind spat into

Okay, I knew Andrew Rice was running for Senate, but he's a Democrat, and the unwritten law among Republicans has been "You don't mess around with Jim."

Well, Jim is being messed around with: on the first day of filing, Senator Inhofe drew two Republican challengers. As a practical matter, neither Baptist minister Dennis Lopez, from the metropolis of Thackerville, nor frequent filer Evelyn Rogers, a Tulsa librarian, is likely to make much of a tug on Inhofe's cape. Still, the fact that he's getting GOP challengers at all is somewhat heartening.

Elsewhere: Dana Orwig, who ran against incumbent Trebor Worthen last time in House District 87, is trying again, what with Worthen deciding not to seek a third term. She'll face Jason Nelson, a political consultant who served as legislative liaison during Frank Keating's second term as governor. If you're new here, I bring up District 87 because I live there.

And for District 84 watchers, Ron Marlett made it official: he is running against Sally Kern. (Aside: I had no idea Sally Kern had a Wikipedia page.)

The State Board of Elections is posting candidate filings here; the filing period ends Wednesday.

Update, Wednesday: A second Republican has entered the District 87 race. Andrew Winningham is twenty-four, which makes him even younger than Worthen, and he was last seen at a Ron Paul meetup. And Winningham isn't even close to being the youngest person on this year's primary ballot.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:07 AM)
Conservatives to go

No, that's not a prediction: it's the modus operandi of Outloud Opinion, a podcasting site that packages columnists from the Creators Syndicate stable and editorials from Investor's Business Daily into handy downloadable audio files, which can be accessed directly from their Web site or via subscription through iTunes or Juice or whatever. Better still, the columns are read by their staff of professional readers rather than by the actual writers, a boon if you've ever heard Pat Buchanan bubbling up into Foamy Mode, though I admit it's a bit offputting, at least at first, to hear Michelle Malkin's words enunciated by a baritone. If you're fans of IBD or of the Creative columnists, and you have time to listen but no time to read, Outloud Opinion might be just what you're looking for.

Disclosure: Someone on their staff has apparently actually taken a look at some of my stuff; charitable soul that he is, he has generously refrained from reading it into your iPod.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:48 AM)
6 June 2008
Note to Oklahoma Democrats

I figured you didn't like sharing power in the Senate with the GOP a 24-24 tie tends not to be a source of comfort but geez, guys, the Republicans have 13 seats on the ballot in 2008, and you're only going after five of them?

And yes, this works both ways. Michael Bates noted on Wednesday afternoon:

We're now five hours away from the close of Oklahoma's filing period for the 2008 elections, and I'm still seeing way too many seats with unchallenged Democrats.

(First person to ask me why I didn't file to run apart from Trini, who already did ask will be requested to identify what in the world s/he is smoking.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:43 AM)
11 June 2008
Parodies regained

Tom T. Hall, bless him, wasn't too proud to write sappy if he darn well felt like it, and on the evidence of "I Love," from his late-1973 album For the People in the Last Hard Town, there were times when he indeed darn well felt like it. The song topped the country charts and made #12 pop. (Yes, I bought the LP.)

For some reason, hardly anyone bothered to make fun of "I Love": a fellow styled as "Heathen Dan" once put out an "I Like" list of nasty, scabrous things, which got some circulation among fans of the Dr. Demento Show, but that was about it. (Yes, I have that record too.)

But there's never been a really memorable "I Hate" collection, until now. Its author does tender his apologies to the late, great Mr. Hall. I would point out only two things:

  • The scansion seems a little off here and there;
  • Tom T. Hall is not in fact dead.

(Warning: Do not read this north of the 49th Parallel.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:24 PM)
18 June 2008
Blue-state pumps

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, says E. M. Zanotti, has pulled off well, it's not a hat trick, exactly:

Not only has she managed to worm her way into the Democratic Presidential campaign, worm her way out of her status as a total pariah to progressives, long-time Obama supporters, moderates and anyone who still lives in Michigan, and appear in public every single day of the year without giving any thought to having her unsightly facial moles removed, but the woman was able to find navy blue pumps in the twenty-first century. No one's worn navy blue pumps since Nancy Reagan was coordinating her shoes and dresses on the campaign trail. I don't even think they make navy blue pumps any more, except in lines of orthopedic shoes and in dyeable satin for bridesmaid's dresses. Frankly, I thought the market had been cornered on those by church ladies.

If I thought the lovely Ms Zanotti would actually wear them, I'd buy some for her.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:27 AM)
21 June 2008
Culture war, crew-neck division

The always-fashionable E. M. Zanotti says that the left wing has way better T-shirts:

I don’t get angry about the tee shirts because of the slogans. There's some truth to the idea that youth carries with it liberalism. Kids don't have to pay bills or deal with the economic implications of the market on a daily basis, they aren't looking at a draft so they won't be immediately headed to war, and all they get from their progressivism-infused public school systems are touchy-feely soliloquies about the dangers of global warming and the horrors of the third world. Peace and the Earth are great things, don't get me wrong, and without some imbued sense of reality, it's easy to see how those two things might outweigh actual, physical, day-to-day concerns of the country. My generation is stupid; kids are stupid. I can live with it as long as they continue to pay into social security and get the hell off of my lawn. The more I talk about it, the more I tend to look like … John McCain.

What annoys me is that there's a generation of conservatives and libertarians out there who have sorely failed at coming up with catchy slogans that adequately describe their ideological leanings, and moreover, that they manage to publish what few slogans they have on tee shirts that tend to look a little like they were designed for Christian bookstores. Hideous, malformed things that replicate K-Mart purchases of the past, or works of art produced by chimpanzees on acid using Microsoft Paint. At least "I Only Date Democrats" serves as a billboard for one's political leanings, and eliminates the need to take another girl to the bar just so that you can have her pose as your lesbian lover when ugly guys try to buy you a drink.

Just for comparison, here's a picture of E. M. with John McCain.

Addendum: Reasons not to wear a politically-themed T-shirt:

I don't like inviting debate when I'm out in public, and politically themed t-shirts seem to beg to do that. I have a t-shirt declaring "Prairies are our rain forests" which is about as political as I get, and I once ran into someone at a cookout to celebrate a colleague's birthday no less who wanted to argue it with me and would not let it drop even when it was clear I wasn't interested in rising to the bait.

And it would really be a drag to, say, be trying to find the best carton of strawberries at the wal-mart and have someone trying to argue your t-shirt slogan with you.

Then again, the sort of folks who really, truly value political commentary on T-shirts don't strike me as the sort who'd shop for produce at Wal-Mart. Not that I ever notice one way or another.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:14 AM)
22 June 2008
Who moved my Utopia?

Tony Woodlief has seen enough politicians, I suspect:

[A]ll this talk of politicians rolling up their sleeves to work for the rest of us evokes the image of a drunken uncle insisting that he be allowed a turn at the wheel on the family vacation. You have to let him stay in the station wagon because he is your uncle, but he ought to sit in the very back, away from the children, where he can stare out the rear window and offer bold pronouncements about where you have been, and pretend that he had some part in getting you there.

The real problem, I suppose, is that too many of us have gotten into the habit of thinking that the jabbering drunk ought to be the one at the wheel, that there really is a road to a painless future up ahead somewhere, and only he can find it. Which is why I think we ought not let anyone vote until he has mastered three books: Bastiat's The Law, Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson, and Seuss's I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. Which is one reason why, further, I will never be a viable candidate for public office.

Whoops! I better get cracking on that Seuss.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:38 PM)
25 June 2008
Change for chumps

Peter M. De Lorenzo, aka the Autoextremist, looks at John McCain's energy proposals, and finds them "a predictable mishmash of conjecture and confusion amounting to not so much":

A proposed $300 million prize for whoever can develop a better automobile battery, and $5,000 tax credits for consumers who buy new zero-emission vehicles a so-called Clean Car Challenge to encourage U.S. automakers to develop zero-emission vehicles which will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2012 before we see a sizable number of these vehicles on our roads, at the earliest, but who's counting? This would be added to his support for overturning the federal ban on offshore oil drilling and the consideration of more nuclear power facilities (with the affected states' approval, of course).

"In the quest for alternatives to oil, our government has thrown around enough money subsidizing special interests and excusing failure. From now on, we will encourage heroic efforts in engineering, and we will reward the greatest success," McCain said in his speech.

As sound bites go, this is pretty good. Sound bites, though, don't fill your tank:

I would think that if there was a class called America's Energy Policy 101 somewhere in Washington, D.C., that part of the basic fundamentals of that policy would be to protect this nation's energy security first and foremost with concerted actions independent from other nations. Yes, we all understand it's a global world out there and that idealistic alliances and partnerships are part and parcel of the new world order, but McCain has it wrong here.

First of all, $300 million is chump change in the world of advanced technology and serious research and development. It's the technical equivalent of a cup of coffee when you're dealing with battery development and battery-powered vehicles, and it just won't cut it. It's this "finger snap" attitude again that drives me crazy, that these problems are oh so easily solvable if Detroit would just get off its ass and, if it won't do it, why our government leaders will just turn to Toyota to solve our problems.

What part of this even remotely constitutes sound judgment?

It's better than what Obama has put on the table so far we can't drill our way out of this, but, by God, we can tax our way out but it's still not much of a plan.

Thirty-one years ago, Jimmy Carter said that the response to that era's energy predicament would be "the moral equivalent of war." In more recent endeavors, Carter's grasp of moral equivalents, and for that matter of war, has been questionable at best, but he was spot-on with that call. And Carter was quite emphatic about "imported oil," which he considered a threat to the very Republic. Unfortunately, he wasn't quite so enthusiastic about boosting domestic energy supplies, though he was keen to ramp up coal usage, which no one will dare suggest these days.

But here's the bottom line, and you can quote me on it:

The internal-combustion engine is not going away in your lifetime. Any other propulsion system other than pure-electric is going to be hampered by a lack of national infrastructure how many hydrogen stations are there in your town? and plug-in cars have their own issues. You can buy a Tesla roadster today for a hundred grand, and it seems to work pretty well; but can your home electric installation handle a 70-amp charger? And will the two-hour stops for recharging at Van's Volt House every three hours get in the way of your trip to Grandma's?

"Maybe I'll take the train." Sure you will.

To Barack Obama's credit, he wasn't impressed by McCain's plan either:

When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to go put a man on the moon, he didn't put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win. He put the full resources of the United States government behind the project and called on the ingenuity and innovation of the American people, not just in the private sector but also in the public sector.

Short on particulars, to be sure, but at least he's not underestimating the size of the task.

In the meantime, a modest two-point proposal, with a distinct Oklahoma twist:

  • Back off from the drilling restrictions, though not all at once. Crash programs tend to produce, well, crashes.

  • If you speculate on the New York Mercantile Exchange, you are offering to buy oil F.O.B. seller's facility, Cushing, Oklahoma, at any pipeline or storage facility with pipeline access to TEPPCO, Cushing storage, or Equilon Pipeline Co., by in-tank transfer, in-line transfer, book-out, or inter-facility transfer (pumpover). Let's see what happens if we specify that any buyer must first demonstrate the ability to take actual delivery at Cushing.

Neither of these will make a huge difference, I suspect Nymex speculators might just switch marketplaces but they seem less illogical than the schemes advanced by people whom we pay to advance schemes.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:00 AM)
29 June 2008
Let's test these principles for flexibility

This seems reasonable enough:

The Chicago Tribune is a citizen of Chicago, a newspaper committed to inform and lead public opinion, to foster commerce and industry, and to furnish that vital check upon government which no constitution can.

The Tribune believes in the traditional principles of limited government; maximum individual responsibility; and minimum restriction of personal liberty, opportunity and enterprise. It believes in free markets, free will and freedom of expression.

These principles, while traditionally conservative, are guidelines and not reflexive dogmas. The facts and nuances of each issue, and not a forged set of ideological templates, dictate where the newspaper will stand. The Tribune is not blindly or uncritically partisan. No political party should take its support for granted.

It's gotta be the "nuance." How else could they come up with an editorial recommending the repeal of the Second Amendment?

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:52 PM)
4 July 2008
Where's the outrage?

Unevenly distributed, of course.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:59 AM)
8 July 2008
It's not just a job, it's indenture

Evidently it doesn't really matter how many people or organizations Barack Obama throws under the bus; after all, he expects to have free help to clean out the undercarriage. Remember this?

[W]hen I'm President, I will set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year. This means that by the time you graduate college, you'll have done 17 weeks of service. We'll reach this goal in several ways. At the middle and high school level, we'll make federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs, and give schools resources to offer new service opportunities.

Michael Ledeen says that there's nothing all that new here:

I wonder how many people realize that community service for high-school students is already a requirement in many, maybe even most, urban high schools. And it is virtually a requirement for kids who are applying to college, because it is one of those things that college-admissions officers "look at" in order to distinguish among the considerable number of students with fabulous transcripts and Board scores. So our president won't have to worry about how to compel high school students to help the needy.

Still, it seems a tad curious to me, and more so to HeatherRadish:

I'm not sure why no one on O's staff realized this "mandatory service" crap might not resonate with the portion of the electorate who has spent their whole lives being taught that the "mandatory service" of their ancestors real ancestors or dead people who kinda look like them, doesn't matter automagically makes them victims of the oppressive American system even if they never lift a finger. I can see why it never occurred to him, but his wife should have been all over it. I suppose it doesn't matter, since that portion of the electorate is going to punch the chad for him no matter what he says or does.

Think of it as equal opportunity in action, and it makes more sense. If all are screwed, then none are screwed.

Except you, if you were hoping to get some chores out of the ungrateful little snowflakes:

I'm a fan of forced child labor, but at the direction of their parents, not the damn government. (I can't rent my niece and nephews to hang drywall if Uncle Barack's got them painting over gang graffiti in Omaha. Feh.)

Now that I think about it, isn't it about time for Charlie Rangel to call for the draft to be reinstituted? It's been almost two whole years.

(With thanks to PrestoPundit for the Obama quote.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:59 PM)
Demonstrations at the Dome

I got my first look today (largely because I didn't follow my usual route home) at one of the Tuesday vigils sponsored by the Peace House: a brief one hour antiwar demonstration beside the Gold Dome at 23rd and Classen. A couple of dozen hardy souls were braving the heat. I don't think they got a lot of horn taps from drivers, but I can at least assure them that they were seen.

I'm not sure how long these will continue; I've only met Peace House director Nathaniel Batchelder once, but from everything I've seen, he is a man of remarkable tenacity.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:25 PM)
10 July 2008
I want my DTV

That's the assumption, anyway. Today I got a flyer from Rep. Mary Fallin, bannered "Are you ready for the DTV conversion?" Inasmuch as all the district-specific information is on the front page, I'm guessing that this same material has been sent out by the 434 other House members, suitably modified. Page Two is a non-technical explanation of why your television is going away in February; pages Three and Four are an application for a converter box.

Observations:

  • They actually printed a link to a list of qualifying boxes, which makes this piece somewhat more useful.

  • I'm assuming the same photo of the elderly couple at one end of a love seat (isn't that sweet?) is being used on all these flyers. (And I noticed that apparently he's wielding the remote.)

  • The piece was addressed to someone who hasn't lived here in twelve years. I blame the state Republicans, who really need to clean up their database.

  • Aren't we due for a fresher picture of Mary Fallin? Being a governmental hottie entails certain obligations to the viewing public.

I'm still somewhat perplexed by the fact that NewsChannel 4 will be on channel 27, but the TV will inform me that it's still channel 4.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:16 PM)
13 July 2008
Undertaxachusetts?

Sometimes bureaucratic inertia works to one's advantage. If you owned an exotic motor vehicle in the last decade or so and registered it with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you probably escaped most of the excise tax:

[The Registry of Motor Vehicles] failed to assess some 131,000 super-costly vehicles properly from perhaps the late 1990s until 2007.

During that period, the RMV used National Auto Dealers Association car values to calculate tax bills on vehicles registered in Massachusetts. However, NADA’s database excludes high-end cars, big trucks and other unusual vehicles, including some Massachusetts-registered models that auditors found were worth $1.5 million.

A special RMV unit once calculated such vehicles' values by hand, but gradually stopped doing so as staffing levels dropped. Instead, Registry workers either left cars' valuations blank meaning owners never got tax bills or wrote in "$17,000" regardless of vehicles' actual values.

I'd love to have a $17,000 Maserati.

The Bay State missed out, they estimate, on $32 million in revenue every year, but doesn't expect to collect much of it: apparently they can't arbitrarily alter a valuation once it's in the system, and they certainly can't pursue a vehicle owner if he's moved away.

Just for the sake of argument, let's posit a 2008 Porsche 911 Turbo (list price: $127,060). The annual tax bill on this car would be $2858.85 in the first year, dropping to $1905.90 in the second year, bottoming out in year 5 at $317.65.

And while we're at it, let's compare these numbers to what you'd pay in Oklahoma, which soaks you the first year but backs off considerably after that. Excise tax on the Porsche, paid at first registration, would be $4129.45, not including the registration fee; in subsequent years, however, you would pay only the registration fee, which decreases gradually from $91 to $21. (I mention this in case we have any NBA players wanting to buy cars here.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:16 PM)
14 July 2008
A few words on That Cartoon

You know the one. It's on the cover of The New Yorker for the 21st. Outside the Beltway has rather a lot of commentary about it.

Me, I shrug. "Tasteless" and "offensive" are (1) in the eye of the beholder and (2) protected by the First Amendment. This ain't Canada, you know.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:48 PM)
15 July 2008
Just keep it to yourself

LGF ran this internal New York Times memo without comment, except perhaps in the title; as might be expected, the lizardoids had a field day with it.

Here's the crux of the biscuit:

Journalists have no place on the playing fields of politics. Staff members are entitled to vote, but they must do nothing that might raise questions about their professional neutrality or that of The Times. In particular, they may not campaign for, demonstrate for, or endorse candidates, ballot causes or efforts to enact legislation. They may not wear campaign buttons or themselves display any other insignia of partisan politics. They should recognize that a bumper sticker on the family car or a campaign sign on the lawn may be misread as theirs, no matter who in their household actually placed the sticker or the sign.

Staff members may not themselves give money to, or raise money for, any political candidate or election cause. Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributors, any political giving by a Times staff member would carry a great risk of feeding a false impression that the paper is taking sides.

The snark practically writes itself: "The Times taking sides? What's next? Water at the bottom of the ocean?"

But just the same, this decree troubles me. I can appreciate that the Times wishes to appear "neutral," to the extent that the Times understands the term "neutral," but I don't believe maintaining that appearance is somehow contingent upon suppressing the rights of its staffers to participate in the political sphere, and were I working for the Times, I can't imagine that I'd be happy with this set of restrictions. And the likelihood that a similar set of rules is hanging in every other newsroom from Spokane to Sarasota makes no difference.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:39 AM)
18 July 2008
From the We Gotta Do Something files

Good heavens, it's another Paul Wesselhoft special. This time he wants to make gang membership illegal:

The Moore Republican says he realizes such a law might not pass constitutional muster, but says he plans to pursue it anyway.

This is actually fairly typical of Wesselhoft, whose past Big Ideas include:

  • An anti-Fred Phelps bill that would bar any kind of demonstration or speech within 500 feet and two hours of a funeral.

  • Something anything to get rid of pit bulls.

  • Mandatory jail sentences for drivers who cause accidents while using a cell phone.

  • Harsher penalties for threatening legislators.

I expect "Penalties for blog articles critical of pending legislation" to be next on his list.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:02 PM)
19 July 2008
Flip-flop tradition

No, this isn't a shoe post.

But if you've come to the conclusion that jumping from side to side is a contemporary political phenomenon, your attention is invited to "The '68 Nixon" by Denver, Boise and Johnson:

He is liberal and conservative,
He's humble and he's proud;
He's more than just a candidate
He's a crowd.

The "Denver" in question is John Denver, who would later become better known for Rocky Mountain highs and such.

(Via Roger Green, who got his copy from one of the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:31 PM)
21 July 2008
GOP first

This year, Republicans will be listed before Democrats on state general-election ballots. Under state law through 1994, Democrats were listed before Republicans; some GOP candidates sued the Election Board, and that law was eventually thrown out.

So now, the names of both parties are sealed in a mayonnaise jar kept on Clem McSpadden's porch, or something like that, and then one is drawn. (Doing the drawing this year: Kitti Asberry, vice-chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.) I assume that if we ever get around to allowing third parties, they too will be added to the jar. Asberry believes that independents and undecided voters have a tendency to go for the first name they see:

A lot of times when they see the first position on the ballot they'll go ahead and mark it before you can look anywhere else.

And state GOP chair Gary Jones says yes, it's an advantage, albeit a small one:

It's not that significant, but we've got races that are won by two votes and that could make a difference.

If I remember correctly, in the few nonpartisan elections we have Mayor of Oklahoma City comes to mind the candidates are listed alphabetically.

Side note: When State Questions are on the ballot, the order is Yes, then No. Should these be randomized? Sometimes I think they should; other times I think it will just slow down the balloting.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:21 PM)
22 July 2008
A measure of uniformity

A long time ago, I came to the conclusion that when it comes to looking alike, conformists and non-conformists were pretty much even: Brooks Brothers and Beatniks are both brands, and rather stodgy ones at that.

Think-tank researcher and fashionista (a combination well-nigh irresistible, dammit) E. M. Zanotti contributes a data point:

Republicans get a lot of flack for the apparently mass-mailed dress code of Steve & Barry's chinos and Ralph Lauren polos as well they should. It was all well and good when William F. Buckley was around and the Preppy Handbook was a best-seller, but yes, college Republican squares need to up the ante in the wardrobe department. Just switching to Burberry doesn't do much for the image except reinforce it. But back to the dress code. Everyone at Daily Kos was surprisingly similar looking. All of them had that "so rebellious its conformist" thing going on — like they'd received a directive from their fearless leader requiring square eyeglasses, a slightly visible extra piercing and a one-size-too-small tee shirt emblazoned with a nonsensical yet hip-looking pattern. At least we vary the colors. I'll be damned if there's any earth-toned organic cotton yarn left in this world after this last weekend. Somewhere, in the third world, they're having to use the discarded "recycled" polyester thread.

I have no idea what E. M. herself was wearing, but evidently it was more than Robert Novak's old heart could take.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:58 AM)
27 July 2008
Low on the "high crimes" scale

Omigod, let's pillory this guy:

Recently, I was ask to investigate a web site on the Internet regarding Rep. Curt Dougherty. The web site in question is the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR).

The AANR website listed Rep. Dougherty as attending the 75th Annual convention of the AANR in California, where it said he presented a workshop titled “Secrets of a State Official” and received their Government Affairs Award. According to the web site, the convention was held at the DeAnza Springs Resort in Jacumba, Calif. The DeAnza Springs Resort is listed on their web site as a clothing optional resort.

After reviewing the web site, I have a few questions. Why would a state representative from Missouri speak at a AANR convention in California? How did this trip benefit the citizens of District 53? Who paid for the trip?

The answer to 1, apparently, is "They asked him to," and to 3, "He did":

Missouri taxpayers did not pay for Curt Dougherty to travel to California in 2006, according to state house records.

Dougherty said that representatives of the AANR had asked him to speak while he stopped at a booth maintained by the organization at a gathering of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Dougherty said that he and his wife already had planned to be in San Diego during the 2006 AANR convention, held at DeAnza Springs Resort, east of San Diego. He agreed to attend and speak, Dougherty said. He was not compensated for his talk, he added.

Given Rep. Dougherty's bio, which indicates that he's not exactly your stereotypical libertine, and given the indication from Jeff City that no money was misappropriated, the big gripe here seems to be that Dougherty was in the presence of a bunch of nekkid people; nowhere is it suggested that Dougherty doffed his own duds. (Here's the agenda in PDF format.) And if he did, well, so what? He was on his own time.

Semi-useful suggestion: Next time Dougherty gets a chance to address an AANR convention, it should be in the Midwest Region. Closer to home, you know.

(Seen here.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:13 PM)
28 July 2008
Not a lot to do, really

Tomorrow's primary ballot has, so far as I can tell, exactly two items for me: the County Clerk and State House District 87 races are GOP only, and I don't live in District 2 of the county and therefore can't take part in the de-Rinehartization process.

The Congressional races, though, I have to look at. For House District 5, either Bert Smith or Steven L. Perry will be the sacrificial lamb facing Mary Fallin. In previous such rituals, I have favored Mr Smith, and I will do so again tomorrow.

Either Andrew Rice or Jim Rogers will take on Jim Inhofe for the Senate. Hint: it won't be Jim Rogers.

Of the two Republicans seeking Trebor Worthen's spot in the House Worthen, after two terms, is bowing out the only one I know anything much about is Andrew Winningham, and that only because his brother cuts my hair. The survivor will face Democrat Dana Orwig, who failed to oust Worthen in 2006, come November.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:15 PM)
29 July 2008
On the sparse side

Things went smoothly at the polling place, largely because there wasn't a whole lot of activity; I completed ballot #269 at a minute before 5 pm. There was the usual waving of signs down the block, which is always entertaining.

I don't expect any real surprises today, but I've been wrong before.

Update, 9:10 pm: The most surprising thing, I guess, is that Steven Perry is walloping Bert Smith. And I no longer have to ask who will rid us of Brent Rinehart: District 2 Republicans are doing a pretty good job of that themselves.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:50 PM)
30 July 2008
Rinehart wrap-up

The Oklahoman reports:

The embattled and controversial Rinehart received only 21 percent of the vote and failed to make a runoff in the Republican primary.

"Too many hurdles. Mountain too high. Too many battles," Rinehart said. "You hope throughout everything that the public sees and understands and so you do your best, and I've done my best."

Rinehart didn't hold an election watch party Tuesday, instead opting to see The Dark Knight with his girlfriend. He said he received too many phone calls to enjoy the movie.

Yet another reason to reject the guy: he doesn't turn off his cell phone in the theater. Sheesh.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:41 AM)
3 August 2008
Flattering with delicacy

Which is not what Maureen Dowd does here:

If Obama is Mr. Darcy, with "his pride, his abominable pride," then America is Elizabeth Bennet, spirited, playful, democratic, financially strained, and caught up in certain prejudices. (McCain must be cast as Wickham, the rival for Elizabeth's affections, the engaging military scamp who casts false aspersions on Darcy’s character.)

Miss Bennet's strain is as nothing compared to the strain of Miss Dowd's attempt at metaphor. And it gets worse:

In this political version of Pride and Prejudice, the prejudice is racial, with only 31 percent of white voters telling The New York Times in a survey that they had a favorable opinion of Obama, compared with 83 percent of blacks.

And the prejudice is visceral: many Americans, especially blue collar, still feel uneasy about the Senate's exotic shooting star, and he is surrounded by a miasma of ill-founded and mistaken premises.

So the novelistic tension of the 2008 race is this: Can Obama overcome his pride and Hyde Park hauteur and win America over?

I point out merely this: "Nothing is more deceitful ... than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast."

(Via Robert Stacy McCain.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:50 AM)
5 August 2008
Give us your poor, your tired...

... your least-informed:

"WE need to place Voter Registration forms in the Administrative office of every highschool in Oklahoma with the hope of pushing the Senior Class to register for the General Election (cut off date to register is October 10th). ANY individual who turns 18 by November 4th can register NOW (before they turn 18) to vote."

I have no particular problem with this, generally I was one of the first beneficiaries of dropping the voting age from 21 to 18 though the motivation here is transparently obvious:

"I sent the following email out yesterday to all Obama Supporters: Many of you are asking to help so here's what you can do: PLACE VOTER REGISTRATION FORMS IN YOUR HIGHSCHOOL (Alma Mater) polling shows 83% of those voters under 35 will vote for Barack Obama: Oklahoma's Public Schools will be opening soon, most school buildings are open now with teachers and staff members preparing for the school year. Registration activities are set to start this week and next...."

Had the percentages fallen the other way but never mind, you already know the answer to that one.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:03 AM)
9 August 2008
Crossing the aisle

This might seem unlikely, but what hasn't seemed unlikely of late?

If Obama manages to find a way to blow this election, I fully expect Hillary Clinton to be the next GOP nominee. Why not? She's only incrementally further to the left than McCain, and may well have more of a future as a Republican center-leftist than as a Dem far-leftist.

For that matter, she could conceivably be on this year's ticket: her support for Obama has been perfunctory at best, and the Republicans hold their convention after the Democrats. ("Spurn me, will you? We'll just see about that.")

The GOP base, I assume, would not be pleased, but then the GOP base is not all that pleased with John McCain; a McCain/Clinton ticket would provide incremental annoyance at most.

Observation of no import: Firefox 2.0.0.16 flags "Obama" for spellcheck, but not "McCain." Then again, Firefox 2.0.0.16 flags "spellcheck" for spellcheck.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:53 PM)
20 August 2008
Finally, some good news from Washington

This Congress may not have been as horrible as its "approval ratings" suggest:

Barring a burst of legislative activity after Labor Day, this group of 535 men and women will have accomplished a rare feat. In two decades of record keeping, no sitting Congress has passed fewer public laws at this point in the session 294 so far than this one. That's not to say they've been idle. On the flip side, no Congress in the same 20 years has been so prolific when it comes to proposing resolutions more than 1,900, according to a tally by the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Inasmuch as resolutions are less likely to cost me money, count me on the side of More Like This.

(Courtesy of Gerard Van der Leun.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:53 AM)
23 August 2008
Non-Joltin' Joe

So it's Obama/Biden. Not entirely unexpected, and not exactly going out on a limb: it's a safe, non-controversial choice.

Biden's assets: he has foreign-policy experience, honed by years on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (he is presently the chairman); his voting record is not so far left as Obama's, giving him the appearance of that mythical creature, the Moderate; and he has a gift for one-liners, which may or may not pay off. (Biden won the 2008 Chaz Award for Best Political Snark with this dismissal of Rudy Giuliani: "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence a noun, a verb, and 9/11.")

State Democrats, up to and including Governor Brad Henry, have been trying to get Barack Obama to schedule a speech or two here, without success. Biden, however, we'll probably get.

The only downside, for a blue-dog Democrat like me, is the vague sensation that this ticket might play out better inverted. But, as Donald Rumsfeld might have said, you go to the election with the candidates you have.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 AM)
24 August 2008
Whatever happened to Thad Balkman?

After the 2006 election, I noted that I could "retire my Big Book of Thad Balkman Jokes."

And that was the last I'd heard of him until this morning, when Balkman's letter to the editor appeared in the Oklahoman, denouncing The Obama Nation author Jerome Corsi as a "smear artist." The paper gave his address as "Ontario, Calif."

A little bit of GoogleFu, and we find him as VP of external relations and counsel for Phoenix Motorcars, which is busy introducing this electric truck, with a range of around 100 miles, assuming no computer glitches.

It should be noted that the Democrats of Oklahoma Community Forum noticed this before I did.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:21 AM)
A political ad we'd like to see

As suggested by Cajun Boy in the City:

Ominous voiceover:  It's 3 AM. You and your children are sleeping peacefully. Until your cell phone starts ringing that is.

Cut to:  (A little girl in her bed looking frightened. She rubs her eyes and her lower lip quivers.)

Little girl:   Mommy Daddy what was that noise that woke me up from the dream I was having about unicorns and rainbows? Mommy Daddy I'm scared!

Ominous voiceover:  Who do you trust not to waste taxpayer money by sending you horseshit text messages from the White House at 3 AM and scaring the bejesus out of your peacefully sleeping children in the process? John McCain would never do that because John McCain can't even operate an electric toothbrush, much less a mobile device.

John McCain voiceover:  I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

Disclosure: I'm old and I own a Sonicare.

(Via some blog that nobody reads.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:39 AM)
25 August 2008
In case you were waiting up

The International Society of Supervillains has endorsed John McCain.

I assure you that this was not a hasty decision on the part of the ISS: their methodology is almost frighteningly detailed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:54 AM)
30 to life takes Visa

Tom DeLay may yet be cleared of those pesky money-laundering charges:

Money-laundering charges against former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and two indicted co-conspirators may be dismissed because the 2002 campaign finance case involved checks and not cash, a lawyer for DeLay said Sunday night.

"We win," said Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's lawyer, "because there's nothing but checks in the case."

The state's 3rd Court of Appeals on Friday actually upheld the money-laundering indictments against DeLay's two campaign associates, John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Washington. But the ruling contained a silver lining for the trio's lawyers because it concluded that the state's money-laundering statute written in 1993 to combat illicit drug activity by focusing on the cash in the criminal transactions did not apply to checks at the time DeLay is accused of laundering corporate money into campaign donations.

The law has since been changed. The prosecutor is not pleased with this development:

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle said the check-versus-cash argument is absurd: "The court's reasoning is like saying that you can get away with murder if you pay the hit man with a check."

(Via Stephen Spruiell.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:25 PM)
26 August 2008
Fasten your seat belts

Joe Biden seems to think we're about to leave orbit or something:

The next President of the United States is going to be delivered to the most significant moment in American history since Franklin Roosevelt. He will have such an incredible opportunity, incredible opportunity, not only to change the direction of America, but literally, literally to change the direction of the world.

That word he is using? I do not think it means what he thinks it means. Literally.

(Via John Rosenberg.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:11 AM)
29 August 2008
Sarah Barracuda

Omigod, Sarah Palin was a point guard?

Sarah Heath #22

This shot appears to be from the Anchorage Daily News archives, from 1982, the year that Sarah Heath, #22, led the Wasilla Warriors to the small-school state championship.

(Courtesy of Henry Abbott.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:20 PM)
30 August 2008
Not your usual moose-stompers

McCain and Palin from here downYou might have seen this post yesterday, which drew a comment from Lynn: "Since you've got such a thing for heels I'm sure you're quite excited about McCain's VP pick." And she included a link to a pertinent photo, which I have duly reproduced here.

Musa by Apepazza, as worn by Sarah PalinAs a public service, Fausta has researched the footwear in question, and has identified the shoe as Musa by Apepazza, a peep-toe pump with a big buckle up front, a patent-leather upper, and a 3½-inch heel, available from Zappos in three colors for $134.10. Should the price rise due to a sudden increase in demand, neither Fausta nor I should be held responsible: we report, you descend into a buying frenzy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:21 AM)
31 August 2008
It's the Battlestar Galactica ticket

Frakking seriously. Think about it for a moment:

Watching [Sarah] Palin's introduction it became immediately clear that she looks uncannily like a young Laura Roslin. This can only bode well for Palin. But the parallels don't stop at her looks. Like Roslin, Palin was basically a private citizen (Roslin was a teacher, Palin was a reporter) before being pulled into politics. Neither seems to have had any larger ambition, until events pulled them into prominence. And both were immediately discounted by outside observers as being unequal to the demands of their new positions.

Checking the top of the ticket:

If Palin is Roslin, isn't McCain very much a Bill Adama? Both are Navy men. Both seemed destined to be passed over by a younger generation of hotshots, until a perfect storm elevated them to command. Both are tough old dogs with little patience for politics. Heck, Adama's staff even call him the Old Man.

Then again, if we're going by looks, McCain is closer to Colonel Tigh.

It will take something like this, I think, to ice the deal:

I eagerly await the moment in the VP debate when Palin is asked what she would do with Osama bin Laden if he were captured. One assumes her answer will be some variation of, "Put that thing out the airlock."

Don't expect the Cylons to take this sort of thing lying down.

(Via Meryl Yourish.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:30 PM)
2 September 2008
It's never quite unanimous

Apparently this guy isn't too thrilled by Sarah Palin.

"That trick never works," suggested a friend of his.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:09 AM)
That old Cold War nostalgia

"While I wouldn't want to rebuild the Berlin Wall or restaff the KGB," Joe Carter says, "there are a few things I miss about the Cold War era:"

The Commies were atheists — It's always good to have an enemy that doesn't believe in the afterlife. Even when the Ruskies had more nukes than loaves of Wonder Bread, you knew they were never going to use them. One push on the red button and it was "Game Over." This new breed of enemy is different. If Islamic Jihadists get their hands on The Bomb you know it's time to call your broker and load up on Black-eyed Virgin options.

The loss of a good put-down — Remember when the perfect dis was to call someone a pinko? "You don't eat meat? What, are you communist?" For some reason, "You don't eat at McDonald's? Are you some kind of anti-globalist?" just doesn't have the same bite.

You knew what Marxists believed — While Marxism had more flavors than Baskin-Robbins, they all traced their lineage to Big Daddy Karl. Now with Queer Theory, Chicano studies, Post-Colonial studies, structuralism, deconstruction, you have no clue where your college English teacher got their wacky ideas.

Ah, a simpler time. And there's this:

Our allies were still friendly — My friend Matt Powell said it best: "You know what I really miss about the Cold War? Europe knowing their place."

There's still time, though, for rapprochement, especially if John Kerry wants a shot at being President of France.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:03 PM)
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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