The cover story of the November 6 National Review (not available online) is a paean to Rick Santorum by John J. Miller that makes me look forward to the Pennsylvania senator's defeat next week. If Santorum loses to Democrat Bob Casey Jr., "a GOP aide" says, "a lot of Republicans who aren't as gutsy as Santorum would conclude that social conservatism is for losers." And that would be bad because...?
I realize social conservatives are a big part of NR's audience, but Miller offers economic conservatives, the other major component of Frank Meyer's grand fusion, little reason to root for Santorum, aside from the fact that he supported welfare reform (so did Bill Clinton) and "has served as a leader" on Social Security, which seems to mean he favors Bush-style baby steps toward "personal" (not "private") retirement accounts. On the down side, he opposed NAFTA, supported steel tariffs, and considers Bush's immigration reforms "too lax."
Santorum, who is famously against gay marriage because of its implications for man-dog love, "was an architect of the effort to ban partial-birth abortion" and "demonstrated that he's willing to take political risks to promote a culture of life" by "visiting the brain-damaged Terri Schiavo in Florida last year." He brags that he is "public enemy number one of the pro-choice and gay community." You gotta love him for that. Well, maybe not, but Miller argues that you at least have to admire him for sticking to his beliefs. "Santorum is clearly a conviction politician," says Miller.
Except when he's not. When Pat Toomey, the former congressman who is now president of the Club for Growth, challenged Arlen Specter, one of NR readers' least favorite Republicans, in the GOP primary two years ago, Santorum sided with his fellow Pennsylvania senator instead of his fellow conservative because he figured Specter had a better chance of winning the general election. Miller attributes this decision to "Santorum's apparent unwillingness to stay away from controversy." In short, Rick Santorum has the guts to condemn gay marriage and to sacrifice his principles when it's politically expedient.
A general rule of thumb regarding controversies like this is to count how many posts Michelle Malkin has about the issue, and to note that there is a positive correlation to how trivial the matter is and how many posts she has about it.
For the record, she's up to five, well over twenty if you include updates.
Despite the state's draconian new sex offender requirements, sheriffs in Georgia have "temporarily" agreed not to force nursing home residents, some of whom are bedridden, to move. (No word on whether they'll be allowed to don Halloween costumes in bed.) For no discernible reason, the law forbids anyone on the offender registry from living within 1,000 feet of a church. Bus stops and schools get the same perimeter.
Back in June, I wrote about Georgia resident Wendy Whitaker, who was forced to move for the crime of performing fellatio on a 15-year-old boy ten years ago, when she was 17. At the time, she was about to be forced out once again, as her town had decided to plop a bus stop near the second residence.
The L.A. Times asked various nutrition gurus and other traditional candy haters what they hand out on Halloween. Most of the answers are surprisingly chill. Even Marion Nestle--who tends to be the person with the most radical quote in any obesity article--was cool. She said she has no trick-or-treaters in Manhattan, but conceded the point of the holiday, saying, "I'm not in favor of nutritional purism on holidays. I think some negotiation is reasonable." She even admitted that caramel apples are pretty awesome: "Especially ones with the worst red, hard candy on them."
There's always a killjoy, though:
Kelly Brownell, director of Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. "Not food," he says. "because the food that people tend to hand out is candy, and children get plenty of candy already." In a 2003 study, he and colleagues offered candy or toys to trick-or-treating children ages 3 to 14 and found the kids were just as likely to pick toys.
He hasn't done studies on how far treats can be healthified before children balk, "but perhaps you could do that," he quips. "The outcome variable could be seeing how far you could go without getting your house TP'd."
Read the whole L.A. Times article here.
Via the Center for Consumer Freedom.
Katherine Mangu-Ward explores the kindler, gentler Wal-Mart.
Razor blades in your apples? How quaint. Here's something to get worked up about: What if the sex offender down the street slips some rohypnol into your kid's candy? Hell, what if he puts a pumpkin on his porch?
The AP reports:
Sex offenders on probation or parole in Tennessee are banned from Halloween costume parties this year and aren't even allowed to put up decorations like jack-o-lanterns that might attract youngsters.
The new state guidelines are meant to clarify policies that prevent offenders from interacting with children, said Board of Probation and Parole spokesman Jack Elder, and were not enacted in response to any specific problems the board has seen during the Halloween season.
Tennessee isn't the only state keeping close watch on sex offenders during Halloween....Maryland has even told sex offenders on parole or probation to keep their porch lights turned off Tuesday night.
The Tennessee rules "apply to all sex offenders on probation or parole -- about 2,000 of the 8,100 registered offenders living in the state -- and not specifically to those offenders whose crimes involved minors." Because our children can never be too safe.
Finally, Congress has found a more futile use of taxpayer funds than the Iraq War: Preventing twenty-somethings from bumping uglies.
"The National Center for Health Statistics says well over 90% of adults ages 20-29 have had sexual intercourse.
But Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services, said the revision is aimed at 19- to 29-year-olds because more unmarried women in that age group are having children.
Government data released last month show that 998,262 births in 2004 were to unmarried women 19-29, the ages with the most births to unmarried women.
"The message is 'It's better to wait until you're married to bear or father children,' " Horn said. "The only 100% effective way of getting there is abstinence."
$50 million is expected to head to the states, so they can make sure irresponsible 28-year old women aren't have unmarried sex. Can government PR wizzes convert the more than 90 percent of adults who do it? Stay tuned!
Last month I went down to Mississippi for a hearing in the Cory Maye case. Because the hearing was in Poplarville, near the Louisiana border, I stayed in New Orleans and drove into Mississippi along I-10. That also happens to be a section of the coast that was socked pretty hard by Hurricane Katrina.
I didn't really notice much the first time I made the trip. I drove out in the morning. It was light out, and I passed by neighborhoods, apartment complexes, strip malls, and big box stores, and didn't really pick up on what I was actually seeing.
On the way back, it was nearly dusk. That's when I noticed that though it was only about 8pm, none of the buildings along the Interstate appeared to be lit.
The next morning when I drove back to the Mississippi for the second day of the hearing, I took a closer look, and snapped a few photos (apologies for the quality -- I took them from the car as I drove by). As you can see, there are still entire neighborhoods, shopping centers, malls, and apartment buildings that are completely abandoned. Suburbanite ghost towns.
What's weird is that because most of the destruction was done by water, from a distance it appeared that everyone had simply left otherwise normal-looking towns. If you hadn't known about Katrina, it would appear that entire populations of people had simply vanished. Signs are still intact. Cars still sit abandoned in the street.
The creepiest sight was an abandoned amusement park. According to the highway signs, it was a Six Flags.
I took some pictures in the less-depressing (but still nowhere near what it once was) French Quarter, too. Those are posted here. The Katrina-themed t-shirts they're selling on Bourbon Street show the city at least has a sense of humor about its demise.
Black magic encounters the law:
The oft-delayed wrongful termination hearing filed by former Child Support Enforcement employee Evangaline Logg finally began before the Navajo Labor Commission Wednesday....Though [attorney Diandra] Benally stressed that the issue before the commission was strictly about whether Logg's termination was appropriate, there was a side issue that could not be swept under the rug: witchcraft.
[Supervisor William] Nez's written statement to be "protected by withcraft" is a major element of this case, [attorney David] Jordan said. Such allegations can be explosive on the reservation -- in fact, tribal law considers it grounds for defamation to call someone a witch, Jordan said.
Fear of witchcraft has played a role in some witnesses for Logg not to come forward, Jordan said.
Meanwhile, a teacher in Texas
told police he forced two girls to stay in the classroom because he was worried about witchcraft. Investigators say the teacher believed the girls had it out for him. Jose Amador Ramos, the Spanish department head at Roma High School, was charged with two counts of unlawful restraint....Ramos told police the girls had already cast a spell on another teacher and he feared he was next.
Witches may be plentiful these days, but some egghead thinks he's disproved the existence of vampires:
The professor took out the calculator to prove that if a vampire sucked one person's blood each month, after a couple of years there would be no people left, just vampires. He started his calculations with just one vampire and 537 million humans on Jan. 1, 1600 and showed that the human population would be down to zero by July 1602.
More Halloween links:
H.P. Lovecraft meets Charles M. Schulz.
"The Cremation of Sam McGee" told as a ghost story.
An experimental horror film based on the proto-surrealist novel-poem Les chants de Maldoror. Not safe for work!
Dave Weigel profiles libertarian-ish Idaho gubernatorial candidate Butch Otter.
Among likely voters surveyed, 50 percent favored Webb, a former Republican who served as Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, while 46 percent favored Allen, and 4 percent were undecided.
Webb's edge is equal to the margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, meaning he can be considered slightly ahead. The result is based on telephone interviews conducted for CNN from Oct. 26-29 among 597 registered Virginia voters who said they were likely to vote.
A Rasmussen poll shows Webb (pictured right, looking like Christopher Walken on the Matt Furey program) picking up the lead, too. And that represents a boost for him since Allen attacked Webb's novels. According to the awesome RealClearPolitics polling pages, Webb now holds a miniscule 2.2 point lead over Allen. In the last day, Webb futures on TradeSports have surged more than 20 points - now most traders are expecting him to pull off the upset.
This is all starting to shake out like the last election in Virginia, which pitted center-left (I'm referring to his politics and his eyebrow placement) Democrat Tim Kaine against Republican Jerry Kilgore. Kilgore had won the state's attorney general's office in a 20-point landslide in 2001, and everyone expected him to cruise into the governor's office. Indeed, he led Kaine for most of the year. But when Kaine started to catch up in September, Kilgore launched a series of attack ads impugning him for not favoring the death penalty. Murdered Virginians' families sat in dark rooms and wept about Kaine's complicity in their loss. One even said Kaine wouldn't give the death penalty to Hitler. It backfired badly, and Kilgore never regained his footing.
For some analysis of attack ads done right, check out David Mark's November cover story.
Congressional Quarterly says it's all down to 18 "tossups" in the House, and the Democrats have an unlikely chance of gaining control of the Senate:
Democrats are increasingly bullish on their chances to net the gain of at least 15 seats that they need to oust the GOP’s J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois as the Speaker of the House and install Nancy Pelosi of California instead.
As of Oct. 27, CQ’s individual assessments of all 435 House races showed Democrats seriously contesting Republican holds on 72 seats (31 percent of the party’s current total) with seven of those races already leaning toward a Democratic takeover and 18 more considered genuine tossups — the result of a combination of Republican political weaknesses and the Emanuel team’s success at growing the roster of competitive Democratic challengers, many in districts that the party had not contested in years. By contrast, only 21 Democratic seats were in play, and only a handful appeared seriously at risk. The bottom line is that the Republicans are now ahead at least marginally in only 207 races, meaning that even if they hold on to all of those (which won’t happen) they must win 11 of the 18 tossups to retain power. The Democrats are now ahead in 210 races — nine more than the number of seats they have now — so if they hold all those leads they will need to win just eight of the tossups to gain control.
As they have throughout the campaign, the Democrats face their more daunting task in the Senate: They must gain a net of six seats to take control — an all-the-more-unlikely prospect just two years after they lost four seats. But their quest has now put them within striking distance.
With 10 days to go, four GOP incumbents are now underdogs for re-election: Conrad Burns of Montana, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. The Democratic bids in Missouri against Jim Talent and in Tennessee for the seat that Majority Leader Bill Frist is vacating are absolutely too close to call, while the party still has a clear shot at George Allen in Virginia. So if they win two out of three — and if they protect all their own seats, particularly that of New Jersey’s Robert Menendez, who’s also in a tossup — the Democrats should win the Senate.
Whole discussion here, with details on the close Senate races, the eight glorious mysteries of electioneering, and House details North, South, East, and West. Just to prove these guys don't really know anything you don't, there's also ominous talk of an October surprise (only hours left! Happy Halloween!), and a great prim reference to "Mark Foley’s tawdry behavior toward congressional pages." But like most political prognostication, it's a vibrant species of on-the-one-hand-this-on-the-other-that.
Can the Dems still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? My ancient prophecy that the Republicans would retain both houses was based on the Democrats' proven ability to fuck up the proverbial one-man parade. And if this election is anything, it's a Monday morning walk of shame for President Bush. But I am impressed by how widespread the belief is that the Republicans are headed for a catastrophe. If nothing else, it will be nice to be proven wrong on this.
I confess a semi-secret weakness for John Derbyshire, the grumpy National Review writer and math geek. I loved his little novel, Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream (a novel with Coolidge in the title!). And if I had to take sides in the ongoing Derbyshire-Andrew Sullivan squabble, I'd arm up for Derb, no questions asked. Yesterday, Derbyshire posted a "Faith F.A.Q." at NRO quite worth reading. See below for a classic example of Derbyshire's willingness to stomp on the stubborn remnants of political correctness in the service of a serious question, all in his trademark aggressively candid manner. And decide for youself whether he deserves an award named after him that goes to "statements by public figures or writers that amount to right-wing hyperbole, hate-speech or manic paranoia." I'm open to the fact that he might indeed deserve such a thing, but he's a good read.
Here's Derbyshire on the question of whether religion is good for people, and why some religious people are so bad:
The usual response to all that is the one Evelyn Waugh gave. He was religious, but he was also a nasty person, and knew it. But: “If not for my faith,” he explained, “I would be barely human.” In other words, even a nasty religious person would be even worse without faith.
I have now come to think that it really makes no difference, net-net. You can point to people who were improved by faith, but you can also see people made worse by it. Anyone want to argue that, say, Mohammed Atta was made a better person by his faith? All right, when Americans say “religion” they mean Christianity 99 percent of the time. So: Can Christianity make you a worse person? I’m sure it can. If you’re a person with, for example, a self-righteous conviction of your own moral superiority, well, getting religion is just going to inflame that conviction. Again, I know cases, and I’m sure you do too. The exhortations to humility that you find in all religions seem to be the most difficult teaching for people to take on board. Mostly, I think it makes no difference. Evelyn Waugh would have been no more obnoxious as an atheist.
And then there are some of those discomfiting facts about human groups. Taking the population of these United States, for example, the least religious major group, by ancestry, is Americans of East Asian stock. The most religious is African Americans. All the indices of dysfunction and misbehavior, however, go the other way, with Asian Americans getting into least trouble and African Americans most. What’s that all about?
In the end, I think I’ve now arrived at this position: An individual might be made better by faith, or worse. Overall, taking society at large, I think it averages out to zero.
Basking in his recent landslide, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva returns to talking up his alternative to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas:
In his victory speech late Sunday, Lula vowed to strengthen Mercosur -- the trade association made up of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela -- and the recently launched Brazil-led Community of South American Nations.
Neither in his speech nor in a subsequent press conference did he mention plans to expand commercial ties with Washington.
"We have like a special passion for Mercosur," Lula said at a later press conference. "When we won the  election, Mercosur was considered a thing of the past. Everybody talked about the [U.S.-backed] Free Trade Area of the Americas....Today, nobody talks about FTAA anymore, and everybody talks about Mercosur."
Andres Oppenheimer (author of the fine book Bordering on Chaos) suggests that "Brazil, Latin America's biggest country, wants to be a world emerging power, much like India, South Africa and China. To belong to that club, Brazil needs to be the leader of South America, which will greatly enhance its international image." I'm not sure I'd include South Africa in that company, but otherwise I think he's right. And, on balance, I think it's a good thing. While I'm not enthusiastic about regional trade agreements, I'm happy to see Brazil offering a rival vision of a global trading order. In two important realms -- farm subsidies and intellectual property law -- Brasília's positions are preferable to Washington's. The world could use the counterweight.
Michael Barone is one of the most dependable pro-Republican political analysts on God's green earth - all year, and most of last year, he had ready reasons for why the GOP was going to roar to victory despite Democrats' gaining steam in the polls. (Check out his aw-shucks spin on last year's gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, which now look like harbingers of the Republican implosion.) But his column in the Wall Street Journal is so gloomy, it might signify a white flag going up.
... ideas are more important than partisan vote counts. Democrats could not go beyond the New Deal from 1938 to 1958, because they had not persuaded most Americans to go Roosevelt's way until 13 years after his death. Similarly, Republicans never had reliable majorities for Reagan's polices until 1994, six years after he left office. Democratic gains in 1974 made the House the most left-leaning branch of government for 20 years--in vivid contrast to the prognostication of '60s liberals, who said it would always be the most conservative--and Republican gains in 1994 made it the most conservative-leaning. Those majorities affected public policy, but not always in ways their partisans liked.
If the Democrats are justified in preparing to change the drapes today, the questions to ask are: How enduring will be such a partisan switch? How much change in public policy will it accomplish? To the first question, the likelihood of an enduring partisan switch is not high--if you believe the polls showing the leading Republicans, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, walloping the best-known Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Al Gore, in 2008. Changes in public policy? Well, the lead item on the Democrats' wish list is to raise the minimum wage, a law first passed in 1938. Not exactly a new idea.
Even this contains a little weaseling - polls show races between Giuliani or McCain and Clinton or Gore horrifyingly close. ("Horrifying" in that they lack a third party candidate who isn't abominable.) Barone's right that the Democrats don't have any big ideas or platform planks that could gird a new, long-term majority. The thing is, neither party does. Listen to the speeches George W. Bush is giving in those lone outposts where the citizenry can still stand him, and just try and find a positive reason for conservative governance. It's Democrats-will-raise-taxes, Democrats-will-aid-terror, Democrats-will-let-sissies-get-hitched. It's "we passed No Child Left Behind," "we want cars to run on corn," "we turned Medicare into an enormous beast that'll collapse under its own weight even faster it was going to than before we got here."
Yet more grousing about the idea-less GOP here.
The big Latin American news of the week was Lula's smashing comeback victory in Brazil, but even better news is coming out of Ecuador. Left-wing economist Rafael Correa, a vocal ally of Hugo Chavez, was supposed to win the country's presidential election in the first round. But he dramatically underperformed polls, placed second after billionaire Alvaro Noboa, and is by all appearances heading to a bruising at the conservative candidate's hands. It looks like Chavez's loud meddling in his neighbors' backyards is backfiring. Again. And the U.S.'s own official grumbling about Chavez - which always wins him sympathy - has quieted down. There's some grassroots angst about Venezuela and electronic voting machines and theories about Venezuela sneaking al Qaeda over the border, but that doesn't have the impact of Rumseld calling Chavez "Hitler."
For more Latin America, go here.
Hit & Run regulars know that we upgraded Reason Online over the weekend, with an eye toward providing a better reader experience. We've added new technical capabilities, switched to faster servers, and recast the look of the site to make it easier to navigate.
All such changes have tons of problems and glitches that need to be worked out. Which is exactly what we'll be doing over the next few days and weeks. (We'll also be posting all old material to the new site; currently, some back issues and articles are not yet available.)
In the meantime, tell us what you think.
And help us identify problems by dropping a note detailing the issues to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for your readership--and your feedback.
And check out the cover gallery already if you haven't yet.
...and there was much rejoicing.
British scientists have grown the world's first artificial liver from stem cells in a breakthrough that will one day provide entire organs for transplant.
The technique that created the 'mini-liver', currently the size of a one pence piece, will be developed to create a full-size functioning liver....
The mini organ can be used to test new drugs.... Using lab-grown liver tissue would also reduce the number of animal experiments.
Within five years, pieces of artificial tissue could be used to repair livers damaged by injury, disease, alcohol abuse and paracetamol overdose.
And then, in just 15 years' time, entire liver transplants could take place using organs grown in a lab....
The liver tissue is created from stem cells - blank cells capable of developing into different types of tissue - found in blood from the umbilical cord.
Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey looked for to artifical livers (with onions, of course) here. And while you're at it, check out his great book, Liberation Biology, which makes "the scientific and moral case for the biotech revolution."
The Wash Times runs a story on Republicans who changed parties and are now looking good to win next week.
Virginia Senate candidate Jim Webb is the best-known but others include Tim Mahoney, who is running for Rep. Mark Foley's seat in Florida and "lists Ronald Reagan as a political hero, opposes the 'death tax' and calls himself a 'conservative Christian''; New York's Jack Davis, who "is giving Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds one of the biggest challenges of his career. Mr. Davis, a multimillionaire businessman, says he wants to end illegal entry without granting amnesty, opposes higher taxes and wants to kill the death tax; and Flordia's Christine Jennings, a former banker gunning for "the seat being vacated by Rep. Katherine Harris" and a proponent of tax custs and lower spending.
Democratic adviser Steve Jarding says winning is trumping ideology:
"[Democrat stalwarts are] more accepting of people with different ideas, and that's a difference," Mr. Jarding said. "We're not going to be having all these litmus tests because they were killing us."
Mr. Jarding said that had Democratic primary voters sided in the primary with Harris Miller -- a longtime politician who is ideologically more in tune with national Democrats -- "we would be 40 points behind George Allen right now."
"Democrats are finally wising up," he said.
Whole tale here.
After the New Jersey gay marriage decision comes down, Cathy Young sees a rare piece of pragmatism break into a broiling political battle.
Republicans try to save their majority, Pakistan bombs drop to re-establish authority, and tracking Iraqi weapons turns out to be low priority... in the new Reason Express.
Via the trouble-makers at Cryptome, evidence that George Bush owes the DC guvmint some scratch. Some $225 in parking tickets have been issued to the 800-002 tagged presidential limo this year. Hard to say which is funnier, that Limo One got ticketed or that some DC traffic cop ticketed Limo One.
Better still, roll up the executive branch plate list a few digits and you'll find signs that Clinton era rides, circa 1998, rolled up some $450 in fines that as yet remain unpaid.
Here's to DC officials one day slapping an ugly orange boot on the offending limo. Or, via the Secret Service, die trying.
It's an old story, but always worth revisiting: how government actions allegedly meant to "help domestic industries" hurt other domestic industries. See today's Los Angeles Times for a report on industry complaints about steel anti-dumping duties, that punish foreign steel suppliers for allegedly selling at too low a price. Southern California metal stamping companies complain that the duties have doubled their prices on galvanized steel; "U.S. and foreign automakers have joined other U.S. steel consumers to persuade the U.S. International Trade Commission to revoke the duties when it meets in mid-December."
Domestic steel makers say the car makers and steel users are being big crybabies and that, although the steel makers are in the scratch now (after, as the story notes, "shifting much of their multibillion-dollar pension liabilities to the government"), the domestic steel industry hovers always, in its own poormouthing estimations, on the abyss of economic doom: "they say the addition of capacity in China and India could lead to another steel glut and price-slashing if the global economy hits a rough patch."
An exec from Aggressive Engineering Corp., a Southern California metal stamping company. complains:
Whole story of steel-sellin' men and the steel-usin' industries they are holding up here.
he had lost two of his biggest customers — a home electronics firm and a fitness equipment company — to competitors in China since the duties were imposed. He said his foreign competitors had access to cheaper steel and were able to produce and ship parts to the U.S. for the same price it costs him for raw materials.
Okay, not really. But this is at least encouraging:
A quarter century after the Reagan revolution and a dozen years after Republicans vaulted into control of Congress, a new CNN poll finds most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, "government is not the answer to our problems -- government is the problem."
The poll released Friday also showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans perceive, correctly, that the size and cost of government have gone up in the past four years, when Republicans have had a grip on the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House.
[...]Queried about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of the 1,013 adults polled said they thought it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Only 37 percent said they thought the government should do more to solve the country's problems.
David Boaz, call your office.
In the Wall Street Journal, Shikha Dalmia explains how GOP candidate Dick DeVos frittered away a free pass to the governor's mansion.
In yesterday's Washington Post, retired GOP muckety-muck Dick Armey, now the leader of the activist group Freedom Works, tells the Republicans exactly why they deserve to lose their majority:
The leadership must remember that the modern conservative movement is a fusion of social and fiscal conservatives united in their belief in limited government. The party must keep both in the fold. Republicans also need to get back to being the party of big ideas. The greatest threat to American prosperity today is a catastrophic fiscal meltdown resulting from long-term entitlements. Democrats have already lined up behind the solution of raising taxes and reducing benefits. But Americans want more freedom and choice in education, health care and retirement security. Republicans -- too busy dreaming up wedge issues to score cheap points against Democrats -- have lost sight of their broad national agenda.
Whole thing, well worth reading, here.
Back in 1997, Reason interviewed Armey when he was still majority leader of the House of Representatives.
And don't miss his engaging recent broadside against Focus on the Family's James Dobson and other social cons. Check it all out here.
Reader "Chilli" emails a review. Cavanaugh garbologists are welcome to speculate on what, if anything, he or she is responding to:
F_____ you, you smegma eating far right jerkoff! I hope you're happy that your Republican morons put Hitler in the White House. And yes, I'm a liberal, you fascist---with three honorable discharges and service in the Korean War. Now, why don't you telll me how many DC solons (Republicans) served in the military? There's a sheet going around that tell you. And how about your Bush baby dodging military service in Vioet Nam? You people must come out of the womb screamingh Nazi propaganda! Drop dead---please!
"America is a mutt-culture, isn't it?" he writes in The Nasty Bits. "Who the hell is America if not everybody else? We are -- and should be -- a big, messy, anarchistic polyglot of dialects and accents and different skin tones. Like our kitchens. We need more Latinos to come here. And they should, whenever possible, impregnate our women."
In addition to celebrating his distaste for book learnin' last week, George Allen has also adopted a stretch-run strategy of talking up Virginia's particularly nasty ballot initiative that would put a gay marriage ban in the state's constitution. Allen, who has shown his devotion to the tradition of marriage by having two of them, knows that these initiatives are a great way to fire up turnout. If he can get the mouth-breathers south of the Rappahannock River lathered up about the gay couples moving into Alexandria and Arlington, they'll probably go ahead and cast a vote for Allen while they're at the polls, his otherwise lackluster performance as a U.S. senator notwithstanding:
"This Election Day you'll have the opportunity to stand up to the Jim Webbs of the world, to the people who want to weaken marriage," the ad states. "Jim Webb, Hillary Clinton and their liberal allies in Washington don't want to give constitutional protection to traditional marriage. If they don't share our values on something as basic as marriage, how can we trust them on any issue?"
For the record, Jim Webb is actually opposed to gay marriage (he does support civil unions).
Funny thing is, the Virginia legislature has already banned gay marriage and civil unions. Twice. Adding it to the state constitution is mostly demagoguery.
The language in the amendment is also exceptionally broad, extending not just to homosexuals, but also to unmarried straight couples; and not just to state recognition of gay marriage, but to private contracts between domestic partners, including privileges like hospital visitation rights and the right to make medical decisions in emergencies. It is intentionally vague, giving future attorneys general sweeping enforcement powers that could ostensibly prevent private employers from offering benefits to the partners of unmarried employees. The kicker is that the amendment will be put into Virginia's Bill of Rights.
More fun: Virginia's Bill of Rights was famously written by George Mason (some historians believe the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution generously cribbed from Mason's document). Today, the state university that bears Mason's name seems to be pretty worried about the amendment. In a general email announcement to students and faculty last week, George Mason University Senior Vice President Maurice W. Scherrens warned of some collateral effects should the amendment pass:
The economic wellbeing of Virginia and all of its public agencies and institutions depends upon attracting and retaining talented workers and dynamic new enterprises, and this proposed amendment could have the chilling effect of discouraging high-value workers and businesses from locating in our state or accepting employment at our university, thus putting us at a competitive disadvantage relative to neighboring states in the region where no such broadly proposed restrictions now exist. If Mason is not allowed to offer competitive benefits for all employees, and if benefits for unmarried individuals are reduced, we will lose the competitive advantage of both our location and our status as a nationally recognized institution of excellence.
Opposition to gay marriage is one thing. The amendment Allen's pushing goes quite bit beyond that. It'sclearly an infringement on the freedom of contract. And it's a sweeping, invasive, expansion of government power to enshrine in the state constitution a ban that, by the way, is already law in Virginia.
Of course, if it brings votes to George Allen and makes it clear that gay people and unwed relationships aren't welcome in the Old Dominion, it'll have served its purpose.
KFC, one step ahead of New York City's Board of Health, announced today that it is eliminating trans fats from its menu, a process it expects to complete by April. It will use soybean oil instead of partially hydrogenated vegetable fat for frying. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which this year sued KFC in D.C. for not posting conspicuous enough trans fat warnings (and today said it was dropping the suit), no doubt would like to take credit for the switch, but KFC says it's been in the works for a few years. Fried chicken will still be just as fattening, of course, and publicity surrounding KFC's switch may even lead to greater consumption of it—in which case I'm sure CSPI will be ready with a new lawsuit, charging that the elimination of trans fats was a ploy designed to trick customers into believing the chain's food is good for you.
Update: Litigation enthusiast John "Sue the Bastards" Banzhaf, who brags that he "started the fat lawsuit movement," has issued a press release (not online) asserting that "the eighth fat lawsuit has just been successful," referring to CSPI's now-retracted complaint against KFC. Aside from the temporal impossibility of causing a change in KFC's menu that has been in the works for at least two years by filing a lawsuit last June, note the ambiguous use of fat. The case had nothing to do with obesity, and to date no one has successfully sued a restaurant for making him fat. But the CSPI case did involve cooking fat, as did the lawsuit about the beef tallow that Hindus and vegetarians were (understandably) upset to discover in their McDonald's French fries after the chain had supposedly switched to vegetable oil. That case, which was cooked up by Banzhaf's law school students, is also on his list of "successful fat lawsuits."
My friend's Aunt Sally was in a queue and this Middle Eastern-looking bloke in front of her dropped his wallet. When she gave it back to him, he told her to avoid central London on Saturday because something big might happen. Tell as many people as you can.
That's a British version of a durable urban legend. On this side of the sea, a terror-wary friend of mine once warned me about the dangers of staying in Baltimore one weekend; I assume alternate versions exist for Youngstown, Selma, and Duluth. Snopes has collected some more variations, some of which predate 9/11, and it notes that traces of the tale may go back to the Middle Ages.
According to the BBC, the U.K.'s former Home Secretary treated it as a serious piece of intelligence:
An entry in his newly-published diary reveals how he had spoken to an old school friend, who had heard the story involving the return of a wallet to an Arab man and a warning not to be in London on 11 November.
"I immediately registered the significance of this," Blunkett wrote at the time. "The 11th of November is Armistice Day, the one day in the year when all leading politicians from the three parties, the Queen, other members of the Royal family, and the leading personnel of the armed services are in the same place at the same time - a known time, in central London.
"I decided that I should at least tell Tony Blair as it was absolutely clear that nobody had fully thought through the significance.
"We agreed there was no way we could possibly cancel Armistice Day, but we were certainly going to have to take increased precautions."
In other news, President Bush has cancelled an appearance in New Orleans for fear that someone will steal his kidneys.
Over at the New York Post Nick Gillespie raises a glass to Sam Adams, the founding father (or at least founding uncle) whose revolutionary contributions have been overlooked.
The New York City Board of Health, which is mulling a trans fat ban, is also considering a requirement that restaurants serving food "for which calorie content information is publicly available" make the information more conspicuous by including it on menus and menu boards. The rule would apply only to restaurants, such as McDonald's, KFC, Subway, and Dunkin' Donuts, that already provide calorie counts online, in printed handouts, or on posters. Hence the problem it would solve is not that customers can't get calorie information if they want it but that they can avoid it if they choose to do so. Restaurants that offer a plethora of ordering options, such as Starbucks and Domino's Pizza, are worried that they will be expected to provide calorie counts for every variation (which might require a menu board wrapping around all four walls) or that they will be held liable for accidental inaccuracies due to an extra half-squirt of whipped cream or an errant pepperoni slice. Such daunting possibilities may have the unintended consequence of discouraging restaurants from providing calories counts at all, since they could avoid the menu board mandate by declining to make the information "publicly available" in the first place.
When after all, you know it was you and me...
Actually, according to The New York Post (via USA Today's Pop Candy), it was Comedy Central, which also yanked clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report along with South Park:
Users of YouTube who had posted Comedy Central clips in the past said they received emails late Friday from the site informing them that, if they did it again, it would "result in the deletion of your account."
YouTube - a year-old web site that offers video clips of homemade films but also is the go-to site for countless snippets taken from commerical TV - has had copyright trouble in the past. But this appears to be the largest purge to date at the site.
From the beginning, TV companies - including Comedy Central - looked the other way when their stuff showed up on YouTube. Many saw it as promotion for their shows. "Getting it off the Internet is no different than getting it off TV," Stewart told an interveiwer recently.
YouTube's acquisition last month by Internet giant Google for $1.6 [b]illion, it seems.
With TV networks losing more audience and advertisers each day to the Internet, they are less willing to let it pass now that Google is behind the site.
More on that here. Given the way that major content companies work, the real question is not, why is this happening now? but why did it take so long? Curiously, as South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker told a Reason audience in Amsterdam in August, they have no problem with distribution outlets such as YouTube. (Their exact comments on the matter will be part of an excellent interview running in the December issue of Reason, on newsstands in a week or so; see what you miss when you don't subscribe already?). They (correctly) understand that outlets such as YouTube help to grow (or maintain) the audience for stuff, the same as the old outlaw version of Napster did. In the short run, it might seem like a good idea to make it harder for fans to access stuff they like, but it's really no winner for anyone in the long haul.
The neighborhood of what was all too briefly my Old Dominion home is blanketed with Webb and Allen posters, but was still late getting to the season's dumbest election story: penisinthemouthgate In case you missed it, Sen. George Allen has unleashed a library-clearing broadside against challenger James Webb, the decorated Vietnam veteran and former Navy secretary whose military novels contain such racy passages as a reference to a woman who pees standing up ("Didn't lose a drop, either. Not a drop"), a stripper who can cut a banana "in four equal sections by the muscles of her vagina," and this bit that has captured the hearts and minds of all Americans:
"A shirtless man walked toward them along a mud pathway. His muscles were young and hard, but his face was devastated with wrinkles. His eyes were so red that they appeared to be burned by fire. A naked boy ran happily toward him from a little plot of dirt. The man grabbed his young son in his arms, turned him upside down, and put the boy's penis in his mouth."
"Most Virginians and Americans would find passages such as those below shocking," Allen says, raising the question of what most Virginians would find above shocking. Allen's Great Books crusade has already been good for hundreds of breathless news stories and has already generated the inevitable unintended hilarity: Lynne Cheney's battle to suppress her own steaming-hot-lesbo novel Sisters. Even Hit & Run commenter "ex-subscriber" has got his or her panties in a knot about Webb's purple prose. Maybe I'm jaded, but the perverse stuff seems like standard issue sailor talk (wake me up when a stripper can peel and cut a banana with her pussy muscles), and the descriptive parts sound pretty much like the ham-handed "toward dawn, he took her again" passages you usually find in books like this. Maybe Webb's a misogynist, but based on these passages I'd say if anything he shows a healthy respect for the power and versatility of female plumbing.
What to make of it all? Reason's own Radley Balko points the way on his blog, noting that the boy's-penis passage (which even in Allen's invidious out-of-context quote reads like the piece of oddball local color it obviously is) actually draws attention to something Allen should probably be downplaying-that Webb actually served in Vietnam. I am not a James Webb supporter (the only thing I'm hoping for the Democrats to deliver in two weeks is divided government), but he's the closest thing to a renaissance man American politics offers at the moment: a decorated veteran, a high-level government official in various capacities, a highly praised novelist (the only one I've read is Fields of Fire, which I liked a lot), a popular historian with a prominent book about the Scots-Irish to his credit, and so on.
Against this, Allen is arguing, as Jeff Taylor noted a while back, that he should be re-elected because he's a moron. Based on the positive reaction this desperate attack on Webb is getting, it looks like that argument may be good enough. That's more disturbing than anything in James Webb's novels.
Brother, have you seen thousands of guns the U.S. provided to Iraqis?
The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, according to a federal report.
The U.S. military did not even take the elementary step of recording the serial numbers of weapons provided to Iraqis, the inspector general found, making it impossible to track or identify any that might have fallen into the wrong hands.Exactly where untracked weapons could end up was not examined in the report, although black-market arms dealers thrive on the streets of Baghdad and official Iraqi Army and police uniforms can easily be purchased as well, presumably because government shipments are intercepted or otherwise corrupted.
hundreds of no
clamoring voices demanding to know whether he'd be making a White
House bid, California Republican Duncan Hunter is going to
make the announcement today.
Hunter's ambitions come as a surprise to other Republicans, none of whom had an inkling that he might look to jump into what is likely to be a crowded field for the GOP presidential nomination. But even more shocking is that he would do this a week before the midterm election that may shift control of the House to the Democrats and cost Hunter his chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee. Hunter is running for re-election Nov. 7.
“To say it's curious timing is quite an understatement. It is bizarre,” said Stuart Rothenberg, the editor of an independent political newsletter in Washington. “It does suggest he figures he's going to have some time on his hands, that he won't have to worry about running hearings and fashioning legislation. He must figure one of his Democratic colleagues will be taking care of that.”
Let's assume Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and 40 other Republicans eat some bad clams and keel over. What could we expect from a Duncan Hunter presidency? Probably more stuff like "The Parents' Empowerment Act," the Janet Jackson-tastic law meant "to provide a civil action for a minor injured by exposure to an entertainment product containing material that is harmful to minors, and for other purposes." And maybe we'd finally finish that damn border fence; Hunter introduced the legislation for that last year.
Hypothetical: If 2008 is an all-fourth string battle between Hunter and Mike Gravel, who wins?
As someone who wants to see libertarian Republicans elected (and as someone who wrote a multi-thousand word profile of the man in the newest Reason), I was counting on Rep. Butch Otter rolling to victory in Idaho's governor's race. Well, oops.
Republican and Democratic candidates in a few major Idaho political races are separated by just a few percentage points and virtually tied, according to a new statewide poll published Sunday of 625 voters who said they were likely to cast a ballot Nov. 7.
U.S. Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter, the GOP candidate for governor, is virtually tied with Democrat Jerry Brady, according to the poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., for the Idaho Statesman and KIVI-TV on Oct. 23-25.
In the summer, Otter held a healthy lead over Brady, a newspaper mogul who lost 2002's gubernatorial contest. Less than two months ago he led him 42-18 in one poll. So, uh... what's going on? Is Brady actually getting mileage out of attacking Otter on public land sales? Has he simply out-organized a GOP that's won the governor's office since 1994 and the presidential race since 1968? Or is the national GOP cholera taking out Republicans even in the safest states?
Maybe it's that last one. The Democrats are having something of a Western surge right now, competing for seats that didn't show up on their map six months ago - Washington House seats, Nevada's state house, Colorado's most Republican House seat, Idaho's first congressional district. Dick Cheney is actually coming back home to Wyoming to campaign for his own congresswoman, wannabe Libertarian-slapper Barbara Cubin. Think about that. In the last week of the 2004 campaign, Cheney was trying to poach Hawaii from the Democrats. Now it's a coin flip whether or not his home state will send a Republican to Congress next year.
From a story in Canada's National Post, re: the midterm elections:
History is with the Democrats, as the party holding the White House traditionally loses seats in a president's sixth year. A recent exception was 1998, when public unhappiness over the Republican-led impeachment of U.S. president Bill Clinton helped Democrats gain five House seats.
Polls have shown much larger majorities of voters believe the country is on the wrong track now than in 1994, when Republicans swept Democrats out of House control by picking up 52 seats.
Mr. Bush's approval rating, hovering in the mid to high 30s, also is much lower than Democratic president Bill Clinton's rating in 1994, which was in the mid to high 40s.
"Given the political climate, there seems to be no question there will be bad losses for Republicans," said Amy Walter, a House analyst with the non-partisan Cook Political Report. "The question is: How bad will they be?"
More from "Republicans face biggest test since Nixon" here.
Jacob Sullum straps on his flak jacket and plunges into the War on Fat, finding that the bad guys' most damaging weapon is bad data.