A neat tool allows you to finally answer the questions: How rich are you?:
Every year we gaze enviously at the lists of the richest people in world. Wondering what it would be like to have that sort of cash. But where would you sit on one of those lists? Here's your chance to find out.
The poverty line for a family of four in the United States is $20,000, which makes that family's rank 669,642,941, richer than all but 11.6 percet of people on the planet. The median American household had an income of $43,318 in 2005, which yields a faux-accurate ranking of 132,730,435. Of course, to find out your rank and get the html code for a cool box like mine, you'll have to take a little nagging:
$8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market.
$30 could buy you an ER DVD Boxset OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti.
$73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.
$2400 could buy you a second generation High Definition TV OR schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.
Still, an interesting look at relative poverty statistics.
Yesterday a federal judge in Louisiana rejected a motion to dismiss CEI's lawsuit challenging the Master Settlement Agreement that established a government-backed cigarette cartel for the benefit of state treasuries, trial lawyers, and the leading tobacco companies. The judge's order is here. CEI's complaint and various other documents related to the case are here.
From Nairobi, Ronald Bailey looks hard at the choice between poverty reduction and climate change controls.
Click here to see dozens of vintage animations mashed up with The Communist Manifesto.
Click here to see the opposing point of view.
[First link via bOING bOING. Directed by Jesse Drew, 1996. Second link via the first link. Directed by Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, 1948.]
So what kind of crap is the lame-duck Congress contemplatin' this holiday season? Stuff like House Joint Resolution 96, which recognizes the "contributions of the Christmas tree industry" to the well-being of these United States.
The resolution was introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and concludes after a long litany of industry-loving chestnuts:
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress--
(1) recognizes the important contributions of the live-cut Christmas tree industry, Christmas tree growers, and persons employed in the live-cut Christmas tree industry to the United States economy; and
(2) urges the Secretary of Agriculture to establish programs to raise awareness of the importance of the live-cut Christmas tree industry.
Whole text here.
I'll back that resolution the minute that Congress recognizes the important contribution of illegal immigrants to the growing, harvesting, and bringing-to-market of Christmas trees and other agricultural products. Reason did that last year, in this masterful story about "America's Criminal Immigration Policy" that punishes hard work and splinters families. For an op-ed version of the Christmas tree story, read here.
The rest of the country hasn't caught up yet, but Missouri Republicans now know who is to blame for illegal immigration. Immigrants? No. Businesses? Nah. Aborted fetuses? Bingo.
A Republican-led legislative panel says in a new report on illegal immigration that abortion is partly to blame because it is causing a shortage of American workers.
"We hear a lot of arguments today that the reason that we can't get serious about our borders is that we are desperate for all these workers," [said Rep. Edgar G.H. Emery]. "You don't have to think too long. If you kill 44 million of your potential workers, it's not too surprising we would be desperate for workers."
This requires no further comment, but I'm wondering why a state so worried about a labor shortage just reaffirmed a ban on cloning.
Feds haven't caught the 2001 anthrax mailer, but they've nabbed Chad Castagana.
Federal agents said he had sent more than a dozen letters containing a mysterious white powder to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, "Late Show" host David Letterman and "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart among other high-profile figures. Castagana used aliases such as "William Shatner" and fake return addresses and sent the letters over a three-month period, beginning in September, according to the FBI.
Uh. "William Shatner"? Is it possible this guy is a sci-fi geek?
Why, so it is. Here's a missive he wrote to Sci-Fi.com.
With the passing away of Lexx ends an intriguing albeit smarmy experiment in sci-fantasy. One that breaks with conventions, or should I say, cliches of TV sci-fi of the '90s. The politically correct pabulum, the multicultural indoctrination, the Bladerunner motifs, and not the least—the steroid mutated superbabes that can punch the lights out of men, but never get punched back in return!?
How about creating a new sci-fi anthology with none of the puerile baggage of Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Rockne O' Bannon, etc., etc. It is time to end their reign of Left-wing innuendo, their anti-American, anti-mankind cynicism and fatalism.
Hat tip: Digby.
Most people are still under the quaint assumption that you can't be punished for a crime for which you've been acquitted.
Not true. In cases where a defendant is convicted of some of the charges against him but acquitted of others, the state can pursue a sentence that includes punishment for the acquitted charges.
Yes. You read that correctly. A recent decision from a U.S. district court in Virginia is unusually candid in pointing out the absurdity of the practice, which is apparently pretty common:
After an eleven-day trial, a jury acquitted defendant Michael Ibanga of all of the drug distribution charges against him and one of the two money laundering charges against him in the Indictment. The single count of which defendant Ibanga was convicted typically would result in a Guidelines custody range of 51 to 63 months. However, the United States demanded that the Court sentence defendant Ibanga based on the alleged drug dealing for which he was acquitted. This increased the Guidelines custody range to 151 to 188 months, a difference of about ten years. …
What could instill more confusion and disrespect than finding out that you will be sentenced to an extra ten years in prison for the alleged crimes of which you were acquitted? The law would have gone from something venerable and respected to a farce and a sham.
From the public’s perspective, most people would be shocked to find out that even United States citizens can be (and routinely are) punished for crimes of which they were acquitted.
The opinion itself is refreshingly abrupt and
scathing, and seems to have come from the pen of a pretty fed-up
judge. It includes a history of the right to a jury trial,
and quotes from Dickens.
As Cato's Tim Lynch explains, extra jail time for acquitted charges both encourages prosecutors to over-charge defendants, and encourages defendants to accept plea bargains -- knowing that at trial they could well be sentenced for crimes they didn't commit.
If you're wondering if all of this is a violation of the Sixth Amendment, well, if the Sixth Amendment means anything at all, it most certainly is. But we're talking mostly about drug crimes, here -- where the Bill of Rights doesn't apply.
Techdirt reports that last week's election results could spell doom for the moratorium on new Internet taxes. Not because of the new Democratic majority -- though it's likely they'll go along.
Rather, it's because of a Republican. Former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander has had a decade-long grudge against e-commerce going back to his days as governor of Tennessee. He resented the sales tax receipts his state lost when Tennesseans conducted business via the Series of Tubes. He's fought to lift the moratorium ever since.
Alexander is likely to be elected Minority Whip for the next session, giving him considerable pull over what positions and priorities the GOP caucus will adopt. That's leading to speculation that the moratorium may be dead when it comes up for renewal next year.
During the 2004 and 2006 campaigns, blogger Tim Tagaris built up a reputation on Daily Kos for dishing all the latest news from the campaigns he was working on. From a long-shot House candidate to Bob Casey's liberal challenger to the DNC, Tagaris was snapped up by the Ned Lamont team. Today, as Lieberman continues his 10-mile victory lap around DC, Lamont's blogger-in-chief tells all.
In the days following Joe Lieberman's declaration that he would run as an "independent Democrat" if necessary, activity within the CT Republican Party began to increase as well. Alan Schlesinger himself told Matt Stoller and I he believed a deal was cut between Lieberman and the state Republican Party. Accounts by GOP-insider and outright hack Kevin Rennie seem to validate that claim:
Advisors close to Republican governor Jodi Rell, who tried to get Schlesinger off the ticket last week, are scheming to give Lieberman a safe harbor on the GOP line in exchange for adding his drawing power to what they hope will be Rell's. The potent combination would help three Republican congressmen, constitutional office candidates and some legislative hopefuls.
Indeed, in eighteen days between Joe's announcement and the 21st of the same month, all kinds of opposition research was dumped into the hands of press across the state about Alan Schlesinger. Sources close to Republican Kevin Rennie often signaled the release of "new information" that was supposed to doom Alan's campaign. Next thing you know, the Republican Governor and State Party Chair essentially calling for Schlesinger to drop his bid. There were many wild cards in this election, but the one spoke about most often was Alan's ability to drain votes from Joe ...
So what was the deal? Schlesinger himself believed it had to do with messaging and GOTV. Indeed, the Governor Rell, Rob Simmons, Chris Shays, Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson all started running on similar themes of "reaching across the aisle." A few of them shared phrases like "Team Connecticut." They also shared pollsters who tested messaging ... Joe also campaigned with both Simmons and Johnson, then wouldn't say who he was voting for in the governor's race a few days after declaring he "hadn't thought" much about what party was better off controlling the House of Representatives. Finally, as everyone knew would happen, Joe received around 70% of the Republican vote, and his field effort focused on bringing his base out to the polls, helping the Republican governor and all three incumbents in hot races.
There's much more, including exposes of the opportunism of Barack Obama and the hackishness of the Associated Press.
Dave Weigel dives into the Election 2006 muck, looking for evidence of fraud, dirty tricks, and devilish chicanery -- and comes up empty-handed.
The Sunday New York Times style section finally notices the spread of Burning Man style and Burning Manesque celebration across America's major cities. (For full context, see my book on the history and culture of the event, This is Burning Man.) The story sums up the spread of the Burning Man aesthetic into both advertising and public art:
The Burning Man aesthetic reaches beyond parties to influence public art projects and even advertising and entertainment. “Burning Man is used as an adjective amongst agency art directors now,” said Keith Greco, a production designer who uses fellow Burners as performers or artists for clients like Cirque du Soleil, Sony Pictures and Red Bull. “It’s up there now with ‘Blade Runner’ or Cirque du Soleil. They’ll say, ‘Can you make it a little more Burning-Man-ish?’ ”
It’s fitting that San Francisco — where the first festival took place on a beach in 1986 — now is home to public artworks that originally appeared at Burning Man: “Passage,” a giant scrap-metal sculpture of a mother and child on the Embarcadero; and “Stan, the Submerging Man,” an 18-foot bell diver covered with 45-r.p.m. records that is headed to a park south of Market Street. The works have been paid for in part by the Black Rock Arts Foundation, the official Burning Man arts organization, which has raised $500,000 this year.
It also documents the damage that such spread can do to the insular sense of self and community that often animates subcultues:
As Burning Man’s tentacles stretch outward, some groups have broken away, claiming the mother festival has lost its more confrontational and youthful energy.
“The image that Burning Man has these days is just a bunch of naked 30- to 40-year-olds wearing a bunch of raver lights,” said Ryan Doyle, an artist who is part of the Black Label Bike Club, whose members across the country customize bicycles and style themselves after motorcycle gangs like the early Hells Angels. “That’s not an image anyone who cares about their image would really want to be associated with.”
And the seeping of the Burning Man meme into one's life, as I documented in my book and this New York Times story does as well, goes beyond occasional celebrations, with art collectives forming in many major cities of people who first met at Burning Man, living and making money via Burning Man-style art installations and events.
The most interesting way to look at the Burning Man style, it seems to me, is as a post-industrial return to individuality in cultural production. To be sure, certain cliches have developed in Burning Man "looks," and craftsmen and businesses have begun to arise that semi-mass-produce some of the obvious cultural signifiers of the event and its culture, from wings to electroluminescent wire.
But the central animating principle at Burning Man, from camp structures to art cars to costumes, is individualized production and consumption--an abundant variation that the wealth we built through our mass production economy has allowed us to enjoy. Burning Man is a particularly colorful and excessive example of a beta model of a world we are all more and more living in, where our choices in what to wear, drive, make, and do--and ways to live and thrive--get more and more individualized and varied and wild. The Henry Ford economy, where we can get any color we like as long as it's black, is over. We are all, with increased wealth and improved technologies and motivated by economic liberty, moving into what we could justly call the Burning Man economy--where we have the wealth and time and techniques and beliefs to make everything exactly as we want it, bottom up instead of top down, individualized instead of standardized, in communities of both work and play that are more intentional than accidental.
If you hear any gay Americans chanting "Uhuru Sasa!" today, this is why:
[South Africa's] Parliament today approved the controversial Civil Unions Bill, which provides for same-sex marriage, the first African country to do so and one of only a few in the world.
The bill provides for opposite-sex and same-sex couples of 18 years or older to solemnise and register a voluntary union, either by marriage or civil partnership.
Same-sex couples can be married by civil marriage officers and such religious marriage officers who consider such marriages not to fall outside the tenets of their religion.
Stanley Kurtz hasn't weighed at length in yet, presumably confusing his peers by shaving his head and mumbling orders to "exterminate the brutes."
Great to see the Democrats are beginning to think hard about the hows of getting out of Iraq. It seems they also need to think hard about ways to stay out of Iran, with Israeli Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu telling the United Jewish Communities General Assembly at their annual meeting that "It's 1938 and Iran is Germany. And Iran is racing to arm itself with atomic bomb. Believe [Iranian leader Ahmadinejad] and stop him. This is what we must do. Everything else pales before this. He is preparing another Holocaust for the Jewish state."
Ahmadinejad for his part announced today that in his estimation the world has "finally agreed to live with a nuclear Iran, with an Iran possessing the whole nuclear fuel cycle," and that he hoped "to hold the big celebration of Iran's full nuclearization in the current year." I somehow doubt much of the Western world will be happy partyers at that "big celebration."
How might the new congressional majority react to events unfolding in Iran? New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at least back in May 2005, took a pretty tough line against Iran's nuclear ambitions, saying in a speech to AIPAC:
"The greatest threat to Israel's right to exist, with the prospect of devastating violence, now comes from Iran. For too long, leaders of both political parties in the United States have not done nearly enough to confront the Russians and the Chinese, who have supplied Iran as it has plowed ahead with its nuclear and missile technology.
"Proliferation represents a clear threat to Israel and to America. It must be confronted by an international coalition against proliferation, with a commitment and a coalition every bit as strong as our commitment to the war against terror.
"The people of Israel long for peace and are willing to make the sacrifices to achieve it. We hope that peace and security come soon - and that this moment of opportunity is not lost. As Israel continues to take risks for peace, she will have no friend more steadfast that the United States.
"In the words of Isaiah, we will make ourselves to Israel 'as hiding places from the winds and shelters from the tempests; as rivers of water in dry places; as shadows of a great rock in a weary land.'
The United States will stand with Israel now and forever. Now and forever."
The "strong as our commitment to the war against
terror" part certainly makes it sound as if the next Speaker of the
House has no problem with a military response to a potentially
nuclear Iran. Both parties may well have their own quagmires to
deal with (tho the Dems don't entirely deserve a pass on the Iraq
one either) come 2008.
Cato's Jim Harper and Tim Lee of the Show-Me Institute plan to publish a peer-produced paper on....peer production.
One vote that didn't get a lot of attention last week: Seattle passed an initiative, sponsored by a group called Citizens for More Important Things, to end public subsidies for pro sports.
Taneytown, MD (distance from Mexican border: about 1800 miles) has drawn a line in the sand and declared English its official language.
The Taneytown resolution, which calls for all city government business to be conducted in English except where prohibited by state or federal law, was submitted this summer by Councilman Paul E. Chamberlain Jr.
"This issue is not about giving up your native tongue," Chamberlain said during last night's council meeting. "All we are asking is, if you become a U.S. citizen, you learn to speak English. What is so controversial about making English our official language?"
Even if the Congress and president end up signing a path to legalization, it seems likely that most states and towns are going to progressively mandate English-only until (or if) courts smack them back down.
Pictures of the week:
This is bigger than any election on Earth. Indeed, it's practically bigger than Earth, period:
NASA's Cassini spacecraft recently captured these images (taken in visible light [left] and infrared) of a massive hurricane-like storm at Saturn's south pole, the first such phenomenon ever spotted on another planet.
Much like an Earth-bound hurricane, the storm features a well-developed central eye and columns of towering clouds. But this cyclone could not only dwarf any Earthly storm, it could also virtually swallow the Earth itself, measuring a monstrous 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) across.
The cyclone is swirling over the pole at 350 miles (550 kilometers) an hour, whipping up Saturn's ammonia clouds at speeds much higher than the winds inside Jupiter's Great Red Spot.
From ABC News, a report on the Dems' plan for getting the hell out of Iraq:
What phased withdrawal would mean, according to Sen. Carl Levin, who after January will be the powerful chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is that the president would tell the Iraqi government that U.S. troops would start slowly redeploying out of Iraq, into an advisory role while they are in-country, and with a lot fewer of them there.
"Most Democrats share the view that we should pressure the White House to commence the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq in four to six months -- to begin that phased redeployment, and thereby to make it clear to the Iraqis that our presence is not open-ended and that they must take and make the necessary political compromises to preserve Iraq as a nation," Levin said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves.
"They, and they alone, are going to decide whether they're going to have a nation or whether they're going to have an all-out civil war," he said. "We have given them the opportunity, at huge cost of blood and treasure, to have a nation, should they choose it. But it is up to them, not us, not our brave and valiant troops -- it's up to the Iraqi leadership: Do they want a civil war or do they want a nation?"
Levin says he's got somewhere over 40 votes in the Senate for this pretty vague ("a lot fewer" troops? what does that mean actually?), including some Republicans, but is short of a clear majority. More here.
Yesterday, Dave Weigel pointed out that the two top dogs in the hunt for the role of House Majority Leader are the underwhelming Reps. John Murtha (Pa.) and Steny Hoyer (Md.).
Presumptive Speaker o' the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has pushed the idea that the Dem-controlled Congress would be ethically cleaner than, well, Murtha's plate at a Golden Corral buffet, has put her backing behind the Pennsylvania vet. Who unfortunately has a pretty spotty record when it comes to charges of corruption. The Wash Post reports:
Some Democratic lawmakers and watchdog groups say they are baffled that Pelosi would go out of her way to back Murtha's candidacy after pledging to make the new 110th Congress the most ethical and corruption-free in history.
Murtha, a longtime senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, has battled accusations over the years that he has traded federal spending for campaign contributions, that he has abused his post as ranking party member on the Appropriations defense subcommittee, and that he has stood in the way of ethics investigations. Those charges come on top of Murtha's involvement 26 years ago in the FBI's Abscam bribery sting.
Abscam? Gee-zus, there's a trip down memory lame, what with FBI agents dressing up like Arab sheiks even less convincingly than John Saxon (born Carmine Orrico) would later do on Dynasty. The Murth was an "unindicted co-conspirator" in that laff-filled sting operation. Though as Conservative News Service points out--with nary an axe to grind, natch--that's not the only shady grove in the congressman's past.
Whole Post dispatch here. With the Dems stumbling out of the blocks (don't forget that the Jane Harman-Pelosi feud is likely promote impeached former judge Alcee Hastings to the top of House Intelligence Committee), it may well be glorious gridlock 'til '08.
The gag wasn't funny to former TV producer Dharma Arthur, who claims she was duped into giving Cohen airtime on a morning-show segment in Jackson, Miss. Cohen's live appearance, in which he said he had to go "urine" and hugged a weatherman, led her life into a downward spiral, Arthur said, and she wants an apology.
There is this small detail in the Arthur case: "Although Arthur has said she was fired from the show, she later said she left the station."
More tales of anti-Borat sentiment here.
New York Times columnist John Tierney has filed his final piece for the paper's op-ed page. I can't link to it, though, because it's behind the TimesSelect wall. And therein lies a possible reason why Tierney is cutting his tenure short - he had the bad luck to launch the column just as the company was cutting off access to its site, limiting the impact Tierney's stories could have.
Whatever they do the next two years, I won’t be here to kick them around. This is my last column on the Op-Ed page. I’ve enjoyed the past couple of years in Washington, but one election cycle is enough. I’m returning full time to the subject and the city closest to my heart: science and New York. I’ll be writing a column and a blog for the Science Times section.
I hate to abandon my libertarian comrades here fighting in the belly of the beast, but this is the right moment to leave. After six years of libertarians reluctantly electing Republicans as the lesser of two evils, we’ve finally had enough. We’ve voted out big-government conservatism, and the result is the happy state of gridlock. For now, our work is done. See you in January in a new column on a new page.
A little more than a year ago Julian Sanchez interviewed Tierney about his gig.
Cathy Young steadies her nerves for a look back at the scare tactics of campaign 2006.
...well, maybe, exploring his options, yada yada. But the official exploratory committee for Giuliani for Prez 08 has been formed.
Giuliani joins Duncan Hunter as the only GOP presidential candidate to officially launch such a committee.
Tim Cavanaugh assessed the Rudy legend for us back in our November 2005 issue. An excerpt worth contemplating:
Giuliani's success, particularly his broad definition of "quality of life" issues and offenses, poses a serious utilitarian challenge to civil libertarians. In describing Giuliani's early campaign against squeegee men and his later efforts against turnstile jumpers, public urinators, and other petty lawbreakers, Siegel notes that a large percentage of these people also had outstanding warrants for much more serious crimes--that in fact a great portion of the city's rapid drop in violent crime rates came from tougher enforcement aimed at these sorts of minor offenses. A similar argument is already shaping up over the NYPD's new bag-searching policy in the subway, whose defenders are almost certainly keeping track of the number of serious criminals (not just potheads) apprehended as a by-product of the searches. Those of us who don't want random police searches to become a constant feature of American life had better be prepared to respond to that challenge.
Cavanaugh also notes that Rudy was not unique in his fabled turning around of a tough town; San Diego and Jersey City saw similar crime downturns--indeed, the nation as a whole, during the years 1994-2001 that Rudy reigned saw violent crime rates fall by more than half, from 51.2 to 24.7 victimizations per 1,000 people, and I'm pretty sure as nifty as Rudy may be, he wasn't responsible.
Blog ping pong may not be the ideal way to hash out the fundamental differences between conservative and libertarian approaches to tradition and fallibilism, so let me just restrict myself to a couple quick comments on Jonah Goldberg's response to my post of last Friday . (Jonah's original review is now online, by the way.)
First, Jonah notes (correctly enough) that however much I celebrate the relentless internal scrutiny of science, I'm still "certain" that "science is better than voodoo" and that liberal pluralism is preferable to totalitarian theocracy. But that was precisely my point. Jonah thinks that attending to our own fallibility, emphasizing the need for humility and doubt, will leave us too timorous to defend our own values. But a robust confidence in the meta-structures of scientific inquiry, on the one hand, and liberal democracy, on the other, is not just compatible with such a skeptical attitude, it depends upon it. Jonah's own argument is actually of the same form: He's essentially giving process-based reasons to think longstanding traditions are sound, even though, from our necessarily limited perspective, they will often seem prima facie irrational.
Second, I'll allow that describing Jonah's view as a demand to "freeze" culture is a bit of a caricature—albeit one that the institutional clarion call "stand athwart history yelling stop!" might be thought to invite. The real question, then, is when to defer and when to mutate. Hayek provides some guidance here, suggesting a preference for "immanent" criticism over wholesale rationalist redesign—a paradigm example being Frederick Douglass' "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro," which argued that America was already implicitly committed to racial equality. I think it's significant (to return to where this all started) that Andrew Sullivan chose conscience, itself an evolved and culturally permeated faculty, as the proper lodestone. And, since Jonah's picked the example of gay marriage, I'll point out that the argument for including gay couples didn't drop out of the blue: It proceeds from familiar and deeply rooted liberal principles of equality under the law, and a shared understanding of the importance (for many people, anyway) of marriage to a fullfilled human life, combined with the relatively recent recognition that homosexuality is not, in fact, a species of mental illness. It is not obviously more dramatic than various other institutional adaptations marriage has undergone over the last few centuries—arguably less so, since the change involves only a small fraction of the population. My goal here is not to kick off yet another debate over gay marriage, about which I've written plenty already, but to point out that the theoretical framework Jonah's appealing to doesn't justify just a general deference to tradition per se, but rather a wariness toward projects of wholesale, ground up reconstruction—replacing marriage societywide with Na-style sibling clusters, say.
Finally, under the headline "Julian, Me and Justin Makes Three," Jonah links to a post in which "Justin Katz tries to get between me and Julian Sanchez." Jonah, I'm flattered, even a little curious, but you're a married man. Still, let me just address one qualm about the analogy between skeptical science and liberal societies. Katz doubts it will go through because while scientists have the shared goal of improving science (let this rather rosy view of actual scientists' motivations pass for the moment), the diverse members of a liberal society are trying improve their own lives. So let me make explicit what I was implicitly gesturing at in the original post: See Mill for the full argument there. With Mill and Nozick, I very much doubt there will be a One Best Way of Life if "Way" is understood to involve much detail, but also expect that people's self-interested "experiments in living" provide publicly benificial information without that being anyone's explicit intention.
Update: Well, I'd hoped I could get away with just outsourcing the meat of the argument here to Mill, as it's both familiar and unlikely to benefit tremendously from my paraphrase. But since Katz's follow-up post concludes I must not have understood his original objection, I suppose a bit of elaboration's in order. Nothing about the picture I'm painting here requires (as we do expect in science) convergence on some one or few models. This is possible, but I find it highly unlikely, and I imagine the optimal mix will change as conditions and populations do. All that's required is that people be similar enough that exposure to a variety of other people's "experiments in living" provides data to people trying to shape their own lives, whether or not they draw the same lessons from that data. If the result of this were, as Katz proposes, large numbers of people embracing Catholic sexual ethics over time, while I doubt I'd find this particularly congenial personally, I don't think it'd affect my attitude toward the general process, the point of which is not to produce the aggregate scenario I personally find most congenial.
A children's book about little boy who can't win a dogsled race because of global warming is making the rounds at the UN Climate Change Conference in Kenya, where our own Ron Bailey is standing by. The book, called Tore and the Town on Thin Ice, is trickling through the usual "outraged conservative" circles after being promoted as the "Majority Fact of the Day" today on the webpage of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
But the real outrage is just how bad the book is. The art is confusing and smeary (see the whole book here [PDF]), while the dialogue is peculiarly tone deaf. I can only hope that the book was originally written in another language:
Tore went to bed early that night, his head spinning with the news he’d heard. Soon Sedna appeared.
“What’s happening, Sea Mother?” blurted Tore. “What can we do? And how can I help?”
“That’s the spirit,” said Sedna. “You can be my strongest ally.”
“Think for a moment: What makes the modern world possible? What runs cars and snowmobiles, makes electricity for computers and factories, heats houses and schools?”
“Well, energy. Mostly oil and coal, I guess.” ...
“Rich countries use—and waste—an awful lot of energy. Huge cars. Too many cars instead of efficient trains and buses. Lights and machines that take more electricity than necessary. Heaters and air conditioners that run even when they’re not needed….”
Tore should go into Wikipedia as the illustration for the entry on mission creep.
Katherine Mangu-Ward looks at the Election 2006 shortcomings of the online futures markets.
Well, that was a nice moment of optimism last week. What's next?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced her support for Rep. John Murtha's (D-PA) Maj Leader campaign last p.m. In a letter, Pelosi writes: "I salute your courageous leadership that changed the national debate and helped make Iraq the central issue of this historic election."
According to various media accounts and Hotline sources, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) leads the race with 39 public commitments to Murtha's 15. Neither camp has released a public list of supporters. To see Pelosi's full letter backing Murtha and a list of members who have publicly declared their support, skip past the jump.
Meanwhile, Pelosi put the kibosh on Rep. Jane Harman's (D-CA) hopes of chairing the Intel cmte, meaning that Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) is the next-most senior Dem in line to take the chair. The move, according to Washington Post's Weisman, is a decision "pregnant with personal animus."
Say what you will about Newt Gingrich, especially since he got
conked on a head by a copy of The Gathering Storm and
decided to declare WWIII on Muslimoterrorfascistnogoodniks. When he
took over the House, he followed through on reforms that ended,
perhaps forever, the era of Methuselah-spry congressmen running
committees for decade after decade. Pelosi's first move in power is
to scratch the back of the guy who helped whip her leadership
victory back in 2002. In other words, repeating Gingrich's
dumbest move from his first, embryonic days in the
Speakership, when he tried to get revenge on Tom DeLay, who had
opposed his original bid for GOP leader, and failed.
Neither Murtha (32 years in the House) nor Hoyer (20 years) is the kind of leader who'll follow through on the Democrats' promises to clean up Congress or balance the budget. Hey, GOP: As long as you don't choose Joe Barton, you can win us back.
Two University of South Carolina fraternity members featured in Borat are suing 20th Century Fox, saying they were tricked into making asses of themselves. I'm sure Borat's producers were less than completely forthright in describing the movie, which is, after all, a fake documentary featuring a fictional Kazakh TV reporter. But the students' main complaint seems to be that they were plied with liquor and therefore "engaged in behavior that they otherwise would not have engaged in." If you see the movie and hear both what they say and the manner in which they say it (pining for the days of slavery, casually referring to sneaky Jews who always manage to get the upper hand, bragging of screwing and screwing over women), it's hard to be sympathetic. Contrary to what Mel Gibson claims, this sort of stuff is not spontaneously generated by alcohol.
Rick Santorum, seemingly miffed at all the favorable attention his concession speech received, has reverted to his familiar "arrogant schmuck" stance.
A New York Times column by David Brooks spurred his latest bout of self-reflection. It hailed Santorum's work on poverty, and one line in particular struck him: "If Mr. Santorum were pro-choice, he'd be a media star and a campus hero."
"I would be Barack Obama," Santorum said. "Instead, I am part of the haters club."
Santorum doesn't seem to remember when the backlash against him began. Hint: It wasn't about abortion.
The $2.4 million house that J. Brian O'Neill Sr. bought for his son is allowed only six unrelated residents under zoning laws. But if it's a residence for a "religious community," the number jumps to 15.
The solution? The Apostles of O'Neill. That's the name the young men used Oct. 2 when they filed paperwork to incorporate as a nonprofit religious organization.
O'Neill, who according to his Facebook page "doesn't really read much," is even hosting meetings with concerned citizens:
With a poster of porn star Jenna Jameson as a backdrop during the meeting, everyone avoided the subject of the Apostles and stuck to polite talk about such things as proper landscaping and noise, people who attended said.
Outside of changing course in Iraq, I think it’s fairly obvious that there really isn’t one — especially when it comes to domestic policy. And here’s a pretty good reason to be skeptical about any claims made on the basis of the Democrats’ popular-vote margin in the Senate: Almost all of it came from safe seats in California, New York and Massachusetts.
This is true - Dianne Feinstein, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Kennedy won by landslides totalling over 4 million votes, and the Democrats got 6.6 million more Senate votes than Republicans. But you can spot the Democrats another million votes in Indiana. They didn't challenge iconic Sen. Richard Lugar, and he racked up 1.16 million votes against a Libertarian (hooray) who scored 170,000. Spot them another million votes in Texas, where Kay Bailey Hutchison mutilated a hapless Democratic lawyer by a 1.1 million vote margin. The Democrats nominated placeholders who got creamed in Mississippi, Wyoming, and Utah, but those states are so vote-poor that they basically cancel out the Democratic landslides in North Dakota, Nebraska and West Virginia. So split the difference and the Democrats came out of the election with around 4.5 million more votes than Republicans in competitive races. Compared to George W. Bush's epochal 3 million vote margin in 2004, not too shabby for Chuck Schumer and crew.
Of course the better gauge of a national party's strength is how they fared in the 435 House districts, and Democrats won there by between 7 and 10 points, depending on how you count uncontested races. But isn't this moot anyway? When the Republican president proclaims it a "thumpin'," let's call it a thumpin' and move on.
The New York Times says drafts of the Iraq strategy commission's report prepared by its staff were not shared with members of the panel prior to the elections:
“I guess the thinking was that anything that gets circulated before the election would get leaked, and one side or the other might use that for electoral purposes,” said one member, who was granted anonymity because the commission is supposed to operate in secrecy.
Ronald Bailey revvs up the engines for his jaunt to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Tech-savvy Georgia backbencher Jack Kingston wants to be the
Republican Conference Chairman, the third ranked Republican in the
House. To boost his candidacy he posted one of his trademark
YouTubes, promising to "work hard on one-minute speeches" and,
presumably, fast-moving web videos that can't spell real
Credit the guy for spelling "Ramesh Ponnuru" right and "Donald Rumsfeld" wrong. If you're going to make a mistake, make it politically correct.
(HT: Kathryn Jean Lopez, whom it must be noted is backing the oozy Jeff Sessions in a Senate leadership fight.)
Wired's Mark Anderson hunkered down with internet sleuths and came out with this amusing snapshot of internet censorship in the third world. Surprise! It's incredibly shoddy.
Sometimes a censoring government tries to conceal its filtering behind spoofed web-browser error messages. [OpenNet Initiative] discovered that Tunisia, for instance, masks filtered pages by serving a mockup of Internet Explorer's 404 error page. These supposed error pages stood out, because ONI doesn't use IE.
"Rather than getting a page that says 'This page has been blocked,' you get a page saying 'Page not found,' designed to look exactly like the Internet Explorer 404 page," said Cairo-based ONI consultant Elijah Zarwan.
In India, the taxman has a new weapon:
Tax authorities in one Indian state are attempting to persuade debtors to paying their bills -- by serenading them with a delegation of singing eunuchs....
The eunuchs collected about 400,000 rupees on their first day of work, authorities said, sharing 16,000 rupees (£188) amongst themselves.
The BBC attributes the eunuchs' success to the fact that they "are feared and reviled in many parts of India, where some believe they have supernatural powers." I suspect it has more to do with good old-fashioned shame, and perhaps the subtle reminder that the government could always take more.
The "one-pager" outlines why, in his view, the losses were not particularly extraordinary and therefore not a repudiation of Bush: The loss of 28 House seats and six Senate seats is roughly comparable to losses suffered by the party in the White House in the sixth year of other presidencies and the same as the average wartime midterm.
Yep, and the subpoenas soon to be churning out of the Waxman office are going to be roughly comparable to the subpoenas hitting every sixth year White House. It all sounds like a complicated way of explaining away why the GOP is weaker at every level (although conservatives are stronger in the federal judiciary) than it was when Bush was elected.
Farhad Manjoo at Salon has a writeup on Bully, a game we're sure to hear more about now that Joe Lieberman has nagged his way into a fourth term and Hillary needs some wedge issues. The game by the makers of Grand Theft Auto and the Warriors isn't violent or explicitly sexual - a judge who reviewed the game judged it less salacious than what appears on prime time TV. That isn't enough for scolds.
Critics allege, however, that even if "Bully" is less graphically violent than other things kids might play, watch or listen to, its specific storyline sounds alarm bells. Among the social messages that a player might take away from the game is that a good way to handle bullies is to fight back. That's a dangerous lesson, says Barbara Coloroso, author of "The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander," a kind of self-help book for victimized kids and their parents. What Coloroso -- who lives in Littleton, Colo. -- worries about is "the bullied bully who strikes back" after years of being taunted. "And when you begin to look at Eric and Dylan, you see that's what happened," she says, referring to the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, which has become the trump card for the anti-"Bully" lobby.
Back in 2003, Jesse Walker looked at the birth of video games as an artful medium.
The depleted House Republican caucus, a minority in the next Congress, convenes at 8 a.m. in the Capitol Friday on the brink of committing an act of supreme irrationality. The House members blame their leadership for tasting the bitter dregs of defeat. Yet, the consensus so far is that, in secret ballot, they will re-elect some or all of those leaders.
In private conversation, Republican members of Congress blame Majority Leader John Boehner and Majority Whip Roy Blunt in no small part for their midterm election debacle. Yet, either Boehner, Blunt or both are expected to be returned to their leadership posts Friday. For good reason, the GOP often is called "the stupid party."
Meanwhile, our new overlords aren't any better. Nancy Pelosi is moving ahead with her plan to pass over Rep. Jane Harman for House Intelligence Committee in favor of Rep. Alcee Hastings, a former federal judge impeached for taking bribes. The decision apparently boils down to little more than a catfight between Pelosi and Harman. No word yet on what the speaker-to-be plans to do with Rep. Mollohan and his seat on the Appropriations Committee.
Veronique de Rugy whistles as she walks past the Federal Budget, where boondoggles go to die.
Russ Feingold, the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, says he won't try for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.
The Washington Post profiles Stan Jones, the Montana libertarian, more commonly known as "the blue guy."
For all the ridicule he's endured for his smurfish complexion, Jones very likely siphoned enough votes from Republican Conrad Burns to tilt the Montana senate race to Jon Tester, and the U.S. Senate to the Democrats (more importantly, he sent the insufferable Michael Medved into a fit of apoplexy).
It's heartening to see the GOP's neglect of its libertarian wing come back to bite the party in the ass. That the poster-boy for the LP's unfortuanate bent toward whack-jobbery did the deed makes it all the sweeter.
“C.S.R. is a misguided attempt by a subcategory of business managers to deal with the crisis of corporate legitimacy,” said Isaac Post of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Russell Roberts, an economist at George Mason University, said: “Doesn’t it make more sense to have companies do what they do best, make good products at fair prices, and then let consumers use the savings for the charity of their choice?”
What can they mean, these strange men with their strange anti-CSR thoughts? The Times breaks it down:
Their essential point is that companies are simply not equipped to “save the world” -- nor is it their mission. That’s what governments are supposed to do.
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Once a voice of restraint and reason, Sullivan now specializes in shrill panic: mercurial ranting full of operatic arguments, steeped in bad faith, aimed at people he once praised (including yours truly). Agreement with Sullivan bespeaks courageous enlightenment, disagreement advertises that you are a knave or ideological lickspittle.
Live by the shrill, die by the shrill, Jonah. I like Sullivan, and his writing has many virtues, but as I'm scarcely the first to note, the sense of doubt and fallibilism he's now advocating as central to conservatism has not always been one of them. When he was a booster for this administration and the Iraq war, Andrew was (in print, if not in person) at least as willing to suppose that people who disagreed were moral dunces at best, a threat to civilization itself at worst. He hasn't changed styles; he's changed sides.
As for the main argument of the book, Goldberg has two main beefs. The first is that "evil is rarely defeated by people who are unsure they are right," which Goldberg takes to mean that a "conservatism of doubt" will be too anemic to combat the enemies of liberal modernity: He mocks the idea of a "serious political movement" founded on the slogan "We're not sure!" But I think this misapprehends one paradoxical aspect of the relationship between doubt and confidence. I know, for example, that science proceeds haltingly, that its conclusions are always open to revision, and indeed, that many of the scientific beliefs of the past have been either rejected or developed to accommodate new facts. And this is precisely why I can be so confident in the scientific enterprise in the aggregate: Because I know there are scores of intelligent and skeptical researchers constantly testing and refining its conclusions. I can be fanatical in my defense of liberal societies, not because (like Islamists) I'm sure they have discovered the One Best Way of Life, but because they embody a process that allows fallible people to seek continual improvement.
Second, Jonah takes issue with Andrew's "divinization of conscience," which he casts as an arrogant rejection of tradition. And this brings us back to what I regard as the misreading of Hayek that keeps Jonah in the conservative camp—a point that Nick Gillespie tried to make when they debated a few months back, but I don't think Jonah fully grokked. First, to say we should "rely on tradition" doesn't actually relieve us of the responsibility for making our own moral judgments, for much the same reason the argument that the argument that we need religious texts as a guide to morality doesn't go through. There are multiple traditions to choose from, and multiple strains within each tradition, so an apparent "deference to tradition" always still involves the exercise of one's own judgment. (In the same way that you may outsource your health decisions to a doctor, but you're still responsible for finding a wise doctor.) Moreover, recall that Hayek's argument is meant to show why tradition's evolved rules are likely to produce better results than a wholesale constructivist rationalism. But this argument actually depends on people making use of critical reason, which is quite different. In effect, Jonah wants to say: Look what cultural evolution has produced—great, freeze it! But evolution works because of mutation, variation, and selection, and it's still going on. A tradition that can't accommodate that kind of variation is unlikely to stay adaptive for long.
The American Conservative's Scott McConnell and Daniel McCarthy showed up at Jim Webb's victory rally, so I hauled out the trusty Belkin and recorded a five minute interview.
Check out the magazine's editorial "GOP Must Go," which I make reference to at the start of the chat. And chase that down with Daniel McCarthy's review of a John Wilkes biography which ran in Reason this summer.
Jacob Sullum would be better off if he didn't have to suffer through nutty, nihilistic drug war ads.
In the U.S., an appeals court's decision to overturn a jury's acquittal of three men accused of murder would be condemned as double jeopardy. In Russia, it's greeted as “a hopeful sign for justice and the rule of law."
Here's another reason to hope that Sen. John McCain shuffles into irrelevance - that shibboleth of "campaign finance reform" scolds, the idea that big money can buy elections, fell completely flat in 2006.
The average cost of winning a 2006 House race was about $966,000, based on pre-election finance reports, and $7.8 million for a Senate seat. In all, seven Republican congressional candidates and 33 Democrats managed to win their seats despite being outspent. Carol Shea-Porter, a New Hampshire Democrat, spent the least among outsiders to win a House seat—$123,257 at last report. For the Senate, Montana Democrat Jon Tester was the bargain-buyer, spending $3.8 million to unseat incumbent Conrad Burns.
These numbers are actually distorted by outliers like Hillary Clinton's Presidential windup in New York, where she spent $35.9 million to smash a hapless Republican. In close races, outspent Democrats triumphed over cash-flush Republicans. Jim Webb beat George Allen despite being outspent $13.4 million to $4.2 million. Jon Tester beat Conrad Burns spending $3.8 million to Burns' $7.5 million. Multi-millionaire candidates in Washington, Vermont, Nebraska and Arizona (the latter one a Democrat) all got creamed. And the figure's even more distorted when you factor in the spending of 527s and national party committees, which broke against Democrats.
Two groups of people should be eating crow about this. The first: the Barron's editors who miscalled most of the races, basing their predictions on fundraising. (They called Republican Mark Kennedy the winner in Minnesota. Kennedy lost by 20 points.) The second group: Campaign finance reformers, who've been arguing that we need to get big money out of the system by any extra-constitutional means necessary.
(Side note: the Connecticut Senate race was a
true anomaly this year, as
a cash-flush pro-war incumbent beat a millionaire anti-war
challenger. Dead-ender pro-war columnists are insisting that
this victory was
"the most important" of the year. But let 'em have it. They
need their fantasies.)
Trying to shake off his buyer's remorse, Radley Balko speculates how this election could do some good for limited government.
Obama's new book The Audacity of Hope is selling a hell of a lot of copies:
Since it went on sale Oct. 17, the book has sold 182,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which accounts for about 60 to 70 percent of a new hardcover book’s sales by tracking purchases at large booksellers like Barnes & Noble, online retailers and independent bookstores. Mr. Obama’s publisher, Crown Publishers, said the book is in its seventh printing, with 860,000 copies in circulation.
In it, according to New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani, Obama is very "candid about his youthful struggles: pot, booze and 'maybe a little blow,' he wrote, could 'push questions of who I was out of my mind,' flatten 'out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory.'”
Here's hoping 860,000 more people get annoyed about the continuing low-key hypocrisy of Democratic support for the drug war.
The local government in Beijing is imposing a new "one dog" policy in an effort to combat an outbreak of rabies. In a country where something like 97 percent of dogs are unvaccinated, this solution seems both excessively stringent and not stringent enough. But it may be preferable to the Yunnan Province policy of beating dogs to death as their owners are walking them without even bothering to check for a vaccination certificate. A.P. notes that Chinese attitudes toward dogs, which used to be seen as "a bourgeois affectation" and "hunted as pests," are evolving, which helps explain why the random killings of 50,000 or so aroused broad popular outrage. When I was in China a few years ago, a fellow traveler described a market in Gunagzhou that illustrated the changing status of canines: It sold dogs and cats for pets alongside dogs and cats for food. I suspect the pets get moved to the food section if they don't sell fast enough.
Responding to the "one dog" policy, Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, tells A.P. "the focus should be on rabies vaccination rather than a limitation on the number of dogs in a household," which makes sense to me. But Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, welcomes the "one dog" policy, saying, "It's sad that it comes to this, but for the dogs' sake, restricting people to one dog stops impulse acquisition, encourages better care and will reduce the numbers who are suffering on the streets."
Really? Since China's "one child" policy (combined with the preference for boys) leads to the abandonment of baby girls, it seems to me that the "one dog" policy will have a similar result for dogs, unless we think people are more sentimental about their pets than they are about their children. The restriction is also apt to increase the number of dogs sold as food instead of pets. Does PETA think it's better to be eaten than beaten?
For that matter, how can PETA approve of pet ownership at all? If a chicken slaughterhouse is akin to Auschwitz, surely keeping a dog is akin to slavery. To respect your dog's rights, don't you have to at least give him the option of leaving rather than keeping him locked up? Presumably not, since that would tend to "increase the numbers who are suffering in the street."
The Drug Policy Alliance's detailed postmortem on how things went for drug law sanity at the polls this week. Overall, alas, not so good--especially South Dakota becoming the first state to reject medical marijuana at the ballot box when given the chance.
However, there were some less widely reported nice outcomes in some local races:
In California, voters in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Monica approved local measures making marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority in their cities. Voters in Missoula, Montana and Eureka Springs, Arkansas approved similar measures. In Massachusetts, voters in two legislative districts approved non-binding resolutions in support of making possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil violation subject only to a $100 fine. And in two other Massachusetts legislative districts, voters approved non-binding resolutions in support of legalizing marijuana for medical use. Voters in Albany, California approved an initiative allowing a medical marijuana dispensary to open in the city.
For those looking to see the recriminations begin on what happened with the $400 thousand plus raised and spent by the Michael Badnarik campaign for a House seat from Texas, with only 7,603 votes (4 percent) to show for it, you might find this blog post, starting with a post-election comment from Badnarik's campaign manager Allen Hacker, and its comments thread, worth your time-- from the always very interesting Third Party Watch.
The popular spin on the new Democratic leadership on the Hill - especially popular on Fox News, I notice - is that Democratic power now depends on a rump of conservative Democrats from the plains and the South. This was how Fox correspondent Brian Wilson spun it on "Special Report with Brit Hume."
The House and Senate will be more Democratic next year, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be more liberal. Democratic Pennsylvania Senator-elect Bob Casey says he is a social moderate. He opposes abortion and gun control. In Montana, Jon Tester says he's a fiscal conservative. In Virginia, Jim Webb made his opposition to the Iraq war a key issue, but he was once a Republican and will probably not always vote with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
Leaving aside these inaccurate pictures of Tester and Webb (Both are proudly pro-choice and anti-war), this spin completely forgets the reality of the Hill. Conservative Democrats used to be boxed in because the Republican leadership would schedule votes on conservative issues, peeling them away from their party. Even after Newt Gingrich left for the loftier terrain of Newt.org, the party stuck to his playbook of "70 percent issues" - issues like parental notification on abortion, traditional marriage, and anti-flag burning laws that are supported by more than 70 percent of the country. When they were in trouble, as they were this year, the GOP majority would schedule votes on odious measures like the Flag Protection Amendment and Marriage Definition Amendment and giggle as Democrats scattered.
The new Democratic majority is tired of feeling the pointy side of these wedge issues. It will not schedule votes on this stuff. Congressmen Heath Schuler and Chris Carney, for example, won't ever have to weigh in on a new Marriage Definition Amendment unless there's a legitimate surge of public anger and petitioning on the issue, which there wasn't in the last Congress. The Flag Protection Amendment, which failed by one vote this year, is probably dead forever. Instead, the Democrats will be scheduling votes on their wedge issues, like stem cell research and minimum wage hikes. As Tom Schaller has pointed out, for the first time in 54 years the party that represents the socially conservative South holds the minority of seats, and has no presence in the leadership (apart from black liberal Rep. Jim Clyburn, the new Majority Whip). Social conservatism is a spent force, for now.
Nepal's communist rebels have agreed to lock up their weapons, sequester their soldiers, and join the country's interim government. If it holds, the deal would mean an end to ten years of insurgency. But the government's newest supporters are already pissing off residents in Katmandu:
Hours after Wednesday's agreement was signed, hundreds of people blocked traffic and surrounded a communist office in the capital, Katmandu, to protest orders by the rebels that residents provide their supporters with shelter and food over the coming weekend.
The rebels plan to bring thousands of people to Katmandu for a mass rally Friday at which their top leaders are to speak.
Each Katmandu household will be forced to house, feed, and share awkward dinner table conversation with 10 ex-rebels this weekend.
In his 1999 book Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films, 1945-1970, Ken Smith introduces the oeuvre of Sid Davis with a bit of context:
By the late 1940s social guidance filmmakers were in a quandary. The world they had created in their films was brimming with positive role models and happy endings, but real life was not so clean and simple. In dark alleys and less-desirable neighborhoods there existed a world of unspoken unpleasantness: substance abusers, sexual perverts, juvenile delinquents. Good kids had to be warned of the dangers; bad kids had to be shown the consequences of bad behavior.
Social guidance filmmakers wouldn't make films about such things. As social engineers they believed that kids would imitate what they were shown, hence films should show only uplifting images. As profit-minded businesspeople they feared that films about disagreeable subjects would upset prudish educators, hurting sales for the rest of their product line. It would fall to someone else, an outsider, to get to the grim task of making mental hygiene films about the nasty side of life.
That someone was Sid Davis.
Davis, who just died at age 90, got his start as a Hollywood extra; from 1941 to 1952, he was John Wayne's stand-in, and it was Wayne who lent him the money to start his own production company. His movies painted a nightmarish world of constant danger -- if your kid managed to escape the gay predators who might lurk in any playground or public restroom, they could still be killed in a car wreck or be led ineluctably from pot ("that's jive talk for marijuana") to heroin. Almost anything could be a threat: The key line in his L.A. Times obit is its description of his 1951 film Live and Learn, in which a girl "cuts out paper dolls before she jumps up, trips and impales herself on scissors."
Davis occupies a gray area in mid-twentieth-century America. On the one hand, he was an independent filmmaker with his own vision, shooting ultra-low-budget pictures with few constraints. As Smith wrote, "Society's discomfort with Davis's dark world gave him the freedom to do pretty much what he wanted. No committee of educational advisors oversaw his work, no peer group condemned his excesses." But it was educators who bought his movies, and it was schoolchildren who watched them; his films were frequently narrated by government officials or other authority figures, and they weren't averse to speaking the psychiatric language of the time. Davis might not have been a part of the social-engineering community, but he certainly was part of the social-engineering complex. There's a complicated relationship between the supposedly scientific interventions of credentialed experts and the more nakedly paranoid world of grassroots moral panics. Sid Davis was a bridge from one to the other.
And the movies themselves? You can find a handful of them on YouTube and the Internet Archive. In Smith's words, Davis had "a trancelike style, stripped of anything even remotely approaching drama or human emotion," while his images offered "the visual dynamism of a pancake." That might be the real secret to his success: He managed to make delinquency look boring.
Before the elections, I asked Rep. Jeff Flake why libertarians should vote Republican. I was actually shocked at his no-bullshit admission that they shouldn't.
I think Republicans have by and large gone native. I don’t know how you can conclude otherwise. You look at any measure of spending—overall spending, mandatory, discretionary, non-defense discretionary, non-homeland security spending—whichever way you slice it, the record looks pretty bad. When you look at where we’re heading, with Medicare Part D, it just means that these programs run out of money a lot sooner than they were going to already.
Republicans have adopted the belief or the principle that you spend money to get elected. When I was elected in 2000 it was ingrained in us, and since then it’s been even more so: Here’s how you get reelected, bring home the bacon. You have the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, whose job it is to reelect Republicans, saying in defense of his earmarks that it’s the job of Congress to create jobs.
What didn't come across in print was how physically exhausted Flake was. When I pushed him to say something positive about the GOP, he'd throw his head back and sigh. But in today's Wall Street Journal, Flake extends those arguments; it sounds like victory has liberated him. For example:
During the 1990s, then-Sen. Phil Gramm accurately described U.S. farm policy as "enough to make a Russian Commissar puke." The Republicans assembled the "Freedom to Farm Act," which, starting in 1996, put U.S. farmers on a glide path toward an end to subsidies. Somewhere between the field and the silo, however, we became mired in the political mud. In 2002, we repealed the Freedom to Farm Act and in its place installed the "Farm Security Act" -- those who value the adage about trading freedom for security can pause and shudder here -- with even more lavish subsidies.
Now, with reauthorization of the Farm Bill on the horizon next year, we have to decide whether we will up the ante with Democrats in terms of red state/blue state politics in the heartland, or whether we believe our own rhetoric about free markets. This debate will have implications larger than the fiscal one. Most notably, it will determine if we are serious about the future of free trade.
Read it all; Flake is ready to work to rid the GOP of its current pathetic leadership.
In its election recap, the Washington Post reports the following from the state of West Virginia:
In the 1st District, Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D) survived a year of congressional scandal, defeating state Del. Christopher Wakim (R) to earn a 13th term. Mollohan overcame his dismissal from the House ethics committee, investigations of his real estate dealings and allegations that he used his influence to shift millions of taxpayer dollars to friends and relatives. Mollohan will keep his Appropriations Committee seat.
Throughout the state, any sense of suspense ended for unnamed schools, bridges and dams: Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D) won a ninth term over John Raese (R), positioning Byrd to extend his record as longest-serving U.S. senator and top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.
Here's the challenge: Mollohan is, to say the least, "ethically challenged." There's no sensible reason for him to retain his seat on the most powerful committee in the House of Representatives. If Nancy Pelosi is serious about "draining the swamp," she'll kick Mollohan off the appropriations committee before she pounds her first gavel.
As for Byrd, his history of earmarking excesses makes Ted Stevens look like Ron Paul. Earmarking is little more than legalized corruption. It's buying votes. Not only did Robert Byrd perfect the practice, he's the one who put a "secret hold" on a bill that wouldn't have even eliminated the practice, but would merely have added a bit of transparency to it. Democrats who rightly railed against the "Bridge to Nowhere" can't be taken seriously if they sit back and let Byrd resume diverting millions of taxpayer dollars to wasteful pork projects in West Virginia. Harry Reid should remove him from the Senate Appropriations Committee.
It won't be easy -- Byrd in particular is likely to raise holy hell. But if you're going to change the culture of corruption in Washington, you'd go a long way toward demonstrating your seriousness by starting with your own party.
It would also be nice to see the lefty blogs pick up on this, and give Pelosi and Reid the cover they need to do the right thing.
UPDATE: Several readers have written to point out that Pelosi is set to pass over Rep. Jane Harman to make Rep. Alcee Hastings chair of the Intelligence Committee. Hastings is of course a formal federal judge who was impeached and removed from the bench by a Democratic Congress in 1989 for taking bribes. Apparently, the Congressional Black Caucus is demanding a chairmanship for Hastings to compensate for the loss of influence caused by Rep. William Jefferson's removal from the Appropriations Committee -- also due to corruption.
This, within 72 hours of the election. Meet the new boss...
ANOTHER UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links to this post, calling it a case of libertarian "buyer's remorse." Not exactly. I still think the GOP needed to lose this election. And I'm glad they did. But supporting the Dems in the election doesn't mean we give them a pass now that they've won.
Ronald Bailey attempts to assess the impact stem cell research had on the Republicans' election defeats.
Amy Phillips at iLiberty.org has a handy dandy roundup of various paternalistic initiatives on the ballots this week, and how they fared, from winking at dope-smokers to milking cigarette smokers. Read it, for your own good—and for the children.
I'd really love to believe the GOP-lost-but-conservatism-won meme that's circulating, especially the version that stresses Republicans' apostasy from the '94 gospel of small government and fiscal responsibility, or the one that points to the power of libertarian spoiler candidates. Hell, I hope it sticks if it'll dissuade a few of the remnants from tacking left—or even just make Ryan Sager a few extra bucks in royalties. But I also think primary reason people are trying to push the notion mostly out of a combination of wishful thinking and that same desire to preempt a GOP shift centerwards.
Alas, Ramesh Ponnuru's cover story in the most recent National Review probably hits a good deal closer to the mark. Iraq and corruption are looking like the core factors right now, and I'd wager that for every principled fiscal conservative voter grumbling about the bank-breaking prescription drug benefit, there are two whose beef is that it was too stingy. The complaints about out-of-control spending seem to be a lot more likely to come from ideological pundits—and I think the libertarian-dissent narrative is to some extent appealing to that set because, while neither side's intellectuals are "libertarian" by a stretch, they tend to be more libertarian than the bases they represent (i.e. urban conservative writers are socially liberal as conservatives go; mainstream Dem pundits are constrained by at least a passing acquaintance with economics)
Admittedly, I'm not offering any actual "evidence" or "data" in support of this intuition. As The Wire's Proposition Joe might say, things happen at the polls; proof is hard to come by. But two things kept running through my head as I read the recent Cato study, optimistically pegging libertarians (pretty broadly defined) at 13 percent of the electorate: (1) That's a nice chunk of votes, but still a small enough proportion that you'd gain net votes by appealing to them at the expense of other groups, and (2) People are a lot more prepared to decry "big government" in general than any particular program. The Cato survey question is (necessarily) general, but legislative elections tend to be particular.
A lot of the empirical case for the "covert victory" thesis seems to involve pointing to people like Heath Shuler and Bob Casey (social rather than economic conservatives). But I don't know how far this stretches. We're getting a House swing in the vicinity of 30 seats, which after the Republican Revolution in ’94 is the biggest net shift in a midterm in 20 years. So of course when you finally get flips in districts that have gone Republican for many terms, anyone who’s going to win in these places is going to be pretty conservative. North Carolina is just not going to elect a Barbara Boxer or a Russ Feingold. Other things equal, the median elected official of either party is going to be closer to the center when they’re in the majority than in the minority, when they’re down to their hardcore base. That's just the upshot of the fact that growth happens at the margin.
Riffing off Bryan Caplan's excellent Cato Unbound piece on voter ignorance, Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias both suggest that this is not a terribly big problem, since policy is determined by elites anyway. In other words, political "slack"—one of Caplan's proposed solution—is already ample, a situation which has plenty of its own drawbacks.
There's something to this, of course: Immigration and trade are two issues where agreement among people who do know some economics has kept policy more liberal than would be chosen by voters who, mostly, don't.
On the other hand, the elites who are relevant to politics are political elites, not policy experts. That means a lot of people who do, as you may recall, get chosen by voters. And this time around, they've chosen a bunch of people like Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). (It also means lobbyists, of course, who have their own consensus driven by interests, not expertise.) We don't get a pure exercise of the general will, but if voters are receptive to misguided populist messages, no number of harrumphing editorials in East Coast newspapers will stop misguided populist candidates from getting elected.
Slightly tangentially, Ezra adds:
Bryan singles out religion as a place "where irrationality seems especially pronounced." This gets said occasionally, and it's poppycock. It might be factually wrong to believe in God, but it's certainly not irrational (using rational here in the economic sense, as an action that maximizes your utility). Studies universally find that religious belief and participation offer positive returns for individual health, happiness, finances, personal satisfaction, etc.
First, believing in God doesn't require holding a lot of other ancillary beliefs which might or might not make sense—that the world is 6,000 years old, say. So that stuff is at best neutral in terms of economic rationality and less than compelling in terms of epistemic rationality. But secondly, "rationality" characterizes processes, not outcomes, even when the processes are outcome-oriented. If I believe a stock I own will rise because a psychic told me so, my belief may be true but it will not therefore be justified, even if I know other facts which (had I thought about them) could have more justifiably led me to the same belief. By the same token, you can at least make a case that it's rational to somehow make yourself believe in religion for the health benefits. But if that's not your reason for believing—as I expect it isn't for the vast majority of people—then whether or not belief is otherwise rational, those benefits don't enter into assessing the rationality of the belief. If I stab myself in the abdomen for no good reason, the act does not become more rational if it just happens that I've lanced a swollen appendix that (unbeknownst to me) was on the verge of bursting.
The National Taxpayers' Union blog reports:
Amid all the election festivities, there is one story that hasn't been reported with much prominence: the resignation of Bob Ney from Congress.
He announced that he had reached a plea agreement with federal officials on September 15th. He resigned on November 3rd, meaning that he took his Congressional salary of $452.60 per day for 50 days before tendering his resignation. During that time, he earned what for some people constitutes an entire year's worth of salary, $22,630.
He took advantage of his position of power and bilked the taxpayers out of their hard-earned money. In refusing to resign for so long, he took advantage of a Congress that was out of session and unable to forcibly expel him from the body.
Before Ney was indicted, current GOP Majority Leader John Boehner convinced him not to seek reelection, not because he was, you know, corrupt and stuff, but because if the GOP lost Ney's seat, Boehner would have poisoned Ney's chances for a lucrative gig on K Street. The implication there being that had Ney not been indicted, Boehner would have found the crook a high-paying lobbying position, effectively rewarding him for his sleazy dealings with Abramoff.
All of which the new GOP might want to keep in mind should Boehner decide to run to keep his leadership post in the next Congress.
My old buddy Paul Lukas (mind behind the staggeringly wonderful 1990s zine Beer Frame and author of the book that arose from it, Inconspicuous Consumption) hates the color purple. And, as befits his current gig as ESPN's "Uniwatch" man, he's got a sharp eye for what people in the public eye are wearing.
He's documented (in what he's sure is driven by our current awful "Blue/Red" political division terminology--hey, I grew up during the waning Cold War, and red is always gonna mean commie-pinko to me) newscasters fleeing those colors to avoid appearing biased--and thus overwearing hideous purple ties.
Not that I'm biased or anything, but here's a great gift idea: A subscription to Reason, the "kick-ass, no-holds-barred political magazine" (The New York Post) that has been named one of "The 50 Best Magazines" for three out of the past four years by the Chicago Tribune (read more praise here and here).
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I just got out of Senator-elect James Webb's victory rally, held in one of the many artificial town squares in the strongly Democratic city of Arlington. Right beside me, by coincidence, were American Conservative editor Scott McConnell and the magazine's Dan McCarthy (a recent Reason contributor). The libertarian-paleoconservative alliance held; delight at the Democrats' victory was overflowing. "I haven't been this emotional about an election since Giuliani won," McConnell said.
The crowd swelled as Webb made his delayed way to the square. Whoever runs "Arab Americans for Webb" (I think it's the anti-matter Charles Johnson) quickly dispatched his stock of signs, as bright-eyed white people hoisted them high. "Indian Americans for Webb" milled around right next to "real Virginians for Webb" (two Macaca references within two square yards!) next to a thicket of "Veterans for Webb." When the man arrived, he happily plunged into the crowd, shaking hands and posing for photos for a good four minutes while the national media set up their shots.
When Webb appeared onstage next to Chuck Schumer, it was hard to grasp that this guy actually beat George Allen. Schumer's reptilian charm is familiar enough from his appearances on every cable news show. But Webb? No charisma whatsoever. Nothing like a politician's charisma. Onstage he talks like a celebrity awkwardly trying to end a conversation with a fan who has all his merchandise, rotating 90 degrees left and right, gripping the microphone stand-up comic style. The only rousing moment came when he hoisted up his son's combat boots, the boots he'd worn in a deliberate contrast with faux-cowboy Allen, for the entire campaign. "The campaign is OVER!" Webb said; that got cheers from Democrats who had been on pins and needles for two days.
But like I said, the man is wonderfully shy and stolid as a public speaker. That he won against a legitimate charmer like George Allen is a testament to the strength of the anti-war message and of the degree to which Allen alienated most of the state. Remember, Webb didn't just defeat Allen - he held off a Green spoiler named Gail Parker. The (by all appearances insane) activist for "more high speed rail in Virginia" pulled about three times as many votes as separated Webb and Allen. Add her votes to Webb's and a solid 51 percent of the state handed its votes over to the anti-war left*, 24 months after giving George W. Bush a 10-point victory.
*The war was not actually a Parker issue - like I said, she's insane - but it's not too much to assume lefty anti-war voters who couldn't choke down Webb punched her name on the ballot.
Really, it seems to happen almost every time the suspiciously mustachioed, self-confessed soap stealer rushes into print. But here he is railing against not only the "kooks and crazies" and "fringies and fanatics" who run for office as "Losertarians," "Green weenies," and members of the "Constipation Party" (haw haw haw) but the equally deranged fucktards who vote for such enemies of the Republican Party's congressional majority.
That's the real issue here, of course, for GOP enthusiast Medved: That third party candidates--such as Libertarian Stan "Blue Man" Jones, who is certainly at least as deranged as, say, Jim Bunning and considerably less deranged than, say, Mark Foley --get in the way of Republican power.
As with all Medvediana, this recent fulmination is best experienced as an immersive event. But here are some snippets:
In Virginia, Democrat Jim Webb appeared to beat Republican Incumbent George Allen by a tiny margin of less than 7.000 votes. Meanwhile, 26,000 votes went to the “Common Sense Conservative” candidate of the mighty Grass Roots Party, who identified herself as Gail “For Rail” Parker. If two-out-of-three of the votes that went to this devoutly Christian, retired Air Force Officer (whose big issue was building more train lines) would otherwise have gone to George Allen, then her utterly meaningless candidacy handed control of the Senate to Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, and Barbara Boxer...
The egomaniacs who get their jollies by running oddball campaigns for high office have a right to their dreams and their obsessions, but the rest of us have a right to a sane political selection process that’s free (in its final, all important stages) from distortion, distraction and destruction by self-indulgent fools with no real support.
The Onion has the scoop.
The stock market is up slightly in response to election results, but drug company investors are freaking out. The simple, semi-paranoid explanation is that Dems are more likely to force lower drug prices with soft price caps, demands for cheap generics, and permission for more importation from Canada. This means lower profits in the short term, less R&D in the long term.
Stolen, intact, from Greg Mankiw.
Ezra Klein notes--with glee--that America's voters don't seem to want to lock their legislatures into hard-to-overcome spending limits, with the defeat of many TABOR ("taxpayer bill of rights") initiatives this week (and the repeal in recent years of some previously passed ones). Nobel Prize winner James Buchanan, call your office.
Canada's Mothers Against Drunk Driving is pushing a law to lower the national BAC threshold to .05. Actually, they've been pushing the law for some time. They just recently found an MP to sponsor it.
Canada went to .08 years before the U.S. did, and proponents of the lower standard cited Canada's law as evidence of America's short-sightedness and failure to get tough on drunken driving. It worked, with Clinton signing the new standard into law in 2000, blackmailing the states into adopting it or risk millions in federal highway funding.
Of course, DWI deaths inched upward after the last states adopted the new standard, after some 25 years of decline. Critics predicted that increase, citing studies showing that intoxication levels of .08-.10 don't significantly impair the ability of most people to drive. The new standard simply tied up police resources at roadblock checkpoints, which became widespread and necessary after the new standard passed -- precisely because people between .08 and .10 don't drive erratically enough to be caught by officers patrolling the highways.
So far, MADD's brass in the U.S. has declined to embrace .05. But I wouldn't be surprised to see them reverse course if the new standard passes in Canada. Bold, national campaigns make good filler for fundraising letters. And MADD's had no problem embracing other bad ideas, like mandatory ignition interlock devices, and throwing parents in jail for taking a reality-based approach to underage drinking.
If you need a cheap buzz right now, start trolling the liberal blogs. They're not just delirious about the size of their gains. There's a sense that Karl Rove, built up by reporters (and, let's face it, by John Kerry's campaign skills) as a history-shifting political genius, has been utterly crushed. Plenty of linking to this retrospectively hilarious Fred Barnes fluffer on the Man Who Knew Too Much About Joe Wilson, which ran shortly after 2004 (Via Oliver Willis).
Even by the cautious reckoning of Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, Republicans now have both an operational majority in Washington (control of the White House, Senate, and the House of Representatives) and an ideological majority in the country (51 percent popular vote for a center-right president). They also control a majority of governorships, a plurality of state legislatures, and are at rough parity with Democrats in the number of state legislators. Rove says that under Bush a "rolling realignment" favoring Republicans continues, and he's right. So Republican hegemony in America is now expected to last for years, maybe decades.
It's kind of amazing Republicans ever believed this crap. The 2004 Bush victory wouldn't have happened without 1)residual 9/11 angst, 2)enhanced GOP turnout, and 3)Kerry. (It could have happened with a candidate Sharpton too, but I think my point is clear.) And the GOP wouldn't have gained seats in the House and Senate if not for Southern Senate retirements and Texas gerrymandering - Democrats basically broke even outside the South, actually gaining seats in Illinois and Colorado.
That's not preventing a rush of counter-spin from Republicans who claim this election is a temporary setback to the coming permanent majority. If the Republicans really think this - especially if they re-elect their current floor leaders - they're not going to staunch the party's bleeding in the West, Midwest and Northeast. Take a look at the Senate. In 2008, Republicans will be defending the low-hanging fruit they won in 2002 when the Iraq war buildup boosted the president's popularity everywhere - Minnesota, Oregon, Maine, Colorado. They have to hold New Hampshire, which is still shuddering from the Democratic landslide that nuked two congressman and both Houses of the state legislature on Tuesday. The churning conventional wisdom about this Democratic majority coming in on the backs of "conservative Democrats" is a false promise for Republicans. As I wrote that, Fox News' John Gibson tried to argue that the new Democrats were conservatives in disguise because some of them were "ex-military." Really, if that's the mentality, the Democrats are going to keep making the sale to libertarian-minded voters.
“We’re going to take a two-year hiatus,” Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said yesterday. Referring to incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he added, “My goal and job will be to make sure she never sets the record that Denny Hastert set.” The New York Times helpfully explains that "Mr. Reynolds was referring to the current speaker, Representative J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who has held the job longer than any other Republican in the nation’s history."
So Reynolds' job is to prevent Pelosi from being a longer-serving Republican speaker than Hastert? Mission accomplished. Or maybe he meant his job is to prevent Pelosi from being the longest-serving female speaker. In that case, as of January it will be too late.
For some reason I can't fathom, this quote from 19th century legal philosopher Lysander Spooner has been on my mind this week:
What is the motive of the secret ballot? This, and only this: Like other confederates in crime, those who use it are not friends, but enemies; and they are afraid to be known, and to have their individual doings known, even to each other….This is avowedly the only reason for the ballot: for a secret government, a government by secret bands of robbers and murderers. And we are insane enough to call this liberty! To be a member of this secret band of robbers and murderers is esteemed a privilege and an honor! Without this privilege, a man is considered a slave; but with it a free man! With it he is considered a free man, because he has the same power to secretly (by secret ballot) procure the robbery, enslavement, and murder of another man, that that other man has to procure his robbery, enslavement, and murder. And this they call equal rights!
Cathy Young takes a whirlwind tour of Eastern Europe and comes away with observations on the fragility of civilization.
Because I live in the U.S. rather than Russia, last night I had the opportunity to see Borat, which I highly recommend. In addition to making me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe (the look on former Georgia congressman Bob Barr's face during his brief encounter with Sacha Baron Cohen's Kazakh alter ego is by itself worth the price of admission), it made me sympathize a bit (a teeny-weeny bit) with the Anti-Defamation League's concern that people confronted by the outrageous anti-Semitism of Borat and his compatriots might not get the joke.
During the Running of the Jew, a traditional festival in Cohen's version of Kazakhstan, the townspeople chase a giant papier-mache figure that looks like a Nazi (or Arab) caricature of a Jew down the street. The Jew is followed by the Jewess, who lays a huge Jew egg that the children of the village attack with gusto, smashing it to bits. It's pretty damned funny, but I couldn't help wondering if the rest of the audience at the theater in Dallas was laughing at it for the same reasons I was. Another scene that I'm sure upset the ADL, in which Borat and his producer throw dollar bills at cockroaches they think are Jews in disguise, did not trigger the same concern because they're clearly the butt of the joke. A nice touch that most of the audience probably did miss: When the ridiculously anti-Semitic Borat speaks what is ostensibly Kazakh, he is actually speaking Hebrew.
What the ADL misses, I think, is that part of Cohen's talent is to amuse and discomfit his audience at the same time. Sometimes you laugh because you're so uncomfortable. I still have reservations about his mistreatment of perfectly nice people whose patience he tests with Borat's boorish and disgusting behavior, but it produces some undeniably hilarious moments. Many of his targets, who include misogynists, homophobes, anti-Semites, and anti-Muslim bigots, deserve to be goaded and mocked, and their comments tend to make you uncomfortable in a different way.
Whatever your view of Cohen, there's no denying that he's a brave man—brave enough to kiss randomly chosen men on the New York subway (the traditional Kazakh greeting, supposedly); to sing the Kazakh national anthem to the tune of The Star-Spangled Banner (with suspiciously rhyming English lyrics that boast of Kazakhstan's superiority to all countries, especially in the quality of its potassium) at a rodeo; and to inform a group of uptight feminists that a leading Kazakh scientist has demonstrated that women's brains are about the size of a squirrel's. I'm not sure which feat was the most dangerous.
Addendum: A few commenters and at least one blogger (Stephan Kinsella at LewRockwell.com) seem to think I meant to imply that Dallas is rife with anti-Semites and/or idiots. I did not. My reaction, which may reflect my own paranoia more than the attitudes of other moviegoers, would have been the same anywhere, North or South, where the audience consisted mainly of non-Jews—in other words, pretty much anywhere outside of Israel and certain parts of New York. For what it's worth, I encountered a lot more anti-Semitism (and racism) growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania that I have in the South—including a year in South Carolina and five years in Virginia (albeit the D.C.-adjacent part) as well as my so-far brief sojourn in Texas.
Reason Contributing Editor and SF Chronicle Washington correspondent Carolyn Lochhead files this insightful report on the changes taking place within GOP congressional circles. A snippet:
Democrats made big inroads in previously red Western states but had almost no losses in the South, [Elephant in the Room author Ryan] Sager noted.
"The Democratic geography is expanding and the conservatives are contracting," he said. "The candidate who is able to keep these people under the tent while at the same time making this less a regional party, getting back to a Western conservatism, at least a non-Southern conservatism," is most likely to succeed. He put former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a ubiquitous presence on the campaign trail, on that list.
Some conservatives suggested they weren't faring too well under the old Republican guard and should take advantage of the suddenly accommodating stance of Democrats who proclaimed at every stop Wednesday that they would reach for the center.
[Rep. Jeff] Flake [(R-Ariz.)] argued that compromises can be reached with Democrats on immigration and even tax cuts, citing the large number of moderate Democrats elected, who he said are "genuinely cut from the same cloth we are."
Whole thing, well worth reading, here.
A strange-but-true campaign story about Hunter S. Thompson and his nemesis, Richard M. Nixon:
"[Pat] Buchanan offered him a ride in the back of the limo at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, on the single condition that Hunter talk to him only about football, because Nixon wanted to relax. And they did so, and whatever Hunter's problems with Nixon, the one thing he had to admit was that the Old Man knew his football."
That's from a Wash Times story by Robert Stacy McCain.
A remarkable admission from the great bloviator:
"There have been a bunch of things going on in Congress, some of this legislation coming out of there that I have just cringed at, and it has been difficult coming in here, trying to make the case for it when the people who are supposedly in favor of it can't even make the case themselves - and to have to come in here and try to do their jobs."
If I'm reading this correctly, Limbaugh is conceding that he openly advocated for bad, unconservative policies to protect the GOP's hold on power. Which makes him about as credible an advocate for real conservatism as Ken Mehlman.
It's a telling anecdote for what's gone wrong on the right. There were precious few voices for real conservatism over the last six years. Only voices for Republicanism. That wasn't always the case. Rush, you might remember, was once pretty skeptical of George W. Bush and the whole notion of "compassionate conservatism." And the early Rush was harsh on Republicans who were insufficiently critical of entitlements, spending, and the regulatory state.
Since Bush 43, he's little more than a mouthpiece for the RNC -- Sean Hannity with a bigger audience and back spasms. The quote above is really only surprising in its frankness.
Via Andrew Sullivan.
I enjoy Election Day -- without taking it literally. Whether the bandits in Washington predominantly call themselves Democrats or Republicans never changes anything important, and those citizens rushing about to participate in this feast of fools seem pixilated.
I also enjoy Easter without believing in magick eggs, Xmas without believing in elves or Santa, and Halloween without believing men from Mars just landed in New Jersey.
Russia won't let local cinemas show the comedy film ``Borat,'' a spoof movie depicting a misogynist, anti-Semitic, homophobic reporter from Kazakhstan, over concern it could offend audiences.
``We decided not to grant this film a cinema license because there are moments in the film which could offend some viewers' religious or national sensibilities,'' Yuri Vasyuchkov, head of the film licensing department at Russia's Moscow-based Federal Culture and Cinematography Agency, said today by phone.
How's this for a possible solution: Borat's creator, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Russia censors meet for a sitdown at Yakov Smirnoff's theater in Branson, Missouri?
Jacob Sullum gave props to Cohen here.
Most of the commentary on the departing Donald Rumsfeld has taken on the tone of a touchdown dance. Over at Popular Mechanics, Noah Schachtman actually lays out Rumsfeld's vaunted "transformation" of the armed forces and sees if it amounted to anything.
Perhaps the biggest question facing any new successor in the Pentagon isn't about America's forces, but about our enemies. For years, there have been in the Pentagon. One wants to focus on waging the "Long War" against Islamic extremism—spend more on the The other thinks that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are anomalies, even distractions; China is the big threat on the horizon, and America needs new fighter planes and destroyers to counter that threat.
Rumsfeld never really picked between the two factions. He kept up spending for next-gen stealth fighters and got Congress to devote nearly a trillion dollars to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hm. He wasn't extraordinarily good at his job, was he?
What worked for Republicans in the election, wonders Jeff Taylor? "Nothing." How many people predicted that? "No one."
What, you thought all the 2006 candidates would at least wrap up their races before the 2008 campaign began? How quaint.
Tom Vilsack is running for president.
The Iowa governor plans to file papers today establishing a presidential campaign committee, formally launching his bid for the 2008 Democratic nomination.
The two-term governor, who leaves office in January, plans to announce his candidacy in his hometown Mount Pleasant on Nov. 30, before setting off on a campaign swing to early nominating states, aides said Wednesday.
Having seen Vilsack in action (Sacktion!) among other presidential aspirants, I have trouble lifting my eyelids at this news. He's a successful, workmanlike liberal governor with the all the effervescence of week-old Pimp Juice.
If you'll remember, NBA behemoth Shaquille O'Neal was involved in a botched SWAT raid last month, in which members of the local sheriff's department teamed up with the federal Marshal Service's "Blue Ridge Thunder" anti-child porn task force to terrorize a rural Virginia couple and their kids. Turns out, the team had the wrong address. They'd been given an IP address by the local ISP, and rather foolishly traced the address to the innocent family's home, apparently under the assumption that all IP addresses are static.
Shaq discussed the incident in last week's Time magazine:
Because I was there, everybody wants to make a big story about it. It ain't no story. We did everything right, went to the judge, got a warrant. You know, they make it seem like we beat him up, and that never happened. We went in, talked to him, took some stuff, returned it--bada bam, bada bing.
You'd think the big lug would have a little sympathy for the family. Good to know those police classes he's taking don't skip the lessons in classic LEO ass-covery.
My favorite all-time quote from the Big Aristotle came in an interview he gave just before the 2000 NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Pacers. Shaq was dominant that year, and coaches in the early rounds of the playoffs couldn't come up with a defensive scheme to stop him. So many resorted to the "hack-a-Shaq" strategy, preferring to take their chances with O'Neal's awful free throw shooting than letting him score in the paint (one hopes Diesel will be a bit more accurate with his MP5).
So Storm asked O'Neal, "How would you guard Shaquille O'Neal?"
O'Neal's face twisted into confused knot as he contemplated the physics of the premise. You could almost see his brain hurting. His reply: "Well now that's an unexplained question."
So, like lots of people who favor limited government, I'm generally glad to see divided government and a near-even split in the Senate, even if the ideal would probably be Dem executive and GOP Congress rather than the reverse. But it's worth bearing in mind that a healthy bit of gridlock isn't the only option. That's the likely result of a relatively polar split; a legislature heavier on moderates and pragmatists, on the other hand, could, perversely, produce the opposite result, with heavy-vote trading that hands lots of goodies to the minority party in order to secure their acquescence in the things that the majority wants.
One way to think of it is to see divided government as a Prisoner's dilemma, except that if you don't want government to grow, you have to hope the parties don't manage to arrange a cooperative outcome. Should Rep. Mike Pence (R-IL) win his bid for minority leader, I'll be more sanguine about the prospects for gridlock; less so if it goes to Ohio's John Boehner.
I only got around to reading this entertaining and prescient pre-election column by Ron Hart today. But it's worth a look. A snippet:
The untold reality of this election is not the soccer moms or Reagan Democrats who are supposedly the “swing vote.” Libertarians, who are a growing force in this country (by some accounts 13 percent) are the ones who will decide the election.
Like many libertarians, I am disappointed in the Republican Party as portrayed by the neocons. Of late, I have shed one belief of the GOP for another. It is no longer the party of limited government, reduced spending and individual freedom. After their deft touch on Iraq, Katrina relief, immigration and the bloated Transportation Safety Administration, I think we should demand less from government; not more.
The GOP has become the party of big government, driven by the narrow social agenda of the religious right. The Democrats are big government, too, and driven by the social agenda of the left. Sadly, our choice is the lesser of two evils. Perhaps the Whig party will have a candidate this year?
Cathy Young looks at the Gallaudet protests, and the troubling, activist "deaf culture" behind them.
The FCC has accepted the argument that (a) it's OK to broadcast the word "bullshitter" during a news interview, and (b) the category "news interview" is broad enough to include a chat with a contestant from Survivor Vanuatu.
First Amendment fans shouldn't get too excited, though. Two
other indecency rulings went the other way, and Michael Powell's
successor as FCC chairman,
Pressburger Kevin Martin, shows no sign of retiring
his role as censor-in-chief. "Hollywood continues to argue they
should be able to say the F-word on television whenever they want,"
he said. "The commission again disagrees."
And then there's this:
Broadcasters, who had challenged the original ruling as unconstitutional, ... reiterated their long-standing complaint that FCC guidelines remain inconsistent and murky.
And one commissioner, Jonathan S. Adelstein, alleged that the reversals were not made on merit but to improve the agency's chances of winning the broadcasters' lawsuit by jettisoning its weakest parts.
"Litigation strategy should not be the dominant factor guiding policy when 1st Amendment protections are at stake," Adelstein said.
Man, I haven't taken this much pleasure in the suffering of a small child in days. Image via Bureaucrash.
Update: Oy. For the benefit of commenters who don't share my sense of humor, I'm not "going after" Santorum's daughter, who I'm about as sure as one can be will never, ever read this post and have her feelings hurt. Just making a joke about how good it is to be rid of this guy.
Vocal anti-evolution Ohio school board member Deborah Owens Fink lost to pro-evolution candidate Tom Sawyer. According to the Columbus Dispatch, two other pro-science candidates were also elected to the school board.
And there's more good news. The Kansas City Star reports that Kansans elected a pro-science majority to that state's school board as well.
Lost in the election haze is some good news for tax-cutters: the Club for Growth had a decent night. Club candidates Bill Sali, Tim Walberg, Jim Jordan, Doug Lamborn, Michelle Bachmann and Adrian Smith all won their races, albeit narrowly, representing a healthy rightward shift in the shrunken GOP caucus. (Although Sali makes a lousy replacement for Gov.-elect Butch Otter.) The races the club lost - open swing seats, attempts to take over Democratic Senate seats - were never going to be won anyway. And the Republicans' expensive rearguard effort to defend Lincoln Chafee from a Club challenge looks like a major-league oops right now.
Here's hoping the Club's congressmen remember who brought them to the dance on leadership election day.
Eric O'Keefe and John Tillman, two veterans of Americans for Limited Government, are forming the Sam Adams Alliance. The former group, whose big issues are property rights, fiscal restraint, "judicial reform," and school choice, "work[s] with local groups, using the direct initiative process to make serious changes in public policy and put the people back in charge of state politics." The latter group, whose big issues are property rights, fiscal restraint, "and more," aims to be "the premier networking station for citizen volunteers, donors, and local leaders who want to make real change and put citizens back in charge of government." It sounds like the alliance may have more of a local focus, but since its website won't be up and running for a couple months, it's hard to be sure. Also unclear: whether the name is intended to elicit financial support from Jim Koch or to attract confused college students looking for a party.
In our unbearable fog of epistemological electoral uncertainty, an amusing possible (though unlikely--I think Webb's got it in Virginia) irony of gridlock: after it's all over, Democrat Jon Tester wins in Montana---with Libertarian Stan Jones earning way more votes than the difference between Tester and Republican incumbent Conrad Burns. While in Virginia, after the recount, Republican George Allen ends up winning over Democrat Jim Webb, with Green Glenda Gail Parker more than covering the difference between them.
Relying on the rough, and maybe even accurate, general belief that in third party terms the Libertarians might otherwise tend to lean GOP, and the Greens Democratic, we could have a Senate with no clear party majority--50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 2 independents (Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders) who are expected to act like Democrats--thanks to a small number of citizens' decisions to go third party.
CNN is reporting that Donald Rumsfeld has resigned as Secretary of Defense. More as it comes in.
UPDATE: Here's the story.
President Bush said Wednesday Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is stepping down and former CIA Director Robert Gates will take over at the Pentagon and in prosecuting the war in Iraq.
Rumsfeld, architect of an unpopular war in Iraq, intends to resign after six stormy years at the Pentagon, Republican officials said.
UPDATE: Bad timing award on the day goes to this Reuters story, sent out at 10:50 a.m.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the face of U.S. war policy and a lightning rod for critics worldwide, will not be forced out just because he faces a tougher time from resurgent Democrats.
The defeat of South Dakota's abortion ban by a substantial 10-point margin suggests that fears about the consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade are overblown. Voters in a conservative state decisively rejected a ban that would not have taken effect even if its opponents had stayed home. Presumably the opposition would have been even stronger if there were no Supreme Court–imposed obstacles to the law's implementation. Testing Roe, of course, was the goal of the law's backers. In stopping that from happening, abortion rights supporters won a short-term victory, but at the cost of less credibility the next time they portray the horrors of a post-Roe America.
Addendum: The 58-to-42 defeat of the vocally pro-life Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline, in a race where his harassment of abortion clinics was a major issue, provides further evidence that voters in fly-over country are more supportive of abortion rights than is commonly thought.
Jacob Sullum checks back in with one of the expiring Republican Congress's greatest hits: The ban on horse meat.
Among my favorite post-election op-ed formulae: The "I regret that voters are too stupid to vote correctly" boilerplate. Last night was pure confusion, if you're listening to the losers. Voters were "duped" by Missouri's "deceptive amendment 2," the stem-cell funding amendment supported by a "suspiciously" shaky Michael J. Fox. (Expect "human egg traffickers" to sweep in and start exploiting the dumbest among them--young women--at any moment.) Says Director of The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity (CBHD) C. Ben Mitchell: “This is no triumph for science, it is a victory for dishonesty and confusion--a new Tower of Babel--where words have no meaning.”
We'll take that as a promise, then, that CBHD will stop with the
press releases. Also among the regrettably stupid: American women.
Women may think they've made gains--an
abortion ban in flames, a woman speaker, gains in both houses, four
women positioned to lead House panels --but Carrie Lukas reminds us
that women, who vote because they like
"caring, nurturing" candidates, (aren't they cute, those lady
voters!) "should be careful what they wish for." Did they know, for
instance, that Nancy Pelosi is against the Patriot Act?
My guess is that in San Francisco, even the women knew this. Being a libertarian, it's hard to sympathize with people who simply cannot conceive of a universe in which their opinions are not the majority. A suggestion: Get over it.
Yesterday California voters rejected Proposition 86, which would have raised the state's cigarette tax from 87 cents to $3.47 a pack, with the money earmarked for health care programs. The 300 percent hike would have made California's cigarette tax the highest in the nation, a distinction currently held by New York City, which slaps its own $1.50-a-pack tax on top of a $1.50 state tax. Although only 15 percent of Californians smoke cigarettes, the vote was 52 percent to 48 percent. Perhaps the results signal that there are limits to the persecution of smokers even in California. At any rate, it's good news whenever voters turn down the opportunity to pay for worthy-sounding services with other people's money.
According to exit polls:
The exit polls showed that 42 percent of voters called corruption an extremely important issue in their choices at the polls, followed by terrorism at 40 percent, the economy at 39 percent and the war in Iraq at 37 percent.
The Wash Times story on why the GOP lost is heavy on the war as biggest factor:
"There was general revulsion in the country, particularly among Democrats and independents, against the conduct of the war in Iraq," said pollster John Zogby. "This was, at the grass roots, a referendum against the war and the president. For Republicans, there was significant disappointment about opportunities lost through enormous budget deficits, threats to civil liberties, a failed social agenda, and the war."...
Longtime conservative activist Paul M. Weyrich agreed. "The war in Iraq had to be what went most wrong for Republicans," said Mr. Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation. "The public didn't like it and blamed the Republican Party for it. A good portion of the disaffected vote was, I think, made up of conservatives. When you add dissatisfaction over the issues of immigration and spending, it was just too much."
David Kopel on how the Second Amendment fared yesterday:
The Second Amendment has emerged from the biggest Democratic victory since 1974 with relatively little damage. One reason is that in races all over the country, Democrats returned to their Jefferson-Jackson roots by running candidates who trust the people to bear arms....
[T]he class of pro-gun Democrats who will be joining the House and the Senate includes some who will eventually become party leaders, and who will help move the Democratic party back towards its traditional position of respect for the civil liberties of the American people. A very constructive development, in the long run.
What's the usually perceptive Howard Kurtz talking about here?
As for the Senate, well, I warned last week that we all might wake up this morning and not know the outcome. I wonder whether that will also be true when we wake up tomorrow morning. Gives new meaning to the phrase "too close to call."
No, it doesn't. Republicans are trailing by around 1,500 votes in Montana and 8,000 in Virginia. George Bush would have killed for margins like those in Florida six years ago, in a state with roughly twice the population of Virginia and 27 times that of Montana.
Since Democrats have already cautiously declared victory (actually, Jim Webb's deadpan victory statement set a record for how smartassed those can be) in those states, it's time to consider an anomoly. Why did all but one Senate seat break towards the Democrats, but the close House seats split roughly down the middle? Plenty of targeted House Republicans - Heather Wilson in New Mexico, Deborah Pryce in Ohio, Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania - ran flawless campaigns and were rewarded with new terms. Jim Talent ran a flawless campaign and was rewarded with the Dick Trickle Award for Most Ironic Name. So why do Senate races break towards the winning party and the House races split? A boring combination of gerrymandering (although that had less to do with it in a year the Democrats gained a seat in Kansas) and voter familiarity. Outside of very small states, most voters never interact with their senators. But congressmen can, and often do, talk to around 1/3 of their constituents every year. The congressmen who lost, by no small coincidence, included blowhards who haven't paid attention to their districts in years. If J.D. Hayworth had spent a month attending town meetings and answering constituent mail instead of writing an excreble anti-immigration book and guest-hosting for Rush Limbaugh, he'd still be a congressman.
This morning my celebratory San Francisco Values breakfast of discounted Rice-a-Roni and broken Ghiardelli chocolate bars was almost ruined by the news of that Joe Lieberman had retained his Senate seat. Lieberman would be annoying enough if all he did was hook arms with Bill Bennett to wag his finger at the American public over their appalling taste in movies, music, and video games. But for someone who is supposedly a stand-up guy of high moral character, he has been awfully quick to betray his president, his principles, and his party for his own self-aggrandizement.
Lieberman's rebuke to Bill Clinton in the midst of the Lewinsky scandal was true to form in its sanctimony but understandably earned him the enmity of Democrats who were just as dismayed at Clinton's recklessness but thought Lieberman's grandstanding only helped the Republicans and the senator's own political aspirations. As I noted back in 2000, Lieberman quickly moved left when Al Gore picked him as his running mate, dropping all the inconvenient positions that had made him stand out in a party dominated by identity politics and public employee labor unions. And when he lost the Democratic primary last summer, instead of accepting his defeat with good grace, he started a Connecticut for Lieberman party because he knew the state could not afford to lose him. Now he may hold the balance of power in the Senate, an ideal position for a self-described "very independent Democrat" who mistakes ambition for rectitude.
“I will go to Washington beholden to no political group, but only to the people of Connecticut and my conscience,” Lieberman told his supporters last night. There is something to be said for putting principles above party loyalty, and for smoothing over differences to help your team win if you honestly believe the other side is worse. But Lieberman's shows of independence and his compromises always seem timed to advance nothing but his career. There is a difference between courage and chutzpah.
Amusing post from Cato's Jerry Taylor last week, worth reconsidering this morning:
In the face of all available evidence, NRCC Chair Tom Reynolds insisted this morning that last night was not a referendum on Iraq. Rather, the election was about "isolated corruption cases," and "historical cycles" in voting habits.
According to a UPI story today, the Bush White House predicts that the GOP will shock the world and hold on to majorities in the House and Senate come Tuesday.
Keep that prediction in mind when assessing similar predictions about our inevitable victory in Iraq, as long as we resist the temptation to “cut and run.”
It was a bad night for marijuana, with legalization initiatives losing in Colorado and Nevada while South Dakota rejected a medical-marijuana measure. On a happier note, the backlash against eminent domain is spreading, with property-rights protections passing in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, and South Carolina -- everywhere but California, Idaho, and Washington.
The three propery-rights initiatives that failed -- and, in Arizona, one of the initiatives that passed -- went beyond restricting Kelo-style seizures, by calling on the government to compensate landowners when regulations restrict the use of their property. (A similar law passed in Oregon in 2004.) Opponents claimed this would break the government's budget. Presumably they prefer to break the budgets of private citizens.
Gabriel Cordoba is a good indicator of the Hispanic vote.
Which is to say, there is no one Hispanic vote.
He voted against Proposition 300, which would take adult education and English classes away from illegal immigrants, but for Proposition 103, which would make English Arizona's official language.
In reality, Hispanics tend to be varied in their political leanings, with the starkest difference between those Hispanics who have been in the country for a while, who tend to vote more conservatively, and those that are more recent arrivals, who vote more liberally.
The official language question is a tough nut to crack. Such propositions are often used by anti-immigrant agitators as the reasonable-sounding thin end of the wedge, which makes me wary. But to conduct government in English does seem, well, reasonable. In the end, Arizona voters made English the state's official language with 74 percent support (Prop. 103)--Hispanic voters were more or less evenly divided. And 71 percent of Arizona voters opted to deny illegals in-state status at AZ colleges and universities (Prop. 300).
It's very unlovely for a winner to crow, but what the hell! In my January 2, 2006 crystal ball column I predicted: "A rising tide of voter disgust with corruption will toss the Republicans out of the U.S. House of Representatives in November elections and a new blessed era of gridlocked government will begin." Don't know how "blessed" the Republic is going to be, but my friend and colleague Brian Doherty owes me a nice expensive dinner. So does my Charlottesville friend (and sometime Republican activist) Paul Wright.
When are you next coming to DC, Brian?
P.S. A lot of my other predictions have only a couple of months to come true.
John Kyl appears to have won by nearly the double-digit margin he was polling at early in the campaign. However, in a real surprise, Iowa Republican, longtime gambling foe, and career House member Jim Leach went down in Iowa. Leach was the sponsor of the House version of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Act. Cosponsors Charlie Bass (NH) and J.D. Hayworth (AZ) also lost. I believe a few other co-sponsors also lost. That said, I doubt poker backlash played a large part in Leach's defeat. But who knows. He seems to have faltered in the polls rather dramatically over the last few weeks.
David Weigel, fresh from election celebrations in D.C., reports on how the Republicans became the new sucker's party.
The results of some elections that aren't making the network A-rolls:
- Joe Biden's son Beau will be the
next attorney general of the state of Delaware.
- Andrew "Mario's kid" Cuomo will be New York's attorney general. (See a pattern?)
- Raj Bhaka - the former Apprentice contestant who rented elephants and a mariachi band to march them around the Rio Grande in a "border security" PR event - lost by a more than 2-1 margin.
- Vernon Robinson, the progenitor of those wonderful "illegal aliens will burn the flag while raping you" ads, got creamed, also by a 2-1 margin.
- Paul Nelson, who plagiarized Robinson's ads because they were just so impressive, also lost 2-1.
- Diana Irey, who raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from conservatives who wanted to "redeploy Jack Murtha," got pasted by the doughy Vietnam vet.
All this is probably changing by the minute, and I'll be going to sleep soon, but right this second, the Montana Senate race, according to CNN, has Democrat challenger Jon Tester ahead by about 5,500 votes of Republican incumbent Conrad Burns. And guess how many votes the Libertarian candidate Stan Jones has? 7,085.
I just heard on Fox that Burns may be blaming electoral machinery malfunction for his apparent loss. It all may seem more or less interesting 6 hours from now, but for now....veeeery interesting.
And the most interesting part? You might not remember Stan Jones by name. But you might remember him by reputation--as a sort of living symbol of LP absurdity. He is the candidate most famous for having turned his skin blue through the overuse of collodial silver, giving him a condition known as argyria.
The notorious and much-derided Blue Man Candidate just might end up being the pivot of the balance of power in the United States Senate. It's too perfect to be true in the morning.
Then again, the GOP could also blame themselves, or Talent--quite frankly, I haven't been following the Missouri Senate race, so I don't know exactly what the informed opinion is on what it is about Talent that made him lose--though stem cell research seems to have been a big deal, in a potentially very complicated way. Conservatives were all het up that Talent made an about face on it earlier this year, removing his name from sponsorship of a bill that would ban a certain kind of a stem-cell research. However, he was against a Missouri state initiative that would have legalized certain types of it--an initiative Michael J. Fox was all for. That may have meant all is forgiven for that all-important "banning stem cell research is my highest political value" crowd. It's a bit late at night for me to get completely up to speed on all the complications of the soon to be former Senator's various stances on stem-cell research and how they might have influenced his loss. Here's an AP story from a couple of weeks ago on that matter. It is probably telling that the stem-cell initiative--which would legalize stem-cell research in Missouri consistent with federal law while banning human cloning--is winning by 45 thousand votes--equal to the Libertarians total, and more than the amount McCaskill is beating Talent by.
He did at least co-sponsor the Flag Desecration Amendment. Even that wasn't enough, alas. Here's Wikipedia's depressing list of what the senator from the Great State of Missouri stood for.
Whether it be general disquiet with the GOP or his own lameness I'm not quite sure, though I'd like to believe his loss has a little to do with this, from a Kansas City Star article: "Speaking to a gathering of more than 100 staffers and volunteers at a suburban St. Louis hotel, Talent highlighted two achievements of his four years in the Senate since winning a special election in 2002: Passage of a bill to fight methamphetamine and his support for a renewable fuel standard that requires more use of ethanol and biodiesel." Yes, I'd say the GOP would be being pretty goddamn nervy to blame Libertarians for this one, despite Gilmour's solid showing.
Reason readers the Stogie Guys are keeping track of various state anti-tobacco intiatives; check it out here, for what seems like somewhat of a mixed ashtray overall, with taxes and bans on tobacco both winning and losing hither and yon.
Another of the elections where I was warned/promised that an LP candidate might beat the spread between his major party opponents has worked out exactly that way--for Wyoming's sole House seat, featuring the wheelchair bound Libertarian candidate Thomas Rankin, who has collected over 7,000 votes--with Republican incumbent Barbara Cubin (who famously threatened Rankin with a slap across the face, if only he weren't in that wheelchair) less than 700 votes ahead of her Democrat opponent. So there is every chance (and doubtless no proof) that at least 700 (10 percent) of those voters "would have" voted for the Dem if the LP option were not there--thus, in the cosmic major party balance, making up for the Indiana District 9 House seat that the Libertarian might have cost the Republican.
Time to dial back to our March issue and read some sharp observations from contributing editor John Pitney:
A great unreported story in American politics is the silencing of overt debate on racial issues. When was the last time a major GOP politician came out squarely against racial preferences? After the Supreme Court upheld discriminatory admissions policies in the 2003 decision Grutter v. Bollinger, few Republicans had anything critical to say.
While Republicans have little chance at the black vote, they do hope for a share of Latinos. Although some surveys suggest otherwise, they think an attack on preferences would scuttle their Latino prospects. They also face pressure from business, which has surrendered on the issue. Discrimination in the name of diversity helps executives avoid protests and boycotts, and they cringe at the idea of revisiting the question.
All true, but grassroots voters are apparently another story. Michigan's measure restricting affirmative action is winning big, despite what National Review calls "open opposition, or at best apathy, by official Michigan Republicans."
J.D. Hayworth is the latest big-name GOPer to go down -- by eight points.