Saturday, March 31, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
He quoted my email and responded to it in a post yesterday, amplifying on his conservative beliefs and the difference between him and David Brooks.
Here is my response to him:
I'm flattered that you quoted my email to you today on your blog. I want to defend my point, but I will be fair to David Brooks and not presume to speak for him anymore. These are solely my views.
There is a large difference between a vision of government that takes care of its citizens like they were children -- the "redistributive machine" you describe -- and a government that seeks to offer all its people the opportunity to fulfill their human potential. One is equality for its own sake; the other is equality of opportunity as an unachievable ideal. Both over-expansive government and unfettered market forces can squelch human possibilities; the trick is to contain each to their appropriate sphere. You speak of liberty, but a free man without the reasonable means to achieve his potential is not free at all, and all of us lose in this waste of human resources.
You worry about David's definition of "security" as being too open-ended. Well, any of the words we're hoisting about could be abused (and have been): freedom, security, opportunity, equality. The latitude of interpretation of these terms is wide; I'm sure David Brooks doesn't understand opportunity the same way I do. But principles matter, and as a matter of principle, giving a man freedom should not mean that he be left naked of means.
Election law requires that TV stations give all candidates equal time. Experts said Thompson -- like the last movie-star candidate, Ronald Reagan -- would probably vanish from the airwaves except in news programming. That would probably mean that he would leave "Law & Order" and that networks would not air his reruns during the campaign.
Granted, there are so many Law and Order episodes other than Thompson's 109, it's not like Dick Wolf is going to be hurting for money.
I think the best thing for the country would be a negotiated settlement, but I don't think the odds are good.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I'm struck by how much opposition there is to McCain in the internet poll. I had considered it likely that McCain would get the nod simply because it was his turn; Republicans are awfully predictable that way. Perhaps I should have remembered that the key to the conservative temperament is respect for authority -- McCain's six-year-long on-and-off defiance of the President is probably more of a liability for him in the primary than Iraq is. As for Giuliani, I very much doubt that he will survive the first "Too Liberal for New Hampshire" ad buy from one of his opponents.
If I had to take a wild guess, I would say it will be Obama vs Thompson in the general.
Monday, March 26, 2007
The only major disadvantage of this take is that halfway between heart and capsule formation you would be able to turn the lid until it came all the way off. It wouldn't fall apart easily because of the grooves, but if you played with it you could pull it apart.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
I've been annoyed that some people have presumed to know what the right reaction should be to her disease. The Edwards came to politics from grief -- the death of their son led them to seek greater meaning in their existence. Anyone who has seen them talk knows that they have found that meaning, believe in it and embrace it. To expect that they should throw it away now that she's ill seems to ignore and disrespect who they are.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Geico is in the enviable position of having created two iconic characters for its advertising: the caveman and the gecko lizard. I wonder: will the two ever meet? Maybe in the psychiatrist's waiting room, since the lizard is getting kind of neurotic lately?
UPDATE: Slow me. Someone's already thought of it.
The most stressful moment, Eubanks said, came when the three appointees ordered her to read word for word a closing argument they had rewritten. The statement explained the validity of seeking a $10 billion penalty.
"I couldn't even look at the judge," she said.
It's sad when campaign contributions affect how laws are written, but it's unconscionable when they affect how laws are applied.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Bah! Facts are for sissies.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
On Dec. 5, two days before seven U.S. attorneys were fired, McNulty admitted in an e-mail to Sampson that he was having second thoughts about firing Bogden, the U.S. attorney for Nevada, whose record provided no obvious performance issues or policy differences. McNulty also said he had not reviewed Bogden's performance before including him in the dismissal group.
"I'm a little skittish about Bogden," McNulty wrote. "He has been with DOJ since 1990 and, at age 50, has never had a job outside of government. My guess is he was hoping to ride this out well into '09 or beyond. I'll admit [I] have not looked at his district's performance."
But really, it was all about performance, not politics. 672 days to go.
Monday, March 19, 2007
That doesn't mean that a grand bargain on vouchers might not be worthwhile (as far-fetched as that might be politically.) I'm agnostic about whether vouchers might improve the quality of education; the pilot programs I've read about seem to point both ways.
The argument for vouchers that I find more persuasive is Reich's. He points to the massive inequities of the American educational system -- how it is funded largely by local property taxes -- and asserts that vouchers could shift the funding from the local to the federal and state level, evening out the playing field.
Beyond that, it occurs to me that if every parent with a school-aged child gets a piece of paper with a dollar amount on it from the government, then funding for education would become politically impossible to cut and very easy to raise. The constituency for educational spending would be broader and more influential, and the effect of cuts would hit them in a direct and monetary way. Ronald Reagan cut education by 18.6% in his first term. In a world with vouchers, that just couldn't happen.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Nevertheless. Here I go. Today Valerie Plame stated under oath: "I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved." Her role apparently was passing on the request to her husband. Grenier's testimony, which is what's often pointed to as the contradiction of this version, was hearsay. He testified that someone knowledgeable had told him that. And the Fitzgerald indictment didn't even make that claim -- it carefully said that it "was believed" she sent him.
It seems like reasonable people should trust the first-person account rather than the one that is at least second-hand.
Many conservative commentators (yes, you Tom Maguire and Victoria Toensig) are clutching on to the fact that Fitzgerald did not prosecute as evidence that there was "no underlying crime". There might have been some question about Plame's status as covert agent from a IIPA standpoint, but I doubt the case would have been referred to DOJ in the first place if this was clear-cut. I think it is more likely that the problem with the case was the difficulty Fitzgerald might have had in proving that the leakers were aware of her covert status. Since the information seemed to flow in an informal way, this was probably the major stumbling block.
Of course, as Plame herself said today, just the fact that she worked at the CIA should have raised flags.
Friday, March 16, 2007
The message much of white America hopes to send to black America by electing Obama is: Don’t Be So Black. Act More Barack. Perhaps this explains why blacks haven’t been all that enthusiastic.
This is a poor explanation for the phenomenon of Obama, although certainly his ascendancy requires more explanation than his prodigious abilities can provide. In California the other day, 500 people volunteered to help at one of his appearances -- other politicians would have been glad to have that many at the rally itself. His Time and Newsweek covers have outsold all the other issues of the year at the newstands. His book is selling like a Grisham novel instead of just a politician's pre-campaign manifesto.
Our country's original sin is slavery. In theology he who redeems the original sin is the Messiah. I realize how glib that sounds, specially when referring to someone who is not the descendant of slaves. But Obama is the first plausible black candidate for President. The election of such a man would heal scars in our country's conscience. With his talk of bipartisan niceness, Obama plays into the part beautifully. He would let us think well of ourselves at a time when we're doubting our goodness.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
678 days to go.
I believe the chance that the chaos in Iraq could bring countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia into the mix is in the forty to fifty percent range. The big danger is what I call the August 1914 Syndrome. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo -- what would have been in the scale of history a minor event -- set in motion activities that turned out to be beyond the ability of the Western powers to control. And they ended up in one of the most brutal wars in man's history by accident. If the Saudis come in heavily on the side of the Sunnis, as they have threatened to do, and the Iranians -- directly or through shadow groups like Hezbollah -- become active on behalf of the Shiites, and the Turks and the Kurds get into a border conflict, the flames could spread throughout the region. The real nightmare beyond the nightmare is if the large Islamic populations in Western Europe become inflamed. Then it could be a global situation.
As I wrote recently, one of the few things we can achieve in Iraq is act as a tripwire to discourage the intervention of other powers. This would decrease the flammability of the situation greatly. A good and wise leader would be attempting to forge a bipartisan coalition around this position. He would be trying to bargain with the public, giving them a substantial troop withdrawal and in return asking for patience beyond this electoral cycle. Alas, we are not governed by any such leader and none are in sight.
UPDATE, 3/15/07: In an interview with the New York Times, Hillary Clinton sketches out a plan similar to what I describe. This is to her credit because it can't be a popular strategy with the base right now.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Sampson sent an e-mail to Miers in March 2005 that ranked all 93 U.S. attorneys. Strong performers "exhibited loyalty" to the administration; low performers were "weak U.S. attorneys who have been ineffectual managers and prosecutors, chafed against Administration initiatives, etc."
U.S. Attorneys require "loyalty" to the administration? That's prima facie evidence of politicizing, isn't it? Sampson is said to be resigning, the first casualty of what looks to be another tawdry scandal.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Frum argues that gay rights have begun to infringe on religious freedom. He cites a U.K. parliamentary committee report suggesting that religious schools be required to change their curriculum so that they do not express moral disapproval of homosexuality. This does strike me as entering a private sphere that government should not encroach. But Frum takes his point too far:
When you decide to extend your nondiscrimination principles to behavior condemned by your society's majority religion, you are embarking on a course that will sooner or later require the state to police, control, and punish adherents of that religion.
First of all, I'm uncomfortable with the distinction of "majority religion" in many ways. On the factual level, there are many sects of Christianity, and some of them do not teach that homosexuality is immoral. Even if it weren't so: is it really the belief of a religious majority if a political majority can be mustered against it?
From a first amendment standpoint: wasn't this founding law meant to protect us from the institutionalization of one set of religious beliefs? Isn't religious freedom itself a potential victim here?
I could also argue against this on a religious level. Jesus did not to teach us to enforce morality by discrimination. He did the opposite: he embraced all sorts of sinners among his disciples.
But my primary reaction is that Frum is wrong because he takes an absolutist position. This is an issue where competing interests must be balanced. The challenge is to identify what is the public sphere and what is the private sphere that government should not encroach. In other places and times, scripture has been cited to defend slavery. Religion simply cannot be given a bullet-proof shield against every public claim.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Friday, March 9, 2007
My current position is close to Edward Luttwak's (TimesSelect). I would favor disengagement in Iraq, leaving some troops there in bases located away from urban centers. Their mission would be to discourage the direct intervention of neighboring countries. If terrorist targets of opportunity presented themselves, they could be attacked. I think these are the only things we can be reasonably sure we can accomplish in Iraq. To try to do things we are fairly sure we can't accomplish -- like squelch a civil war -- risks making things worse in the long run.
If we disengage, Iraq will still be a mess. It might even get worse. But if we continue to pursue our current goals, we have little reason to believe that our slim chance of success will outweigh the known and unknown costs and risks we are incurring.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
"Today, the average American family has more than $9,000 in credit card debt."
If you divide total outstanding credit card debt by the number of households with at least one credit card that's what you get, but it's also true that only about 1 in 20 American households owes $8,000 or more on credit cards.
Having said that, household debt is at record levels. The situation is scary. But we don't need misleading statistics to learn that.
Here comes the crazy speculation part: Wells threw a bomb at the administration with his open. He talked about Libby being the "fall guy"; he talked about a broad conspiracy. It was in Wells' power to embarass Cheney and the administration badly. With that leverage, perhaps he negotiated a secret pardon deal with the administration that would make sure Libby never spent a day in jail. All of a sudden, Libby and Cheney aren't testifying anymore. And all of a sudden, all the conspiracy stuff from the opening just dissolves away.
Wells has a reputation as one of the best of the best. He's too good to be changing strategies erratically in mid-trial, unless there's a good reason. Since the prosecution case was so solid, this might well have been the best way to defend his client.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
- Washington Post Editorial, 3/7/07
Here the Washington Post practically transcribes the conservative talking point. Let's put this myth to rest. Fitzgerald did not come on board, discover that no prosecutable crime had occurred, and continued on -- Ahab-like -- until he finally landed an administration scalp.
The indictment dates the first instance of lying to the investigators on October 14, 2003. Patrick Fitzgerald was not appointed as Special Prosecutor until December 30, 2003. Investigators had already spent more than two months speaking with witnesses who contradicted Libby's account. The indictment lists nine instances where Libby spoke to others about Plame before he allegedly learnt of her identity from Russert. Of the multiple witnesses who gave these accounts, only Judith Miller would not have been available to investigators at the time Fitzgerald was appointed. The FBI could not have failed to suspect that Libby had told a whopper.
Fitzgerald didn't go on a hunt for administration blood. He did not lay perjury traps. He walked into an office and was immediately presented with some damning facts about a possible crime. He would have been derelict in his duty if he did not pursue this matter.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Monday, March 5, 2007
- Al Gore, December 16, 2002
"I have no plans plans to be a candidate for president again."
- Al Gore, June 3, 2006
Why the difference? Al is at least thinking about it.
Saturday, March 3, 2007
Allow me the vanity to say this is a down and dirty animation which I threw together. I can make things look pretty in 3D when I want to.
UPDATE: Here's some other takes on the design.
Friday, March 2, 2007
Do you think mankind is the primary cause of global warming?
Yes (0) -- 0%
No (59) -- 100%
This is a useful exhibit in the case for the complete ideological calcification of the American right. Why should they disbelieve anthropogenic global warming, despite the nearly complete scientific consensus that has grown around it? Because the marketplace alone cannot solve this problem; you'd need to resort to government regulation and international cooperation. If you don't like the solution, pretend there is no problem.
Now granted, as Andrew points out, right-wing blogs are to the right of mainstream Republicanism. But they are, I believe, representative of the activist heart of the GOP. It is a heart which has been wrung of every drop of pragmatism and shaded thinking it ever had.
Here’s the movie clip showing the locket in action:
Well, give the people what they want is my motto. I thought it would be interesting to create an animation showing how such a locket would work. First of all, I had to realize that there was a difference between saying “oh, I think that could be done” and actually figuring out how to do it. After a few days of obsessing, I got what I think is a workable design and made a brief (and very rough) animation illustrating it. Before posting it, I wanted to give you all a chance to solve the problem. As is often the case, working on the problem is more fun than hearing the solution.
Some guidelines when you’re working on a design:
1. When the locket is not in its heart configuration, the lid should be fixed tight.
2. When the locket comes into heart configuration, the lid should be able to slide open.
3. The lid should open from the bottom/middle of the heart shape.
4. Bonus points if you can restrict the twisting movement of the locket to 180 degrees, and the lid open to 90 degrees.
5. Extra bonus points for simple and elegant design that might conceivably be carved in wood (by someone who would have to be really talented.)
Have a go at it… it’s a fun problem. I will post my animation in the next couple of days.
UPDATE: Here's my solution: How to Build the Locket from The Illusionist, pt. 2
Thursday, March 1, 2007
[This] shows that Bush and his people will say anything, no matter whether it's true, in order to shore up a political point. It means that U.S. intelligence has become completely corrupted.690 days to go. Cross your fingers and hold your breath.
It would be nice to know whether Iran is supplying Iraqi insurgents with particularly deadly explosives. It would be nice to know how far along the Iranians are coming with their (quite real) enriched-uranium program. It would be nice to know lots of things about this dangerous world. Or it would, at least, be nice to have a true sense of how much our intelligence agencies know about such things.
But we don't know how much these agencies know, because we can have no confidence in what the Bush administration tells us they know.
- Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House
And now we see a new poll showing that a narrow plurality of voters favors cutting off funds. Of course, now that the Democrats have accepted the Republican frame that you need to fund the troops in order to support them, their maneuvering room is limited. What possible advantage was there in ceding that ground instead of circumspectly saying "we have no plans to cut off funds"?
Can't anyone on our side play this game?
Al, run. But if you won't run, then in the words of Engelbert Humperdink (sung plaintively) please release me, let me go.