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Archive for December, 2007

The Shrum Racket

[ 0 ] December 26, 2007 |

Well, the Democratic Party certainly had some winners in the 2004 election:

Behind the scenes, they were fighting over the lucrative fees for handling Mr. Kerry’s television advertising. The campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, became so fed up over the squabbling that she told the consultants, led by Robert Shrum, one of the most prominent and highly paid figures in the business, to figure out how to split the money themselves.

Divvy it up they did. Though the final tally has never been publicly disclosed, interviews and records show that the five strategists and their firms ultimately took in nearly $9 million, the richest payday for any Democratic media consultants up to then and roughly what the Bush campaign paid its consultants for a more extensive ad campaign.

Mr. Shrum and his two partners, Tad Devine and Mike Donilon, walked away with $5 million of the total. And that was after Ms. Cahill, in the closing stages of the race that fall, diverted $1 million that would otherwise have gone to the consultants to buying more advertising time in what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort to defeat Mr. Bush.

Imagine what Shrum would get paid if he ever won elections! It’s good that the Dems are trying to reduce the fees, because the extent of the money that goes to consultants is ridiculous given the number of companies that could otherwise compete for the advertising and the utter lack of accountability.

Of course, it’s possible to defend Shrum narrowly in terms of the 2004 election; if anything, Kerry did a little better than structural models would predict, and certainly he wasn’t an inherently great candidate. Indeed, the only federal election Shrum lost that he should have won was 2000 (and even that one wasn’t so much lost as won by a narrow enough margin that it could be swamped by the archaic American electoral system.) But this defense makes it even more clear that the money being paid to consultants is completely irrational. Campaigns simply aren’t that important in terms of who wins elections, which not only means that consultants aren’t terribly important but also that it’s very difficult to evaluate their performance even within the narrow range in which they can matter. Anybody who acts as a consultant long enough, especially if they also do a lot of local races, is going to rack of some wins, and will also always have an excuse if they don’t win. There’s no good reason for political consultancy to be this kind of resource-eating cartel.


Pointless Battleship-Related Photography Blogging

[ 6 ] December 25, 2007 |

An LGM correspondent sends this:

…which reminds me that I need to finish that review of Andrew Gordon’s Rules of the Game.

Merry Christmas Etc. Etc.

[ 6 ] December 25, 2007 |

Noting that the War on Christmas has failed once again, I am forced to “enjoy” the “holiday” from sunny San Juan. Some observations from Puerto Rico:

  • Freeway driving is surprisingly pleasant in PR, in no small part because of the lack of semi-trucks. I am curious, though, as to why exit numbers and distances are given in “kilometers” (a local term, apparently deriving from the Taino Indian word “kilometer”) while speed limits are given in miles per hour. This proved confusing the first day or two, when I was genuinely concerned that we were regularly exceeding the limit by 25mph.
  • In addition to its lovely freeways, Puerto Rico’s interior also has many tiny, windy mountain roads sporting an average of 1.25 car widths. It took us four hours to travel the roughly 40 miles from the south coast to the north coast, and another hour to pry my fingers out of the steering wheel.
  • The Arecibo Observatory is a very large dish, and its otherwise lovely museum features what was probably the most boring museum movie I’ve ever seen.
  • We highly recommend Casa Flamboyant, a lovely little B&B in the El Yunque rain forest, but beware; it rains in the rain forest, even while you’re hiking.
  • Scratching mosquito bites can give intense, but ephemeral, pleasure.

The plan for today is to call the relevant relatives, eat a steak, sit on the beach, drink mojitos, and gamble away the revenue generated by pawning wedding gifts at the casino. Enjoy your holiday in your own way, but if you have a chance read PTJ’s constructivist case for the existence of Santa Claus.

Christmas Cheer

It wouldn’t be an LGM Christmas without a little politically-driven holiday cheer, courtesy of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Merry Christmas everyone. Yes, even you tgc.


No Matter How Bad You Think It Is, It’s Worse

[ 0 ] December 24, 2007 |


Liberal Fascist

It is pretty amazing that Jonah Goldberg would note that the rabidly homophobic Nazi Party also contained a substantial number of homosexuals and use this to draw an analogy with…modern liberalism. In fact, of course, by Goldberg’s Hitler-was-a-vegetarian logic because he’s a modern Republican he is therefore also a fascist. Granted, Goldberg and his allies prefer making gays second-class legal citizens, vulnerable to employment and housing discrimination, and fomenting hatred for political benefits as opposed to castration, torture, and murder, but according to his underlying premises these distinctions are irrelevant to whether or not you’re a fascist…

But never has a fascist argument been made in such detail or with such care.

Newsflash: Pregnancy is not a Disability

Lest we think that pregnancy discrimination is a thing of the past, New Yorker Ron Blauchut is here to remind us. Upon learning that his Congresswoman, Kirsten Gillibrand, is pregnant, he wrote a charming letter to the editor to his local paper:

First of all, I must admit that I am a male chauvinist and that there are, thankfully, differences between men and women. There are many occupations suitable for women and their physical attributes. Carrying a weapon while serving in the Armed Forces and firefighting are not suitable lines of work for women to prove that they are physically equal to men. How many male police officers feel comfortable with a 100 pound female backup?

And now, I have to add serving in the U.S. House and Senate as an occupation that may not be suitable for women.

Ms. Gillibrand’s current pregnancy makes a strong case for my opinion. Ms. Gillibrand was elected to serve her constituency, and while she is away from her elected office she cannot perform those duties. The taxpayers who were duped into voting for her will have to pay for her medical benefits. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, Ms. Gillibrand receives excellent health benefits, courtesy of her constituents. We will be without representation in Congress for a time leading up to and following the child’s birth. There will be times when she and the new baby will visit doctors. You can add those days to the total that she will not be serving her constituents.

The current base salary (2006) for members of the House and Senate is $165,200 per year. I wonder if Ms. Gillibrand will do the right thing and reimburse the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $452.60, her daily salary, for each day that she is unable to perform her elected duties. For some reason, I doubt it.

First of all, I will say that he could have skipped that admission bit at the front; it’s pretty damn obvious. Second, has Mr. Blauchut forgotten about all the other reasons that elected officials “miss” days of work, none of which seem to annoy him? What about open heart surgery? Or campaigning for president? I’m guessing that he’s not asking Senators McConnell or McCain to return their $452 for each day they have been absent from their senate offices or from floor votes. And, for what it’s worth, I’m guessing that Mr. McConnell’s medical bills were far higher than Rep. Gillibrand’s will be.

No, Blauchut’s problem is not so much that his representative (who, mind you, already has one child and seems to have managed fine thus far) will have to miss a few days of work, but that a woman is in a traditionally male position of power at all.


Ice Cream For Crow?

[ 0 ] December 23, 2007 |

Obama pulls slightly ahead in New Hampshire. Hey, I’d be happy to be wrong…

Dear Mr. President…

I am not for sale, and neither is your daughter.

love, bean.

"Gimme gimme gimmedon’t ask what it’s for"

[ 17 ] December 22, 2007 |

Blogging will be mercifully light from my end until the New Year, when I will return from two weeks of non-stop loafing and snacking in the Midwest.

For those who haven’t finished shopping for the holidays, however, I have a few unhelpful suggestions:

  1. Confederate Men’s Cologne. A mere $15 per bottle (which is somewhat more affordable than the $50 fee required to become a Confederate citizen.) The cologne comes in two varieties — “Secession” and “Southern Gentleman” — both of which I assume carry the faint aroma of dickweed.

  2. GWAR Action figures. I had a chance to see these guys in college once, but I totally chickened out. The regret continues to dangle like a millstone around my neck.
  3. ‘Swounds!
  4. A case of Batter Blaster, the world’s first aerosol-powered pancake batter. Because even the laziest goddamn people in the world should be able to eat pancakes now and again.
  5. The Tom Tancredo campaign store is officially toast, but you can still look like a belligerent xenophobe by shopping the free market.
  6. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
  7. Powerline “messenger bag”. Ideal for delivering mainline GOP talking points.
  8. Baby Jesus Butt Plug. Drove Confederate Yankee to distraction two years ago. Ah, the memories

As they say, give ’til it hurts.

So Much For Compassionate Immigration Laws

[Sorry to disappear for two days, kids. Was out of town surprising a friend who is getting married and who was in the states from Europe, where she lives. Am back. Obviously.]

The loud and clear lesson from this article in today’s Times: if you are an undocumented immigrant, ’tis better to stay under the radar than to take on a public service career. From the sad story of Oscar Ayala-Cornejo/Jose Morales:

Growing up here, Oscar Ayala-Cornejo recalls, he played chess and devoured comics, hung out at the mall and joined the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. After high school, he realized a childhood dream, joining the Milwaukee Police Department.

But when Mr. Ayala-Cornejo filled out recruitment papers, he used the name of a dead relative who had been a United States citizen. He had to, Mr. Ayala-Cornejo says, because ever since his parents brought him here from Mexico when he was 9, he has lived in the country illegally.

The life that Mr. Ayala-Cornejo carefully built here, including more than five years with the police force, is to end at noon on Saturday, when, heeding a deportation order, he will board a plane bound for the country he left as a child.

In May, acting on an anonymous tip, immigration agents arrested him on charges of falsely representing himself as a citizen. He pleaded guilty, and is now permanently barred from the United States.

It’s obviously a bad idea to take on someone else’s identity in this age of identity theft and terrorism. So strike one. But it seems to me that it’s in cases like this that some sort of amnesty program might make sense. He is a policeman, for chrissakes.

For example, if the immigration bill had passed last year, Mr. Ayala-Cornejo and others like him who graduated from high school in the United States would be eligible to adjust status without having to leave the country and re-enter — a process that is onerous, time consuming, and that takes years and years. Stories like this also put into sharp relief for me that the country’s immigration problems stem not only from undocumented immigration but also from the stinginess of our legal immigration system. Mr. Ayala-Cornejo, the article says, could have had his younger brother, a citizen, sponsor him to immigrate. But that would have required a long absence (10 years!) from the country and from his family. The sad irony is that he will now have to bear absences from his family of perhaps indefinite duration; unless his parents have adjusted status, they will not be able to leave the U.S., and he can now never return.

Seems to me there’s room to condemn identity theft in the service of undocumented immigration while also implementing a program that provides amnesty for people who immigrated as children and are now, as adults, dealing with the fallout of their parents’ choices.

"St. Reagan Didn’t Lie! Or Engage In Racism! He Just Embellished His Rhetoric With Stories That Didn’t Happen While Using Racist Code Words!"

[ 14 ] December 22, 2007 |

Shorter Ross Douthat: The fact that a woman living in subsidized housing in New Orleans has a big T.V. means that there couldn’t have been any racism in Ronald Reagan’s invocation of apocryphal “welfare queens” with “Cadillacs,” and “strapping young bucks“* buying “T-Bone steaks” with food stamps. The logic is unassailable!

*Note: flagrantly racist term used only below the Mason-Dixon line, but I’m sure welfare recipients in New Hampshire weren’t strapping!

(Via Edroso.)

These Things, They are the Same…

[ 9 ] December 22, 2007 |

Mark Hemingway via Yglesias. Guess who he’s writing about:

His relentless use of folksy aphorisms and corny rhetorical sleight of hand provokes visceral objections — but the criticism isn’t merely superficial. In the TNR I piece I linked to yesterday a member of the press corps observed, “He thinks and speaks in metaphors. And, often, they’re not right.” That, well, hits the nail on the head. […] I don’t think I’m being uncharitable when I say that’s disturbingly authoritarian. He should probably start answering some critics instead of dismissing this all as “The Establishment” trying to keep a good ol’ boy down.

If you guessed “George W. Bush”, you’re wrong; it’s Mike Huckabee. But it’s difficult for me to understand how Hemingway distinguishes between the two…

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