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Booze Train

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

I suspect a lot of folks who never considered taking the train before found themselves momentarily curious to hear that Amtrak was offering $100 in free booze for passengers on certain long-distance routes. Alas, like nearly everything in this life, the offer sounds better than it actually is. The coupons are only good on GrandLuxe cars — owned by a company separate from Amtrak (which only pulls the cars) — and can only be used in the lounge cars, where a glass of wine can run about $40. And unlike a regular Amtrak fare, which might cost a few hundred bucks, GrandLuxe tickets cost some serious change. As a result, people who would find the cheapest booze on the menu and blow the $100 in one sitting — people, that is, like me — are the very sorts least likely to throw down $1500 for a trip from Chicago to L.A.

In any event, the story reminded me of a train I took from Minneapolis to DC in June 1994 — a scheduled 27-hour jaunt that turned into a 45-hour ordeal after we crushed a minivan outside Chicago. No one was hurt, amazingly, but the delay was considerable; evidently, it takes a lot of effort to pry a minivan from the grill of an Amtrak engine. We lost several hours, though, a wait that was compounded by several other mishaps along the way, none of which were quite as interesting. To make up for the hassle, Amtrak first offered everyone free breakfast. After the second multi-hour delay, dinner was on the house. Finally, after we spent about four hours languishing somewhere in Kentucky for reasons no one could quite explain, Amtrak made the unbelievable gesture of opening up the lounge car and offering free booze so long as supplies lasted.

By the time I actually made it to Washington, I was pretty well smashed, the Rangers had won the Stanley Cup, and OJ Simpson was saddling up his white Bronco for an evening on the town. Free booze aside, this trip — along with a similarly bizarre Greyhound trip that I’m not sure I can discuss without the drape of anonymity — pretty much cured me of my fear of flying.

Let’s Play Two!

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

I must admit, seeing the camera pan around Wrigley Field before the game made me wish I was at Yearly Kos (well, I wouldn’t have been at Yearly Kos now but you can see what I’m driving at.) Especially given the possibility (now unlikely to happen) of the astonishing return of Jim Brown Kerry Wood. Hell of a game, too, especially since I love watching El Duque — who even with the Yankees was a rare Yankee I Can’t Hate — pitch.

Also, Moises Alou is, shockingly, hurt again. Which reminds me that the Mets are my logical rebound team given that 2 of the 3 (assuming White and Eischen don’t come back) remaining players of my beloved 1994 Expos — team Coitus Interruptus — are now Mets. The third is playing left for the Cubs today. And, hey, Moises gets a ninth inning pinch hit single as I type, making me feel marginally less old…

Turns Out Women Do Get Paid Well…Until They Become Mothers

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

News today of a new study that demonstrates that young single women living in big cities earn more than their male counterparts.

This of course stands in stark opposition to the fact that fathers earn more than anyone else, single, married, parenting or not parenting.

And with that I will return to my no-paying internship.

Feministing has more.

The Spirtual Status of Skimming Off The Top

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

Ah, I believe we would have here our wanker of the day. I also note that 1)the money made by hedge fund managers is clearly compensation not capital gains, and 2)taxing capital gains at lower rates is stupid anyway. Oh, and hedge funds are on average irrational investments:

With the help of a graduate student, Helder Palaro, Kat also undertook a larger study, in which he examined more than nineteen hundred funds. The results, which Kat and Palaro posted online as a working paper last year, showed that only eighteen per cent of the funds outperformed their benchmarks, and returns even at the most successful funds tended to decline over time. “Our research has shown that in at least eighty per cent of cases the after-fee alpha for hedge funds is negative,” Kat told me. “They are charging more than they are adding. I’m not saying they don’t have skill; I’m just saying they don’t have enough skill to make up for two and twenty [hedge fund managers get 2% of the investment and 20% of profits].”

When you consider that hedge funds are also much riskier than the typical investment fund, that’s pretty awful. But it’s not surprising; the more hedge funds the are, the fewer opportunities for successful arbitrage.

Language and the Ocean City Stillbirth Case

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

Following up on Bean’s excellent analysis from earlier this week, Lindsay notes the shifts in language in the way the story was covered, and brings us to the obvious bottom line: “Hoarding self-aborted fetuses is creepy as all hell, but it’s not a crime in Maryland.”

My question: if possessing a fetus after a stillbirth is murder, shouldn’t Rick Santorum be doing 25-to-life right now?

…via a commenter, the prosecutors have dropped the arbitrary indictment and now have a real charge.

Sensible and Even Handed

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

UPDATE: Matt Sanchez reports that Beauchamp’s Brigade Combat Team has issued a report indicating that Beauchamp’s stories have been “proven false”. Sanchez hasn’t given any citation for this report thus far, and he’s not exactly a reliable source (the con man allegations should be taken a lot more seriously than the gay porn stuff) but it would be fair to say that such a report would return the veracity of the diary to the status of “open question”. Intimidation has been the point of this little free for all, and I wouldn’t be utterly surprised to find that witnesses, or even Beauchamp himself, had been intimidated into silence. Check the comments at any given wingnut blog; half of them declare he should be court-martialed if the stories prove true… Nevertheless, worth a caveat until we know more.

…I would add that Sanchez’ post could be considered more trustworthy if a) anyone else had seen the report, and b) if he hadn’t added not one, but two requests for donations above the report.


Assuming both Foer and the spokesman are telling the truth, five guys in the squad are lying to someone. They all have a motive to tell the Army the incidents never happened given the trouble they’d be in for not reporting them at the time; assuming they’re all friends of Beauchamp and want to protect him from a career-destroying mistake, they also all have a motive to tell TNR that the incidents happened the way he said. (Although if they’re lying to TNR, why then dispute the location of burned woman incident? Why not just corroborate him on that detail too? Maybe because there are too many people at FOB Falcon who could disprove it?) Unless the Army comes up with compelling evidence disproving his story it’s going to end up as the military version of a he said/she said where each side simply believes whom they’d prefer ideologically to believe and leaves it at that

Sharon Weinberger, who happily linked to the most brutal, nonsensical attacks that the right had to make of the initial diary:

Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post’s media critics, has the most even-handed and sensible write-up of the whole affair.

I’ll leave it at that.

Go read Howie. I’ll wait….

Ok, done? Feel that was even-handed? This?

Asked whether the military had hampered his inquiry, Editor Franklin Foer said: “We feel like our re-reporting has corroborated the story. But we, as a magazine, would always like to know more — to ask everyone, every question a third and fourth time so as to pick up on any possible nuance — and that’s become impossible when the author and the subjects of the article are out of contact.”

Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb seized on the mistake about the location of the disfigured woman as a “blatant lie,” writing: “If this incident occurred at all, it only proves that Beauchamp was a vile creep to begin with.”

Indeed. Very even-handed. So even-handed, in fact, that it fails to note that virtually the whole of the right blogosphere erupted in a torrent of the most vile abuse and intimidation against Scott Thomas Beauchamp, based at first on the assertion that he didn’t exist, second on the assertion that he could not be part of the military, and third on the assertion that, even if he were in the military, he must have made it all up. I mean, seriously, do these people ever read Malkin? Or Blackfive? Does Howie ever click through to the fetid, nasty swamps that Glenn Reynolds regularly links to? Did Howie bother to note that the criticisms that Goldfarb initially made have been crushingly refuted?

No. No. No. No. And no, it’s never going to get any better. Right Blogistan has suffered what a sensible, even-handed person could only conclude is a crushing blow to its credibility, not only regarding the specifics of this case but also to the very manner in which it “thinks”. This blow won’t tell, though, because just like in the case of the WMD nonsense, and the Jamal Hussein fiasco, and the Al Qaeda in Iraq garbage, sensible, even-handed people like Howie Kurtz continue to take these morons seriously. Instead of actually trying to evaluate what went on here, or examine the critiques that the right actually made, Howie is content simply to relate the controversy, EVEN WHEN WE ALREADY KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.

It’s very simple, people. A TNR diarist wrote about a series of events. Righties freaked out, insisting that the stories couldn’t possibly be true. Lefties didn’t assert that it was true, but insisted that it could be factual. Battle ensues. It turns out that the story is, apart from an irrelevant detail, true. Righties claim victory based on that detail, and those who gave credence to the most brutal and idiotic attacks declare the affair over, without bothering to wonder how they got taken in by people who are obviously con artists, and stupid ones at that. TNR diarist, incidentally, is successfully intimidated and effectively silenced.

All in a day’s work, I guess.

UPDATE BY SL: As requested by a commenter, scroll down one post to remember the Kurtz Komedy Klassic when he cited two blogs with about 100 lifetime hits between them to gin up a Potemkin reaction to the Pelosi plane non-story.

Your First Friday Dunce of the Week!

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

Welcome to the first installment of Dunce O’ the Week. This week’s winner wasn’t a hard pick: Bill O’Reilly (this may be the first of many weeks he wins). Why? Well, his relentless blogger bashing has not gone unnoticed this time. Chris Dodd (about whom I am generally mixed but who was really winning in his BOR appearance) went onto O’Reilly’s show and got in O’Reilly’s face. Dodd totally threw O’Reilly off is game. And ah, what a sweet thing it is.

So without further ado, your dunce o’ the week.

It’s Not Just the Eyewitnesses Who Screw Up

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

As you – loyal readers – now know (because I write about it ad nauseum), the criminal justice system’s reliance on eyewitness testimony has led to many many (many) false convictions.

But a new study shows that the problem is not the eyewitness’s misremembering. It’s the prosecutors who pushed them to misremember…or flat out lie. In yesterday’s NYT, the author of this study (a professor at Mount Holyoke), which surveyed the exonerations of 124 death row inmates over almost 35 years (1973-2007) found that in the vast majority of wrongful convictions, prosecutorial misconduct was the root cause. And we’re not talking good faith mistakes here. We’re talking, what the study’s author has called “intentional, willful, malicious prosecutions by criminal justice personnel.” Such maliciousness was inextricably tied to conviction in 80 of the 124 cases.

It’s hard to know what conclusions to draw from this (who are these prosecutors, why do they put people they know are innocent on death row and how do they sleep at night?)and how we might prevent further abuse. The op-ed doesn’t conjecture much, but does make one suggestion that I found both instructive and important (again given my concern that DNA evidence is seen as the silver bullet):

The malicious or even well-intentioned manipulation of murder cases by prosecutors and the police underscores why it’s important to discard, once and for all, the nonsense that so-called wrongful convictions can be eliminated by introducing better forensic science into the courtroom.

Even if we limit death sentences to cases in which there is “conclusive scientific evidence” of guilt, as Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts has proposed, we will still not eliminate the problem of wrongful convictions. The best trained and most honest forensic scientists can only examine the evidence presented to them; they cannot be expected to determine if that evidence has been planted, switched or withheld from the defense.

Exactly. But what to do about it? The authors don’t seem to have a solution (at least, not one they offer in the Times op-ed) and I’m not sure what one might look like. Ending the death penalty would be a band-aid (a very important one) but it wouldn’t stop this conduct on the part of prosecutors.*

*(Yes, I know not all prosecutors are bad, but this study does suggest that there is a real problem of prosecutorial misconduct and that it’s resulting in the jailing and perhaps execution of innocent people).

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck and Nelson

And This Month’s Vichy Democrat Award Goes To…

[ 1 ] August 2, 2007 |

Diane Feinstein, who cast the key vote to let arch-reactionary Leslie Southwick out of the Judiciary Committee. Apparently, she saw the Roberts Court’s first term, liked what she saw, and figured that the federal courts could use yet another neoconfederate judge. This would be one thing if it was a Southern Democrat, as opposed to someone in a safe-as-milk seat in one of the most liberal states in the country. Well played! Not that this is shocking; she’s been an appalling wet for a long time. California really needs to get two Democrats in the Senate at some point.

No Glass Here

[ 0 ] August 2, 2007 |

Showing how much my instincts can be trusted, the “Scott Thomas” story turns out to have been solid, with the only demonstrable error a trivial detail irrelevant to the main thrust to the story. For the punchline, one of his primary critics seems to have his own credibility issues

The 27 Percent Club

[ 0 ] August 2, 2007 |

Pictured above: The Dead-Enders Caucus, meeting with the president for Tang, butter cookies and frank conversation about “the calling of our time.”

By sheer chance, I actually happened to catch Mark Levin yesterday afternoon as he described his visit with The Decider. He was, not to put too fine a point to it, invigorated. Smarter than Reagan, he observed at one point. Smarter than Gerald Ford, he added. A man who was transformed by 9/11 and who genuinely cared about families who’d lost loved ones in Iraq. A man with a vision. And so on. It was a remarkable fifteen minutes, alternately amusing and pathetic.

Today, I see, there are similar howls of adoration from Boortz:

My principal impression this time mirrored what I told you last year. Anybody who thinks that this president is, somehow, ignorant or stupid is either sadly misinformed or delusional. Let the left think this man is unintelligent at their peril. I was particularly impressed by his grasp of the political and cultural interactions among the various Muslim sects and countries of the Middle East.

Another observation … actually a reinforcement of what I felt after last September’s visit. This man was completely transformed by the 9/11 Islamic attacks against our country. From the moment he heard of the attack in that classroom in Florida to this day he has been completely dedicated to the cause of protecting and defending our country from another such attack.

And from Pasty McChaste:

I will say on today’s show that I am confident about the course of the war and about the momentum in Iraq, as well of the president’s absolute commitment to doing right by the troops and his concern for every lost and wounded soldier and their families. President Bush’s command of the details and his broad view of the conflict is reassuring, and among my comments to him was the wish that he found more opportunities to engage in long interviews that would allow the American public to see that grasp and that commitment.

And some guy named Scott Hennon, whose obscenely sycophantic report really must be digested in its entirety. But since Hennon’s report consists of a single, 2600-word paragraph (no kidding), I’ll provide some of the highlights. (Note: Ignore the typos and grammatical errors, as Hennon appears to have been typing with one hand.)

We each had a glass of ice water with a Presidential seal embossed on in it at our spot…the anticipation was heavy in the air for the arrival of the President. Jared Weinstein, the President ‘s personal assistant (who previously worked for Andy Card and visited Moorhead with him days before the 2004 election) placed some peppermint candies at President Bush’s spot and filled his water glass, skipping the ice. We knew the moment was near. Just then, a familiar voice is heard from behind me and the President burst in the room and says to the group…”Hey, come on in hear gang” as he gestures to the Oval Office steps away. I was the first to enter and the President extended his hand and asked “How’s the North Dakotan today?”…”great to see you again”…as he pointed to a spot for me to sit, to his left. The hosts all filed in and took a seat, but I found myself elbow to elbow with the most powerful man in the World. . . .

He started with an explanation of why he wanted us in the Oval Office. He said the room was the place where he made the vast majority of his decisions as President. He gave us a sense of the magnitude of those decisions and what information he learns on a daily basis there. He shared a story of one of the first decisions he was asked to make in the Oval Office. What style of rug would he want? He chuckled and explained to the questioner about to ask Laura…as he didn’t do rugs. He used that as a metaphor to explain how he manages the awesome responsibility he has. His role is to focus on the big decisions utilizing his core convictions that the United States is a force for good in the World. That we must lead and take on evil where wherever it is, so as to assure as many people as possible will enjoy the God given inalienable right to freedom. He spoke very eloquently about Good vs. Evil and even brought the story back to the rug, which was designed with only this Presidential input….to let it reflect light so as to influence his decision making. Light as in good vs. darkness as in evil. His descriptions of the enemy and their brutal, cold-blooded-killer tactics were enough to make a graying group of radio talk how hosts want to enlist and serve this country in uniform.

I wish I could quote him exactly or play a recording of the conversation. Because the George W. Bush I met with in the Oval Office today is a very different person than the man you see in our media. He is a great President. We are very blessed that he is our Commander in Chief. History will judge him well.

As they say, pure comedy gold!

. . . UPDATE! MUST CREDIT LGM! My sources have forwarded me exclusive video from George W. Bush’s meeting with conservative talk show hosts:

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