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[ 0 ] May 25, 2007 |

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What do you know about Bill Richardson, who announced earlier this week that he’s running for President?

According to google, I’ve never written the name “Richardson” on my blog, which began in early September 2003. Shame on me, I guess — though I did mention his energy expertise once over at the Duck of Minerva.

Bloggers I read regularly have never made note of his political career. For example, I find no google hits for Richardson by Helmut and friends over at Phronesisaical nor any Richardson tags by Matthew at Fruits & Votes.

Here at LGM, they’ve done only a tad better. Scott has dropped Bill Richardson’s name twice in the past 60 days. April 26, he noted that when asked, the former Secretary of Energy picked somewhat strange favorite Supreme Court justices. On March 24, the New Mexico governor was mentioned in passing as a presidential candidate more electable than Hillary Clinton, and just as good on substance. The post was about HRC, however.

Finally, going back nearly three years to June 22, 2004, Rob speculated that the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations might make a “good” Secretary of State (paired with a “pleasant” Secretary of Defense, like General Wesley Clark).

Notice how I’ve sprinkled in some highlights of Richardson’s resume even as I have noted the lack of attention to his political career?

There’s more too. Richardson taught Government at Sante Fe Community College (he’s an academic too!) and then spent 14 years in Congress. Diplomatically, Richardson has negotiated successfully for the release of hostages, soldiers and prisoners from North Korea, Iraq (under Saddam), Sudan and Cuba. That’s a good starter-list of the nations America viewed as rogue states for most of the post-cold war era.

What else?

As Governor, Richardson has committed New Mexico to the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative, which is a sub-national effort to move the western part of the U.S. towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Apparently, New Mexico is on track to meet Kyoto-level cuts over the next few years.

Moreover, Richardson claims to have expanded health care coverage, increased the minimum wage, slashed taxes, balanced the budget for five years, increased teacher standards and school quality, and promoted a number of labor union initiatives relating to collective bargaining and prevailing wages.

Oh, and some people think his campaign commercials are top-notch.

What are the cons?

Richardson did not play minor league baseball — though he apparently claimed that he was drafted. Note that Richardson did play baseball in college and was apparently scouted by major league teams.

His spouse wasn’t President.

He is not a “rock star” candidate.

And he was not already on a presidential ticket.

I am pretty sure those are not the only negatives, but Richardson does have one advantage. Since nobody paid much attention to him over the past few years, he does not have to worry about addressing a bunch of well-known “unfavorables.”

This is by no means an endorsement, but it does suggest a need to learn more.


[ 0 ] May 25, 2007 |

Damn interesting:

As word of the birth-control wonder-herb spread through ancient Europe, Africa, and Asia, a market for the versatile fennel developed rapidly. The seeds became widely used among the world’s wealthier nations, including the citizens of ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and India. By some accounts the silphium seed was also a potent aphrodisiac, a property which considerably compounded its perceived value. The Roman bard Catullus famously alluded to its sexual properties in one of his love poems, where he declared that he and his lover would share as many kisses as there were grains of sand on Cyrene’s silphium shores. More plainly, “We can make love so long as we have silphium.”

. . . The extinction of silphium is now considered to be among humanity’s earliest environmental blunders. If laserwort was indeed more effective than the alternatives, then the bygone birth control is certainly deserving of its glowing reputation. Evidence suggests that the natural world allowed women in antiquity to govern their reproductive lives with far more control than commonly realized, and without the need to resort to senseless abstinence. But as mankind is wont to do, the custodians of this scarce commodity eventually surrendered to greed and short-sightedness, overtaxing the renewable resource until it was hopelessly exhausted.

I suppose, though, if silphium were still around, the Bush administration would have authorized a massive defoliation campaign to rid the world of this abomination, and the anti-”pesticide”/forced pregnancy lobby would be fantasizing about laws to punish laserwort cultivators for the senseless murder of potential humans. Also, my e-mail account would be clotted with truckloads of spam offering me WONDER FENNEL at impossibly low prices.

Nothing to see here…

[ 0 ] May 25, 2007 |

It’s been 24 hours since Bush said this, regarding the Iraqi government:

“We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It’s their government’s choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave.”

As of this hour, the AP, Reuters, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, CBS…hell, every single news service has yet to report this statement.

This statement, inside a press conference full of references to how withdrawal from Iraq would bring fire and brimstone down on America, is apparently not important at all.

(crossposted at BlueGrassRoots)

Birth Control "Is A Pesticide"

[ 0 ] May 25, 2007 |

More reasoned discourse from America’s profoundly serious and morally superior pro-life movement, this time from National Abstinence Clearinghouse Sweepstakes spokesperson Leslee Unruh. You will not be surprised to learn that Unruh and her spouse were featured “experts” of the uber-crackpot South Dakota Forced Pregnancy Task Force. More on Unruh here.

[Via Feministing.]

I Really Hate Myself For Doing This

[ 0 ] May 25, 2007 |

The Talking Dog has another of his terrific interviews with lawyers representing Gitmo detainees, this one with Robert Rachlin. As an aside, I was struck by this:

Pat Leahy is co-sponsoring a bill to amend the Military Commissions Act to restore habeas corpus with Sen. Arlen Specter. I don’t know where that stands, but certainly, as Leahy and Specter are respectively the chairman and ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, it will surely get a committee hearing.

It’s really nice that Specter wants to restore habeas rights. What would have been even nicer is if he had used his position as chair of the Judiciary Committee to stop it from passing in the first place. Or at a minimum he could have not voted for the goddamned thing. As far as I can tell, Specter’s alleged civil libertarian credentials rest on 1)casting a (non-decisive) vote against Robert Bork, and 2)otherwise engaging in lots of self-aggrandizing hand-wringing before voting to gut people’s rights. (Cf. especially his behavior at the Thomas hearings.)

Niall Ferguson, Wanker

[ 0 ] May 25, 2007 |

Fergie, 9 February 2005

That is why the president is more right than he knows to reject calls for an arbitrary departure date. The price of liberty in Iraq will be, if not eternal vigilance on the part of the United States, then certainly 10 years’ vigilance.

Fergie, 21 May 2007:

[T]he decision to overthrow Hussein was one of history’s great non sequiturs.

Most Americans didn’t know who Niall Ferguson was in Spring 2003, so — unlike those emanating from the Great Singular Orifice of respectable liberal punditry — his views were doing nothing to drive American public opinion toward supporting this moronic war. So on that count, at least, I don’t suppose Ferguson has much for which to atone. And he’s not speaking in Friedman Units, so there’s something.

Nonetheless, from the publication of Empire onward, Ferguson has relentlessly advocated that the United States bear the White Man’s Burden in Iraq and elsewhere, and he can’t be let off the hook for that. Smart people bought his book and repeated his elegant phrases, and — whether he’s directly at fault or not — here we are, still feeding the pig. Fergie’s had his misgivings, of course, and has been claiming for nearly three years that the US has been doing a poor job of it — but his complaints, as best I can tell, have always centered on the unwillingness of the US to commit the time and resources to the war in Iraq. Now, at preceisely the moment that one presumes Ferguson would be castigating the war’s opponents for not bearing their imperial responsibilities like real Englishmen Americans, he at last declares the war a “tragedy” and a “nonsequitur,” denouncing Bush along the way for wreaking “havoc” with his doctrine of preemptive war.

It says a lot, though, that Ferguson still conceives of Bush as the victim in this drama. (It is, after all, the “Tragedy of King George” rather than “The Folly of Empire.”) Sure, Ferguson makes passing reference to the “tens, if not the hundreds, of thousands” of bodies coughed up by this “tragedy,” but the real story for Ferguson resides in the “corpses” of Wolfowitz or Tony Blair and in fragile lives of Bush, Olmert, Musharraf and Prince Bandar — “the only principals left standing.” Not to be too obtuse, but all the other “principals” appear to be standing quite fine on their own. Wolfowitz lost his job at the Defense Department and then the World Bank, but he’s looking pretty healthy to me. He’ll probably even find new love by month’s end. Same for Tony Blair, who (aside from a little arm cramping after five years of trans-Atlantic reacharounds) seems positively radiant by comparison with the hundreds of thousands of people condemned to die by his and King George’s war — a war, Ferguson would rather not highlight, that he also thought was “winnable” until quite recently.

A Solemn Apology

[ 0 ] May 24, 2007 |

A TBogg commenter claims that d’s recent worst-American profile means that L, G & M has “jumped the shark.” And you know, I think he has a point; it was horribly unfair to John Wayne Gacy and Roy Cohn for d to compare them to Jewel. But it’s difficult to find someone who’s done precisely the same level of evil in every post, so cut him some slack…

Do You Hate the Rule of Law, Or Just Accountability?

[ 0 ] May 24, 2007 |

Good question:

Hiring for career positions in the Justice Department was being done on the basis of the political positions of the applicants. If you don’t think Gonzales deserves impeachment for this, is it because you think violating law and civil service rules to politicize law enforcement is no big deal, or because you think that it’s unreasonable to hold Gonzales responsible for what his aides do, or is there some third option I haven’t thought of?

Nope–it really is one or the other.


[ 0 ] May 24, 2007 |

Via Kay Steiger, an excellent COHE article about U.S. News and World Report‘s ludicrously arbitrary university ranking system. The rankings, created with formulae that have little internal logic, are worse than useless. First, because the apparent certainty of quantification gives them an authority they don’t remotely merit. And more importantly, because they’re so arbitrary they’re also easily gamed, causing universities to shift priorities to increase their (educationally meaningless but believed to be meaningful) rankings. The two pathologies work together in distorting the educational missions of institutions:

In other words, you have to act like Baylor. One of the first steps the university took, after appointing Van Gray, associate vice president for strategic planning and improvement, to oversee the efforts of all departments, was to tie money for new programs to the standards set forth in its strategic plan. Any official who wanted money beyond his or her budget for a new project had to fill out a form stating how that project would further the goals of Baylor 2012.

At Baylor, as at many other institutions, the admissions office plays a crucial role in improving the rankings because 15 percent of U.S. News’s formula is determined by measures of student selectivity, including scores on standardized entrance exams and the institution’s acceptance rate. To improve those numbers, Baylor increased its total scholarship offerings from $38-million in 2001 to $86-million in 2005 and created an honors college. Since 2002 applications have increased (from 7,431 to 26,421) and the acceptance rate has dropped from 81 percent to 42 percent. Over the last five years, the average SAT score of enrolling first-year students has risen 30 points, to 1219.

“We looked very deliberately at what kind of class we wanted because that’s an issue that’s somewhat controllable,” says Mr. Gray. “I believe we have attracted much higher-performing students as the direct result of this 10-year plan.”

While Baylor says the changes it is making are within the overall mission of the institution, colleges that are ranked lower and want to rise may need to change their very nature.

Take, for example, Chapman University.

Chapman, in the heart of Orange County, Calif., has long been known as a college that gave a second chance to underachieving high-school students who showed promise. When James L. Doti became president, in 1991, he says, Chapman essentially had no admissions criteria, other than the best judgment of the staff.

Students were “using Chapman like a community college,” he says. Only 42 percent of students graduated within five years. The university had one endowed chair. There was almost no money for merit-based financial aid.

So Mr. Doti dropped the athletics program from Division II to Division III, thereby eliminating all athletics scholarships.

“We took that $2-million a year in athletic aid and added it to the financial-aid budget,” he says. The institution increased its tuition one year by 25 percent, so parents and students would perceive that the college had as good a program as “the colleges we wanted to compete with.”

Mr. Doti decided to set a minimum SAT score required for admission. “It was 740, which is nothing great, but for Chapman, at least it was something,” he says. “The next year, it was 760. That lops off a lot of people at the bottom. Every year we went up another 10 or 20 points.” The university began a scholars program with grants for high-achieving students.

Almost all the changes were designed expressly to help the college rise in the U.S. News rankings. “I can quibble with the methodology, but what else is out there?” says Mr. Doti. “We probably use it more than anything else to give us objective data to see if we are making progress on our strategic goals.”

The liberal arts colleges who refuse to participate have the right idea.

Bush falls into McConnell’s hole

[ 0 ] May 24, 2007 |

Bush just stated in his press conference that if the Iraqi government wants us to leave, we will leave. This echoes Sen. McConnell’s previous comment I spoke of earlier that we’ll gladly pull out if that is what Iraq wants.

This is coming from someone who has long said that no other country or international organization will have a veto over our policy. He has also said that pulling out of Iraq will be the “worstest thing evah” and make those damn Iraqis follow us home over the ocean in their canoes to kill us.

So basically, staying in Iraq is of the most vital importance to our security, but if their government doesn’t want us there, we will cower and endanger our country by acquiescing to their demands.

He is, of course, full of crap on both accounts, because there is absolutely nothing on earth that would cause him to pull out, whether that be the American people, our legislature, or the Iraqi legislature. Such a vote by the Iraqi legislature and defiance of it will just further destroy his credibility, yet those Republicans that still support him are likely to stay in their world of delusion no matter what evidence they are presented with.

(crossposted at BlueGrassRoots)

….apparently, the AP, CBS, ABC and CNN found this detail not important enough to put into their coverage of the press conference.

Worst American Birthdays, vol. XV

[ 12 ] May 24, 2007 |

Born in Utah and raised for much of her life in Homer, Alaska, Jewel Kilcher inflicted extraordinary damage upon the world when she traded her anonymous life of bar-yodeling for an overly-earnest career in the music industry.

Perhaps, like Monica Goodling, she “intended” no harm; her artistic crimes, however, are legion — and none more so than the several bathetic volumes of “poetry” she has managed to publish, each of which has single-handedly reversed the evolution of verse by at least three millennia. Mercifully, her latest writing project — a collection of diary entries and poems about her boyfriend, seven-time rodeo champion Ty Murray — was derailed because she feared that Murray’s mother would be disturbed by the book’s erotic revelations about her son. If a just God exists, such a collection will never gurgle its way into print.

We might just as easily select the “worst” of Jewel’s poems by tossing darts at a wall papered over with her adolescent bilge. For my money, however, nothing can out-suck a brief meditation on plantation rape written by a white woman who shacks up with a rodeo superstar:

Burn her eyes, without hope of understanding them.
Kiss her mouth, that you may fathom its strange tongue.
Indulge in her brown skin because it reminds you of mother.
Rape her mind, because it is not your own,
but so sweet, so familiar.
Like coming home to a native land
your pale and inbred hands can only faintly fathom.

Jewel turned 33 today, and the odds are good that she wrote an awful poem about it.

Pajamas Media: The Good One

[ 0 ] May 24, 2007 |

I was happy to see that the annual Fistful Of Euros Satin Pajamas awards were up–I’m always happy to be introduced to new European blogs I wouldn’t otherwise see. I was then surprised and gratified to see that L, G & M has been nominated for best non-European weblog (although I think it was my French name that put me over the top.) Make sure to check it out.

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