…as most of you probably know. The most obvious puzzle to this non-expert is how someone could get in a position to fire two shots at close range; the most obvious answer is that Musharraf wanted her dead. Spencer Ackerman supports this:
After an October attack on Bhutto’s life in Karachi, the ex-prime minister warned “certain individuals in the security establishment [about the threat] and nothing was done,” says Husain Haqqani, a confidante of Bhutto’s for decades. “There is only one possibility: the security establishment and Musharraf are complicit, either by negligence or design. That is the most important thing. She’s not the first political leader killed, since Musharraf took power, by the security forces.”
Haqqani notes that Bhutto died of a gunshot wound to the neck. “It’s like a hit, not a regular suicide bombing,” he says. “It’s quite clear that someone who considers himself Pakistan’s Godfather has a very different attitude toward human life than you and I do.”
And, of course, not only is Musharraf’s chief rival dead, but this will also serve as a pretext to cancel elections.
Shorter Verbatim Ron Paul: “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the “criminal justice system,” I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal. If similar in-depth studies were conducted in other major cities, who doubts that similar results would be produced? We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational.”
I know he’s right on the war, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that he’s a crank reactionary.
There’s news today that executions have declined around the country in 2007. This should come as no surprise given the current federal de facto moratorium pending the Supreme Court’s resolution of the lethal injection case, and the fact that New Jersey recently became the first state in a generation to repeal its death penalty law and ban the punishment in the state.
But one state is going against the grain — Texas. This year saw the smallest number of executions in over ten years, but a full 60% of the executions that did take place were in Texas (26 of 42). This despite the fact that the death penalty is not imposed in more murder cases as a percentage than in other states and in Texas and juries are no more likely to impose the death penalty than in other states. The big difference is that in Texas, a death sentence means what it says; in other states, a death sentence doesn’t always result in an execution…or at least not for a long time.
Some professors speculate that the trend will continue to expand. From the Times article:
Indeed, said David R. Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston who has represented death row inmates, the day is not far off when essentially all executions in the United States will take place in Texas.
“The reason that Texas will end up monopolizing executions,” he said, “is because every other state will eliminate it de jure, as New Jersey did, or de facto, as other states have.”
While I think this might be overstating the case a bit (there are other injection-happy states out there, particularly Texas’s neighbors), its a worthwhile statement if only to make clear how out of step Texas is becoming with the rest of the nation with regard to criminal justice and capital punishment. First it became the state that upheld a death penalty imposed while the defendant’s lawyer slept through the trial. Literally. And now it is the state that puts more people to death than do most countries, even as the rest of our own country begins (continues?) to shy away from imposing this harshest punishment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.