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And I’ve also heard somewhere that Hitler was a vegetarian

[ 0 ] September 7, 2007 |

While we’re on the subject of zombies, it’s great to see once again that wingnuts are allowing Osama bin Laden to get inside their heads.

After all, bin Laden himself would expect nothing less from them:

All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there . . .

UPDATE [by SL]: The dead have risen and they’re scaring Republicans! Except that they’re still dead! He said Chomsky, ha-ha!

Do Not Make Light of the Zombie Menace

[ 0 ] September 7, 2007 |

Funny enough, I suppose, but what are the chances that the Bush administration is really going to take charge of the zombie crisis? Snowball in hell, if you ask me.

"Limited Government" Moment of the Day

[ 0 ] September 7, 2007 |

Fred Thompson:

Speaking in Sioux City, Iowa, moments ago, Fred Thompson endorsed an amendment to the Constitution that would prevent state judges from altering the definition of marriage without the direction of their states’ legislatures.

Mr. Thompson has been under fire from social conservatives in recent days for refusing to support the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would define marriage in the United States as being between one man and one woman. He’s said that such an amendment would conflict with his views on federalism.

Perhaps I’m a little thick in the noodle these days, but I’m geniunely baffled by any definition of “federalism” that would essentially mandate that contentious issues be sorted out by state legislatures and state legislatures alone. If you’re going to oppose a federal marriage amendment because it would upset your dodgy “federalist” sensibilities, you simply can’t turn around and propose an amendment like this. Unless, of course, you’re willing to change your slogan from “leave the issue to the states” to “leave the issue only to those state institutions I consider legitimate.”

Gagged No More

[ 0 ] September 7, 2007 |

Some good news out of Washington: Congress voted last night to get rid of the Global Gag Rule, which denies funding to all international organizations that “perform abortions in cases other than a threat to the woman’s life, rape or incest; provide counseling and referral for abortion; or lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their country.” The bill was originally to provide contraception directly to international organizations affected by the Global Gag Rule. An amendment from Sen. Barbara Boxer proposed the total elimination of the Gag Rule. Last night, the law passed with the amendment in place.

Not only is this the first good reproductive justice news to come out of Washington in a long time, but it’s also a big F-U to President Bush. Bush’s first official duty as president to was to reinstate the Rule, which President Clinton had gotten rid of. Though the President has threatened to veto this bill (as he does with most good legislation out of this Congress), Congress’s move sends a clear message. And a good one.

More on Vanity Fair on Gore

[ 0 ] September 7, 2007 |

There are a couple more passages worth highlighting from Evgenia Peretz’s fine Vanity Fair article about the War on Gore. First, some of you may have seen this quote, but the wider the circulation the better. If you don’t believe me that 2000 campaign coverage was scandalously lazy, shallow, and partial, just ask ubiquitous tee vee and print presence Margaret Carlson:

Perhaps reporting in this vein was just too gratifying to the press for it to stop. As Time magazine’s Margaret Carlson admitted to Don Imus at the time, “You can actually disprove some of what Bush is saying if you really get into the weeds and get out your calculator, or look at his record in Texas. But it’s really easy, and it’s fun to disprove Al Gore. As sport, and as our enterprise, Gore coming up with another whopper is greatly entertaining to us.”

And it’s been just as fun for the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, let me tell you! However, that last sentence should read “people like me making up another Gore whopper out of whole cloth is greatly entertaining to us.” This, from Chris Matthews, is just as instructive:

One obstacle course the press set up was which candidate would lure voters to have a beer with them at the local bar. “Journalists made it seem like that was a legitimate way of choosing a president,” says Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter. “They also wrongly presumed, based on nothing, that somehow Bush was more likable.” Chris Matthews contends that “the likability issue was something decided by the viewers of the debates, not by the commentators,” but adds, “The last six years have been a powerful bit of evidence that we have to judge candidates for president on their preparation for the office with the same relish that we assess their personalities.”

The boldfaced projection is a remarkably precise inversion of reality. Viewers who watched the debate thought Gore had won. It was the commentators, and people who got their debate information mediated through them, who preferred Bush. It was the commentators who decided that Gore’s sighing was more important than Bush telling baldfaced lies about his reactionary policy proposals. Peretz, moreover, explains where this narrative originated: “The trivial continued to dominate during the postmortem following Gore and Bush’s first debate, on October 3, 2000. The television media were sure Gore won—at first. But then Republican operatives promptly spliced together a reel of Gore sighing, which was then sent to right-wing radio outlets. Eighteen hours later, the pundits could talk of little else.”

What’s important to remember, however, is that wherever the sighing nonsense originated, the blame rests entirely with the ostensible journalists who ran with it. One can hardly blame GOP operatives or conservative media hacks for trying to focus on trivia after a debate in which their candidate has been substantively obliterated; that’s their job. But for reporters for major newspapers to go along is unforgivable.

The Political Failure of Libertarian Tax-Cut Justifications

[ 0 ] September 7, 2007 |

Brian Beutler has an intelligent intervention into the discussion surrounding Jon Chait’s new book. To add on a bit to his argument, I’d like to address this from McArdle:

My quarrel is with the notion that supply-side theories have enormous influence on Republican policy. Supply-siders haven’t had the kind of influence that Chait describes since the Reagan administration. And that’s because everyone observed the Reagan tax cuts opening up huge deficits. Supply side theories are window-dressing–bad, horrible window-dressing, but still, just window dressing. You don’t need it to construct an argument for tax cuts, which is why, contra Chait, getting rid of the supply siders would not much change the desire for low taxes among Republicans. Nor do I think you even need supply-side arguments to sell the tax cuts to the public. The benefits of tax cuts to the public are quite evident: you send less money to the government.

The central argument here — that the Bush administration’s ideological program and public justification of the same would be strongly influenced by impartial empirical evidence — is…problematic. But leaving that aside, the argument that supply-side arguments are superfluous because the value of tax cuts is directly obvious also doesn’t fly, at least when we’re talking about federal income taxes. The distribution of the Bush tax cuts, in particular, is such that the overwhelming majority of the benefits go to a group that is already predominantly Republican and does not come anywhere near an electoral majority. More importantly, the claim that “you’ll get to keep more money” is insufficient as a political justification for tax cuts has empirical support. Mark Smith’s research — now available in convenient book form — found that framing tax cuts in more libertarian terms was politically ineffective. Rather, they became a potent weapon when they were linked to strong claims about their role in promoting economic growth.

Admittedly, McArdle is right that this argument does not require the very strongest supply-side claims about tax cuts paying for themselves — although Republican politicians and public intellectuals have tended to make them anyway — but greatly overstating the economic impact of tax cuts is in fact integral to their effectiveness as a political tool. Appeals to libertarian principles or naked self-interest were never sufficient.

Take With a Bit of (Sea) Salt…

[ 0 ] September 7, 2007 |

From Warships: IFR:

Other statements of intent last month regarding increasing naval capability included Admiral Masorin revealing that Russia is to create two new strike forces. They will be centred on three carriers each, with one trio assigned to the Northern Fleet, based in the Kola Peninsula, and the other to the Pacific. Pravda stated in an editorial published on July 11: ‘Russia is building a new Navy and aircraft carriers are deemed as its integral part.’

If achieved, this will enable the Russian Navy to maintain a continuous carrier force presence in the Atlantic, the Pacific and further afield. The Russian Navy’s sole existing operational carrier, RFS Kuznetsov, is said by defence sources to be ready to deploy this autumn from Kola, as a precursor to the dramatic upsurge in Russian carrier-based airpower. The five other carrier groups are expected to gradually stand-up over the next 20 years. It is anticipated the carrier programme will get underway in 2015, but possibly sooner. With the Sevmash shipyard at Sevorodvinsk leading the project, the new vessels will each be of around 50,000 tonnes displacement, nuclear-propelled and capable of carrying a strike group of approximately 30 aircraft.


Coincidentally, I’ve just been reading Stalin’s Ocean-Going Fleet by Jurgen Rowher and Mikhail S. Monakov (review forthcoming). In addition to such interesting tidbits as the belief on the part of the Soviet Navy that its Gangut class battleships were superior to “all but fifteen” of the world’s battleships in the late 1920s, and the fact that negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States progressed rather far regarding the construction of a Soviet fast battleship in American yards prior to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the book makes clear that the Russians have been declaring that they will soon build a fleet of aircraft carriers since the early 1920s. After 80 years, the result of those declarations has been two helicopter cruisers, four VSTOL carriers, and one genuine aircraft carrier. Given this history, I’m pretty skeptical that we’re on the verge of seeing a massive Russian fleet carrier presence in the Arctic or the Pacific anytime soon.

The French are So Very Different…

[ 0 ] September 7, 2007 |

From Defense News, a response to a new French defense white paper:

The report draws some skepticism. “It’s interesting and no doubt well done, but I am unconvinced about the usefulness of making 30-year predictions,” said Yves Boyer, deputy director of think-tank Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique. Boyer said the report is “an excess of positivism, a neo-positivism,” founded on the belief that things can be scientifically known and codified, whereas events show that life is not linear and is unpredictable. The exercise taps into what Boyer sees as a French cultural bias toward an engineering and scientific approach to geopolitics and geostrategy.

The point is well taken (although I’m not sure about the French cultural bias towards engineering and the scientific approach; compared to who?) but it’s just so hard for me to imagine a post-positivist critique of the Quadrienial Defense Review emerging from Brookings or any other American defense think tank.


[ 0 ] September 6, 2007 |

Pancreatic cancer — a disease I regard as proving either the indifference of the universe or the hostility of god — took him out. I can’t claim to have been a close follower of Pavarotti’s career, but I must say this is pretty fantastic:

The Dianetics Theory of Taxation

[ 0 ] September 6, 2007 |

Seems about right. Still, let there be no doubt than Fred Thompson and John McCain are figures of immense seriousity and gravitude.

Mmm… Pithy

[ 0 ] September 6, 2007 |

Kenneth Waltz, via Travis Sharp:

To say that militarily strong states are feeble because they cannot easily bring order to minor states is like saying that a pneumatic hammer is weak because it is not suitable for drilling decayed teeth.


[ 0 ] September 6, 2007 |

John Judis has a rundown of the 2008 Senate races, noting that in the long run Warner leaving is a lot more important than Craig’s resignation. I agree that the Dems are very, very likely to win Colorado and New Hampshire. The most interesting category to me is the “could win” one:

Moderate Republican incumbents Norm Coleman in Minnesota, Susan Collins in Maine, and Gordon Smith in Oregon could be in trouble because they are running in states that are expected to vote strongly Democratic in 2008. If the Iraq war drags on, and the Republicans are identified nationally with it, these candidates will have to run against their own party. Coleman and Smith are both unpopular in their states but face relatively inexperienced, although by no means incapable, foes. Collins remains popular in Maine, but she faces a popular Democratic congressman, Tom Allen. These races could hinge on voter disgust with the national Republicans and who runs the best campaigns.

Here, I’m a touch less optimistic. I’ll be interested to see how Allen looks; I’ve generally assumed that, while GOP control of the seats will end with the end of their tenures, that Snowe and Collins have their seats for as long as they want them. I’d be pretty skeptical about Democratic chances there. Minnesota seems the most promising. I don’t know what to make of Oregon; it seems like a good pickup theory in principle, but Smith seems oddly popular. (I would definitely like to see his “disapprove” numbers get over 50% before I’ll be too optimistic…)

The bottom line, I guess, is that while the Dems are in good shape because they have a lot of opportunities for states where things can break right, we shouldn’t forget how hard it is to beat a GOP incumbent even in a blue state. This is why Warner resigning helps a lot. I would be surprised if the Dems could pick off more than 1 of the above three incumbents, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they all held on.

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