As I type I do not know how hostage situation will turn out; obviously I hope that it ends peaceably with no one hurt [Wish granted, see UPDATE] [E&P identifies the perpetrator as Leeland Eisenberg; a Leeland Eisenberg of Rochester, NH was cited for stalking and DUI in 2007. See "IN THE NEWS" below.]
ROCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - A man claiming to have a bomb strapped to his chest seized several hostages at Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire campaign office on Friday before releasing two in a tense standoff with police.
It was unclear whether there were any hostages remaining in the campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire and police were still surrounding the building.
Local media described the hostage-taker as a mentally unstable man in his 40s who had apparently strapped highway flares to his body and had told his son earlier to "watch the news."
Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, was not in New Hampshire and canceled a speaking date in Virginia immediately after news of the incident broke.
"She's in Washington D.C.," said Secret Service spokesman Darrin Blackford, who had no further information on her whereabouts. "We're monitoring the situation in New Hampshire but its being treated as a local police matter," he said.
Setting aside the human toll, my instant guess is that the political impact of this will be bad for Hillary in a way that would not be true for another candidate. This may all change when we get the perpetrator's story but right now Ms. Clinton carries the heavy baggage of a huge unfavorable rating and this incident will remind people that she is the candidate that enrages a sizable slice of the public.
UPDATE: The Times:
A tense standoff at a presidential campaign office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Rochester, N.H., ended shortly after 6 p.m. Friday, as an unidentified man who had held at least four people hostage was taken into police custody. There were no apparent injuries.
....[Officials] also would not comment on the suspect, but witnesses who spoke to a relative of the man they believe to be the suspect said he was despondent and had been drinking for several days.
At 5 p.m., there had been no reports of injuries.
While authorities said nothing about the identity of the hostage taker, several residents provided a description of the man they believe to be involved in the hostage taking.
Herman Ejarque, the co-owner and manager of the nearby Governor’s Inn, said in a telephone interview that a relative of the suspect had come into the inn at about 2 p.m. after being interviewed by police. The man’s relationship to the suspect was not clear — he is either the son, step-son or son-in-law. He talked with the inn’s front-desk receptionist, Chelsea Coul, telling her he was cold and looking for a cup of coffee but that the town had been evacuated and everything was shut down.
The man told Ms. Coul that the suspect’s wife had sought a divorce a few months ago and that he was unemployed and “hasn’t been in the right state of mind” for three months. Ms. Coul said the man told her that the suspect had been drinking for 72 hours and that he needed help and quoted the suspect as saying, “I don’t know what to do with my life.”
He also said he believed the suspect was “harmless.”
...It was unclear what political fallout, if any, the incident might have.
It's bad for Hillary.
MORE: Apparently the hostage-taker called CNN:
NEW YORK Leeland Eisenberg, who held several campaign workers hostage all afternoon at a Hillary Clinton storefront in Rochester, N.H., surrendered to police at 6:15 this evening. Cable news caught the arrest as it happened, with Lee Eisenberg, in a white shirt and tie, emerging, going to his knees, getting handcuffed and taken to a police car.
No one was hurt in the entire affair. Three or four hostages had been released over time. Sen. Clinton was in Virginia.
Minutes later, Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Situation Room revealed that the man had called the CNN bureau in Washington during the crisis and talked to staffers -- not Blitzer. The CNN anchor also said that Eisenberg had called another CNN office, which he did not identify, as well.
He said the cable news network decided not to reveal this before so it would not interfere with any negotiations.
He was probably irate that his You-Tube question had been overlooked for the Republican debate.
As to his motivation:
Police and the media have suggested that the man who took the hostages has had "issues" with local law enforcement. E&P has found one specific case involving the local man, who reputedly has some mental problems.
Back on March 16 this year, local media reported on
Rochester police coming up with a novel idea for fighting auto theft. But some residents -- including Eisenberg -- were outraged at their plan.
The plan: checking car doors, and if unlocked, leaving behind a warning flyer.
"It's an outrage, it's an absolute outrage," said Eisenberg in one report. He claimed the intrusion into his Chevy violates the Fourth Amendment, and raised such a fuss that his picture appeared in a local newspaper.
"That's a crime. They violated my civil rights and the rights of many citizens in this city that are not even aware of it," said Eisenberg, who was now asking state and federal authorities to investigate the Rochester police.
Eisenberg said he thinks police searched his car illegally, because it was clean when he parked it for the night and dirty with ash from the ashtray the next morning, when he found the flier.
He said he complained to the state attorney general, the governor and the U.S. attorney. Police later said they were re-thinking the idea.
IN THE NEWS: A Leeland Eisenberg of Rochester, NH made the local police blotter twice this year:
7:51 p.m. --Leeland Eisenberg, 46, of Milton Road, 16, is charged with two counts of stalking.
With the help of a resident who called to report a suspected drunken driver on Washington Street, police charged Leeland Eisenberg, 46, of 182 Milton Road, Apartment 16, Rochester with driving while intoxicated.
AP COVERAGE: Glen Johnson of the AP fawns on the "calm", "orderly", "regal" Hillary performance. Ann Althouse does not fawn on Glen Johnson; archives of his stories are here and here, and we see that the Romney people have it in for him.
KATHERINE SEELYE OF THE TIMES: "Mrs. Clinton struck just the right grace notes".
Here is an instant-classic poll from Gallup:
Republicans Report Much Better Mental Health Than Others
PRINCETON, NJ -- Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education.
The basic data -- based on an aggregated sample of more than 4,000 interviews conducted since 2004 -- are straightforward.
One could be quick to assume that these differences are based on the underlying demographic and socioeconomic patterns related to party identification in America today. A recent Gallup report (see "Strong Relationship Between Income and Mental Health" in Related Items) reviewed these mental health data more generally, and found that men, those with higher incomes, those with higher education levels, and whites are more likely than others to report excellent mental health. Some of these patterns describe characteristics of Republicans, of course.
But an analysis of the relationship between party identification and self-reported excellent mental health within various categories of age, gender, church attendance, income, education, and other variables shows that the basic pattern persists regardless of these characteristics. In other words, party identification appears to have an independent effect on mental health even when each of these is controlled for.
I'm not sure of the age adjustments they may have studied here, but say it with me - if you are not a socialist at twenty you have no heart; if you are still a socialist at thirty you have no brain [see young socialist in action here].
Left unexplored by these pollsters - how do Democrats rate the mental health of Republicans, and vice versa? And is this poll result stable over time? C'mon - Clinton drove the right crazy and now Bush has returned the favor, so maybe they should check again after two years under Hillary [But will it take that long? I give myself about two minutes...]
Whatever - presumably Dems are smart enough to figure they must be crazy but Reps haven't caught up yet.
Paul Krugman takes Barack Obama to task for his campaign rhetoric on health care reform, but had to get either stupid or disingenuous to do it. Away we go:
From the beginning, advocates of universal health care were troubled by the incompleteness of Barack Obama’s plan, which unlike those of his Democratic rivals wouldn’t cover everyone. But they were willing to cut Mr. Obama slack on the issue, assuming that in the end he would do the right thing.
The central question is whether there should be a health insurance “mandate” — a requirement that everyone sign up for health insurance, even if they don’t think they need it. The Edwards and Clinton plans have mandates; the Obama plan has one for children, but not for adults.
Why have a mandate? The whole point of a universal health insurance system is that everyone pays in, even if they’re currently healthy, and in return everyone has insurance coverage if and when they need it.
Well, yes - *if* insurance companies are not allowed to turn people away on the basis of pre-existing conditions, then only a fool would sign up for insurance before actually getting sick. The plans offered by Hillary Clinton and John Edwards try to sidestep this by obliging everyone to sign up or else. But as the Times pointed out recently, Massachusetts has now reached the "or else" portion of Gov. Romney's state-wide "sign-up or else" health care reform. And folks in Massachusetts are providing a live demonstration of the problem for which Barack Obama has criticized his rivals - not everyone wants to sign up and the penalties for non-compliance are not enough to sway them.
Now, for perfectly sensible reasons, Hillary is disinclined to describe the "or else" stick she might be prepared to swing. Hence Barack's criticism - Hillary calls her plan "universal" because everyone is obliged to sign up, even though we have no idea how serious her proposed enforcement will be. (Hmm - perhaps some Dem can offer a universal Don't Worry Be Happy plan, where we will all be happy because otherwise... well, otherwise nothing, but so what? And don't forget the pony.)
But a plan isn't universal simply because Hillary says it is; it is "universal" if there is complete (or near-complete) participation, and since she has provided no information on prospective enforcement we have no way of guessing how close HillaryCare might come to achieving that goal.
So how does the Earnest Prof tackle this?
Second, Mr. Obama claims that mandates won’t work, pointing out that many people don’t have car insurance despite state requirements that all drivers be insured. Um, is he saying that states shouldn’t require that drivers have insurance? If not, what’s his point?
Look, law enforcement is sometimes imperfect. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have laws.
Kidding? I think there is broad agreement that we should not pass laws that can't or won't be enforced. We were all a nation of law-breakers when the national speed limit was 55 MPH, which hardly promoted a respect for traffic laws. If HillaryCare amounts to requiring people to sign up for insurance they would not otherwise choose but imposes no penalties on the free riders who ignore her commands, then the law-abiding citizens will feel like suckers. Because that's what they will have been.
Third, and most troubling, Mr. Obama accuses his rivals of not explaining how they would enforce mandates, and suggests that the mandate would require some kind of nasty, punitive enforcement: “Their essential argument,” he says, “is the only way to get everybody covered is if the government forces you to buy health insurance. If you don’t buy it, then you’ll be penalized in some way.”
Well, John Edwards has just called Mr. Obama’s bluff, by proposing that individuals be required to show proof of insurance when filing income taxes or receiving health care. If they don’t have insurance, they won’t be penalized — they’ll be automatically enrolled in an insurance plan.
That’s actually a terrific idea — not only would it prevent people from gaming the system, it would have the side benefit of enrolling people who qualify for S-chip and other government programs, but don’t know it.
The IRS is going to enforce the Edwards' plan? Excellent - I assume it is in some other speech that Edwards decries tax cheats and the non-tax-compliant among us; for purposes of health care reform, IRS compliance is not only 100%, but the folks who are not even required to file with the IRS already have health insurance. Of course this is nonsense, as presumably Edwards' and Krugman realize; back in reality, the immediate impact of the Edwards' scheme would be to provide yet one more incentive for participants in the underground economy to remain underground.
Kevin Drum and Mattt Yglesias bash the Edwards idea with more gusto, so let me add this - Edwards at least demonstrated why it has been shrewd of Ms. Clinton to keep mum on this point. But Krugman's real worry - that the points being made by Obama today will be made by Republicans next fall - won't go away if Obama just pipes down.
The TigerHawk tells us of a White House led deal to keep the sub-prime mortgage market afloat by extending teaser rates:
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the White House is near to a deal with the big banks and, perhaps, the investors in subprime mortgages to temporarily freeze interest rates on mortgages that otherwise would "reset":
Details of the plan, which could be announced as early as next week, are still being worked out. In general, the government and the coalition have largely agreed to extend the lower introductory rate on home loans for certain borrowers who will have trouble making payments once their mortgages increase.
Many subprime loans carry a low "teaser" interest rate for the first two or three years, then reset to a higher rate for the remainder of the term, which is typically 30 years in total. In a typical case, the rate would rise to around 9.5% to 11% from 7% or 8%. That would boost an average borrower's payment by several hundred dollars a month.
MarketWatch adds little, so let me ride with the TigerBull:
Meanwhile, the dollar is stronger notwithstanding new chatter from the Fed on interest rate cuts, gold and oil are down, and the stock market has now been up three days in a row for the first time since September. A lot of different people are registering new confidence that catastrophe is not in the offing. Are we going to dodge this bullet?
Hmm. Let's just say that there are a lot of things that could go right for Bush in the next year - for starters a deal to help homeowners may silence John "Two Americas" Edwards for a welcome thirty seconds. And I am picturing a world with falling oil prices and stability in Iraq (how about democracy?!?) as we run up to November '08. Maybe not a bad time to be Rudy Giuliani.
Of course there is a lot that could go wrong, so keep hope alive, Dems.
MORE: Did you buy bond insurers yesterday? They are up on reports of this deal, as well they might be.
As I paged through the Times and slurped my morning coffee, some was spilled on this correction:
An article on Nov. 21 about a Rand Corporation study on street stops by the New York Police Department referred incorrectly at some points to an overall figure and misstated the number of individual officers who were found to be disproportionately more likely to stop whites. There were 508,540 street stops in 2006 — not 508,540 people stopped — and 13 officers, not 9, tended to stop whites more often. The article also misstated the finding of a racial disparity in the handing out of summonses. Whites are more likely — not less — to receive them. (Go to Article)
The fun began when I clicked through to the article in question. Although it is flagged as having a correction appended, the original errors seem to have been revised away. However, the attempted revisions failed a couple of basic tests of grammar and spelling. This is what the Times is currently offering (but I bet/hope it changes [Now you see it, now you don't - apparently the Times has undone their attempted revisions]):
City Police Stop Whites Equally but Frisk Them Less, a Study Finds
By Al Baker
Whites and members of minorities have a roughly equal chance of being stopped by police officers and questioned on the street in New York City. But officers are more likely to frisk, search, arrest black or to use force against them Hispanic people, but more likely to give summomses to whites, according to a study released yesterday.
Geez - the police are more likely to use force against "them Hispanic people"? And what are the white folk expected to do with these mysterious "summomses", anyway? I fear we are creating a city of scofflaws.
One might wonder what the original paragraph said; although the NY Orwellian Times has disappeared it, excerpts live on elsewhere, including at reporter Al Baker's original blog posting; here is the original lead:
Whites and members of minorities have a roughly equal chance of being stopped by police officers and questioned on the street in New York City. But officers are more likely to frisk, search, arrest or give summonses to black or Hispanic people — or to use force against them — according to a study released yesterday.
The study [was commissioned] by the Rand Corporation in March after it was revealed that the police stopped 508,540 people on the street last year.
Just to keep on eye on the Orwellian Times, here is the current UPDATE to the original blog post, which repeats the erroneous sentence verbatim (emphasis added):
Update: Specifically, the report found that whites and members of minorities have a roughly equal chance of being stopped by police officers and questioned on New York city streets. But officers are more likely to frisk, search, arrest or give summonses to black or Hispanic people — or to use force against them — according to a study released yesterday. This pattern held across black and white neighborhoods, but was most pronounced on Staten Island.
Mr. Baker did link to the report itself.
MORE: In the comments we are informed that the police are *not* allowed to issue a summons if a person cannot establish their identity (presumably with a driver's license, for example).
Michael Cooper of the NY Times comes out swinging in an attempt to debunk Giuliani's use of misleading statistics.
[RED-FACED CAVEAT, OR, IN WHICH I AM REMINDED OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "SAVE" AND "SAVE AS DRAFT": OK, this post had escaped into the wild before it had achieved full half-baked status. Eventually I found the Chicago PD Annual Reports with their steady decrease in "Index Crimes" and it even dawned on me that the NY murder rate ticked up from 1998 to 2000, so that by my own criteria I was making no sense.
While trying to figure out if I even had anything in this post worth salvaging I noticed that I had "saved" the first draft by the simple expedient of publishing it, and that the hawk-like Foo Bar had noted my own Fubar, so here we are. I am going to leave this post up as a lesson in humility but as debunkings go, this was pretty much an auto-debunk.
Well - this can at least be used as an open thread. We now resume our previously scheduled ranting after the break...]
More substantively, there are two broad reasons why I oppose Hillary – and both relate directly to Bill. The first – and more petty – reason is that she deserves some retribution for Iraq. Perhaps it’s purely subjective, but I still resent that she – and he – abandoned progressives from August 2002 to roughly the spring of 2005 (the time we needed them most). For me, it’s less about August 2002 to March 2003 – it’s more about the post-war. Hillary remained silent for a very long time, even after the magnitude of our failure was quite clear.
That’s why Bill’s statement is so galling. He’s pretending that he didn’t scurry off at that critical time when we needed him most – but that’s exactly what he did.
Matt Drudge links to this TIME interview from June 2004 in which Clinton's opposition is somewhat muted at best. But even more revealing is this address Clinton gave to the DLC in December 2002 in which he evaluated the Democratic Party's setback in the recent elections. Look hard for his opposition to the Iraq war there - Salon has the full text over 1, 2, 3, 4 pages and here is a Times account).
I don't want to cherry-pick the intelligence but here are the passages I have found in which Iraq is mentioned:
Let's talk about the other things. The problem with our message was that to Democrats and Independents, we were missing in action in national security and we had no positive plan for America's domestic future.
It's not fair to say we were missing in action on national security. The Democrats supported the president against terror; they overwhelmingly supported the defense increases. Most of them supported the administration on Iraq. It was amazing that they were able to make such a big deal over the Homeland Security bill, a bill that was Senator Lieberman's proposal, which the administration opposed for seven months before finally deciding that it was the only wedge issue they had because they didn't have Iraq or terrorism anymore. But it's our fault that we let it happen. Now because of the national security issue and because we had no positive plan on the economy and other domestic issues, we had no access to a large majority of voters who were otherwise predisposed to vote for Democrats for two reasons: one, they thought by 20 points that the administration had given insufficient attention to the economy and other domestic issues; and second, they thought by 23 points that other things being equal, it would be better to have more Democrats in Congress to restrain the extreme impulses of the Republicans on the environment and other special interest issues.
Clinton segues to voter turnout but returns to national security:
What should the positions be? First, on national security, the facts are that the majority of the Democrats have been clear and virtually unanimous in the fight against terror, and in supporting defense increases. The majority of us stood up and said, yes, we do have to have unlimited and unambiguous inspections in Iraq and the ability to use force, if necessary, if those inspections and the mandate of the UN are not honored. That's what we wanted all along, exactly what has been done. We need to make that clear. We now have a homeland security department and that's fine. It'll probably do more good than harm.
But it's not nearly enough. What should our security position be? First of all, we ought to listen to Senator Graham. Al-Qaida should be our top priority, Iraq is important but the terrorist network is more urgent in terms of its threat to our immediate security as we have seen recently in the attacks in Kenya and in Bali.
He talks about the importance of properly organizing the homeland security effort, and then Iraq again:
We also ought to do more on weapons on mass destruction. I approve of what's being done in Iraq now and the way it's being done, but it's not enough. We spent a lot of your tax money when I was president getting all the nuclear weapons out of the other nations of the former Soviet Union and getting them all into Russia and then reducing the number of nuclear weapons and destroying the many of them.
And he turns to possible Russian proliferation of chemical, biological, or nuclear technology before returning to the domestic security front again. America needs a positive national security vision, foreign aid, debt relief, and then he turns to the economy; Iraq is not mentioned again. Clinton did favor Social Security reform and outreach to conservatives, so you know this was a DLC audience.
So, this was Bill Clinton's opposition to the impending war as of December 2002. Pretty tepid. He has since argued that he is constrained by the etiquette of former Presidents, which in his case was compounded by the desire not to criticize a prospective future President. But by way of contrast, here is Al Gore on Sept 23, 2002 pounding the table in opposition to an Iraqi adventure.
So sure, Bill Clinton was opposed to the war in Iraq "from the beginning" just like Hillary was a NY Yankees fan all her life - the rest of us just didn't learn about it until the timing was right.
MORE: And the timing was not right in May 2006:
A surprise guest at the meeting [of wealthy progressives] was Bill Clinton, whose agenda seemed to be protecting his wife. But things didn't work out quite as planned. When Guy Saperstein, a retired lawyer from Oakland, asked Clinton if Democrats who supported the war should apologize, the former President "went f****** ballistic," according to Saperstein. Forget Hillary, Clinton said angrily during a ten-minute rant; if I was in Congress I would've voted for the war. "It was an extraordinary display of anger and imperiousness," Saperstein says.
Admirable of Bill to conceal his true impulses in order to protect his wife. And what an actor!
PILING ON: Q&O has more vintage Clinton.
Maybe Hillary really does know it all but this seems presumptuous to me:
Hillary Clinton Tells Katie Couric Time To "Draw Contrasts" With Her Rivals
Will drawing contrasts really fix whatever is wrong with the Couric experiment? Maybe Brian Williams and whoever that other guy is are just better newsman.
Oh, wait, I've found my reading glasses...
GIRL TALK: Isn't it great that Hillary sits down with another embattled chick to talk about how she is going to drop the gloves? C'mon, sit down with a guy and tell him you are going to 'man up' - this girl power thing undercuts the message.
Minneapolis: I found your book very entertaining reading. Since you finished writing it, it has been disclosed publicly by the government both that Valerie Wilson was a covert employee by the CIA's own standards, and that investigators determined early on that she was in fact a "covert agent" covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act -- in part because, contrary to what you say in your book, she indeed had performed missions abroad undercover in the period immediately preceding the public blowing of her cover in your column. She was not, as you assert in your book, a desk-bound analyst at CIA headquarters. (And by the way, it is investigators' and prosecutors' responsibility, not the CIA's, to determine whether Wilson was covered by the IIPA legislation.) How does that change your view of the case and of your own role in it? Have you revised your view of whether what you did was regrettable?
Robert D. Novak: Special Counsel had three years (and millions of dollars) to determine whether anybody violated the IIPA. Of course, nobody did.
Also, do you take seriously the claim that a person driving her car every day from her home to CIA headquarters at Langley was a covert agent?
Not a bad question, or at least, let's say it is a far better question than answer.
To respond to Novak's quip, yes, I believe that a CIA officer who had been stationed overseas in the previous five years could have been covered by the IIPA (i.e., "covert" in that specific sense) even if she was driving daily to CIA headquarters. However, one might well wonder whether that really qualifies as the behavior of a covert officer behavior in a practical, rather than legalistic sense. [I spark a justifiable reader revolt with that, since part of the IIPA requires that "the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States".]
Well. If I had availed myself of the opportunity to brighten the Prince of Darkness's day, I would have asked him whether he had followed up on the question of Ms. Plame's covert status with Rep. Hoekstra. When last we looked, the CIA Counsel was still unclear as to her status, but that was many months ago.
And if I had a follow-up, I would query him about Ms. Plame's pension situation - her pension gets increased based on service abroad and the CIA has a formal record of what they consider (by their guidelines, which may not fully overlap with the intent of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act) to be the dates of her service abroad, so my question would be, has Novak talked to Hoekstra or anyone else about just what the CIA considers to be her official dates of service abroad?
And that, BTW, is my response to Jeff - it may well be the case that in the first wave of investigation the FBI took for granted that Ms. Plame was "covert" as defined by the IIPA; however, the only time that Fitzgerald actually asserted that was in the sentencing phase after the case had gone to verdict and after the defense had forgone their opportunity to challenge that point. My view - Fitzgerald clearly ducked the point about her pension dates of service, which he would not have done had they gone in his favor (Or do people think Fitzgerald looked at her personnel file but couldn't find that info? Yet I figured out it was there without even seeing her file. OK, maybe I am that good. Possible!)
I also think that in asserting that Ms. Plame was covert Fitzgerald was presenting the position that the logic of his case obliged him to hold rather than the conclusion of any independent analysis. Certainly, he has not presented anything like a formal analysis of her status vis a vis the statute, and he played dodgeball with the question in pre-trial maneuverings.
And what would that have meant for Libby? Well, one might conclude that the FBI questioned him in the good faith belief that they were probing a possible crime; in that case, his convictions on the false statement to the FBI would not be affected.
However, one could further argue that Fitzgerald knew Ms. Plame was not covered by the IIPA and consequently that he had no credible belief that he was investigating any crime other than perjury. Which would call into question his tactic of calling the perjury target before the grand jury.
Bah. Water, bridge. Maybe this gets resolved on appeal.
MORE: Geez, get a room:
Minneapolis: Anne Kornblut, who now works for The Post, reported back when she worked for the New York Times that you'd been questioned again some time after Rove testified before the grand jury in October 2005. Your book only mentions testifying much earlier, in early 2004. Was that report incorrect, or did you leave the later testimony out of the book?
Robert D. Novak: I testified only once to the grand jury, which is reported in the book.
OK, I'm jealous - if Novak was taking multiple questions from one person, this early bird could have caught a worm himself if he had not been operating sans clue.
The boring Bob Herbert grimly assess the Presidential campaign:
A friend of mine, talking about the Democratic presidential candidates, tossed out a wonderful mixed metaphor: “This is awfully weak tea to have to hang your hat on.”
Aside - Can Herbert can salvage his career by upgrading his Metaphor Mangler, or does Tom Friedman own that gimmick?
Sorry. Believe me, I am sympathetic if your concentration wanders after the first sentence of a Herbert column, but I picked this topic and it is my responsibility to soldier on.
Eventually Herbert samples the tea on offer:
Hillary Clinton is the cautious, rigidly programmed candidate who, in the view of most voters, will say whatever the moment demands.
...Barack Obama has the incandescent smile, and the personality to go with it. Oprah loves him, and a lot of campuses are wild for him. But you still wonder if there’s any there there.
...John Edwards has been the most forceful of the so-called top-tier candidates. But his plan from the beginning was to move to the left of Senator Clinton, never expecting to find Senator Obama happily patrolling that progressive, antiwar region.
So, two pandering opportunists and a cipher. But if Hillary or Barack fail, Blame America:
Both have to rally enough voters to overcome deep wells of prejudice in this society.
We're sexist if we don't elect the boss's wife and racist if we have doubts about a forty-six year old whose resume wouldn't land him the CEO job at a Fortune 1000 company. Whatev.
Herbert describes the sinister forces gathering against the Dems:
The G.O.P. game plan is already being pieced together. The White House hopes to inoculate Republican candidates on the Iraq war issue by bringing home a significant number of combat troops in the middle of the general election. And the demagogic issue of choice for 2008 is immigration.
That evil Bush is hoping to show some success in Iraq - how dare he!?!
As to immigration, was it only eighteen months ago the chattering class was insisting it would hopelessly divide the Republican Party? And why did Bush choose to endure a dramatic legislative defeat in backing his version of comprehensive reform? Pretty crafty!
That said, I think immigration will be a good issue for the Republicans as long as we are contending with Dems like Herbert or Eliot Spitzer - this, from a story on Spitzer, is classic:
The best response [to critics of his plan to offer driver's licenses to illegal immigrants] was an argument on the merits, Mr. Spitzer told his staff, and he was the best person to make the argument. A few days later, in a speech at Fordham University, Mr. Spitzer stood alone on a podium and lit into critics with a righteous anger. “The politics of fear and selfishness,” he said, “has replaced the politics of mutual responsibility.”
Instead of bringing Mr. Spitzer new respect, the speech produced fresh anger, not only from his usual critics, but also from a broad swath of the public, who resented Mr. Spitzer’s implication that his opponents were motivated largely by bigotry.
There is the winning ticket - folks who disagree with Herbert on immigration are bigots. Go for it.
I did mention that Herbert keeps hope alive:
Maybe the economy will be so bad next year that a Democrat will win in any event. But that’s not the kind of tea you want to hang your hat on.
Kudos - he at least had the good judgment not to publicly root for a disaster in Iraq.
Nick Confessore of the Times covers the unraveling of Eliot Spitzer and delivers this surprise:
Still, for all of Mr. Spitzer’s growing pains, many of his advisers remained convinced that his stubbornness was what people outside of Albany like most about him. Some aides likened him to Ronald Reagan and Rudolph W. Giuliani: no-nonsense politicians who spoke bluntly and overturned entrenched political orders.
Let me get this straight - Democratic aides to a Democratic Governor in a Democratic state were talking to Nick Confessore of the Times (and formerly of The American Prospect, so presumably a Democrat), and they chose to liken Spitzer favorably to Reagan and Giuliani? Are they really unable to come up with any no-nonsense Democrats? Trying times.
Yet despair not! There is a glimmer of hope for Dems here - Spitzer himself is trying to learn from a recent Democratic President, but no, it's not Bill Clinton, nor even Jimmy Carter:
Mr. Spitzer said he had, in fact, been hitting the books. While he has previously delved into biographies of governors like Roosevelt, Charles Hughes and Al Smith, all of whom battled the Legislature to bring about change, he said he was now pondering the lessons of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who matched brute will to a subtle mastery of the legislative process.
“There’s an art there that I would like to be more successful at,” Mr. Spitzer said. “Life is a learning process, and a little more Lyndon Johnson would not hurt.”
So Eliot Spitzer hopes to bring the best of Reagan, Giuliani, and LBJ. Go, libs!
However, the Posties should have taken a closer look because it might have rung a bell:
Presumably this is the blog in question, but wait! The blogger linked to this story in... the NY Post! And let's admire the Fair and Balanced headline - "JUDI'S JOB WITH PUP-KILLER FIRM".
Geez - no word on the likely involvement of Glenn Reynolds. And they call this a tabloid?
MORE: Fine, here is the Hubba Hubba Huma bit:
The anonymous e-mails and letters began dropping into inboxes and through front doors this summer.
One claimed that Hillary Clinton was having a lesbian affair with Huma Abedin, her beautiful aide. Another online mass-mailing cautioned of the “dark secrets” of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. A blogger claiming to support John McCain said that Rudy Giuliani's wife supported the killing of “innocent puppies”. Flyers appeared on cars accusing Barack Obama of being a Muslim extremist. An anonymous website said that Fred Thompson was a corrupt playboy.
Welcome to South Carolina, the foulest swamp of electoral dirty tricks in America. This state’s primary race has already become the sleaziest leg of the 2008 presidential campaign.
Last week we noted that the NY Post had debunked a CBS News story claiming to have uncovered an "epidemic" of veteran's suicides (or see earlier debunkings by Bill Sweetman or yours truly). In one sentence, CBS News found an epidemic by comparing a vet suicide rate of 18.9 per 100,000 with a national average of 8.9 per 100,000; this sort of overlooks the fact that there is a huge gender difference in suicide rates - men kill themselves at about 18 per 100,000 in this country and most vets are male, so the "epidemic" isn't.
But let's not expect facts to get in the way of a good story! This week we see that on the AlterNet the CBS News fiction is being amplified within the self-styled "reality-based" community. And "Brilliant at Breakfast", in what I infer to be a late afternoon effort, lauds the AlterNet story. Some memes are too good to check.
But I'm sure no one wants to go to war on suicide based on phony intelligence.
ERRATA: H/t Memeorandum, where further reax may yet appear.
Rudy Giuliani thumps Mitt Romney in an interview with The Politico; the Romney camp responds by saying Rudy is "nasty", a charge that has a certain resonance when Mr. Giuliani is involved.
Giuliani has managed to present a softer image in his attacks on Hillary by using humor; that seems to have been missing in the Politico interview. However, the nasty guy didn't sound so nasty with this:
Indeed, when asked directly about both Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain, Giuliani chose to aim his guns only at the former governor.
“Sen. McCain has never been in an executive position,” Giuliani explained. “So it’s not even fair to measure that.”
But, more tellingly, Giuliani added that he respects McCain. “He’s one of my friends, and he’s one of my heroes,” Giuliani said before launching into a critique of Romney that included no such warm words.
McCain is a great American and Giuliani-McCain would be a fascinating ticket. OK, true conservatives would weep, but the media shoulder ride might make it worthwhile.
A Scripps-Howards News service story tells us that the conspiracists are alive and well in America:
Many Americans still believe in conspiracies
By KEVIN CROWE and GUIDO H. STEMPEL III
Scripps Howard News Service
Nearly two-thirds of Americans think it is possible that some federal officials had specific warnings of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, but chose to ignore those warnings, according to a Scripps Howard News Service/Ohio University poll.
A national survey of 811 adult residents of the United States conducted by Scripps and Ohio University found that more than a third believe in a broad smorgasbord of conspiracy theories including the attacks, international plots to rig oil prices, the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the government's knowledge of intelligent life from other worlds.
The high percentage is a manifestation, some say, of an American public that increasingly distrusts the federal government.
Distrust, indeed. But the truth is out there!
Andy Soltis of the NY Post calmly makes a reasonable point:
'BLAME U.S. FOR 9/11' IDIOTS IN MAJORITY
'PLOTS' THICKEN IN SHOCKING POLL
The findings followed a 2006 poll by the same researchers, who found that 36 percent of Americans believe federal government officials "either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action" because they wanted "to go to war in the Middle East."
Anger at the federal government and skepticism in general by younger Americans is fueling the popularity of crackpot conspiracy theories.
ThinkProgress denounces conspiracy theories yet joins in on the other side:
As frequent readers of this site are well aware, ThinkProgress does not condone 9/11 conspiracy theories which allege the attacks were an inside job. But whether the Bush administration failed to heed warnings of a terrorist strike is not a conspiracy theory — it is a fact.
Here are some bits of information the NY Post may want to read up on:
1) Bush received intel briefing on Aug. 6, 2001 entitled “Bin Laden Determined To Strike In US.” The briefing specifically warned to “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks,” particularly targeted at New York.
3) An FBI agent in Phoenix sent a memo to FBI headquarters on July 10, 2001, which advised of the “possibility of a coordinated effort” by bin Laden to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation schools.
The alarming nature of the Scripps poll is not that 62 percent of Americans believe the government ignored warnings of 9/11; it’s that nearly 40 percent still aren’t aware of that fact.
Well, "ignored warnings of 9/11" is a bit ambiguous and understated - here is the specific Scripps-Howard question:
I'd like to ask about some conspiracy theories that are sometimes mentioned among Americans. Please tell me whether you think each of these are very likely, somewhat likely or unlikely. So when I say that oil companies are conspiring to keep gasoline prices high, is that very likely, somewhat likely or unlikely?
Very Likely ...................... 50
Somewhat Likely................... 31
Don't Know/Other .................. 5
How about that some people in the federal government had specific warnings of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, but chose to ignore those warnings. Is this very likely, somewhat likely or unlikely?
Very Likely....................... 32
Somewhat Likely................... 30
Don't Know/Other................... 8
With that intro it ought to be clear that Scripps Howard was not asking whether the Administration may have had warnings that something was amiss - the question used the phrase "conspiracy theories" and asked about "specific" warnings. Subsequent questions and answers are even wilder: 42% think it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that the Feds had advance warning of the JFK assassination; 37% think the Feds have proof of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and of flying saucers. That certainly jibes with the notion that Americans believe all sorts of odd things (but no questions about whether Elvis lives?).
As to the point about the Presidential Daily Brief from Aug 6 2001, honestly - would it strain ThinProgress to present a bit more context? Here is what the PDB said about hijackings:
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a ---- service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.
A reasonable reader, or even George Bush, would interpret that as a conventional hijack-for-hostages scenario, not the actual 9/11 plot.
ThinProgress does provide quite a punchline, courtesy of Atrios; maybe Soltis ought to berate his own editors.
The Times offers a long editorial sharing their wisdom and insights on health care. I found this to be unexpectedly honest and amusing:
Drug Prices. Compared with the residents of other countries, Americans pay much more for brand-name prescription drugs, less for generic and over-the-counter drugs, and roughly the same prices for biologics. This page believes it would be beneficial to allow Medicare to negotiate with manufacturers for lower prescription drug prices and to allow cheaper drugs to be imported from abroad. The prospect for big savings is dubious.
The prospect for big savings is dubious indeed (the Times thumped Kerry on the drug re-importation issue in 2004), but if we join Europe in refusing to pay for new drugs, who will deliver the next generation of breakthroughs?
The Times raises cogent objections to consumer sovereignty rather than dismissing it out of hand:
Skin in the Game. The solution favored by many conservatives is to force consumers to shell out more money when they seek medical care so that they will think harder about whether it is really necessary. The “consumer-directed health care” movement calls for providing people with enough information about doctors and treatments so that they can make wise decisions.
There would most likely be some savings. A classic experiment by Rand researchers from 1974 to 1982 found that people who had to pay almost all of their own medical bills spent 30 percent less on health care than those whose insurance covered all their costs, with little or no difference in health outcomes. The one exception was low-income people in poor health, who went without care they needed. Any cost-sharing scheme would have to protect those unable to bear the burden.
And consumer-driven plans have limitations. Most health care spending is racked up by a small percentage of individuals whose bills are so high they are no longer subject to cost sharing; they will hardly be deterred from expensive care they desperately need. Moreover, few consumers have the competence or knowledge to second-guess a doctor’s recommendations.
What they left out is that employer-sponsored health insurance is eligible for a tax deduction whereas privately purchased insurance is not; Ramesh Ponnuru discussed this in the prestigious pages of TIME (and two rejoinders).
The Times continues to sound the trumpet that will never blow victory:
As Democrats See Security Gains in Iraq, Tone Shifts
As violence declines in Baghdad, the leading Democratic presidential candidates are undertaking a new and challenging balancing act on Iraq: acknowledging that success, trying to shift the focus to the lack of political progress there, and highlighting more domestic concerns like health care and the economy.
Advisers to Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama say that the candidates have watched security conditions improve after the troop escalation in Iraq and concluded that it would be folly not to acknowledge those gains. At the same time, they are arguing that American casualties are still too high, that a quick withdrawal is the only way to end the war and that the so-called surge in additional troops has not paid off in political progress in Iraq.
But the changing situation suggests for the first time that the politics of the war could shift in the general election next year, particularly if the gains continue. While the Democratic candidates are continuing to assail the war — a popular position with many of the party’s primary voters — they run the risk that Republicans will use those critiques to attack the party’s nominee in the election as defeatist and lacking faith in the American military.
If security continues to improve, President Bush could become less of a drag on his party, too, and Republicans may have an easier time zeroing in on other issues, such as how the Democrats have proposed raising taxes in difficult economic times.
“The politics of Iraq are going to change dramatically in the general election, assuming Iraq continues to show some hopefulness,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who is a supporter of Mrs. Clinton’s and a proponent of the military buildup. “If Iraq looks at least partly salvageable, it will be important to explain as a candidate how you would salvage it — how you would get our troops out and not lose the war. The Democrats need to be very careful with what they say and not hem themselves in.”
What are the odds we will have to endure yet another flip-flop by the leading Dems?
Neither Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama nor the other Democratic candidates have backed away from their original opposition to the troop escalation, and they all still favor a quick withdrawal from Iraq. But Mrs. Clinton, for one, has not said how quickly she would remove most combat forces from Iraq or how many she would leave there as president. Former Senator John Edwards, by contrast, has emphasized that he would remove all combat troops from the country, while Mr. Obama favors withdrawal at a rate of one to two brigades a month. Those plans stand in contrast to the latest American strategy of keeping most American combat brigades in Iraq but giving them an expanded role in training and supporting Iraqi forces.
These are parlous times for the "Victory is not an option" crowd.
The NY Times tells us about Mitt Romney's experiment with mandated "universal" health care coverage in Massachusetts. Their gist - Massachusetts residents are obliged to buy
health insurance or else; "or else" arrives on Dec 31 and lots of the uninsured don't care.
And you may not care either if you don't live in Massachusetts but you ought to - both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton have made a Federal "buy coverage or else" mandate the cornerstones of their very similar health care reforms.
BOSTON, Nov. 20 — As the Democratic presidential candidates debate whether Americans should be forced to obtain health insurance, the people of Massachusetts are living the dilemma in real time.
A year after Massachusetts became the only state to require that individuals have health coverage, residents face deadlines to sign up or lose their personal tax exemption, worth $219 on next year’s state income tax returns. More than 200,000 previously uninsured residents have enrolled, but state officials estimate that at least that number, and perhaps twice as many, have not.
Those managing the enrollment effort say it has exceeded expectations. In particular, state-subsidized insurance packages offered to low-income residents have been so popular that the program’s spending may exceed its budget by nearly $150 million.
But the reluctance of so many to enroll, along with the possible exemption of 60,000 residents who cannot afford premiums, has raised questions about whether even a mandate can guarantee truly universal coverage.
The reporter tells us about with some folks not signing up:
The state established a mild penalty for the first year: the loss of the $219 tax exemption. But in the second year, the fine can amount to half the cost of the least expensive policy available, probably at least $1,000.
Ann F. McEachern, 33, a waitress and student who lives in Cambridge, said she did not buy insurance this year but probably would in 2008. “The penalty in 2007 wasn’t enough to kick it up to the top of my priority list,” Ms. McEachern said. “It’s always nice to be insured, but I think I’m at pretty low risk for anything happening to me that would be financially devastating.”
Though officials do not yet have data to determine who the remaining uninsured are, they assume many are in the group they call “the young invincibles.”
“At 27, it’s not like I’m thinking, ‘Oh, man, what if I need an operation down the line?’ ” said Samuel B. Hagan of Lenox, a courier who remains uninsured. “Furthest thing from my head.”
And we get a summary of the national politics:
Each of the three leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination has pledged to achieve universal health coverage, which polls show to be a priority for party voters. But as the candidates seek to differentiate themselves, a rift has emerged over whether it is possible to insure all Americans without requiring them to obtain coverage.
Senator Barack Obama of Illinois sees it a different way. He argues there is danger in mandating coverage before it is clear it can be affordable for those at the margins. While Mr. Obama does not rule out a mandate down the road, his emphasis is on reducing costs and providing generous government subsidies to those who need them. He would mandate coverage for children.
More on the Barack-Hillary scuffle at the Times Caucus. Hillary is very pleased that her plan covers everyone by the seemingly-simple expedient of requiring everyone to be covered. But Barack has this riposte, tackling the "or else" question:
That distinction set off a pointed exchange in the Democratic debate in Las Vegas on Nov. 15. “I don’t think that the problem with the American people is that they are not being forced to get health care,” Mr. Obama said. “The problem is they can’t afford it.”
Mrs. Clinton jabbed back, saying Mr. Obama’s plan “starts from the premise of not reaching universal health care,” a virtual slur in the Democratic campaign. Mr. Obama responded that Mrs. Clinton had yet to explain how she would enforce a mandate. “She is not garnishing people’s wages to make sure that they have it,” he pointed out.
What choices will people make and how much latitude should they be allowed in making them? Perhaps the New Hampshire motto, "Live free or die", should be revised to "Buy health insurance or die".
And on that note, in a related story the Times presents the sad tale of a Senate elevator operator/student whose mother died expensively and without insurance. I am reluctant to exploit this story for political purposes but apparently advocates for health care reform are not, so here we go:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 — When senators debate health care, they usually speak in abstract terms about soaring health costs and the plight of the uninsured.
But just 20 feet from the Senate chamber is a young man who knows those problems all too well from personal experience. The man, Sergio A. Olaya, runs the Capitol elevators on which the senators ride. Whenever the Senate is in session, he is on duty.
Mr. Olaya, 21, is struggling with $255,000 of medical bills incurred by his mother before she died in April from an aggressive form of brain cancer.
A local hospital and its collection agency have been hounding him in an effort to collect from his mother’s estate, Mr. Olaya said. To pay the bills, he is selling the Maryland home where he lived with his mother, Clara Ines Olaya, 61.
His experience highlights the problems of the uninsured, from which members of Congress are usually insulated. The leading Democratic presidential candidates say all Americans should have coverage as good as what Congress has.
Unfortunately the reporter makes no serious attempt to discover just what insurance problem Mrs. Olaya experienced. Instead, we get this:
His mother, an expert on health and nutrition, was born in Colombia, received a master’s degree from Stanford in 1981 and became a United States citizen in 1994. She had health insurance in most of her jobs over the last 20 years, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States Agency for International Development, Unicef and other organizations.
But she had been unemployed and uninsured since December.
Mrs. Olaya had applied for a new federal job. When the job offer finally came in March, her son said, she had just suffered a stroke and could not get out of bed to answer the telephone. In another month or two, she might have had health coverage through her new job. In another four years, she would have been eligible for Medicare.
“Instead,” Senator Durbin said, “she had the bad luck and bad timing to fall through one of the gaping holes in America’s unraveling health care safety net. Now her only child, her son, is paying the price.”
We are not provided with details about her last job or the circumstances that led to her departure but - why wasn't she covered by COBRA, which normally allows the newly unemployed to continue the coverage provided by their previous employer for an additional eighteen months, well within the short employment gap described here. Yes, COBRA has a higher visible cost since the employer is not picking up part of the tab, but coverage cannot be denied.
Sen. Durbin told this story on the Senate floor on October 15 2005. He touches on the COBRA question by telling us that it was unaffordable. Hmm. Neither the Senator nor the reporter tell us enough to be sure but it is very possible that this fifty-something woman considered herself to be a "Young Invincible" as described in the Massachusetts story, figured a few months without paying insurance premiums represented a little extra money in the bank, gambled, and lost.
OK, this is a sad story. But from what we are being told this woman was not denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition nor was she was expelled from her plan due to an existing condition. I infer from Sen. Durbin's version that she wanted health insurance but not at the COBRA price, so she took her chances for a few months.
Two Washington Post columnist come out for Obama, one directly and one by implication.
Michael Kinsley is clear:
My candidate, at least at the moment, is Obama.
David Broder obliges us to read between the lines:
Peter Hart, the Democratic pollster whose firm has interviewed thousands of voters this year, says the attributes most of them desire in a president for 2008 can be summed up in three words: transparency, authenticity and unity.
I needed help from him in understanding the first word. But when he said it meant honesty, openness, forthrightness in expressing views and clarity about the sources of the candidate's support, I said that sounded right.
The other two traits were easily understandable. Authenticity means comfort in one's own skin, a minimum of pretense or artificiality, and especially consistency and predictability on matters of principle.
The hankering for unity is also palpable and reflects the conspicuous absence of agreement -- and excess of partisanship -- in the contemporary political scene. I have been saying for months that voters care less whether the next president will be a Democrat or a Republican than that the person moving into the Oval Office be someone who can pull the country together to face its challenges.
C'mon - no one thinks Hillary can unite the country. On the other hand, Barack Hussein Il Jong Obama is running as a uniter, not a divider - I am excerpting this from the opening paragraph of the "Issues" page at his website:
Senator Obama has been able to develop innovative approaches to challenge the status quo and get results. Americans are tired of divisive ideological politics, which is why Senator Obama has reached out to Republicans to find areas of common ground. He has tried to break partisan logjams and take on seemingly intractable problems. During his tenure in Washington and in the Illinois State Senate, Barack Obama has accumulated a record of bipartisan success.
By way of contrast, here is what is offered at Hillary's site:
No one has a deeper understanding of the perfidy of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy than Senator Clinton. As First Lady and as New York Senator she has battled the evildoers and can be relied upon to fight, fight, fight as President. On inauguration day her first official act will be to send Dick Cheney to Gitmo on a fact-finding tour, a tour that will last either until the end of her term or the end of the War on Republicans, a war that can only end in uncompromising total victory for us, i.e, unreconstructed libs.
That may not be quite accurate, but when I look at the "About Hillary" page or the "Issues" page there is nothing hinting at a penchant for bipartisanship. She has, however, fought battles and criticized the Administration, and bully for her. Fight, fight, fight.
That said, I think Broder is wrong here:
Where each party used to have an ideological mixture, each is now more clearly defined in opposition to the other. The result is a Republican Party that is far more universally (and stridently) conservative; and a Democratic Party whose center of gravity has moved equally far to the left.
"Equally far"? I think the Republican Party has embraced its base more fully than have the Dems. For instance, back in the 1980's a candidate like the first George Bush was able to succeed even though his commitment to the pro-life agenda or to the benefits of lower taxes appeared to be more spoken than heartfelt. Today, however, with the baffling exception of Rudy Giuliani, Republicans are expected to toe the party line on a number of hot-button issues such as taxes, immigration, abortion rights, and gun control. The result is a WYSIWYG party where the candidates (with the annoying exception of Mitt Romney) are not straining to disguise their real views.
In that sense the Dems have been keeping their distance from their base for years. For example, the Barbara Streisand Democrats - the Bi-coastal liberals who write the big checks - would love to see a party that was four-square against capital punishment, for gay marriage, for stricter gun control, for "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, and for greater abortion rights.
Yet Democratic candidates know these positions would make them unelectable. So Bill Clinton famously flies back to Arkansas prior to the New Hampshire primary in 1992 in order to oversee the execution of Rickey Ray Rector and establish his toughness on crime. Or John Kerry dresses up like a hunter (later, like the hunted) to demonstrate his fervor for guns.
As a consequence the Dems have routinely offered candidates (Al Gore, John Kerry) to whom the "phony" label is easily affixed. And why not? - the disconnect between what is aspirational to the party base and what is acceptable to the Great Unwashed virtually obliges them to be phony.
My impression (fervent hope?) is that the Dem base continues to be out in left field somewhere beyond the ken of most Dem politicians, most of whom are not insane. However, the party is enjoying a sense of faux-unity in opposition to the war which masks their deeper divisions. And it may be the war that Broder is thinking of when he asserts that the Dem party has moved "equally" to the left.
John Edwards has a plan to combat hunger in America but apparently his plan does not include informing himself as to the basic facts of the situation. In his latest comments Mr. Edwards misunderstands the basic reports and overstates "the hungry" by roughly a factor of three - imagine my surprise. And wouldn't we hate to go to war on hunger based on phony intelligence?
On the eve of Thanksgiving, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards unveiled a plan to help feed Americans who cannot afford to buy food.
In a phone call with reporters, the former North Carolina senator said 35.5 million Americans went hungry last year, including 13 million children. "We have a moral responsibility as a country," to make sure no one goes hungry in America.
Let's introduce some reality to the reality-based community - here is the US Department of Agriculture report which inspired Edwards' burst of hyperbole but paint a much more encouraging picture:
Food Security in the United States: Conditions and Trends
Food secure—These households had access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
- 89.1 percent (103 million) of U.S. households were food secure throughout 2006.
- Essentially unchanged from 89.0 percent in 2005.
Food insecure—At times during the year, these households were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. Food-insecure households include those with low food security and very low food security.
- 10.9 percent (12.6 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2006.
- Essentially unchanged from 11.0 in 2005.
And reading on a bit we see that in 2006 the "35.5 million people lived in food-insecure households, including 12.6 million children"; that jibes with Edwards' citation of 35.5 million Americans including 13 million children, which appears in the press and at his website.
However, the "Food Insecure" group is subdivided, and only one of the groups actually experiences any notable hunger:
Low food security—These food-insecure households obtained enough food to avoid substantially disrupting their eating patterns or reducing food intake, by using a variety of coping strategies, such as eating less varied diets, participating in Federal food assistance programs, or getting emergency food from community food pantries.
- 6.9 percent (8.0 million) of U.S. households had low food security in 2006.
- Essentially unchanged from 7.1 percent in 2005.
Very low food security—In these food-insecure households, normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. In previous reports, these households were described as "food insecure with hunger." For a description of the change in food security labels, see "Hunger and Food Security."
- 4.0 percent (4.6 million) of U.S. households had very low food security at some time during 2006.
- Essentially unchanged from 3.9 percent in 2005.
So from this report, which formed the basis of the Edwards' assertions, we learn that "7.7 million adults and 3.4 million children lived in households with very low food security", which means they experienced hunger at some point during the year. That is roughly one-third the number of adults and children cited by Edwards.
Let's reprise the definitions linked by the USDA report:
Low food security (previously known as "Food insecurity without hunger":
Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.
Very low food security (formerly "Food insecurity with hunger"):
Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.
This is simply not that complicated; I would have thought a smart trial lawyer could have grasped these distinctions and presented accurate information. If he cared to.
FROM THE JOHN EDWARDS WEBSITE:
"This week, as families across the country come together to give thanks, we are reminded of the sad fact that millions of American families still go hungry. Food insecurity is one more sign that the economy is not working for regular families. While the costs of health care and energy keep increasing, the average family is earning less than they did in 2000 and the cost of food is rising faster than it has at any time in nearly 20 years. More than 35 million Americans went hungry last year, including almost 13 million children."
FROM THE "HOW SOON THEY FORGET" FILE: I want to hat tip someone for sending me to Jammie Wearing Fool's coverage of this story, but who? Baffling.
The NY Times editors takes a swipe at Hillary, deliver an absurd plug for John Edwards, and forget the glorious recent history of their own Governor in an editorial on immigration:
The Immigration Wilderness
The nation certainly sounds as if it’s in an angry place on immigration.
A major Senate reform bill collapsed in rancor in June, and every effort to revive innocuous bits of it, like a bill to legalize exemplary high school graduates, has been crushed. Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York hatched a plan to let illegal immigrants earn driver’s licenses — and steamrollered into the Valley of Death. Asked if she supported Mr. Spitzer, Senator Hillary Clinton tied herself in knots looking for the safest answer.
Well, yes she did and thanks for remembering. But why single her out? By the time of the following debate John Edwards had fully flip-flopped from his 2004 view and had opined that, lacking comprehensive reform at the Federal level, he could not support the issuance of driver's licenses to
illegal not-yet-documented-but-potentially-voting immigrants; Barack Obama waffled around his support for the issuance of driver's licenses and drew catcalls.
Yet here is the Times on Edwards:
America is waiting for a leader to risk saying that the best answer is not the simplest one. As John Edwards said at the last debate, “When is our party going to show a little backbone and strength and courage and speak up for those people who have been left behind?”
They duly note that this quote was from a different context, namely health care reform, but fail to note that Edwards, like Hillary, has lost his zeal for the oppressed in the driver's license debate.
Oh, well - the editors were forgetting a lot:
Americans accept this approach [of comprehensive]. The National Immigration Forum has compiled nearly two dozen polls from 2007 alone that show Americans consistently favoring a combination of tough enforcement and earned legalization over just enforcement. Elections confirm this. Straight-talking moderates like Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico thrive in the immigration crucible along the southern border. Those who obsess about immigration as single-issue hard-liners, like the Arizonans J. D. Hayworth and Randy Graf, have disappeared, booted by voters. Voters in Virginia this month rejected similar candidates and handed control of the State Senate to Democrats.
Virginia? New Mexico? C'mon, Eliot Spitzer of New York backpedaled like a Jets defensive back on his scheme to offer driver's licenses to illegals, and the NY Times almost covered it. Bash Spitzer, Edwards and Obama with Hillary.
The homicide figure continues a remarkable slide since 1990, when New York recorded its greatest number of killings in a single year, 2,245, and when untold scores of the victims were killed in violence between strangers.
Homicides began falling in the early 1990s, when Raymond W. Kelly first served as police commissioner, and plummeted further under subsequent commissioners. Mr. Kelly returned to serve under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2002, the first year there were fewer than 600 homicides. There were 587 that year, down from 649 in the previous year.
Geez, I'm straining to remember who was Mayor when the murder rate plunged. They mention Blomberg, but I'm sure someone preceded him...
Joe Conason, writing at Salon, provides lib-friendly reassurance that yes, although crime dropped under Giuliani he was not responsible. That oeuvre makes a nice companion piece to the literature assuring us that Gorbachev, not Reagan, was responsible for ending the Cold War.
Meanwhile, back in reality, let's see how homicides "began falling in the early 1990s, when Raymond W. Kelly first served as police commissioner, and plummeted further under subsequent commissioners":
1991 2,154 down 91
1992 1,995 down 159
1993 1,946 down 49
1994 1,561 down 385 in Mayor Whatzizname's first term; Bratton was Commissioner
1995 1,177 down 384
1996 983 down 194
I hope this helps, but I bet they already knew this at the Times.
WATCHING THE DETECTIVES:
Josh Marshall comments on the Times story:
As an aside, I think this gives more credence to a suspicion I've had since the late '90s: that the current low murder rates in this country -- particularly in New York City -- probably make the whole concept of the TV police procedural unrealistic. Can the two detectives at Law & Order really have one murder case to solve once a week? And all three series? Or what about the old NYPD Blue? The structure of the show was based on murders right and left for just the single precinct.
And demonstrating that great minds run in the same channel, here is Doc Drezner:
I was looking forward to the day when the combined number of homicides on Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent exceeded the actual number of homicides in the five boroughs.
Hmmm.... come to think of it, most of these shows are set in Manhattan. I wonder if we hae reached the point when the annual number of homicides in that borough are less than the number of homicides that would be portrayed on television. Not just the L&O franchise, but also CSI: NY and the half-dozen other crime shows I'n sure are set in the city.
Readers, go and check this out!
Reuters reports on exercise in America:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More Americans are getting up off the sofa and exercising, but a lot more progress is needed to persuade millions of slackers to start sweating a bit, U.S. health officials said on Wednesday.
In 2005, 46.7 percent of U.S. women and 49.7 percent of U.S. men engaged in regular exercise on a weekly basis, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based on a survey of 356,112 adults nationwide.
That represents an 8.6 percent increase in the rate among women and a 3.5 percent rise among men from a similar survey in 2001. Blacks continued to lag whites but made some strides.
The CDC said 33 percent of U.S. adults are classified as obese, compared to 15 percent in the 1970s. Obesity, attributed in part to people getting too little exercise and eating too much of the wrong foods, has become a rising problem in the United States and worldwide, contributing to chronic diseases.
In 2005, 36.1 percent of black women engaged in regular exercise, up 15 percent from 2001, and 45.3 percent of black men did so, up 12.4 percent from 2001, according to the CDC.
Among Hispanics, women increased their regular exercise while men did not. The CDC said 40.5 percent of Hispanic women met the exercise objectives -- up 11.6 percent from four years earlier -- while Hispanic men fell slightly to 41.9 percent.
Education levels also played a big role in people's willingness to get out and sweat, with college graduates far more likely to get regular exercise than people who did not graduate from high school, the CDC said.
Here is a link to the press release; interested readers are encouraged to attempt a reconciliation of the latest with this earlier CDC report based on 2000 and 2005 data:
Physical Activity Among Adults: United States, 2000 and 2005
Between 2000 and 2005, there was little change in the percentage of adults engaging in usual daily activities and leisure-time physical activities (Tables 1–4). The changes in estimates that occurred were generally not significant. In instances where differences were statistically significant, adults were less active in 2005 than in 2000.
...The percentage of adults who engaged in no leisure-time physical activity increased from 38.5% in 2000 to 40.0% in 2005, and the percentage of adults who engaged in regular leisure-time physical activity decreased from 31.2% in 2000 to 29.7% in 2005. A similar pattern was seen among men and adults aged 25–44 years. The percentage of Hispanic adults who engaged in regular leisure-time physical activity also decreased, but the percentage who engaged in no leisure-time physical activity did not increase significantly.
Is someone twisting the data? I don't want to go to the gym based on phony intelligence...
The AP reports from Pakistan:
Musharraf May Quit Army by Saturday
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - President Gen. Pervez Musharraf could quit as chief of the army and take oath as a civilian president by Saturday, a senior official said.
That would meet a key demand of the US, a demand with which the Times had some fun:
“The President will call on President Musharraf to take off the uniform as he said he would do.”
– Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, Nov. 5
‘’My message was that we believe strongly in elections, and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform.'’
– President Bush, Nov. 7
“He was willing to take off the uniform, he said, and have a civilian government.”
– Former Senator Fred Thomspon, “Meet the Press,” Nov. 4
“The overarching concern is making sure President Musharraf takes off his uniform and holds elections as soon as possible,”
– Geoff Morell, Pentagon spokesman, Nov. 13
“Who cares if General Musharraf takes off his uniform? It’s time for him to go.”
– Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, Nov. 7
So, will Gen. Pervez Musharaff follow through? I can picture the phone call from George Bush late on a Saturday night - "So, Perv, what are you wearing?"
News on Pfizer:
F.D.A. Investigates Quit-Smoking Drug
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: November 21, 2007
The Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday that it had received reports of mood disorders and erratic behavior among patients taking Chantix, Pfizer’s prescription drug used to help quit smoking.
The F.D.A. said it was still gathering information about the drug, but advised doctors to closely monitor patients taking Chantix for behavior changes. Sales of the drug totaled $101 million last year.
The agency said it was investigating at least one incident involving Chantix and a violent death.
Family members of a musician in Dallas, Carter Albrecht, recently said that Chantix might have caused the rage that led to his death. Mr. Albrecht was shot in the head in September by his girlfriend’s neighbor as he tried to kick down the man’s door. An autopsy report showed that Mr. Albrecht’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
JustOneMinute readers will recall that last September we had tagged this drug as meriting a long look due to its psychoactive properties when we discussed Mr. Albrecht's death. Our Eerily Prescient lead:
The Times Finds The Wrong Outrage
In their coverage of the tragic death of musician Jeffrey Carter Albrecht the Times finds the wrong outrage. The Times wants to give their readers a story about overly permissive gun and safety laws in Texas but the real outrage (for purposes of exciting an Upper West Side lib, natch) is in the perils of Evil Big Pharma and the products they promote.
And my Big Finish:
In my layman's opinion, this drug is interfering with some pretty heavy brain chemistry. And the idea that quitting smokers can be relied upon not to have a few drinks strikes me as, hmm, optimistic.
If I were a table pounder at the Times I would go after Pfizer, maker of Chantix, and see what else we might learn about the side effects of this drug.
The Times could have had that story but their news instincts were clouded by the gun angle.
Let's get some more background on the Albrecht death:
The toxicology tests found that Mr. Albrecht, who played guitar and keyboard for the bands Sorta and Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, had an alcohol level of 0.29 in his blood. The legal limit for driving is 0.08.
The tests didn't find any illegal substances in his system.
However, although Mr. Albrecht's girlfriend said he had been on Chantix for about a week, the coroner had no readily available test which could confirm that:
Testing won't be done to determine whether musician Carter Albrecht, who was fatally shot in early September as he tried to kick in the back door of his girlfriend's next-door neighbor, had an anti-smoking drug in his bloodstream.
Dallas County Medical Examiner Jeffrey Barnard said his office doesn't have the capability to test for Chantix.
The drug's manufacturer, Pfizer, declined to perform the test, and sent the Dallas medical examiner's office a sample as well as instructions for how to develop its own test. But that could take weeks or months, Dr. Barnard said, and the sample Pfizer sent expired after a few days.
"There really was no reason for us to do this in the first place, other than it was a high-profile case," Dr. Barnard said. "We gave it a shot and couldn't get it done. We'd be developing a test at taxpayer expense that had nothing to with the finding on cause and manner of death.
Maybe Pfizer will hop to and develop a test now.
Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens came on Hannity and Colmes last night to explain the staus of his proposed bet with John Kerry regarding the veracity of the Swift Boat ads that helped scuttle Kerry's ship in 2004.
When last we looked, the LA Times was reporting that Pickens seemed to be backing away from his original proposal; Chris Cilizza of the WaPo Fix has additional background, and the letters exchanged by Kerry and Pickens can be found at Mr. Pickens' website.
Mr. Pickens introduces some clarity early on - his wager related specifically to the ads run by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, so "Unfit For Command" and the many other talk-show discussions and newspaper op-eds are not in play.
Colmes reveals his unfamiliarity with the material and recycles a classic lib pratfall here:
COLMES: We had William [Rood] of The Chicago Tribune, the only living officer who was with John Kerry when he earned his Silver Star who talks about that [link], yes, John Kerry earned that Silver Star. He did everything that he claimed he did, versus what the swift boaters said. And he came out in The Chicago Tribune, for whom he writes, again claiming that the swift boaters were absolutely wrong in the thing that they said.
Here we go again - there were no Swifties who claimed to have witnessed the Silver Star incident! The basis of the controversy surrounding that incident was that the versions of the incident - basically, Kerry's citation and Kerry's own interview with the Boston Globe from 2003 - were somewhat different. (If someone has a link to the evolving Kerry citations, that would be lovely - I had been going to the Kerry campaign website, which was short-sighted of me.)
Well. I think Pickens moved the goalposts a bit by asking Kerry to risk his own cash, a notion not in his original proposal. And I can see where Kerry has weasel room on full disclosure of his records and diary - if Kerry only intends to dispute one incident to prove the Swifties to be lying, why should he provide records not relevant to that incident?
Grrr - badly framed by Mr. Pickens. But time is on his side:
PICKENS: He hasn't released anything. But Sean, you know, he's just now answering something that happened three years ago. And so I don't want to rush him into a response. I mean, he can take as long as he wants. The bet's open.
Troubling - Mr. Pickens is walking the fine line between clarifying and backing out, although another theory says that this is the classic way to lure a mark.
STILL THE ONE: I will modestly assert familiarity with the various Swift charges and opine that the best chance for crushing Kerry lies with the story around Kerry's first Purple Heart. Part of the controversy revolves around just who was with Kerry when he did or did not engage the enemy for the first time; Zaladonis, who was a crewman on Kerry's first boat, told people in 2004 that he was with Kerry and vouched for his conduct, but that colorful tale was never elicted by either historian Douglas Brinkley or Boston Globe reporter Michael Kranish when they interviewed Zaladonis in 2003.
So, Zaladonis remembers it as "one of the scariest nights I've had in my life", it was his first side-by-side adventure with John Kerry, it was Kerry's first medal and first combat, yet Zaladonis never mentioned it to anyone in 2003? Troubling - one might almost suspect that he only realized in 2004 that Kerry's story could use a bit of support.
Of course neither Brinkley nor Kranish are in a hurry to follow-up on this and perhaps pen the story about how they were duped by Kerry's Band of Brothers in 2004, so here we sit. But it is possible that Kerry's war diary could shed some light on the incident - although one might have expected Kerry to have penned some contemporaneous thoughts about his first medal, Brinkley never cites Kerry's account when re-telling that tale. Again, troubling.
One of the Earnest Youngsters often found underfoot in our household had been off doing some babysitting over the weekend, so she came home ready with some Tough Questions.
Earnest Youngster: Dad, why is six afraid of seven?
Beleagured Authority Figure: Ahh, because, hmm...
EY: Because seven ate nine! Get it?
BAF: Does that work if I type it out, or is that only an audio joke?
EY: You are so not going to blog this.
BAF: I'm not podcasting it, that's for sure.
EY: OK, which came first, the chicken or the egg?
BAF: Well, there are some subtle issues there regarding...
EY: The chicken came first!
BAF: OK, so where did the chicken come from?
EY: An egg.
BAF: And where did the egg come from?
EY: A chicken!
BAF: And where did that chicken come from?
EY: The other side of the road.
BAF: OK, that settles two questions at once, sort of like killing two birds... sorry.
This writer's strike is hell. Oops, heck. Hades.
The Captain links to this "Empty Calories" editorial denouncing the General's testimony:
The general claimed a significant and steady decline in killings and deaths in the past three months, but even he admitted that the number of attacks is still too high. Recent independent studies are much more skeptical about the decrease in violence. The main success General Petraeus cited was in the previously all-but-lost Anbar Province where local sheiks, having decided that they hate Al Qaeda more than they hate the United States, have joined forces with American troops to combat insurgents. That development — which may be ephemeral — was not a goal of the surge and surprised American officials. To claim it as a success of the troop buildup is, to be generous, disingenuous.
That said, the Times had a still-defensible point about the lack of progress towards political reconciliation in Iraq:
The chief objective of the surge was to reduce violence enough that political leaders in Iraq could learn to work together, build a viable government and make decisions to improve Iraqi society, including sharing oil resources. Congress set benchmarks that Mr. Bush accepted. But after independent investigators last week said that Baghdad had failed to meet most of those markers, Mr. Crocker dismissed them. The biggest achievement he had to trumpet was a communiqué in which Iraqi leaders promised to talk more.
SILLY QUESTIONS: Any chance anyone at the Times revisits this?
Here’s what will definitely happen when Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress next week: he’ll assert that the surge has reduced violence in Iraq — as long as you don’t count Sunnis killed by Sunnis, Shiites killed by Shiites, Iraqis killed by car bombs and people shot in the front of the head.
There are five things I hope Democrats in Congress will remember.
First, no independent assessment has concluded that violence in Iraq is down. On the contrary, estimates based on morgue, hospital and police records suggest that the daily number of civilian deaths is almost twice its average pace from last year. And a recent assessment by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found no decline in the average number of daily attacks.
So how can the military be claiming otherwise? Apparently, the Pentagon has a double super secret formula that it uses to distinguish sectarian killings (bad) from other deaths (not important); according to press reports, all deaths from car bombs are excluded, and one intelligence analyst told The Washington Post that “if a bullet went through the back of the head, it’s sectarian. If it went through the front, it’s criminal.” So the number of dead is down, as long as you only count certain kinds of dead people.
...the trend is similar: both the American and the Iraqi reports note a roughly 50 percent drop in the number of civilians who have been killed since the end of 2006.
The good news - when Krugman discusses a lack of credibility he speaks from personal experience.
ED HENRY: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we're going to get him. Still don't have him. I know you are saying there's successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That's a failure.
FRAN TOWNSEND: Well, I'm not sure -- it's a success that hasn't occurred yet. I don't know that I view that as a failure.
In the Bush Administration we have immediate successes and delayed successes! Maybe Ms. Townsend can manage the Yankees next season so A-Rod and crew won't miss the World Series.
Ms. Townsend's departing letter includes this classic highlighted at Harpers by Scott Horton:
In 1937, the playwright Maxwell Anderson wrote of President George Washington: There are some men who lift the age they inhabit, til all men walk on higher ground in their lifetime.
Mr. President, you are such a man.
Pretty droll, telling the Pres that a person needed to be high to work for him. But did she share?
Homeland security adviser Frances Townsend is leaving the White House. Plamaniacs will note her passing because she is, per Karl Rove, the reason Novak called to chat with Rove in July 2003; that fateful phone call led to one of the Plame leaks.
Well, Novak's interest in Townsend was the story, anyway, and I presume Rove and his staffers produced the phone logs and briefing books to verify it. But whatever Rove may have thought Novak was calling about, Novak had something a bit different to say at the trial - here is the classic EmptyWheel liveblog:
W When did you speak with Rove.
RN I called as soon as I returned [from chatting with Armitage on July 8], I can never remember getting him back right away, I think it was that day he returned the call.
W Conversaion the next on July 9
RN When we had that conversation–it could have been July 8, I haven't been able to pin it down. Mainly I was interested in Rove, I'm sorry, mostly Wilson mission to Niger, Asked him about that and policy. Near the end, I asked about Wilson's wife, I asked if he knew, I commented, I had been told that she was an employee of CPD of CIA and had suggested mission. He said, "oh you know that too."
W Did you take that as confirmation
RN I took it as confirmation.
Here is Novak's July 10 2003 column, which has not panned out - Novak's theme was that Ms. Townsend, like Rand Beers and Richard Clarke, was a Clinton holdover who would eventually embarrass Bush. That was the week that was for Robert.
CBS' BOGUS VET-SUICIDE STATS
ITS 'SCANDAL' NUMBERS DON'T ADD UP
By MICHAEL FUMENTO
November 19, 2007 -- THERE'S "startling" and "stunning" news of a "hidden epidemic" of veteran suicides. So claimed CBS News in two reports last week.
Most of the airtime went for heart-rending interviews with wives of vets who had killed themselves. But CBS also provided statistics that it said showed that "veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide in 2005 than non-vets."
More important still, the Army study corrected for some key demographic facts - notably, that the military is largely male and that men are much likelier to commit suicide than women are. Among civilians who match the overall age, gender and race profile of the U.S. Army, the suicide rate was 19 per 100,000 - higher than for the troops.
So, even if CBS's numbers for younger vets' suicides hold up, the rate isn't twice the relevant civilian one - let alone the "two to four times higher" that CBS claimed.
However, Mr. Fumento also found some other relevant studies:
Another problem shows up when you look at the repeated studies of the 700,000 or so vets of first Gulf War - which have found no increased suicide rate. The same is true of a massive 2004 study of Vietnam vets.
That is, a solid body of work shows no "extra" suicides among vets of the only previous two major U.S. wars of the last half-century - yet CBS claims a massive increase among vets generally. For the networks' numbers to hold up, there'd have to be a vast jump in suicides among vets who never saw combat.
And since suicide rates among 'Nam and Gulf vets match those the general population, CBS's numbers translate to higher suicide rates for peacetime vets than for wartime ones.
Pretty interesting. Let's add that
Michael Fumento is a former paratrooper who has been embedded as a reporter three times in Iraq and once in Afghanistan.
An attempt to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy? I lack a subscription so I can't see where the argument goes [here we go!], but let me ask this of the author - Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?
TO BE CLEAR - I am kidding a bit with my title. I think Dems have done a wonderfully Orwellian job of promoting "Swift-boating" as synonymous with smearing. I also think there are an abundance of legitimate questions raised by the Swift-boaters that Kerry could have addressed by releasing his war records and war diary. Instead, he chose to talk up his own record and ignore the critics ands skeptics, and here we are and there he is.
However, if the McCarthy apologist can make a case, then any proper Dem would admit that McCarthy was "swift-boated". Bah - why am I explaining?
FOR A GOOD CAUSE: I am on a similar page with oilman T. Boone Pickens, who has this challenge for John Kerry - Kerry is to provide his war record and diary; if Kerry can then prove a Swift Boat charge to be materially false, Pickens will give Kerry a million dollars; if Kerry cannot prove something to be false, then Kerry must donate a million dollars to the the Medal of Honor Foundation.
Hmm, IMHO this proposal gives Kerry too many reason to say no - just for starters, who will judge the evidence, and who thinks Kerry needs the money?
A much tougher offer for Kerry to refuse - make the war records and diary public and Pickens will donate a million dollars to the charity of Kerry's choice. I also want the paperwork backing Kerry's application for his first Purple Heart, but the Navy controls that. And yes, I am being quite generous with Mr. Picken's money.
Once the records are public we will see where the chips fall.
TROUBLING, OR, I CATCH UP ON THE WEEKEND'S EVENTS:
The LA Times and Chicago Sun Times covered this - it looks as though Mr. Pickens is back-pedaling from his original proposal, which didn't say anything about the records or diary, or about Kerry risking his own cash. Geez, talk is cheap.
Here is the LA Times:
Renewing a debate that raged through much of the 2004 presidential race, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) on Friday accepted Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens' offer to pay $1 million to anyone who can disprove allegations by veterans who disparaged Kerry's Vietnam War record.
Kerry and his top aides said that failing to respond more quickly and aggressively to the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" had been a mistake, and they attributed the Democrat's narrow loss to President Bush, in part, to the attacks.
Kerry said Friday that he would no longer let such challenges go unanswered.
"I welcome the opportunity to prove that you are a man of your word and that the so-called 'Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' lied," Kerry wrote to Pickens. "While I am prepared to show they lied on allegation after allegation, you have generously offered to pay one million dollars for just one thing that can be proven false. I am prepared to prove the lie beyond any reasonable doubt."
Pickens was one of the principal financial backers of television ads that alleged Kerry had lied about his war experiences, didn't deserve his medals and had betrayed soldiers with his vehement protests after the war. The Texas billionaire, a prominent supporter of Bush and other Republicans, made his $1-million challenge at a Nov. 6 dinner in Washington sponsored by the American Spectator magazine.
Kerry said in an interview that he only learned of Pickens' gambit this week, in an e-mail from a friend.
In his letter to Pickens, Kerry suggested that they hash the truth out in a public forum in either Dallas or Massachusetts. The four-term senator said he would have Pickens pay the $1 million to the Paralyzed Veterans of America, an organization that assists troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
By Friday afternoon, Pickens issued a letter of his own, saying he was "open" to Kerry's response but wanted more -- for Kerry to provide his Vietnam journal, his military records, and copies of movies and tapes made during his service.
Pickens also upped the ante: He challenged Kerry to risk his own $1 million, to be paid to the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, if Kerry "cannot prove anything in the Swift Boat ads to be untrue."
Kerry had left on an overseas trip by the time the counterproposal was delivered. "It appears that Mr. Pickens is backing off his original challenge," responded Kerry aide David Wade. "Sen. Kerry took Mr. Pickens as a man of his word who, when he talks the talk, is willing to walk the walk."
Oh, well. The original Pickens proposal was silly anyway - I take for granted that, amidst all the mud that was flying, Kerry can find some Swift charge that won't stick (I don't have their "Unfit For Command" in front of me but I don't remember it as being cautious and under-stated). Of course, such a feat would hardly prove that Kerry is fully vindicated or the Swifties mostly wrong.
I also think the request for the records and diary is highly defensible - just how does Kerry propose to "prove" anything while hiding what may be contradictory evidence? [OTOH, why should Pickens get all the records if Kerry is only obliged to rebut one specific Swift charge? One might argue that Kerry is only obliged to provide all records relevant to the point he is arguing.]
However, challenging Kerry to put up his own cash does not seem to have been part of the original proposal.
MORE: This link takes you to the Swift Boat ads; I am advised in comments that Pickens told Hannity that his bet referred to those ads.
In an attempt to mimic the Anbar Awakening the Special Forces Command is circulating a plan to aid the locals in the Pakistan tribal areas:
U.S. Hopes to Use Pakistani Tribes Against Al QaedaBy ERIC SCHMITT, MARK MAZZETTI and CARLOTTA GALL
This article was reported and written by Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti and Carlotta Gall.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 — A new and classified American military proposal outlines an intensified effort to enlist tribal leaders in the frontier areas of Pakistan in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as part of a broader effort to bolster Pakistani forces against an expanding militancy, American military officials said.
If adopted, the proposal would join elements of a shift in strategy that would also be likely to expand the presence of American military trainers in Pakistan, directly finance a separate tribal paramilitary force that until now has proved largely ineffective and pay militias that agreed to fight Al Qaeda and foreign extremists, officials said. The United States now has only about 50 troops in Pakistan, a Pentagon spokesman said, a force that could grow by dozens under the new approach.
The proposal is modeled in part on a similar effort by American forces in Anbar Province in Iraq that has been hailed as a great success in fighting foreign insurgents there. But it raises the question of whether such partnerships, to be forged in this case by Pakistani troops backed by the United States, can be made without a significant American military presence in Pakistan. And it is unclear whether enough support can be found among the tribes, some of which are working with Pakistan's intelligence agency.
I infer from their sourcing that this is a planned leak - emphasis added:
Some details of the security improvements have been reported by The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post. But the classified proposal to enlist tribal leaders is new.
“The D.O.D. is about to start funding the Frontier Corps,” one military official said, referring to the Department of Defense. “We have only got a portion of that requested but it is enough to start.”
Until now, the Frontier Corps has not received American military financing because the corps technically falls under the Pakistani Interior Ministry, a nonmilitary agency that the Pentagon ordinarily does not deal with. But American officials say the Frontier Corps is in the long term the most suitable force to combat an insurgency. The force, which since 2001 has increasingly been under the day-to-day command of Pakistani Army units, is now being expanded and trained by American advisers, diplomats said.
The planning at the Special Operations Command intensified after Adm. Eric T. Olson, a member of the Navy Seals who is the new head of the command, met with General Musharraf and Pakistani military leaders in August to discuss how the military could increase cooperation in Pakistan’s fight against the extremists.
A spokesman for the command, Kenneth McGraw, would not comment on any briefing paper that had been circulated for review. He said Friday that after Admiral Olson returned from his trip, he “energized the staff to look for ways to develop opportunities for future cooperation.”
A senior Defense Department official said that Admiral Olson had prepared a memorandum on how Special Operations forces could assist the Pakistani military in the counterinsurgency, and shared that document with several senior Pentagon officials.
Four senior defense or counterterrorism officials confirmed that planning was under way at the command headquarters.
Why this and why now? Well, this plan is a lot more plausible than the fantasy aired on the Times op-ed pages Sunday by Fred Kagan and Michael O'Hanlon - they were pondering a US-led occupation of Pakistan and delivered great laughs along the way. Matt Yglesias is admirably derisory, but let me single this Kagan-O'Hanlon bit out for special mockery; the context is protecting Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the event the government collapses:
One possible plan would be a Special Forces operation with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan’s nuclear materials and warheads from getting into the wrong hands. Given the degree to which Pakistani nationalists cherish these assets, it is unlikely the United States would get permission to destroy them. Somehow, American forces would have to team with Pakistanis to secure critical sites and possibly to move the material to a safer place.
For the United States, the safest bet would be shipping the material to someplace like New Mexico; but even pro-American Pakistanis would be unlikely to cooperate. More likely, we would have to settle for establishing a remote redoubt within Pakistan, with the nuclear technology guarded by elite Pakistani forces backed up (and watched over) by crack international troops. It is realistic to think that such a mission might be undertaken within days of a decision to act. The price for rapid action and secrecy, however, would probably be a very small international coalition.
So let's see - the current government collapses and (in a worst case) we have a replay of the Shah of Iran debacle. However, somewhere inside Pakistan US and Pakistani forces loyal to... well, to the US, I guess, or maybe some government in exile - are able to stand guard over the Pakistani nukes until... until when? The Pakistani forces accept the legitimacy of the new government? The new government collapses?
Or do our troops just stand and fight for decades if need be? What are the logistics of that - the mullahs that replaced the Shah in 1979 still seem to be hanging around, yes?
Bizarre. But in comparison, a Kennedy-style advisory relationship with some key tribal leaders sounds lovely. I would have guessed that the Anbar Awakening was backed by the ability of the US military to back Right with Might, and that does seem to more of a problem in Pakistan. However, even those it is years later, using the model that initially worked in Afghanistan strikes me as sensible. By comparison with the other plans on offer, anyway.
William Saletan of Slate tackles the question that cost Nobel Laureate James Watson his job:
Last month, James Watson, the legendary biologist, was condemned and forced into retirement after claiming that African intelligence wasn't "the same as ours." "Racist, vicious and unsupported by science," said the Federation of American Scientists. "Utterly unsupported by scientific evidence," declared the U.S. government's supervisor of genetic research. The New York Times told readers that when Watson implied "that black Africans are less intelligent than whites, he hadn't a scientific leg to stand on."
I wish these assurances were true. They aren't. Tests do show an IQ deficit, not just for Africans relative to Europeans, but for Europeans relative to Asians. Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern, and there's strong preliminary evidence that part of it is genetic. It's time to prepare for the possibility that equality of intelligence, in the sense of racial averages on tests, will turn out not to be true.
Eventually Mr. Saletan provides a link to the same study I had noted when describing how Earnest Libs at the Times had tackled this topic. (As a time-saver - the author of a Times magazine piece on affirmative action assured us that
There are still vigorous debates about all [The latest scientific work] — intelligence tests of 1-year-olds are iffy, for instance — but it points in one direction. Innate intelligence may be partly genetic, but it doesn’t seem to vary by race.
Mr. Saletan is a bit less confident, although in Part 2 he looks at the "No genetic differences" case. Brad DeLong also provides some thoughts from Thomas Sowell, who wonders how the variability of IQ over time within a racial group can be explained sensibly and reconciled with the genetic differences results. For example, did you know that Jews were dummies not that long ago?
Even before Professor Flynn's studies, mental test results from American soldiers tested in World War II showed that their performances on these tests were higher than the performances of American soldiers in World War I by the equivalent of about 12 IQ points. Perhaps the most dramatic changes were those in the mental test performances of Jews in the United States. The results of World War I mental tests conducted among American soldiers born in Russia--the great majority of whom were Jews--showed such low scores as to cause Carl Brigham, creator of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, to declare that these results "disprove the popular belief that the Jew is highly intelligent." Within a decade, however, Jews in the United States were scoring above the national average on mental tests, and the data in The Bell Curve indicate that they are now far above the national average in IQ.
Hmm, maybe the smart ones avoided the military? Just wondering! Mr. Saletan makes a similar point about a problem with military tests in his Part 2, although in his instance the soldiers may have been the smarties:
In Germany, a study of kids fathered by foreign soldiers and raised by German women found that kids with white biological dads scored the same as kids with biological dads of "African" origin. Hereditarians (scholars who advocate genetic explanations) complain that the sample was skewed because at least 20 percent of the "African" dads were white North Africans. I find that complaint pretty interesting, since it implies that North Africans are a lot smarter than other "whites." Their better critique is that the pool of blacks in the U.S. military had already been filtered by IQ tests. Even environmentalists (scholars who advocate non-genetic explanations) concede that this filter radically distorted the numbers. But again, the complaint teaches a lesson: In any non-random pool of people, you can't deduce even average IQ from race.
OK, since I asked, let's get some quick background on the WWI enrollment situation:
When the war ended, more than four million "Doughboys"(1) had served in the United States Army with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). Half of those participated overseas. According to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, "over 25 per cent of the entire male population of the country between the ages of 18 and 31 were in military service."
...the strength of the United States Army in April 1917 was about 200,000, 80,000 of whom served in National Guard units. Even though the National Defense Act of 1916 provided for the gradual expansion of the regular army and reserves, the United States was forced to build an army based on volunteer enlistments and the draft. More than 24 million men registered for the draft, and almost 2.7 million men were furnished to the U.S. Army by conscription. The number of volunteer enlistments was slightly over 300,000.
Groan - does that add up? 2.7 million were drafted, another 0.3 million volunteered, and "more than 4 million" served. Many were called and more were chosen, I guess. Regardless, one might wonder whether this study achieved a random sampling of the Jewish population in WWI. Let's also note that that is but one data offering noted by Prof. Sowell.
The Boston Globe tells us that John Edwards lost his sunny optimism after his wife's first cancer diagnosis:
The days and months that followed [the diagnosis in late 2004] changed John Edwards. He and Elizabeth say the awareness of their mortality made them recommit themselves to helping the downtrodden. Others say that Edwards's personal agony and political disappointment hardened him in other ways, firming up his beliefs but also infusing him with an undercurrent of urgency and, at times, anger.
Well, then, I am very sympathetic. See, I thought the anger thing was just more of his re-positioning in an attempt to earn the affection of the Nutroots and the BDS left, who love a slash and burn fighter. Since 2002 Edwards has
flip-flopped evolved on health care, the Iraq war, driver's licenses for illegals, nuclear waste at Yucca mountain, and I shudder to think what else - why couldn't he have made a political decision that Nice Guys finish last?
But evidently not, if the spin in the Globe can be taken seriously.
The Globe does not attempt to explain this:
It was typical of Edwards to respond to personal grief by taking purposeful action. He first entered politics just a year after the death of his 16-year-old son, Wade, in a Jeep accident in 1996.
Hmm - the death of his son did not remind Edwards of his own mortality and make him angry? Interesting. Straws and camel's backs, maybe.
KEEP EDWARDS ALIVE: This, from David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register, is interesting:
John Edwards should have stayed home. Clinton took the wind out of his sails early in the evening by implying he was "throwing mud." He never seemed to bounce back from that slap, and he also got hooted when he talked about her as a corporate Democrat.
Edwards also had a poor night because for the first time, the differences between his votes as a U.S. senator and his talk now came into clear focus. He voted for the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and using Yucca Mountain as a nuclear-waste disposal site. Those votes are at odds with the populist rhetoric he serves up today, and it will undermine the credibility of his message.
Ironically, Edwards' poor performance may be bad news for Clinton in Iowa.
That's because Clinton, Edwards and Obama are in a statistical tie for first among caucus-going Democrats here. If either Obama or Edwards should fade in Iowa, his supporters may move to the other candidate, making that man the leading anti-Clinton candidate.
By that logic, Barack does not need to outshine Hillary directly in these debates; he just needs to do better than Edwards.
Naturally an old joke covers this. Two guys, let's say Barack and John, are hiking in the woods when they are spotted by a seemingly angry bear. Barack immediately puts down his pack, pulls out his running shoes, and commences to lace them up.
"Barack, waddya doing?" says John. "You can't outrun a bear, even with running shoes".
"John", says Barack as he looks back over his shoulder, "I don't need to outrun the bear. I just need to outrun you."
OK, anybody here from Jersey?
Very stray thoughts on the Las Vegas debate:
1. Obama is dying up there - his decision to filibuster the Yes/No question of giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants drew laughter [Corner validation, Hot Air video, NY Sun]. And his Yucca Mountain pander struck me as silly - he wants the site selection for nuclear waste to be based on "sound science", as if the Yucca Mountain site has not been kicked around forever.
Finally, Barack Hussein Il Jong Obama explained that the surge in Iraq is a failure, that 2007 has been the deadliest year for US troop so far (true), and that the recent decline in casualties has only brought us back to 2006 levels. Ahh, not so true - the October level of 38 deaths was better than every month in 2006 except March (with 31), and well below the 2006 monthly average of 68.5.
2. John Edwards has matched and exceeded his billing as The Angry Man. I am studying the back stage views with hopes of glimpsing the man with the thorazine dart gun.
And in response to a question about racial profiling at airports I loved his bold yet candid declaration that he would take the steps to restore America's moral standing in the world even if that meant that some Americans would die. Oh, KIDDING - Edwards thinks we can end this alleged profiling, the alleged telecom spying and end enhanced interrogations, without paying a price in decreased security (although naturally he did not articulate that linkage). Here's hoping!
3. Let Hillary be Hillary - she is having a big night, and when she is on, it really is
men versus boys. OK, adult versus kids - she is just that much better than these other clowns. Her people will be sky high in the spin room [Ramesh says she "flat out won"].
4. Joe Biden - over, but not out. He and Chris Dodd ought to leave the stage together, buy each other a beer, and chat about their many, many years in the Senate.
5. Bill Richardson - a good night, but too late to matter.
GROAN: The BDSers take over as CNN cuts to questions from the audience: a concerned mom wants everyone to tell her how we can avoid the rush to war with Iran so her son won't be killed there. Maybe the next questioner can demand a probe of the mysterious collapse of World Trade Center 7.
THE MORNING AFTER: From David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register:
John Edwards should have stayed home. Clinton took the wind out of his sails early in the evening by implying he was "throwing mud." He never seemed to bounce back from that slap, and he also got hooted when he talked about her as a corporate Democrat.
Edwards also had a poor night because for the first time, the differences between his votes as a U.S. senator and his talk now came into clear focus. He voted for the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and using Yucca Mountain as a nuclear-waste disposal site. Those votes are at odds with the populist rhetoric he serves up today, and it will undermine the credibility of his message.
Ironically, Edwards' poor performance may be bad news for Clinton in Iowa.
That's because Clinton, Edwards and Obama are in a statistical tie for first among caucus-going Democrats here. If either Obama or Edwards should fade in Iowa, his supporters may move to the other candidate, making that man the leading anti-Clinton candidate.
Barry Bonds has been indicted for perjury as a consequence of his testimony in the Balco investigation.
Bonds is accused of lying when he denied ever knowingly using steroids. Bonds is also accused of lying when he denied ever having been injected by his trainer, Anderson. Finally Bonds is accused about lying about the timing of his steroid use - apparently Bonds tested positive for steroids in November 2000, which is a bit of a head-scratcher since baseball only started steroid testing in 2002. A quick guess - the Feds got ahold of an old blood sample drawn for other purposes and tested it in 2003 during the Balco investigation. Or, thinking out loud here, maybe Balco took blood to test its own clients. If so, that was pretty dumb of them to save the results.
ARMITAGE: They're not words on which I disagree. I think it was extraordinarily foolish of me. There was no ill-intent on my part and I had never seen ever, in 43 years of having a security clearance, a covert operative's name in a memo. The only reason I knew a "Mrs. Wilson," not "Mrs. Plame," worked at the agency was because I saw it in a memo. But I don't disagree with her words to a large measure.
BLITZER: Normally in memos they don't name covert operatives?
ARMITAGE: I have never seen one named.
BLITZER: And so you assumed she was, what, just an analyst over at the CIA?
ARMITAGE: Not only assumed it, that's what the message said, that she was publicly chairing a meeting.
BLITZER: So, when you told Robert Novak that Joe Wilson, the former U.S. ambassador's wife, worked at the CIA, and she was involved somehow in getting him this trip to Africa to look for the enriched uranium, if there were enriched uranium going to Iraq, you simply assumed that she was not a clandestine officer of the CIA.
ARMITAGE: Well, even Mr. Novak has said that he used the word "operative" and misused it. No one ever said "operative." And I not only assumed it, as I say, I've never seen a covered agent's name in a memo. However, that doesn't take away from what Mrs. Plame said, it was foolish, yeah. Sure it was.
Well, back on Oct 1 2003 Novak's explanation if his use of the word was this:
A big question is her duties at Langley. I regret that I referred to her in my column as an "operative," a word I have lavished on hack politicians for more than 40 years. While the CIA refuses to publicly define her status, the official contact says she is "covered" -- working under the guise of another agency. However, an unofficial source at the Agency says she has been an analyst, not in covert operations.
Josh Marshall and others have hooted at this, but here is my Unsolved Mystery - why did Andrea Mitchell use the word "operative" in exactly the same context on the same day Novak chatted with Armitage? From the transcript of Ms. Mitchell's July 8, 2003 broadcast as she discusses culpability for the "16 Words" and responsibility for the Wilson trip to Niger (emp. added):
MITCHELL: Well, people at the CIA say that it's not going to be George Tenet; and, in fact, that high-level people at the CIA did not really know that it was false, never even looked at Joe Wilson's verbal report or notes from that report, didn't even know that it was he who had made this report, because he was sent over by some of the covert operatives in the CIA at a very low level, not, in fact, tasked by the vice president.
If Novak wants to insist he simply had in mind a hack political operator, well, that is his story and I suppose he is sticking with it. But it is clear that Ms. Mitchell had "covert operatives" specifically in mind, and it is an uncanny coincidence that she and Bob Novak got that genesis of the Plame trip on the same day. (However, let's note that Ms. Mitchell sometimes insists she did not actually get the specific Plame leak.)
Hmm. Ms. Mitchell cites "people at the CIA" in her report, and Novak made clear that he chatted with some CIA contacts at some point in his research, so it is certainly possible they shared a source who gave them both the word "operative".
Or maybe Novak simply hit upon the Mitchell broadcast while riffling through Lexis as he wrote his piece a few days later - do old school journos do that?
Well - the word "operative" was out there independent of Novak, but maybe not independent of Armitage. Did we mention that Colin Powell was a guest at Ms. Mitchells wedding to Alan Greenspan? Meant to. In fact, I meant to recycle this from an old post about what might have been happening at State in June-July 2003:
Although he did not emphasize the specific Niger/uranium piece, Colin Powell was the public face of the Administration in presenting the WMD case against Saddam to the United Nations; the charge [by Wilson] that "the Administration twisted the intelligence" should have cut Powell as deeply as Cheney, so a State Dept push-back would not be utterly unreasonable. Add in that Andrea Mitchell covered State, had Colin Powell as a guest at her wedding, and claimed to have known about Ms. Plame prior to the publication of the Novak column, and it should not have been too hard for diligent investigators to wonder whether folks at State had blabbed about Ms. Plame and then covered it up.
And why wouldn't they blab? The INR memo which circulated at State made it clear (rightly or wrongly, probably rightly) that Ms. Plame was involved in sending her hubby on the trip and gave no hint that her CIA role was classified.
Raw Story has lots more Armitage bashing. And yes, I need to let it go - no one will ever ask Ms. Mitchell about this again.
The Times preps us for tonight's Dem debate with this:
In Las Vegas, Chance for Clinton to Undo Damage
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton heads into tonight’s Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas with an opportunity: to try to erase the unflattering image that her chief rivals, and her own mistakes, have helped create.
Yesterday, in an attempt to neutralize one possible threat at the debate, her campaign announced that Mrs. Clinton would not support driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants as president. It is the latest formulation of her position, which has shifted since it became a tripping point in the last televised debate on Oct. 30.
Her advisers say they hope the matter will now be off the table, but Mrs. Clinton’s top rivals made clear that they would continue to press the argument they have been making in recent weeks, that she is inconsistent and overly political.
I don't see why Ms. Clinton wants to end the discussion of driver's license for illegal immigrants. OK, her route to her current opposition was disingenuous and circuitous, but she has at least arrived at a place that makes political sense - per recent polls, most of the country (and even a majority of NY Democrats) opposes the issuance of licenses to illegals. But for folks who don't trust polls, consider the fact that John Edwards has felt obliged to flip-flop since 2004, and now effectively has come down in opposition.
So - Edwards can hardly accuse Ms. Clinton of opportunism or inconsistency. And Barack Hussein Il Jong Obama remains ossified on the wrong side of this issue - does he really propose to follow Eliot Spitzer into the wilderness on this or is there a flip-flop in his future as well?
Also on the stage will be New Mexico Governor Billl Richardson, who signed into a law a bill granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants in New Mexico. He defended that in a 2005 interview with Chris Wallace, but let me pick Richardson's rendition of the traffic safety argument:
RICHARDSON: ...First of all, when you have licenses given to immigrants, they have got to get insurance. Now, that lets us keep track of them. That makes them responsible. We had an enormously high uninsured rate of our motorists, so it becomes a safety issue, too. We know where they are. So it increases traffic safety for New Mexicans.
Here is some supplemental background:
New Mexico last year became the latest state to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, and officials say the change has helped contribute to a drop in the state's uninsured rate, which in December of 2002 was 33 percent the highest in the nation and now is 17 percent. Insurance premiums also have dropped in that state and fewer people are fleeing accident scenes, according to Moran of the National Immigration Law Center. Almost 14,000 of the state's estimated 150,000 illegal immigrants have obtained licenses in the past year.
Geez, a mere 14,000 illegal immigrants got licenses and the percentage of uninsured motorist fell by 16%? Who is kidding whom, or, More numbers please!
From this chart we see that New Mexico had (as of 2004) about 1.2 million licensed drivers; the new licenses to illegals would have represented about a 1% increase. I am going to go out on a limb here and insist that something else, probably stricter enforcement of current laws, explains the 16% drop in uninsured driver's in New Mexico. (One possibility - in Dec 2002 a New Mexico law took effect linking proof of insurance with vehicle registration).
Well, enough hacking through the underbush - my strong impression is that the traffic safety argument is weak, and MSNBC found experts saying similar things.
Which means that Hillary can take the stage and insist that, her waffling aside, she has arrived at the most sensible and electable position; if John Edwards wants to defend his own flip-flopping, or if Barack Obama and Bill Richardson want to expound their public safety fantasy, Hillary should invite them to bring it on.
GRATUITOUS CHEAP SHOT: I heart Gail Collins, or this, anyway:
Something weird is going on with John Edwards, who was cheerfulness incarnate when four years ago he was the moderate-Southerner-who-can-speak-to-the-Reagan-Democrats. Then he morphed into a sorrowful populist who thought we should vote for him because he cared the most about the poor. Now he’s running around like a rabid gerbil, telling people he should be president because he’s the angriest. Soon, he’s going to run out of adjectives to embody.
Running out of adjectives for the Breck Girl? Doubtful.
Gov. Spitzer of New York has abandoned his controversial plan to offer driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and the NY Times delivers something for everyone in their coverage.
In the depths of the Metro section we learn that Spitzer is a hero:
Dropping License Plan Wins Praise for Spitzer
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 — A day after abandoning his proposal to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, Gov. Eliot Spitzer won the kind of wide acclaim from elected officials that he could not win for the proposal itself.
From Albany to Capitol Hill, Democratic politicians voiced public words of praise — and breathed private sighs of relief — at Mr. Spitzer’s announcement that he would scuttle the proposal, after a bitter seven-week battle that battered the governor and turned New York into a battleground over illegal immigration.
And never is heard a discouraging word, until readers turn to the NY Times editorial, where they are informed that Spitzer is a bum:
The Governor in His Labyrinth
When Gov. Eliot Spitzer dropped his proposal to make driver’s licenses available to undocumented immigrants yesterday, he sowed disappointment and anger among many of his supporters — who felt, rightly, that they had been left holding the bag. His original plan to make highways safer and the state more secure was the right idea. But New York’s embattled governor did not handle it properly, first waffling on his principles under pressure from the Bush administration, and then slowly recognizing that he was endangering the rest of his agenda by knocking over the hornet’s nest that is the nation’s immigration debate.
It's a pity the reporters couldn't find any of these supporters to quote in their story lauding Spitzer. But I'm sure they are out there!
Jason Zengerle, writing at The Plank, poses this:
Is a Unified Field Theory of Hillary Hatred Possible?
...Hillary's obviously a deeply polarizing figure, but is she in some ways helped by the fact that so many people hate her for so many different reasons? I mean, it's hard for a candidate to craft an anti-Hillary message that doesn't wind up alienating a good number of Hillary haters.
Hmm. Stop Her Now splits the suggested attack themes between the primaries and the general election (if it turns out we have to stop her later.)
I think the generic "You can't believe the words coming out of her mouth" would rally all of her opponents. And it has the added benefit of being true.
CBS News discovers an "epidemic" of suicide among veterans:
So CBS News did an investigation - asking all 50 states for their suicide data, based on death records, for veterans and non-veterans, dating back to 1995. Forty-five states sent what turned out to be a mountain of information.
And what it revealed was stunning.
In 2005, for example, in just those 45 states, there were at least 6,256 suicides among those who served in the armed forces. That’s 120 each and every week, in just one year.
Dr. Steve Rathbun is the acting head of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department at the University of Georgia. CBS News asked him to run a detailed analysis of the raw numbers that we obtained from state authorities for 2004 and 2005.
It found that veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide in 2005 than non-vets. (Veterans committed suicide at the rate of between 18.7 to 20.8 per 100,000, compared to other Americans, who did so at the rate of 8.9 per 100,000.)
One age group stood out. Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror. They had the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times higher than civilians the same age. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)
Bill Sweetman at Aviation Week provides the analysis CBS News forgot, which hinges on the fact that men are more suicide-prone than women:
In the US, male veterans outnumber female veterans 13:1. Since four times as many males as women commit suicide in the general population, you'd expect the rate among veterans to be close to the rate among males - 17.6/100,000 per year in 2002 - and indeed it is, if the CBS raw numbers are correct.
CBS also makes an issue of the fact that suicide rates among younger veterans exceed that of the general population by an even bigger margin - but again, that's what you'd expect, because in that age group, the male-to-female imbalance in suicide rates is greatest, almost six to one.
Suicide is tragedy. What it does not seem to be, among veterans, is an epidemic.
Wow. Could the CBS expert be that wrong? Evidently - here is a WHO chart telling us male and female suicide rates for the US - 17.9 suicides per 100,000 for men, 4.2 for women, which suggests a national average of roughly 11 per 100,000.
And for the 20-24 age group, this study tells us that in 2004 females committed suicide at a rate of 3.59 per 100,000; the male figure was 20.84.
Let's reprise the relevant CBS News stat:
One age group stood out. Veterans aged 20 through 24... (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)
OK, a range of 22.9 to 31.9 seems to exceed the national average for men, so that may indicate a problem.
WORTH NOTING: The national averages will be for a mixed population of veterans and non-veterans. Consequently, the national average will be a mix of a (maybe lower) non-veteran rate and a higher veteran rate. However, there are roughly 23 million veterans (mostly male) in an adult male US population of 106 million so a direct comparison of the veteran rate to the overall rate may be problematic.
TAKING THE WORST CASE: Let's assume that the suicide rate for veterans is 20.8 (the high end of the CBS News range) and that the male/female ratio for veterans is 13 to 1. Let's further assume that female vets exactly mirror the overall female population, so that their suicide rate is 4.2 per 100,000.
In that case (do the math!) the veteran male rate must be 22.1 per 100,000.
Now how about male veterans versus the overall male population?
For this calculation we will assume 21.6 million male veterans in a male adult (over 19) population of 106 million.
The male veteran rate is 22.1, as noted above.
The overall male rate is 17.9, from the WHO chart.
The non-veteran male rate is clearly less than 17.9; however, it carries a much higher weight in the weighted average rate due to the larger population. By my reckoning that non-veteran rate is 16.8 per 100,000.
In other words, if the 21.6 million male veterans commit suicide at a rate of 22.1 per 100,000 while the 84.4 million male non-veterans kill themselves at a rate of 16.9 per 100,000, the pooled suicide rate will be 17.9.
That suggests a suicide rate about 30 percent higher among male veterans than among male non-veterans. That may not be the epidemic CBS was raving about - they found that "veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide in 2005 than non-vets" - but it does suggest something has been happening.
Of course, I have no idea whether that relationship has been stable over time.
Kos will be providing commentary for Newsweek's readers as Nov '08 approaches and I am all for it - let's eliminate the MSM filter, bring the crazy aunt down from the attic, and let America get to know the Nutroots in their unvarnished glory. And if anyone has a problem with that, screw 'em.
I am much more concerned about Newsweek's yet-to-be-announced pick to represent "the right" in our monolithic glory. I don't think anyone can plausibly argue that Kos is not a fair representative of the Nutroots, but I don't see that he has any counterpart on the right. Presumably Newsweek will want to pick some obscure ranter so they can embarrass "the right" while applauding themselves for being controversial.
As to whom they ought to pick? A logical starting point would be the Weblog "Best Conservative Blog" nominees; second-place Michelle Malkin is already a semi-prominent media figure, but second runner-up Captain Ed would be an excellent choice. (I am passing over the winner, Ace of Spades, since it is a group effort, although the Ace himself would be aces for the Newsweek gig.)
Suggestions are welcome below.
UPDATE: Hmm, either Captain Ed is in for a Thanksgiving surprise or I am in for disappointment.
Here is the progression of Times headlines covering the collapse of the Spitzer plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants:
Nov 7: New York Democrats Say License Issue Had Little Effect
Nov 8: Congressional Democrats Grow Wary of Spitzer License Plan
Nov 10: Spitzer Showing Signs of Shift on License Plan
Nov 13: Spitzer to Drop His License Plan
Nov 13 (revised): Spitzer Dropping Plan of Licenses for Illegal Immigrants
If you've been listening to Mike Huckabee or John Edwards on the Presidential trail, you may have heard that the U.S. is becoming a nation of rising inequality and shrinking opportunity. We'd refer those campaigns to a new study of income mobility by the Treasury Department that exposes those claims as so much populist hokum.
OK, "hokum" is our word. The study, to be released today, is a careful, detailed piece of research by professional economists that avoids political judgments. But what it does do is show beyond doubt that the U.S. remains a dynamic society marked by rapid and mostly upward income mobility. Much as they always have, Americans on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder continue to climb into the middle and sometimes upper classes in remarkably short periods of time.
Regression to the mean is a theme here:
The Treasury study examined a huge sample of 96,700 income tax returns from 1996 and 2005 for Americans over the age of 25. The study tracks what happened to these tax filers over this 10-year period. One of the notable, and reassuring, findings is that nearly 58% of filers who were in the poorest income group in 1996 had moved into a higher income category by 2005. Nearly 25% jumped into the middle or upper-middle income groups, and 5.3% made it all the way to the highest quintile.
Of those in the second lowest income quintile, nearly 50% moved into the middle quintile or higher, and only 17% moved down. This is a stunning show of upward mobility, meaning that more than half of all lower-income Americans in 1996 had moved up the income scale in only 10 years.
Those who start at the bottom but hold full-time jobs nonetheless enjoyed steady income gains. The Treasury study found that those tax filers who were in the poorest income quintile in 1996 saw a near doubling of their incomes (90.5%) over the subsequent decade. Those in the highest quintile, on the other hand, saw only modest income gains (10%). The nearby table tells the story, which is that the poorer an individual or household was in 1996 the greater the percentage income gain after 10 years.
Only one income group experienced an absolute decline in real income--the richest 1% in 1996. Those households lost 25.8% of their income. Moreover, more than half (57.4%) of the richest 1% in 1996 had dropped to a lower income group by 2005. Some of these people might have been "rich" merely for one year, or perhaps for several, as they hit their peak earning years or had some capital gains windfall. Others may simply have not been able to keep up with new entrepreneurs and wealth creators.
The key point is that the study shows that income mobility in the U.S. works down as well as up--another sign that opportunity and merit continue to drive American success, not accidents of birth. The "rich" are not the same people over time.
I'd certainly like to believe it.
The great Social Security debate of 2005 was a seminal moment for American progressives. Conventional fiscal wisdom in the Beltway was that the aging population is THE big problem — when the truth is that grim long-run fiscal projections mainly reflect projected health care costs. And conventional political wisdom was that the Bush administration’s fear-mongering on the issue would work.
But a determined defense by progressives in the media, on the blogs, and in Congress beat back one spurious argument after another, while the American people made it clear that they really want a program that guarantees a basic retirement income that doesn’t depend on the Dow. And Social Security survived.
Hmm. Was it only a few years ago that Bill Clinton was promoting a Social Security crisis and promising to "Save Social Security first?" What happened?
Not much, actually - as Byron York detailed back in 2005, when Bill Clinton was promising to save Social Security in the late 90's and Al Gore was promising to put the surplus in a lockbox, it was an attempt by the Democrats to forestall Republican tax cuts.
But times have changed! If a Dem wins the Presidency in 2008 he (or she - shiver...) will be greeted with an endless laundry list of "progressive" spending ideas and it is quite likely that Republicans will be waving the "Social Security First" banner. Libs (other than Barack Hussein Il Jong Obama) will have no interest in fighting for tax increases if the only result will be to kick the money back into Social Security in order to solve a problem that is a glimmer on the horizon when there are new programs they could fund today.
So Barack needs to get on the program - new taxes will fund new programs, not save old ones. Saving Social Security was only important when the alternative was evil Republican tax cuts.