Thursday, November 30, 2006

1/32 American Adults in Jail, on Parole, or Probation

7 million Americans last year were in Jail, on Parole or Probation. That's a lot of 'criminals' and a significant increase from past years. Race is also an issue; the statistic most people have heard, but don't always appreciate: 1 in 13 (8%) Black males between 25-29 are incarcerated. The equivalent figure for white men? 1 in 100.

These people may have broken Rousseau's dubious Social Contract, but Society is also letting them down. For all the Republican talk of getting tough on criminals, there's little empathy for the underlying causes of this increased incarceration.

Lets treat the problem, not the symptoms.

Posted by Peter

Mating and Inequality

Interesting Article on the economics of mating; I know where the Right Wing will take this, but the argument would hold for strong gay couples and strong unmarried couples as well.

As the author points out, this is not a well established theory, although certainly worth some more research.

Posted by Peter

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Evidence Mounts

At least 2 British Airways jets, which fly the London-Moscow route, have tested positive for traces of Polinium 210, the rare radioactive material that killed Alexandar Litvinenko, the ex-Russian spy and Putin critic.

Although this evidence seems to create a giant foam finger pointing at Moscow, the 2 planes in question also flew to other destinations, including Frankfurt, Barcelona and Athens. Furthermore, I am curious as to why more than a single jet is contaminated. The simplest "The Russian Government Killed Him" story would be if the poison was smuggled on a single plane.

I hope Sherlock Holmes is on the case, because I can't wait to hear the final verdict on this spy v. spy.

Posted by Peter

The Evidence Mounts

At least 2 British Airways jets, which fly the London-Moscow route, have tested positive for traces of Polinium 210, the rare radioactive material that killed Alexandar Litvinenko, the ex-Russian spy and Putin critic.

Although this evidence seems to create a giant foam finger pointing at Moscow, the 2 planes in question also flew to other destinations, including Frankfurt, Barcelona and Athens. Furthermore, I am curious as to why more than a single jet is contaminated. The simplest "The Russian Government Killed Him" story would be if the poison was smuggled at on a single plane.

I hope Sherlock Holmes is on the case, because I can't wait to hear the final verdict on this spy v. spy.

Posted by Peter

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Greta Van Susteren

I just found out that the Greta Van Susteren is a Scientologist; and I thought Fox News was just a place for radical Christians. According to Wikipedia, "She recently admitted to have been attacked by a reincarnation of Xenu at the age of 12, her body thetan count was over 9000." Things make so much more sense now.

Posted by Peter

Sunday, November 26, 2006

John McCain Must Be Stopped

As Matt Welch correctly points out, the oval office-seeking Senator from Arizona has lost his marbles when it comes to foreign policy. In my opinion he's the most dangerous radical right-winger on the American political scene today. Why? Because so many people have bought into his "I'm a centrist, everyone else is an extremist" shtick. But would a "moderate" be making the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows criticizing Bush for not being militaristic enough? I fear for the future of the country if he's elected.

Posted by Kingston

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Who said the Cold War was over?

Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian spy renowned for his criticisms of President Putin, died this evening in a London hospital from unknown poisons.

The Kremlin denies that it had anything to do with his untimely death, which may be correct, but is not a particularly satisfying answer to the mystery of how Litvinenko died. If not the Kremlin, then who?

The latest hypothesis is that he was poisoned with Radioactive Thallium. He could have been given this by anyone who wanted him dead; since he was ex-KGB, there could have been a long list of people wanting him dead. However, we also know that he was researching the death of an anti-Putin Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in her Moscow flat on October 7th.

It could be a coincidence that two vocal critics of Putin got axed in such a short span of time ... but I doubt it. Russia has been flexing its muscles in many ways (oil markets to name but one); it would not surprise me if the Kremlin reached out to silence its traitors.

Posted By Peter

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Quote of the Day

And yet here we have President Bush, stepping on to Vietnamese soil to further our rapprochement with Vietnam, and arguing, in so many words, that the lesson of Vietnam is that we should still be there blowing the place up thirty years later.
Josh Marshall, noting the mendacity associated with arguing that the lesson of Vietnam for Iraq is that "we'll succeed unless we quit."

Posted by Kingston

Monday, November 20, 2006

Off to a Bad Start

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is once again proposing to reinstate the draft.

Lord help us from the political idiocy of the Democratic Party.

It's not that Rangel's intentions are misplaced; he is correct that wars diproportionately affect poor families, and that reintroducing the draft would likely limit the willingness of politicians to vote for combat. It's not that he's wrong, he's just an idiot.

The last time he proposed something like this it was defeated 402-2. He's wasting his political capital on a bill that the public wouldn't stand and his colleagues aren't dumb enough to support. Get real Rangel, it's not going to happen.

Posted by Peter

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Another Inconvenient Truth

The Economist recommends legalizing the sale of kidneys in its most recent issue. This is a view that upsets many people, although as the article illustrates, there are several benefits to a market in human organs as well as some moral precedent.

A common argument against an organ market is that it forces the poor into life-threatening surgery and that they lack free-will on this sensitive decision. Interestingly, society has little problem allowing poor women to rent their wombs to would-be-parents, which is 6 times as likely to lead to death as an organ transplant.

The issue isn't as simple as The Economist suggests (what a surprise), but I do support their conclusion.

Posted By Peter

Montana Takes Over Washington, DC

After two decades on the Finance Committee, Montana Senator Max Baucus finally has some clout. It remains to be seen how he uses it, but at least he's rejecting privatizing Social Security:

The incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Thursday he wants to hold hearings on looming insolvencies in the Medicare and Social Security programs but said President Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security is dead. "Don't waste our time," said Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. "It's off the table." He said the rising cost of Medicare and other health costs is a priority for the committee, though he did not detail how the committee would approach those problems. He said he will hold "vigorous" hearings on the issue. Baucus said he will propose legislation to simplify the Medicare prescription drug program by streamlining the number of plans available and making it easier for people to choose one.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Global Rich List

The Fortune 500 likes to tout the World's Richest people. This website tells you where you fit in that list.

The scale isn't done for purchasing power parity (PPP), but it does give you some perspective on world income distributions.

Posted By Peter

Quote of the Day

"We'll succeed unless we quit."
President Bush, drawing an Iraq lesson from Vietnam during his visit to Hanoi. And there you have it folks: had we stayed the course in Vietnam, we would have won the war. Had all those mushy liberals not been protesting in the streets of D.C., New York, etc., we would have won the war. Had Congress not cut off the funding, we would have won the war. Of course, all of this rests upon a willful distortion of history. Sadly, however, it's a narrative that enjoys a wide following, both inside and outside the halls of government.

Posted by Kingston

UPDATE: Spencer puts it better than I did: "That's right, we won the Vietnam war. We took that shit! It just so happened that we got so drunk on victory that we walked off the field with a huge lead in the fourth quarter. [Bush] thinks you're even stupider than he is."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lott, Part II

As Peter noted yesterday, Trent Lott's ascension to minority whip is befuddling on so many different levels. Even many of the blogosphere's most dependable republican hacks are up in arms over this development. Perhaps the best commentary on the matter, however, comes (via Andrew) from Robert A. George. As he puts it, "there's something painfully ironic about Trent Lott being named 'minority whip.'" Painfully ironic indeed!

Posted by Kingston

Dems and Free-Trade

Everyone knows the debate by now. Economists argue that protectionism leads to inefficiencies (dead weight loss) and that the world is better-off if we can all specialize in what we do best. The protectionist argument is usually more varied and lengthy: they point out that America's middle class jobs are going overseas, that we import vastly more than we export ( 10.5% of GDP vs. 16.2% of GDP last year), that China is competing unfairly by depressing the value of its currency and that we need to erect barriers to protect our industries from unfair competition.

Kevin Drum hits most of my points on this issue:
Protectionism would be a disaster for both the United States and for the world's developing countries. Democrats should resist falling into that trap. At the same time, everyone knows that it's the well-off who mostly get the benefits from these deals while the working schmoes mostly take the lumps - with the constantly promised help for the losers never seeming to arrive. With that in mind, I imagine trade is going to be a hotter topic of conversation over the next couple of years than it has been recently, and I hope that Democrats can figure out some way to embrace trade while also doing something concrete to force the winners to share the gains with the losers. (And not just the "retraining" mantra, please. I've got nothing against training and education, but it's wholly inadequate as a complete solution. We need a lot more than just that.)

A more progressive tax system would be a good start to offsetting this inequality. I would also add that Americans consume too much (don't save enough) and that addressing this issue is fundamental to both the trade debate as well as America's long term economic viability.

In the short run, the democrats would gain much more politically by pushing at least a mild protectionist policy; I hope they don't fall into that populist trap.

Posted by Peter

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Airline Mergers

US Airways is bidding to takeover Delta Airlines. The airline industry has needed some sort of consolidation for years (some more classical economists have suggested that the Government simply stop offering bailouts).

Such a merger would probably mean marginally higher ticket prices for consumers, but it would also be good for the industry. I don't think the courts would have any problem with the merger, but Delta Airlines' management seems dead set against it.

Posted by Peter

Isn't he a racist?

Trent Lott won the No. 2 Senate seat in a close race today. What are the Republicans thinking?

Lott actually used to be a Democrat until the party started supporting Black rights in the south; he quickly became a Republican after Democrats endorsed racial integration.

And to make sure people know where he stands today, Lott uttered the following (shameful) words on December 5th, 2002:

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

The Republicans need to look forward if they want to resolve their problems; bringing Lott back is only going to make life worse for their party.

Posted by Peter

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Right-wing nonsense watch #4984390: The Case of Michael Rubin

To wit:
Terrorists kidnapped scores of Iraqis from a higher education research institute. It says a lot that the Western media, Europe, and the Arab League don't react with the same outrage that they did over the Abu Ghraib scandal.
Are you kidding me Michael? Is this even in need of explanation? How about because we hold ourselves to a higher standard than the terrorist thugs who carried out this heinous act! If a condemnation is what you want than here it is: I condemn today's barbarous kidnapping of nearly 150 employees of a government research institute in Baghdad. Furthermore, I condemn the thousands of other unspeakable crimes that have been perpetrated against innocent Iraqi civilians by terrorists, insurgents, and criminals in the past three years. I hope the guilty parties - whoever they may be - are killed or captured as soon as possible. But I also condemn the sadistic treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. Now, were the crimes committed by a small number of American servicemen and women of the same magnitude as those committed by terrorists who wantonly kill innocent civilians? Of course not. At the same time, we shouldn't be judging the "rightness" or "wrongness" of our actions against the despicable standard set by the actions of terrorists. Saying that our transgressions pale in comparison to the transgressions perpetrated by terrorists isn't saying anything at all. Our actions should be judged in terms of how they comport with the principles of liberty and equality at the heart of our own political system. Given that U.S conduct at Abu Ghraib flew in the face of these principles, what happened there deserved evey second of media attention that it received.

Posted by Kingston

UPDATE: Over at the Plank, Jason Zengerle points out that "the Holy Trinity of the "liberal media"--The New York Times, CNN, and NPR--have all devoted significant time and attention to the [kidnapping] this morning. The Times and CNN both currently have it at the top of their websites, and NPR's "Morning Edition" did multiple segments on it." In sum, yet further evidence that Rubin is totally off his rocker.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Though I'm a big fan of Andrew Sullivan's blog, his tightrope walking on Iraq borders on the incoherent. Take this graf from a recent post, for example:
I don't favor a pull-out; but I am much less sure that more U.S. troops will help any more.
Me: if you think, as Andrew does, that we are nearing a point of no return in Iraq and that adding more troops isn't likely to ameliorate the situation, why not take a troop redeployment seriously?

Posted by Kingston

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lunatics R Us

K-Lo can't be serious, can she?:
My thoughts: Allen is over [as far as 2008 is concerned], certainly at least for this cycle. Santorum I bet could use a bit of a break, but I wouldn't be shocked if a sense of duty brought him into the primary mix or something.

I can tell you this, for whatever it's worth: my most frequently received e-mail (besides the expletive-filled e-mails) says: "Romney/Santorum '08" or "Who will you choose, K-Lo, Mitt or Rick in the primaries?"
Note to Kathryn: Santorum lost by 18 points! Even J-Pod has come to grips with this basic fact.

Hat Tip: Andrew

Posted by Kingston

Quote of the Day

"Mississippi gets more than their fair share back in federal money, but who the hell wants to live in Mississippi?"
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), dissing the "Magnolia state".

Posted by Kingston

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Looks like we've taken the Senate too!

Posted by Kingston

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Proud to be Montanan

I've been waiting all day to write this post. It's official. Democrat Jon Tester is the newest Senator-elect from Montana.

Don't get me wrong. I'm happier that the Dems took back control of the House (and now the Senate, once the Republicans stop complaining in Virginia), but it's a grand day in Montana when we have 2 Democratic Senators and a Democratic Governor. Our Representative is still a Republican, but we'll work on that for next time.

This shift in Montana is representative of a larger national change, as traditional fiscal, small government conservatives are suddenly realizing their party has been hijacked by the religious right. This election is not quite a Liberal victory; it is a victory for moderate voices in government. Jon Tester is certainly no great Liberal, nor are many of the new Democrats entering the House.

The Democratic Party is capturing a wide base, which will make it hard to put forward a single agenda. I can't imagine Gay Rights making it on the list, for example. It'll be an interesting couple of years.

I was hoping Rumsfeld would be dragged in front of some Congressional committees, but it looks like he's doing everyone a favor by jumping on the grenade. As much as I dislike Bush, I hope the Democrats don't make the mistake of trying, or even talking about impeaching Bush. That would be one of the worst mistakes they could make.

Posted by Peter

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Media Bias

Via Ezra:
Fully 84% of voters say they have heard a lot or a little about Kerry’s remarks – with 60% saying they have heard a lot. By comparison, just 26% say they have heard a lot about President Bush’s statement that he will keep Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of Defense until he leaves office in 2009.
Ezra's right: What's all this we've heard about a liberal media bias?

Posted by Kingston

Monday, November 06, 2006

November the 7th

I won't lie: I am nervous about tomorrow. As King already mentioned, the Polls are moving against the Dems and the Republicans have a well greased campaign-day machine. These close polls should motivate more Republicans to head to the polls tomorrow.

For all the talk about Kerry's gaff, it is a weak rationale for swinging to the Republican side at the last minute. I agree with Noam Scheiber that it is unlikely Kerry has such a strong influence over independents.

I still have money on the Dems winning the House (and failing to take the Senate) but I should have asked for better terms ... this is going to be close.

Posted by Peter

Latest WaPo/ABC, Pew Polls Show Strong Gains for Republicans

Please God, say it ain't so. The Plank has more here and here.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum says we need to stop overreacting: "The media/blog theme of the morning seems to be a barely concealed panic over the shrinking Democratic lead in various generic congressional polls. This is crazy. When you have a lead of 15 points or more, there's only one direction to go. Of course the Democratic lead is shrinking." I'm still worried.

Posted by Kingston


Can you believe this shit?:
Known as "Prussian Blue" — a nod to their German heritage and bright blue eyes — the girls [thirteen-year-old twins Lamb and Lynx Gaede] from Bakersfield, Calif., have been performing songs about white nationalism before all-white crowds since they were nine.

"We're proud of being white, we want to keep being white," said Lynx. "We want our people to stay white … we don't want to just be, you know, a big muddle. We just want to preserve our race."

Lynx and Lamb have been nurtured on racist beliefs since birth by their mother April. "They need to have the background to understand why certain things are happening," said April, a stay-at-home mom who no longer lives with the twins' father. "I'm going to give them, give them my opinion just like any, any parent would."
Perhaps terrorist threats from abroad aren't the only threats we should be guarding against.

Hat Tip: Fury of the Egg

Posted by Kingston

Say What?

According to Power Line, the "terrorists" want the Democrats to come out on top tomorrow. They cite a recent piece by Aaron Klein of World Net Daily in which a number of Islamic terrorists operating in the occupied territories purportedly told Klein that a Democratic victory on Tuesday would signify a huge victory in their campaign against Israel and the West. Not surprisingly, the story isn't as simple as Power Line (or Klein) would have one believe. One of the more underreported revelations found in Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine is the fact that bin Laden's 29 October 2004 pre-election videotape, while ostensibly a denoucement of GWB and an endorsement of Kerry, was actually meant to aid Bush in his reelection bid. According to the CIA,
“Their [the CIA’s] assessments, at day’s end, are a distillate of the kind of secret, internal conversations that the American public [was] not sanctioned to hear: strategic analysis. Today’s conclusion: bin-Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reelection.

“At the five o’clock meeting, [deputy CIA director] John McLaughlin opened the issue with the consensus view: ‘Bin-Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President.’”

McLaughlin’s comment drew nods from CIA officers at the table. Jami Miscik, CIA deputy associate director for intelligence, suggested that the al-Qaeda founder may have come to Bush’s aid because bin-Laden felt threatened by the rise in Iraq of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; bin-Laden might have thought his leadership would be diminished if Bush lost the White House and their “eye-to-eye struggle” ended.

But the CIA analysts also felt that bin-Laden might have recognized how Bush’s policies – including the Guantanamo prison camp, the Abu Ghraib scandal and the endless bloodshed in Iraq – were serving al-Qaeda’s strategic goals for recruiting a new generation of jihadists.

“Certainly,” the CIA’s Miscik said, “he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years,” according to Suskind’s account of the meeting.

As their internal assessment sank in, the CIA analysts drifted into silence, troubled by the implications of their own conclusions. “An ocean of hard truths before them – such as what did it say about U.S. policies that bin-Laden would want Bush reelected – remained untouched,” Suskind wrote.
Posted by Kingston

Sunday, November 05, 2006


"I know I am getting better at golf because I am hitting fewer spectators."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Secret Iraq Plan

Tester v. Burns

On the homefront, I am increasingly concerned that Sen. Burns (R. MT) is going to buy his way to re-election. Jon Tester is still leading by a couple of points in the latest polls, but Burns supposedly has $8m left for negative adds (a lot of money in MT) and President Bush is currently stumping in the State.

Increadibly, despite the preponderance of Democratic officials in the state, polls show that the majority of Montanans will not vote for a Democrat if it means giving that party control of congress. That, as well as continued support for the Iraq War across the state (don't ask me why: I don't get it either), makes me believe that Burns could squeek his way back to Washington.

But I haven't lost hope. Tester comes from a long line of Montana farmers, he's missing some fingers (farm work), sports a crew cut and pounds Burns on fiscal responsibility and corruption. Come on Montana, do me proud.

In Republicans We Trust?

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), is reported as saying:
"If we continue to be the majority party, it means that people still have trust and confidence us."

National polling data suggest otherwise; if the Republicans maintain control of both branches of Congress it will have more to do with Republican redistricting (upheld by the newly minted conservative Supreme Court) and a fanatical turn-out-the-vote machine, which Democrats still struggle to counteract.

I still have money on Democrats taking back the House and picking up seats in the Senate, but short of a Majority.