Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Preserving the Lord's Tempel

Back in January, I wrote about the NASA space probe Deep Impact on the occasion of its launch. Now its time is drawing near. On July 4, while its companion looks on, the 820 lb. copper-cored Deep Impact should collide with comet Tempel-1 at over 23,000 mph. Scientists hope this unique effort in experimental astronomy will blast a stadium-sized hole in the comet and reveal the interior of a comet to us for the first time.

As a scientist, I find the mission exciting, and there is something sinfully satisfying about finally getting to smash one o' them suckers around to find out what's inside. And it also pleases me to celebrate the Fourth of July with some American-made celestial fireworks. Yet I cannot help thinking that this well-intentioned mission is nonetheless an act of vandalism that will forever damage comet Tempel-1. We are so ignorant of cometary structure that, for all we know, Deep Impact could shatter the comet entirely, or ruin a beautiful crystalline formation, or perhaps destroy some unknown wonder that future astronauts now will never have the chance to see. And suppose it were Halley's comet instead? Would we really wish to risk destroying that once-in-a-lifetime spectacle?

We do not have a good record in protecting any of the Space we have been able to get our hands on. According to NASA's own Orbital Debris Program Office, there are over 10,000 pieces of space junk bigger than a softball littering near-Earth orbit, over 100,000 larger than a pea, and "tens of millions" of pieces of man-made space debris scattered up there as grains of sand. And now we have also now deposited plastic and metal debris on Mars, Venus, Moon, Titan, and at least one asteroid.

I am glad to report that NASA now at least sterilizes its spacecraft before launch, but there is no international treaty requiring that emerging Space powers do the same. It is sobering to realize that biocontamination is a very real possibility in our solar system--even on airless worlds. In 1967, the (unsterilized) space probe Surveyor 3 landed on the Moon, and a piece of it was later recovered by the Apollo 12 crew and returned to Earth. Stunningly, some 50-100 bacteria (Streptococci) were found still alive. These hardy bacteria had managed to survive the launch, Space vacuum, three years of radiation and deep-freeze (~20 degrees above absolute zero), not to mention a complete lack of nutrients and water. They were placed in a petri dish and they thrived.

Yes, there are billions of comets out there and I believe this mission is well worth the price. But before we give another heavenly body the equivalent of an anal probe, perhaps we should begin discussing "environmental preservation" as a wider concept than just protecting biodiversity, or even protecting our Mother Earth. We can't argue for preserving the pristine landscape of Mars or Titan to save the spotted owl--but are there then no limits to our right to alter it as we will? Has man been given dominion over the heavens as well as the Earth? What does it mean for humankind to be a good steward of the Universe?

Oh, some will say the rest of the Solar System is empty, lifeless, and dead. But what is lifeless is not dead. What is lifeless can never die.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005


In recent days, weeks, (seemingly forever, really) the Democrats in the Senate have been filibustering the Bolton nomination, saying that they needed the White House to release documents before they can call a vote on his nomination. What the Democrats have done a bad job of doing (in my opinion) is explaining to the public why Bolton should not be nominated. Well, in case you're one of those wondering, the Boston Globe gives a good rundown. Check it out.


If the President gives a speech and no one cares...

Did anyone see the address last night? Would anyone like to comment on it?


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Summer of Love

News Item, June 27, 2005: Canadian Parliament approves same-sex marriage 158-133. Gay marriage had already been recognized in 8 provinces and 1 territory via judicial decisions, but this was the first time that a Canadian legislature had acted. The bill will become final when the upper house concurs (considered a formality.) "It's about the right to love," Réal Ménard, a Bloc Québécois lawmaker who is gay, said after the vote. "When you are in love, things are different, and everyone is entitled to that."

Meanwhile, the Spanish lower house also passed a bill last month to legalize gay marriage and permit gays and lesbians to adopt children, and the bill will become final when their upper house concurs next week (considered very likely). So in a matter of weeks, Canada and Spain will join Belgium and the Netherlands in granting gay and lesbian relationships the same legal status with which they celebrate traditional relationships.

Finally, last week, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., along with a large number of bipartisan co-sponsors from both chambers, introduced the "Uniting American Families Act" to treat same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples for the purposes of immigration.

Let freedom ring!


The Onion, again

Sing it with me now: "Every sperm is sacred..."


Monday, June 27, 2005

CAP Reply (from our French correspondent)

I have a friend who works for the EU in Belgium and she wanted to reply to RbR's earlier post about eliminating the CAP. She has been informed that she could post it herself but for whatever reason, I received her reply and so I'm posting it in its entirety below the fold, in the original French. For those non-Francophones among us, let me summarize her main points.

She agrees with RbR that the farmers are a bit silly to be blaming the EU for their problems even though it has helped them tremendously. But she does not agree that it is a good idea to totally ditch the CAP. She points out the reforms that have taken place, the amount of money already put into the project, and the fact that Europe does not want to be totally dependent on foreign production for its food. She goes on to talk about the UK and their exception and how the EU is getting used to (sick of?) the UK wanting to make themselves different for whatever reason.

If any of our French speakers (e.g. USWest) wants to go into more detail on this nicely written piece, please feel free to do so in the comments! Again, the full text is below.

On dit « cracher dans la soupe ». Les agriculteurs français ont en effet largement bénéficié des fonds de la PAC…mais ils la rendent responsable de tous leurs maux. Notamment, les dysfonctionnements liés à la surproduction ont compliqué le système : on encourage la production, et puis on fixe des quotas (avec aides au départ à la retraite et à la mise en friches ou au gel des terres entre autres)…tout cela n’est pas très cohérent. Les institutions communautaires, chose incroyable, s’en sont aussi rendues compte. C’est pourquoi la PAC a été complètement réformée. Son objectif premier est toujours de permettre aux agriculteurs de rester compétitifs même en imposant des prix de vente plus élevés que les cours mondiaux. Mais elle tient de plus en plus compte de la qualité des produits et encourage l’agriculture biologique.
Pourquoi ne pas totalement laisser tomber un secteur qui ne représente que 4% de l’emploi ? Parce que la PAC a déjà englouti des sommes gigantesques…mais aussi parce qu’il est difficile d’imaginer une Union européenne totalement dépendante de la production mondiale. Il est toujours nécessaire d’entretenir les productions européennes, ne serait-ce que pour sauvegarder un peu de notre identité…Les fonds de la PAC ont déjà été revus à la baisse et réorientés vers des objectifs moins grandioses.
Quant au Royaume-Uni, l’Union a l’habitude de ses caprices. Le rabais ne sera probablement pas supprimé en une fois, et la PAC ne disparaîtra sûrement pas du jour au lendemain. L’histoire de la construction européenne est remplie de compromis politiques, et la crise qu’elle vit en ce moment se résoudra de cette manière. Personnellement, je crois que la position du Royaume-Uni n’est pas tenable au vu des sommes considérables nécessitées par le dernier élargissement. L’Union est notamment basée sur le principe de la solidarité entre ses Etats membres. Or, le Royaume-Uni est loin d’être à plaindre ces derniers temps. Lors du dernier Conseil européen des 16 et 17 juin, certains des nouveaux Etats membres ont proposé de réduire leurs subventions pour financer le chèque anglais, afin que les négociations avancent, proposition qui a provoqué la colère de M. Juncker…
N’oublions pas non plus que le Royaume-Uni se met lui-même en-dehors de beaucoup d’avancées politiques et juridiques (monnaie unique, accord de Schengen) : une Europe à la carte est-elle souhaitable ? Va-t-on évaluer de quelle façon chaque Etat bénéficie de telle ou telle politique pour ensuite réévaluer sa contribution ? Quant au slogan du Royaume-Uni qui tend à faire croire que l’Union européenne ne se préoccupe pas de l’emploi…il n’y a qu’à prononcer « modèle social européen » pour faire dresser les cheveux sur la tête de Mr Blair…


Brown again

Here's a very interesting article about what was said, or more precisely, what was not said, at Justice Brown's confirmation.


Religious Liberty Retained

In a blow against the religious right who want to make this Country a "Christian" nation, the Supreme Court today affirmed the lower courts' decisions to require counties to remove displays of the Ten Commandments from courthouse walls. Souter's incisive opinion takes off the veneer of legality from the arguments and lays bare the plain intentions of those erecting their displays. Much as with Romer v. Evans, this Court said that it is acceptable to look into the real purposes behind what is being done. More or less he wrote, everyone knows what this is all about, and it's not okay.

Speaking of the hypothetical neutral observer who might view these proceedings, concluding that he would 'throw up his hands' after trying to decipher the non-religious purpose of the displays, the Court writes:

"If the observer had not thrown up his hands, he would probably suspect that the Counties were simply reaching for any way to keep a religious document on the walls of courthouses constitutionally required to embody religious neutrality."



Thursday, June 23, 2005

Redistricting Details

The text of the Redistricting Amendment championed by Gov. Schwarzenegger is now available so we can see the details of how the three "Special Masters" will be appointed every 10 years to redraw legislative districts. Frankly, I'm quite impressed. I think it cleverly answers a lot of concerns that political parties will be represented too little or too much. And by the way, the Governor has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

1. The Judicial Council draws 24 names by random lot from the pool of (willing) retired judges. The two "largest parties" in California shall be equally represented in the pool. Among the many qualifications a potential Special Masters must meet is that his political party affiliation may not have changed since the day he was appointed. (The reasons for this will become obvious in the next step.)

2. The Speaker of the Assembly, the Minority Leader in the Assembly, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and the Minority Leader of the Senate will each nominate 3 of the 24 judges. Each of these leaders may only select judges affiliated a different political party than their own, and they all must select different judges. The result will be a list of 12.

3. From the list of 12, the Clerk of the Assembly will then select 3 at random. If there is not at least one member from each of the two largest parties, the Clerk will re-draw until this is the case. The result is a set of three Special Masters who will then draw the districts.

4. There are plenty of requirements of open meetings, public comment, and no ex-parte communications. There is good verbage to direct the Special Masters about equality of populations, contiguous and compact districts respecting county/city boundaries as much as possible, etc.

5. The final plan must be approved unanimously, by all 3 Special Masters. It is publicly announced and there are 45 days to initiate court challenges, and the courts may apply any remedy to fix the problem, including starting the process again. The plan then takes effect... but the voters will have a chance to toss it out (next step.)

6. The final plan is then submitted to the Voters at the next statewide election as a referendum. If the voters say no, then it's back to the drawing board... within 90 days, we start the process all over again, selecting a new set of Special Masters, etc. The new plan will be submitted at the *next* statewide election.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Politics of Domination

In my imagination, it starts like this… It is late November, 1995, and Karl Rove is sitting in his living room in his underwear, munching on a bucket of extra-crispy KFC chicken wings, listening avidly to CNN. The Federal government has been shut down for six days as Senate Majority Leader Dole and House Majority Leader Gingrich remain locked in a stalemate with President Clinton over Federal budget priorities.

At the top of the hour, the news anchor announces that there has been a breakthrough agreement to end the impasse! The text is a patchwork of loose timetables and constructive ambiguity, but it is enough. Congress passes a revised temporary spending resolution and ends the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

Smiling on camera, House Minority Leader Gephardt proclaims, "Everyone won. Everyone got to put their beliefs in the resolution." House Budget Chairman John Kasich says of the work ahead, "We’ll get this done. We’ll work it out. We put the country first and got the framework—-and Happy Thanksgiving!"

It is at this point, as the pundits begin to yammer on about the delicate arts of negotiation and compromise, that I imagine Karl Rove curses and smashes his fist into the bucket of chicken wings. And then, as he peers down and surveys his ruined dinner, the inspiration of his life hits him. He thinks: “All this talk of making deals is horseshit! Politics isn’t about finding solutions—-it’s about winning. And why you should ever compromise if you could win?”

Forget the politics of coalition. In that moment was born the politics of domination—a strategy George W. Bush has employed with devastating effectiveness to hold his party together and push an extreme right-wing agenda, even while moderates in his own party are sickened. Here is how it works.

1. DEMAND. Always ask for everything you want and accept nothing less. Never reach toward the middle. Never throw a bone to someone to assuage their feelings. Politics is not about making friends. It’s about getting what you want. And if you stay this course, and never relent, paradise can be yours.

2. POLARIZE. Treat anyone who denies you anything as your enemy, even if they are allies in your own party. There is no need to be “reasonable” with them if they say they’ve already helped you out a lot—-the question is, what have they done for you lately? And don’t even think about helping someone else because it’s their turn. There are no “turns” in politics—-it’s always your turn. You are 100% in the right and they are 100% wrong. “Either you are with me, or you are my enemy.” The atmosphere of war is perfect for this—you can even act patriotic as you say nasty things.

3. INTIMIDATE. The key is that your allies must learn to fear you! Don’t waste time trying to intimidate the other party. It’s your own party you need to keep in line. If they have denied you something (and thus become your enemy) you must humiliate them. Yes, this can be very difficult, but don’t worry—-all that really matters is that you succeed fairly openly in your first few smears. Dirty tricks are an acceptable risk, and the truth is utterly irrelevant.

4. EMBITTER. This is what you should be doing to the other party. Make them hate you. Be arrogant, act ignorant, lie to their faces—-and smile sweetly when you win… again. The key, however, is that you implicate the rest of your party with you—-you want the other party to hate your party. You want to make it impossible for anyone to reach across the aisle and compromise. Poison the atmosphere in each chamber of Congress any way you can. Packing Congress with ideologues is perfect. Remember if Congress is dysfunctional, it will be weak and then you can make it do what you want.

5. NEVER STOP. For this strategy to work, you must always win: the aura of invincibility and inevitability is key. Don’t take no for an answer—-just go at it all over again and wear your enemies down. Nothing is "final" until you get your way. It does not matter if you win by a single vote--always rub it in as a huge victory. Of course, if the other party should manage to win even the tiniest fight, they will gloat even worse, and then they will be emboldened and re-energized to work for the next victory. But don't worry--here’s where all the bitterness you have sown comes to fruition. Because if the opposing party should actually manage to take power, their pent-up anger and hatred will be so bad that they will destroy you all-—and with that very credible and unspoken threat, you can lash your party members to your side and force them to vote with you.

To win at the Politics of Domination must you must bully your friends more than your enemies. You must spread hate so your enemies and allies would rather die than work together. You must deliberately set it up so that any loss is a total loss. Do this, and your party will give you everything you want because they are afraid to do anything else and see no other alternative.

I am interested in hearing The Citizens' views on how to fight this kind of politics. I don't believe that playing the same game is going to bear fruit--nor do I believe it would be good for our country. In fact, I think it plays into their hands. I’ll bet Karl Rove smiles every time he hears Democrats curse George W. Bush’s name… because that means he’s winning.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Latest EU Crisis

Hi Everyone,

Following closely on the heals of the French and Dutch rejections of the EU Constitution, the EU is "crisis" again. This time the issue is the EU budget specifically the amount of money contributed to it by each of the member states (especially the United Kingdom).

The big fight is over the so called British rebate. This is a reduction in the amount of the U.K.'s contribution to the EU budget meant to compensate the U.K. for the fact that they don't benefit at all from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies (which are by far the largest single budget item in the EU budget). The U.K. wisely abolished its agriculture subsidies (the infamous "Corn Laws") in the 19th century and since has transformed almost entirely into an industrial/service sector economy. Less than 1% of the British labor force are engaged in agriculture. The French want the British rebate reduced or removed entirely. The British and the Dutch want the CAP subsidies reduced first. The French refuse to even consider reducing CAP subsidies. And since unanimity is the rule of the day...stalemate.

To give you an idea of how grasping the French government is being over this issue take a look at the table in this BBC article. The table shows net contributions to the EU budget. That is, the amount each member state contributes minus the amount they get back in CAP subsidies, structural funds and - in the case of the U.K. - rebates. Notice that France (pop = 60.68 million) contributes less to the EU budget than either the U.K. (pop = 60.14 million) or the Netherlands (pop = 16.4 million!). Why? Because the CAP is set up to allow the French government to continue subsidizing its grossly inefficient (but politically powerful) agricultural sector without having to pay the bill themselves! The EU has an average of 2.2% of its labor force employed in agriculture (and that includes the newest 10 member states in Eastern Europe!). France has 4.6% of its labor force "employed" in agriculture.

I would like to propose a solution that is easy to present as "fair" and would actually be good policy (a rare combination!). Abolish the CAP and give all the member states a rebate (that is reduce their overall contributions to the EU budget)! That would allow countries like Poland to take advantage of their own economic strengths on a level playing field (the CAP rigs the competition in favor of less efficient French farmers!). Abolishing the CAP would also decrease the budgetary burden on the EU as a whole reducing the need for contributions from all the member states. And it would open the European agriculture and food market to imports from developing countries that need the new opportunities. Finally, it would reduce food prices for the urban poor in Europe. The big losers would be 4.6% of the French population. But 95.4% of the French population would benefit! 97.8% of the population of the EU overall would benefit! (I got the figures from the CIA world fact book - see link to the right)

Oh, and by the way, the French farmers were the ones who really drove the "non" vote on the constitution referendum - this despite the fact they are essentially making their livings from EU handouts. How do you say "bite the hand that feeds you" in French?

Perhaps our recently returned "Correspondent in France" could give us the local view. Why do French farmers hate the EU cash cow?


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Library provision in trouble

Good news.


Why, Dianne, why?

So it's back to this again.

The Senate again wants to amend the Constitution to prevent flag desecration. Such a thing has been bandied around for a while, and I guess I'm kind of used to it. But why is Dianne Feinstein co-sponsoring it?

Her web site has a speech of hers about it, which contains some enlightening tidbits:

I support this amendment because I believe flag burning is content, not speech, and can be regulated as such. But to my friends who would argue otherwise, I remind them that even the right to free speech is not unrestricted. For example, the Government can prohibit speech that threatens to cause imminent tangible harm, or shouting "fire'' in a crowded theater. Obscenity and false advertising are not protected under the first amendment, and indecency over the broadcast media can be limited to certain times of day.

Yes. And to all my friends who are opposed to legalized heroin, I would point out to them that aspirin and caffeine are legal, and even tobacco with certain restrictions.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

While I'm posting links...

We have here a blog of a gay 16 year-old whose parents sent him to "Straight Camp." I don't know how to describe it ... eye-opening?


But at least we know Jacko's fate

A particularly pointed article about more stuff we just don't hear about these days...


Monday, June 13, 2005

Prop 13: How Direct Democracy Ruined California

Hi Gang,

A few weeks ago, Dr. Strangelove suggested we have a discussion about the nature of democracy and how it is or isn't like republican government. This week, Law Talking Guy posted his thoughts about direct democracy in California. This latest posting got me going about one of my favorite things to dislike: Prop 13 (it's right up there with agriculture subsidies). US West and I got into a bit of debate about Prop 13 that kind of got off topic. So here is a post mainly about Prop 13.

If you would like a detailed account of Prop 13's effects on California, check out this PBS documentary "From First to Worst."

Here are the two features of Prop 13 that I think are most important. First, it decoupled property taxes from the market value of the property. Second, it required that all bills that are not budget neutral (so anything that costs anything) pass the state legislature by a 2/3 majority. These two features dominate California politics today.

The property tax feature has effectively defunded all local government. Making local governments dependent on bail-outs and revenue dispersal from the state government in Sacramento. This concentrated power in Sacramento. But while the power was being shifted from local governments to Sacramento, Prop 13 also imposed a 2/3 majority requirement on all budget decisions. This meant that while Sacramento had more and more authority, it was institutionally prevented from using that authority effectively.

I believe that Prop 13's backers used direct democracy to set up an unassailable conservative regime in a liberal state. And, ironically, while this regime was established through direct democracy, it resulted in a far more centralized regime than before, a regime less accountable to the voters than before. They have set up a permanently centralized (more disconnected from the people) and dysfunctional (less efficient) state government. Now they use that disconnect and dysfunction (caused by Prop 13) as an excuse for one right-populist ballot measure after another.

Defenders of Prop 13 argue that retirees need it to stay in their homes in a real estate market gone wild. But this begs a number of questions. First the rhetorical question: why do people retire to Florida and Arizona instead of Manhattan or San Francisco? Now the real questions: Do the elderly have the right to live in houses they can't afford? Do they have a right to live in the same towns they always lived when they retire? The same state? If they do have these rights, how much should the rest of society be expected to pay in order to subsidize their lifestyles? How many cops on the beat, fire stations, emergency rooms, or school buildings should the rest of society sacrifice so that elderly homeowners won't have to sell out and move out?

I know that last question sounded rhetorical but it's not intended to be. Prop 13 made a massive change in how the wealth of California was distributed and spent. There were winners (mainly elderly homeowners) but there were many losers as well. I think it is valid to ask how much should we rob Peter to pay Paul.

And even if the property tax part is justifiable, what about the 2/3 majority part? In my opinion, I would gladly trade away the entire referendum procedure in exchange to repealing the 2/3 majority requirement. That one section of that one ballot measure has so badly disrupted state government in California that almost any price would be worth its reversal.

OK, Let the debate begin!


Borowitz, Star Wars

Andy Borowitz has an excellent "story" today about improved Franco-American relations. Check it out.

On a completely different note, I went to see the new Star Wars movie yesterday (okay, so I'm the last one! Sue me.) and I realized why conservatives might be upset about it. Especially the exchange "If you're not with me, you're my enemy," and the reply "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." (Um, Obi-Wan? That's an absolute.) So, we're all nerds here (even Von Brawn*) -- here's the discussion question. Did you think this movie had some subversive political message? And on a more general note, can we really take anything out of this movie at all? After all, one might walk out of the theater thinking that the moral is that love corrupts you. Anyway, give me your feedback.

*Yes, this is meant to goad him into posting something. Anything. If this doesn't work, we may have to do a Deep Space Nine-related post.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Plebiscitary Democracy

In California, as in quite a number of other states, there is an increase in the use of initiatives (somewhat incorrectly referred to as "direct democracy") to achieve specific legislative results. In CA, we are seeing an increase also in the use of initiatives and special elections as part of executive-legislative bargaining. The word plebiscite is in disfavor because the plebiscite was a tool of dictators to gin up a legitimacy by having the whole public vote (usually under conditions less than free and fair) on such things as whether to still be independent, whether to grant the leader absolute power, and so forth. This word is appropriate for what we see now in California (and other states) where large numbers of particular laws are funded by private special interest groups (nearly all right wing) and then cleverly sold to the public through fancy P.R. campaigns against largely disorganized opposition. The situation is particularly grave where Democrats have control over most traditional levers of power, as in California, so they are organizationally disinclined to combating such maneuvers.

The interesting thing that I am beginnng to wonder about is whether or not this process actually entrenches the legislative majority. In CA, Dems retain power (well over 50%, but not quite 2/3) in the lege because they share the people's values. Wedge issues fail to defeat them. Instead, Republicans use them as ballot measures. Some (like the infamous prop 187) become central issues in legislative and gubernatorial campaigns. On most, the major politicians tend to take no position whatsoever (as with Prop 22, the "Knight Initiative" that pre-emptively banned gay marriage in California in 2000). The initiative did not drive the election. In fact, the proposition passed, but the Democrats (who largely opposed it, at least privately) actually increased their margin in the Assembly to 60%. Thus, rather than peeling away part of the electorate to vote Republicans, the electorate chose to vote Democratic and vote for the popular Republican-inspired wedge issue. Having their cake and eating it too.

The Governator is now using intiatives for another purpose: because he cannot possibly get anything through the legislature. He threatens that unless they negotiate with him on a more favorable basis, he'll get his special interest groups (he doesn't call them that) to fund his own legislative agenda through initiatives or even, if necessary, a whole special election devoted to them. His massive personal popularity won't do diddly for the Republican party - indeed, he loses points if he associates himself too brazenly with Republicans, so he all but pretends to be an indpendent. But, he can get the public to vote as he wishes a plebiscite.

You're asking the right question if you ask, "Why don't the Democrats do the same thing?" Is the problem lack of star power? I doubt it. The answer appears to be the comment I made earlier about how legislators aren't good at fighting against initiatives, so they're also bad at running them. Somehow by holding the legislature the Democratic Party of California (and interest groups aligned with it) they are just not set up to make end runs around the normal legislative process. If the Democrats had only a blocking minority instead (it takes 2/3 of the lege to get a budget, if you non-Californians can believe that) they'd be better at the intiative process.

I bring all this up because this is a huge difference between state and federal politics. There are no federal referenda. I just wonder if that's why the federal courts are so active -- because they remain the only way to bypass the legislative process.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Holy crap

Read this.

(via Kos)


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Howard Dean Redux

Hi Gang,

When Howard Dean was being put forward as the Chairman of the DNC, we had a little debate about it on this blog. I was of the opinion that Dean was likely to represent a move by the party to the left which would run a high risk of alienating centrist voters. I was afraid that Dean would alienate fiscal conservatives with liberal social views. I was also concerned that Dean's track record of speaking without thinking would be a problem (not sure that was a major dimension of the debate). I bring this up now because Dean is coming under fire for some poorly thought out comments. The highlights are that he said Republicans "never worked an honest day in their lives" and that the Republican party is "pretty much a White, Christian party." I agree with the second statement but I think he was amateurish to say it that way. But these are not nearly as bad as any number of statements by people like Trent Lott or Newt Gingrich (who said on the Daily Show the other day that Ali and Fraser went out and had "cocoanut juice" after their fight).
The first statement is still problematic. The Christian right are not the wealthy elite he suggests. And most people recognize that. While it may be true that Bush and Cheney have not done an honest days work, one cannot say the same about the millions of rank and file theo-fascists who keep the GOP moving. They are a lot of things (mostly bad) but they aren't thieves.

Bill Richardson is trying to distance himself from Dean without directly saying he's nuts.

Dean supporters will surely say that Dean is needed to "energize the base." I counter that with a President like this we don't need Dean to do that. Besides, the Democratic party got a higher turnout in 2004 than ever before (highly energized base) and still narrowly lost. Turning out the base is not the key. Getting the socially liberal fiscal conservatives is.

Anyone want to defend Dean? Condemn him?


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Danica Patrick be damned

Well, Saudi Arabia almost had a breakthrough moment recently, when Mohammed al-Zulfa suggested that maybe women should be allowed to drive. But, you can probably guess the reaction that caused.

By the way, Saudi Arabia is the only Middle Eastern country that does not allow women to drive. How long until American public sentiment grows against this country?