Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thought For The Day

Over at Orcinus, which is holding a fundraiser, by the way, I happened on this article by Sara on some thoughts on how systems behave by some MIT scientists. I especially like this one:

There is no "away." ... In natural ecosystems, in particular, you can move something from one place to another, you can transform it into something else, but you can't get rid of it. As long as it is on the Earth, it is part of the global ecosystem. The industrial poisons, pollutants, insecticides, and radioactive materials that we've tried to "throw away" in the past have all too often come back to haunt us because people didn't understand this rule.

A lot of the people and problems ... came about because people haven’t yet given up on the naive fantasy that there is, in fact, an "away." We can send the brown and black folks "away," and that'll fix it. We can put criminals "away" in jail, and the things they learn there will never touch us. We can send our pollution "away" down the stream, where only the orcas will choke on it. We get in a lot of trouble when we overestimate the size of this tiny blue ball, and start to thinking that there's anywhere on it that's far enough "away" to hide our crimes against nature and each other.

Kauffman's Rules, 1-7

Out of sight, out of mind, in other words. So often, I've felt the urge to remind people that when they throw something away, or otherwise try to move a problem elsewhere, they're only moving it elsewhere, not fixing it. Sometimes, that's the only practical option, of course, but you can't just forget about it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

John Edwards Exits

Caption: John Edwards speaks to reporters in New Orleans after announcing his candidacy for president, December 28, 2006.

Image credit: the Edwards campaign

And then there were none ...

John Edwards announced his withdrawal from the Presidential race today:

I began my presidential campaign here to remind the country that we, as citizens and as a government, have a moral responsibility to each other, and what we do together matters. We must do better, if we want to live up to the great promise of this country that we all love so much.


Today, I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.

Remarks Of John Edwards Today In New Orleans

As was the case with Chris Dodd, Americans didn't want to pay attention to Edwards. He was white, male, and a trial lawyer, and therefore, it seems, not worth considering. So much nonsense has been written about Edwards, both by the press and by the lefty blogs that ought to have supported him, or at least given him a fair hearing, that it's a wonder he made it as far as he did.

So now we're left with a candidate with no concrete positions on anything, and another who only takes them when she absolutely has to. This, apparently, is what America wants - candidates who won't take a stand. It clearly doesn't want a leader as President. It's taken a pass on two of them. Most probably had the sense not to try in the first place.

Walter Shapiro wrote for Salon:

Despite unverified rumors (vehemently denied by those close to Edwards) that promises of future Cabinet posts like attorney general had been floated, Edwards requested only one thing when he telephoned Obama and Hillary Clinton Tuesday night to confide that he was considering withdrawing before the Feb. 5 primaries. What Edwards asked for and received was a commitment from his erstwhile rivals that they make the eradication of poverty a central theme in their campaigns.

John Edwards Exits With Honor

I can't imagine Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama doing such a thing. That's particularly true after their performances in South Carolina last week. Edwards was the one reminding them what this campaign is really about, and that it shouldn't be about the candidates themselves.

Edwards announced the end of his candidacy in the same place he announced its beginning - in the lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. That area, still not recovered from the damage done by Hurricane Katrina more than two years ago, provided a hint as to his future direction:

We came here to the Lower Ninth Ward to rebuild. And we're going to rebuild today and work today, and we will continue to come back. We will never forget the heartache and we'll always be here to bring them hope, so that someday, one day, the trumpets will sound in Musicians' Village, where we are today, play loud across Lake Ponchartrain, so that working people can come marching in and those steps once again can lead to a family living out the dream in America.

Remarks Of John Edwards Today In New Orleans

That's what he was doing before he ran for office. It's almost certainly at least a part of what he'll do now.

So often in America, we seem to be obsessed about looks and superficiality and so uninterested in finding out the truth of things. That's the thought I'll take away from this failed candidacy - that America once again chose appearance over substance, and the easy over the difficult.

We really do get the government we deserve.

UPDATE (Jan. 31): Christy Hardin Smith gets the last word:

With John Edwards dropping out of the Democratic presidential race, we are losing a fierce and committed voice for change and for justice. I, for one, feel that loss like an ache.


The best honor that you can give to a fighter like John Edwards is to keep on fighting -- for equality, for justice, for fairness, and for the little guy in all of us. Someone has to stand up for the folks who feel left behind, who need a hand back up and onto their feet, who need some encouragement to take that next step forward into a brighter future.

The Heart Of The Democratic Party

So say we all.

UPDATE 2 (Feb. 1): Commenter G-Natural refered to an interesting commentary on Edwards' exit by Robert A. Kezelis.

Greenwald On Bipartisanship

Pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Glenn Greenwald did something today that I've been meaning to do for some time - he compiled a list of key votes over the last couple of years, and contrasted the near-unanimity of Senate Republicans with their Democratic counterparts. Here, in table form, is that list:

Key Votes In Senate, 2006-2008
new Bush-supported FISA law48-0 12-36
redeployment of troops from Iraq0-4924-21
confirm Michael Mukasey as Attorney General46-07-40
confirm Leslie Southwick as Circuit Court Judge49-08-38
Kyl-Lieberman Resolution on Iran46-230-20
condemn MoveOn.org49-023-25
Protect America Act44-020-28
English as the Government's official language48-116-33
Military Commissions Act53-012-34
renew the Patriot Act54-034-10
Cloture Vote: Alito's confirmation to SCOTUS54-018-25
Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq48-129-22

Visit Glenn's article for links to those Senate votes.

These are some of the most divisive issues in the last two years. They involve choices between (perceived) security and civil rights, the relative importance of culture and freedom, and the future direction of the courts, not to mention war and peace. If both parties were truly acting in the interest of the country, you'd expect there to be a lack of unanimity on both sides. Yet clearly, there is not. I've noted this on certain votes in the past, but this is one of the better descriptions of how bipartisanship really works in Washington. It's strictly a Democratic thing. As Greenwald concludes:

Leaving aside how shallow and, shall we say, unserious is this endless chirping for more "bipartisanship" -- as though it's a magic feel-good formula for resolving actual policy differences -- it's hard to imagine how there could possibly be any more "bipartisanship" in Washington even if that were the only goal. Other than formally disbanding as a party -- or granting a permanent proxy of their collective vote to Mitch McConnell -- how could Congressional Democrats possibly be more accommodating than they already are?

What "bipartisanship" in Washington means

At least one of the "bipartisan" crowd will undoubtedly retort that there are probably issues on which the Democrats showed far more unanimity than the Republicans. If you think that, go ahead and find them. I'll tell you right now you're wasting your time, but I'd rather have you working to educate yourselves than working toward some nonsensical goal.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Don't Fetch My Torch Just Yet ...

King Kaufman seems to have been reading my mind. A couple of days ago, while flying across the country (someone else was doing the actual work of piloting the plane, thankfully), I couldn't help but wonder about all the nonsense I've read and heard about drugs in sports. Don't get me wrong, some drugs, like cocaine for instance, are clearly health hazards, not to mention illegal. There's a problem with that. Beyond that, though, we seem to have drawn some rather arbitrary lines. Today Kaufman observes:

What I'm trying to do here is keep from joining the torch-bearing mob. [Former track star Marion Jones] [r]isking her health? Unlike most commentators, I'm happy to admit that I don't understand the health implications of taking so-called performance-enhancing drugs and, barring a midcareer dive into medical school, I don't have much hope of ever understanding them.

I also don't really understand the physics and physiology of these drugs. What can I say? I'm no Jose Canseco. I don't have a mind for science.

Steroids And The Mob

I don't have a mind for science, either, although I'd have to say I come nearer to that level than most sports writers. Maybe that's why I'm confused as to how those lines are drawn:

What I don't get, and I realize it sounds like I'm joking when I say this, and I also realize that people who have spent a lot of time arguing about this subject roll their eyes when someone says it but I'm sorry I still don't get it: Why is it wrong to improve performance by injecting testosterone but OK to improve it by injecting cortisone or having Lasik surgery?

Steroids And The Mob

Why is it OK, even fascinating, for an athlete in one sport to use a hyperbaric chamber:

A hyperbaric chamber requires both a prescription and an open mind.

[Seahawk defensive end Patrick] Kerney's got both.

He suffered a ruptured triceps on the first play last year in Atlanta. Teammate John Abraham suffered an injured groin muscle later that same game, and suddenly the Falcons were staring at the possibility of being without both their starting defensive ends the next week.

"I knew a triceps [injury] was more playable," Kerney said.

Falcons teammate Travis Hall swore by his hyperbaric chamber, which can cost about $20,000. Hall lived halfway between Kerney's house and the Falcons' practice facility. Kerney spent the next few weeks sleeping in the chamber in Hall's basement.

Seahawks | Rituals of recovery

while blood doping is grounds for cheating in another?

"It was only attempted doping," said 29 year-old Ivan Basso to a conference room full of journalists and photographers in Milan's Hotel Michelangelo. The 2006 Giro d'Italia winner called the press conference following his admission of involvement in the OperaciĆ³n Puerto blood doping scandal.

Basso: "It was only attempted doping"

In short, if you leave your blood in your body while you oxygenate it, it's OK. If you take it out of your body to do it, it's not.

That article about the Seahawks player is what really set me to thinking about this issue. It's a long list of the things that professional athletes, football players in particular, do to keep themselves in top condition. That's an important thing in a field where even a little edge can be the difference between being a hero and a goat.

Sports medicine has been one of the fastest-growing fields in medicine. Athletes have been learning how to get more performance out of their bodies using diet, exercise, and medically prescribed drugs for the last four decades. Is it cheating for modern baseball players to eat a balanced diet, while Babe Ruth prefered hot dogs? Is it cheating for Patrick Kerney to use a hyperbaric chamber, while Alex Karras didn't?

One of the other things about this is that while there's been a whole lot of bloviating on the issue of hormones and other performance-enhancing drugs, there's been remarkably little research done into their actual medical effects:

Most data on the long-term effects of anabolic steroids in humans come from case reports rather than formal epidemiological studies. From the case reports, the incidence of lifethreatening effects appears to be low, but serious adverse effects may be underrecognized or underreported, especially since they may occur many years later. Data from animal studies seem to support this possibility. One study found that exposing male mice for one-fifth of their lifespan to steroid doses comparable to those taken by human athletes caused a high frequency of early deaths.

NIDA: What are the health consequences of steroid abuse?

Anecdotal information and studies on rats are what we're going on. Not much information when you compare this with what we know about cigarette smoking or alcohol.

As Kaufman observes, that lack of research extends to the drugs' effect on sports:

So, just to review for baseball: We don't know who took illegal drugs and who didn't, we don't know which drugs or how much of them the drug takers -- whoever they were -- took, and we don't know what effect, if any, the drugs had once they were taken by whoever took them, whom we can't identify.

But they're all a bunch of cheats!

I'll keep my torch unlit, if you don't mind.

Steroids And The Mob

Admittedly, this is sports we're talking about, where the rules are often arbitrary. Why four downs, and and not three? Why is a bat containing only ash OK, but if it's filled with cork, it's cheating? Of course, part of the answer is that everyone's supposed to play that way, but it sure doesn't explain the vehemence of peoples' reactions.

So, as Kaufman says, I'm not going to be picking up my torch and pitchfork just yet.

Monday, January 28, 2008

One Of Those Good Days

Enjoy it while it lasts. This was one of the good days:

The vote on the Motion for Cloture on the 30-day extension (i.e., to proceed to a vote on it) just failed -- 48-45 (again, 60 votes are needed). All Democrats (including Clinton and Obama) voted in favor of the Motion, but no Republicans did -- not a single one. Thus, at least as of today, there will be no 30-day extension of the PAA and it will expire on Friday.

Today's FISA vote

Democracy For America, one of many groups that have been involved in the effort to stop the FISA amendment bill that gives telecomm corporations immunity and the government the right to spy on anyone without a warrant, so long as it is willing to pretend the folks it was listening to were terrorists, had this to say:

We just won an incredible last minute victory in the Senate. Senate Democrats stood up to the Bush administration and stopped telecom immunity. Here's a message Jim just sent out:

We just had a huge victory. Grassroots action forced the Senate to stop telecom immunity from passing.

Earlier today, DFA members made over 1,000 calls an hour to our Senators. And they heard our voices loud and clear.

Tonight I'll be watching President Bush give his final State of the Union. As usual, he will be fear-mongering and pushing his radical agenda on the American people.

Thanks to your work today, we flipped the vote and forced Senate Democrats to have a backbone.


Thanks for all your hard work today. Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we keep up the fight!

DFA: A Huge Victory

The Democrats in the Senate stood up and did what's right today, but some of them didn't do it out of a sense of duty. They did it because lots of folks made sure they remembered who put them where they are. Today was one of those days when we reminded ourselves that it's our country, and they just run it for us.

So, while you listen tonight to the President bloviating again about all those people out there who hate us and want to kill our families, think about the fact that we're at least a little safer from the likes of him.

The Wrong FISA Bill, Again

Image credit: National Archives

This "goddamned piece of paper" needs our help again.

Yes, I've been busy with other matters lately. Sadly, Senator Harry Reid has been up to the same old nonsense. He's once again trying to push an anti-Constitutional FISA "reform" bill through the Senate. Credo has a wonderful statement that you can e-mail your Senators today if you want. Here it is in its entirety:

I'm writing today to urge you in the strongest possible terms NOT to pass any wiretapping legislation that violates our rights as expressed in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, OR gives blanket retroactive immunity to the telecom companies who helped the Bush Administration commit violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

You swore an oath upon taking your seat there in the U.S. Senate to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution. The Fourth Amendment guarantees our right to be free from searches of our persons, papers and effects without a warrant based upon probable cause. But the legislation from the Intelligence Committee would allow "blanket warrants" for wiretapping -- blatantly contravening the Fourth Amendment's requirement for a warrant to "particularly describ[e] the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The rule of law is also at stake here. It's quite clear that some telecom companies helped the Bush Administration repeatedly violate the law of the land at the time, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But at least one company, quite properly, refused to do so. To grant the lawbreakers immunity after the fact would undermine the concept of equal justice for all and codify a Nixonian attitude towards the law -- "If the President does it, it must be legal."

So I ask to you take a strong stand against ANY legislation that grants retroactive immunity OR does not preserve our rights to privacy as guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment. I respectfully ask that you reply to my message as soon as possible with your views on this topic.

CREDO Letter On FISA Bill

I've written similar things before, both here and to my Senators, as have many others. If you haven't already, please call them and urge them to vote against cloture on this bill. It's the only way to stop it from passing. Chris Dodd has once again indicated his willingness to filibuster this bill, and Hillary Clinton has vowed to vote against cloture. Various folks are trying to get a statement from Barack Obama as well.

After plagiarizing that CREDO message, I'll now quote Christy Hardin Smith on how to contact your Senators:

Toll-free numbers for Congress from Katymine:

1 (800) 828 - 0498
1 (800) 459 - 1887
1 (800) 614 - 2803
1 (866) 340 - 9281
1 (866) 338 - 1015
1 (877) 851 - 6437

Every Senator needs a call, so please take the time to call or FAX yours today. Several Senators could use extra contact on this -- uncommitted Democrats, members of the Gang of 14, and a number of wavering Republicans. Tell them to vote "no" on cloture. It is well past time that respect for the rule of law and the role of Congress in the balance of powers was restored:
[Cujo359 note: The table appears after a long blank space. For some reason, tables don't work well on Blogger.]

Bayh(202) 224-5623(202) 228-1377
Carper(202) 224-2441(202) 228-2190
Obama(202) 224-2854(202) 228-4260
Inouye(202) 224-3934(202) 224-6747
Johnson(202) 224-5842(202) 228 5765
Landrieu(202)224-5824(202) 224-9735
McCaskill(202) 224-6154(202) 228-6326
Mikulski(202) 224-4654(202) 224-8858
Nelson (FL)(202) 224-5274(202) 228-2183
Clinton (202) 224-4451(202) 228-0282
Nelson (NE)(202) 224-6551(202) 228-0012
Pryor(202) 224-2353(202) 228-0908
Salazar (202) 224-5852(202) 228-5036
Specter(202) 224-4254(202) 228-1229
McCain(202) 224-2235(202) 228-2862
Graham(202) 224-5972(202) 224-3808
Warner(202) 224-2023(202) 224-6295
Snowe(202) 224-5344(202) 224-1946
Collins (202) 224-2523(202) 224-2693
Sununu(202) 224-2841(202) 228-4131
Lieberman(202) 224-4041(202) 224-9750
Byrd(202) 224-3954(202) 228-0002
Lincoln (202)224-4843(202)228-1371
Chambliss(202) 224-3521(202) 224-0103
Coleman(202) 224-5641(202) 224-1152
Dole (202) 224-6342(202) 224-1100
Smith(202) 224-3753(202) 228-3997
Stabenow (202) 224-4822(202) 228-0325
Kohl(202) 224-5653(202) 224-9787

FISA Action: Calls And FAXes Needed

I'm certainly tired of having to continually remind my representatives to do the right thing here, as I'm sure you are as well. Unfortunately, as long as our "leaders" are determined to turn this country into a police state this is what we keep having to do. In particular, they need to understand that a futile vote against the bill itself is not enough. They need to know that we expect them to vote against cloture, which means that the bill will not come to a vote.

So get on those phones and faxes, if you haven't already.

UPDATE: According to Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher, Senator Obama will also support the filibuster:

Jane Hamsher reports that -- almost certainly due to public pressure -- both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama are going to be present for the vote today in order to vote for the filibuster. The vote is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. EST and I'll be live-blogging the events today here.

What's at stake today in the Senate's FISA filibuster vote

[link from original]

For Obama and Clinton, that's unqualified support. It's as close as either gets to a definite position. With the opposition of the party's two leading Presidential candidates, you'd think that maybe the Senate "leadership" would realize this is a bill that shouldn't see the light of day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why I Support John Edwards

Over at MyDD, jedreport reminds me of why I'm supporting John Edwards:

Are there three people in this debate, not two? This kind of many children is this going to give health care, how many people are going to get an education from this, how many kids are going to be able to go to college because of this. We have got to understand, this is not about us personally. It is about what we are trying to do for this country, and what we believe in. -- John Edwards, during last night's debate

Last night, while Barack Obama was going Wal-Mart on Hillary Clinton, and while Hillary was going Rezko on Obama, and while they were both looking for more ammunition to use in yet another personal attack, John Edwards did something extraordinary.

John Edwards stepped up and showed some leadership. He reminded his opponents that this campaign isn't about their personal lives; it's about the future of our country, and what we should do to make it a better place.

The moment that put John Edwards back in the game

It's a relatively rare thing when the other two major candidates address these things. Edwards hasn't been entirely above the fray, but anyone who's paid attention to what he's been saying the last six months realizes that the things he mentioned last night really are his focus.

Sadly, I'm not as optimistic as jedreport about Edwards' chances in South Carolina. Unfortunately, the willingness and ability to focus on what the candidates are really about is a rare one. Most folks, if they pay any attention to Edwards at all, will focus on the haircuts, his career as a trial lawyer (without getting into the specifics of his cases, of course), and fatuous charges that he's appealing to sexists, or to racists.

When you get right down to it, Adlai Stevenson was right:

During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to him, "You have the vote of every thinking person!" Stevenson called back, "That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!"

Wikiquote:Adlai Stevenson

We'll be reminded of these words quite often in the coming months, I think.

UPDATE (Jan. 24): Speaking of the Rezko deal, Taylor Marsh has put together a great article detailing the latest in that scandal.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Time To Get Small Again

Image credit: I found this picture here. It's an interesting list of the top ten giant spider movies, or something like that.

For the next couple of weeks, this blog will again be on a reduced schedule. Just in time, too, I suspect. Presidential politics are really starting to get on my nerves. Hopefully, I'll find time to post on the weekends or the upcoming holiday.

Meanwhile, football still isn't quite over, and there are all those back issues you can go through. It's actually been a busy couple of months here at the Cujo Labs. Hopefully, that will continue. And there are all those other blogs out there. ;)

UPDATE: Speaking of MLK day, if you haven't read Taylor Marsh's essay on Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, do yourselves a favor and check it out.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Science, Politics, and Evolution

While cruising the blogs this, morning, I ran into a mention of this article at Reason magazine's online edition:

Biological evolution became a hot topic in the presidential campaign last May when Republican presidential hopefuls were asked during a debate if "there was anybody on the stage that does not agree, believe in evolution?" Three held up their hands, Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.), Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.). Evolution deniers Brownback and Tancredo have now dropped out of the race. So what do all the remaining candidates—Republican and Democratic—think about biological evolution? And does it matter?

Evolutionary Politics

That link is from the original article, but I've mentioned that incident before. To me, this matters, because science policy under the Bush Administration has become a disaster. In the recent past, which I'd define as most of the Twentieth Century, government policy was to fund science, but to (largely) stay out of the business of choosing which science was acceptable and which wasn't. That changed during the Bush Administration.

Not only has Bush done some rather obvious things like reducing medical research funding and restricting stem cell research after "fixing the intelligence", but less obvious examples of this behavior are plentiful. A Bush appointee to NASA, who hadn't even finished college, nevertheless felt compelled to lecture NASA's scientists about what was and was not acceptable language concerning evolution. There was, apparently, a similarly lame-brained effort to silence NASA's chief climate change scientist. Bush's former Surgeon General, Dr. Richard Carmona, accused the Administration of refusing to allow him to discuss politically sensitive medical subjects in public. Scientists at the Department of the Interior continually found the results of their research being censored in memos. In an interview on Charlie Rose, Nobel laureate James Watson said that the Bush Administration has been a disaster for medical research. A similar case can be made for science in general.

What's more, if present trends continue, America is in danger of sliding into ignorance. RJ Eskow, whose article contributed the graphic at the top of this column, writes:

The Catholic Church rejects the "intelligent design" movement and unequivocally supports the teaching of evolution. The National Council of Churches is a progressive association that represents 55 million American Christians, and it has taken a leadership role in resisting "ID" and other impositions of private belief onto the public sphere. (For some reason, the mainstream media have ignored this organization so thoroughly that I've described them as "America's Secret Christians.")

Unfortunately, their efforts have been more than offset in this country by an activist coalition of fundamentalists and conservative politicians. The result is an all-out war on science that has caused scientific fact to be banned from IMAX theaters, and resulted in a museum exhibit failing to find a corporate sponsor.

Unscientific American: US Almost Last in Understanding Evolution

[links from orginal]

The graphic, which you can see full-size by clicking on it, shows that we are behind only Turkey among industrialized nations in our disbelief in evolution.

If we are to survive the next few centuries, we need science to be unencumbered by political or other fashion. What we choose to do with that science, as individuals and as a society, is up to us. However, the ability of scientists to enquire freely and publish their results as they see them must not become a political matter. Requiring schools to teach pseudo-scientific nonsense to placate religious fanatics will do nothing to help achieve this.

So what do the candidates think about evolution? The Reason article goes on to note that Senators Tom Tancredo and Sam Brownback, as well as former governor Mike Huckabee, were the three who raised their hand at the Republican Presidential debate to say that they didn't "believe" in evolution.

I was a bit surprised to learn, however, that Rep. Ron Paul was apparently a little shy about raising his hand at that debate:

Tom DeRosa, president of the hardcore anti-evolution Creation Studies Institute asked the candidates (PDF): "Will your office support and encourage a more open approach to education in the presentation of scientific facts that contradict the theory of evolution?" Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.), and Huckabee all answered yes. A reasonable interpretation is that they favored allowing creationism to be taught in science classes.
In a South Carolina forum, Paul was asked about his views on evolution, to which he replied, "I think it's a theory, the theory of evolution and I don't accept it as a theory." He also said that he thought it was an inappropriate question to be asking presidential candidates.

Evolutionary Politics

[links from the original]

So, yes boys and girls, Ron Paul is either a creationist, or at the very least is someone who, while he professes to believe in free markets, doesn't believe in the free market of ideas. I take this as further proof that how much you believe in a free market is often directly related to how well that market is working in your favor.

On the Democratic side, things are more hopeful. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, and Mike Gravel all have stated strongly that evolution is a reality. Clinton said:

I believe in evolution, and I am shocked at some of the things that people in public life have been saying. I believe that our founders had faith in reason and they also had faith in God, and one of our gifts from God is the ability to reason.

Clinton Says She Would Shield Science From Politics

In that NYT article, she also is quoted as supporting a $50 billion effort to study and fight climate change, which would include research for "energy alternatives to foreign oil". It then goes on:

Her remarks yesterday, at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, amounted to a spirited attack on President Bush for waging what she called a “war on science” that has allowed political appointees to shape and in some cases distort science-based federal reports.

Mrs. Clinton said she would restore the office of White House science adviser to the higher status it held in the administrations of her husband and President Bush’s father. And she said she would encourage Congress to revive its Office of Technology Assessment, an advisory group that was shut down in 1995 after Republicans in Congress withdrew its financing.

Clinton Says She Would Shield Science From Politics

Of course, it's easy to object to the policies of the current Administration when you're in the opposition, but at least the rhetoric is in the right direction here.

Mike Gravel may have gotten the best quote on the subject:

When LiveScience asked [Senator Gravel] if he thought creationism should be taught in public schools, Gravel replied, "Oh God, no. Oh, Jesus. We thought we had made a big advance with the Scopes monkey trial....My God, evolution is a fact, and if these people are disturbed by being the descendants of monkeys and fishes, they've got a mental problem. We can't afford the psychiatric bill for them. That ends the story as far as I'm concerned."

Evolutionary Politics

I'm sure there are folks asking why this matters. What possible relevance to our world could the respect Presidential candidates have for science matter? The Reason article concludes:

A larger question is whether a candidate's belief about the validity of evolutionary biology has anything to say about his or her ability to evaluate evidence. A January 4, 2008, editorial by Science editor Donald Kennedy correctly argues, "The candidates should be asked hard questions about science policy, including questions about how those positions reflect belief. What is your view about stem cell research, and does it relate to a view of the time at which human life begins? Have you examined the scientific evidence regarding the age of Earth? Can the process of organic evolution lead to the production of new species, and how? Are you able to look at data on past climates in search of inferences about the future of climate change?" Kennedy concludes, "I don't need them to describe their faith; that's their business and not mine. But I do care about their scientific knowledge and how it will inform their leadership."

Evolutionary Politics

[emphasis mine]

The ability to tell the difference between fact and fantasy matters. Having the wisdom to understand that when one's beliefs are in conflict with reality, that it isn't reality that needs to change, is vital. We've seen how things work out when a President doesn't have that ability.

(h/t Crooks And Liars).

UPDATE: Added the name of Bush's surgeon general. I knew that comma was there for a reason. :)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Too Much Stupid For Me

It's been a long, stupid, and annoying week in politics. As if the last few charges of sexism and racism amongst the Democratic contenders for President weren't enough, there's been at least one more. I say "at least", because answering those charges often results in even more charges of exploitation.

Clearly, no one can accuse these folks of over-thinking a situation.

Personally, I've had enough of it for a while. Here's a picture of a cat in a sink.

These two things bring to mind one of my favorite Babylon 5 quotes:

Ambassador Londo Mollari: But this - this, this, this is like being nibbled to death by... what are those Earth creatures called? Feathers, long bill, webbed feet... go 'quack'...
Ambassador Vir Cotto: Cats.
Ambassador Londo Mollari: Cats. Being nibbled to death by cats.

We're all being nibbled to death by cats, and we're the cats.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Lawrence O'Donnell Is A Wanker

Don't you just love it when you're busy doing something and some half-wit comes along and starts telling you all the things you're doing wrong and wonders aloud why you're bothering, but doesn't offer to help? Today, that person is Lawrence O'Donnell, at least as far as anyone who's interested in John Edwards being President is concerned:

John Edwards is a loser. He has won exactly two elections in his life and lost 31. Only one of his wins and all of his losses were in presidential primaries and caucuses. He remains perfectly positioned to continue to lose with a Kucinich-like consistency. Nothing but egomania keeps Edwards in the race now. All presidential candidates are egomaniacs but some of them have party status worth preserving that forces them to drop out when they hit the wall. A loser like Edwards has no status or dignity to lose. Campaigning and losing is his life. So, he will continue his simple-minded, losing campaign and deny Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton the one-on-one contest they deserve.

John Edwards Is A Loser

So, let me get this straight, after coming in second in his first run at the Presidency, with only one term under his belt as a U.S. Senator, the guy is a loser, by O'Donnell's definition? "To lose with a Kucinich-like consistency"? In case you hadn't noticed, Kucinich has been in government for most of his adult life. I'd say he knows how to win some political campaigns. How many have you won, Larry?

By my definition, O'Donnell is a wanker.

By the way, Larry, Edwards has won a lot more cases than you have, too.

As if he didn't embarrass himself enough already, O'Donnell goes on to observe:

If John Edwards stays in the race, he might, in the end, become nothing other than the Southern white man who stood in the way of the black man. And for that, he would deserve a lifetime of liberal condemnation.

John Edwards Is A Loser

Well, let me see. Who is that black man running against? The first woman to win a Presidential primary, that's all. So, yes, it would be a real shame if that nasty old white dude made the Democrats' nominee the first woman to run for President for a major party, wouldn't it? But let's forget all that for a moment - why the hell is either a woman or a black man automatically better for this country? What kind of ass-backwards bigotry is that? I don't give a crap what Barack Obama's melanin content is, and I don't care what kind of genitals Hillary Clinton has. What I care about is whether they'd be a better choice to do one of the most difficult political jobs on the planet, and do it in a way that improves the country. Why isn't that the most important issue, for crying out loud?

As Kevin Hayden observes, O'Donnell seems to have more bigotry issues than Edwards does:

And to suggest that Edwards is running to represent the bigotry of the Old South - with zero evidence - is itself an odious bigoted assertion, typecasting someone because of where he was born or currently lives instead of, you know, what he’s done and stood for.

I recall Edwards doing hands on rebuilding in New Orleans. Where was Larry O’Donnell?

Larry o’Dious, the bigot

A month doesn't seem to pass by when some self-styled liberal doesn't make the observation that Edwards is a white Southerner who sometimes makes appeals to other white Southerners, and he's therefor a racist:

Edwards is talking as a college educated white guy to other college educated white guys. It's the white man's burden, and while well-meaning, it's a little racist and annoying.

What Bugs Me About John Edwards

Yeah, because, as we know, most poor people aren't white, right? Oh, wait, point that out is racist, too:

I don’t blame John Edwards for this, it’s just hard for a rich, white man to talk about poverty and not seem condescending. This kind of racism is just too hard for one man to combat. He can’t help who he is, and if I were to hold it against him that would be discrimination too. I like his ideas and I like his message. However, I think his worldview and this subtle racism could be the reason he’s more popular among whites than minorities.

John Edwards and Subtle Racism

Taylor Marsh gets in on the action here:

SEN. EDWARDS: Here’s what I think. I am the candidate running for president on the Democratic side who’s actually won an election in a red state running against the Jessie Helms political machine. I know what you have to do to win in battleground states, and to win in tough, tough congressional districts, and what you have to do to put out your message that works in those kind of places. People—I understand people who vote in those places, and they connect and relate to me. So I do believe when I am the Democratic nominee for president that there is no place in America that I can’t go and campaign and help our congressional candidates and help our Senate candidates.

I guess that means southerners won't vote for a woman, an African American or a Hispanic? Winning "everywhere" seems to be the latest in a cavalcade of reasons to vote for Edwards. It's dizzying.

Edwards Channels Mudcat

No, it means he knows how to find and appeal to the kind of people who aren't sure they want to vote for Jessie Helms.

Then there's this genius:

I've believed from the beginning that the reason Edwards is being 'kept around' is so that, if the voters just can't bring themselves to 'vote for history', they won't look absolutely absurd in voting for the Closest White Male they could find. They will try to say with a straight face: ' We've been thinking about John Edwards all along'.

Why is nobody calling the Edwards Campaign on their recent racial ploys?

Yes, that's certainly been my strategy. I've just been kidding you about him being the most progressive candidate, and you caught on, didn't you, rikyrah? How could he be the most progressive? He's a white guy!

I try to let people be defined by their actions, and the decisions they make. Edwards spent much of the time between the two Presidential elections forming and running One Corps, the volunteer organization that is both a political and a community service organization. Maude Hurd, the president of ACORN, an anti-poverty alliance, wrote:

While Senator Edwards could have chosen to do anything else with his time, he chose to spend it on the road with low-wage workers and their allies who were fighting to lift workers out of poverty. Edwards worked directly with grassroots community-faith-labor coalitions on the ground, leading rallies and press conferences to galvanize public support and working outside the spotlight to help organize support and raise funds to bring wage increase proposals to the ballot.

ACORN President Says Edwards an Ally in Struggle Against Poverty

Edwards announced his candidacy while helping to rebuild communities destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Jane Smiley observes:

O'Donnell attacks the only candidate in the race with explicitly progressive policy positions, and the only candidate in the race who hasn't accepted corporate money, and the only candidate in the race who understands how corporations are poisoning American politics and American life with their unrestrained power and influence.

Shut Up, Larry

Somehow, that never seems to get the sort of attention that his support from Cooter did.

Edwards doesn't have much support among black people, that's for sure. I'm sure that part of the reason is that Bill and Hillary Clinton are highly thought of by African-Americans. Barack Obama is the first viable black candidate in decades. That has to be a little bit interesting, too. But whatever the reason is, I'll just make a couple observations:

- First, it doesn't help when every few weeks somebody in the "left blogosphere" gets it in his (or her) head that Edwards is a racist because he's white and he doesn't turn his back on the rural white vote, and

- Second, if I wanted to know why Edwards wasn't popular among blacks, I wouldn't ask these people. I'd go find some black people and ask them.

So, to recap, Edwards, who wouldn't want to be accused of being a racist by all these white people, should drop out of the race so the candidates favored by these folks can divide up the delegates. That's because they deserve to be in this race, and Edwards, not to mention all those other candidates, don't. At least, that's what Lawrence O'Donnell thinks.

I say it would be just wonderful if the nomination wasn't sewn up by the end of February. Maybe we could test Obama's and Clinton's political skills by having them negotiate with the guy (or guys) who can get them the nomination. I may not be much of a football fan, but one thing I do like to see in a game is, umm, how do I put this, suspense about the outcome.

What do you think?

UPDATE (Jan 13): Michael Fauntroy discusses the debate among African Americans over who is the best candidate.

I had the temerity to suggest that we shouldn’t overreact to [Obama's] Iowa win. I reminded listeners that Jesse Jackson won Vermont – a state every bit as White as Iowa – 20 years ago and that many White Democrats have been voting for Black candidates for years, so we shouldn’t jump up and down over Obama’s caucus win. I knew I was in trouble, though, when the music bump before the interview began featured a caller who said she supports Obama “100 percent” and would vote for a Black man over a White woman every time. I thought: “wow, by that logic, you’d vote for Ike Turner, Alan Keyes, and Clarence Thomas over Hilary Clinton.” How ridiculous.

Lambasted for Not Drinking the Obama Kool-Aid

Ridiculous, indeed. I hope someday we reach an awareness in this country that it's hard enough to find someone who can be a good President, without also expecting him (or her) to be of a particular ethnic group or religion.

I'd say we have a long way to go before we're there.

Football Isn't Quite Over Yet

[The Seahawk's Twelfth Man flag flies over some football monument in Seattle. Image credit: USA Today]

Let's see, it's January so this must mean the playoffs have started ...

Earlier this week, I was passing a video sales display area when I heard some vaguely martial-sounding dirge music, accompanied by a video of the Seattle Seahawk's Number Twelve flag. Based on this, I figured they'd lost. It turns out that they didn't, though. It seems that they're going to lose this week:

It would be nice, especially in a January game at Lambeau Field, if [Seahawks quarterback Matt] Hasselbeck could turn around and hand off to the great Shaun Alexander, but the great Shaun Alexander is a memory. Soon, the '07 Seahawks will be as well.

King Kaufman: NFL Divisional Round Preview

Apparently, they're particularly weak at the promotional video position.

One of the local Seattle papers intones:

But time is running out on Holmgren, who'll turn 60 in June. He's got the Seahawks in the postseason for a fifth consecutive year, heading to Green Bay on Saturday for a divisional playoff game where his team is an eight-point underdog.

It's fair to wonder if this is the last go for the Big Show in Seattle. He has one year remaining on his Seahawks coaching contract, but says he'll sit down with his wife, Kathy, and have a long discussion about his future when this season ends.

Holmgren will decide future once season ends

Which just goes to show that sports writers are just as good as lefty bloggers at taking a little piece of information and turning it into mass hysteria.

Last year, as the USA today explains, expectations were somewhat higher. Seahawk mania swept the land, and the Seahawks were in the finals - a game referred to as the "Super Bowl". Unfortunately, as King Kaufman noted, nothing is more fleeting than one's athletic prowess in a game people play by running into each other as hard as they can.

They'll be playing Saturday 4:30PM EST on Fox, according to Kaufman's column, and the PI articles. That's 3:30PM if you're anywhere near Green Bay, and 1:30PM out here on the West Coast.

Now you can enjoy the game as much as I will. Let's see, what happened to that Battlestar Galactica DVD?

UPDATE (Jan. 12): The final score of this game was Green Bay 42, Seattle 20. As I understand the rules, that means the Seahawks lost. Green Bay running back Ryan Grant ran for 201 yards and scored three touchdowns.

Presumably, someone will be taking the flag down soon.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Now That's Funny

I keep meaning to add Watertiger's blog to the blogroll. I'll remember it this time, I'm pretty sure.

Meanwhile, click here for a good example, and then here for another one, and here for a third. To enjoy her site, it's probably best not to be a loyal Republican, but you might even if you are.

UPDATE: This isn't funny. HopeSpringsATurtle, whom you may know from hanging around Firedoglake or elsewhere, is going through some difficult times at the moment. I can't say more because I don't know any more. If you want to, please drop by this thread and leave well wishes for her. HSAT's good people.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Polls And The Results

These are Pollster's last projections for the New Hampshire Democratic primary. As you'll note, they showed Barack Obama ahead by about six points. There's just one problem with this, of course - it didn't turn out that way at all:

MANCHESTER, N.H. - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won New Hampshire's Democratic primary Tuesday night, pulling out a stunning victory over Sen. Barack Obama in a contest that she had been forecast to lose.

N.H. stunner: Clinton defeats Obama

So, what happened? Pollster's been remarkably accurate in its predictions, which is why I pass its information along. This is quite a large difference, though. It's more than the claimed margin of error of any of the polls it based its predictions on.

Here are the numbers as Pollster believes they were, in table form:

Pollster Projections for the New Hampshire Democratic Primary
CandidateStandard EstimateSensitive EstimateLast-5 AverageActual

The official results won't be posted until tomorrow, so for now, I'm going by results posted at MSNBC and Yahoo.

Looks like there was a bit of a disconnect, doesn't there? At least, it does on the surface. You'll notice that I've only highlighted one number, which is Clinton's actual total. The other two are within 1.5% or so of the last projections. Besides the red number there, though, there's another number I haven't shown you, which is "everyone else". More specifically, the 5.6% who were supposedly voting for Richardson, the 2.5% who supposedly were voting for Biden, and the 6.4% who were not voting for any of those people. The key to understanding why the result was not what was projected, I think, is in what those remaining 15 percent or so of the voters did.

According to Yahoo, Biden, Dodd, Gravel, and Kucinich together garnered about 5,000 votes out of approximately 269,000 votes cast. (I'm rounding off all these numbers, by the way). That's less than 2 percent (1.8%). Richardson's 12,500 votes gave him 4.7%. I calculated Clinton's, Obama's, and Edwards' percentages, too, and came up with 40%, 37%, and 17%, respectively. Thus, of those 14.5 percent who weren't voting for one of the top three, it looks like almost two thirds of them, 8% of all voters, voted for someone else.

To me, it looks like they mostly switched to vote for Hillary. Maybe the exit polls will shed some light, but I think that's a reasonable hypothesis. Biden, Dodd, and Richardson are closer to Clinton politically than they are to Edwards, and Clinton has much more government experience than Obama, as did the other candidates not named Edwards. So, I think this case is closed, at least until someone comes up with some new evidence.

UPDATE (Jan. 9): It looks like Craig Crawford agrees with me. If you watch that video, you'll note they don't mention that Edwards' poll predictions were close to his actual result, but they were.

In case you missed the comments, commenter shoephone mentioned the effect of independent voters. This could also have been a factor, of course.

Meanwhile, There Are These Guys

No deep meaning here. Just thank Google Images. I typed "iron my shirt" and this came up. Image credit: These guys.

Via SusanUnPC at No Quarter:

Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign stop was interrupted Monday when two men stood in the crowd and began screaming, "Iron my shirt!" during one of her final appearances before the New Hampshire primary.

Clinton, a former first lady running to become the nation's first female president, laughed at the seemingly sexist protest that suggested a woman's place is doing the laundry and not running the country.

Protesters ask Clinton to iron shirts

How much of a low-life dipstick do you have to be to think this is a good way to spend your afternoon? In contrast to some bits of manufactured outrage, this is an example of real sexism. There was no other point, and no way to misconstrue it. (There were also plenty of witnesses). Of all the things people are concerned about - Iraq, the economy, abortion, whatever, these guys chose to get thrown out of a room for shouting a slogan implying that a U.S. Senator should be home ironing instead of doing what she was doing. Compared to this, forgetting your shirt when you're headed to a war protest seems positively Einsteinian.

The AP article concludes:

"As I think has been abundantly demonstrated, I am also running to break through the highest and hardest glass ceiling," she said.

Clinton later joked about the incident as she invited questions.

"If there's anyone left in the auditorium who wants to learn how to iron a shirt, I'll talk about that," she said with a smile.

Protesters ask Clinton to iron shirts

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I'm no fan of the Clintons, but their enemies seem determined to change that. The Clintons always look better contrasted with the people who hate them.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Take A Deep Breath, And THINK For A Second ...

[Billed as "A temporaly displaced Strauss mind reading machine", this little item was apparently offered for sale on eBay. I now have a list of potential buyers. Read on.]

There are days when folks on the left-wing political blogs really distinguish themselves with their analysis and willingness to dig into a story. Then there are days like today...

Today, John Edwards was quoted as saying this, in answer to a question about Hillary Clinton's teary reaction to a question earlier in the day:

“I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business.”

Rivals Reacts to Teary Clinton

So, my first question is, what question was he actually answering when he said that? You won't find it in that article. You'll find the reporters' opinion that he wasn't sympathetic. Did they ask him something like "Are Presidential campaigns too tough?", or "should you guys be taking it easy on Senator Clinton, because she's clearly upset?". Asked either question, I'd have responded exactly as Edwards did. That's because I know she's tough enough to be in this campaign. If I know that, so does Edwards.

There's no audio or video record, of course, so we don't even know for sure he was quoted accurately. Late note: There may be a video. It was ABC, after all. I'm trying to track that down. Later note: No luck so far. I'm sure if there is one someone will provide a link.

And yet, there are no lack of people willing to go off the deep end, without giving any thought to these questions. Here's one:

John Edwards is acting like a prick.

Clinton's Sincerity Moment

Here's another:

Edwards showed no class at all. Trippi is starting to rub off on him.

Clinton & Matthews Meet in New Hampshire

And, my personal favorite, at least so far:

There is no hope for John Edwards, of course. His cruel, stony reaction to the news that Senator Clinton got a little emotional during a New Hampshire diner visit was a window on the man's soul, a window into an empty room.

The Sexist Media Lynching of Hillary Clinton

Not one of these articles offered any corroboration. Watson writes like he was there, instead of reading about it second-hand. Here, let me give that a try:

Watson wrote furiously as the anger and hatred he felt towards Edwards reached a boiling point.

OK, a little overwrought, but you get the idea. There are no end of people who are willing to assume they know exactly what's going on in someone's mind because they just have such good skills at reading people. I try very hard not to be one of them. Maybe that makes me a little too skeptical at times, but I prefer it that way. For instance, I don't know if this quote from later in that ABC article was what Edwards really felt or not, but he was quoted as saying this, also:

Later, at another campaign stop, Edwards appeared to adopt his wife's more sympathetic tone.

"These campaigns are very grueling," he said, "they're tough and difficult affairs, running for president is a tough process."

Rivals Reacts to Teary Clinton

No doubt, as I'm sure that someone will be explaining to me soon, this was only after Elizabeth explained (stonily) to John that there'd be no joy in Edwardsville tonight if this rampant sexism went uncorrected. I will also be told that I should, of course, realize this is the case because Edwards is always such a prick when he's around Joe Trippi.

Todd Gitlin, who all these people quoted, was the only one in this article chain that has written anything reasonable about it:

Whereupon, if an ABC blog is to be believed, John Edwards shot himself in a nether region this way:

Hillary Teared

The emphasis is mine, of course. Oh yeah, Gitlin admits, we really only have an ABC reporter's word for it.

I'm reacting strongly to this because, first of all, the people who wrote these articles are all smart enough to know better. Second, it was only yesterday that I attended a caucus preparation meeting for Edwards. During that session, someone asked if it would be alright to point out some of one of the other candidates' foibles (I won't mention which ones for many reasons, not the least of which is that it's just irrelevant). The session leader's response was that they had strict instructions from the campaign to not be negative while representing the campaign. Of course, I offer no proof of this, either, but since the word of one person seems to count for so much here, I'll just counter it with my own. Clearly, actual proof isn't required.

Finally, I'm reacting to it because for so much of this campaign, it's been pretty obvious that the press isn't going to cover Edwards talking about anything serious. It's about haircuts, how gay he looks, and what he said to a question we never even heard. Then people who ought to know better write bullshit articles like this, or about Edwards' "subtle racism". As if you couldn't paint just about anyone as being a "subtle" racist. After all, if it wasn't subtle, we'd all be able to see it right? But since it's cleverly hidden, only the truly wise can see through the facade. Now, you can see it, can't you?

It's a wonderful excuse for character assassination. It's a lousy excuse for journalism, citizen or otherwise.

For me, that was one of those Michael Garabaldi moments, where I tell you "Ask me why there's no god".

Edwards has certainly made mistakes. As Taylor Marsh alleges, Joe Trippi may be one of them. I think Mudcat Saunders is another one. He came to his epiphany on Iraq at least three months too late. But this isn't one of them, as far as I can see. Until someone offers something besides their own prejudices as proof, I'm not going to, either.

Oh, by the way, it's OK by me if Hillary Clinton gets a little teary-eyed once in a while. She'll be picking herself up again in no time. She probably has already. She's tough enough to win this thing, and anyone who doesn't think so is more of a moron than these people seem to think John Edwards is.

UPDATE: Jane Hamsher takes a swipe as well, with no more proof or insight offered.

UPDATE 2 (Jan. 8): While I made this request in an offhanded way in the text of the article, I'll do it explicitly here: If you have a link to a video of this interview, please pass it on. You can do that either in the comments or via e-mail.

UPDATE 3 (Jan. 9): Apparently sinister forces are at work trying to suppress my message. ;-) The original picture disappeared, so I replaced it. I like this one better. It really captures the lameness of this episode, I think.

I also slightly altered a sentence in the paragraph that begins "I'm reacting strongly to this because" to clarify who I meant by "these people". It now says "the people who wrote these articles".

I'll also mention that I've e-mailed Firedoglake and Taylor Marsh for a response, and have received none. I gave up trying to find Watson and Stoller's e-mail addresses. In any case, there's been no meaningful response, other than Taylor Marsh claiming to have received some e-mails that she can't talk about. So that appears to be it - shoot blindly, then move on. Eventually, most folks will forget about it.

I've lost a lot of respect for these people, and will be more skeptical of any claims they make in the future. This is the way the right wing does character assassination. I don't trust whisper nets, whether they travel via e-mail or other media, because no one who's skeptical can review the information. They won't be in the net to begin with. I'm seldom on whisper nets for long, because my response is usually along the lines of "Where did you hear this shit?" or "This is nonsense, because ...". I'm no fun, apparently. Anyone who starts trusting them is, in my opinion, in need of some fresh air.

UPDATE 4: I forgot to mention that Amanda Marcotte, who worked briefly for the Edwards campaign, has also joined the hit parade. She, also, offered no explanation beyond the ABC article.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

On Attendance

"We hold these truths to be self-evident," they said, "that all men are created equal." Strange as it may seem, that was the first time in history that anyone had ever bothered to write that down. Decisions are made by those who show up.

-- President Josiah Bartlet, The West Wing

Much has been made about Barack Obama's attendance record in the Senate, which isn't good. Here's a table that shows the eight leading "vote missers" as compiled by the Washington Post:

Senators With Lowest Vote Attendance - 110th Congress
NameStateMissed (%)Comment
Tim JohnsonD-SD70.4%has a brain hemorrhage
John McCainR-AZ55.9%Rep. Pres. candidate (as far as we know, he doesn’t)
Joseph BidenD-DE39.1%Dem. Pres. candidate thru Jan. 3
Christopher DoddD-CT37.6%Dem. Pres. candidate thru Jan. 3
Barack ObamaD-IL37.6%Dem. Pres. candidate
Sam BrownbackR-KS30.5%Rep. Pres. candidate thru Oct. 19
Hillary ClintonD-NY23.3%Dem. Pres. candidate
Daniel InouyeD-HI9.7%wife died in March after long illness

(As of today, Jan. 6, 2008) Source: Senate Members Who Missed Votes

Notice the dropoff? Except for Tim Johnson, who has a pretty good excuse, all the top "vote missers" are Presidential candidates, until you get to Daniel Inouye. Inouye's wife had a fatal illness, which probably accounts for much of his absence. Under the circumstances, I’d say Clinton did very well to make so many votes. She’s been in the campaign substantially longer than Brownback, and lives about as far from DC as Dodd.

John Kerry had a worse record in 2004, missing 72% of the votes in the 108th Congress. John Edwards missed 45% of the votes, as well.

By that standard, Clinton and Obama are both doing pretty well.

I'm not a supporter of either Clinton's or Obama's, although I think it's pretty clear whom I favor if that's the choice. What I fault Obama for here is mostly that he seems to miss votes and then chides his opponents who did take a position. Senator Obama needs to rent a few seasons of The West Wing.

UPDATE (Jan. 7): On reflection, I should point out that it's likely that Clinton's and Obama's worst days of attendance are probably still ahead. As their campaigns heat up, each will probably miss more votes, up until the time when one of the Presidential candidates locks up the nomination. Even so, they seem to be doing OK.

Also added comments about the candidates to make things clearer.

UPDATE (Aug. 30): For an update on these stats, and other thoughts, check this link.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Goodbye To Someone I Never Knew

Delenn learns to cope with the loss of Sheridan in the Babylon 5 episode "Sleeping In Light".

Image credit: Screenshot by Cujo359. Babylon 5 is a copyrighted work of Warner Bros.

The Internet is a strange world, at least for those of us who grew up without it. Sometimes you form attachments with people who, for all you know, don't even really exist. I have such attachments, as do most of you who are reading this, I suspect. What gets really weird is that you can actually learn to miss someone whose presence doesn't reach you until after they're actually gone.

Today such a thing happened. From Crooks and Liars, I learned of the death of Major Andrew Olmsted, soldier, thinker, and Babylon 5 fan:

"It's not fair."
"No. It's not. Death never is."
Captain John Sheridan and Dr. Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5

Andrew Olmsted: Final Post

Olmsted is another tragic loss in our long, tragic, and completely unnecessary battle in Iraq. I've read comments by people at other blogs that say that somehow Olmsted and the other soldiers who have died there are somehow responsible for this tragedy. I'll just quote Olmsted saying something much like what I've said on the subject of choice for a soldier:

Soldiers cannot have the option of opting out of missions because they don't agree with them: that violates the social contract. The duly-elected American government decided to go to war in Iraq. (Even if you maintain President Bush was not properly elected, Congress voted for war as well.) As a soldier, I have a duty to obey the orders of the President of the United States as long as they are Constitutional. I can no more opt out of missions I disagree with than I can ignore laws I think are improper. I do not consider it a violation of my individual rights to have gone to Iraq on orders because I raised my right hand and volunteered to join the army. Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society. So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (if you'll pardon the pun) live with that.

Andrew Olmsted: Final Post

From his writing, it appears that Olmsted was a fan of the show for some of the reasons I was. In the end, what your life really means is what you do, particularly in those moments when you have to make a choice. Some choices aren't easy, but it's those hard choices that define who you are. Olmsted certainly understood that.

I'm not going to bother quoting much more of his article, which Maj. Olmsted wrote in case he was killed in Iraq. Have a read for yourself, and ponder what we've lost.

For my part, I'm sorry that I never got to know Andrew Olmsted until he was gone.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

It's Official - Dodd's Out

Image credit:, reduced by Cujo359

Senator Christopher Dodd sent this e-mail to his supporters this evening. [Disclosure: I receive copies because I'd sent an e-mail to his site concerning this article.] This is the complete text, minus e-mail addresses:

From: Chris Dodd
To: cujo359
Subject: Tonight's Results
Date: Jan 3, 2008 8:25 PM

Dear Cujo359,

I count the past year of campaigning for the presidency as one of the most rewarding in a career of public service.

Unfortunately, I am withdrawing from that campaign tonight.

But there is no reason to hang our heads this evening -- only the opportunity to look towards a continuation of the work we started last January: ending the Iraq War, restoring the Constitution, and putting a Democrat in the White House.

I know a lot of you came to this email list through a shared desire to return our nation to one that respects the rule of law, and I want to make one thing clear to all of you:

The fight to restore the Constitution and stop retroactive immunity does not end with my Presidential campaign. FISA will come back in a few weeks and my pledge to filibuster ANY bill that includes retroactive immunity remains operative.

You've been an invaluable ally in the battle, and I'll need you to stick by my side despite tonight's caucus results.

So, one more time, thank you for all of your efforts throughout the course of this entire Presidential campaign.

We made a real difference in shaping the debate, and we'll continue to do so in the coming days, weeks and years.

I'll never forget you, and what we've fought for, together, over the past year.

Chris Dodd

[emphasis mine]

This confirms reports by Greg Sargent and the Associated Press, among others.

While he wasn't my first choice I respected Dodd as a candidate and as a politician. It's a measure of how silly our politics have become that a guy like Barack Obama could have garnered so many votes, while real centrist politicians like Dodd and Joe Biden got so few.

Thanks for the effort, Senator.

UPDATE: According to both the AP and CNN, Senator Joe Biden has announced that he has quit the race, also. Thanks to him, as well. He made the field better by being a part of it.

UPDATE 2: Contrary to some reports, Mike Gravel is not dropping out of the race.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Slobber And Spittle Endorses John Edwards

[Why is this man smiling? He's won the prestigious SnS Presidential endorsement. A printout of this endorsement, plus $1.25 will entitle the awardee to a refillable coffee at Denny's near you. And they'll let you keep the printout, too. NOTE: Exact monetary value of this prize varies from location to location.]

Regular readers of this blog will know that I've spoken most favorably of two Presidential candidates, Chris Dodd and John Edwards. Hillary Clinton has a mixed record here, and Barack Obama was very lucky to receive any praise at all. So, it's probably no surprise that this highly coveted endorsement[/SNARK] came down to those first two.

The excesses and foolhardiness of the Bush Administration have left many problems for the next Presidential administration to deal with. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most visible, but they're not the only ones. In fact, as bad as things look on those two fronts at the moment, they pale in significance to this country when compared to the constitutional crises, increasing economic insecurity, and deterioration that this government's incompetence have caused at home. Our government has decided that spying on its citizens is perfectly OK, that kidnapping and torturing both its own citizens and foreigners is acceptable, and that all those laws that were put in place to limit government power are just advice that can be ignored at any time. The Bush Administration have violated at least four laws that are specifically designed to limit government power, and yet they'll probably get away with it if Nancy Pelosi and the rest of Congress continue to shirk their responsibilities in that matter.

Chris Dodd has so far been the only one of the candidates to stand up to any of this in a meaningful way. Last month, he dug in his heels, bucking his own majority leader in order to stop the awful FISA bill that was to be considered in the Senate. While Joe Biden offered immediate, unequivocal support for Dodd, the other two candidates who are sitting U.S. Senators, Obama and Clinton, had to be begged and cajoled by their supposed base to do anything at all. That stand netted Dodd lots of positive coverage, both here and at most progressive blogs. That might have earned him the SnS endorsement, but he has an unfortunate legislative record in other areas.

Dodd has some rather close ties with some of the more egregious financial industries in this country, and the insurance industry in particular. His support of the recent "Class Action Fairness Act" (CAFA), which despite what its name says actually decreases the fairness of class action suits brought against negligent companies, is one of the more recent examples of how beholden he can be to them. His record is by no means egregious, but it certainly is troubling.

The main reason he didn't get the endorsement, though, is that so far he hasn't caught on with the voters. Pollster, when it bothers to rate his popularity at all, estimates it at less than one percent.

Edwards, at least in his public statements is unequivocal in his support of our civil rights:

We are not the country of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. We are not the country of secret surveillance and government behind closed doors. We are Americans, and we're better than that.

While this statement alone could be considered empty rhetoric, reading his positions on specific civil rights problems that have presented themselves in the last few years shows a consistent pattern of respect for human rights. Contrast this with Hillary Clinton, who when asked about the question of what power grabs by the Bush Administration she would roll back as President, replied:

I will conduct a very serious review of how the Bush-Cheney administration has grabbed power. Everywhere we look, we see that. They have ignored checks and balances, they have disregarded the separation of powers, they have this theory of the so-called unitary executive and then Vice President Cheney has a whole different theory about how he's a fourth branch of government.

Would a President Clinton Cede Powers?

[Note: That's a second hand quote by a Washington Post editorial. In a quick search, I was unable to find the original.]

Wasn't Senator Clinton present during all those power grabs? What's there to study? I'd think it would be plainly obvious what needed to be done by now, no matter what one's position about the relative importance of civil liberties and safety.

Edwards has been equally unequivocal about the need to redress the growing economic imbalances between the rich and the rest of us. As the New York Times observes:

Whatever their differences with Mr. Edwards, both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have moved toward him on several issues, like health care and trade. In all three Democratic campaigns, advisers say they believe that economic anxiety has made voters more open to government action than they once were.

“People say, ‘How do you know this is going to resonate?’” said Leo Hindery Jr., a former chief executive of media and communications companies, who is Mr. Edwards’s senior economic adviser. “And the answer is, ‘It’s a different world.’”

Two Candidates, Two Fortunes, Two Distinct Views of Wealth

This NYT article contrasts the fortunes and views of Mitt Romney and Edwards. Both became rich in their previous careers. The difference between them, if one reads between the lines, is that Romney doesn't believe in "the two Americas" that Edwards talked about in 2004. The reason, if you read that article carefully, is that Romney's never been to the other America that most of us live in or have lived in at some point in our lives. Edwards has.

Edwards is a guy who did what we all supposedly can do in this country - brought himself up by his own bootstraps. That he did so but is still clearly mindful of the people he grew up with is clearly irritating to the "rugged individualists", like Romney, who never really had to worry about paying for their medical care, or getting their kids through college, or just whether to heat their homes or feed themselves. Those of us who have know perfectly well that there are two Americas. To quote from the NYT article again:

“Some people come from nothing to being wildly successful and their response is, ‘I did this on my own,’” Mr. Edwards said in an interview. “I came to a different conclusion. I believe that I did work hard, and I think people should work hard, but I think my country was there for me every step of the way.”

Today, he added, “the problem is all the economic growth is going to a very small group of people.”

Two Candidates, Two Fortunes, Two Distinct Views of Wealth

While I don't find it entirely satisfactory, Edwards' health care plan is more progressive than Clinton's and more complete than Obama's. As such, I'd say he's ahead on that issue, too. Edwards at least allows for the idea of single payer somewhere down the road, and presents a real alternative for people who don't have the means to afford their own. Clinton's doesn't even mention the concept, as far as I can see, and while it does offer means-testing, the details of that plan, which could affect many of us seeking such relief, are sorely lacking.

While he certainly doesn't have the foreign policy cred of a Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, or even Hillary Clinton, Edwards' positions on Iraq and Afghanistan strike me as both thoughtful and realistic. Frankly, anyone whose opinion about what we should do next hasn't changed probably hasn't been paying attention. Here's an excerpt from a recent NYT interview of Edwards:

Q. How did you go from a plan that emphasized the gradual reduction of forces and training of Iraqi forces to a plan that calls for removing all of the forces within ten months?

A. Because it is now two years later. At that point, what I was suggesting was, again let me go back to the bigger picture. The question from my perspective is that I have never believed that there was a military solution in Iraq, don't believe it today. I think the issue is how do you maximize the chances of achieving a political reconciliation between Sunni and Shia because I think that political reconciliation is the foundation for any long-term stability in Iraq. They have now, at this moment, had well over four and a half years to make some serious progress toward a political solution. They have not done it, and so what we have been doing has not worked. It clearly has not worked. And my view is that we need to shift the responsibility to them, make it clear that we are leaving. That is where the eight to ten brigades come from. Then, as aggressively as can reasonably be achieved, to continue a steady redeployment until all combat troops are out in roughly nine to ten months. Now I am not married to that specific timetable. If my military leadership came to me and said we need another month or some additional time, I would certainly take that into consideration what they are saying. But it is my job as commander in chief to set the policy parameters, which is exactly what I was doing.

Interview with John Edwards

To quote General George Patton on the subject of delegation: Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. Of course, it helps if, as in Patton's case, you have a pretty good idea what is possible. Edwards seems to understand this.

The bottom line, though, is that our domestic problems dwarf the foreign ones at the moment. There are days when the America I see around me doesn't feel like America anymore. It feels like some science-fiction doppleganger America where the facade of freedom exists but underneath is only fear and exploitation. If we're going to return to the America that values freedom and opportunity both here and abroad, I think John Edwards is our best choice.

NOTE: This endorsement in no way means that SnS will become a cheerleading site for Edwards. I'm not a good partisan and never have been. If I think someone's screwed up, I say so. That won't change. It also doesn't mean I'm going to be extra critical of other candidates. When they do something right, they deserve praise. If anything, the reverse is true. Edwards gets the endorsement because he earned more praise than the others. Hey, I even praised President Bush when he managed to do something right.