Thursday, May 22, 2008

Get Out of My Head Jake Tapper! (JM)

I am pretty sure Jake Tapper at ABC and I have a telepathic link. Perhaps I will sit down and explain it to you all at some point, it's a fascinating story. However, this was just too much:

For a scene where Joe Lieberman's voice can be heard on a conference call, I recommended that the producers get the guy who played the dad on "Alf," since he and Lieberman have the same voice. Alas, it was not to be.)

I have, for years, been suggesting that Max Wright should be the voice of Joe Lieberman in a new cartoon: The Joe Lieberman Action Rangers. Anyway Tapper, get out of my mind, it freaks me out. The column itself is about the new HBO movie Recount, about Florida in the 2000 election, which I am quite psyched for. Anyway, regular updating to recommence soon. I miss y'all.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another Israel Post (Dennis)

I thought this article by Jeffery Goldberg on Israel's relationship with America was a very good one. In it, he basically argues that the leaders of the groups like AIPAC and their supporters have been stifling a reasonable debate on Israel by being more extremist on Israel than the Israelis. Here is a quote that I think illustrates the core of the piece:

These Jewish leaders, who live in Chicago and New York and behind the gates of Boca Raton country clubs, loathe the idea that Mr. Olmert, or a prime minister yet elected, might one day cede the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to the latent state of Palestine. These are neighborhoods — places like Sur Baher, Beit Hanina and Abu Dis — that the Conference of Presidents could not find with a forked stick and Ari Ben Canaan as a guide. And yet many Jewish leaders believe that an Israeli compromise on the boundaries of greater Jerusalem — or on nearly any other point of disagreement — is an axiomatic invitation to catastrophe.

One leader, Joshua Katzen, of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, told me, “I think that Israelis don’t have the big view of global jihad that American Jews do, because Israelis are caught up in their daily emergencies.” When I asked him how his Israeli friends responded to this, he answered: “They say, ‘When your son has to fight, you can have an opinion.’ But I tell them that it is precisely because your son has to fight that you have a harder time seeing the larger picture.”

By the latter part of the 20th century Irish Americans had a similar relationship with the troubles in Northern Ireland. That is, the most radical factions in the conflict were funded by ill informed nationalist Irish Americans, while the vast majority of people in the Republic of Ireland and even the Catholics of Northern Ireland were far more ambivalent about (and even disgusted by) the actions of the IRA.

This comparison made me think about some similarities between the Irish and Israeli situations.

Ireland, like Israel, was a nation founded in response to the hard realities oppression and the sweeping poetry of idealistic nationalism. Ireland, for its first 60 or 70 years, was an insular backward and poor country. It was plagued by a troubled relationship with Britain, embarrassing terrorism on its behalf in the North and in England, and restrictive economic, and cultural regulations that stunted growth and creativity. Its presidency was always won by the radically nationalist Fianna Fail party, which was started to oppose the very compromise that brought Ireland into existence.

Then, perhaps in response to the troubles of Northern Ireland of the 1980s, or perhaps in disgust at being considered Western Europe's only third world nation, the attitudes of people changed. They elected as president Mary Robinson, the first woman, as well as the first person not from Fianna Fail, to ever hold the post. She was someone who had built a career around campaigning for liberal principles that ran counter to the strict Catholic traditionalism that had strangled the country for so long, and who was known for reaching out to the British and to Unionists.

The act of electing Robinson showed a desire for change on the part of the Irish, but Robinson also pushed the Irish in many ways. Most notably, she became the first Irish president to meet with Queen Elizabeth in England. A professor of Irish history told me that only after her presidency was it possible to conceive of an Irish identity that was not Catholic, white, and traditional.

This change it attitude made it possible for Ireland to achieve all it has today. Could the protectionist, reactionary Ireland from the 1970s and before have accepted the waves immigration that went along with membership in the EU? Could such an Ireland have achieved a sufficiently educated populace if going to some of the best (Protestant) universities still required special dispensation from the local bishop? I doubt it.

Indeed, it's reasonable to ask whether the situation in Northern Ireland would continue to challenge Israel and Palestine for ferocity without the change in attitude of the Irish and Robinson's leadership. If the Irish Catholics on both sides of the border didn't embrace the idea that a Protestants were fellow citizens and not just "The Enemy", wouldn't Belfast be the same horrible mess it was in the 1980s?

I think that the experience of Ireland tells us that Israel cannot be both at peace with its neighbors and exclusively Jewish in identity. Yes, there are Arab/Muslim citizens in Israel, but how can one be a full citizen if the identity of your country stridently and officially excludes you? How can you and others feel welcome if it's the stated policy of a country to keep you in the minority? We know precisely why it would be (and was) a bad idea to define America as a "Anglo-Christian nation." So how exactly is it a good idea to define Israel as a Jewish state? It is arguably even worse, since sets up an inevitable, intractable conflict where on one side stands Israeli Jews and on the other side stands all of its neighbors.

I think the end of the Israeli-Arab conflict will finally come when Israel ceases to be the "homeland of the Jews" and becomes simply a democracy with no pre-concieved notions on what the ethnic character of its body politic should be. I suppose a lot of people would regard this as a tragedy, since he dream of a restored romantic vision of ancient Israel would be lost.

I would not.

Jews would not be losing their homeland any more than Irish Catholics are losing theirs or any more than the decedents of the Puritans in America have lost theirs. They would, instead, deal a final crushing rebuke to the Nazis that drove them there. An Israel where a Muslim could be elected president, or where it would pass relatively unnoticed that Jews were in the minority was exactly the type of society that the Nazis attempted to banish from the Earth.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama's Response (Dennis)

I thought Obama's response (shown below) today to the Bush calling Democats "appeasers" was particularly good. This attack by Bush and his two chief goons, Lieberman and McCain, needed a response that put into perspective exactly who was saying it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Awwwwwkward! (JM)

You know that moment when you accidentally accuse a girl of being pregnant and you see her reaction and know you're in trouble because: a) she's not pregnant, she's just fat and b) she's not a woman at all, just a terribly effeminate man? Well I am pretty sure this is more awkward. Terry McAullife referred to Tim Russert's father, Big Russ, as "in heaven right now...probably having a scotch." Tim Russert could have replied, "Big Russ is way less dead than your candidate.", could have, but didn't, that's just the kind of class act Russert is. Moral of the story, if you don't know if someone is dead, don't bring them up.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Line in the Sand (Dennis)

Arlen Specter, who almost conducted life saving oversight on the Iraq war, who very nearly stood up to Bush on right wing judges, and who wet himself during the FISA battle, has finally decided to stand up to a devious scheming administration:

(Duh duh duuuh)

The New England Patriots

Though apparently too busy masturbating to the sight of Andy Reid's mustache to press for a thorough investigation into whether Sadaam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, Arlen Specter has now found the political courage to press on into how extensive the Patriots sign stealing was.

Now regardless of how you feel about the sports issue (go ahead you can say the Patriots don't deserve their championship if you like), exactly how does it warrant getting Congress involved? Sign stealing might be schemey and against the rules, but its not illegal (as with steroids), nor does it involve a billionaire extorting a community for money to subsidize his stadium (as with many teams, most recently, the Sonics). It's probably a little worse than Gaylord Perry throwing a "spitter," not as bad as Sammy Sosa corking his bat, and about the same as the NY Giants stealing signs during the '51 pennant race (take that NY Baseball Giants fans!).

But is there more to this story? Could Arlen Specter be needling the NFL on behalf of say...his largest donors?

From the Philadelphia Inquirer :

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that details contributions to political campaigns, Specter has received more money from political action committees of Blank Rome and Comcast than from any other business.

Blank Rome has donated $358,483 to Specter, and Comcast $153,600, since 1989, according to the Center's Web site. (Comcast chairman Brian Roberts donated the maximum personal amount, $2,300, to Specter last year, according to, a Web site that tracks individual donations to candidates for federal office.)

The league sued Comcast in October after Comcast decided to move the NFL Network, owned and operated by the league, from its digital tier of channels seen by approximately seven million viewers to a special sports tier seen by only 750,000. Comcast claims that there is little general interest in the NFL Network and that most subscribers don't want to pay extra for it.

The league stands to lose millions of dollars in potential revenue if the switch stands because it has an arrangement with Comcast in which it is paid per subscriber.

Perhaps it's nothing, but if this whole thing goes away after a deal is reached between the cable giant and the NFL, you'll know why Specter has been raising this.

Endorsements Galore (JM)

Senator Obama is being endorsed all over today: this morning by NARAL and now tonight, by John Edwards. If nothing else is the nail in the coffin, it is this tandem the day after Hillary pulled of a 45 percent victory. Unless Obama uses the word "honkys" or to a less extent "suckers" in the next two weeks it is just over.

Paddington the Economist (JM)

If you're richer, you're happier

People tell you that wealth does not lead to happiness. New research shows they're wrong

I thought, just from the title of this article, that it had so very much potential. But I was wrong, so very wrong. It was like looking at treasure chest only to realize that it is standing straight in front of Scrooge McDuck’s money bin. I will comment a lot less than usual because I think there’s going to be beauty in letting a lot of this speak for itself.

Daniel Finkelstein

To mark the first anniversary of Paddington Bear residing with the Browns, a small party is held at which Paddington performs conjuring tricks. Carefully reading from his conjuring book, the bear places Mr Curry's watch inside a handkerchief and smashes it with a hammer.

This is the most adorable opening to an opinion column ever. Who needs money to be happy, so long as we have Paddington Bear.

Unfortunately, Paddington has turned two pages at once. They were stuck together with marmalade. So he misses the words that follow the advice to bring down the hammer on the handkerchief - “having first removed the watch”.

Aww… I think I will rechristen you Finkelton Bear. I imagine you’ve had some marmalade problems of your own in your time.

I have been patient. For my entire adult life, I have been looking out to see Paddington's trick performed for real. But now I have. As my mother always told me: “Everything comes to he who waits.”

You were waiting to see a stuffed bear perform a magic trick? You actually saw a stuffed bear perform a magic trick?!

The production of literature about happiness has become an industry. Earlier this week a cross-party group of Christian MPs produced a report on the topic and were able to begin with a long list of books on the subject published in the last two years. Perhaps the most successful are Happiness: Lessons from a New Science by Richard Layard and Affluenza by Oliver James but there has been a host of others.

“Ahem… excuse me chaps, but perhaps you’ve heard of a little bear named Paddington? Also, do you have any marmalade?”

The starting point for this work is something called the Easterlin Paradox. In a 1974 paper, the economist Richard Easterlin presented empirical evidence on income and happiness that was pretty puzzling. Using surveys of how happy people say that they are, the paper seemed to show that within countries, the richer people are, the happier they are, but that between countries the same didn't hold.

This is not a paradox at all, instead it is something that makes total sense. After a certain point competition for goods and services is a matter of status as much as anything else. Moreover, you are competing in the same pricing market. Yes, perhaps it is better to be working class in America than upper middle class in, say, Ghana, however not that much better in terms of standard of living and way the heck worse in terms of social standing.

What this suggests is that being relatively rich compared to your fellow countrymen makes you happier, but that your absolute wealth doesn't matter. Once a minimum income level is reached, an amount necessary for a country's residents to subsist, all that extra economic growth doesn't appear to be improving life satisfaction.

I suspect this depends on how you define subsistence. If one were to do a really good, comparative study of this subject I imagine the line for subsistence would be socially relative. In America, subsisting probably requires far more than simply having food, clothing and shelter. But again, that would go back to the original argument the Easterlin paper would make.

The implications of Easterlin's discovery are pretty strong. It suggests that all this consumption is doing us no good. That is what the Christian MPs suggest, questioning whether we haven't sacrificed family life on the altar of capitalism. Indeed, some authors go farther and suggest that the very act of shopping is actually making us unhappy. The Easterlin Paradox certainly means that we shouldn't be organising our economies to maximise economic growth. Happiness, not income, should be our guide.

The problem is that I am not quite sure how one studies happiness in some sort of objective, quantifiable manner. This becomes particularly problematic when doing cross-cultural studies. Concepts of happiness probably range quite widely amongst different nations and backgrounds. I imagine it is nearly impossible to control these sorts of studies for income. I miss Paddington Bear, where did he go?

The leading happiness authors suggest that we should concentrate on reducing inequality. This might lead to lower national income, but who cares about that? It isn't making us happier. Increased equality would stop us all worrying about our relative positions and thus remove a source of unhappiness.

This is plausible, but I am not sure it’s unflawed. I think status differential is one of the very real sources of happiness, sadly, and removing wealth as a standard for status will just shift the battle in some other direction. This is not to say that redistributing wealth isn’t a good idea, it is as a way of helping to forge equal opportunity, however I am not sure it is the path to our universal happiness. Not to be too pessimistic, I suspect we live in a world where happiness is always going to be a function of a person’s place in society as well as their particular psyches. My point is that you can maximize happiness within an individual, but I think it’s a logical impossibility to universalize it.

And all this stuff has caught the mood. It's the intellectual vogue topic. David Cameron is talking about improving General Wellbeing not just Gross National Product. It's everywhere.

This is incredibly smart politics on Cameron’s part. This is leading to the rise of the new Right in Britain. It holds forth an ethos that the public can really buy in to, starkly different and more sympathetic than Thatcherism. It’s a model the American Right is going to be looking to after the bloodbath they’re going to face in the coming general election. (Seriously, it’s going be quite a disaster for them, their loss in the Mississippi-01 is, as Ambinder puts it, similar to a Democrat losing in Los Angeles County. Insane.)

There is just one teeny, tiny problem. It seems as if Easterlin wasn't correct.

It appears that before picking up their hammers to smash down on the handkerchief of economic growth, the happiness authors had an accident with the marmalade. They turned over two sticky pages at once and missed the reassessment of Easterlin's work that has been taking place.

Oh Finkelton Bear! How could you?! This was nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to make a bad analogy. Somewhere Paddington is crying, and you owe him an apology. This doesn’t even make any sense. It would, if say people had not read part of Easterlin’s work, but not reading responses? That’s no marmalade-encrusted page. I miss the happier time when I thought this column was going to be about how all we need is Paddington.

Easterlin's original paper was based on fairly limited data. Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, have been looking at the vast amount of data that has become available since then. And guess what? The two economists show that there is “a clear and positive link between average levels of subjective wellbeing across countries with no evidence of a satiation point beyond which wealthier countries have no further increases in subjective wellbeing”.

Whoa there, first of all I would need to know way way more about this before I would just conclude that Easterlin is wrong. But this misses the real question any way: Is the difference between the subjective happiness of people who live in the same country lesser or greater than the difference between people who occupy relatively similar positions in different countries, with different overall GDPs. In other words, all this shows is that countries with more money may have happier people. Duh. Moreover, countries with greater wealth (except for the United States) tend to have much fairer income distribution, there is no way to control for this.

In other words they show that it's not just relative wealth that matters, it is absolute wealth too - on average, the richer you are, the happier you are. And this isn't true just for the first slug of income, just until we can subsist, it is true all the way up and as economies keep growing.

Maybe, but it’s a question of prioritization. You cannot concentrate on growth and equality at the same time. The real issue is which is more critical to happiness.

The Nobel prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman is sufficiently important in this area of economics that Richard Layard dedicated his happiness book to him. Kahneman now believes the new evidence from the Wharton academics is “quite compelling” and adds that “there is just a vast amount of accumulating evidence that the Easterlin Paradox may not exist”.

This is just hearsay. See I’m like totally a lawyer.

Now this doesn't, of course, prove by itself that higher income causes greater happiness. Let's not make that mistake. In the academic literature on psychology you will find plenty of reason to believe, for instance, that the relationship might be the other way round - that greater happiness might cause higher income.

This would make total sense on a relative income level. Individuals who are happier may be more productive. This is weird and crazy on a state-actor level. It’s not like the country filled with the happiest people are the most prosperous. If that were the case Canada would have the second highest GDP, right behind The Netherlands.

At the very least, however, it shows that higher income is consistent with greater happiness and isn't actually making us unhappy. It also means, again at the very least, that if the happiness authors want to advance the faintly counterintuitive idea that more income doesn't increase life satisfaction, they have a lot of work to do finding an entirely new way of making their point.

None of this evidence disproves that point as far as I can see. It just presents an already obvious counter-consideration.

The Easterlin Paradox seemed to offer a way out for those unhappy with capitalism. After spending decades advancing methods of increasing growth that didn't work, much of the Left has moved on. Now they are arguing that growth doesn't matter or might actually be harmful. And the happiness literature helped make this point.

It sure is still a persuasive argument. Ask all of those people in rural Pennsylvania who are bitter and clinging to their guns. I imagine if you did a cross-strata study there would still be distinct levels of unhappiness amongst the lower-class. This new study would only argue against this if “growth” were some amorphous concept that would could just enhance. Instead, it means tending towards a more unfettered free market. As we have seen, long-term growth also tends to mean long-term class division. Extra dollops of happiness from those on top, taken straight from the plates of the least fortunate.

So what will happen now with these critics? Will they ignore the data? Will they walk away from the happiness idea and forget they ever mentioned it? Or will they turn their work on its head and use the new evidence to start arguing that capitalism might be the route to happiness after all?

What data, what new evidence?

I don't somehow think they'll choose this last option. Do you?

It would seem pretty foolish based on the no argument that has been provided thus far. But I know the answer my friend, more Paddington Bear, because I, for one, was way way happier when this was a discussion of that adorably mischievous bear than when you were asserting nonsense about Wharton studies.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

97 Senators on the Veepstakes (Dennis)

The Hill had the excellent idea of asking 97 Senators: “If you were asked, would you accept an offer to be the VP nominee?”

Here I commented on my favorites.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
“I know already who it will be: the man in charge of the search. There’s no need for me to respond. That’s how you get to be vice president.”

Fact: The man in charge of the VP search for Obama is Tom Daschle. Although, I'm pretty sure if he selected himself, David Axelrod would begin laughing and say "No, seriously...who is it? Sebelius?"

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.)
“You got your answer — a laugh. The president’s going to make that choice. You can see how much I’ve thought about it.”

Do you think Bush was reading this and thought: "Oh man, I get to pick the Vice President!"

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
“We already have a vice president from Wyoming. So we’ll have to see if Sen. McCain asks me to chair his selection committee. That seems to work well. It certainly seemed to work well for the last guy from Wyoming.”

Quick joketelling tip John Barrasso (if that is your real name), after three sentences this was a witty, sarcastic, friendly dig at Cheney. The fourth sentence ruined it. It made the whole thing seem too needy, like when you repeat a joke a second time, thinking people didn't hear you.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)

“No. I love my job. I’ve got the best job in the world, representing Montana in the U.S. Senate. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

As Victor Lazlo said, "You sound like a man trying to convince himself of something he doesn't really believe. "

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.)

“It’s presumptuous to even speculate about that kind of thing. But I suspect that’s not the sort of thing you say no to.”

I suspect thats not the sort of thing you would say no to, Evan Bayh....

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah)
“Of course. Big house, big car, not much to do. Why not?”

Sadly this was actually George Bush's rationale for running for President.

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.)
“I’m happy being called ‘Mr. Chairman.’ ”

Well played, Biden....well played.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.)
“Obviously, anybody who’s asked would consider it very seriously, but I’m not worried about it. I had the pleasure of being on Gerald Ford’s short list in ’76, but a lot of things have changed since then.”

Yes, that's right, in 1976, when Barack Obama was 15 and attending the Punahou School in Hawaii, Missouri Governor Kit Bond was on Gerald Ford's shortlist for Vice President. Kit Bond is old.

But do you know who is almost 3 years older than Kit Bond? You guessed it....John McCain.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)
“I would be honored to be asked. I’ve got to appraise the position in considering it. But I haven’t gone to the step of saying whether I would or wouldn’t at this point … I’d probably take away from the ticket, too. There’s always pros and cons. I’m strong pro-life, pro-marriage, and some people would say, ‘Well, I don’t like that.’ But really, people vote for president. Not vice president. I think vice president can hurt you more than it can help you. I can’t remember any time in my lifetime where I voted for a president because of the vice presidential nominee.”

If Joe Morgan ever became a Senator, this is what he would sound like.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.)
“No, I can already preside over the Senate, and I do not enjoy spending a lot of time at ‘undisclosed locations.’ ”

Uh oh, you know someone's getting senile when they start breaking out jokes from 2002.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)
“Does that include any sports picks or anything like that? … I would certainly consider it.”

In Sen. Cantwell's defense, she made a bet that she could out-drink Ted Kennedy and had just polished off her 9th vodka tonic when she answered this question.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)
“Yes. Sign me up. I’ve been kidding people for years: The hours are better, the wages are just as good — whoever heard of a vice president getting shot at? — and it’s a great opportunity to travel. And actually since time has gone by, the job is robust … So sure. Anybody here would, if they’re going to be honest. The chances are slim to none. But I promise you, I would deliver all three of Delaware’s electoral votes.”

I like Tom! Enthusiasm! A sense of humor! And why not Tom Carper? He is a 6 term Congressman, two term Governor, and in his second term as a Senator. He is a Vietnam veteran (rising to the rank of captain), an economist, a former Eugene McCarthy supporter, and a reformer by reputation. I want Tom!

Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.)
“I think the Democratic Party is full of strong candidates for vice president. But I don’t think I’ll be on that list.”

Uh oh, I really think we should keep sharp objects away from Sen. Casey. You're a good candidate too, Bob! Pennsylvania is a swing state! It could be you!

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
“When I was much younger I would have probably said, ‘Sure, I’ll be glad to accept it,’ but I’m 70 years [old] and they need a younger person for the job. I would probably tell them, ‘Look for somebody else.’ ”

People older than Thad Cochran: John McCain.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho)
“I would say ‘No, Hillary.’ ”

Oh Larry, you are quite the card. Now I know why you get all the guys.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
“No. I like serving in the Senate and I have no aspirations to be vice president. Hasn’t crossed my mind. Never really thought about it.”

I mean seriously.....McCain/Crapo?

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.)
“Never say no. You always have to give it some thought. It depends who asks you, too.”

When did Chris Dodd turn into a Hollywood agent from the the 40s?

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.)
“No. I’m too old.”

Come on! You're only 4 years older than....oh forget it...

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)
“Are you kidding? Every senator would accept that offer. My guess is that almost every senator looks at themselves in the mirror in the morning and sees either a future president or vice president.”

Cut to Byron Dorgan giving the State of the Union address in his bathrobe.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
“I have said that John needs to pick someone that he feels comfortable with and will help him win in the fall. I like him and I feel comfortable with him. But I think there are other portfolios that help more than I do. There are people that would bring a different portfolio to the table than I would and that would help us win in the fall.”

Lindsey sounds like he is trying to talk himself down.

"Don't get yourself too excited, Lindsey!" he says after McCain invites him out for dinner shortly after clinching the nomination.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
“I’m too old to be vice president. But I am young enough to be reelected to the Senate.”

Charles Ernest "Chuck" Grassley, born September 17, 1933
John Sidney McCain III, born August 29, 1936

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.)
“I’m not here to talk about that.”


Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
“No, I’d have Jon Stewart stand in for me. Jon Stewart. That’s my guy.”

Someone please check if Tom Harkin is actually a 22 year old undergrad at the University of Iowa.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)
“No. I enjoy life too much.”

Ohh come to Tom Carper! He thinks it'll be fun!

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii)
“If I were asked, I would say, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ ”

The sad part is that Robert Byrd asks him to be his Vice President every week.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)
“I would not be so presumptuous as to think I’d even thought about that. And I’d have to talk to my wife. Hey, that’s an honest answer.”

As in, "Hey, that's an honest answer..for once!"

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)
“I plan to stick with my current job until I get the hang of it.”

he said, with just a touch of bitterness. With that, those familiar regrets drifted into his mind: "If only I were younger. If only there hadn't been that terrible night so long ago." Then, in an exercise developed long ago to bear the pain of lost dreams, he caused the tormenting thoughts to dissolve, like a fog on a summer day, and he returned to work.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
“I don’t get into hypotheticals. No, I haven’t considered it. I don’t have a clue, honestly.”

Aww, John thinks he has a chance...isn't that cute?

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
“I’ve been waiting for someone to come up and propose it. I already told my wife to get ready to move. It has a beautiful living facility. But I like what I do. Frankly, it’s a more important job. You’re asked to respond to things in a more basic way than defending bad policy. I don’t like defending bad policy.”

"I don't like defending bad policy"? Way to show some confidence in your nominee there, Senator.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
“No. I’d like to see somebody from a large, diverse state.”

I think Vermont is going to make Leahy sleep on the couch tonight.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)
“Once is enough. I already have the T-shirt and I’m proud of it. I yield to my colleagues.”

Oh God, what do you think that shirt says? "I Received 51 Million Votes and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt"? "I'm With Sleepy"?

Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.)
“I’d say, ‘Please read the Constitution.’ I wasn’t born in America; I can’t be VP.”

Ahem... most constitutional scholars don't think this is a problem, but you know who also wasn't born in America? I think you can quote Wikipedia:

"McCain was born at Coco Solo Naval Air Station[2] in Panama to Navy officer John S. McCain, Jr. (1911–1981) and Roberta (Wright) McCain (b. 1912)."

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
“If I were asked, I would ask some mental health professionals to visit Barack Obama. I just think Sen. Obama is way too smart to pick me. I’m not a good pick, and he’s smarter than that. That’s why he’s going to make such a good president.”

If Jonathan's PAC gives McCaskill a 1% rating this year, you'll know how she earned the 1%.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)
“Absolutely. Absolutely. I think I would be great. First of all, I know how to behave at weddings and funerals. And I know how to be commander in chief. I’d bring a lot of fun to the job. We would rock the Naval Observatory.”

I am inviting Barbara Mikulski to my next party, along with Tom Carper.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
“My name has been discussed partly because I’m a female and it’s always nice to balance things in gender … I’ve discussed it with my kids. My 16-year-old thinks it’s a fabulous idea because he thinks we probably couldn’t find any better residence in Washington, D.C., than the Naval Observatory. That’s the fun part of the question, but I think anybody, if you were seriously asked, I think you have to give it very real and genuine consideration. I don’t expect to be asked, but if I were I would give it real and genuine consideration.”

Blah blah blah, ok yappy, we didn't really want a novel.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
“Any American citizen, large or small, would be honored to be asked. But I totally expect any of our candidates to have a tremendous list of people. I don’t expect to be asked.

Yes "large or small" from the tiniest Kucinich to the biggest Bill Bradley.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
“They can do a lot better than me. I just don’t see it happening. I don’t know what I’d bring to the ticket. I’d have to think about it. I don’t see how I would add much to the ticket. To give you an honest answer, I don’t know what I’d do.


Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
“No. I’m too deeply ingrained in the culture of the people of West Virginia. It wouldn’t even be a choice for me. I want to stay where I am and do what I do. That’s non-debatable.”

Too ingrained in the culture of West Virginia? I'm sure they'll allow you a banjo and the occasional hootenanny, Senator.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
“I have not yet been asked. Furthermore, I expect I will not be asked.”

Unfortunately for Bernie, I believe Obama has already wrapped up the hippie, socialist vote.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
“I like where I am in the United States Senate. Obviously, you would always consider something like that, but I’m happy where I am.”

Ooh Olympia would like to be wouldn't be the worst choice for McCain...

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)
“Absolutely not.”

"I have much more important matters to attend to, like finding out who is responsible for Spy Gate!"

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)
“No. I’ve got too many things that I still want to do as a senator. And I don’t like the idea of a job where you sit around and wait for someone to die.”

1.) What's the over/under on how many felonies those "too many things" involve?

2.) How creepy would Ted Stevens be as VP, when he thinks his job is to "wait for someone to die"?

Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.)
“I am focused on my election. And frankly, I don’t think John McCain should pick any member of Congress or the United States Senate.”

Ahem...don't start spouting off this pearl of wisdom in front of Voinovich...

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio)
“Honestly, if John McCain came to me and said, ‘George, I think that you would help me and should be part of my team,’ I’d have to say, ‘Yes, I’d be glad to help.’ The fact of the matter is, I’m worried about our country. I’m really worried. And I want to run again for only one reason, that things are so screwed up, I’m just worried about my kids. So if somebody came to me and said, ‘We really think you could help us do this,’ I couldn’t say no because maybe it’s another way of serving my country and it’s maybe even more important than being a senator. The first question I’d ask is, ‘What role would you want me to play? If you want me to give a bunch of speeches, I’m not the guy. Get somebody else. If you want me to roll up the shirtsleeves, get up early in the morning, dot the I’s and cross the T’s, do substantive stuff? OK.’ ”

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.)
“I’m not really interested. That’s all I want to say.”

Not "really" interested eh?

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)
“The chances of that are so remote that I’m more likely to be hit by an asteroid.”

Great, Wicker, we don't have enough problems without you jinxing us into getting hit by an asteroid.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
“I have a unique perspective on this. I am the only senator to have announced I am not running for president because there should be someone here to serve as the Senate’s designated driver. I intend to stay in that position. The Senate needs a designated driver to stay behind and work on healthcare.”

Do you think before that last sentence he thought "oh shit, I really should not be sharing that inside tidbit of information"?

We All Make Sacrifices (JM)

Hey everybody, we need to tighten our belts and realize there's a war going on. We need our metal for bullets, our corn meal for feeding the troops and our saltpeter for whatever one uses saltpeter for (creating Revolutionary War ammunition I think). Anyway even our Commander-in-Chief understands that we need to make sacrifices, just like the boys overseas:

For the first time, Bush revealed a personal way in which he has tried to acknowledge the sacrifice of soldiers and their families: He has given up golf.

“I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” he said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”

I am not going to go off on some sort of anti-war rant here, but this is just absolutely hilarious. I am not going to disagree that keeping pictures of the president playing golf out of the paper during a war he caused is a bad idea. No, it's a really good idea. However, bragging about this like it's some kind of noble sacrifice is like giving up brussel sprouts for Lent. What up, Catholic folk?! Look who can bring the papist humor. Also take that National Association for the Advancement of Brussel Sprouts (NAABS), I've had it with your BS for long enough. Anyway, the point is this is just another, in a litany, of silly things our president has said.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Maureen Dowd is Like Playing Mad Libs with Someone Who Has Tourette's (Actually Strike That, That Sounds Pretty Awesome) (JM)

Is She a Trojan Rabbit?

The thing about Maureen’s titles is that they rarely make any more sense after reading the column than they do at the beginning. Let’s go ahead and see if this holds true this week. (SPOILER ALERT: It does.)



Now Barack Obama faces a true dilemma: how best to punish Hillary Clinton.

Yes, this really should be his focus. I say a lifetime of labor in the gulag for trying to win an election.

After 15 months of fighting her off, as she veered wildly from bully to victim, as she brandished any ice pick at hand, whether racial, sexual, mathematical or marital (in the form of her Vesuvian husband), Obama must decide the most efficacious means of doing to Hillary what she has been trying to do to him: putting her in her place.

This is definitely the recipe for reunifying the party, concentrating on putting Hillary in her place. I think the mere fact that she lost has put her in her place. By the way, how misogynistic would this be if written by anyone other than a woman. Hell, screw it, still weird and misogynistic as Dowd usually is. Also “vesuvian”? There are like a billion better adjectives for Bill and if you’re trying to impress us with your vocabulary, well it’s a bit too late for that I am afraid.

Her last resort is to continue to press the “Psssst — he’s a black man” tactic. She insisted to USAToday, after the North Carolina and Indiana slide, that she has a broader base, citing an Associated Press article “that found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”

This is a totally legitimate criticism and a major concern for the general election. Race is a touchy issue, but demographic bases is a legitimate discussion and should not be construed as mere race baiting.

So how does Obama repay Hillary for running a campaign designed both to unman him and brand him as an unelectable black? Is the most ingenious way to turn the screw by not choosing her as his running mate, or by choosing her?

How about making a decision on what’s best for the party. The answer is probably she would not be an ideal running mate, but then again she does very much excite her base. Someone who appeals to that base is necessary.

It is, verily, a sticky wicket.

You are, verily, a Lemony Snicket.

One top Hillary supporter who is black warns that, despite the giddy dreams of some punch-drunk Democrats, a fusion ticket could backfire because “Americans can’t handle too much change at once.”

I actually think this analysis is profoundly stupid. I suspect that people who are deterred by either gender or race are likely to be deterred one way or another. I doubt there is someone out there who is thinking, “I am okay with either a black man or a woman as president, but both? That’s just too much change for me!” This is both inane and offensive. The fact is that it is time to just get over this shit and act like this is not a big deal, because when we can treat this like it’s no big deal, well that’s the real victory.

But should Obama ignore that caution and appease Hillary fans by putting her on the ticket?

As president, he could announce that, because Dick Cheney abused the powers of his office so grievously, taking the title “Vice” literally, he intends to shrink the vice presidency back to its “bucket of warm spit” Constitutional prerogatives — presiding over the Senate and taking over if the president goes under anesthesia.

See how that might not appease Hillary fans. Why do you assume punishment is the ultimate goal here. That seems like a pretty stupid goal. Also Obama knows Hillary is a pretty good resource, if he makes her VP it will be with a fairly significant portfolio, probably health care. Anything less would be a debacle.

He might also neglect to give Bill (whose acronym would be SLOTUS, Second Lad of the United States) full White House access.

Another awesome plan, a bitter, pissed off former POTUS running around the world. Maureen, I want you to be in charge of all my life’s decisions from now on.

Aside from the delight Bill would get from living at the Naval Observatory and having a huge telescope to window-peep with, there wouldn’t be much joy in Hillaryland.

Jokes, I like them.

The lady-in-waiting would be surrounded by Obama disciples who disdained her for fighting dirty. And she would be miserable holding up the train of the young prince who usurped her dream, derailing the post-nup she had with Bill to trade places.

The first part of this paragraph is true. I am not sure what a post-nup is, but yes I buy that it would be uncomfortable for her.

As de facto veep for Bill, she had enough leverage over him, due to his shenanigans, to co-opt huge chunks of policy and personnel decisions.

Does Maureen just hate being female. Does she really believe that the only reason Hillary had any policy influence was because she had dirt on Bill. This is just preposterous. Not only is it offensive to her, it is also offense to the millions of people who are certain Hillary would be an incredibly competent world leader.

But in a return engagement with Obama at the top, could she really wake up every day in the back seat and wish him well, or would she just be plotting? (Fourteen vice presidents have ascended, after all.) Wouldn’t she be, in Monty Python parlance, the Trojan Rabbit behind the gates?

See, look, her title came back. It still makes no sense, just another silly pop culture reference to cover up for a weak, weak argument. Plotting what?! If she’s VP her only goal would be a successful Obama administration. She cannot run until he leaves office, so either way, if he wins it’s another eight years, so they better be good ones. If she’s his VP candidate and they lose that damages her terminally. If she really wants to plot, it wouldn’t be from instead the White House.

On a positive note, maybe she could bring back all that stuff she pilfered on her way out.

Umm… did Dowd just accuse Hillary of being a klepto?

Obama’s other option, laid out by Teddy Kennedy on Friday, is to go with someone who wouldn’t be a big dark cloud over his sunshiny new politics.

Teddy told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt that Obama should choose a partner “in tune with his appeal for the nobler aspirations of the American people.”

Yeah, this was a obnoxious comment, especially given that Hillary is in tune with almost exactly fifty percent of Democratic voters.

That would be smart for another reason: Hillary has a strange, unnerving effect on Obama, and whenever he is around her, he’s unable to do his best. Probably, it’s because she’s furious, always shaking his hand off her arm, ignoring him, giving him the evil eye and emasculating him, and the Golden One is not used to such rough treatment.

Hillary as enemy and Hillary as teammate are two very different things. But essentially you’re correct, if Obama is uncomfortable with her, he shouldn’t choose her. However, it’s difficult to imaging that she is like some sort of competence sucking Dementor.

In the last few days, as Hillary has deflated and Obama and the Democrats have dashed for daylight, he has been more like his old self, flashing his all-is-right-with-the-world smile on the cover of Time, joshing and charming Democrats and Republicans as he wooed superdelegates on the House floor, taking on James Carville for insulting his manhood.

“James Carville is well known for spouting off his mouth without always knowing what he’s talking about,” he told Terry Moran on “Nightline.”

James Carville will survive, this is irrelevant to the question at hand.

Obama will never be at his best around Hillary; she drains him of his magical powers. She’s Jane Jinx to him. It’s a similar syndrome to the one Katharine Hepburn’s star athlete and her supercilious fiancé have in “Pat and Mike.”

What a stupid assertion structured merely to lead in to a pop culture reference. Most people use the pop culture references to emphasize their point. Not Maureen, she uses her point to emphasize her pop culture references. She’s kind of like Rose Nyland, with stories from St. Olaf, but way less charming and way more evil.

The fiancé is always belittling Hepburn, so whenever he’s in the stands, her tennis and golf go kerflooey. Finally, her manager, played by Spencer Tracy, asks the fiancé to stay away from big matches, explaining, “You are the wrong jockey for this chick.”

“You know, except when you’re around, we got a very valuable piece of property here,” he says, later adding, “When you’re around, she’s no good, she’s dead, see?”

Movie quotations are not persuasive evidence. Thus far you have made a blanket assertion about Obama being unable to perform when Hillary is around and supported it be quoting a Tracy and Hepburn movie.

“Oh, god, he’s Hepburn.” See I can randomly quote television shows too, and to one up Maureen I am not even giving you any context or relevance at all.

The best way Obama can punish Hillary is to reward himself. He’s no good around her, see?

The best way Obama can be president is not to think like a twelve year-old girl snipping at a lunch table. Just how bad was your childhood Maureen? Really miserable I bet, you are a pretty unlikable person.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The West Wing Gets Involved (JM)

I love it, I love it, I love it! So all y'all who've been paying attention know that Arianna Huffington has accused McCain of claiming that he did not vote for Bush in 2000. Apparently this took place at a Hollywood party. The New York Times interviewed some witnesses to this event. Guess who they were:

“McCain was just sort of going off on how much he disliked Bush and the horrible things that the Bush campaign had done to his family in South Carolina, and his exasperation with Bush about his ridiculous tax cuts and he really wanted to talk to him about it, but he said the guy doesn’t have the concentration, and you talk for 10 minutes and then the guy wants to talk about baseball,” Mr. Whitford said.

Another guest then asked Mr. McCain, Mr. Whitford recalled, whether he had voted for Mr. Bush. “And he put his finger in front of his mouth and mouthed, ‘No way,’ ” Mr. Whitford said.

Mr. Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler, the White House communications director on “The West Wing,” said he was listening to Mr. McCain from the other of the two tables in the room.

“Someone asked, ‘What do you think of Bush?’ ” Mr. Schiff recalled. “My recollection, and I have to qualify this, because I’m not 100 percent sure he used this word, but my recollection is that McCain said that Bush was dangerous and he didn’t trust him. Then this person said, ‘Why did you support him?’ And McCain said, ‘It was my obligation as a Republican to support the Republican candidate.’ And the person said, ‘Did you vote for him?’ And McCain said, ‘No.’ ”

Man, it would be funnier if Bradley Whitford were more sarcastic and Richard Schiff were more bitter and throwing a ball against a window, but what are you going to do. In real life there are no President Bartlet's and despite the fact that my high school science teacher used to refer to me as Josh Lyman, people that cool just don't really exist. Either way, a fun tidbit for fans of political scandal and The West Wing.

Actually, while we're on this subject, I am not so clear how this even remotely hurts McCain. He's being attacked by the media and Hollywood liberals, which will help him secure his base, while being accused of repudiating a man not supported by almost eighty percent of the country. So on second thought... way to screw up guys, you better avoid Leo for the rest of the day.

Who's the Eleventh Most Influential Jew in All of Brittania and the Veepstakes (JM)

Why, if you said our good buddy Lord Finkelton, you'd be correct. Of course, if you can name one other Jew on the list of most influential Jews in Great Britain, I'd be impressed (Save uberfamous Man U football star Reb Ronaldowitz, obviously he is number one). Anyhow, congrats old friend please use this power wisely.

Now on to Daniel Finkelstein ranks the Veep candidates (which, by the by, will allow me to make some of my own comments on the matter at hand:

So it's Obama. But who's going to fill the second slot on the Democratic ticket?

I am not going to spend much time on this here, but I still wonder why now is the time everyone has decided it’s over. I mean, because Russert said so? Russert says lots of really inane things. The point is that Clinton’s situation is ostensibly no different than it was last week, she is tasked with convincing the automatic delegates that Obama simply can’t win. By the by, ARG has Obama at 23% in West Virginia.

1) Hillary Clinton

Many believe Obama will have to offer the VP slot to Clinton. Andrew Sullivan called it the hate-filled dream ticket. But will she accept it? If Obama loses, she may see a 2012 race opening up before her.

I think ranking Hillary first is both lazy and inaccurate. I agree that she’s on this list somewhere, probably third, but definitely not the most likely choice (she definitely would be, however, if Obama knew she’d turn it down). People have been explaining why this won’t happen for profoundly silly reasons, like she undercuts the message of change. That’s distinctly not why she is unlikely to get the nod. There are two excellent reasons. The first is that there are about 321847908062134609 video clips of Hillary cutting down Obama, this would make for some pretty damaging commercials. The second is simply a matter of Hillary thinks (and probably would be) a far more competent administrator, she would never accept a role as a mere functionary, add Bill Clinton to the mix as Second Laddie and you’ve got a bad situation all together.

2) Al Gore

He's certainly got the experience. But the eco-warrior probably has no desire to return to Pennsylvania Avenue. Winning his endorsement would have set Obama up for the nomination. Does he need Gore any more?

Awww… good times. This is how we met Danny, don’t you recall? You posted about how Al Gore would be an excellent VP for Obama? It was insane then, it is insaner now. If Gore wanted the nomination it was his. Literally, he could have just stood up and said, “Hrmm… excuuuse me, but I think I’d like to be President.” And so it would have been. There is just no reason he’d be Vice President to someone less experienced than him. Let’s all face it, Gore is done with politics, instead it the Earth now.

3) John Edwards

A serious contender. The North Carolina Senator ran with John Kerry in 2004 and would bring the Southern link currently missing in Obama's campaign. But would he want to do it again? And would Obama feel Edwards should have been with him earlier?

Edwards wasn’t a great running mate for Kerry and not a terribly good attack dog. However, this is irrelevant because Edwards has made it quite clear that he has no interest in being the Vice President. He wants to become to poverty, what Gore is to the environment. It’s an odd age we’re starting to see, where politicians are starting to become the leaders of particular causes, I think it’s effective and interesting. Certainly something to talk more about in the coming days, but the chances of this are nil. Thus far, if we were playing Mastermind, Lord Finkelton would have one right in the wrong position.

4) Kathleen Sebelius

Sebelius's name has been cropping up more and more frequently. The two-term Governor of Kansas fills in many of the gaps in Obama's support base. She may not have much foreign policy experience but she'll bring a red state with her. And a female Vice-President might help soothe Clinton's supporters. One to watch.

Alright, is it just me or does the whole Sebelius thing seem like a product of the silly grassroots internets and the punditry? A few things, there is zero statistical evidence that VP candidates from swing or red states bring their states with them. Heck, eight years ago Al Gore lost the presidency because he couldn’t win Tennessee from the President slot, so forget about Kansas. Being a two-term governor of Kansas doesn’t ameliorate any of Obama’s weaknesses, it’s not like California, Texas or New York, where you are essentially the executive of a small country. To say that her response to the State of the Union was a debacle is to put it mildly.

There is, however, a much more salient issue to address here. Having the same gender as Hillary does not pacify the supporters of Hillary Clinton. To suggest that Hillary had female supporters who only cared about her internal organs is to simplify an awfully complex dynamic and, at risk of saying something that is about to make me ill, is slightly misogynistic. I think Hillary’s pro-feminist supports liked her because of her strength, what she could do for the movement and her particular role in history. Dennis and I seems to be big fans of using cutting-edge baseball statistical terms to explaining things, but Hillary’s VORFC (Value of Replacement Female Candidate) is quite high. Simply placing a female on the ticket fixes very little in terms of bringing back the base.

That said, Sebelius belongs on the list because of the buzz, but I wouldn’t put her above many of the candidates yet to be mentioned. On a personal note, this is one of the few pairings that would leave me pause voting Democrat this year.

5) Bill Richardson

Also extremely likely. Pundits state that he's been running for VP since the beginning. He brings foreign policy experience and the Hispanic vote with him.

First of all, awesome analysis. I am not sure how the fifth-ranked person on your list can also be “extremely likely”. Unless, Obama is going to go for a unity ticket and make all the American people Vice President.

Richardson probably has a good shot, I don’t love the idea, but he comes from a winnable swing state, has pull with Hispanic voters and seems to have experience despite appearing to be an eminently silly individual. He’d probably be number two on my likelihood rankings as of right now.

6) Wesley Clark

A former four-star general, Wes Clark served in Kosovo and studied PPE at Oxford. He would lend Obama military clout and cross party-lines in his appeal.

Number six, with a bullet. This is the winner. I think Wesley Clark has a better than thirty percent chance of being the VP nominee. As a hardcore Clinton supporter he helps bridge the divide a bit, he’s obviously credible on issues military and international, he’s smart and is not a Washington insider. In my list of potential VPs, Wesley Clark is first.

7) Jim Webb

The junior Virginia senator since 2006. He could provide the machismo that Obama needs. A military man with a son in Iraq, he's regarded as one of the most authorative Democratic voices on the conflict. Known to carry a loaded pistol on occasion. As a former Reagan man he would add to Obama's cross party appeal and make it slightly harder to paint the candidate as an unrepentant liberal.

I like Webb, though I am often unclear precisely what to make of him. I think this is a non-starter despite his pundit appeal. He’s been in the Senate for far too short an amount of time, he’s a leading voice on some critical issues in the legislature, but most critically he has a strong position for a Senate seat in a weakish state. If the Dems want to continue to control the Senate (and eventually get to the magic number of 60) Webb stays where he is for now. He’s got national politics in his future, just not yet. (Though who knows, that’s what I thought about Obama, that’s what you all should have thought about Obama, I hate you all so much sometimes).

8) Robert Casey

The Pennsylvania senator has already endorsed Obama. As VP, he would help out in the white working-class states. And his Catholic faith would reach out to an important voting bloc.

Now you’re just listing people you’ve read about recently. Casey’s pro-life, it’s a total non-starter in national, Democratic politics. If anyone is coming out of Pennsylvania it’ll be Ed Rendell. I’d love it, we’d all love it. I like to think of Ed Rendell as a funnier version of Gov. Eric Baker (Ed O’Neill’s character from The West Wing). Either way, no chance on Casey.

9) Oprah Winfrey

She's already one of America's most powerful women. Could DC be next on her world-domination agenda? Just a thought.

Was this really a thought? It’s either an unfunny joke or really really supersilly political analysis. Sometimes I cannot tell how far inside your cheek your tongue is Daniel Finkelstein, honestly I cannot. I will tell you this now, I’ll let Obama pick Oprah, if McCain gets to pick Brimley. But I swear to God, if I know anyone who votes against McCain/Brimley we are just never ever talking again.

10) Joe Biden

Might he be the first Biden in a thousand generations to run for President? A senator since 1972, his presidential runs have never taken off. But his international experience might make him a good choice and he'd appeal to the white male vote. His description of Obama as 'clean' didn't do him any favours though. And some think he is more likely to be Secretary of State.

So I honestly don’t get that first question. Does anyone? Seriously. Anyway, Biden should be running for President right now, we all know it. By all I mean me and maybe Dennis. This election would be over already if he’d gotten the nod. I think this is possible, but not super likely, I would suggest maybe fifth or sixth most likely with low odds. He didn’t endorse, which gives him neither loyality or bridge dividing appeal and occasionally he needs to extricate his foot from his mouth. He is, however, brilliant, authoritative and strong in all the areas Obama is weak. He’d be a great choice, just not one I am sure the Obama camp will make.

So all in all it’s not a ridiculous list, no more ridiculous than some of the others I have seen (though there were some crazy bad choices). Congrats again on your hard work being Jewish moderately influential Daniel, we here at AOTG wish you well.

Just in case your interested here are my two sets of Veep Rankings, one for likelihood and one for actually being a good idea:

Likelihood: 1) Wesley Clark; 2) Kathleen Sebelius; 3) Bill Richardson; 4) Hillary Clinton; 5) Tim Kaine; 6) Ed Rendell

Good Idea: 1) Joseph Biden; 2) Wesley Clark; 3) Hillary Clinton; 4) Ed Rendell; 5) Mike Bloomberg

I am hoping this is not just wishful thinking on my part, but I suspect that there is a reasonable chance that Clark ends up being an excellent compromise pick. It’s interesting because last time Clark seriously ran for President I was staunchly opposed. I like to see growth in politics. He has grown well, just as I bet Obama would have been a force to be reckoned with 4-8 years from now. As it is, it’ll be a tough general, a coin flip at this point, but here’s hoping for Obama/Biden or Obama/Clark.

P.S. If it’s Obama/McCaskill I am moving to Korea.

Great Blog Post Titles That I Don't Want Ruined For Me (JM)

Often the existence of ESPN Insider is a source of frustration for me, rather than mystery and delight. But today, in the course of my daily rummaging, I came across this amazing blog post title: Drafting Negro Leaguers good idea by Rob Neyer. I cannot see the content because I am too cheap to pay for Rob Neyer's brilliance and rumors from Buster Olney that are true about fifteen percent of the time, if only John Kruk blogged, then then I would pay. So if you have Insider, feel free to read it, but do not tell me what it means, because in my imagination, it is just soooooooooo much better than it ever could be in real life.

Mr. Burns: Smithers, put together the best team money can buy, get the best players from the National League, the American League, the Negro League!

Also a quick shout out to Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, who if alive today would be a 138, and quite possibly still the second best pitcher on the Washington Nationals pitching staff.

The Veepstakes (Dennis)

Alright, I finally feel safe enough to talk about Obama's Vice Presidential pick. Here are my thoughts on several candidates who may or may not get the nod:

Hillary Clinton: I actually think Obama really wants to make her the pick. Back in the fall of 2007, I read a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin called Team of Rivals about Lincoln the politician . The theme of this book was how an inexperienced, frequently underestimated politician became president, filled his cabinet with his (much more experienced) rivals for the Republican nomination, and ended up skillfully manipulating all of them to successful ends. I thought at the time that Lincoln's as a candidate in 1860 reminded me a lot of Obama at the time. And lo and behold, when he was asked what book he would take into the White House Obama guessed it...Team of Rivals.

So what does this all mean? I think Obama likes the idea of taking on the challenge of picking Hillary. His Hopementum side has to be thinking "I can unify the party, I can bridge the divide..." Meanwhile his Ego is telling him "she probably thinks she can push you around, you'll show her! Be like Lincoln, pick her and use her talents to further your goals and your presidency and someday Doris Kearns Goodwin III will write a book about you."

As for me, I think Hillary certainly brings some good things to the table. The VP slot will be a nice consolation prize for the Hillary supporters, and that would make the uniting of the party a whole lot easier. Also, Hillary, to be a little cliche, really hit her stride in the past month or so as a candidate. She tapped into a visceral passion that a lot of people (including me) thought she had lost for good sometime in the late 1970s. The idea of her and Bill barnstorming the country attacking McCain like tag team wrestling heels really appeals to me; it would be a two person Left Wing Noise Machine that could more than counter any "independent" underhanded efforts McCain has going for him.

The downside is that Hillary and Bill could become to the Obama campaign what Bill became to the Hillary campaign: an enormous distraction. There's a danger that the media would be so tied up with the Clinton melodrama that it would be unclear who was the nominee, who was the Vice Presidential candidate, and who was the Vice Presidential candidate's spouse.

Clinton is a high risk, high reward VP pick. And I think if Obama believes he can control her, she'll get the nod.

Kathleen Sebelius: Ewww....I'm sure I'll get used to her as a VP candidate, and she is apparently a pretty good governor, but anyone who saw the Democratic response to the State of the Union address has to be apprehensive. The VP needs to be a kind of Prime Surrogate, and as a surrogate, I think Obama could do better with a potato. Christ, she would need to bring Reverend Wright along to her campaign events so that people wouldn't fall asleep. No no no please not her.

Claire McCaskill: Unlike Jon I do not hate Claire McCaskill, I'm just sort of meh on her. She is a moderate Democrat from a state we want to win, but she just got into the Senate two years ago by a razor thin margin, so I doubt she has that much institutional pull there. She has also capitulated on votes that I thought were pretty important. So I would be pretty unenthusiastic about this pick.

Mike Bloomberg: Ah Obama/Bloomberg, a ticket the media can believe in! Seriously how many adoring pieces would David Broder write about this ticket? He would actually kidnap Charles Krauthammer so he could forge extra columns for the Post. But seriously, I do like Bloomberg, and he would be better than the Replacement Level VP Candidate (Tom Daschle).

How likely is this, though? It does kind of make sense; they both have sounded similar themes in their recent years. But, then again, this feels a little too gimicky, a little too parlorgameish to be the pick. It's the kind of out of the blue VP pick that you suspect will get a lot of gossip time over the summer, but won't happen in the end (like McCain for Kerry in '04 or Ford for Reagan in '80).

Bill Richardson: Yes he reminds you of a used car salesman/ your dad's tedious friend from work ("You know Bob, you should really try dees new foot inserts, dey do a great jahb protectin yer feet."). Yes you roll your eyes at him constantly. But, then again, he just might be corrupt enough to swing New Mexico for us, which would give him a pretty good VORVP (Value Over Replacement VP).

Ed Rendell: Ed Rendell is really my dark horse pick for Obama's VP spot right now. Doesn't this just make way too much sense to not be considered? Rendell is a real Regular Guy, he has a political machine in a state that Obama will probably need to win, he is a key Clinton supporter, and he's been a great surrogate these past few months. Check, check, and check. Also think of the metaphors that would come out of the feverish mind of Chris Matthews concerning this ticket....

Chris Matthews: Keith, doesn't this remind you of Casablanca?

Keith Olbermann (visibly horrified): ....what?

Chris: Keith I mean this is like...this is like Humphrey Bogart, the hardened cynic coming down on the side of Victor Lazlo, going off with the French resistence...I love it. And Hillary...

Keith: Oh God....

Chris (unfazed): Hillary is like Ugarte, she thought she was getting those Letters of Transit...but she ended up getting whacked! HAAH!.........I mean politically of course...I don't want to get myself in trouble...

Governor X Who Can Carry Swing State Y: To finish up, I just want to say something about this generic class of VP picks. I think there are just a whole class of politicians...Tim Kaine, Ted Strickland etc. who we don't know a ton about except for the fact that they are governors of certain important states. We don't know if they'd be good surrogates, they certainly haven't distinguished themselves on the national stage yet, and we're really just kind of hoping their voters are idiots and will vote for the ticket that nominates their governor. This just seems like small ball to me, trying to bunt a guy over to 2nd when you have 1 out so you can maybe squeeze out that one run with a lucky hit. With so many quality politicians out there beyond who I've mentioned here (people like Joe Biden, Chris Dodd etc.), why waste your VP selection on a chance that's so unlikely to pan out?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Home At The End of the World (JM)

Humanity, in all of its forms, never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think they're going to zig, they zag like nobody's business. Paulville is an organization dedicated to creating gated communities of Ron Paul supporters where, if you join them, you can be "free to live your life the way you want and not be forced to do or pay for other people's life styles you may not agree with." I am not sure there are appropriate words in the English language to allow me to comment on this. I think I will invent a new word, "gastrogasmitronic", which means that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when something so absurdly funny exists that you don't really believe it exists, and that makes it all the more amusing. This is gastrogasmitronic in its implications. In fact, it gets even better:

These communities are not for the faint at heard they will start as undeveloped land in non city locals, as this is the way to secure large tracts of land needed for these efforts.

I want y'all to parse out the implications of this please. This is a collection of people, moving to a desolate wasteland, with no intention of paying taxes, whose most basic ethos is opposition to any form of collective action. This is going to go well, maybe even super well. I am really pretty unclear how this is much different than Waco. In fact, doesn't Ron Paul resemble Marshall Applewhite from Heaven's Gate, just a little.

Anyway, I really hope we get frequent updates from the community where people spend their time fighting over whose tract of land the aqueduct gets built on. I will tell you this much, if somehow I destroy my career and personal life in one fell swoop (this would not be an impossible feat for me) I am going to move on a setup shop in Paulville. Remember my motto folks: Liberte, Liberte, Fraternite (unless it gets in the way of my liberte).

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I Can Always Depend on Stossel to Cure What Ails Me (JM)

Unless the government watches closely, the airlines will kill you.

As I read this, I picturing a giant, cartoon JetBlue plane tiptoeing up behind me, brandishing a knife. Only to be stopped by a British bobby wearing a hat that says “Government Regulation” on it. Then John Stossel shows up wearing a fedora with a little slip of paper on it that reads “Press”. But perhaps I’ve said too much…

That seems to be what many reporters and politicians believe.

Not, like literally, but yeah inspections seems like a pretty nifty idea.

"The result of inspection failures and enforcement failure [by the Federal Aviation Administration] has meant that aircraft have flown unsafe, un-airworthy and at risk of lives," says Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

"The FAA has clearly displayed a dangerous and cavalier lack of regard for tough safety enforcement," says Sen. Hillary Clinton.

And Lou Dobbs of CNN wondered "whether airlines are putting profit ahead of passenger safety."

I mean this seems likely. Look, I don’t think airlines ever want their planes to crash, bad PR, dead employees and lawsuits and whatnot, but their bottom line is still profit maximization and they are less specifically interested in safety than a balance between safety risks and profits. It’s not a choice between all safety and no safety for these airlines, it’s a balance and government regulation clearly helps shift the balance in the direction of greater safety.

Let me get this straight. The only reason airlines care about safety is because of the FAA? So without government, multibillion-dollar companies would jeopardize millions of passengers by unsafely flying $50-million airplanes?

Uhh, no Commander Strawman from the planet Exaggertron Prime, it is one of many reasons.

The media and politicians suggest that airlines would cut corners to make money, but how would that work exactly? Crashing airliners is a route to bankruptcy, not profits.

To be persuaded by this argument, I would actually have to stick my head in an elevator while Delta Burke repeatedly pressed the door close button over and over for a period of three weeks in which I did not eat, sleep or drink anything. Don’t ask me why it has to be Delta Burke, it just has to, okay? Or Gerald McRaney.

But air-travel safety has joined mortgage defaults and global warming as "crises" of the month.

What are all really bad things that deserve to be called crises?

Populists in politics and the media get attention by scaring people into thinking the skies are dangerous. The politicians want more power and attention; the clueless media are genuinely scared.

Yes, keeping airplanes safe, just another step down the road to tyranny. Thank you John Stossel for preventing us from making such a horrible mistake. First they come for the airlines, then they come for the environments, and then the Jews…

The latest "crisis" was launched when the FAA fined Southwest Airlines, which has an excellent safety record, $10.2 million for missing inspection deadlines. When Rep. Oberstar criticized the FAA for being too close to the airlines, the agency sprung into overreaction. "An industry-wide 'audit' commenced, and FAA inspectors set about finding something -- anything -- to show Mr. Oberstar and other Congressional overseers that the agency was up to the job of enforcing federal maintenance requirements to the letter," said The Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Steet Journal!!! Turn this ship around, my argument has run aground against an iceberg of objectivity! Yes, sometimes governmental regulators act politically, but they still have the goal of general safety, they don’t actually decrease the level of safety at all.

One result was the cancellation of 3,300 American Airlines flights and the stranding of 250,000 passengers over several days while 300 MD-80s were grounded so their wiring could be inspected.

Yes, I found this disconcerting too…

American Airlines then did something rare and even heroic. It criticized the agency that regulates it for suddenly changing inspection procedures in ways that have little to do with safety. "We don't know what the rules are," said an American technical crew chief for avionics. Some rules contradict each other, the airline said.

Why yes, they are our greatest heros! Why we need to add a new chapter to Profiles in Courage. American Airlines for complaining about FAA inspections. They are Aeneas, Superman, the Green Lantern, John McCain and Jared from Subway combined. So in sum, very heroic.

The FAA disputes American's claims, but The New York Times reports that "John Goglia, a maintenance expert and former member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that the rules had, in fact, changed. ... The differences in American's work, he said, were so small that 'those airplanes could have flown for the rest of their careers and those wires would not have been a problem.'"

Look, I obviously do not know the technical details of these regulations. I know I don’t trust you, John Stossel, to not cherry-pick only the most advantageous quotes. But here’s where I stand on this: Any mistake maybe erring against regulation could lead to a lot of dead individuals. There is often no middle ground in airline accidents. I would rather over than under reach and I am certainly not willing to wait and let the market solve.

What about alarmist claims that the FAA has been lax in enforcing its own procedures? If the claims are true, then where are the bodies? The best evidence that FAA enforcement is unnecessary is to assume it's been lax -- and then to note that airline travel, though busier than ever, has never been safer (

How is this possible the “best evidence”? Assume it’s not doing its job and then we can assume it’s ineffectual. You, sir, are silly. Also how about massive advances in technology explaining an increase in safety? However, we can still make it safer.

We need to rethink the premise that government inspections keep us safe.

Based entirely on the no evidence you have provided us with.

Clifford Winston and Robert W. Crandall of the Brookings Institution write: "[T]he fundamental problem with most regulation is that the regulatory agency does not have sufficient information, flexibility and immunity from political pressure to regulate firms' behavior effectively. Fortunately, the market, and in some cases the liability system, provide sufficient incentives for firms to behave in a socially beneficial manner."

This is the most generic and stupid sentence I have ever seen. It’s not like these are mutual exclusive propositions, right? The market still exists too, they might have slightly better information, but not as strong motivation. For the FAA the ultimate goal is safety, for the market the ultimate goal is profit maximization. I would prefer to have both in place. Also I am not sure why the FAA doesn’t have adequate information, it’s not like they hire some guy named Ron off the street to inspect these planes. It’s usually, you know, aviation engineers and the like.

To see who really regulates air safety, do a thought experiment suggested by George Mason University economist Donald Boudreaux, who blogs at Cafe Hayek:

Ooh George Mason University AND a blogger for Café Hayek… I have never heard of Café Hayek, but we can all safely assume the delightful island of rationality that is. So, anyway, prepare for some objective truth people.

"Suppose that all government regulation of airlines were abolished today. Does ... Congressman [Oberstar] suppose that airline executives would tomorrow fire all inspectors and maintenance crews, indifferent to the prospect of losing multimillion-dollar assets in fiery crashes? Does he not see that airlines with poor safety records would have difficulty attracting customers? Is he unaware that airlines' insurers have ample incentives to work closely with airlines at keeping air-travel safety at optimal levels? In short, is Mr. Oberstar really so dimwitted to think that airlines will be safe only if they are regulated by government?"

Look, I don’t think that if the FAA went away that airlines would start flying double-decker planes a la the Wright Brothers. I can safely say that there won’t be pedaling involved. But many more fly-by-night (pun absolutely intended) airlines would pop up, willing to risk a whole lot more in exchange for some quick profit. Hell, remember ValuJet, which is now AirTran, some of these airlines just change their names. Some consumers are aware of safety records, most are aware of the cheapest flights on Expedia. We would see an influx of much cheaper, more risky airlines. Regulation merely doubles down, it catches that which the market doesn’t solve for. Even one accident is too much a of a price to pay for deregulation.

Yes, I think he is.

And sadly, most of his colleagues, and mine, agree with him.

One person’s definition of sad is another person’s definition of sheer relief.