Friday, June 30, 2006


No More Posting Today.

That's the current plan, anyway. You may entertain yourself with analysis of Bush's Rebuke (consider all recommendations): WaPo, Froomkin, Rude Pundit, Rosa Brooks on Bush and War Crimes, and Glenn Greenwald).

Or the NYT controversy: Arthur Sulzberger responds to the WSJ attack; Drum has more.

Or an interesting spat about global warming, in which the lefties crush the righties.

Or Germany's penalty kick victory over Argentina. (Wow!)

Ta ta--

Thursday, June 29, 2006

[Supreme Court]

More on Today's Decision.

President Bush held a press conference with the Japanese Prime Minister today, and inevitably, the first question was on the Supreme Court decision: "You've said that you wanted to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, but you were waiting for the Supreme Court decision that came out today. Do you intend now to close the Guantanamo Bay quickly?" He more or less dodged the question (probably wisely--he hadn't had time to see the ruling), but it appears that he had already been talking to Senators about holding Congressionally-created tribunals in the event that he lost this case.

Interesting. Having essentially told Congress to go Cheney themselves, he's now hoping to get them to rubber stamp the same policy--autocracy, but with GOP agreement. We'll see if Congress is in a rubber-stamping mood.

As to the ruling itself, while it was historic, it shouldn't have been particularly surprising. What the court found was essentially an affirmation of democracy. Had they found that Bush did have the rights he claimed, we might as well all just go home.

The righties are incensed by the Geneva Convention citation--which they argue don't protect "non-affiliated" terrorists. Ah, but here's the great irony: since they were largely scooped up in our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, this claim holds little water. It is, in fact, a tell to the mindset of righties, who apparently still believe there was a connection between Iraq and al Qaida.

(Stop and ponder, as a thought experiment, what these same righties would be saying if the President in question were Hillary Clinton. I imagine the imperatives of democracy would suddenly come flooding back into their little autocratic memories.)

Based on what they're saying at SCOTUSblog, I predict a lot of legal fallout. This may well have been the chink that pulls down Bush's secretive armor and allows Congress et. al. to look into the abuses of the administration.
[Supreme Court]

Supremes to Bush: You Ain't the King of Us.

This is rather extraordinary: the Supreme Court actually limited some of Bush's power today. (Most of what follows is stolen from a news post at BlueOregon--I'll have some thoughts in a couple hours.)

In a 5-3 decision, the court said the trials were not authorized under U.S. law or the Geneva Conventions. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion in the case, called Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. recused himself from the case.

But wait!--there may be broader implications arising from the ruling about how the US must treat detainees (via Heather Lloyd at SCOTUSblog):

More importantly, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda.... This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment.

But wait wait!--Bush was personally singled out for his power grab.

The Court's conclusion, Breyer said, "ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a 'blank check.'...Indeed, Congress has denied the President the legislative auhority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the President from returning to Congress tgo seek the authority he believes necessary." The Breyer opinion included a mini-lecture on the virtue of presidential consultation with Congress, at least "where, as here, no emergency prevents" such consultation. "The Constitution places its faith in those democratic means. Our Court today simply does the same."

The radical three (Alito, Scalia, and Thomas) were in dissent.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


(Some) Voters Are Stupid.

It is a politically verboten act to call voters stupid, particularly if you're a Democrat. You lose the populist high ground that way and open yourself up to charges of elitism (though of course, you'll be charged with elitism no matter what you do, so what the hell). You also call into question the wisdom of democracy, which is another matter altogether.

But verboten or no, there is a pretty hefty slice of voters who are, well ... let's say unsophisticated. Take as one example--and I've got a garbage truck full of more--the flag-burning amendment. (Gay marriage would work as well.) This will never become law, and except for in rare, impressively boneheaded cases, no legislator is seriously behind it. You roll out such a proposal for one reason: to distract voters from your misdeeds. There is no secret in this:
But as a strictly Machiavellian matter, as a sheerly political stunt, you have to admit that it's one of those peculiar gifts that keeps on giving. Republicans can bring it up every few years or so during an election year to torment Democrats and drive the New York Times and Jonathan Alter into a state of near-psychosis. Cynical? You betcha.
Since this won't become law, and since it is used cynically, we can only conclude that the reason it gets trotted out is because Republicans know that voters won't see through the ruse.

But, if it's verboten to mention it, how much more verboten should it be to actually commit it? In that case, you are not only calling the voters stupid, but depending on them not to notice, and further, to fail to notice that you aren't taking up serious legislation because you're using the country's time and money to manipulate stupid voters into voting for hacks who, had they to run on their own merits, would be tarred and feathered first.

And thus I slide further into cynicism as I watch these maneuvers play out weekly in Washington.

NBA Draft.

There are three great prospects in the NBA draft, and the Portland Trailblazers pick fourth. Given our current luck and leadership, I have a bad feeling about how those facts align. But nevermind, let's think positively and hope one of these guys is still on the board:
LaMarcus Aldridge, 6-11, 235, Soph, Texas
Aldridge has a few things going for him--he's big (and getting bigger), he's a hard worker, and by all accounts, he's a great guy. Upside: could use a franchize big man. Downside: with Joel Pryzbilla, Blazers have a serviceable big man; Aldridge is not going to be an impact player in year one.

Brandon Roy, 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, Sr., Washington
Roy is a talented guard who could immediately step in and play. At 6' 6", he has the versatility to play three positions and would be able to come in and make an immediate contribution. He's from Washington, so Blazer fans would welcome him as a hometown kid. As a senior, he's one of the more predictable prospects in the draft. Upside: could be an immediate spark and offense to a woeful team. Downside: not much.

Adam Morrison, 6-8, 200, Jr., Gonzaga
Ah, the 'stache. Ain't no one in the draft a bigger wild card than Morrison. He's got diabetes and frequently has to give himself injections in the game. He doesn't appear to know that basketball players sometimes play defense. He is enormously popular in Stumptown. Oh, and he's also freaky good putting the ball in the hole. The question is this: is he the next Larry Bird or Pete Maravich. No one has the vaguest idea. Upside: could be one of the great shooters in NBA history; very competitive. Downside: what happens when he plays in the NBA, not the West Coast Conference?
There also may be a strange silver lining in picking fourth. For some reason, players picked fourth tend to make it as pros, and some have been great. Maybe all the gambles are done by that slot, so what shows up are quality players who don't flame out (what that means vis a vis Morrison I'll leave to you). Anyway, here's a list dating back to 1991:
Chris Paul
Shaun Livingston
Chris Bosh
Drew Gooden
Eddy Curry
Marcus Fizer
Lamar Odom
Antawn Jamison
Antonio Daniels
Stephon Marbury
Rasheed Wallace
Donyell Marshall
Jamal Mashburn
Jim Jackson
Dikembe Mutombo
I'd be sorely tempted by The 'Stache, but if Roy were still on the board, I'd probably take him instead. In about four hours we'll know.

[Update: Two out of three! Hoy, what a day! And Charlotte has reportedly "lusted since February" over Adam Morrison, so good for him, too.]
[Supreme Court]

DeLay's Last Laugh.

Remember that new, radical bloc on the Supreme Court I mentioned Monday? They have struck again, this time deciding that it's kosher for a corrupt US Representative to go to his home state and engineer a redistrict whenever his party takes power. (Okay, I don't think they explicitly mentioned "corrupt" pols.)
At issue was the shifting of 100,000 Hispanics out of a district represented by a Republican incumbent and into a new, oddly shaped district. Foes of the plan had argued that that was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander under the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights.
The Justices did thow out part of the redistricting, which they said failed to protect the rights of Latinos, but they upheld most of the gerrymander.

Oh, Sandy Day, how we miss ye!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

[GOP Corruption]

Rush's Vitamin V.

Question: what's more embarrassing, getting caught at the airport for having drugs not prescribed to you, or the revelation that the drug in question is Viagra?

Follow-up question for listeners: is there any point at which the off-air judgment of this man renders his on-air judgment moot?

Follow up to the follow-up: Do you still call yourself a Dittohead, and what does this imply?
[Oregon Politics]

A Bad Time to Be an Independent.

Oregon's incumbent govenor is the 47th most popular in the country, and yet he still looked good in his re-election bid against his GOP opponent, who was inspiring no love among moderates or conservatives. Enter Ben Westlund, a moderate-Republican-turned-Independent who is running to the left of the Democratic incumbent. Seems like a good opportunity to steal a victory, yeah? Westlund thinks so; here's how he described the political landscape:
Two of the conditions are constant in Oregon: One, you have to have a high voter turnout. Two, you have to have a high percent of independent registered voters. The fastest growing segment of the Oregon electorate is independent. We're now like second or third highest independent registration in the country.

Then you have to have a strong climate for change, right track/ wrong track. As you can well imagine Oregon's numbers are some of the highest wrong track numbers ever....

Then you have to have a strong, centrist candidate.

When you have all 5 of those conditions in place then independent candidates for governor have won 4 out of the last 7 or 5 out of the last 8, depending upon how you want to slice it.
Although he's going for a particularly rosy interpretation of factors, I don't see anything substantially wrong with his analysis. But despite all the factors arrayed in his favor, there is one trump card that I think will inevitably doom his campaign--and any outsider running against government this year. The GOP have successfully drained the life out of politics for most people, so while there's a lot of outrage, there's no energy for Westlund to tap in to.

It looks a little different for each party, but they all suffer from political toxicity, poisoned by the GOP.

To Republicans, the particular poison is the unpardonable sin of incompetence. GOP politicians have run for 26 years under the banner of the efficiency doctrine: gubmint bad, slick businesstypes like us who will drown it in a bathtub good. Salt that with a little God--we'll save you from the dark evil of modernity--and you have a generation-long winning prescription.

But the government is bigger than ever, and now it runs like a '76 Gremlin. Republicans don't mind if their leaders walk away from office with bags stuffed with cash (profit being a wholesome Republican motive). But getting American kids killed in Iraq for no purpose, watching Katrina swallow Louisiana, and watching their leaders sneaking away with bags filled with cash--it's too much. In business, you have to perform, and the only thing the modern GOP can accomplish is winning elections. Plus they haven't gotten around to stoning the gays.

So Republicans, dutifully drinking the elixir of bad government, now have nowhere to turn. A former GOP candidate who says he's got something different to peddle--like Westlund--just isn't going to seal the deal. Republicans aren't in a buying mood.

To Democrats, the GOP are exactly what they expected--viscious, greedy incompetents. But the incessant Swift Boating of Democrats has left the party faithful perfectly distrustful of anyone who might once have associated with these sleazeballs. Nationally, we see this playing out in Operation Lieberman, where Dems are trying to purify the party of any Bushie taint.

In Oregon, we have a long history of progressive Republicans, and our most beloved politician, Governor Tom McCall, was a Republican. Westlund is definitely playing his tune. But the past fifteen years are more in Dems' minds than the fairy tales of good Republicans past. Westlund's political experience is all in the Oregon House, which the majority GOP have run like Tom DeLay. (And state legislators--of either party--are only marginally more popular than the ebola virus right now.) To Dems, the House GOP is notable mostly for the criminal embezzlement of Dan Doyle and the almost-criminal thuggery of the Speaker of the House, Karen Minnis, whom Dems have now mounted a "Depose the Queen" campaign to oust the Speaker, may find it a fair stretch to jump ship to a man who was one of her posse as recently as last year.

And what about independents? Westlund is part of a divided field (the Dem, the Republican, a Green, and a minor-party candidate who was a local TV personality in Portland) and could hope for victory with as little as 35-40% of the vote if the election played out like he describes.

Voters who identify themselves as something other than Dem or GOP, 25% of Oregon's electorate, might conceivably send him to victory along with small minorities of split votes from the major parties, right? In theory, that might be true, but with the Green and Constitution parties likely to draw off some votes, Westlund needs to peel off more Dems and Republicans. And of those indies who won't vote for other minor candidates, will they vote for Westlund? My guess is that he's got some work to do--with his history as a major party politician, and his platform, to unite the two major parties, he's not really running on traditional independent footing. He's no Jesse Ventura.

(There's the issue of his even making the ballot, which now looks like a dubious prospect at best. If the indies are so delighted to have him running, why has he only collected 6,800 signatures in the past several weeks?)

Everything has costs. For politics, one of the more serious costs of the GOP ascendency has been bitter cyncism among voters. That's a bad thing for everyone, but especially for indies.

[Update: Carla has the update on the Westlund campaign's effort to get signatures. Shorter word: much talk, little walk. We'll see.]

Monday, June 26, 2006


Beavers Win the Baseball National Championship!

Hats off to the men in Orange. Oregon State just pulled one more rabbit out of the hat to win their first national championship in any sport since 1961. Forty-five years! They faced elimination in six games, but never lost heart:
The Beavers (50-16) became the first team in College World Series history to lose twice in Omaha and win the national championship. Oregon State also is the first truly Northern-based school to win the series since Ohio State in 1966.

The victory concluded a remarkable run for the Beavers, who lost their first game in Omaha but reached the championship with four straight wins. After losing Game 1 to North Carolina, Oregon State pulled out two victories.

"I think we were picked to lose every game here," Gunderson said. "We came out and battled hard."

Nickerson, the crafty and gutsy right-hander who was selected the series' Most Outstanding Player, allowed two unearned runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings. He came out after his 100th pitch -- getting Steed to ground out -- and received a standing ovation from the 18,565 at Rosenblatt Stadium, even from the powder blue-clad North Carolina fans.

Congrats, Beaver Nation, you've waited a loooooooooonnngg time for this one.


The "Daily Effect"

The WaPo's Richard Morin has offered a fairly egregious interpretation of a study in his "Unconventional Wisdom" blog (which is in fact very conventional).

To test for a "Daily Effect," Baumgartner and Morris showed video clips of coverage of the 2004 presidential candidates to one group of college students and campaign coverage from "The CBS Evening News" to another group. Then they measured the students' attitudes toward politics, President Bush and the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.).

The results showed that the participants rated both candidates more negatively after watching Stewart's program. Participants also expressed less trust in the electoral system and more cynical views of the news media, according to the researchers' article, in the latest issue of American Politics Research.

Given that the 2004 election was one of the most cynical in American history, and given that it may well have been stolen by the GOP*, you might say that those who watched Stewart and rated the candidates negatively were "informed." Not Morin. He believes that the pinheads who watch Comedy Central are so meager of brainwaves that they are easily fooled by Stewart's clever cynicism. Or as he puts it, "Jon Stewart and his hit Comedy Central cable show may be poisoning democracy."

Morin also reportedly toyed with the idea of calling it the "Patrick Henry Effect," but decided today's kids wouldn't know him or what a dangerous downer he was back in the day.
[Supreme Court]

Another Radical Decision.

The quiet revolution is well underway, and I don't know how many people are watching. The addition of two courtly gents--smiles and soft voices successfully defanging their critics--has turned the Supremes into an incubator of radical law. They handed down their latest ruling today:
The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to efforts to reduce the role of money in political campaigns, striking down Vermont caps on contributions and candidate spending....

Vermont's contribution limits were $200 for state House campaigns per two-year election cycle, $300 for state Senate races and $400 for statewide offices. The spending limits ranged from $2,000 for state representative candidates to $300,000 for those running for governor....

The ruling is a victory for the Republican Party, which backed the challenge to the Vermont law. It represents something of a shift for the high court, which in 2003 upheld a sweeping federal overhaul that included a ban on unregulated ``soft money'' contributions to political parties for campaign ads.
Last week, they ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Clean Water Act is bogus:
In yesterday's ruling, a five-justice majority agreed that the Army Corps of Engineers, the lead federal agency on wetlands regulation, exceeded its authority when it denied two Michigan developers permits to build on wetlands. The court said the Corps had gone beyond the Clean Water Act by making landowners obtain permits to dump rocks and dirt not only in marshes directly next to lakes and rivers but also in areas linked to larger bodies of water only through a network of ditches and drains.
For those of you scoring at home, those are fairly "activist" decisions. In one case, state legislators--and a lower court ruling--are subverted in a law that benefits wealthy benefactors to the GOP. In the second case, US legislators' actions were subverted so that--well, so that wealthy benefactors to the GOP might continue to line their pockets at the expense of the plebian majority who would like the environment less studded with obscene snout houses.

There are several other major decisions headed down the pike this year--the Texas gerrymander, military tribunals, privacy rights--and they may all do more to reshape the landscape of American life than the entire Reagan-through-Bush congressional revolution. If these early signals are any sign, it may be a grim generation.

Friday, June 23, 2006

[Global Warming]

Hot, and No Debate.

It barely bears mentioning, but mention it I will--the National Academy of Sciences released a now widely- publicized paper on Wednesday that highlights two facts:
1. Global warming is indisputably happening.

2. It's hotter now than it has been 400 years.
This will not begin to stop the big oil lobby from their denials, but, based on the press this report is getting, we may now have reached the point where serious journalists will no longer say the question is open. Give Al Gore some credit on that score, too.
[Devil Sun]

The Gods Punish

Damn my impertinence! We went from not quite cracking 70 a couple days ago to Sunday, when we may crack 100. Is there no sweet spot? Ah, well, that's why God made movie theaters.

Nacho Libre, anyone?
[Breaking News*]

K-6 Records Secretly Tapped.

by Herm Tupper
Associated Press International Staff Writer

Washington. (API) -- The Bush administration, citing an opinion by then-legal council Alberto Gonzales, has secretly been compiling records of elementary school students into a vast database known as the Early Terrorist Identification Program, or ETIP, for the past four years.

The program is designed to identify potential terrorists through a series of reports, gathered surreptitiously by NSA employees posing as school staff, combining psychological evaluations, conduct evaluations, grades, and demographics. Current and former NSA employees, speaking anonymously, described the program as an early-warning tool to identify potential "terroristic" behavior.

The program has been implemented nationwide, including in Puerto Rico and Guam.

According to officials familiar with ETIP, each student is assigned a score based on various risk factors: psychological instability, less-than-satisfactory scores on the key "plays well with others" index (or frowny faces), as well as race and gender.

"A kid who's borderline antisocial, doesn't play well with others, a boy, and an Arab--or even Muslim-- that kid gets a pretty high score. We'd tag him as a "potential" and keep an eye on him through high school," said one official who helped compile the data.

The program's legality is unclear. Predictably, ACLU spokesman Roy Barton expressed outrage over the program, which he called "like the fourth Reich." Administration officials, however, point out that children have dubious Constitutional rights.

"A series of Supreme Court rulings have shown that you can do just about anything to your kid except spank them; the President believes this clearly shows that children have no protection from the NSA," White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said.

However, there may be additional complications, as it now appears that other dimensions may have been included in the formula that have little to do with national security. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the government may have been tracking students for "homosexual tendencies," "affinity toward the unproven science about global warming," and "prayerful behavior." The administration did not address these concerns.

*Whether this marks a return of Friday satire, or merely a single reprise, will be discussed at the next Hog staff meeting. But the interns seem to like it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


What the Media's Covering.

Two months ago, I started checking Google News for various words and word combinations to see what was getting coverage in the press. This has very little to do with objective reality, but is a fascinating index of what's hot and what's not. I'll continue to update this over the coming months as we come in on the election.

Here's an update of interesting findings.
_________________________ 4/21______5/25______6/22
Bush + lying
____________4,330 ____4,340 ____4,330
Bush + illegal
__________16,000____40,500 ___17,800
___________________150,000___129,000 __158,000
"Gas Prices"
____________39,300____71,300 ____4,340
"Global warming"
_________8,990____10,700 ___12,000
_____________75,900____67,900 ___53,000
"health care"
___________60,900____86,300 ___44,200
Hillary Clinton__________2,810_____3,310 ____4,310
John Kerry_______________5,680_____6,010 ____8,840
Al Gore
__________________2,700*____3,830 ____5,990
That's it--more next month