Monday, December 31, 2007

Statistic of the Day

From the Weekly Standard:

“Seventy-two percent of the world’s bridges cannot hold the MRAP,” says Brig. Gen. Ronald Johnson, assistant deputy commander for plans, policies and operations.

More Nonsense from Fred Thompson

Thompson makes his final pitch to Iowa caucus-goers in a 17 minute long (!) YouTube video ...

Which, of course, begs the question: since Fred Thompson hasn't given Iowa voters 17 minutes of his time, why should they give him 17 minutes of their time?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

South Caolina: the Laboratory of Dirty Politics

Alex Massie brings us the latest from the state that gave us John McCain's "black love child":

Of course, one is supposed to despair at this sort of negative campaigning even when, as in this case, it is directed against a candidate one loathes. But, really, I take my hat off to whomever came up with the idea to send South Carolina Republicans fake Christmas cards purporting to be from Mitt Romney.

The text, taken from the first Book of Nephi (part of the Mormon bible) reads: "And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth, and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin and she was exceedingly fair and white."

Best of all, however, is a line from the Mormon "apostle" Orson Pratt, printed on the back of the card that says:

"We have now clearly shown that God the father had a plurality of wives, one or more being eternity by whom he begat our spirits as well as the spirit of Jesus, his first born, and another being upon the earth by whom he begat the tabernacle of Jesus, as his only begotten in this world."

The Year in WTF?

The MJS looks on fondly at the bizarre stories that will fill the posts of Wisconsinology c. 2058

Fred Thompson: Empty Suit

Michael Crowley in TNR:

Jeri Thompson isn't with her husband in Iowa this week, but perhaps she should be; his much-discussed young wife has proven herself to be a more adept campaigner throughout the campaign. In a memorable moment at a fire station last week, Jeri charmingly donned a fire captain's helmet after Fred--perhaps fearing an embarrassing photo, but looking like a stick in the mud--refused to put one on. She also recently toured South Carolina on her own, and has blitzed conservative talk-radio shows, sometimes appearing on several in a day. It's enough to make some people wonder whether Fred Thompson's candidacy won't seem, in hindsight, like a platform for Jeri Thompson's future ambitions. (Although her instincts still aren't perfect: One Iowan recounted the way Jeri appeared wildly overdressed, in a beret and expensive dress, at a recent downscale political gathering.) Indeed, the more Thompson campaigns at low octane, the more plausible the theory that Jeri pushed him into running becomes.

(emphasis added)

I think my favorite part of the election so far has been busting on the pathetic Fred Thompson campaign, so I may as well get in as much as I can before he calls it quits -- almost certainly no later than after he bombs in South Carolina, even though Crowley's article makes it sound like he's headed for the exits sooner.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Fred Thompson is a trophy husband.

That will be all.

MORE: I was wrong, that will not be all ...

Really? If anyone was asked during a job interview why they wanted the job they were applying for and the answer was "Well, I don't really want the job all that much," he'd be shown the door immediately.

MORE STILL: Peter Robinson at NRO should be embarrassed by this pitiful shilling masked as faux-analysis.

Dude, Fred sucks. Get over it.

Pakistan's Opposition Party in the Wake of Bhutto's Death

So much for persevering in the spirit of democratic reform:

Political turmoil in Pakistan deepened on Sunday as Benazir Bhutto’s son Bilawal, a 19-year-old student at Oxford, was surprisingly chosen to succeed the slain opposition leader as chairman of Pakistan’s largest party.

But the teenager will initially be only a figurehead, with his controversial father, Asif Ali Zardari, set to lead the Pakistan People’s party as co-chairman into elections expected to be delayed beyond the planned date next month.


Mr Zardari Sr said that Bilawal, like his two younger sisters, would henceforth take his mother’s name, styling himself Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. A first-year history student, the teenager has lived outside Pakistan since 1999. He is to return to his studies and it is not clear when he will return to an active role in Pakistan.

This is designed to overcome a branding problem: up until now, Bhutto’s three children have used their father’s name. Mr Zardari Sr, a former minister and senator, was imprisoned from 1997 to 2004 on corruption charges, and has yet to shake off a reputation as an affable but venal bon vivant.


Mr Zardari Sr denied that he would be the PPP’s prime ministerial candidate, saying that the party was most likely to nominate Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the party’s vice-chairman.

MORE: Apparently, Bilawal has “attended the Rashid School for Boys, serving as Vice President of the school’s student council.”

EVEN MORE: On Bhutto's husband's, um, colorful past. Poll

The poll was put in the field almost a month ago. If a blanket statement can be gleaned from the
final favorability numbers it's that Wisconsinites like their state-wide elected officials more than they dislike them ... all of them, regardless of party affiliation. That's good news for Democrats since they hold more of these offices.

The even better news for Dems is that Democratic presidential candidates do better than potential GOP nominees.

[via Pundit Nation]

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Screw the Pats

[via KSK]

MORE: Dean Barnett at the Weekly Standard reminds us all that the Patriots were just as odious a football team when they sucked as they are now that they are greatest of all time.

See the Music

1 in every 1,000 people may have synesthesia.

Sage Parenting Advice from the Texas Hold 'Em Blogger

13 and 14 year old girls should never be allowed to "enter any type of one-on-one dating relationship" ...

And if you're a parent letting your daughter do so, you're apparently incompetent.

So if you catch your girl giggling with a group of her friends you might want to conspicuously clear your throat and glare in her general direction to indicate that such impure thoughts will not be tolerated. And should you find MASH notes and de-petaled flowers in your daughter's bedroom just tell her to ignore her hormones and forget about going to that Homecoming dance. And if you find collages of Orlando Bloom betwixt the pages of her algebra homework, you have no choice but to send her to a convent until she is of legal age.

Whatever you do, do not chaperon your daughter's dates. Do not introduce yourself and sit down and get to know the young man she has taken an interest in. Do not drive them to the movies or other agreed upon destination and return them home at a predetermined time. Do not talk to your daughter about her expectations for the event before hand and about what actually happened afterward. Do not talk to your daughter about your own expectations for the evening before hand.

None of these things are acceptable because 13 and 14 year old girls should never be allowed to "enter any type of one-on-one dating relationship" ... period.

Airport Anxiety

I've often wondered this myself the last fews times I've flown:

The three-ounce container rule is silly enough — after all, what’s to stop somebody from carrying several small bottles each full of the same substance — but consider for a moment the hypocrisy of T.S.A.’s confiscation policy. At every concourse checkpoint you’ll see a bin or barrel brimming with contraband containers taken from passengers for having exceeded the volume limit. Now, the assumption has to be that the materials in those containers are potentially hazardous. If not, why were they seized in the first place? But if so, why are they dumped unceremoniously into the trash? They are not quarantined or handed over to the bomb squad; they are simply thrown away. The agency seems to be saying that it knows these things are harmless. But it’s going to steal them anyway, and either you accept it or you don’t fly.

I'd encourage everyone to read the whole piece. I'm very confident future generations will look back on most airport security measures currently in place in the same light that we now look at the "duck and cover" drills of the Cold War.

After skillfully dissecting a number of ubiquitous arbitrary security measures the author comes to this very sensible conclusion:

[W]hat most people fail to grasp is that the nuts and bolts of keeping terrorists away from planes is not really the job of airport security at all. Rather, it’s the job of government agencies and law enforcement. It’s not very glamorous, but the grunt work of hunting down terrorists takes place far off stage, relying on the diligent work of cops, spies and intelligence officers. Air crimes need to be stopped at the planning stages. By the time a terrorist gets to the airport, chances are it’s too late.
[via AS]

Legal Arguments of the Damned

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick has the Bush administration Top 10 Worst Legal Arguments of the, um, Year.

I don't know what's worse, the fact that she can come up with 10 very prominent cases, all of which made a great deal of news this year, or that there were seven poorer arguments than The Vice President's Office is Not a Part of the Executive Branch ...

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

Bill Kristol is getting some real estate on the op-ed pages of the Grey Lady.

I actually think it's a smart decision on the Times -- it inoculates them from criticism on the right that they are a leftist propaganda tool, brings neoconservative readers to the paper and gives their traditional left-leaning audience something to get pissed off over without them having to go to a traditionally conservative medium.

But for Kristol this seems just ridiculous. What is he going to do on the Times pay-roll, serve as the neocon ombudsman? A far more effective place to do that is from his perch as the editor of the Weekly Standard. He's said so many absurd things about the Times in the past that this just looks like he's taking advantage of the Times' prestige and/or money. Frankly, I just don't see how he gains anything from his new digs.

Who the Hell is Ahead in Iowa?

Among the Dems it's anyone's guess. All three candidates have been running neck-and-neck at just under 30% a pop for a few weeks now.

For the GOP the story has been different. Mike Huckabee was the odds-on favorite going into the week between Christmas and New Years, a sort of communications black-out period that many pollsters thought would not provide the most accurate of polling information. An aggregate reading of polls that have been conducted in that black-out period seems to give the former Arkansas Governor with a significant lead, but one ARG poll says that Mitt Romney has got some wind in his sails (just for the sake of some context, the last ARG poll published before the holiday had Huckabee ahead by just 2%).

Rob Mentzer at the Wausau Herald wonders today if Huckabee has peaked too early, something sagging poll numbers and a few untimely gaffes might indicate, but I can't help but think that Huckabee actually didn't peak early enough. His whole strategy has been to assemble a bare bones campaign, go like hell and (literally) pray to God people start paying attention.

Well, it worked.

But did it work early enough?

Chuck Todd was on TV earlier this week saying that many of the Huckabee supporters he had been speaking to were not planning on caucusing this week. So Huckabee may have succeeded in getting the attention of the national media and the political establishment of the GOP, but it may not have happened early enough in the campaign for him to take advantage of generating lists of supporters, collecting volunteers and raising the money necessary that would do the dirty work of reminding voters where the caucuses were going to be held, etc.

Mentzer joins many in making the connection between Huckabee '08 and Howard Dean '04: both are insurgent candidates who appear to be running contrary to the establishment of their respective parties. But there are considerable differences between them. Dean was well-funded, Huckabee is not. The general consensus among pundits is that voters in Iowa thought better of voting for Dean somewhere between their front porches and the caucuses. This year there's a good chance that people who support Huckabee might never even make it to the caucuses in the first place.

Which is why the Huckabee campaign is both wisely and correctly dampening down expectations by saying that that no one should expect the campaign to pull off a win because it is going up against larger operations ...

Still, the Dean analogy may be more apt in another way that I've seen only discussed once with regards to Huckabee. When Dean's campaign collapsed in '04 he was able to parlay the momentum he had built as a candidate and turn that into the chairmanship of the Democratic Party where he has been rather successful at bringing about much needed reforms. A few weeks ago, Zev Chafets profiled Huckabee for the NY Times Magazine and pointed out the following:

[I]f Mike Huckabee, who has no profession except the ministry and no personal fortune, doesn’t wind up on the government payroll next year, he will need a new job. He might just decide he’d like to be the next Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell, a national evangelical leader who saves souls for Christ as he counsels presidents and brokers political power.

(emphasis added)

That's a job that doesn't require too much foreign policy experience and for which the former Arkansas governor is uniquely qualified. Mike Huckabee has the least to lose of all the candidates running for President and possibly the most to gain by losing with honor. Howard Dean's revolution didn't stop after his infamous scream in Iowa, it just changed venues. If Huckabee doesn't make it through all of the firewalls the GOP will set up for him in the coming weeks I'm sure he'll find similar success as someone who bridges the gap between the evangelical community and politics.

Well That Sucks

Team Burkee/Walz is now only Team Burkee.

It was fun while it lasted.

"Wisconsin De-Flowers Texas"

Awesome basketball game this morning.

Friday, December 28, 2007

End of the Year Honors

Congratulations are in order to Jeff Mayers of, who has been named by the Washington Post's Chris Cilliza as the best state political reporter in Wisconsin. He's in some good company -- Paul Burka, Dick Polman and David Yepsen all make the cut.

Interestingly, Mayers is the only reporter on The Fix's list to be aligned with a dot com. That doesn't necessarily mean that he's the only honoree working for an primarily internet-based enterprise, but even a cursory glance is enough to notice that most of the reporters work for traditional newspapers.

I wonder what that says about the state of the media in Wisconsin ...

Philosphical Differences

Academic rivalries are as old as academia itself and are often times wonderful fodder for extremely entertaining works of fiction and non-fiction alike. Somehow I doubt that the current spat between Ted Honderich and Colin McGinn will elevate to this level, but it certainly is entertaining to watch.

Headlines of the Damned

Today's edition of Headlines of the Damned has been brought to you by CNN:

This has been today's edition of Headlines of the Damned.

[via PSP]

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cold Water in Your Face

What kind of world is it that we live in where Josh Groban makes more money out on the road than Bruce Springsteen?

Readings to Return Ugly Ties To

* New Jersey's King-maker-in-Waiting: Jon Bon Jovi.

* Iowa conservatives don't know what they're going to do.

* A brief history of the primary system in America.

* A look at a study that examines how recent Presidents use polling information.

* Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek on the "New" and "Old" Europe.

* A response to Zizek in First Things.

Happy Boxing Day

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Here I am ...

You remember the Scorpions, right? They had a few hits back in the '80s ... they rocked you like a hurricane, etc. Well, of all the songs they managed to crank none had the effect of "Wind of Change," which managed to capture the zeitgeist of nearly an entire continent following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Say what you will about the aesthetic qualities of the song but the folks in former communist countries have a genuine attachment to this power ballad, especially in Russia. Russians everywhere love this song regardless of what kind of music they prefer. There's really nothing to compare it to here in America.

The song was seen as a symbol for the hope and optimism many Russians felt following the dissolution of the Soviet Union so reading this is absolutely shocking:

It is a rock ballad inseparable in the popular consciousness from the collapse of the Communist bloc.

But when Klaus Meine, lead singer of the Scorpions, sang "Wind of Change" at the Kremlin Palace on Thursday night, listening front and center was the man who has called the Soviet breakup the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."

President Vladimir Putin was among scores of former KGB and current Federal Security Service officers watching the German hard rock band perform for Security Services Day, which commemorates the Bolshevik founding of the secret police 90 years ago.

I really can't emphasize enough just how odd this is. It would be like Bob Dylan singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to Richard Nixon circa 1970.

By the way, Putin will be producing his own instructional judo DVD out now soon. That sure as hell beats beats the traditional boring old political memoir any day.

Wisco's Movers and Shakers readers chime in on who they thought made the most news this year. The unattributed quote at the end of the piece shilling for James Thompson comes courtesy of your humble editor here at The Chief.

Booze + White People + Hip Hop = Comedy!

[via AA]

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Stocking Stuffer Ideas for the Rogue Wing Man in Your Life

More mind-boggling holiday toys here.

Men Behaving Badly ... to My Most Puerile Enjoyment

There is a Shakespearean drama going on in the Kansas Attorney General's office that is simply straight out of the seediest of day-time soap operas. Kick back and enjoy!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Absurdity of the Music Business

The pirates are smarter than the record label moguls.

Feral Child!

Awesome! A child found living with -- I shit you not -- a pack of wolves, was hospitalized, then escaped and is currently on the lam. Here's the strangest part:

Such cases are not uncommon in Russia where there have been regular reports of 'Mowgli' children abandoned by their parents who are cared for by animals.


The Year in Neologisms

Adjust your glossaries accordingly.

Norman Podhoretz

A brief life, by Jacob Heilbrunn.

[via TWN]

Fred Thompson is a Trophy Husband

That's my new talking point. I have no evidence to back this up -- it's coming straight from the gut, but I'm going to run with it.

Fred Thompson is a trophy husband.

He didn't want to run for the White House -- his wife wanted him to, and what she says goes. Jeri's the one calling the shots behind the scenes, she's the one basically doing all the campaigning on the trail (when there actually is campaigning). She's the one with the ambition, not Fred.

This is merely an item on Fred's honey-do list: walk the dog, pick up some milk at the grocery store, run for president, stop by the pharmacy, etc. -- and like all men, Fred Thompson is just sleep walking through this without an ounce of enthusiasm because he knows if he doesn't there will be no sex for a month. And just like any husband assigned to do tasks he does not want to do he is looking for any excuse to get out of doing them.

Thompson just wants this whole thing over so he tell his wife "Well, dear, I gave it my best shot," and he can go back to drinking on the front porch with the boys. I bet she'll be plenty pissed when this embarrassment is over and it wouldn't surprise me if this does irreparable damage to their marriage -- if you catch my drift.

'08 Horserace Links

* Gideon Rachman: Is Hillary Doomed?

* Patrick Ruffini: Rudy: What Went Wrong?

* Peter Brown: McCain Rises from the Dead

* The McLaughlin Group's Person of the Year: Ron Paul

* Roger Simon: Fred Thompson: Lazy as Charged

* Mark Mellman: Breakdown of Dems' strategy

* Nader redux

Friday, December 21, 2007

Edwards & Ethanol

An interesting Wisconsin connection.

Scott Tyre works for Capitol Navigators and is currently the President of the Association of Wisconsin Lobbyists.

Borat is Dead

In honor of the late, great Kazakh journalist, the funniest thing I've seen in years:

Miller Beer Headed to Denver

Or at least that's the implication ...

Aventures in Cross Promotion

This is certainly one way to save money:

One side of a flyer circulating in the western suburbs boasts that Cook County recorder of deeds Eugene "Gene" Moore has brought major improvements to the office, which is responsible for documenting property transactions. Moore, the flyer says, has expanded Internet access to public records, installed an electronic recording system, and succeeded at "providing MOORE service with less employees."

On the other side the flyer invites us all to a lingerie fashion show.

Read on if you're interested in meeting an undoubtedly colorful charecter who goes by the name Click Click.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Brief Lesson in Pre-Socratic Philosophy

Parmenides -- he of incomprehensible Platonic dialog fame.

For the complete works of Parmenides, see here.


OK, first I try to go the contrarian route and say that Al Gore wasn't going to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Well, we all know how well that call turned out ... Then I try to make up for this grievous sin by going with the conventional wisdom that Gore will win the Time Man of the Year thingy ...

Foiled again!

But Vladimir Putin?

I didn't see that one coming -- and anyone who did is probably full of it.

If you want to see an undoubtedly violent reaction to this decision, I suggest reading La Russophobe -- no friend of Putin's -- in the coming days. There will certainly be fireworks. Another Russia observer, Robert Amsterdam, already has some preliminary thoughts on the subject ...

While Gore was certainly worthy, Putin is not an out-of-left-field choice. Few people have had the kind of effect that Putin has had on a country as important a Russia, especially this year. Quick -- name another contemporary Russian politician ... Having a hard time? Exactly.

The Time article focuses mostly on Putin's past, while touching on some of the more dicey issues such as his relationships with Gary Kasparov, Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko. Putin continues to treat competition and critics alike in the same manner he treated the oligarchs who emerged from the post-Cold War rubble, which is to say he never loses and usually maintains astronomical approval ratings in the process.

Putin has dramatically altered both the country and the government in his own image. He brought his old pals from the KGB from Lubyanka to the Kremlin with him and essentially created a good old boys club/consulting firm run by Cold warriors in the guise of G8 country. The effect has been rather dramatic -- it's hard to go a week reading the St. Petersburg or Moscow Times without noticing the trend (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

Just imagine what's going on behind the headlines ...

Like all great Russian rulers of the past Putin is actually transforming the physical structure of Russian bringing it's two great cities into the 21st Century. Moscow is reconfiguring its streets to allow for more traffic -- an idea that seemed preposterous 15 years ago when the nearly empty streets were scarcely populated with crowded buses (on which fares were never paid) and the occasional Zaporozhets -- and building up and an astonishing rate. Just look at the Russia Tower now being built in Moscow:

And the Gazprom Headquarters in St. Petersburg:

None of these buildings look anything like classic czarist or soviet Russian architecture and both are symbols of Russia's re-emergent economic strength.

And that's really the operative phrase here: "Russia's re-emergent strength." It's not just an economic thing, but a security issue too. That's a position Russian hasn't been in for a while and an important one for the Russian psyche and national identity which has taken a huge hit during the last decade over the mess in Chechnya and the collapse of its military, to say nothing of a decline in population so sharp that the state actually had to bribe it's people with a holiday/lottery for them to basically "procreate for the motherland!"

Russia no longer defines itself in relationship to the United States. Putin is smart enough to know that the Cold War is in the past. One of his shrewder moves has been to cozy up to China, despite a history of icy Sino-Russian relations. China needs Russia's oil and natural gas and Russia will be happy to supply the world with as much energy as it can supply, even if that means providing countries like Iran with nuclear material. Putin knows that power in the 21st Century will be in the hands of those who possess energy and that gives him a lot of leverage on the world stage.

Maybe now would be a good time to note that whatever Al Gore has done to bring awareness of and future action to counteract the looming environmental catastrophe on the horizon, Putin has done much more to move that disaster along its path ...

So is Putin worthy of being considered as "Man of the Year" material? Do his autocratic tendencies negate his accomplishments or was he only able to move Russia forward by seizing the power necessary to do so? The more interesting of the two is certainly the latter, which is a question that American historians will be asking themselves of our current leader for ages to come. The answer will likely tell us a lot about the differences between the U.S. and Russia and contribute to a discussion that goes back to de Tocqueville's famous observation regarding plowshares and swords.


Right on the heels of the study that examined the physiological responses to negative political advertising a few days ago is a pretty good article in Newsweek on the primacy of fear as a motivating emotion in human (animal?) decision-making.

One of the more interesting implications of the article is that the standard scare-the-shit-out-of-the -voter-with-blood-and-guts campaign ad (think Tancredo) does not work as well as something that merely insinuates the possibility of imminent doom. In other words, fear-mongering campaign ads essentially work under the Hitchcockian rules of suspense which state that the unseen is more frightening than the seen.

This is also an age old advertising technique that Madison Avenue has used for ever: great commercials don't say what they want to say outright, they merely led the viewer to the obvious conclusion. This actually provides the viewer with a small sense of intellectual accomplishment at having figured the meaning of the ad by themselves -- when an advertisement compliments a consumer, it's pandering; but when a commercial gets the viewer to flatter himself, that's another story all together.

The article mentions the "Wolves" ad made by the Bush-Cheney campaign during the 2004 election, which is clearly a knock-off of the "Bear in the Woods" spot run by Reagan in 1984. The Bear ad worked because it was an obvious metaphor that anyone living in America at the time would have understood (self-flattery) that was intended to remind the viewer of the looming threat of Soviet nuclear strikes (fear). There's a subtlety to the Reagan and Bush spots that makes the graphic nature of Tancredo's recent presidential ads look comical and insulting -- even to the most rabid of immigration opponents.

Last, but not least, is the balancing of the fear element with one of hope. If the campaign was built around Bears in Woods it would eventually depress the bejesus out everyone. It didn't because the theme of the Reagan campaign was Morning in America, which made the Gipper's presidency look more like a coffee commercial than a Faulknerian novella.

Marching Orders

The commencement speech is arguably the most loathsome form of communication in the tradition of American English, but ESPN's Scott Van Pelt did a pretty admirable job addressing the graduates in Madison this month.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wisco General Election Poll

From Survey USA:
    Wisconsin (n=542):

    McCain 49%, Clinton 42%
    Clinton 45%, Giuliani 42%
    Clinton 47%, Romney 42%
    Clinton 49%, Huckabee 40%

    Obama 46%, McCain 44%
    Obama 48%, Giuliani 40%
    Obama 52%, Huckabee 36%
    Obama 53%, Romney 35%

'God's Eye View'

This is the phrase I used to use to justify my hours of Keyhole use before Google bought it and turned it into GoggleEarth -- looking at the Earth through satellite imagery was like having a God's eye view of the world, etc.

Now a rather clever consortium of artists have produced an installation that re-creates several famous Biblical stories as they would perhaps be seen through GoogleEarth today.

[via BB]

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why Negative Campaign Ads Work

A study examines physiological responses to attack ads:

The researchers focused on the preattentative reflex of the eye known as the startle reflex. Those exposed to negative political advertising experienced larger reflex reactions indicating and a desire to move away than when exposed to positive or neutral ad messages.

“This is the very beginning of the fight-or-flight response,” Bradley says. “The body is saying, ‘This is bad.’ So the preattentive reflex is bigger and the body starts preparing to move away.”

But people remember negative ads because the brain finds them arousing, he said. Since viewing the ads isn’t a life-or-death situation, the brain has time to store the messages. Sometimes, the brain can even make up the negative message it only thought it saw.

Although some researchers blame the media and negative political ads for decreasing political participation, Bradley said more research is needed before that can be demonstrated.

That last paragraph is probably written in an academic context involving more clinical evidence and what have you, because some negative advertising is specifically made to decrease political participation among voters. Not all voters can be converted -- and the next best thing to do is to try and make sure those voters don't make it to the polls.

Nicolas Sarkozy: International Super Pimp

Well done, Pierre!

Just goes to show that power truly is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Gard v. Kagan Preview

Wash. Lather. Rinse. Repeat:

Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Iraq Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Health Care Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Economy Immigration Immigration Dr. Millionaire Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Taxes Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Career Politician Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration Immigration, etc.

Happy Holidays, Imperialist Pigs!

Seasons greetings from the Burma/Myanmar junta to the diplomatic corps stationed in Rangoon:

It's not quite as catchy as 'Merry Christmas!' but it might catch on ...

Muslim Punk Rock

"Taqwacore," a strain of punk music that revolves around the Arab-American experience got its start in ... San Antonio?

From the San Antonio Express:

The Muslim population in the San Antonio metropolitan area is estimated at nearly 3,200, according to a Association of Religion Data Archives 2000 study. Muslim leaders here say there are at least 6,000 active Muslims in the area and thousands more who don't regularly attend a mosque.

The Observer article says that the number could be as high as 30,000. That sounds roughly equivalent to the number of Muslims who live in Dearborn, Michigan, but that 's only a chunk of the estimated 500,000 Muslims in the Detroit Metropolitan area.

Though, one could argue that this sort of rebellion could only be fostered in a smaller community.

Directions for "Lost"

Someone has constructed a map of the island on "Lost."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

'08 Horserace Notes: Everything Sucks

* From the Dept. of Interesting Analogies: Mitt Romney '08 = Al Gore '00.

* How did Hillary win the Des Moines Register endorsement? Lots of lobbying:

Knowing their backs were against the wall in Iowa (as an endorsement by the Register of Obama might well have sealed the deal for the Illinois senator in the Hawkeye State), the Clinton campaign organized a three-week blitz to court the editorial board.

Clinton and her husband met with the board over cocktails to make the case. A series of surrogates -- including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, EMILY's List chief Ellen Malcolm and Robert Kennedy Jr. -- barraged the board with calls in support of Clinton. High-level Clinton staffers -- including campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, pollster Mark Penn, policy director Neera Tanden and senior adviser Ann Lewis -- met individually with members of the board to make the case.

* Clive Crook on Obama:

Mr Obama is organising his campaign around what he calls a new – more consensual, more pragmatic – style of politics. This is his big idea, just as Mrs Clinton’s (improbable as it might seem) is depth of experience. This new tone is something many Americans appear to want and, after the bitterness and division of recent years, well they should.

But progressives have been under the Republicans’ hammer too long. Rapprochement is the last thing they want. What they want is their turn. They come not to work with Republicans, but to bury them. If Mr Obama believes he can come to useful compromises with those people, many liberal activists believe, he is either far too innocent for this kind of work or a traitor in the making.

* Time's Michael Duffy on the impending collapse of the GOP:

The disarray can't be blamed on Bush entirely; he may even deserve credit for postponing it. Some students of the G.O.P. have argued that the revolution that brought the party to power in Congress in 1994 was pretty much a spent force by 2000. Under this theory, Republicans should have lost that election but survived thanks to Bush's qualities, the butterfly ballot and five Supreme Court Justices. Then 9/11 happened, which enabled Bush to win reelection, despite the fact that the G.O.P.'s sell-by date had long since passed. The past seven years, in this view, were an anomaly that postponed the reckoning and made the G.O.P. crash even more severe.

A similar argument is made by Adam Nagourny in the Sunday Times.

* Huckabee gets the Times Magazine cover. This should be a deal-breaker when it comes to the people Huckabee, as hypothetical President, would fill give cabinet positions to:

Huckabee has no military experience beyond commanding the Arkansas National Guard, but he doesn’t see this as an insuperable problem. ‘‘What you do,’’ he explained, ‘‘is surround yourself with the best possible advice.’’ The only name he mentioned was Representative Duncan Hunter of California. ‘‘Duncan is extraordinarily well qualified to be secretary of Defense,’’ he said.

For more on just how qualified "SpongeBob HunterPants" is to run the world's largest office building, see here.

Sandy Levinson makes an interesting point about Huckabee's an the Arkansas 'constitutional crisis' he found himself part of as Lt. Gov.

* By the way, Huckabee has now won more support in Florida than Rudy Giuliani. This makes Rudy's win-by-kicking-ass-on-Super-Tuesday strategy look less than wise.

* Joe Lieberman will endorse John McCain. Somehow this might turn into a McCain-Lieberman third party ticket. This would go exactly nowhere. Democrats want nothing more to do with Lieberman and independents have left McCain, thus leaving this ill-fated duo to contend for votes among the Washington neocon foreign policy establishment. I would go so far as to say that they wouldn't even come close to Nader's 2000 numbers in such a scenario.

* The LA Times has a story on Ron Paul's fund-raising impresario, Trevor Lyman, who coordinated Sunday's Boston Tea Party Money bomb, which brought in $6.4 million for the campaign yesterday alone. Paul's also starting to draw some sizable crowds in Iowa.

* Not much is being said about Fred Thompson. He is, however, running negative mail pieces against Huckabee.

* Iowa has recently witnessed an explosion in its mortality rate, according to get-out-the-vote volunteers:

They love their caucuses, do not get me wrong, but it seems they like the old-fashioned variety not the hard-driven modern type where campaigns arrange "robo-calls" to drum up support, forcing many people here simply to refuse to answer their phones till 4th January.

A telephone pollster tells me his company noticed that Iowa had a reported death rate 20 times the national average: apparently when they called and asked for a husband or wife the spouse would say, "Oh they died!" in the hope of getting off the lists …...

Headlines of the Damned

Today's edition of Headlines of the Damned has been brought to you by the Trentonian:

This has been another edition of Headlines of the Damned.

A Penny for Your Thoughts

WPRI has the results of an annual (lately, at least) survey it conducts on Wisconsinites' views of government, the economy, etc.

I've only had a chance to skim through some of the numbers, from which I have divined the following: All y'all are pissed.

The general consensus on the economy jives with a Badger Poll released by the UW Survey Center on Friday.

I have to confess to burning the proverbial candle at both ends this weekend ('tis the season, after all) and am not exactly up to doing much more than speaking generally at the moment, but I'll be sure to give it a closer look tomorrow and see if there's anything worth mentioning about it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Northern Lights

In Northern Wisconsin -- Absolutely stunning:

I really can't say enough good things about Wisconsinology. If you haven't visited yet -- get thee there pronto ... it takes all of 5 seconds to realize that this blog is indispensable.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

More on Alan Keyes

From a 1996 article by Michael Lewis in TNR:

[Keyes'] Ph.D. thesis on Alexander Hamilton's thought dwelled on a speech that Hamilton gave to the Constitutional Convention that lasted for six hours and advanced the proposition of an electoral monarchy, the rule by the elite, of which only the notes of the listeners survive. I am not sure which is more appealing to Keyes now, the substance of the address or the possibility of speaking for six hours without interruption.

(emphasis added)

Adventures in Free Association

One of my favorite bands when I was an impetuous young whippersnapper was the Minutemen, and it pains me to see that name used for purposes (and here) that are not only antithetical to the music of the band, but which also offend me.

So I propose that when people refer to the awesome band from San Pedro, California they continue to call them by their given name: the Minutemen. But when folks want to refer to the right-wing boarder fetishists, they refer to that crowd henceforth as Los Hombres Minuto.

Now, I know Spanish can be a mouthful for many English speakers, so to accommodate the linguistically challenged I would be happy to shorten Los Hombres Minuto to simply Menudo.

There. All, now, seems right with the world.

End communication.

Seriously? That was Fred Thompson's Best Moment?

I don't know if Charlie Sykes has hopped aboard the Thompson bandwagon, but if he believes that Fred's best moment of this campaign was when he stood up to an Iowan debate moderator who was clearly out of her league yesterday over whether or not he wanted to raise his hand, well the Thompson run is dead in the water.

Honestly, his best moment was during a debate that aired in the middle of a Wednesday and was universally denounced for being boring as sin? Is this Thompson supporters' idea of peaking?

If Thompson looked so strong, why did he choose to confront the weakest person on stage? He had a target rich environment with which to confront his opponents ... Instead he jokes with Mitt Romney, lets Giuliani get away with his conservative heresies, seems oblivious to the the front running Huckabee, ignores the obnoxious Alan Keyes and doesn't even lay a finger on the Paul-Tancredo-Hunter axis of insanity ...

But that moderator -- boy, she got what was coming to her!

MORE: Jesus! -- This is an actual comment from B&S on the same video:

Awesome - that’s the kind of leadership needed - refusing to give a soundbite when a real answer is needed.

For the love of God ...

Because Domestic Abuse is so Goddamn Funny ...

Today's edition of Headlines of the Damned has been brought to you by the New York Post:

This has been today's edition of Headlines of the Damned.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Alan Keyes ...

What Chuck Todd said.

MORE: Thank God -- others are just as miffed that Keyes made the cut; see K-Lo, the American Spectator, and the Wall Street Journal, which lists the invitation criteria as follows:

While Keyes gets to participate today, Democrats Mike Gravel and Rep. Dennis Kucinich didn’t meet the criteria to participate in tomorrow’s Democratic debate. To attend, candidates had to have a Federal Election Commission statement of candidacy, Iowa staff on ground as of Oct. 1 and polling of at least at 1% in the Des Moines Register poll.

CORRECTION: Turns out the Wall Street Journal and a number of other new outlets got this one wrong. I was watching C-SPAN and one for the political reporters from the Des Moines Register (who is not David Yepsen) noted that to qualify for the debate a candidate need to have an Iowa headquarters and staff in the field or 1% of support in the DMR poll. Kucinich and Gravel have neither. Keyes actually came in third in Iowa in 2000, so there are some people who not only remember him, but are still willing to vote for him.

MORE: From Christian Schneider.

The Fred Thompson Campaign is Downright Pitiful

If the fact that Fred Thompson is folding up shop in New Hampshire isn't enough to tell you how big the catastrophic mess which is his campaign is, then perhaps this is:

According to the Department of Elections, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have been certified to be on the Delaware primary ballot on Feb.5th.

Unfortunately, Fred Thompson fell short of the 500 signature mark, and will not be on the ballot.

500 signatures? The campaign couldn't find 500 signatures? There aren't 500 people in the state of Delaware who've seen a re-run of Law and Order?

[via NRO]

MORE: Of course, maybe Thompson's "non-stop" barn-storming tour of Iowa will change things ...

Badger Poll on Health Care in Wisco

From the NW:

A larger majority - 61 percent - said in the poll that they support encouraging people to put money into tax-free health savings accounts that would help pay for health care costs. [...]

Seventy-two percent favor requiring all people to have insurance, either from their employer or another source. And 82 percent support expanding existing state health insurance programs for low-income people.


The poll also found that:

*18 percent of respondents said health care issues and concerns are the most important problem facing the state today.

*28 percent said they were dissatisfied with the current system, while 56 percent said they had mixed feelings. Only 15 percent said they were satisfied.

*50 percent said the state’s health care system had major problems, 35 percent said there were minor problems, 12 percent said it was in a state of chaos and 2 percent said there are no problems.

For more see the UW Survey Center.

"Don't Mormons Believe That Jesus And The Devil Are Brothers?"

Hypothetical question:

Say Huckabee pulls off the GOP nomination ... does this comment put Utah in play during the general?

Yesterday there was talk of Democratic operatives calling Huckabee an "easy kill" should he make it to the general. In just the last couple of weeks, since the beginning of the "Huckaboom" began to register in the polls, the former Arkansas Governor has had to duck and cover on tax issues, his own Willie Horton, dubious comments made about AIDS patients, and some questionable behavior upon leaving the governor's mansion in Little Rock. Tending to these issues may have contributed to Huckabee blanking on the Iran NIE, which doesn't exactly help him the national security credentials department ...

All these thrown together in such a short period of time really runs contrary to the principle of letting a potential scandal bleed slowly, which suggests that there s indeed a lot more where that came from. I can't help but wonder if in Huckabee's past there are many of these examples -- little instances that may have helped Huckabee in the short term (in this case with evangelicals who are suspicious of Mormonism), but will doom him with a broader audience.

CONTINUED: [Sorry, I forgot to finish this thought ...]

Utah is the most conservative state in the Union, but it's also the most Mormon. There's really no saying what Utah voters value more -- their faith or their ideology -- in the voting booth. It's probably too much to imagine that Utah suddenly becomes a Democratic next year in an anomalous reaction to Huckabee's comment, but what happens if Huckabee should make a similarly controversial statement that involves a segment of a population in a state that is not as uniformly devoted to the GOP?

Conversely, maybe this was an absolute stroke of genius on Huckabee's part. He can flog the Mormon horse as much as he wants because it will only hurt him in the general election in Utah, where he will be guaranteed a win anyway. It's not like he'd be dumb enough to say that all coal miners are in-bred and expect to win West Virginia, for example ... or is he?

Asleep at the Wheel

The ever valuable Recess Supervisor has a lovely picture of Oshkosh state Assembly Rep. Carol Owens asleep on the chamber floor:

As the RS notes, it's not exactly the first time Rep. Owen has been caught "resting her eyes" on the job...

To be fair, it is a still photo and many an unsuspecting schmuck has been caught unawares in an uncompromising posture before. I did check to see if WisconsinEye had archived the late night session to see if there is some more photographic evidence of Owens nodding off, but the footage is not up yet. I'll be sure to keep a lookout for it ... not that there isn't enough testimony to demonstrate a pattern.

The way criticism of public figures in Oshkosh usually works, one is supposed to praise the person ("Oh he's such a nice person and has always been so good to my family") before one slams him ("But he just hasn't been doing his job lately," etc.) -- see the debate surrounding the now former city manager. But in Owen's case critics should get straight to the point: she's old, it's debatable whether she can physically perform the duties of her office and she has been an embarrassment to the city in recent years with clueless comments about Milwaukee's minority population and her alliance with local hate-mongering homophobe Teno Groppi (and just in case he thought no one noticed -- Look, it's Rep. Mark Gundrum at this sheetless Klan rally!).

Owens is a relic of an age a vast majority of people in Wisconsin thought we were beyond. One of the reasons she's still in office is because no one in her district thinks she's beatable. She is. Either a Republican or a (conservative) Democrat could do it. All it takes is a little hustle. When was the last time you think Owens knocked on any doors? To the best of my knowledge, that's still something you need to be awake to do ...

Owens has been so hateful during her legislative career that the deference that is given to her by newspapers across the state should end post haste. This really isn't the purview of the Northwestern, since they are not exactly to go-to source for events that occur outside Winnebago County, but the symptoms of Owens time in office should have been discussed by the Madison and Milwaukee papers long ago. If they are deferring to the NW, then they should specifically tell them so because Owens has been making Oshkosh a laughing stock for long enough.

MORE: From Team Mathias.

Today's Must Read: The Conservative Case for Universal Health Care

From the American Thinker:

We now have the worst of both worlds: we are paying for universal health coverage, but not getting it. In fact, we pay more for health care in taxes than countries that provide universal coverage. Then we pay more than that amount again in private coverage. Additionally, what we have now in the U.S. is nowhere near a free market in health care. Defending the status quo is not defending a free market. And if socialized medicine is your fear, we already have it.

Greenspan Speaks

Re: the Mortgage Crisis.

[via GM]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Is Hillary Clinton About to Fuck Up Royally?

Sure looks like she could be ...

First, with Obama up in the polls and on a roll in the primary she's going to be the first Dem to go negative in Iowa. The Chief has nothing against negative advertising -- in fact, we enjoy it very much -- but no one does so out of a position of strength. So when someone does decide to go negative, it's important to hit hard or at least make the punches count. If the initial looks at how Clinton is planning on going negative are to be believed, that's not going to happen.

Clinton is said to be focus-grouping TV spots revolving around health care. She already has "compare/contrast" flier out on Obama centering on the same issue. There's not a whole lot of time between now and the caucus -- how much campaigning between Christmas and New Year's is anyone's guess, so one would assume this is the tack she's going to continue on until January 3rd since she'll likely have only one shot at making it stick.

So why go with Health Care?

Health care is something of a historically contentious issue with Clinton. While she undoubtedly has demonstrated a considerable interest in over the years, the subject is also her most noted political albatross -- a lot of people equate Clinton and health care to failure. That's strike one.

Strike two has to do with this recent (positive) TV ad Hillary's been running in Iowa. In she talks about her past working for health care and on children's issues -- both of which are nurturing roles traditionally associated with women. (Yes, she gets to foreign policy, but it's fourth on the list and seems almost like an afterthought.) Clinton is at her best when she shows a little toughness -- playing to an age old cultural stereotype doesn't demonstrate that. When she talks about health care, on at least a subconscious level, she's reminding voters both about a personal failure and the fact that she's woman in world dominated by dudes.

But the unhitable 99 mile and hour heater that scrapes the lower inside corner of the strike zone to strike out the side is the simple fact that almost everyone who votes already has health care. It would be great if they were altruistic enough to think of the needs of others when they got into the voting booth, but that really doesn't happen too frequently.

This is all very puzzling. Clinton is said to have assembled one of the most formidable campaign staffs ever put together by a Democratic candidate, but ever since she got tangled up in the licenses for immigrants question during the debate in Philadelphia she's been seriously off her game (while Obama appears to be finishing strong) and her campaign hasn't been helping her much -- especially in the opposition research department. Just in the last few days it's been amateur hour at the Clinton camp between the Obama's kindergarten ambitions to the embarrassing e-mail from a staffer that came to light today.

Personally, I expected one of the most well-prepared and cut-throat research and rapid response teams ever placed on a single pay-roll. This was going to be one of the essential elements that was going to allow her to defeat her GOP opponent in the general. Thus far I am extraordinarily underwhelmed.

MORE: Noam Scheiber also has some questions about Clinton's Iowa strategy.

The National Review

Endorses Mitt Romney.

[via FR]

MORE: Here's some ridiculousness from Little Miss Sunshine: "Discarding the "take it with a grain of salt" principle, this article and endorsement from National Review today could seal the deal for Romney."

Seal the deal? Are you kidding me? Since when has an endorsement from a magazine won someone a nomination before?

Is Bill McCoshen Running for Governor?

A few days ago Daniel Bice observed some movement from the GOP uber-lobbyist and now McCoshen has an op-ed column in today's State Journal ...

Of course it's too soon to tell, but one would think that these two news bits, released so closely together, have to represent some kind of trial balloon.

Can Someone Please Arrest Kevin Barrett for Intellectual Property Piracy?

I can dream, can't I?

Those dismissive of the official explanation for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks rallied around McKinney today at a press conference, as did more typical members of the Green Party. Among the so-called "truthers" was Kevin Barrett, the former University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer who found himself under fire from state lawmakers last year for his view that the attacks were an inside job.

Barrett told reporters the former Georgia congresswoman was a hero of the movement as he passed out bootlegged DVDs of "V for Vendetta."

Seriously, "V for Vendetta"? That's so Ron Paul ... Isn't there another counter-cultural movie he can distribute out of the trunk of his car?

Suggestions to Imporve the Ratings of WisconsinEye

Learn from Taiwan:

"DPP legislators threw the speaker of the Taiwanese parliament out of the building and piled furniture against the door to stop him [from] getting back in."

Poll: Wisonsinites, Drivers' Licenses, Education & Immigrants

From the WPRI

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute poll of 600 residents found that 76 percent of respondents oppose allowing illegal immigrants to apply for a driver's license.

Eighty-six percent oppose allowing them to pay in-state tuition at the University of Wisconsin.People are divided on whether children here illegally should be allowed to attend public schools.

Forty-six percent said that they should, while the same amount said that they shouldn't.

(thank for providing a valid link to the whole study, guys):

Monday, December 10, 2007


So Democrats throw a fit every time Republicans refer to them as the "Democrat Party" and Republicans seem to enjoy nothing more them needling their opposition in just this fashion. One of things that appears to aggravate Democrats just as much as the intended slight is th fact that there does not seem to be a way for them to reciprocate the insult. You can't really call the GOP the "Republic Party" without sounding absurd and "repubs" sounds to close to retards to work as a subtle jab ...

But this one is just too rich to not pass along, especially since it comes from someone who is fairly obviously a Republican, so one can only hope it starts to catch on ... Anyway, I think it would be absolutely hilarious if, for now on, people who want to refer to Republicans in a derisive way started calling them the Pubbies.

Oh, I know damn well what it sounds like, which is frankly one of the reasons I find it so frickin funny ... so feel free to use the phrase liberally (as it were).

A Blog You Need to Start Reading -- Now!


Absolutely fantastic stuff -- essential reading for any local history buff or connoisseur of the entertaining anecdote.

Update your bookmarks, blogrolls, and RSS feeds accordingly.

Existential Attack Ads

You kind of have to ask yourself if attack ads are in some way inherently Nietzschian after watching this number:

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Any idea why the Weekly Standard has a rather, um, glowing feature of Barack Obama is this week's edition?

The Economist has a thought:

My hypothesis that conservative writers have been distracted lo these many months by the need to come up with innovative arguments against Hillary Clinton. They are out of practice at criticising Mr Obama. Consider this article aa bit of evidence. The comment that Mr Obama looks like "a cross between Denzel Washington and Alfred E. Neuman" must be a dig at the fact that his ears stick out, but that's about as rough as it gets.
This seems, if not untrue, then kind of superficial to me.

The Fallacy of "World War IV"

Peter Beinart refutes a frequent neocon talking point:

Prominent conservative intellectuals repeatedly demanded that America ditch containment in favor of rollback and urged U.S. leaders to consider preventive war -- especially in the late 1940s, when the U.S. had a nuclear weapon and Moscow did not. The most important of those intellectuals was the National Review's James Burnham, who wrote a long-running column titled "The Third World War." He chose that title for a reason: He believed America's struggle against communism was the great conflict of his time, and he didn't want it to stay cold. He believed that unless America fought directly and aggressively against its Soviet (and later Chinese) enemies, communism would take over the globe.

Whether they recognize it or not, the conservatives who today invoke World War IV are Burnham's successors. They are altering the past to make it appear that we took his advice and defeated the Soviet Union on the battlefield. But that's exactly what America did not do. We defeated Moscow because of the strength of our economic and political system, and because of our success in rehabilitating Western Europe and Japan so they served as both natural buffers to communism's spread and powerful magnets to people living under the Soviet boot. We won because we contained and deterred the Soviet Union rather than confronting it. America fought the Cold War, not World War III, and thank goodness we did.

New Wisco President '08 Poll

Taken by the Univ. of Wisconsin. Survey Center:
Thirty-nine percent of Democrats and independents leaning that way said that they want to see Clinton win the nomination. She's followed by Barack Obama with 26 percent and John Edwards at 15 percent. That question had a margin of error of 6 percentage points.

Among Republicans and independents leaning that way, 30 percent said that they favor Thompson as their nominee.

He's followed by Rudy Giuliani at 25 percent and John McCain at 15 percent. The margin of error was 7.4 percentage points.

The poll was conducted between Nov. 27 and Dec. 5.
You'd think they would start doing more of these, what with the election primaries and all ...

MORE: From the MJS.

EVEN MORE: From the Recess Supervisor.

Adventures in Photoshopping -- NFL Edition


A Mega-church Grows in Vegas

From Zach at Revolution in Jesusland:

On the flight out here, I watched the film about Reverend Billy, What Would Jesus Buy. (I’ll write about that in a post soon — they sent me a copy to review.) The movie is about some folks barging into Starbucks and Wal-marts yelling at people to “stop shopping.” Billy wants them to spend more time living and loving than consuming. The film contrasted images of maniac children tearing presents open with people communing around the Christmas table.

In his sermon today, called “An X-Mess Story,” Jud had a similar message—but he wasn’t shouting at strangers in a Big Box store. Instead he was delivering it to ten thousand people (or so, over the whole weekend) who were members of a community, all seeking something together.

Vegas seems like it would be an interesting place to study religion. The city attracts a certain kind of person -- specifically the risk-taker -- but it also seems to cry out quietly for some kind of spiritual fulfillment. Obviously there is quite a bit a consumerism that occurs in the Nevada desert. but I think a deeper, and more interesting, examination would be to study what Las Vegans -- no strangers to placing a bet themselves -- think about Pascals' Wager.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Küng & Kant

Hans Küng discusses the globalization of ethics:

These trans-cultural ethical rules form structural elements of a common human ethic, whatever we call it, and make almost irrelevant the idea of a deep antagonism between “Asian” and “Western” values. If Asia focuses on its trans-cultural ethical core, an entirely new spirit of unity can be developed that uses soft power instead of military force and does not know enemies, but only partners and competitors. In this way, Asia could catch up with the West in terms of its cultural integration while contributing to the establishment of a genuinely peaceful new world order.

This project differs from the West’s human rights movement, which is based on natural law thinking. The point is rather to integrate values, standards, and attitudes of ethical-religious traditions that, while appearing in each culture in a specific form, are common to all, and that can be supported by non-religious people as well.

On the surface this approach seems similar to the one used by Kant when discussing his Categorical Imperative, with the notable difference being that Küng is arguing that the Golden Rule has a certain cultural receptivity to it, as opposed to being an almost innate aspect of the human ethical experience. By doing so Küng seems to inoculate himself from charges that he is advocating for a kind of cultural colonialism, but I don't get the impression that the kind of colonialism he is speaking about falls inside the standard "West dominating the heathen East" rubric. In fact, I get the impression that Küng is essentially telling his readers that the West has nothing to fear from a country like China, who will seek to assert its power in the world through "cooperation and competition" rather than brute force.


It sucks.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Super Donors

In honor of the campaign finance conversation that has been going on for a few days now at Babblemur, I'd like to recommend this rather timely article in National Journal on the folks who have $50,000, $100,000, even $200,000 per election cycle to throw around on politics.

It's a cover story, which means two things: 1.) it's kinda long, and 2.) it's going to get taken down from the website in a few days. So, if you're pressed for time, I'd suggest printing it out and reading it when you can.

Right Wing Wisco Blogger Sells Out

Apparently, Mary Eden -- she of the frequent knee-jerk reactionary opinion -- thinks being an unskilled foreign-born laborer, anti-war activist, pot-smoker, and socialist with unconventional views on religion and spirituality is totally cool, and even worthy of a tribute, as long as you can carry a tune ...

And she calls herself a conservative?

The History of Oil

This headline (and its subsequent article):

Iran drops the dollar

-- reminded me of a wonderful stand-up routine by the British writer/comedian/actor/activist Robert Newman, specifically the part of the act below:

The audio track doesn't seem to jive well with the visual track, but I think the point still gets across. If you have 45 minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching the whole thing, which can be found here in its entirety (and in much better quality).

Fred Thompson Bets the Farm in Iowa

Thinks a top 3 finish in Iowa will give him the momentum he needs to get him a win in South Carolina ... that means he's got some work to do:

Thompson, a former U.S. senator from Tennessee who waited until September to formally enter the race for the Republican nomination, has slipped to fourth place in the Iowa Poll, at 9 percent.

Giuliani's in third at 13%. Both Rudy and Thompson have been hemorrhaging support in Iowa in recent weeks, likely because neither of them appear to give a shit about the kind of retail politics Iowans demand from their presidential candidates. The question is if Thompson can hold on to his numbers or at least keep them from slipping at a rate faster than Giuliani's, whose ShagFund scandal looks to be seriously weighing him down.

Of course, if Ron Paul manages to squeak by Thompson in Iowa -- then it's game over. It will be very hard to recover from such an embarrassment.

By the way, the Ron Paul blimp will launch on the same day as the much anticipated Led Zeppelin reunion concert in London, thus creating the perfect segway for evening news broadcasts.