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Friday, May 26, 2006
 
First They Ignore You, Then They Laugh At You, Then They Fight You, Then They Compile A Top 100 List
I've been thinking a lot about the National Review's recent list of the "Top 100 Conservative Rock Songs". The magazine's John J. Miller compiled the list, and it seems entirely symbolic of the way conservatives operate here in the real world: sooner or later they must claim as their own the things they cannot destroy.

I don't know when conservatives started trying to embrace rock music, but it must have started fairly recently. Rock was always seen as subversive by wingers, a cultural malignancy that must be destroyed. Movies like The Blackboard Jungle depicted rock as both symptom and catalyst of cultural decay and its chief manifestations, sexual promiscuity and juvenile delinquency.

It was Minneapolis station WDGY that led the local record-burning hordes when John Lennon commented that the Beatles were "bigger than Jesus". When I was in high school in the 1980s, Jerry Falwell was insisting that rock & roll was the devil's music, and the beat was dirty. Pat Boone attacked Duran Duran for their cheesy but innocuous lyric "dance into the fire". Boone maintained that that was clearly a satanic reference.

So it seems odd that the National Review would compile such a list, but the choices themselves seem odd and misplaced. "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Taxman" are obvious conservative anthems, but "Won't Get Fooled Again?" Miller claims that the song champions a conservatives' flinty distrust of government. He seems to forget that liberalism -- especially 60's liberalism -- is aggressively anti-authoritarian (remember, John -- don't trust anyone over 30).

A number of Miller's other choices seem very strange indeed. "My City Was Gone" by the Pretenders? ("The farms of Ohio / had been replaced by shopping malls / and muzak filled the air / from Seneca to Cuyahoga Falls" -- maybe John thought the song was celebrating urban sprawl). "Der Komissar" by After The Fire? (A fun song, but it's all throwaway lyrics....I haven't the faintest idea what it's about, or if it's about anything).

Miller scrapes so hard to find 100 songs to back up his thesis that he even chooses Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" -- a conservative song, I suppose -- but I've never heard it on a rock station. And never will.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006
 
There's Always Tomorrow For Dreams To Come True
Perhaps it's an exaggeration to describe Ed Kilgore as the Marshal Petain of the Democratic party, so maybe I'll just call him a cheese-eating surrender monkey and leave it at that. Ed insists that Democrats must wait for just the right time to fight. Unfortunately, for the immigration issue (and every other issue) that time is always tomorrow:

While I personally favor most of those Democratic amendments that are being defeated, the compromise is worth supporting, if it could actually become law. But the end-game that will come into play if the Senate passes a bill obviously involves an additional compromise between the Senate and House approaches.

By refusing to sign on to a smooth-groove path for the compromise absent some assurances about the end-game, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid ultimately secured an agreement to cut Democrats, and members of the responsible bipartisan majority of the Judiciary Committee, into the conference committee. That's why there are enough Senate Democrats willing to keep the compromise alive.

This is a song Ed's been singing for years -- we'd better take this deal because it's the best the Republicans will offer us.

But it is defeatist rhetoric and it's wrong. The Democrats face a weakened and divided Republican majority. They needn't take everything they're offered. And they shouldn't.


Monday, May 22, 2006
 
The Unsecret Conspiracy
Man, Stanley Kurtz needs to take a vacation. He needs to spend more time at home -- sitting in the chaise-lounge with a beer in his hand, mending a few window screens, playing with his kids. If you ask me, he's about to pop a gasket. He saw The Da Vinci Code over the weekend, and now look at him, the guy's frothing at the mouth:

I may not be a professor of “symbology,” but I have taught at Harvard and studied religious symbolism. So I feel in a particularly strong position to reveal the entirely unsecret conspiracy against patriotism, tradition, and religion hiding in plain sight on our movie and television screens, in our universities, and on the pages of the mainstream press. Conservatives have forgotten just how precarious our position is. One cable news channel, talk radio, and the blogosphere do not an invincible army make.

Wonder which cable channel he's talking about?

It only seems that way because we also have nominal control of the reigns of power. But lose our foothold in government, and conservatives are up a creek. The other side controls the levers of cultural power in this country, and we are the enemy in their eyes (and on their screens).

Conservatives need to face the fact that our position in this culture is genuinely precarious. If we lose our hold on power, we’ll scream bloody murder on our outlets at everything the other side does. Yet those screams may only confirm our helplessness.

In the blogosphere, no one can hear you scream.

The deep cultural dimension of our political battles makes an ordinary transfer of political power far more consequential than it was in the days when America had a bipartisan foreign policy and a broad cultural consensus.

Oh, you mean like the "bipartisan foreign policy" and "broad cultural consensus" we enjoyed during the Clinton administration?

We can dream about forcing Republicans to the right and then riding back into power two years later, but one big loss could easily turn conservatives back into a marginal cultural force for some time.

Translation: If Democrats win, America loses.

Why have Democrats been so angry? It’s because their taken-for-granted cultural superiority has been called into question by 9/11, the return of patriotism, a tough foreign policy, and the open defense of the sort of traditional values they thought were on the way out. Republican victories have punctured the cultural left’s sense of the historical inevitability of their triumph, and that is at the root of their rage.

Ah, so that's what psychologists mean by "projection".

By controlling the political agenda, conservatives control the cultural agenda as well (or at least a large part of it). But the truth is, other than the government, the left is still in control of our critical cultural institutions. Should the left recapture the government as well, it may well succeed in pushing traditionalists aside in the culture at large.

Okay, so maybe Stanley is just cynically trying to rally the weary wingnut troops with some culture-war blather. But he seems genuinely pissed off that people are lining up to see a movie that he doesn't want them to see.

The idea that The Da Vinci Code is being injected into the cultural debate by a shadowy, powerful cabal is loony. The book was a monster best-seller (for reasons beyond my understanding; I thought it was trash) and that made a movie version inevitable. And while a shadowy cabal might be able to force a movie into production, it couldn't force people to buy tickets.

For the umpteenth time, Stanley, studios make movies that they think will make money. And maybe you should take the advice of a famous Hollywood tagline: "To avoid fainting, keep repeating: it's only a movie....only a movie....only a movie..."


Friday, May 19, 2006
 
Michael Graves: World's Worst Architect


You are a sick man, Michael Graves.

Tomorrow is the grand opening of Cesar Pelli's lovely Minneapolis Central Library, an architectural marvel that is another milestone in a brilliant artist's career. I can't wait to visit the new library (having whiled away many a happy hour in the old one). But all the hoopla surrounding the new MCL reminded me of the last architectural opening I attended. It wasn't pretty.

I am talking about the Target Stage Theater, a ghastly, freakish eyesore that looms like an enormous broken toy over Saint Paul's Harriet Island.

I'm no architecture critic, but you don't need one to figure out the obvious: the Target Stage is hideous. In introducing this monstrosity, Graves pointed out how each architectural element was designed to "evoke" something: the twin iron columns were designed to evoke the lift bridge in Duluth Harbor, and the sloped roof was designed to evoke the rolling plains of the midwest, and the ugly gray cement platform was designed to evoke....oh, something or other.

Apparently Graves never considered what all of these elements together would actually look like. Because for me, all the damned thing evokes is the trunk of a '63 Buick Riviera suspended between two sawed-off oil derricks. People, this thing is ugly.

There is no law against bad architecture, but when identified it should be recognized, and the perpetrators should be prevented from spreading their misery elsewhere. When I am elected mayor of Saint Paul, the first thing I'll do is demolish Target Stage and ban Michael Graves from ever setting foot in the city again.

And if he defies the law and enters my city with dreams of building more of his hideous visions....well, heads will roll like cabbages on that day, my friends. I take this stuff seriously.


 
Feeding The Beast


Aieeee! Run for your lives!

With the glib confidence of an unreconstructed Lysenkoist, the National Review hoots at Jonathan Rauch's recent article about the fallacy of tax cuts as economic cure-all. Rauch focuses on a study on taxation vs. government spending conducted by Cato institute chair William Niskanen:

Niskanen recently analyzed data from 1981 to 2005....When he performed a statistical regression that controlled for unemployment (which independently influences spending and taxes), he found, he says, “no sign that deficits have ever acted as a constraint on spending.” To the contrary: judging by the last twenty-five years (plenty of time for a fair test), a tax cut of 1 percent of the GDP increases the rate of spending growth by about 0.15 percent of the GDP a year. A comparable tax hike reduces spending growth by the same amount.

Again looking at 1981 to 2005, Niskanen then asked at what level taxes neither increase nor decrease spending. The answer: about 19 percent of the GDP. In other words, taxation above that level shrinks government, and taxation below it makes government grow. Thanks to the Bush tax cuts, revenues have been well below 19 percent since 2002 (17.8 percent last year). Perhaps not surprisingly, government spending has risen under Bush.

Niskanen's explanation for this is simple economics: if you cut tax rates by 20%, people are essentially getting government services at a 20% discount. And when people are offered a discount, they tend to buy more of what's for sale.

Ah, but those hardy supply-siders at NR still believe that tax cuts will eventually 'starve the beast':

While Niskanen has accounted for the effects of the business cycle, he has not taken account of the possibility that tax cuts cause spending cuts after a few years. It may be, for example, that Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts helped doom Bill Clinton’s push for socialized medicine.

Oh, really? How?

And even if it were the case that tax cuts do not, by themselves, make it easier to cut spending, that would hardly negate the economic case for cutting taxes that punish saving, investment, and work.

Translation: even if you successfully prove that the entire economic theory behind tax cuts is horseshit, we'll find another way to sell tax cuts to you.

It would only prove that there is no easy way to get a welfare state to reduce spending. And that is something that unhappy experience should already have taught us.

Should have, but didn't. Wishful thinking and pixie dust were so much more appealing.


Monday, May 15, 2006
 
Remember, They're Not Lying To You If They Don't Tell You Anything
Remember when USA Today broke the story of the NSA's massive phone call database? Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? Well, it was only last week.

One reason it seems so long ago is that there have already been three public opinion polls done on the issue. The first, an ABC / Washington Post poll that was released less than 24 hours after the story broke, revealed that 63% of the public approved of the NSA program. That was followed by a Newsweek poll and a USA Today poll, both of which showed a narrow majority of Americans actually opposed the program.

Why the big difference in the numbers?

First, the ABC / Washington Post poll was quite rushed; the public hadn't yet had time to form a very solid opinion, and the sample size was relatively small.

But there was also a difference of language. Here is the wording of the first poll vs. the last poll (via Captain's Quarters):

Here's the question asked by the ABC/WaPo poll:

It's been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?

USA Today asked this:

As you may know, as part of its efforts to investigate terrorism, a federal government agency obtained records from three of the largest U.S. telephone companies in order to create a database of billions of telephone numbers dialed by Americans. How closely have you been following the news about this?


Based on what you have heard or read about this program to collect phone records, would you say you approve or disapprove of this government program?

Captain Ed, of course, believes that that two later polls were biased because they asked people how closely they'd been following the story, then asked those who said they were following it closely what they actually thought. Ed apparently thinks that's push-polling -- which says more about him than it does about me.

Clearly polling language can change the result of the poll, and that's especially true in this particular issue. I think that the American people want the government to aggressively fight terrorism, and want to be able to trust that their government is protecting them.

But the administration is finding -- much to its consternation -- that scaring people into silence isn't working anymore. And they are also finding that, more and more, the American people don't trust them to do the right thing.


Friday, May 12, 2006
 
Pretty Fishy


Maybe it's all the mercury in the water.

From DFL Senate (via Polinaut), a photo of Rep. Mark Kennedy that seems, at first glance, perfectly normal.

There's Mark, regular-Joe sportsman, holding up a fish. Nice catch, Mark!

But wait!

When you look closely, you see two right arms holding up the fish.

I can see where a third arm might come in handy, especially when you're reeling in a real fighter. Perhaps Mark represents the next big leap in human evolution.


 
Welcome To The 20s, Mr. President
President Bush's approval rating dipped into the 20s for the first time in a major poll, E&P reported today:

President Bush’s job approval rating has fallen to 29%, its lowest mark of his presidency, and down 6% in one month, according to a new Harris poll. And this was before Thursday's revelations about NSA phone surveillance.

Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 29% think Mr. Bush is doing an “excellent or pretty good” job as president, down from 35% in April and 43% in January.

Roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults say “things in the country are going in the right direction,” while 69% say “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”

I don't believe that the NSA revelations will hurt Bush in the polls, at least in the short term. Most of Bush's current slide in the polls can be traced to disaffection in his base of supporters. The news that the government is spying on its citizens and lying about it to Congress will bring some of the nutty wingers back into the fold -- for a while, anyway.


Thursday, May 11, 2006
 
By The Power Of Grayskull!


"Only three others know my secret..."

Rarely has a pop-culture essay cracked me up like Sam Anderson's delightful piece in Slate, "Rediscovering He-Man". Sam writes eloquently about how He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was a bright spot in his otherwise dismal childhood, and how he recently rediscovered the series on DVD. As you might expect, the series doesn't look as good to him now as it did in 1983.

And He-Man doesn't seem quite as, um, manly as he did in 1983 either:

The best part about rewatching He-Man, after the initial nostalgia-burst, was tracking the show's hilarious accidental homo-eroticism—an aspect I missed completely as a first-grader. In the ever-growing lineup of "outed" classic superheroes, He-Man might be the easiest target of all. It's almost too easy: Prince Adam, He-Man's alter ego, is a ripped Nordic pageboy with blinding teeth and sharply waxed eyebrows who spends lazy afternoons pampering his timid pet cat; he wears lavender stretch pants, furry purple Ugg boots, and a sleeveless pink blouse that clings like saran wrap to his pecs. To become He-Man, Adam harnesses what he calls "fabulous secret powers": His clothes fall off, his voice drops a full octave, his skin turns from vanilla to nut brown, his giant sword starts gushing energy, and he adopts a name so absurdly masculine it's redundant. Next, he typically runs around seizing space-wands with glowing knobs and fabulously straddling giant rockets. He hangs out with people called Fisto and Ram Man, and they all exchange wink-wink nudge-nudge dialogue: "I'd like to hear more about this hooded seed-man of yours!" "I feel the bony finger of Skeletor!" "Your assistance is required on Snake Mountain!" Once you start thinking along these lines, it's impossible to stop.

Back in college, the show was something my buddies and I watched every day. I don't remember discussing He-Man's sexuality (though there was certainly fiery debate surrounding the eternal Teela vs. The Sorceress question.)

For the record, I was always a Sorceress man myself. She was kind of aloof and mysterious, and come on, you knew she was experienced. Guys dig that.


 
Qui Tacet Consentit
That defensive braying sound you hear is the Republicans getting ready to defend yet another illegal act of this administration. The NSA phone intercept program -- revealed in a USA Today article -- is an astonishingly broad and clearly illegal effort to capture the phone records of every American.

President Bush said Thursday the government is "not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans" with a reported program to create a massive database of U.S. phone calls.

"Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda and their known affiliates," Bush said. "The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities."

By whom?

Bush's comments came after USA Today reported Thursday that three telecommunication firms provided the National Security Agency with domestic telephone call records from millions of Americans beginning shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Bush did not specifically mention the newspaper's report.

In response to the USA Today article, NSA spokesman Don Weber issued a statement saying, "Given the nature of the work we do, it would be irresponsible to comment on actual or alleged operational issues; therefore, we have no information to provide.

"However, it is important to note that NSA takes its legal responsibilities seriously and operates within the law."


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, hmmmm?

The administration's defenders -- there are still a few knocking around out there -- are repeating the arguments they have used before with some success: we're doing this to protect you, America. Talking about it only helps our enemies. If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about. The siren song of the fascist.

But I wonder how successful those arguments will be now. Day by day, lie by lie, the American people are learning not to trust the party in power. Previously, Bush's defenders declared that only communications between Americans and foreign nationals were being eavesdropped upon. The American people accepted it -- because they were afraid, and because, when the Republicans got defensive and demanded whose side are you on?, the Democrats gulped -- and went silent.

This afternoon, according to CNN, Bill Frist declared that he is "strongly" behind the NSA program, and then said, "We'll see if hearings are necessary."

Perhaps he needs to consult with The Decider first.

The Republicans will no doubt try again to silence the Democrats by challenging their patriotism. It's time for the Democrats to push back -- hard.

Starting now.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006
 
Yeah, That's Just What America Needs
More evidence -- if any more was needed -- that George W. Bush has lost his marbles:

The second -- and current -- President Bush suggested today that his younger brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, would make a "great president."

"I would like to see Jeb run at some point in time, but I have no idea if that's his intention or not," Bush said in an interview with Florida reporters, according to a story on the St. Petersburg Times Web site.

If that sounds familiar, the Bush brothers' father, former president George H.W. Bush, made a similar statement last year, telling CNN's Larry King that Jeb Bush would be "awfully good" as president.

"This guy's smart, big and strong. Makes the decisions," the first President Bush said then.

Great. Can he talk in complete sentences? That would be refreshing.

Jeb Bush, who cannot seek reelection after his second term as governor ends in January, has repeatedly said he will not run for president in 2008, when his brother will leave the White House.

But that hasn't stopped his father and older brother from planting the idea.

President Bush said in the interview today, at the end of a three-day trip to Florida, that he has "pushed" his brother "fairly hard about what he intends to do."

The president said: "I have no idea what he's going to do. I've asked him that question myself. I truly don't think he knows."

Do these people really think that America wants another idiotic member of this family to occupy the White House?

Well, maybe so. I doubt if Republican activists are eager to anoint Jeb as their standard-bearer in 2008.

But a fella can dream, can't he?


Tuesday, May 09, 2006
 
Death Spiral
Just in case there was any doubt, tonight's New York Times/CBS News poll makes it perfectly clear: the wheels have come off the Bush presidency, and the GOP is in serious trouble.

Americans have a bleaker view of the country's direction than at any time in more than two decades, and sharp disapproval of President Bush's handling of gasoline prices has combined with intensified unhappiness about Iraq to create a grim political environment for the White House and Congressional Republicans, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

Mr. Bush's approval rating for his management of foreign policy, Iraq and the economy have fallen to the lowest levels of his presidency. He drew poor marks on the specific issues that have been at the top of the national agenda in recent months — in particular, immigration and gas prices — underscoring the difficulty the administration faces in reversing its political fortunes.

Just 13 percent approved of Mr. Bush's handling of rising gas prices. Only one-quarter said they approved of his handling of immigration, as Congressional Republicans struggle to come up with a compromise to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants into the country.

Overall, Bush's approval rating is 31% -- the lowest ever for Bush in this poll. That ties the 31% scored by Bush the Elder in the fall of 1992, and only Nixon and Carter have scored lower in the Times poll.

They did not score much lower.

Bush has got to hit bedrock soon. A good quarter of the population would stay on his side even if he was photographed on the White House lawn sawing up Laura's corpse with a chain saw, and jamming the parts into Hefty bags. But how strongly that 25% will back him, and for how long, remains to be seen.


Friday, May 05, 2006
 
Patrick Kennedy: Professional Birdbrain


They might as well have elected the cat.

It does not surprise me in the least that the witless Patrick Kennedy is now on his way to the Mayo Clinic for rehab, a day after his late-night D.C. fender-bender.

I have a confession to make: I have always despised Patrick. He is by far the dumbest Kennedy to ever walk the earth -- and there are quite a few dumb ones out there. His election to Congress was a travesty engineered by his family and rich friends, an insult to the Kennedy name. Patrick doesn't stand for anything, doesn't believe in anything, and he didn't even campaign for the seat himself. He stood around and smiled stupidly while a bevy of political all-stars stumped on his behalf. They gave him that congressional seat, the way you give a dumb kid an easy job at the family business.

That's not how it's supposed to work.

The very least Patrick could have done to show his gratitude was to keep his mouth shut and stay out of trouble. But the kid's a screw-up. Everybody knows it. And so now here he is, in trouble, embarrassing his family and his friends.

And proving what any student of history knows: that it doesn't matter what a great king might achieve. Because it will all be pissed away by his heirs, sooner or later anyway.


 
Are We There Yet?
John Derbyshire's latest rant against the Moussaoui decision is a corker, all right. He describes the trial as "a low point for our nation in its accelerating slide toward oblivion" -- a phrase the National Review has used so regularly over the last half-century that I have to imagine they've trademarked it. I have a question: if our slide toward Oblivion keeps accelerating, shouldn't we be there by now?

Derb bizarrely gives Moussaoui props for being a strong macho type in the face of a weak bunch of sob-sisters:

Judge Brinkema's closing remarks were typical of the whole sorry performance, and gave Moussaoui yet another opportunity to play the man — the only man in the courtroom. Does anyone, DOES ANYONE, think we're going to defeat Islamofascism by squirting clouds of this multicultural mush at it? The terrorists sure as hell don't. Does anyone think the enemy gives a fig for our determination not to "focus on hatred, bigotry, and irrationality" (Judge Brinkema). I wonder if you can win a war without deploying hatred. Homer didn't think so.

Well, Lincoln did think so. I'll take him over Homer any day. Although I suppose John wouldn't regard Lincoln as a "real man" -- not like macho-man Zacarias Moussaoui.

Derb even goes on to quote Osama bin Laden:

The New York Post described Judge Brinkema's closing remarks as "a tongue lashing." I would say that's about right. They have suicide bombers — and, any day now, nukes which they will use. We have wet tongues.

"When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, naturally they will favor the strong horse."—-Osama bin Laden. Yes, they will. We are doomed, doomed.

That the wingnuts see Moussaoui and bin Laden as strong and powerful role models, and our own country's rule of law as weak and girlish, says a lot about how debased American conservativism has become. There is no question that the terrorists want to frighten us, want us to abandon our ideals and our principles. The last thing we should do is comply.

Thursday, May 04, 2006
 
It Depends On What Your Definition Of "Death" Is
With a touching lack of guile and without the slightest hint of irony, the wingnut intelligentsia takes time out from praising Ramesh Ponorru's new screed against the Democrats -- The Party of Death -- to bash the jury in the Zacharias Moussaoui trial for not giving the convicted 9/11 plotter....well, death.

Peggy "liberals-are-half-in-love-with-death" Noonan in particular waxes eloquent about the value of death:

It is the expression of a certitude, of a shared national conviction, about the value of a human life.

I see. We can't appreciate the value of life without the death penalty, is that it?

It says the deliberate and planned taking of a human life is so serious, such a wound to justice, such a tearing at the human fabric, that there is only one price that is justly paid for it, and that is the forfeiting of the life of the perpetrator. It is society's way of saying that murder is serious, dreadfully serious, the most serious of all human transgressions.
Isn't the death penalty itself a "planned taking of a human life", Peggy?

Meanwhile, the National Review's John Podhoretz chimes in:

There is only one justifiable reason for a juror to make this choice. That juror has to believe the death penalty is wrong under any and all circumstances. To imagine that there can be any mitigating circumstance regarding Moussaoui's actual guilt is moral idiocy of the highest order.

Perhaps a greater moral idiocy is to assume you know what only the jurors themselves know. Perhaps they felt the death penalty was Moussaoui's ticket to martyrdom, and they didn't want to give it to him.

But never mind that. The wingers had already gone back to lauding Ponorru's book. Quoth convicted felon Chuck Colson: "This carefully researched and rigorously argued work skillfully rebuts the seductive arguments of America's merchants of death. Beautifully crafted, it is both enjoyable and profitable reading."

Profitable for Ponorru, anyway.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006
 
From The Ministry Of Gibbering Idiots
Gee, Senator Frist, does this mean I'm not getting my $100 rebate check?

WASHINGTON, May 1 — Senate Republicans on Monday hurriedly abandoned a broad tax proposal opposed by the oil industry and business leaders, another sign of their struggle to come up with an acceptable political and legislative answer to high gasoline prices.

Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said he had decided to jettison the provision, which would have generated billions of dollars by changing the way businesses treat inventories for tax purposes. Instead, he said the Senate Finance Committee would hold hearings on the plan "later this year, so the pluses and minuses of the provision can become well known."

The retreat came after a torrent of objections from business leaders and their advocates, who typically view Republicans in Congress as allies. They said they had been blindsided by the inclusion of the proposal as a central element of the Republican leadership's energy package late last week.

The centerpiece of the leadership proposal, a $100 rebate check to compensate taxpayers for higher gasoline prices, continued to receive a rough reception. Members of the public have telephoned and written to ridicule the idea, and even Republican lawmakers are finding fault.

Aww, too bad. I knew exactly where I was going to send the money.



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