Thursday, December 14, 2006

During a NewsHour segment on generational differences in the workplace, Deloitte & Touche analyst Stan Smith said this:

Basically, it's Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y. And the differences, I think, are well known in some cases. I'd put it this way: the Baby Boomers are "Work, work, work." It's a very important part of their lives. Gen X is "Work, work... I want to work some more, let's talk about it." And Gen Y is "Work, work... you want me to work even more? How lame. I think I'll IM my friends and tell you how lame you are, for asking me to work even more."
Amusingly accurate.

According to The Swamp, John Edwards will announce on Friday, December 29. A bit late for the holiday season, but agreeably soon all the same.

Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson suffered some sort of medical emergency this afternoon; no word on what it was (a spokesman has denied that it was a stroke, as was widely reported earlier), but as of about 5:30 this morning, he was still in surgery.

The big-picture potential for this, of course, is the Democratic majority: if Johnson's incapable of serving come January, the Republican governor of South Dakota can appoint any replacement he likes; the appointment of a Republican would could give control of the Senate back to the Republicans.

When I first saw the stories this afternoon, my gut reaction to the Democratic-majority talk was discomfort: the man's suffered some sort of medical calamity, his life may be in danger, and within the first three sentences of every story is a mention of the fact that his incapacitation could hurt the balance of the Senate? But - as one might conclude from the fact that I'm writing about it now - I got over that. I wish him well, and I hope he gets better, in the same way that I'd hope that anyone who suffered a medical calamity got better (even a Republican).1 But I think I'll be pulling for Johnson a bit harder than I'd be pulling for most other people. Because while his incapacitation (or worse) would be terrible for him and his family, it has the potential to be disastrous for the Democratic party.

Now, granted, even in the event of Republican control of the Senate, we're probably not talking catastrophe: the House would remain a solid buffer to GOP malfeasance. But the Senate, all by itself, has the potential to do serious harm (anyone else fake-coughing Sam Alito's name right now?). Suppose, God forbid, that John Paul Stevens suffered some sort of medical disaster. The difference between that happening while the Senate is controlled by the Democrats and that happening while the Senate is controlled by the Republicans could be the difference between Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy (or, perish the thought, David Souter).

There's a good chance that won't become an issue, of course. And there's even a very good chance that the Senate could spend the next two years as a Republican body and not have all too negative a net effect. But the potential exists that a Republican Senate could have a drastically negative effect. And for that reason, the fact that Tim Johnson's hospitalization could jeopardize the Democratic majority is probably bigger news, in the long run, than the fact of Tim Johnson's hospitalization all by itself. Hence this post.

Sorry, Senator. Get well soon.

1 - Okay, most Republicans.

Sam Brownback thinks there's "room in the [Republican] party" for pro-gay-rights candidates. Which shocked me, until I read the next paragraph, and realized that he said it in response to a question about Mitt Romney. Ouch. (I think the rough analogy on my side of the aisle would be if Evan Bayh, in response to a question about Joe Biden, told a reporter there's room in the Democratic party for racists.)

(And for the record, I don't think Joe Biden's a racist, any more than I think Mitt Romney is pro-gay-rights.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Via Last Call comes this exceedingly amusing revelation from Katrina vanden Heuvel:

Gore's global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, has been a triumph for the issue itself and Gore's reputation. It has been short-listed for the Oscar's documentary category, as it should be. But wait, there's more. Also on the short list is a dark horse candidate, An Unreasonable Man, a documentary about the political life of (natch) Ralph Nader.

So here we are six years later faced with the potential of another Gore v Nader race. Will Nader siphon off enough votes to cost Gore yet another victory? Given the makeup of the 5,830 Academy voters, largely older and significantly Jewish, will Florida be the deciding battleground?
This is fantastic. If An Inconvenient Truth ends up finishing a close second to Jesus Camp, and An Unreasonable Man had enough votes to make the difference, one has to imagine the odds are good that Al Gore will literally have Ralph Nader killed.

According to a poll CNN released this morning, fully 62% of the country believes "America is ready" for a black president. And a solid 60% say the same about a female president.

Now if only they'd asked how many of those people were lying....

Saturday, December 09, 2006

(And in my final catch-up post of the day, a Last Call-style Shot and Chaser that I jotted down a week and a half ago.)

Shot: "There’s one thing I’m not going to do: I’m not going to pull the troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete." -- President Bush, November 30, 2006.

Chaser: "[Mission accomplished.]" -- President Bush, May 1, 2003.


The New York Times Book Review has named its 100 Notable and 10 Best of the year. If you haven't seen the lists already (this post was actually timely when I wrote it two weeks ago...), they're always worth a look.

(Note: this is way out of date, but I wanted to put it up anyway.) A week and a half ago, before Silvestre Reyes was announced as HPSCI chair, there was a mini-groundswell of support within the blogosphere – TPM, Matthew Yglesias, Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly, David Corn at The Nation, and Joe Conason at Salon, et al – for a low-ranking New Jersey Democrat named Rush Holt. And that groundswell pleased me.

When it became clear (in mid-November) that Alcee Hastings wasn’t going to get the chairmanship, Rush Holt was my first thought. He's smart, he's well-liked, and he's got the background (the man's literally a nuclear physicist) to be very effective. But I was all the same surprised to see him get so much support among the lefty muckety-mucks. Because my second thought – the one that came right after "Hey, Holt would be good for that" – was "Who am I kidding? I'm not even sure the leadership knows who Holt is."

As it turned out, the political stickiness of sidestepping the CBC would have made it very difficult for Pelosi to tap Rush Holt even if she'd wanted to. I understand that, and I have no problem with Reyes; I'm sure he'll do a fine job. But I wanted to note for the record that I think Holt would have been the right choice. And apparently, I'm not alone in that.

If Jerry Bruckheimer did shuttle launches. (Photo by AP's Nigel Cook; a few other nice pictures are available at NASA's Kennedy Media Gallery.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

From a cheery article about the recent strong performance of wages relative to inflation:

For now, though, with the number of unemployed Americans actively seeking work at a five-year low, help-wanted signs are proliferating again and many businesses are having a harder time finding employees.

That means even lower-wage workers like Mercedes Herrera, an immigrant from Mexico who cleans at San Felipe Plaza, a high-rise office building in Houston, are enjoying more leverage with their employers. Last month, Ms. Herrera’s union, the Service Employees International Union, settled a monthlong strike and secured raises of more than $2 an hour over the next two years for some 5,300 janitors in Houston.

The pay of Ms. Herrera, a 37-year-old mother of four, will increase to $6.25 an hour on Jan. 1, from $5.65 now. "It’s going to be a big difference in my personal finances," she said, speaking through a translator. With the extra money, she said, she hoped she would no longer have to ask for food from churches.
Jesus Christ. That's the saddest thing I've read in a week. "And what are you planning to use your raise for, Area Woman?" "Oh, you know... a small second home, a big-screen TV, maybe play the market a little. Oh, and I was thinking I might finally be able to afford food."

$6.25 x 2,080 hours: $13,000.
2006 federal poverty guideline for a family of five: $23,400.
Ms. Herrera's increased salary as a percentage of the federal poverty level: 55%.

Now that's a strong economy.

Monday, December 04, 2006

"The tobacco industry: proudly seeming a little sillier every time you read something about us."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Remembering a murdered New Orleanian, with a little help from Edna St. Vincent Millay. Well worth a read.

(The full essay is after the jump, for those without TimesSelect access.)

Taken by the Tide
Published: January 10, 2006

In one 24-hour period last week in New Orleans, now a small city of 200,000, six people were murdered. Last year's total of 161 murders probably made New Orleans the deadliest city in the United States by a significant margin. I suppose it was only a matter of time before the violence touched my life directly.

Last Thursday morning I received a call from my friend Kittee. ''I have awful news,'' she said, and then, very quickly: ''Someone broke into Paul and Helen's house. Helen was shot and killed. Paul was holding Baby Francis and was shot three times. He's still alive. Francis is O.K.''

Paul Gailiunas -- Dr. Paul, I call him -- had been my physician for several years at the Little Doctors Clinic, a health center for poor people that he founded in Treme, one of America's oldest black neighborhoods.

I had started to see Paul after my previous doctor mocked one of my colleagues about our work representing people on Louisiana's death row. When I met Paul through a friend, I asked him directly, ''Are you in favor of the death penalty?'' He responded, with a smile, ''Eh, I'm Canadian,'' clearly feeling that was answer enough.

And it was, coming from the founder of our local chapter of Food Not Bombs and the front man for the Troublemakers (a band whose songs celebrate Emma Goldman and the idea of universal health care) in such a lighthearted tone that it would scarcely have alienated the most ardent conservative.

Helen Hill was Paul's perfect match -- a kind and generous woman who made award-winning animated films and taught art and filmmaking to children, adults, anyone who was interested. She'd spent much of the last year restoring reels of 16-millimeter film on which she had drawn by hand, and which had been damaged when their house took four feet of water during Hurricane Katrina.

She had a new film under way, inspired by discarded hand-sewn dresses, made by an elderly New Orleanian, which Helen had found in the trash after the woman's death. The film interwove the story of the old woman and her dresses with Helen's own flood-torn life, which took her, Paul and Francis to Columbia, S.C. -- Helen's hometown, where she will be buried today -- for almost a year.

Helen had longed to return to New Orleans, despite Paul's concern that crime and potential hurricanes made it too dangerous for their family. So Helen campaigned, sending Paul's friends in New Orleans blank postcards, addressed to Paul, for us to write and mail to him. In mine, I pleaded with Paul -- ''We need you'' -- the way I do with anyone who is thinking about leaving, coming to, or even just visiting New Orleans. After what I am sure was a flood of similar cards, Paul relented.

I saw Paul and the baby a day after their return to the city, at a parade on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Francis had on a little railroad conductor's hat, a T-shirt depicting a cartoon love affair between red beans and rice (the New Orleans Monday lunch classic), and a little sign pinned to his back, in Helen's hand: ''New Orleans Native. I Got Back Yesterday!''

The day of the anniversary was solemn but optimistic. Everyone still had a can-do attitude. Paul, for one, could help make the city's people well and improve health care for the poor. Helen could make art depicting the city's life. Others could rebuild schools, demand better levees, reconstruct their homes. It still felt as if our grassroots efforts, along with some real help from a government finally forced to make good on its obligations, could create a more just, fair and safe city. It might have been naïve, but it really seemed possible.

After wandering this beautiful, falling-over city the afternoon after Helen's murder, forcing myself to remember why I love it here so much, I came back to my garden and picked flowers, those hardy few that had weathered the recent cold. I put them in a vase, wrote out the verses to Edna St. Vincent Millay's ''Dirge Without Music'' -- ''I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground / So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind'' -- and drove to the couple's house, which my wife and I had recently visited for Helen's open studio. On the steps leading up to their old shotgun house I set down the poem and the vase, just feet from where Paul had been found by the police, shot, bleeding, holding his baby.

On the way home, I stopped at my neighborhood bar to try to eat something. A picture of Paul and Helen, followed by one of the baby, appeared on the television in the corner. Oh, my God. The bartender was kind. She asked me whether I knew them, and talked to me about her fears living with her new baby in a city with no functional schools, no real plan for redevelopment, and spotty or nonexistent basic services. The TV news switched to a weather report: torrential downpours were expected to dump half a foot of rain overnight.

I drove home in the twilight and arrived uneasy and restless. Remembering the coming rain, I resolved to make myself useful to my block by digging out a sewer so backed up that the street -- on high ground by New Orleans standards -- floods at even the hint of rain. I had done this many times before, having realized that my innumerable calls to the city were in vain.

I pried up the 100-pound cast iron cover with a shovel and then shimmied it from side to side until I had the two-by-four sewer open. It was full to the top with debris. I shoveled out the leaves, dirt, Popeye's cups and other garbage until the small brick rectangle was as clean as it was a century ago, when New Orleans first created this drainage system.

Then I set to work on clearing the cylindrical drain -- about as wide as a hubcap, at the bottom corner of the cleaned-out basin -- so that the rain could find its way into the city's sewers, away from our houses, cars and belongings. I got down with a small shovel and burrowed through the muck until it seemed to open at the other side. Reaching in, though, I could feel that beyond the drain lay more dirt and leaves, packed hard.

Indeed, it became clear to me that the whole sewer line running beneath the street was solid with waste, impenetrable to arms and shovels -- that my street would flood again that night. The problem, I realized, is bigger than me.

I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Billy Sothern, a lawyer, is the author of the forthcoming "Down in New Orleans: Reflections on a Drowned City."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Giving thanks for the holiday weekend; back on Monday. Happy Thanksgiving, loyal readers!

Last week, a newspaper columnist in Georgia wrote a heartbreaking human-interest piece about being unintentionally cockblocked by Barack Obama at a press conference two years ago. And apparently someone in Obama's press shop spotted it, because Obama called the kid to apologize, and NPR's Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me has the audio. Nicely done, Obamians.

ThinkProgress thinks - or at least thought on Friday, thanks to a blurb in the White House Bulletin - that Karl Rove plans to resign in the very immediate future. I'll be awfully surprised if that actually comes to pass, but stranger things have certainly happened. (For instance, Sylvester Stallone talked some studio into doing another Rocky movie.)

Big Science gathers in La Jolla to talk religion, and the New York Times is there. Highlights:

  • Steven Weinberg: "The world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief."
  • Lawrence Krauss: "I think we need to respect people’s philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong." (Emphasis added to show the part that made me laugh.)
  • Richard Dawkins: "I am utterly fed up with the respect that we — all of us, including the secular among us — are brainwashed into bestowing on religion. Children are systematically taught that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real evidence." You the man now, Dawk!
  • Melvin Konner: "“With a few notable exceptions, the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?" Both, obviously.

The New York Times writes about the Next Big Thing at the U.S. Mint: really ugly presidential subway tokens dollar coins. Four per year for the next ten years. The first (Washington, naturally) goes into circulation in mid-February.

In response to the FOIA-forced release of a whole slew of embarrassing documents, the director of the office in charge of the Defense Department's TALON anti-terrorist database admits that it's been used on occasion as... well, an anti-protester database:

Mr. Baur said that those operating the database had misinterpreted their mandate and that what was intended as an antiterrorist database became, in some respects, a catch-all for leads on possible disruptions and threats against military installations in the United States, including protests against the military presence in Iraq.
"Misinterpreted their mandate" indeed. (I suspect the ACLU is unsympathetic.)

Best. Concession speech. Ever.

(And this is a guy who got 36% of the vote!)

Arnold Schwarzengovernor, exquisitely conscious of the fact that he is Constitutionally barred from ever becoming president, nevertheless holds out hope.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Good news, hungry-types: you're not hungry anymore. You now suffer from "very low food security." You can thank the USDA.

Obvious caption: "Senate Republican leadership celebrates the successful return of Trent Lott by trying to look as much as possible like the cast of an upcoming primetime mid-season replacement comedy-drama about the zany personal lives of the principals at a big DC law firm."

Hoyer won. (Murtha's sick of this crap, anyway.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Incoming RNC "general chairman" (or, as President Bush put it, "honorary chairman") Mel Martinez got a shout-out in Bob Ney's guilty plea. I'm not sure how much of a shock this is, coming from a party that's just elected Trent Lott second fiddle in the Senate, but still, of all the people to have picked to chair the party... they pick the one with Abramoff ties?

Susan Collins weighs in on Lieberman's precariousness in a New York Times article amusingly headlined "Enter, Pariah."

"It’s clear that the Democrats need him at this point more than he needs them," said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, whom Mr. Lieberman genuinely does consider a close friend. "How sweet is this?"
On a scale of one to ten? Like a two and a half. Maybe a three.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), technology-lover that he undeniably is, would appear to be running for Conference Chairman by posting a video on YouTube. I guess I don't see anything wrong with that, aside from its inherent silliness (which I have to imagine is not lost on Kingston, who has an excellent sense of humor for a Republican member of Congress), but I hope he doesn't expect it to have much actual effect: how many of his colleagues are going to be willing to sit down and watch a video on "the YouTubes"?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

So, clearly, John Edwards does not understand how odds work. Despite my bold 2:1 prediction of a few hours ago, Edwards chose not to use his Daily Show appearance to announce his candidacy for '08. Instead, he took the "thinly-veiled acknowledgment" approach:

Stewart: "Do you feel like going back into politics would diminish your effectiveness, or enhance it?"
Edwards: "Depends on what the job is."
Also, in response to a question about announcements, he "announced" that people should keep an eye on his website in the coming weeks. So I guess that's something. But come on, John: did you hear the silence that fell over that crowd when you said you had something to announce? Those people were ready for some serious supportive cheering. You should have taken the plunge.

At the tail-end of an article about how Mel Martinez will be taking over as RNC chair (or at least, RNC half-chair) comes this mention of the junior senator from Mississippi:

Also on Monday, a spokeswoman for Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, the former Senate Republican leader, announced that he would seek to rejoin the leadership ranks this week after leaving the top job four years ago in an uproar over a racially charged comment.

Mr. Lott will oppose Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee for the No. 2 slot of whip in an election on Wednesday. Mr. Lott had been quietly testing his support. Should Mr. Lott win, it would be a remarkable comeback for the conservative legislative tactician. He was forced out in late 2002 after joking at the 100th birthday party for Senator Strom Thurmond that the nation would have been better off had Mr. Thurmond won the presidency in 1948, when he ran on a segregationist ticket. The remark drew strong criticism as being racially insensitive.
First Newt, now Trent Lott? What's with all the relegitimization, Republicans? (Note: Kos likes the idea.)

Paul Krugman on Republican faux populism:

Ever since movement conservatives took over, the Republican Party has pushed for policies that benefit a small minority of wealthy Americans at the expense of the great majority of voters. To hide this reality, conservatives have relied on wagging the dog and wedge issues, but they’ve also relied on a brilliant marketing campaign that portrays Democrats as elitists and Republicans as representatives of the average American.

This sleight of hand depends on shifting the focus from policy to personal style: John Kerry speaks French and windsurfs, so pay no attention to his plan to roll back tax cuts for the wealthy and use the proceeds to make health care affordable.

The Washington Post endorsed Steny Hoyer for Majority Leader this morning, and did so convincingly. But Murtha's camp is confident that Murtha's ahead in the whip count.

Wake-Up Call points to this Washington Wire post, which notes that the cover of the current issue of Texas Monthly magazine features a picture of Robert Gates and the headline, "Can This Guy Save the Aggies?" To quote Wake-Up Call, "The answer is probably no, now."

John Edwards visits the Daily Show tonight, ostensibly to promote his new book about houses (really). Odds he announces the formation of an exploratory committee: 2:1.

Monday, November 13, 2006

For anyone who's recently said to themselves, "Gosh, I'd like to watch a nice lefty documentary, but I can't decide which one," I'd recommend Why We Fight. I quite enjoyed it.

Wake-Up Call roundup:

  • Feingold's not running, making life a bit easier for the Obamas and Edwardseses of the world.
  • [Presumptive Speaker] Nancy Pelosi endorsed Murtha for Majority Leader, but Steny Hoyer still thinks he has the votes to win.
  • Newly unemployed ex-Rep. John Hostettler is jobless and broke. (Though somehow I like his chances.)
  • And finally, Lieberman, on the likelihood of his switching parties: "I'm not ruling it out, but I hope I don't get to that point." Despite my initial reaction ("Are you fucking kidding me?"), I'm not too worried, because I think he's just twisting the knife a bit. But come on, Joe: don't be such a jerk.
P.S. - For what it's worth, I know I've been over-using the bullets lately. I'm not sure what's to be done about it, but I've recognized the problem, and that's an important first step.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

This Sunday's New York Times Magazine ("The Movie Issue") is one of the better collections I've read recently. Highlights include:

  • How to Be Funny. Ten comedians address various situations. For instance, Teri Garr explains "How to Be Directed by a Comedy Nonlegend," and Paul Rudd describes "How to Be Funny When You Are Incredibly Good-Looking."
  • On a Desert Island.... Twenty-two comedians pick the five comedy DVDs they'd most like to have with them if they were stranded on a desert island. (It is unspecified whether or not there would also be a DVD player.)
    • Top vote-getters: This Is Spinal Tap (4); Dumb and Dumber (3); and Dr. Strangelove (3). Seven more were tied at 2. (No one voted for Robin Hood: Men in Tights.)
    • Mine would be, off the top of my head (which is to say, don't hold me to this): The Big Lebowski; Caddyshack; History of the World: Part I; Monty Python and the Holy Grail; and This Is Spinal Tap. (Honorable mentions to Airplane, Dumb and Dumber, Happy Gilmore, Snatch, and about half a dozen others.)
  • The Shape-Shifter. A 3,000-word profile of Christopher Guest.
  • A Wild and Uncrazy Guy. A 5,000-word profile of Will Ferrell. (Translation: the Magazine thinks that Will Ferrell is 1.66 times as good as Christopher Guest.)
  • Funny Money. Why there have been so many Hollywood comedies lately. (Short answer: because they cost so little that they're much more likely to be profitable. Though "little," clearly, is relative.)

The recently-defeated Lincoln Chafee (clearly a much better loser than this guy) writes an op-ed in the Times blaming his recent loss on Dick Cheney. Though I might be oversimplifying.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

NEWSFLASH! John McCain is considering a run for the Oval Office!

Senator John McCain of Arizona is about to form an exploratory committee for a possible presidential campaign, advisers said, taking a concrete step toward a full-blown campaign in 2008.

Advisers to Mr. McCain said he had not made up his mind whether to run, although he has acknowledged that he is strongly considering doing so.
Now you wait just one second, New York Times. Do you honestly mean to tell me that John McCain -- a man who's been campaigning for at least the last twenty-four months -- is actually giving some thought to thinking about exploring the possibility of maybe considering a potential run for the presidency? I am flabbergasted. Utterly flabbergasted.

Reaction to the Rumsfeld resignation among marines in Iraq:

The sergeant went upstairs to tell his marines, just as he had informed them the day before that the Republican Party had lost control of the House of Representatives and that Congress was in the midst of sweeping change. Mr. Menti had told them that, too.

"Rumsfeld’s out," he said to five marines sprawled with rifles on the cold floor.

Lance Cpl. James L. Davis Jr. looked up from his cigarette. "Who’s Rumsfeld?" he asked.
I'm guessing that marine would have been able to figure out who Rumsfeld was if he'd taken a second to think about it, but even if that's not the case, I wouldn't begrudge him his ignorance; he certainly has better things to worry about (though I think the odds are decent that the quote made his mother cringe). But it's surprising to me that "Rumsfeld" wasn't a name he automatically knew. Given the amount of influence the Secretary of Defense's decisions have on the everyday lives of people like Lance Cpl. Davis, I'd have imagined that Rumsfeld would be nearly as well-known as the president. Clearly, I'd have been wrong. (Unless, of course, Lance Cpl. Davis doesn't know who Bush is, either, in which case he's probably not a fair person from whom to generalize.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

From The Onion:

Evangelical Haggard Claims He Was Molested By Republican Congressman

November 10, 2006 | Issue 42•46

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO—Evangelical leader Ted Haggard, who stepped down last week after confessing that he purchased methamphetamines and various services from a male prostitute, revealed Wednesday that he was repeatedly molested by an unnamed Republican congressman in the late 1990s. "We would communicate on the Internet and then meet in his Washington office to, I thought, discuss faith-based initiatives," said Haggard in a tearful admission in which he asked for the forgiveness of God and his congregation. "Before long, he had progressed from praying alongside me to having me sit on his lap at his desk, and then to touching me in my bathing-suit area. I trusted the congressman, and he violated that trust." Authorities have not acted on Haggard's allegations, saying that Republicans are often accused of wrongdoings simply because so many of them lead secret gay or criminal lifestyles.

According to this post from the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire (a post that I only saw because Wake-Up Call linked to it), Comedy Central's InDecider blog actually broke the news of Rumsfeld's resignation about twelve hours before it was anywhere mainstream. Go figure.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

So, as you may have heard, George Allen conceded (snivellingly) at about 3:00 this afternoon, giving the Democrats both houses of Congress for the first time since November 8, 1994. Lieberman will caucus with the Democrats, thank the Jesus -- and in honesty, I never really thought he wouldn't. But to cut and paste from an email I sent this afternoon:

[In] choosing not to step aside and let Lamont take the seat, Lieberman put himself before the party (with, to read it most charitably, "the people of Connecticut’s" interests at heart). And while there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, it had the potential to become worrisome when he became the swing vote. Given his willingness to put self (and maybe Connecticut) before party, it was not a 100%-sure-thing that’d he’d say to the Republicans knocking on his door, "No, I don’t want [nearly any committee chairmanship]. I’d rather remain a Democrat." That's what he'd probably say, mind, but there there was at least a chance that instead he’d say, "If I remain a Democrat, I’m just a conservative, loyal member of the caucus [he’ll be chairman of the Homeland Security committee]. But if I become a Republican, I’m a superstar with any chairmanship I want, which will enable me to do more good for myself the people of Connecticut."

He swears he’ll caucus with the Democrats, and I now believe him. And honestly, even at my lowest point, I would have put the odds that he’d caucus with the Democrats at around 2:1. But with, say, Ned Lamont, those odds would have been 2:0.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

At around 9:00, the AP called Virginia for Jim Webb. Republicans "in touch" with the Allen campaign say that Allen plans to concede.

I think I just fainted.

Some wrap-up notes:

  • Montana's been called for Tester, embiggening the odds that control of the Senate will be decided by a crotchety old state court judge in Richmond. Someone better keep an eye on Katherine Harris: she's got a lot of free time now, and this is what she's good at. (Note: The Hotline's Marc Ambinder is reporting that "senior Republican officials and White House aides" think Virginia is lost, and will pressure Allen to concede.)
  • Steny Hoyer wants the Majority Leader's office.
  • Denny Hastert doesn't want the Minority Leader's office. (But Boehner does.)
  • There was also something about Rumsfeld; not sure what it was....
  • From The Hotline's extensive collection of election scorecards comes a breakdown of the celebrity-guest effectiveness of the various White House '08 Democrats. In order of efficiency:
    • Obama, 80.4% (37 races won, 9 races lost)
    • Biden, 76.9% (20-6)
    • Edwards, 75.7% (44-14)
    • Kerry, 71.6% (58-23)
    • HRC, 70.0% (28-12)
    • Feingold, 68.8% (11-5)
    • Dodd, 68.0% (17-8)
    • Vilsack, 58.3% (14-10)
    • Richardson, 57.1% (24-18)
    • Bayh, 54.2% (13-11)
    • Clark, 42.9% (12-16)
    Partly, of course, those numbers are dictated by the races in which the bigwigs chose to become involved (in several of Wes Clark's races, for instance, he could have provided a fifteen-point bump without actually affecting the outcome of the election). My biggest surprise is Biden: who'd have guessed there were even 26 candidates who liked the man enough to ask him to campaign for them?

For a quick summary of last night's results, check out On Call's headline-style wrap-up.

(And note: there's been no announcement from Montana yet, but Tester's margin has narrowed to 2,000 votes.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Just after 8:00, CBS called Pennsylvania (Casey) and Ohio (Brown). That's two of the six. (Though it's worth noting that none of the other networks are calling those two yet.)

8:35: MSNBC calls Pennsylvania for Casey.

8:45: PBS calls Pennsylvania for Casey, too. Way to be, Pittsburgh!

9:00: On Call reports "various calls" (including MSNBC and PBS, the two I'm keeping an eye on) for Menendez in New Jersey (which is not one of The Six, but was pretty competitive at the end, so it's notable). Also, CNN jumps on the Casey bandwagon, and calls Minnesota Senate for Amy Klobuchar.

9:05: CNN has clearly spent at least one hundred million dollars on stand-up desks and flat-panel monitors, and they would like everyone to know it.

9:10: With 68% reporting, George Allen is up by 4,000 votes. Also, I think Jeff Greenfield's job title tonight is "sidekick."

9:15: CNN and MSNBC project Connecticut for Lieberman. I sure hope he's a Democrat.

9:20: MSNBC projects that Ben Cardin has beaten noted crazy-person Michael Steele (Maryland, like New Jersey, is not one of The Six, but was close enough to bear watching). And On Call reports that John Yarmuth has unseated Anne Northrup in KY-03, which is (I believe) the second House pickup of the night.

9:27: CNN projects Rhode Island for Sheldon Whitehouse. That's three of six, baby!

9:33: CNN projects IN-02 for Joe Donnelly, making the House Democrats +3.

9:46: With 82% reporting, George Allen is up by 27,000 votes. Webb insists everything's okay (the 18% still waiting to be counted are all NoVa, he says), but I'm starting to get a little nervous.

9:57: Chris Matthews is apparently as proud of the fact that he knows the phrase "right now" as CNN is proud that it has one trillion billion dollars' worth of flat-panel televisions.

10:00: Rick Santorum concedes.

10:10: On Call is projecting that Paul Hodes has beaten Charles Bass in NH-02, and Chris Murphy has beaten Nancy Johnson in CT-05. That's +5 for the House Democrats (assuming I haven't missed any).

10:12: With 89% reporting, Allen's up by 24,000 votes. Sheesh.

11:05: A whole wave of House projections in the last hour. Democrats have picked up CT-02, FL-22, IN-08, NC-11, OH-18, PA-7, and PA-10. If my math is right, that puts the House at 220R-215D, putting the Democrats three seats away from a majority.

11:08: Hey, hey, hey. CNN projects NY-20, IN-09, and AZ-08 for the Democrats. You can do the math.

11:09: CNN projects that the Democrats will take the House.

11:14: With 96.60% reporting, George Allen is up by 13,000 votes, or 0.59%. Anything closer than 0.50% will trigger an automatic recount, so Webb's really counting on some last-minute help from the eighty or so precincts left.

11:17: Still waiting on projections from Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, Montana, and Arizona. Whichever party takes three of those five will control the Senate.

11:37: The Washington Post has apparently withdrawn its Maryland projection. I'm not buying it, though: no way does Michael Steele win that race.

11:41: With 97.42% reporting, Allen's lead is down to about 5,000 votes, or 0.21%. With a total of only sixty precincts remaining, there's basically no way this doesn't go to a recount.

12:14: CNN is reporting that Webb has taken the lead in votes, but I'm going to stick with the Virginia Board of Elections, since that's what I've been watching all night. With 99.18% reporting (twenty precincts left), Allen still has a 1,900-vote lead.

12:44: MSNBC calls Tennessee for Corker. Democrats have to go 3-for-3 in the states that are left.

12:52: Still watching:

  • Missouri: 69% reporting; Talent (R) 49.84; McCaskill (D) 46.76
  • Montana: 31% reporting; Burns (R) 41.10; Tester (D) 56.72
  • Virginia: 99.26% reporting; Allen (R) 49.36; Webb (D) 49.44
1:03: Big update from Missouri. With 80% reporting, Claire McCaskill takes a 14,000-vote lead. 49-48.

1:09: The Terminator was reelected as governor of Culleyfornia.

1:28: Still watching...
  • Missouri: 81% reporting; Talent (R) 48.01; McCaskill (D) 48.70
  • Montana: 52% reporting; Burns (R) 45.42; Tester (D) 53.04
  • Virginia: 99.47% reporting; Allen (R) 49.36; Webb (D) 49.43
2:09: Talent concedes! MSNBC calls Missouri for Claire McCaskill! And then there were two! (Sorry for all the exclamation points; I'm genuinely excited.) (!)

2:27: Brian Schweitzer announces that we'll have a final call on Montana within the hour. Thirty-minute drumroll, please....

2:48: MSNBC just cut to Norah O'Donnell so that she could explain that if the Democrats manage to pick up only one of the remaining two Senate seats, as opposed to both, the Senate will deadlock at 50-50 and Dick Cheney would have to break the tie. Thanks, Norah.

3:34: Brian Schweitzer is clearly a liar.

3:42: Montana has already started to recount votes. They continue to insist, though, that a result is coming soon.

3:55: After a brief phone conversation with a local news reporter in Helena, Chris Matthews, Bob Shrum, and the rest of the talking heads (or "babbloons," an entertaining word that I just coined [a portmanteau of "babbling" and "baboons"; I may be getting a bit punchy]) are "about 90%" convinced that the Democrats are going to get The Six they needed.

4:40: Still no decision in Montana, and they're saying now that they won't have anything before 7:00. I'm guessing I'll still be awake at that point, but in the interest of getting some actual work done, I think I'm going to call an end to the live-blogging. Bonsoir, mes amis.

Take a look at this picture of the Clintons voting this morning. Notice that they're standing in line.

Now, it's not that I think the Clintons should be automatically bumped to the front as soon as they walk in the door. But if you're standing there and you notice that the two people behind you are Bill and Hillary Clinton, how do you not say to them, "You guys can go ahead"?

An exhortation to the readers: as Richard III said to Macbeth, "Get thee to a votery!"

(Polls close at seven here in Virginia, and at eight for most of the rest of the east coast. If you haven't voted yet, you ought to go do it now. But remember this: every time you vote Republican, God kills a kitten.)

For the record, the sites I've been checking most often today:

A couple of last minute horse-race primers:

  • At the Post, Dan Balz and David Broder have produced an exhaustive rundown of the competitive races in all fifty states.
  • And at the Times, the Caucus blog has posted a viewers' guide for tomorrow.
Happy voting.

(Also, check out the Washington Post's Crystal Ball Contest. 11 former champions return to defend their honor. Tune in to watch Mary Matalin lose!)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Two tangentially-related* articles from today's New York Times:

  • The first, an op-ed by the chairman of NYU's sociology department, proposes a mandatory runoff for any election in which the result cannot be determined with at least 99% statistical certainty (in other words, if one million people vote, the winning candidate's margin of victory would have to exceed 1,300 votes in order to avoid a runoff; if five million voted, the margin of victory would have to exceed 3,000). It's an interesting idea, and he explains it well. And, Christ: anything's better than leaving it up to Scalia.
  • The second, an editorial, notes that this year, for the first time in recent memory, the New York Times will endorse not a single Republican. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?
* - Which is to say, "Two articles that were close to each other in the newspaper."

Why people who don't like polls don't like polls:

Virginia Senate

  • Gallup: Allen, 49-46.
  • Mason-Dixon: Webb, 46-45.
Montana Senate
  • Gallup: Tester, 50-41.
  • Mason-Dixon: Tie, 47-47.
Rhode Island Senate
  • Gallup: Whitehouse, 48-45.
  • Mason-Dixon: Chafee, 46-45.
All released today. And with the possible exception of the Montana race (I'm too lazy to look up the n-size, so I can't say for sure), they're all perfectly complementary.

For the record, my predictions: Webb 50-48; Tester 51-49; Whitehouse 51-48. (And thanks to Wake-Up Call for the numbers.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The election results are in... two and a half days ahead of schedule. Call your bookies; fearless predictions ahead:

  • Riding a wave across the (south, southwest, west, midwest...), Democrats take back the House in stunning fashion. Final tally: 243 D, 192 R. (Fearless, I say!)
  • With wins in Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia, the DSCC picks up the six seats they need to retake the Senate. Unfortunately for everyone, they fail to win in Tennessee, making Joe Lieberman the most valuable man in the Capitol: if the Republicans can convince Lieberman to caucus on their side of the aisle, they'll control the Senate; if they can't, the Democrats own Congress.
You heard it here first, folks. (Thanks to the Washington Post's Midterm Madness game [which I plan to win], my pick for every single Congressional race is viewable here.)

On Tuesday, voters in Michigan will confront Proposition 2, which seeks to disallow public organizations from the consideration of race or sex when making hiring or admissions decisions.

I've made several attempts now to write about Proposition 2, but each time I sit down, the post gets longer and more preachy. And that's not what I want to do. I support affirmative action; I think Proposition 2 is a mistake, and I think Jennifer Gratz is a big whiny whiner. But an in-depth defense of an actual policy is a bit heavy for these parts (and plus, who has the time to read write such a thing?). So instead, I'll link to a few good articles, and I'll make a couple of quick comments. As is my way.

Comment 1: From the New York Times piece:

"I don’t know a lot about Proposition 2, but I do know a neighbor kid, a good kid, a local kid with a 3.7-3.8 average, who didn’t get into the university and he should have," said Vicki Smith, who is white, shopping one afternoon at Kohls department store. "I do think there’s something wrong with their admissions."
Now listen, Vicki Smith. Maybe you're a very nice person. And if so, I'm sorry to have to say this. But if you're going to vote in favor of Proposition 2 because some white kid you know didn't get into Michigan (perhaps because his "3.7-3.8 average" wouldn't even have put him in the top half of the entering class), you're misguided.

Comment 2: One of the proposition's most vocal proponents is Jennifer Gratz, the 29-year-old leader of a group cunningly called "the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative" (Gratz, who must be one of the whiniest people on the planet, is somewhat famous for her starring role in Gratz v. Bollinger). She notes:
"We have a horrible history when it comes to race in this country. But that doesn’t make it right to give preference to the son of a black doctor at the expense of a poor student whose parents didn’t go to college."
In theory, I don't disagree. But that's not usually the way things work.

Affirmative action was designed to remedy the disconnect between a lofty goal (a race-neutral society) and real life (an anything-but-race-neutral society). It was not, and is not, intended to be a permanent fixture. Rather, it's a Band-Aid: it treats the symptom until we can figure out how to treat the disease. I can't think of anyone who believes affirmative action to be a perfect system, and I can't think of anyone who doesn't look forward to the day when merit-based judgments are sufficiently fair to eliminate the necessity for the consideration of race and gender.* But the allocation of rights and privileges according to merit is only a fair system if everyone has equal access to the mechanisms by which merit is measured. And right now, that is simply not the case.

Flip through any daily newspaper and you'll likely be confronted with a few particularly egregious examples of racial discrimination in action. But these examples tend to be isolated, and thus easily separable: not in my town; not in my country; not in my church. More subtle forms of racial discrimination, on the other hand (not to mention discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation), often pervade every aspect of our everyday lives. Employment, housing, education... these are the bedrocks of our civilization (bedrocks of incalculable importance if our civilization is to be one based on merit), and they are all vulnerable to the pernicious effects of racial bias. If discrimination is allowed to persist in these key areas, then we'll simply never get to a point where affirmative action is no longer required. And yes, racially-motivated affirmative action dictates that occasionally the son of a black doctor will beat out the better-qualified daughter of a white coal miner, and this is regrettable. But to prevent that injustice by prohibiting institutions from considering race at all would be very much cutting off the nose to spite the face. And that would be a shame.

Thanks to an unfortunate quirk in our system of government, one state's residents are generally prohibited from voting in another state's elections. For this reason, my interaction with this issue pretty much ends here. But if I did live in Michigan, I can say with absolute certainty that I'd be looking forward to voting against Proposition 2.

* - Note that I very much don't mean to slight the value of diversity. Instead, I choose to imagine that, in the perfect world of the future, merit will be judged in such a way as to have diversity built right in. How convenient!

Sunday's New York Times Book Review features an excellent 4,000-word essay on democracy by Washington Post columnist Michael Kinsley. Highly recommended.

Bill Frist, no longer certain of his chances at the actual White House, has decided to hedge his bets by building his own.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Oooh. Ahh! Fancy new fonts and colors!

I finally got around to a redesign (I even have an RSS feed now). The structural changes (including that snazzy hierarchical archive listing) are courtesy of a new Blogger template, but the rest was all me, baby! (In addition to the cleaner look, the careful reader will notice that I have also taken the time to update the links on the sidebar.)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Earlier this week, the administration turned heads with a few stronger-than-usual pronouncements of doom. Bush:

In Georgia, Bush drew sharp partisan distinctions as he belittled the opposition to the war, which is proving a powerful pro-Democrat issue: "The Democrat approach on Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win, and America loses," he said.
And Cheney:
"Whether it's al Qaeda or the other elements that are active in Iraq, they are betting on the proposition they can break the will of the American people," Cheney told Fox News. "...They're very sensitive to the fact that we've got an election scheduled."
Now, come on. All's fair in love and politics, but this is starting to piss me off. Not because it's wrong (which it is), or because it's such blatant fear-mongering* (which it so is). But because it's old fucking news. They used the exact same line, and used it effectively, in both 2002 and 2004. Let's go, electorate: demand originality!

* - "The only thing we have to fear... is fear itself! Oh, and the Democrats."

(In related news, Charlie Rangel called Dick Cheney a "son of a bitch." And then apologized by saying, "He is a son of a bitch, but I shouldn't have said it." Hard to argue with that.)

(Playing catch-up, as usual.) From Tuesday's New York Times comes a report on perhaps the most honorable man in politics.

[Kevin] Wiskus is a 42-year-old Iowa farmer and lifelong Republican from the town of Centerville, about 100 miles south of the capital, who is making his first run for public office for a [state] House seat.

He became so outraged by his own party’s efforts to elect him that he resigned last month in protest.

A mailing sent by the state committee told voters that Mr. Wiskus’s* Democratic opponent, a lawyer named Kurt Swaim, had defended a man charged with child molesting.

Mr. Wiskus knew that Mr. Swaim had been assigned the case by the court as a public defender, and decided the attack was unconscionable. He is now an independent, and said he would serve as an independent if elected.
The fact that such a modest display of professional decency passes for show-stopping political integrity doesn't exactly swell one's heart with pride. But in an age of utterly misleading attack ads ("My opponent voted ninety-four times to raise your taxes and steal body armor from The Troops!"), if Mr. Wiskus sticks to his word, I'll be impressed.

* - Do you suppose the Wiskus family has a cat? And if so, do you suppose he is legally obligated to be called Mr. Whiskers Wiskus?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Anxious for the chance to disabuse someone of their Republicanism (or, if you must, Democratism), but don't know any good Republicans to practice on? RedBlue has the answer!

RedBlue will create a private, one-on-one online dialogue process by matching participants with contrasting views. "Counterparts" will learn about the ground rules of productive dialogue, then engage on a difficult issue by viewing or reading a fictional narrative scenario that frames a front-page issue in personal, rather than theoretical, terms. Their email-style discussion will be monitored by a "virtual facilitator" that will make suggestions, provide feedback, and offer to step in when the heat of the moment threatens to derail the civility of the dialogue.
The site's not fully active yet, but if you sign up, they'll send you an email when it's all ready to go. I'm quite looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

John Kerry: asking for trouble.

Kerry then told the [Pasadena City College] students that if they were able to navigate the education system, they could get comfortable jobs - "If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq," he said to a mixture of laughter and gasps.
(Link courtesy of Wake-Up Call.)

Update: Well what do you know...

Second update: According to this morning's Wake-Up Call, "Today," "The Early Show" and "Good Morning America" all led with Kerry, who Hates the Troops.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Reportorial bons mots from the White House press corps, courtesy of the New York Times:

The exchanges grew testy at times, especially when Mr. Snow said Mr. Cheney is not someone who slips up. One reporter noted that the vice president had once used a profanity on the Senate floor, and also shot a friend in the face during a hunting accident last February.
Hard to read something like that and not laugh, isn't it?

David Brooks, whose opinion I respect, writes in defense of "the real Rick Santorum," a man who exists outside the realm of "political theater."

Like many people who admire his output, I disagree with Santorum on key matters like immigration, abortion, gay marriage. I’m often put off by his unnecessarily slashing style and his culture war rhetoric.

But government is ultimately not about the theater or the light shows of public controversy, it’s about legislation and results. And the substance of Santorum’s work is impressive. Bono, who has worked closely with him over the years, got it right: "I would suggest that Rick Santorum has a kind of Tourette’s disease; he will always say the most unpopular thing. But on our issues, he has been a defender of the most vulnerable."
Needless to say, I remain unconvinced. Santorum does more harm than good, and it'll be nice to see the back of him. But Brooks makes a fair point: lefties who lambaste Santorum every time he does something stupid (ahem) are often conspicuously silent when he does something smart. Accordingly, though I'm not sympathetic enough to actually praise the man, I suppose I can overcome my Rick-loathing long enough to link to a pro-Santorum David Brooks column (a column that I happen to disagree with). So that's a step.

Update: The NYT's Robin Toner has a new Santorum article up this morning, complete with an excellent attack-ad screen grab that seems to have been specifically designed for inclusion in this blog post. "Outside the realm of 'political theater'? I wouldn't hear of it!"

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

An article about personality differences between Tiki and Ronde Barber (which I must admit I enjoyed in spite of myself) gives Ronde the chance to utter this gem: "We were more like me before Tiki came [to New York]." Not often a person gets a chance to say something like that, is it?

The New Jersey Supreme Court managed to simultaneously frustrate the left and the right this afternoon by ruling 4-3 that same-sex couples must be granted "the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples," though not necessarily "marriage." I know you can't please all the people all the time, but come on, Justices: at least make an effort.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The New York Times writes about an exhibition of self-portraits by an artist with Alzheimer's:

When he learned in 1995 that he had Alzheimer’s disease, William Utermohlen, an American artist in London, responded in characteristic fashion.

"From that moment on, he began to try to understand it by painting himself," said his wife, Patricia Utermohlen, a professor of art history.
Nine of the portraits are collected in a chronological slideshow on the NYT's site, and they are heartbreaking.

(If this doesn't make you want to vote for Ben Cardin, I don't know what will.)

About a month ago, I gave some thought to running a 2006 version of my wildly popular (ahem) 2004 election pool. An utter lack of interest on the part of approximately 97% of the 2004 participants, however, led me to dismiss the idea. But good news for the remaining three percent: there are other places to turn.

  • Fantasy Congress. Build and manage a team of Congressmen, just like fantasy [baseball, football, golf, curling...]. A piece of hard-won advice: don't draft Sen. Mike Vick in the first round. Sure, he can run, but he can't throw for shit, and he's always injured. Trust me. (And thanks to a well-placed article in the New York Times, there'll be no shortage of new leagues for the next few months, so join away.)
  • Midterm Madness. The Washington Post lets Capitolheads go hog-wild, allowing users to pick the winner of each of the year's 468 Congressional races. Top prize, nationwide: $100. (Could you tighten the purse strings a little, there, Post?)

The third Lieberman/Lamont [and Schlesinger!] Senate debate took place last night, and it was as fireworky as ever. From the Hartford Courant:

Lieberman ignored the format and gave a three-minute opening statement in response to the opening question on Iraq.

"So much for no opening statement," said the moderator, ABC newsman George Stephanopoulos.
And it pretty much went downhill from there. After Lamont refused to back down from claims made in his commercials, Lieberman said: "If I were still attorney general of Connecticut, I would have sued you for unfair trade practices." Which prompted Lamont to "[get] to his feet and [take] a few quick steps to Lieberman." The Rumble in New London!

And in Republican highlights, also-ran Alan Schlesinger scolded the crowd - following a bizarre LaRouche-related incident that was actually one of the more predictable parts of the evening - by saying, "Show some respect to Sen. Lieberman and the audience. Now!" Having not seen the video, I can't really say for sure how funny that was. But in my experience, it's hard to say something that a reporter can transcribe as "Now!" without sounding like a jackass. So that was probably pretty good.

Makes you wish you lived in a state with a competitive Senate race, doesn't it?

Three blurbs that I meant to post yesterday (all thanks to the Hotline):

  • In its endorsement of Bill Nelson for Florida's Senate seat, the Lakeland (Florida) Ledger wrote: "Katherine Harris' bid for the U.S. Senate bears more resemblance to a Monty Python skit than a campaign for high public office." Can't argue with that.
  • The Los Angeles Times spent 1,500 words on Stephen Colbert's "Better Know a District" segment. Good times.
  • The Washington Post asked 14 athletes and coaches for their advice to Congressional Republicans. Antawn Jamison encouraged the RNC to "stay positive"; John Riggins suggested they "get the hell out of town."

Monday, October 23, 2006

On Friday, the Washington Post reached into its archives and dusted off a biennial classic: Could Bill Clinton be vice president?

The answer, it seems, depends on who you ask. Most of the judges and law professors interviewed by the Post agreed that a strict reading of the Constitution wouldn't prevent a former two-term president from serving as the nation's Number Two. But the dissenting side has some heavy hitters:

Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit said by e-mail that "read literally, the 22nd Amendment does not apply" and therefore Clinton could be vice president. "But one could argue that since the vice president is elected . . . should he take office he would be in effect elected president. Electing a vice president means electing a vice president and contingently electing him as president. That interpretation, though a little bold, would honor the intention behind the 22nd Amendment."
I know Posner's a hero to a lot of people (or at least, to a lot of law professors, which may or may not be the same thing), but I think he's wrong on this one. The wording of the 22nd Amendment1 seems clear: Clinton can serve as president, he just can't be elected again. And the 12th Amendment's V.P.-limitation2 doesn't contemplate election; only "eligibility." Clinton is ineligible to be elected to the office of president; he's not ineligible to serve.

The drafters of the 22nd Amendment were very smart folks. And even if they weren't, they had very smart attorneys. It's not as though they couldn't have foreseen this issue, and they chose to use the word "elected" anyway. Elected is elected. Posner's interpretation is too bold.

1 - "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice" (emphasis added, obviously) (though wouldn't it be funny if there were actually italics in the Constitution?).
2 - "No person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Barrack Obama told Tim Russert this afternoon that he's giving some thought to White House '08:

"I don’t want to be coy about this — given the responses that I’ve been getting over the last several months, I have thought about the possibility, but I have not thought about it with the seriousness and depth that I think is required," Mr. Obama said. "My main focus right now is in ’06 and making sure that we retake the Congress. After November 7th, I’ll sit down and consider it."
I like Obama a lot, and in 2012 or 2016, you'll have a hard time keeping me away from the volunteer entrance at Obama HQ. But 2008? I just don't think it's a good idea.

I suppose that's partially because I'm such a big fan of John Edwards, who'd be forced to compete for a demographic that he's already largely won over (the "me" demographic). But right now, inexperience is an even bigger problem for Obama than it was for Edwards in 2004. With the exception of political journalists and the citizens of Illinois, there are, what, fourteen people in the country who had even heard the name Barrack Obama three years ago? Running too early could taint him permanantly, and it would be a terrible shame for someone as talented as Barrack Obama to have his wings clipped by an ill-timed campaign. So please, Senator: wait. See what happens. And give it a whack during the next go-'round.

(None of this applies, incidentally, to an '08 ticket with Obama at the bottom. That, I think, would be terrific. But I don't see it happening.)

Update: Bob Herbert agrees.
My feeling is that Senator Obama may well be the real deal. If I were advising him, I would tell him not to move too fast. With a few more years in the Senate, possibly with a powerful committee chairmanship if the Democrats take control, he could build a formidable record and develop the kind of toughness and savvy that are essential in the ugly and brutal combat of a presidential campaign.

Fire Joe Morgan points out an amusing happenstance: before the playoffs began, nineteen of ESPN's "experts" (their word, not mine) predicted the winner of the World Series, and not a single one of them picked a team that made it beyond the LCS (7 Twins, 6 Yankees, 3 A's, 2 Dodgers, and 1 Mets). Take that, Vegas!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Washington Post has produced a series of short videos about a selection of key campaign issues for 2006: stem cell research, the minimum wage, the economy, immigration, gay marriage, and Iraq (those last two are still in the works). Nothing new, at least in what I've seen so far, but certainly interesting as a primer.

In the past few weeks, Dick Armey has taken shots at Tom Tancredo, James Dobson, and Tom DeLay. I don't know what he's running for, but whatever it is, I wish he'd do it more often.

Friday, October 20, 2006

This is my impression of every Mets fan who calls into a sports radio show in the next two months: "I don't [beep] understand. Was Beltran not [beep] watching when Floyd was up? Was he in the [beep] john? Huh? Did he not think Wainwright would ever use that pitch again? Because I don't care who you are, I don't care what kind of [beep] series you're having. You DON'T [BEEP] LOOK AT THAT PITCH ON 0-and-[BEEP]-2! With two outs in the bottom of the [beep] ninth! [Beep]! Let's go back to Little League, Carlos! Let's go back to Little League. Because that was [beep]. [Beep beep beep]."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The embarrassment to the RNC that is North Carolina Republican Vernon Robinson (a man already popular 'round these parts for his take-no-prisoners approach to political advertising) comes out swinging in his first debate with beleaguered incumbent Rep. Brad Miller:

Robinson, who has run a series of brash advertisements about Miller, charged that the Democratic congressman wants to import homosexuals to the United States and that Miller supported scientific studies that would pay teenage girls to watch pornography.

"Those are San Francisco values, not North Carolina values," said Robinson, repeating a common theme of his campaign.
Hard to argue with logic like that.

Mike Huckabee, on Imus yesterday (according to Wake-Up Call): "I don't know everything about foreign policy, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night." Hard not to like the guy, isn't it? Even if he is crazy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

John Tierney, always eager to make himself look like an asshole, argues that Wal-Mart - by beneficently purchasing the wares of underpaid factory workers - has done more to alleviate poverty than Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank ever did. I'd hold it against him, but I think he was just trying to start a fistfight with Paul Krugman.

(To be fair to Tierney, that summary slightly bastardizes his argument. But to be correspondingly fair to me, Tierney bastardized economics before I bastardized Tierney.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Name: Mike Grunwald and Jim VandeHei
Class: Mrs. Flannigan, English 4, Washington Post High School
Assignment: In the context of a news article (not an editorial piece), describe Dennis Hastert as vividly as possible in 50 words or less.

Hastert doesn't seem capable of intense anything; he has a conservative voting record but a moderate temperament. He looks like a cross between actor Wilford Brimley and Jabba the Hutt, and his unassuming Midwestern public demeanor makes for dull television.
"But we're sure he's a lovely person."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The weirdest point in Monday night's Webb/Allen debate - which, for a forty-five minute debate, had a surprising number of weird points - came when Webb attacked Allen's limited foreign affairs experience by asking a question about the Senkaku Islands.

I dislike Allen as much as [more than] the next guy, but that seemed a bit underhanded. On the one hand, yeah, he should know what's going on in the world. But on the other hand, he's running for the Senate, not the Oval Office (yet). And the Senkaku Islands are - relatively speaking - small fish in a big pond (I'm hardly a foreign policy expert, but I'm fairly well educated, and I wouldn't have known where the Senkaku Islands are if Webb hadn't told me). Webb was clearly trying to get Allen back for the Craney Island debacle from a little while ago, and I can understand that. But I don't think there's anyone, including George Allen and his staff, who would argue that between George Allen and Jim Webb, Allen's the foreign policy expert. So how does this help Jim Webb? I guess the best-case scenario is that the voters say to themselves, "Gosh, Allen doesn't know anything about foreign policy, but Webb does, so I guess I'll vote for Webb." But all things considered, I think the far more likely result is that the voters say to themselves, "Self,* I have two things to say. First, Jim Webb is an asshole for sandbagging George Allen that way. And second, I don't care about foreign policy."

* - This is what each voter says to him- or herself, hence the singular.

From a couple of days ago: a Montana state representative, Roger Koopman (R-Obviously), was "insulted" by Gov. Brian Schweitzer's "incredibly bigoted" statements that seem to imply that the Earth is more than 6,000 years old. Now I suppose one ought to have a relatively laissez-faire attitude toward people and what they choose to be insulted by, but you have to feel bad for this guy: with a bar set that low, he's probably insulted quite a lot.

(And lest you godless liberals jump to the wrong conclusion and assume that Koopman's a crazy Christian creationist, you should know that his belief is based not on faith, but on his own "scientific investigations.")

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Boston Globe finds John Kerry's recent frenetic activity to be a sign of an impending candidacy... and not the local kind. I supported Kerry two years ago (once he became the nominee), and if he wins the nomination in 2008, God knows I'll support him again. But I very much hope that I don't have to.

Kerry should have won in 2004. He ran a decent race, and he owes a fair part of the blame for his loss to an attack campaign that would have been an insult to the voters' intelligence if it hadn't been so damned effective (the fact that middle America could be outraged by Kerry's apparent military deceit and yet simultaneously turn a blind eye to Bush's military experience is quite exceptional). That being said, it worked. And given that, I think Kerry's time has come and gone.

There are plenty of Democrats who would come out of the gate with a significant handicap: Obama's too inexperienced; Richardson's too unknown; Hillary's too... Hillary. Kerry's handicaps are as severe as any of those, if not moreso (the Swiftees are still around, after all). And while his handicaps are just as unjustified as any of the others', there's a crucial difference: Kerry's had a chance to get himself out from under them, and been unable to do so. It's not his fault, I don't think; but he's a weaker candidate for it. And weak is the last thing the Democrats need.

Protesters in Pittsburgh chase Jeb Bush and his staff into a broom closet at a subway station. (Really.)

I've honestly never been so proud to have grown up there.

(If memory serves, there are only about four subway stations in all of Pittsburgh, so I guess it's lucky that he was near one.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The New York Times today launched a four-part series on "how American religious organizations benefit from an increasingly accommodating government." The first article focuses on the licensing exemptions granted to religious day-care centers, which are apparently quite extensive. (The pastor of one church, explaining his support for the exemptions, noted that his congregation had "talked about" getting licensed in the past, but rejected it because "it would cost us quite a bit of money." In other words, they know they're substandard, but they don't want to invest the money necessary to bring themselves up to code.) It's a long article, but an interesting read.

(Special jargon-laden alternate post for 1Ls: Enjoy reading about zoning law? Employment Division v. Smith? The RFRA? The RLUIPA? Then this is the series for you!)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

There was a short op-ed about grief in today's New York Times, written by a sociology professor at GW who recently lost a son:

In my eulogy I divulged that I believe in a God who brings meaning to the world, but that my belief has been severely tested. I missed seeing God in the killing fields of Cambodia, and he seems too busy to show up in Darfur, or to shine his face on either the Sunnis or the Shiites in Iraq. With a rising voice, I asked: How could God allow a son to be taken from his aging, ailing father? A devoted husband to be torn from the arms of his loving wife in the middle of the night? How could he allow a 2-year-old to be left searching for his father in vain, or deny an infant the chance to see the father even once?
It's a lightweight piece (to the extent that any essay in which a grieving father questions God can ever be called "lightweight"), but if you've got five spare minutes, it was one of the better articles I've read today.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

From the "Fun with Appropriations" file: the Defense approps bill passed last week includes $20 million for the "commemoration of success" in Iraq. Because Congress likes to be ready.

Update: It was Mitch McConnell (who supports the troops, goddammit).

On Monday morning, Wake-Up Call posted a whole series of new Senate poll numbers, all released by Mason-Dixon within the last 72 hours. Some were better than others, and some were more believable than others, but the sum total of those numbers was this: nothing but good news for Chuck Schumer. (Two things to point out before going on: first, I normally take Mason-Dixon polls with a grain of salt; and second, nearly every single one of these was within the margin of error. But all the same.)

By way of refresher, the Republicans currently hold the Senate 55-44 (and 1). There are 33 seats up for election this year; of those, 19 are pretty safe (12 D, 7 R). That leaves 14 competitive seats, eight of which are currently held by Republicans. To regain the Senate, the Democrats have to protect all of their seats (including the seat Jeffords is vacating in Vermont) and take six of the Republicans' eight. So, to the polls:

There were new numbers for nine races. Of the nine, two were tied: Virginia (thank you, George Allen) and Missouri. Both are currently held by Republicans, and neither was expected a year ago to be as competitive as they've become.

In each of the remaining seven races (Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington), the Democrat was ahead. And four of those (OH, PA, RI, TN) are seats that are currently held by Republicans.

A month ago, the idea that the Democrats could actually retake the Senate was somewhere between "quaint" and "unfathomable." Now... well, I'd like to see the Democrats ahead by actual margins, in an actual poll (no offense, Mason-Dixon). But short of that, this was an awfully nice way to start the week.

So that's how the Republicans are planning to limit the Foley scandal's damage.

Update: Crazy Katherine Harris (D-GA) (I-LA) (R-TN) (D-SC) (R-FL) approves.

Katherine Harris says the media would be "quite disingenuous" to blame the Mark Foley case on Republicans.

In an interview with WESH Channel 2 in Orlando, Harris said, "if anything, the Republicans didn’t know about these issues and we’re going to be very anxious to find out who in the media and on the other side of the aisle (Democrats) knew about it and kept this from the public interest, because our children were at stake."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bill O'Reilly: Hero of American Journalism.

"Politicians used to be able to come on TV and read a rehearsed answer, and Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley and those guys had to swallow it," O'Reilly says. "They couldn't give them the O'Reilly arched eyebrow or tell them they were a pinhead."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Seems the Republican leadership may have known about Foley's foibles, and done little. Honestly, could Rahm Emanuel be any happier?

Top House Republicans knew for months about e-mail traffic between Representative Mark Foley and a former teenage page, but kept the matter secret and allowed Mr. Foley to remain head of a Congressional caucus on children’s issues, Republican lawmakers said Saturday.

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) at the Improv's annual "Funniest Celebrity in Washington":

"The Republicans are getting a little carried away on immigration. They just built a 200-mile wall around my office."

Foley resigns. Almost unbelievable, this particular series of events.

Jeanine Pirro contemplates some precision wiretappery. Scandal ensues. (Hard to believe she's even still running for something, isn't it?)

Dick Armey, an expert at name-calling thanks to a lifetime of name-related humiliation, calls Tom Tancredo a "cheerleader of jerkiness." Wouldn't have come up with it myself, but I can't say I disagree.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

From Slate, via Wonkette: The George Allen Insult Generator.

North Carolina lunatic congressional candidate Vernon Miller - already the source of one of the looniest campaign ads in recent memory - has taken things to a whole new level with an ad that claims (really) that Rep. Brad Miller "spent your money to study the masturbation habits of old men." Go. Watch. Laugh.

(How the announcer could even read that script without becoming ashamed of himself is beyond me.)

Update: Wonkette is similarly confounded.

An incredible story (the first in a three-part series) about New York's "justice courts," which are often administered by judges who never graduated from college, much less law school.

A woman in Malone, N.Y., was not amused. A mother of four, she went to court in that North Country village seeking an order of protection against her husband, who the police said had choked her, kicked her in the stomach and threatened to kill her. The justice, Donald R. Roberts, a former state trooper with a high school diploma, not only refused, according to state officials, but later told the court clerk, "Every woman needs a good pounding every now and then."
It's a long story, and you probably won't have time to read it unless, like me, you've got something important to put off. But it'll no doubt make you shake your head.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Noted political scientist" and oft-quoted Knower of Most Things Larry Sabato has jumped on the George-Allen-is-a-racist bandwagon. Welcome to the fold, Mustache.

By way of update: today's Last Call! Shot and Chaser.

SHOT . . .
"George Allen and Larry Sabato did not know each other in college" -- Allen adviser Chris LaCivita (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 9/26).

. . . CHASER
"Those nerds are a threat to our way of life" -- Stan ("Revenge of the Nerds," 1984).

Monday, September 25, 2006

Moneyball's Michael Lewis has written a new book, The Blind Side. I haven't read it yet (in my defense, it doesn't actually come out until October), but a bit of it - specifically, the story of a kid named Mike Oher, who's now a star at Ole Miss - was adapted for inclusion in this Sunday's Times Magazine, and it's utterly engrossing. Worth a read whether you're a football fan or not.

A few recent stories, by way of catch-up:

  • On Thursday, George Allen's mother told reporters that the reason her son was so tetchy about the Jewish thing was that she had asked him not to acknowledge it. ... Please, please, let this man run for president.
  • Crazy Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, on the subject of electric shocks during prisoner interrogations: "Electric shocks are given to people during initiations to different clubs ... Is that torture? I don't know."
  • A nice, meaty Washington Times exposé, courtesy of The Nation. This just in: the Times's editors are misogynistic, racist jerks.
  • And finally (this one's bizarre, and tough to nutshell): Amy Klobuchar's Senate campaign fired its communications director for viewing an unaired Mark Kennedy advertisement that was discovered by a blogger and forwarded to the campaign.

A couple of neat projects by Flash artist Jonathan Harris:

  • 10x10 - "an interactive exploration of the words and pictures that define the time."
  • Phylotaxis - "an exploration of the space where science meets culture."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Italian provocateur Marco Matarazzi comes clean:

[Zidane and I] both spoke and I wasn't the first. I held his shirt but don't you think it is a provocation* to say that 'if you want my shirt I will give it you afterwards'? I replied to Zidane that I would prefer his sister, that is true. ... Although I swear, before all this mess I didn't even know Zidane had a sister.
That's what Zidane was reacting to? Christ, I haven't played soccer since first grade, but I remember what it's like out there on the pitch: name-calling, cleat-stomping, dudes getting stabbed. And that's just during practice. Now, sure, it's worse in the six-year-old leagues: no cameras, no replays, and the only ref is an eighth-grader named Daniel who's not even paying attention. But, come on, I'd imagine the pro game is pretty bad at times, too. And Zidane gets red-card upset over some completely obvious comment about his sister? Get a hold of yourself, man.

* - No.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bob Casey on Meet the Press last night:

"When you have two politicians in Washington who agree 98 percent of the time, one of them’s really not necessary," said Mr. Casey, alluding to Mr. Santorum’s voting record. "We could have a machine have that kind of vote."

Thursday, August 31, 2006

From last Thursday's* New York Times, the soul-crushingly sad story of a 9-year-old Zambian quarry worker named Alone. (And seriously, if this doesn't make you want to donate money to the Red Cross, I don't know what will.)

Full text after the jump.

* - I've been sitting on this for a while because I really couldn't figure out what to write about it. That hasn't changed, but I wanted it to be up here. So here it is.

Africa Adds to Miserable Ranks of Child Workers
Published: August 24, 2006

The boulders here are hard enough that the scavengers who have taken over the abandoned quarry south of downtown prefer not to strike them directly with their hammers.

They heat the rocks first -- with flaming tires, scrap plastic, even old rubber boots -- so that the stones will fracture more easily.

At dusk, when three or four blazes spew choking black clouds across the huge pit, the quarry looks like a woodcut out of Dante.

A boy named Alone Banda works in this purgatory six days a week.

Nine years old, nearly lost in a hooded sweatshirt with a skateboarder on the chest, he takes football-size chunks of fractured rock and beats them into powder.

Lacking a hammer, he uses a thick steel bolt gripped in his right hand.

In a good week, he says, he can make enough powder to fill half a bag.

His grandmother, Mary Mulelema, sells each bag, to be used to make concrete, for 10,000 kwacha, less than $3. Often, she said, it is the difference between eating and going hungry.

''Sometimes when he's tired, I tell him to stop, but he helps me here most of the time,'' she said. ''We work every day, to make that powder. Sometimes we work Sunday, if we don't go to church.''

Across the globe, the number of children forced to work is in sharp decline.

But sub-Saharan Africa, in places like Lusaka and for children like Alone, is the exception. Here, more than one in four children below age 14 works, whether full time or for a few hours a week, nearly the same percentage as the worldwide average in 1960.

It is by far the greatest proportion of working children in the world.

By the United Nations' latest estimate, more than 49 million sub-Saharan children age 14 and younger worked in 2004, 1.3 million more than at the turn of the century just four years earlier.

Their tasks are not merely the housework and garden-tending common to most developing societies.

They are prostitutes, miners, construction workers, pesticide sprayers, haulers, street vendors, full-time servants, and they are not necessarily even paid for their labor.

Some are as young as 5 and 6 years old.

In Kenya, nearly a third of the coffee pickers were children, a 2001 World Bank Report found.

In Tanzania, 25,000 children worked in hazardous jobs on plantations and in mines.

Their numbers in Africa grow even as the ranks of child laborers are dropping by the millions in every other region of the world.

Child labor declines with prosperity, and so the region's economic plight -- 44 percent of sub-Saharan residents live on less than $1 a day, far and away the greatest share on earth -- is a big reason.

But so are social mores that regard hard work by children as the norm, and conflicts that scatter families and kill breadwinners.

So is the staggering H.I.V. rate, which has created millions of orphans who must work to survive, and has forced millions more to work to support dying parents. In Zambia alone, a 2002 study by independent researchers for the United Nations concluded that AIDS had boosted the number of child laborers by up to 30 percent.

So is the region's population explosion. Well over 4 in 10 people here are under age 15, compared with fewer than 2 in 10 in the developed world, according to the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research organization.

With economic growth lagging births, manual labor is often the only way the newcomers can feed themselves.

Worldwide, the number of children who were already ''economically active'' by the age of 14 fell roughly 10 percent from 2000 to 2004, to about 191 million, according to the International Organization for Labor, a United Nations agency.

More impressive still, the number of young children laboring in the most dangerous jobs dropped by a third.

In Asia, the number of economically active children -- meaning they worked beyond their chores, legally or not -- dropped by five million in just four years.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the decline was even more drastic, nearly 12 million. Indeed, sub-Saharan Africa was the only region where the number of working children did not fall.

''It's like trying to empty a bathtub with a teaspoon while the tap is running,'' said Birgitte Poulsen, the technical specialist for the International Labor Organization in Zambia. ''If you want to tackle this, you have to recognize the magnitude of the problem, not just in terms of its size, but its complexity. It isn't just due to instability and conflict and war. It's poverty and H.I.V.-AIDS.''

Echoes of Oliver Twist

If the stereotype of child labor is an Oliver Twist world of sweatshops with youngsters hunched over sewing machines or metal presses, Africa's reality is different.

A handful of Zambia's child workers are clearly exploited by adults -- for prostitution in cities, and perhaps as miners in the emerald-rich north, near the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The International Labor Organization says there are increasing reports of Zambian children being trafficked for work in construction and farming and as servants.

Overwhelmingly, though, what drives children into work is not greed but privation. Young people here largely work to feed themselves or their parents, or both.

Alone -- a family name, like many in this part of the world, drawn from the English language -- and his grandmother rise at about 6:30 a.m.

After washing, they make the half-hour walk to the quarry where they work, under a plastic tarp mounted on scavenged tree branches.

Alone describes his day in the most basic English: ''I break the rocks. I get up early in the morning, before the sun rises. For breakfast, I drink tea sometimes. This morning, I didn't eat. I'm hungry.''

After two hours, he walks to Tatwasha Basic School, a state-run institution near his home, for about four hours of classes.

Tatwasha, a grid of cinder-block buildings set on a yellow dirt courtyard, has 3,000 students. About 300 work in the quarries.

Maureen Chinjenge, the school's stern headmistress, has a word for the quarry children: disoriented.

''Most of these children are orphans,'' she said, ''and in most cases, their performance is not good. For the most part, they don't eat breakfast, and coming to classes they don't concentrate. Things like clothing, they don't have any, and the other children make fun of them.''

Their attendance, she says, is spotty. Many are latecomers; some first-graders are as old as 11.

Alone, a second-grader at age 9, fits that template well. Asked his teacher's name, he fidgets for fully a minute, then answers ruefully, ''I don't remember.''

After school, he returns to the quarry where, sitting cross-legged on the ground, he attacks his pile of rocks for five more hours, until sunset.

A scab marked his left cheek, damage from a sliver of quartz-like rock that flew into his face after an especially hard strike.

Other stone-crushers complain of broken fingers, impaired vision or a ''heavy chest,'' an early sign of silicosis, but Alone says he has suffered no serious injuries beyond some smashed fingers and cut eyes.

''It's a hard job; I hurt myself sometimes,'' he said, but ''I measure my size. I don't break huge amounts. I do it according to my age.''

Beyond the physical cruelty and lost youth, sub-Saharan Africa's child laborers are social and economic millstones on a region that can ill afford them.

They are poorly educated, badly fed, inadequately supervised by adults and far more likely to become illiterates whose children, like them, will toil in fields, tend roadside stands or crush rocks.

Already, a number of studies have documented increases in street children in sub-Saharan cities, many of them AIDS orphans forced into sidewalk vending, theft or selling sex to survive.

In Lusaka, a city of 1.2 million, ''I don't think it would come to more than 50,000, but the number is definitely growing,'' said Yvonne Chilufya, a project manager for Jesus Cares Ministries, a Zambian organization that assists street children and other child laborers.

''We see a lot of child-headed households as a result of H.I.V.,'' she added. ''In other cases, you find the parents are both alive, but doing nothing, chronically ill. So the children are taking care of the parents. The parents send the children out to find food.''

The last time Zambia's government counted, in 1999, it found nearly 600,000 child laborers between ages 5 and 17, roughly 9 in 10 of them on farms, the rest in the cities, working as vendors, domestics or laborers.

Almost all were unpaid. On paper, at least, most were illegal: Zambian law forbids labor by children under 13, and allows those between 13 and 15 to engage only in light work.

Zambia also has signed the two international conventions that set minimum ages for work and outlaw the most harmful forms of child labor.

In recent years, its news media have begun to expose dangerous working conditions for children, and its government has started to move against the most outlandish forms of labor.

But as elsewhere in Africa, Zambia's stifling bureaucracy, its poverty, the AIDS epidemic and the sheer size of the task all work against success.

Ms. Poulsen, of the International Labor Organization, says the government's efforts to weed out child labor would be reasonably good ''if you have inspectors, cars and fuel.'' Zambia has precious little of each.

''We've got lots and lots of good policies in this country,'' she said. ''But there's no coordination. It's difficult to staff basic social services -- schools, clinics -- because people keep dying'' of AIDS.

Choosing a Way to Die

Chola J. Chabala, the Zambian assistant labor commissioner and the official charged with reducing child labor, says the number of children who work is growing despite his government's efforts, especially in rural areas where oversight is weak.

''I do this job with a passion, but it is very depressing at the end of the day,'' he said. ''I've heard children who work as prostitutes say they would rather die from AIDS, because it is slower than dying of hunger.''

Crushing stone is ranked in international agreements as one of the worst forms of child labor, full of risks from flying rock fragments, misdirected hammers, repetitive motion injuries and years of inhaling dust.

Like prostitution, it is a job undertaken for survival, not profit.

Mrs. Chilufya, of Jesus Cares Ministries, says that in the last four years her group has taken close to 1,000 children from the quarries, placing them in the organization's own schools and giving small loans to parents and caretakers to open more sustainable businesses, like roadside groceries.

But Lusaka has three major quarries, and although hundreds of children have been rescued and sent to schools, hundreds more have taken their place.

The quarries are sprawling outcrops of limestone or quartz-like rock that are hand-mined by hundreds of itinerants armed with hammers, shovels and sledges.

In places, they have dug as much as 20 feet below the surface, leaving lattices of surface paths between pits of algae-clogged rainwater, washbasins for the workers' laundry.

The quarries have their own economy. Men split boulders into smaller chunks, then sell them by the barrow to women whose families reduce them to gravel and powder.

Homeless and unsupervised children, roaming the streets, hire themselves out at about 30 cents a day to help with the crushing.

The output goes on display beside highways -- waist-high piles of gravel; old cement bags packed with crushed stone or powder. Construction crews buy the rocks and powder, then sell the cement bags back to the rock breakers.

It is a tiring, endlessly tedious task. Its practitioners work six and seven days a week, and they make almost nothing.

Fifty-year-old Ms. Mulelema and her grandson Alone live in Lusaka's Chawama neighborhood, a slum of one- and two-room block houses linked by dirt paths, in a single room, perhaps 8 by 12 feet.

A sheet draped over a rope separates a grimy foam sofa and two wooden chairs from a rudimentary kitchen.

There is no electricity.

Pencils of sunshine streaming through holes in the corrugated asbestos roof supply the only light.

Nor is there a toilet; the stench of human waste wafts upward from bushes outside.

Water is hauled in from a community tap.

Mrs. Mulelema sleeps on the sofa. Alone sleeps on the concrete floor. Stenciled in black on the wall is a diamond, one word at each angle, comprising a homily: ''God Bless Us All.''

Alone has been living with his grandmother since his mother died in 2001. His father is a mystery.

''I saw him once, but it was long ago,'' his grandmother said. ''It's just Alone, and I am taking care of him.''

Alone is a handsome boy, with large brown eyes and close-cropped hair, but clearly malnourished.

He is short enough -- a bit under four feet -- to be mistaken for a 6- or 7-year-old.

He has two pairs of pants, his skateboard sweatshirt and a pair of black leather shoes, which he reserves for school, the soles so worn that his toes hang out the front.

Hungry, but Paying the Rent

The two or three bags of rock powder that Alone can produce, at 10,000 kwacha per bag, are sold as a mixer for concrete, often to line swimming pools for Lusaka's wealthier residents.

They are the most lucrative products his grandmother offers, almost enough to pay the $11 a month she needs for rent and access to the community water tap.

Sales of the gravel she produces earn barely enough money to buy corn meal and small, dried fish, called kapenta, that the two eat for dinner.

For Mrs. Mulelema, Alone is literally the difference between profit and loss, and a hair's-breadth difference at that.

''We don't eat breakfast every day,'' she said. ''At lunch we have sweet potatoes, and then we wait for supper.

''If I decide to have my breakfast, it means I won't have anything for supper.''

Mrs. Mulelema once tried to open a food stand in the community market, but could not raise the cash.

Like virtually all the hundreds of Lusakans who crush stones, she says she does it because she has no choice.

''The business has no profit,'' said Mwila Zulu, a 40-year-old mother of three girls. She has been crushing stone at a quarry in Lusaka's industrial zone since the police shut down her unlicensed vegetable stand in the city's downtown in 2002.

Mrs. Zulu's husband died last year with symptoms that pointed to AIDS. Her daughters work at the quarry after school ends at noon, trying to fill the space he left. The youngest, Kunda and Mercy, break rocks with ball-peen hammers, the handles cut down to fit their hands.

By day's end, their deep brown arms and faces wear a film of white quartz-like dust.

They are 7 and 8 years old.

''She started working with me in recent years,'' Mrs. Zulu said of Kunda. ''She couldn't do anything when she was young, but now she's grown, so she's helping me.''

For 50,000 kwacha, or $15, a passing construction worker can buy a chest-high heap of gravel that took them three weeks to render.

But sales of that size are infrequent, sometimes once every two or three weeks, and money is short.

Mrs. Zulu said she did not waste time fretting over her daughters' fate.

''If I feel pity for them,'' she said, ''what are they going to eat?''