Saturday, January 27, 2007

The guests for tomorrow's talk shows, according to my TiVo:

  • Meet the Press: Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. David Vitter
  • Face the Nation: Sen. Jim Webb, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Arlen Specter
  • This Week: Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Dick Lugar, Re. Duncan Hunter, Kevin Bacon

    One of these things is not like the others.

  • A former history professor at Northwestern writes about the ever-increasing level of secrecy in government:

    Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s prescient last book, "Secrecy," traced the ever-faster-growing secrecy of our government and said that it strikes at the very essence of democracy — accountability of representatives to the people. How can the people hold their representatives to account if they are denied knowledge of what they are doing? Wartime and war analogies are embraced because these justify the secrecy. The representative is accountable to citizens. Soldiers are accountable to their officer. The dynamics are different, and to blend them is to undermine the basic principles of our Constitution.

    John Edwards lives in a palace. 28,200 square feet, all on one level ("except for a 600-square-foot bedroom and bath area above the guest garage"). (For the record, the concept of a "guest garage" is funny all by itself.) The compound includes a "recreation building," which features an indoor pool, a basketball court, a squash court, a bunch of other stuff, and two stages. All of the other stuff, fine. But two stages? Are they planning to run competing shows?

    Friday, January 26, 2007's Wright Thompson writes stirringly about Georgia teenager Genarlow Wilson, who's two years into one of the most preposterous ten-year prison sentences you'll ever read about:

    When he was a senior in high school, he received oral sex from a 10th grader. He was 17. She was 15. Everyone, including the girl and the prosecution, agreed she initiated the act. But because of an archaic Georgia law, it was a misdemeanor for teenagers less than three years apart to have sexual intercourse, but a felony for the same kids to have oral sex.
    And the saddest part (to quote a New York Times editorial from about a month ago): "Even if he could win an early release, Mr. Wilson could not go home to his family. He would have to register as a sex offender and would be prohibited from living with his 8-year-old sister."

    There's a bill pending before the state senate that would grant the sentencing court jurisdiction to "correct" Wilson's sentence. I don't know Georgia politics from a hole in the ground, so I couldn't begin to guess at the bill's chance of passage, but the fact that it was sponsored by at least seven of Georgia's fifty-six state senators (and the fact that at least one of those seven is a Republican) has to be a good sign.

    (Thanks to Deadspin for the ESPN link.)

    Wednesday, January 24, 2007

    John Kerry has decided not to run.

    I sought the presidency to lead us on a different course. There are powerful reasons to want to continue that fight now. But I've concluded this isn't the time for me to mount a presidential campaign. It is the time to put my energy to work as part of the new Democratic majority in the Senate, to do all I can to end this war and strengthen our security and our ability to fight the real war on terror.

    The people of Massachusetts have given me an incredible privilege to serve in the Senate, to represent the birthplace of freedom, the cradle of liberty, and a state where in Faneuil Hall patriotic dissenters stood on principle. I want to continue representing Massachusetts, and that's why I am running for reelection so I can use my voice all day every day to end this war and galvanize grassroots action to force Washington and our Democratic Party to live up to its responsibility.
    (Fortunately for the YouTube Generation, most of whom are tragically unable to read, Kerry also made a video.)

    A great story from this Sunday's Times about an unusual youth soccer team from a small town outside of Atlanta.

    The Fugees are indeed all refugees, from the most troubled corners — Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burundi, Congo, Gambia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan. Some have endured unimaginable hardship to get here: squalor in refugee camps, separation from siblings and parents. One saw his father killed in their home.

    The Fugees, 9 to 17 years old, play on three teams divided by age. Their story is about children with miserable pasts trying to make good with strangers in a very different and sometimes hostile place. But as a season with the youngest of the three teams revealed, it is also a story about the challenges facing resettled refugees in this country. More than 900,000 have been admitted to the United States since 1993, and their presence seems to bring out the best in some people and the worst in others.
    It's no Ballad of Big Mike, but it'll keep you reading until the end, which is more than most 6,000-word stories can say. (I'd have to imagine that the author of this particular article, Warren St. John [who also wrote the very well-received Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer], is working this into a book, but I don't know that for sure.)

    A quick thought on the Democratic response

    Overall, I was impressed with Jim Webb (though did anyone else get the impression that he was trying not to laugh during the Teddy Roosevelt story?), and I'm enjoying this trend of Virginians giving the annual Democratic rebuttal (next year, if there's a god, it'll be Larry Sabato). But I have to admit that I wasn't particularly moved by what Webb said. Perhaps it was his delivery, but the speech - short though it was - seemed to lack any sort of thematic development. To an extent, that's just the nature of this kind of speech, but all the same, it left me cold. Until the ending, that is: "If [the President] does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way." Booya!

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Liveblogging the State of the Union!
    (Because that's the kind of thoughtful and original content my regular readers have come to expect.)

    8:56: Blogger's down. Not a good sign.

    8:57: The joint session's been called to order. Goosebumps.

    9:01: Mrs. President is wearing red. That's one wrong, and we haven't even started yet.

    9:03: The cabinet enters, and Cheney's looking particularly surly. I'll bet he resents all the press that Elaine Chao gets.

    9:05: An overhead shot of the crowd reveals one startlingly purple woman. No word yet on who it is, but I hope it's one of the "Crayola Five."

    9:07: Blogger is still down. This could be a serious impediment to the whole "liveblogging" thing.

    9:09: Finally, we have a president. Joe Lieberman is hiding in a corner somewhere.

    9:12: There's a shiny purple girl in the First Lady's box. Last-minute odds on why she's there: lost a family member in Iraq, 3/2; saved a baby, 4/1; saved a baby in Iraq, 6/1.

    9:13: And finally, we have a speech.

    9:15: Bush "congratulates" the Democratic majority. Crowd shots show Ted Kennedy and Rahm Emmanuel clapping, Steny Hoyer nodding stoically, and James Clyburn not paying the slightest bit of attention.

    9:16: Mitch McConnell claps like a stroke victim.

    9:16: "Our citizens don't much care which side of the aisle we sit on, as long as we're willing to cross that aisle when there's work to be done." I humbly dissent.

    9:18: The three priorities. Priority 1: Balance the budget (standing ovation 1), without raising taxes (standing ovation 2); the budget request will "eliminate the deficit within 5 years." "Together we can restrain the spending appetite of the federal government." Scoff.

    9:20: The three priorities. Priority 2: Expose every earmark to "the light of day." (They're often added "when not even C-SPAN is watching." Hey-oh!)

    9:20: The startlingly purple woman from 9:05 is revealed! And alas, she is Diana DeGette; not one of the Crayola Five at all.

    9:20: The three priorities. Priority 3: "Fix Medicare and Medicaid, and save Social Security." Why not fix all three? Couldn't tell you.

    9:21: Thank God for DVR, by the way. I'm about ten minutes behind real-time already.

    9:22: "The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America's children, and I ask Congress to re-authorize this good law." Not even Howdy Doody can generate any enthusiasm for that one.

    9:26: "Medical liability reform" gets a standing ovation from the Elephants.

    9:30: "It's in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply."

    9:32: This whole energy policy section is somewhat surreal.

    9:33: Climate change is a "serious challenge." That brings the whole bloody room to its feet (notably Steny Hoyer, who appeared to be trying to clap as hard as he could).

    9:34: First explicit mention of September 11.

    9:35: "We must take the fight to the enemy" gets a standing ovation from a bunch of Democats. That was unexpected.

    9:40: "Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies." Alright, fine. Then explain Ann Coulter.

    9:45: Nothing funny to say, really, but it's been a while, so I thought I should post something.

    9:50: "We went into this largely united... and whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure." No kidding.

    9:51: The president would like to establish a "Special Advisory Council on the War on Terror." Because ignoring the current crop of advisory councils has become blase.

    9:51: He also proposes the establishment of a "Volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps," which will "assemble civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them." Which is funny, because Saturday Night Live proposed that very same thing about a week and a half ago.

    9:54: "We will continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur." An awfully liberal use of the phrase "continue to," that.

    9:55: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is standing next to a guy a don't really recognize, and I swear to God it looks like they're participating in Take Your Daughter to Work Day.

    9:57: Special Guest #1: Dikembe Motombo. (Motombo's sitting next to Laura Bush, and when they're both sitting down, he's at most six inches taller than she is. Seriously, how is that possible? Is he sitting on the floor?)

    9:58: Special Guest #2: The Woman Who Founded the Baby Einstein Company. (Huh?) (Incidentally, the shiny purple girl from 9:12 is her daughter.)

    9:59: Special Guest #3: That guy from New York who jumped onto the subway tracks to save the guy having the heart attack. Alright, fair enough. But they seem to have made him sit in his own little section.

    10:00: Special Guest #4: Some Silver Star winner.

    10:01: This is a long damn speech, but...

    10:02: The state of our union is strong!

    I thought he'd never get there.

    Overall, I was more impressed with Bush's delivery than I have been in years past, but I was left completely cold by the rhetoric. Perhaps that's because I was focusing on the blog, but I don't think so; I think it just wasn't a very well-written speech. Which is a shame.

    Internet Explorer is having some trouble with one of my recent posts at the moment (doesn't like the writing, I guess), so I've moved the offending post off the front page. I'll replace it once I can figure out what the problem is. (The post, which contains the full text of an essay about the murder of an artist from New Orleans, can still be found here, even in Internet Explorer, without any problem.)

    Monday, January 22, 2007

    An interesting (if not particularly unique) look at the relative earliness of the start of the '08 presidential campaign. (Also worth visiting every few hours: the NYT's running tally of announced candidates.)

    Obama's yearbook. Magnificent. ("We go play hoop.")