Thursday, March 22, 2007

Well that was... good? The gist of the Edwards press conference was that Elizabeth Edwards's cancer has returned, but in a very treatable (albeit not curable) way. She feels great, she's had no symptoms, and they were lucky to have caught it this early.

Oh yeah, and the campaign will go on. "Strongly."

A couple of things that I found odd:

  • They didn't address the future of the campaign until they were asked about it. Maybe I can see the motivation there, maybe ("This press conference is about Elizabeth; that's what really matters here. Elizabeth Elizabeth Elizabeth. ... Wait, you want to talk about the presidential campaign? At a time like this? Have you no shame? Have you no decency? ... Oh, very well, if you insist."), but come on. Give me a break.
  • And speaking of breaks! (I am the segue master!) The cancer was discovered when Elizabeth, while seeking treatment for a broken rib, had a set of X-rays that happened to show an irregularity on the other side of her body. So, obvious question, "how did you break your rib?" "Well, see, I was moving this chest of drawers...." I'm not a journalist, and I don't have a journalist's instincts, but that explanation seemed awfully contrived. I don't mean to imply anything, but she's a near-60-year-old woman with two young children. How is the explanation not, "I was playing with the kids"?

This could be pretty big:

ABC News is reporting breaking news that John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, are holding a press conference Thursday at noon. No one yet knows why, but you don't mysteriously announce a press conference with your wife if it's good news. This comes on the heels of Edwards canceling a campaign appearance recently in order to attend a doctor's appointment with his wife, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.
It's probably true that you don't mysteriously call a press conference to announce good news, but it's important to remember that sometimes you do mysteriously call a press conference to announce nothing at all.

Update: Ezra Klein hears rumors that Edwards is planning to drop out. Say it ain't so, Jo[hn]!

Update #2: The big papers have joined the party, with a somewhat disheartening message: the Times quotes one "close family friend" as saying that the announcement "would affect, at least temporarily, the future of the campaign." While I suppose that's better than nothing ("at least temporarily" clearly suggests, if nothing else, the possibility that the campaign will continue in the long-term), it does seem uncomfortably likely that we're dealing with an announcement in the neighborhood of Aravosis Paradigm 3.

On the other hand, in an encouraging sign, Ezra Klein follows up his earlier post with this: "I am, happily, hearing more contradictory things now, as the campaign is apparently telling folks not to assume the worst." (How encouraging a sign that really is depends pretty heavily on how you define "the worst." If the worst is "Elizabeth has cancer," then we're in good shape; but if the worst is "I'm withdrawing from the race," then "not assum[ing] the worst" is entirely consistent with "I'm suspending the campaign indefinitely in order to take care of my wife.")

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

An Australian fake-news show (CNNNN) sends its U.S. correspondent on a mission to demonstrate to the world that Americans aren't as stupid as people think they are. Needless to say, he fails spectacularly. My favorite exchange:

    Morrow: "Which countries are in the axis of evil?"
    Woman 1: "Jerusalem?"
    Morrow: "Right...."
    Woman 2: "Jerusalem?"
    Morrow: "Okay... there's, there's more than one."

The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva digs up an old column of Tony Snow's that, to put it mildly, makes Snow look a little silly now.

(Thanks to every blogger in the world.)

The House Democratic leadership picked up a couple of big Iraq votes yesterday (Jan Schakowsky and John Tanner), but they remain on shaky ground: Maxine Waters is still a no, Lynn Woolsey is still a no, and John Lewis... well, as he put it:

As a nation, can we hear the words of Gandhi, so simple, so true -- that it's either nonviolence or nonexistence? Can we hear the words of Martin Luther King Jr., saying that we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish as fools? Tonight, I must make it plain and clear, that as a human being, as a citizen of the world, as a citizen of America, as a member of Congress, and as an individual committed to a world at peace with itself, I will not and cannot vote for another dollar or another dime to support this war.
In other words, the next twenty-four hours are going to be an uphill battle.

I have to say, though: considering that this vote is largely symbolic (at best, it'll pass both chambers and be firmly and immediately vetoed; at worst, it won't even get a vote in the House), it's frustrating that the best the Democrats are able to do is commit to a withdrawal date sixteen months from now. As I'm sure someone famous once said: if you're going to lose, you may as well lose on something worth losing. The Democrats get beaten on some crazy, left-wing, latte-drinking, out-of-Iraq-tomorrow plan? Fine; they fought the good fight. But they get beaten on a relatively milquetoast, meet-you-halfway compromise measure*? That seems strategically unwise.

Incidentally, that Post article seems to suggest that the outcome of this vote will bear heavily on perceptions of Clyburn's effectiveness as whip ("the failings of his organization are resurrecting fears that the courtly Southern gentleman is simply too nice for a job known for head-banging, punishment and retribution"). I don't think that's actually the case, but if it is, it's startlingly unfair. That Clyburn bears some responsibility as a member of the leadership is unquestionable; but for the rest of the leadership to slough off blame for their collective miscalculation on some imagined failure of Clyburn's to deliver votes that they could otherwise have gotten would be ludicrous. Read that John Lewis excerpt again, and tell me honestly if you think there's anyone short of Lyndon Johnson who could have delivered Lewis's vote, or the vote of anyone who agrees with him. At the end of the day, on an issue as important and volatile as this one, Members are going to vote their consciences. It'd be foolish to take that out on James Clyburn.

* - If this was a price negotiation, here's where it would stand:
    Democrats: We'll give you $2.
    Republicans: We'll take nothing less than $100.
    Democrats: Okay, fine, we'll give you $10.
    Republicans: Sorry. Nothing less than $100.
    Democrats: Alright, $35.
    Republicans: $100.
    Democrats: $60?
    Republicans: $100.
    Democrats: Alright, fine. $85. But that's our final offer.

The D.C. chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War staged an interesting protest on Monday, running a mock patrol through downtown Washington carrying "imaginary assault rifles" and "taking imaginary sniper fire and casualties on the grounds of the Capitol and the Washington Monument." The video attached to the story is worth a watch.

This is amusing: TrueMajority, a lefty non-profit founded by Ben & Jerry's Ben Cohen, launched an Alberto Gonzales resignation pool this morning. If you can accurately predict the date and time of Gonzales's resignation, you win a year's supply of ice cream.

(And with the Politico reporting that a resignation could come any day, you might want to make your guess in a hurry.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Mean-spirited. Fundamentally inaccurate. Coulter." (Thanks to AMERICAblog for the link.)

(Shrewd readers will note that this is my first embedded video. How high-tech!)

If you haven't seen this yet (it's about a week old), I'd highly encourage you to check out this fantastic Wonkette post, Jesus-Loving Americans Totally Ignorant of Jesus, Religion. (It's like an Onion article, only real!)

[T]he way people go on about Jesus and how the Terrorist Muslims are coming to take away our precious freedoms guaranteed by Jesus to each American, you’d think they at least knew some goddamned simple bible stories. No. They actually don’t know anything about anything.
The sixteen-point list that is the crux of the post is almost guaranteed to make you chuckle. Here are two of my favorites:
  • 98% of Americans profess belief in a monotheistic God, with 81% claiming to be "Christian." And...
  • Only one in three Americans can name the four Gospels, while less than half can even name one of them.
In other words, at least 40% of the people who self-identify as Christian can't name any of the Gospels. 40%! I love the Christian right.

(Cautionary note: a few of the sources cited in the Wonkette piece are less than ideal; I recognize that, and I wouldn't recommend citing them in an academic article on religious hypocrisy. But I've seen enough polling data on religion to know that the numbers Wonkette's quoting are, at the very worst, not far off base. Should you rely on them as scientifically accurate? No, probably not. But can you rely on them as anecdotally accurate? Absolutely. It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world.)

Monday, March 19, 2007

I've been a terrible blogger lately. I have plenty of excuses, sure: I was in and out of town; I had a catastrophic motherboard failure; I felt obligated to watch about six hundred NCAA basketball games. But none of that makes me feel any less guilty about failing you, my loyal readers (ha!). I've been keeping up with the news, mind you; I just haven't actually be posting any of it. So here's a lengthy rundown* of the notable news articles and blog posts that I've read in the past week and a half, organized roughly by topic. And now that I'm back in town full-time; now that I've constructed an acceptable workaround until my new motherboard arrives; now that the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament are over... I'll try to spend some time here more regularly.

  • Richardson
  • Walter Reed
    • 3.8. AMERICAblog on the CQ article indicating that senior Republicans knew about the situation at Walter Reed long before they let on.
  • Environment
    • 3.8. There was a lot of talk amongst the big lefty bloggers about this article, which reports on government scientists who were told not to discuss climate change (or polar bears).
  • Libby
    • 3.8. One of Kos's contributing editors makes a good point regarding the feasibility of a Scooter Libby pardon: you usually have to wait five years.
  • Edwards
    • 3.8. Ezra Klein at TAPPED points out that while Edwards's coming out against the FNC Nevada debate was a "good thing," it probably wasn't a smart move for Edwards personally, since it's likely to set him up as a pretty severe Fox punching bag if he makes it far enough that it becomes worthwhile for them to start punching him. (I think this is probably slightly less true now that the debate has collapsed so spectacularly. But they have long memories, those elephants.)
  • U.S. Attorneys
    • 3.8. Arlen Specter becomes the first Republican to rake the Attorney General across the coals.
    • 3.12. Chuck Schumer wants Karl Rove to testify.
    • 3.13. Dan Bartlett: "The White House did not play a role in the list of the seven U.S. Attorneys."
    • 3.16. TPM has put together a great timeline of the whole U.S. Attorney thing. (They also ask what Rove knew when.)
  • Military
    • 3.9. The American Prospect writes about military reservists and the Montgomery GI Bill.
    • 3.13. The fact that Gen. Peter Pace thinks homosexuality is immoral did not surprise me. The fact that Sen. John Warner thinks it's not, did.
  • Coulter
    • 3.9. A great editorial on Coulter from a small paper in DeKalb, Illinois. One of the things that annoyed me most about the initial responses from the major political campaigns (on both sides of the aisle) is that they were all framed in terms of "that kind of language has no place in political discourse." That's undeniably true, but it seems like we ought to go further than that; as the editorial above notes, "What she said was wrong and hurtful and stepped way beyond the line of human decency, much less political commentary."
  • Abortion
    • 3.12. A good post from TAPPED on a major logic problem for the pro-life right: "But as John Paul Stevens has pointed out, this position is completely nonsensical; it's absurd to argue that a woman has a fundamental right in choosing to become pregnant before the fact but only a trivial interest in choosing whether to become pregnant after the fact. The state's interest is greater after the fact, but the way abortion laws are written and enforced makes it almost impossible to argue that this interest could trump a fundamental right, which is why most opponents of Roe deny that a woman's right to choose an abortion is a fundamental right at all."
  • Hagel
    • 3.9. Interesting fact: Chuck Hagel promised during his 1996 Senate campaign to term-limit himself to 12 years.
    • 3.12. Chuck Hagel announces... nothing. Pundits agree: that was quite a waste of time.
  • Plame
    • 3.16. Valerie Plame testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. I didn't get to watch it, but everything I read seems to indicate that she was quite damning. (AMERICAblog has an assortment of clips.)
* - Color-coded expression of the danger that The Purple State is becoming more of a disjointed series of links than a blog: Orange (Elevated).