Yesterday, Sarah Palin was greeted by a throng of supporters in The Villages, Florida “” a retirement community northwest of Orlando. (Glenn Beck visited the same town this past weekend.) There were shouts of “We love you Sarah!” and “We want you to be president!” from the crowd. And Palin did plenty to stoke their hopes:
Both Kevin Drum and Andrew Sullivan say they think most people are too hard on Obama, but express disappointment at his record on civil liberties issues. I agree that the civil liberties record hasn’t been exactly what I would have wanted, but I’m continually surprised that people are disappointed in this turn. Of all the things for an incumbent President of the United States to take political risks fighting for, obviously reducing the power of the executive branch is going to be dead last on the list. If you want to see civil liberties championed, that’s going to have to come from congress.
The LA Times writes “”The suggestion that a surtax be used to help fund the increasingly unpopular war, though unlikely to pass, illustrated the fiscal anxieties that the president will face if he asks Congress to write another big-ticket item into the budget.” Spencer Ackerman disagrees:
I see very little evidence to support the assertion that the tax is “unlikely to pass.” It looks rather like a prerequisite for escalating the war in Congress. The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has railed in favor of paying for the war as the centrists demand paying for domestic policy initiatives. And it’s important to remember that this is a Congress that, as Pelosi says, has a great deal of anxiety and antipathy to the war already. For eight years Congress wrote blank checks for wars without strategies for successful conclusions. They did so, at least at first, because they felt that there would be no way the Bush administration could wage wars indefinitely and no administration could actually lack strategies for ending them. And here we are.
I see the case that a war tax is unlikely to pass, but I think it’s clear that the war tax initiative almost certainly will have substantial legislative impact. Having this idea advocated by big-time committee chairs creates a situation in which you can easily imagine a very large proportion of the House Democratic caucus adopting a “no war tax, no war appropriations” position. If it comes to that, then the administration should still be able to pass a war spending bill relying on Republican and Blue Dog votes. But once it’s clear that Obama needs their support to pass the bill, then it’s a good opportunity for Republican members to make demands of their own—no war funding without tax cuts. Then suddenly the administration and the “moderates” are in a pickle.
And one seemingly clean way out of the dilemma would be to simply admit that David Obey is right about this. If health reform needs to cut the deficit, and if other domestic spending needs to follow PAYGO rules, then increases in military spending should be financed through increases in taxes.
The thing to watch will be the attitude of Nancy Pelosi and her key proxies. It’s noteworthy that Rep. Obey’s bloc of leadership liberals for the war tax did not include either Henry Waxman or George Miller. That mustachioed duo can usually be counted on to serve as the leading edge of a Pelos-backed initiative. It was clear on her call with bloggers earlier this week that the Speaker sympathizes with the war tax concept, but she wasn’t ready to embrace it.
Last September, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich retracted an “Entrepreneur of the Year” award he accidentally presented to Dallas strip club owner Dawn Rizos and refunded the $5,000 donation Rizos made to Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future. At the time, Rizos said she would take the money to build a shelter for unwanted pit bulls. The Dallas Morning News reported yesterday that “Newt’s Nook: A Home For Pit Bulls” is now open:
A North Texas shelter for pit bulls has opened this week, thanks to a Dallas topless club owner’s contribution after Newt Gingrich’s conservative group snubbed her donation. [...]
Rizos says she decided to “make something positive out of his bad manners.”
She redirected the money to Animal Guardians of America’s sanctuary for rescued dogs in Celina, about 35 miles north of Dallas.
Gingrich didn’t attend the opening of “Newt’s Nook — A Home for Pit Bulls.”
The country got some apparently good news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this week which reported a substantial decline in new unemployment claims. Unfortunately, as Brad DeLong points out the seasonal adjustment factor is doing all the work:
In short, the seasonal adjustment factor predicts that new UI claims should rise by 103,000 in the week before Thanksgiving relative to two weeks before Thanksgiving. Because claims only went up by 68,000, the BLS thinks that is very good news for the job market–not as many people are being laid-off from construction and Christmas rush goods-producing jobs as December nears.
Now maybe the BLS is right. Maybe the smaller-than-suggested-by-the-historical-record increase in the number of new unemployment claims really does represent improving labor market conditions. But it seems equally possible that the historical record is an unreliable guide to our current situation with historically high levels of unemployment. Meanwhile, we still seem to be nowhere near the pace of growth at which the volume of jobless people actually declines.
Yesterday’s New York Times glossed one reason why some U.S. officials think we need to stay in Afghanistan in force:
But for years, throughout the Bush administration and into the Obama administration, American officials have been making trips to Pakistan to reassure its government that the United States has no intention of pulling out of Afghanistan as it did 20 years ago, after the Soviets retreated from the country. Inside the Pakistani Army and the intelligence service, which is known as the ISI, it is an article of faith among some officers that the United States is deceiving them, and that it will replay 1989.
If that happens, some Pakistanis argue, India will fill the void in southern Afghanistan, leaving Pakistan surrounded by its longtime enemy. So any talk of exit strategies is bound to reaffirm the belief of some Pakistani officials that they have to maintain their contacts with the Taliban — their hedge against Indian encroachment.
This was definitely a popular line of thought inside the Bush administration and seems to have some continuing sway in the Obama administration (especially because a lot of the personnel—Gates, Luti, Petraeus—is the same) but it seems in tension with the other popular theory that we need to stay in Afghanistan because a Taliban takeover would destabilize Pakistan. Or perhaps it’s better to say that the reasoning is circular. To win in Afghanistan we need to convince the Pakistanis that we’re staying forever, since otherwise they’ll back the Taliban and we won’t be able to beat the Taliban which we need to do as a favor to the Pakistanis. See!
I sometimes think it’s hard for America’s professional soldiers to avoid seeing their presence somewhere as the solution to all problems.
Beck’s Sexist Reason For Ruling Out Palin-Beck Ticket: She’d Always Be ‘Yapping’ Like We’re ‘In The Kitchen’
In recent days, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has indicated that she may be open to a conservative presidential dream ticket in 2012: Palin-Beck (or Beck-Palin). “I can envision a couple of different combinations, if ever I were to be in a position to really even seriously consider running for anything in the future, and I’m not there yet,” Palin told Newsmax. “But Glenn Beck I have great respect for. He’s a hoot.” Fox and Friends plugged the idea yesterday morning and asked Palin whether she would run with Beck. She kept the door open, saying, “I don’t know. We’ll see, we’ll see.”
But just a few hours later on his radio show, Beck shot down the idea, saying he was “absolutely” ruling out a Palin-Beck ticket. He explained that if he had the number two job, Palin would always be “yapping” like they were in “the kitchen”:
BECK: I don’t think things are hoots. I don’t. I don’t think it’s a hoot. I would never use the word hoot, and I respectfully ask that every time my name is brought up she would stop using the word “hoot.” [...]
No, no I’m just saying — Beck-Palin, I’ll consider. But Palin-Beck — can you imagine, can you imagine what an administration with the two of us would be like? What? Come on! She’d be yapping or something, and I’d say, “I’m sorry, why am I hearing your voice? I’m not in the kitchen.”
A woman’s appropriate place on a presidential ticket, according to Beck, is in the number two spot. Otherwise, she should just “yap” away in a kitchen somewhere. Apparently, being a vice presidential running mate behind a woman is a serious challenge to Beck’s manhood.
When Newsweek ran a picture of Palin in a running outfit on its cover this month, Palin and many others criticized the magazine for being sexist. Beck joined the outrage, saying the “attack” on Palin was “dizzying” and “devastating.” He said Newsweek had reached “the highest of the lows” and added that the magazine now “sucks.”
Transcript: Read more
Ruth Shalit Barrett’s Elle piece on “gender disappointment” (parents who want to have boys but get girls or vice versa) relies pretty heavily on anecdotes and vague generalizations, but this is at least data-esque and somewhat surprising: “Seventy-one percent of American families who use MicroSort—which is still in clinical trials—want a daughter.” MicroSort being a company that at least claims to be able to help you choose a son or daughter deliberately.
If it’s true that society has developed an aggregate preference for girls that would, of course, be a change from the historic pro-boy bias of the peasant farmer. And as Mickey Kaus jokes “I see profitable arbitrage possibilities for Match.com’s Chinese web service.”
It’s not clear that this MicroSort technology even works, but it seems inevitable that improved understanding of human biology will give parents increasing ability to exercise choice in this regard without resorting to the crude and taboo method of selective abortion. Under the circumstances even a much milder social preference for either boys or girls could have pretty profound social consequences in terms of creating an aggregate gender imbalance. Optimistically, a predominantly female society should have substantially fewer people killed by violent crime and car accidents, and somewhat more enlightened public policy. At the same time, I’ve seen models in which a relatively modest oversupply of women (normally the scenario this is supposed to model is inner-city neighborhoods impacted by the mass incarceration of African-American men) leads to the collapse of norms of monogamy with deleterious consequences for the next generation of children.
For me, it’s easily summed up in one Time magazine photo:
How about you?
Here’s something else I’m thankful for: Science.
Charles Darwin’s seminal work, On the Origin of Species, was published on 150 years ago this week, November 24, 1859. You can read the first edition online here. The National Science Foundation has an amazing special report which you can access by clicking here or on the image above.
No, it doesn’t bear directly on climate change, but I think this historic anniversary is relevant for a couple of reasons. First, for all the angst over the public’s understanding of climate science – 72% think we’re warming and 82% of those think it’s a serious problem — only 39% of Americans say they “believe in the theory of evolution,” and it’s been around a lot longer and is as well-substantiated a theory as any in science.
Second, Darwin was, among other things, a great science writer. For aspiring and practicing science writers out there, here is how the conclusion to his masterwork evolved — see Science (subs. req’d) and here: