Monday, 19 January 2004

The Man

Radley Balko shows the faces of the people who will, in all likelihood, decide the Democratic nomination. Here’s a hint: they look like Howard Dean’s cabinet in Vermont did…

Tricky Dick Deux

Kevin Drum reckons the soft underbelly of the Bush presidency is Dick Cheney:

I’m going to stick with my suggestion that the Democrats could gain some traction by making Cheney a bigger issue in the campaign than vice presidents usually are. It would require a subtle touch, of course, but let’s face it: nobody likes an evil genius operating out of a hole. There ought to be something there we can take advantage of.

On the other hand, Unlearned Hand isn’t buying quite yet:

First of all, I think most Americans just won’t believe any claims that the Vice-President is exerting so much control. It goes against all conventional wisdom on vice-presidencies, and that’s a lot of inertia to overcome.

I’m not so sure about that; vice presidents have become more salient figures over the past 10–15 years than they used to be (see, e.g., Al Gore), although I’ll agree that the size of Cheney’s role is unprecedented. I’m rather inclined to think that vice presidents ought to have larger roles anyway, within the limitation that their primary job is to not die before the president does.

Cheney’s large role, in a lot of ways, is probably due to the relative inexperience of Bush in national politics. Interestingly, though, the “Ex-Governor – D.C. Insider” pattern has applied to every presidential ticket since Ford’s.

Second, it can easily be spun (perhaps correctly) into proof that Democrats know they can’t win by going after the President himself. Karl Rove could have a field day running ads that say “They are picking on the President’s staff because they don’t want to go head-to-head with George W. Bush.”

Well, it’s one thing to go after Andy Card and another to go after Cheney—the latter’s name, at least, is on the ballot. And I think there are legitimate issues that can be aired about Cheney’s role vis à vis Halliburton. I don’t know that I buy them necessarily (Cheney is hardly the first beltway insider to “descend from heaven” into a cushy job in the private sector, to borrow the Japanese coinage), but it’s a legitimate topic for discussion.

Third, I think Cheney’s presence is actually reassuring to a lot of people. To the extent that people do buy into the “Bush is dumb” rhetoric, many of them think having Cheney around makes for a perfect complement: Bush gives them the leadership and machismo that reassures a frightened nation, Cheney provides the organization and runs a lot of the policy analysis.

Perhaps that’s the case. On the other hand, I think the public perception of Cheney is that he’s on the verge of death—hardly a reassuring image. On balance, I tend to agree with Kevin and think Cheney’s a liability, at least on the image side.

Personally, though, I think Democrats could make much more hay with the Creepy Combo of John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge—at least with libertarian-minded voters like me who are deeply skeptical about Homeland Security’s smoke-and-mirrors operation and Ashcroft’s ties to the fundies and the CCC types. With a reasonably credible candidate at the front of the ticket (at this point, it’d have to be Edwards or possibly Kerry), that sort of message might sway my vote.

This is today’s OTB Traffic Jam entry.

Crime and punishment

You’ll be hard-pressed to find it in Daniel Davies’ account, but the case of Katharine Gun, a former British intelligence officer who has become something of the “Valerie Plame” of the anti-war movement on the other side of the pond, seems rather open-and-shut.

Gun, an admitted opponent of the war in Iraq, is charged with violating the Official Secrets Act by leaking a memo, apparently from the NSA, soliciting help from their British counterparts at GCHQ in conducting intelligence operations against several U.N. delegations—something which, to the best of my knowledge, is not illegal in either the United States or Britain. But, you know, she’s being made a “scapegoat” (i.e. being charged with a crime she’s almost certainly guilty of) because of the “embarrassment” to the government (i.e. she broke the fricking law).

Anyway, if you’re inclined to venerate criminal acts, you’ll probably enjoy this Bob Herbert op-ed which plays the martyr card to the hilt. If not, well… scroll down, there’s better stuff here to read.

Update: Jacob Levy also has an interesting take on Mr. Davies’ clarion call.

Marijuana, Cocaine, and Violent Crime

Tyler Cowen, noting that drastic fall in violent crime during the 90s may be partly explained by the fall in popularity of crack cocaine, speculates on the reasons that the cocaine business, unlike the marijuana business, is so associated with violent crime.

Is it more due to intrinsic properties of cocaine, such as its addictive nature, and its being a stimulant instead of a depressant? Or is it due to extrinsic features of the drug, such as its centralized production outside the U.S.?

Perhaps some light could be shed on the matter by comparison with the crystal methamphetamine business. I’m not an expert, but from what I’ve read it would seem that crystal meth shares a lot intrinsic properties (such as being a stimulant) with cocaine, but shares with marijuana extrinsic properties such as decentralized production.

If there’s a high rate of violence associated with the crystal meth business, we should look to the intrinsic properties of cocaine to explain the violence associated with the cocaine business, whereas if there is not, we should look to production factors to explain the difference between the cocaine and marijuana businesses.

Mississippi is number 1!

In public corruption, that is. Via Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution, we learn that the Corporate Crime Reporter has listed Mississippi as the most corrupt state in the country, closely followed by North Dakota and Louisiana.

As for the rest of the Mid-South, the full report reveals that Tennessee comes in at number 19, and Arkansas is way down on the list at number 42. Nebraska is apparently the least corrupt state in the nation.

Congratulations, Mississippi!

UPDATE: Damn, Chris beat me to the post by 24 minutes.

Delicious Irony

Keith Burgess-Jackson is upset with the banner ads that Ads By Google is serving up at the head of Animal Ethics.

Over the course of a couple of reloads, I’ve seen ads for “Jackson Hole Choice Meats,” “,” “Prime Beef,” “USDA Certified Steaks,” and “Kobe Beef from $29.99.”

It seems that Google’s keyword technology can tell what a site is about, but can’t tell you whether the site is for or against it.

Rather than letting it ruin his day, I think Keith should try to find the humor in it. After all, these companies are presumably paying by the impression, and they aren’t likely to get any sales from these ads.

We're Number One!

Tyler Cowen finds evidence that Mississippi is the most corrupt state in the Union. You don’t say…

The scary part: the figures don’t even include the non-quite-illegal-but-downright-unethical influence peddling that goes on in these parts, like ex-attorney general Mike Moore’s long campaign to enrich his law school buddies.


One thing many people elide, or perhaps just forget, when talking about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is that he was a minister—his faith, above all else, informed his actions. Rarely was that more clearly on display than in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, where he considers whether his leadership of protests against segregation in Birmingham was “extremist”:

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal …” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—-the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.*

As Michael Totten today points out, there is no shortage of extremists today on either side of the political spectrum. They ought to give pause to reconsider what kinds of extremists they will be.

Update: Big Jim notes that it’s someone else’s holiday too down heah, as they say.

Clark ads hit Memphis

Among Democratic contenders for the nomination, Wes Clark has so far had the Memphis airwaves to himself—apparently in an effort to build momentum going into the February 10th open primary in Tennessee, which is only 3 weeks away from Tuesday. Is Clark planning a “Southern strategy” of his own? Or is this a misallocation of resources? Only time will tell, but if he does well in both New Hampshire and on February 3rd, he should be well-positioned for a win in Tennessee in the race against presumed front-runner Howard Dean.