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Showing posts from January, 2011

Mr. Mom Chronicles: The gross-out wars begin

Tobias has added aggressive licking to his arsenal. I may or may not have taught him that, but I'm certainly living with the consequences.I'm not feeling well, so I settled down for a nap this afternoon. Tobias crawled under the blanket with me, but apparently didn't want me to sleep -- he put his head next to mine and, not getting a response, did the unexpected: He ran his tongue up and down my nose.I laughed, but apparently it's not a one-time thing. A little later, after I'd gotten up, he came over and licked my knee. So I grabbed his hand and stuffed it in my mouth. "Dat's gwoss," he told me. He's learning.

Rendell, Bissinger, and the changes at the Philadelphia Daily News

There's a lot of ground to cover in Larry Platt's memo to the staff of the Philadelphia Daily News. So I'll just stick with saying this sounds good....In covering Power, the Daily News should report from street level, poking the reader in the ribs and telling him or her how things really do or don’t get done in this city. Philadelphia is a town that is run for and by the same group of 300 insiders. We have an obligation to provide a road map for our readers as to how the transactional nature of our town can conspire against the common good. And we can do that in an entertaining way that holds the usual suspects accountable. ...but I can't help but juxtapose that mission statement with this: I’m also honored to announce that another Pulitzer Prize winner, best-selling author Buzz Bissinger, will serve as an editorial advisor and occasional columnist in our pages. I’ve known Buzz for nearly twenty years; he’s passionate and inspiring and often outraged. I plan on having …

Bernd Eichinger, maker of 'Neverending Story' and 'Downfall,' RIP

It's a heck of an expansive moviemaking resumé: Bernd Eichinger, who just died at age 61, was a writer or producer on "The Neverending Story" the "Resident Evil" franchise and some of Wim Wenders' earliest movies. But the movie that probably touched the deepest chord with me was "Downfall," Eichinger's film about Hitler's last days, as the Soviet army closed in around him. The controversy around the movie is remembered in his obit today: “Downfall” (2004), which was written as well as produced by Mr. Eichinger (and was also nominated for an Oscar), tells the story of Hitler’s final days, portraying life with his close compatriots in his Berlin bunker.Based partly on a memoir by one of Hitler’s secretaries and partly on historical texts, the film, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, portrayed Hitler in an almost neutral fashion. It depicted his paranoid rantings as Berlin was under assault by Russian artillery and the Germans faced certain def…

Today in inequality reading: Egypt

A big reason for the unrest in Egypt? The widening gap between the rich and the poor:“These big guys are stealing all the money,” said Mohamed Ibraham, a 24-year-old textile worker standing at his second job as a fruit peddler in a hard-pressed neighborhood called Dar-al-Salam. “If they were giving us our rights, why would we protest? People are desperate.”He had little sympathy for those frightened by the specter of looting. He complained that he could barely afford his rent and said the police routinely humiliated him by shaking him down for money, overturning his cart or stealing his fruit. “And then we hear about how these big guys all have these new boats and the 100,000 pound villas. They are building housing, but not for us — for those people up high.”The widening chasm between rich and poor in Cairo has been one of the conspicuous aspects of city life over the last decade — and especially the last five years. Though there were always extremes of wealth and poverty here, until …

Today in inequality reading: Egypt

A big reason for the unrest in Egypt? The widening gap between the rich and the poor:“These big guys are stealing all the money,” said Mohamed Ibraham, a 24-year-old textile worker standing at his second job as a fruit peddler in a hard-pressed neighborhood called Dar-al-Salam. “If they were giving us our rights, why would we protest? People are desperate.”He had little sympathy for those frightened by the specter of looting. He complained that he could barely afford his rent and said the police routinely humiliated him by shaking him down for money, overturning his cart or stealing his fruit. “And then we hear about how these big guys all have these new boats and the 100,000 pound villas. They are building housing, but not for us — for those people up high.”The widening chasm between rich and poor in Cairo has been one of the conspicuous aspects of city life over the last decade — and especially the last five years. Though there were always extremes of wealth and poverty here, until …

Philly police: Probably worse than you think

God, I love the Philadelphia Daily News:THE NUMBER of complaints against Philadelphia police officers has spiked in the past few years, yet getting a complaint form isn't always as easy as it's supposed to be.At times, officers at some police-district headquarters pressure complainants for personal information regarding the complaint, and provide misinformation or even deny them the form needed to file a complaint.In spot checks conducted recently by the Daily News, supervisors at five police districts refused to allow the complainant to remain anonymous - which is against the Police Department's own policy - and wouldn't supply the form to reporters who posed as complainants.An additional 11 of the city's 21 police districts did not follow department policies for filing complaints. Problems included creating a hostile environment for complainants, and neglecting to inform them of the procedure and locations to file a complaint.Not that this is shocking, but what t…

This new highway is brought to you by Big Brother

In a somewhat intriguing article arguing for private funding of new road and infrastructure projects, AEI's R. Richard Geddes makes this following aside:More toll-funded roads wouldn't necessarily mean more toll plazas clogging our highways. Advanced satellite tracking technologies allow "open road" tolling, in which motorists would be charged per mile of road used--just as consumers are charged per kilowatt hour for electricity, per gallon of water, or per minute of cell phone use--without the backup at the toll booth. Private investors have the resources to utilize this new technology.It might be a bit late in the game to make this complaint-slash-observation, but I'm not really sure that I'd want some governmental-business partnership tracking every place I drive with a satellite. We're increasingly trackable thanks to our cell phones and standard in-car technologies at this point, so the horse may be out of the barn, but the idea still gives me the cr…

Challenger

Tucked in a drawer somewhere around here, I have an autographed picture of Judith Resnik. During the early 1980s, while other kids were swooning to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," I was writing fan letters to astronauts. And one of the original astronauts -- John Young, who'd flown on Gemini and Apollo and the first space shuttle -- had been kind enough to respond with a stack of autographed pictures. His own, for one. Guion Bluford, the first African-American in space, for another. And Resnik, the second American woman in space. I treasured these photos, would pull them out and stare at them, but return them carefully to their package when I was done. I was never a baseball card collector, but I understood the impulse.Resnik was the "other woman" aboard the shuttle Challenger, when it blew up 25 years ago today. Most people remember the teacher Christa McAuliffe, understandably; her presence on the doomed flight, as an amateur among risk-taking professionals…

Can free markets save Afghanistan?

There's a suggestion of the sort in Sen. Marco Rubio's piece over at National Review:And if their people are to establish businesses and attract long-term economic development investments that help wean them off the opium trade, Afghanistan must become a country where basic property and commercial laws are respected and enforced.Now, Rubio is a bit of a Tea Party darling, but this is the first time I've heard hint of anybody trying to apply Tea Party philosophy to the war in Afghanistan. And I'd really like to see him expand on this theme. My initial reaction is that lots of Afghans are, in fact, responding to market forces by growing the opium that the West uses-slash-finds-so-problematic. Beyond that, though, I've not really heard that property right issues are a particular problem in a land where the central government is corrupt and ineffective. If there's a substantive critique to be made along these lines, I'd really be interested in seeing it. Admitt…

Does gridlock defeat special interests, or serve them?

At the Cato Institute, Marcus Ethridge writes (PDF) a celebration of good old-fashioned government gridlock. By making government so inefficient, he says, you make it unlikely that special interests can dominate the decision-making process:A large and growing body of evidence makes it clear that the public interest is most secure when governmental institutions are inefficient decisionmakers. An arrangement that brings diverse interests into a complex, sluggish decisionmaking process is generally unattractive to special interests. Gridlock also neutralizes some political benefits that producer groups and other well-heeled interests inherently enjoy. By fostering gridlock, the U.S. Constitution increases the likelihood that policies will reflect broad, unorganized interests instead of the interests of narrow, organized groups.This seems overly optimistic to me. It assumes that "well-heeled interests" don't understand how to employ the levers of power in negative fashion as…

Commencing a Mark Steyn freakout in 3 ... 2 ...

Apparently jihadists aren't going out-baby us all into sharia law:Globally, Muslims now make up 23.4 percent of the population, and if current trends continue, will be 26.4 percent by 2030. Such growth is not enough to create a drastic shift in the world’s religious balance, experts said. The world’s Christian population has been estimated in other reports to be 30 percent to 33 percent. Amaney A. Jamal, associate professor of politics at Princeton and a consultant for Pew on global Islam, said that the report could challenge assertions by some scholars and far-right political parties about future demographic domination by Muslims. “There’s this overwhelming assumption that Muslims are populating the earth, and not only are they growing at this exponential rate in the Muslim world, they’re going to be dominating Europe and, soon after, the United States,” she said. “But the figures don’t even come close. I’m looking at all this and wondering, where is all the h…

Scott Rigell, the defense budget, and a Constitutional cop-out

Near the end of the New York Times' story about the desire of some Tea Party Republicans to cut the defense budget, I came across this striking passage:Representative Scott Rigell, a Republican newcomer from Virginia who at first sparred with the Tea Party but then signed a pledge supporting many of its positions, said that he, too, was committed to a strong military and the spending it required. In an interview after the hearing, he said that “as a very first priority, it is our constitutional duty to stand an army.”You hear a lot of this sort of thing from hawks who want to cut Medicare but continue pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into a bloated defense budget, so it might be a good idea to understand how Rigell wrongly invokes the Constitution to avoid a hard discussion about the proper size of the defense budget.First of all, the Constitution empowers Congress to raise an army and a navy, it's true, but it doesn't actually create a duty (that is, if I'm rea…

Well, as long as I'm wading into the abortion topic anyway...

Nicholas Kristoff:The National Catholic Reporter newspaper put it best: “Just days before Christians celebrated Christmas, Jesus got evicted.” Yet the person giving Jesus the heave-ho in this case was not a Bethlehem innkeeper. Nor was it an overzealous mayor angering conservatives by pulling down Christmas decorations. Rather, it was a prominent bishop, Thomas Olmsted, stripping St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix of its affiliation with the Roman Catholic diocese.The hospital’s offense? It had terminated a pregnancy to save the life of the mother. The hospital says the 27-year-old woman, a mother of four children, would almost certainly have died otherwise.Bishop Olmsted initially excommunicated a nun, Sister Margaret McBride, who had been on the hospital’s ethics committee and had approved of the decision.I get and won't try to dispute why the Catholic Church is anti-abortion. But this incident, like similar ones before it, does somewhat perplex me: If the ethi…

Another letter to a Christian friend: This time, it's abortion

Even if you don't live in Philadelphia, you've probably heard about the arrest of Kermit Gosnell, the West Philly abortion doctor arrested and charged with multiple murder charges for delivering and killing live babies -- as well as a charge in the death of one of his patients.

I haven't written about the matter publicly until now, because, well, I don't want to.

But a Christian friend, from my older and churchier days, has written to inquire on my take. So here it goes. I don't expect it to satisfy anyone.*

My initial take is that I try to avoid public discussions of abortion whenever possible. On an instinctive level, I generally find abortion to be personally repellent. As a legal matter, I'm unable to bring myself to the place of believing it should be prohibited - in the first trimester at least. (Why? Because I've come to believe that there are real issues of women's health, economic well-being and freedom that are involved in the matter.)

But giv…

Bill Keller on revealing government secrets in a time of war

Although it is our aim to be impartial in our presentation of the news, our attitude toward these issues is far from indifferent. The journalists at The Times have a large and personal stake in the country’s security. We live and work in a city that has been tragically marked as a favorite terrorist target, and in the wake of 9/11 our journalists plunged into the ruins to tell the story of what happened here. Moreover, The Times has nine staff correspondents assigned to the two wars still being waged in the wake of that attack, plus a rotating cast of photographers, visiting writers and scores of local stringers and support staff. They work in this high-risk environment because, while there are many places you can go for opinions about the war, there are few places — and fewer by the day — where you can go to find honest, on-the-scene reporting about what is happening. We take extraordinary precautions to keep them safe, but we have had two of our Iraqi journalists murdered for doing …

Matt Yglesias: We're No. 2! (Or will be soon.)

I don’t begrudge a president making a formal speech the chance to engage in some meaningless nationalism, but something I thought was really striking about Barack Obama’s speech last night was how utterly unprepared American political culture is for the idea of a world in which we’re not Top Nation. And yet the reality is that while we’re the world’s largest economy today, and will continue to be so tomorrow, we really just won’t be forever. The Economist predicts that China will pass us in 2019. Maybe it’ll be 2018 or maybe it’ll be 2022. But it will happen. And fairly soon. And it’ll happen whether or not we reform education or invest in high speed rail or whatever. And the country doesn’t seem prepared to deal with it.via yglesias.thinkprogress.org

Congress.org - News : More troops lost to suicide

For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reasons are complicated and the accounting uncertain — for instance, should returning soldiers who take their own lives after being mustered out be included?But the suicide rate is a further indication of the stress that military personnel live under after nearly a decade of war.via congress.org

With his grandaddy.

Should civil libertarians vote for Obama in 2012? Or is there a good GOP challenger in the offing?

Conor Friedersdorf: Our last two presidents are unlike one another in most ways. It so happens that what they have in common is tremendously consequential. Both presidents needlessly undermined civil liberties, the separation of powers, and the rule of law in the course of fighting the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. Had President Obama merely lived up to his own pre-election rhetoric on civil liberties, I'd be here arguing for his second term. As it is, I'm very much hoping for a change of leadership. So why haven't I pledged my support to his eventual opponent? The way I see it, my vote is the GOP's to lose, and they may well do it, because several contenders for the nomination would be even worse than President Obama. Put simply, I won't vote for any Republican who thinks that our current leadership is excessively solicitous of civil liberties in the war on terror, or whose main foreign policy critique is that our leaders are insufficiently bellicose. It is…

Deep thought

The weird military stencil font on the Pauline Kael book in the last post made me realize something: You can't judge a book by its cover. But you CAN judge a book's cover—and, probably, the publisher—designer by its cover.

Today's deliveries from Amazon

I'm going to (mostly) do my informational reading on the iPad and pleasure reading in the old way. Mostly. The updated McSweeney's app is pretty good.

Today's deliveries from Amazon

I'm going to (mostly) do my informational reading on the iPad and pleasure reading in the old way. Mostly. The updated McSweeney's app is pretty good.

Adam Serwer on Keith Ellison

The Islamophobic right's renewedfocus on Ellison is reminder of how divorced from anything resembling a legitimate government interest their agenda is. As co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, Ellison's social liberal views are about as far from Taliban-style Sharia as possible. Ellison has also very publicly called on Muslims to do more to counter radicalism, saying at an appearance in July that "As American Muslims, we have to tackle the moral logic that some Muslims use to justify violence in the name of religion...To say glibly Islam is a religion of peace ignores the reality that there are some Muslims, to our horror, who distort Islam and advocate violence. We have to be at the forefront of correcting the record."The Islamophobic right though, isn't so much interested in national security or even preserving the secular rule of law as it is about preventing American Muslims from having any role in American public and political life. So it doesn't matter h…

Income inequality reading: The Onion

PARIS—At a press conference Tuesday, the World Heritage Committee officially recognized the Gap Between Rich and Poor as the "Eighth Wonder of the World," describing the global wealth divide as the "most colossal and enduring of mankind's creations.""Of all the epic structures the human race has devised, none is more staggering or imposing than the Gap Between Rich and Poor," committee chairman Henri Jean-Baptiste said. "It is a tremendous, millennia-old expanse that fills us with both wonder and humility.""And thanks to careful maintenance through the ages, this massive relic survives intact, instilling in each new generation a sense of awe," Jean- Baptiste added.via theonion.com

Why I don't care that Keith Olbermann has left TV

Let me put it to you this way. You're talking to a recent immigrant at jury duty. He is telling you how determined he is to be a good citizen and civic role model for his kid. a) "So I've been trying to read Tocqueville in the evenings after work." b) "So I try to attend an occasional City Council meeting." c) "So I've been volunteering as a precinct captain during elections." d) "So I keep up with the Supreme Court by reading the most significant opinions each session. e) "So I keep up with what Congress is doing by reading The New York Times." f) "So I read the blogs of a few political scientists each day." e) "So I watch Keith Olbermann every night."Is there any doubt that "e" is the worst option?With very few exceptions, the retirement of a popular political talking head is great news: it's likely to result in fewer people watching political television.via andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com Sound…

The enemy of my enemy is ... what's that again?

President Obama’s decision to make GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt chair of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competiveness has come under attack from FreedomWorks and the Free Enterprise Project, which are calling for Immelt to be fired. The groups, which have launched an online ad and a petition, say that Immelt’s leadership will lead to more “crony capitalism,” with the government helping a specific business or industry. They are also concerned that Immelt, who will remain CEO, will use his position to help GE specifically.via nationalreview.com I dunno. This is speculation on my part, but I'm going to guess that the real aim here is to keep Obama isolated with the "anti-business" tag. Rather than try to pull the president in the direction of their favored policies, groups like FreedomWorks aim to make it illegitimate for business figures to do, um, business with the president. This seems more about winning elections than trumped-up concerns about "crony capitalism.&quo…

The politics of the individual mandate

For the last year, Republicans have been arguing that the individual mandate is a threat to liberty so horrifying that it would make Stalin jealous of its diabolical power. Democrats shouldn't be afraid to invite them to come up with their own alternative to the mandate, then we could discuss it -- so long as they agree that any solution is in the service of universal coverage. Get them to agree to that, and the question of whether we should be moving toward universal coverage will be set aside. We should get to the point where any time a Republican criticizes the mandate, they will be asked how they would get everyone into the system. That would be a discussion on Democrats' terms.via prospect.org

Glenn Beck in June: 'You're Gonna Have to Shoot Them in the Head'

"Tea parties believe in small government. We believe in returning to the principles of our Founding Fathers. We respect them. We revere them. Shoot me in the head before I stop talking about the Founders. Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government."I will stand against you and so will millions of others. We believe in something. You in the media and most in Washington don't. The radicals that you and Washington have co-opted and brought in wearing sheep's clothing — change the pose. You will get the ends."You've been using them? They believe in communism. They believe and have called for a revolution. You're going to have to shoot them in the head. But warning, they may shoot you."They are dangerous because they believe. Karl Marx is their George Washington. You will never change their mind. And if they feel you have lied to them — they're revolutionaries. Nancy Pelosi, those are the people you should be worried about."Here is…

The golden age of liberty is now

Jamelle Bouie writes at The American Prospect: Segregation was more than separate water fountains and terrible bus seats, and it was enforced -- frequently -- by horrible violence. Which is why I can't help but me miffed by things like Mark Steyn's essay on the gradual "erosion" of liberty into the United States. In this narrative -- held mostly, but not exclusively, by conservatives -- the United States was once a place of great freedom and choice, strangled by big government and the welfare state. Newsflash. For at least a tenth of the population, "freedom" was anything but. From the 1880s until the middle of the 20th century, African Americans lived in a virtual police state. Want to start your own farm? The county won't sell you land. Want to escape sharecropping and peonage? Good luck finding the white landowner who won't cheat you out of your earnings every year. Don't have your employer-issued work papers? The sheriff can arrest …

The job-killing welfare state

US unemployment, on this measure, is in the double-digit range — significantly above the global average of 7%. Meanwhile, Germany, with a much stronger social safety net, has unemployment of less than 5%. (Remember, these aren’t official national statistics, they’re Gallup’s attempt to apply the same yardstick to all countries.)via blogs.reuters.com Isn't the tradeoff supposed to be that we get a more dynamic economy in exchange for the thinner safety net?

Slow blogging. But for how long?

Every now and again, I'm stunned when I start to think about how much I don't know.It's a lot.I enjoy writing. I really enjoy writing in a blog format. But on occasion I get the sense that I'm adding to the sum total of ignorance in the world. (Or, at least, adding to the pile of noise.) I'm not really an expert in anything. So why does my opinion on anything, really, need to be disseminated to the public?No answer to that.I know myself. I'll pick up the blogging pace again soon. Right now, though, I'm stopping to listen and read a little more. When I speak out, I'd like to know what I'm talking about.

Dear Mayor Nutter: Sometimes your efforts to look 'tough' end up backfiring

Mayor Nutter just told us that the person of interest in the Kensington Strangler case in now in police custody."We got the mother------," said Nutter.Nutter did not have any details about how the police caught the guy, but a police press conference is underway.via philly.com If this really is the guy, I'm glad. But c'mon Mayor Nutter. You don't have to play dress-up tough guy for us.

Still a bad, impossible idea

I don't like this trend:New York arrived from google.com on "Cup O' Joel: Why Don't We Just Invade North Korea?" by searching for why dont we invade north korea. Palu, Sulawesi Tengah arrived from google.co.id on "Cup O' Joel: Why Don't We Just Invade North Korea?" by searching for invade north korea. Raleigh, North Carolina arrived from google.com on "Cup O' Joel: Why Don't We Just Invade North Korea?" by searching for why don't we just invade north korea. Not sure why the searches for justifications for war with North Korea are picking up. But I don't like it.

Federalist 41-44: The limits of enumerated powers vs. the limits of the written word

Uh-oh.

Through the first 40 chapters or so of “The Federalist Papers,” it’s been pretty easy to read the words of Hamilton, Madison and Jay with a liberal’s eyes. In the battle between those who want an energetic government capable of acting for the common good and those who want a national government shackled into near-inefficacy, these guys seemed pretty clearly to be on the former side. The Constitution was a strengthening and centralizing of the powers of national government, after all; to the extent we’ve talked about limits so far, it’s usually been an eye-rolling bone thrown in the direction of the Antifederalists. The limits were (nearly) incidental. The power was the thing.Until now.It’s not so much that Federalists 41-43 are about the limits of the government’s power as they are a fairly sharp delineation of what the government can actually do. And, well, it’s not much.James Madison opens 41 with a clear eye on the Antifederalists, and he frames the question of the next few c…

Netflix Queue: "Election/Triad Election"

Three thoughts about Johnnie To's Hong Kong gangster duology, "Election" and "Triad Election," coming up after the trailer...* If you have ever been a lover of American ganger movies of the last 40 years — the "Godfather" movies and/or the work of Martin Scorcese — you will find much to admire here. Certainly To, a director whose work goes back to the Shaw Brothers days, is a fan of those movies. You can spot homages throughout these two flicks: A fishing trip that ends in murder, Moe Greene-style broken glasses, a "Casino"-style burial in a field, as well as lots and lots of ritual. But these movies take place in a very Hong Kong-China context, and some of the themes that To wrestles with are an ocean away from what you're used to.* These movies are also very different from each other. Both concern the war for leadership in a Hong Kong "triad," but each is show differently. In the first, the war becomes a race to see who can f…

I don't always get Netflix recommendations

One of these things is not like the others.

I'm done with the Tucson story

Actually, I was pretty well done after the president gave his speech. And I don't mean I'm done commenting -- though, yeah, there's nothing new for me to say at this point. I mean: I'm done reading. I guess in some months or years, when Gabrielle Giffords has (knock on wood) recovered to the point that she can give an interview, or if the shootings prompt some significant and likely-to-be-passed legislation, I'll pay attention again. But at this point the number of Tucson stories vastly outweighs any value I can draw from them; there's more reportage than there is news to report. And I can't take it anymore. Maybe this makes me a bad journalist-citizen. (And certainly the victims and their families can't quite so easily move on; I recognize that and they have my sympathy.) But at this point, the continuing magnitude of coverage has started to feel like wallowing. I'm not interested in wallowing.

Matt Yglesias on changing the tone

I don’t think people should pretend to like people they dislike or avoid saying what they mean. But I do think people should be careful to avoid a certain kind of tendentious rhetoric. Some of the participants in our political debate are quite stupid, some are corrupt, some are dishonest, and some combine multiple unattractive qualities. What should be avoided is the tendency to dramatically overstate the ideological stakes in our political debates. The choice between Democratic candidates and Republicans ones is important and has important consequences. But in the grand scheme of things, you’re seeing what’s basically a friendly debate between two different varieties of the liberal tradition. I think efforts to elide the difference between the religiously inflected populist nationalism of George W Bush and the religiously inflected populist nationalism of Mullah Omar are really absurd, as are the efforts by Glenn Beck to elide the difference between the progressive income tax and Jos…

The Scripps column

Glenn Beck is right.Not about everything, mind you, or even most things. But Beck is right to lament how Americans have lost the spirit of unity that filled the nation, oh so briefly, after 9/11.Remember those days, and remember them with some bittersweet fondness.They may represent the final moment -- ever -- that Americans came together in the aftermath of tragedy. Nowadays, everybody retreats immediately to their ideological camps and girds for battle, no matter the facts on the ground. Despite President Obama's very nice speech Wednesday night in Tuscon, that's unlikely to change soon.Why? Because our politics is more about denying legitimacy to the "other" side than it is about solving the problems that face the country.It's understandable why many liberals thought the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords was the work of a right-wing terrorist: the rhetoric on the right in recent years has been alarmingly militant.But liberal commentators were wrong to publicly ca…

Why does Karl Rove have a newspaper column?

I don't begrudge anybody who makes the move from politics and into the realm of journalism. James Fallows and Hendrik Hertzberg both did time as speechwriters for Jimmy Carter, and I'd dare say our national discourse these days would be a bit less smart if they weren't making regular contributions. (A conservative example of this phenomenon is Bill Safire, whose language column for the New York Times was beloved by nerds everywhere.)But I still don't understand why Karl Rove has a regular newspaper column. Don't get me wrong: I don't object to Rove's "journalism" career here because of the quality of his analysis, or because the man can't write. The problem is that Rove is still an active participant in the political realm. And that means readers can't know if they're getting his real analysis of a situation -- something you'd normally expect on the op-ed page of a prestigious newspaper -- or his on-message analysis of a situation …

Recalibrating this blog

In a few hours, Scripps Howard should release the latest column from Ben Boychuk and yours truly. We talked about the Tucson shooting, of course: It's the only thing to talk about this week. And I hope my editors at Scripps will forgive me for teasing the column with this teaser summing up my take:Nobody pauses. Nobody reflects. The only way to start trusting each other again would be to shut up and listen to each other once in awhile.  But what are the chances that’s going to happen? Non-existent, it seems. I’m right, you’re wrong, and that’s all anybody needs to know. I'm not really happy with my contribution to this week's column. I'm not sure there's 300 words on the topic I could've written about Tucson that would've made me happy. I didn't want to re-hash the case that every liberal has made about militant rhetoric on the right; I didn't want to do one of those false equivalency things, either, where I suggest the problem stems from both sides;…

About Illinois' 67 percent tax increase (Or: Math is scary)

This is always the part that gets attention:In the final hours of its lame duck session, the Illinois legislature (barely) approved a 67 percent percent increase in the state's personal income tax.This is not:The hike will bump personal income taxes up from 3 percent to 5 percent.I won't argue that a bump in the tax rate from 3 to 5 percent isn't significant. But that two-point bump certainly looks a lot less significant and alarming than a 67 percent increase, doesn't it?For what it's worth: The median household income in Illinois in 2009 was a bit more than $53,000 a year. Assuming the earners in the household get paid every two weeks, that amount comes out to $2,076 biweekly. Right now, lllinois is collecting a bit more than $62 per paycheck. After the tax increase, it'll be $104 a paycheck -- a difference of $42, more or less. That's $84 a month out of take-home pay, and for most families that's nothing to sneeze at. But these, at least, are useful …

Haley Barbour's civil rights museum

Perhaps Sarah Palin could take some lessons from another GOP 2012 hopeful on how to respond to a P.R. nightmare. While Palin is in a defensive crouch following Saturday's attempted assassination, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour offers a different model: when Barbour was accused of racism for his praise of segregationist groups, he issued a quick apology. Three weeks later, he's looking to make amends, calling for the construction of a $50 million civil rights museum in his home state. Barbour delivered his final "state of the state" address Tuesday. "The civil rights struggle is an important part of our history, and millions of people are interested in learning more about it," he said.via slatest.slate.com Including Haley Barbour!

Weird Google searches that found me

From my blog's traffic logs:Los Angeles, California arrived from google.com on "Cup O' Joel: John Podhoretz on Sarah Palin" by searching for "philadelphia story" blood libel.Huh. I'm pretty sure I know how that ended up landing on my blog. But for a minute I was whisked into a parallel universe where Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn were the authors of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." I don't think it would be as witty or charming as the real movie, though.

John Podhoretz on Sarah Palin

So in the sense that the words “blood” and “libel” in sequence are to be taken solely as referring to this anti-Semitic slander, Palin’s appropriation of it was vulgar and insensitive. I guess. The problem is that I doubt Sarah Palin knew this history, because most people don’t know this history, including most of the anti-Palin hysterics screaming about it on Twitter at this very moment. She used it as shorthand for “false accusation that the right bears responsibility for the blood of the innocent.” She shouldn’t have, though she certainly had no intention of giving offense to those sensitive about it, because it would be an act of lunacy to open that can of worms for no reason.But here’s the thing. Sarah Palin has become a very important person in the United States. Important people have to speak with great care, because their words matter more than the words of other people. If they are careless, if they are sloppy, if they are lazy about finding the right tone and setting it and …