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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, May 02, 2009

"Listening tour"

So the start of this grand GOP rebranding is a "listening tour?"
(Also CNN, and, of course, FoxNews.)

Somehow, I don't think "listening" to the hardcore people who show up at non-election year GOP events is the best way to reach to moderates.

Remember the last round of townhalls? "I heard Obama's a Muslim....," "Socialist...," "My friends and I have been buying guns...."

(Answer: The "townhalls" are a sham. They are a first validating step so that when this star chamber of Republicans comes out with positions away from the base, they can claim "they heard in townhalls across the nation....")

Note: Notice as you read these stories that the "crowd" was listed as 50-100. Hardly worth these politicians' time in absolute terms.... but they're getting coverage and validation.

It's Obama's fault now.....

I hadn't thought about it, but, after the "100 days" there will likely be a real effort by the GOP to claim it's all Obama's fault now.

To answer the criticism, yes, it is shifting to Obama, but, no, it's not his economy yet. He will start to get credit and blame for direction, but to claim it's his fault we're here is insane.

Picture of the Day

(Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif (centre), the chief rival of President Asif Ali Zardari.(AFP/Asif Hassan))


Well, the consensus seem to be becoming that the flu isn't as bad as the worst fears....

However, cases in the US continue to grow, 20 states confirmed in today's NYTimes graphic, and I know that in Houston, there are more school closings and many new highly suspected cases.


Interesting historical numbers from the WaPo as they try to calm down their coverage,
A major unknown is the swine flu virus's "case-fatality rate" -- the small fraction of infected people who die. For the 1918 influenza, it was 2 to 2.5 percent for the United States as a whole, but in military camps and on troop ships, the rate was a brutal 7 to 10 percent, and in some Inuit villages, it soared to 70 percent.

The other two flu pandemics of the 20th century, however, were far milder. The Asian influenza of 1957-58 had a fatality rate of 0.2-0.5, and the rate during the Hong Kong influenza of 1968-69 was even lower, about 0.1 percent, close to what it is for seasonal flu.....

Regardless of how dangerous it proves to be, the new swine flu virus is almost certain to eventually infect every continent and country, although that may take years. Studies in the 1930s found that 97 percent of people born before 1920 had antibodies to the Spanish influenza virus. That's evidence that virtually everyone alive in the three years it circulated -- 1918, 1919 and 1920 -- was at one point infected, even if they didn't know it.



For the purposes of the media, Souter is considered "liberal."

Friday, May 01, 2009

Stray thought

Way out in front of myself, but it's completely realistic that the Dems could start 2011 with 63 or 64 Senators....

Political bits

(CQ) Arlen Specter WAS the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, so the Republicans now have to choose a replacement who will quickly have to turn to confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice. (So, do they put in a fundamentalist or a pragmatist? New Republican or old Republican? The civil war boils on.)

(Star-Tribune) Minn. Gov. Pawlenty's numbers are going down, complicating his future plans. (I'm sure he'll write a thankyou note to Norm Coleman.)

And, (AP) The Feds are dropping the AIPAC case.

Counter panic

In the modern history where we've been able to really watch these things, flu pandemics have tended to come in "waves" several months apart, each containing some variation making it more or less virulent and more or less contagious.

This being the case, if the current flu, especially the version in the US, is, in fact, "mild," it might not be such a bad gamble to contract it now to establish some sort of partial immunity in case the next wave isn't so treatable.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

And Jesus wept....

The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists....

(Later: I think it's important to note that it is "church attendance," not beliefs, that links.)

Justice Souter rumored to retire.

Oh, what the hell. Let's through a Supreme Court nomination on the Obama plate as well. (NPR, AP)

RNC fallout

The battle over Michael Steele continues at the RNC with the effort to limit his financial discretion, and it's starting to get ugly.

How did they get here?

Thought for the Day

Pork was on sale at my grocery store this morning....

Picture of the Day - Joe bein' Joe

You're gonna get one of these every few months, and they're always going to be an unpleasant surprise.

That's what you signed up for.

(Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in San Jose, March 30, 2009. (REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate))

The Republican civil war

A group of GOP figures are going to host a conference in what appears to be an effort to take control of the message and the party and to try and push out some of the crazy. (Articles on this at CNN, Politico, and the WaPo)

Probably the most interesting bit of this is who's in and who is out. In: Haley Barbour, Jeb Bush, Jindal, and Romney. (Palin was invited, but has not committed.)

Out: Michael Steele and Newt Gingrich.

To me, this looks like an effort by Haley Barbour and the Bush family to retake their influence in the party and to get their hooks into the most likely 2012 leading figures.

Interestingly, it's the power grabbing Cantor that supposedly played a key role in putting this thing together.

Inevitably, something like this works by emphasizing certain issues and ignoring others. The question always becomes, do those on the outside try to work their way in (Gingrich, Huckabee) or use the ignored hotbutton issues to try and pry the group apart.

And then, of course, there's the broader question of whether it works at all....

Related: (NYTimes) G.O.P. Debate: A Broader Party or a Purer One?


“The more recent illnesses and the reported death suggest that a pattern of more severe illness associated with this virus may be emerging in the U.S.,” the C.D.C. said on its Web site. More hospitalizations and deaths are expected, the site said, because the virus is new and most people have no immunity to it.

Turkey bombs Kurds in N Iraq

The Turkish Kurdish conflict had been quiet for awhile.


Mexicans are going to have to skip Cinco de Mayo.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Political bits

(TheFix) "Palin is rapidly becoming the butt of jokes among GOP operatives; she may not care but remember how powerful the chattering class is in the Invisible Primary. To win her party's nomination in 2012, Palin need to recruit some top tier talent and, right now, she would struggle to convince anyone at that level to sign on."

(CNN) Steele writes a Specter based fundraising letter, "When Benedict Arnold defected to the British, George Washington didn't fold the tent and give up either."

(CNN) As predicted, the Miss California has found herself a GOP celebrity, featuring in a NOM press conference and starring in one of their anti-gay marriage ads. (She has all the makings of a rightwing female icon, good looking, blond, and a little dumb mixed with tones of overcertainty and bigotry. See: Elizabeth Hasselbeck.)

And, (Politico) A Republican polling firm has done some field work and come back with the conclusion that the Republicans' best message is "checks and balances" against Obama

Further into the wilderness.....

16 states' GOP leaders are pressing Michael Steele to call Obama a "socialist." Steele refuses, and so those state party chairman are going to try to engineer "all 168 members of the Republican National Committee to debate and vote on it."

Seriously. This is where you're going to spend your time?

Later: There's also a move to limit Steele's power by restricting his discretion on party spending.

A somewhat interesting read

The WaPo has a long "100 days" piece, the first part of which focuses on the near death of the stimulus bill. According to this White House supplied version, it was the unified opposition of the Republicans to the Stimulus that "killed bipartisanship."
But Obama and his advisers corrected course quickly. Drawing conclusions from a post-mortem analysis that Emanuel conducted of the stimulus battle, senior White House advisers returned to the successful tactics of the presidential campaign, taking the president and his message beyond the Beltway and scaling back his appeals to congressional Republicans. The approach has defined the way he has governed since.

(PS. That's kinda the same thing the Bush folks said in 2001.)

Thought for the Day

Ed Rogers in a WaPo collection of insider responses to Specter,
Specter didn't want to be a Democrat. The party deteriorated to the point where there was no place for him.

On Specter's votes

I don't really think the Dems can completely count on any votes from Specter, but, at the same time, he will also no longer face the arm twisting of the Republican leadership.

I think he'll feel pressure to publicly "prove" his independence, but he's also now beholden to the Dems for money and reelection infrastructure.

(Also, How much would you like to be in the room the first time the Republicans feel they need Specter's vote.)

Convicting terrorists

It should be noted that the British will convict no one of the 7/7 bus and train bombings.

Picture of the Day

Not to be rude, but isn't that the exact type of contact we're supposed to be minimizing in this flu era?

I mean, she is HHS Secretary.....

(Obama and Sebelius make an appearance after her confirmation. (REUTERS/Jim Young))

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thought for the Day

Permanent Republican Majority.

Swine flu, and Specter, and 100 days, and Michelle Bachmann still manages to punch through.

Leaving aside the factual inaccuracy that Gerald Ford was the President in '76, this is still a pretty insane quote from Michelle Bachmann.
"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."

Arlen's desperate ploy.....

Arlen Specter switches to the Democratic party in what can only be presumed to be a reelection motivated act, but I really have to wonder about the backroom side of this.

Presumably, the Democrats agreed to "clear the field" in the Dem primary pretty much guaranteeing Specter reelection and have agreed to "honor" Specter's seniority, guaranteeing him a committee chairmanship starting in the next Congress, but what commitments has Specter made towards the Dems beyond just changing names?

(Conveniently on the 100th day of the Obama administration? ....before the press conference tonight?)

Dear Democrats

Don't get too excited. Yes, it's potentially that 60th cloture vote and a stiff thumb in the Republican eye, but let's remember that we're talking about Arlen Specter, the ultimate "player to be named later" kinda acquisition.


Think Snowe and Collins got a check in call today?


In a new WaPo poll, only 21% self identify as Republicans.

Now, this isn't as big of a political deal as it sounds in that those who have shifted away may now self identify as independent, but probably still support Republican policies or candidates.

I guess the question would be whether this change represents genuine feelings towards the GOP or whether it's a perceived social pressure not to associate themselves with a group considered unpopular.

In either case, it would seem the GOP hasn't found bottom yet.

Stray thought

Reading this piece on the US constructing/beefing up a "cybercommand," I got to thinking about that great tradition in America of particular talents being "called up" in wartime.

So, then I got to wondering, does the US still produce the best hackers in the world?

Another Ponzi scheme

The SEC freezes another Ponzi scheme. It's several degrees smaller than the others we've seen, but I think we're at the point now where we can call the SEC's regulatory problems systemic.

Swine flu

I'm not really posting on the swine flu because there's really not that much new that I can add.

The only two points I would really want to emphasize are that 1) The virus is probably far less virulent than the Mexico statistics indicate at this point. The ratio of deaths to cases is probably overinflated because, especially with something like flu, (especially in a second world country,) there are significant numbers of more minor cases that never made it to detection. Also, early in an outbreak there's a tendency to overattribute deaths before testing is fully done. So, it's very likely not killing at anything near the ratio that is being reported.

2) This thing's already out of the bag. The US has the top preparedness and experts in the world, they parachute into every outbreak anywhere in the world, and notice that none of them are really preaching containment practices or quarantine/isolation at this point. They're preaching spread prevention.

(In the US, there are connective cases we're not seeing, and although there are no reported cases, you've gotta figure it's probably also in Central/South America, but still not detected,)

So my contribution is that it's already in the populations, probably further than we know, but it's also probably far, far less deadly than is being presented.

PS. In ill defined, unfolding threats, there is always a market for fear. Be aware that the news folks cater to that market. (Could going to school kill your kids? Tune in at 11....)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2

(Karya Lustig, center, training manager at La Clinica de la Raza, trains clerks Mayra Torres, left, and Angelina Galvan in the use of a respiratory protection mask, Monday, April 27, 2009, in Oakland, Calif.(AP Photo/Ben Margot))

Vague thought

The fact that the media is reporting that the Republican party is being run by the further right represents a real propaganda loss for a party that for years has presented itself as the center of America.

The big marginalizing insult used to be liberal (hippie) left. Now the eye rolling apellation is Christian right.

They've managed to turn the invocation of their religion into an insult implying that someone's views should not be taken seriously.

(Probably an overexaggeration, but I think the point holds up.)

The ends justify the screams

Amid all the torture stuff, and the claims that Cheney and Rumsfeld were ordering repeated "interrogations" because they weren't getting the Iraq Al Qaeda connection they wanted, let's please remember that there were videotapes made of the interrogations of Zubaydah from that time, and that those tapes have been destroyed.

I'll mention it again, There were tapes of Zubaydah's interrogations that were intentionally destroyed.

"Tell me about the Iraq Al Qaeda connection." (Wham) "Tell me about the Iraq Al Qaeda connection." (Wham)......

Picture of the Day

The next right icon.

(Miss California Carrie Prejean reads from a bible during services at the Rock Church in San Diego Sunday, April, 26, 2009. Prejean has drawn attention for her comments against gay marriage at the Miss USA pageant, where she was first runner-up last weekend. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy))

Sunday, April 26, 2009


If you build a political core on absolutist rage, it's very difficult to later ask them to moderate.

((Politico) GOP base rejects calls to moderate)


No one ever talks about it, but there can be little question that there are US special forces operating in and out of the Taleban areas of Pakistan.

We'll never get to give those guys the parade they deserve.

Something stray

(I wrote this a couple weeks ago, and never posted, but since the WaPo did a piece this AM, I thought I'd throw it up.).

In the census, prison inmates are counted as residents wherever they are in prison. With most prisons located in rural areas, that means primarily urban people are relocated by the census to be citizens of rural areas.

Now, this is where it gets weird. Although these are non-voting citizens, they are counted for the purposes of assigning Congressional districts which means the Congressional districts with prisons inside them tend to slightly overrepresent the votes of the legitimate voters as these districts have so many forced non-voters.

It's a relatively slight distortion, but it's there, overrepresenting the rural.