Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Voter ID Laws

There are quite a few persuasive critiques of the Supreme Court's decision on voter ID laws yesterday. Is it really not burdensome for low-income individuals to produce the required documentation? Is it a solution in search of a problem? Was any of the evidence cited by Justice Stevens relevant?

The one aspect that really bothers me, however, is somewhat secondary to the legal arguments. In the opinion Stevens says,

Finally, Indiana’s interest in protecting public confidence in elections, while closely related to its interest in preventing voter fraud, has independent significance, because such confidence encourages citizen participation in the democratic process. Pp. 7–13.

The problem with this statement is two-fold. First, there is evidence to suggest that a law like this does nothing to prop up voter confidence. But assuming that it did, the relevant question is why voters believe voter fraud exists in the first place.

The answer has to be, at least in part, that Republican lawmakers and talking heads keep saying that it exists. Doesn't that put the Supreme Court in the position of standing up for the regulation of problems created artificially for political gain? This seems to be a stroke of genius by the Republican Party.

Step 1. Create doubt with voters that elections are honest.
Step 2. Create laws that "address" voter fraud.
Step 3. Argue that vote fraud laws must be upheld because voters have doubts.

It's remarkable really.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Best Sentence I Read Today

From an AP story:

The fight started Saturday night after a reception when he knocked her to the floor with a karate kick in the seventh-floor hallway of a Holiday Inn — and escalated when she attacked two guests from another wedding party who came to her aid, police said.

A pretty close runner-up is the last line of the story:

Wielechowski left alone, sporting a swollen eye, tuxedo pants, a bloody T-shirt and one shoe.

Did Karl Put You Up to This?

Obama's reverend has apparently decided that the damage he has already done to Obama's image is clearly inadequate. Fortunately, he is ready to fix the problem.

He (Wright) said criticism of his preaching "is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright; it is an attack on the black church."


We're Number One!

It seems everyone agrees that the Chiefs were the best team on draft day. Great news I suppose, but one day being the greatest team on game day would be even better.

And as for April, couldn't we just agree that it should be the Royals having a great month instead of the Chiefs. But we take what we can around here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

80's Movie Quote of the Week

If you were an adult in the 80's this is probably one you didn't see. Those of us who were kids, though, know The Monster Squad is an underappreciated classic. And since we were juveniles when we saw it, it is only fitting to pick one of the most juvenile lines.

Horace: Wolfman's got nards!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dark (Side) Humor

Everything about this is funny. Everything.

A UK man has confessed to dressing up like Darth Vader and attacking two men who founded a church based on Jedi teachings. He beat them with a crutch, but to be fair, they were asking for it: The victims had been playing with light sabers and filming themselves while doing so.

Hughes admitted two charges of common assault.

The court heard he has a "chronic alcohol problem" and had drunk the best part of a 10 litre box of wine.

Mrs Lloyd said: "He was wearing a black bin bag and a cape and had a metal crutch in his hand." Mrs Lloyd said he was shouting "Darth Vader".

That's More Like It

The Royals lost 15-1 to a pitcher with an ERA over 13, and the Chiefs just traded the best pass-rusher in the league. The sports world is officially back in order.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


As a follow-up to the last post, gas prices may save the idea of light rail in this city. After projections of gas over $4.00 per gallon this summer, wouldn't you imagine that almost any light rail plan passes this fall? I'm not sure that it matters whether it is a good plan or a bad plan.

The alternative is a city of people paying $4.25 per gallon saying that transportation alternatives are unwarranted. That might not paint a pretty picture of our collective intelligence to the outside world.

Could Be a Tie There

On the way in this morning, I heard that Pennsylvania officials are expecting record primary turnout of 50% today. This is the most tightly contested primary in recent history, and 50% is the best we can muster?

Then I heard that the government has released its new fuel efficiency standards, requiring cars to get 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Between energy costs and environmental impact, you might think that a rather timid goal. This is especially true in light of the fact that the current standards have already been in place for 30 years.

If you were on the fence about voting, isn't that the type of news that might throw you squarely on the side of "why bother"?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

80's Movie Quote of the Week

A classic 80's movie if there was one. License to Drive starring the Coreys is not the finest piece of film, but they did have some perspective.

Charles: We're going to be locked up with men who murdered, and raped, and robbed convenience stores.


Just when the Royals seem on the precipice of no longer embarrassing their city or themselves with their on the field play, someone in the front office decides it is time to embarrass them off it.

There is a whole gallery of these things on the Royals website.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It Rings True

A quote from an NFL Mock Draft on ESPN:

Scenario 3: As much as it pains me to admit it, Mel Kiper's info on this pick seems to be accurate. It feels like a reach to me, but the Chiefs evidently think enough of Albert to take him if they are stuck here.

Reach? Chiefs? Come on.

Thoughtful Speech

I have been watching the John Adams series on HBO and it is, of course, impossible not to see it in the context of our current political landscape. The most striking element of the series is the willingness of the political leaders to engage in discussion and debate. The freedom with which these leaders spoke is simply unthinkable today.

Any episode of John Adams features an untold number of utterances that would be fodder for endless news cycles and opportunistic demands for apology in today's world. An endless array of questions are the product of thinking about that shift.

How did we get from there to here? Is the media to blame? Are politicians to blame? Are citizens to blame? Is it simply a design flaw in our system? Is there anything that can be done about it? How much long term damage is our inability to have a frank discussion doing to us? Or is the image of our Founding Fathers in serious discussion more myth than reality?

An answer to these questions would be nice, but a simple, honest discussion of the issue would be a good start.

Monday, April 14, 2008


... has Obama wadded his campaign up into a tiny ball, lit it on fire, and thrown it into the receptacle that was Democratic hopes?

Or will it all blow over in a couple of weeks?

Friday, April 11, 2008

He Knows That of Which He Speaks

A former senior U.S. intelligence official has come forward and exposed meetings with very high ranking U.S. officials where torture, er harsh interrogation techniques were approved.

The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending the sessions were Cheney, then-Bush aides Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Much of this is sadly not surprising at this point. Two things stand out. According to the official, Bush himself was shielded from the process. There could be many reasonse why that course of action was taken, but none of them paint the president in a favorable light.

The second surprising thing was that the story offers up the second piece of evidence so far that John Ashcroft may have been the most levelheaded person in the decision making process.

"Why are we talking about this in the White House?" the network quoted Ashcroft as saying during one meeting. "History will not judge this kindly."

I think he's right.

Kevin Drum does some analysis on the chart above.

My guess is that part of this is a result of the end of the baby boom and the graying of the American population. But only a small part. Almost certainly the bulk of this downturn is due to the fact that the Republican economy of the past seven years has been aimed like a laser at improving the fortunes of the affluent, with the result that for the first time in recent memory an economic expansion — a long economic expansion — hasn't improved the fortunes of the middle class even slightly. After seven years of this, the working and middle classes are finally starting to realize that this isn't likely to change.

The important question seems to be if the working and middle classes realize it, what is it going to take for them to start to do something about it? Do they believe that a Democratic Administration would help? Or have the anti-government elected officials finally collapsed all faith in the possibility of good government?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

80's Movie Quote of the Week

Getting things done usually just takes a little know how. Hanks puts it on display in The Money Pit.

Walter (on the phone with the home inspector): Look, I'm very sorry I wasn't here this afternoon. What can I say? My wife was poisoned and taken to the hospital... Well, what would cut any ice with you?... A bribe? Sure, can you be here in a half an hour? All right. Cash, no problem.


It's too early to say whether the Royals are going to be significantly better over the course of the season. But they have already pulled off one major improvement. In two games, they have doubled last season's number of wins against the Yankees.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I Was Attempting to Shoot Myself But My Damn Alligator...

Here is an entire story on an alligator police found in some guy's basement.

CARTHAGE, Mo. | Zookeepers were called in to help when police discovered a man-sized alligator in the basement of a Carthage home.

Police found the American alligator while responding to a call about an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Monday.

The Carthage animal control officer called two zookeepers from Springfield’s Dickerson Park Zoo, about 60 miles away.

They covered the alligator’s eyes with a towel, taped its mouth shut and carried it upstairs.

The 6½-foot alligator is being housed by the Carthage Humane Society while authorities look for a permanent home.

One zookeeper said that because the American alligator was taken off the endangered-species list in 1987, it has become common to sell the babies in pet stores and outdoor markets.

Would it be too much to ask to give me some hint about whether the self-inflicted gunshot wound and the alligator were related? The only thing that would have made it more bizarre is if there had been another random sentence stating that the home was also used as a daycare.


Other than a complete lack of skill, I have found the most likely reason I couldn't be a professional baseball player. It would be my natural inclination to call Brian Bannister, for instance, "Brian" if he was my teammate.

Listen to a few interviews with his team or manager, however, and you will learn that he must forever and always only be called "Banny". The nickname phenomenon in the baseball clubhouse is astounding and lacks a staggering amount of creativity. I don't think I could be a party to it.

Drunks Rejoice

It looks like you can still get to your favorite watering hole on the bus and won't endure a smoke-filled room when you get there. You can even get your going out money at a properly regulated predatory lending business.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I'm not a Kansas fan, but that was a great game. Kansas had their Jekyll and Hyde routine going again, but found Jekyll in time to pull it out.

Everyone is rightly talking about Chalmers and Rush, but everyone in KU nation should be sending gifts to Sherron Collins. He pretty much made all the plays that kept KU in it before Chalmers' three.

My only fear now is that we will be subjected to 2-3 years of increased KU fan arrogance. Yikes.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bring Back Cinderella

All week, the conventional wisdom was that having the four #1 seeds in the Final Four would mean the most competitive last weekend of all time. None of those pesky underdogs to come out and be overwhelmed.

Except what we got was the worst semifinal night in recent memory. There could be many morals to take from this story. One is that the anchors on ESPN should probably careful today about hyping "what a championship game it's going to be." Though my preferred moral would be simply that Billy Packer doesn't know anything about anything.

Friday, April 4, 2008

He Really is a Uniter

Practically the whole country agrees that we are headed in the wrong direction.

A majority of nearly every demographic and political group — Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school — say the United States is headed in the wrong direction. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was better off.

If it's this bad now, where will it go if (or when) a recession really kicks in?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

80's Movie Quote of the Week

Sometimes you just have to improvise like Clark in Vacation:

Clark: O God, ease our suffering in this, our moment of great dispair. Yea, admit this kind and decent woman into thy arms of thine heavenly area, up there. And Moab, he lay us upon the band of the Canaanites, and yea, though the Hindus speak of karma, I implore you: give her a break.
Ellen: Clark...
Clark: Honey, I'm not an ordained minister; I'm doing my best.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Agent Zero (aka The Hibachi)

Gilbert Arenas is going to opt out of his contract at the end of the season. Why?

Sunday night, Arenas fired the opening shot in negotiations with the Washington Wizards … by offering to take a pay cut.

The premise put to him was that it would be hard to expect the Wizards to re-sign Arenas and fellow free agent Antawn Jamison while sticking to their stated goal of staying below the NBA's luxury tax threshold.

"Just sign Antawn first and then I'll take the pay cut, to keep the team intact," Arenas said.

Arenas has always been a different kind of dude, but this is unexpected even for him. Long live the Hibachi.

The Economy Party

This chart from Dan Rodrik (via Kevin Drum) shows income growth during the tenures of Democrats and Republicans. With Democrats, the poor do better than the rich (percentage-wise). With Republicans, the rich do much better than the poor. But they still don't do as well as they do under Democrats.

Bartels shows in his book that this difference is not a statistical artifact or a fluke. It is not the result of Democrats coming to power during better economic times, or of Republicans reining in the unsustainable excesses of Democratic administrations they replace. (It turns out that the same pattern prevails even when a Republican president is succeeded by another Republican.) These numbers are real and they are the outcome of partisan differences in policy. So if you are one of those who have bought the story that income distribution is the result of pure market forces and technological changes, with politics playing no role--think again.

How the Republicans have come to be thought of as the party of growth is a question beyond my capacities.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

First Great Album of the Year

It's from R.E.M. and it's called Accelerate. It surprised me because I haven't loved an R.E.M. album since Automatic for the People in 1992 (one of my all-time favorites). The band sounds like they did in their prime, but it isn't exactly a throwback. It's just good rock music.

Opening Day

The Royals win on Opening Day! For the uninformed, that means they are now on pace to go 162-0 for the season and Alex Gordon is on pace to hit 162 home runs. That's science, and you can't argue with science.


I am asking this in all seriousness.

Is there a country with whom relations have improved over the last seven years?

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