Saturday, June 30, 2007

Show me the Invertebrate 

Ian informs us that "Missouri recently adopted the crawfish as its state invertebrate".

I think they should've selected Rush Limbaugh instead. (Rush hails from Cape Girardeau, which has a good Bob Evans restaurant among probably many other amenities.)

Last month I tuned in to the Rush Limbaugh show, and was quickly rewarded with a spectacularly stupid sequence. A caller was on the line, and happened to indicate he was African-American while he spoke to an issue, and Limbaugh decided it was time for a demonstration of El Rushbo's mental powers. Limbaugh informed the caller that he was "a student of dialects" and that he wanted to take a guess at where this caller was from. The caller had a slight Southern accent, and used no obvious "dialect" that I could detect.

Based on Limbaugh's wretched history, I knew there was a great chance that he would say something incredibly stupid here. I wasn't disappointed. Rush asked, "Sir, are you a Katrina evacuee from New Orleans?" (quote is paraphrased). The caller said "no", he was from Virginia.

Seriously, is there anyone who understands less about New Orleans than Rush Limbaugh? The man is half deaf, yet he feels the need to veer off-topic and play "guess that dialect" with a black caller (natch). And he obviously doesn't know a New Orleans accent to save his life! He's spoken to who knows how many callers over the decades, yet he can't tell a Virginian from a New Orleanian?

The only thing I can say in Rush's favor is that he has always viewed himself, first and foremost, as an "entertainer". How is it that millions of listeners have taken his clowning seriously for nearly 20 years?

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Rising Tide 2 is coming August 24-26 

Start making plans to be there.

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Louisiana's most important blogger has a new post up 

There's another blockbuster addition to Matt's "Cover Up" series at Fix the Pumps. I will pull a few quotes from his post to encourage you to go and read the entire thing for yourself.

But what about all the testing the Corps says they've run? They say the pumps are ready

All those dog and pony shows the Corps has run for the local media, which the media then turns into b-roll footage for the nightly news... none of them were actual performance tests over the entire range of the pumps' required flows and heads.
In running all these "demonstrations," and in not performing the contract as it is written, the New Orleans District has decided not to determine if what the taxpayers have spent millions of dollars on actually meets the specification!
Why wouldn't the New Orleans District and MWI want to know for sure if the pumps meet the spec?
The internal investigation also provides that answer: the pumps don't meet the specification.
Any other reasons the Corps wouldn't want full testing?

There's the obvious one: when subjected to similar testing for a week in Florida, the pumps failed at a spectacularly high rate.

In conclusion, Matt begins "pulling the threads together".

All of this - the cruddy accounting, the poor recordkeeping, the willingness to turn a blind eye to supplier inadequecies, the lies to the public - it all points to a cover-up of likely motivations - people in the Corps (Bedey, St. Germain, Bradley) were so interested in getting MWI's equipment on site and portraying it as non-defective that they would do anything for over a year to dupe the public into believing they were protected. Surely they should lose their jobs for this.

How in the world can the people of New Orleans, the federal government, those within the Corps, and anyone else trust these folks to build a functioning flood protection system when they engage in unethical behavior and skirt the law and their own regulations?

In light of the lives and property at stake in New Orleans, what could possibly motivate a person so strongly to do such things? I'm pretty sure only subpoenas are going to let us know the complete truth. I hope the Justice Department is paying attention.

This is vitally important stuff, people. Matt's attention to this issue has uncovered important facts that need widespread exposure, and fearless investigation. New Orleanians deserve the unvarnished truth about the flood control improvements being undertaken by USACE, and the nation deserves an honest accounting of how its tax dollars are being spent. Will we get these things if we don't demand them?

YRHT salutes Matt's analysis and activism on this crucially important topic. I encourage everyone to listen to what he's saying.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Duke Clone" Keith Rush 

The Flaming Liberal sent me more information about former "Duke Clone" Keith Rush, who was recently elected to the Republican State Central Committee, the governing arm of the state Republican Party.


When David Duke, a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, won a seat in the Louisiana state House as a Republican in 1989, he had a vision of more candidacies like his own. "My election, my winning it with my controversial background, has made it OK for other candidates and other public officials to address the issues that I've addressed," Duke said.

Duke won campaigning against affirmative action for minorities, welfare programs and taxes to pay for them. And since his victory, his prophecy has materialized.

Several Duke "clone" candidates have emerged in the South, to the consternation of civil rights organizations and the national Republican Party. Among them:

-- Ralph Forbes, campaign manager for Duke's 1988 presidential bid on the Populist Party ticket. A white separatist and former American Nazi leader, he won 46% of the vote last year in the Arkansas GOP primary for lieutenant governor but was beaten in the runoff by a black man.

-- Jack Nugent, a self-described "pro-white" candidate who last year failed in a run for a U.S. congressional seat from Tennessee, losing a three-way GOP primary race.

-- Keith Rush, a longtime New Orleans radio personality, who is running this year for the Jefferson County [sic], La., Parish Council. Duke has endorsed Rush, who in turn says he is "proud to be running with" Duke, who is running for governor.
In a campaign flyer titled "Who is this racist," Rush states 13 beliefs, focusing on patriotism, religion and the "obscene" welfare system. "This racist believes that 'real' racism thrives on affirmative action programs," it says. The messages of these candidates resonate with white voters who believe that minorities on welfare cause taxes to rise and that minorities unfairly get jobs that whites should have.

Susan Howell, director of the Survey Research Center at the University of New Orleans, said her research shows that candidates with similar messages to Duke's "can do well in other areas of the country." The problem for the GOP is that candidates such as Duke, who sport past KKK and white supremacist affiliations, can undermine claims that the party is not seeking to play racial politics.

And here's an excerpt from James Gill's column in the April 16, 1993 Times Picayune, titled "ON THE AIR WITH DAVID DUKE":

It seems fitting that David Duke should land a job as a radio talk-show host on the 250th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth.... Nobody who shares Jefferson's faith in the good sense of the public and its ability to discern the truth will be alarmed that Duke will now command a little air time from the north shore. Those who don't share that faith - and it is kind of a leap - can take solace from the fact that Duke is now working for a Jewish guy.

...Whether Jefferson's anniversary is a red-letter day in the Duke household is unknown, but we do know that he is gripped by manly sentiment when time comes to celebrate the advent of the Fuhrer. Station manager Robert Namer, who has announced he will not allow the David Duke Conservative Report to become merely a vehicle for the master race, said the decision to hire Duke was not an easy one for a Jew to make. But Namer managed it anyway on the principle that "business is business." Maybe Namer would have been better advised to put a Jeffersonian gloss on things with a nod to the virtues of the interplay of ideas.

Namer is probably right to suggest that Duke will be a good draw, though not because he will bring much new in the way of ideology to his new slot, hitherto occupied by one of his chief boosters, Keith Rush.

Listeners can expect the same diet of conservative cliches that Duke used in his campaigns to lend a veneer of respectability to the white-supremacy notions from which he has made a living these many years. Rush thinks along much the same lines as Duke and is not without his own cadre of loyal fans.

Great selection, Louisiana Republicans.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What's so funny? 

Chad Rogers laughs uncontrollably at some praise Democrats lavished on Mitch Landrieu's efforts to promote tourism in Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Ha ha ha ha ha... you see, it's so darn funny, because big tourist events such as Mardis Gras, Jazz Fest and Large Conventions have been indisputable successes in post-hurricane Louisiana. They've helped the recovery of the state's tourism economy, as would the slew of targeted tax cuts that Landrieu recently pitched before the Legislature. But that's just really hilarious for Chad to even contemplate, because Mitch Landrieu is involved, and the rulebook states that Mitch Landrieu must always be mocked.

And here's the latest laughable thing Mitch is doing on the tourism front:

A new event for Louisiana, and in fact the entire world, will take place in the state this August-- and everyone’s invited. This past week, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu announced the state will host the World Cultural Economic Forum Aug. 18-26.

The forum will take place in towns throughout the state. From Monroe to Lafayette, Shreveport to New Orleans, it packages a series of events, programs, workshops, exhibitions and performances demonstrating the value and economic impact of our culture.
Now here's a wild thought about something that doesn't help the recovery of Louisiana's tourism economy: that would be re-electing an incompetent New Orleans mayor who often says things that are so stupid they gain national attention, and who is committed to a Police Chief who cannot control violent crime. I know it's hard for some conservatives to understand, but business does not thrive under incompetent political leaders who can't control crime, much less their mouths.

Yet, in his 5/21/06 "Rant", Chad Rogers claims he would have voted for Nagin if he were able. He was charmed by Nagin's ability to play with a toy, and make fun of himself. But then, only a couple months later, Rogers rants about skyrocketing crime in New Orleans (7/06/06), and despairs over how New Orleans is "stuck" with Nagin, and how Nagin's predictable rhetorical "improvisations" are "destroying" New Orleans (8/26/06). Then he informs readers that there's "much at stake and the next Mayor's race is a long way off". No kidding.

Chad hasn't said whether he has laughed uncontrollably at Sammy Kershaw's candidacy. Sammy filed for bankruptcy a few months ago, and is now running against Mitch for Lieutenant Governor. I guess Sammy didn't properly invest those royalties from his hit song "Queen of My Double Wide Trailer". Perhaps in an effort to better pay off his creditors, Sammy intends to do some touring "on weekends" while he is Lt. Governor. He may even have to wear makeup while performing! Yikes! (Last year, during the mayoral race, the Dead Pelican made a false claim about Mitch Landrieu wearing "full makeup" during a rescue operation in flooded New Orleans. It was not the only unretracted false claim the DP made during the mayoral election last year, either. But it was the most vicious.)

Sammy Kershaw is Lorrie Morgan's fifth husband. Ms Morgan used to date Fred Thompson, and recently discussed the Presidential candidate. Here's what she said:

Fred is a perfect example of chivalry. He’s the kind of man little girls dream about marrying, who opens doors for you, lights your cigarettes, helps you on with your coat, buys wonderful gifts. It’s every woman’s fantasy... I think he has a great chance of capturing the women’s vote. He’s majestic. He’s a soft, safe place to be and that could be Fred’s ticket. Women love a soft place to lay and a strong pair of hands to hold us.

Try not to laugh at that.

Update: Watch Colbert honor his Majesty at Crooks and Liars, but remember not to laugh.

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"So if some randy Goat-man has his way with you, sister, you just better plan on carrying your mutant fairytale offspring to term."


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Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I liked this sentence from Chris Rose's column in today's T-P:

In a business, political, social and artistic landscape that is constantly shifting-- in permanent upheaval, in fact-- New Orleans has become a place where one can completely redefine himself because the conventional concepts of self-esteem, social intercourse, public appearance, sound judgment and emotional adaptability have been pretty much tossed to the wind.

Interesting! Chris seems to be saying that there are opportunities in post-Federal Flood New Orleans for one to take advantage of the flux in a personal way, and become someone new, someone different. Or, as Rose goes on to say, one can become even more authentic here, and more truly one's own self. Instead of putting on a new "mask", post Flood New Orleans invites you to simply take off the old one. "Conventional concepts" no longer hold.

Chris Rose is right. No one here will fault you if you drop everything and start pursuing your crazy lifelong dream that got lost along the way. If not now... when? And if not here, where else can you most comfortably be the real you?

Granted, I'm a sucker for the issue of "identity", and I like the idea of personal re-invention. Or should I say, I like the philosophical project of finding out who you truly are. If you'll indulge me, I'll post a couple of extended quotes about identity by Fritz Nietzsche that still inspire me to no end. They come from Nietzsche's Untimely Meditations, which is a suggested (though not required) text on my "Get Smart Quick" reading list.

Schopenhauer as Educator (Section 1):

But how can we find ourselves again? How can man know himself? He is a dark and veiled thing; and if the hare has seven skins, man can shed seventy times seven and still not be able to say: "this is really you, this is no longer slough." In addition, it is a painful and dangerous mission to tunnel into oneself and make a forced descent into the shaft of one's being by the nearest path. Doing so can easily cause damage that no physician can heal. And besides: what need should there be for it, when given all the evidence of our nature, our friendships and enmities, our glance and the clasp of our hand, our memory and that which we forget, our books and our handwriting. This, however, is the means to plan the most important inquiry. Let the youthful soul look back on life with the question: what have you truly loved up to now, what has elevated your soul, what has mastered it and at the same time delighted it? Place these venerated objects before you in a row, and perhaps they will yield for you, through their nature and their sequence, a law, the fundamental law of your true self. Compare these objects, see how one complements, expands, surpasses, transfigures another, how they form a stepladder upon which you have climbed up to yourself as you are now; for your true nature lies, not hidden deep within you, but immeasurably high above you, or at least above that which you normally take to be yourself.

The Uses and Abuses of History for Life (Section 10):

The Delphic god shouts out to you.... "Know thyself." It is a difficult saying; for that god "hides nothing and announces nothing, but only points the way," as Heraclitus has said. But what direction is he indicating to you?

There were centuries when the Greeks found themselves in a danger similar to the one in which we find ourselves, that is, the danger of destruction from being swamped by what is foreign and past, from "history." The Greeks never lived in proud isolation; their "culture" was for a long time much more a chaos of foreign, Semitic, Babylonian, Lydian, and Egyptian forms and ideas, and their religion a real divine struggle of the entire Orient... Nevertheless Hellenic culture did not become an aggregate, thanks to that Apollonian saying. The Greeks learned gradually to organize the chaos because, in accordance with the Delphic teaching, they directed their thoughts back to themselves, that is, to their real needs, and let the apparent needs die off. So they seized possession of themselves again. They did not remain long the over-endowed heirs and epigones of the entire Orient. After an arduous battle with themselves, through the practical interpretation of that saying, they became the most fortunate enrichers and increasers of the treasure they had inherited and the firstlings and models for all future national cultures.

This is a parable for every individual among us. He must organize the chaos in himself by recalling in himself his own real needs. His honesty, his better and more genuine character must now and then struggle against what will be constantly repeated, relearned, and imitated. He begins then to grasp that culture can still be something other than a decoration of life, that is, basically always only pretense and disguise; for all ornamentation covers over what is decorated. So the Greek idea of culture reveals itself to him, in opposition to the Roman, the idea of culture as a new and improved Physis [nature], without inner and outer, without pretense and convention, culture as a unanimity of living, thinking, appearing, and willing.

For centuries, New Orleanians (like the Greeks) have "organized the chaos" in their city, and created something more than a mere "aggregate" of foreign cultural samples. Now, after a devastating flood, the challenge is to celebrate and nourish the city's culture so that it doesn't devolve into a "decorative", hollow, lifeless caricature. We cannot do this by being antiquarians and epigones-- we cannot deal with the post-Flood "chaos" by seeking refuge in the distant past, going through the motions and speculating about what "could have been". No, we must deal with the current chaos by being more than mere observers and applauders of New Orleans' past culture. We must dedicate ourselves to carrying the culture forward. And that means we must be more than preservationists, we must be participationists. For example: not all of us can play trumpets and trombones, but all of us can move our butts when those horns play. Play the "horn" you were meant to play, and when it's someone else's turn to play their horn, it's your turn to not just listen, but to dance. So feel free to smile and shake it.

Nietzsche tells us to deal with the churning "outer" chaos of post-Flood New Orleans by organizing the "chaos" within. That is, by becoming the person you know you should be. You don't need to worry how your current self "fits in" with the new New Orleans. You can "fit in" by being yourself. There will always be room in the New Orleans parade for authentic characters. That's the beauty of this place. There's no point in wearing a mask if you're already cloaked in a "sham self", is there?

Trust that you are still living here for the right reason. Part of you, perhaps the best part of you, is authentically New Orleans... now reach for it and discover it! In this way you will revitalize New Orleans culture, and in this very personal way you will rebuild a city like no other.

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Afghan Narco State harvests another record poppy crop 

The world's largest producer of opium continues to outperform all expectations. The opium harvest in Afghanistan increased another 50% in 2006, after increasing 60% in 2005, and 66% in 2004 .

Like electricity levels in Baghdad, this is a crucial indicator of progress that never seems to improve. In fact, it gets exponentially worse. The latest report grimly warns:

Early indications suggest Afghanistan could see a further increase in opium production in 2007, the report said.

Ninety two percent of the world's opium is cultivated in Afghanistan. The narcotics trade prevents the development of a real economy there, and finances warlords and terrorists who kill our troops and oppose democracy.

Update: There's more at the Dark Wraith.

(H/T Singularity)


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Monday, June 25, 2007

As the impossible transforms into the inevitable 

As a companion piece to my earlier post on the suddenly reeling N.O. housing market, I want to comment on a few quotes from the front page story in today's Wall Street Journal titled "Wall Street Fears Bear Stearns Is Tip of an Iceberg: Near-Collapse of Funds Stokes Broader Concerns Over Murky Investments":

The near-meltdown of two hedge funds at investment bank Bear Stearns Cos. last week underscored -- and in some ways aggravated -- a growing fear on Wall Street: that hard-to-trade investments may suddenly turn south and set off a broader market downturn.
Investors with plenty of cash on hand, thanks to years of low interest rates, have flocked to illiquid investments in search of outsize returns, often with the help of borrowed money.
Some market experts worry that investing in illiquid assets, despite their inherent risks, has become almost mainstream.
"A lot of investors unfortunately are chasing returns rather than focusing on risk," says Leon Metzger, an industry veteran who teaches hedge-fund management courses at Yale, New York and Columbia universities.

That seems right, but the real question is: who makes it so difficult to "focus on risk"? Impressively, the article zeroes in on an answer to that question.

The combination of illiquidity and leverage has long been a mainstay of financial crises.
[The] increase in illiquid investments raises concerns. For one thing, even in liquid securities like stocks, what can seem like a ready supply of cash can dry up quickly if investors get spooked. Those problems are heightened when leverage is used.

Even if a fund plans to invest in an illiquid asset for the long haul, creditors can force its hand. If a leveraged investment racks up losses, the fund's lenders may demand more collateral, or even repayment of their loans. To meet those demands, the fund, whose losses are already magnified by leverage, could be forced to sell the investment well before the market recovers, adding to its burden.

The possibility of such sudden "blow ups" would seem to be a significant risk for funds that hold long-term investments that cannot be kept for the long-term if the market trembles.

And the use of borrowed money is on the rise. In May, the sum investors borrowed from brokerage firms to buy stocks hit $317.99 billion, up about 14% from the previous record in March 2000, according to the New York Stock Exchange. Net borrowings by large bond-market dealers stood at about $1.33 trillion this month, up from $730 billion in 2003 and about $300 billion when the stock market peaked in 2000, according to Chicago market-research firm Bianco Research LLC.

More than anything, this borrowing represents a triumph of greed over fear. Investors use loans to juice up their bets without tying up much capital, and enjoy high-octane returns while holding seemingly conservative assets like mortgage bonds. The risk is that recently placid markets start to crack, turning these profitable leveraged bets into deepening losses. With funds that use leverage, it doesn't take a sharp move in a market to create a sharp drop in a portfolio's value.

Figuring out the risk profile of illiquid assets -- and funds that invest in them -- can be tricky. Typical methods for assessing risk rely on measuring volatility -- the choppier returns are, the riskier the investment. But because illiquid assets don't trade regularly, marking to market -- or using recent sales prices to determine an asset's value -- may not be possible. In these cases, a fund manager may instead use a mathematical model to value an asset, a practice called marking to model.

Such models tend to smooth returns, making an asset look much less risky, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology finance professor Andrew Lo, who is also a principal in AlphaSimplex Group LLC, an asset-management company that runs a hedge fund.

Now we're getting to the real nitty gritty. The true risks of these highly leveraged illiquid investments are masked by happy modeling.

The Bear Stearns funds' situation demonstrates the considerable leeway funds have in valuing illiquid assets. The Enhanced Leverage Fund reported last month that it lost 6.75% of its value in April, but later put that loss at a far steeper 18%.

One reason the Bear Stearns funds' troubles worry Wall Street is the fear that other players own similar securities that have similarly been mispriced.

Uh oh. That's what they mean when talking heads say the market was down because of fears of "fallout" or "contagion" from the subprime sector. It's not the subprime sector per se... it's the huge bets with borrowed money that were placed on elements within the sector by opaque funds that could blow up at any moment, like the two Bear Stearns outfits. Precisely how are investors supposed to "focus on risk" in such a convoluted situation? Especially when outfits like Moody's and the S&P consistently underrate the true risks of some of these funds?

The article concludes by using an example from the Timber industry. Timber funds can "lock up investors for 10-15 years" because they are illiquid and volatile (yet potentially lucrative). The article concludes with a quote from an industry leader.

"This isn't a good investment for short-term investors -- there's too much volatility," says Dick Molpus, of Mississippi-based timber-investment manager Molpus Woodlands Group.

Dick Molpus? That name sounds familiar. I remember a couple of YRHT posts on that guy. He understands the structure of the Timber investments, and therefore prevents the short-term returns chasers from participating, so that his investment group doesn't have to liquidate its holdings when the time isn't right.

If none of that made any sense to you , the WSJ's "Ahead of the Tape" column expertly puts it in context. Reading the "Ahead of the Tape" column every weekday (sub req) is also part of my "Get Smart Quick" reading list, along with Taleb's Black Swan book.

At the bottom of the Bear Stearns hedge-fund upheaval are real people around the country who can't pay their mortgages. The trouble has largely been contained to the riskiest slices of the real-estate business. It might not stay that way for long.

A surge of mortgage-loan defaults has caused turmoil in the exotic credit instruments linked to them, raising concerns about contagion. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 185 points Friday amid worries that the shake-up at Bear Stearns will spread to other corners of Wall Street, a replay of the subprime jitters that plagued stocks in February.
Another worry concerns a wave of adjustable-rate mortgages that will reset later this year and next year, raising the odds that defaults will continue to rise. About $515 billion of ARMs are scheduled to reset this year, and an additional $680 billion will reset in 2008, according to Bank of America. Worse, roughly three-fourths of those loans are to borrowers with poor credit histories.

Not to fear. Treasury Secretary Paulson recently said that housing losses have been largely contained. He said:

We have had a major housing correction in this country. I do believe we are at or near the bottom.... It doesn't pose a risk to the economy overall.

So when you read the following Bloomberg News quote from the same day, don't be alarmed. The housing recession doesn't pose even "a risk" to the overall economy. Things have levelled off nicely.


The worst is yet to come for the U.S. housing market.

The jump in 30-year mortgage rates by more than a half a percentage point to 6.74 percent in the past five weeks is putting a crimp on borrowers with the best credit just as a crackdown in subprime lending standards limits the pool of qualified buyers. The national median home price is poised for its first annual decline since the Great Depression, and the supply of unsold homes is at a record 4.2 million, the National Association of Realtors reported.

"It's a blood bath," said Mark Kiesel, executive vice president of Newport Beach, California-based Pacific Investment Management Co., the manager of $668 billion in bond funds. "We're talking about a two- to three-year downturn that will take a whole host of characters with it, from job creation to consumer confidence. Eventually it will take the stock market and corporate profit."

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If it's Sunday, it's a buffet of untruth 

Yesterday on Meet the Press Gwen Ifill casually made a false claim about political history, and was not corrected. The journalists sitting around Russert's table were musing about a possible independent presidential run by Mayor Bloomberg. Naturally, Ross Perot's 1992 candidacy came up, and Gwen Ifill "reminded" us about a right-wing lie that too many liberals have decided to believe and propogate. Here's the exchange:

MR. RUSSERT: The Bloomberg folks believe that if each of the candidates have negatives in the high 40s, the Democrat and the Republicans, Hillary Clinton’s there and the Republican will be there, it’s wide open. There’s one poll they point to, June of 1992: Ross Perot, 39; George Herbert Walker Bush, 31; Bill Clinton, 25.

MS. IFILL: And Bill Clinton got elected, you will recall, because of Ross Perot’s presence in the race....

No, I don't seem to "recall" that at all. Here's what I do recall, reported by E.J. Dionne and recorded by the indispensable Bob Somerby:

E.J. DIONNE (11/8/92): Ross Perot's presence on the 1992 presidential ballot did not change the outcome of the election, according to an analysis of the second choices of Perot supporters.

The analysis, based on exit polls conducted by Voter Research & Surveys (VRS) for the major news organizations, indicated that in Perot's absence, only Ohio would have have shifted from the Clinton column to the Bush column. This would still have left Clinton with a healthy 349-to-189 majority in the electoral college.

And even in Ohio, the hypothetical Bush "margin" without Perot in the race was so small that given the normal margin of error in polls, the state still might have stuck with Clinton absent the Texas billionaire.

E.J. DIONNE (11/12/92): In House races, Perot voters split down the middle: 51 percent said they backed Republicans, 49 percent backed Democrats. In the presidential contest, 38 percent of Perot supporters said they would have supported Clinton if Perot had not been on the ballot and 37 percent said they would have supported Bush.

It is especially irritating when liberals and/or centrists uncritically parrot this right-wing talking point, without correction. I went off on this topic last November (#6), and am certain I'll have to do so again. Why do so many people uncritically accept this right-wing lie?

Broder's "Press the Meat" performance was magnificently inert.

The only worthwhile analysis came from Roger Simon, in this excellent exchange about the immigration bill:

MR. RUSSERT: ... Roger Simon, the Democrats have told President Bush, “We can’t pass this alone. In the House of Representatives, we’re going to need at least 60 of your members to come with us.” Does the president have the political juice to deliver 60 Republican congressmen?

MR. ROGER SIMON: No. His juice was spent on the war in Iraq. But the point is how did the immigration matter become a crisis? Was it a crisis a few years ago? Immigration is a legitimate problem; it is not a legitimate crisis in America. It was ginned up as a national security crisis to get Republican gains in the ‘06 elections, and it didn’t work, and now we’re still left with it as a crisis. There are not thousands of terrorists coming over the border from Mexico. The terrorists from 9/11 came legally from Saudi Arabia.

Tim Russert promptly changed the subject.

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