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Saturday, February 25, 2006
 
Something a Little Lighter

Like most bloggers/blog readers, I enjoyed this set of covers on "Super-Dickery". To a certain extent, the humor in the "Superman is a dick" series relies on a misunderstanding of the way comics were sold in the Silver Age (1955-1970) Most of them were intended to pose a puzzle for the kid looking at the cover on the newsstand, deciding what to buy. If the puzzle was intriguing enough, it was hoped the kid would part with his money to find out why the cover scene happened.

For example in the first comic of the set, Lois Lane # 9, the puzzle is why Superman feels he has to use his super-powers to prevent Pat Boone's new song from becoming a hit. In this one, the puzzle is why is Superman so angry at Jimmy?

Most of the puzzles relied on somebody doing or saying something that seemed completely contrary to their nature. Hence they turn out to be perfect for poking fun at as the Superdickery site does quite well. Somewhat unfair? Yes, but it's all in the interest of being funny, so there's really no harm done.

However... the site has added a bit on propaganda covers with a particular focus on World War II, and there I draw the line. For example, on the opening page, he cites this cover as "stunningly offensive":



That, to me, betrays a fundamental misunderstanding about World War II. For example, I think we can all agree that if the cover were to say "Stab An A-Rab!" and featured a caricature of an Arab, it would be offensive. Why the difference? Well, besides the fact that our sensibilities are quite different than they were in the 1940s, we are not at war with all Arabs or even an Arab nation. But in the 1940s we were at war with all the Japanese, and the nation of Japan. All "Japs" were our enemy (not counting, of course, the vast majority of Japanese Americans).

Second, propaganda like this served a legitimate national interest during World War II. Note that the cover is advertising War Bonds and Stamps. In addition, during an all-out war, it is useful to demonize/dehumanize your opponent. Although it seems obvious in hindsight that the US and its allies would win World War II, there was certainly no guarantee in early 1943 (when this comic came out). Emphasizing the evil/inhumanity of the enemy convinces the public to pull hard for the war effort. And of course in the case of World War II, there is little controversy over whether the enemy was in fact evil/inhuman, considering the Holocaust (which was not known widely at that time) or Lidice or the Bataan Death March (which were).

Third, most people today don't recognize that the image of the buck-toothed, bespectacled "Jap" was intended not to represent all Japanese, but a particular Japanese man, General Hideki Tojo:



Okay, so the buck teeth seem to be artistic license and the mustache is gone, but otherwise, the image seems like a straightforward caricature.
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Calame: Factual But Unfair

Donald Luskin forwarded on the work he and I did to Byron Calame, the public editor of the New York Times to see if we could get a retraction/correction to Krugman's article. Calame's response was that the column was "factual but unfair".

Technically, Calame is wrong here:

Given that Mr. Krugman cited only one factor in classifying tribal donations -- whether they occurred before or after the tribe hired Mr. Abramoff -- I don't think his statement constitutes a factual error. Is it unfair? Yes. But the fairness of columnists is beyond the mandate of the public editor.

In fact, the American Prospect article lumped tribal donations that occurred both before AND after Abramoff was lobbying for the tribes and compared those to donations that occurred only during the time of Abramoff's tenure. Nice to see that he acknowledges that the analysis was flawed. Will Greg Sargent and TAP be the next to step up to the plate and admit their errors?
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Friday, February 24, 2006
 
Ports Update

Hugh Hewitt announced on his radio show today that he's now back on the fence about the deal. Apparently I was a little too hasty in declaring him a liberal. I jumped briefly off the fence, but climbed back on a few hours later. I'm glad that there will be some time for further review of the transaction.
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Roger Simon Interviews Congressman Lantos

I'm late to this story, but here's the interview. Lantos appears to be a very, very smart man, and Roger gives some excellent questions on Google and Yahoo's cooperation with the Chinese government.
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Ward Churchill Update

Our favorite F-Troop Indian (joke lifted from John Ruberry), Ward Churchill is back in the news today. Turns out that the committee at the University of Colorado investigating him has asked for a 120-day extension to complete their report:

It expects to interview more witnesses, and hopes to meet the May 9 deadline, but could need another extension because of the "complex nature and large number of allegations," committee chairwoman Marianne Wesson, CU professor of law, wrote in the report.
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Funniest Bit of the Day

Our buddy the Man over at GOP & The City catches some embarrassing wording in an ad for an intern at the Bill Clinton foundation.
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Abramoff Update

Donald Luskin talked to Dwight Morris, who prepared the numbers used by the American Prospect in the article debunked here and in Donald's article for the National Review. Morris agrees that the American Prospect's extrapolation from his research was faulty:

Morris agreed with us and with Pat Curley at Brainster's Blog that this analysis was spurious, considering that the period before the tribes retained Abramoff was much longer than the period over which they retained him. "To say it dropped nine percent is silly," Morris told me, "because you can't compare those two timeframes. We did not prepare that number for them. In fact, it was not even in the reporter's original draft."

According to Morris, the real story in the numbers he produced is not that Abramoff's clients didn't give to Democrats, or gave less, once they retainined Abramoff. They did give. It's just that they gave more to Republicans. That doesn't surprise Morris -- "Abramoff's a Republican," he said. As to the thrust of the Prospect story -- that, according to the story's title "Dems Don't Know Jack" -- Morris says "The headline was atrocious."


Let me mention here that I exchanged a few emails with Morris yesterday. It was certainly my impression that he is an honest and straightforward fellow, and if you are looking for a company that does research on campaign contributions, I'd recommend his firm without hesitation.
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A Few More Glasses of Port

Count Teflon of Molten Thought among the antis.

It has certainly been interesting to watch some conservatives wave the GOP jersey on the sale of port operating leases to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates. Rush Limbaugh has been the most prominent of these, stretching himself into a pretzel to justify this Bush Administration blunder. He's not alone in the quixotic fight to justify the patently stupid.

Meanwhile, Nora Ephron at the Huffington Post (!) sides with Rush and Bush.

Isn't George Bush right when he says that it makes sense to deal with Arab governments that are on our side? I mean, I'm well aware that even George Bush is about to back off his own position, but let's be honest: the government of Dubai is probably just as qualified to run an American port as the government of China, which we're also in business with.

And when George Bush says that we want to work with Arab countries that support us, doesn't that make sense?

Has this whole port issue become the Democrats' equivalent of what the Republicans did with the Terry Schiavo case? Aren't they purposely and disingenuously using a false issue for their political advantage?


Check out the comments on that Ephron post. As you can see, dissent is not appreciated within the "reality-based" community. It will be interesting to see if they remove some of those comments; considering the profanity and anger, if they don't, it's hard to see why they allow readers to flag comments for being abusive/spam.
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Seven Songs I'm Listening To Lately

Mr Ugly American tagged me with this post, asking for seven songs that I listen to currently.

Let me specify here that like a lot of other boomers, I listen to quite a bit less music than I did in the past. So these are some songs that I have made an effort to listen to lately:

1. Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi. I happened to hear this song the other day in a pizzeria and downloaded it from Usenet so I could listen to it again. Silly little anti-development song, but entertaining.

2. The Kinks, Apeman. From the brief "relevant" period of singles, this song captures perfectly liberal angst:

I think I’m so educated and I’m so civilized
’cos I’m a strict vegetarian
But with the over-population and inflation and starvation
And the crazy politicians
I don’t feel safe in this world no more
I don’t want to die in a nuclear war
I want to sail away to a distant shore and make like an ape man
I’m an ape man, I’m an ape ape man
I’m an ape man I’m a king kong man I’m ape ape man
I’m an ape man
’cos compared to the sun that sits in the sky
Compared to the clouds as they roll by
Compared to the bugs and the spiders and flies
I am an ape man.


3. Renaissance, Mother Russia. More serious stuff here, Annie Haslam and the rest of the band take on the Soviet Union:

Punished for his written thoughts
Starving for his fame
Working blindly, building blocks
Number for a name his blood flows frozen to the snow

Red blood, white snow
He knows frozen rivers won’t flow
So cold, so true
Mother Russia--he cries for you


4. Synergy, Legacy. Larry Fast announces that the sythesizer has come of age in an amazing 1975 recording from Electronic Realizations for Rock Orchestra. I would never have heard the album, but when CDs first came out I bought a $400 CD player and then discovered that there was a very limited selection of CDs; this was back in 1985 when you'd walk into a Tower Records and there'd be only 10 CDs to choose from.

5. Benny Goodman, Sing Sing Sing. An oldie even for me. In a lot of ways, Goodman's band was a forerunner of rock, with a clarinet substituting for the electric guitar. This song features terrific drumming by Gene Krupa.

6. Strawbs, Round and Round. From the Hero and Heroine album, Round and Round is one of the perfect bicycling songs of all time, with a rocking beat and lyrics that fit the exercise:

For we are just a product of the ever spinning wheel,
Oh, round and round we go
Round and round and round we go.


7. Crash Test Dummies, The Superman Song.

Hey Bob, Supe had a straight job
Even though he could have smashed through any bank
In the United States, he had the strength, but he would not
Folks said his family were all dead
Their planet crumbled but Superman, he forced himself
To carry on, forget Krypton, and keep going


Tagged:

Kitty Myers
Pam Meister
The Chief Brief

Update: Pam's got her songs up. Our tastes certainly overlap on Abba; yes, they're a silly pop group, but there's something really enjoyable about their tunes. I'd guess they're the band that almost everybody feels a little embarrassed to admit they like, which of course means there's really nothing to be embarrassed about. I'd probably rate Fernando as my favorite of theirs, but Mama Mia does have a catchy beat.
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Brainster Cited in National Review Online!--Updated

Okay, here's the big news I promised yesterday. Donald Luskin takes my post on the potentially dull subject of the Abramoff campaign contributions and turns it into a witty, entertaining article.

Thanks to Don for the cite, and for encouraging me to dig deeper on this story!

Update: For more on the Abramoff/Democrat connections, check out this article in the American Thinker.
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Three Hankie Alert!

This is a terrific story; be sure to watch the video on the sidebar as well.
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Thursday, February 23, 2006
 
It's the End of the World As We Know It

Pam Meister notes that Michael Stipe of REM and Cindy Sheehan of DUH are going to be putting on a concert against the Iraq War.
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While We're On the Subject of Carnivals...

Our buddy the Man at GOP & the City is starting a new carnival:



Obviously the focus of this Carnival will be the hit TV series "24". Lotta fans of that show in the blogosphere, so the Carnival should draw some interest.
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Carnival of the Clueless Is Up!

Rick Moran's got some hot links. This is always one of the funniest and most entertaining carnivals around; highly recommended.
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Spiderman Robs Comic Book Store

Video here.

Hat Tip: Ace of Spades.
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Sorry For the Light Posting

That research project I've been working on is about to bear fruit. Stay tuned, there will be big news tomorrow!
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The Port Storm Continues

Jamie Allman has a suggested speech for President Bush:

Harry Whittington has refused to be shot again, so I guess I have to address this Port Deal Thingy. It's not going to go away and it's my fault. I should have said something earlier to Congress at the very least so they would have accurate information to fabricate for their own political gain instead of just fabricating information outright. Here's the deal. We're not selling our ports. We're not hiring "nasty A-rabs" to protect our ports. We're not replacing longshoremen with Middle Easterners. Dubai Ports World took over the British corporation that handled the job of essentially writing checks to longshoremen. As you know, the British aren't that great at holding on to things outside of Britain and DP won out.

Go read it all. As you can see, it's funny, but the message is serious. I especially liked his point about where the 9-11 terrorists learned to fly planes. As I said yesterday, I'm still on the fence on this issue. I'd love to hear Frank Gaffney say that his concerns have been satisified.

Power Line reproduces an email from the administration that lays out the case for the deal.

Hugh Hewitt had a terrific interview with the admiral in charge of the coast guard's port security efforts yesterday afternoon; MP3 and transcript at Radioblogger.

HH: Then the heart of my objection, Admiral, and I know it's widespread, is that even though the UAE is a great and wonderful ally in the global war on terror, and this company has a wonderful reputation, that al Qaeda is deeply entrenched in the Emirates, and that pressures can be brought to bear on reliable people through their family, through threats, etc., that make them less reliable, even though they can get into the country after vetting, that places them at the port that gives them access to information and the ability to conduct surveillance, and that we just aren't...we're just not far-flung enough to know about threats like that. How do you respond to that?

CB: Well, again, I think that you have to rely on the people that are currently authorized to come into this country, whether it's an airport or the port environment itself. This system of vetting individuals through our ports, or through our airports, and allow them coming through, is a mature one. Again, any gaps have been closed as best as possible, and other efforts may be underway. I think that you have to rely on the intelligence community as well as the public in general of any unusual activities that you detect something like that. I have to start with the premise that people are law abiding individuals. This security issue is a global one. It's not just unique to the United States. If we're going to solve this, it has to be a global effort. Moving cargos through our ports, the majority of those cargos are foreign born. We need the cooperation and the increased level of confidence internationally, not a decreased level of confidence. And there's a lot of effort that's been done internationally, both through the International Maritime Organization, as well as the World Customs Organization, and through the International Standards Organization for Security, to basically move our borders out so that our solution set, as you would say, isn't waiting for it to come here, but to have it detected somewhere else, and not allow it to ever reach our shores.
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Al Franken, Racist

Good article here on Franken's hiring practices. Seems he never (almost literally never) hires a black person for a senior position.
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Ad Campaign Makes Dems Bug Out

This story is getting a fair amount of play:

The members of Minnesota Families United, a grass-roots group made up mostly of the relatives of soldiers who have died in Iraq or are serving there, welcome debate on the war. Marine Lt. Col. Bob Stephenson of Woodbury is the group's co-chairman. When he returned from Iraq in March 2005, he was shocked at what he viewed as inaccurate and overly negative media coverage of the war. But Stephenson took it in stride. He says he put his life on the line in Iraq precisely to protect freedom of speech.

So he is baffled by the reaction of the DFL Party and some in the media to a TV ad about the war in which he recently appeared. The DFL has branded the ad "un-American, untruthful and a lie." The DFL isn't bothering to present its version of the facts in an ad of its own. Instead, party chairman Brian Melendez launched a campaign to silence Stephenson and others who appeared in the ad. He demanded that the ad be pulled from the airwaves, so Minnesotans couldn't hear its message and make up their minds themselves.

Earlier this week, I sat down with some folks from Minnesota Families United. What do they think of the fact that the DFL has branded their co-chairman an "Un-American liar"? Stephenson, it turns out, is a 23-year Marine.


DFL stands for Democrat Farm Labor, and is essentially the Democratic Party in Minnesota. If you want to see the ads that have them up in arms, Chris has the video.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2006
 
Taking Another Whack At Jack

I've been trying to get a handle on this American Prospect article, which supposedly proved that the Democrats didn't know Jack (Abramoff). I stand by 90% of what I wrote here; the only thing I would change is I would soften the comments about 2004, since many of the tribes fired Abramoff before that election was over.

Part of the problem with analyzing this article is that the analysis by the writer, Greg Sargent, is so shoddy that it's hard to recreate his work. To give a quick example, here's what he says about one of the Indian tribes which Abramoff lobbied for:

7) Tribe: Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
Pre-Abramoff contributions to Dems (1991 - 1995): $4,600
Pre-Abramoff contributions to GOP (1991 - 1995): $31,000
Post-Abramoff contributions to Dems (1995 - 2004): $409,273
Post-Abramoff contributions to GOP (1995 - 2004): $884,927


Okay, so we go to the spreadsheet that Sargent linked in his piece, and we find the following amounts were donated to the Republican Party by this band by election cycle:

1992: $0
1994: $0
1996: $1,200

So where does he get the notion that from 1991-1995, that the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians donated $31,000 to the GOP? Remember the 1992 election cycle includes contributions made in 1991.

In those same election cycles, the spreadsheet notes that the Mississippi Choctaw band donated the following amounts to Democrats:

1992: $500
1994: $2,000
1996: $12,500

That's a total of $15,000; whence comes Sargent's $4,600 figure? It's possible that the Mississippi Choctaw donated $2,100 to Dems in 1995 prior to hiring Abramoff, then jacked that up to $10,400 in 1996, but you can see the problem with that; it doesn't fit the narrative that once Abramoff came along the Democrats received reduced funding.

So I thought I'd come at the story from a different angle. Rather than try to figure out where Sargent derived his numbers, I'd look at those numbers and see if they were backed up at Open Secrets. The good news is that they have very good information on the tribes who were Abramoff clients very well organized, the bad news is that they don't have all the prior donations by those tribes. They also treat the post-Abramoff donations in 2004 differently than did the American Prospect.

They confirm the general outlines of Monday's post; that far from declining, donations to Democrats from Abramoff's clients soared in 2002 and 2004:

2000: $73,000
2002: $427,730
2004: $622,603

So I think we can dispense with the notion that the Democrats saw their donations decline or remain static when Abramoff began representing these Indian tribes. And since that is the thrust of Sargent's article (and what liberal bloggers and Paul Krugman took from it), I think my point is proven.
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Helping Out Glenn Greenwald

As Tom Maguire points out, Glenn Greenwald's theory that the Republican Party has become a personality cult of Bush is taking a battering over the ports deal. If you remember, Greenwald said:

Now, in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required – a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a "liberal," regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. And the more one criticizes him, by definition, the more "liberal" one is.

As a public service, I'd like to bail Glenn out here. So from now on, the following people are "liberal":

Michelle Malkin

Hugh Hewitt

Instapundit

Bulldog Pundit

Anybody else? Oh, yeah, can't forget that flaming liberal, Brainster! Actually I'm back on the fence on the ports issue.

Kitty, on the other hand, remains a conservative. Well, maybe. She notes in the comments that she's a little concerned with Bush's fiscal policy. Sounds pretty pinko to me!

Mr Right should be reserving the "In the Left Place" blog any moment now! Check out his obviously HuffPo-inspired thoughts in the comments!
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Dollar Bill On Why Hart Dropped Out in 1988



This is an interesting post from Bill Bradley, who was in a position to know. I always liked Bradley from his days with the Knicks, and he seems to be pretty honest on his blog. When discussing the story as it's commonly written, Bradley shows a curious focus on credentialism in this paragraph:

The story goes, and it’s perfectly encapsulated in that column linked to above, that Hart, the former U.S. senator from Colorado and then undisputed frontrunner for the presidency of the United States, who has a doctorate from Oxford, unaccountably decided to deal with rumors of womanizing by challenging the press to follow him around. The press, not in the interest of salaciousness but in the best spirit of enterprise journalism, thereupon took him up on that challenge and, through dint of investigative reporting, found him with former Miss South Carolina Donna Rice (a Phi Beta Kappa, let it be noted), and drove the arrogant politician from the race. Leaving us, as it happens, with, um, George Bush I. And then after the one-term failure of the first Bush presidency, Bill Clinton, who in retrospect, with all due respect to the former president, makes Hart look like a choirboy. (Boldface added)

You can see how it is; Donna Rice wasn't just a bimbo, she was a bimbo with a Phi Beta Kappa key. And of course Gary Hart would have beaten Bush I; he has a doctorate from Oxford. Still, interesting stuff from somebody who lived it.
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Don't Do It, Mr President

Not the port deal. Meeting with the IRA.

Last year, amid bitter controversy over the IRA’s role in the £27.5 million Northern Bank robbery and continued paramilitary violence, Mr Bush snubbed Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness. Instead, he met the relatives of Robert McCartney, who was murdered by alleged members of the IRA after a pub brawl in Belfast.

Relations have since improved slightly following the IRA’s declaration that it had abandoned its armed struggle. There has also been concerted lobbying from Republican congressmen, with large numbers of Irish-American voters, for the ban to be lifted ahead of November’s mid-term elections.


I don't know any Micks (Irish myself) who are griping about the snub of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness last year; I know a couple who will be griping about it if Bush lets them visit in 2006. While the decommissioning of the IRA was a hopeful sign, the fact the McCartney sisters have had to move out of their homes due to threats from the thugs who participated in the killing of their brother and the cleansing of the crime scene, should mitigate against any recognition to Adams and McGuinness.
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She Who Laughs Last

Michelle Malkin does a little well-deserved gloating.

For the past several years, I've been condemned as an "extremist" for advocating nationality profiling — unapologetically applying stricter scrutiny to terror-sponsoring and terror-sympathizing countries in our entrance, immigration, and security policies.

Now, mirabile dictum, some of the same Democrats who have routinely lambasted such profiling are rushing to the floors of Congress and in front of TV cameras espousing these very same policies. The impetus: the White House's boneheaded insistence on ramming through a $7 billion deal giving United Arab Emirates-owned Dubai Ports World control over significant operations at six major American ports in New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Miami.


Is there anybody with better instincts than Mrs M? She was right on Brownie, right on Miers, and right on the ports.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2006
 
Busy Now

I'm trying to put together an update to the Abramoff story below, but it's taking some research. While I'm busy, why don't you check out two wonderful blogs, Molten Thought and Third Wave Dave?
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The Port Thing

Michelle Malkin is leading the charge against the decision to allow a Dubai-based company to take over operations of several major U.S. ports. She even took the rather startling step of opening up her comments section, which is always risky considering the kinds of hate speech she usually gets from the Left.

As I mentioned while talking with Jamie Allman and Smash this morning, I'm willing to be convinced that the deal makes sense, and that security will remain tight. But the administration needs to sell its case. It can't just assume that the fuss will blow over.

Dennis the Peasant, who seems like a thoughtful guy when he's not talking about Roger Simon, does a pretty good job of summarizing the case in favor here.

Lost in all of this is the fact that the government of the United Arab Emirates is exactly the sort of Arab/Muslim government we should be rewarding for their loyalty to us in the War on Terror. The U.A.E. has, in fact, been the very model of the ‘moderate’ Arab/Muslim state we loudly proclaim must take a firm and unbending stand against al-Qaeda and the Middle Eastern Fascists we are fighting.

But unless the administration makes its case forcefully and quickly, the deal is going to founder. There's an old story about Tip O'Neill's first run for office. After he lost, he was dismayed to find out that a friend had not voted for him. When he asked her why, she responded, "You never asked me for my vote."

Update: Uh-oh. If Frank Gaffney's not on board (read down to the end of Michelle Malkin's post) then I'm not either.

And Jimmy Carter's a supporter of the deal. Question: Which of the big liberal blogs will change their opinion?
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Monday, February 20, 2006
 
Santorum Looking Like an Ex-Senator--Updated!

Hard to imagine a worse poll result than this:

February 20, 2006--Republican Senator Rick Santorum continues to trail Democratic challenger Bob Casey, Jr. The latest Rasmussen Reports election poll shows Santorum behind by 16 percentage points, 52% to 36%. That's essentially the same gap we found in last month's poll.

When the challenger's over 50% in February it's time to start planning your lobbying career.

Update: Bulldog Pundit points out some more bad news for Santorum.
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We Just Want To Kill All the Jews

Is the probable subtext of this headline:

Iran denies wanting to "wipe Israel off the map".
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Celebrities and Politics

Good point made here:

Smart critics should find instances of overly pat, polemical, misinformed morality masquerading as art — especially when it has influenced wide audiences — and expose it as fraudulent, dishonest and trite. That was certainly warranted with “Fahrenheit 9/11,” whose distortions have been widely chronicled.

But it is not necessarily the case anytime a famous person makes a moral argument. Arguments should be judged on their own merits, but often they are not. Tim Robbins, for example, penned some eloquent defenses of his ideas (and his right to say them) before the Iraq war. I don’t like his politics, but it’s on those grounds he should be countered, not on the grounds that, hey, he’s Tim Robbins and what does he know about war?
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Brainster On the Radio

I'll be on for a ten-minute segment with Allman & Smash in the morning on FM 910 in St. Louis tomorrow at 7:10 AM Central Time. If you're not in the St. Louis area, you can listen in here (requires Windows Media Player).
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Giving Jimmy Carter What For

Bulldog Pundit takes a good whack at the peanut farmer.
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If You're Looking for Great Olympic Commentary

Check out Gayle Miller's coverage of the skating events (just keep scrolling). She's really doing a terrific and informed job with the figure skating.
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Debunking the American Prospect and Paul Krugman

(Welcome, fellow Just One Minute, National Review Online, Donald Luskin, and Ankle-Biting Pundits readers!)

I took a whack at a ridiculous story in the American Prospect a couple weeks ago, but it seems to have settled in as accepted wisdom among the lefty bloggers and has appeared in a Paul Krugman column, so I thought it was worth cracking in detail.

To summarize the American Prospect story, they commissioned a "study" of donations by Indian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff, and found that contributions to Democrats had dried up or remained stable once Abramoff was directing things, and that donations to Republicans had skyrocketed.

This has resulted in a large part in the shrillness with which liberal bloggers have greeted any attempt by the media to be even-handed about the Abramoff scandal. They feel entitled, because a flagship journal of the American Left has told them that there's essentially nothing to the claims that Abramoff directed money to the Democrats.

Paul Krugman has probably spread the myth (linked at a liberal blog to avoid Times Select) the furthest through his column in the New York Times on January 30:

But the tribes were already giving money to Democrats before Mr. Abramoff entered the picture; he persuaded them to reduce those Democratic donations, while giving much more money to Republicans. A study commissioned by The American Prospect shows that the tribes’ donations to Democrats fell by 9 percent after they hired Mr. Abramoff, while their contributions to Republicans more than doubled. So in any normal sense of the word “directed,” Mr. Abramoff directed funds away from Democrats, not toward them.

Numerous major lefty blogs have pushed this "study" as proving that Abramoff was not an equal opportunity employer, that he drastically curtailed spending to Democrats and radically increased it to Republicans.

MyDD:

That's just nonsense. The American Prospect showed as much in a study done by a nonpartisan research group...

Gutless punk Brad Delong:

The American Prospect performs a public service--one that the Washington Post would have long ago performed, were it a real newspaper....

Brad Blog:

Chris Wallace, once again, asserted that Democrats are largely tainted with Abramoff money. Of course, Wallace ignores this non-partisan study that the great majority of contributions from Abramoff clients largely went to Republicans.

Okay, so I think I've established that major liberal columnists and liberal bloggers have relied on this story quite a bit, right? Now, you can probably guess the next step, let's take a really close look at the American Prospect story.

Although Abramoff hasn’t personally given to any Democrats, Republicans, including officials with the GOP campaign to hold on to the Senate, have seized on the donations of his tribal clients as proof that the saga is a bipartisan scandal. And the controversy recently spread to the media when the ombudsman for The Washington Post, Deborah Howell, ignited a firestorm by wrongly asserting that Abramoff had given to both. She eventually amended her assessment, writing that Abramoff “directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.”

But the Morris and Associates analysis, which was done exclusively for The Prospect, clearly shows that it’s highly misleading to suggest that the tribes's giving to Dems was in any way comparable to their giving to the GOP. The analysis shows that when Abramoff took on his tribal clients, the majority of them dramatically ratcheted up donations to Republicans. Meanwhile, donations to Democrats from the same clients either dropped, remained largely static or, in two cases, rose by a far smaller percentage than the ones to Republicans did. This pattern suggests that whatever money went to Democrats, rather than having been steered by Abramoff, may have largely been money the tribes would have given anyway.

The analysis shows:

# in total, the donations of Abramoff’s tribal clients to Democrats dropped by nine percent after they hired him, while their donations to Republicans more than doubled, increasing by 135 percent after they signed him up;

# five out of seven of Abramoff’s tribal clients vastly favored Republican candidates over Democratic ones;

# four of the seven began giving substantially more to Republicans than Democrats after he took them on;

# Abramoff’s clients gave well over twice as much to Republicans than Democrats, while tribes not affiliated with Abramoff gave well over twice as much to Democrats than the GOP -- exactly the reverse pattern.

“It’s very hard to see the donations of Abramoff’s clients as a bipartisan greasing of the wheels,” Morris, the firm’s founder and a former investigations editor at the Los Angeles Times, told The Prospect.


Now when I first tackled this article I quickly discovered an obvious flaw. The Prospect article claimed:

At the same time, two of those four tribes -- Saginaw and Chitimacha -- saw their giving to Democrats drop or remain static.

But when you looked at the information on the Saginaw tribe, it said:

1) Tribe: Saginaw Chippewa (Michigan)
Pre-Abramoff contributions to Dems (1991 - 9/2000): $371,250
Post-Abramoff contributions to Dems (9/2000 - 2003): $191,960


Okay, so pre-Abramoff the Saginaw Chippewa gave $371,250 to the Democrats over about 9 years, that's a little over $41,000 per year, while post Abramoff, they gave the Democrats $191,960 over three years, that's $64,000 per year.

So to the American Prospect, going from $41,000 per year to $64,000 per year--a 50% increase in donations from that tribe per year to the Democrats--means that tribe "saw their giving to Democrats drop or remain static."

But it gets better. The Chitimacha? Again, the Prospect kindly gives us the figures so that we can work it out:

2) Tribe: Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana
Pre-Abramoff contributions to Dems (1991 - 9/2000): $61,320
Post-Abramoff contributions to Dems (9/2000 - 2003): $64,000


Okay, $61,000 divided by 9 years is $6,800 per year, while $64,000 per year divided by 3 years is $21,000 per year. So going from $6,800 per year to $21,000 per year means that the tribe "saw their giving to Democrats drop or remain static."

You can see what's going on here, right? The American Prospect is actually looking at the total number of dollars donated without looking at the number of years. Gee, before Abramoff the Chitimacha donated $61,000 to Democrats, after Abramoff they donated $64,000; it's hard to see that represents a 200% increase per annum.

And no kidding, that's where they get the absolutely ridiculous 9% decrease in spending on Democrats that Krugman cites in his column.

A study commissioned by The American Prospect shows that the tribes’ donations to Democrats fell by 9 percent after they hired Mr. Abramoff, while their contributions to Republicans more than doubled.

Here's a look at the spreadsheet (Excel file) linked by the American Prospect to show their conclusion (click on pictures to view larger):



My first reaction was that they showed the total for each election to each party from each tribe, and yet they don't give us the totals for each party? Well, that's pretty easy to add:



Wow, end of story, they've proved their point, right? My gosh, the tribes gave 9% less (Krugman's point apparently proven) to Democrats after Abramoff took over, while they suddenly splurged on Republicans, more than doubling!

What about the number of years that Abramoff represented the tribes and the number that he didn't? We have seen in the cases of the Saginaw and Chitimacha tribes, what the Prospect described as stable or declining funding for the Democrats was actually a pretty substantial increase on a per annum basis. And if you look at the number of years before and after Abramoff, there was only one tribe (Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians) that spent the majority of the years in the study represented by Abramoff; most of them spent fewer than 1/3 of the years as his client.

But the clincher was when I downloaded the spreadsheet (Excel file) that showed the annual contributions by Abramoff clients to each party in each election cycle. Now, they don't make it easy for you, you have to wade through all the other tribes, but once you have the Abramoff clients isolated, these are the contributions by election cycle to the Democrats by the seven tribes:

1992: $3,700
1994: $5,500
1996: $43,000
1998: $231,000
2000: $175,970

Ah, here's the part that fits "the narrative". The tribes, which had been loyal to the Democrats suddenly abandoned ship in 2000. Except that's really not what happened. In 1998, the Saginaw Chippewa tribe donated $222,000 to the Democrats and all the other tribes donated a grand total of $9,000; in 2000 the Saginaw Chippewa reduced that to $57,000 but the other tribes increased their giving to $119,000.

In 2002, as you can imagine, the Democrats saw their funding cut dramatically. Most of the tribes were now under the merciless orders of Jack the Knife, and so their contributions to Democrats suffered draconian cuts:

2002: $550,980

No kidding. All of Abramoff's clients (except the Cherokee Nation, which didn't donate a significant amount of money) were on board before the end of the 2002 campaign. And yet in that campaign Abramoff's clients didn't reduce their funding for the Democrats, they more than tripled it!

But in 2004, Abramoff must have really cracked the whip on his tribal clients, right? I mean, Paul Krugman assured us there was a 9% decrease!

Sorry, Paul. Total donations to the Democrats from those same 7 tribes:

2004: $648,000. That's about an 18% increase over the 2002 level. Meanwhile the Republicans must have gotten the big bucks, right? Nope, they were cut by 33% by Abramoff clients in the last election cycle.

I don't mislead my readers like the American Prospect has its readers. The Republicans did get dramatically increased funding as well from the tribes represented by Abramoff, especially in the 2002 election, when funding went from $387,000 to $1.22 million (a much higher rate of increase than the Democrats received). So if the argument is over whether Abramoff's tribes gave more to the Republicans than Democrats, hey no question. But if the argument's over whether the "Democrats Don't Know Jack", all I can say is the American Prospect doesn't know how to count the Jack.

So to reiterate, the Democrats received from Abramoff's clients, both before and after they were clients, the following amounts by election cycle:

2000: $175,970
2002: $550,980
2004: $648,000

That's what the American Prospect wants you to believe is stable or decreased funding.

Minor correction: I said up above that the Republicans had a much larger rate of increase in funding from the Abramoff tribes in 2002 than the Democrats. Actually the increases were 213% for the Democrats and 215% for the Republicans, an insignificant difference in percentage terms, although of course it worked out to a much larger dollar amount.

Thanks for the link: Super Fun Power Hour and Lifelike Pundits.
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Sunday, February 19, 2006
 
A Better Way of Looking At the Olympic Medal Count

Our buddy the Educated Shoprat has a smarter method. I agree; simply counting medals with no higher value for gold than silver or bronze is a mistake.
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Ace Is Once Again the Place

With the helpful hardware man. One of my favorite blogs returns after a long hiatus.

Hat Tip: Kitty
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Dumbest Article of the Day

Note that this column is not labeled an oped, or analysis. Instead the paper says, "Olivia Ward reports".

You can get a feel for just how fatheaded this piece is from the summary:

Three years after the invasion of Iraq and more than five years since 9/11, real dissent in the United States is next to impossible. People who speak out against George W. Bush and his administration are paying a steep personal price...

Yes, I know, it seems like all we hear is dissent, but Olivia feels the pain of those sent to the gulag.

In America, bereaved military mother Cindy Sheehan was harassed and arrested for her high-profile protests. War-hero presidential candidate John Kerry was accused of cowardice for opposing the invasion, along with decorated veteran and Democrat congressman John Murtha. Triple amputee vet Max Cleland lost his Senate seat after his opponent ran a campaign linking him with Osama bin Laden. Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon was booed off the stage for speaking out against the Iraq war.

Cindy was indeed arrested, once for good cause, once for being a dipstick. Kerry was no war-hero, and he didn't oppose the invasion; he voted in favor of it, as did Murtha. And pardon me for not being upset that Max Cleland lost or that Susan Saranwrap got booed off the stage. Getting voted out of office or hooted at is all part of the price of being free.

Wilson says the campaign against him has changed the lives of his family. "It's clear that there are certain things we can't do. My wife no longer works at the Agency. And I've found it's amazing how international business shies away from somebody who challenges the administration on matters of war and security. That's why so few people want to speak out."

On the other hand, there is the book deal, and the proposed movie to think about. No mention here that Wilson's claims against Bush were debunked by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector and Marine, was one of the first to speak out against the American government's policy on Iraq. Even before the recent war, he was the target of allegations that he was an "Israeli agent," and his wife was investigated by the FBI as a member of the KGB.

But the problem runs deeper than individual slurs, Ritter contends.


What, no mention of the worst slur against Ritter, that he chatted up underage girls on the internet and tried to arrange to have sex with them? Oh, wait a minute, that's the truth.
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Desperate To Find Something to Bash Bush About

That's the only explanation I can think of for this hyperventilating article which reveals that Bush met with--gasp!--Michael Crichton!

"This shows the president is more interested in science fiction than science," Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, said after learning of the White House meeting. Mr. O'Donnell's group monitors environmental policy.

Of course, had Bush met the trophy wife of a comedy writer, environmentalists would have cheered.
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The First Time As Tragedy, the Second Time As Farce

It's fair to say that I was not kind to Glenn Greenwald's recent essay on Republicans. But Greenwald's a thoughtful fellow, so I treated his words seriously. RJ Eskow, takes a bite at the same apple. RJ's not very bright, and he simply repeats some of Greenwald's post without any apparent thought process:

Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld ... they're Mafia bosses doling out the largesse in return for unquestioned fealty. And today's so-called "conservatives" respond in kind. Will Roger Ailes get more exclusive interviews if he peddles the daily GOP lies and spins? As you wish, Godfather. Will Arnold Schwarzenegger become Governor if he pumps for Bush at the convention? Thank you, Don Karl. Will "Straight Talkin'" John McCain be rewarded with a chance to run in 2008 if he forgets what they did to his wife and kid? It' good to kiss the ring again, Mr. President. Let me hug you.

Let's see, Arnold was governor before he spoke at the convention; he was elected in November 2003. And George Bush has no ability to stop John McCain from running in 2008. And of course the ridiculous Godfather imagery reveals the bankruptcy of Eskow's vision.

Nowhere is the rampant gangsterism more apparent than in the public commentary offered by pundits and politicians. Everything that conservatives once stood for -- fiscal responsibility, preventing drug and alcohol abuse, enforcing the law, sexual propriety, supporting the military, preserving our institutions, decency in speech and deportment -- has been enthusiastically dismissed and derided by self-seeking figures in the media and politics.

So Bush used to get drunk and high and screw secretaries? We don't care; he's the man. The GOP campaign and the Administration break the law? He's our guy; shut your face. The First Lady makes nauseating and unfunny jokes about j**king off a horse? Hey, we're just having some fun here. The VP tells a Senator in the august halls of Congress to "go f*ck himself"? His candor is refreshing.

Uh, Bush used to get drunk, yes. I strongly suspect he got high. I strongly suspect that he enjoyed some secretaries in his time. So what? So did Al Gore, so did John Kerry when they were younger. So did Bill Clinton, while he was in the White House. The joke was not about j**king off a horse, it was about milking a horse, and it's the oldest country joke in the book. And Cheney was right to tell Leahy to try the anatomically impossible act. BTW, when I looked to make sure that it was Leahy, this page came up, which I found extremely funny and profane.

We're running the country into debts so high we may never be whole again? Heh, heh; I got mine right in the bank, sucker. Destroying the earth through global warming? I know: we'll debunk modern science; our money boys will pay the Cato Institute to come up with some phony climatology studies.

Wrecking the country's finances. Trashing civil discourse. Law breaking. Ruining the earth itself for our grandchildren. That's some sick s**t. Now, we have the sight of Mr. Whittington -- by all accounts a good and decent man -- being forced to crawl on broken glass to stay in the club. Hey, too bad about Harry -- but business is business.


You see what I mean about farce? Eskow doesn't know anything about the debt/deficit, or he'd realize that the latter went down last year and is far lower than during the Reagan years. He doesn't know anything about global warming other than that is just requires him to tut-tut about those evil SUVs while he turns up the heat to 70 degrees.

The creepiest sociopaths of all are the Christian conservatives who trash everything they allegedly believe in -- law, decency, sobriety, chastity -- to support these guys, just because they get a place at the table. (Bear in mind that the pathologies I'm describing refer to the leadership of the conservative movement. There are many truly conservative voters who are being sold a bill of goods by their leaders.)

Pretty silly stuff here. Nobody beyond the nutbars believes that Bush has been anything less than sober and chaste in the White House. And of course Eskow undoubtedly supported a president who was far from chaste.
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