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  • FREE SPEECH.

    FREE SPEECH. I have to say I don't quite share Pierce 's level of incredulity at Rohrbaugh 's notions and the fact that CBS would air them. I certainly agree that those notions are wacky. But creationism is no fringe outlook, even if the causal connections Rohrbaugh draws obviously constitute more of one. Lotsa people believe all sorts of crazy stuff -- it's this problem with the CBS segment that seems more compelling to me. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • NOTE THE ELLIPSIS.

    NOTE THE ELLIPSIS. While I was on the whole Catholic thing earlier -- sticking up for Holy Mother Church against the Worst Published Writer Ever -- I figured I'd slide on over to see what one of my favorite Papalettes was up to. Ah, mais oui . La Noonan never disappoints. It seems that nasty liberals -- in this case, Howard Kurtz (!) -- have been up to their censorious worst these days. For example: On Oct. 2, on Katie Couric's "CBS Evening News," in the segment called "Free Speech," the father of a boy killed at Columbine shared his views on the deeper causes of the recent shootings in Amish country. Brian Rohrbough said violence entered our schools when we threw God out of them. "This country is in a moral freefall. For over two generations the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum. . . . We teach there are no moral absolutes, no right or wrong, and I assure you the murder of innocent children is always wrong, including abortion. Abortion has diminished the value of...
  • PARTISAN ARMCHAIR STATISTICIANS:...

    PARTISAN ARMCHAIR STATISTICIANS: STILL HACKS. The indefatigable Daniel Davies states in lucid terms what the recent Lancet study means: First, don't concentrate on the number 600,000 (or 655,000, depending on where you read). This is a point estimate of the number of excess Iraqi deaths - it's basically equal to the change in the death rate since the invasion, multiplied by the population of Iraq, multiplied by three-and-a-quarter years. Point estimates are almost never the important results of statistical studies and I wish the statistics profession would stop printing them as headlines. The question that this study was set up to answer was: as a result of the invasion, have things got better or worse in Iraq? And if they have got worse, have they got a little bit worse or a lot worse. Point estimates are only interesting in so far as they demonstrate or dramatise the answer to this question... And the results were shocking. In the 18 months before the invasion, the sample reported...
  • THE RETURN OF...

    THE RETURN OF COINTELPRO? In one of the scarier articles I've read this week, an ACLU lawsuit has forced the Defense Department to turn over the information they've collected on anti-war protesters. The revelations are not comforting. The military labeled, for instance, a "Stop the War Now!" rally in Akron, Ohio, a site for "potential terrorist activity" (which, taken very literally, makes sense, as any place where humans can effectively exist has the potential for terrorist activity). Students United for Peace and Justice, an anti-war group at my alma mater of Santa Cruz, also made the cut. The reason they were considered a threat to military personnel? They protested recruiters for "don't ask, don't tell." Indeed, such information as weekly planning meetings for protests were collected and distributed across the military, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security. Lest you think this is notable for merely being chilling, it's also against the law . The government, which has to delete...
  • QUESTION.

    QUESTION. OK, so what's going on with Christopher Shays ? For a while, he fell squarely into that category of Republican congresscritter that we have come to call Not Insane. He even voted against the impeachment of Bill Clinton , for which vote the harpies of hell nearly descended on him . Now, though, locked in a tough race in a bad year, he seems to have sent away for the Time-Life Treasury Of Bad Analogies . First, in response to the mushrooming House sexapalooza, he summons up The Great Unmentionable at the heart of Edward Kennedy 's career. (Why Chappaquiddick hasn't been a more serious political issue for the senior senator throughout his career continues to be a mystery. His actions before the accident were reckless and his actions immediately after it were abominable, and someone died. I tried to get into it a few years back, and hilarious hijinks ensued from our friends on the right .) Then, as Josh Marshall shows here , Shays seems to have confused the events at Abu Ghraib...
  • ALWAYS HIGH SETTLEMENTS....

    ALWAYS HIGH SETTLEMENTS. ALWAYS. In what is only the latest of many such decisions, Pennsylvania courts decided against Wal-Mart in a 187,000 person class action suit alleging the company forced employees to work extra hours without pay and withheld rest breaks. The damages will reach into the hundreds of millions. Wal-Mart recently paid $50 million in Colorado and $172 million in California for similar suits, and is currently facing the largest gender discrimination case in history. You have to wonder about a corporate culture that seems to so routinely violate labor laws. -- Ezra Klein
  • PLAYED FOR SUCKERS.

    PLAYED FOR SUCKERS. Kevin Drum highlights the new Gallup poll showing a collapse in the GOP's typically overwhelming dominance among white religious voters. He notes at the end that "if even 5% of them stay home and another 5% switch to the Democrats, it's going to have a huge impact. David Kuo 's new book ought to help that along nicely." Indeed, Kuo's revelations aren't actually revelatory to most political observers, but a full and frank public discussion about the state of abject suckerdom to which the GOP has always confined its religious conservative base is always welcome. This time around, Tucker Carlson actually got things rolling before Kuo did. And really, noted political analyst Michael Scanlon laid the whole thing out -- the strategy, the attitude, the goals -- with pith and precision back in 2001: ""The wackos get their information through the Christian right. . . Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public...
  • CAN THIS ARGUMENT...

    CAN THIS ARGUMENT BE SAVED? In response to my claim that the exemption of women from punishment under laws banning abortion is fatally incoherent, a commenter here (as a TAPPED commenter did earlier) invokes Ronald Dworkin's argument that abortion is a "cosmic shame" that nonetheless doesn't rise to the level of murder. The commenter says: I have some sympathy for that argument even though I don't accept the premise (that abortion is at least morally problematic because it shows "disrespect for life".) Dworkin argues that this is really the position of most abortion opponents- that they do not in fact think that abortion is murder, and that they don't think this is shown through their actions. That part seems exactly right...If you have a position like this it doesn't seem implausible that one might think that abortion should be illegal, but might still think that those having abortions should not punished. I don't find that an attractive option myself, and hope I'd not find it to be...
  • TAX-EXEMPT MONEY-LAUNDERING.

    TAX-EXEMPT MONEY-LAUNDERING. The Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, led by Max Baucus , have put together a minority report (PDF) questioning the tax-exempt status of several of the non-profit organizations that apparently put dollars through the Maytag for the felonious Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff . (It should be noted that Finance committee chairman Chuck Grassley did sign off on the report.) Perhaps the biggest offender in the investigation is Grover Norquist 's Americans for Tax Reform , through which Norquist seems to have taken it upon himself to reform tax law directly by laundering the ducats marked by Abramoff for delivery to the likes of Ralph Reed . (Meanwhile, the once-cherubic face of Reed, the religious right's fallen angel, has taken on, during the course of his nefarious dealings, a certain Chucky esque quality .) From the report: Documents indicate ATR may have facilitated funds transfers to conceal the identity of Abramoff clients, possibly in exchange...
  • Are Falling Gas Prices Offsetting the Impact of Housing?

    The latest Fed Beige Book, which gives assessments on current economic conditions from the Fed's 12 regional banks, reportedly finds that the impact of falling gas prices is offsetting the impact of the weak housing market. This one doesn't sound quite right. The country buys approximately 130 billion gallons of gas annually. If we say that prices are down 80 cents a gallon from the spring peaks, this translates into savings of just over $100 billion annually. If 70 percent of this goes to consumers (a substantial portion of gasoline is used for commerical purposes), it means that lower gas prices will put another $70 billion a year in consumers pockets, compared to a situation in which gas had stayed at its peak prices. By contrast, homeowners are pulling more than $700 billion in equaity out of their homes. While the full impact of lower home prices will only be felt through time, given the small amount of equity that many homeowners have, this figure can easily fall by two-thirds,...

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