Saturday, June 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Insult humbles French politician

A row has erupted in France after a senior leader of the governing UMP party was caught on camera calling a female political opponent a “bitch”.

“This is no way to talk about a woman or anyone else,” said President Nicolas Sarkozy. The condemnation was echoed by female Justice Minister Rachida Dati.

The politician, Patrick Devedjian, made the remark while congratulating a party colleague for ousting the woman MP.

He has since said he “regretted his inappropriate interjection”.

Especially since it was captured on videotape…

And most especially because:

The footage quickly found its way onto the internet.

Call him the French George Allen, I guess.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via McClatchy: Thompson gets mixed reviews in New Hampshire premiere

When Fred Thompson made his debut on the presidential stage here this week, he left some Republicans thinking he needs more work before his nascent campaign matches the media hype it’s gotten in advance.

The former Tennessee senator with the baritone drawl showed up Thursday in New Hampshire, the site of the first primary voting, and gave a speech that lasted only nine minutes, skipping over hot-button issues such as Iraq and immigration to invoke platitudes about freedom and strength.

He left more than a few Republicans disappointed.

This is, of course, Thompson’s main problem: living up to the hype. As I have noted before, it is wholly unclear as to what all of Thompson’s popularity is built upon (except dissatisfaction with the other GOP candidates).

Aside from the fact that he is better known than most politicians due to his acting career, exactly why are so many Republicans swooning over him? Indeed, to this point I think that the following summarizes what I have seen from Thompson:

“He’s got a nice voice. But there was nothing there. He’s for apple pie and motherhood. He’s going to have to say what he’s for.” [said Richard Heitmiller of Nashua.]


“He looks good onstage, but I don’t know if he has the gravitas,” said Kathleen Williamson, a conservative Roman Catholic from North Weare. “It seems like he’s trying to win over conservatives, but I’m still not sure he has the credentials. I’m worried he’s trying to get by on his celebrity.”


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By Steven L. Taylor

Some regular readers may find the second photo in particular to tickle some memories…

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Friday, June 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Some of you may have read Jonah Goldberg’s piece in praise (and with some criticism) of Dick Cheney from earlier in the week. I read it, but really didn’t have much of anything to say about it at the time (although I will say that my views on Cheney are better captured–although by no means perfectly–by David Broder’s piece this week).

At any rate, Goldberg’s piece led to a guest appearance on Tucker Carlson’s MSNBC show (no, I haven’t ever watched the show either). Glenn Greenwald picks out some quotes of note from the interchange, and several of them struck me as odd (Greenwald’s comments on secrecy and trusting government are worth reading).

Some of the quotes leaped out at me, and wanting to see them in context, I surfed over to the MSNBC transcript. The quotes which especially got my attention are in the following extremely odd (in my opinion, anyway) discussion:

CARLSON: Have you ever seen Dick Cheney give a speech? I mean, the contempt for the audience is palpable. He doesn‘t, he doesn‘t—he tells a joke that‘s written into his speech, he doesn‘t wait for them to laugh, he just blows right through it.

GOLDBERG: I know, I—see, I love that. He looks like he should be eating a sandwich while he‘s doing it, you know. I mean, it‘s just this sort of like matter-of-fact, eating lunch over the sink. Oh yes, and by the way, here is my view of the world. I love that.

CARLSON: Every time he speaks, I have the same thought. I can just see him yelling, hey you kids, get off my lawn. I love it.
And I‘m glad to find someone else who will stand up for Dick Cheney. You are almost—you‘re almost alone in this nation of 300 million.

Jonah, I really appreciate you coming on, thank you.

[Emphasis mine].

Now, can someone explain to me why anyone would want an elected official to hold any audience to whom he is speaking in contempt? Why is that a good thing?

In regards to being the grumpy guy who yells at the kids to get off his lawn, that might be amusing in a sitcom character, but I don’t see why that is the demeanor that one would admire in the Vice President of the United States.

I do understand the partisan attack dog element of Cheney’s personality that would appeal to Goldberg and Carlson, but when are people going to realize that governing is not just about scoring partisan points? Goldberg and Carlson are both very concerned about the War on Terror–do they really think that the most effective counter-terrorism policies will be generated in an atmosphere where one of the chief architects/public faces of that policy demonstrates palpable contempt for his audiences?

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By Steven L. Taylor

The Hill has a piece on largely a procedural/symbolic vote on the Fairness Doctrine: Fairness Doctrine hammered 309-115. This is in the context of some talk by some members of the Congress about possible reviving the Fairness Doctrine. For example:

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Tuesday that the government should revive the Fairness Doctrine, a policy crafted in 1929 that required broadcasters to balance political content with different points of view.

“It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine,” he said. “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, said this week that she would review the constitutional and legal issues involved in re-establishing the doctrine.

Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic Party’s 2024 presidential nominee, also said recently that the Fairness Doctrine should return.

There are numerous problems with the so-called Fairness Doctrine, not the least of which is that there aren’t just two sides to every story, but rather multiple ones. This entire discussion is framed within the idea that there is the Democratic/Liberal side and the Republican/Conservative side and that that somehow encompasses all there is to say on a given issue. That is simply not the case.

Beyond that, however, the bottom line of the Fairness Doctrine is that it requires government regulation of the content of broadcasts, as someone has to determine if the content of radio broadcasts is, indeed, “fair.” To me, such regulation is blatantly unconstitutional and undemocratic–it simply is not the purview of bureaucrats to sit in judgment over what should, and should not, be broadcast–especially in terms of political speech.

Further, when it comes to the Congress debating and deciding on this issue, the bottom line isn’t about fairness or even free speech: Democrats don’t like the fact that AM-based talk radio is dominated by conservative commentators and Republicans like it. As such, most positions on the Hill are dictated by those facts, not by principle. That is not an environment in which good policy is likely to emerge, assuming that such is possible in this case (and I do not).

More evidence that this is about nothing more than conservative dominance of talk radio: I don’t hear any discussion of making broadcast TV “balanced” (and they are regulated by the FCC as well). Heck, if all we want is to make sure that “both” sides are heard, why aren’t we talking about fairness in print, cable and on the internet?

Really, Durbin and his “old-fashioned attitude” isn’t about citizens getting all the requisite information needed to make good decisions, it is about using the power of the federal government to try and force people to hear what Durbin wants them to hear. And note that I say “try”–a new Fairness Doctrine might result in a radio station carrying Rush Limbaugh to carry Al Franken as well, for example, but do we really think that the Limbaugh listener is then going to listen to Franken, or vice versa? And, for that matter, should either Limbaugh or Franken really be considered serious education on the issues of the day?

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the citizen to inform themselves from the panoply of available sources of said information. And there is no avoiding the fact that most citizens will gravitate towards sources of information that they find the most palatable–and that means sources that are ideologically agreeable. Do I wish that citizens would sample a wider array of sources of information before forming hardened opinions? Yes, I would. However, is it the job of the government to try and force that issue? No, it most decidedly is not.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Police avert car bomb ‘carnage’

A car bomb planted in central London would have caused “carnage” if it had exploded, police sources have said.

A controlled explosion was carried out on the car, packed with 60 litres of petrol, gas cylinders and nails, in the early hours in Haymarket.

Police were alerted by an ambulance crew who saw smoke coming from the silver Mercedes, parked near the Tiger Tiger nightclub.

“International elements” are believed to be involved, the BBC has been told.

A little drama for the new PM and his cabinet on their first full day in office.

The story is breaking and developing.

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Thursday, June 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: US: Chinese seafood detained for safety

Imports of five species of farmed Chinese seafood will be detained until they can be shown free of potentially dangerous antibiotics, federal health officials said Thursday.

The Food and Drug Administration said it would detain the catfish, basa, shrimp, dace and eel after repeated testing has turned up contamination with drugs unapproved in the United States for use in farmed seafood.

This is just the latest in a string of stories calling into question to safety of products from China. I continue to think that China is running the risk of setting back their economic expansion considerably if their products acquire a reputation for lack of safety.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Today’s shocking headline from Reuters: California has worst U.S. traffic: study.

Granted, I haven’t actually lived in California in 17 years and 10 days (and there’s a reason I know that with such precision), but the traffic sucked then and the growth in roads certainly haven’t matched the population growth. Further, my sister still lives there and I get frequent reports of her drive from Mission Viejo to Costa Mesa.

And I found this “finding” to be rather amusing:

Drivers in four lucky states enjoyed zero congestion: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

I am not an expert in this area, but I am guessing that the general lack of people in those states might have something to do with the lack of traffic…

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By Steven L. Taylor

Journeys of a shared life – The Boston Globe

The destination for this journey in the summer of 1983 was his parents’ cottage on the Canadian shores of Lake Huron.


Before beginning the drive, Mitt Romney put Seamus, the family’s hulking Irish setter, in a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon’s roof rack. He’d built a windshield for the carrier, to make the ride more comfortable for the dog.


The ride was largely what you’d expect with five brothers, ages 13 and under, packed into a wagon they called the ”white whale.”
As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ”Dad!” he yelled. ”Gross!” A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who’d been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.

As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.

How is the ability to wash dog poop off the family station wagon evidence of much of anything?

Meanwhile, as James Joyner notes at OTB, the anecdote has hacked off some GOP dog lovers (and some non-GOPers as well).

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By Steven L. Taylor

GWU economist Robert Dunn writes in TCS today about How the Mexican Immigration Problem Will Solve Itself.

By this he means that the demographic trends mean that there will be a smaller pool of young Mexicans looking for jobs in the future, and therefore less immigration to the United States:

There has been a stunning decline in the fertility rate in Mexico, which means that, in a few years there will not be many teenagers in Mexico looking for work in the United States or anywhere else. If this trend in the fertility rate continues, Mexico will resemble Japan and Italy – rapidly aging populations with too few young workers to support the economy.

According to the World Bank’s 2024 Annual Development Indicators, in 1990 Mexico had a fertility rate of 3.3 children per female, but by 2024, that number had fallen by 36 percent to 2.1, which is the Zero Population Growth rate. That is an enormous decline in the number of Mexican infants per female.


There have been significant declines in fertility rates across Latin America, but Mexico’s has been unusually sharp. In El Salvador, another country from which immigrants come, a 3.7 rate in 1990 became 2.5 by 2024. Guatemala is now at 4.3, but that is far lower than it was in 1990. Jamaica, another source of illegal U. S. immigrants, has fallen from 2.9 to 2.4 over the same period. Chile and Costa Rica, at 2.0, are actually slightly below a replacement rate. Trinidad and Tobago, at 1.6, is well below ZPG. For all of Latin American and the Caribbean, a rate of 3.2 in 1990 fell to 2.4 in 2024, a decline of 25 percent.

It is an interesting point and worth thinking about as we try to make assessments about policy.

He also makes a salient point about US influence over Mexican culture in the piece, which I also commented upon over at this post OTB. (Although I am not sure I buy Dunn’s statement that US influence over Mexico is what had led to the decline in fertility rates in Mexico).

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