- Physorg: Human precursors went to sea, team says
130,000 year-old stone tools have been found on Crete. What with being an island, that means that hominids that predate homo sapiens managed to cross open water. That was an ability that researchers had long chalked up to being one of those things that makes us special, but it looks like that's not so. If this turns out to be true, it'll really shake up our collective understanding of early hominid history.
- New York Times: Crashing the Tea Party
A Notre Dame political scientist and a Harvard professor of public policy (Robert Putnam, no less) have interviewed thousands of people to understand who comprises the Tea Party and what Americans think of them. The short version is that your average Tea Party member is a white, Republican, Christian, social conservative who doesn't like blacks or immigrants, and places a higher value on establishing an American theocracy than on reducing the size of government. Their values are almost entirely out of step with most Americans’. It is perhaps suitable, then, that public opinion of the Tea Party is awful. They're less popular than Republicans, Democrats, atheists, and—ironically—Muslims. On a related note, remember when the Tea Party pretended to be "nonpartisan"?
- Library of Congress: Lincoln and Johnson Poster
What strikes me about this 1864 Lincoln/Johnson campaign poster is that as much ink is used naming the electors as the candidates. Then, as now, we don't actually vote for president but, instead, we vote for a slate of electors who will represent our state in the Electoral College; it is those 538 people who actually vote for the president. These days, that's information that would surprise many people to learn, whereas in 1864, apparently it was just an accepted part of the electoral process.
- PolitiFact Virginia: Jamie Radtke says George Allen had 40,000 earmarks while senator
Does anybody take this woman seriously anymore?
- CNN: Conservative group sues over bin Laden death photos
Although I think it would be politically unwise and generally disgusting to release the photos of Osama bin Laden's corpse, I think there's a good argument to be made that the federal government is obliged to release them in response to a request, under FOIA.
- Mother Jones: Huckabee Adviser—Obama is a Soviet Spy
Janet Porter, Mike Huckabee's top advisor, claims that President Obama is a Soviet sleeper agent, created for the purpose of overthrowing the US from within. Somebody should break the news to her about the USSR.
- Richmond Times-Dispatch: 1,100 felons regain rights in McDonnell’s first year
Color me surprised. I would happily have put down $50 saying that McDonnell wouldn't restore the civil rights to but maybe 10% as many felons as Gov. Tim Kaine Kaine did. He's on pace to match Kaine. This is still a terrible system—we're one of just two states in the nation that still give only the governor the power to restore rights.
- PolitiFact Virginia: Virginia lottery claims all profits since 1999 have gone to education
Turns out that this is basically true. I'd wondered.
- Washington Post: In Utah, Sen. Hatch courts tea partyers one by one in quest for survival
I'm not what you'd call a fan of Sen. Orrin Hatch, but it's depressing to see how low he's stopping to kowtow to the most extreme elements of his party. He's taking to swearing in his speeches because it makes the tea partiers happy. He's been consulting a muscle car builder on his votes several times each day, apparently because he wants to make the guy feel special. He's having to apologize for his decades-long friendship with Sen. Ted Kennedy, because this bunch sees cooperation or even friendship with Democrats as failure. This article neatly summarizes everything that's wrong with politics. While claiming—weakly—to have (silently) opposed President Bush's policies, they're reproducing President Bush's scorched-earth politics.
- Pinboard: Anatomy of a Crushing
I have come to the conclusion that my future projects must include a revenue stream. It's swell to create a service for a community good, but without a revenue stream, that's committing to doing something forever because it once seemed like a good idea. That'd just dumb. The low-priced social bookmark service Pinboard (which I'm using to post this right now) has a great model that illustrates how a revenue stream can make a service significantly better without significantly reducing the accessibility of it. Also, I just love every detail here about how Pinboard is designed and how it was created, because it's precisely how I develop, for better or for worse. I thought I was the only one!
Jeff Clark, the far-right independent candidate in the 5 CD race, is considering filing a lawsuit to force his way into debates with Congressman Perriello and challenger Robert Hurt:
He has been working with the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization headquartered in Albemarle County, to challenge his exclusion from the debates. Clark said the organization may file a legal challenge to force his access into the debates.
What we’re seeing here is Clark tossing his professed beliefs out the window in support of his own political ambitions. Like the rest of the Tea Party, Clark is all about the supremacy of private property…unless it’s somebody else’s private property that he wants. Next week, Perriello and Hurt will be debating on Roanoke’s WSLS, a TV station owned by Media General. This is not a public resource. WSLS is not government-run. The FCC does not require that media outlets provide equal time. Clark has no more legal right to appear on WSLS than he does to walk into my front door and have a seat at my kitchen table. (Whether it is right for Clark to be excluded from debates is another matter.) If he were a socialist candidate I’d figure, “hey, at least he’s consistent.” Kelo, anyone?
The Tea Party talks a good game, but when push comes to shove, these guys are just politicians, in the worst sense of the world. This has to be a tough lesson for the political newbies backing this guy. Here they thought they were overthrowing the established order with an idealistic guy who would stand up for what’s right, no matter what. But Clark’s just another hypocritical political hack. Welcome to politics, kids.
It requires serious mental gymnastics to describe the Obama administration — particularly the Obama administration of recent weeks, which has given away billions to Wall Street and bent over backwards to avoid nationalization and pursue a policy that preserves the private for-profit status of the bailed-out banks — as a militaristic dictatorship of anti-wealth, anti-private property forces. You have to somehow explain the Geithner/Paulson decisions to hand over trillions of taxpayer dollars to the rich bankers as the formal policy expression of progressive rage against the rich. Not easy. In order to pull off this argument, in fact, you have to grease the wheels with a lot of apocalyptic language and imagery, invoking as Beck did massive pictures of Stalin and Orwell and Mussolini (side by side with shots of Geithner, Obama and Bernanke), scenes of workers storming the Winter Palace interspersed with anti-AIG protests, etc. — and then maybe you have to add a crazy new twist, like switching from complaints of “socialism” to warnings of “fascism.” Rhetorically, this is the equivalent of trying to paint a picture by hurling huge handfuls of paint at the canvas. It’s desperate, last-ditch-ish behavior.
My favorite bit is this:
You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit.
To be fair, many people don’t vote in their own self-interest. (Look at me: I’m a straight, married, white, American-born, middle-class male. By all rights, I should be a Republican.) So we wind up with a few hundred people participating in a protest, organized by the wealthy, who are protesting tax increases for those wealthy people and tax cuts for said protesters. Strange? Sure. But it’s within the confines of what passes for normal in modern American politics.