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Via Steve Benen, an awesome or rather horrific photo-set of the oil’s arrival on the Louisiana coast.

We hear about fears of its effects on the American Gulf coast, and of what might happen as it moves out into the Atlantic — but has there been much discussion of its effects on other Caribbean countries? This map, for instance, shows that it’s expected to move past Havana and the north coast of Cuba.

Update 5/27: optimistic reports.


are having trouble with mice:

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: I thank the noble Lord for his reply. How many calls have there been to the mouse helpline? Has the accuracy of that information been checked, given that the staff report seeing mice on a daily basis at the moment in the eating areas? Has consideration been given to having hypoallergenic cats on the estate, given the history? Miss Wilson, when she was a resident superintendent in this Palace, had a cat that apparently caught up to 60 mice a night. The corpses were then swept up in the morning. Finally, does the noble Lord recognise the fire hazard that mice pose, because they eat through insulating cables? It would be a tragedy for this beautiful Palace to burn down for lack of a cat.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, there are a number of questions there. I cannot give an answer to the number of calls made to the mouse helpline-if that is its title. I suspect that it would not be a good use of resources to count them up. But I am well aware of the problem of mice, as I said in my Answer. It is something that we take seriously.

As for getting a cat, I answered a Question from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, last week on this matter. I was not aware that such a thing as a hypoallergenic cat existed-I do not know whether our cat at home is one of those. There are a number of reasons why it is not a good idea to have cats. First, they would ingest mouse poison when eating poisoned mice, which would not be very nice for them, and there would be nothing to keep them where they are needed or stop them walking around the House on desks in offices or on tables in restaurants and bars-and maybe even in the Chamber itself. Therefore, we have ruled out at this stage the possibility of acquiring a cat, or cats.

Further discussion reveals interesting insights into mouse psychology:

As I speak here this afternoon, the Bishops’ Bar and the Guest Room are being hoovered, so we can get rid of the food scraps from lunch. If you were a mouse, you would rather eat the crumbs of a smoked salmon sandwich than the bait.

Some low-grade British snottiness undone by some rather high-grade British self-deprecation:

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: Why should I and noble Lords trust the Executive to deal with mice when they cannot deal with the economy?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I do not actually deal with the economy. I am glad to say that that would be above my pay grade, whereas trying to deal with the mice is probably just about right for me.

And, finally, the awesome revelation of a “mouse helpline,” if an ineffective one:

Indeed, I invited Members of the House to telephone when they saw mice. The trouble is that when the person at the other end of the helpline goes to check this out, very often the mouse has gone elsewhere.

Truly, the sun never sets on the British empire.


wheres_waldo.jpgSouth Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has been tipped as one of the rising stars of the GOP, with potential presidential hopes in 2012. That makes the events of the last week all the more strange. Sanford disappeared. No one knew where he was: not his wife, not his office, not the Governor’s security detail. He was gone. The stories put out got stranger and stranger. First, his office said, he had gone off to work on some writing projects by himself. Then, he was walking the Appalachian Trail to clear his mind after the recent legislative session. The office did mention that his last call to them had been traced to a cellphone tower near Atlanta, which led immediately to the question of why his office had been tracking him via cell phone towers.

Nonetheless, everyone insisted, things were just fine. Sanford would come back on Wednesday to resume the business of government in South Carolina, which had essentially been in abeyance in his absence, as he had not handed over power to the Lt. Governor before leaving.

Then, things got even weirder. Sanford was not on the Appalachian Trail, or in Atlanta. He was in Argentina:

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was in Argentina during a dayslong unexplained absence, not hiking the Appalachian Trail as his staff told the public when state leaders raised questions about his whereabouts, the governor told a newspaper

What he was doing there remains unclear. The governor claimed he was simply driving along the coast line in Argentina. The Appalachian Trail, his original destination, proved unattractive:

The Republican governor told the South Carolina newspaper he decided at the last minute to go to the South American country. The governor says he had considered hiking on the Appalachian Trail but wanted to do something “exotic.”

So he flew to Argentina to drive the coast. The problem, as the Associated Press pointed out, is that driving the coast in Argentina is not all that easy:

Trying to make such a drive could frustrate a weekend visitor to Argentina. In Buenos Aires, the Avenida Costanera is the only coastal road, and it’s less than two miles long. Reaching coastal resorts to the south requires a drive of nearly four hours on an inland highway with views of endless cattle ranches. To the north is a river delta of islands reached only by boat.

The Governor did not reveal if he had seen either Waldo, or Carmen Sandiego.

Buenos Aires
He was down there, somewhere

Newest mental toy:

  1. Go to Google.
  2. Type in the beginning of a common phrase (e.g., “how do I..”, “where are…”, “is barack…”)
  3. Look at the drop-down list of suggested searches.
  4. If appropriate, laugh riotously.
  5. e.g.,
..and I'm reasonably sure Google's suggestions are based on the frequency of the search...

..and I'm reasonably sure Google's suggestions are based on the frequency of the search terms being used...

(Also interesting, but less amusing, the number of times the suggestion for $foo is “…pregnant.”)

Post your finds in comments!

ciaseal.pngThe CIA has a kid’s page. So does the CIA, for that matter, but I find the former much more disturbing. The kids’ page of the Central Intelligence Agency includes a “Bird’s Eye View of CIA History,” narrated by “Aerial, the ace photography pigeon.” There are links to the CIA “Hall of Fame,” which–disappointingly–includes only non-classified information (I know about Harry Truman and George H.W. Bush! Tell me cool secret things).

Interested in a job at the CIA? For all those 6th-12 graders who might be eager to join, the agency says “Seriously, Just Say ‘No’“:

For those of you who can pledge to stay away from illegally and improperly using drugs and alcohol, there are student opportunities immediately available at the CIA for the best and brightest.

Finally, there are games. There are puzzles, word finds, and “break the code.” “Break the code” includes a challenge involving the “Enigma Code” which I’m pretty sure requires an invasion of Poland to solve. Additional games include the “Aerial Analysis Challenge,” and the “Photo Analysis Challenge,” which involve skills useful later for those interested in a career in Bomb Damage Assessment.

There are also resources for parents and teachers, including lesson plans. “Adaptable for students of any age,” these include “Examples of Problem Solving, Myths about the CIA vs. Reality, Intelligence’s Role in War, Code and Code Breaking, the Importance of Accurate Communications,” and my personal favorite “Gathering and Analyzing Information,” which includes the following:

To begin the lesson, the teacher will hand out the “Intelligence Cycle” print out and discuss its five steps: Planning & Direction, Collection, Processing, Analysis & Production, and Dissemination.

After the students understand the “Intelligence Cycle,” the teacher should write the following on the blackboard: “Back in my day….” Begin a discussion by asking students how many of them have heard their parents or grandparents use that phrase in conversation and what they learned about their family’s past from those reminiscences.

Next, the teacher should ask students to pick a parent or grandparent they can interview before the next class and write three paragraphs comparing the student’s current day-to-day life to their subject’s life at the same age. Discuss what kind of questions to ask to see the differences in the student’s life compared to their subject’s life at the same point.

Whether the child is allowed to use enhanced interview techniques on the chosen grandparent is not specified.

[Editor’s note: Seth Masket, a good friend from my days at the University of Denver, has a new book out. He also has this post, about California’s budget politics, for us. Thanks, Seth, for doing this.]

During a difficult economic year in which the state faced a severe budget shortfall, California’s Republican governor worked with Democratic leaders in the state legislature to craft a budget that contained a mixture of tax increases and service cuts. The Republican party stood together on the vote, with the exception of one holdout in the Senate.

Sound familiar? Actually, the year was 1967. Many of the story’s details are familiar because they recur from time to time in California. The real difference, though is the fate of the Republican state senator who refused to vote with his party. Instead of being driven out of politics, John Schmitz was renominated by the Republicans and reelected by his Orange County district the following year. Also, all the other Republicans in the state Senate voted for the budget. Schmitz refused go along with the tax increases that the rest of the Republicans in the senate, and Governor Ronald Reagan, found acceptable.

The situation in California is notably different today. The state legislature still requires a two-thirds vote in both houses to pass budgets, but that rubicon has proven steadily more difficult to cross. Virtually all Republicans will oppose any tax increase; any Republican willing to cross party lines and vote for a Democratic tax will find himself out of work before the next election. This happened after the 2003 budget stalemate; four Republican Assemblymen were dispatched to private life because of their votes in favor of Governor Gray Davis’ tax hike. Notably, none were dispatched in the next general election. None made it that far. Most faced difficult primary challenges from their own party and either lost or decided to retire.

The same thing happened earlier this year when Democratic legislative leaders worked with Gov. Schwarzenegger to produce a compromise package of service cuts and tax increases. The Democrats once again found a few Republicans to cross party lines, and once again those Republicans are being purged from the party. The state party has cut off funds for the six apostates, each of whom now faces a recall petition.

The treatment of these lawmakers sends an unmistakable signal to future lawmakers who would consider crossing party lines: the wrong vote will be your last.

One could blame any of California’s political peculiarities — the two-thirds budget rule, initiatives that have placed much of the budget off limits, term limits, etc. — for the budget stalemates, but the fact is that they wouldn’t occur if the parties were less disciplined. Note what has happened in the parties over the past sixty years. The figure below charts the mean DW-NOMINATE score, which is a measure of roll call liberalism/conservatism, for Democrats and Republicans in the state Assembly:

The parties have moved farther apart, with the Republicans becoming more conservative and the Democrats steadily more liberal. Compromise, which is usually necessary when passing a budget by a two-thirds margin, becomes almost impossible in this environment.

Why are the parties moving apart? (Self-promotion coming.) This is something I explore in my new book. Part of it can be explained by national ideological trends. But part of it is a function of who is running the parties.

California’s political parties are run at the most local level by informal networks of activists, donors, and a few key officeholders. These people work together to pick candidates they like and provide those candidates with endorsements, money, and expertise that can put them over the top in the next primary election, and they deny other candidates these same resources. Because these actors are relatively ideologically extreme, so are the candidates they select. If a politician they put in office strays too far from the principles they hold dear, they can deprive that politician of her job by withholding funding, by running a more principled challenger in the next primary, or, in the most extreme cases, by organizing a recall.

This informal style of organizing parties is not unique to California but fits particularly well there because of state rules limiting the formal parties’ participation in politics. As the informal parties have grown more organized, largely since the 1960s, the legislative parties have moved further apart. While there are still plenty of moderate legislative districts in the state, there are almost no state legislators who could accurately be described as moderate; the penalty for moderation is too high.

Should Californians reject Proposition 1A on May 19th, we’ll no doubt see another round of budget negotiations in the legislature. These will be made difficult by the party operatives on the right (who will punish any Republican who votes for a tax increase) and the party operatives on the left (who will punish any Democrat who votes to eviscerate key social programs). Partisanship makes legislative progress much more challenging, particularly during times of divided government. This is the reason the state keeps coming up with short term methods of financing its deficits and kicking them down the field for a few more years rather than actually addressing its budget shortfalls — given the political climate, it has no other choice.

This is certainly not to suggest that parties are the cause of California’s problems. The state more or less tried bipartisanship in the early 20th century. The result? Corruption. But while strong parties can keep a tab on corruption, they carry their own burdens. They aren’t necessarily the problem, but they can make other problems worse.


From the “Official Account of the Military Operations in China, 1900-1901” (PRO WO 33/284) compiled by Major E.W.M. Norie, Middlesex Regiment, page 113:

Between the 21st and 23rd July eleven English and American members of the China Inland Mission were murdered at Ch’u-chou by the local train-bands, which had been organized to defend the town against a rising of the secret society of Vegetarians.

Italics original.

A couple of links:

  • The building housing the archives of the city of Cologne has collapsed. “Two or three” people may have been killed; the material destroyed includes the “minutes of all town council meetings held since 1376” and the papers of Heinrich Böll.
  • And a fresh episode of horror in Zimbabwe….

If I’m President Obama, I’m steering clear of Ford’s Theater, thank you very much. I mean, supporting arts and culture is one thing, but tempting fate is quite another.

The problems with getting on there on the Internet, the Facebook, and the Twitter:

For security reasons, the congressional delegation led by House Minority Leader John Boehner to Iraq today was supposed to be secret. Everything had been going fine in that regard. Even media outlets that knew of the trip, like the Congressional Quarterly, kept a lid on the news.

That was, until Rep. Peter Hoekstra twittered his arrival into Baghdad. “Just landed in Baghdad. I believe it may be first time I’ve had bb service in Iraq. 11th trip here,” he sent from his BlackBerry.

@petehoekstra: dude that was supposed to be a secret!!1!

via Henley.

So I watched Obama’s subliminal message to Kill Whitey! last night. And it was great in a high-gloss, reach-out-to-the-undecided-heartland kind of way. But then, I made a really big mistake. I kept the tv on for a few minutes of Larry King and then a few more of Christopher Matthews. I know, I know, bad move. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure that Obama hypnotized me to enter self-destruct mode. If he can get The Man to take himself out, the Army of Black Liberation — made up largely of the Fruit of Islam and the S1Ws — he has waiting in the wings will save ammo on January 20th. Which means that budget surpluses are just around the corner!

Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t answer until the end. Also, the bear’s a nice touch.


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