(For a news source that requires a username and password, use "thelofty" for both.)
(* means blog has been updated recently)
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
PM Executed Prisoners
Understandably the new Iraqi government will need to prove its security credentials to a skeptical population, but should that really involve the Prime Minister himself executing prisoners? This is chillingly similar to the deeds of a certain past president of Iraq (via Kevin Drum):
Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.
They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.
They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death".
The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.
But the informants told the Herald that Dr Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the Prime Minister's personal security team watched in stunned silence.
Is this really what Iraq needs? Another strongman who executes prisoners? Expect to hear more on this in the coming days...
Now we know that there are at least 48 members of the U.S. Senate who favor enshrining discrimination in the U.S. Constitution.
Today's vote - a procedural vote on the "Federal Marriage Amendment," not a straight up or down vote on the amendment itself since Republicans couldn't muster the numbers for it - closed debate on the amendment by a vote of 50-48.
Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum had this choice quote which highlighted quite clearly his lack of real priorities:
"I would argue that the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of marriage hangs in the balance," said Sen. Rick Santorum, a leader in the fight to approve the measure. "Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?"
No Rick, the real homeland security is actually called Homeland Security. I know, shocking. Protecting Americans from terrorism by allocating the necessary resources to law enforcement agencies, counter-terrorism efforts and state officials who deal with the threats that face our country - that's the duty of a senator, not to tell other people how to run their lives. Controlling the relationships of other Americans may be a favorite past-time of the Religious Right, but it should not be on the agenda of the U.S. government.
Personally I believe we are in an inextricable mess. Ever since the word "marriage" was first used as a legal term in secular affairs, we have been headed towards this "culture war" of nonsense. Marriage is a religious term and should stay as such. As far as any government is concerned, the relationship between two people should be called a "union." The state needn't recognize any religious relationship - that is for the church, and the church alone, to confer.
Unfortunately we have been calling the civil relationship "marriage" for far too long now for our whole society to backtrack to where we should be. As such we are stuck with this stupid battle between Religious Right fanatics - led by Senator Santorum - and committed, devoted and loving couples who simply want state recognition of their relationship. What a tangled web we have weaved.
According to a new round of Zogby state polls, Kerry would win all the states Al Gore won in 2000 plus Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire and Ohio. Admittedly many of these swing states are within the margin of error and likely will remain so right up to Election Day, but the Edwards bounce seems to be real.
The numbers for Ohio are as such:
(MoE = 2.7%, N = 1,321)
Kerry - 48.6% Bush - 47.9%
Nader - 0.8%
Zogby polls are known for their tiny undecided numbers. The Zogby method aggressively encourages poll respondents to pick a "leaner" or to otherwise make up their mind. That means that these numbers are quite volatile and could shift with the breeze.
One state of particular note is Florida. I was ready to give up on Florida and instead focus on other, easier states. Florida's size makes it an expensive state to campaign in and the hot button issues that will help Kerry, such as the limping economy or the Iraq War are not as pressing to the retired community. Nevertheless, Kerry has actually beaten the margin of error in Florida and is ahead by six:
(MoE = 2.9%, N = 1,156)
Kerry - 50.8% Bush - 44.2%
Nader - 2.9%
Hopefully it will stay that way.
We still have a long way to go, but at least today things are looking good.
For no other reason than to enliven the Democratic ticket's spouses, John Edwards was a great pick. His wife, Elizabeth Edwards is the exact opposite of Teresa Heinz Kerry. She makes sense when she talks. While she does not give her husband much political advice, she does help keep him on the right track. She is the backbone to his smiley demeanor; the key to his success.
Now that her husband has been picked as the Vice Presidential candidate, we can expect a flurry of new in-depth biographical sketches from the media about Elizabeth Edwards. One of note is in today's Chicago Tribune.
With her level-headedness and initiative she will provide a sharp contrast with the aloof, odd and unpredictable Teresa Heinz Kerry. For that reason alone, John Kerry made a great Vice Presidential pick.
The latest numbers out of Ohio are from a June poll by Rasmussen. They show little change from a month prior, though they do not include the poll bounce that is expected from the Vice Presidential announcement of John Edwards last week. Here are the pre-Edwards numbers:
(MoE = 4%)
Bush - 46% Kerry - 42%
Other - 5%
Undecided - 7%
I'm looking forward to the next round of polling. I'm expecting something around a 48%-44% for Kerry from Rasmussen. But regardless of what happens now, the smart money hasn't been bet yet. This one will go down to the wire.