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Tuesday, July 29, 2003

A Political Triptych

I. Make a Run For the Border

The Texas Dems made another run for the border, this time when Lite Guv Dewhurst announced that the second special redistricting session would suspend the usual rules that had prevented the R's from steamrolling their psychedelic redistricting map through the Legislature. The D's apparently feared that Gov. Goodhair had plotted to unexpectedly announce the second special session, at which time the Lite Guv would order the Senate doors locked to prevent anyone from leaving.

The thing that really gets me is the Houston Chronicle's repeated use of the word "dissident" to refer to the absent Democrats. The Chronicle used the same term during the first walkout; their only other recent use of the word "dissident" is to refer to those who opposed Saddam Hussein while in power. I'll take that comparison any day.

II. I'll Take Armageddon for $400, Alex

If you think that you have a good handle on the carnage to come, try your hand at the Policy Analysis Market. It's the U.S. Government's own fantasy baseball for worldwide carnage. It allows you to buy futures contracts that pay off if you are correct in your prediction that, for instance, the Jordanian monarchy will be overthrown in the fourth quarter of 2003, or that Iran will use a nuclear device against U.S. forces on its border in 2004:

"'For instance,' Mr. Wyden said, 'you may think early on that Prime Minister X is going to be assassinated. So you buy the futures contracts for 5 cents each. As more people begin to think the person's going to be assassinated, the cost of the contract could go up, to 50 cents.

"'The payoff if he's assassinated is $1 per future. So if it comes to pass, and those who bought at 5 cents make 95 cents. Those who bought at 50 cents make 50 cents.'"

The biggest problem with the PAM, which the Bush administration has sought to fund with $8 million through 2005, is that no one believes that it's serious. But it's in deadly earnest.

"One of the two senators, Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, said the idea seemed so preposterous that he had trouble persuading people it was not a hoax. 'Can you imagine,' Mr. Dorgan asked, 'if another country set up a betting parlor so that people could go in — and is sponsored by the government itself — people could go in and bet on the assassination of an American political figure?'

"After Mr. Dorgan and his fellow critic, Ron Wyden of Oregon, spoke out, the Pentagon sought to play down the importance of a program for which the Bush administration has sought $8 million through 2005. The White House also altered the Web site so that the potential events to be considered by the market that were visible earlier in the day at www.policyanalysismarket.org could no longer be seen."

Sigh.

Just as some people play lottery numbers that have great personal significance to them, such as their child's birthday, I wonder if there will be a massive influx of people trying to play the straight Dispensationalist-Revelation view from "Left Behind." The bidding on a One World Religion Headed By A Man Who Survives A Head Wound will skyrocket.

III. So If Bush Posed In Speedos, Would That End The Controversy?

As usual, a good column from Paul Krugman in the Times today -- this time about the different fates that have befallen Bush and Blair as a result of the belated realization that our stated justifications for invading Iraq were false:

"But while Mr. Bush's poll numbers have fallen back to prewar levels, he hasn't suffered a Blair-like collapse. Why?

One answer, surely, is the kid-gloves treatment Mr. Bush has always received from the news media, a treatment that became downright fawning after Sept. 11. There was a reason Mr. Blair's people made such a furious attack on the ever-skeptical BBC.

Another answer may be that in modern America, style trumps substance. Here's what Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, said in a speech last week: 'To gauge just how out of touch the Democrat leadership is on the war on terror, just close your eyes and try to imagine Ted Kennedy landing that Navy jet on the deck of that aircraft carrier.' To say the obvious, that remark reveals a powerful contempt for the public: Mr. DeLay apparently believes that the nation will trust a man, independent of the facts, because he looks good dressed up as a pilot. But it's possible that he's right.

What must worry the Bush administration, however, is a third possibility: that the American people gave Mr. Bush their trust because in the aftermath of Sept. 11, they desperately wanted to believe the best about their president. If that's all it was, Mr. Bush will eventually face a terrible reckoning."

 8:55 AM

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