July 18th, in the Washington Post (via):

If the movement to confront climate change is perceived as partisan, anti-capitalist and hostile to human life, it is likely to fail, causing suffering for many, including the ice bears. And so the question arises: Will the environment survive the environmentalists?

July 18th, in the New York Sun (via):

Today, we need sophisticated policies that weigh costs and benefits, not more warnings. Ironically, the very success of environmental alarmism has convinced many of us that the environment is too important to be left to the environmentalists.

clean finance

I’ve never followed New York politics, so when the Eliot Spitzer scandal broke, I didn’t know much about Spitzer’s earlier career. I was in New York at the time and I followed the coverage fairly closely for about a month – just until a little after it stopped being a major story. Today I was catching up on some old New Yorker reading and I came across this, which I didn’t see mentioned in any of the post-scandal stories I read:

Perhaps the most significant support came from his family. The 1994 campaign had been funded in large part by a $4.3-million bank loan that Spitzer took out, using as collateral some apartments that he owned; he told the press that he was servicing the loan with his own income. In 1998, a few days before Election Day, in a nasty race with the incumbent, Dennis Vacco, he admitted that he had been paying off the bank with a loan his father had given him on generous terms. In effect, he’d received a $4.3-million campaign donation from his father, which is well in excess of family donation limits, and lied about it. (The Board of Elections declined to investigate.) Michael Goodwin, a columnist at the News, asked Spitzer why he’d lied, and Spitzer told him, according to Goodwin, “I had to”—a phrase that Spitzer’s detractors have lorded over him ever since, as a kind of shorthand for a streak of dishonesty and hypocrisy. (Spitzer says that he doesn’t remember any such conversation.) Nonetheless, after a hotly contested recount, Spitzer won.

From earlier in the article, which came out in the December 10, 2007 issue, when it looked like he’d have a full term in office:

Spitzer’s agenda, broadly and loftily speaking, is to make the workings of Albany more transparent: to disentangle the corrosive influence of the special interests and to combat, if not eliminate, the nest-feathering that flourishes in the dark. Campaign-finance reform is an essential part of this.

That said, had he been successful in this reform it probably would have been a good thing, whatever the details of his own past campaigns.


I don’t know the politics of Ted Turner, but I saw in the listings that this movie was playing on Turner Classic Movies last night. I’d never heard of it before. I’ve still never seen it.

“how does it keep up with the news like that?”

I just opened a fortune cookie to find this advice:

The most direct approach isn’t always the best. Use diplomacy.

Categorized as 2008 U.S.

from the sandbox to the ballot box

John Adams saw this coming:

The same reasoning which will induce you to admit all men who have no property to vote with those who have, for those laws which affect the person, will prove that you ought to admit women and children; for, generally speaking, women and children have as good judgments, and as independent minds, as those men who are wholly destitute of property; these last being to all intents and purposes as much dependent upon others who will please to feed, clothe, and employ them, as women are upon their husbands, or children on their parents.

Society can be governed only by general rules. Government cannot accommodate itself to every particular case as it happens, nor to the circumstances of particular persons. It must establish general comprehensive regulations for cases and persons. The only question is, which general rule will accommodate most cases and most persons.

Depend upon it, sir, it is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters; there will be no end of it. New claims will arise; women will demand a vote; lads from twelve to twenty-one will think their rights not enough attended to; and every man who has not a farthing will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions and prostrate all ranks to one common level.

The full (I think) letter is here. It’s excerpted near the beginning of Keyssar, The Right to Vote, which, coincidentally I’m currently reading.

voting interests

This raises – and by “raises” I mean “led me to think of, off-hand, for no particular reason” – a couple of questions to which I don’t expect any answers, but find interesting nevertheless.

1. In terms of platforms, who was Lincoln closer to: Douglass or Bell? It may be that many Bell voters would have moved to Douglas in a runoff, but is that what they should have done? (Leaving aside the fact that voters don’t always do what others think they “should” do.) Lincoln and Douglas are of course associated with disagreement and debates; Bell is not really known, but both he and Lincoln were former Whigs.

2. In the 1858 Senatorial race, who would have won a direct election: Lincoln or Douglas? (The state legislature still determined Senators back then.)


How times have changed:

Filling a Vacuum. For the G.O.P., 1968 may represent the best opportunity in years—but the party has earned a reputation for booting such opportunities away. The late Sam Rayburn once said: “Just leave the Republicans alone and they’ll manage to screw it up every time.” As Esquire magazine noted this month: “The Republican Party could probably beat Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 if it did not have to run a candidate against him.” The more likely it seems that Lyndon Johnson can be defeated, the more tempted the G.O.P. may be to blow its chances by putting up a candidate who is acceptable to the party pros rather than to the electorate.

Categorized as elections


From Mr. Smith Goes to Washington:

PAGE BOY*: *Here you are Senator. Not a bad desk either. Daniel Webster used to use it.

JEFFERSON*: *Daniel Webster sat here? Holy Mackerel.

PAGE BOY*: *Give you something to shoot at, Senator. If you figure on doing any talking.

JEFFERSON*: *Oh, no. I’m just gonna sit around and listen.

PAGE BOY*: *That’s the way to get re-elected.

From Donald Ritchie, Press Gallery: Congress and the Washington Correspondents:

In the newly charged partisan atmosphere of Washington, a paper-thin line separated press reporting from promotion. As the Whig organ, the Intelligencer boosted Senator Daniel Webster’s national reputation by its handling of his celebrated reply to South Carolina Senator Robert Y. Hayne in 1830. Webster had personally invited Joseph Gales to report his speech, but the senator found Gales’s transcript devoid of emotional appeal. Since Webster had spoken only from notes, no other newspaper had published more than a brief summary of the speech. All waited for the Intelligencer‘s account. But Gales and Seaton delayed publication for an entire month while Webster revised his remarks. The famous reply to Hayne appeared in a form so heavily edited and rewritten that it bore little resemblance to the words Webster spoke in the Senate chamber. Reprinted extensively, the polished version became one of the most widely read speeches in congressional history, forever enshrining Daniel Webster as the Union’s most eloquent defender.

Not satisfied with re-editing after the fact, Webster seems to have devised a method of pre-editing. Writes Ritchie:

Webster diligently edited his speeches. The majesty of his voice and the strength of his arguments swayed his audiences, but they often heard him groping for the right word, trying out one synonym after another until he obtained the desired effect. One listener recalled Webster saying: “Why is it, Mr. Chairman, that there has gathered, congregated, this great number of inhabitants, dwellers, here; that these roads, avenues, routes of travel, highways, converge, meet, come together, here? Is it not because we have a sufficient, ample, safe, secure, convenient, commodious port, harbor, haven?” The senator removed all but the best before his words appeared in print.