Bring Back The Elevenses!

A number of commenters on my "The Politics of Ethanol" post mentioned the crazy American corn surplus. Here are some amazing excerpts from Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals: The astounding productivity of American farmers proved to be their own worst enemy, as well as a threat to public health. For when yields rise, the market is flooded with grain, and its price collapses ... The excess biomass works like a vacuum in reverse: Sooner or later, clever marketers will figure out a way to induce the human omnivore to consume the surfeit of cheap calories.

The Dearborn Debate

(Update: This post is also available as a web-only article here.) This afternoon's Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan went pretty much the way the entire campaign has gone lately: A lot of hype about Fred Thompson, but ultimately a contest between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. The debate seemed to pass Thompson by. He looked unsteady on his very first response--pausing awkwardly during a riff about the economy--and improved only marginally as the afternoon wore on. Later, Thompson mangled a question about the falling dollar, appearing uncertain as to why the development might be bad.

When Right-wing Attacks Backfire

This is the story of how some bloggers on the right tried to undermine a popular government program, disparage a Baltimore family, and discredit the mainstream media--and how it ended up validating all three in the process. It's a story that starts earlier this month, after Congress had passed a substantial expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP). As readers of this space know--skip down to the break if you can recite chapter and verse on S-CHIP already--the program's purpose is to make sure low-income children get health insurance.

Scotus On State Secrets

The Supreme Court today declined to hear the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German car salesman who was detained--and, he claims, tortured--by the CIA in an unfortunate case of mistaken identity (it took the CIA five months to realize that he was not, in fact, the terrorist Khalid al-Masri). The basic facts of the case don't seem to be in dispute, but the Bush administration successfully argued under the so-called state secrets doctrine that classified information would be revealed to the public had the case been allowed to proceed.

Gop Debate

Some reactions: Fred Thompson looked distracted, especially when answering questions about the economy. It was as if he were thinking of something else (his next movie or what he was going to order for dinner that night) and had to focus instead on some boring political question about social security or the disparity between the Dow and people's perception of the economy. Is he just rusty, or does he not really want to do this? Of the frontrunners, Romney had the clearest and most forthright answers. If you listen closely, you hear a moderate Republican beneath the rhetoric.

Everyone Is Talking About Thomas

What to think of Clarence Thomas' memoirs? In The Washington Post, Jabari Asim offers up a mixed review, and notes that Thomas' famous comment about his Court hearings--"a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves"--was inspired by To Kill A Mockingbird.

Doubting Thomas

As Clarence Thomas continues his global self-pity tour, the Post's Ruth Marcus helps set the record straight: First, Hill did not wait 10 years to complain about his behavior. Susan Hoerchner, a Yale Law School classmate of Hill's, described how she complained of sexual harassment while working for Thomas, saying the EEOC chairman had "repeatedly asked her out . . . but wouldn't seem to take 'no' for an answer." Ellen Wells, a friend, said Hill had come to her, "deeply troubled and very depressed," with complaints about Thomas's inappropriate behavior.

Off By A Bit

During yesterday's Blackwater hearing, Republicans kept complaining that everyone was ignoring all the good news about private military firms in Iraq. They were especially high on CEO Erik Prince's argument that Blackwater guards "only" discharged their weapons 195 times in more than 16,000 missions in Iraq since 2005--"barely" one percent.

Liberal Racism

If Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas were liberal and University of Chicago English Professor Richard Stern were conservative, the latter's ugly little missive on Open University would already have been loudly denounced as racist by all the right people. But such are the double-standards of our political discourse. Stern's post is patronizing throughout (he refers to "young Clarence"), and doesn't really say anything until the end.

Thomas's Comeback
October 03, 2007

Clarence Thomas is back in the prints, and so is Anita Hill. Before you rush to Hill's corner, let me call your attention to the sympathetic review of a Ken Foskett's book, Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas, that appeared in the October 25, 2004 issue of TNR. The review was written by David J. Garrow, that great chronicler of the civil rights movement and the author of Bearing the Cross, a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. It surprised readers then, and it will surprise readers now.