Plame on

by Ted on December 30, 2003

John Ashcroft has recused himself from the Valerie Plame investigation. Patrick Fitzgerald, the current U.S. Attorney in the Nothern District of Illinois, will be in charge of the investigation

Here’s a press release with a brief bio of Patrick Fitzgerald. He’s been involved in the prosecutions of heroin smugglers, organized crime leaders, and a number of terrorists. More recently, his office prepared the indictment of former Illinois governor George Ryan. We’ll surely learn a lot more about him in the days to come, but at first glance, he seems like the real deal.

Mr. Fitzgerald, if by some unlikely chance you ever read this: I’d like to apologize in advance for what the blogosphere and much of the media are about to attempt to do to you. If you try to do your job, you will learn the meaning of “slime and defend.” Good luck.

UPDATE: Here’s a story gallery about Patrick Fitzgerald from the Chicago Tribune. He sounds like a genuinely vigorous prosecutor:

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Chicago’s new U.S. attorney, who delivered the biggest message to corrupt Chicago politicians, insiders, grafters and boodlers this town may have ever seen. Fitzgerald’s first big indictment was of insurance executive Michael Segal for alleged insurance and mail fraud. Fitzgerald wasted no time in going after the biggest fish in town, to the shock and astonishment of just about everyone. Segal is not just a pal, but the pal, the top of the heap. His indictment makes the prosecution of Chicago aldermen look like the issuance of parking tickets. This is a hugely symbolic act; its effect will be like watching the bugs scurrying for cover after the rock has been lifted.

This sounds good, too.

[click to continue…]

All the nice boys love a cowboy

by Daniel on December 30, 2003

New Year, old obsession … Steven Den Beste takes a rare break from telling us that France is shit to analyse US politics. Take a glance at the URL and you will see where he is coming from. Thankfully, he steers clear (just) of the usual and rather unpleasant analysis which seems to treat white male votes as the only “real” votes and support based on “minority” votes as in some way second-rate or not of the highest quality. But he does massively overstate the importance of white males, and the extent to which a 66-33 split of white male votes in favour of the Republicans is a disaster for the Democrats. Factoid: Al Gore did not so far from this in the 200 election (he actually got 36% of the white male vote) and the race was about as even as it could possibly be. A “36 point margin [ie a 68:32 split -dd] over Howard Dean” isn’t an “insurmountable obstacle”; it’s a two point swing away from the neutral point of the 2000 election and quite the sort of thing that could get lost in differential turnout rates. The rule of thumb always used to be that a Republican candidate had to do at least 60% among white males to have a prayer, because of the inbuilt slant of all the other demographics and Ruy Teixeira thinks that the bar is, if anything, raising year after year.

A Bush lead among white women is much more worrying, because that’s a genuine swing movement, but that doesn’t offer nearly as many opportunities for riding out old hobby-horses about the “far left” and the conclusions aren’t nearly so palatable for those of us in the pale and hairy camp. My personal assessment is that the Democrats are indeed, all to hell, but tending to the nation’s largest and whiniest minority hasn’t really got all that much to do with it.

All of which assumes, of course, that you can generalise over a category as large as “white males” (c: 110m Americans). Which you can’t, not unless you don’t mind writing sentences like this one:

To a great extent, this is because white men as a group prefer cowboys to metrosexuals.[1]

Which you have to admit, could be taken a number of ways …

(by the way, when is some TV network going to have the stones to produce “Black Eye for the White Guy”?)

[1] I added the links for satirical effect, although I doubt anyone was wondering.


by Chris Bertram on December 30, 2003

I’ve had to check myself several times when writing on CT recently. I’ve been tempted to use the word “quite” as a modifier of words like “good”. The trouble with this is that Americans (and perhaps all other English users outside the UK?) use the word as a modifier also but in a different sense from the way I would naturally do. If an English person is asked what they thought of a film or a play or a restaurant and they reply that it was “quite good”, they are likely to mean that it was good only to a moderate degree. Americans will intend and understand by the same phrase that something was absolutely, wholly or certainly good. If you tell me that my work is “quite good”, I’m likely to understand that as damning with faint praise. But If you are an American you probably meant to compliment me. Just to confuse matters, a British person who says they are “quite sure” does indeed mean that they are absolutely sure. I hope we’ve quite cleared up that misunderstanding.

Gin Lane

by Chris Bertram on December 30, 2003

The image of “Hogarth’s Gin Lane”: comes to mind after reading three pieces on Open Democracy on the booze culture in “England”: , “Ireland”: and “Scotland”: . Central Bristol on a Friday and Saturday night is very much as Ken Worpole describes the centre of many British cities: full of inebriated teenagers, casual violence and, eventually, vomit. Dublin — a destination of choice for young Brits seeking to get smashed out of their brains — also has a big problem:

bq. The results of this behaviour are alarming –- doctors, from a variety of hospitals, estimate that from 15-25% of admissions to accident and emergency units in 2002 were alcohol-related. In March 2003, representatives of the medical profession highlighted some of the horrendous consequences of excessive drinking. Mary Holohan, director of the sexual assault treatment unit at the Rotunda Hospital in central Dublin, said the pattern of alcohol consumption had changed greatly. One shuddering statistic that emerged was that in the past five years there had been a four-fold increase in the number of women who had been so drunk they could not remember if they had been sexually assaulted.

That last could be a dodgy statistic (if the number rose from one to four for example) but it sounds like there’s a serious issue.