Kevin Drum

Twitter

| Sat Dec. 20, 2008 7:56 PM EST

TWITTER....Today the New York Times christens "The Buzzwords of 2008," and one of them is:

This is designed to memorialize all forms of the word Twitter, whatever they may be. So as long as we're on the subject, can someone help me out with the whole twitter phenomenon? I'm pretty used to things that I'm not personally interested in but that I still get (like, say, texting), but twitter is something that I don't even really get. So if you're a twitterer, tell me in comments what you use it for, why you like it, how it makes your life more worth living, etc. I'm just curious.

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Shoes Make the Man

| Sat Dec. 20, 2008 2:21 PM EST

SHOES MAKE THE MAN....Bloomberg is on the case with news you can use. The original shoes tossed at George Bush in Iraq last Sunday may have been destroyed, but there are plenty more where those came from:

The brown, thick-soled "Model 271" may soon be renamed "The Bush Shoe" or "Bye-Bye Bush," Ramazan Baydan, who owns the Istanbul-based producer Baydan Ayakkabicilik San. & Tic., said in a telephone interview today.

....Baydan has received orders for 300,000 pairs of the shoes since the attack, more than four times the number his company sold each year since the model was introduced in 1999. The company plans to employ 100 more staff to meet demand, he said.

....Baydan has received a request for 4,000 pairs from a company called Davidson, based in Maryland. He declined to provide further details.

Maybe Barack Obama needs a pair or two?

*Friday Cat Blogging - 19 December 2008

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 3:53 PM EST

FRIDAY CRITTER BLOGGING....Since we're now living in the post-partisan Obama era, it's time for cats and dogs to live together. So today you get both. On the right we have Kona, my friend M's German Shepherd. (Right? Looks like a German Shepherd to me, anyway. But I'm not all that handy with dog breeds.) I told M I'd introduce Kona to the blogosphere if she sent me a picture, and this popped into my inbox a couple of days later. An impressive critter indeed.

And you get cats too! Inkblot and Domino are taking the week off again because I was over visiting my mother a few days ago and took lots of pictures of her new kittens. On the left is Lily, the shy one, catching some rays on the window sill. On the right are Ditto and Tillamook, curled up together in a little sibling pile of fur. Ditto is the black-and-white one who looks just like Lily (duh), and he's busily grooming a blissed out Tillamook in this picture. A few minutes later I went upstairs to bring down the Christmas tree, and shortly after that both cats were entranced. No breakable ornaments on the tree this year!

Quote of the Day - End of Year Edition

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 3:32 PM EST

QUOTE OF THE DAY — END OF YEAR EDITION....Top 12 conservative insights of the year here, courtesy of Greg Anrig.

Chart of the Day - 12.19.2008

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 2:49 PM EST

CHART OF THE DAY....Via The Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life, here's the makeup of the 111th Congress. Note that the number of Americans who lack affiliation with any church is about 48 million or so. The number of members of Congress who are willing to admit lack of same is: zero one*. Apparently Rick Warren speaks for great big chunks of America when he says, "I could not vote for an atheist."

*Pete Stark came out of the closet earlier this year. Thanks, Rich C!

Lowbrow Poetry Bashing

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 2:21 PM EST

LOWBROW POETRY BASHING....Elizabeth Alexander has been selected to write a poem for Barack Obama's inauguration. In case you're wondering what we're all in for, here's an excerpt from "Autumn Passage":

On the miraculous dying body,
its greens and purples.
On the beauty of hair itself.

On the dazzling toddler:
"Like eggplant," he says,
when you say "Vegetable,"

"Chrysanthemum" to "Flower."
On his grandmother's suffering, larger
than vanished skyscrapers,

September zucchini,
other things too big.

Uh huh. Feel free to rip me several new holes in comments, but this reminds me of nothing so much as this. I sure hope Alexander keeps her inaugural poem short.

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Franken Leads Minnesota Senate Race

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 1:48 PM EST

FRANKEN LEADS MINNESOTA SENATE RACE....The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that, following a state Supreme Court ruling allowing the counting of contested ballots to go forward, Al Franken has opened up a large lead in Minnesota's senate race:

The intense scrutiny of "voter intent" resumed this morning by the five-member board charged with directing Minnesota's recount in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic rival Al Franken, and the first 90 minutes of ballot rulings turned the challenger's slight deficit into a growing triple-digit lead.

....On Thursday, the board reviewed Coleman's challenges of hundreds of Election Day ballots, and the day's work saw the unofficial margin between the candidates dwindle to within a handful of votes. Then, as the board took up and rejected more Coleman challenges today, Franken pulled ahead in the opening minutes and steadily built his advantage beyond 150 within the first two hours.

Granted, a couple hundred votes isn't usually considered a "large lead" in a senate race. But in this contest, that's about as large as it gets. Nate Silver projects that Franken's lead will grow to 430 after all the challenged ballots are counted, then shrink to about 40 after withdrawn challenges are processed. Shall we just start calling him "Landslide Al" now?

Good News, Bad News

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 1:33 PM EST

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS....Today brings yet another parting gift from George Bush: several thousand megawatts of new coal-fired power plants. Breathe deep, America. On the brighter side, Joe Romm is pretty excited over the appointment of John Holdren as the president's science advisor:

I have known Holdren for over a decade and have discussed energy/climate issues with him many times. He probably has more combined expertise on both climate science and clean energy technology than any other person who could plausibly have been named science adviser. You can see a video of an excellent talk he gave here (along with talks by Chu and me). For a more recent BBC interview, see "The Climate Quote of the Week."

I would say that if Holdren is named (on Saturday), it is an even stronger signal than the terrific choice of Steven Chu for Energy Secretary that Obama is dead serious about the strongest possible action on global warming....Holdren ain't in the "do something but not enough to avoid catastrophe" crowd.

If Holdren is OK with Joe Romm, he's OK with me. As I said yesterday, I think there's only just so much you can conclude based on appointments by themselves, but so far Obama's picks in the area of science and energy certainly suggest in the strongest possible terms that he plans to take a very serious, very activist approach to global warming.

Yet More Bailout

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 12:39 PM EST

YET MORE BAILOUT....As expected, President Bush today announced a bailout of Detroit's automakers. But it wasn't the prepackaged bankruptcy option that everyone was talking about yesterday. In fact, it was nearly identical to the congressional deal that collapsed last week but with one big difference:

The loan deal [] requires the companies to quickly reduce their debt by two-thirds, mostly through debt-for-equity swaps, and to reach an agreement with the United Auto Workers union to cut wages and benefits so they are competitive with those of employees of foreign-based automakers working in the United States.

The debt reduction and the cuts in wages were central components of proposal by Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, who tried to salvage the bailout legislation.

Those talks had deadlocked on a demand by Republicans that the wage cuts take effect by a set date in 2009, while the union had pressed for a deadline in 2011 after its current contract expires.

The plan announced on Friday by Mr. Bush offered a compromise between those positions, by making the requirements non-binding, allowing the automakers to reach different arrangements with the union, provided that they explain how those alternative plans will keep them on a path toward financial viability.

Republican senators apparently had a chance last week to make binding requirements on the auto unions if they'd only been willing to compromise a bit on the date. But they wouldn't, so instead they supposedly got the date they wanted but only as part of a "non-binding" deal. Sounds like a bad tradeoff to me. They should have taken the binding offer when it was on the table.

UPDATE: More here from Jonathan Cohn.

New Credit Card Rules

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 12:08 PM EST

NEW CREDIT CARD RULES....New regulations designed to stop some of the most egregious credit card abuses were adopted yesterday. That's the good news. Here's the not-so-good news:

The regulations, which take effect in July 2010, would block card companies from applying higher interest rates on existing balances. Late fees could not be charged without giving consumers at least 21 days to make a payment.

You know, some regulatory changes need a substantial amount of lead time because they're fairly complex to implement. These aren't those kind. They don't require 18 months of preparation. They barely require one month of preparation. They could have taken effect January 1st if regulators had been inclined to make a statement. Another opportunity missed.