Kevin Drum

Chart of the Day

| Mon Jun. 8, 2009 12:04 PM EDT

Nate Silver informs us today that although there aren't very many women in Congress, the women we do have are more likely to come from male-dominated congressional districts.  The effect is most pronounced in strongly Democratic districts (blue line), but it's there in Republican and neutral districts too.

Why?  Who knows.  It seems unlikely that a fairly small difference in male:female population ratio would actually be noticeable by the residents of a district, but Nate says the effect is pretty robust.  In other words, it's probably not a fluke.  So what's the answer?  Some underlying variable that drives both things?  Are women less likely to vote for a woman than men are?  (Maybe some kind of analysis of exit poll results would help here.)  Leave your guesses suggestions for further research in comments.

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We Are All 17 Year Olds Now

| Mon Jun. 8, 2009 11:19 AM EDT

This was all over the tubes yesterday, but it's so entertainingly crazy that I feel like I have to pass it along.  It's Sen. Chuck Grassley's Twitter feed, and Grassley really seems to have fully channeled the junior high school spirit of the whole thing.  First he's annoyed at an anodyne Obama call to "deliver" on healthcare because Obama is, like, obviously a slacker since he took some of the weekend off for sightseeing.  Then, a few minutes later, he's annoyed all over again.  Finally, this morning he feels compelled to toss a random barb at Al Gore.

Very strange.  Is Grassley off his meds or something?  Or did someone hijack his Twitter account?  That was actually my first thought, but his office hasn't denied the tweets so I guess they're really his.  Thus does Twitter make fools of us all.  Enjoy.

Gays in the Military

| Mon Jun. 8, 2009 1:09 AM EDT

Here's some good, if unsurprising, news: support for allowing gays to serve openly in the military is up considerably since 2004.  For the past few decades public opinion on all kinds of gay issues has trended more tolerant by about 1% per year, and Gallup's latest poll confirms this: in the past five years support for allowing gays and lesbians to serve has increased from 63% to 69%.

Perhaps surprisingly, the biggest shift comes from conservatives, who have become more supportive by 12 percentage points, moving from 46% in favor to 58% in favor.  Regular churchgoers and the young have also made bigger-than-average jumps.

There's a rule of thumb that says social policies are resistant to change until they garner two-thirds support from the public.  Allowing gays to serve openly in the military has now officially passed that point.  That means it's safe to keep your campaign promise and act, Mr. President.

Lessons on Being a Prick

| Sun Jun. 7, 2009 2:58 PM EDT

I see that the conservative movement is continuing its long descent into juvenile thuggery and intellectual gutlessness as a substitute for actual ideas.  It's like being back in seventh grade.  Nice work, NRO.

Nonboiling Frog Update

| Sat Jun. 6, 2009 6:12 PM EDT

Frog blogging?  Seriously?  I say: bring it on, guys.  Inkblot and Domino are snoozing in terror at the competition.

On the other hand, we all heartily approve of catblogging spontaneously becoming a topic of conversation over twelve packs of Red Stripe and stale Tostitos.  And I have to admit that MoJo's interns have found themselves a handsome looking little amphibian.  Click on the link if you want to help them name their new little critter.

Friday Garden Blogging - 5 June 2009

| Fri Jun. 5, 2009 3:19 PM EDT

It's been a busy week and we all need a break.  So how about a nice, soothing garden to help everyone relax?  Here at Drum Central, the flowers are blooming, the upside-down tomato plant is thriving, our new redbud tree is growing, the sun is shining, and birds are chirping in the birdbath outside the kitchen window.

And, of course, Inkblot is admiring it all — as well he should since he's spent so many backbreaking hours supervising the gardeners.  It's exhausting!  And with that, I'm off to the car dealer to pick up my newly repaired and hopefully non-coolant-leaking wheels.  Have a nice weekend, everyone.

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Standing Up to the Imperial Presidency

| Fri Jun. 5, 2009 2:49 PM EDT

House Democrats, led by Barney Frank, are finally standing up against the Obama administration's support for the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009 — an Orwellian amendment that would retroactively bypass FOIA and allow the administration to unilaterally block the release of photos of detainee treatment with no justification except their own say so.  Good.  Nick Baumann has more.

More on Obama and Democracy

| Fri Jun. 5, 2009 2:43 PM EDT

Via email, reader Dan R. reacts to my post this morning on George Bush and his failed democracy agenda:

The problem with Bush's so-called "democracy promotion" wasn't just that it was half-hearted or hypocritical, but that it was such a simplistic approach to democracy: Elections are all that counts. It showed little appreciation for the elements of civil society that are a fundamental requirement of a successful democracy, and that make U.S.-style democracy possible in the U.S. but might not make it possible in a lot of other countries.

Now, I don't think Obama wants to go out and say that some countries aren't educated enough or have the civil traditions and institutions required for American-style democracy. So he's treading a fine line. But the reality is that the things he talked about — rule of law, government transparency, lack of corruption, equal administration of justice, freedom of the press, minority rights — are more realistic goals for many countries and appropriate way-stations on the way to what we would consider a full-fledged democracy.

I think Obama is exactly right in focusing on the values that underly democracy rather than the external forms....By striking a middle ground between "idealists" who would make democracy and human rights the sole focus of foreign policy and "realists" who would ignore American values in favor of American interests, this kind of thinking represents a very sophisticated step forward in our foreign policy.

Quote of the Day #2

| Fri Jun. 5, 2009 1:26 PM EDT

From Bob Enyart, spokesman for Colorado Right to Life, on the assassination of abortion doctor George Tiller:

"If a Mafia hit man gets killed, people recognize it's an occupational hazard."

According to the LA Times, this was his way of explaining that "his group doesn't condone Tiller's slaying."

Obama and Democracy

| Fri Jun. 5, 2009 1:12 PM EDT

Yesterday Michael Rubin complained that Obama never mentioned democracy in his Cairo speech.  Today he corrects the record: in fact, Obama dedicated an entire section of his speech to democracy.  Then he adds this:

But, I stand by the point of my post: Obama stepped back from demanding accountability at polls....Bush embraced democracy and transformative diplomacy. Many progressives and liberals turned on democratization because they didn’t want to be associated with Bush.  Now that Obama is victorious, it would be a real tragedy for progressivism, liberalism, and human rights if the progressive movement embraced cultural relativism and convinced itself that liberty really didn’t matter.

This is really one of the most annoying of all tropes from the Bush-defending right.  The plain facts here are pretty simple: George Bush talked a lot about democracy, but he was in favor of it only when it produced results he liked.  He was fine with democracy in Ukraine and he was fine with democracy in Lebanon.  He loved the purple fingers in Iraq — though only after the UN and al-Sistani pretty much forced elections on him.  Conversely, when Hamas won an election in Gaza, it was not so fine.  When Musharraf and Mubarak conducted obviously rigged elections in Pakistan and Egypt, his adminstration tut tutted a bit and then went about its business.  To the small extent that Bush was ever truly dedicated to democracy promotion in the first place — and it was never more than purely incidental to the Iraq war project — he had plainly given up on it completely by 2006 at the latest.

George Bush's main achievement in this arena wasn't to promote democracy, it was to completely cement Arab cynicism about America's obvious lack of concern for democracy.  Whether Obama is "stepping back" from this I couldn't say, but he certainly can't do any worse on the democracy promotion front than George Bush.