Steve Beshear Gets a C

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear landed solidly in the middle of the pack on the Cato Institute’s report card on governors’ fiscal policies:

Governor Beshear pushed through a doubling of the state cigarette tax from 30 cents to 60 cents per pack and an increase in taxes on wine, beer, and liquor. He has focused on redesigning the state’s many tax credits, and he signed into law an expansion of those special interest giveaways in 2009. Beshear’s spending record is not particularly good. He proposed increases the past two years even though governors in many states were cutting spending because of the recession.

Here’s a related podcast.

Some of Beshear’s proposed spending increases depended on legalizing some forms of gambling in Kentucky. Beshear likely knew that the expanded gambling legislation was a dead letter before he proposed it, but he did it anyway. Kentucky does have a weak governor’s office, but that’s no reason to actively support new spending with no credible way to pay for it.

Fancy Farm 2010

For any politico, there may be nothing more refreshing and raw than the Fancy Farm picnic held each year in Western Kentucky. I’ve tried to describe it to people before, but experience it during an intense election cycle and you’ll see that the event defies clear explanation.

C-SPAN thankfully was able to attend this year. Have a taste.

Update: Via a commenter, I learn that C-SPAN used the KET feed.

Hitchens on Chávez


As [Chávez’s] tirade against evil America mounted, [actor Sean] Penn broke in to say that surely Chávez would be happy to see the arrest of Osama Bin Laden.

I was hugely impressed by the way that the boss scorned this overture. He essentially doubted the existence of al-Qaida, let alone reports of its attacks on the enemy to the north. “I don’t know anything about Osama Bin Laden that doesn’t come to me through the filter of the West and its propaganda.” To this, Penn replied that surely Bin Laden had provided quite a number of his very own broadcasts and videos. I was again impressed by the way that Chávez rejected this proffered lucid-interval lifeline. All of this so-called evidence, too, was a mere product of imperialist television. After all, “there is film of the Americans landing on the moon,” he scoffed. “Does that mean the moon shot really happened? In the film, the Yanqui flag is flying straight out. So, is there wind on the moon?” As Chávez beamed with triumph at this logic, an awkwardness descended on my comrades, and on the conversation.

Leaks and National Security

U.S. Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) was just on the Today Show discussing the leak of tens of thousands of military documents that have revealed at least a couple very serious coverups in the U.S. mission in Afghanistan:

U.S. military documents released by WikiLeaks show that a U.S. Special Forces unit in Afghanistan assigned to hunt down terrorists also was responsible for the deaths of civilians, Afghan police officers and, in one particularly bloody raid, seven children while they attended school.

The unit is called Task Force 373. It’s assigned to kill so-called “high value” targets or detain them without trial, often in night operations. The 373 follows a hit list of sorts, according to The New York Times and The Guardian newspaper in England. (WikiLeaks gave The New York Times, The Guardian and German magazine Der Spiegel early access to the documents before posting them.)

I can understand why national security may be implicated in the release of documents the government would rather keep secret, but Kit Bond (with the help of Meredith Vieira) seemed to cast the potential effect of the leak as binary: The leak will either have no impact on national security or the leak will damage national security.

From the perspective of military officials charged with keeping secrets secret, this may be a reasonable perspective. After all, the measurables of the task of preventing leaks is the number and size of leaks. But Kit Bond is a U.S. Senator, not a military official charged with preventing leaks. His task isn’t to just plug the hole and move on.

Without this leak, would Kit Bond – vice chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence – ever have known known about U.S. Special Forces killing these children, other civilians and Afghan police? If not, then it becomes hard to conclude that the effects of a security leak will be merely binary. Even if Bond and his fellow committee members already knew about the coverups, the public leak of those bothersome truths about the military may well force changes that will improve national security. The leak may make those kinds of changes politically feasible or even necessary.

None of these effects make the leaker a hero, but it’s just foolish to conclude that the impact of the leak on U.S. security must fall somewhere along the spectrum between negligible and negative.

Hey Fanboy! Girls!

Megan McArdle on why pickup artists sound an awful lot like girls ages 14-17:

Spending all of your time thinking about how to attract the opposite sex? Check. Practicing poses in the mirror to figure out which ones are most attractive? Check. Talking about it endlessly with your friends who only seem to care about the same, one, thing? Check. Increasingly elaborate strategems for getting attention? Check. Eventual evolution of said strategems into rituals as mechanical as playing the opening levels of an old-style video game? Check. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the bubble-gum scented lip gloss . . .

These pickup artists seem to be hobbyists of the same ilk as those who get way, way into science fiction TV shows or renaissance fairs or Phish or Transformers. I have to admit the pickup artists seem way more desperate.