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Heres is an AP

Here's is an AP article just out over the wire with the headline "Europeans outraged at Schwarzenegger". The point of course is that they are outraged at Schwarzenegger for not intervening to stop the execution last night of Stanley "Tookie" Williams.

Let me preface this by saying that I am what I would call a reluctant or ambivalent opponent of capital punishment.

Having said that, I think the thrust of the article linked above contains a signficant misapprehension about the different views of capital punishment in the US and Europe. The conventional wisdom, as the AP article shows, is that Americans are hold-outs in favor of capital punishment while Europeans have turned against the practice as barbaric.

But in an article I wrote in 2000 in The New Republic I was able to make a pretty good case that this just isn't so. I collected public opinion data from various European countries over the previous decade or so. And what the data showed was that the difference in public support for capital punishment really wasn't that great on either side of the Atlantic.

Capital punishment continued to enjoy majority support in France, for instance, long after it was abolished in 1981. Only in the late 1990s did a poll finally show that fewer than 50% of the population wanted it restored. As of the time I wrote, between 60% and 70% of Canadians said they wanted the death penalty reinstated.

So what does it all mean? I think it means that the end of capital punishment in Europe has much less to do with public opinion than we think. And it has more to do with the structure of European politics, particularly -- I would speculate -- the stronger role of parties, and thus elites, in the European form of parliamentary democracy.

Layered over that is the effect of EU expansion, in which the continent's central powers have made abolishing the death penalty a condition of membership. One more factor, I suspect, is that over time, opposition to capital punishment has become a form of European self-identification. And that has had a further depressing effect on support for capital punishment.

That final point is highly speculative, of course.

But the underlying point is well-grounded: Europeans aren't much less attached to capital punishment than Americans. The difference is that their governments don't as readily provide it.

From my point of view, the good news is that since the time I wrote the article support for capital punishment in the United States has fallen appreciably. But that's another matter. If you'd like to share your views on this topic, we've set up a discussion thread on the topic here at TPMCafe.

Sen. Feingold just came

Sen. Feingold just came back from debating Sen. Specter (R-PA) about the Patriot Act renewal on the senate floor.

He gives us an update here. He wants to hear your questions and comments.

Getting layed back in

Getting layed back in style?

Former Enron Chairman Ken Lay addressed a sold-out luncheon audience today at the Houston Forum.

According to the Houston Chronicle ...

Lay blamed former Enron executives Andrew Fastow and Michael Kopper for despicable and criminal deeds that brought down the company. "We did trust Andy Fastow and sadly, tragically, that trust turned out to be fatally misplaced," he said.

Flanked on the podium by Texas and U.S. flags, and a gold and red-themed Christmas tree, Lay read from a prepared text in which he attacked the Enron Task Force and Justice Department for prosecuting the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, destroying the company and then dropping the case. He said the task force has been attempting to criminalize normal business practices.

Lay said most of what has been reported about the company has been false or distorted, and attributed its collapse to the financial community. The company's trading partners lost confidence in Enron, Lay said, clearly signaIing a ``run on the bank'' defense.


Thanks to TPM Reader AG for the tip.

I just saw this

I just saw this quoted by Atrios. And whatever you think of the merits of the comment or the two players involved it's a stunning remark, coming as it does from within the highest echelon of the beltway journalistic establishment.

From the Daily Record ...

Howard Fineman, Newsweek's chief political correspondent, said Monday night in the first program of a Drew University lecture series, that Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward had become a "court stenographer" for the Bush administration.

Standing before a crowd of nearly 300, Fineman, said Woodward went from being an outsider "burning the beltway"with his investigative work in the 1970s Watergate scandal under President Nixon to being, " an official court stenographer of the Bush administration."

"He's a great reporter,"Fineman said of Woodward, "but he's become a great reporter of official history."


They must have changed something in the water down there.

Earlier today we linked

Earlier today we linked to the Washington Post's graphic detailing who got money from Jack Abramoff, his lobbying associates and his clients.

There's quite a lot to say about their run-down. Let me try to hit on a few points -- ones we plan on delving into in much more depth in the coming weeks and months.

First, ask yourself, if there was so much money spread around in both parties, why is it that of all the staffers and members of Congress either under indictment or under investigation, every single one seems to be a Republican?

Liberal bias in the Gonzales Justice Department? Probably not.

Let me suggest two very general answers which should put us back on some surer understanding of what this scandal is about -- both in the sense of big-picture substance and the legal direction it is likely to take.

First, lobbyists and their clients give money all over the place. That may be a problem in itself. But that's not the reason Jack Abramoff and his various cronies are in trouble. They're in trouble because they broke a lot of laws -- some to do with fraud and kickbacks, others to do with bribery, others to do with giving de facto inducements to congressional staffers, etc.

If a restaurant is run as a cover for a money-laundering operation, a list of everyone who ate there in the last five years doesn't tell you much about how the scheme went down. It may provide some clues, but not much more. You want to know how the money was laundered. A similar logic applies here.

Second, most of what happened in this scandal didn't happen with 'hard money', i.e., regulated contributions to federal campaigns and campaign committees.

Consider one example. The Post's graphic charts political giving from Abramoff, his associates and clients from 1999 through 2004. The total sum was roughly $5.3 million. During little more than half that period of time (1999-2002) Abramoff funnelled some $4.2 million to just one guy -- his old buddy Ralph Reed.

Certainly there's more to this scandal than these two numbers juxtaposed. But it gives you a sense of how much of the pie the Post discussion covers.

As I've written before, Jack Abramoff wasn't just a crooked lobbyist, he was running a slush fund. It can't be understood outside of the political machine he was part of. Stay tuned.

This is an interesting

This is an interesting scuffle.

The Post's new ombudsman Deborah Howell believes Dan Froomkin's daily online quasi-blog 'White House Briefing' is "highly opinionated and liberal".

Because of that she believes that the column should not be allowed to retain the name 'White House Briefing' because some readers may think Froomkin is one of the Post's White House reporters. And that, in the words of the Post's political editor John Harris, "dilutes our only asset -- our credibility" as objective reporters.

Says Howell ...

Harris is right; some readers do think Froomkin is a White House reporter. But Froomkin works only for the Web site and is very popular -- and Brady is not going to fool with that, though he is considering changing the column title and supplementing it with a conservative blogger.


The first point, it seems to me, is that reading one or two of Froomkin's columns would disabuse all but the most foolish readers of any notion that he's a White House reporter. Even if he were, he's clearly not writing news copy. It's an anthology of items appearing around the web. And it uses humor and opinion. I think that's clear to anyone who's familiar with the various genres of writing that have grown up on the web over the last few years.

As for balancing Froomkin with a conservative blogger, can't we just match him with Jim Hoagland and it call it a draw? That would be pretty generous, I think. Has there ever been any accounting for all the misinformation Hoagland (presumably) unintentionally spread through his column? And what about all the stuff he's made up since then to cover for the earlier baloney? Who balances him? Who balances Howie Kurtz's sometimes myopic focus on 'liberal bias'? How about the fact that an editor at the Wapo.com recently intentionally tilted a scandal story to include more Democrats than the facts would bear so as to make the story appear more 'balanced'?

More to the point, with all that has happened to journalism and this country in the last three years -- or perhaps just the Post in the last few weeks -- is this really all the Post's ombudsman can think to concern herself with?

The Post has up

The Post has up a detailed graphic of political donations tied to Jack Abramoff going back to the year 1999. The toplines are roughly these. 1) Money tied to Abramoff overwhelmingly came from his Indian tribe clients. In comparison, the money from Abramoff himself and his lobbyists associates were close to negligible. 2) About 2/3 of the money went to Republicans; about 1/3 to Democrats. 3) The max-out year was 2002 when there was $1.85 million in giving.

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