Political Animal

Howard Dean

HOWARD DEAN….An LA Times story this morning suggests that there are a few people who aren’t all that enamored with Howard Dean’s straight-talking style:

He has mischaracterized some of his opponents’ positions and fuzzed up his own. He has offered misleading statements, even as he challenges the integrity of others running. (“They need a backbone transplant,” he told a union audience Wednesday in New York City.) Before the race even heats up, Dean has been forced to apologize to at least one rival for misspeaking, and he angered several others who privately seethe over his potshots. All of that could make Dean a prime target when the presidential candidates stage their first televised debate of the campaign Saturday night in South Carolina.

I’m a little surprised that bickering among the candidates has broken out this early. Shouldn’t they be attacking George Bush and holding back the intraparty potshots as a sort of tactical nuke to be used only in an emergency?

Also: did Dean have this straight talking reputation as governor, or is it a recent invention? Are there any Vermont readers out there who can fill us in?

French Drivers

FRENCH DRIVERS….Here’s a peculiar paragraph from a book I’m currently reading. The author is talking to a guy who has moved to France and needs to pass the driving test:

I was surprised to discover that he was nervous about this exam, and even more surprised when he told me about some of the questions that were giving him trouble. There was a question on speed limits, which showed a sign with “80” on it, and asked which of three speeds you are permitted to travel at after passing the sign: 60, 80, or 100 k.p.h. During his lessons, in which he was set test questions, he kept making the mistake of answering “80” when should have answered “60” and “80” (because clearly if you are permitted to travel at 80 k.p.h. you are also permitted to travel at 60).

So it’s a trick question, of the kind beloved by 10-year-olds the world over. But why do the French have trick questions on their driving exam? Shouldn’t a driving test just be a straightforward test of whether you know the rules of the road, not a series of “gotchas”?

Of course, the consensus of non-French opinion is that the French are lousy drivers. Maybe this is why.

(Oh, and this little story is also a metaphor for French fecklessness, appeasement, intellectual elitism, and anti-Americanism too. Just in case you didn’t think I knew that.)

British Elections

BRITISH ELECTIONS….Great Britain held local elections yesterday and the Conservatives gained 540 council seats (out of about 8,000). Hooray for the Tories!

If you want to know more, you have two good choices:

  • The BBC provides an excellent, bullet-pointed rundown of all the important points of the election.

  • Daniel Davies provides an entertaining and cranky explanation of what really happened ? and why nobody should care anyway.

Take your pick.

Friday Cat Blogging ? 2 May 2003

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING….Today is garden day. On the left, Inkblot is ready for his closeup next to a lovely red camellia in our neighbor’s yard. On the right, Jasmine is soaking up the Southern California sunshine while keeping the catnip plant in close protective custody.

Our bonus cats for the day come from Ben Longman, who passes along this website of Japanese Cat-Nappies. In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t know what this is all about, I probably don’t approve, and yes, it’s sort of creepy. Perfect for a Friday afternoon.