Monday, July 21, 2008

To Catch A Mass-Murderer

From the BBC
The Bosnian Serb wartime political leader disappeared in 1996.

He has been indicted by the UN tribunal for war crimes and genocide over the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica.

The appointment of a new, pro-European government in Belgrade last month appears to have cleared the way for his arrest, says a BBC correspondent.

Break out the wine, the bastard's finally caught.

Double Walk-back

My friend made the case to me yesterday that Maliki's comments were unimportant in the strategic context: Maliki is a US puppet, the US is the only investor in Iraqs future, so the Iraq government will not dare anger the United States by going against our wishes. The retraction of the statement under pressure is yet more evidence of this: it showed how easily the Iraq government bent to the wishes of the United States. If the US wants to stay in (which McCain clearly does), we'll find a way to get the Iraqi government to agree to that.
If this is the case, I don't think it undercuts anything I said about Maliki's statements: my hope is that this effects the US voters, not Bush's or McCain's people. Maliki's statement undercuts the public rationalization: that we must stay in Iraq to help the Iraqi people and allow the government to assert itself. The fact that McCain may be twist the Iraq governments arm until they tell us to stay is just one more reason not to vote for McCain.
It appears that we may have been overrating the coercive power of the US. Ali Dabbagh, who issued the retraction, now say Maliki does, actually, like the timetable.
Dabbagh said Maliki and Obama didn't discuss specific proposals during the hour-long meeting. But he said Iraq would like to have all U.S. combat troops out of the country, leaving only advisers, some quick-reaction forces and air support forces behind.

“The Iraqi government sees that the end of 2010 is an appropriate date for the withdrawal of the forces,” Dabbagh said.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A "Clarification"

Maliki's office (though not the PM himself) issued a statement (through CENTCOM) saying that Maliki had been "mistranslated" (Der Spiegel stands by the story).
Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, issued a statement saying Mr. Maliki’s statement had been “as not conveyed accurately regarding the vision of Senator Barack Obama, U.S. presidential candidate, on the timeframe for U.S. forces withdrawal from Iraq,” but it did not address a specific error. It did soften his support for Mr. Obama’s plan and implied a more tentative approach to withdrawing troops.

As it turns out, unsurprisingly, the Bushies leaned heavily on Maliki's office to get this "retraction"

The statement by an aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calling his remarks in Der Spiegel "misinterpreted and mistranslated" followed a call to the prime minister's office from U.S. government officials in Iraq.

It's in the media's ball-park now. Will they let themselves be flim-flammed by the administration? Of course they will.

I hate tv news I hate tv news

I was watching MSNBC about five minutes ago before I was inspired to come write this.
In the particular segment I was watching, one woman was kind of snidely praising Obama for finally coming to Iraq to see what the situation was like before really deciding on a timeline. I believe she used the words "talk to the troops."
Hello, this is the 21st Century! If Juan Cole can label his mideast affairs blog Informed Comment from the safety of Ann Arbor, Barack can certainly make a decision from America. After all, George Bush went to Iraq with a fake turkey to photo op with the troops. Do you think he cared what the situation on the ground was? I understand it's necessary to visit foreign soil, but at the same time, if someone wants to talk to the troops, well Doonesbury has a blog where soldiers can post, most soldiers have webcams or other forms of communication, etc. And then the whole point of the troops themselves. Does a higher up need to talk to the regulars to see what morale and such is like? absolutely, but Obama's not there to ask GI Joe what he thinks about a 10 month timetable. He's there to talk to commanders.
After I thought about all this, the Republican talking point lady infuriated me into turning off the TV by saying "we don't even know if he meant a timetable." If I'm correct, the post below this one discusses Maliki's desire for a timetable. I read in Informed Comment on friday that Maliki meant a timetable.
I really want to start a no-spin zone show where the liar gets an electric shock or something. If you say something, it will be fact-checked. Welcome to the internet generation.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Maliki Favors Withdrawal

Read all about it.
This is very, very bad news for John McCain. Having based his campaign on opposing Obama's plan for withdrawal, McCain has had legs cut out from under him. Josh Marshall and Ezra Klein, respectively:
Consider McCain's strategy, which is all bound up with Iraq.

All understand it is a given that the war is unpopular and that the vast majority of Americans want out as soon as possible. The big of wiggle room is just what's 'possible.' McCain has invested his entire campaign in support for the purportedly nascent Iraqi democracy al Maliki represents and the claim that Obama's support for a timetable for withdrawal irresponsibly risks losing the gains we've achieved and giving Iraq back to al Qaeda.

Here, with a brush of the hand and in so many words, al Maliki says, "No, we're good."

To really understand the importance of Maliki's comments, you need to consider their opposite. Imagine if Maliki had walked in front of the cameras and said, "at this stage, a timetable for withdrawal is unrealistic, and we hope our American friends will not bow to domestic political pressures and be hasty in leaving Iraq just as the country improves." It would be a transformative moment in this election. John McCain would talk of nothing else. The cable shows would talk of nothing else. Magazines would run thousands of covers about "Obama's Iraq Problem." Obama would probably lose the race.

In short, this is hard news to spin for the Republicans. It appears to be a game-changer: we no longer feel we need to stay in Iraq, simply because we broke the place. We no longer will keep occupying Iraq merely because we feel we owe it to the Iraqis to clean up our mess. It also dovetail very nicely with Obama's them of "declare victory and leave".
McCain's camp response was understandably poor:
"His domestic politics require him to be for us getting out," said a senior McCain campaign official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The military says 'conditions based' and Maliki said 'conditions based' yesterday in the joint statement with Bush. Regardless, voters care about [the] military, not about Iraqi leaders."

An Obama official, also speaking on background, asks:

"So given that al-Maliki said today that it’s time for an official timetable and that Obama “is right when he talks about 16 months,” will McCain honor that commitment and call for withdrawal or change his position that we should leave Iraq if asked?"

Though I think there's something to the idea that Maliki is guarding his flank from the Sadrists in coming elections (the Iraqis, too, have there eye on elections this October). On the other hand, this does very little to bolster McCain's position: if Maliki has taken that position precisely to please the Iraqi people, then the call for withdrawal has even more legitimacy.
I suspect, though, that Maliki would like the US to leave. The Iraqi government has never been to keen on our presence, and tolerated us only so long as we were necessary (in 2006, when the country was really falling apart). Maliki's Da'wa party is far from pro-Western (it's closer to Iran than Sadr is), I doubt they like the idea of Iraq as a US protectorate, or an occupation for the next hundred years. He also probably realizes that the biggest impediment to his governments legitimacy is the continued occupation.
Right now McCain looks like a deer in the headlights. Either he will have to flip massively and endorse the timeline, or he will have to advocate the continued occupation of Iraq against the wishes of the Iraqi government. The neither move seems politically favorable, but the latter is perfectly daffy, so I suspect McCain will do the former, reversing is number 1 campaign message ("withdrawal is dangerous"). That can't be good for his campaign. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"old dems vs new dems"?

There's been some MSM chatter about how some congressional dems are annoyed that Obama isn't coordinating with them (so there are liberals somewhere that coordinate anything???) , and that his ban on lobbyists is locking out a lot of democrats that could really help the campaign.

Well, I have news for you lobbyist democrats. You registered as a freakin' lobbyist. I don't know what kind of lobbying you do, but I know it's not to end the war or bring back the 4th amendment, so GET OVER IT. you're old school, now buzz off and let the new kids try their hand.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

McCain's Plan for Iraq

McCain's plan for Afghanistan and Iraq:
Afghanistan say that they need at least three additional brigades. Thanks to the success of the surge, these forces are becoming available, and our commanders in Afghanistan must get them. But sending more forces, by itself, is not enough to prevail. In the 18 months that Senator Obama has been campaigning for the presidency, the number of NATO forces in Afghanistan has already almost doubled -- from 33,000 in January 2007 to about 53,000 today. Yet security has still deteriorated. What we need in Afghanistan is exactly what Gen. Petraeus brought to Iraq: a nationwide civil-military campaign plan that is focused on providing security for the population. Today no such integrated plan exists. When I am commander-in-chief, it will.

This sounds an awful lot like he's trying to emulate someone else's plan for Iraq. I wouldn't put to much stock into the plans having anything more than superficial similarity... Obama wants us to get out and this focus on Afghanistan (Obama has been saying this a long time, McCain just started). McCain, besides wanting us to know that the surge is super-successful, he wants to keep permanent bases ("100 years in Iraq") etc.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Obama's Op-ed

Obama's op-ed in the Times is lucid, nuanced and intelligent, far, far more an intellectual argument than your standard campaign trope.
Obama's op-ed does a few things that I am impressed with. Though the media has kept insisting Obama acknowledge the facts on the ground, the op-ed acknowledges those facts (crucially, the mixed success of the surge) while showing the underlying dynamic hasn't changed, and indeed, withdrawal has become a better, not worse, option. It ties our leaving Iraq the timetable proposed by Prime Minister Maliki. Note that it is the GOP plan, not Obama's, which conflicts with the facts on the ground: the status of forces deal apart precisely because the Iraqi government and people want the US to leave.
I'm all in favor of leaving, but clearly that won't solve all our problems, which is why I am also glad Obama ties it to aggressive diplomacy and help for displaced Iraqis (no word on whether he'll take the translators with us). A residual force seems a bad idea, as Juan Cole argues.
Final point: Obama ties our leaving Iraq into the greater strategic context: what is needed is greater commitment to Afghanistan. Juan Cole thinks that Afghanistan may already be as unwinnable as Iraq (we should always remember the Soviet experience).
The only way to "win" in Afghanistan is going to be big involvement with the Pakistani and with Pakistani problems. Failing this, I don't see Afghanistan a salvageable. Hopefully Obama realizes this.


... is still constitutionally protected speech, even if no one "gets" it.

I, for one, see nothing wrong with this New Yorker cover, despite the controversy it has caused.

Hopefully, David Remnick will remember how I stood by the New Yorker when I try to get published in the maganzine.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Flip-Flop Flap

Though I find campaign news interesting, I know it to be mainly a string of pseudo-events, so I normally refrain from covering it. This will be my first post on the subject for some time.
The main trope of recent weeks is that Barack Obama has repeatedly "flip-flopped" (it's frustrating to hear adults say that) thus proving himself to be "just a politician". It shows what a good politician Obama is that we keep forgetting that he is one at all. No one needs to be reminded that, say, Hillary Clinton is a politician, it's obvious. Being a politician doesn't disqualify someone from being president. I'd point out that FDR, Churchill and Lincoln were "just politicians" too.
The attack that Obama is a "flip-flopper" seems crass and derivative, especially coming from John McCain, who has himself completely reversed himself on Bush's tax-cuts, the "religious right", torture (McCain now supports allowing the CIA to torture) etc.
Aside from being accused of inconsistency and Machiavellianism, Obama is being accused by the left of selling out progressive causes for political expediency.
Every presidential politician runs to the center during the general election. However, there is a difference between emphasizing one's centrist views and inventing new views. Which is Obama doing. Let's examine the issues.
Obama disagreed with the Supreme Court's majority decision disallowing the death-penalty for child rape. I disagree with Obama's stance: the death penalty should not be part of the arsenal of our judicial system. Jeffry Rosen found a passage in The Audacity of Hope in which Obama explicitly came out out in favor of the death penalty for child-rape.
Obama has also long believed in the right to own a gun, subject to reasonable restrictions, so his support of the Supreme Court decision overturning the hand-gun ban should have been no surprise. While I think this interpretation gets the Second Amendment's intent wrong (whether it does is argued interestingly on bloggingheads). However, from a public-policy position, I see nothing wrong with this: our gun restrictions are strict enough, the only problem is lobbing from the NRA makes them hard to enforce.
On FISA, I opposed the compromise (though I thought the real travesty was letting the government off the hook, not the telecoms.) On the other hand, I agree with Larry Lessig's comments on the issue.
Obama has not shifted in his opposition to immunity for telcos: As he has consistently indicated, he opposes immunity. He voted to strip immunity from the FISA compromise. He has promised to repeal the immunity as president. His vote for the FISA compromise is thus not a vote for immunity. It is a vote that reflects the judgment that securing the amendments to FISA was more important than denying immunity to telcos. Whether you agree with that judgment or not, we should at least recognize (hysteria notwithstanding) what kind of judgment it was. The amendments to FISA were good. Getting a regime that requires the executive to obey the law is important. Whether it is more important than telco immunity is a question upon which sensible people might well differ. And critically, the job of a Senator is to weigh the importance of these different issues and decide, on balance, which outweighs the other.

This is not an easy task. I don't know, for example, how I personally would have made the call. I certainly think immunity for telcos is wrong. I especially think it wrong to forgive campaign contributing telco companies for violating the law while sending soldiers to jail for violating the law. But I also think the FISA bill (excepting the immunity provision) was progress. So whether that progress was more important than the immunity is, I think, a hard question. And I can well understand those (including some friends) who weigh the two together, and come down as Obama did (voting in favor).

I'd also point out, hopefully Obama will be able to get to the bottom of this when he becomes president.
To summarize: Obama has started running to the center, but he has not really changed positions (as far as I can tell, his position on Iraq remains the same, despite the media narrative). While the right, the left, and the media all seem to think Obama has shifted far to the right, I see no evidence of this, at least not yet.

Friday, July 11, 2008

echo chambers

As the presidential election season continues, I'm taking a moment here to address echo chambers. I don't like them, because when you talk to someone outside of it, they don't listen to you or believe you, and you do the same to them. This year, I think the extent to which echo chambers have developed in this country has really been apparent. There are the non-Republican partisans who inhabit the PUMA pac blog and sincerely believe that (ridiculous and illogical) message, the people who actually think John McCain is a great candidate (hah!), the people who think that people who don't like Obama are racist, the Ron Paul revolutionaries, the liberals who are cutting down Obama while hemming and hawing over FISA (as pissed as I am about it), the people who watch Fox News, the people who watch corporate media in general, and the primary season in general showed how easily we can become divided. I find myself constantly evaluating whether or not I'm operating from a truth standpoint or an ideological standpoint, spending most of my time on Talking Points Memo or Pharyngula, watching MSNBC (with a watchful, discerning eye). So with my favorite paraphrase of Plato in mind - "it's not what you want to be the truth, but what is the truth" - I give you a few conservative blogs I find readable and reasonable enough to warrant perusal.

is an economics blog run by a UofM prof.
Division of Labour is a group blog run by mostly conservative economists, though for a while I thought one or two were liberals. Seems pretty centrist/capitalist to me.
The Classroom Conservative is a canadian prof who doesn't talk too much politics but I like his style, so what the hey.

That's it. I'm sure there are other conservative blogs that are run by nice people, but these I got from a list off of Pharyngula about the 100 best academic blogs.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Oil II

I recently posted on the issue of oil prices. As an addendum, I would recommend a piece from the New Yorker refuting the idea that speculators are responsible for the recent rise in price.
When bad things happen, it’s always nice to have a scapegoat. So, with Americans furious about soaring oil prices, Congress has gone in search of someone to blame. There are a number of usual suspects to choose from, depending on your politics—OPEC, greedy oil companies, lily-livered environmentalists opposed to oil drilling—but now Congress has seized on another set of villains: commodity speculators. “Excessive market speculation,” in the words of Senator Joseph Lieberman, has supposedly inflated the price of oil and other commodities beyond reason. Curb speculation, as a raft of proposed laws intend to do, and oil prices will soon return to earth.

keep reading

Monday, July 7, 2008

Helms: In Memoriam

One thing conservative pundits do a lot is wonder why black people vote for the Democrats in overwhelming number. I even had a political science GSI who argued that a good deal of the powerlessness of the black community is ascribable to the fact that blacks (unlike say, Hispanics) are not a swing vote. He pointed out that, with overwhelming support of blacks, Democrats could pursue policies directly targeted against them, such as Clinton's welfare reform.
The odd thing is, it should be obvious why blacks never vote for Republicans.
Here's George Bush describing Jesse Helms:
Throughout his long public career, Senator Jesse Helms was a tireless advocate for the people of North Carolina, a stalwart defender of limited government and free enterprise, a fearless defender of a culture of life, and an unwavering champion of those struggling for liberty. Under his leadership, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was a powerful force for freedom. And today, from Central America to Central Europe and beyond, people remember: in the dark days when the forces of tyranny seemed on the rise, Jesse Helms took their side.

Too describe an unreconstructed racist and foe of civil rights that way shows the party's utter lack of respect to black voters (praising Helms also disrespects gay voters, though one wouldn't need to look so hard to see such prejudice overtly expressed).
Indeed, in a book review that places Helms near the center of the evolution of the conservative movement, Ed Kilgore argues that Helms is the missing link between segregationist conservatism, and the newer, gay-bashing variety.
Helms was undoubtedly the living connection between the racial politics of the Old South and the religion-based cultural politics of the New Right. He was the one surviving segregationist of stature who never regretted or retracted his opposition to the major civil rights legislation of the 1960s. His career-long opposition to any national gesture commemorating the civil rights movement (most notably, his interminable and often scurrilous rearguard efforts to taint the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.) made his strident rhetoric against voting rights enforcement and anything approaching affirmative action an afterthought. And Helms's two reelection campaigns (in 1990 and 1996) against African American Democrat Harvey Gantt pivoted on explicit race baiting, as Helms's Congressional Club allies later admitted to Link.

Helms practically invented the modern conservative politics of sexuality, along with the electoral mobilization of white conservative evangelicals, starting back in the 1970s. In 1977, he seized on Anita Bryant's successful campaign to overturn a gay rights ordinance in Miami and began building a national backlash against antidiscrimination laws. As early as 1979, he was making speeches about the terrible threat of "secular humanism" to Christianity, making the wonky Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies an unlikely villain. When the AIDS epidemic emerged in the 1980s, Helms began an extended and violently worded campaign to "protect" Americans from the "perverts" whose "disgusting" habits were responsible for AIDS, while attacking efforts to find effective treatments. Most memorably, Helms single-handedly made the National Endowment of the Arts' subsidies for "obscene" and "homosexual" artwork a culture-war staple for nearly two decades.

I should point out that part of Bush's statement is indeed factually not true. As I wrote in my previous post, Helms was a friend of all sorts of monstrous regimes. As Hendrik Hertzberg put it "[Helm's] vaunted anti-Communism was never based upon a principled belief in democracy. His support of the apartheid regime was of a piece with his enthusiasm for any dictatorship, no matter how brutal, that could plausibly be described as right wing. (He even supported the Argentine junta in the Falklands war with Britain.)"
I recommend Hertzberg's article about Helms.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dead on the Fourth of July

Jesse Helms is dead.
He was the vilest politicians in America, which would put him high in the running for vilest pol in the entire world.
Supposedly a foe of big government, Helms was in fact nothing of the sort. From Mother Jones.
A former bank lobbyist whose fundraising machine has been fined for breaking federal campaign laws, Helms favors a big-spending, activist government--one that aids those in economic power. He voted to bail out the savings and loan industry, for example, and has seldom met a big-ticket missile system he didn't like. By contrast, he has voted to slash school lunches for impoverished children, medical care for disabled veterans, prescription drugs for the elderly, and wages for working families (see "On the record," below).

From the New York Times Obit
He fought bitterly against federal financing for AIDS research and treatment, saying the disease resulted from “unnatural” and “disgusting” homosexual behavior.

“Nothing positive happened to Sodom and Gomorrah,” he said, “and nothing positive is likely to happen to America if our people succumb to the drumbeats of support for the homosexual lifestyle.”

In his last year in the Senate, he decided to support AIDS measures in Africa, where heterosexual transmission of the disease is most common.[Italics mine]

Over the years Helms has declared homosexuality "degenerate," and homosexuals "weak, morally sick wretches." (Newsweek, 12/5/94) In a tirade highlighting his routine opposition to AIDS research funding, Helms lashed out at the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS bill in 1988: "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy." (States News Service, 5/17/88)

In short, his view on AIDs was more or less genocidal.
Helm's hatred applied not merely to gays, but to blacks also. Helms was cery much a segregationist.
More recently, when a caller to CNN's Larry King Live show praised guest Jesse Helms for "everything you've done to help keep down the niggers," Helms' response was to salute the camera and say, "Well, thank you, I think." (Wilmington Star-News, 9/16/95)

From The Plank
Soon after the Senate vote on the Confederate flag insignia, Sen. Jesse Helms (R.-N.C.) ran into [African-American Illinois Senator Carol] Mosely-Braun in a Capitol elevator. Helms turned to his friend, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah), and said, "Watch me make her cry. I'm going to make her cry. I'm going to sing 'Dixie' until she cries." He then proceeded to sing the song about "the good life" during slavery to Mosely-Braun.

Lastly, there is Helms connection to monstrous regimes all over the world.

Finally, Helms' strong if sometimes shadowy support for violent, anti-democratic forces abroad, from South Africa to El Salvador, might have given media outlets further pause in describing him as a mere conservative; few probed his ties to groups that would more accurately be described as fascist. One exception was an editorial in the Boston Globe (8/23/01): "Helms' role in supporting foreign thugs such as Roberto D'Aubuisson, the cashiered Salvadoran major who ran death squads responsible for savage political murders, did lasting harm to America's good name. In South Africa, Argentina, Mozambique, Honduras, and Nicaragua, Helms cooperated with racists and fascists who have nothing in common with the ideals of American democracy."

From Mother Jones.
Since Helms won election to the Senate, no "bums" have felt his rage as fiercely as citizens of poor nations. Over the years, the senator has proposed hundreds of measures to slash foreign aid, overthrow governments he doesn't like, and block administration policies. As the new chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, he has made it clear that his first priority is to enact deeper cuts to a foreign aid budget already slashed nearly 30 percent in the past decade.

"The fact is that the American people are sick and tired of this whole foreign aid concept anyhow," Helms said last year. "I find myself wishing that somehow we could put it on a national ballot and say: 'What do you think of this?'"

Those cuts will hit hardest in the Third World, where Helms has long been a staunch ally of right-wing military rulers like Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Raoul Cedras in Haiti, and Roberto D'Aubuisson in El Salvador. Confronted with evidence that D'Aubuisson directed death squads to murder civilians, Helms made it clear that some things are more important than human life. "All I know," he replied, "is that D'Aubuisson is a free enterprise man and deeply religious."

Helms has long maintained an extensive network of contacts in Latin America that serves as a sort of shadow State Department. "For years he had a cadre of young people who were very well-connected," says a committee staff member. "You could have set them down in any South American junta and they would have been right at home."

The problem, say those familiar with his network, is that the information it provides is one-sided. "When I bring people to his office to tell him what we've seen, we aren't even allowed in," says Gail Phares, who leads delegations to Central America through Witness for Peace. "I remember when one delegation managed to get in and told his staff what they'd seen and heard in Nicaragua about the contras killing doctors and nurses and children, their response was, 'Well, they're just Communists--they deserve to die.'"

Besides his racism, his bigotry about homosexuals, his satanic foreign aid policy, Helms there is so much more villainy Helms has been responsible for. Good-bye, wanker.
(Where not otherwise specified, the source for the quotes is Fair)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day

"It seems that American patriotism measures itself against an outcast group. The right Americans are the right Americans because they’re not like the wrong Americans, who are not really Americans." -

-Eric J. Hobsbawm

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

-Howard Zinn
(from Informed Comment)
A reactionary says "my country, right or wrong", a progressive says "dissent is patriotic".
I don't think that their is a reason to be loyal to an an imagined entity at all.
Salman Rushdie once said that nation is the third greatest myth of our existence, following money and God.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

sick sick sick

What's been making the blog rounds lately is the story of a tactic I never thought would happen: Republican operatives are pretending to be disgruntled hillary supporters, and they're setting up a network of websites to tear down the Obama campaign. Apparently opposing him on policy would be too difficult.
The ringleader website/blog is called PUMA PAC and from research at TPM
it appears that a ring of about 50 to 100 bloggers are setting up a number of accounts to create the impression that all 18 million Hillary supporters won't vote for Obama, Hillary must be the nominee. How that accommodates the 18+ million who voted for Obama, I don't know, but their posts are quite frightening. You take four parts conservative rage, three parts bullshit, and one part random Democrats who appear on CNN who don't unwaveringly support Hillary Clinton (still), and you get PUMA PAC .
In short, this is the sleaziest, most disgusting pile of trash I have ever seen in a long time. gah.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Waterboarding is torture

We all know this, but if anyone needs a real, live reason why waterboarding is a horrible interrogation tactic, Christopher Hitchens volunteered to be waterboarded. It's not a fun experience.


Via Matt Yglesias, Andrew Bacevich thinks that endless debating about the surge is distracting us from far more important issues.
Bush's harshest critics, left liberals as well as traditional conservatives, have repeatedly called attention to this record. That criticism has yet to garner mainstream political traction. Throughout the long primary season, even as various contenders in both parties argued endlessly about Iraq, they seemed oblivious to the more fundamental questions raised by the Bush years: whether global war makes sense as an antidote to terror, whether preventive war works, whether the costs of "global leadership" are sustainable, and whether events in Asia rather than the Middle East just might determine the course of the 21st century.

While some of our wiser intellects argue these questions, the seem limited to New York Review of Books intellectuals. I'll try to write about these questions in later posts. I personally have mixed feeling on some of these questions, however, I very much feel the idea of a "global war on terror" is deeply misguided.
Many other issues are off the table as we more and more simply argue about whether the war is working. Liberals have been so distracted by these issues that we've nearly forgotten what else is wrong in American society: the widening wealth disparity, the growing prison populations, the "war on drugs" etc.

The BBQ vote

It seems like the American people enjoy having a beer more than going to a French bistro and sipping wine. So, the perennial poll question is "who would you rather have a beer with?" In this case, the question is barbecue, and in this case, Obama wins.

It's not a huge margin, but if we get the backyard cookout vote, I'd say that's one less obstacle to overcome in Obama's quest for the presidency.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Charlie Black Gets it Right

It appears our political culture has a deep revulsion when pols and their advisors make perfectly accurate claims about the American electorate. Suggest that Americans have an over-attachment to fire-arms and religion, or that some might be less likely to vote for a black man, and you will be attacked by the chattering classes as an elitist.
I think Charlie Black is a sleaze-ball for the lobbying he's done for foreign strong-men. Still, when Black states that a terrorist attack would be a huge advantage, is he hoping for an attack? I doubt it, that's merely his analysis, and it may well be right. Barron YoungSmith:
Is Charlie Black right? A few writers are now saying the idea that terrorist attacks help Republicans is merely a social construct.

I'm not so sure. While it's logically nonsense to think a terrorist attack would help Republicans, there are powerful neurobiological reasons it might.

As John Judis explained in detail last August, there's actually a good deal of scientific evidence showing people become more tribal and conservative--more attracted to grand, apocalyptic rhetoric about good and evil--after they've been reminded of their own mortality. And not just in the abstract. One experiment in the run-up to the 2004 election showed test subjects were 400% more likely to support President Bush after being asked to contemplate what would happen when they die--or hearing someone invoke 9/11. Subjects also became more intolerant of out groups, like gays and people who seem un-American.

Of course, the political landscape is a lot different now than it was in 2004. Democratic critiques of Republican foreign policy are more developed and more widespread. If we're attacked, it's possible the left would provide a counternarrative that channels the us vs. them-type fear and recrimination against Republicans, blaming them for distracting us from fighting al Qaeda; not securing ports; whatever. And Barack Obama, now the left's standard-bearer, might figure out a way to channel the tribal desire for transcendence and unity more effectively than John McCain.

Nevertheless, scientific evidence and political precedent both suggest Charlie Black's hypothesis is reasonable. If San Francisco were nuked, it would drastically alter our psychology and knock issues like health care off the table. Watching their countrymen die, voters would almost certainly give McCain's campaign--with its obsessive focus on foreign affairs and a transcendent war against Islamic fascism--a second look.

I don't know how a terrorist attack would play. Barack Obama is certainly a more talented politician than John McCain, perhaps he could turn it too his advantage. But the idea that it's merely Rovian propaganda that a terrorist attack would help the Republicans is untrue. A threat will almost always help the party of authoritarianism, whoever that is. There is good evidence that the apartment bombing the heralded Vladimir Putin's rise were staged by Russian intelligence for this very reason.

Wes Clark and Swift-boating

Wes Clark is sure getting pilloried in the press for stating the obvious.
The McCain campaign and the cable channels have evidently decided that stating that being shot down doesn't qualify you to be the president (obvious) is tantamount to spitting on a mans military service. Watch the video, and you will see that the talking-heads are shrill, uncivil, and oddly personal in their attacks. There is swift-boating going on here, but it's of Clark, not McCain.