Friday, May 30, 2008

McClellan: Better late the Never

There is a re-occurring story-line in the Bush administration. It goes something like this: a respected insider leaves the Whitehouse, and then writes a book unveiling the cynicism and deception of our leaders. Instantly, a mob of Whitehouse surrogates take to TVs and radio-waves all across the country, slandering this person whilst accusing him of slander. So it was with Richard Clarke (who Scott McClellan criticized at the time), so it was with Paul O'Neill (who said famously described Bush as a like "a blind man in a room full of deaf people").
With the publishing of McClellan's book, the Whitehouse surrogates have gone through the motions. They repeatedly compare his rhetoric to that of a lefty-blogger (if they think Scott McClellan has harsh things to say about them, they should read this lefty-blog), and say he is a disgruntled employee (if he is, this would be understandable).Karl Rove said
This doesn't sound like Scott. It really doesn't. Not the Scott McClellan I have known for a long time. Second of all--sounds like somebody else, it sounds like a left-wing blogger

Rove seems to think that McClellan has been replaced by some sort of liberal pod-person.
One wonders why they bother, though. The facts McClellan points out are pretty well established. I doubt slandering McClellan will win the administration back its popularity.
(Posted by Ewan)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Media Too Easy on Bush in Lead-up to Iraq War? Duh

With Scott McClellan making a major splash with his new book "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception," an often critical examination of his time working for the Bush administration, I figured I'd consider not the policy or political points but some of the media self-analysis being done. The MSM is reflecting on itself.

Of course, the juiciest bits are probably McClellan's criticisms of his former boss. He labeled the Bush administration as both mildly deceitful (he doesn't say "lie") and excessively ideological, working hard to "sell" the Iraq War to the American public via "propaganda" in 2002 and 2003.

But news reporters have started to examine their own coverage of that period. Why? From Politico's initial scoop:


McClellan repeatedly embraces the rhetoric of Bush's liberal critics and even charges: “If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.


Indeed, it now seems clear, as Yglesias notes, that several reporters either by their own intuition or because they were "encouraged" by corporate executives, are conscious of having been too easy on the administration during that time period. Keep in mind Bush's 90% approval rating after the initial reaction to 9/11. High approval ratings mean TV ratings will be affected by how nice one is to the popular prez.

The Politico piece goes on, quoting McClellan:

“The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”


The last point is crucial. There is nothing "liberal" about the mainstream press and its coverage in this country. That it relies on things like facts and evidence make it anathema to social and other conservatives, who like feeling and emotion and tradition, and lack statistical or other bases for their hatred of gays and desire to invade countries. But our press coverage is a largely centrist affair, and I would argue, probably leans right if anything. It relies on tired narratives that the public can relate to in order to do lazy reporting on things like "socialized medicine" and terrorism. To be clear, the reporters themselves probably are well to the left of our country as a whole. The constant talk about Reverend Wright, for instance, was not the result of a liberal media except to the extent that many of the reporters, themselves liberal, were clearly nervous about conservative reaction. They know (well, they think they know) their viewers are more conservative than they are, and overcompensate accordingly, wondering aloud about how this will "play" in the Heartland.

Of course, as becomes clearer every day, this is not a conservative country, but an increasingly progressive one. That the support for gay marriage, to use a typical (if somewhat arbitrary) example, goes through the roof in the 18-29 demographic is telling.

Bush 1, Journalism 0. Good thing this game is almost over.

Help Beat McCain Quickly, Easily

Chris Bowers of OpenLeft has rebooted (in new, fresher form) his successful 2006 campaign of "Googlebombing," or strategically manipulating the hits that come up when low-information swing voters attempt to research their candidates on search engines. This time, of course, it's for our friend John McCain.

Chris explains the campaign in detail here.

Help out now by doing what I'm doing: every time you write about McCain online--on any website or blog of your own, etc.--make sure you link John McCain's name to one of the 9 stories that we hope to get out there. They are all poll-tested, and likely to be effective at damaging him in the eyes of people trying to learn about Mr. McCain.

Let's get to it. Let's fucking tear the hell out of asshole John McCain, the idiot wannabe Maverick who is in fact too angry, incoherent, uninformed, and corrupt to deserve to be President of our country.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Totalitarianism in Britain

I just watched V For Vendetta. Overall, I thought it was a very good flick, and timely. The comic was written as a response to Thatcherism, but the heavy handed political commentary seems entirely appropriate today. Our government does tortures people, after all. The Bushies are not the megalomaniacs portrayed in "V for Vendetta", but you get the point. Do not to trust the government. The most poignant, and arguably the best, scene in the movie involved a lesbian couple who died in a concentration camp.

Ultimately, the film is a little too Hollywood. It becomes to much good guys vs. bad guys. The fascists are interesting, but not complex. The "Voice of London" is a propaganda minister who reminded me eerily of Stephen Colbert (unfortunately he is quickly dispatched). Similarly, the second-in-command of the felt like a stand-in for Dick Cheney. We forget also that V is a morally ambiguous character.
Ultimately I think Brazil and Children of Men, both also about Orwellian states, are deeper films, Brazil because it is a biting satire of the banality of evil, and captures the true essence of creeping authoritarianism, Children of Men because it is a more complex and more damning indictment of modern society. Both these films are necessarily more depressing than V for Vendetta, which gave us a relatively happy (Hollywood) ending.
Still, I enjoyed the movie and recommend it.
(Posted by Ewan)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Kleptocracy Watch

Fulgencia Batista, the US-backed military dictator of Cuba, famously left Cuba with literally hundreds of millions of dollars of the publics money after being overthrown by Fidel Castro.
Mobutu Sese Seko, Ferdinand Marcos and Mohammed Suharto (all also US-backed military dictators) all took an order of magnitude more: tens of billions of dollars. Such a thing couldn't happen here, could it?
But this story from Friday's Washington Post, which talks about $15 billion in spending on Iraq that can't be accounted for properly, or in some cases at all, shows that the other stage of federal budgeting -- implementation -- is similarly broken, not working properly, and...well...you certainly get this picture as well.

It's also hard to come to any conclusion other than that the spending of taxpayer funds in Iraq bordered on, or actually was, simple and straightforward corruption.

Given the magnitude of the spending involved, Iraq may be the Bush administration's contribution to the biggest public corruption scandals of all time like Boss Tweed in New York, James Michael Curley in Boston, and Teapot Dome.

Source.
I'm not saying the Bushies are kleptocrats on top of being incompetent, plutocratic warmongers, but I wouldn't dismiss the thought, either.
Note Iraq has one of the most corrupt governments in the world. The example set by the government that set up that one probably has at least something to do with that. Also note that we attempted to put Ahmed Chalabi, a politician who presided over an Enron-like scandal, in charge of Iraq. Not exactly an exercise in good-governance.
(Posted by Ewan)

Hillary as VP: a Dream Ticket?

Recently, Hillary supporters have been suggesting that the best way to round-out the presidential ticket would be to appoint Hillary to the Vice Presidency, mainly because such a move would placate Clinton supporters. Paul Krugman, for example, makes this argument.
I think the Clintonite's are vastly overstating their importance. Neil Sinhababu, who has a sustained argument about why Hillary should not be VP (which I recommend), notes that the cleavage in the Democratic party is vastly exaggerated.
[A]fter a Democratic convention where everybody in the party including Clinton talks up Obama and a couple months of campaigning against a warmongering GOP nominee with a 0% NARAL rating who doesn't care about working people, Obama will consolidate Democratic support.

We're moving through the stage in the process where there's maximal bitterness between the candidates' supporters. (I remember this from 2004, except it happened a lot earlier in the year.) But sure as Dean people fell behind the once-hated Kerry and people who care about each other make up after a fight, you'll see the vast majority of Clinton people cast a vote against McCain. And looking at the numbers, Hillary-Obama animosity is pretty tame by historical standards, with 1/5 of Obama people saying they won't vote for Hillary and 1/4 of Hillary people saying they won't vote for Obama. You know what percentage of McCain supporters said they wouldn't vote Bush in March 2000? 51%.

Italics mine.
Indeed, I recall that many some were predicting that John McCain's challenge to George Bush would lose the Republicans the 2000 election. We all know how that turned out. John Sides, a political scientist, explains this effect of party members almost invariably rally around the nominee.
Despite ugly battles and policy differences that sometimes seem intractable, the reality is that presidential campaigns tend to unify each party behind its nominee. Political scientists call this phenomenon the "reinforcement effect." It was described in 1940 in the first major study of a presidential campaign. The study's authors -- Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson and Hazel Gaudet -- noted that voters tended to "join the fold to which they belong," with Democrats gravitating to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Republicans to Wendell Willkie. These voters were not blindly following whichever shepherds their parties nominated, the study concluded. Rather, their partisan loyalties reflected their underlying values, and the parties' nominees solidified their support by emphasizing these same values as the campaign unfolded.

Obama has more to worry about than just Clinton voters. To keep the his base energized, Obama needs to maintain a clear anti-war message. Hillary Clinton suggest we "obliterate Iran", voted for the Lieberman/Kyl Amendment and voted to authorize the war we're currently in. It makes sense for Obama to try to court Reagan Democrats, but he should do so with a anti-war economic populist, such as John Edwards or Jim Webb.
A Obama/ Clinton ticket doesn't make sense from the standpoint of governing should the ticket win. I don't think we should see both Clintons and their cynical/ stupid advisors open up shop in the VP's office. Would they make use of the powers accumulated by the Cheney VP slot to undermine Obama? You can bet on it. This can't possibly be a good situation, and I can't see how it would last.
(Posted by Ewan)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Beginning of the End?

According to Juan Cole, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani just got a lot frostier toward US presence in Iraq, possibly as a result of competition from more implacable clerical foes of American presence.
Fars News reproduces in Persian on May 24, 2008, another anti-American fatwa by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf. It says that its correspondent in Najaf reports that an Iraqi Shiite submitted the following to Sistani:


'I sell foodstuffs. Sometimes the Occupying Powers or their associates come to my establishment. May I sell them foodstuffs?'


Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani replied:


' Selling foodstuffs to the Occupying Powers is not permitted.'

Last I knew, the US military in Iraq does not buy its food from Iraqis but rather imports it, for fear that Iraqi nationalists might poison it. But I'm told US soldiers do buy food and snacks from Shiite shops in Baghdad when out on patrol. So the fatwa would affect the latter but not the former. But if Sistani is laying the grounds for a Gandhi-style non-cooperation movement, he certainly could put a crimp in the American military's style in Iraq. I can't imagine US troops could function in the Shiite south or much of Baghdad without Shiite cooperation. Sistani still has a great deal of moral authority, and would be backed by less cautious clerics such as Muqtada al-Sadr and Ayatollah Jawad al-Khalisi.

This fatwa is significant in light of the reports that Sistani has been orally permitting attacks on US troops by Shiite militiamen loyal to the Shiite religious authorities in Najaf.

If this is true, it makes the US presence in Iraq all but untenable. Sistani certainly sounds like he means business.
This could be either good news or bad news. If you are a conservative who believes the claptrap about al-Qaeda taking over or at least "being emboldened" by a US pullout, this sound like bad news. However, you are delusional.
On the other hand, if you believe it's high time we leave Iraq, this seems good news. Given the nature of this, we probably won't be seeing helicopter airlifting the last US personnel out of the embassy. I have my doubts about all of the candidates willingness to withdraw from the country, this move will effectively force one of their hands. Even better would be if it forces Bush's hand, because that would help curtail a "stab-in-the-back" myth like the right has about Vietnam. This may be to much to hope for, though.
(Posted by Ewan)

Endgame

While I have largely refrained from covering the election recently... leaving that in the able hands of my co-bloggers, this post marks a return to election punditry, something I was sworn off of.
From the New Yorker, Hendrick Hertzberg writes:
Last Wednesday, Clinton described the Democrats’ long-standing reluctance to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations in their entirety, a reluctance that she shared back when she saw her nomination as inevitable, in these words: “We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe.” In a speech in Florida, she invoked the Declaration of Independence, “the consent of the governed,” the abolition of slavery, “our most fundamental values,” the 1848 Seneca Falls women’s-suffrage convention, the sacrifice of soldiers, the tear gas at Selma, “equal justice under the law,” and the Voting Rights Act. Worse, she invaded the Democratic sacristy, picked up the chalice, and flourished it like a club, saying that

"right here in Florida, you learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren’t counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner. The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal clear. If any votes aren’t counted, the will of the people is not realized and our democracy is diminished."

Well, that depends on what the meaning of “count” is, doesn’t it? Florida’s (and Michigan’s) votes in January’s rogue primaries were indeed counted, and everyone understood well in advance that the question of how they would be translated into delegates was, at best, problematic.

This is particularly a problem in our own rogue state of Michigan, where, as Hertzberg notes, "Michigan primary that is distinctly North Korean: Clinton, 328,309; Obama, 0". Under these circumstances, I'm not sure it makes a lot of sense to seat the delegates as is. I didn't vote in the primary for precisely this reason.
It seems to me bizarre and representing a egotism verging on megalomania that Hillary compared this struggle to the fight for freedom in Zimbabwe and the woman's suffrage movement.
I normally don't try to analyze pols personalities... pundits do that and to make up for their lack of substance, and it's maddening. I must make an exception in this case: Hillary has a self-righteous streak big enough to drive bus through. She has so utterly convinced herself of her righteousness and importance to this country that she is blind to all else, and is intent on leading the party or seeing it burnt to ashes around her.
(Posted by Ewan)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Reconciliation Two-Step

Someone on Talking Points Memo wants to get the ball rolling on party unity.
I think it's noble, and at least I know the TPM crowd will play nice.



(Facebook, on the other hand, has rapidly become a wretched hive of scum and villainy, politically anyways. )

May 20th Election rundown

I want to touch briefly on the Kentucky election, and on one other interesting news item.

In the attempt to lessen Obama's losses in Kentucky, I knocked on a couple hundred doors and made hundreds of phone calls. Though I was mostly directed towards undecideds and other sway-able people, most people were willing to hear what I had to say and give me fifteen seconds of their time. This differs from the campaigns in Michigan I volunteered for, and even the 2004 election. I"m convinced that a large portion of the blowout Obama suffered was in part due to his lack of campaigning in the state and people being tepid about both candidates and therefore voting for the established brand. I never encountered any strong, fervent Hillary supporters, but I did find lots of people who would have crawled to the polls to vote for Obama if they had to. The other big reason Obama lost? It might have to do with phone conversation snippets I wrote down that went along these lines: "You can take Barack O. and send him back to Egypt," "Barack Obama? He's that colored candidate, isn't he?" and "I'm not going to vote for a muslim." In the last two quotes, I actually managed to get those two people's votes by reassuring them that Barack was a Christian and Keith Ellison was the muslim in question. But assume for a minute that I was a pollster. I just called 300 phone calls to kentucky undecideds in Lexington plus a few nearby semi-urban, semi-rural towns, and came up with at least 5 or 6 folks who wouldn't vote for Barack because they thought he was a Muslim. Extrapolate that. It's not pretty.

However, I would like to say that my experiences in Kentucky were much more positive than anywhere else. I actually sat down and had conversations with four or five people, and I"m extremely happy that I found such people. None of them were pro-Obama - I had a cycnical democrat, two libertarians, an undecided, an elderly Clinton supporter, and an old lady - but that's the point of this Obama campaign, to reach out to everyone and get a national conversation going. For all of the 15 people who shut their doors or slammed the phone on me, so many more were ever so gracious.

And now for the news item.
A lot of analysis has been floating around about Hillary's failures to secure an early lead in the primary, and I think that this article really cinches it for me that they had no idea and no plan for the contingency that the folks in Iowa might not like Hillary. Now, the article in itself is about Bill Clinton rejecting and denouncing the idea that he was playing the race card. But the key paragraph in the article was this:

"[Bill] Clinton told People that after her mother lost the Iowa caucuses, daughter Chelsea “was upset, bawled, went to her employer and said, ‘Look, you got to let me go or give me an indefinite leave of absence. I’m not letting my mother go down like this.’”


They really had no idea that this wasn't an entitlement game, did they?

Clinton folks, you all gave a good fight, but it's time to turn around and focus on McInsane rather than trying to win 90% of every remaining contest or whatever the metric is.

(posted by Matt S.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More on Appeasement

Israel and Syria say they are searching for a comprehensive peace. Will Bush and McCain denounce this as appeasement? It seems very doubtful... appeasement is only a club to use on domestic opposition.
On the other hand, I am fairly sure that Bush and McCain oppose this policy. In fact, recent (questionable) US intelligence claims about an site bombed by Israel may have been an attempt to derail these negotiations (as well as US negotiations with North Korea, who they allege was aiding with the reactor).
This should remind us that the position of US hawks isn't synonymous with the position of Israel... rather, the position of US hawks is synonymous with the position of the Likud Party.

From the Corner:
Good for Sen. McCain, going after Sen. Obama like that on Iran. The Soviet Union was a superpower unlikely to attack us because retaliation would have been certain and massive. Iran may be comparatively puny, but the chance that the mullahs will actually use the weapons once they have them is geometrically greater. They may not be able to destroy the United States, but they could dwarf 9/11.

And what would we do if they did? We've spent years blathering about how our quarrel isn't with the Iranian people (a mythical 80 percent of whom, we're periodically assured, really despise their regime and may revolt any day now). So far as our rhetoric goes, Iranians are innocent victims. If Iran launched a nuclear attack against us or our allies, would we really turn the place into a parking lot — which would have devastating consequences for neighboring states? I'm not convinced we would — and I'm betting I'm a lot more rational than Ahmadinejad in that my calculations are not affected by the likelihood of the Mahdi's long-awaited arrival.

Which again raises the issue of motivation. Ahmadinejad and his cohort are apocalyptic jihadi revolutionaries. Shouldn't what they believe be analyzed and factored in as we try to assess the threat that they pose? Or would that offend moderates too much? It seems awfully silly to compare them to the Soviet Union when, with the latter, we had a deterrence policy — Mutually Assured Destruction — that was explicitly based not only on the size of the enemy arsenal but on whether, given his motivations, he was likely to act. Obama appears content to calculate based on the size of the arsenal, period. That's not MAD, but it's madness.

I like this quote because it nicely encapsulates conservative arguments about Iran. Iran is seen as revolutionary power, which cannot be allowed to possess nuclear arms because it is run by a Shi'ite madman awaiting for Armageddon. The Soviet Union was different, it was a status quo power which we could deal with.
This argument is specious. To begin with, the Soviet Union was seen by hawks as a deeply revolutionary and irrational power and revolutionary power. It was explicitly compare to the Nazis, and considered deeply irrational. As Kevin Drum points out MAD was invented by conservatives as a term of ridicule. "Red China" was also seen as a deeply irrational power who could not be allowed to ever have the bomb. Does anyone want to argue that Nixon's negotiations with the Chinese were futile?
I agree, on the other hand, that Ahmadinejad may not be a rational leader. His beliefs are very, VERY similar to those of Christian fundamentalist. He believes that the Mahdi will return any day now and by the way, will bring Jesus with him. Seriously.
It's worth reminding ourselves, first, that Ahmadinejad isn't the most powerful man in the government, probably not even the second most powerful. Second, there is little chance he will be president by the time Iran develops the bomb (assuming Iran is developing a nuclear device, which I doubt).
Iran has been a revolutionary power in the past (though that didn't stop the Reaganites from selling them weapons), but Iran's behavior now seems very similar to an old fashioned great power.
For people like Bush, we're always in Europe just before World War II. Appeasement has become a prevailing myth of the right, synonymous with pacifism and weakness, never mind that the treaty was as much realpolitik as anything else. The Western powers failed recognize Hitler as a revolutionary power. The countries of the west were weak in their response. Now we're afraid of our own shadow, seeing Hilters wherever we look.
We learn the lesson of World War II while ignore the lesson of World War I. It was a war that should never have been waged. In that war, it was the hawks, those considering themselves hard-headed realists, who were deluded. The result was a cataclysmic conflict, and in many ways World War II was merely a continuation of this conflict.
World War I is the rule, World War II the exception.
(Posted by Ewan)

HRC compares not changing the rules so she can win to egregious civil rights cases in history

Kos and Chait both quickly noticed Hillary Rodham Clinton's outrageous (morally, intellectually, politically) argument today that to not allow her to go back on her word on Florida and Michigan (she originally agreed that the two states would not count) so her delegate margin could get reduced (she'd still be prohibitively in second place) is similar to the denial of the right to the vote to women, and of civil rights to blacks in the South in the 60s.

This mostly speaks for itself. What is truly unfortunate (for her, her followers) is that many journalists, party activists, and rank-and-file Dems liked her OK but just preferred Obama (more progressive, etc.) before the primary. Now, with such ridiculous pandering (and intellectually vacuous reasoning and hypocrisy and maniacal fear-mongering) she has truly become a political monster, a figure unlikable (not for her being a woman or being "shrill" or any of those other euhpemisms for sexism) because she is simply intolerably, cynically corrupt and destructive.

She is a pox on the Democratic Party, on progressive values (including feminism), and on our country's future. I hope she is pushed out (not just rejected as VP, but truly pushed out of the party leadership) and shown the error of her ways.

I hope.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Lion in Winter


Edward Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor.
Normally I don't feel moved by what happens to the famous people... I don't know them after all.
Kennedy is different. He means something.
I know, Kennedy was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and had more than his share of personal flaws.
Bu he has done so much for the country. He may be an aristocrat, but he has fought as hard as anyone for our neediest.
I am an atheist, so I can't say that Kennedy will be in my prayers. But he will be in my thoughts
(Posted by Ewan)

Fifty More Years of Cuban Dictators? Under Obama, Perhaps Not


Obama is taking heat from McCain for rejecting the conventional wisdom of not doing anything new to our Cuba policy. Leave it as is, I'm sure some have told him. Don't upset those Cubans in South Florida (so many electoral votes!). Don't upset anyone. Period.

But he is challenging the ridiculous idea that, since the last fifty years of not negotiating with Cuba resulted in zero changes in their government and its practices, another fifty years might as well be tried, too. Thank God. Someone had to.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Michelle Obama

This past evening at the Obama headquarters in Lexington, Michelle Obama paid us a visit. I wasn't sure what to expect - the media seems to have painted her as some abrasive, snobby woman. What I saw was something different. She has a speaking style that is as articulate as Barack's, though obviously not as inspiring. While it was supposed to be just a thank-you speech to all the volunteers (some 300 or 400 showed up, by estimates given), I managed to pick up a few nuggets.

"You can't lead one way and win another."
This is key. As much as Clinton claims to have lived change her whole life, etc, etc, the Clinton campaign style has been pretty off-putting to many Dems. How can we assume we'll be a welcome part of our democracy if the Clinton campaign (or McCain for that matter) runs a less than idealistic campaign? As I mentioned before, Hillary bashed MoveOn.org after her caucus losses, and said that voters "kind of look at us from afar" (paraphrased). Gee, I feel like as a democratic activist that disagrees with some Clinton policies, I would really be welcome at the Clinton white house.
While I really don't want to sound like I'm venting at this point in the game, I do want to point out that this is part of why Hillary lost the nomination - she ran a game that turned off voters.

Getting to know the locals:
Characteristic with the way the Obama campaign has been running a different game, Michelle described how Barack took the early lead by really entrenching his volunteers in every community that he could. The volunteers spent months organizing and really getting to know the people in the communities they set up shop in, and those personal connections crafted over a period of time really paid off. That's why Iowa was a huge win.

A refreshing idea in politics/life.
Regardless of the way this election eventually plays out, the Obama campaign has brought about a new discourse in American life. Michelle stressed that a lot of events on this campaign (I infer Jeremiah Wright and racist anti-Obama people) have shown the need for giving people the benefit of the doubt. Empathy is a crucial skill that really is in high demand - believe me, I've made a lot of people more sympathetic to Obama just by taking a second and listening to what they have to say, even if they're Ron Paul fans. Barack has shown that he's willing to be diplomatic with traditional foreign policy enemies, and listen to people he might disagree with in the US. Michelle urged us to take this to heart in our ordinary lives. I'm glad she made this point - I've been throwing around the idea on TPM forums of trying to get it through our politicians' heads that we can't blame WV, PA and soon KY on racism alone, and that we need to come up with an Appalachian plan that improves their economies and educates their kids better (in regard to education, I speak from my fathers' blunt characterizations of the small town public school system in WV that drove him to commit my siblings to a slightly more educational but religiously themed private school).

These three themes should be understood by more people. As Michelle said, the younger generation is watching, and they notice when we stereotype people, when we do one thing and say another, etc etc. This election has shown us how politics can be a new game that allows for more people to participate. Let's hope that this becomes the norm.

(posted by Matt S.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Appeasement



It appears to me that many conservatives either don't know what appeasement is, or otherwise willfully misunderstand. I'm not referring just to dipshit Kevin James, who doesn't seem to know what happened at Munich in 1938. I'm talking about the statements of George Bush, subsequently supported by the McCain camp (though they then tried to distance themselves from the remarks). In front of the Knesset (Israel's parliament), Bush made what was transparently an attack on Obama.
Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Actually, negotiating isn't some sort of skilled argument designed to make hostile groups see the error of their ways, rather it is an attempt to reconcile partly differing strategic interests. The fact that Bush seems to feel this way would explain a lot about the presidents world-view.
Second, Bush doesn't seem to understand what appeasement is. This seems tied to the peculiar idea we have in America that we should only talk to people we like, and if America talks to hostile powers it somehow confers legitimacy on them. Pace Bush, appeasement is not simply talking to the enemy, rather it is giving in to an aggressor's demands rather than put up armed opposition. Once again, the statement says a lot about Bush's mentality... if the president honestly thinks that any negotiation is "appeasement", you can see why he stubbornly refuses to talk to Hamas and Iran.
One of my pet peeves is when people liken whatever situation we're in to that faced before World War II. Every war we faced, people have had to believe our enemy is Hitler reincarnated, no matter how nonsensical the analogy is. I distinctly remember hoards of conservative columnists likening opposition to the war Iraq war to appeasement.
It's time to recognize that this is silly... that we are taking the wrong lessons from that part of history, and using Munich as an excuse not to examine issues more deeply. Enough using this stupid historical analogy in support of any and all militarism.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

John McCain's Friends

McCain gets a lot of credit for being a man who has tried to take influence peddling out of politics. It is true that he has been involved in legislation to try to take money out of politics, what this picture obscures is McCain's own influence peddling... he has surrounded himself with lobbyists.
Recently, both a regional manager and the guy McCain tapped to run the GOP convention both stepped down because of lobbying they had done for Burma's vampire-state. Talk about bad timing.
At any rate, it appears that McCain is surrounded by this sort of thing, indeed, it appears an entire book could be written on McCain's chief political advisor, Charlie Black. He firm has been deeply involved in lobbying for the worst sorts of dictatorships and thugs. Mobutu Sese Seko, Jonas Savimbi, Siad Barre, Ferdinand Marcos and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. You just can't make this stuff up.
(Posted by Ewan)

Edwards Endorses Obama


AP story. The oft-repeated line will be that this makes no difference now that the race is over.
On the other hand, we can hope that this helps Obama with working class stiffs, and hopefully consolidate the party. He made his endorsement, by the way, in Grand Rapids. 
(Posted by Ewan)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Constant Race-Baiting (and HRC claims that it will prove decisive) are simply factually inaccurate (now with evidence!)

Empirical evidence that Wright and tying Obama to him doesn't matter at ALL, via Ben Smith:

The AP calls a tight race for Democrat Travis Childers in Mississippi, a win for the DCCC and a symbolic win for Obama, the GOP bogeyman of choice in the conservative Mississippi district, and a very bad sign for House Republicans.

This is the reddest of red congressional districts, one that went 62%-37% for George W. Bush in 2004. If race-baiting and Wright association (via Obama association) can't hurt a candidate here, how the hell will it hurt Obama in the fall ANYWHERE else in the entire country?

The pundits should be intellectually rigorous enough to call the Wright flap DEAD, which it clearly now is.

Thank you very much.

The Dumb Logic (and Intellectual Dishonesty) of the Clinton Arguments

Jerome Armstrong, a fierce Clinton supporter and general white-backlash asshole, writes over at MyDD on tonight's West Virginia blowout:

Obama may not even break 30 percent, despite being practically anointed with the nomination?!?! Look, this is a partisan blog. Nearly everyone will come around to supporting the nominee here, but if Obama doesn't recognize the serious problem this presents in the world offline, and his supporters as well, I am speechless (which may not be a bad thing considering).


Very poor logic at play here. First, like so many brazen Clinton folks, he decides that winning a state's primary has some relavance to winning it in the general election. This is simply not the case, and has been shown to not be the case by multiple major news organizations and political blogs and analysts.

Second, he seems to say: Why can't he close the deal, or why isn't anyone more indignant or frustrated with Obama about this?

Well, first of all, the pundits ARE describing his "white blue-collar" problem, so people ARE paying attention. But what Jerome (who has outrageously defended, for instance, Geraldine Ferraro's disgraceful behavior throughout this campaign) has consistently refused to do is consider the fact that voting for someone in a primary does NOT mean you will not support them in the fall.

But many of HRC's West Virginia supporters won't support Obama. Of course, it is unfair to say "this is because WVA is racist." Such generalizations are unhelpful and generally offensive. But race is certainly a big factor in this poor, uneducated white state. Why is Jerome unwilling to even consider that?

The broader point is that the HRC-ites out there are basically saying: this is a racist country and we had better appease it. They point to Reverend Wright and say "why can't Obama close the deal?" That is a substantial chunk of their argument for her overturning the will of the people via superdelegates, and the Clinton folks' intellectual dishonesty (that it has something to do with "Big States" or "Reagan Democrats" more abstractly) is pretty outrageous.

Perhaps more practically important, though, is that Jerome and others are creatures of the past. They cannot understand why voters don't give a shit about Wright (see this great ABC News/Wash. Post poll showing Obama romping McCain and people finding association with Bush far worse than association with Wright). They also don't like the idea that someone can put new states in play (Obama makes Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, and Nevada all competitive according to multiple polls) rather than pleading for poor white blue-collar folks to come back over.

This can sound elitist and condescending, but the broader point is that we should not be appealing to the worst in Americans, but the best. That's what Ted Kennedy meant the other day when he said we should not choose for Obama a VP like Hillary who fails to appeal to our "nobler" aspirations. He's absolutely right. Choose someone who appeals to the best in us, and choose someone (in Obama himself) who can both do that feel-good stuff, AND win. Winning is good, too. Obama will do that.

I want to move on already

I understand that Clinton has every right in the world to keep up her nomination fight, but some of the whining on her side has been particularly extraordinary. Here we have Terry McAuliffe praising Fox News as the most responsible network in this most biased of political campaigns.

I would like to say something about the state of the race as it pertains to the media. A lot of people have been deeply, emotionally affected by the media in this race, and I think the majority of them are Clinton supporters who have a feminist bent. I'm a feminist too, and I also disapprove of the way Chris Matthews and others are allowed to make misogynistic and racist comments on air (as well as the Clinton camp's attempt to emasculate Obama), and I feel for the DNC and Howard Dean not doing much to stop it all.
But there's an important point that I've recently come to realize and want to point out - the majority of stupid crap that gets spewed in this country, is on television news. I understand that it's easy to watch tv news and think you're learning something, but the reality is that I can read my local paper, check Talking Points Memo, and read an article or two somewhere, all in the time it takes Lou Dobbs or Chris Matthews to ask me if Jeremiah Wright hates America as much as feminists do. It's the simple truth. I want to start something this election cycle if I can get a platform for it - The Matt Steele Media Challenge.

It goes like this: How much TV news do you watch? How much news are you actually getting, how much stated opinion are you actually getting, and how many offhand remarks do you hear?
For all the time you would spend watching overpaid pundits run their mouth about the days' news and controversy, spend that time instead reading the news and checking out opinion articles (bonus points for articles that link sources for accuracy). I guarantee you'll be a better voter in the fall.

(posted by Matt S)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bush, the Presidential Candidates and Iran

One of the primary differences between the presidential candidates is how they handle Iran. Unlike Iraq, where I think the difference between the candidates will be much less than one would expect given campaign trail rhetoric (more on this later), differences on Iran couldn't be starker. I will briefly summarize candidates positions and what I think of them, as well as that of the present administration.

Barack Obama I believe the best way to deal with Iran is through engagement. This is one reason that Obama's candidacy is appealing: he has moved away from the immoral and foolish American policies toward Iran as well as other place. That these steps have been tiny compared to what I'd like to see is somewhat disappointing (Obama's position on Israel is almost indistinguishable from the those of the other candidates, for example), and too often Obama has bought into the foreign-policy establishment line on Iran. Still, Obama's policy toward Iran is the wisest of the presidential candidates.

Hillary Clinton While initially it appeared that Clinton might be will to thaw relations with Iran as well, there have lately been reasons to doubt this. First, the lack of an opening between Iran and the US during Bill Clinton's term (even though there was then a reformist government in Iran) was among the greatest missed opportunities of the era. Second, Hillary recently threatened to obliterate Iran should the nation attack Israel. Her comments were unforgivable, bloodthirsty and stupid. She didn't seem to realize that all intelligence points to Iran not having a nuclear weapon in the next 10 years, and even if the do, Israel has enough nuclear weapons to deter a strike.
The silver lining on this comment was that at least Hillary believes that Iran can be deterred, and hence is not like to launch a strike on Iran, which is more than can be said for the next candidate.

John McCain John McCain has made it abundantly clear that he would like to attack Iran, though if anyone puts this too him, he angrily denies it. Matt Yglesias writes
[John] Bolton wants war and he's not afraid to say it. Nor has he been afraid in months past to say that he loves John McCain because he thinks McCain agrees with him about the need to start a war with Iran. I think Bolton's right about this, but McCain's the kind of guy who'll want to start a war with Iran, and who'll say things that sort of indicate he wants to start a war with Iran, and who'll even joke about how eager he is to start a war with Iran, but then get pissed off if you suggest that's his policy.

My only hope if McCain becomes president is that his sounder headed advisors convince him that such a move would be strategically disastrous. Considering the kinds of advisors McCain surrounds himself with, I wouldn't bet on it.

George Bush One thing people have been trying to figure out for a long time is what, exactly are Bush's intentions when it come to Iran. This is a sort of modern Kremlinology. For a long time we speculated on whether Bush intended to attack Iran (he had plenty of advisors pulling in both directions). After a preemptive strike by the intelligence community in the form of the National Intelligence Estimate, Bush attacking Iran seems less likely.
Yet Bush is still remains bellicose toward Iran. Why?
Blaming Iran is the natural outcome of this failed war. All the time we spend blaming Iran for this debacle is time that distracts us from those truly at fault: Bush and his advisors. Obviously, this is exactly what the Bushies have in mind.
(Posted by Ewan)

Friday, May 9, 2008

NYT Finds an Economist who supports the Gas Tax Holiday

As those of you in the know no doubt are aware, McCain and HRC both embrace a deeply dodgy "gas tax holiday" in hopes of fooling voters into thinking that they will make the price of gas go down. Clinton was notoriously unable to name a single economist who supports her plan, and responded to the question by disparaging the entire profession.
As it turns out, the New York Times has done what Clinton couldn't: find an economist who supports the holiday.
Bryan Calpan wrote an op-ed in the Times on his support of the holiday. The only catch is he agrees with all the rest of his profession that the holiday won't give much relief to Americans and is bad policy.
Quickly in the article it becomes clear that Caplan shares McCain and Clinton's contempt for the average voter, though Caplan combines this with an equal contempt for policy-makers.
[V]oters don’t want to hear this; they want politicians to “do something!” During our last big energy crisis, in the 1970s, “something” turned out to be a salad of populist nonsense: price controls, rationing, windfall profits taxes, arcane loopholes and lots of lawsuits. That political response turned an inconvenience into a disaster.

The fact that Caplan has such a low opinion of US citizens and government alike shouldn't surprise us. He is the author of The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, which Louis Menand wrote a very interesting review of. Essentially, Caplan argues that the average voter is woefully misinformed (true), and that government's make bad policy because of this fact. As Louis Menand notes in his review "Caplan thinks that the best cure is less democracy. He doesn’t quite say that the world ought to be run by economists, but he comes pretty close."
His proposal on the gas-tax is in this vein. We should enact this bad policy, he reasons, in order to fool the populace into thinking we are caring for their interest in cheap gasoline. This is the argument Machiavelli would have made on the subject were he alive today.
He also has a second reason: he likes the idea of the oil companies pocketing the money (no joke).
Second, even a “giveaway” to the oil industry sets a positive course for the future. During the last crisis, the industry was a scapegoat for scarcity. Politicians scrambled to stop oil companies from profiting from the crisis, even though temporarily high profits end shortages by giving businesses an incentive to figure out how to increase output.

It’s na├»ve to think that the oil companies have forgotten the ’70s. They know there’s a decent chance that economic populism will return. In fact, it already has: Senator Clinton’s full proposal is to combine her tax holiday with a ’70s-style windfall profits tax.

In this light, that oil companies might pocket most of the tax cut could easily be a good thing. It helps cancel out the negative legacy of the last energy crisis: public hysteria will occasionally work in your favor. This makes the energy companies less likely to hunker down on their profits and more likely to do what they didn’t do enough of in the 1970s: search for ways to increase production.

I disagree: even if it was correct that the subsidy would lead to more drilling (which I'm not clear on), that would lead putting off finding a long term solution to the problem.
Even if a subsidy to the oil companies were a good idea, it should be sold as such, not as a give-back to your average American. This very much reminds of how Bush claimed his tax-cuts were  relief for the middle class when they in fact shifted the tax burden downward. This seems similarly sinister: a giveaway to corporations disguised as a handout to regular Americans. Sickening.
When Hillary Clinton disparaged the economic profession, she argued that they support policies that are good for the elites and bad for normal Americans. At least in this one case, she was right.
(Posted by Ewan)

Awaiting November

Paul Krugman has a column in the most recent New York Times in which he wonders about what factors will effect the outcome of the general election. The first part of the column has very sharp analysis that cuts through the nonsense.
Political scientists, by and large, believe that what happens on the campaign trail, while it gives talking heads something to talk about, is more or less irrelevant to what happens on Election Day. Instead, they place their faith in statistical analyses that identify three main determinants of presidential voting.

First, votes are affected by the state of the economy — mainly economic performance in the year or so preceding the election.

Second, the approval rating of the current president strongly affects his party’s ability to hold power.

Third, the electorate seems to suffer from an eight-year itch: parties rarely manage to hold the White House for more than two terms in a row.

All these factors are well lined up for the Democrat. We have among the most unpopular president in the history of polling, a terrible economy likely to get worse, and the Republicans have been in for eight years. What could go wrong?
He is slightly worried though.
But this week, Mr. Obama, while continuing to win huge African-American majorities, lost North Carolina whites by 23 points, Indiana whites by 22 points. Mr. Obama’s white support continues to be concentrated among the highly educated; there was little in Tuesday’s results to suggest that his problems with working-class whites have significantly diminished.

Discussions of how and why Mr. Obama’s support narrowed over time have a Rashomon-like quality: different observers see very different truths. But at this point it doesn’t matter whose fault it was. What does matter is that Mr. Obama appears to have won the nomination with a deep but narrow base consisting of African-Americans and highly educated whites. And now he needs to bring Democrats who opposed him back into the fold.

It’s possible that this will happen automatically — that bad feelings from the nomination fight will fade away of their own accord. In recent decades, Democrats have had little trouble unifying after hard-fought primary campaigns.

But this time the division seems to go deeper than ordinary political rivalry. The closest parallel I can think of is the bitter intraparty struggles of the 1920s, which pitted urban, often Catholic Democrats against Protestant farmers.

In a nutshell, the argument he is making is the same Hillary made when she says Obama lacks support among "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans".
I'm not sure that this is necessarily true. As Mark Kleiman notes "[Krugman] might at least pretend to believe that some of the people who voted for your preferred candidate were voting for her, rather than against him."
Krugman claims it is insulting to say that Clinton's lower class supporters are racist, and suggests this subject should be off limits for political reasons. Excuse me, I read Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal, and one of it's central theses is that cynical conservatives pols manipulated racist sentiment. Why is it not allowed for people to point out when the Clintons do the same?
(Posted by Ewan)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Media Randomly Deciding Major Campaign Events (and when they should take place)



Suddenly, iconic media symbols are siding with him. This one's done, they say. Again, it is not that this should not be happening--TIME should do its cool, historically meaningful covers. That's not the problem. The problem is how insanely arbitrary it is for them to give Obama a "winner" cover NOW and not at any other time since Wyoming and Mississippi. The delegate count for those two periods (before, after) is nearly IDENTICAL, and this here's a DELEGATE fight, folks.

Anyway, that's the last I will groan about THAT.

This is an open thread.

The End of the Campaign?

So, as Chris Bowers made quite lucid over at OpenLeft, the media narrative has shifted back toward Obama despite his not being any more (or less) likely to win the nomination than he was two days ago. He has had a prohibitive lead in pledged delegates and has been gaining rapidly in supers for weeks, and despite constant cable news chatter about how Wright was the end of him, he did fine with white voters in both states, creamed Clinton in NC (beating expectations) and gave her a real scare in IN (beating expectations). It frustrates Chris that the race has arbitrarily sort of ended here and not two weeks ago when the delegate outcomes were almost exactly as clear. But anyway...

Kos is speculating about VP picks. He makes what I think is a convincing point. First, Clinton does not work as a VP choice. She does not offer anything geographically, nor in terms of her established persona/image in the media. She also brings lots of baggage (Bill, the Clinton scandals, etc.) and cuts against his end-the-game-playing/turn-the-page message. A truly poor choice, indeed.

But she does have segments of the party behind her that would need to be wooed. First, women. They are upset and indignant that their first potential president is being taken away from them, and while some of the frustration is more than defensible, not backing a Democrat (to prevent the reversal of Roe v. Wade, to prevent more corporate economics, to prevent more hawksih foreign policy, etc.) out of indignation is not intellectually defensible and I don't think many of them would do it. They are mostly Democrats, and they are mostly not prepared to vote for such a right-wing windbag.

Latinos would find McCain somewhat appealing, though the economy and Iraq would still make it very hard for him to win them, and I guess I don't see how McCain simultaneously appeases the angry, nativist GOP base and Latinos at the same time. He simply is not that talented of a politican.

Nonetheless, Obama might want to consider improving his standing with these groups in his VP choice. That's why Kos' Bill Richardson / Kathleen Sebelius options please me. Both are competent executive types. Both have progressive values but carry a lot of moderate and independent appeal. Both supported him in the primaries. Both help carry his change message. And both (he Latinos, she women) appeal to some of these less-than-enthusiastic-for-Obama demographic groups. They would simultaneously shore up his problems and appeal to his same core message of change and unity. Good choices, both.

I still like Jim Webb, though he isn't quite progressive/change-y enough. That said, he'd be a hell of a symbol to the public about why they shouldn't choose McCain (both war vets, both tough white dudes, etc.). He'd help with Virginia, too, which I think Obama can carry.

Gov. Kaine (VA) works also. Change-agent, early Obama supporter, delivers Virginia, competent executive. Not a dazzling resume or anything, but a safe, solid pick.

So the arbitrary rules of the media narrative (via Russert, Brokaw, etc.) have shifted to Obama. I guess it's good when he's winning, but as Bowers said, we shouldn't have to play by these rules anyway.

FInally, as Kos points out, it is quite frustrating that supers (or at least those who purport to know them) focus so much on Obama's demographic problems and not Hillary's. Why does she get constantly creamed among young people, among independents, etc? Why aren't these concerns? Oh, right, because race just deserves more attention. I say it now and I have said it before: constantly talking about white race fears and why they won't support blacks creates and furthers these divides. Racial politics is enabled when the media worries about it and talks about these white voters rejecting Obama. The media talks about them like cultural relativists (ah, those white voters galloping in the Appalachians!). But there is nothing more universal than the intolerability of racism. End of story.

But the end of the campaign? Depends on her. She must stay in through her victories in KY and WV. After Oregon, though, I think she quits. Supers will keep flooding to him and her money situation sucks. Oh, and that pesky media narrative (against him before, now against her). I almost feel bad for her, because no one deserves Russert's ridiculous framing of the race.

Almost, but not quite.

Zion



David Remick has a very thoughtful article on the topic of the creation of Israel in the New Yorker. It can be found here.

Obama Memo

In light of Obama's win in NC and his impressive challenge to Clinton in IN last night, Obama's campaign director David Plouffe sent some party leaders a letter outlining how they hope the rest of this primary season goes:

TO: Superdelegates

FROM: David Plouffe, Campaign Manager

RE: An Update on the Race for Delegates

DA: May 7, 2008

There are only six contests remaining in the Democratic primary calendar and only 217 pledged delegates left to be awarded. Only 7 percent of the pledged delegates remain on the table. There are 260 remaining undeclared superdelegates, for a total of 477 delegates left to be awarded.

With North Carolina and Indiana complete, Barack Obama only needs 172 total delegates to capture the Democratic nomination. This is only 36 percent of the total remaining delegates.

Conversely, Senator Clinton needs 326 delegates to reach the Democratic nomination, which represents a startling 68 percent of the remaining delegates.

With the Clinton path to the nomination getting even narrower, we expect new and wildly creative scenarios to emerge in the coming days. While those scenarios may be entertaining, they are not legitimate and will not be considered legitimate by this campaign or its millions of supporters, volunteers, and donors.

We believe it is exceedingly unlikely Senator Clinton will overtake our lead in the popular vote and in fact lost ground on that measure last night. However, the popular vote is a deeply flawed and illegitimate metric for deciding the nominee – since each campaign based their strategy on the acquisition of delegates. More importantly, the rules of the nomination are predicated on delegates, not popular vote.

Just as the Presidential election in November will be decided by the electoral college, not popular vote, the Democratic nomination is decided by delegates.

If we believed the popular vote was somehow the key measurement, we would have campaigned much more intensively in our home state of Illinois and in all the other populous states, in the pursuit of larger raw vote totals. But it is not the key measurement.

We played by the rules, set by you, the D.N.C. members, and campaigned as hard as we could, in as many places as we could, to acquire delegates. Essentially, the popular vote is not much better as a metric than basing the nominee on which candidate raised more money, has more volunteers, contacted more voters, or is taller.

The Clinton campaign was very clear about their own strategy until the numbers become too ominous for them. They were like a broken record , repeating ad nauseum that this nomination race is about delegates. Now, the word delegate has disappeared from their vocabulary, in an attempt to change the rules and create an alternative reality.

We want to be clear – we believe that the winner of a majority of pledged delegates will and should be the nominee of our party. And we estimate that after the Oregon and Kentucky primaries on May 20, we will have won a majority of the overall pledged delegates According to a recent news report, by even their most optimistic estimates the Clinton Campaign expects to trail by more than 100 pledged delegates and will then ask the superdelegates to overturn the will of the voters.

But of course superdelegates are free to and have been utilizing their own criteria for deciding who our nominee should be. Many are deciding on the basis of electability, a favorite Clinton refrain. And if you look at the numbers, during a period where the Clinton campaign has been making an increasingly strident pitch on electability, it is clear their argument is failing miserably with superdelegates.

Since February 5, the Obama campaign has netted 107 superdelegates, and the Clinton campaign only 21. Since the Pennsylvania primary, much of it during the challenging Rev. Wright period, we have netted 24 and the Clinton campaign 17.

At some point – we would argue that time is now – this ceases to be a theoretical exercise about how superdelegates view electability. The reality of the preferences in the last several weeks offer a clear guide of how strongly superdelegates feel Senator Obama will perform in November, both in building a winning campaign for the presidency as well as providing the best electoral climate across the country for all Democratic candidates.

It is important to note that Senator Obama leads Senator Clinton in superdelegate endorsements among Governors, United States Senators and members of the House of Representatives. These elected officials all have a keen sense for who our strongest nominee will be in November.

It is only among D.N.C. members where Senator Clinton holds a lead, which has been rapidly dwindling.

As we head into the final days of the campaign, we just wanted to be clear with you as a party leader, who will be instrumental in making the final decision of who our nominee will be, how we view the race at this point.

Senator Obama, our campaign and our supporters believe pledged delegates is the most legitimate metric for determining how this race has unfolded. It is simply the ratification of the D.N.C. rules – your rules – which we built this campaign and our strategy around.

I am happy with last night's results. North Carolina everyone expected, but for Clinton to win 51% - 49%, I think it might be time. She plans to hold out until May 20 - A day that Barack plans to seal the deal - but a win in Kentucky and West Virginia is not going to signal much, unless she gets a complete blowout where everyone from all parties votes for her as if it were a general election. And Kentucky has a closed primary, no dice. I'm sure it will give Clinton a small ray of sunshine to win those two, though.
The good news I find coming out of these two states (KY and WV) is that the Democratic Party is experiencing a resurgence. Whether its by recruiting moderate dixiecrat types, or by just refocusing and reenergizing, I think that even if we don't capture one of these states in the general, we'll pick up a few house seats (and hopefully kick out Mitch McConnell). All I know is that I found a higher percentage of the word "Democrat" proudly emblazoned on yard signs in West Virginia than in previous years, and the KY Democratic party is running party all-star Bruce Lunsford against McConnell (though I worry his past is too shaky).

Later this week, I hope to post a slideshow documenting extreme fallacy and latent racism in pro-Clinton facebook groups. It's kind of a low dig, but what set me off is one person's devaluation of a pro-obama piece of art by placing quotations around the word "artist". Art is art, whether you like it or not. I hoped this campaign would not get so ugly, but as a secular humanist, going into those groups is like wanting to give myself a heart attack at this point.

(posted by Matt S.)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

McCain's Gaffe

McCain recently stated
My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will — that will then prevent us — that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.

Here's the video of the statement. This is a classic Kinsley Gaffe, a time where a candidate accidently tells the truth. Is John McCain suggesting that our current entanglements in the middle east are because of oil? Perish the thought!
This is a painfully stupid controversy... and McCain hastily backtracked (bogusly) claiming he was talking about the first war in Iraq (it is for some reason more appropriate to say oil factored into decision-making leading up to the first Gulf War.
It's stupid that we have pretend that oil security plays no role in our policy.
Newsflash: Oil has played a major role shaping US policy in the middle east since we first became involved with the region. This is because oil is vitally important to the way of life maintained in the West. While I think US policy toward the middle east has been unjust, there is nothing unjust about factoring oil into strategic decision-making per se. Nor was the US concern about Gulf Oil dreamed up by Bush and his corrupt oil-cronies. The nuances of the situation cannot be described accurately by the slogan "No War For Oil"... but neither does it make sense to pretend oil has nothing to do with our policies.
That said, I think what McCain said was pretty stupid, first because it suggests that the Bush-McCain's policy of endless war is a stabilizing force in the mid-east, and second because it claims that his energy plan can solve our energy troubles. Kevin Drum writes:
[T]here isn't an energy expert in the world — not one — who thinks we can "eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East." It's a child's fantasy, but McCain spouts this stuff as if solving our problems really were just that easy. It reminds me of his solution to the fighting in Iraq: "One of the things I would do if I were President would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, 'Stop the bullshit.'"

(Posted by Ewan)

Tony Judt on the Israeli Lobby

Here. Judt is on of the most thoughtful observers of politics, so we should listen to what he has to say.
(Posted by Ewan)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

McCain: Kick Russia out of the G8

Via Brad Delong, Fareed Zakeria writes about
John McCain's foreign policy radicalism.
Amid the din of the dueling democrats, people seem to have forgotten about that other guy in the presidential race—you know, John McCain. McCain is said to be benefiting from this politically because his rivals are tearing each other apart. In fact, few people are paying much attention to what the Republican nominee is saying, or subjecting it to any serious scrutiny.

On March 26, McCain gave a speech on foreign policy in Los Angeles that was billed as his most comprehensive statement on the subject. It contained within it the most radical idea put forward by a major candidate for the presidency in 25 years. Yet almost no one noticed.

In his speech McCain proposed that the United States expel Russia from the G8, the group of advanced industrial countries. Moscow was included in this body in the 1990s to recognize and reward it for peacefully ending the cold war on Western terms, dismantling the Soviet empire and withdrawing from large chunks of the old Russian Empire as well. McCain also proposed that the United States should expand the G8 by taking in India and Brazil—but pointedly excluded China from the councils of power.

We have spent months debating Barack Obama's suggestion that he might, under some circumstances, meet with Iranians and Venezuelans. It is a sign of what is wrong with the foreign-policy debate that this idea is treated as a revolution in U.S. policy while McCain's proposal has barely registered. What McCain has announced is momentous—that the United States should adopt a policy of active exclusion and hostility toward two major global powers. It would reverse a decades-old bipartisan American policy of integrating these two countries into the global order, a policy that began under Richard Nixon (with Beijing) and continued under Ronald Reagan (with Moscow). It is a policy that would alienate many countries in Europe and Asia who would see it as an attempt by Washington to begin a new cold war.

I write this with sadness because I greatly admire John McCain, a man of intelligence, honor and enormous personal and political courage. I also agree with much of what else he said in that speech in Los Angeles. But in recent years, McCain has turned into a foreign-policy schizophrenic, alternating between neoconservative posturing and realist common sense. His speech reads like it was written by two very different people, each one given an allotment of a few paragraphs on every topic.

The neoconservative vision within the speech is essentially an affirmation of ideology. Not only does it declare war on Russia and China, it places the United States in active opposition to all nondemocracies. It proposes a League of Democracies, which would presumably play the role that the United Nations now does, except that all nondemocracies would be cast outside the pale. The approach lacks any strategic framework. What would be the gain from so alienating two great powers? How would the League of Democracies fight terrorism while excluding countries like Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Singapore? What would be the gain to the average American to lessen our influence with Saudi Arabia, the central banker of oil, in a world in which we are still crucially dependent on that energy source?

The single most important security problem that the United States faces is securing loose nuclear materials. A terrorist group can pose an existential threat to the global order only by getting hold of such material. We also have an interest in stopping proliferation, particularly by rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea. To achieve both of these core objectives—which would make American safe and the world more secure—we need Russian cooperation. How fulsome is that likely to be if we gratuitously initiate hostilities with Moscow? Dissing dictators might make for a stirring speech, but ordinary Americans will have to live with the complications after the applause dies down.

To reorder the G8 without China would be particularly bizarre. The G8 was created to help coordinate problems of the emerging global economy. Every day these problems multiply—involving trade, pollution, currencies—and are in greater need of coordination. To have a body that attempts to do this but excludes the world's second largest economy is to condemn it to failure and irrelevance. International groups are not cheerleading bodies but exist to help solve pressing global crises. Excluding countries won't make the problems go away.

I hate Vladimir Putin and the KGB petro-state he has created, but this is a terrible idea.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Gas Tax Takes a Holiday

McCain and Hillary Clinton have come out in support of a gas tax holiday.
Usually, when politicians line up on two sides of an issue, networks find an "expert" for each side. This form of "even handed" journalism drives me insane, and I contend is bad for our public discourse. The catch with this issue is that no one can find any experts who support the tax holiday, so networks and newspapers have been forced to concede that by any reasonable measure, Obama is right.
Paul Krugman explains why the gas tax makes no economic sense.
John McCain has a really bad idea on gasoline, Hillary Clinton is emulating him (but with a twist that makes her plan pointless rather than evil), and Barack Obama, to his credit, says no.

Why doesn’t cutting the gas tax this summer make sense? It’s Econ 101 tax incidence theory: if the supply of a good is more or less unresponsive to the price, the price to consumers will always rise until the quantity demanded falls to match the quantity supplied. Cut taxes, and all that happens is that the pretax price rises by the same amount. The McCain gas tax plan is a giveaway to oil companies, disguised as a gift to consumers.

Is the supply of gasoline really fixed? For this coming summer, it is. Refineries normally run flat out in the summer, the season of peak driving. Any elasticity in the supply comes earlier in the year, when refiners decide how much to put in inventories. The McCain/Clinton gas tax proposal comes too late for that. So it’s Econ 101: the tax cut really goes to the oil companies.

So, basically, what the McCain plan would do is take money that normally goes toward road repairs and push it into the pockets of already flush oil companies. Seen like that, the giveaway doesn't look so populist. Krugman continues
The Clinton twist is that she proposes paying for the revenue loss with an excess profits tax on oil companies. In one pocket, out the other. So it’s pointless, not evil. But it is pointless, and disappointing.

Just to be clear: I don’t regard this as a major issue. It’s a one-time thing, not a matter of principle, especially because everyone knows the gas-tax holiday isn’t actually going to happen. Health care reform, on the other hand, could happen, and is very much a long-term issue — so poisoning the well by in effect running against universality, as Obama has, is a much more serious breach.

He is certainly right that this is no major issue. But what the Clinton campaign has done is maddening, basically attempting to mislead people on where they stand on this issue. Not to mention that this gives me little hope that the Clinton administration would stand up to the vast carbon conspiracy. More along this line here.
(Posted by Ewan)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

In Tibet

One thing this Olympic has done is focus some attention the issue of Tibet. To the Chinese, this issue is clear-cut... one of the uglier aspects of this olympics has been the crowds of Chinese people demonstrating solidarity with there government. In a way, this very much reminds me of American attitudes toward Iraq- a mixture of bitterness toward scolding outsiders, a feeling that those "liberated" are ungrateful and high-handed arrogance. An attitude which is disgusting in Americans is equal contemptible when Chinese citizens express it.
The Chinese occupation of Tibet is wrong morally. It was an act of aggression, made worse by the later killings, cultural vandalism and flooding of the outer provinces of Tibet with Han Chinese (an act against international law). Apologists assert that Tibet has long been part of China, to which this New York Times op-ed is a corrective. The act of invading Tibet was no more legitimate than Iraq marching on Kuwait and declaring it "our 19th province".
My co-blogger has previously posted on this is issue, and you can see my own take on dealing with China here.

An Invincible Army of Stalinist Monkey-Men

Via Matt Yglesias... from the Scotsman:
A LEADING scientist has warned a new species of "humanzee," created from breeding apes with humans, could become a reality unless the government acts to stop scientists experimenting.

This is undeniably weird... I guess this is what the president warned us about in his speech where he mentioned "human-animal hybrids" (I thought this was either a favor to Jon Stewart or the work of a speech-writer mole attempting to undermine the administration).
Joe Stalin had the idea first, it appears.
Records suggest that in 1926 the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin decided he wanted to try to create a new species of superhuman.

Stalin reportedly told the scientist: "I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat."

More Clinton Defections

Today another superdelegate, Indiana's Joe Andrews, is expected to defect to the Obama campaign. The reason for his defection:

"He [Obama] has shown such mettle under fire. The Jeremiah Wright controversy reconfirmed for me, just as the gas tax controversy confirmed for me, that he is the right candidate for our party."

That makes me happy. Also today, Obama is expected to pick up four other superdelegates, and Hillary just gets one.

And in the last bit of news for today, my state is apparently still quite racist. I lost the link to the article, but many old folks were still a-skeered of a black man, even a black man like Obama (to quote Tom Tomorrow, "scary scary scary scary black scary scary!") . Kentucky is going to go for Hillary, sadly (I'm at the Obama office right now doing data entry), and in the general she has a better shot here, but only if blacks and progressives can swallow their vomit to vote for her and if the racists and right wingers decide Hillary over McCain.
And, well, she's showing herself sympathetic to the (I shall use a better phrase here) "willfully or unwillfully ignorant of the traditions of blacks and their churches" vote. She went to Bill O'Reilly to talk about it. Is it opposite day? Did I trip my way into an alternate universe where Richard Mellon Scaife and Bill O'Reilly and FOX are buddy buddy with the Clintons? Please, someone pinch me.