Friday, February 29, 2008

Will Hillary go on?

The question is not whether Obama will build on his lead Tuesday, but whether or not he can add enough to persuade Hillary that the jig is up. The Clinton camp seems resigned to losing Texas and Vermont already, and are even putting out the word that anything less than a clean sweep by Obama will be a disappointment.
Oh really? It's hard to see how a singular victory in Rhode Island will be enough. Indeed, it seem ready-maid for mockery. "Clinton takes smallest state! Touts R.I. as turning the tide!"
So it will come down to Ohio in the end, it appears. The latest polls show her holding on to a diminishing lead. The pattern so far as been for Obama to make big inroads inn the last week or so, but it's an open question whether he'll make up enough ground to win outright. The most likely result seem to be a Clinton victory in the single digits. A victory like that can plausibly be given a positive spin -- it is a victory, after all. But the reality is that it will do nothing to halt Obama's march to the nomination.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obama threatens the money brokers

Obama now had one million donors. This article points out why that threatens the Washington establishment in ways much bigger than "empty rhetoric" does.

Because Obama doesn't owe the money people they don't own him. Interestingly, because they've misunderstood what's happening, they started to band against him way too late. Under normal circumstances they'd all flock to the GOP candidate in order to preserve their power. But wait! They weren't paying close attention there, either!
While McCain is hardly the reformer that Obama is, he's still highly unfavorable territory for the money power people to work with. He may be slightly better, from their point of view, than Obama, but that's still just plain awful for their interests. It's like a condemned man having to choose between a hanging and a firing squad. Some choice.

All of a sudden they've got no buddy in the White House, either way! Oops.

New York Times getting ragged

Apparently the NYT is raising McCain's birth in Panama as some kind of possible impediment to being president under some theory that it somehow means he's not a "natural born" citizen and therefore constitutionally ineligible for the office of president.
This nonsense says a lot more about the declining news judgment of the NY Times than it does about McCain. The issue is really a stupid one, the kind of thing whispered by the same sort of person who tortures the language worse than a Gitmo detainee in order to argue things like the 16th amendment didn't actually establish an income taxing power.
The very first Congress, in 1790, which included quite a few Founders, made it clear that people who happened to be born overseas or at sea to a U.S. citizen couple were "natural born" citizens. Thinking otherwise results in the bizarre result that the child of some illegal immigrants who happens to be born in Texas has a better claim on being president someday than the child of two decorated U.S. military wartime veterans stationed in Germany who happens to be born on a U.S. military base. Come on. Does anyone think that's likely?
This "story" doesn't pass the smell test. It's a nonstory. It's something any decent reporter on a small-town daily would dump after a few minutes of research. It simply doesn't check out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley has died

William F. Buckley is almost single-handedly responsible for my respect for conservative intellectuallism. Watching him as a teen on Firing line, I was always impressed by how he seemed to have the better of the argument. It was fascinating to watch him.
One of the saddest legacies of the Bush years is the resurgence of Yahooism in conservative circles, where emotion trumps reason, fear overcomes logic and core conservative principles are barely understood, more than simply abandoned. Here and there someone like George Will keeps up the good fight, but for the most part it looks like conservatives are likely to return to the wilderness for a while, and deservedly so. Having no clue about the root cause of Obama's appeal, they're likely to find themselves marginalized by him in a way not seen in a generation.
Buckley, himself, has raised objections to various aspects of Bushism, but the toll of advancing age meant he was unable to be a vigorous opponent. We can only hope that another strong advocate will emerge in due time. Liberalism will benefit from a proper critic.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Negative campaigning has been around since there have been elections. (And by negative campaigning, I do not mean simply criticizing your opponent. It's perfectly legitimate to criticize your opponent's substantive positions on issues.)
Smears, innuendo and worse has enjoyed a heyday in the past coup,e of decades, however. Some call it Clintonian. Some call it Rovian. Many blame the late Lee Atwater. It's had many fathers and many practitioners and the fact is that it has worked.
But like every marketing technique, it appears to have a shelf-life. And it appears it has expired. Those politicians running the most positive campaigns (Obama, Huckabee and McCain) have done the best. Some running campaigns relying on more negative techniques (Clinton, Romney) have faded.
Being positive is not a guarantee of success, of course. Otherwise Dodd and Biden would have done better. But the media and the public seem to have much less patience for crap like the Obama in Somali garb photo flap. (And is it embarrassing or what that a U.S. Congresswoman could be so ill-informed as to believe that this was Obama in the dress of his "native " country? Geesh! Get a clue, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones! Obama is U.S. born!)
Tonight Hillary will be tempted to go negative on Obama. Good luck on that. If she sticks to substantive criticism, good for her. But if she goes off into silliness expect her campaign to finally collapse.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The most experienced presidential candidate ever

When George Will is on his game, no one can turn out a more witheringly effective take-down in print.
On Hillary's "experience" argument:

The president who came to office with the most glittering array of experiences had served 10 years in the House of Representatives, then became minister to Russia, then served 10 years in the Senate, then four years as secretary of state (during a war that enlarged the nation by 33 percent), then was minister to Britain. Then, in 1856, James Buchanan was elected president and in just one term secured a strong claim to being ranked as America's worst president. Abraham Lincoln, the inexperienced former one-term congressman, had an easy act to follow.

If you need to lie to make your point ...

CNN has been running an ad from some outfit called "Defense of Democracies" (sic) criticizing the House refusing to cave in to the President on FISA. Or maybe better said the president's refusal to go along with a short extension so the House can deliberate on the merits of the issue.

The ad claims that the House let the law expire (not true) "crippling" out ability to monitor terrorists (a lie).

Life and politics can be pretty damn confusing and hard to sort out, but I think it's fair to say that any policy that needs lies to hold it up is almost certainly a bad one.

Conservatives, before they lost their minds, always knew this and often legitimately criticized the leftist habit of enlisting untruths and lies so long as they supported the Left's agenda.

It's funny that people who love to say things like "the scariest words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help" don't understand that calling something the "PATRIOT Act" was about as clear a signal as could be sent that it end up being no such thing.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Aiding the enemy and supporting the troops

A commenter on Intel Dump makes this valuable point in the context of the Obama 24-man Platoon anecdote:

there are a lot of people who believe the Rush Limbaugh line that any soldier who comes back critical of the war is a phony soldier. This has been an unfortunate pattern. When that guy asked the question about the Hillbilly armor, the right immediately used the fact that he had worked with a reporter about shaping the question as evidence that the soldier was a dupe of one of those biased members of the liberal press, rather than come right out and face the music on what was a very real shortfall.
Hell, I remember there being a story earlier in the year about the improvised measures. I can understand that in the real world of war, supply lines are not always 100%, and readiness in relaxed times falls short.
But what seems to be happening here is that one side in this debate has made it a habit to cover for and offer apologetics for these shortfalls. That, I think, has had very real consequences for the war. It's given political cover to some people to essentially let the problems fester, and not take the risks and make the sacrifices necessary (like saying no to big military contractors, or recruiting a bigger army from the start) in order to improve the situation. The apologist's actions have created a bad situation for the soldiers, where a deficient supply chain is excused away as normal, and where alarm about problems is hushed up. These help to make our soldiers more vulnerable and in a much more material way than any discouraging words ever could. In an effort to fight the negative image of the war and battle a supposedly biased media, the disconnect the war supporters are creating may ironically lead to further defeats of America's armed forces and foreign policy.

This is one of the more pernicious ideas floating through the right-side commentary of late, that criticizing the war's leadership is aiding the enemy and not supporting the troops. Now, in fact, in a democracy, nothing could be further from the truth.
Certain kinds of criticism can always be destructive, but this generally results from the nature of that particular criticism. The best recent example is the ad that basically called Gen. Petraeus a "betray-us." In plain English, name-calling. That's rarely constructive under any circumstances.
But pointing out flaws in strategy, logistics, planning, leadership, policy and the like is legitimate. In every prior American war there's always been healthy debate over these kinds of issues. Scandals over war profiteers, bad equipment being sent to the troops, inadequate leadership or poor strategy have been a staple of democratic warfighting since Thucydides. It's not disloyalty to want our side to benefit from the best possible leadership, equipment, doctrine and strategy. It's common sense.
One of the worst aspects of Bush's war leadership has been his absolute unwillingness to hold anyone accountable, ever, for failure. The only failure that brings swift retribution is a failure to toe the party line and actually express some doubts about an administration policy. But actual, operational failure is tolerated, excused and defended.
Is it a surprise that things have gone better since Gates took over from Rumsfeld? Couldn't some of that success come much earlier if Bush had demanded success and fired people to get it? How many generals did Lincoln go through before he found his Grant? Getting fired comes with the territory when you're a military officer. Often it's not fair. But war is not about being fair, it's about winning. And you win by having the right leadership. The experience of history is that you usually have to fire quite a few before you find the leaders with the right talent to fight the war you're in.
Being unwilling to do that is itself a profound failure of leadership.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ballon Juice asks Are they (Wingnuts) really that dumb?

Er, yes.
As, of course, are their pals on the left side of the spectrum. Indeed, as soon as one becomes wedded to any one ideology, one loses the capacity to think and analyze. The entire attraction of an ideology is the ability to stop thinking. Thinking is hard work, after all. Reality is never as neat as theater.
Check out Cole for details:
But the gist of the story is this. Obama cited an example of how the Iraq war has distracted us from finishing the job in Afghanistan. He cited the experience of an Army officer who had to deploy with only 24 men in his platoon to Afghanistan because demands for Iraq siphoned off the rest.
The blognuts descended instantly with criticisms.most of which were pretty stupid off the bat. Some jumped on the fact that a captain wasn't a platoon leader's rank. Naturally, I assumed when I heard the story that the man was a current captain who was most likely a lieutenant when he was a platoon leader. Duh.
Without rehashing the whole thing, several media outlets checked the original source and the essence of the story is completely accurate, within the necessary limits of making a point within the constraints of a sound bite.
Conservatives used to be most devastating when they made clearly reasoned, logical arguments based on facts. There are a handful who still remember how to do that. William F. Buckley, of course, and his heir apparent as the intellectual conservative, George Will. Until that style comes back into fashion, and they drive back the yahoos, they're not likely to come in from the wilderness anytime soon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's getting more important that Obama win

Neither the Congress nor the courts have proved effective checks against an aggressive executive branch. As the decision by the Surpeme Court not to hear the ACLU case against the illegal wiretapping due to lack of standing shows, the cloak of secrecy the Bush administration has thrown around evberything questionable it does makes any actual oversight impossible.
How "conservatives" can be comfortable with this is absolutely beyond me. Maybe when the Democrats control eveything the GOP will remember their principles.
Evidently the only defense left for the Constitution is the voters, who can save the rule of law by electing the opposition. I have every reason to believ that Obama respects the Constitution and will undo some of the worst of the abuses, but it's not reassuring that it would take the executive branch to undo the exec's abuses. It's a serious breakdown of the principle of checks and balances and should be a concern to everyone who supports republican government.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Will on Point

As he is so often, George Will is the epitome of the voice of reason:
Here he asks the important questions McCain should answer:

Sunday, February 17, 2008


One problem with using police action to control illegal immigrants (rather than effective entry controls) is the likely harassment of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who happen to appear ethnic. CNN had a short spot today on the expereince of some Hispanic gentlemen, native-born U.S. citizen in one case, who were arrested and detained despite telling authorities they were citizens.
Naturally there's no easy answer to this problem. Rather obviously, the authorities couldn't simply take people's word for it that they are citizens. Anybody could say that, and everybody would say that.
But, the alternative means that U.S. citizens who happen to appear ethnic are subject to constant harassment from immigration auathorities and the risk of being swept up into the legal system at any time. This also seems unacceptable to me.
The bottom line is that trying to enforce immigration law inside the country, rather than at the border, is not going to work without enormous cost.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Greenwald on the real issue

Nobody has done more streling service in defense of liberty in the face of Bushist lawlessness than Glenn Greenwald. He's well worth reading.
Today he zeroes in on the real point of the FISA controversy:
One other vital point: The claim that telecoms will cease to cooperate without retroactive immunity is deeply dishonest on multiple levels, but the dishonesty is most easily understood when one realizes that, under the law, telecoms are required to cooperate with legal requests from the government. They don't have the option to "refuse." Without amnesty, telecoms will be reluctant in the future to break the law again, which we should want. But there is no risk that they will refuse requests to cooperate with legal surveillance, particularly since they are legally obligated to cooperate in those circumstances. The claim the telcoms will cease to cooperate with surveillance requests is pure fear-mongering, and is purely dishonest.

New York Times losing credibility

Here's a good analysis:

As an aside, in political stories the New York Times routinely does sloppy things that we, at our small-city daily, would never tolerate in a story about the City Council, for example. It almost seems like they believe that now they are big-time reporters at the big-time newspaper they no longer need to do things like properly source material.

An interesting take on teh "Vast Right-wing Conspiracy" and McCain

Perhaps a bit overstated, but makes some good points if you can get past the overheadted language,

Thursday, February 14, 2008

More disappointments

Well, the GOP walked out of the House today in protest over the FISA immunity bill. It would be nice if they'd do something like that over some high and noble principle, rather than rewarding lawbreaking.

Speaking of lawbreaking, McCain's refusal to vote in favor of banning the CIA from performing waterboarding torture is a big disappointment. It really speaks to why there's no Republican that can be trusted to be in the White House this time -- even McCain. While, as a torture victim himself, McCain doesn't seem to truly understand the principles at stake here, so he's unwilling to make a stand at any political cost.

Meanwhile, the rot at the core of this entire debate is exemplified by Billy Kristol, who is "ambalent on torture."
I see. I suppose we can be ambivalent about murder, rape or genocide, too, depending upon circumstances.
What's laughable, of course is how the same people who have been critical of situational ethics for so long have embraced it wholeheartedly on this topic.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama in Uganda

David Kuo finds a newspaper clipping about Obama in the most unlikely place:

Is the party over?

Robert Reich argues it is:

His basic point is that Americans have artificially propped up their standard of living by resorting to extraordinary measures over the last 30 years as wages have stagnated.
In brief: First families sent women into the work force. Then everybody worked more hours. Finally, everybody borrowed up to the eyebrows. There's nothing left.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Clinton missing the vote

Evidently Hillary is too busyt trying to save her campaign to bother voting on the FISA immunity bills today.
Obama is there, joining Dodd and most of the Democrats trying to stop this bad policy. Of course, 18 Democrats and all the Republicans continue to conspire in the emasculation of their "co-equal" branch of government by legalizing whatever illegal things the executive branch does.
Law and order only applies to the little people, don't you know?
So now the battle turns to the House.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Veeerrry Interesting Saturday

Obama's strategy of incrementally chiping away at her delegate lead is working rather well. The national media seem determined not to abandon its "Clinton-as-frontrunner" narrative despite the fact that Clinton's strategy is in serious trouble at this point. At the risk of jinxing Obama, it seems clear to me that he's probably going to be the nominee.

If anything, the most interesting development was on the GOP side. It's surprising, no, shocking, that Huckabbe can pummel McCain so thoroughly AFTER McCain has been practially annointed as the nominee.
The math is against Huckabee, of course, but one has to wonder what the effect will be on McCain if Huckabee starts racking up a whole series of winners. Will the Party be happy is the guy who is winning at the end doesn't get the nomination? Has that even happened before?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Suicide bombers, suicide voters?

Many of the so-called conservatives (authoritarians?) are now vowing to be "suicide voters."
I'm not sure I understand the atraction of suicide strategies. Can anyone point to a case where it has actually, you know, worked?
We got suicide bombers all over the Mideast. They're not winning THe Kamikazes didn't win eitehr. Suicide voters aren't going to win, either. It's a strategy for losers

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bush mangles the word "Conservative"

Bush's hostility to the language is well-documented, but perhaps only he could destroy a word and a political movement at the same time. Of course he had help. As John Cole at Balloon Juice notes:
*Note- Conservative and conservatism are now meaningless terms, as conservative now means Crazy yahoo who loves him some Bush and goes along unflinchingly with whatever dumb ideas the NRO, Hewitt, and Malkin now claim are “conservative."

Now here's some real tortured illogic

From an AP story about the White House admission today that yes, the U.S. has used waterboarding but claiming that it's not illegal.
Officials fear calling waterboarding torture or illegal could expose government employees to criminal or civil charges or even international war crimes charges.
Now, this is so utterly without merit that it's hard to credit that so-called adult men and women would even say such a stupid thing. But at the risk of insulting the dear reader's intelligence, I'll point out the obvious. It's a war crime whether or not the war criminal calls it a crime. Indeed, most criminals, even petty ones, have many rationalizations for what they do and rarely admit that what they're doing is wrong or a crime.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Obama has a good night

While many supporters undoubtedly hoped for even more, it's clear that trends are not in Clinton's favor. She's mostly hanging on through institutional forces that heavilt favored her.
Obama won at least a dozen states tonight, across the breadth of the entire country. He won states in every single region.
I think that, in the end, he will be the Democratic nominee. Obama has momentum. He has money. And now time is in his favor. Clinton's strategy was based on knocking off all competitors with a big Super Tuesday. That's failed. Now she'll have to battle state-by-state against Obama on the retail level.

Meanwhile, we have positive developments as well. Neither McCain nor Huckabee are creatures of the Bushist right. Their preferred candidate is only still in the race because he has an enormous personal fortune that he's willing to spend and a GOP establishment that has no where else to turn.
Still, it seems that McCain will be the GOP nominee, and may very well have Huckabee as Veep.

So, the bottom line is that Bushism is dead. Thoroughly rejected by both parties. Torture will end. If they are smart, those running the CIA secret prisons will start dismantling that whole thing ASAP. They can't expect that the new president will be favorably disposed to what they have done.

We admit to torture

Here it is:
Bit by bit the truth emerges.
The U.S. has tortured captives.
Sooner, or later, there will be prosecutions. These stupid, foolish, ignorant and evil little men have learned nothing from history. Evidently they did not notice that we're still prosecucting Nazis half a century after their crimes. Cambodian war criminals are facing justice decades later, etc. There is no statute of limitations on war crimes, folks.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Accountability watch

Seattle police rarely disciplined for using excessive force:

Monday, February 4, 2008

John McCain = Benedict Arnold?

All I can say is "Jesus Christ! Will Republicans please get a freakin grip!"

Well, THAT was disappointing

Naturally, as a Patriots fan, I'm disappointed by the result. On the other hand, the Giants story is a good one, and the entire rest of the country was no doubt thrilled by it all, so I guess it's another proof that it's an ill wind that doesn't blow someone some good.
No doubt Brady and company will be back on the hunt next year. I still think he'll end up with four Super Bowl rings before he's done, maybe even five.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Yes, we can

"Yes, we can."
The epitome of an American anthem.
Wathc the video here:

Friday, February 1, 2008

Under what definition is Bush a conservative?

It's certainly not one that includes respecting the Constitution.

Bush asserts, baldly, that he doesn't have to follow Congress' explicit instructions on spending money related to defense. He asserts that some "theory" of inherent powers trumps the explicit and plain language of the Constitution. Unfortunately for the Republic Congress seems to have little interest in protecting its powers.

Slate - Encyclopedia Baracktannica