Friday, February 29, 2008

Mukasey: Executive Branch Officially Above The Law

It's 3 a.m....I Can't Help But Be Scared Of It All Sometimes

Man. I am trying, trying, trying to keep Clinton in play, but I'm starting to think she's actively trying to piss me off.

The new "3 a.m." ad is not helping matters.

Lame, lame, lame. Though I have to admit, she looks pretty cool in glasses. This ad wouldn't be so bad if it weren't such a thinly-veiled attack ad.

[Oooh, Ezra beat me to the Matchbox 20 reference, more direction and humorously, with It's 3 a.m. and Your Ad is Stupid]

Explained here.

Comes in two forms: surgical and, um, prayer-al.

"Born-again virgins." You just cannot make this stuff up.
Iowa Electronic Markets: 2008 Presidential Race

Here's the current graph for the '08 presidential winner-take-all market.

Reason for cautious optimism.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ignatius: Sageman's Leaderless Jihad

Here's David Ignatius, one reference I've run into today to Marc Sageman's Leaderless Jihad.

This is important stuff...but, of course, you won't see it on CNN.

Sageman's a former CIA man and a forensic psychologist. He's collected data on 500 jihadists--data on what they believe, why they fight, and so on. His conclusion: we've been radically over-estimating the threat and, in fact, making it much worse, especially (no surprise here) by our actions in Iraq.
Charles Stross: The Atrocity Archive

Finally, I've got a hold of some weird fiction I really enjoy. The Atrocity Archive by Charles Stross. Really excellent, according to me. Not exactly horror, not exactly sci-fi...kinda H. P. Lovecraft meets Niel Stephenson. Toast also has some good stuff in it, but it isn't in the same league. I'm also 9/10ths of the way through Iron Sunrise, and just now realizing it's a sequel. Duh. Got The Jennifer Morgue on the way.

This guy has cool ideas and he can really write (for a sci-fi author, that is). I write a little fiction myself, and I was disappointed to see that he'd scooped me on several ideas...and done them better than me. Damn, I hate it when that happens!

Anyway, Charles Stross: Philosoraptor sez check him out.
Nancy Pelosi Evolves Into Vertebrate?

She's asked the DoJ to open a grand jury investigation into whether Miers and Bolton should be held in contempt of Congress. (at the Huffington Post)

Republicans are, predictably, throwing up a verbal smokescreen that once again shows that they believe themselves to be above the law...they are, of course, yet again playing the terrorism card, asserting that we should be expanding the government's powers to spy on us rather than punishing people for contempt of Congress. As if these two things were somehow incompatible. But obviously we can punish crimes and still shred the Constitution...

Jesus, these people.
RNC Adopts Clinton's Ridiculous Afghanistan Point


Way to give 'em talking points, Hillary.
RNC Denounces (and Rejects?) Tennessee GOP's Use of 'Hussein' in Obama Ad


Um, they didn't denounce or reject the use of the Muslim garb photo...but still, a step in the right direction for the GOP...

...except...that the word is that this only happened after Rove told them that the strategy probably would backfire.

So it isn't clear that the RNC is doing this because it is right, or just because they've come to think that the smear strategy won't be effective. If it's the latter, of course, then they get no credit for it. That just makes them more devious.
Bush = Lincoln?

O.k...remember when the righties kept saying that Bush was "churchillian"? Well, apparently the Churchill analogy wasn't quite delusional enough. Now Bush is like Lincoln (Lincolnian?)

Whew. So, Bush is thought to be a terrible president. But other presidents have been thought to be terrible in their own time...yet they were actually great. So...what? It certainly doesn't follow that Bush is actually great. Nor that he is likely to be great, nor likely to be remembered as being great. All that this reminds us of is that we could be wrong. But that's true of every belief we have, and no more true in this case than in any other. This is either just a general--hence misplaced--expression of fallibilism, or the first step toward skepticism. I mean, we can't KNOW FOR CERTAIN that Bush is a bad president, right? We can't even KNOW FOR CERTAIN that trees or plants, nor even that physical objects really exist at all! Epistemology by Tony Snow, ladies and gentlemen! Very nice.

This is like a defendant, after he's been found guilty by overwhelming evidence, saying "well, they put Martin Luther King in jail, too." WTF is that supposed to mean? Yeah, sometimes courts get it wrong. But mostly they don't. And to make a claim like this when the evidence is clear is just stupid.

Sensible Republicans really do have to put a lid on these loons. If they're still trying to claim that Bush is a great president (when minimally competent would be hyperbolic exaggeration), then what this shows is that they haven't the foggiest idea what counts as goodness in a president. Hence, among other things, undermining their opinions about future presidents and candidates. If I were McCain, I certainly wouldn't want to be endorsed by anyone who thinks that Bush is doing a great job.Oh, wait...I think McCain thinks that Bush is doing a good job... This bodes ill...
Another Whole America Out There

Here's what someone said to me during a brief discussion about the election while I was in Missouri:

"They say that n*****'s a Muslim."

Tamping down my initial inclination to respond in a, er, non-verbal manner, I instead had a civil discussion with the person about both of the issues raised by the utterance in question--that is, both the political issue and the moral/terminological one. You'll be as surprised as I am that significant progress was made on both fronts. I was, in particular, surprised by how relatively easy it was to elicit agreement that it is wrong to use the 'N' word.

Man. It's an astonishing country out there in many ways.
What Obama Must Do: Fess Up To False Ads

O.k., the very first rule of civil campaigning has to be: be scrupulously truthful. Obama's Hillary/NAFTA ads, though defensible in spirit, do contain inaccuracies (e.g. the "boon" "quote"). Obama's got to get on his people to be scrupulously truthful. I've long thought that, were I a candidate, first thing I'd do is get everybody in the campaign together and say: you lie or propagate lies, you're out; you get nasty in any way other than responding to nastiness in the heat of the moment, you're out; you spin to trick people to vote for us, you're out; we run a scrupulous, squeaky-clean, absolutely unimpeachably fair and reasonable campaign and win or lose on that turf.

Obama clearly sees that viciousness and anger poison and distort our political discourse, and that this is helping to destroy the system. But he needs to make it explicit that the first and worst element in all this is outright falsehood. People are going to get mad and irrational even when only truths are on the table--but false charges set off even the most rational and truth-loving among us.

Truthfulness, it seems to me, is the first virtue here.
The Don Siegelman Case Gets Even More Bizarre

Can this possibly be true? Parts of the 60 Minutes broadcast mysteriously blacked out in parts of Alabama? The case is already off-the-scale crazy...crazy enough that a Congressional investigation is obviously demanded. I know there is a really rotten element of the GOP, but the Siegelman stuff seems too crazy and evil even for them. Hell, if I were a Republican I'd be screaming bloody murder for an investigation to clear my party's name.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why Did HRC and Other Dems Vote to Authorize The Use of Force in Iraq?

Although this question is rarely addressed directly, my guess is that we all really know the answer.

The real question is: do even the Republicans want a culture in which the less-hawkish party acts in that way?
No You Can't

Now, as you may know, I like McCain, but I still thought this was pretty good.

I wouldn't post this at all, but it's my little kick in the ass to McCain for his tricky, crappy comments about al Qaeda in Iraq today. Obama's response was pretty good--indeed it was our invasion that generated al Qaeda in Iraq. But it would have been better to go right at the heart of the matter: clearly Obama didn't mean he'd use force in Iraq if there was any al Qaeda presence there, but only if there was significant, threatening presence that the Iraqi government wasn't dealing with.

The disagreement here is fairly complicated, but it seems to me that McCain wouldn't endorse this point if he thought about it a bit more. Surely he doesn't think that the al Qaeda presence in Iraq is a big enough threat to the U.S. to warrant an invasion, or to keep us there now.. That'd be crazy.
Bill Hobbs and The Tennessee GOP Get Nasty

Kevin Drum points us to Matthew Yglesias who points us to a press release from the Tennessee GOP that marshals all the dirty tricks so far developed by the GOP against Obama: it consistently refers to Obama as "Barak Hussein Obama," shows the pic of him in Muslim clothes, mentions Farrakhan, and cites his "anti-Israel" leanings.

Bill Hobbs, blogger and communications director of the Tennessee GOP, then compares the use of Obama's middle name to the use of the 'Rodham' in 'Hillary Rodham Clinton,' asserting that those who object to the press release must think that it's never permissible to use people's middle names. Now that's about as dishonest as you can get.

Just for the record:
People who go out of their way to use Obama's middle name are doing so in order to suggest some kind of association with Saddam Hussein, or to support the rumor that Obama is Muslim, or some similar thing. No one is objecting to using people's middle names in general. To suggest that that's the claim is just to pile dishonestly on dishonesty.

Nice going Bill Hobbs. Way to put party over country and simultaneously raise the level of political discourse.

So the GOP is out of the blocks early with some particularly nasty stuff. This brings up a point that I've been thinking about a bit: playing nice is easy in the abstract, difficult in practice. We're going to face some very, very nasty attacks from the GOP if Obama is the candidate. Here's the way these things often go: party A resolves to be calm and respectful. Party B is aggressive and unfair. Party A then seems to have to choose between (i) just taking it and (ii) striking back in kind. Even if A takes a lot before striking back, if he eventually does, the story line will be: both parties on the attack. A pox on both your houses. This is, of course, more or less what's happened between Democrats and Republicans for the past fifteen years or so.

So what to do?

Well, there is a third way. Respond, but not in kind. Point out the bad actions and obvious sophistries of organizations like the Tennessee GOP and individuals like Mr. Hobbs. Do so calmly, but firmly. Perhaps someone prominent could point out to them that they obviously do not really believe that the issue is about using middle names in general, but Obama's unfortunate middle name in particular. This point can be relentlessly pushed without venom. If the parties in question admit their indiscretion, then that's good. If they don't, then honest people should make a point of relentlessly reminding everyone of their dishonesty at every opportunity.

This approach might not be as gratifying as firing back angrily and in kind, but it's the kind of thing we have to do if we are seriously committed to reforming American political discourse.
Obama and Hearings on Afghanistan

I'm embarrassed to say that I was fairly alarmed by Clinton's point that Obama hadn't held hearings on Afghanistan in the Foreign Relations Committee. Then I went back and looked at the actual point, and saw how almost unbelievably lame it was. What she said:

He chairs the subcommittee on Europe. It has jurisdiction over NATO. NATO is critical to our mission in Afghanistan. He's held not one substantive hearing to do oversight, to figure out what we can do to actually have a stronger presence with NATO in Afghanistan.

Huuuuhwaaaaa? This is astonishingly lame and almost certainly intentionally dishonest. I can't believe I almost fell for this.

As KarenC points out, Afghanistan is not in Europe, and it would have been "showboating" for Obama to try to hold such hearings.

I mean...he chairs the subcommittee on Europe...NATO is in Europe...NATO is critical to our mission in Obama should call hearings on the war in Afghanistan?????? That has to be one of the stupidest things I have ever heard. I really, really, really can't believe I was alarmed about that. Close to: the UN is headquartered in New York, the UN was crucial to our mission in Kosovo, so Hillary should be holding hearings on Kosovo. Abject sophistry.

Shame on you, Hillary, yet again.
(1) Should Clinton Concede/(2) Civility As A Central Issue

It's become fairly common to hear people saying that Clinton should concede, for the good of the party. But I don't think that's true. She still has a good chance to win, and things are close enough that folks in states that haven't voted yet deserve their say. And HRC deserves her shot at convincing them.

What Clinton should do--must do--is this: stop going negative.

Which, as I've noted before, doesn't necessarily mean: stop criticizing her opponent.

Competition and honest, civil debate do not hurt the country or the party. What has poisoned our politics is viciousness. This is, of course, not to say that one can't be critical of one's opponent. Obama is doing this--among so many other things--just about exactly right. His claims about Clinton's and his own health care plans was right on the money. Basically: they're very similar and both are good; I think mine is better and here's why, but reasonable people can disagree once the discussion gets to this level. (One can almost hear the silent but implied: and, of course, I could be wrong.) This is the way reasonable, sensible people discuss issues. This is how agreement is reached and progress is made. This is how people disagree in a way that does not alienate or cause hard feelings. Do things the other way and you get people's backs up, and then agreement is all but impossible. Once people get angry with each other, they become unable and unwilling to be objective. Discussion and inquiry turn into debate and argument. And, as we know, once it gets personal, once it turns into a battle rather than an attempt to find the right answer, people become virtually immovable.

Now, if Clinton is unwilling to be civil and reasonable, then she should drop out. But it's important that we be clear about the reasons: it's not competition we should fear, but the divisiveness that's plagued our politics for the past fifteen years, especially for the last seven. This is, of course, to say that Clinton should drop out unless she is willing to be more like Obama. But that's because Obama is getting this right--and that is one of the things that has so many people so excited about his candidacy. He realizes that the penumbra of viciousness that surrounds so much of our political discourse is not (as some are wont to assert) a useful and essential component or byproduct of democracy. Rather it is inessential and pernicious. There is simply no substitute for respect and good will. Without them, fruitful disagreement and discussion are virtually impossible.

That is to say: Clinton should stay in the race--but only if she can keep it clean.

TNR: The Audacity of Data

Noam Scheiber at TNR on Obama's policy approach and advisers: smart and pragmatic. Still more reason to be very excited about Barak.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Debate 2: Rejecting and Renouncing

I knew Obama had screwed up as soon as he was too clinical about rejecting Farrakhan's endorsement. Clinton could hardly contain herself as she rushed to tell the story that let her stick the knife in his ribs. Then, characteristically, Obama judos her just by being reasonable and saying, approximately: "well, if there IS a distinction between renouncing and rejecting, then I do both." Nice. Man, this guy is probably too reasonable to be president of the U.S.
The Debate So Far

I usually think that Clinton is at her best in the debates and that Obama isn't at his, but he is really cleaning her clock tonight, IMHO. Among other things, Clinton's aggressiveness is even more overt and off-putting than usual and Obama's answers are exceptionally sharp and reasonable. Obama's really cleaning her clock.

Egad. Here's the clip of Clinton doing her "celestial choir" bit...Jebus it's incredibly grating.

OOOOHHH! Obama's response is a slam dunk! ("sounds good to me" etc.). Funny, disarming, a bit self-effacing, makes HRC look like even more of a jerk... Wow. He really scored on that one.

Amazing how thoroughly you can trounce somebody just by being reasonable and human...

HRC's response comes off as kind of lame and sleazy ("I was trying to have a little's hard to find time to have fun on the campaign trail.") Ridicule is not exactly having fun. Lame, Hillary. Lame.
Bill Cunningham is a Stupid Assh*le
McCain Disavows His Comments

Wow. This guy is an unbelievable moron. And and assh*le. And lame. He's not even adept at what he does. I mean, he's a loudmouth idiot, but he obviously doesn't really have what it takes to be a significant cog in the Republican noise machine. It's hard to say what he lacks...he's obviously evil and crazy enough...but he lacks...I dunno...the requisite unctuous facility. Or something.

McCain, to his credit, immediately disavowed the comments of this massive waste of carbon. It's sad that this is a surprisingly upright, humane and reasonable move, but it is. Surprising, that is. I mean, disavowing the dumbass comments of a dumbass like Cunningham should be SOP...the bare minimum level of decency for anyone who wants to be president. But, sadly, it isn't. So, anyway, props to McCain for doing the right thing. He said the right things and he obviously meant them. The Republican noise machine won't shut down, but I really do believe that McCain won't actively seek out its help.
Please Don't Make Me Vote For Clinton

Jebus. Had a rental car with XM on the trip home, and it turns out there's this channel called "Potus 2008"...all election coverage all the time. It was like a beautiful dream. Er, nightmare. No, dream! No...

Anyway, heard Hilary Clinton give a speech that I thought was really excellent. Then saw her on CNN doing her I am an evil shrieking banshee "shame on you" Obama act. Now, I know that the former should probably count for more than the latter...but by God I was sitting there watching the banshee bit thinking about how it's getting harder and harder for me to imagine myself voting for Shrillary.

I started out being very favorably inclined toward HRC. Now I get a knot in my gut when I think about her winning the nomination.

Nice going, Clinton campaign. Nice going.

Back from the ranch. You'll note that I got a couple of posts off while I was visiting my brother, but the Ranch of the Damned remains sadly bereft of connectivity. No cell phone service, either. Kinda nice, actually...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ralph Nader, The GOP's Pal

So how could the Dems possibly lose in 2008? With a little help from the GOP's bestest bud, Ralph Nader. Ah, yes. Mr. "Not A Dime's Worth Of Difference." Of course Al Gore would certainly have kept his eye on bin Laden...and there's no way in hell that he would have invaded Iraq instead, wasting thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. He wouldn't have squandered the world's goodwill after 9/11, nor alienated all our allies. Heck, I'll bet he wouldn't even have gone on vacation after being informed that bin Laden was determined to strike inside the U.S. Nor intentionally ignored bin Laden simply because Clinton thought he was important. Nor appointed two people to the Supreme Court largely because they were very young and very conservative. Nor shredded the Constitution by, among other things, re-establishing the imperial presidency. But I guess that's not a big enough difference for Ralph.

Of course you could say that it's not Ralph's fault that people vote for him. That is, I suppose, a point worth discussing. But he's simply deluded if he thinks there are no significant differences between the two major parties. And he surely knows that he has no chance to win. And surely he knows that he is increasing the odds of a Republican victory at a crucial point in our history. Granted, McCain, unlike Bush, has the makings of a decent president. But he would probably stick with the disastrous and deluded policies of the Bush administration (the "war" on "terror" for example...rather than a concerted, multi-pronged effort against al Qaeda). You might say that Nader going to bat for McCain in this way is much less disastrous than his going to bat for Bush in 2000. I have an inclination to agree...or, rather, I would if I weren't worried that McCain will largely follow in Bush's footsteps. McCain may be a renegade in certain ways, but he seems to have just about the full measure of conservative confusion about foreign policy.

So thanks again, Ralph. I was just starting to feel fairly confident about this election. If the GOP had a Hall of Fame, you'd be in it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Yet More Lameness from Krzyzewski

Even I'm a little tired of hearing about the UNC-dook rivalry. Maybe it's because I'm old school on this score and still consider NC State our biggest rival, despite their recent difficulties. Maybe it's because the whole time I was in graduate school at Carolina, Dean was beating dook like a rented mule. It got so that it wasn't even much fun anymore.

Or maybe it's because dook really is just about the most annoying team of all time.

Now, look... I'm not one of those hard-core dook haters. dook runs a clean program, and that's by far the most important factor to consider when assessing a college team. The fundamental distinction is between the clean programs and the dirty ones, and dook is in the former category. My objections against dook are rather less moral and rather more aesthetic.

Now, I don't intend to launch into a complete explanation of why The University of New Jersey at Durham is so irritating. But here's just a tiny window into what you have to put up with if you live just eight miles away from UNJ-D. Krzyzewski seems rather upset that Carolina is, yet again, playing better ball and getting more press than his precious Blue Devils. So he slips in an unwarranted dig about injury reports from UNC. Now, when you're playing with your third-string point guard (who himself has the flu), and pretty much every one of your starters is visibly limping down the court with some injury or another, and everybody and his brother is commenting on and asking about this, it is standard practice to release information about the injuries. In fact, it's standard practice to release info about injuries period.

Kryzewski is completely in the wrong here. His comment was gratuitous and just plain stupid. It's not a big deal, but Krzyzewski's relentless lameness is something that just gets on one's nerves after awhile. Personally, I'd really like to see the Carolina-dook rivalry go back to being more friendly. But given the almost preternatural irksomeness of dook's coach, it is rather easy to get a bad attitude about the thing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Once More to the Ranch of the Damned

Back in about a week.
Not Plagiarism

First of all, it's preposterous to think that there is a presumption of originality with regard to political speeches. Is the gripe, I wonder, that Obama didn't pay someone to come up with the words for him? Furthermore, as anyone who's ever had a close intellectual relationship knows, people's ideas start mixing together. You'll find yourself saying things in conversation that came straight out of the other person's mouth. Sometimes it's important to cite them, sometimes not. This is just the way of things. In cases in which the people in question have implicitly or explicitly waved any claim on citation, this is especially unobjectionable. It wouldn't have hurt for Obama to have mentioned Patrick, but under the circumstances, it isn't obligatory.

This makes the Clinton camp look pretty bad actually--reminding us of their other bits of nasty nit-picking--but they may be blameless in this case. If they didn't know of the relationship between Obama and Patrick, their objection was reasonable. Now that the relationship has been made clear, they'd be well advised to drop it. They're already turning people off with their nastiness.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Reason For Optimism

I don't know about everybody else, but I've been feeling pretty good about politics for the last week or so. The main reason for my sudden optimism is this: we're virtually guaranteed a fairly reasonable president come January 20th 2009. Now, I know that HRC has been extremely annoying, and McCain is sub-optimal. Huckabee is still officially in the race, of course, but I'm counting him out for all intents and purposes. So we've got one genuinely exciting candidate, one candidate who would probably be just fine, and that rarest of rarities these days, a reasonable Republican candidate. After seven years of the godawful, damnable Bush administration, I think we all deserve to revel in a big sigh of relief.

I am inclined to think that the next president needs to accomplish some big, rather amorphous things in addition to whatever specific policy goals they choose to pursue. Among these, in no particular order, are:

1. Restore honor to the White House
2. Renew relationships with our allies
3. Convince the world that the U.S. is not insane
4. Repudiate the current administration's response to 9/11

Seven years of the contemptible George W. Bush have left us weaker and lower than anyone could have predicted. It may be too early to declare him the worst president in history--and I think that such judgments are always skewed toward the recent--but the very fact that he'll definitely be in the running is problem enough. The lesson of the last seven years that it does, as a matter of fact, matter who you elect to the presidency. A moron that middle America would like to have a beer with is still a moron. And a liar who waves the flag is still a liar. The next president will have to turn the nation around, and that won't be easy. Ideally, he or she will go to our allies and apologize profusely for the last seven years, and assure them that such idiocy will not recur. He'll make efforts to convince the rest of the world that the grown-ups are back in charge, and that the days of wildly irrational decision-making are over. And he will go in front of the American people and explain that almost every response to 9/11 has been a mistake. That there is no "war" on "terror," but, rather, an on-going effort to keep ourselves and our allies safe from various threats, only one of which is terrorism, and only part of that which is Islamic. That Iraq was a terrible mistake, but that, now that it's been made, we've got to leave in a responsible and honorable way. And that, contrary to what Mr. Bush has said, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden will pay for 9/11. Bush apparently thought that 9/11 was trivial enough that its mastermind could be allowed to slip away while we pursued unrelated projects; the next president should make it clear that that was an enormous, almost inexplicable error.

Though this country has rarely fallen so low in modern times, and although we've in my lifetime shown ourselves to have a penchant for electing idiots, I really do think that things are now destined to improve. It seems to me that Obama is the most likely to do the things that are required, HRC the next most likely, and McCain the third. (His non-rational commitment to the disastrous policies of his party will, unfortunately, prevent him from being a truly great president. But, though he might not be great, he would at least be able to accomplish 1-3, even if not 4.

So: relax a little. It looks like things are destined to look up.
The Bush Administration's Role in the Subprime Lending Crisis

You probably saw this already, but here's something interesting (by which I mean infuriating) by Eliot Spitzer on the administration's role in the crisis. According to Spitzer, predatory lending was so obviously out of hand that states were trying to step in and do something about it, but the administration used the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to block their efforts and protect banks that were engaging in predatory practices.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Dumbest Move the Dems Could Make?

I missed this in the WaPo in August.

Tomasky makes the same case here, you see all over, though perhaps more clearly. It's fairly clear that Bush deserves to be impeached, but--or so goes the line--this would be politically inexpedient for the Democrats.

Since McCain has basically cinched the nomination, we're guaranteed of a fairly reasonable Republican nominee. This makes it rather less important for the Dems to win in November (though it is, still, important). This makes me less interested in arguments from political expediency. And I'm not that partial to the Democrats anyway.

More importantly, I think that it's more important in the long run to reign in rogue administrations. If the President deserves to be impeached, then Congress has an obligation to impeach him even if it will be bad for them politically. It is not optional.

Now, one might argue that Bush should not be impeached (if, say, one were from Mars...). That's a different story. But to admit that he should but then refuse to do so out of fear is craven in the extreme. The message is: if your party is mean enough and powerful enough and sufficiently willing to demagogue the issue, you are immune from impeachment. Ergo there are basically no checks on your power.
Emperor George XLIII Usurps Still More Power

New status of force agreement circumvents Congressional power in Iraq.

Why not just officially make this into a monarchy? If something more-or-less like that's to be avoided, Congressional Democrats are going to have to evolve into don't hold your breath.

Just when you think that this administration can't get any more despicable, they go and surprise you. This really has gotten out of control. Can anybody tell me why there aren't basically non-stop protests against this godawful administration? Seriously. It's past the point of being a political issue. If you're not worried and angry, then you're probably not paying attention.
What Have They Done Right?

Sitting around with three friends last night--all, like me, rather non-standard, occasionally cranky and cynical liberals--I asked the following question: what has the Bush administration done right/well?

Granted, we'd had a few beers by that point, but nobody could come up with an answer. Statisticasaurus Rex finally said "they seem to be really good at waterboarding." [cue laugh track] But of course this didn't count. Doing something wrong well doesn't count. And "they invaded Afghanistan after 9/11" doesn't count because (a) it was a total no-brainer, and (b) they botched it by sending too few troops, letting OBL get away, etc.

Good thing we didn't make this a drinking game or we'd have all ended the night stone cold sober.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bush on FISA:
The Terrorists Have Already Won: We Are Already Dead

Today, (")President(") Bush issued the following statement on the House's failure to immediately pass the FISA bill:

"My, fellow Americans. The Terrorists have already won.We are already dead. The Democrats' terror-loving actions--specifically, failing to pass the FISA bill in exactly the form I demanded--has killed us all. The all-powerful terrorists--the most powerful force ever known on the face of the Earth--killed us yesterday immediately after the Democrats' heinous, suicidal, Americidal, freedom-cidal actions. Unless we immediately authorize corporate America to work with the all-powerful executive branch--to which both other branches of government are, of course, subordinate--to immediately and permanently suspend all civil rights, life as we know it will be destroyed across the entire universe. It is already too late for us. But, in order to prevent the terrorists from using Iraqi WMDs to destroy all life everywhere--and, in fact, to reach beyond space and time to kill the baby Jesus--I, urge...the House to pass the FISA bill immediately. Some have pointed out that the bill could be passed if telecom immunity were removed from it. Those people obviously love terrorists and want to have ten thousand of their terrorist babies.

Goodbye, and rest in peace."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Republicans Continue to Act as Al Qaeda Force Multiplier
Play the Terrorism Card Yet Again

Jebus H. Here we go again.

Do not try to make the administration accountable to the law! If you do, we will all die!! The terrorists are infinitely powerful, and capable of killing us all at any moment!!!!!!!!!!! Acquiesce to the president's will or all will die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My god. There is something very seriously wrong with these people.
Preliminary VD Rant '08

Valentine's Day sucks!

HRC and Obama on Confiscating Firearms

One thing that started tilting me toward Obama: HRC supports confiscating firearms during emergencies (as they did during Katrina), whereas Obama does not. This issue is non-negotiable in my eyes. The government does not get to confiscate our firearms when we need them most. (They can, let me note, have mine when they take it in the traditional prying-from-cold-dead-fingers sort of way.)

Jeffrey Rosen, interestingly, even suggests that Obama could be our first civil libertarian president (though Rosen seems to think that civil libertarians must be anti-death-penalty...which is false.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Scalia on the Constitutionality of "So-Called Torture"

So, you've probably heard about Scalia's comments on the constitutionality of torture (or "so-called torture," as he actually says. Jebus! When did conservatives start loving torture so much???). Anyway, as far as I can tell, what he means is something like this: ("so-called") torture is (so-called?) unconstitutional in virtue of violating the (so-called) Eighth Amendment of the (so-called) Constitution. However, nothing in the (so-called) Constitution prohibits (so-called) cruel and (so-called) unusual methods of acquiring (so-called) information. So, if (so-called) torture is used to get information rather than to punish, the Constitution doesn't have anything to say about it. Which, of course, doesn't mean that it isn't (so-called) immoral, nor that it isn't illegal. Just that it isn't un(so-called)constitutional.

So, though he may not be a terribly good person, Scalia may very well be saying something (so-called) true about (so-called) torture.

O.k., time to get back to (so-called) watching (so-called) basketball. Gotta see who puts the (so-called) ball through the (so-called) hoop more times.
Negative Ads, Attack Ads, Critical Ads
Enough With The Sinister Sounding Voice-Overs Already

Terminology can contain or entail ambiguities or other confusions, and/or they can presuppose or entail bad theories, including bad theories of classification. All these things can be problematic and sometimes even disastrous (consider, e.g., the disastrously confused term 'war on terror'...).

'Negative ad' is unclear in such a way. It's at least ambiguous as between something like 'attack ad' and something like 'critical ad.' Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with a critical ad per se. That is, so long as the criticisms are honest and fair, such ads can even be helpful to the process (as some studies have confirmed). On the other hand, ads which are unnecessarily vicious or negative are probably more properly called something like 'attack ads.' Those ads are bad, and candidates who use them should be punished (by the voters, of course, not the government.) Attack ads are exaggerated or otherwise dishonest, or aim at character assassination or some similar thing.

Public discussions of this issue are almost always terribly confused largely because they fail to draw this fairly elementary distinction.

One wee thing everybody could do right away to take a small step toward eliminating attack ads is to stop making ads with those g*d d*mn sinister voices reading the copy. If your opponent did something you judge to be bad or mistaken, then say so. But adding those stupid-ass sinister voices reading the text is not only sophomoric, but is clearly intended to suggest something sinister about the target.

O.k... As you were.
What Clinton Must Not Do

As I've mentioned, I'm back to being fairly positively disposed toward Clinton now that her campaign has largely backed off of the nasty attacks against Obama. (Kinda weird how negatively I reacted to that...) So this is not some anti-Clinton post. But there are a few things she and her campaign must absolutely, positively not do:

1. They must try to cheat by seriously agitating to include Michigan and Florida delegates.

The DNC's decision was fair. It was Florida and Michigan that robbed their citizens of their votes, not the DNC. The time to challenge the decisions was before the primaries, not after it became clear that one candidate or the other would benefit from challenging the decision. To try to change the rules after the fact is to stoop to the level of the GOP in 2000, and that is beneath her. (Perhaps she might get Tom DeLay to set up an electronic command post for her...)

2. They must not try to win by recruiting super delegates if Obama is ahead by the convention.

This would be be despicable...and even if you don't care about that, it would divide and dishearten the party--and, hence, weaken it.

One might, of course, respond here by claiming that that possibility is inherent in the super delegate system, and that, by a principle similar to one employed above, the time to object to that system was before the primaries began. I'm inclined to think that the cases are significantly different, but I'm in no way convinced of that, so willing to reconsider this issue.

Now, Obama is under the same two restrictions, though he apparently has no inclination to try to drag Michigan and Florida into this. But he could conceivably face the same temptation about super delegates. Which he must resist.

But we might ask this: what if a compromise is reached that would allow MI and FL a do-over? Should Obama oppose that if he has good reason to believe that it would help Clinton? Dunno. That would take some thinking. My initial reaction is that he ought to agree to such a do-over no matter what, though I can already see the outlines of some problems with that conclusion.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Obama Phenomenon

Met a good friend of mine, who I hadn't seen for three or four years, for lunch today. About ten minutes into the conversation, he looks at me and says "So, have you succumbed to the Obama thing yet?" "I've been trying to resist it," I said, "but it's senseless to ignore it at this point. So yes." "Me too!" he said, enthusiastically and relieved

Thing is, this is getting to be a more and more common kind of experience with me. Liberals who have some vague worry that they shouldn't be really enthusiastic about a candidate, and who are rather embarrassed about how enthusiastic they are about Obama. We're Democrats. We vote for policies, not people. We're supposed to tolerate our candidates, not love them. We have an innate skepticism about reactions of this kind.

Of course it's not all emotive or rhetorical. I'm pretty much immune to rhetoric, actually. In fact, nothing turns me off faster than hollow rhetoric. It's, rather, that he is saying smart, true, important things, and saying them in a way that makes it clear that he believes them very deeply. I listen to him, and I think "why has it taken my whole life for a candidate like this to come along?"

Man. I think I'm starting to understand how people felt about JFK.
Congrats to Clemson and the Heels for a Great Game

Props to Clemson for a really good game on Sunday. Though they eventually fell to Carolina, they only did so in the second OT. Oliver Purnell's got this team looking good, and they easily could have won both meetings with UNC this year. In fact, only two rather improbable comebacks prevented that.

Clemson is, of course, 0-for-53 in Chapel Hill, and coming so close to ending that streak has got to add insult to injury. But it'll end some day. And better, probably, to end some day when UNC isn't playing on its third-string point guard. (No offense to Q, of course, who continues to play well.) Add to that that Marcus Ginyard, who plays the point in emergencies, has turf toe and a sprained ankle and...well, it ain't pretty.

The question for Carolina is: how long can it survive without Lawson? We've scratched out wins against FSU and Clemson without him, and lost one to Duke that we (even without Lawson) probably would normally have won. It's UVa tonight, and they're down this year, so that's as much of a breather as we can expect in the ACC.

On the bright side, maybe we'll come out of this with a half-court game.

But the point is: good game, Clemson!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Berkeley vs. The USMC

Hmmm... looks like the People's Republic of Berkeley is taking on the Corp. Good thing this is just a war of words...

How the heck should we think about this?

My first reaction to such things is usually annoyance with the lefties. I don't know what it is, but even when I am generally sympathetic with their cause, these folks have a freakish ability to irritate me. So let me just get that little bit of psychology out on the table.

This reminds me, unsurprisingly, of the moves to chase the CIA off of campuses back in the day. I wasn't sure how to think about that, either.

Some relevant facts:

1. Yes, as Berkeley's (note: I am not making this up) Peace and Justice Commission notes, the U.S. has a history of launching "illegal, immoral and unprovoked wars of aggression." (Um, do we really need 'aggression' in there? Can anybody think of an illegal, immoral and unprovoked war that was not a war of aggression?). To deny this would be to betray a truly prodigious degree of historical ignorance.

2. Yes, the Iraq war is likely an immoral war, though the issue isn't entirely clear. At the very least, it seems to violate the last resort condition on just wars that, e.g., both Aquinas and Grotius agree on. It's not clearly illegal, however, given Saddam's violation of 1441. Though, as I understand it, 1441 did not authorize war without a further Security Council it may have been illegal, too. This is, of course, something I should know, or at least have the gumption to look up. But I don't.

Now, given 1 and 2, it seems clear that opposition to the Iraq invasion was at least permissible and probably obligatory. And this is not even to mention the overriding prudential reasons against invading. But, the pooch already having been screwed, these are not the questions that face us. The question that faces us is more like: now that we've replaced Saddam's mess with our own mess, what are our obligations?

We should be able to agree that we have a fairly strong obligation to fix a fair bit of the mess we made even though there was another, rather different kind of mess there to start with. Now, lefties of the Code Pink variety seem to think that violence is never justified, and this is, of course, as false as anything can be. But even if that's what they think, their actions might still be permissible on other grounds.

We can probably all agree that it is reasonable (though probably not maximally reasonable) to think that it would be best for us to leave right now. Now, if one can believe that without being epistemically irresponsible, the question then becomes: if one did believe that, would it be permissible to interfere with military recruiting efforts in order to achieve the goal?

I think it's clear that if we were engaged in a genuine war of aggression, then it would be permissible to so interfere. So it's at least sometimes permissible. But this war--mistaken though it may be--is not exactly a war of aggression. (So, um...I guess some illegal, immoral wars are not wars of aggression after all! Some are just mistakes. Interesting...)

So, one might think like so: it's sometimes permissible to interfere with recruiting in order to stop a war. This war ought to be stopped. So it's permissible to interfere with recruiting.

But this reasoning is at least not deductively valid (as you can tell by a quick inspection). It's not exactly abductively valid, either, as it stands. Anyway: just because it's permissible to do x in order to stop some wars doesn't mean that it's permissible to do x to stop any war that ought to be stopped. So the argument, as stated, fails.

(Sidebar: of course no one is suggesting that interference with recruiting should be illegal under the prevailing conditions. Everybody, including (and, to their great credit, perhaps especially) the USMC recognizes that it should be legal. We are asking whether it's morally right.)

Although one can reasonably think that we (and by 'we' I, of course, mean they) should get out right away, one can also reasonably think that we should stay, e.g. until there's some measure of political progress. So both positions are reasonable in this case. So we might ought to re-frame the question like so: when the government is pursuing a reasonable military policy, is it permissible to try to impede the policy by interfering with recruiting? If the policy were obviously in error, interference would be permissible. But when it is not obviously in error, I have some inclination to think that we ought to let the normal mechanisms (e.g. recruiting) function as they are supposed to. Though I don't know what principle--if any--is driving me there.

So having gotten this far, I think my tentative conclusion is: no, Berkeley should not be opposing the war in this way. Although I have sympathy with the conclusion that we need to start heading for the door in Iraq, I suppose I am inclined to think that action of this kind is only permissible when the military policy in question is fairly clearly wrong...and I don't think our current policy is clearly wrong.

(I suppose I'm also inclined to think that this sort of thing is as much a piece of street theater as it is a serious political statement. That, too, is annoying...but I could, of course, be wrong about it. Lefties seem to have a real weakness for street theater. Witness the various anti-globalization circuses. I've often thought that, if these folks were really interested in effecting change, they'd cut their hair, put down their puppets, and put on suits. Of course I don't have a suit...but then I'm not the one here trying to get people to take me seriously.)

Now, one might respond that any person who is convinced that the war is mistaken has a right--in fact, a duty--to try to stop people from signing up to engage in it. That's a reasonable point. So perhaps the real argument here is that the city of Berkeley should not be doing so. Or perhaps I'm just wrong.

More thought required.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mitt Romney, Despicable Moron

Just listening to Romney's speech announcing the suspension of his campaign. Thing is, I didn't really realize how important it was for this a$$h*le to resign until just now.

He's still trying to link up Iraq with the "war on terror," and to portray all liberals as cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Oh, and in case you didn't realize it, we liberals are all engaged in a "war against American culture."

Jesus, what a deluded, despicable PoS.

It's also becoming clearer and clearer that a large faction of conservatives hate McCain largely because he's not a mindless partisan. (Witness all the flack he's taking for working with liberals and being a "maverick".) Whereas Obama is popular among liberals largely because he preaches bipartisanship, McCain is unpopular among conservatives for doing so. This speaks volumes about the vices of contemporary American conservatism.

I think the only way to save American conservatism might be a resounding ass-whipping in this election. Maybe then the sane wing of the GOP will rise again after that. Of course, if McCain is the nominee and he loses, the line will probably be that they've tried being cooperative, and it didn't work. It's really too bad. I'm firmly convinced that sane conservatism is necessary for sane politics. I'm starting to wonder whether I'll ever see such an animal in my lifetime.
Carolina 78, dook 89

Damn, I thought we were just toast without Ty, but Q ended up doing an admirable job at that point in many ways. But it was just one of those nights on which just about everything seemed to go wrong. Green and Ellington just simply could not hit and I'm sure we all lost track of how many long rebounds fell right into dook's hands. It took the conjunction of many factors for them to come out on top, but, as they say, that's why they play the games.

Perhaps the biggest news of the night is that this win moves Krzyzewski up to .500 all-time against UNC. (It would probably be churlish to point out that fully half of these wins came against Guthridge and Dougherty during UNC's coaching transition debacle...and that the record doesn't include the losses during the mysteriously protracted back-related absence of 1995. And we're anything but churlish around these parts, yes? So you won't catch us mentioning these things...)

The good news--to the extent that there is any--is that, on a night without our most pivotal player, and when nobody but Hansbrough (and, to some extent, Thompson and Thomas) could hit anything, and on which the Heels' defense was just about as out of sync as it's ever been, and on which their opponents hit just about everything they jacked up from behind the arc, it was still basically a seven-point game. Cold comfort, but better than nothing.

Losing to the almost preternaturally irritating dook is always a rather an unhappy occurrence, and losing in this fashion is especially galling...but them's the breaks. Here's hoping that Ty is up and around for the Clemson game. Clemson has, as you may know, never won a basketball game in Chapel Hill, and I'm sure they've noticed that this would be a good time to change that.

Go Tar Heels!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Halftime, 2/6/08

42-39 dook at the half.

One thing that has become crystal clear: if Lawson were playing, this would be a blow-OUT.

Carolina's down basically because of a one minute stretch in which they backed off defending the 3-point line and a ten-minute period when they didn't get the ball to Hansbrough.

Q is doing a great job, though. He really has improved, and it's exciting to see him get so much PT--it's almost worth the temporary loss of Lawson just to get to see him play.

I have to say, this is a less annoying dook team than usual...aside from the fact that they don't, ya know, play actual basketball, but, rather, merely jack up three after three. But there seems to be less whining, hand-checking, and flopping than usual. So that's good. Henderson is an amazing athlete, and it's too bad that Carolina fans won't let last year's flagrant foul go. It wasn't intentional...though it was culpably negligent.

O.k., time to prepare for the second half...
Go Tar Heels

Well, too much from yesterday to even digest yet...and nothing there that I have any interesting thoughts about anyway.

So one's thoughts naturally turn to the Duke game tonight. Alas, according to the DTH, Ty Lawson showed up on crutches this morning after his ankle injury in the Florida State game. Lawson is, of course, the most important player on the team. Without him at the point, Carolina is just about mediocre. Bobby Frasor is out for the season with a torn ACL. That leaves Quentin Thomas, our third-string point guard. Now, we all love Q, and he could very well rise to the occasion. But without Lawson, we're big, big underdogs.

Now, I don't care all that much about the Duke game. The all-time series stands at 127-96 and, despite Duke's huge string of victories during our post-Dean coaching woes, we traditionally beat 'em like a rented mule with almost monotonous regularity. But I do care about scoring the #1 seed in the East regional, and losing this game will make that fairly tough.

Anyway, here's hoping for a fun game.

And, of course: Go Tar Heels!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Coulter's Anti-McCain Hysteria You've probably noticed that there's a certain flavor of conservative that hates lib'ruls more than they hate, say, OBL. And for some reason they seemed to hate the moderate Bill Clinton even more than they hate real lefties. Well, the pattern continues with John McCain--a conservative by any but the most extreme and twisted criteria. Behold her anti-McCain tirade on Faux News. Her claim? That if McCain is the GOP nominee (and HRC the Dem), she (T. Spice) will not only vote for but campaign for Hillary. Gee..I dunno...I'm not sure we really need you. We've kinda got our kook quota filled by NY NOW... Sure, it's not much by the advanced kookiness standards of the right, but it's plenty for us...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Where I Stand on Super Monday

Not that it should matter much to anybody, but here's where I stand on Super Monday:

Acceptable (in order of my preference):
Clinton/McCain (currently just about a tie)

Unacceptable (in no particular order):

The real wild card here is my weird and unfocused view of Clinton. She has been significantly harmed in my eyes by all the nastiness coming from the vicinity of her camp. Lots of this is from her supporters, of course, and so it's unclear to what extent it should reflect on her. Lots of stuff one just has to ignore, no matter how loathsome and absurd (e.g. the Obama "snub" picture (which, of course, was not a snub at all, but just another opportunity for imbeciles to parade their apparently boundless vapidity)).

So, some advice to Clinton: no more dirty tricks, no more phony waterworks, reign in some of your frothier supporters.

Romney is out because he is an anti-atheist bigot. Huckabee is out (despite his personal charm with us rednecks) because he is probably a nut; creationism and deadly CDS are, obviously, very bad signs. Paul is out because...LOL...well, I mean, c'mon. Like most libertarians and all stopped clocks, he's right on the money more than once per day...but...

I think both Obama and Clinton could make good presidents. McCain could, too...though probably not in the wake of George W. Bush. Among other things, we need someone who will get in there and immediately start undoing the damage this administration has done--e.g. by helping to restore checks and balances to our government, dismantling the imperial presidency. McCain might be willing to do that, but he's got to make that clear.
Big Brother is Watching You...And Collecting Your Fingerprints...And Your Palm Prints...And Your Retinal Patterns...And...

Welcome to the surveillance state.

Surely you realize that a few grubby religious kooks living in caves in northern Pakistan are scary enough to force us to give up all our privacy for all time, right? RIGHT?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Kinsley on Reagan


Now I realize that some of us around here (glances darkly toward Los Angeles) like Reagan, and I didn't really intend to get all that going again, but, as you know, I don't think very highly of the man. I mean, honestly I think he seemed like a decent guy on a personal level. But I believe him to have been a bad president. Anyway, Kinsley hits some of the high points here. But what I really wanted to say was something he only bumps off of briefly: a clear view of one of the reasons conservatives revere RR actually shows him to have been a better president than one would think if one listened to the conservative hagiographies. More specifically: Reagan was actually less of a conservative ideologue than conservatives make him out to have been. So that, at least, goes in the plus column.