Monday, March 31, 2008

The Final Four: Carolina v. Kansas

Oh, man. When Kansas is really on, they are downright scary. Don't get me wrong--I think the Heels can take 'em. But KU is firing on all cylinders, we are gonna have to bring our A game, for sure. I'd much better be playing either UCLA or Memphis.

Also this has re-opened the old Roy-Williams-related wounds. In general Carolina fans like Kansas, but, since Roy left them for us, Kansas fans are, apparently, none too wild about Carolina. It used to be common to hear the two referred to as "sister programs"...but not so much anymore.

I understand much of the anger among KU fans--though much of it seems to be based on what is apparently a misconception--they think that Dean contacted Roy before the final game against Syracuse in 2003 (thus distracting him and contributing to KU's loss). That's probably false, but that's what they think.

One thing about knocking around on the sports discussion boards: they look a whole lot like political blogs and discussion boards. In both places, people largely have their positions ahead of time and it's tough to move them with reasons.
Basra: Good News? Bad News? Who The Heck Knows?

Seems like we're back to last weeks level of disastrousness rather than a new, higher level, right? Um, hooray? God knows. Kevin Drum. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

How The United States Kidnapped, Imprisoned And Tortured Murat Kurnaz

Murat Kurnaz is an innocent man, with no links to terrorists. The United States apparently paid a Pakistani cop who kidnapped him from a bus. For five years, we imprisoned and tortured him. Here is a brief introduction to his story on 60 Minutes.

My country has become less and less recognizable to me over the past seven years. It has always struck me as significant that the very people who frantically wave the flag at every opportunity, reflexively proclaim this to be the greatest country in the universe and so forth are also the ones who are most willing to defend actions of this kind--that is, of the most unAmerican type.

I'll tell you, I thought I was going to burst into tears while I was watching this 60 Minutes segment. Not even for Kurnaz, as compelling as his story is. But, rather, for my country. Those of you who think that God is just may want to do likewise.

(It didn't help that the segment after this one was about Al Gore, thus highlighting what might have been for this country...)
The Argument for John McCain

If the situation in Iraq improves, then people should vote for McCain because he was pro-surge; if the situation in Iraq degenerates, then people should vote for McCain because he is the one most capable of dealing with it.

Why Does Chuck Hagel Hate America So Much?

Clearly he is "objectively pro-terrorist," rooting for us to fail in Iraq, and part of the blame-America first crowd. Oh, and he has BDS! And he fails to realize that new evidence shows that Saddam really was behind Pearl Harbor! And...and...

Read about it.

Hagel is great--smart, knowledgeable, level-headed and honest. I've always liked and respected him and listened to what he had to say, even when I disagreed. I identify with Republicans like Hagel (few though they are) far more than with, say Democrats like Kucinich. It's not that Hagel's saying anything new here--everybody who's been paying attention knows that this administration is incompetent. And that's actually the nicest thing one can say about them. But the rules of the political game dictate that Republicans aren't supposed to say things like this even though everybody already knows they're true. Props to Hagel for putting country before party.

He actually says that he'd be willing to be on a Democratic ticket. Me, I've been hoping for Sam Nunn (Wes Clark is out, I guess, since he's hitched his wagon to Hillary), but I consider Hagel cut from the same mold as Nunn. Furthermore, Hagel would help move the ticket's center of gravity to toward the center, something I think is very important.

So I guess Hagel--like the entire world except for 28% of Republicans--has BDS.

Wonder how long before the right-wing noise machine starts talking about Osama bin Hagel?

[More Hagel here. Again, I realize that everybody already knows this stuff, but it's good to see somebody like Hagel saying it. Much of what's going on here is a rhetorical battle. The Bush dead-enders will keep denying what's patently obvious, and the more sensible people who fess up to the facts, the better for the country and the world.]

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Congrats to Louisville and Carolina

Louisville is a great team and they gave the Heels all they could handle, but the boys in blue pulled it out 83-73.
Did The Obama Thing

So we make our way over to the new Obama HQ on a cold, rainy morning, and stand in the rain to fill out volunteer sheets. There may have been some sniper fire--I don't remember too clearly... But, anyway, boy, two things Chapel Hill loves: basketball and Barak Obama. Obama folks got 'em a big HQ down on Franklin Street, and it was SRO this morning. Worse than SRO, they'd spilled over next door, and it was SRO there, too. In fact, people were packed shoulder-to-shoulder in both places. It was so packed and hot, even on a cold, crappy day, that we left after about an hour to get some coffee at Weaver Street Market, where the cashier was having a running conversation about hoops with everybody who went through. Just one of the charming things about Chapel Hill--you can pretty much strike up a conversation about hoops with almost anybody. Little old lady walking down the street? Just say "how 'bout them Heels?" She's likely to say something like "well, they're going to have match-up problems in the back-court tonight, that's for sure," or "Oh, that Danny Green is so sweet I just want to pinch him."

Anyway, nothing really surprising today, though. Same jokey pep talk, same plea for donated time and donated equipment, same pretty much everything as other campaigns I've volunteered for. The only really surprising thing was the number of people. Usually it's a few hard-core party animals at this point, but there had to be at least 300 people there this morning. A good sign, I'd say.

What's going on? I sure can't tell, though I feel like I've been holding my breath for two days. Something from al Jazeera here. How crazy is it to hope for something good coming from this? Sounded like al Sadr was at least making comforting noises for awhile, but apparently no longer. Violence apparently spreading to other cities. One line of speculation, as you probably know, has it that Maliki is just trying to take out a rival thug. I'd give lots and lots of money to hear what Petraeus really thinks about all this. Here's Juan Cole with some translations from Arabic reports--consider the source.
Brzezinski: The Smart Way Out of a Foolish War

Here. Jeez, who knows what to do? At this point folks like me (and probably you)--that is, to put it mildly, non-experts--can really have only hunches and tentative opinions about the next move in the Iraq debacle. But, since staying doesn't seem to be helping, it's time (or so goes my current virtually groundless hunch) to think about leaving. Brzezinski here assembles the pieces of a sketch of a reasonably coherent theory about why a generally leaving-oriented strategy is warranted.

One interesting set of points from the piece:
The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for "staying the course" draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush's and Sen. John McCain's forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of "falling dominoes" that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.
Despite the fact that I've had a generally staying-oriented position until fairly recently, I'm afraid he might be right about this (though more thought required).

That's all I got.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Doing the Obama Thing

Well, tomorrow morning I'm off to a meeting for folks who are going to volunteer for Obama. I've been kind of holding off on real commitment, sending some money but kind of keeping my distance. But the other day I was thinking about 2000... I volunteered for Gore, but only in a kind of half-hearted way, having allowed the conservative noise machine to bamboozle me. I mean, it was pretty obvious that Bush was an unqualified loser (though, I mean, nobody had any inkling he could be this bad). But I kept thinking something like jeez, those people all seem so certain that Gore would be terrible...what am I missing? As a liberal, of course, I am too open-minded to take my own side in an argument...

So, anyway. Though I have some worries about Obama, he is, so far as I can tell, clearly the best of the three remaining candidates. And not just the best, of course, but possibly--just possibly--someone capable of doing something genuinely transformative.

So there it is. I guess it's official.
Go Tar Heels--Beat Louisville!

Although politics and world events are, of course, important in their own way, this is the time of year when ones thoughts naturally turn to what is truly important in life. I speak, of course, of basketball, the holy game, the stuff of life. And Carolina basketball in particular.

Roy has put together just an amazing bunch of kids. To know 'em is to love 'em, win or lose.

Er, though, of course, we have some preference for winning. Yes, winning would be nice.

Since I've instituted my try to actually accomplish something program, I've been watching less hoops, and I actually haven't seen Louisville play much, but I've seen 'em enough to know they're tough.

If we were going to play them best two out of three, I'd be fairly confident. But in one game, lots of things can happen. But I'm going to call it for the Heels, 86-79. Carolina plays smarter, and if our D stays wound up like this, I'm confident we can beat anybody in the country most nights. (Except maybe Kansas. Lord, I haven't asked you for anything since that snow day thing. What with me not believing in you and all. But please don't make us play Kansas...) Pitino's a good coach, of course, but Roy gives us a clear coaching edge. What with the ACC being down the last couple of years, Louisville's had the advantage of playing more tough teams than we have. But all things considered, Carolina's got to be the fairly clear favorite. I'm worried about all those defenses they throw at people, but Ty can shred the zone. They are said to take bad shots, and we've got the rebounding edge. And you can't press Carolina. Everybody knows that. (Though the secret is: since almost nobody ever tries to press Carolina, you actually can press Carolina sometimes, since it surprises them.)


Go you Tar Heels!
Hillary: Ready To Play On Day One

Read all about it.

[thx the mighty Armenius]

I don't post on it because I don't know what to say. I detest the Chinese government, and I can't believe the world tolerates what it's doing in Tibet. I understand why some think that constructive engagement is the appropriate course of action, but it's not clear to me that that's the best way to go. If boycotting the Olympics would help, I'd support that course of action. (And anyone who whines about the athletes in that regard is nuts. Though it'd be a profound disappointment to athletes, we're talking about people's lives--and the course of history--here.) Of course China kind of owns us now, so I suppose standing up to them is just about out of the picture...

So you can see why I never post on this...
Congrats to The Cougs and Heels

It wasn't WSU's night, but them boys got heart. Congrats to both teams on a good game.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Halftime: Carolina 35, WSU 21

Good game, but I don't see how this WSU team can make up a 14-point deficit.

I like these guys. They're spunky. And their D is, in fact, very good. But they seem to shut down the break largely by basically just giving up on the offensive boards. That is just not going to work unless you're shooting lights out.

But, anyway, you gotta like these Cougars.
Go Tar Heels

Carolina vs. Washington State tonight. Should be an exciting game--the country's best offense vs. one of its best defenses.

(I'm scrupulously turning my mind's eye away from the fact that good defense is more reliably deadly than good offense...)

Too bad we're past the point at which I can, ya know, enjoy the games. This is one of the very best Carolina teams I've ever seen--and that's saying a lot. This team is--I think and for example--better than the '93 team that won it all. But hoops is a game of match-ups. Hard to predict what'll happen.

I'll probably just anesthetize myself with beer and hazard a peek out from between my fingers now and between bouts of drinking and bargaining with a God I don't believe in.

Go you Tar Heels...whip some Cougar butt!
McCain Seems to Advocate a Less Arrogant, Unilateral Foreign Policy

This is good news. I mean, it's a certainty that our next president will adopt a less arrogant, divisive and unilateralist foreign policy than that of this administration. But it's very good news that McCain is emphasizing the point. Let's hope he sticks with it and doesn't get Huckabeed (he himself being one of the offenders there). This will not endear him to the right, of course. But you might say that it's a win-win for liberals: it is both evidence that McCain might be a better president than they think, and something that will decrease his support on the hard right. Since I think McCain could be a fairly good president if he'd pry himself away from Bush's policies, this is particularly good news in my eyes.
Did The Surge Work?
A Wee Discussion

McCain is insisting that the Dems admit that the surge worked. The following started running in a loop through my head, so I spat it out. It's very informal and sketchy, obviously, but I'm just expelling it from my head so that I can get back to work.

Proposition 1: The surge worked

Evidence: After the surge, violence in Iraq decreased.

Objection: Proposition 1 does not follow from the evidence. In fact, this is an instance of the post hoc fallacy, i.e., of inferring that x caused y from the fact that y happened after x.

Response: In this case, the fact that the decrease in violence followed the surge is at least some reason to believe that the surge contributed to the surge. We don’t have proof that it did, but we don’t have proof that it didn’t. Unless we get serious about investigating the causes of the decrease in violence, the smart bet here (at the level of casual discussion) remains that the surge contributed to the decrease in violence. Ergo the surge did what it was supposed to do, i.e. help to decrease violence.

Objection: Other factors seem to be responsible for the decrease in violence. For example, neighborhoods had been largely ethnically homogenized (“Ethnically cleansed”) by the time of the decrease in violence. That’s what was really responsible for the decrease in violence.

Response: Here you seem to be arguing that violence went down after communities were homogenized, therefore it’s the homogenization that’s responsible for the decrease—post hoc ergo propter hoc. Yet you rejected that reasoning in the case of the surge. But we must either accept the reasoning in both cases or reject it in both cases. (And, p.s., the fact that you accepted the very same kind of argument in one case and rejected it in another suggests that you’re cheating for your favored conclusion. So cut it out.)

Objection: The surge didn’t work, because decreasing violence was only the proximate goal. The ultimate goal was to achieve political reconciliation. That was not achieved. So the surge did not work.

Response: If I do x in order to achieve y in order to make achieving x possible, and x succeeds in achieving y, then, even if z doesn’t happen, it is reasonable to say that x was successful. For example, if we do surgery on you in order to clear up a heart condition in order to allow you to live longer, and we succeed in clearing up the heart condition, the surgery is a success even if you are hit by a meteor the next day and killed.


I don't think the Dems will admit that the surge worked (supposing it did). That's the way this game is played, and it's part of why our politics is so disastrously irrational. I think it'd be better if the Dems said "yeah, it looks like it probably worked. You were right. We were wrong." But, of course, I also think that the Republicans should admit that the entire Iraq invasion fiasco was wrong. Which they won't do. So, since both sides, for political reasons, must continue to hold absurd positions, they are then forced into holding other absurd positions in order to defend the initial absurd positions...and so on, and so on. The irrationality snowballs.

But anyway.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What Rev. Wright Actually Said


One of the most common ways to deflect criticism of a claim is to assert that it was taken out of context. In my experience, that's rarely true. I find it particularly funny when that ploy is used when the only context that could possibly do the trick is one like "What I am about to say is false..."

But in this case, at least some of the clips being shown of Wright reallio-trulio were taken out of context. I'm not sure why the Obama campaign didn't point this out. The context, in fact, is one in which Wright is apparently expressing something Edward Peck said on Fox News (it's the "chickens have come home to roost" claim). Quoting someone quoting someone else and suggesting that they're expressing their own view is one of the sleaziest tricks in the book, and whoever did it deserves to be exposed. It's really despicable. Dunno about the other clips, though.

Having watched the whole clip, I have to say that Wright comes off here as a pretty reasonable and interesting guy, though I don't agree with everything he seems to be saying (for example, it seems we're on different sides of the Hiroshima issue)...but we do, of course, have some fairly deep moral and metaphysical differences. Incidentally, I have to say that I don't really find most of the stuff in the clips being circulated that shocking or off-putting anyway. I'm not sure whether people are seriously denying that there is a very clear sense in which this country is run by rich, white men or what. I mean, there's a clear sense in which it isn't, too, but that's a different point.
Cesca's Mash-up

O.k., normally I don't watch stuff like this. And I advise you to do the same. Most of us have a rather tenuous grasp on rationality when it comes to politics anyway, and I can't help but worry that such blatant tugging on our heart strings is playing with fire.

But dang, I liked it pretty much. And over the course of the last five years or so (and under the insidious influence of C. S. Peirce), I've begun thinking that our sentiments are far more important than I'd previously believed. Which is no excuse for succumbing to manipulation, of course. Not that the mash-up is necessarily manipulative. After the godawful disaster of the last seven years, I think we can all be forgiven for giving in a bit to our emotions when we see a glimmer of hope. Though, of course, it's rather too easy to become too emotional in politics.

I think that part of Obama's allure for people like me has to do with his ability to tap into the love and patriotism we feel for the U.S. in a way that is free of the mindless, nationalistic, tribalistic overtones that usually surround patriotic appeals and assertions. You don't have to go very far right before such appeals take on an alarming tone. And, of course, if you go left enough you'll encounter those who sneer at and deride any such appeals. That leaves folks like me, who's patriotic sentiments run strong, but deep under the surface, in a strange state. Doesn't anybody love this country for the right reasons? I sometimes find myself wondering. Instead of smug satisfaction with what we are, Obama tries to instill in us rational hopes about what we might become.

Powerful stuff, man. Very powerful stuff.

Incidentally, one of the things I was reminded of while watching this was that it really isn't Obama's speaking style or rhetorical skills that are so powerful--though they are good. Rather it's the things he's saying. People try to dismiss him as just a rhetorician, or his message as just words, but I don't think that's so. I think it's the ideas that the powerful thing. As others have noted, e.g. "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal..." etc. is hardly "just words."

Well, anyway. That's where I am today.
Carl Bernstein on HRC

This piece impressed me because it seems to be a fairly straight-up, honest, and informed assessment of Clinton and the truthfulness issue--and because Bernstein's judgments were formed before the current dust-ups. It actually made me a little more sympathetic to HRC, though, I must admit, a little less trusting of her.
Yglesias: The Hand-Wringing Gap

Matthew Yglesias (here) quotes George Packer here:
Obama offers Iraq as the bad war that we have to end if we want to win the good war in Afghanistan and turn around the economy at home. There’s more than a little truth to this, but I can’t help wishing that his speech on Iraq in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Wednesday, had anything close to the level of complexity and depth shown in his historic speech on race the day before, in Philadelphia. There was no deep consideration of the fate of more than four million displaced Iraqis, the specter of growing Iranian influence in Iraq, the likelihood of a return to terrible levels of violence as American combat brigades are withdrawn, the border tensions between Iraq and Turkey, the future of Kirkuk, or a strategy for preserving the very fragile improvements of the past six months. Instead, the speech presented what sounded like a fairly cost-free, win-win plan.
Yglesias uncharitably characterizes Packer's point like so:
Obama's key contention, as underscored by Packer, is that Iraq is "the bad war that we have to end if we want to win the good war in Afghanistan and turn around the economy at home." Now obviously if you don't buy that analysis, you're not going to like Obama's Iraq policy. But Packer doesn't seem to disagree with it. Instead, he says "there’s more than a little truth to" what Obama is saying. But so if Obama's right, then he right. Packer doesn't see it that way. He seems to think that Obama should have gone in for some more showy hand-wringing. But why should he do that? Packer's upset that Obama doesn't have a viable plan for Kirkuk, but that's just the point; Obama recognizes that nobody has a viable plan to solve Iraq's problems so he wants to put our resources where they can do more good.
Seems to me this is so uncharitably snarky as to be pretty seriously misleading--and I don't care that it's Obama who's at issue (though I'm even more impressed by him now than I was before the race speech). I've had concerns similar to Packer's. Nobody wants to see the hand-wringing per se, of course. Rather, those of us who think that questions about withdrawal are serious and difficult questions should, of course, look for signs that the candidates also see them as serious and difficult. If a candidate is too breezy or enthusiastic about either staying or leaving, it's a strike against them in my book. Needless to say, I could be wrong, but this position isn't stupid, and, so, it's not stupid to look for signs that the candidates agree with it.

Yglesias is sort of right about Obama's main point, but he states it imprecisely (which is o.k. in such a context). The view, as I understand it, is more like this:
Afghanistan is a "good" war (roughly, a war that needed to be fought). This is true. Iraq is a "bad" war (roughly: a war that should never have been initiated. This is true. By ending the bad war, we raise the likelihood of success in the good war. This is true. Special bonus: ending the bad war will also help our staggering economy. Also true.

But none of that makes the conclusion that we should end the bad war now clearly true. The mere fact that the war shouldn't have been started and has made us less good and less safe doesn't mean that the best thing to do is stop it now. Indeed, stopping it not might make us even less good and less safe. We've virtually destroyed Iraq, and, thus, have some moral and prudential obligation to not just abandon it. Almost the entire decision here turns on the answer to a pair of empirical questions: what is likely to happen in Iraq if we stay, and what is likely to happen in Iraq if we go? If going is more likely than staying to make Iraq more peaceful and stable, then we should go; if staying is more likely to do so, then we should stay. The problem seems to be that no one seems to be sure what the answers to those questions are. If anybody knows them, they haven't tricked down to our level yet, that's for sure. What reasonable person can face this decission without wringing his hands?

And as for the allocation of resources point: the fact that we aren't sure what will happen in Iraq if we go means that we don't know how the relevant resources are best spent. If Iraq will descend into chaos, then our resources are best spent there, preventing that. If not, not. Again, it's uncertainty about the empirical questions that drives the "hand-wringing" here.

Incidentally, I haven a tendency to find Clinton's position most congenial on this issue, though not by much. Unlike some, I was heartened when Obama's campaign acknowledged that his position might have to change if the facts warranted a longer stay. And, if I thought McCain really thought that a hundred-year stay would be just peachy, he'd be out of the running in my book.

Part of what's really at stake here, I think, is inclinations. Seems to me that the Dems are inclined to get out and McCain is inclined to stay, though all are sensitive to new developments. I used to favor McCain's position, but about a year ago I started favoring the other one. Now I prefer to get someone who is generally oriented toward the door, but not dead set on it. How's that for a vague position?

Anyway, this "oooh, not enough hand-wringing for you, eh?" kind of criticism pops up sometimes in the leftosphere, and I find it rather annoying. So let's stop with it, o.k.?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

HRC's Bosnia Blunder

O.k., how big a deal is it that HRC claimed to be dodging sniper fire and so forth, when she was really sauntering around chatting with an eight-year-old girl and all that?

I'm inclined to say that it's nothing more than a faulty memory... But I do have to say that the Clinton camp is squealing a little too loudly about being busted for it. It's Clinton who has made a big deal about "the commander-in-chief threshold," and her foreign policy experience...though she can't seem to really come up with any specifics. Then she starts with the story about dodging sniper fire in what seemed like an attempt to show that she'd been in the thick of things...and it turns out it was BS. As JQ put it, people are making a big deal out of it now that it's turned out to be false largely because HRC was making rather a big deal out of it when she was saying that it was true.

The gotcha paradigm is a crappy one, though, and there's no doubt about that. It's no way to run an election. But apparently that's what we're stuck with. And given that, it's pretty hard to resist this particular gotcha. The crowing about foreign policy cred, the exciting story about dodging gunfire, then the actual video tape showing that it couldn't be farther from the truth... As gotchas go, this one was pretty high-grade. This is the kind of BS that only happens when good will has largely evaporated. But, as for the gotcha atmosphere in general, this is not the way, for example, that we treat our friends--seizing on every mistake, attributing each one to nefarious motives, etc. Just a little good will in these matters would go a long way.

But, of course, that's an Obama-like point...the kind that's received so much ridicule from, e.g., those in the Clinton camp...(..."kumbaya" and all that...)...who are now asking us to be, well, more Obama-like...

Of course, one might respond that HRC herself is largely responsible for this nasty atmosphere, and that would be true. So to some extent she's just reaping what she has sown. Still, it's a stupid way to conduct our politics.
Airline Passengers' Bill Of Rights Overturned

You just can't make this sh*t up. Turns out airlines can keep you imprisoned without food, water, fresh air or clean toilets. Cripes, you thought Gitmo was bad...

Let me just make it clear: if this ever happens to me, you are probably going to see me on CNN, because I don't have the self-control to put up with such bullsh*t.

O.k., so...Bill Richardson says that he broke for Obama in part because the Clinton camp was going too negative...and they respond by calling him "Judas." Jeez, talk about your basic irrefutable confirmation of his claim and decision...

A short dialog:

Smith: I have decided not to support Jones because he tells anyone who refuses to support him to FOAD.

Jones: FOAD!

But also, lemme get this straight: their view is that he should have put personal loyalty to HRC over what he saw as the good of the country???? That's nuts!

And, in addition to being nuts, doesn't it sound an awful lot like the kind of BS view that helped run the country into the ditch over the last seven grueling, disastrous years?

I mean, I'm all for personal loyalty...until it conflicts with other, weightier moral considerations. Which, of course, it does in this case.

Incidentally: I've never much liked Carville, though I used to tolerate him because he was one of the few Democratic operatives that could be anywhere near as tough and mean as the other guys. But, as in so many cases, my decision to tolerate folks I didn't much like just because they were the lesser of the available evils is coming back to annoy and embarrass me.
Al Qaeda (Not) In Iraq

Or not very much, anyway, as Jason Linkins points out--but the administration keeps emphasizing them. They're just a small part of a motley group of insurgents who rose up against American forces...but it's politically expedient for the administration to exaggerate AQI's role.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Obama's Speech On Wright and Race

We were in Amsterdam when he gave it, and I only got to see a clip from it on the BBC. Just saw the whole thing on YouTube.


Seriously: wow.

I already have a very high opinion of Obama, but that speech was just damn good. There were actual ideas there. It was honest and sensible and insightful...and rather moving. I mean, it wasn't the Gettysburg address or anything, but it was head and shoulders above the kind of crap we normally get in American politics. In fact, it may have been the best speech I've ever heard a (live) president or presidential candidate give. (Probably the best was Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech, actually...but it's hard to say for sure.)

Anyway, I've got nothing intelligent to say about it now. I'm just expressing my amazement at how dang good it was.

[Almost forgot another great speech: Gore's concession speech in December of 2000. A truly great speech. During the campaign, my support for Gore had been tepid, and, in fact, I worked for Gore only because I was inclined to believe that Bush wasn't qualified to be president (turns out I was right...). But during that speech I finally saw something in Gore that genuinely inspired me. Alas, it didn't show up until it was too late. But there it was.]
The Self-Inflicted Wound of Iraq Now Clearly Worse Than 9/11

This has, of course, been true for quite some time, but now that U.S. military deaths have apparently reached 4,000 even the most benighted should be capable of recognizing that in the wake of 9/11 we have harmed ourselves far more grievously than bin Laden harmed us. Al Qaeda's real coup, as it turns out, was not 9/11 at all--not by a long shot. As it turns out, 9/11 itself was merely a drop in the bucket. Bin Laden's real blow against the U.S. came in a form that he could never have predicted. By reacting in an entirely irrational way to 9/11, the U.S. has harmed itself to an extent and in ways that bin Laden could never have accomplished even in his wildest dreams. To make matters worse, a hard core of Americans--including, tragically, the current administration--still refuse to admit that our post-9/11 policies have been (spectacular) failures. If those who are taking us down this disastrous road could at least come to their senses now, five years after things were set in motion, that would be something. It would give us a chance to turn a mind-boggling disaster into something more like a mere disaster. Unfortunately, there are few grounds for hope of that kind. It seems that any course correction will have to wait until January of next year at the earliest. Only when the Bush administration is out will we have any chance of setting ourselves a new course. Though, alarmingly, John McCain seems committed to perpetuating the policies in question. The possibility of a new administration perpetuating the policies of the Bush administration should send chills down the spine of anyone who'd been paying attention for the last six years.

Those who have supported the administration's misguided policies tend to try to paint those of us who oppose them as somehow "soft on terrorism." Nothing could be farther from the truth. We believe that our energies should have been directed at those who attacked us on 9/11, not on an unrelated war to take down one of bin Laden's enemies. The correctness of this proposed course of action should be clear despite the administration's multiple rhetorical smokescreens about WMDs, links to al Qaeda, and the promotion of democracy. The very fact that architects and supporters of the current policies are still willing to try to distort the debate in these ways is an indication of how stubborn are the political problems that prevent us from implementing rational policies in this regard.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Back from Amsterdam. Whoa. Now that's an amazing place. Far and away the coolest city I've ever been to. Some of the highlights: the van Gogh museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Dutch Resistance Museum, the Anne Frank house, the Amsterdam Historical Museum, the coffee shops (especially Paradox, Abraxis and La Tertulia. The Bulldog experience. The Bluebird is lame, contrary to what people will tell you. Dutch Flowers: meh.) I didn't realize that Amsterdam has more canals than Venice, and the canal tour: definitely worth doing. Muiden Castle: way worth the trip. The red light district: quite an experience and definitely worth checking out. Among other things, it's got some of the coolest architecture in the city. And, man, the public transportation system is fantastic!

We didn't get to do everything we wanted to, but we'll definitely be going back some day.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hallo From Amsterdam

Wow. What a great place. The van Gogh museum will knock you out. It's not huge (though not small by any reasonable measure), but not possible to really take in in one day, even for an art moron such as yours truly. Muiden Castle, just about 20 minutes outside Amsterdam, is also really great. The Anne Frank house is a must-see, though I'm too groggy now to even try to say anything intelligible about that experience. The city's got canals all over the freakin' place (more than Venice, it says right here), and just about the whole place is packed with attractive architecture (though I'm also a moron about architecture, so consider the source). Strange but true, there really are "smoking" coffee shops all over the place; how bizarrely rational... I'm wondering how long before, back in the States, one won't even be able to smoke tobacco without the DEA kicking down the door... Everybody seems to speak English here, though if your German's o.k. it seems like you can communicate a little anyway. (My German sucks, incidentally, so that's helping very little.) The one real bummer so far: things are insanely expensive here. Speaking of which, it's 17.50 Euro for 24 hours of web that's it for now.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pointing the Propaganda Gun At Our Own Heads

Once again, we have met the enemy and he is us. Drum summarizes Abu Aardvark.

I guess this is just another reality-based hang-up...
Right and Left: Self-Interest vs. Self-Loathing

Anybody else ever get the following kind of impression:

The right tends to be motivated largely (though, of course, not entirely) by a kind of self-interest (where this can include national self-interest. The left, on the other hand, tends to be motivated largely (though, of course, not entirely) by something like self-loathing. Economically, folks on the right like to spin things in a way that gets them more money, whereas at least part of the left seems to say "take my money--I don't deserve it anyway!" In international affairs, on the right we get "foreign policy realism," the view that we don't even have any moral obligations to other countries and people. We also get constant/repeated campaigns to convince us that we should almost always undertake courses of action that will benefit the U.S., even if only minutely, and even if at great cost to others--that is, a radical skewing of the kinds of calculations we normally do when weighing our own interests against those of others. (The kind of skewing that leaves you basically friendless if you do it on an individual level.) On the left (usually, but not always, the leftier left), you get the "blame America first" crowd, which seems to be composed largely of self-loathing Americans. Though more broadly you get the "blame Western culture" first crowd, which seems to be composed largely of westerners.

This could, of course, all be BS.

But when I do think along these lines, I also wonder whether or not this could partially explain why the left is more alarming to most people than the right, even though the right has almost certainly been responsible for more badness than the left. (And weighing one's own self-interest too heavily has been responsible for an extremely high percentage of the world's badness. The harm produced by self-loathing has to pale by comparison.)

Anyway, the thought goes like this: cheating on account of self-interest--spinning the facts and the calculations in order to rationalize your own greed and disregard for others--that's something everybody knows about, and almost no one even finds surprising or worthy of comment. It's one of the first human tendencies we learn about as children (largely from our own case...). It's the most human of pathologies. Self-loathing on the other hand reeks more of sickness--though perhaps only on account of its unfamiliarity. When the greedy clash politically with the self-hating, people who have to choose up sides naturally gravitate towards the former. They know what they're getting there. It's a known quantity. Predictable. It's an ordinary, every day kind of craziness that they understand. The other kind of craziness just seems crazier, less familiar, more alien...and so, among other things, more of a political gamble, i.e. risk.

Of course the political spectrum is circular, and both phenomena show up on the other "end," too. Many on the religious right are motivated largely by self-loathing (especially loathing of human bodies), for example. And those on the left are more than capable of skewing the scales when interests are weighed.

This is obviously nothing more than a kind of hypothesis...a bit of speculation...a suggestion. That's all.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Steve King: The Opposite of Right

Well, this al Qaeda loves Obama B.S. is 180 degrees wrong. It doesn't just miss the truth, it's as wrong as it could get. It'''s the anti-truth. It's not folks like Obama who are helping out al Qaeda, it's folks like George Bush and his supporters. Steve King is probably a moron...but it's not his stupidity that's running the show here. He's obviously just flailing around looking for something bad to say about Obama.

A few points:

1. First: what al Qaeda actually wants is irrelevant, and the very fact that King focuses on that suggests that he really is just trying to find the most negative thing he can think of to say. It's the political equivalent of saying that Obama has cooties.

2. Second: what matters is what al Qaeda should want. What al Qaeda should want is a continuation of Bush's policies. No one has ever done more to help Osama bin Laden than George W. Bush and company. They were the ones who let OBL get away at Tora Bora, allowing both OBL and al Qaeda to live to fight another day when they could have been crushed. They were the ones who let the war in Afghanistan slide while pursuing an unrelated war. They were the ones who tricked the country into attacking OBL's enemy, depleting America and its military in a three trillion dollar war, and in essence conducting a recruiting campaign for al Qaeda. They were also the ones who managed to turn world opinion--perhaps never more pro-American than after 9/11--as far against us as it has ever been.

No, Representative Steve King is not right. He's not even just wrong. He's anti-right.

But a disturbingly large number of people seem to agree with him. As is so often the case, we really have to hope that this is just a cynical campaign ploy. Because the alternative is that Representative King--and a fair number of folks in his quadrant of the political spectrum--are so mistaken as to border on being delusional.
More Clinton Campaign Nastiness
The Double Standard

Man, the seedy underbelly of the Democratic party is suddenly on display big time. The Clinton campaign is looking more and more like GOP Lite. And if they keep going, they're not even gonna be all that lite... I'm starting to think I know what Karl Rove is up to these days.

Now Geraldine Ferraro has stuck her oar in, to the great embarrassment of...well, humanity.

Some points:

1. There's not doubt that some people are more likely to vote for Obama because of his race. However, we don't have much of an idea how many such people there are.

2. But...since when did it become o.k. to say sh*t like this? If Obama were unqualified and somehow cruising along on his race, well, then it should be pointed out. However, in a case like this in which you've got a highly-qualified candidate who may be getting some kind of bump because of his race...well, this is edging over into some pretty shady territory.

3. So, if it's o.k. to mention this kind of thing, it must be o.k. to mention that a good bit of Hillary's support is coming (as will a good bit of McCain's if Obama is the nominee) from people who don't want to vote for a black person, right?

4. And that many of Hillary's supporters are supporting her because she's female?

5. And that she wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being where she is if she hadn't been married to Bill?

6. And, if Ferraro is going to claim that her claim is defensible because it's plausibly true...well, couldn't we defend Samantha Power's claim on similar grounds?

Now...will Ferraro resign? Her comment is arguably worst than Power's was (and less defensible...). Power's comment was more like saying 'go to hell Hillary,' whereas Ferraro's comment has real content--and it's not good. Even if Ferraro does resign, it's not really even. She's less important to the Clinton campaign than Power was to Obama's, and her transgression was (arguably) more serious.

Once again, the Clinton campaign shows that it's mean and dirty. It seems to be getting clearer and clearer that they value winning over truth, over unity, over what's good for the country. Man. I eventually came to sympathize with Bill and Hillary because of the insanity of the Republican attacks on them. (And because of Clinton's intervention in the former Yugoslavia, which I admired very much.) But I never really liked them all that much. Oh, from time to time I'd get fairly positive about them, but usually only because they were so much less bad than the CDS crowd made them out to be--and so much better than Bush '43. But whatever semi-positive feelings I had for them have just about completely evaporated.

Again, let me say that this is danger time for the Obama campaign. They're being goaded into responding angrily to the Clinton campaign's provocations, and this, predictably, is being spun to make it look like it's six of one and half a dozen of the other. Which it is not.

I'm serious when I say that I might not vote for Clinton if she wins. And I almost certainly won't do so if she steals the nomination.
Pentagon: No Significant Link Between Saddam and al-Qaeda

Most people who are honest and paying attention knew this long ago. The evidential situation was pretty darned clear even before the invasion. It's been clear since early on that there was no evidence of a significant, operational relationship between Saddam and al-Qaeda--and lots of reasons to think there was no such relationship. Unfortunately, the administration's propaganda campaign worked, and it stuck--an astonishing percentage of ordinary Americans still think we're in Iraq because Iraq was behind 9/11. If the truth about what happened ever sank in, there would be no possibility of resisting the public's demand for impeachment.

My policy: keep telling the truth. Take every opportunity to mention the facts to people who might benefit from them. Certain people are very happy that the truth of the situation never sank in, and they're content for the country to continue to believe falsehoods about the matter. Heck, they don't even have to actively lie about it anymore, they can just let doxastic inertia continue what they started. Want to do your duty in the wake of 9/11? Shopping not seem like quite the right thing? Then help spread the truth.
Obama and McCain's "Hundred Years War"

Obama's got to quit saying that McCain thinks it'd be o.k. for the war in Iraq to go on for a hundred years, or whatever it is that he's been saying. (Clinton, too...but she's hopeless.) What McCain said (originally, anyway) was that it'd be o.k. if U.S. troops were in Iraq for a hundred years if Iraq ended up like South Korea (peaceful, prosperous, democratic, etc.). That's very different.

It's still a funny thing to say, as it isn't clear how this would happen unless there were an analog to North Korea involved. (Note: Iran won't do the trick.)

But it's an important difference, and exactly the kind of difference that Obama himself seems to be committed to respecting for the sake of civility. So he needs to straighten up and fly right on that score.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spitzer Headlines

So, I saw several headlines that went roughly like this: "Elliot Spitzer Linked to Prostitution Ring!" and "Spitzer involved with Prostitution Ring!!!11!." WOW! I thought...the governor of NY is involved in running prostitution ring??? Holy crap!!!(111)

Turns out the guy just had sex with a prostitute.

I gotta say, that's not what the headlines suggested to me.

I guess this is the end of him. I don't have much of an opinion on Spitzer one way or the other--though it's probably good that somebody gives Wall Street a little bit of a hard time. And though there's no doubt that lots of prostitution is a sad, exploitative affair that ought to be stopped...I gotta say, I don't think it's going to be very easy to argue that there's exploitation involved in a case like this. In fact, a multi-thousand-dollar-per-night gig like this is probably considerably less exploitative than a lot of jobs in the service industry. (snicker...service industry...)

However, it seems fairly clear that you're a scumbag if you screw around on your wife. Unless such around-screwing is authorized, of course. (Polyamory: perfectly fine. Lying to spouse: not at all fine.

But, even if there's nothing immoral about such prostitution, it is illegal, so I reckon Spitzer's done for.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

NYT: Obama In The Senate

When I saw the title of this piece, my heart sank and I thought: well, there it is. The title strongly suggests that a careful examination of Obama's Senate record is going to show lots of star power, but little of actual substance. Given all the unfair, uncivil and just plain dopey criticisms of Obama flying around, I've found myself getting more and more defensive on his behalf; but I'm open to new information and reasonable criticisms. And this is the kind of criticism that seems prima facie plausible.

However what the NYT article actually indicates is that Obama's record in the Senate is quite admirable. Eschewing flash and grandstanding, he seems to have set out to understand the Senate and build a firm foundation for future action. Those looking for fireworks (similar to: smoke and mirrors) will be disappointed by his record. But for those who are impressed by careful, reasonable, yeoman-like efforts, punctuated by leadership on at least one extremely important bill (the ethics bill), Obama's record looks downright inspiring.

In fact, there isn't really much that'd I'd classify as negative in the story (though some would classify more of it that way). And the most negative comment in the story comes from Lindsay Graham, so, hey, that's another positive in my book.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Amsterdam Travel Advice?

JQ and I are going to Amsterdam for about a week (leaving Wednesday night). Any advice on things to do and/or how to do them from any travelistas out there?
Go Tar Heels

Big game tonight, of course, even if recent events have put basketball in perspective. Duke's pretty tough this year, especially if they're hitting threes. Smart money's on Carolina, but Lawson isn't really integrated back into the lineup yet, and rumor has it that Q's knee is acting up again. Oy, vey. Should be a good game.

Go Tar Heels.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I Have No Reason To Believe That Hillary Clinton Is A Monster

Well, Clinton's campaign was in the cellar, but she somehow--almost magically--managed to climb out and go back on the attack. Some say she's a monster. Me? Well, I take her at her word when she says that she's not. There's no basis for that rumor. As far as I know, there's no proof that she's a monster. Nor that she will swallow your soul.

And here's a completely random and unrelated video clip for your amusement.
HRC's Sub-Optimal Foreign Policy Experience

Summary at TPM, link to the Chicago Tribune's story. As Marshall notes, you don't actually need lots of experience. (You need to be smart, informed, and have good judgment...but the advisers bring the particular experience and expertise.) But HRC is pretending that she's something she's not.
Power Resigns Over 'Monster' Remark


So Obama's being way more scrupulous about this kind of thing than either of the other two candidates--but we already knew that.

It's too bad. Power strikes me as a very reasonable person. Her comment was off the record, and I've got little doubt that the Clinton folks have said similar (and less excusable, since less well-justified) things about Obama. Off the record, in the heat of the moment, unofficial, and a fairly typical type of angry hyperbole...and aimed at someone who clearly warrants at least a fair measure of angry this should be an excusable utterance. But good for Obama to err in this direction on this one. Still, too bad to lose someone like Power. I hope she'll play a role in his administration, though, if he wins.
Eve Carson Murder Update

At first the local police just said that Carson had been shot several times, and once in the head. This was consistent with a fusillade of shots, one of which hit her in the head. Today they are saying that the shot in question was to the right temple. This indicates something more than ordinary gun violence--it indicates that someone wanted to guarantee that she was dead. She was shot in the right temple, which indicates that she was not sitting in the passenger seat when she was shot.

As a friend and correspondent of mine, the revered J. Carthensis, has pointed out to me, this is not the M.O. of ordinary criminals or carjackers. Add to this that her new SUV was found about four blocks away on the side of a different quiet street (about 200 feet from where I used to live back in the day, incidentally), and also very close to campus, and a picture starts to emerge, though there are reasons to not say anything much more about this until the police have been given an opportunity to do their thing.

It feels very somber in Chapel Hill today. Rainy and dark, and the day before Spring break starts, so campus and Franklin Street feel abandoned. There's lots about the murder, and about Ms. Carson on WCHL. It's funny. I of course know very well that people, including young people, get killed all the time. And that many, many are being killed and maimed in Iraq. And I feel the weight of that. But this sort of thing just hits a community like this hard. It brings the tragedy of such things right up close, highlighting the terrible loss.
Caucuses To Be Held in Michigan

Looks like.

I was originally against this, as it seemed unfair to Clinton. But now I think I was wrong. As TNR explains, that was the original plan before MI "got cute" with their primary date. Also, just because one candidate does better than the other in one of the two types of contests, that doesn't mean that that type of contest is unfair. If a caucus was picked in order to aid Obama, that's unacceptable--but apparently that isn't the case. My guess is that caucuses are also cheaper.
Nastiness: Campaigns and Supporters
Or: Drum and Atrios Miss the Mark
And: Obama's Guiding Idea


I don't really read Atrios much anymore, but I think Drum is still just about the best big political blogger around. But both miss the mark here. The supporters have gone more ballistic than the official core of the campaigns, but there's no doubt that the core of the Clinton campaign has gotten nasty. So any hopes that it was just the supporters are out the window, I'm afraid.

Unfortunately, what's going on just confirms what I take to be one of Obama's core ideas: that unfair and nasty attacks reverberate and amplify in the echo chamber, and that's one of the most important reasons to avoid them. Passions run high, and people are primed for antagonistic action.

Think of it this way: suppose you and your brother have had many vitriolic disagreements in the past, and a new opportunity for conflict arises. Now, you can go one of two ways: you can be especially careful to be honest, fair and unaggressive, or you can give in to the urge to play fast and loose with the facts, ridicule, exaggerate and spin everything in your favor. Now, even aside from whatever general moral obligations you have to act in the latter way, this is your brother, man. You love him and have special obligations to him and to your family, in particular to avoid gratuitous conflict. The former route is the straight and narrow, the way of reason, peace and progress. The latter way is the route of self-indulgence and temporary catharsis at the price of long-term irrationality and conflict. Go ye the former way, I beseech thee! Be ye not a hole of the ass, but seeketh ye the path of excellent coolness.

None of this in any way suggests that the campaigns should avoid fair and reasonable criticism of each other. That's the stuff of healthy democracy. But the lies and vitriol gain nothing but short-term political advantage at the expense of the long-term health of the body politic.
Clinton's Luke-warm Denial of the Obama Muslim Rumors

Events of the last couple of days have finally made sense of Clinton's weirdly diffuse denial of the Obama Muslim rumors. When I first saw her denial, I thought "Wow, that was a little weird," but I didn't really think much of it. It's not what I myself would have said in her position, but meh. But in light of subsequent events, I guess the most plausible hypothesis is that she intentionally gave the most tepid denial she could get away with in order to allow the rumors to maintain some life.

This is some unbelievable stuff.
A Test For Obama

The Obama camp is facing a fairly serious test right now: can they keep from going too negative in the face of all the unfair negative attacks by the Clinton campaign?

Now, it's been bothering me that the Obama camp has been less good on this score than I'd like. There've been some questionable campaign fliers (e.g. the new "Harry and Louise"-style ones), and in general they've thrown a few elbows of their own. But their indiscretions pale in comparison to those of the Clinton it'd be a little weird to make too much of Obama's indiscretions. So, can Obama remain relatively positive in the face of this?

We don't know yet.

It's important to recognize, though, that this isn't the crucial test. Obama has already passed the crucial test--that is, he started out positive. Whether or not you can remain non-viciously-negative in the fact of viciously negative attacks by your opponents isn't the "real" test of your mettle, it's an extraordinary test of it. I'm o.k. with people who won't start the dirty fighting, but who will respond in kind when it starts. We rightly have special admiration, however, for those who'll never descend to that level. It'd be truly inspiring if Obama just came out and said something like "look, here are the unfair and vicious attacks by my opponent...and here are the facts...; but I'm not going to respond in kind." But, in the face of the kind of lunacy we're seeing from the Clinton campaign (something they basically warned us was going to happen ahead of time, and even themselves named the "kitchen sink" strategy), I'm not going to blame him if he strikes back--within reason.

One footnote, though: those questionable fliers and so forth: it really is important that, if you're going to take the high road, you do it pretty much all the way. Even a few indiscretions are--aside from being wrong--going to give your opponents ammunition for the claim that you're just like them.

Anyway, here's hoping for the best.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Clinton Nastiness Donation Game

O.k., here's the basic idea:
Obama folk set up something like a drinking game, but it's a donation game. Participants send like $5 every time Clinton says something nasty about Obama.

If we were going to be really evenhanded about this, participants would just donate to whoever had been nastied against.

But I'm too pissed for that now.

Any ideas about this idea?
As The Probability Of Me Ever Voting For Clinton Approaches Zero...

I can't believe the nasty, irrational BS that's coming from the Clinton camp. The fearmongering, the BS about Michigan and Florida, (falsely) comparing the other Democratic candidate unfavorably to McCain...and that's not to mention her actual legislative screw-ups.

Here's a new one:
Obama is like Ken Starr. Why, you ask? Because the Obama camp pointed out that she ought to release those pesky tax returns. One of Clinton's toadies was on CNN yesterday spewing complete nonsense about this point, saying, essentially, that it was unfair to ask anybody to release their tax returns before April if we were talking about this year's returns. "Do you have your taxes done?" the toadie asked. "That's irrelevant" the other person says. "Do you have your taxes done?!?!" she demanded again. As Johnny Quest said, the very fact that they are treating us as if we were stupid enough to be fooled by this quasi-argument is infuriating.

The nastiness, the lies, the fearmongering, the semi-constant suggestion that they're willing to cheat to win the nomination...Jesus! As JQ just asked: how on Earth has a Democratic candidate, after seven years of Bush, managed to get us to think about voting Republican? Or, more likely, not voting at all.

If Clinton doesn't stop this bullshit right away, she's going to push me out of the I'll vote for her if I have to camp and into the ABC camp.

It's important to remember: before she got vicious, I was pretty much o.k. with her. But now I'm starting to think that I have a good guess where Karl Rove went when he quit the Bushies...

And now I see that the Clinton camp had the nads to claim that the Obama camp should be less negative.

I sat right down and sent Obama $100.
UNC Student Body President Eve Carson Murdered

Jesus, this is bizarre. Yesterday around 5 a.m. a shot and a scream were heard in a quiet Chapel Hill neighborhood and residents found the body of a young female in the middle of the street. I happened to be on campus just now when word started leaking out that the body was that of Eve Carson, UNC student body president. I suppose this is tragic and bizarre by any standard, but it's particularly difficult to believe that this would happen in Chapel Hill. Unbelievably bizarre. Genuinely tragic.

Eve Carson's stolen vehicle was found near downtown Chapel Hill this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hagee: Nuts

Whew. Here's a short video from TPM with clips of Hagee. I sometimes watch televangelists for entertainment, but this guy's vocal mannerisms are too annoying, so I've never been able to stay with him for more than a minute or so, so I didn't know much about him. Man, this guy's quite the lunatic. And he really, really does not like the Catholic church, hoo boy. (I had a Mormon friend who used to claim that the Pope was the antichrist. Though I don't know why that's relevant here...)

I don't know what's wrong with McCain. He really does need to say "this guy's nuts" or something similar. I mean, he's right to say that one doesn't necessarily agree with all one's supporters. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't have some obligation here.

I guess it's also hard not to be struck by the double standard here. Imagine if Obama had acted like this with regard to the Farrakhan business. Whew. He'd be out of the race by now.

I have a certain amount of faith that McCain will eventually do the right thing here... But if this is an indicator of how the refs are going to call it in the general election, Obama is in big trouble.
Loose Talk About Political Violence

I was just going to pass this by and let it die. But then I saw the eleven zillion comments and thought responding was better.

First of all: Everybody shut the hell up about riots and violence.
You do not joke about this kind of thing and you do not make casual--even if idle--threats about this kind of thing.

Second: Nice job Rick Perlstein for using two personal e-mails to fabricate some kind of mass movement.
Seriously. You don't know better than this? You needed a post at the Huffington Post that bad? C'mon. Think, then write. Two people blowing off steam is not worth a post. Why encourage people to think along these lines? And don't give me the "I was reporting, not advocating" line. Two personal e-mails does not warrant stirring up this kind of shit. Seriously. Be a man about this and explain your mistake, admit you stirred up something you shouldn't have.

Third: O.k., wait a second. Lemme get this straight. Some of these morons want to talk about riots in Denver in response to some loose talk about possible shenanigans...when we couldn't even get people out on the street to peacefully protest the actual attempted theft of an actual election in 2000??? In fact, the party trying to steal the election had protesters out protesting our failure to acquiesce to the theft and we still couldn't get people out there. Now you want to not only protest, but riot? How does that make sense?

This reminds me that I'm getting pretty sick of people saying that this is the most important election of our lifetime. You know what was the most important election of our lifetime? 2000, dummy! If we hadn't screwed the pooch--or allowed the pooch to be screwed without protest, anyway--in 2000, this election wouldn't be so important. If we'd have elected somebody else--anybody else--in 2000 we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now.

Wait, I forgot...we did elect somebody else... Sorta.

Forth: Um, may I remind you that no actual shenanigans have been pulled at this point?
So all this stuff is, in addition to being irresponsible and idiotic, premature.

Fifth: There are states between total passivity and rioting
Might I suggest that we all familiarize ourselves with them.

Sixth: How is it that people who are so smitten with Obama's message can say this kind of stuff?
Do these people think that the following is a sensible message: "Let's stop the partisan bickering and change the tone in Washington...and if you don't agree, we are going to riot your punk asses!" Think about it.

I mean really. The mind reels at this kind of thing.

Are we, like, absolutely sure there isn't some better form of government we've overlooked? Like maybe government by magic eight ball? (Octocracy?)

O.k., now everybody shut up about this BS and start acting at least semi-sane
No Need For Lower Drug Prices...

...expensive placebos work better!

So no more of your sniveling liberal crap, o.k.?

(More precisely: among subject who were given placebos, but who thought they were new prescription pain pills, those who were told the pill was more expensive rated it as being more effective.)
Fearmongering Is Terrorism Very, Very Bad

A phrase I ran into somewhere or other the other day, and it keeps coming to mind. Not exactly at all true, but there's significant truth in it [the neighborhood]. [viz, fearmongers are terrorist force multipliers] It's too bad there seems to be no way to get this point across to the American people.

[Thanks to Anonymous for smacking me back onto the straight and narrow...]

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Clinton: Intentionally Trying To Piss Me Off?

I mean, WTF is going on??? I'm basically a Hillary Clinton kind of guy. She's in the ballpark in my book so far as most major policies go, I like policy wonks, I like centrists, I kinda trust DLC types because I figure that my intuitions about business and the economy are untrustworthy, I'd love to have a female president, I have an almost automatic (though rather modest) defend the Clintons response (that it took about six years of vicious, irrational, immoral conservative attacks for me to develop), and my gut feeling about her is that she's probably a decent person. Now, I do have several specific policy disagreements with her, and several specific criticisms. HOWEVER...she's the kind of person for whom I should be fairly happy to vote.

So how is it that the Clinton campaign has managed to alienate me?

I mean, there are several things pushing me more in Obama's direction, but I should be perfectly happy to have HRC as a back-up. And yet I'm finding myself less and less sympathetic toward her.

It's rather hard for me to tell what's going on. Much of it is the nastiness that's coming out of her campaign. Much of what attracts me to Obama is his understanding that tone matters--that, among other things, you can't expect to work well with someone who you were calling incompetent just a few months earlier. Also, HRC is starting to come across as rather a triangulator, and as someone who seems willing to risk blowing the general election in order to win.

Part of it, though, is probably the fact that Obama holds out the hope that we might have the first great president of my lifetime. I mean, maybe yes, maybe no, it's far too early to tell, and so forth... But the mere possibility is invigorating. After the last seven disastrous years, and after coming to believe that mediocrity might be the best we can hope for, it's hard not to be rather excited about the possibility of something more.

There's nothing wrong with criticism, of course--we have an obligation to criticize if we think it's called for. But when the criticism is low and nasty and unfair, then the criticizer seems low and nasty and unfair.
Somewhere Richard Rorty--with whom I disagree about almost all things philosophical--says that we tend to recoil from a certain type of philosopher "because they seem cynical about our deepest hopes." And I suppose that's the way many of the the hard-core anti-Obama folks seem to me. Witness HRC's mocking "the clouds will open up" speech. It's not rational criticism to which I object, but, rather, this derision toward the very idea that, e.g., hope is something important, rather than something irrational or airy or stupid or foolish.
My 3 a.m. Remix Script

O.k., if I knew how to put together such a thing, here's how it would go:

Announcer: It's 3 a.m. and your children are asleep. But a phone is ringing...

Person like you: Hello?

Announcer: It's coming from inside the house! The call is coming from inside the house!

Person like you: Oh my Gaawwwd!

Announcer: Vote for Hillary. Or everybody dies...

Monday, March 03, 2008


New metasearch engine, looks cool. And it protects your privacy.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case

I was in Virginia when the Duke lacrosse case was really going strong, but I'd get an earful about it from Johnny Quest, who was living down here, whenever I talked to her. Local folks got more information about it than folks just watching it via the national media. And it quickly became clear that something was fishy...and then it rapidly got clearer and clearer that that case was utter bullshit. JQ was livid about the Kafkaesque insanity of the whole thing.

I've been reading Until Proven Innocent by Stuart Taylor Jr. and K. C. Johnson. They seem rather unreliable from time to time, seemingly exaggerating the niceness of the accused, for example...but overall I have a fairly high opinion of this book.

O.k., so here's something. Even as it became clear and clearer that Nifong was maliciously full of shit, not a single one of the approximately 500 professors in Duke's arts and sciences faculty publicly defended the students or criticized Nifong:
The majority of Duke's arts and sciences faculty kept quiet as the activists created the impression that Duke professors en masse condemned the lacrosse players. Several months later, John Burness explained their silence: "I think people just go about their business doing what they do and were not paying attention." But, as some admitted privately to friends, they were also afraid to cross the activists--black and female activists especially--lest they be smeared with charges of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, or right-wingism.

That's what would happen to a chemistry professor who--months after the team's innocence had become clear--became the first member of the arts and sciences faculty to break ranks with the academic herd. It took less than twenty-four hours for the head of Duke's women's studies program to accuse him of racism in a letter to the Chronicle [this could mean either the Chronicle of Higher Ed. or the Duke student paper]. [105-6]
This is consistent with things I myself have observed in academia. Furthermore, Duke had a reputation, back in the '90's, for hiring lots of extreme lefties into it's humanities programs. If true, that might explain a lot of this.