Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Myth of the Surge

The new issue of Rolling Stone has one of the best articles on the surge I have read, because it's about a first-hand experience. Foreign affairs journalist Nir Rosen went to Iraq to see the state of things for himself, even foregoing body armor so he would not be seen as an outsider. His report is not the pretty picture painted by war supporters, who speak now of "success" in the vaguest generalities possible. It's a story of how the U.S. spent a year paying off insurgents, building walls around neighborhoods, and ultimately just buying time while leaving the real problems of Iraq swept under the rug.

It's worth reading, and passing around-

The Myth of the Surge--

Hoping to turn enemies into allies, U.S. forces are arming Iraqis who fought with the insurgents. But it's already starting to backfire. A report from the front lines of the new Iraq

[PS- And an AP report this week reveals what BS the President's "return on success" promise was... the post-surge troop levels will be higher than those before the surge.]

Taking Schadenfreude Too Far

Noting the continuing right-wing hatred of John McCain (latest such incident- here), a recent post at LJDemocrats asks: "Would it be worth 4 years of President McCain in order to finally rid the other major party of the cancer that (in my opinion) is the single largest source of the current state of bitter partisan rhetoric and bad feelings?"

My answer? No, no, no, a hundreds times no.

First off, having a President McCain will only embolden the far-right as they would work tirelessly during his presidency to drag him as far to the right as possible. Secondly, to whatever extent his win would piss a few conservatives off, it would not be worth the cost... the continuation of Bush/Cheney foreign policy, more Reaganomics, the addition of two (or even three) new Alito-esque Justices to the Supreme Court, etc.

With that said, I can understand the desire to facilitate the destruction of the Limbaugh/Fox News wing of the Republican Party which, as noted, is the biggest cause of the crippling partisanship destroying our politics. I believe, however, the best way to accomplish that is not with a President McCain, but with a President Obama.

In the end, nothing will hurt the far-right more than a popular Democrat who governs successfully. They hate that. Obama has the potential to do for liberalism what Reagan did for conservatism... make it cool again. And that would render the Limbaughs of this country useless and outdated. After eight years of ineffective government and nearly two decades of over-the-top conservative partisanship, people just want a government that works again. For me, that's a much better cure for our political cancers than shoving John McCain in everyone's face.

Karl Rove Battles Monster He Created

Karl Rove-- the GOP's Dr. Frankenstein-- spent years creating a monster many, including myself as recently as 2004, believed would be dominant in American politics for decades. A brave foe know as Reality has been slaying this beast.

Now Rove is working behind-the-scenes to undo his mess. In addition to telling conservatives to stop demagoguing the immigration issue-- Hispanics tend to take it personally when they are scapegoated for all of our nation's problems-- he's also telling them to ease up on the Obama smears-
At a closed door meeting of GOP state executive directors in late January, Rove said the safest way to refer to Obama would be to use his honorific, "Sen. Obama."

"The context was, you're not going to stimatize this guy. You shouldn't underestimate him," one of the executive directors said. Rove said that the use of "Barack Hussein Obama" would perpetuate the notion that Republicans were bigoted and would hurt the party.

Whoa Karl, where would anyone ever get that idea??!

As Markos Moulitsas notes, "It says something when the voice of reason within the GOP on demonizing entire groups of people is Karl Rove. But it doesn't matter. His party is dead-set on its 'hate pretty much everyone' strategy." And he's right.

Andrew Sullivan wrote in March '06 that "you only have to watch O'Reilly or read Powerline or listen to Sean Hannity or David Horowitz to know that the only thing that really gets them fired up any more is loathing of liberals... So watch out for the anti-left hate and hysteria from Republicans. It's coming. It's all they've got left." The Republicans lost big-time that year and refused to learn their lesson. Judging by what we've seen lately, that's not changing anytime soon... no matter how many closed-door meetings Karl Rove has.

Friday, February 29, 2008

John McCain vs. The FEC

A friend emailed me the other day to ask why I hadn't written about the controversy involving Sen. McCain, public financing promises, and the Federal Election Commission. The answer is that I didn't fully understand the issue, and didn't want to sound dumb.

Luckily, TPM's Josh Marshall is smarter than me and he can actually explain this story-

The worst part for Sen. McCain? It appears his actions are violating an election law better known for its Senate sponsors... the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. In short, given that McCain accepted federal funding, and has nearly reached the legal spending limits, for him to spend any more money until September would be illegal. Problematic, no?

[PS- Obama looks smart for avoiding this, as he just passed the 1,000,000 donor mark!]

Obama Strikes Back

Sen. Obama releases his own version of the 3am ad. He also discussed it this afternoon.

Modern Conservatism in a Nutshell

I was reading the National Review the other day, as I do for amusement, and I came across this post by its editor, Kathryn Jean Lopez, 'Disturbed About Obama'. What disturbed her?-
"I thought Terri Schiavo was a jarring presence at the debate [Tuesday] night. When Senator Obama was asked what legislative regrets, he didn’t try to walk away from his radical ways any by citing his votes against born-alive infant protection or against banning the transport of children across state lines to circumvent parental notification/consent laws. Instead he said he would have voted to stop Congress from intervening to save the life of Terri Schiavo."

She then links to an article of hers on Sen. Obama and the "culture of death" (paging Ramesh Ponnuru!).

Let's talk about Schiavo and radicalism for a minute. First, here's what Obama said-
"Well, you know, when I first arrived in the Senate that first year, we had a situation surrounding Terri Schiavo. And I remember how we adjourned with a unanimous agreement that eventually allowed Congress to interject itself into that decisionmaking process of the families.

It wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped. And I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.

And so that’s an example I think of where inaction… can be as costly as action."

He is right... the majority of the American people-- 85%+-- stood opposed to what the fanatics in the Republican party were doing in the Schiavo case. You had the entire party coming together to interfere in a private family matter, in a crass attempt to score political points with the religious right. You had the Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, offering his diagnosis of her via an old VHS tape on the Senate floor. You had the House Majority Leader, Tom Delay, threatening judges and talking about how "God has brought to us... Terri Schiavo" to use. You had the President of the United States ending his vacation early and flying back to DC in the middle of the night to sign 'emergency legislation', a courtesy he would not extend later that year to the trapped citizens of New Orleans.

And yet the people who looked at all of this and saw a circus, a gross abuse of power... they are the radicals? According to the National Review, the answer is yes. Remember that NR's Jonah Goldberg just last month compared those opposed to the Schiavo intervention to "grotesque euthanizers" and "Nazis".

Poor Mr. Buckley is not even yet in his grave and he's already spinning!

Hillary Clinton is Running For President... Bush.

Remember the frightening Bush/Cheney '04 wolves ad? Hillary's decided to up the ante-

VOTE FOR OBAMA AND YOUR CHILDREN WILL DIE IN THEIR SLEEP. I'm Hillary Clinton and I approve this message.

UPDATE: Kudos to folks for digging up this 2004 Bill Clinton quote: "Now one of Clinton's laws of politics is this: If one candidate's trying to scare you and the other one's trying to get you to think, if one candidate's appealing to your fears and the other one's appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope." Amen, Bill.

[Hat-tip: State of the Day]

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fact-Checking President Bush on FISA

President Bush gave a press conference this morning, touching on the economy and Iraq, though the big focus was on getting out the most updated talking points on the FISA battle.

He said-
"At issue is a dispute over whether telecommunication companies should be subjected to class-action lawsuits because they are believed to have helped defend America after the attacks of 9/11."

Note the loaded framing... no, the issue isn't that the President had been violating the law for years (oddly, he never brought that up), or why FISA's retroactive warrant provisions aren't sufficient, or why telecoms need immunity for something the President insists is on solid legal ground. It's simply people opposed to defending America. And while the obligatory 9/11 reference is expected, it must be noted this program began in secret... before 9/11. So this is all a lie.

He goes on to a different approach-
"Allowing the lawsuits to proceed could aid our enemies, because the litigation process could lead to the disclosure of information about how we conduct surveillance."

First off, the idea that any truly classified information would ever be revealed in such a court setting is ludicrous. But secondly, it's silly to suggest that the terrorists are cartoonishly evil... but also so fucking dumb that they don't know the basics of how surveillance works.

And let's not even get into the utterly fascistic notion that national security concerns preempt the basic tenets of our democracy, which include the right of citizens to file grievances with parties-- the government, a phone company-- whom they believe has wronged them. This violates multiple aspects of the Bill of Rights.

He continues with this train of thought-
"Allowing these lawsuits to proceed could make it harder to track the terrorists because private companies besieged by, and fearful of, lawsuits would be less willing to help us quickly get the information we need."

That would never have been an issue if this had been done legally from the start.

Moreover, there is one thing that causes telecoms to turn off the wiretaps, and it ain't lawsuits... it's good old-fashioned money. For instance, a story last month revealed-
Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.

Yes, these heroes are happy to violate surveillance law for the feds... if they pay up.

The President then says this-
"Protecting these companies from lawsuits is not a partisan issue."

Hmm, that's odd, because the Republicans shut down the debate over updating FISA because of the amnesty sticking point they wouldn't yield on. And could there be another reason they're fighting for this? Why it appears to be-- again-- money-
With the House Democrats' refusal to grant retroactive immunity to phone companies -- stalling the rewrite of the warrantless wiretapping program -- GOP leadership aides are grumbling that their party isn't getting more political money from the telecommunications industry.

Oh my gosh, could this all be about... politics?!? No way!

Much later on, when he takes questions from the reporters, he is asked a question about how, without lawsuits, concerned Americans will have any recourse for those concerns. Bush dodges the question and instead throws out this talking point about those filing lawsuits over the surveillance-
"I suspect they see a financial gravy-train."

This is an attempt to not only smear Democrats on a national security front, but also to throw the old "trial lawyer" card at them. Too bad it's not true. As anyone who's followed this saga knows, most of the lawsuits were filed on behalf of the ACLU and similar groups... which follow the constitution, not the money train.

Going back to the first part of the press conference, Bush later says-
"Some in Congress are saying we have nothing to worry about because... we can use the old FISA law. They're wrong. FISA was out-of-date."

The President has never honestly explained what was so out-of-date about FISA, which served the country's surveillance needs from the Cold War through modern day. In fact, contrary to what he says, it has been repeatedly updated since 9/11. After an October 2001 revision, he specifically stated it "takes account of the new realities and dangers posed by modern terrorists... [and] will allow surveillance of all communications used by terrorists." Funny how "Old FISA"-- as he refers to it in the press conference-- only became a pressing crisis once he was caught violating it.

And if the President was so concerned about revising this law, he would've signed the temporary extension of last summer's revision while this all was honestly sorted out, instead of threatening to veto it. Indeed it seems, as Sen. Reid said, he's dragging this out "in order to let his allies run attack ads and fear-monger on terrorism."

Based on their behavior this past month, it's hard not to see that this is the case.

More Odds and Ends

Michael Bloomberg shocked the world by announcing he's not.. zzz... Anyway, here's news-

Ben Bernanke's trying to save the economy, but it's hard work.

Oil prices could hit $4 this Spring; America to respond by not doing a fucking thing.

So what are the odds that this actually survives to get signed by the President: "In a 236-182 vote, the House approved an extension and expansion of tax breaks and incentives for wind, solar, and other alternative energy sources, as well as the closing of $18 billion in tax loopholes and subsidies for Big Oil."

The big telecoms want to fight the concept of "net neutrality" (meaning we use the same internet once we have basic access), and they are going to desperate lengths to win this battle. At an FCC hearing earlier this week on the matter, Comcast-- in order to prevent advocates for net neutrality from attending-- paid people on the street to fill up the available seats. But remember, corporations love you.

RNC: Missing emails? What missing emails?

Last week, I wrote about quotes from Pentagon general counsel William Haynes, which increased fears that the upcoming Guantanamo tribunals will be nothing but show trials. Good news? He's apparently retiring next month.

More adventures in oversight: "The Marine Corps has asked the Defense Department Inspector General’s Office to look into allegations that delays in fielding Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles cost troops’ lives."

Finally, as if we needed more... new Abu Ghraib photos have surfaced.

Video Smörgåsbord

Dan Abrams fact-check Tuesday's debate. Keith Olbermann looks at McCain vs. Obama on the war. Penn and Teller embarrass environmentalists. And Diebold spoils the election results.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley: The Good and the Bad

Conservative icon William F. Buckley passed away this morning. My sympathies to his family and friends. One of the reasons for the conservative dominance in recent decades is because of huge players like Buckley who knew how to organize a unified movement... liberalism has never had a comparative counterpart. It is noteworthy that his passing comes as that movement is imploding.

Still, while I mourn his loss as a human being, I can't pretend to have shared his politics. While modern conservatism has been marketed on the myths of Reaganism and liberty and American flag pins, its roots are far less glowing. For instance, Buckley is famous for founding the National Review (one of my fave punching bags), a publication which spent its early years defending totalitarian leaders at home (Joseph McCarthy) and abroad (Francisco Franco, others). It also made clear that it planned to stand on the wrong side of history-
The first issue, which came out in November, claimed the publication “stands athwart history yelling Stop.”

It proved it by lining up squarely behind Southern segregationists, saying blacks should be denied the vote. After some conservatives objected, Mr. Buckley suggested instead that both uneducated whites and blacks should not be allowed to vote.

This aspect of post-WWII conservatism should never be forgotten. The right's vehement opposition to the civil rights movement is what ultimately increased the number of Republicans, as racist Democrats-- particularly in the South-- left their party in droves from the 1950s through the 1970s.

In his obituary post, Salon's Alex Koppelman brings up another good point-
Buckley's biggest achievement was revitalizing conservatism at a time when it had been marginalized in the United States for decades, since conservatives had opposed Roosevelt's New Deal and advocated isolationism before the U.S. entry into WWII.

Yes, conservatives were marginalized after the war for being on the wrong side of the New Deal and other issues. It should be kept in mind that many conservatives today-- at least the ones in the media spotlight-- are just as opposed now. That was how the post-war conservative revival got started (all the way through Reagan)... by telling conservatives that they didn't have to be New Deal appeasers like that pussy Eisenhower and that they could fight back. The battle over the New Deal legacy still largely defines both parties today.

Still, I credit Mr. Buckley for having the capacity to grow and change. In the post-Goldwater, pre-Reagan years, Buckley renounced his opposition to civil rights, and stood up to the Birch Society and other right-wing nutcases. He was a constantly evolving figure.

In recent years-- despite the piles of praise they're throwing on him now-- Buckley even dissented from his party on one of the biggest issues of the day... the Iraq war. And the right was unforgiving-
"Aren't you embarrassed by the absence of these weapons?" Buckley snaps at Podhoretz. He has just explained that he supported the war reluctantly, because Dick Cheney convinced him that Saddam Hussein had WMD primed to be fired. "No," Podhoretz replies. "As I say, they were shipped to Syria. During Gulf War One, the entire Iraqi air force was hidden in the deserts in Iran." He says he is "heartbroken" by this "rise of defeatism on the right." He adds, apropos of nothing, "There was nobody better than Don Rumsfeld. This defeatist talk only contributes to the impression we are losing, when I think we are winning."

The audience cheers Podhoretz. The nuanced doubts of Bill Buckley leave them confused. Doesn't he sound like the liberal media? Later, over dinner, a tablemate from Denver calls Buckley "a coward." His wife nods and says, "Buckley's an old man," tapping her head with her finger to suggest dementia.

Ohh, conservatism... look at you now, baby!

So, in the end, even William F. Buckley himself was ashamed of what his movement had become. After all, you didn't seem him making appearances on Hannity & Colmes often, did you? Rest in piece, Mr. Buckley, and good luck to us all.

Hillary and the Media: A Post-Debate Analysis

If Hillary feels the media is piling on, it seems her debate performance made things worse-

[PS- Via TPM, a look at the state of the race in Texas. Ohio looks rough now too.]

Meanwhile, in Iraq...

Here is a story that's been growing for a while, but has been largely ignored by most... the Turkish invasion of northern Iraq (to fight separatist rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, considered a terrorist group). The Iraqis are none too pleased about all of this-
The Iraqi government demanded for the first time that Turkey immediately withdraw from northern Iraq, warning Tuesday it feared the ongoing incursion could lead to clashes with the official forces of the semiautonomous Kurdish region.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the operation would only end "once its goal has been reached."...

...Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the first confirmed Turkish military ground operation in Iraq in about a decade was a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

Iraq has sovereignty? This is news to me. The U.S. has a fine line to walk here-- after all, who are we to lecture anyone on invading Iraq?-- as we attempt to take both sides-
The United States cautioned Turkey Sunday that military measures alone cannot resolve the Kurdish problem as separatist rebels urged urban violence in response to a major Turkish offensive against their camps in northern Iraq.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, due in Ankara next week, defended Turkey's military action in northern Iraq against the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and played down concerns that it might destabilise Iraq.

But he stressed Turkish forces should "leave (Iraq) as quickly as they can accomplish the mission" and urged Ankara to take political and economic measures to win over its sizeable Kurdish community and erode popular support for the rebels.

Us lecturing anyone on leaving as quickly as possible, I'm sure will be taken seriously.

The President's (official) justification for invading Iraq was built upon a domino theory, though such lofty ideas have long since been abandoned. The dominos have been falling, though not in the direction the neocons wanted. Believe it or not, when you invade, occupy, and destabilize a country in the heart of a region, it tends to have ripple effects.

Missed The Debate?

You can watch the full debate on YouTube- Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

As I said last night, Winner = Obama. Loser = Tim Russert.

Debate Thoughts

I live-blogged the latest (last?) Democratic primary debate tonight... though it took me a while to clean up my notes into something resembling coherent thought. With that mission accomplished, here's how I saw it.

The initial general assessment is that Sen. Clinton comes out swinging, while Sen. Obama remained cool and collected (not taking the bait is becoming one of his biggest strengths).

My lengthy summary/analysis of the debate is up on my LiveJournal community- here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On The Campaign Trail in Ohio

Not everything on the last 'Real Time' was anti-Obama paranoia... Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi also stopped by with his thoughts on the campaign. He has been going on the road with the campaigns for Maher's show. In his latest segment, Taibbi followed the Clinton campaign to Youngstown, Ohio.

I liked this segment because it highlights the frustrating disconnect between people's feelings/position on issues like the economy, and how they actually vote. In fact, the people in this video even seem to acknowledge this contradiction, though they don't seem to see how that makes them part of the problem.

John McCain: Military Expert (Pt. III)

A followup to that last post is warranted, because Sen. McCain keeps digging himself into a deeper hole on Iraq. Attempting to again dial back his infamous '100 years' remark, McCain yesterday said this-
"My friends, the war will be over soon, the war for all intents and purposes although the insurgency will go on for years and years and years, but it will be handled by the Iraqis, not by us, and then we decide what kind of security arrangement we want to have with the Iraqis."

There is a lot to unpack in this one sentence.

First off, the promise that the war-- however the right chooses to define it at that moment-- will be over soon contradicts everything McCain has said so far on the subject. Secondly, there's his statement that we'll be out of the picture, but that "the insurgency will go on for years and years and years" with the Iraqis in charge of their own fates without us occupying them. Ummm, isn't this the anti-war position that he and the GOP have been portraying as 'defeatist' for years now? This isn't a flip-flop... he's advocating for two diametrically opposed positions simultaneously. Lastly, if the insurgency continues onward, then the war is not over. Maybe for us it is, but certainly not for the Iraqis whose fate George W. Bush lied about insisted all this bloodshed and spin and insanity was for.

The McCain crew believes that the national security card is their ace in the fight against Obama, but time and time again it is proven that McCain can be taken about as seriously on those issues as he can on other issues like the economy... which, by his own admission, is not at all.

John McCain: I Will Lose This Election

Yesterday, a stark admission from Sen. McCain that he will lose in November-
John McCain said Monday that to win the White House he must convince a war-weary country that U.S. policy in Iraq is succeeding. If he can't, "then I lose. I lose," the Republican said...

Considering that we're coming up on Year Six of this debacle next month and it's polling about as well as syphilis, I'd say that you lose, Mr. 100 Years. We've already heard Sen. McCain's argument on the war, and it amounts to insisting that everyone in America is a weak idiot, and that having the courage to commit to an indefinite occupation is the only way to let the world know that America means business.

He quickly tried to backpedal almost immediately-
"If I may, I'd like to retract 'I'll lose.' But I don't think there's any doubt that how they judge Iraq will have a direct relation to their judgment of me, my support of the surge," McCain added. "Clearly, I am tied to it to a large degree."

Johnny, you ain't kidding.


Barack Obama: Inexperienced America-Hater (Pt. II)

The NY Post is so sincerely upset about this Obama photo that's causing all this controversy-- they just want the truth dammit!-- that they've put it on the front cover, and in color again in a feature article inside, and again on the editorial page, and caricatured in an editorial cartoon inside, and....

The Nexus of Politics and Terror

As an addendum to that post on FISA (and the administration spinning itself in circles), I wanted to post this video. One of Keith Olbermann's recurring reports since 2005 has been a segment on "The Nexus of Politics and Terror," in which he chronicles the Bush administration's exploitation of terror threats for political gain. This past week he did an updated version of this report. Here it is in its full, 17-minute glory-

Like the disappearance of the color-coded terror chart and regular Homeland Security press conferences after the 2004 election, I'm sure that all of these incidents are coincidences.

DNI McConnell/AG Mukasey: Bush Lying on FISA

This past weekend, the President continued lying about the FISA legislation that he threatened to veto if Congress removed telecom amnesty is being debated in Congress now. The Fearmonger-in-Chief said terrorists are plotting attacks "at this very moment" (wolf! wolf!) and made his argument that "Democratic leaders in the House are blocking key intelligence legislation so trial lawyers can sue phone companies that helped the government eavesdrop on suspected terrorists".

If interested, you can read my latest analysis and fact-checking of this saga- here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

McCain '08: The Lobbyists' Choice?

If any good is going to come from that controversial NY Times story-- besides allowing McCain to play the victim for the GOP base (conservatives love to pretend the whole world is out to get them)-- it's that McCain is finally getting scrutinized for his connection to the lobbyists that he claims to abhor. Being the incorruptible straight-shooter is, of course, his big claim to fame as a general election candidate.

TPM highlights an anecdote that reveals just how close McCain is to lobbyists. Lobbyist Charlie Black-- one of McCain's top advisors-- apparently "does a lot of his work by telephone from McCain's Straight Talk Express bus." If that isn't the perfect metaphor for the corruption of politics, I don't know what it is.

The NY Times did itself a disservice by including all the sexual innuendo and rumormongering in an otherwise straightforward story, but this scandal, unfortunately for McCain, is one that's not likely to go away anytime soon.

Odds and Ends

There's another debate tomorrow night??! Will this ever end? Anyway, here's news...

In last week's debate, Sen. Obama told of an Army captain in Afghanistan whose platoon was scavenging enemy weapons due to supply problems. The right-wing-- being military experts and all-- freaked out. The problem there is that Obama's story, umm, checks out. Bad news? The Pentagon is trying to squash this story.

Bill Kristol recommends to Sen. Clinton the politics of fear.

In non-campaign news, a top GM executive has "defended remarks he made dismissing global warming as a 'total crock of shit,' saying his views had no bearing on GM's commitment to build environmentally friendly vehicles." Yikes. Sounds like he's earned himself a new round of tax cuts.

Meanwhile, in Cuba, a huge electoral upset as Raul Castro becomes President.

In Pakistan, a "graceful exit" is being urged for President Musharraf.

Last night's '60 Minutes' report on Karl Rove's role in the downfall of former Alabama gov. Don Siegelman was blocked in some parts of that state. How very, very odd.

Virgin Atlantic airlines did a a successful test-flight using biofuels.

Finally, this Fox News video is the best encapsulation of the network ever.

Barack Obama: Inexperienced America-Hater

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA)-- an uber-partisan Republican who complained after 2006 of their new 5-day work week that "Democrats could care less about families"-- gave a bit of a preview of the general election attacks against Barack Obama this past Friday.

As a guest on Bill Maher's show, he and the other panelists (David Frum, Amy Walter) were discussing Sen. Obama as a presidential candidate. At first, they were discussing his experience level-- to which I'd refer them to the last paragraph of this George Will column-- and Frum was envisioning future problems like the Cuban Missile Crisis coming for him (a situation resolved diplomatically, I'll add).

That's all fair and good, but then came the crazy. The panelists were discussing the silly Michelle Obama controversy-- which Maher compares aptly to his post-9/11 firing from ABC and the jingoistic reaction from the right-- and then Kingston, being the concern troll that he is, explains why the Obamas make Uncle Sam cry (watch this video). Kingston rattled off a checklist of phony Obama controversies... that he refuses to do the Pledge of Allegiance, that he doesn't wear an American flag pin, etc.

He said those are things "voters are watching" and shows his class by referring to the Democrat primary.

Then in the next segment, Maher reminds conservatives that they voted for George Bush in 2000, who came into the election knowing little to nothing about the world outside of Texas. "So what would be better," he asked, "a guy that doesn't have so much experience, but if you actually had a conversation with him, he could speak intelligently on any subject for any length of of time, or a guy who didn't know who Musharraf was?". Kingston responded that Obama knows who Musharraf is, but wants to bomb Pakistan. Yes, that again.

He even quickly slipped in the 'Hussein' middle name toward the end of the panel discussion. That's really all they've got. And, of course, that's all the stuff that they'll say out loud, while the base forwards emails about Obama being a Muslim Manchurian Candidate to each other in private.

Later on, Kingston laments that Democrats are beholden to "unions" and "wacko environmentalists" and the "Hollywood left", whereas Straight Talk McCain is the candidate of change. Why? Because the far right hates him. That's how low the bar is for the GOP, that not crawling inside Rush Limbaugh's ass makes one a figure of progress and innovation.

So basically, while the Democrats are talking about the economy and the war and energy-- you know pesky shit like that affects peoples' lives-- the Republicans will be dusting off their Mad Libs attack lines (unions! flag pin! terror!) for the umpteenth time. Look, I know that conservatives are afraid of change, but even of new campaign rhetoric? That, guys, surely you can move forward on.

The fact of the matter is that the Republicans were expecting, and hoping, to be running against Hillary Clinton in the general and had files and files of attack avenues ready. But now Obama's looking more and more likely to be their opponent and they're just scrambling, which is why they've gone back to the well.

But don't worry, our friends in the liberal media will never let them get away with this.

[UPDATE: Newest anti-Obama attack comes not from conservatives... but from Hillary.

UPDATE #2: Good news? Obama's no John Kerry... he knows how to fight back.]

The Oscars

Overall decent ceremony; mellow, but entertaining enough (and considering how little prep time the writers had). My documentary pick lost, though the film that won-- "Taxi To The Dark Side"-- is supposedly excellent. And the Best Picture win went to the deserved Coen Bros film, "No Country For Old Men". As for Jon Stewart, he got the job done and managed not to offend the delicate sensibilities of rich Hollywood actors this time too, so kudos.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

No End In Sight

I apologize in advance for harshing your buzz on this Oscar Sunday-- here's hoping Jon Stewart roasts these idiots again-- but this is related. I rented 'No End In Sight' this week, which is nominated for Best Documentary. All of this year's nominees are political films, which is understandable given the climate right now. I expect it to win the Oscar, though I suppose 'Sicko' shouldn't be discounted as the more mainstream choice.

I've seen some good documentaries about the Iraq war-- 2005's 'Why We Fight', 2007's 'Buying the War' by Bill Moyers-- but this film is the definitive account of the occupation of Iraq, and what a disaster it has been. It's not a polemic... just a straight-forward documentary, featuring direct interviews with administration officials and others involved in the occupation. Even if it does not win tonight, I highly recommend it. It's on DVD now.

Here is the trailer-

And here is a clip from the beginning of the film, a history lesson of how we got here-

Here is another clip on the origin of the insurgency, and an interview w/ Col. Paul Hughes.

Ralph Nader: Still An Egomaniac

Republicans, open up your checkbooks... your old friend Ralph is back.

[UPDATE: Let me clarify my egomanic comment... Nader used to a be a well-respected consumer advocate, but no longer. After all, what has he done to help solve the problems he cites in recent years? We never see or hear from him except in leap years. The man he helped defeat eight years ago-- Al Gore (who was totally the same as Bush, amiright!?)-- has been working to call for action on climate change and other progressive causes like the war and civil liberties. What's Nader done? Nothing, except show up every election to demand attention. It's all ego.]

We Won't Have Hillary To Kick Around Anymore?

Based on the fact that Sen. Clinton took a conciliatory tone toward Sen. Obama during Thursday's debate (err, at the end anyway), some people seem to be taking her comments as a silent concession, a sign that she acknowledged the end of the race is near for her. I didn't get that impression at all, and I would like to introduce these people to the Clintons. These people, meet the Clintons... two folks who have come too far to give up so easily.

Becoming President has been her life's ambition for a while now-- and the assumption that it was her due is why she never prepared for a real campaign-- and I just don't see her walking away so easily. My gut does tell me that she won't fight this all the way to the convention in August-- which would risk damaging the party-- but if she sees an opening to fight this in the next month or two, she will take it.

Since I ripped on the National Review so much yesterday, I'll link to a post (by James Robbins) that gets the facts right, at least. It notes that while Obama does have a significant lead over Clinton in the delegate count, he himself is still has a way to go to get the number needed to secure the nomination (he has only 1,319 out of the needed 2,025). Now, Clinton dropping out or Edwards sending his delegates over to Obama would end that problem, but for now he still has a hill to climb.

Her strategy seems to be to try and get the delegate count as close as possible, so that she could justify using the superdelegates-- or 'automatic delegates' as Team Clinton is attempting to rebrand them-- to clinch the nomination for her. Granted, even this route seems tougher than planned, but her non-answer to the superdelegate controversy in the debate indicated she still believes in this strategy. Moreover, the website her team set up offering 'Facts and Myths about the Race for Delegates in the Democratic Nomination' indicates how seriously they are taking this fight.

Now, maybe she will drop out after March 4 if she loses Texas, as many people have speculated (even Bill Clinton hinted at the possibility). But I am very skeptical. Hell, she's already blowing off the whole damn state! Here's a quote from a few days ago... tell me if something sounds familiar about it. She said, "I'd love to carry Texas, but it's usually not in the electoral calculation for the Democratic nominee. Florida and Michigan are". Ahhhh. There's the Hillary Clinton that I know. We'll still have her to kick around for a while longer.

[PS- TPM's Josh Marshall has a good video analyzing the state of the race.

UPDATE: Still think she'll go quietly into the night? Then watch this video.]