Saturday, March 22, 2008

Weekend Odds and Ends

Today is World Water Day. Celebrate by not showering. I won't tell. Here's the news...

Dan Abrams fact-checks the President's anniversary rhetoric about the Iraq war.

Sen. Obama gets a boost with the endorsement of Bill Richardson (this causes James Carville to flip the hell out). He also got the endorsement of the young woman in the "3am" ad. Only one is a superdelegate, though.

Some journalists seem to be focusing on the seemingly insurmountable odds that Sen. Clinton faces in getting the nomination. If Florida/Michigan have failed to organize do-overs, and the superdelegates won't overturn the pledged delegate count, what's her strategy? That's the million dollar question.

Steve Benen, by the way, has a great rebuttal to the 'Florida/Michigan have been disenfranchised' talking point. And Bill Clinton reemerges to seemingly reiterate the campaign's message that Hillary and McCain rule, and Obama drools. Stay classy, folks.

Speaker Pelosi is making headlines by calling "for an independent investigation into China's claims that the Dalai Lama instigated the violence in Tibet." Pelosi had a favorable meeting the Dalai Lama yesterday. Meanwhile, the President insists these events will not impact his decision to attend the Beijing Olympics.

John McCain wants to support the troops by... keeping them in Iraq for as long as his ego demands. But signing on to a new GI Bill? Sorry, not for him. And obeying the campaign finance laws that he himself helped pass? Not for him either.

In regards to the missing emails from 2003-2005, the White House says... oops, we destroyed the hard drives.

Finally, Vice President Cheney will meet with Saudi King Abdullah to beg for more oil.

Obama's Speech: The Reactions

Sen. Obama's speech has received over 2.5 million views on YouTube in just a few days, so clearly it's making an impact. But rather than discussing the important issues that Sen. Obama's speech, the media is just focusing on a bigger question... did it put an end to the controversy that they've been hyping for a week? No of course it didn't, where's the fun in that? If polls are to believed, it seems that the working-class voters of Pennsylvania were more angry and confused by the whole damn thing than reassured.

Jon Stewart did a funny bit on the media coverage of this, and it's just depressing. For the record, I would love to believe that the American people are far more intelligent than the caricature that the cable news channels seem to illustrate. But then again, I am a cynic.

Here's a good few blog posts on it that I have found...

Glenn Greenwald: Obama's faith in the reasoning abilities of the American public

The Washington Independent: No Country for Old (Black) Men

The Reality-Based Community: If Ann Coulter had liveblogged the Gettysburg Address The GOP attack plan for Barack Obama--
Republicans say that if Obama is the Democratic nominee they'll target his "inexperience" and "liberal" record. But that doesn't mean the dirty tricks aren't coming.

And why are any of these posts relevant to the issues at stake this year? Tom Tomorrow says it better than me-
The entire situation has provided the right wingers with the Swift Boat narrative of 2008 and it’s not going to go away. Sean Hannity, who is exceedingly proud of the fact that he was the first major media figure to provide the Swifties with a platform in ‘04, continues to replay the pastor’s incendiary sound bites a couple dozen times each hour...

...Add to this the rest of Hannity’s litany — Obama’s shocking refusal to, um, wear a flag pin, and his wife’s blatant anti-Americanism, as expressed in a poorly-worded remark at some event somewhere — and you’ve got trouble with a capital B-L-A-C-K.

Here’s the thing: Hannity’s a front line combatant in the propaganda wars, and an utterly reliable harbinger of whatever achingly stupid right wing tangent will occupy our political discourse in the months ahead. Occasionally someone will send me an email suggesting that there’s no point in paying attention to what the radio nutjobs are talking about, as if they have no influence, everybody already knows they’re nutjobs, so why bother. To which I can only reply, tell it to President John Kerry.

These things shouldn't be an issue, but they are. We win by fighting back. Obama realizes that. Will it be enough?

[PS- On an encouraging note, it seems that not everyone at Fox News is willing to pretend this is the biggest thing ever because it's their job to. Yesterday, not only did Brian Kilmeade walk off the set of 'Fox and Friends' after a dispute on their coverage, but Chris Wallace also chewed them out over their obsession on this. Hannity cannot, and will not, be stopped though. The man is a force of nature.]

Friday, March 21, 2008

McCain's Foreign Policy Myopia / Obama's Challenge

We had an interesting back and forth this week between the Obama/McCain camps on Iraq.

Sen. Obama gave a speech on Wednesday on foreign policy and Iraq. He criticized not only the choice to start a war in Iraq, but took a broader look at how national security dilemmas elsewhere-- from Afghanistan and Pakistan and beyond-- have been impacted by the fallout from that choice. Challenging the position held by Sen. McCain and others, he said-
"If you believe we are fighting the right war, then the problems we face are purely tactical in nature. That is what Senator McCain wants to discuss – tactics. What he and the Administration have failed to present is an overarching strategy: how the war in Iraq enhances our long-term security, or will in the future. That’s why this Administration cannot answer the simple question posed by Senator John Warner in hearings last year: Are we safer because of this war? And that is why Senator McCain can argue – as he did last year – that we couldn’t leave Iraq because violence was up, and then argue this year that we can’t leave Iraq because violence is down.

When you have no overarching strategy, there is no clear definition of success. Success comes to be defined as the ability to maintain a flawed policy indefinitely..."

He nails it. "Success" = staying. He then goes on to discuss what his withdrawal strategy-- militarily and politically-- would be. Regarding the inevitable McCain rebuttal, he adds-
"Now we know what we’ll hear from those like John McCain who support open-ended war. They will argue that leaving Iraq is surrender. That we are emboldening the enemy. These are the mistaken and misleading arguments we hear from those who have failed to demonstrate how the war in Iraq has made us safer. Just yesterday, we heard Senator McCain confuse Sunni and Shiite, Iran and al Qaeda. Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no al Qaeda ties. Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America’s enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades."

Of course-- regarding McCain's 'confusing' of Sunni and Shiite, Iran and al Qaeda-- Obama gives him the credit of assuming it was just lack of knowledge... and not a direct attempt to conflate two enemies. Glenn Greenwald, for one, thinks that McCain's clear, lengthy record of such statements demonstrates a deliberate strategy.

Josh Marshall's view, however, is probably a little closer to my own. He sees McCain's constant 'gaffes' as proof that the man running as Mr. National Security really knows little to nothing about foreign policy at all (as he admits he knows nothing about the economy either). Moreover, this is a man so obsessed about fighting the war in Iraq forever that he cannot see anything beyond that.

Says Marshall-
In almost every discussion of foreign policy, not just today but in previous years, what stands out is McCain's inability to see beyond the immediate issues of military tactics to any firm grasp of strategy or America's real vital interests...

...It is very difficult to draw practical lessons from history. But one of the closest things to a law is that military power is almost always built on economic might. And the former seldom long outlasts the latter...

...Then you step back and see the huge number of dollars we're pouring into Iraq, the vast mountains of capital being piled up in China, the oil-fueled resurgence of Russia, the weakness of the dollar (not only in exchange rate but in its future as a reserve currency), the rising tide of anti-Americanism around the world. I don't think I've ever heard anything from John McCain that suggests he's given serious consideration to any of these issues, except as possible near term military challenges -- i.e., is China building a blue water navy to challenge the US, Russian weapons systems, etc.

Candidly, I do not think I've heard sufficient discussions or solutions to these challenges from my preferred candidates. But neither has the myopia that McCain has about Iraq...

....Hillary Clinton has stipulated to McCain's qualifications as Commander-in-Chief; and Obama, implicitly, does the same. But his record actually shows he's one of the most dangerous people we could have in the Oval Office in coming years -- not just because he's a hothead in using the military, but more because he seems genuinely clueless about the real challenges and dangers the country is facing. He's too busy living in the fantasy world where our future as a great power and our very safety are all bound up in Iraq.

And this is the key point. 8 years ago, George W. Bush was mocked by many for his complete lack of knowledge about foreign policy or even the world outside of Texas. He was elected (kind of) anyway, and the rest is history. But Bush was running in peacetime. John McCain has been in Washington DC for decades, and is basing his entire campaign on the myth of himself as the great Warrior Hero who will save America from the forces of islamofascism abroad and defeatocrats at home. So the fact that he is blissfully unaware of a) the complexities of Middle East politics, and b) the larger problems we face at home and overseas, is even more disturbing.

That he is polling ahead of his two opponents despite supporting the same policies and leaders that are now disapproved of at home by record numbers may be the most disturbing thing of all. As John McCain's friend George once said, "fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." Except when you can.


This could be a small story, or it could be a big story. Here's the breaking news tonight-
Two contract employees for the State Department have been fired and a third disciplined for inappropriately looking at Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's passport file, and the department is investigating whether political or other motives were involved, senior officials said Thursday.

Spokesman Sean McCormack said that for now it appears that nothing other than "imprudent curiosity" was involved in three separate breaches of the Illinois senator's personal information...

Talking Points Memo adds this context: "the breaches occurred Jan. 9th, Feb. 21st and March 14th. That would be the day after the New Hampshire primary, the day of the Democratic debate in Texas and the day the Wright story really hit. "

Some further context... there was a similar incident in 1992 when "a Republican political appointee at the State Department was demoted over a search of presidential candidate Bill Clinton's passport records. The State Department's inspector general said the official had helped arrange the search in an attempt to find politically damaging information about Clinton." It remains to be seen what the motivations were with these new incidents. The Obama campaign has asked for a full investigation.

MSNBC and Keith Olbermann were all over all this story tonight. Video- Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.

[UPDATE: Details are slim, but TPM is trying to figure this all out. Now... Clinton too??!

Glenn Greenwald has a good analysis on the larger implications of all of this.]

Undercover in Camp Clinton

Last October, I was banned from the Obama '08 community on LiveJournal for a post acknowledging problems in his campaign at that time. And I'm an Obama supporter! How then would I fare in the Clinton '08 community? I joined (it was the only way to have access to all the posts) and began my adventure.

What I found upon entering was disturbing. I have seen the Obama supporters mocked as a cult, but Obama groupies have nothing on these gals. While in the Obama community there is some second-guessing of the campaign, and a decent amount of substantive posts among the cheerleading (on the war, etc), no such thing can be said of the Clinton community. There, 8 out of 10 posts in the past few days have been rants on the whole Wright/race story and in general what a monster Obama is (the other 2 of 10 being how Obama is 'disenfranchising' Michigan and Florida voters, and some polls). And those that aren't outright rants about the evils of Obama are posts mocking him (he's a "big fat whiny douchebag", according to one Rhodes Scholar). No posts on any issues of substance (the economic meltdown, the war, the general election candidate John McCain, goings-on in Congress, etc), just one big hive.

I posted a reply to the most recent Wright post on Tuesday asking if the purpose was about tearing Obama down, rather than lifting Clinton up, and noting the lack of substantive posts, asking "Surely, these things are worth discussing too, no?". The response I got from one of the moderators? "You just joined, right? You're not off to a very good start." It was all downhill from there.

Everyone there has a huge victim complex. Every bad thing mentioned, or even hinted at, about Clinton (by myself or others) was dismissed as part of some giant conspiracy, and every other comment was anger at how America refuses to love Hillary Clinton and just give her the nomination already. I had momentary sympathy for 1990s conservatives.

Switching back momentarily to Camp Obama, I read that Clinton supporters are currently petition-bombing the DNC, demanding that all superdelegates line up behind Clinton, otherwise her supporters will go rogue and vote for John McCain in November (the letter being a brilliant summation of campaign talking points to date). I am dazed and confused, in need of care, but I slog on.

The last comment I posted at Camp Clinton was on a thread on the Michigan situation. I tried to explain the history behind this decision-- and how Clinton had supported it until her 'victory' there-- and was again met with derision. "Let's all drink the Kool-Aid," one member said of the Obama camp. You first, sir.

I immediately hit the 'eject' button and parachuted out of there. This time, I think I will save them the trouble and ban myself. I have only been a registered Democrat for six months and already I am having a marvelous adventure. Who knows where this whimsical journey will take me next.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More Odds and Ends

They're saying tomorrow will be a "good" Friday. I'll be the judge of that. Here's the news-

Yesterday was officially the first day of spring, and if it seemed to come earlier where you live, that's totally not global warming's fault, we swear. The fact that "The thickest, oldest and toughest sea ice around the North Pole is melting"? Well, okay maybe that.

Another sign that the European Union is surpassing the U.S. as a global power? Our ol' pal Osama has released his latest podcast, and it's not about us! No, he's mad about those Muhammad cartoons (holy 2006, Batman!). I'm glad he's not concerned with us anymore, since we haven't been concerned with him in at least five years.

Hey, speaking of intolerance, calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics are growing, due to concerns over China's human rights abuses, and their handling of the Tibet situation. For what it's worth, the Dalai Lama is open to meeting with Chinese leaders. Me, I could never stay mad at the lovable scamps who carry so much of our debt.

The Supreme Court <3's gun rights? They'll be deciding soon.

Meanwhile, ol' Scooter Libby has been disbarred just because of that obstruction silliness.

In the presidential race, it appears that the infighting in the Democratic party is having (temporary?) benefits for Sen. McCain. New polls show McCain with his highest favorable ratings in years, and others showing him leading Obama in key states. Depressing stuff.

The Michigan leadership says it's ready for a revote, but an agreement on that is still looking unlikely. Hillary's taking a real gamble here and so far, everyone's the loser.

Finally, Sen. Clinton agreed to release her records and schedules of her time as First Lady. There doesn't appear to be a lot of there there. The media, of course, are focusing on juicy excerpts, like her support for NAFTA and the scandal that shall not be named.

Foresight Is 20-20

I've given Paul Krugman a bit of guff lately for his Obama-bashing, but it's worth noting that he was one of the people who got the Iraq story right from the beginning... and was vilified for it by the right. He wrote in the NY Times the day before the invasion that-
...What frightens me is the aftermath -- and I'm not just talking about the problems of postwar occupation. I'm worried about what will happen beyond Iraq -- in the world at large, and here at home...

...What scares me most, however, is the home front. Look at how this war happened. There is a case for getting tough with Iraq; bear in mind that an exasperated Clinton administration considered a bombing campaign in 1998. But it's not a case that the Bush administration ever made. Instead we got assertions about a nuclear program that turned out to be based on flawed or faked evidence; we got assertions about a link to Al Qaeda that people inside the intelligence services regard as nonsense. Yet those serial embarrassments went almost unreported by our domestic news media. So most Americans have no idea why the rest of the world doesn't trust the Bush administration's motives. And once the shooting starts, the already loud chorus that denounces any criticism as unpatriotic will become deafening.

So now the administration knows that it can make unsubstantiated claims, without paying a price when those claims prove false, and that saber rattling gains it votes and silences opposition. Maybe it will honorably refuse to act on this dangerous knowledge. But I can't help worrying that in domestic politics, as in foreign policy, this war will turn out to have been the shape of things to come.

And that turned out to be correct. Up until recently, the President has largely gotten his way... a lesson he learned his from his push into Iraq, and the overall lack of pushback he received. The House's recent victory on FISA is a hopeful sign that this is changing.

If anything, Krugman's column gave Bush too much credit, as he-- like many-- predicted a quick and easy victory.

Elsewhere, Editor & Publisher remembers that around 1/3 of American newspapers editorialized against the war, for what it's worth. Last night, Keith Olbermann lamented how little coverage that the war gets these days. Fox News, for instance, featured the least Iraq reporting of any news channel, but the most celebrity gossip. So it's good to know that we've collectively gotten bored with the Iraq saga. It's, after all, super way depressing.


A postscript to the anniversary post... this clip of Jon Stewart talking to Bill Moyers last April, on the reasons that Americans are detached from this war. Probably the most succinct two and a half minutes spoken on the issue.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5 Years of War

I was going to write a rant about the war for this anniversary, but I stopped myself. What is the point? I am likely just preaching to choir here, and lord knows I don't need to convince myself that this is one big mistake that never seems to end.

Anyone who, at this point, still supports the war is probably never going to change their mind. They're invested in it, they don't want to believe that their country made a mistake. The idea that we face some sort of overpowering existential threat and that nothing less than the most ferocious, uninhibited response is required is ingrained in many Americans, including in some members of my family who are otherwise rational people. Try and debate them and you will likely only get hyperbolic patriotism in return (and faux-concern from politicians about the troops, and the hypothetical dangers of withdrawal).

So, instead, I am just posting some links to some recent stories on Iraq that I feel are of consequence. A few I've posted before, but deserve another plug. My reader(s) are free to come to their own conclusions. I'm tired of ranting.

Salon: The cold price of hot blood-- A devastating new book reveals that Iraq will cost the U.S. at least $3 trillion. Will Americans check their pocketbooks the next time a president tries to sell them on a cheap, glorious war?

Washington Post: Public Is Less Aware of Iraq Casualties, Study Finds

TPMMuckraker: Pentagon Tries to Squelch Report Showing No Link Between Iraq-Al Qaeda

Mother Jones: The Iraq Follies--
Eighteen things you've already forgotten about the media's flawed coverage of Iraq.

McClatchy Newspapers: Iraq war's cost: Loss of U.S. power, prestige, influence

Washington Post: Petraeus: Iraqi Leaders Not Making 'Sufficient Progress'

Rolling Stone: 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

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Not This Time.

As everyone knows, Barack Obama spoke in Philadelphia this morning to address the issue of race and the role it has played in this campaign season. Most cynical pundits expected a pat speech blowing off the controversy caused by what Rev. Wright said (which will be played on a constant loop on Fox through November). Instead, Sen. Obama raised the stakes, giving a lengthy and detailed speech on race in America and in our politics.

I can only speak for myself, but I think that this was the most honest speech given on the issue of race by a presidential contender in my lifetime. Need to judge for yourself? Here is the video-

You can read the full transcript- here. Still, let me compile some key excerpts.

To those critics asking if Obama had heard Wright's words before, he says-
"I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed."

He goes on to discuss the history and nuance of his relationship with Rev. Wright.

And after speaking on the systematic segregation and bigotry in our past, he acknowledges how the legacy of all this continues to haunt black communities today-
"A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families -- a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods -- parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pickup and building code enforcement -- all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continues to haunt us."

To the fears of white people that this issue was meant to exploit, he says-
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

On the question on what about what Wright said he is denouncing, he says-
"The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static, as if no progress has been made, as if this country -- a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black, Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen -- is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation."

On how the media, etc, have worked to make race an issue in the campaign he says-
"This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either 'too black' or 'not black enough.' We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well."

And finally, of our choices in moving forward from here, he says-
"For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, 'Not this time.'"

Andrew Sullivan sums up what makes this speech so powerful: "Bill Clinton once said that everything bad in America can be rectified by what is good in America. He was right - and Obama takes that to a new level. And does it with the deepest darkest wound in this country's history." Yes. This is the original third rail of American politics. And Obama has shown that he is up the challenge of confronting it, and will not run from it.

Suffice to say, this will not end the noise on cable news (they have ratings to think of, after all), but at the least the speech should give them something to think about and reflect on. If only.

Over at the National Review, some were praising the speech, while most took a step back to get back in character and tell you that this is a bad man who hates America. Kathryn Jean Lopez-- NR Online's head cheerleader-- keeps insisting in post after post that Obama's simply a "white guilt" candidate... or is he just the token candidate of black people? It's hard to keep things straight when one is race-baiting. In the end, I think the nuance of the speech may have been too much to handle for them. It's much easier when you just put everyone in their box.

So here's the question for 2008? Is America ready for... an intelligent, nuanced political dialogue? Let's find out.

The Invisible Hand

A followup thought on the whole Bear Sterns/Federal Reserve/JP Morgan Chase story... allowing these companies to go under would hurt Wall Street-- which is happening anyway-- but would technically be allowing the risk factor of capitalism to take its natural course. Isn't capitalism supposed to be darwinistic and unfair, as we've been told so often? But Republicans don't actually believe in capitalism; they believe in corporatism. To them, these businesses are more important than people, the latter of whom are told simply to suck it up. It's a mentality that privatizes the gains of a working economy, and socializes the costs when things go bust.

It's very amusing to me to watch these conservatives freak out over liberal ideas big (universal health care) to small (regulation) to very small (a minimum wage hike) as if the economy itself will crumble at the mere discussion of such things, but then defend a government which is working overtime to keep failing Fortune 500 companies afloat with unprecedented market tinkering. Meanwhile, the rest of us will have to make do with a $600 stimulus check that the government believes will actually help, because apparently it's 1960 and that money means more than it does.

Weak dollar, low job growth, outsourcing, cost of living increases that are impossible to catch up... these are things that the President will not acknowledge, and-- maybe with the exception of the first one-- are not things that most conservatives believe to be a problem at all.

CNBC's Larry Kudlow (who's been playing the role of official corporate apologist for months now) said Sunday night in a post at the National Review insists that "Bush was right to put on an optimistic face on Friday" and that Democrats are the ones who are "emulating" Herbert Hoover here by... urging a renegotiation of NAFTA (which has what to do with all this anyway)? Not the quality spin I expect from a guy who wrote the foreword to the book, "The Bush Boom: How A 'Misunderestimated' President Fixed Our Broken Economy".

It's understandable why-- like every other disaster of this presidency-- they'd try to blame the other side for causing it with their evil thoughts, but this is the hubris of conservative economics meeting its end. It's the savings and loan debacle, it's Enron. The religion of deregulation and laissez-faire capitalism, the creation of a housing bubble that everyone knew would collapse but not before President Bush could brag about an "ownership society" at the 2004 convention, the idea that in free-market capitalism the only people who ever have to suffer the consequences of failure are the average Joes... all these policies (which, yes, did begin in the latter half of the '90s, then went on steroids when the Bushies came in) have helped make this possible.

As for those weenies in 'Old Europe'? Guess what... they're #1. God bless America.

John McCain: Foreign Policy Expert

So, Sen. McCain and VP Cheney traveled to Iraq this past weekend for a photo-op discussion with Iraqi leaders about a permanent military presence the state of that country after 5 years of war (both had to be sneaked in secretly, unlike their friend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was given the red-carpet treatment last month). Many will remember McCain's now infamous 2007 trip to Iraq, in which he bragged that his stroll through a Baghdad marketplace proved the country was safe again... until it was revealed he was accompanied by "100 American soldiers, with three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships overhead". This time around? They couldn't even visit the market at all; it just was too dangerous.

But now with McCain's unwavering support for this war-- and other wars-- and his denunciation of the mere mention of an exit strategy as 'surrender', the LA Times takes a look back and notices that McCain used to be more pragmatic and realistic on foreign policy. Let's journey through the progression of John McCain, foreign policy expert-
The presumptive GOP nominee for president, McCain -- who leads a congressional delegation to Europe and the Middle East this week -- has adopted a surprising diversity of views on foreign policy issues during his 25 years in Congress. It is a pattern that brings uncertainty to the path he would take if elected...

...In 1983, McCain voted against a bill to extend Reagan's deployment of U.S. troops there. Reagan wanted more time to strengthen the fragile Lebanese government, but McCain worried that the American force was too small and that U.S. interests did not justify the risk.

In a similar vein, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, McCain initially wanted to limit the response to an air war.

"To start putting American troops into that kind of meat grinder I just don't think is a viable option," McCain said in a televised interview at the time. But he quickly changed his view, voting five months later to join an international effort to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

Three years later, after 18 U.S. servicemen were killed in an ambush in Mogadishu, Somalia, McCain decided that it was time to force a withdrawal of the troops, and he introduced an amendment to cut off funds. He wrote later that he regretted the step as an encroachment on the president's power and "as a retreat in the face of aggression from an inferior foe."

In 1993, McCain opposed the U.S. military intervention in Haiti. Like then- President Clinton, he initially was reluctant to intervene in Bosnia in 1993 and 1994. After the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, McCain supported the administration's plan to send U.S. peacekeepers into the region, with some reservations.

Growing bolder in his advocacy of U.S. deployments, McCain in 1999 favored American use of force -- even ground troops -- to halt the "ethnic cleansing" of ethnic Albanians in the Yugoslavian province of Kosovo.

McCain was moving closer to the muscular interventionism advanced by analysts like William Kristol and Robert Kagan, friends and advisors who are generally considered neoconservatives. McCain began giving greater emphasis to the idea that the United States needed to assert itself abroad to promote its values, not just narrower national interests...

Contrary to the beginning, there seems to be no uncertainty here. The pattern is clear... the longer McCain has been in office, the more willing he has become to go home with any war that comes along and buys him a drink. He used to have standards (as did his travel buddy, Dick Cheney, once upon a time).

Asserting U.S. toughness, and securing U.S. business interests by force (a disturbing concept), is now reason enough for him to drop some bombs and/or occupy any country we want. Don't like it? Then you're a pussy. Sounds like we need to sic Jon Stewart on McCain again.

For the record, here is video of McCain in 1994 being a pussy explaining the need for withdrawal from Haiti-

Yes, I realize that 9/11 changed everything, but mostly by making these people much stupider.

[UPDATE: Need more proof that McCain knows nothing about foreign policy? Read what he said just today about Iran, Iraq, and al-Qaeda. This war is his main sales pitch and he's so ignorant of the basic facts, that Joe Lieberman had to whisper in his ear and correct him while reporters were watching. This is not a man any sane person would trust to be Commander-in-Chief.]

Democratic Primary Race as Proxy War?

The candidacy of Howard Dean in 2004 was in many ways a shot, by the new generation of Democrats, across the bow of the old Democratic party leadership, stuck in the politics of the past, and of the red state-blue state mentality, and too tied to the corrupt DC establishment. This new generation believed in creating a Democratic party that was competitive in all 50 states, that rejected corporate/lobbyist money by relying on an army of small donors, and who generally used a bottom-up, grassroots strategy to campaigning. The failure of the Dean campaign (perhaps not ready for prime-time) was a setback, but regained credibility after the chosen candidate (Sen. Kerry) failed in the general election. Dean was then selected-- despite the protests of many party elders-- as DNC chairman, and he began putting his 50-state strategy into practice. In 2006, that strategy payed off.

Now it's 2008 and our two remaining Democratic presidential candidates represent the two sides of this debate. First, you have Sen. Clinton, representing the old guard (old by 2008 standards meaning 1992) approaching the election in the traditional manner (lots of TV ads, focusing on a few big states). And then there is Sen. Obama, whose quiet building of a grassroots army in every corner of the country over the past year has him on the verge of defeating his party's biggest dynasty. So many of the stories of this campaign-- from Obama's success in caucus states to Hillary's dismissal of 'unimportant' states and stuff like the 3am ad-- can be seen through this prism. In many ways, this campaign is so heated because it is a proxy battle between the old and new generation of Democrats.

Here's another story that really illustrates that point-
[I]nfluential fund-raisers for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton have stepped up their behind-the-scenes pressure on national party leaders to resolve the matter, with some even threatening to withhold their donations to the Democratic National Committee unless it seats the delegates from the two states or holds new primaries there...

...Pushing to seat the Florida delegates, at least one top Clinton fund-raiser, Paul Cejas, a Miami businessman who has given the Democratic National Committee $63,500 since 2003, has demanded Democratic officials return his 2007 contribution of $28,500, which they have agreed to do...

Considering Sen. Obama has shown an ability to raise over $50 million in one month, I think the DNC can afford to lose a few people in a primary attempting to blackmail them to bend to Clinton's demands... particularly when those people will likely return all apologetic come general election season anyway.

And what Sen. Clinton seems to not realize is that these actions will only increase the odds of her downfall, rather than vice versa. Dean has been going out of his way for weeks to attempt a solution to the Florida/Michigan debacle, but the more the Clintons throw grease onto the fire, the more likely he will be to leave the delegates unseated, as all candidates had originally agreed to. Moreover, her actions are now causing more and more party leaders-- from Speaker Pelosi to delegates left and right-- to drop their neutrality to speak out against her actions.

This is nothing new, of course. Right after the 2006, James Carville and other party hacks suggested replacing Howard Dean as chairman... you know, after he had delivered to them both houses of Congress. What a horrible leader! And the guy that they wanted to replace him with was Harold Ford, aka the only Senate candidate that year to lose a seat to the Republicans (and who was last seen endorsing Republican congressional candidates). An illustrative example.

I live not only only in a blue state, but in the bluest city in that state. So it's not that it affects me personally, or at all, which path Democrats choose in this battle. I do, however, believe that a party that chooses to continue seeing itself as the niche party of just a few 'important' states rather than a national party which can sell its ideas to every corner of the nation is writing its own death warrant. I am an unabashed liberal (or progressive, or whatever other name we have) and I want those ideas to succeed. I am supporting the candidate who best represents the type of party I believe can achieve that end.

I respect there's another side to this debate, but being a progressive means the desire to move forward, not look back.

Monday, March 17, 2008

No End In Sight

Unfortunately for the citizens of Florida, it's become clear that their state leaders know how to handle elections about as well as Jim Cramer dispenses market advice. Tonight's it's being reported that "Florida Democrats on Monday abandoned plans to hold a do-over presidential primary with a mail-in vote and threw the delegate dispute into the lap of the national party." And over in Michigan it seems "State lawmakers looking at a Democratic presidential primary redo in Michigan appear to be locked in a standoff." Back to square one.

Let's just split the delegates 50-50, seat them, learn our lessons, and move on.

Odds and Ends

I remembered to wear green today. Good for me. Here's the news...

The Washington Post had a good story on the Democrats' victory on FISA, adding this: "Lawmakers from both parties said the gulf between the administration and House Democratic leaders is now so wide that the issue may not be resolved until a new president takes office next year." Honestly, at this point, that's the ideal outcome.

My new governor-- David Paterson-- was officially sworn in at noon today.

The second 'Winter Soldier' event-- the first was held during the Vietnam war-- was held this past weekend. At the event, soldiers provided accounts of their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Iraq, the Red Cross reports that "millions of people there are still deprived of clean water and medical care."

Meanwhile, in Iran, parliamentary elections yielded higher than expected turnout, with a little over 30 reform candidates winning seats at the expense of the religious conservative faction. Encouraging news.

Shit between China and Tibet continue to remain ugly and depressing.

Moving on to news of the presidential campaign, Sen. Obama has quietly been picking up more delegates, picking up at least 7 more delegates in Iowa as things were finalized there. Following this, Mark Kleiman reworks where the delegate math stands at this point.

Obama is also going after Clinton full-throttle on ethics and transparency. He has released to the media full information and documentation on his tax records, and his relationship with indicted developer Tony Rezko. He is challenging Clinton to embrace similar transparency on tax returns and other issues.

Finally, Sen. Clinton attempts to explain her emphasis on wins in the big states.

Quote of the Day

Amanda Marcotte on the story that Fox News has apparently decided is the most important thing ever-
"Why the fuck do I know Obama’s minister’s name?! No, really. Why? I don’t know John McCain’s minister’s name. (But he does have a 'spiritual guide'.) I don’t know Hillary Clinton’s minister’s name? I don’t know John Edwards’ minister’s name. I don’t know Mitt Romney’s minister’s name, and Romney was in a church that is actually out of the mainstream and 'raised questions'. I don’t know George Bush’s minister’s name, but I know that whoever he is probably thinks I’m going to burn in hell for all eternity for the sin of being a feminist atheist.

Nothing that Rev. Jeremiah Wright said from the pulpit is, in an objective sense, any worse than damning the majority of the population to hell, which is a bare minimum requirement for the religious right assholes in this country that we’re supposed to show such great respect for because it’s their beliefs and they’re religious."

Well this is that culture war shit again. There's some (or several) cultural bludgeons that the right uses to whip people up in frenzies, and distract them from the fact that the shit is hitting the fan at a thousand miles an hour. Almost always there is a religious element to these trumped-up controversies, as with gay marriage or 'activist judges' or stem cells. This time they found something with a religion and race two-fer and they are milking it. I believe the potency of such issues has died down in recent years due to sobering, harsh reality, but I am not a swing voter, so what do I know about how this country thinks?

Conservative pundits are unliterally declaring this means the end of the Obama candidacy (one should look up 'concern troll' on Wikipedia). The gang at Fox News-- lead by ringmaster Sean Hannity-- are making particularly good hay out of this... acting as if they were actually fine with Obama before. The reality is that Fox has long been foaming at the mouth over Obama, with the rest of the liberal media following. And in today's NY Times, Bill Kristol has a column about this, cheerily printing falsehoods as is his wont. Etc.

And the most frustrating thing about all of this is that this story is occurring on the same weekend that that the Federal Reserve bought out Bear Sterns with Monopoly money, using JP Morgan Chase as a proxy, while even conservative economists admit the fallout will only grow. The anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is this week. And a million other little stories that can only be found on page B12, next to the lingerie ads. And right on time, here's a perfectly good circus to distract us. I checked the National Review blog at noon... of the 17 posts so far today, 7 were on the Wright story, and none taking a serious look at the big story of the day. There was one post on it last night, of which more later.

There are a lot of people working overtime to take what should be a substantive presidential election, and turning it into another zoo. The media should stop enabling them (ratings, wooo!) and certainly the presidential candidates themselves shouldn't either. Let's all just reject and denounce everyone we've ever met or befriended, and move on already.

[UPDATE: One final thing... some humor. The Red State Update guys throw in their ¢2.]

"If that were the case, then Robin Gibbins would be the heavyweight champion of the world."

Lately, people have been accusing 'Saturday Night Live' of being overtly sympathetic to Sen. Clinton and her campaign woes. The opening skit of their first post-strike show made light of Sen. Obama, implying that the media is siding with him in the race against the Clintons. Hillary even referenced the skit in one of the last debates, before or after she complained that the moderators were asking her too many questions, I can't remember. Tina Fey exclaimed on Weekend Update that "Bitch is the new black!", a rallying cry for Hillary boosters across the nation. Then, SNL had Sen. Clinton on herself to offer an editorial on another debate skit. So it was inevitable that a response was warranted.

It came from Tracy Morgan, another cast member of Fey's hilarious and underrated '30 Rock'.

Pres Bush: Pay No Attention To The Economy Behind The Curtain

AP: 'Avoid overcorrecting economy, Bush warns'

So says the President who not only refuses to discuss the underlying problems behind all this, but also whose Federal Reserve has been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the economy for months, then acting shocked when each new tweak in interest rates or lending rates doesn't magically fix the mess they've made through years of bad policy. But don't worry, another few bailouts of working families failing investments banks, plus those forthcoming stimulus checks, and maybe our economy will be able to climb ahead of the European Union again.

The invisible hand of the free market is smacking us all around like a little bitch.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Weekend Video Theatre: Why We Fight

This week, the war in Iraq will enter its sixth year with-- say it with me-- no end in sight.

With that in mind, I wanted to post the complete video for the 2005 documentary, 'Why We Fight'. It starts off with President Eisenhower's warning in his farewell address that the post-WWII military buildup in the U.S. was beginning to have grave consequences for our democracy, and then traces U.S. foreign policy from that area to the war in Iraq today with that narrative in mind. The following is the first part-

The rest of the film here: Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11.

I Choose You, Barackachu!

I can't remember where I found this, but it's just too funny not to post...