Archive for January, 2007

Schumer on TPMCafe
January 31, 2007

When I heard that Senator Schumer, the head of the DSCC, was going to be doing a live chat on TPMCafe, I was really hoping that somebody would ask him about campaign finance reform, since that would heavily impact his job. Unfortunately, as a DLC centrist Democrat, I’m afraid that he’s too invested in the Democratic Party’s corporate interests to do anything but hinder real campaign finance reform. I was eager to be proven wrong.

Then I read this question:

One of the most effective things the Democrats could do to ensure success in ’08 (thinking on a purely strategic level, although the benefit to the country as a whole would far outweigh the partisan issues) would be to finally pass campaign reform laws with real meat in them – not window dressing and not partial measures, but something that really gets at the root of the problem. Total public financing might be one idea, if such a thing is really possible. Democrats running for office would be able to point to their courage in fighting for campaign reform and a grateful country would be sure to respond with votes at election time. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this.

Tellingly, Schumer didn’t respond to this question. Oh well.


January 30, 2007

Tom Schaller thinks that Cheney is the next administration official to be sacrificed. That would be great – Cheney’s influence on American policy has arguably been more corrosive than that of any other VP in American history, and the sooner we remove him from office, the better. Things aren’t looking too great for him in the Valerie Plame trial, either.

Still, I’m skeptical. Cheney’s done so much and evaded so much responsibility that I guess the only thing that will convince me he’s vulnerable is actually watching him clean out his desk.

Still, that’s what I said about Rumsfeld.

Things I learned this weekend:
January 28, 2007

- 2 Liters of Diet Coke, when consumed with a pack of Mentos, don’t actually cause you to explode or become incredibly ill, they just cause a lot of discomfort (I didn’t learn this firsthand, but I was in the room at the time).

- Apparently nobody told either Kevin Smith or Susannah Grant that romantic comedies have absolutely no right to be as good as Catch and Release is.

- On a somewhat related note, Boulder Colorado is a beautiful place to visit but I think if I lived there I would eventually get tired of the constant willowy acoustic alt-rock soundtrack in the background. A man can only take so much Ben Gibbard.

- The Departed is even better on the second viewing, especially if it’s on a free copy of a DVD that hasn’t come out yet.

- Talking to Aline makes me a better writer.

- Apparently I would make a good pro-wrestling commentator.

- My knowledge of the Harry Potter series’ huge cast of characters is extremely limited, and I’m perfectly happy with that.

- Croissants = cuckoldry.

- The term cuckolding comes from the Old French word for the cuckoo bird.

- “Cuckold” is really a funny word when you think about it.

Alright, I give up
January 25, 2007

Like it or not, the 2008 election is already happening now, and ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away, so I’m going to have to start blogging fairly regularly on that.

On that note, a couple interesting things happened today in the race. One of them was Obama’s call for universal health care, which I certainly hope he’s serious about, although I’m skeptical.

The other thing was that some interesting articles popped up today on Hillary Clinton. One, from Matt Taibbi, pretty much hits the nail on the head. The whole thing is worth reading, but the one part at the end pretty much exactly echoed my sentiments regarding Clinton:

What’s so tragic about Hillary’s political evolution is that her decision to morph into a caricature of a Washington stuffed suit seems so clearly a conscious decision on her part, a way of overcompensating for the abuse she took when she first arrived on the Hill over a decade ago to push her health care plan. Whether you love her or hate her, Hillary is a compelling story and an iconic figure in the history of modern feminism. Hers was a journey marked by intense public humiliation and the most savage kind of abuse. En route to her current status as a favorite for the Democratic nomination she has had to navigate, publicly, all the most dangerous minefields that exist for the modern professional woman — the dilemma of whether or not to put her husband’s career over her own, the burden of having to work overtime to be taken seriously in a male-dominated professional environment, the specter of abuse and discrimination by closed-minded people who see strong women as a threat to older traditional values, being rewarded for one’s success by sexual humiliation at the hands of a husband more attracted to youth and feminine vulnerability than loyalty, strength, and achievement, and so on.

Had Hillary embraced head-on her undeniable role as an unwitting martyr/archetype for the modern professional woman, had she opened up her campaign by actually showing us what her private thoughts have been throughout all of these trying times, and what she might think the meaning of her journey has been or could be, she would have instantly established herself as an extraordinarily interesting and compelling story, at the very least. Instead, Hillary is clearly so spooked by the experience of not being taken seriously by the Beltway establishment that she’s gone overboard in the direction of being a typical Inside-Baseball, full-of-shit Washington hack, spraying cardboard cliches like machine-gun fire. She’s Joe Biden without the plugs.

Clinton’s trying to turn her campaign into an indestructible juggernaut as early in the campaign as possible, turning herself into some kind DLC über-insider leviathan. I hope it doesn’t work, but it could. Meanwhile, the one person who I feel genuinely enthusiastic for in this race has yet to enter it. But again according to Rolling Stone, he will.

Look at what Gore has been up to lately, and it’s hard to escape the impression that, on some level, he is already running for president.

Exactly.

State of the Union
January 25, 2007

Fairly boring, actually. Bush can threaten to privatize Social Security or make as many dumb health care suggestions as he wants, but there’s no way he can get any of that past Congress now and he knows it. So there was really nothing resembling news in the SOTU.

What was a real revelation was Jim Webb’s rebuttal. I was pretty sure it was going to be good, but I had no idea how good. His speech was everything it needed to be – passionate, informative, gutsy and mature. Hell, he seemed more presidential than Bush did, which explains why after less than a month in Congress people are already talking about a VP candidacy. It’s a tempting idea, but I have to say I agree with Ezra Klein on that.

Watch the whole speech. It’s worth it:


January 23, 2007

Today was kind of a weird day for the Cheney clan. Pater familias Dick Cheney is getting hammered in the Libby trial, and there’s even discussion, yet again of Cheney’s possible resignation. I don’t put much stock in that – Cheney’s far too entrenched in the White House, basically dominating the foreign policy wing of the executive branch. Then again, I didn’t expect Rumsfeld to resign either.

Meanwhile, Cheney’s daughter writes an op-ed for the Washington Post reminding everyone that her sole qualification for being principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs is, well, being Cheney’s daughter. Josh Marshall summed it up best:

Is it just me or does this column read like it was written by someone in junior high?

The article is chock-full of disingenous and outright unethical claims that Democrats don’t want to win the war. Thank God, Cheney writes, we’ve got true heroes in the Democratic Party like Joe Lieberman to stand up for America. Oy.

The rest of the op-ed is so unbelievably insipid that I’m going to have to go after it in chunks.

· We are at war. America faces an existential threat. This is not, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi has claimed, a “situation to be solved.” It would be nice if we could wake up tomorrow and say, as Sen. Barack Obama suggested at a Jan. 11 hearing, “Enough is enough.” Wishing doesn’t make it so. We will have to fight these terrorists to the death somewhere, sometime. We can’t negotiate with them or “solve” their jihad. If we quit in Iraq now, we must get ready for a harder, longer, more deadly struggle later.

Never mind wondering what an “existential threat” is (perhaps something that Liz learned from the President in their Camus book club?). This point still doesn’t make any sense, French literature aside. How exactly does fighting insurgents in Iraq make us safer over here? Are all these insurgents really just exactly the same guys who are in terrorist cells around the world? The answers, of course, are “it doesn’t” and “no.”

· Quitting helps the terrorists. Few politicians want to be known as spokesmen for retreat. Instead we hear such words as “redeployment,” “drawdown” or “troop cap.” Let’s be clear: If we restrict the ability of our troops to fight and win this war, we help the terrorists. Don’t take my word for it. Read the plans of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Ayman Zawahiri to drive America from Iraq, establish a base for al-Qaeda and spread jihad across the Middle East. The terrorists are counting on us to lose our will and retreat under pressure. We’re in danger of proving them right.

On the other hand, continuing to remain in Iraq will continue to boost al-Qaeda’s recruitment numbers as they use our occupation of the country as part of their anti-US propaganda. It always severely weakens our military and limits our ability to engage terrorism where it poses a legitimate threat to us. Never mind that by fighting Sunni insurgents in Iraq, we’re indirectly providing support to Iran, which is supporting the radical Shiite element in Iraq. And again, let’s not try to think about the fact that as part of her job description while principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, Cheney was supposed to be an expert on this stuff.

· Beware the polls. In November the American people expressed serious concerns about Iraq (and about Republican corruption and scandals). They did not say that they want us to lose this war. They did not say that they want us to allow Iraq to become a base for al-Qaeda to conduct global terrorist operations. They did not say that they would rather we fight the terrorists here at home. Until you see a poll that asks those questions, don’t use election results as an excuse to retreat.

What the hell? That is the strangest interpretation of polling data I have ever heard. Yes, a poll that asks “Do you want the US to lose in Iraq,” “Do you support al-Qaeda,” “Do you hate America and other nice things,” etc., would probably get overwhelmingly negative responses. But what mentally fit adult could possibly ever take a poll with questions that loaded seriously?

· Retreat from Iraq hurts us in the broader war. We are fighting the war on terrorism with allies across the globe, leaders such as Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. Brave activists are also standing with us, fighting for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the empowerment of women. They risk their lives every day to defeat the forces of terrorism. They can’t win without us, and many of them won’t continue to fight if they believe we’re abandoning them. Politicians urging America to quit in Iraq should explain how we win the war on terrorism once we’ve scared all of our allies away.

What about Iran? There is no doubt that an American retreat from Iraq will embolden Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, making it even less likely that the Iranian president will bend to the will of the international community and halt his nuclear weapons program.

A member of Lebanon’s parliament recently told me that Lebanese Sunnis, Shiites and Christians are lining up with Iran and Syria to fight against Sunnis, Shiites and Christians who want to stand with America. When I asked him why people were lining up with Iran and Syria, he said, “Because they know Iran and Syria aren’t going anyplace. We’re not so sure about America.”

How do our allies feel about the war in Iraq? Well, Musharraf thinks that it’s dangerously stupid, to say the least. As for Afghanistan, we were much less insistent about “finishing the job” there than in Iraq, and the shift of focus from stabilizing Afghanistan to invading Iraq goes a long way towards explaining Afghanistan’s subsequent descent into chaos and the resurgence of the Taliban. So my guess is that Karzai doesn’t have a very high opinion of the war.

And make no mistake about Iran: it is in Ahmadinejad’s best interests for us to remain in Iraq. I feel like we’ve been through this before, so here’s a relevant Matt Taibbi column.

· Our soldiers will win if we let them. Read their blogs. Talk to them. They know that free people must fight to defend their freedom. No force on Earth — especially not an army of terrorists and insurgents — can defeat our soldiers militarily. American troops will win if we show even one-tenth the courage here at home that they show every day on the battlefield. And by the way, you cannot wish failure on our soldiers’ mission and claim, at the same time, to be supporting the troops. It just doesn’t compute.

See Green Lantern foreign policy.

This op-ed was absolutely surreal, bizarre collection of some of the greatest hits of the Bush propaganda machine, untethered together by the slightest shred of logic and reason. That isn’t even the strange part, though. The weirdest part is just the general sense that it wasn’t actually written by an adult.


January 23, 2007

Tonight’s State of the Union is going to be an interesting one. Bush’s popularity is at its lowest point, and the Congress he will be addressing is decidedly not a friendly one. His plan for escalation in Iraq has been overwhelmingly rejected by the public, and the rumors that Bush is planning a military confrontation with Iran are only dragging him down even lower.

Personally, I’m really excited about Jim Webb doing the Democratic response. I didn’t follow the Webb race too closely (for six months the CT Senate race basically dominated all of my news consumption) but I’ve heard a lot of good things and I’m looking forward to seeing him in action.

Back
January 22, 2007

Senior trip was awesome, a great way to recharge for the new semester. I feel completely refreshed after that. Might have pictures up eventually, if the other guys in my room get around to emailing them to me.

While I was away, I apparently missed Hillary Clinton, Sam Brownback and Bill Richardson all announcing, but none of that is really news – all of those people were going to announce eventually.

The big news, I think, is that the administration’s retreat over wiretapping is really just a farce. While they may have made a small concession to our civil liberties, they really have no interest in obeying the law – it’s really just a change of position to avoid congressional hearings. Hopefully Silvestre Reyes will decide to have some hearings regardless.

Also, Rage Against the Machine is getting back together, at least for one more concert. In between this and Dispatch’s final concert, this is a damn good year for band reunions. What would be truly amazing is if Rage started recording another studio album, but unfortunately that seems unlikely while 75% of them are still in the inexplicably terrible (I blame Chris Cornell) band Audioslave.

Attorney General Gonzalez: All animals are created equal
January 18, 2007

but some animals are more equal than others.

How the hell did this guy graduate from Harvard Law School?

No posting from Friday to Sunday. I’m going to be away.


January 17, 2007

Well that was abrupt. Apparently the White House decided that requiring FISA warrants under law doesn’t endager national security after all. Obviously, national security was never really that much of a concern anyway – FISA is very much built to not get in the way of any kind of genuine counter-terrorist operation. My suspicion has always been that the White House simply didn’t want a judge reviewing the wiretapping because many of the people they were spying on were not, in fact, suspected terrorists but instead political enemies.

So this isn’t really an issue of American national security at all. It’s a sign of weakness from the Bush administration – the warrantless wiretapping program was clearly illegal, and now that there’s a Democratic Congress, the White House fears hearings over the program. There’s been a lot of talk about a showdown of that nature going down – the question was always whether or not the administration would even acknowledge congressional authority, or instead merrily continue breaking the law.

That the administration abruptly backed down to avoid hearings confirms that they actually do fear congressional authority. This is promising – it means that Congress might actually be able to force them to cease their various other illegal activities, and maybe even shut down the escalation in time.

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