Archive for December, 2007

A Very Dukestir Christmas
December 25, 2007

Here’s a holiday treat from Josh:

We’ll see who the winners actually are on December 31st, but I’m with Josh on Bob Allen and Alberto Gonzalez – those guys worked really hard to earn it. Fingers crossed, people.

Dear Obama supporters of the blogosphere,
December 25, 2007

(And Andrew Sullivan in particular)

In the spirit of the season, everyone needs to chill the hell out. As Matthew Yglesias points out, people have a tendency to overstate their case when it comes to supporting or knocking down candidates during the primary season. Everyone’s guilty of it, including me. But for whatever reason, that seems to be particularly true of the Obama supporters of the Internet. So here are some things to keep in mind:

1. I don’t like Hillary Clinton either. That doesn’t mean that every single criticism of her, no matter how off-the-wall, illogical, or just plain silly (like the assertion that another Clinton presidency would be the continuation of a Bush-Clinton monarchical dynasty) has merit.

2. Regardless of the merit of Paul Krugman’s attacks on Obama’s rhetoric, Krugman is not Karl Rove. He does not have some kind of wild-eyed personal vendetta against Obama. He is not camped in the bushes outside of Obama’s campaign headquarters with a screwdriver and a sock full of quarters. He has serious concerns about Obama’s policy and rhetoric which should be treated as such, not as personal attacks on the level of salacious rumors about Obama’s mother.

3. And while we’re on the subject of his critics, not everyone who criticizes Obama is a secret enemy of the campaign or whatever. Re: Ezra Klein.

4. Barack Obama has screwed up. He has hedged, and he has pandered. Candidates do that from time to time, even the best ones. His campaign isn’t a small part of some huge movement or a political realignment – it’s a relatively conventional campaign being run by a guy with an unconventional personal biography. It’s not “people-powered politics,” like the Dean campaign. It’s a campaign all about electing Obama. That’s what most campaigns are.

5. Lastly: Take a deep breath. Seriously.

Happy holidays, everyone. It’s weird to think that Huckabee and I share a Christmas tradition, but I guess that’s some kind of metaphor for something. Or something.

McCain and Edwards: Super-secret frontrunners?
December 24, 2007

That are rumors swirling that McCain and Edwards might be doing stronger in their primaries than current polling indicates. On the GOP side, Greg reports that McCain is trending upwards and could possibly get a strong second-place finish in New Hampshire. That would be potentially embarrassing for Romney, considering, as one McCain staffer points out: “no Massachusetts candidate has ever won in New Hampshire by less than eight points.”

My initial reaction to all of this was to write off the McCain surge (extra points for irony in the name) as wishful thinking on the part of a lot of beltway Republicans who clung to the old image of McCain as some sort of maverick freedom fighter. But with Giuliani slipping fast in the early states and no plausible alternatives, I could see McCain becoming the candidate of choice for the GOP hawks. Sure McCain doesn’t seem to share Giuliani’s distaste for checks and balances and civil liberties, but if video evidence is correct he’s still got the “national security candidate’s” full-on war-boner for Iran.

The fact that the media loves McCain would give him a huge boost too, particularly since right-wing punditry is flailing for somebody who can be the anti-Huckabee. Right now they’ve more or less settled on Romney, but I’m willing to bet that if McCain started to look like a viable choice again they would dump him.

Edwards looks like a little bit less of a long shot, considering how tight polling is in Iowa right now. Obviously the race doesn’t begin and end in Iowa, but if Edwards finished first there and Obama second, we’re looking at a three-way race. If Edwards finishes first and Clinton second, then it’s a two-way race. I predicted a first-place finish for Obama in Iowa, but Chris Bowers seems to think that Edwards has a couple percentage points in his pocket that aren’t represented in polling. We’ll see about that.

It might not be relevant, though. Bowers is still reporting that Edwards will finish in second to Obama, which I think would be more of a reflection of Clinton’s current weakness than Edwards’ strength. If this is what the lineup looks like after Iowa, I don’t see a two-way race or a three-way race – I see a month or so of Obama playing touch football in front of a phalanx of cameras and pausing every once in a while to flash a youthful and vigorous grin and tell the American people about the importance of hope and optimism.

So as of right now? Both of these secret-surge theories have merit, but I don’t think they’re going to change the ultimate outcome. My prediction is still for a Romney v. Obama general election.

RIP Beard
December 23, 2007

Due to complications in a routine trimming procedure, my beard was officially pronounced dead early this morning. I’m sad. Looks like it’s back to the rugged stubble for a little while.

On the plus side, I’m going to try to get the music page on this site up and running soon. So look for that.

Huckabee almost falls off the torture crazy train, promptly scrambles back on
December 21, 2007

Mike Huckabee on torture, late November:

For the most part, Huckabee told reporters after speaking in Cedar Rapids on Thursday morning, U.S. policy ought to be to “never support anything done to others that we would not want done to our own soldiers.”

Huckabee would leave decisions about the appropriateness of the technique “because of a unique situation” to commanders in the field.

Mike Huckabee on torture and Guantanamo, early December:

After the meeting, Huckabee joined Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in declaring his opposition to the interrogation procedure known as “waterboarding,” and said he would support closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a contrast with the other leading Republicans.

Mike Huckabee on torture and Guantanamo, late December:

Asked about Guantanamo, Mike Huckabee said he had visited the facility and said it was “disappointing” that military personnel were eating meals that averaged $1.60 while the detainees were eating Halal meals that cost over $4 each.

“The inmates there were getting a whole lot better treatment than my prisoners in Arkansas. In fact, we left saying, ‘I hope our guys don’t see this. They’ll all want to be transferred to Guantanamo. If anything, it’s too nice.”

It looks like Huckabee decided that his earlier idea of picking a single issue to not be completely insane on was a bad move. No, he has to be crazy across the board.

The most sophisticated electoral math known to man
December 21, 2007

Yesterday’s TPMtv electoral roundup was definitely a keeper. Take a look:

So that makes Romney the eventual nominee, I suspect, since the conservative media’s going to keep piling on Huckabee until he really starts to feel the pressure. Expectations for Huckabee are high right now, so Romney might not even have to get first in Iowa anymore – but if does, then he’s going to be called the resurgent candidate and that boost is going to carry him through New Hampshire and the later states.The other possibility is that Huckabee actually wins the nomination, and I think that’s a possibility that’s often too easily discounted. So far the anti-Huckabee sentiments among GOP pundits hasn’t hurt his momentum so much, and while I suspect it will eventually, it might not be enough to stop the Huckabee steam engine. He could win, and in fact right now I think he has a better chance of winning the nomination than Giuliani. But I’m still going to have to hand it to Romney, with Huckabee as a close second.

On the Democratic side, I think Josh is underestimating the power of the anti-Clinton media firestorm. Sure her “inevitability” was always largely a media creation, as is her current campaign doldrums, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not real. Right now Iowa’s anyone’s game – hell, even Edwards could take it – but I think ultimately both Iowa and New Hampshire are going to go to Obama. What’s going to happen then? I don’t think we’re going to see a line of TV personalities waiting to get on the air and, in perfectly even tones, say, “Well, in all fairness, Clinton’s inevitability was always overrated and she’s still looking pretty strong, so we could have a real fight on our hands still.” No, the reaction’s going to be more along the lines of, “HOLY CRAP, THE ONCE INEVITABLE CANDIDATE IS TAKING A BEATING COULD THIS BE THE BEGINNING OF THE END?!!”

Cue hours and hours of news footage about the Clinton campaign’s total implosion and the inescapable tide of Obamalocity or whatever stupid word they’re going to come up with for it.

Clinton might bounce back from it, and if Edwards takes Iowa we might see a whole different game. But right now my prediction for the general election battle is Obama versus Romney. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how that would turn out.

My totally awesome Moleskine notebook
December 20, 2007

Last week, after I traded in some of my textbooks from this semester at the NYU bookstore for cash (including a few I never even opened that I was still told to buy at absurdly high prices, although that’s a common complaint among college students that nobody really wants to read), I spent a little bit of the resulting money on a Moleskine notebook. I do so for a few reasons:

  • Practicality. That’s the big one, or at least the one I used to rationalize the purchase. I carry around a notepad with me everywhere but the cheap ones I used to use aren’t terribly sturdy and would usually come apart in my pocket. It’s a waste of pages when they just rip right off the spirals and end up clumped up in your laundry.
  • They look cool and the people who use them look cool. As much as I’d like to act like this was entirely a rational, practical purchase, Moleskin notebooks do look cool. If you walk around scribbling plot points, band names, reading lists, quick sketches and random couplets in a cheap little spiral bound notebook you might seem a little weird. The Moleskine makes it classy though, not to mention all sensitive and artistic. In the interest of full disclosure, that has to get put out there.
  • It will make me a better writer. Obviously, this last one is patently untrue. But that weird little superstitious part of me keeps making a big deal out of the fact that, hey, Hemingway had one of these things. So that must have been his secret. Either that or his badass facial hair.

Final verdict after a few days? Well, it does look cool. And it’s in pretty much the same condition as when I bought it. Sure that was only a few days ago, but my old spiral-bounds would generally start to decay in a matter of hours. So mission accomplished on both of those points.

As for being a better writer? A funny thing started to happen when I bought the notebook. I’ve been feeling more and more pressure to use it, seeing as I just spent around $10 on it. And I keep worrying about whether or not what I’m writing down is important enough or good enough to go in a $10 Moleskine notebook, meaning that I have to go back and refine the thought before I put it down (this post, for example, is a thought that would not make the cut in the notebook). So maybe I’m not becoming a better writer, but the things that I’m putting down in the notebook are better than they were before, which makes me feel better about my writing.

A couple of days ago I accidentally left it at a friend’s dorm. No harm, no foul, I picked it up the next evening. But in the intermittent time, I actually felt its absence in a way I wouldn’t if one of my old notebooks went missing. I had actual important thoughts written down in it and ideas occurred to me throughout the day that I was itching to write down in the notebook instead of just mentally filing away because I was too lazy to write it down.

That sort of thing didn’t used to happen, but it seems like an unambiguously positive development to me. When I fill up this Moleskine notebook, I’m going to save it in a drawer and go out and buy a new one.

“The white man is the Jew of liberal fascism.”
December 20, 2007

Nobody’s ever really properly demonstrated to me the importance of Jonah Goldberg’s opinion to the wider electorate, so I guess unless you’re either a politics nerd like me and most of the people on my blogroll or a pretentious conservative self-styled pseudo-intellectual (which is really just one of the more detestable subgroups of your run-of-the-mill politics nerd), there’s really no reason for you to care who this guy is. And that’s why I haven’t made much mention of him here.

Except that his forthcoming book, the unironically titled Liberal Fascism, is worth mention just for sheer entertainment value alone. If what we’ve seen from quotes and scans of advance copies floating around the blogosphere (look at the example in the title) are any indication, then writing this book and then allowing it to be published is somewhere on the spectrum of humiliation in between pissing your pants while receiving your high school diploma and being featured in an episode of To Catch a Predator.

There’s an important lesson to be learned from all of this: the modern conservative movement is so impoverished of genuine intellect that one of their most prominent intellectual heavyweights is the guy who accused liberals of using fascism like a cudgel without even understanding what it means and then went on to write an entire book about how liberals are fascists because Hitler was a vegetarian who liked exercise too.

Ezra Klein likes to poke fun at Goldberg’s oblivious insistence that his book is “a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care,” but to be fair, Goldberg has a point. His book probably does represent the definitive laying out of that argument, but considering how obviously ridiculous and stupid said argument is, that’s an extremely low bar to clear.

From the I-should-have-thought-of-that-sooner department
December 19, 2007

Following Matt’s lead, I’m going to start cross-posting at Campus Progress, DailyKos and, of course, my old stomping grounds over winter break when I have a little more time for the copying and the pasting and whatnot. I’m not going to put every post up at those sites – people who want the full experience are going to have to click through to hear – but you’ll see some of my favorites up around there.

From the department of unintentionally insightful observations
December 18, 2007

Via Chris Bowers:

NOVOTNY: Well, it is unusual, as you know, for a Democrat or an independent Democrat, as you call yourself, to endorse a Republican. Did you consider any of your Democratic colleagues?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I did. I mean, to have full disclosure, not one of the Democrats asked for my support, which may be a story in itself. John McCain and I are friends. He did ask for my support.

Lieberman’s right – this is a story, for the reason that Bowers suggests. It’s another encouraging sign of Lieberman’s slide into irrelevance and his desperate scramble on the way down.

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