40 Years (a Haiku)
It is not so much,
And Time stands alone for a moment.
It is not so much,
And Time stands alone for a moment.
Toby Harnden weighs in with his thoughts on the Palin effect. All interesting, all very astute IMO.
Of particular interest is Toby’s argument that McCain commands enough public respect for his experience and expertise, that he has no concerns about being eclipsed by Sarah. Because of that, he’s perfectly comfortable to ride in her publicity tailwind, legitimately without a fear that voters could fall into doubt about who is in command.
This is of course correct and it’s enormously important as a contrast between the candidates. That’s because this intrinsic stature gap is precisely what Barack Obama didn’t have (or suspected he didn’t have), when he declined consideration of Hillary Clinton for his own vice presidential slot. Something that’s regarded today even by Joe Biden as a considerable mistake.
It’s almost as if the Dems can’t help but to resort to misogynistic antagonism in dealing with Gov. Sarah Palin. This comes courtesy of Alan Colmes, citing Rogers Cadenhead who questions Palin’s maternal abilities:
One bit of weirdness associated with Palin concerns the birth of her youngest child. As the Alaskan media reported, Palin was attending an energy conference in Texas on April 18 when her water broke four weeks before her due date. After this happened, Palin didn’t head to a hospital or even leave the conference, even though the premature rupture of fetal membrances is normally a cause for an immediate examination by an obstetrician, who will observe the fetus on a monitor to guard against infection and other life-threatening complications. Two other reasons for heightened concern were Palin’s age, 43, and the fact that prenatal testing indicated the child had Down syndrome.
Palin stayed at the conference and delivered a 30-minute speech, then boarded a 12-hour Alaska Airlines flight from Dallas to Anchorage, neglecting to tell the airline her water had broken — most airlines won’t fly a woman in labor. The motivation for all of this appears to be the Palins’ desire that the child be born in Alaska. Her husband Todd told the Anchorage Daily News, “You can’t have a fish picker from Texas.”
When she arrived home, Palin was hospitalized immediately and the baby was born prematurely after labor was induced in the middle of the night.
Aside from baby Trig suffering from Down Syndrome, the child was quite healthy at delivery and has been doing fine ever since. It is true that when amino leaks occur, the general advice of doctors is to get to the hospital immediately, but that is not always the case. In fact, when delivery proceeds within 24 hours of an amino leak (a.k.a. water breaking), the risks of any complications to the baby are quite low. Indeed, some women experience minor leakages, as Palin did, well before they are due without any complications whatsoever.
In Palin’s case, she delivered Trig well within the 24 hour window recognized as “safe,” and actually had to be induced because she wasn’t in labor. Moreover, she was in touch with her physician throughout the event, and he did not advise her to act otherwise.
As an aside, the accusation that Trig was born prematurely does not seem to hold water (no pun intended … well, maybe a little) since Palin was past her 36th week, and the definition of “premature birth” is a baby born prior to the 37th week of gestation.
In any case, these are just facts that undermine the credibility of anyone asserting such ridiculous accusations. That Obama supporters are seriously challenging Palin’s credibility and competence as a mother is just stunning on a political level. Not just in the brashness, but also in the sheer stupidity of leveling such charges. I mean, how do idiots like Colmes and Cadenhead think women are going to react to their second-guessing of Palin’s birthing decisions?
I can hear my wife’s retort now: “You try carrying a bowling ball in your belly for 40 weeks, and then shooting it out your pee-hole with the entire hospital staff staring at your nether region. And that’s not even mentioning having to pee every 20 minutes, feeling like a fat cow, persistent fatigue, and constantly worrying about how your caring for unborn child. Plus you have to do your job just as competently and efficiently as you always did before you were pregnant (including dealing with any previously born children), only to be confronted with some a$$wipe having the nerve to tell you ‘You’re doing it wrong’.”
I imagine that a lot of women would feel the same way.
I’ve mentioned before that I lived (in the fullest sense of the word) in Charlottesville, VA for many years in the 90’s. During that time I got to know a great many talented musicians including Dave Matthews. We weren’t buddies or anything but, like many small towns, our paths crossed enough to know who each other was at the time. Dave likely wouldn’t remember me nowadays, but I surely enjoyed his concerts at Trax back then, and I’m always happy to reprise bits of happy moments.
While searching for something entirely different, I came across this is a rendition of “Warehouse” delivered near UVA’s campus at (I believe) a former used record store on Main Street. I thought you all might enjoy it:
In less happy news, the saxophonist for The Dave Matthews Band has, tragically, died:
Dave Matthews Band saxophone player LeRoi Moore, one of the group’s founding members and a key part of its eclectic jazz-infused sound, died Tuesday from sudden complications stemming from injuries he sustained in an all-terrain vehicle accident in June. He was 46.
Moore, who liked to wear his trademark dark sunglasses at the bands’ live concerts, had classical training but said jazz was his main musical influence, according to a biography on the band’s Web site.
“But at this stage I don’t really consider myself a jazz musician,” Moore said in the biography. Playing with the Dave Matthews Band was “almost better than a jazz gig,” he said. “I have plenty of space to improvise, to try new ideas.”
Lead singer Dave Matthews credited Moore with arranging many of his songs, which combine Cajun fiddle-playing, African-influenced rhythms and Matthews’ playful but haunting voice.
The band formed in 1991 in Charlottesville, Va., when Matthews was working as a bartender. He gave a demo tape of his songs to Moore, who liked what he heard and recruited his friend and fellow jazzman Carter Beauford to play drums, and other musicians.
Because the blogosphere and all its scions have much more prominence, and arguably more influence, with respect to this year’s election, I’ve been lazily paying more attention to how new media is tackling the subject at hand. I think the following presentation is a prime example of what new media can offer, and foreshadows the power of the medium to come:
Disregarding the substance of the video for now, I have to say that the exchange between these three women is extraordinary. Not only is their banter free-flowing and natural, it’s exactly the sort of conversation that I would expect of reasonably well informed patrons of a local bar. Again, it’s not the substance of the arguments presented, but the way in which they’re presented.
Personally, I tend to think of the interchange of ideas on any blog (particularly in the comments section) as a virtual reality version of barroom conversation. With my buddies, it’s referred to as “defending the ridge” where “the ridge” is that omnipresent elbow on the bar where three, four or even more people can hang on to this strategically important territory by maintaining an engaging, yet suitably sociable conversation. Being in the DC area, it’s inevitable that such discourse will turn to politics. So, the more natural and inviting the banter is, the easier it is to “defend the ridge.”
One can always just park themselves at the elbow, but sooner or later breaches in the defense appear only to be exploited, typically by buxom, yet willowy, young women brandishing credit cards of dubious provenance (i.e. suspect boyfriends) and flirtatious camaraderie with the bartenders. Such is life.
The point is, when the conversation is heady yet light-hearted enough, the ridge is better defended and the night progresses in a much more enjoyable fashion than otherwise.
The clip above reminds me exactly of those exchanges. The three women are obviously comfortable with one another, and the camera, which lends them a professional air. But they speak with a clarity that’s natural to “the ridge” in any bar, where opinions fly fast and loose, and a premium is placed on brevity and wit.
If more political coverage was of the same caliber, I think the electorate would be more engaged. As it stands now, the MSM and its affiliate cable progeny, basically offer the same PhD and old-hat, insider baseball as the be-all-end-all of political analysis. Don’t get me wrong. I love hearing from the likes of Larry Sabato, Michael Barone and Frank Luntz, and I think they have a lot to add to the conversation. But let’s be honest. The people who read QandO and other political blogs are already in the realm of “political junky.” You all know exactly who each of these people are. The vast majority of the electorate doesn’t, nor do they much care. But I’d bet they’d watch the video clip above.
The fact is anybody can be drawn into a political conversation when it’s conducted on terms that the average person can relate to. While I may find Larry Sabato’s election prognostications fascinating, sometimes I don’t want to ruminate on the exact scientific designation of the tree’s sap, nor upon what the American Indians used to do with it. Sometimes, all I want to talk about is the health and wealth of the forest. The clip above offers that kind of analysis. My personal opinion is that more of the same would be a boon to the voting populace. And down that road is a better informed electorate.
So hats off to you, Ana Marie Cox, Glynnis MacNicol, and Rachel Sklar. Well done and I look forward to more.
How much of the Georgia/South Ossetia/Russian conflict can be laid at the hands of a corrupt cabal of former soviet ministers bent on lining their own pockets? Perhaps a great deal.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has handed his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, a victory over the “siloviki” in Russia. And if Medvedev is able to take advantage of the fruits of this victory, the consequences will be significant not so much for Tbilisi as for Moscow.
So, why is this a victory over the siloviki — those in the Russian ruling elite with close ties to the state security organs? Because there is no way the regime in South Ossetia can be in any sense called “separatist.” Who there is a separatist? The head of the local KGB, Anatoly Baranov, used to head the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the Russian Republic of Mordovia. The head of the South Ossetian Interior Ministry, Mikhail Mindzayev, served in the Interior Ministry of Russia’s North Ossetia. The South Ossetian “defense minister,” Vasily Lunev, used to be military commissar in Perm Oblast, and the secretary of South Ossetia’s Security Council, Anatoly Barankevich, is a former deputy military commissar of Stavropol Krai. So who exactly is a separatist in this government? South Ossetian “prime minister” Yury Morozov?
However, alas, I also cannot say this regime is “pro-Russian.” On the contrary, all the recent actions of Eduard Kokoity, the leader of the breakaway South Ossetian government, have run counter to the interests of Russia in the Caucasus — beginning with his embarrassing Russia in the eyes of the international community and ending with his ratcheting up the tensions in the very region where Russia might begin to come undone. South Ossetia is not a territory, not a country, not a regime. It is a joint venture of siloviki generals and Ossetian bandits for making money in a conflict with Georgia. For me, the most surprising thing in this entire story is the complete lack of any strategic goals on the part of the South Ossetians.
Again — nothing that is going on in South Ossetia makes any sense from the point of view of strategy. It only makes sense as a means of making money. And we aren’t talking about small sums. Running a gas pipeline through the mountains from Russia — a precaution in case Georgia decides to cut off the 70,000 residents — cost $570 million. And then there is the secret budget Russia has allotted for the struggle — estimated at somewhere around $800 million. And don’t forget the pensions and wages for state-sector workers, who officially number some 80,000 but whose actual numbers are not more than 30,000.
Yulia Latynina lays out a convincing case that this war is not about ethnic tensions, nor about Russian power plays, but instead about the soliviki creating the tensions necessary to loosen the Kremlin’s purse strings. Towards that end, Kokoity is using the PLO playbook:
Whenever someone starts telling us about shelling in Tskhinvali, it is important to keep in mind exactly what Tskhinvali is. It is not a city somewhere in the middle of a republic that is being fired upon by saboteurs. On three sides, Tskhinvali is surrounded by Georgian villages. The edge of Tskhinvali is a military outpost. South Ossetian forces fire from there into the Georgian villages, and the Georgians respond with fire of their own. To help keep Georgian fire from hitting civilians in the city, all the South Ossetians would have to do is move their military base forward a couple hundred meters.
But, of course, it is a fundamental principle of terrorists the world over — set up firing points in civilian areas and then when your enemy fires on you, you gleefully parade the bodies of your own children in front of the television cameras. Kokoity’s terrorists are following this same principle. If South Ossetia can in any way be considered a state, it must be considered a terrorist state.
When we are told about “peaceful civilians” in South Ossetia, we must keep in mind that the situation there is similar to that in Palestinian refugee camps. South Ossetia, like the Palestinian Liberation Organization before it, is not a state or an ethos or a territory. It is a peculiar form of mutated government in which residents have been turned into militarized refugees. It is a quasi-armed force that is not allowed by the authorities to occupy itself with anything other than war — a situation that gives the authorities absolute power and absolute control over the money at its disposal. It is a place where the hysteria of this disfigured population is the primary means of filling the authorities’ personal coffers.
Without endorsing Ms. Latynina’s views, I have to admit that they are quite compelling, and that a lot of it makes logical sense.
[HT: Joshua Foust]
Because of my background in working with emotionally disturbed, learning disabled, and generally abused kids, I am often to drawn to stories about the results of extreme neglect of children. I saw some awfully hard cases with some of the kids I worked with, including a kid who was found as a toddler scrounging for food in a trash can with his younger brother before being put into the foster care system, and a young girl who, although not even ten years old, was “traded” by her mother for drugs on a routine basis. There are some really sick cases out there.
For example, a few years ago some foster parents were arrested and charged with aggravated assault and child endangerment after someone finally checked up on their kids and discovered a gruesome sight:
Two of the teenage boys were so badly nourished that they each weighed less than 50 pounds and stood about 4 feet tall, authorities said.
An investigation into the family began after police found the Jacksons’ 19-year-old son, Bruce Jackson, rummaging through a neighbor’s trash.
The young man, who was adopted in 1995, measured 4 feet and weighed 45 pounds. He also had apparent heart irregularities.
The three other boys, ages 14, 10, and 9, were removed from the home and hospitalized. The 14-year-old was 40 pounds and 4 feet tall.
Investigators said the couple received a yearly stipend of up to $28,000, but kept the boys locked out of the kitchen and fed them dry pancake batter.
Every state’s foster care system has a few stories like this, some more than others. The sad fact is that there are really bad people out there, for whatever reason, and some of them become parents and foster parents. How can these people become foster parents? Well, as bad as they end up being (and, it is actually pretty rare), they are still better than the home from which the foster kids are typically removed. For example, there’s the case of Danielle Crockett: (more…)
That’s right, I hopped all over that opportunity like a starving alley cat on plate of tuna fresh and a saucer of milk. And I like it. So sue me. Just remember that I’m a lawyer so I can sue you back … hard.
In all seriousness, blogging at QandO is more of an expansion than a change of domain. I don’t intend to leave ASHC, so you’ll still be able to not read such great hits as “A Torturous Dilemma,” “Metternich-ing the Middle East“, and “Propaganda and Insurgency” when you come to visit. Only now, you can not read me at two sites! [/snark]
Anyway, there’s probably not a lot that will change because of this new opportunity, except that maybe I will be able to drive a few more eyeballs over here to ASHC. With all due respect to QandO, I still believe that this is the place to get some of the most intelligent and diverse opinions on myriad different topics, and that some of the best writers on the internet reside right here. I am a proud denizen of ASHC whose fortunate enough to have dual citizenship. But this will always be my home.
A deadline should be set for the withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces from Iraq, and the pullout could be done by 2011, an Iraqi government spokesman said Tuesday.
Ali al-Dabbagh said any timetable would depend on “conditions and the circumstances that the country would be undergoing.” But he said a pullout within “three, four or five” years was possible.
“It can be 2011 or 2012,” al-Dabbagh said. “We don’t have a specific date in mind, but we need to agree on the principle of setting a deadline.”
I think there are several things to take from this. First and foremost this is a sign that “winning” in Iraq is at hand. The primary goal was an independent Iraq, capable of defending itself and being an ally in the War on Terror. That the Iraq government is declaring it’s ready to take over the reins of defending and policing its own country is a fantastic sign of confidence in its ability to do so. Considering the fact that the Iraqi Army has increasingly taken the lead throughout the country, including most recently the formerly “lost” province of Anbar, a phased withdrawal of American and coalition forces seems like the natural next step. While there are still problems to be dealt with, such as the ever-present threat of more ethnic and sectarian violence, Iraq in general appears to be in a much better position to deal with them on their own than just a year ago. They also seem to more willing to do so, judging by the Basra and related campaigns. Under these sorts of conditions, the job of our forces would seem to be coming to an end, and talk of bringing them home is welcome news indeed.
Of course, the conditions meriting talk of a withdrawal timetable are being ignored by some in favor of scoring political points:
“President Bush refuses to listen to Congress or the American people, but he cannot support Iraqi political reconciliation and security and ignore Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s call for a timetable for the withdrawal,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
“I agree with Maliki,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid added. “Let’s take off the training wheels and let Iraq handle their own affairs. We have spent enough of our blood and treasure in Iraq.”
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rham Emanuel wondered at the administration’s response to the Iraqi position.
“When Democrats called for a timeline for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, they were attacked by President Bush,” the Chicago Democrat said. “When Prime Minister Maliki suggested a timeline for withdrawal, the White House said he was ‘reflecting a shared goal.’ Apparently, in the Bush White House, the messenger matters more than message.”
The other day McQ explained why previous calls for withdrawal were treated differently:
2 years ago, timetables for withdrawal were a bad idea because there were viable enemies still operating in Iraq.
Today? Not so much. Today we’re talking about withdrawal timetables in the wake of victory. Then we were talking about timetables in the face of possible defeat. If you can’t get you head around the difference, then I’d suggest you haven’t much worthwhile to add to any discussion of the matter.
Ironically, the one’s who should be using the latest news to score political points are the current Presidential candidates, who have been somewhat muted thus far. Obama referred to Maliki’s announcement as “encouraging” and McCain rather clumsily noted that Maliki’s comments were being misunderstood as a rigid time table for withdrawal of U.S. Troops instead of a “conditions based” plan:
McCain said he was confident the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would ask American troops to leave only if the military situation there warranted such a move.
“I know for a fact that it will be dictated by the situation on the ground, as it always has been,” McCain said.
“Since we are succeeding” in Iraq, he said, “then I am convinced, as I have said before, we can withdraw and withdraw with honor, not according to a set timetable. And I’m confident that is what Prime Minister Maliki is talking about, since he has told me that for the many meetings we have had.”
He’s not wrong, but McCain’s not exactly grabbing the bull by the horns here either. Especially when he seemingly demeans Maliki’s call as a mere political move:
Of Maliki, McCain said, “Look, he’s a politician. He is a leader of a country that’s finally coming together.
“The fact is that we and the Iraqis will deal in what is in the national security interests of both countries. And there is no reason to assume that the Iraqis aren’t going to act in what they perceive as their national interest. I believe we’ll act in ours, and I believe we’ll come home, we’ll withdraw.
Again, it’s not that McCain is wrong so much as he hasn’t seized a real opportunity to the gain the upper hand. Obama has so far missed the opportunity as well, but his minimalist reaction is probably the better of the two at this point. What one them needs to do is to tout Mailiki’s call for a withdrawal timetable as a sign of victory in Iraq, and to applaud the fledgling nation for taking one of its most important steps towards full sovereignty. While I’m sure that both candidates will declare that we will happily withdraw our forces at the request of the Iraqi government, what neither of them have done so far is to highlight the request as a clear sign that our job in Iraq may be almost done. Pointing to the light at the end of the tunnel where our troops will emerge on the way home is exactly the sort of hope and change that Americans desire and can feel good about. I predict that the first candidate to figure that out will be our next President.
*Editing Note: I revised “timeline” to read “timetable” throughout because it makes more sense.
Due to popular demand, I’ve thrown my hat into the race.
(HT: My Best Man)
From an interview by Stephen Moore (HT: GR):
So what if a President Barack Obama were to impose 50% or 60% tax rates on these CEOs and other big earners? Mr. Gramm pounces: “When you help a company raise capital, to put its idea to work, and you create jobs, those jobs are the best housing program, education program, nutrition program, health program ever created. Look, if a man in one lifetime is responsible for creating 100 real jobs, permanent jobs, then he’s done more than most do-gooders have ever achieved.”
“Why is America the richest country in the world?” he asks. “It’s not because our people are more brilliant; it’s because we have a better free-market system. Why has Texas created 1.6 million jobs in the last 10 years whereas Michigan has lost 300,000 jobs and Ohio has lost 100,000 jobs? Because governance matters, taxes matter, regulation matters. Our opponents in this campaign are so dogmatic in their goal of having more government because they love the power it brings to them that they’re willing to let it impose costs on the working people that they say they want to help. I am not.”
Gramm is apparently advising John McCain’s campaign. It could use the help.
The idea of state funded and administered universal health care is a bugbear of libertarians everywhere, and especially those who are subjected to such a system as a matter of course. Routinely held up as one of the worst of the lot of state-run systems is Britain’s NHS. Now, direct from the trenches of the NHS battleground, comes one insider who thinks it’s high time that the system was scrapped:
Here is a great new book to cheer libertarians as we draw close to the sixtieth anniversary of the National Health Service. Written by the director of Nurses for Reform, Dr. Helen Evans, and published by the Institute of Economic Affairs, ‘Sixty Years On: Who Cares for the NHS?’ not only shows that the country’s top 100 health opinion formers no longer actually believe in nationalised healthcare but, gloriously, this book fundamentally challenges the medical monopoly inherent in all health systems around the world.
The IEA finds that the study underlying Dr. Evans’ book reveals an increasing dissatisfaction with state-run health care among those charged with providing it:
Containing a series of devastating blows to the NHS at 60, the research shows that when speaking off the record a substantial majority of Britain’s health elite no longer believes in nationalised healthcare. Instead, an overwhelming majority accepts a much greater role for private provision – including private hospitals, clinics, GP services and dentists.
I recall that the President of the Canadian Medical Association expressed similar sentiments not long ago, so this result is not at all surprising. What is surprising is that, despite copious amounts of evidence, and reams of historical documentation, people still believe that government can run anything very well, much less a system devoted to the ever changing circumstances inherent in the provision of health care to the masses.
Let’s be clear: the government — any government, fair or foul — is only good at two things. One, making rules. Two, using the power of the state to enforce them. That’s it. No government anywhere, throughout history, is much more than minimally competent at doing anything other than those two tasks. In fact, that is exactly why the founders of this country set up a system of limited government. Instead of carving sections of life where the government’s powers would not apply, America’s forefathers devised a system of limited government whereby the limits of action were placed on the single most powerful entity in the land rather than on the individuals comprising its subjects. It was an attempt to shackle Leviathan.
Despite that attempt, Leviathan has broken free is some places, and uses that leverage to tirelessly strain against its remaining cuffs. Advocates of universal health care encourage the beast to break free of its binds, seemingly without the least bit of comprehension as to the carnage that will result. They should take heed of those who have suffered the demon. What better authority than those who have toiled in the belly of the beast and know its strengths and weaknesses? Who better to dissuade such tomfoolery as unleashing the unquenchable thirst for power of a government monopoly over our very lives than those who have experienced such unrestrained power?
But I expect that the opinions expressed in Dr. Evans’ book will have little, if any, effect. When as potent a wellspring of power as state-run health care is dangled in front of those who lust for dominion over others, there is little chance that they won’t take the bait irrespective of the nasty hook.
Over the weekend I read with fascination William Saletan’s review of the new offering from George Lakoff, “The Political Mind,” and was struck by the remarkable similarities between it and the revolutionary syndicalism espoused during the prior fin de siècle.
In particular, Saletan summarizes Lakoff’s principal idea as the need for progressives to recapture the and reformulate the social myth that drives the political decisions of the masses:
Lakoff blames “neoliberals” and their “Old Enlightenment” mentality for the Democratic Party’s weakness. They think they can win elections by citing facts and offering programs that serve voters’ interests. When they lose, they conclude that they need to move farther to the right, where the voters are.
This is all wrong, Lakoff explains. Neuroscience shows that pure facts are a myth and that self-interest is a conservative idea. In a “New Enlightenment,” progressives will exploit these discoveries. They’ll present frames instead of raw facts. They’ll train the public to think less about self-interest and more about serving others. It’s not the platform that needs to be changed. It’s the voters.
Lakoff’s concept is not new, although his explanation as to why myth-making is important may be. (more…)
Tim Russert, NBC News’ Washington bureau chief and the moderator of “Meet the Press,” died Friday after being stricken at the bureau, NBC News said Friday. He was 58.
Russert was recording voiceovers for Sunday’s “Meet the Press” broadcast when he collapsed, the network said.
He had recently returned from Italy, where his family was celebrating the graduation of Russert’s son, Luke, from Boston College.
No further details were immediately available.
Russert was best known as host of “Meet the Press,” which he took over in December 1991. Now in its 60th year, “Meet the Press” is the longest-running program in the history of television.
But he was also a vice president of NBC News and head of its overall Washington operations, a nearly round-the-clock presence on NBC and MSNBC on election nights.
This may be a bigger deal to the inside the Beltway crowd, but it is huge for any political junkie.
UPDATE: Welcome QandO readers. Please look around after you’ve finished with this post, but McQ says you have to go back over to QandO when you’re done … but I won’t tell if you won’t.
The recent Supreme Court case involving Guantanomo Bay (GITMO) detainees and writs of habeas corpus promises to be one of the most significant opinions for decades to come. Not because it grants foreign citizens the right to challenge their detention in U.S. civil courts (although that’s huge), nor because the decision will lead to possible terrorists being set free in the U.S. (which is almost inevitable), but because it sets a new standard for the power of the Supreme Court. However, no matter the angle from which one approaches the case, constitutional scholars will likely not tire of discussing its implications and applications for quite some time. This post will concentrate on just one of those angles (with others hopefully to follow). (more…)
When the most recent unemployment numbers were released, the media bleated about the highest percentage increase in the jobless rate since 1986. For example, The New York Times lamented:
The unemployment rate surged to 5.5 percent in May from 5 percent, the largest monthly spike in more than two decades, as the economy shed 49,000 jobs for a fifth month of decline, the Labor Department reported on Friday.
Economists construed the weak monthly jobs report as an indication of the pain assailing tens of millions of Americans amid an economic downturn that most experts assume is a recession.
The labor market is continuing to deteriorate, eroding the size of paychecks, just as gasoline and food prices surge, and as the declining value of real estate erodes the wealth and credit of many households.
Ed Morrissey was quick to point out why the numbers don’t support what the media narrative claims:
Up to now, employment had held steady through a rocky economy barely staying out of recession. In May, that changed for the worse, as unemployment rose to its highest level since October 2004. However, only 49,000 workers lost their jobs, which doesn’t nearly account for the four-tenths rise … The real story here is unemployment among entry-level workers to the employment system. In summer, teenagers and college students enter the marketplace looking for seasonal and part-time work. This accounts for the significant rise in job-seekers and the 0.4% increase in unemployment. Otherwise, an overall job loss of 49,000 jobs would account for a 0.04% increase in a market of 138 million workers.
King Banaian also took a look at the May numbers (in comparison with April), and while he disagrees somewhat with Ed’s account for the number of new entrants to the job market, he finds validity with respect to the rise in the unemployment rate: (more…)
Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of this (unbearably) long campaign season is the rare opportunity to witness deification in process. From Mark Morford, a San Francisco Gate columnist:
Is Obama an enlightened being?
Spiritual wise ones say: This sure ain’t no ordinary politician. You buying it?
I find I’m having this discussion, this weird little debate, more and more, with colleagues, with readers, with liberals and moderates and miserable, deeply depressed Republicans and spiritually amped persons of all shapes and stripes and I’m having it in particular with those who seem confused, angry, unsure, thoroughly nonplussed, as they all ask me the same thing: What the hell’s the big deal about Obama?
I, of course, have an answer. Sort of.
Barack Obama isn’t really one of us. Not in the normal way, anyway.
This is what I find myself offering up more and more in response to the whiners and the frowners and to those with broken or sadly dysfunctional karmic antennae – or no antennae at all – to all those who just don’t understand and maybe even actively recoil against all this chatter about Obama’s aura and feel and MLK/JFK-like vibe.
Morford apparently thinks that his explanation of Obama’s appeal is comforting to such people. I am one of those that recoil at the inane chatter, and yet somehow I still don’t feel comforted.
To them I say, all right, you want to know what it is? The appeal, the pull, the ethereal and magical thing that seems to enthrall millions of people from all over the world, that keeps opening up and firing into new channels of the culture normally completely unaffected by politics?
No, it’s not merely his youthful vigor, or handsomeness, or even inspiring rhetoric. It is not fresh ideas or cool charisma or the fact that a black president will be historic and revolutionary in about a thousand different ways. It is something more. Even Bill Clinton, with all his effortless, winking charm, didn’t have what Obama has, which is a sort of powerful luminosity, a unique high-vibration integrity.
Oh, I get it. He’s like a glow-in-the-dark alarm clock!
Dismiss it all you like [Ed. - Will do!], but I’ve heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who’ve been intuitively blown away by Obama’s presence – not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence – to say it’s just a clever marketing ploy, a slick gambit carefully orchestrated by hotshot campaign organizers who, once Obama gets into office, will suddenly turn from perky optimists to vile soul-sucking lobbyist whores, with Obama as their suddenly evil, cackling overlord.
I can understand why “enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people” would not be blown away by Obama’s policies, but that’s setting the bar a little low for his presence isn’t it? As to why these people would be “intuitively” blown away by that presence, so much so that they simply cannot fathom Obama behaving like just another politician after obtaining office, is difficult to discern. Maybe he’s a Jedi knight? Obama-wan Kenobe?
Here’s where it gets gooey.
Got that? NOW it’s going to get “gooey.”
Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) [Ed. - Right. 'Cus Obama knows those people don't know what their talking about] identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.
The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why Obama is so rare. And this why he is so often compared to Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., to those leaders in our culture whose stirring vibrations still resonate throughout our short history.
What Morford doesn’t tell you is that you too can be a Lightworker, and it’s free! In fact, hold that thought for a minute …
Ha! There! Now I’m a Lightworker too! My Lightworker name is “ObiMike Wadobe.” Me and Obama, saving the world.
Are you rolling your eyes and scoffing? Fine by me.
Cha, as if you had a choice, Darkloafer.
Now, Obama. The next step [after Kennedy]. Another try. And perhaps, as Bush laid waste to the land and embarrassed the country and pummeled our national spirit into disenchanted pulp and yet ironically, in so doing has helped set the stage for an even larger and more fascinating evolutionary burp, we are finally truly ready for another Lightworker to step up.
He means Obama, of course, not ObiMike.
Let me be completely clear: I’m not arguing some sort of utopian revolution, a big global group hug with Obama as some sort of happy hippie camp counselor. I’m not saying the man’s going to swoop in like a superhero messiah and stop all wars and make the flowers grow and birds sing and solve world hunger and bring puppies to schoolchildren. Because that’s silly; puppies don’t belong in school.
I may have added that last sentence. It’s Lightworker humor. You may not understand (unless you sign up. It’s free!!!!).
Please. I’m also certainly not saying he’s perfect, that his presidency will be free of compromise, or slimy insiders, or great heaps of politics-as-usual.
No, of course not. That was the “enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people” saying all that. Unless Morford was lying about that whole “intuitively blown away” thing, which Darkloafers tend to do.
While Obama’s certainly an entire universe away from George W. Bush in terms of quality, integrity, intelligence and overall inspirational energy, well, so is your dog. Hell, it isn’t hard to stand far above and beyond the worst president in American history.
But there simply is no denying that extra kick. As one reader put it to me, in a way, it’s not even about Obama, per se.
I think this is one of the “gooey” parts.
There’s a vast amount of positive energy swirling about that’s been held back by the armies of BushCo darkness, and this energy has now found a conduit, a lightning rod, is now effortlessly self-organizing around Obama’s candidacy. People and emotions and ideas of high and positive vibration are automatically draw to him. It’s exactly like how Bush was a magnet for the low vibrational energies of fear and war and oppression and aggression, but, you know, completely reversed. And different. And far, far better.
if [ -d /gooey ]; then
rm -rf /gooey
That’s Geekworker humor … different universe.
Don’t buy any of it?
Hell, I won’t take it for free.
Think that’s all a bunch of tofu-sucking New Agey bulls– and Obama is really a dangerously elitist political salesman whose inexperience will lead us further into darkness because, when you’re talking national politics, nothing, really, ever changes? I understand. I get it. I often believe it myself.
Not this time.
Because I know some of you unenlightened beings won’t pick up on my subtle Lightworker humor here (which indicates a problem with your right parahippocampal gyrus), nor on the actual point of this post, let me make it explicitly clear to you ground dwellers: THIS IS NOT ABOUT OBAMA. IT IS ABOUT THE MORONIC DEIFICATION OF OBAMA BY HIS GLASSY-EYED SUPPORTERS LIKE MARK MORFORD, A PAID JOURNALIST.
HT: Charles Johnson, who had the most concise summary: “Oh, good grief.”
Further HT: James Joyner, who tipped me off as to the Lightworker thing, and closed with the Quip Of The Day:
Interestingly, charges that Fred Thompson was a light worker were harmful to his campaign. Go figure.
Everything found via Memeorandum.
I’ve always loved that quote from Charles Austin Beard about earning a reputation as a “dangerous citizen” by quoting the founding fathers. This quote is from the man who made the “dangerous citizen” a cinematic icon, including in one of my all time favorite movies The Outlaw Josey Wales:
I don’t pay attention to either side,” he claims. “I mean, I’ve always been a libertarian. Leave everybody alone. Let everybody else do what they want. Just stay out of everybody else’s hair. So I believe in that value of smaller government. Give politicians power and all of a sudden they’ll misuse it on ya.
When asked about his current political leaning, Eastwood declares that he’s undecided (”It’s kind of a zoo out there right now. So I think I’ll kinda let things percolate.”), but also claims that he and his wife have had some affinity for McCain in the past.
I’m cognizant of the seeming double standard in quoting a Hollywood A-Lister about a political point when I would likely deride such a person making a point I disagreed with (if it were George Clooney, for example). The difference is that I don’t offer the quote as some sort of proof as to the validity of its subject. Instead, I’m impressed that libertarianism was directly connected with smaller government and a check on political power (“Give politicians power and all of a sudden they’ll misuse it on ya.”). Usually the ideology (if you can call it that) is paired by quotable persons with either the war in Iraq or smoking pot. In this case, a silver screen star directly connected personal liberty and smaller government, AND got quoted in a left-wing newspaper.
And c’mon, it’s Clint Eastwood who said it. That’s worth something isn’t it? [/toungueincheek]
Guess what part of your brain is not primarily for storing information about a two gyrating hippos on a camping trip.
The right parahippocampal gyrus. Much to your (and my) surprise, that part of the brain is used to detect sarcasm. Because apparently there is not enough info about gyrating hippos to fill up the left one, and then the right one would have nothing to do, so it got sarcasm detection instead.
[HT: Hot Air]
After speculating upon Hillary Clinton’s strategic thinking with respect to the Democratic nomination, James Taranto concludes (emphasis added):
To summarize, Mrs. Clinton maximizes her chances of becoming president if she (1) does enough damage to Obama to snatch the nomination away from him, (2) failing that, does enough damage to him to bring about his defeat in November, and (3) gets herself on the ticket, whether he wins in November or not.
Some will say Mrs. Clinton is being disloyal to her party if she undermines Obama’s chances of winning in November. But maybe she just practices a different kind of party loyalty. After all, if you can be a patriot while hoping your country loses a war, why can’t you be a loyal Democrat while hoping your party loses an election?
It is an interesting question.
Rock & Roll lost one of it’s brightest and most penetrating stars yesterday, even if one of the least well known. The founder of the jungle beat heard in too many songs to count over the last 50 years succumbed to heart failure at his home in Archer, FL, at the age of 79.
Bo Diddley was a musical innovator who helped forge the sound and contributed to the style of rock ‘n’ roll. He sported a trademark fedora, played an iconic square-shaped guitar and from it he extracted a deep, rusty reverb and a peculiar playing style that influenced generations of players.
“He was by far the most underrated of any ’50s star,” says producer Phil Spector. “You listen to those (reissued box sets) and the rhythmic invention, the consistent high quality of imagination and performance, the excellence of the writing, the power of the vocals – nobody else ever did it better or had a deeper, more penetrating influence.”
Perhaps no guitarist was more influenced by Diddley’s sound and style than ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, who carries on Diddley’s tradition of strange-looking instruments and full-bodied guitar riffs with prickly solos.
Gibbons called Diddley “the ‘artiste.’
“He was the man who constructed the sound we all grew to revolve around,” he said. “And a vision of simplicity delivered through effortless expression and sense of humor. Many times, Bo made a point to say, ‘I’ll always be around,’ and we know he will.”
In other words, when it comes to rock music, if you don’t know Bo you don’t know Diddley. Eric Burden and the Animals offered the best testament to Bo’s prophetic words:
R.I.P. Ellas Otha “Bo Diddley” Bates.
Luckily there’s a picture.
Is this man really going to be our next President? The only people who will be more disappointed than non-Obama supporters after election day in November will be the idiots who believe in Obamessiah’s changey changitude. And “yes” that is a unicorn in Obama’s frothy wake. God help us.
[HT: Glenn Reynolds]
The leftosphere is up in arms over John McCain “lying” about Barack Obama’s stated intentions vis-a-vis Iran. The latest source of righteous outrage comes courtesy of a Joel Klein interview with McCain:
At a press conference here, I just asked John McCain about why he keeps talking about Obama’s alleged willingness to talk to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has no power over Iranian foreign policy, rather than Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who does. He said that Ahmadinejad is the guy who represents Iran in international forums like the United Nations, which is a fair point. When I followed with the observation that the Supreme Leader is, uh, the Supreme Leader, McCain responded that the “average American” thinks Ahmadinejad is the boss. Didn’t get a chance to follow up to that, but I would have asked, “But isn’t it your job to correct those sorts of mistaken impressions on the part of the American public?” Oh well.
That prompted such scintillating analysis as this from Matthew Yglesias:
It’s increasingly clear that John McCain intends to use his special relationship with the press to run a campaign based on relentlessly lying about his opponent
And this from “BJ” at Newshoggers:
The Iranian power structure is a byzantine beast at best, but the tthe guy at the top is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, rather than the eminently (mis)quotable Ahmadinejad. Given how “serious” a threat McCain and his supporters all tell us Iran is, you would think such a fact might be an important one to learn.
The rest of the lefty commentary basically play off of these two themes of (a) Obama never said “Ahmadinejad” and (b) McCain’s so stupid he doesn’t know who really runs Iran.
Starting with theme (b) first, why does it matter which leader McCain names when the charge is that Obama wants to negotiate without precondition with Iran? Whether he talks to Ahmadinejad or Khamenei is pretty irrelevant to that charge, and focusing one’s attack on something so ridiculously semantic and capillary simply underscores how much the Obama campaign really does not want to deal with this issue. And that’s not even to mention that meeting with Khamenei without precondition does not make Obama out to be a foreign policy genius either (he’s “slightly less anti-semitic”? Seriously? That’s a defense?).
Secondly, those accusing McCain are piling up the crow to eat:
September 24, 2007, 2:05 PM
Obama: I Would Still Meet With Ahmadinejad
Posted by Brian Montopoli
Despite the controversy that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York City has triggered, Senator Barack Obama still vows to meet with rogue leaders if he is elected, reports CBS News’ Maria Gavrilovic.
“Nothing has changed with respect to my belief that strong countries and strong presidents talk to their enemies and talk to their adversaries,” Obama told reporters at a press conference ….
Obama said he would not have invited Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University, but he believes in academic freedom. “They have the right to invite people to speak. As I said, it’s not a choice that I would have made but we don’t need to be fearful of the rantings of somebody like Ahmadinejad.” Obama says the United Nations provides an adequate forum for Ahmadinejad to speak.
Obama was asked if his statements about Ahmadinejad were contradictory – why would he meet with the Iranian leader as U.S. president but not invite to speak if he were the Columbia University president? “There are two different functions, as president of the United States, my job is to look out for the national security interests of this country,” Obama said.
Michael Goldfarb dug up the video and adds:
I can’t say I’m surprised that Time magazine and the Obama campaign managed to miss this clip which completely undermines their shared narrative. But now we have a new narrative: Obama intends to meet with Ali Khamenei, the man with the real power in Tehran, because even though Obama pledged to meet with Ahmadinejad, and said it was a “disgrace” that Bush had not, he never had any intention of meeting with Ahmadinejad, and McCain is a liar for saying different.
See also here for more confirmation that Obama did in fact say he would meet with Ahmadinejad.
As for the new Obama meme, that he’ll meet with Khamenei (but not that nutjob Ahmadinejad!), Goldfarb provides the relevant transcript of advisor Susan Rice speaking to Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: “How does Senator Obama defend that decision to meet without preconditions with a leader like Ahmadinejad?”
RICE: “Well, first of all, he said he’d meet with the appropriate Iranian leaders. He hasn’t named who that leader will be. It may, in fact be that by the middle of next of year, Ahmadinejad is long gone.”
BLITZER: “Let’s be precise because when they criticize Barack Obama, not only John McCain but others, for suggesting that he would meet without preconditions with Ahmadinejad, who only last week on Israel’s 60th anniversary called Israel a ‘stinking corpse.’ The question that they ask is what is Barack Obama going to talk with him about?”
RICE: “Well, first of all as I said, it would be the appropriate Iranian leadership at the appropriate time – not necessarily Ahmadinejad.”
As his nomination becomes more likely, Obama’s supporters have twisted themselves into rhetorical knots attempted to explain away their candidate’s everchanging positions. In this case they have chose the stupidest of all tacts in declaring that it is McCain who is lying and doesn’t know what he’s talking about when, in fact, Obama has clearly stated what McCain said he did, and the attempted defense actually indelibly implants the fact that OBAMA WILL MEET WITH IRAN WITHOUT PRECONDITION! in the minds of the voters.
Quite possibly this could be one of the dumbest political moves ever made, and certainly some of the dumbest retorts I’ve ever seen. And yet, somehow Obama will still end up being president.
Polar bears will now be listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
But in announcing the listing, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said the decision should not be “misused” to regulate global climate change.
“Listing the polar bear as threatened can reduce avoidable losses of polar bears. But it should not open the door to use of the Endangered Species Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, power plants, and other sources,” said Kempthorne.
“That would be a wholly inappropriate use of the ESA law. The ESA is not the right tool to set U.S. climate policy.”
It is certainly an inappropriate tool for shaping such policy. And it just as certainly the tool that will be used quite effectively to do so. Like I wrote over a year ago, this is nothing more than a backdoor way of implementing Kyoto in the US.
If the polar bear were listed as a threatened species, all federal agencies would have to ensure that anything they authorize that might affect polar bears will not jeopardize their survival or the sea ice where they live. That could include oil and gas exploration, commercial shipping or even releases of toxic contaminants or climate-affecting pollution.
Environmentalists hope that invoking the Endangered Species Act protections might eventually lead the government to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other heat-trapping “greenhouse” gases blamed for warming the atmosphere.
“The Interior Department has pretty much explicitly said that they don’t think they have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emission, but we know that the Endangered Species Act goes well beyond these walls, that it’s taken into account by other agencies,” said Kert Davies, research director for Greenpeace.
Since the above was written, the Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA does have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but more importantly, under the ESA the government is required to evaluate any project that may have an impact on endangered species. Normally this would be limited to such species within the geographical span of the proposed project, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Greenpeace, et al., will attempt to draw a direct connection between whichever new project they are challenging and polar bears using the threat of increased greenhouse gas emissions.
The coup de grace, of course, will be when all private industry and behavior is brought with in the realm of the EPA’s regulation authority (my emphasis):
As Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne noted, the 1973 Endangered Species Act is “perhaps the least flexible law Congress has ever enacted.” In 2005, green litigants took advantage of this rigidity, suing the government to force it to label the polar bear at risk for extinction. Since the 1980s, the sea ice that the bears use to hunt and breed has been receding. Although the population has increased from a low of 12,000 in the 1960s to roughly 25,000 today – perhaps a record high – computer projections anticipate that Arctic pack ice will continue to melt over the next half-century. This could, maybe, someday, lead to population declines.
The lawsuits were hardly motivated by concern for polar bear welfare. Instead, environmentalists asserted that the ice is thinning because of human-induced global warming. A formal endangered listing is one more arrow in their legal quiver as they try to run U.S. climate policy through the judiciary.
They’ll argue that emissions from power plants, refineries, automobiles – anything that produces carbon – would contribute to warming, thus contributing to habitat destruction, and thus should be restricted by the Endangered Species Act. This logic could be used to rewrite existing environmental policy to accommodate greenhouse gasses, purposes for which they were never intended but with economy-wide repercussions.
Is there any doubt that granting full regulatory control over all productive activities is the ultimate goal of these lawsuits? I’m sure that some in the movement are motivated entirely by their heart-felt concern for the welfare of animals and the environment. But the vast majority of these environmental activists are driven by the desire to bring capitalist forces to heel, towards which end their totalitarian instincts guide them. Passage of the ESA in 1973 was the first step in that cause. The combined forces of the AGW movement with this latest court victory may be all that’s needed to achieve their goal.
See also: McQ, who has more on the listing of polar bears as a threatened species.
President Jalal Talibani summoned the leaders of the Iraqi parliament to his office for a meeting. In the middle of the meeting his wife calls him and says, “Jalal, there is a thief in our house!” President Talibani replies, “impossible, they are all here with me.”
Second, a visual joke accompanied by an explanation from Major John:
The jundi in the picture was putting on everything he could while his buddies laughed and egged him on. I simply couldn’t not take a picture.
There’s a bigger image at the link for full visual effect.
It should be clear by now to anyone who frequently reads blogs that the MSM is not terribly accurate in its reporting, nor does it seem to have any intention of getting better at it. Whether you think the media leans left (as I think it demonstrably does) or right, there is no denying that the vaunted fact-checkers of the MSM are little more than an apparition, devoid of any duty or consequence.
The latest example is pretty innocuous in the grand scheme of things, and yet the mistake so blatantly obvious that it causes one to wonder how it could have been made in the first place. In what is essentially a puff piece about John McCain’s backing of stronger anti-human trafficking laws and enforcement, the NYT declares:
Human trafficking, the transport of victims under false pretenses from one nation to another for forced labor or prostitution, has become an important issue to the Christian right. The Central Intelligence Agency estimates that as many as 800,000 people around the world, including 200,000 in the United States, are enslaved each year.
For the numerically deficient, the NYT asserts that CIA estimates place fully one-fourth (25%) of all humans trafficked in the world within the borders of the United States. Twenty-five percent? That’s a staggeringly large percentage, especially considering the often quite blatant amount of trafficking that occurs in the Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Africa and the Middle East. Why did that little factoid not set off all kinds of bells and whistles in some fact-checker’s brain?
To get an idea of just how far off (and drastically wrong) the NYT’s assertion is, let’s look at an article from September last year in the Washington Post:
Outrage was mounting at the 1999 hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building, where congressmen were learning about human trafficking.
A woman from Nepal testified that September that she had been drugged, abducted and forced to work at a brothel in Bombay. A Christian activist recounted tales of women overseas being beaten with electrical cords and raped. A State Department official said Congress must act — 50,000 slaves were pouring into the United States every year, she said. Furious about the “tidal wave” of victims, Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) vowed to crack down on so-called modern-day slavery.
Those legislative hearings were the precursor to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, passed in the waning days of the Clinton Administration and given full effect in the early days of the Bush Administration. However, despite vigorous enforcement of the Act, few victims were found:
As part of the fight, President Bush has blanketed the nation with 42 Justice Department task forces and spent more than $150 million — all to find and help the estimated hundreds of thousands of victims of forced prostitution or labor in the United States.
But the government couldn’t find them. Not in this country.
The evidence and testimony presented to Congress pointed to a problem overseas. But in the seven years since the law was passed, human trafficking has not become a major domestic issue, according to the government’s figures.
The administration has identified 1,362 victims of human trafficking brought into the United States since 2000, nowhere near the 50,000 a year the government had estimated. In addition, 148 federal cases have been brought nationwide, some by the Justice task forces, which are composed of prosecutors, agents from the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and local law enforcement officials in areas thought to be hubs of trafficking.
In the Washington region, there have been about 15 federal cases this decade.
Ronald Weitzer, a criminologist at George Washington University and an expert on sex trafficking, said that trafficking is a hidden crime whose victims often fear coming forward. He said that might account for some of the disparity in the numbers, but only a small amount.
“The discrepancy between the alleged number of victims per year and the number of cases they’ve been able to make is so huge that it’s got to raise major questions,” Weitzer said. “It suggests that this problem is being blown way out of proportion.”
Now I’m sure you’ll agree, as deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto said, “the issue is ‘not about the numbers. It’s really about the crime and how horrific it is.’” With respect to the issue of human trafficking, one is too many. However, that does not speak at all to the gross mischaracterization of the numbers presented by the NYT.
So where did that 200,000 number come from? It does not appear to be from the CIA, which does not provide a number of victims associated with the United States in its World Fact Book or anywhere else that I could find. Indeed, it’s difficult to even find the source of the 50,000 estimate which has been used for quite some time now. According to the Washington Post:
Although there have been several estimates over the years, the number that helped fuel the congressional response — 50,000 victims a year — was an unscientific estimate by a CIA analyst who relied mainly on clippings from foreign newspapers, according to government sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the agency’s methods. Former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales told Congress last year that a much lower estimate in 2004 — 14,500 to 17,500 a year — might also have been overstated.
Considering Gonzales’ statement, a charitable view of the NYT’s obvious mistake would be that the estimate includes an extra zero, and that the writer intended to assert the CIA estimate as (a still overinflated) 20,000 instead of 200,000. Yet, again, why didn’t someone catch this before it went to print? How did such an eyebrow-raising number elude those much maligned fact-checkers at the NYT? It’s clear that nobody checked with the CIA about the number, as it would have been corrected at least to the 50,000 estimate if that had been done. Perhaps the number was gleaned from a press release from McCain, and the reporter was simply too lazy to check it out. Or maybe it just sound about right to the news team, so nobody bothered to see if it was correct. Whatever the reason, the mistake is a perfect reminder of why the MSM is held in such disregard nowadays.
As I said from the outset, the blunder itself is rather mild, even though it paints America in a bad light. Until someone quotes the NYT as source for the number (and gets it past the fact-checkers again), it’s a one off of little consequence. But it’s so indicative of just how unreliable MSM reporting has become. If they could miss this blatant mistake, how many more subtle discrepancies are they passing off as fact? And what’s worse, how many people are buying those mistakes, accepting them uncritically as settled facts because they’re printed in the NYT or WaPo, or stated on the evening news? Before you know it we’ll be hearing about how 200,000 women are beaten and then sold into slavery each year during the Super Bowl.
For those on the political right who have bemoaned the lack of any real grassroots, online activism in support of Republican(ish) causes, there is a new project in the works just for you. Political blogging mavens Jon Henke, Patrick Ruffini, and Soren Dayton are getting ready to launch The Next Right. Ruffini describes this new project in comparison to those on the left:
It’s no secret that the right operates at a severe disadvantage to the left when it comes to building online political infrastructure. People point to ActBlue and Obama’s massive fundraising advantage, but the problem cuts deeper: netroots activists on the left have built critical mass around an idea that regular people on the Internet can get their hands dirty and remix Democratic politics. They not only raise money. They recruit candidates. They fund full-time investigative journalism to ambush Republicans. They act as a party whip, creating consequences for Democrats who, in their view, don’t act like Democrats. They volunteer and flock to states with key races. The right can build all the tools it wants, but without a narrative and a rallying point for action, it will be for naught.
It’s no wonder that Joe Conservative outside the Beltway feels that none of his self appointed “leaders” are listening to him. He looks to Washington and sees a leadership class that is too often arrogant, timid, divided, and technologically behind the curve. It’s no wonder why this year more than most his wallet has been sealed shut when it comes to supporting Republican candidates — even the good ones.
We’re calling the site The Next Right because much of this story will be written in the future tense. Our analysis will be as much about looking ten and fifteen years down the road as it will be about dissecting the mechanics of the 2008 contest. What are the coalitions, strategies, and tactics the right needs to win again? How does the party need to change to attract a generation of voters who could very well be lost to us if we don’t move fast? Where do we find the candidates who will lead a resurgent right in the 2010 and 2012 elections and beyond?
The group does not intend to start another punditry site, but instead to generate the tools necessary to promote grassroots movements on the right. The way Ruffini describes it makes me think they will be putting together all the tools one might need for a grassroots starter kit:
If you’re looking for pure-play opinion and link bait on sundry topics from Ann Coulter to Jimmy Carter/Hamas, you won’t find it here. What you will find is in-depth (often unabashedly technical) writing about the election, the polls, the strategy, and the issues. Our analysis will track truth and stay true to the numbers. But it will self-consciously serve a greater purpose — educating YOU to be your own political strategist and start doing something — whether that’s blogging about your local Congressional race or Democratic corruption in your state, organizing fundraising drives, and maybe even managing races or running for office yourself. Only a revival of civic engagement at the grassroots level will create a conservative future we want: one that is pork-free and robust in the defense of our country and its values. We can’t call a switchboard and wait for Washington to fix the mess. We have to do it ourselves, from the ground up, in every state.
It sounds interesting. They are looking for contributers as well, so if you’re interested and think you have the chops, .
That’s what I took from Michelle Obama’s stump speech anyway (HT: Jim Lindgren):
She tells the story of a ten-year-old girl she met in Newberry, S.C., before that state’s primary. “It was in a little beauty shop, and we were having a rally — it was me and a bunch of women and a couple of brothers,” she recalls. After the rally, the girl came up to her and said, with great seriousness, “Do you realize when your husband becomes the next president of the United States, it will be historical?”
Everybody laughs; what a cute thing for a child to say. But then Obama asked the little girl what that would mean for her. “It means that I can imagine anything for myself,” the girl said.
The crowd begins to applaud; they think they’re hearing a happy, inspiring story. But that’s not where Mrs. Obama is going.
“And then that little girl started to break down in tears,” she continues. “She sobbed so hard. She was crying big, huge tears. And I had to think, why is this little girl crying so hard? And I thought, you know what’s going on? This little old girl gets it.”
There’s some stuff about how frustrated we all are and bar raising as well (although I think she meant “goal post shifting”). Oh, and there’s a little girl in all of us — who will allegedly cry if Barack Obama isn’t elected. That may explain Barack’s bowling scores.
Wright issue will haunt conservative media elite
By Roland S. Martin
Now that Sen. Barack Obama has denounced his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, many of his critics, especially those who call themselves conservative, are happy he has put the dashiki-wearing, American-criticizing former Marine in his place.
See, these same voices, many that are allegedly Christian, have reacted with glee by calling Wright a prophet of hate and a race baiter.
They hold themselves up to be so concerned about their fellow brother and sister, yet if you looked at their personal lives, I doubt you’d find many with African-American friends and associates (and I doubt their staffs are the most diverse in the world, but that’s another story).
But be careful what you ask for.
Martin goes on in this vein for the entire spleen-spewing piece, and basically warns conservatives that because they “gleefully” targeted Obama’s association with his (now former) pastor, they should expect the exact same treatment from liberals.
Because the article is so target-rich with fiskable material it’s difficult to say just which bit is more absurd than another, but Martin’s good-for-the-gander warning is no doubt top five. Particularly since it completely ignores the fact that Hillary Clinton pushed this issue as much as any “conservative,” that Obama’s mercurial explanations for his choice of pastor created much fodder for the press (and wasn’t well received by the voters), and that kept the problem front and center. It also ignores the fact that liberals have been caterwauling about people like Hagee since McCain accepted his endorsement. In fact, Martin’s attempt to head his critics off at the pass completely undermines his point by tacitly acknowledging that liberals have already tried to tie the Hagee albatross around McCain’s neck:
Now that Wright has set the so-called standard for what isn’t acceptable for religious leaders, let’s see these same critics take their own kind to task for making absolutely outlandish comments.
But don’t stop there. Demand that candidates don’t seek counsel from them. Demand that Republican candidates not go to their churches and sit in their pews and accept their contributions. And if elected, make sure those same candidates don’t allow them access to the White House or halls of Congress. Turnabout is fair play, and that means guys like the Revs. Pat Robertson and John Hagee should not be sought out for their endorsements, and should be removed from any committees associated with a candidate or a political party.
Oh, I can’t wait to get the e-mails from folks who will say, “Yeah, but Obama was a member of the church.”
True, very true.
But if the marker is now saying anything unacceptable to the masses, then that should be the standard for any pastor: white, black, male, female, conservative or liberal. And any candidate, member or not.
I’ve read many of the columns and listened to the shows of these so-called conservative patriots, and few, if any, have said a word about conservative white pastors who have called for the overthrow of the government for not following Christian values (the late Francis Schaeffer, a little “g” God on the Religious Right), or who have called for the destruction of the Islamic religion of a number of Americans (Pastor Rod Parsley) and folks worldwide.
Martin’s analogy makes no sense, of course, which is why he simply waves his hand at the fact that Wright was Obama’s pastor for twenty-some years. That’s an inconvenient fact for his rant, so it’s mentioned without being addressed, and instead he tries to turn it into a racial issue. Martin is trying to set up the meme that Rev. Wright became an issue not because of his racist and anti-American utterings, but because he’s black. The problem, however, is that picking up an endorsement from a crazy, anti-Catholic preacher is just not the same as sitting in the church of a crazy, anti-American, white-hating, marxist-loving, Farrakhan-embracing preacher for over twenty years, not to mention personally choosing him as your spiritual mentor. The former says something about the state of politics for sure in that a candidate is essentially required to pick up such an endorsement in order to get the job. The latter says something about the candidate’s judgment and choice of company and nothing about the state of politics in general (although, I believe it does say something about being in politics in Chicago).
What’s really laughable about Martin’s, however, is his closing warning:
But to every politician, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican: Beware. The die has been cast. The repeated denunciations of Wright will now lead each and every single one of you to have your pastors’ oral and written words examined. If even one thing is said that can be construed as criticizing America or deemed hateful, then expect to see it on YouTube and replayed for millions to see. I suggest you go to your pastor now and say, “Please, watch what you say. I don’t want to have to denounce you on national television.”
To my media pals who are part of the conservative media elite, we’ll be watching. And listening. Let’s just see if you’re as willing to tear apart one of your own.
That’s like warning the seals that the sharks are out to get them. But Martin is a journalist so I guess something that’s been happening all along seems like news to him.
UPDATE: QandO links (thanks, McQ!) and in addition to displaying the many spelling errors in my post (now fixed) adds this admonition:
Watch for variations on this [racial] theme to continue to emerge from the left as the right continues to hammer the Wright/Obama connection.
McQ’s right that Obama backers will push this meme when convenient simply because of the general fear that people hold of being called a racist. On the one hand, it’s good that it has become so socially unacceptable to be a bigot, but on the other it is a shame how some people broadly employ the epithet, without regard for the consequences, simply to score cheap political points. In any case, expect the cry of racism to emerge whenever Wright is mentioned in the context of Obama’s lack of judgment.
Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc has agreed to return to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s cabinet after a nine-month boycott, several Sunni leaders said on Thursday, citing a recently passed amnesty law and the Maliki government’s crackdown on Shiite militias as reasons for the move.
The Sunni leaders said they were still working out the details of their return, an indication that the deal could still fall through.
“Our conditions were very clear, and the government achieved some of them,” said Adnan al-Duleimi, the head of Tawafiq, the largest Sunni bloc in the government. Mr. Duleimi said the achievements included “the general amnesty, chasing down the militias and disbanding them and curbing the outlaws.”
The recently passed amnesty law has already led to the release of many Sunni prisoners, encouraging Sunni parties that the government is serious about enforcing it. And the attacks on Shiite militias have apparently begun to assuage longstanding complaints that only Sunni groups blamed for the insurgency have been the targets of American and Iraqi security forces.
Exactly which ministries will be given to which Sunni politicians is still under negotiation, said Ayad Samarrai, the deputy general secretary of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest party within Tawafiq. Among those under consideration are the Ministries of Culture, Planning, Higher Education and Women’s Affairs and the State Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Samarrai said.
What the greater affects of the Sunnis rejoining will be remain to be seen, and I wouldn’t be surprised if future events precipitate another walkout. But I think it’s hard to deny that Maliki’s offensive in Basra is paying the political dividends he had hoped for.
On another note, the NYT piece is prefaced with an incongruous image of what is claimed to be the remnants of a car bomb blast:
Caption: The site of a car bombing where one civilian was killed while six others were wounded on Thursday in Baghdad. // Photo by:Mohammed Ameen/Reuters
Does that look like the results of a car bomb? None of the buildings near the wreckage look like they’ve sustained blast damage. There’s no cratering in the ground, and there’s no shrapnel from the blast strewn around. And, of course, there’s the obligatory wailing woman in the foreground. Is this another fauxtography case? Even if it’s not, and the photo is exactly what it claims to be, what does it have to do with a story about Sunnis ending their boycott of the Iraqi government?
UPDATE: Keith provides another view of the car bomb wreckage in the comments. It appears to be a legitimate bomb scene, just with the staged wailing woman for affect. I guess the bomb wasn’t terribly big so there isn’t any noticeable damage to the surrounding scene. Either way, it does not appear to be a case of fauxtography, although it is a strange photo to accompany a news story about political reconciliation.
Hoystory poses a thought-provoking question with potentially dramatic consequences for the concept of “peak oil”:
What if “fossil fuels” weren’t made of fossils at all? What if the earth naturally made petroleum? What if gasoline was a renewable resource?
Imagine the howls from the environmentalist left if there was no such thing as “peak oil.”
In answer of the questions, Hoystory points to the following:
Lost in the big news last week — the race for the Democratic nomination, the reeling U.S. economy, the ongoing life/death saga that is “Dancing with the Stars” — came word that a new deep-water exploration area off the coast of Brazil could contain as much as 33 billion barrels of oil. How much is that? If estimates are accurate, the Brazilian find would amount to the world’s third-largest oil reserve. In comparison, the U.S. has proven oil reserves of 21.8 billion barrels.
What makes the Brazil find interesting is really the gold; not as in “black gold,” but as in Thomas Gold:
The Austrian-born astrophysicist, who died in 2004, was a renowned maverick in the science community, a brilliant rogue whose anti-establishment proclamations were often proven right. For instance, in the 1960s, as NASA began its assault on the moon, many scientists debated whether the moon’s surface was comprised of hard rock or might in fact be a layer of dust so thick that, upon touchdown, the Apollo lunar modules would sink out of sight. Gold, studying evidence from microimpacts, moon cratering, electrostatic fields, and more, boldly predicted that the astronauts’ boots would sink into the lunar regolith no more than three centimeters. And, give or take a centimeter or so, he was proven right.
What does Gold have to do with the recent Brazil oil find? In 1999, Gold published “The Deep Hot Biosphere,” a paper that postulated that coal and oil are produced not by the decomposition of organic materials, but in fact are “abiogenic” — the product of tectonic forces; i.e., deeply embedded hydrocarbons being brought up and through the earth’s mantle and transformed into their present states by bacteria living in the earth’s crust.
The majority of the world’s scientists scoff at Gold’s theory, and “fossil fuel” remains the accepted descriptor of oil. Yet in recent years Russia has quietly become the world’s top producer of oil, in part by drilling wells as deep as 40,000 feet — far below the graveyards of T-Rex and his Mesozoic buddies.
Is it possible that Thomas Gold was right again, and that the earth is actually still producing oil? It’s tantalizing to think so.
(emphasis added; more on Thomas Gold here.) If Gold was right and oil is abiogenically produced, then the fears of “peak oil” are premature at best. Of course, that assumes that the world does not consume the oil faster than the earth can produce it or that, alternatively, we don’t learn how to create artificially. But according to Gold’s theory, there is a staggering amount of oil to be discovered beneath the Earth’s crust, much more than we could rapidly consume. The following is from an interview Gold did with Wired Magazine (edited for clarity):
WIRED: How much more oil is there in your view of the world than in the view of traditional petroleum geology?
GOLD: Oh, a few hundred times more.
WIRED: But not all of it is accessible at the moment?
GOLD: It becomes accessible by recharging, and the recharging process I think I completely understand. There’s a stepwise approximation of the pore pressure to the rock pressure – that will always be the case if the stuff is coming up from below. You will not just fill up one reservoir at the top in the shallow levels. It will always be underlaid by another reservoir, and that in turn by another, and so on for a long way down.
WIRED: And by pumping out oil from the highest reservoir you release the pressure on the lower ones, allowing more oil to seep up.
GOLD: Yes, the partial seal between the surface reservoir and the one below in some cases appears to break open violently.
Yet in recent years Russia has quietly become the world’s top producer of oil, in part by drilling wells as deep as 40,000 feet — far below the graveyards of T-Rex and his Mesozoic buddies.
In his interview, Gold explained why Russia would have set its compass to the abiogenic star of oil production:
WIRED: Were there precedents for your idea that deep hydrocarbons are a normal fact of planetary geology?
GOLD: In the ’60s, Sir Robert Robinson [a Nobel Prize-winning chemist and president of Britain's Royal Society] said that petroleum looks like a primordial hydrocarbon to which biological products have been added.
WIRED: And what was the response?
GOLD: The response was that I quoted his remark in many of my papers. But the profession of petroleum geology did not pick it up. Mendeleyev [the Russian chemist who developed the periodic table] in the 1870s had said much the same thing, but Robinson had done a more modern analysis of oil and had come to the same conclusion. And, in fact, the Russians have in the last 20 years done an even more precise analysis that completely proves the point. The fact that Mendeleyev was in favor of a primordial origin of petroleum had a great effect – you see, to most Russians, Mendeleyev was the greatest scientist that Russia ever had.
So I guess, in reality, it isn’t Gold’s theory at all, but one posited by a Russian scientist from the late 1800’s, and one that was echoed by the founder of Britain’s national academy of science. Yet somehow the term “fossil fuels” has become fixed, and the concept that oil comes from the decay of death rather than the regeneration of life is treated as gospel. The consensus must have been against them …
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mocked anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a coward on Sunday, hours after the radical leader threatened to declare war unless U.S. and Iraqi forces end a military crackdown on his followers.
Rice, in the Iraqi capital to tout security gains and what she calls an emerging political consensus, said al-Sadr is content to issue threats and edicts from the safety of Iran, where he is studying. Al-Sadr heads an unruly militia that was the main target of an Iraqi government assault in the oil-rich city of Basra last month, and his future role as a spoiler is an open question.
“I know he’s sitting in Iran,” Rice said dismissively, when asked about al-Sadr’s latest threat to lift a self-imposed cease-fire with government and U.S. forces. “I guess it’s all-out war for anybody but him,” Rice said. “I guess that’s the message; his followers can go too their deaths and he’s in Iran.”
Both my surprise and irritation are because our government has been notably reticent to openly ridicule people like Sadr and bin Laden, or to state the obvious with respect to the civilian-targeting terrorists who blow themselves (they hope) to high heaven. None of them are brave enough to face off against their enemies. Instead they snipe from the sidelines, issue crude and fantastic proclamations about their superiority, and in the end they prey upon the weakest and least protected members of the enemy herd. There is a word for these types of people: cowards.
When one considers the fact that we are knee-deep in an information war (as opposed to a conventional, battlefield, territory-taking war), it’s difficult to understand why we haven’t resorted to deriding the enemy much earlier. The war-supporting blogosphere does so on occasion, but our leaders certainly don’t.
By “deriding the enemy” I don’t mean producing propaganda. Instead, call them out regularly and forcefully as the cowards and charlatans that they are. Employ the poison pen and wipe that arrogant smile off of their collective faces. In other words, take them on in the battle space they’ve chosen. We can defeat them there just as easily as we’ve done in actual combat.
There seems to be some confusion on the part of some as to exactly what sort of place ASHC is:
I was rather surprised to read this dubious and scornful appraisal of Michael Yon’s Wallstreet Journal editorial at A Second Hand Conjecture, a heretofore conservative site.
The post Mick Stockinger is referring to was created by Joshua Foust, our resident curmudgeon. Josh took aim at Michael Yon’s apparent advocation for more troops in theater:
This leads us to the most out-of-date aspect of the Senate debate: the argument about the pace of troop withdrawals. Precisely because we have made so much political progress in the past year, rather than talking about force reduction, Congress should be figuring ways and means to increase troop levels. For all our successes, we still do not have enough troops. This makes the fight longer and more lethal for the troops who are fighting.
The title of Yon’s WSJ piece was “Let’s ‘Surge’ Some More.” So the obvious inference was that Yon thinks we should be committing more troops to Iraq as we did with Petraeus’ “surge” last year. Josh took exception with that (in his typical, short-post, snarky way), and he made a valid point: our military is admittedly stretched and strained, to the point that further commitments are not exactly feasible.
I’m not concerned here with the merits of Josh’s post, but instead with the characterization of ASHC as “a heretofore conservative site.” I understand why Mick (and others) think that, but we should set the record straight. This is not a “conservative” site by any stretch of the imagination. The great majority of us support the war in Iraq, but not based on any sort of conservative principles. Essentially we all believe that winning is possible, and that winning is in the best interests of America. The only difference between Josh and the rest of us on this score is that Josh thinks (and can cogently explain when he wants to) that the war was a mistake and that the costs of continuing it are greater than any perceived benefits. Josh and I fundamentally disagree on this point, but that does not make him “liberal” nor me “conservative.”
Which leads me to the ultimate point: ASHC is not a conservative site. We are an amalgamation of views loosely coalesced around the idea that more freedom is better than less. We each hold different views on what that means, and the sole issue on which we are diametrically opposed is with respect to the war in Iraq. Josh stands alone here on ASHC, but I defy anyone to produce a more intelligent and reasoned voice when it comes to articulating why taking on Iraq was a bad idea. Even as I routinely and vociferously disagree with Josh’s assessments, I appreciate the value that Josh adds to the discussion. In other words, Josh may be wrong, but he makes wrong look as right as anyone possibly could.
In sum, if ASHC is deemed insufficiently “conservative” because of Josh’s posts then so be it. We never claimed that moniker, nor is it one that we’ve ever expressed any interest in holding. Personally, I’m proud to have Josh as a co-blogger precisely because our views conflict. You will often find arguments here opining as to how we are winning in Iraq and the GWOT, and you’ll also see arguments suggesting that Iraq was a huge mistake. That does not make ASHC deficient in any category. It makes us more useful and interesting.
I have no idea who’s going to win the election this year, but as I attempt to handicap the race I’m drawn to the old saw that the person with whom most people would rather sit down at a local watering hole and knock back a few tall cold ones with will be the eventual winner.
Going back through the elections that I can remember, this bit of conventional wisdom rings true:
(1) Reagan vs. Carter — A movie star versus a moralistic, beta male. Not even a close call on this one.
(2) Reagan vs. Mondale — Ditto.
(3) Bush vs. Dukakis — Clearly, the guy who seemed like he’d look better in a tank was going to be the one you’d want to take Jaeger shots with. Dukakis made the mistake of proving who that was.
(4) Bush vs. Clinton — The guy who plays saxophone and has a reputation for womanizing is pretty much a lock here. And really, who wants to drink with their grandfather?
(5) Clinton vs. Dole — The grandfather rule applies again, even though Bob Dole’s wit would come close to making up for it.
(6) Gore vs. Bush — Even though Bush doesn’t drink anymore, I would rather hang out in a bar with him than Gore any day. Even so, Gore does have a good sense of humor, so he wouldn’t be all that bad. The American electorate seemed to agree that this was pretty much a push.
(7) Bush vs. Kerry — I can’t think of anything that would be fun to do with John Kerry. Enough said.
So, if the old saw is true, then who amongst the current class is the person who you’d most like to have a beer with? In my mind, that’s got to be Obama.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that Clinton and McCain would be interesting to talk to over a few beers, but Obama just strikes me as the one who would be easiest to get along with in such a situation. He seems much more comfortable in his own skin than either of the others, he’s much younger, and he smokes. That’s bar material if you ask me.
John McCain would thrill you with stories, I’m sure. The guy really is a legend as far as I’m concerned, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that it would be a fascinating evening. But, the grandfather rule applies here as well. War stories can be riveting, but that’s not necessarily how I want to fill my evening out. Plus, McCain’s known to have a temper, and angry drunks are just no fun.
Hillary seems like she would be a total bore. The only way things would get interesting with her, is if she got tipsy enough to start dishing dirt. But she’s entirely too controlled and controlling to let that happen, so I’d expect it would be a pretty boring outing.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that, if the old saw really does work , and Obama can survive the primary season, then he will be our next president.
Some people are hoping to hoist John McCain on his own campaign finance petard. As satisfying as it would be to see the Senator receive a healthy dose of his bitter medicine, however, the complaints filed against him with the FEC will almost assuredly fail.
In the blogosphere it is the most recent complaint filed by Jane Hamsher, et al. that is getting the most attention.
Yesterday, on behalf of a large number of progressive bloggers and activists, Jane went to the FEC and filed an official complaint against John McCain’s alleged campaign finance violations. We’ve been asking a lot of questions about this, and the answers have been less than forthcoming. So, instead of just sitting here and stewing about yet another GOP ethical problem, we decided to put our action where our concerns were.
As Markos of DailyKos pointed out in joining the complaint, “John McCain has officially blown past campaign spending limits mandated by his original acceptance of public campaign funding. While he has signaled his intent to withdraw from such financing, that has been hindered by the fact that he used the promise of public funding to secure a campaign loan.” Guess the campaign finance laws only apply when they aren’t inconvenient for McCain’s ambitions.
In truth, Hamsher’s complaint is a just piggy-backing off of the DNC’s complaint filed on February 25, 2008. Unsurprisingly, the DNC complaint is much more substantive:
In order to receive matching funds, John McCain signed a binding agreement with the FEC to accept spending limits and to abide by the conditions of receiving those funds. The FEC makes clear that any request to withdraw from the agreement must be granted by the FEC. In other words, McCain can’t just unilaterally withdraw. FEC Chairman David Mason made this clear in a letter to McCain advising him that the law requires the FEC to approve his request to withdraw from his contract.
According to past Commission rulings, the McCain campaign would not be allowed to withdraw from matching funds because it has already violated a key condition for being let out of the program – pledging matching funds as collateral for a private loan. McCain obtained a $4 million line of credit — drew $2,971,697 from it – and documents make clear that the promise of public financing was used to secure his loan.
The gravamen of both complaints is that McCain’s attempt to withdraw from the matching funds program, and thus to spend more than allowed thereunder, is a dead letter because he pledged the certification for federal matching funds as security for private financing. According to the FEC, withdrawal from the program will normally be automatically granted “prior to the payment date for any such funds to such candidate or his or her committee upon receipt of a written request signed by the candidate, provided that the certification of funds has not been pledged as security for private financing.” However, the loan documents tell a different story.
In November of 2007, McCain took out a $3 Million line of credit with Fidelity & Trust Bank of Maryland (see DNC Comp., Ex. 4, pdf p.18). As a part of that loan, McCain also executed a Security Agreement pledging all of his assets to the Bank as collateral, with the explicit exception of:
any certifications of matching fund eligibility currently possessed by [McCain] or obtained before January 1, 2008 and the right of John McCain 2008, Inc. and John McCain to receive payment under these certifications [which] are not collateral under the Commercial Security Agreement for this Loan.
(see pdf p.21). Such disclaiming language appears throughout the loan documents, making it abundantly clear that the Bank had no security interest in or to the certifications or any matching funds.
The entire loan was later modified, on December 17, 2007, raising the limit on the amount that could be borrowed to $4 Million. The modification also altered the language concerning the matching fund certifications. In particular, the parties had anticipated all along that McCain may withdraw from the program, and the documents addressed the scenario of McCain then losing the New Hampshire primary afterwards. In that case, McCain would then reapply (i.e. re-certify) for federal matching funds, and then pledge a security interest therein to the Bank. The Loan modification, changed the re-certification promise to include the next primary McCain ran in after withdrawal. (see pdf p.35).
In addition, the modification revised the “STATUS OF CURRENTLY HELD CERTIFICATIONS OF MATCHING FUNDS” to read:
[McCain] and Lender agree that any certifications of matching funds eligibility now held by [McCain], and the right of [McCain] to receive payment under such certifications, are not (and shall not be) collateral for the Loan.
At this point it should be painfully clear that neither McCain nor the Bank think that there is a security interest in the certification.
The DNC attempts to argue that despite the clear and unambiguous language to the contrary, McCain did in fact pledge a security interest in the certification … with respect to future matching funds! The DNC basically makes three arguments in order to prove its case:
(1) McCain’s promise to re-certify for matching funds in the event that he loses a primary after withdrawing from the program, and to grant a security interest in such certification and matching funds to the Bank, creates “a present encumbrance, however conditional, of the Campaign’s future interest in and entitlement to matching funds ….”
This argument is fallacious on its face. The FEC policy of automatically granting a request to withdraw from the program provided that the currently held certification has not been pledged does not have anything to do with future certifications. It only deals with a certification presently held by a candidate. That McCain promised to grant a security interest to future certifications, upon certain other conditions being met, is not material to the current certifications. Indeed, both the Bank and McCain understood that a security interest in the certification would prevent McCain from withdrawing, which is why they drafted the documents the way that they did.
Furthermore, even accepting the DNC’s argument as valid, it is self-defeating. If the Bank’s has a present security interest in future certifications, and that security interest prevents McCain’s withdrawal from the program, then the conditions precedent to the Bank perfecting it’s security interest (i.e. withdrawal and re-certification) cannot be met. Ergo, it has no security interest.
(2) McCain agreed to abide by, and to stay within, “overall or state spending limits set forth in the Federal Matching Funds Program,” regardless of whether the campaign was still participating in the program or not. The DNC reasons that these provisions are for the sole purpose of ensuring that McCain can receive future matching funds, and that the Bank can take a security interest therein.
The DNC is probably right about that, but so what? It still doesn’t create any security interest since not only was any such interest specifically and repeatedly disclaimed, the only possible interest the Bank could have would be in funds received after McCain withdrew from the program and then re-certified. At the time McCain attempted to withdraw from the program, the certification his campaign held was not encumbered. End of story.
(3) While the description of collateral excludes current certifications held by McCain, it implicitly includes “rights to receive matching funds, i.e., that come into existence, after January 1, 2008, based on matchable contributions received and presentations in good order made after that date … The modification makes clear again that, although the initial amount certified in December 2007 may not be part of the Collateral, the Collateral will include future amounts of matching funds paid, based on future submissions, even though based on the initial certification of eligibility.”
Although this argument is also wrong, it is certainly clever. If we assume that the specific exclusions of McCain’s certification found throughout the documents are simply ineffective, and that the limits on the Bank’s interest in such certification and the rights to any matching funds is only the good up to date of the modification, then the DNC’s argument that any certified funds after that date are in fact part of the Collateral might actually make some sense. However, there are a couple of problems with it.
First of all, there is only one certification, and that is the initial one made by McCain in August of 2007. When McCain withdrew from the program on February 7, 2008, it is implied that the initial amount certified had not been amended, and that no further funds had been certified for matching. Accordingly, once again there has not been a present security interest created, nor is it even clear that a future interest was anticipated by the Bank prior to McCain’s withdrawal and re-certification.
Secondly, looking at Exhibit 2 of the DNC Complaint we see that as of December 20, 2007 John McCain had certified $5,812,197.35 (also found here). However, when we look at the FEC data for 2008 Presidential Matching Fund Submissions, there are no new funds submitted for certification since the December 20 press release. If we accept the DNC’s argument as correct, and McCain has not in fact submitted any new funds for certification since December 20, 2007, then the Bank still does not have any security interest in the certification or matching funds.
Accordingly, the DNC’s Complaint will most likely be denied since the Bank quite clearly excluded McCain’s certification and any matching funds from becoming security for the loan. If McCain actually did submit funds after December 20, 2007 for certification, there is a colorable argument that such certified funds are pledged as collateral, but given the totality of the documents that’s not a very winnable position.
Regarding Hamsher’s Complaint, it tries to make the case that because the FEC has not yet granted McCain’s request that he withdraw from the program, that he is still bound by the spending caps, and that he has violated those caps. Even if she is right about McCain’s campaign exceeding the spending limits, McCain would certainly have a reasonable expectation to believe that he will eventually be released from the program, given that he complies with the provisos for an automatic grant of his request. Moreover, it would not be reasonable to expect to him to await the FEC’s decision on the matter when the commission doesn’t even have enough members to do so:
The only trouble is, the commission hasn’t got a quorum… and it won’t, until the Senate breaks a deadlock on approving nominees.
The FEC can’t deliver any decision yet, and prior opinions indicate clearly that McCain will be released. Why should he be restricted to the spending caps?
Furthermore, and this goes to all the arguments above, it’s not even clear that the FEC has the power to prevent McCain from withdrawing in the first place. The FEC thinks that the certification process creates a binding contract between the candidate and the commission, but it doesn’t look like any enforceable contract I’ve ever seen. There is no consideration, and there is no mutuality of obligation. A candidate can apply for the funds, but he can’t be required to actually take them, can he? If he were to take the funds, then there is probably an enforceable contract, but prior to that time the candidate is merely trying to establish eligibility. Imagine going to a bank and applying for a loan, and then having the bank sue you because your credit score does not allow you to qualify for a loan. That’s pretty much the argument being made.
So that’s the DNC and Hamsher case against McCain in a nut shell. He accepted a loan from a bank, specifically excluding as collateral any certification for matching federal funds, except that he secretly really did! Oh, and because the FEC hasn’t granted McCain permission to not accept federal matching funds, then he is still bound by the spending caps, and he’s violated those with reckless abandon. Needless to say, I don’t think either complaint will be successful.
Al Qaeda’s efforts in Iraq have been less than successful over the past year, due in large part to the Anbar Awakening and the related Councils of Concerned Citizens/Sons of Iraq movements, and the support offered those movements by Petraeus’ COIN methods manifested by the “surge.” Essentially, as Tigerhawk predicted a while back (and I discussed here), once the locals got sick of the barbaric tactics employed by al Qaeda and its fellow travelers, anti-American feelings simply were not enough to continue even passively supporting the terrorists and insurgents. It was pretty clear who offered the better deal, and the Iraqis rose up in great numbers to protect their families and their homes.
The inestimable Oliver Kamm provides a glimpse at the value our British friends find in a potential John McCain presidency:
Two points about McCain stand out. He’s not a conservative and he’s been right all along about Iraq. These are the reasons I favoured him from the outset for the Republican nomination. Indeed McCain has been more right than anyone on Iraq. He’s stuck to that position despite his conviction, (expressed in Seattle just over a year ago) that, like Tony Blair, he might have sacrificed his political career for Iraq. In The Sunday Times today, Sarah Baxter reports a gracious remark of McCain that “I do miss Tony Blair”.
Oliver quotes this exchange as being particularly noteworthy (my emphasis):
[INTERVIEWER]: In all of the polls, the majority of the American people say it’s time to begin withdrawing the troops. The House is on record saying it’s time to begin withdrawing. The Senate now on the record. You say more troops are the answer. Why?
MCCAIN: Well, I think the surge is a new strategy. It’s not just more troops. It’s a new strategy. The second thing is, polls are interesting. If you ask the American people, “If we can show you a path to success, a way that you can have a government that’s functioning and the military situation under control,” of course they’ll support it. They’re frustrated, and understandably, by the lack of progress in Iraq. And that’s because of the terrible mismanagement of this war that went on for nearly four years.
In addition to opining that McCain should opt for Sen. Joe Lieberman as his running mate over Mike Huckabee, Oliver concludes:
When I had a rather less elevated exchange last week with Tony Benn, he kept on about the anti-war views of the British people. But the British electorate, like the American electorate, is not opposed to war: it’s opposed to defeat.
Even as I agree that both the Brits and Americans would be more supportive of the war if a clear path to “victory” were established, I have to wonder if the Brits’ would be as enamored of McCain if he was more of a true conservative. McCain’s more Continental views with respect to social issues and the government’s role in them, and his unwavering stance on the proper manner for prosecuting the war in Iraq, combine to present to the Brits a politician they apparently feel comfortable with. However, if McCain did hold more conservative positions on topics such as immigration, global warming, and stem cell research, would the Brits be as sanguine about his prescription for Iraq? Somehow I doubt it.
Indeed, the comments at Oliver’s place suggest as much:
I have to disagree with you, Oliver, when you say that McCain is “not a conservative.” He’s definitely a conservative, just not a bigot (usually the two are interchangeable in American politics); McCain is to the right on every issue you cite: immigration, environment, science (he recently promoted the teaching of creation alongside evolution in Arizona schools), and same-sex rights. He also leans to the right on taxation, direct corporate intervention in legislation, and the place of religion in public life. Moreover on each of these issues McCain has compromised or entirely sold out his “maverick” positions in order to attain the nomination, and it is unlikely that once in office he would be able to renege on the promises he has made to far-right groups during the campaign, and definitely not if he wanted to seek a second term. Certainly he is not a far-right figure, but considering that even the Democrats are closer to the British Conservative party than to Labor, that makes McCain rather further right than you suggest. McCain may well be correct (or more correct) than Clinton or Obama on Iraq, but he would be a disaster for America’s domestic politics, which might well be more important in the long term for the fight against terrorism and al-Qaeda.
In other words, McCain’s domestic policy positions are much more important than his stance on Iraq. Brits who find him less than stellar in that regard, aren’t going to be very persuaded that (a) the war in Iraq is susceptible to any positive outcome, or (b) that John McCain has the proper policy for it, or (c) that his Iraq war policy is at all beneficial. And I think that holds true on this side of the pond as well. Many on the American left would agree, I think, that however left of the GOP base McCain may be, he’s still the wrong choice on domestic issues. There is almost no position he can take on such issues that will change their mind on the war.
I have made it clear on this blog and in conversations with friends and family that my vote will go to the candidate that supports the fight for democracy in Iraq, and will not abandon the Kurds to be slaughtered yet again. I can forgive some of McCain’s decisions throughout his career and the way he has pandered to religious conservatives in recent months, and I can effortlessly when I consider what democracy promotion will look like if someone like Obama or Edwards is elected.
The War on Terror and the fight for liberal democracy may be nothing more than a bumper sticker slogan to some on the left, but it means something to me. If we surrender freedom to the forces of theocracy and totalitarianism overseas, we do not deserve to call ourselves democrats at home. If our concept of democracy ends at our borders, like Ron Paul supporters would have us believe, then we have sacrificed our comrades overseas for juvenile self assuredness and sciolism.
Both Oliver and Roland make a case for the left to get behind McCain’s campaign based his plan for victory in Iraq, which they see as the correct one. However, the presumption that victory is important to the left is misplaced. Achieving a stable democratic regime in the heart of the Middle East is never going to be acceptable to a good deal of the left who, even if they begrudgingly granted that such an accomplishment would count as a “victory”, tend to consider it to be little more than encouragement for future foreign excursions. Even more troubling for them is the fact that America will have avoided its much deserved comeuppance for its domineering ways. A victory in Iraq translates in to ever more unchecked American imperialism, which the left simply cannot abide.
In my humble opinion, until voices akin to those of Roland and Oliver (and Hitchens) find more purchase amongst the left, anybody and anything that trips up America will be applauded, and any person who speaks up against America will be feted as a hero. John McCain, therefore, may stand out to some on the left as one who can fulfill the role of spreading democracy (and through democracy, peace), and thus as someone whom they can get behind. But I would not expect the left as a whole (or even a large part) to embrace the Senator for these views, regardless of how liberal he may be on social issues. At least not until a majority of them can also embrace American virtues such as free enterprise, self-determination and individualism, which virtues are antithetical to governance for the “common good.” For so long as the needs of government are placed above the needs of the governed, victory for America in foreign lands will be viewed through the prism of the “common good.”
Eliot Spitzer’s tumultuous tumble from the zenith of a promising political career to the nadir of a shocking sex scandal came as no surprise Wednesday as the bright, bull-headed governor announced his resignation, effective Monday, under bloating pressure from state lawmakers and the public.
Lt. Gov. David Paterson will become the 55th governor of New York and the state’s first black governor.
There were rumors that the once-heralded Democrat had negotiated a plea deal to avoid jail time in the case, but U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia squashed those rumors. “There is no agreement between this Office and Gov. Eliot Spitzer, relating to his resignation or any other matter,” he said in a statement to CBS 2.
That leaves Spitzer open to being indicted and facing prison time.
Curiouser and curiouser. The conventional wisdom amongst the legal pundits has been that Spitzer didn’t resign because he was in negotiations to cut a deal with federal prosecutors. In order to get the deal, according to this theory, Spitzer couldn’t resign first since that would rob him of his only bargaining chip.
It’s hard to say whether those negotiations (if they occurred) simply broke down and the pressure became too great for Spitzer to remain in the Governor’s Mansion, or if perhaps the feds just didn’t care whether he resigned or not, so offering up his office wasn’t really a chip at all. Either way, he’s gone and he’s not going to be involved in politics again any time soon. I just hope the feds show Spitzer as much mercy as he showed those whom he prosecuted.
Ever since John McCain effectively wrapped up his party’s nomination, I’ve been thinking that it might not be such a great thing for the Republican ticket. Because Obama and Hillary are still battling it out for the Democrat nomination, and will continue to do so all the way to the convention in August, they are maintaining extremely high profiles. McCain, on the other hand, has made little news for a couple of weeks now (at least, none that was positive), and it’s hard to see how that will change any time soon. In addition, the rather lopsided voter turnout in favor of Democrats during this primary season, is an ominous sign for Republicans. From now until the respective conventions, it seems pretty likely that McCain will be taking a back seat to the Obama & Hillary show, something that will greatly affect his campaign’s momentum, and may hurt his chances in the Fall.
On the Democrat side, there may be some mixed blessings as well. Hillary has been pushing Michigan and Florida to redo their primaries so that their delegates will be counted in Denver. Currently discussions are being held to decide how such do-overs might be accomplished (HT: HuffPo):
The media is abuzz with stories on how to resolve the impasse over how — or even whether — to give the Michigan and Florida delegations seats and votes at the summer nominating convention, after the national party banned them for moving up their state primaries. And there seem to be as many possible solutions as there are interested parties.
“But though the states, the party and the candidates have all suggested that they have no choice but to find a solution and that they are open to another round of voting, much remains to be settled,” wrote John Broder in Friday’s New York Times. “Among the issues are what kind of contests to hold, when to hold them, how to allocate the delegates and, critically, who picks up the multimillion-dollar tab in each state.”
Some solutions to the money problems are being proposed by Hillary supporters:
The Michigan Democratic Party says it is happy to hear that Govs. Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania have pledged to help raise millions of dollars to stage new primaries in Michigan and Florida.
The governors, both supporters of Hillary Clinton, said Sunday that they would be willing to raise half of the $30 million it would take to give voters in the two states a chance to choose between Clinton and her rival Barack Obama.
Michigan’s Governor proposed holding “firehouse primaries”:
Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Thursday she envisions a do-over Democratic presidential contest in Michigan on a Saturday in June, with somebody other than the state’s taxpayers picking up the tab.
The governor, in an interview with The Detroit News, referred to the contest as a “firehouse primary” — more expansive than a party caucus but not a full-blown affair like a traditional, state-financed primary. People would have to declare themselves Democrats in order to participate, and the contest would be run by the Democratic Party, not the state.
And Florida Senator Bill Nelson is pushing for a mail-in vote:
Democratic Party officials here are close to completing a draft plan for a new mail-in primary that would take place by early June, a proposal that seeks to give Florida delegates a role in the party’s presidential contest, several people involved in the discussions said Tuesday.
A spokesman for Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat who has been pushing for a mail-in contest, said Mr. Nelson expected the Florida Democratic Party to finalize details of the complex plan as soon as Wednesday.
Whatever the method, a re-vote appears to be inevitable at this point. But is that really a good thing for Hillary? First of all, because of the proportional system used by Democrats to divvy up delegates, the eventual outcome of these do-overs probably won’t make any real difference to the relative standings of the candidates. Obama will probably continue to hold a lead in the overall count, although Hillary could narrow that gap. Either way, neither can win enough delegates to seal up the nomination, and it will be the superdelegates who will be the deciding factor at the convention.
But what will Hillary do if she loses this time around? Obama didn’t campaign in either state, and wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan. He also didn’t have the momentum that he has now. If his position as the (statistical) front-runner causes voters to switch their allegiances, Hillary could find herself even farther behind, and with even less of a claim to being the “national candidate.”
And consider the fact that, despite not running, Obama still picked up 33% of the votes in Florida (Clinton 50%; Edwards 14%), and in Michigan, where Obama wasn’t even a choice, Hillary only managed to pick up 55% of the vote with Undecided coming in a strong second at 40%. IN a one-on-one race between just Hillary and Obama, it’s not at all certain that Hillary can pull of the wins, which she desperately needs if she wants to make a serious case for her candidacy come August.
So it’s mixed blessings all around, and the only clear winner appears to be Obama. Not only his getting the benefit of the national spotlight, he may be in a position to steal one or two states from Hillary, and even if he fails in that endeavor it doesn’t hurt him.
UPDATE: For another take on the effects of the long, drawn-out Democratic Primary, see McQ:
As the two contenders for the nomination batter and bruise each other in the coming weeks, it appears that more and more supporters of one candidate will find the other candidate an unacceptable alternative if their’s loses. And that is a huge boon for John McCain, who a surprising number on the left find to be an acceptable Republican.
Apparently rumors have been swirling around for awhile that Fallon was on his way out. Well, today he resigned and the speculation is that it was over a recent interview he did in Esquire, written by Thomas P.M. Barnett (regarding which Josh noted Fallon’s strange reaction last week). However, you can rest assured that a different meme will be floated as to why Fallon is gone:
Adm. William J. Fallon, the top American commander in the Middle East whose views on Iran and other issues have seemed to put him at odds with the Bush administration, is retiring early, the Pentagon said Tuesday afternoon.
The retirement of Admiral Fallon, 63, who only a year ago became the first Navy man to be named the commander of the United States Central Command, was announced by his civilian boss, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who said that he accepted the admiral’s request to retire “with reluctance and regret.”
Despite the warm words, there was no question that the admiral’s premature departure stemmed from policy differences with the administration, and with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq.
The bone of contention between Fallon and the Bush Administration, according to this meme (and sometimes, Adm. Fallon himself), is that Fallon refuses to go to war with Iran. From the Barnett profile in Esquire (HT: Allahpundit):
Just as Fallon took over Centcom last spring, the White House was putting itself on a war footing with Iran. Almost instantly, Fallon began to calmly push back against what he saw as an ill-advised action. Over the course of 2007, Fallon’s statements in the press grew increasingly dismissive of the possibility of war, creating serious friction with the White House.
Last December, when the National Intelligence Estimate downgraded the immediate nuclear threat from Iran, it seemed as if Fallon’s caution was justified. But still, well-placed observers now say that it will come as no surprise if Fallon is relieved of his command before his time is up next spring, maybe as early as this summer, in favor of a commander the White House considers to be more pliable. If that were to happen, it may well mean that the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year and don’t want a commander standing in their way.
And so Fallon, the good cop, may soon be unemployed because he’s doing what a generation of young officers in the U. S. military are now openly complaining that their leaders didn’t do on their behalf in the run-up to the war in Iraq: He’s standing up to the commander in chief, whom he thinks is contemplating a strategically unsound war.
The only problem with the meme is that Administration officials who want to go to war with Iran are somewhat hard to come by:
The current issue of Esquire Magazine portrays Fallon as the one person in the military or Pentagon standing between the White House and war with Iran. The article credits Fallon with “brazenly challenging his commander in chief” over a possible war with Iran, which Fallon called an “ill-advised action,” and implies Fallon would resign rather than go to war against Iran.
Still, the gruff, outspoken CENTCOM commander has his detractors. “How many times can [Fallon] get away with these kinds of remarks,” before he’s forced out the door, asked one senior Pentagon official. The reason may be that on Iran, Gates and many senior military officials happen to agree with Fallon.
Most military leaders against military strike on Iran
Gates has said publicly and privately that under current conditions he’s opposed to war with Iran. Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen is also against it. In fact, almost every senior military officer we’ve talked to is against launching military strikes against Iran, because as one senior official told us, “then what do you do?”
In addition, military officials dispute the premise of the story that the White House is pressuring the military to go to war with Iran. “Not true,” said a senior military official, despite the anti-Iran drumbeat from Vice President Dick Cheney.
In fact, during a conference in Bahrain last December, Gates had to convince Gulf state Arab allies that the United States was not going soft on Iran, because from their vantage point it appeared the Bush administration was backing away from its tough stand against Iran.
In other words, Fallon seems to have erected a strawman against which to battle, and the Administration was not pleased with the argument being made, nor the way in which Fallon was portraying the CiC.
Admiral Fallon had rankled senior officials of the Bush administration with outspoken comments on such issues as dealing with Iran and on setting the pace of troop reductions from Iraq — even though his comments were well within the range of views expressed by Mr. Gates.
Officials said the last straw, however, came in an article in Esquire magazine by Thomas P. M. Barnett, a respected military analyst, that profiled Admiral Fallon under the headline, “The Man Between War and Peace.” The article highlighted comments Admiral Fallon made to the Arab television station Al Jazeera last fall, in which he said that a “constant drumbeat of conflict” from Washington that was directed at Iran and Iraq was “not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions.”
It seems that Fallon saw the writing on the wall, however, leading to his strange “poison pen” comments:
Sources in the Pentagon said Fallon was worried the White House would perceive the magazine piece as a challenge to the president’s authority, and insisted that couldn’t be further from the truth. At the same time the sources said Fallon “doesn’t sound like someone considering resignation.”
In his own defense, Fallon told the Washington Post that the Esquire article was “poison pen stuff…disrespectful and ugly.”
While any policy differences, real or perceived, between top U.S. military commanders and the civilian leadership are not necessarily unusual, it’s rare when those commanders take the debate so public.
…Wolf’s sources, for months now, have said that this was coming, not for disagreements with the administration about a looming war with Iran, but for some other internal “issues” that have nothing to do with policy or the administration. His replacement has been considered for some time now.
The media is speculating that this is another case of Shinseki-izing – the Bush administration getting rid of another dissenter. They are wrong.
UPDATE: According to Think Progress (@ UpdateIV), Harry Reid is ready to get the meme rolling:
I am concerned that the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and a military leader with more than three decades of command experience, is yet another example that independence and the frank, open airing of experts’ views are not welcomed in this Administration.
Admiral William Fallon, the bulwark between Bush and a war with Iran, is resigning as head of U.S. Central Command. According to the tidbit I just saw on CNN, apparently Secretary Bob Gates said that Fallon quit for the most postmodern of reasons: Fallon thought a recent, highly-controversial Esquire article portrayed him as in opposition to Bush’s bellicosity over Iran … Gates said in a press conference just now that no one should think the move reflects any substantive change in policy. That sure won’t be how Teheran sees it. The Iranians will consider Fallon’s resignation to indicate that the bombing begins in the next five minutes.
Although, to be fair, Ackerman does offer another explanation:
This sounds like a resignation on principle. Either that or Fallon got caught with “Kristen.”
I’m sure you are all well informed on the Spitzer chronicles by now. If not, crawl through the Memeorandum links to inform yourself (get a cup of coffee or other preferred beverage, because it will take awhile). I just wanted to point to some highlights.
(1) Radley Balko: Schadenfreude — “May your fall be steep and severe, governor.
Sweet, sweet karmic justice. Now, let’s all watch as a man who rose to power and fame by railroading people on ridiculous charges himself get tripped up by a dumb, unjust law.
I’ll get the popcorn. This one is going to be fun.”
(2) Jon Henke: Speaking Truth to Tyranny — “The Great Man Theory of political improvement is bankrupt. The fundamental problems in politics are not resolvable by electing “better” people (though that might help at the margins); the fundamental problems in politics are the structural and systemic perverse incentives to pander, bribe and capture more power, and even the best-intentioned politician cannot escape those problems.”
(3)(a) Dan Riehl: Hyp-Sock-risy — “My, what a scathing indictment of Senator David Vitter from the Blogosphere’s most infamous sock puppet Rick Ellensburg (aka Glenn Geenwald) when Vitter’s name turned up linked to a prostitute.
Maybe Vitter should have made things right – and changed his political affiliation before getting caught.”
(3)(b) Socks: What’s the big deal? — “Regarding all of the breathless moralizing from all sides over the “reprehensible,” outrageous crimes of Eliot Spitzer: are there actually many people left who care if an adult who isn’t their spouse hires prostitutes? Are there really people left who think that doing so should be a crime, that adults who hire other consenting adults for sex should be convicted and go to prison?”
Good question Glenn! Let’s ask Eliot Spitzer:
Mr. Spitzer gained national attention when he served as attorney general with his relentless pursuit of Wall Street wrongdoing. As attorney general, he also had prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state’s organized crime task force.
In one such case in 2004, Mr. Spitzer spoke with revulsion and anger after announcing the arrest of 16 people for operating a high-end prostitution ring out of Staten Island.
“This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multitiered management structure,” Mr. Spitzer said at the time. “It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring.”
Hmmm, I guess at least one person.
(4) Steven Bainbridge: I told you! — “Which leads to the ethics question of the day: Is schadenfreude a sin? If so, I’m sinning big time today. Why? Because Spitzer’s attacks on his various targets have always had a highly moralistic tone. He portrays himself as Mr Clean exposing the dity linen of business … Now, perhaps, the chickens are coming home to roost. One can only hope Spitzer encounters a prosecutor who brings to the task the same zeal as Spitzer brought to his own crusades.”
Be sure to check out the compendium of Spitzer’s “zealousness.”
(5) RADAR: Nuance — “Clinton Yanks Spitzer Endorsement Faster Than A Hooker Yanks… Well, You Get It”
(6) Jane Hamsher: Conspiracy — “How did Spitzer’s name get leaked to the media, and who did it? Didn’t happen to Dave Vitter.”
Dunno, Jane. Perhaps it was that news conference that Der Guvenehr had today, after telling his staff of his (ahem) indiscretions, upon realizing that he bore a great deal of resemblance to Client 9. Or the VRWC. You pick.
(7) Reuters: New York joins the 20th Century — “David A. Paterson would become the first African-American governor of New York if the current governor, Eliot Spitzer, resigns in the wake of allegations of ties to prostitution.
Paterson, who is legally blind, was elected lieutenant governor in November 2006 together with Spitzer.”
It’s about time that New York caught up with her less progressive sister states, such as Virginia and Louisiana, who elected black governors quite some time ago (indeed, La. elected P. B. S. Pinchback as Lt. Governor in 1868). Hell, here in Virginia we didn’t even need to have anyone resign. Doug Wilder (who now serves as the Mayor of Richmond) was directly elected Governor in 1990.
(8) Marc Ambinder: Scorecard — “There is a script to these things.
First, the politician acknowedges the gravity of the infraction. Mr. Spitzer’s brief public statement did not do so. This isn’t about prostitution. It’s about — allegedly — Gambino crime family money laundering.
Then the politician apologizes for unspecified obligation failings. This, Mr. Spitzer did.
Then the politician retreats into a period of solitude, and then acknowledges some congenital defect or longstanding condition, such as alcoholism. TBD.
Public pressure, aided and abetted by the media, mounts. TBD.
The politician either figures out what the public wants, or he does not — and proceeds accordingly. TBD.”
Finally, my personal take is that Spitzer’s frequenting of prostitutes doesn’t mean much. He hurt his family (and his daughters I do feel sorry for), and he hurt himself, but that’s about it. Some have brought up the potential for blackmail, but I can’t see how that theory holds much water if he came clean the minute he knew the news would get out. Even the hypocrisy doesn’t bother any more than anyone else’s hypocrisy bothers me.
No, none of that is of much concern to me. The one emotion I truly feel about all of this is relief. Relief that this man will be stopped in his tyrannical tracks. Relief that his name and “for the Presidency” will no longer be uttered together. Relief that his heavy-handed Putin style of rule (OK, that’s a bit over the top … but just a bit) is coming to an end. And most of all, that Spitzer can no longer be seriously considered for any higher office in America.
OK, and maybe I feel a little bit of Schadenfreude …
The inscrutable and vainglorious Boi from Brazil weighs in to explain why Republicans find Obama’s candidacy “scary”:
Conservatives love to claim that Obama supporters have excess reverence for their candidate and see him as some sort of transcendent messiah figure. There is a small minority of Obama supporters — as is true for most candidates and political movements — who probably expect more from Obama than it is healthy to expect from political leaders generally.
But listening to this objection from the right-wing movement is the ultimate irony. There has not been a political figure in a long, long time who was revered, worshiped and transformed into a grotesque Icon of Transcendent Greatness the way the Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush, has been. For years and years, the Right sustained itself as little more than a glorified Cult of Personality around the Great, Conquering War Hero.
Greenwald goes on to detail what he supposes is evidence of George Bush’s cult of personality, consisting entirely of hagiographies written about the President by conservatives, and remarks from politicians. That there are Bush’ophiles in the Republican Party is no big surprise, nor particularly indicative of anything other than party loyalty to a beleaguered President. That Greenwald thinks that is commensurate with a video supporting Obama’s candidacy by having celebrities chant the man’s name is more than silly. Indeed, the Puppet-master’s analysis has all the depth and weight of a ratty old sock, worn thin at the heel and sporting massive holes. Rick Moran makes this abundantly clear:
For one so hysterically inclined to exaggerate, to denigrate, to posit the most outrageously ignorant motivations for conservative actions, our man Mr. Ellison simply lacks the ability to evaluate anything in an adult manner. Instead, he reminds me of a teenage girl in the way he dramatizes the most insignificant events and statements from conservatives as sinister and evil. A true drama queen of the left, he is incapable of the kind of balanced, nuanced judgement ascribed to most grown ups who write about politics and politicians.
Lambchop cannot tell the difference between political hyperbole as given by politicians above and the raw, emotional, slavish, worshipful, and fervent idolatry that millions of Obama supporters demonstrate on a regular basis. They can’t tell you why they are for him. They can’t tell you why they faint and weep in his presence. They can’t tell you why they believe he can “change the world” when he can’t even change the politics of Chicago.
Rick cites a Political Punch entry quoting an Obama supporter:
Obama supporter Kathleen Geier writes that she’s “getting increasingly weirded out by some of Obama’s supporters. On listservs I’m on, some people who should know better – hard-bitten, not-so-young cynics, even – are gushing about Barack…
Describing various encounters with Obama supporters, she writes, “Excuse me, but this sounds more like a cult than a political campaign. The language used here is the language of evangelical Christianity – the Obama volunteers speak of ‘coming to Obama’ in the same way born-again Christians talk about ‘coming to Jesus.’…So I say, we should all get a grip, stop all this unseemly mooning over Barack, see him and the political landscape he is a part of in a cooler, clearer, and more realistic light, and get to work.”
Joe Klein, no Republican hack, is also quoted in the Political Punch piece:
Joe Klein, writing at Time, notes “something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism” he sees in Obama’s Super Tuesday speech.
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” Obama said. “This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency of the United States of America is different. It’s different not because of me. It’s different because of you.”
Says Klein: “That is not just maddeningly vague but also disingenuous: the campaign is entirely about Obama and his ability to inspire. Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause — other than an amorphous desire for change — the message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is. “
I actually disagree with Klein that Obama has not put any substance on the table, but he is correct that the fervency of the Illinois Senator’s support is not derived from his policies, but from a visceral reaction to his candidacy.
Rick succinctly differentiates between Obama supporters and Bush-bots:
No one has ever accused George Bush of being a rock star. No one has ever said that Bush causes the hearts of women to palpitate uncontrollably thus causing them to pass out.
And yet Lambchop, in what can only be described as one of his more desperate leaps of illogic, tries to assign equal value to the Obama phenomena and the small number of Bush-bots who I’ll bet never thought any impure thoughts about George.
Two Messiahs. One Religion. McQ considers how this might become a problem for the Democratic Party:
There is indeed a faction on the left who want a Gore presidency badly. And for a variety of reasons, one of which, of course, has to do with global warming and their belief that we’re on an irreversible road to ruin unless we do something expensive and do it now. Al Gore would facilitate that. He’d also rescue the Democratic party from itself.
The only problem is you can’t have two messiahs in the same religion.
I’d be all for Al Gore to show up at the Democrat Convention, provided that there was real, three-way Highlander meets South Park showdown (complete with Obama singing “Blame Canada“). Heck, I’d GO to the convention to see that.
“Why are the letters ‘NIG’ on the child’s pajamas?”
Asks a commenter — “Tom” — on my post about the new Hillary Clinton commercial, the one that shows several children sleeping and then Clinton taking a national security phone call in the middle of the night. You can see the commercial at the link, and the pajamas in question are on display during seconds 11 and 12. On pausing, staring, and thinking, I believe these are pajamas that say “good night” all over them, but the letters “NIG” are set apart by a fold in the fabric.
Althouse is right to draw comparisons to the infamous “RATS” commercial featured in the the Bush v. Gore election (as she does later in the post), and it is interesting that the MSM does not seem to treat the two scandals with any parity. But I think that where the “RATS” was pretty obviously intentional, the “NIG” is no more than conspiracy theory fodder.
Frankly, I think that Jimmie has the best answer:
My first observation is that Hillary Clinton isn’t just racist, she’s predjudiced against Neanderthals, too. In the same frames where the alleged “NIG” appears, you can clearly see the word “OG” upsidedown above it. It’s reinforced by another “O” before the upsidedown “G”. What does that tell you?
Well, obviously Hillary Clinton thinks Barak Obama is a primitive cavedweller, too. How else could you possibly construe the careful placement of those three letters? Sure, they could have dressed the kid in Captain Caveman pajamas, but that wouldn’t have been subtle enough.
Ah, but there’s more! At the 20-second mark, the lines that converge on the sleeping child’s head clearly form the letter “V”. And on the blanket you can plainly count four dark stripes. Hmmm….V four…AHA! “V for….Vendetta!” Is Hillary Clinton saying that the black man would bring us to the brink of a police state with his black and primitive ways? And that he would focus his cruelty on the heads of our children? Well, of course she is. What other explanation could there be.
For the irony-impaired, Jimmie is being very, very (very) facetious.
Patterico finds little ado here as well:
This is, of course, exceedingly silly. The only interesting question is whether Big Media will run with it or not. The answer: possibly. Since it hurts Hillary and helps the Messiah, why not?
Once the subliminal craziness starts, my friends, it never stops. I am now receiving e-mails detailing alleged Jewish references as well:
Opening shot: light allegedly resembles Star of David.
:04 — six-pointed stars on the girl’s pajamas.
:19 — design of sheets resembles a tallit or an Israel flag.
A blue and white tinge to the opening scenes supposedly references the blue and white flag of Israel.
Once you go looking for subliminal messages, you’ll see them everywhere. But it’s fun to discuss.
As per usual, Tom Maguire finds gold where others have failed to look:
I can’t wait to see the nuanced responses from the media and the Clinton and Obama sides if/when they tackle this. However, there is no Republican involved and the topic is racially charged, so I predict a Move On moment.
Let’s just be grateful this didn’t happen in an ad run by McCain, or sidewalks would be unsafe as libs leapt from tall buildings and psychologists lined up to explain that media professionals don’t make mistakes like this.
Unfortunately, it’s only March 1st. We have nearly seven months before the Republican and Democratic tickets are set. If it’s this looney now, how bad will it be this summer when we’re mired in the familiar “slow news” doldrums? On the bright side, the media may wear itself out before the Fall, and have nothing left to offer for their late October surprise.
Longest. Campaign. Season. Ever.
Does it strike anyone else as tragically ironic that, if indeed John McCain were declared not to be a “natural-born citizen” due to the locus of his birth, then an “anchor baby” could be elected President but the child of an Armed Services member born overseas could not?
Think about that. Child of illegal aliens born on American soil: Presidential material. Child of American citizens born on a military base: Ineligible.
The scary thing is that this probably makes sense in someone’s world view.
THE LATEST non-issue hyped by (who else?) the New York Times is that “some” people are questioning whether or not John McCain is eligible to be a sitting President:
The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president? In the case of Senator John McCain of Arizona, the issue is becoming more than a matter of parental daydreaming.
Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office.
“There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,” said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. “It is not a slam-dunk situation.”
Mr. McCain was born on a military installation in the Canal Zone, where his mother and father, a Navy officer, were stationed. His campaign advisers say they are comfortable that Mr. McCain meets the requirement and note that the question was researched for his first presidential bid in 1999 and reviewed again this time around.
I don’t think the writer of this article, Carl Hulse, could be more melodramatic (”The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president?” — really, Carl? That’s what’s been nagging them?). But then again, there’s not much “there” there, as noted by Dr. Steven Taylor, so I suppose he had to make it at least somewhat suspenseful:
While I will allow that I am not a conlaw scholar, this strikes me as a non-issue. The child of US citizens is a citizen, regardless of where he or she was born. As such, someone like McCain was a citizen by virtue of birth, not via naturalization, and hence he is a “natural born citizen.” Any other interpretation seems ludicrous on its face, to me.
Dr. Taylor points to where Congress previously considered the issue, and quotes the Hulse article:
Quickly recognizing confusion over the evolving nature of citizenship, the First Congress in 1790 passed a measure that did define children of citizens “born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States to be natural born.” But that law is still seen as potentially unconstitutional and was overtaken by subsequent legislation that omitted the “natural-born” phrase.
Mr. McCain’s citizenship was established by statutes covering the offspring of Americans abroad and laws specific to the Canal Zone as Congress realized that Americans would be living and working in the area for extended periods.
Curiously, despite penning the paragraphs above, Hulse still seems to think McCain’s ability to be President is an issue. Ann Althouse disagrees (emphasis in original):
The real constitutional interpretation is taking place right now, as we decide whether to accept a man with this problem as the nominee, and later, as the candidate. I think we as a people have already answered the question as to McCain. None of his opponents are using disqualification as an argument and no one is concerned about it. Think of how different it would be if Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for President. The issue would be debated and argued, and I think we’d see him as disqualified and, because of that, he’d never reach the point of nomination. Can you picture Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton trying to defeat McCain by making the argument that his birth in the Canal Zone disqualifies him? They’d only make themselves look bad. The argument is so unattractive that no one serious will make it, and therefore the question, for all realistic purposes, has already been answered.
For those keeping score, the NYT has in consecutive weeks (a) smeared the likely Republican candidate for Election 2008 with a story based on mere innuendo, rumor, and decades old news, and (b) raised the non-issue of McCain’s status as a natural-born citizen of the United States. But never fear, for this is all the news that’s fit to print. [/eyeroll]
UPDATE: April Gavaza manages to write what I was thinking but somehow forgot to jot down:
I may not like McCain, but these attacks on him are ludicrous and forcing me into the uncomfortable position of defending him. First the NYT article about nothing and now this, a parsing of the phrase “natural born”. It smacks of desperation.
UPDATE II: Jim Lindgren weighs in with the legal history behind “natural-born citizens,” and concludes:
According to even the most technical meaning of “natural born” citizen in the 1780s, John McCain is a natural born citizen of the United States, but George Washington and Thomas Jefferson may not have been (since they were born before 1776), though they would have been generally treated as such at the time.
Of course, when slinging mud as the NYT is doing the arguments don’t need to be sound, some of the mud just has to stick.
UPDATE III: Via the comments below, Roland Dodds notes the right-wing genesis for this dubious knock on John McCain:
Upon trolling through far right websites today, I found one of the more interesting arguments made against McCain’s candidacy from the right: he apparently isn’t a natural born citizen. From the American Voice, a right wing radio network associated with Bo Gritz (the right wing survivalist associated with the Christian Identity movement, and worked fervently to stop Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube from being removed in 2005) …
And should I found it the least bit surprising that the American Voice is advocating Ron Paul?
Two things you probably don’t know about me and one you probably do:
(1) I’m a pretty decent musician and singer.
(2) I love American Idol.
(3) I hate John Lennon’s “Imagine” because of the message, even though I’ve always enjoyed the tune itself.
This is 17 year old David Archuleta singing his own version of “Imagine” tonight on American Idol. It, and he, are both something very special. Enjoy:
The Politico notes a rather amateurish effort from Hillary Clinton:
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe accused the Clinton campaign Monday of “shameful offensive fear-mongering” by circulating a photo as an attempted smear.
Plouffe was reacting to a banner headline on the Drudge Report saying that aides to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) had e-mailed a photo calling attention to the African roots of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
McQ lays waste to the latest tactic from Hillary’s campaign:
In fact, this picture has been circulating among blogs for a couple of days and it really shows nothing but another in a long line of politicians doing what politicians do when they go to visit foreign nations. Recently, for instance, we saw George Bush in a Saudi robe.
McQ follows up with a series of pictures revealing just how silly and stupid this tactic is. Personally, I think it shows just how desperate Hillary is , as Peter noted before, since her chances of securing the nomination are exceedingly unlikely at this point. According to Intrade, Obama has a better than 80% chance of winning the nomination (80.5 bid/82 ask), while Hillary is mired around 20% (19.5 bid/19.9 ask). Meanwhile, Clinton’s RCP average is trending downwards, while Obama’s is on the rise. And then today, liberal pundit Jonathan Alter takes a look at the writing on the wall and advises Hillary to quit before the Texas and Ohio primaries:
If Hillary Clinton wanted a graceful exit, she’d drop out now—before the March 4 Texas and Ohio primaries—and endorse Barack Obama. This would be terrible for people like me who have been dreaming of a brokered convention for decades. For selfish reasons, I want the story to stay compelling for as long as possible, which means I’m hoping for a battle into June for every last delegate and a bloody floor fight in late August in Denver. But to withdraw this week would be the best thing imaginable for Hillary’s political career. She won’t, of course, and for reasons that help explain why she’s in so much trouble in the first place.
Withdrawing would be stupid if Hillary had a reasonable chance to win the nomination, but she doesn’t. To win, she would have to do more than reverse the tide in Texas and Ohio, where polls show Obama already even or closing fast. She would have to hold off his surge, then establish her own powerful momentum within three or four days. Without a victory of 20 points or more in both states, the delegate math is forbidding. In Pennsylvania, which votes on April 22, the Clinton campaign did not even file full delegate slates. That’s how sure they were of putting Obama away on Super Tuesday.
Tenacity is an admirable trait in a fighter, except when coupled with egotistical selfishness. As her campaign circles the drain, expect more ridiculous attacks from Team Hillary.
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