Posted by Adam @ 12:52 pm on February 22nd 2007

Primaries

This is being done to death at the moment because of the crazy ‘no clear candidate for either party so let’s start campaigning now’ situation, but it’s still interesting. Two articles caught my attention today (both linked from RCP): this one from David Broder in the WP and Carl Leubsdorf for the Dallas Morning News.

I don’t think that either of those articles has a magic solution (indeed, Leubsdorf’s just suggesting that the current attempts to fix things won’t work) but a solution is inevitably going to be preceded by a lot of discussion of this sort. The current process just doesn’t throw up good candidates reliably enough, I don’t think; if it is, nevertheless, throwing up the best candidates then that is another concern, but I don’t believe that we can’t do better just by using a better selection process. Additionally, one can (and I would) point to the primaries being an artifact of the party system that is both heavily embedded into American politics and bad for voter choices and outcomes, but that’s a much harder nut to crack.

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Posted by Brad @ 10:49 pm on February 21st 2007

The Politics of 24, and the Warrior Hero Republicans.

I wanted to revisit this post a little bit.

Now, the politics of 24 is itself not a terribly substantive topic perhaps, but, it seems to me, there is an obvious cultural meme that the show is exploiting, banking on, and more to the point, perpetuating that is a bit disturbing. That’s not what I want to talk about though, I’m just throwing that out as a given.

What is, or might be, more disturbing is the ideological stream behind it (if you can call it that)–in many ways an ideological stream behind the Iraq War as well and much of what we might call the Bush Republicanism philosophy of national security. I don’t think 24 is the center of it, in a causal sense, but at the very least we can say it’s begun to function as something of a divining rod. 24 is instructive not in that it detects the presence of a certain mentality, but that it reveals the startling breadth and scope of that mentality, and most importantly, it’s vehemence.

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Posted by Rojas @ 7:05 pm on February 21st 2007

Communitarianism and the new Libertarian angle

One political philosophy to which I’ve been paying increasing attention over the last couple of years is Communitarianism. Advocated by political philospher Amitai Etzioni, among others, Communitarianism is often cited as the basis for both the centrist approach of the DLC and Clinton administration and the “third way” pursuits of Tony Blair, though to this observer their governing styles have been far more driven by political triangulation than by adherence to any specific communitarian principle. (more…)

Posted by Brad @ 3:21 pm on February 21st 2007

Passed on Without Comment

. . . – – – . . .

Posted by Adam @ 12:26 pm on February 21st 2007

Lou Dobbs’ ego now blocking the sun

I normally avoid reading Lou Dobbs in the way that I avoid rabid animals or Chicago-style pizza, but I did accidentally click on an article entitled Will the Democrats Save their Souls?. Intrigued by his assumption that Democrats have souls, I started reading only to be arrested, a scant four paragraphs in, by this, to which I have added emphasis:

The ascension of the so-called Lou Dobbs Democrats in the November election gave hope to many that our representatives and senators were awakening to the need to represent the largest single group of voters in the country, 150 million working men and women and their families. The reality is, however, corporate America and special interests still dominate our legislative and electoral process.

My heart beat fast. Was my stomach about to hurl itself out of my mouth? Would my hands climb to my neck and wring it, to make the pain, the unbelievable pain, go away? I glanced nervously around to ensure that there were no sharp objects within easy reach.

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Posted by Adam @ 10:52 am on February 21st 2007

Another veil case

In the UK, a schoolgirl’s family have lost their legal case to reverse her school’s ban on wearing a full-face veil (the niqab). Key points include:

  • The school allowed her sisters to wear the niqab when they attended
  • 10% of the school’s students are moslem, of which half wear the permitted hijab headscarf
  • The decision was based primarily on educational and logistical arguments provided by, and specific to, the school
  • The policy apparently came into effect after she had joined the school with, it is claimed, an agreement that she could wear the niqab

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Posted by Rojas @ 9:18 pm on February 20th 2007

D’Souza and Soft Power

The new book by Dinesh D’Souza has stirred up enough controversy in the blogosphere that I don’t feel compelled to spend a lot of time on it here. It has been pretty thoroughly repudiated by commentators on the right; certainly, D’Souza’s former cohorts were quicker to repudiate his thesis than left-wing commentators have been to repudiate the post 9/11 comments of, for instance, Susan Sontag. But that’s a debate for another time. (more…)

Posted by Adam @ 5:36 pm on February 20th 2007

Overexaggeration Status: High

Continuing good news for the administration as it turns out that terror-related stats were overcounted.

Posted by Adam @ 5:32 pm on February 20th 2007

British media report draw-down to start in Basra

The breaking news is that Tony Blair will announce the beginning of a draw-down.

Interesting implications of this:

  • Blair’s not volunteering British troops to help relieve US troops. Either because that’s too politically painful or maybe for more practical reasons (like the amount of time it would take to set up operations)
  • This really isn’t helpful for Bush right now, given that Blair’s his main supporter
  • What happens in Basra as the British pull out will be a more peaceful foreshadowing of what’s going to happen in the rest of Iraq if US troops pull out
Posted by Brad @ 5:12 pm on February 20th 2007

(sorry, more Ron Paul stuff)

I really want to avoid posting bi-weekly updates on Ron Paul, but some good stuff has been coming up after that George Will article. I’ll try to keep anything else that comes up commented in this post, at least for a week. :)

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Posted by Adam @ 5:01 pm on February 20th 2007

What would Spiderman do?

There has been some discussion of the torture issue relating to the television series 24 and its intrepid hero Jack Bauer, whose regular use of torture is normally in a ticking bomb situation and is, hey presto, responsible for Saving The World (or at least that part of it that drives American cars). Torture supporters sometimes even refer to the Jack Bauer fantasy themselves.

My problem with all this is that if we’re going to illustrate the necessity with fictions from the popular media, why stop here? Most people have probably never watched 24 and will fail to appreciate the Powerful Truths it reveals. We can do so much better by covering more media bases:

Darth Vader is about to cause a universe-destroying explosion with stolen Dilithium crystals and only Gollum knows how to stop him; what should Spiderman do? The answer: Torture! (hint: he doesn’t like the elven rope, spidey!). And The Day Was Saved!

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Posted by Adam @ 2:11 pm on February 20th 2007

How much should politicians get paid?

There’s an a article on Chris Dillow’s blog (on which you’ll find many lefty musings) that makes the point (a pretty solid point, I think) that politics competes with other jobs requiring similar skills in which people could make significantly more money.

My thoughts on this, really, are just that there needn’t be an arms race between the pay of politicians and, say, that of lobbyists; sure, some people will always go for the highly paid job over the less well-paid one, but it just has to be sufficiently well-paid that the typical candidate isn’t thinking of family and future issues but knows that they are going to get paid pretty substantially. I don’t know where that level is, in DC; half a million a year wouldn’t bother me or, rather, it’d bother me a lot more than the idea that they can get bought with stuff like golf trips, swanky meals and nice hotels. I know that people have a visceral reaction to the idea that the legislature should get big pay increases and I do understand that, but they are our representatives. If we don’t like them enough to pay them well, they shouldn’t be our representatives in the first place and, hey, it’s a democracy. Or we can all wait for a candidate who’s only desire is to serve and who doesn’t really care what the money is like, so long as someone doesn’t shoot the pig they’re flying in on.

Caroline Flint (pictured in Dillow’s blog post) is easy on the eye, too. I guess that the US equivalent is Stephanie Herseth although I have to say that I don’t really like what she’s doing with her hair nowadays.

Posted by Adam @ 12:20 pm on February 20th 2007

Don’t you support the troops?

Point-counterpoint: “The surge won’t work” – “Don’t you support the troops?”

This could work in all fields of human endeavour.

  • “Gravity is about 9.81 m/s^2” – “Don’t you support the troops?”
  • “You’re late again” – “Don’t you support the troops?”
  • “And how do you plead?” – “Don’t you support the troops?”

The possibilities are endless. The only possibility that shan’t come to pass is an honest debate on whether the surge is going to work or, if not, whether it can be fixed. John McCain, who at least has had the benefit of conviction, is now in the same game.

The implication that this can’t be debated is that once the President’s sent troops off to war, all debate must end, for fear of ‘not supporting the troops’. I appreciate that many Republicans don’t wish to have to pick between dumping on the president and supporting a ‘surge’ they may not think will work, but exactly when is this supposed to be discussed with attention to the issues? I am someone that does support more troops being sent, remember; I still want to see the likelihood of success debated because, in the end analysis, that’s what’s important.

Posted by Brad @ 10:08 am on February 20th 2007

Hillary’s Iraq Problem

Bet I’m not the only person in the blogosphere to use that headline recently.

So, Hillary’s camp, in response to some harassment from an activist in the audience at a recent New Hampshire town hall event, rolled out a new strategy on Clinton’s past support of the Iraq war.

“If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from,” Mrs. Clinton told an audience in Dover, N.H., in a veiled reference to two rivals for the nomination, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

She means that rhetorically, I assume.

Many are going to view it literally, and take her up on it. They didn’t need an outright invitation, per se, but once offered, they’re not going to turn one down, either.

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Posted by Brad @ 1:11 am on February 20th 2007

We Must Shoot Hillary Clinton Into the Sun.

A dailykos member offers a reasonable take on the Clinton candidacy.

Posted by Brad @ 5:41 pm on February 19th 2007

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

This was significantly funnier when it was still topical, but I didn’t have a blog then, and it’s still good.

From my favorite British-DJ-who-has-world-leaders-doing-pop-vocals: Rx. His coverage of the 2004 American presidential election was fucking excellent (sadly, though I have most of it on my HD, his old site is gone and not archived that I can see, and the stuff that is up isn’t nearly as good as his best). I hope he starts ramping up again going into 2008. I pimp him every chance I get.

Incidentally, via Iain Dale, tomorrow’s Guardian gives a poll showing the Conservatives with the biggest lead they’ve had over Labour since 1997.

Posted by Adam @ 2:30 pm on February 19th 2007

Beard of Evil

He looks scary even before you find out that he killed someone during an exorcism.

Beard of death

Posted by Adam @ 2:14 pm on February 19th 2007

Searching for a way to call it victory

I sort of agree with Brad that the American people are closer to the sort of stuff that Jack Murtha is accused by Bob Novak of doing, the ‘get out and let the Iraqis deal with it’ approach, than they are to the Bush administration approach. However, in any case, I think that what they also want is some way to call it ‘victory’. In fact, the most important part of this whole endeavour might be finding a way to call an achievable goal ‘victory’, convincing people that it’s been achieved and that it is ‘victory’, then getting the hell out. Absent that, I think that it would be a political mistake for the Democrats to force a withdrawal, because it look like victory and they’ll end up painted with a defeat that they haven’t actually had much of a hand in.

This Fred Barnes piece that I’ve mentioned before (summary: “It is like Vietnam, because the Democrats are about to steal our victory”) might be laughable, but I can see some of the stigma of defeat sticking to the Dems if they force withdrawal; I think that Americans don’t like losing and they’ll be looking for someone to blame if it doesn’t look like victory. At least some of those people who are angry with losing will play the ‘what if’ game and feel that the Democrats pulled the plug too early.

As an aside: for myself, I’m with Colin Powell and Armitage on the Pottery Barn Rule and I think that it’s necessary to stick it out, but with increased troops (more than the 20 000 for the ‘surge’, not because I think that the ‘surge’ can’t work but because it’s probably the last chance; I’d like to see more like the amounts that McCain was asking for). Yes, we can point to mistakes that the administration has to own and Congress should perhaps exert themselves on the Executive more to ensure that the war is fought with a better strategy, but I think that there has to be another effort to produce something viable out of Iraq.

Meanwhile, however, the political calculation must surely be finding a way to call it victory.

Posted by Adam @ 1:40 pm on February 19th 2007

Zakaria on fortress America

Zakaria is always interesting. Like me in that regard, except he’s always interesting. He has an article today about the effects of increased security on entering the US and his opinion that at least some of them are counterproductive.

One survey shows that business travel into the United States has declined by 10 percent in the last two years, at a time when places like London, Singapore and Dubai are showing strong increases. Once No. 1, the United States has dropped to third as a travel destination, behind France and Spain. Over the last 14 years, global tourism has been thriving, having increased by 52 percent. But America’s share has been declining, down 36 percent in that same time frame. The Discover America group points out that travel and tourism is the third largest industry in the United States, employing 17 million people and generating $105 billion in tax revenues.

I obviously have some small insight into what travel into the US is like, although not for those travelling from Middle-Eastern countries. I do know that some people of my aquaintance, who very much like America, will no longer come here because of the fingerprinting that now occurs when you arrive. For me, I love America and it’s worth it, but as a conservative I can understand their reluctance to indelibly identify themselves to the government; these are the same concerns that many conservatives have about ID cards.

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Posted by Brad @ 7:33 pm on February 18th 2007

George Will on Ron Paul

Will writes an article in the latest Newsweek giving a quick once-over of Congressman Ron Paul. The tone of the article might best be described as “bemused dismissive”, but hey, any publicity yadda yadda. And, even that dismissiveness is instructive, though probably not in the way Will intended.

One of many good bits:

This time [Paul] is seeking the Republican nomination, so he will be on the Manchester, N.H., stage April 4 for the first Republican candidates’ debate.

There, like Longfellow’s youth “who bore, ‘mid snow and ice, a banner with the strange device, Excelsior!” Paul will unfurl his banner emblazoned with James Madison’s Federalist Paper No. 45: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.” Paul, who really believes in limited government, will infiltrate that confabulation of sedate candidates in order, he says, to find out “how many real Republicans are left.” This could be entertaining, meaning embarrassing.

I’m going to take that to mean “embarrassing for them”.

Go Ron Paul, go!

(Paul, by the way, has accepted an invitation to a second Republican debate, and he’ll probably end up being in all of them).

Posted by Adam @ 5:53 pm on February 18th 2007

Four stories and 60 funerals.

Some stuff that caught my eye:

Six of the Seven US attorneys that got the Spanish Archer last year were currently in posession of good job reviews, despite Justice Dept. assurances that they were fired for not being good at their jobs. They had had some problems with the official Bush administration line on a variety of issues, so it seems logical that they were, in fact, fired for that, so why the deception? Dark mutters point out that 4 of them were investigating corruption cases relating to Republican lawmakers. Novak also started with it on Friday.

Maliki tells Bush that Baghdad operation going well (NYT link, might expire in a week or two). Some of the gloss comes off that with 60 people killed by three car bombs. With steps forward and steps back, working out the net direction isn’t easy. Maliki, not Mr Credibility by any standards, might best keep his mouth shut.

Rumour has it that Chrysler might get sold to GM. Thus, GM, sucking big-time, expects to succeed where Daimler, profitable and with a reputation for making good cars, failed. Colour me unconvinced.

Finally, some light relief about light relief: Man says that he is an internet addict and claims to have been unfairly fired by IBM after they caught him frequenting a sex chat room at work for a ‘sexual experience’ (which I presume is a delicate euphemism for having a crafty J Arthur). Millions of workshy bloggers will be watching this case with interest, no doubt.

Posted by Adam @ 12:43 pm on February 18th 2007

Democrats stomping over Republican minority

OK, so I could buy the “push our 100 hours stuff through because that’s why were elected” argument, but the House Democrats either need to give the Republicans a chance (rather than treating the Republicans like they treated the Democrats, as the Democrats treated the Republicans before then, etc) or the House rules need changing, or else we should just be happy with the fact that the House is a one party organisation (which is as it has been for much of the time, of course; it’s not new). The WP has an article on it:

“It sounds like we’re not doing what we said we would do — I understand that,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday.

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Posted by Adam @ 11:49 am on February 18th 2007

A disconsolate socon analysis of the Bush presidency

From Joseph Bottum via Sullivan, a depressed socon evaluation of the Bush Presidency. Sully picks on the Iraq aspect, but I like the general theme, which is incompetence, and disagree with his claim that Bush is, at root, ideologically conservative. This pararaph summarises the piece:

In all that he has tried to do-reform education, fix social security, restore religion to the public square, assert American greatness, appoint good judges-Bush has proved himself a conservative. Of course, along the way, he has also proved himself hapless. The problem isn’t his lack of conservatism. The problem is his lack of competence.

On the same page, Micheal Novak follows with a somewhat unconvincing Bush apologia, which might be summarised as “he sucks only mildly, it’s not a complete disaster yet and, anyhow ‘whaddaya expect?'”. A representative paragraph:

Bottum’s charge of incompetence is more troubling, although he may expect from government more than government can deliver. A long-established lesson is that, even in the best of times, government is mightily incompetent-and the bigger government gets, the more incompetent it becomes.

This is not really the sort of debate that the President wants to be happening.

Posted by Brad @ 3:47 am on February 18th 2007

Non-Priority Budget Items

So, the overview of Bush’s 2007 Federal Budget reads, in part:

…each program was closely reviewed to determine if it is among the Nation’s top priorities…. [F]ailure to meet these criteria resulted in proposed termination or reduction of 141
programs…”

Wow. Sounds like just what we need. Some fuckin’ prioritizin’.

Only, after that slash and burn through the federal budget to cut all those programs that weren’t a national priority, we came up with cuts amounting to a total of….12 billion dollars.

In a $2.784 trillion budget. That grew 4% this year. Wars not included.

For those keeping track at home, that means that the programs that are the “top priorities” of the Bush administration account for 99.6 percent of all government spending.

Chris Edwards over at Cato breaks it down.

Reason piles on.

Posted by Brad @ 9:01 pm on February 17th 2007

A Healthy Debate

Fair and Balanced

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Posted by Adam @ 2:03 pm on February 17th 2007

The US for limeys, part 1: supermarkets

A hard-hitting series providing a penetrating look at the dullest parts of life and how they differ between the US and the UK.

You find yourself in an American supermarket. The trolley only has two steerable wheels and won’t steer like you’re used to (this is why wearing a gun into a supermarket is frowned upon, since the Great Dubuque TrolleyRage Mass Shooting*). People are much more polite to each other in supermarkets than they are in the UK, although old ladies are as irritating as they are everywhere. When you find the thing that you are looking for, stand back; there be may be 10 different brands, nearly identically priced for the same size. Pick the one with the packaging that speaks to you, as an individual. Remember, it’s not just a choice, it’s a lifestyle accessory. Today, the wrong gravy granules, tomorrow, divorced and refused credit. Don’t just take my word for it; watch television advertising.

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Posted by Adam @ 6:59 am on February 17th 2007

Broder sees looming Bush revival

David Broder had this piece suggesting that Bush is about to stage a Clinton-style comeback after losing his party majorities in House and Senate. Interesting paragraph:

While forcefully making his points, he has depersonalized the differences with his critics and opponents. He has not only vouched for the good intentions of congressional Democrats, he has visited them on their home ground, given them opportunities to question him face to face, and repeatedly outlined areas — aside from Iraq — where he says they could work together on legislation: immigration, energy, education, health care, the budget.

The corrolary thesis, that Bush needed a Democrat majority in at least one of House or Senate, is an interesting one. If it’s true, and Bush does have the necessary skills as we heard back in 2000 when people were talking about his Texas governorship, it’s a pity that he didn’t have to deal with a Democrat majority before now (when he still had more personal capital). Perhaps he could have gotten a lot more done, without having to play to the least pleasant part of his own party to maintain a party unity.

Posted by Rojas @ 9:07 pm on February 16th 2007

Democratic Candidate Emblems

In the spirit of Adam’s post below.

John Edwards: The hyena. Grins a lot; doesn’t seem capable of bringing down any meaninful prey on his own, but is more than capable of growing fat off of the carrion created by deadlier predators.

Hillary Clinton: The puffer fish. Prickly exterior; can fool unintelligent observers into thinking it’s a bigger deal than it is; might well prove to be poisonous to whichever predator ends up devouring it.

Barack Obama: The squid. Superficially impressive and intimidating; we don’t really know much of anything meaningful about it; impressive array of suckers attached.

Dennis Kucinich: The lemming.

Posted by Adam @ 8:35 pm on February 16th 2007

God-fearing homosexual vs filthy atheist Presidential deathmatch

Kos has a Gallup poll, that I heard about from CV. You can check it out at either of those sites, but the take-home message is that an atheist is only going to win a Presidential election in a three-way contest against a chicken molester and a necrophiliac, and only if neither of those makes a big deal about believing in God.

It seems a bit weird. I mean, surely anyone can see that there could be capable atheists, capable christians, etc? If you set a political stage like that, anyhow, you’re just inviting people to lie to you. It’s not as if faking religious belief is going to stretch a politician’s abilities in the field of deception.

Posted by Adam @ 12:19 pm on February 16th 2007

Guns! Sex! Education! (but mostly Education)

Finkelstein has a response to a response to an article about young people and their guns. I’m not so tied up in the essence of that particular argument (because it doesn’t look to me that either of the numerical analyses are strong enough to base a stance on), but let’s talk about me. I may lack Larry Kudlow’s eerie ability to turn anything into a discussion of the stock market’s enormous success under Bush, but I can surely smell an opportunity to bang on about the need for conservatives to stress the availability of a decent education, with scant regard for the actual thrust of discussion.

My comment on Fink’s response was:

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