Posted by James @ 9:10 pm on February 29th 2008

For Brad.

Posted by Adam @ 8:12 pm on February 29th 2008

And the winner is…

Well, the headline is that EADS (owners of Airbus) is the winner but if the result holds, then American taxpayers stand to gain from the breaking of the Boeing stranglehold on this sort of contract. The competition was only opened because of corruption at Boeing over the contract and Boeing was still expected to win, touting the fact that it is an American company (in this tender, EADS are partnered with Northrop Grumman, another American company, incidentally).

If Boeing are the only US company that can provide this stuff, it just has to be put out to competition; to do otherwise is to effectively have Boeing part-nationalised but without the benefits to the nation (such as they are) of nationalisation. So long as the questions about stability of supply, security, etc, are answered, competition will improve the value for taxpayer’s money. Let’s just hope that Boeing don’t overturn this on spurious ‘patroitism’ grounds.

Posted by Brad @ 6:20 pm on February 29th 2008

Music Video of the Weekend

Sound quality’s not great, so turn this sh*t way up. You’ll be glad you did.

Curtis Mayfield – Superfly

Have a funky one.

Posted by Brad @ 5:17 pm on February 29th 2008

4 Days

…and Clinton finally gets some good news from Ohio, in a poll that is either a common outlier, or way ahead of the curve. Either way, despite that and another poll that showed a +1 momentum for Clinton this week, the trend is sort of unmistakable. I’m guessing Democrats who are making up their minds in the last week before the election are probably breaking 4 to 1 Obama.

Ohio

(Rasmussen)

Clinton 47 (-1 vs. last poll Feb 25)
Obama 45 (+2)

(Fox News)

Clinton 46
Obama 38

(Reuters/CSpan/Zogby)

Clinton 44
Obama 42

Clinton’s average lead in Ohio, per RCP and including the Fox News poll, has dipped below 5% for the first time.

Texas

(Reuters/CSpan/Zogby)

Obama 48
Clinton42

(Fox News)

Obama 48
Clinton 45

Obama leads by an average of 2.5% now.

Posted by Brad @ 5:04 pm on February 29th 2008

For James

If it doesn’t work, why does it persist?

Myths and rumours. There is a perception that democracy makes us weak and only “real men” know how to do this stuff. People think torture worked for the Gestapo, for example. It didn’t. What made the Gestapo so scarily efficient was its dependence on public cooperation. Informers betrayed the resistance repeatedly in Europe, and everyone knew this, but it was more convenient to say the Gestapo got the truth by beating it out of us. Public cooperation is the best way to gather information. After the failed bomb attacks in London in 2005, the British police found every one of the gang within a week. One was caught after his parents turned him in. They would not have done that if they’d thought he’d be tortured.

Posted by Brad @ 4:45 pm on February 29th 2008

Vent of the Day

When you read this quote from Hillary Clinton, what’s your first response?

“Every so often I just wish that it were a little more of an even playing field but, you know, I play on whatever field is out there.”

Click here for the correct response.

Posted by Adam @ 3:43 pm on February 29th 2008

Relying on the kindness of strangers

Today’s nomination for “Stupidest Person in the World might go to Mark Boyle, whose plan to walk from Glastonbury to India with no money, relying on the kindness of strangers to keep him fed, etc, didn’t go according to what, for want of a better word, he may have described as a ‘plan’.

He got as far as Calais (French port town with ferry from the UK) and then began to starve, blaming his lack of ability to speak French resulting in people assuming he was an asylum seeker, or possibly just a filthy freeloading moron. Unpeturbed, he is going to instead try to walk around the coast of the UK whilst teaching himself French so that he can try again next year and starve somewhere just inside the Italian border.

I give you Mark Boyle, today’s Stupidest Person in the World and possibly next month’s Hungriest Person in the World.

Posted by Adam @ 2:17 pm on February 29th 2008

Quote of the Day

From Wariah Salhi, a Kurdish businessman from Kirkuk, on the news that ‘Chemical Ali’ is to be executed (in large part for the gassing of Kurds in 1988):

He deserves to be punished, but I think people are more concerned with getting better basic services, than who is going to be the next dead body.

There’s some other good stuff in the article, too.

Posted by Adam @ 1:41 pm on February 29th 2008

Drudge and the troops

Drudge broke an embargo that British news organisations had imposed on themselves and revealed that Prince Harry (second son of Prince Charles and, therefore, third in line for the throne until Prince William has any children) had been deployed in Afghanistan. Consequently, for the same reasons he wasn’t deployed in Iraq — basically because he’d endanger the mission and anyone near him because of his propaganda value if captured or killed, making him a very attractive target for capture or attack — he’s been pulled out of Afghanistan.

So, my opinion is that it was bound to leak out and there’s no point whining about it. I wouldn’t cross the road to micturate on Drudge if he were ablaze atop a pile of banknotes, but there’ll always be someone like him around so any operation that depends on someone like him not finding out about it inevitably has a short shelf-life (he wasn’t the first to break the story, in any case, but his was the report that drew enough attention that Harry had to be withdrawn from Afghanistan). What interests me, however, is the attitude of some of the conservatives who have derided the American press for being disloyal or endangering troop morale or the troops themselves, through reporting on problems in Iraq, or opposition to the War, or stuff that the administration would prefer be kept secret, etc. I personally just think that, like Drudge, the media is an essential and unavoidable part of a free society and railing against them is pointless. However, for those that do think that the media have a moral responsibility to keep newsworthy items secret out of national loyalty and love of the military, how do they see Drudge publishing a story that endangers the life of troops in the service of an ally, on a mission started by the US?

I presume that some of those people have already roundly condemned Drudge — I have been on the road and didn’t do that much browsing of news and blogs — but it would be even better if they realised that there’s no pointing railing at Drudge or the rest of the media for reporting things that are clearly newsworthy, in much the same way that there’s no point whining about water’s tendency to flow downhill. The British media made a deal, for various reasons, to keep it quiet but where there’s the promise of news, there are people interested in publishing it and in this case it was Drudge. Such is life.

Posted by Adam @ 1:14 pm on February 29th 2008

A final farewall to Nutscrape

The Netscape browser goes out of support tomorrow.

Obviously, that bothers virtually no one, because virtually no one uses it. Firefox, a Netscape Successor, is way more popular although, in general, still dwarfed by Internet Explorer (for which, arguably, Netscape blazed a path which Microsoft followed and on which they caught Netscape and beat it into a bloody pulp). On the plus side, Internet Explorer is now a relatively decent browser (although not without its frustrations, particularly for web designers) and it’s not as if Firefox is without flaws (give me back my RAM, you bastard).

The reason I was thinking about this at all, of late, is just that the idea of life without internet is weird. Regardless of when you took up internet use (for work or personal uses) it quickly becomes a difficult habit to break. Netscape’s gone but it was an important early part of something that’s not going away, bringing us news, entertainment and, most importantly, posts by me.

Posted by Adam @ 12:38 pm on February 29th 2008

Michael Ledeen stumping for the female vote

Classy:

Clintons=Obamas?

Think about it this way: each couple has a charming, talkative, charismatic husband and a smart, nasty, hyperambitious wife. It just struck me.

It may not be the only things that strikes him.

Unreal.

Posted by Brad @ 5:20 am on February 29th 2008

The Crossed Pond in the New York Times

Not sure it counts, and not nearly as good as our mentions in the Washington Post, Time, National Review, Orange County Register, LA Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and elsewhere (I have to remember to keep our “Shameless Self-Promotion” category updated), but in case you missed it we did get a little publicity in the paper of record.

Bonus: we were assigned responsibility for crashing a website. I figure daveg and Kaligula must have clicked that link 240,000 times between them.

Posted by Brad @ 2:33 am on February 29th 2008

Site Stuff

I’m cutting a bit of the fat from the blogroll tonight. Just a few sites that either aren’t updating regularly, are a bit niche, or just sites that frankly I don’t know that any of us bloggers read but which nevertheless wound up there somehow. Nothing wrong with them per se, just didn’t fit.

So, I cut out a half a dozen tonight. I tend to fall on the side of keeping a blogroll trim rather than just A. include anyone that’s ever looked at as forlornly, or B. adding a bunch of big name sites that you probably know about already, for the sake of it.

We’re down to 30 now. I think 50 would be the absolute max. Around 40 is probably what we’ll shoot for.

I did add one site to the roll: Obsidian Wings. It’s a tough blog to peg, save that almost everything hilzoy has ever posted has been absolutely worth reading. She’s one of the best bloggers alive, for my money; her throw-away posts tend to be better and more insightful than just about anything I’ve ever written. Damning with faint praise to be sure, but still, she’s awesome.

In any case, now that we’re on the lean side, I’ll open up this thread to suggestions for other sites we ought to look at, bearing in mind we may well not take any of the suggestions (we’re a curmudgeonly bunch).

We tend to favor sites that are A. daily reads (e.g. Sully, LewRockwell, RCP, etc.), B. sites we have a personal relationship (mostly because they are awesome and we make it a point to)(e.g. FreedomDemocrats, RedStateEclectic, DizzyThinks, etc.), or C. sites that are genuine and overlooked resources (e.g. FreeForAll, PaulCongress, Senatus). A lot of the rest fall somewhere in that spectrum.

Big bonus points for sites that would return the blogroll-love favor, or bloggers/sites/communities that we could actively cultivate some relationship with.

Additionally, I’m kicking around the idea of revamping our About section. I like (a lot) the stuff that’s there, but I think it’s a little unwieldy and lugubrious as it is, and the “About” section tends to be the first thing that I (and I’d imagine many) check when landing at a new blog. That’ll probably be a longer term project, but if anybody has any inspired suggestions on that front, feel free to throw them out.

And what the hell, any other random suggestions on site matters, might as well pitch those in too. We’ve been live, active, and growing for a year now; maybe this year we’ll actually start customizing a bit off and on. Noting, at the outset, that we are limited a lot by Dashboard and our own technological idiocy. But hey, at the very least you can get it off your chest, right?

Posted by Brad @ 2:00 am on February 29th 2008

What’s On Your Torture iPod?

Mother Jones puts together a playlist based on songs used in U.S. detention facilities to induce sleep deprivation, “prolong capture shock,” disorient detainees during interrogations, or just drown out screams.

A lot of what you’d expect—middlebrow pop-metal—but a few truly inspired choices. I particularly like the inclusion of Matchbox 20, and the “Meow Mix” ad jingle.

Posted by Brad @ 1:19 am on February 29th 2008

Supreme Court Case Story Lede of the Day

Courtesy of Dana Milbank at the Washington Post.

Chief Justice John Roberts was pained.

Exxon Mobil, the giant oil corporation appearing before the Supreme Court yesterday, had earned a profit of nearly $40 billion in 2006, the largest ever reported by a U.S. company — but that’s not what bothered Roberts. What bothered the chief justice was that Exxon was being ordered to pay $2.5 billion — roughly three weeks’ worth of profits — for destroying a long swath of the Alaska coastline in the largest oil spill in American history.

“So what can a corporation do to protect itself against punitive-damages awards such as this?” Roberts asked in court.

The lawyer arguing for the Alaska fishermen affected by the spill, Jeffrey Fisher, had an idea. “Well,” he said, “it can hire fit and competent people.”

The rare sound of laughter rippled through the august chamber.

The chief justice did not look amused.

/golf clap

Posted by Brad @ 12:40 am on February 29th 2008

Music Video of the Ron Paul Campaign

I have to admit, with very very few exceptions, I find explicitly political songs to be obscenely obnoxious—or chintzy, at best—and it tends to get worse the more specific they are. In the Ron Paul campaign, I’ve passed on reposting some of the songs and videos made from supporters—though I appreciate the sentiment and effort—because, frankly, they kind of make me cringe, from a music-lover’s perspective.

But this one is worth passing on. It took me about the first minute to get over my knee-jerk reaction, but once I did, it’s actually…well, pretty f***ing cool. And catchy. Gotta hand it to her: Suicide Girls know how to rock out.

Aimee Allen – Revolution

Posted by Brad @ 12:24 am on February 29th 2008

Quote of the Day

From Lew:

Speaking of Candidates’ Middle Names

BTW, it is also OK to refer to the Republican candidate for president as John Sidney McCain III.

Posted by Brad @ 12:08 am on February 29th 2008

The End of the Clinton Campaign Watch

Two items today.

The first is one of those stories you hear about, then don’t hear about, then start to wonder why you stopped hearing about it. And it’s a story that only broke about a week ago.

This dailykos writer remembers that last week, a number of anonymous but wealthy Clinton supporters announced plans to launch the “American Leadership Project”, a political 527 which would immediately hit the airwaves in Texas and Ohio on behalf of Senator Clinton and mitigate some of Obama’s massive cash advantage, as well as show everybody that there was still a lot of heavy hitting support and solidarity for the Clinton campaign.

This week…crickets chirping.

The writer at Dailykos wonders what happened to all that. They’ve already shot an ad, they made a big to-do about it, and the primaries are 5 days away, and so far, it appears that nobody’s gotten around to funding the project yet. It could be because they realized that they’d be skating on some pretty thin legal ice, or it could just be that those big-time Clinton donors looked around and thought maybe sinking more money into the Clinton ship wasn’t such a hot idea after all.

The second, and juicier, item is that the Clinton inner circle is now engaged in an open knife fight about who is “to blame”.

In one corner, you have Mark Penn, longtime pollster who has somehow usurped for himself the position of “political guru of all things Clintonian”, a title which he seemed to desperately crave until recently. On Wednesday, Penn spent 45 minutes on the phone to reporters essentially saying that what had gone wrong with the campaign was that nobody listened to Mark Penn enough—with the clear insinuation throughout the call that it was all the fault of Harold Ickes and Patti Solis Doyle.

Mark Penn thinks that people have the wrong impression about him, and about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“I think that people misunderstand,” he said in a 45-minute phone interview Monday evening […]

“I think that virtually every schoolchild knows that she is ‘ready on day one,’ said Mr. Penn, referring to one of the slogans he designed for Mrs. Clinton. “If you look back—at the beginning she was ‘ready for change and ready to lead’ and that’s something that built a large coalition that carried her through Super Tuesday. Between then and now, there was a period where the campaign didn’t have resources to play ahead in those states it needed to campaign in.”

As he put it, his strategy had succeeded in the “biggest message-oriented states.”

And, by implication, the political ground and money game, run by former campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, her deputy Mike Henry and longtime Clinton loyalist and Penn foe Harold Ickes, ruined it for Mrs. Clinton in “organization-driven” states, where she suffered defeats in “a series of caucuses that generated tremendous momentum for Obama.”

Mark Penn has been doing a lot of that lately, incidentally. He has been not-very-subtly pivoting his media sessions from “here is why Hillary Clinton can still win” to “here is why Hillary Clinton’s campaign is not Mark Penn’s fault.”

And in the other corner, from today, you have Harold Ickes’ rejoinder, who insists that the buck stops with Penn.

“Mark Penn has run this campaign,” said Ickes in a brief phone interview this morning. “Besides Hillary Clinton, he is the single most responsible person for this campaign.

When asked about the assertion by one senior Clinton official the campaign was effectively run by committee, diluting Penn’s authority, Ickes was incredulous.

“I don’t know what campaign you’re talking about,” said Ickes. “I have been at meetings where he introduces himself as the campaign’s chief strategist. I’ve heard him call himself that many times, say, ‘I am the chief strategist.’”

Asked if Penn preferred the title of chief strategist to pollster, Ickes said, “Prefer it? He insists on it!”

When asked if Penn was therefore responsible for the campaign’s strategy, Ickes said, “It’s pretty plain for anyone to see that he has shaped the strategy of the campaign. He has called the shots.”

“Mark Penn,” he said, “has dominated the message in this campaign. Dominated it.”

Keep in mind these are both, at this very moment, the two most visible Clinton strategists, who are still, both of them, spending every day working on the campaign and talking to the media on her behalf.

Hell, even Bob Shrum can’t help himself, just to make sure that nobody chalks this one up as number 9 on his 0-8 record.

When the super delegates continue throwing themselves overboard, the grunt staff are acknowledging their yearning desire to quit, your two senior advisers are spending a large chunk of their time backstabbing each other, and your big tapped donors suddenly get cold feet…

All I’ll say is Hillary Clinton better hope she makes Tuesday decisive. Or it might not matter much whether she personally wants to continue or not.

Posted by Brad @ 10:40 pm on February 28th 2008

Trillions and Trillions on the Wars

In another thread, I flippantly referred to the “trillions and trillions” that Iraq was going to cost us. A reader pointed out I was being glib (and, according to official estimates, wrong), and I was happy to correct my hyperbole.

Only it might not have been hyperbole.

The Guardian has an interesting interview up with a Nobel prize winning economist about his work in exhaustively calculating the financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and just as interestingly, the huge amount of trouble, obfuscation, or flat-out stonewalling he faced in trying to do so). After a long slog adding everything up, including all the hidden costs, fudged numbers, things that aren’t including in the formal numbers for no sane reason, and add-ons that the official budget never includes, the number he came up with for the cost of the war through 2006?

Probably round 3 trillion. “Conservatively”, 1-2 trillion. Just for America. For the rest of the world combined, about the same.

Read the article; it’s a pretty interesting take (admittedly with a clearly spelled out bias). And frankly, when it comes to budgetary estimates on this sort of thing, one would usually have more reason to trust guys like this than the official line.

Posted by Adam @ 9:26 pm on February 28th 2008

Suck it the hell up

I caught a bit of MSBNC earlier (Tucker Carlson’s show, I think) where, in the process of decrying identity politics, Pat Buchanan launched off into some drivel about the need to lay off white guys.

Now, I like Pat Buchanan, even though I disagree with him on a lot — he’s an incisive and entertaining pundit — but Jesus wept, I’m sick of this. Because it’s just so damn hard to be a white male in this country, right? I mean, I just can’t count the times being a white male has held me back. If there’s one thing on which we can all agree, it’s that white males have it all stacked against them.

Pat also made the point that white males did all the dying at Gettysburg and during D-Day as some support for his argument.

Complain that there’s a thin end of the wedge and that certain race-based policies are part of it, point out that racial preferences have an unhappy history, remind people that affirmative action has hardly been a standout success in achieving its aims, comment that identity politics is divisive, but complaints that it’s somehow harder to be a white guy than any other combination of ethnicity and sex? Intimations that we are suffering from public attitudes against us? What a huge steaming heap of crap. Suck it the hell up, whiners.

Posted by Brad @ 3:53 pm on February 28th 2008

Some Ron Paul News

Ron’s primary for his Texas congressional seat is also Tuesday, and a lot of us have been biting our nails about it, absent hard evidence, but with a fair bit of anxious rumblings from inside the campaign that seems to indicate they’ve been sweating it pretty hard.

PPP—a polling firm which has been doing pretty well this cycle—polled the race this week and found Paul comfortable ahead of his RedState.com notary public opponent. Paul 63, Peden 30. Full results here (PDF).

A lot of people are down on Paul these days, but in a larger context, I think it’s certainly better to have him in Congress than not—certainly not replaced by some sniveling neocon opportunist who would most likely be nothing more than a limp-wristed “aye” vote for the bad side of the establishment party. Furthermore, if Paul does successfully smack down this challenge, it’ll be another fallen soldier in a long line of amusingly unsuccessful attempts for the frustrated GOP to root Paul out of Congress. And anything that proves to be a persistent nagging failure of the establishment GOP to cut out well-meaning and ideologically valuable dissent is a good thing.

Still, it’s one aspect of the primaries on Tuesday that a lot of us will be watching closely.

Doesn’t hurt that supporters dropped a cool million into his reelection coffers in the last month.

Time to spread that money around, I’d say.

Posted by Brad @ 3:33 pm on February 28th 2008

You’re John McCain: What’s Your Strategy?

Now that it seems mostly certain that John McCain is going to be running against (and behind) Barack Obama, the question becomes “what case do you formulate for you above him?”

McCain, for his part, seems to be taking his lead from Hillary Clinton. And we sort of all expect his campaign to take that shape (though perhaps not this explicitly).

Andrew Sullivan wonders if that’s such a good idea, considering how Clinton herself fared with it. Of course, the difference is, McCain actually has a case to make along these lines. He really IS experienced and “ready on day one”, as opposed to Hillary Clinton, whose only experience beyond Obama’s that I can ferret, after a full year of campaigning (really, a full 8 years), is that she mercilessly botched health care reform once. McCain, on the other hand, can credibly, and almost certainly should, run on experience and commander-in-chiefness, and that strategy will probably give him a very respectable and inoffensive second place showing, ala Bob Dole in 1996 (the right is correct to use that analogy, I think, and I say that as about the world’s biggest Bob Dole fan). Events may occur (terrorist attack say) that play into that strategy, but it’s hard to see it, alone, as being a winner, particularly against Obama.

And, of course, McCain has one thing Dole never did—he is a front and center, integral player on one of the most significant issues of the day. Problem for McCain, he’s on the wrong side of it, and it’s hard for me to see how McCain puffing out his chest on it and pushing it forward big-time doesn’t work hugely to Obama’s advantage. McCain running his campaign hard on Iraq is a mental image something like Slim Pickens riding the nuclear bomb to the ground.

Josh Marshall seems to think an integral component of the party’s strategy is for their lower surrogates to push constantly and unrepentantly the black, muslim, Communist, anti-American, Arab, hustler, etc. line, for the sake of getting it out there, and then just having McCain take a few swats at repudiating those tactics (Bill Cunningham-style) to maintain the image of taking the high road. Injecting that stuff into the campaign stream will simultaneously giving yourself plenty of Sister Souljah moments, in other words. That, I highly doubt, will be a conscious strategy on anyone’s parts—McCain is absolutely right to take those swats where they come, on their own merits—but will almost certainly be a component of how the picture comes together, I’d say.

Sully, for his part, thinks McCain needs to reinvent himself as a change agent:

I really think McCain is unwise to follow Clinton’s strategy against Obama. It looks like he’ll argue that he has more experience and more readiness. Those themes will only reinforce the narrative of age and youth, a narrative that helps Obama. In my view, McCain can only win this campaign if he adopts Obama’s message. McCain has to become the change candidate. He needs to offer a radical program to bring the war in Iraq to a close, foment energy innovation, offer a market-driven healthcare plan that expands choice and access, simplify taxes, obliterate pork, secure the border and reform entitlements.

This is a change election. As the economy sours even further, it will become even more so. Running as the whiter, older, more experienced candidate is a recipe for failure. And McCain has the capacity to present himself as a change agent – starting with the GOP.

Problem is, he’s spent the last six years running mostly AWAY from that position—right up until a month or so ago. And again, if you have two change agents, one John McCain the other Barack Obama, the contrast is pretty stark, and does not work to John McCain’s advantage that I can see (unless you’re principally interested in the GOP vs. the country as a whole, but hard to see that being a huge swing bloc in McCain’s favor (could be one in Obama’s)).

One final disadvantage for McCain is we, around here, are generally favorable to some of his speech and debate moments off and on, but on the whole, McCain isn’t all that compelling a speaker and can be positively disastrous a debater. He has shown much less, in that arena, than Hillary Clinton, who has actually conducted herself pretty damn well against Obama (compare McCain’s performance in the last debate with Hillary’s; it’s not even close). And matched up against Obama, it may elevate McCain’s game somewhat, but it also becomes, again, about contrasts. In many ways, McCain is an even better rhetorical opponent for Obama than Clinton has been. And I add in this point about rhetoric to say that, whatever tack McCain takes, he’s not going to be up with an advantage in his ability to execute it.

McCain is not starting out from so terrible a place in the general election. And there are certainly holes in Obama’s record and person that you could drive a truck through (and, I think Obama-backlash is going to start kicking in at some point; to what extent I don’t know, but as the Messianic theme begins to become a crushing Tsunami, a lot of the coast is going to shrink back and roll their eyes more). But when considering what competing narratives he can offer against Obama, you can find bits and pieces of stuff that will have effect, and a kind of ready-made structure in place (“I am experienced bzzt beep”) but none that I can see that will create anything but a stale, respectable, but still losing counter-voice.

We opened up the question of Hillary Clinton’s strategy last time (mostly from an electoral perspective). I wonder what you folks think, from a perspective of rhetoric and narrative, McCain’s best bet is?

Posted by Brad @ 2:59 pm on February 28th 2008

FISA – It’s About Protecting America

Also, why aren’t those goddamn telecoms giving us more campaign money?

“It’s quite discouraging,” said one GOP leadership aide, referring to the disparity in giving from the telecommunications industry in light of the FISA debate, but also the broader lack of support for Republicans from the business community in general.

“These companies just won’t do anything,” the aide said. “Even when you have the Democrats working against their bottom line.”…

[A Republican lobbyist said] “There’s no question that from time to time staff, and maybe some Members, say to fellow travelers: ‘Are you giving us some air cover? Are you helping us help you?’”

My guess would be that maybe not being willing to pay your own bills, and using the threat of withholding federal money to force telecom companies into the bad position of breaking the law and opening themselves up to not just legal prosecution but incredibly bad, dragged out PR, might not be the favor in your eyes that it is to their boards of directors. Not many industries are jumping up and down shouting for the opportunity of being bent over a barrel by the federal government and having to spend a year or more as every politician’s tetherball. But maybe that’s just me.

Nice catch from TPM Muckraker.

Posted by Brad @ 2:49 pm on February 28th 2008

McCain Trying To Square the Public Financing Circle

I’ve been off and on keeping up on the story I originally wrote about here, in which McCain, trying to have his cake and eat it to (along with trying to both opt in to public financing but not opt into it, along with breaking the spirit and probably the letter of the law), used the money he would receive from opting in to public financing as collateral by which to receive a private loan—a loan he promised to repay, if he couldn’t win, by opting into public financing as he was going down and sending that money straight to his bank.

Of course it happened that the money that public financing secured him—i.e. the loan—kept him afloat just long enough to win the nomination, at which point, of course, any nominee in their right mind would run screaming from artificially capping their fundraising (and thus campaigning) potential. In McCain’s case, he is using a system designed to get private money out of politics as a means to secure private money, and now that that’s working, he wants to kick off the public financing scaffolding.

For good reason, of course. Public financing would cap his campaign spending at $54 million prior to the GOP convention in September. McCain had spent $49 million as of January 31, and almost certainly has already burned through the other 5 million since. Meaning, if he can’t opt out of public financing, John McCain is effectively broke—his campaign suspended and gone dark—until September.

The Washington Post explains the current legal wrangling going on by McCain’s peeps:

McCain lawyer Trevor] Potter said the campaign offered as collateral its assets, including McCain’s massive fundraising lists and his willingness to keep raising from them. But that may not satisfy the FEC, which requires that politicians borrow using only terms that assure repayment.

“If the bank is saying they lent him money on the basis of future receipts, well, in presidential campaigns, their future receipts can be zero or millions,” said Marc Elias, an election lawyer who arranged a loan in 2003 for the presidential bid of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). “The idea that this would be a dependable source of collateral is preposterous.”

Noam Scheiber at TNR concurs:

Agreed. Losing presidential campaigns–the scenario that would have brought the collateral into play–aren’t exactly known for their fundraising potential. In fact, there’s a bit of a catch-22 here: If McCain’s fundraising lists were worth something, he wouldn’t have needed a loan. (At least not a big one.) And if they weren’t worth anything, he’d have needed the loan, but the lists wouldn’t have worked as collateral. I’m not sure how you square that circle.

Bottom line: Either McCain used the promise of public campaign funds as collateral for his loan, in which case he’s locked himself into the public campaign finance system (and its strict spending limits) and is massively screwed until September. Or he didn’t use potential public funds as collateral, which means he didn’t have anything to offer as collateral, which means he received an improper loan. Neither one of those scenarios is very good for the Straight Talk Express.

What’s sort of sad about this scenario is if it weren’t John McCain, Republican Presidential Nominee, that this boondoggle centers around, there would be almost no chance he’d manage to wrangle his way out of it. Because the law is not very unclear here, and McCain’s maneuver violates it. Simply put, if McCain’s tack is legal, then the law here has no meaning. There becomes no reason whatever for the public financing system to not be used as collateral but absent its restrictions for every single candidate in every single race from here on out, as Step One of their fundraising (Step One: go to bank, secure loan for the amount of public financing. Step Two, with the twice-removed public financing money in the coffers, begin raising private money. Step Three, either opt into public financing at a later date if campaign doesn’t take off, retiring all campaign debts with it, or push the system aside and keep going on private money (i.e. with no public financing restrictions)). Our public financing system becomes essentially a not-very-elaborate Ponzi scheme, with the taxpayers who contribute to public financing being the ones who are getting fleeced so they can finance very NON publicly financed campaigns.

The only reason McCain MIGHT get out of it is, at this point, is that approximately half of the nation’s most powerful politicians suddenly have a huge political investment in McCain getting out of it.

Rojas, for his part, seems to find the more distasteful maneuver in this sphere to belong to Obama, for his doubletalk “pledge” on opting into public financing if McCain is the nominee. I agree with Rojas that this represents a pretty Clintonian parsing on Obama’s part—and certainly we would like EITHER nominee to move closer to us on the issue of campaign finance reform and the ridiculous canard political speech has been made into under the guise, tutelage, and leadership of…John McCain. But at most, Obama’s problem is a matter of campaign rhetoric, not being willing to put his money where his mouth is. I find it much more significant when John “Campaign Finance Reform” McCain is essentially trying to game the system and, when called on it, essentially de-legalize a campaign finance reform system when it suddenly runs afoul of his interests. Obama’s issue is a rhetorical one. McCain’s is legal and institutional. Obama’s breach is ethereal—McCain’s concrete. And Obama, or any American politician alive for that matter, hasn’t sunk anywhere near the amount of moral capital into the issue of “keeping our campaign finance systems clean, transparent, and fair” as Senator John McCain.

And like I (and TNR) said, I have no idea how one squares that circle.

To be clear, I have no particular investment in the public financing system or the rules contained therein. For my money, the best way to clean up campaign finance is to throw it wide open. But I do care about the rule of law, and I do get angry when politicians decide it doesn’t apply to them, particularly when said politician not only uses breaking the law to garner themselves unfair advantage over their less unscrupulous opponents, but when they use the law itself to garner themselves votes and moral capital immediately prior to immediately proving themselves among the worst offenders of it.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:50 am on February 28th 2008

The man the liberty movement needs.

Ilya Somin at Volokh conspiracy, eulogizing William F. Buckley:

First, he distanced intellectual conservatism from the conspiracy-mongering and anti-Semitism which had been an important element of the pre-Buckley American right. For example, Buckley played a crucial role in banishing the conspiracy-oriented John Birch Society from the mainstream conservative movement.

Second, Buckley tried very hard to create a genial and friendly image from conservatism as opposed to one that projected anger, intolerance, and rage. This posture was a natural extension of Buckley’s friendly personality. But, more importantly, he understood that it would be impossible for conservatives to be taken seriously in the liberal-dominated intellectual world without it.

Ron Paul has often been analogized to Goldwater. It’s worth remembering that Goldwater attracted a huge batch of Yahoos, and that he got his butt kicked electorally.

The Goldwater election did not INEVITABLY lead to Reagan. The yahoo purge and stylistic reframing that followed the 1964 election was essential to eventual success.

Who will be our movement’s William F. Buckley?

Posted by Brad @ 6:28 pm on February 27th 2008

More RNC Woes

While the Democratic candidates are attracting literally millions of donors, the Republican party is having a bit less luck.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) challenged Republicans on Tuesday to get off their “dead asses” and start raising money for the National Republican Congressional Committee […]

California Rep. Darrell Issa, who has been tapped as chairman of the annual fundraising dinner, set a goal of raising $7.5 million for the event. He even pledged some of his own campaign cash if members failed to clear a recent hurdle. But House Republicans are falling well short in that goal.

According to numbers read during the Tuesday morning meeting, only 15 Republicans have met their pledged fundraising goal for the dinner. Among them are Texas Reps. Mike Conaway and Pete Sessions and South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, a source familiar with the fundraising totals said. Another 42 have set a pledged target but failed to contribute the bulk of that money. And an astonishing 142 members — almost three-fourths of the Republicans in the House — have failed even to set a fundraising target.

Recruitment isn’t looking any better. Dailykos has a few great posts on recent recruitment coups for the GOP, including an ex Mizzou (and later Detroit Lions) football star running in Missouri who has never voted but who assures voters that, being a football player and having taken social studies in high school, he is perfectly qualified (here); and a South Dakota Senate candidate who ran a business in which he apparently undersold hospitals for the skin off cadavers so he could use them for penis enlargement surgeries rather than them going to burn victims and the like (here).

The Democrats, on the other hand, seem to be faring better, including the announcement today that Anchorage mayor Mark Begich will challenge Ted “series of tubes” Stevens for his Senate seat. Begich comes into the race already ahead in the polls, which makes AK-Sen an immediate (and somewhat unexpected) first-tier pickup opportunity. Even Democrats running in deeply red districts are looking forward to not having to run away from their party’s nominee this cycle.

All links synthesized from DailyKos, which has been hilarious today.

Posted by Brad @ 5:10 pm on February 27th 2008

Music Video of the Midweek

I admit it; I really like Jill Sobule. Maybe that makes me a Lilith Fair lesbian. So be it. But I dig her. She’s whimsical and witty and every now and then hits just the right spot.

This one is “a quirky piece of cabaret pop about a waitress who dreams of being in the French resistance”.

Jill Sobule – Resistance Song

Posted by Brad @ 1:34 pm on February 27th 2008

Buckley Online

A comprehensive database of his writings and transcripts can be found here.

Posted by Brad @ 1:10 pm on February 27th 2008

Garfield Without Garfield

Hat tip to Sully, but this is too good not to share.

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life?

Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against lonliness and methamphetamine addiction in a quiet American suburb.

Genius. Pure and total genius.

Posted by Brad @ 12:51 pm on February 27th 2008

William F. Buckley Dead

Sad news.

Kathryn Jean Lopez:

I’m devastated to report that our dear friend, mentor, leader, and founder William F. Buckley Jr., died this morning in his study in Stamford, Connecticut.

He died while at work; if he had been given a choice on how to depart this world, I suspect that would have been exactly it. At home, still devoted to the war of ideas.

As you might expect, we’ll have much more to say here and in NR in the coming days and weeks and months. For now: Thank you, Bill. God bless you, now with your dear Pat. Our deepest condolences to Christopher and the rest of the Buckley family. And our fervent prayer that we continue to do WFB’s life’s work justice

Jonah Goldberg:

I just saw Kathryn’s post about Bill Buckley. I’m stunned. He will be greatly missed. But we should also remember this was not a life cut tragically short (no matter how much we wish he were still with us). His accomplishments were almost incalculable. As George Will once said, “before there was Ronald Reagan there was Barry Goldwater, before there was Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was William F. Buckley.” As conservatives we are all standing on his shoulders.

Moreover, William F. Buckley’s life was marked by enormous joy. He had a lust for life as well as for letters and debate. He raised a wonderful and accomplished son, loved and was loved by, a formidable and beautiful wife, had more friends than he could count or, in a sense even know, and will be remembered for generations to come. Sadness is to be expected at times like this, and I certainly feel it. But let’s leave room for if not a celebration, than at least grateful appreciation, of a singularly remarkable life.

More here. Times obit here.

I’ve had my differences with his torch-bearers, but there’s no question that Buckley himself was one of the most thoughtful, articulate, elegant, and consistent voices in the history of American conservatism. He will be missed.

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