Posted by Brad @ 11:45 pm on March 31st 2008

Little Girls Hate Hillary Clinton

Boy, first the girl in the file footage that was used for the 3AM video, now even the little Bosnian girl that Hillary had to use as a human shield to duck a barrage of sniper fire declares that she is also not for Senator Clinton.

SARAJEVO, Bosnia – The Bosnian girl who famously read a poem to Hillary Rodham Clinton during her 1996 visit to the war-torn country is shocked – and her countrymen infuriated – that the former first lady claimed to have dodged sniper fire that day.

Emina Bicakcic, now 20 and studying to become a doctor, told The Post she stood on the tarmac at the air base in Tuzla, greeted Clinton and even had time to share the lines of verse she’d written – all without fear of attack from an unseen enemy.

“I was surprised when I heard this,” Bicakcic said, referring to Clinton’s assertion that she braved snipers upon landing, ducking and sprinting to military vehicles.

Other Bosnians said they had one of two reactions to Clinton’s debunked action-hero account of her visit: laughter or anger.

“It’s an exaggeration,” said former acting President Ejup Ganic, who was present during Clinton’s visit. “No one was firing. There were no shots fired.”

Sema Markovic, 22, a student, said she has long respected Hillary as a strong leader but was angered by her remarks.

“It is an ugly thing for a politician to tell lies,’ she said. “We had problems for years, and I don’t like when someone lies about them. It makes us look bad.”

Ouch.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:14 pm on March 31st 2008

The worst outcome globalization has yet produced.

Posted by Brad @ 10:05 pm on March 31st 2008

Why Edwards Didn’t Endorse

One of our commentators posted the article describing why some sources say Edwards hasn’t endorsed—essentially, because Obama lacked tact and good grace in going to grovel to the Edwardsian throne.

Noam Scheiber has a different interpretation of the same anecdote.

Reading between the lines, I got the impression Edwards’s calculations were mostly dictated by–surprise!–self-interest. Early on, he wasn’t sure Obama was tough enough to beat Hillary. Or to reassure voters and superdelegates that he’d be able to win the general. And what good does it do you to endorse a guy who’s going to lose?

Since then, Obama’s obviously become the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, which has changed Edwards’s calculus. The risk is no longer endorsing a guy who may lose. (At least in the primaries.) It’s that you won’t get credit for helping Obama win. Endorsing Obama at this point would basically mean jumping on a bandwagon, and there’s no percentage in that. So I’m guessing Edwards is biding his time until there’s a moment when his endorsement would matter–for example, when it could help bump Hillary from the race. (Say, after a loss in the North Carolina primary.)

That strikes me as probably about right, though obviously there’s more than a little armchair psychoanalyzing inherent in it.

Still, Edwards was a guy I liked a lot in 2004. I was at the Kerry rally in which he was officially announced as the VP (people in the crowd were about 70-30 on whether it was going to be Edwards or Gephardt–remember him?). I liked that he spoke the language of values well, I liked his charisma and zeal, I liked that he was able to play the center against the left and vice versa, I even liked his work for the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina, and eventually, the role and stature of his wife (and really, his whole biography, though perhaps that’s because I don’t begrudge people being wealthy or good attorneys) .

But somewhere along the way he decided to become a populist wrangler, and I think my feelings about him have reached a nadir AFTER he became basically an also-ran this year. Despite the fact that hardly anyone voted for him, he’s been conducting himself with the insufferability of Al Gore, but without the credibility or good grace, such that I can imagine him being flabbergasted that Barack Obama could come to him and argue in favor of his own policies rather than kissing the ring of economic populism.

I still kind of like Edwards, honestly, and can absolutely see the draw that he exerts with a certain segment of the left. But I have to say, I won’t be shedding much of a tear if he finds himself with basically no material say in this year’s contest.

Posted by Brad @ 5:48 pm on March 31st 2008

64

No, that’s not the number of Republican retirements in the house this year (which is roughly half that), it’s the number of superdelegates who have signed onto the Obama campaign since Super Tuesday, the latest being my Senator Bob Casey, and MN Senator Amy Klobuchar (file photo: Klobuchar playing with trains):

US Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar has endorsed Barack Obama to become the party’s presidential nominee, adding new pressure on trailing rival Hillary Clinton, Obama’s campaign announced Monday.

“My endorsement reflects both Barack’s strong support in my state and my own independent judgment about his abilities,” Klobuchar said.

Brownie points to anybody who can find out how many superdelegates have signed on with Clinton since Super Tuesday.

Posted by James @ 4:58 pm on March 31st 2008

R.I.P. Dith Pran

The man, the story. September 27, 1942 – March 30, 2008

Posted by Brad @ 4:42 pm on March 31st 2008

Paddy Hitler

Ever wonder what happened to the sons and daughters of prominent Nazis?

Wonder no more.

Adolf Hitler did not have a son, but he did have a nephew, Paddy. Paddy, the son of Hitler’s brother Alois, lived in Liverpool as a young boy. In 1933 he moved to Germany, trying to be a car salesman and cash in on his family name. Things didn’t work out and he moved to the US, denouncing his Uncle and serving in the US Navy in the war. Finally he settled in Long Island where he had three sons, including Brian Hitler. I am not making this up.

H/t: Dizzy

Posted by Adam @ 4:20 pm on March 31st 2008

Sensibly expanded powers for the Fed, or a story of a 7-11, fillies and a week’s supply of meth?

As announced earlier by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the Fed is to get new powers to oversee the financial industry.

The proposals give sweeping powers to the Federal Reserve – enabling it to tackle the kind of turmoil that is currently hitting financial markets.

The Fed would become “market stability regulator” – allowing it to examine the books of any financial institution deemed to potentially threaten the stability of the financial system.

Well, on the one hand it’s a relatively logical extension of the Fed’s existing responsibilities, but on the other hand, it’s a pretty big change. If it was so easy to predict the extent of the current farrago, one presumes that the markets (who also have a vested interest in this sort of thing, after all) would have seen it coming earlier themselves, unless it’s the sort of thing that is much easier to see in a ‘big picture’ when you have privileged access to all the industries balance sheets on demand. I need to read more about this, myself, in particular to work out whether they’re bolting a stable door after the horse has escaped, robbed a 7-11 and has set up in a deserted barn with three fillies and a week’s supply of meth.

Posted by Brad @ 2:54 pm on March 31st 2008

Music Video of the Week

Tom Waits – Angels in Heaven

Posted by Brad @ 2:34 pm on March 31st 2008

Argh! John McCain is NOT a Centrist on Iraq!

Dear media: Please stop saying he is.

Glenn Greenwald at Salon catches the upcoming glowing McCain profile in Newsweek, which continually refers to both McCain and Lieberman, in relation to foreign policy, as “centrists”.

Greenwald gives that notion the appropriate smackdown (emphasis mine):

At the very core of the media’s reverence for John McCain is the blatant, tired myth that he’s a “centrist.”

Like Lieberman, McCain may deviate from right-wing dogma on discrete issues when it comes to domestic policy questions. But on questions of foreign policy, national security and war, McCain — and Lieberman — are as extremist as it gets in the mainstream political spectrum. On those obviously central issues, there simply is nobody and nothing to the Right of McCain.

McCain marks the absolute outer ideological boundary of American militarism, imperialism and war-making, particularly (though not only) in the Middle East. That’s why he’s long been enthusiastically supported by the country’s most crazed warmongers — such as Bill Kristol, James Woolsey, most of the PNAC crowd, and Lieberman. In no meaningful sense are such individuals “centrists,” and neither is McCain….

Obviously, I second all that.

Posted by Brad @ 10:40 pm on March 30th 2008

Germans Join the Open Ceremonies Boycott

I assume their athletes will still be attending. Still, interesting.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, yesterday became the first world leader to decide not to attend the Olympics in Beijing.

As pressure built for concerted western protests to China over the crackdown in Tibet, EU leaders prepared to discuss the crisis for the first time today, amid a rift over whether to boycott the Olympics.

The disclosure that Germany is to stay away from the games’ opening ceremonies in August could encourage President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to join in a gesture of defiance and complicate Gordon Brown’s determination to attend the Olympics.

Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, became the first EU head of government to announce a boycott on Thursday and he was promptly joined by President Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic, who had previously promised to travel to Beijing.

“The presence of politicians at the inauguration of the Olympics seems inappropriate,” Tusk said. “I do not intend to take part.”

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, confirmed that Merkel was staying away. He added that neither he nor Wolfgang Schäuble, the interior minister responsible for sport, would attend the opening ceremony…

While expressing scepticism about a complete boycott, he did not rule one out. “This is not the right moment to talk about a boycott … We should watch how the Chinese government deals with the situation in the next weeks and months.”

If Merkel and others do not attend the opening ceremony, it is likely to reinforce a growing sense in China that the Olympics is being used to vilify the host.

China had hoped to use the games to highlight its economic development and growing openness. But it is increasingly proving an opportunity for critics to bash China’s one-party political system, human rights abuses, treatment of minorities and tightly controlled media.

Posted by Brad @ 3:17 am on March 29th 2008

Irony Alert

Actually, I’m not even sure if “irony” is the right word here. But it’s something, anyway.

Senator Clinton:

Just read where Senator Patrick Leahy is calling on you to drop out of the Presidential race.

Believe me.

I know something about this.

Here’s my advice:

Don’t listen to people when they tell you not to run anymore.

That’s just political bigotry.

Listen to your own inner citizen First Amendment voice.

This is America.

Just like every other citizen, you have a right to run.

Whenever you like.

For as long as you like.

It’s up to you, Hillary.

Just tell them –

It’s democracy.

Get used to it.

Yours truly,

Ralph Nader

Posted by Brad @ 1:09 am on March 29th 2008

John American McCain – An American President for American Americans

Here’s John McCain’s first general election ad.

Interestingly, it’s running statewide in New Mexico.

Posted by Brad @ 6:05 pm on March 28th 2008

This Just In: Obama a Professor

Mightn’t you heard, the Clinton campaign has been sending out attacks on Obama recently for claiming he is a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. “No,” they say, “He is a senior lecturer. See what a liar he is?”

Okay, so it’s not the world’s most explosive charge, but it’s one that is being swatted down by the University nonetheless.

The University of Chicago said Friday Barack Obama accurately described himself as a onetime law professor at the school, despite the fact his formal title was “Senior Lecturer.”

The university’s statement comes after the Clinton campaign recently suggested on several occasions that the Illinois senator was embellishing his role at the school by calling himself a professor.

The campaign also sent out a press release quoting a 2004 Chicago Sun-Times column that stated of Obama’s professor claim: “Several direct-mail pieces issued for Obama’s primary campaign said he was a law professor at the University of Chicago. He is not. He is a senior lecturer (now on leave) at the school. In academia, there is a vast difference between the two titles. Details matter.”

But in a statement, the university said its senior lecturers are considered professors.

“From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School,” the statement said.

“He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track,” it also said.

Posted by Brad @ 5:17 pm on March 28th 2008

Dean: I Think We’ll Cut it Off By July at the Latest

Those that think Hillary is going to be able to manage to suspend things in negative mode from June to September, might want to think again.

“There is no point in waiting,” he said. The Democratic political organization “is as good or better as the Republicans’, and we haven’t been able to say that for about 30 years. But that all doesn’t make any difference if people are really disenchanted or demoralized by a convention that’s really ugly and nasty.”

[…]

“What I don’t want to do is have the Democrats make a stupid mistake in April and then be sorry they said that in October and end up with some more right-wing extremists on the Supreme Court,” he said.

Dean’s supporters say he’s working behind the scenes to resolve some of the issues. He’s been consulting with party stalwarts about how to wrap up the nomination quickly after the voting ends in June, including former Vice President Al Gore, former presidential candidate John Edwards, former Sen. George Mitchell, former president Jimmy Carter, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Dean wouldn’t talk in detail about what the plan is, but it likely involves encouraging superdelegates to pick a candidate shortly after the voting ends. He said he will not encourage any delegate to vote one way or another.

Posted by Brad @ 11:30 pm on March 27th 2008

And Finally…

Wrapping up my string of posts on second-or-lesser tier candidates, Chris Dodd—who was the first Democratic dropout to get ahead of the curve and endorse Obama, is saying that the time to end the Democratic race is just about now.

Dodd: Well, the solution is — look, we’ve got a contest coming up in Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina and Indiana very quickly afterwards. In my view, the outcome of those three races will determine — I think the race has been determined, anyway, at this point. I think it’s very difficult to imagine how anyone can believe that Barack Obama can’t be the nominee of the party. I think that’s a foregone conclusion, in my view, at this juncture given where things are.

But certainly over the next couple of weeks, as we get into April, it seems to me then, that the national leadership of this party has to stand up and reach a conclusion. And in the absence of doing that — and that’s not easy, and I realize it’s painful. But the alternatives, allowing this sort of to fester over the months of June, and July and August, I think, are irresponsible. I think you have to make a decision, and hopefully the candidates will respect it and people will rally behind a nominee that, I think, emerges from these contests over the next month. That’s my suggestion. That’s what I would do.

The whole interview (really, just about the race and the housing crisis) is, by the way, interesting. All Hail The Mighty Dodd.

Posted by Brad @ 11:24 pm on March 27th 2008

Hillary’s Puerto Rico Strategy Gets a Big Boost

Puerto Rico’s Governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila—who also happens to be an Obama superdelegate—was indicted today. For false statements, wire fraud, federal program fraud and tax crimes.

Interestingly, the same case also involves a lot of Philadelphia Democrats in connection with fundraising for Ed Rendell and Bob Casey (though I’m not entirely clear on how)—both prominent (and, right now, germane) Clinton supporters.

Further weirdness involves the fact that one of McCain’s inner circle guys—who also lobbies for Puerto Rico—may also be involved.

So Puerto Rico could have implications for all three live Presidential campaigns this year.

Who knew?

Posted by Brad @ 11:15 pm on March 27th 2008

Again, and For All Time…KEYES!

First, Bob Barr bolts for the LP.

Then, Mike Gravel bolts for the Green Party. And the LP. And pretty much any political party that offers free coffee and donuts at their political conventions.

And now, Third Party Watch is reporting that on Tax Day, April 15th, Alan Keyes will begin his new quest to seek the nomination of the Constitution Party.

Aside from the fact that we get to gleefully keep kicking around Alan Keyes, the tendency of these guys to bolt for third parties all of a sudden is sort of interesting in its own right. It might be kind of neat if marginalized figures of the major parties start getting shaved off, and start adding some cred to the third parties (if one can put “Mike Gravel”, “Alan Keyes”, and “credibility” in the same sentence). In any event, I’m all for it.

Posted by Brad @ 10:45 pm on March 27th 2008

Education as National Security

New rule of thumb for me: when the Liberty Papers and Freedom Democrats both point to something and groan at the same time, it’s probably worth looking at (story originally from CATO).

Newt Gingrich is causing much grumbling dismissals in libertarian circles for his comments yesterday to the AEI on education.

Newt Gingrich gave a luncheon talk about education at the American Enterprise Institute today. Among other things, he said he’d “argue with any conservative” about the role of the federal government with respect to education. It’s a matter of national security, he said. He called on the secretary of defense to give a speech every year on the state of our schools.

Now, putting aside the rather eye-rolling tendency to push education as being important for reasons of national security (really, guys, things can be important for reasons OTHER than protecting us from terrorists. I swear.), I sort of see what he means by this, by arguing that federal government has a role and even an obligation with respect to education. Rojas and Adam, two conservative-ish teachers, both break from regular libertarian ideology on this matter, and both for reasons that, while I don’t know that I buy, I’m at least sympathetic to (and this is me trying to draw them out into commenting on Gingrich’s comments).

But CATO is certainly correct to note how far the GOP really has come on some very basic tenets.

Just the latest indication of the drift on the right. Ronald Reagan promised to abolish the Department of Education. In 1996, after the GOP captured the Congress, Bill Bennett and Lamar Alexander urged Congress to abolish the Department of Education. Within a few years, the GOP was supporting Bill Clinton’s proposal to hire 100,000 teachers. Then Bush came along with his “Leave No Child Behind” law, which expanded the role of the federal government further. Now this.

So, guys, what do you think?

Posted by Brad @ 10:12 pm on March 27th 2008

Obama VP Derby

We’ve sort of talked about potential running mates for McCain and Clinton, but we haven’t really gotten to Obama, save in some generalities.

Kos giving a half-assed weigh-in this morning has sort of spurred the conversation a bit. His short list:

Here’s my top three picks for Obama:

1. Bill Richardson
2. Kathleen Sebelius
3. Chris Dodd

They’ve all got their plusses and minuses. But if we got any of those three, I’d be ecstatic.

We’ve discussed here before about Sebelius being a good potential VP candidate for Obama. In particular, it makes such a huge amount of sense to pick a woman that it’s almost beyond debate, and Kathleen has got to be the top of a very short list. Kos, for his part, likes her both because of her success in Kansas in poaching Republicans to the Dark Side, as well as being a signifier of Obama’s 5-state potential. And, for the record, I honestly believe if he picked her, he would win Kansas, the first time a Democrat would have done so since 1964.

However, after her pretty dismal performance in the Democratic response to the last State of the Union, which I promise you Obama’s people were watching with great interest, I can’t help think she might have been passed over. But, like I said, the tendency to pick a woman has got to be about overpowering, and if they’re going for a woman, better than even odds that Kathleen would be the choice, and better than even odds that they are, indeed, going to go for a woman. As a choice, I think she’d be fine, and her pick may have some interesting ramifications particularly in the red Midwest. I don’t know that she’d hugely change anything, but she’d be a solid pick.

The amount of goodwill that Dodd has generated among the netroots and the progressive grassroots is hard to deny, and as regular readers know, I love me some Dodd (I wrote our endorsement for him, and were I a registered Democrat, would have voted for him back when he was still in the race). However, I don’t think the people that Dodd is ingratiated with are the people Obama is much worried about. Frankly, the people that love them some Dodd also are already pretty reliable Obama voters, and outside of people really interested in civil liberties, or kitchen table Democrats, his appeal, I’d have to think, is pretty limited (and for the record, CT is not a state Obama has to worry about much). I think the progressive grassroots should get behind Dodd for Majority Leader in the same way they did Dean for DNC chair, and as much as Dodd deserves, in some cosmic way, the honor of being a VP pick, I just don’t see that he adds much to the ticket.

Richardson is of course the one guy that would be a solid pick for EITHER Democratic candidate. And, against McCain, maybe the problem Obama apparently has with Latino voters isn’t as overstated as I sort of suspect it is. In any event, Richardson certainly has the whole experience thing nailed down, and he’d throw New Mexico back into play. But as one of our readers noted when we brought up his recent endorsement (and the possibility of him being a VP), he didn’t exactly distinguish himself through his own campaign. Plus, he’d have to shave his Zod beard, which might at this point be the source of all his power.

So, who do you think Obama would pair well with? I’ll say at the outset that I think Clinton or Edwards are probably out, or at least they damn well better be.

I’m still chewing on it myself, but I’ll throw a name out there: Joe Biden.

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 5:35 pm on March 27th 2008

Music Video of the Weekend

A tad early. No video either. I hate when I have one particular song in mind, and there’s no video for it. So here’s a static CD cover version.

What do you get when you make a rap song, feature Kool G, and lay it down on a sample of equal parts classical music and Mike Tyson?

You get Jedi Mind Tricks – Animal Rap (Arturo Gatti Mix)

Posted by Brad @ 5:19 pm on March 27th 2008

I Couldn’t Do It

Speaking of Ron Paul, I couldn’t pull the trigger. I let the registration deadline here in PA pass. I remain a registered Republican, as I’ve always been, whether they want me or not. I’ll cast my vote for Paul on the 23rd. I wish Obama the best of luck, and expect I’ll vote for him in the general.

Posted by Brad @ 5:07 pm on March 27th 2008

Ron Paul: Permissible Again?

One of the things I haven’t talked about much in relation to the Ron Paul campaign is what’s been dubbed by many supporters “the media blackout”. A funny thing happened around December 15th or so. Ron Paul disappeared. He was doing nothing less, and in many ways the big newsworthy events of his campaign happened AFTER that (newsletters, fundraising, some high profile supporters coming out of the woodwork, etc), but relative to even where he was in the public eye in November, he was just plain gone from the Presidential race conversation starting in mid-December, and never really got back.

I don’t take that conspiratorially. In a lot of ways, a similar thing happened with John Edwards on the Democratic side. And certainly, Ron Paul was never really viable to win, so it’s quite understandable even (though they did keep covering a lot of candidates who seemed decidedly unviable by that time, particularly on the Republican side). But I remember being in New Hampshire those weeks, and political coverage was ever-present, and it didn’t take long for all of us really to realize “Hey, what happened to the reporters?”

I wrote about it in my day-after autopsy of the New Hampshire effort (here), where I had this to say:

3. I agree with James in many of his comments to Rojas’s big post on this subject. I think the media blackout has really hurt Ron Paul. I am NOT a big “MSM conspiring to do this or that!” guy, but the truth is, Ron does really well among people that made up their minds months ago (third in Iowa; second that I saw in New Hampshire), and he does pretty darn well among people who make up their minds on the day of the event (not so good here but still significant; good in Iowa. I chalk both up to the “Well, fuck it” vote), but he does very very poorly among people who just start paying attention a week or two before the vote and decide then. These are not people that go in depth enough to ponder the 1990 race newsletter or Ron’s position on the FDA (believe it or not, he does WELL among those people); these are not the people who have just in the last minute decided that they might as well vote. These are people who turn on CNN or Fox News a week before the polls open with the most cobwebby and casual impressions imaginable, ask their friends, and pretty much make up their minds based on that. And, on that front, Ron Paul got a mostly total media blackout in the last few weeks. But more significantly, it had nothing whatever to do with Ron Paul, and that’s what killed him. If you tuned in from December 15th on, you wouldn’t have any idea that Ron Paul was even in the race. I spent a fair bit of time in a bar the day before the election with a lot of reporters (by the way, I got to chat with Tucker Carlson, Sam Donaldson, Alan Colmes, and a few others), and the narrative for this election was already there. “If you want to vote, here is the situation” was the explicit premise of every media report that went out, and believe you me Ron Paul had no part of that narrative. Not because the media had some active conspiracy going, but just because they’re self-interested and lazy. The salient point is, if you’re a voter making up your mind in the last few weeks, who just started tuning in recently as a more or less blank slate—why on earth is Ron Paul even on your radar, much less somebody you’d consider?

By November, if you remember, Ron was doing pretty well in terms of media coverage, at least relatively. And then, zip, and except for a slight blip for fundraising and the newsletters, pretty much faded into non-existence as far as the coverage was concerned.

The exception proves the rule. I remember the last Republican debate, MC’d by Anderson Cooper, which was attended by McCain, Romney, Huckabee, and Paul, and Anderson, though he wasn’t mean per se, pretty much spent the entire 90 minutes treating Paul like a smelly homeless guy begging for change. That, and exerting a Herculean effort to try to drag Mitt Romney into contention. By that point in the campaign, and really many months earlier, the ideas didn’t matter one jot. Not even the personalities. It was all just an excuse to try to get them bickering—over what was entirely incidental—so the coverage could then be “Oh snap! Candidates bicker!!!”

All of that isn’t bitter per se. I never in a million years imagined Ron Paul had a chance to be President, and frankly if I did that would have complicated my decision-making paradigm somewhat. But it did strike me that, in a very real way, campaigns cease to be, at least from a media perspective, a battle of ideas, and instead become just a battle of battles. Maybe it’s naive of me for that to have no sunk in after all these years watching it, but to me, part of the entire point of the political process is to function as a sort of free market of ideas, and like it or not, the Fourth Estate plays a central role in that. The competition is, in a very big way, the point in and of itself, as much if not more so than what actually wins. So it was very sad to see that, once sweeps weeks hit (January through March), that went out the window, and Ron Paul, a candidate who pretty much exists entirely on ideas (and nutty supporters), went with it.

So it’s with some…heck, resentment even, and certainly surprise, that I note in the last week or two, Ron Paul is suddenly back on the radar. This blogger got to it first, but I’ve been chewing on it too.

(more…)

Posted by Rojas @ 1:59 pm on March 27th 2008

Mike Gravel: Libertarian for President.

Holy crap. How did I miss this?

Posted by Adam @ 12:13 pm on March 27th 2008

Death to the fatties

Yesterday’s announcement of research showing that fatties are more likely to suffer dementia interested me and raises again some issues of interest for people of pretty much all political persuasions. Although this particular research is what prompted me to set fingers to keyboard, we don’t need to engage in a debate as to its particular scientific merits, whether this is a cause-and-effect or merely an effect-and-effect happening, etc, because we already have a wealth of convincing information that being fat is bad for you. Additionally, we have plenty of convincing information that the American population (and that of many other nations, h/t: foreigndispatches) is getting significantly fatter.

The issue of an overweight section of the population is trickier than other ‘unhealthy’ behaviour, such as smoking, because being overweight, generally, arises from activity on a broad spectrum of normal human behaviour. We all eat, we all exercise (although we might not call it that); when we do eat, we all eat fat, carbohydrates, protein, dietary fiber, etc, in various proportions. Whether or not you’re overweight will depend on how those normal human behaviours balance against each other. So, this is not an issue like smoking, where you do it or you don’t — if employers don’t want to hire smokers because of the increased healthcare costs, or lost productivity, or whatever, then most people, at least those who believe that employers should be able to employ who they wish, will say “fair enough” (although I personally think that the costs to the employer are sufficiently exaggerated that the accompanying hassle of only employing nonsmokers, including checking who smokes, etc, are too large).

A few of the issues surrounding this issue of an increasingly overweight population, it seems to me, are:

  • Healthcare: most people in the US currently get healthcare through their employer or some other accumulated buy-in, which means they’re subsidising the fat people, on average, because of their increased risk of requiring medical treatment. Furthermore, for medical care post-retirement, everyone is paying. Whether or not it’s called that, this has a lot of the hallmarks of socialised health.
  • National economic activity: unless one takes the position that all economic activity is equally good, the increasing need for healthcare and the commensurate costs that result from increasing numbers of overweight and obese people might be considered to take the place of other economic activities that would be ‘better’. Money will always get spent, of course, but the cost of treating overweight people for ailments that would be statistically less likely were there less overweight people is money that doesn’t get spent on, say, things that might be broadly described as ‘investment in the future’, but rather just raise the cost of standing still. Furthermore, increased demand for healthcare will drive the costs of healthcare up, with knock-on effects in the cost of goods and services and, therefore, cause further harm to national competitiveness. That’s an issue that bites everyone.
  • An apparently trivial point, but the increasing average size of the American must have some effect on businesses that have to cater to physical customers; airlines, for example, have to fit as many people on the plane as they can but that goal is obviously negatively affected by the increasing size of the individuals in question (and again, as with the healthcare issue, why should smaller people have to subsidise the larger ones? Why should they have to suffer the discomfort of effectively sharing the seat they paid for with someone that can’t fit into their own seat?).
  • The weird disconnect between what’s seen as a desirable physical appearance and what’s a typical physical appearance; this isn’t something that government should have any hand in, but it’s interesting to me that as the country gets fatter, the tactics used successfully by advertisers seem to revolve in part around people being thinner. It’s logical, I think — if people are fat and would prefer not to be, you can sell stuff to them with thin people because they want to put themselves in that person’s place — but it seems to me that it essentially works because people are unhappy with they way they are, not in some aspirational way that drives them to improve but in a way that makes them feel pretty crappy about themselves. As far as clear-cut issues go, this one is clearly blancmange, but the fact that we live in a context where GAP will label trousers to fit a 38 inch waist as “34 inch waist” suggests that we have an appetite for truly shallow appearance over actuality. Yeah, sure, that’s not restricted to the weight issue (indeed, this is merely an illustration of a national or human psychological pathology) and I doubt that it’s new but it speaks against our ability to decide rationally and to associate cause with actual effect.
  • The insidious involvement of government. I don’t like agricultural subsidies in general (indeed, I list that dislike in my Who are we? post) but why are the taxpayers of the United States paying to make, for example, high-fructose corn syrup cheaper (this, and many of the other ills of corn subsidies, are discussed in this article)? Government may not be able to do much to make the fundamental problems better but why the hell are they picking my pocket to help make it worse? Yes, most of us like to eat stuff that isn’t good for us but I don’t see that making it more affordable is a good use of my taxes.

OK, so fat people are evil. The government shouldn’t have much role in dealing with that, of course — I don’t want them regulating the size of models and actors used by advertisers, or mandating honest sizing of clothes, or trying to fix the self-image problems of overweight people, or introducing a fat tax — but, as I suggest, they should stop spending our money to make it worse whilst winning rural votes. Most of the issue has market solutions, too; larger people should pay more to fly, or get healthcare, etc. The one big issue that I don’t see being solved, however, is exactly how the healthcare costs get apportioned; the sheer mass buying power that larger employers have outweighs the potential savings to thinner people from negotiating their own health insurance on an individual basis. Furthermore, no one’s going to stand for people losing health insurance for their weight and then dying of some treatable condition for lack of money (that’s already a political issue when people that just don’t have healthcare die like that, let alone anything happening that shifted a bunch more people into that situation). But then, the healthcare market in the US is clearly broken in any case (broken in many other countries too, of course, with a whole variety of different sorts of system) and this is just another (weighty) straw that may help break its back.

I don’t know what the general solution is, but whatever it does turn out to be, I want fries with it.

Ramble about Problem With No Real Solution status: Complete.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:48 pm on March 26th 2008

Hillary Clinton must run for President as an independent candidate

I don’t know about you folks, but I am shocked–shocked–by the way the Democratic Party and the media have mistreated Hillary Clinton during this election cycle.

Despite her many years of service to our nation as First Lady and Senator, despite her bold and visionary leadership of the feminist movement and the dramatic example that her leadership has provided to womyn everywhere, she appears to have been cast aside by a narrow plurality in favor of a candidate of no achievement and no experience. The media, sexist to its corporate core, has been an active collaborator in this effort. Despite still being very much in the running for the Democratic nomination, she is the victim of the media’s endless repetition of the “when will Hillary pack it in?” meme. The assertion is repeated–incessantly–that for her to actually offer the voters of the late primary states the opportunity to vote for her is somehow treason against the Democratic party. Each and every one of her attempts to expose the inexperience and naivete of her opponent is portrayed as somehow racist. Having offered the only truly substantiative campaign among the Democratic primary contenders, she is now abandoned in favor of the flavor of the month.

There are those who will do anything to prevent a womyn from occupying the White House. We, the open-minded progressive voters of America, should not stand for it. We should fight until the last dog dies. It is time for Hillary Clinton to mount an independent campaign for the Presidency.
(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 11:40 pm on March 26th 2008

Quote of the Day

So you may have heard about Mark McKinnon, the longtime top McCain advisor and strategist who has gone on record a lot lately saying that if the Democratic nominee is Obama, he will step down, because he wouldn’t be able to stomach negative campaigning against Obama, or organizing ad campaigns tearing him down.

Today somebody thought to ask him if that also applied to Clinton; would McKinnon be comfortable creating ads tearing down Hillary? Without a moment’s hesitation, McKinnon replied:

“Absolutely. I’d do it in a minute. I’d burn my house down to do it.”

Posted by Adam @ 9:07 pm on March 26th 2008

McCain on allies

There are plenty of points of view on McCain’s foreign-policy credentials, from mine (correctly approving) to the demented cryptocommie treehugging hippy pie-in-the-sky condemnation from others (Brad, Obama those sorts of people that can’t be trusted not to set fire to an American flag whilst taking a dump into your apple pie). However, one thing that most people must be glad to see is McCain stressing the importance of allies. It won’t be popular with the America Alone types, who seem to mostly be congregated under the Republican banner (unfortunately for McCain), but that’s more of a recommendation than a problem. Now, of course, words are cheap — something that doesn’t just apply to this, or just to McCain, but all the candidates — but it’s an interesting sign that, despite his unpopular and hawkish stance on Iraq, he’s not announcing the same sort of “we’ll do it with you or without you/you’re with us or you’re against us” nonsense that we heard from the current administration.

I don’t think that it’s a surprise — for all the fact that his Iraq position has been that staying in is the right thing to do, he’s hardly been aligned with the Bush administration on many, many Iraq specifics, let alone on foreign policy strategy in general — but, whoever should win the election in November, it’s important that Americans are led by someone that does realise the limitations of a “go it alone” or a “go it alone maybe with Great Britain” approach to anything that’s appears to be even moderately difficult. McCain also stressed the importance of leading by example, which is a welcome change from the implied charge from the current administration and its supporters that anyone that doesn’t support the US is some sort of godamned freedom-hating deviant:

We must be strong politically, economically and militarily. But we must also lead by attracting others to our cause, by demonstrating once again the virtues of freedom and democracy, by defending the rules of international civilized society and by creating the new international institutions necessary to advance the peace and freedoms we cherish,” he said.

It could be an uplofting election, as much as these things ever are, with both candidates (McCain and, I am presuming, Obama) aware that the US can only convincingly lead by combining its strength with demonstrated merit.

Posted by James @ 3:09 pm on March 26th 2008

How many words does a president say every week?

A big thanks to Breitbart.tv for this clip of HRC explaining her problem with words.

C’mon guys, lighten up! It’s me Hillary Clinton! I am going to be your next president, remember? Geez.

The DNC needs to get a really big cane.

Posted by Rojas @ 2:23 pm on March 26th 2008

Just don’t go

After some reflection, I think I’m now ready to fully endorse a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics. I don’t do so lightly. For one thing, I like sports. For another thing, I don’t like the corruption of non-governmental enterprises by political concerns.

The bottom line, however, is that there’s no point in pretending at this stage that these Olympics are apolitical. The Chinese regime views them entirely as a means of establishing its international credibility and prestige. And based on various reports, they have proven willing to do anything and everything awful to maintain that prestige–from the forcible relocation of thousands of citizens to a vehement crackdown on any possibility of dissent. There is simply no case to be made anymore that the Olympics exert a moderating effort on Chinese policy; they are clearly and demonstrably having the opposite effect.

I suspect I’ll make a bit of an ass of myself on this issue in the months ahead. For the time being, let me recommend this absolutely excellent line-by-line refutation of the arguments against a boycott by Anne Applebaum. As she concludes:

No wonder, then, that everyone who hates or fears China, whether in Burma, Darfur, Tibet, or Beijing, is calling for a boycott. And the Chinese government and the IOC are terrified that they will succeed. No one involved in the preparations for this year’s Olympics really believes that this is “only about the athletes,” or that the Beijing Games will be an innocent display of sporting prowess, or that they bear no relation to Chinese politics. I don’t see why the rest of us should believe it, either.

Posted by Brad @ 1:46 pm on March 26th 2008

“Sleep-Deprived”

For a candidate whose candidacy rests on her extensive experience and ability to answer the phone at 3 AM, and for not at all be a lying liar, this stuff sure does seem germane.

“Everyone else was told to sit on their bulletproof vests,” Clinton said. “And we came in, in an evasive maneuver….There was no greeting ceremony, and we basically were told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened.”

“I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn’t go, so send the First Lady. That’s where we went. I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

“[S]he evoked foreign battlefields, recalling a trip to Bosnia as first lady, when the welcoming ceremony ‘had to be moved inside because of sniper fire.’ She said she had traveled to more than 80 countries and was ‘on the front lines’ as the United States made peace in Bosnia and Northern Ireland and helped save refugees from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.”

“I was the first, you know, high-profile American to go into Bosnia after the peace accords were signed because we wanted to show that the United States was 100 percent behind the agreement. We wanted to make it clear to the Bosnians of all backgrounds. Plus we wanted to thank our American military and our allies for a great job. So, we landed in one of those corkscrew landings and ran out because they said there might be sniper fire. I don’t remember anybody offering me tea on the tarmac.”

Boy, somebody get that lady some sleep already.

H/t: Dailykos

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